Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, July 20, 1859

  • Posted on: 7 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, July 20, 1859



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, July 20, 1859

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: London, England, UK

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1844-12-09  Death: 1866-10-29


transcription: les 

revision: rmg 2021-10-23


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Tuesday ^Wednesday^ , Junely 20,
My dear Fanny,
I date once more in this Capital
but not now as a sojourner, only as a
Your mothers
Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
letter with yours of the
4th of July met me here, and very welcome were
they. Your allusion to my account of the Drawing
room reminds me that I had misled you–
The pages or servants who adjusted the
Ladyies trains were not servants, but the
Lords in waiting, as I learned from the
newspapers after writing to you from my own
observations – Do you not feel proud that there
is no American nobility to be brought to such uses?
Mr. Sumner
Birth: 1811-01-06 Death: 1874-03-11
is here for a fortnight, and
seems entirely well. He is the idol of society
in London. He says nothing about marriage – If he
Page 2

^ever marries^ it will be in Europe, where his principles and opinions
"find favor enough to lift up a proud man – as he is with
all his virtues.
Being disengaged I went last night to the Princess
Royal Theatre to see Keans
Birth: 1811-01-18 Death: 1868-01-22
wonderful reproduction
of Henry VIII. It is a great tribute he is paying to
Birth: 1564-04-26 Death: 1616-04-23
, whose genius appears actually illuminated
by the appliance of art and historical study in
producing the very scenes in which the great transi-
tion occurred. The vision of Queen Catherine
on her death bed seeming really an opening into
the very Heaven of Heavens. But there was one
sad disappointment. Mrs. Kean
Birth: 1805 Death: 1880-08-20
made only a
dying old woman out of the character of the
Queen – All of the Queen, and all of the ^proud^ Spaniard
and all of the spirited women disappeared– Charlotte
Birth: 1816-07-23 Death: 1876-02-18
performance of the character cannot be imitated
My dear little girl, As you grow up it will
be well for you to study this problem, Can there
be a true literature in our great country– Take
out all the interest that female endurance and
virtue give to poetry and romance – together with all
the dignity that they borrow from State and Aristocratic
positions and relations, and what would then be left
even to Walter Scott's
Birth: 1771-08-15 Death: 1832-09-21
creations, or even those of
Shakespeare himself. Our republican system banishes
Page 3

Kings Queens, nobles and even women from
all public occasions. It sinks them all to the
level of humanity! Take Paris and Helen out of
and Eneas out of the Iliad
Author:  Homer Publisher: J. Hankin and J. Hall Place of Publication:Cambridge Date: 1833
, and what would be left.
Birth: 1608-12-09 Death: 1674-11-08
alone has dispensed with human affectation
of divinity. His is truly a Republican poem– But
he substitutes God and Angels for Angels for
our homage and reverence. Certainly he cannot
be imitated. It seems to me that this new age
must have a new revelation of new elements of
poetry or it will have no poetry at all – How
I do gossip – here is the very heresy of defamation!
The result of all my observation here is that
England is divided between two forces, one
of which is the Ancient Aristocracy, the other the growing
Republic – They harmonize better than might be supposed
and England improves by their eternal conflict–
I would not be an Aristocrat, God knows I could
not be a Plebeian – Aristocrats diminish in number
and in power– Plebeians wax stronger every day.
But all are alike insensible of the Revolution that
is going on to assimilate them to us who although
the younger member of the family, are really its
leaders and the formers of the destiny of the British
Here is a sprig from a yew tree at
Trentham 1000 years old.
Page 4

Dover July 20th, Wednesday night
My dear Fanny,
The historian
of the town
issues a catalogue of great men by whom it has been
visited, beginning with Julius Caesar – Then going on through
Constantine, Cedric, Alfred William the Conqueror
Birth: 1599-04-25 Death: 1658-09-03
, Elizabeth, Wellington
Birth: 1769-05-01 Death: 1852-09-14
, Napoleon 3d
Birth: 1808-04-20 Death: 1873-01-09

Prince Albert
Birth: 1819-08-26 Death: 1861-12-14
& so on. If he shall be prudent
enough to secure this manuscript before a newer edi-
tion of his work he may add my name to the distinguish-
ed roll – I am sure from reading ^comparing^ , the description of
the Cliff in King Lear with the real chalk hills
assured me that Shakespeare must also have seen
Dover – But Shakespeare came without caravan and
without a title – as – I do– So Shakespeare and
I are likely to be ignored together for all time by
the Historian–
I bade a hasty adieu to London this
afternoon and in three hours time I was here – The country
through which I passed (Kent) is low and flat– and
more primitive in its husbandry and structures than
any I have seen in England. At a distance of half
a dozen miles from Dover I came in sight of the
Sea. Soon I began to plunge under the earth
and then out, and then in again successfully by
which I knew I was passing under broken hills
of the "Cliff" which constitutes the Coast. When next
I looked upon the sea– it was near sunset, a clear
Page 5

and a calm ocean lay between us and France which
was distantly visible. I have spent two hours in rambling
over the cliff and the Castle that summits it. The
former is noble, indeed – majestic enough to suggest
all that Shakespeare has written of it, to one who
can appreciate Nature as he did only did.
The Castle is a ringed structure. Roman ruins
are found in its bowels – and many parts of it refer
to dates as early ^ th ^ as 800, 900, 1000the 8th
9th 10, 11th centuries. Many parts have the Norman
arch and some I verily believe are Saxon–
The Cliff Chalky Cliff is cut into two by a
small river that forces its way and whose channel
makes the harbor of Dover – The ravine is narrow
and the town (now a fashionable watering place)
is built within its banks. The houses
up to reach the sun light between the
Cliffs. The Cliff on each side is excavated
within into and under to contain subterraneous
magazines, barracks, and other military things works
light and air being let in from above by circular
holes of vast depths while the exterior surface
is terraced and armed on all sides and
at all parts with immense batteries. Castles crown
the summits, and seem to pour defiance upon France.
Page 6

At 11 o'clock to night I embark for France
on a summer night and on a summer sea. The voyage
is only an hour and a half. I have been just
two months in England–I leave it with respect
and kindness for all I have met. I hope I have learned
something worthy to be remembered – and something to
compensate you and your mother for my long absence,
Good-bye to England. Good night to my loving
little reader!