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To obtain Liberte there is only one method. It is by educating the millions and by dispelling their ignorance prejudices and bigger brain. We ought carefully to prepare the public mind for new conclusions as soon as they become highly probable and thus make possible the collision of opinion between the multitude and the learned. All that we require. When once a good system of primary and normal schools has been organized is a moderate share of moral courage and love of truth. They banned our air travelers to America. From the 1820s of the civil. More Europeans came to America in a steady flow. They travel through the United States driven by an irresistible curiosity. Later many of them wrote books
about their travels to tell Europe what they had seen in the new world of Jacksonian democracy. Some were friendly. Some were highly critical. All with meticulous observers of detail. In they bend our ear. Written by Perry Miller professor of American literature at Harvard University. You meet some of the travelers to America who bend our air with their criticisms. Their advice their praise or their philosophy. Some you already know. Others are new acquaintances. At all times the travellers speak in their own words quoted directly from their writing. They vent our air is produced and recorded by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting times all under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Today's encounter is with Sir Charles Lyell a pioneer British geologist
who made two trips to the United States in the 1840. Professor Perry Miller is your host and now a writer. At the time of Montgomery in the state of Alabama I have determined to follow up my ideological inquiries by going next to Tuscaloosa about 100 miles distant by land. My geological friend Mr Hamilton and my other friends in the South agreed that it was better for me to go 800 miles by water immobile due south and then up the Tombigbee for I attempt the straight road. No one could insure my making two miles an hour so tenaciously does the MA light of the great dangerous formation when it is wet. Hold the carriage wheels which see into it. Your pardon Sir Charles Lyell but. But what is a pretentious formation.
It's all right Mr narrator. Cretaceous means that mixture of clay and carbonate of lime dating from the last Mesozoic period which is popularly known as Alabama mud. Thank you Mr. Cooper. That was Mr Hamilton Cooper who entertains her child is like Alan George you see Mr Narrator This is a demonstration of the Greek thesis in the science of geology to which the Charles Lyell has devoted his life. And this is Mr. John Hay. Sir Charles is New England host may I ask Sir Charles what this thesis is that all form of changes of the organic and inorganic creation all refer to one uninterrupted succession of physical events governed by the laws now in operation. You mean that everything that happened on the surface of the earth no matter how far in the past. Can be reconciled with the order of nature as now existing. The principles of science must always remain unsettled so long as no fixed opinions are entertained on this fundamental question.
With that second part of the thesis I'm sure we must all agree. So in the end it is not surprising that this distinguished geologist born in 1797 and author of the renowned principles of geology published three volumes 18 1832 1833. Thank you Sir Charles as I was saying this scientist saw a different America from the one reported by ordinary travelers as he came on his first trip. When my wife and I sailed from Liverpool for Boston July 20th 1841 1841. Then you were in America the same year with Charles Dickens all the newspapers off the columns of the enthusiastic reception which Mr. Charles Dickens is meeting everywhere. Such homage has never been paid to any foreigner since laffy yet visited the state. I do not sympathize with the movement. It is more akin to lion hunting than hero worship.
I doubt whether Walter Scott and he visited the United States would have been so much idolized. Perhaps not a good book. For Scott's poems and romances were less extensively circulated amongst the millions in the tales of dicking the Americans deserve the more credit for obeying their warm impulses. Many would turn the foreigners living I merely gratifying a vulgar curiosity by staring at an object of matter I had none but a very intelligent population could be just carried away to flatter and applaud a man who has neither rank well low power who is not a military hero or a celebrated political character but simply a writer of genius. Bravo my lad see you when your wife came back we knocked at Liverpool in the Britannia September 4th 1845 and on one or both of these excursions you travelled through New England New York Ohio. Most of these regions accompanied by Mr. John L. Hayes of Portsmouth New Hampshire. His paper in the Boston Journal of Natural History proved much light on a class of geological appearances. Here those who thought least reconcilable with the
ordinary course of nature I mean the carriage of huge fragments of rock for many hundreds of miles from one region to another child. May we first get your itinerary established. You then went I believe through Washington to trials done and to Georgia where it hoped. I was entertained at Mr Cooper's plantation there after he accompanied me to New Orleans. Yes. And so you were returned by the usual steamboat route up the Mississippi and the Ohio with stops for geological explorations for example my wife and I stayed at New Madrid in the swamps of Missouri where I made observations on the region shaken by the great earthquake of 1811 1812. How did you ever get out of that dreadful place. Oh the keeper of the horse has a large fire on the bank. Fortunately a steamer soon appeared and almost before she was fairly alongside a party of active negroes leaped upon our deck snatching up an article of our luggage while the clock ushered us over the plank into a
brilliantly lighted saloon and for several days you had been roughing it talking with trappers about the water wilderness of the country. All the change of scene was more like the fiction of a fairy tale than a real incident in the northern region. So musicians were playing at one end of the room which was. Hundred fifty feet long and a gay young party from New Orleans were dancing a could reel at the other end we were delighted to see a table covered with newspapers their columns filled with the recent debates of the English House of Commons nor where any of the advantages afforded by this floating power was more like an Easter tale of enchantment than the thought as we went to our births that before we rose next morning breakfast we should be transported more than a hundred miles north woods against the current of a mighty river. I know that you have previously made expeditions in fairly rough countries such as northern Scandinavia. However you're a fine gentleman. How could you endure those vulgar curse westerners held to one who is
studying the geology of the valley of the Mississippi. The society of such companions may be and durable for a few weeks. Perhaps that is why sometimes mere travellers get so unfavorable and they come out they have nothing to fasten their minds on well-nigh wife and I sometimes doubt it how far an English party travelling for mere amusement would enjoy themselves. If they went on the experiment they had better not take with them an English major servant unless they're prepared to have been transformed into an equal wouldn't you pestered by interminable questions about your private affairs. Not more than we have often been accustomed to submit to and travelling in France and Scotland. Nor had I any reason to complain when I had satisfied the curious as to my age the number of my children how we liked the country and how many other particulars. I often ask very abruptly buy one just come on board. I had no ceremony and retaliating on him and putting to him as many queries in my turn. Everyone must admit that the answers you will commonly
receive the most intelligent other English travellers go to resorted. Do you want tactics. Oh Americans of the higher class it seemed more put out than we where when does catechized a strange contrast that Mississippi of the 1840s musta been. Today we can hardly imagine a European traveler must bear in mind that it would be no discredit to those who are settling in this wilderness if the accommodation was of the rudest kind. If there were no steamers in whose machinery the latest improvements have been adopted many of them invented in the United States. And if the cabin was not provided with good libraries or a table covered with newspapers literary magazines and the boredom you darned well turtle soup and two kinds of fish. Then followed a variety of made dishes admirably cooked and then a course of coconut pies jellies preserved bananas orange juice grapes and ice creams. Concluding with coffee the tablet was excellent.
I'm sure Mr. Hayes and Mr. Cooper will agree that this sounds like civilization. It is precisely because there is so much civilization in the western states that foreigners criticize them unfairly contrasting their condition with the highest standards of all the countries. I will say though I did a little amateur geology izing in my part of Georgia. No false modesty old chap you know that I've corresponded on geological matters with you and that you are the dawn of a splendid collection of fossil remains to the museum at Washington Harbor though those are very slight things compared with your contributions to the science of charts. When I was about to say that even I was astonished at the cooperation such I would see from the crackers in remote areas of the back country not Alabama. I'm bound to say that I passed my time agreeably unprofitably in Alabama for everyone. As I have usually found in newly people the district was hospitable and obliging to a stranger hospitable I do not doubt but
they could have no conception of what you are up to. Instead of the ignorant one the very commonly expressed in out of the way districts of England France or Italy at travellers with money and time to search for fossil bones and trails. Each plant the same desire with a mother in his anxiety to give me information in regard to the precise spots where organic remains have been discovered many were curious to learn so John's opinion as to the kind of animal to which the huge vertebrae against which their plough sometimes strike may have belonged. Holden magnitude indeed and solidity of these relics of the colossal Radom. Such as might well excite the astonishment of the most indifferent Dr Buckley informed me that only a state of Judge Cray he had desisted in digging out one skeleton. We have the triple column almost unbroken extended the length of seven. I hesitate to check your geological ardor but we have summoned you here to learn what you thought of American civilization rather than to listen. At this moment do you
want scientific discovery. Yes but it should be stressed that in bringing a knowledge of European geology today and upon the extended formations of North America. So Charles Lyell rendered he minced no words. Thank you. I have no intention of minimizing the benefits. Giles was doted on American Science and Industry. May we come back to the civilization of the West and use their trials on like many of your predecessors were rather impressed with the level of cultivation. I was picked up in the middle of the night at Port Hudson by a long steam boat the tommo Cincinnati. They told me I must register my name at the office. The clock asked me if I was the author of the work of geology and being on set in the affirmative then wished to know if I was acquainted with Mr. McCauley. Once you were well by saying yes he took out a later number of the Edinburgh Review and begged me to tell him whether the article on Addison was written by my friend for he had been discussing this matter with a passenger that evening. When I confirmed his opinion he thanked me for
expressing much regret that he should not see me again since I was to die and next day it matches before he would be up. Naturally you know Charles and matches come down in the legends of the Mississippi with very unsavory reputation. It is supposed to be rough and wild play. There is a fine range of bluffs. Several miles long and more than 200 feet and perpendicular height. The base of which is washed by the river. The lower strata consist of gravel and Sally as jars of the strata were no doubt fascinating but the people who know him I must say it all goes favorably of the future prospects of civilization in America that here as elsewhere we found the society most agreeable in places which have been the longest settled many of the country houses in the neighborhood are elegant and some of the gardens belonging to them laid out in the English of this in the French style. You should ask him if the narrator about plantation hospitality he was
when he came back to Boston positively for him lyrical on that subject much as I said in praise of the hospitality of the Southern planter. But they alone traveled in the southern states can appreciate the ease and politeness with which a stranger is made to feel him self at home. Horses carriages servants are all it is disposed of. Even his little comforts thought of and everything is done as absolutely naturally as if no obligation were conferred. As your Southern hosts I thank you for the compliment. But you are sometimes thought to judge just a little too much by the New England measure. All I remember saying is that there is little here of that activity of my feeling for literature or in science which strikes one in the best circles in New England. We took no offense we felt that you were spiritually on the southern side when you came to New Orleans. I should explain as a child and Lady Lisle arrived there at the very height of Mardi Gras from the time we landed in New England to this hour.
We seem to have been in a country where all whether rich or poor were laboring from morning till night without ever indulging in a holiday. I had sometimes thought that the national motto should be all good and no play it was quite a novelty and a refreshing sight to see the whole population giving up their minds for a short season to amusement. Nevertheless behind all those geniality is a lot of sheer violence. Surely you heard about that even if you did not see it. Why did I ask Mr.. How it was possible when such affairs were occurring and the police officer. We could travel night and day and feel secure from personal violence. There's no danger here of robbery and you up. We have none who are poor rendered vicious and desperate by a want. No murders are committed here except personal quarrels and almost all of the acts of restless and unquiet spirits who seek excitement in gambling and drink. The wars in Texas relievers and many of these dare devil perhaps.
Still I know that Sir Charles and Lady Lyon who are happy to get back to Boston never more so than on this occasion when we spent 10 days in the society of our literary and scientific friends in the metropolis of Massachusetts and in the flourishing University in its suburbs. This is interesting said Giles. There's been rather a debate going on in this series as to whether the outlines of the future of America are to be discerned. I mean to say a word to be discerned in the 1840s on the Eastern Seaboard or in the Mississippi Valley. They who wish to give a true picture of the national character of America what it now is and is destined to become must study chiefly those towers which contain the greatest number of native born citizens. They must soldier in the east rather than in the west or south. Yes but even in your day Americans were thinking of the country as a melting pot ruled the settlers in the backwoods are half Irish German or Norwegian. And the people of French origin of Louisiana.
But if one should faithfully portray the big curiosities of such districts would you not give an accurate representation of America. No no no no more than an accurate description of Tipperary column out of the West Indies French Canada Australia and the various lands into which Great Britain is pouring her surplus population would convey I think. I am sure that you having seen so much of the Union must repeatedly have been asked whether you would like to settle here. It would be more prudent for them to shape their question. Thus if you were to be born over again and take your charts lot as to your station in society there what country would you prefer. I'm afraid I don't get the point of our choosing. I should have to consider that the chances are many thousands to one in favor of my belonging to the laboring class and of the land where they are best off morally physically and intellectually I am and where they are most progressive would be the safest under select by most all do you would choose such a being the proposition the free States
might well claim a preference but not I take it in the sun. How would you conclude Sir Charles that as a result of such moments when you could get your attention away from the strata fossils and take a look at the American democracy that you approved of it the great evil of universal suffrage is the irresistible temptation it affords to a needy set of adventurous to make politics a trade and to devote all their time to agitation electioneering and flattering the passions of the multitude. That's what all the English say. But let me assure you whenever the country is threatened with any great danger there is a right minded majority whose energies can be roused effectively into action. Nevertheless the sacrifices required on such occasions to work upon the popular mind are so great that the field is in danger of being left open on all ordinary occasions to the demagogue May I ask such as whether any of the British colonies are more prosperous in commerce manufactures or agriculture than the United States
doing as much to promote good school as and some even the most Democratic states such as New Hampshire I don't mean I have been much struck with the general happiness activity and contentment of all classes and can only respond to the sentiment of Chancellor Ochs and stand. By how little wisdom is The World Government. How great must be the amount of misgovernment of the world in general. If a democracy like this can deserve to rank so high in the comparative scale. Yeah yeah yeah. And I don't know let us agree that drowsy since this world is imperfect we ought not to set our sights too high. But could you even buy that relative standard. Find anything in America wholeheartedly to admire. Yes the free schools of New England and the plan of education adopted by them for children of all sects and stations and society is the
most original thing which America has yet produced. Speaking of New England education were you not impressed with the appetite of the population for like Cheers It is fantastic and crowded audiences are drawn to light up the night through the winter in spite of frost and snow from the class of laborers and mechanics of high station to listen with deep interest to lectures on Natural Theology zoology geology writings of Shakespeare beauties of Paradise Lost don't mean the other day I was getting some travelling instructions at the bar. When a company and who had just finished a day's work and asked what lecture would be given that evening the reply was on the astronomy of the Middle Ages. He then inquired if it was gratis and was answered in the negative the price being 25 cents. Upon which he said he should go. I don't want to sound like a reactionary southern aristocrat but I would like to
ask whether if men of the humblest condition be taught to enjoy the poems of Milton and gray romances of Scott or lectures on literature or astronomy in botany they'll be contented with their situation in life and submit to hard labor. So will your extensive observations help us with that question. All apprehension of such consequences is rapidly disappearing in the more advanced states of the American Union. It is acknowledged by the rich that when free schools have been most improved the people are least addicted to intemperance are more provident have more respect for property and the laws are more conservative and less led away by socialist or other revolutionary doctrines. Men ever speculate on the probability of the other states in the north south and west some of them differing greatly in the degree of their social advancement and many of them return it by negro slavery.
Adopting the example set by the New England as we build our hopes chiefly on that powerful stimulus offered by our institutions for popular education a stimulus such as was never experienced before in any country in the world. The rich who know how to select the best books and can afford to purchase them who can retreat into the quiet of their libraries from the noise of their children may doubt the utility of public lectures. But all instruction is in fact the only means by which the great mass of middling and lower classes can have their thoughts turned to the subject. I suppose Sir Charles A. That is why on your first visit you so admired the Lowell Institute Lowell Institute was that Mr. John Lowell a native of Massachusetts after having carefully studied the educational establishment in his own country visited London in 1833. He pursued his travels in the hope of exploring India and China Egypt while engaged in making a collection of antiquities. He was attacked by an intermittent fever of which he soon afterwards died. He
drew up his last will that 1835 amidst the ruins of thieves leaving half his noble fortune for the foundation of a Literary Institute in his native city. In reality some bequeath by Mr. Lowe the munificent was by no means enormous. Not much exceeding seventy thousand pounds. According to the usual fate awaiting donations for educational objects all this would have been swallowed up in the erection of costly buildings had not the test data provided in his will that not a single dollar should be spent in brick and mortar. Your praise of the Law Institute makes it all the more appropriate So Giles that you should appear in our series of broadcasts. But we are still asking for your final judgement upon this republic. Goldsmith in the car of Wakefield makes his traveler say that it is not the forms of government that determine the amount of liberties enjoyed by individuals but that riches in general are another name for freedom.
You agree with Goldsmith can Ritu secure intellectual liberty. No doubt they can protect the few who possess them from particularly any penalties when they profess unpopular doctrine. Not so I take it's a child you mean that something more something other is needed precisely is to enable a man to think he must be allowed to communicate freely his thoughts to others until they have been brought into the daylight and discussed they will never be clear even to himself. How can we in America obtain this liberty. There is only one method. It is by educating the millions and by dispelling their ignorance prejudices and bigotry. I have a project of Sir instructing the millions seems to me utopian. Why so. How can they understand the patient and laborious trains of research and reasoning by which we have arrived at the grand generalization in geology for instance. This is not requisite for the desired end. We have simply to
communicate the results. And this we are bound to do without waiting to live being established half a century. Therefore I conclude Sir Charles Lyell that your last word to this democracy concerns the basic importance of education. We ought to carefully prepare the public mind for new conclusions as soon as they become highly probable and thus make impossible that collision of opinion so much to be deprecated between the multitude and the learned. And how do we go about doing this. All that we require When once a goal of the system of primary and normal schools as being organized is a moderate trail of moral courage and love of truth. Travelers to America. Ben Howard. You have been listening to Sir Charles Lyell's impressions of the United States from his
travels in North America published in 1845 and a second visit to the United States published in 1849 adapted by Harry Miller. The fastener of American literature or Harvard University. The cast included Edward Finnegan Robert Evans and Edward Summum as to Charles Lyell Professor Mello as the narrator. Original theme music by Raymond Wilding. Mike this has been the eleventh broadcast in they bend our ear. The story is told by the host of travel. To America during the period from the 1820s to the 1850s in the remaining broadcasts you will meet two more such travelers at all times they speak in their own words quoted directly from their writing. Next week we meet the English novelist. When you make peace Dockery twice visited the United States in the 1850s they
bent our air is produced and directed by Allison would lay for the Lowell Institute co-operative broadcasting Council production supervisor Lawrence Prescott. This series has been recorded in the studios of station WGBH FM and produced under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the n AB network.
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They bent our ear
Sir Charles Lyell
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the writings of Sir Charles Lyell and his experiences in the United States.
Series Description
Dramatic readings of 14 travelers who came to the United States in 1820-1850 and wrote of what they saw.
Broadcast Date
Geologists--Great Britain--Biography.
Media type
Host: Van Dusen, Henry P. (Henry Pitney), 1897-1975
Producer: Lowell Institute
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Writer: Miller, Perry, 1905-1963
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-6-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:56
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Chicago: “They bent our ear; Sir Charles Lyell,” 1964-02-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “They bent our ear; Sir Charles Lyell.” 1964-02-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: They bent our ear; Sir Charles Lyell. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from