They bent our ear; William Makepeace Thackeray
You know America there is a Russian activity of life quite astounding splendid recklessness which has in it something admirable to a great good which an Englishman who has seen men and cities gets by coming here the is it he robs a deal of Cockney out of himself and finds men and women in a bubble or must go design. They bend our ear travels to America. From the 1820s to the eve of the Civil War. Europeans came to America in a steady for they travel through the United States never 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 somewhere friendly somewhere highly critical on meticulous observers of detail.
When they bend our ear. Written by Perry Miller professor of American literature at Harvard University. You meet some of the travelers to America who bent our ear with their criticism. Their advice their praise or their philosophy at all times the traveller speak in their own words. Want it directly from their writing. They bent our ear is produced and recorded by the Lowell Institute co-operative broadcasting Council under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Today's encounter is with when you make peace Thackeray who expressed some of his views about the United States in his published letters and in his historical novel The Virginia. Professor Perry Miller is your host and now writer.
William a piece that Gray made two visits to America one in the winter of 1852 53 to deliver a lecture is on the English humor. And again in 1855 56 with a series of lectures on the four King Georges. As the second trip drew to a close a critic in the Philadelphia Bulletin said Mr. Tanqueray left his reputation safely at home when he prepared these lectures for America. But he can afford to lose it altogether in America and in consideration of a handsome profit when he goes back he can deliver lectures write novels satirizing American society and so he can make the voyages both sides of the war that we heartily hope he will lecture and write about us. He may be as wrong as Dickens Marriott's whole and trollop but he will do us good as they have done and we can afford to pay handsomely for being gradually cured of an insane passion of flattery smarted the
occasional harsh notices he received in the American press as he wrote to his daughters I am Harriet and he and Minnie and the latter I suppose I am a little sore at the way in which the press has treated you as if it weren't for the dollars I think he would not long be here that was it. If it weren't for the dollars. He came to America solely to garner his share of the dollars and that I can so eagerly pay to listen to foreign lions in order to ensure that his daughters might be handsomely provided for and for himself to recoup his formidable losses at cards. From first to last a lot is doing them chronicled his financial successes at Reactor McGrady as far as the money goes I'm doing great things here and the dollars are rolling in. I will make all but a thousand pounds in five weeks from Royston last night was the first lecture here. Twelve hundred people I should think and I left behind me near a thousand pounds in New York which Barings Bank will invest for me. And do you know that the
common interest here is 8 percent. You earlier decided to invest most of the writings in America that percent and bought largely a railroad stock on the second trip. His health was not of the best but he kept on Boston. Fifteen hundred dollars New York fourteen hundred dollars Philadelphia fifteen hundred dollars one dollars five thousand four hundred dollars for four courses of these light and playful lectures pretty good day and towards the end of this tour. The old gentleman will it is to be hoped to earn as much money as will pay for his house five thousand pounds a year. Write Dickens like reminded person Boston were immediately presented a letter of introduction to a Boston lawyer Mr. George Lunt. In reply to the inevitable question concerning his impressions of the city what I did is nothing that looks new about it it has every appearance of solidity just like an English city. Did you expect to see log buildings of rough Borro not that of
course but I certainly had no idea defining everything in such a simple and improved condition so that I should not have known what I I was actually in Europe Boston and settled nearly two hundred fifty years Mr. Secretary having had not a little commercial and social intercourse with the world abroad. He just made much advance from its original state. Bostonians have long enjoyed some advantages of education and will be as eager to hear your proposed lectures as would be the most cultivated people on the other side of the ocean. Mr. Thackeray's manner could be a cop laughed. You know he truly seem to me a high bred conscientious and considerate man and with the true spirit of a gentleman. He made a point to write nothing about us or our concerns while accepting our hospitality and making profit out of our attendance upon his lectures. Such sentiments would suggest he was a man of sensitivity. Yes but he sometimes in a festive mood indulged in certain offhand private remarks not always well taken by sensitive persons to whom they
happen to be addressed. They were examples of the English bluntness where I think an American gentleman would have scarcely given way to a personal allusion. The company where I was Divakar he found himself most at home in America where his bluntness apparently was not resented. Was the Century Club in New York. This was back room on Saturday nights where he quickly gained a reputation as a trencherman respect George Diller. I don't lie is it enjoy it properly you will be by many hours in the week many weeks in the year and many years in your life the happier if you do. On his first evening I apologize for the smallness of the oysters and said we should hope to give him larger ones next time. How do you eat them. How should I do it. Well I just put one in your mouth and swallow. How do you feel profoundly grateful and as if I'd swallowed a small baby. He called us the best club in the world Larry said with an admiring circle and
smoked and said and sang his little belly. Dr. Martin Luther whom I saw Reverend Doctor Who loves not one woman I saw was. One is I believe a title to doubt whether Proctor is re-iterated determination to write nothing upon America was entirely a matter of high principles as he repeatedly wrote home. I try and think of something to say about this country. All I have a remark I could put down
in two pages. He continued I'll have it in public to give the other reasons. As for writing anything about this country about going about the friends I've found here no one helping me to procure independence for my children I could not think of it could mean by writing that book of American notes. No man should write about the country under five years of experience. We Americans have often felt we had reason to complain of judgments propounded upon meagre knowledge. But you mention this to Dickens I can well imagine you had frequent occasions to compare your experiences with his. All the people have not turned out with flags and drums to receive me like the welcome is the most pleasant some of us remember was what a theatrical flourish Charles Dickens was received in this country. But Mr. Thackeray has met with the attention due him as a public man of letters and with a friendly courtesy due to him as a private gentleman. Oh I see. Still likely could not ignore
or forget Dickens triumphant reception and to go back you're saying that are you remarked about America in the factory could be put down in two pages I gave up sight seeing it once is impossible to a man in my position here forgive me of oppressing you but you have travelled a great deal and have perforce observed. Well now that I've seen three great cities Boston New York Philadelphia I think I like them all mightily Well they seem to me not so civilized as all London but more so than men just go to Liverpool. It was very good literally company. It's like a river that a vast amount of Toryism and donation is everywhere so that in New York the simplest and least pretentious it suffices for man he should keep a fine house give parties and have a daughter to get all the world to him. My first arrival I was annoyed at the encounter spent viciousness but after a while you get accustomed to the splendor of the dresses as well. Matter of taste of people. Well I have found kind matrons in pretty girls everywhere. Young Quik Chris in
Philadelphia how pretty she was most of the ladies here are is as lean as Grey how they dress prodigious leaf taking for their models the French actresses I think of it's a great pity you did not bring the young ladies your horses with you. Oh oh oh oh oh how I wouldn't like my girls to live here. I never saw such luxury and extravagance such such stupendous suppers and fine clothes. I watched one young lady in as many new dresses and each dress of the most stunning description. Oh Auntie Annie and Minnie and yellow and all for that. I understand you have become accustomed to splendor for American young ladies but you still cling to a more sober view for English girls. But let us return to your travels from Richmond in Virginia I have travelled fifteen hundred miles a railway one endless swamp of sand log houses negroes dirty cars among the passengers spitting chewing cutting their gums with their penknives.
The hotel I think is disgusting. Oh rouse all night knives down everybody's throat dirty bucks travelling over the balcony of that dirty boots as high as their heads the bottom is resoundingly blasphemies. You know not one pretty aspect of nature for those hundreds of miles except now and then a melancholy old ragged vista of pines or live oaks fringed with a dreary few nearly all Moss were your impression quite black then. Oh and do you know there's our Russian activity of life quite astounding. Splendid recklessness which has made it something admirable to great good which an Englishman who has seen men and cities gets by coming here that is that he robs a deal of Cockney arrogance often finds men and women above all is as good as Otto you know you learn to sympathize with a great hearty nation of twenty six millions of English speakers. Not quite ourselves but so alike the difference is not worth our scorn. I have so you asked any questions concerning the Old Dominion
for reasons you may well understand. I have come away from Virginia and the south not so horrified as perhaps I want to be with slavery which in the Talos is not by any means a horrifying institution. Oh the negroes in the good families are the happiest. Comfortable just race of Nino's. They are kept locked Joris Lee and working time and cared for most benevolently and in Richmond. I understand you were once more queried as to what you intended making of your American experiences. Yes by a Mr Mr John Cook author of the Virginia comedian. What is your impression of the journey of the character of a country and people. So I am I have always looked upon the Virginians as resembling more closely my own people in England than the Americans of other states. They seem more rational right along the seemly you know your work will be
laid here during the revolution and two brothers who will be prominent characters and will take the English side of the war and the other America. Your novel will be a full blooded historical one and and you have a striking denouement. Yorktown really must beg your pardon Mr. Tanqueray. My part I mean that I quite lost sight of the fact that I was talking with an English gentleman. You walked onto the scene of Lord Cornwallis to surrender and might not be an agreeable denouement. Oh it's nothing except you all talk. When Parker a published his novel The Virginian's some two years after his second lecture tour it was indeed about two brothers George and Harry Warrington but the action takes place for the most part in England. Now would you be good enough Mr. Bakri to describe your two young heroes your two young Virginians be into like in form they defer to temple.
The elder was peaceful studious and silent. The younger was warlike and noisy. Harry was of a strong military. The little negroes on the estate and caned them like a Corporal Winters George was sparing of blood. Gentle with all about him. George was a demure studious boy and his senses seemed to brighten up in the library. Harry on the other hand was all alive in the stables and in the wood and promised to be a good sportsman from an early age. It would perhaps not be too if it got out from this description than to surmise which side each boy took in the revolution. Oh yes George the studious one took the English side. How did the American grow house of cards. As we noted the scene of the novel is chiefly England to England Mr. Grey transported yet other American characters. Mr. Vanden Bosch with his granddaughter Miss Lydia recommended to the brothers by their mother Madame has been warning them most of that grazes us
attentions to American young ladies during his tours bore fruit and is portrayed of Mr. Liddy as George to give a party it is apartment in Southampton Row to introduce the American visitors to his friends factory invites us to join the company. I am suddenly forced to own little Miss Lydia is a beauty. The foot of a fan of the arms neck flashing eyes of a huntress of Diana but she has brought a little painted X and from home. What accents are pretty from pretty lips. Mr. Vanden Bosch her grandfather for all he brags all of his doctor painted comes I'm told from Albany in the Colony of New York and was nobody's son looked on. He made his money by land speculation and by privateering and by the Guinea trade. Mr. wanting to bring him across the room. How do you do. I have just been telling Mr. George how when we lodged yonder in Monument yard they're all coming after my lady buzzing like flies around the honey pot. Heaven bless her. I've had many offers for her and you Mr. George Washington of the young gentleman I should have chosen for they
told me I was a member the job spoke to Mr. Theodore Lembit and I like you none the worse because you prefer somebody else what you can see in your MS. as compared to my lady. Begging your honour's pardon I prayed I suppose when a young fellow gives his word to perform a piece of folly he always sticks to it my dear sir begging your pardon. Twenty years ago I was well to do. But I may say Heaven has blessed my store and I'm three times as well off no house my agents how much they would give for Vanden Bosch was built at six months for forty thousand pounds I warrant they'll discount the paper. Bill Lord Lord how mercenary you young men are always thinking about money nowadays. Happy to hear you as that girl I should say that money ain't the question my dear sir. Well it goes along with such a lovely thing is that Oh grandpa just talking about you little darling. Come give me a kiss my blessing. We were talking about you and Mr. George said he wouldn't take you with all the money your poor old grandfather can give you. Well my
blessing have a deal more than that trifle I spoke of when I should have. Please Heaven to remove me out of this world to a better one poor own get me is gone. There you will be a rich little lady then that she will which you don't wish me to go yet does she. Oh you dear darling grandpa. But I agree with his new understanding of the American Hero and tells us that Miss Lydia's dear doll and grandma are part of the house in Bloomsbury and kept a fine crowd before long Miss Lydia was as easy in the coach as if she had ridden in one all her life. She drove to the mercy of the jewelers and she called upon her friends with the utmost stickiness or rode abroad with them to take the air and with Mr. George it was wonderful how closely the little creature would show her enthusiasm asking him all sorts of simple questions about himself. I am glad you are going to be married. Oh so glad. I can talk to you frankly quite frankly as a brother and not be afraid of that. Oh do you speak like this about which they were always scolding made boarding school and if I
like you I may say so mayn't I Mr. George Grayson. That's the kind of talk which most men like to hear especially from such pretty lips as Miss Lydia's. What do you know about my lip. What indeed. Perhaps I should like to know a great deal more. They don't tell nothing but truth anyhow. If I have anything on my mind it must come out. I'm a country bred girl I am with my heart in my mouth all honesty and simplicity. Not like your English girls who have learned I don't know worked at their boarding schools and from the men afterwards. Not you of course though I can understand its being very dangerous to be reviewed. There is no danger. By and by I didn't save by his other things dangerous besides biting I should think. How does well you were engaged Master George that's all. Do you think if you had seen me first you would have liked Miss Theo Bess. Well what a foolish wayward little spoilt thing I am now. But one thing
you promise on your word in your honor now Mr. George what is that. That you won't tell Miss Theo I'll show hate me. Why should she hate you because I hate her and I wish she was dead. For Shane I'm a little fool to speak whatever is in my heart must come out. I'm a girl of the words I am. I was bred where the sun is hotter and then in this foggy climate and I am not like your cold English girls who before they speak or think or feel must wait for my MA to give leave bare. I may be a little fool for saying what I have and I know you'll go and tell Miss Lambert. Well do. I am happy to be able to say that neither Mr. Vanden Bosch is dangling a rich enormous lady's blandishments are allowed to turn your adoring head and the young lady in the end of all have no long occasion to regret for factory has or speedily fill the traditional role of the little American buys a tiger by marrying Mr. Warrington
cousin. But let Mr. Thackeray read from the London Magazine of November 17 the Saturday October 13th. Married at his seat CASA would hop to the Right Honorable Eugene also would to the very beautiful Mr. Van De boss of Virginia seventy thousand pounds. The earth was not young and handsome Mr. Gerard but Lydia was satisfied with her bargain. The new Countess speedily began to rule with an unlimited sway. I say No Blair Sibley we as humans are an ancient and noble family. No man has wants courage can ever have the esteem of Lydia Countess of Castlewood no more you can look at our ancestors George around these walls have the ASMS always fought for their country and king. My eldest son was to show the white feather I would say to him my lord Esmond Well that's the second title in our family. I disown your lordship.
Her ladyship was none the less often highly impatient with noble tradition not with the part I must pack off. He's passed his work in the workhouse is the place for him and I will have a smart good looking tall fellow in the lodge that will do credit to our livery but it was my grandfather's man I'm sort of given the queen Queen Instead I suppose and we ain't a going into mourning for for all her delight in being the mistress of Castle Miss Lydia I beg your pardon the countess did not entirely forget her or rather I should say that factory does not let her forget that she was a girl of the woods American. When the intelligence was received the general said we're back on the Plains of Abraham. She spoke out as a Republican George brought the knew that his brother Captain Harry Warrington had a share in the glorious victory. Family is distinguishing itself cousin. I hope the happiest days are in store for us all. Yes you are right to tell Harry that we are all very much pleased with him and
now we've turned the French king out of the country shouldn't be at all surprised if we set up for ourselves in America. I know you're talking treason. I'm talking reason my lord. I've no notion of folks being kept down and treated as children forever. Their firmament admiration for Gen. was the last American issue on which he would allow the two brothers to be in complete accord. Harry Seder Wolf was protecting America. George he was winning glory for England augmenting and honoring the brothers after fighting on opposite sides in the Revolution were divided on the subject of the next great military figure to emerge on American soil. Mr. Warrington origin I was a Sir George. You knew General Washington before you left the union. I must own I left home with no good will towards that honorable gentleman. My feelings were doubtless caused by jealousy over my mother's praise of his sterling qualities but I acknowledge that from his earliest days he always exhibited an extraordinary simplicity in
gravity and in later days the great of our old well. I've never seen a gentleman standing on his dignity maintaining it better. Mr. Washington you never liked my husband. That's the truth. It is all the more magnanimous of St. George to speak so well of him. Your brother is opinion general wanting to pray. Which is to say praise comes truly from the heart as often I look to the chief talking at night in the silence of the camp and remembered how lonely he was. What an awful responsibility he carried. How spies and traitors were eating out of his dish and an enemy lay in front of him who might at any time overpower him I thought sure this is the greatest man in the world. We sometimes talked of Wolf. It is greater than war. To endure is greater than to dare to tire out hostile fortune to be daunted by no difficulty to keep apart when all have lost it. To go through
intrigue spotless and to forego even ambition when the end is gained. Who can say this is not greatness. With scenes in these thoughts it was just the accolade you bring your novel The Virginian's to a close. Yet from the time you were writing them they are more than half a century in the past. The circumstance that you and so many of your countrymen now come to visit us. It is to be hoped for our mutual benefit would make it seem that we were friends again. Can you tell us looking back at it and after months spent immersed in the events of those days. What are your thoughts on the Revolution which brought America our independence. Many foolish exactions and petty tyrannies the habitual insolence of Englishman towards all foreigners all colonists the natural spirit of men outraged by our imperious domineering spirit said Britain and her colonies to quarrel. And the astonishing blunders of the system adopted in England brought the quarrel to an issue.
Had I been in Virginia tis very possible I should have taken the provincial side was the Stamp Act the cause of the revolution attacks no greater than that cheerfully paid in England do not most people consider the tax gatherer the natural enemy. I protest I don't know now which side was in the right or whether both were not. I am sure are we in England had nothing to do but to fight the battle out. And having lost the game I do violent believe that after the first natural sourness the loser felt no rank but rank Q Was the attacker. I see that you have indeed accepted Yorktown. Travelers to America. They bend our ear. You have been listening to some of what you make peace Thackeray's impressions of the United States as reported in his published letters and his novels of Virginians.
After two trips to the United States in the 1850s adopted by Perry Miller professor of American look at your Harvard University. The cast included Elena foop John Peters Fred Warren Robert Evans and the victor with Basil limed as Thackeray Professor Mello was the narrator original theme music by Raymond Wilding. This has been the 12 broadcast and they bend our ear the stories told by the host of travels to America during the period from the 1820s to the 1850s at all times the travellers speak in their own words quoted directly from their writing. Next week and off final broadcast we meet a Swedish woman novelist Frederick Bremmer who came to America in 1849. They bend how it is produced and directed by Alison Ridley for the Lowy Institute
- They bent our ear
- William Makepeace Thackeray
- Producing Organization
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on the writings of William Makepeace Thackeray 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
- Satirists, English
- 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: 56-6-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “They bent our ear; William Makepeace Thackeray,” 1964-03-02, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 31, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4746tw4b.
- MLA: “They bent our ear; William Makepeace Thackeray.” 1964-03-02. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 31, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4746tw4b>.
- APA: They bent our ear; William Makepeace Thackeray. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4746tw4b