A two-fold purpose has been kept in view during the preparation of these volumes--on the one-hand, to refresh the memories and, if possible, to enlarge the knowledge, of readers who have already visited Europe; on the other, to provide something in the nature of a substitute for those who have not yet done so, and to inspire them with new and stronger ambitions to make the trip.
Readers of the first class will perhaps find matter here which is new to them--at least some of it; and in any case should not regret an opportunity again to see standard descriptions of world-famed scenes and historic monuments. Of the other class, it may be said that, in any profitable trip to Europe, an indispensable thing is to go there possest of a large stock of historical knowledge, not to say with some distinct understanding of the profound significance to our American civilization, past, present, and future, of the things to be seen there. As has so often been said, one finds in Europe what one takes there--that is, we recognize there exactly those things which we have learned to understand at home. Without an equipment of this kind, the trip will mean little more than a sea-voyage, good or bad, a few rides on railroads somewhat different from our own, meals and beds in hotels not quite like ours, and opportunities to shop in places where a few real novelties may be found if one searches for them long enough.
No sooner has an American tourist found himself on board a ship, bound for Europe, than he is conscious of a social system quite unlike the one in which he was born and reared. On French ships he may well think himself already in France. The manners of sailors, no less than those of officers, proclaim it, the furniture proclaims it, and so do woodwork, wall decorations, the dinner gong (which seems to have come out of a chateau in old Touraine), and the free wine at every meal. The same is quite as true of ships bound for English and German ports; on these are splendid order, sober taste, efficiency in servants, and calls for dinner that start reminiscences of hunting horns.
The order and system impress one everywhere on these ships. Things are all in their proper place, employees are at their proper posts, doing their work, or alert to do it when the need comes. Here the utmost quiet prevails. Each part of the great organization is so well adjusted to other parts, that the system operates noiselessly, without confusion, and with never a failure of cooperation at any point. So long as the voyage lasts, impressions of a perfected system drive themselves into one's consciousness.
After one goes ashore, and as long as he remains in Europe, that well ordered state will impress, delight and comfort him. Possibly he will contrast it with his own country's more hurried, less firmly controlled ways, but once he reflects on causes, he will perceive that the ways of Europe are products of a civilization long since settled, and already ancient, while the hurried and more thoughtless methods at home are concomitants of a civilization still too young, too ambitious, and too successful to bear the curbs and restraints which make good manners and good order possible among all classes. It is from fine examples in these social matters, no less than from visits to historic places, that the observing and thoughtful tourist derives benefit from a European tour.
The literature of travel in Europe makes in itself a considerable library. Those who have contributed to it are, in literary quality, of many kinds and various degrees of excellence. It is not now so true as it once was that our best writers write for the benefit of tourists. If they do, it is to compile guide-books and describe automobile trips. In any search for adequate descriptions of scenes and places, we can not long depend on present-day writers, but must hark back to those of the last century. There we shall find Washington Irving's pen busily at work for us, and the pens of others, who make up a noble company. The writings of these are still fresh and they fit our purposes as no others do.
Fortunately for us, the things in Europe that really count for the cultivated traveler do not change with the passing of years or centuries. The experience which Goethe had in visiting the crater of Vesuvius in 1787 is just about such as an American from Kansas City, or Cripple Creek, would have in 1914. In the old Papal Palace of Avignon, Dickens, seventy years ago, saw essentially the same things that a keen-eyed American tourist of today would see. When Irving, more than a century ago, made his famous pilgrimage to Westminster Abbey, he saw about everything that a pilgrim from Oklahoma would see today.
It is believed that these volumes, alike in their form and contents, present a mass of selected literature such as has not been before offered to readers at one time and in one place.
FRANCIS W. HALSEY.