Letters from Lydia

Eliza Baylies Wheaton and her companions traveled from Liverpool to London by rail on April 30, 1862. After noting the time of their departure and the price of their first-class tickets, Wheaton described the journey. She found the sensation of passing through a three-mile tunnel “unpleasant,” which was countered for her by the pastoral landscape of the Midlands. “Our own country we left with the Sterility of Winter upon it,” she wrote; “and after crossing the cold, pitiless ocean to have such a landscape of verdure spread out before us, with beautiful herds of horned cattle and great numbers of sheep was truly delightful to us not yet fully recovered from Seasickness.”

The landscape was not entirely pastoral, of course, and Wheaton noted that they passed through the cities of Stafford, Wolverhampton, and Birmingham. “The iron districts about Birmingham looked very desolate,” she wrote.

After a journey of about eight hours, the travelers arrived at Euston Station. Wheaton’s comment about a bit of business that had to be done before they could proceed to a hotel pointed to one of the purposes of the entire transatlantic journey. “After David saw his Machine safely deposited,” she noted, “we took Cab (4 wheels) for Wovets Hotel Holborn.” The hotel had only one room available, so David stayed nearby at Bretts Hotel, which was on site of Old Furnivals Inn, 139 Holborn Street.

Safely arrived in London and with lodgings procured, the travelers could rest. “We were pleased,” Wheaton wrote, “with the appearance of London.” And the appearance of the hotel workers appealed to her as it had in Liverpool. “The attendants waiting Maids have a little cap on the back of their heads—Those females at the Office or Bar, are dressed like ladies—refined and apparently virtuous. The male waiters dressed as described on pag. 13,” she noted.

And those “females at the Office” gave Wheaton something very important indeed. “I was at once presented with two letters from Lydia Fowler wh. had been awaiting my arrival,” she wrote. Lydia Folger Fowler had once been a student at Wheaton Female Seminary, and she now offered Wheaton a link between home and an unfamiliar city. Fowler would be an important figure in the social circle that Wheaton created for herself as she settled temporarily in the city.
________
Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Madeleine B. Stern, Heads and Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).

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