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Tales Of The Trains Being Some Chapters of Railroad Romance by Tilbury Tramp, Queen's Messenger   By: (1806-1872)

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By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By Phiz.

Boston: Little, Brown, And Company.




By Tilbury Tramp, Queen's Messenger.

Bang, bang, bang! Shake, shiver, and throb; The sound of our feet Is the piston's beat, And the opening valve our sob!


Let no enthusiast of the pastoral or romantic school, no fair reader with eyes "deeply, darkly, beautifully blue," sneer at the title of my paper. I have written it after much and mature meditation.

It would be absurd to deny that the great and material changes which our progress in civilization and the arts effect, should not impress literature as well as manners; that the tone of our thoughts, as much as the temper of our actions, should not sympathize with the giant strides of inventive genius. We have but to look abroad, and confess the fact. The facilities of travel which our day confers, have given a new and a different impulse to the human mind; the man is no longer deemed a wonder who has journeyed some hundred miles from home, the miracle will soon be he who has not been everywhere.

To persist, therefore, in dwelling on the same features, the same fortunes, and the same characters of mankind, while all around us is undergoing a great and a formidable revolution, appears to me as insane an effort as though we should try to preserve our equilibrium during the shock of an earthquake.

The stage lost much of its fascination when, by the diffusion of literature, men could read at home what once they were obliged to go abroad to see. Historical novels, in the same way, failed to produce the same excitement, as the readers became more conversant with the passages of history which suggested them. The battle and murder school, the raw head and bloody bones literature, pales before the commonest coroner's inquest in the "Times;" and even Boz can scarce stand competition with the vie intime of a union workhouse. What, then, is to be done? Quæ regio terræ remains to be explored? Have we not ransacked every clime and country, from the Russian to the Red Man, from the domestic habits of Sweden to the wild life of the Prairies? Have we not had kings and kaisers, popes, cardinals, and ministers, to satiety? The land service and the sea service have furnished their quota of scenes; and I am not sure but that the revenue and coast guard may have been pressed into the service. Personalities have been a stock in trade to some, and coarse satires on well known characters of fashionable life have made the reputation of others.

From the palace to the poorhouse, from the forum to the factory, all has been searched and ransacked for a new view of life or a new picture of manners. Some have even gone into the recesses of the earth, and investigated the arcana of a coal mine, in the hope of eliciting a novelty. Yet, all this time, the great reformer has been left to accomplish his operations without note or comment; and while thundering along the earth or ploughing the sea with giant speed and giant power, men have not endeavored to track his influence upon humanity, nor work out any evidences of those strange changes he is effecting over the whole surface of society. The steam engine is not merely a power to turn the wheels of mechanism, it beats and throbs within the heart of a nation, and is felt in every fibre and recognized in every sinew of civilized man.

How vain to tell us now of the lover's bark skimming the midnight sea, or speak of a felucca and its pirate crew stealing stealthily across the waters! A suitor would come to seek his mistress in the Iron Duke, of three hundred horse power; and a smuggler would have no chance, if he had not a smoking galley, with Watt's patent boilers!

What absurdity to speak of a runaway couple, in vain pursued by an angry parent, on the road to Gretna Green! An express engine, with a stoker and a driver, would make the deserted father overtake them in no time!

Instead of the characters of a story remaining stupidly in one place, the novelist now can conduct his tale to the tune of thirty miles an hour, and start his company in the first class of the Great Western... Continue reading book >>

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