One final day in Scotland, then on to London
Sunday 30 June 1901 - Sunday 7 July 1901
William Hatch was never one to be short on words. Though his descriptions of places and people and experiences are relatively succinct, he nevertheless ends up writing pages and pages each day to his wife Nellie. He is a romantic. He sees so much beauty in the natural world and in things returning to that world. One such example of this is his description of Melrose Abbey in Scotland. The final days in that country were spent by Hatch and his companions in nature and in ruins at the site of this 12th century abbey-church that was a center of Scottish learning and influence until the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century. By the time Hatch reached it, the site was already a ruin and very much in commune with the nature surrounding it. Hatch in particular is interested in its storied past, especially the mystical and the weird.
In the image above you can see the spot which Hatch references with 'x' in the journal excerpt above that. This is a prime example of just the sort of things which caught William's attention - Medieval ruins relating to stories of wizards and heroes found in 19th century literature.
We have already seen that William and his companions have learned through trial and error how best to get around these countries to which they are foreign. Whether making change, finding lodging or interacting with pub owners, Hatch seems to happen upon countless ways that make clear that they are not at home in Illinois. The most interesting part of these encounters is not the differences in custom or measurements but in the manner that he handles these differences. As a foreign visitor to these countries Hatch is forced to change his understanding rather than expect his hosts to change theirs. This is one of the most fundamental learning experiences any human can have. Altering the perspective from which one views their world to see it from the point of another is surreal, and it causes the learner to realize just how wonderfully human we all are. Travel invariably leads people to experience this on some level. Below is yet another instance of William's continued education in all things English:
After over a month exploring the Welsh, English, and Scottish countrysides, the Hatch Party finally makes its way towards what was then the largest city in the world: London. At this time London was the capitol of the largest empire in the world, home to international companies with more power and influence than most countries at the time. It was also the center of literature, art, and culture in the West, with a rich history influenced by the successive conquests of the Celts, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and Anglo-Saxons. Even William Hatch, a self-proclaimed lover of country life, found many excellent reasons to love London and all that it had (and still has) to offer visitors and residents alike.
One major reason he loved it was because of the countless sites throughout the city referenced in the pages of literature. William Hatch has proven his literate nature when quoting William Wordsworth at length in the Lake District and citing Sir Walter Scott at Melrose Abbey. One of his favorite authors has been noticeably absent from this discourse, but not for long. Charles Dickens captured William's - and millions of others' - imagination with his evocative depictions of life in Victorian London. If you ever make a visit to the Ames-Florida-Stork House in Rockford, Minnesota you will find Hatch's copies of Great Expectations and Hard Times preserved under the roof of that 170 year old home. Hatch's wife Nellie lived there as a child, and the couple spent their summers in Rockford. It only seemed fitting for Hatch to leave some of his books there. These are now included in the collections of the Rockford Area Historical Society. Below are the first of many of William Hatch's descriptions of London through references to the characters created by Charles Dickens:
By this point in his journey Hatch had traveled by boat, by carriage, by train, and by foot. Upon entering London, however, he was introduced to other modes of transportation including buses, cabs and most notably the Underground. Incorporating the world's first underground railway from 1863, the London Underground is considered the oldest rapid transit system on Earth. It is also hailed as one of the best, a distinction which began early - as we can see by Hatch's description of it in his journal.
Modern amenities such as the first and best underground system were not the only progressive things one could find in London. Being the capital of a massive empire spanning the entire globe, London naturally also became home to an incredible mixture of people from far flung places. It remains so to this day. A day after encountering the Underground, Hatch and Ed Harper encounter something perhaps even more astonishing - open dissent and amiable discussion of events by people with different and sometimes opposing opinions. He writes about a corner of Hyde Park which is "given up to speakers who wish to speak on any subject. A man will begin to talk and a group will gather about him and perhaps ask him questions or disagree with him and they will have it back and forth." This practice was very common in Europe, but not so much so in America. This is because America had always supported a strong right to freedom of speech. In England and other countries, however, public discourse was contained to informal instances such as this in Hyde Park; to speak out against the Crown or any other authority in an official manner was often labeled as libel at best and treason at worst.
The good weather continued to follow Hatch and his party through London, giving him plenty of beautiful evenings to spend writing back to Nellie. The first few days in England's capital were packed with site seeing, but there was only more to come. Catch up with us next time as Hatch explores the Thames, Crystal Palace, the Tower of London and more!
Until next time, cheers!
Interim Director, Rockford Area Historical Society