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Boston from Georges Island, 2007

Hanna and I picked up a copy of Trollope the Traveller: Selections from Anthony Trollope’s Travel Writings edited by Graham Handley (Ivan R. Dee, 1993) on the $1 cart at the Brookline Booksmith this morning. While we were reading in the park, Hanna found and read aloud the following from Trollope’s 1862 two-volume travelogue North America, describing his travels across the continent in 1861. The eminent Victorian author had this to say about Boston:

Boston is not in itself a fine city, but it is a very pleasant city. They say that the harbour is very grand and very beautiful. It certainly is not so fine as that of Portland [, Maine] in a nautical point of view, and as certainly it is not as beautiful. It is the entrance from the sea into Boston of which people say so much; but I did not think it quite worthy of all I had heard. In such matters, however, much depends on the peculiar light in which the scenery is seen. And evening light is generally the best for all landscapes; and I did not see the entrance to Boston harbour by an evening light. It was not the beauty of the harbour of which I thought the most; but of the tea that had been sunk there, and of all that came of that successful speculation. Few towns now standing have a right to be more proud of their antecedents than Boston.

But as I have said, [Boston] is not specially interesting to the eye — what new town, or even what simply adult town, can be so? There is an Athenaeum, and a State Hall, and a fashionable street — Beacon Street, very like Picadilly as it runs along the Green Park, — and there is the Green Park opposite to this Picadilly, called Boston Common. Beacon Street and Boston Common are very pleasant. Excellent houses there are, and large churches, and enormous hotels; but of such things are these a man can write nothing that is worth the reading. The traveller who desires to tell his experience of North America must write of people rather than things.

I love how dismissive he is of the city “pish tosh,” you can hear him grumbling, “hardly worth writing home about!”

Lagoon on the Charles River Esplanade, looking toward Boston, 2007