London, October 17, 1862
General McClellan’s work during the week ending the 18th has done a good deal to restore our drooping credit here. Most of the knowing ones had already discounted the capture of Washington and the capitulation of the Free States. Some had gone so far as to presume the establishment of Jefferson Davis as the President instead of Lincoln. The last number of the Edinburgh Review has a wise prediction that this is to be effected by the joint labors of the “mob” and of “the merchants” of the city of New York. This is the guide of English intelligence of the nature of our struggle. Of course it follows that no sensible effect is produced excepting from hard blows. If General McClellan will only go on and plant a few more of the same kind in his opponent’s eyes, I shall be his very humble servant, for it will raise us much in the estimation of all our friends. Mr. Gladstone will cease to express so much admiration of Jefferson Davis, and all other things will begin to flow smoothly again.
We are all very quietly at home. Last week I made a flying trip into the north to pay a visit to a good friend of America in Yorkshire.1 It gave me an opportunity to see a very pretty region of country, and the ruins of Bolton Abbey and Barden Towers in the picturesque valley of the river Wharfe. If they only had a little more sunlight, it would be very exquisite. But the excessive profusion of verdure unrelieved by golden rays, and only covered with a leaden sky, gives an aspect of sadness to quiet scenery which I scarcely relish. On the whole I prefer the brilliancy of America, even though it be at the cost of a browner surface.
My friend is a Colonel of a volunteer regiment, after the fashion of almost everybody here. For the fear of Napoleon has made the whole world turn soldier. Whilst I was with him he had some exercise at target practice with two sections of his riflemen. I went up to witness it, and thought it on the whole very good. The distances were three, four and five hundred yards. The best hits were nineteen in twenty. Three tied at eighteen, and then all the way down to eleven, which was the poorest. It seemed to me excellent practice, but I do not profess to be a judge. I suppose our people in the army by this time are able to do full as well if not better….
1 William E. Forster.