Extract from Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge’s London Travel Diary

Rain, rain, rain, rain but the weather as mild and dark as an April night in Virginia. Yesterday Mr Coolidge & myself went to Highgate to see our little son, whom, thank heaven, we found well. I have gone on with Mrs Jamieson’s book, “Winter studies & Summer rambles.” The studies are German and there is much desultory criticism. The rambles I have seen nothing of as yet, but an account of her visit to Niagara. She declares herself to have been greatly disappointed!!! Yet her description of the falls, as seen in winter, is graphic & interesting. Surely she must desire to gain celebrity as “the person who does not admire the Cataract of Niagara.” But there is sometimes a sensation of coldness and bewilderment when one sees for the first time, any remarkable object after long and anxious expectation. When our wishes have run high and our imagination been greatly excited. It is not disappointment but a want of comprehension, an uncertainty of impression,—the power of appreciation seems benumbed. I was a woman grown when I first saw the Ocean and my feelings were of stupefaction. It took me some time to wake up to the full sense of what I saw. So in my visit to the Natural Bridge. I had been all my life hearing of it, longing for it—my expectations were wrought up to the highest pitch, and when on a bright summer morning, after having crossed the Blue Ridge on horseback the day before, I found myself in presence of this great work of Nature’s Architecture, I felt cold and confused and unable to reply to the questions of my companions, or to define my own sensations It was by degrees that I became sensible to the full beauty and solemnity of the object before me. I remained for three hours intent upon it, and the longer I looked the more difficult I found it to tear myself away, and I believe I should have remained till nightfall but for the better regulated memories of my friends, to whom the prospect of a ride of some miles through a mountain country, after dark, was not particularly pleasant.

MS (MHi: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Diary, Ms N-1027); in Coolidge’s hand. Published in Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838–1839, Ann Lucas Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla, eds. (2011), 186–7.

Anna Brownell Jameson’s [jamieson’s] book, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, was published in 1838.