It was the most wonderful summer of evangelical work I was ever privileged to enjoy. There must have been much praying for me and my welfare, or no mortal could have got through with the work. In every city I went to, messages were passed into my ears for families in America. The collection taken for the benefit of the Y.M.C.A. at Leeds was about $6,000. During this visit I preached in Scenery Chapel, London, in the pulpit where such consecrated souls as Rowland Hill and Newman Hall and James Sherman had preached. I visited the “Red Horse Hotel,” of Stratford-on-Avon, where the chair and table used by Washington Irving were as interesting to me as anything in Shakespeare’s cottage. The church where the poet is buried is over seven hundred years old.
The most interesting place around London to me is in Chelsea, where, on a narrow street, I entered the house of Thomas Carlyle. This great author was away from London at the time. Entering a narrow hall, on the left is the literary workshop, where some of the strongest thunderbolts of the world’s literature have been forged. In the room, which has two front windows shaded from the prying street by two little red calico curtains, is a lounge that looks as though it had been made by an author unaccustomed to saw or hammer. On the wall were a few woodcuts in plain frames or pinned on the wall. Here was a photograph of Carlyle, taken one day, as a member of his family told me, when he had a violent toothache and could attend to nothing else, and yet posterity regards it as a favourite picture. There are only three copies of this photograph in existence. One was given to Carlyle, the other was kept by the photographer, and the third belongs to me. In long rough shelves was the library of the renowned thinker. The books were well worn with reading. Many of them were books I never heard of. American literature was almost ignored; they were chiefly books written by Germans. There was an absence of theological books, excepting those of Thomas Chalmers, whose genius he worshipped. The carpets were old and worn and faded. He wished them to be so, as a perpetual protest against the world’s sham. It did not appeal to me as a place of inspiration for a writer.
I returned to America impressed with the over-crowding of the British Isles, and the unsettled regions of our own country.
“Tell the United States we want to send her five million population this year, and five million population next year,” said a prominent Englishman to me. I urged a mutual arrangement between the two governments, to people the West with these populations. Great Britain was the workshop of the world; we needed workers. The trouble in the United States at this time was that when there was one garment needed there were three people anxious to manufacture it, and five people anxious to sell it. We needed to evoke more harvests and fruits to feed the populations of the world, and more flax and wool for the clothing. The cities in England are so close together that there is a cloud from smokestacks the length and width of the island. The Canon of York Minster showed me how the stone of that great cathedral was crumbling under the chemical corrosion of the atmosphere, wafted from neighbouring factories.