John L. Stoddard was born in Brookline, Mass., April 24, 1850. He graduated at Williams College, as valedictorian of his class, in 1871, and then studied theology for two years at Yale Divinity School. Next he taught Latin and French in the Boston Latin School. In 1874 he was able to gratify a long cherished desire to travel in foreign lands, and not only made the customary tour of Europe, but visited Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine and Egypt as well. He then studied in Germany, and upon his return to America, began his career as a lecturer, which for about twenty years has known no interruptions save those due to his repeated visits to remote countries. His travels embrace nearly all the habitable parts of the globe.
Castle Of Chillon.
A Witty French abbe was once asked why he kept up a country-seat which he never visited. "Do you not know," he answered, "that I must have some place, where, though I never go to it, I can always imagine that I might be happier than where I am?' The world is like the abbe. Most of us are not living, we are anticipating life. We are always "going to our country seats." It is the land we have not visited that is to give to us our greatest happiness. If we have not yet found it in America, it is awaiting us in Europe; if not in Europe, surely in Japan. As the Germans say, "Da wo ich nicht bin, da ist das Gluck." Hence travel is attractive, if only as a means of acquiring that happiness which here seems so elusive. All of us hope to some day visit Europe and the Orient, and for that reason everything pertaining to their beauty, art, and history seems alluring. But when these have been seen, the wished-for goal of the untraveled world again recedes, and the desire is just as strong to visit other and more distant lands.
This love of travel is not caused by ordinary restlessness. It springs originally from the universal craving of the soul for something different from its usual environment.
It also comes from a legitimate longing for that broader education which only personal study of other races, civilizations and religions can bestow. And, finally, it arises from a yearning for the joy and benefit of realizing history by visiting the ancient shrines of art, the homes or sepulchres of heroes, and the arenas of heroic deeds. When such desires are once awakened, to travel is to live, to remain continually in one place is to stagnate.
Thousands of books of travel have been written, but notwithstanding that the scenes described in them are practically the same, and though the streets and buildings which adorn their text are perfectly familiar to their readers, such works are usually welcome, and always in proportion to the degree in which mere figures and statistics are subordinated to the ideas suggested by such travel to the writer's mind, which, of course, vary infinitely according to the culture, sympathy and enthusiasm of the individual. Thus, in a similar way, the keys of all pianos are the same; yet it is not the bits of ivory themselves that hold us spell-bound, but the magnetic fingers that move over them, and the musical interpretation and expression given by the performer.
If only accurate statistics and detailed descriptions were desired, guide-books would be sufficient; but who ever reads a guide-book for amusement?
Such thoughts have encouraged the author of these volumes to present in printed form lectures which for eighteen years have been received with never-failing kindness by an indulgent public. Verba volant; Scripta manent (Words are fleeting, but what is written remains). The voice of the speaker dies away, and what he says is soon forgotten, but on these printed pages, that which has really caused whatever success the "Stoddard Lectures" have achieved, may be recalled precisely as the lectures were heard, accompanied too by even more embellishment than illustrated them at the time of their delivery. It has always given the writer a singular sensation to meet his audiences season after season after the separation of a year. Were they the same individuals whom he had last addressed? He could not tell. They could be absolutely sure of his identity, but he was quite unable to determine theirs. Beyond the curve of platform or of stage, he could not distinguish the auditors of former years from those who were seated there for the first time. Sometimes they seemed to him scarcely more real and tangible than were the views that came and went so noiselessly upon the screen. He looked for a few moments at an amphitheatre of expectant faces, then darkness would transform them into rows of phantoms, and at the end he saw them rise and disappear, like a great fleet of ships that separates and scatters on a trackless sea.
In these volumes, however, he hopes to meet his audiences more frequently, and for a longer time than ever before. If, then, the oral lectures may have given the public some enjoyment in the past, it is the author's hope that when he himself no longer greets his former listeners, year by year, these souvenirs of travel may in this form find a more enduring place among the pleasures of their memories.
In that case he will not be utterly forgotten, for pleasant memories can never be taken from us; they are the only joys of which we can be absolutely sure.