Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snow and Carriages by Diane Gaston

We've been having an unusually cold winter in Northern Virginia this year with temperatures below freezing way too many days. Yesterday morning we woke up to layers of ice over everything. At least it was not the 30 inches of snow we suffered last year. And at least I didn't have to drive in it.

Of course, to be traveling in snow in a carriage the early 1800s would be even more difficult. Here's a passage from Dickens' Bleak House that should give us an idea of carriage travel in a snowy winter in England:

It had set in snowing at daybreak, and it now snowed hard. The air was so thick with the darkness of the day and the density of the fall, that we could see but a very little way in any direction. Although it was extremely cold, the snow was but partially frozen, and it churned—with a sound as if it were a beach of small shells—under the hoofs of the horses, into mire and water. They sometimes slipped and floundered for a mile together, and we were obliged to come to a standstill to rest them. One horse fell three times in this first stage, and trembled so, and was so shaken, that the driver had to dismount from his saddle and lead him at last.

Do you have any nightmare winter travel stories? It once took me hours to get home from work, a distance of about 5 miles. Every route I attempted had cars sliding around. Finally, one ramp was clear and I put my little Honda Civic in gear and wasn't stopping for anything!


Vince said...

Hi Diane:

What a marvelous descriptive passage. Do you think any editor today would allow this much description? It just seems to me that descriptions were far better before the invention of photography, TVs and movies.


Marleen Gagnon said...

One holiday weekend, I left southern IN for WV on a sunny winter day to meet my husband. The back roads in IN were snow covered when I left. I thought, they'll get better when I get to the highway. I traveled on ice. The interstate closed behind me due to ice. Finally in WV 1/2 hour before my destination I parked and called the husband to come get me.