RAMBLES IN ARDEN

To traverse Stratford-upon-Avon is to return upon old tracks, but
no matter how often you visit that delightful place you will always
see new sights in it and find new incidents. After repeated visits
to Shakespeare’s town the traveller begins to take more notice than
perhaps at first he did of its everyday life. In former days the
observer had no eyes except for the Shakespeare shrines. The addition
of a new wing to the ancient, storied, home-like Red Horse, the new
gardens around the Memorial theatre, the completed chime of Trinity
bells,–these, and matters like to these, attract attention now. And
now, too, I have rambled, in the gloaming, through scented fields to
Clifford church; and strolled through many a green lane to beautiful
Preston; and climbed Borden hill; and stood by the maypole on Welford
common; and journeyed along the battle-haunted crest of Edgehill; and
rested at venerable Compton-Wynyate;[29] and climbed the hills of
Welcombe to peer into the darkening valleys of the Avon and hear the
cuckoo-note echoed and re-echoed from rhododendron groves, and from the
great, mysterious elms that embower this country-side for miles and
miles around. This is the life of Stratford to-day,–the fertile farms,
the garnished meadows, the avenues of white and coral hawthorn, masses
of milky snow-ball, honeysuckle and syringa loading the soft air with
fragrance, chestnuts dropping blooms of pink and white, and laburnums
swinging their golden censers in the breeze.

[Illustration: _Trinity Church–Stratford-upon-Avon._]

The building that forms the southeast corner of High street and Bridge
street in Stratford was once occupied by Thomas Quiney, a wine-dealer,
who married the poet’s youngest daughter, Judith, and an inscription
appears upon it, stating that Judith lived in it for thirty-six years.
Richard Savage, that competent, patient, diligent student of the church
registers and other documentary treasures of Warwickshire, furnished
the proof of this fact, from investigation of the town records–which
is but one of many services that he has rendered to the old home of
Shakespeare. The Quiney premises are now occupied by Edward Fox, a
journalist, a printer, and a dealer in souvenirs of Shakespeare and of
Stratford. That house, in old times, was officially styled The Cage,
because it had been used as a prison. Standing in the cellar of it
you perceive that its walls are four feet thick. There likewise are
seen traces of the grooves down which the wine-casks were rolled, in
the days of Shakespeare’s son-in-law, Thomas Quiney. The business now
carried on by Edward Fox has been established in Stratford more than
a hundred years, and, as this tenant has a long lease of the building
and is of an energetic spirit in his pursuits, it bids fair to last
as much longer. An indication of Mr. Fox’s sagacity was revealed to me
in the cellar, where was heaped a quantity of old oak, taken, in 1887,
from the belfry of Trinity church, in which Shakespeare is buried.
This oak, which was there when Shakespeare lived, and which had to be
removed because a stronger structure was required for sustaining an
augmented chime of heavy bells, will be converted into various carved
relics, such as must find favour with Shakespeare worshippers,–of
whom more than sixteen thousand visited Stratford in 1887, at least
one-fourth of that number [4482] being Americans. A cross made of the
belfry wood is a pleasing souvenir of the hallowed Shakespeare church.
When the poet saw that church the tower was surmounted, not as now with
a graceful stone spire, but with a spire of timber, covered with lead.
This was removed, and was replaced by the stone spire, in 1763. The oak
frame to support the bells, however, had been in the tower more than
three hundred years.

[Illustration: _The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre._]

The two sculptured groups, emblematic of Comedy and Tragedy, which have
been placed upon the front of the Shakespeare Memorial theatre, are
the gain of a benefit performance, given in that building on August
29, 1885, by Miss Mary Anderson,[30] who then, for the first time in
her life, impersonated Shakespeare’s Rosalind. That actress, after her
first visit to Stratford,–a private visit made in 1883,–manifested
a deep interest in the town, and because of her services to the
Shakespeare Memorial she is now one of its life-governors. Those
services completed the exterior decorations of the building. The emblem
of History had already been put in its place,–the scene in _King John_
in which Prince Arthur melts the cruel purpose of Hubert to burn out
his eyes. Tragedy is represented by Hamlet and the Gravedigger, in
their colloquy over Yorick’s skull. In the emblem of Comedy the figure
of Rosalind is that of Miss Mary Anderson, in a boy’s dress,–a figure
that may be deemed inadequate to the original, but one that certainly
is expressive of the ingenuous demeanour and artless grace of that
gentle lady. The grounds south of the Memorial are diversified and
adorned with lawns, trees, flowers, and commodious pathways, and that
lovely, park-like enclosure,–thus beautified through the liberality
of Charles Edward Flower [obiit, May 3, 1892], the original promoter of
the Memorial,–is now free to the people, “to walk abroad and recreate
themselves” beside the Avon. The picture gallery of the Memorial lacks
many things that are needed. The library continues to grow, but the
American department of it needs accessions. Every American edition
of Shakespeare ought to be there, and every book of American origin,
on a Shakespeare subject. It was at one time purposed to set up a
special case, surmounted with the American ensign, for the reception of
contributions from Americans. The library contained, in March, 1890,
five thousand seven hundred and ninety volumes, in various languages.
[Now, in 1896, it comprises about eight thousand volumes.] Of English
editions of the complete works of Shakespeare it contains two hundred
and nine. A Russian translation of Shakespeare, in nine volumes,
appears in the collection, together with three complete editions in
Dutch. An elaborate and beautiful catalogue of those treasures, made
by Mr. Frederic Hawley, records them in an imperishable form. Mr.
Hawley, long the librarian of the Memorial, died at Stratford on March
13, 1889, aged sixty-two, and was buried at Kensal Green, in London,
his wish being that his ashes should rest in that place. Mr. Hawley
had been an actor, under the name of Haywell, and he was the author of
more than one tragedy, in blank verse. Mr. A. H. Wall, who succeeded
him as librarian,[31] is a learned antiquary and an admired writer.
To him the readers of the _Stratford-upon-Avon Herald_ are indebted
for instructive articles,–notably for those giving an account of the
original Shakespeare quartos acquired for the Memorial library at the
sale of the literary property of J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps. Those
quartos are the _Merchant of Venice_, the _Merry Wives of Windsor_,
and a first edition of _Pericles_. A copy of _Roger of Faversham_ was
also bought, together with two of the plays of Aphra Behn. Charles
Edward Flower purchased, at that sale, a copy of the first folio of
Shakespeare, and the four Shakespeare Folios, 1623, 1632, 1663, 1685,
stand side by side in his private library at Avonbank. Mr. Flower
intimated the intention of giving them to the Memorial library. [His
death did not defeat that purpose. Those precious books are now in the
Memorial collection.]

A large collection of old writings was found in a room of the Grammar
School, adjacent to the Guild chapel, in 1887. About five thousand
separate papers were discovered, the old commingled with the new; many
of them indentures of apprenticeship; many of them receipts for money;
no one of them especially important, as bearing on the Shakespeare
story. Several of them are in Latin. The earliest date is 1560,–four
years before the poet was born. One document is a memorandum
“presenting” a couple of the wives of Stratford for slander of certain
other women, and quoting their bad language with startling fidelity.
Another is a letter from a citizen of London, named Smart, establishing
and endowing a free school in Stratford for teaching English,–the
writer quaintly remarking that schools for the teaching of Latin are
numerous, while no school for teaching English exists, that he can
discover. Those papers have been classified and arranged by Richard
Savage, but nothing directly pertinent to Shakespeare has been found in
them. I saw a deed that bore the “mark” of Joan, sister of Mary Arden,
Shakespeare’s mother, but this may not be a recent discovery. All those
papers are written in that “cramped penmanship” which baffled Tony
Lumpkin, and which baffles wiser people than he was. Richard Savage,
however, is skilful in reading this crooked and queer calligraphy; and
the materials and the duty of exploring them are in the right hands.
When the researches and conclusions of that scholar are published
they will augment the mass of evidence already extant,–much of it
well presented by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps,–that the writer of
Shakespeare’s plays was a man familiar with the neighbourhood, the
names, and the everyday life of Stratford-upon-Avon; a fact which is
not without its admonitory suggestiveness to those credulous persons
who incline to heed the ignorant and idle theories and conjectures of
Mr. Ignatius Donnelly. That mistaken and somewhat mischievous writer
visited Shakespeare’s town in the summer of 1888, and surveyed the
scenes that are usually viewed. “He did not address himself to me,”
said Miss Chattaway, who was then at the Birthplace, as its custodian;
“had he done so I should have informed him that, in Stratford, Bacon is
all gammon.” She was right. So it is. And not alone in Stratford, but
wherever men and women have eyes to see and brains to understand.

[Illustration: _An Old Stratford Character: George Robbins. Died
September 17, 1889, aged 78._]

The spot on which Shakespeare died ought surely to be deemed as sacred
as the spot on which he was born: yet New Place is not as much visited
as the Birthplace,–perhaps because so little of it remains. Only
five hundred and thirty-seven visitors went there during the year
ending April 13, 1888.[32] In repairing the custodian’s house at New
Place the crossed timbers in the one remaining fragment of the north
wall of the original structure were found, beneath plaster. Those
have been left uncovered and their dark lines add to the picturesque
effect of the place. The aspect of the old house prior to 1742 is
known but vaguely, if at all. Shakespeare bought it in 1597, when he
was thirty-three years old, and he kept it till his death, nineteen
years later. The street, Chapel lane, that separates it from the
Guild chapel was narrower than it is now, and the house stood in a
grassy enclosure, encompassed by a wall, the entrance to the garden
being at some distance eastward in the lane, toward the river. The
chief rooms in New Place were lined with square, sunken panels of
oak, which covered the walls from floor to roof and probably formed
the ceilings. Some of those panels,–obtained when the Rev. Francis
Gastrell tore down that house in 1759,–may be seen in a parlour of
the Falcon hotel, at the corner of Scholar’s lane and Chapel street.
There is nothing left of New Place but the old well in the cellar,
the fragments of the foundation, the lintel, the armorial stone, and
the fragment of wall that forms part of the custodian’s house. That
custodian, Mr. Bower Bulmer, a pleasant, appreciative, and genial man,
died on January 17, 1888, and his widow succeeded him in office.[33]
Another conspicuous and interesting Stratford figure, well known and
for a long time, was John Marshall, the antiquary, who died on June 26,
1887. Mr. Marshall occupied the building next but one to the original
New Place, on the north side,–the house once tenanted by Julius
Shaw, one of the five witnesses to Shakespeare’s will. Mr. Marshall
sold Shakespeare souvenirs and quaint furniture. He had remarkable
skill in carving, and his mind was full of knowledge of Shakespeare
antiquities and the traditional lore of Stratford. His kindness,
his eccentric ways, his elaborate forms of speech, and his love and
faculty for art commended him to the respect and sympathy of all who
knew him. He was a character,–and in such a place as Stratford such
quaint beings are appropriate and uncommonly delightful. He will
long be kindly remembered, long missed from his accustomed round. He
rests now, in an unmarked grave, in Trinity churchyard, close to the
bank of the Avon,–just east of the stone that marks the sepulchre
of Mary Pickering; by which token the future pilgrim may know the
spot. Marshall was well known to me, and we had many a talk about
the antiquities of the town. Among my relics there was for some time
[until at last I gave it to Edwin Booth], a precious piece of wood,
bearing this inscription, written by him: “Old Oak from Shakespeare’s
Birth-place, taken out of the building when it was Restored in 1858 by
Mr. William Holtom, the contractor for the restoration, who supplied
it to John Marshall, carver, Stratford-on-Avon, and presented by
him to W. Winter, August 27th, 1885, J. M.” Another valued souvenir
of this quaint person, given by his widow to Richard Savage, of the
Birthplace,–a fine carved goblet, made from the wood of the renowned
mulberry-tree planted by the poet in the garden of New Place, and cut
down by the Rev. Francis Gastrell in 1756,–came into my possession, as
a birthday gift from Mr. Savage, on July 15, 1891.

At the Shakespeare Birthplace you will no longer meet with those
gentle ladies,–so quaint, so characteristic, so harmonious with the
place,–Miss Maria Chattaway and Miss Caroline Chattaway. The former
was the official custodian of the cottage, and the latter assisted
her in the work of its exposition. They retired from office in June,
1889, after seventeen years of service, the former aged seventy-six,
the latter seventy-eight; and now,–being infirm, and incapable of the
active, incessant labour that was required of them by the multitude
of visitors,–they dwell in a little house in the Warwick Road, where
their friends are welcomed, and where venerable and honoured age
may haunt the chimney-corner, and “keep the flame from wasting, by
repose.”[34] The new guardian of the Shakespeare cottage is Joseph
Skipsey,[35] of Newcastle, the miner poet: for Mr. Skipsey was trained
in the mines of Northumberland, was long a labourer in them, and his
muse sings in the simple accents of nature. He is the author of an
essay on Burns, and of various other essays and miscellaneous writings.
An edition of his poems, under the title of _Carols, Songs, and
Ballads_ has been published in London, by Walter Scott, and that book
will be found interesting by those who enjoy the study of original
character and of a rhythmical expression that does not savour of any
poetical school. Mr. Skipsey is an elderly man, with grizzled hair,
a benevolent countenance, and a simple, cordial manner. He spoke to
me, with much animation, about American poets, and especially about
Richard Henry Stoddard, in whose rare and fine genius he manifested
a deep, thoughtful, and gratifying interest. The visitor no longer
hears that earnest, formal, characteristic recital, descriptive of the
house, that was given daily and repeatedly, for so many years, by Miss
Caroline Chattaway,–that delightful allusion to “the mighty dome”
that was the “fit place for the mighty brain.” The Birthplace acquires
new treasures from year to year,–mainly in its library, which is kept
in perfect order by Richard Savage, that ideal antiquarian, who even
collects and retains the bits of the stone floor of the Shakespeare
room that become detached by age. In that library is preserved the
original manuscript of Wheler’s _History of Stratford_, together with
his annotated and interleaved copy of the printed book, which is thus
enriched with much new material relative to the antiquities of the
storied town.

In the Washington Irving parlour of the Red Horse the American
traveller will find objects that are specially calculated to please
his fancy and to deepen his interest in the place. Among them are the
chair in which Irving sat; the sexton’s clock to which he refers in
the _Sketch Book_; an autograph letter by him; another by Longfellow;
a view of Irving’s house of Sunnyside; and pictures of Junius Booth,
Edwin Booth, the elder and the present Jefferson, Miss Mary Anderson,
Miss Ada Rehan, Elliston, Farren, Salvini, Henry Irving, and Miss Ellen
Terry. To invest that valued room with an atmosphere at once literary
and dramatic was the intention of its decorator, and this object has
been attained. When Washington Irving visited Stratford and lodged
at the Red Horse the “pretty chambermaid,” to whom he alludes, in his
gentle and genial account of that experience, was Sally Garner,–then,
in fact, a middle-aged woman and plain rather than pretty. The head
waiter was William Webb. Both those persons lived to an advanced
age. Sally Garner was retired, on a pension, by Mr. Gardner, former
proprietor of the Red Horse, and she died at Tanworth (not Tamworth,
which is another place) and was buried there. Webb died at Stratford.
He had been a waiter at the Red Horse for sixty years, and he was
esteemed by all who knew him. His grave, in Stratford churchyard,
remained unmarked, and it is one among the many that, unfortunately,
were levelled and obliterated in 1888, under the rule of the present
vicar. A few of the older residents of the town might perhaps be able
to indicate its situation; but, practically, that relic of the past
is gone,–and with it has vanished an element of valuable interest to
the annual multitude of Shakespeare pilgrims upon whom the prosperity
of Stratford is largely dependent, and for whom, if not for the
inhabitants, every relic of its past should be perpetuated.[36] This
sentiment is not without its practical influence. Among other good
results of it is the restoration of the ancient timber front and the
quaint gables of the Shakespeare hotel, which, already hallowed by its
association with Garrick and the Jubilee of September 7, 1769, has now
become one of the most picturesque, attractive, and representative
buildings in Stratford.

There is a resolute disposition among Stratford people to save and
perpetuate everything that is associated, however remotely, with the
name of Shakespeare. Mr. Charles Frederick Loggin,[37] a chemist in the
High street, possesses a lock and key that were affixed to one of the
doors in New Place, and also a sundial that reposed upon a pedestal
in New Place garden, presumably in Shakespeare’s time. The lock is
made of brass; the key of iron, with an ornamented handle, of graceful
design, but broken. On the lock appears an inscription stating that
it was “taken from New Place in the year 1759, and preserved by John
Lord, Esq.” The sundial is made of copper, and upon its surface are
Roman numerals distributed around the outer edge of the circle that
encloses its rays. The corners of the plate are broken, and one side
of it is bent. This injury was done to it by thieves, who wrenched it
from its setting, on a night in 1759, and were just making away with it
when they were captured and deprived of their plunder. The sundial also
bears an inscription, certifying that it was preserved by Mr. Lord. New
Place garden was at one time owned by one of Mr. Loggin’s relatives,
and from that former owner those Shakespeare relics were derived.
Shakespeare’s hand may have touched that lock, and Shakespeare’s eyes
may have looked upon that dial,–perhaps on the day when he made Jaques
draw the immortal picture of Touchstone in the forest, moralising on
the flight of time and the evanescence of earthly things. [_As You Like
It_ was written in 1599-1600.]

[Illustration: _Anne Hathaway’s Cottage._]

Another remote relic of Shakespeare is the shape of the foundation
of Bishopton church, which remains traced, by ridges of the velvet
sod, in a green field a little to the northwest of Stratford, in
the direction of Wilmcote,–the birthplace of Shakespeare’s mother,
Mary Arden. The parish of Bishopton adjoins that of Shottery, and
Bishopton is one of three places that have commonly been mentioned
in association with Shakespeare’s marriage with Anne Hathaway. Many
scholars, indeed, incline to think that the wedding occurred there. The
church was destroyed about eighty years ago. The house in Wilmcote,
in which, as tradition declares, Mary Arden was born, is seen at the
entrance to the village, and is conspicuous for its quaint dormer
windows and for its mellow colours and impressive antiquity. Wilmcote
is rougher in aspect than most of the villages of Warwickshire, and
the country immediately around it is wild and bleak; but the hedges
are full of wildflowers and are haunted by many birds; and the wide,
green, lonesome fields, especially when you see them in the gloaming,
possess that air of melancholy solitude,–vague, dream-like, and poetic
rather than sad,–which always strongly sways the imaginative mind.
Inside the Mary Arden cottage I saw nothing remarkable, except the
massive old timbers. That house as well as the Anne Hathaway cottage
at Shottery, will be purchased and added to the other several Trusts,
of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the Museum, and New Place.[38] The Anne
Hathaway cottage needs care, and as an authentic relic of Shakespeare
and a charming bit of rustic antiquity its preservation is important,
as well to lovers of the poet, all the world over, as to the town of
Stratford, which thrives by his renown. The beautiful Guild chapel also
needs care. The hand of restoration should, indeed, touch it lightly
and reverently; but restored it must be, at no distant day, for every
autumn storm shakes down fragments of its fretted masonry and despoils
the venerable grandeur of that gray tower on which Shakespeare so
often gazed from the windows of his hallowed home. Whatever is done
there, fortunately for the Shakespearean world, will be done under the
direction of a man of noble spirit, rare ability, sound scholarship,
and fine taste,–the Rev. R. S. DeCourcy Laffan, head-master of the
Grammar School and therefore pastor of the Guild.[39] Liberal in
thought, manly in character, simple, sincere, and full of sensibility
and goodness, that preacher strongly impresses all who approach him,
and is one of the most imposing figures in the pulpit of his time. And
he is a reverent Shakespearean.

A modern feature of Stratford, interesting to the Shakespeare pilgrim,
is Lord Ronald Gower’s statue of the poet, erected in October, 1888,
in the Memorial garden. That work is infelicitous in its site and
not fortunate in all of its details, but in some particulars it is
fine. Upon a huge pedestal appears the full-length bronze figure of
Shakespeare, seated in a chair, while at the four corners of the base
are bronze effigies of Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Henry the Fifth, and
Falstaff. Hamlet is the expression of a noble ideal. The face and
figure are wasted with misery, yet full of thought and strength. The
type of man thus embodied will at once be recognised,–an imperial,
powerful, tender, gracious, but darkly introspective nature, broken
and subjugated by hopeless grief and by vain brooding over the mystery
of life and death. Lady Macbeth is depicted in her sleep-walking, and,
although the figure is treated in a conventional manner, it conveys
the idea of remorse and of physical emaciation from suffering, and
likewise the sense of being haunted and accursed. Prince Henry is
represented as he may have appeared when putting on his dying father’s
kingly crown. The figure is lithe, graceful, and spirited; the pose
is true and the action is natural; but the personality is deficient of
identity and of royal distinction. Falstaff appears as a fat man who is
a type of gross, chuckling humour; so that this image might stand for
Gambrinus. The intellect and the predominant character of Falstaff are
not indicated. The figures are dwarfed, furthermore, by the size of the
stone that they surround,–a huge pillar, upon which appropriate lines
from Shakespeare have been inscribed. The statue of Shakespeare shows
a man of solid self-concentration and adamantine will; an observer,
of universal view, and incessant vigilance. The chief feature of it
is the piercing look of the eyes. This is a man who sees, ponders,
and records. Imagination and sensibility, on the other hand, are not
suggested. The face lacks modelling: it is as smooth as the face of
a child; there is not one characteristic curve or wrinkle in all its
placid expanse. Perhaps it was designed to express an idea of eternal
youth. The man who had gained Shakespeare’s obvious experience must
have risen to a composure not to be ruffled by anything that this world
can do, to bless or to ban a human life. But the record of his struggle
must have been written in his face. This may be a fine statue of a
practical thinker, but it is not the image of a poet and it is not an
adequate presentment of Shakespeare. The structure stands on the south
side of the Memorial building and within a few feet of it, so that it
is almost swallowed up by what was intended for its background. It
would show to better advantage if it were placed further to the south,
looking down the long reach of the Avon toward Shakespeare’s church.
The form of the poet could then be seen from the spot on which he
died, while his face would still look, as it does now, toward his tomb.

[Illustration: THE GOWER STATUE]

A constant stream of American visitors pours annually through the Red
Horse. Within three days of July, 1889, more than a hundred American
names appeared in the register. The spirit of Washington Irving is
mighty yet. Looking through a few of the old registers of this house, I
read many familiar names of distinguished Americans. Bayard Taylor came
here on July 23, 1856; James E. Murdoch, the famous Hamlet and Mirabel
of other days, on August 31, 1856; Rev. Francis Vinton on June 10,
1857; Henry Ward Beecher on June 22, 1862; Elihu Burritt, “the learned
blacksmith,” on September 19, 1865; George Ripley on May 12, 1866.
Poor Artemas Ward arrived on September 18, 1866,–only a little while
before his death, which occurred in March, 1867, at Southampton. The
Rev. Charles T. Brooks, translator of _Faust_, registered his name here
on September 20, 1866. Charles Dudley Warner came on May 6, 1868; Mr.
and Mrs. W. J. Florence on May 29, 1868; and S. R. Gifford and Jervis
M’Entee on the same day. The poet Longfellow, accompanied by Thomas
Appleton, arrived on June 23, 1868. Those Red Horse registers contain
a unique and remarkable collection of autographs. Within a few pages,
I observed the curiously contrasted signatures of Cardinal Wiseman,
Sam Cowell, the Duc d’Aumale, Tom Thumb, Miss Burdett-Coutts (1861),
Blanchard Jerrold, Edmund Yates, Charles Fechter, Andrew Carnegie,
David Gray (of Buffalo), the Duchess of Coburg, Moses H. Grinnell,
Lord Leigh, of Stoneleigh Abbey, J. M. Bellew, Samuel Longfellow,
Charles and Henry Webb (the Dromios), Edna Dean Proctor, Gerald Massey,
Clarence A. Seward, Frederick Maccabe, M. D. Conway, the Prince of
Condé, and John L. Toole. That this repository of autographs is
appreciated may be inferred from the fact that special vigilance has to
be exercised to prevent the hotel registers from being carried off or
mutilated. The volume containing the signature of Washington Irving was
stolen years ago and it has been vaguely heard of as being in America.

There is a collection of autographs of visitors to the Shakespeare
Birthplace that was gathered many years since by Mary Hornby,
custodian of that cottage [it was she who whitewashed the walls, in
order to obliterate the writings upon them, when she was removed
from her office, in 1820], and this is now in the possession of
her granddaughter, Mrs. Smith,[40] a resident of Stratford; but
many valuable names have been taken from it,–among others that of
Lord Byron. The mania for obtaining relics of Stratford antiquity
is remarkable. Mention is made of an unknown lady who came to the
birth-room of Shakespeare, and after begging in vain for a piece of the
woodwork or of the stone, presently knelt and wiped the floor with her
glove, which then she carefully rolled up and secreted, declaring that
she would, at least, possess some of the dust of that sacred chamber.
It is a creditable sentiment, though not altogether a rational one,
that impels devotional persons to such conduct as that; but the entire
Shakespeare cottage would soon disappear if such a passion for relics
were practically gratified. The elemental feeling is one of reverence,
and this is perhaps indicated in the following lines with which the
present writer began a new volume of the Red Horse register, on July
21, 1889:–

SHAKESPEARE.

While evening waits and hearkens,
While yet the song-bird calls,–
Before the last light darkens,
Before the last leaf falls,–
Once more with reverent feeling
This sacred shrine I seek,
By silent awe revealing
The love I cannot speak.

Stratford-upon-Avon, August 22, 1889.–The river life of Stratford is
one of the chief delights of this delightful town. The Avon, according
to law, is navigable from its mouth, at Tewkesbury, where it empties
into the Severn, as far upward as Warwick; but according to fact it is
passable only to the resolute navigator who can surmount obstacles.
From Tewkesbury up to Evesham there is plain sailing. Above Evesham
there are occasional barriers. At Stratford there is an abrupt pause
at Lucy’s mill, and your boat must be taken ashore, dragged a little
way over the meadow, and launched again. Lucy’s mill is just south of
the Shakespeare church, and from this point up to Clopton’s bridge the
river is broad. Here the boat-races are rowed, almost every year. Here
the stream ripples against the pleasure-ground called the Bancroft,
skirts the gardens of the Shakespeare Memorial, glides past the lovely
lawns of Avonbank,–once the home of that noble public benefactor and
fine Shakespearean scholar, Charles Edward Flower,–and breaks upon
the retaining wall of the churchyard, crowned with the high and
thick-leaved elms that nod and whisper over Shakespeare’s dust. The
town lies on the left or west bank of the Avon, as you ascend the river
looking northward. On the right or east bank there is a wide stretch of
meadow. To float along here in the gloaming, when the bats are winging
their “cloistered flight,” when great flocks of starlings are flying
rapidly over, when “the crow makes wing to the rooky wood,” when the
water is as smooth as a mirror of burnished steel, and equally the
grasses and flowers upon the banks and the stately trees and the gray,
solemn, and beautiful church are reflected deep in the lucid stream, is
an experience of thoughtful pleasure that sinks deep into the heart
and will never be forgotten. You do not know Stratford till you know
the Avon.

[Illustration: _Clopton Bridge._]

From Clopton’s bridge upward the river winds capriciously between
banks that are sometimes fringed with willows and sometimes bordered
with grassy meadows or patches of woodland or cultivated lawns,
enclosing villas that seem the chosen homes of all this world can
give of loveliness and peace. The course is now entirely clear for
several miles. Not till you pass the foot of Alveston village does any
obstacle present itself; but there, as well as a little further on,
by Hatton Rock, the stream runs shallow and the current becomes very
swift, dashing over sandy banks and great masses of tangled grass and
weeds. These are “the rapids,” and through these the mariner must make
his way by adroit steering and a vigorous and expert use of oars and
boat-hooks. The Avon now is bowered by tall trees, and upon the height
that it skirts you see the house of Ryon Hill,–celebrated in the novel
of _Asphodel_, by Miss Braddon. This part of the river, closed in from
the world and presenting in each direction twinkling vistas of sun and
shadow, is especially lovely. Here, in a quiet hour, the creatures that
live along these shores will freely show themselves and their busy
ways. The water-rat comes out of his hole and nibbles at the reeds or
swims sturdily across the stream. The moor-hen flutters out of her
nest, among the long, green rushes, and skims from bank to bank. The
nimble little wagtail flashes through the foliage. The squirrel leaps
among the boughs, and the rabbit scampers into the thicket. Sometimes
a kingfisher, with his shining azure shield, pauses for a moment
among the gnarled roots upon the brink. Sometimes a heron, disturbed in
her nest, rises suddenly upon her great wings and soars grandly away.
Once, rowing down this river at nearly midnight, I surprised an otter
and heard the splash of his precipitate retreat. The ghost of an old
gypsy, who died by suicide upon this wooded shore, is said to haunt the
neighbouring crag; but this, like all other ghosts that ever I came
near, eluded equally my vision and my desire. But it is a weird spot at
night.

[Illustration: _Charlecote, from the Terrace._]

Near Alveston mill you must drag your boat over a narrow strip of land
and launch her again for Charlecote. Now once more this delicious
water-way is broad and fine. As it sweeps past a stately, secluded
home, once that of the ancient family of Peers, toward the Wellesbourne
Road, a great bed of cultivated white water-lilies [hitherto they have
all been yellow] adorns it, and soon there are glimpses of the deer
that browse or prance or slumber beneath the magnificent oaks and elms
and limes and chestnuts of Charlecote Park. No view of Charlecote can
compare with the view of it that is obtained from the river; and if its
proprietor values its reputation for beauty he ought to be glad that
lovers of the beautiful sometimes have an opportunity to see it from
this point. The older wing, with its oriel window and quaint belfry, is
of a peculiar, mellow red, relieved against bright green ivy, to which
only the brush of a painter could do justice. Nothing more delicious,
in its way, is to be found; at least, the only piece of architecture
in this region that excels it in beauty of colour is the ancient
house of Compton-Wynyate; but that is a marvel of loveliness, the gem
of Warwickshire, and, in romantic quaintness, it surpasses all its
fellows. The towers of the main building of Charlecote are octagon, and
a happy alternation of thin and slender with thick, truncated turrets
much enhances the effect of quaintness in this grave and opulent
edifice. A walled terrace, margined with urns and blazing with flowers
of gold and crimson, extends from the river front to the waterside, and
terminates in a broad flight of stone steps, at the foot of which are
moored the barges of the house of Lucy. No spectacle could suggest more
of aristocratic state and austere magnificence than this sequestered
edifice does, standing there, silent, antique, venerable, gorgeous,
surrounded by its vast, thick-wooded park, and musing, as it has done
for hundreds of years, on the silver Avon that murmurs at its base.
Close by there is a lovely waterfall, over which some little tributary
of the river descends in a fivefold wave of shimmering crystal, wafting
a music that is heard in every chamber of the house and in all the
fields and woodlands round about. It needs the sun to bring out the
rich colours of Charlecote, but once when I saw it from the river a
storm was coming on, and vast masses of black and smoke-coloured cloud
were driving over it, in shapeless blocks and jagged streamers, while
countless frightened birds were whirling above it; and presently, when
the fierce lightning flashed across the heavens and a deluge of rain
descended and beat upon it, a more romantic sight was never seen.

[Illustration: _The Abbey Mills, Tewkesbury._]

Above Charlecote the Avon grows narrow for a space, and after you pass
under Hampton Lucy bridge your boat is much entangled in river grass
and much impeded by whirls and eddies of the shallowing stream. There
is another mill at Hampton Lucy, and a little way beyond the village
your further progress upward is stopped by a waterfall,–beyond which,
however, and accessible by the usual expedient of dragging the boat
over the land, a noble reach of the river is disclosed, stretching
away toward Warwick, where the wonderful Castle, and sweet St. Mary’s
tower, and Leicester’s hospital, and the cosy Warwick Arms await your
coming,–with mouldering Kenilworth and majestic Stoneleigh Abbey
reserved to lure you still further afield. But the scene around Hampton
Lucy is not one to be quickly left. There the meadows are rich and
green and fragrant. There the large trees give grateful shade and make
sweet music in the summer wind. There, from the ruddy village, thin
spires of blue smoke curl upward through the leaves and seem to tell
of comfort and content beneath. At a little distance the gray tower of
the noble church,–an edifice of peculiar and distinctive majesty, and
one well worthy of the exceptional beauty enshrined within it,–rears
itself among the elms. Close by the sleek and indolent cattle are
couched upon the cool sod, looking at you with large, soft, lustrous,
indifferent eyes. The waterfall sings on, with its low melancholy
plaint, while sometimes the silver foam of it is caught up and whirled
away by the breeze. The waves sparkle on the running stream, and the
wildflowers, in gay myriads, glance and glimmer on the velvet shore.
And so, as the sun is setting and the rooks begin to fly homeward, you
breathe the fragrant air from Scarbank and look upon a veritable place
that Shakespeare may have had in mind when he wrote his line of endless
melody–

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows.”[41]

Stratford-upon-Avon, August 27, 1889.–Among the many charming rambles
that may be enjoyed in the vicinity of Stratford, the ramble to
Wootton-Wawen and Henley-in-Arden is not least delightful. Both those
places are on the Birmingham road; the former six miles, the latter
eight miles, from Stratford. When you stand upon the bridge at Wootton
you are only one hundred miles from London, but you might be in a
wilderness a thousand miles from any city, for in all the slumberous
scene around you there is no hint of anything but solitude and peace.
Close by a cataract tumbles over the rocks and fills the air with
music. Not far distant rises the stately front of Wootton Hall, an old
manor-house, surrounded with green lawns and bowered by majestic elms,
which has always been a Roman Catholic abode, and which is never leased
to any but Roman Catholic tenants. A cosy, gabled house, standing among
trees and shrubs a little way from the roadside, is the residence of
the priest of this hamlet,–an antiquarian and a scholar, of ample
acquirements and fine talent. Across the meadows, in one direction,
peers forth a fine specimen of the timbered cottage of ancient
times,–the black beams conspicuous upon a white surface of plaster.
Among the trees, in another direction, appears the great gray tower of
Wootton-Wawen church, a venerable pile and one in which, by means of
the varying orders of its architecture, you may, perhaps, trace the
whole ecclesiastical history of England. The approach to that church
is through a green lane and a wicket-gate, and when you come near to
it you find that it is surrounded with many graves, some marked and
some unmarked, on all of which the long grass waves in rank luxuriance
and whispers softly in the summer breeze. The place seems deserted.
Not a human creature is anywhere visible, and the only sound that
breaks the stillness of this August afternoon is the cawing of a few
rooks in the lofty tops of the neighbouring elms. The actual life of
all places, when you come to know it well, proves to be, for the most
part, conventional, commonplace, and petty. Human beings, with here and
there an exception, are dull and tedious, each resembling the other,
and each needlessly laborious to increase that resemblance. In this
respect all parts of the world are alike,–and therefore the happiest
traveller is he who keeps mostly alone, and uses his eyes, and communes
with his own thoughts. The actual life of Wootton is, doubtless, much
like that of other hamlets,–a “noiseless tenor” of church squabbles,
village gossip, and discontented grumbling, diversified with feeding
and drinking, lawn tennis, matrimony, birth, and death. But as I looked
around upon this group of nestling cottages, these broad meadows,
green and cool in the shadow of the densely mantled trees, and
this ancient church, gray and faded with antiquity, slowly crumbling to
pieces amid the fresh and everlasting vitality of nature, I felt that
surely here might at last be discovered a permanent haven of refuge
from the incessant platitude and triviality of ordinary experience and
the strife and din of the world.

[Illustration: WOOTTON-WAWEN CHURCH]

Wootton-Wawen church is one of the numerous Roman Catholic buildings of
about the eleventh century that still survive in this realm, devoted
now to Protestant worship. It has been partly restored, but most of it
is in a state of decay, and if this be not soon arrested the building
will become a ruin. Its present vicar, the Rev. Francis T. Bramston,
is making vigorous efforts to interest the public in the preservation
of this ancient monument, and those efforts ought to succeed. A more
valuable ecclesiastical relic it would be difficult to find, even
in this rich region of antique treasures, the heart of England. Its
sequestered situation and its sweetly rural surroundings invest it with
peculiar beauty. It is associated, furthermore, with names that are
stately in English history and honoured in English literature,–with
Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, whose sister reposes in its
ancient vaults, and with William Somerville [1692-1742], the poet who
wrote _The Chase_. It was not until I actually stood upon his tombstone
that my attention was directed to the name of that old author, and to
the presence of his relics in this remote and lonely place. Somerville
lived and died at Edston Hall, near Wootton-Wawen, and was famous in
his day as a Warwickshire squire and huntsman. His grave is in the
chancel of the church, the following excellent epitaph, written by
himself, being inscribed upon the plain blue stone that covers it:–

H. S. E.
OBIIT 17. JULY. 1742.
GULIELMUS SOMERVILE. ARM.
SI QUID IN ME BONI COMPERTUM HABEAS,
IMITATE.
SI QUID MALI, TOTIS VIRIBUS EVITA.
CHRISTO CONFIDE,
ET SCIAS TE QUOQUE FRAGILEM ESSE
ET MORTALEM.

Such words have a meaning that sinks deep into the heart when they are
read upon the gravestone that covers the poet’s dust. They came to me
like a message from an old friend who had long been waiting for the
opportunity of this solemn greeting and wise counsel. Another epitaph
written by Somerville,–and one that shows equally the kindness of his
heart and the quaintness of his character,–appears upon a little,
low, lichen-covered stone in Wootton-Wawen churchyard, where it
commemorates his huntsman and butler, Jacob Bocter, who was hurt in the
hunting-field, and died of this accident:–

H. S. E.
JACOBUS BOCTER.
GULIELMO SOMERVILE ARMIGRO
PROMUS ET CANIBUS VENATICIS
PRAEPOSITOR
DOMI. FORISQUE FIDELIS
EQUO INTER VENANDUM CORUENTE
ET INTESTINIS GRAVITER COLLISIS
POST TRIDUUM DEPLORANDUS.
OBIIT
28 DIE JAN.,
ANNO DNI 1719.
AETAT 38.

[Illustration: _Beaudesert Cross._]

The pilgrim who rambles as far as Wootton-Wawen will surely stroll
onward to Henley-in-Arden. The whole of that region was originally
covered by the Forest of Arden[42]–the woods that Shakespeare had
in mind when he was writing _As You Like It_, a comedy whereof the
atmosphere, foliage, flowers, scenery, and spirit are purely those
of his native Warwickshire. Henley, if the observer may judge by the
numerous inns that fringe its long, straggling, picturesque street,
must once have been a favourite halting-place for the coaches that
plied between London and Birmingham. They are mostly disused now, and
the little town sleeps in the sun and seems forgotten.[43] There is a
beautiful specimen of the ancient market-cross in its centre,–gray and
sombre and much frayed by the tooth of time. Close beside Henley, and
accessible in a walk of a few minutes, is the church of Beaudesert,
which is one of the most precious of the ecclesiastic gems of England.
Here you will see architecture of mingled Saxon and Norman,–the
solid Norman buttress, the castellated tower, the Saxon arch moulded
in zigzag, which is more ancient than the dog-tooth, and the round,
compact columns of the early English order. Above the church rises a
noble mound, upon which, in the middle ages, stood a castle,–probably
that of Peter de Montfort,–and from which a comprehensive and superb
view may be obtained, over many miles of verdant meadow and bosky
dell, interspersed with red-roofed villages from which the smoke of
the cottage chimneys curls up in thin blue spirals under the gray
and golden sunset sky. An old graveyard encircles the church, and
by its orderly disorder,–the quaint, graceful work of capricious
time,–enhances the charm of its venerable and storied age. There are
only one hundred and forty-six persons in the parish of Beaudesert. I
was privileged to speak with the aged rector, the Rev. John Anthony
Pearson Linskill, and to view the church under his kindly guidance. In
the ordinary course of nature it is unlikely that we shall ever meet
again, but his goodness, his benevolent mind, and the charm of his
artless talk will not be forgotten.[44] My walk that night took me
miles away,–to Claverdon, and home by Bearley; and all the time it was
my thought that the best moments of our lives are those in which we are
touched, chastened, and ennobled by parting and by regret. Nothing is
said so often as good-by. But, in the lovely words of Cowper,

“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.”

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