Chapter 18: Stratford-on-avon.—Warwick.—London.—Characters of judges and lawyers.—authors.—society.—January, 1839, to March, 1839.—Age, 28.
To George S. Hillard, Boston.Stratford-on-Avon, Jan. 6, 1839.dear Hillard,—My birthday in the birthplace of Shakspeare! During the forenoon I have wandered round this little town, in company with my kind host. I have been into the low room in the ancient building where Shakspeare is said to have first seen the light. I asked the old woman who occupies the house, and lives by the dole which is allowed by all strangers for the satisfaction of seeing the interesting apartment, whether she had ever read the works of Shakspeare. She said that she had ‘seen some of the volumes;’ but that her neighbor Jenkins, or some such name, had read nearly all his writings! This woman and Shakspeare's room have been commemorated by Washington Irving. I ventured to press her still farther, by asking if she had ever read Irving's account of his visit. She had seen the book but once,—and that was while a traveller, to whom the copy belonged, went from the house to his inn and back again,—and yet she grew eloquent about the mighty Bard and the American who had rendered such gentle homage to his memory. The room is pencilled over by names, among which you will see those of many Americans. I think that I need not disclaim having added mine to the list: you will not suspect me of it. The church is an interesting old English church, which stands on the banks of the Avon. The yard is full of grave-stones, which are overshadowed by numerous trees. I walked round the church many times in the rain, and stood for some time looking into the rippling water which flowed hard by. The monument of Shakspeare is in the chancel. There I read the inscription beneath his effigy, and those never-to-beforgotten lines, in which he pronounces his malediction on any one who should ‘move his bones.’ That inscription is more potent to protect his tomb from desecration than coffin of iron or constant guard of watchers. Who could move those bones, with the curse of Shakspeare invoked upon  him? This has been a stormy day, and I have hardly seen Stratford aright; for the associations of the place seem to harmonize with a soft, sunshiny day. It is something, however, to walk about the streets, which are so hallowed by the memory of that master mind. It is now my birthday; I am twenty-eight years old; and my host, Mr. E. Flower,—in whose cottage, on the skirts of the town, I am staying,— was astonished at hearing my age. He had supposed me at least thirty-five,—perhaps forty! But time goes on apace; and I shall soon be even at that longest goal. I have now deserted London for a short excursion to several places in the country which I have not yet seen. I have just left Warwick, where I passed two days with Mr. Collins,1 the M. P. for the borough. Of course, I visited Kenilworth and Warwick Castles. The first, you know, is a ruin; but it is very extensive, being the largest ruin I have yet seen,—larger than Glastonbury Abbey, where old Dunstan made the Devil cry out, by an unceremonious pinch of the nose. Warwick is beautiful in its position, its towers, its court-yard, and its paintings. After the very ample experience I have had of English country-places, it did not strike me so much as it has some Americans. It is not so large as Wentworth, nor so comfortable and magnificent—the two combined—as Holkham, nor so splendid as Chatsworth; and it has nothing which will compare with the feudal entrance and hall of Raby Castle, nor any room equal to the drawing-room of Auckland Castle; but still, it seems almost perfect in its way. The towers and walls are commanding; the rooms are elegant, and have a beautiful prospect across the Avon, which washes the foot of the precipitous rock on which the castle stands: some of the paintings are divine. There is a ‘Loyola,’ by Rubens, which undoes all the bad impressions left on my mind by that artist, after his infamous productions in the Louvre. The Warwick Vase is in the centre of the greenhouse.
London, Jan. 12.After leaving Stratford, I went, amid rain and gusts of wind beneath which ships were then sinking on the coast, to Birmingham. Here I saw Mrs. Tuckerman's brother-in-law,—Mr. Francis,—who treated me very kindly, though I was unable to stay to enjoy his attentions; Mr. Wills,2 author of the new book on ‘Circumstantial Evidence;’ Scholefield, M. P.,3 &c.: but my visit was quite hurried, as I was obliged by my engagements to hasten back to town. We have heard of the dreadful loss of the packets. I had written several letters, which were on board those ill-fated ships, and which will perhaps never reach their destination. To you I had written a very long letter,—partly dated, I think, from Milton Park,4 and giving an account of my adventures in fox-hunting with Lord Fitzwilliam; one also to Dr. Palfrey, enclosing a letter interesting to him, which I received from Sir  David Brewster; others to Longfellow, to Cleveland, to Mrs. Ticknor, to Mr. Fletcher, and to my mother. I wish you would do me the favor to let me know the fate of these letters. The article on Horace, in the last number but one of the ‘Quarterly Review,’5 is by Milman. Poor man, he is now in great distress, on account of the illness of a dear child. The article in the last number, on ‘Railroads,’6 which contains the ridiculous remarks on the United States, is by Sir Francis Head; and the political article7 at the end is by Croker. I have just read an article on Lockhart's ‘Scott,’ written by Cooper, in the ‘Knickerbocker,’ which was lent me by Barry Cornwall. I think it capital. I see none of Cooper's faults; and I think a proper castigation is applied to the vulgar minds of Scott and Lockhart. Indeed, the nearer I approach the circle of these men the less disposed do I find myself to like them. Scott is not sans reproche; and Lockhart seems without a friend. Of course, I see the latter often. Sometimes we shake hands when we meet, and sometimes not. When last I saw him, he gave me a radiant smile. Since I last wrote I have, as before, been in a constant succession of parties of different kinds. Some of the most interesting to you have been with Senior, Talfourd, and Lord Durham. At Senior's I met most of the Radical M. P. s; Morrison, the rich banker; Grote and his wife; Joseph Hume (I sat next to Joseph); Villiers; Dr. Bowring; Tooke, &c. At Talfourd's we had Dr. Hawtrey, the Head-Master of Eton; Maule; Harness; Hayward; and Browning, the author of ‘Paracelsus.’ Talfourd told some good stories of Charles Lamb. It seems that Lamb was a confirmed drunkard, who got drunk in the morning, and on beer. Talfourd and he once started for a morning walk. The first pot-house they came to was a new one, and Lamb would stop in order to make acquaintance with its landlord; the next was an old one, and here he stopped to greet his old friend Boniface: and so he had an excuse for stopping at all they passed, until finally the author of ‘Elia’ was soundly drunk. But his heroic devotion to his sister is above all praise. All about that, and much else concerning