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