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- Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands V2 - 10/64 -
Now there is, to my mind, something infinitely more sublime about hunting in real earnest amid the solemn shadows of our interminable forests, than in making believe hunt in parks.
It is undoubtedly the fact, that these out-of-door sports of England have a great deal to do with the firm health which men here enjoy. Speaking of this subject, I could not help expressing my surprise to Lord John at the apparently perfect health enjoyed by members of Parliament, notwithstanding their protracted night labors. He thinks that the session of Parliament this year will extend nearly to August. Speaking of breakfasts, he said they often had delightful breakfasts about three o'clock in the day; this is a total reverse of all our ideas in regard to time.
After dinner Lord and Lady Ribblesdale came in, connections of Lord John by a former marriage. I sat by Lord John on the sofa, and listened with great interest to a conversation between him and Lady Grey, on the working of the educational system in England; a subject which has particularly engaged the attention of the English government since the reign of the present queen. I found a difficulty in understanding many of the terms they used, though I learned much that interested me.
After a while I went to Lady Russell's apartment, and had an hour of very pleasant conversation with her. It greatly enlarges our confidence in human nature to find such identity of feeling and opinion among the really good of different countries, and of all different circles in those countries. I have never been more impressed with this idea than during my sojourn here in England. Different as the institutions of England and America are, they do not prevent the formation of a very general basis of agreement in so far as radical ideas of practical morality and religion are concerned; and I am increasingly certain that there is a foundation for a lasting unity between the two countries which shall increase constantly, as the increasing facilities of communication lessen the distance between us.
Lady Russell inquired with a good deal of interest after Prescott, our historian, and expressed the pleasure which she and Lord John had derived from his writings.
We left early, after a most agreeable evening. The next day at eleven o'clock we went to an engagement at Lambeth Palace, where we had been invited by a kind note from its venerable master, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lambeth is a stately pile of quaint, antique buildings, rising most magnificently on the banks of the Thames. It is surrounded by beautiful grounds, laid out with choice gardening. Through an ancient hall, lighted by stained-glass windows, we were ushered into the drawing room, where the guests were assembling. There was quite a number of people there, among others the lady and eldest son of the Bishop of London, the Earl and Countess Waldegrave, and the family friends of the archbishop.
The good archbishop was kind and benign, as usual, and gave me his arm while we explored the curiosities of the palace. Now, my dear, if you will please to recollect that the guide book says, "this palace contains all the gradations of architecture from early English to late perpendicular," you will certainly not expect me to describe it in one letter. It has been the residence of the archbishops of Canterbury from time immemorial, both in the days before the reformation and since.
The chapel was built between the years 1200 and 1300, and there used to be painted windows in it, as Archbishop Laud says, which contained the whole history of the world, from the creation to the day of judgment. Unfortunately these comprehensive windows were destroyed in the civil wars.
The part called the Lollards' Tower is celebrated as having been the reputed prison of the Lollards. These Lollards, perhaps you will remember, were the followers of John Wickliffe, called Lollards as Christ was called a "Nazarene," simply because the word was a term of reproach. Wickliffe himself was summoned here to Lambeth to give an account of his teachings, and in 1382, William Courtnay, Archbishop of Canterbury, called a council, which condemned his doctrines. The tradition is, that at various times these Lollards were imprisoned here.
In order to get to the tower we had to go through a great many apartments, passages, and corridors, and terminate all by climbing a winding staircase, steeper and narrower than was at all desirable for any but wicked heretics, who ought to be made as uncomfortable as possible. However, by reasonable perseverance, the archbishop, the bishop's lady, and all the noble company present found themselves safely at the top. Our host remarked, I think, that it was the second time he had ever been there.
The room is thirteen feet by twelve, and about eight feet high, wainscotted with oak, which is scrawled over with names and inscriptions. There are eight large iron rings in the wall, to which the prisoners were chained; for aught we know, Wickliffe himself may have been one. As our kind host moved about among us with his placid face, we could not but think that times had altered since the days when archbishops used to imprison heretics, and preside over grim, inquisitorial tribunals. We all agreed, however, that, considering the very beautiful prospect this tower commands up and down the Thames, the poor Lollards in some respects might have been worse lodged.
We passed through the guard room, library, and along a corridor where hung a row of pictures of all the archbishops from the very earliest times; and then the archbishop took me into his study, which is a most charming room, containing his own private library: after that we all sat down to lunch in a large dining hall. I was seated between the archbishop and a venerable admiral in the navy. Among other things, the latter asked me if there were not many railroad and steamboat accidents in America. O my countrymen, what trouble do you make us in foreign lands by your terrible carelessness! I was obliged, in candor, to say that I thought there was a shocking number of accidents of that sort, and suggested the best excuse I could think of--our youth and inexperience; but I certainly thought my venerable friend had touched a very indefensible point.
Among other topics discussed in the drawing room, I heard some more _on dits_ respecting spiritual rappings. Every body seems to be wondering what they are, and what they are going to amount to.
We took leave of our kind host and his family, gratefully impressed with the simplicity and sincere cordiality of our reception. There are many different names for goodness in this world; but, after all, true brotherly kindness and charity is much the same thing, whether it show itself by a Quaker's fireside or in an archbishop's palace.
Leaving the archbishop's I went to Richmond's again, where I was most agreeably entertained for an hour or two. We have an engagement for Playford Hall to-morrow, and we breakfast with Joseph Sturge: it being now the time of the yearly meeting of the Friends, he and his family are in town.
MY DEAR S.:--
The next morning C. and I took the cars to go into the country, to Playford Hall. "And what's Playford Hall?" you say. "And why did you go to see it?" As to what it is, here is a reasonably good picture before you. As to why, it was for many years the residence of Thomas Clarkson, and is now the residence of his venerable widow and her family.
Playford Hall is considered, I think, the oldest of the fortified houses in England, and is, I am told, the only one that has water in the moat. The water which is seen girdling the wall, in the picture, is the moat: it surrounds the place entirely, leaving no access except across the bridge, which is here represented.
After crossing this bridge, you come into a green court yard filled with choice plants and flowering shrubs, and carpeted with that thick, soft, velvet-like grass which is to be found nowhere else in so perfect a state as in England.
The water is fed by a perpetual spring, whose current is so sluggish as scarcely to be perceptible, but which yet has the vitality of a running stream.
It has a dark and glassy stillness of surface, only broken by the forms of the water plants, whose leaves float thickly over it.
The walls of the moat are green with ancient moss, and from the crevices springs an abundant flowering vine, whose delicate leaves and bright yellow flowers in some places entirely mantle the stones with their graceful drapery.
[Illustration: _of Playford Hall._]
The picture I have given you represents only one side of the moat. The other side is grown up with dark and thick shrubbery and ancient trees, rising and embowering the entire place, adding to the retired and singular effect of the whole. The place is a specimen of a sort of thing which does not exist in America. It is one of those significant landmarks which unite the present with the past, for which we must return to the country of our origin.
Playford Hall is peculiarly English, and Thomas Clarkson, for whose sake I visited it, was as peculiarly an Englishman--a specimen of the very best kind of English mind and character, as this is of characteristic English architecture.
We Anglo-Saxons have won a hard name in the world. There are undoubtedly bad things which are true about us.
Taking our developments as a race, both in England and America, we may be justly called the Romans of the nineteenth century. We have been the race which has conquered, subdued, and broken in pieces other weaker races, with little regard either to justice or mercy. With regard to benefits by us imparted to conquered nations, I think a better story, on the whole, can be made out for the Romans than for us. Witness the treatment of the Chinese, of the tribes of India, and of our own American Indians.
But still there is in Anglo-Saxon blood, a vigorous sense of justice, as appears in our habeas corpus, our jury trials, and other features of state organization; and, when this is tempered, in individuals, with the elements of gentleness and compassion, and enforced by that energy and indomitable perseverance which are characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon mind, they form a style of philanthropy peculiarly efficient. In short, the Anglo-Saxon is efficient, in whatever he sets himself about, whether in crushing the weak or lifting them up.
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