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Monday, May 30, we coached to Kenilworth Castle. This was a most beautiful ride, and my first coaching on this side of the big pond. These old, ivy-covered historic ruins are most picturesque, and you can readily imagine from its immense size what its old grandeur must have been. On our way back to Warwick we stopped at Guy's Cliff House, the home of one of the ancestors of the early Warwicks. This is very old. Near here on a small stream stands an old mill.
Riding through the village of Warwick we went on to Warwick Castle. This is occupied by the Earl and Countess of Warwick. This castle has been occupied for generations by the Warwicks. The Countess permits visitors on certain days of the week and charges a small fee, which is used for some charity. When the family is in residence, as at present, only certain rooms are open to visitors. We were admitted and shown these rooms by an old retainer and soldier. The drawing-room and formal apartments are very magnificent, each containing rare pictures and portraits of kings, queens and persons of title. Queen Ann's portrait hangs above the mantelpiece in her favorite room. Here is her bed, with its coverings, chairs and stools all handsomely upholstered; everything remaining the same as when she occupied it. In this old castle, as in all old castles, the hall, as it is called, is the most important room, being the living-room. The one here has an immense fireplace. And with its books, piano and easy chairs show it to be the favorite family room. As we entered, we were requested not to step on the rugs. I saw a handsome boy of twelve or fourteen reading, and on a cushion close to him was lying asleep his pet dog. On hearing strange voices, he arose and went quietly into another room, calling his dog to follow, which the little fellow did, after repeated coaxings from his master. On a cabinet in this hall was a photograph of the beautiful countess and this son. There is a handsome portrait of the countess and son in another room, painted by John Sargeant, the American artist. The grounds around the castle are exquisitely beautiful. They are terraced and walled with flights of stone steps leading from terrace to terrace. Large urns, filled with blooming plants and vines, are at the sides of each flight. Fountains playing and gorgeous flowers in great beds are seen everywhere through the grounds. The sod looks like green velvet, and we saw the gardeners rolling it. From here we drove back to Warwick Arms Hotel for lunch. This is a quaint old building and filled with beautiful old mahogany furniture.
Early in the afternoon, we coached to Stratford-onAvon, Shakespeare's country. We visited Ann Hathaway's cottage. This is very tiny and quaint, and a bower of beauty outside, as it is covered with roses and honeysuckle, and the tiny yard is filled with blooming plants. Inside the rooms are so small that there is only space for two or three persons at a time. In one room is an old settle, evidently cut lengthwise from a tree, as part of the bark is still on it. It was on this hard seat that it is said William courted Ann. Somewhere in this country, at either Ann's cottage or William's house, I saw a verse said to have been written by William to Ann. It commences thus:
Ann Hathaway, Ann Hathaway!
Which is all I can remember, but I am trying to find the rest of it.
We went to Shakespeare's birthplace. This is a long and very plain house, both outside and in, the very opposite in every way from Ann's house. The rooms are quite bare, only very few pieces of the old, hard furniture remaining in them. The stairways are crooked, narrow and dark, and unless very careful you receive unexpected knocks. The back yard is small and has a few blooming flowers in beds, these being of the kind William wrote about in some of his plays. From here on our way to Trinity Church we were shown the grammar school where William was educated and which remains just as it was in his time. In the church lie Shakespeare's remains under a marble slab, quite near the altar, on the north side, and bears the epitaph, written by himself, which ends:
“And cursed be he who moves my bones.” From here we drove to Red Horse Inn for tea. This is where Washington Irving used to stop, and the arm chair that he used is still there. We passed an hour here in taking tea and then buying postcards just across the street, coaching back to Warwick in the late afternoon.
Tuesday, May 31. We left Warwick in a pouring rain; changed cars three times on our way to Winchester. We had a luncheon basket put on for us at Reading. Arriving at Winchester we located at the George Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in England. We took a drive through the city and out to St. Cross Hospital, founded by Bishop Henry of Blois, brother of King Stephen, who ruled at that time. This hospital was founded for thirteen poor men. One of the brothers was our guide through the buildings and old church. One of the rooms was a refectory where the brothers used to dine, the food being cooked over a charcoal fire in the center of the room on the brick floor. Now it is only used on festival days, which are called gaudy days. When they meet there, ale is given them and a choir sings for them up in a small gallery at one side of the room. They now have a small weekly allowance with which they buy any food they like, and cook it themselves, in their own rooms, on small stoves provided for them. This little old brother was very bright, and on seeing how interested we were in everything became quite enthusiastic in showing us about and explaining things and their uses. At the entrance a small fee is charged, and a dole is given at certain hours of the day to all who ask and as long as the supply lasts. It consists of a slice of bread and a glass of good ale, so the little brother told us. Gusty asked and received the dole. Not caring for ale, I did not ask.
From here we drove past the old Winchester School, one of the old important boys' schools of England. We were on our way to the cathedral. You are impressed on entering this building of its great length, it being considered the longest cathedral in England. Jane Austin's memorial is here, where she is buried. Just before reaching the cathedral we passed the house where she lived and died. Sir Izaak Walton's tomb is also in the cathedral. We remained for afternoon service, but did not hear the full choir. This is the most famous choir in England. As we were returning to the hotel we saw the statue of King Alfred. He was the great Saxon king, and virtually the first king of England. He was called Alfred the Great and Alfred the Truthteller. Winchester is one of the very oldest towns in England. Kings have resided and most of them were crowned here, until the time of William the Conqueror.
At dinner that evening we ate trout that was caught in the River Itchen, the same stream where Sir Izaak cast his fly.