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´╗┐Title: Recollections of the late William Beckford - of Fonthill, Wilts and Lansdown, Bath
Author: Lansdown, Henry Venn
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Recollections of the late William Beckford - of Fonthill, Wilts and Lansdown, Bath" ***

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BECKFORD***



Transcribed from the 1893 edition by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LATE WILLIAM BECKFORD
OF FONTHILL, WILTS and LANSDOWN, BATH


The Manuscript of the following Letters, written by my Father, has been
in my possession fifty years.  He intended to publish it at the time of
Mr. Beckford's death, in 1844, but delayed the execution of the work, and
sixteen years afterwards was himself called to enter on the higher life
of the spiritual world.

Mr. Beckford and my Father were kindred spirits, conversant with the same
authors, had visited the same countries, and were both gifted with
extraordinary memories.  Mr. Beckford said that he had never met with a
man possessed of such a memory as my Father; and many a time has my
Father told me that he never met a man who possessed such a memory as Mr.
Beckford.

If my Father had published the Reminiscences himself I think that much
misconception in the public mind respecting the character of Mr. Beckford
would have been prevented.  For instance, I remember, when a child, being
warned that this great man was an infidel.  When he showed my Father the
sarcophagus in which his body was to be placed, he remarked, "There shall
I lie, Lansdown, until the trump of God shall rouse me on the
Resurrection morn."

CHARLOTTE LANSDOWN.

8 Lower East Hayes, Bath;
July, 1893.



RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LATE WILLIAM BECKFORD.


Bath, August 21, 1838.


MY DEAR CHARLOTTE,--I have this day seen such an astonishing assemblage
of works of art, so numerous and of so surprisingly rare a description
that I am literally what Lord Byron calls "Dazzled and drunk with
beauty."  I feel so bewildered from beholding the rapid succession of
some of the very finest productions of the great masters that the attempt
to describe them seems an impossible task; however, I will make an
effort.

The collection of which I speak is that of Mr. Beckford, at his house in
Lansdown-crescent.  Besides all this I have this day been introduced to
that extraordinary man, the author of "Vathek" and "Italy," the builder
of Fonthill, the contemporary of the mighty and departed dead, the pupil
of Mozart; in fact, to the formidable and inaccessible Vathek himself!  I
have many times passed the house, and longed to see its contents, and
often have I wondered how a building with so plain and unostentatious an
exterior could suit the reception of the works it contains, and the
residence of so magnificent a personage.

I first called by appointment on his ingenious architect, Mr. Goodridge
(to whom I am indebted for this distinguished favour), and he accompanied
me to the house, which we reached at half-past twelve o'clock.  We were
shown upstairs, passing many fine family pictures, and were ushered into
the neat library, where Mr. Beckford was waiting to receive us.  I
confess I did at first feel somewhat embarrassed, but a lovely spaniel
ran playfully towards us, licking our hands in the most affectionate and
hospitable manner; "You are welcome" was the silent language.  I assure
you I judge much, and often truly, of the character of individuals from
the deportment of their favourite dogs.  I often find them exactly
indicative of their master's disposition.  When you are attacked by
snarling, waspish curs is it at all wonderful if you find them an echo of
the proprietor?  But this beautiful animal reassured me, and gave me
instantly a favourable idea of its master.  My astonishment was great at
the spaciousness of the room, which had in length a magnificent and
palatial effect, nor did I immediately discover the cause of its apparent
grandeur.  It opens into the gallery built over the arch connecting the
two houses, at the end of which an immense mirror reflects the two
apartments.  The effect is most illusive, nor should I have guessed the
truth had I not seen the reflection of my own figure in the glass.

The library, which is the whole length of the first house, cannot be much
less than fifty feet long.  It has on one side five lofty windows, the
gallery having three on the same side.  You have the light streaming
through eight consecutive openings; these openings, with their crimson
curtains, doubled by the reflection, produce a most charming perspective.
From the ceiling hangs a splendid ormolu chandelier, the floor is covered
with a Persian carpet (brought I believe from Portugal), so sumptuous
that one is afraid to walk on it, and a noble mosaic table of Florentine
marble, bought in at an immense price at Fonthill, is in the centre of
the room.  Several rows of the rarest books cover the lower part of the
walls, and above them hang many fine portraits, which Mr. Beckford
immediately, without losing any time in compliments, began to show us and
describe.

First we were shown a portrait by de Vos of Grotius; next to it one of
Rembrandt, painted by himself.  "You see," said Mr. Beckford, "that he is
trying to assume an air of dignity not natural to him, by throwing back
his head, but this attempt at the dignified is neutralized by the
expression of the eyes, which have rather too much of sly humour for the
character which he wishes to give himself."  To praise individual
pictures seems useless when everyone you meet has excellencies peculiar
to itself; in fact, whatever our ideas of the great masters may be, and
we certainly do gain from prints and pictures a tolerable idea of their
style and different beauties (and I have myself seen the Louvre and many
celebrated pictures) there is in Mr. Beckford's _chef d'oeuvres_
something still more lovely than our imagination, than our expectation.  I
speak not now of the St. Catherine, The Claud, The Titian, &c., but all
the pictures, whether historical, landscape, or low life, have this
unique character of excellence.  You look at a picture.  You are sure it
is by Gaspar, but you never saw one of Poussin's that had such an
exquisite tone of colour, so fresh and with such free and brilliant
execution.

But I digress.  I forgot that it was the library and its pictures I was
attempting to describe.  Well, at the other end hangs a portrait of Pope
Gregory, by Passerotti; the expression of the face Italian, attitude like
Raphael.  Over the door a portrait of Cosmo de Medici by Bronzino Allori,
fresh as if painted yesterday.  "The works of that master," I said, "are
rare, but a friend of mine, Mr. Day, had a noble one at his rooms in
Piccadilly, St. John in the Wilderness.  The conception of the figure and
poetical expression of the face always seemed to me astonishingly fine.
Pray, Sir, do you know that picture?"  "Perfectly, it partakes of the
sublime and is amazingly fine."  "Your portrait of Cosmo has the
expression of a resolute, determined man, and I think it conveys well the
idea of the monstrous parent, who could with his own hand destroy his
only surviving son after discovering he had murdered his brother.  What a
horrible piece of business!  The father of two sons, one of whom murdered
the other, and that father is himself the executioner of the survivor."
"It was dreadful certainly," said Mr. Beckford.  "However, we have the
consolation of knowing that two broods of vipers were destroyed."

Mr. Beckford next showed us a Titian, a portrait of the Constable
Montmorency, in armour richly chased with gold; a fine picture, but sadly
deficient in intellectual expression.  And no wonder, for as Mr. Beckford
observed, "He could neither read nor write, but he was none the worse for
that."  "There is, then, before us," I rejoined, "the portrait of the man
of whom his master, Henri Quatre, said: 'Avec un Counetable qui re sait
pas ecrire, et un Chancelier qui ne sait pas le Latin, j'ai reussi dans
toutes mes entreprises.'  It is the very portrait for which he sat."  "The
face," I said, "has no great pretensions to intellect, but then Titian
knew nothing of the refined flattery so fashionable now-a-days that
throws a halo of mind and expression over faces more stupid than
Montmorency's, and whose possessors never performed the chivalrous deeds
of the Constable."

"Witness Sir Thomas Lawrence's fine picture of Sir Wm. Curtis, where the
Court painter has thrown a poetical expression over a personage that
never in his life betrayed any predilection for anything but turtle soup
and gormandizing."  Mr. Beckford burst out laughing.  "Well," said he,
"here is a picture that will perhaps please you.  Holbein has certainly
not been guilty of the refined flattery you complain of here; it is the
portrait of Bishop Gardiner, painted at the time he was in Holland and in
disgrace.  What think you of it?"  "It is admirably painted, and has
scarcely anything of his dry and hard manner, the hands are done
inimitably, but the eyes are small, and the expression cold-hearted and
brutal.  It conveys to my mind the exact idea of the cold-blooded wretch,
who consigned so many of his innocent countrymen to the flames."  I did
not express all I thought, but I certainly wondered how the effigy of
such a monster should have found an asylum in this palace of taste.
Smithfield and its horrors rose vividly before me, and I turned, not
without a shudder, from this too faithful portrait to copies by Phillips
of some family pictures in the Royal Collection, painted by permission
expressly for Mr. Beckford, and looking more like originals than mere
copies.

But the picture of pictures in this room is a Velasquez, an unknown head,
the expression beyond anything I have ever seen.  Such light and shade,
such expressive eyes; the very epitome of Spanish character.  "Is it not
amazingly like Lord Byron?"  "It certainly is very like him, but much
more handsome."  This room is devoted entirely to portraits.

Mr. Beckford opened a door and we entered the Duchess Drawing Room; a
truly Royal room, the colour of the curtains, carpet, and furniture being
crimson, scarlet, and purple.  Over the fireplace is a full length
portrait of the Duchess of Hamilton by Phillips, painted in the rich and
glowing style of that sweet colourist.  It represents a beautiful and
truly dignified lady.  The sleeves of the dress are close and small, as
worn in 1810 (Quel bonheur! d'etre jeune, jolie, et Duchesse), so truly
becoming to a finely formed woman, and so much superior to the present
horrid fashion of disfiguring the shape by gigot and bishop's sleeves,
which seem to have been invented expressly to conceal what is indeed most
truly beautiful, a woman's arm.

We were next shown a glorious Sir Joshua, a beautiful full length
portrait of Mrs. Peter Beckford, afterwards Lady Rivers, and the
"Nouronchar" of Vathek.  She is represented approaching an altar
partially obscured by clouds of incense that she may sacrifice to Hygeia,
and turning round looking at the spectator.  The background is quite
Titianesque; it is composed of sky and the columns of the temple, the
light breaking on the pillars in that forcible manner you see on the
stems of trees in some of Titian's backgrounds.  The colouring of this
picture is in fine preservation, a delicate lilac scarf floats over the
dress, the figure is grace and elegance itself, and the drawing perfect;
the general effect is brilliancy, richness, and astonishing softness.
"Sir Joshua took the greatest pleasure and delight in painting that
picture, as it was left entirely to his own refined taste.  The lady was
in ill-health at the time it was done, and Sir Joshua most charmingly
conceived the idea of a sacrifice to the Goddess of Health.  Vain hope!
Her disorder was fatal."

There is a portrait of Mr. Beckford's mother painted by West, with a view
of Fonthill in the background.  Never was there a greater contrast in
this and the last picture; West certainly knew nothing of portrait
painting.  The _tout ensemble_ of the portrait in question is as dry and
hard as if painted by a Chinese novice.  There is also a portrait of the
Countess, of Effingham, Mr. Beckford's aunt.  On one side is the original
portrait by Reynolds of the author of Vathek engraved as the frontispiece
of the "Excursions to the Monasteries."  The character of the original
picture is much superior in expression to the print, less stout, eyes
very intellectual; in fact, you are convinced it must be the portrait of
a poet or of a poetical character.  The face is very handsome, so is the
print, but that has nothing in it but what you meet with in a good
looking young man of fashion.  This, on the contrary, has an expression
of sensibility, deeply tinged with melancholy, which gives it great
interest.

On the other side of Lady Rivers's portrait is the Duke of Hamilton when
a boy.  A sweet child, with the hair cut straight along the forehead, as
worn by children some fifty years ago, and hanging luxuriantly down his
neck On the same side of the room, behind a bronze of the Laocoon, is a
wonderful sketch by Paolo Veronese, the drawing and composition in the
grand style, touched with great sweetness and juiciness.  Two small
upright Bassans, painted conjointly by both, bearing their names; the
point of sight is immensely high.

We were then led down the north staircase.  Fronting us was a portrait of
Mr. Beckford's father, the Alderman and celebrated Lord Mayor of London.
Mr. Goodridge asked him if he knew a book, just published, denying the
truth of his father's famous speech to George III.  He seemed astonished,
and stood still on the staircase.  "Not true!  What in the world will
they find out next?  Garrick was present when my father uttered it, heard
the whole speech, repeated it word for word to me, and what is more,
acted it in my father's manner."  "That is the portrait of my great
grandfather, Colonel Peter Beckford.  It was painted by a French artist,
who went to Jamaica for the purpose, at the time he was Governor of the
island."  It is a full length portrait, large as life, the Colonel
dressed in a scarlet coat embroidered richly with gold.  There is also a
lovely portrait by Barker of the present Marquis of Douglas, Mr.
Beckford's grandson; it was painted when Lord Douglas was twelve or
thirteen years old.  There is also a charming picture by Reynolds, two
beautiful little girls, full length and large as life, they are the
present Duchess of Hamilton and her sister, Mrs General Ord.

We now entered the lovely dining room, which in point of brilliancy and
cheerfulness has more the character of a drawing than of a dining room.
Opposite the window is an upright grand pianoforte.  It is the largest
ever made, with the exception of its companion made at the same time, and
its richness and power of sound are very great.  Over the fire is what is
seldom seen in a dining room, a large looking glass.  The paintings in
this room have been valued at upwards of 20,000 pounds.

On the right as you enter are five pictures that once adorned the
Aldsbrandini Palace, namely, the St. Catherine by Raphael, a Claude, a
Garofalo, two by Ferrara, and several smaller ones.  But how shall I
attempt to describe to you the St. Catherine?  This lovely picture
combines all the refined elegance of the Venus de Medici, in form,
contour, and flowing lines, with an astonishing delicacy of colour, and
masterly yet softened execution.  The eyes are turned upwards with an
expression of heavenly resignation, the neck, flesh and life itself, the
hands, arms, and shoulders so sweetly rounded, while the figure melts
into the background with the softness of Corregio.

            And fills
   The air around with beauty, we inhale
   The ambrosial aspect, which beheld instils
   Part of its immortality; the veil
   Of heaven is half withdrawn, within the pale
   We stand, and in that form and face behold
   What mind can make, when Nature's self would fail.

I can only convey to you a very slight idea of the impression produced by
the contemplation of this admirable painting.  Such grace and sweetness,
such softness and roundness in the limbs.  She seems the most beautiful
creature that ever trod this earthly planet; in short it is no earthly
beauty that we gaze upon, but the very beau ideal of Italian loveliness.

   Eve of the land which still is Paradise.

Italian beauty! didst thou not inspire Raphael?  "How different," said
Mr. Beckford, "is that lovely creature from Mr. Etty's beauties.  They
are for the most part of a meretricious character, would do well enough
for a mistress; but there," pointing to the St. Catherine, "there are
personified the modesty and purity a man would wish to have in a wife,
and yet Frenchmen find fault with it.  C'est un assez joli tableau, say
they, mais la tete manque, de l'expression, si elle avait plus d'esprit,
plus de vivacite!  Mais Raphael, il n'avait jamais passe les Alpes."  We
burst out laughing, and I added, "Le pauvre Raphael quel dommage, de ne
savoir rien du grand.  Monarque! ni de la grande nation."  "Yet," I
continued, "there is a painter, Stotherd, who has come nearer to the
great Italian, in the grace and elegance of his women and children, than
perhaps any other, and merits well the proud appellation of the English
Raphael.  What a shame that he never met with encouragement."  "But I
understood that he was tolerably successful.  He painted many things for
me at Fonthill.  You are surely mistaken."  "By no means," I replied.
"Latterly he seldom sold a picture, and supported himself on the paltry
income of 200 pounds a year, raised by making little designs for
booksellers.  Yet what a noble painting is Chaucer's pilgrimage to
Canterbury."  "It is indeed," said Mr. Beckford.  "But, sir, there is
another painter, Howard, whose conceptions are most poetical.  Do you
remember his painting at Somerset House in 1824, representing the solar
system, from Milton's noble lines--

   Hither as to their fountain, other stars
   Repairing, in their golden urns draw light?"

"I remember it perfectly; 'twas a most beautiful picture."  "Milton's
original idea, that of the planets drawing light from their eternal
source, as water from a fountain, is certainly a glorious, a golden one;
but who beside Howard could have so tangibly, so poetically developed the
poet's idea in colour.  The personifying the planets according to their
names, as Venus, Mercury, and so forth, was charming, and the splendour
of the nearer figures, overwhelmed as it were with excess of light, and
the gloom and darkness of the distant, were admirably managed.  What a
wonderful picture!"  "He never painted a finer."

Mr. Beckford then pointed out his Claude.  It is a cool picture, the
colouring grey and greenish, the time of day, early morning just before
sunrise: but words fail to express its beauties.  There is a something in
it, a je ne sais quoi.  Such clearness in the colouring; the trees are
all green, but so tenderly green; the sky and distance of such an
exquisite tone that you are at once in imagination transported to those
"southern climes and cloudless skies" that inspired Claude Lorraine.  I
can give no possible idea in writing of the tone of colour in this
picture, except by comparing it to the semi-transparency of Mosaic, such
are the clearness of the tints and pearliness of the sky and distance.  As
to chiaro-oscure, it is breadth and simplicity itself.  Nothing but the
purest ultramarine could ever produce such a green as that which colours
the trees.

On the same side of the room are two small Vander Meulens, landscapes.
They are very highly finished, and the colouring is delicious; the trees
are grouped with all the grandeur of Claude or Poussin.  Above are two of
the finest Vernets; they are both sea pieces.  The colouring has a depth
and richness I never before saw in anything attributed to him.  In the
Louvre are his most famous pictures, and what I now say is the result of
calm and mature reflection.  I had the Louvre pictures constantly before
my eyes for three months.  They are very large, and certainly have great
merit; but had I my choice I would prefer Mr. Beckford's to any of the
set.

West's original sketch for his great picture of King Lear, painted for
Boydell's Shakspeare Gallery--"Blow, blow, thou winter wind."  A most
wonderful performance.  The expression of face of the poor mad king is
astonishing; the colouring rich and mellow--nothing of West's usually
hard outline.  The whole picture is full of energy and fire, and seems to
have been struck off with the greatest ease and rapidity.  "Do observe
the face of Edgar," said Mr. Beckford.  "Under his assumed madness you
trace a sentiment of respect and anxiety for the monarch; he could not
forget that it was his sovereign."  "I have seen," I said, "most of
West's great pictures, but there is more genius in that sketch than in
anything I ever saw of his.  I think he took too much pains with his
sketches.  The consequence was that the original spirit evaporated long
before the completion of the great tame painting, where his men and women
too often look like wooden lay figures covered with drapery."  "Sir, did
you ever see his sketch of Death on the Pale Horse?  The large picture is
certainly very fine, but I have heard the best judges say that the
original sketch is one of the finest things in existence.  The President
himself considered it his best and refused 100 pounds, offered for it by
the Prince Regent; yet afterwards, being distressed for money, he parted
with it, I believe, to Mr. Thompson, the artist, for 50 pounds."  "Is it
possible?  I wish I had known that he wanted to dispose of it.  I should
have liked it beyond anything.  It was most wonderful."

Above the picture of King Lear hangs a noble picture by Titian, the
composition of which reminded me much of Raphael.  The Virgin's face is
extremely beautiful, but it is the sort of beauty we sometimes meet with,
that we sometimes may have seen.  The St. Catherine is of a more elevated
style of beauty, more intellectual; in short, it possesses a combination
of charms that has never yet fallen to the lot of any mortal.  The infant
is extremely fine.  On this side is also a portrait of himself
exquisitely coloured and finished.

Near these paintings is a Canaletti, not a real view, but an assemblage
of various fine buildings; in fact, a sort of union of Rome and Venice.
In the centre is the Mole of Hadrian, round which he has amused himself
by putting an elegant colonnade; on the right hand is a bridge.  The
colouring is clear, the shadows rich, and the water softly painted and
extremely transparent.  This is the most beautiful Canaletti I ever saw.
I observed that the generality of his pictures had a hardness, dryness,
and blackness that we saw nothing of here.  "You are quite right," he
said, "and the reason is that very few of those generally attributed to
him are really genuine, but of mine there can be no doubt, as this
painting and several others that I have were got directly from the artist
himself by means of the English Consul at Venice; but not a quarter of
the pictures that one sees and that are called his were ever painted by
Canaletti."  There were several very fine pictures by this master
destroyed in the lifetime of Alderman Beckford at the fire which consumed
the old mansion at Fonthill nearly a hundred years ago.

This Canaletti partakes of the same character of high excellence that Mr.
Beckford's other pictures possess; in fact, as with so many of his
pictures, you see the hand of the master, whose common works you know,
but in this house you find paintings still finer, which give you more
elevated and correct ideas of the style and manner of the genuine
productions of the great masters.  There really seems some charm, some
magic in the walls, so great is the similarity of colouring in these
_chefs d'oeuvres_, the clear, the subdued, the pearly tints, a variety of
delicious colour, and none of the dirty hues you see in mediocre old
paintings.

Over the sofa is a constellation of beauties which we merely glanced at
as we passed, but which I hope another day to examine.  They are some of
the rarest specimens by G. Poussin, Wouvermans, Berghem, Van Huysum,
Polemberg, and others.  On a small table was placed an elegantly cut
caraffe of carnations of every variety of colour that you can possibly
imagine.  There is nothing in which Mr. Beckford is more choice than in
his bouquets.  At every season the rarest living flowers adorn the house.

Next to the dining room is a small salon, which we now entered.  Here is
a noble drawing by Turner of the Abbey, according to a plan proposed, but
never carried out.  The tower is conical, and would have been even higher
than the one that was completed.  "I have seen," I said, "a fine drawing
of Fonthill by Turner, originally in your possession, but now belonging
to Mr. Allnutt, of Clapham.  It is prodigiously fine.  The scenery there
must be magnificent.  The hills and beautiful lake in the drawing give
one an idea of Cumberland."  "It is a very fine drawing, but rather too
poetical, too ideal, even for Fonthill.  The scenery there is certainly
beautiful, but Turner took such liberties with it that he entirely
destroyed the portraiture, the locality of the spot.  That was the reason
I parted with it.  There were originally six drawings of the Abbey; three
were disposed of at the sale, and I still have the remaining ones."  "Are
they going to rebuild the tower, sir? for when I was last in London,
Papworth, the architect, was gone down to Fonthill to do something
there."  "Impossible," he said, "unless it were to be made a national
affair, which indeed is not very likely.  It would cost at least 100,000
pounds to restore it.  But what can Papworth have done there?  It must I
should think be something to the pavilion.  I assure you I had no idea of
parting with Fonthill till Farquhar made me the offer.  I wished to purge
it, to get rid of a great many things I did not want, but as to the
building itself I had no more notion of selling it than you have (turning
to his architect) of parting with anything, with--with the clothes you
have on."

On the chimney piece, protected by a glass, is a precious Japan vase.  We
examined it for some time under its envelope.  It seemed to me (for I
know nothing of Japan work) a bronze vessel, richly and most elaborately
chased, and I could not help joining in the praises due to its exquisite
finish.  Mr. Beckford took off the glass, and desired me to take it to
the window.  "I am really afraid to touch it," said I, but he forced it
into my hands.  I prepared them to receive a massive and (as it seemed to
me) very weighty vessel, when lo it proved as light as a feather.  We
were afterwards shown another Japan vase, the exterior of which exactly
resembled the Pompeian designs, elegant scrolls, delicate tracery of
blue, red, green, &c.  These colours strongly opposed as in the remains
of paintings at Pompeii.  Here are some other precious little pictures, a
small Gerard Dow, a Watteau, a Moucheron, and a Polemberg.  He merely
noticed them, and then led us into the next room.

A noble library.  It is an elegant and charming apartment, very chastely
ornamented.  Here are no pictures; it is devoted entirely to books and
ponderous folios of the most rare and precious engravings.  The sides of
the library are adorned by Scagliola pilasters and arched recesses, which
contain the books.  The interstices between the arches and the ceiling
are painted in imitation of marble, so extremely like that though they
touch the Scagliola it is next to impossible to distinguish any
difference.  The ceiling is belted across and enriched with bands of
Grecian tracery in relief, delicately painted and slightly touched with
gold.  On the walls are some gilded ornaments, enough to give to the
whole richness of effect without heaviness.  Between the windows is what
I suppose may be termed a table, composed of an enormous slab of the
rarest marble, supported by elegantly cast bronze legs.  Over this a
small cabinet (manufactured in Bath from drawings by Mr. Goodridge) full
of extremely small books; it is carved in oak in the most elaborate
manner.  The fireplace, of Devonshire marble, is perfect in design and in
its adaptation to the rest of the room; in fact, everything in this
lovely chamber is in unison, everything soft, quiet, and subdued.

New wonders awaited me.  Next to the library is a sort of vestibule
leading to a staircase, which from its mysterious and crimson light, rich
draperies, and latticed doors seemed to be the sanctum sanctorum of a
heathen temple.  To the left a long passage, whose termination not being
seen allowed the imagination full play, led for aught I know to the
Fortress of Akerman, to the Montagne du Caf or to the Halls of Argenti.
Ou sout peintes toutes les createures raissonables, et les animaux qui
ont habite la terre.

To the right two latticed doors, reminding you of Grand Cairo or
Persepolis, ingeniously conceal the commonplace entrance from the
Crescent.  The singular and harmonious light of this mysterious vestibule
is produced by crimson silk strained over the fanlight of the outer door.
"This place," I observed, "puts one in mind of the Hall of Eblis."  "You
are quite right," he observed, "this is unquestionably the Hall of
Eblis."  "Those latticed doors," I continued, "seem to lead to the small
apartment where the three princes, Alasi, Barkiarokh, and Kalilah,
related to Vathek and Nouronchar their adventures."  He seemed amused at
my observations, and said, "Then you have read 'Vathek.'  How do you like
it?"  "Vastly.  I read it in English many years ago, but never in
French."  "Then read it in French," said Mr. Beckford.  "The French
edition is much finer than the English."

We mounted the staircase.  Above you in open niches are Etruscan vases.
The ceiling is arched and has belts at intervals.  "I wished to exclude
the draughts," said Mr. Beckford, "and to do away with the cold and
uncomfortable appearance you generally have in staircases."  The effect
of the whole is so novel that you lose all idea of stairs, and seem
merely going from one room to another.  As you stand on the landing the
vaulted and belted ceiling behind you has the appearance of a row of
arches in perspective.  The same solemn and mysterious gloom pervades the
staircase.  The architect has frequently entreated to be allowed to
introduce a little more light, but in vain.  The author of "Vathek" will
not consent to the least alteration of the present mystical effect, and
he is quite right.  This warm and indefinite light produces not only the
effect of air, but also of space, and makes the passage before noticed,
seen through the latticed doors, apparently of lines of real dimensions.

Mr. Beckford drew aside a curtain.  We entered the smaller of two lovely
drawing rooms lately fitted up.  Before us, over the mantelpiece, was
suspended a magnificent full length portrait by Gaspar de Crayer of
Philip II. of Spain.  Just then my head was too full of the Hall of
Eblis, of "Vathek" and its associations, for mere ordinary admiration of
even one of the finest portraits painted, and on Mr. Beckford pointing
out the whitefaced monarch I almost involuntarily ejaculated "Pale slave
of Eblis."  He burst out laughing.  "Eh! eh! what?  His face is pale
indeed, but he was very proud of his complexion."  This is a very fine
group.  Philip is represented dressed in a suit of black armour,
elaborately chased in gold, standing on a throne covered with a crimson
carpet.  Near him is his dwarf, dressed in black, holding the helmet,
adorned with a magnificent plume of feathers, and turning towards his
master (the fountain of honour) a most expressive and intelligent face.
"That dwarf," said Mr. Beckford, "was a man of great ability and
exercised over his master a vast influence."  Lower down you discover the
head of a Mexican page, holding a horse, whose head, as well as that of
the page, is all that is visible, their bodies being concealed by the
steps of the throne.  This is a noble picture; but in my eyes the extreme
plainness of the steps of the throne and the unornamented war boots of
the king have a bare and naked appearance.  They contrast rather too
violently with the whole of the upper part of the picture.  Over the
steps are painted in Roman letters Rx. Ps. 4s. (Rex Philippus quartos).
Many who have hardly heard the painter's name will of course not admire
it, being done neither by Titian nor Vandyke; but Mr. Beckford's taste is
peculiar.  He prefers a genuine picture by an inferior painter to those
attributed to the more celebrated masters, but where originality is
ambiguous, or at least if not ambiguous where picture cleaner, or
scavengers, as he calls them, have been at work.  In this room, suspended
from the ceiling by a silken cord, is the silver gilt lamp that hung in
the oratory at Fonthill.  Its shape and proportion are very elegant, and
no wonder; it was designed by the author of "Italy" himself.  How great
was my astonishment some time after, on visiting Fonthill, at perceiving,
suspended from the _cul de lamp_, the very crimson cord that once
supported this precious vessel!  The lamp had been hastily cut down, and
the height of the remains of the cord from the floor was probably the
reason of its preservation.

Mr. Beckford next pointed out a charming sketch by Rubens, clear and
pearly beyond conception.  It is St. George and the Dragon, the dragon
hero and his horse in the air, and the dragon must certainly have been an
African lion.  Mr. Beckford called the beast, or reptile, a mumpsimus
(_sic_).  "Do look at the Pontimeitos in the beautiful sketch," said he,
"there is a bit from his pencil certainly his own.  Don't imagine that
those great pictures that bear his name are all his pictures.  He was too
much of a gentleman for such drudgery, and the greatest part of such
pictures (the Luxembourg for instance) are the works of his pupils from
his original designs certainly; they were afterwards retouched by him,
and people are silly enough to believe they are all his work.  But mark
well the difference in execution between those great gallery pictures and
such a gem as this."  Mr. Beckford then showed me a "Ripon" by Polemberg,
a lovely classic landscape, with smooth sky, pearly distance, and
picturesque plains; the Holy Family in the foreground.  "Do take notice
of the St. Joseph in this charming picture," he said.  "The painters too
often pourtray him as little better than a vagabond Jew or an old beggar.
Polemberg had too much good taste for such caricaturing, and you see he
has made him here look like a decayed gentleman."

Mr. Beckford drew aside another curtain, and we entered the front drawing
room, of larger dimensions, but fitted up in a similar style.  The first
thing that caught my eye was the magnificent effect produced by a scarlet
drapery, whose ample folds covered the whole side of the room opposite
the three windows from the ceiling to the floor.  Mr. Beckford's
observation on his first view of Mad. d' Aranda's boudoir instantly
recurred to my mind.  These are his very words: "I wonder architects and
fitters-up of apartments do not avail themselves more frequently of the
powers of drapery.  Nothing produces so grand and at the same time so
comfortable an effect.  The moment I have an opportunity I will set about
constructing a tabernacle larger than the one I arranged at Ramalhad, and
indulge myself in every variety of plait and fold that can be possibly
invented."  "I never was so convinced," I said, "of the truth of your
observations as at the present moment.  What a charming and comfortable
effect does that splendid drapery produce!"  "I am very fond of drapery,"
he replied, "but that is nothing to what I had at Fonthill in the great
octagon.  There were purple curtains fifty feet long."

Here was a cabinet of oak, made in Bath, in form most classical and
appropriate.  On one side stood two massive and richly chased silver gilt
candlesticks that formerly were used in the Moorish Palace of the
Alhambra.  "Then you have visited Granada?" I inquired.  "More than
once."  "What do you think of the Alhambra?"  "It is vastly curious
certainly, but many things there are in wretched taste, and to say truth
I don't much admire Moorish taste."

Mr. Beckford next pointed out a head in marble brought from Mexico by
Cortez, which was for centuries in the possession of the Duke of Alba's
family, and was given to the present proprietor by the Duchess.  "Her
fate was very tragical," he observed.  In a small cupboard with glass in
front is a little ivory reliquior, four or five hundred years old.  It
was given to Mr. Beckford by the late Mr. Hope.  It is in the shape of a
small chapel; on opening the doors, the fastenings of which were two
small dogs or monkeys, you found in a recess the Virgin and Child,
surrounded by various effigies, all carved in the most astonishingly
minute manner.

The mention of Mr. Hope's name produced an observation about
"Anastasius," of which Mr. Beckford affirmed he was confident Mr. Hope
had written very little; he was, he positively asserted, assisted by
Spence.  My companion here observed, "Had Mr. Beckford heard of the
recent discoveries made of the ruins of Carthage?"  "Of Carthage?" he
said, "it must be New Carthage.  It cannot be the old town, that is
impossible.  If it were, I would start to-morrow to see it.  I should
think myself on the road to Babylon half-way."  "Babylon must have been a
glorious place," observed my companion, "if we can place any reliance on
Mr. Martin's long line of distances about that famous city."  "Oh,
Martin.  Martin is very clever, but a friend of mine, Danby, in my
opinion far surpasses him."  I cannot agree with Mr. Beckford in this.
Martin was undoubtedly the inventor of the singular style of painting in
question, and I do not believe that Danby ever produced anything equal to
some of the illustrations of "Paradise Lost," in particular "The Fall of
the Apostate Angels," which is as fine a conception as any painter,
ancient or modern, ever produced.

Mr. Beckford then, taking off a glass cover, showed us what is, I should
imagine, one of the greatest curiosities in existence, a vase about ten
inches high, composed of one entire block of chalcedonian onyx.  It is of
Greek workmanship, most probably about the time of Alexander the Great.
The stone is full of veins, as usual with onyxes.  "Do observe," said he,
"these satyrs' heads.  Imagine the number of diamonds it must have taken
to make any impression on such a hard substance.  Rubens made a drawing
of it, for it was pawned in his time for a large sum.  I possess an
engraving from his drawing," and opening a portfolio he immediately
presented it to my wondering eyes.

Over the fireplace is a magnificent picture by Roberts, representing the
tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella in the Alhambra.  What I had always
imagined a small chapel is, I find, really of gigantic proportions, and
looks like a Cathedral in solemn grandeur and softness; the two
sarcophagi are of white marble.  The light streams through enormous
painted windows, and at the extremity of the edifice is an altar
surrounded by figures in different attitudes.  "I should never have
dreamt, from what Washington Irving says of the chapel of Ferdinand and
Isabella, that it was such a plan as this."   "Oh, Washington Irving," he
replied, "is very poor in his descriptions; he does not do justice to
Spain."  I wished he had spoken with a little more enthusiasm of a
favourite author, but I imagine that the author of the "Sketch Book" is
scarcely aristocratic enough for Mr. Beckford.

On the right hand of the fireplace is a very large landscape by Lee,
which Mr. Beckford eulogised warmly.  "That silvery stream," he observed,
"winding amongst those gentle undulating hills must be intended to
represent Berkshire," or he pronounced it Barkshire.  With all due
deference to the taste of the author of "Vathek," and his admiration of
this picture, which he compared to a Wouvermann, it is in my eyes a very
uninteresting scene, though certainly strictly natural.  "I don't in
general like Lee's pictures," he said, "but that is an exception."  In
the corresponding recess is a fine sea piece by Chambers.  On the
opposite side of the room are rows of the most valuable books, which
almost reach the ceiling.  I hinted that I was really afraid we were
trespassing on his leisure, as our visit was lengthened out most
prodigiously.  "Not at all," he replied, "I am delighted to see you.  It
is a pleasure to show these things to those who really appreciate them,
for I assure you that I find very few who do."  We now returned through
the apartments.  He accompanied us as far as the dining room door, when
he inquired if I had seen the Tower?  On my answering in the negative he
said, "Then you must come up again."  He shook hands with my friend, and
bowing politely to me was retiring, when stepping back he held out his
hand in the kindest manner, repeating the words "Come up again."  We
found we had spent three hours in his company.

We paused an instant before leaving the dining room to admire a lovely
bit of perspective.  It is a line of open doors, exactly opposite each
other (never seen but in large houses), piercing and uniting the three
lower rooms.  The effect is vastly increased by a mirror placed in the
lobby leading to the second staircase, which mirror terminated the view.
"L'une perspective bien menagee charmait la vue; ici, la magic de
l'optique la trompoit agreablement.  En un mot, le plus curieux des
hommes n'avait rien omis dans ce palais de ce qui pouvait contenter la
curiosite de ceux qui le visitait."

You may imagine I did not forget Mr. Beckford's invitation, nor cease
pestering my friend till he at length fixed a day for accompanying me
again to Lansdown.  My curiosity to see the Tower was excited.  I longed
to behold that extraordinary structure, but still more to see again the
wonderful individual to whom it belonged.

We proceeded in the first place to the house, and I had an opportunity of
examining the pictures and curiosities in the ante-room.  Here are two
cabinets, containing curious china, and small golden vessels.  Most of
the china was, I believe, painted at Sevres expressly for Mr. Beckford,
as the ornaments on several pieces indicate, being formed of his arms, so
arranged as to produce a rich and beautiful effect without the slightest
formality.  I counted in one cabinet ten vessels of gold, in the other
five: these were small teapots, caddies, cups, saucers, plates.  I am
told that they are used occasionally at tea-time.

Over the door is a magnificent drawing of the Abbey, by Turner, taken I
should imagine at a distance of two miles.  The appearance of the
building with its lofty tower is grand and imposing.  The foreground
seems to have been an old quarry.  The great lake glitters in the middle
distance, from the opposite banks of which the ground gradually rises,
and the eminence is crowned by the stately structure.  Here are also a
fine interior by Van Ostade from Fonthill, representing a noble picture
gallery; a drawing of the interior of St. Paul's; one by Rubens,
representing Christ and the two disciples at Emmaus; a fine Swaneveldt; a
glorious Weeninx, game and fruit; with a lovely bit by Lance, and many
smaller pictures.

I was informed that Mr. Beckford intended meeting us at the Tower, and
that a servant was in readiness to conduct us thither by the walk through
the grounds.  We therefore issued by a private door, and presently
entered the spacious kitchen garden, containing, I believe, seven or
eight acres.  A broad gravel walk, bordered by lovely flowers and fruit
trees, leads to a magnificent terrace, which bounds the northern side of
this beautiful enclosure, the view from which is enchanting.  This noble
terrace is screened from the north by a luxuriant shrubbery, from which
arises an archway of massive proportions, erected chiefly to shut out the
view of an unpicturesque object.  The _tout ensemble_ reminds one of
Florence.  You pass this gigantic portal, and ascend the hill by a
winding pathway through the fields, the grass being always kept clipped
and short.  At the distance of half a mile from the house we crossed a
lane, and our guide unlocking a gate entered the grounds at the brow of
the hill.  We again ascended, till we reached a broader way between two
flourishing plantations, branching off to the left, and leading by a
gently winding walk to a rustic sort of bungalow, which was discovered
about a quarter of a mile off.  "You must walk along here," said my
friend, "and behold the prospect before we mount higher, for you will
find the view repay you."  It did indeed repay us: the grassy pathway
extends along the side of the southern brow of Lansdown, and the view
from this spot is unrivalled.  The whole valley of the Doon stretches
beneath you.  Looking towards the east you discover in extreme distance
the Marlborough Downs; then somewhat nearer Kingsdown, Bathford, the
hills above Warleigh, with Hampton cliffs and the neighbouring woods,
where Gainsborough, Wilson, and Barker studied Nature so well, and where
is shown the flat rock called Gainsborough's table, on which the first of
this picturesque triumvirate so often ate his rustic meal.  To the south
Bladud's splendid city, with its towers and stately buildings, backed by
the long line of Wiltshire hills, and Alfred's Tower is faintly traced in
the clear, grey haze.  The little conical hill of Englishcombe, where the
unfortunate Duke of Monmouth drew up his army during his rash and fatal
enterprise, awoke a thousand recollections, whilst the lovely river
flashed occasionally in the noontide sun.  To the west are seen Newton
Park, the Mendip Hills, Dundry Tower, and the Welsh hills, whilst the
hazy atmosphere marked the position of another great city, Bristol.  At
the extreme western point, too, are seen the waters of the Bristol
Channel, glittering under the glowing rays of the setting sun, and
shining like a vast plateau of burnished gold.

After feasting our eyes on this lovely panorama and tracing out well
known places, at one moment lost in obscurity from the shadow of a
passing cloud and the next moment appearing in the full blaze of
sunshine, we retraced our steps towards the path to the Tower.  We again
ascended the hill, and soon reached the sort of tableland on the top,
which seems to me to have been once an immense quarry, and no doubt
furnished stone in vast quantities for the building of the splendid city
at the foot of the eminence.  The remains of these quarries are most
picturesque.  At a little distance they seem to present the wrecks of
stately buildings, with rows of broken arches, and vividly recall the
idea of Roman ruins.  I afterwards mentioned my impressions on seeing
them to Mr. Beckford, who replied, "They do indeed put one in mind of the
Campagna of Rome, and are vastly like the ruins of the Baths of
Caracalla."  We were now on the brow of the hill, and soon felt the
influence of the genial breezes from the Bristol Channel.  We quitted the
open Down, and passing under a low doorway entered a lovely shrubbery.
The walk (composed of small fossils) winds between graceful trees, and is
skirted by odoriferous flowers, which we are astonished to find growing
in such luxuriance at an elevation of nearly a thousand feet above the
vale below.  In many places the trees meet, and form a green arcade over
your head, whilst patches of mignonette, giant plants of heliotrope, and
clusters of geranium perfume the air.

We next enter a beautiful kitchen garden, and are presented with a broad
and noble straight walk fully ten feet in width and nearly four hundred
feet long, between beds of flowers, and on either side beyond fruit trees
and vegetables.  The garden terminates with a picturesque building,
pierced by a lofty archway, through which the walk passes.  This garden
is about eighty feet wide and about twelve feet below the level of the
Down, being formed in an old quarry, besides which a lofty wall on either
side shelters it.  One cannot describe one's sensations of comfort at
finding so delicious a spot in so unexpected a place.  I said to the
gardener, "I understood Mr. Beckford had planted everything on the Down,
but you surely found those apple trees here.  They are fifty years old."
"We found nothing here but an old quarry and a few nettles.  Those apple
trees were great trees when we moved them, and moving them stopped their
bearing.  They blossom in the spring and look pretty, and that is all
master cares about."  We left this charming enclosure, passing under the
archway before mentioned.  And here I must pause a moment and admire the
happy idea of placing this pretty building at the end of this cultivated
spot.  It closes the kitchen garden, and as its front is similar on
either side, it harmonizes with the regular garden we have left, as well
as with the wilder spot which we next approach.  This building forms a
complete termination to one of that succession of lovely scenes with
which we are presented on our walk to the Tower.  Each scene is totally
distinct in character from the others, and yet with matchless taste they
are united by some harmonious link, as in the present case.

Having then passed through the archway of this building, we observed
before us a grotto, into which we entered.  On the right is a pond of
gold and silver fish, which are fed every morning by the hands of the
gifted possessor of this charming place.  On the opposite side thirty or
forty birds assemble at the same time to hail the appearance of St.
Anthony's devotee, and chirrup a song of gratitude for their morning
meal.  The grotto is formed under a road, and is so ingeniously contrived
that hundreds have walked over it without ever dreaming of the
subterranean passage beneath.  The grotto-like arch winds underground for
perhaps sixty or seventy feet.  When coming to its termination we are
presented with a flight of rustic steps, which leads us again directly on
to the Down.  Looking back you cannot but admire the natural appearance
of this work of art.  The ground over the grotto is covered with tangled
shrubs and brambles.  There is nothing formed, nothing apparently
artificial, and a young ash springs as if accidentally from between the
stones.

We pursued our way to the Tower by a path of a quarter of a mile on the
Down, along a walk parallel to the wall of the public road, gently curved
to take off the appearance of formality, yet so slightly that you can go
on in a straight line.  On our right hand venerable bushes of lavender,
great plants of rosemary, and large rose trees perfume the air, all
growing as if indigenous to the smooth turf.  In one place clusters of
rare and deeply crimsoned snapdragons, in another patches of aromatic
thyme and wild strawberries keep up the charm of the place.  As we draw
nearer to the Tower the ground is laid out in a wilder and more
picturesque manner, the walks are more serpentine.  We turned a corner,
and Mr. Beckford stood before us, attended by an aged servant, whose
hairs have whitened in his employment, and whose skill has laid out these
grounds in this beautiful manner.  Mr. Beckford welcomed me in the
kindest way, and immediately began pointing out the various curious
plants and shrubs.  How on this happy spot specimens of the productions
of every country in the world unite!  Shrubs and trees, whose natural
climates are as opposite as the Antipodes, here flourish in the most
astonishing manner.  We were shown a rose tree brought from Pekin and a
fir tree brought from the highest part of the Himalaya Mountains; many
have been brought to this country, but Mr. Beckford's is the only one
that has survived.  Here are pine trees of every species and variety--a
tree that once vegetated at Larissa, in Greece, Italian pines, Siberian
pines, Scotch firs, a lovely specimen of Irish yew, and other trees which
it is impossible to describe.  My astonishment was great at witnessing
the size of the trees, and I could scarcely believe my ears when told
that the whole of this wood had been raised on the bare Down within the
last thirteen years.  The ground is broken and diversified in the most
agreeable manner: here a flight of easy and water worn steps leads to an
eminence, whence you have a view of the building and an old ruin
overgrown with shrubs, which looks as if it had seen five hundred
summers, but in reality no older than the rest of this creation.  On
ascending the easy though ruined steps of this building, passing under an
archway, the view of the Tower burst upon us, and a long, straight walk
led us directly to the entrance.  From this point the view is most
imposing.  On your right is a continuation of the shrubberies I spoke of,
at the end of which is a lovely pine, most beautiful in form and colour,
which by hiding some of the lower buildings thus makes a picture of the
whole.  The effect of the building is grand and stately beyond
description.  The long line of flat distance and the flatness of the Down
here come in contact with the perpendicular lines of the Tower and lower
buildings, producing that strikingly peculiar combination which never
fails to produce a grand effect.  This is the real secret of Claude's
seaports.  His stately buildings, moles, and tall towers form a right
angle with the straight horizon; thus the whole is magnificent.  Nothing
of the sort could be produced in the interior of a country but in a
situation like the present.  Who but a man of extraordinary genius would
have thought of rearing in the desert such a structure as this, or
creating such an oasis?  The colouring of the building reminded me of
Malta or Sicily, a rich mellow hue prevails; the ornaments of the Tower
are so clean, so distinct, such terseness.  The windows, small and few
compared with modern buildings, give it the appearance of those early
Florentine edifices reared when security and defence were as much an
object as beauty.  From every part of the ground the pile looks grand,
the lines producing the most beautiful effect.  The windows have iron
gratings, which give it an Oriental character.  We entered, and
immediately ascended the Tower.  A circular staircase was round the wall.
The proportion of the interior is beautiful; you see from the bottom to
the top.  From the apparent size of the three or four loopholes seen from
the outside I imagined it would be dark and gloomy from within, but I was
agreeably surprised to find the whole extremely light.  The balustrade is
Egyptian in form, and banisters bronze.  On reaching the top you find a
square apartment containing twelve windows, each a piece of plate glass,
the floor covered with red cloth and crimson window curtains.  The effect
of distance seen through these apertures unobstructed by framework,
contrasted with the bronze balustrade without and crimson curtains
within, is truly enchanting.  We were not happy in the weather.  The
morning was sunny and promising, but at noon clouds obscured the heavens;
therefore we wanted that glow and splendour sunshine never fails to give
the landscape.  The height is so great that everything looks quite
diminutive.  The road running in a straight line across the Down reminds
one of a Roman work, and the whole expanse of country surrounding recalls
the Campagna.  Two more flights of stairs, most ingeniously contrived and
to all appearance hanging on nothing, lead to two other apartments, the
top one lighted by glass all round, concealed on the outside by the open
ornament that runs round the very top of the cupola.

On descending the staircase, the door opening showed us at the end of a
small vaulted corridor a beautiful statue by Rossi of St. Anthony and the
infant Jesus.  At the back, fixed in the wall, is a large slab of red
porphyry, circular at the top and surrounded by an elegant inlay of
Sienna verd, antique border surrounding the whole figure of the Saint,
and has a most rich effect; it is difficult to believe that the Sienna is
not gold.  The light descending from above gives that fine effect which
sets off statues so much.  On the left hand of the figure is a picture by
Pietro Perugino, which for centuries was in the Cathedral of Sienna,
having been painted for that building and never removed till Mr. Beckford
(I suppose by making an offer too tempting to be resisted) succeeded in
obtaining it.  It is the Virgin and two pretty boys, admirably drawn,
very like Raphael, and in as fine preservation as the St. Catherine.  The
execution is masterly, and though not so free as the Raphael still it is
forcible.  The figure of the left hand boy is very graceful, face
beautiful and sweetly dimpled.  Opposite are a Francesco Mola and a
Steinwych.  The Mola is exceedingly fine, the sky and landscape much like
Mr. Beckford's Gaspar Poussin in colour and execution; the Steinwych,
interior of a Cathedral, one of the most wonderful finished pictures I
ever beheld.  This picture was painted for an ancestor of Mr. Beckford's.
Here there is a little cabinet full of rare and curious manuscripts.  We
were shown a small Bible in MS., including the Apocrypha, written 300
years before printing was introduced, and a very curious Missal.

We then entered a gorgeous room containing pictures and curiosities of
immense value.  Its proportions seem exactly the same as the one on the
floor below, and decorations with its furniture pretty similar.  The
windows in both are in one large plate, and the shutters of plain oak.
The colour of curtains and carpet crimson.  In these rooms are a portrait
of the Doge out of the Grimaldi Palace, purchased by Mr. Beckford from
Lord Cawdor, who got it out of the Palace by an intrigue; this is a
splendid portrait; he has on the Dalmatica and the Phrygian Cap worn by
the Doges on occasions of State, and two lovely Polembergs, infinitely
finer and more like Claude than anything I ever saw; in fact, they were
ascribed to Claude by the German Waagen, architecture grand, foliage
light and elegant; the figures are by Le Soeur.  Two fine portraits by De
Vos, wonderfully painted, execution and colouring reminded me of Vandyke,
particularly the latter, and not unlike the Gavertius in the National
Gallery.  Then there is a magnificent Houdekoeta, the landscape part
painted by Both most inimitably.  A beautiful cabinet designed by
Bernini, another with sculptured paintings, in the centre the story of
Adam and Eve.  Two more candlesticks from the Alhambra, in shape and
execution similar to those at the house; two gold candlesticks after
designs by Holbein; some curious specimens of china; an Asiatic purple
glass vase, brought by St. Louis from the Holy Land, which contained at
St. Denis some holy fragments; a piece of china, the centre of which is
ornamented in a style totally different from the generality of china, in
eight or ten compartments, and painted in such a manner that the festoon
of leaves fall over and hide the fruit most picturesquely; two ivory
cups, one in alto, the other in basso relievo; the latter the finer and
most charmingly carved; a small group in bronze by John Bologna,
"Dejanira and the Centaur," admirably done.  Here are tables of the
rarest marbles, one composed of a block from the Himalaya Mountains.  In
one of the windows is a piece of African marble brought to this country
for George IV; also a small bath of Egyptian porphyry.  In the lower room
was a vase containing the most lovely flowers, that perfumed the
apartment.  In this room, from the judicious introduction of scarlet and
crimson, you have the effect of sunshine.  The ceilings are belted; the
interstices painted crimson.  It is impossible to give any idea of the
splendour of these two rooms, the finishing touch being cabinet looking
glasses, introduced most judiciously.

We now took leave of Mr. Beckford.  His horses were waiting in the
courtyard, with two servants standing respectfully and uncovered at the
door, whilst two more held the horses.  The stately and magnificent
tower, the terrace on which we lingered a few moments, whilst this
extraordinary man mounted his horse, all, all conspired to cast a
poetical feeling over the parting moment which I shall never forget.  I
was reminded most forcibly of similar scenes in Scott's novels.  In
particular the ancient Tower of Tillietudleni was presented to my mind's
eye, and I gazed for a moment on this gifted person with a melancholy
foreboding that it was for the last time, and experienced an elevation of
feeling connected with the scene which it is impossible to describe.  Such
moments are worth whole years of everyday existence.  We turned our heads
to look once more on a man who must always create the most intense
interest, and I repeated those lines of Petrarch, introduced by Mr.
Beckford himself in his "Italy" on a similar occasion--

   O ora, o georno, o ultimo momento,
   O stelle conjurate ad impoverime, &c.

I forgot to mention a cluster of heliotrope in blossom on the Down,
growing in such wild luxuriance that I could not believe it to be my
little darling flower.  However, on stooping down I soon perceived by its
fragrance it was the same plant that I had been accustomed to admire in
greenhouses or in small pots.



October, 1838.


I have had another peep at the Tower.  The day was auspicious.  I ran up
the staircase and wonderfully enjoyed the prospect.  Looking through the
middle window towards the west you have a delicious picture.  The hills
undulate in the most picturesque manner, the motion of the clouds at one
moment threw a line of hills into shadow, which were the next minute
illumined by the sun, the Avon glittering in the sunbeams, the village of
Weston embedded in the valley, a rich cluster of large trees near the
town, variegated by the tints of autumn, united to form a charming
picture.  The pieces of plate-glass that compose the twelve windows of
this beautiful room cannot be less than 5.5ft. high and 18in. wide.

On descending I was struck with the lovely effect of the corridor, at the
end of which is the statue of St. Anthony; on the pedestal (a block of
Sienna) are engraved in letters of gold these words, "Dominus illuminatio
mio."  The Francesco Mola (the Magdalen in the Desert) is a lovely
landscape indeed; the rocks and their spirited execution, lightness of
the foliage, &c., in the foreground remind one of St. Rosa.  A cluster of
cherubs hovers over the head of Mary.  In the smaller room on the upper
floor is the picture by West of the Installation of the Knights of the
Garter.  From the contemplation of this picture I entertain a higher
opinion of the genius of West than I ever did before.  You can scarcely
believe it is his painting; there is nothing of his usual hard outline,
the shadows are rich, the background soft and mellow, the lights unite
sweetly, and it is touched in the free and juicy manner of the sketches
of Rubens or Paolo Veronese.  It is difficult to believe that this
picture is not 200 years old.  The head of a child by Parmigiano; a large
picture by Breughel.  The enameled glass vase brought to Europe by St.
Louis; this must be of Arabian manufacture, for the figures on horseback
have turbans.  A large cabinet by Franks, the panels most highly
finished, different passages in the history of Adam and Eve form small
pictural subjects.  In the larger room is the cabinet by Bernini, inlaid
with mosaic work in the most finished manner, surrounded by three brass
figures; Bellini's two pictures of the Doges of Venice.  Over Bernini's
cabinet a large piece of looking glass is most judiciously introduced.  In
this and the lower room are two lovely crimson Wilton carpets; the
ceilings of both are painted purple and red.  Holbein's candlesticks are
really gold! the chasing is elegance itself; an inscription states that
they were made in 1800 for the Abbey at Fonthill.  A fine picture of the
infant St. John by Murillo; a curious one of St. Anthony by Civoli; an
exquisite interior, by Steynwich, very small, and being a night effect,
the shadows are amazingly rich.  In the passage leading to the garden are
the two ivory cups by Frainingo.  One is much better carved than the
other; it is copied from an antique vase.  The figures are Bacchanalian.

The effect of this lower room from the vestibule, illumined by the rays
of the glorious sun, was more beautiful than anything of the sort I had
ever witnessed.  Nothing can be more happy than the way the colour of
this apartment is managed.  The walls are covered with scarlet cloth; the
curtains on each side of the window being a deep purple produce a
striking contrast, the colouring of the ceiling, crimson, purple and
gold, is admirable.  In one window is a large table formed of a block of
Egyptian porphyry, on which were flowers in a large vase of ivory; in the
other recess, or rather tribune, is the small round Himalaya block.  Over
the fireplace is a charming little Dietrich, and on either hand a
Polemberg.  On this side of the room the two De Vos, two singularly
shaped cabinets of oak finely carved; on one is a gold teapot.  On the
right hand of the door is a Simonini: sky and distance admirable, the
colouring of two large trees very rich and mellow, one a dark green, the
other pale yellow.  A picture on the other side of the door by Canaletti.
On the opposite side of the room a large Pastel, ruins of foliage fine
but figures lanky.  I had not before to-day seen the Tower from the road
entrance.  The effect of the whole building is grand, and improved by the
arches which support the terrace.  On the left the ground is admirably
broken and the foliage rich.



November 3rd, 1838.


Mr. Beckford showed me some sketches of St. Non's Sicily and harbour of
Malta, forty drawings, given by St. Non himself, each bearing the name in
pencil; he also showed me a MS. "Arabian Nights."  He studied Arabic very
deeply in Paris, and had a Mussulman master.  He read to me part of a
tale never put into the ordinary edition, translated into English tersely
and perspicuously.  He is much indebted to Arabic MS. for "Vathek," and
reads Arabic to this day.  He says Lord Byron and others are quite
mistaken as to the age when he wrote "Vathek," not seventeen but twenty-
three years of age.  "Sir," says he, "if you want a description of
Persepolis read 'Vathek.'"  He laughed heartily at the different sorts of
praise bestowed by Lord Byron on "Vathek," equal to Rasselas, like
Mackenzie.  Lord Byron tried many times to get a sight of the Eps [?],
often intreated the Duchess to intercede with her father.  He once called
with "Vathek" in his pocket, which he styled "his gospel."  Moore's
"Lallah Rookh" has too much western sentimentality for an Oriental
romance, the common fault of most writers of such stories.  Beckford
prefers Moore's Melodies, and likes the "Loves of Angels" least of all.
"Fudge Family" he thinks admirable.

Speaking of the triumph he achieved in writing as an Englishman a work
which was supposed for years to be by a Frenchman, he said: "Oh, my great
uncle did more than me.  Did you never read 'Memories of the Duke of
Grammont?'  Voltaire told me he was entirely indebted to my great uncle
for whatever beauty of style he might possess.  French is just the same
as English to me.  He showed me the Eps."

October 31.--Went out and accidentally met Mr. Beckford speaking in
praise of his West, who painted expressly for Mr. Beckford.  I said, "How
did you get him to paint it so soft?  I suppose you particularly
requested him to do so."  "Oh no.  Mr. West was a man who would stand no
dictation; had I uttered such a thought he would have kicked me out of
the house!  Oh no, that would never have done.  The only way to get him
to avoid his hard outline would be to entreat him to paint harder.  West
came one day laughing to me, and said, "All London is in ecstasy
beholding the Lazarus in Sebo Deltz, painted they say by M. A.  Ha! ha!
they don't know it is my painting.  L., who brought the picture over,
came to me in the greatest distress, 'The set is ruined by the salt
water; you must try and restore the Lazarus.'  I was shut up for two
days, and painted the Lazarus."  On my asking if he believed it true, Mr.
Beckford replied, "Perfectly true, for I saw it lying on the floor and
the figure of Lazarus was quite gone."  "Then you don't value that
picture much?"  "All the rest is perfect, and I offered 12,000 pounds for
that and four more.  I saw in the Escurial the marriage of Isaac and
Rebecca, now belonging to the Duke of Wellington.  In fact, of all the
pictures in the collection there is not more than one in ten that has
escaped repainting.  The picture given by H. Carr I cannot admire, the
outline of the hill is so hard.  It is just the picture Satan would show
poor Claude, if he has him, which we charitably hope he has not."



November 10th, 1838.


How poor dear Mozart would be frightened (moralised Mr. Beckford) could
he hear some of our modern music!  My father was very fond of music, and
invited Mozart to Fonthill.  He was eight years old and I was six.  It
was rather ludicrous one child being the pupil of another.  He went to
Vienna, where he obtained vast celebrity, and wrote to me, saying, "Do
you remember that march you composed which I kept so long?  Well, I have
just composed a new opera and I have introduced your air."  "In what
opera?" asked I.  "Why in the 'Nozze di Figaro.'"  "Is it possible, sir,
and which then is your air?"  "You shall hear it."  Mr. Beckford opened a
piano, and immediately began what I thought a sort of march, but soon I
recognized "Non piu andrai."  He struck the notes with energy and force,
he sang a few words, and seemed to enter into the music with the greatest
enthusiasm; his eye sparkled, and his countenance assumed an expression
which I had never noticed before.

Mr. Beckford showed me some very fine original drawings by Gaspar
Poussin, exceedingly delicate.  On the back a profile most exquisitely
finished, another just begun, and another by his brother in admirable
style, sketch of a peacock by Houdekoeta.  "When I was in Portugal," said
Mr. Beckford, "I had as much influence and power as if I had been the
King.  The Prince Regent acknowledged me in public as his relation (which
indeed I was).  I had the privilege of an entrance at all times, and
could visit the Royal Family in ordinary dress.  Of course, on grand
occasions I wore Court costume."  He showed me a letter from a rich
banker in Lisbon, a man in great esteem at the Palace; another letter
from one of the first noblemen in Portugal, entreating him to use his
influence with the Prince Regent for the reversion of the decree of
confiscation of some nobleman's estate; another from the Grand Prior of
Aviz (in French).  Mr. Beckford was treated as a grandee of the first
rank in Germany; he showed me an autograph of the Emperor Joseph.
Voltaire said to him, "Je dois tout a votre oncle, Count Anthony H.  The
Duchess was acknowledged in Paris by the Bourbon as Duchess de
Chatelrault.  On going to Court I saw her sitting next the Royal Family
with the Duchess, whilst all the Court was standing.  The Duchess has
fine taste for the arts, quite as strong a feeling as I have.  The Duke
also is amazingly fond of the arts.  The Marquis of D. has a spice of my
character."

The Claude looked more blooming and pearly than ever.  I observed that I
had never seen such a tone in any Claude in existence.  I know many
pictures which had that hue, but they have been so daubed and retouched
that they are no longer the same.  He showed me the Episodes.  One
begins, "Mes malheurs, O Caliphe sont encore plus grands que les votres,
aussi bien que mes crimes, tu a ete trompe en ecoutant un navis
malheureux; mais moi, pour me desobir d'une amitie la plus tendre, je
suis precipite dans ce lieu d'horreur."

The origin of Beckford's "Lives of Extraordinary Painters" was very odd.
When he was fifteen years old the housekeeper came to him, and said she
wished he would tell her something about the artists who painted his fine
pictures, as visitors were always questioning her, and she did not know
what to answer.  "Oh, very well; I'll write down some particulars about
them."  He instantly composed "Lives of Extraordinary Painters."  The
housekeeper studied the manuscript attentively, and regaled her
astonished visitors with the marvellous incidents it contained; however,
finding many were sceptical, she came to her young master and told him
people would not believe what she told them.  "Not believe?  Ah, that's
because it is only in manuscript.  Then we'll have it printed; they'll
believe when they see it in print."  He sent the manuscript to a London
publisher, and inquired what the expense of printing it would be.  The
publisher read it with delight, and instantly offered the youthful author
50 pounds for the manuscript.  The housekeeper was now able to silence
all cavilers by producing the book itself.

Having left an umbrella in Lansdown-crescent, I inquired of the gentleman
to whom I am indebted for my introduction to Mr. Beckford if he thought
it would be taking a liberty if I sent in my name when I called for it.
"I really don't know what to say" was the answer, "you must do as you
think proper.  I will only say that for my part I am always looking out
for squalls, but I daresay he will be glad to see you."  I accordingly
determined to make a bold stroke and call on him, remembering the old
adage, "Quidlibet audendum picturis atque poetis."  The weather was most
delightful.  A wet and cold summer had been succeeded by warm autumnal
days, on which the sun shone without a cloud; it was one of those seasons
of settled fair so uncommon in our humid country, when after witnessing a
golden sunset you might sleep

   Secure he'd rise to-morrow.

I therefore called at the great man's house, and found the umbrella in
the exact corner in the ante-room where it had been left a fortnight
before, and told the porter to announce my name to his master.  I waited
in anxiety in the hall a few moments.  The footman returned, saying his
master was engaged, but if I would walk upstairs Mr. Beckford would come
to me.  The servant led the way to the Duchess Drawing Room, opened the
door, and on my entering he retired, leaving me alone in this gorgeous
apartment, wondering what the dickens I did there.  You may suppose I was
not a little delighted at this mark of confidence, and spent several
minutes examining the pictures till the author of "Vathek" entered, his
countenance beaming with good nature and affability.  He extended his
hand in the kindest manner, and said he was extremely glad to see me.  I
instantly declared the purport of my visit, that I had some copies of
pictures that were once in his possession, and that it would give me the
greatest possible pleasure to show them to him.  "I shall be delighted to
see them" was the reply, "but for some days I am rather busy; I will come
next week."  "You have had a visit from the author of 'Italy'," I
observed; "people say that you like Mr. R.'s poem."  "Oh yes, some
passages are very beautiful.  He is a man of considerable talent; but who
was that person he brought with him?  What a delightful man!  I suppose
it was Mr. L."  I replied, "I believe they are great friends."

"What an awful state the country is in (he observed)!  One has scarcely
time to think about poetry or painting, or anything else, when our
stupid, imbecile Government allows public meetings of 150,000 men, where
the most inflammatory language is used and the common people are called
on to arm, beginning, too, with solemn prayer.  Their prayer will never
succeed.  No, no, their solemn prayer is but a solemn mockery.  They
seemed to have forgotten the name of the only Mediator, without whose
intercession all prayer is worse than useless.  Well, well (said Mr.
Beckford), depend upon it we shall have a tremendous outbreak before
long.  The ground we stand on is trembling, and gives signs of an
approaching earthquake.  Then will come a volcanic eruption; you will
have fire, stones, and lava enough.  Afterwards, when the lava has
cooled, there will be an inquiry for works of art.  I assure you I expect
everything to be swept away."  I ventured to differ from him in that
opinion, and said I was convinced that whatever political changes might
happen, property was perfectly secure.  "Some reforms," I said, "would
take place, and many pensions perhaps be swept away, but such changes
would never affect him or his, and after all it was but a matter of
pounds, shillings, and pence."  "There you are right," he exclaimed.  "If
anything can save us 'twill be pounds, shillings, and pence," meaning, I
suppose, a union of all classes who possessed property, from the pound of
the peer to the penny of the plebeian.  "But the present times are really
very critical.  Have you time to go through the rooms with me?" he
demanded.  I replied that nothing would give me greater pleasure.  "But
perhaps you are going somewhere?"  I answered that I was perfectly
disengaged.  Passing along the landing of the stairs he paused before the
Alderman's portrait, and observed, "Had my father's advice been taken we
should not now be in danger of starvation."  I ventured to say that in
those days there was more reciprocal feeling between the poor and the
rich than at present; now a-days classes are so divided by artificial
barriers that there is little or no sympathy between any.  "You are
mistaken," he replied.  "As long as I remember anything there was always
discontent, always heartburning; but at the time of my father's speech
dissatisfaction had risen to such a pitch that I assure you these people
were on the point of being sent back to the place they came from."  (He
alluded to the present Royal Family).

Mr. Beckford opened the door of the great library, and on entering I
immediately discovered the cause of my being so much puzzled as to its
architecture.  There are two doors in this magnificent room; one leads to
the Duchess Drawing Room, the other to the landing, and to produce the
air of privacy so delightful to a bookworm the latter is covered with
imitative books, exactly corresponding with the rest of the library.  I
remembered on my first entering the room from the staircase, and when the
servant had closed the door, there appeared but one entrance, which was
that by which we left this noble room, passing thence into the Duchess's
room.  I puzzled my brains in vain to make out the geography of the
place, but could make neither top nor tail, and should never have solved
the enigma but for this third visit.  "I have been to Fonthill," he said,
"since I saw you.  I don't think much of what Papworth has done there.  I
rode thirty-eight miles in one day without getting out of the saddle.
That was pretty well, eh?"  I thought so indeed for a man in his seventy-
ninth year.

* * * * *

On the 28th of October, 1844, we left Bath determined to examine the once
far-famed Abbey of Fonthill, and to see if its scenery was really as fine
as report had represented.  The morning was cold and inauspicious, but
when we reached Warminster the sun burst out through the mists that had
obscured him, and the remainder of the day was as genial and mild as if
had been May.  We procured the aid of a clownish bumpkin to carry our
carpet bag, and left Warminster on foot.  About four miles from that town
those barren and interminable downs are reached which seem to cover the
greater part of Wiltshire.  The country is as wild as the mountain
scenery of Wales, and the contrast between it and the polished city we
had left in the morning was truly singular.  We took the road to
_Hindon_, but a worthy old man, of whom we asked particulars, pointed out
a pathway, which cut off at least a mile and a half.  We followed his
direction, and left the high road.  Mounting the hill by a steep and
chalky road we reached a considerable elevation; before us extended a
succession of downs, and in the extreme distance a blue hill of singular
form, at least nine miles off, was crowned by buildings of very unusual
appearance.  Curiosity as to the place was at its utmost stretch, but our
ignorant bumpkin could tell nothing about it.  It surely cannot be
Fonthill was the instant suggestion?  Impossible.  Can we see the remains
at this distance?  We continued our walk for about two miles, without
losing sight of this interesting edifice, and at length all doubts were
cleared in the certainty that the long wished-for object was absolutely
before us.  It is impossible to describe the feelings of interest
experienced by the sight of these gigantic remains.  The eastern transept
still rises above the woods, a point, pinnacle, and round tower.
Descending the hill towards Hindon we lost sight of the Abbey.  A most
singular specimen of country life was presented by an old shepherd, of
whom we inquired the way.  "How far is it to Hindon?"  "About four
miles."  "Is this the right road?"  "Yes, you cannot miss it, but I
haven't been there these forty years.  Naa, this is forty years agone
save two that I went to Hindon: 'twas in 1807."

This place, which once sent members to Parliament, and which the author
of "Vathek" himself represented for many years, is not so large as the
village of Batheaston!  There are neither lamps nor pavement, but it
possesses a most picturesque little church.  It was one of the rotten
boroughs swept away, and properly enough, by the Reform Bill.  Here our
rustic relinquished his burden to a Hindon lad, who acted as our future
cicerone, and undertook to show us the way to the inn called the Beckford
Arms.  Soon after leaving Hindon the woods of Fonthill were reached.  We
mounted a somewhat steep hill, and here met with a specimen of the
gigantic nature of the buildings.  A tunnel about 100 feet long passed
under the noble terrace, reaching from Knoyle to Fonthill Bishop, at
least three miles in length; the tunnel was formed to keep the grounds
private.  The beech trees, now arrayed in gaudy autumnal tints, seen
through this archway have a lovely effect.  Emerging from the tunnel, the
famous wall, seven miles long, was just in front.  To the left you trace
the terrace, on a charming elevation, leading to Fonthill Gardens, and
here and there you have glimpses of the great lake.  The ground is broken
and varied in the most picturesque fashion.  You pass some cottages that
remind you of Ryswick, and soon come to the church of Fonthill Gifford.
This church is perfectly unique in form, its architecture purely Italian;
one would think it was designed by Palladio.  There is a pretty portico
supported by four tall Doric columns, and its belfry is a regular cupola.
We at last gained the inn, and were shown into a lovely parlour that
savoured of the refined taste that once reigned in this happy solitude.
It is lofty, spacious, and surrounded by oak panels; it has a charming
bow window, where are elegantly represented, in stained glass on distinct
shields, the arms of Alderman Beckford, his wife, and their eccentric
son.

The evening was most lovely.  A soft haze had prevailed the whole
afternoon, and as there was still an hour's daylight I determined on
instantly visiting the ruins.  Just without the sacred enclosure that
once prevented all intrusion to this mysterious solitude is the lovely
little village of Fonthill Gifford; its charming cottages, with their
neat gardens and blooming roses, are a perfect epitome of English
rusticity.  A padlocked gate admits the visitor within the barrier; a
steep road, but gently winding so as to make access easy, leads you to
the hill, where once stood "the gem and the wonder of earth."

The road is broad and entirely arched by trees.  Emerging suddenly from
their covert an astonishing assemblage of ruins comes into view.  Before
you stands the magnificent eastern transept with its two beautiful
octangular towers, still rising to the height of 120 feet, but roofless
and desolate; the three stately windows, 60 feet high, as open to the sky
as Glastonbury Abbey; in the rooms once adorned with choicest paintings
and rarities trees are growing.  Oh what a scene of desolation!  What the
noble poet said of "Vathek's" residence in Portugal we may now literally
say of Fonthill.

   Here grown weeds a passage scarce allow
   To halls deserted, portals gaping wide.
   Fresh lessons, ye thinking bosoms, how
   Vain are the pleasures by earth supplied,
   Swept into wrecks anon by Time's ungentle tide.

Of all desolate scenes there are none so desolate as those which we now
see as ruins, and which were lately the abode of splendour and
magnificence.  Ruins that have been such for ages, whose tenants have
long since been swept away, recall ideas of persons and times so far back
that we have no sympathy with them at all; but if you wish for a sight of
all that is melancholy, all that is desolate, visit a modern ruin.  We
passed through briars and brambles into the great octagon.  Straight
before us stands the western doorway of the noble entrance hall; but
where is its oaken roof, with its proud heraldic emblazonments, where its
lofty painted windows, where its ponderous doors, more than 30 feet high?
The cross still remains above, as if symbolical that religion triumphs
over all, and St. Anthony still holds out his right hand as if to protect
the sylvan and mute inhabitants of these groves that here once found
secure shelter from the cruel gun and still more cruel dog.  But he is
tottering in his niche, and when the wind is high is seen to rock, as if
his reign were drawing to a close.

Of the noble octagon but two sides remain.  Looking up, but at such an
amazing elevation that it makes one's neck ache, still are seen two
windows of the four nunneries that adorned its unique and unrivalled
circuit.  And what is more wonderful than all, the noble organ screen,
designed by "Vathek" himself, has still survived; its gilded lattices,
though exposed for twenty years to the "pelting of the pitiless storm,"
yet glitter in the last rays of the setting sun.  We entered the doorway
of the southern entrance hall, that door which once admitted thousands of
the curious when Fonthill was in its glory.  This wing, though not yet in
ruins, not yet entirely dismantled, bears evident signs of decay.
Standing on the marble floor you look up through holes in the ceiling,
and discover the once beautifully fretted roof of St. Michael's Gallery.
We entered the brown parlour.  This is a really noble room, 52 feet long,
with eight windows, painted at the top in the most glorious manner.  This
room has survived the surrounding desolation, and gives you a slight idea
of the former glories of the place.  Each window consists of four
gigantic pieces of plate-glass, and in the midst of red, purple, lilac,
and yellow ornaments are painted four elegant figures, designed by the
artist, Hamilton, of kings and knights, from whom Mr. Beckford was
descended.  As there are eight windows there are thirty-two figures,
drawn most correctly.  What reflections crowd the mind on beholding this
once gorgeous room!  There stood the sideboard, once groaning beneath the
weight of solid gold salvers.  In this very room dined frequently the
magnificent "Vathek" on solid gold, and there, where stood his table,
covered with every delicacy to tempt the palate, is now a pool of water,
for the roof is insecure, and the rain streams through in torrents.  On
the right hand is the famous cedar boudoir, whose odoriferous perfume is
smelt even here.  We entered the Fountain Court, but sought in vain the
stream that was once forced up, at vast expense, from the vale below and
trickled over its marble bason.

   For the stream has shrunk from its marble bed,
   Where the weeds and desolate dust are spread.

One would almost imagine Byron had written his lines in the "Giaour"
describing Hassan's residence amidst the ruins of Fonthill, so striking,
so tangible, is the resemblance.  He says of the fountains--

   'Twas sweet of yore to hear it play
   And chase the sultriness of day,
   As springing high the silver dew
   In whirls fantastically flew
   And flung luxurious coolness round
   The air, and verdure o'er the ground.
   'Twas sweet, when cloudless stars were bright,
   To view the wave of watery light
   And hear its melody by night.

But the shades of evening, now rapidly advancing, warned us to depart
while there was yet light enough to trace our path through the gloomy
wood.  We entered its thick and umbrageous covert, and were near losing
our road before we reached the barrier gate.  The road was strewed with
dry leaves, which reminded me of the earthly hopes of man.

   He builds too low who builds beneath the skies,

and he who wishes for solid happiness must rest on a broader base than
that afforded by momentary enjoyment, tempting and blooming as the
foliage of summer, but evanescent as its withered leaves.

The next morning was finer than our most sanguine wishes could have
anticipated.  We were not long dispatching our comfortable breakfast, and
hastened to the barrier gate.  We here met a venerable woman, whose noble
features and picturesque dress would have served as a splendid model for
Gainsborough or Ben Barker.  Stopping to inquire a nearer road to the
Abbey, as she seemed indigenous to the place, I was tempted to ask if she
knew Mr. Beckford.  "I have seen him, sir, many, many times; but he is
gone, and I trust--I do trust--to rest.  He was a good man to the poor,
never was there a better."  "You astonish me; I had heard that he never
gave away anything."  "Good gracious, sir, who could have invented such
lies?  There never was a kinder friend to the poor, and when he left they
lost a friend indeed.  Not give away anything!  Why, sir, in the winter,
when snow was on the ground and firing dear, he used to send wagons and
wagons for coal to Warminster, and make them cut through the snow to
fetch it, and gave the poor souls plenty of firing, besides money,
blankets, and clothing, too, and as for me I can answer for three half-
sovereigns he gave me himself at different times with his own hand."  "You
surprise me."  "I saw him coming once with his servants.  I had my baby
in my arms--that's she that lives in that cottage yonder, she's grown a
woman now--and I was shuffling along to get out of his way, when he
called out, 'What a beautiful little babe, let me look at it,' and then
he smiled and made as though he would shake hands with the child, and,
bless you, he slipped half-a-sovereign into my hand."  I confess I was
delighted at the little anecdote, and I am sure the good woman's praise
was perfectly disinterested.  Those who know anything of the poor are
convinced they never flatter those from whom they can never again derive
any benefit.  I had almost expected to hear curses, if not loud at least
deep.

A bailiff resides in the Abbey stables, who has charge of the place, but
the "steeds are vanished from the stalls."  We inquired if we could see
the remaining apartments, but found the bailiff was gone to Hindon, and
had taken the keys with him.  Here was a difficulty indeed.  "Perhaps,"
said his daughter, "you can get into the great Tower staircase; I think
the door is open."  We proceeded thither, but alas! a ponderous door and
locked most unequivocally denied all entrance.  "Perhaps father has left
the key in his old coat; I will run and see" said our interesting young
cicerone.  She scuttled off, and we waited in anxiety, till in five
minutes she returned with a large bunch of keys, the passport to the
extraordinary apartments still remaining.  My joy was as great at hearing
the lock turn as was ever "Vathek's" when he discovered the Indian at the
gate of the Hall of Eblis with his _clef d'or_.  The great circular
staircase survived the shock of the falling tower.  The stairs wind round
a massive centre, or newel, three feet in diameter; the ascent is gentle,
the stairs at least six feet broad.  They form an approach light,
elegant, and so lofty that you cannot touch with the hand the stairs
above your head.  Numerous small windows make the staircase perfectly
light, and the inside is so clean that it is difficult to believe it is
not continually scoured and whitened, but this I was assured was not the
case.  Two hundred and ten steps lead to a leaden roof, the view from
which beggars description.  You have here a bird's eye view of the lovely
estate.  Majestic trees, hanging woods, and luxuriant plantations cover
the ground for two or three miles round, whilst beyond this begin those
immense and interminable downs for which Wiltshire is so noted; they are
dreary and barren enough in themselves, but at such a point as this,
where the foreground and middle distance are as verdant and richly clad
with trees as can possibly be desired, their effect is very beautiful.
The absence of enclosures produces breadth and repose, and the local
colour melts gradually into the grey distance in the most charming
manner.  Looking westward the great avenue, a mile in length, presents
itself; to the south the Beacon-terrace, a green road more than two miles
long, leads to a high hill, where the Alderman commenced, but never
finished, a triangular tower.  This road, or rather avenue, has a most
charming effect; the trees that bound its sides are planted in a zigzag
direction, so as to destroy the appearance of formality, whilst in
reality it is a straight road, and you walk at once in a direct line,
without losing the time you would if the road were more tortuous.  On the
south side the view is most fascinating.  In a deep hollow not half-a-
mile off, enbosomed, nay almost buried amidst groves of pine and beech,
are discovered the dark waters of the bittern lake.  The immense
plantations of dark pines give it this sombre hue, but in reality the
waters are clear as crystal.  Beyond these groves, still looking south,
you discover the woods about Wardour Castle, and amongst them the silvery
gleam of another sheet of water.  To the south-west is the giant spire of
Salisbury, which since the fall of Fonthill Tower now reigns in solitary
stateliness over these vast regions of down and desert.  Stourton Tower
presents itself to the north, whilst to the west, in the extreme
distance, several high hills are traced which have quite a mountainous
character--

   Naveled in the woody hills,
   And calm as cherished hate, its surface wears
   A deep, cold, settled aspect nought can shake.

The north wing of the Abbey, containing the oratory, does not seem to
have suffered from the fall of the Tower, and we next proceeded to
inspect it.  A winding staircase from the kitchen court leads you at once
to that portion of the gallery called the vaulted corridors.  The
ceilings of four consecutive rooms are beautiful beyond all expectation.
Prepared as I was by the engravings in Rutter and Britton to admire these
ceilings, I confess that the real thing was finer than I could possibly
have imagined.  King Edward's ceiling of dark oak (and its ornaments in
strong relief) is as fresh as if just painted, and the beautiful cornice
round the four walls of this stately gallery is still preserved, with its
three gilded mouldings, but the seventy-two emblazoned shields that
formed an integral part of the frieze have been ruthlessly torn off.  The
roof of the vaulted corridor with its gilded belts is the most perfect of
the series of rooms, and that of the sanctum is beautifully rich; it is
fretted in the most elegant way with long drops, pendants, or hangings
like icicles, at least nine inches deep.  Here alas! the hands of vandals
have knocked off the gilded roses and ornaments that were suspended.
These three apartments are painted in oak, and gold is most judiciously
introduced on prominent parts.  But the ceiling of the last compartment
is beyond all praise; it gleams as freshly with purple, scarlet, and gold
as if painted yesterday.  Five slender columns expand into and support a
gilded reticulation on a dark crimson ground.  In the centre of the
ceiling is still hanging the dark crimson cord which formerly supported
the elegant golden lamp I had formerly admired in Lansdown-crescent; it
seemed to have been hastily cut down, and its height from the floor and
its deep colour, the same as the ceiling, has probably prevented its
observation and removal.  The southern end of the gallery has been
stripped of its floor, and it was with difficulty, and not without
danger, I got across a beam; and, standing with my back against the brick
wall that has been built up at the end, where were once noble glazed
doors opening into the grand octagon, I surveyed the whole lovely
perspective; the length from this spot is 120 feet.  The beautiful
reddish alabaster chimney-piece still remains, but it is split in the
centre, whether from the weight of wall or a fruitless attempt to tear it
out I know not.  The recesses, once adorned with the choicest and rarest
books, still retain their sliding shelves, but the whole framework of the
windows has been removed, and they are open to the inclemency of the
weather, or roughly boarded up.  The stove, once of polished steel, is
now brown and encrusted with rust as if the iron were 500 years old.  It
is impossible for an architect or artist to survey the ruthless and
wanton destruction of this noble wing, unscathed and uninjured but by the
hands of barbarous man, without feelings of the deepest regret and
sorrow.  How forcibly do the lines of the noble bard recur to the mind on
surveying these apartments, still magnificent, yet neglected, and slowly
and surely falling into ruin--

   For many a gilded chamber's here,
   Which solitude might well forbear,
   Within this dome, ere yet decay
   Hath slowly worked her cankering way.

I ran up the circular staircase, and entered the noble state bedroom.  The
enormous plate glasses still remain; the ceiling is of carved oak
relieved by gold ornaments.  With what emotion did I turn through the
narrow gallery, leading to the state room, to the tribune, which looked
into the great octagon.  A lofty door was at the extremity.  I attempted
to open it; it yielded to the pressure, and I stood on the very balcony
that looked into the octagon.

Here the whole scene of desolation is surveyed at a glance.  How deep
were my feelings of regret at the destruction of the loftiest domestic
apartment in the world.  Twenty years ago this glorious place was in all
its splendour.  High in the air are still seen two round windows that
once lighted the highest bedrooms in the world.  What an extraordinary
idea!  On this lofty hill, 120 feet from the ground, were four bedrooms.
Below these round windows are the windows of two of the chambers called
nunneries.  Landing on this balcony I quickly conjured up a vision of
former glory.  There were the lofty windows gleaming with purple and
gold, producing an atmosphere of harmonious light peculiar to this place,
the brilliant sunshine covering everything within its influence with
yellow quatrefoils.  From that pointed arch once descended draperies 50
feet long!  The very framework of these vast windows was covered with
gold.  There was the lovely gallery opening to the nunneries, through
whose arches ceilings were discovered glittering with gold, and walls
covered with pictures.  Exactly opposite was another tribune similar to
this; below it the immense doors of St. Michael's Gallery, whose crimson
carpet, thickly strewed with white roses; was seen from this place,
whilst far, far above, at an elevation of 130 feet, was seen the lofty
dome, its walls pierced with eight tall windows, and even these were
painted and their frames gilded.  The crimson list to exclude draught
still remained on these folding doors, but the lock was torn off!  I
closed the doors, not without a feeling of sadness, and returning to the
small gallery again ran up the Lancaster Gallery to another noble
bedroom.  Finding the stairs still intact I mounted them, and found a
door, which opened on to the roof.  We were now on the top of the
Lancaster Tower.  Though not so extensive as the view from the platform
of the great staircase, there is a peep here that is most fascinating; it
is the extreme distance seen through the ruined window of the opposite
nunnery.

The glimpse I had of the bittern lake having sharpened my appetite to see
it, I descended the staircase of the Lancaster turret, and marching off
in a southerly direction hastened towards its shores.  But it is so
buried in wood that it was not without some difficulty we found it.  Never
in happy England did I see a spot that so forcibly reminded me of
Switzerland.  Though formed by Art, so happily is it concealed that
Nature alone appears, and this lovely lake seems to occupy the crater of
an extinct volcano.  It is much larger than I anticipated.  A walk runs
all round it; I followed its circuit, and soon had a glorious view of the
Abbey, standing in solitary stateliness on its wooded hill on the
opposite side.  The waters were smooth as a mirror, and reflected the
ruined building; its lofty towers trembled on the crystal wave, as if
they were really rocking and about to share the fate of the giant Tower
that was once here reflected.  We followed the banks of the lake.  Passing
some noble oaks that were dipping their extended boughs in the water, we
soon gained the opposite side.  Here is a labyrinth of exotic plants, a
maze of rhododendrons, azaleas, and the productions of warmer climes,
growing as if indigenous to the soil.  We passed between great walls of
rhododendrons, in some places 15 feet high, and reached a seat, from
whence you see the whole extent of this lovely sheet of water.  What I
had seen and admired so much on Lansdown was here carried to its utmost
perfection; I mean the representation of a southern wilderness.  In this
spot the formality of gardening is absolutely lost.  These enormous
exotic plants mingle with the oak, the beech, and the pine, so naturally
that they would delight a landscape painter.  These dark and solemn
groves of fir, contrasting so strikingly with the beech woods, now
arrayed in their last gaudiest dress, remind me forcibly of Switzerland
and the Jura Mountains, which I saw at this very season.  Nature at this
period is so gaudily clad that we may admire her for her excessive
variety of tints, but cannot dare to copy her absolutely.  In this
sheltered and sequestered spot the oaks, though brown and leafless
elsewhere, are still verdant as July.  Every varied shade of the
luxuriant groves--yellow, red, dark, and light green--every shade is
reflected in these clear waters.  Three tall trees on the opposite shore
have, however, quite lost their leaves, and their reflection in the wave
is so exactly like Gothic buildings, that one is apt to imagine you see
beneath the waters the fairy palace of the Naiads, the guardians of this
terrestrial Paradise.





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