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Title: Summer Days in Shakespeare Land
Author: Harper, Charles G. (Charles George), 1863-1943
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.

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                             [Picture: Cover]

               [Picture: The Guild Chapel and Nash’s House]



                              SUMMER DAYS IN
                             SHAKESPEARE LAND


  SOME DELIGHTS OF THE ANCIENT TOWN OF
  STRATFORD-UPON-AVON AND THE COUNTRY ROUND
  ABOUT; TOGETHER WITH A SKETCH OF THE LIFE
  OF MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

  IN WHICH MANY THINGS BOTH NEW AND ENTER-
  TAINING ARE TO BE FOUND, PRETTILY SET FORTH
  FOR THE PLEASURE OF THE GENTLE READER; AND
  WHEREIN CERTAIN FANATICS ARE HANDSOMELY
  CONFUTED.

  WRITTEN BY CHARLES G. HARPER, AND
  FOR THE MOST PART ALSO ILLUSTRATED BY HIM
  WITH A PEN
  OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS ARE FROM PHOTOGRAPHS

                             [Picture: Logo]

                                 NEW YORK
                           JAMES POTT & COMPANY
                       LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LTD.

                                   1913

                                * * * * *

                      RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED,
                 BRUNSWICK STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E.,
                           AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.



PREFACE


BY “Shakespeare Land,” as used in these pages, Stratford-on-Avon and the
country within a radius of from twelve to twenty miles are meant;
comprising parts of Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, and some portions
of Worcestershire which are mentioned by Shakespeare, or must have been
familiar to him.  So many thousands annually visit Stratford-on-Avon that
the town, and in some lesser degree the surrounding country, are thought
to be hackneyed and spoilt for the more intellectual and leisured
visitor; but that is very far from being the case.  Apart from such
acknowledged centres of Shakespearean interest as the Birthplace at
Stratford-on-Avon, the parish church, and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage at
Shottery; and excepting such great show-places as Kenilworth and Warwick
castles, Shakespeare Land is by no means overrun, and is in every way
charming and satisfying.  Stratford town itself, the very centre of
interest, is unspoiled; and the enterprise of the majority of
Shakespearean pilgrims is of such a poor quality, and their intellectual
requirements as a rule so soon satisfied, that the real beauties of the
Warwickshire villages and the towns and villages of the Cotswolds are to
them a sealed hook.  Except these byways be explored, such an essential
side of Shakespeare as that I have touched upon in the chapter
“Shakespeare the Countryman” will he little understood.

It is thus entirely a mistaken idea to think the Shakespeare Country
overdone.  On the contrary, it is much less known than it ought to be,
and would be, were it in any other land than our own.  And Stratford
itself has not done so much as might have been expected in exploiting
possible Shakespearean interest.  Ancient house-fronts that the poet must
have known still await the removal of the plaster which for two centuries
or more has covered them; and the Corporation archives have not yet been
thoroughly explored.

Incidentally these pages may serve to expose some of the Baconian
heresies.  If there be many whose judgment is overborne by the
tub-thumping of the Baconians, let them turn to some of the extravagances
of Donnelly and others mentioned here, and then note the many local
allusions which Shakespeare and none other could have written.

The Bacon controversy, which since 1857 has offered considerable
employment for speculative minds, and is still in progress, is now
responsible for some six hundred books and pamphlets, monuments of
perverted ingenuity and industrious research misapplied; of evidence
misunderstood, and of judgment biased by a clearly proclaimed intention
to place Bacon where Shakespeare stands.  These exceedingly well-read
gentlemen, profited in strange concealments, have produced a deal of
skimble-skamble stuff that galls our good humours.  The veriest antics,
they at first amuse us, but in a longer acquaintance they are, as Hotspur
says of Glendower, “as tedious as a tired horse, a railing wife; Worse
than a smoky house.”

This is no place to fully enter the discussion, but we may here note the
opinion of Harvey, the great contemporary man of science, on Bacon, the
amateur of science.  “My Lord Chancellor,” he said, “writes about Science
like a Lord Chancellor.”  Any one who reads Bacon’s poetry will notice
that the poets might have applied the same taunt to his lines.

Yet they tell us now, these strange folk, eager for a little cheap
notoriety, not only that “Bacon wrote the Greene, Marlowe, and
Shakespeare plays,” but that his is the pen that gives the Authorised
Version of the Bible its literary grace.  Well, well.  They say the owl
was a baker’s daughter; a document in madness.

                                                        CHARLES G. HARPER.

_Ealing_, _August_ 24, 1912.



CONTENTS

                     PAGE
CHAPTER I               1
  The Beginnings of
  Stratford-on-Avon.
CHAPTER II              6
  The Shakespeares—John
  Shakespeare, Glover,
  Woolmerchant—Birth of
  William
  Shakespeare—Rise and
  Decline of John
  Shakespeare—Early
  Marriage of William.
CHAPTER III            12
  Anne Hathaway,
  Shakespeare’s
  bride—The hasty
  marriage—Shakespeare’s
  wild young days—He
  leaves for
  London—Grendon
  Underwood.
CHAPTER IV             22
  Continued decline in
  the affairs of John
  Shakespeare—William
  Shakespeare’s success
  in London—Death of
  Hamnet, William
  Shakespeare’s only
  son—Shakespeare buys
  New Place—He retires
  to Stratford—Writes
  his last play, _The
  Tempest_—His death.
CHAPTER V              34
  Stratford-on-Avon—It
  has its own life,
  quite apart from
  Shakespearean
  associations—Its
  people and its
  streets—Shakespeare
  Memorials.
CHAPTER VI             49
  Shakespeare’s
  Birthplace—
  Restoration, of
  sorts—The business of
  the Showman—The
  Birthplace Museum—The
  Shakespearean Garden.
CHAPTER VII            60
  Church Street—The
  “Castle” Inn—The Guild
  Chapel, Guild Hall and
  Grammar School—New
  Place.
CHAPTER VIII           75
  The Church of the Holy
  Trinity,
  Stratford-on-Avon.
CHAPTER IX             85
  The Church of the Holy
  Trinity,
  Stratford-on-Avon
  (_continued_)—The
  Shakespeare grave and
  monument.
CHAPTER X              92
  The Church of the Holy
  Trinity,
  Stratford-on-Avon
  (_concluded_)—The
  Shakespeare grave and
  monument—The Miserere
  Seats.
CHAPTER XI            101
  Shottery and Anne
  Hathaway’s Cottage.
CHAPTER XII           114
  Charlecote.
CHAPTER XIII          127
  Shakespeare the
  countryman.
CHAPTER XIV           136
  The ‘Eight
  Villages’—‘Piping’
  Pebworth and ‘Dancing’
  Marston.
CHAPTER XV            147
  The ‘Eight Villages’
  (_concluded_).
CHAPTER XVI           164
  The ‘Swan’s
  Nest’—Haunted?—
  Clifford
  Chambers—Wincot—
  Quinton, and its club
  day.
CHAPTER XVII          174
  Chipping Campden.
CHAPTER XVIII         186
  A Deserted
  Railway—Villages of
  the Stour
  Valley—Ettington and
  Squire
  Shirley—Shipston-on-
  Stour—Brailes—Compton
  Wynyates.
CHAPTER XIX           195
  Luddington—Welford—
  Weston-on-Avon—Cleeve
  Priors—Salford Priors.
CHAPTER XX            201
  Evesham.
CHAPTER XXI           211
  Broadway—Winchcombe—
  Shakespearean
  Associations—Bishop’s
  Cleeve.
CHAPTER XXII          219
  Tewkesbury.
CHAPTER XXIII         230
  Clopton
  House—Billesley—The
  Home of Shakespeare’s
  Mother, Wilmcote—Aston
  Cantlow—Wootton
  Wawen—Shakespeare
  Hall, Rowington.
CHAPTER XXIV          238
  Welcombe—Snitterfield—
  Warwick—Leicester’s
  Hospital—St. Mary’s
  Church and the
  Beauchamp Chapel.
CHAPTER XXV           254
  Warwick Castle.
CHAPTER XXVI          266
  Guy’s Cliff—The Legend
  of Guy—Kenilworth and
  its
  Watersplash—Kenilworth
  Castle.
CHAPTER XXVII         283
  Coventry.
INDEX                 291

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                                  PAGE
The Guild Chapel and Nash’s House                       _Frontispiece_
“Shakespeare’s Farm,” formerly the “Ship” Inn,                      19
Grendon Underwood
Chapel Street, Stratford-on-Avon                                    37
The Harvard House                         _To face_                 42
The Harvard House: Panel Room                                       44
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon                              46
The Memorial Theatre                      _To face_                 48
Shakespeare’s Birthplace                                            50
The Kitchen, Shakespeare’s Birthplace                               54
The Room in which Shakespeare was born                              56
Shakespeare’s Signet-ring                                           58
The “Windmill” Inn                                                  61
The Guild Chapel, Guild Hall, Grammar School and                    65
Almshouses
The Schoolmaster’s House and Guild Chapel                           69
The Head Master’s Desk, Stratford-on-Avon Grammar                   70
School                                    _To face_
Ancient Knocker, Stratford-on-Avon Church                           80
Shakespeare’s Monument                    _To face_                 86
Inscription on Shakespeare’s Grave                                  89
The Chancel, Holy Trinity Church, with Shakespeare’s                92
Monument                    _To face_
A Stratford Miserere: The Legend of the Unicorn                    100
Shottery                                                           103
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage                                            106
The Living-room, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage                           109
Anne Hathaway’s Bedroom                                            112
Lucy Shield of Arms                                                120
The “Tumbledown Stile,” Charlecote        _To face_                120
The Gatehouse, Charlecote                                          123
Charlecote                                                         125
“Piping Pebworth”                                                  140
“Dancing Marston”                                                  142
Dining-Room, formerly the Kitchen, King’s Lodge                    145
“Drunken Bidford”                                                  149
The “Falcon,” Bidford                                              150
“Haunted Hillborough” (1)                                          151
“Haunted Hillborough” (2)                                          153
“Hungry Grafton”                                                   154
The Hollow Road, Exhall                                            156
“Papist Wixford”                                                   157
Brass to Thomas de Cruwe and wife, Wixford                         159
“Beggarly Broom”                                                   162
Clopton Bridge, and the “Swan’s Nest”                              166
Clifford Chambers                                                  168
Old Houses, Chipping Campden              _To face_                174
The Market House, Chipping Campden           ,,                    174
Grevel’s House                                                     177
Interior of the Market House, Chipping Campden   _To               178
face_
Chipping Campden Church                                            182
Brass to William Grevel and wife, Chipping Campden                 184
Compton Wynyates                                                   192
Boat Lane, Welford                                                 198
Bell Tower, Evesham                                                204
The Almonry, Evesham                                               206
Abbey Gateway, Evesham                                             209
High Street, Tewkesbury                                            223
The “Bear” Inn and Bridge, Tewkesbury                              227
The Arden House, Home of Shakespeare’s mother,                     233
Wilmcote
Wootton Wawen Church                      _To face_                234
Shakespeare Hall, Rowington                                        236
Leicester’s Hospital, Warwick                                      239
Leicester’s Hospital: the Courtyard       _To face_                240
Leicester’s Hospital: one of the Brethren    ,,                    244
The Beauchamp Chapel, Warwick                                      246
The Crypt of St. Mary’s, Warwick                                   248
Cæsar’s Tower, Warwick Castle                                      263
Kenilworth Castle: Ruins of the Banquetting Hall                   278
Stained Glass Window Inscription                                   289



CHAPTER I


                   The Beginnings of Stratford-on-Avon.

NINETY-FIVE miles from the City of London, in the southern part of
Warwickshire, and on the left, or northern bank of the Avon, stands a
famous town.  Not a town famed in ancient history, nor remarkable in
warlike story, nor great in affairs of commerce.  It was never a strong
place, with menacing castle or defensive town walls with gates closed at
night.  It stood upon a branch road, in a thinly-peopled forest-district,
and in every age the wars and tumults and great social and political
movements which constitute what is called “history” have passed it by.

Such is, and has been from the beginning, the town of Stratford-on-Avon,
whose very name, although now charged with a special significance as the
birthplace of Shakespeare, takes little hold upon the imagination when we
omit the distinguishing “on Avon.”  For there are other Stratfords to be
found upon the map of England, as necessarily there must be when we
consider the origin of the name, which means merely the ford where the
“street”—generally a paved Roman road—crossed a river.  And as fords of
this kind must have been very numerous along the ancient roads of this
country before bridges were built, we can only be astonished that there
are not more Stratfords than the five or six that are found in the
gazetteers.

The Roman road that came this way was a vicinal route from the Watling
Street where Birmingham now stands, through Henley-in-Arden and Alcester,
the Roman station of _Alauna_.  Passing over the ford of the Avon, it
went to London by way of Ettington, Sunrising Hill, and Banbury.  Other
Roman roads, the Fosse Way and Ryknield Street, remodelled on the lines
of ancient British track-ways, passed east and west of Stratford at an
equal distance of six miles.

All the surrounding district north of the Avon was woodland, the great
Forest of Arden; and to the south of the river stretched a more low-lying
country as far as the foot of the Cotswold Hills, much less thickly
wooded.  In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the Forest of Arden was
greatly diminished, these districts owned two distinctive names: the
forest being called “the Wooland,” and the southward pasture-lands “the
Feldon.”

The travellers who came this way in early Saxon times, and perhaps even
later, came to close grips with the true inwardness of things.  They
looked death often in the face as they went the lonely road.  The wild
things in the forest menaced them, floods obscured the fords, lawless men
no less fierce than the animals which roamed the tangled brakes lurked
and slew.  “Now am I in Arden,” the wayfarer might have said,
anticipating Touchstone, “the more fool I; when I was at home I was in a
better place; but travellers must be content.”

No town or village then existed upon the banks of Avon, and the first
mention of Stratford occurs in A.D. 691, when a monastery situated here
is named.  It was an obscure house, but with extensive and valuable lands
which Bishops of Worcester hungered for and finally obtained.  The site
of this monastery was scarcely that of the existing town of Stratford,
but was where the present parish church stands, in what is known as “Old
Stratford,” which is on the extreme southerly limit of the town.  It was
thus situated at some little distance from the ford, which was of course
exactly where the Clopton Bridge now crosses the river.  At that ford
there would probably even then have been a hermit, as there was later,
charged with the due guidance of travellers, and in receipt of offerings,
but of him we know nothing, and next to nothing of the monastery.

The Bishops of Worcester, having thus early obtained a grant of the
monastery and its lands, became lords of the manor and so remained for
centuries, wielding in their spiritual and manorial functions a very
complete authority over the town which gradually arose here.  To resist
in any way the Church’s anointed in matters spiritual or temporal would
have been to kick most foolishly against the pricks, for in his one
autocratic capacity he could blast your worldly prospects, and in the
other he could (or it was confidently believed he could) damn you to all
eternity.  Thus it may well be supposed that those Right Reverend were
more feared than loved.

It was an agricultural and cattle-raising community that first arose
here.  “Rother Street” still by its name alludes to the olden passage of
the cattle, for “rother” is the good Anglo-Saxon word “hroether,” for
cattle.  The word was known to Shakespeare, who wrote, “The pasture lards
the rother’s sides.”

In 1216 the then Bishop of Worcester obtained a charter for a fair, the
first of four obtained between that date and 1271.  The fairs attracted
business, and about 1290 the first market was founded.  The town had
begun to grow, slowly, it is true, but substantially.  At this period
also that Guild arose which was originally a religious and charitable
fraternity, but eventually developed into surprising issues, founding a
grammar-school and becoming a tradesmen’s society, whence the
incorporation of the town in 1553, and the establishment of a town
council derived.  Camden, writing about this time, was able to describe
it as “proper little mercat towne.”

In that era which witnessed the incorporation of the town of
Stratford-on-Avon and the birth of Shakespeare the population was some
2000.  It is now about 8300; a very moderate increase in three hundred
and fifty years, and much below the average rate for towns, by which
Stratford might now have had a population of about 16,000.

The incorporation of this little town in the reign of Edward the Sixth
was a great event locally.  It included the restitution to the people of
the place of the buildings and the property of the Guild of Holy Cross
which had been confiscated in 1547, when also the inhabitants had been
relieved from the yoke of the Bishops of Worcester, whose manor had been
taken away from them.  It is true that the manorial rights had not been
abolished and that the property and its various ancient privileges had
only been transferred to other owners, but it was something to the good
that the Church no longer possessed these things.  These were not
arbitrary changes, the whim of this monarch or that, Henry the Eighth and
Edward the Sixth did only what others in their place would and must have
done.  They were certainly sovereigns with convictions of their own, but
their attitude of mind was but the _Zeitgeist_, the spirit of the age,
and they did not so much originate it as be swayed by it.  Those
statesmen who have been held meanly subservient to them were, after all,
men of like convictions.  They saw the old order to be outworn and
existing institutions ripe for change.  It was the age of the Renascence.
Everywhere was the new spirit, which was remodelling thought as well as
material things.  It was the age, above all things, of the new learning.
These feelings led the advisers of the young king, Edward the Sixth, to
counsel the restitution to the town of the property of the Guild
dissolved only six years earlier, with the important provision that the
grammar-school was to be re-established and maintained out of its
revenues.  To this provision we distinctly owe the dramatist, William
Shakespeare, who was born at the very time when the educational
advantages thus secured to the children of the townsfolk had settled down
into smoothly working order.  Education cannot produce a Shakespeare, it
cannot create genius, but it can give genius that chance in early
elementary training without which even the most adaptive minds lose their
direction.

The ancient buildings of the Guild, which after its long career as a kind
of lay brotherhood for what modern people would style “social service,”
had attained an unlooked-for development as the town authority, thus
provided Stratford with its Grammar School and its first town-hall.  In
those timbered rooms the scholars received their education, and for
eighty years, until 1633, when the first hall built especially for the
corporation was opened, the aldermen and councillors met there.  Among
them was John Shakespeare.



CHAPTER II


The Shakespeares—John Shakespeare, Glover, Wool-merchant—Birth of William
Shakespeare—Rise and Decline of John Shakespeare—Early Marriage of
William.

A MODERN man who now chanced to own the name of “Shakespeare” would feel
proud, even of that fortuitous and remote association with the greatest
figure in English literature.  He might even try to live up to it,
although the probabilities are that he would quite early forgo the
attempt and become a backslider to commonplace.  But available records
tell us no good of the earliest bearers of the name.  The first
Shakespeare of whom we have any notice was a John of that name.  He was
hanged in 1248, for robbery.  It is a very long time ago since this
malefactor suffered, and perhaps he was one of those very many
unfortunate persons who have been in all ages wrongfully convicted.  But
the name was not in olden times a respectable one.  It signified
originally one who wielded a spear; not a chivalric and romantic knight
warring with the infidel in Palestine, or jousting to uphold the claims
to beauty of his chosen lady, but a common soldier, a rough man-at-arms;
one who was in great request in his country’s wars, but was accounted an
undesirable when the piping times of peace were come again and every man
desired nothing better than to sit beneath his own vine and fig-tree.  We
have record of a certain Shakespeare who grew so weary of the name that
he changed it for “Saunders.”  But Time was presently to bring revenge,
when William Shakespeare, afterwards to become a poet and dramatist of
unapproachable excellence, was born, to make the choice of that recreant
bearer of the name look ridiculous.

One Shakespeare before the dramatist’s time had reached not only
respectability but some kind of local eminence.  This was Isabel
Shakespeare, who became Prioress of the Priory of Baddesley Clinton, near
Knowle.  Baddesley Clinton is in the ancient and far-spreading Forest of
Arden, and near it is the village of Rowington, where there still remains
the very picturesque fifteenth-century mansion called Shakespeare Hall,
which is said to have been in the dramatist’s time the residence of a
Thomas Shakespeare, an uncle.  But William Shakespeare’s genealogy has
not been convincingly taken back beyond his grandfather Richard (whose
very Christian name is only traditional), who is stated to have been a
farmer at Snitterfield, three miles from Stratford-on-Avon.

Warwickshire was, in fact, extremely rich in Shakespeares, many of them
no relatives of the dramatist’s family.  They grew in every hedgerow, and
very many of them owned the Christian name of William, but they spelled
their patronymic in an amazing number of ways.  It is said to be capable
of four thousand variations.  We will forbear the most of these.
“Shaxpeare” is the commonest form.  The marriage-bond for William
Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway spells his name “Shagspere,” and the
dramatist himself spells it in two different ways in the three signatures
on his will, which forms to the Baconians conclusive proof of the two
following contradictory propositions (1) that he did not know how to
spell his own name, and (2) that, the spelling being different, the
so-called signatures were written by a law-clerk!  As a matter of fact,
the spelling of one’s name was in those times a matter of taste and
fancy, which constantly varied.  Sir Walter Raleigh, contemporary with
Shakespeare, was a scholar whom no one will declare an illiterate, yet he
wrote his own name, with a fine disregard of consistency and of what
future generations might say, “Rawley,” “Ralegh,” “Rawleighe” and
“Rauleygh.”

In any case, the “law-clerk” theory will hardly do.  A law-clerk who
wrote such a shocking bad hand as the six signatures of Shakespeare
display could not have earned his living with lawyers and conveyancers.
They are signatures, nearly all of them, which might confidently be taken
to a chemist, to be “made up,” but exactly how he would read the
“prescription” must be left to the imagination.

Sure and certain foothold upon genealogical fact is only reached with
William Shakespeare’s father, who established himself at
Stratford-on-Avon about 1551, when he seems to have been twenty-one years
of age.  He was described at various times as a fell-monger and glover, a
woolstapler, a butcher and a dealer in hay and corn.  Probably, as a son
of the farmer at Snitterfield, he was interested in most of these trades.
His home and place of business in the town was in Henley Street, then, as
now, one of the meaner streets of the place.  Its name derives from this
forming the way out of Stratford to the town of Henley-in-Arden.

The very first thing we have recorded of John Shakespeare at Stratford is
his being fined twelve pence for having a muck-heap in front of his door.
Twelve pence in that day was equal to about eight shillings and sixpence
of our own times; and thus, when we consider the then notoriously dirty
and insanitary condition of Stratford, endured with fortitude, if not
with cheerfulness by the burgesses, we are forced to the conclusion that
Mr. John Shakespeare’s muck-heap must have been a super muck-heap, an
extremely large and offensive specimen, that made the gorge of even the
least squeamish of his fellow-townsmen rise.  Two other tradesmen were
fined at the same time, and in 1558 he was, in company with four others
(among whom was the chief alderman, Francis Burbage) fined in the smaller
sum of fourpence for not keeping his gutter clean.

By 1556, however, he would seem to have been prospering, for in that year
he purchased two copyhold tenements, one in Henley Street, next the house
and shop now known as “the birthplace” which he was already occupying;
the other in Greenhill Street.  Next year he married Mary Arden, of
Wilmcote, three miles from Stratford, daughter of Robert Arden, yeoman
farmer of that place, said on insufficient evidence to have been kin to
the ancient knightly family of Arden.  She had become, on her father’s
death in December 1556, owner of landed property called Asbies, at
Wilmcote, and some like interests at Snitterfield, in common with her
brothers and sisters.  She was thus, in a small way, an heiress.
Wilmcote being then merely a hamlet in the parish of Aston Cantlow, they
were married at the church of that place.

John Shakespeare was now a rising tradesman, and in this same auspicious
year became a member of the town council, a body then newly established,
upon the granting of a charter of incorporation in 1553.

On September 15th, 1558 his daughter Joan was baptized.  She died an
infant.  In 1565, after serving various municipal offices, he became an
alderman.  Meanwhile, at the close of November 1562, a daughter,
Margaret, was born, who died the next year; and in 1564, on April 26th,
his son William was baptized.  The date of the poet’s birth is
traditionally St. George’s Day, April 23rd; now, with the alteration in
the calendar, identical with May 5th.

In that year the town was scourged by a terrible visitation of the
plague, and John Shakespeare is recorded, among others, as a contributor
to funds for the poor who suffered by it.  On August 30th he paid twelve
pence; on September 6th, sixpence; on the 27th of the same month another
sixpence; and on October 20th eightpence; about twenty-two shillings of
our money.  It is only by tradition—but that a very old one—that William
Shakespeare was born at “the birthplace” in Henley Street; but there is
no reasonable excuse for doubting it, unless we like to think that he was
born at the picturesque old house in the village of Clifford Chambers,
which afterwards became the vicarage and is now a farmhouse.  A John
Shakespeare was at that time living there, two miles only from Stratford,
and it has been suggested that he is identical with the father of
William, and that in this plague year he took the precaution of removing
his wife out of danger.

In 1566 we find a link between the Shakespeares and the Hathaways in
John.  Shakespeare standing surety for Richard Hathaway; and in the same
year his son Gilbert was born; another Joan being born in 1569.  In 1568
and 1571 he attained the highest municipal offices, being elected
high-bailiff and senior alderman, and thus, as chief magistrate, is found
described in local documents as “Mr.” Shakespeare.  In 1571 also his
daughter Anne, who died in 1579, was born; and in 1573 a son, Richard.
In 1575 he purchased the freehold of “the birthplace” from one Edmund
Hall, for £40.

Early in 1578 the first note of ill-fortune is sounded in the career of
John Shakespeare.  Some financial disaster had befallen him.  In January,
when the town council had decided to provide weapons for two billmen, a
body of pikemen, and one archer, and assessed the aldermen for six
shillings and eightpence each and the burgesses at half that amount, two
of the aldermen were excused the full pay.  One, Mr. Plumley, was charged
five shillings, and Mr. Shakespeare was to pay only three and fourpence.
The following year he defaulted in an assessment for the same amount.
Meanwhile, he had been obliged to mortgage Asbies, which had come to him
with his wife, and to sell the interests at Snitterfield.  The
Shakespeares, although they in after years again grew prosperous, never
recovered Asbies.

No one knows what caused these straitened circumstances.  Possibly it was
some disastrous speculation in corn.  In the midst of this trouble, his
seven-year-old daughter, Anne, died, and another son, Edmund, was horn,
1580.  He ceased to attend meetings of the town council, and his son
William entered into an improvident marriage.



CHAPTER III


Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s bride—The hasty marriage—Shakespeare’s wild
young days—He leaves for London—Grendon Underwood.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was but eighteen and a half years of age when he
married.  Legally, he was an “infant.”  His wife was by almost eight
years his senior, but if we agree with Bacon’s saying, that a man finds
himself ten years older the day after his marriage, the disparity became
at once more than rectified.  She was one Anne, or Agnes, Hathaway; her
father, Richard, being a farmer of Shottery.  The Hathaways were numerous
in this district, there being at that time no fewer than three families
of the name in Shottery and others in Stratford.  Anne had no fewer than
eight brothers and sisters, all of whom, except two, are mentioned in
their father’s will.  Richard, who describes himself in his will as
“husbandman,” executed that document on September 1st, 1581, and died
probably in the June following, for his will was proved in London on July
9th, 1582.  Storms of rival theories have raged around the mystery
surrounding this marriage, of which the register does not exist.  It is
claimed that Shakespeare was married at Temple Grafton, Luddington,
Billesley, and elsewhere, but no shadow of evidence can be adduced for
any of these places.  All we know is that on November 28th, 1582, Fulke
Sandells and John Richardson, farmers, of Stratford, who had been
respectively one of the “supervisors” and one of the witnesses of Richard
Hathaway’s will, went to Worcester and there entered into a “Bond in £40
against Impediments, to defend and save harmless the right reverend
father in God, John, Lord Bushop of Worcester” from any complaint or
process that might by any possibility arise out of his licensing the
marriage with only once asking the banns.  These two bondsmen declared
that “William Shagspere, one thone partie and Anne Hathaway of Stratford”
(Shottery was and is a hamlet in the parish of Stratford-on-Avon) “in the
dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize marriage together.”
This document, discovered in the Worcester Registry in 1836, is
sufficiently clear and explicit; but a complication is introduced by a
license issued the day before by the Bishop for a marriage “inter Wm.
Shaxpere et Anna Whateley de Temple Grafton.”  It has been suggested
that, as there were Whateleys living in the neighbourhood, and that as
there were numerous Shakespeares also, with many Williams among them,
this was quite another couple, while others contend that “Whateley” was a
mistake of one of the clerks employed in the Bishop’s registry, and that
the name of Temple Grafton as “place of residence” of the bride was a
further mistake, that being the place intended for the ceremony.  In any
case, the point is of minor interest for the registers of Temple Grafton
do not go back to that date, and the fabric of the church itself is quite
new.  We do not know, therefore, where Shakespeare was married, nor when;
and can but assume that the wedding took place shortly after the bond was
signed.

Six months later, Shakespeare’s eldest daughter was born, for we see in
the register of baptisms in Holy Trinity church, Stratford, the entry:—

    “1583, May 26th, Susanna, daughter to William Shakespere.”

The reason for the hurried visit of the two farmers to Worcester, to
hasten on the marriage with but one “asking” in church now becomes
evident.  They were friends of the late Richard Hathaway, and were
determined that young Shakespeare should not get out of marrying the girl
he had—wronged, shall we say?  Well, no.  There have been many moralists
excessively shocked at this pre-nuptial intimacy, and they assert that
Shakespeare seduced Anne Hathaway.

But young men of just over eighteen years of age do not, I think, beguile
young women nearly eight years older.  Anne probably seduced him; for
woman is more frequently the huntress and the chooser, and man is a very
helpless creature before her wiles.

The extravagances of the Baconians may well be illustrated here, for
although the subject of Shakespeare’s marriage has no bearing upon the
famous cryptogram and the authorship of the plays, Donnelly spreads
himself generously all over Shakespeare’s life, and lightheartedly
settles for us the mystery of the bond _re_ the marriage of Anne Hathaway
and the license to marry Anne Whateley by suggesting that _both_ names
are correct and refer to the same persons.  He says Anne Hathaway married
a Whateley and that it was as a widow she married William Shakespeare,
her maiden name being given in the bond by mistake!  The sheer absurdity
of this is obvious when we consider that if Mr. Donnelly is right, then
the bondsmen made the yet grosser error of describing the widow as a
“maiden.”  She was actually at that time neither wife, maid nor widow.

Again, Richard Hathaway the father made his will in September 1581,
leaving (_inter alia_) a bequest to Anne “to be paide unto her at the
daie of her marriage.”  She was a single young woman then, and yet
according to the Donnellian view she was already, fifteen months later, a
widow, again about to be married.

Apologists for this hasty marriage, jealous for the reputation of
Shakespeare, are keen to find an excuse in the supposition that he was a
Roman Catholic and that he was already married secretly, probably in the
room in the roof of Shottery Manor House, which is supposed to have been
used at this period as a place of secret worship.  But there is no basis
for forming any theory as to Shakespeare’s religious convictions.  A yet
more favourite assumption is that Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway went
through the ceremony of “hand-fasting,” a formal betrothal which,
although not a complete marriage and not carrying with it the privileges
of marriage was a bar to either of the parties marrying another.  Jack
was thus made sure of his Jill; and, perhaps even more important, Jill
was certain of her Jack.  But if this ceremony had taken place, there
would have been no necessity for that hasty journey of those two friends
of the Hathaways to Worcester.

Nothing is known of the attitude of Shakespeare’s parents towards the
marriage, nor has any one ever suggested how he supported himself, his
wife and family in the years before he left Stratford for London.  At the
close of January 1585, his twin son and daughter, Hamnet and Judith were
born, and they were baptized at Stratford church on February 2nd.
Whether he assisted his father in his business of glover, or helped on
his farm, or whether he became assistant master at the Grammar School, as
sometimes suggested, is mere matter for speculation.  John Aubrey,
picking up gossip at Stratford, writes—

    “Mr. William Shakespear was borne at Stratford upon Avon in the
    county of Warwick.  His father was a butcher, and I have been told
    heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he
    exercised his father’s trade, but when he kill’d a calfe he would doe
    it in a high style, and make a speech.”

That may or may not be true, but it looks as though William had, about
this impressionable age, become stage-struck.  He had had numerous
opportunities of seeing the players, for his father had in his more
prosperous days been a patron of the strolling companies, both as a
private individual and as a member of the town council.  In 1569 two such
troupes, who called themselves the “Queen’s servants,” and “servants of
the Earl of Warwick,” gave performances before the corporation and were
paid out of the public monies; a forecast of the municipal theatre!  And
no doubt John Shakespeare, together with many other Stratford people,
went over to Kenilworth during the magnificent pageants given there by
Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in 1575, in honour of Queen Elizabeth; taking
with him his little boy, then eleven years of age.  Thus would the
foundations of an ambition be laid.

At this time, 1585, John Shakespeare’s affairs, from whatever cause, were
under a cloud.  They had been declining since 1578, when he had been
obliged to mortgage some of the property that had been his wife’s, and
now he was deprived of his alderman’s gown.  William about this time,
whether in 1585 or 1587 is uncertain, left Stratford for London, whither
some of his boyhood’s friends had already preceded him, among them
Richard Field.

Stratford at this time was certainly no place for William, if he wished
to emulate Dr. Samuel Smiles’ worthies and conform to the gospel of
getting on in the world, the most popular gospel ever preached.  In 1587,
Nicholas Lane, one of his father’s creditors, sought to distrain upon
John Shakespeare’s goods, but the sheriff’s officers returned the doleful
tale of “no effects,” and so he had his trouble for nothing.  It is,
however, curious that even when reduced to his last straits, John
Shakespeare never sold his property, the house in which he lived and
carried on business, in Henley Street.

In addition to the discredit attaching to being thus one of the
Shakespeares who had come down in the world, William, according to the
very old, strong and persistent tradition, was at this time showing a
very rackety disposition.  He consorted with the wilder young men of the
town and went on drinking bouts with them.  Sometimes, with them, he
raided the neighbouring parks and killed the deer and poached other game;
and the old tradition hints that on these occasions the others made good
their escape and Shakespeare was generally caught.  Sir Thomas Lucy of
Charlecote, who was the chief sufferer from the exploits of these youths,
is said to have had Shakespeare whipped, imprisoned and fined for his
part in them.

To London, therefore, William Shakespeare made his way.  With what
credentials, if any, did he go?  He had friends in London, among them
Richard Field, a schoolfellow, who in 1579 had gone thither, to become
apprentice to a printer, and in 1587, about this time when Shakespeare
left home, had set up in business for himself and become a member of the
Stationers’ Company.  Shakespeare may quite reasonably have sought his
help or advice; and certainly Field six years later published
Shakespeare’s _Venus and Adonis_, dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of
Southampton, the foremost literary and dramatic patron of the age, from
whose friendship and powerful aid all intellectual aspirants hoped much.

It is quite likely that Shakespeare left Stratford with a company of
travelling actors, and reaching town with them, gradually drifted into
regular employment at one of the only two London theatres that then
existed, “The Theatre” and the “Curtain” both in Shoreditch.

It is of some interest to speculate upon the manner in which Shakespeare
journeyed to London, and the way he went.  Was he obliged to walk it, in
the traditional manner of the poor countryman seeking his fortune in the
great metropolis?  Or did he make the journey by the carrier’s cart?
There are two principal roads by which he may have gone; by
Newbold-on-Stour, Long Compton, Chapel House, and Woodstock to Oxford,
Beaconsfield and through High Wycombe and Uxbridge, 95 miles; or he might
have chosen to go by Ettington, Pillerton Priors, Sunrising Hill, Wroxton
and Banbury, through Aynho, Bicester, Aylesbury, Tring and Watford to
London, 92¾ miles.  Such an one as he would probably first go to London
by way of Oxford, for, like Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” he would
doubtless think it “a city of light.”  There are traditions at Oxford of
Shakespeare’s staying at the “Crown” inn in the Cornmarket in after
years.  Sometimes he would doubtless go by the Banbury and Bicester
route: and along it, at the village of Grendon Underwood, to the left of
the road between Bicester and Aylesbury, as you journey towards London,
there still linger very precise traditions of Shakespeare having stayed
at what was formerly the “Old Ship” inn.

Grendon Underwood, or “under Bernwode” as it is styled in old records,
appears in an old rhyme as—

    “The dirtiest town that ever stood,”

but it was never a town, and, whatever may once have been its condition,
it is no longer dirty.

[Picture: “Shakespeare Farm,” formerly the “Ship” Inn, Grendon Underwood]

It is not at first sight easily to be understood why Shakespeare, or any
other traveller of that age journeying the long straight stretch of the
old Roman road, the Akeman Street, between Bicester and Aylesbury, should
want to go a mile and a quarter out of his way for the purpose of
visiting this place, but that they did so is sufficiently proved by the
comparative importance of the house that was until about a hundred and
twelve years ago the “Old Ship” and is now known as “Shakespeare Farm.”
It is clearly too large ever to have been built for an ordinary village
inn, and is said to have formerly been even larger.  If, however, we
refer to old maps of the district, it will he found that, for some
unexplained reason, the ancient forthright Roman road had gone out of
use, and that instead of proceeding direct, along the Akeman Street, the
wayfarers of old went a circuitous course, through Grendon Underwood.
When this deviation took place does not appear; but it was obviously one
of long standing.  The first available map showing the roads of the
district is that by Emanuel Bowen, 1756, in which the Akeman Street is
not shown; the only road given being that which winds through Grendon.
The next map to be issued—that by Thomas Jeffreys, 1788—gives the Akeman
Street, running direct, between point and point, and avoiding Grendon, as
it does now.  That was the great era of turnpike-acts, providing for the
repair and restoration of old roads, and the making of new; and this was
one of the many highways then restored.  The “Old Ship” inn, at Grendon
Underwood, at which Shakespeare and many generations of travellers had
halted, at once declined with the making of the direct road, and soon
retired into private life.

The Shakespeare tradition comes down to us through John Aubrey, who,
writing in 1680, says—

    “The humour of the constable, in _Midsomer-night’s Dreame_, {21} he
    happened to take at Grendon, in Bucks—I thinke it was Midsomer night
    that he happened to lye there—which is the roade from London to
    Stratford, and there was living that constable about 1642, when I
    first came to Oxon.”

The village constable referred to was well known to one Josias Howe, son
of the rector, born at Grendon, March 29th, 1612, died August 28th, 1701,
who told Aubrey the story at Oxford, in 1642.

The lofty gabled red brick and timber end of Shakespeare Farm,
illustrated here, is the earlier part of the building, although the whole
of it is probably as old as Shakespeare’s time.  That earlier wing, the
part to which tradition points, is not now occupied, and is, in fact, in
a very dilapidated condition, occasional floorboards, and even some of
the stairs, being missing.  Where the wearied guests of long ago rested,
broody hens are set by the careful farmer’s wife on their clutches of
eggs.  There is little interesting in the architectural way in these dark
and deserted rooms, but the flat, pierced, wooden banisters of the
staircase are genuinely old and quaint.



CHAPTER IV


Continued decline in the affairs of John Shakespeare—William
Shakespeare’s success in London—Death of Hamnet, William Shakespeare’s
only son—Shakespeare buys New Place—He retires to Stratford—Writes his
last play, _The Tempest_—His death.

THAT Shakespeare left his wife and family at home at Stratford-on-Avon
every one takes for granted.  He “deserted his family,” says a rabid
Baconian, who elsewhere complains of the lack of evidence to support
believers in the dramatist; forgetting that there is no evidence for this
“desertion” story; only one of those many blanks in the life of this
elusive man, by which it would appear that while he was reaching fame and
making money in London as a playwright and an actor, he held no
communication with his kith and kin.  There remains no local record of
William Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon between the year 1587, when he
joined with his father in mortgaging the property at Asbies, Wilmcote,
which had been his mother’s marriage portion, until 1596, when the
register of the death of Hamnet, his only son, occurs at Stratford
church, on August 11th.  But this is sheer negative evidence of his not
having visited his native town for over ten years, and is on a par with
the famous Baconian argument that _because_ no scrap of Shakespeare’s
handwriting, except six almost illegible signatures, has survived,
_therefore_ he cannot have written the plays still attributed to him.

Meanwhile, his father’s affairs steadily grew worse, and in 1592 he was
returned as a “recusant” by the commissioners who visited the town for
the purpose of fining the statutable fine of £20 all those who had not
attended church for one month.  John Shakespeare’s recusancy has been
unwarrantably assumed to be due to Roman Catholic obstinacy; but the fine
was remitted because it was shown that he was afraid to go to church “for
processe of debt”; which, together with the infirmities of age, or
sickness, was a lawful excuse.

Shakespeare’s success in London as an actor, a reviser and editor of old
and out-of-date plays, as manager, theatre-proprietor and playwright, is
due to that sprack-witted capacity for excelling in almost any chosen
field of intellectual activity with which a born genius is gifted.  The
saying that “genius is a capacity for taking pains” is a dull, plodding
man’s definition.  Genius will very often fling away the rewards of its
powers through just this lack of staying power, and no plodding pains
will supply that intuitive knowledge, that instant perception, which is
what we call genius.

It was the psychological moment for such an one as Shakespeare to come to
London.  The drama had future before it: the intellectual receptivity of
the Renascence permeated all classes, and the country was prosperous and
growing luxurious.  Playwrights were numerous, but as yet their
productions had not reached a high level, excepting those of Marlowe, to
whose inspiration Shakespeare at first owed much.  If Shakespeare lived
in these times he would be called a shameless plagiarist, for he went to
other authors for his plots—as Chaucer had done with his _Canterbury
Tales_, two hundred years earlier, and as all others had done in between.
Not a man of them would escape the charge; but what Shakespeare took of
plot-construction and of dialogue he transmuted from the dull and
soulless lines we could not endure to read to-day, into a clear fount of
wit, wisdom and literary beauty.

Shakespeare’s career of playwright began as a hack writer and cobbler of
existing plays.  As an actor his technical knowledge of the requirements
of the stage rendered his help invaluable to managers, and the conditions
of that time gave no remedy to any author whose plays were thus altered.
It may be supposed from lack of evidence to the contrary, that most other
dramatic authors submitted to this treatment in silence; perhaps because
they had all been employed, at some time or other in the same way.  But
one man seems to have bitterly resented a mere actor presuming to call
himself an author.  This was Robert Greene, who died Sept. 3rd, 1592,
after a long career of play-writing and pamphleteering.  He died a
disappointed man, and wrote a farewell tract, published after his death,
which includes a warning to his fellow-authors and an undoubted attack
upon Shakespeare, under the thin disguise of “Shake-scene.”

It is to be considered that Shakespeare had by this time been five years
in London; that he had proved himself singularly adaptable, and had
finally, on March 3rd, 1592, attained his first popular success, in the
production at the newly-opened “Rose Theatre” on Bankside, Southwark
(third London playhouse, opened February 19th, 1592), of _Henry the
Sixth_.  It was a veritable triumph.  The author played in his own piece,
and the other dramatists looked on in dismay.  Jealousy does not seem to
have followed Shakespeare’s good fortune, and the numerous references to
him as poet and playwright by others are kindly and fully recognise his
superiority.  Only Greene’s posthumous work exists to show how one
resented it.  The tract has the singular title of “A Groats-Worth of Wit
bought with a Million of Repentance.”  Incidentally it warns
brother-dramatists against “an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers
that with his _Tygers heart wrapt in a players hide_ supposes he is as
well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and being an
absolute _Johannes factotum_ is, in his ovine conceite, the only
Shake-scene in a countrie.”

The identification of this crow in borrowed plumage, this “Shake-scene,”
is completed by the line, “O tiger’s heart, wrapp’d in a woman’s hide,”
which is a quotation from the Third Part of _Henry the Sixth_, where the
Duke of York addresses Queen Margaret; while the term “Johannes
factotum,” _i.e._ “Johnny Do-everything,” is a sneer at Shakespeare’s
adaptability and many-sided activities.

The merits of Shakespeare as an actor are uncertain.  Greene seems to
imply that he was of the ranting, bellowing type who tore a passion to
tatters and split the ears of the groundlings.  Rowe, who wrote of him in
1709 says: “The top of his performance (as an actor) was the Ghost in his
own _Hamlet_”; not an exacting part; other traditions say Adam in _As You
Like It_, an even less important character, was his favourite; but the
suggestion we love the better to believe is that his best part was the
cynical, melancholy, philosophic Jaques.  Donnelly, chief of the Bacon
heretics, has in his _Great Cryptogram_, a weird story of how Bacon wrote
the part of Falstaff for Shakespeare, to fit his great greasy stomach.
He knew Shakespeare could not act, and so provided a part in which no
acting should be required; turning Shakespeare’s natural disabilities to
account, so that, if the audience could not laugh with him in his acting,
they should laugh at him and dissolve into merriment at the clumsy antics
of so fat a man!

There are actor-managers in our times—no actor-author-managers like
Shakespeare—who deserve the cat-calls and the missiles of their
audiences.  They do not merely “lag superfluous on the stage,” but ought
never to be on it; like the celebrated actor-manager whose impersonation
of Hamlet was, according to Sir W. S. Gilbert’s caustic remark, “funny
without being vulgar.”  It is not conceivable that Shakespeare himself,
who puts such excellent advice to actors into the mouth of Hamlet, should
himself have been incompetent.

With Shakespeare’s leap into fame, in 1592, went a simultaneous “boom,”
as it might now be termed, in theatres and the drama.  Theatres
multiplied in London, theatrical companies grew prosperous, and such men
as Shakespeare, Merle and the Burbages amassed wealth.

In 1596 died William Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, whose burial
register in the books of Holy Trinity church, Stratford, runs—

    “August 11th, Hamnet, filius William Shakespeare.”  His father must
    surely have been present on this occasion.  This year is generally
    said to be that in which the dramatist who in his time had played
    many parts, returned to his native town, a made man.  He came back
    with his triumphs ringing fresh in his ears, for that season
    witnessed the great success of the production of _Romeo and Juliet_.
    In July, also, his father had applied to the Heralds’ College for a
    grant of arms, an application for a patent of gentility which would
    have come absurdly from a penniless tradesman.  The inference
    therefore, although we have no documentary evidence to that effect,
    is that William Shakespeare had not only kept in touch with his
    people, but had helped his father out of his difficulties and was
    himself the instigator of this application for a grant of arms.  The
    application was eventually successful.  The arms thus conferred are:
    “Or, on a bend sable, a tilting spear of the first, point upwards,
    steeled proper.  Crest, a falcon, his wings displayed, argent,
    standing upon a wreath of his colours and supporting a spear in pale,
    or.”  The motto chosen was “Non sanz droiet.”

What was this right to heraldic honours and the implied gentility they
carried, the Shakespeares claimed?  It was based upon a quibble that John
Shakespeare’s “parent, great-grandfather and late antecessor, for his
faithful and approved service to the most prudent prince king H. 7 of
famous memorie, was advanced and rewarded with lands and tenements geven
to him,” etc.  The description of the miserly Henry the Seventh as
“prudent” is, like “mobled queen,” distinctly “good”; but we are not
greatly concerned with that, only with the fact that the martial and
loyal antecessors claimed for John Shakespeare were really those of his
wife.  He adopted his wife’s family, or rather, her family’s pretensions
to call cousins with the more famous Ardens.

William Shakespeare had returned to Stratford a well-to-do man, with an
income which has been estimated at about £1300 of our money, but he had
not yet completed his work, and his reappearance in his native town was
not permanent.  You figure him now, the dramatist and manager, with
considerable shares in the Globe and Blackfriars Theatres, rather
concerned to relinquish the trade—not a profession, really, you know—of
actor, but with his company much in request at Court and in the mansions
of the great.  He was, one thinks, a little sobered by the passage of
time; and by the death, this year, of his only son; and quite sensible of
the dignity that new patent of arms had conferred upon his father and
himself.  To mark it, he bought in 1597 a residence, the best residence
in the town, although wofully out of repair.  It was known, with some
awe, to his contemporaries as “the great house.”  Sixty pounds sterling
was the purchase money: we will say £480 of present value.  It was bought
so cheaply probably because of its dilapidated condition, for it seems to
have been built by Sir Hugh Clopton in 1485, and at this time was “in
great ruyne & decay & unrepayred.”  Shakespeare thoroughly renovated his
newly-acquired property, and styled it “New Place.”

He did not, apparently, at once take up his residence here, for his
theatrical company was acting before the Queen at Whitehall in the spring
and he would doubtless have been present, and perhaps accompanied them
when they were on tour in Kent and Sussex in the summer.  But he was at
Stratford a part of the next year, which was a year of scarcity.  He had
accumulated a large stock of corn, over against the shortage, and in a
return made of the quantity of grain held in the town he held ten
quarters.  In the January of this year he contemplated buying some land
at Shottery.  “Our countriman, Mr. Shaksper,” wrote Abraham Sturley to
Richard Quiney on January 24th, “is willinge to disburse some monei upon
some od yarde land or other att Shotterei or neare about us.”  It would
seem that Shakespeare did not, after all, purchase this land.  Perhaps he
could not get it a bargain, and what we know of his business
transactions, small though it may be, all goes to show that he was a keen
dealer and not at all likely to spend his money rashly.

This year is remarkable for the writing of a letter to Shakespeare by
Richard Quiney, the only letter addressed to him now in existence.  It is
dated October 25th and addressed from Carter Lane, in the City of London.
Shakespeare was apparently then at Stratford—

    “TO MY LOVEINGE GOOD FFRENDE AND CONTREYMANN MR. WM. SHACKESPERE DLR
    THEES:

    “Loveinge Contreyman, I am bolde of yow, as of a ffrende, craveinge
    yowr helpe with xxx _li_ uppon Mr. Bushell’s & my securytee, or Mr.
    Myttons with me.  Mr. Rosswell is nott come to London as yeate, & I
    have especiall cawse yow shall ffrende me muche in helpeinge me out
    of all the debettes I owe in London, I thancke god, & muche quiet my
    mynde wch wolde nott be indebeted.  I am nowe towardes the Cowrte, in
    hope of answer for the dispatche of my Buysenes.  Yow shall nether
    loase credytt nor monney by me, the Lorde wyllinge; & nowe butt
    perswade yowrself soe, as I hope, & yow shall not need to feare butt
    with all hartie thanckefullenes I wyll holde my tyme & content yowr
    ffrende, & yf we Bargaine farther, yow shalbe the paiemr. yowrselfe.
    My tyme biddes me hastene to an ende, & soe I commit thys [to] yowr
    care, & hope of your helpe.  I feare I shall nott be backe thys night
    ffrom the Cowrte.  Haste.  The Lorde be with yow and with vs all,
    amen.  ffrom the Bell in Carter Lane, the 25th October, 1598.

                                                     “Yowrs in all kyndnes
                                                            “RYE. QUYNEY.”

There is nothing to show directly what was Shakespeare’s reply to this
request for the loan of so considerable a sum; which, however, was not
the personal matter it would seem to be.  Quiney was a substantial man,
mercer and alderman of Stratford, and was in London, incurring debts in
the interests of the town, whose law business he was furthering.  He
wanted nothing for himself.

It is curious that this letter was discovered among the town’s papers,
not among any Shakespeare relics, and it is believed was never actually
sent after being written; for another letter is extant, addressed by one
of the town council, Abraham Sturley, to Quiney, on November 4th, in
which he says: “Ur letter of the 25 October . . . which imported . . .
that our countriman Mr. Wm. Shak. would procure us monei. . . .”  It
would appear, therefore, that on the very day he was writing, Quiney had
received assurance from Shakespeare that he would lend.

In 1600 Shakespeare’s company played before the Queen at Whitehall, and
on several occasions in 1602: their last performance being at Richmond in
Surrey on February 2nd, 1603.  The following month the great Queen died.
In 1602 Shakespeare had been buying land in the neighbourhood of
Snitterfield and Welcombe from the Combes; no less than 107 acres, and in
succeeding years he considerably added to it; further, in July 1605,
expending £440 in the purchase of tithes.  Early in September 1601, his
father, John Shakespeare, had died.  Seven years later, also in
September, died his mother.  In 1607, his eldest daughter, Susanna,
married Dr. John Hall, and on the last day of the same year his brother
Edmund, an actor, was buried in St. Saviour’s, Southwark.

It was in 1609 that Shakespeare retired permanently to Stratford.  He and
his players had been honoured by the new sovereign from the very
beginning of his reign; but Shakespeare now severed his active connection
with the stage.  In this year his famous Sonnets were published, those
sugared verses addressed to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, in which
he laments having made himself “a motley to the view.”  Henceforth he
would be a country gentleman and dramatic author, and let who would seek
the applause of the crowd.  He now wrote the _Taming of the Shrew_, whose
induction is permeated with local allusions; he bought more land in the
neighbourhood of Stratford; he kept some degree of state at New Place.
In 1611 he sold his shares in the theatres, but in 1612 bought property
at Blackfriars.  Thus Shakespeare passed his remaining years.  As Rowe,
his earliest biographer says, they were spent “as all men of good sense
will wish theirs to be; in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his
friends.”

His last dramatic work, _The Tempest_, was written in 1611, and bears
evidences of being consciously and intentionally his last.  It is easily
dated, because of the references in it to the “still vex’d Bermoothes,”
the Bermuda islands, which were discovered by Admiral Sir George Somers’
expedition in 1609.  The “discovery” was made by the Admiral’s ship, the
_Sea Venture_, being driven in a storm on the hitherto unknown islands.
The disasters, the adventures, and the strange sights and sounds of the
isles were described by Sylvester Jourdain, one of the survivors, in an
account published October 1610, called “A Discovery of the Bermudas,
otherwise called the Isle of Divels.”

Shakespearean students find a purposeful solemnity in the treatment of
the play, and some perceive in the character of the magician, Prospero, a
portraiture of himself, his work done, and with a foreboding of his end,
oppressed with a sense of the brief span and the futility of life—

             “We are such stuff
    As dreams are made of, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.”

Thus he brings his labours to an end—

                   “this rough magic
    I here abjure; and, when I have required
    Some heavenly music, (which even now I do,)
                   . . . I’ll break my staff,
    Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
    And, deeper than did ever plummet sound,
    I’ll drown my book.”

The retirement of Shakespeare rather curiously synchronises with the
spread of Puritanism, that slowly accumulating yet irresistible force
which, before it had expended its vigour and its wrath was destined to
abolish for many years the theatre and the actor’s calling, and even to
behead a king and work a political revolution.  The puritan leaven was
working even in Stratford, and in 1602 the town council solemnly decided
that stage-plays were no longer to be allowed, and that any one who
permitted them in the town should be fined ten shillings.  This edict
apparently became a dead letter, but in 1612 it was re-enacted and the
penalty raised to £10.

We may perhaps here pertinently inquire: Did Shakespeare himself become a
Puritan?  Probably so moderate and equable a man as he seems to have been
belonged to no extreme party; but it is to be noted that Dr. John Hall,
husband of his eldest daughter, was a Puritan, and that Susanna herself
is described in her epitaph as “wise to salvation,” which means that she
also had found the like grace.

In 1614 Shakespeare seems to have entertained a Puritan divine at New
Place, according to a somewhat ambiguous account in the Stratford
chamberlain’s accounts, in which occurs the odd item: “One quart of sack
and one quart of claret wine given to the preacher at New Place.”  If we
may measure his preaching by his drinking, he must have delivered
poisonously long sermons.  But the town council were connoisseurs in
sermons, just as the council of forty years earlier had been patrons of
the drama; and they sought out and welcomed preachers, just as their
forbears had done with the actors.  Only those divines do not seem to
have been paid for their services, except in drink.  They were all
thirsty men, and the council rewarded their orations with the same
measure as given to the preacher at New Place.

In January 1616, William Shakespeare instructed his solicitor to draft
his will.  No especial reason for this settlement of his worldly affairs
appears to be recorded.  In February his daughter Judith was married to
Thomas Quincy, vintner, son of that Richard who eighteen years earlier
had sought to borrow the £30.  In March he was taken ill and the draft
will was amended without being fair-copied, a sign, it may be argued, of
urgency.  It bears date March 25th, and has three of the poet’s
signatures; one on each sheet.  But he lingered on until April 23rd,
dying on the anniversary of his birthday.



CHAPTER V


Stratford-on-Avon—It has its own life, quite apart from Shakespearean
associations—Its people and its streets—Shakespeare Memorials.

STRATFORD-ON-AVON would be an extremely interesting town, both
historically and scenically, even without its Shakespearean interest.  It
does not need association with its greatest son to stand forth easily
among other towns of its size and command admiration.  It is remarkably
unlike the mind’s eye picture formed of it by almost every stranger.  You
expect to see a town of very narrow streets, rather dull perhaps and with
little legitimate trade, apart from the sale of picture-postcards, fancy
china, guide-books, miniature reproductions of the inevitable Shakespeare
bust, and the hundred-and-one small articles that tourists buy; but
Stratford-on-Avon is not in the least like that.  It is true that with a
singular lack of humour there is a “Shakespeare Garage,” while we all
know that Shakespeare never owned a motor-car; that the bust is
represented in mosaic over the entrance to the Old Bank, founded in 1810,
upon which Shakespeare could never, therefore, have drawn a cheque; and
that the Shakespeare Hotel not only bears the honoured name, but also a
very large copy of the bust over its porch, and names all its rooms after
the plays.  Honeymoon couples, I believe, have been given the room called
_Love’s Labour’s Lost_, and _Cymbeline_, _Midsummer Night’s Dream_ and
many another will astonish the guest at that really very fine and ancient
hotel.  I forget if there be a bedroom named after _Two Gentlemen of
Verona_.  If so, it must obviously be one of the double rooms mentioned
in the tariff.

They gave me _As you Like It_, and it was sufficiently comfortable: I
liked it much.  On the other hand, _Macbeth_ makes one fearful of
insomnia.  “Macbeth does murder sleep.”  Not poppy nor mandragora—well,
let it be.

It is also true that the old market-house, a quaint isolated building of
late eighteenth or early nineteenth century standing at the junction of
Wood and Henley Streets with Bridge Street, and now a Bank, has for
weather-vane the Shakespeare arms and crest of falcon and spear; and it
is no less undeniable that the presiding genius of the place has his
manifestations in many other directions; but all these things, together
with the several antique furniture and curio shops where the unique
articles—of which there is but one each in the world—you purchase to-day
are infallibly replaced to-morrow, are for the benefit of the visitor,
the stranger and pilgrim.  “I was a stranger and ye took me in,” I
murmured when the absolute replica of the unmatched article I had
purchased was unblushingly exposed for sale within a day or two.

The Stratfordian notices none of these things: they are there, but they
don’t concern him.  You think they do, and that if a suggestion were made
that the town should be renamed “Shakespeare-on-Avon” he would adopt it
and be grateful; but you would be quite wrong; he would not.  If you
caught a hundred Stratford people, _flagrante delicto_, in the pursuit of
their daily business and haled them into the Guildhall or other
convenient room and set them an examination paper on Shakespeare, no one
would pass with honours.  Why should any of them?  They have grown up
with Shakespeare; they accept him as a fact, just as they do the rising
and setting of the sun and the waxing and waning of the moon; but they
are not interested in him any more than they are in the courses of those
luminaries.  They talk of anything but Shakespeare, and I have met and
spoken with many who have never been inside the Birthplace, or to Anne
Hathaway’s Cottage, or in the Harvard House, or indeed to any of the
show-places in and about the town.  They each save about half a guinea in
the aggregate, but they don’t do so either by way of self-denial or
economy.  They are simply not interested.

               [Picture: Chapel Street, Stratford-on-Avon]

Stratford would lose a very great deal if the world in general were to
become as indifferent to the Swan of Avon; but it would still be a
prosperous market-town, dependent upon the needs of the surrounding
agricultural villages.  Agriculture has ever been the mainstay of
Stratford, and as far as we can see, ever will be.  All around in the
Avon valley stretch those rich pastures that still “lard the rother’s
sides,” and on market days there come crawling into the streets, among
the cattle and the sheep, carriers’ carts from many an obscure village,
with curious specimens of countryfolk who have not lost the old habit of
looking upon Stratford as the centre of the universe.  So much the better
for Stratford.  “’Tain’t much as I waants,” said one to the present
writer, “an’ I rackon I can get it at Stratford ‘most as good as anywheer
else.  Besides, I du like to come to town sometimes, an’ see a bit of
life.”

One can, in fact, see a good deal of life in the town, but the liveliest
time—quite apart from the Shakespeare Festival, which is exotic and
mostly for visitors—is the Mop Fair, much more familiarly known as
“Stratford Mop.”  This annual event is held somewhat too late for the
average visitor’s convenience; on October 12th, when the tourists have
mostly gone home.  It is the great hiring-fair for farm servants and
others: perhaps we had better say, was, for the hiring has almost wholly
fallen into disuse, together with the so-called “Runaway Mop,” of a
fortnight after, at which the servants already hired and not pleased with
their bargain might re-engage.

I think the average visitor might not, after all, be pleased with
Stratford Mop, which is in some ways a very barbarous affair; the chief
barbarity of course being the roasting of oxen whole in the streets; a
loathly spectacle, and not one calculated to increase respect for our
ancestors, whose great idea of fit merry-making for very special
occasions was this same roasting of cattle whole and making the public
conduits run wine.  The last sounds better, but from the accounts
preserved of the wine dispersed at such times we know that the quantity
was meagre and the quality exceedingly poor.

But the vast crowds resorting to Stratford for the Mop see nothing
gruesome in the spectacle.  Special trains run from numerous places, and
all the showmen in the country seem to have hurried up for the event.

The streets of Stratford are broad and pleasant, with a large proportion
of ancient houses still left; half-timbered fronts side by side with more
or less modern brick and plaster, behind which often lurks a rich old
interior, unknown to the casual passer-by.  Sometimes a commonplace
frontage is removed, revealing unexpected beauty in an enriched
half-timber framing which the odd vagaries in taste of bygone generations
have caused to be thus hidden.  There is in this way a speculative
interest always attaching to structural alterations in the town.  In this
chance fashion the fine timbering of the so-called “Tudor House” was
uncovered in 1903, and other instances might be given.  Recently, also,
Nash’s House has been completely refronted, in fifteenth century style,
wholly in oak.  In fact, we might almost declare that Stratford is now
architecturally, after many years, reverting to the like of the town
Shakespeare knew.  And if the modernised house-fronts were systematically
stripped, among them that occupied by Messrs. W. H. Smith & Son at the
corner of High Street and Bridge Street, the house occupied for many
years by Judith Shakespeare and her husband, Thomas Quiney, the vintner,
Stratford would become greatly transformed.

But the mention of Bridge Street is a reminder that here at any rate a
great change has been made.  It is the widest of all the streets, and is
in fact a very wilderness of width.  All the winds that sport about the
neighbourhood seem to have their home in Bridge Street.  Your hat always
blows off when you turn the corner into it, and the dust and homeless
straws go wandering up and down its emptiness, seeking rest in the Avon
over the Clopton Bridge, but always blown back.  Now Bridge Street was
not always like this.  In Shakespeare’s time, and until 1858, when the
last of it was cleared away, a kind of island of old houses occupied part
of this roadway.  It was called “Middle Row.”  Such a collection of
houses was the usual feature of old English towns.  There was an example
in London, in Holborn, with exactly the same name; but it disappeared
somewhat earlier than its Stratford namesake.  Pictures survive of this
Bridge Street landmark.  I think a good many Stratford people regret it,
but regrets will not bring it back.  We think of the irrevocable, and of
Herrick’s witch—

    “Old Widow Prowse, to do her neighbours evil,
    Has given, some say, her soul unto ye Devill;
    But when sh’as killed that horse, cow, pig, or hen,
    What would she give to get that soul again?”

But the Stratford folk, unlike Widow Prowse, did their spiriting with the
best intentions.  Unfortunately, good intentions notoriously pave the way
to hot corners.

It was a very picturesque old row, with the “Swan” inn hanging out its
sign; and perhaps, in these times of reconstructions, it may even yet be
rebuilt, after the evidences of it that exist.

In Bridge Street is another landmark in the way of literary associations.
The “Red Horse” hotel has a large, dull and uninteresting plaster front,
but American visitors find the house attractive on account of Washington
Irving’s stay there about a hundred years ago, when he was writing of
Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s country.  The sitting-room he occupied is
kept somewhat as a shrine to his memory, and the chair he fancifully
called his “throne” is still there, but you may not sit in it.  It is
kept under lock and key, in a cupboard with glass doors.  The poker he
likened to his sceptre is kept jealously in the bar.  Citizens of the
United States ask to see it, and it is reverently produced and unfolded
from the many swathings of “Old Glory” in which it is enwrapped: “Old
Glory” being, it is necessary to explain to Britishers, the United States
flag, the “stars and stripes.”  Gazing upon it, they see that it is
engraved with a dedicatory inscription by another citizen of the U.S.A.

If you proceed down Bridge Street you come presently to the Clopton
Bridge that crosses the Avon, and so out of the town.  The bridge is one
of the many works of public utility and practical piety executed,
instituted, or ordained in his will by Sir Hugh Clopton, the greatest
benefactor Stratford has known.  A scion of that numerous family, seated
at Clopton House a mile out of the town, he went to London and prospered
as a mercer, becoming Lord Mayor in 1492.  Leland, writing in 1532,
quaintly tells of him and his bridge: “Hugh Clopton aforesaid made also
the great and sumptuous Bridge upon Avon, at the East ende of the Towne,
which hath 14 great Arches of stone and a long Causey made of Stone, lowe
walled on each syde, at the West Ende of the Bridge.  Afor the tyme of
Hugh Clopton there was but a poore Bridge of Tymbre, and no Causey to
come to it; whereby many poore Folkes and others refused to come to
_Stratford_ when Avon was up, or comminge thither, stood in jeopardye of
Lyfe.  The Bridge ther of late tyme,” he proceeds to say, “was very
smalle and ille, and at high Waters very hard to come by.  Whereupon, in
tyme of mynde, one Clopton a very rich Marchant and Mayr of London, as I
remember, borne about _Strateforde_, having neither Wife nor Children,
converted a great Peace of his Substance in good workes at _Stratford_,
first making a sumptuus new Bridge and large of Stone when in the midle
be a VI great Arches for the main Streame of Avon, and at eache Ende
certen small Arches to bere the Causey, and so to pass commodiously at
such tymes as the Ryver riseth.”

The bridge was widened in 1814.  I do not think that great benefactor of
Stratford intended that tolls should be charged for passing over his
bridge, but in the course of time, such charges were made, and the very
large and imposing toll-house that remains shows us that it is not so
very long since the bridge has been freed again.

There are many who consider the Harvard House to be the most delightful
piece of ancient domestic work in the town, and it is indeed a gem.  The
history of it is absolutely clear.  It was built in 1596 by one Thomas
Rogers, alderman.  His initials and those of his wife Alice, together
with the date are still to be seen, carved on the woodwork beneath the
first-floor window.  The carved brackets supporting the first floor
represent the Warwick Bear and Ragged Staff and the bull of the Nevilles.
The bull is easily recognisable, but the bear is only to be identified
after considerable study, and looks a good deal more like a pig.
Katharine Rogers, daughter of the builders of this house, married Robert
Harvard of Southwark, butcher, in 1605.  Almost everything in Stratford
pivots upon Shakespeare, or is made to do so, and it is therefore not
difficult to imagine Rogers’ beautiful little dwelling being erected here
at the very time when Shakespeare was contemplating purchasing New Place,
and the dramatist’s interest in it.  Rogers, being, like John Shakespeare
on the town council, must have been very closely acquainted with the
family.  The Rev. John Harvard, son of Robert and Katharine, emigrated to
the New England States of America in 1637 and died of consumption the
following year, at Charleston, leaving one half of his estate, which
realised £779 17_s._  2_d._, together with his library of over 300
volumes, to a college then in contemplation; the present Harvard
University at Cambridge, Massachusetts, described as the oldest and among
the richest seats of learning in the United States; although the
“learning” displayed there has not yet hatched out any world-shaking
genius; genius being, as we who visit Stratford cannot fail to see, a
quality quite independent of the academies, and springing, fully-equipped
to do battle with the world, in the most unpromising places.

                       [Picture: The Harvard House]

It is not long since the Harvard House was restored and dedicated to the
public, and particularly to the use of Harvard students; in October 1909,
to be precise.  It had passed through various hands, and finally was
offered for sale by auction.  The biddings failed to reach the reserve
price and the property was withdrawn at £950.  Chicago, in the person of
a wealthy native of that place, came to the rescue, and it was privately
bought for the purpose of converting it into a “house of call,” whatever
that may be, for Americans touring this district, and especially, as
already noted, for students of Harvard—who obtain admission free.  Other
persons pay sixpence.

It is a place of very great seclusion, for Harvard students (who mostly
study the more lethal forms of football and baseball nowadays) are rare;
and I guess if you want to track the Americans in Stratford, you must go
to the Shakespeare Hotel, anyway, or to the “Red Horse.”  The house was
in the occupation of a firm of auctioneers and land agents until the
purchase.  The “restoration” of the exterior has been very carefully and
conservatively done, and the interior discloses some particularly
beautiful half-timbered rooms.

From time to time it seems good to amiable and well-meaning persons to
set up “Shakespeare memorials” in Stratford, and it is equally amiable in
the town to accept them.  Thus we see in Rother Street an ornate gothic
drinking-fountain and clock-tower, the “American Memorial Fountain,”
given in 1887 by that wealthy Shakespearean collector, George W. Childs,
proprietor of the _Philadelphia Ledger_.  It includes also the function
of a memorial of the first Victorian Jubilee.  Shakespearean quotations
adorn it, including the apposite one from _Timon of Athens_: “Honest
water, which ne’er left man i’ th’ mire.”

But Shakespeare serves the turn of every man, and if you like your beer,
you can set against this the equally Shakespearean quotation, “A quart of
ale is a dish for a king.”

The Memorial Fountain rather misses being stately, and it would be better
if the quarter chimes of its clock did not hurry so over their business,
as if they wanted life to go quicker, and time itself to be done with.
Amity is the note of Mr. Childs’ fountain, and the “merry songs of peace”
are the subject of one of the carved quotations: that is why the British
Lion and the American Eagle alternate in effigy at the angles, supporting
their respective national shields of arms.  The British Lion looks tame
and the American Eagle is a weird fowl wearing the chastened “dearly
beloved brethren” expression of a preacher at a camp meeting.

The Shakespeare Memorial by the riverside is the partial realisation of a
project first considered in 1769, at the jubilee presided over by
Garrick, revived in 1821 and again in 1864.  This was an idea for a
national memorial, to include a school of acting: possibly with
Shakespeare’s own very excellent advice to actors, which he placed in the
mouth of Hamlet, set up in gilded words of wisdom in its halls.  The
school for actors has not yet come into being, but at the annual
festivals, when Shakespearean companies take the boards in the theatre
which forms a prominent part of the Memorial, you may witness quaint new
readings of the dramatist’s intentions.

                 [Picture: The Harvard House: Panel Room]

The great pile of buildings standing by the beautiful Bancroft gardens,
in fine grounds of its own beside the river, “comprises,” as auctioneers
and house agents might say, the theatre aforesaid, a library, and picture
gallery.  It was built 1877–79 from funds raised by a Memorial
Association founded by Mr. Charles E. Flower of Stratford-on-Avon, and
very widely supported.  The architect, W. F. Unsworth, whose name does
not seem to be very generally known, has produced a very imposing, and on
the whole, satisfactory composition, whose shape was largely determined
by that of the original Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s own time in
Southwark.  It is of red brick and stone, and a distinct ornament to the
town and the riverside, although its gothic appears to have here and
there a rather Continental flavour.  A little more pronounced, it might
seem almost Rhenish.  But let us be sufficiently thankful the Memorial
did not take shape in Garrick’s day, when it would certainly have assumed
some terrible neo-classic form.  There are some particularly good and
charming gargoyles over the entrance, notably that of Puck carrying that
ass’s head with which Bottom the Weaver was “translated,” in _Midsummer
Night’s Dream_.  A sketch of it appears on the title-page of this book.
I do not think a description of the theatre, the library, or the picture
gallery would serve the object of these pages, and I do not propose to
describe the monument designed, executed and presented by Lord Ronald
Gower, because that is done in every guide-book, and because I do not
like that extremely amateurish and flagrantly-overpraised work: may the
elements speedily obliterate it!

Quick-growing poplars have reached great heights since the buildings were
first opened, and the Theatre and Memorial is being rapidly obscured by
them.  It looks its best from the Clopton Bridge, and combines with Holy
Trinity church to render the town, viewed from the other side of the
Avon, a place of considerable majesty and romance.

Crossing either that ancient bridge to the “Swan’s Nest” inn which has
become subdued to the poetry in the Stratford air and has abandoned its
old name, the “Shoulder of Mutton,” we may roam the meadows opposite the
town.  Or we may equally well cross the river by the long and narrow red
brick tramway bridge, built in 1826 for the purposes of the
Stratford-on-Avon and Shipston-on-Stour Tramway: an ill-fated but heroic
project that immediately preceded steam railways.  The Great Western
Railway appears to have some ownership in the bridge, and by notice
threatens awful penalties—something a little less than eternal
punishment—to those who look upon—or cycle upon—it.

            [Picture: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon]

Somehow we reach those free and open meadows over against the town where
the Avon runs broad and deep down to the mill and the ruined lock, just
opposite the church.  It is from these meadows that the accompanying
drawing of the church was taken.  The breadth of the river between the
Clopton Bridge and the church is exceptional, and gives a great nobility
to the town.  Both above and below these points it becomes much narrower,
and the navigation down stream is a thing of the past.  The Avon down to
Binton and up beyond Charlecote is, in fact, rendered impassable by
difficulties created by the Lucy family of Charlecote, and by the Earl of
Warwick.  Private ownership in navigable or semi-navigable streams is an
ancient and complicated affair concerned with rights of fishing, of weirs
and mill-leets, and other abstruse and immemorial manorial privileges,
and it has furnished the lawyers with many a fat brief.  It has cost the
Corporation of Stratford-on-Avon £700 in recent years, in a dispute about
this ruined lock and the impeded access to the river past the church and
the mill, to the other decayed lock at Luddington.  The Lucys gained the
day, and that is why we cannot go boating down the river from Stratford.

We may cross the stream just below this point, by a footbridge, and come
into the town again past the big corn-mill whose ancient ownership caused
all this trouble.  The present building is only about a century old, but
it is the representative of the original mill that stood on this spot
over a thousand years ago, and belonged then and long afterwards to the
Bishops of Worcester.  The exquisite humour of the manorial law ordained
not only that the people of Stratford were under obligation to have their
corn ground here, but that they were also made to pay for it.  And as
competitive millers were thus barred, there can be no doubt but that
corn-milling was an expensive item.  The old churchmen loved eels, useful
for Friday’s dish, and the Bishops of Worcester were sometimes accustomed
to take consignments of them in place of money payments for use of the
mill.

The possibilities of the Avon in the matter of floods are very eloquently
set forth on the walls of this mill: the astonishing high-water marks of
floods for a century past being marked.  Scanning them, it seems strange
that mill and church and a good part of the town itself have not been
washed away.

Passing through Old Town into Church Street, the fine Elizabethan
three-gabled residence seen on the way, on the right hand, is Hall’s
Croft, the home of Dr. John Hall, Susanna Shakespeare’s husband, before
they removed to New Place following upon Shakespeare’s death.  The old
mulberry-tree in the beautiful garden at the back of the house is said to
have been planted by her.

                     [Picture: The Memorial Theatre]



CHAPTER VI


Shakespeare’s Birthplace—Restoration, of sorts—The business of the
Showman—The Birthplace Museum—The Shakespearean garden.

TO Henley Street most visitors to Stratford-on-Avon first turn their
steps; a little disappointed to discover that it is by no means the best
street in the town and must have been rather a poor outskirt at the time
when John Shakespeare came in from Snitterfield, to set up business in a
small way.  There is, as the sentimental pilgrim will very soon discover
for himself, a plentiful lack of sentiment nowadays in the business of
showing Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  For it is a business, and conducted as
it is on extremely hard-headed lines, yields a considerable profit; a
profit disposed of strictly according to the terms on which the
Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust is defined in its Parliamentary powers.
Enough has already been said to show the sensitive soul that his
sensibilities are apt to be extremely tried when he comes this way; but
then, to be sure, there can be but a small proportion of such among the
40,000 persons who annually pay their sixpences (and another to see the
Birthplace Museum next door).  Sometimes, when the dog-star rages and
tourists most do gad about, a solid phalanx of visitors, each provided
with his ticket from the office down the street, will be found lined up,
waiting, like the queues outside the London theatres, for earlier
arrivals to be quickly disposed of.  The bloom of sentiment, as delicate
as that upon a plum or peach, is rudely rubbed off by these things, by
rules and regulations and the numbered ticket; but the very fame of
Shakespeare and the increasing number of visitors who have, or think they
have—or at the very least of it think they ought to have—an intelligent
interest in a great man’s birthplace brings about this horrid nemesis of
the professional showman.

                   [Picture: Shakespeare’s Birthplace]

If you be a little exacting, and would keep the full freshness, the
sweetest savour of hero-worship, be content not to see the Birthplace,
and especially not that garden at the back of it.  It was not, you know
it quite well, in the least like this when John Shakespeare lived here
and had his wool-store next door, where the Birthplace Museum is now, and
sometimes bought and sold corn or carried on the trade of glover.  The
place has had so many changes of fortune, the appearance of the exterior
itself has been so utterly changed and so conjecturally restored, that
the thinking man loses a good deal of confidence.  And the interior: the
rooms without furniture or sign of habitation are like a body whence the
soul has fled.

The building did not, for one thing, stand alone as it does now, the
houses on either side having been pulled down after it was purchased in
1848; with the, of course, entirely admirable idea of the better
lessening its risk from fire.  The effect, and that of the hedges with
their hairpin railings, is to give the place the very superior appearance
of a private house.  If old John Shakespeare could be summoned back and
taken for a walk along Henley Street, he would be surprised at many
things, but by none more than by the odd disappearance of every man’s
midden and the altered appearance of his own house.  He would wonder what
had become of his shop, and assume no doubt that the occupier had made
his fortune and retired into private life.  He would not know that it is
still a place of business, and among the best-paying ones in Stratford,
too.

William Shakespeare succeeded to the property of his father, and in his
turn willed this Henley Street dwelling-house to his sister, Joan Hart,
for life.  She had become a widow a few days only before his death, but
herself survived until 1646.  The woolshop—now the Museum part—he left to
his daughter Susanna, who on the death of her aunt came into possession
of all the building.  At her decease, being the last descendant of her
father, she willed it to Thomas Hart, the grandson of her aunt, Joan
Hart.  From him it descended to his brother George, who in his own
lifetime gave it to his son, Shakespeare Hart, whose widow passed it on
to another George Hart, nephew of her late husband.  In 1778 George was
gathered to his fathers and Thomas, his son, reigned in his stead; in
1793 leaving what had been the woolshop to his son John and the
Birthplace to his son Thomas, who three years later made over his share
to his brother John.  On the death of this person in 1800 the property
passed to his wife for the remainder of her life, and then to his three
children, as co-partners.  Since early in the eighteenth century it had
been mortgaged up to the hilt, and the three partners were practically
obliged to sell in 1806.  Thus the last remote link with Shakespeare’s
kin was severed.  Thomas Court, the purchaser, died in 1818, and on the
death of his wife in 1847 the house was purchased by public subscription,
on behalf of the nation.  This transaction was completed in the following
year, at a cost of £3000, the purchase being in 1866 handed over to the
Corporation of Stratford-on-Avon, who held it in trust until the
incorporation of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1891.

In all this time the structure suffered many changes, the former woolshop
being opened as an inn, the “Maidenhead,” even in Shakespeare’s own time,
1603.  Later it became the “Swan and Maidenhead,” and had its front
new-faced with brick in 1808.  Meanwhile, the Birthplace had in 1784
become a butcher’s shop, hanging out the sign board “The immortal
Shakespeare was born in this house.”  In the course of these changes the
dormer windows had disappeared, about 1800, and the whole was in a very
dilapidated state.  The restoration work of 1857–58, renewing the
vanished dormers in the roof, pulling down the brick front and
reinstating a timber-framed elevation, and generally placing the building
again in a weather-proof condition, cost nearly a further £3000.

Photographs scarcely give a correct impression of the exterior as thus
restored.  They reproduce the form, but not the true tone and quality of
the timber and plaster, and in truth they make the house look better than
it is.  The quality of the exterior materials is not convincing and makes
the house look very unauthentically new.  The timbers and the plaster may
be even better than they were in John Shakespeare’s time, but we do not
wish them to be, and there is a spruceness and a kind of parlourmaidenly
neatness about the place which we feel quite sure the man who was fined
for having a muck-heap in front of his house, and for not keeping his
gutter clean never knew.  Painted woodwork, mathematically true, and the
kind of plaster facing we see here were unknown in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries.  Roughly split oak formed both interior and exterior
framing to John Shakespeare’s house, and the houses of his neighbours,
and it was only in Victorian times that the neatness and the soullessness
expressed here became the obsession of craftsmen.  In short, they do
these things much more convincingly to-day at Earl’s Court.

Mr. Andrew Carnegie, who is a very much greater person than Columbus and
discovered America in the monetary sense, while Columbus only added to
his geographical knowledge and not to his wealth, has also discovered
Stratford-on-Avon, and has generously given the town a public library and
the Trustees of the Birthplace two old cottages, all in Henley Street.
At the offices you purchase tickets for the Birthplace and the Birthplace
Museum, and may well, before doing so, look into that public library,
formed out of one of those ancient timber-framed houses Stratford is
fortunate enough to possess in profusion.  It is a charmingly remodelled
building, very well worth inspection.

             [Picture: The Kitchen, Shakespeare’s Birthplace]

But let us to the Birthplace.  At the door we are met by a caretaker.  If
it be late in the day he will be a little, or possibly very, husky.  In
any case he is hurried.  He hastens us into a stone-floored room in which
a multitude of people are already waiting.  They look as if they were
attending an inquest, or, at the best of it, a seance, and expected every
moment to be called upon to view the body, or to hear knockings or see
ghostly shapes.  He shuts the door.  It is a solemn moment, and in the
passing of it we do actually hear knockings, loud and impatient—but they
are not spirits from the vasty deep: only other and impatient visitors
who have paid their sixpences.  But they must wait.

“This is the house where Shakespeare was born.  You will be shown
presently the actual room where he was born, upstairs.”

“It became a butcher’s shop afterwards, didn’t it?” asks some one.  The
showman looks grieved: the interruption throws him out of gear, like a
bent penny in a slot machine.  Besides, it isn’t in the programme.  “You
must excuse me, sir, and not keep people waiting.  This was the living
room.  The chimney corner remains exactly as it was when Shakespeare was
a boy.  Have you tickets for the Museum?  Those who have will go through
that door to the right.  This room at the back is the kitchen.  If you
will ascend the staircase, you will be shown the birth-room.  Mind the
step.”

A dark steep climb, and a narrow passage leads into the former front
bedroom.  It is almost entirely bare, only an old chair or two and an old
coffer emphasising its nakedness.  The rough plaster walls and the
ceiling are appallingly dirty; Mrs. Shakespeare would be thoroughly
ashamed of it, if she could but revisit her home.  A plaster cast of the
inevitable Shakespeare bust stands in the room, sometimes on the coffer,
and sometimes on a spindly-legged table, and looks with serene amusement
upon the proceedings.  The old person who used to show the birth-room has
apparently been superseded.  She used to patronise the bust, and afforded
some people much secret amusement.  “Plenty room ’ere for the mighty
brain,” she would say, drawing her hand across that broad and lofty brow;
“there will never be more than one Shakespeare, sir.”

            [Picture: The Room in which Shakespeare was born]

The present attendants have less time for that kind of thing, and hurry
on with their mechanical tale.  Why don’t the Trustees economise, and get
a gramophone?  “This is the room where Shakespeare was born.  The
furniture you see does not belong to his time.  Some of the glass in the
window is original; you can tell it by the green tint.  Them laths, sir,
in the ceiling?  They’re iron, and put up to preserve the original
ceiling.  No one is allowed in the room above.  The ceiling and the
walls, as you will observe, are covered with names.  Before visitors’
books were provided, visitors were invited to write their names here.
You will see that they have fully availed themselves of the privilege,
and those who had diamond rings have scratched theirs on the
window-panes.  Here you will see the signature of General Tom Thumb, who
visited the Birthplace with his wife.  His name was Stratton.  Its
position, not very much higher than the skirting-board, shows his height.
Helen Faucit’s name appears on the beam overhead.  Sir Walter Scott’s
name, and Thomas Carlyle’s will be seen on the window.”

We take these and all other signatures on trust, for they are nearly
every one terrible scrawls, and are all so extremely crowded together,
and the plaster is so dirty, and the glass so nearly opaque that with
this and with that they are hardly ever legible.

In a back room hangs an oil portrait of Shakespeare: the so-called
“Stratford” portrait, bought in 1860 by William Hunt, the town clerk,
together with the old house in which it then hung.  It has been cleaned
and restored and elaborately framed, and it will be observed that it is
further guarded by being enclosed in a steel safe: extraordinary
precautions in behalf of a work which is almost certainly spurious.

And so we descend and sign the visitors’ book.  A very bulky volume is
filled in less than a year, and still the number grows.  There were
27,038 visitors in 1896, and 49,117 in 1910.  The extremely fine and
lengthy summer of 1911 did not, as might have been supposed, bring a
record return.  On the contrary, the numbers fell in that year to 40,300.

Returning to the kitchen, where in the yawning chimney-place a bacon
cupboard will be noticed, we leave by the garden at the back.  But
meanwhile the Birthplace Museum has been left undescribed.  Visitors who
have sprung a sixpence for that are taken through from the front room,
the living-room.  Here are kept many and various articles more or less
associated with Shakespeare, and some that have no connection with him at
all.  The most interesting are the documents relating to this house; the
original letter written by Richard Quincy to Shakespeare in 1598; and a
deed with the signature of Shakespeare’s brother Gilbert, who was a
draper or haberdasher in London, dated 1609.  A desk from the Grammar
School, the chair from the “Falcon” at Bidford, in which Shakespeare is
supposed to have sat, portraits, prints; a perfect copy of the 1623 First
Folio edition of the plays, purchased at the Ashburnham Sale in 1898, and
other rare editions, make up the collection, together with a sword said
to have been Shakespeare’s, and an interesting gold signet-ring, with the
initials “W. S.” entwined with a true-lover’s knot, found in a field
outside the town, near the church, early in the nineteenth century.  It
is said to have been Shakespeare’s ring, but scarcely sufficient stress
seems to be laid upon the undoubted authenticity of it.  Shakespeare’s
will, drafted in January 1616, originally bore the concluding words: “In
witness whereof I have hereunto put my seale,” but this was afterwards
altered to “hand,” the assumption being that it was the loss of this
signet ring which necessitated the alteration.

                   [Picture: Shakespeare’s Signet-Ring]

Haydon, the painter, wrote to Keats in 1818, about the discovery, “My
dear Keats, I shall go mad!  In a field at Stratford-on-Avon, that
belonged to Shakespeare, they have found a gold ring and seal with the
initials ‘W.S.,’ and a true-lover’s knot between.  If this is not
Shakespeare’s whose is it?  I saw an impression to-day, and am to have
one as soon as possible: as sure as you live and breathe, and that he was
the first of beings, the seal belonged to him, O, Lord!”

Among the exhibits in the Museum are the town weights and measures, the
sword of state, and altogether some fine miscellaneous feeding for the
curio-fancier.

The cellars under the building are not shown, nor is the western part of
it, where the town archives are stored.

The garden at the back is laid out in beds planted with the flowers
mentioned by Shakespeare in his works, and in the middle of the well-kept
gravelled path is the base of the ancient town cross which formerly stood
at the intersection of Bridge Street and High Street.  It is a pleasant
place, and its present condition is the result of care, the outcome of
much pious thought.  But we may declare with all the emphatic language at
our command, that when William Shakespeare and his brothers Gilbert,
Richard and Edmund, and his sister Joan played out here in the back yard,
it was very little of a garden, and not at all tidy unless they were
angel-children, which we have no occasion to suppose.  It seems to have
been originally an orchard, but no doubt Mr. John Shakespeare put it to
some use in connection with the several trades he followed.

The piety is undoubted, but it is a little overdone, and everything is in
sample.  They are not very good specimens of marigolds we see here, but
still they are obviously marigolds, and we do not—no really we don’t—need
the label that identifies them and the other flowers.  We can quite
easily recognise the winking Mary-bud, that beautiful flower whose golden
eyes are among the loveliest blossoms in an old-fashioned garden; we know
the rose, the jasmine, the gillyflower, the sunflower, the stock, the
ladysmock, and the whole delightful posy, and wonder who and what those
folk may be who cannot recognise them, and require these cast-iron labels
for their information.



CHAPTER VII


Church Street—The “Castle” inn—The Guild Chapel, Guild Hall, and Grammar
School—New Place.

CHURCH STREET is the most likeable of all the streets of Stratford.
There you do not, in point of fact, actually see the church, which is out
away beyond the end of it.  The features of this quiet and yet not dull
thoroughfare are the few and scattered shops in among private houses, and
a quaint old inn of unusual design, the “Windmill.”  It is illustrated
here, and so the effective frontage, with its row of singularly bold
dormer windows need not be more particularly described.  The interior is
almost equally interesting, and has a deep ingle-nook with one of those
bacon-cupboards that are so numerously found in the town and district.
It is a house that attracts and holds the observant man’s attention, and
it has been so greatly admired by an American visitor that a complete set
of architectural drawings was made for him and an exact replica built in
Chicago a few years ago.

Opposite the “Windmill” inn is a fine Georgian mansion called “Mason
Croft,” obviously once occupied by a person of importance, many years
since.  But the chief feature of Church Street is the long range of
half-timbered buildings with its striking row of massive chimney-stacks,
ending with the imposing stone tower of the Guild Chapel.  It is entirely
right that these buildings should bulk so largely to the eye, for in them
is centred the greater part of Stratford’s history.  They are the
timeworn and venerable buildings of that ancient Guild of Holy Cross
whose beginnings are in the dim past and have never been definitely
fixed.  The earliest facts relating to the Guild take the story of it
back to 1269, when its first Chapel was begun, and when the
semi-religious character of the fraternity was its more important half.

                      [Picture: The “Windmill” Inn]

The Guild may be likened to a mutual benefit society of modern times,
with the addition of the religious element.  It was founded in
superstition, but lived that down and became not only an institution of
the greatest service, but also the originator of the Grammar School, and
an informal town council and local authority, which, strangely enough, in
its later and almost wholly secularised character, withstood the
exactions of the Bishops of Worcester, the old-time lords of the manor
and their stewards, and finally, after being dissolved in 1547, was
re-constituted as the town council of the newly incorporated borough in
1553.

The original form of the Guild was that of a subscription society for men
and women.  Its benefits, unlike those of the Foresters and the
Oddfellows of to-day, were chiefly spiritual.  It employed priests to
look after the religious needs of its members during life and to pray for
the health of their souls after death.  It secured these then greatly
desired benefits at a reduced rate, just as the modern benefit society
employs the club doctor.  It also in many ways promoted kindliness and
good-fellowship, helped the poor, and often found husbands for
unappropriated spinsters by the simple process of endowing them.  This
was all to the good.  Somewhat later the Guild espoused the cause of
education, and certainly had a grammar school at the close of the
fourteenth century, payments to the schoolmaster being the subject of
allusion in the Guild’s archives in 1402.  Once a year the entire
membership went in stately procession to church, and returning to the
Guild Hall indulged in one of those gargantuan feasts whose records are
the amazement of modern readers.  Of the 103 pullets, and of the geese
and the beef recorded to have been consumed at one of these feasts in the
beginning of the fifteenth century we say nothing, but on the same
occasion they drank “34 gallons of good beer,” and “39 gallons of small
ale,” perhaps on the well-known old principle that “good eating deserveth
good drinking.”  The 73 gallons of ale not being enough they sent out and
had some more in by the cistern, a method which seems determined and
heroic.  The account thus includes “1 cestern of penyale,” for which they
paid the equivalent of eight shillings, and “2 cesterns of good beer
bought from Agnes Iremonger for 3_s._”; that is to say, about twenty-four
shillings’ worth.  They seem to have had enough, “’Tis merry in hall when
beards wag all,” and there can be no doubt that the company who on this
occasion drank pottle-deep were merry enough.

The Guild also added morality plays to its entertainments; but all these
lively proceedings formed but one side to its activities.  It fulfilled
many of the functions of local government, and strictly too, and its
aldermen and proctors were officials not likely to be disregarded.  The
authority of the Guild was supported by its wealth, contributed by the
benefactions of the members, which rendered it in course of time, after
the lord of the manor, the largest landowner in and about the town.

It was not so great a change when the old Guild was reconstructed and
became the town council.  By that time it had ceased its early care for
the future of its members’ souls, and had become in some of its
developments much more like a Chamber of Commerce.  But it had not
forgotten to make merry and its love-feasts continued, and its morality
plays with them, although they had become a little more after the secular
model.

These traditions were continued into the town council, as they could
scarcely fail to be, for the members of that body had been also officials
of the Guild.  John Shakespeare, high Bailiff in 1569, was responsible
for inviting a company of actors to perform in the Guild Hall, and others
did the like.

The Guild Chapel, founded in 1296 and largely rebuilt by the generosity
of Sir Hugh Clopton in the fifteenth century, is the chief of the Guild’s
old buildings.  It is not now of much practical use, but of venerable
aspect and considerable beauty.  The tower, porch and nave are Clopton’s
work, the beautiful porch still displaying his shield of arms and that of
the City of London, although greatly weathered and defaced.  He did not
touch the chancel, which had already been restored; and the exterior
still shows by force of contrast the greatness of Clopton’s gift; his
nave entirely overshadowing in its comparative bulk the humble
proportions of the chancel.  Frankness is at least as desirable a quality
in a book as in the affairs of life, and so it may at once be admitted
that the interior of the Guild Chapel is extremely disappointing.  It is
coldly whitewashed, and the ancient frescoes discovered a hundred years
ago have faded away.  They included a fine, if alarming to some minds,
representation of the doom, a fifteenth-century notion of the Judgment
Day.  Alarming to some minds because of the very high percentage of the
damned disclosed at this awful balancing of accounts.  Illustrations of
this, among the other frescoes, survive, and have a fearful interest.  It
is pleasing to see the towering mansions of the Blest on the left hand,
with St. Peter waiting at the open door welcoming that, ah! so small
band; but on the right, where green, pink and blue pig-faced devils with
asses’ ears are tormenting their prey, whanging them with bludgeons and
raking them in with three-pronged prokers, casting them into Hell’s
Mouth, and finally roasting them in a furnace, the prospect is vile.
Shakespeare must have been perfectly familiar with these horrific things,
and Falstaff’s likening of a flea on Bardolph’s fiery nose to a “black
soul burning in hell fire,” looks very like a vivid recollection of them.
Some day, perhaps, when the Shakespearean cult at Stratford is more
advanced (it is only in its youth yet) these frescoes will be renewed,
from the careful records of them that have been kept.

    [Picture: Guild Chapel, Guild Hall, Grammar School and Almshouses]

The lengthy line of the Guild Hall and the almshouses of the Guild is one
of the most effective things in the town.  It dates from 1417.  For many
years, until 1894, the stout timbering was hidden away beneath plaster,
and few suspected the simple beauty of the honest old oak framing hidden
beneath.  The plaster was spread over it _to preserve the oak from the
weather_.  Let us italicise that choice specimen of stupidity, not
because it is unique or even rare, for it is found all over the country,
and elsewhere in this very town of Stratford, and here and everywhere
else it is at last being found out; but because the italics are needed
somewhere, to drive home the peculiar dunderheadedness of it.  I think
perhaps, after all, plaster was coated over old timbering, not so much
for the preservation of it as because generations had been born who could
not endure the uneven lines of the old work.  The woodwork of those later
heirs of time was true to a hair’s breadth and planed down to an orderly
smoothness: not riven anyhow from the logs.  A conflict of ideals had
arisen, and the new era was ashamed of the handiwork of the old.

There have been times when architects were also ashamed of their
chimneys, and disguised them and hid them away, as though a chimney were
an unnatural thing for a house and to be abated and apologised for.  The
only time to apologise for a chimney is when it smokes inside the house
instead of out; and it is pleasant to see that whoever designed and built
the long and lofty range of chimneys that rises, almost like a series of
towers, from this roof ridge, had not the least idea of excusing them.

The hall of the Guild occupies almost half the length of the lower floor.
The remainder forms the almshouses formerly occupied by the poorer
brethren of the Guild and still housing the pensioners enjoying their
share of the Clopton benefactions.  They wear on the right arm a silver
badge displaying the Clopton cross, a cross heraldically described as a
“cross pattée fitchée at foot.”

The interior of the Guild Hall displays firstly that long ground-floor
hall in which the Guild members met and feasted or transacted business,
and where their morality plays and the entertainments given by their
successors, the earlier town councils, were acted.  Here such travelling
companies as those who called themselves “the Earl of Leicester’s
servants,” and other troupes of actors, occasionally performed.
Shakespeare as a boy must have seen them, and thus probably had his
attention first directed to the stage as a career.

From this long hall the room variously styled the “Armoury,” or the small
Council Chamber or “’Greeing Room,” is entered.  This Agreeing Room,
perhaps for the inner councils of the Guild, was re-panelled about 1619,
when the door leading from the hall was built; and as a sign of
rejoicing, the royal arms were painted over the fireplace at the time of
the Restoration of Charles the Second, in 1660.  Here also at one time
the arms of the town guard were kept.

The present School Library, overhead, occupies the room under the roof,
formerly the large Council Chamber of the Guild.  The heraldic white and
red roses painted on the west wall, the red countercharged with a white
centre and the white with red, were placed there in 1485, marking the
satisfaction of the townsfolk at the marriage of Henry the Seventh with
Elizabeth of York, and the union of the rival Houses of York and
Lancaster.

Out of this room opens the Latin Schoolroom of the Grammar School.  The
first portion of it was once separate, and known as the Mathematical
Room.  Here we are on the scene of Shakespeare’s schooldays, the
schoolroom where he learnt that “small Latin and less Greek,” with which
Ben Jonson credited him; a room still used in the education of Stratford
boys.  He pictured the schoolboy of his own and every other time in the
lines—

             “The whining schoolboy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
    Unwillingly to school.”

How unwillingly we do not fully comprehend until we look more closely
into the schooling of those days.  It was a twelve-hour day, begun
extremely early in the morning, and continued through the weary hours
with some exercise of the rod.

We know exactly who were the masters of the Grammar School in the years
1571 to 1580, when Shakespeare received his education here, in common
with the other children of the town.  They were Walter Roche, who was a
Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and afterwards rector of
Clifford Chambers; succeeded in 1572 by Thomas Hunt, afterwards
curate-in-charge at Luddington; and in 1577 by Thomas Jenkins, of St.
John’s College, Oxford.  These may have been pedants, but they were
scholars, and qualified to impart an excellent education.  They were in
fact men distinctly above the average of the schoolmasters of that age,
and live for all time in the characters of Holofernes in _Love’s Labour’s
Lost_ and Sir Hugh Evans in the _Merry Wives of Windsor_; the title
“Sir,” being one, not of knighthood, but of courtesy, given to a
clergyman.  Shakespeare’s allusions to schools, masters and scholars, and
his Latin conversations in the plays, modelled on the school methods then
in vogue, are much more numerous and illuminative than generally
supposed.  We find, indeed, an especially intimate touch with
Shakespeare’s schooldays in the description of Malvolio in _Twelfth
Night_ as “like a pedant that keeps school i’ the church”; a remark whose
significance is not evident until we read that during Shakespeare’s own
schooldays the buildings were extensively repaired and that for a time
the master and pupils were housed in the Guild Chapel.

           [Picture: The Schoolmaster’s House and Guild Chapel]

The Latin Schoolroom has an outside staircase built in recent years to
replace the original, abolished in 1841.  The half-timbered house
standing in the courtyard was formerly the schoolmaster’s residence; it
is now, with the need for accommodating the natural increase of scholars,
used for additional class-rooms.

Shakespeare, retiring early from his interests in London and the
playhouses, and coming home to Stratford a wealthy man, hoping to live
many years in the enjoyment of his fortune, settled in the old mansion he
had bought, adjoining the scene of his own schooldays.  He must have
looked with a kindly eye and with much satisfaction from the windows of
New Place, upon the schoolboys coming and going along the street, as he
himself had done.  Not every one can be so fortunate.  Perhaps the
reigning schoolmaster of the time even held up the shining example of Mr.
William Shakespeare, “who was a schoolboy here, like you, my boys,” to
his classes, and carefully omitting the factors of chance and
opportunity, promised them as great success if they did but mind their
books.  Perhaps, on the other hand—for these were already puritan
times—their distinguished neighbour was an awful example: author of those
shocking exhibitions called stage-plays, at this time forbidden in the
town, under penalties, and an actor, “such as those rogues whom we but
the other day sent packing from our streets.  Beware, my lads, lest you
become wealthy after the fashion of Mr. Shakespeare.  ‘What profiteth it
a man, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’”

    [Picture: The Headmaster’s Desk, Stratford-on-Avon Grammar School]

Shakespeare, although he had become a personage of great consideration,
with a fine residence, many times removed from his father’s humble house
in Henley Street, had not changed into a more salubrious neighbourhood.
The Stratford of his day and for long after was a dirty and insanitary
place, according to our notions, but the townsfolk did not seem to be
troubled by these conditions, and it never occurred to them that the
plagues and fevers that carried off many of their fellows to Heaven—or
whatever their destination—untimely were caused by the dirt and the vile
odours of the place.  Stratford of course, was not singular in this, and
had its counterpart in most other towns and villages of that age.  The
town council, however, drew the line at the burgesses keeping pigs in
part of the houses, or allowing them to wander in the streets; and
enacted a fine of fourpence for every strayed porker.  But the townsfolk
regarded the authority’s dislike of pigs as a curious eccentricity, and
the swine had their styes and roamed the streets exactly as before.  The
biggest of the six municipal muckhills that raised their majestic crests
in the streets all the year round was situated in Chapel Lane, opposite
Shakespeare’s door, but there is no record of his having objected to it.
It was this, however, and the deplorable condition of Chapel Lane in
general, then notoriously the dirtiest thoroughfare in the town, which
probably caused the poet’s death; for the opinion now generally held is
that he died of typhoid fever.

Down Chapel Lane then ran an open gutter: a wide and dirty ditch some
four or five feet across, choked with mud.  All the filth of this part of
the town ran into it and discharged into the river.

There is no pictorial record of New Place, as it was when Shakespeare
resided in it.  He was unfortunate in living long before the age of
picture-postcards, and never knew the joy of seeing illustrations of his
house, “New Place; residence of Mr. William Shakespeare” (with the
tell-tale legend “Printed in Germany.” in ruby type on the back), for
sale in all the shop windows.  Poor devil!

New Place passed by Shakespeare’s will to his daughter Susanna and her
husband Dr. Hall.  They removed from their house “Hall’s Croft,” Old
Stratford, shortly afterwards, Shakespeare’s widow probably living with
them until her death in 1623.  Dr. Hall died in 1635.  In 1643, Mrs. Hall
here entertained Queen Henrietta Maria for three weeks, at the beginning
of the royalist troubles, when the Queen came to the town with 5000 men.
In 1649 she died, two years after her son-in-law, Thomas Nash, whose
house is next door.  Somewhere about this time all the Shakespeare books
and manuscripts would seem to have disappeared.  The puritan Dr. Hall
disapproved of stage-plays, and his wife, Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna,
could neither write nor read; and thus the complete destruction of the
dramatist’s records is easily accounted for.

Nash’s widow, Shakespeare’s granddaughter, married again, a John Barnard
who was afterwards knighted.  Lady Barnard died childless at her
husband’s place at Abington, Northamptonshire, and was buried there,
leaving New Place to her husband, who died four years later, in 1674.  By
a strange chance, the house that had been sold out of the Clopton family
now came back to it by marriage, Sir Edward Walker who bought the
property in 1675, leaving Barbara, an only child, who married Sir John
Clopton.  His son, Sir Hugh, came into possession of an entirely
new-fronted house, for his father, careless of its associations, in 1703
had made great alterations here.  Illustrations of this frontage which
survived until 1759, show that it was not at all Shakespearean; being
instead most distinctly and flagrantly Queen Annean, in the semi-classic
taste of that day, with a pediment and other architectural details which
we are convinced Shakespeare’s New Place never included.

The ill-tempered Rev. Francis Gastrell who bought New Place in 1753
completed the obliteration of the illustrious owner’s residence.  There
cannot, happily, be many people so black-tempered as this wealthy
absentee vicar of Frodsham, in Cheshire, who, resident for the greater
part of the year in Lichfield, yet found Stratford desirable at some time
in the twelve months.  His acrid humours were early stirred.  He had no
sooner moved in than he found numbers of people coming every day to see
Shakespeare’s mulberry-tree in the garden, so he promptly had it cut
down, to save himself annoyance.  Then he objected to the house being
assessed for taxes all the year round, although he occupied it only a
month or two in the twelve; and when the authorities refused to accept
his view, he had the place entirely demolished.  Thus perished New Place.
The site of it, after passing through several hands, was finally
purchased, together with the adjoining Thomas Nash’s house, by public
subscription in 1861; and both are now the property of the Shakespeare
Birthplace Trust.

The site of New Place is open to the view of all who pass along Church
Street and Chapel Lane, a dwarf wall with ornamental railing alone
dividing it and its gardens from the pavement.  Sixpence, which is the
key that unlocks many doors in Shakespeare land, admits to the
foundations, all that remain of the house, and also to the “New Place
Museum,” in the house of Thomas Nash.  Strange to say, the Trustees do
not charge for admission to the gardens.  Is this an oversight, or a
kindly wish to leave the stranger an odd sixpence to get home with?
Nash’s house, odiously re-fronted about the beginning of the nineteenth
century, showed a stuccoed front with pillared portico to the street
until recently.  This year (1912) the alterations have been completed by
which the frontage is restored by the evidence of old prints to its
appearance in Nash’s time.  The interior remains as of old.  Among the
relics in the Museum are chairs, tables, a writing-desk, and other
articles rather doubtfully said to have belonged to Shakespeare; a
trinket-box supposed to have been Anne Hathaway’s, and an old
shuffle-board from the “Falcon” inn opposite, on which Shakespeare is
said to have played a game with friends at nights, when he felt bored at
home.  Unfortunately for tradition and the authenticity of this
“Shakespearean relic,” the “Falcon” was a private house in Shakespeare’s
lifetime, and for long after.  It is known to have become an inn only at
some time between 1645 and 1668.  The sign was chosen probably in
allusion to the Shakespeare crest.  Reproductions of portraits of
Shakespeare’s friends complete the collections in Nash’s House.



CHAPTER VIII


            The Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-on-Avon.

THE parish church of Stratford-on-Avon is a building larger, more lofty,
and far more stately than most towns of this size can boast.  There is
reason for this exceptional importance, first in the patronage of the
Bishops of Worcester, on whose manor it was situated, but chiefly in the
benefactions of John of Stratford, one of three remarkable persons born
here in the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries.  John, Robert, and Ralph,
who took their distinguishing name from the town of their birth, were all
of one family; the first two were brothers, the third was their nephew.
John, born in the closing years of the thirteenth century, became
successively Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury, and was,
like most of the great prelates of the age, a statesman as well, filling
the State offices of ambassador to foreign powers and Lord Chancellor of
the realm.  He died in 1348.  His brother Robert early became rector of
Stratford-on-Avon, in 1319.  He it was who first caused the town to be
paved; not, of course, with pavements that would meet the approval of a
modern town council or the inhabitants, but probably with something in
the nature of cobbles roughly laid down in the deep mud in which, up to
that time, the rude carts of the age had foundered.  It was this mud that
set a deep gulf between neighbours, and had led indirectly to the
establishment in 1296 of the original Guild Chapel, a small building
which stood on the site of the existing larger structure.  It was founded
by Robert, the father of John and Robert, largely for the spiritual
welfare of those old or infirm persons who were not able to attend
service at the parish church, by reason of the distance!  Not, we may be
sure, the distance of actual measurement, for the church is at the end of
the not very long street, and a leisurely walk brings you to it in two
minutes; but a distance of miles reckoned in the hindrances and
disabilities provided by the roads of that age.  Nothing in the story of
Stratford could more eloquently describe to us the condition of its
streets and the then remoteness of the Old Town district.

But to return to Robert of Stratford, who eventually became Bishop of
Chichester and died in 1362.  He it was who supervised his brother John’s
gifts to the church, which was then an incomplete building, languishing
for want of means to complete it.  Apparently it had long before been
decided to replace the small original Norman church with a larger and
much more ambitious building, in the Early English style, judging from
traces of both those architectural periods discernable in the tower; but
the Bishops of Worcester would not loosen their purse-strings
sufficiently, and awaited the coming of that benefactor who, they were
morally certain, was sure to appear sooner or later and compound with
Heaven for his evil courses on earth by completing it.  They did not,
however, reckon on any of their own cloth doing so, for sheer joy of the
work.

John of Stratford’s works included the widening of the north aisle and
the rebuilding of the south; the remodelling of the central tower and the
addition of a timber spire, which remained until the eighteenth century,
when it was replaced (1764) by the present loftier stone spire, which
rises eighty-three feet above the roof of the tower.  In 1332 he founded
the chantry chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr in the church.  There five
priests were appointed to sing masses “for ever,” for the good of the
souls of founder and friends.  John of Stratford was a great and wise
man, but he did not know that “where the tree falls, there shall it lie”;
nor could he foresee that his “for ever” would be commuted by the
Reformation into a period of two hundred years.

He endowed his chantry chapel with liberality; almost extravagance, and
even purchased the advowson of the church from the Bishop.  This
extremely liberal endowment was perhaps necessary, for he had considered
the eternal welfare of a good many people besides himself and his
relations, and included even the sovereigns of England, present and to
be, and all future Bishops of Worcester.  The priests, therefore, had
their hands full, and shouldered some heavy responsibilities; for—not to
go into individual cases, or specify some of the shocking examples—it
does not need much imagination to perceive that a tremendous deal of
intercession would be necessary for so unlimited a company as this.
Perhaps, in the circumstances, he could not possibly endow his chantry
too richly.

I do not know how his priests fared for lodgings.  He seems to have
omitted that important detail.  But his nephew Ralph supplied the
omission, and, in 1351, three years after his uncle’s death, built a
house for them adjoining the churchyard.  It was styled then and for
centuries afterwards “the College.”  Thus the church of Stratford-on-Avon
became more richly endowed than the usual parish church, and was known as
“collegiate.”

Many worthy folk followed the precedent set by the founder, and added to
the beauties of the church; chief among them Thomas Balsall, Warden of
the College in the second half of the fifteenth century, who built the
present choir or chancel between the years 1465–1490.  The last
beautifier and benefactor was Dean Balsall’s successor, Ralph
Collingwood.  His is the north porch of the church, and he undertook and
completed an important alteration in the nave; unroofing it, removing the
low Decorated clerestory, probably of circular windows, and taking down
the walls to the crown of the nave-arcades; then building upon them the
light and lofty clerestory we see at this day.  He added choir-boys to
the establishment, and further endowed the College, for their
maintenance.  These were the last works in the long history of the
church.  In 1547 the Reformation came and swept away John of Stratford’s
chantry and confiscated the endowments.  The priests were scattered, and
four years later their College was given by the king to John Dudley, the
newly-created Earl of Warwick and lord of the manor in succession to the
Bishops of Worcester.  The College reverted to the Crown, and in 1576 it
was let by Queen Elizabeth to one Richard Coningsby, who in turn let it
to John Combe.  It was a fine and picturesque residence, familiar enough
to Shakespeare, who was on intimate terms with Combe, and received from
him a bequest of £5 on his death in 1614.  It was demolished in 1799.

The church is approached through the churchyard by a fine avenue of
lime-trees leading up to the north porch, where a verger, or some such
creature, habited in a hermaphrodite kind of garment, which is neither
exactly clerical nor lay, waits for the visitor’s sixpences; for you may
not enter for nothing, unless perhaps at times of divine service, and
even then are allowed but grudgingly by these clerical entrepreneurs, who
suspect you have come not so much for worship as with the idea of
depriving them of a sixpence.  I think, however, you would find it
difficult to glimpse the chancel and the Shakespeare monument before the
intention would be suspected and the enterprising person successfully
headed off.

We will first encircle the exterior, where the many gravestones of
departed Stratford worthies lean at every imaginable angle, the oldest of
them, almost, or perhaps absolutely, contemporary with Shakespeare, grown
or growing undecipherable.  Some day Stratford will be sorry for
neglecting them and their possible interest in the comparative study of
Shakespeare and his fellow-townsmen.  But everything connected, either
intimately or remotely, with him has always been neglected until the
record has almost perished.  It is the singular fate of Shakespearean
associations.

The exterior of the fabric, it will soon be noticed, is greatly
weathered; more particularly the Perpendicular chancel, which must at no
distant date be restored.  It is surprising, and an excellent tribute to
the security of the foundations of this work, built on the banks of the
river over four hundred years ago, that its walls have not fallen
seriously out of plumb, like that of the north nave-arcade; especially
when the rather daring slightness of the design is considered, consisting
of vast mullioned and transomed windows with but little wall-space
between.  The gargoyles leering down from the dripstones are a weird
series of bat-winged creatures of nightmare-land.  On the south side,
however, is a very good Bear and Ragged Staff gargoyle, and next it,
going westward, a nondescript Falstaffian monster, his legs amputated by
time and weather.

The churchyard wall goes sheer down into the water of the Avon.  The elms
look down upon the stream, the rooks hold noisy parliaments in their
boughs, and the swans float stately by.

Entering by the roomy north porch, where the person with the bisexual
garments will take your sixpence and sell you picture-postcards, it is
noticed that the good Late Perpendicular stone panelling is obscured, and
the effect destroyed, by the extreme licence given in the placing of
monumental tablets on the walls; a practice, judging from the dates upon
them, still in existence.  It is quite clear from this that the building
might well be in better hands.

           [Picture: Ancient Knocker, Stratford-on-Avon Church]

A very fine brazen knocker with grotesque head holding the ring in its
mouth is a feature of the doorway.  Although affixed to late
fifteenth-century wood-work, the knocker would seem really to be nearly
two hundred years earlier.  It appears on picture-cards without number as
the “Sanctuary Knocker,” and metal reproductions of it are to be had in
the town; but there is nothing to show that this church was ever one of
those that owned the privilege of sanctuary.  In the inexact modern way,
every curious old knocker on church doors is “sanctuary”; but in reality
the ancient privilege was too valuable to be granted with the
indiscriminate freedom this would argue.

Immediately within the church is seen the old register-book in a glass
case, containing the entries recording the baptism and burial of
Shakespeare, with the broken bow of the old font at which he was
baptised.  Many years ago it was removed from the church, to make room
for a new, and lay neglected in a garden in the town.  It has been
re-lined with lead, and is used for baptisms, on request.

From the west end of the nave, where these relics are placed, the long
view eastward shows this to be a very striking example of those churches
whose chancels are not on the same axis with the rest of the building.
The chancel in this instance inclines very markedly to the north.  The
symbolism of this feature in ancient churches is still matter for
dispute; and it is really doubtful if it is symbolical and not the
product of inexact planning, or caused by some old local conditions of
the site which do not now appear; or whether it was thought to produce
some acoustical advantages.  It is thought that no example can be adduced
of an inclination southwards, and that, therefore, the feature is a
designed one.  The favourite interpretation is that it repeats the
inclination of the Saviour’s head upon the Cross.

Advancing up the nave, it will soon be noticed that the north nave-arcade
is greatly out of plumb, and leans outwards; a result, no doubt, of
Collingwood’s alterations and additions placing too heavy a weight upon
it.

At the east end of the north aisle is the former Lady Chapel, now and for
long past known as the Clopton Chapel, from the tombs of that family
placed there.  No structural difference, no variation in the plan of the
church, marks the chapel from the rest of the building, from which it is
screened very slightly by a low pierced railing on one side, and on the
south, looking into the nave, by the ornate stone screen erected by Sir
Hugh Clopton, the founder of the family chapel and architect of his own
fortunes.  It is a part of the tomb intended for himself, and there can
be no doubt but that he saw it rising to completion with the satisfaction
of a man assured of being not only wealthy, but hoping to live in fame as
the benefactor of his native town, for which he did so much.

The screen is crested with elaborate pierced conventional Tudor foliage,
and fronted with his arms, and with those of the City of London, the
Grocers’ Company, and the Merchants of the Staple.  The brass inscribed
plates have long since been torn away, and the tomb is entirely without
inscription or effigy; as perhaps it is well it should be, for, in spite
of all these elaborate preparations, and although directing that he
should lie here, Sir Hugh Clopton was, after all, buried in the City of
London, where he had made his fortune, and of which he was Lord Mayor in
1492, and in which he died in 1496.  The church of St. Margaret,
Lothbury, where he was buried, perished in the Great Fire of London, one
hundred and seventy years later.

Sir Hugh Clopton died a bachelor, and the other tombs are those of his
brother’s descendants.  That of William Clopton, who died in 1592 and is
described simply as “Esquire,” stands against the north wall of the
Chapel.  He was great-nephew of Sir Hugh.  He is represented in armour,
and his wife, who followed him four years later, lies beside him in
effigy, both figures with prayerfully raised hands.  Above them, on the
wall, quite by themselves, are represented the interesting family of this
worthy pair, seven in all, sculptured and painted in miniature, in the
likeness of so many big-headed Dutch dolls, with the name of each duly
inscribed; Elizabeth, Lodowicke, Joyce, Margaret, William, Anne, and
again William, the first of that name having died an infant, as did also
Elizabeth and Lodowicke.  These three are represented as little
mummy-like creatures, swathed tightly in linen folds.

But the most gorgeous of all the Clopton tombs is the next in order of
date.  This is the lofty and extremely elaborate and costly monument of
George Carew, Earl of Totnes and Baron Clopton, who married Joyce, eldest
daughter of the already mentioned William Clopton.  He died in 1629, and
his wife in 1636.  This costly memorial, together with that to her father
and mother, was her handiwork, and she seems to have completely enjoyed
herself in the progress of the commission.  The Countess of Totnes and
her husband are represented in full-length, recumbent effigies,
sculptured in alabaster.  The Earl is shown in armour and his wife is
seen habited in a white fur robe, coloured red outside.  A deep ruff is
round her neck, and she wears a coronet.  The Earl of Totnes was Master
of the Ordnance to James the First; hence the symbolical sculptured
implements of war in front of the monument; including two cannon, two
kegs of powder and a pile of shot; one mortar, a gun, some halberds and a
flag.

A later inscription records that Sir John Clopton caused these tombs to
be repaired and beautified in 1714.  In 1719 he died, aged 80; and in
course of time his own tomb became a candidate for repair.  No Cloptons
then survived to perform that pious office, which was observed by Sir
Arthur Hodgson, the owner of Clopton House, in 1892.

The monument of Sir Edward Walker, who died in 1676, is the memorial of a
man who held some important positions.  He was Charles the First’s
Secretary of War, and afterwards Garter King-of-Arms and military editor
of Clarendon’s _History of the Rebellion_.  He has some interest for the
students of Shakespeare’s life, for it was he who bought New Place in
1675.

There are some smaller tablets on the walls, including one with a little
effigy of a certain Amy Smith, who was for forty years
“waiting-gentlewoman” to the Countess of Totnes.  She is seen devoutly
kneeling at a _prie-Dieu_ chair.



CHAPTER IX


The Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-on-Avon (_continued_)—The
Shakespeare grave and monument.

WE now pass beneath the arches of the central tower, under the organ and
past the transepts, into the chancel.  The chief interest is, quite
frankly, the Shakespeare monument and the graves of his family; although
even were it not for them, the building itself and the curious carvings
of the miserere seats would attract many a visitor.

It is with feelings of something at last accomplished, some necessary
pilgrimage made, that the cultured traveller stands before the monument
on the north wall and looks upon it and on the row of ledger-stones on
the floor.  But the sentiments of Baconian mono-maniacs are not at all
reverent and respectful.  They come also, but with hostile criticism.  I
think they would like to tear down that monument, and I am quite sure
they would desire nothing better than permission to open that grave and
howk up whatever they found there.  For to them Shakespeare is “the
illiterate clown of Stratford”; a very disreputable person; an impostor
who could neither write nor act, and yet assumed the authorship of works
by the greatest genius of the age, Francis Bacon.  Twenty-four years ago
in his Great Cryptogram, Ignatius Donnelly exposed the fraud and unmasked
Shakespeare.  Some one at that time referred in conversation with one of
Mr. Donnelly’s ingenious countrymen to “Shakespeare’s Bust.”  “Yes, he
is,” rejoined that free and enlightened citizen: “he is bust and you
won’t mend him again.”

He referred to the alleged cryptogram said to be by Bacon, and purporting
to be discovered in the First Folio edition of the play, _Henry the
Fourth_.  It is amusing reading, this deciphered cipher, and if we were
to believe it and Bacon to be its author, we should have no need to
revise the old estimate of Bacon, “The wisest, wittiest, meanest of
mankind.”  We should, however, find it necessary to emphasise “meanest,”
because he is made to reveal himself as one who wrote treasonable plays,
and, being afraid to admit their authorship, bribed Shakespeare in a
heavy sum to take the risk and retire out of danger to Stratford-on-Avon.
It is not a convincing tale; but it is printed with much elaboration; and
Bacon is made to show an astonishingly intimate knowledge of
Shakespeare’s family and affairs.  He uses very ungentlemanly, not to say
unphilosophical, language, and leaves Shakespeare without a shred of
character.  He shows how suddenly this misbegotten rogue, this whoreson
knave, this gorbellied rascal with the wagging paunch and the many
loathsome diseases which have made him old before his time leaves London,
where he is in the midst of his fame as a dramatist, and retires to live
upon his ill-gotten wealth as a country gentleman in his native town of
Stratford-on-Avon.  He was never an actor, and only succeeded in one
part, that of Falstaff, for which he was peculiarly suited because of his
great greasy stomach, at which, and not at the excellence of his acting,
people came to laugh.  Thus says Bacon; always according to Mr. Ignatius
Donnelly, in the bi-literal cipher he persuaded himself he found.  Here
we see Bacon the philosopher, in very angry, unphilosophic mood, as
abusive as any fish-fag or Sally Slapcabbage.

                    [Picture: Shakespeare’s Monument]

And then this cuckoo, this strutting jay, who sets up to be a gentleman
with a brand-new coat of arms presently dies, untimely, at fifty-two
years of age, just like your Shakespeares!  He must have had some good
reason of his own for it; probably the better to do Bacon out of his due
fame with posterity.  But Bacon was not to be outwitted.  He heard early
in 1616 that Shakespeare was in failing health, and sent down on that
three days’ journey from London to Stratford-on-Avon two of Shakespeare’s
friends, Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson, who were in the secret of the
authorship.  They were instructed to see that if Shakespeare really
insisted upon dying, the secret should not be divulged at the time.  And
Shakespeare, like the ungrateful wretch he was, did die.  The diary of
the Rev. John Ward, vicar of Stratford-on-Avon, contains an entry in
1662, referring reminiscently to Shakespeare’s last days—

    “Shakespeare, Drayton and Ben Jonson had a merrie meeting, and it
    seems, drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a feavour there
    contracted.”

Donnelly suggests that Drayton and Jonson in Bacon’s interest duly saw
Shakespeare buried, and so deeply that it would be for ever unlikely he
should be exhumed, and Bacon’s secret revealed.  He founds this upon a
letter discovered in 1884 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, written in
1694 by one William Hall, of Queen’s College, to a friend, Edward
Thwaites; in which, in the course of describing a visit to
Stratford-on-Avon, he states that Shakespeare was buried “full seventeen
feet deep—deep enough to secure him!”  This recalls at once the reply of
one of Mr. Donnelly’s irreverent countrymen before the tomb of Nelson in
St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The verger had pointed out that the Admiral’s body
was enclosed in a leaden coffin and a wooden outer covering, and then
placed in a marble sarcophagus weighing 90 tons.  “I guess you’ve got
him!” exclaimed the contemplative stranger; “if ever he gets out of that,
cable me, at my expense!”  No doubt Ben Jonson and Drayton guessed they
had got Shakespeare safe enough, but to make doubly sure (says Donnelly)
they invented and had engraved the famous verse which appears on the
gravestone, involving blessings upon the man who “spares these stones”
and curses upon he who moves the poet’s bones.  The world has always
thought Shakespeare himself was the author of these lines.  The reason
for them is found in the horror felt by Shakespeare—and reflected in
_Hamlet_—at the disturbance of the remains of the dead.  In his time it
was the custom to rifle the older graves, in order to provide room for
fresh burials, and then to throw the bones from them into the vaulted
charnel-house beneath the chancel.  This revolting irreverence, which, as
a long-established custom at that time, seemed a natural enough thing to
the average person, was horrific to one of Shakespeare’s exceptional
sensibilities; and he adopted not only this deep burial but also the
curse upon the sacrilegious hand that should dare disturb his rest.
There is not the least room for objection to this story; but the
Baconians know better.  “_There must have been some reason_,” objects
Donnelly, in italics.  There was; the reason already shown.  But in
dealing with a fellow like Shakespeare you—if you are a Baconian—have to
go behind the obvious and the palpable and seek the absurd and
improbable.  It does not appear what Shakespeare’s widow, his daughters,
his sons-in-law and his executors were doing while Drayton and Ben Jonson
were thus having their own Baconian way with Shakespeare’s body.  They,
according to this theory, simply looked on; which we might think an
absurd thing to suppose, except that nothing is too absurd for a
Baconian, as we shall now see.

              [Picture: Inscription on Shakespeare’s Grave]

Not only did Drayton and Jonson invent and get these verses engraved,
they also—more amazing still—inserted Bacon’s bi-literal cipher into
them.  Now it is to be remarked here that the deeply-engraven lines upon
which so many thousands of pilgrims gaze reverently are not, in their
present form, so old as they appear to be, but were recut, and the
lettering greatly modified, about 1831.  Not one person in ten thousand
of those who come to this spot is aware of the fact, and no illustration
of the original lettering exists; but George Steevens, the Shakespearean
scholar, wrote of it, about 1770, as an “uncouth mixture of small and
capital letters.”  He transcribed it, and so also in their turn did
Knight and Malone.  Some slight discrepancies exist between these
transcriptions, in the exact dispositions of the letters, but the actual
inscription appears to have been as under—

    “Good Frend for Iesvs SAKE forbeare
    To diGG T-E Dvst Enclo-Ased HE.Re.
    Bleste be T-E Man Yt spares T-Es Stones
    And cvrst be He Yt moves my bones.”

The hyphens between the words “the” and “thes” represent the old-time
habit of engraving some of the letters conjoined, as seen repeated in the
existing inscription illustrated here, in which the word “bleste” forms a
prominent example.  In that word the letters “ste” are in like manner
conjoined, leading very many of the not fully-informed among the copyists
of inscriptions to read it “blese.”

Halliwell-Phillipps, the foremost Shakespearean authority of his age
(whom his arch-enemy, the emphatic F. J. Furnivall delighted, by the way,
to style “Hell-P”) thus refers to the re-cut inscription in his _Outlines
of the Life of Shakespeare_, 1881—

    “The honours of repose, which have thus far been conceded to the
    poet’s remains, have not been extended to the tombstone.  The latter
    had by the middle of the last century (_i.e._ about 1750) sunk below
    the level of the floor, and about fifty years ago (_c._ 1831) had
    become so much decayed as to suggest a vandalic order for its
    removal, and in its stead _to place a new slab_, one which marks
    certainly the locality of Shakespeare’s grave, and continues the
    record of the farewell lines, but indicates nothing more.  The
    original memorial has wandered from its allotted station no man can
    tell whither—a sacrifice to the insane worship of prosaic neatness,
    that mischievous demon whose votaries have practically destroyed so
    many of the priceless relics of ancient England and her gifted sons.”

The cipher which Donnelly, the resourceful sleuthhound, pretends he has
found in the older inscription, is destroyed by the re-arrangement in the
new.  It was not, he says, the sheer illiteracy of the local mason who
cut the original letters that accounts for the eccentric appearance of
capitals where they have no business to be; for the hyphen which so oddly
divides the word “Enclo-Ased”; for the full-stops in “HE.Re.” or for the
curious choice that writes “Iesvs” in small letters and “SAKE” in large
capitals.  No; it was the necessities of the cipher which accounted for
this weird “derangement of epitaphs”; and Donnelly proceeds to emulate
the conjurer who produces unexpected things from empty hats, and he
finally arrives at this startling revelation—

    “Francis Bacon wrote the Greene, Marlowe, and Shakespeare plays.”

As Mark Twain—another Baconian—says, “Bacon was a born worker.”  Yes,
indeed; but he understates it, if we were to believe this revelation.  To
have done all this he would need to have been a syndicate.



CHAPTER X


The Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-on-Avon (_concluded_)—The
Shakespeare grave and monument—The Miserere Seats.

THE Baconians are so extravagant that it becomes scarce worth while to
refute their wild statements; but when they are carried to these
extremities we may well note them, for the enjoyment of a laugh.  But
perhaps Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence gives us the better entertainment when
he tells us that Bacon wrote the preface to the Authorised Version of the
Bible, and was in fact the literary editor of that translation and
responsible for its style!

 [Picture: The Chancel, Holy Trinity Church, with Shakespeare’s Monument]

With an ineffable serenity the portrait-figure of Shakespeare (generally
called a “bust,” but it is a half-length) in the monument looks down from
the north wall of the spacious chancel upon the graves of himself and his
family.  The monument itself is thoroughly characteristic of the
Renascence taste of the period: in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft,
in the city of London, you may see a not dissimilar example to John Stow,
the historian, who died eleven years before Shakespeare.  He also, like
Shakespeare’s effigy, holds a quill pen in his hand.  The accompanying
illustration renders description scarce necessary, and it is only to the
portrait that we need especially direct attention.  In common with
everything relating to Shakespeare, it has been the subject of great
controversy: not altogether warranted, for it is certain that it was
executed before 1623, seven years after the poet’s death, when his widow,
daughters and sons-in-law were yet living, and it seems beyond all
reasonable argument to deny that a monument erected under their
supervision should, and does, in fact, present as good a likeness of him
as they could procure.  The effigy was sculptured by one Gerard Johnson
(or Janssen), son of a Dutch craftsman in this mortuary art, whose
workshop being in Southwark near the “Globe” theatre, must have rendered
Shakespeare’s personal appearance familiar to him, while the features are
considered to be copied from a death-mask which was probably taken by Dr.
John Hall, husband of Shakespeare’s elder daughter, Susanna.

The inscription runs—

    “Ivdicio Pylivm, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
       Terra tegit, popvlvs mæret, Olympus habet.”

which is translated thus—

    “He was in judgment a Nestor, in genius a Socrates, and in art a
    Virgil; the earth covers, the people mourn, and heaven holds him.”

There then follow the English lines—

    “Stay, Passenger, why goest thov by so fast?
    Read if thov canst, when enviovs Death hath plast
    Within this monvment, Shakespeare, with whome
    Qvick Natvre dide; whose name doth deck ye Tombe
    Far more then coste, sith all yt He hath writt
    Leaves living art but page to serve his witt,

                                                      “Obiit ano doi 1616,
                                                    Ætatis 53, Die 23 Ap.”

The author of Shakespeare’s epitaph is unknown.  It would seem to have
been some one who had not seen the monument, and knew nothing of its
character; for he imagines his lines are to be inscribed upon a tomb
within which the poet’s body is placed.  But however little he knew of
Shakespeare’s monument, he knew the worth of his plays and poems:
“Shakespeare, with whom quick nature died.”  It is the very summary, the
quintessence, of Shakespearean appreciation.

Like everything else associated with Shakespeare, the monument has had
its vicissitudes.  The effigy, originally painted to resemble life,
showed the poet to have had auburn hair and light hazel eyes.  In 1748 a
well-meaning Mr. John Ward repaired the monument and retouched the effigy
with colour, and in 1793 Malone persuaded the vicar to have it painted
white; an outrage satirised by the lines written in the church
visitors’-book in 1810—

    “Stranger, to whom this Monument is shewn,
    Invoke the Poet’s curse upon Malone
    Whose meddling zeal his barbarous taste betrays,
    And smears his tombstone as he marr’d his plays.”

It was not until 1861 that the white paint was scraped off and the
original colour restored, by the light of what traces remained.

Opinions have greatly varied as to the merits of the portrait, and many
observers have been disappointed with it.  Dr. Ingleby, for one, was
distressed by its “painful stare, with goggle eyes and gaping mouth.”
But the measure of this disappointment is exactly in proportion to the
perhaps exaggerated expectations held.  We must bear in mind that the
sculptor worked from a death-mask, and that the expression was thus a
conventional restoration.

Mark Twain, who, like the egregious Ignatius Donnelly, did not believe
that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, founded a good deal of his disbelief
on the unvexed serenity of this monumental bust.  It troubled him greatly
that it should be there, so serene and emotionless.  “The bust, too,
there in the Stratford church.  The precious bust, the priceless bust,
the calm bust with the dandy moustache and the putty face, unseamed of
care—that face which has looked passionlessly down upon the awed pilgrim
for a hundred and fifty years, and will still down look upon the awed
pilgrim three hundred more, with the deep, deep, deep, subtle, subtle,
subtle expression of a bladder.”  What, then, did he expect?  A tragic
mask, a laughing face of comedy?  But Mark Twain hardly counts as a
Shakespeare critic.

It is forgotten by most people that the painting and scraping have
wrought some changes, not for the better, in the expression of the face,
tending towards making it what Halliwell-Phillipps too extravagantly
calls a “miserable travesty of an intellectual human being.”  However
lifeless the expression, we see the features are those of a man of
affairs.  They are good and in no way abnormal.  The brow is broad and
lofty; the jaw and chin, while not massive, perhaps more than a thought
heavier than usual.  This was a man, one thinks, who would have succeeded
in whatever walk of life he chose, and that is exactly the impression
derived from the known facts and the traditions of Shakespeare’s life.

There have been numerous arguments in recent times in favour of digging
that dust which the poet’s curse has thus far kept inviolate, but the
courage has been lacking to it; whether in view of the curse or in fear
of public opinion seems to be uncertain.

The late J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps wrote, about 1885: “It is not many
years since a phalanx of trouble-tombs, lanterns and spades in hand,
assembled in the chancel at dead of night, intent on disobeying the
solemn injunction that the bones of Shakespeare were not to be disturbed.
But the supplicatory lines prevailed.  There were some amongst the number
who, at the last moment, refused to incur the warning condemnation and so
the design was happily abandoned.”

Nor would it appear that the graves of his family have been disturbed.
They lie in a row, with his own, before the altar, a position they occupy
by right of Shakespeare having purchased the rectorial tithes, and thus
becoming that curious anomaly, a “lay rector.”  It matters little or
nothing where one’s bones are laid, but the doing this, and thus
acquiring the right of sepulture in the most honoured place in the
church, seems to imply that Shakespeare expected to found a family, and
to see that his name was honoured to future generations in his native
town.

We are not to suppose that the clergy of that time welcomed Shakespeare’s
burial in this honoured place, but they could not help themselves.  He
had acquired the right, and although he had lived well into a time when
puritanism had banished plays and players from Stratford, and although as
a playwright he must have been regarded by many as a lost soul—unless,
indeed, he became a converted man in his last year or so—his rights had
to be observed.

Immediately next the wall is the flat stone that marks the grave of Anne
Shakespeare, who survived her husband, and died August 6th, 1623, aged
sixty-seven.  An eight-line Latin verse, probably by her son-in-law, Dr.
John Hall, and couched in the most affectionate terms, is inscribed upon
a small brass plate; it is thus rendered—

    “Milk, life thou gavest.  For a boon so great,
    Mother, alas! I give thee but a stone;
    O! might some angel blest remove its weight,
    Thy form should issue like thy Saviour’s own.
    But vain my prayers; O Christ, come quickly, come!
    And thou, my Mother, shalt from hence arise,
    Though closed as yet within this narrow tomb,
    To meet thy Saviour in the starry skies.”

Next in order comes the slab covering the grave of Shakespeare himself,
and following it that of Thomas Nash, husband of Elizabeth Hall,
grand-daughter of the poet.  He died in 1647, aged fifty-three, and is
honoured in a four-line Latin verse.  Fourthly comes the grave of Dr.
Hall, who died in 1635, aged sixty, with a six-line Latin verse, and next
is that of Susanna, Shakespeare’s elder daughter, wife of Dr. Hall.  She
died in 1649, aged sixty-six, and has this poetic appreciation for
epitaph—

    “Witty above her sexe, but that’s not all,
    Wise to Salvation was good Mistris Hall,
    Something of Shakespeare was in that, but this
    Wholy of him with whom she’s now in blisse,
    Then, Passenger, ha’st ne’re a teare
       To weepe with her that wept with all?
    That wept, yet set herselfe to chere
       Them up with comforts cordiall.
    Her Love shall live, her mercy spread,
    When thou hast ne’re a teare to shed.”

This touching tribute was nearly lost in the gross outrage perpetrated in
or about 1707, when it was erased for the purpose of providing room for
an inscription to one Richard Watts.  Happily Dugdale, in his monumental
history of Warwickshire, had recorded it, and it was re-cut from that
evidence in 1836.

It is gratifying to note that no monuments to self-advertising members of
the theatrical profession, or others keen to obtain a reflected glory
from association with Shakespeare, have been allowed here, although we
have to thank an aroused public opinion, and not the clergy, the natural
guardians of the spot, for that.  It was proposed, a few years ago, to
place a memorial to that entirely blameless actress, well versed in
Shakespearean parts, Helen Faucit, Lady Martin, on the wall opposite
Shakespeare’s monument, and it was nearly accomplished.  The clergy
blessed the project, the public were allowed to hear little or nothing
about it, and the thing would have been done, except for protests raised
at the eleventh hour.  The monument eventually found its way to the
Shakespeare Memorial, where it may now be found, but those responsible
for the proposal were not wholly to be baulked, and the evidence of their
persistence is to be seen in the nave, where a very elaborate dark-green
marble pulpit, in memory of Helen Faucit, and given by her husband, Sir
Theodore Martin, attracts attention.

There has been a good deal of praise and admiration of the modern stained
glass in the noble windows of the chancel and the windows of the church
in general, including those given by American admirers of Shakespeare,
but the truth is that there is no stained glass in Stratford church above
the commercial level of the ordinary ecclesiastical furnisher, and the
sooner the fact is recognised, the better for all concerned.  The
guidebooks will tell you nothing of this, but we have to see things for
ourselves, and use our own judgment.

The tomb of the rebuilder of the chancel, Thomas Balsall, is little
noticed.  It is seen under the east window, on the north side, and is a
greatly mutilated, but still beautiful, altar-tomb.  Above it, on the
wall, is the monument with fine portrait-busts of Richard Combe and his
intended wife, Judith, who died 1649.  The altar-tomb, with effigy, of
John Combe, 1614, of the College, and of Welcombe, a friend of
Shakespeare, is against the east wall.  Combe was a man of wealth, who
did not disdain the part of money-lender.  He had the reputation of an
usurer, although ten per cent. was his moderate rate, and, according to
the tradition, hearing it said that Shakespeare had an epitaph waiting
for him, begged to hear it.  This, then, was what he heard—

    “Ten in a hundred lies here engraved,
    ’Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not saved.
    If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb?
    Ho! ho! says the Devil, ’tis my John-a-Combe.”

It is an idle story, and the verse is adapted from an epigram in the
jest-books of the age.

A prominent feature of a collegiate church was the stalls, with their
miserere seats, for the priests, and we have here stalls for twenty-six,
still retaining their beautifully carved seats, little injured by time or
violence.  We do, in fact, frequently find the miserere carvings
uninjured in cathedrals, abbeys and collegiate churches; largely because
they are always on the underside of the seats and thus apt to be
overlooked.  Those at Stratford are well up to the general level of
interest and amusement.

Amusement?  Yes.  The very broadest fun, sometimes particularly coarse,
lurks in these often unsuspected places; and the greatest artistry of the
wood-carver too, who will turn at random from the loving rendering of
flower or foliage, to sacred symbols; then to the representation of birds
and beasts and extraordinary chimeras that never existed outside the
frontiers of Nightmare Land; and to queer domestic or social scenes.
Here we find prime examples of such things.  Under one seat a Crown of
Thorns and the I.H.S. occur, on either side of a scene showing a man and
wife fighting.  He has a long beard which she is pulling with one hand,
while with the other she bastes him with a ladle.  She employs her feet,
too, in kicking him.

Under the next seat we see this domestic strife resumed, but it is shown
in two scenes, over which a central woman-headed beast presides.  Here
the termagant pulls her husband’s beard and tears his mouth open, while
he retaliates by pulling her hair.  The other scene represents the taming
of the shrew.  A naked woman is being thrashed by a man, and a dog
completes the retribution by biting her leg.

Among the other carvings we note the favourite Bear and Ragged Staff of
this district; a beggar’s monkey, with chained tin pot, or
drinking-vessel, and a variety of minor subjects.  Among the most
interesting is that example illustrated here.

        [Picture: A Stratford Miserere: The Legend of the Unicorn]

The subject is that of the once-popular legend of the unicorn, which was,
according to mediæval story, an animal of the fiercest and most untamable
kind, and only to be captured in one way.  This way was to find a virgin,
at once of great beauty and unquestioned virtue, and to conduct her to
the unicorn’s haunts in the greenwood.  Immediately the animal, tame only
in the presence of a pure virgin, would come and lay its head gently and
fearlessly in her lap; whereupon the hunter would steal forth and slay
the confiding beast.

It is to be remarked here that the person who could invent such a story,
whatever else he was, and however fearless his imagination, was, clearly
enough, no sportsman.  It is quite easy to imagine such an one shooting a
sitting pheasant, or poisoning a fox.

Here, in the illustration, we perceive the maiden, not so beautiful as
the carver intended her to be, caressing the confiding unicorn and
apparently scratching him behind the ear, while an unsportsmanlike person
digs him in the rump at leisure, with a spear-headed weapon.



CHAPTER XI


                  Shottery and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

THE hamlet of Shottery, now growing a considerable village, is but one
mile from the centre of Stratford.  You come to it most easily by way of
Rother Street, and at the end of that thoroughfare will observe a
signpost marked “Footpath to Shottery.”  The spot is not inspiring, and
one could well wish Shottery, the home of Anne Hathaway and the scene of
Shakespeare’s wooing, had not been so near the town.  Stratford is a
pleasant place, and as little bedevilled with modern unhistorical suburbs
as any town of its size; but there is a red rash of new and quite
typically suburban villas on these outskirts.  I feel quite sure the
sanitation is perfect and that there are baths and hot and cold water
laid on to every one of these “desirable residences”; and no one would
breathe upon the obvious respectability of the people who live in them.
Respectable?  Most certainly; why, by the evidence of one’s ears in
passing, every house appears to have a piano; and the possession of one
would seem in these times to be by far a better-accepted criterion of
respectability than the ownership of a gig; which Carlyle in his day
noted as the ideal.  Now, it is quite certain that none of the houses
Shakespeare ever dwelt in had any sanitation at all; if he ever took a
bath, he was as exceptional in that matter as in most other things, and
quite unlike his generation.  New Place had neither hot nor cold water
laid on, and never had a piano.  Judged by modern standards Shakespeare
could scarcely have been respectable: his era did not even know the word
in its present meaning, which is a terrible thought; let us pause to
contemplate the deficiencies of our ancestors.

Well, we will not, at any rate, stay to look longer at these
developments, but, like that rogue, Autolycus, “jog on the footpath way,”
a little disillusioned perhaps, because it presently leads to a level
railway-crossing which was not here when Shakespeare went across the
fields in the summer evenings to see Anne Hathaway.  Thence coming upon
allotment gardens, where we more or less “merrily hent the stile-a,” we
arrive at Shottery by way of some tapestry works and a book-bindery.

Shottery, it is at once seen, has been spoiled, utterly and irredeemably,
unless the recent doings are levelled with the ground and wholly
abolished—which we need not expect to be done.  Deplorable activity has
lately been manifested here, in the building of rows of small, cheap
cottages.  The bloom has been rudely rubbed off the peach, and the
idyllic place which the hero-worshipper fondly expected has ceased to be.
Yet parts of it are good.  You may turn your back upon these things and
see a very charming double row of old cottages, the Post Office among
them, as ancient and rustic and half-timbered as the rest, with a very
noble group of trees for background, and by way of foreground a red brick
and timber barn belonging to Shottery manor-house, whose old stone
dovecote stands yet in the garden.  I have sketched these old cottages,
in an attempt to show you how charming the scene really is.

                           [Picture: Shottery]

It has been suggested that the roomy loft beneath the roof of the
manor-house was used as a secret Roman Catholic place of worship when
that religion was proscribed, and that the mystery of Shakespeare’s
marriage is to be explained by the ceremony having taken place here.
But, ingenious although the suggestion may be, it has no shred of
evidence to support it, nor would it appear from anything we know of
Shakespeare’s religious beliefs, that he was a Roman Catholic at all,
much less a fanatical one, as such a proceeding would argue.

Anne Hathaway’s cottage should certainly stand in this, the better part
of the village, but it is situated at the extreme further end; and the
hapless artist who seeks to sketch the scene already described will find
himself acting as a kind of honorary signpost to it.  The tragedy of his
fate is that the best point of view happens to be from the middle of the
road, and that the interruptions from motor-cars, largely carrying
Americans, who invariably ask, “Saay, is this the waay to Anne
Hathawaay’s cottuj?” are incessant.

The famous cottage, which is really more than a cottage and part of a
farmhouse, comes into view as you round a corner and cross a small brick
bridge over Shottery Brook.  The bridge is so overhung and shut in by
trees that you scarcely notice it to be a bridge at all; but if these be
early summer days and the season not exceptionally dry, the brook can be
heard hoarsely plunging beneath, over a quite respectably large weir.
When Mistress Anne Hathaway lived at the farmhouse now called her
cottage—which is an entirely wrong use of the possessive case, for it
never belonged to her—Shottery Brook was to be crossed only by a
watersplash for vehicles, and a plank footbridge for pedestrians; but
progress and the prosperity of the county funds have changed all that.  I
wish they had not: it would be all the better if one came to the place
just in the way Shakespeare used.

The rustic cottage, still heavily thatched, comes before one’s gaze with
that complete familiarity which is the result of numberless
illustrations.  It stands at right-angles to the road, with a large
garden in front of it.  I would be enthusiastic about that garden if I
honestly might, but truth forbids me to compete with the exaggerated
praise of it commonly lavished by writers upon this scene.  It is just a
pleasant rustic garden, partly used for growing beans, cabbages, potatoes
and the usual cottager’s produce; with the customary borders and beds of
old-fashioned flowers.  A stone-paved path leads up to the door.
Hundreds of such gardens beautify the old cottages of the Warwickshire
villages and hamlets; and many of them, I declare it, are very much
better.  The house itself is built in the customary local manner, on a
rough blue lias foundation, with thick walls partly of the same material,
here and there varied by red brick, and framed with ancient timbering.
Latticed windows light the various rooms.  It is a building of rather
late in the fifteenth century, and appears to have been first tenanted by
the Hathaways in 1556, when one John of that name, described as an
archer, was living here.  “Hewlands” was then the name of the farm.  The
Hathaway family did not actually possess it until 1610, when Bartholomew,
Anne’s eldest brother, purchased the property.

Anne Hathaway was the eldest of the three daughters of Richard, who died
in June 1582.  His four sons, Bartholomew, Thomas, John, and William,
were provided for, and the daughters were left £6 13_s._ 4_d._ each.
Anne, or “Agnes,” as she is described in the will, the names being in
those times interchangeable, was to receive hers on the day of her
marriage; her sister Catherine on the like occasion; and Margaret was to
receive her share at the age of seventeen.  Anne was married in a hurry
to William Shakespeare at the close of November in the same year.  The
Shakespearean connection with the cottage at Shottery is thus not
altogether so intimate or so continuous as would at first be supposed.

                    [Picture: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage]

The Hathaways would appear to have executed numerous repairs to the
farmhouse which Bartholomew had acquired, and to this day we may see a
stone tablet let into one of the chimneys, bearing the initials “I H”
(for John Hathaway) and the date 1697; while the same initials and date,
together with those of “E H” which doubtless stand for Elizabeth
Hathaway, his wife, occur on the bacon-cupboard in the ingle-nook of the
living-room.  The last of the Hathaways was another John, who died in
1746, but the house remained in the hands of descendants until 1838.  At
last it came into possession of one Alderman Thompson, of
Stratford-on-Avon, who in 1892 sold it to the Trustees of Shakespeare’s
Birthplace, for £3000.  The furniture was bought for a further £500.  The
Alderman is said to have made a very good thing out of it, but he would
probably have done still better if he had waited a few years longer.  The
average number of visitors, who pay sixpence each to view the cottage, is
40,000 a year.  The simplest calculation shows that to mean an income of
£1000, and the upkeep cannot be very expensive.  But the heavy thatch
will soon again have to be renewed.  The plentiful lack of understanding
among many of the visitors is such that they frequently appear to think
the thatch as old as Shakespeare’s day.  It must, of course, have been
many times re-covered, and at the present time it is again in a
dilapidated condition, sodden through with the weather of many years, and
precariously held together by wire netting stretched over it.  A very
garden of weeds grows there: shepherds’ purse, groundsel, candy-tuft and
dandelion; and poppies wave their red banners on the roof-ridge.

There are twelve rooms in the house, and of these seven are shown.  The
showing is a very business-like proceeding nowadays.  At the garden gate
you read the strict rules of the Trust, and then, having paid your
sixpence, receive a printed and numbered ticket.  A party of four hundred
and fifty persons from Sheffield was expected on the last occasion the
present writer visited the place, and exactly how much mental sustenance
or what clear impression that half-battalion of excursionists could have
received, it would be difficult to say.  “We have to put ’em through
quick,” said one in charge.  Obviously it must needs be so, else how
would all see the house before day was done?

Entering by a low-browed doorway, a stone-paved passage opens into rooms
right and left.  On the left, down two steps, is the living-room, also,
like all these ground-floor rooms, stone-floored.  Overhead are old oaken
beams and joists, and the rough walls are partly panelled.  There are
pictures without number of this old-world interior, the most
characteristic of them that showing Mrs. Baker, who for many years
received visitors, sitting by the fireside, in company with her old
family Bible, in which the births, marriages and deaths of many Hathaways
are recorded.  She proved her descent from them by way of a niece of Anne
Hathaway; whom, it is rather curious to reflect, no one ever thinks of
styling by her married name, “Mrs. Shakespeare.”  I cannot help thinking
she would have resented it, if addressed by her maiden name.

But Mrs. Baker, who lived in the cottage for seventy years and appeared
to be almost as permanent a feature of it as the very walls and
roof-tree, died in September 1899, at the age of eighty-seven.  Still,
however, the photographic view of the old lady sitting there is easily
first favourite among all the interior views of the cottage; and many are
those visitors who, coming here and not seeing the familiar figure, miss
it as keenly as they would any intimate article of furniture.

           [Picture: The Living-Room, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage]

An old and time-worn wooden settle stands beside the ingle-nook.  One may
still sit in the corner seats, but a modern grate occupies the hearth on
which the logs were burnt in the Hathaways’ time.  Little square recesses
in the wall show where the tinder-box was kept, and where those who sat
here in olden times set down their jug and glass.  The brightly-burnished
copper warming-pan that hangs here, together with the bellows, is not, I
think, credited with a Hathaway lineage.  These once necessary, but now
obsolete, household articles are simply placed here for the purpose of
giving a more convincing air to this old home; but one suspects that some
day, when the critical attitude relaxes, they will acquire a kind of
brevet rank, and perhaps eventually even fully qualify as genuine
heirlooms.

The spacious bacon-cupboard, where the flour was also stored, in the
thickness of the wall on the left-hand side of the ingle-nook, is a very
fine specimen.  The neighbourhood of Stratford is particularly rich in
these old bacon-cupboards, which indeed seem to be almost a peculiar
feature of the district.  There is one at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, in
the town, and another at the “Windmill” inn, in Church Street, and
numerous other examples exist in private houses; but this is the best
specimen I have yet seen, and the better kept; the open lattice-work
oaken door, bearing the initials “I. H., E. H, I. B., 1697,” being well
polished.  A further storage place for bacon is the cratch (otherwise the
“rack”) in the roof-joists.  You see it in the accompanying illustration.

The long, broad mantel-shelf bears the usual collection of candlesticks
and “chimney ornaments.”  Under a window is an old table, with the
visitors’-book, and on the opposite side of the room stands an equally
old dresser, with a display of blue and white plates and dishes: a
grandfather’s clock between it and the door.  Gaping visitors are usually
shown, by partial demonstration, with flint-and-steel, how our
long-suffering and patient ancestors struck a light, but the process is
not demonstrated in its entirety.  To strike a spark off a flint with a
piece of steel is an easy matter, but if the whole process of directing
the sparks upon the tinder in the tinder-box and then blowing the tinder
into a flame were gone through, visitors would be very much more
astonished at the inconveniences endured by our forbears before the
invention of matches.  To get a light in this way was the most chancy
thing in the world.  The tinder might possibly catch with the first
spark, or again it might take a quarter of an hour.  I think Job must
have taken his first lessons in patience with flint-and-steel and tinder
on a cold winter’s morning.  We see, from these fire-raising
difficulties, a reason why our ancestors very rarely allowed the fires on
their hearthstones to go out.  Fuel was cheap in the country, and
commonly to be had for the mere gathering of it, while if you let your
fire burn out, it could only be lighted again at considerable pains.
These seem altogether tales of an olden time, and they do actually strike
the visitors to Shottery as very remote indeed; but there are yet many
persons living to whom flint-and-steel and the tinder-box were as
matter-of-course and necessary articles as the match-box is now.

The room to the right of the entrance-passage is the kitchen.  Here again
is an ingle-nook, and heavy beams support the floor above.  A very tall
man could not walk upright in this room, for these timbers are only about
5 ft. 11 inches from the floor.  The ancient hearth remains here, and the
oven runs deep into the masonry: a considerable space—almost large enough
to be called a room—running round to the back of it.  The little window
seen rather high up in the wall of the house as you enter by the
garden-gate lights this space.

Returning across the passage and through the living-room, the dairy, a
little stone-flagged room is seen at the back.  The door here, like most
of the others, has the old English wooden latch known as the “Drunkard’s
latch” because its cumbrous woodwork affords so good a hold for fumbling
fingers.

                    [Picture: Anne Hathaway’s Bedroom]

Upstairs, on the left, is “Anne Hathaway’s bedroom,” where the chief
object is a beautiful, but decrepit as to its lower legs, four-post
sixteenth-century bedstead.  The legs have assumed a permanently
knock-kneed position, which humorous visitors affect to believe was
caused by the bed having been used, something after the fashion of the
Great Bed of Ware, not only for one person, but in common.  It is indeed
a very large bedstead.  Apart from its size, it is certainly the finest
article of furniture in the house, the headboard being beautifully carved
with grotesque figures in the Renascence style then in vogue.  The sheets
are of old hand-spun flax, and a glass-covered case displayed on the bed
contains a pillow-case of fine linen and beautiful needlework,
traditionally the work of Anne.  The mattresses of this bedstead and of
the plainer one in the next bedroom are of plaited rushes.  Here rough
bed-curtains, dyed a dull yellow by a vegetable dye, are obviously of
great age.  A small slip room of no interest is shown, opening out of
this second bedroom, and with that the exploration of the house is
concluded.



CHAPTER XII


                               Charlecote.

TO Charlecote, four miles east of Stratford, is an expedition rarely ever
omitted by the Shakespearean tourist, for it is associated with one of
the most romantic traditions of the poet’s life; that of the famous
poaching incident, which may well have been the disposing cause of his
leaving his native town and seeking fortune in London.  The balance of
opinion is strongly in favour of accepting the story, which comes down to
us by way of Archdeacon Davis, Vicar of the Gloucestershire village of
Sapperton, who died in 1708.  He says the youth “was much given to all
unluckiness in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from Sir Thomas
Lucy, who had him oft whipped and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made
him fly his native county, to his great advancement.”

This does not at first sight present a flattering picture of William
Shakespeare, but we have to consider that the deer- and game-raiders of
that era were not on the blackguardly level of the modern poacher.  They
were commonly sportive and high-spirited youths, who went about the
business of it in company.  At the same time, he ought at this juncture
to have given up this hazardous sport.  The probable date of his leaving
for London, fleeing before the anger of Sir Thomas Lucy, is either the
summer of 1585 or 1587.  He was in the former year twenty-one years of
age, had already been two years and a half a married man, and was the
father of three children.  In imagination we can hear John Shakespeare’s
friends prophesying that his son Will would “come to no good.”  The same
ungenerous thing has no doubt been prophesied of every high-couraged lad
from time immemorial.

In revenge for Sir Thomas Lucy’s reprisals Shakespeare is said to have
written some satirical verses and fastened them on the park gates of
Charlecote.  Some of the lines have, in tradition, survived—

    “A Parliament member, a Justice of Peace,
    At home a poor scarecrow, in London an Ass,
    If lousy is Lucy, as some folk miscall it,
    Then Lucy is lousy, whatever befall it.
       He thinks himself great,
       Yet an ass in his state
       We allow by his ears with but asses to mate.”

This has been styled a “worthless effusion,” and attempts have been made
to pooh-pooh it; but whatever its worth or otherwise, it distinctly shows
that _sæva indignatio_—that unmeasured fury which is one of the stigmata
of the literary temperament.  Its extravagance is no point against it,
and to show that Sir Thomas Lucy was neither a scarecrow nor an ass is
altogether beside the mark.

Shakespeare, rubbing his hurts, put all the hatred he could into his
rhythmic abuse, and did not stop to consider how closely it tallied with
actualities.  Now let us reconstruct the actual man.  The real Sir Thomas
was a personage of wealth inherited unimpaired, and of undoubted culture
and esteem: in the words of his contemporaries a “right worshipful
knight.”  He reigned long in the home of his ancestors at Charlecote, to
which he succeeded in 1552, upon the death of his father.  He was then
only twenty years of age, and he lived until 1602.  He had for tutor none
other than John Foxe, the martyrologist, to whom his father, Sir Thomas,
had given shelter.  “Foxe, forsaken by his friends, and accused of heresy
for professing the reformed religion, was left naked of all human
assistance; when God’s providence began to show itself, procuring for him
a safe refuge in the house of the Worshipful Knight, Sir Thomas Lucy, of
Charlecote in Warwickshire, who received him into his family as tutor,
and he remained there till his pupils no longer needed instruction.”
Foxe was married here, at Charlecote, in 1547.

In common with the rich landowners of his time, Sir Thomas Lucy was a
patron of architecture and the arts, and in no way the inferior of his
contemporaries, as the beautiful hall of Charlecote, built by him,
sufficiently proves.  Six years after coming into his inheritance he
demolished the old mansion and erected that we now see.  The house of
Lucy had never before lived in such state as that he enjoyed.  In 1565 he
received the honour of knighthood, and first sat in Parliament in 1571:
in all these and succeeding years filling the usual local magisterial
offices of a personage of his station.  He is said to have entertained
Queen Elizabeth on her progress to Kenilworth, in 1572, and the entrance
porch to the front of the house is said to have been added for the
occasion; a tradition that may well be true, for it is a more elaborate
structure than the surrounding composition.  It is two storeys in height,
and in stone: the frontage in general being chiefly of brick.  It is also
obviously an addition, and is not exactly central.  The building of it
converted the ground plan into the semblance of a capital E, which was
the courtly way among architects and their patrons of paying a compliment
to Queen Elizabeth.  Is it not thus sufficiently clear that in the
building of his new mansion Sir Thomas had overlooked this customary
compliment and that he hurriedly added it, over against the Queen’s
coming?  The prominence of the sculptured royal arms over the doorway,
with the initials “E.R.,” lend support to this view.

This very magnificent person might well “think himself great,” for he was
the most considerable landowner in the district, and everywhere deferred
to.  Besides providing himself with a stately new residence he paid great
attention to preserving game on his various estates, and is found in
March 1585, about the time of Shakespeare’s alleged poaching exploit, in
charge of a Bill in Parliament for its better preservation in the parks
of England, which he would appear to have considered not sufficiently
protected by the law of some twenty-three years earlier, prescribing
three months’ imprisonment for deer-stealing and a fine of three times
the damage done.

Here, then, you have a portraiture of that personage whom Shakespeare so
grossly travestied.  Nor did that impudent ballad suffice to clear the
score, for he returned to him in later years, and in the Second Part of
_Henry the Fourth_ we find “Justice Shallow” at his country house in
Gloucestershire, entertaining Sir John Falstaff, and bragging of what a
gay dog and a wild fellow he was in his young days in London; “every
third word a lie.”  The “old pike” was, says Falstaff, “like a man made
after supper with a cheese-paring,” a figure of fun.

“Old pike” gives the key to Shakespeare’s meaning, and must at the time
have been well understood locally to refer to the luces, or pike, in the
Lucy arms; but, growing bolder, he much more fully, offensively, and
unmistakably caricatures Sir Thomas Lucy under the same name of “Justice
Shallow” in the _Merry Wives of Windsor_.  The play indeed most
prominently opens with him represented as having come up to Windsor from
Gloucestershire for the purpose of laying an information before the Star
Chamber against Sir John Falstaff for having killed his deer—

    _Shallow_.  Sir Hugh, persuade me not.  I will make a Star-chamber
    matter of it—if he were twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse
    Robert Shallow, esquire.

    _Slender_.  In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and _coram_.

    _Shallow_.  Ay, Cousin Slender, and _cust-alorum_.

    _Slender_.  Ay and _ratalorum_, too; and a gentleman born, master
    parson, who writes himself, _armigero_, in any bill, warrant,
    quittance, or obligation, _armigero_.

    _Shallow_.  Ay, that we do, and have done any time these three
    hundred years.

    _Slender_.  All his successors, gone before him, have done’t; and all
    his ancestors, that come after him, may; they may give the dozen
    white laces in their coat.

    _Shallow_.  It is an old coat.

    _Evans_. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; it agrees
    well, passant; it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies love.

Another passage a little later contains an allusion which we try in vain
to interpret.  What was the story of the keeper’s daughter?  There is
more in this, we may say, than meets the eye.  Who knows how the
deer-stalking may have been complicated by some incident of a more tender
and romantic nature?  Keeper’s daughters are notoriously comely and
buxom, and imagination may frame a pretty story out of this quaint
disclaimer of Falstaff’s—

    _Falstaff_.  How, Master Shallow, you’ll complain of me to the king?

    _Shallow_.  Knight, you have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke
    open my lodge.

    _Falstaff_.  But not kissed your keeper’s daughter?

    _Shallow_.  Tut, a pin! this shall be answered.

    _Falstaff_.  I will answer it straight.—I have done all this.—That is
    now answered.

    _Shallow_.  The Council shall know this.

    _Falstaff_.  ’Twere better for you, if it were known in counsel:
    you’ll he laughed at.

Falstaff’s last remark is a play upon the words “Council,” a more or less
public body, and “counsel,” private talk.  That is to say Shallow will be
a fool, and laughed at if he takes so trivial an affair before so weighty
a tribunal as the Star Chamber, and would be better advised to seek his
friends’ counsel about the affair.

Perhaps the “keeper’s daughter” who was not kissed, was, after all, not
kissable, or perhaps the allusion really was an insinuation that Sir
Thomas Lucy himself kissed his keeper’s daughter.  It was in any event
obviously a gibe perfectly easy of comprehension at the time in Stratford
and round about, and enshrines some forgotten scandalous gossip.

These are passages that the Baconians boggle at.  They cannot be
explained away by any ingenuity, and thus form a convincing stand-by for
those hardened and unrepentant folk who still believe that Shakespeare
wrote his own plays.  The play upon the name of Lucy and the luces in the
family arms is too direct to be mistaken.  Master Shallow is a Justice of
the Peace in Gloucestershire, and Sir Thomas Lucy was an ornament of the
Bench both in that shire and in Warwickshire.  The “dozen white louses,”
instead of the three which would match with the number of luces in the
Lucy arms, were no doubt a variant introduced by the dramatist in order
to keep himself clear of those very Star Chamber proceedings with which
Sir John Falstaff was threatened.  One might not in those times defame
with impunity a man’s coat of arms.

A further objection to the Baconian authorship, if necessary, is to be
found in the extreme unlikeliness of Bacon, who himself was armigerous,
casting such patent ridicule upon the heraldic achievement of one with
whom he had no quarrel.  In the case of Shakespeare, the animus is
abundantly evident.

The way to Charlecote is over the Clopton Bridge and to the left.  It is
the Kineton road.  Past Tiddington the way goes level, along the
beautiful roads shaded by the luxuriant hedgerow timber we expect in
these parts; and presently, when we have begun impatiently to wonder when
Charlecote will come into view, a lodge and entrance are seen on the left
side of the highway.

                      [Picture: Lucy Shield of Arms]

We hear much of the passing shows of this world, but we have often to
marvel at their permanence.  The kith and kin of Shakespeare are all gone
long ago, but here at Charlecote are still Lucys.  There have been Lucys
of Charlecote since 1216, and their “old coat” is still displayed over
this entrance to the park.  They are not, it is true, of the old unmixed
blood, and the present family own the name only by adoption, the direct
line having been broken in 1786, when a second cousin, the Rev. John
Hammond, inherited the property and assumed the name of Lucy.  The
present owner also, Mr. Fairfax-Lucy, assumed the name on marrying one of
the two daughters of Mr. Henry Spenser Lucy, who died in 1890.

              [Picture: The “Tumble-Down Stile,” Charlecote]

There are but three luces, or pikes, in the old coat of the Charlecote
Lucys.  They are displayed, in herald’s language, thus: “gules, semée of
crosses crosslet, three luces hauriant argent;” that is to say, on a red
ground sown with silver crosses-crosslet, three silver pike in an upright
position, rising to take breath.  The family motto is “By truth and
diligence.”  On old deeds sealed with the Lucy seal the three pike are
shown intertwined.

The park, well-wooded, but only about 250 acres in extent, presents a
fine picture viewed from these gates, but the mansion is not seen; the
chief approach being a considerable distance along the main road, and
thence along a public by-road to the village of Charlecote.  Crossing a
bridge over the Wellesbourne stream which joins the Avon in the park, the
locally celebrated “Tumble-down Stile” is immediately on the right hand.
This is a wooden fence not by its appearance to be distinguished above
any other fence of wood, but so contrived that the stranger unversed in
its trick, and seeking to climb over it to the footpath beyond, suddenly
finds one end collapsing and himself most likely on the ground.  This
contrivance, generally understood to have been a freak of the late Mr.
Henry Spenser Lucy, keeps the village of Charlecote supplied with a stock
of elementary humour all the year round, and is invariably pointed out by
fly-men driving visitors from Stratford.  Not every one who comes to
Shakespeare Land comes with the capacity for fully understanding and
being interested in its literary and historic features, but all have the
comprehension of this within their reach.

There, on the left, stretches the woodland park, entered either by a
rough five-barred rustic gate, or by the imposing modern ornamental gates
flanked by clumsy sculptured effigies of boars squatting on their rumps.
Entering by the unpretending gate first named, one comes beneath the
trees of a noble avenue to the beautiful gatehouse standing in advance of
the hall and giving admission to a courtyard filled with the geometrical
patterns of a formal garden.  The wild verdure of the park reigns here,
outside that enclosure, and trim neatness forms the note within; a
contrast greatly loved in those times when Charlecote was planned.  It
was to the planning of country mansions exactly what the antithetic
manner is to literature: both give the spice of sharp contrast.

There are to this day deer couching in the bracken of the park, and they
come picturesquely up to the gatehouse and peer within.  There are also
strange piebald sheep, with long fat tails, very curious to look upon.  I
do not know what breed they are, or whence they come, for the reply
received to an inquiry elicited this strange answer from a typical
Warwickshire boy: “Thaay be Spanish sheep from Scotland.”  Possibly some
of those who read these pages may recognise the kind; but if they came
from Spain to Charlecote by way of Scotland they must have been brought
somewhat out of their way.

The gatehouse, so strikingly set in advance of the mansion, is the most
truly picturesque feature.  Its red brick and stone have not been
restored, and wear all those signs of age which have been largely
smoothed out and obliterated from the residence.  Charlecote is not what
is known as a “show house.”  It is not one of those stately mansions
which are open to be viewed at stated times; and strangers are admitted
only occasionally and by special grace.  Long bygone generations of Lucys
hang in portraitures by famous masters upon the walls of the great hall,
the library, and the drawing-room; and the library contains a copy of the
_Merry Wives of Windsor_, published in 1619; an edition which does not
contain the opening scene with Mr. Justice Shallow.

                   [Picture: The Gatehouse, Charlecote]

Charlecote church was entirely rebuilt in 1852.  Surviving views of the
former church prove it to have been a small, mean building, unworthy of
housing the fine tombs of the Lucys; and so we need not regret the
rebuilding, except to be sorry it was not deferred a few years longer,
until the efflorescent would-be Gothic of that period had abated.  You
who gaze upon the exterior of Charlecote can have not the least doubt
about the enthusiasm of the designer, who seems to have been even more
Gothic than the architects of the Middle Ages.  It is a small church he
has designed, but the exterior is overloaded with ornament; and if the
building be indeed small, the gargoyles are big enough for a cathedral,
while the interior has a much-more-than Middle Ages obscurity.  It is a
church of nave without aisles, and the nave has the unusual feature of
being vaulted in stone.  It is dark even on a summer day.  The architect
was also the designer of Bodelwyddan church, in North Wales.

North of the chancel, in a very twilight chapel, are the three ornate
tombs of the Lucys.  The first of these is of that Sir Thomas who was
Shakespeare’s “Justice Shallow.”  It is on the right hand.  He lies
there, in armoured effigy, beside his wife Joyce, who pre-deceased him in
1595.  He survived until 1600.  His bearded face has good features, and
he certainly does not in any way look the part of Shallow.  Nor does the
noble tribute to his wife, inscribed above the monument, proclaim him
other than a noble and modest knight—

    Here entombed lyeth the Lady Joyce Lucy, wife of Sir Thomas Lucy, of
    Charlecote, in the county of Warwick, knight, daughter and heir of
    Thomas Acton, of Sutton, in the county of Worcester, Esquire, who
    departed out of this wretched world to her Heavenly Kingdom the 10th
    day of February, in the year of our Lord God, 1595, of her age lx.
    and iii.  All the time of her lyfe, a true and faithful servant of
    her good God; never detected in any crime or vice; in religion most
    sound; in love to her husband most faithful and true; in friendship
    most constant.  To what was in trust committed to her most secret.
    In wisdom excelling; in governing of her house, and bringing up of
    youth in the fear of God, that did converse with her most rare and
    singular; greatly esteemed of her betters; misliked of none unless
    the envious.  When all is spoken that can be said; a woman so
    furnished and garnished with Virtue as not to be bettered, and hardly
    to be equalled by any; as she lived most virtuously, so she dyed most
    godly.  Set down by him that best did know what hath been written to
    be true.

                                                              THOMAS LUCY.

In front of the monument are little kneeling effigies of Thomas and Anne,
the only son and daughter of this pair.  On the left is the much more
elaborate monument of Sir Thomas the Second, who died, aged fifty-four,
in 1605, only five years later than his father.  It is a gorgeous
Renaissance affair of coloured marbles.  This Sir Thomas lies in effigy
alone, his first wife having no part or lot in the monument; the
black-vestured and black-hooded kneeling effigy of Constance, his second,
mounting guard in front in a very determined fashion.  Her back is
towards you in entering the chapel, and a very startling creature she is.
An amazing line of little effigies of their children, each represented
kneeling on his or her little hassock, decorates the front of the
monument.  There are six sons and eight daughters, earnestly praying.

                          [Picture: Charlecote]

The third and last tomb is that of yet another Sir Thomas, third son and
successor of the last named.  He was killed by a fall from his horse in
1640.  He is sculptured beautifully in white marble, and is represented
reclining on his elbow.  He bears a strong resemblance to Charles the
First.  Beneath is the equally fine effigy of his wife Alice—a lovely
work.  She is wearing a chain like that of an Order, with a very large
and prominent locket, or badge, about the size of an egg, which is,
however, quite plain.  The significance of it has been wholly lost.  On
either side of Sir Thomas are panels sculptured in relief: on the left a
representation of him galloping on horseback, and on the right shelves of
classic authors, possibly to indicate that he was a man of culture and
refinement.  This beautiful monument was executed in Rome, by Bernini, to
the order of Lady Lucy, at a cost of 1500 guineas.

The exterior of this modern church is rapidly weathering, and the
over-rich carving of it is being rigorously searched by rains, frosts and
thaws.  It will be better for sloughing off these florid adornments.



CHAPTER XIII


                       Shakespeare the countryman.

WE have abundant evidence of Shakespeare the countryman in his works, and
of the Warwickshire man some evidences, too.  In the splendid speech of
the Duke of Burgundy, in _Henry the Fifth_, he makes the Frenchman talk
with an appreciation of agricultural disaster which only an English
farmer, and a Warwickshire or Gloucestershire farmer, too, could show.
In the miseries of France, worsted by war, the Duke speaks thus—

    “Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,
    Unprunèd dies: her hedges even-pleach’d,
    Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair,
    Put forth disorder’d twigs: her fallow leas
    The darnel, hemlock, and rank fumitory,
    Doth root upon; while that the coulter rusts
    That should deracinate such savagery:
    The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth
    The freckled cowslip, burnet, and green clover,
    Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,
    Conceives by idleness; and nothing teems
    But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs,
    Losing both beauty and utility.”

Bacon would not have made a Frenchman speak with so English a tongue, in
the way of the Midlands, nor could he if he would, for he knew no more
than the real Burgundy could have known, those details of agricultural
life; and he certainly could not have identified a “kecksie,” or a
“keck,” as the Warwickshire children still call the hemlock, of whose
dried stems they make whistles.

“Easy it is of a cut loaf to steal a shive, we know,” says Demetrius, in
_Titus Andronicus_.  That ancient Roman is made to talk like any
Warwickshire agricultural labourer who takes his lunch in the hedgerow,
off a “shive o’ bread, a bit o’ cheese or baacon and a drap o’ summit;
maybe a tot o’ cider or maybe a mug of ale.”  After which he will “shog
off” to work again; using in that local word “shog” the expression
Shakespeare places in the mouth of Nym, in _Henry the Fifth_.  At the
close of the day he will be “forewearied,” as King John describes
himself.

In his plays Shakespeare follows the year all round the calendar and
touches every season with magic.  You feel convinced, from the sympathy,
the joyousness, and the intimate touches, of his country scenes that he
was a rustic at heart, and that he must have longed, during those many
years when he was winning success in London, to return not only to his
native place—to which the heart of every one turns fondly—but to the
meadows, the cornfields, the hills and dales and the wild flowers around
the town of Stratford-on-Avon.  There again, when spring was come, to
hear “the sweet bird’s note,” whether it were “the throstle with his note
so true,” “the ousel cock so black of hue, with orange tawny bill,” “the
wren with little quill;”

    “The finch, the sparrow, and the lark,
    The plain-song cuckoo gray,”

or better still the mad joyous outbursts of the skylarks’ songs (“And
merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks”) in those wide horizons in May:
these, you are certain, were Shakespeare’s ideals.

Of all the seasons, although he writes sympathetically of every one,
Shakespeare best loved the spring.  He is not exceptional in that, for it
is the season of hope and promise, when the risen sap in the trees makes
the leaves unfold and the buds unsheath their beauties, when beasts and
birds respond to the climatic change and hibernating small creatures and
insects awake from their long sleep; and no less than the trees and
plants, the animals and insects, all mankind finds a renewal of life.

    “It was a lover and his lass,
          With a hey and a ho, and a hey nonino,
    That o’er the green cornfield did pass
          In the spring-time, the only merry ring-time,
    When birds do sing, hey ding-a-ding
    Sweet lovers love the spring.”

Thus the pages sung in the Forest of Arden; and Shakespeare, be sure, put
something of himself into the character of Autolycus the pedlar, who
after all was a man of better observation, judging by his song, than
rogues of his sort commonly be—

    “When daffodils begin to peer,—
       With hey! the doxy over the dale,—
    Why, then comes in the sweet o’ the year;
       For the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.

    The white sheet bleaching on the hedge,—
       With hey! the sweet birds, O how they sing!—
    Doth set my pugging tooth on edge;
       For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.

    The lark that tirra-lirra chants,—
       With hey! with hey! the thrush and the jay:—
    Are summer songs for me and my aunts,
       While we lie tumbling in the hay.”

Shakespeare, we like to think, had the tenderest feeling for those same
daffodils with which Autolycus begins his song; for in lines that are
among the most beautiful he ever wrote, he makes Perdita speak of—

             “Daffodils,
    That come before the swallow dares, and take
    The winds of March with beauty.”

Here we find, not for once only, Shakespeare and that other sweet singer,
Herrick, curiously in sympathy—

    “Sweet daffodils, we weep to see
    You haste away so soon.”

He does not care so ardently for the rose, although he seems, rather
indifferently it is true, to admit that it is the queen of flowers.  But
it delays until summer is upon us.  It does not dare with the daffodil.

He returns again and again to the more idyllic simple flowers of nature
that the gardener takes no account of.  He paints the cowslips in a few
words of close observation.  They are Queen Mab’s pensioners—

    “The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
    In their gold coats spots you see;
    Those be rubies, fairy favours,
    In those freckles live their savours.”

And in every cowslip’s ear the fairy hangs a pearl, from her harvest of
dew-drops.

Shakespeare’s Warwickshire was rich—and it is so still, although it is a
very much more enclosed countryside than in his day—in wild-flowers; the
gillyflower, the wallflower that loves the nooks and crannies of ruined
walls as much as does the jackdaw; the candy-tuft, the foxglove that
still stands like a tall floral sentinel in many a hedgerow around
Snitterfield; with many another.

             “Here’s flowers for you;
    Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram,
    The marigold, that goes to bed with the sun.”

The “flowers,” however, mentioned in that quotation are, with one
exception, herbs.  Such as they grace and make fragrant the old gardens
of many a cottage the casual tourist never sees.  There they have grown
for generations, in great clumps and beds; not in meagre and formal
patches, as in some “Shakespearean gardens” that could be named.  In the
byways, in short, where things are not consciously on show, everything
is, paradoxically enough, better worth seeing.  There the homely virtues
of the people are better displayed; the flowers are brighter and their
scent sweeter; and there the sun is more mellow.  In the byways old mossy
walls still stand, russet brown and sere in drought, as though the moss
were a dead thing, but green again so soon as ever the rain comes; and
old roofs bear the fleshy house-leek in great patches, as though they had
burst into some strange vegetable elephantiasis.  That is Warwickshire as
it is off the beaten track, yonder, at the horizon, where the sky meets
the earth: a vague direction, I fancy, but sufficient.  We must not
divulge all things.

The ragged-robin that blooms later in every hedge; the “crow-flower” as
Shakespeare names it; the “long purple,” otherwise the wild arum;
pansies—“that’s for thoughts”—some call them “love-in-idleness”; all
figure in _Hamlet_, where you find a good deal of old country folklore in
Ophelia’s talk.  “Rosemary, that’s for remembrance”; fennel and
columbines: “there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it
herb of grace o’ Sundays;—you may wear your rue with a difference.”

There is sometimes an almost farmer-like practical philosophy underlying
his observation, as where Biron says, in _Love’s Labour’s Lost_: “Allons
allons! sow’d cockle reap’d no corn”; and in _King Lear_, in the
reference to—

    “Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
    In our sustaining corn.”

The corn-cockle is of course better known as the “cornflower,” whose
beautiful blue is so contrasting a colour with the scarlet of the
poppies, that equally fail to win the farmer’s admiration.

But the greater the study we give to Shakespeare and his treatment of
flowers, the more evident it becomes that his sympathies were all with
the earlier, springtime blossoms that dare, not quite with the daffodils,
but soon after the roaring ides of March are overpast.  Thus, he makes
Perdita resume, with—

                “Violets dim,
    But sweeter than the lids of Juno’s eyes
    Or Cytherea’s breath; pale primroses
    That die unmarried ere they can behold
    Bright Phœbus in his strength.”

The “daisies pied,” the “lady-smocks all silver-white,” that is to say,
the white arabis which the Warwickshire children of to-day call
“smell-smocks,” and the “cuckoo buds of yellow hue,” otherwise the
buttercups, out of which the cuckoo is in old folklore supposed to drink,
he tells us, all “paint the meadows with delight.”  He could never have
written those lines with care and thought and in cold blood: he must have
seen those meadows with all the delight he expresses, and the words
themselves must needs have been penned with enthusiasm.  This is a thesis
easily susceptible of proof.  The lovely cuckoo-song at the close of
_Love’s Labour’s Lost_, which with a charm unmatched tells us of those
flower-spangled meads, has no bearing upon the action of the play: it is
written in sheer enjoyment, and it is in the same spirit that his other
allusions to the fields and hedgerows and woodlands, the “bosky acres”
and the “unshrubbed down,” are conceived.  Ariel, that tricksy sprite of
_The Tempest_, is a true countryman’s fancy, as clearly to be seen in the
lines—

    “Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
    In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
    There I couch when owls do cry,
    On the bat’s back I do fly.”

Here, as often elsewhere, the dramatist and the poet are at odds.
Shakespeare the actor-playwright, with every necessity of the stage—its
entrances and exits, and the imperative need for the action of the play
to be maintained—halts the story so that the other Shakespeare, the
idyllic poet, the lover of nature, shall picture some scene for which he
cares everything, but which to the Greeks—for Greeks here read the London
playgoers of his time—must have meant foolishness.

Such an instance, among many, is Oberon’s speech to Puck, in _Midsummer
Night’s Dream_—

    “I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
    Where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows;
    Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine,
    With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
    There sleeps Titania.”

For these lines and such as these Shakespeare risked the brickbats, the
cat-calls and the obloquy that awaited the dramatist whose action
dragged.  There is no excuse for them—except that of their beauty, and
that to the groundlings was less than nothing.

That bank whereon the wild-thyme grew must have been, I like to think,
somewhere in The Dingles, a curious spot just north-east of Stratford, to
the left of the Warwick road, as you go up to Welcombe.  I think there
are no “dingles” anywhere nearer London than the midlands; none in name,
although there may be many in fact.  By a “dingle” in the midlands a deep
narrow vale, or natural gully is meant.  The word is especially well
known in Shropshire and the Welsh borders, where such features, between
the enfolding hills, are plentiful.  Here The Dingles are abrupt and
deeply winding gullies, breaking away from the red earth of the Welcombe
uplands: a very tumbled and unspoiled spot.  Elms look down from the
crest of them, and ancient thorn-trees line their sides.  It seems quite
a sure and certain thing that Shakespeare when a boy knew this spot well
and frequented it with the other Stratford boys of his age; catching,
perhaps the “earth-delving conies,” and I am afraid—for all boys are
cruel except those in the Sunday-school books, and they are creatures in
the nature of sucking Galahads imagined by maiden aunts—I am afraid, I
say, also birds’-nesting.

The Dingles, doubtless, formed in Shakespeare’s mind the site of
Titania’s bower.  Perhaps you may find it yourself, if you seek there,
somewhere about midsummer midnight, in the full of the moon, when
possibly her obedient fairies will be as kind and courteous as of old to
that gentleman who has the good fortune to discover the magic spot, and
may—

    “Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes;
    Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
    With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.”

If these adventures do befall you, tell no one; for you will not find
belief, even in this same Shakespeare land.

It is, however, much more likely that your walk will be solitary, and
that for the apricots and grapes you will have to wait until you have
returned to your hotel in the town.

The last two years of Shakespeare’s life were concerned with a heated
local question: none other than that of the proposed enclosure of the
Welcombe common fields, including The Dingles, by William Combe who had
by the death of his father become squire of Welcombe and had at once
entered into an agreement with the lord of the manor and other
landholders to enclose the land.  The corporation and townsfolk of
Stratford were bitterly opposed to this encroachment.  Shakespeare’s
interest in the matter appears to have been only that of an owner of
tithes in these fields, and his sympathies were clearly against any such
extension of private rights.  An entry under date of September 1615 among
others in the still-existing manuscript diary of Thomas Greene, then
clerk to the corporation, who calls Shakespeare his cousin, is to the
effect that Shakespeare told J. Greene (brother of the town clerk) that
he—Shakespeare—“was not able to bear the enclosing of Welcombe.”  The
ambiguous and ungrammatical wording of Greene’s diary often renders his
meaning obscure and has caused a great conflict of opinion about
Shakespeare’s attitude in this affair, some reading it as in favour of
the enclosure.  It really appears to have been one of benevolent
neutrality, and could scarcely have been otherwise.  He himself was a
neighbouring landowner, and friendly with others, but sentimentally, he
looked with aversion upon those proposed doings.  He “was not able to
bear” the enclosure of the place he had roamed when a boy, but that did
not give him the right to intervene at law.  The corporation went to law
with Combe and his fellows and won their case, but by that time
Shakespeare had passed from these transient scenes.  To this day The
Dingles is common land.



CHAPTER XIV


      The ‘Eight Villages’—‘Piping’ Pebworth and ‘Dancing’ Marston.

NO one who has ever sojourned in Shakespeare land can remain in ignorance
of what are the “Eight Villages.”  The older rhymes upon them are printed
upon picture-postcards, and on fancy chinaware, and reprinted in every
local guide-book; and now I propose to repeat them, not only for their
own sake and for the alleged Shakespearean authorship, but because the
pilgrimage of those villages offers many points of interest.  One need
offer no excuse for this descriptive chapter, because although the rhymes
themselves are trite, the places are by no means so well known; your
average Shakespeare Country tourist being rarely so enterprising as he is
commonly—and quite erroneously—supposed to be.  Stratford-on-Avon,
Evesham, Warwick, Kenilworth and Coventry, with their comfortable hotels,
furnish forth the average pilgrim.  But if you are to know Shakespeare
land intimately, and if you would come into near touch with the poet and
know him at closest quarters, you must linger in the villages that in
every circumstance of picturesqueness are dotted about the valley of the
Avon.  There, as freshly as ever, when spring has not waned too far into
summer, the

    “Daisies pied and violets blue,
       And ladysmocks all silver-white,
    And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,
       Do paint the meadows with delight.”

“Shakespeare is Bacon,” dogmatically asserts the ancient hyphenated
baronet who in these latter days posts pamphlets broadcast (incidentally
favouring me with one, uninvited) seeking to dethrone our sovereign bard.
Well, let who will cherish the impious opinion; but all the countryside
around Stratford disproves it; the trees, the fields, the wild flowers,
the rustic talk, which Bacon could never have known, that are all
faithfully mirrored in the plays.

But let us to the Eight Villages, whose fame rests upon a legend of olden
drinking-bouts and of competitions between different towns and villages,
to decide whose men could drink the most liquor.  In Shakespeare’s time,
it seems, Bidford held the championship of all this countryside, and had
two valiant coteries of tipplers who drank not only for their own
personal gratification, but went beyond that and inconvenienced
themselves for the honour and glory of their native place.  Further than
this, local patriotism cannot go.  So famous were the doings of the
Topers and the Sippers of this spot that it became familiarly known as
“Drunken” Bidford; an unfortunate adjective, for it was bestowed not by
any means because those convivial clubmen could not carry their liquor
like men, but was intended as a direct tribute of admiration to their
capacity for it.  In short, such was their prowess that they went forth,
conquering and to conquer, in all the surrounding villages.  On an
historic occasion the daring fellows of Stratford went forth and
challenged the Bidford men on their own ground, Shakespeare traditionally
among them.  The Topers were not at home; they had gone to drink Evesham
dry; but the Sippers held the fort and duly maintained the honour of
Bidford.  At the “Falcon” inn the contest was waged, and the Stratford
men were ignominiously worsted, drawing off from the stricken field while
yet there remained some with full command of their legs, and ability to
carry away those of their number who had wholly succumbed.  In this sort
they went the homeward way towards Stratford, which is more than six
miles distant, but they had proceeded no further than three-quarters of a
mile when they sank down by the roadside and slept there the night, under
a large crab-apple tree.  When morning dawned—when night’s candles were
burned out and jocund day stood tiptoe on the meadows—they arose
refreshed, the majority eager to return to Bidford and try another bout;
but Shakespeare refused.  He had had enough of it.  He had drunk with—

    “Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
    Haunted Hillborough, Hungry Grafton,
    Dodging Exhall, Papist Wixford,
    Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bidford.”

Such is the legend.  There are those who believe it, and there are again
those who do not.  The quatrain does not seem to fit in with the story,
and indeed bears evidence of being one of those injurious rhymes
respecting neighbouring and rival villages fairly common throughout
England, often reflecting severely, not only upon the characteristics of
those places, but also upon the moral character of their inhabitants.
Indeed, the present rhymes are mildness itself compared with some, with
which these pure pages shall not be sullied.  But although we may not
place much faith in the Shakespearean ascription, those go, surely, too
far who refuse to believe Shakespeare capable of taking part in one of
these old-time drinking-bouts.  Shakespeare, we are nowadays told, could
not have descended to such conduct; but in holding such a view we judge
the poet and the times in which he lived by the standards of our own age;
a very gross fallacy indeed.  It is not, nowadays, “respectable” for any
one, no matter the height or the obscurity of his status, to drink more
than enough; but he who in those times shirked his drink was accounted a
very sorry fellow.  What says Sir Toby Belch, in _Twelfth Night_?  “He is
a coward and a coystril that will not drink till his brains turn o’ the
toe like a parish top.”  To this day, in the banqueting-room of Haddon
Hall, we may see what the jovial souls who were contemporary with
Shakespeare did to the man who could not or would not finish his tankard.
There is an ingenious handcuff in the panelling of that apartment in
which the wrist of such an one was secured, and down his sleeve the drink
he had declined was poured.  Nay, only a hundred and fifty years ago, the
hospitable hosts and the best of good fellows were those to whom it was a
point of honour to see that their guests were made, in the modern police
phrase, “drunk and incapable,” so that they had to be carried up to bed.
Mr. Pitt did not commonly get much “forrarder” on three bottles of port,
and generally made his best speeches in the House when, having generously
exceeded that allowance, he was quite drunk.  Mr. Fox was a worthy fellow
to him.  Nobody thought the worse of them—in fact, rather the better—for
it.  To be drunk was the mark of a gentleman; to be excessively drunk—the
very apogee of inebriety—was to be “as drunk as a lord”; no man could do
more.

The villages whose bygone outstanding features are thus rhythmically
celebrated are scattered to the west and south-west of Stratford-on-Avon,
between six and eight miles distant; the two first-named in that
widespreading level which stretches almost uninterruptedly between that
town and Evesham.  Pebworth, whose name would seem to enshrine the
personal name of some Saxon landowner—“Pebba’s weorth”—is quite
exceptionally placed on a steep and sudden hill that rises rather
dramatically from the level champaign.

                        [Picture: Piping Pebworth]

There is more than a thought too much of new building and of corrugated
tin roofing about the Pebworth of to-day, and when I came up along the
village street a steam-roller was engaged in compacting the macadam of
the roadway.  I thought sadly that it was not at all Shakespearean; yet,
you know, had the roads been of your true Shakespearean early
seventeenth-century sort, one would not have penetrated to these scenes
with a bicycle at all.  No one pipes nowadays at Pebworth; there is not
even a performer on the penny whistle to sound a note, in evidence of
good faith.  It is a pretty enough village, but not remarkably so, and
offers the illustrator the smallest of chances, for the church which
crowns the hill-top is so encircled with trees that only the upper part
of its tower is visible.  The church, in common with nearly all the
village churches within the Shakespeare radius, is locked, doubtless with
a view to extracting a sixpence from the amiable tourist.  Old tombstones
to a Shackel, Shekel or Shackle family—the name is spelled in many
ways—abound here.

Long Marston lies in the midst of this pleasant, level country, six miles
south-west of Stratford-on-Avon, and on a yet somewhat secluded road; its
old-time retirement that recommended it to the advisers of the fugitive
Charles the Second, when seeking a way for him to escape from the country
after the defeat of his hopes at the Battle of Worcester, September 3rd,
1651, being little changed.  Marston is the only village I have ever
known which owns three adjectives to its name.  “Long” Marston is the
better known of them; “Dancing” Marston is another, and “Dry” Marston—or
“Marston Sicca,” as the pedantic old topographers of some two centuries
ago styled it forms the third.  Whatever fitness may once have attached
to the sobriquet of “Dancing” has long since disappeared, nor are the
traditions of its olden morris-dancers one whit more marked than those of
any other village.  In the days when Marston danced, the neighbouring
villages footed it with equally light heart and light heels, so far as we
can tell.  “Dry” Marston, too, forms something of a puzzle to the
observer, who notes not only that it is low-lying and that the little
Dorsington Brook meanders close at hand on the map, in company with other
rills, but also observes that a stone-paved causeway extends for a
considerable distance along the road at the northern end of the village;
evidently provided against flooded and muddy ways.  Finally, if “Marston”
does not derive from “marshtown,” then there is nothing at all in
derivatives.  We are thus reduced to the better-known name, “Long”
Marston.

                       [Picture: “Dancing Marston”]

Doubtless the stranger expects to find a considerable village, with a
long-drawn street of cottages; but Marston is not in the least like that.
Instead, you find ancient half-timbered and thatched cottages, scattered
singly, or in groups of two or three, fronting upon the level road, each
situated in its large garden, where it seems as much a product of the
soil as the apples and pears, or the more homely cabbages, beans, and
potatoes, and appears almost to have grown there, equally with them.  A
branch line of the Great Western Railway, it is true, runs by, with a
station, but at Long Marston station the world goes easily and leisurely;
sparrows chirp in the waiting-room and rabbits sport along the line;
while such work as goes on in the goods-yard is punctuated by yawns and
illuminative anecdotes.  All this by way of praising these old-world
surroundings.

Among the cottages is an older whitewashed group, set back from the road.
In pre-Reformation times this was the Priest’s House.  Across the way
stands the pretty little fourteenth-century church, with little of
interest within, but possessing a fine timbered north porch of the same
period, the timbering at this present time of writing being again exposed
to view after having been covered up with plaster for more than a
century.

It was on the evening of September 10th, the seventh day after the
disastrous Battle of Worcester, that King Charles and his two companions,
Mr. Lassels and Jane Lane, came to Long Marston and found shelter at the
house of Mr. John Tomes.  The King was in the character of “Will
Jackson,” servant of Mistress Jane Lane; in that capacity riding
horseback in front of her, while she rode pillion behind him.  We may
readily picture the King, in his servant’s disguise, kept in his proper
place in the kitchen, while Lassels and Jane Lane were entertained by the
master of the house in the best parlour.  Blount, in his _Boscobel_,
published in 1660, the year of the Restoration, illuminates this historic
incident with an anecdote that gives the brief sojourn at Long Marston as
piquant and homely a savour as that of King Alfred’s burning the cakes in
the cottage where he was in hiding, away down in the Somersetshire Isle
of Athelney, nearly eight hundred years before the troubles of the
Stuarts were heard of.  Supper was being prepared for Mr. Tomes’ guests,
and the cook asked “Will Jackson” to wind up the roasting-jack.  “Will
Jackson,” says Blount, “was obedient, and attempted it, but hit not the
right way, which made the maid in some passion ask, ‘What countryman are
you, that you know not how to wind up a jack?’  To which Charles, who was
ever blessed with that happy quality the French call _esprit_, for which
we have no exactly corresponding word, replied, ‘I am a poor tenant’s son
of Colonel Lane, in Staffordshire; we seldom have roast meat, and when we
have, we don’t make use of a jack.’”

Every one in Long Marston can point out “King’s Lodge,” as this historic
house is now known.  Somewhat altered, externally and internally, but
still in possession of descendants of the John Tomes who sheltered the
King after Worcester Fight, it still retains the famous roasting-jack,
now carefully preserved in a glass-case, in the room that was in those
times a kitchen, and later became a cider cellar, and is now the
dining-room.

The Tomes family—who pronounce their name “Tombs,” and have many kinsfolk
who also spell it in that fashion—have a curious and dismal pictorial pun
upon their ancient patronymic, by way of coat of arms.  It represents
three white altar-tombs on a green ground; to speak in the language of
heraldry: Vert, three tombstones argent.

        [Picture: Dining Room, Formerly the Kitchen, King’s Lodge]

John Tomes suffered for his loyalty.  Some of his lands were sequestrated
and he was obliged to leave the country; nor did the Royal favour
subsequently shown his family advantage them very greatly; the liberty
granted them of hunting, hawking and fishing from Long Marston to Crab’s
Cross, in the neighbourhood of Redditch, being, it may well be supposed,
of little value.

Although, as already noted, changes have been made at “King’s Lodge,” one
may yet, in the quaint dining-room which was then the kitchen, sit in the
Ingle-nook of the great fireplace, in which it may be supposed “Will
Jackson,” having doubtless kissed the cook—if indeed, she were a kissable
cook—and thus made amends for his unhandiness with the roasting-jack, was
afterwards allowed a seat.



CHAPTER XV


                   The ‘Eight Villages’ (_concluded_).

‘Haunted’ Hillborough, ‘Hungry’ Grafton,

‘Dodging’ Exhall, ‘Papist’ Wixford,

‘Beggarly’ Broom, and ‘Drunken’ Bidford.

“HAUNTED Hillborough,” which comes next in order in this rhymed survey,
is geographically remote from Long Marston, not so much in mere mileage,
for it is not quite three miles distant, measured in a straight line, but
it is situated on the other, and Warwickshire, side of the Avon, at a
point where the river is not bridged.  In short, the traveller from Long
Marston to Hillborough will scarcely perform the journey under six miles,
going by way of Dorsington and Barton, always along crooked roads, and
thence through Bidford.  Dorsington is an entirely pretty and extremely
small village with a church noticeable only for the whimsical smallness
of its red-brick Georgian tower.  Why, in a lesser-known local rhyme,
which does not find celebrity upon postcards and fancy articles at
Stratford-on-Avon, Dorsington should be known as “Daft” is more than I
can say; unless it be that the facile alliteration is irresistible.
There are reasons sufficient for this lack of popularity, in the lines in
which Dorsington’s name occurs—

    “Daft Dorsington, Lousy Luddington,
    Welford for witches, Hinton for bitches,
    An’ Weston at th’ end of th’ ’orld.”

Barton, through which we come into Bidford, is, as might perhaps be
suspected from its name, merely a rustic hamlet, for “barton” is but the
old English word for a cow-byre or a barn.  It is that “Burton Heath”
mentioned in the _Taming of the Shrew_, of which Christopher Sly, “old
Sly’s son,” “by birth a pedlar, by education a card-maker, by
transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present profession a tinker,” was a
native.

From Barton we cross the Avon into Bidford over an ancient bridge of
eight arches built in 1482 by the brethren of Alcester priory to replace
the ford by which travellers along the Ryknield Street had up to that
time crossed the river.  The eight arches of Bidford achieve the rather
difficult feat of being each of a different shape and size, and the heavy
stonework itself has been extensively patched with brick.  Here the Avon
is encumbered with eyots and rushes, very destructive to the navigation,
but affording very useful foregrounds for the illustrator.

Bidford is wholly on the further, or Warwickshire, side of the river, and
is a rather urban-looking place of one very long and narrow street.  It
has a population of over a thousand, and thus, I believe, comes under the
official definition of a “populous place,” whose inns and public-houses
are permitted to remain open until 11 p.m., which may or may not be a
consideration here.  The inns of Bidford are numerous, but they do not
appear to enjoy their former prosperity.  I adventured into one of them
one thirsty summer day, for the purpose of sampling some of the “perry”
advertised for sale within.  There was no joy in the sour sorry stuff it
proved to be.  You get quite a quantity of it for three-halfpence; but it
is odds against your drinking half of it.  The landlady dolefully spoke
of the state of trade.  She had not taken half-a-crown that day.  Truly,
the glories of Bidford have departed!

                       [Picture: “Drunken Bidford”]

The old “Falcon” inn, an inn no longer, nor for many years past, stands
in the midst of this very considerable village, close by the parish
church, whose odd and not beautiful tower forms a prominent object in the
view from the bridge.  It is not in the least worth while to enter that
church, for it has been almost wholly rebuilt.  The nave has a ceiling,
and there are deal doors, painted and grained to resemble oak.  The
chancel, reconstructed in the more florid and unrestrained period of the
Gothic revival, is a lamentable specimen of architectural zeal not
according to discretion.

                     [Picture: The “Falcon,” Bidford]

It is nearly a century since the “Falcon” ceased to be an inn.  It then
became a workhouse, and thus many a boozy old reprobate whose courses at
the “Falcon” had brought him to poverty ended his days under the same
roof.  Cynic Fortune, turned moralist and temperance lecturer, surely was
never in a more saturnine humour!

                     [Picture: “Haunted Hillborough”]

The old sign of the inn eventually found its way to Shakespeare’s
birthplace.  It pictured a golden falcon on a red ground, and bore
additionally the arms of the Skipwith family, the chief landowners in
Bidford.  With the sign went an old chair in which Shakespeare is
traditionally said to have sat.  To-day the “Falcon” is let in tenements,
and also houses the village reading-room and library.  The building
deserves a better fate, for, as will be noted from the accompanying
illustration, it has that quality, as admirable in architecture as in
men, character.  It is of two distinct styles: the half-timbered gable
noted along the street being doubtless the oldest portion, apparently of
the mid-fifteenth century.  This would seem to be the original inn.  The
main block seems to be about a century later, and would thus have been a
recent building in Shakespeare’s youth.  It was added apparently at a
period of unbounded prosperity and is wholly of stone.  The stone is of
that very markedly striated blue lias much used in this district, and is
set in a traditional fashion once greatly followed, that is to say, in
alternate narrow and broad hands or courses.

Proceeding from Bidford along the Stratford road for Hillborough the
haunted, the site of the ancient crab-apple tree is found, where the
defeated Stratfordians slept off the effects of their carouse.  The road
is hedged now and the fields enclosed and cultivated, but in
Shakespeare’s time the way was open.  The spot is marked on Ordnance maps
as “Shakespeare’s Crab,” and although the ancient tree finally
disappeared in a venerable age on December 4th, 1824, when its remains,
shattered in storms and hacked by relic-hunters, were carted off to
Bidford Grange, a younger tree of the same genus has been planted on the
identical site.  We may note the spot, interested and unashamed, because
although the rhymes upon the eight villages are almost certainly not
Shakespeare’s—though probably quite as old as his period—that is no
reason for doubting the poet’s taking part in the drinking contest.
“Because thou art virtuous, shall there be no cakes and ale?” and because
we do not follow the customs of our ancestors shall we think them in
their generation—and Shakespeare with them—disreputable?  I think not,
although, with these things in mind, I live in daily expectation of an
article in some popular journal, asking, “Was Shakespeare Respectable?”
I think the poet was, apart from his literary genius, an average man,
with the weaknesses of such; and all the more lovable for it.

                     [Picture: “Haunted Hillborough”]

Hillborough is reached by turning in a further mile to the right, off the
high road, at a point where a meadow is situated locally known as
“Palmer’s Piece.”  Palmer, it appears, was a farmer who drowned his wife
in the Avon, and was gibbeted on this spot for the crime.

A mile’s journey along narrow roads, down towards the river, brings the
pilgrim to Hillborough.  Now Hillborough is not a village: it is not even
a hamlet, and is indeed nothing but the remaining wing of an old
manor-house, now a farm, and in a very solitary situation.  It will
thunder and lighten, and rain heavily when you go to Hillborough—it
always does when you seek interesting places in remote spots—but these
conditions seem only the more appropriate to the haunted reputation of
the scene; although what was the nature of the hauntings has eluded every
possible inquiry.  It is thus curiously and wholly in keeping that the
old manor-house and its surroundings should look so eerie.  Noble trees
romantically overhang the house; remains of old buildings whose
disappearance mournful ghosts might grieve over, lend a dilapidated air
of the Has Been to the place; and an ancient circular stone pigeon-house,
a relic of the former manor, stands beside a dismal pond.  But the ghosts
have ceased to walk.

                       [Picture: “Hungry Grafton”]

A mile and a half across the Stratford road, is situated the fourth of
these eight villages, “Hungry” Grafton.  The real name of the place is
Temple Grafton.  “Hungry” is said to be an allusion to a supposed poverty
of the soil, but farmers of this neighbourhood, although fully as
dissatisfied as you expect a farmer to be, do not lend much help to the
stranger seeking information.  “I’ve varmed wuss land an’ I’ve varmed
better,” was the eminently non-committal reply of one; while another was
of the opinion that “it ’on’t break us, nor yet it ’on’t make us.”

The Shakespearean tourist will not be pleased with Grafton, for the
squire of the adjoining Grafton Court practically rebuilt the whole
village some forty years ago.  It is true that was not a heroic
undertaking, for it is a small village, but the doing of it very
effectually quenches the traveller’s enthusiasm.  Even the church was
rebuilt in 1875: a peculiarly unfortunate thing, because the old building
was one of those for which claim was made for having been the scene of
Shakespeare’s marriage, that elusive ceremony of which no register
survives to bear witness.  It is only in practical, unsentimental England
that these things are at all possible.  A furious desire to obliterate
every possible Shakespearean landmark would almost seem to have possessed
the people of the locality, until quite recent years.  Grafton, whose
“Temple” prefix derives from the manor having anciently been one of the
possessions of the Knights Templar, stands on a hill.  The site is
thought to have been covered in olden times with scrub-woods, “Grafton”
or “Greveton,” taking its name from “greves”; a word signifying
underwoods.  Similar place-names are found in Northamptonshire, in
Grafton Regis and Grafton Underwood, situated in Whittlebury Forest.

The only possible picture in “Hungry” Grafton is that sketched here, from
below the ridge, where a brook runs beneath the road, beside a group of
red-brick cottages.  If you ascend the road indicated here and pass the
highly uninteresting church and schools, you come to the hamlet of Ardens
Grafton, a very much more gracious and picturesque place, although in
extremely tumbledown and dilapidated circumstances.  It is very much of a
woodland hamlet, and appears to owe the first part of its name rather to
that circumstance than to ownership at any time by the Arden family:
Ardens in this case signifying a height overlooking a wooded Vale.

                    [Picture: The Hollow Road, Exhall]

The situation of the place does in fact most aptly illustrate the
derivation, for it stands upon a very remarkable ridge, which must needs
be descended by a steep and sudden hill if we want to reach Exhall.
Descending the almost precipitous and narrow road with surprise, the
nearly cliff-like escarpment is seen trending away most strikingly to the
north.

                       [Picture: “Papist Wixford”]

We are now in the valley of the river Arrow.  On the way to Exhall we
come—not led by Caliban—to “where crabs grow,” for the hedgerows here are
remarkable for the number of crab-apple trees.  Shakespeare must have had
them in mind when he wrote _The Tempest_.  Exhall lies in a beautiful
country, on somewhat obscure byways that may have given the place that
elusive character with strangers to which it owes its nickname of
“Dodging”: although, to be sure there are the other readings of
“Dadging,” whose meaning no one seems to comprehend; and “Drudging,”
which it is held is the true epithet, given in allusion to the heavy
ploughlands of the vale.  Yet another choice has been found, in
“Dudging,” supposed to mean “sulky”; but the ingenuity of commentators in
these things is endless.  There is, at any rate, in coming from Ardens
Grafton, no modern difficulty in finding Exhall.  It is a little village
of large farms, with a small aisle-less Early English and Decorated
church whose interest has been almost wholly destroyed by the so-called
“restoration” of 1863.  A window with the ball-flower moulding
characteristic of the Decorated period remains in the south wall, and
there are brasses to John Walsingham, 1566, and his wife; but for the
rest, the stranger within these gates need not regret the church being
locked, in common with most others in Shakespeare land.  The hollow road
at Exhall, with high, grassy banks and the group of charming old
half-timbered cottages illustrated here is a delight.  The builder who
built them—they are certainly at least a century older than
Shakespeare—built more picturesquely than he knew, with those sturdy
chimney-stacks and the long flight of stairs ascending from the road.

          [Picture: Brass to Thomas de Cruwe and Wife, Wixford]

There are orchards at Exhall where I think the “leather-coats” such as
Davy put before Shallow’s guests yet grow: they are a russet apple, and,
like the “bitter-sweeting,” own a local name which Shakespeare, the
Warwickshire countryman, knew well enough, but of whose existence Bacon
could have known nothing.  What says Mercutio to Romeo?  “Thy wit is a
very bitter sweeting: it is a most sharp sauce.”  And if you, tempted by
the beautiful yellow of that apple, pick one and taste it, you will find
the bitterness of it bite to the very bone.

Exhall takes the first part of its name, “ex,” from the Celtic word
_uisg_, for water: a word which has given the river Exe its name, and
masquerades elsewhere as Ouse, Exe, Usk, Esk, and so forth.  But the
river Arrow is a mile distant, and Wixford, which comes next, whose
boundaries extend to that stream, is much better entitled to its name,
which was originally “uisg-ford,” meaning “water-ford.”

“Papist” Wixford is said to have derived its nickname from the
Throckmortons, staunch Roman Catholics, who once owned property here.
The Arrow runs close by the scattered cottages of this tiny place, which
might be styled merely a hamlet, except that it has a parish church of
its own.  A delightful little church it is, too, placed on a ridge and
neighboured only by some timber-framed cottages.  Luxuriant elms group
nobly with it, and in the churchyard is a very large and handsome
yew-tree, whose spreading branches, perhaps more symmetrical than those
of any other yew of its size in this country, are supported at regular
intervals by timber struts, forming a curious and notable sight.  There
are monumental brasses in the little church; by far the best of them,
however, is the noble brass to Thomas de Cruwe and his wife Juliana,
appropriately placed in the south chapel that was founded by him.  Thomas
de Cruwe—whose name was really “Crewe,” only our ancestors were used to
spell phonetically—was scarcely the warlike knight he would, from his
plate-armour and mighty sword, appear to be.  He was, in fact, chief
steward to Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and attorney to the
Countess Margaret, widow of his predecessor.  He was, further, a “Knight
of the Shire,” or member of Parliament, in 1404, and Justice of the
Peace; and having filled these various professional and official
positions, let us hope with as much satisfaction to his employers and
others as obviously to his own advantage, he died at last in his bed, as
all good lawyers, even of his date, the beginning of the fifteenth
century, ought to do, in the year 1418.  The date of his death is,
however, not mentioned on the brass, the blanks in the inscription, left
for the purpose, having never been filled.  His wife Juliana, who had
been the widow of one of the Cloptons, predeceased him, in 1411, and
Thomas de Cruwe caused this beautiful and costly brass to be engraved in
his own lifetime.  The incomplete inscription is by no means unusual,
numerous brasses throughout the country displaying similar unfilled
spaces; pointing to the indifference with which the date of departure of
the dear departed was all too often regarded by their more or less
sorrowing heirs, executors, and assigns.

                       [Picture: “Beggarly Broom”]

This splendidly-engraved brass, which ranks among the largest and finest
in England, is mounted on a raised slab measuring nine by four feet; the
effigies five feet in height.  A curious error of the engraver of this
monument is to be noted, in the omission of Thomas de Cruwe’s sword-belt
or baldrick, by which the sword hanging from his waist has no visible
means of support.  The odd badge—apparently unique in heraldry—of a naked
human left foot is seen many times repeated on the brass.  No explanation
of it seems ever to have been offered.  We might have expected a cock in
the act of crowing, for “Crewe,” for our ancestors dearly loved puns upon
family names and were never daunted by the vapidity or appalling
stupidity of them; but in this case they forbore.

The penultimate village of these rhymes, “Beggarly” Broom, also stands
upon the Arrow.  Marston, as we have seen, dances no more, nor does
Pebworth pipe; the supernatural no longer vexes Hillborough, and Grafton
is not so hungry as you might suppose.  Exhall is not difficult to find,
and there are not any Roman Catholics at Wixford; while Bidford is not
obviously drunken.  But Broom is just as beggarly as ever.

Broom was originally a hamlet of squatters on a gorsy, or broom-covered
heath, and a hamlet it yet remains.  Modern times have brought Broom a
railway junction and a bridge across the Arrow, where was until recently
only a ford; but Broom is not to be moved into activity by these things,
or anything.  Anglers come by cheap tickets from Birmingham and fish in
the Arrow, and swap lies at the “Hollybush” and “Broom” inns about what
they have caught, but there still is that poverty-stricken air about the
place which originally attracted the notice of the rhymester, centuries
ago.  A flour-mill, still actively at work by the river, and a new house
being built, do little to qualify this ancient aspect of squalid decay,
which seems to extend even to the inhabitants, who may be observed
sitting stolidly and abstractedly, as though contemplating the
immensities.  They are probably only wondering whence to-morrow’s dinner
is coming, a branch of philosophical inquiry of poignant interest.



CHAPTER XVI


The ‘Swan’s Nest’—Haunted?—Clifford Chambers—Wincot—Quinton, and its club
                                   day.

TWELVE miles south of Stratford, across the level lands of the Feldon,
you come to Chipping Campden, perched upon the outlying hills of the
Cotswold country.  The inevitable way southward out of Stratford town
lies over the Clopton Bridge, and then, having crossed the Avon, the
roads diverge.  To the left you proceed for Charlecote and Kineton;
straight ahead for Banbury and London; and to the right for Chipping
Campden or for Shipston-on-Stour.  The point where these roads branch and
go their several ways was until recently a very charming exit from or
entrance to the town.  Here stands the old inn, the “Swan’s Nest,” _ex_
“Shoulder of Mutton,” by the waterside, and opposite are the grounds of
the old manor-house, enclosed behind lofty and massive brick walls.

The “Swan’s Nest” is a red-brick house of good design, built in 1677,
when an excellent taste in architecture prevailed.  The sign was then the
“Bear,” a very usual name in these marches of the Warwick influence.  It
arose upon the site of a hermitage and Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene that
had long subsisted upon the alms of travellers this way, generations
before Sir William Clopton built his bridge, and remained for some time
afterwards, until the Reformation swept all such things away.

The manor-house opposite is now to let, and long has been.  They say it
is haunted—but “they”?  Who then are they?  No very reliable folk, be
sure: only those irresponsible gossips who scent mysteries behind every
board announcing “This Desirable Mansion to Let.”  The more desirable the
mansion, the more inexplicable that it should not be desired of some one
and become let.  As the months go by and lengthen into years and the
house-agents’ boards begin themselves to show some evidences of
antiquity, the mystery deepens and the ghost is born.  I think this
especial ghost was born in the bar-parlour of the “Swan’s Nest.”  But it
is difficult to get any exact information about this spirit.  It would
be: it invariably is.  Whether the midnight spook be some mournful White
Lady who looks from the dust-grimed windows of yonder gazebo upon the
road, or some horrific spectre who like the ghost of Hamlet’s father
“could a tale unfold, whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soul” and
make

    “Each particular hair to stand on end,
    Like quills upon the fretful porcupine,”

I cannot say.  But the local gossip will not lessen as time goes on and
the place remains unlet.  There could not, for one thing, be a much
better setting for ghostly manifestations.  It is true that the road is
one much used by traffic, and by motorists in especial, whose dust and
horrid odours might well disgust any but the hardiest of wraiths; but
here is the old garden-pavilion or gazebo on the wall at the fork of
roads, with its quaint roof and the windows from which the people of the
manor would look out upon the traffic when it was not so dusty and did
not stink so much, and here are still the trunks of the magnificent elms
that until recently cast a grateful shade upon the road and made the
bridge-end so beautiful a scene.  But the elms have been lopped and show
cruelly amputated limbs, and no one looks any more from the gazebo: it is
an eloquent picture of the Past.

             [Picture: Clopton Bridge, and the “Swan’s Nest”]

Beyond this spot we leave the Shipston road and turn to the right, coming
in two miles to Clifford Chambers, which is not the block of offices or
residential flats its name would seem to the Londoner to imply, but a
picturesque village, taking the first part of its name from an olden ford
on the Stour, and the second part from the manor having formerly been the
property of the house-stewards, or “Chamberers,” of the great Abbey of
Gloucester.

The village street of Clifford Chambers stands at an angle from the road,
and so keeps its ancient character the better, for the way through it
down to the Stour is only a rustic track.  Clifford Chambers is therefore
entirely unspoiled.  Here is the church, grouping beautifully with the
ancient parsonage, now a farmhouse again, as it was during the time of
the plague at Stratford, in the year when William Shakespeare was born,
and when a mysterious John Shakespeare was living here.  “Mysterious”
because nothing more is known of him, and because the question arises in
some minds, “Was the John Shakespeare then living at Clifford Chambers
identical with the John Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon, father of
William?  Was William Shakespeare, in fact, born here, instead of at ‘the
Birthplace’ in Henley Street, or did John Shakespeare remove his wife and
infant son hither when the plague broke out in the summer of 1564?”  Any
question of this being the birthplace would seem to be at once disposed
of by the undoubted baptism of William Shakespeare at the parish church
of Stratford-on-Avon; but the summer retreat of the Shakespeares to this
place may yet be a field for interesting speculation.

                       [Picture: Clifford Chambers]

There is not a more charming old black-and-white house in the
neighbourhood than this, with its long range of perpendicular timbers,
roughly-split in the old English fashion, which might well show some
“restorers” how to do it; and the odd outside stairway at the gable-end,
roofed over with its little penthouse roof.  It comes well enough in
black and white, but forms a feast of mellow colour, in the rich but
subdued tints that the lichens and the stains of time and weather have
given.

Facing up the rustic street, more like a village green than street, is
another and a statelier house: the manor-house, enclosed within its
garden-walls.  It is of stone, in the early years of the eighteenth
century, when Queen Anne reigned.

    “Anna, whom three realms obey,
    Who sometimes counsel takes, and sometimes tay.”

The view through the gates, flanked with imposing masonry piers crested
with what the country folk call “gentility balls,” shows a delightful
picture of old-world stateliness.  Time within this enclosure seems to
have stood still.  You can imagine people living here who still take “a
dish of tay,” who are “vastly obleeged” when you ask them how they do,
and protest they are “mighty well,” or have “the vapours,” as the case
may be, instead of being, as they would be in other surroundings and in
the vile phrases of to-day, “awfully fit,” or “feeling rotten.”

You can imagine, I say, the owners of this fine old manor-house drinking
their dish of tay out of fine old “chancy,” as they used to call it;
still speaking in the fashion that went out of date with the death of the
great Duke of Wellington, who was among the last, I believe, to say
“obleeged” and to call a chair a “cheer.”  Now only the most rustic of
rustics talk in this manner, and when they say “cowcumber,” and
“laylock,” and speak of “going fust” they are thought vulgar and reproved
by their children.  But such was the pronunciation used by the best in
the land in years gone by.

There are the loveliest gardens in the rear of this old manor-house, with
orchards of apples and pears and wall-fruit beyond, and an older wing by
a century or so.

The main road goes straight ahead for some miles, with Long Marston
rather more than a mile on the right.  It is fully described in these
pages, in the first of the two chapters on the “Eight Villages.”  On the
left is the old farm-house which is all that is left of the hamlet of
Wincot, the place where “Marian Hacket, the fat alewife,” mentioned by
Christopher Sly in the induction to the _Taming of the Shrew_, had her
alehouse, at which that drunken tinker had run up a score.  Many of the
hamlets round about are “cotts,” “cotes,” or “cots”; Grimscote, Foxcote,
Hidcote, Idlicote, Darlingscott, and others.  Wincot as a hamlet of
Quinton finds mention in the registers of that church, and in them,
November 21st, 1591, is still to be found the entry recording the baptism
of Sara Hacket, daughter of Robert Hacket.  The fat Marian, therefore,
who allowed drunken undesirables to run up scores, was probably a real
person.

As we make for Quinton the tree-crowned height of Meon Hill, an outpost
of the Cotswolds, forms a striking landmark in this vale.  It is,
according to the Ordnance Survey, 637 feet high, and its position gives
it an appearance of even greater eminence.  At its foothills lies the
village of Quinton, in a district very little disturbed by strangers, and
in summer days one of quiet delights.  Coming over to Quinton one
afternoon, from a day of hospitable entertainment at King’s Lodge, Long
Marston, I cycled along the quiet sunlit road, past the old tollhouse
with its little strip of wayside garden, and silently came upon a black
cat, appreciatively and with much evident enjoyment smelling the
wall-flowers growing there.  One never before credited cats with a liking
for sweet scents.

Only one event during the year disturbs the serenity of Quinton.  At
other times it drowses, like all its fellow villages of the vale; but
this one occasion is like that in Tennyson’s _May Queen_, the “maddest,
merriest day.”  It is the day when Quinton Club holds high revel.  I do
not know what is the purpose of Quinton Club, but the occasion of its
merry-making is like that of a village fair, and all those travelling
proprietors of steam roundabouts, cocoa-nut shies, shooting-galleries and
popular entertainments of that kind who attend fairs make a point of
visiting this celebration.  And indeed I do not know what Quinton would
do without them and the many stall-keepers who come in their train.

To say merely that Quinton is not a large place would be to leave some
sort of impression that, if not a little town, it was at least a
considerable village.  It is, as a matter of fact, a very small one, but
to it on this day of days resort the people of those neighbouring places
unfortunate enough to have neither club nor fair of their own, and you
may see them trudging from all directions; driving in on farm-wagons
seated with kitchen-chairs for this purpose, or cycling.  Towards
evening, when most of the countryside has arrived, the strident tones of
the steam organ that forms not the least important part of the
roundabout, the thuds of the heavy mallets on the “try-your-strength”
machines, the shouting of the cocoa-nut shy proprietors, and the general
hum and buzz of the fair astonish the stranger afar off.  Near at hand,
the scent of fried fish is heavy on the air and gingerbread is hot i’ the
mouth, and in the centre of the hurly-burly the steam roundabout blares
and glares, presided over by a very highly-coloured full-length portrait
of no less a person than Lord Roberts, in the full equipment of Field
Marshal; the surest test of a soldier’s popularity.  Lord Kitchener has
never yet become the presiding hero over the galloping horses of the
steam roundabout: he is perhaps something too grim for these occasions.

I think, beneath the pictured face of Lord Roberts there lurks the
countenance of he who was the popular favourite immediately before him;
Lord Wolseley, who for twenty years or more was in the shrewd opinion of
the showmen, the most attractive personality to preside over the
steam-trumpets, the odious “kist o’ whustles,” the mirrors and the
circulating wooden horses.  The showmen know best, they are in touch with
popular sentiment; and be sure that if you scraped off Lord Roberts, you
would find the face of Lord Wolseley there.  Indeed, the possibility of a
real stratum of military heroes is only limited by the age of the machine
itself; and if it were only old enough one might penetrate beyond Lord
Wolseley to Lord Raglan, and even back to that ancient hero of the inn
signs, the Marquis of Granby.

The fine church of Quinton looks across the road to the village inn, the
“College Arms.”  The arms are those of Magdalen College, Oxford, owner of
the manor.

The church is a Decorated building, with fine spire, and contains some
interesting monuments; chief among them an altar-tomb with a very fine
brass to Joan Clopton, widow of Sir William Clopton, who died in 1419.
An effigy, on another altar-tomb, seen in the church, is said by some to
be that of her husband; others declare it to be that of one Thomas le
Roos.  She survived her husband several years, dying about 1430, in the
habit of a religious recluse, or “vowess.”  She lived probably in a cell
or anchoress’s hold built on to the church and commanding a view of the
altar, and must have had a singularly poor time of it in all those eleven
years.  No trace remains of her uncomfortable and singularly dull
habitation.  This misguided lady was by birth a Besford of Besford in
Worcestershire, and her coat of arms, displayed separately and also
impaled with that of her husband, has six golden pears on a red ground,
by way of a painfully farfetched pun on “Besford.”  Not even the most
desolating punster of our own time could or would torture “Besford” into
“Pearsford,” but our remote ancestors were capable of the greatest
enormities in this way.

Some of the red enamel still remains in the heraldic shields on this fine
brass, which, including its canopy, is six feet four inches long.  The
figure of Joan Clopton, and the brass in general, is in excellent
condition, perhaps because the descendants of the family took care of it.
One of them, a certain “T. Lingen,” whose name appears upon the tomb,
repaired it in 1739.  A Latin verse occupies the margin of the brass,
with little figures of pears repeated at intervals.  The verse has been
translated as follows—

    “Vowed to a holy life when ceased her knightly husband’s breath,
    Joan Clopton here, Anne’s grandchild dear, implores Thy grace in
    death;
    O! Christ, for Thee, O! Jesu blest, how largely hath she shed
    Her bounteous gifts on poor and sick—how hath she garnished
    Thy stately shrines with splendour meet—how hath she sent before
    Her earthly wealth to Thee above, to swell her heavenly store,
    For such blest fruits of faith, O grant, in Thine own house her home:
    Soft lies an earthly tomb on those to whom these heavenly blessings
    come.”

A scroll above her head is inscribed with the words—

    “Complaceat tibi due eripias me
    Due ad adiuuand’ me respice”

an appeal that may be rendered, “Be good and loving to me, O Lord.”

A striking instance of the affection inspired by Queen Elizabeth is to be
noticed in the Royal arms of her period over the chancel arch, bearing,
in addition to “that glorious ‘Semper Eadem’” alluded to by Macaulay in
his ballad on the Armada, the inscription “God love our noble Queen.”

Resuming the way to Chipping Campden, the road passes the spot marked on
the maps “Lower Clopton.”  This, or the other tiny hamlet away on the
left, called “Upper Clopton,” was the home of that first Shakespeare
recorded in history, who was hanged in 1248 for robbery.  Through
Mickleton, a more considerable village than its neighbours, and deriving
its original name of “Mycclantune,” the “larger town,” from that fact, up
climbs the highway to Campden.

It is in some ways difficult to imagine Campden the busy and prosperous
place it once unquestionably was; but the quiet old streets, lined with
houses almost every one of good architectural character; and the old
market-house, and the fine church give full assurance of the commercial
activity and the wealth that have departed.



CHAPTER XVII


                            Chipping Campden.

CAMPDEN’S position as a market town dates back to Saxon times, when the
verb “ceapan,” to buy, gave the prefix “Chipping” to it.  The town rose
to greater prosperity when the ancient wool-growing wealth of the
Cotswolds was doubled by the manufacture in these same districts of the
cloth from those wealth-bringing fleeces; and great fortunes were amassed
by both wool-merchants and clothiers.  The rise of England from an
agricultural and a wool-growing country, such as Australia now is, to a
manufacturing community directly concerned such towns as Stroud,
Northleach, Burford and Chipping Campden, which, with the introduction of
weaving, earned two profits instead of one.  There are perhaps a dozen
little Cotswold towns whose great churches were rebuilt in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries, in a magnificent style by the wealthy merchants
of the time, whose monumental brasses still in many cases remain,
representing them standing upon sheep, or woolsacks, or with the tailor’s
shears between their legs; the origins of their wealth.  When the cloth
manufacture largely migrated to the Midlands and the north, such towns as
Campden, Burford, and Northleach began to decay, and now that Australia
is the chief source of the wool supply it is difficult to see how they
are ever to recover.  They are not on the great routes of traffic, and
railways do not come near them.

                 [Picture: Old Houses, Chipping Campden]

              [Picture: The Market House, Chipping Campden]

Campden is situated on a kind of shelf or narrow plateau upon the
Cotswolds.  You come steeply up to it, and, leaving it, rise as steeply
as before.  Like most of its neighbours on Cotswold, it is a stone-built
town, grown grey with age and weathering.  When some new mason-work is
undertaken—which is not often—the stone is seen to be of a pale biscuit
colour; but it soon loses that new tint and rapidly acquires the rather
sad hue of the older work.

The traveller fresh from Stratford, where brick, and timber-framed and
plastered houses abound, feels astonishment in the sudden transition to a
place like Campden, in which I believe there is not a single example of
timber-framing.

The old town of Campden is extraordinarily full of architectural
interest; with domestic work ranging from the mid-fourteenth century
house of the Grevels to the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the
town began to decline and building ceased.  No modern suburbs are found
on the outskirts of Campden.  I do not know how the town manages to
exist.  There is a railway station, but it is a mile away and it is only
incidental and placed on the line to Evesham and Worcester.  No great
genius was ever born at Campden, or if he was, he missed fire and
perished unknown.  Therefore it is not a place of pilgrimage, and only
parties of architectural students, measuring up or sketching some of the
charming bits with which it abounds; or artists, or contemplative
ruminative folk who want to escape from the eternal hustle of this age
and its devilish gospel of “get on or get out” ever go there.  “Past” is
traced over its every building.  “There was a time” might be inscribed
over the open-sided and quaintly-colonnaded market-house; and “Yesterday”
should be the town motto.  There are little courts off the main street
where the leisured explorer in Campden will find remains of the old wool
warehouses, with here and there a traceried Gothic window.  Many old
sundials still exist on the walls; in particular a charming example near
the market-house with the initials W. S. T. and date 1690; and dated
house-tablets show with what pride the old inhabitants looked upon their
homes.

But the pride of all the ancient houses of Campden is that house where
William Grevel lived in the fourteenth century.  It is not a very large
house, one thinks, for so wealthy a man as he was, described as he is on
the brass in the church as “the flower of the wool-merchants of all
England,” but it presents a charming frontage to the street and has an
oriel window of peculiar beauty, presided over by two huge and hideous
gargoyles, the one representing a winged, bat-like monster with gaping
mouth and a ferocious expression; the other a kind of demon dog with
glaring eyes of intense malignity—the late Mr. William Grevel’s familiar
spirits, perhaps.

Every one well-read in the history of his country knows that the ranks of
its aristocracy and its peerage have constantly been reinforced from the
trading classes.  It is a matter of money.  When a man has great
possessions he finds the House of Lords waiting to receive him.  It has
been so for centuries, and not only so, but the ennobled have in their
own later generations given younger sons to trade.  The different
processes are still seen working; and why not?  Wealth will secure
consideration, and younger sons who cannot always marry money must in
their turn go into trade and make it.

                        [Picture: Grevel’s House]

The old wool-merchants and clothiers often rose to the peerage on their
own account, or married their sons and daughters into its ranks.  William
Grevel, who was a descendant of other mercantile Grevels, never became
more than a wealthy trader.  As such he died in 1401, and it was not
until just over two centuries had passed that his descendant, Fulke
Greville, entered the lists of the coroneted as Baron Brooke; the eighth
Baron Brooke not becoming Earl of Warwick until 1759.  The Grevels—or
“Grevilles,” as they afterwards spelt their name—therefore only belatedly
won to that haven where they would be; but most others were more
fortunate.  Baptist Hicks, for example, is an extraordinary instance of
swift accumulation of wealth.  He, however, made it in London, as a
mercer and perhaps a good deal more as a moneylender.  He lent money to
James the First among others, and became so warm a man that he returned
in 1609 to his native Gloucestershire and purchased the manor of Campden,
building a magnificent country seat next the church.  The cost of this
was £29,000: over £200,000 according to present value.  He had so much
money and so fine a house that he, being already a Knight, was in 1628
created a Viscount.  He died the following year, not like Tennyson’s
Countess of Burleigh, because of the weight of an honour to which he had
not been born, but by reason of age and possibly chagrin that he had not
been created an Earl.

He was a benefactor to Campden, and built the charming group of
almshouses that stand on the left-hand on the way to the church.

Past these almshouses, the way goes directly to the church, a noble
building of date somewhere about 1530.  It owes its present stately
proportions and Perpendicular style largely to the benefactions of Grevel
and others.  The tower is remarkable for a buttress which is in some ways
a kind of highly-developed mullion running through the centre of the
window of the lower stage.  It is perhaps rather more curious than
beautiful, and as it cannot be of any constructional value and adds
little if anything to the stability of the tower, we can only regard it
as one of those freaks of the last phase of Gothic architecture which
tell us, if we have but the wit to understand, that, Reformation or no
Reformation, with Henry the Eighth or without, the Gothic spirit was
dying.

        [Picture: Interior of the Market House, Chipping Campden]

The curious ogee-shaped roof of a building seen in the foreground of the
accompanying view of the church is that of a garden-pavilion, or gazebo,
of Campden House, the lordly mansion built in 1613 by Sir Baptist Hicks,
first Viscount Campden.  I have seen curious old illustrations of this
fine house, by which it would seem to have been a place of extraordinary
grandeur.  It is said to have been the largest house ever built in
England, and stood upon eight acres of ground.  This truly extensive
mansion existed no longer than thirty-two years, for it was burnt by
order of Prince Rupert in 1645.  During that time of civil war Campden
House had been a notable rallying-place for the Royalists, who under a
rough soldier, Sir Henry Bard, had made themselves a pestilent nuisance,
not only to their natural enemies, but even to sympathisers.  If they
needed anything in the way of food, forage, or apparel, they took it
where it was to be found, whether from Roundhead or Royalist.  They raped
the very clothes off the country people’s backs.  “A man,” says one of
these lamenting rustics, “need keep a tight hold of his very breeches, or
’tis odds but what these Sabines will have them, and if he is let keep
his shirt, it is thought a matter of grace.”  So it was not altogether
regretfully that they saw Bard and his brigands depart while there
remained one of those indispensable articles, or a hat, or pair of shoes
in the neighbourhood.  When the garrison left, they fired the mansion.
It was never rebuilt, and to this day its ruins stand to keep the tale in
mind.

That the church was rebuilt in the very last years of the Late
Perpendicular style is more and more evident as you approach and examine
it.  William Grevel in 1401 left a hundred marks towards the work, and
you will be told locally that the present building is the result of that
gift.  But not very much could have been done with such a sum, and in any
event, the fabric is distinctly and unmistakably over a hundred years
later in date.  The ogee pinnacles and mouldings, and especially the
flattened arches of the nave-arcade tell their architectural tale in a
way that cannot be gainsaid.

On the floor of the chancel is the fine brass to William Grevel, 1401,
and Marion, his wife, 1386.  It is, with its canopied work, eight feet
nine inches high; the figure of Grevel himself being five feet four
inches.  We see him habited in the merchant’s dress of his period, and
with the forked beard that was then the usual wear of the elderly among
his class, as Chaucer says, in his _Canterbury Tales_: “A marchant was
there with a forked beard.”

Other brasses are to William Welley, merchant, 1450, and wife Alice; John
Lethenard, merchant, 1467, and his wife Joan; and William Gybbys, 1484,
with his three wives, Alice, Margaret and Marion, and seven sons and six
daughters.

The stately monument of Baptist Hicks, first Viscount Campden, and his
wife occupies the south chancel chapel.  It is one of the works of
Nicholas Stone and his sons, whose extraordinarily fine craftsmanship as
sculptors and designers of monuments in the seventeenth century redeemed
to a great extent the rather vulgar ostentation which marked in general
the neo-classic style of the age.  The monument takes up nearly all the
floor space and rises to a great height.  Beneath a canopy formed by it
rest the recumbent marble effigies of that ennobled wool-merchant and
sometime Lord Mayor of London, and his wife, habited in the robes of
their rank, and with coronets on their heads.  They are impressive in a
very high degree.  A long Latin inscription narrates his good deeds and
expatiates upon the good fortune of Campden which benefited by them.

It is not easy to excuse the deplorable taste which produced the large
monument against the wall to Edward Noel, 2nd Viscount Campden, who died
1642, and his widow, Juliana, 1680.  We would like to believe that the
idea of it was none of Nicholas Stone’s, but was dictated by the mortuary
grief of that thirty-eight years’ long widow, who no doubt found great
satisfaction and consolation in coming every now and then to open its
doors and look at the gruesome white marble figures, larger than life, of
herself and her husband, representing them standing hand in hand, in
their shrouds.  They remind one very vividly of the lines in _Ruddigore_—

    “And then the ghost and his lady toast
       To their churchyard beds take flight,
    With a kiss perhaps on her lantern chaps
       And a grisly, grim ‘Good-night!’”

The visitor to Campden church is told that the black marble doors
disclosing these figures and now fixed permanently open, against the
wall, were generally closed during the lifetime of the widow, and were
opened at her decease.  The long epitaphs tell us in detail about her,
her husband, and her family.  On the left-hand is that to the husband—

“This monument is erected to preserve the memory and pourtrait of the
Right Honourable Sr. Edward Noel, Viscount Campden, Baron Noel of
Ridlington and Hicks of Ilmington.  He was Knight Banneret in the warrs
of Ireland, being young, and then created Baronet anno 1611.  He was
afterwards made Baron of Ridlington.  The other titles came unto him by
right of Dame Juliana, his wife, who stands collaterall to him in this
monument, a lady of extraordinary great endowments, both of vertue and
fortune.  This goodly lord died at Oxford at ye beginning of the late
fatall civil warrs, whither he went to serve and assist his sovverain
Prince Charles the First, and so was exalted to the Kingdom of Glory, 8°
Martii 1642.”

The right hand door is inscribed with the lady’s own description, and of
her children’s fortunes—

    “The Lady Juliana, eldest daughter and co-heire (of that mirror of
    his time) Sr. Baptist Hicks, Viscount Campden.  She was married to
    that noble Lord who is here engraven by her, by whom she had Baptist,
    Lord Viscount Campden, now living (who is blessed with a numerous and
    gallant issue).  Henry, her second son, died a prisoner for his
    loyalty to his Prince.  Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was married
    to John Viscount Chaworth: Mary, her second daughter, to the very
    noble Knight, Sr Erasmus de la Fontaine.  Penelope, her youngest
    daughter, died a mayd.

    “This excellent lady, for the pious and unparallel’d affections she
    retained to the memory of her deceased lord, caused this stately
    monument to be erected in her lifetime, in September Anno Dom. 1664.”

A very charming mural monument to the Lady Penelope shows a
delicately-sculptured bust.  She is seen wearing a dress with deep
Vandyck lace collar.  As with the other monuments, it is clearly from the
hands of the Stone family.  The Lady Penelope, who died young in 1633, is
traditionally said to have died from the effects of pricking her finger
when working in coloured silks.  The position of the hand is said to be
in allusion to the accident.  A companion figure is that to the Lady Anne
Noel, wife of the Lady Penelope’s brother, Baptist.  She died 1636.

                    [Picture: Chipping Campden Church]

The “Campden Wonder,” at which people in 1662 marvelled, is still an
unsolved mystery, and ever likely to remain so.  The story of it began in
1660, on August 16th, when William Harrison, a staid elderly man of about
sixty years, who had been trusted for many years as the steward of the
widowed Juliana, Viscountess Campden, went to Charingworth, three miles
away, to collect some rents.  When night had come and he had not
returned, his wife sent a servant, John Perry, in search.  By morning,
when he too had not come back, Mrs. Harrison grew more alarmed and sent
her son, Edward, who met Perry returning, without having seen anything of
his master.  Young Harrison persuaded the man to go to Ebrington with him
and to raise further inquiries.  There they heard that William Harrison
had called the evening before and rested, and that he had then left.  He
had then about £23 on him.

On their way back to Campden, young Harrison and Perry met a woman who
handed them a bloodstained comb and band which that morning she had found
in the furze on the road between Ebrington and Charingworth.  They were
those of the missing man, but of him no trace could be found.  It did not
take long to come to the conclusion that Perry must have had a hand in
his master’s disappearance, and he was arrested on suspicion of murder.
He had told so many contradictory tales that he was rightly suspected,
and after a week’s imprisonment he had yet another story.  He now
“confessed” that his mother, Joan Perry, and his brother Richard had long
urged him to rob his master, and that at last they had on this occasion
waylaid and robbed him, afterwards strangling him and throwing the body
into the great mill-sink of the neighbouring Wallington’s Mill.  The comb
and band had been put on the road by himself.

John Perry’s mother and brother were accordingly arrested and the three
were tried at Gloucester and convicted, notwithstanding the fact that no
body had been found, and in spite of the piteous protestations of
innocence by Joan Perry and Richard, and in face of the avowal by John
that he must have been mad when he “confessed.”  He now declared he knew
nothing of Harrison’s death; but in spite of all these doubts, the three
were executed, on Broadway Hill.  Joan was hanged first, and Robert next.
John calmly saw them die and listened to their last appeals to him to
confess and to exonerate them.  He was hanged last, protesting that he
had never known anything of his master’s death, or even if he were dead.
But, he added, they might hereafter possibly hear.

The countryside congratulated itself upon being rid of three
undesirables.  The old woman had always been reputed a witch.  And when
the affair was becoming a stale and exhausted topic, one autumn evening
at dusk, two years later, Mr. William Harrison, for whose murder three
persons had been convicted and hanged, returned and walked into his own
house.

He gave forth an ingenious but preposterous story to account for his two
years’ absence.  As he was returning home, he said, on the evening of his
disappearance, he was intercepted by three horsemen who attacked, wounded
and robbed him, and carrying him to a neighbouring cottage on the heath,
nursed him there until it was possible to carry him across country to
Dover, where they put him aboard a vessel and sold him to the captain,
who had several others in like case with himself on his ship.  They
voyaged from Deal and after about six weeks’ sail they were seized by
Turkish pirates and he and the others were put aboard the Turkish ship
and sold as slaves in Turkey.  His master lived near Smyrna.  After
serving him as a slave for nearly two years, the elderly Turk died and
the slave escaped to the coast, where he persuaded some Hamburg sailors
to take him as a stowaway to Lisbon.  There he met an Englishman who took
compassion upon him and found him a passage to England.  Landing at
Dover, he made his way directly home.

      [Picture: Brass to William Grevel and Wife, Chipping Campden]

This cock-and-bull story was all that the country ever had in the way of
satisfaction.  Harrison went about his steward’s business as before,
trusted and respected, and died ten years later.  In after years some
suspicion seems to have fallen upon the son, but for what reason does not
appear.  That industrious Oxford diarist, Anthony Wood, who took a keen
interest in the affair, as did all the country, says, “After Harrison’s
returne, John was taken down [from his gibbet] and Harrison’s wife soon
after (being a snotty covetous presbyterian) hung herself in her owne
house.  Why, the reader is to judge.”

In leaving Campden and its memories, I must not let it be supposed that
in speaking of the town as decayed and belonging to the past I either
intend to slight it or forget the Guild of Handicraft established here in
1892.  Removed from London in that year, it has sought to bring back in
these more and more commercial and factory times the craftsman’s old
traditions of artistic and individual work, no matter in what trade.  In
printing, bookbinding, enamel-work, jewellery and cabinet-making it has
sought by precept and example to further the teachings of Ruskin and
Morris, and has created a new feeling here and elsewhere which has
effects in places little suspected.



CHAPTER XVIII


   A Deserted Railway—Villages of the Stour Valley—Ettington and Squire
           Shirley—Shipston-on-Stour—Brailes—Compton Wynyates.

THERE is not an uninteresting road among the eight that lead out of
Stratford, and all are beautiful.  But none has more beauty than that
which runs southward to Shipston-on-Stour.  This way, or by the route
leading through Ettington and Sunrising Hill, you go to Compton Wynyates,
that wonderfully picturesque old mansion of the Comptons, Marquises of
Northampton, which has remained unaltered for centuries in its
remoteness, and is still not easily accessible.  The Shipston road then,
for choice, to Compton Wynyates.  It follows, more or less closely the
valley of the Stour, and here and there touches the river; while
companionably, all the way run the grass-grown cuttings and embankments
of that long-abandoned Stratford and Shipston Tramway whose red brick
bridge is a feature of the Avon at Stratford town.

The deserted earthworks and ivy-grown bridges of this forgotten
undertaking, now this side of the road and then the other, excite the
curiosity of the stranger, but he will rarely find anyone to tell him the
meaning of them, and at the best only vaguely.  Their story is one of
unfulfilled hopes and money flung ruinously away; for they are the only
traces of the Central Junction Railway projected in 1820, to run through
to Oxford and London.  It was a horsed tramway, and was opened through
Shipston to Moreton-in-the-Marsh in 1826.  A remunerative traffic in
general agricultural produce and goods was expected, but the enterprise
seems to have been weighted from the beginning with the heavy expenses of
construction.  Estimated by Telford at £35,000 for the Stratford-on-Avon
to Moreton section, they soon reached £80,000.  But the doom of the
project was sounded by the introduction of the locomotive engine, almost
simultaneously with the opening.  In 1845 it was leased to the Oxford,
Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, a scandalously inefficient line
whose initials, “O. W. W.” suggested to saturnine wags the appropriate
name of “Old Worse and Worse.”  This ill-managed affair was eventually
absorbed into the Great Western Railway, which now owns these relics.

Little villages are thickly set along the course of the Stour, to the
right of the road; ancient settlements, each but a slightly larger or
smaller collection of farmhouses, barns and thatched cottages, with a
church in their midst.  Here the Saxon farmers came and early cultivated
the rich meadow-lands, leaving the poorer uplands long unenclosed and
untitled; and to every little community came the clergy and set up a
church and tithed those farmers who earned their livelihood by the sweat
of their brows.  Such a village is Atherstone-upon-Stour, where a
majestic red brick farmhouse, dating from the seventeenth century,
neighbours a debased little church.  There is little of interest in that
church, and the loathly epitaph to William Thomas, a son of the rector,
who died in 1710, aged nine, of smallpox, decently veils in the obscurity
of eighteenth century pedagogic Latin the full particulars given of his
disease.

A rather larger village is Preston-upon-Stour, reached from the highway
after passing the lovely elm avenues of Alscot Park.  Thatched cottages
looking upon an upland green, with village church presiding over it, are
the note of Preston.  Tall stone gate-piers of the eighteenth century,
with fine wrought-iron gates, give entrance to the churchyard.  The
interior of the church is, however, a very shocking example of the
eighteenth-century way with Gothic buildings.

Smaller than any of these places by the lovely little Stour is
Whitchurch, just before the larger village of Alderminster.  It lies off
to the right, not often troubled by the stranger.  The place-name is
thought to derive from a supposed former dedication of the church to St.
Candida, or Wita.  “Alderminster” means probably “the alderman’s town,”
the property in Saxon times of some wealthy landowner, and has no
ecclesiastical associations or monastic history that would account for
the “minster” in the place-name.

The road grows extremely beautiful at the crossing of the Stour by
Ettington Park and the approach to Newbold.  Here, where a by-road to
Grimscote goes off on the right, an ornate pillar standing on the grass
serves the purpose of a milestone and bears the sculptured arms—the gold
and black pales (heraldically paly of six, or and sable)—of a former
owner of Ettington Park, generally spoken of in the neighbourhood as
“wold Squire Shirley, what lived yur tharty yur agoo.”  It was in 1871
that he erected this elaborate stone which I think must be the only
poetical milestone in England.  It is not great poetry, and there is not
much of it; but it shows the immense possibilities of wayside
entertainment, if all its fellows were made to burst into song—

                      “6 miles
    To Shakespeare’s Town, whose name
       Is known throughout the earth;
    To Shipston 4, whose lesser fame
       Boasts no such poet’s birth.”

You will see here that my own notion, earlier in these chaste pages, of
re-naming the town “Shakespeare-on-Avon” germinated, however
unconsciously, in “wold Squire Shirley’s” brain, over forty years since.

But this is not all.  Two Latin and English verses are added to the tale
of it—

    “Crux mea lux,
    After darkness light.
    From light hope flows.
    And peace in death,
    In Christ is sure repose.
             Spes 1871.
    Post obitum Salus.
    In obitu Pax
    In hue Spes
    Post tenebras lux.”

The shields of arms include the nine roundels of the see of Worcester,
and a further shield of the Shirley arms, with a canton ermine.

This poetical squire was Mr. Evelyn Philip Shirley, kinsman of Earl
Ferrers.  He refronted his house at Ettington Park, and indulged himself
fully in that elaborate mansion in the verse he loved so well and
composed so ill.  In the hall still remains the shield of arms he set up
there, displaying these same alternate black and gold stripes which come
down from the times of Sewallis, and beneath it another of his
compositions—

    “These be the pales of black and gold
    The which Sewallis bore of old;
    And this the coat which his true heirs
    The ancient house of Shirley bears.”

Ettington Park is now without a tenant and is, I believe, to be sold.
Thus passes the pride of this branch of the Shirleys.

It is a lovely park and a stately house, with the ivied ruins of the
ancient church adjoining, including the tombs and effigies of older
Shirleys and others who would make excellent ancestors for any
enterprising purchaser.  “I don’t know whose ancestors they were,” says
the Major-General in the _Pirates of Penzance_, of the monuments in the
ruined chapel on the estate he has bought, “but I know whose they are.”

The Squire, besides his activities in the way of bad rhymes, stumbling
metres, and obvious moral sentiments, was an antiquary, and keen to alter
the spelling of the place-name “Eatington” to “Ettington,” on the coming
of the railway in 1873.  He showed that it is “Etendone” in Domesday
Book, and that Dugdale, the historian of Warwickshire, was the first to
spell it Eatington in 1656.  But Dugdale, who knew the name derived from
the watery situation of the place, was right, and Domesday wrong, as it
very often is in these matters, the Norman-French compilers of it not
being at all well-equipped for rendering the, to them, alien names
correctly.

Passing pretty scenes at Newbold-on-Stour, the road bears away from the
river and touches it again at the equally pretty village of Tredington.
The spire of Honington is then seen on the left, and Shipston-on-Stour is
entered.  There is a railway station at Shipston, the terminus of a
little branch line from Moreton-in-the-Marsh.  When the railway reached
so far it exhausted all its energies and could do no more.  It might be
supposed, from the efforts to reach Shipston by rail, that it was an
important place, whose traffic was well worth securing—perhaps even, from
its name, a port; but it is long since this old market-town was a place
of any commercial value, and no ships ever sailed the little Stour.  They
were sheep, not ships, that gave Shipston its name, and it first appears
in history, nine hundred and fifty years ago, as “Scepewasce”; that is to
say, the place where the sheep were washed in those Saxon times.  It was
written “Scepwaesctun” in 1006, and is “Scepwestun” in Domesday; _i.e._
the Sheepwash Town.

To Brailes, over two miles from Shipston, the road rises, commanding
views down upon the left over “the Feldon,” as the district between this
and Stratford-on-Avon is known; that clearing in the ancient Forest of
Arden which is by no means so bare of timber as might be supposed, and
itself indeed looks from this height very like a forest.  At Brailes is
the parish church, proudly styled the “Cathedral of the Feldon.”  It is
large, its tower is lofty, rising to a hundred and twenty feet, and it
stands in a prominent position.  Its Perpendicular architecture is good,
too, but there is nothing, internally, of a cathedral about it.

At the “George” inn, Brailes, the traveller to Compton Wynyates will do
well to refresh himself before he proceeds further, for not only has he
come far, but when he has threaded the steep and winding lanes beyond
which that romantic manor-house of the Comptons lies in its deep,
cup-like hollow, he will need something wherewith to fortify his
energies, especially as it is extremely likely he will lose himself on
the way, and as there is no likelihood of his being able to refresh
himself when there.  Romance, lovely scenery, and picturesque
architectural grouping are not well seen when fasting.

“Wynyates” is a puzzling word, which may mean “Vineyards” or “Windgates”:
the first for choice.  The place, let it be impressed upon the stranger,
is a house, not a village; although, looking sheerly down upon the hollow
where its crowded gables and many clustered chimneys are seen, with its
adjoining church, a village it might appear to be.  There was once,
indeed, such a place, but it disappeared so long ago that no one can tell
us anything about it, and its church, which stood upon the site of the
present building, was battered to pieces and “totally reduced to
rubbish,” as Dugdale tells us, during the siege of the mansion in 1644.

Thus the Comptons, Marquises of Northampton, have the place all to
themselves.  And it is very likely that the explorer also will have
Compton Wynyates to himself, for this is but one of the residences of
that noble family, whose chief seat is at Castle Ashby, away in
Northamptonshire, and it is occupied for only a short interval in every
year.  By an admirable generosity and courtesy the stranger may generally
be assured of permission to see the interior of the mansion, a privilege
very well worth exercising.

Sir William Compton, the builder of Compton Wynyates, was the descendant
of a long line of obscure squires who had been settled here for
centuries.  He owed his advancement in life to being brought up with
Henry the Eighth, who cherished an affection for him and gave his friend
the Castle of Fulbrook, which was situated between Stratford-on-Avon and
Warwick.  Sir William Compton did a singular thing with the gift.  He
pulled it down and transported the materials by packhorse or mule-train
the dozen miles or so across country to this secluded hollow, and with
them built the charming house we now see.  Fulbrook Castle, it would thus
appear, was less of a castle than a slightly embattled manor-house, built
of red brick, with tall moulded chimney stacks, in the reign of Henry the
Sixth.  It had been in existence only some eighty years.  Its chimneys,
according to tradition, were taken whole, the mortar being so strong that
the bricks could not be separated.  Thus the singularity of a brick house
in a stone district is explained.

                       [Picture: Compton Wynyates]

It is red brick such as that of Hampton Court: a lovely mellow red,
further toned by more than four hundred and fifty years.  The remains of
a moat, and some beautiful gardens, form an exquisite setting.  Little
has ever been done to alter the mansion.  It is built around a
quadrangle, and is entered by the original brick porch with the Royal
arms of the Tudor period above.  Within is the Great Hall, panelled in
oak, with timbered roof and minstrel-gallery.  The adjoining dining-room,
oak-panelled and with richly-decorated plaster ceiling, displaying the
heraldic devices of the Comptons, is next the domestic chapel.  On the
door above are the withdrawing-rooms communicating with the
chapel-gallery.  Here is “Henry the Eighth’s Bedchamber,” afterwards used
by Queen Elizabeth when she visited Henry Compton, grandson of Sir
William, in 1572, shortly after creating him Baron Compton.  His son
William is the hero of that Compton romance which brought the family
great wealth.  He fell in love with the daughter and heiress of the
enormously rich Sir John Spencer, alderman of London, but the father did
not approve of it and refused to allow his daughter to hold any converse
with her lover, who then had recourse to an ingenious stratagem.  He
enlisted the Spencer’s family baker upon his side, bribing him to be
allowed to carry the domestic bread to the house, and duly disguised
appeared one morning with his load.  He was so early that the alderman
gave him sixpence and a homily on the virtues of diligence and
punctuality.  But when the loaves had been delivered, the lady herself
took her place in the basket and was carried away in it and promptly
married.  Her father, cheated of the better match he had looked for,
disinherited her, and the Spencer wealth would have gone other ways but
for Queen Elizabeth, who when the first child of these enterprising
lovers was born asked Sir John Spencer to be sponsor with her at the
baptism of a child she was interested in, and to adopt it.  He
unsuspectingly agreed and thus became godfather and guardian of his
grandson, who inherited the riches so nearly lost.  The resourceful lover
and husband, father of this fortunate boy, Spencer Compton, was created
Earl of Northampton by James the First.  Spencer, the second Earl, fought
for King Charles at Edge Hill, October 23rd, 1642, and was slain at
Hopton Heath the following March.  In June 1644, the Royalist garrison of
Compton Wynyates was besieged, and the house was captured in two days,
and held throughout the war by the Roundheads, in spite of the bold
moonlight attack in December, when the two brothers, Sir Charles and Sir
William Compton, at the head of a daring party from Banbury, surprised
the outposts, rushed the drawbridge which then crossed the moat, and
fought a long hand to hand fight in the stables, before they were driven
back.

The long wooden gallery under the roof on one side of the house is known
as “the Barracks.”  Here the garrison lay during those times.  A panelled
room in the tower is known as the “Council Chamber.”  Above it is the
“Priest’s Room,” apparently at some time used as a secret chapel, for on
the wooden window-shelf may be seen the five rudely-cut crosses for an
altar.

The church destroyed in the troubles of the civil war was rebuilt in 1663
by the third Earl of Northampton, and contains the battered monuments of
Sir William Compton, builder of the mansion, and his wife; and of Henry,
first Baron Compton; retrieved from the moat, into which, after being
broken up, they had been thrown.



CHAPTER XIX


     Luddington—Welford—Weston-on-Avon—Cleeve Priors—Salford Priors.

THE way from Stratford to Evesham is a main road, the road through
Bidford, that already described in the chapters on the “Eight Villages,”
and hardly to be mentioned again except that by making some variations
here and there, two or three villages not otherwise to be visited may be
included.  The first is Luddington, two and a half miles from the town,
on a duly sign-posted road to the left, an excellent road, although not
marked so on the maps.  Luddington, besides being a village of one long
row of old thatched cottages close to the Avon, is of some mild interest
as being the place of which Thomas Hunt, one of Shakespeare’s
schoolmasters, became curate-in-charge, and where, some say, Shakespeare
was married.  But the old church was burnt down many years ago and
rebuilt in 1872, and the register, supposed to have been destroyed at the
same time, was long kept in private hands, finally disappearing
altogether.  The late Mr. C. E. Flower, of Stratford-on-Avon, stated
that, in his younger days, “no one dreamed of disputing the assertion
that Shakespeare was married at Luddington old church”; and many others
declared that they had seen the entry in the book.

The way through Luddington crosses over the railway and rejoins the main
road half a mile short of Binton station.  Welford lies away to the left.

Welford is a kind of show place in the Stratford district.  “Ah! if you
want to see a pretty place, you should go to Welford.”  The experienced
traveller and amateur of rural beauty hears this with a certain amount of
misgiving, for the popular suffrages might mean tea-gardens and all the
materials towards making a happy day for those very many people who think
nature unadorned to be a dull affair at the best.  But Welford is quite
as good as it is represented to be.  One might almost style it the most
picturesque village in the neighbourhood.

There is a good deal of Welford in the aggregate, but it is so scattered
that it has the appearance of half a dozen hamlets.  It is best reached
by turning off the road to Bidford just short of Binton railway station.
A few yards bring you to what are called “Binton bridges,” across the
Avon, here running in overgrown channels, thick with “the vagabond flag,”
and shaded by willows that recall the lines in _Hamlet_—

    “There is a willow grows askant the brook
    That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.”

You may notice, when the wind ruffles the leaves of the willow, that the
description is exact; the underside of a willow-leaf being different from
the upper, and of a hoary, grey-white tint.

“Binton bridges” are not, as might perhaps be assumed, bridges side by
side, but are continuations, across the two channels of the river.
Immediately across them the sign of the “Four Alls” inn attracts notice.
It is a picture-sign showing the King, “I rule all”; a bishop, “I pray
for all”; a guardsman, “I fight for all”; and a mournful-looking person,
seated, wearing a suit of black clothes and a thoughtful expression of
countenance: “I pay for all.”  It is a sign to be matched in other parts
of the country, and was invented long ago by some sardonic person who had
pondered deeply upon the functions of the Monarchy, the Church, the Army,
and the tax-payer.  But he lacked the savage, saturnine humour of the
person who thought of the “Five Alls,” another sign not unknown in the
length and breadth of the land.  The Fifth All being the Devil: “I take
all!”

The first part of Welford soon appears, on the right.  It might be styled
the chief part, because here, among the scattered groups of cottages, the
church is found.  The church itself is only mildly interesting, but the
old lych-gate is a quaint survival, as weather-worn and rustic and
untouched as Welford itself; its rude timbers seamed and bleached with
the weather of over four centuries.  Past the church you come down Boat
Lane to the river, where the weir can be heard roaring.  There are some
particularly sketchable cottages in this lane, as will be seen by the
illustration over-leaf.

Returning, and proceeding southwards, other ancient thatched cottages are
passed, and then we come to the maypole, doubtless regarded as the centre
of the village.  It is still dressed on May Day every year, and stands
here all the year on its mound, a thing for the stranger to wonder at,
gaily painted in bands of red, white and blue.  It is not, of course, the
only existing maypole in England.  I myself, _moi que vous parle_, know
about a dozen; but they are sufficiently unusual to attract attention.

The rest of Welford straggles along a broad street to the left, and
presently ends obscurely in meadows leading to the river.  Across
field-paths one comes in this direction to the very out-of-the-world
little village of Weston-on-Avon.  The explorer who finds Weston feels
like some member of the Geographical Society who has wandered in strange,
outlandish parts and comes back to read a paper on the subject; but I
dare say it is similarly discovered very frequently.  Meanwhile, I have
no travellers’ tales to tell of the manners and customs of the people,
who are, as commonly elsewhere, of two sexes and walk upright on their
hind legs, and some are old and some young, and others yet middle-aged.
And there is the railway station of Milcote, only a mile away, situated
in a field.  No one seems ever to go to it, or come from it; “Milcote”
being a species of dream place represented only by two remote houses.  I
believe the station must have been set down there by some railway manager
suffering from strong delusions.

                      [Picture: Boat Lane, Welford]

Weston-on-Avon is really a very charming little place, with a small
aisle-less Late Perpendicular church, remarkable for the continuous range
of windows high up in the north wall, giving the interior an unusual
brightness and grace.  The tower is furnished at its angles with
gargoyles of an unusual size and imaginative quality.

Returning to Welford, a by-road leads by the meadows called “Welford
Pastures” to Barton, and across the Roman road, the Ryknield Street, to
the hamlet of Marlcliff, below Bidford, where the Avon becomes broader
and navigable and lined with beautifully wooded cliffs, densely covered
with foliage to the water’s edge.  A mile further is the village of
Cleeve Priors, where the picturesque old “King’s Arms” inn, with its
horseman’s upping-block in front, dates from 1691.  Here, too, is a small
seventeenth-century manor-house, with heavily-barred and grated door,
breathing old-time distrust and suspicion.

Returning through the village to the waterside, the river may be crossed
here, by the long plank footbridge, only one plank wide, at Cleeve Mill
and lock; and Abbot’s Salford reached, on the Evesham main road, just
missing Salford Priors, where, if we wish to see it, there is a fine old
church.  Salford Priors was anciently the property of the Priory of
Kenilworth, and Salford Abbots that of Evesham Abbey.  Here, enclosed
within a jealous high wall, is the old Hall, generally called “the
Nunnery,” because of a Roman Catholic sisterhood having been established
here in modern times.  It is a small Jacobean mansion, very tall in
proportion to its size, and curiously huddled together.  Quaint curved
and re-curved gables of a bygone fashion, deeply set windows, and lofty
stone chimney-stacks, give the place a reticent look; the look of a house
with a history and secrets of its own.  There are so many amateurs of the
quaint and historic nowadays that the occupiers of Salford Hall have
grown a little tired of showing strangers the genuine old hiding-hole in
the garret; behind a quite innocent-looking cupboard.  You open the
cupboard and see a commonplace row of shelves.  No one would suspect a
secret there.  But when a wooden peg is removed, the shelves, together
with the back of the cupboard, push back on hinges, admitting to a
hiding-hole for priest or cavalier, or any whose necessities led him to
store himself uncomfortably away here.  Once inside, the fugitive could
fix the door with a peg, so that it could not be moved from without.

Harvington, which comes next on our way to Evesham, is a delightful
cluster of old timbered houses, with a church whose Norman tower has been
given a modern spire.  The village is at least half a mile from the
river, but it takes its name, originally “Herefordtun,” from an ancient
paved ford still there, a most charming and interesting scene.  The ford
is practically a submerged paved road, such as those by which the Romans
crossed rivers, and is broad enough for wagons to pass.  The roads on
either side are, however, only byways, leading to the Littleton villages
and the Lenches.

Norton, whose full name is Abbot’s Norton, comes next.  It was for some
years, until the beginning of 1912, the property of the Orleans family,
one of the exiled Royal houses of France; but the Duc d’Orléans has now
sold his estates and his residence at Wood Norton, close by, to Mr.
Justice Swinfen Eady.  Norton has yet more, and very fine timbered
houses, and in its church lie a number of the Rigg family, in effigy on
altar-tombs emblazoned to wonderment with their heraldic honours and
those of their wives.  The marble lectern is a relic from Evesham Abbey.

From Norton the road enters Evesham along Greenhill, where the battle was
fought in 1265, and where the suburbs now chiefly extend.



CHAPTER XX


                                 Evesham.

THE legendary story of Evesham’s origin takes us back to the year 701,
when one of the Bishop of Worcester’s swineherds, seeking a strayed sow,
penetrated the forest that then covered this site, and here found his sow
and also a ruined chapel, relic of an ancient and forgotten church.  A
modern discoverer of ruins would find shattered walls and nothing else,
but Eof, the swineherd, beheld a vision of the Virgin and attendant
saints singing there.  Instead of worshipping, he ran, almost scared out
his life, and only ventured back under the protection of Bishop Ecgwin
himself, who saw the same wonderful sight and heard the singing.  There
could be but one outcome of this: the founding of a religious house upon
the spot; and thus arose the great Benedictine monastery of Eof’s-hamme.
Even in those times there would seem to have been people who could not
digest this story, as the Bishop soon found, and he seems to have been so
stricken by the tales told of him that he considered nothing less than a
pilgrimage to Rome would avail him much.  His preparations for departing
were peculiar.  He chained his legs together and having locked the chain,
threw the key into the river.  Arrived at Rome in spite of this amazing
difficulty (we are not told how he got there!), a salmon bought for him
proved to contain, when cut open, the key to unlock his fetters.  The
salmon had swallowed it in the Avon and had swum across seas!  This
cumulative outrage upon common sense then proceeds to tell us how the
bells of Rome rang of themselves, and how impressed was the Pope.
Nothing afterwards ever astonished him: his capacity for wonder was
filled to the brim.  These unparalleled occurrences seemed to this
credulous and doddering old pontiff so strong a proof of Ecgwin’s honesty
that he forthwith conferred upon his monastery not only many valuable
privileges, but freed it from the authority of Worcester.  And Ecgwin,
third Bishop of Worcester, resigned the greater post for the lesser, and
became first Abbot of Evesham.  There appears to have been an early doubt
as to what the name was to be, for it is once referred to as
“Ecguineshamme”; but the legendary herdsman Eof easily won the honour,
and although Ecgwin was created a saint after his death, the place never
acquired his name and thus we have “Evesham” instead of “Exham,” as the
place would probably otherwise have been called.

On this foundation of incredible story the future wealth and power of the
great Abbey of Evesham was laid.  Its Abbots never grew ashamed of the
stupid lies, and to the last sealed their deeds and documents with seals
bearing representations of Ecgwin’s unlocked fetters and other incidents
of his fantastic invention.  In spite of fire, invasion and even early
confiscation of some of its property, Evesham Abbey grew wealthier and
more influential.  Its Abbots were of those great mitred Abbots who sat
in Parliament, prone to anger and violence on occasion; and not
infrequently they were of the type of Abbot Roger, who in the thirteenth
century expended the substance of the monastery on riotous living and
kept his seventy monks and sixty servants so ill-clothed and fed that
they went in rags and even starved.  No bite nor sup for them; and when
they crawled into the Abbey, the leaky roof poured water on them.  Some
died of starvation.  It would take long to tell in full the story of the
many years in which this strange Abbot ruled.

But the monastery and its great Abbey church easily survived this
miserable time, and fresh architectural glories were added.  Even at the
last, when the suppression of the great religious houses under Henry the
Eighth was impending, more building was in progress.  Abbot Lichfield,
the last of the long line, then ruled, and was building the Bell Tower,
which almost alone remains of the Abbey church.  That church, 350 feet in
length, and its many chapels and chantries, filled with the tombs of
generations of benefactors who had hoped by their gifts to be prayed for
“for ever,” was destroyed in almost the completest manner.  Even Thomas
Cromwell, the most zealous of Henry the Eighth’s coadjutors, was
impressed with the beauty of this great mass of buildings; but all
efforts to avert the destruction, and to put them to some collegiate use,
failed.  Not even the great Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds disappeared quite
so completely as this of Evesham.  Leland, writing in 1540, six years
later, remarked, with astonishment: “Gone, a mere heap of ruins.”

The position of the town upon the meadow-lands by the Avon is enshrined
in the second half of the place-name, which in this case is not the more
common “ham,” indicating a “home,” or settlement, but “hamme,” a
waterside meadow.  You do not see the justness of this until the river
has been crossed by the fine modern bridge, and the town viewed from
Bengeworth, on the other side of Avon.  Thence those meadows are seen,
with the Abbey Bell Tower, and the towers and spires of the churches of
St. Lawrence and All Saints, making an unusual grouping, with a certain
grandeur in their contrasting dispositions.  We may readily admit that
the famous Bell Tower is the finest architectural work in Evesham,
because the admission will make it the easier to criticise its great
defect, its comparative dwarfness.  Built in 1533 by Abbot Lichfield, it
was the last work of the Gothic era at Evesham, and is perhaps one of the
most striking examples of the Perpendicular period:

                      [Picture: Bell Tower, Evesham]

embodying the features of the style in the highest degree, in the long
lateral panellings wholly covering its surface.  It is the more
noticeable because of its solitary position.  But to lavish upon it the
unqualified praise that is commonly given is alike uncritical of its own
defect of insufficient height, and shows an ignorance or forgetfulness of
the grander proportions of the central tower of Gloucester Cathedral,
very closely resembling it in style, or of the unmatched towers of the
Somersetshire churches, many of which are not only loftier, and with far
better and varied details, but have also that sense of height which is
rather painfully lacking here.

The entrance from the Market Place to what were once the Abbey precincts,
where the churches of St. Lawrence and All Saints stand closely
neighbouring one another, in one churchyard, is by the so-called Norman
Gateway.  There is not much left of the Norman work, the upper part being
a half-timber building, apparently of the fifteenth century.  The view
into this corner from the Market Place is very picturesque, but it was
better before the adjoining public library was built, a few years ago.
Not only were some charmingly old-world houses destroyed to make way for
it, but it is itself a building lamentably out of character with its
surroundings.  The church of St. Lawrence, very late in style and
remarkable for the originality of its tower and spire, has some delicate
and elaborate work; and in that of All Saints is the richly-panelled and
fan-vaulted chantry built by Clement Lichfield, the last Abbot of
Evesham, who lies here.

A relic of the Abbey of a more domestic character is seen in the lovely
little building on Abbey Green called the Almonry.  It was formerly the
place where the almoners distributed their doles, and is of all periods
from Early English to Perpendicular, its materials ranging from stone to
timber, brick and plaster.  Many generations have had something to say in
the building of it, and the present has at the moment of writing these
lines said yet another word, stripping off the plaster with which the
front had been covered for some two centuries.  The sturdy oak timbering
is now uncovered, and is a revelation to many of unsuspected beauty.  An
ancient stone lantern is inside the building, which is now occupied as
the “Rudge Estate Office.”  Perhaps, now that these new and better ways
with old buildings are revealing long-forgotten craftsmanship, attention
will be turned to the ancient Booth Hall, or market-house, still standing
in the Market Place, covered in like manner with plaster.

                     [Picture: The Almonry, Evesham]

It would not be well to leave Evesham without referring to the greatest
event in its history, the fierce battle fought here August 4th, 1265, at
Greenhill, on the road to Worcester.  Simon de Montfort, Earl of
Leicester, in arms against Henry the Third, and with the King himself a
prisoner in his hands, lay at Evesham the night before with his army.  De
Montfort and his men were at mass early the next morning and then marched
out to meet an enemy who outnumbered them and had cut off every avenue of
escape.  They were fighting for the popular cause, and De Montfort,
Frenchman though he might be, was the chosen champion of English
liberties.  Privilege and the reactionaries had their way that day, for
Prince Edward and his numerically superior and encircling army cut down
De Montfort and his men in swathes.  None asked or gave quarter on that
fatal day.  A large number hewed their way through and fled to the Castle
of Kenilworth, but the old Simon and his son Henry were slain.  The King
himself was almost slain by mistake.  The sculptured base of an obelisk
on the site of the battle at Abbey Manor, Greenhill, portrays this
incident, with the King’s words, “I am Henry of Winchester, your King.
Do not kill me.”

“It is God’s grace!” exclaimed the dying De Montfort.  The exultant enemy
did not scruple to mutilate his body and to send portions of it about the
country.

“Such,” says Robert of Gloucester,

    “was the murder of Evesham, for battle none it was,
    And therewith Jesus Christ ill pleased was,
    As he showed by tokens grisly and good.”

In spite of the Ban of Kenilworth, which forbade the people to regard
Simon de Montfort as a saint, and forbade them to pay reverence to his
memory, the resting-place of what remains of him could be collected was
before the High Altar of the Abbey Church, and there thousands prayed and
miracles were performed.  For generations his shrine was the best asset
of the church and contributed largely to its rebuilding.

The next important warlike incident at Evesham was also the last; the
assault and capture of the town in May 1645 by Massey, the Parliamentary
Governor of Gloucester, in spite of a gallant defence by Colonel Legge
and his small garrison of 700 men.  It was a three-to-one business, for
Massey had 2000 men at his disposal.  Since then the town has had peace
to follow that fruit-farming and market-gardening career which it has
pursued with ever-increasing success for two centuries.  There are not
many tree- and bush-fruits uncultivated in the Vale of Evesham, whose
deep rich soil yields abundantly to the growers’ efforts, but the plum is
the speciality of this Vale.  It is not like the fabled Arthurian Vale of
Avalon, “where comes not hail nor frost”; for indeed the belated frosts
of spring are the bugbear of the Evesham fruit-farmer, and he has been
driven in self-defence of late years, to combat those nipping
temperatures by burning nightly “smudges” of heavy oil, to take the sting
out of the airs that would otherwise congeal his fruit-buds at the time
of their setting, and thus ruin his prospect of a crop.  The plum—and
especially the yellow “egg plum”—is the Evesham speciality, and in April
its blossom fills the Vale like snow.  But there are comparatively few
strangers who see that wonderful spectacle.  If the close of April be
kind, you may see it and rejoice, but if the month be going out in rain
and wind, then it is better to be at home than on Cotswold or in this
sink of alluvial earth below those hills.  I was caught in April showers
at Evesham, on a day that was “arl a-collied like,” as they say in these
parts, meaning gloomy and overcast; and then “the dag came arn, an’ then
et mizzled, an’ grew worser ’n worser, until et poured suthin tar’ble.”
And there I stood long in one entry off the High Street until I was tired
of it, and then in another, and thus having done Evesham by double entry,
ended the unprofitable day by staying the night, while the wind raged,
and it hailed and rained and snowed by turns and simultaneously.  But the
next morning was a glorious one, although the roads were full of puddles
and strewn with plum-blossom ravaged from the orchards by those nocturnal
blasts.

                    [Picture: Abbey Gateway, Evesham]

One need not be long at Evesham to note the extraordinary number of
fruit-growers and market-gardeners hereabouts, as shown by the many
wagons, or floats, on their way to or from the railway station with
baskets and hampers of apples, pears, plums, gooseberries, currants,
tomatoes, or asparagus; while to travel south of the town, through the
favoured Vale, by any road you please, is to see that these are highly
specialised cultivations that give as distinct a character to this
landscape as do the hop-gardens or the cherry-orchards of Kent.

Leaving Evesham, it will be noticed how very much after the style at
Stratford the Avon has been artificially widened and made to wear an
almost lakelike effect, with a kind of everyday gala appearance.  Here
are trim grassy edges and public gardens; and boats and punts to be had
for the hiring: a tamed and curbed Avon, like the Round Pond or the
Serpentine in Kensington Gardens.



CHAPTER XXI


     Broadway—Winchcombe—Shakespearean Associations—Bishop’s Cleeve.

“AN Eden of fertility,” says an old writer, dwelling with satisfaction
upon the Vale of Evesham.  The neat orchards of to-day, with their long
perspectives, and with bush-fruit planted in between the lines of plum
and apple-trees, to economise every inch of this wonderful soil, would
seem to him even more of an Eden, neater and more extended than in his
day.  It is not, you will say, the most picturesque form of cultivation,
but it has that best of picturesque beauty to some minds, the
picturesqueness of profit.  I never yet knew a farmer who could see a
cornfield with an artist’s eye, and was the better pleased the more the
poppies, corn-cockles, and herb-daisies grew in it.  For generations
past, you will be told, the fruit-growing of the Vale of Evesham has been
steadily giving less profit, and scarce a man among the growers but will
declare the times are ruining the trade.  But the pastures continue to be
planted as extensions of the orchards, and the railway traffic in fruit
is an increasing branch of business.  The only possible inferences,
therefore, are that these jolly-looking market-gardeners, who live so
well and look so prosperous, thrive on ruination and really cultivate the
plum for the æsthetic but fleeting pleasure of seeing every spring that
wondrous vale of snow-white blossom that spreads out below Cotswold.

Five miles or so south-eastwards across the vale brings you into
Broadway, a village exploited some thirty years ago, and now, converted
from the rustic place it was, into a residential district.  The old
houses and cottages remain, but the simple rustic folk who lived in them
are dispersed, and in their old homes live that new class of appreciative
and cultivated people with anything at command, from great wealth down to
a sufficient independence.  A generation ago people of this class would
have thought life out of London or such great centres unendurable.  They
would have missed their town life and the shopping and all the
thousand-and-one distractions, and if you had suggested Broadway or any
such place, they would indignantly have asked if you wanted them to “bury
themselves alive.”

And now ideals have changed, or perhaps more exactly, a new class of
persons has been born.  The wealthy who cannot live away from the centres
of life still numerously exist, but there are great numbers of the
leisured who have culture and resources within themselves and are not
dependent for their amusement upon extraneous things.  Also we have in
these days of swift travel by road and rail to reckon not only with the
“week-ender” (who does not trouble Broadway much), but upon that class
who will have it both ways, will take the best of town, and when the
country is most desirable will leave town to others and retire to such
places as this.

These things have made Broadway a very different place from what it was a
generation ago.  The old people, sons of the soil, have been
disinherited, and strangers—not only the “foreigners,” of whom the
rustics speak, meaning merely people not of the same shire, but
foreigners from overseas—are living in their homes, and they still resent
it, even though they may earn more in wages and in “tips” from the
tipping classes.  The sense of place and of justice too, is strong in the
blood of the countryman, and he feels it to be a shame that strangers
should come from remote countries and covet the house where he and his
fathers lived, and turn him out.  It is an outcome of the recent
appreciation of country life which is creating bitterness and resentment,
not at Broadway alone, but all over the country. {213}

The broad street, with its grey stone houses, is to outward seeming very
much the same, but there is a neatness, an unmistakable sense of money
about the place.  Every little plot of grass in front of the houses at
the upper end, that never used to know the attentions of the mower, has
become a lawn; small cottages have been enlarged and thrown into one
another, and farmhouses, whose ancient features have been ingeniously
adapted by resourceful architects, have become residences of the most
delightful type.  A little golfing, some motoring, half a dozen other
interests and the modern craze for collecting, fill the lives of the
people who live here.  A retired actress collects pewter, and others scan
the neighbourhood with the amiable object of snapping up rare and
valuable pieces of china or furniture at much less than their worth from
country-folk who are ignorant of their value.  There is a curiosity shop
in the village, too, where the stranger may find bargains, or may not;
and I am told—although I have never seen him—that an innocent-looking old
person carrying a rare specimen of a grandfather’s clock under his arm
may generally be seen crossing the road by the “Lygon Arms,” at times
when obviously wealthy, and possibly American and appreciative, occupants
of motorcars drive up.  The suggestion is that very often this ingenious
person sells his rare, and possibly “unique,” clock at a stunning price
and will be seen in another day or two with the fellow of it.  This has
been indignantly denied by the outraged people of Broadway, but
reaffirmed in print, and I will leave it at that.

My amiable friend, Mr. S. B. Russell of the “Lygon Arms,” is of those who
deny this quaint tale.  The “Lygon Arms” itself has become a stately
house, both without and within.  As the “White Hart,” of olden days it
dates back to 1540.  Traditionally Cromwell lay here, the night before
the Battle of Worcester, and there are even traditions of Charles the
First staying here, ten years earlier.  I am not concerned to deny or to
affirm these legends.  In any case, it would be sheer futility to do so,
for no evidence survives.  But it is likely enough, for the “White Hart,”
as it then was, ranked with the best—as it does now, if I may say it.  We
may readily judge of its then standing, by the fine Jacobean stone
entrance doorway, built by John Trevis in 1620, and still admitting to
the house.  It bears his name and that of Ursula his wife, with the date,
and seems to mark a general restoration of the already old hostelry
undertaken at that time.  John Trevis—or “Treavis”—himself lies in
Broadway old church, an interesting old building a mile or more distant
from the village, and situated along a lonely wooded road, adjoining an
ancient manor-house lately restored with much taste and discrimination.
Trevis died in 1641, and has a brass to his memory.  This old church is
in a solitary situation, and is largely superseded by a modern building
near the village.  There is a palimpsest brass in the chancel, and hard
by is an enriched wooden pulpit, bearing this distinctly apposite and
characteristically Reformation-period inscription: “Prov. 19.  Wher the
word of God is not preached, the people perish.”

But to return to Broadway and the “Lygon Arms.”  Thirty years ago the
house had fallen into a very poor condition, and the great stone building
with its fine rooms and its air of being really a private mansion, had
declined to the likeness of a village alehouse.  It was all the doing of
the railways, which had disestablished the coaches, and brought
desolation upon this road, in common with most others.  But in the dawn
of the new era of road travel the present proprietor bought the house,
and has by degrees reinstated those stone mullions which had been torn
from the windows and replaced at some extraordinarily inappreciative
period by modern sashes; and has wrought altogether, a wonderful
transformation.  The “Lygon Arms,” is now as stately a hostelry as ever
it was.

I reach the old town of Chipping Campden by another route, and so will
not climb on this occasion the steep, mile-long Broadway Hill by which
you come this way to it.  I will turn instead further south, to
Winchcombe.

Winchcombe, it may be thought, is a far cry from Stratford-on-Avon.  It
is twenty-four miles distant, but though twenty-four miles formed in
olden days a very much more considerable journey than now, the place and
its surroundings were familiar to Shakespeare.  If you would seek here
local allusions in the plays, wherewith to belabour the Bacon fanatics,
there is no lack in this district of “Cotsall,” those Cotswolds on which
Page’s fallow greyhound was outrun: a portion of those “wilds in
Gloucestershire,” whose “high wild hills and rough uneven ways, Draw out
our miles and make them wearisome,” as Northumberland complains in _King
Richard the Second_.

Shakespeare knew most that was to be known about the Cotswold Hills, and
when he makes Shallow bid Davy “sow the headland with red wheat,” he
alludes to an olden local custom of sowing “red lammas” wheat early in
the season.

He was familiar with the consistency of Tewkesbury mustard, with which,
doubtless, the Stratford folk of his day relished their meat, and he
finds in it an apt illustration of a dull man’s attempted sprightliness:
as where he makes Falstaff say, “He a good wit, hang him baboon! his wit
is as thick as Tewkesbury mustard.”

Here, in the neighbourhood of Winchcombe, familiar rhymes, generally
uncomplimentary, upon surrounding places are attributed to him almost as
freely as are those upon the “Eight Villages.”  They tell of—

    “Dirty Gretton, Dingy Greet,
    Beggarly Winchcombe, Sudeley sweet;
    Hanging Hartshorn, Whittington Bell,
    Dull Andoversford, and Merry Frog Mill.”

The epithets vary with the different narrators of the lines.  Those
quoted above do not in general fit the places, except beautiful Sudeley
and perhaps “once upon a time” Frog Mill, which, in spite of its name was
probably of old a sufficiently merry place, for it is the name of an
ancient and once renowned inn adjoining Andoversford: an inn where men
made merry until the railway came hard by and disestablished its custom.

Winchcombe it is difficult to believe ever “beggarly.”  It is an old and
picturesque market town in the Cotswolds, with a noble and particularly
striking Perpendicular church, with clerestoried nave and central tower,
and an array of monstrously gibbering gargoyles.  Next it is a curious
old inn, oddly named the “Corner Cupboard.”  Here, too, at the “George”
inn, are some traces of the hostelry formerly maintained by the Abbots of
Winchcombe for pilgrims to their altars.  Sudeley Castle, in its park a
mile away, is a place of great interest, now restored, with a modern
altar-tomb and effigy to Catherine Parr, sixth and last wife of Henry the
Eighth, who resided here.

Gretton is a village two miles from Winchcombe, on the Tewkesbury road,
and Greet is a wayside hamlet in between.  We have no authority for the
Shakespearean authorship of the rhymes, but “old John Naps of Greece,”
who is mentioned with “Peter Turf and Henry Pimpernell” as cronies of
Christopher Sly, was not “of Greece” but of this place.  “Greece” is one
of those many misprints that in the early folios and quartos continue to
puzzle critics.  In one of them Hamlet declares he can tell the
difference between “a hawk and a handsaw,” and it was long before
“handsaw” was seen to be a printer’s error for “heronshaw,” a young
heron.  To emigrate John Naps from Greet to Greece was a comparatively
easy matter, in type, if not in actual travel.  We will allow, for
argument’s sake, that this by itself might not be convincing evidence
that Shakespeare knew Greet and intended to refer to it; but we have
Davy, Shallow’s servant in the Second Part of _Henry the Fourth_,
referring to “William Visor of Woncot,” who has an action at law against
“Clement Perkes of the hill.”  By “Woncot,” is meant the hamlet of
Woodmancote, three miles west of Winchcombe, a place then and now called
“Woncot,” locally.  The name, correctly spelt in the original edition of
1600, has been mistakenly altered to “Wincot,” in later issues.  At
Woodmancote the family of Visor, sometimes spelled “Vizard” was in
Shakespeare’s time and until recent years living.  It lies beneath
Stinchcombe Hill, locally “the Hill,” which rises to the imposing height
of 915 feet.  There, it has been ascertained, the Perkes family then had
their home.  The name of Perkes was variously spelled “Purkis” and
“Purchas.”  The last representative appears to have been one “J. Purchas,
Esq., of Stinchcombe Hill, near Dursley, Glos.,” who is mentioned in the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_, 1812, as having died at Margate, in his
seventy-fifth year.

It is a tremendous and a beautiful view from the lofty plateau of Cleeve
Common as you go from Winchcombe to Woodmancote and Bishop’s Cleeve, on
the way to Tewkesbury.  I shall never forget the glory of that evening of
early summer when, romping out of Cheltenham, our car breasted the long
rise to this view-point and we halted here as the westering sun sank
across the golden-blue distance of the Vale of Avon, with the Malvern
Hills, grey and indistinct, beyond.  Distant views of the Promised Land
could have made no better promise of beauty and plenty.

From this Pisgah height you come “down-a-down-a,” as Ophelia says, to
Bishop’s Cleeve, thinking upon the sheer appropriateness of the
place-name; not the “Bishop” part of it, but the “Cleeve”; which stands
of course for “cleft,” or “cliff.”  Thenceforward, the way lies along the
levels into Tewkesbury, through Stoke Orchard and Treddington.



CHAPTER XXII


                               Tewkesbury.

THE little town of Tewkesbury, which numbers about 5500 inhabitants, and
is one of the most cheerful and bustling, and withal one of the most
picturesque towns in England, occupies a remarkable situation.  Not
remarkable in the scenic way, for a more nearly level stretch of very
often flooded meadow lands you will not see for miles.  The site of
Tewkesbury is close upon, but not actually on, the confluence of
England’s greatest river, the broad and turbid and rather grim Severn,
with the Avon.  All around, but in grey and blue distances, are hills:
the Cotswolds, the Bredon Hills, the greater Malverns, and the yet
greater, but more distant Welsh mountains; but the Severn and the Avon
flow through levels that extend considerable distances.  When those two
rivers—so different in every respect; in size, in character, and in the
very colour of their waters, the Avon being clear and bright, and the
Severn a sullen, dun-coloured waterway—unite to flood these low-lying
lands the only way to travel comfortably about the neighbourhood is by
boat.  Tewkesbury is at all times particularly old-world and quaint, and
it makes on these occasions an excellent substitute for Venice.  This
peculiarity, or rather this contingency, let us say, perhaps explains the
at first sight rather singular fact that the town should have been built
on the Avon, half a mile from its junction with the Severn, and not upon
the larger river at all.  It looks like a wanton disregard of the
advantages that the Severn navigation would bring to the town, with
riverside wharves and quays; but those who selected the site probably
considered the Severn to be too dangerous a river, and so set their town
back half a mile or so from its banks.  A consequence is that the
external trade of Tewkesbury has always been negligible, and to-day,
although the text-books tell you of its industry of making
shirt-fronts—“particularly stiff shirt-fronts”—and the olden one of
flour-milling, which is carried on by Avonside, the scale of their
activities has never become large.

The founding of Tewkesbury is said to have been the work of a
seventh-century religious Saxon named Theoc, who established a church
here; but the Roman station, _Etocessa_, was here first, and although the
place-name is supposed to derive from Theoc, by way of “Theocsbyrig,” and
the Domesday version, “Teodechesberie,” too little is known of him for us
to take much interest in it.  It is rather interesting, however, to
consider that, the site being among water-meadows, and that the land at
the confluence of Severn and Wye is called “the Ham,” how very near
Tewkesbury was to being called “Tewkesham.”

The monastery that was thus seated by the two rivers became a flourishing
Benedictine house, and after its full share of the early adversities of
fire and sword, famine and flood, it resulted in the building of the
grand Abbey church, which is still the greatest architectural glory of
the town.  The re-founder of the monastery and builder of this noble and
solemn example of Norman architecture was Robert Fitz Hamon, Earl of
Gloucester, the greatest of the early Lords Marchers of Wales, and
overlord of Glamorgan, who died in 1197, fighting in foreign wars.  He
had seen so many post-mortem bequests go wrong and never reach their
intended destination that he determined to perform his re-founding of
monastery and church in his own lifetime.  Both were well advanced when
he died, and the Abbey was finally consecrated in 1223; a remarkable
example of expedition for those times.  I do not propose to narrate the
story of the Abbey, which has no such picturesque and fantastic
falsehoods as that of Evesham.  The monastery ran its course and was
suppressed with others by Henry the Eighth, and the Abbey church was
saved by the townsfolk, who paid the King the equivalent of £5000 for the
site and fabric.  And so it remains to us to this day, more venerable by
lapse of time, minus its Lady Chapel, and with evidences of the puritan
zeal of rather more than a hundred years later than Henry’s great reform;
but it is yet the veritable building of Fitz Hamon’s and of the
generations that succeeded him.

You cannot see this great Abbey church to advantage from the town.  It is
only from the open meadows by the Severn, and its tributary brooks, where
the little town is to be guessed at by the evidence of a few roofs and
chimneys, that its great scale and solemn majesty are fully apparent.
There the great central Norman tower and the magnificent and unique West
Front of the same period are seen in their proper relation with the
surroundings.  The long outline is very like that of St. Albans, but 237
feet less; St. Albans Abbey being 550 feet long, and Tewkesbury 313 feet.

The near view of the West Front and its great and deeply-embayed Norman
window, filled not unsuitably with the Perpendicular tracery of three
hundred years later, is no disillusionment; it is, after the glorious
West Front of Peterborough, one of the most striking compositions of the
kind in England, and the flanking Norman tourelles and spirelets have by
contrast the most delicate appearance.

Entering the building, a massive Norman nave is seen, singularly like
that of Gloucester cathedral, and no doubt designed by the same hand.
The same massive but disproportionately lofty columns, with dwarfed
triforium and clerestory, proclaim a similar origin.  The columns are
Fitz Hamon’s work, and the clerestory above, and the stone-vaulted roof
are the additions of over two centuries later, when the builders had
grown more daring and risked a heavy stone roof in place of the former
flat wooden one.  Fitz Hamon’s transepts also remain and his choir, in
its essentials; although in the same Decorated period which witnessed the
addition of the clerestory and stone vaulting to the nave the Norman
choir was remodelled.  To this period belong the seven windows filled
with splendid old stained glass, representing all good benefactors, from
Fitz Hamon onwards, praying for heavenly grace, but clinging to their
ancient heraldic cognisances of long descent as tenaciously as though the
authority of Garter King-at-Arms and all his fellow-kings and pursuivants
extended to Heaven, and St. Peter was authorised to admit to the best
places only those who could display these patents of gentility.  It is
glorious old glass, more than much damaged and time-worn, but still
splendid in design and colour.

Behind the choir still runs the semi-circular ambulatory, as on the old
Norman plan, but the Lady Chapel has disappeared.  Here too are some of
the ancient chapels formerly clustered about the east end.  Here are some
mouldering swords, deeply bitten into by Time’s teeth, from the
battlefield of Tewkesbury.  Fitz Hamon’s chantry is not of his period: it
was rebuilt more than three hundred years later; proof that he, and the
health of his immortal part were kept in mind, and incidentally showing
us that not all gratitude is, as cynics would declare, “a lively sense of
favours to come.”

                    [Picture: High Street, Tewkesbury]

The so-called “Warwick” chantry, built 1422 by Isabel le Despencer in
memory of her first husband, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Abergavenny, is
in the last, and most elaborated style of Gothic architecture and
decoration.  There are many other monuments: including the beautiful one
of Hugh le Despencer and his wife Elizabeth.  Their splendidly sculptured
alabaster figures lie there with a calm indifference contrasting with his
violent end, for he was executed in 1349, at Hereford.  So often did the
great nobles of those centuries suffer from the headsman’s axe and with
such frequency did they die on the battlefield that it became a matter of
pride to declare how rarely they ended peacefully and of old age, in
their beds.  It was almost a slur upon one’s personal character to pass
in this way, when one might in the last resource join some desperate
rebellion and be handsomely slain; or at the very least of it, be taken
and properly beheaded.

These philosophical and historical considerations bring one, by a natural
transition, to the Battle of Tewkesbury, fought in the meadows to the
south of the town on May Day 1471.  The place where the fight raged
fiercest was close by the Gloucester road, in the field still called
“Bloody Meadow,” whose name it is understood the town council, in the
interests of the rising generation, are keenly desirous of seeing changed
to something more respectable.

If you have never been to Tewkesbury, the battle will be a little unreal
to you.  You may know perfectly well “all about the war, and what they
killed each other for,” and you may even be a partisan of either White
Rose or Red, and may throw up your cap for those rival Houses of York or
Lancaster; but if you have never visited the scene where this great fight
raged, it will remain shadowy.  But in Tewkesbury town, whose streets are
still astonishingly rich in old timbered houses that stood on the morning
of that great clash of arms where they do now, it is a vital thing.

It was the last desperate venture of the Lancastrians, stricken to the
ground on many an earlier occasion, but always hitherto recovering, to
try conclusions again, for sake of right.  At Towton, Blore Heath,
Hexham, and other places they had been slaughtered, and such victories as
Wakefield, in which the Yorkists were decimated, were of no permanent
value.  Only a month before Tewkesbury they had been signally defeated at
Barnet, and their cause apparently broken; but here again the party was
re-formed.  Queen Margaret, whose devotion and sorrows are among the most
pitiful records of history, had come from France with her son, Prince
Edward, the young hope of the Red Rose.  Gathering a force at Exeter,
they advanced towards the midlands, hoping to join hands with Welsh
sympathisers.  But the treacherous Severn, coming down from those
Mortimer borderlands where the White Rose had ever been strongest, proved
itself on this occasion the most useful ally of the Yorkists.  It was in
flood and prevented that junction of the two Lancastrian armies whose
combined force might have given them the day and changed the course of
the nation’s story.

The Yorkists, commanded by Edward the Sixth, came up from the direction
of Cheltenham and found their opponents drawn up on the “plains near
Tewkesbury,” as Shakespeare has it, in the Third Part of _Henry the
Sixth_.  The battle was lost to the Lancastrians partly through their
being deceived by a pretended flight of the troops commanded by Richard,
Duke of Gloucester, and in a great measure by quarrels among themselves.
Their ranks were broken and the battle was continued and ended by
fighting and heavy slaughter in the streets of the town.  Finally the
defeated Lancastrians took refuge in the Abbey church, from which they
would have been dragged had not the monks in solemn procession prevented
it.  Shakespeare adopts Holinshed’s account of the death of Prince
Edward.

Holinshed tells us that proclamation being made that a life-annuity of
£100 should be paid to whoever brought the Prince, dead or alive, and
that, if living, his life should be spared, Sir Richard Crofts brought
him forth, “a fair and well-proportioned young gentleman, whom, when King
Edward had well-advised, he asked him how he durst so presumptuously
enter his realm with banner displayed, whereupon the prince boldly
answered, saying, ‘To recover my father’s kingdom and heritage from his
grandfather to him, and from him after him to me lineally descended’; at
which words King Edward thrust him from him, or (as some say) stroke him
with his gauntlet, whom directly George, Duke of Clarence; Richard, Duke
of Gloucester; Thomas Grey, and William, Lord Hastings, that stood by,
cruelly murdered; for the which cruel act the more part of the doers in
their latter days drank the like cup by the righteous justice and due
punishment of God.  His body was homely interred in the church of the
monastery of the black monks of Tewkesbury.”

The thanksgiving of the next day, Sunday, held by the Yorkists in the
Abbey was one of those services in which the victors in a battle have
always adopted the Almighty as a partisan.  In the same time-honoured
fashion the King of Prussia, delighting in the defeats of the French in
the war of 1870–71, was in the habit of exclaiming “Gott mitt uns,” and
sending pious telegrams to the Queen, caricatured by the humorist of the
time—

    “Rejoice with me, my dear Augusta,
    We’ve had another awful buster;
    Ten thousand Frenchmen sent below—
    Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

             [Picture: The “Bear” Inn and Bridge, Tewkesbury]

The thanksgiving was followed next day by a ruthless, cold-blooded
massacre of those who had been hiding in the town.  On the Tuesday the
great nobles, leaders in the fight, were executed, and the Yorkist
vengeance was complete.

The nodding old gabled houses of Tewkesbury—many of them nodding so
amazingly that it is surprising they do not fall—include a number of
ancient inns: the “Wheatsheaf” and the “Bell” prominent among them.  The
“Bell,” hard by the Abbey and the old flour-mills, has a bowling-green
and owns associations with Mrs. Craik’s once-popular story, _John
Halifax, Gentleman_: which, I believe, was considered eminently a tale
for the young person.  “No,” said a bookseller long since, in my own
hearing, to a hesitating prospective purchaser, “it is not a novel: it is
an improving story, and may be read on Sundays.”  I do not know what is
read by the young person nowadays, either on Sundays or week-days, but I
am quite sure it is not _John Halifax_, _Gentleman_, and I am equally
sure that the young person will in these times resent any choice made for
him or her, and read or not read what he or she chooses.  But the
monument to Mrs. Craik in the Abbey is inscribed to the author of the
book, and as it is evidently a great source of interest to visitors,
_John Halifax_ is perhaps not quite so out-of-date as we suppose him to
be.

The “Hop Pole” and the “Swan,” in their present form, belong to a later
age; the first being the house where Mr. Pickwick and his friends made
merry and drank so astonishingly.  But the “Old Black Bear,” as you leave
the town for Worcester, is easily the most picturesque of all; in itself
and in its situation by the rugged old Avon bridge.  The sign was, of
course, originally that of the “Bear and Ragged Staff.”



CHAPTER XXIII


Clopton House—Billesley—The Home of Shakespeare’s Mother, Wilmcote—Aston
Cantlow—Wootton Wawen—Shakespeare Hall, Rowington.

THERE is a mansion of much local fame rather more than a mile out of
Stratford, off the Henley road: the manor-house of Clopton, for long past
the seat of the Hodgson family, but formerly that of one of the ancient
families of Clopton, who are found not only in Warwickshire and
Gloucestershire, but in Suffolk as well.  Widespread as they once were, I
believe that the very name is now extinct.

There is necessarily much mention of the Clopton name in these pages, for
Sir Hugh Clopton was the great fifteenth-century benefactor of Stratford.
He was a younger son of the owner of this manor.  The house has been time
and again altered and partly rebuilt, but it still contains portraits of
the Cloptons on the great Jacobean staircase, and painted on the walls of
an attic, once used as a secret chapel by Roman Catholics, are to this
day the black-letter texts upon which Ambrose Rookwood, prominent in the
Gunpowder Plot of 1605, must have looked.  He had rented Clopton House
for a time, in order to be conveniently near his friends, and to the
meeting-place on Dunsmore, which the conspirators had appointed the scene
of their rebellion when King and Parliament should have been blown
sky-high by Guy Fawkes’ thirty-two barrels of gunpowder. After the
failure of the plot and the arrest of the conspirators, the High Bailiff
of Stratford was instructed to seize Ambrose Rookwood’s effects at
Clopton House.  An inventory of them is preserved in the Birthplace
Museum at Stratford, and affords some quaint reading.  Chalices, crosses,
crucifixes, and a variety of obviously Papist articles, are in company
with “an oulde cloake bagge,” whose value was sixpence, and “a white
nagge,” twenty shillings.  The High Bailiff evidently cleared the house,
taking all he could find, for mention is made of “one pair of old boots,
2_d._ these being the goods of Ambrose Fuller.”  There is a further note
that Ambrose Fuller had his old boots restored to him; the High Bailiff
being presumably unable to find anything treasonable in them.

Shakespeare is said to have taken his idea of Ophelia from Margaret
Clopton, who in the misery of disappointed love is supposed to have
drowned herself in a well in the gardens in 1592.  A Charlotte Clopton,
too, is supposed to have been buried alive in the Clopton vault in
Stratford church in 1564, when the plague visited the neighbourhood, and
thus to have given Shakespeare a scene in _Romeo and Juliet_.  But it is
only fair to say that the stories are legendary and not sustained by any
known facts in the Clopton family history.

From Clopton we will retrace our steps to Stratford, and thence set out
anew, to visit some outlying villages of interest, better reached from
the road to Alcester.

The Alcester road is the least interesting road out of Stratford.  It
leads past the Great Western Railway station, and thence up Red Hill,
reaching Alcester, the Roman _Alauna_, in seven and a half miles.  There
is little joy or interest to be got out of Alcester, which is a pleasant
enough little town of 3500 inhabitants and a manufacture of needles, but
not thrilling.  There is still some unenclosed land along this road, on
the left, a rather wild upland common—the “unshrubb’d down”; and it is a
tumbled up and down country on the right, where Billesley stands.
Billesley is a parish, with a parish church and an ancient manor-house,
but no village.  I can imagine the tourist—the cyclist, of course, who is
a more enterprising person than most—saying, as he sees Billesley on the
map, “I will put up there,” and I can imagine him, further, getting there
under circumstances of night and rain and wind, and finding it to be the
most impossible of places to stay at.  For there is no inn, and not the
slightest chance of hospitality.  But it is well enough if you come to it
in daytime, for it has the charm of singularity: the strangeness of the
old manor-house behind its lofty enclosing garden-walls and the weirdly
rebuilt eighteenth-century church at the end of a farm-road which you
dispute with porkers and cluttering fowls.  Billesley church is one of
the claimants for the honour of witnessing Shakespeare’s marriage, but on
what evidence the claim rests no one can tell, and, in any case, it was
entirely rebuilt afterwards.  The tradition is probably only a hazy
association with the marriage of his grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall,
whose wedding took place in the former building in 1639.  Little belief,
either, can be given to the panelled room in Billesley Hall, said to have
been a library in Shakespeare’s youth, in which he was allowed to study.

Downhill and to the right, and you come to Wilmcote, the home of
Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden.  It was in her time merely a hamlet of
Aston Cantlow, but is now a separate ecclesiastical parish, with an
uninteresting church.  Wilmcote is not a particularly inviting place, and
not one of a number of boys playing cricket could tell me where was the
home of Shakespeare’s mother.  However, in a place like Wilmcote it does
not take long to solve such a point, even if it were to come to a
house-to-house inquiry.  The home of the Ardens, yeomen-farmers, seems to
modern ideas quite a humble house.  It is one of a row of ancient
timber-framed and plastered cottage-like houses, with a large farmyard at
the back.

    [Picture: The Arden House, Home of Shakespeare’s Mother, Wilmcote]

Rambling, low-ceilinged rooms with ingle-nooks in the fireplaces form the
interior.  Some day, I suppose, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has
ceased to expend much money in the collection of rare editions and in
paying fat pensions to its super-annuated servants, it will seek to
purchase the Arden home, and show to Shakespearean travellers the house
in which Robert Arden, a sixteenth-century yeoman of some standing and
some pretensions to gentility, yet sat at table with his farm-servants in
the old way, just as in the remoter parts of the West of England is still
done.

It is generally supposed that Wilmcote is the place referred to by
Shakespeare in the induction to the _Taming of the Shrew_ as “Wincot.”
The name is locally pronounced in that way, as it would be when we
consider the difficulty in ordinary rustic speech of twisting the tongue
round “Wilmcote.”  But reasons are given on p. 169 for identifying it
with Wincot in Quinton.  There is, however, another place which claims
the honour; the unlovely Wilnecote, a brick and tile-manufacturing
settlement on the Watling Street, over twenty-five miles distant.  It
also is locally “Wincot,” and in Shakespeare’s time brewed a famous
tipple.  Sir Aston Cokain, whose verses were published as near
Shakespeare’s own day as 1658, had no difficulty in identifying it.
Writing to his friend, Mr. Clement Fisher, who resided at Wilnecote, whom
he addresses “of Wincott,” he says

    “Shakespeare your Wincot ale hath much renown’d
    That fox’d a beggar so by chance was found
    Sleeping that there needed not many a word
    To make him to believe he was a lord.
    But you affirm (and in it seem most eager)
    ’Twill make a Lord as drunk as any beggar,
    Bid Norton brew such ale as Shakespeare fancies,
    Did put Kit Sly into such lordly trances;
    And let us meet there for a fit of gladness,
    And drink ourselves merry in sober sadness.”

It is quite evident, among other things, that Sir Aston Cokain wrote
pretty bad verse, but the point to be emphasised is that there were
certainly in Shakespeare’s time three “Wincots,” any one of which might
have served his turn.  But the vanished ale-house of Wincot in Quinton is
the place more particularly meant by him.

                     [Picture: Wootton Wawen Church]

“Stephen Sly” alluded to in the play, was a real person who seems to have
been what people call “a character.”  He was probably a half-witted
creature, the butt of Stratford, and occasionally appears in the
unimpeachable records of the town as a servant of the Combes of Welcombe,
or as a labourer.  There also appears in those same chronicles in later
years a Joan Sly, who was fined in 1630 for travelling on the Sabbath: an
offence not so great in itself, but very reprehensible in the eyes of the
Puritan magistrates of that time.

The parent village of Aston Cantlow is two miles from Wilmcote.  The site
only of the ancient castle of the Cantilupes remains, behind the church,
in a tangled moat still sometimes flooded by the little river Alne.  The
old Court House, a long half-timbered building now divided into three or
four cottages, is the chief feature of the village street.

Wootton Wawen, in something less than another three miles, owes the first
part of its singular name to its olden situation in the Forest of Arden,
and the second part to the Saxon lord of the place, a landowner named
Wagen, whose name appears as witness to the foundation charter of the
monastery at Coventry founded by Leofric, the husband of Godiva, in 1043.
It stands at a junction of roads, where the highway from Stratford
through Bearley comes swinging up round a corner from the channels of the
Alne, and runs, broad and imposing, on to Henley-in-Arden and Birmingham.
The church, occupying a knoll, is a strange but beautiful group, with
central tower in the Decorated style, a rather plain south chapel of the
same period, and a beautiful nave clerestory of the fifteenth century.  A
very large Decorated chancel east window has its moulding set with
elaborate crockets.

The stranger, attracted by this noble church, tries the door.  It is
locked, but before he can turn away it will be opened by a girl, who
says, “There is a fee of sixpence.”  There always is!

You render tribute for sake of seeing the interior, uneasily suspecting
that it is another sixpence gone towards some scheme of alteration which
would not have your approval; but these things cannot be helped.

                  [Picture: Shakespeare Hall, Rowington]

The interior discloses some unexpected features, the lower part of the
tower being unmistakably Saxon work, with very narrow arches to nave and
chancel.  Here are two curious enclosed carved oak pews that were perhaps
originally chantries, and a fine fifteenth-century oak pulpit.  A desk
with eight chained books, and an ancient chest with ironwork in the shape
of fleurs-de-lis, together with effigies and brasses to the Harewell
family, complete an interesting series of antiquities.  Here is buried
William Somerville, author of _The Chase_, who died in 1742.

The town of Henley-in-Arden, with its broad and picturesque street and
the “White Swan” inn, is much afflicted in these latter days by excessive
motor traffic from Birmingham.  Beaudesert, a seat of the Marquis of
Anglesey, adjoins it, and Preston Bagot, on the east, lies in a
once-remote district.  The sign of the “Crab Mill” inn, on the way,
alludes to a former manufacture of cider here.  The old manor-house of
Preston Bagot, beside the road, is locally said to have been the first
house built in the Forest of Arden, but of that we cannot, obviously, be
at all sure.  There is a house about four miles onward, at Rowington
Green, on the other side of Rowington, which looks, in parts, older.  It
is the romantic-looking house known as “Shakespeare Hall,” for many years
a farmhouse, but now the residence of Mr. J. W. Ryland, F.S.A.  It dates
back to the early part of the fifteenth century, and had until recently a
moat.  Traditionally, it was the home of one Thomas Shakespeare, a
brother of William Shakespeare’s father; and Shakespeare is further said
to have composed _As You Like It_ in the room over the porch.  We need
not believe that tradition, which has no evidence to warrant it, although
the house was once the home of one of the very numerous Shakespeare
families in Arden, the poet’s family were relations.  The massive
horseman’s “upping-block” has been allowed to remain, beside the
front-door.



CHAPTER XXIV


 Welcombe—Snitterfield—Warwick—Leicester’s Hospital—St. Mary’s Church and
                          the Beauchamp Chapel.

THE distance between Stratford and Warwick is eight miles, and the road,
the broad highway, runs direct.  It is an excellent road, but for those
who do not care overmuch for main routes, however beautiful, in these
times, a more excellent way, for a portion of the journey at any rate, is
by Snitterfield.  You turn off to the left from the tree-bordered main
road at a point a mile and a half from Stratford, well in view of the
lofty obelisk on the hillside at Welcombe which was built in 1873 to
perpetuate the memory of the obscure person, a certain Mark Phillips, who
had erected the mansion of Welcombe Lodge in 1869.  Without the aid of
this monument he would by now have been completely forgotten; but it is
120 feet in height and prominently visible from amazing distances, and so
its object is attained.  Not perhaps exactly in the way originally
intended, for being in a district where most things are associated in
some way with Shakespeare, it is generally supposed to be one of them,
and when the disappointed stranger finds himself thus deluded, he usually
reflects upon Mark Phillips in the most scathing terms.

Up at Welcombe are those Dingles already referred to.  The way to
Snitterfield takes you uphill, past lands that once belonged to
Shakespeare, and by a pond which is all that is left of the lake of
Snitterfield Hall, a mansion demolished in 1820.  Here the road has
reached a considerable height, commanding beautiful views down over the
valley of the Avon at Hampton Lucy and Charlecote.

                 [Picture: Leicester’s Hospital, Warwick]

Snitterfield village is embowered amid elms.  The church is a rustic
building in the Decorated style, with seventeenth-century pulpit and
enriched woodwork of the same period furnishing the altar-rails.  Here
the Rev. Richard Jago was vicar for twenty years, dying in 1781.  His
duties did not bear heavily upon him, and he occupied most of his time in
writing a long poem, “Edgehill, or the Rural Prospect Delineated and
Moralised,” a published work which no one ever reads, the prospect of
moralising held forth on the title-page scaring the timid.  His vicarage
remains, and on its lawn are still the three silver birches planted by
his three daughters.  There are some beautiful lime-trees and an ancient
yew in the churchyard.  No relic of Henry Shakespeare, William
Shakespeare’s uncle, or of his father or grandfather, who lived at
Snitterfield, now remains.

The road now trends to the right, and, steeply descending, regains the
main route into Warwick.  The town of Warwick looms nobly before the
traveller approaching from the west.  The broad level highway makes
direct for it, and over the trees that border the road you see, as a
first glimpse of the historic place, the lofty tower of St. Mary’s
church, rising apparently an enormous height, and looking a most
worshipful specimen of architecture.  On a nearer approach it sinks into
less prominence, and, passing through an old suburb, with a porch-house
on the right, formerly the “Malt-Shovel” inn, the West Gate of the town,
with its chapel above it, takes prominence.

              [Picture: Leicester’s Hospital: The Courtyard]

The West Gate is one of the two surviving ancient gateways of Warwick and
leads steeply up into the town beneath a rude-ribbed arch of great
massiveness, based sturdily upon the dull red sandstone rock.  It is a
very picturesque and in every way striking composition, and if it were
not for the even more picturesque scene provided by Leicester’s Hospital,
just within the gate, would be often illustrated.  But the nodding black
and white gables of that almshouse effectually attract the greater
notice.  The West Gate, with the chapel above, dates from about 1360.
Nowadays it is almost only the curious visitor who passes through the
long, tunnel-like arch, gazing with astonishment at the sudden outcrop of
rock on which the building stands, and at the ribbed stone roof
supporting the chapel.  A roadway has been made to the right of the gate,
through the town walls, and the traffic goes that way by choice,
obscuring the ancient defensive function and importance of this entrance
to the town.  A chapel also occupies the like position over the East
Gate, and shows that the people of Warwick prayed as well as watched.

The Leicester Hospital, so-called because founded by Robert Dudley, Earl
of Leicester, looks down with admirable effect from its elevated position
on the left hand, as you come up into the town; but it would look even
better if it were properly kept.  It very urgently needs a thorough
overhauling, not in the necessity for any structural repairs, but with
the object of treating the buildings in a sympathetic and cultured way.
There is a vast difference between photographic views of what is called,
in the Wardour Street way, “Leycester’s” Hospital, and the actual effect
of looking upon the place with one’s own eyes.  The Hospital, in fact,
looks very much better in photographs than it reveals itself to the
disappointed gaze: simply because those responsible for the upkeep of it
do not understand how to treat the old timbers, and have smeared them
over with black paint.

This Hospital or Almshouse occupies the site of the ancient united
religious and charitable guilds of Holy Trinity and St.
George-the-Martyr, with some of their surviving buildings.  These united
fraternities had numerous activities.  They supported the priests who
served in the chapels over East and West gates, and contributed towards
the keep of others in the parish church; being also largely responsible
for the maintenance of the great bridge, now and for long past in ruins,
which carried the Banbury road across the Avon, in front of Warwick
Castle.  They also supported eight poor persons of the Guild.  In common
with all other religious, or semi-religious institutions, the Guild was
dissolved in the time of Henry the Eighth, and its buildings were granted
by Edward the Sixth to Sir Nicholas le Strange, from whom Dudley acquired
them; or, according to another version of these transactions, Dudley had
a gift of them direct from the town of Warwick, to which the Guild had
voluntarily transferred its property.  This gift to the magnificent
Dudley, the newly-created Earl of Leicester and possessor of vast wealth
and power, was not for his own personal advantage, but for the purpose of
helping him to establish an almshouse, which he at once proceeded to do,
in the interest of “twelve impotent persons, not having above £5 per
annum of their own, and such as either had been, or should be maimed in
the warrs of the Queen, her service, her heirs and successors, especially
under the conduct of the said Earl or his heirs, or had been tenants to
him and his heirs, and born in the Counties of Warwick or Gloucester, or
having their dwelling there for five years before; and in case there
happen to be none such hurt in the Warrs, then other poor of Kenilworth,
Warwick, Stratford super Avon in this county, or of Wootton under Edge or
Erlingham in Gloucestershire, to be recommended by the Minister and
Churchwardens where they last had their aboad; which poor men are to have
Liveries (viz. Gowns of blew cloth, with a Ragged Staff embroydered on
the left sleeve) and not to go into the Town without them.”

Leicester and his magnificence, and all the direct lineage of the Dudleys
have disappeared long ago.  Leicester himself, and after him his brother
Ambrose, died childless, and the patronage of the Hospital passed to
their sister Mary, who married Sir Henry Sidney of Penshurst.  Thence it
has descended to Lord de L’isle and Dudley, the present representative of
the Dudleys and the Sidneys.

The entrance is by a stone gateway bearing the inscription “Hospitivm
Collegiatvm Roberti Dvdlei Comitis Leycestriæ 1571.”  The great Dudley’s
picturesque buildings deserve to be better kept, for they are among the
daintiest examples of highly enriched half-timbering in England.  Passing
beneath an archway with a sundial overhead, you enter a small quadrangle
with a quaint staircase on one side, and gables with elaborate pierced
verge-boards looking down upon the scene.  The famous Warwick badge of
the Bear and Ragged Staff surmounts the finials and lurks under the
eaves, in frequent repetition, together with the Porcupine, that of the
Sidneys.  On the further side, over the windows of the Master’s Lodge, is
the painted inscription, “Honour all men; love the brotherhood; fear God;
and honour the King,” a quadripartite injunction which we may confidently
affirm, no man ever yet observed.  Our own—but much more other
people’s—natures will have to be very greatly amended before we are
prepared to “honour all men.”

You pay sixpence to be shown over the Hospital, and one of the twelve
bedesmen acts as guide to the buildings and the very miscellaneous
collections accumulated in them.  Nowadays the “blue gown” has become
black, and the Bear and Ragged Staff badge is in silver, instead of
embroidery.  A welcome change has come over their headgear.  Instead of
the more or less rusty silk hats they wore during the greater part of the
nineteenth century, they have now a “beefeater” hat similar to those worn
by the Tower warders in London, but wholly in black.  The bedesmen no
longer dine together as once they did, but each separately in his own
quarters, because they could not always obey the injunction to “love the
brotherhood,” and grew cantankerous in company, and quarrelled; but here
is still the kitchen they have in common, containing many other things
one does not expect to find in kitchens; an odd assortment, a Malay kris,
a Russian helmet from the stricken fields of the Crimea, an oak cabinet
from Kenilworth Castle, and a framed piece of needlework said to have
been executed by Lady Robert Dudley, whom “historians” will persist in
styling either by her maiden name, Amy Robsart, or else by the title of
Countess of Leicester, she having died or been murdered many years before
her husband became an Earl.  Perhaps we had better emphasise the word
_said_.  Beneath that framed piece of needlework is a Saxon—more or less
Saxon—chair.  A piece of Gibraltar rock, polished, is a further item
displaying the catholicity of taste displayed here, together with the
muskets with which the inmates of the Hospital were armed when the
Chartist rising was supposed to threaten the security of Warwick.

           [Picture: Leicester’s Hospital: One of the Brethren]

The banqueting hall, a surviving portion of the old Guild buildings, very
greatly needs restoration.  It has been grossly used and subdivided, the
Minstrel Gallery having been taken out of it in order to provide a fine
additional room for the Master’s residence; the Master being, of course,
a clergyman with a fine fat stipend: the person who has the very best of
it at Leicester’s Hospital.  In this once-beautiful banqueting hall, with
its noble roof of Spanish chestnut, whitened with age, James the First
was entertained by Fulke Greville in 1617.  Coal-bins and wash-houses now
subdivide it.

Flights of stone stairs lead up from the Hospital over the West Gate and
into the chapel, a fine spacious building where the twelve old men have
to attend every week-day morning at ten o’clock and listen to the
perfunctory service read by the Master.  In addition to this spiritual
treat, they attend service at the parish church on Sundays.  There is
nothing to say about the interior of the chapel; it was “restored” by Sir
Gilbert Scott, and so there would not be.

For dulness and pretentious ugliness combined, the town of Warwick would
be difficult to match; and the ugliest and dullest part of it is that
main street called Jury Street, stretching between the West Gate and the
East.  The ugliness is due to the great fire of 1694, which destroyed a
great part of the town and necessitated a rebuilding at a period when
architects were obsessed with the idea of designing “stately” buildings.
What they considered stately we nowadays look upon with a shudder and
style heavy and unimaginative.

But the weirdest building in the town is that parish church of St. Mary
whose tower looks in the distance so stately.  There were once ten
churches in Warwick and there are now but two.  St. Mary’s was almost
entirely destroyed in the great fire, in consequence of the frightened
townsfolk storing their furniture in it, for safety.  The church itself
was not threatened, but some of the articles hurriedly placed in it were
alight, and thus it shared the fate of much else.

The rebuilding of St. Mary’s was completed in 1704, as an inscription on
the tower informs us.  I think those who placed that inscription here
intended a Latin pun, a play upon the name of Queen Anne and the word
anno, for “year”; for thus it runs: “Annaeauspiciis A° memorabili 1704.”
One scarcely knows which is the more deplorable, the building or the pun;
the first, probably, because not every one can see the play upon words,
but the tower is an outrage impossible to escape.

The bulk and loftiness of it are majestic, but its classic details in a
Gothic framework have a curious effect on the beholder.  They seem, those
unhallowed pagan alcoves, mounting stage by stage toward the skies, like
some blasphemous insinuation.  The nave and transepts, rebuilt at the
same time, are, oddly enough, not nearly so offensive, and it is rather a
handsome as well as imposing interior that meets the stranger’s gaze.  It
may be that it seems so much better because, warned by the outside, one
expects so much worse.  That familiar ornament in classic architecture,
the “egg and dart,” is an incongruous detail when worked into the
capitals of columns in which the Gothic feeling predominates, and it
sounds quite shocking when described; but here it comes with a pleasing,
if scarcely ecclesiastical effect in this fine and well-proportioned
interior.

                 [Picture: The Beauchamp Chapel, Warwick]

The chancel of St. Mary’s, together with the chapter-house on the north
side of it and the Beauchamp Chapel on the south, escaped the fire, and
remain uninjured to this day.  It is possible to peer through the locked
iron gates of the chancel from the nave, which is the only portion of the
church that is to be seen without payment, but to see the chapter-house,
and the Beauchamp Chapel, to descend to the crypt and to mount the tower,
you must pay and pay and pay again.  The clergy in all the wide radius of
the Shakespeare Country have the keenest scent for sixpences, and would
make excellent business men.  Better business men than clergymen, for all
I know.  They have long since learnt to charge and to keep their doors
locked until their charges are satisfied; and none understand the
business better than those who have the keeping of St. Mary’s at Warwick.
But, when you have paid for this and for that and for t’other, and are
resting and reading, and possibly making notes in the nave, it is gross,
I say, and offensive and blackguardly to be followed up and spied upon
and to be asked if you are sketching!  “Because if you are it will be
half-a-crown.”  I will now leave this unsavoury subject, wishing the
clergy and churchwardens of St. Mary’s more enlightenment and the people
they employ better discretion.

The chancel, or choir, founded by Thomas Beauchamp, twelfth Earl of
Warwick, who died 1369, is a stately Perpendicular work, with the
altar-tomb of the founder and his wife Katharine, who died the same year,
in the middle.  His armoured effigy, with crosses crosslet displayed on
the breastplate, rests its feet upon a bear, and at the feet of his wife
is a lamb.  He holds his wife’s hand.

Around the tomb, in niches, are small figures representing members of the
family, thirty-six in all.  In a grave near by, unmarked by any monument
or inscription, lies William Parr, brother of Katharine Parr, last and
surviving wife of Henry the Eighth.  He was created Marquis of
Northampton, and died in 1571, sunk to such poverty that no money was
forthcoming to bury him.  A few years later, Queen Elizabeth found a
trifle, and he was decently interred, but no one ever thought it worth
while to mark his resting-place.

Passing the greatly-enriched Easter Sepulchre in the north wall, the
Chapter House is entered by a corridor.  In the centre of this building
stands the enormous monument to Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, who was
murdered by his man-servant in 1628.  “Delaying to reward one Hayward, an
antient servant that had spent the most of his time in attendance upon
him,” says Dugdale, “he received a mortall stab in the back by the same
man, then private with him in his bed-chamber at Brooke House in London,
30th Sept. ann. 1628, who, to consummate the tragedy, went into another
room, and, having lockit the dore, pierced his own bowells with a sword.”

The crypt is the oldest part of St. Mary’s, with Norman pillars.  It
contains the old ducking-stool for scolding women.

The entrance to that most gorgeous relic of old St. Mary’s, the Beauchamp
Chapel, which is the principal item in the list of these ecclesiastical
showmen, is on the east side of the south transept.  The mortuary
magnificence of the Beauchamps obscures the dedication of the Chapel to
Our Lady, and the generations that have passed since the building of it
between the years 1443 and 1464, and its final consecration in 1475, have
rightly agreed to style it by the name by which it now, and always has
been, popularly known.  It reminds one very keenly of the insincere
modern cant phrase which forms the dedication of memorial stained-glass
windows.  “To the Glory of God and to the memory of —,” a shabby sop to
the Almighty at which the soul revolts.  The very entrance is obviously
proprietary, and shows us that this is really the Beauchamp mausoleum.

               [Picture: The Crypt of St. Mary’s, Warwick]

It is a magnificent entrance, a very highly-enriched work in panelled and
sculptured stone, with the Warwick Bear and Ragged Staff on either side,
facing the Beauchamp shield of crosses crosslet.  Near it, on the wall,
and green with neglect, is the fine brass to Thomas Beauchamp, thirteenth
Earl of Warwick, who died in 1401, and of his wife Margaret, who died
1406.  It seems strange that out of all the money contributed by
visitors, and chiefly on account of the Beauchamp monuments, there cannot
be some small surplus set aside for a restoration of the altar-tomb on
which these figures were placed up to that time when the great fire
destroyed it and much of the church.  It is not well that so fine an
example should remain on a wall; the most unsuitable position for a
monumental brass.  The Earl, who is given the old original name of the
Norman Beauchamps who came over with the Conqueror—“Bellocampo,” meaning
“fair field”—is in complete armour, which has, besides the crosses
crosslet of the family arms, a decorative border of ragged staves around
his helmet.  The Countess is habited in an heraldic mantle of crosses
crosslet.

This Thomas Beauchamp was not so great or distinguished a man as his son,
in whose honour the Beauchamp Chapel was erected.

The Beauchamp Chapel is slightly below the level of the south transept
and is entered down a flight of steps.  Photographs give an exaggerated
idea of its size, but scarcely do justice to its beauty and the extreme
richness of its details, still remarkable, although the ancient coloured
glass has been mostly destroyed and the golden images of the altar have
disappeared.  It is indeed due to the second Lord Brooke, who although a
partisan of the Cromwellian side during the Civil War, was naturally keen
to preserve the glories of Warwick, that the Chapel was not wholly
destroyed in that age of tumults.  Lord Brooke was the son of that Sir
Fulke Greville, first Baron Brooke, to whom James the First had granted
Warwick Castle in 1605, and he no doubt looked upon the Beauchamps as
ancestors, although there was never the remotest connection between that
ancient martial family and his own, the Grevels, or Grevilles, who
descend from the old wool-merchants of the name at Chipping Campden and
elsewhere in the Cotswolds.  He adopted them, and took them over, so to
speak, with the Castle; and a good thing too, for these old monuments,
that they had so fortunate an adoption.

The building is in the middle period of the Perpendicular style, that
last manifestation of the Gothic spirit and the feudal ages, and is
elaborately groined in stone.  The great Richard Beauchamp, who lies here
in these gorgeous surroundings, directed by will the building of the
Chapel and the erection of his monument.  He was the greatest as yet of
his name, and appears to have been perfectly conscious of it, if we may
judge by the state in which he ordained to lie.  He was also to prove the
greatest to all time, for although his son Henry who succeeded him at his
death in 1439 was created Duke of Warwick, his career was undistinguished
and soon ended, for he died in 1445.  With him ended the long line of his
race.

Richard Beauchamp, fourteenth Earl of Warwick, whose effigy lies here in
lonely magnificence on the altar-tomb he directed to be made, as though
he were too great a personage to have his wife beside him, was holder of
the greatest offices of State of his period.  The long inscription round
his tomb tells us of some of these responsible posts—

    “Preieth devoutly for the Sowel whom god assoille of one of the moost
    worshipful Knights in his dayes of monhode and conning Richard
    Beauchamp, late Earl of Warrewik, lord Despenser of Bergevenny and of
    mony other grete lordships whos body resteth here vnder this tumbe in
    a fulfeire vout of stone set on the bare rooch the whuch visited with
    longe siknes in the Castel of Roan therinne decessed ful cristenly
    the last day of April the yer of oure lord god A mccccxxix, he being
    at that tyme Lieutenant gen’al and governer of the Roialme of
    ffraunce and of the Duchie of Normandie by sufficient Autorite of
    oure Sou’aigne lord the King Harry the vi., the whuch body with grete
    deliberacon’ and ful worshipful conduit Bi See And by lond was broght
    to Warrewik the iiii day of October the yer aboueseide and was leide
    with ful solemn exequies in a feir chest made of stone in this
    Chirche afore the west dore of this Chapel according to his last
    wille and Testament therin to rest til this Chapel by him devised i’
    his liff were made Al the whuche Chapel founded on the Rooch And alle
    the membres thereof his Executours dede fully make and Apparaille By
    the Auctorite of his Seide last Wille and Testament And therafter By
    the same Auctorite Theydide Translate fful worshipfully the seide
    Body into the vout abouseide, Honured be god therfore.”

History comes in few places with such vivid reality to the modern person
as it does here.  Unmoved, because too often without the mental agility
to perceive the significance of it, we look upon the old royal arms of
England as they were for centuries, until the time of George the Third,
and see the quartering of the Lions of England with the Lilies of France;
that proud boast, an idle pretension long before Calais, the final French
possession of England, was lost, in the reign of Queen Mary.  But
standing before the tomb of the great Beauchamp, and reading his sounding
titles, no mere ornamental designations, but the veritable responsible
offices of State, as “Lieutenant-General and Governor of the Realm of
France and the Duchy of Normandy,” we live again in tremendous days.  No
tomb of King or Emperor impresses me as does that of this puissant
representative and viceroy of such sovereignty.

Beneath a hooped frame or “hearse” of gilded brass which formed the
support for a gorgeous pall of crimson velvet lies the effigy of this
great soldier and statesman, also in brass, once highly gilt.  His bared
head rests upon his helmet and his feet upon a griffin and a muzzled
bear, and the Garter is on his left leg.  The arms are raised in the
usual attitude of prayer, but the hands themselves are not joined, as
usual.  They are, instead, represented apart, in the priestly pose during
the celebration of mass.

The rich crimson velvet pall that covered the effigy and was lifted for
its inspection by every visitor, was at last removed, on the plea of the
injury it was supposed to be causing the figure, and has now
unaccountably disappeared.

In niches around the altar-tomb are little figures representing his
family, and sons- and daughters-in-law: fourteen in all; such great names
as Henry Beauchamp, his son and successor, with his wife Cicely; Richard
Neville, Earl of Salisbury and his wife Alice; Richard Neville,
afterwards Earl of Warwick and his wife Anne; Edmund Beaufort, Duke of
Somerset, and his wife Eleanor; Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham,
and his wife Anne; John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife
Margaret; and George Neville, Lord Latimer, with his wife Elizabeth.

Against the north wall of the Chapel is the costly and ostentatious
monument of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, rising in lofty stages of
coloured marbles; a vulgar piece of work.  The effigies of Dudley and his
wife Lætitia, who survived him forty-six years and died in 1634, are
gorgeously robed and painted in lifelike fashion.  The mantle of the
Order of the Garter covers his armour, and the Garter itself is shown on
his leg.  It is with surpassing interest that one looks upon the chief of
these figures; that Dudley who came near being King-Consort of Elizabeth,
and died in 1588, at the comparatively early age of fifty-four; the vain
and magnificent creature suspected of the murder of his first wife and
traditionally poisoned by his last, who is said to have given him the
lethal cup he had intended for herself.  A long Latin epitaph sonorously
recounts his many titles and honours, with the hardy belief in “a certain
hope of his resurrection in Christ.”

Against the opposite wall is the altar-tomb of that “noble Impe, Robert
of Dudley,” infant son of the last, who died in his fourth year, 1584.  A
circlet round the brow of the little figure bears the Leicester badge,
the cinquefoil.  Last of the Dudley monuments, is the altar-tomb of
Ambrose, styled the “good Earl,” in tacit contradistinction from his
brother Robert, the wicked one.  The good Ambrose was not given length of
days, for he died the year after his brother.  He also is shown in armour
and wears a coronet and the Garter.  How he was given the post of
“Mayster of the Ordinaunce,” made Chief Butler of England, and was
altogether a personage of many offices, his epitaph tells.  With him and
the “noble Impe,” his brother’s infant son, the legitimate race of the
Dudleys died.



CHAPTER XXV


                             Warwick Castle.

THE great Castle of Warwick, now the seat of the Earl and Countess of
Warwick, who formed themselves into a Limited Liability Company some
fifteen years ago, under the title of the “Warwick Estates Co., Ltd.,”
has been the seat of the Grevilles since 1605.

The origin of Warwick Castle goes back to Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred
the Great and wife of the then Earl of Mercia, a strenuous and warlike
lady, to whom are attributed many ancient works.  She is credited with
building the first fortress in A.D. 915, on that knoll still known as
“Ethelfleda’s Mount,” on which a Norman keep was subsequently erected,
perhaps by that famous personage Turchil.  In the family of Turchil the
cognisance of the yet more famous Bear and Ragged Staff originated, which
in all succeeding generations has descended from house to house of the
distinguished families who have come into possession of Warwick Castle:
the Houses of Beauchamp, Neville, Dudley, Rich, and Greville: not as
their personal badge, but as that of the castellan for the time being of
Warwick.  A fantastic theory has been set afoot that, as Siward, son of
Turchil, assumed the name “de Arden,” thus founding the numerous knightly
family of Ardens, Shakespeare, as the son of a Mary Arden, was probably
the rightful owner of Warwick Castle!  We may safely say that this never
occurred to Shakespeare himself, and may add him to one of that numerous
class slyly alluded to by Ingoldsby; people “kept out of their property
by the rightful owners.”

The great Guy of Warwick, a giant in stature and doughty in deeds, is a
myth, but that does not prevent his armour being shown in the Great Hall
of the Castle.  His period seems to be placed between that of Ethelfleda
and Turchil, for the date of his death is put at A.D. 929.  Mythical
though he is, the later and very real flesh-and-blood Beauchamps, who
came into possession of Warwick in the thirteenth century, were often
named “Guy” in allusion to him.  His armour, like his legendary self, is
a weird accretion of time, and is no longer displayed with the touching
belief of less exacting times.  The Age of Belief is dead, they say.  Of
belief in some things incredible, no doubt.  He wore, according to the
articles seen here, not only armour of tremendous size and weight, but of
periods ranging from three hundred, to six hundred and ninety years after
his death.  A bascinet of the time of Edward the Third covered his head,
his breastplate, weighing fifty pounds, is of the latter part of the
fifteenth century, and the backplate belongs to the Stuart period.  His
shield weighs thirty pounds; his great ponderous sword, five feet six
inches long, is of the time of Henry the Eighth.  “Guy’s breakfast cup,
or porridge-pot” is equally wonderful, for it has a capacity of a hundred
and twenty gallons.  It is really an ancient iron cauldron, once used for
cooking the rations of the garrison.

The first historical Earl of Warwick was Henry de Newburgh, who died
1123; and by a succession of changes and failures of heirs the title and
estates came to William de Beauchamp, husband of the daughter of William
Mauduit.

In the time of Guy, Earl of Warwick, son of this William, the Castle
witnessed some stirring scenes.  The discontented nobles, troubled at the
preference given by Edward the Second to his foreign favourite, Piers
Gaveston, and at the apparent impossibility of permanently ridding the
kingdom of him, seized that pestilent foreigner and confined him for a
short time in a dungeon here.

The favourite was by no means an acceptable person to the English barons,
who although all directly descended from William the Conqueror’s
Frenchmen, had already been assimilated by this wonderful country of
ours, and were as English as—well, let us say as English as any German
Jew Goldstein or Schlesinger of modern times who, coming to these happy
shores, suffers a sea-change into something rich and rare, and becomes a
new and strange “Gordon,” or “Sinclair.”  They regarded this flippant
Gascon from the south of France as an undesirable of the worst type, and
could not and would not appreciate his jokes; a natural enough disability
when you come to consider them, for they were all at their expense.  If
you study the monumental effigies of those mediæval barons and knights
which are so plentifully dispersed throughout our country churches, you
will readily perceive that although they were frequently very magnificent
personages, their countenances do not often show any trace of
intellectual qualities.  Edward the Second was as flippant a person as
his favourite, and when these stupid and indignant barons saw them
laughing together, they knew very well, or keenly suspected, that they
themselves were being laughed at.  Did not this Gaveston fellow call the
Earl of Lancaster “the play-actor,” or “the fiddler,” and the Earl of
Lincoln “burst belly.”  Every one knew he called his father-in-law “_fils
à puteyne_,” or “whoreson.”  Guy, Earl of Warwick, was “the black hound
of Arden.”

“Let him call me hound: one day the hound will bite him,” said the Earl.
Meanwhile, Gaveston went on finding nicknames for every one, and made
himself bitterly hated by those dull-minded barons who could not joke
back at him.  The worst of it was, his lance was as keen, and went as
straight to the point, as his gibes.  It was little use meeting him in
single combat, for he unhorsed and vanquished the best.

Hence this seizure of the hateful person.  The story of it is told by
Adam Murimuth—

    “The King wished Peter de Gavestone to be conveyed to him by Lord
    Adamar de Valense, Earl of Pembroke, for safety; and, when they were
    at Danyntone next Bannebury, the same Earl sent him away in the
    night; and he went near to one place for this reason.  And on the
    morrow in the morning came Guy, Earl of Warwyk, with a low-born and
    shouting band, and awakened Peter and brought him to his Castle of
    Warwyk and, after deliberation with certain elders of the kingdom,
    and chiefly with Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, finally released him from
    prison to go where he would.  And when he had set out from the town
    of Warwyk even to the place called, somewhat prophetically,
    Gaveressich, he came there with many men making a clamor against him
    with their voices and horns, as against an enemy of the King and a
    lawful outlaw of the Kingdom, or an exile; and finally beheaded him
    as such xix day of the month of June.”

So the “Black Dog” did indeed bite him to some effect.  This tragic spot
is a place called Blacklow Hill, one mile north of the town.  A monument
to this misguided humorist, following his natural propensities in a land
where humour is not appreciated, was erected on the spot by a Mr.
Greathead, of Guy’s Cliff House, in 1821.  The inscription itself has a
complete lack of humour—

    “In the hollow of this rock was beheaded, on the first day of July,
    1312, by barons as lawless as himself, Piers Gaveston, Earl of
    Cornwall, the minion of a hateful king, in life and death a memorable
    instance of misrule.”

With this fierce “Black Dog of Arden,” whose teeth were so sharp, the
architectural history of the Castle becomes clear.  He repaired and
strengthened it, after the rough handling it had received in the Barons’
War, in the reign of Henry the Third; but to Thomas de Beauchamp, his
grandson, is due Cæsar’s Tower, about 1360, and it was his son Thomas,
who built Guy’s Tower, named after the mythical giant, about 1394.

It costs two shillings to see Warwick Castle.  I believe if you happen to
be a resident of Warwick or Leamington, there is a reduction of fifty per
cent.  The entrance is not so old as it looks, and was cut through the
rock in 1800.  It leads to the gloomy Barbican, whose overhanging walls
give a truly mediæval approach and form the completest contrast with the
scene that opens beyond.

The visitor enters a huge courtyard, now one vast lawn, nearly two acres
in area; with the residential portion of the Castle and its state-rooms
on the left.  Ahead is Ethelfleda’s Mount, and on the right, guarding the
curtain-wall at intervals, are Guy’s Tower; the incomplete Bear Tower,
with its mysterious tunnel, the work of Richard the Third; and the
companion Clarence Tower, built by George, Duke of Clarence, his
ill-fated brother, murdered in the Tower of London.  Beside Ethelfleda’s
Mount is the Hill Tower.

Immediately to the left of the entrance are the brew-house, laundry and
then Cæsar’s Tower, with its gloomy dungeon, a most undesirable place of
residence with vaulted stone roof and mouldy smells, meet for repentance
and vain regrets.  Here the “Black Dog” imprisoned the flippant Gaveston,
and many later generations of prisoners passed weary times, scratching
their not very legible records upon the walls for lack of employment.
Among them is the record of one “Master John Smyth, gunner to the King,”
who appears to have been a prisoner here for the worse part of four
years, in the hands of the Cromwellian partisan, Lord Brooke.  We learn
nothing further of the unfortunate gunner, nor why he was meted such hard
measure.

    M_a_fTER : I_oh_N : SM_y_TH : GVNER : TO HIS :
    MAIEST_y_E . HIg_h_NES : WAS : A PRISNER IN THIS
    PlACE : AND lA_y_ HERE . _f_rOM 1642 TELL _th_

    WILLIAM SI_d_IATE ROT T_his_ SAME
    AN_d_ _if_ M_y_ PEN HA_d_ B_in_ BETER f_o_R
    HIS SAKE I Wovl_d_ HAVE MEN_d_E_d_
    EVERRi leTTER.

    Ma_f_ter               1642 345
    Io_h_n : SM_y_TH GVNER _to_ H .
    MAIE_f_T_ys _: Hi_gh_NES WAS
    A PRI_f_NER IN T_his_ PlACE
    IN : T_h_E .  _y_EARE _of_ OVR L
    _ord_ 1642 : 345
             _miserere_
             _ihs mary_
             _ihs mio_

Mr. William Sidiate (or possibly it is “Lidiate”) who thus, in the
quaintest of lettering inscribed the sorrows of his friend the imprisoned
gunner, appears to have been fully conscious of the eccentricity of his
handiwork, but the inferiority of his “pen”—which was probably a rusty
nail—can have had nothing to do with his weird admixture of “large caps,”
“upper case,” “lower case” and italic type which I confidently expect
will make the compositor of this page smile and sigh by turns.

The Great Hall, with its armour and pictures and relics of Guy, is of
course the chief feature of the long round of sight-seeing that makes
Warwick Castle second to none as a show-place.  It was greatly injured in
the fire of December 1871, when many priceless relics were destroyed.
Facsimile replicas of some have been made, and of the ancient armour
which survived it has been said that there is no finer in the Kingdom,
except that in the Tower of London.  It is remarkable that although the
Castle has passed from family to family, and sometimes to families not
related to their predecessors, the continuity of things has been
maintained.  Here is the mace of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, “the
Kingmaker,” who was slain in 1471 at the Battle of Barnet; here are
portions of the armour which belonged to Prince Edward, murdered at
Tewkesbury, after the battle; together with relics of the Dudleys, such
as the miniature suit of armour made for the “noble Impe”; together with
a helmet of the great Oliver Cromwell, and the suit worn by Lord Brooke,
shot at the siege of Lichfield.  His buff leathern jerkin was burnt in
1871, and that we now see is a facsimile of it.  Here, too, are those
preposterous relics of Guy, already mentioned, together with a rib of
that Dun Cow of terrific story which he slew upon Dunsmore.  The visitor
will see that rib with surprise, and note that the cows of a thousand
years ago were larger than ever he suspected.  It is the rib of a whale.

He would be a courtly, and perhaps also a tedious, writer who should
essay to fully describe Warwick Castle, with its many suites of
state-rooms, its gothic stone-vaulted servants’-hall, and its terraces,
ponds, and gardens, together with the conservatories and that famous
Roman antiquity, the so-called “Warwick Vase,” found at Hadrian’s Villa,
near Rome in 1770, and purchased by the dilettante George, second Earl,
from Sir William Hamilton.  Great improvements have been made here in the
last few years at the cost of “a little damming and blasting,” as was
remarked at the time.

Past the melancholy flymen who linger in the broad roadway opposite the
entrance to the Castle, and wear jaundiced looks as though it were years
ago since they had had a fare and expect it to be years yet before they
will get another, you turn to the right into Mill Lane, narrow street of
ancient houses, leading down to the river and to the site of that ancient
mill where the feudal lords had their corn ground.

The magnificence of state-rooms, the lengthy parade of family portraits,
the beauty of the gardens, and the trimness of well-kept lawns do not
serve the really cultivated visitor’s turn in Warwick Castle.  He pays
his two shillings and is herded through with many others, a little
browbeaten by the stale declamation of the gorgeous lackeys and by a very
indigestion of sightseeing.  It is not a medieval fortress he has seen,
but a private residence.  In Mill Lane, however, you come into nearer
touch with realities.  Here, in this by far the most picturesque and
unspoiled part of Warwick, where the bowed and time-worn brick or
timber-framed houses are living out their life naturally, something of
the ancient contrast between subservient town and feudal fortress may be
gathered, softened down, it is true, by the hand of time.  Cæsar’s Tower
is viewed at its best from the lower end of the lane, and looks from this
point of view the noblest and the sternest tower the forceful military
architects of the Middle Ages have given us, and well worthy of the great
name of Cæsar long ago conferred upon it by some unknown admirer of its
dignity and massive beauty.  It was somewhere about 1360 when Cæsar’s
Tower first arose upon the rocky bluff in which its foundations go deeply
down.  It was then called the Poictiers Tower.  The purpose of this
extremely strong and cunningly-planned work just here is lost to the
modern casual observer, but if a keen glance is directed to the Avon
flowing so closely by, it will be observed that although Mill Lane is now
a lane butting up against the river bank and leading nowhere, the ruins
of a very substantial stone bridge that once crossed the broad stream at
this point are seen.  This formerly carried the high road from Warwick to
Banbury, and when still in use brought the possibility of attack upon the
Castle at this angle very near, and therefore to be provided against by
the strongest possible defence.  Hence those boldest of machicolations
overhead, those arrow-slits in the skilfully-planned battlements above
them, and that extraordinary double base with the bold slopes, seen in
the accompanying illustration; a base whose purpose was to fling off with
a tremendous rebound into the midst of an enemy the stones, the molten
lead and pitch, and the more nasty, but not so lethal missiles with which
a besieged garrison defended themselves.  This base is quite solid rock,
faced with masonry.  In the upper part of it is seen the small barred
window that admits a feeble light into the dungeon already described.
To-day the elms have grown up to great heights beside Cæsar’s Tower and
assuage the grimness of it, and the only sounds are the cawings and
gobbling noises of the rooks in their branches, or the unlovely cries of
the Castle peacocks which strut across the lane in all their glory of
colour.

The tower rises 106 feet above its rocky basement.  Those old military
architects who designed and built it had not the least idea they were
installing a picturesque feature.  They had no knowledge at all of the
picturesque; but they assured themselves, as well as they could, that the
safety of the Castle should be provided for.  And they did it so well
that history will be studied in vain for a successful siege.

                 [Picture: Cæsar’s Tower, Warwick Castle]

This must have been a noble and imposing entrance to Warwick town in days
of old.  Then the road from London to Banbury crossed the ancient bridge
and came up under this frowning tower and through the south gate of the
town, along Mill Lane.

The bridge, originally a narrow packhorse bridge of thirteen arches and
of great antiquity, was widened in 1375 and the number of arches reduced
to seven; and, thus remodelled, carried the traffic until 1790.  This way
came of necessity every traveller from London to Warwick, and in this
manner Queen Elizabeth entered the town and Castle in 1572.

Warwick Castle was in those times less secluded from the streets than it
now is.  The feudal owners of it were not at all concerned to hide
themselves away, but when the age of sight-seeing dawned and amateurs of
the picturesque began to tour the country, they began to consider how
they could ensure a complete privacy.  It was effected by diverting the
public highway.  This was done at the instigation of George, second of
the Greville Earls of Warwick, in or about 1790, when the new road and
bridge were made, crossing the Avon considerably to the eastward.  From
that modern bridge, which cost £4000, only in part contributed by the
Earl, who benefited most by the diversion, is obtained that view of the
Castle so extravagantly praised by Sir Walter Scott.  It is the only
possible view, and not a good one: one by no means to be compared with
that formerly obtained from the old bridge.  Sir Walter Scott therefore
either did not know what he was talking about, or was too much of a
courtier to reveal his own convictions.

At this same time when the road was made to take its new course, the
meadows on the other side of the Avon were enclosed and thrown into the
park.  To complete and fully round off this story of obliterating ancient
landmarks, the old bridge was wrecked in the same year by a flood.  Three
only of its arches remain.

The Grevilles, the present Earls of Warwick, have a motto to their coat
of arms which is a complete change from the usual swashbuckling braggart
sentiments.  He was surely a singularly modest man who first adopted it.
I wish I could identify him.  He must have read well the history of
Warwick Castle and have pondered on the successive families of cuckoos
who have nested in the old home of the original owners.  He selected a
quotation from the _Metamorphoses_ of that amorous dove, P. Ovidius
Naso—O! quite a proper one, I assure you—_Vix ea nostra voco_, “I can
scarce call these things our own.”  Whether he meant the heirlooms, the
mace that belonged to the great Richard Neville “the Kingmaker,” the
Plantagenet and the Dudley relics, or if he were a contemplative
philosopher ruminating on the Law of Entail, by which he was not owner,
to do with as he would, but only tenant-for-life, who shall say?



CHAPTER XXVI


 Guy’s Cliff—The legend of Guy—Kenilworth and its watersplash—Kenilworth
                                 Castle.

LEAMINGTON will scarcely interest the holiday-maker in Shakespeare land.
From Warwick to Kenilworth is the more natural transition, and it is one
of much interest.  A mile and a half out of the town is that famous place
of popular legend, Guy’s Cliff, where the great mansion, standing beside
the river and built in 1822, looks so ancient, and where, on the opposite
shore of Avon, stands that mill whose highly picturesque features are a
standing dish in railway carriage picture-galleries.  The impossible
armour of the mythical Guy of Warwick we have already seen in Warwick
Castle, and the improbable legend of his hermit life in the riverside
cave remains now to be told.

Guy, returning from the Holy Land and successfully engaging as the
champion of England against Colbrond, the giant Dane, in combat at
Winchester, retraced his steps towards Warwick.  There, unknown by any,
he three days appeared among the poor at the Castle gate, as one of the
thirteen people to whom his wife daily gave alms; and “having rendred
thanks to her, he repaired to an Heremite that resided among the shady
woods hard by.”  The legend forgets to tell us why he did this, and does
not explain how it was that this giant fellow, who apparently was eight
feet high, was not recognised by his wife and others.  Were they all
eight feet tall, or thereabouts, at Warwick in those times?

But it would be wasting time to apply the test of intelligent criticism
to this mass of accumulated legends, to which many generations have added
something.  Guy is a mythical hero, built upon the exploits of some early
British champion, whose name and real history are as past recall as the
facts about King Arthur.  But the great fourteenth-century Richard
Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who founded the chapel here, seems to have
believed in him and in the size of him, for Guy’s mutilated effigy placed
here by that great earl, whose faith must have been as robust as his
body, is the full eight feet long.

At any rate, here is the cave of the hermit he consulted with, and with
whom he resided, unknown still to his friends, until that holy and
rheumatic man died.  Here he himself died, two years later, A.D. 929,
aged seventy.  Thus the story seeks to bolster up the wild character of
its details by the specious exactness of its dates.  “He sent to his Lady
their Wedding Ring by a trusty servant, wishing her to take care of his
burial; adding also that when she came, she should find him lying dead in
the Chapel, before the altar, and moreover, that within xv dayes after,
she herself should depart this life.”

Guy’s Cave, excavated in the rock, appears really to have been a hermit’s
abode in Saxon times.  His name seems, from the early twelfth-century
Saxon inscription found here over a hundred years ago, to have been
“Guhthi.”  It runs “Yd Crist-tu icniecti this i-wihtth, Guhthi”; which
has been rendered, “Cast out, thou Christ, from Thy servant this burden,
Guhthi.”  So romance is not altogether unjustified, and although this
misguided anchorite did not appreciate scenery, we at any rate can thus
find some historical excuse as well as a scenic one for visiting the
spot, with the crowd.

It is a pleasant road, on through Leek Wootton, where the church, after
being rebuilt in an odious style in 1792, has been brought more into
keeping with later ecclesiastical sentiment.  And so the road runs on, to
Kenilworth, through the approach called Castle End.  Presently, after
threading the long street, there in its meadows rises the ruined Castle.

There is no ideal way into Kenilworth nowadays, because the place has
become more or less of a town, and numerous Coventry business men make it
their suburban home.  Thus does Romance disappear, in the daily goings
forth and the returnings on their lawful occasions of the residents, and
in the spreading of fresh streets and always more cheaply built houses
for newer colonies of them.  The first jerry-builder at Kenilworth was
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose badly bonded additions to the
Castle still ruinously show how slightly and hastily he set about the
work.  But of that anon.

Castle End is one of those scattered portions of the town that surprise
the stranger.  He thinks, time and again, that he has seen all
Kenilworth, but there is always some more of it.  You bear to the left
and descend to a broad watersplash that crosses the road beneath densely
overarching trees.  The people of Kenilworth cling tightly to the
preservation of their watersplash, and for several reasons: it is highly
picturesque and keeps them in touch with the last elfin echoes of that
Romance I have spoken of; the building of a bridge would cost them
considerably; and finally they would lose the amusement and speculative
interest which has latterly been added to it in these automobile times,
when a motor-car may or may not succeed in getting through.  For the
watersplash is rather a sudden apparition to the motorist strange to the
place, and it is a very variable thing.  Sometimes it will be a shallow
trickle across the road, and at others, when rain has fallen, it will be
broad and deep.  This is when the people of Kenilworth love to gather on
the narrow footbridge at the side and smoke a quiet cigarette, waiting
for the coming of the motorist who will presently be in difficulties.  It
is something of a problem how to pass at such times.  If you rush it, as
most are tempted to do, you get through at the cost of being swamped with
the tremendous spray thrown up; and if you go gently you are probably
brought to an inglorious standstill in mid-stream, with the ignominious
necessity of wading out and procuring assistance.  In any event, an
engrossing spectacle is provided.

Once through this ford, you come up to the Castle entrance, on the left.
It is a pleasant old part that looks on to the scene of so much feudal
state and bygone warlike doings.  A group of old red brick and timber
cottages, their red brick of the loveliest geranium redness, looks upon a
kind of village green.  They lean at all kinds of angles, their roofs
have skylines like the waves of a troubled sea, in front of each one is a
little forecourt garden, and they all supply teas and sell
picture-postcards.  I do not know what the inhabitants of them do in the
winter.  Perhaps they come up to London and spend their gains in mad
revelry.

It is a hungry and a thirsty business, “doing” Kenilworth Castle
conscientiously, and the people of Castle Green and elsewhere in this
village-town find their account therein.  Even those visitors who do not
conscientiously “do” it—and they are by far the larger number, both
because most have not the intellectual equipment necessary, and because
in the rest the weakness of the flesh prevails over the willingness of
the spirit—find copious refreshment necessary.  There is in fact, a great
deal to be seen, and the interest is sustained throughout.  Viewed in a
commercial way, it is a very good sixpennyworth.  Personally, I consider
Ludlow Castle to be somewhat the superior of Kenilworth, and to hold the
premier position for a ruined castle; but Kenilworth is first in the
estimation of many.  It does not make the effective picture that Ludlow
forms, crowning its rocky bluff above the river Teme; for Kenilworth
stands in perhaps the weakest situation that ever was selected for an
ancient fortress, its ruined walls rising from low-lying meadows, and at
a distance having the appearance rather of some huge dismantled mansion
than a castle.

It is quite easy to deduce the existence of some Saxon lord, Chenil or
Kenelm, whose _weorth_ this was, but he is not an historical personage.
The first important historic fact that remains to us is the gift of the
manor by Henry the First to Geoffrey de Clinton in 1122, but what he
found here in the nature of a castle, or what he may have built is alike
unknown.  From the grandson of this Geoffrey, King John appears to have
taken a lease and to have added many outworks to the then existing castle
keep, which still remains.  That evil figure in English history,
travelling almost incessantly about his kingdom, watchful and tyrannical,
seems to have been much at Kenilworth, enlarging the bounds of the Castle
beyond the original Saxon mound on which the keep and the inner ward are
placed, inventing strong dungeons for his victims, and constructing those
outer walls which still look out, beyond the original moat.  Thus the
Castle grew to four times the area it had at first occupied, and as it
could not be strengthened by steep approaches, it was safeguarded by
artificially constructed water defences.  The fortification of Kenilworth
Castle was indeed a wonderful triumph of mediæval military engineering
over the disabilities of an unsatisfactory site, and it enabled the
disaffected nobles and others in the next reign to sustain a six months’
siege ending only in their surrender through a plague which had broken
out among the garrison.

We can still see the nature of these defences, for although the water has
been drained away, the circuit of the outer walls, from the Swan Tower on
Clinton Green, round to Mortimer’s Tower, the Water Tower, and Lunn’s
Tower remains perfect, and marks where the defences on two sides of the
Castle enclosure skirted a great lake formed by damming back two small
confluent brooks in the hollow meadows in which the Castle stands.  The
outer walls, now looking upon pastures where cattle graze, then descended
sheer into the water; a flight of steps leading down from a postern gate
still remaining to show where a boat could then have been launched.  This
lake was half a mile long, from 90 to 100 yards broad, and from 10 to 12
feet deep.

The siege of 1266 tried the strength of this strong place.  The great
Simon de Montfort, who fell at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, had been
granted the Castle in 1254.  He died in the popular cause, fighting
against Henry the Third, and his defeated army hurried to Kenilworth.
They found no immediate opposition, and garrisoned the place at leisure,
being joined there by many powerful adherents and heaping up enormous
stores for a lengthy resistance.  Both sides knew it would be a stubborn
and difficult affair.  The King tried at first to come to terms with the
garrison, but he does not appear to have gone about it in the most
tactful way.  It is true that he was prepared to allow the rebels to
compound for pardon with a fine, supposing they did so within forty days,
but to “pardon” those who think they are in the right and who are still
in arms to assert their rights and redress their grievances, seems an
unlikely way to end a dispute.  The Church was opposed to the popular
side, as may always confidently be expected, and helped the King’s cause
by damning the insurgents and preparing the tremendous document known to
history as the “Dictum de Kenilworth,” otherwise “the Ban.”  This was
read and published in the church of St. Mary, Warwick.  It proclaimed the
supreme will of the King, and, _inter alia_, forbade the people to regard
the dead hero and popular idol, de Montfort, as the saint and martyr they
were already declaring him to be.  The garrison received this with
contempt, and the long siege began.  Robert of Gloucester, who records it
in eloquent but rugged lines, is too quaint and amusing not to be quoted—

    “The king anon at midsummer, with strength and with gin
    To Kenilworth y-went, the castle to win;
    He swore he would not thence until he were within.
    So long they sped badly that they might as well bliue {272a}
    None of their gates those within ever close would.
    Open they stood, night and day, come in whoso would.
    Out they smite well oft, when men too nigh came,
    And slew fast on either half and prisoners name; {272b}
    And then bought they them back with ransom.  Such life long did last:
    With mangonels and engines each upon the other cast.
    The Legate and the Archbishop with them also nome; {272c}
    Two other bishops, and to Kenilworth come,
    To make accord between the King and the disinherited also,
    And them of the Castle, if it might be y-do {272d}
    But the disinherited would not do all after the King {272e}
    Nor they of the Castle any the more, nor stand to their liking,
    {272f}
    The Legate with his red cope amansed tho {272g}
    Them that in the castle were, and full many mo {272i}
    All that helped them, or were of their rede, {272j}
    Or to them consented, in will or in deed.
    They of the Castle held it in great despite.
    Copes and other cloathes they let make them of white
    And Master Philip Porpoise, that was a quaint man,
    Clerk, and hardy in his deeds, and their chirurgian,
    They made a mock Legate, in this cope of white,
    Against the others’ rede, to do the Legate a despite,
    And he stood as Legate upon the Castle wall,
    And amansed King and Legate and their men all
    Such game lasted long among them in such strife,
    But much good was it not, to soul or to life.”

There was never another siege of Kenilworth.  It passed through many
hands, and among others to John o’ Gaunt, whose manors are found
numerously, all over the country.  In his time the great Banqueting Hall,
the most beautiful feature of the Castle, was added, and it became not
only a fortress, but a stately palace as well.  But the most stately and
gorgeous times were yet to be.  Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth’s
favourite, who aspired to become King-Consort, received a grant of it in
1563, and was created Earl of Leicester the following year.  The
monopolies and rich offices of State showered upon him by the Queen had
already made him an enormously wealthy man, and he determined to
entertain his Sovereign here with unparalleled splendour.  To this end he
established an army of workmen here, who treated the place very much in
the way adopted by any suddenly enriched millionaire of modern times
towards the out-of-date mansion he has purchased.  The narrow openings in
the massive walls of the Norman keep were enlarged and great mullioned
windows inserted; the vast Gatehouse still standing and now used as a
private residence was built; and the lofty block of buildings added that
still bears his name.  Many other works, but of less spectacular nature,
were undertaken at this time.

Dudley had known many changes of fortune, and had been a prisoner in the
Tower only ten years earlier, with his father and four brothers, on a
charge of high treason; narrowly escaping execution.  Now an astonishing
freak of chance had made him perhaps the most powerful, as well as the
wealthiest, man in the country.  Sir Walter Scott’s novel, _Kenilworth_,
details Leicester’s magnificence and the unparalleled grandeur of the
entertainments given here to Queen Elizabeth in 1575, and introduces his
wife Amy Robsart, Lady Robert Dudley, as Countess of Leicester into the
scenes of his story.  But in 1560, four years before he had received his
earldom, his wife had perished mysteriously at Cumnor Place in Berkshire,
murdered, it has been supposed, at his instigation, to clear the way for
that projected marriage with Queen Elizabeth which never took place.
Leicester, when he entertained the Queen here so royally, had no
“encumbrances,” to limit his ambitions.

How the Queen was received here and entertained for seventeen days is
fully, and on the whole tediously, narrated by a remembrancer then
present, but a short extract will tell us something of the quality of
these revels.  On her Majesty’s approach she was met by a girl in
character as “one of the ten sibills, cumly clad in a pall of white
sylk,” who recited a “proper poezie in English rime and meeter, the which
her Majestie benignly accepted and passed foorth unto the next gate of
the Brayz, which for the length, largenes, and use, they call now the
Tylt-Yard; whear a porter, tall of person, and wrapt also in sylke, with
a club and keiz of quantitee according, had a rough speech full of
passions, in meeter aptly made to the purpose.”  Presently when the Queen
came to the inner gate “a person representing the Lady of the Lake,
famous in King Arthurz Book, with two Nymphes waiting uppon her, arrayed
all in sylks, attended her highness comming,” the Lady of the Lake then
coming ashore from the moat, and reciting a “well-penned meeter.”  After
this, coming to the Castle gate, a Latin poem was read to her by a poet
clad in a “long ceruleous Garment, with a Bay Garland on his head, and a
skrol in his hand.  So, passing into the inner court, her Majesty, (that
never rides but alone) thear set doun from her palfrey, was conveied up
to her chamber, when after did follo a great peal of Gunz and lightning
by Fyr work.”

£1000 a day was spent in the feasting and revelling.  Everything was done
without stint.  The great clock on the keep was stopped.  “The Clok Bell
sang not a Note all the while her Highness waz thear: the Clok also stood
still withall, the handz of both the tablz stood firm and fast, allweys
pointing at two a Clok.”  The hospitable and symbolical meaning of this
was that two o’clock was the banqueting hour.

Every time when the Queen went hunting in the park, classic deities, and
heroes and heroines of mythology would appear from woodland glades and
recite complimentary poems—greatly to the disadvantage of the sport, it
may be supposed.  Bear-baiting further enlivened the time, and “nyne
persons were cured of the peynful and daungerous deseaz called the King’s
Evil.”

Kenilworth passed on the death of Leicester in 1588, to his brother,
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, and on his decease, two years later, to
Robert’s illegitimate son, Sir Robert Dudley, who was long an exile, and
died in 1649.  It was let to Prince Henry, son of James the First, and on
his death to his brother, Prince Charles, who purchased it from Sir
Robert’s deserted wife, whom he, when Charles the First, created Duchess
Dudley, 1645.  After the King’s execution the property was granted by
Cromwell to some of his supporters, to whom is due its ruinous condition,
for they made the best market they could of its building-stone.  On the
Restoration in 1660, Charles the Second granted it to the Earl of
Clarendon, in whose descendants’ hands it still remains.

The visitor to the Castle almost always makes at once for the keep and
the imposing ruins of John o’ Gaunt’s great Banqueting Hall, rising
boldly from the mound, partly natural and partly artificial, in the
centre of the Castle precincts.  He thus follows the natural instincts of
sightseers, but the better way, for the full understanding of the scale
and ancient strength of the works, is unquestionably to first make the
inner circuit of the walls.  Standing on Clinton Green before entering
the Castle, and facing it from the only side not in ancient times
defended by lakes or marshy ground, we are on the bank whence Henry the
Third’s soldiers chiefly conducted the siege of 1266.  It was the weakest
part of the works, because the high natural plateau entirely precluded
the possibility of continuing the water defences on this side.  All that
could be done here by the military engineers of Kenilworth was to
excavate the deep chasm which still remains; and across this the
besiegers vainly tried to pass, with the aid of bundles of faggots thrown
into the hollow, while “Master Philip Porpoise,” who, as the chronicler
truly says, “was a quaint man,” stood on the walls, dressed up like the
Pope’s Legate, and cursed the King and the real Legate and all the King’s
men.

Leicester’s great Gatehouse no longer forms the entrance to the Castle,
and is in private occupation.  It did not even figure in the great
reception of Queen Elizabeth in 1575, for she came the other way, through
the Tilt Yard and by Mortimer’s Tower, and across the great Outer Ward: a
method of approach especially calculated to enhance the stateliness of
the pageant.  All Warwickshire, I think, must have witnessed those
doings, from the further bank of the widespreading lake, among them Mr.
John Shakespeare and his eleven-year-old son, William, whose imagination
would have been excited by the fantastic creatures that sported on the
water, and by the fireworks and the heathen gods and goddesses: very real
to him, because he was not old enough to know how it was all done.

You render your entrance-fee at a narrow gate and are at once free to
wander at will.  In front is the grassy Outer Ward, and on the right, the
keep and the state buildings, with Leicester’s Building, lofty, seamed
with fissures and shored up against its falling.  The eyeless windows
preach a homily on the transient nature of things.

But, leaving these for a while, we skirt along to the left, coming to the
ruins of Mortimer’s Tower, which stood on the wall and formed the
entrance to the Castle in this direction.  It looked out upon the Tilt
Yard and the massive dam that penned up the waters of the Great Lake.
Just before this tower is reached the Water Tower on the wall will be
seen, and may be examined.  Near at hand are the Stables and Lunn’s
Tower, divided off by a light iron fence and not accessible; being
included within the grounds belonging to the occupier of the Gatehouse.
But the Stables are seen, clearly enough, and form the most charming
colour-scheme within the Castle.  They are of fifteenth-century red
brick, timber-framed, and of an almost unimaginably delicate and yet
vivid red.

Next after Mortimer’s Tower comes a small postern gateway, with its steps
formerly leading to the water.  Continuing from it and following the
wall, we come under the tottering walls of Leicester’s building, on the
right, with the massive walls of the state Buildings beyond it.  They
stand high, upon a mound that formed the limits of the Castle of Saxon
and early Norman days, and the grassy walk between them and the outer
wall was in those distant times the moat, long before the magnificent
scheme of the lake was thought out.  Remains of fireplaces and windows in
this outer wall show where the wooden buildings that formed barracks for
the garrison stood.  The walk ends up against an archway leading into the
garden, or Plaisance, assigned to Henry the Eighth, through which the
outer wall continues past a water-gate called the “King’s Gate,” and so
to the Swan Tower, where the circuit is completed, at Clinton Green.

        [Picture: Kenilworth Castle: Ruins of the Banqueting Hall]

But the Plaisance is not open to the public.  The way into the central
block of State buildings is through a postern doorway on the right, under
the Banqueting Hall.  The savage treatment of these noble buildings by
Cromwell’s friends has at first sight obscured the nature of this scene;
but it is soon perceived that the Hall stood high, upon a basement or
undercroft, whose vaulted roof has entirely disappeared, together with
that of the Hall itself.  This postern doorway therefore led through the
basement.  The Hall was the work of John o’ Gaunt, about 1350, and was a
grand building in the Perpendicular style, ninety feet long and
forty-five feet wide.  Lofty and deeply-recessed windows, with rich
tracery lighted it, and at one end was an exceptionally beautiful oriel
window.  A portion of this survives, together with two of the others.
The entrance from the Inner Court was by a fine flight of stone stairs
and through a wide archway still remaining in greatly weather-worn
condition, but showing traces of delicately carved work.  Inside is the
groined porch, with a recess for a porter.

Sir Walter Scott, who here adopts the close account given by Laneham, one
of the Queen’s retinue during her reception at Kenilworth, and merely
edits him, describes the appearance of the Hall, “hung with the richest
tapestry, misty with perfumes, and sounding to strains of soft and
delicious music.  From the highly carved oaken roof hung a superb
chandelier of gilt bronze, formed like a spread eagle, whose outstretched
wings supported three male and three female figures, grasping a pair of
branches in each hand.  The Hall was thus illuminated by twenty-four
torches of wax.  At the upper end of this splendid apartment was a State
canopy, overshadowing a royal throne, and beside it was a door which
opened to a long suite of apartments, decorated with the utmost
magnificence for the Queen and her ladies, when it should be her pleasure
to be private.”

This magnificence curiously contrasts with the primitive nature of the
sanitary arrangements seen in the adjoining towers and in the keep.  The
Strong Tower and the Kitchen Tower fill up the space between the
Banqueting Hall and the keep; the first named, appropriately enough, from
having been a prison.  The walls of its not unpleasant, though small
rooms, still bear some rudely-scratched coats of arms of those who were
detained here.  Their imprisonment cannot have been so hopeless as that
of King John’s victims, in the dungeons of the keep.

The keep is called “Cæsar’s Tower,” but the Romans had never any
association with Kenilworth.  It would better be styled “Clinton’s.”
Like all the buildings, it is of a dull, brownish red stone.  An
angle-turret shows where the clock was placed: that clock whose hands
always stood hospitably at the banqueting hour in those seventeen days of
Elizabethan revel.

Leaving Kenilworth for Coventry, the church is on the right.  Its west
doorway is a fine but much-decayed work of the Norman period, from the
ruins of the Augustinian Priory close by.  It is a much-restored church,
and does not come up to the expectations raised by a sight of its
octagonal tower and spire.  The only object of interest within is a pig
of lead built into the tower wall, bearing the mark of one of Henry the
Eighth’s travelling Commissioners inquiring into the suppression of the
religious houses.  It would seem to be one of a number cast from the lead
off the Priory roofs.

Kenilworth at last left behind, a gradual rise brings the traveller to
the turning to Stoneleigh village.  It is “Gibbet Hill.”  The ill-omened
name comes from an example of the law’s ancient practice of hanging up
murderers to the public view, very much in the manner of those
gamekeepers who nail up the bodies of the jays, the rats, the weasels and
other “vermin.”  The criminals whose carcases swung and rattled here in
their chains were three in number; Moses Baker, a weaver of Coventry, and
Edward Drury and Robert Leslie, two dragoons of Lord Pembroke’s regiment,
quartered in that city.  They had on March 18th, 1765, murdered a farmer,
one Thomas Edwards, at a place called Whoberley, just outside Coventry.
Their bodies hung until their clothes rotted; and then, one by one, their
bones fell from their chains and enclosing cages.  But the gibbet and the
terror of it remained until 1820, when the weathered timber, scored with
thousands of the rusty nails which had been driven into it, so that no
one should climb the post, was removed to do service in the cow byre of a
neighbouring farm.

This melancholy history apart, the road is a pleasant one; broad, and
lined with wide grassy edges and magnificent elms.  It was even more
pleasant before the motor manufacturing firms of Coventry began the
practice of testing their new cars along it, and was then the pride of
the district.  It leads across Stivichall Common into the city of
Coventry, over that railway bridge referred to by Tennyson in his poem,
_Godiva_—

    “I waited for the train at Coventry;
    I hung with grooms and porters on the bridge,
    To watch the three tall spires.”

I remember a first reading of that poem, and the difficulty of really
believing Tennyson meant a railway train.  It seemed incredible that he
could in such a nineteenth-century fashion introduce an eleventh-century
subject.  The “train” one imagined at first to be a train in the
middle-ages sense, a procession or pageant, and the person who waited for
it to be, not Tennyson himself, but some imaginary person indulging in
historical speculation.  But no, he was modern, like his own King Arthur.

Here the “three tall spires” first come into view, and the city of
Coventry is entered, past the Green and up Hertford Street.



CHAPTER XXVII


                                Coventry.

COVENTRY originated, according to tradition, in a convent established
here as early as the sixth century.  Canute is said to have been the
founder of another.  Whatever may be the truth of the matter, it is
certain that the great Saxon Earl Leofric and his wife Godifu in 1043
founded that Benedictine Monastery whose Priory church afterwards became
the Cathedral, whose scanty ruins alone remain.  These real and legendary
religious houses, together with the Monastery of the Carmelites, or White
Friars, and numerous others originated a curious notion that the name
“Coventry” was really a corruption of “Conventry,” the place of convents.
It was an excusable mistake, when we consider that the somewhat similar
name of “Covent Garden” in London does in point of fact derive from the
old garden of the Abbots of Westminster, but it was a complete mistake,
all the same.  The place-name comes from a little stream called by the
British the Couen, not easily to be found in the city itself, but rising
to the north and passing through the village of Coundon.  (There is a
stream of similar name, the “Cound,” at Church Stretton, in Shropshire.)
It was thus the “place on the Couen.”  The Saxons, who called that stream
by a name of their own, the “Scir-burn,” that is to say, the “clear
stream”—which in course of time became the “Sherborne”—did not succeed in
changing the name of the place, as they did at Sherborne in Dorset; and
“Coventry” it remained.

The most famous incident in the ancient “history” of Coventry is entirely
legendary; but although proved to be inherently improbable, if not
impossible, the story of Godiva and her ride through the streets clad
only in her own modesty, is one that will never be destroyed by
criticism.  It is too ancient a myth for that.

About the year 1130 the monkish writer, Roger of Wendover, started it.
Whence he derived the story no one knows, but he probably heard it as a
folk-legend unconnected with place or person, and took it upon himself to
fix the tale on Leofric and his Countess Godifu.  He had courage in doing
so, for it was only about a hundred years after the time of Leofric and
his wife that he wrote.

“The Countess Godiva,” he says, “who was a great lover of God’s mother,
longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll,
often with urgent prayers besought her husband, that from regard to Jesus
Christ and His mother, he would free the town from that service, and from
all other heavy burdens; and when the Earl sharply rebuked her for
foolishly asking what was so much to his damage, and always forbade her
for evermore to speak to him on the subject; and while she, on the other
hand, with a woman’s pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband
on that matter, he at last made her this answer: ‘Mount your horse, and
ride naked before all the people, through the market of the town from one
end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request,’ on
which Godiva replied, ‘But will you give me permission, if I am willing
to do it?’  ‘I will,’ said he.  Whereupon, the Countess, beloved of God,
loosed her hair, and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her
body, like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two
knights, she rode through the market-place without being seen, except her
fair legs; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness
to her astonished husband and obtained of him what she had asked, for
Earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the
aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter.”

The incident of Peeping Tom was never thought of by Roger of Wendover,
and does not become a part of the story until the seventeenth century.
Who was the genius who invented him is not known; but from that time
onwards the peeping tailor who alone of all the people of Coventry spied
upon Godiva as she rode through the empty streets becomes an essential
part of the legend.  His fate takes so mediæval a turn that he seems
really older than he is.  Tennyson adopts him, in his poem, as a

             “low churl, compact of thankless earth,
    The fatal byword of all years to come,
    Boring a little auger-hole in fear,
    Peep’d—but his eyes, before they had their will,
    Were shrivell’d into darkness in his head,
    And dropt before him.  So the powers who wait
    On noble deeds, cancell’d a sense misus’d.”

A half-length effigy purporting to be Peeping Tom occupies a niche in the
wall of the “King’s Head” in Smithford Street.  He is really a portion of
a figure of St. George from one of the old Coventry civic pageants; but
he looks so peculiarly unsaintly and has so lecherous a grin that no one
can for a moment dispute his entire suitability for the present part.

Coventry became so important a place in the early part of the fourteenth
century that it was granted a charter of incorporation, and afterwards
fortified with walls and gates.  Parliaments were held there, in the
stately buildings of the Priory; Coventry Cross became one of the most
famous City Crosses in the kingdom; and the trade guilds were among the
richest and most powerful.  The mayors, too, were important and fearless
magistrates, as we may judge from the example of John Horneby, who in
1411 caused the riotous Prince Hal, afterwards Henry the Fifth, to be
arrested for creating a disturbance, and thus ranks with Judge Gascoyne,
who on another occasion committed the Prince to prison.

Shakespeare rightly made Falstaff more ashamed to march through this rich
and populous town with his ragged company of a hundred and fifty
soldiers, and only a shirt and a half among the lot, than Godiva had been
to ride through the primitive place of three hundred years before, with
nothing—

    “If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet . . . you
    would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately
    come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks.  A mad fellow
    met me on the way and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets and
    pressed the dead bodies.  No eye hath seen such scarecrows.  I’ll not
    march through Coventry with them that’s flat; nay, and the villains
    march wide betwixt the legs, as if they had gyves on; for indeed I
    had the most of them out of prison.  There’s but a shirt and a half
    in all my company; and the half shirt is two napkins tied together,
    and thrown over the shoulders, like a herald’s coat without sleeves;
    and the shirt, to say the truth, stolen from my host at Saint Albans,
    or the red-nosed innkeeper of Daintry.”

Coventry, in right of this importance, became a city in 1451, and went on
from good to better, until the suppression of the religious houses.  At
that time its population numbered 15,000, but within a few years it had
declined to 3000.  Yet in another thirty years the city is found
receiving Queen Elizabeth not only with enthusiasm and splendid pageants,
but with the present of a purse of £100; although the depression was
still acute.

“It is a good gift, an hundred pounds in gold; I have but few such
gifts,” said her Majesty, who was great but greedy.

“If it please your Grace,” answered that courtly Mayor, “there is a great
deal more in it.”

“What is that?” she asked.

“The hearts,” he rejoined, “of all your loving subjects.”

“We thank you, Mr. Mayor,” said the Queen, “it is a great deal more,
indeed.”

But she did not confer the honour of knighthood upon him.

James the First, visiting Coventry in 1617, was given £100 and a silver
cup; probably in the hope of getting a renewal of the charter; but in the
next reign we find a very different spirit.  “Ye damnable puritans of
Coventry,” says a letter-writer of the time, “have thrown up earthworkes
and rampires against his Maiestie’s forces, and have put themselves in a
posture of defence.”  It was at this time that the expression arose of
“sending to Coventry” any objectionable person.  Those thus consigned to
Coventry were prisoners of war, Royalists captured by the people of
Birmingham, for whom no prison could be found except in this walled and
fortified city.

Those walls were promptly destroyed at the Restoration, by order of
Charles the Second, the citizens of Coventry offering no objection.  They
had grown weary of the Commonwealth, and when the King came to his own
again the city was given over to festivity.  The fountains spouted claret
(not good claret, nor very much of it, we may suppose); bonfires blazed;
and a deputation waited upon the King in London and gave him £50 and a
basin and ewer of gold.

Coventry Cross, already mentioned, was built between the years 1541–44,
at the time of the city’s decay, after the suppression of the
monasteries, and was the gift of Sir William Holles, Lord Mayor of
London, who bequeathed £200 for the purpose.  It was described by Dugdale
as “one of the chief things wherein this city most glories, which for
workmanship and beauty is inferior to none in England.”  But soon after
Dugdale wrote this the Cross wherein Coventry so gloried was destroyed,
and the chief outstanding architectural feature is now formed by the
spires of St. Michael’s, Holy Trinity, and Christ Church: Coventry indeed
being known far and wide as the “City of the Three Spires.”  It is rather
unfortunate that the fine grouping of these three spires, seen best from
the approach to the city by the Kenilworth road, is spoiled by the most
distressingly commonplace houses in the foreground; and that from no
other point of view do they group at all.

St. Michael’s spire, incomparably the finer, rises with the tower to a
height of 303 feet; that of Holy Trinity to 237 feet; and Christ Church
to 201 feet.  St. Michael’s church has the reputation of being the
largest parish church in England, a distinction claimed also by St.
Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, and St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol.  The honour
appears to belong to St. Michael’s, which in other ways is a notable
building.  It is generally said to have a nave and four aisles, the two
additional “aisles” being really chapels of similar length and
appearance: the work of the Smiths’ and Girdlers’ Companies and the
Fellowship of Woollen Cardmakers; two among the great trading guilds of
the city.  The Cappers, the Dyers, the Mercers, the Drapers and the
Smiths had also their part in these outer aisles.  The greater part of
the church is of the Perpendicular period and is due to the local family
of Botoner, who expended their substance lavishly upon it—

    “William and Adam built the Tower,
       Anne and Mary built the Spire;
    William and Adam built the Nave
       And Mary built the Quire.”

So ran the old rhyme.  The works were in progress between 1373 and 1436.

A narrow road separates St. Michael’s from Holy Trinity, which, although
in itself a fine Perpendicular building, suffers by comparison with its
greater neighbour.  Here also the guilds—the Tanners, Marlers, Butchers
and others—exhibited their wealth and piety in the building of chapels;
and here was a noble stained-glass fourteenth-century window containing
the figures of Leofric and Godiva, with the inscription—

               [Picture: Stained-Glass Window Inscription]

Christ Church retains only its ancient spire, the ruined body being
replaced in 1829 by a work in the most lamentable style.

Besides its churches, Coventry is famed for its ancient “St. Mary’s
Hall,” originally the hall of St. Mary’s Guild, but afterwards serving as
that of the Holy Trinity, a religious society which amalgamated and
swallowed up St. Mary’s and many others.  It became the headquarters of
the old municipal life of Coventry, and so it still remains; a noble
centre for the city’s business and hospitalities.

Coventry nowadays is remarkable for its modern manufactures.  In the
thirteenth century it was soap that supported the city.  Later it was
prosperous in the making of woollen fabrics, needles and pins, and famed
for a dye known as “Coventry Blue.”  As time went on, silk-weaving and
ribbon-making took prominence, and doubtless it was from Coventry that
the promised “fairing” was to have come that is mentioned in the old
ballad of that faithless Johnny who was so long at the fair—

    “He promised to buy me a fairing to please me,
    A bunch of blue ribbons he promised to buy me,
          To tie up my bonny brown hair.”

But by 1869, when the duty on foreign-made silks had been removed, the
silk and ribbon trade began to decline, and the enterprising citizens
turned to the manufacture of sewing-machines.  Then came the velocipede,
the bicycle, and the motor-car.  In the making of those two last-named
articles and in that of ordnance, Coventry has found its fortune.  They
are not Shakespearean manifestations, and so need not be enlarged upon in
this place.

In spite of its modern growth, Coventry remains a very picturesque city.
In Butcher Row, and in narrow old alleys little touched by modern
developments, something of the mediæval place may yet be traced; and in
those two charming old almshouses, Bablake’s Hospital, founded in 1506,
and “Ford’s Hospital,” built in 1529, half-timbered work is seen very
nearly at its best.



NOTES.


{21}  He should have said _Much Ado About Nothing_.

{213}  As these pages go to press a singularly full confirmation of these
remarks appears in one of the September 1912 issues of the _Birmingham
Post_: “Evesham District Council have decided to build sixty cottages at
Broadway under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, and the Local
Government Board have sanctioned the borrowing of £10,000.”  Thus, a
number of brand-new dwellings are to be built, to rehouse those villagers
whose ancient homes have been taken from them.  It is a curious sidelight
upon the spread of culture.

{272a}  Draw closer.

{272b}  Took prisoners.

{272c}  They took.

{272d}  If it might be done.

{272e}  They would not agree to the King’s terms.

{272f}  They would not abide by their wishes.

{272g}  Then excommunicated them.

{272i}  More.

{272j}  Counsel.



INDEX


ABBOT’S NORTON, 200

— Salford, 199

Alcester, 2, 231

Alderminster, 188

Andoversford, 216

Arden, Family of, 9, 232–235

—, Forest of, 2, 7, 129

—, Mary, 9, 232

—, Robert, 9

Ardens Grafton, 156

Aston Cantlow, 9, 235

Atherstone-upon-Stour, 187

Avon, river, 2, 3, 45–48, 78, 190, 210, 219, 240, 262, 205, 260

                                * * * * *

Baddesley Clinton, 7

Balsall, Thomas, 77, 98

Banbury, 2, 18

Barton, 147, 199

Beauchamp Family, the, 247–253, 255, 267

Bicester, 18, 20

Bidford, 58, 137, 147–153, 195

Billesley, 12, 232

Binton, 47, 147, 195

Brailes, 191

Broadway, 212–215

Broom, 163

                                * * * * *

Campden Wonder, the, 183–185

Charlecote, 17, 47, 114–126

Charles the Second, 143–146

Chipping Campden, 173–185

Cleeve Common, 218

— Priors, 199

Clifford Chambers, 10, 68, 166–109

Clopton, Family of, 28, 72, 81–83, 230

—, House, 83, 230

—, Lower, 173

—, Sir Hugh, 40, 63, 82

—, Upper, 173

Combe, John, 78, 98

—, William, 134

Compton Wynyates, 191–194

Cotswolds, the, 215

Coventry, 280–290

                                * * * * *

Dancing Marston (or Long Marston), 141–146

Dingles, the, 133–135

Dorsington, 147

Dudley, Ambrose, Earl of Warwick, 253, 275

—, Robert, Earl of Leicester, 16, 241–243, 252, 273–275

                                * * * * *

Ettington, 2, 186, 188–190

Evesham, 137, 200–210

Exhall, 158

                                * * * * *

Feldon, the, 2, 164, 191

Frog Mill, 216

                                * * * * *

Gastrell, Rev. Francis, 73

Gaveston, Piers, 256–259

Greet, 216, 217

Grendon Underwood, 18–21

Gretton, 216, 217

Grevel, William. 176–178, 180

—, or Greville, Family, the, 178, 245, 250, 254, 264

Guy of Warwick, 255, 266

Guy’s Cliff, 266

                                * * * * *

Hall, Dr. John, 48, 72, 93, 97

Harrington, 200

Hartshorn, 216

Hathaway, Family of, 12–15

—, Anne, 7, 12–15, 101–113

Henley-in-Arden, 2, 8, 235, 237

Hicks, Sir Baptist, Viscount Campden, 178, 180

Hillborough, 147, 152–154

                                * * * * *

John of Stratford, 75–77

                                * * * * *

Kenilworth, 268–280

                                * * * * *

Leek Wootton, 267

Long Marston, 141–146, 169

Lower Clopton, 173

Lucy Family, the, 47, 114–126

—, Sir Thomas (“Justice Shallow”), 17, 114–119, 124

Luddington, 12, 47, 68, 147, 195

                                * * * * *

Marlcliff, 199

Marston Sicca (or Long Marston), 141–146

Mickleton, 173

                                * * * * *

Newbold-on-Stour, 188, 190

                                * * * * *

Oxford, 18

                                * * * * *

Pebworth, 139–141

Preston Bagot, 237

Preston-upon-Stour, 187

                                * * * * *

Quiney, Richard, 28–30, 33, 58

—, Thomas, 33, 39

Quinton, 169, 173, 234

                                * * * * *

Ralph of Stratford, 75, 77

Robert of Stratford, 75

Rowington, 237

                                * * * * *

Salford, Abbot’s, 199

—, Prior’s, 199

Shakespeare, Family of, 6–11

—, Edmund, 59

—, Gilbert, 10, 58, 59

—, Hamnet, 22, 26

—, Henry, 240

—, Isabel, 7

—, Joan, 10, 52, 59

—, John, 5, 8–11, 15–17, 22, 26, 51, 59, 166

—, Judith, 33, 39

—, Richard, 7, 10, 59

—, Susanna, 48, 52, 93, 97

—, Thomas, 7, 237

—, William, 5–7; birth, 9; marriage, 11–15; goes to London, 16–21;
success in London, as actor, dramatist and theatrical manager, 23–26; his
return to Stratford-on-Avon, 27–30; purchases New Place, 38; he retires,
31–33; death, 33; scene of his school-days, 67–70; his residence, New
Place, 70–74; the Bacon fanatics and Shakespeare, 85–91, 94;
Shakespeare’s grave and monument, 89–95; Shakespeare, poacher and
deer-stealer, 114–119; Shakespeare the countryman, 127–135

— Farm, Grendon Underwood, 20

— Hall, Rowington, 7, 236, 237

Shipston-on-Stour, 180, 190

Shirley, Evelyn Philip, 188–190

Shottery, 12, 15, 101–113

Snitterfield, 7, 8, 9, 11, 49, 238–240

Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of, 17, 30

Stinchcombe Hill, 217

Stratford-on-Avon, 1–5, 8–11, 26–100

—, American Memorial Fountain, 43

—, Bridge Street, 39

—, Chapel, 63, 75

—, Clopton Bridge, 3, 40, 45, 164

—, Grammar School, 5, 15, 67–70

—, Guild, the, 4, 60–67

—, Harvard House, 37, 41–43

—, Holy Trinity Church, 13, 26, 75–100

—, Mason Croft, 60

—, Memorial Theatre, 44

—, Mop Fair, 37

—, Nash’s House, 39, 72, 73, 74

—, New Place, 28, 31–33, 70–74, 84, 101

—, Old Stratford, 3, 48, 72

—, Red Horse Hotel, 40, 43

—, Rother Street, 3, 43, 101

—, Shakespeare Hotel, 34, 43

—, Shakespeare’s Birth-place, 49–59, 110, 231

Sudeley, 216, 217

Sunrising Hill, 2, 18, 186

                                * * * * *

Temple Grafton, 12, 13, 154–156

Tewkesbury, 216, 219–229

Tomes, John, 143–146

                                * * * * *

Upper Clopton, 173

                                * * * * *

Warwick, 240, 265

—, Beauchamp Chapel, 248, 253

—, Castle, 254–265

—, Earls of, 247, 249–265

—, Leicester’s Hospital, 241–245

—, St. Mary’s Church, 245–253

—, Westgate, 240

Welcombe, 98, 133–135, 235, 238

Welford, 147, 195–197

Weston-on-Avon, 147, 197

Whitchurch, 188

Whittington, 216

Wilmcote, 9, 232–235

Winchcombe, 215

Wincot, 169, 234

Wixford, 160

Woncot, 217

Woodmancote, 217

Wooland, the, 2

Wootton Wawen, 235

Wriothesley, Henry, Earl of Southampton, 17, 30





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