Fourteen Months Abroad – Peterborough, England

August 20.-We left Ely about nine this morning, Mr. Jones driving us in his four-wheeler to the station where we soon started for Peterborough on our way to Stratfordon-Avon. We still found a fiat country similar to the great Fen District which surrounds Ely. That town, on a low hill, once surrounded by water, was called the Isle of Ely. The region, like another Holland, is fiat with long ditches and wind-mills. We saw flocks of birds again. I find that these large black birds are rooks with an occasional magpie. There were large flocks of lap-winged plovers which are smaller than rooks and show white under their wings when flying. There were also white birds about the size of rooks which were wild pigeons, we were told.

On reaching Peterborough we had only one hour to see the cathedral. A kind Englishman on the train offered to be our guide. He took us about the exterior and interior and the grounds. This cathedral, bearing but little resemblance to Ely Cathedral is “a fine specimen of Norman and early English architecture.” Catherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII, is buried there. Pink and white daisies grew in the grass near the Cathedral.

From Peterborough on we were delighted with England. We journeyed through a broad and rolling country with green and yellow fields surrounded by dark green hedges. A fine feature of the landscape was the large number of beautiful symmetrical trees seen in every direction scattered over the fields and meadows and growing in the hedges. There were some slender fences to be seen. These fences were at times almost buried in the hedges, but a fence with-out a hedge was seldom seen and usually there was no fence at all. It seemed quite park-like all the way after we left the flat Holland-like regions. There were narrow winding country roads bordered on each side by well-trimmed hedges and often by trees. Many small white convolvulus blossoms peeped out here and there from the green hedges. We passed a lovely lake. We have seen numerous ivy-covered buildings in all the towns since leaving London. In the fields we saw flocks of sheep very different from ours in America. They were white with black legs, black ears, or black noses and faces. We saw a number of small, pretty stone churches on our way to Stratford-on-Avon.

August 20.-We are here, but much worn by the journey. An omnibus brought us from the station to the Temperance Hotel on Bridge Street, where we are staying: Next door to us is the “Red Horse” hotel, which contains the room occupied by Washington Irving when he wrote the article on Stratford-on-Avon. We have walked out to sup-per and to the Shakespeare House.

August 21.-This pleasant morning we walked to the church of the Holy Trinity and heard the close of the morning service. We went by the street but returned on the other side of the Avon. Crossed it on a narrow foot bridge and walked along by the pretty river through a great pasture where we saw horses and. rooks and queer looking unknown birds. Another bridge which we crossed afterwards to this side gave us a lovely view looking down the stream. The church of the Holy Trinity, almost embowered by fine trees, is beautifully situated on the river Avon. Notwithstanding the hot weather we walked out again this after-noon and saw the antique looking Harvard House. the early home of the mother of John Harvard, for whom Harvard College in America is named. The house has a finely carved front. We saw the fountain and clock tower given by G. W. Childs of Philadelphia. At this point the Salvation Army people were holding an open air meeting. We listened to speeches and heard them sing and the brass band play. Contributions of money were thrown into the center of the ring. At New Place we saw all that is left of the house purchased by Shakespeare on his return from London to Stratford-on-Avon. In this house he died in 1616. The house was demolished, we are told, by a later owner out of spite. Shakespeare’s old well, now covered with ivy, is still there. A beautiful mulberry tree on the grounds is full of fruit. “This is a scion of the second generation of the old mulberry tree which belonged to Shakespeare and which the owner cut down to save himself from the importunities of others.” The mulberry tree was destroyed in 1756 and the house in 1759 by the same man. Only the foundations are left. It is interesting to see how these foundations are cherished. Even the loose stones on the ground have been preserved. The walls, built of bricks, are slightly below the surface of the ground and are covered with wire screens for protection. We walked about on the fine lawn among the beautiful shrubs and flowers and trees. One tree is a drooping or weeping ash. Among the rare evergreens is a variety of snake evergreen which we first saw in Milan.

We were taken by a guide about Guild Hall. In the second story of the hall is the Grammar School in which it is thought Shakespeare received his education. We have seen busts of Shakespeare in various buildings. One boot and shoe store bears the name, “W. Shakespeare.” A heavy thunder shower tonight.

August 22.—This morning L. and I visited the house in Henley street where Shakespeare was born, and where he lived until he was twenty-one. This house, one hundred years old when his father bought it, became the property of the nation in 1847 and is well taken care of. We rang the bell and were admitted into a quaint old kitchen with a low ceiling, wide, old-fashioned fireplace and rough stone floor. From this room we were taken upstairs to the small chamber where, according to tradition, the poet was born. On the walls and ceiling of this room are inscribed the names of many visitors—some very distinguished ones. We saw the name of Walter Scott scratched on a window pane. This was done with his diamond ring by Walter Scott himself. This window is the only one of the old original windows left in the house. On another pane in this window Carlyle wrote his name, which we could see quite distinctly when it was pointed out to us. Numerous names were on this old window. Visitors many years ago were requested to write their names in this room but now no one is allowed to do so. We saw Browning’s name on the ceiling. Thackeray, Tennyson and Dickens also wrote their names there, as well as many others. The ceiling of this room came near falling and is now supported. L. be-came quite dizzy while looking up to find the name of Browning. I was somewhat alarmed as he had complained of dizziness before we entered the house. We were shown into a back room on this floor where there is an old portrait of Shakespeare called the “Stratford Portrait.” From this room we looked down into the garden, which contains a collection of the trees, flowers and leeks mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. No visitor is allowed in this garden but the flowers can be seen from the window in this back room. We descended and went into the Shakespeare Museum where we saw his signet ring, the box which contained his will, his table and his old school desk.

We next visited Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery. We could not walk, as many do, but went by carriage. The ride there was delightful. This cottage is “substantially in the same condition as when Shakespeare courted his future wife.” This also belongs to the nation. It is occupied by a descendant of the Hathaway family, a Mrs. Baker, a very old lady who seemed to enjoy seeing us and talking with us. This house “contains a carved bedstead, some `ever-lasting linen sheets’ and other relics of 300 years since.” A garden of old-fashioned flowers delighted me, as well as the thatched roof. Mrs. Baker’s great-grandmother was a Hathaway. From this cottage we went again to the Church of the Holy Trinity which is a large, well proportioned building with a symmetrical stone spire—one hundred and sixty-three feet high. There we saw the graves of the poet, of his wife, of his favorite daughter, Susannah, and of her husband, Dr. John Hall. L. read with much interest and copied the famous inscription on the slab which covers the grave and is a part of the floor of the chancel.

Here it is :

“Good frend for Iesus sake forbeare To digg the dust enclosed heave; Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones, And curst be he yt moves my bones.”

We saw the old stone font at which Shakespeare was baptized and the records of his baptism and burial.

Not far from the church is the Shakespeare Memorial Building, of red brick and stone, which was erected on the bank of the Avon in 1879. It contains a theatre, paintings and books. We did not enter this building.

L. says that Stratford-on-Avon “is the only place we have visited where the people live wholly on one man’s name. ” It is a quaint and interesting place. When we arrived here on Saturday afternoon I thought it was the most lively little town we had seen. Everybody seemed in a hurry, but on Sunday the stores were closed and all was quiet. The names of some of the hotels here are Golden Lion, Old Red Lion and Red Horse.