Travel Letters: The Goat Hotel, Beddgelert, Wales (1866)

DEAR MOTHER, — I am thinking that today is Fred’s ordination day, and that you and father are in Philadelphia. Am I right ? How I wish I could be with you. I wonder where the ordination is ? I hope in my old church. It would always be a very pleasant thing to think of his having been ordained there ; wherever it is, I wish him with all my heart every blessing and success in his ministry. Of course, you will write me about it at once.

I am in Wales. Get your map and find this little valley where we have hauled up in the rain. It lies at the foot of Snowdon, shut in by grand, bleak Welsh hills, with a little brawling picturesque Welsh stream tumbling among them. It is the place, you know, of the old murder of the faithful hound by his master, Llewellyn. Gelert’s grave is in the garden of the hotel. My views of Wales are much like Jonah’s, very wet; it has rained, off and on, pretty much all day, while we (Strong and I) have been driving first by coach to Llanberis from Caernarvon, and then from Llanberis here by post. Caernarvon is on the coast, with a noble ivy-grown castle of early times, where the first Prince of Wales was born. The people talk an unintelligible gibberish without vowels, and the women wear shabby hats, and all looks quaint, quiet, and thrifty. The road thence to Llanberis is very beautiful, and Llanberis itself nobly situated at the entrance of a pass, and interesting with its pretty waterfalls, and a most picturesque tower of the sixth century. It has vast quarries of slate. The schoolboys and the house roofs bid fair to be kept supplied for years to come. From Llanberis to Beddgelert the scenery is glorious. The wildest pass, with tremendous cliffs, countless water-falls, ivied cottages, and quaint, odd-looking people everywhere. Wales delights one with its grandness and majesty, as unlike sunny England as can be.

I think I wrote you last week from Warwick ; thence I traveled to Rugby, and saw the old school, and all that reminds one of Dr. Arnold, its great master. The boys were at a cricket match in the close, and all looked just as it ought. Then to Coventry, where are some of the greatest churches and quaintest houses in England, and ” Peeping Tom,” still looking out of a hole of a corner house, in perpetual effigy. Then to Chatsworth, the noblest private residence in England, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and near it Haddon Hall, a perfectly kept specimen of the old baronial hall, the best in the kingdom ; then to Litchfield, where I spent Sunday. A beautiful cathedral, a lovely country, and much of interest in connection with Dr. Johnson’s birth in the town, and its previous active part in the Civil Wars. Monday to Chester, where I was rejoined by Strong, and met Potter (your rector), who joined us the next day to Conway, where is a great old castle, and then to Bangor and the wonderful tubular bridge over the Menai Straits ; then rail to Caernarvon, which brings my story complete. Potter left us today to push direct to London, where he will join us in a couple of weeks to start for the Continent. He is very well, and seems full of hope about Trinity. I think it very likely that we may return together.

So you see I jog on. Every day is full of new pleasure, and every day bringing me nearer and nearer home. I have begun to count the weeks ; only fourteen more, and I am with you. Won’t it be nice ? This terrible war, which has begun now, will perhaps interfere with some of my summer plans. But that will be the least of its evils, and I will not complain. I have been very fortunate, and have seen, it may be, more than I can digest.

I found letters from you at Chester, but now shall get no more till I reach London, ten days hence, which is hard.

I hear from Philadelphia that all goes well, but I want to be there more than I am wanted. I had a letter from Dr. Vinton a week or two ago. How I wish I could get into the back parlor tonight, and I would tell you a great deal more about this splendid Wales. Good-by, and love to all. I am very well, and always your loving son,