Travel Letters: Westminster Palace Hotel (1883)

DEAR WILLIAM, — I am having a first-rate time, but it is all the pleasanter because it is not going to last forever. The Cephalonia (No. 28 is our room) will sail on the 12th of September. I will tell you what I have been doing this week.

Monday, I went down to the country to stay with Mr. Leaf, a friend of Farrar’s. It was a lovely place, with a glorious park, great trees, and a sumptuous house. There we passed an idle day, and in the evening had a big dinner, to which came Matthew Arnold and his daughter, who live close by. He was very amusing, and the next morning I went to breakfast with him, saw his wife, his house and study, and liked him very much. He has promised to stay with me when he comes to Boston.

On Tuesday, I came back to town, and we had a pleasant dinner party that night at the house of a Mr. Mills. After that was over, I went to one of Mrs. Gladstone’s receptions, to which I was invited to see the Grand Old Man ; he had to go to the House of Commons, and so I did not see him ; but I am going there again next Tuesday. Wednesday was the 4th of July, which we celebrated by calling on the American minister. Thursday was speech day at Harrow School, and Paine and I went. I was there with John three years ago, and was glad to go again. The boys spoke well, and it was very bright and quite like Class Day. Then we had a luncheon, where Lord Dufferin and I made speeches. When I came back I went to dinner at Lady Frances Baillie’s, the sister of Dean Stanley’s wife. It was very pleasant. We had Grove, and Robert Browning, and the Bishop of Litchfield ; and my companion was Mrs. Ritchie (Thackeray’s daughter), who wrote “The Village on the Cliff ” and all those nice novels, and who told me a great deal about her father. Friday, I went to Richmond and saw the prettiest view in England, and in the evening dined with the Precentor at the Abbey. After dinner, we went into the Abbey and strolled about in the dark, with wonderfully pretty effects in the great arches. Saturday, I went to a garden party at Fulham Palace, the Bishop of London’s, where there were many clergymen, and in the evening ten miles out of town to Upper Tooting, where I dined with Mr. Macmillan, the publisher.

Have you read “John Inglesant” ? Mr. Short-house, the man who wrote it, was the principal guest, and there were a great many agreeable people. This morning, we went to the Foundling Hospital and heard the children sing, so the week has gone with a good deal of sight-seeing to fill up the gaps. Everybody is hospitable and kind, and it would be pleasant to stay here a long time ; but our departure now is definitely fixed for the 19th, when we shall go somewhere on the Continent. We do not yet know where, or I would tell you, but no doubt our uncertainty will solve itself in the course of the next week, and by next Sunday I can tell you something of our summer’s route. All the time, while our weather here is delightful, you are sweltering in heat. This morning’s paper says the heat in New York yesterday was terrible. I am awfully sorry for you. Do take a steamer and come over, you and the total family, and we will lie upon the grass in Hyde Park together till you all get cool. God bless you all always. P.

WESTMINSTER PALACE HOTEL, LONDON,

July 10, 1883.

My DEAR GERTIE, I wish you were here, for it is beautifully fresh and cool, and we would go off and see some kind of pretty things. I went down into the country the other day, and saw some people whom I met on the journey home from India. It was the prettiest place, and you would have enjoyed it ever so much.

They had the biggest strawberries you ever saw, and you would have enjoyed picking them a great deal more than I did. I wish strawberries grew on trees. They would be so much easier to pick. There was a nice little girl there who was a great friend of mine on the voyage. Her name is Nora, and she gave me her photograph. I think I will put it into this letter, so that you can see what an English child looks like, only you must keep it safe and give it to me when I get to Boston, for I told Nora Buchanan that I should keep it till I saw her again. Her father has a tea plantation up in the Himalaya Mountains, and her mother and she go there every winter. She has got a pony named Brownie, and a big dog and a little dog, and lots of pets.

When we get to living up in the old house at Andover, we will have some dogs too, and perhaps some day we will get a pony for you to ride on ; or would you rather have a donkey with long ears, and a delightful little cart to drive in? What did you do on the 4th of July ? The people here seemed to think that it was just like any other day ; nobody was firing crackers, or blowing soap bubbles, and there were no American flags flying anywhere ; but one day, two weeks ago, London was greatly excited, it being the Queen’s Coronation Day, and I met the Lord Mayor in his coach, with a red cloak on and a big gold chain around his neck. I thank you so much for your little note, and for the picture of yourself, which is set up in my room. You must write to me again when you can, and I will see you in September. By that time you must be well and fat and rosy. Now good-by. My love to Agnes and Toodie.

Your loving uncle, P.

WESTMINSTER PALACE HOTEL, July 15, 1883.

DEAR WILLIAM, — On Thursday next, the 19th, we leave England. We had to fix some certain day and hold to it, or we should have never got away. We go first through France into the Pyrenees, where we shall get a little journey, just enough to see what they are like, and then by interesting routes, more or less out of the way, into the Tyrol through Switzerland. Next Sunday, July 22, we probably shall spend at Bagnères de Luchon, pretty near the Spanish border. I am sorry to leave London, and never shall forget my two months here. It has been great fun, and the hospitality of everybody has been most abundant. The last week has been busy socially.

The pleasantest evening, perhaps, was Tuesday at Mr. Gladstone’s, where I had a good sight of and talk with the great man, and gazed at a multitude of splendid folks with diamonds and titles. He is certainly the greatest man in England, and the look of him is quite worthy of his fame. Another evening I dined in the Jerusalem Chamber with the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey, and the members of their choir. That was very jolly, and recalled the time eight years ago when I went to the same dinner and sat by Stanley’s side. This morning I am going to preach for Llewellyn Davis, whom you and I once went to hear in St. Paul’s. He is a most interesting man and one of the best spirits in the English Church. This will be my last sermon in England. Mr. Macmillan has asked me to publish the sermons which I have preached here, under the title ” Sermons Preached to English Congregations,” and I have about made up my mind to do so. He is the publisher of my last volume. This one will have thirteen sermons, and be a pleasant memento of my English visit. I have declined the invitation to come and preach at Cambridge next spring, but they have intimated that it will be repeated some other year, and then I should like to come and make a university visit. I have seen nothing of the universities this time.

I want to see you all dreadfully. . .. P.

LONDON, July 15, 1883.

MY DEAR HATTIE,- It was most kind of you to take up the pen which your husband had so long dropped, and write me the pleasant letter which I got last week, and it seems that its quiet rebuke was felt, for John wrote the next day. Behold the noble influence of a good wife ! Now I think of you as having the happiest of summers in your seashore home. As I listen Marionwards, I hear a rich, low sound of which I am not quite sure whether it is the moaning of the sea, as it beats on your back doorstep, or the theological discussions of B___, P___ , and J ___ under the haystack. Either sound would be delightful. To have them both together in your ears all day must be a little heaven below, and it must be all the pleasanter to you this year, because you can look back to such a bright, successful winter in Springfield, and look forward to another, which will no doubt be still better. I am so thankful to hear of the way in which every difficulty has disappeared. I wish I could hope to run to Marion this autumn, and see you on your own rocks, with your young barbarians at play about you. But I shall be home too late, and dear me ! I sometimes pleasantly shiver in the midst of this delightful idleness at the thought of how much there is to do next winter. It is like thinking of January in July. But, fortunately, less and less depends on us, and the younger clergy, who read Second Lessons at the Diocesan Convention, have the brunt of the battle.

Give my tenderest love to your young clergyman. Tell him I thank him heartily for his letter. Be sure that I thank you sincerely for yours. Kiss the babies for me, and remember that I am always,

Affectionately, P.