About eleven o’clock we found ourselves going up the old stone steps to the castle. It was the last day of a fair which had been holden in this part of the country, and crowds of the common people were flocking to the castle, men, women, and children pattering up the stairs before and after us.
We went first through the state apartments. The principal thing that interested me was the ball room, which was a perfect gallery of Vandyke’s paintings. Here was certainly an opportunity to know what Vandyke is. I should call him a true court paintera master of splendid conventionalities, whose portraits of kings are the most powerful arguments for the divine right I know of.
The queen’s audience chamber is hung with tapestry representing scenes from the book of Esther. This tapestry made a very great impression upon me. A knowledge of the difficulties to be overcome in the material part of painting is undoubtedly an unsuspected element of much of the pleasure we derive from it; and for this reason, probably, this tapestry appeared to us better than paintings executed with equal spirit in oils. We admired it exceedingly, entirely careless what critics might think of us if they knew it. .
From the state rooms we were taken to the top of the Round Tower, where we gained a magnificent view of the Park of Windsor, with its regal avenue, miles in length, of ancient oaks; its sweeps of greensward; clumps of trees; its old Herne oak, of classic memory; in short, all that constitutes the idea of a perfect English landscape. The English tree is shorter and stouter than ours; its foliage dense and deep, lying with a full, rounding outline against the sky. Every-thing here conveys the idea of concentrated vitality, but without that rank luxuriance seen in our American growth. Having unfortunately exhausted the English language on the subject of grass, I will not repeat any ecstasies upon that topic.
After descending from the tower we filed off to the proper quarter, to show our orders for the private rooms. The state apartments, which we had been looking at, are open at all times, but the private apartments can only be seen in the queen’s absence, and by special permission, which had been procured for us on this occasion by the kindness of the Duchess of Sutherland.
One of the first objects that attracted my attention when entering the vestibule was a baby’s wicker wagon, standing in one corner; it was much such a carriage as all mothers are familiar with; such as figures largely in the history of al-most every family. It had neat curtains and cushions of green merino, and was not royal, only maternal. I mused over the little thing with a good deal of interest
In the family breakfast room we saw some fine Gobelin tapestry, representing the classical story of Meleager. In one of the rooms, on a pedestal, stood a gigantic china vase, a present from the Emperor of Russia, and in the state rooms before we had, seen a large malachite vase from the same donor. The toning of this room, with regard to color, was like that of the room I described in Stafford Housethe carpet of green ground, with the same little leaf upon it, the walls, chairs, and sofas covered with green damask.
The whole air of these rooms was very charming, suggestive of refined taste and domestic habits. The idea of home, which pervades everything in England, from the cottage to the palace, was as much suggested here as in any apartments I have seen. The walls of the different rooms were decorated with portraits of the members of the royal family, and those of other European princes.
After this we went thro the kitchen department saw the silver and gold plate of the table; among the latter were some designs which I thought particularly graceful. To conclude all, we went through the stables. The men who showed them told us that several of the queen’s favorite horses were taken to Osborne; but there were many beautiful creatures left, which I regarded with great complacency. The stables and stalls were perfectly clean, and neatly kept; and one, in short, derives from the whole view of the economics of Windsor that satisfaction which results from seeing a thing thoroughly done in the best conceivable manner.