On the 29th of July we found ourselves once more in London.
We lived very quietly at our temporary home in Salisbury Close. A pleasant dinner with the Dean, a stroll through the grounds of the episcopal palace, with that perpetual feast of the eyes which the cathedral offered us, made our residence delightful at the time, and keeps it so in remembrance. Besides the cathedral there were the very lovely cloisters, the noble chapter-house with its central pillar,--this structure has been restored and rejuvenated since my earlier visit,--and there were the peaceful dwellings, where I insist on believing that only virtue and happiness are ever tenants. Even outside the sacred enclosure there is a great deal to enjoy, in the ancient town of Salisbury. One may rest under the Poultry Cross, where twenty or thirty generations have rested before him. One may purchase his china at the well-furnished establishment of the tenant of a spacious apartment of ancient date,--"the Halle of John Halle," a fine private edifice built in the year 1470, restored and beautified in 1834; the emblazonment of the royal arms having been executed by the celebrated architectural artist Pugin. The old houses are numerous, and some of them eminently picturesque.
We got to the hotel where we had engaged quarters, at eleven o'clock in the evening of Wednesday, the 12th of May. Everything was ready for us,--a bright fire blazing and supper waiting. When we came to look at the accommodations, we found they were not at all adapted to our needs. It was impossible to stay there another night. So early the next morning we sent out our courier-maid, a dove from the ark, to find us a place where we could rest the soles of our feet. London is a nation of something like four millions of inhabitants, and one does not feel easy without he has an assured place of shelter. The dove flew all over the habitable districts of the city,--inquired at as many as twenty houses. No roosting-place for our little flock of three. At last the good angel who followed us everywhere, in one shape or another, pointed the wanderer to a place which corresponded with all our requirements and wishes. This was at No. 17 Dover Street, Mackellar's Hotel, where we found ourselves comfortably lodged and well cared for during the whole time we were in London. It was close to Piccadilly and to Bond Street. Near us, in the same range, were Brown's Hotel and Batt's Hotel, both widely known to the temporary residents of London.
Among the places which I saw in my first visit was Longford Castle, the seat of the Earl of Radnor. I remembered the curious triangular building, constructed with reference to the doctrine of the Trinity, as churches are built in the form of the cross. I remembered how the omnipresent spire of the great cathedral, three miles away, looked down upon the grounds about the building as if it had been their next-door neighbor. I had not forgotten the two celebrated Claudes, Morning and Evening. My eyes were drawn to the first of these two pictures when I was here before; now they turned naturally to the landscape with the setting sun. I have read my St. Ruskin with due reverence, but I have never given up my allegiance to Claude Lorraine. But of all the fine paintings at Longford Castle, no one so much impressed me at my recent visit as the portrait of Erasmus by Hans Holbein. This is one of those pictures which help to make the Old World worth a voyage across the Atlantic. Portraits of Erasmus are not uncommon; every scholar would know him if he met him in the other world with the look he wore on earth. All the etchings and their copies give a characteristic presentation of the spiritual precursor of Luther, who pricked the false image with his rapier which the sturdy monk slashed with his broadsword. What a face it is which Hans Holbein has handed down to us in this wonderful portrait at Longford Castle! How dry it is with scholastic labor, how keen with shrewd scepticism, how worldly-wise, how conscious of its owner's wide-awake sagacity! Erasmus and Rabelais,--Nature used up all her arrows for their quivers, and had to wait a hundred years and more before she could find shafts enough for the outfit of Voltaire, leaner and keener than Erasmus, and almost as free in his language as the audacious creator of Gargantua and Pantagruel.
We went to a luncheon at Lansdowne House, Lord Rosebery's residence, not far from our hotel. My companion tells a little incident which may please an American six-year-old: "The eldest of the four children, Sibyl, a pretty, bright child of six, told me that she wrote a letter to the Queen. I said, 'Did you begin, Dear Queen?' 'No,' she answered, 'I began, Your Majesty, and signed myself, Your little humble servant, Sibyl.'" A very cordial and homelike reception at this great house, where a couple of hours were passed most agreeably.
So let our broken circle stand
I never felt inclined to play the part of the young enthusiast in "Excelsior," as I looked up at the weathercock which surmounts the spire. But the man who oils the weathercock-spindle has to get up to it in some way, and that way is by ladders which reach to within thirty feet of the top, where there is a small door, through which he emerges, to crawl up the remaining distance on the outside. "The situation and appearance," says one of the guide-books, "must be terrific, yet many persons have voluntarily and daringly clambered to the top, even in a state of intoxication." Such, I feel sure, was not the state of my most valued and exemplary clerical friend, who, with a cool head and steady nerves, found himself standing in safety at the top of the spire, with his hand upon the vane, which nothing terrestrial had ever looked down upon in its lofty position, except a bird, a bat, a sky-rocket, or a balloon.
As wave on wave they go and come.