Chapter IV. Stratford-upon-Avon.

Arrived at 5:00 p.m., July 7th. It had been my intention to pay this place only a brief visit, giving but a glance at "The Poet's" home and birthplace, and then start on foot for Coventry; but I soon found that Stratford possesses more charms than I had anticipated. Shakespeare's fame has an influence over his native town, that is simply marvelous.

The thousands of tourists that come from every land, and from every clime, to see the scenes that the poet saw, and breath the same air that he breathed, make the place one of the most popular resorts of literary pilgrims, that can be found anywhere.

The buildings of Stratford are small and low, as is the rule, rather than the exception, in English towns and villages. Many are covered with tiles, but the thatch roof is also very common here. This consists of a mixture of straw and earth, often more than a foot in thickness, and covered with moss and grass. Notwithstanding this, both the houses and the streets are kept remarkably clean and inviting; so much so, that I felt nowhere else so soon and so perfectly at home as here. Its people seem to be possessed of every virtue, and preeminent among them all, is that of hospitality which seems to be blooming in the hearts of all its citizens to-day, as did poetry in the mind of Shakespeare three hundred years ago.

The streets of this town are kept as clean as a floor, by sweepers watching the streets all day long, collecting and carrying away all the refuse matter. One day, I felt ill at ease about a small piece of paper that had become a superfluity in my pocket, but which I was afraid to throw upon the street, as it would there seem as much out of place as if I should drop it upon the carpet in a parlor. I passed along the pavement with it, until I met a street-sweeper, and there threw it upon his heap with a nod, which he reciprocated with a bow.

On entering Stratford, my foot first tended toward

Shakespeare's Birthplace,

a large two-story house, about fifty feet long, having three large dormer-windows and two chimneys, one of them running up on the outside of the house.

The custodian takes the visitor through every apartment of it, giving the history of the same and of numerous articles of furniture and Shakesperian relics, &c., which constitute a considerable museum.

When William Shakespeare's father was a "well-to-do" man, he occupied the whole house; but after he had become poor, the east end was rented to a hotel-keeper, and he lived in the middle part only, which has later been used as a butcher-shop.

"On the 16th of September, 1847, it (the building) was put up for sale by the magniloquent Mr. George Robins, and in consequence of a strong appeal to the feelings of the people, made through the public press, by which a National Subscription was raised for the purpose; this house was bought at the bidding of Mr. Peter Cunningham, for something more than 3,000 pounds sterling, and was placed under Trustees on behalf of the Nation."

Space will not permit me to make mention of more than a few of the many interesting books, manuscripts, works of art, antiques and relics, found in this Library and Museum. Among them stands the desk at which little "Willie" sat at school, also a ring which he wore at his thumb (later in life), and upon which are engraved the letters "W.S." and a "true lover's knot." I spent nearly an hour here, a studying how things looked in Shakespeare's time. The ground floors of the house, are covered with flagstones broken in varied forms, as accident would have it, while the rough massive timbers of the floors above stand out unpainted and unplastered. After taking a pleasant walk, with a gay party, through the garden, in which are cultivated all the flowers of which Shakespeare speaks in his works, and, (I must not fail also to mention), after having taken our turns in sitting upon Shakespeare's chair, I bade the sociable company "good-by!" and started for

Shottery,

"a genuine country village, consisting of a few straggling farm-houses and brick and timber cottages, standing apart from each other in their old gardens and orchard-crofts. Simple, old-fashioned, and almost untouched by the innovations of modern life, we are here amidst the charmed past of Shakespeare's time." Here is still to be seen, the cottage in which was born and lived Anne Hathaway, the wife of Wm. Shakespeare. This village lies about a mile from Stratford, and is approached by a pleasant walk across quiet and fertile fields and pasture lands, the same path along which "Willie" used to steal when he went a-wooing his Anne. The Hathaway cottage is a large old-fashioned thatch-roofed building - very plain but very homely. The clumsy string-lifted wooden door-latches, and the wooden pins fixing the framing, and which have never been cut off, but stick up some inches from the wall, are still all there. It was dusk before I got there. My rap at the door was responded to by the appearance of an old lady custodian, a descendent of the Hathaway family, who immediately busied herself to light a tallow candle. That being successfully accomplished, she commenced her story by pointing out the old hearth, and explaining the kitchen arrangements of olden times. Among the old articles of furniture, is a plain wooden settee or bench which used to stand outside against the house near the door, during the summer, and which, as tradition, has it, was Willie's and Anne's courting settee. Pictures of their courtships hang against the walls, exhibiting styles and fashions well in keeping with the antique furniture of the room. An old carved bed-stead of the Shakespeare era, stands in the room above. Here the custodian offered me a book of autographs, asking me to sign my name, as has been customary since October 4th, 1846. Six books have been filled with autographs, since that time. Among the signatures I saw one Emma R., July 24th, 1866. "This," said the custodian, "is the signature of the Queen of the Sandwich Islands."

Henry W. Longfellow's signature, who was here with his brother (and families), June 23rd, 1868, and that of Chas. Dickens, here in 1852, were also pointed out.

The old lady would not let me go away without having taken a drink from "the spring where Anne used to drink." After presenting me with "lavender" and "rosemary" for mementoes, and a button-hole boquet consisting of a fine rose and buds, for immediate display, she wished me god-speed on my journey, and I retraced the path across the fields to Stratford.

New Place, the Home of Shakespeare, is the most charming place in all Stratford. The extensive yard and garden which belonged to the property in Shakespeare's time, had been partially cut up in lots and covered with houses; but these have all been removed again, and the grounds laid out into walks, lawns and flower beds, as the poet was wont to have them. His yard and garden covered an area of about two acres. The gentleman who has charge of the property now, exerts himself to the utmost, to make the surroundings pleasant and inviting, aiming particularly to plant the same trees and flowers that the poet had planted there, and to keep his favorite trees, or lineal successors of them, in the same sites. Among the ornamental trees and flowers, he pointed out a number that he obtained from Vick, the florist, of Rochester, N.Y.

Shakespeare was buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity. His wife, his only daughter Susanna and her husband, Thomas Nash, lie with him in the same row, immediately in front of the altar-rails. His tombstone bears the following inscription:

  GOOD FREND FOR JESVS SAKE FORBEARE, 
    TO DIGG THE BVST ENCLOASED HEARE: 
  BLESE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES, 
    AND CVRST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.

The only typographical peculiarity not rendered here, is the grouping together of HE in HEARE and TH in THES, after the fashion of monograms.

This church also contains a half-length figure of Shakespeare, painted after nature. There is evidence extant that it had already taken its place against the wall in the year 1623. Beneath is inscribed:

    Judicio pylivm genio socratem, arte maronem, 
    Terra tegit, popvlvs maeret, Olympvs Habet[A] 
  Stay, passenger; why goest thov by so fast? 
  Read, if thov canst, whom enviovs death hath plast 
  Within this monvment; Shakespeare, with whom 
  Quick natvre dide; whose name doth deck ys. tombe 
  Far more than cost; sith all yt. he hath writt 
  Leaves living art bvt page to serve his witt.

  Obiit. Ano. Doi. 1616. 
  AEtatis 53. Die 23. Ap.

[Footnote A: In judgment a Nestor, in genius a Socrates, in art a Virgil. The earth covers him, the people mourn for him, Olympus has him.]

Of the Guildhall, the Grammar School, and the beautiful Avon, with their hundred sweet associations, I dare say nothing more. After a stay of three days, during which time I had recovered from the effects of the severe strain and close application of mind and body, by which both had suffered exhaustion, and been driven almost to the verge of prostration, in the museum at Liverpool and the ruins of Chester; I started on way to Warwick (pron. War'rick) and Coventry. As my purpose was to walk the whole distance, about twenty miles, I sent my sachel by rail, to the former place.