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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Monday 19th

19 August 1861

Wednesday 21st

21 August 1861
20 August 1861
Tuesday 20th

We have occasional showers, which do not however impede our expeditions, or detract from the fine weather. This morning we started in a couple of carriages to visit Kenilworth Castle, about six or seven miles off. Before doing so however we stopped at the Church of St Mary’s. The interior is good, but the object of interest is the Beauchamp chapel, the most complete of its kind that I have seen; for the monuments are all well preserved. That of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, the founder, is complete, with his effigy in brass reposing on it. There is also a monument to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose ancient residence we were on the way to see. All the religious edifices that we have seen are in process of thorough restoration, showing that the spirit is general. We drove on through a pretty, picturesque road, passed Guy’s Cliff, a dwelling seen from the street through a long avenue of old trees, and reached in the midst of a shower the ruins of Kenilworth. It took me some time to comprehend the structure, so as to be able216 in imagination it as it once was. I could then conceive of its extent and its ability to receive Elisabeth and her retinue. Centuries have rolled away, and nothing remains but stone heaps upon which ivy has clustered with stems as big as my body. The water which once carved its sides has been drawn off, and the wide court yard which gave it ornament is no longer preserved. The entrance turns have been closed and turned into a dwelling. Yet over the whole hovers that indefinable charm of historic antiquity which throws romance into the commonest memorials of the past. Sir Walter Scott has contributed much to the popular admiration of this spot, as we could easily judge from the numbers we found visiting it, just like ourselves. We drove back through Leamington, a nice looking town which is suffering this year like other watering places, and reached our lodgings in time for luncheon. After which my portion of the party drove to the station and took a train to Stratford on Avon—about eight or ten miles. This is the birthplace of Shakespear, and it even now lives much upon his reputation. An omnibus carried us up to the Church where he is buried. It is a pretty, modest interior, having no great to boast of beyond the ashes of the great poet. The monument is unworthy of him. The church yard borders on the arm, and is redolent of quiet. A couple of smooth stones tell us that Shakespear’s wife and daughter lie there. Little did they probably imagine the reputation which awaited him, and the myriad of pilgrims who in later generations would seek to gather up the minutest traces of his genius career. From this place we went to the house in which he was born. An old and a poor tenement enough. But it was enough for him to make a foundation for the immortality of the reputation of the town. In comparison with this hovel what is Warwick castle, or Kenilworth, or Windsor or the tower of London? Great Britain could better dispense with the record of all her Kings than with that made by this insignificant rustic. Nobody lives in the house now, and it has been very carefully preserved, but a tax is levied upon all visitors for the privilege of seeing it. A large217 proportion of these are from America. I am inclined to the opinion that there is more hearty admiration of English Writers there than in the mother country. on our return to the Station we found ourselves with an hour to spare before the arrival of the next train returning, so we strolled along a little country road to view the neighborhood. The sky had become unusually clear for this climate, so that the slanting rays of the sun threw out the most vividly the beautiful verdure of the rural scene, and in the distance were sheep and cattle grazing in one field, whilst in the next the men were busily engaged gathering on wagons the abundant wheat harvest. I can imagine no more perfect rural landscape, and then my thoughts recurred to the state of my own country which has so long enjoyed just such blessings, and which is now in danger of forfeiting them because it has sinned in the refusal to acknowledge the right of men to the proceeds of their own labour. We at least got back to our lodgings to a late meal, and not a little fatigued—but I felt that I had enjoyed this day more than any since I have been on this side of the water.

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA61d232