As I returned, I saw Newstead and Althorpe: I like both. The former is the very abbey. The great east window of the church remains, and connects with the house; the hall entire, the refectory entire, the cloister untouched, with the ancient cistern of the convent, and their arms on it; a private chapel quite perfect. The park, which is still charming, has not been so much unprofaned; the present Lord has lost large sums, and paid part in old oaks, five thousand pounds of which have been cut near the house. In recompense he has built two baby forts, to pay his country in castles for the damage done to the navy, and planted a handful of Scotch firs, that look like ploughboys dressed in old family liveries for a public day. In the hall is a very good collection of pictures, all animals; the refectory, now the great drawing-room, is full of Byrons; the vaulted roof remaining, but the windows have new dresses making for them by a Venetian tailor. Althorpe has several very fine pictures by the best Italian hands, and a gallery of all one’s acquaintance by Vandyke and Lely. I wonder you never saw it; it is but six miles from Northampton. Well, good night; I have writ you such a volume, that you see I am forced to page it. The Duke [of Cumberland] has had a stroke of the palsy, but is quite recovered, except in some letters, which he cannot pronounce; and it is still visible in the contraction of one side of his mouth. My compliments to your family.
[Footnote 1: Newstead, since Walpole’s time immortalised as the seat of the illustrious Byron. Evelyn had compared it, for its situation, to Fontainebleau, and particularly extolled “the front of a glorious Abbey Church” and its “brave woods and streams;” and Byron himself has given an elaborate description of it under the name of “Norman Abbey,” not overlooking its woods:
It stood embosomed
in a happy valley
Crowned by high woodlands, where the Druid-oak
Stood like Caractacus in act to rally
His host, with broad arms, ’gainst the thunderstroke—
nor the streams:
Before the mansion
lay a lucid lake
Broad as transparent, deep, and freshly fed
By a river, which its softened way did take
In currents through the calmer waters spread
nor the abbey front:
A glorious remnant
of the Gothic pile
While yet the church was Rome’s, stood half apart
In a grand arch, which once screened many an angle.
("Don Juan,” xiii. 56-59.)]
GENTLEMAN’S DRESS—INFLUENCE OF LORD BUTE—ODE BY LORD MIDDLESEX—G. SELWYN’S QUOTATION.
ARLINGTON STREET, April 16, 1761.