« AnkstesnisTęsti »
his father's recollection, but with a transforming effect on his subsequent life.
The Russian idyl, “Ivàn Ivànovitch," on the old subject of the mother who threw three of her babies to the pursuing wolves in order to save her own life, is also very grim and powerful, especially in its ending-the calm execution of the wretched creature by the self-possessed hero of her village, the Russian peasant who first hears her tale, and discerns the truth of the matter in spite of the unfortunate mother's attempt to falsify the facts, and make it appear that she had endeavored to guard her children from the wolves by her own body. Ivan Ivanovitch takes upon himself to judge that for a mother who, whether from panic or selfishness, had acted thus unnaturally, to survive her terrible deed, would be intolerable for all, herself included; that the only fitting thing to do with a life thus reeking of memories utterly unnatural to a woman and a mother was to extinguish it with as little delay as possible, so as to leave the least possible stain on the traditions of a world which, without true mothers-nay, without the overruling and peremptory instincts which can alone make true mothers-would soon cease to be a human world at all. We can give but the short passage in which this deed of judgment is narrated, and that in which, after the inquest held by the village, Iván is told that he is acquitted of all guilt, an acquittal which he coldly accepts as a matter of course :
"Down she sank. Solemnly Ivan rose, raised his axe-for fitly, as she knelt, Her head lay: well apart, each side, her arms hung-dealt,
Lightning swift, thunder-strong, one blow-no need of more!
Headless she knelt on still: that pine was sound
(Neighbors were used to say)-cast-iron-kerneled
Taxed for a second stroke Ivan Ivànovitch.
As air to walk abroad. 'How otherwise?' asked he."
This is, on the whole, decidedly the finest of these idyls. It paints a grandeur of unhesitating, calm self-reliance in the village hero such as is hardly conceivable in our world of doubts and scruples, and paints, too, the clearness and coldness and freedom from all liability to agitation which would be the only possible conditions of such Draconic rigor of purpose.
And the closing idyl, the picture of Bunyan's brazen converts, the bad Bedford innkeeper, Ned Bratts and his wife, who, in the vivacity of the impression made upon them by the "Pilgrim's Progress," rush into court to confess a long list of crimes and murders, and to demand immediate judgment and execution while their repentance lasts, is also drawn with Mr. Browning's
The man was scant of words as strokes. 'It had most vigorous, not to say violent, strokes. The to be:
painting makes less impression on us than that of the Russian peasant's calm and inflexible erasure, as it were, of the stained and miserable mother's life from the life of earth, just because the later sketch is so violent and the characters so strange a compound of flowers of sulphur and flowers of grace. There is something of the dignity of sculpture in the idyl of Ivan Ivanovitch -nothing but the most violent contrasts of color in the weird picture of the conquest of grace over coarse cravings and vulgar lusts. Yet even here the glimpse given of Bunyan himself has true grandeur. "Tab," Ned Bratts's wife, is giving her account of her visit to the poet-tinker in his prison to reproach him, as she intended, for re
fusing to let his blind daughter supply her and her husband, as usual, with the stout laces which Bunyan was accustomed to make in his prison:
"She takes it in her head to come no more-such airs
These hussies have! Yet, since we need a stout
"I'll to the jail-bird father, abuse her to his face!" So, first I filled a jug to give me heart, and then, Primed to the proper pitch, I posted to their den— Patmore—they style their prison! I tip the turnkey, catch
My heart up, fix my face, and fearless lift the latch
Both arms a-kimbo, in bounce with a good round oath
Ready for rapping out: no "Lawks" nor "By my troth!"
There sat my man, the father. He looked up: what one feels
When heart that leaped to mouth drops down again to heels!
He raised his hand.... Hast seen, when drinking out the night,
And, in the day, earth grow another something quite
Under the sun's first stare? I stood a very stone.
"Woman!" (a fiery tear he put in every tone) "How should my child frequent your house where lust is sport,
Violence-trade? Too true! I trust no vague report.
Her angel's hand, which stops the sight of sin, leaves clear
The other gate of sense, lets outrage through the
What has she heard !-which, heard, shall never be again.
Better lack food than feast, a Dives in the-wain Or reign or train-of Charles !" (His language
was not ours:
'Tis my belief, God spoke: no tinker has such powers.)
"Bread, only bread they bring-my laces: if we broke
Your lump of leavened sin, the loaf's first crumb would choke!"
Loosen the vital sap yet where shall help be found?
Who says, 'How save it ?'-nor Why cumbers it the ground?'
Woman, that tree art thou? All sloughed about with scurf,
Thy stag-horns fright the sky, thy snake-roots sting the turf!
Drunkenness, wantonness, theft, murder, gnash and gnarl
Thine outward, case thy soul with coating like the marle
Satan stamps flat upon each head beneath his hoof!
And how deliver such? The strong men keep aloof,
Lover and friend stand far, the mocking ones pass by,
Tophet gapes wide for prey: lost soul, despair and die!
What then? 'Look unto me and be ye saved!' saith God;
'I strike the rock, outstreets the life-stream at my rod!
Be your sins scarlet, wool shall they seem likealthough
As crimson red, yet turn white as the driven snow!'"
There, there, there! All I seem to somehow understand
Is that, if I reached home, 'twas through the guiding hand
Of his blind girl, which led and led me through the streets,
And out of town and up to door again. What greets
First thing my eye, as limbs recover from their swoon?
A Book-this Book she gave at parting. "Father's
The Book he wrote: it reads as if he spoke himself:
He can not preach in bonds, so—take it down from shelf
When you want counsel-think you hear his very voice!"""
That is not what "Tab " would have said. It is Tab's thought distilled through Mr. Browning's Down on my marrow-bones! Then all at once mind. But it is powerful with the kind of power
to which Mr. Browning accustomed us in years long past, before he condensed his verse into a rasping, short-hand style of his own, and wrapped up his meaning in metaphysical innuendoes. Of these new dramatic Idyls, three at least will live, if not quite on a level with the best of his weird, imaginative works, still by virtue of a kind of power which no other writer in our language could have imparted to them-by the vividness of their own life, and the subtilty of their own significance.
THE QUEEN'S PRIVATE APARTMENTS AT WINDSOR.
N the occasion of the marriage of the Duke of Connaught and the Princess Margaret of Prussia it was remarked in St. George's Hall that a very small proportion of the invited guests penetrated beyond that elegant, if narrow, apartment. There was not much to complain of, so far as picturesque surroundings went, nor as to wedding-cake and creature-comforts of a more substantial character. The hospitality of Windsor Castle-when it is dispensed-is on the most liberal scale: the sherry is nearly as good as that private and particular bin at the Carlton Club which makes the Reform to burn with envy; and if there were any shortcomings, as there are none, the magnificent buffet of gold plate, with Tippoo Sultan's golden tiger's head with the movable tongue, would atone for them all. St. George's Hall certainly looks its best when occupied by a grand banquet, one of those celebrations for which the matchless gold plate is brought out, the service for a hundred and eighty persons, with six plates for each one, the like of which the world can not furnish. Nothing in the way of a banquet can exceed the magnificence of these spectacles; the massive splendor of the great golden centerpieces being relieved by the sparkle of diamonds, the soft radiance of pearls, the gleam of satin and scarlet. On the 13th of March the long room was made narrower than it is in fact by being converted into a buffet for the entertainment of the larger number of invited guests, who partook of their railway-station kind of meal while the real wedding-breakfast was celebrated in the private dining-room, within the enceinte of the peculiarly sacred royal apartments. This distinction marks sharply enough the difference between guests royal and guests who are only "distinguished," yet not distinguished enough to be invited to sign the marriage-certificate of royalty. The state apartments, as they are called, of Windsor Castle are as open to the public almost as Chatsworth. When the court is absent from Windsor-an ample space of every year— any of her Majesty's liege subjects, by going through the mere form of calling at a stationer's shop and asking for a ticket, may view some of the finest rooms and nearly all the finest pictures in Windsor Castle. Fortified with a yellow-hued piece of paper, like the gold checks sought for in New York in the days when greenbacks were plentiful, but unproductive of much in the way of food or clothing, the visitor may view the staircase on which state receptions take place.
At the times when he is allowed to see it there is not much adventitious aid from shrubs and flowers, and the nickname of "the King's Swimmingbath" will be recognized as curiously appropriate. In the old ballroom he may feast his eyes on a series of Vandycks, equally valuable as artistic triumphs and historic relics; and in the State Drawing-room may see, among other portraits of the house of Hanover, that of "Fred, who was alive, but now is dead"; of which much-belied prince-the father of George III.— it may "be said" that, unlike his father, who hated "boets and bainters," he had a keen taste for the arts, and collected many of the finest pictures, including the Rubenses, which now adorn Windsor. He may also inspect the Waterloo Chamber, used as a dining-room for the members of the household, and admire its resemblance to the cabin of a ship; due, it is said, to the taste of his late Majesty King William IV.; and the St. George's banqueting-hall, already alluded to. If he be a connoisseur in furniture and decoration, he may marvel at the wonderful Gouthier cabinet, of such finely sculptured ormolu that he will hesitate whether to appraise its value at ten or fifteen thousand pounds, and will go home to look upon those he has bought for hundreds with loathing and dismay. Superb wood-carving, by Grinling Gibbons, will challenge his admiration in the Presence Chamber; and after inspecting the Albert and St. George's Chapels, and enjoying the splendid sylvan scenery from the windows, he will go into the outer air impressed with a conviction that he has seen a royal palace which may, in many respects, compare advantageously even with Fontainebleau. It is true that the latter is, from the practice of leaving many of the apartments untouched, almost a school of decorative art; but so far as pictures and rare pieces of furniture are concerned, the French palace is far inferior to English Windsor.
Yet he will not have seen the actual dwelling of the sovereign of this realm any more than if he had been at Fontainebleau; for there is a region beyond that brought under his ken into which he may not penetrate except as a guest of the Queen, or by express permission, very rarely granted. If he be honored with an invitation to Windsor Castle, he will be admirably bestowed; for, besides the magnificent apartments assigned to royal guests, there are snug quarters for those of lower but still distinguished rank. In no pal
ace in Europe are more elegant and convenient rooms for guests of every degree than in Windsor Castle. They are, it is true, difficult to find; and the castle will become a still more agreeable place of sojourn than it is when some topographic genius has laid down a map of the inhabited part of it. At present it would be simply maddening, were there not pages always civil and eager to capture the hapless wayfarer who has lost himself in interminable corridors, and worn out his patience in trying to find the right flight of stairs. Beyond the spacious apartments assigned recently to the King and Queen of the Belgians and their suite are delightful rooms in the Round Tower and other portions of the earlier structure of the castle. Those usually occupied by the Crown Princess of Prussia are beautiful in the extreme, rich and snug at the same time, made warm and pleasant with glowing tapestry, and retaining a deliciously habitable air. The line of the Round and adjacent towers gives a pleasing quaintness to the shape of the rooms, which, of a necessity, are portions of the sectors of an irregular circle. There are numerous many-angled rooms in this part of the castle, with windows deeply embayed in the thickness of the wall; apartments warm and comfortable in winter and deliciously cool in summer, and all delightfully furnished and hung with paintings and engravings, rich and rare, quaint and curious. For the most part, the royal and guest apartments are cut off from the rest of the castle by the great corridor, which can only be approached through the hall in which sit the pages, the depositories of the topographic lore of the castle-the corps of guides, in fact. This great corridor is one of the wonders of Windsor, and is yet so singularly constructed that its treasures can hardly be seen except on a very bright day. It is of immense length, but narrow, according, as Prince Paul says in "La Grande Duchesse,” to l'habitude des couloirs, and is the main artery of the system of private apartments of state and simple residence. A day or two might be spent pleasantly in this corridor alone, although the side light is ill adapted for displaying the pictures, among which are the masterpieces of Canaletto, full of air and light, and superb specimens of Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Romney; portraits of Pitt and other statesmen, of soldiers and princes, and one of Lord Thurlow absolutely priceless. Beneath the pictures stand busts of celebrated persons, groups in bronze, and a great wealth of cabinets in ebony, ormolu, old buhl, and that antique Oriental work which made the Japanese ambassadors wild with envy when they saw it on the occasion of their visit. In cabinets and cases of all shapes and kinds are hundreds of pieces of pâte tendre of
the best period of Sèvres, forming part of that famous collection made by the "wicked Marquis" for his luxurious master, King George IV. of sacred memory. Before the specimens of bleu du roi, vert pomme, œil de perdrix, and rose Pompadour, the china maniac stands transfixed, until his attention is directed to some marvelous old Chelsea, which recalls his mind to the fact that Butcher Cumberland, as he was ridiculously called, not only converted a swamp into the beautiful lake known as Virginia Water, and a common country race-meeting into royal Ascot, but founded the old Chelsea porcelain-works. Between the cabinets and busts stand vases of old Chinese and Japanese ware, any one of which would be the lion of a sale at Christie's; but so high is the tone of decoration here that they only seem in keeping with the general effect.
Opening on the great corridor is a suite of drawing-rooms all luxuriously furnished-not in what is now considered as artistic taste-and glowing with rich hues. These rooms contain some of the best work of various kinds ever produced. The White Drawing-room, which is not yellow like that of similar name at Buckingham Palace, and is entered through doors which close as exactly and noiselessly as those of a cabinet, is decorated (as its name implies) mainly in white and gold, in the later style of Louis Seize; fine carvings, heavily gilt, standing out boldly from a white ground. This handsome room, looking from a great bay-window over the Home Park, is not cumbered with furniture, but a couple of Gouthier cabinets in it could hardly be matched in Europe, Russia not excepted. The talk of Windsor assesses their value at ten thousand pounds; but their perfection, like that of the bronzes, the candelabra, and other ornaments, passes description. Two of the pictures which adorn the walls of the White Drawing-room represent the Queen and the late Prince Consort at the period of their wedding. The bridegroom wears a rifleman's dress of dark green, and is every inch of him the "ideal knight." Young, handsome, elegant, and strong, altogether as unlike the middle-aged gentleman whom persons now middleaged themselves recollect as jolting along on his high-trotting horse as can well be imagined. The high-trotter was an ordinance of the physician, and doubtless afforded much healthy exercise; but the faithful and energetic animal was an uncompromising enemy of the Graces. There are in this room also fine pictures of Queen Charlotte in a red dress; of Frederick Prince of Wales, by Ramsay; and of the present Prince of Wales as a child, by Winterhalter, whose eminently courtly pictures, interesting of course from the subjects they represent, are irritating when considered as works of art. Rich in mosaics and in
the magnificent porcelain plaques with which the Gouthier cabinets are inlaid, the White Drawingroom charms the eye, except when it is cast down on the rich velvet-pile carpet, designed in the atrocious taste of thirty or forty years ago, when people were made to walk on rose-bushes and hollyhocks, and a thousand gay colors stared upward from the floor.
to eyes greedy of color is more attractive than either the Green or White rooms. Crimson satin glows on the walls and on the furniture, and throws into strong relief the magnificent malachite vase, presented to the Queen by the late Emperor Nicholas of Russia, and several beautiful cabinets inlaid with Florentine mosaic. Here, too, is the grand piano-forte on which the Queen received her first lessons, as well as a bevy of Winterhalters, and a good portrait of the Duke of Kent by Beechy.
Next to the little used White Drawing-room is the Green Drawing-room, with great panels of green flowered satin let into the walls. The rich hangings and handsome furniture, even the superb fireplace, of this central drawing-room, are lost sight of in the great wealth of Sèvres contained in the various cabinets. The quantity of this rare porcelain is almost as remarkable as its quality-most important of all, the service made for Louis XVI., which afterward became the property of George IV. No such set of bleu du roi exists elsewhere. The color is absolutely perfect, and the paintings are by the most eminent hands ever employed at the royal porcelain manufactory. This wonderful service is not overdone with the blaze of color and the rich, heavy gilding peculiar to Sèvres. Inside the gilt rim, with its inner band of bleu du roi, is a plain white zone, within which is the picture framed as it were in plain gold. There is another peculiarity about this grand serviceit is complete, with the very trifling exception of a couple of plates, broken or stolen in the time of George IV., who sometimes used part of it at breakfast. Stray plates and other pieces purporting to have formed part of this famous set find their way from time to time into auctionrooms, and fetch enormous prices; but the only theory that can be set up concerning them is that they are rejected pieces, for the whole service at Windsor is complete, with the exception noted, as supplied to the French King. Other wonderful pieces of Sèvres are ensconced in the cabinets of the Green Drawing-room-services decorated with flowers and with animals, and divinely painted. There are garnitures de cheminée and huge bowls by dozens, all of the very finest kind and the best period, the later days of Louis XV. and the early ones of his hapless successor. Connoisseurs skilled in china have estimated the value of the contents of the Green Drawing-room at two hundred thousand pounds -but this must be as rough an estimate as that of the famous gold plate, said to be worth millions, and which certainly does weigh seven tons at the least. Beyond this drawing-room the Queen rarely goes, except on the occasion of a state dinner, when the Royal Dining-room in the Prince of Wales's Tower is occupied. The Crimson Drawing-room is generally occupied by the ladies and gentlemen of the household, and
Immediately beyond this crimson room is the Royal Dining-room, only used on state occasions, and capable of accommodating a large party of guests. Everything in this apartment is in the simplest possible style. Plain gilt moldings and handsome rosewood form its only decoration, excepting the wine-cooler designed by Flaxman for George IV. when Prince Regent. This extraordinary work is several feet in length, and may be described as a Capo di Monte tureen translated into silver-gilt. Bacchanalian groups dance round its "swelling port"; fruit, reptiles, and animals cling to the rim; and the common objects of the seashore incrust the base. How such a richly confused work of art was evolved from the severe imagination of Flaxman must for ever remain a mystery, like the precise loss of hard cash that its production entailed upon everybody who had anything to do with it. Happily it was not so fatal as the Albert Memorial, which killed everybody at first concerned with it; but this punch-bowl, or wine-cooler, or font, or papboat-for it has served every one of these purposes-was a serious enough matter in its day. This, however, is not the dining-room occupied daily by the Queen. At the other end of the corridor, just over the Queen's entrance to the castle, is an octagonal room, sober in tone and plain almost to the exaggeration of plainness in its decoration. Lined with oak, it contains only three objects of a pictorial character. Two of these are in Gobelins tapestry, and represent the appetizing subject of a boar-hunt. The third is of quite another character; it is a portrait painted only the other day by the Baron von Angeli, whose picture of the Crown Princess created so much sensation in the exhibition of the Royal Academy three or four years since. It is the triumph of almost brutal realism. From the widow's-cap to the clasped hand it is the positive but unflattering likeness of the Queen, and preferred by her on that account above all other of her portraits. It is the antithesis of a Winterhalter-the work of a painter after the Protector Cromwell's own heart. Not only is every feature painted in with its defects exaggerated, its harder lines intensified, but even the shade of complexion is strengthened. It might be said to