« AnkstesnisTęsti »
so debased his art. He left an ample margin of strength for the necessary weaknesses caused by age and decay; he gave knowingly an excess of material beyond that sufficient to simply uphold his edifice; he rejoiced in stability and strength, in the beauty of main form as well as in decorating honest construction; for though he could restrain himself when needful and understood the virtue of simplicity, he knew that there was even a greater virtue in worthy decoration. Stuck-on ornaments and applied architectural details are not to be found in an old building—at least I have never discovered any upon such, though hardly a modern speculative built house is without.
The architect of the past was a master of his work; he made the style he employed his servant, he never allowed himself to be its slave; he imparted to all he did something of his own individuality; his buildings, though oftentimes quaintly fantastic in parts, had an air of set purpose over all-they were never frivolous. The stately homes of bygone days are frequently richly carved and ornamented, yet no case have I observed them to be assertively or ostentatiously so; though, give a modern architect the opportunity, and ten to one he will ruin his elevation by meaningless decoration intended for ornament. In fine the chief secret of the charm of old-time homes is their solid and honest construction, the beauty of their varied and bold outline, and the studied care with which even the smallest detail is carried out, the right proportion of height to width (scarcely considered now), the changeful
ness of form in the one building, windows varying in shape, design, and size, the great clustering chimney-stacks, so grouped together originally for strength, but a necessity made into an effective and pleasing feature, the mighty gables, designed first of all to throw off rain and snow, and carved for beauty after. Yes, these old architects built poems! to-day our best is but dull prose.
We left Long Melford, with its stately homes, picturesque green, old-world hostelries, and pretty cottages, with regret. As we saw it on that bright sunny day it seemed to us an ideal village, too romantic almost to be real. There was nothing particular to note on the short stage to Sudbury, unless it were a picturesque peep we had of an old timbered bridge over a little river to the right of our way, of which structure an artist might make a very pleasing picture.
Arriving at Sudbury we drove up to the Rose and Crown, surely the perfection of an old-fashioned hostelry, with its quaint open galleries running around its glass-covered courtyard. This courtyard we found gay with flowers and musical with the songs of caged birds; a pleasant welcome this to the traveller. We were shown into a delightfully cool sitting-room here, our simple meal was served on a scrupulously clean cloth, the maid who waited upon us was a pattern of civility, and the clear nut-brown ale that accompanied our repast was, we deemed, a drink fit for a king.
Oh! the pleasantness of these old English inns when they have retained, as in the present case,
OLD COUNTRY INNS.
something of their past prosperity, and have therefore been kept up and cared for; how suggestive they are of taking one's ease, how restful, how homelike! and this last, I take it, is the greatest praise of all. Alas! unfortunately there is another and not quite so pleasing a side to the picture. Some of the old country inns, that were doubtless all that could be desired in the days of road travel, have sadly degenerated, owing to the little custom they now have, and to the change in the class of custom. Hostelries that were built to accommodate comfortably a large number of travellers, and that in the olden times were profitably patronised, have now perhaps, during a whole week, only one or two stray guests staying overnight therein, if as many. The extensive range of stabling, once kept in the pink of order, is probably half deserted; some portion of it being given over to inevitable decay, uncared for now, the home of mice and cobwebs. The few stalls retained in decent repair are mostly for the use of farmers or commercial travellers, and perhaps the local carrier keeps one of his hard-worked horses there. The ostler, it may be, combines the duties of boots and general helper. Such ancient hostels not unfrequently have many of their chambers unfurnished, or converted into mere receptacles for useless lumber.
It is hardly fair to judge of what the old-time inns were like in the heyday of their prosperity by such depressing survivals. Their need, alas! is gone : what more can one expect? Their landlords too, how changed; the sadly diminished business is no
longer lucrative; they are, as a rule, poor men who find it a hard task to make the old inn pay at all. Naturally they are wanting in the address, tact, and knowledge of the world and manners that so distinguished their worthy predecessors. A hostelry that has so descended from its former high estate doubtless inspired the following remarks from a recent anonymous writer: The normal English inn is not that delightful thing in hostelries which the poetical imagination loves to picture it as being. Feather beds of unutterable stuffiness, and a cuisine the most primitive in its characteristic and obvious. imperfections, without possessing any of the supposed primitive virtues, are enough to make people who have once experienced them regret the experiment.' But though of necessity many of the more remote country inns (the reason of whose existence solely depended upon the requirements of road travellers) have, in their brave but hopeless struggle against the decrees of fate and changed circumstances, degenerated into little more than large roadside 'publics,' still others there are that have not only kept up their ancient usefulness and quiet dignity, but, as in the case of our excellent inn at Sudbury, have actually flourished and improved their accommodation. The pleasant glass covering to the courtyard here is a plain proof of this, forming as it does a charming resort on a wet day, and is just one of those things needful to perfect the arrangements and comfort of an English inn of the ancient type. The agreeable addition of a glass roofing to the old courtyards we found to be not unfrequent in the