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Protector “first saw the light of day” has, alas! been pulled down, but an ancient drawing thereof represents it as being a comfortable and substantial twostoried building, apparently of stone, having Tudor mullioned windows and three projecting dormers in the roof. At the commencement of the century the house was standing, and was shown as one of the sights of the place. If only photography had been invented earlier, what interesting and faithful records might have been preserved for us of such old historic places which are now no more! As it is, we have to be content with ancient drawings or prints of bygone England, and these not always skilfully done, nor probably always correct in detail. Furthermore, artists, then as now, perhaps more then than now, romanced a little at times, and therefore were not so faithful to facts as they might have been ; as witness many of Turner's poems in paint, which, however beautiful as pictures, are by no means invariably true representations of the places and scenes they profess to portray. Indeed, there is a story told of Turner, who, when sketching from Nature upon one occasion, deliberately drew a distant town on the opposite side of the river to which it really stood, because, as he explained, “ It came better so "!
An unknown and very kind friend some time ago most courteously sent me a number of prints from paper negatives taken in the early days of photography by the Fox-Talbot process, and amongst these chanced to be an excellent view of the ancient hostelry of the “George” at Norton St. Philips in Somerset (a wonderful old inn, by the way, which I PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORDS
have already very fully described in a former work ). When I received the prints, I had only recently both carefully drawn and photographed the quaint oldtime hostelry, and I found that, even in the comparatively short period that had elapsed since the Fox-Talbot negatives were made, certain marked changes had taken place in the building ; so there can be no doubt as to the value and interest of such recording photographs, for the lens has no bias, but faithfully reproduces what is before it, neither adding to nor taking away therefrom for the sake of effect. Now that, fortunately, both the amateur and professional photographer are in evidence everywhere future generations will happily possess true, if not always artistic, representations of places and historic spots as they really were at the time of being taken ; and in the case of matters of antiquarian or archæological interest, we can well pardon the probable loss of picturesqueness for the sake of accuracy. Fancy, if we could only have to-day photographs preserved for us showing, for example, Fountains Abbey in the full glory of its Gothic prime, or of other notable buildings of the medieval age, how we should prize them! If we only had a few faithful photographs of Elizabethan England to compare with Victorian England, what a precious possession they would be! What would not one give for a “snap-shot” of the Invincible (?) Armada arrogantly sailing up the English Channel in stately procession, or of the innumerable pageants of bygone times with all their wealth of picturesque paraphernalia !
1 Through Ten English Counties.
We were up early in the morning, and before breakfast had made a sketch of the quaint and ancient courtyard of the “George,” an engraving of which is given in the last chapter. By a little after nine the dog-cart, packed for travelling, was at the side door of our inn, and bidding good-bye to the landlady—who in the good old-fashioned manner had come to see us off and wish us a pleasant journey—we took our departure, and were soon once more in the open country. Overnight we had, as our wont, consulted our map as to our next day's stage, and determined that we would drive to Stamford, just twenty-five and three-quarter miles from Huntingdon, according to our faithful Paterson.
Again we had delightful weather:afresh, invigorating breeze was blowing from the west ; overhead was a deep blue sky, from which the sun shone warmly, but not too warmly, down. The air was clear and sweet, and the country all around full of brightness, colour, and movement, for the wind swayed the trees in its path, and made golden waves as it swept over the unreaped corn-fields, and green ones as it passed over the long grasses in the meadows; it rippled the waters on ponds and rivers, and whirled the sails of the windmills round at a merry pace ; the brisk breeze gave animation to the landscape, and seemed to imbue it with actual life. Huntingdonshire, fortunately for the traveller therein, possesses no large manufacturing towns, Huntingdon, St. Neots, and St. Ives being of the compact, clean, homely order—more agricultural centres than commercial ones. Therefore the atmosphere of the county is
not smoke-laden or oppressed with grayness, but pure, bright, and buoyant, with the scent of the real country about it—an atmosphere that makes one suddenly realise that there is a pleasure in merely breathing!
About two miles out we came to a little roadside inn having the sign of the “ Three Horse-shoes ” displayed in front. Why three horse-shoes ? Four, one would imagine, would be the proper number. Here we observed a notice that the thirsty wayfarer could indulge in “Home-brewed Ale," rather a rare article in these days of tied houses, when large brewing firms buy up all the “publics " they can, so as to ensure the sale of their beer thereto, and no other. Now, it may be pure fancy on my part, for fancy counts for much, but in my opinion there is a special flavour and pleasing character about good home-brewed ale never to be found in that coming from the big commercial breweries.
A little farther on our road brought us to Little Stukeley, a rather picturesque village. Here, to the left of the way, stood a primitive old inn, with its sign let into the top of a projecting chimney-stack, an uncommon and curious place for a sign. In fact there were two signs, one above the other; the top one was of square stone carved in low relief to represent a swan with a chain round its body. The carving was all painted white (except the chain, which was black), and bore the initials in one corner of C. D. E., with the date 1676. Just below this, on a separate and oblong tablet, painted a leaden colour, was the carved representation of a fish
intended, we learnt, for a salmon, as the inn was called the “Swan and Salmon.” We felt duly grateful for the lettered information, otherwise we might in our ignorance have imagined the sign to be the “Swan and Big Pike"!
Now we passed through a pretty but apparently sparsely - populated country ; indeed, it is strange how little the presence of man is revealed in some portions of rural England, though the signs of his labour are everywhere in evidence. Upon one occasion, when driving a prominent American citizen, a guest of mine, across country in order that he might behold it from another point of view than that afforded by a railway carriage, the general mode of seeing strange countries nowadays), I took the opportunity of asking him what he was most struck with in the English landscape. “Its uninhabited look," was the prompt reply ; "and that is the very last thing I expected. I see great parks here and there, and now and then I get a peep of a lordly palace standing in stately solitude therein, as though it needs must keep as far removed from the plebeian outer world as possible; but the homes of the people (I mean those who are neither very rich nor very poor), where do they hide themselves? From all I have seen to-day, had I not known the facts, I should have imagined it was Old England that was the new and thinly-populated land, and not my American State. With you, I guess, it is a civilised feudalism that still prevails : the palace surrounded by its park takes the place of the ancient castle surrounded by its moat the outer forms