Monday, August 22nd.
Immediately after breakfast walked to the Duke of Hamilton's house to view the picture-gallery, chiefly the famous picture of Daniel in the Lions' Den, by Rubens. It is a large building, without grandeur, a heavy, lumpish mass, after the fashion of the Hopetoun House, only five times the size, and with longer legs, which makes it gloomy. We entered the gate, passed the porter's lodge, where we saw nobody, and stopped at the front door, as William had done two years before with Sir William Rush's family. We were met by a little mean-looking man, shabbily dressed, out of livery, who, we found, was the porter.
After scanning us over, he told us that we ought not to have come to that door. We said we were sorry for the mistake, but as one of our party had been there two years before, and was admitted by the same entrance, we had supposed it was the regular way. After many hesitations, and having kept us five minutes waiting in the large hall, while he went to consult with the housekeeper, he informed us that we could not be admitted at that time, the housekeeper being unwell; but that we might return in an hour: he then conducted us through long gloomy passages to an obscure door at the corner of the house. We asked if we might be permitted to walk in the park in the meantime; and he told us that this would not be agreeable to the Duke's family. We returned to the inn discontented enough, but resolved not to waste an hour, if there were anything else in the neighbourhood worth seeing.
The waiter told us there was a curious place called Baroncleugh, with gardens cut out in rocks, and we determined to go thither. We had to walk through the town, which may be about as large as Penrith, and perhaps a mile further, along a dusty turnpike road. The morning was hot, sunny, and windy, and we were half tired before we reached the place; but were amply repaid for our trouble.
The general face of the country near Hamilton is much in the ordinary English style; not very hilly, with hedgerows, corn fields, and stone houses. The Clyde is here an open river with low banks, and the country spreads out so wide that there is no appearance of a regular vale. Baroncleugh is in a beautiful deep glen through which runs the river Avon, a stream that falls into the Clyde. The house stands very sweetly in complete retirement; it has its gardens and terraces one above another, with flights of steps between, box-trees and yew-trees cut in fantastic shapes, flower-borders and summer-houses; and, still below, apples and pears were hanging in abundance on the branches of large old trees, which grew intermingled with the natural wood, elms, beeches, etc., even to the water's edge.
The whole place is in perfect harmony with the taste of our ancestors, and the yews and hollies are shaven as nicely, and the gravel walks and flower-borders kept in as exact order, as if the spirit of the first architect of the terraces still presided over them. The opposite bank of the river is left in its natural wildness, and nothing was to be seen higher up but the deep dell, its steep banks being covered with fine trees, a beautiful relief or contrast to the garden, which is one of the most elaborate old things ever seen, a little hanging garden of Babylon.
I was sorry to hear that the owner of this sweet place did not live there always. He had built a small thatched house to eke out the old one: it was a neat dwelling, with no false ornaments. We were exceedingly sorry to quit this spot, which is left to nature and past times, and should have liked to have pursued the glen further up; we were told that there was a ruined castle; and the walk itself must be very delightful; but we wished to reach Glasgow in good time, and had to go again to Hamilton House. Returned to the town by a much shorter road, and were very angry with the waiter for not having directed us to it; but he was too great a man to speak three words more than he could help.
We stopped at the proper door of the Duke's house, and seated ourselves humbly upon a bench, waiting the pleasure of the porter, who, after a little time, informed us that we could not be admitted, giving no reason whatever. When we got to the inn, we could just gather from the waiter that it was not usual to refuse admittance to strangers; but that was all: he could not, or would not, help us, so we were obliged to give it up, which mortified us, for I had wished much to see the picture. William vowed that he would write that very night to Lord Archibald Hamilton, stating the whole matter, which he did from Glasgow.
I ought to have mentioned the park, though, as we were not allowed to walk there, we saw but little of it. It looked pleasant, as all parks with fine trees must be, but, as it seemed to be only a large, nearly level, plain, it could not be a particularly beautiful park, though it borders upon the Clyde, and the Avon runs, I believe, through it, after leaving the solitude of the glen of Baroncleugh.
Quitted Hamilton at about eleven o'clock. There is nothing interesting between Hamilton and Glasgow till we came to Bothwell Castle, a few miles from Hamilton. The country is cultivated, but not rich, the fields large, a perfect contrast to the huddling together of hills and trees, corn and pasture grounds, hay-stacks, cottages, orchards, broom and gorse, but chiefly broom, that had amused us so much the evening before in passing through the Trough of the Clyde. A native of Scotland would not probably be satisfied with the account I have given of the Trough of the Clyde, for it is one of the most celebrated scenes in Scotland.
We certainly received less pleasure from it than we had expected; but it was plain that this was chiefly owing to the unfavourable circumstances under which we saw it - a gloomy sky and a cold blighting wind. It is a very beautiful district, yet there, as in all the other scenes of Scotland celebrated for their fertility, we found something which gave us a notion of barrenness, of what was not altogether genial. The new fir and larch plantations, here as in almost every other part of Scotland, contributed not a little to this effect.
Crossed the Clyde not far from Hamilton, and had the river for some miles at a distance from us, on our left; but after having gone, it might be, three miles, we came to a porter's lodge on the left side of the road, where we were to turn to Bothwell Castle, which is in Lord Douglas's grounds. The woman who keeps the gate brought us a book, in which we wrote down our names. Went about half a mile before we came to the pleasure-grounds. Came to a large range of stables, where we were to leave the car; but there was no one to unyoke the horse, so William was obliged to do it himself, a task which he performed very awkwardly, being then new to it. We saw the ruined castle embosomed in trees, passed the house, and soon found ourselves on the edge of a steep brow immediately above and overlooking the course of the river Clyde through a deep hollow between woods and green steeps. We had approached at right angles from the main road to the place over a flat, and had seen nothing before us but a nearly level country terminated by distant slopes, the Clyde hiding himself in his deep bed. It was exceedingly delightful to come thus unexpectedly upon such a beautiful region.
The Castle stands nobly, overlooking the Clyde. When we came up to it I was hurt to see that flower-borders had taken place of the natural overgrowings of the ruin, the scattered stones and wild plants. It is a large and grand pile, of red freestone, harmonizing perfectly with the rocks of the river, from which, no doubt, it has been hewn. When I was a little accustomed to the unnaturalness of a modern garden, I could not help admiring the excessive beauty and luxuriance of some of the plants, particularly the purple-flowered clematis, and a broad-leaved creeping plant without flowers, which scrambled up the castle wall along with the ivy, and spread its vine-like branches so lavishly that it seemed to be in its natural situation, and one could not help thinking that, though not self-planted among the ruins of this country, it must somewhere have its natural abode in such places.
If Bothwell Castle had not been close to the Douglas mansion we should have been disgusted with the possessor's miserable conception of 'adorning' such a venerable ruin; but it is so very near to the house that of necessity the pleasure-grounds must have extended beyond it, and perhaps the neatness of a shaven lawn and the complete desolation natural to a ruin might have made an unpleasing contrast; and besides, being within the precincts of the pleasure-grounds, and so very near to the modern mansion of a noble family, it has forfeited in some degree its independent majesty, and becomes a tributary to the mansion; its solitude being interrupted, it has no longer the same command over the mind in sending it back into past times, or excluding the ordinary feelings which we bear about us in daily life. We had then only to regret that the castle and house were so near to each other; and it was impossible not to regret it; for the ruin presides in state over the river, far from city or town, as if it might have had a peculiar privilege to preserve its memorials of past ages and maintain its own character and independence for centuries to come.
We sat upon a bench under the high trees, and had beautiful views of the different reaches of the river above and below. On the opposite bank, which is finely wooded with elms and other trees, are the remains of an ancient priory, built upon a rock: and rock and ruin are so blended together that it is impossible to separate the one from the other. Nothing can be more beautiful than the little remnants of this holy place; elm trees - for we were near enough to distinguish them by their branches - grow out of the walls, and overshadow a small but very elegant window. It can scarcely be conceived what a grace the castle and priory impart to each other; and the river Clyde flows on smooth and unruffled below, seeming to my thoughts more in harmony with the sober and stately images of former times, than if it had roared over a rocky channel, forcing its sound upon the ear. It blended gently with the warbling of the smaller birds and chattering of the larger ones that had made their nests in the ruins.
In this fortress the chief of the English nobility were confined after the battle of Bannockburn. If a man is to be a prisoner, he scarcely could have a more pleasant place to solace his captivity; but I thought that for close confinement I should prefer the banks of a lake or the sea-side. The greatest charm of a brook or river is in the liberty to pursue it through its windings; you can then take it in whatever mood you like; silent or noisy, sportive or quiet. The beauties of a brook or river must be sought, and the pleasure is in going in search of them; those of a lake or of the sea come to you of themselves. These rude warriors cared little perhaps about either; and yet if one may judge from the writings of Chaucer and from the old romances, more interesting passions were connected with natural objects in the days of chivalry than now, though going in search of scenery, as it is called, had not then been thought of. I had heard nothing of Bothwell Castle, at least nothing that I remembered, therefore, perhaps, my pleasure was greater, compared with what I received elsewhere, than others might feel.
At our return to the stables we found an inferior groom, who helped William to yoke the horse, and was very civil. We grew hungry before we had travelled many miles, and seeing a large public-house - it was in a walled court some yards from the road - Coleridge got off the car to inquire if we could dine there, and was told we could have nothing but eggs. It was a miserable place, very like a French house; indeed we observed, in almost every part of Scotland, except Edinburgh, that we were reminded ten times of France and Germany for once of England.
Saw nothing remarkable after leaving Bothwell, except the first view of Glasgow, at some miles distance, terminated by the mountains of Loch Lomond. The suburbs of Glasgow extend very far, houses on each side of the highway, - all ugly, and the inhabitants dirty. The roads are very wide; and everything seems to tell of the neighbourhood of a large town. We were annoyed by carts and dirt, and the road was full of people, who all noticed our car in one way or other; the children often sent a hooting after us.
Wearied completely, we at last reached the town, and were glad to walk, leading the car to the first decent inn, which was luckily not far from the end of the town. William, who gained most of his road-knowledge from ostlers, had been informed of this house by the ostler at Hamilton; it proved quiet and tolerably cheap, a new building - the Saracen's Head. I shall never forget how glad I was to be landed in a little quiet back-parlour, for my head was beating with the noise of carts which we had left, and the wearisomeness of the disagreeable objects near the highway; but with my first pleasant sensations also came the feeling that we were not in an English inn - partly from its half-unfurnished appearance, which is common in Scotland, for in general the deal wainscots and doors are unpainted, and partly from the dirtiness of the floors.
Having dined, William and I walked to the post-office, and after much seeking found out a quiet timber-yard wherein to sit down and read our letter. We then walked a considerable time in the streets, which are perhaps as handsome as streets can be, which derive no particular effect from their situation in connexion with natural advantages, such as rivers, sea, or hills. The Trongate, an old street, is very picturesque - high houses, with an intermixture of gable fronts towards the street. The New Town is built of fine stone, in the best style of the very best London streets at the west end of the town, but, not being of brick, they are greatly superior. One thing must strike every stranger in his first walk through Glasgow - an appearance of business and bustle, but no coaches or gentlemen's carriages; during all the time we walked in the streets I only saw three carriages, and these were travelling chaises. I also could not but observe a want of cleanliness in the appearance of the lower orders of the people, and a dulness in the dress and outside of the whole mass, as they moved along. We returned to the inn before it was dark. I had a bad headache, and was tired, and we all went to bed soon.
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