Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ghosts at Ham

"I went yesterday to see my niece in her new principality of Ham.  It delighted me and made me peevish.  Close to the Thames in the centre of all rich and verdant beauty, it is so blocked up, barricaded with walls, vast trees, and gates, that you think yourself a hundred miles off and a hundred years back.  The old furniture is so magnificently ancient, dreary, and decayed, that at every step one's spirits sink, and all my passion for antiquity could not keep them up.  Every minute I expected to see ghosts sweeping by -- ghosts that I would not give sixpence to see, Lauderdales, Tollemaches, and Maitlands.  There is one old brown gallery full of Vandycks and Lelys, charming miniatures , delightful Wouvermans and Poelemburghs, china, japan, bronzes, ivory cabinets, and silver dogs, pokers, bellows, &c., without end.  One pair of bellows is of filagree.  In this state of pomp and tatters my nephew intends it shall remain, and is so religious an observer of the venerable rites of his house, that because they were never opened by his father but once, for the late Lord Granville, you are locked out and locked in, and after journeying all around the house, as you do round an old French fortified town, you are at last admitted through the stable-yard, to creep along a dark passage by the housekeeper's room, and so by a back door into the great hall. "

Correspondence of Horace Walpole
Letter to Lord Montagu, June 11, 1770

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