I find in my note-book of last year that I went to Hampton Court and never saw its gardens in such great perfection. It was as beautiful as could be, bathed in soft golden sunlight, not foggy or misty, as, alas ! it so often is from smoke, but with clear pearly distances. The flowers were really gorgeous, and one saw in perfection the modern kind of bedding. The last of the carpet beds have disappeared. In not one bed could the earth be seen, no pains and no expense having been spared. A lovely arrangement of red and white bouvardias scented the cool, moist air, and everything had as much water as it wanted. I have never seen a more successful public garden. I heard afterwards that all this meant a new gardener, and I note it now as an encouragement to those who are depressed by failure in their own gardens, for this year, the weather being unfavourable, the whole thing was utterly different. The herbaceous borders had gone to leaf and many of the beds had failed. The restoration of the old iron railing, near the river, at the end of William and Mary's garden, is a great public benefit. It appears that this railing had been carted about to various places, some reaching as far as Edinburgh, to save the expense of buying handsome gates for public or Crown property.Its restoration to its old foundation does much credit to Lord Esher's management during his term of office as First Commissioner of Works.
This year, for a short time, we had a motor-oar, and I could not help thinking that my agonising fears on first driving in it must have been exactly what our grand-parents felt when they first used railways. When I meet these things along the road - which, alas! I do very often - what with their dangerous pace, their horrible dust, not to mention the smell that poisons the country air, the only expression that comes to my lips is, 'Beastly things, how I hate them !' But when you are in one all is changed. There is a sense of power and independence, and almost an exultant feeling of rushing through the air and covering long distances without effort. This is, I confess, an enjoyable experience. Besides, there is the great pleasure of enlarging one's area, and of seeing in comfort places and towns one could only reach before by two drives and a railway journey. The distant visit I enjoyed most was to Brams Hill, the famous Jacobean house in Hampshire. Such a lovely place and house, quite unspoilt by restoring and changing! It is close to Kingsley's old home at Eversley, and is so admirably described by Lucas Malet in her novel, 'sir Richard Calmady,' that I felt the thrill of a human history when shown the hall where Sir Richard's father died, and the panelled bedroom where the agonised mother pressed the naked baby to her bosom after making her terrible discovery of its deformity. Rocking herself to and fro in a paroxysm of rebellious grief, she cried, 'God is unjust! He takes pleasure in fooling us. God is unjust.' From the white-panelled old bedroom on the first floor one walked straight into a large sitting-room, from the windows of which one could see the broad lawn, with the summerwoodsslopingaway behindit,whereLady Galmady's brother shot the horse. No one could have chosen a more perfect background for such a story. The house was, I believe, built by the same architect who built Holland House, and was intended for the residence of Henry, Prince of Wales, son of James I., who died young. Its position is my ideal one, and Kingsley says of it, 'It stands high, looking out far and wide over the rich lowland country from its eyrie of dark pines.'The guide-book says, 'The Scotch firs in this park are among the oldest and finest in England.' I suppose Scotch firs were the fashion when Scotland's king came to rule over England. We were pressed to return by the kind owners of Brams Hill, and I should much have liked to do so, for one never could tire of its beauties, of the old treasures it contains, and of the unprofaned air of antiquity which surrounds it. But, alas! the motor departed with its owner, and I have had to go back to my ten-mile radius.
On the homeward journey we passed a large open space planted with rows and rows of oak-trees, which was done by the Government at the time of the Napoleonic wars, in a panic that there would be no oak left in England wherewith to build ships. Though a hundred years old they are still quite small, and as the exact date of their planting is known, these straight alleys will be of interest to future generations. After driving through the glorious old nature-planted woods of Brams Hill, it was curious to note the contrast in this dry carrying-out of an officially ordered planting. Even to the future generations who see these oaks in their old age, they will never recall a wood such as, in its wild beauty, suggested the French proverb which Miss Una Van Artevelt Taylor adopts in the following poem - one of a charming series written by her for the 'Westminster Gazette ':-