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I thank you, my dear Lucy, for writing by Mr. Jenks.
You learnt by Captain Barnard, that I was going a journey. I have given your mamma and sister some account of my late excursion to Devonshire. We returned home through Bristol, and took Oxford in our way, from whence we went to Woodstock, and visited Blenheim, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough, which was built at the public expense, and granted by the Crown to the Duke, for the services he had rendered his country. This castle is upon the grandest scale of any thing I have ever yet seen. We enter the park through a spacious and elegant portal, of the Corinthian order, from whence a noble prospect is opened to the palace, the bridge, the lake, with its valley, and other beautiful scenes. The front of this noble edifice, which is of stone, is three hundred and forty-eight feet from wing to wing. On the pediment of the south front, towards the garden, is a noble bust of Louis the Fourteenth, taken by the Duke from the gates of Tournai. This, the gardener told us, he never failed pointing out to the French gentlemen who visited the place, and that thev shrugged their shoulders and mon-Dieu ) d. But, before I describe to you the gardens, I will attempt to giv r e you a short, though imperfect account of the palace. It would require a week to view it, and a volume to describe it particularly. I will, therefore, only collect from my little journal the most remarkable objects.
We entered the palace through a magnificent hall, supported by Corinthian pillars. Over the door, going into the saloon, is a bust of John, Duke of Marlborough, and two statues in bronze, namely, the Venus de' Medici and a Faun. The ceiling is painted allegorically, representing Victory crowning John, Duke of Marlborough, and pointing to a plan of the battle of Blenheim. From the saloon, we pass through a suite of rooms, all of them containing a most costly and beautiful collection of paintings, many of them originals of the first masters. In the dining-room is a family-piece, the present Duke and Duchess, and six of their children, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The furniture of the rooms is differentcolored damask. The family being at the house, we saw only the lower apartments. The winter drawing-room is of tapestry, upon which is represented the Cardinal Virtues ; chairs and curtains, white damask. From a series of smaller, though magnificent apartments, we were suddenly struck at entering the library, which is one hundred and eighty-three feet long, and the most costly, as well as beautiful place I ever saw. The Doric pilasters are of marble, with complete columns of the same, which support a rich entablature ; the window frames, the surrounding basement of black marble, and the stuccoed compartments of the vaulted ceiling, are in the highest taste, both of design and finishing. There is a person, who always attends at these seats, who has by heart the whole history of all that is to be seen ; and he makes a very handsome sum of money by it. This library was originally intended as a gallery for paintings ; but the late Duke of Marlborough chose to have it furnished with the noble collection of books made by Lord Sunderland, his Grace's father, which amounts to twenty-four thousand volumes, and is said to be the best private collection in England. They are kept under gilt wire lattices, and make a superb appearance. At one end of the room, is a highly finished marble statue of Queen Anne, with this inscription; "To the memory of Queen Anne, under whose auspices John, Duke of Marlborough, conquered, and to whose munificence, he and his posterity with gratitude owe the possession of Blenheim, in A. D. 1746. " There are two marble busts over the chimney, one of Charles, Earl of Sunderland, who collected the books, and another of Charles Spencer, Duke of Marlborough ; and, at the farther end of the room, is a fine Greek bust of Alexander the Great, and fourteen full-length family portraits. From two bow windows in this noble gallery, the eye is delighted with a view of the declivity, descending to the water, and the gradual ascent of the venerable grove, which covers the opposite hill. In short, whether we look within or without, all is on the scale of the sublime and the beautiful. I must not overlook vol. n. 13 the chapel, which makes one of the wings of the house, and in which there is a proud monument, of white marble, to the memory of the renowned Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The group of marble figures, large as life, upon this monument, are the Duke and Duchess, with two of their sons, who died young. They are supported by two figures, Fame and History. The altar-piece is the best painting I ever saw ; our Saviour taken down from the cross.
From the house, we visited the gardens ; and here I am lost, not in confusion, but amidst scenes of grandeur, magnificence, and beauty. They are spacious, and include a great variety of ground. The plain, or as artists term it, the lawn, before the palace, is kept in the most perfect order ; not a single spire of grass rises above another. It is mowed and swept every other day, and is as smooth as the surface of a looking-glass. The gardener, who has lived twenty -five years upon the place, told us that he employed about sixty-three hands during the summer, in mowing, sweeping, pruning, lopping, and in ornamenting the grounds. From this lawn is a gradual descent to the water, and you pass through spacious gravel walks, not in straight lines, as Pope expresses it,
" where each alley has a brother, And half the platform just reflects the other; "
but pleasing intricacies intervene. Through the winding paths, and every step, open new objects of beauty, which diversified nature affords of hill, valley, water, and woods ; the gardens finally are lost in the park, amidst a profusion of venerable oaks, some of which are said to have stood nine hundred years. The gardens are four miles round, which I walked ; the park is eleven. There is a magnificent bridge consisting of three arches ; the water which it covers, is formed into a spacious lake, which flows the whole extent of a capacious valley. This was built at the expense of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, as well as a column which I shall mention in turn. The gardener, who was very loquacious and swelled with importance, told us, that since his residence there, the present Duke had greatly enlarged and improved the grounds ; that he had beautified them by the addition of some well-placed ornaments, particularly the temple of Diana, and a noble cascade, round which are four river gods, represented as the guardian genii of the water.
This celebrated park was first enclosed in the reign of Henry the First. His successor, Henry the Second, resided at this seat, and erected in this park a palace, and encompassed it with a labyrinth, which was fair Rosamond's bower, celebrated bv Addison. There are now no remains of it, except a spring at the foot of the hill, which still bears the name of Rosamond's Well. This palace is celebrated as the birth-place of Edmund, second son of Edward the First, and of Edward the Black Prince. Elizabeth was kept a prisoner there under the persecutions of Queen Mary ; and it continued to be the residence of kings until the reign of Charles the First, but it was demolished in succeeding times of confusion. There are now two sycamores planted as a memorial upon the spot where the old palace stood. The column will close my narrative. This is in front of the palace of Blenheim at about half a mile distance, and is one hundred and thirty feet high ; on the top of which is John, Duke of Marlborough, and on which is the following inscription, supposed to be written by the late Lord Bolingbroke.
" The Castle of Blenheim was founded by Queen Anne,
In the fourth year of her reign,
In the year of the Christian era, 1705.
A monument designed to perpetuate the memory of the
Obtained over the French and Bavarians
On the banks of the Danube
By John. Duke of Marlborough ;
The Hero not only of this nation, but of this age ;
Whose glory was equal in the council and in the field.
Who, by wisdom, justice, candor, and address,
Reconciled various, and even opposite interests ;
Acquired an influence
Which no rank, no authority can give,
Nor any force but that of superior virtue ;
Became the fixed, important centre
Which united in one common cause
The principal States of Europe.
Who, by military knowledge and irresistible valor,
In a long series of uninterrupted triumphs,
Broke the power of France
When raised the highest, and when exerted the most ;
Rescued the empire from desolation,
Asserted and confirmed the liberties of Europe.'' Thus is the gratitude of the nation expressed, and thus do the heirs of Marlborough triumph. The present Duke is a man of literary pursuits, domestic, and a great astronomer. He has a fine observatory and apparatus. From this observatory he makes signals to Herschel at Windsor, and they study the stars together.
I have made a very long letter of it. T hope it may prove an amusement to you.
Remember me kindly to all inquiring friends, and believe me, my dear niece,
Your ever affectionate
- Letters of Mrs. Adams, The Wife of John Adams With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1840