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gether—“the mother of the Gracchi and her sons," as she proudly liked to call herself.
Adjoining her apartments is a little inclosed garden-still known as “Lady Mornington's Garden ”—where she loved to sit, and where she planted a catalpa tree, ever since cherished in memory of her, though it is, unfortunately, now reduced to little more than a bare stump.
A slight reminiscence of the Duke of Wellington, also, still lingers at Hampton Court, for it was he who gave the name of “ Purr Corner" to the nook in the east front of the palace, on the right-hand side of the gate as you come out from the cloister into the garden. There was, in former days, a seat in this spot, which, being warm and sheltered, was the favourite one with the more elderly ladies in the palace; and here they used to sit basking in the sun, and talking and gossiping-whence the Iron Duke's reference to the feline murmur that pervaded this corner.
Turning now to the social life of the palace at this time, we find that its chief centre was the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV., who had been appointed Ranger of Bushey Park in 1797, on the death of Lady Guildford (formerly North), and who, during the reign of George IV., resided almost entirely at Bushey House, leading the life of a country gentleman, and superintending a farm, which he had formed in the park. Being of an easy and genial temper, he became a great favourite with his neighbours, whom he entertained with much hospitality, and in the amusements of whom, whether balls, dinners, races, cricket matches or pugilistic contests on Molesey Hurst, he always took a keen interest. He was, also, President of the “Toy Club," a society which held its meetings in that famous hostelry the “Toy,” whence it took its name.
The memory of the club still lingers about Hampton Court, though its local habitation at the west entrance to the palace vanished upwards of forty years ago.
The members of the “ Toy Club" met once a month, to dine together with much conviviality—the Duke of Clarence's joviality and kindliness making everyone feel at his ease, and imparting to the evening's entertainment a freedom, and an absence of restraint, not usual in the presence of royalty. As to the dinners, though good, they do not appear to have
REMINISCENCES OF THE SHERIDANS.
been extravagantly choice, if we are to judge from the fact that a marrow pudding was always served for the special delectation of his Royal Highness. It is said that when he afterwards became king, he used to declare that the dinners at the “Toy Club” were the most enjoyable he had ever been present at.
Prominent in all entertainments in and near Hampton Court, and doubtless, especially, at the meetings of the “Toy Club,” were those two brilliant brothers, Frank and Charlie Sheridan, whose mother, Mrs. Tom Sheridan, daughter-in-law of the great Sheridan, had been given apartments in 1820, and whose youth was passed in the palace, and of whom tradition still preserves a faint, though fast-fading, memory. Suffice it to say here, that at Hampton Court they fully maintained their reputation for those boyish high spirits, which rendered them the spoilt darlings of society, and those rollicking practical jokes which, usually having an element of humour, were relished by all except the victims of them.
Besides Mrs. Sheridan's two sons and her daughter, Mrs. Norton, who married in 1827, there were with her at Hampton Court at this time her two other daughters, the eldest, Helen Selina, who married, in 1825, Lord Dufferin; and the youngest, Jane Georgiana, who, marrying on June Toth, 1830, Lord Seymour, afterwards became Duchess of Somerset, and was the Queen of Beauty at the famous Eglington tournament in 1839. Lady Dufferin, as everyone knows, became the mother of the present Lord Dufferin and Ava, who, doubtless, inherited many of his captivating and splendid qualities from his mother's family, and the career of whom has been, perhaps, the most brilliant and honourable of any Englishman of this century. He also, as a little boy, was much at Hampton Court with his mother; and writing from India a few years ago, in the midst of the Burmah campaign, to a dear and lifelong friend, the late Mr. Alfred Montgomery, whom he first met at Hampton Court, he says of the old palace : “I cannot tell you what an affection I have for that place, and what tender memories it brings back to my recollection."
The accession of the Duke of Clarence as King William IV., on the 20th of June, 1830, opened a somewhat new prospect for Hampton Court; for his Majesty, having resided so long within the precincts of the manor, took a good deal of interest in the palace; and it was he who seems first to have conceived the idea of making it a sort of receptacle or museum for the many curious pictures which had hitherto been stored away, out of sight, in the other royal palaces. With this object, he sent from Kensington, St. James's, Windsor Castle, Buckingham House, and Carlton House, hundreds of canvases—many of them little better than rubbish—to swell the contents of Hampton Court, and to accommodate which several extra State Rooms were added to those already open to the inspection of sight
His Majesty also gave orders that the King's Great
THE PALACE OPENED FREE TO THE PUBLIC. 393
Staircase, which was in a dilapidated condition, should be restored and repainted. In the meanwhile the popularity of Hampton Court as a place of excursion from London continued to grow.
Admission to the palace, however, was still under the same conditions—that is, a fee of a shilling or so was exacted from each visitor, and parties were conducted, or rather "driven,” to use the expression of a disgusted connoisseur, through the State Apartments by the deputy-housekeeper or one of her housemaids, who pointed out the pictures with a long stick, calling out, in a loud voice, at the same time, the names of the subjects and their painters to the awe-stricken company-a procedure that allowed of little opportunity for studying or enjoying them.
QUEEN VICTORIA-HAMPTON COURT AS A POPULAR RESORT.
With the accession of her present most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria to the throne, there opened a new era in the history of Hampton Court; for one of the first acts of her reign was to order that the State Rooms should be thrown open to all her subjects without restriction, and without fee or gratuity of any kind. This was done in November, 1838, since which date they have never been closed to the public, -except, of course, in times of national mourning, -and every facility has been afforded, ever since, for seeing and enjoying Hampton Court and its treasures. This boon has been most thoroughly appreciated by her Majesty's subjects.
The highest records of visitors have been in the Great Exhibition years : 350,000 in 1851, and 370,000 in 1862. In 1890 the numbers were 240,000, and this is about the present average. Altogether
Altogether it is reckoned that no less than 12,000,000 persons have passed through the State Rooms during the sixty years of the reign of the Queen.
As to the day of the week on which Hampton Court is
most visited, it is interesting to note that Sunday was, is now, and always has been, the most popular of all—the visitors on that day usually amounting to half the total for all the other days in the week put together, and occasionally attaining as large a figure as 5,000 on a single Sunday.
As to the general conduct of the excursionists on that day, as well as all the other days of the week, the author can tender his emphatic testimony, after a continuous experience of some twenty years, that it is entirely unexceptionable. True, the visitors do not walk about on the Sabbath day with an air of prim self-satisfaction ; true, they are not all dressed in long black coats, and tall chimney-pot hats; on the contrary, the Sunday sightseers arrive full of high spirits, intent on enjoying themselves; and they have even been known -horribile dictu !—to smile, to laugh, to sing, to run, and do many other things, calculated to draw down on them the severest censure from our rigid precisians.
But to those whose eyes are not jaundiced by the blight of Puritanism, there could be no more cheering sight than the happy crowds of young men and women who, throwing aside their weekday cares, come down to Hampton Court on Sunday, to enjoy themselves in an unconventional and unrestrained fashion; wandering through the State Apartments; gazing at the palace and the pictures; treading the velvet turf and scenting the flowers in the gardens; strolling in the lime walks ; roaming beneath the broad-boughed avenues, or picnicking among the ferns in Bushey Park; rollicking in the maze; skimming along on bicycles, or rowing on the river.
Indeed, to anyone who would like to know what “a free Sunday" means, we would commend a visit to Hampton Court some afternoon of that day, in the height of the summer. He will then witness-what is to be seen in no other place in Great Britain—the much-dreaded “Continental Sunday” in full swing, within twelve miles of Charing Cross. Arriving by the crowded train, and standing for a moment on the centre of the bridge, a bright and animated scene meets the eye. On all sides are to be seen hundreds of omnibuses, vans, char-à-bancs, brakes, cabs, dog-carts, and carriages and conveyances of all sorts, including several coaches; all of which have brought their parties for the palace, the gardens, the parks, and the river. On the river,