Stafford House London

Stafford House, one of the famous palaces between the Green Park and St. James's, was built for the Duke of York, son of George III, the not too illustrious Prince to whom English flunkeyism erected the column at the foot of Waterloo Place. At his death, before the house was ready, the Duke of Sutherland bought it, and here were hung the famous Stafford House pictures, now distributed. As a home for London curiosities the building is admirable but not very elastic; already it seems to be fully stocked.

The course of the pilgrimage through the Museum is prescribed by the regulations, and one must follow it. We are first in the city prehistoric, what time mastodons were its principal inhabitants; and instantly we realise how flexible a term London is, for the mammoth's bone, which is one of the most exciting relics here, comes from as far afield as Ilford. Then we pass to the ages of stone and bronze and are assisted towards the realisation of those early eras by Mr. Forestier's drawings, wherein Londoners in skins and Londoners in woad are seen earning their livelihood more picturesquely, if not with less determination, than Londoners in black coats and tall hats at the present day. One thing is certain, and that is that modern London is built on ancient London, and ancient London was built on a London still older; for it is the soil that has yielded all the treasures. Mother Earth is the best archaeologist. From foundations at Copthall Court, for example, the home today of stockbrokers, comes a bronze shield; from the Old Bailey a rhinoceros's tooth; from Lombard Street a Roman wine jar. A little statuette of Hercules hails from Grocers' Hall Court, nor was it mislaid there by a modern collector, but was brought thither from his home in Italy by one of our conquerors under Julius Cæsar--possibly in the capacity of what our modern soldiers call a mascot.--Such relics as these make the long history of London very vivid.

The assemblage of articles gathered at Stafford House is so diverse that every visitor must find something of interest as one leaps backwards and forwards among the centuries. And interest can be capricious too. A case of wine labels in the wonderful silver room, for example, by reason of the unfamiliarity of the vintages may remain in the memory longer than many more intrinsically worthy matters. Among these are Red Nice, Bucella, Mischianza, Calcavella, Sercial and Gooseberry. All, so far as London is concerned, are obsolete, with the exception of the last, and that, although one may still drink it, at fabulous prices, now goes under an alias.

No comments: