' THE STUARTS.
IN the August following his accession to the throne (A.D. 1603) James the First visited Wilton House, where lie was royally entertained by the third Earl of Pembroke. On the 6th of October we find the Queen and himself again enjoying the hospitalities of their noble host; and they appear to have remained here, with occasional excursions to Winchester and Basing in the interval, until the beginning of December. Fear of the plague, which was raging in the metropolis, operated to protract their second visit, for on the 29th of October, this calamitous visitation is thus flippantly alluded to by Mr. Levinus Muncke, writing to his friend Mr. Winwood " from the court at Wilton:" - "The Plague ceaseth apace in London; there dyed this week in London of all diseases but 600 and odd. I would to GOD the King would draw nearer to it, for in these arrant removes we endure miseries apace, and want of all things, which I never thought the country so unable to supply us."
One is curious to know what were the miseries endured by this courtly gentleman during his sojourn in the provinces; — whether the Livery-messes were objectionable to his fastidious appetite, or whether the Salisbury vintners vended indifferent Gascoine wine, Possibly the Wilton mercers were rustical in taste and quite incompetent to furnish so exquisite a courtier with shoe-roses, ruffs and bands, according to the vogue, or plumes and ribbons in harmony with his complexion, or possibly he sighed for the enjoyments of the city tavern, the mid-day lounge in Paul's Walk, the gossip of the club, and the pastimes of the Tennis Court and Mall.
It was at Wilton House that the Royal author of the " Book of Spirits" witnessed the first theatrical representation offered to his notice in England. The scene deserves a sketch on more accounts than one; and, at the risk of failure, we will venture to attempt it.
It is the second of December. Evening has already closed in, and the deepening gloom of the night gives an additional sense of cheerfulness to those who are gathered within the warm and well-lit hall. At one end, the company of players have raised a temporary stage with wings and one set-scene which represents a street, a palace, or an orchard, just as occasion may require, the precise character of the locality being ingenuously indicated by a legibly-written scroll appended to the screen.
In the body of the hall, some twenty paces from the huge wood fire which sheds a flickering glow upon their faces and projects their shadows, gigantically enlarged, upon the wall, the King, his noble host, and a brilliant company are assembled as spectators of the play.
Even were he not seated, and thus distinguishable from the circle who stand around him, you would easily select the monarch from the throng, not alone by reason of the expression of cunning and astuteness stamped upon his countenance, but by his clumsy and ungainly figure, enveloped, but not hidden, by a costly costume, preposterously padded, and sparkling with a profuse garniture of jewellery...... '
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