Swindon Isolation Hospital
Dear Grandfather, Grandmother, Aunt Lena, Father and Marion,
Greetings to Bonnie Brae from the alleged invalid! The enemy being in desperate straits have adopted a highly novel method of carrying on warfare. I am supposed to be laid up with German measles, but in reality I am having a fine time reading, writing, thinking, eating, and sleeping all night and half the day. The doctor thinks I am a very queer sort of person because I sleep so much of the time but I might as well get all I can now, because I shall not be able to get much when I go back to camp.
I wrote a long letter to Mother yesterday giving a detailed account of the events leading up to my confinement in the hospital so I shall not go through all that again. Suffice it to say that the only day I was really ill was the day before I came here, and though I am still in bed and being kept on a diet of milk, rice pudding, bread and butter, buttered toast I haven’t the slightest suspicion of a rash and am feeling perfectly well. I sent mother’s letter direct to Balsam Lake. I hope that the last to others which I sent to 90 Darkwood will reach her in good time as well.
Grandma and Aunt Lena, I want to thank you for the long, interesting letters which I received from you the other day. They were splendid. I have such a lot of letter dating from months back to answer that I shall be kept busy for the next couple of week writing. I am in no hurry to get out of the hospital as I am very comfortable and need the rest.
In my last letter I think I was giving some of my impressions of London, so I shall continue that topic now, except for the presence of soldiers everywhere and in the fact that half the places of interest are closed or taken over by the various administrative bodies, there is little to indicate that the country is engaged in war. The theatres are well filled, the stores and restaurants are thronged with people and everybody seems cheerful. Perhaps it is all a little forced. There are a great many French speaking people in the City, (By which I mean Westminster, not the city proper). You hear French everywhere on the streets and in the restaurants. There is a Belgian Cafe on Oxford St, near the Marble Church which I went to occasionally after the theatre; but they charge such outrageous prices that I have had to cut it out. Six pence for a cup of cocoa, for example, the same price for a sandwich! I paid one and six there for an omlet one night and though it was delicious still 36 [cents] is a little steep; especially when you can get a magnificent lobster salad with mayonnaise for the same price at the Strand Corner House.
There are shoals of pretty girls in London and they nearly all smoke. In any of the large restaurants you will see almost all the young girls with cigarettes in their mouths – I don’t think I am stretching it when I say that at least half are smoking. The same is true in the tea rooms out at Richmond, one of the West End suburbs on the river, where I went one Sunday afternoon.
Of course, when I was there on my six days leave I was at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. What impressed me most about the Cathedral was its enormous size. It is so absolutely colossal that it dwarfs all the buildings round about. Of course I consider the revived classical style of architecture in which it is built decidedly inferior to the Gothic but the master work of the treat architect – Sir Christopher Wren – could not but be wonderful. Walking up the nave or standing before the high altar and looking up at the immense dome one feels about as large as a fly. I was down in the crypt too, and saw the tombs of Nelson and Wellington. I thought the Abbey was very beautiful. We were at present at an intercessory service, held at noon in the choir a copy of which I am enclosing. After the service we wandered through the nave and the aisles and lingered in the poet’s corner, and noticed the graves of many of the greatest Englishmen. There were two fresh wreaths on Dickens’ grave. We also went into the various chapels with their heavy tombs, covered with wrought brassworks of the old noble families, and into the famous royal chapel of Henry VII. It is very highly ornamented and richly carved being in the Papendicular style, the latest and most highly ornate development of English Gothic Architecture. The Chapel has a beautiful fan tracery roof. The banners of various knights of Henry VII which usually hang from the walls had been removed. Also the royal tomb was all boarded up and the Coronation chair and other interesting articles stowed away somewhere safe for keeping.
The Tower, I must confess, I didn’t find that interesting, except to view from the outside. Of course I saw the room where the young princes are supposed to have been murdered, where Sir Walter Raleigh was confined when he wrote his History of the World. But I didn’t care much about the Crown Jewels and as for the old suits of armour and rooms full or cannon and guns, pikes, swords, battle axes etc; well I was to fed up on res militares (or is it militaries? No) to bother about them.
The best part of the National Gallery has been taken over by the Admiralty – that section which has all the farrows Dutch and Italian paintings – Ruben’s Titians etc. but I saw quite a few famous English and French paintings including a number of Tunners, through not the Temeraire at which I was disappointed. Leot Lindsay and I also visited the Royal Academy where the pictures being more closely related to modern life and for the most part done in a style more readily understood, were easier to appreciate. We both enjoyed the exhibition very much. There were a couple of large pictures there of one of the Scotch Lochs that made me determine to visit Scotland before I go back to Canada. They certainly had the atmosphere of hills and heather and tickled old Scot greatly.
Madame Tussand’s was a little disappointing but I didn’t expect very much. I think the Chamber of Horrors might certainly be made a good deal wilder, though there is a grisly opium den that is quite satisfactory. There were also some very lifelike figures of prominent public men – a very good one of George Bernard Shaw. Then I was nearly taken in by the old woman asleep in the corner.
I have not yet been in the House of Parlt., and I want to go out to Hampton Court. The British Museum and Tate gallery are closed. One of the things I enjoyed most was riding around on the top of a bus or walking the streets. I have never seen such magnificent buildings as London has. Take for example the War Office, the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office and the Downing St district on the way down to the Houses of P. and the Abbey. Or again, in the city, the Law Courts, and the Bank of England. I know the Trafalgar Square district by this time almost as well as King and Yonge Sts in Toronto.
I don’t know that I ever told you very much about our week end at Oxford. We were fortunate enough to run into Mr. French, a Canadian and a graduate who was European Correspondent for the New York American. He seemed rather cynical about Great Britain’s motives in the war and insisted upon going into a bar for a drink about every ten minutes. But he was a quite thorough gentleman, did not insist upon our accompanying him in his libations, and spent a great deal of time and a little money piloting Dorland and I around. He was very courteous and an interesting character. We asked him to drive with us that evening but he had an engagement.
Oxford, once you get into the heart of it, is a beautiful medieval city. I am quite sure that there is no street in the world that can compare with the High from Brasenose College to the Cherwell bridge. It is just a continual succession of beautiful churches and handsome college fronts. There is a wonderful curve in the street. Standing at Brasenose and looking up you see on the concave side, St Mary’s Church, All Soul’s College and Queen’s College while directly opposite Queen’s is the massive castle like front of University College. You go on up the street round the curve and you come to Magdalen College and the beautiful little river, Cherwell.
The Cathedral at Oxford is the smallest in England and is the chapel of Christ Church college. Unfortunately at the times we visited it, we were unable to get in. But we were in the Hall of Christ Church, the largest dining hall in Oxford. It looked very clean and bright and was a striking contrast to the dingy old hall of the New College.
If I were going to Oxford I think I should choose New College. It is very old, having been founded by William of Wykeham about the middle of the 14th century, and much of it remains to day as when it was founded. You approach it either through a narrow, medieval lane or else, from the side through the old original city wall. The college has a massive old tower and a gloomy old chapel with a fine [?], in which are carved niches and in each niche is the plaster figure of a saint. (I really forget whether they are saints or prophets and apostles). It is very curious New College has a celebrated garden, really a park with large old trees but we were unable to get in as it was being used as a convalescent spot for wounded soldiers.
Balliol, the blue ribbon college for scholarship is about the least interesting from an architectural point of view. The buildings are nearly all quite modern, and it is a huge rambling place with out any ‘outline’. At least if it has any it is a ‘demmed outline.’ We also visited Pembroke were Dr Johnson, Dorland’s great friend, was an undergrad/ It was only built in 1652 but is a neat, homelike looking little college with ivy covered walls, neat quadrangles and a simple, pretty little chapel. We weren’t in any of the college rooms but were in a good many of the chapels and halls and saw practically all the colleges at least from the outside. I found it extremely interesting because I knew a good deal about them.
There are hardly any students left at all except ‘niggers’ (East Indians) of which I saw quite a few in the streets. I found out that Clive Carrathers is still at Campus and should have looked him up if we had had more time. I told mother a good deal about this visit to Oxford so you can supplement this with her letter.
This morning I got a box of lovely roses from Harold Farmer’s mother and sister who are staging at Bletchley a little village in Bucks. They are with some friends, I think, but are coming to Chisledon shortly. Harold was inquiring about renting a cottage. That poor child is hopeless. He and Dorland have become great friends because Dorland takes a huge delight in ‘kidding’ him and Farmer is as pleased as a little boy being tickled. He has so [?] sense that he rather enjoys the army life and worst of all prefers England to Canada as a place to live. Then he is continually talking about university and tells everybody he meets that he is a [?] grad without any provocation! Still I must admit that for a fellow who has been accustomed to a life of leisure, Farmer puts up with things in a good deal more manly way than I do.
I hope you are catching lots of salmon and trout, Marion, and certainly wish I could be there to help you. With much love to all and best wishes for a very pleasant summer I am,