Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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On certain days in the week visitors are allowed to walk through the galleries of Petworth House. The parties are shown by a venerable servitor into the audit room, a long bare apartment furnished with a statue and the heads of stags; and at the stroke of the hour a commissionaire appears at the far door and leads the way to the office, where a visitors' book is signed. Then the real work of the day begins, and for fifty-five minutes one passes from Dutch painters to Italian, from English to French : amid boors by Teniers, beauties by Lely, landscapes by Turner, carvings by Grinling Gibbons. The com­missionaire knows them all. The collection is a fine one, but the lighting is bad, and the conditions under which it is seen are not favourable to the intimate appreciation of good art. One finds one's attention wandering too often from the soldier with his little index rattan to the deer on the vast lawn that ex­tends from the windows to the lake—the lake that Turner painted and fished in. Hobbemas, Vandycks, Murillos—what are these when the sun shines and the ceaseless mutations of a herd of deer render the middle distance fascinating? Among the more famous pictures is a Peg Woffington by Hogarth, not here " dallying and dangerous," but demure as a nun; also the " Modern Midnight Conversation" from the same hand; three or four bewitching Romneys; a room full of beauties of the Court of Queen Anne; Henry VIII by Holbein ; a won­derful Claude Lorraine; a head of Cervantes attributed to Velasquez; and four views of the Thames by Turner. Hazlitt, in his Sketches of the Picture Galleries of England, says of this collection :—" We wish our readers to go to Petworth . . . where they will find the coolest grottoes and the finest Vandykes in the world.'5
Lord Leconfield's park has not the remarkable natural for­mation of the Duke of Norfolk's, nor the superb situation of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon's, with its Channel prospects, but it is immense and imposing. Also it is unreal: it is like a park in a picture. This effect may be largely due
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