LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter III

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
‣ Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
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IN carrying out a purpose indicated in the first chapter of this volume, I proceed to notice the historical localities with which I am acquainted, generally in the order in which they present themselves in our national records. The earliest monuments of the old British stock are Abury and Stonehenge. On a summer afternoon of 1834 I diverged from the road from Bath to Marlborough, to take the little village of Abury or Avebury, on the bank of the Kennet. This was rarely visited except by antiquaries, who could piece out some lumps of stone, scattered amidst ploughed fields, into circles and avenues and altar-stones and cromlechs. Two centuries ago, it was so complete that Charles the Second, not a very imaginative person, went to look upon it. There is little now to see, for the plough has been as ruthless a destroyer of antiquity in solitary fields as the trowel has been in ancient cities. I saw Stonehenge early on a summer morning of 1842. I was then taking a pedestrian tour through the New Forest and onward, with a young clergyman, the Rev. William Scott, upon whom the awakening influences in the Church, a quarter of a century ago, had produced an enthusiastic reverence for our ecclesiastical antiquities, and necessarily a liberal curiosity with regard to the evidences of an earlier civilisation. At Salisbury we
met with my friend
John Britton, himself a piece of hoar antiquity, and with him we went to Old Sarum and Stonehenge. The first impression of the traveller is that this apparently boundless plain could never have been the seat of any considerable population; that if, according to Spenser, British kings—
“entombed lie at Stonehenge by the heath,”
a desert must have witnessed their funeral obsequies. A branch railway, called the Salisbury line, now traverses the plain for some miles, passing near the little town of Amesbury, from which Stonehenge is most conveniently approached. This would of itself be evidence that there is still a population there, as was most likely the case when Druidical worshippers assembled in the “Choir of the Giants.” Although the eye that ranges over Salisbury Plain may only see here and there such tokens of life as a flock and a shepherd boy, there are hamlets nestling in the hollows between the ridges of the little hills, with churches whose early dates proclaim the growth of a religion which in a few centuries left Stonehenge a ruin.

The traces of the Roman dominion in England are much more distinctly associated with historical evidence than are the monuments of the Druidical superstition. Nevertheless, how obscure is the history of some of the works in Britain of the great conquerors of the world. I went to Colchester in 1856 for the express purpose of looking at the remains of its castle, respecting which a theory had been setup that it was “built by a colony of Romans, as a temple to their deified Emperor, Claudius
Cæsar.” So runs the
title of a book by the Rev. H. Jenkins. I spent a pleasant day walking about Colchester, vainly endeavouring to come to some conclusion whether the site of Camulodunum was the present Colchester, or the neighbouring hill Lexden; but nevertheless I had the conviction that these spots, surrounded by waters and woods, were the scenes of some of those great conflicts which finally placed the whole of south Britain under the dominion of Rome. As I gazed upon the valley of Lexden, which was once a marsh overflowed by the Colne at every return of the tide, images would arise of the indomitable queen who speaks her injuries in the pages of Tacitus—a noble subject for verse, whether of Cowper or Tennyson
“Far in the East Boadicea, standing loftily charioted,
Mad and maddening all that heard her in her fierce volubility,
Girt by half the tribes of Britain, near the colony Camulodune,
Yell’d and shriek’d between her daughters o’er a wild confederacy.”

With the same intelligent friend who accompanied me to Stonehenge, I have walked within the ruined walls of Silchester, and seen in an area of an hundred acres the distinct traces of lines of building which had been long before mapped out by our early topographers. I heard the dwellers in this once secluded place call Silchester The City. Few visited it from the somewhat distant towns of Reading and Basingstoke, but now the whistle of the railway engine comes very close, and the “lapwing cries away” in places still solitary. The desolation of the city of the Atrebatii was extreme, but remains of baths, of a temple, of a forum, attested its once flourishing condition. The history of its ruin is buried in the deep
night of the period when the Roman Legions had withdrawn from Britain. Richborough is within an easy distance of Ramsgate. Along the somewhat melancholy road through the vast flat which skirts the sea between the two extremities of Pegwell Bay, I walked with a friend who was well qualified to explain the former use of that long line of wall, now covered with ivy, to which we were gradually approaching.
Mr. Long and I passed several hours in the examination of this remarkable ruin, some of whose walls are from twenty to thirty feet high, with their outer masonry of tiles and stones perfect in their beautiful regularity, and wonderful for their extreme thickness. We pass the postern gate and are in the interior of the Roman castle, an area of five acres—a luxuriant piece of arable land, where the antiquary is sometimes baffled in his researches by ripening com or beans yet unshrivelled by the summer sun. Since the time of my first visit, antiquarian societies have been delving and digging, but have arrived at no very satisfactory conclusion as to the purposes of a great platform in the arable field, where the wheat and the beans refuse to grow. Again and again I have come to this solitary place, but I was never more thoroughly impressed with its associations than when, sitting here alone, I could meditate upon the vast changes that have taken place since a large arm of the sea cut off the Isle of Thanet from the mainland of Kent, and when this channel formed the readiest passage from the coast of Gaul to London. Through this channel of the Wantsum the Roman vessels from Boulogne sailed direct into the Thames, without going round the North Foreland; and the entrance to the estuary was defended
by the great castle of Richborough at the one end, and by the lesser castle of Reculver at the other. The nearest harbour of access from Gaul was Dover, but when the wind was unfavourable for a direct passage thither, Lemanis (Lymne) and Ritupæ (Richborough) afforded a shelter to early navigation in its access to the British metropolis. When the poor fisherman of Richborough steered his oyster-laden bark to Boulogne, the pharos of Dover lent its light to make his path across the channel less perilous and lonely. At Boulogne there was a corresponding lighthouse of Roman work, an octagonal tower, with twelve stages of floors, rising to the height of one hundred and twenty-five feet. This tower is said to have been the work of
Caligula. It once stood a bowshot from the sea; but in the course of sixteen centuries the cliff was undermined, and it fell in 1644. The pharos of Dover has had a somewhat longer date, from the nature of its position.

A quarter of a century ago, the notion of preserving our ancient ecclesiastical edifices, much less of restoring them, had scarcely entered into the minds of any but the few who were termed enthusiasts, if they were not marked for scorn by some derisive name, whose expression was thought to indicate the honest zeal of English Protestantism. Most surprising is the change. Men, who differ materially upon points of ritual observance with those who have chiefly forced on this change, have not only ceased to oppose, but have agreed to welcome the theory that the House of God was meant to be a house of beauty. The first influence of this altered feeling was to put a stop to the general employment of whitewash and paint, for the purpose of concealing
the glowing colours and the rich carving of the periods before Puritanism took into its head that mere utility was the truest characteristic of a pure and reformed religion. Let me mention one example of this altered spirit—the church of St. Martin at Canterbury. In 1842, I thus described this church; one of the highest antiquity in the island: “Its windows belong to various periods of Gothic architecture; its external walls are patched after the barbarous fashion of modern repairs; it is deformed within by wooden boxes to separate the rich from the poor, and by ugly monumental vanities, miscalled sculpture; but the old walls are full of Roman bricks, relics, at any rate, of the older fabric where
Bertha and Augustine ‘used to pray.’” Three years ago, I looked again upon the lofty towers and pinnacles of the great Cathedral from the gentle elevation on which stands the church of St. Martin. I entered the church, and, whilst the western sun was streaming through the windows, could surrender myself to the thought that, from this little hill, a sound went through the land, which, in a few centuries, called up those glorious edifices which attest the piety and magnificence of our forefathers. What a change had been wrought in this primitive church since my previous visit. Without destroying the peculiar character of the various windows, they had been filled with painted glass, some designed and executed by a lady who is not a mere conventional glass-painter, but has a thorough knowledge of the history and proper application of this beautiful art. Its wooden boxes had been swept away, its monuments are not now obtrusive but subordinate to the general effect of the building. Whether this were a
British, a Roman or a Saxon church it has been restored in the purest taste, and the merit of this good work chiefly belongs to the
Hon. Daniel Finch, whose cultivated mind was calculated to give an impulse to the great improvements which Canterbury now exhibits. When I first saw its Cathedral, the crypt was a receptacle for the rubbish of generations; but there was a far greater abomination within a short distance of the Cathedral Precincts. The monastery of St. Augustine was a ruin, but one, whose beautiful gateways, however dilapidated, still challenged admiration. The venerable place had been transformed into a brewery, a public-house, and a bowling-green. Under the munificent care of Mr. Beresford Hope the brewery, the ale-house, and the bowling-green have been swept away, and a College for the education of missionaries of the Church of England more worthily takes their place.

The periods of the Roman occupation and of the introduction of Christianity by Augustine belong to what we deem authentic history. At Caerleon, near Newport, in> Monmouthshire, Giraldus Cambrensis saw the vestiges of Roman architectural magnificence, temples and theatres, aqueducts and hypocausts. In this little town there is now a museum of antiquities, collected and preserved with a care highly honourable to the inhabitants. But here is also the sacred ground of legendary history—the City of the Legions, where Arthur, the son of Uther Pendragon, Christian king over all Britain, held court with his Knights of the Round Table. “The Idylls of the King,” brief as is their mention of “old Caerleon, upon Usk,” have lent it an interest which Geoffrey of Monmouth has failed to excite, in
our contempt of what we deem his fables. A few months before I saw Caerleon, the
poet of the Idylls had been there, looking about him, as all poets and historians ought to do for local illustrations. He has given us such touches of reality as a Turner would introduce into a landscape to give value to the scenes of his imagination. Take an example—
“Now thrice that morning Guinevere had climb’d
The giant tower, from whose high crest, they say,
Men saw the goodly hills of Somerset,
And white sails flying on the yellow sea;
But not to goodly hill or yellow sea
Look’d the fair queen, but up the vale of Usk,
By the flat meadow.”
Those who have seen Caerleon and its neighbourhood well know that this is not a random guess of an ordinary verse-maker.

Arthur’s birthplace was in fairyland. His deeds, whatever foundation there may be for the legends connected with his name, are always associated with the marvellous. But there was one whose real deeds may vie with the heroic actions of the fabulous king. Alfred was born in a little town of my own Berkshire, which I felt it something like a duty to visit when I was a very young man. When I rested at the sign of the Alfred’s Head in Wantage, I doubt not that I felt a glow of patriotism which I think becomes every youthful inheritor of our Saxon institutions to feel and cherish. I rose early in the morning to gaze upon the White Horse, cut out on the slope of the chalk hill in that ridge which extends from Wantage into Wiltshire. The White Horse was then much overgrown by the springing turf, but I was told that there was once an annual festival called Scouring the Horse, by which
this memorial of some great event was kept fresh and entire. A
writer of the present day has revived the memory of this ancient ceremonial labour, in a little book written with the same spirit that marks the work by which he is best known, “Tom Brown’s Schooldays.” In the century which followed Alfred, came another great Saxon king, whose deeds are as famous in song and legend as those of the British Arthur. Athelstan is recorded to have been buried in the Abbey of Malmesbury; but the antiquaries deny that the tomb, which is there shewn, really belongs to him who “won life-long glory in battle, with edges of swords, near Brunan-burh.” The people of Malmesbury look upon the recumbent effigy of Athelstan with reverence; they keep the annual feast of Athelstan with rejoicing. The hero-worship of Malmesbury is that of Athelstan. When I visited the interesting little town, I was told by a cottager that they owed their common rights to King Athelstan. The name of “The Philosopher of Malmesbury” was perhaps never heard amongst this simple and secluded people. They knew nothing of him whom Warburton called “the terror of the last age, as Tindall and Collins are of this.” Every age has its peculiar terror of some thinker who has evoked the spirit of free inquiry. It is the enduring merit of Hobbes that he was the first great English writer on the science of government.

Malmesbury Abbey and Waltham Abbey are typical of the vast changes that a century and a half had produced in the fortunes of the Anglo-Saxon race. “Athelstan, king, of earls lord, of beorns bracelet-giver,” was to be succeeded by weaker niters till the Danes prevailed, and the Saxons of the
South and the Danes of the North became a mixed race. But the memory of a far more important revolution is associated with Waltham Abbey.
“the noblest and the last
Of Saxon kings; save one, the noblest he,—
The last of all,”
lies buried there. “He was buried,” says
old Fuller, “where now the Earl of Carlisle’s leaden fountain in his garden, then probably the end of the choir, or rather some eastern chapel beyond it; his tomb of plain, but rich gray marble.” Since Fuller was the rector of Waltham Abbey, nearly two hundred years had elapsed when I saw his fine old church, greatly dilapidated and parts of it a ruin. It is now partially restored, as befits its sacred character and all the associations which belong to it. I went alone in 1843 from the neighbourhood of London expressly to devote a day to Battle Abbey. I slept in the little town, and betimes in the morning sought admission at the great gate, and found that the Abbey and the grounds could only be seen on one day in the week. There was nothing for me but to go again on the day prescribed, and in the mean time to content myself with a view from the Hastings road of the battle-field where Harold fell on “the day stained with the blood of the brave.” I went again to the Abbey of Bataille—a disappointing place to those who seek it in a spirit even of moderate enthusiasm. The desecration of Battle Abbey, founded by William the Conqueror, began with the destruction of the monastic houses under Henry the Eighth. It was granted to Sir Anthony Browne, and
he at once set about pulling down some of the principal ecclesiastical buildings. At the beginning of the last century it was sold to the Webster family, and from that time the work of demolition and change regularly went forward. When I saw the place, the remains of the fine cloisters had been turned into a dining-room, and, to use the words of the Hastings Guide-book, “part of the site of the church is now a parterre, which in summer exhibits a fine collection of Flora’s greatest beauties.” This was the very church, whose high altar was described by old writers to have stood on the spot where the body of Harold was found covered with honourable wounds in the defence of his tattered standard. Flora’s greatest beauties!

I have mentioned a walk through the New Forest with the intelligent friend who accompanied me to Stonehenge. We had seen Beaulieu Abbey, then in the wretched state of most of such edifices, and took our way towards Lyndhurst. We were not inclined wholly to agree with the scepticism of Voltaire as to the received opinion that the Conqueror had depopulated the New Forest for the purposes of a hunting-ground, or to accept the poetical exaggeration of Pope about “levell’d towns” and “fields ravished from industrious swains.” Nevertheless the scenery of the New Forest was intimately associated in our minds with the memory of the two first Norman kings. Those few inhabitants of the interior of the forest that we met appeared to us to be unchanged in this ancient woody tract. We came, in the low ground between Beaulieu and Denny Lodge, upon two peasants gathering a miserable crop of rowan. To our questions as to the proper path, they gave a
grin, which expressed as much cunning as idiotcy, and pointed to a course which led us directly to the edge of a bog. They were low of stature, and coarse in feature. The collar of the Saxon slave was not upon their necks, but they were the descendants of the slave, through a long line who had been toiling in hopeless ignorance for seven centuries. Their mental chains have never been loosened. A mile or two farther we encountered a tall and erect man, in a peculiar costume, half peasant, half huntsman. He had the frank manners of one of nature’s gentlemen, and insisted upon going with us a part of the way which we sought to Lyndhurst. His family, too, had been settled here, time out of mind. He was the descendant of the Norman huntsman, who had been trusted and encouraged, whilst the Saxon churl was feared and oppressed. One of these churls is associated with the traditions belonging to the death of the Red King. A charcoal-burner, named Purkess, is recorded to have picked up the body and conveyed it to Winchester, in the cart which he employed in his trade. In the village of Minestead we saw the name of Purkess over the door of a little shop.
“And still, so runs our forest creed,
Flourish the pious woodman’s seed
Even in the selfsame spot:
One horse and cart their little store,
Like their forefathers’, neither more
Nor less, the children’s lot.”*
This is better historical evidence than the stirrup hanging in the hall of the manor court of Lyndhurst,

* “The Red King,” by William Stewart Rose.

which “immemorial tradition” asserts to have belonged to the saddle, from which
Rufus fell when struck by the arrow of Walter Tyrrell;—perhaps even more trustworthy than the “Fair Stone” erected in 1745, which recorded that there stood the oak tree whose bark the arrow grazed.

The merest glance at the famous sites of English history would be manifestly deficient if I were to omit all mention of our Cathedrals. There is not one of these that does not present some general record of the progress of our civilization; which does not offer to the instructed eye some peculiar memorial of events and persons with which it must be ever associated. Wonderful monuments of beauty, erected in ages which we have been ignorantly accustomed to call “dark!” The scholar and the artist may spend years in the study of their architectural details; whilst he who cherishes thoughts far higher than those of antiquarian curiosity and æsthetical gratification, may surrender himself to the holy influences which they inspire, and forget all the foolish strifes engendered in past times by their altars, their tombs, and their painted windows. If the Norman soldiers ejected the earlier possessors of the soil from their castles and granges, the Norman prelates did not wholly waste the fatness of the land in luxurious gratification. Very soon after the Conquest they built Cathedrals. The Cathedral of Durham has stood during eight centuries, since the first stone was laid by one of the second William’s bishops. How grandly it looks down upon the river Wear sweeping round the peninsula upon which the Cathedral and the Castle stand. How solemn is the interior with its round arched columns “looking
tranquillity.” The impressions produced by the majestic simplicity of the earlier architecture might almost make us regret that at Winchester, whose date is as early as Durham, the characteristic of the Norman period has been to a great extent obliterated by the pointed arch. Durham, Salisbury, and York have left the strongest impressions upon my memory, perhaps from some accidental circumstances connected with my first view of them. Such was the grandeur of Durham from the opposite bank of the river soon after sunrise. Such the solemnity of the nave of York, where I sat alone as the setting sun was streaming through the west window. Such the magical lights and shadows of the interior of Salisbury, as, with one or two friends, I silently trod the sacred aisles by moonlight. It would be tedious were I to attempt to connect my own feelings and thoughts upon visiting them with any further mention of Canterbury, Rochester, Exeter, Ely, Gloucester, Hereford, Norwich, Chichester, or Winchester. As historical localities, these, and many of the smaller ecclesiastical edifices, have associations with the past which will render every excursion through our land interesting to the student—perhaps more so than the warder’s tower and the donjon keep of the feudal castles, which tell their tale of what we call chivalry, but which after all is near akin to barbarism.

In the British Museum may be seen by all one of the most precious documents of English History—Magna Charta. It is written in Latin, and the concluding Attestation may be thus translated: “Given under our hand, in the meadow which is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines.” That meadow entered as fully into my early associa-
tions as the regal towers of Windsor. It was with no strained enthusiasm that I wrote,
“Dear plain! never my feet have pass’d thee by,
At sprightly morn, high noon, or evening still,
But thou hast fashion’d all my pliant will
To soul-ennobling thoughts of liberty.”
It was not necessary for me in those youthful days very accurately to know the exact nature of the freedom secured to me by the Great Charter of
John, nor to trace how much more remained to be won before I, and every other plebeian, should inherit a great deal more than the privileges which were wrested from the crown by a feudal aristocracy. From the 15th of June in the memorable year 1215, “a new soul was infused into the people of England.” So writes the historian of our Constitution. On the long narrow strip of fertile meadow, bounded on one side by the Thames and on the other by gentle hills, there was no battle fought for the partial liberty there practically secured. But there was to be many a bloody field before the whole commonalty could claim to be partakers of the rights reluctantly conceded to the Fitz-Walters and De Mowbrays. Even these had again and again to battle for the possession of every inch of the ground they had won.

From the leads of the Castle of Lewes I look upon downs where flocks are peacefully nibbling the thymy grass. The Norman Keep and the adjacent Priory are ruins; but in the year 1264 they were a stronghold of the royal army against which Simon de Montfort had marched from London, to complete the work which Runnymede had failed to secure. The “Protector gentis Angliæ” had discovered that
something more than mailed knights was necessary to constitute a State. He led his soldiers to Lewes to fight not only for feudal rights, but for the interests of all freemen. He conquered. Where the railway now runs beneath the Castle walls there was a fearful slaughter. De Montfort issued writs for an assembly of knights, citizens, and burgesses. These summonses are the first in which we see the real beginnings of an English Parliament. In another year, the great earl was slain in a narrow valley near Evesham. These places are localities full of deep interest; for they have associations of long-lasting and wide-spreading political importance, and of picturesque traditions, which ballad and chronicle have preserved in the simplicity that is the enduring element of historical narrative, as well as of romantic fiction. In the story of Simon de Montfort, the democratic element combines with the heroic. The barber who went up to the top of the high tower of Evesham, and came down pale and trembling to proclaim that the banners of the royal army were near, and the Earl of Leicester who exclaimed “God have our souls all, our days are all done,” are equally historical personages.

The Prince Edward, whose banner carried dismay into the ranks of the confederate army at Evesham, is now the King Edward, the conqueror of Wales. Conway is a monument of that period when an ancient nationality was destroyed, to form an integral portion of a more powerful realm. I spent an evening and a morning there, with the most delightful of companions, in June 1849. With Douglas Jerrold I penetrated the recesses of the ruined castle; climbed the towers, and lingered on the terrace
which overlooks the river; wandered round the walls, that in their enormous extent and massive character furnish a notion of the grandeur of a mediaeval fortified town, that probably no other English example can furnish—a visit ever to be remembered. Had I gone here alone I might have surrendered myself to the romance of the scene; but Jerrold was a friend whose sympathy heightened every charm of the picturesque, and whose cultivated mind could fully appreciate the associations with which history and poetry have invested Conway—“the most romantic town in the kingdom.”* With him there was no ennui in the longest railway journey. Perhaps even the solitary tourist might feel less of the monotony of the train, if the merest glimpse of such a place as Conway would call up images of the great Past.

More than fifty years have passed since I first saw Warwick Castle. I have visited it again and again, and at every renewed visit have derived fresh remembrances of its exquisite combination of grandeur and beauty. That castle is equalled by few monuments of the ages of chivalric splendour and feudal violence. Those grounds are surpassed by none in the artistical refinement which has created such a landscape garden as England only can shew, beneath the towers which fable has invested with silly legends, not half as interesting as historic truth. In Guy’s tower sat, four centuries and a half ago, the terrible earl of Warwick—“the black dog of the wood”—to pronounce judgment of death upon Piers Gaveston, the unhappy favourite of the luxurious

* “Land we Live in.” North Wales, by James Thorne.

king, who by the death of
Edward I. had succeeded to a power for which he was unfitted. About a mile from Warwick is Blacklow hill, on which Gaveston was beheaded. When I first climbed the little knoll, where a stone was placed to record this judicial murder, it was an open spot by the side of the high-road. It is now thickly planted, and the inelegant monument can scarcely be reached by the passing traveller. He will easily forget his disappointment in the gratification of an hour by the side of the Avon, amidst the exquisite scenery of Guy’s Cliff. Here he will be surrounded by legends which tell of the piety and tenderness of the knightly days—their “faithful loves,” which seem to atone for their “fierce wars.”

It did not require the nationality of a Scottish man to be moved to a glow of admiration for the heroic, as I looked upon the field of Bannockburn from the noble height of Stirling. The great victory, which sent the second Edward a fugitive from the country he came to conquer, was a passing humiliation for England; but in “the process of the suns” five centuries are but as a day. The name of Bruce is worthily invoked in Scotland as the war-cry for liberty. Long may it remain so. The time is gone by when the remembrance of Bannockburn was suggestive of border-strifes and more enduring jealousies. The Wallace and the Bruce seem to be of kin to us of the South, and to harmonize with the memories of other struggles for freedom which have been made by our common country. Even the wars of ambition which were waged on the continent by the third Edward have an interest for an intelligent Scot, although the English defeat at Bannockburn
was succeeded by the victory of Nevill’s Cross. In 1855 I stood upon “the little windmill-hill” which overlooks the field of Cressy. A Scottish pedestrian came up, and we long discoursed of that great day, when the English yeomen asserted their island strength over the iron-clad knights of France, and moved not a foot though opposed by ten times their number. In that “solidarity” have Scots and English fought together in many a battle, since the days when victories were won by bow and bill.

The Border country of England and Scotland is a land of romance. The old ballad-maker and the modern novelist have clothed it with those beauties of imagination which hide the grim realities of centuries of bloodshed. Even so, Nature throws her veil over battle-fields, and we seek in vain for the traces of devastation, except where a skull is unearthed to proclaim “it was a glorious victory.” Newcastle, the chief fortified town of the English Border, has almost lost its antique aspect, in its grand railway works and its smart new streets and useful public buildings. It is a change for the better; but the lover of the picturesque would have preferred to have seen more of the rude and incommodious dwellings, such as were crowded within the walls when Newcastle was filled with the English men at arms, marching to or from the Scottish wars. I have seen a few of these around the Black Gate, but I believe they are now swept away. Even the last twenty years have produced a marked change. I presume that I should not now find a public coach from Newcastle to Edinburgh, rapid as that on which I took my seat on a bright morning of Spring, to be carried through a country made doubly interest-
ing by the minstrelsy of three centuries. The road by the Cheviots to Jedburgh may now be little travelled, for the rail by Berwick has superseded it. I chanced to sit by the side of a most intelligent fellow-traveller—a Scottish man of rank—when he said to me “This is Otterbourne.” My thoughts instantly went to
him who said, “I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet;” and I could identify the scenes by the picturesque narrative of Froissart as we came upon the marshy valley where the Douglas was encamped, and the Percy led up his archers, with the moon shining bright as day. This border-feud has its grand poetical aspect. The chivalry of England and Scotland fought with all courtesy at Chevy Chace; but there was nothing but sheer barbarism when the captains of Henry VIII. burnt Kelso and Jedburgh.

A few years later, the Percy and the Douglas were leagued together in a common hatred of him whom they deemed an usurper and an ingrate. The aspiring house of Lancaster was in grievous peril when Hotspur led his Northumbrian archers to the walls of Shrewsbury. I walked over Hateley field with Peter Cunningham, whose knowledge of antiquities was something higher than that of “tombstone” learning. We looked upon “the busky hill” of Shakspere, and explored the little chapel which Henry IV. built and endowed, that mass might be chanted for the souls of the men who died in the great battle, in which half of those engaged were killed or wounded. Young Harry has to fight even a more doubtful battle than that of Shrewsbury. I have followed him over the ground of Agincourt—saw
him marching with his few and exhausted men up the little hill from Blangy, to behold the French filling a very wide field, “as if with an innumerable host of locusts”—and marked how favourable was the ground for a daring attack, when the hundred and fifty thousand of his enemies were cooped up between two woods. I have seen the inclosed potato ground where the flower of the chivalry of France was buried, and have heard in a little neighbouring inn a discussion about projects for raising a monument to their memory on the fatal plain. A survey, rapid even as that which I was able to take of Agincourt, gives a precision to our notion of great battlefields, which cannot be derived from plans and verbal explanations. Profitably has
Mr. Carlyle been engaged in examining the sites of Frederick’s battles! What materials they furnish for his unrivalled power of local description! The London artisan, who is desirous to understand our English history whilst he breathes a fresher air, could not better employ an Easter holiday than in walking a mile or two from the railway to Barnet. When he has stood beneath the column by the road-side beyond Barnet, which has this record: “Here was fought the famous battle between Edward the 4th and the Earl of Warwick, April the 14th, anno 1471;” let him carefully examine the ground on which the quarrel of the White and Red Roses was principally determined. He may follow the army of Edward, marching at night-fall on Easter eve up the hill of Barnet, past the ancient church, and so on to the open plain where Warwick was encamped. He would see how the ground suddenly falls to the east from the elevated plain, and how the king, having in the darkness taken up this position, escaped the
cannonade which Warwick carried on almost all the night, for “they always overshot the king’s host.” There is a description of the battle, by an eye-witness, and these little circumstances prove its accuracy. On that terrible morning of April there was “a great mist,” and the contending armies fought at random for three hours. When I saw this battlefield there was such a mist rising from the clay lands below Barnet. Four centuries of cultivation had not wholly changed the character of the country.

With the wars of the Roses terminated the age of castle building, and of reliance upon the fortified walls of the times of the Plantagenets. The semblance of strength was kept up in the general architectural character of great mansions, but, except under peculiar circumstances, they were incapable of offering a prolonged resistance to the assaults of an enemy provided with artillery. The physical strength of man to man, as they battled on the ramparts, or held fast the gates of the inner court, no longer decided the issue of a siege. The moat was not a secure protection. The internal comfort of a baronial dwelling ceased to be sacrificed to the necessity of lighting its chambers by loopholes, through which, if no arrow could enter, no ray of the sun could penetrate. A new era of architecture had arisen, such as may be seen in the beautiful ruin of Hurstmonceaux, in Sussex. It was “a gallant building for lodging,” as Leland described Nottingham Castle, although it had seventeen octagon towers and a machicolated gateway. Its builder, in the reign of Henry VI, obtained a licence “to embattle and fortify his manor-house,” yet the use of brick in all its parts is perhaps a sufficient proof that it was not fortified to resist
the attacks of an army, but rather to keep out the predatory bands of an unsettled period. The story of Lord Dacre of the South, the unhappy young man who was executed in the time of
Henry VIII. for his participation in the death of a gamekeeper, who resisted the attempt of himself and some wild companions to take a deer in a neighbouring park, gives a semi-historical interest to Hurstmonceaux. The age of legal violence had succeeded that of feudal contest, for Camden says that Lord Dacre was put to death at the instigation of courtiers, who expected to get possession of his estates upon his forfeiture. Although this tragedy is the subject of a very clever drama, I was less interested in its remembrance than in the literary associations of Hurstmonceaux. Harriet Martineau and I visited this place together, and we talked more about Julius Hare, its rector, and John Sterling, its curate, than of the old histories connected with the castle, and with the flat marsh of Pevensey, of which it commands a view.

The old manor-house of Hever, in Kent, has historical associations of more recent date and of more lasting interest than those suggested by its castellated character, its lofty gatehouse with flanking towers, its portcullis, and its moat. The hall has been restored, and fitted up with some of the original family furniture of antique chairs covered with needlework. Tradition says that the unhappy lady, who has made this ancestral seat famous, herself worked some of these faded relics of early luxury. Here dwelt Anne Boleyn. A bare and rugged apartment is the long gallery or ball-room, with a rough oak floor. Here Anne was led out by her royal lover to join hands in a French brawl. Here from the
bay window which commanded the adjacent hill she waved her handkerchief when she first heard the sound of his bugle. Such are the fond tales which tradition hands down to divert our thoughts from “the little neck” and fatal block. If
“Gospel light first beam’d from Boleyn’s eyes,”
there was a period of darkness before the perfect day. What England had to bear in that transition period, may be inferred when we linger amidst any of the exquisite ruins of the conventual houses, whether it be Fountains Abbey, or Tintern, or Glastonbury, or Bolton. The presence of the beautiful, in its solemn decay, must ever inspire a melancholy feeling; especially when we consider that so great a good as the Reformation could not have been accomplished without so much destruction, in which it is difficult to say whether private rapacity or public benefit were the moving principle.

England abounds with historical localities that call up the memory of the daughter of Henry the Eighth and Anne Boleyn. The presiding associations of Kenilworth are the sumptuous Leicester and Elizabeth, weak only in her vanity and her fancied affections. We muse upon the intellectual refinements of her court, and all the graces of the latter chivalry, when we sit at Penshurst under Sidney’s Oak, which Ben Jonson has celebrated as—
“That taller tree, which of a nut was set,
At his great birth, where all the Muses met.”
As we stand upon the Hoe at Plymouth, we think more of the high-born
Howards, and the Drakes and Frobishers who had fought their way upwards from
before the mast,—all with the heartiest good-will going forth with their little pinnaces to fight the great Armada coming up the Channel—than of the vast arsenals of modern times, from which ships are turned out that would sink the largest galleon by a few broadsides. The hearty patriotism that was then animating the gentlemen and yeomen of England has been our country’s safety, even to the present hour. A few years ago, a master of fiction gave me a new interest in the heroes of Plymouth and the land of
Raleigh and Cavendish, for Charles Kingsley had written his “Westward Ho.” With the reign of Elizabeth there are many painful as well as patriotic associations. Without yielding to the exaggerated admiration with which it has been attempted to invest the character of Mary Stuart, when I went over Hardwick Hall, and was shown “Mary Queen of Scots’ Apartment,” I could not but feel that her long imprisonment, with all its hopes and fears, was a heavy penalty for her errors. I did not then know that she never had an “apartment” in
“Proud Hardwick Hall
More windows than wall.”
The present house was not built until after her death. The older mansion, in which she was confined, is an adjacent ruin.

When we arrive at the regnal period of the Stuarts, we may care very little to look upon the remaining walls of Theobalds, for the memory of that palace is associated with James the First, who, for England’s misdeeds towards Scotland, was sent to plague us by his pedantry and his despotic tendencies. He passes away, and then comes a revival of that period of
intense national interest, when every county has some association with that struggle for civil and religious liberty, which was fought out in the middle of the seventeenth century. If the tourist desires to dwell upon the memories of the great intellects who, by the sword or the pen, made the despised of the people a real power in the state, let him go to the beech-woods of Hampden, and look upon the house where he dwelt who roused the nation by his resistance to Ship-Money; or let him spend a contemplative hour beneath the yew-trees of the churchyard of Horton, in the same county of Buckingham, where the young
Milton was training himself to contend for the liberty of “Unlicensed Printing.” If he would encourage a glow of admiration for the spirit of the Cavaliers, he would traverse the battle-field of Newbury, where Falkland fell, or he would go to Basing House—the house called “Loyalty,” which endured siege after siege of the Parliamentarians, and surrendered not till Cromwell battered it from the higher ground, beneath which the South-Western Railway now runs. If he would connect this period with the sorrows of Charles the First, let him visit Carisbrook. If he would remember what we have escaped from since the second Charles was restored, let him visit the old building upon the banks of the Lea, which was the scene of the Rye House Plot, for a pretended participation in which Russell and Algernon Sidney were sacrificed.

In 1824, I explored Lady Place, in the village of Hurley, on the Berkshire side of the Thames. This Elizabethan mansion was built on the site of a Benedictine Monastery, and in the vaults, over which the Tudor building was erected, a modern inscription
recorded that this house of “Our Lady” was founded at the time of the great Norman revolution, and that “In this place, six hundred years afterwards, the revolution of 1688 was begun.” The mansion is now a ruin, but the vaults and the inscription remain. I read it in companionship with one of the foremost of those “representative men,” who, from one generation to another, have grown up to prove how much constitutional liberty has to do with that vigour of thought and freedom of action, by which England’s sons have built up her wealth, her power, and her happiness. That friend was
Rowland Hill.