LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Prelude 2

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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§ II.] A PRELUDE. 67
Section II

At the midsummer of 1805, I was taken altogether from my school. It did not appear to me that I was changing restraint for freedom. I left with bitter feelings, for I had imbibed such a tincture of learning as made me desirous to be a scholar. My father’s determination to put me to business, at the early age of fourteen, did not pass without some remonstrance from my schoolmaster. His answer was that I had acquired enough knowledge to fit me for my station in life; and if I became a bookseller I was not likely to be treated as Johnson treated Osborne, when he knocked him down with a folio, saying, “Lie there, thou lump of lead.” My destiny was sealed when I signed my indenture of apprenticeship. My life, however, was not altogether without opportunities of mental improvement. My first occupation interested me greatly. M. Porny, of whom I have spoken, died in 1804, leaving my father one of his executors. The co-executor declined to act. With the exception of a few legacies, all M. Porny’s property, of which the residue exceeded 4000l., was bequeathed to a small charity school at Eton. Upon his decease, letters which he had prepared were forwarded to his surviving relatives at Caen, and they manifested an intention to dispute his chief bequest, under the Statute of Mortmain. A friendly suit in Chancery was accordingly commenced; and it being necessary that a somewhat voluminous French correspondence should be laid
before the Master in Chancery to whom the matter was referred, my first literary task was to translate the letters which had been sent and received during the half century in which M. Porny had found a refuge in England from the alleged unkindness of his family. The probability is that the Master never read either the originals or my translation; but these letters were read by me with intense interest. In them there was a mystery gradually unfolded, as in some enchaining narrative of fiction. The real name of the French teacher at Eton College—the author of many elementary books, and of a well-known volume on Heraldry, that bear the name of A. Porny—was Antoine Pyron du Martre. Here were depicted the undying memories of early wrongs; the strong will which had scorned all fellowship of his kinsmen when the solitary native of Normandy was struggling for bread in a foreign land; the triumphs of his pride in rejecting the proffered kindness which came too late; the determination that he would leave his hard-earned riches for the benefit of the land in which he had gathered them. The educational books of M. Porny are obsolete. But there is a building in Eton, known as “Porny’s Free School,” which will not pass into oblivion; for here sixty boys and thirty girls are educated. The old foreigner, as I knew him, was a Poor Knight of Windsor. I have a curious account, in his own handwriting, of “most of all the expenses which I have incurred for being made a Poor Knight of Windsor,” in which the date of his removal from Eton to the Castle is given as the 27th of November, 1781. This paper is in some respects a singular record of a past condition of society. It would appear that M. Porny’s
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 69
official residence in the Upper Foundation was in a ruinous condition; that he had to bear the cost of repairs himself, amounting in various items to more than two hundred pounds, after he had vainly petitioned the Board of Works, and had, with a sagacious appreciation of the habits of public departments, propitiated the local officer of the Board by presents of two dozen of claret, two dozen of Madeira, a turbot, and two lobsters. The good old Frenchman was thus anything but a Poor Knight when he retired from his labours. He lived in his lettered ease very frugally for the accomplishment of his cherished purpose of founding a Free School, having his chief enjoyment in a small garden which he rented near the town, wherein he built a sort of pavilion where he worked and meditated.

And now began to be developed the peculiar temptations of my position—the opportunity for desultory reading to the neglect of all systematic acquirement; the tendency to day-dreams and morbid fancies, in the utter want of any improving companionship with those of my own age. From fourteen to seventeen I was learning the printer’s trade, more, as it were, for recreation than for use; set no task-work, but occasionally working with irregular industry at some self-appointed tasks. The indulgence of my father was meant, I may believe, to compensate me for his opposition to my desire for a higher occupation than that which he pursued. Thus I was often galloping my pony along the glades of the forest; or watching my float, hour after hour, from the Thames bank at Datchet or at Clewer; or wandering, book in hand, by the river-side in the early morning; or plunging into “the shade of
melancholy boughs” on some “sunshine holiday.” I read the old novels and the old poems again and again.
Miss Porter and Mrs. Opie gave me fresh excitement when I was tired of Mrs. Radcliffe. “The Pleasures of Hope” and Beattie’sMinstrel” had long been my familiar favourites. At this time there were published charming little volumes of verse and prose, as “Walker’s Classics,” one of which was generally in my pocket. But in 1805 a new world of romance was opened to me by “The Lay of the Last Minstrel.” The old didactic form of poetry now seemed tedious compared with the adventures of William of Deloraine, and the tricks of the Goblin Page. Meanwhile my small Latin and less Greek were vanishing away. The newspaper, too, occupied much of my reading time. It was a period of tremendous interest, even to the apprehension of a boy. What an autumn and what a winter were those of 1805, in which I was enabled, day by day, to read the narratives of such deeds as stirred the heart of England in the days of the great Armada! Napoleon had broken up the camp at Boulogne, and was marching to the Rhine. Nelson had gone on board the “Victory” at Portsmouth, and had joined the fleet before Cadiz. On the 3rd of November came the news of the surrender of the Austrian army to the French Emperor at Ulm. On the 7th we were huzzaing for the final naval glory of Trafalgar, and weeping for the death of Nelson. Pitt rejoiced and wept when he was called up in the night to receive this news, as the humblest in the land rejoiced and wept. Before I saw the funeral of Nelson, on the 9th of January, Pitt had received that fatal mail which told of the
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 71
destruction at Austerlitz of all his hopes of a triumphant coalition against France. It broke his heart. He died on the 23rd of January. Tame, by comparison, as were the great public events which followed these mighty struggles, they were perhaps more exciting in the conflicting opinions which they provoked. England was still heart-whole. She was not dismayed, even when Napoleon had the Prussian monarchy at his feet, and
Alexander of Russia had exchanged vows of friendship with him on the raft at Tilsit. Though she became isolated in her great battle for existence, her resolution was not exhausted. But she was humiliated by the events of the Dardanelles and of Buenos Ayres. She blushed when Copenhagen was bombarded, and she fancied that the abstraction of the Danish fleet was a wanton robbery. In this case, as in many others, journalism was not history. The secret articles of the Treaty of Tilsit had not then come to light for the vindication of the Government.

The people at this time, even at Windsor, grew gloomy and discontented. Public affairs were unprosperous; parties ran high; the taxes increased with the expenses of the war and the yearly additions to the interest of the debt. It was not only the actual amount of taxation of which the middle classes complained, but of the oppressive and insulting mode of their assessment. The excisable trader had too long been familiarised with the presence of the revenue officer to complain. He walked into the tallow-chandler’s workshop without ceremony, put a seal upon his copper and his dipping vat, and locked up his moulds. He looked over the grocer’s wares of tobacco, pepper, and tea, at his good pleasure; and this pro-
cess, which he called taking stock, was insulting and troublesome to the honest, and no real check upon the fraudulent. The liquor-merchant did not dare to send out a dozen of wine or a gallon of spirits without a permit. The Income-Tax was truly inquisitorial, for the local Commissioners had no hesitation in ordering a tradesman to produce his ledger and cash-book. If there was an error in the return of Assessed Taxes the resident officer of revenue, called an Inspector, immediately made a surcharge, which it was extremely difficult to get off by appeal. I was once horror-struck by witnessing a scene between an apoplectic innkeeper and the tax-collector, who had no alternative but to insist upon the payment of a confirmed surcharge. The unhappy man, doubly red with passion, slid out of his arm-chair in the bar, and, falling upon his knees, exclaimed, “May the curse of God light upon you all. Now I’ll pay it.”

And yet, amidst much grumbling and disaffection, the majority of my townsmen went on in the lighthearted course which was habitual to them. There were few fluctuations of fortune amongst us, as in a manufacturing district; no sudden prostrations of the capitalist; no exceptional miseries of the labourer. There was amusement and excitement for us in the invariable round of the weeks and months. The 4th of June was a great day of bell-ringing, and reviews, and the regatta of the Eton boys, which closed with fireworks. There were Ascot Races, to which the Royal Family came in state up the course, their carriages preceded by the master of the buckhounds, with his huntsman and his yeomen prickers. Ascot was too distant from London for a multifarious assemblage from Tottenham Court Road
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 73
and St. Mary Axe to be there. The neighbouring gentry came in their carriages, and the farmers, came in their taxed carts. A few Bow Street officers stood around the royal booth, but they were not installed in the preventive duties of suppressing E. O. tables, and of overturning the stools of the numberless professors of “the thimble-rig” and “prick in the garter.” If a pickpocket were detected, he had Lynch law. He was conducted to a pond at the rear of the booths, and there, with a long rope fastened round his waist, was dragged through the water till he was half dead. There was the weekly meet of the hounds, who duly went forth to some neighbouring common from the kennel at Swinley, with the deer in the cart. It was not necessary to give the poor animal much law, for the stag-hound of that day was slow, and there were more hacks than hunters in the field. The King walked as usual on the Terrace, but loyalty was not so demonstrative as in the earlier days. The
Marquis of Thomond knocked off a man’s hat when it was not lifted as the King passed, and the suspected democrat knocked down the Marquis of Thomond.

Left much to my own thoughts, young as I was, I gradually grew into a chronic state of suspicion as to the general excellence of our political and social system. I saw a vast deal of wretchedness around me, and I saw no attempt to relieve it except by doles of bread at the church door on Sundays, with an indiscriminate alms-giving to vagrants every night by the overseer, and a driving of them out of the borough by the beadle the next day. There was no education, except at the Free School for some thirty boys and
twenty girls. The national school of Eton, which the good old Frenchman founded, preceded our Windsor national school by fifteen years. Out relief to the poor was voted every week by a committee with a lavish hand. The assistant overseer insulted the weak, and was bullied by the strong. The parish gravel-pit was the specific for want of employment, continuous or temporary. The poors rate was enormous, for there was destitution everywhere through sickness and death, produced by the contempt of sanitary laws. There was no dispensary, and the parish doctor was hard worked and ill paid. It is difficult, in these happier times of fiscal enlightenment, to estimate what the poor had to endure in the incidence of taxation. The great burden which they had to bear was in the dearness of food. Without mentioning the effect upon their means of living by the laws for the protection of agriculture—which told upon the market-price not only of bread, but of meat, bacon, butter, cheese—there was excessive direct taxation for the purposes of revenue upon sugar, upon tea, upon coffee, upon soap, upon candles, upon salt. They lived in miserable hovels, for there were duties of enormous pressure upon bricks, upon foreign timber, upon glass. The cost of a cotton gown was enhanced by the duties upon raw cotton and upon printed calicos. Worst of all, the effect of this vast mass of injudicious taxes was to arrest the profitable employment of capital, and thus to reduce the labourer to the lowest condition. The oppression and the neglect which I witnessed all around me,—evils of which I did not see the causes or anticipate the remedies,—drove me into those socialistic beliefs which it is a mistake to think did not exist in
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 75
young and incautious minds long before the present day. I was a sort of Communist in 1808. In a satirical poem (whose MS. has turned up with other rubbish of verse and prose stored in an old box) I poured out my indignation against the indifference and pride, lay and clerical, which I saw around me. I find there these lines, which I give, believe me, not as evidence of poetical talent but of a jaundiced imagination. Many have written much of the same stuff at a riper age than mine, who have in time learnt the worth of more practical philanthropy. But surely that youth is to be pitied who begins by setting up for a political economist.
“Hail happy days, primeval ages hail,
Which deck the warm enthusiast’s glowing tale,
When simple Nature, pure and unconfined,
With equal gifts ennobled all mankind;
When hardy energy and rugged toil
Alone could snatch the blessings of the soil,
And wearied diligence return’d to seize
The cup of pleasure in the lap of ease!
Now when the hand of unsubstantial worth
Grasps every treasure of the teeming earth,
And Nature vainly spreads her equal store
Whilst millions, heirs of plenty, still are poor,
Say, shall the glittering pomp of pride despise
The humble toil that taught the proud to rise?
Say, shall the wretched, all-laborious hind
In vain demand the bread he gives mankind?”

I fear that in this unwatched time of morbid thoughts my religious principles were in as great danger of running wild as my political. I had read some of the old divines—Hall, and Barrow, and Jeremy Taylor—with real benefit. I fear that I acquired a sceptical humour from such defences of the faith as Watson’sApology for the Bible,” and
Lyttelton’sConversion of St. Paul.” They attempted to prove too much to satisfy my reason, which they addressed exclusively. They did not marshal their proofs with the consummate skill displayed by Sherlock in his “Trial of the Witnesses;” nor did they charm away the mists of doubt by the tolerant and fearless candour of Berkeley in his “Alciphron.” Beattie’sEssay on Truth” did not sink deep into my heart, although the King and Queen had lauded it as the greatest of all theological triumphs, as if there had been no such book as Butler’sAnalogy.” The service at our church was too cold and formal—often too slovenly—to satisfy me. There was no congregational singing. Chaunts and musical responses were unknown. I got away from it, whenever I could, to find a seat in St. George’s Chapel, where the cathedral service was exquisitely performed. On Sunday the choir was full; but I could stand by the iron gates of the south aisle, and hear every note of the rich harmonies of Boyce and Handel breathed from the lips of Sale or Vaughan. On a frosty winter evening of the week-day it mattered little to me that the choir was empty and cold. I yielded up my whole heart to the soothing influences. I was sometimes glad to be admitted into a stall by a good-natured verger; for at times my attention was sadly distracted by the tricks and grimaces of the young choristers, who, as they knelt in apparent prayer, were occupied in modelling hideous figures out of the ends of their wax candles. Such were the secrets disclosed to me as I commonly sat on the free bench by the side of the sportive lads. These practices were gradually extinguished by a better discipline; but there was one practice which no discipline could
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 77
control, for it was an institution as old as the days of James I.
Decker, in his “Gull’s Horn-book,” thus ironically advises the lounger in Paul’s: “Be sure your silver spurs clog your heels, and then the boys will swarm about you like so many white butterflies; when you, in the open quire, shall draw forth a perfumed embroidered purse, and quoit silver into the boys’ hands.” Thus have I seen a stranger civilian stalk into the choir of St. George’s Chapel. The spur was instantly detected; and when the bewildered man was surrounded by a bevy of white surplices as he loitered in the nave, there was no help for him but to pay the spur-money.

Such interruptions to the beauty and solemnity of the service were not sufficient to prevent their abiding impressions; and thus the salt of devotion was not wholly washed out of me. I was, however, well nigh rushing into the desert, in going through the ceremony which was to keep me in the fold. I had diligently prepared myself for Confirmation. Dr. Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, was to perform the rite. There was an absence of all solemnity, and even of decency, upon which I look back with disgust. I still see the bishop’s officers driving the young people to the altar-rails as if they were sheep going to the fair; the monotonous formality of the imposition of hands upon the huddled batches who knelt for a few minutes, and then were chased back to their seats by the impatient ministers of the solemnity. Its failure altogether to satisfy my excited feelings compelled me into a passion of tears, and I went home and told my father that I would be a Quaker or a Unitarian. I think that Confirmation confirmed whatever was
sceptical in my composition; and I had to escape into the region of natural piety, and long dwell there, before I could become reconciled to the establishment which could endure such profanations.

Up to my sixteenth or seventeenth year I had found little in my professional pursuits to interest me. But I then became what Mr. Hill Burton terms a “Bookhunter.” My father was always a great buyer of second-hand books. He attended sales. He purchased private libraries. He bought many more books than he sold. Many of his rare volumes had been heaped up in cupboards till I routed them out, and made a complete catalogue of some thousands. This occupation was of lasting advantage to me, in widening my horizon of knowledge. I was led to study and abstract, not only Dibdin and De Bure, but the catalogues of great London booksellers, such as those of White and Egerton and Cuthell (the predecessors of the later and greater authorities). These enlightened my provincial estimate of value by “scarce,” “rare,” “very rare.” To hunt in brokers’ shops; to attend sales, and sometimes bid for volumes that I carried home in triumph at a small price; to talk with gusto to an old apothecary at Slough about black-letter treasures; this was a pursuit that weaned me from many of my idle reveries, and was not without its use in later life. The remembrance of that worthy book-collector of the then small village of Slough fills me, even now, with a sort of pride at the honour of having been regarded by him with a feeling that we were fellow-travellers upon the same road—he with his large experience and superb acquisitions, I with my newly-developed bibliomania and small store of
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 79
treasures. Often have I peeped into his little shop on the high road,—strong in many odours among which rhubarb prevailed,—to see if my master was at liberty to discourse to a pupil on his favourite theme. He would suspend his labours, if he were not too busy, and hand over the pestle to his attendant boy. We then went up his narrow staircase into his sanctum. His first words invariably were, “What have you got?” I remember to have found upon a stall in Windsor market two black-letter pamphlets of the early English Reformers. They were not much to his taste when I produced them; nor did he care for a rare Elzevir which I brought out of my pocket. He would then unlock the casket where he kept his jewels, and would delight my eyes with something rich and rare that he had recently obtained in a hasty visit to London, made for the especial purpose of a book-hunt. How well do I recollect the glow of his honest face as he placed before me a
Wynkyn de Worde, torn and, dirty, but nevertheless a fit companion for the imperfect Caxton on his most sacred shelf. Missals he had, and early English Bibles. They ranged harmoniously side by side. I soon grew to laugh at Dr. Peckham’s enthusiasm; but better thoughts would suggest to me how good it was that an old man who had no cares of children to engross him,—one who had little aptitude for the acquirement of real knowledge, scientific or literary—should have a pursuit which was intensely gratifying to him, and had a semblance of learning to the world as well as to himself.

Even as Sir William Jones advised the young Templar to read over law catalogues at his breakfast, that he might gain a general perception of
the learning of which he desired to become the master, so I gained something like a broad view of the range of literature by my bibliographical studies. In these dealings in second-hand books, a circumstance occurred which I think had some effect in leading me to one of the most pleasant labours of my future life. I had been sent to a house at Old Windsor to make a list of books belonging to a clergyman who had received an appointment in India. When the price to be given had been settled at home, I again went to make the offer, with the money in my hand. The generous man was pleased with what he considered liberal terms, and said to me, “Young gentleman, I give you that imperfect copy of
Shakspere for yourself.” It was the first folio. Sadly defective it was in many places. I devised a plan for making the rare volume perfect. The fac-simile edition, then recently published, was procured. Amongst the oldest founts of type in our printing-office was one which exactly resembled that of the folio of 1623. We had abundant fly-leaves of seventeenth-century books which matched the paper on which this edition was printed. I set myself the task of composing every page that was wholly wanting, or was torn and sullied. When the book was handsomely bound I was in raptures at my handiwork. I was to have the copy for myself; but one of the Eton private-tutors, to whom my father showed the volume, and explained how it had been completed, offered a tempting price for it, and my treasure passed from me. Some real value remained. The process of setting up the types led me to understand the essential differences of the early text, as compared with modern editions with
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 81
which I was familiar, especially those which had been maimed and deformed for the purposes of the stage. What would I not now give, could I obtain this testimonial that I had not been altogether uselessly employed in this morning of my life, before a definite purpose for the future had given energy and consistency to my pursuits!

My future walk in the world was gradually shaping itself into a distant view of a practicable hill-side road. It became clear to me that, as the professions seemed to be shut out from my adoption by my father’s anxious desire that I should remain with him, my only way of escape from the petty cares of the trade of a country bookseller and small printer was to make literature, in some way or other, my vocation. It was not by writing commonplace essays and occasional odes and sonnets (which I had the sense to burn as fast as they were composed) that I was to carry out this purpose. If I were to accomplish anything, I must have a locus standi. There was my father’s printing-office; he was not without capital. Windsor, with its objects of interest, was without a newspaper. Some day, not very far off, should my ambition gain me the conduct of such a journal? I felt that the vocation of a journalist—even of a provincial journalist—required thought, energy, various knowledge. I applied myself to study the history of my country and the nature of its institutions. I had De Lolme and Blackstone often at my side. Burke enchanted me. Yet I did not wholly surrender my political faith to the eloquent philosophy which had become Toryism, and which, in the dread of the French Revolution, was opposed to every change and every obvious remedy for the grossest
abuses. The Hunts—
John and Leigh—began to publish “The Examiner” in 1808. To my enthusiastic views, the Hunts were the true men—almost the only ones who spoke the truth—as the younger brother was the most winning of periodical writers. Then there was the “Edinburgh Review”—advocating Catholic Emancipation and many practical reforms which were held as dangerous innovations, and which, in their terror of the word “innovation,” legislators were afraid to touch. But when the Reviewers were indiscriminately denouncing the conduct of the war and the imbecility of the Government—bitter in their sarcasms against administrative mistakes, depressing in their belief of the hopelessness of the contest, and ungenerous in their appreciation of the only military leader who seemed likely to stand between the living and the dead and stay the plague,—I could see, however imperfectly, the one-sidedness of political partizanship which neutralized the best efforts of the Whig Journal. Conflicting opinions sometimes distracted me. There were the alternations of joy and of gloom, of confidence and of despair, as the events of 1808-9 presented themselves to view. The insurrection of the Spanish Patriots was a beacon-light amidst the darkness. The people were shouting one day for Wellesley’s triumph over Junot, and the next day cursing the Convention of Cintra. Moore had marched into Spain in November; on the 1st of January he had accomplished his disastrous retreat to Corunna, there won a victory and died a soldier’s death. Never shall I forget my feelings on the bitter cold day on which this news arrived, nor the indignation with which, some months after, his Journal was perused. There came
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 83
to Windsor the son of a joiner, who had left his father’s house a stalwart dragoon, and returned crippled and emaciated from the Spanish campaign. He lent me his simple diary of his sufferings and privations, which told of the horrors of war far more forcibly than the newspaper reports of the wounded and fever-stricken who filled the hospitals. The public mind was inflamed by the mixed feelings of disappointment and pity. Then came the wretched inquiry into the conduct of the
Duke of York. The hopes that had been revived of Germany being roused to resistance were dissipated by the battle of Wagram. The expectation of a mighty blow to be struck by England single-handed against France, by the greatest armament that had ever left our shores, came to an end in the pestilent marshes of Walcheren. Talavera failed to raise the once-sanguine national spirit. It was a long while before many people warmed into hope and confidence; months, and even years, before they could fully learn to disbelieve the prophecies of the Whigs, and refuse to throw themselves in the dust before the car of the conqueror. For myself, I had the old patriotic associations around me to prevent me wholly agreeing with the freeholders of my county in their address to the King, that, “under the government of persons apparently inadequate to avert the dangers and difficulties of the country, we see no end to our misfortunes.” I was not yet prepared to write Finis Anglicæ. With my fellow-townspeople of all ranks and ages, I went into the boundless excitement of the Jubilee of the 25th of October; was a manager of the ox-roasting in the Bachelor’s Acre; marched in a procession of Bachelors, in the evening costume
of blue coat, white waistcoat, knee-breeches, and silk stockings, to present slices of the ox on a silver salver to the Queen and Princesses; danced at the Jubilee Ball, at the Town Hall; and wrote satirical verses upon the genteel exclusives who attempted to separate the attorneys’ wives and daughters from the grocers’ wives and daughters, by stretching a silken rope across the room, thus forming two sets. I somehow recollect that the plebeian ladies were as well dressed, and rather more beautiful, than those above the rope, so that a good many of the exalted were left without partners—at least, by the younger officers of the Blues and the Stafford Militia.

Windsor was a town that had ceased, in those days, to be the residence of many persons of independent fortunes. There was mushroom gentility growing up at the Castle’s foot; there was the unapproachable dignity of Canons of Windsor and Fellows of Eton; there were the pretensions of brewers and corn-dealers, who flattered themselves that they ranked far above shopkeepers. An atmosphere of proud ignorance was surrounding the whole region. I had a confident belief that I could do something, among my own class, to dissipate this fog. In 1810 I formed some dozen young men into a Reading Society. We hired a room of the corporation in connection with the Town Hall. They elected me their President. Twenty-three years afterwards Sir John Herschel was the President of a similar society at Windsor; and in a lecture which I then delivered I told my old townsmen how we had failed, and what were the changes of opinion that had made one of the greatest scientific men of the age a leader in the diffusion of intelligence, whilst ridicule awaited the earlier effort of
§ II.] A PRELUDE. 85
myself and a few others. In the old box of forgotten records of my tentative progress to usefulness in my generation, I find my inaugural address. Let me copy a passage to exhibit a specimen of the good old times:—

“An opinion has been set forth with no little activity, and with a plausibility of ridicule sufficient to actuate those who ought to have united most cordially in this measure—a cry which has been raised in the haunts of the ignorant and at the tables of the educated—that it is departing from our proper sphere of action to engage in pursuits of this nature. These sagacious reasoners would imply that the common reward of ordinary occupation is sufficient to engross every faculty of the industrious part of the community. No pursuits shall fill up the hour of relaxation but those of trifling vulgarity or listless inaction. Good heavens! when I devote myself to occupations which are alike rendered necessary by my duty and my interest, am I to extinguish every honourable and praiseworthy feeling and rest satisfied with the torpid exercise of daily drudgery? When these cold-hearted bigots would thus exclude me from every gratification of intellect, why do they not demand that I should close my eyes to the appearances of universal nature, where every object excites my curiosity and my wonder? I am so sufficiently convinced of the dignity and importance of an industrious life, that I will never exchange it for the gaudy insipidity of luxurious idleness; but I will yet earnestly endeavour to raise its importance, by acquisitions that will exempt me from the oppressions of power or the arrogance of wealth.”

Let me not, looking back upon these days, do
injustice to those who prevented the extension of what would now be called a “Literary and Scientific Institution.” I believe we were ourselves exclusives; and that if any one of our members had proposed the admission of the most intelligent journeyman amongst us, the sons of substantial tradesmen and the lawyers’ or bankers’ clerks would have hooted him down. The age of mechanics’ institutes, in which it is desired, if not altogether attained, that all are to meet on the common platform of knowledge, was still far off. The opinions of the great majority were against adult education altogether. The young men of the middle class were to rest satisfied with their small school acquirements. For the working class to read books was to make them dangerous members of society. Nevertheless, some did read; and their reading was not altogether of that innocent but dreary kind which those who dropped tracts in poor men’s homes, about the duty of loyal obedience and reverential content, thought sufficient—the next best thing to the old safe ignorance.

A great revolution was coming over Windsor. In November, 1810, the Princess Amelia died. The youngest daughter of George III.—perhaps the most beautiful of a beautiful female family—had for some years been a sufferer from a malady which the best surgical advice had arrested but had failed to cure. One of the Frogmore fêtes was given in. honour of her supposed restoration, and I remember a transparency of Hygeia, which was an emblem of gratitude for a signal blessing. After the death of the Princess, I had the task of making a catalogue of her well-selected library, in the suite of apartments which she occupied on the East side of the Castle.
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It seemed like a voice from the tomb when I recently lighted upon a touching prayer, which I had copied from a blank leaf of her Prayer Book. It will not now be considered a violation of confidence if I print it:

“Gracious God, support thy unworthy servant in this time of trial. Let not the least murmur escape my lips, nor any sentiment but of the deepest resignation enter my heart; let me make the use Thou intendest of that affliction Thou hast laid upon me. It has convinced me of the vanity and emptiness of all things here; let it draw me to Thee as my support, and fill my heart with pious trust in Thee, and in the blessings of a redeeming Saviour, as the only consolations of a state of trial. Amen.”

The illness of the Princess Amelia produced an effect upon the mind of the King from which he never recovered. It is scarcely necessary for me to repeat the story of the ring which she placed upon her father’s finger, nor to infer the mysteries which were supposed to be involved in that solemn appeal to his affection. This interview is popularly held to have called forth, with a fatal intensity, the dormant insanity of his constitution. At the beginning of 1811 the Regency Bill passed. Then we looked upon the Queen’s council—archbishops, chancellor, chief justices, master of the rolls, lord-chamberlain, master of the horse—driving through our streets, for their periodical inspection of their afflicted sovereign. The council of the 6th of April, 1811, was thus attended. Rumours soon went forth that the King was better. On Sunday night, the 20th of May, our town was in a fever of excitement, at the authorised report that
the next day the physicians would allow his Majesty to appear in public. On that Monday morning it was said that his saddle-horse was ordered to be got ready. This truly was no wild rumour. We crowded to the Park and the Castle Yard. The favourite horse was there. The venerable man, blind but steady, was soon in the saddle, as I had often seen him,—a hobby-groom at his side with a leading rein. He rode through the Little Park to the Great Park. The bells rang; the troops fired a feu de joie. The King returned to the Castle within an hour. He was never again seen outside those walls.

The failure of my scheme of an association for mutual improvement was a blow to me. I had other mortifications which disgusted me more and more with my position, and made me fear that it would be a wild attempt to establish a journal at Windsor. I was again driven to the moody companionship of my own thoughts. For two years the dear tutor of my school-days at Ealing had resided near Windsor—occasionally doing duty at our church—once more my warm friend and instructor. Under his guidance I accomplished a distant and a wearisome travel, but with a new sense of pleasure in beholding unfamiliar scenes. With him I saw the sea for the first time. With him I made the tedious and somewhat perilous passage from London Bridge to Margate. Ye happier youths and maidens of another generation, smile not at the epithets I bestow upon this sail upon a summer-sea. None of you citizens of the 25th of Victoria can fitly understand what those had to go through in the 50th of George III., who ventured upon the deck of a Margate hoy. The quick run in the steamer from Tilbury after the comfortable
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early dinner, and then your shrimps and tea in your lodging-house long before the sun is down—contrast these delights with what I have to remember. A hurried breakfast at six, so as to be on board at seven; two hours of danger amidst the colliers in the Pool; a pelting storm in the river, with no luxurious cabin to fly to; Gravesend clock striking two as we drifted past the dingy town; hungry; the steward provided with no more tempting fare than a slice of hard boiled-beef and a lump of stony cheese; no drink but rum and water, for brandy was almost unknown and soda-water undiscovered; the wind rising; the waves raging; groans above and below; darkness soon after we had passed the Nore; then the hoy becalmed off Herne Bay; Margate cliffs in sight as another morning breaks; no pier to land at; a pickaback ride through the surf in a dirty fellow’s grasp; a struggle between the temptations of breakfast or bed; a decision for bed; and a second day almost gone before we can find our appetite or our legs.

Circumstances too soon removed the friend of my boyhood to a distant part of the country. I was alone. I pined for the conversation of educated men. No one took heed of me. I writhed under neglect; but I lost little in not being familiar with those above me in station. There was a coarseness of manners, not only amongst half-pay officers and retired tradesmen, but amongst persons of independent means and good families—aye, even amongst courtiers—which revolted me. I have heard at our mayors feast toasts proposed by men whose rank gave them a claim to the seats of honour, which the lowest and the most ignorant would now be ashamed to utter. Notwithstanding my strong local attachment, I grew
to be thoroughly disgusted with my position at Windsor. About this time I became possessed of a small entailed estate at Iver, which I fancied would give me the means of emancipation from a life that had become distasteful to me. I entreated my father to enter me as a student at one of the Inns of Court. He at last gave a reluctant consent, and went to London, to make the necessary arrangements, as I believed. We neither of us knew much about the probationary condition of a barrister’s life, and it was necessary to obtain some accurate information. His friend, the Editor of a daily paper (of whom I shall have more particularly to speak), dissuaded my father from encouraging my ambition. The Bar, as he represented it, was a profession of which the prizes were very few. If they came at all, they had to be waited for during a long and dreary time. Many a clever man, as he had seen, had struggled for the five years before his call, and had then to starve through another ten years before he got a brief. To live in London was expensive; and thus the young man who had set out with a vision of the Great Seal to marshal him the way that he was going, gave up the Pleaders desk to learn the use of the Reporter’s notebook; became corrupted by the careless and dissipated life of too many “gentlemen of the press”; was cut off from domestic happiness; and passed through the world unhonoured—a careless sensualist or a splenetic misanthrope. My father returned home with such a dismal picture of the life which I had courted, that I somewhat doggedly resumed my easy and inglorious occupation; not without a belief that
“There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.”

§ II.] A PRELUDE. 91

In the autumn of 1811 I had a few weeks of happiness, in which I regained something of my confidence in the existence of goodness and kindness. The Countess of Orkney, who lived at Cliefden—occupying the wings of the old palatial mansion whose principal front had been burnt down a few years before, but whose fame was imperishable, as the “Cliefden’s proud alcove” of Pope—desired to have a catalogue made of a large collection of books that had been long neglected. I was sent to accomplish this work, in the most charming of seasons, and surrounded by the most delightful of scenery. An artist of some eminence in his own walk of animal painting, R. B. Davis, was there also, repairing the pictures. My companion, who was some years my elder, had been the pupil of probably the worst painter of his day, but nevertheless enjoying a fashionable reputation—Sir Francis Bourgeois. Richard Davis was the son of the huntsman of the Royal Harriers. He was the brother of Charles Davis, who in his vigorous old age rides across a country as few young ones would dare, and who has seen more revolutions in the hunting field than most living men. George III., inspecting some of the lad’s sketches, placed him with the Polish Knight, who was the King’s own landscape-painter. In this position the young student had extraordinary advantages in cultivating his taste, by such an acquaintance with the old masters as few could obtain at the time when the continent was closed to travellers. He assisted Sir Francis and Noel Desenfans in forming that noble collection which now constitutes the Dulwich Gallery. Often have I heard him, loyal subject as he was, execrate the memory of Pitt for his contempt of art. After the
death of Desenfans, who had bequeathed these choice cabinet pictures to his friend, Bourgeois went to the great minister, and proposed to give the collection to the nation, if the Government would build a gallery to receive them. “We have no money for such objects.” said Pitt. Thus the Desenfans treasures went to the college founded by
Alleyn the actor; and the rich landscape-painter bequeathed also to that obscure foundation two thousand pounds to build the gallery in which we now look upon them in a clear atmosphere. The art-knowledge of my companion enlarged my range of ideas. But the chief happiness of that autumn was due to the noble lady who was the owner of Cliefden—the inheritor of the Peerage bestowed upon the companion in arms of Marlborough—in grace and dignity the type of la vieille cour—in unaffected courtesy the memorial of a stately but genial aristocracy that was passing away. She came to talk with us about books and paintings. She urged us to make holiday afternoons. We rambled in the woods that crowned the chalky heights, or let our skiff drop down the unruffled Thames beneath those delicious banks. I there wrote a descriptive poem which was printed. It pleased Lady Orkney, and that was sufficient for me to defy criticism.

Cliefden has passed into the hands of another great family whose wondrous prosperity is associated with ancestral victories of peace rather than with those of war. With permission, the woods amidst which I wandered may still be trodden by the stranger. But no permission is wanting to linger out an autumnal eve under those magnificent banks, leaving the boat to glide slowly and noiselessly along, as if it were unwilling to disturb the exquisite mirror
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which reflects every form and every colour of the varied foliage. What walks are there still left in that charming neighbourhood, which the dweller in the great city may enjoy to the fall after an hour’s railway-ride! Let him cross the Thames at Cookham and ascend the hill to Hedsor, to look upon a scene which others have felt to be as beautiful as I felt it to be in my early manhood. My heart leapt up, a short while since, when I read in
Henry Kingsley’sRavenshoe” a description of a landscape, every feature of which I should have recognised even though he had not said, “You may see just such a scene, with variations, of course, from Park Place, or Hedsor, or Cliefden, or fifty other houses, on the king of rivers.” “The Plain Englishman” (of which work I shall have to speak) contains a tale written by me, and my description of the scene in which the story is laid points unmistakeably to Hedsor: “The situation of this churchyard was one of singular loveliness. It terminated a hill, which, for several miles, formed a precipitous and rugged bank to the curving river which it overshadowed. The cliffs of chalk, sometimes rising abruptly from the water’s edge, without a path or verdure, and sometimes presenting a slip of grass or foliage, where the human foot was wont to tread—here and there adorned with stately beeches, towering one above the other in clustering pride, and here and there discovering only a few ancient and fantastic yews;—the expanse of luxuriant pastures, through which the Thames wandered, with their scattered habitations of contented industry;—the gently-swelling hills of the distance, marking the horizon with their soft outlines, and carrying the imagination forward to the devious course of the
same placid river between their bosoms;—this landscape possessed all the richness and grace of lowland scenery, with some small portion of the wildness that belongs to the regions of rapid streams and mighty mountains. But it was strictly English scenery; and such scenery as England only can furnish, in its fertility and variety.”

In the spring of 1812 the old familiar intercourse of the Sovereign with his people was at an end at Windsor. The Terrace was shut up. Soon was the ancient pathway under the Castle diverted. All was changed at the time my own life was changing. I was soon to look upon a world of stern realities. I was to have other remembrances to note than the fleeting visions of my boyhood.

I stand upon the threshold of “A Working Life during Half a Century.” I had a few months of experiment before the final choice of a career; but those months brought with them new responsibilities, which were essentially work. My trade apprenticeship was ended. I had to begin in the metropolis that apprenticeship to literature through the rough ways of journalism, which many a young man has found to have been not the least improving part of his education. With some reminiscences which hover round Windsor I shall conclude this Prelude.

It was, perhaps, not the worse for me that the old pleasures of the scenes amidst which I lived had lost none of their original charms. I doubt whether I ever thought it perfect wisdom
“To scorn delights and live laborious days.”
But at this period I could look upon a future of “laborious days” as not incompatible with “delights,”
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such as
Milton himself might not have scorned in his early life on the banks of the Colne.

From the tenth year of my boyhood till after I entered upon man’s estate, I had tried every variety of angling, from the whipping for bleak on a warm evening in May, to the trolling for pike on a gray morning in October. I am not ashamed to confess that in these pursuits I was singularly unlucky. I at last arrived at a lurking suspicion either that angling was a lost art, or that our river was so universally fished—not angled but netted—or that fortune was so unjust that I was not one of the happy persons to whom Izaak Walton discourses of “a trout that will fill six reasonable bellies.”

And yet I look back upon these days of hope deferred with infinite delight. Upon the banks of the Thames, long after the halcyon season of a schoolboy’s leisure, have I wandered, rod in hand, into secluded nooks, where scarcely sound was ever heard but the noise of the kingfisher diving down plumb into the deep; or I have sculled the rickety Eton skiff (not so dangerous as the modern canoe) up the crystal current, till the evening star has warned me that my course must be retraced over the dangerous shallows and the dead waters. Often, at that silent hour, have I partly learnt the secret of the marvellous ill-fortune of ambitious anglers of the unpreserved Thames. Many a time, in the sober twilight, have I seen the river-poacher busy with his eel-lines and his baskets under some bank of osiers, looking around with fearful suspicion, as the wind swept along the rippling water, and creeping closer under the shadow of the willow, as the light clouds flew off from the face of the rising moon. But I must not
wholly blame the secret enemy of “the contemplative man.” The truth is that I was an idle votary of the seductive art. I had the contentedness and the love of meditation of the steadiest angler, but not the patience. I would stick the barbel-rod into the bank, and lie down upon the soft grass, far away from the busy world, to gaze upon the shifting rack; or perchance resign my heart to
Spenser or Tasso, while the reel in vain gave notice of the unprofitable bite. I despised the early lessons I had received from an enthusiastic student of Walton and Cotton, who invariably passed over their descriptive and poetical passages, which only were heeded by his unworthy pupil. The painful instructions he had given me in the science of artificial fly-making were wholly forgotten. I have taken the first clumsy imitation of the willow-fly or the gray drake, which the cunning woman who dealt in tackle routed out from her ancient stores; and have gone home at night without an ounce in my basket, abundantly satisfied to have had an excuse for passing a holiday afternoon—truly caring little for the sport,
“So I the fields and meadows green might view,
And by the quiet river walk at will.”

In these river-rambles I was not altogether uselessly occupied, for my mind was growing in its love of Nature. But I was not turning my wanderings to direct use, as was a young Naturalist at a somewhat later period. I have seen a youth, apparently idle, lying under the willow-branches in a little boat, with a book on his knee and a gun by his side. There is a well-known sound, and the gun is cocked. The kingfisher has darted upon his prey. As he rises with a minnow, and his orange-breast and green-blue
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tail glitter in the evening sun, his flight is ended. In a few days he is stuffed, sitting on a pendant bough ready for the plunge. The mechanical skill of this youth amazes the unscientific bird-stuffers, who have lost their trade. Good judges of Natural History eagerly buy these remarkable specimens of life in death. More useful patrons than casual purchasers perceive his rare merit. He is engaged by the Zoological Society to prepare specimens for their Museum. He marries. His wife has an equally rare talent for delineating objects of Natural History with accuracy and taste. They publish a beautiful example of their joint ability—he as the accurate author, she as the accomplished artist—“
A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains.” After a few years they will travel together in regions far remote from the home-scenes of their early days, to produce volumes as magnificent as they are scientific. When I think of the young naturalist of Eton, I look back with some regret upon my own purposeless wanderings by the creeks of the Thames, where John Gould was educating himself to rival Wilson and Audubon.

There was a sport a little more sensual than the dreamy idleness of my old angling days, but nevertheless a fresh and natural enjoyment, which the dwellers on our river-side could then command without molestation from those whom Sir Humphry Davy calls “the Cockney fishermen who fish for roach and dace in the Thames.” The South-Western Railway, or the Great Western, brought then, on a bright August morning, no parties of second-class passengers, who each rushed down to Brocas Lane to secure for four or five companions a punt and a waterman,
who was ready with the most monstrous lies of his exclusive knowledge of the gravel-beds where the gudgeon might be taken, ten dozen at a pitch. Wretched men! They will swill their beer at Surly Hall, and return to Whitechapel, a paltry dozen or two in their capacious creels. Such was not the glorious gudgeon-fishing of
Jack Hall, well known to every Etonian of the days of Keate, whose memory is preserved in a characteristic portrait engraved in the very best style of art. Did the Palmerston of “Punch” derive the flower in his mouth from that spruce elderly man, who, as he lounged upon the old wooden bridge of Windsor, had always a honeysuckle or a rose between his lips? Three of us, in those days of unmolested use of our river, would make an appointment with him for the next morning at Bray Reach. Thither we wend, in cart or chaise (the word “trap” was not then invented), well supplied with a sufficient basket of ham, tongue, veal-pie, Stilton cheese, bottled ale and porter, a little sherry, and a cigar or two. Jack is there with his punt and his easy bow. We begin to fish. The well of the punt gradually fills. The morning quickly speeds on towards noon. What an inviting nook for luncheon is that little creek, where the willows make a natural bower of grateful shade. But we must not linger. By three o’clock we have caught forty dozen. Jack says, that sort of thing is “bonum securum;” and he will best tell us how to dispose of our prey. We land at Monkey Island; and whilst we are examining the sketches of monkeys on the then dilapidated walls of the old banqueting-room of a Thames-loving Duke of Marlborough, the accomplished Hall is preparing our fry. He is a better cook than Izaak Walton;
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and moreover he will troll us a merry song as well as the merriest of the crew in the old haberdasher’s “honest alehouse, with lavender in the windows, and twenty ballads stuck about the wall.” But Jack had other sources of amusement. He could not only display his scraps of dog-latin, but could tell queer stories about the Eton days of some of the then mightiest in the land, such as we now look for in vain in pompous autobiographies and dull memoirs. Fain would I recollect some of these stories,—but they are better forgotten. A game of quoits or trap-ball succeeds. It is sunset before we are aware. The punt floats down the Thames, whilst the silence around us is broken by the chorus of some forgotten anacreontic of the old times of jollity, or by the unscientific breathings of a flute simple in its construction as the shepherd’s reed.

There was a time, from early boyhood till the Inclosure of Windsor Forest, when I might have said—
“I know each lane and every alley green,
Dingle, or bushy dell of this wild wood,
And every bosky bourn from side to side,
My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood.”
The inclosure changed in a few years all the aspect of the scenes with which I was once so familiar. Vast plains were soon covered with hundreds of thousands of vigorous saplings; heaths, where straggling hawthorns used once to be the landmarks of the wanderer, are now one sea of pine. Some of the work of change was set about too much in the spirit of a ruthless utility. At the extremities of the forest near Easthampstead, earthworks, which showed where the Roman had encamped, were levelled or planted over. Nearer Windsor, many an old tree with a
thirty-foot girth, into whose hollow I had crept from the passing shower and thought of the Norman hunters, was mercilessly cut down. There was a good deal of rash innovation some fifty years ago, but it appears to have been repented of; for some of the giants of the wood, sublime in their decay, are now carefully fenced round. Much of the picturesque of forest scenery remains in the Great Park. Some has been spoilt by the desire to embellish what is far more beautiful without adventitious ornament. Some of the wildest scenes—now, perhaps, shaven lawn and carefully tended shrubberies—used to come upon me as a surprise. I remember one spot, especially, near the house erected a few years since by the accomplished Belgian minister. My devious steps conducted me from the quiet green of a hamlet where a few children were at play, into one of the most unfrequented parts of the Forest. The sun was yet brightly shining in the west, but his rays did not pierce the thick gloom of the elms and beeches into which I had penetrated. The place was singularly wild, and seemed scarcely to belong to the quiet scenery of our inland counties. A rapid stream, which in winter must become a torrent, had formed a deep ravine with high and precipitous banks. The fern grew about in the wildest profusion; the old roots of the trees which hung over this bourn, as the people of the Forest then called it, were bared to the wind and frost; but they still grasped the earth resolutely and firmly. As I walked on, endeavouring to follow the course of the stream, the scene became still more solitary. I could gain no eminence to look round upon the surrounding country; I could not hear either the tinkling of a sheep-bell, the low of
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cattle, or the bark of the watch-dog; even the herds of deer had forsaken this spot of unbroken solitude. I could have fancied myself far removed from the haunts of men; and that solemn feeling which such a consideration inspires came across my heart.

In the holiday days of my youth, Virginia Water appeared to me the very perfection of romantic scenery. It was then sixty years since Duke William of Cumberland created the little lake and its gentle fir-clad banks out of a wild swampy district, whose waters drained into an unsightly basin, and then flowed on to the Thames at Chertsey. Paul Sandby was the landscape gardener. The ambitious name of the lake must be received simply as expressive of silence and solitude amidst woods and waters, but without any real association with the boundless forests and mighty rivers, where the Anglo-Saxon first carried the processes of civilization which his descendants appear too ready to forget. The playthings of George IV. spoilt Virginia Water. The character of these solitudes was destroyed by sticking up a Chinese Fishing Temple, and by building a mock ruin out of a collection of antique fragments, Egyptian and Grecian—relics of a great past, joined together by plaster and paint into something like an imitation of their awful decay.

In the summer of 1815, Shelley rented a house on Bishopsgate Heath. There he composed his “Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude.” Mrs. Shelley says, in a note on this poem, “he spent his days under the oak-shades of Windsor Great Park; and the magnificent woodland was a fitting study to inspire the various descriptions of forest-scenery found in the poem.” Shelley wrote it after his recovery from a pulmonary
disease, of which, in the spring, he was considered to be dying. A “solemn spirit reigns throughout—the worship of the majesty of nature, the broodings of a poet’s heart in solitude.” “Alastor”—a copy of which was lent to me soon after the date of its composition (I think it was privately printed)—appeared to me rather as the ideal of forest-scenery than as presenting the character of the “magnificent woodland” around Bishopsgate, amidst which Shelley “spent his days,” and which I well knew a few years before. I wanted something more literal—more pre-Raphaelite, if I may apply this term to poetry. I had previously attempted some out-door sketches of these scenes—feeble enough as efforts of imagination, but a pretty faithful transcript of what was before my eyes. I had intended these Spenserian stanzas to have grown up to a poem of some magnitude. Fortunately for me, the sketches were never finished; for the age even then had grown tired of that word-painting of nature which was once so fashionable; and which, even in the hands of
Denham and Pope, seems now so artificial. I had not for a long time looked upon the precise spot which I described as—
“A wilderness of thistle, rush, and fern,
’Mid green spots for the seldom-startled deer,
And plashy marshes for the lonely hern;
“With birds and sylvan sounds for the hush’d ear.”
When, thirty years afterwards, I spent a morning in the woods near Bishopsgate with my friend
William Harvey, some of the old feeling returned. Still, the intensity of that solitude would be oppressive but for its shifting aspects of the varied hues of
“Elm, chestnut, oak, lime, Leech, and scatter’d thorn,”
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as the morning sun at one minute lights them up, and then a passing cloud clothes them in shadow. The red deer bounds noiselessly along; the ring-dove gently coos; the distance seems slumbering in the half-eclipsed noonshine. Suddenly a flood of brilliancy is shed over the vast amphitheatre of leaves before us; the distant hills of Berkshire on one side, and of Middlesex on the other, crowd into the foreground. One object is pre-eminent in grandeur and beauty. But how greatly is it changed in its architectural details—grander perhaps, but I doubt if quite as picturesque, as when I wrote—
“Thou mighty Windsor, rising o’er the woods,
Though bounded by this grove of proud-topp’d trees,
Rapt in thy majesty lone Fancy broods,
And in thy towers of yore she dimly sees
Interpreters of Heaven’s o’erpast decrees;
And though full lovely is that glorious gleam
Of sun on buttress, parapet, and frieze,
Lovelier th’ historic light which down doth stream,
Clear as the mid-day sheen, romantic as a dream.”

Yes, History itself was then to me the most brilliant of romances. The distant castle—seen through those glades in apparent continuity, as if there were no middle-ground between the breadths of foliage and the old gray towers—had historical associations enough to satisfy the most imaginative. Every nook of the antique buildings, untouched by modern improvement, was then familiar to me. The fortress which the Norman reared was gone—his keep, his donjon. Which of those towers, I used to speculate, are the remaining memorials of the time before Edward III. built the new castle? Surely, where the ecclesiastical portion of the vast pile now stands, there was once a compact fortress, looking proudly
and serenely over the low grounds which the Thames watered. In that noble tower—whose base now stands boldly in view as we ascend the steep street, but which a few years ago was hidden by one continuous line of the meanest houses—
Stephen might have defied his queenly rival and John his indomitable barons. And then I thought of Runnemede close at hand; and could look down upon it from Cooper’s Hill; and let the eye range onward to a more complete view of the work of the great Anglo-Norman, who had forsaken the old western side of the fortress and was holding feasts of the Round Table in a grander castle on the east. Here he was thinking of leading his chivalry to Crecy and Poitiers; here the Black Prince was learning to bear himself knightly in the tournament. Softer associations were present to me as I thought of the story of James I. of Scotland and Jane Beaufort, which has been so prettily told by Washington Irving. The course of time led me onward to the “large green courts” where Surrey lived “in lust and joy;” to the memory of the jealous tyrant of whom Surrey was the last victim; to Elizabeth and Leicester; to Charles and Cromwell; the romance gradually fading away as I thought of Charles II. and his neglected queen banqueting with the heathen gods on Verrio’s ceilings. It almost wholly vanished when I remembered the Anne described by Swift, “hunting in a chaise with one horse, which she drives herself, and drives furiously like Jehu.”