VOL. XXXII. PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY, 1848. No. 2.
STOKE CHURCH AND PARK.
THE SCENE OF GRAY'S ELEGY, AND RESIDENCE OF THE PENNS OF PENNSYLVANIA
BY R. BALMANNO.
The Manor of Stoke, with its magnificent mansion and picturesque park, is situate near the village of Stoke Pogeys, in the county of Buckingham, four miles north-west of Windsor.
About two miles distant from Stoke lies the village of Slough, rendered famous by the residence of the celebrated astronomer, Sir William Herschel, and a short way further, on a gentle slope continued the whole way from Stoke, stand the venerable towers of time-honored Eton, on the bank of the Thames, directly opposite, and looking up to the proud castle of the kings of England, unmatched in its lofty, commanding situation and rich scenery by that of any royal residence in Europe.
Stoke, anciently written Stoches, belonged, in the time of William the Conqueror, A. D. 1086, to William, son of Ansculf, of whom it was held by Walter de Stoke. Previous thereto, it was in part held by Siret, a vassal of Harold, and at the same time, a certain Stokeman, the vassal of Tubi, held another portion. Finally, in the year 1300, during the reign of King Edward the First, it received its present appellation by the intermarriage of Amicia de Stoke, the heiress, with Robert de Pogeys. Under the sovereignty of Edward the Third, 1346, John de Molines, originally of French extraction, and from the town of that name in Bourbonnais, married Margaret de Pogeys; and, in consequence of his eminent services, obtained license of the king to make a castle of his manor-house of Stoke Pogeys, fortify with stone walls embattled, and imparke the woods; also that it should be exempt from the authority of the marshal of the king's household, or any of his officers; and in further testimony of the king's favor, he had summons to Parliament among the barons of the realm.
During the wars of the rival Roses, the place was owned by Sir Robert Hungerford, commonly called Lord Moleyns, by reason of his marriage with Alianore, daughter of William, Lord Moleyns.
This Lord Robert, siding with the Lancasterians, or the Red Roses, upon the loss of the battle of Towton, fled to York, where King Henry the Sixth then was, and afterward with him into Scotland. He was attainted by the Parliament of Edward the Fourth; but the king took compassion on Alianore, his wife, and her children, committing her and them to the care of John, Lord Wenlock, to whom he had granted all her husband's manors and lands, granting them a fitting support as long as her said husband, Lord Robert, should live. But the Lancasterians making head in the north, he "flew out" again, being the chief of those who were in the castle of the Percys, at Alnwick, with five or six hundred Frenchmen, and being taken prisoner at the battle of Hexham, he was beheaded at Newcastle on Tyne, but buried in the north aisle of the cathedral of Salisbury.
Lady Alianore, his widow, lies buried in the church of Stoke Pogeys; and her monument may still be seen, with an epitaph commencing thus:
Hic, hoc sub lapide sepelitur Corpus venerabilis Dominae Alianorae Molins, Baronissiae, quam prius desponsavit Dominus Robertus Hungerford, miles et Baro. &c. &c.
Notwithstanding the grant to Lord Wenlock, Thomas, the son and heir of Lord Robert Hungerford, succeeded to the estate. For a time he sided with the famous Earl of Warwick, the king-maker, who took part with Edward the Fourth, but afterward "falling off," and endeavoring for the restoration of King Henry the Sixth, was seized on, and tried for his life at Salisbury, before that diabolical tyrant, crook-back Duke of Gloucester, afterward Richard the Third, where he had judgment of the death of a traitor, and suffered accordingly the next day.
But during the reign of Henry the Seventh, in 1485, when the Red Roses became triumphant at the decisive battle of Bosworth, and these unnatural and bloody wars which had devastated England for nearly thirty years, being brought to a close, by the union of Henry with Elizabeth of York, representative of the White Roses, the attainder of Thomas, as well as that of his father, Lord Robert, being reversed in Parliament, his only child and heir, called Mary, succeeded to the estate.
Lady Mary married Edward, Lord Hastings, from whom the present Earl of Huntingdon is descended. She used the title of Lady Hungerford, Botreux, Molines, and Peverell. To this marriage Shakspeare alludes in the tragedy of King Henry the VI., Part 3, A. 4, Sc. 1, when he makes the Duke of Clarence say ironically,
For this one speech Lord Hastings well deserves To have the heir of the Lord Hungerford.
Lord George Hungerford succeeding his father, was advanced to the title of Earl of Huntingdon by King Henry the Eighth, in 1529. He died the 24th of March, 1543, and lies buried in the chancel of Stoke Pogeys. Edward, his second son, was a warrior with King Henry the Eighth, and during the reign of Henry's daughter, Queen Mary, 1555, declared his testament, appointing his body to be buried at Stoke Pogeys, and directing his executors to build a chapel of stone, with an altar therein, adjoining the church or chancel, where the late Earl Huntingdon and his wife (his father and mother) lay buried; and that a tomb should be made, with their images carved in stone, appointing that a plate of copper, double gilt, should be made to represent his own image, of the size of life, in harness, (armor,) and a memorial in writing, with his arms, to be placed upright on the wall of the chapel, without any other tomb for him. He died without issue. Earl Henry was the last of the illustrious family of Huntingdon who possessed the manor and manor-house of Stoke; and the embarrassed state of his affairs compelled him to mortgage the estate to one Branthwait, a sergeant at law, in 1580, during which period it was occupied by Lord Chancellor Sir Christopher Hatton, the fine dancer, one of the celebrated favorites of Elizabeth, the lascivious daughter of King Henry the Eighth—a woman as fickle as profligate, as cruel and hard-hearted, so far as regarded her numerous paramours, as her brutal father was in respect to his wives.
This historical detail, gathered from Domesday Book, Dugdale, and other authorities, is narrated in consequence of its bearing upon some celebrated poems hereafter to be noticed, and is continued up to the present period for a like reason.
Sir Christopher Hatton died in 1591, and settled his estate on Sir William Newport, whose daughter became the second wife of Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, who purchased the estate of Stoke. After the dissolution of the Parliament by King Charles the First, in March, 1628-9, Sir Edward Coke being then greatly advanced in years, retired to his house at Stoke, where he spent the remainder of his days in a quiet retirement, universally respected and esteemed; and there, says his epitaph, crowned his pious life with a pious and Christian departure, on Wednesday the 3d day of September, A. D., 1634, and of his age 83; his last words, "THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE!"
Upon the death of Sir Edward Coke, the manor and estate of Stoke devolved to his son-in-law, Viscount Purbeck, elder brother of Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who perished by the hand of the assassin, Felton.
Lord Purbeck, upon the death of his wife, daughter of Sir Edward Coke, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Slingsby, by whom he had a son, Robert, which Robert, marrying the daughter and heir of Sir John Danvers, one of the judges who sat on the trial of King Charles the First, obtained a patent from Cromwell, Protector of the Commonwealth, to change his name to Danvers, alledging as the reasons for his so doing "the many disservices done to the commonwealth by the name of the family of Villiers."
In 1657, Viscount Purbeck granted a lease of the manor and house of Stoke, to Sir Robert Gayer during his own life; and in the same year, his son, Robert Villiers, or Danvers, sold his reversionary interest in the estate to Sir R. Gayer for the sum of eight thousand five hundred and sixty-four pounds. The family of Gayers continued in possession until 1724, when the estate was sold for twelve thousand pounds to Edmund Halsey, Esq., M.P., who died in 1729, his daughter Anne married Sir Richard Temple, created Viscount Cobham, who survived him; and she resided at Stoke until her death in the year 1760.
The house and manor of Stoke were sold in the same year, by the representatives of Edmund Halsey, to the Honorable Thomas Penn, Lord Proprietary of the Province of Pennsylvania, the eldest surviving son of the Honorable William Penn, the celebrated founder and original proprietary of the province.
Upon the death of Thomas Penn, in 1775, the manor of Stoke, together with all his other estates, devolved upon his eldest surviving son, John, by the Right Honorable Lady Juliana, his wife, fourth daughter of the Earl of Pomfret.
In 1789, the ancient mansion of Stoke, appearing to Mr. Penn, after some years absence in America, to demand very extensive repairs, (chiefly from the destructive consequences of damp in the principal rooms,) it was judged advisable to take it down.
The style of its architecture was not of a kind the most likely to dissuade him from this undertaking. Most of the great buildings of Queen Elizabeth's reign have a style peculiar to themselves, both in form and finishing, where, though much of the old Gothic is retained, and a great part of the new style is adopted, yet neither predominates, while both, thus indiscriminately blended, compose a fantastic species, hardly reducible to any class or name. One of its characteristics is the affectation of large and lofty windows, where, says Lord Bacon, "you shall have sometimes faire houses so full of glass, that one cannot tell where to become to be out of the sun." A perfect specimen of this fantastic style, in complete repair, may be seen in Hardwick Hall, county of Derby, one of the many residences of that princely and amiable nobleman, the Duke of Devonshire, and a perfect contrast to it, at his other noble residence not many miles distant, in the same county, Chatsworth, "the Palace of the Peak."
It is true that high antiquity alone gives, in the eye of taste, a continually increasing value to specimens of all such kinds of architecture; but beside that, the superiority of the new site chosen by Mr. Penn was manifest, the principal rooms of the old mansion at Stoke, where the windows admitted light from both the opposite sides, were instances, peculiarly exemplifying the remark of Lord Bacon, and countenancing the design to lessen the number of bad, and increase that of the good examples of architecture. But a wing of the ancient plan was preserved, and is still kept in repair, as a relic, harmonizing with the surrounding scenery, and forms with the rustic offices, and fruit-gardens annexed, the villa rustica and fructuaria of the place.
The new buildings, or, more properly speaking, Palace of Stoke, was begun by Mr. Penn immediately after his return from a long absence in Pennsylvania, and was covered-in in December, 1790. It is scarcely possible to conceive a finer site than that chosen by him for his new mansion, being on a commanding eminence, the windows of the principal front looking over a rich, variegated landscape toward the lofty towers of Windsor Castle, at a distance of four miles, which terminates the view in that direction; whilst about and around the site are abundance of magnificent aged oaks, elms, and beeches.
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The poems of Thomas Gray, who was educated at Eton, and resided at Stoke, are perhaps better known, more read, more easily remembered, and more frequently quoted, than those of any other English poet. Where is the person who does not remember with feelings approaching to enthusiasm, the impressions made on his youthful fancy by the enchanting language of the "Elegy written in a Country Church-yard?" Who can ever forget the impressions with which he first read the narrative of the "hoary-headed swain," and the deep emotion felt on perusing the pathetic epitaph, "graved on the stone, beneath yon aged thorn," beginning—
Here rests his head upon the lap of earth. A youth to fortune and to fame unknown: Fair science frowned not on his humble birth. And melancholy marked him for her own.
That exquisite poem contains passages "grav'd" on the hearts of all who ever read it in youth, until they themselves become hoary-headed—and then, perhaps, remembered most.
But it is not the Elegy alone which makes an indelible impression on the youthful reader; equally imperishable are the lines on a distant prospect of Eton College.
Ye distant spires, ye antique towers, That crown the wat'ry glade, Where grateful science still adores Her Henry's holy shade.
And who can ever forget the Bard—
Ruin seize thee, ruthless King! Confusion on thy banners wait! Though fann'd by conquests crimson wing, They mock the air with idle state.
Or the lovely Ode on the Spring.
Lo! where the rosy bosom'd Hours Fair Venus' train appear, Disclose the long-expecting flowers, And wake the purple year!
Or those sublime Odes—On The Progress of Poesy. Awake, AEolian lyre, awake; and the Descent of Odin:
Uprose the king of men with speed, And saddled strait his coal-black steed: Down the yawning steep he rode, That leads to Hela's drear abode.
[Footnote 1: Eton was founded and endowed by King Henry the Sixth. A marble bust of the poet Gray was presented by Lord Morpeth, in 1846, and placed, amongst many others, in the upper school.]
Who can ever forget the pleasure experienced on the first perusal, and on every subsequent reading of these fascinating productions? They are such as all, imbued with even a moderate degree of taste and feeling, must respond to. But there is another poem of Gray's, less read, perhaps, than these, but which, from its humor and arch playful style, is apt to make a strong and lasting impression on an enthusiastic juvenile mind. It opens so abruptly and oddly, that attention is bespoke from the first line. It is entitled "A Long Story."
In Britain's isle—no matter where— An ancient pile of building stands: The Huntingdons and Hattons there Employed the power of fairy hands To raise the ceilings fretted height, Each panel in achievements clothing, Rich windows, that exclude the light, And passages, that lead to nothing.
This poem, teeming with quaint humor, contains one hundred and forty-four lines, beside, as it says, "two thousand which are lost!"
Extreme admiration of the poems of Gray had been excited in the writer's mind even when a schoolboy. In after years, whilst occupying chambers in the Temple, he first became aware that the scenery so exquisitely described in the Elegy, and the "ancient pile" of building, so graphically delineated in the Long Story, were both within a few hours' ride of London, and adjoining each other.
Until about the year 1815 he had constantly supposed that the Country Church-yard was altogether an imaginary conception, and that the ancient mansion of the Huntingdons was far away, somewhere in the midland counties; but when fully aware of the true localities, he was almost mad with impatience, until, on a Saturday afternoon, he could get relieved from the turmoil of business, to fly to scenes hallowed by recollections of the halcyon days of youthful aspirations of hope, and love, and innocence—and sweetly and fresh do such reminiscences still float in his memory.
About the period in question, there was a club in London, formed of about twenty or thirty of the most aristocratic of the young nobility, possessed of more wealth than wisdom. They gave themselves the name of the Whip Club, because each member drove his own team of four horses. The chief tutor of these titled Jehu's in the art and mystery of driving, was no less a personage than the celebrated Tom Moody, driver of the Windsor Coach, and by that crack coach it was intended to proceed as far as Slough, on the intended excursion to Stoke, and then turn off to the left; but as the Whip Club, at the period in question, attracted a large share of public attention in the metropolis, perhaps a short notice of it may be here permitted, as it has been long since defunct, and is never again likely to be revived, now that steam and iron horses have taken the road.
The vehicles, horses, trappings, and gearing, were the most elegant and expensive that money could command; and it was a rare thing to see upward of twenty such equipages, which, as well as the housings of the horses, were emblazoned with heraldric devices, and glittering all over with splendid silver and gold ornaments.
The open carriages were all filled with the loveliest of England's lovely women, who generally congregated together at an early breakfast, or what with them was considered an early breakfast, between ten and eleven o'clock! The meet took place at the house of Lord Hawke, in Portman Square. His lordship was high admiral, or president, Sir Bellingham Graham, whipper-in—and courteously and cleverly did Sir Bellingham (or Bellinjim, as it is pronounced) perform his delicate duty. When each driver mounted his box, after handing in the ladies, it was wonderful to observe with what dexterity, ease, and order, all wheeled into line, when the leader, with a flourish of his long whip—being the signal for which all were watching—led off the splendid array.
It was a gay sight to witness the start, as they swept round the square—for the horses were one and all of pure blood, and unparalleled for beauty, symmetry, and speed.
To one unaccustomed to such a sight, it might appear somewhat dangerous. The fiery impatience of the horses—their pawing and champing, the tossing of their beautiful heads, and the swan-like curving of their glittering, sleek necks, until they were fairly formed into order—at which time they knew just as well as their owners that the play was going to begin. But it was perfectly delightful to observe the graceful manner in which each pair laid their small heads and ears together when fairly under way, beating time with their highly polished hoofs—pat, pat, pat, pat, as true as the most disciplined regiment marching to a soul-stirring quick step, or a troupe of well-trained ballet girls, bounding across the stage of the Italian Opera.
When fairly off and skimming along the road, it was, perhaps, as animating a show as London ever witnessed since its palmiest days of tilt and tournament. I say nothing of the ladies, their commingled charms, or gorgeous attire; I only noticed that during the gayety in the square, previous to starting, their recognition of each other, and the beaux of their acquaintance, there were plenty of
"Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles, Such as hang on Hebe's cheek, And love to live in dimples sleek."
This celebrated club congregated every fortnight, during the gay season of May and June, and spent the day at the residence of one of their number, within twenty or thirty miles of London, returning in the evening, exactly in the order they had set out.
Master Moody, the driver and proprietor of the fast Windsor Coach, had, as said, been the tutor of these aristocratic charioteers, who placed themselves under his guardianship, and had been taught to handle "the ribbons" until declared perfect in the noble science. He had consequently imbibed much and many of the airs and graces, and manners of his pupils.
Being anxious to have a ride beside this great man, I was at Piccadilly long before he started, and by a pretty handsome douceur to his cad, had the supreme felicity of obtaining a seat on the box, and certainly was well repaid for the extra expense of sitting by Corinthian Tom.
He was a tall fellow, and had a severely serious face; was dressed in the extreme of driving fashion; wore delicate white kid gloves, and the tops of his highly-polished boots were white as the lily. In short, his whole "toggery" was faultless—a perfect out-and-outer. He was truly a great man, or appeared to fancy himself such—for he rarely condescended to exchange a word, except with an acquaintance, and even then, it was with a condescending, patronizing air; and he smiled as seldom as a Connecticut lawyer. Although sitting close by his side for twenty miles, not one word passed between us during the whole journey.
The nags driven by this proud fellow were as splendid as himself; finer cattle never flew over Epsom Downs, the Heath of Ascot, or Doncaster Course—pure bloods, every one of them, and such as might have served Guido as models for his famous fresco of the chariot of Apollo; but Guido's steeds, although they are represented tearing away furiously, are lubberly drays, compared with the slim, graceful, fleet stags of Tom Moody.
When the cad gave the word—"all right," Tom started them with his short, shrill "t'chit, t'chit," and a crack of his two-fathom whip right over the ears of the leaders, as loud as the report of a pistol. They sprang forward with a maddening energy, almost terrifying; but the coach was hung and balanced with such precision, and the Windsor road kept in the finest order for royalty, there was no jumping or jolting, it glided along as smoothly as if it had been running on rails. A proud man was Master Moody; not so much of himself, perhaps, or of his glossy, broad-brimmed beaver, and broadcloth "upper Benjamin," or the dashing silk tie around his neck, but of his beautiful nags—and he had reason, for there was not an equipage on the road, from the ducal chariot to the dandy tandem, to which he did not give the go-by like lightning.
The rapidity of the movement, and the beauty of the animals, produced an excitement sufficient to enable one to appreciate the rapture of the Arab, as he flies over the desert on his beloved barb, enjoying, feeling, exulting in liberty, sweet, intoxicating, unbounded liberty, with the whole wilderness for a home.
Some such feelings took possession of me, as the well-poised machine shot along. Quick as thought we threaded Kensington High street, skirted the wall of Lord Holland's park, just catching, like the twinkle of a sunbeam, a glimpse of the antique turrets of that classic fane peeping through the trees, as we passed the centre avenue.
We speedily reached Hammersmith and Turnham Green, and then passed Sion House and park, the princely residence of the Duke of Northumberland, then dashed through the straggling old town of Brentford. The intervening fields and openings into the landscape affording enchanting prospects before entering on Hounslow Heath, when the horses having got warm, the driver gave them full head, and the vehicle attained a speed truly exhilarating.
The increased momentum, and the extensive prairie-like expanse of Hounslow Heath, would have realized in any enthusiastic mind, the feelings of the children of the desert.
This first excursion to Stoke was made during the month of May, when all nature is fresh and fair; the guelder-roses and lilacs being in full flower, and the hawthorn hedges were one sheet of milky fragrance, the air was almost intoxicating, owing to the concentrated perfumes arising from fruit orchards in full blossom, and the interminable succession of flower gardens opposite every house skirting that lovely road, the beauty of which few can conceive who have not been in England; but the fresh, pure air on the Heath, infused a new feeling, a realization of unalloyed happiness; we were rapidly hastening toward scenes for which the soul was yearning, and hope, bright, young hope, lent wings and a charm to every object, animate and inanimate.
The usual relay of fresh horses were in waiting at Cranburn Bridge, and the reeking bloods were instantly changed for others, not a whit less spirited than their released compeers. Away went Moody, and away went Moody's fiery steeds. In a very short time we passed, at a few miles on the hither side of Slough, the "ivy-mantled tower" of Upton Church, which, but for one or two small, square openings in it, may be mistaken for a gigantic bush, or unshapely tree of evergreen ivy.
Arriving at Slough, I bade adieu to Master Moody; the forty feet telescope of Herschel, with its complicated frame-work and machinery, attracting only a few minutes attention. The road leading up to Stoke Green is one of those beautiful lanes so exquisitely described by Gilbert White, in his History of Selborne, or still more graphically portrayed by Miss Mitford, in her Tales of our Village. Stoke Green lies to the right of this lane, and at the distance of one or two fields further on, there is a stile in the corner of one of them, on the left, where a foot-path crosses diagonally. In going through a gap in the hedge, you catch the first peep of the spire of Stoke Church. After passing the field, you come to a narrow lane, overhung with hawthorns; it leads from Salt-Hill to the village of West-End Stoke. Keeping along the lane a short way, and passing through a small gate on the top of the bank, you at once enter the domain of Stoke Park, and are admitted to a full view of the church, which stands at a short distance, but almost immediately within the gate, are particularly struck by the appearance of a grand sarcophagus, erected by Mr. Penn to the memory of Gray, in the year 1779. It is a lofty structure, in the purest style of architecture; and a tolerable idea of it, and the surrounding scenery, may be obtained from the cut at the head of this article, which has been executed from a drawing made on the spot. The inscription and quotations following are on the several sides of the pedestal. It is needless to say they are from the Elegy, and Ode to Eton College—the latter poem being unquestionably written from this very spot; and Mr. Penn has exhibited the finest taste in their selection.
On the end facing Mr. Penn's house—
THIS MONUMENT, IN HONOR OF THOMAS GRAY, WAS ERECTED, A. D. MDCCXCIX., AMONG THE SCENES CELEBRATED BY THAT GREAT LYRIC AND ELEGIAC POET. HE DIED XXX JULY, MDCCLXXI, AND LIES UNNOTICED IN THE CHURCH-YARD ADJOINING, UNDER THE TOMB-STONE ON WHICH HE PIOUSLY AND PATHETICALLY RECORDED THE INTERMENT OF HIS AUNT AND LAMENTED MOTHER.
On the side looking toward Windsor—
Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, Muttering his wayward fancies, he would rove; Now drooping, woful wan, like one forlorn, Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.
One morn I miss'd him on the 'custom'd hill, Along the heath, and near his fav'rite tree; Another came; nor yet beside the rill, Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.
On the end facing Stoke Palace—
Ye distant spires, ye antique towers, That crown the wat'ry glade, Ah! happy hills! Ah, pleasing shade! Ah! fields belov'd in vain! Where once my careless childhood strayed, A stranger yet to pain! I feel the gales that from ye blow, A momentary bliss bestow.
On the west side, looking toward the church-yard—
Beneath these rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade, Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap, Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike th' inevitable hour— The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
This noble monument is erected on a beautiful green mound, and is surrounded with flowers. It is protected by a deep trench, in the bottom of which is a palisade; but the inclosure may be entered by application at one of Mr. Penn's pretty entrance lodges, which is close by. The prospects from this part of the park are surpassingly beautiful, particularly looking toward the "distant spires and antique towers" of Eton and Windsor.
It may be worth while here to remark, that the church and church-yard of Stoke is surrounded by Mr. Penn's property, or more properly speaking his park.
Coming upon the beautiful monument quite unexpectedly, was not likely to diminish the enthusiasm previously entertained; and before proceeding to the church-yard, it was impossible to resist the impulse of making a rapid memorandum sketch of it. In after years, it was carefully and correctly drawn in all its aspects. Proceeding along "the churchway path" into the church-yard, where in reality "rests his head upon the lap of earth," the tomb-stone of the admired and beloved poet was soon found. It is at the east end of the church, nearly under a window.
Persons of a cold temperament, and not imbued with the love of poetry, may perhaps smile when it is admitted, that the approach to that tomb was made with steps as slow and reverential as those of any devout Catholic approaching the shrine of his patron saint.
Long was it gazed upon, and frequently was the inscription read, and the following cut exhibits the coat of arms and inscriptions on the blue marble tabular stone, as they were carefully drawn and copied, that very evening:
IN THE VAULT BENEATH ARE DEPOSITED IN HOPE OF A JOYFUL RESURRECTION, THE REMAINS OF MARY ANTROBUS, SHE DIED UNMARRIED, NOVEMBER 5TH, 1749, AGED 66.
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IN THE SAME PIOUS CONFIDENCE, BESIDE HER FRIEND AND SISTER, HERE SLEEP THE REMAINS OF DOROTHY GRAY, WIDOW, THE CAREFUL TENDER MOTHER OF MANY CHILDREN, ONE OF WHOM ALONE HAD THE MISFORTUNE TO SURVIVE HER. SHE DIED MARCH 11TH, 1753, AGED 67.
It was a soft, balmy evening; "every leaf was at rest;" the deer in the park had betaken themselves to their favorite haunts, under the wide-spreading boughs of ancient oaks and elms, and were reposing in happy security.
The long continued twilight of England was gathering in, and I still lingered in the consecrated inclosure, fascinated with the unmistakable antiquity of the church, which, although small as compared with many others, is eminently romantic, and I cannot better describe the scene, and the feelings impressed at the moment, than in the words of one equally near as dear—
"A holy spell pervades thy gloom, A silent charm breathes all around; And the dread stillness of the tomb Reigns o'er thy hallowed haunted ground."
It may be proper to mention that the poem from which this is extracted, is descriptive of Haddon Hall, one of the most ancient and perfect specimens of the pure Gothic in England. The poem appeared in one of the English Annuals.
At peace with all the world, and filled with emotions of true and sincere gratitude to the Giver of all good, for the pure happiness then enjoyed, I sank down by the tomb-stone, overpowered with veneration, and breathed fervent thanks to HIM who refuses not the offering of a humble and contrite heart.
This narrative is meant to be a faithful and honest representation of facts and circumstances that actually occurred, and it is firmly believed that none can stray into an ancient secluded country church-yard, during the decline of day, without deeply meditating on those who for ages have slept below, and where ALL must soon sleep, without feeling true devotion, and forming resolves for future and amended conduct.
Slowly quitting the church-yard, and approaching the elevated monument, now become almost sublime as the shades of evening rendered dim its classic outline, it was impossible to avoid lingering some time longer beside it, recalling various passages of the Elegy appropriate to the occasion; the landscape was indeed "glimmering on the sight," and there was a "solemn stillness in the air," well befitting the occasion; more particularly appropriate was that fine stanza, which, although written by Gray, is omitted in all editions of the Elegy except the one hereafter noticed, in where it was re-incorporated by the editor, [the present writer,] in consequence of a suggestion kindly offered in a letter from Granville Penn, Esq., then residing with his brother at Stoke Park.
Hark! how the sacred calm that breathes around Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease; In still small accents whispering from the ground, A grateful earnest of eternal peace.
The Elegy is undoubtedly the most popular poem in the English language; it was translated into that of every country in Europe, besides Latin and Greek. It has been more frequently, elaborately and expensively illustrated with pictorial embellishments. The autograph copy of it, in the poet's small, neat hand, written on two small half sheets of paper, was sold last year for no less than one hundred pounds sterling; and the spirited purchaser was most appropriately the proprietor of Stoke Park, Granville John Penn, Esq., who at the same sale gave forty-five pounds for the autograph copy of The Long Story, and one hundred and five pounds for the Odes; whilst another gentleman gave forty pounds for two short poems and a letter from the illustrious poet on the death of his father.
The truthfulness of the pictures presented to the imagination in the Elegy could not be denied, for there, on the very spot where, beyond all question, it was composed, and after a lapse of nearly one hundred years, the images which impressed the mind of the inspired poet came fresh at every turn. It is true the curfew did not toll, but the "lowing herd" were as distinctly audible as the beetle wheeling his droning flight. The yew tree's shade—that identical tree, to which, to a moral certainty, the poet had reference—is represented in the cut, in the corner of the inclosure, as distinctly as the smallness of the scale admitted, underneath its shade the "turf lies in many a mouldering heap," and the "rugged elms" are outside the inclosure, but their outstretched arms overspread many a "narrow cell and frail memorial," where the "rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep," and where also "their name and years are spelt by th' unlettered muse." A singular error in spelling the name of one of those humble persons, was however committed by the poet himself in his "Long Story," very pardonable in him, however, as the party was then alive; but that the error should have been perpetuated in ALL EDITIONS save one, down to that entitled "The Eton," being printed there, and edited by a reverend clergyman resident in the college, is somewhat singular; moreover the second edition of the Eton Gray appeared this very year, and the error remains, although the name is correctly given on the grave-stone. The excepted edition, in which alone it is correctly given, was published in 1821, and edited by the present writer for his friend Mr. John Sharpe. The circumstance will be noticed presently.
The Elegy of Gray was evidently written under the influence of strong feeling, and vivid impressions of the beautiful in the scenery around him, and when his sensitive mind was overspread with melancholy, in consequence of the death of his young, amiable and accomplished friend West, to whom, in June, 1742, he addressed his lovely Ode to Spring, which was written at Stoke; but before it reached his friend he was numbered with the dead! So true was the friendship subsisting between them, that the poet of Stoke was overpowered with a melancholy which, although subdued, lasted during a great part of his life.
The scenes amid which the Elegy was composed were well adapted to soothe and cherish that contemplative sadness which, when the wounds of grief are healing, it is a luxury to indulge, and that the poet did indulge them is self-evident in many a line.
In returning to Stoke Green to spend the night, some of the rustic peasantry were wending their way down the lane to the same place, but none of these simple people, although questioned, could tell aught of him whose fame and works had induced the pilgrimage to Stoke; neither did better success attend any succeeding inquiry at the village. So universally true is that scriptural saying, like ALL the sayings of HIM who uttered it, that a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house.
Retiring to rest early, with a full determination to do that which had often been resolved but never accomplished, that is, to rise with the dawn; the resolution had nearly defeated the purpose, inasmuch as the mind being surcharged with the past and the expected, there was little inclination to sleep until after midnight. But a full and fixed determination of the will overcomes greater difficulties, and the first streak of light at break of day found me up and dressed, and of a truth
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away, To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
The dawn was most lovely, and the perfume from the hawthorns delicious; every thing indicated a beautiful day. The sarcophagus stands on the most elevated spot, and there, where probably in days long past the poet had watched the rising of the sun, did I, a humble pilgrim at his shrine, await the same sublime spectacle.
As if to gratify a long cherished desire, the sun did rise with a splendor impossible to be exceeded, and the following lines, by an anonymous author, immediately recurred to memory:
O who can paint the rapture of the soul, As o'er the scene the sun first steals to sight, And all the world of vapors as they roll, And heaven's vast arch unveils in living light.
To witness the break of day in the country is indeed a luxury to which the inhabitants of cities are strangers. As the sun rose from the horizon, his increasing light brought into view myriads of dew-drops on every bud and blossom, which glittered and shone like diamonds. The sky-larks began to rise from their grassy beds among the daisies, ascending in circles to the clouds, and caroling a music which is almost heavenly to hear. The deer also were getting up from their shadowy lair under the trees, and the young fawns sprung away and took to flight as I passed a herd, under a clump of beeches, in order to obtain a view of the ancient mansion. In approaching it, a sound, familiar indeed but far from musical, struck the ear, and added another proof and a fresh charm to the fidelity of the picture drawn by the poet. The swallows were merrily "twittering" about the gable-ends, and it did the heart good to stand watching the probable successors of those active little visiters, whose predecessors had possibly attracted the notice of the bard. It is well known that these birds, like the orchard oriole, return year after year to the same house, and haunt where they had previously reared their young.
A strong and perhaps natural desire to inspect the interior of all that remained of the ancient mansion of the Huntingdons and Hattons was defeated, inasmuch as it was found barricaded. Imagination had been busy for many a year, in respect to its great hall and gallery, its rich windows "and passages that lead to nothing;" but as access to the interior was denied, the sketch-book was put in requisition, and an accurate view soon secured.
Observing at some distance, through a vista among the trees, a lofty pillar with a statue on its summit, and proceeding thither, it was found to be another of those splendid ornaments with which the taste and liberality of the proprietor had adorned his park, being erected to the memory of Sir Edward Coke, whose statue it was which surmounted the capital. Whilst engaged in sketching this truly classic object, a gentleman approached, who introduced himself as Mr. Osborne, the superintendent of the demesne. He expressed pleasure at seeing the sketches, and politely offered every facility for making such, but hinted that Mr. Penn had scruples, and very proper ones, about strangers approaching too near the house on the Sabbath day, to make sketches of objects in its vicinity.
[Footnote 2: A pair of Baltimore birds (the orchard oriole) returned summer after summer, and built their hanging nest, not only in the same apple-tree, but on the same bough, which overhung a terrace, in a garden belonging to the writer at Geneva, New York, until one season a terrific storm, not of hail but ice, tore the nest from the tree, and killed the young, and the parent birds never afterward returned.]
Mr. Osborne's offer was courteously made, and the consequence was that many visits to Stoke afterward took place, and the whole of the interesting scenery carefully sketched. He kindly pointed out all that was most worthy of attention about the estate and neighborhood, and made tender of his company to visit West-End, and show the house which Gray, and his mother and aunt had for many years occupied. The proprietor he said was Captain Salter, in whose family it had remained for a great many generations. Latterly the house has been purchased, enlarged, and put into complete repair by Mr. Granville John Penn, the present proprietor, nephew of John Penn, Esq., who died in June, 1834. After "a hasty" breakfast at Stoke Green, the church-yard was again visited, and there was not a grave-stone in it which was not examined and read. The error formerly alluded to was immediately detected. The passages in the Long Story, describing the mock trial at the "Great House," before Lady Cobham, may be worth transcribing.
Fame, in the shape of Mr. Purt, (By this time all the parish know it,) Had told that thereabouts there lurked A wicked imp they call a poet: Who prowled the country far and near, Bewitched the children of the peasants, Dried up the cows and lamed the deer, And sucked the eggs and killed the pheasants.
* * * * *
The court was sat, the culprit there, Forth from their gloomy mansions creeping, The Lady Janes and Joans repair, And from the gallery stand peeping: Such in the silence of the night Come (sweep) along some winding entry, (Styack has often seen the sight,) Or at the chapel-door stand sentry: In peaked hoods and mantles tarnished Sour visages enough to scare ye, High dames of honor once who garnished The drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary.
* * * * *
The bard with many an artful fib Had in imagination fenced him, Disproved the arguments of Squib And all that Groom could urge against him.
[Footnote 3: In all editions but that published by Mr. John Sharpe the initial only of this name has been given—"Mr. P."—even the Eton edition of this year has it so. It seems folly to continue what may have been very proper nearly a hundred years ago, when the individual was alive; but the Rev. Robert Purt died in April, 1752!]
Finding on the stone alluded to, that it was to the memory of Mrs. Ann Tyacke, who died in 1753, it occurred that this was the Styack of the poem, where a foot-note in a copy then and there consulted, stated her to have been the housekeeper; and on inquiring of Mr. Osborne, he confirmed the conjecture. Two other foot-notes state Squib to have been groom of the chamber, and that Groom was steward; but finding another head-stone (both are represented in the large wood-cut, although not exactly in the situations they occupy in the church-yard) close to that of Mrs. Tyacke, to the memory of William Groom, who died 1751, it appears to offer evidence that Gray mistook the name of the one for the office of the other. The Eton edition has not a single foot-note from beginning to end of the volume. It is dedicated to Mr. Granville John Penn, and his "kind assistance during the progress of the work" acknowledged, both in its illustrations, and in the biographical sketch, not withstanding which "assistance," the error of the house-keeper's name is continued; and amongst the wood-cut illustrations, there is one entitled (both in the list and on the cut) "Stoke Church, east end, with tablet to Gray," when, in fact, it represents the tomb-stone at the end of the church, under which Gray and his mother are interred. The tablet to Gray is quite another thing, that was lately inserted in the wall of the church; but by some extraordinary blunder it records his death as having taken place on the 1st of August, while on the sarcophagus it is stated to have occurred on the 30th of July. Neither the one nor the other is correct. The Gentleman's Magazine for 1771, and the Annual Register for the same year, as well as Mathias' Life, 2 vols. 4to., 1814, all concur in giving it as having taken place on the 31st. The Etonian edition has it the 30th. After a considerable time spent in the church-yard, the hour of public worship drew near, the aged sexton appeared, opened the doors, and began to toll the bell—that same ancient bell which, century after century, had "rung in" generation after generation, and tolled at their funerals. It is difficult to realize the feelings excited on entering a sacred edifice of very ancient date, particularly if it is in the country, secluded amongst aged trees, looking as old as itself; and in walking over the stone floor, which, although so seldom trodden, is worn away into something like channels; in sitting in the same antique, and curiously carved, black oaken pews, which had been sat on by races of men who had occupied the same seats hundreds of years long past; but the effect is greatly increased on viewing the effigies of the mighty dead, lying on their marble beds, in long and low niches in the walls, some with the palms of their hands pressed together and pointing upward, as if in the act of supplication; and others grasping their swords, and having their legs crossed, indicating that they had fought for the cross in the Holy Land. Such a church, and such objects around, fill the mind with true devotion. The sublime words of Milton work out the picture to perfection.
There let the pealing organ blow To the full-voiced quire below, In service high, and anthems clear, As may with sweetness through mine ear Dissolve me into extasies, And bring all heaven before mine eyes.
It was gratifying and affecting to witness the piety, humility, and devotion of the congregation as they entered and took their seats in silence, long before the venerable clergyman entered the church; there was something exceedingly touching in the profound silence that reigned throughout the congregation, and induced one to think highly of that rule amongst those excellent people, who with great propriety are termed Friends. Public worship was attended both in the morning and afternoon, and I returned to London, feeling myself a much better man than when I left it, with a full determination to revisit a place where so much pleasure had been received. It was nearly three months before the resolve was carried into effect; but a second excursion was made in August, and Mr. Osborne was kind enough to show the house at West-End, together with the celebrated Burnham beeches, amongst which were several "which wreathed their old fantastic roots so high," evidently the originals alluded to in the Elegy. They are scarcely a mile from West-End, and are approached through another of those sweet green lanes with which the neighborhood abounds. They are part of the original forest. The spot was one of Gray's favorite haunts; and it would be difficult to find one better fitted for a lover of nature, and a contemplative mind. Late in the autumn an invitation was received from Mr. Osborne to spend a day or two with him; but it was not until the beginning of November that advantage could be taken of it. Arriving at his house late in the afternoon, his servant informed me he had been suddenly called away to the Isle of Portland, in Dorsetshire, where Mr. Penn was erecting a castle. She also apologized for Mrs. Osborne's inability to receive company, in consequence of "a particular circumstance," which circumstance she blushingly acknowledged was the birth of a fine boy the night before. There was no resource, therefore, but to walk down either to Stoke Green, or to Salt-Hill, where there are two well-known taverns. Before proceeding, however, the church-yard, almost of necessity, must be visited; and although in a direct line, it was not far from Mr. Osborne's house, a considerable circuit had to be made to get into the inclosure. The evening was particularly still—you could have heard a leaf fall; the twilight was just setting in, and a haze, or fog, coming on, but the spot was soon reached; and whilst kneeling, engaged, like Old Mortality, in plucking some weeds and long grass, which had sprung up about the tomb since the last visit, a slight sound—a very gentle rustle—struck the ear. I supposed it to be the ivy on the church-wall, but the next instant it was followed by a movement—something very near was certainly approaching. On looking up, it is impossible to describe with what mixed feelings of astonishment, apprehension, and awe, I beheld coming from a corner of the church-yard, (where there was no ingress through the brick wall,) and directly toward the spot where I knelt, the figure of a tall, majestic lady, dressed in a black velvet pelisse, black velvet hat, surmounted by a plume of black ostrich feathers. She was stepping slowly toward me, over the graves. It would be useless to deny that fear fixed me to the spot on beholding the expression of her very serious face, and her eyes firmly fixed on mine.
Appalled by her sudden appearance, it seemed as if she had just risen from the grave, dressed in a funeral pall; for I was facing toward that corner of the enclosure from which she was coming, and feeling certain no human being was there one minute before, I was breathless with apprehension, and glad to rest one arm on the tomb-stone until she came close up to me.
With a graceful inclination of the head, she addressed me.
"Mr. B——, I believe?"
"Yes, madam, that is my name."
"And you came down to visit Mr. Osborne, who has been called away to Portland."
I breathed more freely as I admitted it.
"It happens," she continued, "to be inconvenient for Mrs. Osborne to receive you, and as you came by invitation from her husband, if you will accept a night's lodging from me, I am enabled to offer it. I am Mr. Penn's housekeeper, and none of the family are at home."
Most joyfully was the invitation accepted; my mind was relieved from a very unpleasant load of apprehension—but the end was not yet! She began to lead the way over the graves, exactly toward the spot from whence she had so suddenly and mysteriously appeared; after proceeding a few steps, I ventured to say—
"Pray, madam, may I be allowed to inquire where you are leading to? I can see no egress in that direction, unless it be into an open grave or under a tomb-stone."
"Oh, you will find that out presently," replied the lady, transfixing me with a glance of her bright blue eyes, and I thought I could detect a rather equivocal expression about the corners of her beautiful mouth. This was not very encouraging, and not much liked, but she was a woman, and a lovely one, too much so by half to be a Banshee—I was on my guard, however, and ready, but the fog became so thick it was impossible to see three steps before us; in fact, it rolled over the church-yard wall in clouds. The lady linked her arm in mine, to prevent herself from stumbling, holding up her dress with the other hand, as the long dank grass was wetting it. At last we arrived in the very corner of the church-yard, she still keeping a firm hold of my arm.
"In Heaven's name, madam, what do you mean by leading me into this corner?"
"Oh, you are afraid, I see; but wait a moment."
On saying which, I observed her to take something bright from her girdle, which apprehension converted into a stiletto or dirk, and such is the force of self-preservation, that I was on the point of tripping her up and throwing her on her back. But thrusting the supposed dirk against the wall—presto—open sesame—the wall gave way, and she drew me through a doorway. This was done so quickly it absolutely seemed magic. For an instant I thought of dropping her arm—indeed I should have done so, and retreated back through the door, but she held my arm tight, and I almost quaked, for I thought she had dragged me into a secret vault, the manoeuvre was performed so adroitly. The drifting cold fog, however, soon made it plain we were in no vault, but the open park. In short, it was a door in the wall, flush with the bricks, and painted so exactly like them, it was impossible for a stranger to discover it. It was Mr. Penn's private entrance, and saved the family a walk of some distance. A narrow green walk, not previously remarked, led from the door to the west end of the church.
The housekeeper of a nobleman or gentleman of wealth, in England, generally enjoys an enviable situation. Intrusted with much that is valuable, she is generally a person of the highest consideration and respect, and seldom fails to acquire the elevated manners and refined address of her superiors. The lady in question was exactly one of this description, well educated, and well read; a magnificent library was at her command, and having much time, and what is better, fine taste, she had profited by it. Never was an evening passed in greater comfort, or with a more agreeable companion. After partaking of that most exhilarating of all beverages, the pure hyson, we began to chat with almost the same freedom as though we had been long acquainted. During a pause in the conversation, after looking in my face a moment, she said—
"Will you answer me one question?"
"Most certainly, any thing, you choose to ask."
"But will you answer it honestly and truly?"
"Do not doubt it."
"Well, then, tell me, were you not most horribly afraid when you saw me coming toward you in the church-yard?"
"I do frankly confess, madam, I was horribly afraid, and further, I firmly believe I should have taken to my heels, had you not been a very beautiful woman!"
Before the sentence was well finished her laughter was irrepressible.
"I knew it, I saw it, I intended it," said she, laughing so heartily that the tears sprung out of her beautiful eyes, and she was obliged to use her handkerchief to wipe them away.
"And do you feel no compunction for scaring a poor fellow half out of his wits?"
"None whatever," replied she gayly. "What could you expect when prowling amongst the graves in a church-yard so lone and solitary, like a goule, on a damp November night? I saw you from Mr. Osborne's going toward it, and determined to startle you—and I think I succeeded pretty effectually."
"You did, and had very nearly met with your reward, for when in the corner of that church-yard you pulled the key from your girdle, fully believing you to be the Evil One, I was on the point of strangling you."
Much laughter at my expense ensued, for the lady lacked neither wit nor humor, and the evening flew faster than desired. On retiring, a man servant conducted me to an apartment on the upper floor of the mansion, and sleep soon came and soon went, for an innumerable number of rats and mice were careering all over the bed! and I felt them sniffing about my nose and mouth; I sprang bolt upright, striking right and left like a madman. This sent them pattering all about the room, and dreading that I might find myself minus a nose or an ear before morning, I groped all around the room for a bell, but could find none; proceeding into the corridor and standing on tip-toe, bell-wires were soon found, and soon set a ringing; watching at the top of the very long staircase, a light was at last seen ascending, borne in the hand of a very fat man, who proved to be the butler; he had nothing on but his shirt, and a huge pair of red plush, which enveloped his nether bulk. Puffing with the exertion of ascending so many stairs, he at last saw me, still more lightly clothed than himself, and inquired what I wanted?
"Have you got a cat about the house?"
"No, sir, we have no cats, they destroy the young pheasants."
"A dog, then?"
"No dog, sir, on account of the deer."
"Then tell the housekeeper there are ten thousand rats and twenty thousand mice in the room I occupy!"
As he descended the stair he was heard mumbling, "cats!"—"dogs!"—"rats!"—"mice!" and chuckling ready to burst his fat sides.
After long waiting, the reflection of light on his red plush smalls (greats would better describe them) flashed up like a streak of lightning, and puffing harder than before, told me if I would follow him down stairs, he had orders to show me to another room.
Gathering up the articles of my dress over my arm, we descended, and I was shown into a room of almost regal splendor. The lofty bedstead had a canopy, terminating in a gilded coronet, and the ample hangings were of rich Venetian crimson velvet, trimmed and festooned "about, around and underneath." The ascent to this unusually lofty bed was by a flight of superb steps, covered with rich embossed velvet. Out of the royal palaces I had never seen such a bed.
In consequence of having stood so long undressed on the marble floor at the top of the stairs, shivering with cold, the magnificent bed, on getting into it, was found comfortable beyond expression. It felt as if it would never cease yielding under the pressure; it sunk down, down, down—there appeared no stop to its declension; and then its delicious warmth—what a luxury to a shivering man! Hugging myself under the idea of a glorious night's rest, and composing myself in the easiest possible position, it was more desirable to lay awake in such full enjoyment, than to sleep—sleep had lost all its charms. I was in the bed of beds—the celestial!
After thus laying about twenty minutes, enjoying perfect bliss, a sensation of some uneasiness began slowly to manifest itself, which induced a change of position; but the change did not relieve the uncomfortable feeling. It would be difficult to describe it, but it increased every moment, until at last it seemed as if the points of a hundred thousand fine needles were puncturing every pore. This was borne with great resignation and equanimity for some time, expecting it would go off; but the stinging sensation increased, and finally became intolerable; the celestial bed became one of infernal torture. I tossed, and dashed, and threw about my limbs in all directions, and almost bellowed like a mad bull.
What to do to relieve the torment I knew not. To ask for another bed was out of the question, and to attempt to sleep on thorns—thorns! they would have been thought a luxury to this of lying enduring the pains of the doomed. After long endurance of the pain, and in racking my brains considering what was best to be done, the intolerable sensations began by degrees to subside and grow less and less; but the heat, although nearly insupportable, was more easily endured. That horrible night was a long one—and long will it be before it is forgotten.
Coming down in the morning, expecting to find the lady all smiles and graces, I was surprised and hurt to find she received me rather coldly, and with averted head; but when she could no longer avoid turning round, never, in the whole course of my life, was I more astonished at the change she had undergone. It was a total, a radical change—she was hardly to be recognized—and it was scarcely possible to believe she was the lovely woman of the last night. Not that her splendid figure was altered—in fact, an elegant morning-dress rather tended to improve and set-off her full and almost voluptuous contour, and her soft, sweet voice was equally musical; but her face—the charms of her lovely face were vanished and gone!
Every one will admit that the nose is a most important, nay, a very prominent feature in female beauty. It is indispensible that a belle should have a beautiful nose; in fact, it is a question whether a woman without an eye would not be preferable to one with—but I anticipate.
"I see your surprise, sir," said she, with evident chagrin, "but it is all owing to you."
"To me, madam! I presume you allude to the altered appearance of your face, but I cannot conceive what I can have had to do with the change."
In brief, her beautiful nose was all over as red as scarlet, particularly the point of it, which exactly resembled a large red cherry, or ripe Siberian crab-apple. Now just think of it—a very fair woman with a blood-red nose! Faugh! it is enough to sicken the most devoted admirer of the sex. Suppose any gentleman going to be married, and full of love and admiration, should, on going to the house of his beloved bride on the appointed morning, to take her to church, humming to himself that sweet song, "She Wove a Wreath of Roses," finds her beautiful nose become a big rosy nosegay—would he not be apt to suppose she had over night been making pretty free sacrifices, not to the little god of love, but to jolly Bacchus? I did not do my belle such an injustice—and yet what could I think?
"How do you make out that I had any thing to do with such an important alteration, madam."
"O, as easy as it is true. Did not your wo-begone terrors in the church-yard throw me into immoderate fits of laughter, as you well know? And did not your adventures, after you retired, when reported to me, throw me all but into convulsions—the more I thought, the more I laughed, until it brought on a nervous headache so intense, it felt as if my head would have split? To relieve so distressing a pain, I took a bottle of eau de cologne to bed with me, and pulling out the stopper, propped it up by the pillow, right under my nose. I quite forgot it, and fell asleep with the bottle in that position."
"Ah!" said I, "I suspected the bottle had something to do with it."
"Quite true, quite true—but not the bottle you wickedly insinuate. How long I slept I know not, it must have been a long time; when I awoke, I was surprised to find my shoulder cold and wet—and then I recollected the bottle of cologne; but what was my horror, on getting up, to behold my face in this frightful condition, you may easily imagine."
Poor, dear lady, if she laughed heartily at the scare she gave me in the church-yard, I now had my revenge, full and ample—for I could not refrain from laughing outright every time I looked in her face; and laughter, when it is hearty and hilarious, is catching, almost as much as yawning; and I fancy few will dispute how potent, how Mesmeric, or magnetic the effect of an outstretched arm and wide gaping oscitation is. I declare, I caught myself gaping the other night on seeing my wife's white cat stretch herself on the rug, and yawn.
"I really should feel obliged if you would be polite enough to keep your eye off my face," said the lady.
Now it need hardly be remarked, that when any thing is the matter with a person's face, be it a wall-eye, a squint, a cancer, very bad teeth, or any such disfigurement or malady, it is impossible to look at any other spot—it is sure to fix your gaze, you can look at no other part; you cannot keep your eye off it, unless you are more generous, or better bred than most men.
"I really should feel obliged if you would be polite enough to keep your eye off my nose; it puts me out of countenance," said the fair one. She said this half earnest, half jest; and I obliged her, by directing my looks to her taper fingers and white hands—and the conversation proceeded with the breakfast.
"May I inquire how you rested, after your escape from the ten thousand rats, and twenty thousand mice, which attacked you before you changed your room?"
"Do you ask the question seriously?"
"Certainly I do."
"Why, then, to use a homely but a very expressive phrase, it was out of the frying-pan into the fire."
"Mercy on us! how can that be; you had what is considered the best bed in the house."
"O, I dare say—no doubt, the softest I ever lay in; but instead of ten thousand rats, and twenty thousand mice, I had not been in it fifteen minutes ere a hundred and twenty thousand hornets, wasps, scorpions, and centipedes, two or three thousand hedge-hogs, and as many porcupines, seemed to be full drive at me; and had I not soon been relieved by perspiration, I should assuredly have gone mad, and been in bedlam. Nervous headache! Why, madam, it would have been considered paradise, compared with the purgatory you inflicted on me."
Her eyes sparkled with glee—and she began to laugh joyously; but soon checking herself, and assuming a sort of mock sympathy, said,
"I am very sorry—very sorry, indeed, that you should have found your bed so like the love of some men, rather hot to hold."
On inquiring whether the grand coroneted bed, which had been as a hot gridiron to me, was intended for any particular person, she informed me it was for a Russian nobleman, Baron Nicholay, a much respected friend of Mr. Penn's, who sometimes visited Stoke, and who, being used to a bed of down in the cold climate of his own country, Mr. Penn, with his characteristic kindness and attention, had it prepared for the baron's especial comfort. She added that the reason why Mr. Penn had all his life remained a bachelor, was in consequence of an early attachment which he had formed for the baron's sister; that they were to have been married, but in driving the lady in a drouschky, or sledge, on the ice of the Neva, at St. Petersburg, by some fatality the ice gave way, and notwithstanding the most strenuous exertions of her lover, and the servant who stood behind the sled, the lady, by the force of the current, was swept away under the ice, and never afterward seen. That this shocking accident had such effect on Mr. Penn's mind, as well it might, he never could think of any other woman, but remained true and constant to his first love, mourning her tragic end all his life.
This was exactly the case with that most amiable and gifted man, the late Sir Thomas Lawrence, who being engaged and about to be married to a daughter of the celebrated Mrs. Siddons, the young lady was suddenly snatched from him by a rapid consumption; and Sir Thomas remained faithful to her beloved memory, wearing mourning during his life, and ever after used black wax in sealing his letters, as the writer can prove by many, many received from him during a series of years until his lamented death.
On asking my intelligent companion if she knew any particulars respecting Gray, she replied she did know a great deal regarding him; that Mr. Penn idolized his memory, and had made collections respecting him and the personages mentioned in the Long Story. At my pressing solicitation she was good enough to say she would write out all the particulars—a promise which she faithfully kept; and they may hereafter appear in some shape.
The morning proving foggy and damp, the time (instead of going to church) was passed in the library—a magnificent room, nearly two hundred feet long, extending the whole length of the building, and filled with books from floor to ceiling.
In one of the principal rooms, mounted upon a pedestal, there is a large piece of the identical tree under the shade of which Mr. Penn's celebrated ancestor, William, signed his treaty with the Indians, constituting him Lord Proprietary of what was afterward, and what will ever be, Pennsylvania. The piece of wood is part of a large limb, about five feet long. The tree was blown down in 1812, and the portion in question was transmitted by Dr. Rush to Mr. Penn, who had it varnished in its original state, and a brass plate affixed to it, with an inscription.
The sun broke through the fog about twelve o'clock, and had as cheering an effect on the landscape, as it almost invariably has on the mind. In the afternoon, after a most delightful day spent with the fair housekeeper, it became time to think of returning to London, and as the distance would be much lessened by proceeding through Mr. Penn's grounds, and going down to Salt-Hill instead of Slough, the lady offered to accompany me to the extent of the shrubberies, and point out the way. These enchanting shrubberies are adorned with busts of the Roman and English poets, placed on antique terms, along the well-kept, smooth gravel-walks, which wind about in many a serpentine direction through the grounds. There are appropriate quotations from the works of the different bards, placed on the front of each terminus. The bust of Gray, is placed under an ancient wide-spreading oak, with this inscription:
Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch A broader, browner shade; Where'er the rude moss-grown beech O'er canopies the glade, With me the muse shall sit and think, At ease reclined in rustic state.
There is an elegant small building, inscribed "The Temple of Fancy," in which a bust of the immortal Shakspeare is the only ornament. It is on a small knoll, commanding an extensive prospect through the trees, which are opened like a fan. Windsor Castle terminates this lovely view. Within the temple there is a long inscription from the Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, sc. 5, beginning thus,
Search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out; Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room; That it may stand till the perpetual doom, In state as wholesome, as in state 'tis fit, Worthy the owner, and the owner it.
The grounds, laid out with so much fine taste, terminate in a lovely little dell, sheltered on every side. In the centre there is a circle bordered with box, and growing within it, a collection of all the known varieties of heath. The plants were then in full flower, and innumerable honey-bees were feeding and buzzing. To one who, in early life, had been accustomed to tread the heath-covered hills of Scotland, the unexpected sight of these blooming plants of the mountain was a treat; and the effect was heightened on seeing the bust of Scotia's most admired bard, Thomson, adorning it. The inscription was from that sublime, almost divine hymn, with which the Seasons conclude, and eminently well applied to the heath, as some one or other of the varieties blossom nearly all the year through.
These, as they change, Almighty Father, these, Are but the varied God. The rolling year Is full of thee.
In that secluded dell I bade a sorrowful and unwilling adieu to the lady who had shown such extraordinary politeness. It may be worth the while to mention that she was soon after married, much against the wish of Mr. Penn, who had a great aversion to any changes in his establishment; for a kinder, a better, a more pious, or more accomplished gentleman than the late John Penn, of Stoke Park, England could not boast.
* * * * *
In consequence of the extraordinary prices lately paid for the autograph copies of Gray's poems, more particularly that of the Elegy, it has been thought it would be acceptable to the readers of the Magazine to be presented with a fac simile. The following have therefore been traced, and engraved with great care and accuracy, from the first and last stanzas of the Elegy, and the signature from a letter. These will give an exact idea of the peculiarly neat and elegant handwriting of the Poet of Stoke.
* * * * *
FROM THE GERMAN OF KORNER.
BY WILLIAM C. BRYANT.
In yonder mill I rested, And sat me down to look Upon the wheel's quick glimmer. And on the flowing brook.
As in a dream, before me, The saw, with restless play, Was cleaving through a fir-tree Its long and steady way.
The tree through all its fibres With living motion stirred, And, in a dirge-like murmur, These solemn words I heard—
Oh, thou, who wanderest hither, A timely guest thou art! For thee this cruel engine Is passing through my heart.
When soon, in earth's still bosom, Thy hours of rest begin, This wood shall form the chamber Whose walls shall close thee in.
Four planks—I saw and shuddered— Dropped in that busy mill; Then, as I tried to answer, At once the wheel was still.
OR LOVE AND PRIDE.
BY ENNA DUVAL.
So changes mortal Life with fleeting years; A mournful change, should Reason fail to bring The timely insight that can temper fears, And from vicissitude remove its sting; While Faith aspires to seats in that domain Where joys are perfect—neither wax nor wane. WORDSWORTH.
It was a warm, cloudy, sultry summer morning—scarcely a breath of air stirred the clematis and woodbine blossoms that peeped in and clustered around the breakfast-room window, greeting us with fresh fragrance; but on this morning no pleasant air breathed sighingly over them, and they looked drooping and faded. I was visiting my friend Effie Morris, who resided in a pleasant country village, some twenty or thirty miles from my city home. We were both young, and had been school-girl friends from early childhood. The preceding winter had been our closing session at school, and we were about entering our little world as women. Effie was an only daughter of a widowed mother. Possessing comfortable means, they lived most pleasantly in their quiet romantic little village. Effie had stayed with me during the winters of her school-days, while I had always returned the compliment by spending the summer months at her pleasant home. Her mother was lovely both in mind and disposition, and though she had suffered much from affliction, she still retained youthful and sympathizing feelings. Effie was gentle and beautiful, and the most innocent, unsophisticated little enthusiast that ever breathed. She had arrived at the age of seventeen, and to my certain knowledge had never felt the first heart-throb; never had been in love. In vain had we attended the dancing-school balls, and little parties. A host of boy-lovers surrounded the little set to which we belonged, and yet Effie remained entirely heart-whole. She never flirted, never sentimentalized with gentlemen, and she was called cold and matter-of-fact, by those who judged her alone by her manner; but one glance in her soft, dove-like eyes, it seems to me, should have set them a doubting. I have seen those expressive eyes well up with tears when together we would read some old story or poem—
"Two shall be named preeminently dear— The gentle Lady married to the Moor, And heavenly Una with her milk-white Lamb"—
or leaning from our bed-room window, at midnight, we would gaze on the silvery moon in the heavens, listening to the rippling notes of the water-spirits that to our fancy inhabited the sparkling stream that ran near the house. How beautifully would she improvise at times—for improvisations in truth were they, while she was quite unconscious of her gift. She never wrote a line of poetry, but when in such moods, every word she uttered was true, pure poetry. She had a most remarkable memory, and seemed never to forget a line she read. To me she would repeat page after page of our favorite authors, when we would be wandering through the woods, our arms entwined around each other.
Effie Morris was an enthusiastic dreamer, and entertained certain little romantic exaggerated opinions, out of which it was impossible to argue her—sometimes her actions ran contrary to these opinions, and we would fancy that surely now she would admit the fallacy of her arguments in favor of them; but when taxed with it, she would in the most earnest, sincere manner defend her original position, proving to us that no matter how her actions appeared to others, they were in her own mind entirely in keeping with these first expressed opinions, which to us seemed entirely at variance. But she was so gentle in argument, and proved so plainly that though her reasoning might be false, her thoughts were so beautiful and pure, as to make us feel perfectly willing to pardon her obstinacy.
On the morning I speak of, we lounged languidly over the breakfast-table, not caring to taste of the tempting crisp rolls, or drink of the fragrant Mocha juice, the delicious fumes of which rose up from the delicate China cups all unheeded by us. At first we talked listlessly of various things, wandering from subject to subject, and at last, to our surprise, we found ourselves engaged in a sprightly, animated argument; each forgetting the close atmosphere that seemed at first to weigh down all vivacity. The subject of this argument was the possibility of pride overcoming love in a woman's heart. Mrs. Morris and I contended that love weakened or quite died out if the object proved unworthy or indifferent. Our romantic Effie of course took the opposite side. True love to her mind was unalterable. Falsehood, deceit, change—no matter what sorrow, she said, might afflict the pure loving heart—its love would still remain. "I cannot," she exclaimed enthusiastically, "imagine for an instant that true, genuine love should—could have any affinity with pride. When I see a woman giving evidence of what is called high spirit in love matters, I straightway lose all sympathy for her heart-troubles. I say to myself—she has never truly loved."
We argued, but in vain; at length her mother laughingly cried out—"Nonsense, Effie, no one would sooner resent neglect from a lover than yourself. True love, as you call it, would never make such a spiritless, meek creature out of the material of which you are composed."
"Yes, in truth," I added, as I saw our pretty enthusiast, half vexed, shake her head obstinately at her mother's prophecy—"I can see those soft eyes of yours, Effie, darling, flash most eloquent fire, should your true love meet with unworthiness."
During our conversation the clouds had broken, the wind changed, and a delicious breeze came sweeping in at the windows as if to cool our cheeks, flushed with the playful argument.
"Will you ride or walk this morning, girls?" asked Mrs. Morris, as we arose from the breakfast-table.
"Oh, let us take our books, guitar and work up the mill-stream to the old oak, dear mamma," exclaimed Effie, "and spend an hour or two there."
"But it will be mid-day when we return," replied her mother.
"That's true," said Effie, laughing, "but Leven can drive up to the old broken bridge for us at mid-day."
"To be sure he can," said Mrs. Morris, and accordingly we sallied forth, laden with books and netting, while a servant trudged on ahead, with camp-stools and guitar. Nothing eventful occurred on that particular morning, and yet though years have passed since then, I never recall the undulating scenery of the narrow, dark, winding mill-stream of Stamford, but it presents itself to my mind's eye as it looked on that morning. In my waking or sleeping dreams, I see the old oak at the morning hours, and whenever the happy moments I have spent at Effie Morris' country home come to my memory, this morning is always the brightest, most vivid picture presented before me by my fancy. As Hans Christian Andersen says with such poetic eloquence in his Improvisatore—"It was one of those moments which occur but once in a person's life, which, without signalizing itself by any great life-adventure, yet stamps itself in its whole coloring upon the Psyche wings."
We walked slowly along the narrow bank—tall trees towered around us, whose waving branches, together with the floating clouds, were mirrored with exquisite distinctness on the bosom of the dark, deep, narrow stream—near at shore lay the dreaming, luxurious water-lilies, and a thousand beautiful blossoms bent over the bank, and kissed playfully the passing waters, or coquetted with the inconstant breeze. Our favorite resting-place was about a mile's walk up the beautiful stream, and to reach it we had to cross to the opposite shore, over a rude, half-ruined bridge, which added to the picturesque beauty of the scenery. The oak was a century old tree, and stood upon rising ground a short distance from the shore. How calmly and happily passed that morning. Effie sang wild ballads for us, and her rich full notes were echoed from the distance by the spirit voices of the hills. We wove garlands of water-lilies and wild flowers, and when I said we were making Ophelias of ourselves, Effie, with shy earnestness most bewitching, unloosened her beautiful hair, twining the long locks, and banding her temples with the water-lily garlands and long grass—then wrapping an India muslin mantle around her shoulders, she gathered up the ends on her arms, filling them with sprigs of wild blossoms, and acted poor Ophelia's mad scene most touchingly. Tears gathered in our eyes as she concluded the wild, wailing melody
"And will he not come again, And will he not come again, No, no, he is dead, Go to thy death-bed, He never will come again.
"His beard was as white as snow, All flaxen was his poll— He is gone, he is gone, And we cast away moan— God a mercy on his soul."
There was a deep, touching pathos in her voice as she uttered the minor notes of this song, and her soft eyes beamed half vacantly, half reverently, as looking up to heaven she uttered in low breathing tones—
"And of all Christian souls! I pray God!"
Then suddenly arousing herself, she looked toward us and murmured, as she turned away with a sad, tearful smile, "God be wi' you." The illusion was perfect, and we both sobbed outright.
Effie Morris was one of the few true geniuses I have known in my life time; and when I have said this to those who only met with her in society, they have laughed and wondered what genius there could be in my cold, quiet friend.
The following winter Effie entered society. Her mother had many gay and fashionable friends in the principal northern cities, and during the winter season her letters to me were dated at one time from Washington, then again from some other gay city; and in this free from care pleasant manner did her days pass. Household duties kept me, though a young girl, close at home. Possibly if Effie had been thrown into the active domestic sphere which was my mission, her history might have been different. She certainly would have been less of a dreamer. Exquisite waking dreams, woven of the shining fairy threads of fancy, meet with but poor encouragement in every-day life, and take flight sometimes never to return, when one is rudely awakened from them in order to attend to "the baked and the broiled." I remember, when a girl, feeling at times a little restive under the duties unavoidably imposed upon me, and often would indulge in a morbid sentimental humor, dreaming over some "rare old poet" or blessed romance, to the exceeding great detriment of my household affairs, making my poor father sigh over a tough, badly cooked stake, and cheerless, dusty house; but these moods, to my credit be it told, were of rare occurrence; and I say now the best school for a dreaming, enthusiastic girl, who sighs for the realization of her fancy visions, is to place her in charge of some active duty—to make her feel it is exacted from her—that she must see it performed. I mean not that a delicate intellectual spirit should be borne to the earth disheartened with care and hard labor—but a share of domestic cares, domestic duties, is both wholesome and necessary for a woman. Cultivate if possible in a girl a taste for reading and study first, then she will soon find time for intellectual pursuits, which, from being in a measure denied to her, will become dearer. In her attempts to secure moments for the indulgence of her mental desires she will unconsciously learn order, management and economy of time and labor, thus will her mind be strengthened. But I am digressing, dear reader. I am sadly talkative on this subject, and sometimes fancy I could educate a girl most famously; and when "thinking aloud" of the perfect woman my theory would certainly complete, I am often pitched rudely from my self-satisfied position, by some married friend saying, in a half vexed, impatient tone—"Ah, yes, this is all very fine in theory—no doubt you would be successful—we all know the homely adage—'old bachelors' wives and old maids' children,' &c."
Effie was not what is called a belle in society. She was too cold and spiritual. Her beauty was too delicate to make an impression in the gay ball-room; and she cared little for what both men and women in the world pine after—popularity. She danced and talked only with those who pleased her, and sometimes not at all if it did not suit her fancy. There was a great contrast between her mother and herself. Mrs. Morris, though "forty rising," was still a fine-looking, distingue woman; and on her re-entrance into society with her daughter, she produced a greater impression than did Effie. She had a merry, joyous disposition, and without possessing half the mental superiority her daughter was gifted with, she had a light, easy conversational ability, playful repartee, an elegant style and manner, and a sufficient knowledge of accomplishments to produce an effect in the gay world, and make her the centre of attraction of every circle she entered; and the world wondered so brilliant a mother should have so indifferent a daughter. She doted on Effie; and, I am sure, loved her all the more for her calm, quiet way. She often said to me, "Effie is very superior to the women one meets with—she has a pure, elevated spirit. So delicate a nature as hers is not properly appreciated in this world."