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The sweetness and melody of these stanzas, as well as their pervading holiness, render them no unfitting conclusion to this little garland of verses, varying in manner, but of which we may truly say that they are in tone and feeling most English and most feminine.
RICHARD LOVELACE, ROGER L'ESTRANGE, THE MARQUIS OF
If there be one thing more than another in the nice balance of tastes and prejudices (for I do not speak here of principles) which inclines us now to the elegance of Charles, now to the strength of Cromwell—which disgusts us alternately with the license of the Cavaliers and the fanaticism of the Roundheads ; it would be the melancholy ruin of cast-down castles and plundered shrines, that meet our eyes all over our fair land, and nowhere in greater profusion than in this district, lying as it does in the very
midst of some of the most celebrated battles of the Civil Wars.
To say nothing of the siege of Reading, which more even than the vandalism of the Reformation completed the destruction of that noble abbey, the third in rank and size in England, with its magnificent church, its cloisters, and its halls, covering thirty acres of buildings—and such buildings ! within the outer courts ;
-to say nothing of that most reckless barbarity just at our door —we in our little village of Aberleigh lie between Basing-House to the south, whose desperately defended walls offer little more now than a mere site—and Donnington to the west, where the ruined Gate towers upon the hill alone remain of that strong fortress, which overlooked the well-contested field of Newbury—and Chalgrove to the north, where the reaper as he binds his sheaf, still pauses to tell you the very place where Hampden fell ; every spot has its history! Look at a wooden spire, and your companion shakes his head, and says that it has been so ever since the Cavaliers were blown up in the church-tower! Ask the history of a crumbling wall, and the answer is pretty sure to be, Cromwell! That his Highness the Lord Protector did leave what an accom
plished friend of mine calls “his peculiar impressions” upon a great many places in our neighborhood is pretty certain ; on so many, that there is no actual or authentic catalogue of all; and in some cases there is nothing but general tradition, and the nature of the “ impressions” in question, to vouch for the fact of their destruction at that period.
Among these, one of the edifices that must have been best worth preserving, and is even now most interesting to see, is the grand old castellated mansion, which in the reign of Elizabeth belonged to one of her favorite courtiers, and was known as Master Comptroller's House, at Grays.
The very road to it is singularly interesting. Passing through the town, which increases in growth every day, until one wonders when and where it will stop, and looking with ever-fresh admiration at the beautiful lace-work window of the old Friary, which I long to see preserved in the fitliest manner, by forming again the chief ornament of a church, and then driving under the arch of the Great Western Railway, and feeling the strange vibration of some monster train passing over our heads—a proceeding which never fails to make my pony show off his choicest airs and graces, pricking up his pretty ears, tossing his slender head, dancing upon four feet, and sometimes rearing upon two-we arrive at the long, low, picturesque old bridge, the oldest of all the bridges that cross the Thames, so narrow that no two vehicles can pass at once, and that over every pier triangular spaces have been devised for the safety of foot-passengers.
On the center arch is a fisherman's hut, occupying the place once filled by a friar's cell, and covering a still existing chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, now put to secular uses--a dairy or a cellar.
A little way down the river is one of the beautiful islands of the Thames, now a smooth and verdant meadow, edged round with old willow pollards calmly reflected in the bright, clear waters, but giving back in the twelfth century a far different
Here was fought a wager of battle between Robert de Montford, appellant, and 'Henry de Essex, hereditary Standardbearer of the Kings of England, defendant, by command, and in the presence of Henry the Second The story is told very minutely and graphically by Stowe. Robert de Montford at length struck down his adversary, “who fell,” says the old historian, "after receiving many wounds; and the King, at the request of several noblemen, his relations, gave permission to the monks to inter the body, commanding that no further violence should be offered to it. The monks took up the vanquished knight, and carried him into the abbey, where he revived.
When he recovered from his wounds, he was received into the community, and assumed the habit of the order, his lands being forfeited to the King.” I have always thought that this story would afford excellent scope to some great novelist, who might give a fair and accurate picture of monastic life, and, indeed, of the monastic orders, as landlords, neighbors, teachers, priests, without any mixture of controversial theology, or inventing any predecessors of Luther or Wicliffe. How we should have liked to have heard all about“ The Monastery,' about the “ Abbot,” and Father Eustace, untroubled by Henry Warden or John Knox! From the moment that they appear, our comfort in the book vanishes, just as completely as that of the good easy Abbot Boniface himself. There we are in the middle of vexed questions, with the beautiful pile of Melrose threatening every moment to fall about our ears !
Our business now, however, is to get over the bridge, which after the excitement of one dispute with a pugnacious carrier, and another with a saucy groom, whose caracoling horse had well nigh leaped over the parapets on either side; after some backing of other carriages, and some danger of being forced to back our own, we at last achieve, and enter unscathed, the pleasant village of Caversham.
To the left, through a highly ornamented lodge, lies the road :0 the ancient seat of the Blounts, a house made famous by Pope, where the fair ladies of his love, the sisters Martha and Teresa, lived and died. A fine old place it is; and a picturesque road leads to it, winding through a tract called the Warren, between the high chalk-cliffs, clothed with trees of all varieties, that for so many miles fence in the northern side of the Thames, and the lordly river itself, now concealed by tall clms, now open and shining in the full light of the summer sun.
There is not such a power-bank in Oxfordshire as Caversham Warren.
Qur way, however, leads straight on. A few miles farther, and a turn to the right conducts us to one of the grand old village churches, which give so much of character to English landscape. A large and beautiful pile it is. The tower half-clothed with ivy, standing with its charming vicarage and its pretty vicarage
garden on a high eminence, overhanging one of the finest bends of the great river. A woody lane leads from the church to the bottom of the chalk-cliff, one side of which stands out from the road below, like a promontory, surmounted by the laurel hedges and flowery arbors of the vicarage-garden, and crested by a noble cedar of Lebanon. This is Shiplake church, famed far and near for its magnificent oak carving, and the rich painted glass of its windows, collected, long before such adornments were fashionable, by the fine taste of the late vicar, and therefore filled with the
very choicest specimens of mediæval art, chiefly obtained from the remains of the celebrated Abbey of St. Bertin, near St. Orners, sacked during the first French Revolution. In this church Alfred Tennyson was married. Blessings be upon
him! I never saw the great Poet in my life, but thousands who never may have seen him either, but who owe to his poetry the purest and richest intellectual enjoyment, will «cho and re-echo the benison.
A little way further, and a turn to the left leads to another spot consecrated by genius-Woodcot, where Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton passed the earlier years of his married life, and wrote several of his most powerful novels. I have always thought that the scenery of Paul Clifford caught some of its tone from that wild and beautiful country, for wild and beautiful it is. The terrace in the grounds commands a most extensive prospect; and beneath a clump of trees on the common behind the house, is the only spot where on a clear day Windsor may be seen on one side, and Oxford on the other-looking almost like the domnes and towers and pinnacles that sometimes appear in the clouds-a fairy picture that the next breeze may waft away! This beautiful residence stands so high, that one of its former possessors, Admiral Fraser (grandfather to that dear friend of mine who is the present owner) could discover Woodcot Clump from the mast of his own ship at Spithead, a distance of sixty miles.
Wyfold's Court, another pretty place a little farther on, which also belonged once to a most dear friend, possesses the finest Wych-elms in England. Artists come from far and near to paint these stately trees, whose down-dropping branches and magnificent height are at once so graceful and so rich. They are said always to indicate ecclesiastical possession, but no trace of such dependency is to be found in the title-deeds, or in the