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of this paragon of watering-places, I may state that it is to be sought for near the lower escarpment of a carboniferous mountain limestone; and from my own observation I may add, that it has a clock in a conspicuous position, which, at whatever time of day you pass it, asserts and maintains with unflinching constancy that it wants twenty minutes to six.
Perhaps I might mention, toothough this is scarcely a distinguishing characteristic, but an attribute I fear of all places that boast 'the fatal gift of beauty-that it devotes itself to the extraction of shillings from visitors' pockets with a zeal worthy of a better cause; and moreover, with the same purpose, blocks and boards up the entrance to some of its finest pieces of rock scenery, and admits you through a wooden door with a padlock, as into a coal-cellar. Now it cannot be denied that, independently of a natural reluctance on the part of visitors to part with their coin, it is somewhat disturbing to æsthetical influences to be continually called upon to pay taxes.
Suppose, on being introduced to a beautiful woman, you were required to pay for the sight of each feature-sixpence for her nose, a shilling for her mouth, half-a-crown for her eyes, and so forth-would not your pleasure in the aspect of the beauty be considerably diminished? But, as I have said, my watering-place has this property only in common with most other places whose charms are renowned.
The trail of the serpent is over them all.' There is, however, a feature that we may venture to pronounce unique. Turning once more to our faithful guide and companion, we find that in the gardens of a neighbouring nobleman's seat is to be seen a magnificent temple soaring aloft,' and there is not likely to be more than one specimen of that kind. When that was written time had not yet brought forth the sublime M. Nadar or his balloon. I think it a duty to point out, bythe-by, that this topographical literature would prove highly useful
to all who study economy' in the art of making the smallest imaginable quantity of ideas go as far as possible. To rising statesmen desirous of acquiring proficiency in
accomplishment of talking against time, to writers paid by the sheet, and others. (Do not let any one suppose I am thinking of the pulpit).
Here, for example, is a passage affording a magnificent specimen of what we may call the enlarged predicate. The proposition to be stated is that a river flows in a winding course amongst rocks; but mark how this simple fact is expanded and embroidered, till we fairly lose sight of it under the richness of the ornamentation. The writer is speaking of an early period in the history of the happy valley. Here is the sentence. Take a long breath, and off we go.
'The lovely like a silver thread, wound its solitary way among lofty peaks, here lashing their base (the silver thread, videlicet) and rolling in foam over their broken fragments, there where the dale expanded, hushed into a gentle murmur, as it glided over its smooth pebbly bed, unknown and unheeded, save perhaps by the shepherd when in quest of his flock that browsed in its recesses, descending the dale and mingling his shrill whistle with the roar of its waters (the silver thread before mentioned); or by the untaught peasant from the neighbouring villages and hamlets, who, instead of being reminded by the church-going bell of his duty to his Maker, strayed and whiled away many an idle hour on holy Sabbath day to no good purpose; or by the hardy and fearless miner who threaded his way over the solitary paths to his accustomed labour in the dark recesses of the mines which abounded and were worked from time immemorial in its immediate neighbourhood.'
A roaring silver thread lashing the base of rocks is one of those daring figures of speech which require an imagination almost equal to the writer's to realise. What but such a fertile soil could have caused
that simple fact concerning the course of the river to sprout forth into this rich luxuriance of suggestion? Why the peasant from the neighbouring village should be untaught, unmindful of his duty to his Maker, and an habitual Sabbathbreaker, we do not clearly see; but it is the writer's peasant, and he may surely do what he likes with his own.
This tall talk has carried us up
so high that we find ourselves fairly in the region of poetry, and are met by a gentleman who in the last century took out a regular diploma as a poet. He here presents us with a specimen of his very neat manufacture; a description with which no fault can be found, except that it has not, as far as I have been able to discover, the smallest resemblance to the thing described :
Round the grey towers, and down the fringed walls,
and is 'extremely efficacious in all
But what unwonted sounds are these that reach my ear from behind that great hill, across which the shadows of light clouds are flying, whose before monotonous looking surface the bursting sun now breaks into endless varieties of bright knolls and soft green hollows and rich patches of dark purple heath? Yes, beyond doubt they are warlike sounds that are awakening the echoes; and even this peaceful region is not beyond the reach of ‘gun, drum, trumpet, blunderbuss, and thunder.'
I now remember to have heard that there was to be a volunteer gathering: a review, and sham fight, and what not; and to have noticed extraordinary signs of excitement in the village. I scramble up the rock to a point whence I can obtain a view round the shoulder of the hill, and behold a grand military spectacle; as grand, at least, as circumstances will permit with armies of four or five hundred men of a side. The battle-field lies amidst slopes and hollows of the most exquisite verdure, with umbrageous woods for the enemy' to lie concealed in, and a noble ridge or natural terrace commanding a view of the scene of action and of a wide stretch of magnificent country beyond. The whole country side is now as
sembled on the ridge, and wives and mothers and confidential friends' are pointing out, with not a little exultation, the particular hero in whom they are chiefly interested. The golden sunset kindles all the bright points of weapons and accoutrements into flame, and casts rose tints on clouds of smoke, and lights a sudden glory on the distant hills. Every shot tells; that is to say, produces by reverberation among the rocks an amount of noise that exceeds our most sanguine expectations. It is certain, though the fact may not be generally known, that the English people are under considerable obligation to his imperial majesty Napoleon III., for he has been the means of furnishing them with what they much needed, the occasion of genuine popular holidays, in which rich and poor, educated and uneducated, may meet on common ground. The only other festivals acceptable to all classes have hitherto been scarce; and it is needless to say to what objections they are open as popular amusements. The attempts often made to revive the country sports of a different age are mostly deplorable failures. The efforts at the attainment of a leg of mutton under the difficulties presented by a wellgreased pole; the competition of damsels in very light costume for a useful article of attire; even the races of wheelbarrows under the guidance of blind men; however facetious and exhilarating they may
once have been deemed, have now lost their charm; indeed, I have more than once observed symptoms of something like disgust and indignation at the 'gentlefolks' thinking such things could entertain any but the sots and mauvais sujets of the village.
Another method of solving the problem, by turning science into a plaything for the million, has not been very successful; but a volunteer holiday unites all the requisite conditions, addresses itself alike to all classes, and though the danger that called forth the movement is now happily past, has still enough of earnest purpose to redeem it from the character of mere child's play.
And now suddenly while the battle rages there is a grand effect altogether unlooked for an explosion as of some full charged cannon; and at no great distance from where we are standing, come crashing and thundering down masses of limestone rock. Nothing could be more opportune, occurring as it did in the most fortissimo passage of the performance; but, truth to tell, it was no warlike operation at all, but the blasting of rocks for peaceful constructive purposes, namely, to be burnt into lime. Almost at the same moment, too, from what looks at this distance like a solid perpendicular cliff, out bursts, with a rum-. ble and a roar and a flash, a certain fiery dragon well known in these parts, which gazes for a moment at what is going on, and then, as if terrified at the martial aspect of our volunteers, plunges into another rocky cavern and is seen no more.
The day terminates with fireworks, and such joys as are seldom tasted out of Paradise; and for all this, as I have said, we are indebted to that mighty potentate who lately came forward in the spirit of a lamb with a proposal for a congress of peace, like pussy, who, when she has been detected in an attempt upon the cream, turns upon you blandly innocent eyes, and has evidently no thought of the jug.
I might say more of my happy valley; but what avails it to speak of holiday delights to young gentle
men who have 'resumed their studies?' The fiery dragon returned one day when our gallant volunteers were not in arms to defend us, and bore me away; me, and a host of other victims, to the fumum et opus. And now once more hail London, mighty and venerable but ill-favoured mother, and the brown horror not of woods, but of dingy lines of long'unlovely streets.'
Is there any other city in the world that can equal London in the killing monotony of its respectable uncommercial districts, dating mostly from the last century. Those blackened habitations look as if they had been all baked and burnt in one batch; those windows from which no one ever looks (and why indeed should they?); those stiff prison-like iron railings-but we may leave them to Mr. Ruskin; those sooty balconies on which no foot, unless that of a glazier, ever steps; those whitey-brown blinds, half drawn down, so as to exclude most of the little light and sunshine that could ever find its way into them-can their leaden oppressive dreariness find a parallel in any other city?
But if we keep out light and sunshine, I am told we also keep our apartments sacred from the gaze of curious eyes, belonging to some person or persons unknown, who are supposed to be always in waiting to overlook us.
This dread of being overlooked' I should have supposed an inseparable accident' of my middleclass fellow concitoyennes, had I never had an opportunity of observing them out of London; but you may walk along miles of Marine Parades occupied by them, and see every house taking its breakfast in joyous fashion, with windows flung wide to the sun and the breeze, and by no means shrinking from the gaze of the passer-by. But when we return to our London habitat, we wrap ourselves again in the great principle of 'keeping ourselves to ourselves,' and adopt the generally sulky social arrangements justified by a reversal of the merciful principle of English law.
We mostly consider every stranger guilty of disrespectability till he has proved himself the contrary; and yet the garden's but carelessly watched after all,' and many more than doubtful persons gain admittance to it if they can show any leonine characteristics.
Far from me be the presumption of attempting to offer any suggestions such as I presume are contained in a work entitled Hints how to make Home Happy (what a tremendous title, by-the-by, for an inhabitant of Cockayne!). I, a mere human weed, 'flung from the rock on ocean's foam to sail,' can give no instructions for the taming of wild husbands, or the adroit cajolery of refractory wives. To ladies or gentlemen setting out on the search after happiness, I, least of all mortals, could attempt to show the way. But it has occurred to me that it might be possible in various minor matters to make our middle-class London homes a little more cheerful. Meditating profoundly on these things, as I gazed on the black-brown edifices that confronted me once more, in the vain hope of extracting from their blank and meaningless aspect some hint of human thought or feeling, I dreamed a dream, and 'dipt into the future,' and saw the vision of the square, and all the wonders that might, could, and should be.
It is a June evening in-well, we will not fix the date. It is sometimes inconvenient to do that is it not, Dr. Cumming? The old sootybrown houses have disappeared, and as a cheap and effective smokeconsuming apparatus has long ago come into general use, their successors no longer sadden us with their dirty no-colour, but present a pleasing variety of warm red, or soft grey, or creamy-white tints. They are, I perceive, larger and loftier than formerly, and appear to be occupied in suites or flats, as in Paris or Edinburgh. I remember that the experiment had formerly been tried in what was then the howling wilderness of Victoriastreet, and even there had been to a great extent successful.
The opinion that domestic privacy was better secured in buildings divided into perpendicular rather than into horizontal sections, has become obsolete; and the enormous saving of domestic labour consequent on sparing servants the treadmill exercise of running perpetually up and down stairs, has reconciled to the new plan even those elders who formerly regarded the proposal as indicating Gallicising tendencies, and a doubtful state of morals.
The windows, I see, are not covered by sullen blinds, planned to counteract the very end for which a window is made, but lightly shaded by transparent draperies, and the numerous balconies are not a mere unmeaning appendage, but really used for the purpose that balconies were intended for. People are seated on them, enjoying the fresco, and looking down on the pretty, lively scene in the gardens, which are illuminated by some brilliant light, the chemical composition of which I should perhaps do better not to mention. A pretty fountain occupies the centre (the design not like that at the British Museum, where, I grieve to say, the British lion is exhibited under the influence of an emetic), and the glittering water and the light among the green leaves and the gay dresses of the promenaders make up a picture so different from the_grim London of my memory that I rub my eyes, and think I have mistaken the latitude.
The climate, I am told, is just what it always was; but much has always been laid upon the climate for which it is not answerable; besides, the very uncertainty of the weather makes it advisable to make the most of the means of recreation that lie around us, instead of depending wholly on distant excursions; and in these numerous gardens London possesses a resource in which she is almost unrivalled. In the outer square, beyond the railings (railings of such a beautiful pattern that even a descendant of Mr. Ruskin is entirely reconciled to them), the polloi is, I see, as
Recreations of a London Recluse.
sembled in considerable, but not overpowering numbers (for there are many such centres of attraction scattered over the town); and though they have not the entrée to the inner sanctum, they are enjoying the fresh air and the pleasant aspect of things, and-what they all always like a kind of association with the classes above them, and for which all classes are the better. The predatory tribes that infested society in former days-in 1863, for instance-have in a great measure disappeared. Not that the people are born saints more than they were then; but the general advance has enabled them to take that first and lowest degree in ethics, by which they command the lower animal instincts, postpone a trivial present gratification to a great future good, and for their own sakes respect the rights of others. We draw upon the future for nothing more than this, that the millions may reach the point at which thousands already stand. The next generation need be no better climbers than their fathers, but they start from a higher level, and may therefore expect to reach a higher one. When every part of the community, when one nation after another has learned thoroughly this first lesson, they may go on to a nobler one. 'But until,' says Fichte, the existing
[January, [January, 1864.
culture of every age has been diffused over the whole inhabited earth, and every people be capable of the most unlimited communication with the rest, must one nation after another be arrested in its course, and sacrifice to the great whole of which it is a member its stationary or retrogressive age. When that first point shall have been attained, when thought and discovery shall fly from one end of the earth to the other, and become the property of all-then, without further interruption, halt, or regress, our race shall move onward with united strength and equal step to a culture for which thought and language fail.'
Is all this mere idle dreaming? If it be, it may not be useless to look into the promised land. Hope is the associate of Faith and Charity; and it is well to trust there is a good time coming, since there is no sort of doubt that a very bad time has come. Is it not well, while we are toiling through the dark valley, to lift our eyes sometimes to the sunny peaks that shine and beacon in the distance?
I speak only, I need hardly say, of the earthly destiny of the race -that of the individual human soul is altogether another matter, depending on other causes, tending to different ends.