L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Mess. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Mess. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Mess. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, October 24, 1789.
[Continued from our last.]
MY first day’s journey was tedious and unpleasant, the Gloomy Heaths of Surrey and the extended Downs of Wiltshire are but ill calculated to amuse the thoughts of the melancholy Traveller, and of the sources of internal entertainment, my stock was then exceedingly limited. The second passed away much better, a night of sweeter sleep than I had lately enjoyed, had given me a fresh recruit of health and spirits, and I traversed and admired the deep vales and airy mountains which mark the western extremity of the kingdom with a pleasure, I had then thought it impossible to receive from any objects at that distance from the Metropolis. A strong proof that the pleasure we take in contemplating the rich scenery of Nature is a propensity congenial to the human mind, since we see it continually breaking out in those, whose mode of education and habits of life have been far from favourable to the improvement of true elegant taste. — The evening of the third day brought me to the residence of my ancestors, and little as I had been accustomed to indulge in gloomy or abstracted ideas, I could not behold the time-worn turrets rising in venerable grandeur above a small hanging wood of Oaks, which seemed almost coeval with the mansion, and on which the setting Sun just threw his last parting beams, without a mixture of sensations which at that time I could not account for, nor can now describe.
The original Castle had been built during the turbulent reign of Stephen, of which the Towers, Gateway and Keep remained in rude and primeval Simplicity. — The Hall and Chapel were in the middle style of Gothic, with clustered Pillars and fretted Roofs, dark, magnificent, and gloomy: And the remainder which composed the habitable part of the house was erected during the reign of Henry the Seventh, and built in the light and airy Gothic which at that period was brought to its highest perfection. The whole though composed in different styles of architecture, and from the neglect of thirty years much gone to decay, formed altogether and grand and picturesque Pile of buildings, and commanded a confined but pleasing prospect over a narrow green vale, which lost itself in a chain of steep hills, and was skirted by a small village from whence the Castle and Family take their Name. Such was the mansion into which I was admitted by a grey headed Servant whose looks completely corresponded with the place, and who, had he not been previously informed of my intended Visit, would scarcely have acknowledged the sickly and thin figure which stood before him, as the legitimate descendant of his former Masters. Owing however to this circumstance, both he and his Wife (to whose care the Castle and Gardens had been committed, at my Father’s removal to London,) was fortunate enough to discover a most striking likeness between myself and every one of my Family, whom they had ever seen; and in the overflowing of their joy, gave me a long detail of the Rural and Convivial exploits of my Predecessors, and after expatiating on the unbounded Hospitality for which the family had been always famous, concluded with observing, “that the whole village would be wild with joy, the moment they heard the Young ‘Squire was coming to live among them.” — He was not mistaken in his conjecture, for he had scarcely finished speaking, when the Bells struck up so loud a peal, that they seemed to endanger the safety of the Village Steeple. “Good God,” I exclaimed, “they are surely not making all this noise about me.” — Nothing, however, was more true, for before I could demand an explanation of what seemed to me so extraordinary a Compliment, I Was surprised by the sudden vociferation of a large troop of the inferior Tenants and Peasantry, who were assembled in a considerable body to pay their Congratulations to the representative of a Race, who had long been their Landlords and Benefactors; and were expressing their joy and bidding him welcome, by several loud, hearty, and repeated Cheers.
Amazed as I was by this unlooked for reception, I had recollectjo0 enough to go out and thank them in person for the welcome they had given me, and entreat them to spend the evening in drinking my health at the only Ale- house the Village afforded.
Though the manner of paying my Compliments was not quite in the usual Style of my Family, the latter part, at least, was perfectly intelligible: They accordingly took the hint, and after affecting wishes for my prosperity, and reiterated shouts of applause, departed to testify their joy in a more substantial manner. — There was something in the Scene I had just been witness to, which gave me sensations hitherto unfelt, and rendered me unfit for any company; I therefore ordered an early Supper, and soon retired to my chamber.
Here having no inclination to sleep, I employed myself in considering the behaviour of the simply but honest rustics; which at every reflection raised them higher in my opinion, and inspired me with the first idea of literally coming to live amongst them, by offering a new source of pleasure in my view. — Nor will this appear altogether extraordinary to those who recollect the Scenes I had been hitherto engaged in, and the people with whom I had till now conversed. Always living in London or its nearest environs, where the strange mixture of ranks has so blended the whole mass, that the “Toe of the Peasant gibes the Heel of the Courtier,” I had never entertained the least idea of that almost feudal veneration with which an old Family in the Country is looked up to by their numerous tenants and dependants, or with what sacred zeal the memory of their patrons and benefactors is transmitted from generation to generation amongst the Sons of Labour and Penury. In London I well knew no one whom I employed in any one branch, would have been otherwise moved by my presence or absence, my prosperity or my ruin, my life or my death, than as the event immediately affected themselves and their own interests, and am clearly convinced, that my Valet would have called in a Physician on my illness, or an Undertaker at my Funeral, with the same well-bred composure, with which he would have brushed my coat, aired my linen, or combed my hair. Great therefore was the reverse, and striking the comparison between those whom I had left, and those whom I found; and it was not till after I had exhausted the powers of reflection, by forming and rejecting a variety of plans, that I sunk into a sleep, which lasted till the old chiming clock in the Hall had proclaimed the hour of nine.
I arose immediately, and after snatching an hasty breakfast, set out to take a regular survey of the Castle, not unaccompanied by my grey headed Friend, for whom I already began to feel a great respect, and from whose notes I expected to receive great information in my Tour. — We first visited the Hall, where the suspended suits of armour, the large collection of javelins, pikes, and spears, &c. curiously arranged along the walls, the wide Chimney Pieces and massy Oaken Tables, attested alike the valour and the hospitality of the ancient possessors of the Castle. — My Guide then conducted me to the Long Gallery, where an extended line of Ancestors entirely occupied one side of the apartment, and frowned in sullen majesty from their gorgeous and dusty frames. — My Conductor was here very eloquent, retailed numberless anecdotes of their martial prowess, and related the various achievements for which each of them had been distinguished; and (though the confession may possible draw a smile from your readers) I could not contemplate the manly appearance and consider the hardy deeds of my “Steel-clad Sires,” without thinking myself a very insignificant and degenerate being, and looking on my own past achievements in a most Contemptible light. — And after slightly surveying the other apartments, we entered the Chapel, where the beautiful perspective of the aisle, the antique appearance of the Tombs, (on which the armed warriors and their consorts reposed at length side by side, with uplifted hands, surrounded by a troop of kneeling children,) set off by the soft and mellow light, which streamed from the painted windows, gave me a solemn sensation which I never experienced at the entrance of any modem edifice. Here I soon found that my Conductor had not over-rated the merits of the Family: The blazoned Arms, the long Inscriptions on the monuments, and the tattered Banners which were suspended over them, bore witness to their thirst for military glory and their success in the fields of battle And let not such as are unacquainted with the various turns of the human mind, wonder if my Enthusiasm was by this time raised to the highest pitch, and if, at this moment, I felt an horror not to be described at the idea of parting with a place, of which I had so lately learned the value; not without a secret resolution of submitting to any mortification, rather than give up the seat of my Ancestors to the mercy of some opulent Citizen, or overgrown Contractor: Full of this idea, I strolled into the Garden, and flinging myself down at the foot of a large Beech, endeavoured to hit on some plan, which might extricate me from my present difficulties, without a sacrifice which I was every moment more determined not to make. None however occurred; for indeed I knew neither the amount of my debts or the extent of my income, and of all serious business I was both by education and habit entirely ignorant. How my deliberations would have ended I know not, had I not been interrupted by the arrival of a person, to whom as I am obliged for every comfort I now enjoy, I must beg leave to introduce more particularly to your notice.
The Father of Mr. B ——, who now approached me, was many years Rector of the parish and Tutor to mine; in which situation he so endeared himself to the latter, that at his death, he not only presented his Son to the vacant benefice, but also obtained for him by his political connections, another living from the Chancellor. — He soon after married an amiable woman of some fortune, to whom he had been long attached; and with whom he had ever since passed a life of Tranquillity, Content and Virtue. — Such was the person, who now came with the eager zeal of gratitude, to pay his respects to the Son of his Benefactor. — As he was a sensible man, and above the common forms, our conversation soon became unreserved on both sides, and I hesitated not to accept his invitation to pass the remainder of the day with his Family. I accordingly accompanied him to the Parsonage, and was introduced to his Wife, and two elegant Daughters, who rose to receive me with a grace and air which convinced me, that true ease and elegance were not so entirely confined to the circles of the great, as the great may be inclined to imagine. Indeed the lively and spirited conversation, in which the day slipped away, and the tender and affectionate behaviour of the Family still heightened my ideas of them.
There saw I a husband and wife actually fond of each other, I saw young women beautiful without vanity, and improved without affectation. I compared their manners with those of the women I had usually conversed with, and went to bed quite in love with — a Country Life.
I was rouzed next morning from dreams of rural happiness with which perhaps Miss B. was a little connected, by the information that Mr. Plumb who lately purchased a neighbouring estate, was come to treat for me with mine. — As he had come some miles on this errand, I could not refuse to talk to him, but began the conference with a thorough determination, to break it off the first favourable opportunity, and he was presently so good as to furnish me with one; for amongst other arguments for lowering the price, he observed that the house itself was worth nothing, being such a ramshackled old place that it must be pulled down, and that he even doubted if the materials would be good enough to be of service: this was too much, therefore
“Glad of a quarrel strait I shut the door.” ——
Something however was to be done, and after a very short struggle, I opened my whole situation to my new friend, and requested his advice in clearing my affairs. I will not take up your time by unnecessary and uninteresting details, and will only say that he warmly entered into my concerns, and being a man of business as well as a scholar, he soon detected the false accounts of my Steward, and so Strongly convicted him of roguery, that he was happy to refund the money with the addition of interest to save himself from punishment. — By the advice of my friend I sold my Colonel’s Commission, my House in Town, Plate and Furniture, which together with the above mentioned money not only paid off my debts, but left a sum sufficient to put the Castle and its environs in full and complete repair. Here then I retired in the twenty-ninth year of my age, and after three year5 moderate economy, with the assistance of a fortunate legacy, was enabled to clear my estate from all encumbrances, and the moment I had done so, solicited the hand of one whose heart I had long had an interest in, and led to the Altar of my chapel the eldest Daughter of my best Friend.
With her I have now lived six years, in as much happiness, as our state will admit of, and excepting those trifling vexations to which humanity is heir, I may fairly say, I never know an uneasy moment. My health and spirits are preserved by the sports of the field, my mind is improved and my heart amended by the conversation and example of my Eliza; and I have the additional pleasure of seeing a beautiful and healthy family rising round me, none of whom (if I can help it) shall ever receive a Town education.
And now, Mr. Loiterer, I know not whether I ought to apologize to you, for taking up so much of your time; since if the Story is uninteresting, the Moral may be of use.
I not indeed imagine that the present Age is in general worse than the preceding ones; on the contrary, if it has lost some virtues, it has escaped many crimes; but its most striking and (in my opinion) most blameable Characteristic, is a strange propensity among the higher ranks, to leave their habitations in the country, for many months together, often the greater part of the year, in order to enjoy the expensive and empty pleasures of a luxurious and over-grown CAPITAL.
Much might be urged, were I inclined to moralize, on the folly of this practice. — The cruelty of taking money, which as it is the produce of this earth, ought to be spent amongst its Cultivation, to lavish on the purveyors of luxury and pride; the danger of breeding their children in too expensive a manner for their income, are but few of the many reasons which might be brought in support of my Argument. — But as I have observed, that no reason weighs so much as that which affects our personal gratification, I will only desire such of our Country Gentlemen, who like Sir Francis Wronghead, are desirous of going up to Town and becoming Parliament-men, to remember the saying of James the First.
“You Country Gentlemen,” said the Monarch,
“when in the Country are like ships in a River, and
“make a great show; but in Town you are like Ships
“in the Sea, and appear to be nothing at all!”
I am, Sir, Yours, &c.
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