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far-extended walls, whose foundations may yet be traced, in dry seasons, among the turf of the lawn; of the traditions which assign the demolition of those ancient walls to the wars of the Commonwealth ; and of the strange absence of all documentary evidence upon the subject.
Another cause for my strong desire to see this interesting place is to be found in its association with one of those historical personages in whom I have always taken the warmest interest. Lord Essex (whose mother was the famous Lettice Knollys, who had had for her second husband another of Queen Elizabeth's favourites, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester), when confined in London, a prey to the tyranny of Elizabeth, petitioned, in one of those eloquent letters to the Virgin Queen which will always remain amongst the earliest and finest specimens of English prose, to be allowed to repair, for the benefit of his health, “to Master Comptroller's house at
Ah! we can fancy, when looking over this lovely valley, with its woods, its verdure, its sweep of hills, its feeling of the near river, we can well fancy how the poet-heart of the great Earl must have longed to leave the trial, the turmoil, the jangling, the treachery, the weary fears, the bitter humiliations of his London captivity, and to taste once more the sweet air, the pleasant sights, the calmness and the quiet of the country. Hope and comfort must have come with the thought. One of the prettiest pictures that I know is an extract from a contemporary letter, in the first volume of Mr. Craik's most interesting
“ The Romance of the Peerage," telling of the Earl and Countess, during one of the daily visits that
she was at one time permitted to pay him when he was a prisoner in Essex House, walking together in the garden, “now he, now she, reading one to the other.” The whole taste and feeling of the man, the daily habit of his life, is shown in this little circumstance. And this is the brave soldier who, when examined before the Privy Council, a council composed of open enemies and treacherous friends, had been kept nearly all day kneeling at the bottom of the table. Tyranny drove him into madness, and then exacted the full penalty of the wild acts which that madness prompted. But Essex was a man in advance of his age; the companion as well as the patron of poets; the protector of Papist and Puritan; the fearless asserter of liberty of conscience ! He deserved a truer friend than Bacon, a more merciful judge than Elizabeth.
To the house of Knollys belongs another interesting association, that strangest of genealogical romances, the great case of the Banbury peerage. The cause was decided (if decided it can be called even now) by evidence found in the parish register of Rotherfield Grays.
The place has yet another attraction in its difficulty of access; the excellent ladies of the Court admitting few beyond their own immediate connections and nearest friends. One class, to be sure, finds its way there as if by instinct—the poor, who, as the birds of the air detect the grain under the surface in the newly-sown ground, are sure to find out the soil where charity lies germinating. Few excepting these constant visitors are admitted. But, besides the powerful introduction of our mutual friend the rector,
a nephew of theirs, and his most sweet and interesting wife, had for some time inhabited the house which had been the home of my own youth, so that my name was not strange to them; and they had the kindness to allow me to walk over their beautiful grounds and gardens, to see their charming Swiss dairy, with its marbles and its china, and, above all, to satisfy my curiosity by looking over the towers which still remain of the old castle---piles whose prodigious thickness of wall and distance from each other give token of the immense extent and importance of the place. It is said to have been built round two courts. Alnwick and Windsor rose to my thoughts as I contemplated these gigantic remains, and calculated the space that the original edifice must have covered. One of the old buildings is still occupied by the well of the castle, a well three hundred feet deep, which supplies the family with water. It will give some idea of the scale of the great mansion to say that the wheel by which the water is raised is twenty-five feet in diameter. Two donkeys are employed in the operation. One donkey suffices for the parallel but much smaller well at Carisbrook, where the animal is so accustomed to be put in for the mere purpose of exhibiting the way in which the water is raised to the visitors who go to look at the poor king's last prison, that he just makes the one turn necessary to show the working of the machine, and then stops of his own accord. The donkeys at Grays, kept for use and not for show, have not had a similar opportunity of displaying their sagacity.
One cannot look at the place without a feeling of adaptedness. It is the very spot for a stronghold of the cavaliers; a spot where Lovelace and Montrose might each have fought and each have sung, defending it to the last loaf of bread and the last charge of powder, and yielding only to the irresistible force of Cromwell's cannonade.
Much interest is imparted to the lays of these cavalier poets, when we consider the circumstances under which they were written. They were no carpet knights, pouring forth effusions of chivalrous loyalty in the security of a Court, or to amuse the leisure of a mild and temporary captivity ; but for that very loyalty which they boasted so loudly, Montrose lay under sentence of death, and Richard Lovelace was pining in the crowded and loathsome prison called the Gatehouse at Westminster. Perhaps the fate of the great Marquis was the happier of the two. He fell with the fame and consolations of a martyr, as his master had fallen before him ; whilst his brother poet was indeed released by the ascendant party after the death of the King, when the royalists were so scattered and broken as to be no longer formidable ; but when at last set free he was penni. less; the lady of his love (Lucy Sacheverel), hearing that he had died of his wounds at Dunkirk, was married to another person; and oppressed with want and misery he fell into a consumption. Wood relates that “ he became very poor in body and purse, was the object of charity, went in ragged clothes, and mostly lodged in obscure and dirty places,” in one of which, situated in some alley near Shoe Lane, he died in 1658. What a reverse for one whose gallant bearing and splendid person seem to have corresponded so entirely with the noble and chivalrous spirit of his poetry ! Faults and virtues, Richard Lovelace as a man and as a writer, may be taken as an impersonation of the cavalier of the civil wars, with much to charm the reader, and still more to captivate the fair.
TO ALTHEA, FROM PRISON,
When love, with unconfinèd wings,
Hovers within my gates,
divine Althea brings
And fetter'd with her eye,
Know no such liberty.
When flowing cups run swiftly round,
With no allaying Thames,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When healths and draughts go free,
Know no such liberty.
When linnet-like confinèd, I
With shriller note shall sing
And glories of my King;
He is, how great should be,
Know no such liberty.
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage ;
That for an hermitage ;