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Jeremy Taylor himself has nothing more holy or more beautiful than this passage.
My most kind friend, Mr. Ruskin, will understand why I connect his name with the latest event that has befallen me, the leaving the cottage that for thirty years had been my shelter. In truth, it was leaving
All above the foundation seemed mouldering, like an old cheese, with damp and rottenness. The rain came dripping through the roof and steaming through the walls. The hailstones pattered upon my bed through the casements, and the small panes rattled and fell to pieces every high wind. My pony was driven from his stable by a great hole where the bricks had fallen out of the side, and from the coachhouse, where he was placed for refuge, by a huge gap in the thatch above. There was some danger that his straw bed must be spread in the little hall; but the hall itself was no safer, for one evening, crossing from the door to the staircase, I found myself dragging off the skirting board by no stronger an impulsion than the flounce of a muslin gown. The poor cottage was crumbling around us, and if we had staid much longer we should have been buried in the ruins.
And yet it was great grief to go. Besides my hatred of all change, especially change of place, a tendency to take root where I am planted, and to eschew all fresh dwellings, which renders me quite an anachronism in this locomotive age: besides my general aversion to new habitations, I had associations with those old walls which endeared them to me more than I can tell. There I had toiled and striven, and tasted as deeply of bitter anxiety, of fear and of hope, as often falls to the lot of woman. There, in the fulness of age, I had lost those whose love had made my home sweet and precious. Alas! there is no hearth so humble but it has known such tales of joy and of sorrow!
Other recollections, less dear and less sad, added their interest to the place. Friends, many and kind; strangers, whose mere names were an honour, had come to that bright garden, and that garden room. The list would fill more pages than I have to give. There Mr. Justice Talfourd had brought the delightful gaiety of his brilliant youth, and poor Haydon had talked more vivid pictures than he ever painted. The illustrations of the last century-Mrs. Opie, Miss Porter, Mr. Cary -- had mingled there with poets, still in their earliest dawn. It was a heart-tug to leave that garden.
But necessity (may I not rather say Providence ?) works for us better than our own vain wishes. I did move—I was compelled to move from the dear old house ; not very far; not much farther than Cowper when he migrated from Olney to Weston, and with quite as happy an effect. I walked from the one cottage to the other on an autumn evening, when the vagrant birds, whose habit of assembling here for their annual departure gives, I suppose, its name of Swallowfield to the village, were circling and twittering over my head; and repeated to myself the pathetic lines of Hayley as he saw those same birds gathering upon his roof during his last illness :
“ Ye gentle birds, that perch aloof,
And smooth your pinions on my roof,
Preparing for departure hence
Thoughts soothing and tender came with those touching lines, and gayer images followed. Here I am in this prettiest village, in the snuggest and cosiest of all snug cabins; a trim cottage garden, divided by a hawthorn hedge from a little field guarded by grand old trees; a cheerful glimpse of the high-road in front, just to hint that there is such a thing as the peopled world; and on either side the deep silent woody lanes that form the distinctive character of English scenery. Very lovely is my favourite lane, leading along a gentle declivity to the valley of the Loddon, by pastoral water meadows studded with willow pollards, past picturesque farm-houses and quaint old mills, the beautiful river glancing here and there like molten silver, until it disappears through a rustic bridge among the shades and avenues of the Duke's park, a scene that belongs to history.
We have another historical mansion close at hand, where Lord Clarendon wrote his thrilling tale of the Great Rebellion, and where the inhabitants and the library are worthy of such a predecessor. And they are so kind to me! and everybody is so kind; and the new cottage is already dearer than the old.
The very gipsies have found us out. Even as I
RECOLLECTIONS OF A LITERARY LIFE.
write, my little maid is bargaining for baskets with my friend of the lane, and seems likely to be as well taken in as I could be; the pony is rolling in the meadow; the mill-waggon, with the jolly miller's handsome son, is looming in the distance; and on the green before our court little Henry is driving Fanchon, who sits perched in the wheelbarrow, whilst her brown curls are turning into gold in the wintry sun, that lends its charm and its glory to the simplest landscape and the humblest home.
LONDON: PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET.