« AnteriorContinuar »
readers will think my conduct throughout pusillanimous or abject. My mother's milk, as it were, still flowed in my veins, and with that no ill blood could amalgamate. All I can say is, that now, I am either so much better or so much worse,--that I should have adopted towards Captain Reud a much more decided course of proceedings.
My second remark is, that this captain had really a good heart, but was one of the most striking instances that I ever knew of the demoralizing effect of a misdirected education, and the danger of granting great powers to early years and great ignorance. With good innate feelings, no man ever possessed moral perceptions more clouded.
And lastly, that this statement is not to be construed into a libel on the naval service, or looked upon in the least as an exaggerated account. As to libel, the gentlemanly deportment, the parental care of their crews, and the strict justice of thousands of captains, cannot in the least be deteriorated by a single act of tyranny by a solitary member of their gallant body; and, as to exaggeration, let it be remembered that in the very same year, and on the very same station that my tricing up to the truck occurred, another post-captain tarred and feathered one of his young gentlemen, and kept him in that state, a plumed biped, for more than six weeks in his hen-coop. This last fact obtained much notoriety from the aggrieved party leaving the service and recovering heavy damages from his torturer in a court of civil law. My treatment never was known beyond our own frigate.
( To be continued.)
I'D BE A SPIRIT !
Wand'ring at will o'er the fields of the blest,
But when despatch'd on some kindly behest;
With soft wing descending to regions of night,
That turns his dark grave to a temple of light.
Bound to the bright and the blessed above,
As the light links that bind us poor mortals to love;
Ineffable love, that no self can control,
That calls into blossom the spring of the soul,
Waking my lyre in those love-lighted skies,
That streams from the Godhead is light to all eyes ;
Of knowledge, not given to proud suns of dust,
Through “much tribulation,” the rest of the just !
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES CONNECTED WITH
BY MRS. CRAWFORD.
A story was current at the abbey that the apparition of a nun, all in white, was seen in the old avenue upon moonlight nights; and many of the domestics declared that they had frequently seen her gliding about the long galleries. One night, when Mrs. Robinson, (our pastor's wife,) was sleeping at the abbey, (which she was in the habit of doing, when it was wet or stormy,) and just as the clock had chimed the ghost's hour of twelve, a strange mysterious noise sounded through the chamber. She sate up in bed; and putting back the curtains, saw by the light of the moon, shining dimly through the old casement, a little figure in white, couched on the hearth-stone of the antique fire-place. The story of the nun immediately occurred to her mind, and though she had always laughed at it, her fears now began to give the colouring of probability to the tale. After looking at the object of her alarm till it seemed magnified into twice its original size, at length, overcome by her terror, she awoke her husband. He also distinctly saw the apparition, and being just roused from a sound slumber, wondered greatly what it might mean. termined at length to satisfy himself, he got up and advanced cautiously towards the fireplace, when, behold, a large white owl, making a dismal cry, flew up the capacious chimney, where it had built its nest. They both laughed heartily at the fright it had occasioned, nothing doubting but that the nun herself evanesced in a manner exactly similar, and that the whole of that wonderful story had originated in some such aerial visitant. This shows the necessity of investigating, at the time, the causes of those strange sounds and appearances which are so often heard and seen in old buildings, and so seldom reasonably accounted for. Had the worthy curate gone to sleep again without ascertaining who the midnight intruder was, the tale of the “ White Nun would have received a further authentication, and one of the best chambers in the abbey might have been appropriated solely to the spiders, as the only suitable companions for the unquiet spirit. Lady Shrewsbury (as I before observed) was not in the seast addicted to those superstitions so commonly ascribed to Catholics, yet a lamentable event which took place at the abbey gave rise to an erroneous opinion, on my part, touching the state of mind in which she would meet death. "Sir Walter Blount, who was with his lady visiting the countess, died suddenly one day from the bursting of a blood vessel, whilst kneeling at his prayers. Lady Shrewsbury sent off for me to come and stay the day with her, and evinced an uncommon degree of fear and dislike at being in the house with a corpse. I wondered much that, at her age and so pious, she could entertain such a dread of death, and thought how painful her own
Continued from vol. xii. p. 402.
would be ; but the philosophy of a girl in her teens cannot amalgamate seeming contrarieties; and it was not till my respected friend died “as calmly as a saint," that I discovered my mistake, and that the human mind (which is a problem of contradictions, difficult of solution to all but the Eternal propounder of hearts) does often in its last mortal struggle, gain a triumphant victory over all those little weaknesses that have so long held it captive.
There is a pleasure, though a melancholy one, in looking back to by-gone days.
It pleases, and it saddens too,
O'er parted joys they could not keep. Life is indeed a camera obscura, reflecting a thousand forms and retaining nothing. Bright shapes pass before us, one after another ; but so evanescently do they pass, that we can hardly tell one from another by any distinctive feature. Like the miser's hoard, the treasures of memory are so multiplied, and so heterogeneously thrown together in the great storehouse of the mind, that it is difficult to separate what we want from what is not wanted ; and, in this way, my reminiscences take a more desultory form than criticism perhaps might think it right to tolerate.
About the distance of a mile from the abbey stood “Old Lackham House,” the family seat of the Montagus, with whom Lady Shrewsbury kept up a more friendly intercourse than with any in the neighbourhood. This ancient place was considered one of the lions of North Wiltshire, and from its great antiquity, and the number of curious relics it contained, was well worthy the attention of the antiquarian. Built in the days of unimproved architecture and insecure enjoyment of property, it presented an appearance of rude grandeur, rather than any beauty or regular proportion.
It stood completely embosomed in ancient woods, whose patriarchal trees looked almost coeval with the venerable pile they had for so many centuries sheltered from the wild storms of winter. proach to Lackham was through a long avenue of aged oaks. At the back of the mansion, studded with cottages and crowned with woods, rose the beautiful hill of Bowden. To the left lay, in the blue distance, the far-famed Salisbury plain ; while bounding the home view Laycock Abbey showed its white and time-honoured towers above the tree tops, and the village mill, with all its rural appendages, gave life and interest to the otherwise still solitude that reigned around. *The classical Avon, dear to song, wound its silver waters through the ample domain, giving beauty and fertility to a spot where the poet might have conjured up the golden visions that give immortality to the dwellings of men.
The great hall at Lackham was an immense cathedral-looking apartment, lighted by high antique casements, inaccessible to the
reach of the tallest person, and hung round with armour. The banquetting-room, equally remarkable for its size, was newly-floored with the native oak of the estate in the reign of Henry the Eighth, in honour of that monarch's visit to Lackham, who was entertained there for several days, while paying his addresses to the Lady Jane Seymour. The chambers occupied by that Bluebeard of husbands and his attendants were not much in request with the young folk of modern times; and the old arched door, which conducted (as some rudelycarved letters upon it intimated) “to King Henry's apartments," was rarely unclosed after night-fall. In one of these chambers stood the antique carved bedstead on which the king reposed; the royal arms and those of the Lackham family were beautifully emblazoned on the dark polished oak at the head of the bed, and the curious key which gave entrance to this room was presented by George Montagu, Esq. to the British Museum. The late Colonel Montagu, * well known to the literary world for his works on ornithology, always slept in this apartment when at Lackham. The ghost stories I have heard about old Lackham House (which yielded not a tittle to Laycock Abbey in legendary lore) would do very well to tell over a Christmas fire, to ears as greedy as mine once were of the marvellous and the horrible ; when (as I have heard my mother say) I always, as a prelude to the story about to be told me, put back my hair behind my ears for fear of losing one word.
There is still extant a very curious old print representing, in various compartments, the preparations for the king's visit to Lackham, with the rats and mice running away from the house-maids, who with mop and broom are making all things clean and trim for the royal guest. Subjoined to the print are some twenty or thirty stanzas, illustrative of the subject and also giving an elaborate, though certainly not poetical, description of the requisites for a wife. It is so many years since I read them, that my memory retains only three lines, in which one might suppose the author to be invoking the genius or guardian spirit of old bachelors.
“ Make her a wise and a well-tempered she,
A little starch, yet moderately free,
One that wont pout and frown, but smile on me." How I came to remember these lines I cannot tell : but having remembered them, they will furnish the antiquary with a sample of the poetry of a learned doctor of that period
Never perhaps was there shown, in any family, a stronger instance of the mutability of fortune, than in the Montagus of Lackham, from whom are descended the Dukes of Manchester and Earls of Sandwich. Time, that setter up and puller down of the pride of men, has brought about great and melancholy changes, since old Lackham House was levelled with the dust, † to make way for the modern mansion that now occupies its place. The thoughtless extravagance of youth, and
Colonel Montagu succeeded his brother, James Montagu, Esq., who died uimarried, in the Lackham estates.
+ Dr. Baynard, whose ancestor built Baynard Castle, in London.
18, Autobiographical Sketches connected with Laycock Abbey. 309 the unwise conduct of mature age, caused the estates to be thrown into chancery; and the youthful heir of Lackham, when he now visits the home of his fathers, cannot but execrate, in bitterness of spirit, the selfishness and rapacity of those vultures of the land, who during a suit of twenty-five years continuance, have reduced the rental of one of the most sourishing families in the county to comparative insignificance. I, myself, can remember, when a long day might have been well employed, in investigating the old chests that were filled with the costume of different centuries ; many articles of the dress of each generation for some hundreds of years having been carefully stored up and preserved by the family, and being in a state of excellent preservation at the time I saw them. Several of the relics were most costly, such as the dress gloves of the knights, half way up the arm, (as you see them in old portraits,) finely embroidered and studded with pearls; shirts, worked at the breast and collar in gold and silver, and some for mourning in black embroidery; and fine cambric stockings, (with point clocks,) which would not suit the present indelicate fashion of short petticoats, as it was impossible to make a nice fit of cambric. Some of the trinkets also were very curious ; the foreheaddrops, ear-rings, and thumb-rings, looking more like blacksmith's than goldsmith's work. There was a massive service of plate, the gift of Queen Anne, with the royal arms upon it, even to the silver saucepans, covers, and washhand basins; and amongst the rest of the Lackham curiosities, was a large collection of MS. letters of the great Duke of Marlborough, above a hundred in number, written during his campaign, to one of the family;* with some from Queen Anne, in her own handwriting. But now all these mementos of an ancient house have passed into other hands. The fine old woods have been cut down, and the monuments in the village church alone remain, to tell the tale of other days. I remember a lady, who visited at the abbey, used to say, that “the monuments of the Montagu family ought to have curtains over them.” They were a race of warriors; and their tombs, therefore, chiefly recorded untimely though glorious deaths. A laughable anecdote is related of one of them, the late Admiral Montagu, father of the present Sir George Montagu,* and the gallant Captain James Montagu, to whose memory the nation erected a splendid monument in St. Paul's Cathedral. When a junior officer, he asked permission of the captain to go to London, (his ship being then at Portsmouth,) he was refused; and repeating his request, the captain answered sharply he should not go, unless he went in his boat. This was enough for young Montagu. He soon got wheels put to the boat, and actually drove up to London in it.
The late Major Frederick Montagu was a great favourite with Lady Shrewsbury, and when at Lackham, spent much of his time at the abbey, always carrying with him some token of her regard when he joined his regiment. He was indeed the flower of his race-handsome in person, accomplished in mind, gentle in manners, and brave ** Lord Churchill offered George Montagu, Esq. a bond for one thousand pounds for the letters of his renowned ancestor, but was refused.
+ Younger son of Colonel Montagu, and brother of the present owner of Lackham.