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The most remarkable curiosity connected with this church is a small library, consisting chiefly of books of divinity, left for public use by Sir John Kedirminster, with an express injunction that no book should ever be taken out of it.
Langley Park is a very noble seat in this parish. The house, a fine stone structure, was built by one of the Dukes of Marlborough, and was afterwards in the occupation of the Hawley family. The park is very delightful, shaded with trees of large growth, and adorned with a fine sheet of water, whose sloping banks are luxuriant with plantations. On the north side of the park is a large tract of ground, called the Black Park, from the number of fir-trees. Through this wood are cut some rides and walks, and in the centre is a considerable lake, gloomy and dark from the reflection in its waters of the funereal foliage which surrounds it.
HORTON, about a mile to the south of Colnbrook, is in the hundred of Stoke and deanery of Burnham. The manor was anciently in the Windsor family, who continued to possess it for several generations. The manorhouse, which had been a large mansion, a seat of the Scawen family, was pulled down some years ago.
In the parish church is a heavy monument, without any inscription, intended for some of the Scawen family, and a marble slab to the memory of the mother of Milton, who died in 1637.
The interest of Horton is derived from the fact, that the then youthful poet passed some of his best and happiest years at this place.
Here much of that exquisite poetry which, as Johnson truly observes, “all men read with pleasure," was composed; here was poured forth the plaintive melody of the “Lycidas;" here, wandering by smoothlygliding waters, the divine bard, not yet winging an eagle flight, gave form and substance to thoughts less majestic, but, perhaps even more lovely than those of his later and drearier years, when “with danger and darkness compassed round,” he sought refuge in the wilderness of London. Who does not love Horton and all about it, were it only that there the poet said
“ Alas! what boots it with incessant care
To tend the homely, slighted shepberd's trade,
For ever sacred be the place that has part in the “Penseroso ” and “L’Allegro," the “Comus” and the “Arcades ;" for ever classic be its silent streams—for ever hallowed by the memory of the past, its sheltering groves !
Johnson informs us that when Milton left the University he returned to his father, then residing at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, with whom he lived five years, in which time he is said to have read all the Greek and Latin writers.
It is to be lamented that this mighty poet did not consecrate to everlasting fame, by one or two lines—enough from himthis quiet and secluded retreat—his study and nursery of thought; and that in all his works it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify any of the beautiful images he has drawn so largely from nature, with the spot whence many of them may have been derived.
Images drawn from nature are everywhere the same, and everywhere produce the same effect; yet we cannot help loving
the man who localises his images, and who makes classic by one touch the spot where they were gathered : we linger about such places, fondly and long, as if we might catch something of the inspiration of him who drew us thither, and in whose footsteps the poet lives again, not merely in the spirit but in the flesh, who has identified bis haunts with his poesy: we converse with him when we wander among his native scenes, and we see, or think we see, a thousand beauties in those scenes he has “wedded to immortal verse," that, otherwise, we should never have beheld: why has not Milton confessed that, at Horton he gathered the sweetly. pastoral imagery of his “ L'Allegro," and that beneath his pear-tree, then bending under its overburthening store of fruit, now withered and naked, he
“ Heard the lark begiu his flight,
How peculiarly English are the images contained in this exquisite poem ; how wondrously contrasted without apparent art, yet with what exquisite skill. With the exception of the lines
Mountains on whose barren breast
The labouring clouds do often rest, and which have no prototype in the landscapes around Horton, all else in the picture is of every-day familiarity; and we cannot help fondly imagining, have been suggested by the solitary thoughtful rambles of Milton in this neighbourhood.
The house in which the poet resided has long since met with the common fate of most of the habitations of genius—it has been levelled with the ground. A dove-cot, said to have been contemporary with the mansion of Milton, remains : yet upon a careful inspection we cannot help thinking that it is of a later date.
Alas! that we should ever have to lament that all that binds genius to earth, except the ethereal essence of its fame, should be continually desecrated and destroyed; the legacies genius has bequeathed to us are spiritual, incorporeal, indestructible; the gifts they are of gods, and eternal in their duration ; but how soon all that connects them with us as men crumbles from the surface of the earth; their posterity too often die away in penury about the third or fourth generation ; their associates, peculiar tastes and habits of life, become conjectural; a new proprietor pulls down the houses they have hallowed by their inhabitation—as if there was no need of more than their embodied thoughts and the immortal creations of their genius to preserve them for ever in our remembrance !
By this all-but sacrilege—this more than Vandalic lust of pulling down and annihilating the whereabouts of genius, genius itself loses nothing; but how great the loss of those that love to trace its sacred footsteps !
From Horton, a short and pleasant walk brings us to WYRARDSBURY, pronounced Wraysbury, on the Middlesex bank of the river, and opposite the far-famed Runnymede. The chief point of interest at Wyrardsbury is Ankerwyke, the ancient seat of Mr. Harcourt.
The manor originally belonged to the Priory of Ankerwyke, in this parish, originally founded by Gilbert de Montfichet for Benedictine nuns, in honour of Mary Magdalen. After the Dissolution, this monastery was granted to Lord Windsor. Having soon after reverted to the Crown by exchange, the Priory was given by King Edward the Sixth to Sir Thomas Smith, the celebrated statesman, who resided at Ankerwyke. Ankerwyke Priory was afterwards for many years the seat of the Salter family, of whom it was purchased by the Lees. Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Lee, of Ankerwyke, was the second wife of Sir Philip Harcourt, ancestor of the present proprietor. There are no remains of the conventual buildings, which are described as wholly ruinous in the report of the Commissioners, in the reign of Henry the Eighth. Soon after the Dissolution, a mansion was built on the site, either by Lord Windsor or Sir Thomas Smith; the hall of this