« AnteriorContinuar »
THE ENVIRONS OF LONDON.
EXCURSION TO RICHMOND BY THE RIVER THAMES.
Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
“GIVE me,” said Sterne, “ a companion of my way, were it only to inform me how the shadows lengthen as the sun declines.” So say we—let us have a companion, though he were a finger-post; though his faculties extended no farther than with outstretched arm to point out to us places of superior interest, and to remind us of their names: to say, for example, "In that house lived St. John; there Fox and Canning died, and beneath that stone repose the mortal remains of Hogarth.”
We want a companion who shall be to us as a catalogue in a gallery of pictures—less a companion than an indicator; we can criticise for ourselves. So we can, in making these our excursions, reflect for ourselves; and there appears somewhat of assumption in a topographer teaching his readers to think. His duty is, to furnish them with materials for thinking; his task is, to inform them of their near approach to places enriched with classical
associations—the recollections called up by those associations arise spontaneously in the minds, and form the highest enjoyment of those qualified by mental constitution to indulge them.
The tourist of a less imaginative class, however indifferent he may feel with respect to the associations of places on his route, is yet anxious to be informed of their names : they who are incurious of reflection, are yet curious of inquiry.
The topographer is expected to do two things, incongruous and incompatible: he must think for such as are incapable of thinking for themselves; those who have ideas of their own, and want not his, desire facts, abundance of facts. If he write for the former, he is flowery, excursive, superficial, and impertinent ; if for the latter, he must needs be hard, arithmetical, dry, and dull. If he attempt to combine both styles, he is as successful as if he were to sprinkle broad-cloth with spangles, or trim robes of frieze with
We take it, therefore, that we are only doing justice to those who may invite us of their company, in concluding that they are able to think for themselves; and in this belief, we will endeavour to refrain from vain “bibblebabble," and merely fulfil our humble but useful office of conductor; raising our arm here and there, at intervals, like the telegraph on One Tree Hill, whenever we would signal the tourist that there is something in view upon which he may “chew the cud of sweet and bitter fancies.”
We hope to find our readers in good humour this fine May morning, when the yearning after the country, and rural sights and sounds, comes upon us like a home sickness; and the glittering sun looks joyously down upon our stony streets and our dull brick walls, as if he were laughing at us, while we look up wistfully at his bright face, wishing ourselves lying at full length on some velvet sward, fifty miles from town, our hat over our eyes, kicking our heels for very wantonness, and carolling aloud in the hilarity of our hearts !
Pleasant it is to reflect that in devoting a day to nature and her charms, we are guilty of a dissipation leaving behind it no unpleasant reminiscences; that what we lose in time and money, we will be more than repaid in rudeness of health and buoyancy of spirit, without which what are time and money? Without these, blessings as they are, not of man's giving, time but marks the continuity of pain, and money is but the means to purchase that which cannot longer be enjoyed. While those sources of enjoyment which enervate the mind and enfeeble the frame are expensive as they are hurtful, pleasant it is to reflect that our enjoyments, our excursions, are of little cost: that those delights which raise the mind above low pursuits and sordid considerations, lie open to us without trouble or difficulty, and that our most inexpensive pleasures are at once the most elevating and the most innocent.
While the pursuit of wealth is attended with doubt, uncertainty, and care —while the paradise of fashion is delicious only as it is exclusive—while the workings of ambition are dashed with perpetual fear of fall, communion with Nature is free from every unpleasant feeling, every jarring sensation. From the troubles of working-day life (and every man finds his troubles, if he does not make them), from the heartlessness and sordid ways of our fellowmen, or it may be of ourselves; from the hand-to-hand struggles of human competition, we turn to Nature, as the tired infant turns to the mother's breast.
And oh! is it not good that the God of nature thus spreads a feast for us in the desert ? though we neglect the country of His making for the town which is of our own; though we refuse the invitation that comes to us in our city homes, borne on every breath of spring; though the lark and nightingale sing, and the primrose and violet bloom for us in vain, while all goes well with us, and certainty, like her shadow, waits on hope, whatever we may pursue in the business of life: yet, let a change come over our fortunes—let sickness blanch the cheek—let the worse than sickness come upon us, when the cankered mind eats into itself, and all that the saddened eye looks upon is distasteful—whither then do we turn? Then to thee, Nature, we return! The heart leaps up at thy approach, and the face of sickness looks smilingly: the weary mind is refreshed, the broken spirit finds balm for its wounds with thee, fair minister of quiet pleasures, and not unpleasing cares!
Yet—even yet, there is more to say for the country, and a reason of more moment why it is good to commune with her. There is an upward tendency of thought, a purification of spirit, an alienation of mind from the world and worldly things, that are more to the immortal part of our nature than the song of birds, the budding flowers, or the bubbling of waters. The spirit of peace descends upon us, the heart grows and swells with a sober