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First Impressions of England and its People
Chapter VII


Hagley Parish Church. — The Sepulchral Marbles of the Lytteltons. — Epitaph on the Lady Lucy. — The Phrenological Doctrine of Hereditary Transmission; unsupported by History, save in a way in which History can be made to support anything. — Thomas Lord Lyttelton ; his Moral Character a strange Contrast to that of his Father. —The Elder Lyttelton; his Death-bed. — Aberrations of the Younger Lord. — Strange Ghost Story ; Curious Modes of accounting for it. — Return to Stourbridge. — Late Drive. — Hales Owen.

The parish church of Hagley, an antique Gothic building of small size, much hidden in wood, lies at the foot of the hill, within a few hundred yards of the mansion-house. It was erected in the remote past, long ere the surrounding pleasure-grounds had any existence; but it has now come to be as thoroughly enclosed in them as the urns and obelisks of the rising ground above, and forms as picturesque an object as any urn or obelisk among them all. There is, however, a vast difference between jest and earnest; and the bona fide tomb-stones of the building inscribed with names of the dead, and its dark walls and pointed roof reared with direct reference to a life to which the present is but the brief vestibule, do not quite harmonize with temples of Theseus and the Muses, or political columns erected in honor of forgotten Princes of Wales, who quarrelled with their fathers, and were cherished, in consequence, by the Opposition. As I came upon it unawares, and saw it emerge from its dense thicket of trees, I felt as if, at an Egyptian feast, I had unwittingly brushed off the veil from the admonitory skeleton. The door lay open, — a few workmen were engaged in paving a portion of the floor, and repairing some breaches in the vault; and as I entered, one of their number was employed in shovelling, some five or six feet under the pavement, among the dust of the Lytteltons. The trees outside render the place exceedingly gloomy. “At Hagley,” the too celebrated Thomas Lord Lyttelton is made to say, in the posthumous volume of Letters which bears his name, “there is a temple of Theseus, commonly called by the gardener the temple of Perseus, which stares you in the face wherever you go; while the temple of God, commonly called by the gardener the parish church, is so industriously hid by trees from without, that the pious matron can hardly read her Prayer-book within.” A brown twilight still lingers in the place: the lettered marbles along the walls glisten cold and sad in the gloom, as if invested by the dun Cimmerian atmosphere described by the old poet as brooding over the land of the dead,—

“the dusky coasts
Peopled by shoals of visionary ghosts.”

One straggling ray of sunshine, colored by the stained glass of a narrow window, and dimmed yet more by the motty dust-reek raised by the workmen, fell on a small oblong tablet, the plainest and least considerable in the building, and, by lighting up its inscription of five short lines, gave to it, by one of those fortuitous happinesses in which so much of the poetry of common life consists, the prominence which it deserves. It briefly intimates that it was placed there, in its naked unadomedness, “at the particular desire of the Eight Honorable George Lyttelton, who died August 22, 1773, aged sixty-four.” The poet had willed, like another titled poet of less unclouded reputation, that his “epitaph should be his name alone.” Beside the plain slab, — so near that they almost touch, — there is a marble of great elegance, — the monument of the Lady Lucy. It shows that she predeceased her husband, — dying at the early age of twenty-nine, — nearly thirty years. Her epitaph, like the iroonody, must be familiar to most of my readers; but for the especial benefit of the class whose reading may have lain rather among the poets of the present than of the past century, I give it as transcribed from the marble: —

“Made to engage all hearts and charm all eyes,
Though meek, magnanimous, — though witty, wise;
Polite as she in courts had ever been,
Yet good as she the world had never seen;
The noble fire of an exalted mind,
With gentle female tenderness combined:
Her speech was the melodious voice of love,
Her song the warbling of the vernal grove;
Her eloquence was sweeter than her song,
Soft as her heart, and as her reason strong:
Her form each beauty of the mind expressed;
Her mind was virtue by the graces dressed.”

England, in the eighteenth century, saw few better men or better women than Lord Lyttelton and his lady; and it does seem a curious enough fact, that their only son, a boy of many hopes and many advantages, and who possessed quick parts and a vigorous intellect, should have proved, notwithstanding, one of the most flagitious personages of his age. The first Lord Lyttelton was not more conspicuous for his genius and his virtues, than the second Lord Lyttelton for his talents and his vices.

There are many who, though they do not subscribe to the creed of the phrenologist, are yet unconsciously influenced by its doctrines; and never, perhaps, was the phrenological belief more general than now, that the human race, like some of the inferior races, is greatly dependent, for the development of what is best in it, on what I shall venture to term purity of breed. It has become a sort of axiom, that well-dispositioned intellectual parents produce a well-dispositioned intellectual offspring; and of course, as human history is various enough, when partially culled, to furnish evidence in support of anything, there have been instances adduced in proof of the position, which it would take a long time to enumerate. But were exactly the opposite belief held, the same various history would be found to furnish at least as many evidences in support of it as of the other. The human race, so far at least as the mental and the moral are concerned, comes very doubtfully, if at all, under the law of the inferior natures. David Hume, better acquainted with history than most men, gives what seems to be the true state of the case. “The races of animals,” he says, “never degfherate when carefully attended to; and horses in particular always show their blood in their shape, spirit, and swiftness; but a coxcomb may beget a philosopher, as a man of virtue may leave a worthless progeny.” It is not uninstructive to observe how strongly the philosophy of the remark is borne out by the facts of Hume’s own History. The mean, pusillanimous, foolish John was the son of the wise, dauntless Henry the Second, and the brother of the magnanimous Richard Cceur de Lion. His immediate descendant and successor, nearly as weak, though somewhat more honest than himself, was the father of the fearless, politic, unscrupulous Edward the First; and he, of the imbecile Edward the Second; and he, in turn, of the brave, sagacious Edward the Third; and then comes one of those cases which the phrenologist picks out from the general mass, and threads together, as with a string: the heroic Edward the Third was the father of the heroic Black Prince. And thus the record runs on, bearing from beginning to end the same character; save that as common men are vastly less rare, as the words imply, than uncommon ones, it is inevitable that instances of the ordinary producing the ordinary should greatly predominate over instances of an opposite cast. We see, however, a brutal Henry the Eighth succeeded by his son, a just and gentle Edward the Sixth; and he by his bigoted, weak-minded sister, the bloody Mary; and she by his other sister, the shrewd, politic Elizabeth. Bat in no history is this independence of man’s mental and moral nature of the animal laws of transmission better shown than in the most ancient and authentic of all. The two first brothers the world ever saw,—children of the same father and mother, — were persons of diametrically opposite characters; a similar diversity obtained in the families of Noah and of Jacob: the devout Eli was the father of profligate children; and Solomon, the wise son of a great monarch, a great warrior, and a great author, — he who, according to Cowley, “from best of poets best of kings did grow,”—had much unscrupulous coxcombry and mediocre commonplace among his brethren, and an ill-advised simpleton for his son.

The story of the younger Lyttelton, — better known half a century ago than it is now, — has not a few curious points about it. He was one of three children, two of them girls, apostrophized by the bereaved poet in the Monody: —

"Sweet babes, who, like the little playful fawns,
Were wont to trip along these verdant lawns
By your delighted mother’s side,
Who now your infant steps shall guide?
Ah! where is now the hand whose tender care
To every virtue would have formed your youth,
And strewed with flowers the thorny ways of truth!
O, loss beyond repair!
O, wretched father, left alone
To weep their dire misfortune and thy own!
How shall thy weakened mind, oppressed with woe,
And drooping o’er thy Lucy’s grave,
Perform the duties that you doubly owe,
Now she, alas ! is gone,
From folly and from vice their helpless age to save?”

One of the two female children died in infancy; the other lived to contract an advantageous'and happy marriage with a very amiable nobleman, and to soothe the dying bed of her father. The boy gave early promise of fine parts and an energetic disposition. He learned almost in childhood to appreciate Milton, mastered his tasks with scarce an effort, spoke and wrote with fluent elegance, and was singularly happy in repartee. It was early seen, however, that his nature was based on a substratum of profound selfishness, and that an uneasy vanity rendered him intensely jealous of all in immediate contact -with him, whose claims to admiration or respect he regarded as overtopping his own. All of whom he was jealous it was his disposition to dislike and oppose : his insane envy made war upon them in behalf of self; and, unfortunately, it was his excellent father, — a man possessed of one of the highest and most unsullied reputations of the day,— whom he regarded as most his rival. Had the first Lord Lyttelton been a worse man, the second Lord would possibly have been a better one; for in the moral and the religious, — in all that related to the conduct of life and the government of the passions, — he seemed to regard his father as a sort of reverse standard by which to regulate himself on a principle of contrariety. The elder Lord had produced a treatise on the “Conversion of St. Paul,” which continues to hold a prominent place among our works of evidence, and to which, says Johnson, “infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer.” It was answered, however, after a sort, by a sceptical foreigner, Claude Anet, whose work the younger Lyttelton made it his business diligently to study, and which, as a piece of composition and argument, he professed greatly to prefer to his father’s. The elder Lyttelton had written verses which gave him a place among the British poets, and which contain, as he himself has characterized those of Thomson, —

“Not one immoral, one corrupted thought,—
One line which, dying, he could wish to blot.”

The younger Lyttelton wrote verses also ; but his, though not quite without merit, had to be banished society, like a leper freckled with infection, and they have since perished apart. The elder Lyttelton wrote Dialogues of the Dead; so did the younger; but his dialogues were too blasphemously profane to be given, in a not very zealous age, to the public; and we can but predict their character from their names. The speakers in one were, “King David and Caesar Borgia;” and in another, “Socrates and Jesus Christ.” He gave a loose to his passions, till not a woman of reputation would dare be seen in his company, or permit him, when he waited on her, — heir-apparent as he was to a fine estate and a fair title, — to do more than leave his card. His father, in the hope of awakening him to higher pursuits and a nobler ambition, exerted his influence in getting him returned to Parliament; and he made his debut in a brilliant speech, which greatly excited the hopes of the veteran senator and his friends, and was complimented in the House by the opposition, as fraught with the “hereditary ability of the Lytteltons. He subsequently lost his seat, however, in consequence of some irregularities connected with his election, and returned full swing to the gratification of the grosser propensities of his nature. At length, when shunned by high and low, even in the neighborhood of Hagley, he was sent to hide his disgrace in an obscure retreat on the continent.

Meanwhile, the elder Lyttelton was fast breaking up. There was nothing in the nature of his illness, says his physician, in an interesting account of his last moments, to alarm the fears of his friends; but there is a malady of the affections darkly hinted at in the narrative, which had broken his rest and prostrated his strength, and which medicine could not reach. It is sad enough to reflect that he himself had been one of the best of sons. The letter is still extant which his aged father addressed to him, on the publication of his treatise on the “Conversion of St. Paul.” After some judicious commendation of the cogency of the arguments and the excellence of the style, the old man goes on to say, “May the King of kings, whose glorious cause you have so well defended, reward your pious labors, and grant that I may be found worthy, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be an eye-witness of that happiness which I doubt not He will bountifully bestow upon you. In the mean time, I shall never cease glorifying God for having endowed you with such useful talents, and giving me so good a son.” And Jiere was the son, in whose behalf this affecting prayer had been breathed, dying broken-hearted, a victim to paternal solicitude and sorrow. But did the history of the species furnish us with no such instances, we would possess one argument fewer than in the existing state of things, for a scheme of final retribution, through which every unredressed wrong shall be righted, and every unsettled account receive its appropriate adjustment. Junius, a writer who never praised willingly, had just decided, with reference to his Lordship’s long political career, that “the integrity and judgment of Lord Lyttelton were unquestionable;” but the subject of the eulogy was passing to the tribunal of a higher judge. His hopes of immortality rested solely on the revealed basis; and yet it did yield him cause of gratitude on his death-bed, that he had been enabled throughout the probationary course, now at its close, to maintain the character of an honest man. “In politics and in public life,” he said to his physician, shortly ere his departure, “I have made public good the rule of my conduct. I never gave counsels which. I did not at the time think the best. I have seen that I was sometimes in the wrong; but 1 did not err designedly. I have endeavored in private life to do all the good in my power; and never for a moment could indulge malicious or unjust designs against any person whatsoever.” And so the first Lord Lyttelton slept with his fathers; and Thomas, the second Lord, succeeded him.

He soon attained, in his hereditary seat in the Upper House, to no small consequence as a Parliamentary speaker; and the ministry of the day — the same that lost the colonies to Britain— found it of importance he should be conciliated. His father had long desired, but never could obtain, the government appointment of Chief Justice in Eyre. It was known there was nothing to be gained by conferring a favor of the kind on the first Lord Lyttelton: he would have voted and spoken after exactly the same manner, whether he got the appointment or no. But the second Lord was deemed a man of a different stamp; and the place which the father, after his honest services of forty years, had longed for in vain, the son, in the infancy of his peerage, ere he had performed a single service of any kind, received unsolicited. The gift had its effect; and many of his after votes were recorded on the side of ministers, against Chatham and the Americans. No party, however, could calculate very surely on his support: he was frequently drawn aside by some eccentric impulse; and frequently hit right and left in mere wantonness, without caring whether the stroke fell on friend or foe. There were, meanwhile, sad doings at Hagley. In “ his father’s decent hall,” to employ the language of Childe Harold,

"Condemned to uses vile,
Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile.”

He had been married to a lady, of whom nothing worse has ever been said than that she accepted his hand. Her, however, he had early deserted. But the road he had taken, with all its downward ease and breadth, is not the road which leads to happiness; and enough survives of his private history to show that he was a very miserable man.

“And none did love him; though to hall and bower
He gathered revellers from far and near,
He knew them flatterers of the festal hour,
The heartless parasites of present cheer;
Yea, none did love him, — not his lemans dear.”

He seems to have been strongly marked by the peculiai heartlessness so generally found to coexist with the gratuitous and flashy generosity of men of grossly licentious lives; that petrifaction of feeling to which Burns and Byron — both of them unfortunately but too well qualified to decide on the subject— so pointedly refer. But he could feel remorse, however incapable of pity, — and remorse heightened, notwithstanding an ostentatious scepticism, by the direst terrors of superstition. Among the females who had been the objects of his temporary attachment, and had fallen victims to it, there was a Mrs. Dawson, whose fortune, with her honor and reputation, had been sacrificed to her passion, and who, on being deserted by his Lordship for another, did not long survive: she died brokenhearted, bankrupt both in means and character. But though she perished without friend, she was yet fully avenged on the seducer. Ever after, he believed himself haunted by her spectre. It would start up before him in the solitudes of Hagley at noon-day, — at night it flitted round his pillow, — it followed him incessantly during his rustication on the continent, — and is said to have given him especial disturbance when passing a few days at Lyons. In England, when residing for a short time with a brother nobleman, he burst at midnight into the room in which his host slept, and begged, in great horror of mind, to be permitted to pass the night beside him: in his own apartment, he said, he had been strangely annoyed by an unaccountable creaking of the floor. He ultimately deserted Hagley, which he found by much too solitary, and in too close proximity with the parish burying-ground; and removed to a country-house near Epsom, called Pit Place, from its situation in an old chalk-pit. And here, six years after the death of his father, the vital powers suddenly failed him, and he broke down and died in his thirty-sixth year. There were circumstances connected with his death that form the strangest part of his story, — circumstances which powerfully attracted public attention at the time, and which, as they tasked too severely the belief of an incredulous age, have been very variously accounted for. We find Dr. Johnson, whose bias, however, did not incline him to the incredulous side, thus referring to them, in one of the conversations recorded by Boswell. “I mentioned,” says the chronicler, “Thomas Lord Lyttelton’s vision, — the prediction of the time of his death, and its exact fulfilment.” Johnson. — “ It is the most extraordinary thing that has happened in my day: I heard it with my own ears from his uncle, Lord Westcote. I am so glad to have evidence of the spiritual world, that I am willing to believe it.” Dr. Adams. — “You have evidence enough; good evidence, which needs not such support.” Johnson. — “I like to have more.”

This celebrated vision, — long so familiar to the British public, that almost all the writers who touch on it, from Boswell to Sir Walter Scott inclusive, deal by the details as too well known to be repeated, — is now getting pretiy much out of sight. I shall present the particulars, therefore, as I have been able to collectjhem from the somewhat varying authorities of the time. His Lordship, on Thursday, November 5th, 1779, had made the usual opening address to the Sovereign the occasion of a violent attack on the administration; “ but this,” says Walpole, “ was, notwithstanding his government appointment, nothing new to him; he was apt to go point-blank into all extremes, without any parenthesis or decency, nor even boggled at contradicting his own words.” In the evening he set out for his house at Epsom, carrying with him, says the same gossiping authority, “a caravan of nymphs.” He sat up rather late after his arrival; and, on retiring to bed, was suddenly awakened from brief slumber a little before midnight, by what appeared to be a dove, which, after fluttering for an instant near the bed-curtains, glided towards a casement-window in the apartment, where it seemed to flutter for an instant longer, and then vanished. At the same moment his eye fell upon a female figure in white, standing at the bed-foot, in which he at once recognized, says Warner, “the spectre of the unfortunate lady that had haunted him so long.” It solemnly warned him to prepare for death, for that within three days he should be called to his final account; and, having delivered its message, immediately disappeared. In the morning his Lordship seemed greatly discomposed, and complained of a violent headache. “He had had an extraordinary dream,” he said, “suited, did he possess even a particle of superstition, to make a deep impression on his mind;” and in afterwards communicating the particulars of the vision, he remarked, rather, however, in joke than earnest, that the warning was somewhat of the shortest, and that really, after a course of life so disorderly as his, three days formed but a brief period for preparation. On Saturday, he began to recover his spirits; and told a lady of his acquaintance at Epsom, that as it was now the third and last day, he would, if he escaped for but a few hours longer, fairly “jockey the ghost.” He became greatly depressed, however, as the evening wore on; and one of his companions, as the critical hour of midnight approached, set forward the house-clock, in the hope of dissipating his fears, by misleading him into the belief that he had entered on the fourth day, and was of course safe. The hour of twelve accordingly struck; the company, who had sat with him till now, broke up immediately after, laughing at the prediction; and hi? Lordship retired to his bed-room, apparently much relieved. His valet, who had mixed up at his desire a dose of rhubarb, followed him a few minutes after, and he sat up in bed, in. apparent health, to take the medicine; but, being in want of a teaspoon, he despatched the servant, with an expression of impatience, to bring him one. The man was scarce a minute absent. When he returned, however, his master was a corpse. He had fallen backwards on the pillow, and his outstretched hand still grasped his watch, which exactly indicated the fatal hour of twelve. It has been conjectured that his dissolution might have been an effect of the shock he received, on ascertaining that the dreaded hour had not yet gone by: at all events, explain the fact as we may, ere the fourth day had arrived, Lyttelton was dead. It has been further related, as a curious coincidence, that on the night of his decease, one of his intimate acquaintance at Dartford, in Kent, dreamed that his Lordship appeared to him, and, drawing back the bed-curtains, said, with an air of deep melancholy, “ My dear friend, it is all over; you see me for the last time.”

The story has been variously accounted for. Some have held, as we learn from Sir Walter Scott in his “Demonology,” that his Lordship, weary of life, and fond of notoriety, first invented the prediction, with its accompanying circumstances, and then destroyed himself to fulfil it. And it is added, in a note furnished by a friend of Sir Walter’s, that the whole incident has been much exaggerated. “I heard Lord Fortescue once say,” says the writer of the note, “that he was in the house with Lord Lyttelton at the time of the supposed visitation, and he mentioned the following circumstances as the only foundation for the extraordinary superstructure at which the world has wondered: — ‘A woman of the party had one day lost a favorite bird, and all the men tried to recover it for her. Soon after, on assembling at breakfast, Lord Lyttelton complained of having passed a very bad night, and having been worried in his dreams by a repetition of the chase of the lady’s bird. His death followed, as stated in the story.’ ”Certainly, had this been all, it would be scarce necessary to infer that his Lordship destroyed himself. But the testimony of Lord Fortescue does not amount to more than simply that at first Lord Lyttelton told but a part of his dream; while the other evidence goes to show that he subsequently added the rest. Nor does the theory of the premeditated suicide seem particularly happy seized with convulsions in the evening, and expired, putting off his clothes to go into bed. These circumstances are not only verified by Charles Wal—y, Esq., a captain in the royal navy, and many other respectable characters, witnesses of his Lordship’s conversation and exit, but are remarkably impressed by the additional circumstance of a very intimate friend of Lord Lyttelton, at Dartford, in Kent, dreaming on the night of this evening (Saturday, November 27) that his Lordship had appeared to him towards daybreak, and, drawing back the curtain, said,  My dear friend, it is all over; you see me for the last time,’ — or words to that effect.”

If we must indeed hold that the agency of the unseen world never sensibly mingles with that of the seen and the tangible,

“To shame the doctrine of the Sadducee,”

we may at least deem it not very improbable that such a vision should have been conjured up by the dreaming fancy of an unhappy libertine, ill at ease in his conscience, sensible of sinking health, much addicted to superstitious fears, and who, shortly before, had been led, through a sudden and alarming indisposition, to think of death. Nor does it seem a thing beyond the bounds of credibility or coincidence, that in the course of the three following days, when prostrated by his ill-concealed terrors, he should have experienced a second and severer attack of the illness from which, only a few weeks previous, he had with difficulty recovered.

*Certain it is, — and the circumstance is a curious one, — there were no firmer believers in the truth of the story than Lyttelton’s own nearer relatives. It was his uncle, a man of strong sense, to whom Johnson referred as his authority, and on whose direct evidence he built so much; and we are told by Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, that the Lady Dowager Lyttelton,— the younger Lord’s stepmother, whom, however, the knight represents as “a woman of a very lively imagination,”'— was equally a believer. “I have frequently seen, at her house in Portugal Street, Grosvenor Square,” says Sir Nathaniel, “a painting which she herself executed in 1780, expressly to commemorate the event. It hung in a conspicuous part of her drawing-room. There the dove appears at the window; while a female figure, habited in white, stands at the bed-foot, announcing to Lord Lyttelton his dissolution. Every part of the picture was faithfully designed after the description given her by his Lordship’s valet, to whom his master related all the circumstances.” “ About four years after, in the year 1783,” adds the knight, "when dining at Pit Place, I had the curiosity to visit Lord Lyttelton’s bed-chamber, where the casement-window at which, as his Lordship asserted, the dove appeared to flutter, was pointed out to me.” The reader will perhaps remember that Byron refers to the apparition of the bird as a precedent for the passage in the “Bride of Abydos” in which he introduces the spirit of Selim. as pouring out its  sorrows, in the form of a nightingale, over the tomb of Zuleika. “ For a belief that the souls of the dead inhabit birds,” says the poet, “ we need not travel to the east: Lord Lyttelton’s ghost story, and many other instances, bring this superstition nearer home.” The Lord Westcote, Lord Lyttelton’s uncle, who related the story to Johnson, succeeded to the title and estate, and the present Lord Lyttelton is, I believe. Lord Westcote’s grandson.

I returned to Stourbridge, where I baited to get some refreshment, and wait the coach for Hales Gwen, in an old-fashioned inn, with its overhanging gable of mingled beam and brick fronting the street, and its some six or seven rooms on the ground-floor, opening in succession into each other like the rattles of a snake’s tail. Three solid-looking Englishmen, two of them farmers evidently, the third a commercial traveller, had just sat down to a late dinner; and, on the recommendation of the hostess, I drew in a chair and formed one of the party. A fourth Englishman, much a coxcomb apparently, greatly excited, and armed with a whip, was pacing the floor of the room in which we sat; while in an outer room of somewhat inferior pretensions, there was another Englishman, also armed with a whip, and also pacing the floor; and the two, each from his own apartment, were prosecuting an angry and noisy dispute together. The outer-room Englishman was a groom, — the inner-room Englishman deemed himself a gentleman. They had both got at the races into the same gig, the property of the innkeeper, and quarrelled about who should drive. The groom had argued his claim on the plea that he was the better driver of the two, and that driving along a crowded race-ground was difficult and dangerous: the coxcomb had insisted on driving, because he liked to drive, and because, he said, he did n’t choose to be driven in such a public place by a groom. The groom retorted, that though a groom, he was as good a man as he was, for all his fine coat, — perhaps a better man; and so the controversy went on, till the three solid Englishmen, worried at their meal by the incessant noise, interfered in behalf of the groom. “Thou bee’st a foolish man,” said one of the farmers to the .coxcomb; “better to be driven by a groom than to wrangle with a groom.”—“Foolish man!” iterated the other farmer, “thou’s would have broken the groom’s neck and thee’s own.” —“Ashamed,” exclaimed the commercial gentleman, “to be driven by a groom, at such a time as this, — the groom a good driver too, and, for all that appears, an honest man! I don’t think any one should be ashamed to be driven by a groom; I know I wouldn’t.”— “The first un-English thing I have seen in England,” said I: “I thought you English people were above littlenesses of that kind.”—“Thank you, gentlemen, thank you,” exclaimed the voice from the other room; “I was sure I was right. He’s a low fellow: I would box him for sixpence.” The coxcomb muttered something between his teeth, and stalked into the apartment beyond that in which we sat; the commercial gentleman thrust his tongue into his cheek as he disappeared; and we were left to enjoy our pudding in peace. It was late and long this evening ere the six o’clock coach started for Hales Owen. At length, a little after eight, when the night had fairly set ,in, and crowds on crowds had come pouring into the town from the distant race-ground, away it rumbled, stuck over with a double fare of passengers, jammed on before and behind, and occupying to the full every square foot atop.

Though sorely be-elb owed and be-kneed, we had a jovial ride. England was merry England this evening in the neighborhood of Stourbridge. We passed cart, and wagon, and gig, parties afoot and parties on horseback; and there was a free interchange of gibe and joke, hail and halloo. There seemed to be more hearty mirth and less intemperance afloat than I have seen in Scotland on such occasions; but the whole appeared just foolish enough notwithstanding; and a knot of low blackguard gamblers, who were stuck together on the coach front, and conversing with desperate profanity on who they did and by whom they were done, showed me that to the foolish there was added not a little of the bad. The Hales Owen road runs for the greater part of the way within the southern edge of the Dudley coal-field, and, lying high, commands a downward view of its multitudinous workings for many miles. It presented from the coach-top this evening a greatly more magnificent prospect than by day. The dark space, — a nether firmament, — for its gray wasteful desolation had disappeared with the vanished daylight, — was spangled bright by innumerable furnaces, twinkling and star-like in the distance, but flaring like comets in the foreground. We could hear the roaring of the nearer fires; here a tall chimney or massy engine peered doubtfully out, in dusky umber, from amid the blackness; while the heavens above glowed in the reflected light, a blood-red. It was near ten o’clock ere I reached the inn at Hales Owen; and the room into which I was shown received, for more than an hour after, continual relays of guests from the races, who turned in for a few minutes to drink gin and water, and then took the road again. They were full of their backings and their bets, and animated by a life-and-death eagerness to demonstrate how Sir John’s gelding had distanced my Lord’s mare.


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