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First Impressions of England and its People
Chapter XVI


Yardley Oak; of immense Size and imposing Appearance. — Cowper’s Description singularly illustrative of his complete Mastery over Language.— Peasant’s Nest. — The Poet’s Vocation peculiarly one of Revolution. — The School of Pope ; supplanted in its unproductive Old Age by that of Cowper. — Cowper’s Coadjutors in the Work. — Economy of Literary Revolution. — The old English Yeoman. — Quit Olney. — Companions in the Journey. — Incident. — Newport Pagnell. — Mr. Bull and the French Mystics. — Lady of the Fancy. — Champion of all England. — Pugilism. — Anecdote.

Half an hour’s leisurely walking — and, in consideration of my companion’s three score and eleven summers, our walking was exceedingly leisurely—brought us, through field and dingle, and a country that presented, as we ascended, less of an agricultural and more of a pastoral character, to the woods of Yardley Lodge. We enter through a coppice on a grassy field, and see along the opposite side a thick oak wood, with a solitary brick house, the only one in sight, half hidden amid foliage in a corner. The oak wood has, we find, quite a character of its own. The greater part of its trees, still in their immature youth, were seedlings within the last forty years: they have no associates that bear in their well-developed proportions, untouched by decay, the stamp of solid mid-aged tree-hood; but here and there, — standing up among them, like the long-lived sons of Noah, in their old age of many centuries, amid a race cut down to the three score and ten, — we find some of the most ancient oaks in the empire, — trees that were trees in the days of William the Conqueror. These are mere hollow trunks, of vast bulk, but stinted foliage, in which the fox shelters and the owl builds, — mere struldbrugs of the forest. The bulkiest and most picturesque among their number we find marked by a white-lettered board: it is a hollow pollard of enormous girth, twenty-eight feet five inches in circumference a foot above the soil, with skeleton stumps, bleached white by the winters of many centuries, stretching out for a few inches from amid a ragged drapery of foliage that sticks close to the body of the tree, and bearing on its rough gray bole wens and warts of astounding magnitude. The trunk, leaning slightly forward, and wearing all its huger globosities behind, seems some fantastic old-world mammoth, seated kangaroo-fashion on its haunches. Its foliage this season had caught a tinge of yellow, when the younger trees all around retained their hues of deep green; and, seen in the bold relief which it owed to the circumstance, it reminded me of AEneas’ golden branch, glittering bright amid the dark woods of Cumea. And such is Yardley oak, the subject of one of the finest descriptions in English poetry, — one of the most characteristic, too, of the muse of Cowper. If asked to illustrate that peculiar power which he possessed above all modern poets, of taking the most stubborn and untractable words in the language, aud bending them with all ease round his thinking, so as to fit its every indentation and irregularity of outline, as the ship-carpen-ter adjusts the stubborn planking, grown flexible in his hand, to the exact mould of his vessel, I would at once instance some parts of the description of Yardley oak. But farewell, noble tree! so old half a century ago, when the poet conferred on thee immortality, that thou dost not seem older now!

“Time made thee what thou wast, — king of the woods;
And Time hath made thee what thou art, — a cave
For owls to roost in. Once thy spreading houghs
O’erhung the champaign; and the numerous flocks
That grazed it stood beneath that ample cope
Uncrowded, yet safe sheltered from the storm.
No flock frequents thee now. Thou hast outlived
Thy popularity, and art become
(Unless verse rescue thee a while) a thing
Forgotten as the foliage of thy youth.
While thus through all the stages thou hast pushed
Of treeship, — first a seedling hid in grass;
Then twig; then sapling; and, as century rolled
Slow after century, a giant bulk
Of girth enormous, with moss-cushioned root
Upheaved above the soil, and sides embossed
With prominent wens globose, — till, at the last,
The rottenness, which time is charged to inflict
On other mighty ones, found also thee.”

I returned with my guide to the rustic bridge; resumed my walk through the hitherto unexplored half of the chestnut colonnade; turned the corner; and then, passing downwards along the lower side of the park, through neglected thickets, — the remains of an extensive nursery run wild, —I struck outwards beyond its precincts, and reached a whitened dwelling-house that had been once the “ Peasant’s Nest.” But nowhere else in the course of my walk had the hand of improvement misimproved so sadly. For the hill-top cottage,

“Environed with a ring of branchy elms
That overhung the thatch,”

I found a modern hard-cast farm-house, with a square of offices attached, all exceedingly utilitarian, well kept, stiff, and disagreeable. It was sad enough to find an erection that a journeyman bricklayer could have produced in a single month substituted for the “peaceful covert” Cowper had so oftea wished his own, and which he had so frequently and fondly visited. But those beauties of situation which awakened the admiration, and even half excited the envy, of the pqet, improvement could not alter; and so they are now what they ever were. The diagonal valley to which I have had such frequent occasion to refer is just escaping from the park at its lower corner: the slope, which rises from the runnel to the level, still lies on the one hand within the enclosure; but it has escaped from it on the other, and forms, where it merges into the higher grounds, the hill-top on which the “ Nest ” stands ; and the prospect, no longer bounded by the tall belting of the park, is at once very extensive and singularly beautiful.

“Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meads, with cattle sprinkled o’er,
Conducts the eye along its sinuous course
Delighted. There, fast-rooted in their hank,
Stand, never overlooked, our favorite elms,
That screen the herdsman’s solitary hut;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream,
That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale,
The sloping land recedes into the clouds,
Displaying on its varied side the grace
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square towers,
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the listening ear,
Groves, heaths, and smoking villages remote.”

Leaving the farm-house, I descended into the valley; passed along a tangled thicket of yew, plane and hazel, in which I lingered a while to pick blackberries and nuts, where Cowper may have picked them; came out upon the Olney road by the wicket gate through which he used to quit the highway and strike up to the woodlands; and, after making my old woman particularly happy by a small gratuity, returned to Olney.

I trust it will not be held that my descriptions of this old-fashioned park, with its colonnade and its avenues, its dells and its dingles, its alcove and its wilderness, have been too minute. It has an interest as independent of any mere beauty or picturesqueness which it may possess, as the field of Bannockburn or the meadows of Runnimede. It indicates the fulcrum, if I may so speak, on which the lever of a great original genius first rested, when it upturned from its foundations an effete school of English verse, and gave to the literature of the country a new face. Its scenery, idealized into poetry, wrought one of the greatest literary revolutions of which the history of letters preserves any record. The school of Pope, originally of but small compass, had sunk exceedingly low ere the times of Cowper: it had become, like Nebuchadnezzar’s tree, a brass-bound stump, that sent forth no leafage of refreshing green, and no blossoms ,of pleasant smell; and yet, for considerably more than half a century, it had been the only existing English school. And when the first volume of “Poems by William Cowper, Esq., of the Inner Temple,” issued from the press, there seemed to be no prospect whatever of any other school rising to supplant it. Several writers of genius had appeared in the period, and had achieved for themselves a standing in literature; nor were they devoid of the originality, in both their thinking and the form of it, without which no writer becomes permanently eminent. But their originality was specific and individual, and terminated with themselves; whereas the school of Pope, whatever its other defects, was of a generic character. A second Collins, a second Gray, a second Goldsmith, would have been mere timid imitators, — mere mock Paganinis, playing each on the one exquisite string of his master, and serving by his happiest efforts but to establish the fidelity of the imitation. But the poetry of Pope formed an instrument of larger compass and a more extensive gamut, and left the disciples room to achieve for themselves, in running over the notes of their master, a certain amount of origin ality. Lyttelton’s “Advice to Belinda,” and Johnson’s “London,” exhibit the stamp of very different minds; and the “Pursuits of Literature” is quite another sort of poem from the “Triumphs of Temper;” but they all alike belong to the school of Pope, and bear the impress of the “Moral Essays,” the “Satires,” or the “Rape of the Lock.” The poetical mind of England had taken an inveterate set; it had grown up into artificial attitudes, like some superannuated posture-maker, and had lost the gait and air natural to it. Like the painter in the fable, it drew its portraits less from the life than from cherished models and familiar casts approved by the connoisseur ; and exhibited nature, when it at all exhibited it, through a dim haze of colored conventionalities. And this school, grown rigid and unfeeling in its unproductive old age, it was part of the mission of Cowper to supplant and destroy. He restored to English literature the wholesome freshness of nature, and sweetened and invigorated its exhausted atmosphere, by letting in upon it the cool breeze and the bright sunshine. The old park, with its noble trees and sequestered valleys, were to him what the writings of Pope and of Pope’s disciples were to his contemporaries: he renewed poetry by doing what the first poets had done.

It is not uninteresting to mark the plan on which nature delights to operate in producing a renovation of this character in the literature of a country. Cowper had two vigorous coadjutors in the work of revolution; and all three, though essentially unlike in other respects, resembled one another in the preliminary course through which they were prepared for their proper employment. Circumstances had conspired to throw them all outside the pale of the existing literature. Cowper, at the ripe age of thirty-three, when breathing in London the literary atmosphere of the day, amid his friends, — the Lloyds, Colmans, and Bonnel Thorntons, — was a clever and tasteful imitator, but an imitator merely, both in his prose and his verse. His prose in “The Connoisseur” is a feeble echo of that of Addison; while in his verse we find unequivocal traces of Prior, of Philips, and of Pope, but scarce any trace whatever of a poet at least not inferior to the b^St of them, — Cowper himself. Events over which he had no control suddenly removed him outside this atmosphere, and dropped him into a profound retirement, in which for nearly twenty years he did not peruse the works of any English poet. The chimes of the existing literature had fairly rung themselves out of his head, ere, with a heart grown familiar in the interval with all earnest feeling, — an intellect busied with ever ripening cogitation, — an eye and ear conversant, day after day, and year after year, with the face and voice of nature, — he struck, as the keynotes of his own noble poetry, a series of exquisitely modulated tones, that had no counterparts in the artificial gamut. Had his preparatory course been different, — had he been kept in the busy and literary world, instead of passing, in his insulated solitude, through the term of second education, which made him what we all know, — it seems more than questionable whether Cowper would have ever taken his place in literature as a great original poet.^ His two coadjutors in the work of

*Cowper himself seems to have been thoroughly aware that his long seclusion from the world of letters told in his favor. “I reckon it among my principal advantages as a composer of verses,” we find him saying, in one of his letters to the younger Unwin, “that I have not read an English poet these thirteen years, and but one these twenty years. Imitation even of the best models is my aversion. It is servile and mechanical, — a trick that has enabled many to usurp the name of author, who could not have written at all, if they had not written upon the pattern of some one indeed original. But when the ear and taste have been much accustomed literary revolution, were George Crabbe and Robert Burns. The one, self-taught, and wholly shut out from the world of letters, laid in his vast stores of observation, fresh from nature, in an obscure fishing village on the coast of Suffolk; the other, educated in exactly the same style and degree, — Crabbe had a little bad Latin, and Burns a little bad French, — and equally secluded from the existing literature, achieved the same important work on the bleak farm of Mossgiel. And the earlier compositions of these three poets,— all of them true backwoodsmen in the republic of letters, — clearers of new and untried fields in the rich unopened provinces, — appeared within five years of each other—Crabbe’s first and Burns’ last. This process of renovating a worn-out literature does certainly seem a curious one. Circumstances virtually excommunicated three of the great poetic minds of the age, and flung them outside the literary pale; and straightway they became founders of churches of their own, and carried away with them all the people. to the manner of others, it is almost impossible to avoid it; and we imitate in spite of ourselves, just in proportion as we admire.”

Cowper, however, was better adapted by nature, and more prepared by previous accomplishment, for the work of literary revolution, than either Bums or Crabbe. His poetry — to return to a previous illustration, rather, however, indicated than actually employed — was in the natural what Pope’s was in the artificial walk, — of a generic character; whereas theirs was of a strongly specific cast. The writers who have followed Crabbe and Burns we at once detect as imitators; whereas the writers to whom Cowper furnished the starting note have attained to the dignity of originals. He withdrew their attention from the old models, — thoroughly commonplaced by reproduction, — and sent them out into the fields and the woods with greatly enlarged vocabularies, to describe new things in fresh language. And thus has he exercised an indirect but potent influence on the thinking and mode of description of poets whose writings furnish little or no trace of his peculiar style or manner. Even in style and manner, however, we discover in his pregnant writings the half-developed germs of after schools. In his lyrics we find, for instance, the starting notes of not a few of the happiest lyrics of Campbell. The noble ode “On the Loss of the Royal George” must have been ringing in the ears of the poet who produced the “Battle of the Baltic;” and had the “Castaway” and the “Poplar Field” been first given to the world in company with the “Exile of Erin” and the “Soldier’s Dream,” no critic could have ever suspected that they had emanated from quite another pen. We may find similar traces in his works of the minor poems of the Lake School. “The Distressed Travellers, or Labor in Vain;” “The Yearly Distress, or Tithing-Time;” “The Colubriad;” “The Retired Cat;” “The Dog and the Water Lily;” and “The Diverting History of John Gilpin,” — might have all made their first appearance among the “Lyrical Ballads,” and would certainly have formed high specimens of the work. But it is not form and manner that the restored literature of England mainly owes to Cowper, — it is spirit and life; not so much any particular mode of exhibiting nature, as a revival of the habit of looking at it.

I had selected as my inn at Olney a quiet old house, kept by a quiet old man, who, faithful to bygone greatness, continued to sell his ale under the somewat faded countenance of the late Duke of York. On my return, I found him smoking a pipe, in his clean, tile-paved kitchen, with a man nearly as old as himself, but exceedingly vigorous for his years, — a fresh-colored, square-shouldered, deep-chested, English-looking man, with good sense and frank good-humor broadly impressed on every feature. The warm day and the long walk had rendered me exceedingly thirsty: I had been drinking, as I came along, at every runnel; and I now asked the landlord whether he could not get me something to slake my drought less heady than his ale. “O,” said his companion, taking from his pocket half a dozen fine jargonelle pears, and sweeping them towards me across the old oak table, “these are the things for your thirst.” I thanked him, and picked out of the heap a single pear. “O,” he exclaimed, in the same tone of refreshing frankness,take all, take all; they are all of my own rearing; I have abundance more on my trees at home.” With so propitious a beginning, we were soon engaged in conversation. He was, as I afterwards learned from my host, a very worthy man, Mr. Hales, of Pemberton, the last, or nearly the last, of the race of old English yeomen in this part of the country. His ancestors had held their small property of a few fields for centuries, and he continued to hold it still. He well remembered Cowper, he told me; Newton had left Olney before his day, some sixty-five or sixty-six years ago; but of Thomas Scott he had some slight recollection. The connection of these men with the locality had exerted, he said, a marked influence on the theologic opinions and beliefs of the people; and there were few places in England, in consequence, in which the Puseyistic doctrines had made less way. The old parishioners of Newton and Scott, and the town’s folk and neighbors of Cowper, had felt, of course, an interest in their writings; and so there were more copies of the “Poems,” and the “Cardiphonia,” and the “Force of Truth,” and the “Essays,” scattered over the place, than over perhaps any other locality in England. 4qd so the truth was at least known in Olney, and its neighborhood, whatever use might be made of it. I inquired whether he had ever heard of one Moses Brown, who had been curate in Olney exactly a hundred years before, — a good man, a poet, and a friend of James Hervey, and whose poems, descriptive and devotional, though not equal by a great deal to those of Cowper, had passed through several editions in their day. Mr. Hales had barely heard that such a man there had been, and had some recollection of an aged woman, one of his daughters. I parted from the old frank yeoman, glad I should have seen so fine a specimen of a class fast hastening to extinction. The reader will remember that Gulliver, in the island of the sorcerers, when the illustrious dead were called up to hold converse with him, had the curiosity to summon, among the rest, a few English yeomen of the old stamp, — “once so famous,” says the satirist, “for the simplicity of their manners, diet, and dress, — for justice in their dealings, — for their true spirit of liberty and love of their country.” And I deemed myself somewhat in luck in having found a representative of the class still in the land of the living, considerably more than a century after Swift had deemed it necessary to study his specimens among the dead.

After exhausting the more interesting walks of the place, I quitted Olney next morning for the railway, by an omnibus that plies daily between Bedford and Wolverton. There were two gentlemen in the vehicle. The one dressed very neatly in black, with a white neck-cloth and somewhat prim-looking beaver hat, I at once set down as a Dissenting minister; the other, of a rather more secular cast, but of staid and sober aspect, might, I inferred, be one of his deacons or elders. They were engaged, as I entered, in discussing some theological question, which they dropped, however, as we drove on through the street, and evinced a curiosity to know where Newton and Thomas Scott had lived. I pointed out to them the house of Cowper, and the house and church pf Newton; and, in crossing the famous bridge over the Ouse, directed their attention to the distant village of Weston-Underwood, in which Scott had officiated for many years as a curate. And so I got fairly into their good graces, and had my share assigned me in the conversation. They discussed Newton and Scott, and characterized as sound and excellent the “Commentary” of the one and the “Letters” of the other; but the labors of Cowper, whose rarer genius, and intellect of finer texture, seemed removed beyond the legitimate range of their appreciation, they regarded apparently as of less mark and importance. I deemed them no inadequate representatives of a worthy section of the English people, and of an obvious power in the country, — a power always honestly and almost always well directed, but rather in obedience to the instincts of a wise religion than the promptings of a nicely-discriminating intelligence. The more secular-looking traveller of the two, on ascertaining that I had come from Edinburgh, and was a citizen of the place, inquired whether I was not a ‘parishioner of Dr. Chalmers, — the one Scotchman, by the way, with whose name I found every Englishman of any intelligence in some degree acquainted; and next, whether I was not a member of the Free Church. The Disruption both gentlemen regarded as a great and altogether extraordinary event. They knew almost nothing of the controversy which had led to it; but there was no mistaking the simple fact of which it was an embodiment, namely, that from four to five hundred ministers of the Established Church had resigned their livings on a point of principle. To this effect, at least, the iron tongue of rumor had struck with no uncertain sound; and the tones were of a kind suited not to lower the aspirations of the religious sentiment, nor to cast a shade of suspicion on its reality as a principle of conduct.

In the middle of a weary ascent immediately over the old yeoman’s hamlet of Pemberton, the horse that dragged us fairly stood still: and so we had to get out and walk; and though we paced over the ground quite leisurely enough, both vehicle and driver were left far behind ere we got to the top of the hill. We paused, and paused, and sauntered on for a few hundred yards at a time, and then paused again and again; and still no omnibus. At length, the driver came puffing up behind us afoot, on the way to Newport Pagnell, he said, for another “hanimal,” for his “poor hoss” had foundered on that “cussed hill.” My fellow-traveller, the presumed deacon, proved considerably more communicative than his companion the minister. He had, I found, notwithstanding his gravity, some town-bred smartness about him, and was just a little conceited withal; or, I should perhaps rather say, was not quite devoid of what constitutes the great innate impression of the true Englishman, — an impression of his own superiority, simply in virtue of his country, over all and sundry who speak his language with an accent not native to the soil. But I never yet quarrelled with a feeling at once so comfortable and so harmless, and which the Scotch — though in a form less personal as it regards the individual entertaining it, and with an eye more to Scotland in the average — cherish as strongly ; and so the Englishman and I agreed during our walk excellently well. He had unluckily left his hat in the vehicle, bringing with him instead, what served as his coach-cap, a pinched Glengary bonnet, which, it must be confessed, looked nearly as much out of place on his head as Captain Knock-dunder’s cocked hat, trimmed with gold lace, when mounted high over philabeg and plaid, on the head of the redoubted captain. And on nearing the village of Skirvington, he seemed to feel that the bonnet was not the sort of head-dress in which a demure Englishman looked most himself. “It might do well enough for a Scotchman like me,” he said, “but not so well for him.” I wore, by chance, a tolerably good hat, and proposed making a temporary exchange, until we should have passed the village; but fate declared itself against the transaction. The Englishman’s bonnet would have lain, we found, like a coronet upon a cushion on the Scotch head; and the Scotch hat, on the other hand, threatened to swallow up the Englishman. I found myself in error in deeming him an acquaintance of our fellow-traveller the minister : he did not even know his name, and was exceedingly anxious to find it out, — quite fidgety on the point; for he was, he said, a profoundly able man, and, he was certain, a person of note. At the inn at Newport Pagnell, however, he succeeded, I know not how, in ferreting the name out; and whispered into my ear, as we went, that he was assured he was in the right in deeming our companion somebody: the gentleman in black beside us was no other than Dr.-.    But    the doctor’s name was wholly unfamiliar to me, and I have since forgotten it.

Newport Pagnell! I had but just one association with the place, besides the one formed as I had passed through its streets two evenings before, on the night of riot and clamor: it had been for many years the home of worthy, witty, bluff William Bull, — the honest Independent minister who used so regularly to visit poor Cowper in his affliction, ere Cowper had yet become famous, and whom the affectionate poet learned so cordially to love. How strangely true genius does brighten up whatever object it falls upon! It is, to borrow from Sir Walter’s illustration, the playful sunbeam, that, capriciously selecting some little bit of glass or earthen ware in the middle of a ploughed field, renders it visible across half a country, by the light which it pours upon it. An old astronomer, ere the heavens had been filled up with their fantastic signs, — crabs, and fish, and scorpions, bulls and rams, and young ladies, and locks of young ladies’ hair, — could give a favorite toy or pet companion a place in the sky; but it is only the true poet who possesses an analogous power now. He can fix whatever bauble his fancy rests upon high in the literary heavens; and no true poet ever exercised the peculiar privilege of his order more sportively than Cowper. He has fixed Mr. Bull’s tobacco-box and his pipe amid the signs, and elicited many a smile by setting the honest man a-smoking high up in the moon. But even to the moon his affection followed him, as may be seen from the characteristic passage, glittering, as is Cowper’s wont, with an embroidery of playful humor, inwrought into a sad-colored groundwork of melancholy, in which he apostrophizes the worthy minister in his new lodgment. “Mon aimable and tres cher ami," — it is not in the power of chaises or chariots to carry you where my affections will not follow you. If I heard that you were gone to finish your days in the moon, I should not love you the less, but should contemplate the place of your abode as often as it appeared in the heavens, and say, ‘ Farewell, my friend, forever! Lost, but not forgotten! Live happy in thy lantern, and smoke the remainder of thy pipes in peace. Thou art rid of earth, — at least, of all its cares, — and so far can I rejoice in thy removal; and as to the cares that are to be found in the moon, I am resolved to suppose them lighter than those below, — heavier they can hardly be.’ ”

Cowper’s translations of the better devotional poems of Madame Guion were made at the request of Mr. Bull, who, though himself a Calvinist, was yet so great an admirer of the mystic Frenchwoman, — undoubtedly sincere, though not always judicious, in her devotional aspirations, — that he travelled on one occasion twenty miles to see her picture. He urged him, too, during that portion of partial convalescence in which his greater poetical works were produced, again to betake himself to the composition of original hymns; but it was the hour of the power of darkness, and this second request served but to distress the mind of the suffering poet. He had “no objection,” he said, “to giving the graces of the foreigner an English dress,” but “insuperable ones to affected exhibitions of what he did not feel.” — “Ask possibilities,” he adds, “and they shall be performed ; but ask no hymns from a man suffering from despair, as I do. I could not sing the Lord’s song, were it to save my life, banished as I am, not to a strange land, but to a remoteness from His presence, in comparison with which the distance from east to west is no distance, — is vicinity and cohesion.” Alas, poor Cowper! — sorely smitten by the archers, and ever carrying about with him the rankling arrow in the wound. It is not improbable that one of the peculiar doctrines of the Mystics, though it could scarce have approved itself to his judgment, may have yet exercised a soothing influence on the leading delusion of his unhappy malady; and that he may have been all the more an admirer of the writings of Madame Guion, — for a great admirer he was, — in consequence of her pointed and frequent allusion to it. It was held by the class of Christians to which she belonged, — among the rest, by Fenelon, — that it would be altogether proper, and not impossible, for the soul to acquiesce in even its own destruction, were it to be God’s will that it should be destroyed. We find the idea brought strongly out in one of the poems translated by Cowper; but it is in vain now to inquire respecting the mood of strangely-mingled thought and feeling, — of thought solid and sane, and of acute feeling, quickened by madness, — in which he must have given to it its first embodiment in English verse.

“Yet lie leaves me,—cruel fate!
Leaves me in my lost estate.
Have I sinned? O, say wherein;
Tell me, and forgive my sin!

King and Lord, whom I adore,
Shall I see thy face no more?
Be not angry; I resign
Henceforth all my will to thine:

I consent that Thou depart,
Though thine absence breaks my heart.
Go, then, and forever too;
All is right that Thou wilt do.”

A mile beyond Skirvington, when we had almost resigned ourselves to the hardship of walking over all the ground which we had bargained for being carried over, we were overtaken by the omnibus drawn by the “fresh hoss.” It stopped for a few seconds as we entered Newport Pagnell, to pick up a passenger; and a tall, robust, hard-featured female, of some five-and-forty or so, stepped in. Had we heard, she asked, when adjusting herself with no little bustle in a corner of the conveyance,— had we heard how the great fight had gone? No! — my two companions had not so much as heard that a great fight there had been. “O dear!” exclaimed the robust female, “not heard that Bendigo challenged Caunt for the championship !—ay, and he has beaten him too. Three hundred guineas a-side! ” — “Bad work, I am afraid,” said the gentleman in black. — “Yes,” exclaimed the robust female; “bad work, foul work; give ’em fair play, and Bendigo is no match for Caunt. Hard stiff fellow, though! But there he is!” We looked out in the direction indicated, and saw the champion of all England standing at a public-house door, with a large white patch over one eye, and a deep purple streak under the other. He reminded me exceedingly of Bill Sikes, in the illustrations by Cruikshank of Oliver Twist. For two mortal hours had he stood up, under the broiling sun of the previous day, to knock down, and be knocked down in turn, all in a lather of blood and sweat, and surrounded by a ring of the greatest scoundrels in the kingdom. And the ninety-third round had determined him the best man of two, and the champion of all England. I felt convinced, however, like the old king in the ballad, that England holds

“Within its realme,
Five hundred as good as hee.”

There had been sad doings in the neighborhood, — not a little thieving in the houses, several robberies on the highway, and much pocket-picking among the crowds; in short, as the reporter of a sporting paper, “The Era,” who seemed to have got bitten somehow, summed up his notice of the fight,— “ had the crowds brought together been transported en masse to Botany Bay, they would have breathed forth such a moral pestilence as would have infected the atmosphere of the place.” Pugilism has been described as one of the manifestations of English character and manners. I suspect, however, that in the present day it manifests nothing higher than the unmitigated blackguardism of England’s lowest and most disreputable men. Regarding the English ladies who take an interest in it, I must of course venture nothing untender; indeed, I saw but a single specimen of the class, and that for but twenty minutes or so, for the robust female left us at the first stage.

A pugilist, notwithstanding his pugilism, may be, I doubt not, a brave fellow; the bottom he displays is, in most instances, the identical quality which, in the desperate tug of war, so distinguishes, over all the other troops of Europe, the British soldier. But the “science of defence” can have in itself no tendency either to strengthen native courage, or to supply the want of it. It must take its place rather among those artificial means of inspiring confidence, that, like the bladders of the swimmer, serve but to induce a state of prostration and helplessness when they unexpectedly give way; and can be but an indifferent preparation for meeting full in front the bayonet-point that breaks in upon its guards, or the whizzing bullet that beats them down. I have been told by an aged relative, now deceased, who saw much service, that in the first great naval battle in which he was engaged, and the first great storm he experienced, there were two men—one in each instance—whose cowardice was palpable and apparent to the whole -crew, and who agreed so far in character, that each was the champion pugilist and bully of his vessel. The dastard in the engagement— that of Camperdown — was detected coiling up his craven bulk in a place of concealment, out of reach of the shot: the dastard in the storm was rendered, by the extremeness of his terror, unfit for duty. The vessel in which my relative sailed at the time — the same relative who afterwards picked up the curious shell amid the whistling of the bullets in Egypt — was one of those old-fashioned, iron-fastened ships of the line that, previous to the breaking out of the first revolutionary war, had been lying in dock for years, and that, carefully kept, so far at least as externals were concerned, looked extremely well when first sent to sea, but proved miserable weather-boats amid the straining of a gale, when their stiff rusty bolting began to slacken and work out. The gale, in this especial instance, proved a very tremendous one ; and the old Magnificent went scudding before it, far into the Northern Ocean, under bare poles. She began to open in the joints and seams like a piece of basket-work; and though the pumps were plied incessantly by half-hour relays, the water rose fast within the hold, and she threatened to settle down. My relative was stationed in the well-room during one of the night-watches, just as the tempest had reached its crisis, to take note of the state of the leakage; and a man came round every quarter of an hour to receive his report. The water, dimly visible by the lantern of horn, rose fast along the gauge, covering, inch after inch, four feet and a half,—four feet nine, — five feet, — five feet three, — five feet and a half: the customary quarter of an hour had long elapsed, yet no one appeared to report; and the solitary watcher, wondering at the delay, raised the little hatch directly above head, and stepped out upon the orlop, to represent the state of matters below. Directly over the opening, a picture of cold, yellow terror, petrifying into stone, stood the cowed bruiser, with a lantern dangling idly from his finger points. “What make you here?” asked my relative.—“Come to report.” — “Report! is that reporting?” — “O! — how many feet water?” — “Five and a half.” — “Five feet and a half!” exclaimed the unnerved bully, striking his hands together, and letting his lantern fall into the open hatch,— “Five feet and a half! Gracious heaven! it’s all over with us!” Nothing, I have oftener than once heard my relative remark, so strongly impressed him, during the terrors of the gale, as the dread-impressed features and fear-modulated tones of that unhappy man.


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