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The Recreations of a Country Parson
Chapter V. Concerning Country Houses and Country Life


ONCE upon a time, I lived in the very heart of London: absolutely in Threadneedle Street. I lived in the house of a near relation, an opulent lawyer, who, after he had become a rich man, chose still to dwell in the locality where he had made his fortune. All around, for miles in every direction, there were nothing but piles of houses—streets and lanes of dingy brick houses everywhere. Not a vestige of nature could be seen, except in the sky above, in the stunted vegetation of a few little City gardens, and in the foul and discoloured river. The very surface of the earth, for yards in depth, was the work of generations that had lived and died centuries before amid the narrow lanes of the ancient city. There, for months together, I, a boy without youth, under the care of one who, though substantially kind, had not a vestige of sympathy with nature or with home affections, wearily counted the days which were to pass before the yearly visit to a home far away. I cannot by any words express the thirst and craving which I then felt for green fields and trees. The very name of the country was like music in my ear; and when I heard any man say he was going down to the country, how I envied him! It was not so bad in winter: though even then the clear frosty days called up many pictures of cheerful winter skies away from those weary streets;—of boughs bending beneath the quiet snow;—of the beautiful fretwork of the frost upon the hedges and the grass, and of its exhilarating crispness in the air;—of the stretches of the frozen river, seen through the leafless boughs, covered with happy groups whose merry faces were like a good-natured defiance of the wintry weather. But when the spring revival began to make itself felt, when the days began to lengthen, and the poor shrubs in the squares to bud, and when there was that accession of light during the day which is so cheerful after the winter gloom, then the longing for the country grew painfully strong, like the seaman’s calenture, or the Swiss exile’s yearning for his native hills. When I knew that the hawthorn hedges were white, and the fruit-trees laden with blossoms, how I longed to be among them! I well remember the kindly feeling I bore to a dingy hostelry in a narrow lane off Cheapside, for the sake of its name. It was called Blossom's Inn; and many a time I turned out of my way, and stood looking up at its sign, with eyes that saw a very different scene from the blackened walls. I remember how I used to rise at early morning, and take long walks in whatever direction -I thought it possible that a glimpse of anything like the country could be seen: away up the New North Road there were some trees, and some little plots of grass. There was something at once pleasing and sad about those curious little gardens which still exist here and there in the heart of London, consisting generally of a plot of grass of a dozen yards in length and breadth, surrounded by a walk of yellow gravel, stared at on every side by the back windows of tall brick houses, and containing a few little trees, whose leaves in spring look so strangely fresh against the smoke-blackened branches. I do not wish to be egotistical; and I describe all these feelings merely because I believe that honestly to tell exactly what one has himself felt, is the true way to describe the common feelings of most people in like circumstances. I dare say that if any youth of sixteen, pent up in Threadneedle Street now, should happen to read what I have written, he will understand it all with a hearty sympathy which I shall not succeed in exciting in the minds of many of my readers. But such a one will know, thoroughly and completely, what pictures rise before the mind’s eye of one pent up amid miles of brick walls and stone pavements, at the mention of the country, of trees, hedge-rows, fields, quiet lanes and footpaths, and simple rustic people.

I wish to assure the man, shut up in a great city, that he has compensations and advantages of which he probably does not think. The keenness of his relish for country scenes, the intensity of his enjoyment of his occasional glimpses of them, counterbalance in a great degree the fact that his glimpses of them are but few. I live in the country now, and have done so for several years. It is a beautiful district of country too, and amid a quiet and simple population; yet I must confess that my youthful notion of rural bliss is a good deal abated. “Use lessons marvel,” it is said: one cannot be always in raptures about what one sees every hour of every day. It is the man in populous cities pent, who knows the value of green fields. It is your Cockney (I mean your educated Londoner) who reads Bracebridge Hall with the keenest delight, and luxuriates in the thought of country scenes, country houses, country life. He has not come close enough to discern the flaws and blemishes of the picture; and he has not learned by experience that in whatever scenes led, human life is always much the same thing. I have long since found that the country, in this nineteenth century, is by no means a scene of Arcadian innocence;—that its apparent simplicity is sometimes dogged stupidity;—that men lie and cheat in the country just as much as in the town, and that the country has. even more of mischievous tittle-tattle;—that sorrow and care and anxiety may quite well live in Elizabethan cottages grown over with honeysuckle and jasmine, and that very sad eyes may look forth from windows round which roses twine. The poets (town poets, no doubt) were drawing upon their imagination, when they told how “Virtue lives in Invan’s Vale,” and how “with peace and plenty there, lives the happy villager.” Virtue and religion are plants of difficult growth, even in the country; and notwithstanding Cowper’s exquisite poem, I am not sure that “the calm retreat, the silent shade, with prayer and praise agree ”better than the closet into which the weary man may enter, in the quiet evening, after the business and bustle of the town. People may pace up and down a country lane, between fragrant hedges of blossoming hawthorn, and tear their neighbours’ characters to very shreds. And the eye that is sharp to see the minutest object on the hillside far away, may be blind to the beauty which is spread over all the landscape. Nor is the country always in the trim holiday dress which delights the summer wayfarer. Country roads are not all nicely gravelled walks between edges of clipped box, or through velvety turf, shaven by weekly mowings. There are many days on which the country looks, to any one without a most decided taste for it, extremely bleak and drear. The roads are puddles of mud, which will search its way through boots to which art has supplied soles of two inches’ thickness. The deciduous trees are shivering skeletons, bending before the howling blast The sheep paddle about the brown fields, eating turnips mingled with clay. Now, for myself, I like all that: but a man from the town would not I positively enjoy the wet, blustering afternoon, with its raw wind, its driving sleet, its roads of mud. How delightful the rapid “constitutional” from half-past two till half-past four, with the comfortable feeling that we have accomplished a good forenoon’s work at our desk, (sermon or article, as the case may be,) and with the cheerful prospect of getting rid of all these sloppy garments, and feeling so snug and clean ere we sit down to dinner, when we shall hear the rain and wind softened into music through the warm crimson drapery of our windows and then the evening of leisure amid books and music, with the place upon the other easy-chair by the fireside, and the little children, screaming with delight, tumbling about one’s knees. So I like even the gusty, rainy afternoon, for the sake of all that it suggests to me. Nor will the true inhabitant of the country forget the delight with which he has hailed a gloomy, drizzling November day, when he has evergreen shrubs to transplant Have I not stood for hours, in a state of active and sensible enjoyment, watching how the hollies and yews and laurels gradually clothed some bare spot or unsightly comer, rejoicing that the calm air and ceaseless mizzle, which made my attendants and myself like soaked sponges, was life to these stout shoots and these bright hearty green leaves 1 But a town man does not understand all these things ; and I have no doubt that on one of these January days, when the entire distant prospect—hills, sky, trees, fields—might be faithfully depicted on canvas by different shades of Indian ink, he would see nothing in the prospect but gloom and desolation.

Then it is very picturesque to see the ploughman at work on a soft, mild winter day. It is a beautiful contrast, that light brown of the turned-over earth, and the fresh green of the remainder of the field; and what more pleasing than these lines of furrow, so beautifully straight and regular! But go up and walk by the ploughman’s side, you man from town, and see how you like it You will find it awfully dirty work. In a few minutes you will find it difficult to drag along your feet, laden with some pounds weight to each of adherent earth; and you will have formed some idea of the physical exertion, and the constant attention, which the ploughman needs, to keep his furrow straight and even, to retain the plough the right depth in the ground, and to manage his horses. Hard work for that poor fellow; and ill-paid work. No horse, mule, donkey, camel, or other beast of labour in the world, goes through so much exertion, in proportion to his strength, between sunrise and sunset, as does that rational being, all to earn the humblest shelter and the poorest fare that will maintain bare life. You walk beside him, and see how poorly he is dressed. His feet have been wet since six o’clock A.M., when he went half-a-mile from his cottage up to the stables of the farm to dress his horses; he has had a little tea and coarse bread, and nothing more, for his dinner at twelve o’clock, (I speak from personal knowledge:) he will have nothing more till his twelve (I have known it fifteen) hours of work are finished, when he will have his scanty supper: and while he is walking backwards and forwards all day, his mind is not so engaged but that he has abundant time to think of his little home anxieties, which are not little to him, though they may be nothing, my reader, to you—of the ailing wife at home, for whom the doctor orders wine which he cannot buy, and of the children, poorly fed, and barely clad, and* hardly at all educated, bom to the same life of toil and penury as himself. I know nothing about political economy; I have not understanding for it; and I feel glad, when I think of the social evils I see, that the responsibility of treating them rests upon abler heads than mine. Neither do I know how much truth there may be in the stories. of which I hear the echoes from afar, of the occasional privation and oppression of the manufacturing poor, against which, as it seems to me, these unhappy strikes and trades’ unions are their helpless and frantic appeal. But I can say, from my own knowledge ot the condition of our agricultural population, that sometimes men bearing the character of reputable farmers practise as great tyranny and cruelty towards their labourers and cottars, under a pure sky and amid beautiful scenery, as ever disgraced the ugly and smoky factory tbwn, where such things seem more in keeping with the locality.

Yet, though in a gloomy mood, one can easily make out a long catalogue of country evils,—evils which I know cannot be escaped in a fallen world, and among a sinful race,—still I thank God that my lot is cast in the country. I know, indeed, that the town contains at once the best and the worst of mankind. In the country, we are, intellectually and morally, a sort of middling species; we do not present the extremes, either in good or evil, which are to be found in the hot-house atmosphere of great cities. There is no reasoning with tastes, as every one knows; but to some men there is, at every season, an indescribable charm about a country life. I like to know all about the people around me; and I do not care though in return they know all, and more than all, about me. I like the audible stillness in which one lives on autumn days; the murmur of the wind through trees even when leafless, and the brawl of the rivulet even when swollen and brown. There is a constant source of innocent pleasure and interest in little country cares, in planting and tending trees and flowers, in sympathising with one’s horses and dogs,—even with pigs and poultry. And although one may have lived beyond middle age without the least idea that he had any taste for such matters, it is amazing how soon he will find, when he comes to call a country home his own, that the taste has only been latent, kept down by circumstances, and ready to spring into vigorous existence whenever the repressing circumstances are removed. Men in whom this is not so, are the exception to the universal rule. Take the Senior Wrangler from his college, and put him down in a pretty country parsonage; and in a few weeks he will take kindly to training honeysuckle and climbing roses, he will find scope for his mathematics in laying out a flower-garden, and he will be all excitement in planning and carrying out an evergreen shrubbery, a primrose bank, a winding walk, a little stream with a tiny waterfall, spanned by a rustic bridge. Proud he will be of that piece of engineering, as ever was Robert Stephenson when he had spanned the stormy Menai. There is something in all this simple work that makes a man kind-hearted: out-of-door occupation of this sort gives one much more cheerful views of men and things, and disposes one to sympathise heartily with the cottager proud of his little rose-plots, and of his enormous gooseberry that attained to renown in the pages of the county newspaper. I do not say anything of the incalculable advantage to health which arises from this pleasant intermingling of mental and physical occupation in the case of the recluse scholar; nor of the animated rebound with which one lays down the pen or closes the volume, and hastens out to the total change of interest which is found in the open air; nor of the evening at mental work again, but with the lungs that play so freely, the head that feels so cool and clear, the hand so firm and ready, testifying that we have not forgotten the grand truth that to care for bodily health and condition is a Christian duty, bringing with its due discharge an immediate and sensible blessing. I am sure that the poor man who comes to ask a favour of his parish clergyman, has a far better chance of finding a kind and unhurried hearing, if he finds him of an afternoon superintending his labourers, rosy with healthful exercise, delighted with the good effect which has been produced by some little improvement—the deviation of a walk, the placing of an araucaria—than if he found the parson a bilious, dyspeptic, splenetic, gloomy, desponding, morose, misanthropic, horrible animal, with knitted brow and jarring nerves, lounging in his easy-chair before the fire, and afraid to go out into the fine clear air, for fear (unhappy wretch) of getting a sore throat or a bad cough. I remember to have read somewhere of an humble philanthropist who undertook the reformation of a number of juvenile thieves; and for that end employed them in a large garden somewhere near London, to raise vegetables and flowers for the market There did the youthful prig concentrate his thoughts on the planting of cabbage, and find the unwonted delight of a day spent in innocent labour; there did the area-sneak bud the rose and set the potato; and there, as days passed on, under the gentle influence of vegetable nature, did a healthier, happier, purer tone come over the spiritual nature, even as a healthier blood came to heart and veins. The philanthropist was a true philosopher. There is not a more elevating and purifying occupation than that of tending the plants of the earth. I should never be afraid of finding a man revengeful, malignant, or cruel, whom I knew to be fond of his shrubs and flowers. And I believe that in the mind of most men of cultivation, there is some vague, undefined sense that the country is the scene where human life attains its happiest development I believe that the great proportion of such men cherish the hope, perhaps a distant and faint one, that at some time they shall possess a country home, where they may pass the last years tranquilly, far from the tumult of cities. Many of those who cherish such a hope will never realise it; and many more are quite unsuited for enjoying a country life were it within their reach. But all this is founded upon the instinctive desire there is in human nature to possess some portion of the earth’s surface. You look with indescribable interest at an acre of ground which is your own. There is something quite remarkable about your own trees. You have a sense of property in the sunset over your own hills. And there is a perpetual pleasure in the sight of a fair landscape, seen from your own door. Do not believe people who say that all scenes soon become indifferent, through being constantly seen. An ugly street may cease to be a vexation, when you get accustomed to it; but a pleasant prospect becomes even more pleasant, when the beauty which arises from your own associations with it is added to that which is properly its own. No doubt, you do grow weary of the landscape before your windows, when you are spending a month at some place of temporary sojourn, seaside or inland; but it is quite different with that which surrounds your own home. You do not try that by so exacting a standard. You never think of calling your constant residence dull, though it may be quiet to a degree which would make you think a place insupportably dull, to which you were paying a week’s visit What an immense variety of human dwellings are comprised within the general name of the Country Home! We begin with such places as Chatsworth and Belvoir, Arundel and Alnwick, Hamilton and Drumlanrig: houses standing far withdrawn within encircling woods, approached by avenues of miles in length, which debouch on public highways in districts of country quite remote from one another; with acres of conservatory, and scores of miles of walks; and shutting in their sacred precincts by great park walls from the approach and the view of an obtrusive world beyond. We think of the old Edwardian Castle, wreather-worn and grim, with drawbridge and portcullis and moat and oak-roofed hall and storied window's; of the huge, square, corniced, many-chimneyed, ugly building of the renaissance, which never has anything to recommend its aspect except when it gains a dignity from enormous size; then crown through the classes of manor-houses, abbeys, and halls, high-gabled, oriel-windowed, turret-staired, long-corridored, haunted-chambered; with their parks, greater or less, their oaken clumps, their spreading horse-chestnuts, their sunshiny glades, their startled deer; till we come to the villa with a few acres of ground, such as Dean Swift wished for himself, with its modest conservatory, its neat little shrubbery, its short carriage drive, its brougham or phaeton drawn by one stout horse. Then, upon the outskirts of the country town, we find a class of less ambitious dwellings, which yet struggle for the title of villa—cheap would-be Gothic houses, ’with overhanging eaves and latticed windows, standing in a half-acre plot of ground, which yet is large enough to give a new direction to the tradesman’s thoughts, by giving him space to cultivate a few shrubs and flowers. Last comes the wayside cottage, sometimes neat and pretty, often cold, damp, and ugly; sometimes gay with its little plot of flowers, sometimes odorous with its neighbouring dung-heap; the difference depending not half so much upon the income enjoyed by its tenant, as upon his having a tidy, active wife, and a kindly, improving, generous landlord.

And various as the varied dwellings are the scenes amid which they stand. In rich English dales, in wild Highland glens, on the bank of quiet inland rivers, and on windy cliffs frowning over the ocean— there, and in a thousand other places, we have still the country home, with its peculiar characteristics. Thither comes the postman only once a day, always anxiously, often nervously expected: and thither the box of books, the magazines of last month, and the reviews of last quarter, sent from the reading-club in the High Street of the town five miles off. How truly, by the way, has somebody or other stated that the next town and the railway station are always five miles away from every country house! Thither the carrier, three times a-week, brings the wicker-woven box of bread; there does the managing housewife have her store-room, round whose shelves are arranged groceries of every sort and degree; and there, at uncertain intervals, dies the home-fed sheep or pig, which yieldeth joints which are pronounced far superior to any which the butcher’s shop ever supplied. There, sometimes, is found the cheerful, modest establishment, calculated rather within the income, with everything comfortable, neat, and even elegant; where family dinners may be enjoyed which afford real satisfaction to all, and win the approval of even the most refined ground; and there sometimes, especially when the mistress of the house is a fool, is found the unhappy scramble that, with a thousand a-year, aims at aping five thousand; where there is a French ladies’ maid of cracked reputation, and a lady who talks largely of “what she has been accustomed to,” and "what she regards herself as entitled to;” where every-day comfort is sacrificed to occasional attempts at showy entertainments, to which the neighbouring peer goes under the pressure of a most urgent invitation; where gooseberry champagne and very acid claret flow in hospitable profusion; and where dressed-up stable-boys and ploughmen dash wildly up against each other, as the uneasy banquet strains anxiously along.

Very incomplete would be any attempt at classifying the country homes of Britain, in which no mention should be made of the dwellings of the clergy. In this country, the parish priest is not isolated from all sympathy with the members of his flock by an enforced celibacy; he is not only the spiritual guide of his parishioners, but he is in most instances the head of a family, the cultivator of the ground, the owner of horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and dogs. I do not deny that in theory, and once perhaps in a thousand times in practice, it is a finer thing that the clergyman should be one given exclusively to his sacred calling, standing apart from and elevated above the little prosaic cares of life, and “ having his conversation in heaven.” It seems at first as if it better befitted one who has to be much exercised in sacred thoughts and duties—whose hands are to dispense the sacred emblems of Communion, and whose voice is to breathe direction and comfort into dying ears— to have nothing to do with such sublunary matters as seeing a cold bandage put upon a horse’s foreleg, or arranging for the winter supply of hay, or considering as to laying in store of coals at the setting in of snowy weather. It jars somewhat upon our imagination of the even run of that holy calling, to think of the parson (like Sydney Smith) proudly producing his lemon-bag, or devising his patent Tantalus and his universal scratcher. But surely all this is a wrong view of things. Surely it is Platonism rather than Christianity to hold that there is anything necessarily debasing or materialising about the cares of daily life. All these cares take their character from the spirit with which we pass through them. The simple French monk, five hundred years since, who acted as cook to his brethren, indicated the clergyman’s true path when he wrote, “I put my little egg-cake on the fire for the sake of Christand George Herbert, more gracefully, has shewn how, as the eye may either look on glass, or look through it, we may look no further than the daily task, or may look through it to something nobler beyond:

“Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see:
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws.
Makes that, and the action, fine.”

We have all in our mind some abstracted and idealised picture of what the country parsonage, as well as the country parson, should be: the latter, the clergyman and the gentleman : the former, the fit abode for him and his; near the church, not too much retired from the public way, old and ivied, of course Gothic, with bay windows, fantastic gables, wreathed chimneys, and overhanging eaves; with many evergreens, with ancient trees; with peaches ripening on the sunny garden wall, with an indescribable calm and peacefulness over the whole, deepened by the chime of the passing river, and the windy caw of the distant rookery; such should the country parsonage be. But the best of anything is not the commonest of the class: and I can only add that I believe it would afford unmingled satisfaction to the tenant of rectory, vicarage, parsonage, deanery, or manse, if his dwelling were all that the writer would wish to see it

It is pleasant to think over what we may call the poetry of country house-making,—the historical cases in which men have sought to idealise to the utmost the scene around them, and to live in a more ambitious or a humbler fairyland. Yet the instances that first occur to us do not encourage the belief that happiness is more certainly to be found in fairyland than in Manchester or in Siberia. One thinks of Beckford, the master of almost unlimited wealth, “commanding his fairy palace to glitter amid the orange groves, and aloes, and palms of Cintra:” and after he had formed his paradise, wearying of it, and abandoning it, to move the gloomy moralising of Childe Harold. One thinks of him, not yet content with his experience, spending twenty years upon the turrets and gardens of Fonthill, that “cathedral turned into a toyshop;” whose magnificence was yet but a faint and distant attempt to equal the picture drawn by the prodigal imagination of the author of Vathek. One thinks of Horace Walpole, amid the gimcrackery of Strawberry Hill; of Sir Walter Scott, building year by year that “romance in stone and lime,” and idealising the bleakest and ugliest portion of the banks of the Tweed, till the neglected Clartyhole became the charming but costly Abbotsford. One thinks of Shenstone, devoting his life to making a little paradise of the Leasowes, where, as Johnson tells us in his grand resounding prose, he set himself “ to point his prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters; which he did with such judgment and fancy as made his little domain the envy of the great and the admiration of the skilful; a place to be visited by travellers and copied by designers. ”Nor must we forget how the bitter little Pope, by the taste with which he laid out his five acres at Twickenham, did much to banish the stiff Dutch style, and to encourage the modem fashion of landscape-gardening in imitation of nature, which was so successfully carried out by the well-known Capability Brown. It is putting too extreme a case, when we pass to that which in our boyish days we all thought the perfection and delight of country residences, the island-cave of Robinson Crusoe: with its barricade of stakes which took root and grew into trees, and its impenetrable wilderness of wood, all planted by the exile’s hand, which went down to the margin of the sea. It is coming nearer home, to pass to the French chateau; the tower perched upon the rock above the Rhine; and the German castle, which of course is somewhere in the Black Forest, frequented by robbers and haunted by ghosts. And we ascend to the sublime in human abodes, when we think of the magnificent Alhambra, looking down proudly upon Moorish Granada: that miracle of barbaric beauty, which Washington Irving has so finely described: with its countless courts and halls, its enchanted gateways, its graceful pillars of marble of different hues, and its fountains that once made cool music for the delight of Moslem prince and peer.

We pass, by an easy transition, to the literature of country houses, of which there are two well-marked classes. We have the real and the ideal schools of the literature of country houses and country life : or perhaps, as both are in a great degree ideal, we should rather call them the would-be real, and the avowedly romantic. We have the former charmingly exemplified in Bracebridge Hall; charmingly in the Spectator’s account of Sir Roger de Coverley, amid his primitive tenantry; with a little characteristic coarseness, in Swift’s poem, beginning,

I’ve often wish’d that I had clear,
For life, six hundred pounds a year,—

which, by the way, is an imitation of that graceful Latin poet who delighted, so many centuries since, in his little Sabine farm. Then there are Miss Mitford’s quiet pleasing delineations of English country life; many delightful touches of it in Friends in Council and its sequel; and Samuel Rogers, though essentially a man of the town, has given a very complete picture of cottage life in his little poem, which thus sets out—

Mine be a cot beside the hill;
A beehive’s hum shall soothe my ear:
A willowy brook, that turns a mill,
With many a fall, shall linger near.

We mention all these, not, of course, as a thousandth part of what our literature contains of country houses and life, but as a sample of that mode of treating these subjects which we have termed the would-be real: and as specimens of the avowedly romantic way of describing such things, we refer to Poe’s gorgeous picture of the “Domain of Amheim,” where his affluent imagination has run riot, under the stimulus of fancied boundless wealth; and the same author’s “Lander’s Cottage,” a scene of sweet simplicity, which is somewhat spoiled by just the smallest infusion of the theatrical The writings of Poe, with all their extraordinary characteristics, are so little known in this country, that we dare say our readers will feel obliged to us for a short account of the former piece.

A certain man, named Ellison, suddenly came into the possession of a fortune of a hundred millions sterling. Poe, you see, being wretchedly poor, did not do things by halves. Ellison resolved that he would find occupation and happiness in making the finest place in the world; and he made it. The approach to Amheim was by the river. After intricate windings, pursued for some hours through wild chasms and rocks, the vessel suddenly entered a circular basin of water, of two hundred yards’ diameter: this basin was surrounded by hills of considerable height:—

“Their sides sloped from the water’s edge at an angle of some forty-five degrees, and they were clothed from base to summit, not a perceptible point escaping, in a drapery of the most gorgeous flower-blossoms: scarcely a green leaf being visible among the sea of odorous and fluctuating colour. This basin was of great depth, but so transparent was the water that the bottom, which seemed to consist of a thick mass of small round alabaster pebbles, was distinctly visible by glimpses,—that is to say, whenever the eye could permit itself not to see, far down in the inverted heaven, the duplicate blooming of the hills. In these latter there were no trees, nor even shrubs of any size.

As the eye traced upwards the myriad-shaped slope, from its sharp junction with the water to its vague termination amid the folds of overhanging cloud, it became, indeed, difficult not to fancy a panoramic cataract of rubies, sapphires, opals, and golden onyxes, rolling silently out of the sky.”

Here the visitor quits the vessel which has borne him so far, and enters a light canoe of ivory, which is wafted by unseen machinery:—

“The canoe steadily proceeds, and the rocky gate of the vista is approached, so that its depths can be more distinctly seen. To the right arise a chain of lofty hills, rudely and luxuriantly wooded. It is observed, however, that the trait of exquisite cleanness where the bank dips into the water still prevails. There is not one token of the usual river debris. To the left, the character of the scene is softer and more obviously artificial. Here the bank slopes upward from the stream in a very gentle ascent, forming a broad sward of grass of a texture resembling nothing so much as velvet, and of a brilliancy of green which would bear comparison with the tint of the purest emerald. This plateau varies in breadth from ten to three hundred yards; reaching from the river bank to a wall, fifty feet high, which extends in an infinity of curves, but following the general direction of the river, until lost in the distance to the westward. This wall is of one continuous rock, and has been formed by cutting perpendicularly the once rugged precipice of the stream’s southern bank ; but no trace of the labour has been suffered to remain. The chiselled stone has the hue of ages, and is profusely hung and overspread with the ivy, the coral honeysuckle, the eglantine, and the clematis. ....

“Floating gently onward, the voyager, after many short turns, finds his progress apparently barred by a gigantic gate, or rather door, of burnished gold, elaborately carved and fretted, and reflecting the direct rays of the now sinking sun with an effulgence that seems to wreathe the whole surrounding forest in flames. .... The canoe approaches the gate. Its ponderous wings are slowly and musically unfolded. The boat glides between them, and commences a rapid descent into a vast amphitheatre entirely begirt with purple mountains, whose bases are laved by a gleaming river throughout the full extent of their circuit. Meantime the whole Paradise of Amheim bursts upon the view. There is a gush of entrancing melody: there is an oppressive sense of strange sweet odour: there is a dream like intermingling to the eye of tall, slender Eastern trees,—bosky shrubberies,— flocks of golden and crimson birds,—lily-fringed lakes,—meadows of violets, tulips, poppies, hyacinths, and tuberoses,—long intcrtangled lines of silver streamlets,—and, upspringing confusedly from amid all, a mass of semi-Gothic, architecture, sustaining itself as if by miracle in mid-air,—glit-teiing in the red sunlight with a hundred oriels, minarets, and pinnacles; and seeming the phantom handiwork, conjointly, of the Sylphs, the Fairies, the Genii, and the Gnomes.”

This is certainly landscape-gardening on a grand scale : but the whole thing is a shade too immediately suggestive of the Arabian Nights. Why not, we are disposed to say, go the entire length of Aladdin’s palace at once, and give us walls of alternate blocks of silver and gold; gardens, whose trees bear fruits of diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire; and a roc’s egg hung up in the entrance-hall! Fancy a man driving up in a post-chaise from the railway-station to a house like that! Why, the only permissible way of arriving at its front door would be on an enchanted horse, that has brought one from Bagdad through the air; and instead of a footman in spruce livery coming out to take in one’s portmanteau. I should look to be received by a porter with an elephant’s head, or an afrit with bat’s wings. I could not go up comfortably to my room to dress for dinner: and only fancy coming down to the drawing-room in a coat by Stultz and dress boots by Hoby 1 Rather should we wreathe our brow with flowers, endue a purple robe, the gift of Noureddin, and perfume our handkerchief with odours which had formed part of the last freight of Sinbad the Sailor. If we made any remark, political or critical, which happened to be disagreeable to our host, of course he would immediately change us into an ape, and transport us a thousand leagues in a second to the Dry Mountains.

But to return to the sober daylight in which ordinary mortals live, and to the sort of country in which a man may live whose fortune is less than a hundred millions, we have abundance of the literature of the country in one shape or another: poetry and poetic prose which profess to depict country life, and books of detail which profess to instruct us how to manage country concerns. We breathe a clear, cool atmosphere for which we are the better, when we turn over the pages of The Seasons: that is a book which never will become stale. Cowper’s poetry is redolent of the country: and though it is all nonsense to say that “God made the country and man made the town,” yet The Winter Walk at Noon almost leads us to think so. You see the Cockney’s fancy that the country is a paradise, always in holiday guise, in poor Keats’s lines—

“Oh for a drop of vintage that hath been
Cool’d for a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provenjal song, and sun-bumt mirth!”

And there are several books whose titles are sure to awaken pleasant thoughts in the mind of the lover of nature, who knows that, notwithstanding Dr Johnson’s axiom, one green field is not just like any other green field, and who prefers a country lane to Fleet Street There is Mr Jesse’s Country Life, which is mainly occupied in describing, with a minute and kindly accuracy, the ways and doings of bird, beast, and insect; and thus calling forth a feeling of interest in all our humble fellow-creatures; for in the case of inferior animals the principle holds good, that all that is needed to make one like almost any of them is just to come to know them. And on this track one need do no more than name White’s delightful Natural History of Selboume. There is Mr William Howitt’ Bofs Country Book, which sets out the sports and occupations of childhood and rural scenes, with a fulness of sympathy which makes us lament that its author should ever exchange these genial topics for the briars of polemical controversy. There is Mr Wilmott’s Summer-time in the Country; a disappointing book; for notwithstanding the melody of its name, it is mainly a string of criticisms, good, bad, and indifferent: with a slight surrounding atmosphere, indeed, of country life; but most of the production might have been written in Threadneedle Street There is a pleasant and well-informed little anonymous volume, called The Flower Garden, which contains the substance of two articles originally published in the Quarterly Review; and every one knows Bacon’s Essay of Gardens, in which the writer gives the reins to his fancy, and pictures put a little paradise of thirty acres in extent, including in it some specimen of all schools of landscape-gardening. Mrs Loudon’s various publications have done much to foster a taste for gardening among ladies. An exceedingly pleasing and genial book, called The Manse Garden, which has had a large circulation in Scotland, is intended to stimulate the Scottish clergy to neatness and taste in the arrangement of their gardens and glebes. A handsome work entitled Rustic Adornments for Homes of Tastei lately published, contains many practical instructions for the decoration of the country home. And an elegantly-illustrated volume, which appeared a few months ago, is given to Rhymes and Roundelays in Praise of a Country Life. Sir Joseph Paxton has not thought it unworthy of him to write a little tract, called The Cottager's Calendar of Garden Operations, the purpose of which is to shew how much may be done in the most limited space in the way of growing vegetables for profit and flowers for ornament; and in these days, when happily the social and sanitary elevation of the masses is beginning to attract something of the notice which it deserves, I trust that reformers will not forget the powerful influence of the garden, and a taste for gardening concerns, in elevating and purifying the working man’s mind, and adding interest and beauty to the working man’s home. And in truth, we shall never succeed in inducing working men to spend their evenings at home rather than in the alehouse till we have succeeded in rendering their own homes tidy, comfortable, and inviting to a degree that shall at least equal the neatly-sanded floor and the well-scrubbed benches which they can enjoy for a few pence elsewhere.

If there be any among my readers who have it in view to build a country house, I strongly recommend them to have it done by Mr George Gilbert Scott, whose pleasantly-written book on Secular and Domestic Architecture will be read with delight by many who are condemned to live in towns, or who must put up with such a country home as their means permit, but who can luxuriate in imagining what kind of a house they would have if they could have exactly such a house as they -wish. Mr Scott is an out and out supporter of Gothic architecture as the best style for every possible building, large or small, in town or country, from the nobleman’s palace to the labourer’s cottage, from a cathedral or a town-house to a bam or a pigsty. But Mr Scott gives a judicious view of Gothic architecture, as a style capable of unlimited expansion and adaptation, having in its nature the power to accommodate itself to every requirement of modem life and progress, and capable, without surrendering its distinctive character, of modification, development, addition, and subtraction, to a degree which renders it the true architecture of the nineteenth century no less than of the thirteenth. It is doing Gothic architecture great injustice to speak of it as the mediaeval architecture. Such a description vaguely suggests that it is a style especially suited to the requirements of life in the Middle Ages: and, by consequence, not well adapted to the exigencies of life at a period when life is very different from what it was in the Middle Ages. And the notion has been countenanced by the injudicious fashion in which houses were built at the beginning of the great reaction in favour of Gothic. Wfyen people grew wearied and disgusted at the ugly Grecian houses which disfigure so many fine old English parks, paltry and pitiful importations of a foreign style into a country which had an indigenous style incomparably superior in beauty, in comfort, in every requisite of the country house, the reaction ran into excess ; and instead of building Gothic houses, that is, instead of trying to produce buildings which should be noble and picturesque, and at the same time commodious and convenient to live in, architects built abbeys and castles; and in those cases where they did not produce specimens of mere confectioner’s Gothic, they produced buildings utterly unsuited to the exigencies and conditions of modem English life, however beautiful they might be. Now, nothing could be a more flagrant violation of the spirit of Gothic, than this scrupulous conformity to the letter of Gothic. The true Gothic architect must hold fitness and use in view as his primary end; and his skill is shewn when upon these he superinduces beauty. A fortified castle, with moat and draw bridge, arrow-slits, and donjon-keep, was a convenient and suitable building in an unsettled and lawless age. It is a most inconvenient and unsuitable building in England in the nineteenth century; and while we should prize and cherish the noble specimens of the Edwardian castle which we possess, for their beauty and their associations, we ought to remember that if the architects who built them were living now, they would be the first to lay that style aside, as no longer suitable; and they would shew the true Gothic taste and spirit in devising dwellings as noble, as picturesque, as interesting, as thoroughly Gothic in character, but fitted for the present age, and the present age’s modes of life. It was not because the Edwardian castle was grand and beautiful, that the Edwardian architects built it as they did; they built it as they did because that was the most suitable and convenient fashion; and upon fitness and use they engrafted grandeur and beauty. And it is not by a slavish imitation of ancient details and forms that we shall succeed in producing, at the present day, what is justly entitled to be called Gothic architecture.. It is rather by a free development and carrying out of old principles applied to new circumstances and requirements. And it is the glory of Gothic, that you cannot make a new demand upon it for increased or altered accommodations and appliances, which may not, in the hand of a worthy architect, be complied with, not only without diminution of beauty, but even with increase of beauty. It is beyond comparison the most squeezable of all styles; and, provided the squeezing be effected by a master’s hand, the style will look all the better for it.

There is a floating belief, entirely without reason, that Gothic is exclusively an ecclesiastical fashion of building. Many people fancy that Gothic architecture suits a church; but is desecrated, or at least becomes unsuitable, when applied to secular and domestic buildings. There can be no doubt, indeed, that to every person who possesses any taste, it is a self-evident axiom that Gothic is the true church architecture: but in the age during which the noblest Gothic churches were built, it was never fancied that churches must be built ir one style, and secular buildings in a style essentially dissimilar. The belief which is entertained by the true lover of Gothic architecture is this: that Gothic is essentially the most beautiful architecture; that, properly treated, it is the most commodious architecture; and that, therefore, the Gothic is the style in which all buildings, sacred or secular, public or domestic, ought to be built; with such modifications in the style of each separate building as its special purpose and use shall suggest It must be admitted, however, that Gothic architecture has one disadvantage as compared with that architecture which is exhibited in Baker Street, in the London suburban terraces, and in the Manchester x cotton-mills. Gothic architecture costs more money; but, in judicious hands, not so very much more.

As to the capacity of Gothic architecture to accommodate itself to houses of all classes, let the reader ponder the following words:—

“It seems to be generally imagined that the merits of the Elizabethan style are most displayed in its grand baronial residences, such a’s Burleigh or Hatfield. I think quite the contrary. A style is best tested by reducing it to its humblest conditions; and the great glory of this style is, not that it produced gorgeous and costly mansions for the nobles, but that it produced beautifully simple, yet perfectly architectural, cottages for the poor; appropriate and comfortable farmhouses; and pleasant-looking residences for the smaller country-gentlemen, and for the inhabitants of country towns and villages.”

Following up the same idea, Mr Scott somewhere else says:—

“What we want is a style which will stand this test, which will be pleasing in its most normal forms, yet be susceptible of every gradation of beauty, till it reach the noblest and most exalted objects to which art can aspire.”

Let it be accepted as an indubitable axiom, that Gothic building is the best building for the town as well as for the country. But I am not called to enter upon that controversial ground, for we are dealing with country houses, in regard to which I believe there is no difference of opinion among people of taste and sense. The country house, as of course, must be Gothic. Tasteless blockheads will no doubt say that the Gothic house is all frippery and ginger-bread, (as indeed houses of confectioner’s Gothic very often are;) they will chuckle with delight whenever they hear that the rain has penetrated where the roof of a bay-window joins the wall, or through some ill-contrived gutter in the irregular roof ot the house; they will maintain, in the face of fact, that Gothic windows will not admit sufficient light, and cannot exclude draughts; and they will praise the unpretending square-built house “with no nonsense about it” Let us leave such tasteless people to the contemplation of the monstrosities they love: when the question is one of grace or beauty, their opinion is (as Coleridge used to say) “ neither here nor there.” Granting (which we do not grant) that Gothic architecture is out of place in the town, and congenial and suitable in the country, I do not know that we could pay to that style any higher tribute than to say that it is the most seemly and suitable to be placed in conjunction with the fairest scenes of nature. I do not think we could say better of any work of man, than that it bears with advantage to be set side by side with the noblest works of God. Yet, though a worthy Gothic building looks beautiful any-where, it has a special charm in a sweet country landscape. It*seems just wffiat was wanted to render the scene perfect It is in harmony with the trees and flowrers and hills around, and with the blue sky overhead. It is a perpetual pleasure to look at it I do not believe that any mortal can find real enjoyment in standing and gazing at a huge square house, with a great waggon roof, and with square holes cut in a great level blank wall for windows. It may draw a certain grandeur from vast size: and it may possess fine accessories,—be shadowed by noble trees, backed by wild or wooded hills, and shaded off into the fields and lawns by courtly terraces; but the big square box is in itself ugly, and never can be anything but ugly. But how long and delightedly one can contemplate the worthy Gothic house of similar pretension—with its lights and shadows, its irregular sky-line, its great mullioned bay-windows and its graceful oriels perched aloft, its many gables, its wreathed chimneys, its towers and pinnacles, its hall and chapel boldly shewn on the external outline:—for the characteristic of Gothic is, that it frankly, exhibits construction, and makes a beauty of the exhibition; while the square-box architecture aims at concealing construction,—producing the four walls, pierced with the regular rows of windows, quite irrespective of internal requirements, and then considering how to fit in the requisite apartments, like the pieces of a child’s dissected puzzle, into the square case made for them. Then Gothic admits, and indeed invites, the use of external colouring: and if that were only accomplished by the judicious employment of those bricks of different colours which have lately been brought to great perfection, the charm which the entire building possesses to please the eye is indefinitely increased. Only let it be remembered by every man who builds a Gothic country house, that it must be built with much taste and judgment. Gothic is an ambitious style; and it is especially so in the present state of feeling in England with regard to it. We do not think of criticising a common square house. The taste is never called into play when we look at it. It is taken for granted, a priori, that it must be ugly. Not so with a Gothic house. There is a pretension about that. The Gothic house invites us to look at it; and, of course, to form an opinion of it And therefore, if it be ugly, it is offensively ugly. It aims high, and it must expect severity in case of failure. The square-box house comes forward humbly: it is a goose, and does not pretend to fly. And even a goose is respectable while it keeps to its own line. But the ugly Gothic house is a goose that hath essayed the eagle’s flight; and if it come down ignominiously to the earth, it is deservedly laughed at And so, let no man presume to build a country house without securing the services of a thoroughly good architect And for myself I can say, that whenever I grow a rich man and build a Gothic house, the architect shall be Mr Scott Indeed a person of moderate means would be safe in seeking the advice of that accomplished gentleman: for he would, it is evident, take pains to render even a very small house a pleasing picture. He holds that a building of the smallest extent affords as decided if not as abundant scope for fine taste and careful treatment as the grandest baronial dwelling in Britain. A cottage maybe quite as pretty and pleasing as a castle or a palace could be in their more ambitious style.

Although Gothic architecture has an unlimited capacity of adapting itself to all circumstances and exigencies, yet there is a freedom about a country site which suits it bravely. In the country the architect is not hampered by want of space : he is not tied to a street-line beyond which he must not project, nor fettered by municipal regulations as to the height or sky-outline of his building. He may spread over as much ground as he pleases. And the only restrictions by which he is confined are thus set out by Mr Scott, in terms which will commend themselves to the common sense of all readers:—

“The grand principle of planning is, that every room should be in its right position—both positively and relatively to each other—to the approaches, views, and aspect; and that this should be so effected as not only to avoid disturbing architectural beauty, either within or without, but to be in the highest degree conducive to it.”

In treating of Buildings in the Country, Mr Scott gives us some account of his ideal of houses suited to all ranks and degrees of men. Let us look at his picture of what a villa ought to be:—

“To begin, then, with the ordinary villa. Its characteristics should be quiet cheerfulness and unpretending comfort; it should, both within and without, be the very embodiment of innocent and simple enjoyment No foolish affectation of rusticity, but the reality of everything which tends to the appreciation of country pleasures in their more refined form. The external design should so unite itself with the natural objects around, that they should appear necessary to one another, and that neither could be very different without the other suffering. The architecture should be quiet and simple; the material that most suited to the neighbourhood—neither too formal and highly finished, nor yet too rustic. The interior should partake of the same general feeling. It should bear no resemblance to the formality of a town house ; the rooms should be moderate in height, and not too rigidly regular in form ; some of the ceilings should shew their timbers wholly or in part; some of the windows should, ii it suits the position, open out upon the garden or into conserva. tories. In most situations the house should spread wade rather than run up high; but circumstances may vary this. ”

I ask my readers’ attention to the paragraph which follows; it contains sound social philosophy:—

“In this, as in other classes of house-building, the servants* apartments should be well cared for. They should be allowed a fair share in the enjoyments provided for their masters. I have seen houses replete with comfort and surrounded with beauty, where, when you once get into the servants* rooms, you might as well be in a prison. This is morally wrong; let us give our dependents a share in our pleasures, and they will serv e us none the less efficiently for it.”

Every one can see how pleasant and cheerful a home a villa would be which should successfully embody Mr Scott’s views of what a villa ought to be. Such a dwelling would be quite within the reach of all who possess such a measure of income as in this country now-a-days will suffice to provide those things which are the necessaries of life to people brought up as ladies and gentlemen. And with what heart and vigour a man would set himself to laying out the little piece of land around his house—to making walks, planting clumps of evergreens, and perhaps leading.a little brooklet through his domain—if the house, seen from every point, were such as to be a perpetual feast to the eye and the taste! 1 heartily wish that the poorest clergyman in Britain had just such a parsonage as Mr Scott has depicted, and the means of living in it without undue pinching and paring.

Then, leaving the villa, Mr Scott points out with great taste and moderation what the cottage should be. Judiciously, he does not aim at too much. It serves no good end to represent the beau-ideal cottage as a building so costly to erect and to maintain, that landlords of ordinary means get frightened at the mention of so expensive a toy. Cottages may be built so as to be very tasteful and pleasing, while yet the expense of their erection is so moderate that labourers tolerably well off can afford to pay such a rent for them as shall render their erection by no means an unprofitable investment of money. Not, indeed, that a landlord who feels his responsibility as he ought, will ever desire to screw a profit out of his cottagers; but it is well that it should be known that it need not entail any loss whatever to provide for the working class in the country, dwellings in which the requirements of comfort and decency shall be fulfilled. The merest touch from an artistic hand is often all that is needed to convert an ugly, though comfortable, cottage into a pretty and comfortable one. A cottage built of flint, dressed and reticulated with brick, with wood frames and mullions, and the gables of timber, will look exceedingly pleasing. Even of such inexpensive material as mud, thatched with reeds, a very pretty cottage may be built The truth is, that nowhere is taste so much needed as in building with cheap materials. A good architect will produce a building which will form a pleasing picture, at as small a cost as it is possible to enclose a like space from the external air in the very ugliest way. Gracefulness of form adds nothing to the cost of material. And there is scope for the finest taste in disposing the very cheapest materials in the most effective and graceful fashion. I have seen a church (built, indeed, by a first-rate architect) which was a beautiful picture, both without and 'within, w'hile yet it cost so little, that I should (if I were a betting man) be content to lay any odds that no mortal could produce a building which would protect an equal number of people from the weather for less money, though with unlimited licence as to ugliness.

The material mud is one’s ideal of the very shabbiest material for building which is within human reach. Hovel is the word that naturally goes with mud. Yet Mr Scott once built a large parsonage, which cost between two and three thousand pounds, of mud, thatched with reeds. Warmth was the end in view. I have no doubt the parsonage proved a most picturesque and quaint affair; and if I could find out where it is, I would go some distance to see it

Having given us his idea of w’hat a country villa and a country cottage ought to be, Mr Scott proceeds to set out his ideal of the home of the nobleman or great landed proprietor:—

“The proper expressions for a country mansion of the higher class—the residence of a landed proprietor—beyond that degree of dignity suited to the condition of the owner, are, perhaps, first, a friendly, unforbidding air, giving the idea of a kind of patriarchal hospitality; a look that seems to invite approach rather than repel it. Secondly, an air which appears to connect it with the history of the country, and a style which belongs to it. Thirdly, a character which harmonises well with the surrounding scenery, and unites itself with it, as if not only were the best spot chosen for the house, and its natural beauties fostered and increased so as to render this the central focus, but further, that the house itself should seem to be the very thing which was necessary to give the last touch and finish to the scene—the object for which nature had prepared the site, and without which its charms would be incomplete.”

It is not too much to say that a very great proportion of the more ambitious dwellings of this country signally fail of coming up to these conditions, and serve only to disfigure the beautiful parks in which they stand. A huge Palladian house entirely lacks the genial, hearty, inviting look of the Elizabethan or Gothic house. Instead of having a look of that hospitality and welcome which we are proud to think of as especially English, the Palladian mansion is merely suggestive, as Mr Scott remarks, of gamekeepers and parkrangers on the watch to turn all intruders out Our author .would have the architect who is intrusted with the building of a house of this class retain in its design all that is practically useful and noble in the Elizabethan mansion—at the same time remembering that Elizabethan architecture is Gohic somewhat debased, and that its details, where faulty, should be set aside, and their place supplied by those of an earlier and purer period. Nor should it be forgotten that the purest and noblest Gothic is the most wiling to bend itself to the requirements of altered circumstances: and it is therefore needful that the architect, in forming his plan, should hold it steadily in view that he is building a house which is to be inhabited by a nobleman or gentleman of the latter half of the nineteenth century; and which must therefore be thoroughly suited to the demands of our own day, and our own day’s modes and habits of thought and life. And the castle and the abbey, though both quite unfit to be taken as models out-and-out, may yet supply hints for noble and dignified details in the designing of a modem English home. Thus, borrowing ideas from all quarters, Mr Scott would produce a noble dwelling—strictly Gothic in design—thoroughly English in its entire character—at once majestic and comfortable—at once dignified and inviting—with a mediaeval nobility of aspect, and with the reality of every arrangement which our advanced civilisation and increased refinement can require or suggest As for lesser details, is there not something in the following passage which makes an architectural epicure’s mouth water?—

“The chapel and corridors perhaps richly vaulted in stone— the hall nobly roofed with oak—the ceilings of the rooms either boldly shewing their timbers, partially or throughout, or richly panelled with wood; or if plastered, treated genuinely and truthfully, without aping ideas borrowed from other materials; the floors of halls and passages paved with stone, tile, marble, enriched with incised or tesselated work, or a union of all; those of the leading apartments of polished oak and parqueterie (the rendering of mosaic into wood); rich wainscoting used where suitable, and the woodwork throughout honestly treated, and of character proportioned to its position, not neglecting the use of inlaying in the richer woods; marble liberally used in suitable positions, the plainer kinds inlaid and studiously contrasted with the richer; the coloured decorations, whether of walls or ceilings, or in stained glass, delicately and artistically treated, and of the highest art we can obtain, and everywhere proportioned to their position; historical and fresco painting freely used, and in a style at once suited to the architecture, and thoroughly free from what may be called medievalism, in the sense in which the term is misused to imply an antiquated, grotesque, or imperfect mode of drawing; all of these, and an infinity of other modes of ornamentation, are open to the architect in this class of building.”

It is pleasant to read well-written descriptions' of human dwellings in which art has done all it can do towards providing a pleasant and beautiful setting for human life. Such is Mr Loudon’s account of what he calls the beau-ideal English Villa, in his Cyclopaedia of Rural Architecture. Such is Mr Scott’s sketch of

the beau-ideal of a nobleman’s house at the present day. The latter forms a pleasing companion picture to that long since drawn by the affluent imagination of Bacon. All who have a taste for such things will read it with great delight; nor will it tend in the least degree to make the true lover of the country envious or discontented. I can turn with perfect satisfaction from that grand description to my own little parsonage. There is a peculiar comfort and interest about a little place, which vanishes with increasing magnitude and magnificence. And it is a law of all healthy mind, that what is one’s own has an attraction for one’s self far beyond that possessed by much finer things which belong to another. A man with one little country abode, may have more real delight in it, than a duke has in his wide demesnes. Indeed I heartily pity a duke with half-a-score of noble houses. He can never have a home feeling in any one of them. While the possessor of a few acres knows every comer and every tree and shrub in his little realm; and knows what is the aspect of each upon every day of the year. I speak from experience. I am the possessor of twelve acres of mother earth; and I know well what pleasure and interest are to be found in the little affairs of that limited tract. My study-window looks out upon a comer of the garden; a blank wall faces it at a distance of five-and-twenty feet When I came here, I found that comer sown with potatoes, and that wall a dead expanse of stone and mortar. But I resolved to make the most of my narrow view, and so contrive that it should look cheerful at every season. And now the corner is a little square of as soft and well-shaven green turf as can be seen; through which snowdrops and crocuses peep in early spring; its surface is broken by two clumps of evergreens, laurels, hollies, cedars, yews, which look warm and pleasant all the winter time; and over one clump rises a standard rose of ten feet in height, which, as I look up from my desk through my window, shews like a crimson cloud in summer. The blank wall is blank no more, but beautiful with climbing roses, honeysuckle, fuchsias, and variegated ivy. What a pleasure it was to me, the making of this little improvement; and what a pleasure it is still every time I look at it. No one can sympathise justly with the feeling till he tries something of the sort for himself. And not merely is such occupation as that which I speak of a most wholesome diversity from mental work. It has many other advantages. It leads to a more intelligent delight in the fairest works of the Creator; and though it might be hard to explain the logical steps of the process, it leads a man to a more kindly and sympathetic feeling towards all his fellow-men. Have not I, unfaithful that I am, spent the forenoon in writing a very sharp review of some foolish book; and then, having gone out to the garden for two or three hours, come in, thinking that after all it would be cruel to give pain to the poor fellow who wrote it; and so proceeded to weed out everything severe, and give the entire article a rather complimentary turn.

It is a vain fancy to try to sketch out the kind of life which is to be led in the country house after we get it For almost every man gradually settles into a habitude of being which is rather formed by circumstances than adopted of purpose and by choice. Only let it be remembered, that pleasure disappears when it is sought as an end. Happiness is a thing that is come upon incidentally, while we are looking for something else. The man who would enjoy country life in a country home, must have an earnest occupation besides the making and delighting in his home, and the sweet scenes -which surround it If that be all he has to do, he will soon turn weary, and find that life, and the interest of life, have stagnated and scummed over. The end of work is to enjoy leisure; but to enjoy leisure one must have performed work. It will not do to make the recreation of life the business of life. But I believe, that to the man who has a worthy occupation to fill up his busy hours, there is no purer or more happy recreation than may be found in the cares and interests of the country home. .


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