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Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Fled is that music :—do I wake or sleep 1
A most interesting Life of Keats, by Mr. Monckton Milnes has been recently published. Few works are better worth reading, not only for the sake of the young poet, but for that of his generous benefactors, Sir James Clarke and Mr. Severn. It is well in an age, called perhaps more selfish than it deserves to be, to fall back upon such instances of patient and unostentatious kindness.
AUTHORS ASSOCIATED WITH PLACES.
Bath is a very elegant and classical-looking city. Standing upon a steep hillside, its regular white buildings rising terrace above terrace, crescent above crescent, glittering in the sun, and charmingly varied by the green trees of its park and gardens; its pretty suburban villas mingling with the beautiful villages that surround it on every side; nothing can exceed the grace and amenity of the picture. Even the railway contributes, by a rare exception, to the effect of the landscape. Very pleasant is Bath to look at. But when contrasted with its old reputation as the favorite resort of the noble and the fair, the Baden-Baden of its day, to which the well came for amusement, and the sick as much for cheerfulness as for cure, it is impossible not to feel that the spirit has departed; that it is a city of memories, the very Pompeii of watering-places. It was a far smaller town in that joyous time, and perhaps the stately streets that rise from the old springs in every direction, may have made it too spacious and too commodious; for fashion is a capricious deity, who loves of all things to be crowded, provided the crowd be fashionable, and does not dislike so much gentle inconvenience as may serve to enhance the comfort and magnificence of her real home.
Whatever be the cause, Bath, like the Italian cities, which it is often said to resemble, is picturesque, silent, and empty. Lodging in Milsom Street, the main artery of the town, where the best shops are congregated, and at an excellent library, always the most frequented among shops, my little maid, a shrewd observer of such matters, declared she knew every carriage that passed, and could count them on her fingers; and I myself, less keen-sighted, did not care to ask her whether she meant the fingers on one hand or on two.
I speak this out of pure regard to truth, since, for my own part, I owe Bath all gratitude. Going thither with health and spirits so shattered by a long illness and a great sorrow, that I could not muster courage to encounter the imaginary dangers of the Box Tunnel, I returned, in the course of a few weeks, so completely restored in mind and body, that when, in the very midst of that same tunnel, the ghost of my departed fear met me in the shape of a story (a story with variations) of the foolish lady who had been so exquisitely silly as to hire a fly to escape from the peril, my fellow-travelers really refused to believe that the person who laughed so heartily at her past folly could possibly have been the real heroine of the legend. So that I suspect I left two traditions behind me in the Box Tunnel, first as a simpleton, then as an impostor.
A place of interesting associations is Bath. The dear friend, whom I principally went to see—one of a privileged few, who carry the lively spirit, the ready indulgence, the quick intelligence of youth, into wise and honored age, might herself almost pass for one of its recollections. She took me to see the house, where, fifty years before, Madame de Genlis had lived, when sent to England, at the very beginning of the Revolution, with Mademoiselle d'Orleans; and described the looks and manners of the quiet, steady pupil, and the flighty governess, as if it had been yesterday. She walked with me through the street where Mrs. Thrale had shone forth in both her phases—the hostess and friend of Dr. Johnson, and Piozzi's slandered, defiant, but not unhappy wife. Miss Burney never depicted her better. And Miss Burney herself she showed forth nearly as well as that clever, conceited, prim, affected, die-away little authoress, who never for one moment (unlucky body !) could forget that she was an authoress—ay, and the authoress of "Cecilia" too, has shown herself to all posterity in that looking-glass, her "Diary." Then she went through all the past dynast;es of the drama—Kembles, Linleys, Ellistons; and last of all she took me to Bathford, to gaze upon Gainsborough's admirable portrait of Quin, which looks just as if he was preparing to sit down to a John Dory.
A place full of associations is Bath. When we had fairly done with the real people, there were great fictions to fall back upon; and I am not sure, true and living human beings as Horace Walpole and Madame d'Arblay have shown themselves in their letters and journals—full of that great characteristic of our human nature, inconsistency, of strength and weakness, of wisdom and folly, of virtues and faults; I am not sure, eminently human as these worthies shine forth in their writings, that those who never lived except in the writings of other people—the heroes and heroines of Miss Austen, for example—are not the more real of the two. Her exquisite story of "Persuasion" absolutely haunted me. Whenever it rained (and it did rain every day that I stayed in Bath, except one), I thought of Anne Elliott meeting Captain Wentworth, when driven by a shower to take refuge in a shoe-shop. Whenever I got out of breath in climbing up-hill (which, considering that one dear friend lived in Lansdown Crescent, and another on Beechen Cliff, happened also pretty often), I thought of that same charming Anne Elliott, and of that ascent from the lower town to the upper, during which all her tribulations ceased. And when at last, by dint of trotting up one street and down another, I incurred the unromantic calamity of a blister on the heel, even that grievance became classical by the recollection of the similar catastrophe, which, in consequence of her peregrinations with the Admiral, had befallen dear Mrs. Croft. I doubt if any one, even Scott himself, have left such perfect impressions of character and place as Jane Austen.
Besides those pleasures of memory, Bath, eight years ago, was not wanting in living illustrations. Poor Miss Pickering, so fertile as a novelist, so excellent as a woman; my friend, Miss Waddington, an elegant authoress, who charmed the languors of illness by the creations of fancy; Mr. Reade, also my friend, whose poem of "Italy" is so full of classical grace; Mr. Beckford, original in every act and word, whose "Vathek" was as strange a work as his " Tower on Lansdown," and whose fine place at Fonthill should never have been built, or never have been destroyed; last and best, Mr. Landor, of whom, with his vivacity, his vigor, and fertility of thought, it was difficult to believe that his first work was published in the last century, and who had gathered together, in a narrow room, specimens of art—"little bits," as he called them, which might put to shame far larger collections. It was impossible not to admire; but it was dangerous to praise in that room; for the proprietor had a trick of bestowing, which caught one so unawares, that one could hardly express the gratitude for the surprise: it was felt though, how
ever ill-spoken. He gave me a small picture, by Wright, of Derby—a night view of Vesuvius, in which the two lights, the moon and the volcano, are shining down upon the brightly and as distinctly as they could have done in his own verse. These were the literary names of Bath; and there was a living artist too—Mr. Barker—an interesting old man, who had, with an artist's improvidence, devoted years of labor to a fine, but immovable fresco—the taking of a Greek island by the Turks—painted on the walls of his own house. The talent has proved hereditary. I saw there a sketch by his son, of the Death of the Duke of Orleans; a mere sketch, but one in which the homeliness and evident truth of the accessories added much to the pathos of the scene. I do not remember in art a more touching rendering of family grief; it struck the heart like a cry.
The neighborhood of Bath is still more beautiful than the city. Even the suburbs, where tree and garden, hill and valley, railway and river, mingle so picturesquely with the rich tint of the stone of which the houses are built, and the striking architectural forms; and where pretty old churches and church-yards, rich in yew and lime, seem to unite town and country. Of the surrounding villages, Batheaston was memorable for the blue-stocking vagaries of a certain Lady Miller, a Somersetshire Clemence Isaure, who some seventy years ago offered prizes for the best verses thrown into an antique vase; the prize consisting, not of a golden violet, but of a wreath of laurel; and the whole affair producing, as was to be expected, a great deal more ridicule than poetry. Claverton, another pretty village, was celebrated for a travestie of a different order—the curious book called "The Spiritual Quixote," written by Mr. Graves; and Weston, prettiest of all, is the delight and resort of poets, if not their residence.
But by far the most interesting spot in the neighborhood of Bath is Prior Park, built by Allen the bookseller, the friend of Pope and the original of Fielding's Allworthy, afterwards the property and residence of Warburton, and now the site of a Roman Catholic College.
I shall never forget my first visit to this most beautiful place, on a sunny, dewy day, between May and April, the first of one month or the last of the other, the very fairest moment of the year, all nature smiling around me, and every pleasure enhanced