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Mr. Chambers may well call this song "the fairest flower in Mickle's poetical chaplet." Many a laureled bard might have proudly owned such a ballad.
P.S. I was reading this song to a friend, as well as a tongue not Scottish would let me, while an intelligent young person, below the rank that is called a lady, sat at work in the room. She smiled as I concluded, and said, half to herself, "Singing that song got my sister a husband I"
"Is she so fine a singer?" inquired my friend.
"No, ma'am, not a fine singer at all; only somehow everybody likes to hear her, because she seems to feel the words she sings, and so makes other people feel them. But it was her choosing that song that won William's love. He said that a woman who put so much heart into the description of a wife's joy at greeting her husband home again, would be sure to make a good wife herself. And so she does. There never was a happier couple. It has been a lucky song for them, I am sure."
Now it seems to me that this true story is worth all the criticisms in the world, both on this particular ballad, and on the manner of singing ballads in general. Let the poet and his songstress only put heart into them, and the lady, at least, sees her reward.
AUTHORS ASSOCIATED WITH PLACES.
In one of Mr. Kenyon's charming volumes, there is a slight and graceful poem, addressed to Mary Anning, of Lyme Regis, the first discoverer of the Saurian remains for which that picturesque coast is now so famous, which has for me an interest quite distinct from literature or geology. In that old historical town, so deeply interwoven with the tragedy of Monmouth and the triumph of William III., that old town so finely placed on the verj line where Dorsetshire and Devonshire meet, I spent the eventfu) year when the careless happiness of childhood vanished, and the troubles of the world first dimly dawned upon my heart—felt is its effects rather than known—felt in its chilling gloom, as we feel the shadow of a cloud that passes over the sun on an April day.
My dear mother, the only surviving child of a richly beneficed clergyman, had been for her station and for those times what might be called an heiress, and when she married my father, brought him, besides certain property in house and land, a portion in money of eight-and-twenty thousand pounds. He himself, the younger son of an old family, with a medical education as good as the world could afford, a graduate of Edinburgh, a house pupU of John Hunter, and personally all that attracts the sex—clever, handsome, young and gay, had won her heart almost without design when he came to settle to his profession in the little Hampshire town where after the death of both parents she had taken up her abode, and was easily persuaded by friends more worldly-wise than he to address himself to a lady who, although ten years his senior, had every recommendation that heart could desire—except beauty. So they married. She full of confiding love refused every settlement beyond tw hundred a-year pin-money, out of his own property, on which he insisted; and he justified her choice by invariable kindness and affection, an affection that knew no intermission from her wedding-day to the day of her death, and by every manly and generous quality, excepting that which is so necessary to stability and comfort in this work-a-day world—the homely quality called prudence. Independent to a fault, frank in speech and rash in act, a zealous and uncompromising Whig, in those days when Whiggery was sometimes called sedition and sometimes treason, he first ruined his fair professional prospects in a place where he was known and loved, by plunging into the fervent hatreds of a hotly contested county election; and then, when he had removed into Berkshire, contrived by some similar outbreak to affront and alienate a rich cousin, of whom my mother was the declared heir, and who, after being violently angry with her for marrying, and with me for being a girl, had been propitiated by my bearing the magic name of Russell; and might perhaps have again relented had he not died within a few months, just after leaving his money to a child whom he had never seen, who had not even the baptismal Russell to recommend him. Then in his new residence he got into some feud with that influential body the corporation; and whether impatient of professional restraints, or of the slow progress of a physician's fortunes, he attempted to increase his own resources by the aid of cards (he was unluckily one of the finest whist-players in England), or by that other terrible gambling, which assumes so many forms, and bears so many names, but which, even when called by its milder term of speculation, is that terrible thing gambling still; whatever might be the manner of the loss—or whether, as afterward happened, his own large-hearted hospitality and too-confiding temper were alone to blame—for the detail was never known to me, nor do I think it was known to my mother; he did not tell, and we could not ask —whatever the actual cause, it seems to me certain that about this time nearly all of his own paternal property, except the reserved pin-money, and much of my mother's fortune, was in some way sunk.
Under these circumstances, just as a remarkable cure was beginning to make his medical talent advantageously known, he resolved to remove to Lyme, feeling with characteristic sanguineness that in a fresh place success would be certain. How often in after-life has that sanguine spirit, which clung to him to his last hour, made me tremble and shiver. I had seen him so often disappointed, that it seemed to me that what he expected could never come to pass; and such, I think, is the natural effect produced on all around by an over-sanguine spirit. Even Hope has never been so truly characterized as by the great poet in his fine personification, " Fear and trembling Hope;" and I saw the other day a beautiful copy of the celebrated picture known as Guido's Hope, in which the expression is that of intense melancholy. That lovely face looked as if listening to prognostics that were not to be fulfilled.
Well, we removed to Lyme Regis. The house my father took there was, as commonly happens to people whose fortunes are declining, far more splendid than any we had ever inhabited, indeed the very best in the town. It was situated about the middle of the principal street, and had been during two or three seasons some twenty years before rented by the great Lord Chatham for the use of his two sons, the second Earl and William Pitt, at the time that we occupied it Prime Minister of England. Hayley, in his Autobiography, mentions having seen the youths there. The house, built of the beautiful gray stone of the Isle of Portland, had a great extent of frontage, terminating by large gates surmounted by spread eagles, probably the crest of some former proprietor. An old stone porch, with benches on either side, projected from the center, covered, as was the whole front of the house, with tall, spreading, wide-leafed myrtle, abounding in blossom, with moss-roses, jessamine, and passion-flowers. Behind the buildings, extended round a paved quadrangle, was the drawing-room, a splendid apartment, of which the chimney-piece was surmounted by a copy in marble of Shakspeare's tomb in Westminster Abbey, looking upon a little lawn surrounded by choice evergreens, particularly the bay, the cedar, and the arbutus, and terminated by an old-fashioned green-house and a filbert-tree walk, from which again three detached gardens sloped abruptly down to one of the clear dancing rivulets of that western country, reflecting in its small broken stream a low hedge of myrtle and roses. In the steep declivity of the central garden was a grotto, over-arching a cool, sparkling spring, while the slopes on either side were carpeted with strawberries and dotted with fruit-trees. One droop* ing medlar, beneath whose pendant branches I have often hidden, I remember well.
Dearly as I have loved my two later homes, I have never seen any thing like that garden. It did not seem a place to be sad in; neither did the house, with its large, lofty rooms, its noble oaken stair-cases, its marble hall, and the long galleries and corridors, echoing from morning to night with gay visitors, cousins from the North, friends from Hampshire and Berkshire, and the ever-shifting company of the old watering-place. One incident that occurred there—a frightful danger—a providential escape— I shall never forget.
There was to be a ball at the Rooms, and a party of sixteen or eighteen persons dressed for the assembly were sitting in the dining-room, at dessert. The ceiling was ornamented with a rich running pattern of flowers in high relief, the shape of the wreath corresponding pretty exactly with the company arranged round the oval table. Suddenly—whether from the action of the steam of the dinner upon the plaster, or from the movement of the servants in the room, or from some one passing quickly overhead, was never discovered—but in one instant, without the slightest warning, all that part of the ceiling which covered the assembled company became detached, and fell down in large masses upon the table and the floor. It seems even now all but miraculous how such a catastrophe could occur without injury to life or limb—for the portions of molded plaster, although much broken in their descent, were thick and heavy, and the height of the apartment very considerable; but except the bald head of one venerable clergyman, which was a little scratched, the only things damaged were the flowers and feathers of the ladies, and the crystal and china, the fruits and wines of the dessert. I myself caught instantly in my father's arms, by whose side I was standing, had scarcely even time to be frightened, although after the danger was over, our fair visitors of course began to scream.
My own nurseries were spacious and airy. But next to the magnificent room in which my grandfather's fine library was arranged, and which, save a very few favorite volumes, remained there, to be disposed in the chances of an auction, next to the book-room, always my favorite haunt in every house, the place which I most affected was a dark paneled chamber on the first floor, to which I descended through a private door by half a dozen