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Viewed the bright concave of Heaven's blest abode
Yet on that form in wild delirious trance
With more than reverence gazed the Maid of France.
Day after day the love-sick dreamer stood
With him alone, nor thought it solitude;
To cherish grief, her last her dearest care,
Her one fond hope—to perish of despair.
Oft as the shifting light her sight beguiled
Blushing she shrunk, and thought the marble smiled;
Oft breathless listening heard, or seemed to hear—
A voice of music melt upon her ear.
Slowly she waned, and cold and senseless grown
Closed her dim eyes, herself benumbed to stone.
Yet love in death a sickly strength supplied,
Once more she gazed, then feebly smiled and died.
It is remarkable that Dean Milman's professional residences have kept close to the great river of England: his first curacy at Ealing, his vicarage at Reading, his Oxford professorship, his stall at Westminster, the deanery of St. Paul's. Well! there are other ecclesiastical dwellings on the banks of the Thames: Rochester, Fulham, Lambeth; who knows! One thing is quite certain, go where he may, he will find respect and admiration, and leave behind him admiration and regret.
AUTHORS ASSOCIATED WITH PLAGES'
W. C. BENNETT.
Fifty years ago, our Berkshire valleys abounded in old Catholic houses, to which tradition usually assigned subterranean communication with neighboring nunneries, in the case of abbeys or priories, of which, so far as I know, none hath ever come to light; or, if the mansions had been secular, secret hiding-places for priests during the religious persecution (sad words to join) of the seventeenth century, especially during the times that preceded and followed Guy Fawkes's unaccomplished crime, and the frightful delusion known by the name of the Popish Plot. That tradition was right enough there, and that the oppressed Catholics did resort to every measure permitted to their weakness, for the purpose of concealing the priests to whom and to their peculiar rites and ceremonies they clung as human nature does cling to that which is unrighteously persecuted, there exists no sort of doubt.—In an old house which my own father took down belonging to that time, a small chamber was discovered, to which there was no entrance except by a trap-door cunningly devised in the oak flooring of a large bed-chamber; and similar places of concealment, sometimes behind a panel, sometimes in a chimney, sometimes in the roof, have come to light in other manorhouses. Now they are nearly all leveled with the ground, these picturesque dwellings of our ancestors; the ancestral trees are following fast; and we who loved to linger round the gray walls or to ramble amid the mossy trunks, are left to remember and to deplore.
One, however, still remains among us, thanks to the good taste, the good feeling, and perhaps a little to the abundant wealth of the present proprietor; and that one is luckily the •
most interesting of all. I speak of Ufton Court, where Arabella Fermor, the Belinda of "The Rape of the Lock," spent her married life; where she dwelt in honor and repute, receiving in the hereditary mansion of the Perkinses the wits of that Augustan age,—Pope, Steele, Arbuthnot, Bolingbroke; where she reared four goodly sons, became a widow, and was finally buried in the little village church. There her monument may still be seen among many others of her husband's family, and her name is still shown with laudable pride and interest in that most leveling of books, in whose pages riches and poverty, beauty and deformity, stand side by side—the Parish Register.
To this old house I rarely fail to conduct such of my visitors as happen to be poets; and that one who deserves that high title accompanied me thither not very long ago, will be inferred, I think, by most of those who read the verses that conclude this paper.
The day was one of those between late May and early June —the May of the old style, the May of the poets; a day of breeze and of sunshine. Our road wound through close woody lanes, fragrant with the pearly flowers of the hawthorn, and the opening leaves of the oak, just disclosing their silky folds of yellowish-brown; then across the village-green, gay with happy children let loose from school; then through the little brook where the road dips so prettily; then beside the trickling rill flowing down the hill as we mounted up, until at last we emerged from the shade of the tall trees and the steep banks of the narrow lane, into the full flood of the sunlight, shining in all its glory upon the broad table-land of Mortimer Common.
Never did I see that beautiful spot so beautiful, the fine short turf, exquisite in its tender verdure, was, except in occasional stripes and patches, literally encrusted with the golden-blossomed gorse, loading the air with its heavy odor; bright ponds of clear water reflected the deep blue sky; all around in the distance lay cultivated valleys, woods, churches, villages, towns; and in the foreground one or two groups of old, dark, fantastic firs gave something of a wild rugged relief to a landscape almost too gorgeous.
Traversing the common, we plunged again into a labyrinth of lanes. This time, however, we passed between fir plantations, mingled with young birches of green leaf and silver bark, with blossomed hawthorn and waving broom; the golden gorse creeping into every nook and corner, and seeming to reflect the yellow sunshine as the water had reflected the blue sky. At length we arrived at the gates opening upon the broad approach to Ufton Court; an approach still imposing, although the noble double avenue that once adorned it has long fallen under the woodman's axe.
The situation of the house is so commanding that it would be difficult to deprive it of its stateliness and dignity. It stands on the brow of a hill which slopes abruptly from the broad terrace that surrounds two sides of the mansion, and overhangs an old-fashioned garden once elaborately laid out, down into a deep valley, which, with the stream that creeps along the enameled bottom, forms a beautiful bit of woodland scenery—beautiful and most extensive; the wood climbing up to the top of the opposite hill and spreading on every side until it is lost in the distance.
On the lawn in front of the mansion are some magnificent elms, splendid both in size and form, and one gigantic broad-browed oak —the real oak of the English forest—that must have seen many centuries.
To the right the lawn sweeps down a steep descent to a chain of fish-ponds, communicating with each other, as was usual in large country-houses before the Reformation, especially when so far inland; and beyond the fish-ponds, a winding road leads through the wood past a clear well overhung with trees, that almost tempts you to taste the waters of the fountain, until in the depth of the valley we cross a one-arched bridge, and either follow the road up the long acclivity or diverge into the recesses of the woodland, just now interspersed with piles of fagots and a few fallen trees, and purple with the fragrant bells of the wild hyacinth. By the roadside we found a rarer flower, the crimson woodvetch; which, to our astonishment, we again discovered among the grasses upon the terrace—of old as free from all vegetation as the pavement of the hall; doubtless some bird had carried the seed from its native home among the trees.
The house itself is an extensive and picturesque erection, certainly not later than the age of Elizabeth, probably much earlier. The projecting wings with their gables and pinnacles, are borne out by a large and curious porch, also projecting, with two wide seats on either side, so that, although partly open below, it admits of a charming lightsome lady's room, with three windows, built over it. Tall clusters of twisted chimneys break the line of the roof. The upper stories, with their quaintly carved beams and corbels, project one over the other, and are terminated by little gables and pinnacles, each with its narrow casement, all along the front. Tall narrow casements indeed—the small panes forming a graceful pattern of octagons and diamonds—prevail on every side; and the door of heaviest oak, studded with prodigious nails, would almost resist an ancient battering-ram or a modern petard.
On entering the mansion, we found cause to conjecture that these straitened windows and this iron-shod door were perhaps but needful precautions in those days of terror.
The two lower floors offer nothing to view beyond the black and white marble pavement, the decorated ceilings, and the carved oaken panels proper to a large manorial residence of the times of the Tudors. But, on ascending the broad staircase to the third story, we find at every step traces of the shifts to which the unhappy intolerance of the times subjected those who adhered firmly to the proscribed faith, as during two centuries, and until the race was extinct, was the proud distinction of the family of Perkins.
The walls are evidently pierced throughout by a concealed passage, or very probably passages; leading, it is presumed, to a shaft in the cellar, still visible, from whence another passage led under the terrace into the garden, and through that to the woods, where, doubtless, places of refuge or means of escape were held ready for the fugitives. As many as a dozen carefully-masked openings into dark hiding-places, varying in extent and size, have been discovered in this story: no doubt they were connected one with the other, although the clew of the labyrinth is wanting. About twenty years ago a larger chamber, entered by a trap, was also accidentally laid open. A narrow ladder led into this gloomy retreat, and the only things found there were most significant— two petronels and a small crucifix!
A shelving apartment in the roof had been used as a chapel; and in a small room adjoining, a triangular opening, too small to conceal a man, has been effected with more than ordinary care. It was probably used to conceal the vestments and the plate used in the mass. The little door is so thickly lined with wood, that the most skillful sounder of panels might knock forever