• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Introduction
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Country pictures
 Walks in the country
 The first primrose
 Violeting
 The copse
 The wood
 The dell
 The cowslip-ball
 The old house at Aberleigh
 The hard summer
 The Shaw
 Nutting
 The visit
 Hannah Bint
 The fall of the leaf
 Back Matter
 Back Cover
 Spine






Title: Our village
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE TURNER PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081994/00001
 Material Information
Title: Our village
Physical Description: lx, 256 p. : ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Mitford, Mary Russell, 1787-1855
Ritchie, Anne Thackeray, 1837-1919 ( Author of introduction )
Thomson, Hugh, 1860-1920 ( Illustrator )
Macmillan & Co ( Publisher )
R. & R. Clark (Firm) ( Printer )
Publisher: MacMillan and Co.
Place of Publication: London ;
New York
Manufacturer: R. & R. Clark
Publication Date: 1893
 Subjects
Subject: Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Country life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Villages -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Animals -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Natural history -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1893
Genre: novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
United States -- New York -- New York
Scotland -- Edinburgh
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: Mary Russell Mitford ; with an introduction by Anne Thackeray Ritchie ; and one hundred illustrations by Hugh Thomson.
General Note: Forms part of the personal library materials in the Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081994
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002234419
notis - ALH4838
oclc - 00876018
lccn - 2005566078

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Front Matter
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Title Page
        Page v
        Page vi
    Introduction
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
        Page xix
        Page xx
        Page xxi
        Page xxii
        Page xxiii
        Page xxiv
        Page xxv
        Page xxvi
        Page xxvii
        Page xxviii
        Page xxix
        Page xxx
        Page xxxi
        Page xxxii
        Page xxxiii
        Page xxxiv
        Page xxxv
        Page xxxvi
        Page xxxvii
        Page xxxviii
        Page xxxix
        Page xl
        Page xli
        Page xlii
        Page xliii
        Page xliv
        Page xlv
        Page xlvi
        Page xlvii
        Page xlviii
        Page xlix
        Page l
        Page li
        Page lii
        Page liii
        Page liv
    Table of Contents
        Page lv
        Page lvi
    List of Illustrations
        Page lvii
        Page lviii
        Page lix
        Page lx
    Country pictures
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Walks in the country
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    The first primrose
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    Violeting
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    The copse
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
    The wood
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
    The dell
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
    The cowslip-ball
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
    The old house at Aberleigh
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
    The hard summer
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
    The Shaw
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
    Nutting
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
    The visit
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
    Hannah Bint
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
    The fall of the leaf
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
    Back Matter
        Page 257
        Page 258
    Back Cover
        Page 259
        Page 260
    Spine
        Page 261
Full Text




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The Baldwin Library
I uFniivcmity
'mP~r'







OUR


VILLAGE


MARY RUSSELL MITFORD



WITH AN INTRODUCTION

ANNE THACKERAY R1ITCHIE


AND ONE HUNDRED ILLUSTRATIONS

HUGH TH-OMSON










MACMILLAN AND CO.
AND NEW YORK
I893


All rights 1 cso!cd

































First Edition printed November 1893
Reprinzted December 1893












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SI -I'



I

THIERE is a great deal of admirable literature cozncerningl
Miss Mitford, so zmuch of it indeed, that the writer of
this little notice feels as if she almost owed an apology to
those who remember, for having ventured to write, on
hearsay only, and without having ever known or ever seen
the author of Our Village. And yet, so vivid is the
homely friendly presence, so clear the sound of that voice
'like a chime of bells,' with its hospitable cheery greeting,
that she can scarcely realise that tlis acquaintance exists
only in the world of tche milhit-kave-beens.
For people who are beginning to remember, rather than
looking forward any more, there certainly exists no more
delightful reading than the memoirs and stories of heroes
and heroincs, many of whom we ourselves may have seen,
and to ,whom we may have spoken. As we read on we
are led into some happy .. region,-suIch as that one
described by 1Mr. du JMaurier in Peter Ibbetson,-a region
in whickl we ourselves, together with all our friZends and
acquaintances, grow young again ;-very young, very






OUR VILLAGE


brisk, very hopeful. The people we love arc there, along
with the people we remember. lMusic begins to play, we
arc dancing, lauzghing, scampering over the country once
more; our parents too are young and laiirghib g clerily.
Every now and then perhaps sonic old friend, also
vigorous and hopeful, bursts into the book, and begins to
talk or to write a letter; early sl g-ts and sounds return
to us, we have now, and we have then, in a pleasant
lharmoniy. To those of a certain literary generation who
read dMiss Mlitford's memoirs, how many such familiar
presence and names must appear and reappear. Not
least among t/hem that of her biog'rapker, -i Iarness
himself, whco was so valud by his friends. Mrs. iKemble,
J rs. Sartoris, Charles Allston Collins, always talked of
him with a great respect sec and tCeder 'nss. I used to think
t/ey /tad a special voice with wh/ic/ to speak his naimc.
He was never among our intimate friends, but how
familiar to my recollection are the two figures, that of
AMr. Harness and .iiss Harness, his sister and house-
keeper, coming toget/cer along t/e busy Kensington road-
wqay. The brother and sister were like characters out of
some book, with their kinTd faccs, their simple spiritual
ways ; in touch with so Inuc/ that was interesting and
rozmaitic, andl ini heart with so much that I
cCremembe'r him with grey hair and a smile. He cwas
not tall; hle wZalked rather lame i; AMiss H-arness too zwas
little, looking up at all the rest of the world with a
kind round face and sparkling eyes fringed with th ick
lashes. Mlary AMitford was indeed happy in her friends,
as happy as she was unfortunate in her nearer relations.





INTRODUCTION


WT/iti nuc that is sad, th is d t is a great deal of beauty
and en'oymnent in _1 iss i afford'ss life. For her the
absence of material happiness was made up for iby tec
presence of warm-hearted sensibility, of enthusiasm, by
her devotion to her parents. Her long endurance and
flial picty are very remarkable, her lovingz cart carried
her safely to the end, and she found comfort in her
unreasoning life's devotion. She had none of the restless-
ness which is so apt to spoil miuci that mnght be
harmonious; all the charm of a certain unity and
'', of motive is hers, 'the single eye,' of which
Charles Kingskly wrote so sweetly. She loved her homce,
her trees, her surrounding lanes and commons. She
loved her friends. Her books and flowers are real and
important events in her life, soothing and distracting her
from the contemplation of its constant anvictics. I may
truly say,' she once writes to iM iss Barrett, 'that ever
since I zwas a very young girl, I have never (although for
some years liviZng apparently in :. been without
pecuniary care,-the care that pressed upon tmy thoughts
the last thing at night, and woke in the morning with a
dreary sense of pain and pressure, of something which
wczghed mne to the earth.'

Miary Russell Mlitford was born on the I6th of
December 1787. She was the only child of her parents,
1who were well connected; her mother was an kciress.
Her father beloncged to the _ilitfotrds of the North. She
describes herself as 'a puny child, with an .. of
curls whici J made her look as if she were twin sister to






OUR VILLAGE


her own great doll.' She could read at three years old;
she learnt the Percy ballads by heart almost before she
could read. Long after, she used to describe how she
first studied her beloved ballads in the breakfast-room
lined with books, warmly spread with its Turkey carpet,
with its bright fire, asy chairs, and the windows opening
to a garden full of flowers,-stockss,honeysuckles, and
pinks. It is touching to note how, all through her, -
life, her path was (literally) lined with flowers, and how
the love of them comforted and cheered her from the first
to the very last. In her saddest hours, the passing
fragrance and beauty of Jer favourite geraniznus cheered
and revived her. Even when/ her mother died she found
comfort in the plants thcy had tended together, and at
the very last breaks into delighted descrztions of them.
She was sent to school in the year 1798 to No. 22
Hans Place, to a Mjrs. St. Quintin's. It seems to have
been an excellent establishment. Mlary learnt tkc har/
and astronomy ; her taste for literature was encouraged.
The young ladies, attired as shepherdesses, were also
taught to skiz through many ay maz movements, but she
never distinguished herself as a shepherdess. She had
grIeater success in her literary -. -., and her composition
on balloons' was much applauded. She returned to her
hoi0nc in 802. Plain in figure and in face, she was
never comzmon-lookizng,' says Mr. Harness. He gives a
lprtty description of hei as 'no ordinary child, her sweet
smiles, her animated conversation, her keen enjoyment of
life, and her gentle voice won the love and admiration of
her friends, whether young or old.' Mr. Harness has






INTRODUCTION


clicfly told Miss -I..; *I d's story in lher own words by
quotations from her letters, and, as one reads, one can
almost followzo her moods as they succeed cack otier, and
these moods are her real kistoly. The assiduity of
childhood, the bri-igt enthusiasm and gaicty of her
early days, the growing anxliciy of r later iar lif, the
mature juldgmcnts, the occasional des&airing terrors
zowick came to try her bright nature, but alongt with
it all, that innocent and enduring h/opfullness which never
really deserted her. Her plastic spirit she owed to her
father, that incorrl-gible old Ski"mpole. 'I am gencralZly
/tappy evezlywhere,' se writes in her youth-and then
later on 'It is a great pleasure to ine to love and to
admire, this is a faculty which has survived many
frosts and storms.' It is true that she adds a query
somnewzcre else, Did you ever remark how superior old
gaiety is to new ?' she asks.
Her handsome father, her plain and long-enduring
mother, are both unconsciously described in her corre-
spondence. The Doctor's manners were easy, natural,
cordial, and apparently extremely frank,' says M1r.
Harness, but he nevertheless met the world on its own
terms, and was prepared to allow hiiself any insincerity
which seemed expedient. He was not only recklessly
extravagant, but addicted to /igh play. His wife's
large fortune, his daughter's, his own patrimony, all
passed through his hands in an incredibly short space
of time, but his wife and daughter wer-e ncvcr heard to
coniplailn of his conduct, nor app eared to admire him less.'
The sto;y of M7iss lMitford's 20,000 is unique






OUR VILLAGE


along the adventures of authoresses. Dr. M1itford,
/aving spent all his wife's fortune, and having brought
his f aily from a comfortable home, witl flowers and a
Turkey catpet, to a small lodging near Blackfriars Bridge,
determined to present his daughter with an eupelnsive
lottery ticket on the occasion of her tenti birthday. She
had a fancy for NAo. 2224, of whiich the added numbers
came to o. This number actually came out the first
prize of 20,ooo, which money started the family once
more in comparative Dr. MJitford immediately
built a new square house, which he calls Bertram Hlouse,
on thc site of a pretty old farmhouse wkiclh he causes
to be pulled down. He also orders a dessert-service
painted wi k the Jitfford arms; AMrs. -_. ford is
supplied with a carriage, and she subscribes to a circu-
lating library.
A list still exists of the books taken out by ker for her
daughter's use ; some fifty-five volumes a month, chiefly
trask: Vicenza, A Sailor's Friendship and Soldier's
Love, Clarentina, Robert and Adela, The Count de
Valmont, The Three Spaniards, De Clifford (in four
volumes) and so on.
The nc t two or three years were brilliant enough; for
the family must havee lived at the rate of three or four
thousand a year. Their hospitality was profuse, thiy had
servants, carriages, they bought pictures and furntiiture,
i/icy entertained. Cobbeit was among their intimate
friends. The Doctor naturally enough invested in a
good many more lottery tickets, but without any further
return.






INTRODUCTION xiii

Tiec lad/is sccm to take it as a matctr of course that
lie should spcculate and gainmble at cards, and indeed do
anything and evecythling he fancied, but thicy beg him. at
least to kcep to respectable clubs. He is constantly azway
His daughter trics to tempt zzinz hole with the bloom of
her h/yacinths. Hozw they long to see h/im again she
says, how greatly have they been disappointed, Cwhen,
every day, /thc journey to Reading has be en fniitess.
Th/c driver of the Readiltg coach is quite accustomed to
being waylaid by tcir carriage.' Then she tells him'v
about the primroses, but neither hyacinths nor priiroses
bring the Doctor away from his cards. Finally, the
rhododendrons and the azalcas are in bloom, but these
also fril to attract him.
_7 Mitford hersc/f as she >grozws u~p is sent to London
more than once, to t/c St. Quintin's and elscziwherc. She
go es to tc flay and to TWestminstcr Hall, she sees her
hero, Charles James Fox, and has the happiness of
watchingg hinm heylpcd on to his horse. Mr. Romi/i-
det'icghts her, but her greatest favorite of all is _- r.
[Wihilbrcad. You know I am always an ecnthusi.ast,'
she writes, but at present i s inpossiblc to describe
the admiiration I feel for this exalted character.' She
speaks of his voice hich s/he could listen to with
transport even if he spoke in an unknown lZguage !'
she writes a sonnet to him,' an i'mproiiptuu, on hearing
7Mr. TTVitbriad declare izn [TWstmvinster Hall t/at le
fondly, trusted his name c ould descend to posterity.'

7/Te opc of Fame 1y noble liosov fires,
A'or vain /che hope /kv arcl muiind/ inspires;






OUR VILLAGE


In British breasts vuhilst Purity remains,
Whilst Liberty her blessed abode retains,
Still shall thie mulse of H-istor'y roclaim
To future ages tiy immortal name !'

There are amany references to the celebrities of the
tile i/i Icr letters /home,-every one agrees as to the
extr-cme folly of Sheridan's entertainments, Mrs. Opic
is spoken of as a rising authoress, etc. etc. etc.
I.iss A nsten used to go to 23 Hans Place, and Miss
ihitford used to stay at No. 22, but not at the same time.
_ -s. Mitford had known Miss Austen as a child. She
may perjlas be forgiven for some prejudice and maternal
jealousy, in i/er later impressions, but fMay JM'itford admired
Jfane Aii stcn always wit/ warnnest ent/husiasnm. Slc writes
to ier mother at length/ from London, describing everything,
all the people and books and e.eriences that she comes
across,-the elegant suppers at Brompton, the Grecian
laps, Mr. Barker's beauty, 1Mr. Plnnummrc's plazinness, and
the destruction of her ur'le gowzn.
/iMrs. Mjitford writes back in return describing Re adding
festivities, an agreeable dinner at Doctor Valpy's, where
lMrs. TlWomen/ and LMizss Pe/acock are present and IMr. J.
Siilpson, f.P. ; the dinner very good, two full courses
and one rem ovc, the soup giving place to onie quarter of
lamb.' IMrs. Miltford sends a menu of every dinner she
goes to.
In I806 Dr. Mlitford takes his daughter, who was
then about nineteen, to the North to visit his relations
thjcy are entertained / 'y the grandparents of the Trevelyans
and the Swinbuzrnes, the Ogles and the Mitfords of the





INTRODUCTION


present day. Tihe fish in Sir John Swinburne's lake,
they visit at Alnwick Castle. Miss MAitford kept her
front /air il papers till she reached Al2/inick, nor was
her dress discomposed though she had travelled thiirty
miles. They sat down, siZty-five to dinner, which was
'of cou-rsc' (she somewlohat imagnificently says) entirely
served on plate. Poor Mary's pleasure is very mluchi
dashed by tihe suidden disappearance of her father,-Dr.
iMfitford was in the habit of doing anything he felt
inclined to do at once and on the spot, quite irrespectively
of the conveeni ce of others,-and alt/houtg a party had
been arranged 0on purpose to meet him/i in the N-ort/h, and
his daughter was colun tin oni his escort to return li omne,
( people posted in those days, they did not take thcir tickets
direct from Newcastle to London), Dr. affordd one
morning leaves word that he has gone of to attend the
Reading election, where his presence was not in the least
require ed. For the first and apparently for the only tiime
itn her life his daughter protests. iMr. Ogie is extremely
'; nothing but you r iz/mmzcediate return can ever
excuse yon to him / I implore you to return, I call upon
aninima's sense of propriety to send you ihcre directly.
Little did I suspect that im father, imy beloved father,
'woulld desert m/e at this distance from home Every one
is surprised.' Dr. Mzitford was finally persuaded to
travel back to No/rthumberlanid to fetch his daughter.
fhe constant comnipanions/hip of Dr. Jitfo rd i must
have given a curious colour to his good and uprz ,ot
daughter's views of ife. Adoring her father as she did,
she must have soon accustomed herself to take his fine






OUR VILLAGE


speccc/es for fne. actions, to accept his self-complacency in
the place of a conscience. She was n woonman of warm
impressions, witli a strong sense of right. iBut it was
not zwit/hin her daily experience, poor soul, that cpople w/ho
did not make grand professions were ready to do their
duty all the same ; nor did she always depend upon the
upri~-htness, the courage, the self-denial of those who
made no pr'otestations. At that time loud talkiZng was
still the fashion, and lond living was considered romantic.
They both exist among us, but they are less admired, and
there is a language spoken now to that of
Dr. ._iitford and his school.' This must account for
some of Miss Mlitford's judgments of Zhat she calls a
' cynical' generation, to Zwhich she did little justice.


II

There is one penalty people pay for being authors,
hlic ll is that front cuiltivatin'g vvid impressions -and
Ilen/ltal pictures thly are apt to take fncies too seriously,
and to mistake them for reality. IIn s.toy-elling this is
well enoui, and it i interferes with nobody but in real his-
tory, and il one's own history most of all, this faculty is
apt to raise up bogies and ntig tares along one's path ;
and wliile one is fighting inMagina.y demons, the good
thillgs and true ae passed by munnoiced, the best realities
of life are somctinmes overlooked. .

1 Pof/a nowadays ara mo)e read to /a/i,:/ ihain to admire whci they',
hear the lions bray ; for nwin and bleating. the taste, Ifar, is o h
increasC.





INTRODUCTION


But after all, IaIy Russc/l litford, /who s /ut moost
of her time gathering" figs off thistles and making the
best of /her circumstances, lss thalln many
people do from th e of imaginary things.
She was tzcnty-t/irce years old wohen herfirst book
of poems was published ; so we read in her letters, in
wolich she entreats her father not to curtail any of the
verses addressed to himi ; there is no reason, she says,
excjt his extreme modesty why the verses should be
suppressed,-s/ c spcakls not only wit/ the fondness of a
daughter but with the sensibility of a poet. Our young
authoress is modest, although in print; she compares her-
sc/f to Crabbe (as ane Austei mnizgh/t have done), and feels
what she supposes a f. f '' c:.: w ouilt experience
wkhen the sun rises in all its glory.' Then comes the
Publisher's billfor 59 ; she is quite shocked at the bill,
c/wicd r is really exorbitant Iln her next letter Miss
Mitford reminds her father tiat the tawcs are still u1n-
paid, and a correspondence follows wit/i somebody asking
for a choice of the Doctor's pictures in payment for the
taxes. Thic Doctor is in London all the tine, dini/,g out
and generally amusing himself. Everybody is speculat-
in whether Sir Francis Burdett wiill go to the Tower.'
Oh, my darling, how I envy you at the fountain-head of
n these interesting/ times How I enivy Lady
Burdctt for the fine opportunity she has to show the

1 Here, in our little suburban garden ai IVitnbledon, are /e remains of an
old kedg/erowv wich used to growv in the kitchen gcnlren of the Grange vok/re
Sir Francis Biiridctt ithn lived. The tradition is that he woas in
the la i in his o-wn kitch en arden when lie was laken ip and carried off o
honiourable captivity.-A. T. 1R.





OUR VILLA GE


heroism of our sex writes tie daughter, wh/o is only
encountering angry tax-gathercrs at home. ... Somehow
or other the bills are paid for the time, and t/e family
arrangements go on as before.
Besides writing to the members of her own lomc,
3Miss IMitford started another correspondent very early in
life ; this was Sir Willian Elford, to whom she describes
her outZings and adventures, h/er visits to Tavistock HIouse,
where her kind friends the Perrys receive her. 3lr.
Peroy was the editor of the Morning Chronicle ; /he and
his beautiful wife were the friends of all the most
interesting people of the day. Here again the present
writer's own experiences can interpret the printed page,
for her own first sight of London people and of London
society came to her in a little house inZ Chesham Place,
where hier faster's old friends, Mrs. Frederick- Elliot and
1Miss Perry, tlhe daughters of Miss -_ itford's friends,
lived witl a very notable and interesting set of people,
making a social centre, by that kindly unconscious art
which cannot be defined ; that quick appnrcension, that
benevolent fastidiousness (I have to use rather far-fetcjled
words) which are so essential to good hosts and hostesses.
A standard is looked for now, by the rising
g-enerations knocking at the doors, behind zwhlich the
diognifed Past is lying as stark as aszKing Dulncan him-
self!
Among' other entertainments M iss Mfitford went to the
I -z whzici celebrated the battle of Vittoria; she had also
the happiness of getting a good sg-lt of Mime. de Stai'l,
who was a great friend of the Perrys. She is almost





INTRODUCTION


as Mi/uc/ followed in the gardens s l the Princess,' she
says, pouring- out her wonders, 1Icr pleasures, her raptures.
S/ec begins to read Burns with youth/if del igt, dilates
upon hlis exliaustless imagination, his versatility, and then
s/e suggests a very jnst criticism. Does it not appear,'
s/ie says, that versatility is tei truei and rare character-
istic of that rare thing called gen'ius-versatility and
playfulness;' then she goes on to speak of two ighldy-
reputed novels just come out and ascribed to Lady
M7orley, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
She is still writing from Bertram House, but /er
pleasant gossip continually alternates withi more urgent
and less agreeable letters addressed to her father.
Lawyers' clerks are again calling with notices and
warnings, tar-gatherers are troubling. Dr. Mlitford has,
as usual, left no address, so that she can only write to the
Star 0 .' and trust to chance. _i. joins in
tenderest love,' so the letters invariably conclude.
NAotwithistanding- the adoration bestowed by the ladies
of the family and t/jeir endearing adjectives, lMr. Harness
is very outspoken on the subject of the handsomee Doctor !
He disliked hlis manners, kis morals, his self-. .-"' y, his
loud talk. The old brute never informed his friends of
anything; all they knew of hzim or his :' 's, or whatever
false or true he intended them to believe, came out
carelessly in hlis loose, disjointed talk.'
In I8 I4 Miiss Mftford is living onz still with
her parents at Bertram House, but a change has come
over tzeir izomc C; the servants arc gone, the gravel turned
to moss, the tz'rf into pasture, the shirubberies to thickiets,





OUR VILLAGE


the house a sort of new ruin half inhabited, and a
Chancery suit is hanging over their heads.' Meantime
some news comes to cheer her from America. Two
editions of her poems have been printed and sold.
Narrative Poems on the Female Character proved a
real success. 'All who have hearts to fed and under-
standings to discriminate, must wisk you /Iealth and leisure
to complete your plan,' so write publishers in those golden
days, with complimentary copies of the work. .. .
Great things are happening all this time ; battles are
being fought and won, Napoleon is on his way to St.
FHelena; London is in a frenzy of rejoicings, entertaining,
illnuminations. To i. y Miitford the appearance of
Waverley seems as great an event as the return of the
Bourbons; she is certain that Waverley is written by Sir
Walter Scott, but Guy Mannering, she thinks, is by
another hand : her mind is full of a genuine romantic
devotion to books and belles lettres, and she is also re-
joicing even more, in the spring-time of I 8 16. Dr. Mit-
ford may be impecunious and their affairs may be thread-
bare, but the lovely seasons come out ever in frcsh beauty
and abundance. The coppices are carpeted with primuroses,
with pansies and wild strawberry blossom,-the woods are
spangled with the delicate flowers of the woodsorrel and
wood anemone, the meadows enamelled with cowsllys. ..
Certainly few Ihuman beings were ever created more fit
for this present world, and more capable of admiring and
enjoying its beauties, than .i ss Mfitford, who only
desired to be beautiful hcrscf, she somncwhere says, to be
perfectly contented.






INTRODUCTION


III

Most people's lives are divided into first, second, and
third volumes; and as we read Miss lMitford's jisto:ry
it forms no exception to the rule. The early enthusiastic
volume is there, with its hopes an id il j -udg'ments, its
quaint old-fashioned dress and ",' .; then comes
the second volume, full of actual work and serious
responsibility ; witi those childish parents to provide
for, wIhose lives, though so protracted, never scenic to reach
beyond their nurseries. MAiss -_i-itford's third volumic is
retrospective ; her grozoing infirmities are courageously
endured, there is the certainty of success well earned and
well deserved ; we realise her legitimate hold upon the
outer uorld of readers and writers, besides the reputation
which she wo lon upon thc stage by her tragedies.
Thie literary ladies of the early part of the century in
some -cways had a very good time of it. A copy of verses,
a small voluhime of travels, a few tca-partics, a hiarp inl one
corner of the room, and a hat and fate icrs worn rather
on one side, seemed to be all that was wanted to establish
a claim to fashion and inspiration. Thcjy had footstools
to rest t/leir satin shoes upon, they had admirers and
panegy3rists to their heart's content, and above all they
possessed that peculiar complacency in vkwic/i (with a few
notable exceptions) our age is singu:larly deficient. We
are earnest, we arc audacious, we are original, buit we
arc not complacent. They were dolls perhaps, and lived
inm dolls' houses; we are ghosts without houses at all;






OUR VILLAGE


we come and go wrapped in sheets of newspaper, holding
flickering lZghts in our hands, '--" lamps, by the
lzgkht of which we are seeking our proper skpere. Poor
veced spirits We do not belong to the old world
any more The new world is not yet ready for us.
Even M/r. Gladstone will not let us into the House oJ
Commons; the Geographical Society rejects us, so does
the Royal Academy ; and yet who could say that any of
their standards rise too high! Some one or two are happily
safe, carried by the angels of the Press to little altars ana
pinnacles all their own ; but the majority of hard-working
intelligent women, 'contented with little,yet ready for more,
may they not in moments of depression be allowed tc
picture to themselves what their chances might have bece,
had they only been born half a century earlier ?
-.; .litford, notwithstanding all her troubles (she
has been known to say she had rather be a washerwomanz
than a literary lady), had opportunities such as few
women can now obtain. One is lost in admiration a
the solidity of one's grandparents' taste, when one attempt.
to read the tragedies they delighted in, and yet Rienz
sold four thousand copies and was acted forty-five times
and at one time Miss Mitford had two tragedies re
hearsed upon the boards together; one at Covent Garde;
and one at Drury Lane, with Charles Kemble an,
Macready disputing for her work. Has not one als
Iecad similar descriptions of the triumphs of Hanna
More, or of Jo/anna Baillic ; cheered by enthusiasts
audiences, while men shed tears.'
M1em. H-annah MIore, v. i. p. I24.






INTRODUCTION xxiii

Julian was the first of Miss iftford's acted flays.
It was brought out at Covent Garden in I 8 2 3, zhen she was
thirty-sir years old ; Macready played the principal fart.
' If the play do reach the ninth ni-fh, Miss Mits ford writes
to Mlacready, it will be a very complete refutation of
I r. Kenible's axiomn that no single performer can fill the
thcatrc for except our pretty Alfonso (PMiss Footc) there is
only Julian, one and only one. Let himn imagine how
deeplyy w:e feel his exertions and his kindness .'
Julian was stopped on the eighltk niglt, to ler great
disappointment, but she is already engaged on anot/her-on
several more--tragedies ; she wants the money badly ; for
the editor of her magazine has absconded, owing her 5 0.
Some trying and bewildering quarrel tlicn ensues between
Charlcs Kemble and PMacready, whicZhputs off her tragedies,
and sadly -: poor Miss Mfitford's nerves and profits.
She has one solace. Hcfater ther,partly instigated, she says,
by the effect whici the terrible feeling of responsibility and
wCant of power has h, d upon her health and spirits, at hst
resolves to try if he :an himself obtain anyi employment
that may lighten the burthen of the home. It is a good
thing that Dr. Mitflrd has braced lhiiself to this heroic
determination. The addition of two or even one hundred
a year to our little income, joined to what I am, in a
manner, sure of gaining by mere industry, would take a

1 In Alacready's diary we fnd an enly w/hic./' is not over gracious.
'Julian acted AIa'rch lie i5/1h. lHad bitn moderate success. The C. G.
company was no longer equal i o lhe suiport of plays conlainilng Nzoral
ciaraclers. The authoress in 7icr dedication to me was proqfse in her
acknowled'ments and compliments, bult the p formance made little
impression, and w as soon forgotten.'






OUR VILLAGE


load from m/y heart of which I can scarcely give you an
idea ... even Julian was written under a pressure of anxiety
which left me not a zmoncnt's rest. .. .' So she fondly
dwells upon the .'' prospects. Then comes the
next letter to Sir WZilliam Elford, and we read that her dear
father, relying wit/i a blessed sanguineness on my poor
cndeavours, has not, I believe, even inquired for a situation,
and I do not press the matter, though I aznxiously wish it ;
being willing to give one more trial to the theatre.'
On one of the many occasions 7when M jiss litford
writes to hier trustee imploring /himi to sell out t/ze small
remaining fragmzcnt of hcr fortune, she says, _i dear
father lhas, years ago, been improvident, is still irritable
and ~'- -' to live with, but he is a person of a thousand
virtues ... there are very few /half so good in this
mixed world; it is my fault that this money is needed,
entirely my fault, and if it be wit/iheld, my dcar father
will be overtzhrownu, mind and body, and I shall never
knozow another khajpy hour.'
No wonder Mr'. Harness, 'who was behind the scenes,
remnonstrated against the filial infatuation which sacrificed
health, sleep, peace of mind, to gratify every passing whim
of the Doctor's. At a time when she was sitting up at
nzgit and slaving, hour after hour, to earn t/ic necessary
means of living, Dr. must needs have a coze, a
stable, and daily implements procured for his amusement,
and when he died he Aft o000o of debts for the
scrupulous woman to pay off. She is determined to pay,
if she sells her clothes to do so. Meanwhile, the Doctor
is still alive, and fMiss _i- ford is straining every nerve






INTRODUCTION


to keep himi so. Skc is engaged (in strict confidence) on a
grand historical subject, Charles and Cromwell, t/h finest
episode in English history, slic says. Here, too, frcsh
obstacles arise. This time it is the theatrical censor who
interferes. It would be dangrous for the couint/y, to touck
upon such topics; J. r. Geoicre Colman dwells upon this
theme, although ie gives the lady full credit for no evil
intentions ; but for the present all /her work is again
thrown away. WhIile J.i7ss Mlitford is o' ''- on as
best she can against this confusion of wor-ris and
(she eventually received 200 for Julian from a Surrey
theatre), a new firm Whittaker' undertakes to republish
the village skctcles' which had been written for the
absconding editor. The book is to be published under
the title of Our Village.


IV

Are your characters and descriptions true ?' some-
body once asked our authoress. 'Ys, yes, yes, as true, as
true as is well possible,' she answers. Y oE, as a great
landscape painter, know that in painting a favourite scene
you do a little embellish and can't help it; you avail
yourself of happy accidents of atmosphere ; if anything
be ugly you strike it out, or if <; be wanting you
put it in. But still the picture is a likcCmess.
So wrote jfMiss 1Miftford, but with all due respect for her
and for Sir .William Elford, the great landscape painter,
I cannot he/l thinking that what is admirable in her book,
are not her actual descriptions and pictures of


XXV






OUR VILLAGE


villagers and lrcyhounds, but the more imaginative things;,
thc sense of space and nature and progress Cwiic/I she
knows how to convey; t he swect and emotional chord she
strikes zit/h so true a touch. Take at /ha.ard hcr dc-
scriztion of the sunset. How simple and yet how finely
felt it is. IHer genuine delight reaches us and carries
us along it is not any embellishing of or ex-
aggeration of facts, but the reality of a true and very
present feeling. The narrow line of clouds which
' a flw minutes ago lay like long vapoIring streaks along
' the hori.onl, now lighted with a golden splendour, that
' tle eye can scarcely eCndure those still softer clouds wzich
S above, woreatling/ and curling into a thousand
Sfiatastic forms as thin and changefil as summ/1 er smoke,
Defined and deepened into grandeur, and hedged with
"ble, '" '.' ig~ht. Another minute and the
brilliant orb totally disappears and the sky above grows,
cely lmomenlt, more varied and more beautiful, as the
da sling golden lines are mixeII.d zwith glowing red alnd
gorgeous purple, dappled wit/i small darkl specks, and
Izin/ed with such a blue as the cgg of the hedge-
s' narrow. ... To look up at that glorious sky, and tMen
to sec that ..' picture refcectcd in the clear and
Slovely Loddoun water, is a pleasure never to be described,
and never to be forgotten. M7ly heart szwlls, and my eyes
'fill as I write of it, and think of the immeasurable
majesty of nature anid the unspeakable g-oodyness of God,
who has spread an elnjoy.ment so pure, so peaceful, and so
intense before the mcanlest and lowliest of His creatures.'
But it is needless now to go on praising Our Village,






INTRODUCTION


or to recount what a success was in store for the little
book. Certain books hold their own bly individual rzigit
and might; they are part of everybody's life as a matter
of course. They are not alIways read, but thce tacitly
take their place among us. The editions succeeded
editions here and in Anerica; artists came down to
illustrate the scenes. Miss _i itford, who was so delighted
with tec drawings by Mr. Baxter, should have lived to
see the charming glimpses of rural li5f we owe to 3r.
Thomson. 'I don't mind 'em,' says Lizzy to the cows,
as they stand with spirited bovine grace behind the
stable door. Don't mind them indeed '
I think the author would assuredly have enjoyed the
picture of the baker, the whcelwright and the shoemaker,
each following his special Aldcrney along the road to the
village, or of the farmer driving his old wife in the
g~r One des@-n, that of the lady in her pattens,
comes home to the writer of these notes, who has perhaps
the distinction of being the only authoress notw alive who
has ever walked out in pattens. At the age of seven
years she was provided with a pair by a great-great-
aunt, a kind old lady living at Fareham, in Hlanlpshirc,
whOerc they were still in use. How interesting the little
circles looked stamped upon the muddy road, and how
nearly down upon one's nose one was at every other step !
But even with all her success, Miss iitford was
not out of her troubles. She writes to 7Mr. Harness
sayjig : You cannot imagine how pcriplexed I anm.
There e a points in my domestic situation too long and
too painful to write about the terrible improvidence of one


xxvii






OUR VILLAGE


dear parent, the failure of memory and decaI of faculty
in that other zwho is still dearer, cast on me a zwez~igt of
care and fear that I can hardly bear ip against.' Her
were unending. The new publisher now
stopped payment, so that even Our Village brought in no
return for the moment; C(harles Kemble was unable to
make any r -for Foscari. She went up to town in the
greatest hurry to try and collect some of the money owing
to her from her various publishers, but, as iMr. Harness
says, received little from her debtors beyond invitations
and compliments. She meditates a novel, she plans an
opera, Cupid and Psyche.
At last, better times began to dawn, and she receives
S150o down for a new novel and ten guineas from
Blackwood as a retaining fee. Then comes a letter from
Charles AKemble giving her new hope, for her tragedy,
which was soon afterwards produced at Covent Garden.
The trageCdies are in tragic English, of course that
language of the boards, but not without a simplicity
and music of their own. In the introduction to
them, in some volumes-published by iHuirst and Blacket
in. 8 5 4, -i 'iss JMitford describes the scene of indescrib-
able chaos preceding/ the performance, the vague sense of
obscurity and confusion ; tragedians, hatted and coated,
skipping about, chatting and joking; the only very
grave person beingZ Listotn himself Ballet-girls walk-
ing through their quadrilles to the sound of a solitary'
fiddle, striking up as if of its own accord, from amid the
tall stools and imusic-desks of the orchestra, and piercing,
one hardly knew how, through the din that was going on


xxviii





INTRODUCTION


incessantly. Oh, that din Voices from every part;
above, below, around, and in every key. Heavy weights
rolling here and falling there. Bells ringing, one could
not tell why, and the ubiquitous call-boy evelywikere.
Ske describes her astonishment when the flay succeeds.
' Not that I had nerve enough to attend the first repre-
sentation of my tragedies. I sat still and trembling in
some quiet apartment near, and thither some friend
flew to set my heart at ease. Generally the messenger of
good tidings was poor Haydon, whose quick and ardent
spirit lent hiin winga s on such an occasion.'
We have the letter to her mother about Foscari, from
which I have quoted; and on the occasion of the production
of Rienzi at Drury Lane (two years later in October
1828), the letter to Sir William Elford when the poor
old mother was no longer here to rejoice in her daughter's
success.
Miss Miitford gratefully records the sympathy of her
friends, the warm-hearted muses of the day. AMrs.
Trollope, jMliss Landon, Iiss Edgeworth, lMiss Porden,
i rs. Hofland, JM2rs. Opic, who all appear zwitj their
congratulations.
Miss -i- J. d says that Haydon, above all, sym-
pathised with ker love for a large canvas. The
Classics, Spain, Italy, iedieeval dRome, these are her
favourite scenes and periods. Dukes and tribunes were
her heroes ; daggers, dungteons, and executioners herm
means of
She moralises very sensibly upon Dramatic success.
'It is not,' she says, 'so delicious, so glorious, so complete





OUR VILLAGE


a gratification as, in' our secret longing's, we all Lxpect.
It docs nlot fi7l the heart,-it is an intoiz'cation followed
by a dismal reaction.' She tells a friend that never in
all her life zwas she so depressed and out of spirits as
after Rienzi, her first really successful venture. But there
is also a passing allusion to icer falhcer's state of mind,
to his mingllled irritation and sullkincss, zwich partly
explains things. Could it be that the Doctor added
petty jealousy and envy to his other inconvenient
qualities ? His intolcirance for any author or actor, in
sjkort, for any one not belonging to a county family, /is
violent a oyact ll anc any acquaintancess suc/i as those
which she now necessarily made, would nature ally account
for some ;want of spirits on the daughter's part; over-
wrought, over-taxed, for ever on the strain, her work
owas exhiaustling indeed. /The small pension skc after-
wards obtained from the Civil List imuzst have been an
unspeakable boon to the poor /arasssed woman.
Tragedy seems to have resulted in a substantiaZ pony
and a basket carriage for lMiss JMitford, and in various
invitations (fromZ the Talfourds, amUong the rest) during
wh/ic/i sihe is lionised rigit and left. It must have been
on this occasion that Scey'cant Talfourd complained so
bitterly of a review of Ion awhick appeared about that
tiime. His gunest, to soothe himi, unwarily said, she
should not have iniided such a rcvziew of her Tragedy.'
Your Rienzi, indeed I should thiin/k not,' says the
sercant. Ion is very .' Te Te alfourd /house-
hold, as it is described by _Ir. Lestran.ge, is a droll
Ilixture of poetry and prose, of hospitality, of untidiness,


XXX





INTRODUCTION


Jf petulance, of most g culince kindness and most "Cgeuinie
haiman natuir.
There airc also ima )y menctionS of iss 1 iftis io in
t/e Life of JI acrcadJy by, Sir F. Pollock. Thei great
itr'agdian seie s n not to ihavc liLed iier within any codiality' ;
bilt he -'ves ar lcasant accounwit of a certainL sulpper-arty
in Jionoiur of Ion at wchichi sie is present, an d during"
which she cas/s dlac-ready f /he awill not ;loaZ blrig, out
her tragedy. The tragedlian does not an/swcr, but 'Wor as-
worth, sitt/in by, says, Ay, keep him to it.'





Besides the Life of 2Miss Mitforid by ..- cssrs. Harness
COnd Lcstran-gc, there is also a book/ of the Iriendships
of Mary Russell Mitford, consisting of the letters she
recCived ratheCr than of those which she wrote. It
cer-ainily occurs to one, as onei looks throuLIogS tih prin 'ted
cotrresponencel of celebrated people, how Iret arc
writ'in from printe,.d letters. Your f'riSed's voice
sounds, your .friend's eyes look out, of the written
page, evecn its blots and crasurcs remind you. of your
hZ/ilan being. Butt the (magnc tism is gone out of these
printer's lincs with their even margins ; in which cvery-
body's h/andwr itizoi is cvacty ahlik ; in wzhizc/ cvcerybodey
uses Ithe sainc Otpe, the sallCe expressions ; in whici the
Cy'e t'itals from page' to prage untouched, unconvinZccd.
I ca iliaginzc the pierasure cach onec of these letters may
have given to hMiss _1-' fordt to receive il turnZ. They





xxxii OUR VILLAGE

come from well-known ladies, accustomed to be considered.
Mrs. Trollop'e, 'rs. Hofland, MIrs.Howitt, Mrs. S. C. Hall,
Miiss Strickland, iMrs. Opie ; there, too, are Mliss Barrett
and Mrs. Jamzieson and iMiss Sedgwick who writes
from America; they are all interesting people, but it
must be confessed that the correspondence is not very
enlivening. Miss Barrett's is an exception, that is
almost as as handwriting to read. But there is
no doubt that compliments to other authoresses are much
less amusing than those one writes or receives oneself;
apologies also for not writing sooner, can pall upon one
in print, however soothing they may be to the justly
recipient, or to the conscience-stricken corre-
spondent.
I must have seemed a thankless zwretch, my dear
AMiss Mitford,' etc. etc. You, my dear friend, know too
well what it is to have to finish a book, to blame my not
attemptingg' etc. etc. This is the thirty-ninth letter I have
written since yesterday morning,' says Harriet Mlfartineau.
Oh, I can scarcely hold the pen I will not allow my
shame for not having written, to prevent mhe from writiZng
nozw.' All these people seem to have been just as busy as
people are now, as amusing, as tiresome. They had the
additional ..- .'i of having to procure franks, and of
having to cover four pages instead of a post-card. Our
letters may be dull, but at all events they are not nearly
so long. We come sooner to the point and avoid elegant
circumlocutions. But one is struck, amiongo other things,
by the keener literary zest of those days, and by the
immense numbers of Mi.SS. and tragedies in circulation,





INTRODUCTION


all of whiich tzeir authors confiding/y send from one to
anotihr. There are -also /whole flig/its of travelling poetics
j- their wings and uttering their cries as they go.
An enthusiastic Amzerican critic who comes over
to England emphasises the situation. Ml;. W llis's
superlative admiration sees to give point to cvely-
thing, and to all the elthusiasmn. -_iss Austen's Collins
himself could not have been more appreciative, not even
if Miss de Burg/i had tried her hand at a M S. .
Could /e--lMr. -i -... -choose, he would have tragedy
once a year from 1Miss Ilitford's pen. What an
intoxicating life it is,' he cries; 'I met Jane Porter and
iMiss Aikin and Tom Ml7oore and a troop more beaux
esprits at dinner yesterday / I never shall be content
elsewhere.'
I7iss iMitford's owni letters speak in a much more
natural voice.
I never could understand what people could find to
like in imy letters,' iMiss Miitford writes, unless it be that
they have a root to them.' The root was in her own
kind heart. Miss /Jfitford may have been wanting a
little in discrimination, but she was never wanting in
sympathy. She seems to have loved people for kindness'
sake indiscriminately as if they were creations of her
ozun brain : but to friendliness or to trouble of any sort
she responds witi fullest measure. TWho shall complain
zf some rosy veil coloured the aspects of life for her ?
Among the many blessings I enjoy,--my dear father,
imyi admirable mother, tmy tried and excellent fJicnds,-
tliere is nothing for wchick I ought to thank God so
C


xxxii





OUR VILLAGE


earnestly as for the constitutional buoyancy of spirits, the
aptness to hope, the will to be happy which I inherit from
my father,' she writes. Was ever flial piety so irritating
as hers ? It is .:' .' to bear, with any patience, her
praises of Dr. _~'itford. His illusions were no less a
part of his nature than his daughter's, the one a se/f-
centred absolutely selfish existence, the other generous,
humble, bcautzful. She is hardly ever really angry except
when some reports get about concerning hcr marriage.
There vwas an announcement that she was engaged to
one of her own clan, and the news spread among her
friends. The romantic Mrs. Hofland had conjyured up
the suggestion, to AMiss Mitford's extreme annoyance. It
is said lMrs. H also married off Miss Edgeworth
in the same manner.
i- ry .i. rd found her true romance in friendship,
not in love. One day Mir. Keniyotn came to see her zzhile
she zwas staying in London, and ,' to show her the
Zoological Gardens, and on the way he proposed calling in
Gloucester Place to take up a young lady, a connection of
his own, MAiss Barrett by name. It was thus that Miss
M7itford first made the acquaintance of .1.- s. Brozning,
whose friendship was one of the happiest events of her
whole life. A happy romance indeed, with that added
reality which must have given it endurance. And indeed
to ake a new friend is like learning a new lang-uage,. I
myself have a friend who says that we have each one of
us a chosen audience of our own to whom we turn in-
stinctively, and before whom we rehearse that zhich is in
our minds; whose opinion -,. .. us, whose approval is


xxxiv





INTRODUCTION


our secret aim. All this M1rs. Browning scems to have
been to J .,' JiMitford.
I sit and think ofyou and of the poems that youz will
writc, and of that strange rainbow croZn called flame,
until the vision is before me. i. y pride and my
hopes seem altogether merged in you. At imy time of
life and wit/ so few to love, and with a tendency to body
forth images of gladness, you cannot think what joy it is
to anticipate. .' So wrote thle elder woman to the
younger with romantic devotion. /What Miss _-'nitford
once said of herself was true, hers was the instinct of the
bee sucking honey from the hedge -. lWatever
sweetness and happiness there was to find she turned to
wit/ unerring directness.
It is to Miss Barrctt that she sometimes complains.
It will help you to understand how impossible it is for
me to earn money as I oiugt to do, whe/n I tell you that
this very day I received your dear letter and sixteenc
others ; then my) father brought into my room the news-
paper to hcar the ten or twelve columns of news from
India ; tien I dined and breakfasted in one ; then I got
up, and by that time there were tree parties of people in
the garden ; eight others arrived soon after. I was
forced to leave, being engaged to call on Lady Miadcline
Palc:r. S/e took me some six miles on foot in Mr.
Panmer's beautiful plantations, in search of that exquisite
wild-flower the bog-bean, do you know it? most beautiful
of flowers, either wild--or, as K. Puts it,-" tame."
After long search we found the plant not yet in bloom.'
Dr. M'itford weeps over his daughter's exhaustion,


XXXV





OUR VILLAGE


telling everybody that she is killing herself by her walks
and drives. He would like her never to go beyond the
garden and beyond reach of the columns of his newspaper.
She declares that it is only by getting out and afield that
she can bear the strain and the constant alternation of
enforced work and anxiety. Nature was, indeed, a second
nature to her. Charles Kingsley himself could scarcely
write better of the East wind. .
We have had nine weeks of drought and cast wind,
scarcely a flower to be seen, no verdure in the meadows,
no leaves in the hedgerows; if a poor violet or primrose
did make its appearance it was scentless. I have not
once heard my aversion the cuckoo and in this place,
so evidently the rendezvous of swallows, that it takes its
name from them, not a swallow has yet appeared. The
only time that I have heard the nightingale, I drove, the
one mild day we have had, to a wood where I used to
find the woodsorrel in beds ; only two blossoms of that
could be found, but a whole chorus of nightingales saluted
me the moment I drove into the wood.'
There is something of Ml/adame de Sevizne in her
vivid realisation of natural things.
She nursed her father through a long and trying
illness, and when he died found herself alone in the world
with impaired health and very little besides her pension
from the Civil List to live upon. Dr. _i.itford lft I ooo
worth of debts, which this honourable woman then and
there set to work to tiy and pay. So much courage and
devotion touched the hearts of her many friends and
readers, and this sum was actually subscribed by them.


xxxvi






INTRODUCTION


Queens, archbishlops, dukes, and marquises subscribe to
the testimonial, so do the literary ladies, iAesdamcs Baiky,
Edgcworthl, Trollope ; ifMrs. Opic is determined to collect
20 at least, although she justly says she wishes it were
for anytJing but to pay the Doctor's debts.

In 1844 it is delighztfd to read of a little case at last
in this harassed life ; of a school-feast with buns and flags
organised by the kind lady, the children riding in waggons
decked withi laurel, -I. Mjitford leadiiig the way,
followed by eight or ten nzcilibozuring carriages, and the
whole party waiting in Swallozwfeld Lane to see the
Queen and Prince Albert returning from their visit to
the Duke of VWellington. Our Duke went to no great
expense,' says JMiss Mlitford. (Dr. -iYtford would have
certainly disapproved had he been still alive.) One strl' of
ca;pet tke Duke did buy, the rest of the furniture he hired
in Reading for the week. The ringers, after being hard
at work for four hours, sent a can to the house to ask for
some beer, and the can was sent back empty.
It was towards the end of her life that Mlfiss Mlitford
left Three Mfile Cross and came to Szuallowfield to stay
altogether. The poor cottage was tumbling around us,
and if we had stayed mjnci longer we should have been
buried in the ruins,' she says; there I had toiled and
strliven and tasted as bitterly of bitter anxiety, of fear and
hope, as often falls to the lot of womenn' Th/en comes a
charmling description of the three miles of straight and
dusty road. I walked from one cottage to the other on
an autumn evening w/en thie vagrant birds, whose habit


xxxvii





xxxviii OUR VILLAGE

of assembling there for their annual departure, gives, I
suppose, its name of Swallowfeld to the village, were
circling over my head, and I repeated to myself the pathetic
lines of Hayley as le saw those same birds gathering
upon his roof during his last illness :-

'" 1e gentle birds, that perch aloof
And smooth your zinions on my roof ...
Prereare for your departure hence
Ere winter's angry threats commence;
Like you my soul would smooth her plume
For longer flights beyond the tomb.
JIay God by whom is seen and heard
Departing men and wnandeiring bird,
In mercy mark us for His own
And guide uts to the land unknown /"'

Thoughts soothing and tender came with those touching
lines, and gayer images followed. ..
It is from Swallowfifld that she writes : I have felt
this blessing of being able to respond to new friendships
very strongly lately, for I have lost many old and valued
connections during this trying spring. I thank God far
more earnestly for such blessings than for my daily
bread, for friendship is the bread of the heart.'
It was late in life to make such warm new tics as
those which followed her removal from Three M7ile Cross
but some of the most cordial friendships of her life date
from this time. Air. James Payn and MIr. Fields she
loved with some real motherly feeling, and Lady Russell
who lived at the Hall became her tender and devoted
friend.





INTRODUCTION


VI

WTe went down to Reading the other day, as so many of
Miss i!. 's friends have done before, to look at our
village' with our own eyes, and at the cottage in which/ she
lived for so long. A p/aeton with a fast-stepping horse
met us at the station and whirled us through the busy town
and along the straight dusty road beyond it. As wce drove
along in the soft clouded sunshine I looked over the hedges
on either side, and I could see fields and hedgerows and red
roofs clustering here and there, while the low background
of blue hills spread towards the horizon. It was an
unpretentious homely prospect intercepted each minute
by the detestable advertisement hoardings recommending
this or that rival pill. 'Tongues in trees' indeed, in
a very sense from the exiled duke's experience !
Then we come within sight of the running brook, uncon-
taminated as yet; the river :.."' cool and swift,
without quack medicines stamped upon its waters : we
reach WThitley presently, with its pretty gabled hostel
(JIrs. M7itford used to drive to Whitlcy and back for
her airing), the dust rises on the fresh keen wind, the
scent of the rlye corn is in the air, the cows stoop under
the clm trees, looking exactly as they do in MIr. Thomson's
pretty pictures, dappled and brown, with delicate legs and
horns. TWe pass very few people, a baby lugged along in
its cart, and accompanied by its brothers and sisters; a
fox-terrier comes barking at our wheels,- at last the phaeton
stops abruptly between two or three roadside houses, and the


XXXIX





OUR VILLAGE


coachman, pointing with his wipit, says, 'That is The Mit-
ford," /ma'am.- That's where MJiss iMitford used to live '
VWas that all? I saw two or three commonplace
houses skirting the dusty road, I saw a comfortable
public-houise with an elm tree, and beside it another grcy
unpretentious little house, with a slate roof and square
:ie'.'s, and an inscription, The Mitford,' painted over
the doorway. .
I had been expecting 1 knew not what; a spire, a
p1np, a green, a zwindng street my preconceived village
in the air iad immediately to be swept into space, and
in its stead, bchold the inn with its sign-post, and these
half-dozci brick tenements, more or less cut to one square
pattern So this was all this was 'ourl village' of which
the author had written so charmingly These were tihe
si-gkts the kind eyes had dwelt upon, seeing in them all, the
soul of hidden things, rather than dull bricks and slates.
Except for one imemor/y, Three dilce Cross would seemz to
be one of the dullest and most Zuninteresting of country
places. .
But we have Miss Milftford's own description. The
Cross is not a borough, thank Heaven, either rottcn or
independent. The inhabitants are quiet, peaceable people
who would not think of visiting us, even if we had a
knocker to knock at. Our residence is a cottage' (she is
writing to her correspondent, Sir Willianm Elford), 'no,
not a cottage, it does not deserve the namne-a message
or tenement such as a little farmer who had made
.I1400 m i/ght retire to when he left off business to
live on his means. It consists of a series of closets,





INTRODUCTION


the largest of which may be about ezght fect square, wz'ich
teiy call parlours and kitchens and pantries, some of th/enI
miinns a corner, which has been unnaturally i/chJed for a
chimney, others deficient in half a side, wi/ick has been
truncated by a shelving roof Be/i/nd is a garden about
the si/e of a good drawing-room, with an arbour, which is
a complete sentry-box of privet. On one side a public-
house, on the other a village shop, and rigzt opposite a
cobbler's stall. Notwithstanding all this the cabin," as
Boabdil says, is convenient." It is within reach of lmy
dear old wa/lks, the banks where I find my violets, thez
meadows full of cowsl/jis, and the woods where the
wcoodsorrel blows. .. Papa has al-ready had the satis-
faction of setting tzhe ne,ghbourhood to rights and
committing a disorderly person who was the pest of
" T/e Cross" to Jridcwell. ... -. r has furbished
zip an old daily ; I have lost my only key and 7 the
garden with flowers.' So writes the contented young

How munc more de/lightfid is all this than any
common place stagey of lattice and gabc,; and
with what pleasant unconscious art the writer of this
letter describes what is not there and brings in her banks
of violets to perfuine the dull rooms. The postscrit to
this letter is 1.'iiss Milford all over. Pray excuse my
blots and interlineations. They have been caused by my
attention being distracted by a nightingale in full song
zwho is pouring a world of music through my windoww'
Do you not like to meet with good company in your
friends' hearts ?' 2Miss -7'itford says somewhere,-to no





OUR VILLAGE


one better than to herself does this apply. Her heart was
full of gracious things, and the best of company was ever
hers, 'La fleur de la hotte,' as Madame de Sde cvncJ says.
We walked into the small square hall where Dr.
Mitford's bed was established after his illness, whilst
visitors and all the rest of the household came and went
through the kitchen door. In the parlour, once kept for
his private use, now sat a party of homely friends from
Reading, resting and drinking tea : we too were served
with smoking cups, and poured our libation to her who
once presided in the quiet place ; and then the landlady
took us round and about, showed us the kitchen with its
comfortable corners and lovw window-frames-' I suppose
this is scarcely changed at all ?' said one of us.
Ok yes, ma'am,' says the housekeeper-' We uses a
Kitchener, i-l.. i Mitford always kept an open range.
The garden, with its sentry-box of privet, exists no
longer; an iron mission-room stands in its place, with
the harmonium, the rows of straw chairs, the table and
the .- -" : ; de circonstance. Miss Mifitford's picture
hangs on the wall, a hand-coloured copy of one of her
portraits. Tie kind/j homely features smile from the oils,
in good humour and attentive intelligence. The sentiment
of to-day is assuredly to be found in the spirit of things
rather than in their outward signs. ... Any one of ius
can feel the romance of a wayside shrine put zip to the
memory of some medieval well-dressed saint with a
nimbuts at the back of her head, and a trailing cloak
and veil. Here, after all, is the same sentiment, only
translated into nineteenthc-century language; uses corrogated






INTRODUCTION


iron sheds, and cups of tea, and oakum matting. Jr.
Palmer, lie bought the place,' says the landlady, he made
it into a Temperance Hotel, and built the Temperance
Hall in the garden .
No romantic marble shrine, but a square mceting-house
of good intent; a tribute not less sincere because it is
square, than if it were drawn into Gothic arck and
curve. It speaks, not of a holy and mythical saint, but
of a good and zwarm-hearted woman; of a lifc-long
penance borne zwit/ charity and clhecfulnzess ; of sweet
fancies and blessings which. have given innocent pleasure
to many generations !


VII

There is a note, written in a close and pretty
writing, something between Sir IWalter Scott's and Afrs.
Browning's, which the present writer has possessed for
years, fastened in a book among other carly treasures :-

you, dearest ifiss Priscilla, for your great kindness.
I return the ninth volume of [illegible], with the four succeeding
ones, all that I have; probably all that are yet published. You
shall have the rest iwhen I get them. Tell dear -Mr. George
(I must not call him Vert- Vert) that I have recollected the name
of the author of the clever novel Le Rouge et le Noir (that is
the rigli title of the book, whic./ has nothing to do cith the
name) ; the author's name is Stendhal, or so le calls himself. I
think tlat he was either a musician or a musical critic, and that
he is dead.. I My visitor has not yet arrived (6 o'clock, p.m.),
frightened no doubt by the abru.tness of the two notes which I





xliv OUR VILLAGE

wrote in reply to hers yesterday morning; and indeed nobody
could fancy the /huirry in which one is forced to write by' this
walking ost. ...
Tell my visitors of yesterday with nmy kind love that they did
me all the good in ithe world, as indeed everybody of your house
docs.-Ever, dear 3iss Priscilla, very -. yours,
AY R. AfIrFORD.

InI the present writer's own early days, when tec now
owner of Szuallowfield was a very young, younger son, she
used to hear /iim and his sister, Brackenbuy (the
j....: Priscilla of the note), speaking w ith
renemlbrancc of the old friend lately gone, who had dwelt
at their very gates ; through which friendly gates one is
glad, indeed, to realise what dclhlgtful companionslhii and
loving help came to cicer the clnd of that long and toil-
some life ; and when Messrs. Macmillan suggested this
preface the writer looked for her old autograph-book, and
a(t its suggestion wrote (wondering whether any links
existed still) to ask for information concerning Mlfiss
and so it happened that s/ic found herself also
kindly entertained at Swallozfield, and invited to visit
the scenes of which the author of Our Village had
written with so imchi dclighit.
I think I should like to reverse the old proverb about
letting / those who run read, my own particular fancy
being for reading first and running afterwcards. There
are fewc greater pleasures than to mcet with an Indi-
viduality, to listen to it speaking from a printed page,
recoun ting growing upon you every hour,
gaining in life and presence, and then, while still Zunder






INTRODUCTION


its influence, to find oneself suddenly transported into the
very scene of that life, to stand among its familiar
impressions and experiences, rcalising another distinct
existence by some odd metempsychosis, and what may-
or rather, what must have been. It is existing a book
rather than reading it when this happens to one.
The house in Swallowfield Park is an old English
country home, a fastness still piled up against time ;
whose stately walls and halls within, and bcautifui
century-old trees in the park without, record great times
and striking figures. The manor zvas a part of the
dowry of Henry the VIII.'s luckless queens. The
modern house was built by Clarendon, and the old church
among the ehns dates from I 200, with carved signs and
symbols and brasses of knights and burgesses, and names
of strange sound and bygone fashion.
Lady Russell, who had sent the phaeton with the fast-
stepping horse to meet us, was walking in the park as we
drove up, and instead of taking us back to the house, she
first led the way across the grass and by the stream to
the old church, standing in its trim sweet garden, here
Death itself seems smiling and fearless; where kind
JMary Mlitford's warm heart rests quiet, and 'her busy
hand,' as she says herself is lying in peace there, where
the sun glances through the great elm trees in the beautiful
churchyard of Swallowfield.'
The last baronet, Sir Charles, who fou-ht in the Crimca,
and who succeeded his father, Sir Hienry, moved the divid-
ing rail so that his old friend should be well within the
shadow of these elm trees. Lady Russell showed us





OUR VILLAGE


the tranquil green place, and told us its story, and
how the old church had once been doomed to destruction
when Kingsley came over by cne r chance, and pleaded that
it should be spared; and how, when rubbish and outward
szgns of decay had been cleared away, the restorers were
rewarded for their piety, by corning upon noble beams of
oak, untouched by time, upon some fine old buried monu-
ments and brasses and inscriptions, among which the people
still say their prayers in the shrine where their fathers
knelt, and of which the tradition is not yet swept away.
The present Lady of the Manor, who loves old traditions,
has done her part to preserve the records for her children.
So Miss Mitford walked from Three Mile Cross to
Swallowfield to end her days, with these kind friends to
cheer and to comfort her. Sir Henry Russell was alive
when she first established herself, but he was already
from some sudden seizure, which she, with her
usual impetuosity, describes in her letters as a chronic state
of things. After his death, his widow, the Lady Russell
of those days, was her kindest friend and comforter.
The little Swallozfield cottage at the meeting of the
three roads, to Vwhich Mary -.i- rd came when she left
ThIree MIile Cross, has thrown out a room or two, as
cottages do, but otherwise I think it can be little
changed. It was hcre Miss Miitford was visited
by so many interesting people, here she used to sit
writing at her bi table under the tassels of her
acacia tree.' TWhen the present Lady of the 1M7anor
brought us to the gate, the acacia flowers were over, but
a balmy breath of summer was everywhere; a beautiful





INTRODUCTION xlvii

rose was hanging upon the iwall beneath the window (it
must have taken many years to grow to such a keiglht),
and beyond the palings of the garden spread the fieds,
ripning in thie late July, and turning to gold. The
far;elir and his son were at work with their scythlcs
the birds were still j _, the sweet scents were in the air.
From a lady whio had known her, my own jMiss Anne '
of the letters, wze heard something more that day of the
author of 'Our Village' ; of her charming intellect, her
gift of talk, her im/pulsiveness, her essential sociability, and
rapid grace of mind. She had the faults of her qualities;
she jumped too easily to conchlsions; she was too 1much
under the influence of those with whom she lived. She
was born to be a victim,-evCe after hecr old tyrant father's
death, she zwas more or less over-ridden ly her servants.
ANei-hbolrs looked somewhat doubtfully on K. and Bel,
but they were good to her, on the whole, and tended her
carefully. 1. Russell said that when she and her
brother took refuge in the cottage, one morning from a
storm, while they dried themselves by the fire, they saw
the careful iceal carried up to the old lady, the kidneys,
the custard, for her dejeuner A la fourchette.
When .i-; I, itfford died, she left everything she had
to her beloved K. and to Ben, except that she said she
wished that one book from her we)ll-stockcd library should
be given to each of her friends. The old Doctor, with
all his faults, had loved books, and bought handsome and
valuable first editions of good authors. K. and Ben also
seem to have loved books and first editions. To the
Russells, cwho had nursed .i.' it iford, comforted her,





OUR VILLAGE


by whose gates she dwelt, in whose arms she died, Ben
brought, as a token of remembrance, an old spilling volume
of one of G. P. R. James's novels, which was all lie could
bear to part with. A prettier incident was told me by
Miss Russell, who once went to visit M1iss _-- .;-; 's grave.
She found a young man standing there whom she did
not know. Don't you know me?' said he; 'I am Henry,
ma'am. I have just come back from Australia.' He
was one of the children of the couple who had lived in
the cottage, and is first visit on his return from abroad
had been to the tomb of his old protectress.
I also heard a friend who knew Miss Jlitford in her
latest days, describe going to see her within a very few
months of her death ; she was still bright and responding
as ever, though very ill. The young visitor had herself
been laid up and absent from the invalid's bedside for
some time. They talked over many things,-an authoress
among the rest, concerning whose power of writing a book
Miss _-' ford seems to have been very doubtful. After her
visitor was gone, the sick woman wrote one of her delicate
pretty little notes and despatched it with its tiny seal
(there it is still unbroken, with its H. just as
she stamped it), and this is the little letter :-

Thank you, dearest Eiss for once again showing me
yourfair face by the side of the dear, dear friend [Lady Russell]
for whose goodness I have neither thanks nor words. To the
end of my life Ishall go on sinning and repenting. Heartily
sorry have I been ever since you went away to have spoken so
unkindly to Jfrs. Heaven forgive me for it, and send
her a happier conclusion to her life than the beginning might


xlviii






INTRODUCTION


warrant. If you have an idle lover, my dear, present over to
h/iin *my sermon, for those were words of worth.
God bless you all! Ever, most fait/ifully and "
yours, Ji R. JIZ1TfoxRD.

Sunday Evening.



VIII

TWVenz one turns from /Mi'ss i 's works to the
notices in the biographical dictionary (in w/hick Mi'ss
Mitford and Iithiridatcs occupy the same page), one
finds how firmly her reputation is established. 'Dame
auteur,' says mzy faithful mentor, the Biographic Generale,
considerede comme le peintre le plus fiddle de la vie
rurale en Angleterre.' Author of a remarkable tragedy,
Julian, in zuhick/ l Macready played a princzial part,
followed by Foscari, Rienzi, and others,' says the English
Biographical Dictionary.
I am charmed within my new cottage,' she writes soon
afteerher last installation ; the neizghbours are most kind.'
Kingsley was one of the first to call upon her. He took
m/e quite by surprise in his extraordinary fascination,'
says the old lady.
Mr. Fields, the Amenrican publisher, also went to
see lJ Miss 1Mitford at Swallowfield, and immediately
became a very great ally of hers. It was to him'l that
she gave her owun portrait, by Lucas. Mlr. Fields has
left an interesting account of her in his Yesterdays
with Authors-' Her dogs and her gerani lns,' he says,
d






OUR VILLAGE


' were her great glories S7ie used to write me long
letters about Fanchon, a dog- whose personal acquaintance
I had made some time before, while on a visit to her
cottage. Every virtue under heaven she attributed to
that canine individual; and I was obliged to allow in
my return letters that since our planet began to spin,
nothing comparable to Fanchon had ever run on four
legs. I had also known Flush, the ancestor of Fanchon,
intimately, and had been accustomed to hear wonderful
things of that dog, but Fanchon had graces and
genius unZque. lMiss Mitf ord would have joined with
H-amerton, when he says, 'I hum/bly thank Divine
Providence for having invented dogs, and I regard
that man with wondering pity who can lead a dogless
life.'
Another of _-.iss iMitford's great friends was John
Ruskin,' and one can well imagine how imuch they must
have had in common. Of Iiss -'- .-'s writings Ruskin
says, They have the playfulness and purity of the Vicar
of Wakefield without the naughtiness of its occasional
wit, or the dust of the world's great road on the other
side of the edge. ..
Neither the dust nor the ethics of the world of men
quite belonged to Jiiss Jitford's genius. It is always
a sort of relief to turn from her criticism of people, her
praise of Louis Napoleon, her facts about Mr. Dickens,
wo/hom she describes as a dull companion, or about my

1 It is Mr. Harness who says, writing of Ruskin and zMiss M3iijford, 'Ilis
kindness cheered her closing dayss. He sent her ezvey book thai would
interest, every delicacy tlat would strengthen her.'





INTRODUCTION


father, whom she looked upon as an utter heartless world-
ling, to the natural spontaneous sweet flow of nature in
which she lived and moved instinctively.
i.r. James .P(J' gives, perhaps, the most charmingl of
all the descrlptions of the author of Our Village. He
hars many letters front /er to quote from. T paper is
all odds and ends,' he says, and not a scrap of it but is
covered and crossed. The very : of the envelopes and
the outsides of them have their message.
Mr. Paync went to see her at Suwallozifield, and
describes the small apartment lined with books from floor
to eciling and fragrant with flowers. 'Its tenant rose
from her arm-chair with buzt with a sunny smile
and a charming manner bad e 'e welcome. i j. father
had been an old friend of hers, and she spoke of my home
and belongings as only a woman can speak of such thing-s,
then we plunged into mcdea res, into men and books. She
seemed to me to have known everybody worth knowingo-
from the Duke of TVclington to the last new verse-maker.
And she talked like an angel, but her views upon poetry
as a calling. in life, shocked me not a little. She said
she preferred a marriage de convenance to a love match,
because it generally turned out better. This surprises
you," sh said, smiling, but then I suppose I am the least
romantic person that ever wrote plays." She was much
more proud of her plays, even then well-nih forgotten,
than of the works by which she was well known, and
which at that time bro ugot people from the ends of the
earth to see her. .
'Nothing ever destroyed her faith in those she loved.
d 2






OUR VILLAGE


If I had not known all about him from my own folk I
should have thought her father had been a patriot and a
martyr. She spoke of him as if there had never been
such a father-which in a sense was true.'
imr. Payn quotes fMiss -i- 'ford's charming description
of K., 'for whom she had the highest admiration.' K.
is a great curiosity, by far the cleverest woman in these
parts, not in a literary way [this was not to disappoint
me], but in everything that is useful. She could make a
Court dress for a duchess or cook a dinner for a Lord
Mayor, but her principal talent is shown in managing
everybody whom she comes near. Especially her husband
and myself; sze keeps the money of both and never allows
either of us to spend sixpence without her knowledge ...
You should sec the manncr in which ske makes Ben reckon
with her, and her contempt for all women who do not
manage- their husbands.'
Another dlzghtful quotation is from one of Charles
Kingsley's letters to JiMr. Payn. It brings the past before
us from another point of view.
I can never forget the little figure rolled np in two
chairs in the little Swallowfeld room, packed round with
books up to the ceiling-the little figure with clothes on
of no recognized or recognisable pattern; and somewhere,
out of the upper end of the heap, gleaming under a great
deep globular brow, two such eyes as I never perhaps saw
in any other Einglis/ziwomiani-thoughl I believe she must
have haodFrencm blood in her veins to breed such eyes and
such a tongue, the beautiful speech which came out of that
ugly (it was that) face, and the glitter and depth too of





INTRODUCTION liii

the eyes, like live coals-perfectly honest the while.
One would like to go on quoting and copying, but hicr;
my preface must cease, for it is but a preface after all,
one of those many prefaces written out of the past and
when everything is over.

















6 I












INTRODUCTION. vii

COUNTRY PICTURES I

WALKS IN THE COUNTRY 25
THE FIRST PRIMROSE 41
VIOLATING 57

THE COPSE 69
THE WOOD 93
THE DELL .

THE COWSLIP-3ALL 123
THE OLD HOUSE AT ABERLEIGH 141
THE HARD SUMMER 155
THE SHAW 177

NUTTING 197
THE VISIT 209

HANNAH BINT 229
THE FALL OF THE LEAF 247















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' Watering my flowers' ni piece








' Playfellows 8
SThe thickest of the fray'

' Mine host' 12


' The worthy wheeler carry the gown' IS


Tailpiece to Country Pictures 24
IIeading to Walks in the Counry 27

'There they lie, roaring, kicking, sprawling' 29
' The road is gay now' 31
The frost-bitten gentleman' 32
' The lieutenant skating' 35
'Pattens paddle' 39
Heading to The First P'rimrose 4. 43







lviii OUR VILLAGE
PAGE
'Fine March weather' 44
' A vestry meeting' 46
' An old gamekeeper' 47
' A knowing look 50
'Joseph White carrying off the fair Rachel' 51
Tailpiece to The First Primrose 56
1 leading to Violeting 59
' A group on horseback' .. 6o
'Three sturdy farmers' .62
'A merry group' 63
' A whistling boy' 65
' Bean-setting' 66
Tailpiece to Violeting 68
Heading to The Copse 71
'Bringing her game' 73
HIome to "their walk' 75
'Sent to Coventry' 76
'Mrs. Sally Mearing' 79
'Giving his lodger fair warning 84
SSoundly scolded' 86
After the sheep' 88
'The shameless villain Saladin' 90
Tailpiece to The Copse 92
Heading to The Wood 95
'Saladin's affair with the Gander' 96
Let us gather some' .99
'The hedgehog' 10
Heading to The Dell 107
Half the cows in the street 8' 8
Poor blind Robert 109
'Ah little rogues 13
Peaceful evenings' 115
'There sits Mrs. Allen, feeding her poultry' 117







LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS lix

'Over the bridge' 1.
Heading to The Cowslip-Ball 125
I don't mind 'cm 126
'A flirtation' 2
'Cuckoo cuckoo !' 131
Making the cowslip-ball' 133
'Faster, faster !' 137
'Cloaks and umbrellas' 38
May went to bed' 140
Heading to The Old House at Aberleigh 43
'Off we drove' 144
Youth and age' 146
'Here we must alight !' 148
Heading to The Hard Summer 157
'Staring at a balloon 159
'All one dust' 162
'That poor boy' 163
'Cricket' 165
'Thank you, Joe Kirby' 167
'Carter's boy' 68
'Squabbling'. 171
'The little hussar' 173
'Dipping up water' 175
Tailpiece to The Hard Summer 176
Heading to The Shaw 79
By sheer beggary' 183
Maid and boy, and mistress and master' 85
'IHe likes Dash' 86
A battle' is.
'The Bench' 190
Daddy daddy !' 19
'Tottering up the path' 193
I., l; to Nutting 199








Ix OUR VILLAGE
PAGE

'In the apple-tree 202
ST i;.. to The Visit 211
' A fine noble animal' 214
'Prentice to the footman 217
' The mill team 221
IIeading to Hannah Bint 231
'Jack Bint, aided by Jack Bint's famous dog, Watch 235
'To the lord of the manor' 238
'Admission to the charity-school' 240
' As much like lovers' .. 243
Tailpiece to Hannah Bint 246
Heading to The Fall of the Leaf .. 249
'The little post-boy' 251
'Ah a pheasant a superb cock pheasant !' 253
Grazing under the tall elms 255

























COUNTRY PICTURES





















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all situations for a constant residence,
jp that which appears to me most delightful
S is a little village far in the country; a
Small neighbourhood, not of fine man-
sions finely peopled, but of cottages and
Scottage-like houses, messagess or tene-
ments,' as a friend of mine calls such
ignoble and nondescript dwellings, with
S inhabitants whose faces are as familiar to
us as the !1.-, .:! -. in our garden ; a little
world of our own, close-packed and in-
sulated like ants in an ant-hill, or bees
in a hive, or sheep in a fold, or nuns in
S a convent, or sailors in a ship ; where we
know every one, are known to every one,
interested in every one, and authorised
to hope that every one feels an interest
in us. How pleasant it is to slide into these true-hearted
V





OUR VILLAGE


feelings from the kindly and unconscious influence of
habit, and to learn to know and to love the people about
us, with all their peculiarities, just as we learn to know
and to love the nooks and turns of the shady lanes and
sunny commons that we pass every day. Even in books
I like a confined locality, and so do the critics when
they talk of the unities. Nothing is so tiresome as to
be whirled half over Europe at the chariot-wheels of a
hero, to go to sleep at Vienna, and awaken at Madrid;
it produces a real fatigue, a weariness of spirit. On
the other hand, nothing is so delightful as to sit down
in a country village in one of Miss Austen's delicious
novels, quite sure before we leave it to become in-
timate with every spot and every person it contains;
or to ramble with Mr. White over his own parish of
Selborne, and form a friendship with the fields and
coppices, as well as with the birds, mice, and squirrels,
who inhabit them; or to sail with Robinson Crusoe
to his island, and live there with him and his goats
and his man Friday;-how much we dread any new
comers, any fresh importation of savage or sailor! we
never sympathise for a moment in our hero's want of
company, and are quite grieved when he gets away;-
or to be shipwrecked with Ferdinand on that other
lovelier island-the island of Prospero, and Miranda,
and Caliban, and Ariel, and nobody else, none of
Dryden's exotic inventions :-that is best of all.

SWhite's Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne; one of the
most fascinating books ever written. I wonder that no naturalist has
adopted the same plan.





COUNTRY PICTURES


And a small neighbourhood is as good in sober waking
reality as in poetry or prose; a village neighbourhood,
such as this Berkshire hamlet in which I write, a long,
straggling, winding street at the bottom of a fine
eminence, with a road through it, always abounding in
carts, horsemen, and carriages, and lately enlivened by
a stage-coach from B-- to S--, which passed
through about ten days ago, and will I suppose return
some time or other. There are coaches of all varieties
nowadays ; perhaps this may be intended for a
monthly diligence, or a fortnight fly. Will you walk
with me through our village, courteous reader ? The
journey is not long. We will begin at the lower end,
and proceed up the hill.
The tidy, square, red cottage on the right hand,
with the long well-stocked garden by the side of the
road, belongs to a retired publican from a neighbour-
ing town; a substantial person with a comely wife;
one who piques himself on independence and idleness,
talks politics, reads newspapers, hates the minister, and
cries out for reform. He introduced into our peaceful
vicinage the rebellious innovation of an illumination on
the Queen's acquittal. Remonstrance and persuasion
were in vain; he talked of liberty and broken windows
-so we all lighted up. Oh how he shone that night
with candles, and laurel, and white bows, and gold
paper, and a transparency (originally designed for a
pocket-handkerchief) with a flaming portrait of her
Majesty, hatted and feathered, in red ochre. He had
no rival in the village, that we all acknowledged ; the






6 OUR VILLAGE

very bonfire was less splendid ; the little boys reserved
their best crackers to be expended in his honour, and
he gave them full sixpence more than any one else.
He would like an illumination once a month; for it



II' 1 !






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'A retire. pjublican.'
Copyright b8j iy &acmillan & Co.

must not be concealed that, in spite of gardening, of
newspaper reading, of jaunting about in his little cart,
and frequenting both church and meeting, our worthy
neighbour begins to feel the weariness of idleness.





COUNTRY PICTURES


He hangs over his gate, and tries to entice passengers
to stop and chat; he volunteers little jobs all round,
smokes cherry trees to cure the blight, and traces and
blows up all the wasps'-nests in the parish. I have
seen a great many wasps in our garden to-day, and
shall enchant him with the intelligence. He even
assists his wife in her sweepings and dustings. Poor
man he is a very respectable person, and would be a
very happy one, if he would add a little employment
to his dignity. It would be the salt of life to him.
Next to his house, though parted from it by another
long garden with a yew arbour at the end, is the pretty
dwelling of the shoemaker, a pale, sickly-looking, black-
haired man, the very model of sober industry. There
he sits in his little shop from early morning till late at
night. An earthquake would hardly stir him : the
illumination did not. He stuck immovably to his
last, from the first lighting up, through the long blaze
and the slow decay, till his large solitary candle was
the only light in the place. One cannot conceive
anything more perfect than the contempt which the
man of transparencies and the man of shoes must have
felt for each other on that evening. There was at
least as much vanity in the sturdy industry as in the
strenuous idleness, for our shoemaker is a man of sub-
stance; he employs three journeymen, two lame, and one
a dwarf, so that his shop looks like an hospital ; he has
purchased the lease of his commodious dwelling, some
even say that he has bought it out and out; and he
has only one pretty daughter, a light, delicate, fair-








8 OUR VILLAGE


haired girl of fourteen, the champion, protectress, and

playfellow of every brat under three years old, whom


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she jumps, dances, dandles, and feeds all day long. A

very attractive person is that child-loving girl. I have

never seen any one in her station who possessed so





COUNTRY PICTURES


thoroughly that undefinable charm, the lady-look. See
her on a Sunday in her simplicity and her white frock,
and she might pass for an earl's daughter. She likes
flowers too, and has a profusion of white stocks under
her window, as pure and delicate as herself.
The first house on the opposite side of the way is
the blacksmith's; a gloomy dwelling, where the sun
never seems to shine; dark and smoky within and
without, like a forge. The blacksmith is a high officer
in our little state, nothing less than a constable; but,
alas! alas! when tumults arise, and the constable is
called for, he will commonly be found in the thickest
of the fray. Lucky would it be for his wife and her
eight children if there were no public-house in the land :
an inveterate inclination to enter those bewitching doors
is Mr. Constable's only fault.
Next to this official dwelling is a spruce brick
tenement, red, high, and narrow, boasting, one above
another, three sash-windows, the only sash-windows in
the village, with a clematis on one side and a rose on
the other, tall and narrow like itself. That slender
mansion has a fine, genteel look. The little parlour
seems made for Hogarth's old maid and her stunted
footboy; for tea and card parties,-it would just hold
one table; for the rustle of faded silks, and the splen-
dour of old china; for the delight of four by honours,
and a little snug, quiet scandal between the deals ; for
affected gentility and real starvation. This should
have been its destiny; but fate has been unpropitious :
it belongs to a plump, merry, bustling dame, with four






1O OUR VILLAGE

fat, rosy, noisy children, the very essence of vulgarity
and plenty.
Then comes the village shop, like other village shops,


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multifarious as a bazaar ; a repository for bread, shoes,
tea, cheese, tape, ribands, and bacon; for everything,
in short, except the one particular thing which you


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COUNTRY PICTURES


happen to want at the moment, and will be sure not
to find. The people are civil and thriving, and frugal
withal ; they have let the upper part of their house to
two young women (one of them is a pretty blue-eyed
girl) who teach little children their A B C, and make
caps and gowns for their mammas,-parcel school-
mistress, parcel mantua-maker. I believe they find
adorning the body a more profitable vocation than
adorning the mind.
Divided from the shop by a narrow yard, and
opposite the shoemaker's, is a habitation of whose
inmates I shall say nothing. A cottage-no-a minia-
ture house, with many additions, little odds and ends
of places, pantries, and what not; all angles, and of a
charming in-and-outness ; a little bricked court before
one half, and a little flower-yard before the other; the
walls, old and weather-stained, covered with holly-
hocks, roses, honeysuckles, and a great apricot-tree;
the casements full of geraniums (ah there is our
superb white cat peeping out from among them) ; the
closets (our landlord has the assurance to call them
rooms) full of contrivances and corner-cupboards; and
the little garden behind full of common flowers, tulips,
pinks, larkspurs, peonies, stocks, and carnations, with
an arbour of privet, not unlike a sentry-box, where one
lives in a delicious green light, and looks out on the
gayest of all gay flower-beds. That house was built
on purpose to show in what an exceeding small com-
pass comfort may be packed. Well, I will loiter there
no longer.






12 OUR VILLAGE

The next tenement is a place of importance, the
Rose Inn: a white-washed building, retired from the
road behind its fine swinging sign, with a little bow-
window room coming out on one side, and forming,





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with our stable on the other, a sort of open square,
which is the constant resort of carts, waggons, and
return chaises. There are two carts there now, and
mine host is serving them with beer in his eternal red





COUNTRY PICTURES


waistcoat. He is a thriving man and a portly, as his
waistcoat attests, which has been twice let out within
this twelvemonth. Our landlord has a stirring wife, a
hopeful son, and a daughter, the belle of the village;
not so pretty as the fair nymph of the shoe-shop, and far
less elegant, but ten times as fine ; all curl-papers in the
morning, like a porcupine, all curls in the afternoon,
like a poodle, with more flounces than curl-papers, and
more lovers than curls. Miss Phcebe is fitter for town
than country; and to do her justice, she has a conscious-
ness of that fitness, and turns her steps townward as
often as she can. She is gone to B-- to-day with
her last and principal lover, a recruiting sergeant-a
man as tall as Sergeant Kite, and as impudent. Some
day or other he will carry off Miss Phcebe.
In a line with the bow-window room is a low garden-
wall, belonging to a house under repair :-the white
house opposite the collar-maker's shop, with four lime-
trees before it, and a waggon-load of bricks at the
door. That house is the plaything of a wealthy, well-
meaning, whimsical person who lives about a mile off.
He has a passion for brick and mortar, and, being too
wise to meddle with his own residence, diverts himself
with altering and re-altering, improving and re-improv-
ing, doing and undoing here. It is a perfect Penelope's
web. Carpenters and bricklayers have been at work
for these eighteen months, and yet I sometimes stand
and wonder whether anything has really been done.
One exploit in last June was, however, by no means
equivocal. Our good neighbour fancied that the limes






OUR VILLAGE


shaded the rooms, and made them dark (there was
not a creature in the house but the workmen), so he had
all the leaves stripped from every tree. There they
stood, poor miserable skeletons, as bare as Christmas
under the glowing midsummer sun. Nature revenged
herself, in her own sweet and gracious manner; fresh
leaves sprang out, and at nearly Christmas the foliage
was as brilliant as when the outrage was committed.
Next door lives a carpenter, famed ten miles round,
and worthy all his fame,'-few cabinet-makers surpass
him, with his excellent wife, and their little daughter
Lizzy, the plaything and queen of the village, a child
three years old according to the register, but six in size
and strength and intellect, in power and in self-will.
She manages everybody in the place, her schoolmistress
included ; turns the wheeler's children out of their own
little cart, and makes them draw her; seduces cakes
and lollypops from the very shop window; makes the
lazy carry her, the silent talk to her, the grave romp
with her; does anything she pleases; is absolutely
irresistible. Her chief attraction lies in her exceeding
power of loving, and her firm reliance on the love and
indulgence of others. How impossible it would be to
disappoint the dear little girl when she runs to meet
you, slides her pretty hand into yours, looks up gladly
in your face, and says Come !' You must go: you
cannot help it. Another part of her charm is her
singular beauty. Together with a good deal of the
character of Napoleon, she has something of his square,
sturdy, upright form, with the finest limbs in the world,










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COUNTRY PICTURES


a complexion purely English, a round laughing face,
sunburnt and rosy, large merry blue eyes, curling brown
hair, and a wonderful play of countenance. She has
the imperial attitudes too, and loves to stand with her
hands behind her, or folded over her bosom; and
sometimes, when she has a little touch of shyness, she
clasps them together on the top of her head, pressing
down her shining curls, and looking so exquisitely
pretty Yes, Lizzy is queen of the village She has
but one rival in her dominions, a certain white grey-
hound called Mayflower, much her friend, who resembles
her in beauty and strength, in playfulness, and almost
in sagacity, and reigns over the animal world as she
over the human. They are both coming with me,
Lizzy and Lizzy's 'pretty May.' We are now at the
end of the street ; a cross-lane, a rope-walk shaded with
limes and oaks, and a cool clear pond overhung with
elms, lead us to the bottom of the hill. There is still
one house round the corner, ending in a picturesque
wheeler's shop. The dwelling-house is more ambitious.
Look at the fine flowered window-blinds, the green door
with the brass knocker, and the somewhat prim but
very civil person, who is sending off a labouring man
with sirs and curtsies enough for a prince of the blood.
Those are the curate's lodgings-apartments his land-
lady would call them; he lives with his own family
four miles off, but once or twice a week he comes to
his neat little parlour to write sermons, to marry, or to
bury, as the case may require. Never were better or
kinder people than his host and hostess; and there is a
C







i8 OUR VILLAGE

reflection of clerical importance about them since their
connection with the Church, which is quite edifying-a


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decorum, a gravity, a solemn politeness. Oh, to see
the worthy wheeler carry the gown after his lodger on
a Sunday, nicely pinned up in his wife's best hand-





COUNTRY PICTURES


kerchief !-or to hear him rebuke a squalling child or
a squabbling woman! The curate is nothing to him.
He is fit to be perpetual churchwarden.
We must now cross the lane into the shady rope-
walk. That pretty white cottage opposite, which stands
straggling at the end of the village in a garden full of
flowers, belongs to our mason, the shortest of men, and
his handsome, tall wife: he, a dwarf, with the voice of
a giant; one starts when he begins to talk as if he
were shouting through a speaking trumpet; she, the
sister, daughter, and grand-daughter, of a long line
of gardeners, and no contemptible one herself. It is
very magnanimous in me not to hate her; for she
beats me in my own way, in chrysanthemums, and
dahlias, and the like gauds. Her plants are sure to
live; mine have a sad trick of dying, perhaps because
I love them, 'not wisely, but too well,' and kill
them with over-kindness. Half-way up the hill is
another detached cottage, the residence of an officer,
and his beautiful family. That eldest boy, who is
hanging over the gate, and looking with such intense
childish admiration at my Lizzy, might be a model
for a Cupid.
How pleasantly the road winds up the hill, with
its broad green borders and hedgerows so thickly
timbered How finely the evening sun falls on that
sandy excavated bank, and touches the farmhouse on
the top of the eminence and how clearly defined and
relieved is the figure of the man who is just coming
down It is poor John Evans, the gardener-an






OUR VILLAGE


excellent gardener till about ten years ago, when he
lost his wife, and became insane. He was sent to St.
Luke's, and dismissed as cured; but his power was
gone and his strength; he could no longer manage a
garden, nor submit to the restraint, nor encounter the
fatigue of regular employment: so he retreated to the
workhouse, the pensioner and factotum of the village,
amongst whom he divides his services. His mind often
wanders, intent on some fantastic and impracticable
plan, and lost to present objects; but he is perfectly
harmless, and full of a childlike simplicity, a smiling
contentedness, a most touching gratitude. Every one
is kind to John Evans, for there is that about him
which must be loved; and his unprotectedness, his
utter defencelessness, have an irresistible claim on every
better feeling. I know nobody who inspires so deep
and tender a pity; he improves all around him. He
is useful, too, to the extent of his little power; will do
anything, but loves gardening best, and still piques
himself on his old arts of pruning fruit-trees, and raising
cucumbers. He is the happiest of men just now, for
he has the management of a melon bed-a melon bed !
-fie What a grand pompous name was that for
three melon plants under a hand-light! John Evans is
sure that they will succeed. We shall see: as the
chancellor said, 'I doubt.'
We are now on the very brow of the eminence, close
to the Hill-house and its beautiful garden. On the
outer edge of the paling, hanging over the bank that
skirts the road, is an old thorn-such a thorn The





COUNTRY PICTURES


long sprays covered with snowy blossoms, so graceful,
so elegant, so lightsome, and yet so rich! There only
wants a pool under the thorn to give a still lovelier re-
flection, quivering and trembling, like a tuft of feathers,
whiter and greener than the life, and more prettily
mixed with the bright blue sky. There should indeed
be a pool; but on the dark grass-plat, under the high
bank, which is crowned by that magnificent plume,
there is something that does almost as well,-Lizzy and
Mayflower in the midst of a game at romps, 'making
a sunshine in the shady place;' Lizzy rolling, laugh-
ing, clapping her hands, and glowing like a rose;
Mayflower playing about her like summer lightning,
dazzling the eyes with her sudden turns, her leaps, her
bounds, her attacks, and her escapes. She darts round
the lovely little girl, with the same momentary touch
that the swallow skims over the water, and has exactly
the same power of flight, the same matchless ease and
strength and grace. What a pretty picture they would
make ; what a pretty foreground they do make to the
real landscape The road winding down the hill with
a slight bend, like that in the High Street at Oxford;
a waggon slowly ascending, and a horseman passing it
at a full trot-(ah! Lizzy, Mayflower will certainly
desert you to have a gambol with that blood-horse !)
half-way down, just at the turn, the red cottage of the
lieutenant, covered with vines, the very image of comfort
and content; farther down, on the opposite side, the
small white dwelling of the little mason ; then the limes
and the rope-walk; then the village street, peeping







22 OUR VILLAGE

through the trees, whose clustering tops hide all but the
chimneys, and various roofs of the houses, and here and


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' And a i orsecman passing it at
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there some angle of a wall ; farther on, the elegant town
of B--, with its fine old church-towers and spires;
the whole view shut in by a range of chalky hills; and





COUNTRY PICTURES


over every part of the picture, trees so profusely
scattered, that it appears like a woodland scene, with
glades and villages intermixed. The trees are of all
kinds and all hues, chiefly the finely-shaped elm, of so
bright and deep a green, the tips of whose high outer
branches drop down with such a crisp and garland-like
richness, and the oak, whose stately form is just now so
splendidly adorned by the sunny colouring of the young
leaves. Turning again up the hill, we find ourselves on
that peculiar charm of English scenery, a green common,
divided by the road; the right side fringed by hedge-
rows and trees, with cottages and farmhouses irregu-
larly placed, and terminated by a double avenue of
noble oaks ; the left, prettier still, dappled by bright
pools of water, and islands of cottages and cottage-
gardens, and sinking gradually down to cornfields and
meadows, and an old farmhouse, with pointed roofs and
clustered chimneys, looking out from its blooming
orchard, and backed by woody hills. The common is
itself the prettiest part of the prospect; half covered
with low furze, whose golden blossoms reflect so intensely
the last beams of the setting sun, and alive with cows
and sheep, and two sets of cricketers; one of young
men, surrounded by spectators, some standing, some
sitting, some stretched on the grass, all taking a
delighted interest in the game ; the other, a merry group
of little boys, at a humble distance, for whom even
cricket is scarcely lively enough, shouting, leaping, and
enjoying themselves to their hearts' content. But
cricketers and country boys are too important persons






OUR VILLAGE


in our village to be talked of merely as figures in the
landscape. They deserve an individual introduction-
an essay to themselves-and they shall have it. No
fear of forgetting the good-humoured faces that meet
us in our walks every day.
















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WALKS IN THE COUNTRY
















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: anumay 23rcyd-At noon to-day I and my white
Greyhound, Mayflower, set out for a walk
into a very beautiful world,-a sort of
.- silent fairyland,-a creation of that match-
less magician the hoar-frost. There had
been just snow enough to cover the earth and all its
covers with one sheet of pure and uniform white, and
just time enough since the snow had fallen to allow the
hedges to be freed of their fleecy load, and clothed
with a delicate coating of rime. The atmosphere was
deliciously calm ; soft, even mild, in spite of the ther-
mometer; no perceptible air, but a stillness that might
almost be felt, the sky, rather gray than blue, throwing
out in bold relief the snow-covered roofs of our village,
and the rimy trees that rise above them, and the sun
shining dimly as through a veil, giving a pale fair light,
like the moon, only brighter. There was a silence, too,
that might become the moon, as we stood at our little





OUR VILLAGE


gate looking up the quiet street; a Sabbath-like pause
of work and play, rare on a work-day; nothing was
audible but the pleasant hum of frost, that low
monotonous sound, which is perhaps the nearest
approach that life and nature can make to absolute
silence. The very waggons as they come down the
hill along the beaten track of crisp yellowish frost-dust,
glide along like shadows; even May's bounding foot-
steps, at her height of glee and of speed, fall like snow
upon snow.
But we shall have noise enough presently: May
has stopped at Lizzy's door; and Lizzy, as she sat on
the window-sill with her bright rosy face laughing
through the casement, has seen her and disappeared.
She is coming. No The key is turning in the door,
and sounds of evil omen issue through the keyhole-
sturdy 'let me outs,' and I will goes,' mixed with shrill
cries on May and on me from Lizzy, piercing through
a low continuous harangue, of which the prominent
parts are apologies, chilblains, sliding, broken bones,
lollypops, rods, and gingerbread, from Lizzy's careful
mother. 'Don't scratch the door, May! Don't roar
so, my Lizzy We'll call for you as we come back.'-
'I'll go now Let me out! I will go I' are the last
words of Miss Lizzy. Mem. Not to spoil that child
-if I can help it. But I do think her mother might
have let the poor little soul walk with us to-day.
Nothing worse for children than coddling. Nothing
better for chilblains than exercise. Besides, I don't
believe she has any-and as to breaking her bones in






WALKS IN THE COUNTRY


sliding, I don't suppose there's a slide on the common.
These murmuring cogitations have brought us up the
hill, and half-way across the light and airy common,
with its bright expanse of snow and its clusters of
cottages, whose turf fires send such wreaths of smoke
sailing up the air, and diffuse such aromatic fragrance
around. And now comes the delightful sound of


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There they lie, roaring, kicking, sprawling.'

childish voices, ringing with glee and merriment almost
from beneath our feet. Ah, Lizzy, your mother was
right! They are shouting from that deep irregular
pool, all glass now, where, on two long, smooth, liny
slides, half a dozen ragged urchins are slipping along
in tottering triumph. Half a dozen steps bring us to
the bank right above them. May can hardly resist the
temptation of joining her friends, for most of the varlets


i

I i;l






OUR VILLAGE


are of her acquaintance, especially the rogue who leads
the slide,-he with the brimless hat, whose bronzed
complexion and white flaxen hair, reversing the usual
lights and shadows of the human countenance, give
so. strange and foreign a look to his flat and comic
features. This hobgoblin, Jack Rapley by name, is
May's great crony; and she stands on the brink of the
steep, irregular descent, her black eyes fixed full upon
him, as if she intended him the favour of jumping on
his head. She does: she is down, and upon him ; but
Jack Rapley is not easily to be knocked off his feet.
He saw her coming, and in the moment of her leap
sprung dexterously off the slide on the rough ice,
steadying himself by the shoulder of the next in the
file, which unlucky follower, thus unexpectedly checked
in his career, fell plump backwards, knocking down the
rest of the line like a nest of card-houses. There is no
harm done ; but there they lie, roaring, kicking, sprawl-
ing, in every attitude of comic distress, whilst Jack
Rapley and Mayflower, sole authors of this calamity,
stand apart from the throng, fondling, and coquetting,
and complimenting each other, and very visibly
laughing, May in her black eyes, Jack in his wide,
close-shut mouth, and his whole monkey-face, at their
comrades' mischances. I think, Miss May, you may as
well come up again, and leave Master Rapley to fight
your battles. He'll get out of the scrape. He is a
rustic wit-a sort of Robin Goodfellow-the sauciest,
idlest, cleverest, best-natured boy in the parish; always
foremost in mischief, and always ready to do a good






WALKS IN THE COUNTRY


turn. The sages of our village predict sad things of
Jack Rapley, so that I am sometimes a little ashamed
to confess, before wise people, that I have a lurking
predilection for him (in common with other naughty






nes), and that I like to hear him talk to May almost











as well as she does. 'Come, May' and up she springs,










as light as a bird. The road is gay now; carts and
post-chaises, and girls in red cloaks, and, afar o










looking almost like a toy, the coach. It meets us fast
and soon. How much happier the walkers look than
*"". -- '





Th~e road is .ay no,.'

ones), and that I like to hear him talk to May almost
as well as she does. Come, May !' and up she springs,
as light as a bird. The road is gay now; carts and
post-chaises, and girls in red cloaks, and, afar off,
looking almost like a toy, the coach. It meets us fast
and soon. How much happier the walkers look than






32 OUR VILLAGE

the riders-especially the frost-bitten gentleman, and
the shivering lady with the invisible face, sole passen-





















'Thefrost-bien gentleman.
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gers of that commodious machine! IHooded, veiled,
and bonneted, as she is, one sees from her attitude how
miserable she would look uncovered.





WALKS IN TIE COUNTRY


Another pond, and another noise of children. More
sliding ? Oh no This is a sport of higher preten-
sion. Our good neighbour, the lieutenant, skating, and
his own pretty little boys, and two or three other four-
year-old elves, standing on the brink in an ecstasy of
joy and wonder! Oh what happy spectators And
what a happy performer They admiring, he admired,
with an ardour and sincerity never excited by all the
quadrilles and the spread-eagles of the Seine and the
Serpentine. He really skates well though, and I am
glad I came this way ; for, with all the father's feelings
sitting gaily at his heart, it must still gratify the pride
of skill to have one spectator at that solitary pond who
has seen skating before.
Now we have reached the trees,-the beautiful
trees never so beautiful as to-day. Imagine the effect
of a straight and regular double avenue of oaks, nearly
a mile long, arching overhead, and closing into per-
spective like the roof and columns of a cathedral, every
tree and branch incrusted with the bright and delicate
congelation of hoar-frost, white and pure as snow, deli-
cate and defined as carved ivory. How beautiful it is,
how uniform, how various, how filling, how satiating to
the eye and to the mind-above all, how melancholy!
There is a thrilling awfulness, an intense feeling of
simple power in that naked and colourless beauty,
which falls on the earth like the thoughts of death-
death pure, and glorious, and smiling,-but still death.
Sculpture has always the same effect on my imagina-
tion, and painting never. Colour is life.-We are now
D





OUR VILLAGE


at the end of this magnificent avenue, and at the top
of a steep eminence commanding a wide view over four
counties-a landscape of snow. A deep lane leads
abruptly down the hill ; a mere narrow cart-track, sink-
ing between high banks clothed with fern and furze
and low broom, crowned with luxuriant hedgerows,
and famous for their summer smell of thyme. How
lovely these banks are now-the tall weeds and the
gorse fixed and stiffened in the hoar-frost, which fringes
round the bright prickly holly, the pendent foliage of
the bramble, and the deep orange leaves of the pollard
oaks Oh, this is rime in its loveliest form! And
there is still a berry here and there on the holly,
'blushing in its natural coral' through the delicate
tracery, still a stray hip or haw for the birds, who
abound here always. The poor birds, how tame they
are, how sadly tame! There is the beautiful and rare
crested wren, that shadow of a bird,' as White of Sel-
borne calls it, perched in the middle of the hedge, nest-
ling as it were amongst the cold bare boughs, seeking,
poor pretty thing, for the warmth it will not find. And
there, farther on, just under the bank, by the slender
runlet, which still trickles between its transparent fan-
tastic margin of thin ice, as if it were a thing of life,-
there, with a swift, scudding motion, flits, in short low
flights, the gorgeous kingfisher, its magnificent plumage
of scarlet and blue flashing in the sun, like the glories
of some tropical bird. He is come for water to this
little spring by the hillside,-water which even his
long bill and slender head can hardly reach, so nearly































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(-'ID'l~ IEtr 3ky D/.Iloi ilrI.- Co.






WALKS IN TIE COUNTRY


do the fantastic forms of those garland-like icy margins
meet over the tiny stream beneath. It is rarely that
one sees the shy beauty so close or so long ; and it is
pleasant to see him in the grace and beauty of his
natural liberty, the only way to look at a bird. We
used, before we lived in a street, to fix a little board
outside the parlour window, and cover it with bread
crumbs in the hard weather. It was quite delightful to
see the pretty things come and feed, to conquer their
shyness, and do away their mistrust. First came the
more social tribes, 'the robin red-breast and the wren,'
cautiously, suspiciously, picking up a crumb on the wing,
with the little keen bright eye fixed on the window;
then they would stop for two pecks ; then stay till they
were satisfied. The shyer birds, tamed by their example,
came next; and at last one saucy fellow of a blackbird
-a sad glutton, he would clear the board in two
minutes,-used to tap his yellow bill against the window
for more. How we loved the fearless confidence of
that fine, frank-hearted creature And surely he loved
us. I wonder the practice is not more general.
'May May! naughty May!' She has frightened
away the kingfisher; and now, in her coaxing peni-
tence, she is covering me with snow. 'Come, pretty
May it is time to go home.'


THAW.

January, 28St/.-We have had rain, and snow, and
frost, and rain again ; four days of absolute confinement.





OUR VILLAGE


Now it is a thaw and a flood; but our light gravelly
soil, and country boots, and country hardihood, will
carry us through. What a dripping, comfortless day it
is just like the last days of November : no sun, no
sky, gray or blue; one low, overhanging, dark, dismal
cloud, like London smoke; Mayflower is out coursing
too, and Lizzy gone to school. Never mind. Up the
hill again Walk we must. Oh what a watery world
to look back upon! Thames, Kennet, Loddon-all
overflowed; our famous town, inland once, turned into
a sort of Venice ; C. park converted into an island;
and the long range of meadows from B. to W. one
huge unnatural lake, with trees growing out of it. Oh
what a watery world !-I will look at it no longer. I
will walk on. The road is alive again. Noise is re-
born. Waggons creak, horses splash, carts rattle, and
pattens paddle through the dirt with more than their
usual clink. The common has its old fine tints of
green and brown, and its old variety of inhabitants,
horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and donkeys. The ponds
are unfrozen, except where some melancholy piece of
melting ice floats sullenly on the water ; and cackling
geese and gabbling ducks have replaced the lieutenant
and Jack Rapley. The avenue is chill and dark, the
hedges are dripping, the lanes knee-deep, and all nature
is in a state of 'dissolution and thaw.'









fC-__


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18d-3 79







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