--Went to the exhibition at Somerset-House. We saw a thousand things, of which I remember not one, except Wilkie's "Distraining for Rent." The centre figure, the Tenant, seated at a table, leans on his arm, shading his face with his hand --an exquisite expression of suffering; the mouth closed even to compression. On his right hand is his little son, grasping his coat, and looking towards the Wife, who is fainting. Her infant, who lies in her lap, is saved from falling by one little girl, and the Mother is supported by another. On the other side of the picture is the Bailiff; and on the edge of a dismantled bed sits his Clerk, writing on with stoical unconcern. The centre is occupied by a cradle, from which the pillows, &c. have been dragged, and are thrown upon the ground. Behind the table, on which the unfortunate tenant leans, is a groupe, consisting of a young man, who, with strong indignation, addresses the Bailiff--an old woman in tears, evidently of anger--a little boy, who would fain fight if he were able--and a decent elderly man, who is endeavouring to quiet them all. Near the door, behind the fainting wife, stand two neighbours; the one weeping, the other looking on with more composed concern. The cradle and its furniture are beautifully finished. The whole figure of the tenant is admirable; so is that of his indignant friend. The wife is not so well finished, and not pretty enough. The whole seems to me as superior in expression and moral effect, as it is inferior in finishing, to the best works of Mieris and Gerard Dow. Mieris finishes most exquisitely; but then such labour to paint cabbages and carrots! It would be far easier to raise them, and of far more use.
--Went by water to Richmond with ----, and two gentlemen of their acquaintance. The weather was delightful, which was well, for the weight of another person would have sunk the boat. The scenery is beautiful, especially below Kew, covered with villas and villages.--Landed at Kew, and revisited the garden. * *
Landed again at Richmond, and walked up the hill. The view is the richest possible, and very beautiful certainly; but if the river were expunged, there is not one feature of the scene which has identity enough to be remembered for half an hour. Took boat about half past seven. The evening was lovely; the sun, on setting, threw a fine pillar of light along the river, and afterwards tinged it with the richest shades of orange, fading, as they approached the boat, to silver. The water, an unruffled mirror, reflected every tree or cloud; and, as it grew dark, transformed every taper on the banks into a slender shaft of fire.--Landed about ten, after a very pleasant excursion.
--Went again with Dr Bell to the National School. I took my place in the lowest class, and said my lesson with the rest. After the children have learnt to make every letter quickly in sand, they are put into this class, and are taught to form syllables. The first girl calls out a; after an interval sufficient to count six, the second calls out b; after a like interval, the third calls out ab, &c. If any girl does not know the letter or syllable which it is her turn to say, the next is tried, and the first who can say takes place of all who cannot. If any girl is observed trifling, she is instantly called on.--In the highest class, the children read selections from Scripture; and, in addition to the other exercises, are examined by the monitor on the meaning of what they read. Nothing can be more striking than the eagerness of attention which the children show, although no other punishment is inflicted for idleness than loss of place in the class. The lowest class being found the most difficult to train, the best teacher is reserved for it. The mistress goes continually from class to class, speaking to the children, reproving or applauding them by name.
--Salisbury is a dirty, shabby, old place, of no great extent, with a ditch called a canal in each street. Every dozen of yards there is a bridge, though any body might step across the canals. The water in them is pretty clean, and, I believe, supplies the town. The Cathedral stands in an open square called The Close, surrounded with trees and gravel-walks. The centre tower is finished with a spire, which is not nearly so grand as minarets. The spire is built without perforations, and quite plain, which has a poor effect. It does not look by any means so lofty as it is said to be. It is called 400 feet high.
The altar stands in a beautiful little chapel, into which the church is opened. Some of its pillars are wonderfully light, not more than a foot in diameter. Others are composed of clusters of still more slender shafts, united to each other only by the capital. The pillars of the nave and choir are also clustered. All the windows are alike, and of the simplest structure, each consisting of three plain narrow Gothic arches. That over the west door is stained; the one behind the altar is stained also. It contains only one figure, and represents the resurrection of Our Saviour. The side windows being of common glass, the church is glaringly light, and is all as clean as possible. The Chapter House somewhat resembles that at York, except that the roof is supported by a slender pillar in the centre. It is so light, that when approaching it through the cloisters I thought the roof was gone. The whole is inferior to York Minster.
The country around Southampton is very beautiful. We went to Netley Abbey by water--a very picturesque ruin. Part of the church is pretty entire; that is, entire enough for a painter. The roof is gone. Part of the east window is standing, thickly clothed with ivy. There are fine trees in the area. I had no time to sketch; for an English party took possession, preceded by baskets of meat and drink, and attended by a regimental band--kettledrums and all!! Stalls for toys and gingerbread disgrace the entrance to these ruins. Sheltering woods and lonely situation have not been able to hide them from their kindred Goths! Walked home through woods and fields, clambering over stiles indescribable.
ISLE OF WIGHT.--Walked up to the signal post near Newport, to take a view of this "garden of England." The foreground of the landscape is an ugly bare heath; the middle, a great stiff barrack; the distance, dull heights and uninteresting hollows. Nothing is pretty, except peeps of the sea and of the coast of England.
Saturday, went by a narrow but otherwise tolerable road to Ventnor inn, the very southern verge of the island; a comfortable enough little place; as dear as a London hotel. The landscape around it consists of bare ugly hills, dreary open sea, and crags as regular in shape and strata as a wall. Bonchurch is pretty, and very rugged. Perhaps the good folks may think it sublime who never saw any hill higher than Ludgate, or any rocks larger than those in the pavement. The cottages are beautiful. One of the poorest had a fig tree, a passion flower, and a myrtle, on the front of it. Many of them have vines; but this is universal since we left London.
The people in the Isle of Wight are unlike the other English. They are ill-looking, swarthy, and generally black-eyed. The children are dirty and ragged. The cottages, in spite of their external beauty, are poor. Except around villas or hamlets the country is entirely bare, or its few trees are stunted and cankered. In short, it is not worth any Scotchman's trouble to cross a ferry of five miles in order to see a country like his own, but every way inferior; bare as East Lothian, without being rich; only rough where it pretends to be magnificent; and merely dull where it affects the sublime. The dialect is very nearly unintelligible; but, in answer to almost every question, we can make out, "I don't know." A Scotch militiaman, whom we met near Niton, says, "They are the most ignorant brutes that ever were made. You may sit in a public house, madam, a whole day, and never hear a word of edification, farther than what farmer has the fattest calf. Some of them knows the road to Newport, and some of them not that."
We had a sad scramble from Niton to a new medicinal spring in the neighbourhood. My militiaman says "One drink of Pitcaithly is worth the whole well." * * Cowes and Ride seem the prettiest parts of the island.
After a passage with some sea but no wind, we arrived safe at Portsmouth. Walked on the ramparts; which extend round all sides of the town except that occupied by the harbour.
Portsmouth is a regular fortification. Next to the town there is a high mound of earth--the rampart. Upon this there is a brick wall, from the top of which the earth-work slopes outward, and is covered and coped with turf--the curtain. This weakens the force of the balls, which lodge in it rather than rebound; and prevents splintering. Beyond this, and at the bottom of the curtain, is a low wall, of which I forget the name. Then comes the fosse, a ditch of great width, which can be filled with sea-water in a moment by sluices. On the outer edge is the covered way; a wall, with a pallisade on the inside, from whence musquetry might play. Without this again is the glacis; a field of considerable breadth, sloped at such an angle that a ball rebounding from it would not touch the works. At regular intervals the curtain is broken by bastions. These are angular projections, so placed that should an enemy get within the outworks, the side guns from these bastions would rake them; which is called enfilading. Most of the guns, being placed in niches made for them through the curtain, can fire only in one direction. This disadvantage is balanced by the protection which the curtain gives to the artillerymen. But some of the guns are placed en barbette, that is, on the top of the curtain, where they can be aimed at pleasure, but where the men are quite exposed. The ramparts are planted with trees, which prevent the enemy from taking aim at particular buildings, and serve also by their roots to bind the earth in the rampart. The opposite side of the harbour is defended by fortifications at Gosport; and farther inland, Portsea also is completely fortified. Lastly, the whole "island" is defended on the land side by strong lines and double moats.
We went aboard the Nelson, which, though afloat, has neither crew nor rigging. She is quite new. She measures 240 feet from stem to stern. She rates at 2800 tons, and 120 guns, but she will carry 130 guns. At present she has 1200 tons of ballast on board, but about one half of this will be thrown out to make way for the guns. There is something awful in the size and strength of every thing around you as you stand between decks; but the interest is much lessened by her wanting her stores, rigging, and crew. She is at present only three shabby galleries of prodigious length. From the Nelson we went to the block manufactory. * * *
Towards Brighton the country grows frightful, and the road bad; in some places it is below high-water mark. Brighton is the consummation of deformity; a brick town, crammed into a hollow between two naked hills, open only towards the sea. Not one spire breaks the dulness of the red roofs; nor one tree the sameness of the downs; nor one point the dreariness of the ocean. O what a contrast to the neighbourhood of Bath! * * *
Immediately on losing sight of Brighton the country improves, and soon becomes quite beautiful. At first it is hilly, afterwards agreeably swelling; everywhere fertile, and extremely woody. The trees are chiefly oak, and there are many very fine. Tilgate forest consists of small birch coppice. The soil near the coast is chalky. About the inland boundary of Sussex it is clay, still mixed with flints. The commons are more numerous as you approach London, but of no great extent. The villas seem encroaching in all directions.
Tuesday morning, July 25th.--Left London; I suppose for ever. What do I regret in London? Nothing, and nobody. Yet it is not pleasant to bid a last farewell even to the most indifferent objects. "Farewell for ever," cancels all offences and all disgusts! Why should I ever visit London again? Not to study my art. The features of character, as of countenance, seem less strongly marked there than among ourselves. There are no doubt originals, but I have no access to them. I see the people only in drawing-rooms; and a drawing-room, like the grave, efface all distinctions. There seems an established set of topics, from which no one thinks of departing. All attend to the same objects, and all take the same views of them; or, at least, people square their sentiments by those of their own class or cast; and if you know any one's birth, profession, and place of worship, you may, in general, predict his opinions, moral, religious, and political. Painters and musicians may go to London, but what have I to do there?
The country round London is beautiful on every side, but it is no where interesting. The villas are pretty, and nicely dressed up with their waving acacias and their velvet lawns; but they have nothing attaching, nothing peculiar. The neighbourhood of Henley is interesting; for here are inequalities of ground and varieties of outline, to distinguish one spot from another. Harvest was pretty general all the way to Oxford. Field-pease were carrying home. Harvest does not seem the same cheerful season here as with us. No bands of reapers! "Nae daffing, nae gabbing." In a fine field of wheat, one man was cutting at one corner, and one woman at another! Reached Oxford to dinner.
At Magdalene-College chapel, I enquired for my enthusiastic old woman, and found that her son, after making a fortune in India, had returned to take her under his protection. A man shews the picture now, with great sang froid. Let the men claim the head; and welcome! They have not half our heart.--An abominable entablature and pillars (Grecian too!) darken the fine altar-piece.--It certainly strongly resembles the picture on the same subject in the Dulwich gallery, by Morellas; insomuch, as to make it highly probable that they are by the same hand. * * Next to the Radcliffe, New College Chapel is the finest thing in Oxford. The towers of All Souls are very fine. * *
The most complete repose and seclusion reign in the courts and gardens of the colleges. This, of course, can only be in vacation time. All are beautifully neat; and, considering that all the buildings are designed for the same purpose, there is wonderful variety in them.
Came by Witney, of blanket-making fame, to Northleach, a poor decaying village--once a manufacturing place, but now a den of paupers. Sketched the curious church, and slept at the comfortable inn of Northleach.
The road between Oxford and Cheltenham lies through a high, bare, cold, ugly country; yet in general the crops are good. Five or six miles from Cheltenham, it suddenly descends a steep and dangerous hill, to the lovely village of Dowdswell; from hence the real "garden of England," the vale of Evesham, spreads before you. It is noble in extent, but not boundless; for the Malvern hills finely close the distance, with an outline strongly resembling that of the best aspect of the Pentlands. Cheltenham is a neat town, nearly a mile long, surrounded with villas and cottages, green fields, and multitudinous hedgerows. The fine valley in which it lies is indented everywhere with cultivated and woody hills. * * * The vale of Evesham is perhaps fifty miles in length, and of all breadths, from one mile to twenty. Everywhere hills break the horizon; and the nearer view is filled up with snug cottages, orchards, village-churches, shady lanes, and fields green as the first spring of Eden. Almost every cottage is mantled with a vine, and has a little court of flowers before it. * * *
In some respects we all live alike in this house; where we have settled for quiet, because our dinner party is only twenty-four. Between seven and nine in the morning, we all contrive to walk half a mile to the well, and drink an English pint or two of salt water. From nine to eleven, breakfast is on the table; and every one drops in, at his own convenience, to partake. Then each "strolls off his glad way," in this Castle of Indolence. Those who have carriages drive backward and forward in the street. This saves the sixpence which the gate would cost; and thus they can better afford to stop at an auction, and buy twenty pounds worth of trash, which they do not want. At five, we meet for dinner--dressed, but not fine.--After tea, the libraries, the theatre, the concert-room, the gaming-houses, are open for those who chuse them; and there are lights in the drawing-room for workers and readers. * * In every direction from Cheltenham, the walks and rides are delightful. There are hills at no great distance, on three sides of the town; and from every little eminence there are new views of this magnificent valley.
Monday, August 14.--Left Cheltenham at twelve, after having spent seventeen very idle days pleasantly. The road is very flat to Gloucester; but still Robin Hood's hill, and Churchdown hill embellish the near view, and the Malverns furnish the distant horizon. Having examined Gloucester formerly, we proceeded immediately to Ross. The road is hilly and beautiful. It enters the high country about seven miles from Gloucester; and winds on among rich narrow dells, and hills cultivated and peopled to the summit. The last circumstance distinguishes this country from Scotland; as do also the numerous orchards, and the dells without a brook. Longhope and Lea are sweet villages--pictures of seclusion and repose!
Ross is a very shabby old town, in a pretty situation, looking down from a high bank on the Wye. The river was at this season too shallow for sailing. The stage to Monmouth is as pretty as possible; and the situation of Monmouth seems to me much finer than that of Ross. It lies in the bottom of a beautiful basin, formed by steep woody hills, all in the highest state of cultivation. Up to the very top of these, the little white cottages peep from among their thickets and orchards. The country is divided into baby farms, and peopled with labouring tenants. This gives the scene more than mere landscape beauty; for these little demesnes suggest ideas of humble comfort--peace--innocence--and all that is pleasing in rural associations. In many parts of England, where I happened to know the condition of the poor, I have looked at their lovely cottages, as one would at the corpse of a beauty. But in Monmouthshire all is cheerful. The cottagers seem indeed poor, but not dependant. Each has his cow--his little field--his garden--and for the most part his orchard. Few of them therefore sink into paupers.
Monmouth is a very old town, clean, but shabby. It has been fortified; and one gate at least is still standing. The castle has almost disappeared. There is a very old bridge across the Wye, which is here a considerable stream, somewhat affected by the tide. From the top of a steep hill, which forms its bank on the side opposite to the town, we had a view of a most splendid valley--varied by rising grounds --skirted by hills which are gay with every sort of cultivation--and terminated by the Welsh mountains, at a distance of from fifteen to twenty miles. No scene of greater richness, variety, and beauty have I seen in England. The whole is like Mosaic work, without one blank. One rich crop follows every curvature of the adjoining one, and all are bent into every variety of curve. There are no frightful squares, and straight lines in Monmouthshire fences. The colours too are much richer than those of Scotch landscape. The wheat is of a more golden yellow; the grass is unspeakably green; the very fallows are of a rich purpleish brown. The woods are natural; and therefore they are more feathery, and less formal than our plantations. Nothing could be added to the beauty of this country, if the mountains in the back ground were a little more imposing in their forms, and a little more proportioned in their height, to the plain from which they rise. But nothing less than the Alps would suit with such a scene.
The wind being high, and blowing straight up the river, and the weather being showery, we abandoned all thoughts of sailing down the Wye. The post road to Chepstow is very bad; and for seven miles from Monmouth, nearly a continued climb; but the prospects are exquisite. The splendid country towards Abergavenny is almost constantly in sight; and the home views at every step present some new beauty. About nine miles from Monmouth, we turned to the left into such a road!! "if road it can be called, which road was none." It threaded through wild closely wooded dells to Tintern. A wire-mill, about half a mile above the village, is the most picturesque thing possible. The celebrated abbey is nothing outside; but within, it is very fine, though not so fine as Fountains. Sketched the north-east corner.
The road from thence to Piercefield is bad enough; not nearly so bad, however, as what we passed in the morning.--Piercefield is really fine. There are two views, which are exhibited under every possible aspect. The first is a noble reach of the Wye, winding round a meadow, which forms one of its banks, while the other rises into abrupt rocks and masses of wood. This bank is sometimes 150 feet high at the least, while the other shelves in smooth green to the water's edge. The rocks are very noble; and though the river, even at high water, is too small for its magnificent accompaniments, yet, upon the whole, I have seen nothing of the kind so fine in England. The other view from the grounds, is towards the Severn, which is here two miles broad, and therefore a splendid object, though the banks are remarkable only for their richness. The town and castle of Chepstow are the most striking features in this landscape. The situation of Chepstow is beautiful. * * *
Wednesday.--We saw the funeral of an infant, who was carried to the grave by girls dressed in white; no male attending but the father.
After breakfast left the "Angel," and beautiful Monmouth!!--We passed the prison on the outskirts of the town. It is not secure; so the prisoners were walking in the court in fetters!! We soon lost sight of Monmouth, and, crossing the hills for three miles, entered Herefordshire; a rich swelling country, full of orchards, and hop-fields--very pretty, though not quite so interesting as what we have left behind. The Abergavenny hills are still fine in the distance. Hereford is a clean shabby town; and its cathedral a ditto ditto cathedral.
Sixteen miles to Ledbury; very like the former stage; only we have lost the Welsh hills, and gained the Malverns. Orchards and old forest-trees close so entirely around Ledbury, that, till you enter the town, you see no part of it but the spire. The road is delightful to Malvern. In crossing the hills this morning, (Thursday) we had the finest views imaginable of the rich swells of Herefordshire; the vale of Gloucester at a distance; and, near the foot of the hills, Lord Somers's noble place, Eastnor Castle.--Near the top, the road passes through a cleft in the hill, and the wide plain of Worcester spreads before you like a map. This is fine, no doubt, and wonderfully rich; but far less interesting than the west view. Breakfasted at Steers's. Wandered about the hills all morning; and then, passing through Great Malvern, a beautiful village commanding the whole vale, we proceeded to Worcester. The country is undulating and rich; but less so than Herefordshire.
Worcester was not seen till we were within a mile of it. It then made a very handsome appearance; having several spires and towers, besides those of the fine cathedral. The Severn passes close to the town; and is here a fine navigable stream. Drove to the Hop-pole, an excellent inn. Dr B. called for Mrs ---- but she was ungracious. Slight acquaintance are usually more so than utter strangers.
Friday.--Mr F., a most polite and obliging person, called early, and introduced us at Chamberlayne's porcelain manufactory. Every part of the process was shewn to us. Flints are first calcined, which whitens them perfectly; then, mixed in certain proportions with grey Cornish granite, they are ground to so fine a powder as to pass through the closest silk. Water is poured upon this powder, and it is twice strained through silk sieves. The mixture is boiled till it is as thick as cream, and evaporated till it becomes a tough paste. Pieces of it are then placed upon a turning-wheel; and moulded, solely by the hand, with wonderful precision and rapidity. This is the case, at least, with all the pieces of a circular form; such as bowls, plates, cups, and saucers.--Dishes of other forms are made in gypsum moulds; which, though they fit closely at first, soon absorb the moisture, so as to part very freely with the vessel which they have modelled. Every piece is then placed in a separate clay case. The furnace is filled with these; built closely up; and subjected to a red heat for sixty hours. It is then allowed to cool; the porcelain is withdrawn, and in this state is called the biscuit. It is greatly diminished in size by this process. It is now ready to receive the blue colour, which is cobalt; and looks of a dirty grey, till exposed to the action of the glazing. The glazing consists of lead, and glass ground to an impalpable powder, mixed with certain secret ingredients in water. The biscuit is merely dipped into the glazing, and is then baked again for forty hours. It is now ready to receive all other colours which the pattern may require, and the gilding. It is then baked a third time, for ten hours, or more, according to the colours employed; lastly, the gilding is burnished with bloodstone or agate, and the china is ready for the ware-room. The colours are changed by baking. The greens, when laid on, are very imperfect; the rose colour, is a dull purple; and the gilding is as black as ink. The painting-room had an unwholesome smell, and its inmates looked sickly. This manufacture is perfectly intelligible throughout, and therefore interesting. You can follow the flint and granite, till, through seventeen different processes, they become a gilded tea-cup. From the china manufactory, we were carried to the cathedral. It is the finest, after York, which we have seen. * * * Worcester is altogether a very pretty town, in a very fine situation. The streets are broad and clean, with good pavement. They wind a little, but not awkwardly. The shops are handsome. The chief trade is in gloves, which the women make at home. This must be better both for health and morals, than assembling them in large workshops.
Saturday.--Breakfasted at Kidderminster; a very ugly mean-looking place, with no pavement in the streets. Saw the carpet-weaving, but could not understand the process. After the web is laid, the weaving is so entirely mechanical that children learn it in a week. Came by the poorest country which we have seen for some time to Hagley; in which we are a little disappointed. The house is actually ugly. The grounds are fine in form, and the wood is most magnificent; but there is a great want of water, and a great superfluity of temples, seats, and "objects" of all sorts.
Sunday.--The inn, which we had expected to be a complete seclusion, resounded from morning to night with the uproar of parties who came to see the place. The village church, within Lord Littleton's grounds, was attended by a very decent-looking congregation. A pretty chapel makes a sort of chancel to the church. It contains Lucy's monument.
The village is pretty, like all the English villages; straggling and woody. From the highest ground in the park the view stretches to Cheltenham and Gloucester. The Monmouth hills are faintly seen. To the east all the country is enveloped in smoke.
Monday.--Proceeded by a circuitous road through Stourbridge and Hales Owen to Birmingham, the ugly and the dull! We passed a poor manufacturing village called Mud-city, inhabited by creatures whose savage habits made them till lately the terror of travellers. They owe their present half-civilization to the charity of Mr Hill, a neighbouring squire, who has built and endowed a church, and has established a school among this horde of barbarians. He has a large family of his own, whom may God prosper!
A vile hole this Birmingham! Yesterday I overheard one of the animals from it, a young one too! propose to cut down the Hagley oaks. "They might go to the king's yards," said the creature; "I am sure they are of no use here."
Sent our letters to Soho. Mr and Mrs Watt are gone to Scotland! Tried to see Thomason's manufactory. Nobody was at work; first, because it was Monday, and all last week's wages were not spent; secondly, because it was a wake. Of this, however, we saw no signs in the streets. All was as sombre a a church-yard; not even girls eating gingerbread, and boys squeaking on half-penny trumpets. In the evening we laboured through many of the rugged streets of this wearisome town; found out a circulating library, and, on depositing the price, were entrusted with four volumes of trash. Mercifully! occupation makes all places much alike.
Tuesday.--Pour comble, a pouring rain all morning. Visited a very poor exhibition of pictures, last year's outcasts from Somerset House. Spent the afternoon, however, very agreeably in inspecting Thomason's manufactory. What seemed the most ingenious machine of all, was that by which button eyes are made. One part of it pushes forward the wire; a second bends it into a loop; a third cuts it; a fourth flattens the points that they may join the better with the button; a fifth pushes the eye when completed out of the machine. After all, the movement does not seem very complicated; if I could have had it by myself for half an hour, I think I might have fully understood it. What makes me so slow of comprehension when any one is bye! I believe it is because I am distracted by considering what the byestanders will think I am about. * * The plating on steel is executed after the article is perfectly formed. The iron knife, fork, or spoon, is dipped in a solution of sal-ammoniac, to cleanse it from grease. It is then powdered with resin to make the solder adhere to the steel, with which it has no affinity. Next it is dipped in the boiling solder; lead and tin. Then it is instantly fitted with a coat of pure silver, rolled out thin and perfectly flexible; this is pared round the edges with a knife. The article, whatever it is, is then passed through a heat strong enough to melt the solder without affecting the silver. The solder is squeezed out and falls away in drops; the silver remains adhering perfectly to the steel. One side only of each article is plated at a time; the silver, by this means, overlaps at the edges, and is double where it is the most liable to waste. When the goods are finished, they are polished; first, by a fine file, then by a leathern wheel, and lastly by the human hand. * * Whether it was occasioned by the nature of their work, or by their practice in explaining it, I do not know; but the people employed here shewed more intelligence than any persons of their station whom we have seen in England. I dare say it is good policy to let them shew their work; the attempts to explain it will lead them to understand it, and thus will help them to inventions and improvements.
Left Birmingham in the morning; the country seems pretty, so far as the smoke of 10,000 furnaces would allow us to see it. * * The inn at Colebrook-dale is very comfortable. The iron-bridge over the Severn is beautifully light. This first valley, which, however, is not the true Colebrook-dale, is really a strange-looking place. The steep and lofty banks of the Severn have been torn and disfigured in search of materials for manufacture, till they exhibit such appearances as might be supposed to follow an earthquake--fissures, cavities, mounds, heaps of broken stones, and hills of ashes and scoriae. The dell, which seems intended by nature for a quiet solitude, soothed by the hush of waters and the wooings of the cushet, resounds with the din of hammers, the crackling of flames, and the groanings of engines and bellows. All is shrouded with dense smoke; and on the few spots of vegetation which man has left undisturbed, the scanty foliage of the coppice is black, and the very weeds look scathed and unwholesome.
Colebrook-dale, properly so called, runs in a different direction from this first valley; and resembles it only in harbouring one great iron-work. Colebrook is a very lovely valley still; the more so, for having been planted and adorned by Mr Reynolds. He has led walks along its banks with great taste; and, with equal liberality, leaves them open to the public. We saw, at a distance, the house of our respectable friend, Deborah Darby; which she left, three years ago, for "a house not made with hands."
At Coleport, we visited Rose's china manufactory; it is upon a still larger scale than that at Worcester, but is carried on in the same manner. Here we saw many women employed in painting the china; but we were told, that, though they serve the same apprenticeship as the men, under the same teacher, their work is always inferior. Here also we saw the printing of china; a process quite new to me. On a copper-plate, properly engraved, the colour is laid, heated, and well rubbed in; a sheet of cambric paper, prepared with a secret composition, is then printed from this plate. This paper is cut to fit the cup, saucer, &c. and pressed closely to it; the biscuit is then washed in cold water; when the paper peels off, and the pattern remains perfectly impressed.
From Colebrook-dale the country is very pretty along the Severn to Shrewsbury. The Montgomery hills arc very fine; and, seemingly, at no great distance. The Wrekin is within a mile of the road, on the other hand.
The situation of Shrewsbury is very fine, on a bank overhanging the Severn, and commanding a rich plain--woody, and full of gentlemen's seats. The mall is along the river side, shaded with noble trees; the town itself is a confused mass of ugly old houses; a labyrinth of lanes, as rugged as the paths of virtue, and as dirty and winding as those of vice. At one end of the town, however, there are two rows of handsome houses, and an elegant modern church, St Chad's.
Heavy rain allowed us to see only imperfectly the stage to Oswestry. The road is flat and not very interesting; but we had fine glimpses of the Montgomery hills to the left. The entrance of North Wales is very prepossessing. Chirk is a beautiful village, washed by a stream of the same name; the banks are very steep, and the dell which they form is crossed by an aqueduct.
A far finer aqueduct, of fifteen arches, crosses the Dee, as you enter the vale of Llangollen. The Dee itself is a lively foaming stream, and looks the more beautiful from being contrasted with the rivers of England. Near the town of Llangollen, its rich and populous valley is narrowed by the hill, on which are the ruins of Dinas Bran. They make no great figure as you approach. The village very much resembles a Highland one; as unlike to an English village as possible! It is built in narrow shabby streets. The walls of the houses consist of thin grey stones--shewing the mortar between. The "Hand" is an old-fashioned house, but exceedingly comfortable.
Saturday.--A wearisome climb to Dinas Bran, under a burning sun. The ruins are extensive, but not picturesque. The view is boundless down the vale; in all other directions it is inclosed by hills. That to the north is fully as bleak and desolate as any thing I have seen in Scotland; a tame ridge of grey rock, unvaried by soil or vegetation. We endeavoured, as usual, to find the shortest way to Valle Crucis; and as usual found only the worst. We passed a very Scotch-looking farm-yard, where the children were barefooted, and spoke Welch. They all, however, can ask for a halfpenny in English. Valle Crucis is pretty--not grand. The ruins are poor enough, and are disfigured with a cottage orne! and farm offices. Spent the afternoon with the "Ladies of Llangollen."
Sunday.--The whole of the church service was in Welch.--Spent this afternoon also with "the Ladies." * *
Monday.--Went up the vale of Dee to breakfast at Corwen. This stage is pretty, but not much more,--certainly not sublime. The stream is every where beautiful; winding, lively, and impetuous. The hills are tameish. The valley is more woody than most of our Highland vales. Corwen is a bare mean village; with nothing interesting except the blind harper,--who has a first-rate natural genius. His execution is most wonderful--the difficulties of his instrument considered. His variations to his national airs are perfectly original and characteristic. An Irish gentleman issued from a parlour, on purpose to make the performer change his strain to the "Washer-woman" and "Paddy O'Rafferty." But when he was called on for the "King's Anthem," he fairly defeated his director, by adding variations of such spirit and invention as gave the old air all the charm of novelty. Guessing that we too might have our national partialities, he volunteered "Roslin Castle," and played it well; he assured me that an old woman had been his only teacher. * *
In returning from Ruthen to Llangollen, a very long climb in the road shews an extensive view of the valley of Cllwyd winding to the sea; it is very rich, but far from equal to the vale of Evesham. Saw Snowdon in the distance--The hill tract is very desolate; there is a prodigious descent from it into Valle Crucis. * *
Wales may be inexhaustible to a landscape painter, with its endless rocks, and ruins, and hills, which he can exaggerate into something grand enough to fill the imagination. But give me the woody sheltered land; where, at every turn, a spire, a smoke, the crowing of a cock, the shouting of a child, lead the fancy to half a dozen of irregular cottages, dropped upon a smooth little green, and peeping from among their own vines and roses! Oh England! the very sight of thy sweet hamlets mends the heart!
I used to think Penrith a pretty place, when I came to it from the north. Now, even the valley round it is Scotch; the fields are large and angular, the grass brown, the woods dark and lumpish, and the single trees stunted. Farewell, green fields and rural villages!--Farewell, waving fences, and feathery woods, and flowery cottages!--But welcome, mine own rugged Scotland! where, though all is bare and naked, every thing bespeaks improvement, industry, intelligence; independance in the poor, and enterprize in the rich. The English villas repose on velvet lawns, which the giant oak and the luxuriant chesnut dapple with their broad shadows. Ours stand square and ungraceful on benty fields, inclosed by parallelograms of firs; but ours are tenanted by their owners, and the best feelings and the best principles of human nature find exercise there; while the villas of England are either altogether deserted, or inhabited by menials and land stewards. Our fields boast no beauty, either of form or colour; but they are at once frugally and liberally cultivated, and every year makes new encroachments on the barrenness of nature. Our cottages range in vile rows, flanked with pig-styes, and fronted with dunghills; but our cottagers have Bibles, and can read them; they are poor, but they are not paupers. In some of the agricultural parishes of England we found more than half of the population receiving charity (if I may so prostitute the word!) from the remainder. Every mile in Scotland shows you new houses, new fields, new plantations. In England, every thing is old; and this is one great cause of its beauty--trees, grass, cottages, all are in maturity, if not in decay. The first young plantation of any extent which I observed in England, was on the borders of the New Forest; and in the southern counties, I scarcely saw one new cottage, unless in the neighbourhood of large towns. * * *
--There is the most striking difference, the moment you enter Scotland, on the language of the people, and especially on the accommodation for travellers. "Horses quickly for Hawick," quoth the Doctor. "Ye'll get them in a wee, sir; but they are out at the park e'en now, and we maun send and catch them." At last they came! two unwieldy, raw-boned brutes, alike in nothing but their speed; and driven by a "vera canny lad" of sixty and upwards. * *
The road to Edinburgh is right Scotch; though bleak and dreary, it is judicious and substantial. But oh! it is untold how dismally bare this country seems, after four months' acquaintance with "merry England!" I sigh over the thoughts of an Englishman's impressions on visiting mother Scotland, as Shem and Japhet did over their parent! No wonder if we be a reflecting, frugal race! the gay images of spring, and the luxuriance of summer, never intrude upon us, suggesting frolic and profusion! No wonder if we be hospitable! where one eternal winter constantly reminds us to draw together, and be social
This presentation of Emmeline. With Some Other Pieces., by Mary Brunton is Copyright 2003 by P.J. LaBrocca. It may not be copied, duplicated, stored or transmitted in any form without written permission. The text is in the public domain.