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The Literary Shrines of England page 2


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It is passing strange that of all the houses Milton lived in one only remains, and that one he never saw. Frightened by the plague in London he besought his young Quaker friend Ellwood to find him a cottage in Buckinghamshire, and Ellwood took a "pretty box" for him in the village of Chalfont St. Giles. It is a brick and wood building, now carefully preserved, with its flank to the road, and its front looking out over the open fields. But Milton never looked out over those fields during his eight months' residence, for blindness had descended on him ere he left London. As soon as Ellwood got out of Aylesbury gaol, whither he had been cast for attempting to bury a fellow Quaker in unconsecrated ground, he hastened to the blind poet, who lent him the manuscript of "Paradise Lost." Ellwood returned it, asking "What hast thou to say of Paradise found?" That incident alone would serve to make a precious shrine of the little cottage, where all lovers of Milton would worship. Charles Lamb is identified with the neighbouring county of Hertford. He is so closely associated with London streets and London sights that it is difficult to think of him as in any way connected with the countryside, and yet from the days of his childhood he always praised " hearty, homely, loving Hertfordshire," as he called it. His earliest poems were written about the county, and in one of the latest he returned there again. As a boy he spent many holidays with his grandmother Mary Field at Blakesware, near Widford- her grave is to be seen in Widford churchyard; as a man he rambled constantly through its leafy lanes.

In one respect Lamb was rooted in the soil, that is to say, he was actually a landowner in the county. You will remember the essay, "My First Play," when his godfather F. (ielde), "most gentlemanly of oilmen," sent him orders for the pit, and "by his testamentary beneficence I came into possession of the only landed property which I could ever call my own-situate near the roadway village of pleasant Puckeridge, in Hertfordshire."

The property, consisting of a cottage and garden situated at West Hill Green, Buntingford, a little less than three miles from Puckeridge, was left by Francis Fielde to his wife, who in turn bequeathed it to Lamb.

Lamb sold the property for fifty pounds in the year of Waterloo. The place has changed little since his day, and the cottage is now marked by a tablet, placed there by Mr. Greg in 1901, to indicate that it was once in the illustrious ownership of the gentle Elia. Penshurst is an ideal place, whether regarded as the historic home of one of the great families of England, or where one may worship at the shrine of that very perfect gentle knight, Sir Philip Sidney, the author of "Arcadia," the English Bayard, cavalier, soldier and scholar. Easily reached from Tonbridge, that shrine is seen as a towered and gabled house which has grown with the passing of the years. The inner court contains the great hall, with its high-timbered roof and the dais, where at various times Philip Sidney, born here in 1554, Algernon Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Ben Jonson, Edmund Waller, the Countess of Pembroke and " Saccharissa " sat at table, feasting on their own wit while waiting for the boar's head to be brought in. The galleries of Penshurst are famous for their paintings and the smaller rooms for their china, but the literary associations must be to the pilgrim the greatest charm.

Although the "Arcadia" was not written at Penshurst, but at Wilton, it is easy to trace the impress and influence of his early home on that treasure house of exquisite fancy and poetic thought. Wilton House, the magnificent seat of the Earl of Pembroke, was built in its present form by Inigo Jones, and is famous as the place where Sir Philip Sidney wrote much of the "Arcadia."

At Wilton, Shakespeare is said to have acted in "As You Like It," in the great hall. Spenser, Ben Jonson and Massinger are likewise associated with the house, but the one to whom our fancy turns with most affection is the Sidney who fell on the field of Zutphen-meeting the death of a soldier, yet, dying, being more than ever a poet. It is an awkward cross-country journey of a few miles along the banks of the slow-moving, tortuous Avon, but one well worth the making, to visit the-little village of Milston, where Joseph Addison was born on May I, 1672. Addison's father, Lancelot Addison, was made rector of the parish on the loss of his chaplaincy at Tangier. The old rectory has been pulled down, but the little church remains practically as it was when the future essayist sung and worshipped within its walls.

Apart from the birthplace at. Portsmouth and the Dickens Fellowship house in Doughty Street, London, there is one place beyond all others which must command the attention of the Dickens pilgrim, and that is "Gad's Hill Place, Higham by Rochester, Kent," as Dickens had it on his notepaper, to which the pilgrim might have gone after leaving the haunts of Sidney at Penshurst. Dickens had known it from boyhood, when his father, on their walks from Chatham, had pointed it out as the place where he might live when he came to be a man, if he worked hard enough! But long years were to pass before Dickens came into possession. Eager as he was to purchase it, he quibbled about the price, 1,800, and ended by giving 1,790, and then found, after arbitration, that there was an extra 70 for timber, instead of the 40 he was ready to pay.

At Gad s Hill he lived for the last fourteen years of his life. The study, which was to become famous as containing "The Empty Chair," was before his day a ground-floor bedroom. In a detached part of the garden, reached by a tunnel under the road, he erected the picturesque wooden Swiss chalet which Fechter had presented to him, and there he did most of his later work. It was at Gad's Hill that Dickens fell stricken with mortal illness. The house is the centre of such part of Dickensland as lies in the fair county of Kent, from which one may visit many places associated with Dickens himself or with the scenes of his books, such as Rochester, two miles away, the "Cloisterham" of Edwin Drood; the lovely park of Cobham, the scene of Dickens' last walk; or the Leather Bottle, the clean and commodious alehouse where Pickwick and his friends regaled themselves on roast fowl, bacon, ale, and eceteras. Especially the etceteras!

Historians will never agree among themselves as to whether the Doones of Exmoor were real persons or not, but they are real enough, as they are made to live in the pages of Black-more's immortal romance, to warrant a long if somewhat laborious pilgrimage. Our journey begins a little way from the mouth of Doone Valley, at Oare Church, lying on a slope of the road, with the Lynbrook down below. In an unidentified spot lies Jan Ridd's father, who was "killed by the Doones of Badgworthy" (which you will call "Badgery") "while riding home from Porlock market, on the Saturday evening."

Leaving the church, we pass the large house hard by which is often identified with Plover's Barrows, and reach Malmsmead and walk thence up the valley of the Badgworthy Water. It is easy going until one comes to the termination of Lank Combe, with a number of little rapids which the imagination of Blackmore turned into "a long, pale slide of water coming smoothly to me, without any break or hindrance, for a hundred yards or more- looking like a plank of deal laid down a deep black staircase," against which little Jan Ridd struggled, until he was rewarded with his first sight of Lorna.

The site of the stronghold of the Doones lies farther up the valley, high on the now desolate moorland.

Doone Land is on the borders, if not actually part of Wessex, the dominion of Thomas Hardy. In a small thatched cottage at Bockhampton, near Dorchester, there was born in 1840 the child who was destined to re-create the ancient kingdom of Wessex and to establish himself as one of the greatest masters of English prose. For the Hardy pilgrim there is a vast expanse of Wessex terrain, stretching from "Castle Royal" (Windsor) on the east to "Castle Boterel" (Tintagel) on the west, from Bath and Oxford on the north to the "Isle of Slingers" (Portland) on the south.

It might almost be said that there is a Hardy shrine in every Wessex town and every stretch of countryside. As one stands looking out over the "untamable Ishmaelitish thing" that Egdon Heath now is, one sees Eustachia Vye. At Greenhill Fair one sees Henchard selling his wife. "Budmouth Harbour" (Weymouth) recalls scenes of "The Trumpet Major." In Old Grove's Place one can see the window from which Sue jumped in "Jude the Obscure," at Well-bridge (Wool) the manor house where Tess made her confession to Angel Clare, and at "Kingsbere" (Bere Regis) the church where Tess's ancestors lie all wrapped in their heavy leaden shrouds:-

"In utter silence, and in perfect peace."

"Casterbridge" (Dorchester) is the capital of the Hardy kingdom. Far off on the Weymouth road is the lone amphitheatre of Maumbury, formed by earthwork, and used by the Romans for their gladiatorial displays. Hardy was a master hand at a grim setting. Mark how he used the timeless majesty of Stonehenge as a scene for the arrest of Tess after she had slain Alec D'Urberville at "Sandbourne" (Bournemouth); mark, too, how he uses Maumbury Ring, in the gathering darkness, as the scene of the reconciliation of Henchard and his wife, after long years of separation. These scenes were all part of the life in Wessex which Hardy, with the sure and powerful pen of genius, has drawn so truthfully and so well. Finally, Max Gate, the house hard by the giant Maiden Castle, where Hardy passed his last years and in which he died on January 11, 1928, will always remain a literary shrine for all lovers of one of England's greatest writers.

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Pictures for The Literary Shrines of England page 2

Scenes which John Bunyan knew at Elstow in Bedfordshire
Scenes which John Bunyan knew at Elstow in Bedfordshire >>>>
BIRTHPLACE OF THE BRONTES
BIRTHPLACE OF THE BRONTES >>>>
WHERE FAMOUS POETS ARE HONOURED IN THE PRESERVATION OF THEIR HOMES AND HAUNTS
WHERE FAMOUS POETS ARE HONOURED IN THE PRESERVATION OF THEIR HOMES AND HAUNTS >>>>
WHERE THE GREAT 'DOCTOR' WAS BORN
WHERE THE GREAT 'DOCTOR' WAS BORN >>>>
DR. JOHNSON IN LICHFIELD MARKET-PLACE
DR. JOHNSON IN LICHFIELD MARKET-PLACE >>>>
GRAY'S 'COUNTRY CHURCHYARD' AND MILTON'S COTTAGE AT CHALFONT
GRAY'S 'COUNTRY CHURCHYARD' AND MILTON'S COTTAGE AT CHALFONT >>>>
LITERARY SHRINES OF MICHAEL DRAYTON, JANE AUSTEN AND GEORGE MEREDITH
LITERARY SHRINES OF MICHAEL DRAYTON, JANE AUSTEN AND GEORGE MEREDITH >>>>
SACRED TO DICKENS-LOVERS: HOUSES WHERE HE BREATHED HIS FIRST AND LAST
SACRED TO DICKENS-LOVERS: HOUSES WHERE HE BREATHED HIS FIRST AND LAST >>>>
ENGLISH HOMES, GREAT AND SMALL, OF LITERARY GREATNESS: COLERIDGE'S, GEORGE ELIOT'S AND TENNYSON'S
ENGLISH HOMES, GREAT AND SMALL, OF LITERARY GREATNESS: COLERIDGE'S, GEORGE ELIOT'S AND TENNYSON'S >>>>
COTTAGE WHERE HARDY WAS BORN AND THE HOUSE WHERE HE DIED
COTTAGE WHERE HARDY WAS BORN AND THE HOUSE WHERE HE DIED >>>>
COTTAGE WHERE HARDY WAS BORN AND THE HOUSE WHERE HE DIED
COTTAGE WHERE HARDY WAS BORN AND THE HOUSE WHERE HE DIED >>>>
WILTSHIRE RECTORY ASSOCIATED WITH ADDISON
WILTSHIRE RECTORY ASSOCIATED WITH ADDISON >>>>
AUGUSTINIAN PRIORY THAT WAS THE ANCESTRAL HOME OF LORD BYRON
AUGUSTINIAN PRIORY THAT WAS THE ANCESTRAL HOME OF LORD BYRON >>>>

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