A Cotswold Village
J. Arthur Gibbs
Part 4 out of 7
found in the chamber; but in the course of thousands of years most of
these barrows have probably been opened a good many times by Cotswold
natives in search of "golden coffins" and other treasures.
There is a small, round underground chamber within a short distance of
these barrows, which the natives consider to be a shepherd's hut, put up
about two centuries back, and before the country was enclosed, as a
retreat to shelter the men who looked after the flocks. It has been
declared, however, by those who have studied the question of burial
mounds, that it was built in very early times, and contained bodies that
had not been cremated. The antiquaries who came a short time back to
view these remains describe it as "an underground chamber, circular in
shape, and an excellent sample of dry walling. The roof is dome-shaped,
and gradually projects inwards." I narrowly escaped taking this
"society" for a band of poachers; for when out shooting the other day,
somebody remarked, "Look at all those fellows climbing over the wall of
Now the fox-covert is a very sacred institution in these parts; for it
is a place of only four acres, standing isolated in the midst of a fine,
open country--so that no human being is allowed to enter therein save to
"stop the earth" the night before hunting. We rushed up in great haste,
fully prepared for mortal combat with this gang of ruffians, until, when
within a hundred yards, the thought crossed us that we had given leave
to the Cotswold Naturalist Society to make a tour of inspection, and
that one of the barrows was in our fox-covert.
Labouring friends of mine often bring me relics of the stone age which
they have picked up whilst at work in the fields. Quite recently a
shepherd brought me a knife blade and two flint arrow-heads. He also
tells me they have lately found a "himmige" up in old Mr. Peregrine's
"barn-ground." Tom Peregrine possesses a bag of old coins of all dates
and sizes, which he tells you with great pride have been an heirloom in
his family for generations.
When we once more resume our pilgrimage along the track which leads to
Chedworth we find ourselves in a country which is never explored by the
tourist. Far removed from railways and the "busy haunts of men," it is
not even mentioned in the guide-books. Our way lies along the edge of
the hill for the next few miles, and we look down upon the picturesque
valley of the Coln. Four villages, all very like those we have
described, are passed in rapid succession. Winson, Coln Rogers,
Coln-St.-Dennis, and Fossbridge all lie below us as we wend our way
westwards. But although the architecture is of the same massive yet
graceful style, and the old Norman churches still tower their grand old
heads and cast their shadows over the cottages and farm buildings, there
are no manor houses of note in any of these four villages, and no
well-timbered demesnes; so that they are not so interesting as some of
those we have passed through. In all, however, there dwell the good old
honest labouring folk, toiling hard day by day at "the trivial round,
the common task," just earning enough to scrape up a livelihood, but
enjoying few of the amenities of life. The village parsons--good, pious
men--share in the quiet, uneventful life of their flock. And who shall
contemn their lot? As Horace tells us:
"Vivitur parvo bene, cui paternum
Splendet in mensa tenui salinum
Nec leves somnos timor aut cupido
These four villages were all built two centuries or more ago, when the
Cotswolds were the centre of much life and activity and the days of
agricultural depression were not known. When we look down on their old,
grey houses nestling among the great trees which thrive by the banks of
the fertilising stream, we cannot but speculate on their future fate.
Gradually the population diminishes, as work gets scarcer and scarcer.
Unless there is an unexpected revival in prices through some measure of
"protection" being granted by law, or the medium of a great European
war, or some such far-reaching dispensation of Providence, terrible to
think of for those who live to see it, but with all its possibilities of
"good arising out of evil" for future generations, these old villages
will contain scarcely a single inhabitant in a hundred year's time. This
part of the Cotswold country will once more become a huge open plain,
retaining only long rows of tumbled-down stone walls as evidences of its
former enclosed state; no longer on Sundays will the notes of the
beautiful bells call the toilers to prayer and thanksgiving, and all
will be desolation. If only the capitalist or wealthy man of business
would take up his abode in these places, all might be well. But, alas!
the peace and quiet of such out-of-the-way spots, with all their
fascinating contrast to the smoke and din of a manufacturing town, have
little attraction for those who are unused to them. And yet there is
much happiness and content in these rural villages. The lot of those who
are able to get work is a thousand times more supportable than that of
the toiling millions in our great cities. There is less drinking and
less vice among these villagers than there is in any part of this world
that we are acquainted with; consequently you find them cheerful,
good-humoured, and, if they only knew it, happy. Grumble they must, or
they would not be mortal. Ah! if they could but realise the blessings of
the elixir of life--pure air, and fresh, clear, spring water, and
sunshine--three inestimable privileges that they enjoy all the year
round, and which are denied to so many of the inhabitants of this
globe--there would be little grumbling in the Cotswolds.
"From toil he wins his spirits light,
From busy day the peaceful night;
Rich from the very want of wealth
In heaven's best treasures, peace and health."
"But these villages are so _dull_, and life is so monotonous there," is
the constant complaint. But what part of this earth is there, may I ask,
that is not dull to those who live there, unless we drive out dull care
and _ennui_ by that glorious antidote to gloom and despondency, a fully
occupied mind? There are two chapters in Carlyle's "Past and Present"
that ought to be printed in letters of gold, set in an ivory frame, and
hung up in the sleeping apartment of every man, woman, and child on the
face of this earth. They are called "Labour" and "Reward." In those few
short pages is embodied the whole secret of content and happiness for
the dwellers in quiet country villages and smoky towns alike. They
contain the philosopher's stone, which makes men cheerful under all
circumstances, but especially those who are poor and down-trodden. The
secret is a very simple one; but if the educated classes are continually
losing sight of it, how much easier is it for those who have only the
bare necessaries of life and few of the comforts to become deadened to
its influence! It lies first of all in the realisation of the fact that
the object of life is not to get, still less to enjoy, riches and
pleasure. It teaches for the thousandth time that the humblest and the
highest of us alike are immortal souls imprisoned for threescore years
and ten in a tenement of clay, preparing for a better and higher
existence. It reverses the position of things on earth--placing the
crown of kings on the head of the toiling labourer, and making "the last
first and the first last." Its very essence lies in the dictum of the
old monks, "_Laborare est orare_" ("Work is worship").
It was one of the chief characteristics of the Roman people in the time
of their greatness that their most successful generals were content to
return to the plough after their wars were over. Thus Pliny in his
"Natural History" remarks as follows: "Then were the fields cultivated
by the hands of the generals themselves, and the earth rejoiced, tilled
as it was by a ploughshare crowned with laurels, he who guided the wheel
being himself fresh from glorious victories." And no sooner did honest
hand labour become despised than effeminacy crept in, and this once
haughty nation was practically blotted out from the face of the earth.
Let the Cotswold labourer realise that to work on the land, ploughing
and reaping, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, come weal, come
woe, is no mean destiny for an honest man; there is scope for the
display of a noble and generous spirit in the beautiful green fields as
well as in the smoky atmosphere of the east end of London, in a
Birmingham factory, or a Warrington forge.
"What is the meaning of nobleness?" asks Carlyle. "In a valiant
suffering for others did nobleness ever lie. Every noble crown is, and
on earth will for ever be, a crown of thorns. All true work is sacred.
In all true work, were it but true hand labour, there is something of
divineness. Sweat of the brow; and up from that to sweat of the brain,
sweat of the heart; up to that 'agony of bloody sweat' which all men
have called divine. Oh, brother, if this is not worship, then, I say,
the more pity for worship: for this is the noblest thing yet discovered
under God's sky. Who art thou that complainest of thy life of toil?
Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow workmen there
in God's eternity surviving those, they alone surviving; peopling, they
alone, the unmeasured solitudes of Time. To thee Heaven, though severe,
is not unkind. Heaven is kind, as a noble mother; as that Spartan
mother, saying, while she gave her son his shield, 'With it, my son, or
upon it, thou, too, shalt return home in honour--to thy far distant home
in honour--doubt it not--if in the battle thou keep thy shield!' Thou in
the eternities and deepest death kingdoms art not an alien; thou
everywhere art a denizen. Complain not; the very Spartans did not
Would that the toiling labourer in the Cotswolds and in our great smoky
cities might keep these words continually before him, so that he might
grasp, not merely the secret of content and happiness in this life, but
the golden key to the immeasurable blessings of "the sure and certain
hope" of that life which is to come! Then shall he hear the words:
"King, thou wast called Conqueror;
In every battle thou bearest the prize."
Conqueror will he be in life's battle if he follow in the footsteps of
the Spartan of old or of Wordsworth's "Happy Warrior":
"Who, doomed to go in company with pain,
And fear, and bloodshed--miserable train!--
Turns his necessity to glorious gain."
Finally, the countryman who feels discontented with his lot--and there
are few indeed who do not occasionally pine for a change of
employment--should go on a railway journey through "the black country"
at night, and mark the fierce light that reddens the murky skies as the
factory fires send forth their livid flames and clouds of sooty smoke.
He should watch the swarms of long-suffering human beings going to and
fro and in and out like busy bees around their hive, toiling, ever
toiling, round about the blazing fires. He should spend an hour in the
streets of Birmingham, where, as I passed through one fine September
morning recently on my way to Ireland, the atmosphere was darkened and
the human lungs stifled by a thick yellow fog. Or he should go down to
the engine-room of a mighty liner, when it is doing its twenty knots
across the seas, and then think of his own life in the happy hamlets and
the fresh, green fields of our English country.
* * * * *
Coming once more down the hill into the valley of the Coln, we must
cross the old Roman road known as the Fossway, follow the course of the
stream, and, about a mile beyond the snug little village of Fossbridge,
we reach the great woods of Chedworth.
These coverts form part of the property of Lord Eldon. His house of
Stowell stands well up on the hill. It is a grey, square building of
some size, placed so as to catch all the sun and the breezes too,--very
much more healthy and bright than most of the old houses we have passed,
which were built much too low down in the valley, where the winter
sunbeams seldom penetrate and the river mists rise damp and cold at
night. As we walk along the drive which leads through the woods to the
Roman villa, any amount of rabbits and pheasants are to be seen. And
here take place annually some of those big shoots which ignorant people
are so fond of condemning as unsportsmanlike, simply because they have
not the remotest idea what they are talking about. Why it should be
cruel to kill a thousand head in a day instead of two hundred on five
separate days, one fails to understand. As a matter of fact, the bigger
the "shoot" the less cruelty takes place, because bad shots are not
likely to be present on these occasions, whilst in small "shoots" they
are the rule rather than the exception. Instead of birds and ground game
being wounded time after time, at big _battues_ they are killed stone
dead by some well-known and acknowledged good shot. To see a real
workman knocking down rocketer after rocketer at a height which would be
considered impossible by half the men who go but shooting is to witness
an exhibition of skill and correct timing which can only be attained by
the most assiduous practice and the quickest of eyes. No, it is the
pottering hedgerow shooter, generally on his neighbour's boundary, who
is often unsportsmanlike. We know one or two who would have no
hesitation in shooting at a covey of partridges on the ground, when they
were within shot of the boundary hedge; and if they wounded three or
four and picked them up, they would carry them home fluttering and
gasping, because they are too heartless to think of putting the wretched
creatures out of their sufferings.
The extensive Roman remains discovered some years ago in the heart of
this forest doubtless formed the country house of some Roman squire.
They are well away from the river bank, and about three parts of the way
up the sloping hillside. The house faced as nearly as possible
south-east. In this point, as in many others, the Romans showed their
superiority of intellect over our ancestors of Elizabethan and other
days. Nowadays we begin to realise that houses should be built on high
ground, and that the aspect that gives most sun in winter is south-east.
The old Romans realised this fifteen hundred years ago. In other words,
our ancestors in the dark ages were infinitely behind the Romans in
intellect, and we are just reaching their standard of common sense. The
characteristics of the interior of these old dwellings are simplicity
combined with refinement and good taste. And it is worthy of remark that
the men who are ahead of the thought and feeling of the present day are
crying out for more simplicity in our homes and furniture, as well as
for more refinement and real architectural merit. No useless luxuries
and nick-nacks, but plenty of public baths, and mosaic pavements
laboriously put together by hard hand labour,--these are the points that
Ruskin and the Romans liked in common.
With this grandly timbered valley spread beneath them, no more suitable
spot on which to build a house could anywhere be found. And though the
Romans who inhabited this villa could not from its windows see the sun
go down in the purple west, emblematic of that which was shortly to set
over Rome, they could see the glorious dawn of a new day--boding forth
the dawn that was already brightening over England, even as "The old
order changeth, yielding place to new";--and they could see the
splendours of the moon rising in the eastern sky.
The principal apartment in this Roman country house measures about
thirty feet by twenty; it was probably divided into two parts, forming
the dining-room and drawing-room as well. The tessellated pavements are
wonderfully preserved, though not quite so perfect as a few others that
have been found in England. With all their beautiful colouring they are
merely formed of different shades of local stone, together with a little
terra-cotta. Perhaps these pavements, with their rich mellow tints of
red sandstone, and their shades of white, yellow, brown, and grey,
afforded by different varieties of limestone, are examples of the most
perfect kind of work which the labours of mankind, combined with the
softening influences of time, are able to produce. In one corner the
design is that of a man with a rabbit in his hand; and no doubt there
were lots of rabbits in these woods in those days, as well as deer and
other wild animals long since extinct.
In these woods of Chedworth the rose bay willow herbs grow taller and
finer than is their wont elsewhere. In every direction they spring up in
hundreds, painting the woodlands with a wondrously rich purple glow.
Here, too, the bracken thrives, and many a fine old oak tree spreads its
branches, revelling in the clay soil. On the limestone of the Cotswolds
oaks are seldom seen; but wherever a vein of clay is found, there will
be the oaks and the bracken. Every forest tree thrives hereabouts; and
in the open spaces that occur at intervals in the forest there grow such
masses of wild flowers as are nowhere else to be seen in the Cotswold
district. White spiraea, or meadow-sweet, crowds into every nook and
corner of open ground, raising its graceful stems in almost tropical
luxuriance by the brook-side. Campanula and the blue geranium or meadow
crane's-bill, with flowers of perfect blue, grow everywhere amid the
white blossoms of the spiraea. St John's wort, with its star-shaped
golden flowers, white and red campion, and a host of others, are larger
and more beautiful on the rich loam than they are on the stony hills.
Even the lily-of-the-valley thrives here.
In the bathroom may be seen an excellent example of the hypocaust--an
ingenious contrivance, by means of which the rooms were heated with hot
air, which passed along beneath the floors.
In the museum are portions of the skulls of men and of oxen, the
antlers of red deer, oyster shells, knives, spear-heads, arrow-heads,
bits of locks with keys, and excellent horseshoes, not to speak of such
things as bronze spurs, spoons, part of a Roman weighing-machine, and a
splendid pair of compasses. There are pieces of earthenware with
potter's marks on them, and red tiles bearing unmistakable marks of
fingering, as well as footprints of dogs and goats; these impressions
must have been made when the tiles were in a soft state. But the most
interesting relics are three freestone slabs, on which are inscribed the
Greek letters [Greek: chi] and [Greek: rho]. It was Mr. Lysons who first
noticed this evidence of ancient faith, and he is naturally of the
opinion that the sacred inscription proves that the builder was a
Christian. Another stone in this collection has the word "PRASIATA"
roughly chiselled on it.
There was a British king, by name Prasutagus, said to have been a
Christian, and possibly it was this man who built the old house in the
midst of the Chedworth woods. A mile beyond this interesting relic of
Roman times is the manor house of Cassey Compton, built by Sir Richard
Howe about the middle of the seventeenth century. It stands on the banks
of the Coln, and in olden times was approached by a drawbridge and
surrounded by a moat. The farmer by whom it is inhabited tells me that,
judging by the fish-ponds situated close by, he imagines it was once a
monastery. This was undoubtedly the case, for we find in Fozbrooke that
the Archbishop of York had license to "embattle his house" here in the
reign of Edward I.
A mosaic pavement, discovered here about 1811, was placed in the
It is very sad to come upon these remote manor houses in all parts of
the Cotswold district, and to find that their ancient glory is departed,
even though their walls are as good as they were two hundred years ago,
when the old squires lived their jovial lives, and those halls echoed
the mirth and merriment which characterised the life of "the good old
English gentleman, all of the olden time."
Other fine old houses in this immediate district which have not been
mentioned are Ampney Park, a Jacobean house containing an oak-panelled
apartment, with magnificently carved ceiling and fine stone fireplace;
Barnsley and Sherborne, partly built by Inigo Jones; Missarden,
Duntisborne Abbots, Kemble, and Barrington. Rendcombe is a modern house
of some size, built rather with a view to internal comfort than external
grace and symmetry.
[Illustration: Village cricketers 242.png]
It is not surprising that in those countries which abound in sunshine
and fresh, health-giving air, the inhabitants will invariably be found
to be not only keen sportsmen, but also accomplished experts in all the
games and pastimes for which England has long been famous. Given good
health and plenty of work mankind cannot help being cheerful and
sociably inclined; for this reason we have christened the district of
which we write the "Merrie Cotswolds." From time immemorial the country
people have delighted in sports and manly exercises. On the north wall
of the nave in Cirencester Church is a representation of the ancient
custom of Whitsun ale. The Whitsuntide sports were always a great
speciality on Cotswold, and continue to the present day, though in a
somewhat modified form.
The custom portrayed in the church of Cirencester was as follows:--
The villagers would assemble together in one of the beautiful old barns
which are so plentiful in every hamlet. Two of them, a boy and a girl,
were then chosen out and appointed Lord and Lady of the Yule. These are
depicted on the church wall; and round about them, dressed in their
proper garb, are pages and jesters, standard-bearer, purse-bearer,
mace-bearer, and a numerous company of dancers.
The reason that a representation of this very secular custom is seen in
the church probably arises from the fact that the Church ales were
feasts instituted for the purpose of raising money for the repair of the
church. The churchwardens would receive presents of malt from the
farmers and squires around; they sold the beer they brewed from it to
the villagers, who were obliged to attend or else pay a fine.
The church house--a building still to be seen in many villages--was
usually the scene of the festivities.
The "Diary of Master William Silence" tells us that the quiet little
hamlets presented an unusually gay appearance on these memorable
occasions. "The village green was covered with booths. There were
attractions of various kinds. The churchwardens had taken advantage of
the unusual concourse of strangers as the occasion of a Church ale.
Great barrels of ale, the product of malt contributed by the
parishioners according to their several abilities, were set abroach in
the north aisle of the church, and their contents sold to the public.
This was an ordinary way of providing for church expenses, against which
earnest reformers inveighed, but as yet in vain so far as Shallow was
concerned. The church stood conveniently near the village green, and the
brisk trade which was carried on all day was not interrupted by the
progress of divine service." The parson's discourse, however, appears to
have suffered some interruption by reason of the numbers who crowded
into the aisles to patronise the churchwardens' excellent ale.
In the reign of James I. one, Robert Dover, revived the old Olympic
games on Cotswold. Dover's Hill, near Weston-under-Edge, was called
These sports included horse-racing, coursing, cock-fighting, and such
games as quoits, football, skittles, wrestling, dancing, jumping in
sacks, and all the athletic exercises.
The "Annalia Dubrensia" contain many verses about these sports by the
hand of Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, and others.
"On Cotteswold Hills there meets
A greater troop of gallants than Rome's streets
E'er saw in Pompey's triumphs: beauties, too,
More than Diana's beavie of nymphs could show
On their great hunting days."
That hunting was practised here in these days is evident, for Thomas
Randall, of Cambridge, writes in the same volume:
"Such royal pastimes Cotteswold mountains fill,
When gentle swains visit Anglonicus hill,
When with such packs of hounds they hunting go
As Cyrus never woon'd his bugle to."
Fozbrooke tells us that the Whitsuntide sports are the _floralia_ of the
Romans. They are still a great institution in all parts of the
Cotswolds, though Church ales, like cock-fighting and other barbaric
amusements, have happily long since died out.
Golf and archery are popular pastimes in the merry Cotswolds. It is
somewhat remarkable that this district has produced in recent years the
amateur lady champions of England in each of these fascinating pastimes,
Lady Margaret Scott, of Stowell, being _facile princeps_ among lady
golfers, whilst Mrs. Christopher Bowly, of Siddington, even now holds
the same position in relation to the ancient practice of archery.
The ancient art of falconry is still practised in these parts. Thirty
years ago, when Duleep Singh lived at Hatherop, hawking on the downs was
one of his chief amusements. But the only hawking club hereabouts that
we know of is at Swindon, in Wiltshire.
Coursing is as popular as ever among the Cotswold farmers. These hills
have always been noted for the sport. Drayton tells us that the prize at
the coursing meetings held on the Cotswolds in his day was a
silver-studded collar. Shakespeare, in his _Merry Wives of Windsor_
alludes to the coursing on "Cotsall." There is an excellent club at
Cirencester. The hares in this district are remarkably big and
strong-running. The whole district lends itself particularly to this
sport, owing to the large fields and fine stretches of open downs.
In an agricultural district such as the Cotswolds it is inevitable that
the game of cricket should be somewhat neglected. Men who work day after
day in the open air, and to whom a half-holiday is a very rare
experience, naturally seek their recreations in less energetic fashion
than the noble game of cricket demands of its votaries. The class who
derive most benefit from this game spring as a rule from towns and
manufacturing centres and those whose work and interests confine them
indoors the greater part of their time. Among the Cotswold farmers,
however, a great deal of interest is shown; the scores of county matches
are eagerly pursued in the daily papers; and if there is a big match on
at Cheltenham or any other neighbouring town, a large number invariably
go to see it. There is some difficulty in finding suitable sites for
your ground in these parts, for the hill turf is very stony and shallow;
it is not always easy to find a flat piece of ground handy to the
villages. A cricket ground is useless to the villagers if it is perched
up on the hill half a mile away. It must be at their doors; and even
then, though they may occasionally play, they will never by any chance
trouble to roll it. We made a ground in the valley of the Coln some
years ago, and went to some expense in the way of levelling, filling up
gravel pits, and removing obstructions like cowsheds; but unless we had
looked after it ourselves and made preparations for a match, it would
have soon gone back to its original rough state again. And yet two of
the young Peregrines in the village are wonderfully good cricketers, and
as "keen as mustard" about it; though when it comes to rolling and
mowing the ground they are not quite as keen. They will throw you over
for a match in the most unceremonious way if, when the day comes, they
don't feel inclined to play. We have often tried to persuade these two
young fellows to become professional cricketers, there being such a poor
prospect in the farming line; but they have not the slightest ambition
to play for the county, though they are quite good enough; so they
"waste their sweetness on the desert air."
Old Mr. Peregrine, a man of nearly eighty years of age, is splendid fun
when he is watching his boys play cricket. He goes mad with excitement;
and if you take them off bowling, however much the batsmen appear to
relish their attack, he won't forgive you for the rest of the day.
His eldest son, Tom--our old friend the keeper--generally stands umpire;
he is not so useful to his side as village umpires usually are, because
he hasn't got the moral courage to give his side "in" when he knows
perfectly well they are "out." The other day, however, he made a slight
error; for, on being appealed to for the most palpable piece of
"stumping" ever seen in the cricket field, the ball bouncing back on to
the wicket from the wicket-keeper's pads while the batsman was two yards
out of his ground, he said, "Not out; it hit the wicket-keeper's pads."
He imagined he was being asked whether the batsman had been bowled, and
it never occurred to him that you could be "stumped out" in this way.
Altogether, Cotswold cricket is great fun.
The district is full of memories of the prehistoric age, and in certain
parts of the country _prehistoric_ cricket is still indulged in. Never
shall I forget going over to Edgeworth with the Winson Cricket XI. to
play a _grand_ match at that seat of Roman antiquities. The carrier
drove us over in his pair-horse brake--a rickety old machine, with a
pony of fourteen hands and a lanky, ragged-hipped old mare over sixteen
hands high in the shafts together. A most useful man in the field was
the honest carrier, whether at point or at any other place where the
ball comes sharp and quick; for, to quote Shakespeare,
"he was a man
Of an unbounded stomach."
The rest of our team included the jovial miller; two of the village
carpenter's sons--excellent folk; the village curate, who captained the
side, and stood six feet five inches without his cricket shoes; one or
two farmers; a footman, and a somewhat fat and apoplectic butler.
The colours mostly worn by the Winson cricketers are black, red, and
gold--a Zingaric band inverted (black on top); their motto I believe to
be "Tired, though united."
As the ground stands about eight hundred feet above sea level, all of
us, but especially the fat butler, found considerable difficulty in
getting to the top of the hill, after the brake had set us down at the
village public. But once arrived, a magnificent view was to be had,
extending thirty miles and more across the wolds to the White Horse Hill
in Berkshire. However, we had not come to admire the view so much as to
play the game of cricket. We therefore proceeded to look for the pitch.
It was known to be in the field in which we stood, because a large red
flag floated at one end and proclaimed that somewhere hereabouts was the
scene of combat. It was the fat butler, I think, who, after sailing
about in a sea of waving buttercups like a veritable Christopher
Columbus, first discovered the stumps among the mowing grass.
Evident preparations had been made either that morning or the previous
night for a grand match; a large number of sods of turf had been taken
up and hastily replaced on that portion of the wicket where the ball is
supposed to pitch when it leaves the bowler's hand. There had been no
rain for a month, but just where the stumps were stuck a bucket or two
of water had been dashed hastily on to the arid soil; while, to crown
all, a chain or rib roller--a ghastly instrument used by agriculturists
for scrunching up the lumps and bumps on the ploughed fields, and
pulverising the soil--had been used with such effect that the surface of
the pitch to the depth of about an inch had been reduced to dust.
In spite of this we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Delightful
old-fashioned people, both farmers and labourers, were playing against
us; quaint (I use the word in its true sense) and simple folk, who
looked as if they had been dug up with the other Saxon and Roman
antiquities for which Edgeworth is so famous.
I was quite certain that the man who bowled me out was a direct
descendant of Julius Caesar. He delivered the ball underhand at a rapid
rate. It came twisting along, now to the right, now to the left; seemed
to disappear beneath the surface of the soil, then suddenly came in
sight again, shooting past the block. Eventually they told me it removed
the left bail, and struck the wicket-keeper a fearful blow on the chest.
It was generally agreed that such a ball had never been bowled before.
"'Twas a _pretty_ ball!" as Tom Peregrine pronounced it, standing umpire
in an enormous wideawake hat and a white coat reaching down to his
knees, and smoking a bad cigar. "A very pretty ball," said my fellow
batsman at the other wicket "A d--d pretty ball," I reiterated _sotto
voce_, as I beat a retreat towards the flag in the corner of the field,
which served as a pavilion.
When I went on to bowl left-handed "donkey-drops," Tom Peregrine (my own
servant, if you please) was very nearly no-balling me. "For," said he,
"I 'ate that drabby-handed business; it looks so awkid. Muddling work, I
calls it." But I am anticipating.
As I prepared myself for the fray, and carefully donned a pair of
well-stuffed pads and an enormously thick woollen jersey for protection,
not so much against the cold as against the "flying ball," it flashed
across me that I was about to personify the immortal Dumkins of Pickwick
fame; whilst in my companion, the stout butler, it was impossible not
to detect the complacent features and rounded form of Mr. Podder. Up to
a certain point the analogy was complete. Let the Winson Invincibles
equal the All Muggleton C.C., while the Edgeworth Daisy Cutters shall be
represented by Dingley Dell; then sing us, thou divine author of
Pickwick, the glories of that never-to-be-forgotten day.
"All Muggleton had the first innings, and the interest became intense
when Mr. Dumkins and Mr. Podder--two of the most renowned members of
that distinguished club--walked bat in hand to their respective wickets.
Mr. Luffy, the highest ornament of Dingley Dell, was pitched to bowl
against the redoubtable Dumkins, and Mr. Struggles was selected to do
the same kind office for the hitherto unconquered Podder...The umpires
were stationed behind the wickets [Tom Peregrine had been suborned for
Winson, and proved the most useful man on the side], the scorers were
prepared to notch the runs. A breathless silence ensued. Mr. Luffy
retired a few paces behind the wicket of the passive Podder, and applied
the ball to his right eye for several seconds. Dumkins [the author]
confidently awaited its coming with his eyes fixed on the motions of Mr.
Luffy. 'Play!' suddenly cried the bowler. The ball flew from his hand
straight and swift towards the centre stump of the wicket. The wary
Dumkins was on the alert; it fell upon the tip of his bat...."
Here, with deep sorrow, let it be stated that the writer failed to
evince the admirable skill displayed by his worthy prototype; the
Dumkins of grim reality was unable to compete with the Dumkins of
fiction. Instead of "sending the ball far away over the heads of the
scouts; who just stooped low enough to let it fly over them," I caught
it just as it pitched on a rabbit-hole, and sent it straight up into the
air like a soaring rocket. "Right, right, I have it!" yelled bowler and
wicket-keeper simultaneously. "Run two, Podder; they'll never catch it!"
shouted Dumkins with all his might. "Catch it in your 'at, Bill!"
screamed the Edgeworth eleven. Never was such confusion! I was already
starting for the second run, whilst my stout fellow batsman was halfway
through the first, when the ball came down like a meteor, and, narrowly
shaving the luckless "Podder's" head, hit the ground with a loud thud
about five yards distant from the outstretched hands of the anxious
bowler, who collided with his ally, the wicket-keeper, in the middle of
the pitch. Half stunned by the shock, and disappointed at his want of
success in his attempt to "judge" the catch, the bowler had yet presence
of mind enough to seize the ball and hurl it madly at the stumps. But
the wicket-keeper being still _hors de combat_, it flew away towards the
spectators, and buried itself among the mowing grass. "Come six,
Podder!" I shouted, amid cries of "Keep on running!" "Run it out!" etc.,
from spectators and scouts alike. And run we did, for the umpire forgot
to call "lost ball," and we should have been running still but for the
ingenuity of one of our opponents; for, whilst all were busily engaged
in searching among the grass, a red-faced yokel stole up unawares, with
an innocent expression on his face, raced poor "Podder" down the pitch,
produced the ball from his trouser pocket, and knocked off the bails in
the nick of time. "Out," says Peregrine, amid a roar of laughter from
the whole field; and Mr. "Podder" had to go.
Now came the question how many runs should be scored, for I had passed
my fellow batsman in the race, having completed seven runs to his five.
Eventually it was decided to split the difference and call it a sixer;
the suggestion of a member of our side that seven should be scored to me
and five to Mr. "Podder" (making twelve in all) being rejected after
Thus, from the first ball bowled in this historic match there arose the
whole of the remarkable events recorded above. Therein is shown the
complete performances with the bat of two renowned cricketers; for, alas
I in once more trying to play up to the form of Dumkins, I was bowled
"slick" the very next ball, "as hath been said or sung."
There was much good-natured chaff flying about during the match, but no
fighting and squabbling, save when a boundary hit was made, when the
batsman always shouted "Three runs," and the bowler "No, only one." The
scores were not high; but I remember that we won by three runs, that the
carpenter's son got a black eye, that we had tea in an old manor house
turned into an inn, and drove home in the glow of a glorious sunset, not
entirely displeased with our first experience of "prehistoric" cricket.
Some of the pleasantest matches we have ever taken part in have been
those at Bourton-on-the-Water. Owing to the very soft wicket which he
found on arriving, this place was once christened by a well-known
cricketer _Bourton-on-the-Bog_. Indeed, it is often a case of
Bourton-_under_-the-Water; but, in spite of a soft pitch, there is great
keenness and plenty of good-tempered rivalry about these matches.
Bourton is a truly delightful village. The Windrush, like the Coln at
Bibury, runs for some distance alongside of the village street.
The M.C.C., or "premier club"--as the sporting press delight to call the
famous institution at Lord's--generally get thoroughly well beaten by
the local club. For so small a place they certainly put a wonderfully
strong team into the field; on their own native "bog" they are fairly
invincible, though we fancy on the hard-baked clay at Lord's their
bowlers would lose a little of their cunning.
In the luncheon tent at Bourton there are usually more wasps than are
ever seen gathered together in one place; they come in thousands from
their nests in the banks of the Windrush.
If you are playing a match there, it is advisable to tuck your trousers
into your socks when you sit down to luncheon. This, together with the
fact that the tent has been known to blow down in the middle of
luncheon, makes these matches very lively and amusing. What more lively
scene could be imagined than a large tent with twenty-two cricketers and
a few hundred wasps hard at work eating and drinking; then, on the tent
suddenly collapsing, the said cricketers and the said wasps, mixed up
with chairs, tables, ham, beef, salad-dressing, and apple tart, and the
various ingredients of a cricket lunch, all struggling on the floor, and
striving in vain to find their way out as best they can? Fortunately, on
the only occasion that the tent blew down when we were present, it was
not a good wasp year.
Besides the matches at Bourton, there is plenty of cricket at
Cirencester, Northleach, and other centres in the Cotswolds. The "hunt"
matches are great institutions, even though hunting people as a rule do
not care for cricket, and invariably drop a catch. A good sportsman and
excellent fellow has lately presented a cup to be competed for by the
village clubs of this district. This, no doubt, will give a great
impetus to the game amongst all classes; our village club has already
been revived in order to compete. Our only fear with regard to the cup
competition is that when you get two elevens on to a ground, and two
umpires, none of whom know the rules (for cricket laws are the most
"misunderstandable" things in creation), the final tie will degenerate
into a free fight.
Be this as it may, anything that can make the greatest pastime of this
country popular in the "merrie Cotswolds" is a step in the right
direction. It is pleasing to watch boys and men hard at work practising
on summer evenings. The rougher the ground the more they like it.
Scorning pads and gloves, they "go in" to bat, and make Herculean
efforts to hit the ball. And this, with fast bowling and the bumpy
nature of the pitch, is a very difficult thing to do. They play on, long
after sunset,--the darker it gets, and the more dangerous to life and
limb the game becomes, the happier they are. We are bound to admit that
when we play with them, a good pitch is generally prepared. It would be
bad policy to endeavour to compete in the game they play, as we should
merely expose ourselves to ridicule, and one's reputation as the man who
has been known "to play in the papers," as they are accustomed to call
big county matches, would very soon be entirely lost.
I was much amused a few years ago, on arriving home after playing for
Somersetshire in some cricket matches, when Tom Peregrine made up to me
with "a face like a benediction," and asked if I was the gentleman who
had been playing "in the papers."
While on the subject of cricket, for some time past we have made
experiments of all sorts of cricket grounds, and have come to the
conclusion that the following is the best recipe to prepare a pitch on a
dry and bumpy ground. A week before your match get a wheelbarrow full of
clay, and put it into a water-cart, or any receptacle for holding water.
Having mixed your clay with water, keep pouring the mixture on to your
pitch, taking care that the stones and gravel which sink to the bottom
do not fall out. When you have emptied your water-cart, get some more
clay and water, and continue pouring it on to the ground until you have
covered a patch about twenty-two yards long and three yards wide, always
remembering not to empty out the sediment at the bottom of the
water-cart, for this will spoil all. Then, setting to work with your
roller, roll the clay and water into the ground. Never mind if it picks
up on to the roller: a little more water will soon put that to rights.
After an hour's rolling you will have a level and true cricket pitch,
requiring but two or three days' sun to make it hard and true as
asphalt. You may think you have killed the grass; but if you water your
pitch in the absence of rain the day after you have played on it, the
grass will not die. It is chiefly in Australia that cricket grounds are
treated in this way; they are dressed with mud off the harbours, and
rolled simultaneously. Such grounds are wonderfully true and durable.
If the pitch is naturally a clay one, it might be sufficient to use
water only, and roll at the same time; but for renovating a worn clay
pitch, a little strong loamy soil, washed in with water and rolled down
will fill up all the "chinks" and holes. It will make an old pitch as
good as new.
The reason that nine out of ten village grounds are bad and bumpy is
that they are not rolled soon enough after rain or after being watered.
Roll and water them simultaneously, and they will be much improved.
Another excellent plan is to soak the ground with clay and water, and
leave it alone for a week or ten days before rolling. Permanent benefit
will be done to the soil by this method. For golf greens and lawn-tennis
courts situated on light soil, loam is an indispensable dressing. Any
loamy substance will vastly improve the texture of a light soil and the
quality of the herbage. Yet it is most difficult to convince people of
this fact. We have known cases in which hundreds of pounds have been
expended on cricket grounds and golf greens when an application of clay
top-dressing would have put the whole thing to rights at the cost of a
few shillings. One committee had artificial wells made on every "putting
green" of their golf course, in order to have water handy for keeping
the turf cool and green. What better receptacle for water could they
have found than a top-dressing of half an inch of loam or clay,
retaining as it does every drop of moisture that falls in the shape of
dew or rain, instead of allowing it to percolate through like a sieve,
as is the case with an ordinary sandy soil? Yet this clay dressing,
while retaining water, becomes hard, firm, and as level as a billiard
table on the timely application of the roller.
Those who look after cricket grounds and the like have seldom any
acquaintance with the constitution of soils; they are apt to treat all,
whether sand, light loam, strong loam, heavy clay, or even peat, in
exactly the same way, instead of recollecting that, as in agriculture, a
judicious combination will alone give us that _ideal loam_ which
produces the best turf, and the best soil for every purpose. I am quite
convinced that our farmers do not realise how much worthless light land
may be improved by a dressing of clay or loam. Such dressings are
expensive without a doubt, but the amelioration of the soil is so marked
that in favourable localities the process ought to pay in the long run.
Turning to cricket in general, perhaps the modern game, as played on a
good wicket, is in every respect, save one, perfection. If only
something could be done to curtail the length of matches, and rid us of
that awful nuisance the poking, time-wasting batsman, there would be
little improvement possible.
"All the world's a stage," and even at cricket the analogy holds good.
"As in a theatre the eyes of men,
After a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
Are idly bent on him that enters next,
Thinking his prattle to be tedious."
So also one may say of some dull and lifeless cricketer who, after the
famous Gloucestershire hitter has made things merry for spectators and
scouts alike, "enters next":
"As in a cricket field the eyes of men,
After a well-_Graced_ player leaves the _sticks_,
Are idly bent on him that enters next,
Thinking his _batting_ to be tedious."
On the other hand, if we sow the wild oats of cricket--in other words,
if we risk everything for the fleeting satisfaction of a blind
"slog"--we shall be bowled, stumped, or caught out for a moral
certainty. It is only a matter of time.
Perhaps the addition of another stump might help towards the very
desirable end of shortening the length of matches, and thus enable more
amateurs to take part in them. I cannot agree with those who lament the
improved state of our best English cricket grounds; if only the batsmen
play a free game and do not waste time, the game is far more
entertaining for players and spectators alike, when a true wicket is
provided. The heroes of old,
"When Bird and Beldham, Budd, and such as they,--
Lord Frederick, too, once England's chief and flower,--
Astonished all who came to see them play,"
those "scorners of the ground" and of pads and gloves doubtless
displayed more _pluck_ on their rough, bumpy grounds than is now called
forth in facing the attack of Kortright, Mold, or Richardson. But on the
other hand, on rough grounds much is left to chance and _luck_; cricket,
as played on a billiard-table wicket certainly favours the batsman, but
it admits of a brilliancy and finish in the matter of style that are
impossible on the old-fashioned wicket. Whilst the modern bowler has
learnt extraordinary accuracy of pitch, the batsman has perfected the
art of "timing" the ball. And what a subtle, delicate art is correct
"timing"!--the skilful embodiment of thought in action, depending for
success on that absolute sympathy of hand and eye which only assiduous
practice, confidence, and a good digestion can give. And on uncertain,
treacherous ground confident play is never seen. A ball cannot be "cut"
or driven with any real brilliancy of style when there is a likelihood
of its abruptly "shooting" or bumping. No; if we would leave as little
as possible to chance, our grounds cannot be too good. Even from a
purely selfish point of view, apart from the welfare of our side, the
pleasure derived from a good "innings" on a first-rate cricket ground
is as great as that bestowed by any other physical amusement.
Perhaps one ought not to think of comparing the sport of fox-hunting,
with its extraordinary variety of incident and surroundings, the study
of a lifetime, to the game of cricket. At the same time, for actual
all-round enjoyment, and for economy, the game holds its own against all
Bromley-Davenport has said that given a _good_ country and a _good_ fox,
_and_ a burning scent, the man on a _good_ horse with a good _start_,
for twenty or thirty minutes absorbs as much happiness into his mental
and physical organisation as human nature is capable of containing at
one time. This is very true. But how seldom the five necessary
conditions are forthcoming simultaneously the keen hunting man has
learnt from bitter experience. You will be lucky if the real good thing
comes off once for every ten days you hunt. In cricket a man is
dependent on his own quickness of hand and eye; in hunting there is that
vital contingency of the well-filled purse. "'Tis money that makes the
mare to go."
Then what a grand school is cricket for some of the most useful lessons
of life! Its extraordinary fluctuations are bound to teach us sooner
"Rebus angustis animosus atque
The _rebus angustis_ are often painfully impressed on the memory by a
long sequence of "duck's eggs"; and how difficult is the _animosus atque
fortis appare_ when we return to the pavilion with a "pair of
spectacles" to our credit!
Then, again, cricketers are taught to preserve a mind
"Ab insolenti temperatam
We must not permit the _laetitia insolenti_ to creep in when we have
made a big score. How often do we see young cricketers over-elated under
these circumstances, and suffering afterwards from temporary
over-confidence and consequent carelessness!
But we must have no more Horace, lest our readers exclaim, with Jack
Cade, "Away with him! away with him! he speaks _Latin_!"
Hope, energy, perseverance, and courage,--all these qualities are learnt
in our grand English game. There is always hope for the struggling
cricketer. In no other pursuit are energy and perseverance so absolutely
sure of bearing fruit, if we only stick to it long enough.
The fact is that cricket, like many other things, is but the image and
prototype of life in general. And the same qualities that, earnestly
cultivated in spite of repeated failure and disappointment, make good
cricketers lead ultimately to success in all the walks of life. In spite
of the improvement in grounds, cricket is still an excellent school for
teaching physical courage. Many grounds are somewhat rough and bumpy to
field on, beautifully smooth though they look from the pavilion. We have
only to stand "mid-off" or "point" on a cold day at the beginning of
May whilst a hard-hitting batsman, well set on a true wicket, is
driving or cutting ball after ball against our hands and shins, to
realise what a capital school for courage the game is!
How exacting is the critic in this matter of fielding! and how
delightfully simple the bowling looks from that admirably safe
vantage-ground, the pavilion! Just as to a man comfortably stationed in
the grand-stand at Aintree nothing looks easier than the way in which
the best horses in the world flit over the five-foot fences, leaving
them behind with scarcely an effort, their riders sitting quietly in the
saddle all the while, so does the pavilion critic pride himself on the
way he would have "cut" that short one instead of merely stopping it, or
blocked that simple ball that went straight on and bowled the wicket.
Everything that is well and gracefully performed appears easy to the
looker-on. But that ease and grace, whether in the racehorse or in the
man, has only been acquired by months and years of training
It is seldom that the spectator is able to form a true and unbiassed
opinion as to the varied contingencies which lead to victory or defeat
in cricket. The actual players and the umpires are perhaps alone
qualified to judge to what extent the fluctuations of the game are
affected by the vagaries of weather and ground. For this reason it is
well to take newspaper criticism _cum grano salis_.
What is the cause of the extraordinary fluctuations of form which all
cricketers, from the greatest to the least, are more or less subject to?
It cannot be set down altogether to luck, for a run of bad luck, such
as all men have at times experienced, is often compatible with being in
the very best form. A man who is playing very well at the net often gets
out directly he goes in to bat in a match, whilst many a good player,
who tells you "he has not had a bat in his hand this season," in his
very first innings for the year makes a big score. In subsequent
innings's, oddly enough, he feels the want of net practice. _Confidence_
would seem to be the _sine qua non_ for the successful batsman. Nothing
succeeds like success; and once fairly started on a sequence of big
scores, the cricketer goes on day by day piling up runs and _vires
Perhaps "being in form" does not depend so much on the state of the
digestion as on the state of the _mind_. Anxiety or excitement, fostered
by over-keenness, usually results in a blank score-sheet. Some men, like
horses, are totally unable to do themselves credit on great occasions.
They go off their feed, and are utterly out of sorts in consequence. On
the other hand, sheer force of will has often enabled men to make a big
score. Many a good batsman can recall occasions on which he made a
mental resolve on the morning of a match to make a century, and did it.
How curious it is that really good players, from staleness or some
unknown cause, occasionally become absolutely useless for a time! Every
fresh failure seems to bring more and more nervousness, until, from
sheer lack of confidence, their case becomes hopeless, and a child could
bowl them out. Ah well! we must not grumble at the ups and downs of the
finest game in creation: "every dog will have his day" sooner or later;
of that we may be sure.
And not the least of the advantages of cricket is the large number of
friends made on the tented field. For this reason the jolliest cricket
is undoubtedly that which is played by the various wandering clubs.
Whether you are fighting under the banner of the brotherhood whose motto
is "United though untied,"  or under the flag of the "Red, Black, and
Gold,"  or with any other of the many excellent clubs that abound
nowadays, you will have an enjoyable game, whether you make fifty runs
or a duck's egg.
[Footnote 6: The Free Foresters.]
[Footnote 7: The I Zingari.]
County cricket is nowadays a little over done. Two three-day matches a
week throughout the summer don't leave much time for other pursuits. A
liberal education at a good public school and university seems to be
thrown away if it is to be followed by five or six days a week at
cricket all through the summer year after year. Most of our best
amateurs realise this, and, knowing that if they go in for county
cricket at all they must play regularly, they give it up, and are
content to take a back seat. They do wisely, for let us always remember
that cricket is a game and not a business.
On the other hand, much good results from the presence in county cricket
of a leavening of gentle; for they prevent the further development of
professionalism. It is doubtless owing to the "piping times of peace"
England has enjoyed during the past fifty years that cricket has
developed to such an abnormal extent. The British public are
essentially hero worshippers, and especially do they worship men who
show manliness and pluck; and those feelings of respect and admiration
that it is to be hoped in more stirring times would be reserved for a
Nelson or a Wellington have been recently lavished on our Graces, our
Stoddarts, our Ranjitsinhjis, and our Steels.
As long as war is absent, and we "live at home at ease," so long will
our sports and pastimes flourish and increase. And long may they
flourish, more especially those in which the quality of courage is
essential for success! It will be a bad day for England when success in
our sports and pastimes no longer depends on the exercise of pluck and
manliness; when hunting gives place to bicycling, and cricket to golf;
when, in fact, the wholesome element of _danger_ is removed from our
recreation and pursuits. Should, in the near future, the long-talked-of
invasion of this country by a combination of European powers become an
accomplished fact, Englishmen may perchance be glad, as the cannon balls
and musket shots are whizzing round their heads, that on the mimic
battlefields of cricket, football, polo, and fox-hunting they learnt two
of the most useful lessons of life--coolness and courage.
[Illustration: Hawking 267.png]
THE COTSWOLDS THREE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
Nowadays, thanks in a great measure to Mr. Madden's book, the "Diary of
Master William Silence," it is beginning to dawn on us that the
Cotswolds are more or less connected with the great poet of
Mr. Blunt, in his "Cotswold Dialect," gives no less than fifty-eight
passages from the works of Shakespeare, in which words and phrases
peculiar to the district are made use of. Up to the reign of Queen Anne
this vast open tract of downland formed a happy hunting ground for the
inhabitants of all the surrounding counties. Warwickshire, Oxfordshire,
and Wiltshire, as well as Gloucestershire folk repaired to the wolds for
hunting, coursing, hawking, and other amusements; and in olden times,
even more than to-day, Cotswold was, as Burton described it, "a type of
what is most commodious for hawking, hunting, wood, waters, and all
manner of pleasures." There never was a district so well adapted for
stag-hunting. Nowadays the Cotswold district falls short in one
desideratum, and that a most essential one, of being a first-rate
hunting country. The large extent of ploughed land and the extreme
dryness and poverty of the soil cause it on four days out of five to
carry a most indifferent scent. But to-day we pursue the fox; in
Shakespeare's time the stag was the quarry. And, as hunting men are well
aware, the scent given off by a stag is not only ravishing to hounds,
but it actually increases as the quarry tires, whilst that from a fox
"grows small by degrees and beautifully less."
As with hunting, so also with coursing and hawking; the Cotswolds were
the grand centre of Elizabethan sport. Here it was that Shakespeare
marked the falcon "waiting on and towering in her pride of place." Here
he saw the fallow greyhounds competing for the silver-studded collar.
What an interest and a dignity does a district such as this draw from
even the slenderest association with the splendid name of William
Shakespeare! For my part I freely confess that scenery, however grand
and sublime, appeals but little to the imagination unless it be hallowed
by association or blended in the thoughts with the recollection of those
we have either loved or admired. Thus in India, in Natal and Cape
Colony, in glorious Ceylon, I could admire those wonderful purple
mountains and that tropical luxuriance of fertility and verdure; but I
could not _feel_ them. The boundless wolds of Africa, reminding one so
much of Gloucestershire, yet far grander and far finer than anything of
the kind in England, were to me a dreary wilderness. Passing through the
fine broken hill country of Natal was like visiting chaos, a waste,
"Where no one comes
Or hath come since the making of the world."
How well I remember the first sight of the wolds of South Africa! It was
the hour of uncertain light that comes before the dawn; and as our
railway train wound its tortuous course like a snake up the awful
heights that would ultimately end in Majuba Hill--to which ill-fated
spot I was bound--the billowy waves of rolling down seemed gradually to
change to an immensely rough ocean running mountains high, and the
mimosa trees dotting the plain for hundreds of miles appeared like
armies of the souls of all the black men that ever lived on earth since
the world began. There were passes and chasms like the portals of
far-off, inaccessible Paradise,
"With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms."
And then the scene changed. The hills rose like graves of white men and
barrows to the long-forgotten dead. Great oblong barrows, round Celtic
barrows, and stately sarcophagi. Monumental effigies in alabaster,
granite and porphyry; grim Gothic castles dating back to the foundation
of the world, and grim Gothic cathedrals with long-drawn aisles, where
the "great organ of Eternity" kept thundering ceaselessly. For the
lightning and the thunder are powers to be reckoned with in those awful
realms of chaos. And then the scene changed again. There suddenly uprose
weird shapes of giants and leviathans, huge mammoths and whole regiments
of fantastic monsters that looked like clouds and yet were mountains;
and there were fortresses and towers of silence, with vultures hovering
over them, and cliffs and crags and jutting promontories that looked
like mountains, but were really clouds: for the black clouds and the
frowning hills were so much alike that, save when the lightning shone,
you could not say where the sky ended and the land began. But there was
one gleam of hope in this weird and dismal scene, for on the farthest
verge of the horizon there appeared, as it were, a lake--such a lake as
saw the passing of Arthur, vanishing in mystery and silently floating
away upon a barge towards the east. It was a lake of beryl, whose
far-off golden shores were set with rubies and sardonyx, and beyond
these, again, were the more distant waters of the silver sea; and as
when Sir Bedivere
Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King,
Down that long water opening on the deep
Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
From less to less and vanish into light.
And the new sun rose bringing the new year,--"
so over the plains of Africa rose the mighty Alchemist and great
revealer of truth, the scatterer of dreary darkness and secret night,
turning those shadowy hills to purple and those mystic waters in the
eastern sky to gold.
How different are our feelings when we traverse, either in reality or in
fancy, such parts of the earth as are deeply blended in our hearts and
minds with old familiar associations! Whilst wandering through the Lake
District of England, how are we reminded of Wordsworth and the
"Excursion"! How can we visit Devonshire and the West Country without
summoning up pleasant thoughts of Charles Kingsley and Amyas Leigh; of
the men of Bideford, Sir Richard Grenville, Kt., and "The little
Revenge"? How vividly do the Trossachs recall "The Lady of the Lake" and
Walter Scott! How with Edinburgh do we connect the sad story of Mary,
the ill-fated queen! At Killarney, or standing amid the Gothic tracery
of Tintern, how do we think on Alfred Tennyson and "the days that are no
more"! These are only a few of the places in the British Isles that by
universal consent are hallowed by tender associations. Of those spots in
England which are dear to our hearts for personal reasons, there are of
course hundreds. Every man has his own peculiar prejudices in this
respect. To some London is the most sacred spot on earth. And who shall
deny that with all her faults London is not a vastly interesting place?
Is not every street hallowed by its associations with some great name or
some great event in English history? Which of us can stand amid the
Gothic tracery and the crumbling cloisters of Westminster, or under the
shadow of the old grey towers of Whitehall, without recalling
heart-stirring scenes and "paths of glory that lead but to the grave"?
Who can stand unmoved on any of the famous bridges that span the silent
river? Dr. Johnson, who acted up to Pope's well-known motto,
"The proper study of mankind is man,"
thought Fleet Street the most interesting place on the face of the
earth; and perhaps he was right. Let us hear what he has to say about
this halo of old association: "To abstract the mind from all local
emotion would be impossible if it were endeavoured; and would be foolish
if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses;
whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the
present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me and
from my friends be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent
and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery,
This, then, is the difference between the plains of Africa and the hills
and valleys of England. The one is at present a vast inhospitable chaos,
the other a land in which there is scarcely an acre that has not been
dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. Such are the signs by which we
are to distinguish Cosmos from Chaos.
How far into the Cotswold Hills the halo of Stratford-on-Avon's glory
may be said to extend it is not easy to determine. Let us allow at all
events that the _reflection_ from the arc reaches across the whole
extent of the wolds as far as Dursley. For here on the western edge of
the Cotswolds it is probable that Shakespeare spent that portion of his
life which has always been involved in obscurity--the interval between
his removal from Warwickshire and his arrival in London.
On a fine autumnal evening in the year 1592 a horseman, mounted on a
little ambling nag, neared the Cotswold village of Bibury. Both man and
steed showed unmistakable signs of weariness. The horse especially,
though of that wiry kind known as the Irish hobby, hard as iron, and
accustomed to long journeys, evinced by that sober and even dejected
expression of countenance so well known to hunting men, that he had been
ridden both far and fast. The saddle too, as well as the legs, chest,
and flanks of the nag, appeared wet and mud-stained, as if some brook
had been swum or some deep and muddy river forded, whilst the left
shoulder and knee of the rider bore marks which told tales of a fall.
The personal appearance of the man was not such as to excite the
interest of the casual passer-by; for his dress, though extremly neat,
was that worn by clerks and other townsfolk of the day; yet a keen
observer might have noticed that the features were those of a man of
uncommon character, in whom, as Carlyle would have said, a germ of
irrepressible force had been implanted.
It had indeed been a glorious day. The hounds, after meeting close to
Moreton-in-the-Marsh, in Warwickshire, had found a great hart in the
forest near Seizincote, and had hunted him "at force" over the deep
undrained vale up on to the Cotswold Hills, away past Stow-on-the-Wold
and Bourton-on-the-Water, towards the great woods of Chedworth. But the
stag, after crossing the Windrush close to Mr. Dutton's house at
Sherborne, had failed to make his point, and had "taken soil" in a deep
pool of the river Coln, near the little village of Coln-St-Dennis, where
eventually the mort had sounded. Such a run had not been seen for many a
long day; for it measured no less than fourteen miles "as the crow
flies," and about five-and-twenty as the hounds ran. The time occupied
had been close on seven hours. There had of course been several checks;
but so strong had been the scent of this hart that, in spite of two
"lets" of some twenty minutes' duration, the pack had been able to hunt
their quarry to the bitter end. Only two men had seen the end. The pride
and chivalry of Warwickshire, mounted on their high-priced Flanders
mares, their Galway nags, and their splendid Barbaries, had been
hopelessly thrown out of the chase; and besides the huntsman, on his
plain-bred little English horse, the only remnant of the field was our
friend with his tough and wiry Irish hobby.
It is five o'clock, and the sun as it disappears beyond a high ridge of
the wolds, is tinging the grey walls of an ancient Gothic fane with a
rosy glow. This our sportsman does not fail to notice; but in spite of
his keen appreciation of the beauties of nature, the question uppermost
in his mind, as he jogs along the rough, uneven road or track which
leads to Bibury, is where to spend the night. The thought of returning
home at that late hour does not enter his head; for the stag having
gone away in exactly the opposite direction to that from which the
Warwickshire man had set out early in the morning, there are no less
than three-and-thirty long and weary miles between the hunter and his
home. In the days of good Queen Bess, however, hospitality was
proverbially free, and any decently set up Englishman was tolerably sure
of a welcome at any of the country houses which were then, as now,
scattered at long intervals over this wild, uncultivated district. And
as he rides round a bend in the valley, a fair manor house comes into
view, pleasantly placed in a sheltered spot hard by the River Coln. It
was built in the style which had just come into vogue--the Elizabethan
form of architecture; and in honour of the reigning monarch its front
presented the appearance of the letter E. The windows, instead of being
made of horn, were of glass; and tall stone chimneys (a modern luxury
but lately invented) carried away the smoke from the chambers within.
It so happened that at the moment the stranger was passing, the owner of
the house--a squire of some sixty years of age, but hale and hearty--was
standing in front of his porch taking the evening air. This fact the
horseman did not fail to notice, and with a ready eye to the main
chance, which showed its possessor to be a man of no ordinary
apprehension, he glanced approvingly at the groined porch, the richly
carved pinnacles above it, and at the quaint belfry beyond, exclaiming
with great enthusiasm:
"'Fore God, you have a goodly dwelling and a rich here. I do envy thee
thine house, sir."
"Barren, barren, barren; beggars all, beggars all,"  was the reply,
to which, after a pause, the squire added, "Marry, good air."
[Footnote 8: _2 Henry IV_, V. iii.]
"Ah, 'tis a good air up on these wolds," replied the sportsman. "But I
am a stranger here in Gloucestershire; these high wild hills and rough,
uneven ways draw out our miles and make them wearisome. How far is it
[Footnote 9: _King Richard II._, II. iii.]
"Marry, 'tis nigh on forty mile, I warrant. Thou'll not see Stratford
to-night, sir; thy horse is wappered out, and that I plainly see."
[Footnote 10: _Wappered_ = tired. A Cotswold word.]
To him replied the stranger wearily:
Where is the horse that doth untread again
His tedious measures with the unbated fire
That he did pace them first? All things that are,
Are with more spirit chased than enjoyed.
[Footnote 11: _Merchant of Venice_, II. vi.]
"Hast been with the hounds to-day?" enquired the honest squire.
"Ah, sir, and that I have," was the reply; "and never have I seen such
sport before. For seven long hours they made the welkin ring, and ran
like swallows o'er the plain." 
[Footnote 12: _Titus Andronicus_, II. ii.]
"Please to step in; we be just a-settin' down to supper--a cold capon
and a venison pasty. I'll tell my serving man to take thy nag to yonder
yard, and make him comfortable for the night."
"Thanks, sir, I'll take him round myself, and give the honest beast a
drench of barley broth, and afterwards, to cheer him up a bit, a
handful or two of dried peas." 
[Footnote 13: _Henry V_., III. v.]
[Footnote 14: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, IV. i.]
Whilst the hunter was seeing to his nag, the squire thus addressed his
"Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton,
and any pretty tiny kickshaws, tell William cook." 
[Footnote 15: 2 _Henry IV_., V. i.]
DAVY: "Doth the hunter stay all night, sir?"
SQUIRE: "Yes, Davy. I will use him well; good sportsmen are ever welcome
The wants of the Irish hobby having been thoroughly attended to, and the
game little fellow having recovered in some measure his natural gaiety
of spirits, the squire ushered the stranger into a long low hall, hung
with pikes and guns and bows, and relics of the chase as well as of the
wars. The stone floor was strewed with clean rushes, and lying about on
tables were trashes, collars, and whips for hounds, as well as hoods,
perches, jesses, and bells for hawks; whilst a variety of odds and ends,
such as crossbows and jumping-poles, were scattered about the apartment.
An enormous wood fire blazed at one end of the hall, and in the
inglenook sat a girl of some twenty summers.
"My daughter, sir," exclaimed the squire; "as good a girl as ever lived
to make a cheese, brew good beer, preserve all sorts of wines, and cook
a capon with a chaudron! Marry! I forgot to ask thee thy name?"
"Oh, my name is Shakespeare--William Shakespeare, sir. I come from
Stratford-on-the-Avon, up to'rds Warwick."
"Shakespy, Shakespy; a' don't know that name. Dost bear arms, sir?"
"I am entitled to them--a spear on a bend sable, and a falcon for my
crest; but we have not yet applied to the heralds for the confirmation.
And you, sir?"
"He writes himself _armigero_ in any bill, warrant, quittance, or
obligation," here put in Davy the serving man.
"Ah, that I do! and have done any time these three hundred years."
"All his successors gone before him hath done it; and all his ancestors
that come after him may," added Davy, with pride.
"To be sure, to be sure," said the squire. "Well, welcome to Cotswold,
Master Shakespeare; good sportsmen are ever welcome on Cotswold. But
tell me, how didst thou get thy downfall?"
"The first was at the mound into the tyning by Master Blackett's house
at Iccomb; old Dobbin breasted it, and the stones did rattle round mine
ears like a house a-coming down. We made a shard that let the rest
of 'em through. It was the only wall that came in the way of the chase
to-day. The second downfall was at the brook by Bourton-Windrush, I
think they call it. Dobbin being a bit short of wind, and quilting
sadly, stuck fast in the mire, and tumbled on to his nose in scrambling
out. Marry, sir, but 'twas a famous chase; the like of it I never saw
before. 'Twas grand at first to see the hart unharboured--a stag with
all his rights, 'brow, bay, and trey.'"
[Footnote 16: A Cotswold word = breach.]
"Thou shouldst know, our hounds at Warwick are a noted pack,
So flew'd, so sanded, and their beads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
Crook-knee'd, and dew-lapp'd like Thessalian bulls;
Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tuneable
Was never holla'd to, nor cheer'd with horn.'" 
[Footnote 17: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, IV. i.]
Then he told how, after leaving behind the deep undrained grass country
round Moreton-in-the-Marsh, they rose the hills by Stow and came across
the moor. How the riders who spurred their horses up the steep uprising
ascent were soon left behind. For
"To climb steep hills
Requires slow pace at first; anger is like
A full hot horse, who, being allowed his way,
Self mettle tires him."
He told how, after an hour's steady running over the wolds, a "let" 
occurred, and "the hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt";
how Mountain, Fury, Tyrant, and Ringwood, who had been leading the rest
of the pack, strove in vain for a considerable time to pick out the cold
scent, until suddenly the cheery sound of the old huntsman's voice was
[Footnote 18: _Two Noble Kinsmen_, III. v.]
[Footnote 19: _Venus and Adonis_, 692.]
"Fury! Fury! There, Tyrant, there! Hark! Hark!" 
and the whole pack went "yoppeting" off as happy as the hunt was long.
He told how Belman fairly surpassed himself, and "twice to-day picked
out the dullest scent"; and how little Dobbin, the Irish hobby, went
cantering on "as true as truest horse, that yet would never tire." 
He told how, after running from scent to view, they came down into the
woodlands of the valley of the Coln, and awoke the echoes with their
[Footnote 20: _Tempest_, IV, i.]
[Footnote 21: _Taming of the Shrew_, Introduction.]
[Footnote 22: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, III. i.]
"... besides the groves,
The skies, the fountains, every region near
Seem'd all one mutual cry: I never heard
So musical a discord, such sweet thunder." 
[Footnote 23: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, IV.]
And how the noble animal took soil in the Coln,
"Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood:
To the which place our poor sequester'd stag
Did come to languish; and indeed, my lord,
The wretched animal heaved forth such groans
That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat
Almost to bursting, and the big round tears
Coursed one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase.
Left and abandon'd of his velvet friends,
''Tis right,' quoth he: 'thus misery doth part
The flux of company': anon a careless herd,
Full of the pasture, jumps along by him,
And never stays to greet him. 'Ah,' quoth Jaques,
'Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens;
'Tis just the fashion: wherefore do you look
Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there?'" 
[Footnote 24: _As You Like It_, II. i.]
And finally he told how the gallant beast died a soldier's death,
fighting to the bitter end.
"Marry, 'twas a right good chase, and bravely must thy steed have borne
thee. But thou wast too venturesome, Master Shakespeare," exclaimed the
squire, "a-trying to jump that mound into the tyning by Master
"Tell me, I prithee," answered Shakespeare, anxious to turn the
conversation from his own share in the day's proceedings, "whose dog won
the silver-studded collar this year in the coursing matches on
[Footnote 25: _Merry Wives of Windsor_,]
"Our Bill Peregrine, here, at the farm, carried it off. A prettier bit
of coursing I never did see!"
"Ah! that was the country fellow that turned up when we sounded the mort
by Col-Dene. He seemed to spring up out of the ground. He is a snapper
up of unconsidered trifles, I'll be bound. The fellow claimed the hide:
he said the skin was the keeper's fee." 
[Footnote 26: 3 _Henry VI_, III. i.]
"That 'ould be he. I warrant he lent a hand in taking assay and
breaking up the deer. Tis just what he enjoys."
"Ah! I marked him disembowelling the poor dead beast in right good will,
with hands besmeared with blood." 
[Footnote 27: _Henry IV._, V. iv.]
Then they fell to talking of other things; and the honest old squire
began to brag about his London days, and how he was once of
"There was I, and little John Doit of Staffordshire, and black George
Barnes, and Francis Pickbone, and Will Squele, a Cotswold man; you had
not four such swinge-bucklers in all the Inns o' Court again." 
[Footnote 28: _Henry IV._, III. ii.]
But the old man was far too interested in his own doings to ask if his
guest had ever been in London. It is the prerogative of age to take for
granted that all younger men are of no account, and even as children,
"to be seen and not heard."
"To-morrow," said the squire, "at break of day, we be a-going a-birding,
to try some young falcons Bill Peregrine has lately trained. Wilt join
us, Master Shakespeare?"
"Ah, that I will, sir! I know a hawk from a handsaw, or my name's not
By this time the cold capon and the venison pasty, as well as the
"little tiny kickshaws," together with a gallon of "good sherris-sack,"
had been considerably reduced by the united efforts of the squire, the
famished hunter, and those below the salt. During the meal such scraps
of conversation as this might have been heard:
"Will you please to take a bit of bacon, Master Shakespeare?"
"Not any, I thank you," replied the poet.
"What, no bacon!" put in the serving man from behind, in a voice of
surprise bordering on disappointment.
"No bacon for me, I thank you; _I never take bacon_," repeated
Shakespeare, with some emphasis.
Then the master of the house would occasionally address a remark to his
serving man about the farm, such as, "How a good yoke of bullocks at
Ciren Fair?" or, "How a score of ewes now?" meaning how much are they
worth. Once the serving man took the initiative, asking, "Shall we sow
the headlands with wheat?" receiving the reply, "With red wheat,
[Footnote 29: 2 _Henry IV_, V. i.]
Then there was some discussion concerning the stopping of William's
(Peregrine's?) wages, "About the sack he lost the other day at
SHAKESPEARE: "This Davy serves you for good uses; he is your serving man
and your husbandman."
SQUIRE: "A good varlet, a good varlet, a very good varlet.... By the
mass, I have drunk too much sack at supper! A good varlet." 
[Footnote 30: 2 _Henry IV_, V. iii.]
These were the squire's last words that night. He soon slept peacefully,
as was his wont after his evening meal; whereupon the poet, with his
accustomed gallantry, commenced making love in right good earnest to the
fair daughter of the house.
The Cotswold girls, like the Irish, have always been famous for their
beauty. Even amongst the peasants you may nowadays see the most
beautiful and graceful women in the world, though their attire is
usually of a plain and unbecoming character, and but ill adapted to set
off the features and form of the wearer. The squire's daughter, whom we
will call Jessica, was no exception to the rule. She was a handsome
brunette--indeed, the squire called her a "black ousel." Shakespeare
fell in love with her at once, and, forgetting all about the family at
Stratford, he plunged into the most desperate flirtation. The girl, with
that natural perception of the divine in man common to her sex, could
not help feeling a strange admiration for this unexpected, though not
unwelcome, guest. There was something about his countenance which
exercised a peculiar charm and fascination. The thoughtful brow, the
keen hazel eye, and the gentle bearing of the man were what at first
attracted attention. But it was his manner and speech, half serious and
half mirthful, which made such an impression on her mind; and perhaps
she felt that, "to the face whose beauty is the harmony between that
which speaks from within and the form through which it speaks, power is
added by all that causes the outer man to bear more deeply the impress
of the inner."
The surroundings, too, were as romantic as they possibly could be. A
pair of rush candles were shedding their dim light through the long low
oak-panelled apartment; they were the only lights that were burning, and
even these flickered ominously at times, as if threatening to go out and
leave the place in total darkness. A full moon, however, was casting her
silvery beams through the great lattice casement, and in one of the
upper panes of this window were richly emblazoned the arms of which the
squire was so proud.
It was a glorious evening. Opening the window, William Shakespeare
looked out upon the peaceful garden. The moon was shedding a pale light
upon the woods and the stream, "decking with liquid pearl the bladed
grass." A hundred yards away the silent Coln was gliding slowly onwards
towards the sea. Owls were breathing heavily in the hanging wood, and a
pair of otters were hunting in the pool.
As the two sat by the open window, the poet's own life and its prospects
formed the principal topic of conversation. After years of toil in
London his fortunes were beginning at length to improve. He was manager
of a theatre, and was at length earning a moderate competency. He had
already saved a little money, and hoped soon to buy a house at
Stratford. He looked forward some day to returning to his native place
and living a country life. At present he was enjoying a short holiday,
the first for over a year.
As they sat and talked over these matters, a minstrel began to play in
one of the cottages of the village; the sound of the harp added another
charm to the peaceful surroundings, and filled the poet's mind with a
"I am never merry when I hear sweet music," said Jessica.
Whereupon her companion replied:
"' ... soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.'" 
[Footnote 31: _Merchant of Venice_, V. i.]
Sweet is the sound of soft melodious music on a moonlight night; sweet
the faint sigh of the breeze among the elms, and the light upon the
silent stream; but sweeter far is music on a moonlight night, sweeter
the faint sigh of the breeze, and the light upon the silent stream, when
hope, renewed after years of sorrow and sadness, flatters once again the
aims and objects of youth, gilding the landscape of life with wondrous
alchemy, shedding rays of happy sunshine on the vague, mysterious
yearnings of the soul of man towards the hidden destinies of the
It was not long, however, before Shakespeare bade the fair Jessica
good-night and retired to his sleeping apartment; for a run of such
uncommon excellence as he had enjoyed that day was calculated to produce
the tired, though not unpleasant, sensation which even now sends the
hunting man sleepy, though happy, to bed.
So, lulled by the strains of the minstrel's harp did William Shakespeare
seek his couch and sleep the sleep of the just But even while the body
was wrapped in slumber, the highly wrought, powerful mind, though yet
unconscious of its awful destiny, was hard at work, "moving about in
worlds not realised." Yonder on the turret of that grey Gothic castle,
whose pinnacles point ever upwards to the skies, they stand and wait, a
glorious throng; and as they stand they wave him onwards. Dante, Homer,
Virgil, Chaucer, Plutarch, Montaigne, and many another hero of old is
waiting there. See the sharp-pointed features of the Italian bard, and
Homer no longer blind! The two are holding animated converse, and ever
beckoning him on. And a voice seemed to speak out loud and clear amid
the solemn silence of eternity:
"Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd
But to fine issues." 
[Footnote 32: _Measure for Measure_, I. i.]
Can he linger? Away with blank misgivings, fears, and doubts! He will
climb the rugged, steep ascent, and follow even unto the end.
The following morning a little before sunrise saw a party of five
assembled for a hawking expedition on the downs. Besides the squire and
William Shakespeare, the parson had turned up, whilst Bill Peregrine
(ancestor of all the Peregrines, including, no doubt, the famous
Peregrine Pickle) brought one of his brothers from the farm to "help him
out" with the hawks. It was somewhat of a peculiar dawn--one of those
dull grey mornings which often bodes a fine day. The bard was much
interested in the glowing eastern sky, and as the sun began to appear he
turned to William Peregrine and enthusiastically exclaimed:
"'.... what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.'" 
[Footnote 33: _Romeo and Juliet_, III. v.]
"To be sure, to be sure, it do look a bit comical, don't it?" answered
the yeoman, with a cackle; and then, turning to his brother, he said,
"Ain't 'e ever seen the sun rise before?"
"Please, squire, who be the gent from Warwickshire?" says Peregrine,
_sotto voce_; "I cannot tell what the dickens his name is!"
"Oh! 'is name's Shakespy, William Shakespy. A good un at his books, I'll
be bound. Get the hawks, Bill; the sun be up. A' must be off to
Stratford shortly," answered the squire, glancing at the poet.
Whereupon the yeoman opened the door of a long covered shed commonly
called the "mews," and shortly appeared again with four hooded
hawks--two falcons, and two males or tiercel-gentles--placed on a wooden
frame or cadge. These he handed to a stout yokel to carry, and the whole
party sallied forth towards the downs. The squire and the parson were
mounted on their palfreys, the rest of the party being on foot.
It was not long before William Peregrine started an interesting
conversation with the stranger somewhat after this manner:
"Did you 'ave a pretty good day's spart yesterday, Master Quakespear?"
"Ah, that we had! I never saw such a day's sport in all my life!"
"I thought ye did. I could see the 'art was tired smartish. I qeum along
by the bruk, and give un the meeting. When I sees un I says, 'I can see
you've 'ad a smartish doing, old boy.' Then the 'ounds qeum yoppeting
along as nice as could be. Then I sees you and the 'untsman lolloping
along arter the dogs, and soon arter I 'urd the trumpets goin'; and so
says I, 'It's a _case_,' and I qeums up and skins un. 'E did skin
beautiful to be sure! I never see a better job in all my life--never!"
"'Twas a fine hart," replied Shakespeare, "and no dull and muddy-mettled
[Footnote 34: _Hamlet_, II. ii.]
"I be fond of a bit of spart like that," continued Peregrine; "but I
never could away with books and larning. Muddling work, I calls it,
messing over books. Do you care for that kind of stuff, Master
"I dabble in it when I am away from the country," was the reply.
Then the Warwickshire man began soliloquising again, somewhat after this
"'In his brain
He hath strange places crammed with observation,
The which he vents in mangled forms.'" 
[Footnote 35: _As you Like It_ vii.]
"Drat the fellow!" whispered Peregrine, turning to the parson, who
happened to be riding alongside "I don't like un, 'e's so unkit."
PARSON: "What makes him talk so, William?"
PEREGRINE (_touching his forehead_): "It's a case; I'll be bound it's a
case. 'E's unkit."
"Would you mind saying that again, sir," said the bard, producing a
Peregrine goes into a fit of giggling, so Shakespeare writes down from
memory; whereupon the yeoman makes up to the squire, and says, "Hist,
squire, we must 'ave a care; 'e's takin' notes 'o anything we says. 'Tis
my belief 'e's got to do with that 'ere case of Tom Barton's they're
makin' such a fuss and do about at Coln. We shall all be 'ung for a set
o' sheep-stealing ruffians."
"Thee be quite right, William," put in the parson "I thought a' looked a
bit suspicious. If I was you, squire, I'd clap the baggage into
Northleach gaol, and exercise the justice of the peace agin un for an
"Yet a milder mannered man I never saw," said the squire.
PARSON: "Mild-mannered fiddlestick!" Then, raising his voice so that the
stranger should get the full benefit, he added, "He's as mild a mannered
man as ever scuttled ship or cut a throat!"
Shakespeare hurriedly draws out notebook, and smilingly writes down the
parson's words; then, in perfect good humour, he says:
"You must excuse me, gentlemen, but I have somewhat of a passion for
writing down such sayings as suit my humour, lest I forget what good
company I keep."
SQUIRE (_excitedly_): "Let go the hawk, Tom; there's a great lanky
heron risin' at the withybed yonder."
And here it is necessary to say something about the methods and language
of falconry as practised by our forefathers.
Shakespeare tells us to choose "a falcon or tercel for flying at the
brook, and a hawk for the bush." In other words, we are to select the
nobler species, the long-winged peregrine falcon, the male of which was
called a tiercel-gentle, for flying at the heron or the mallard; and a
short-winged hawk, such as the goshawk or sparrow-hawk, for blackbirds
and other hedgerow birds. For as Mr. Madden explains, not only does the
true falcon, be she peregrine, gerfalcon, merlin, or hobby, differ in
size and structure of wing and beak from the short-winged hawks, but she
also differs in her method of hunting and seizing her prey.
The falcons are "hawks of the tower and lure." They tower aloft and
swoop down on partridge, rabbit, or heron, finally returning to the
lure; and be it noted that the lure is a sham bird, with a "train" of
food to entice the falcons back to their master.
The short-winged hawks, on the other hand, are birds of the fist or the
bush. Instead of "towering" and "stooping," they lurch after their prey
in wandering flight, finally returning to their master's fist.
In _Macbeth_ we find allusion to the "falcon towering in her pride of
place"; and indeed there is no prettier sport on a still day than a
flight at the partridge or the heron with the noble peregrine falcon or
her mate the tiercel-gentle.
At the honest squire's word of command, a male peregrine is forthwith
despatched, and, soaring upwards into the air, he is almost lost to
sight in the clouds, though the faint tinkling of the bells attached to
his feet may yet be heard; then, stooping from the skies, the
tiercel-gentle descends from the heavens and strikes his long-beaked
adversary. Down, down they come, fighting and struggling in the air,
until, exhausted by the unequal combat, the heron gradually falls to the
ground, and receives from the falconer his final _coup de grace_.
Sometimes a pair of hawks are thrown off against a heron.
Now comes a flight at the partridge. First of all the spaniel is
despatched to search the fields for a covey of birds. The desired quarry
being found, he "points" to them, and this time the female peregrine or
true falcon is sent on her way. Away she soars upwards, "waiting on and
towering in her pride of place." Then the birds, lying like stones
beneath her savage ken, are flushed by the dog, and the cruel peregrine,
after selecting her bird, with her characteristic "swoop" brings it to
the ground. If she is unsuccessful in her first attempt, she will tower
again, and renew the attack. The riders have to gallop as fast as their
nags can go, if they would keep in with the sport, for as often as not a
mile or more of ground has to be covered in a long flight, ere the
falcon "souses"  her prey. After the flight, a well-trained falcon
will invariably return to the lure with its "train" of food.
[Footnote 36: _King John_. V. ii.]
As Mr. Madden has proved, the whole of Shakespeare's works teem with
allusions to the art of falconry.
"HENRY: But what a point, my lord, your falcon made,
And what a pitch she flew above the rest!
To see how God in all His creatures works!
Yea, man and birds are fain of climbing high.
SUFFOLK: No marvel, an it like your majesty,
My lord protector's hawks do tower so well;
They know their master loves to be aloft
And bears his thoughts above his falcon's pitch.
GLOUCESTER: My lord, 'tis but a base ignoble mind
That mounts no higher than a bird can soar." 
[Footnote 37: 2 _Henry VI_., II. i.]
But it was not the death of the poor partridge that appealed to the
poet's mind so much as the pride and cunning of the mighty peregrine,
and the beauty and stillness of the autumnal morning. He loved to hear
the faint tinkling of the falcon's bells, the homely cry of the plover,
and the sweet carol of the lark; but more than all he felt the mystery
of the downs, wondering by what power and when those old seas were
converted into a sea of grass.
But whilst the hawking party was moving slowly across the wolds to try
fresh ground an event occurred which had the effect of bringing the
morning's sport, as far as hawks were concerned, to an abrupt
conclusion. This was nothing more nor less than the sight of a great
Cotswold fox of the greyhound breed making his way towards a copse on
the squire's demesne. The quick eye of the Peregrine family was the
first to view him, and forthwith both Bill and his brother screamed in
unison: "What's that sneaking across Smoke Acre yonder? 'Tis a fox--a
great, lanky, thieving, villainous fox, darned if it ain't!"
"Where?" said parson and squire excitedly.
"There," said Peregrine, "over agin Smoke Acre."
"By jabbers, so it be!" said the parson. "Now look thee here, Joe
Peregrine, go thee to the sexton and tell 'un to ring the church bells
for the folks to come for a fox; and be sure and tell the
"Ah!" said the poet, almost as excited as the rest of the party,
"'And do not stand on quillets how to slay him:
Be it by gins, by snares, by subtlety,
Sleeping or waking, 'tis no matter how,
So he be dead.'" 
[Footnote 38: _2 Henry VI._, III. i.]
Thus abruptly ended this hawking expedition on the Cotswolds; for the
whole party made off to the manor house to fetch guns, spades, pickaxes,
and dogs, as was the custom in those days, when a "lanky, villainous
fox" was viewed.
As for Shakespeare, after bidding adieu to the old squire, and thanking
him for his hospitality, he mounted his game little Irish hobby and
steered his course due northward for Stow-on-the-Wold. His track lay
along the old Fossway, a road infested in those days by murderous
highwaymen; yet, unarmed and unattended, unknown and unappreciated, did
that mighty man of genius set cheerfully out on his long and
[Illustration: The Abbey Gateway, Cirencester 295.png]
The ancient town of Cirencester--the Caerceri of the early Britons, the
Corinium of the Romans, and the Saxon Cyrencerne--has been a place of
importance on the Cotswolds from time immemorial. The abbreviations
Cisetre and Cysseter were in use as long ago as the fifteenth century,
though some of the natives are now in the habit of calling it Ciren. The
correct modern abbreviation is Ciceter.
The place is so rich in Roman antiquities that we must perforce devote a
few lines to their consideration. A whole book would not be sufficient
to do full justice to them.
No less than four important Roman roads meet within a short distance of
Cirencester; and very fine and broad ones they are, generally running as
straight as the proverbial arrow.
1. The Irmin Way, between Cricklade and Gloucester, _via_ Cirencester.
2. Acman Street connects Cirencester with Bath.
3. Icknield Street, running to Oxford.
4. The Fossway, extending far into the north of England. This
magnificent road may be said to connect Exeter in the south with Lincoln
in the north. It is raised several feet above the natural level of the
country, and in many places there still remain traces of the ancient
ditch which was dug on either side of its course.
In the year 1849 two very fine tessellated pavements were unearthed in
Dyer Street, and removed to a museum which Lord Bathurst built purposely
for their reception and preservation. Another fine specimen of this kind
of work may be seen in its original position at a house called the
"Barton" in the park. It is a representation of Orpheus and his lute;
and the various animals which he is said to have charmed are wonderfully
worked in the coloured pavements. Even as far back as three hundred
years ago these beautiful relics were being discovered in this town; for
Leland in his "Itinerary," mentions the finding of some tesserae;
unfortunately but few have been preserved.
There are two inscribed stones in this collection which deserve special
mention, as they are marvellously well preserved, considering the fact
that they are probably eighteen hundred years old. They are about six
feet in height and about half that breadth; on each is carved the figure
of a mounted soldier, spear in hand. On the ground lies his prostrate
foe, pierced by his adversary's spear. Underneath one of these carvings
are inscribed the following words:--
DANNICVS. EQES. AIAE.
INDIAN. TVR. ALBANI.
STIP. XVI. CIVES. RAVR.
CVR. FVLVIVS. NATALIS. IT.
FVLIVS. BITVCVS. EX. TESTAME.
H S E.
The meaning of the above words is as follows:--
"Dannicus, a horseman of Indus's Cavalry, of the squadron of Albanus. He
had seen sixteen years' service. A citizen of Rauricum. Fulvius Natalis
and Fulvius Bitucus have caused this monument to be made in accordance
with his will. He is buried here."
The other stone has a somewhat similar inscription.
The Romans, who did not use wallpapers, were in the habit of colouring
their plaster with various pigments. Some very interesting specimens of
wall-painting are preserved at Cirencester, and may be seen in the
museum. The most remarkable example of the kind is a piece of coloured
plaster, with the following square scratched on its surface:--
It will be noticed that these five words, the meaning of which is,
"Arepo, the sower, guides the wheels at work," form a kind of puzzle;
they may be read in eight different directions.
A large variety of sepulchral urns have been found at Cirencester. When
dug up they usually contain little besides the ashes of the dead, though
a few coins are sometimes included. There is a very perfect specimen of
a glass urn--a large green bottle, square, wide-mouthed, and absolutely
intact--in this collection. It was found, wrapped in lead and enclosed
in a hollow stone, somewhere near the town about the year 1758.
A fine specimen of a stone coffin is likewise to be seen. When
discovered at Latton it was found to contain an iron axe, a dish of
black ware of the kind frequently discovered at Upchurch in Kent, a
juglike-handled vase of a light red colour, and some human bones.
The various kinds of pottery in the Corinium Museum are interesting on
account of the potters' marks found on them. There must be considerably
over a hundred different marks in this collection, chiefly of the
_Putri M_. (Manu Putri), by the hand of Putrus.
_Mara. F_. (Forma Marci), from the mould of Marcus.
_Olini Off_. (Officina Olini), from the workshop of Olinus.
The museum contains many good specimens of iron and bronze implements,
as well as coins and stonework, and is well worthy of the attention
bestowed on it, not only by antiquaries, but by the public at large.
At a place called the Querns, a short distance from the town, is a very
interesting old amphitheatre called the Bull-ring. This is an ellipse of
about sixty yards long by forty-five wide; it is surrounded by mounds
twenty feet high. Originally the scene of the combats of Roman
gladiators, in mediaeval times it was probably used for the pastime of
bull-baiting, a barbarous amusement which has happily long since
Amphitheatres of the same type are to be seen at Dorchester, Old Sarum,
Silchester, and other Roman stations.
Mr. Wilfred Cripps, C.B., the head of a family that has been seated at
Cirencester for many hundreds of years, has an interesting private
collection of Roman antiquities which have been found in the
neighbourhood from time to time. He has quite recently discovered the
remnants of the Basilica or Roman law-courts.
Turning to the place as it now stands, one is struck on entering the
town by the breadth and clean appearance of the main street, known as
the market-place. The shops are almost as good as those to be found in
the principal thoroughfares of London.
I have spoken before of the magnificent old church. There is, perhaps,
no sacred building, except St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol and Beverley
Minster, that we know of in England which for perfect proportion and
symmetry can vie with the imposing grandeur of this pile, as seen from
the Cricklade-street end of Cirencester market-place.
The south porch is a very beautiful and ornamental piece of
architecture. The work is of fifteenth-century design, the interior of
the porch consisting of delicately wrought fan-tracery groining. The
carving outside is most picturesque, there being many handsome niches
and six fine oriel windows. The whole of the _facade_ is crowned with
very large pierced battlements and crocketed pinnacles. Over this porch
is one of those grand old sixteenth-century halls such as were built in
former times in front of the churches. It is called the "Parvise," a
word derived from the same source as Paradise, which in the language of
architecture means a cloistered court adjoining a church. Many of these
beautiful old apartments existed at one time in England, but were pulled
down by religious enthusiasts because they were considered to be out of
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