Imágenes de páginas

In the mukeries.'

I AM a bit of a Peripatetic Philosopher, in so far as

I move up and down, here and there. In home travel through English landscapes, there are certain districts rich in a peculiar character of high culture, and of stately loveliness. There is, to select an instance, a famous district called Nobleman's Corner, in Berkshire. Three fine estates converge, and there seems to be a generous rivalry which shall be kept in the best ordered and most liberal way. For miles and miles the public road runs through lawn-like meadows, and the prolonged range of splendid scenery could not be paralleled out of England. The · Dukeries' stand pre-eminent amid the glories of English landscapes. How many there are who will have grateful thoughts of Goodwood, the springing sward and the shadowing trees ! Arundel Castle is a dukery well beloved, not alone for ancient keep and noble site, but for the associations that cluster around goodly fêtes in its noble domain. Cliefden, 'the wanton bower of Shrewsbury and of love,' embowered in the rich woods that feather down to the water's edge, where the Thames is broadest and most silvery, is the spot where the Duchess of Sutherland keeps almost royal state. Imperial Belvoir and palatial Chatsworth, the cottage at Endsleigh, the hunting-lodges of Bolton and Haddon, the Beaufort domains of Badminton and Chepstow; in short, whether it be palace or castle or abbey, or mere cottage or lodge, we have sumptuous affluence—the treasured heirlooms of art and taste, and sites planned by the eye trained to discern each distinctive beauty of scenery. The churches are, as a rule, restored and well cared for; the schools and parsonages kept in well-trimmed order, and luxuriant with spreading plants and with gardens; the roads as good as those of Switzerland; the cottages, as a rule, convenient and picturesque; the alternation of wood and water carefully studied; and art has been taught to render a careful but unobtrusive ministry to nature. Travellers come from far to see the statues and rarities and pictures, while the country people have a feudal loyalty to their prince, and even demagogue tenants own that he is the best of landlords. We do not hesitate to say that only our law of primogeniture, whatever may be its drawbacks, could make such a state of things possible; and such scenery would be altogether impossible under a system of peasant proprietorship.

Such are the tolerably uniform estimates of dukes,


[ocr errors]

as I have heard them in the 'Dukeries,' although the picture is altogether too flattering and Elysian not to be without some conspicuous drawbacks. Where, for instance, a duke owns a hundred thousand acres, which he might enclose with a ring-fence, the countryside has only the great house, which is often deserted, and there is a great want of general society. I know one curious instance, where within such an estate, within the very park or home-farm itself, there was a cottage and little bit of ground, the freehold of the smallest of small yeomen. I never heard that there was the slightest appetency on the part of the great duke for this Naboth's vineyard; but he begged to be allowed to keep it in good order, and make it as pretty as he could, and smothered it in roses and honeysuckles. It is one of the most unique decorations of his estate. On the other hand, there is a great Yorkshire town, where the soil all belongs to a single family, except one small plot, which belonged to a Quaker. I give the story as I was told it on the spot. A former baronet was excessively anxious to perfect the symmetry of his possessions by the acquisition of this plot of ground. The Quaker demanded that the ground should be covered with sovereigns. After some demur, this extraordinary condition was accepted. “Friend, thou must put them

' in edge-ways,' said the Quaker. This, of course, could not be allowed. •Very well,' said the Quaker, 'then all Huddersfield shall continue to belong to thee and to me!'


Yet down in the 'Dukeries’ I heard a curious story of a certain duke which I shall give without clue of name or date. This particular duke had an immense aversion to tourists and excursionists. Some dukes highly appreciate this kind of people, and do all they can to confer enjoyment upon them; but this particular member of the order took very much the reverse side. He probably did so with very good

The British excursionist is, we all know, highly objectionable. A nobleman may be excused for being shy of the excursionist, when he finds that choice flowers vanish from his garden and choice articles from his drawing-room. The incident I am about to relate almost deserves to be dramatised. A small party of three or four tourists were very anxious to investigate a certain ducal domain. An application at the lodge-gate was ineffectual. After some time, however, a private path was noticed, which was unguarded, and lay invitingly open. The venial trespass was committed, and the party were soon admiring the beauty of the rhododendron walks. a sudden turn of the path they came unexpectedly on the duke himself. There was a painful sense of confusion; but the duke advanced briskly, courteously saluted them, and pointed out the leading features of the landscape. After the grounds had been explored,

« AnteriorContinuar »