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TO THE HONOURABLE DAINES BARRINGTON.
(VIRG. Æn. iv. 490, 491.)
WHEN I was a boy I used to read, with astonishment and implicit assent, accounts in Baker's “Chronicle" of walking hills and travelling mountains. John Philips, in his “Cyder," alludes to the credit given to such stories with a delicate but quaint vein of humour peculiar to the author of the “Splendid Shilling :
“I nor advise, nor reprehend the choice
Of Marcley Hill; the apple no where finds
But, when I came to consider better, I began to suspect that though our hills may never have journeyed far, yet that the ends of many of them have slipped and fallen away at distant periods, leaving the cliffs bare and abrupt. This seems to have been
the case with Nore and Whetham Hills; and especially with the ridge between Harteley Park and Wardleham, where the ground has slid into vast swellings and furrows; and lies still in such romantic confusion as cannot be accounted for from any other cause. A strange event, that happened not long since, justifies our suspicions; which, though it befell not within the limits of this parish, yet, as it was within the hundred of Selborne, and as the circumstances were singular, may fairly claim a place in this work.
The months of January and February, in the year 1774, were remarkable for great melting snows and vast gluts of rain ; so that by the end of the latter month the land-springs, or lavants, began to prevail, and to be near as high as in the memorable winter of 1764. The beginning of March also went on in the same tenor; when, in the night between the 8th and gth of that month, a.considerable part of the great woody hanger at Hawkley was torn from its place, and fell down, leaving a high free-stone cliff naked and bare, and resembling the steep side of a chalkpit. It appears that this huge fragment, being perhaps sapped and undermined by waters, foundered, and was ingulfed, going down in a perpendicular direction; for a gate which stood in the field, on the top of the hill, after sinking with its posts for thirty or forty feet, remained in so true and upright a position as to open and shut with great exactness, just as in
its first situation. Several oaks are still standing, and in a state of vegetation, after taking the same desperate leap. That great part of this prodigious mass was absorbed in some gulf below is plain also from the inclining ground at the bottom of the hill, which is free and unincumbered; but would have been buried in heaps of rubbish had the fragment parted and fallen forward. About a hundred yards from the foot of this hanging coppice stood a cottage by the side of a lane; and two hundred yards lower, on the other side of the lane, was a farm-house, in which lived a labourer and his family; and, just by, a stout new barn. The cottage was inhabited by an old woman and her son, and his wife. These people in the evening, which was very dark and tempestuous, observed that the brick floors of their kitchens began to heave and part; and that the walls seemed to open, and the roofs to crack: but they all agree that no tremor of the ground, indicating an earthquake, was ever felt; only that the wind continued to make a most tremendous roaring in the woods and hangers. The miserable inhabitants, not daring to go to bed, remained in the utmost solicitude and confusion, expecting every moment to be buried under the ruins of their shattered edifices. When daylight came they were at leisure to contemplate the devastations of the night : they then found that a deep rist, or chasm, had opened under their houses, and torn them, as it were, in two; and that
one end of the barn had suffered in a similar manner; that a pond near the cottage had undergone a strange reverse, becoming deep at the shallow end, and so vice verså ; that many large oaks were removed out of their perpendicular, some thrown down, and some fallen into the heads of neighbouring trees; and that a gate was thrust forward, with its hedge, full six feet, so as to require a new track to be made to it. From the foot of the cliff the general course of the ground, which is pasture, inclines in a moderate descent for half a mile, and is interspersed with some hillocks, which were rifted, in every direction, as well towards the great woody hanger as from it. In the first pasture the deep clefts began : and running across the lane, and under the buildings, made such vast shelves that the road was impassable for some time; and so over to an arable field on the other side, which was strangely torn and disordered. The second pasture field, being more soft and springy, was protruded forward without many fissures in the turf, which was raised in long ridges resembling graves, lying at right angles to the motion. At the bottom of this inclosure the soil and turf rose many feet against some oaks that obstructed their farther course, and terminated this awful commotion. The
perpendicular height of the precipice, in general, is twenty-three yards; the length of the lapse, or slip, as seen from the fields below, one hundred and eighty-one; and a partial fall, concealed in the coppice, extends seventy yards more: so that the total length of this fragment that fell was two hundred and fifty-one yards. About fifty acres of land suffered from this violent convulsion; two houses were entirely destroyed; one end of a new barn was left in ruins, the walls being cracked through the very stones that composed them; a hanging coppice was changed to a naked rock; and some grass grounds and an arable field so broken and risted by the chasms as to be rendered, for a time, neither fit for the plough nor safe for pasturage, till considerable labour and expense had been bestowed in level. ling the surface and filling in the gaping fissures.
THERE is a steep abrupt pasture field interspersed with furze close to the back of this village, well known by the name of the Short Lithe, consisting of a rocky dry soil, and inclining to the afternoon sun. This spot abounds with Gryllus campestris, or fieldcricket, which, though frequent in these parts, is