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sails; but thee, fair, gentle maid, whom Mnesis, happy nymph, first on the banks of Hebrus did produce; thee, whom Mæonia educated, whom Mantua charmed, and who, on that fair hill, which overlooks the proud metropolis of Britain, satest with thy Milton tuning the heroic lyre-fill my ravished fancy with the hope of charming ages yet to come. Foretell me that some tender maid, whose grandmother is yet unborn, hereafter, when, under the fictitious name of Sophia, she reads the real worth that once existed in my Charlotte, shall, from her sympathetic breast, send forth the heaving sigh! Do thou teach me not only to foresee, but feed on future praise! Comfort me by a solemn assurance, that when the little parlour in which I sit at this instant, shall be reduced to a worse-furnished box, I shall be read with honour, by those who never knew or saw me, and whom Í shall never see or know."
The man who could dream, and dream truly too, could not be miserable even amid the neglect of fortune and the scorn of fools. This secret consciousness is the staff which supports and rewards genius in its weary pilgrimage.
I SHALL go on with the continuation of my last letter, without attempting the regularity of a journal, noting only such things, as I find recorded in my memorandum-book. My notes are in truth not very copious, nor very interesting, but they may serve to amuse you, perhaps, when you have nothing better.
In the neighbourhood of Greenwich, I was attracted by the appearance of a grand house, which, upon inquiry, I learned was built by a noted brewer of that village. This monument of the inveterate beer-drinking propensity of the nation, is one of the largest private dwellings I have seen in this country. The story went, that it was finally devised to an Oxfordshire baronet, who, not dealing in beer, could not afford to keep up the establishment. He accordingly sold every thing about it but the walls, and here it stands ready for the next portly brewer, who shall be smitten with the desire of building up a name in stone and mortar. The labours and the parsimony of years are very often employed in this manner, by the rich tradesmen of London, whose estates, not being in general entailed, like those of the nobility and gentry, are for the most part divided in such
a manner, that not one of the heirs can afford to live in the
house. It is therefore either sold out of the family, or its deserted walls remain as a monument of ostentatious folly.
I also reconnoitred Osterley house, which attracted my notice, not so much for its magnificence, as its history. Every schoolboy has heard of Sir Thomas Graham, the great merchant, who built the Royal Exchange, and gave such grand entertainments to Queen Elizabeth, who loved nothing better than feasting at the expense of other people. The basement story of the Exchange consisted of shops, which are frequently alladed to in the old dramatic and satirical writers, as resorts for dissipated and idle young rakes of fashion, who went thither to smoke tobacco, run into debt for fashionable finery, and pay for it by running away to the New World, or cruising against the Spaniards. There is an old story, that Elizabeth, being at a great entertainment at Osterley, found fault with the court, as being too large, and gave her opinion, that it would look better divided in two parts. Sir Thomas, like another Aladdin, but by mcans of an agent more powerful even than the genius of the lamp, that very night caused the alteration to be made, so that next morning the queen, looking out, saw the court divided according to her taste.
Her majesty, it is said, was exceedingly gratified with this proof of his gallaniry; but passed what was considered rather a sore joke upon Sir Thomas, saying, “ That a house was much easier divided than united.” Lady Graham and Sir Thomas, it seems, were at issue on the point of domestic supremacy; and Elizabeth, who hated all married women, was supposed to allude to this matrimonial schism. In going towards Uxbridge, which is twelve or fifteen miles from this city, on the road to Oxford, there is a fine old place called Harefield, where once resided the famous Countess of Derby, the friend and admirer of that illustrious republican poet, John Milton. It was here that Milton's Arcades were represented, and in this neighbourhood the poet resided some years with his father. It was for the son of this lady he wrote the richest, the most poetical of all human productions, the Masque of Comus. Nobility becomes really illustrious when connected by friendship and benefits with the immortality of genius. Milton was an inflexible Republican in his political principles, and sided with the Parliament in its attempts to resist the tyrannical encroachments of Charles the First. In this situation he had an opportunity of saving the life of Sir William Da. venant, who was taken up on a charge of being an emissary of Charles the second, then in exile. On the restoration Milton was excepted from the general amnesty, but was finally pardoned, as it is said, by the intercession of Sir William Davenant, who thus repaid his former good offices. His politics prevented his being a fashionable poet. His 6 Paradise Lost” was sold to the bookseller for one-tenth of the sum since paid for a dainty song of Tom Moore, set to music; and the bad taste or servility of the critics suffered it to be forgotten, till Addison at length did ample justice to its beauties. Milton is rather in the back-ground at present, being quite eclipsed by the superior merits of Mr. Croly the laureat, Lord Byron, and the “Great Unknown." The Quarterly Review will certainly, ere long, convict him either of a want of genius, or a lack of religion, if it be only on account of his having been a Republican. I dined at Uxbridge ; and as no experienced English traveller ever omits making honourable or dishonourable mention of the inns, I must inform you,
for your particular satisfaction, that those of Uxbridge, although specially noted by Camden, are none of the best.
The landlord of the Crown, however, treated me with considerable courtesy, seeing I did not come in a post-chaise; and as courtesy is much rarer here than good eating, I was satisfied. Fine words, although they butter no parsnips, make the parsnips palatable without butter.
Pursuing my route towards Oxford, I again got upon classic ground, about Stoke Pogeis, in the neighbourhood of which the poet Gray resided with his mother. He was a frequent visiter to the noble family there, and wrote his “ Long Story" at the request of the ladies. To me it appears the very worst thing he ever did write; a very dull and doggerel ditty, with only one line in it worth preserving. Gray was ashamed of it, and tried to destroy all the copies, but the industry of editors, and the cupidity of booksellers, unhappily preserved it for posterity to wonder at. The Muses used to keep a little court at different times hereabouts. Milton lived not far off at Horton; Waller at Beaconsfield ; and Pope occasionally in Windsor Forest. Edmund Burke also once occupied Waller's mansion at Beaconsfield; and if being under the dominion of imagination constitutes a poet, may certainly be classed with the trio. In the neighbourhood of Beaconsfield they show an old hollow tree, in which, it is affirmed, Waller wrote many of Itis poems. I do not believe much of the story; yet still it is pleasant to see old hollow trees derive an interest from these associations, that the resisidence of monarchs cannot confer upon the most splendid palaces. In deviating, just as the roads occasionally offered inducement, I had a view of a fine old palace, once the property of the Hampdeas, a name so well known in our country for