« ZurückWeiter »
For this reason, no prudent man, who values his good name, will, especially at this time, venture to insinuate, that the doctrines of salvation need not such expensive temples to make them palatable; that simplicity, lowliness, and economy in the church, are virtues of primitive origin, and that the affections of man can
ascend to his Maker, unaided by temples that impoverish a whole district to support. I can only judge by my own feelings ; and I can aver with truth, that I have received more vivid impressions of religious awe, and love, and admiration, in the wild solitudes of nature, than in the most splendid temples, which convey ideas rather of the powers of man, than of his Maker. In the times, however, that most of these were erected, the ecclesiastics, not being permitted to marry, and having few or no ties of blood or kindred to restrain them, generally lavished their surplus revenues in embellishing their churches. Sometimes indeed they employed them in works of public utility, thus returning the wages of labour to the labourers and the public, in general benefits. This certainly was the best possible way of disposing of their wealth; and had the practice been more general, it would have been a sufficient argument in reply to all the objections ever urged against the celibacy of the clergy. At that time, much of the vast wealth of the church of England was either employed in public benefits, or public embellishments; now, it is employed to enrich private individuals, and descends to the posterity of the prelates, instead of being dedicated to piety, charity, and public works.
AT Gloucester I received some information which induced me to alter my original design of penetrating into Wales from that quarter, and determined me to proceed to Shrewsbury, thence into North Wales. I was told I might in this way have an opportunity of seeing one of the finest parts of the country. As it was of little consequence to me which way I entered into Wales, I accordingly proceeded towards Shrewsbury, by the vale of Evesham, and another beautiful vale extending to the foot of Coteswold Hills. Crossing another hill, which separates the two valleys, I had a noble prospect of the cities of Gloucester and Worcester, with almost countless villas and villages, in the midst of a rich assemblage of natural beauty. At the foot of this bill is the ancient Evesham, which lies on the river Avon, out of which I drank to the memory of Shakspeare. But what was rather extraordinary, I found very little inspiration therefrom.
Somewhere about two centuries ago, Coteswold Hill was famed for certain annual sports, called Dover's Olympics, of which Anthony Wood gives the following account:
“ These games were begun and continued at a certain time in the year, for forty years, by one Robert Dover, an attorney of Benton-on-the-Heath, in Warwickshire, son of John Dover of Norfolk; who being full of activity, and of a generous, free, and public spirit, did, with leave of James the First, select a place on Coteswold Hills, in Gloucestershire, whereon these games should be acted. Endimion Porter, Esq. a native of that county, and a servant of that King, a person also of a most generous spirit, did, to encourage Dover, give him some of the King's old clothes, with a hat, and feather, and ruff, purposely to grace him, and consequently the solemnity. Dover was constantly there in person, well mounted and accoutred, and was the chief director and manager of those games, frequented by the nobility and gentry, (some of whom came sixty miles to see them) even till the rascally rebellion was begun by the Presbyterians ; which gave a stop to their proceedings, and spoiled all that was generous or ingenious elsewhere." These games were celebrated in verses by Ben Jonson, Drayton, Randolph, Marmyon, Heywood, and many other wits of the day. Their
it is said, were collected and published, with a picture of Dover on horseback, superintending the games: the book, I believe, is not extant.
We now advanced into Warwickshire, famous for its valiant champion, Guy, and a thousand times more famous for its Shakspeare, to whom the world is indebted for more pleasant hours than all the bloody triumphs of a thousand heroes have ever bestowed upon mankind. What a charming reflection it is, to think that genius has the power of giving delight, when the organization of mind and matter which produced it is dissolved for
er! Soon we saw the spire of Stratford church, and then the town itself, with its pretty little river. Nobody would ever have heard either of the town or the river, beyond their neighbourhood, were it not for the name of Shakspeare, who has conferred a never-dying fame upon both. Stratford is now a place of pilgrimage, like the grave of Washington, at Mount Vernon. They are worthy to be mentioned together, for one is the birth-place of the first of poets; the other, the tomb of the first of men.
Our countryman, Irving, has lately given so pleasing an account of this place, and all the localities connected with the life of the poet, that I will not attempt any thing of the kind, for it would only be repeating what another has said much better.
From hence to Warwick, where every body knows there is one of the finest castles, or showplaces, in this country. It is remarkable for some pretended reliques of the champion Guy, who, judging from his porridge pot, was a great hero, at least in trencher feats. You have no doubt seen views of this castle, as it is in all the picturesque works; and if you have not, it is impossible to convey any likeness in words. What amused me most was, the honest country people I occasionally conversed with, who repeated, with an air of most credulous gravity, all the enormous tales recorded of this renowned trencher-man, Sir Guy, whose legendary feats in valorous fight, and valorous eating, are all authenticated by a statue, at Guy's Cliff, in the neighbourhood, of most gigantic proportions.
From Warwick I passed thre castle of Kenilworth, which has lately been dug out of its ruins by the indefatigable pen of the Great Unknown. It is a fine ruin, overgrown with ivy; the comparatively modern additions of the Earl of Leicester are gone to decay, while the more ancient still subsist in tolerable preservation. Rout, and revel, and beer-drinking, bear-baiting, and other royal sports, are here succeeded by silence, decay, and desolation. These castles formed the links of that vast feudal chain which bound the people of the middle ages. They are fast disappearing from the land, and let them go : they swallowed up the cottages, and held the cottagers in bondage.
Passing some fine seats, I now came in sight of Coventry, famous for Peeping Tom, and ribbon weaving. It is an old city; and all the old cities I have ever seen, except Oxford, that have not been burnt down two or three times at least, are, to my mind, very ugly. The streets of Coventry are varrow, inconvenient, and dirty; the houses gloomy, and the people bear the indelible marks of a manufacturing town. Soon after leaving this place, which is regularly anathematized by all picturesque tourists, the country became flat, and apparently volcanic ; for all around, I could see the columns of black, malignant, manufacturing smoke curling to the skies, or flattening and spreading over the landscape.
Approaching Birmingham, I breathed the very essence of coal-smoke, which lowered over the pretty, smart new country boxes of the manufacturers. I had passed through this town before, on my way to London, but as I was in haste to deliver my
**, made no stay here. On this occasion, however, I spent several days in viewing the manufactories, and making inquiries, as to the effects of the system upon the morals, manners, and health of the people engaged in them. The general result of all my experience, observation, and inquiry, I shall perhaps give you, in a letter particularly devoted to the subject, which is just now of peculiar interest in our country. I found every thing at a stand here; the manufacturers dispirited; the workmen ragged, starving, and disaffected; the whole town complaining. Nothing, in fact, can present a more miserable spectacle, than a place arrested in a