&c. &c. &c.
SLENDER as my pretentions are to the public favor, I have the greater reason to shelter myself under a distinguished patronage.
Your Lordship’s sanction of my labors will be a powerful recommendation; the true taste which vi you are well known to possess in the fine arts, and to which you have contributed so many elegant specimens, emboldens me, however otherwise diffident; and prompts me to hope that my attempt may not prove altogether unworthy of the public eye.
Amidst the many elegant scenes displayed on the banks of the river Thames, few are more deservedly celebrated than those which your Lordship enjoys; and which receive additional recommendation from the condescension with which they are rendered accessible.vii
Plain and unadorned language, raised scarce above the style of common narrative, may, perhaps, fall short of the dignity of the subject; but to have aimed at one more luxuriant, by blending the simplicity of prose with the fanciful ornaments of poetic diction, would have been still farther remote from the true province of this work, which, professing to hold up the most faithful mirror to nature, takes as little licence with the pencil as the pen.
I flatter myself, your Lordship will not disapprove the frequent references to antiquity. The subject, rich as it is, would have viii wanted interest without them; and your partiality to that source of information will besides give farther sanction to my pursuit.
I have the Honor,
To subscribe myself.
With great Respect,
Very obliged and obedient Servant,
Jan. 12th, 1792.
ENCOURAGED by the very favorable reception which the public has given to a Picturesque Illustration of a Tour on the Continent, the author of this work has been induced to gratify a wish long since formed, of attempting to display the rich scenery of his own country, a country where nature and art are so happily combined, as to adorn and fertilize even its remotest x parts, and to have not only afforded the means of happiness, but added luxury to the enjoyments of a great people.
Upon entering into such a discussion, the object that naturally first engages our attention is the river Thames, a scene of industry, and a source of oppulence, to which we owe so much both in convenience, salubrity, and every relative blessing that can add to the greatness of the first commercial city in the world.—Indeed it is rather matter of surprise, amidst the numerous publications on the subject of picturesque scenery, which have lately employed the pen and pencil of our writers and artists, that so leading and capital a feature xi in landscape should not have caught the eye, and have preoccupied the powers of some one, perhaps, better skilled in description, though not less ardent in admiration of its picturesque beauties.
In illustrating the present pursuit, the bridges are certainly the objects, and from their number will naturally exclude that variety of scenery, which would otherwise more fully have diversified the subject. Such other views, however, as are introduced, have been selected as the best suited to characterise the face of the country. They are all from the pencil of the author; (except the view of Strawberry-hill, which is xii from a drawing given to him seven or eight years ago, by his late valuable friend Francis Grose): the principal part of them were taken in the summer of 1790, the others from sketches made several years since, when the idea of this work first suggested itself, in consequence of frequent excursions on this noble river.
In the descriptive part he has aimed at a plain and simple style of narrative, and rejected the technical phraseology of art, judging that
“Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
“One clear, unchang’d and universal light;
“Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
“At the source, and end, and test of art.”
In the historic parts little more could be done, than to endeavour at a judicious selection of such passages from the learned as appeared best calculated to give information; and in this, as far as the compass of his work would admit, he is willing to hope he has been in some degree successful.
The engravings are executed by the same artist who was engaged in the former work, and the writer flatters himself equally merit a claim to the public approbation.
The superior excellence of the figure of Thames, at the entrance to Somerset-place, which was modelled by John Bacon, Esq. xiv R. A. is a work of such superior excellence, as to render any apology for its introduction here as a frontispiece, unnecessary.
The maps annexed to these volumes are added merely to display the course of the river, not as correct geographical delineations of the counties through which it passes.
the bridges are certainly the principal objects
text has principle
[Corrected from 1792 edition.]
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright
[Thanks to the long ſ, the OCR rendered “still” (ſtill) as “lllll”. The lines, incidentally, are from Pope, An Essay on Criticism.]
“At once the source, and end, and test of art
text has At one
The engravings are executed
[The typesetter of this edition saw fit to omit the Small Capitals.]
its introduction here as a frontispiece
[Can it properly be called a frontispiece if it is printed on a recto page by itself, rather than on the verso page facing the title page?]
|Entrance to the Tunnel, leading to Sapperton-hill, Gloucestershire||9|
|Kempsford Church, &c. Gloucestershire||26|
|St. John’s and the adjoining Bridge across the New Cut, near Lechdale||33|
|Radcote-bridge, Farringdon-hill, &c.||39|
|xvi Remains of Henry II.’s Palace as it stood in Woodstock-park in 1714||71|
|Godstow-bridge, and Remains of the Nunnery||85|
|Magdalen College and Bridge, Oxford||89|
|Christ Church College, and South-bridge||113|
|Village of Iffley||115|
|Earl Harcourt’s, at Nuneham Courtenay||119|
|View at Abingdon, Berks.||131|
|Culham-bridge, near Abingdon||138|
|Sunning-bridge, &c. Berks.||169|
|Cliefden Spring, Bucks.||206|
THE source of the Thames, this first of British rivers, is derived from a copious spring, called Thames Head, near the village of Tarlton, about two miles south-west of Cirencester, and is contiguous to the fosse-way leading to Somersetshire. Though I could have wished to have introduced into this work, a view of the source itself, I have yet thought fit to exhibit an adjoining spot 2 in preference, as forming a better object for the pencil.*
* The engine with sails, which appears in the annexed view, raises water from the head, and by its mechanical power, throws up several tons of water every minute, supplying the Thames and Severn canal.
Some writers have asserted, that the source of this river is in the neighbourhood of Cobberly, in Gloucestershire, at a place called Seven-Wells Head; but as the former opinion is most prevalent, I shall date the present enquiry from thence.
The name also of this river has long been matter of controversy, even amongst the learned, on whom we ought to rely; it therefore becomes necessary previously to investigate the various opinions and authorities that have been advanced on the subject. The vulgar appellation it bears above Oxford is Thame-Isis, evidently formed 3 from a combination of the words Thame and Isis; the supposed conflux of which gave rise to a poem of some eminence, called “The Marriage of Thame and Isis.” How this river obtained the latter name, or at what period, I cannot learn: Stow seems to concur in this poetical fiction, and deems every one ignorant who gives the river any other appellation than that of Isis; but to shew that no great reliance is to be placed on his opinion, I will use his own words, which are so flatly contradictory to themselves as to invalidate his authority: he says, in the fifth chapter of his Survey of London, that “the Thames beginneth a little above a village called Winchcomb in Oxfordshire, and still increasing, passeth first by the university of Oxford, &c. to London;” and in the next chapter, that the Isis “goeth unto Thame in Oxfordshire,” (which is more than fifteen miles below Oxford) “where joining with 4 a river of the same denomination, it loseth the name of Isis or Ouse, and from thence is called Thamesis all along as it passeth.” As Master Stow, therefore, does not seem to understand himself, I must, to clear up this disputed point, refer to Camden, on whose authority I am inclined to rely. He says, “it plainly appears, that the river was always called Thames, or Tems, before it came near the (town of) Thame;” and that in several ancient “charters, granted to the abbey of Malmesbury, as well as that of Enesham; and from the old deeds relating to Cricklade,” it is never considered under any other name, than that of Thames. To prove this assertion, he instances, that “in an ancient charter granted to abbot Adhelm, there is mention made of certain lands upon the east part of the river,—cujus vocabulum Temis, juxta vadum qui appellatur Summerford; and this ford is in Wiltshire.” He likewise 5 says, it no where occurs under the name of Isis.
All historians, who mention the incursions of Ethelwold into Wiltshire, A.D. 905, or of Canute, in 1016, concur likewise in the same opinion, by declaring, “that they passed over the Thames at Cricklade.”—There is still further reason for confiding in these authorities, as it is not probable, that the Thames Head, an appellation by which the source has usually been distinguished, should give birth to a river of the name of Isis, which river, after having run half its course, should reassume the name of Thames, the appellation of its parent spring.
As to the origin of its name, it may possibly be derived from the Saxon Temeꞅe, or from the British word Tavuys, which implies a gentle stream, and from which many rivers in this island derive their appellation; 6 as Tame in Staffordshire, Teme in Herefordshire, Tamar in Cornwall, &c.
Having thus briefly, and from the best authority adducible, endeavoured to establish the name of the river which is the present subject of discussion, I flatter myself, I shall avoid the imputation of blending the history of two rivers, where I mean only to treat of one—the THAMES.
The great supply of water, that swells the early course of this river, the Thames Head, is occasioned by the first heavy fall of snow and rain in the winter season, from different parts of the wolds or hills in Gloucestershire; which, pouring into the vallies beneath, unites with the springs in Kemble Vale, contiguous to the Thames Head.
The village of Kemble, from which this vale takes its name, is finely situated on an 7 eminence, and commands a rich extent of scenery, happily diversified by the easy winding of the stream, which terminates in a faint view of the Oxfordshire hills.
About a mile below the source of the river is the first mill constructed for grinding corn, which is called Kemble mill; near which the stream receives considerable accession from several springs issuing out of the eastern side of the wolds, as well as others that flow from Ash coppice, and the vicinity of Somerford; at which place the river may properly be said to form a constant current; which, though not more than nine feet wide in the summer months, yet in the winter season becomes such a torrent as to overflow the neighbouring meadows for many miles around;
“When the calm river, rais’d with sudden rains,
“Or snows dissolv’d, o’erflows th’ adjoining plains.”
In the summer months, the Thames Head is so perfectly dry, as to appear no other than a large dell, interspersed with stones and weeds.
From Somerford the stream gently winds its course to the village of Ashton Keynes, and thence to the town of Cricklade, where being united with the river Churn from Cirencester, and other streams from Malmesbury, Barnesly, and the Eastern side of Wiltshire, they form unitedly a river sufficient for the navigation of boats of about seven tons burthen.
it may possibly be derived from the Saxon Temeꞅe
[If unicode has a Celtic open “e”, I can’t find it. The second-to-last letter is an insular “s”.]
When the calm river
[John Denham, “Cooper’s Hill” (1642). Does the author assume we know the passage? (I do not plan on looking up every bit of quoted verse, but had to check this one thanks to a nasty suspicion it was something I ought to recognize. Fortunately, it wasn’t.)]
THE new canal, formed by the junction of the Thames and Severn navigation, is an object so nearly connected, as not to be thought irrelevant to the present enquiry; and at the same time, of such importance, as to warrant the introduction of it.
This canal may be considered as the most elaborate and stupendous work of art that, perhaps, any has yet accomplished; in uniting two of the noblest rivers in this kingdom. A project was formed more than a century ago to join these rivers, and a survey made by Joseph Moxon, hydrographer to King Charles II. to prove its practicability. The idea is likewise suggested by Mr. Pope, in a letter to the Honorable Mr. Digby, dated 10 1722, which, as it is written with a strong poetic and lively imagination, I shall give in his own words:—“I could pass whole days in only describing the future, and as yet visionary, beauties that are to rise in those scenes (in Lord Bathurst’s woods, at Cirencester) the palace that is to be built, the pavilions that are to glitter, the colonades that are to adorn them; nay more, the meeting of the Thames and Severn, which (when the noble owner has finer dreams than ordinary) are to be led into each others embraces, through secret caverns of not above twelve or fifteen miles, till they rise and celebrate their marriage in the midst of an immense amphitheatre, which is to be the admiration of posterity a hundred years hence: but till this destined time shall arrive, that is to manifest those wonders, Mrs. Digby must content herself with seeing 11 what is at present no more than the finest wood in England.”
That once distant period is now arrived, and the happy junction accomplished, under the survey of an able engineer, Mr. Robert Whitworth, in 1782. It may not be improper to mention, that a canal was formed by act of parliament, in 1730, from the Severn to Wallbridge, near Stroud, at which place the present work commences: The new canal ascends by Stroud, through the vale of Chalford, to the height of three hundred and forty-three feet, by means of twenty-eight locks, and from thence to the entrance of the tunnel near Sapperton, a distance of about seven miles three furlongs. The canal is forty-two feet in width at top, and thirty at the bottom; proper warehouses are constructed on its banks for the reception of merchandize from the Severn vessels, and convenience of lading the navigation 12 barges. The canal is continued by a subterraneous passage or tunnel, excavated beneath Sapperton hill, and under that part of Lord Bathurst’s grounds called Haley wood, making a distance of two miles and three furlongs.
The tunnel, the entrance to which is the subject of the view annexed to this section, is near fifteen feet in width, and has sufficient depth of water to navigate barges from sixty to seventy tons burthen; these barges are about eighty feet in length, twelve in width, and draw about four feet of water when loaded; hence the canal descending one hundred and thirty-four feet, by fourteen locks, joins the Thames at Lechlade, a distance of about twenty miles and two furlongs.
This work has been atchieved, with immense labor and perseverance, out of a loose 13 rock of lime and stone; and, to secure the water, it is lined throughout with well-tempered clay. Over this canal are many handsome bridges of single arches, particularly that at Thames Head, (as described in the view prefixed to the first section,) from whence this canal receives a considerable body of water, as well as at Cirencester, where it is again supplied from the river Churn. Near the south west side of the town of Cirencester a large bason is constructed, with wharfs and warehouses for the convenience of this navigation. The bason is supplied with water by an aqueduct formed under Lord Bathurst’s pleasure grounds, which are before his house.
The length of the canal from the Severn at Froomlade to Inglesham, where it joins the river Thames, is more than thirty miles; the expence of which has considerably exceeded the sum of two hundred thousand 14 pounds, three thousand of which, I am credibly informed by a principal proprietor, have been expended in the gun-powder alone, used for the purpose of blowing up the rock.
This immense work was completed on the 14th of November, 1789, within a period of less than seven years from its commencement. Nor is it an easy task to describe the various advantages that seem likely to be derived from its extensive communication with the different parts of Wales, Bristol, Gloucester, Shrewsbury, &c.; its more inland navigation, as connected with the canals of Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and its immediate intercourse with the Thames from Lechlade towards Oxford, Wallingford, &c. to London: so various, and so important, are the benefits derived from hence, both to the individual and the public, the inhabitant who receives with 15 little expence the produce of the most distant quarter of the island delivered at his own door, and the traveller who passes smoothly and securely by it through roads no longer cut to pieces with heavy carriages, that it is much to be wished this work may prove as beneficial to the spirited and enterprising proprietors, as it is a blessing to more than the countries through which it passes.
The course of this canal having brought me to Earl Bathurst’s grounds, so highly famed for their many beauties in point of natural situation, as well as artificial culture; I should deem myself deficient in observation were I to pass them unnoticed. This extensive park is more than twelve miles in circumference; and is intersected by four grand vistos, each of which forms a happy termination of extensive scenery. Approaching the house, the view towards 16 Cirencester combines a fine assemblage of buildings, not amusing only, but very striking to the imagination at first sight; yet the tower of a Gothic church rising so immediately over a modern mansion, and seeming to form a part of it, upon a more deliberate view presents to the mind rather an heterogeneous mass, or accidental form of beauty, than such a correct model, as would be proper to record by the pencil. It seems incongruous as the fabulous centaur, or as
“Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam
“Jungere si velit.”
In passing these grounds, the mind naturally reverts to that Augustan period, in which some of the brightest literary characters that ever at any one time adorned this country, gave additional splendor to this enchanting spot.
“These scenes could Addison’s chaste notes inspire:
“Here Pope harmonious struck his silver lyre,17
“Caught ’midst these solemn shades the glorious plan,
“To vindicate the ways of God to man.
“Arbuthnot here, and Swift, with useful art,
“Rear’d Satire’s dreaded scourge, or steel’d her dart.
“Here, Prior, the Graces form’d thy softer lay;
“And taught the moral strains to blameless Gay.
“Each pleas’d the matter’s praises to engage,
“The fam’d Mæcenas of that happier age!”
Pye’s Farringdon Hill.
The table on which the immortal Pope once reclined, I am informed, has since quitted the service of the Muses, and is now removed to a common alehouse in the neighbourhood.
The town of Cirencester is famed for its antiquity, many evident marks of which are still remaining to prove it was formerly a Roman station, and the fragments of the old walls evince it to have been a place of considerable defence, and in size not inferior to any town in the county.
As it was not the intention to confine 18 myself entirely to a description of picturesque objects on the banks of the Thames, I shall digress a little for the sake of mentioning some superior works of art, which I found at Badminton, the seat of the duke of Beaufort, in my route to Bath; the excellence of some, and the rare preservation of others (particularly the gallery of portraits) render them highly meriting the notice of the antiquary and admirer of the arts. Among the portraits, that of John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III. is a fine specimen of painting at that early period. The armour in particular is finished with exquisite precision, richly embossed with gold, and has more the air of a splendid birth-day suit, than a covering for defence in battle. The portrait, likewise, of his eldest son, the duke of Beaufort, is not inferior to the former.
In this collection is the famous satirical 19 picture of Fortune, by Salvator Rosa, mentioned in Bernardo Dominici’s lives of the Neapolitan artists. It was painted while he was at Rome, and there publickly exhibited at the feast of St. John, to the great mortification of his brother artists. This picture is coloured in his best manner, and replete with satire, in which the church has no small share.
The writings of this great artist were in equal estimation with his pictures, and from their pointed satirical allusions, drew forth an equal number of enemies. For one of them, he was driven into exile; and there is an excellent portrait of him by himself, in this collection, drawn with a scroll of paper in his hand, said to be the satire for which he was banished.
Here is likewise a beautiful portrait of that exquisite artist, Guido, from his own 20 pencil in a large high-crowned hat and black drapery; and one of Cornelius Janson, by himself, in a singular attitude, with the two fore-fingers of the right hand in an upright posture. I mention these pictures, as well for their great excellence, as that it may be a means of procuring prints from them, which I do not remember to have seen. Several pictures by Berchem, Teniers, &c. will be found to merit the highest encomium.
The in the chapel, painted in chiaro oscuro, is certainly the work of a great master. The subject is the Transfiguration. It is said to be by the hand of Raphael, and, at his interment, to have been selected from his other works, and carried on his bier; but I suspect this not to have been the fact, as it is most probable the finished picture at Rome would have obtained that singular honor.21
This cartoon is in size about eleven feet by nine, and seems to have been originally much larger; it has suffered greatly by time.
That this work was not added to the cartoons in the royal collection, is a circumstance much to be lamented; an offer of three thousand pounds is reported to have been made for that purpose, but refused by its noble owner.
Returning towards Cirencester, I cannot avoid mentioning the church at Tetbury, a modern structure recently finished from a plan of Mr. Hiorne, of Warwick, which for taste and simplicity in the Gothic, without redundancy of parts, is the happiest selection I remember to have any where seen.
According to Richard le Gallienne’s Travels in England, it’s pronounced “sisseter”. I will take his word for it.
the most elaborate and stupendous work of art that, perhaps, any country, has yet accomplished
[The comma after “country” seems superfluous, but the 1792 edition has one there too.]
Joseph Moxon, hydrographer to King Charles II.
[Also known as the author of the Handy-Works, including an entire volume on The Printer’s Art.]
the famous satirical picture of Fortune, by Salvator Rosa
[Now at the Getty Museum, where any law-abiding art lover can download it—and read an explanation of the allegories involved.]
The cartoon in the chapel
text has cartooon
HAVING, in the first section, aimed at a brief account of the course of the Thames from its source to the town of Cricklade, I shall resume the subject at that place, the name of which has given rise to much controversy.
A Greek school was anciently founded here, or rather restored, by the learned archbishop of Canterbury, Theodorus, and afterwards translated to Oxford; from this school the name of Greeklade is said to have been given to the town: but Camden thinks, and with more probability, that it derives its appellation from the British Cerigwlâd, i. e. a stoney country, which epithet well agrees with the nature of its soil.24
The town was formerly of much repute; at present neither the derivation of its name, or its former consequence, entitle it to much notice; it being only remarkable for a very large parish church—for the mode by which they convey their dead to interment, (which is by fastening the coffin on the front of a post-chaise)—and for the provision, which, while they had the power, they were accustomed to make for the living, by a more high-priced, than constitutional, estimate of their borough franchises.
At Cricklade we found the stream so shallow, as not to be in many places more than fourteen inches deep, and so overgrown with weeds, as to be rendered scarcely navigable even for the smallest fishing-boat.
In pursuing the course of the stream, about a mile below this town, we find the first bridge, which is constructed of wood, with 25 a hand-rail merely for the safety of foot-passengers. The sketch of it annexed to this section, may serve to point out the humble state of this noble river and its appendages near its source, as contrasted with its more expanded course and magnificent decorations as it approaches the capital, where
“With rapid course it seeks the sacred main,
“And fattens, as it runs, the fruitful plain.”
From this wooden bridge, which is called Eisey bridge, the town of Cricklade forms a pleasing termination of prospect across the intervening meadows, which though flat, and rather uninteresting, are happily relieved and intersected by the winding current of the stream. Below Water Eaton, there is little variation of prospect, till we reach Castle Eaton, where there is a small bridge and water-mill, so pleasingly combined with other objects of rural and unaffected scenery, 26 as to render them worthy the pencil of the first artist.
Approaching Kempsford, a large village in Gloucestershire, the river quits Wiltshire, and again enters its native county, dividing it from Berkshire at Inglesham, where the scenery is greatly improved, by the combination of an ancient Gothic church, with its usual appendage, a comfortable vicarage-house: these are pleasantly situated on a verdant slope, rising from the margin of the Thames, which, though shallow, is yet beautifully transparent, and, as it ripples in its course, displays a sheltered and gravelly bed, where the neighbouring cattle luxuriantly bask themselves in the noon-tide sun. Within this pleasant retreat the Vicarage, we found, not the vicar, but his locum tenens, an humble Welch curate, with a wife and two children, existing on twenty-five 27 pounds a year, and honestly confessing he had, on this side the grave, no wish beyond the addition of ten pounds to his salary; and could he have obtained this, he might have said with Swift
——“These things in my possessing,
“Are better than the bishop’s blessing.”
Surely if the wish of this honest curate be sincere, and his morals equal to his simplicity, he cannot fall very short of the character of a primitive christian.
Adjoining to the church, which is a venerable old structure, there lately stood a very extensive mansion-house, once occupied by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. He resided here for some time, but taking a dislike to the place, on account of the unfortunate death of his only son (which happened here) he granted the manor of Kenemeres, Kenemeresford, or Kempsford, with 28 other lands, to the collegiate church of St. Mary the Less, in the castle of Leicester, for the maintenance of an hospital called Newark, or New Work, of which he was the founder, 28 of Ed. III.
Within the tower of the church, on the capitals of the pillars, are the arms of this duke, of the earl of Gloucester, and of king Alfred; and on the outside of the church door is nailed a large horse-shoe, said to have belonged to Henry IV. This ancient mansion has, by order of its possessor, lord Coleraine, been levelled to the ground, within the last six years, when the materials were purchased by —— Loveden, Esq; of Burscott Park, with which he has erected an elegant modern house.
The out-offices and grand entrance to this extensive building are yet standing, and are occupied as farm-houses.29
About three miles from this village is situated the town of Fairford, rendered famous by its church and painted windows. Its founder, John Tame, was a considerable merchant, and in the fifteenth century commanded a large vessel, in which he captured a Spanish ship bound for Rome. The cargo, among other valuables, consisted of a great quantity of painted glass, intended for his holiness the pope; this part of the prize he brought to his patrimonial estate, where he erected the church, a handsome structure, purposely to deposit these paintings, which consist of twenty-eight in number, and are intended to illustrate some striking passages in the Old and New Testament. They are handed down to us as the works of Albert Durer, which, contrary to the received opinion, I by no means credit. The original designs may possibly have been by him; if so, much of their excellence has been lost by their being copied on the glass, as in point 30 of drawing they are very defective. The figures of the prophets are in every respect, in my estimation, by much the best part of the work. On the whole, though there is much clearness and brilliancy in the colouring, yet they are much inferior to what I expected, from the high eulogiums I had often heard on their merit.
The river from Kempsford increases considerably in width as it approaches the town of Lechlade, a distance of about six miles, in which course are several weirs, and one large wooden bridge at Hannington, from whence Highworth church and village appear in the distance, forming a pleasing object.
About three miles below Hannington is Inglesham, where the Severn canal unites with the Thames, which is there considerably improved, by being cleared of its weeds and other impediments to navigation, through 31 the attention of the public-spirited proprietors in this undertaking.
Lechlade is a large town in Gloucestershire, situated on the confines of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The ground on which it stands was formerly called the Lade, from which appellation, conjoined with that of the contiguous river Lech, it derives its compound name, Lechlade. That river here empties itself into the Thames, which, at this place, is so much increased by the junction of the rivers Colne and Churn, as to be capable of navigating vessels from ninety to an hundred tons burthen.
In a meadow, near Lechlade, was lately discovered a large subterraneous building, supposed to have been a Roman bath; it is near fifty feet in length, forty in breadth, and four feet in height; and is supported by 32 pillars of brick, and curiously inlaid with stones of variegated colours.
In the lower church-yard, at Cricklade, is a curious ancient cross, of which, though I have not been able to procure the history, the annexed sketch will give some idea.
THE river, from Lechlade, though considerably improved, has yet required the assistance of art to aid its navigation; a spacious cut, therefore, has been formed for that purpose, a little below the town, which runs nearly parallel with the old river, and contiguous to St. John’s Bridge. A handsome arch is thrown across this new cut, which with the old structure adjoining, forms no unpleasing object; the spire of Lechlade Church appearing over the bridge, and the singular circumstance of two navigable streams coming so nearly in contact, so highly enrich the scenery, as not to be overlooked by the eye of the picturesque traveller.
The old bridge is of great strength and antiquity; but I have not been able to procure 34 any information of the period in which it was built.
About half a mile below the bridge, is the village of Burscott, on the confines of Berkshire, near which is a new lock and pound, just finished, which has the appearance of being well constructed, both for convenience, and dispatch of business. On an eminence, at some distance, is Burscott Park; in which is erected the mansion of Mr. Loveden, from the remains of Kempsford house, as mentioned in the last section: the mere value of the lead found on this house amounted to five hundred pounds, for which sum the whole of the materials were purchased.
Mr. Loveden has added greatly to the beauty of his situation, by introducing into his park, at a considerable expence, a small canal, from the body of the river, which the 35 constant attention of that gentleman has also considerably improved, by means of embankments, and the removal of various obstructions. The growth, however, of the weeds with which it is over-run, though unpleasant to the eye, and an impediment to the navigation, is certainly the means of preserving many of its finny inhabitants from the ravage of the poacher. The increase of weeds, it must likewise be observed, serves to restrain the current, and thereby keep up a greater body of water: their growth, as well as that of all subaqueous plants, is well known to have an increase proportionate to that of vegetation in the open air, after a shower of rain.
Remarking that all the watermen, and persons concerned in the navigation, have an idea, and boldly assert, that the river, in this vicinity, freezes first at the bottom; and that they frequently find isicles and congelations 36 adhering to the keels and bottoms of their boats, when there is no appearance of ice on the surface; and feeling myself not satisfied with this trite and vulgar opinion, I am induced to refer for a more philosophical and convincing proof of the assertion; when in Dr. Plott I find the following observation:—“That the watermen frequently meet the ice-meers, or cakes of ice, in their rise, and sometimes in the under-side including stones and gravel, brought with them ab imo;” and he observes, “it is consonant to reason, for that congelations come from the conflux of salts, before dispersed at large, is as plain as the vulgar experiment of freezing a pot by the fire; and that induration and weight come also from thence, sufficiently appears from the great quantities of them that are always found in stones, bones, testaceous, and all other weighty bodies.” He likewise seems to credit the assertion of 37 a person who once saw a hatchet casually fall overboard into the river, near Wallingford, which was afterwards brought up and found in one of these ice-meers.—As my author sometimes deals in the marvellous, I shall forbear any comment on these observations.
The scenery in this vicinity corresponds with the neglected state of the river, being flat, and very uninteresting, till by various windings of the stream, the distance expands, and a pleasing view of Farringdon Hill presents itself, which with the various easy slopes of the neighbouring hills, aided by the villages of Eaton on the right, and Kempscott on the Oxfordshire side of the river, happily relieve the eye, and convey no unpleasing idea to the admirers of the native beauties of English landscape.38
RADCOTE Bridge next presents itself to view; it is the oldest structure we have yet passed; but respecting the period in which it was raised, the common sources of information have failed.
From authentic accounts it appears, that a causeway was certainly begun in the neighbourhood, as early as William the Conqueror, most probably by Robert D’Oyley, who came over with him, and was a very distinguished man in his day; he built Oxford Castle, and appears to have been concerned in another work of the same kind, leading from Friar Bacon’s study, at Oxford.
This bridge and its vicinity are rendered famous by a considerable battle fought in 40 the reign of Richard II. an. 1387, between his highly honored favorite Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Marquis of Dublin, and Duke of Ireland, and the discontented barons, among whom were Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, the Earls of Derby, Warwick, &c. in which the troops of the favorite were routed, and he, by swimming across the river, effected his escape. In the poem of Thame and Isis the fact is thus recorded:
“Here Oxford’s hero, famous for his boar——
“While clashing swords upon his target found,
“And show’rs of arrows from his breast rebound,
“Prepar’d for worst of fates, undaunted stood,
“And urg’d his beast into the rapid flood:
“The waves in triumph bore him, and were proud
“To sink beneath their honourable load.”
After this defeat he fled the realm, and died in banishment, at Louvain, about five years afterwards, as it is said, in consequence of a wound received from the tusks of a 41 boar, in the chace of that animal; his body was, three years after his death, brought to England by order of the king, and at his expence, was with great solemnity interred at Colne, in Essex. The family crest of the Veres, Earls of Oxford, was a boar.
About a mile distant from the bridge, is Farringdon Hill, a beautiful eminence, which is terminated by a small grove seen at a considerable distance, from the different points, in the various windings of the river; it derives its name from the neighbouring town of Farringdon, and rises with an easy ascent from the vale of White Horse, beneath; which vale takes its name from the supposed figure of a white horse in chalk, which, if ever it had reality, is probably much restored by the custom of weeding it at slated periods; the popular opinion runs, that it was formed in commemoration of a victory obtained by Alfred over the Danes; 42 by others it is said to have been marked out by Hengist, who certainly bore on his standard the figure of a white horse; something of this kind is still to be seen in Dorsetshire, near Dorchester, representing the figure of a giant and his club.
The hill commands an extensive and richly diversified scene, spreading over part of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire, as well as of the valley beneath. Between Radcote Bridge and Farringdon Hill stands an elegant house, built by Henry James Pye, Esq. the present laureate, (now occupied by Mr. Hallet): the spot is happily chosen, and he has celebrated its beauties in a poem of much merit. At a small distance from Radcote Bridge runs the canal which leads to Abingdon.
Useful to the commerce of the country, and laudable as the enterprize of forming 43 navigable canals all over the kingdom, must be acknowledged to be, it is still with some regret we view the old stream falling almost into total neglect and disuse. Such, however, in this neighbourhood during the summer months, is the situation of this noble river, which is then shallow in water, and overgrown with oziers and weeds; its locks and wiers are falling fast into decay; and in many places we find only a few old timbers remaining, to mark where such aids to navigation were once thought of utility. In the winter season the river, which hereabouts considerably overflows the adjacent meadows, is much augmented by the addition of the Windrush, a large brook, which flowing from the Cotswold hills, enters Oxfordshire near Burford, and passing by Witney, joins the Thames to the south-west: of the Evenlode, another river, which, rising near Stow, in the wold in Gloucestershire, likewise falls 44 into the Thames, near Cassington, northwest of Oxfordshire.
Of Burford, Dr. Plott remarks, that within his memory a whimsical ceremony was observed there of making yearly a large dragon, and carrying it up and down the town, with much jollity, on Midsummer eve, to which they added a huge giant of proportionate size. This custom, he conjectures, was to commemorate a victory obtained by the West Saxons over Ethelbald, King of the Mercians, about the year 750, at a place contiguous to the town, still called Battle Edge. On the banner of the Mercian king was depicted a golden dragon.
It is observed of the river Windrush, that it is of so nitrous a quality, and so impregnated with that abstersive salt, that thence the blanketting, manufactured at Witney, 45 acquires a degree of whiteness superior to what is made in any other part of the kingdom.
Pursuing the course of the river, on the right appears Buckland, the seat of Sir Robert Throckmorton—a modern structure situated on an eminence. This mansion was built by its present possessor, near the site of the former edifice, part of which still remains. Its situation is truly picturesque, embowered amidst a thicket of stately trees, and commands a most enchanting view of the river beneath, and an extensive distance, which though flat, highly abounds with the richest luxuriance of nature.
The windings of the river here, in its course, form many pleasing breaks in the landscape; and if the spire of a church, as has been frequently observed, gives a happy termination to village scenery, that of Bampton 46 claims peculiar notice, as it is a perpetual object from the river for many miles, both above and below it. The remark made by Charles the Second, on that of Harrow on the Hill, which, from its conspicuous situation, he stiled the visible church, will not ill apply to that of Bampton. Approaching the villages of Hinton and Longworth, the Witham Hills, in Oxfordshire, are most happily combined, and so beautifully soften into each other, as to form a distance worthy the pencil of Claude le Lorraine; and it is to be regretted that the noble city of Oxford is so concealed from the eye, as not to lend its aid towards giving a kind of classical finishing to that scenery in nature, which Claude labored so much to perfect from art and imagination.47
AS we approach towards New Bridge, about four miles farther, the scenery becomes more confined, and the stream much narrower; yet from the immense piers or pointed sterlings, the fall, in the winter months, may be supposed to be amazingly rapid. The bridge is a plain and simple structure, in the Gothic stile, and of great antiquity, but has no appearance of date; it has on one side the letter O. and on the other B. in Roman characters, to denote the division of the counties of Oxford and Berks. The bridge is about two miles from Kingston Inn, in the high road to Witney.
With a flat, confined, and rather uninteresting scene, the stream still pursues its humble course towards Bablac Hythe, a 48 little below which the face of the country wears a more agreeable aspect; the river expands, and becomes a clear pellucid stream, beautifully enriched with verdure; and the grazing cattle on its margin, give a happy idea of that landscape we are accustomed to view on the banks of the Thames, nearer the capital. The majestic remains of Stanton Harcourt, (the ancient seat of the Harcourts,) present a venerable pile of building, at the distance of about two miles, on the Oxfordshire side of the river. On a nearer approach, its consequence is not diminished; it is continually receiving the fostering aid of its noble possessor; who, with a knowledge of the modern elegancies of building, and refinements of art, is not unmindful of the precious remains of antiquity. The noble family of the Harcourts, it is well known, are descended from the Harcourts in Normandy, who have been in possession of this mansion for near six hundred years. 49 The first barony was granted to Sir Simon Harcourt, Lord High Chancellor, in the reign of Queen Ann, who obtained this title of Baron Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt. The earldom was created in 1749. Much of this noble structure was pulled down by the late Earl. The kitchen of this building is of great antiquity, and singularly constructed; it is a spacious square room; and though a kitchen without a chimney, beneath the eaves of the roof are shutters contrived to give vent to the smoke. It seems to be the opinion of the learned in antiquity, that the windows, from their form, were inserted about the time of Henry the Fourth. An old writer observes, “it is either a kitchen within a chimney, or a kitchen without one.” The inside of the chapel, which is no longer in use, was a private oratory for the family, and remains with its painted and gilded ornaments in the ceiling, in a tolerable state of preservation. 50 In the great hall, which joined to the chapel, was formerly much stained glass, on which were depicted the different quarterings borne by the Harcourts, and also the portraits and armorial bearings of several persons habited like warriors, who were of this ancient family. This glass has been lately removed, to prevent its destruction.
Mr. Pope seems not to have been so good an antiquary as a poet; for in one of his letters he mentions a pane of glass in this apartment, as a valuable antique, which, upon viewing it at Lord Harcourt’s house in town, clearly appears to be a forgery, as the character of the letters and figures of the date, “Aº. Dm̄ 188.8.131.52.” is evidently more modern. In the tower of this chapel, which is accessible by a winding stair-case, are three apartments; the upper of these is still called Pope’s room, from his having occupied it as a study, during a whole summer 51 which he passed in this mansion. Here he finished his translation of the fifth book of the Iliad, which circumstance he has inscribed, with a diamond, on a pane of red glass, carefully preserved by Earl Harcourt; and which he has politely favoured me with the use of, to form from thence a fac simile.
In the church-yard, on a tablet affixed to the south side of the wall adjoining, is the epitaph written by Pope, on the two lovers, John and Sarah Drew, who were struck dead by lightening in an adjoining field, during the residence of our poet at this place. Here likewise are several very curious monuments, 52 one in the south aisle, particularly deserving attention, of a Margaret Byron, wife to Sir Robert Harcourt, who was sent over to Rouen, in Normandy, to receive Margarete of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI. in 1445; and, for the various eminent services rendered to his Sovereign and his country, received the honor of the garter about the year 1463; he is lying in armour, with the mantle of the garter thrown over him; and by him, his lady, who has likewise the mantle of the order, with the garter above the left arm, with the motto.
“HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE.”
Annexed to the end of this section, is a sketch of this lady’s figure, from the monument, which, I presume, will not be unacceptable to the admirer of antiquity, as there are but two other instances known of ladies wearing the insignia of the garter; one of 53 which is in the church of Ewelm, in this county, of Alice, daughter of Thomas Chaucer, wife to William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk: the other of Constance, daughter of John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon, and Duke of Exeter, first married to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and after, to Sir John Gray, Knight of the Garter, in the reign of Henry V. and Earl of Tankerville, in Normandy. Her monument is in the church of St. Catherine, near the Tower, but quite defaced.
At Stanton Harcourt is likewise a handsome monumental figure of Sir Robert Harcourt, who was standard-bearer to Henry VII. at the battle of Bosworth Field; and also Sheriff for the county of Oxford: in the same reign he was made Knight of the Bath, at the creation of Henry, Duke of York, afterwards Henry VIII.54
These monuments are finely preserved, and have been lately restored with much care; they are good specimens of the monumental sculpture of the times, as well as the personal decorations and habiliments at that period in use.
This glass has been lately removed, to prevent its destruction.
[I hope he means “removed to some more secure location”.]
his lady, who has likewise the mantle of the order
[But only by marriage. The first female Knight—as opposed to Lady Companion—of the Garter didn’t come along until . . . 1990. And she was already a (non-royal) Duchess, so she didn’t gain much by it.]
FROM New Bridge, at the distance of about seven miles, we reach the ancient village of Ensham, near which is an elegant bridge of stone, consisting of three arches, erected about 15 years since, by Lord Abingdon, whose liberality and public spirit have, I am credibly informed, been amply repaid by the revenue derived from this undertaking. The building at the extremity of the bridge was intended for an inn; but, though provided with all proper accommodation and out-buildings, has not proved so fortunate a speculation, having never yet, in any way, been occupied.
The situation of this bridge is truly picturesque; the river considerably expands itself, and beautifully meanders amidst the 56 neighbouring meadows, fertile in pasture, and happily screened by the contiguous hills, which form a gentle slope towards its margin. On the Oxfordshire side, the various breaks in the distant scenery, the happy combination of village objects, and tinkling of the distant folds, seem to give an additional beauty and serenity to the landscape, in the minds of those who chance to trace this spot, in the close of a genial summer evening.
The village of Ensham, whose Gothic tower adorns the neighbouring scene, is a place of great antiquity, and in times as far remote as the charter of King Etheldred, is termed “a famous place.” A small part of the ruins of the abbey is still remaining: it was endowed, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Benedict, about the year 1005. It received considerable benefactions and repairs in the reign of Henry I.; and, at the 57 dissolution of other religious houses, in the year 1539, fell into the rapacious hands of Henry VIII.
“Who having spent the treasures of his crown,
“Condemns their luxury to seed his own:——
“Thus he the church at once protects and spoils;
“But Princes swords are sharper than their styles.”
These remains give but a faint idea of its former extent and magnificence. A singular custom, of very ancient date, is recorded of the royalty of Ensham:—It was a privilege formerly allowed to the town’s-people, or, rather to the church, on Whit-Monday—to cut down, and bring away (wherever the churchwardens pleased to mark it out by giving the first chop) as much timber as could be drawn by men’s hands into the abbey yard; whence, if they could draw it out again, notwithstanding all the impediments that could be given by the servants of the abbey, it was then their own. It 58 seems a goodly kind of fraud enough, to use the labours and exertions of a whole village, in dragging a supply of fuel, the property of the public, into the abbey, only to make a scramble for the purpose of getting it out again; nor is there reason to suppose that much of it was ever restored to the people of the town, after having once been in the clutches of the good fathers, who, doubtless, were not wanting in ways and means to accomplish what could not be atchieved by force; as Prior observes of the lion’s skin, which being too short
“Was lengthen’d by the fox’s tail,
“And art supplied where strength might fail.”
From Ensham to Woodstock is a pleasant ride of about four miles; and here, I persuade myself, that the nature of the subject will be thought a sufficient apology for digressing a little from my regular path.59
The varied beauties of nature in its vicinity, aided by a combination of all that is sublime and magnificent in the works of art, naturally call forth the utmost degree of attention from the curious, and may, at least, tend to evince to foreigners, into whose hands this work may fall, that England is as rich in the choicest production of the fine arts, as any other country in Europe; and that Blenheim Castle, first raised as a monument of British gratitude, in reward of British valour, is now equally celebrated as a repository of whatever is splendid and elegant.
[Unlike most plates in this edition, this one was overlooked by the Stealer of Plates.]
Lord Abingdon, whose liberality and public spirit have . . . been amply repaid by the revenue derived from this undertaking
[Just how liberal and public-spirited is he, if he’s making money off the venture?]
FROM Woodstock the grand entrance to Blenheim Castle is through a magnificent triumphal arch, raised to the memory of John, Duke of Marlborough, by Sarah his Duchess. It is from this distance the stately pile is most happily viewed; its various towers, rising into the horizon, beautifully break the massy and more ponderous form it wears on a nearer approach. The verdure of the swelling lawn on which it stands, the spacious and easy slope inclining towards the rich valley below, aided by a fine expanse of water, wearing the appearance of a noble river, terminated by a spacious stone bridge (the center arch of which is of superior demensions to the famed Rialto, at Venice, being a hundred and one feet) with a happy assemblage of rich groves 62 and plantations in the distance, form a beautiful coup d’œuil, surpassing any thing I remember to have seen in this or any other country.
The creation of this lake or river was the work of the famous Brown, who has been heard to boast, “that the Thames would never forgive him for what he had done at Blenheim.” He has, at any rate, taken away part of the sting of the following epigram, applied to the first Duke, who erected this bridge:
“The lofty bridge his high ambition shews,
“The stream an emblem of his bounty flows.”
The brevity of the plan on which the present work is conducted, renders it impossible to do justice to the scenery; but the annexed view may be considered as a faithful hint of the superior excellence of its natural situation. Approaching nearer to this stately 63 pile, its architectural defects will, to the discriminating eye, become more conspicuous. Neither the taste nor style are such as are reconcilable with the principles of either Vitruvius or Palladio, yet what it wants in elegance is amply atoned for in strength, and that ponderous and massy style, for which it has incurred so much censure, may, from the idea of its durability, at least be tolerated, while it bears lasting testimony, that Vanbrugh built, as Britons fought,
“Not for an age, but for all time.”
I shall forbear further observation on this noble structure, on which so much has been already written, and only remark on the transcendancy of its internal decorations, which combined with so much true judgment and exquisite taste, render it at present, the first assemblage of the works of art in this kingdom.64
To enumerate all the pictures in this superb collection would be superfluous, to pass them over in silence highly reprehensible. The best works of Rubens, and in the highest preservation, are here selected, with much judgment and princely munificence: among those in the east drawing-room is a Bacchanalian subject, in which the heads of the woman and boys eating grapes exhibit a brilliant specimen of the rich and animated colouring of that great master.
In the grand cabinet is a picture of Christ blessing the children, in which is introduced the artist’s own portrait.
The Saviour’s return from Egypt, and Lot’s departure out of Sodom, presented to the Duke by the city of Antwerp, are each highly objects of admiration to the eye of the connoisseur; and of the latter it may be said, that Antwerp, though rich in the 65 works of this great master, could not have selected one, by which they could have better testified their respect and veneration.
The Catherine of Medicis, in black drapery, is a chef d’œuvre in portrait of Rubens; the clear colouring of the head and richness of the satin are both inimitable: and the portraits of the wife and child of this artist, presented to the Duke by the city of Brussels, are still further proofs of his excellence in the art, as well as a testimony borne by the first city in Flanders, to the forbearing hand of the conqueror, who, in the midst of victory, nobly upheld his shield for the protection of the softer elegancies of peace.
I am happy to observe, amidst the excellent productions of that great master, notwithstanding his rich and brilliant style of colouring, that the works of our English 66 artist, Sir Joshua, lose nothing of their original lustre; I instance particularly the portrait of Lady Charlotte Spencer, in the character of a gipsey, and the large and beautiful assemblage of portraits in the Marlborough family, both of which seem to bid defiance to the hand of Time, as well as detraction.
In the grand cabinet is a picture of the Miraculous Conception, in which a beautiful head of the Virgin, encircled with stars, highly merits attention; it is a capital production of Carlo Dolci.
In the great drawing-room, famed for its tapestry recording the military exploits of the first Duke, is a pair of beautiful pictures enwreathed with flowers, by Rottenhamer, painted with much sweetness, and in a very superior stile. Some of the best works of Luca Giordano will be found here, particularly 67 the capital picture of Seneca bleeding to death, in which we have only to regret the unpleasantness of the subject, which from its superior excellence gives additional pain to the beholder. To particularize each picture, and to describe every bust and elegant decoration, with which this mansion abounds, would be only giving a repetition of what has been said before on the same subject.
From every window of the noble library, which occupies the whole of the west front, and is full two hundred feet in length, and indeed from every apartment in the mansion, the picturesque eye is highly gratified, with the richly variegated scenery of pendant groves and waving lawns; of distant columns, proudly bearing record to its noble founder’s greatness, and of gardens so luxuriant in nature, and so happily improved by art, as to perfectly accord with each other; nor is the eye offended with that 68 part of the flower-garden from the design of Madame Pompadour, at Versailles, in which, though we find a regularity in the disposition of the parterres, there is yet a superior air of taste in the tout ensemble.
In the midst of this extensive and elegant scenery, the mind naturally reverts to a ruder period, when all around assumed a solitary state, and majestic pomp.
The antiquity of Woodstock Park may be ascertained, from its having been a royal residence, as early as the time of King Alfred, who is said, by old writers, to have translated Boetius de Consolatione Philosophiæ, in this place, and who, about the same time, in all probability, founded the university of Oxford.—Camden says, that in the time of King Ethelred, father of Edward the Confessor, it was so considerable a place, that he there held a convention of the states, and 69 enacted several statutes. In the reign of Henry I. it is conjectured that the park was enclosed by a stone wall, not for deer only, but as a receptacle for foreign animals, such as lions, leopards, camels, lynxes, &c. among which a porcupine is mentioned by William of Malmsbury, of which he says “hispidis setis coopertam, quas in canes insectantes naturaliter emittunt.”—This extraordinary property of this animal, though corresponding with the vulgar idea at present entertained, is, I understand, much questioned by the more informed naturalists of our age.
Henry II. resided in this palace, where Malcolm, King of Scotland, and Rice, Prince of Wales, came to pay homage to that Monarch in 1164; and here the honour of knighthood was conferred on Jeffery, surnamed Plantagenet, the King’s second son by the fair Rosamond. The Princess Elizabeth was confined in this place a considerable 70 time, by order of her unnatural sister Queen Mary; in which imprisonment the following lines are said to have been written by her, with charcoal, on the window shutter of the apartment: as I do not recollect they are mentioned by Mr. Walpole, in his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, I shall present them with all their defects to the reader, who may perhaps infer, that she was more distinguished for her politics than her poetry.
“Oh! Fortune! how thy restless wavering state
“Hath fraught with cares my troubled witt,
“Wittness this present prisoner, whither Fate
“Could bear me, and the joys I quit.
“Thou caused’st the guiltie to be losed
“From bands wherein are innocents inclosed,
“Causing the guiltless to be straites reserved,
“And freeing those that death well deserved,
“But by her malice can be nothing wroughte,
“So God send to my foes all they have thought.”
“Anno Dom. 1555. Elizabeth prisoner.”
The remains of this palace, as it stood in the year 1714, I have endeavoured in the annexed sketch to preserve for the curious in topography, as I cannot learn that it has ever been engraved, nor is it generally known. The original drawing is in the possession of the Duke of Marlborough. It is much to be regretted, that the first Duke, through the persuasion of the Earl of Godolphin, should have suffered these valuable remains to be razed to the ground, though its relative situation, as a picturesque object, it is natural to suppose, would have preserved it from depredation.
The site on which this palace stood, is marked to posterity by the circumstance of two sycamore trees, planted on a fine elevation, at a small distance from the bridge: their broad and spreading arms seem to point to the eye of observation and philosophy the happy spot where royalty once resided, and 72 at the same time to indicate the sure and fatal ravages either of relentless Time, or the equally destructive effects of a Gothic and tasteless mind.
In this park was born the father of English poetry, Geoffry Chaucer, who resided here for a considerable time, near the area before the grand entrance, upon the spot on which a modern house now stands:
“Here he dwelt——
“For many a chearful day these ancient walls
“Have often heard him, while his legends blithe
“He sang, of love, or knighthood, or the wiles
“Of homely life, through each estate and age,
“The fashions and the follies of the world
“With cunning hand pourtraying.”
On a beautiful elevation in this park stands the high lodge, commanding one of the most extensive and elegant scenes in the kingdom. In this earthly paradise, the witty and dissipated earl of Rochester once lived; 73 and in this charming retreat he died, according to Dr. Burnett, full of penitence and remorse, earnestly desirous of exchanging this Elysian scene for one more permanent. Nor does this fact rest solely on the authority of this venerable prelate; for we find it recorded in a very elegant pastoral by the muse of a contemporary poet, whose effusions have not often, if ever, been so happy.
“AS on his death-bed gasping Strephon lay,
“Strephon the wonder of the plains,
“The noblest of th’ Arcadian swains;
“Strephon the bold, the witty, and the gay:
“With many a sigh and many a tear he said,
“Remember me, ye shepherds, when I’m dead.
“Ye trifling glories of this world, adieu,
“And vain applauses of the age;
“For when we quit this earthly stage,
“Believe me, shepherds, for I tell you true;
“Those pleasures which from virtuous deeds we have,
“Procure the sweetest slumbers in the grave.74
“Then since your fatal hour must surely come,
“Surely your heads lie low as mine,
“Your bright meridian sun decline;
“Beseech the mighty Pan to guard you home:
“If to Elysium you would happy flie,
“Live not like Strephon, but like Strephon die.”
Amidst the various beauties of this noble and extensive park, rich in Arcadian scenery, and abounding in subject for poetic fiction, one is naturally led to contemplate the hapless fate of the frail and beauteous Rosamond, whose celebrated name at all times recurs with that of Woodstock. Little indeed remains now to authenticate the truth of her fatal story, except the faint traces of her famous bath, amidst the dark recesses of the groves, about the northern part of the park. Of the bower constructed for her reception—nor of the mazy labyrinth through which she might have been conducted to the palace, concealed from the 75 jealous eye of Queen Eleanor—it is much to be lamented, that no vestiges are now discoverable; nor does even the rudest sketch of the pencil exist, to throw any light on this romantic subject.
“What art can trace the visionary scenes,
“The flow’ry groves and everlasting greens,
“The babbling sounds that mimic Echo plays,
“The fairy shade and its eternal maze?”
Certain it is, that at the age of fifteen, the charms of this unfortunate daughter of Lord Clifford attracted the attention of the amorous Monarch.
The history of this accomplished fair one is too well known to need a repetition. The manner of the Queen’s discovering her secret retreat, and the cause of Rosamond’s death, are variously related. By some it is said, that sitting withoutside her bower, to take the air, while busied at her work, she spied the Queen; and in attempting her escape, 76 dropped her ball of silk, which catching in her foot, unravelled, and left a clue for the Queen to discover her retreat. By others it is conjectured, that the thread of silk was dropped accidentally by the king, at the entrance to the bower; but it may as reasonably be concluded, agreeable to the old ballad, that the enraged Queen forced the secret from the Knight who was entrusted with the care of the labyrinth.
“And forth she calls the trusty knight
“In an unhappy hour,
“Who, with his clue of twined thread,
“Came from this famous bower.”
Historians of the greatest veracity seem not to credit her being poisoned: it is more than probable that the story might have arisen from the figure of a cup said to have been sculptured on her tomb—no uncommon decoration in a Catholic church.77
Brompton, Knighton, and Higden, historians of repute, all seem to agree that she died a natural death, soon after her concealment in the bower. Equivocal, and uncertain as the cause of the death of this unfortunate beauty may appear, it is beyond controversy, that she was interred in the choir at Godstow Nunnery, near Oxford, where, in the early and innocent part of her life, she had resided a considerable time; and in the year 1191, according to Hoveden, the corpse was removed by order of Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, who, on visiting this nunnery, and observing a tomb covered with silk, and lighted by a profusion of wax tapers, enquired to whom it belonged, and being answered, to Rosamond, mistress to King Henry, he exclaimed, in a fit of zeal, “Take this harlot from hence, and bury her without the church, lest through her the Christian religion should be scandalized, and that other women, warned by her example, 78 may refrain from unlawful and adulterous love.”
The Queen, in Mr. Addison’s Opera of Rosamond, thus enjoins her attendants:
“Beneath those hills, a convent stands,
“Where the fam’d streams of Isis stray,
“Thither the breathless corse convey,
“And bid the cloister’d maids with care
“The due solemnities prepare.”
Of this nunnery little remains but the chapel given in the annexed sketch, and a wall, which denotes it to have been a place 79 of considerable extent. The ground is in several places broken up, and the appearance of an arched way is plainly discernable; but the story of its having been a subterraneous passage to Woodstock does not seem probable. The same idea takes place with respect to most of the religious houses in the kingdom; as if popular enquiry could not rest satisfied with detecting the pranks and doublings of nun and priest above ground, but must still, mole-like, be delving after supposed hidden mysteries and communications below.
Godstow Nunnery, or Place of God, was founded about the latter end of the reign of Henry I. by Editha, an inspired matron of Winchester. She persuaded herself, or was persuaded by her priest, that she was directed by a vision to this neighbourhood, where a light from Heaven was to appear, that would point out the spot on which she 80 should erect a nunnery. Assisted, afterwards, by various donations of the pious, (for whatever visions she might have been promised, it does not appear that any of them were visions of gold) she was enabled to compleat her project, and about the year 1138, the building was consecrated, and Editha presided as abbess over twenty-four fair nuns. Henry II. and his son, King John, were liberal benefactors to this religious institution. The latter bequeathed a considerable fund for masses to be said, and “that these holy virgins might relieve with their prayers, the soules of his father. King Henrie, and of Lady Rosamond, there interred.”
Immense sums were expended at Rosamond’s interment, as well by her noble parents as by her enamoured sovereign, who was lavish in the decorations of this fair unfortunate’s tomb; the workmanship of 81 which, according to the description of Ranulph Higden, the historian, “seems to have been of wood, and of wonderful contrivance, that her chest, coffin, or tomb, to be seen in the chapter-house, is not above two feet long, or perhaps square, but a stupendous piece of workmanship, wherein might be seen the conflicts of champions, the gestury of animals, the flight of birds, with fishes leaping, and all done without the assistance of man.”
Notwithstanding the body was removed, as before observed, from the place where it was originally deposited, yet the opinion of the bigoted priest did not obtain much among the minds of the well-informed, by whom she was considered after her death as little less than a saint;
“And, ’spite of Fame, her fate revers’d believe,
“O’erlook her crimes, and think she ought to live.”
Leland records the following inscription on a cross, which, he says, stood near the entrance of the nunnery-gate.
“Qui meat hac oret, signum salutis adoret.
“Utque sibi detur veniam Rosamunda precetur.”
After the removal of the body from the church it was placed in the chapter-house, whence, says Speed “the chaste sisters gathered her bones, and put them in a perfumed leather bag, inclosing them so in a lead, and layde them againe in the church under a fayre large grave-stone; about whose edges a fillet of brasse was inlay’d, and thereon written her name and praise: these bones were at the suppression of that nunnery so found.” This agrees with Leland’s account of its situation after the dissolution of the nunnery, “who says Rosamunde’s tumbe at Godstowe nunnery was taken up of late; it is a stone with 83 this inscription, ‘Tumba Rosamundæ;’ her bones were closed in lede, and within that, bones were closed in lether; when it was opened, there was a sweet smell came out of it.”
A large stone coffin is now standing in the chapel, which there is little reason to believe ever contained the remains of this faded flower.
The following lines are written on the wall, said to have been copied from those on her tomb;
“Hic jacet in tumba, Rosa Mundi, non Rosamunda;
“Non redolet, sed olet, quæ redolere solet.”
Perhaps this recital of well-known circumstances may be thought prolix, and foreign to the subject; but as the mind is naturally fond of incident bordering on romance, 84 this legendary tale, as it beguiles the moment, may plead an apology for its introduction.
the famous Brown, who has been heard to boast
[Someone will have to break it to the author that Brown died in 1783, nine years before even the first edition of Picturesque Views, so he can’t have been heard boasting all that recently. Incidentally, I thought his parents showed rare prescience by christening him Capability, but it turns out his real name was Lancelot. Pity.]
the sting of the following epigram
[I guess you had to be there.]
the portrait of Lady Charlotte Spencer, in the character of a gipsey
[Happily the term “cultural appropriation” is still a couple of centuries away.]
This extraordinary property of this animal . . . is, I understand, much questioned by the more informed naturalists of our age.
[Good for the informed naturalists.]
Rice, Prince of Wales
[This implies a truly unexpected pronunciation of “Rhys”.]
The Princess Elizabeth was confined in this place a considerable time, by order of her unnatural sister Queen Mary
[Or, as their father would have insisted, her natural sister.]
GODSTOW NUNNERY, of which so much has been said in the last section, is contiguous to the bridge bearing that name, approaching which, the view from the river continues to improve in every break and easy winding of its current. The depth of water is encreased, and its verdant meadows greatly enrich the distant prospect, abounding in picturesque scenery, combining the villages of Handborough and Garsington; these are screened by the range of the Witham Hills, which form a kind of amphitheatre, and on a nearer approach give a grandeur to the landscape, we have not before witnessed. Yet even here the imagination is not gratified: the contiguity of the noble palace of Blenheim, which we have just quitted, recurs to the mind, and we naturally regret, that those hills will in no part admit a distant view of 86 that noble edifice. Thus no sooner are we pleased with objects as they appear, but we are desirous of associating with them other forms which cannot be brought within our reach; and though the barrier is placed by the hand of nature, we are still too apt to disquiet ourselves and verify the observation of Prior, that
“The wished-for something unpossess’d,
“Corrodes and leavens all the rest.”
The Gothic simplicity and the antiquity of Godstow bridge, with the adjoining remains of the nunnery wall, and contiguous woody scenery; the perpetual moving picture on the water, produced by the passage of west country barges, and the gayer scenery presented by the pleasure boats, and select parties from the neighbouring university, render it in every point of view a happy subject for the pencil.
A cut is now forming at some distance 87 above the bridge, which will turn the current of the river a little from its present channel, towards the ruins of the nunnery wall, and when it falls in again with the old stream a little below the bridge, will considerably aid the navigation.
The beauty of the scenery a little below Godstow still encreases, and the river nobly expanding itself, seems proudly urging its course, to pay its tribute to that ancient and noble seminary of learning, Oxford, whose venerable towers and lofty domes all happily unite to form a general mass of objects superior to any thing which this country can boast.
Passing nearer to the city, as we approach the village of Medley, each particular in this noble assemblage of buildings is beautifully marked, and happily discriminated by the chearful rays of light now darting on them from a mid-day sun.88
Near Medley was anciently a very considerable monastery, of which little now remains to mark its former greatness.
Within about a mile of the city the Warwickshire canal approaches very near to the Thames stream, and from that point runs almost parallel with it, till it reaches the place of its destination. The immense utility of this navigation, in the article of coals particularly, promises consequences to this city and the neighbouring country, which, it is to be hoped, will compensate for the heavy expence and great delays which have attended the execution of this spirited adventure.
We next approach to High or Hithe Bridge, which consists of three arches, but is so confined in situation, as to afford no point sufficiently picturesque to give it a place in this work.89
OF the University and ancient City of Oxford, at once the pride of our own country, and justly the admiration of foreigners, so much has been already written, that it is scarcely possible to advance any thing new on the subject: yet, unequal as I feel myself to the talk of making any addition to the history and antiquities of this place, it is, at the same time, so closely connected with my present enquiry, and so richly stored with the elegancies of art and science, that on some of these subjects, I presume, I am by the very nature of my undertaking, called upon to hazard an opinion of my own; I shall, therefore, briefly remark on such works of art, as either appear to have superior merit, or afford observations that may tend to aid a comparison between the state 90 of the arts, at a former period, and that which they hold at present.
The annexed view of Magdalen bridge, though not properly an appendage of the Thames, has still so much merit in its design, as to render it no unfit object to place at the head of this section: it was begun in the year 1772, by Mr. John Gwynn, who was a native of this city; whose work, tho’ by no means a perfect model of beauty, will still be thought to add more credit to the architect, in point of taste and design, than to those who had the conservancy of the river over which it passes. It is a spacious stone bridge, five hundred and twenty-six feet in length, consisting of eleven arches, five of which are without the necessary accompanyment, water; under the other six run two shallow branches of the river Cherwell: it certainly forms a noble entrance to the city from the London road, and may possibly be 91 of some utility at a future period, when taste and good sense may take into consideration, should the thing be practicable, the uniting of two streams, which connected would constitute one river that will do honour to the university.
The High-street, to which the bridge leads, contains the noblest and most deversified assemblage of architectural objects, perhaps, in this country, and strongly impresses the mind with an idea of the magnificence and Gothic splendor of earlier times. The easy curve in which this entrance is constructed, adds much to its beauty, as straight lines (notwithstanding the opinion of Sir Christopher Wren, in his intended plan of London) are certainly not pleasing to the critical eye, though they may contribute to the health and convenience of a great city.92
Magdalen College, at the foot of the bridge, is a noble specimen of the Gothic style of building: its lofty tower, which is about one hundred and fifty feet high, was erected anno 1492, under the direction of that princely prelate Wolsey, who was at that time Fellow and Bursar of the college. The scale of it may be said to correspond with the daring aims and character of his mind; and if, as some have said, he exhausted the revenues of the college in this undertaking, it marks them so much the more strongly.
Within these walls the antiquary will find much matter for speculation, particularly in noticing the hieroglyphics cut in stone, which surround the cloisters; the history of which has been formerly matter of much controversy; nor is it yet decided, whether it is the work of licentiousness, or a system of morality for the benefit of the 93 college; so little are we able, in the present day of refinement, to judge of the intentions of our forefathers (at least when speaking in such parables) whether to scourge or to promote impiety. The most prevalent opinion that I have been able to collect, is that they were intended (strange as the ideas may be, which some of these symbolical figures may seem at first view to present) to shadow out the virtues and qualities that should unite in the character of their president.
Some painted glass in the anti-chapel, though much impaired, has yet excellence enough to recommend it to notice. The altar-piece, representing the Resurrection, painted by Isaac Fuller, is so devoid of merit, as to render it no farther an object of attention than to point out the low state of history painting at that period, comparatively with that of the present day; if ever 94 his taste, as has been reported, led him to the study of Michael Angelo, it certainly seems to have forsaken him when he selected only his imperfections.
Mr. Addison, who was a more elegant writer than a critic on painting, has bestowed much encomium on this work in a Latin poem, to be found in the Musæ Anglicanæ.
An ancient custom is still observed in this college:—On May-day morning the choristers sing a latin hymn, precisely as the clock strikes five, and the bridge and neighbourhood, should the morning prove fair, are generally thronged with the listening croud. A lamb used formerly to be roasted whole on the leads of the tower, for breakfast; but in this age of refinement, a dinner is substituted, at which the lamb is not forgotten.95
The court to the grand entrance of the physic-garden, on the left, as you pass the bridge, is from a design of Inigo Jones, executed by Nicholas Stone; it is in the Doric order, with rustic decorations, and is not unworthy so great a master.
Queen’s College is a modern structure, begun about the year 1672, and somewhat resembling the style of the Luxemburgh palace. The cupola is certainly not proportionate to the rest of the façade, being much too large, and totally misplaced. It has besides more the air of a canopy held over the Queen than an embellishment to a public edifice. The nick-name of salt-cellar and pepper-box, bestowed on this building and the neighbouring spires of All Souls, by some young students, though ludicrous, is not inapplicable to the whimsical combination of objects, which from hence present themselves in a certain point of view.96
Queen’s College was founded by Robert Egglesfield, Confessor to Queen Philippa, Consort of King Edward III. in 1340. To the admirers of painted glass twelve windows of considerable merit will be found in the chapel, dated 1518; and one over the altar, representing the Nativity, by Price, in 1717. Several ancient customs are still observed in this college, particularly one on a New-year’s-day, when the Bursar of the college gives to each member a needle and thread, with this injunction, “take this and be thrifty.” This custom is said to derive its origin from the founder’s name, Egglesfield, the anagram of which forms in the French, aiguille a needle, and fil a thread.
The ceremony of introducing a boar’s head on Christmas-day is still attended to, and accompanied with much solemnity, by an old monkish carol, which is sung by the Taberders, who bring in the boar’s head.97
The origin of the custom of bringing up this boar’s head at Christmas is said to have arisen from a taberder or scholar of the society, who walking in the vicinity of Oxford, and reading Aristotle’s Logic, was encountered by a wild boar, and in defending himself thrust his Aristotle down his throat, and choaked him, when
“Instead of avoiding the mouth of the beast,
“He ramm’d in a volume, and cried—Græcum est.”
I am doubtful whether this story has not been invented to shew the effect of logic, which I believe to this day is often thrust down the throat of the hearer, and is found instead of improving the faculties, to have overwhelmed them.
In the chapel of the college of All Souls, founded by Bishop Chichely in 1437, over the altar is a picture by Mengs. The subject is Christ’s first appearance to Mary 98 Magdalen after his resurrection, or as it is usually called, the Noli me tangere: there is much clear and brilliant colouring in this picture, particularly in the body of the principal figure. The countenance of the Magdalen is happily and elegantly expressed with a placid mixture of dignity and grief suited to the occasion; but there is about the eyes too much glare of redness. The drawing of the principal figure is likewise formal, and wants elegance; it is, however, with all its defects, a work of much merit. An engraving has been made from it by the late Mr. Sherwin.
Several other pictures are to be found in this college on historical subjects, by Sir James Thornhill, whose merit in that branch of the art, as an English painter, seems to me to have been unrivalled, till the exertions made by several of our artists in the present period.99
In a small room adjoining to the library are some specimens of painted glass, which have been removed from thence, and are coeval with the foundation of this college. Among these are the portraits of Henry VI. and of the founder.
The ancient custom is still observed here of celebrating the discovery of a large mallard, or drake, said to be found in a drain or sewer, at the time of digging for the foundation of the college. This mallard has by some been degraded into a goose; be it one or the other, it is certainly the cause of a jovial evening in the hall, on the 14th of January, when this merriment is heightened by an excellent old song, sung in commemoration of this event. I shall give as a specimen the introductory and concluding stanzas.
“Griffin, bustard, turkey, capon,
“Let other hungry mortals gape on;100
“And on the bones their stomach fall hard;
“But let All Souls men have their mallard.
“Oh! by the blood of King Edward,
“Oh! by the blood of King Edward,
“It was a swapping, swapping, mallard.
“The Romans once admired a gander
“More than they did their chief commander;
“Because he sav’d, if some don’t fool us,
“The place that’s call’d from th’ head of Tolus.
“Oh! by the blood, &c.
“Therefore let us sing, and dance a galliard,
“To the remembrance of the mallard:
“And as the mallard dives in pool,
“Let us dabble, dive, and duck in bowl.
“Oh! by the blood, &c.”
The venerable and Gothic pile, Saint Mary’s church, forms no inconsiderable object in the range of buildings on the north of the High-street. The body of it was erected in the reign of Henry VII.; and the ponderous tower, with its lofty spire and ornaments, niches, and statues, was added by 101 the first Bishop of Oxford, in the reign of Henry VIII. who was the last Abbot of Oseney. The elegant portal was raised by Dr. Owen, Chaplain to Archbishop Laud, in 1637, and strikes me, from the taste of its embellishments and contour of the figure of the Virgin and the infant Christ holding a cross in the pedestal above, as being from a design of Rubens or Diepenbeck. It is singular that the figure of the child holding the cross should have, in those or any other times, been deemed an object worth dwelling upon, as a corroborative proof, among others, of the Archbishop Laud’s attachment to popery. It is even supposed to have formed an article of impeachment against that prelate; but enthusiasm in religious tenets has ever been too fatally marked with sanguinary measures, and a deviation from that which ought to be their first principle—humanity.102
On the south side of the High-street stands University College, founded by King Alfred in 872: but the present structure was raised in 1634. The hall is of still more modern date, and is in a superior stile of Gothic design. The figure of Alfred, by Wilton, in the common room, is the best piece of sculpture I remember to have seen of that artist: it will not add, however, to this eulogy, when it is observed to be from a model of Rysbrack.
Of that magnificent edifice, the college of Christ’s Church, founded by Wolsey, its stately entrance and happy selection of Gothic proportions, too much cannot be said in commendation; but it is with regret to be observed, that the excellence of its grand front is considerably injured by the contracted situation of the street on which it stands. The spacious and noble quadrangle inspires the mind on a first view with 103 every idea of ancient grandeur; and were there no other remains of the cardinal’s princely mind, this alone would bear lasting testimony to his unbounded munificence. The beautiful roof of the elegant stair-case leading to the hall is supported only by a single pillar, which, with the Gothic fret-work in the cieling of the spacious hall above, and the vaulted roof of the choir, particularly said to have been constructed under the direction of Wolsey, are truly deserving of critical observation. The elegant tower was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and is well adapted to harmonize with the rest of the building.
Among the many portraits in the hall are two by Sir Joshua Reynolds; the one a fine head of Dr. Markham; the other, of still superior excellence, the charming portrait of Dr. Robinson, the Lord Primate of Ireland, on which if I may venture an opinion, I think his best work in portrait. 104 Here are two fine heads, the one of Lord Chief Baron Skinner; the other of Welbore Ellis, Esq; (now Lord Mendip,) by Gainsborough: and an excellent head of Dr. Hooper, Bishop of Bath and Wells, by Hogarth; of which an engraving, in this rage for the works of that great master, should not be withheld from the public. At the north corner of the west end of the church, is a window painted by I. Oliver, the subject Peter delivered out of prison by the angel; the colouring in parts is brilliant, and the drawing throughout much to be admired: it was painted by Isaac Oliver, whom Mr. Walpole conjectures to have been the son of James, the younger brother of the celebrated Peter Oliver. This window was painted by him, when in a very advanced age, having the following inscription:
“Oliver ætat. suæ 84, anno 1700, pinxit deditque.”
I shall remark farther, from Mr. Walpole, of this artist, “that he was estimable for his own merit, and that of his family, and that he alone preserved the secret of painting on glass.”
Of the elegant additional building to the north-east of the great quadrangle, called Peckwater Court, the three sides were founded by Dr. Radcliffe, a Canon of this church, under the direction of Dean Aldrich, equally famed for his abilities in the elegant arts, and for his talents as a man of learning. It is regularly noble in its parts, without a redundancy of ornament, and will, in all probability, long remain a monument of the taste and good sense of its architect, the Dean.
The apartments in the library are noble and spacious, and well constructed for the purposes to which they are applied, except 106 some of the lower ones, which, I confess, might have been decorated with better judgment: I mean those applied to the reception of General Guise’s collection of pictures; many of which, if original, are so defaced by the hands of injudicious picture cleaners, as to leave very faint remains of excellence, and scarcely to merit a place in the cabinet of a competent and well-skilled amateur in the graphic art. I shall point out a few among them, that seem to have the most excellence, and appear to be genuine works of the masters to whom they are imputed.
The of Erasmus, a sketch for the great picture in St. Peter’s church at Rome, by N. Poussin—A sketch of a man and horse, by Vandyck—Three heads, cartoons, by Raphael, on paper—A portrait of the Duke d’Alva, by Titian; and that of a Venetian Nobleman, its companion; the heads and hands of which are clear and richly 107 coloured—A holy family, by Parmegiano; the children beautifully painted. The Virgin contemplating her Child; Primaticcio: the head of the Virgin is graceful, and full of elegance; but the figure much too tail—Of the family of the Caracci, represented in a butcher’s shop, imputed to the pencil of Annibal; as it is a disputed picture, I shall suspend my judgment as to the master; yet it may be safely allowed to be a work of great merit. The anxiety of the soldier, who is buying the meat, is forcibly expressed; as are likewise the inferior parts of the picture: it is to be regretted, that so much merit has been lavished on so disgusting a subject. Of two pictures, said to be by Raphael, the one a Nativity, the other a , they have been so repaired by a modern hand, that he has fairly eclipsed the fair original.
In New College, founded by William of Wyckham, the painted glass, by that excellent 108 artist, Jervaise, after the cartoons of Sir Joshua Reynolds, is highly deserving commendation. Though Mr. Jervaise cannot be said to have restored the art of painting on glass, he certainly has greatly contributed to its excellence, by having happily united his labours with some of the first artists of the present day, to give that species of painting something more to recommend it than mere gaudy colouring. This idea will be better proved by a comparison of his works with the old windows in the chapel of this college, which were painted as early as its foundation.
Much is due to Mr. Wyatt for his judicious care in attempting to restore the remains of the ancient Gothic altar in the chapel, which, though it may have suffered greatly from the hand of time, and certainly more from the ravages of reformation, is not yet so defaced, that it should be out of the 109 power of so masterly an artist, to restore in it, one of the finest specimens of ancient elegance in the Gothic style, remaining in this Kingdom.
In Wadham College will be found a work of Isaac Fuller of a singular kind. It is an altar-piece, painted on an ash-coloured cloth, which serves as a middle tint to the shades, which are of brown crayon. The lights are heightened by white, and being worked up as a crayon picture, and pressed with hot irons, which cause an exsudation from the canvass, so incorporate the crayon with the texture of the canvass, as to render the colours proof against the hard rubbing even of a brush.
The second court at Trinity College, from a design of Sir Christopher Wren, and may justly vie with any modern edifice in 110 this university. A curious manuscript of Euclid is shewn in the library: it is a translation from the Arabic into Latin, before the discovery of the original Greek by Adelardus Bathoniensis, in 1130.
In Worcester College will likewise be found an invaluable treasure, Inigo Jones’s Palladio, with his own manuscript notes in Italian. It was bequeathed to this college by Dr. Clarke. In the possession of the Duke of Devonshire is another work of this kind, with notes in Latin.
In the various colleges and halls in this venerable receptacle of knowledge, each has its share of learned and curious treasures, which, from the brevity of this work, are too numerous to be particularized. I have, therefore, only aimed at a few slight remarks on such objects as struck me most forcibly, 111 and which, I hope, may serve as an apology for passing unobserved many things that more informed minds might have brought forward to notice, in one of the first seminaries in the universe.
The Martyrdom of Erasmus
text has Martrydom
the family of the Caracci, represented in a butcher’s shop, imputed to the pencil of Annibal
[The attribution to Annibale Carracci seems to be secure. But the painting probably does not depict his real-life relatives, although they really were butchers. It is still at Christ Church, Oxford.]
the one a Nativity, the other a Madonna
text has Madona
The second court at Trinity College, is from a design of Sir Christopher Wren
text has is, with superfluous comma
ON quitting Oxford, we passed the ancient bridge, formerly called Grand Pont, or South Bridge, but which is now better known by the appellation of Folly Bridge. It is said, by some, to have derived this name from the circumstance of Friar Bacon having chosen this spot, being on the side of a public road, and on the banks of a navigable river, for the situation of his study—a situation, of all others, it should seem, the least adapted to the purposes of retirement and cultivation of the mind. Another, and more probable, account is, that it was so called from some original defect in the arches, which were obliged to be supported by additional means. The bridge was built, according to Anthony Wood’s account of Oxford, as early as the Conquest, by Robert 114 D’Oyley, on the site of one still older, which is said, by authentic records, to have been standing prior to the time of King Etheldred.
The ancient tower, called Friar Bacon’s Study, to which I have just referred, stood at the south end of this bridge, and was occupied by him as an observatory. This friar was of the Franciscan order, and a celebrated astronomer. From his philosophical discoveries, and particularly the invention of gun-powder, he had, amongst the vulgar, the imputation of being a magician, and, from those better informed, the epithet of Doctor Mirabilis. It was ridiculously said of this tower, that whenever it fell, a more learned man than the friar must necessarily be passing under it. Without reproach to the learning of the university, it appears, however, to have stood some centuries, and, at length, a few years since, it came down, in the course of other improvements than 115 those of science, and not because some one more learned than the friar happened to be then passing that way.
The noble College of Christ Church, and its contiguous buildings, form a beautiful combination of objects from the neighbouring meadows on the margin of the river. At the extremity of these meadows the river Cherwell unites itself with the Thames, which gently winds its current through a delightful range of verdant scenery, Oxford still remaining in view, till we reach the village of Iffley, about a mile and a half below the city. This enchanting spot is a combination of all that is desirable in picturesque landscape. It is situated on a beautiful eminence, commanding an extensive distance, which includes every object in the university; the scene is completed by the meandering course of the river beneath, on the banks of which, immediately under the eye, is a 116 spacious mill, worked by the current of the stream, which gives a happy foreground to the rural objects above. From such an assemblage, what a complete selection of parts for the pencil of a Hobbima or a Ruysdael! The admirers of English landscape, will, I flatter myself, receive some gratification from the annexed sketch, which, being faithful, will convey a tolerable idea of the beauties of the scenery.
The church of Iffley, on the summit, is a fine remain of the Saxon style of building, particularly its portal, which is richly decorated.
Dr. Nowel has a most enviable and charming residence in this vicinity.
A little below this scene we reach Sandford lock and mill, where the soft and elegant views, for which this river in some 117 parts is so peculiarly distinguished, begin to display themselves in an eminent degree. The luxuriant hand of Nature has here been peculiarly diffusive: the rich clumps of trees and verdant lawns, perpetually meeting the eye at every break of the river, on our approach to Nuneham Courtenay, strongly impress the mind of the admirer of rural objects, and leave not a wish to examine the easy negligences of nature by the rigid and severe rules of art; the effect of such an enquiry can only tend to diminish our pleasures in the pursuit of picturesque scenery, where nature will be found to be invariably right, though some parts, taken separately, might be pointed out as disgusting, and
“Figures monstrous and mis-shap’d appear,
“Consider’d singly, or beheld too near,
“Which, but proportion’d to their light, or place,
“Due distance reconciles to form and grace.”
It was ridiculously said of this tower, that whenever it fell
[The grammatical implication is that the tower has a repeated and habitual habit of falling—which would certainly be ridiculous.]
[Illustration] View at Ifley
[The List of Illustrations, like the body text, has the expected “Iffley”. But then, the caption engraver didn’t know how to spell “Gloucestershire” either.]
Figures monstrous and mis-shap’d
[Pope, An Essay on Criticism. Unlike some verses quoted in this book, it seems safe to assume the reader was expected to recognize the passage. ]
PURSUING the course of the river, the landscape, as we approach Earl Harcourt’s, at Nuneham Courtenay, both from its natural situation, and highly cultivated state of improvement, forms a selection of picturesque objects so happily combined as to be deemed classically elegant. The well-chosen situation of this mansion is worthy the taste of its noble owner, where, from every point, the eye of observation meets the highest gratification. The city of Oxford, at the distance of six miles, happily bounds the view towards the north, while, on the other side, the town of Abingdon gradually rises, amidst a rich and fertile country, interspersed with villages and fruitful woods. The Berkshire Downs and Vale of White Horse appear across the neighbouring 120 meadows, which are pleasingly intersected by the easy winding of the river, which, for many miles, is visible from either side this charming retreat.
The house, which is of stone, was built by the late Earl, about thirty years since, and is well situated amidst a beautiful park of twelve hundred acres in extent; which park, with the gardens containing about thirty-eight acres, were principally laid out by the celebrated Mr. Brown. The flower-garden does not contain more than an acre and a quarter; yet its beautiful irregularity, and happy situation by nature, together with its high state of cultivation from the hand of taste, in the disposal of the shrubberies, &c. aided by the well-chosen selection of busts, vases, &c. render it altogether the most perfect assemblage I remember to have seen. The beauties of this enchanting spot cannot be more happily expressed than in the 121 elegant lines of Andrew Marvel, inscribed on a tablet above the center arch in the bower:
“Society is all but rude
“To this delicious solitude;
“Where all the flowers and trees do close,
“To weave the garland of repose.”
Within the house are many elegant apartments, particularly the drawing room, the design of which seems to have been from the Banquetting-house, at Whitehall.
The selection of pictures is, as may be imagined from the well-known taste of the noble owner, formed with much judgment. Four large landscapes in the great drawing-room, by Van Artois, three of which are enriched with the figures of Teniers, are a happy combination of the superior talents of those great masters. The celebrated landscape by Rubens, the subject of which is, a cart overturning by moonlight, or, as it 122 is called, La Charette Embourbee, is a duplicate of that in the Houghton collection. The Naval regatta, on the Texel, by Van de Velt, junior, is one of the first works of that excellent painter; the variety of vessels, and multitude of figures, all busily employed, are touched with so much delicacy and precision, as to mark the superiority of the master; the clear tone of colouring in the sky, and happy transparency of the water, in this picture, are wonderful. The Moon-light on the water, by Vander Meer, and the Landscape, by Both, are capital works.
I shall forbear to remark further on this valuable collection of pictures, and refer to the ancient maps of England, which are curiously wrought in tapestry, and are here preserved in a spacious room, built expressly for their reception by their noble possessor. They were purchased, about ten 123 years since, at the sale of the late Mr. Sheldon’s effects, at his mansion at Weston, near Long Compton, in Warwickshire.
These maps are certainly the earliest specimens of tapestry-weaving in this kingdom. The rivers, hills, clumps of trees, and even windmills, are particularly expressed, and with much art in their execution; but the names of the towns, &c. are frequently ill-spelt. The names of Francis and Richard Hickes appear on them; but whether they were the weavers or designers of this work, is not clearly understood.
For the introduction of this manufactory into the kingdom, we are indebted to Mr. William Sheldon, in the reign of Hen. VIII. In every map the Sheldon arms, with all their quarterings, are introduced. This Mr. William Sheldon died in 1570.124
The maps were purchased by Mr. Horace Walpole, at the above sale for thirty guineas, and were by him presented to Earl Harcourt.
At a small distance from the house, the late Earl has erected an elegant church from a plan of his own in the Ionic order, which, from the singularity of its design, is highly deserving notice.
Descending the beautiful lawns, which form an easy slope towards the margin of the river, the spacious mansion of Sir James Stonehouse, at Radley, on the opposite side of the water, appears a pleasing object, and to the left of the grounds, in a very picturesque situation, the eye is delighted with the fine remains of that venerable piece of antiquity removed from Oxford, commonly called Carfax, which is here preserved by his 125 Lordship from any further depredation, except that of all-consuming Time.
The recess in which it is placed is amidst a stately and variegated thicket of trees, so happily disposed as to seem purposely designed for its reception. The original situation of this piece of antiquity is well known to have been in the centre of the principal street in Oxford; and, probably, from its situation in the middle of four ways, or quatre voiz (in old French) it obtained the vulgar 126 appellation of Carfax; or, perhaps, with as much probability, from Carrefour, the place where several streets meet.
The decayed state of this building, and its inconvenient situation, induced the University very lately to take it down, and judiciously to place it in hands, where it might remain a gratification to the curious, and a pleasing monument of antiquity. The noble Earl has caused some Latin and English lines to be inscribed on this building, on its being placed in his ground; the latter of which run as follows:
This building called Carfax,
Erected for a Conduit at Oxford,
By Otho Nicholson,
In the year of our Lord MDCX.
And taken down in the year MDCCLXXXVII.
To enlarge the High Street,
Was presented by the University
To George Simon, Earl Harcourt,
Who caused it to be placed here.
A brief account of this venerable pile may perhaps not prove unacceptable to the reader; I shall give it from a manuscript formerly in the possession of Mr. Hanwell, deputy treasurer of Christ Church College, in the university of Oxford: he says “It was built in 1610, by Otho Nicholson, M. A. the expence of which building, together with the charge of bringing the water by pipes from the conduit-house, near Hinksey, cost two thousand five hundred pounds. After its erection the founder was made treasurer to King James I. In Christ Church Library, which was formerly a chapel, is a small monument, erected to his memory; it is adorned with sculptures corresponding with the decorations on the Carfax; on the south of which are twelve sun-dials, three towards each point of the compass: between each corner is finely carved, in a kind of open 128 work, the capital letter O. a small figure of a mermaid holding a comb and looking-glass: then the capital letter N. and a small figure of the sun, &c. The letters O.N. the initials of the founder’s name, form a rebus, from the analogy between the arms and name of the founder—no uncommon mode formerly of expressing devices; on the west side are the arms of the city and university of Oxford, with those of the founder; and on the north and east are similar devices. Under the curious arches, which concenter in the top, is a large cistern, over which is a figure of the Empress Maud, riding on an ox, which figure is surrounded with brass net work; this building is adorned with many curious emblematic devices, coats of arms of England, Scotland, France, &c. the seven worthies, King James, King David,” &c.—and at the conclusion of this 129 manuscript is added—“But I leave a more elegant account to be done by a better hand; only I say this,
“He that won’t commend me,
“Let him come and mend me.”
Quitting this delightful scenery, and pursuing the course of the river towards Abingdon, about a mile below Nuneham, the retrospective view of the country, and noble buildings interspersed in its vicinity, is truly delightful. Within about a mile of the town of Abingdon, a new cut is formed for the convenience of the navigation, which has rendered the old stream towards Culham bridge entirely useless; this cut has not only shortened the distance towards Abingdon very considerably, but is become necessary from the shallowness of the stream, which in dry seasons has not sufficient water for the purposes of navigation.
ancient maps of England, which are curiously wrought in tapestry
[Not that ancient; they date from the 1590s. But unlike the Bayeux Tapestry, they really are tapestries: woven, not embroidered. There are just four of them—Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire—and they are enormous, on the order of 4×5m. Oxford and Worcester, and parts of Gloucester, are now at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford; Warwick is in the Warwickshire Museum. In any case, the subject should be dear to our author’s heart, since he began life as a weaver.]
the names of the towns, &c. are frequently ill-spelt.
[Seriously, Samuel? You’re complaining about spellings from 1590? Have you seen how many ways Shakespeare spelled his own name?]
THE approach towards Abingdon by an easy sweep of the current affords a very pleasing view, but the drought of the present season rendered the passage at Abbey Lock impracticable, and subjected us to some inconvenience, as we were there obliged to have the boat dragged over.
Near Abingdon the river Ock washes the south side of the town. This small river derives its source from the Vale of White-Horse, near Kingston-Lisle, and gently winding its current empties itself, near Abingdon, into the Ouse, which river flowing northward from Faringdon divides its stream as it enters this town.132
The annexed view, though not properly upon the Thames, is yet so closely connected with it, as to render it a necessary appendage to this work.
Abingdon is of very great antiquity; its ancient appellation was Sheovesham; and Camden conjectures that synods were held here as early as 742; and an anonymous writer observes, “that it was in ancient times a famous city, goodly to behold, full of riches, encompassed with very fruitful fields, green meadows, spacious pastures, and flocks of cattle abounding with milk.
“Here the king kept his court, and hither the people resorted, while consultations were depending about the greatest and most weighty affairs of the kingdom.”
Ciss, a King of the West Saxons, built a spacious abbey here, about the year 675, soon 133 after which it assumed the name of Abbandun, or the Abbey’s Town. This abbey was soon after destroyed by the Danes, but by the liberality of King Edgar, and the industry of the Norman abbots, it recovered its magnificence, and rivalled in wealth and grandeur any abbey in the kingdom. William the Conqueror resided here some time; and in this abbey his son Henry received his education.
Of the cross, of excellent workmanship, erected in the Market-place by Henry VI. as mentioned by Leland and others, no traces are remaining; it was destroyed in the wars.
The consequence of this abbey was such, as to afford a principal support to the town, till the reign of Henry V. by whom a bridge was constructed over the Thames at Culham, and another at Burford, across the river 134 Ouse. From that circumstance the town of Abingdon acquired so much additional traffic, as to rank amongst the first towns in the county. The building these bridges, in 1416, was under the immediate order of the King, as appears from the following Latin distich, formerly inscribed on a window, in the church of St. Helens, in this town:
“Henricus Quintus, quarto fundaverat anno,
“Rex pontem Burford, super undas atque Culhamford.”
The work was considerably assisted by the donations of Jeffray Barbur, a wealthy merchant of this place who gave a thousand marks towards completing it, and making a causeway between the bridge of Culham and that of Abingdon, and in consequence the high road to London was turned through the town. His monument, which is now in the church of St. Helens, was originally in the abbey 135 church, whence it was removed by the inhabitants at the Dissolution.
The following lines, selected from a quaint translation of some Latin verses, mentioned by Ashmole, may tend to give a general idea of the state of bridge building in the time of Henry V. and of the great advantages expected to be derived from it by the people at large.
“King Henry the Fifth, in the fifth of his reign,
“At Burford and Culham did bridges build twain;
“Between these two places, but from Abingdon most,
“The King’s highways now may be easily past;
“In one thousand four hundred and ten more by six,
“This so pious work did his Majesty fix:
“Ye passengers now who shall travel this way,
“ that you mind for the founder to pray.
“King Henry the Fifte, in his fourth yere,
“He hath I found for his folke a bridge in Berkeschure,
“For cartis with cariage may goo and come clere,
“That many wynters afore were marred in the myre,136
“And som oute of her sadels flette to the grounde
“Went forthe in the water wist no man whare,
“Five wekys after, or, they were I founde,
“Her kyn and her knowlech caught hem up with care.
“Upon the day of Seynt Albon they began this game,
“And John Huchyns layde the firste stoon in the Kynges name.
“It was a solace to see in a somer sesonn,
“C. C. C. I wysse workyng onys,
“iiii & iiii relyv’d be reson,
“To wete who wrought best were set for the nonce.
“The peple preved her power with the pecoyse
“The mattok was mann handeled right welle a whyle;
“With spades and schovells they made such a noyse
“That men myght here hem thens a myle.
“Wyves went oute to wite now they wroughte,
“V scare in a flok, it was a sayre sight;
“In brod cloths bright, white brede they brought,
“Cheese and chekenes clerelych a dyght.137
“The gode Lord of Abendon, of his londe,
“For the breed of the bridge xxiii. foot large,
“It was a greet socour of erthe and of sonde,
“And that he abated the rent of the barge.
“And C. pownde, and xvli. was truly payed.
“Be the bondes of John Huchyns and Banbery also,
“For the waye and the barge, thus it must be sayed,
“Thereto witnesse Abendon, and many oon moo.
“For now is Culham Hithe, I com to an ende,
“An al the contre the better, and no man the worse;
“Few folke there were coude that way wende,
“But they waged a wed, or payed of her purse;
“And if it were a begger had breed in his bagge,
“He schulde be ryght soone i bid for to goo aboute,
“And of the pore penyles the hiereward wold habbe
“A hood or a girdel, and let hem goo withoute;
“Many moo myscheves there were I say,
“Culham hithe hath causid many a curse;
“I blyssed be our helpers, we have a better waye,
“Without any peny for cart and for horse.
“Thus accordid the kynge and the covent,
“And the commons of Abendonn, as the abbot wolde;
“Thus they were eased, and set all in oon assent,
“That al the brekynges of the bridge, the town here schulde.138
“This was preved acte also in parlement,
“In perpetual pees to have and to holde;
“This tale is i tolde in noon other extent,
“But for myrthe, and in memory to young and to olde.”
A handsome wharf is lately completed at the extremity of the town of Abingdon, beyond which the new cut, forming a small curve, joins the main river a little below Culham bridge; which, with the neighbouring town, affords no unpleasing object.
The village of Sutton Courtenay, about a mile from the bridge, happily terminates the view from the water; and the contiguous mill and lock greatly enrich the beauty of the scenery. The toll of this lock is very heavy on the commerce of this river, being one pound fifteen shillings on every barge. We passed it on a Sunday, and consequently the mill not being at work, the want of water obliged us to have the boat dragged over 139 the neighbouring meadows for more than half a mile, which occasioned no small delay, and a considerable expence.
The general face of the country in our farther progress was dull and uninteresting ’till we approached Dorchester; where, passing Appleford, the village of Long Wittenham, and the contiguous range of hills, considerably enrich the scene. Within this church, under the King’s Arms, which are placed over the rood-loft, is the following whimsical Latin distich—
“Qui leo de Juda est, & flos de Jesse, leones
“Protegat, & flores Carole Magne tuos.”
Near this is a figure of Death, under which is the following couplet—
“Man is a glass, life is as water weakly wall’d about,
“Sin brought in Death, Death breaks the glass, so runs this water out.”
From Long Wittenham the river winds suddenly towards Clifton, a village in Oxfordshire, where the combination of objects is truly picturesque. A small church, situated on a richly variegated bank, rising almost perpendicularly on the border of the river, (on which the traffic of the ferry-boats gives a perpetually moving picture) cannot but attract the eye of observation. The water here is remarkably shallow, yet perfectly transparent, and beautifully shews the clear and gravelly bed of the river. Passing Burcot, the mansion of Mr. Bush, the extensive woody scenery of his grounds forms a beautiful screen on the Oxfordshire side of the river for a considerable distance.
As we approach Little Wittenham, the scenery is rich, and the objects so happily combined, and within so confined a space, as to render them fit subjects for the pencil.141
Towards Dorchester the river narrows exceedingly, and for a great extent runs nearly in a straight line, which gives it more the appearance of a pleasurable canal than a navigable river. Here the sombre shades of the neighbouring woods are beautifully reflected, and give a happy serenity to the scene. Near this spot the river Tame empties itself into the main stream, where a wooden bridge is constructed for a communication with the neighbouring meadows. This river rises in the county of Bucks, and passes the town to which it gives appellation; where,
“With a faint kiss it mocks the walls of Tame,
“And leaves behind her nothing but a name.”
It next visits Dorchester,
“Which wondering at her speed,
“Most gladly bids the happy match succeed.”
So sings the author of the poem on the Marriage of Tame and Isis.142
Dorchester is a town at present of little consequence, but formerly it held a considerable rank among the British cities, by the name of Civitas Dorcinia. It was anciently a bishop’s see, founded by one Birinus, called the apostle of the West Saxons, to whom the common people paid so great a veneration, that in the history of Alchester it is said, “A round hill there still appears, where the superstitious ages built Birinus a shrine, teaching them that had any cattle amiss, to creep to that shrine.” A blacksmith in the town is in possession of the gold ring, said to have been that of Birinus. Near this ancient town of Dorchester, the Tame forms a junction with the main river, from which it is by many absurdly believed to have derived the appellation of Thames.
[Illustration] View at Abingdon Berks.
[This illustration, too, escaped the attention of the Stealer of Plates.]
it was destroyed in the civil wars
text has cival
“Besure that you mind for the founder to pray.
[The first edition also has “Besure” as one word.]
“He hath I found
[Throughout this passage, I will blame the spuriously capitalized “I”s on the printer. It should really be “i-found”, “i-com” and so on, with optional hyphen.]
THE beauty of the scenery from the vicinity of Dorchester, greatly improves in verdure and richness. The easy sloping hills on the Berkshire side of the river are crowned with a variegated combination of sylvan objects; while here and there a chalky break in the cliff renders the view strikingly diversified, and highly interesting. The short reaches in the river, as we approach towards Shillingford, it must be allowed, prevent that extent of scenery which is perhaps necessary to form what may be called majestic in landscape; yet the parts, though simple, are so happily associated, as to be truly gratifying to the eye.144
The light and elegant bridge of Shillingford, with the variety of carriages that are continually passing and repassing, aided by the gliding objects on the water beneath, greatly add to the natural beauty of the landscape. In this delightful retreat the skilful angler finds high gratification in his pursuit, and ample sources of contemplation.
“Here blissful thoughts his mind engage,
“To crouded, noisy scenes unknown;
“Wak’d by some bard’s instructive page,
“Or calm reflections all his own.”
The river makes a beautiful curve below Shillingford, at the termination of which Bensington, or Benson church, which has been recently repaired, meets the eye in a pleasing point of view; little more than the spire, which is perfectly white, appears above a luxuriant range of yellow waving corn 145 fields, while in the distance the back ground is formed from the hills of Nettlebed and the adjoining woods.
The village of Benson, though at present of little note, is extremely ancient, and formerly had the appellation of a royal vill. It was taken from the Britons in 572, and held by the West Saxons for two hundred years after; when Offa, King of Mercia, being determined they should hold no place on this side the water, forcibly possessed himself of it in 778.
At a small distance from this village formerly stood a beautiful structure, occupied as a royal palace, called Ewelm, or New Elm, which was built by William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, but has long been suffered, from its unhealthy situation, to fall into decay. West of the church a Roman road passed the river near this place, 146 and took its direction towards Sylchester, in Hampshire, formerly the celebrated Vindoma or Vindonum of the Romans, and the Caer Segont of the Britons.
A little below Benson is a spacious lock and mill, which, with the gentle fall of its waters, forming a continual cascade, connects a pleasing selection of objects, highly worthy the exertions of an artist; and it is with regret I feel that the present work is so limited as to admit but a small part of those beauties, which are ever presenting themselves to the eye.147
FROM Benson lock the ancient bridge and town of Wallingford appear, at about a mile distance, across the neighbouring meadows; but the objects there are not so happily combined for the pencil, as at the view from below the bridge, whence the annexed sketch was taken. The antiquity of the bridge, from its appearance, seems to vie with the oldest structure of the kind on the Thames: it is truly Gothic, and of immense strength. The pointed angular sterlings on the upper side are so well constructed, as to be capable of resisting the most violent torrent of water from the winter floods. The spire of the church was built about eighteen years since, at the sole expence of the late Judge Blackstone; and, though singular in its taste, is not an unpleasing object.148
Wallingford is supposed to have been the chief city of the Attrebatii, and is called by Antoninus, Attrebatum. Camden conjectures its British name to have been Guallhen, which signifies the “old fort”: from thence its present appellation “Wallingford” is derived. Here the shallowness of the stream certainly rendered it most commodious for the purposes of fording across.
The town of Wallingford, in the reign of Edward the Confessor (which was prior to the construction of the bridge) appears by Doomsday Book to have contained two hundred and seventy-six houses, “yielding nine pounds tax,—and those that dwelt there did the King service on horseback, or else by sea.”
A fine ruin of the old castle presents itself not far from the river side, formerly so well fortified as to be deemed impregnable; 149 which is proved from the frequent attacks made on it by King Stephen, in which he was always repulsed. The origin of this castle is allowed to have been as early as the invasion of the Romans, and its demolition about the time of the Danes and Saxons. It was restored after the defeat of Harold, by William the Conqueror, who passing with his army across the Thames at the ford, encamped on this spot before he marched to London.
It appears that this place made a vigorous defence in favour of the Empress Matilda, and her son Henry then abroad, against Stephen, who raised a considerable fort on the opposite side of the river at a place called Craumash. Henry soon after coming to England, attempted the relief of the place, while Stephen was equally desirous of giving succour to the besiegers. Both parties, however, being dissatisfied with their situation, 150 wisely agreed to a compromise; and a conference being held on the banks of the Thames, the result was, that Stephen should enjoy the crown during his life, and that Henry should succeed him. The castle probably remained in a ruinated state from about that period till the time of the civil wars, when an order was issued for its total demolition. That original order, signed by Thurlow, Secretary to Cromwell, was in the possession of an Alderman of Wallingford, who died about six years since.
This town lost much of its popularity from a dreadful plague, which happened in the year 1348; at which time, according to Leland, it contained fourteen churches; at present it has only three. Its consequence, history says, was much diminished by the building of Culham and Dorchester bridges, which removed a great part of the traffic to Abingdon and other towns contiguous.151
The manor of Wallingford was, with other manors, granted for the support of the Dukedom of Cornwall, a title first conferred on the Black Prince, son of Edward III. in 1355, and which appertained to that Dukedom till the reign of Henry VIII. when Cardinal Wolsey having formed the noble design of erecting Christ Church College, at Oxford, the monarch granted him this manor and castle in aid of the undertaking; but on the Cardinal’s disgrace, they reverted to the King. The castle remains to this day in the possession of the college; but the manor was annexed by the Sovereign to that of Ewelm, or New Elm, near Benson.
Within the west gate of the town formerly stood a priory of black monks, which belonged to the Abbey of St. Alban’s, and which was suppressed by order of Wolsey. This suppression, it is conjectured, might have given a colour of sanction to the King 152 for proceeding farther in a general seizure of all ecclesiastical revenues; but it does not appear by his general conduct, that he stood in need of any example of rapacity.
Near Brightwell, adjoining to Wallingford, formerly stood a castle, of which no traces are now remaining. It was taken by storm previous to the conclusion of the peace between King Henry and Stephen.
A little below the town of Wallingford, at Mongewell, on the Oxfordshire side of the river, the late Bishop of Salisbury, and now of Durham, Dr. Barrington, possesses a delightful retreat, richly embosomed, amidst a thicket of trees. Full in view of the house a beautiful verdant lawn skirts the borders of the Thames, which, gliding at a pleasing distance from it, gradually makes its course with a considerable increase of water towards the village of 153 Moulsford, while the distant Oxfordshire hills present a beautiful termination of the scene.
Cleve mill and lock, a little lower down the stream, meet the eye before we reach the picturesque combination of objects at the village of Goring, whose romantic and sequestered situation it is not possible for the eye of observation to pass unnoticed. The Berkshire hills form a richly variegated background, and the easy ascent of the lawns in the front happily intersect the principal objects, and give a charming relief to the whole. In the annexed view this scene is faintly represented; yet faint as it is, it cannot fail to strike the admirer of simple nature in landscape, as a combination of objects worthy to be impressed on the mind.
The village of Streetly on the opposite side the river, has equal claim to notice; it 154 is situated on a Roman highway near Ickenild-street, which here enters Berkshire, and runs across the neighbouring downs, passing Basselden; near which place, on an easy ascent from the borders of the river, stands the grotto-house, lately the residence of Mr. Sykes. It is happily screened by the Berkshire hills, and was originally occupied by Lady Fane, whose shells and corals may perhaps be thought to have been too highly complimented, in some lines preserved in Dodsley’s Miscellanies.
The village of Gathanton is a pleasing object on the Oxfordshire side the river, from whence we enter a beautiful enclosure, formed by the surrounding woods. The happy serenity of the approaching evening gives an air of solemnity to the scene, while the moon, faintly rising, gleams through the beautifully variegated trees. The profound stillness of the air was not unpleasantly disturbed 155 by the largest flight of ravens, daws, &c. that I remember to have seen; it consisted of some thousands, who nightly cross the river to take up their abode among the neighbouring woods.
At a small distance from the river, on the Berkshire side, Sir Francis Sykes has erected a spacious mansion, which is secluded from the view by the intercepting hills. The house, though superbly furnished, is still wanting in the more elegant decorations of the fine arts, which have not yet gained admission.
At Pangbourn the river widens considerably, and the fall of water is so great on the opening of the lock, as to cause much delay in the progress of the navigation. This place is much frequented by the angler, who, in his favourite pursuit, may occasionally find equal cause for an exertion of his patience 156 as his skill in the art. Among the various sorts of fish produced in this part of the river, the pike in particular is found of a remarkable large size.
The village of Whitchurch, on the opposite side, presents no unpleasing object in landscape. The road from Pangbourn towards Reading runs, for a considerable distance, nearly parallel with the river, and affords in many places a rich and variegated scenery.
Purley-Hall, about a mile distance, is the residence of Warren Hastings, Esq. Its appearance seems by no means suited in point of elegance to the splendor of an Eastern Governor. It is somewhat singular, that the greater part of this house was erected by the famous Mr. Hawes, the great South-Sea defaulter.157
Lower down, on the Oxfordshire side of the river, at Hardwick, is the residence of Mr. Gardener, formerly in the possession of Mr. Powis. It is happily sheltered by the neighbouring hills, and at an agreeable distance from the river. This house was probably in former times a monastery; and its situation is chosen with that degree of attention to the conveniencies, and even luxuries, of this transitory state, for which the founders of most of our religious houses have been famed.
A small distance from hence is the village of Maple-Durham, contiguous to which is a fine old mansion, occupied by Mr. Blount; which, by the style of its architecture, seems to have been built about the period of Elizabeth or James. It stands at the extremity of the village, and its grand front commands a rich and beautiful park; but the opposite side towards the river is so walled in, and encumbered 158 with out-buildings, as to banish the river scenery, which can alone give a complete finish to a picturesque view.
From hence the stream bends its course towards Caversham, a distance of about three miles, which affords but little variety of scenery. The warren in the neighbourhood of Caversham is very extensive, and commands a beautiful view across the river.
the frequent attacks made on it by King Stephen
[Stephen is not nearly so well remembered as John. He shares the distinction of being so widely disliked, his name has never been used again.]
a dreadful plague, which happened in the year 1348
[Hate to break it to you, Samuel, but the plague in question was not limited to Wallingford and its immediate environs.]
[Illustration] Goreing, Oxfordshire
[Spelled “Goering” in the List of Illustrations. In the body text—and on the map at the beginning of the volume—it is reassuringly “Goring”.]
THE scenery towards Caversham, as we approach the bridge, is much confined, nothing presenting itself but a faint view of the old Abbey gate, at Reading: I have therefore selected the eastern view of the bridge, as best adapted to illustrate the present pursuit, where the tower of the old church and part of the village appearing in the fore-ground, with the range of hills in the distance, give a tolerable idea of the country.
Caversham had formerly a small priory, which was a cell to the monastery at Nottely, in Buckinghamshire. In the Philosophical Transactions, No. 261, is the following singular circumstance in Natural History; “There was discovered in the neighbourhood 160 a large stratum of oyster-shells, lying on a bed of green sand, and extending to five or six acres of ground, with a bed of blueish clay immediately above it. Among these many were found with both the valves or shells lying together, and though in moving them, one of the valves hath frequently broke off from its fellow, it is plain by comparing and joining them, that they originally belonged to each other.”
The town of Reading, with its churches and the remains of the abbey and castle, forms a noble and extended view across the Forebury, as it is vulgarly called, or rather the Fauxbourg or suburbs.
Reading, the most considerable town in the county, is situated on the Thames and Kennett, which latter rises near Merdon in 161 Wiltshire, and is navigable for vessels of an hundred tons burthen, from Newbury to this town, through which it takes its course in several considerable streams, and abounds with gudgeons, pike, eels, dace, and trout, the latter of which grow to an amazing size.
Of Reading Castle, which Leland conjectures stood at the West end of Castle-street, no remains are now discoverable; it is therefore more probable, that on the ruins we find near the precincts of the abbey, the castle stood, which was the retreat of the Danes in 871, where they fortified themselves after their defeat by King Alfred. In the next year it was abandoned to the Saxons, who destroyed the town; and in the reign of Henry II. this castle was totally demolished, as being a place of refuge for the adherents of King Stephen.
The abbey was founded by Henry I. on 162 the site of a small nunnery, erected by the mother of Edward the Martyr, to expiate his death, which was perpetrated by one of her domestics. It was endowed with great revenues for two hundred Benedictine monks, and dedicated to the Virgin and a numerous list of Saints. In riches and magnificence it certainly vied with any abbey in the kingdom, and its abbots being mitred sat in the House of Peers, and assumed a high authority, which Henry VIII. in no small degree humbled, by hanging up Farrington, the last abbot of this place, with two of his monks, for refusing to surrender, on the demand of the visitors, soon after the Reformation. It is remarkable, that on the same day the abbot of Glastonbury suffered the like punishment for the same offence.
This abbey has been the burial-place of many royal and noble persons, among whom the remains of a part of Henry I. the founder, 163 were deposited—I say a part, for Dr. Ducarel observes, that his heart, eyes, tongue, brains and bowels, were conveyed to the priory church of Notre Dame du Pres, at Rouen, in Normandy. His second Queen, Adeliza, and his daughter, the Empress Maud, were likewise interred here. This royal dame was daughter of a King—wife to a King (Henry IV. Emperor of Germany)—and mother to King Henry II. The following distich was inscribed on her tomb;
“Magna ortu, majorque viro, sed maxima partu,
“Hic jacet Henrici filia, sponsa, parens.”
Little remains of this extensive abbey, except part of Our Lady’s chapel, and the refectory, which is upwards of eighty feet long, and forty broad—an ample space for the luxuriant tables of the pampered abbots, where
“Triumphant plenty, with a cheerful grace,
“Bask’d in their eyes, and sparkled in their face:164
“No learn’d debates annoy’d their downy trance,
“Or discompos’d their pompous ignorance.
“Deep sunk in down, they, by Sloth’s gentle care,
“Shunn’d the inclemencies of morning air,
“And left to tatter’d crape—the drudgery of pray’r.”
The anecdote of King Harry and one of the Abbots of Reading, though well known, has so much humour that I cannot avoid repeating it verbatim from Fuller’s Church History——He calls it “A pleasant and true story:—King Henry VIII. as he was hunting in Windsor Forest, either casually lost, or (more probably) wilfully losing himself, struck down about dinner-time to the Abbey of Reading, when disguising himself, much for delight, (more for discovery to see unseen) he was invited to the Abbot’s table, and passed for one of the King’s guards, a place to which the proportion of his person might properly entitle him. A sirloin of beef was set before him, (so knighted, 165 saith tradition, by this King Henry;) on which the King laid on lustily, not disgracing one of that place, for whom he was mistaken. Well fare , (quoth the Abbot) and here in a cup of sack I remember the health of his Grace your Master; I would give an hundred pounds on the condition I could feed so heartily on beef as you doe. Alas! my weak and squeasie stomach will hardly digest the wing of a small rabbet or chicken. The King pleasantly pledged him, and heartily thanked him for his good chear; after dinner departed, as undiscovered as he came thither. Some weeks after, the Abbot was sent for by a Pursuivant, brought up to London, clapt in the tower, kept close prisoner, fed for a short time on bread and water; yet not so empty his body of food, as his mind was filled with fears, creating many suspitions to himself, when, and how he had incurred 166 the King’s displeasure. At last a sir-loin of beef was set before him, on which the Abbot fed as the farmer of his grange, and verified the proverb, that two hungry meals make the third a glutton. In springs King Henry, out of a private lobbie, where he had placed himself the invisible spectator of the Abbot’s behaviour; My Lord, (quoth the King) presently deposit your hundred pounds in gold, or else no going hence all the daies of your life. I have been your physician, to cure you of your squeasie stomach; and here, as I deserve, I demand my fee for the same. The Abbot down with his dust, and glad he had escaped so, returning to Reading, as somewhat lighter in purse, so much more merrier in heart than when he came thence.”
A great part of the remains of this venerable abbey, were removed a few years since by General Conway, for the purpose of 167 building a bridge contiguous to Park-place, on the road between Henley and Wargrave. The great gate of the abbey, of which I have prefixed a sketch at the end of this section, though it has undergone many material alterations, is in very good repair. It had formerly embattlements, the loss of which has considerably diminished its venerable appearance.
Nearly opposite to Reading, is the noble mansion built by the Earl of Cadogan; it is situated on an eminence, and commands a very extensive and diversified view of Berkshire, and the adjacent countries. The honours of this family were derived from William Cadogan, who signalized himself under the great Duke of Marlborough. He was first created Baron Reading, and afterwards, Viscount Caversham. The house is now occupied by Major Marsac.168
A little below Reading, the river Kennett, gently winding through the adjacent meadows, unites itself with the Thames, which is here considerably expanded in its course towards Sunning Bridge,—a distance of about three miles.
In the Philosophical Transactions, No. 261, is the following singular circumstance
[John Hill would know what to say about that. “Part of two Letters from Dr James Brewer to Dr Sloane, concerning Beds of Oyster-shells found near Reading in Barkshire” is the first article in Philosophical Transactions Volume 22, No. 261 (February 1700), pp. 484-486. The Transactions evidently had a slow lead time; the letters are dated January 13 and 25, 1699.]
the Forebury, as it is vulgarly called, or rather the Fauxbourg or suburbs
[The spelling “forebury” is, if anything, more legitimate than “fauxbourg”, since the faux element seems to have been a misinterpretation of fors. That is, not a fake city, but outside the city.]
a small nunnery, erected by the mother of Edward the Martyr, to expiate his death, which was perpetrated by one of her domestics
[This part of the story is decidedly garbled. (Once we get to Henry I, it is reasonably secure.) Edward’s “mother” was in fact his stepmother—his father’s third wife, mother of the future Ethelred the Unready. She may or may not have gone on to found an abbey at Reading, and may or may not have been involved in Edward’s death. He was only about sixteen at the time; overall, the name Edward has not been an awfully lucky one for English monarchs.]
so knighted, saith tradition, by this King Henry
[The “Sir Loin” fable is associated with a variety of kings. By the time Isabella Beeton got to it, the monarch of choice was Charles II.]
Well fare thy heart, (quoth the Abbot)
text has thyhe art
The house is now occupied by Major Marsac.
[This edition introduced quite a few typographical errors that weren’t present in 1792. One of those introductions is italicizing the word “occupied”.]
SUNNING Bridge is a plain modern structure of brick, well adapted for convenience and durability. The annexed view was taken from below the bridge, as the objects there combined most happily to afford a picturesque landscape. The house, which appears over the bridge, is the residence of Lady Rich, whose family has long occupied this spot.
The village of Sunning is agreeably situated on an easy ascent on the banks of the Thames, and is of great antiquity; it was formerly the see of a Bishop, whose diocese included the counties of Berks and Wilts. The see was afterwards removed to Sherbourn, and thence translated to Salisbury, 170 whose Bishop is now Lord of the Manor of Sunning, and formerly had a palace there.
The antiquity of this place is strongly marked by the sepulchral monuments and ancient inscriptions within the church, one of which containing some lines on two infants of the family of Rich above mentioned, I am induced from their style to insert:
“The father’s air, the mother’s look,
“The sportive smile, and pretty joke,
“The rosy lips, sweet babbling grace,
“The beauties of the mind and face,
“And all the charms of infant souls,
“This tomb within its bosom holds.”
The river Kennet washes this place, into which a small rivulet, called the Loddon, empties itself, previous to its junction with the Thames, which is here of considerable width, and ample depth of water, but affords 171 no great variety of scenery, for near three miles, till we reach Cotterell’s Mill and Lock, which objects, though humble in themselves, yet constitute a very picturesque scene, highly deserving observation.
The village of Wargrave, appearing at a small distance, has acquired much celebrity by the residence of Lord Barrymore. The dwelling, which is situated on a lawn, close to the river side, though but an insignificant cottage, has, from its innumerable visitors, given rise to no inconsiderable expence.
The theatre, of which so much has been said, is just rebuilt, at an expence of about six thousand pounds, and is, in point of size, I think, larger than that of the Haymarket. It has every accommodation of a royal theatre, with the addition of one elegant apartment, which is used as a supper-room.172
The present rage for theatrical exhibitions, and imaginary scenes of human woe, it is much to be feared has produced many a real scene of distress, towards the last act, that has been incompatible with the strictness of dramatic law, having neither poetical nor moral justness in the denouement of the plot.
From Wargrave a beautiful range of hills extends to General Conway’s, at Park Place, near which a large house has been recently built, by Mr. Hill, commanding a very extensive view of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, &c. The river winding beneath this noble eminence, affords new beauties of the soft and elegant in picturesque landscape. The house of Lady Taylor, on the Oxfordshire side of the river, is enviably situated, and comprises a full view of General Conway’s grounds, to which you enter beneath a spacious arch of rustic stone work, happily 173 suited to the noble scenery which presents itself within, where the verdant swelling lawn meeting the eye, forms an immense amphitheatre, surrounded with rich shrubbery, from whence, by an easy ascent, we are led to a grand colonnade, representing a Roman aqueduct, falling into decay, and majestic even in ruins. Its decorations of busts and ornaments are judiciously adapted to their situation. A winding subterraneous passage leads on to the menagerie, which contains a beautiful selection of the feathered race; among which the East India cyrus, considerably larger than the crane, the silver pencilled pheasant, from China, with black breast and red legs, and the elegant plumage of the gold pheasant, appeared to be most worthy of admiration.
The various and extensive views from the different points, in traversing this park, are 174 so happily and richly diversified, as to surpass description. On a well chosen eminence, the right honourable possessor of this beautiful spot, has, at a great expence, erected an ancient Druids temple, which was presented to him by the inhabitants of the island of Jersey, in 1785, as a testimony of the respect and veneration due to his vigilance as a governor, and his amiable qualities as a man. The following lines, which were transmitted with this venerable pile of antiquity, will best speak the sentiments of the inhabitants on the occasion—
“Cet ancien Temple des Druides,
“Decouvert le 12 Aout 1785,
“Sur la Montagne de St. Helier
“Dans I’ile de Jersey,
“A été présenté par les habitans,
“A son Excellence le General Conway,
“Pour des Siecles caché, aux regard des mortels,
“Cet ancien monument, ces pierres, ces autels,175
“Où le sang des humains offert en sacrifice,
“Ruissela, pour des Dieux qu’en fantoit le caprice;
“Ce monument sans prix par son antiquité,
“Temoignera pour nous á la postérité;
“Que dans tous les dangers Cesarée eut un pére
“Et redira, Conway, aux siécles ávenir
“Quén vertu du respect dû a ce souvenir
“Elle te fit ce don, acquis a ta vaillance
“Comme un juste tribut de sa reconnoisance.”
The stones which compose this temple, are forty-five in number, and were all so carefully marked when taken down, as to be with ease restored to their original form, when brought to this spot. The circumference of the temple is sixty-six feet; its height upwards of seven. Within this building, in its original situation in the isle of Jersey, were found two medals, one of the Emperor Claudius, the other so obliterated by time, as to be unintelligible. For a more minute account of this antiquity, I refer the curious to the 8th vol. of the Archæologia; 176 and for a sketch of it, as it now stands, to the end of this section.
Having traversed these charming grounds in which the hand of nature has been so peculiarly luxuriant, we were highly gratified within the dwelling-house, by a view of the no less excellent productions of art, by the noble Countess of Aylesbury, whose imitations of Cuyp, Rosa de Tivoli, Vandyck, Gainsborough, &c. in needle-work, are little inferior in effect to their originals. They are worked in worsteds, with so much taste, and so happily managed in the various tints, as to deceive at a small distance; one in particular, a portrait from Vandyck, in which the colours are so artfully blended, as to appear across the room a sketch of that great master.
Quitting the enchanting scenery of Park-place, by an easy descent towards the 177 river-side, the bridge and town of Henley, at the distance of about a mile and a half, present a scene, which, though more confined, is yet happily contrasted with the extensive one we have just quitted.
many a real scene of distress, towards the last act, that has been incompatible with the strictness of dramatic law, having neither poetical nor moral justness in the denouement of the plot
[Don’t leave us hanging, Samuel. Which specific play did you find so distressing? Not Vortigern, I hope.]
á la postérité . . . eut un pére . . . aux siécles ávenir
[Towards the end of the poem, the printer seems to have run out of grave accents. All the unexpected acutes are carried over from the 1792 edition.]
THE elegant bridge of Henley consists of five elliptical arches, with a handsome ballustrade of stone-work, and is, in point of simplicity and beauty of design, equal to any structure of the kind on this noble river. It is built from a plan of the late ingenious Mr. Hayward, of Shropshire, who did not live to see the work begun.
On the key-stone of the center arch, above the bridge, is sculptured a head of Isis; and on the other side, a venerable head of Thames; both from the chisel of the accomplished Mrs. Damer, the excellence of whose works is too well known to need any comment.180
This beautiful bridge was finished in the year 1787, at an expence of near ten thousand pounds. The former one was of wood, but the one prior to that was of stone, and of a very ancient date. Some traces of its piers are yet visible when the water is low. Camden seems , whether this was the bridge over which, according to Dio, the Romans pursued the Britons, who, he asserts, crossed the river in this neighbourhood.
The town of Henley is of great antiquity, and by some writers said to be the oldest town in the county; it anciently belonged to the family of the Molins, from whence it came to the Hungerfords, by whose means, in the reign of Henry VI. a licence was obtained for two annual fairs; at present it has four. Little remains in this town, worthy the attention of the curious. Its delightful situation on the 181 Thames, and the richness of the adjacent country, must ever render it an object to be admired.
A little below Henley Bridge is Fawley Court, the seat of Mr. Freeman. It is a square brick house, built by Inigo Jones, on which he has bestowed very few of those Italian ornaments that so frequently overload many of his designs. The structure is very plain, and convenience has judiciously taken place of every other consideration. It is altogether a work not unworthy of its great architect. The situation is happily chosen in point of distance from the river, as well as from the town of Henley.
The mausoleum belonging to the family is at the pleasant village of Fawley, about a mile and a half distant from the house, and is a spot that a man would rather chuse to live in than be buried at.182
About two miles from Fawley Court, is the pleasant village of Hambleton, the church of which contains a beautiful monument in alabaster, erected by the D’Oyley family. It consists of twelve figures, as large as life, executed in so superior a style of sculpture, and so well preserved, as highly to deserve attention. The poetry of the epitaphs has much merit, and, as it records the virtues of a family in this county, of great celebrity, justly claims a place in this work.
“To the memory of that noble Knight, Sir Cope D’Oyley, late Deputy of the county of Oxon, &c. heyre of the ancient family of the D’Oyley’s, in Oxfordshire; founder of Oseney and Missenden, and the castle of Oxford: who put on immortality, the 4th of August, 1633.—Likewise Martha his wife, with five sons and five daughters.”183
Under the Knight’s figure are the following lines:
“Ask not of me, who’s buried here?
“Goe ask the Commons, ask the Sheire.
“Goe ask the Church, they’ll tell thee who,
“As well as blubber’d eyes can do.
“Goe ask the Heraulds, ask the poore,
“Thine ears shall hear enough to ask no more.
“Then, if thine eyes bedew this sacred urne,
“Each drop a pearl will turne
“T’ adorn his tombe, or if thou can’st not vent,
“Thou bring’st more marble to his monument.”
Under the Lady’s figure follows this exemplary character, which, as the world goes, may be thought a little exaggerated:
“Wouldst thou, reader, draw to life,
“The perfect copy of a wife,
“Read on, and then redeem from shame
“That lost, that honourable name;
“This dust was once in spirit a Jael,
“Rebecca in grace, in heart an Abigail;
“In works a Dorcas, to the church a Hanna,
“And to her spouse Susanna.
“Prudently simple, providently wary,
“To the world a Martha, and to heav’n a Mary.”
In a fine situation, on the banks of the river, between Henley and Great Marlow, stand the remains of the small abbey of Medenham, rendered famous by a modern convention of monks, whose Abbot was a noble Peer. If we may judge by the old French motto, “Fay ce que voudras,” which is still remaining over their door, the principles of these lay brothers, it may be presumed, were not quite so rigid as those of the monks of La Trappe.
Of the mysteries of this fraternity various accounts have been handed about, probably none of them with authority. The only printed one I have met with is in Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea; where the author’s account of this institution far exceeds that of the Alcoran des Cordeliers, or any other author who has written on the subject of monkish institutions. He describes their tenets in so offensive and disgusting a 185 point of view, as to have rendered the recital of them unworthy a place, even in Romance; and, for the honour of human nature, gives us every reason to hope that his description is not founded on truth.
Little remains of the furniture of this pious seminary, but an enormous large cradle of sufficient dimensions to receive the fullest sized friar of that or any other order. The abbey is now occupied by a poor family, who shew this valuable relick.
This abbey was founded as early as King John, and was a cell to the Cistertian monks of Wooburn in Bedfordshire. In the reign of Henry VIII. it was made part of the endowment of Bustlesham or Bisham Abbey, in Berkshire. From the return made by the commissioners, at the Dissolution, it appears from its poverty to have been of small import, having only two monks, “who both desyren to go to houses of religion—servants 186 none, woods none, debts none—bells, &c. worth 2l. 1s. 8d.—the house wholly in ruins, and the value of the moveable goods only 1l. 3s. 8d.”
The sketch at the end of this section is a faithful view of the present state of this building.
The fascinating scenery of this neighbourhood has peculiarly attracted the notice of the clergy of former periods, who, in spite of the thorny and crooked ways, which they have asserted to be the surest road to heaven, have been careful to select some flowery paths for their own private journeying thither; among which ranks Hurley Place, on the opposite side of the river, now in the possession of Mr. Wilcox. It was formerly a monastery under the appellation of Lady Place, and a cell of Benedictine monks to Westminster Abbey, founded by Geoffry de Mandeville, in the reign of William the 187 Conqueror, the only remains of which are the Abbey Yard, and some part of a chapel, or perhaps refectory (now stables) of which the arches of the windows, though made of chalk in the Conqueror’s reign, are still fresh as if lately built. Some farther slight remains of the convent may likewise be traced. Under the great hall is a vault, in which some bodies, in monkish habits, were discovered not many years ago.
On the dissolution of the monastery, Hurley became the possession of a family, whose name was Chamberlain, from whence it descended to —— Lovelace, Esq; whose son went on an expedition with Sir Francis Drake, and with the Spanish gold obtained in that enterprize, built the present house, on the ruins of the ancient convent. The family of Lovelace was ennobled by Charles I. The house is spacious, and built much in the style of King James’s Gothic. The hall, 188 as was the fashion of that day, occupies half the space of the house. The grand saloon is decorated in a singular style; in the pannels are painted upright landscapes, the leafings of which are executed with a kind of silver lacker. The views appear to be Italian, they are in a bold style, and reputed to be the works of Salvator Rosa, expressly painted for this apartment. His receipt for them is said to be in the hands of Mr. Wilcox; but as that gentleman was from home when I viewed the house, I cannot vouch for the truth of the assertion.
During the reign of James II. private meetings of the principal nobility were held in a subterraneous vault beneath this house, for calling in the Prince of Orange. Mr. Wilcox has, at the end of this vault, caused to be written an inscription, which I shall transcribe in his own words:189
“Dust and ashes! Mortality and vicissitude to all! Be it remembered, that the monastery of Lady Place (of which this vault was the burial cavern) was founded at the time of the great Norman revolution, by which revolution the whole state of England was changed.
“Hi motus animorum, atque hæc certamina tanta,
“Pulveris exiqui jactu compressa quiescunt.
“Be it also remembered, that in this place, 600 years afterwards, the revolution of 1688 was begun. This house was then in the possession of Lord Lovelace, by whom private meetings of the nobility were assembled in this vault, and, as it is said that several consultations for calling in the Prince of Orange, were likewise held in this recess, on which account this vault was visited by that powerful Prince after he had ascended the throne. It was visited by General Paoli in 1780, and by 190 King George III. and his Queen, 14th November, 1785.”
On the decline of the Lovelace family, the estate came into the possession of the Duke of Marlborough, of whom the mansion-house and woodlands were purchased, by Mrs. Williams,* sister to Dr. Wilcox, late Bishop of Rochester; from whom it devolved to her nephew, the Bishop’s son, its present worthy possessor, whose exemplary goodness of heart is an honour to humanity. The situation of this house, were it unincumbered from some of its Gothic walls and out-buildings, would be delightful. It commands a rich prospect of the Buckinghamshire hills and Marlow woods; amidst which, at Harleford, Mr. Clayton, the late member, built 191 the present charming villa, on an easy slope, rising from the margin of the river, which comprises a fine view in each direction, particularly towards Bisham Abbey, now occupied by Mr. Vansittart, but formerly by Sir John Hoby Mill.
* This lady held in one lottery, two fortunate tickets, one of 500l. the other of 20,000l. which enabled her to make this purchase.
The site of this abbey was originally granted by Edward VI. to the Hoby family. It is singular, that in its first charter, it was dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin, his mother; in the second, to the Blessed Virgin Mary only; and in the time of Richard II. it is styled the Conventual Church of the Holy Trinity. It is rather difficult to account for the propriety of these various dedications; however, after being thus banded about, it at length fell into the hands of Henry VIII. who claiming a right paramount to the blessed saints, seized on it with all its privileges, to his own use and benefit. That Prince often 192 visited this abbey; and in the possession of the late Sir Joseph Ayloffe was a Masque, printed by Caxton, which was presented to him, on his approach to the abbey, with the Dramatis Personæ of the family there resident. Queen Elizabeth resided some time in this house; and one large state apartment yet retains the name of the Queen’s council-chamber.
In the church of Bisham is a sumptuous monument erected to the family of the Hobys, worth the attention of the curious. An old woman’s story is told of a small sculptured monument in this church, containing two children, which children, Calumny has reported to have been the offspring of Elizabeth; but we have reason to believe, from her Majesty’s general system of politics, in public concerns, that she would have been too good a politician in love, to have erected a monument, avowing herself 193 not to have been the character which she was so ambitious to preserve—the virgin Queen. The bones of the founder of this abbey, John Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, are said to have been removed hither, by Maud, his widow, from the abbey of Cirencester, by a license from Henry V. for that purpose.
from the chisel of the accomplished Mrs. Damer
[Sculptor Anne Seymour Damer (1748–1828), born Conway, exhibited at the Royal Academy almost every year from 1784 to 1818. Like Samuel Ireland, she was labeled an Honorary Exhibitor, meaning that she wasn’t a professional artist. In fact Algernon Graves prefixes “Hon.” to her name, implying that her family was too upper-crust to admit of her being a professional anything.
As it turns out, both of her grandfathers were dukes, and her husband was the oldest son of an earl. (None of those would seem to qualify her for a courtesy title, but whatever makes Graves happy.) To top it off, her cousin and godfather, who took an interest in her education, was Horace Walpole.
Her husband—a compulsive gambler from whom she separated within a few years—killed himself after less than ten years of marriage, leaving no children. Thanks to all those dukes, the marriage settlements must have been more than satisfactory; for the remaining half-century of her life, Anne Damer was able to do pretty much as she pleased.]
Camden seems doubtful
text has doubful
FROM Bisham Abbey, the town of Marlow, considered as a picturesque object, receives much addition from the New Bridge, which is of wood, and has been recently finished at an expence of about eighteen hundred pounds. It has a remarkable ascent, and forms the best object as a wooden bridge, that I remember to have seen. The ballustrades are painted white, in imitation of stone-work; and the whole scenery contiguous is pleasingly variegated by the rich verdure of the adjacent woods.
Below the bridge, the objects combine most happily for the pencil, where the river branches out into two channels, one of which (the water being penned up by the Marlow Lock) causes a perpetual fall into the other 196 stream, just below the bridge, which makes a pleasing, though shallow, cascade.
Between this lock and Battersea, which is a distance of about fifty miles, in all the deep waters, the lampreys are caught in great plenty in the spring of the year, and are sold to the Dutch as bait for their turbot and other fisheries. In one season, it is said, there have been sold not less than five hundred thousand. The price of the lampreys was forty shillings per thousand; but the Dutch having lately contracted for an increased quantity, at sixty shillings, it has rendered them so scarce, as to raise the price for our own use to nearly six pounds. The Thames has sometimes furnished upwards of a million of this fish annually.
Marlow is remarkable for its manufactory of bone-lace, and the great quantities of malt and meal, which are brought hither 197 from the neighbouring towns, and conveyed to London by water.
It may not be improper to remark, that in the reign of Elizabeth, about the year 1584, the locks between this and Oxford, from neglect, created much complaint and altercation. At Marlow Lock many lives were lost from the sudden and immense fall of water, and neglect of the millers; in consequence of which, complaint was made to the Lord Treasurer, in October, 1585, and answered the next day by the persons concerned in locks, weirs, and mills, when it was determined, that all disorders arising from neglect, &c. were to be reformed by the ordinary proceedings of the Queen’s Majesty’s laws, and not otherwise.
At that period there were seventy locks, twenty-two of which were erected within the last six years; sixteen flood-gates, and seven weirs: there were then not more than 198 ten or twelve barges went so high as Marlow or Bisham, and in the reign of Edward IV. it appears there were only four. This stream was let at that period for three hundred pounds per annum.
The scenery of this neighbourhood is truly beautiful: the Quarry Woods extend a considerable distance, and form a noble screen on the Berkshire side of the river. The village of Little Marlow lies about a mile distant; it had formerly a monastery of Benedictine monks, founded earlier than the reign of King John, of which no traces are now remaining.
A little below this village is Hedfor Wharf; and let me not be censured in the digression, when I lead the reader thence to the small village of St. Giles, Chalfont, in Bucks, a distance of about five miles, in order to mention the name and residence of 199 the immortal Milton. Here, when the plague in 1665 raged in London, this much revered poet took refuge. The house in which he resided, and of which I have preserved the annexed sketch, is now standing, and, in all probability, from its appearance, remains nearly in its original state.
As the biography of great and learned men has been deemed worthy the pens of writers of the first talents, any pictorial illustration of that biography, it is presumed, will not be thought unworthy the attention 200 of the curious. This house was taken for him by Elwood the Quaker, who was recommended as a proper person to read Latin to him, and be his solacer in retirement. Here his companion first saw a complete copy of the divine poem, Paradise Lost, which was finished on this spot: and here, in all probability, the greater part of the Paradise Regained was written; as it is well known that his friend Elwood suggested this idea to him (after reading the first poem) in these words: “Thou hast said a great deal on the subject of Paradise Lost, but what hast thou to say on Paradise Found?” To which he made no answer, but sat some time musing, then broke off the discourse, and fell upon an other subject. Some time after, when in London, Milton shewed him the Paradise Regained; and in a pleasant tone of voice said to him, “This is owing to you, for you put it into my head, by 201 the question you put to me at Chalfont, which before I had not thought of.”
In the neighbourhood of this village, it may not be improper to mention Beaconsfield, the residence of another poet of distinguished eminence—the courtly Waller—to whom Fortune had dealt with much more liberality; and to whom, though Nature had given brilliant talents, yet she had certainly been more sparing than with the immortal Milton. As a lyric poet Waller stands unrivalled, and in tenderness of style is justly said to have moved all hearts but hers he meant to move.
“Yet, what he sung, in his immortal strain,
“Tho’ unsuccessful, was not sung in vain:
“All, but the nymph that should redress his wrong,
“Attend his passion, and approve his song.”
He died at Beaconsfield, in 1687, at the advanced age of eighty-two, after having consulted Sir Charles Scarborough, on a violent 202 tumour in his legs, which soon ended in his dissolution. One day, asking what that swelling meant; his physician replied, “Sir, your blood will run no longer:”—on which, according to his biographer, he repeated some lines of Virgil, and went home to die. A handsome monument is erected to his memory, by his son’s executors, on the east side of the church-yard, near the family vault, where an old walnut-tree is yet remaining, at the west end of the monument, carefully enclosed within the iron rails around the tomb; part of the branches hanging over the spiral pillar that rises from the monument, has a pleasing effect, and happily illustrates the rebus alluded to in the family arms, which is a walnut-leaf. The Latin inscription on the monument is by Rymer.
A short ride from hence to the seat of the Duke of Portland, at Bulstrode, will 203 the attention of the connoisseur, where he will meet with a selection of pictures by the best masters, worthy the mansion of their liberal and noble possessor.
Resuming the subject—the river from Hedsor Wharf, winds beautifully beneath the range of Cliefden Hills, commanding a distant view of Lord Boston’s and Cliefden House, which are both so happily situated on an eminence, as to comprise, though not one of the most extensive, yet one of the most richly diversified scenes in the kingdom.
The terrace before Cliefden House is reported to be higher than that of Windsor Castle. Cliefden House, was begun by George Villiers the second Duke of Buckingham, in the reign of Charles II. and is evidently copied from the plan of Burleigh on the Hill, the residence of the first Duke, his father, which plan Mr. Walpole tells us was 204 the design of John Thorpe, a folio volume of whose works are in the possession of Lord Warwick.
Of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the following lines of Pope, as they are applicable to the present subject, and to the dissipated scene exhibited on this spot, justly claim recital.
“On once a flock bed, but repair’d with straw,
“With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw;
“The George and Garter dangling from that bed,
“Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
“Great Villiers lies—alas! how chang’d from him,
“That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
“Gallant and gay, in Cliefden’s proud alcove,
“The bow’r, of wanton Shrewsbury and love.”
The last line alludes to an intrigue between the Countess of Shrewsbury and the Duke of Buckingham, which occasioned a rencontre between the Duke and her husband, in which the latter was slain. It is said, that 205 the Countess, disguised as a page, held the Duke’s horse during the combat, and afterwards slept with him in the shirt stained with her husband’s blood.
After the death of the Duke, which happened in 1688, in the 60th year of his age, the Earl of Orkney made considerable improvements in this house, as did Frederic, the late Prince of Wales, who resided many years on this charming spot. It is now in the possession of the Earl Inchiquin, and is occupied by his daughter the Countess of Orkney.
Near the beautiful village of Cookham, on a large ait, Sir Young has lately finished a handsome house, intended, I am informed, for his constant residence: delightful as the situation may prove in the summer months, the winds and floods, it is 206 to be feared, will render it uncomfortable in the winter season.
A little below this house, at the foot of Cliefden Wood, rises Cliefden spring, which by an easy descent forms a small, yet beautiful cascade, that gently murmuring over its gravelly bed, empties itself into the river Thames. To this charming retreat, (by permission of the Earl of Inchiquin, to whom it belongs) social parties frequently repair to take their repast beneath its cooling shade. In one of these convivial meetings the following lines were given by the author of this work as an impromptu on the spot; let the occasion plead their appology.
Secure from summer’s sultry ray.
Haste hither swains, and with you bring
Your lasses debonnaire and gay,
To taste of Cliefden’s cooling spring.207
Here bow’ring shades to love invite
And realize the poet’s dream;
Here Thames allures the ravish’d sight,
While murm’ring glides cool Cliefden’s stream.
Gay Ovid of his nymphs may write
With quill fresh pluck’d from fancy’s wing,
Yet here from nature I’ll indite
The charms of cooling spring.
Let Horace too his nectar boast,
And be the juicy grape his theme,
Yet here in bev’rage cool I’ll toast
The nymph of cooling stream.
Nor will I scorn young Bacchus’ aid,
While she is here for whom I sing;
He shall beneath this fragrant shade
Infuse his grape in Cliefden’s
If here the sigh of love prevails,
The dart of envy finds no fling;
Old Thames will smile, and tell no tales
Of what is done at Cliefden’s
Between Cliefden and Taplow is Boulter’s Lock, which is the last on the Thames, and the twenty second from Gloucestershire. Taplow Woods join those of Cliefden, and continue near two miles in beautiful gradation towards Taplow House, occupied by the Earl of Inchiquin, in whose park, on a beautiful eminence, stands a venerable oak, said to have been planted by Queen Elizabeth, when in confinement here. But I rather suspect it must have been at that period of sufficient growth to have afforded ample shade to her Majesty, in her noontide walks, which could not have been the case had she planted it herself.
It is the noble remains of a very aged tree,
——“Whose antique root peeps out
“Upon the brook that brawls along this wood.”
The beautiful irregularity of its majestic limbs and would form a grand study 209 for a painter. The ravages which time has made on this once sturdy oak, have been relieved with extraordinary care, by large sheets of lead, which are nailed over the decayed parts. The spot on which it stands is happily chosen to solace the “mind diseased,” amidst the miseries of confinement.
Printed by C. Clarke, Northumberland Court, Strand.
[The previous Section was XVIII. Oops. This error is carried over from the first edition. Fortunately, the Section numbers start over again from I in the second volume.]
in the reign of Elizabeth, about the year 1584, the locks between this and Oxford, from neglect, created much complaint and altercation
[File under: Plus ça change, et cetera. At time of preparation (summer 2021) the word “infrastructure” is much in the news.]
will amply repay the attention of the connoisseur
text has amplyre pay
Sir George Young has lately finished a handsome house
text has Geore
The charms of Cliefden’s cooling spring.
text has Chiefden’s
The nymph of Cliefden’s cooling stream.
text has Chiefden’s
Infuse his grape in Cliefden’s spring.
text has , for .
Of what is done at Cliefden’s spring.
text has , for .
[All errors on this page were introduced in the 1801 edition.]
its majestic limbs and foliages
text has foilages
[. . . As was this one.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.