Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

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perience of his Gaza feat.

I had ceased to pass through that ancient lane; it
had become too much for me ; when suddenly I noticed
building operations going on at the place; a Cinema
palace was actually being constructed on the conse-
crated site of the ancient church! Happily the door
and the doorway were not treated as material for the
housebreaker; they were removed into the cellar of
the owner of the property, and from him they were
bought by me for a small sum much less than I
should have had to pay for the shaped stones alone.
The oak door I set in the wall of my house, and the
doorway I brought down my garden where it now
features as an arch spanning one of the paths.



A GARDEN OF PEACE 61

But my good fortune did not end here; for a few
years later a fine keystone with a sculptured head of
Ste. Ursula was dug up in the little garden behind
the site of the tiny church, and was presented to me
with the most important fragments of two deeply-
carved capitals such as one now and again sees at the
entrance to a Saxon Church ; and so at last these pre-
cious relics of mediaeval piety are joined together after
a disjunctive interval of perhaps five or six hundred
years, and, moreover, on a spot not more than a few
hundred feet from where they had originally been
placed.

Sir Martin Conway told some years ago of his re-
markable discovery in the grounds of an English
country house, of one of the missing capitals of Theo-
docius, with its carved acanthus leaves blown by the
wind and the monogram of Theodocius himself. A
more astounding discovery than this can hardly be
imagined. No one connected with it was able to say
how it found its way to the place where it caught the
eye of a trustworthy antiquarian; and this fact sug-
gested to me the advisability of attaching an engraved
label to such treasure trove, giving their history as far
as is known to the possessors. The interest attaching
to them would be thereby immensely increased, and it
would save much useless conjecture on the part of
members of Antiquarian Societies. Some people seem
to think that paying a subscription to an Antiquarian
Society makes one a fully qualified antiquarian, just
as some people fancy that being a Royal Academician
makes one a good painter.



62 A GARDEN OF PEACE

The great revival in this country in the taste for
the Formal Garden and the Dutch Garden has
brought about the introduction of an immense number
of sculptured pieces of decoration; and one feels that
in the course of time our gardens will be as well fur-
nished in this way as those of Italy. The well-heads
of various marbles, with all the old ironwork that one
sees nowadays in the yards of the importers, are as
amazing as the number of exquisite columns for per-
golas, garden seats of the most imposing character,
vases of bronze as well as stone or marble, and wall
fountains. And I have no doubt that the importers
would make any purchaser acquainted with the place
of origin of most of these. Of course we know pretty
well by now where so many of the treasures of the
Villa Borghese are to be found; but there are hun-
dreds of other pieces of sixteenth and seventeenth
century Italian work that arrive in England, and
quite as many that go to the United States, without
any historical record attached to them. I do hope
that the buyers of these lovely things will see how
greatly their value and the interest attaching to them
would be increased by such memoranda of their
origin.

The best symbol of Peace is a ploughshare that
was once a sword ; and surely a garden that has been
made in the Tiltyard of a Norman Castle may be
looked on as an emblem of the same Beatitude. That
is how it comes that every one who enters our garden
cries,

"How wonderfully peaceful!"



A GARDEN OF PEACE 63

I have analysed their impression that forces them
to say that. The mild bustle of the High Street of
a country town somehow imposes itself upon one, for
the simple reason that you can hear it and observe it.
The bustle of London is something quite different.
One is not aware of it. You cannot see the wood for
the trees. It is all a wild roar. But when our High
Street is at its loudest you can easily distinguish one
sound from another.

Then the constant menace of motor-cars rushing
through the High Street leaves an impression that
does not vanish the moment one turns into the passage
of the barbican; and upon it comes the sight of the
defensive masonry, which is quite terrific for the mo-
ment; then comes the looming threat of the Norman
gateway which gives promise of no compromise! It
is not necessary that one should have a particularly
vivid imagination to hear the clash and clang of arm-
oured men riding forth with lances and battleaxes;
and when one steps aside out of their way, the rest is
silence and the silence is rest.

" How wonderfully peaceful ! " every one cries.

And so it is.

You can hear the humming of a bee the flick of a
swallow's wing, the tinkle of the fountain a delight-
ful sound like the counting out of the threepenny
pieces in the Church Vestry after a Special Collec-
tion and the splash of a blackbird in its own partic-
ular bath. These are the sounds that cause the silence
to startle you. " Darkness visible," is Milton's phrase.
But to make an adaptation of it is not enough to ex-



64 A GARDEN OF PEACE

press what one feels on entering a walled garden from
a street even of a country town. There is an out-
break of silence the moment the door is closed, and
it is in a hushed tone that one says, when one is able
to speak,

" How wonderfully peaceful! "

I think that a garden is not a garden unless it is
walled. Perhaps a high hedge of yew or box conveys
the same impression as a built-up wall; but I am not
quite certain on this point. The impression has re-
mained with us since the days when an Englishman's
home was his castle and an Englishman's castle his
home. What every one sought was security, and a
consciousness of security only came when one was
within walls. In going through a country of wild
animals one has a kindred feeling when the fire is
lighted at nightfall. Another transmitted instinct is
that which forces one to look backward on a road
when the sound of steps tells one that one is being
followed. The earliest English gardens of which any
record remains were walled. In the illustrations to
the Romaunt of the Rose, we see this; and possibly
the maze became a feature of the garden in order to
increase the sense of security from the knife of an
enemy whose slaughter had been overlooked by the
mediaeval horticultural enthusiast, who sought for
peace and quiet on Prussian principles.

I think it was the appearance of the walls that
forced me to buy my estate of a superficial acre. Cer-
tainly until I saw them I had no idea of such a pur-
chase. If any one had told me on that morning when



A GARDEN OF PEACE 65

I strolled up the High Street of Yardley Parva while
the battery of my car was being re-charged after the
manner of those pre-magneto times, that I should take
such a step I would have laughed. But it was a day
of August sunshine and there was an auction of fur-
niture going on in the house. This fact gave me en-
tree to the " old-world garden " of the agent's adver-
tisement, and when I saw the range of walls ablaze
with many-coloured snapdragons above the double
row of hollyhocks in the border at their foot, I " found
peace," as the old Revivalists used to phrase the senti-
ment, only their assurance was of a title to a mansion
in the skies, while I was less ambitious. I sought
peace and ensued it, purchasing the freehold, and I
have been ensuing it ever since.

The mighty walls of the old Castle compass us
about as they did the various dwellers within their
shelter eight hundred years ago. On one side they
vary from twelve feet to thirty in height, but on the
outer side they rise from the moat and loom from
forty to fifty feet above the lowest of the terraces.
At one part, where a Saxon earthwork makes a long
curved hillock at the farther end of the grounds, the
wall is only ten feet above the grassy walk, but forty
feet down on the other side. The Norman Conqueror
simply built his wall resting against the mound of
the original and more elementary fortification. Here
the line of the screen breaks off abruptly ; but we can
see that at one time it was carried on to an artificial
hill on the summit of which the curious feature of a
second keep was built the well-preserved main keep



66 A GARDEN OF PEACE

forms an imposing incident of the landscape in the
opposite direction.

The small plateau which was once enclosed by the
screen-wall is not more than three acres in extent;
from its elevation of a couple of hundred feet it over-
looks the level country and the shallow river-way for
many miles a tranquil landscape of sylvan beauty
dominated by the everlasting Downs. Almost to the
very brink of the lofty banks of the plateau on one
side we have an irregular bowling-green, bordered by
a row of pollard ashes. From a clause in one of my
title deeds I find that three hundred years ago the
bowling-green was in active existence and played a
useful part as a landmark in the delimitation of
the frontier. It is brightly green at all seasons;
and the kindly neighbouring antiquarian confided
in me how its beauty was attained and is main-
tained.

" Some time ago an American tourist asked the man
who was mowing it how it came to be such a fine green,
and says the man, * Why, it's as easy as snuffling : all
you've got to do is to lay it down with good turf at
first and keep on cutting it for three or four hundred
years and the thing is done.' Smart of the fellow,
wasn't it? "

" It was very smart," I admitted.

Our neighbour showed his antiquarian research in
another story as well as in this one. It related to the
curate of a local parish who, in the unavoidable ab-
sence of his vicar, who was a Rural Dean, found him-
self taking a timid breakfast with the Bishop of the



A GARDEN OF PEACE 67

Diocese. He was naturally a shy man and he was
shying very highly over an egg that he had taken and
that was making a very hearty appeal to him. Ob-
serving him, the Bishop, with a thorough knowledge
of his Diocese, and being well aware that the elec-
toral contest which had been expected a few months
earlier had not taken place, turned to the curate and
remarked

But if you've heard the story before what he re-
marked will not appeal to you so strongly as the egg
did to the clergyman; so there is nothing gained by
repeating the remark or the response intoned by the
curate.

But when our antiquarian told us both we heartily
agreed with him that that curate deserved to be a
bishop.

We are awaiting without impatience, I trust, the
third of this Troika team of anecdotes the one that
refers to the Scotsman and Irishman who came to
the signpost that told all who couldn't read to inquire
at the blacksmith's. That story is certain to be re-
vealed to us in time. The antiquarian from the stable
of whose memory the other two of the team were let
loose cannot possibly restrain the third.

Such things are pleasantly congenial with the scent
of lavender in an old-world garden that knows noth-
ing of how busy people are in the new world outside
its boundary. But what are we to say when we find
in a volume of serious biography published last year
only as a previously unheard-of instance of the wit
of the " subject," the story of the gentleman who,



68 A GARDEN OF PEACE

standing at the entrance to his club, was taken for
the porter by a member coming out?

" Call me a cab," said the latter.

" You're a cab," was the prompt reply.

The story in the biography stops there; but the
original one shows the wit making a second score on
punning points.

" What do you mean? " cried the other. " I told
you to call me a cab."

" And I've called you a cab. You didn't expect
me to call you handsome," said the ready respondent.

Now that story was a familiar Strand story forty
years ago when H. J. Byron was at the height of his
fame, and he was made the hero of the pun (assum-
ing that it is possible for a hero to make a pun) .

But, of course, no one can vouch for the mint from
which such small coin issues. If a well-known man is
in the habit of making puns all the puns of his gen-
eration are told in the next with his name attached
to them. H. J. Byron was certainly as good a pun-
ster as ever wrote a burlesque for the old Gaiety;
though a good deal of the effect of his puns was due
to their delivery by Edward Terry. But nothing that
Byron wrote was so good as Burnand's title to his
Burlesque on Rob Roy, the play which Mrs Bateman
had just revived at Sadler's Wells. Burnand called
it Robbing Roy, or Scotched, not Kilt. The parody
on " Roy's Wife," sung by Terry, was exquisite, and
very topical,

" Roy's wife of Alldivalloch !
Roy's wife of Alldivalloch !



Oh, while she
Is wife to me,
Is life worth living, Mr. Mallock?"

Mr. Mallock's book was being widely discussed in
those days, and Punch had his pun on it with the
rest.

" Is Life worth living? " " It depends on the
liver."

The Garrick Club stories of Byron, Gilbert, and
Burnand were innumerable. To the first-named was
attributed the dictum that a play was like a cigar.
" If it was a good one all your friends wanted a box;
but if it was a bad one no amount of puffing would
make it draw."

The budding litterateurs of those days and nights
used to go from hearing stories of Byron's latest,
to the Junior Garrick to hear Byron make up fresh
ones about old Mrs. Swanborough of the Strand
Theatre. Some of them were very funny. Mrs. Swan-
borough was a clever old lady with whom I was ac-
quainted when I was very young. She never gave
utterance to the things Byron tacked on to her. I
recollect how amused I was to hear Byron's stories
about her told to me by Arthur Swanborough about
an old lady who had just retired from the stage, and
then, passing on to Orme Square on a Sunday eve-
ning, to hear " Johnny Toole," as he was to the very
youngest of us, tell the same stories about a dear old
girl who was still in his company at the Folly Theatre.

So much for the circulation of everyday anecdotes.
Dean Swift absorbed most of the creations of the early



70 A GARDEN OF PEACE

eighteenth century; then Dr. Johnson became the
father of as many as would fill a volume. Theodore
Hook, Tom Hood, Shirley Brooks, Albert Smith,
Mark Lemon, and several others whose names convey
little to the present generation, were the reputed par-
ents of the puns which enlivened the great Victorian
age. But if a scrupulous historian made up his mind
to apply for a paternity order against any one of
these gay dogs, that historian would have difficulty
in bringing forward sufficient evidence to have it
granted.

The late Mr. M. A. Robertson, of the Treaty De-
partment of the Foreign Office, told me that his
father the celebrated preacher known to fame as
" Robertson of Brighton " had described to him the
important part played by the pun in the early sixties.
At a dinner-party at which the Reverend Mr. Rob-
ertson was a guest, a humorist who was present
picked up the menu card and set the table on a roar
with his punning criticism of every plat. Robertson
thought that such a spontaneous effort was a very
creditable tour de force doubtless the humorist
would have called it a tour de farce but a few nights
later he was at another party which was attended by
the same fellow-guest, and once again the menu,
which happened to be exactly the same also, was
casually picked up and dealt with seriatim as before,
with an equally hilarious effect. He mentioned to the
hostess as a curious coincidence that he should find
her excellent dinner identical with the one of which
he had partaken at the other house ; and then she con-



A GARDEN OF PEACE 71

fided in him that the great punster had given her the
bill of fare that afforded him his opportunity of dis-
playing his enlivening trick ! Robertson gave me the
name of this Victorian artist, but there is no need for
me to reveal it in this place. The story, however,
allows us a glimpse into the studio of one of the word-
jugglers of other days; and when one has been made
aware of the machinery of his mysteries, one ceases
to marvel.

Two brothers, Willie and Oscar Wilde, earned
many dinners in their time by their conversational
abilities ; and I happen to know that before going out
together they rehearsed very carefully the exchange
of their impromptus at the dinner table. Both of
these brothers were brilliant conversationalists, and
possessed excellent memories. They were equally
unscrupulous and unprincipled. The only psycho-
logical distinction between the two was that the elder,
Willie, possessed an impudence of a quality which
was not among Oscar's gifts. Oscar was impudent
enough to take his call on the first night of Lady
Windermere's Fan smoking a cigarette, and to assure
the audience that he had enjoyed the play immensely;
but he was never equal to his brother in this special
line. Willie was a little over twenty and living with
his parents in Dublin, where he had a friendly little
understanding with a burlesque actress who was the
principal boy in the pantomime at the Gaiety
Theatre. She wrote to him one day making an ap-
pointment with him for the night, and asking him
to call for her at the stage door. The girl addressed



72 A GARDEN OF PEACE

the letter to " Wm. Wilde, Esq.," at his home, and
as his father's name was William he opened it me-
chanically and read it. He called Willie into his
study after breakfast and put the letter before him,
crying, "Read that, sir!"

The son obeyed, folded it up and handed it back,
saying quietly,

" Well, dad, do you intend to go? "

To obtain ready cash and good dinners, Willie
Wilde, when on the staff of a great London news-
paper, was readyto descend to any scheming and any
meanness. But the descriptive column that he wrote
of the sittings of the Parnell Commission day after
day could not be surpassed for cleverness and in-
sight. He would lounge into the Court at any time
he pleased and remain for an hour or so, rarely
longer, and he spent the rest of the day amusing him-
self and flushing himself with brandies and soda at
the expense of his friends. He usually began to
write his article between eleven and twelve at night.

Such were these meteoric brothers before the cen-
trifugal force due to their revolutionary instinct sent
them flying into space.

But one handful of the meteoric dust of the con-
versation of either was worth all the humour of the
great Victorian punsters.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH

FROM the foregoing half-dozen pages it is becoming
pretty clear that a Garden of Peace may also be
a Garden of Memories. But I am sure that one of
the greatest attractions of garden life to a man who
has stepped out of a busy world its strepitumque
virumque, is that it compels him to look forward,
while permitting him to look back. The very act of
dropping a seed into the soil is prospective. To see
things growing is stimulating, whether they are chil-
dren or other flowers. One has no time to think how
one would order one's career, avoiding the mistakes
of the past, if one got a renewal of one's lease of life,
for in a garden we are ever planning for the future;
but these rustling leaves of memory are useful as a
sort of mulch for the mind.

And the garden has certainly grown since I first
entered it ten years ago. It was originally to be re-
ferred to in the singular, but now it must be thought
of in the plural. It was a garden, now it is gardens;
and whether I have succeeded or not my experience
compels me to believe that to aim at the plural makes
for success. Two gardens, each of thirty feet square,
are infinitely better than one garden of sixty. I am
sure of that to-day, but it took me some time to find

73



74 A GARDEN OF PEACE

it out. A garden to be distinctive must have distinct
features, like every other thing of life.

I notice that most writers on garden-making begin
by describing what a wilderness their place was when
they first took it in hand. I cannot maintain that
tradition. Mine had nothing of the wilderness about
it. On the contrary, it was just too neat for my
taste. The large lawn on to which some of the lower
rooms of the house opened, had broad paths on each
side and a broad flower border beyond. There was
not a shrub on the lawn and only one tree a majestic
deodar spreading itself abroad at an angle of the
nearest wing of the house; but on a knoll at the far-
ther end of the lawn there were, we discovered next
summer, pink and white mays, a wild cherry, and a
couple of laburnums, backed by a towering group
made up of sycamores and chestnuts. Such a plan of
planting could not be improved upon, I felt certain,
though I did not discuss it at the time; for I was not
out to make an alteration, and my attention was
wholly occupied with the appearance of the ancient
walls, glorious with snapdragon up to the lilacs that
made a coping of colour for the whole high range,
while the lower brick boundary opposite was covered
with pears and plums clasping hands in espalier form
from end to end.

But I was not sure about the flower borders which
contained alternate clumps of pink geraniums and
white daisies. Perhaps they were too strongly remi-
niscent of the window-boxes of the Cromwell Road
through which I had walked every day for nearly



A GARDEN OF PEACE 75

twenty years, and in time one grows weary even of
the Cromwell Road!

But so well did the accident of one elbow of the
wall of the bowling-green pushing itself out lend
itself to the construction of the garden, that the first
and most important element in garden-design was
attained. This, I need hardly say, is illusion and sur-
prise. One fancied that here the limits of the ground
had been reached, for a fine deciduous oak seemed to
block the way; but with investigation one found
oneself at the entrance to a new range of grounds
which, though only about three times as large as the
first, seemed almost illimitable.

The greater part had at one time been an orchard,
we could see ; but the trees had been planted too close
to one another, and after thirty or forty years of
jostling, had ceased to be of any pictorial or com-
mercial value, and I saw that these would have to
go. Beyond there was a kitchen garden and a large
glass-house, and on one side there was a long curve
of grass terrace made out of the Saxon or Roman
earthwork, against which, as I have already said, the
Norman walls were built, showing only about twelve
or fifteen feet above the terrace, while being forty
or fifty down to the dry moat outside. This low
mural line was a mass of antirrhinums, wallflowers,
and such ferns as thrive in rock crevices.

There was abviously not much to improve in all
this. We were quite satisfied with everything as it
stood. There was nothing whatsoever of the wilder-
ness that we could cause to blossom as the rose, only



76 A GARDEN OF PEACE

not a rose was to be seen in any part of the
garden !

We were conscious of the want, for our Kensington
garden had been a mass of roses, and we were ready
to join on to Victor Hugo's " Une maison sans
enfants" " un jardin sans roses." But we were not
troubled; roses are as easily to be obtained as bram-
bles in fact rather more easily and we had only to
make up our minds where to plant them and they
would blush all over the place the next summer.

We had nothing to complain of but much to be
thankful for, when, after being in the house for a
month, I found the old gardener, whom we had taken
over with the place, wheeling his barrow through a
doorway which I knew led to a dilapidated potting-
shed, and as I saw that the barrow was laden with
rubbish I had the curiosity to follow him to see where
he should dispose of it.

He went through a small iron gate in the wall
alongside the concealed potting-house, and, following
him, I found myself to my amazement in a small
walled space, forty feet by thirty, containing rubbish,
but giving every one with eyes to see such a picture
of the Barbican, the Castle Gate with the Keep
crowning the mound beyond, as made me shout such
a picture as was not to be found in the county!

If it had a fault at all it was to be found in its
perfection. Every one has, I hope, seen the Sham
Castle, the castellated gateway, built on Hampton
Down, near Bath, to add picturesqueness to the pros-


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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 4 of 18)