Edwin A. (Edwin Asbury) Kirkpatrick.

The excursion of a village curate, or, the fruits and gleanings of a month's ramble in quest of health online

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Online LibraryEdwin A. (Edwin Asbury) KirkpatrickThe excursion of a village curate, or, the fruits and gleanings of a month's ramble in quest of health → online text (page 1 of 8)
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UtUage Curate;



Dulce est desipere in loco.







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A PREFACE is for the most part but an
unread and vain attempt of an author, either
to insinuate himself and his book into the good
opinion of his readers, or to conciliate the
favour of his critics ; but as I am well content
to leave the former the privilege of judging for
themselves, and the latter the free exercise of
that liberal and gentlemanly spirit of criticism
which distinguishes the learned of the present
age, I shall not presume to make one other


remark than this that I have endeavoured to
amuse, if not to instruct such as may honour my
little volume with a perusal : if I have failed,
surely the merit of good intentions will not be
denied me.

Brookholme -Rectory.




' Go to the hills," said one ; " remit awhile
This baleful diligence ; at early morn
Court the fresh air, explore the heaths and woods ;
And there, for your own benefit, construct
A calendar of flowers, plucked as they blow
Where health abides, and cheerfulness, and peace."
Wordsworth's Excursion, p. 257.

IN the autumn of the year , after an indis-
position of some long continuance, brought on by
a sedentary course of life and an unremitting
attention to the duties of my profession, I was
earnestly recommended by a medical friend to



exchange the confined walls of my study and the
narrow boundary of my curacy, for the broad and
variegated face of nature, or, in other words, to
try how far change of air and variety of scene
would relieve the depression of my spirits, and
recruit the enfeebled powers of my body. I had
always possessed a keen relish for the beauties of
nature, and an ardent desire to be better ac-
quainted with them, than the " stale, flat, and
(almost) unprofitable" district which surrounded
my home would afford me ; consequently, the advice
I received was not uncongenial to my feelings and
desires. For although I can easily see, feel, and
believe, that a man of a meditative and reflective
turn of mind may learn much in his silent musings
even on the most barren and uncultivated heath ;
(when a simple daisy, a withered tree, a solitary
spring, a lonely shepherd, with his watchful dog
and nibbling sheep, are all to him as so many
fountains of thought, or centres from whence irra-
diate feelings and ideas filling the mind with
instruction and refreshment pure as the dews which
fall from heaven ;) still, if he wish to moralize on


man, the noblest of created beings, he must be
content to mingle with the common herd of his
fellow-creatures. If he desire to elevate his con-
ceptions, enlarge his ideas, and fill his soul with
the magnificence of nature, he must see her in all
her varied moods and forms, not only in the
passive beauty of her peace, but in the mingled
wildness and grandeur of her storms. If his soul
yearn to become more intimately conversant with
the attributes of his Lord and his God, his dis-
pensations to his creatures of goodness and mercy,
his marvellous works of wisdom and might,
he must not confine his gaze to one small spot or
part of his creation, one isolated manifestation of
his power, love, or skill, but look with steadfast
eye through all his works and all his ways, now
visiting him in the beauty of his holiness and
grace, the wonderful temple of his creation,
and now beholding how all things work together
for good to those, into whose nostrils he hath
breathed the breath of life, the spirit that shall
never die. Like the melancholy Jaques in the
forest, he may moralize the simplest spectacle

B 2

" into a thousand similes," or, with his ducal
master in

< life, exempt from public haunt,

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing."

Still he will have much to learn and many things
to unlearn, as his wanderings and ideas become
more excursive, and his feet venture to tread the
more beaten paths of life, before his conclusions
may bear the stamp of truth, or his reflections the
character of true wisdom.

An anchorite in his cell, or a scholar in his
study, may form an ideal picture of life, its
strange commixture of pleasure and pain, hopes
and fears, or attempt to penetrate the mysterious
mind, or thread the devious windings of the human
heart, to find the spring of action, or the germ of
thoughts, good and evil ; but let him once leave
his solitude to mingle with man, and apply the
rules and axioms he has there theoretically esta-
blished, and he will soon find, to the overthrow of


his beau-ideal of life, and his reflections on man,
that he has indeed looked through a glass darkly,
and that he has been employed but as a child
drawing figures in sand, which a gust of wind may
obliterate, or a wave destroy.

Impressed with these ideas, and ardently longing
to be free for a season, to range abroad the
licensed denizen of nature in search of health,
mental refreshment, and well-timed recreation ;
I easily assented to the reasonableness of my
friend's recommendation, and began to make pre-
parations forthwith for the journey before me.

Having therefore, as a necessary preliminary
step, obtained the assistance of one, to whose
pastoral care I could conscientiously entrust the
charge of my little flock during my absence, I
next laid out a plan for my pursuance, embracing
the advantages of recruiting my strength and im-
proving my mind, without, at the same time,
materially diminishing the small store of wealth 1
had laid up for occasional exigencies ; being


scarcely less troubled with bodily ailment than
with the " deficiens crumena" a disease beyond
the reach of a poor curate's skill to ease or
remedy. Had I consulted my friends in this
matter, it is more than probable (although with
due reverence be it spoken, " in the multitude of
counsellors there is safety, alias wisdom") that one
would have recommended a trip to Paris; a
second, a visit to a watering-place ; or a third, a
six weeks' residence in town ; but, as I had little
inclination to pace the Palais Royale, or climb the
steeps of Mont-Martre, and still less desire to
drench my attenuated figure with chalybeate or
saline draughts, or mingle with the votaries of
fashion and false pleasure in the metropolis, I
deemed it best therefore to act upon my own
views of expediency, asking no farther question,
and taking all the consequences of my wilfulness
on my own head.

I had seen some little of the world, as far as
the more refined and aristocratical part of mankind
may deserve that appellation, in my earlier days,


and that little was sufficient to deter me from
searching further for health and instruction amongst
them : I therefore resolved to penetrate the more
cool and sequestered pathways of life, there to
mingle with those whose habits, means and modes
of living had effectually barred them from the pos-
sibility of being essentially corrupted by the luxury
of the rich, or the vices of the indolent victims
of voluptuousness and frivolity. I had already
perceived the demoralizing effect of example on
such as fate had thrown into the way of those
whom fortune had made great, and depravity of
conduct little. At the same time, I prepared
myself to meet with infirmity, vice and obliquity
of intellect, to say nothing of ignorance and its
brood of attendant errors, even amongst those
with whom I designed to hold that fellowship
which should neither place me on a level with
themselves, nor so far aloof as to render my en-
deavours to acquaint myself with the incidents and
feelings of common life a nugatory task.

Having thus put you, my gentle reader, into


possession of the motives for my excursion, and
the plan I intended to pursue, I shall no longer
dally with my subject, but at once proceed to a
brief relation of the various incidents which befel
me in my pilgrimage, and a plain narration of
the few simple specimens of legendary lore I col-
lected from those who were only able to commu-
nicate their information as they gathered it, by
word of mouth, or, as my tutor of flagellating
memory would say, orally.

Having, therefore, settled all things to my mind
and taken a farewell of my parishioners, I lost no
time in packing into a portmanteau such things as
I might require during my absence, with a few
books for amusement after a day's pedestrianism,
or to relieve " the languor of a rainy day," and
then retired to rest, for the last time it might be,
in mine ain wee chamber, full of future hopes, and
thirsting for coming enjoyments. My sleep was
broken and disturbed ; dreams and strange phan-
tasies kept floating continually athwart my brain,
with here and there a shadow of probability, during


the livelong night, and I felt more than glad when,
waking in the midst of an almost tragical event,
the sun with velcome morning face, bade me
good morrow, and a cock at some short distance,
told me, with his not then unmelodiotis horn, that
it was time to be a-foot and a-field. I had two miles
to go ere I could enter a stage which would convey

me to H , a short distance from the place of

my birth, the very spot of all others I intended to
visit first. These miles I knew I must walk, or
deviate from my original intention of being a
pedestrian, unless necessity compelled me to
journey otherwise. I had also, my valise, or port-
manteau-bearer, a fat lubberly boy to rouse from
his truckle-bed, where he lay in a room not far
distant from mine, making most sonorous discourse
with a nose tuned to the lowest note in the scale
of swinish chromatics. I had therefore, no time
to waste in curtain reflections, for the coach passed

through W at seven, and my wooden clock

had already hammered six of these horary divisions
of time, and was rapidly ticking away to add
another period to the one just elapsed. I there-

B 3


fore sounded the note of preparation at the door of
my dormitory, and in a few minutes I heard sounds
around me indicative of something more like life in
the house than the nasal voluntary of my musical
Achates. Having thus effectually roused the in-
mates of my residence, I began with that more-
haste-less-speed kind of celerity which is the usual
attendant of raw travellers to equip myself for my
journey. Now, indeed, my troubles began ; every
thing appeared to be in its wrong place, I wanted
my cravat, a pair of gaiters presented themselves,
to be flung any where but where I might wish to find
them. I hunted for my favourite and only gold-
headed pin, a hair-brush occupied its place ; I put
on my shoes, and a string was missing ; in fact the
whole of my poor personals seemed bewitched, and
the more I endeavoured to hasten my equipment,
the less progress I appeared to make, so true is it

" Incidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdin."

At length, however, I succeeded, and hurrying
down stairs found my companion, Jerry, ready


for his expedition, and my good old housekeeper
busily arranging the breakfast-table, whilst my
before-mentioned Achates, alias Jerry, " silici
scintillam excudit," or in other words, hammered
away at a stubborn flint with all the fury of a
second Mao Adam. But my time was too pre-
cious to admit of dalliance, I therefore slung my
valise on the broad shoulders of my attendant,
thanked my excellent Mary for her hospitable in-
tentions, looked round a long farewell, and, with
the blessings of all my home contained,

" At once strode forth amid the morning dew,

And bade good morrow to the fields and pastures new."

Nothing material occurred during our walk to
the neighbouring town, except that at times
thoughts of the home behind me, (" the little cove,
the parsonage of rest,") with other fond recollec-
tions, passed over the fair picture of the future in
my mind, like clouds o'er April's sunny skies.
My companion, too insensate and unmindful of
the passing to taste with zest the beauties of the


saffron-skirted morn a tip-toe on the hills, or to
drink as I did the pure and refreshing influence
of the gentle morning zephyr, " whistled as he
went for want of thought," or, every now and then,
threw a tempting pebble at some merry minstrel
of the rising day pouring forth its wood-notes wild
on its accustomed spray.

At length, after a most delightful specimen of
pedestrianism, over sands mid-leg deep, through
lanes crossed and intersected by ruts, never filled
since the days of JBoadicea, and by paths through
spiky furze, hung with the stolen remnants of the
wandering fleecy tenants of the heath, and dripping
with early dew, we reached the Rampant Lion,
in time to see the last passenger insinuating his
rotundity into the hollow of the Highflyer, and
only exactly at the point of time to permit me the
possibility of flying, " fervidis rotis" to the tune
of seventy-two miles before night.




Which prove this proverb false; birds of a feather,
Will, fearelesse, use to flocke and feed together.

G. Withers.

HAVING lost but little time in making my wishes
known to the jolly and rubicund roysterer, the
jehu of the old north road, who was examining
the lash of his whip, and adjusting his reins by the
side of his impatient steeds, with the utmost non-
chalance imaginable, I found by great good for-
tune, that he had stowage for me in his already
heavily-laden vehicle ; I, therefore, dismissed my
late companion, and taking instant possession of
my place, perceived, in looking beside me, that I


had become fellow-partner, with a gentleman of no
mean circumference, of that seat so much dreaded
by nervous ladies and hypochondriacal old maids,
namely, the one best calculated for giving you
faint glimpses of the land you leave behind you.
However, as I had little to dread, on the score of
intestinal commotion, however debilitated in other
respects my constitution might be, I rested per-
fectly satisfied with my situation, and maintained
the first mile or two, a silence and gravity be-
coming an intruder on a society already cemented
together by the feelings of stage-coach equality and
the ideas of common rights and common dangers.
At length I began to look abroad with something
like confidence my noviciate had passed away
and I thought it but fair to know who were the
members of our little community.

The first face that underwent scrutiny was one
which excited no common interest : it was the face
of one who had evidently been deeply tried in the
school of affliction a mourner's and, it might be,
a widow's, for I perceived something like a widow's


bonnet, overshadowing a brow pale as Parian
marble, though somewhat traced with those fur-
rows which care and mental suffering infix on the
foreheads of their victims. Still she was young,
and sorrow had not succeeded in removing the
lines of a countenance once eminently beautiful
and expressive, it had done its worst, but the
soft and pensive tone it had spread over her fea-
tures in part repaid the havock it had made.
Once she had been bewitchingly fair, now she was
peculiarly interesting and affecting; the beauty
which erst had doubtlessly charmed all eyes, now
softened by grief and sobered with care, looked
unutterable things.

Her eyes, deep as heaven's own blue, moved
softly in orbs whence bitter tears had flown, to
cool the anguish of the wounded heart. Her
nose was slightly aquiline, and gracefully bowed
to a mouth perfectly beautiful, the pale ruby lips
of which, occasionally quivering, betrayed those
grand essentials of feminine loveliness, pearl-like
teeth, as, ever and anon, she cast her eyes, suf-


fused with tears, on a lovely baby-boy that slept
and smiled in her closely-folded vest. At times,
too, as she shifted her little treasure, I perceived
half shrouded by her veiled breast, a miniature of
one I half remembered to have seen in years gone

Imagination was now alive, and I began to form
conjectures who this mother and child might be,
and had nearly concluded, from the glimpse I
had seen of the picture, that it represented one
whom, in early life, I had known as a fellow-
student, when a sudden jerk of the coach, as it
rattled over some recently-laid stones, at once de-
cided the matter by showing me, in miniature, in
the garb of a pensioner of St. John's, my old
college-companion, Henry Audley. For a moment
I felt half-inclined to address the young sufferer
make known my acquaintance with him whose
portrait hung suspended to her neck, and offer her
my services for the rest of our journey, when, on
.stooping to remove a parcel which rather incom-
moded my feet, she begged me in the sweetest


tone possible, to allow her to place it on her knee,
being- fearful that it might, otherwise prove very
troublesome to me. Happy that I had the oppor-
tunity of addressing her without breaking through
those cold formalities which etiquette and modern
politeness have established, I besought her to give
herself no disquietude respecting it, and expressed
a wish that she would permit me to take charge of
it for her. A faint gleam of pleasure passed over
her face as she accepted my proffered aid, and re-
turned me her kind thanks for my polite attentions,
and I was about to unburthen the secret I wished
yet feared to disclose, when the address of Mrs.
Neville, passenger, upon the parcel, at once told
me that my conjectures must be wrong, and my
silence on that subject at least prudent and neces-

Thus foiled in my speculations, and unwilling to
disturb the silent sorrow of my fair companion by
observations as trite and common-place as those
which usually form stage-coach conversation, I
looked around me for another object whereupon to


exercise my imagination, and fixed my gaze on one,
a female, the very opposite in all respects, of the
silent mourner before me, but the very counter-
part, in personal proportion and vulgarity, of my
right-hand friend, whose fleshly mansion evidently
appeared to have been widened at the expense of
the corporation of London, I guessed, since they
discoursed most eloquently and ostentatiously of
their respective friends in Candle wick- ward, and
their acquaintances in Norton- Falgate.

1 took them at first, for husband and wife, but
the unusual complaisant things bandied between
them, soon convinced me that I had the honour of
being elbowed by no less a man than Alderman
Griskin, orator and soap-boiler, of Puddle-Dock,
and the supreme felicity of travelling with Mrs.
Nobbs, wife of a celebrated biscuit-baker of that
name, and Common -Councilman, of Dowgate,
(quaere, Doughgate). It were a waste of words
to describe the personal peculiarities of this worthy
pair, sufficient be it to say that London never dis-
gorged from her yawning outlets two worthier re-


preservatives of the feasting and fattening part of
her subjects on one day than on this. The truism,
" pares cum paribus facillime congregantur" or,
birds of a feather flock together, (by imitation,)
was, as far as related to themselves, in strict
keeping ; but, as far as it regarded the lone one
sitting by Mrs. Nobb's puffy elbows, and my poor
diminished, starveling self, (like a skewer under
the wing of a fat capon Alderman Griskin,) I
felt, with something like joy, that even this rule,
general as it might be, had its exceptions. To the
poor young thing Mrs. Nobbs occasionally blurted
forth something like the sound of commiseration,
but she touched the chord of the widow's wo with
such a barbarous and unskilful hand that it sounded
only the note of sorrow deeper and deeper still to
her shattered and wounded spirit. The Alderman
too, would at times revert to her sorrows, and
with witty leer and joyous chuckle, at the end of
his oration on the miseries of life, (miseries he had
plainly never felt,) venture to surmise that her
" eyes would not want lovers long, or else 'twould
sartinly be her own fault." She said little in re-


turn to these sallies ; but, acknowledging their ill-
directed kindness with a few half-breathed words,
looked at her babe slumbering in her lap, and
gently passed her delicate and faded hand over her
eyes, filled with sorrow to the brim, to restrain,
if not to hide, the feelings of a soul struggling
with its load of sorrows, and refusing to be com-
forted by such poor and weak devices. Stage
after stage we thus travelled ; and, although I un-
remittingly offered to procure her any little comfort
the different inns at which we changed horses
might afford, she invariably (with the greatest pos-
sible delicacy and expression of kindness received)
declined troubling nie, farther than to request a
servant, at our second stage, to bring her a glass
of milk and a biscuit. At length, however, after
sundry and several yawns and guttural groans of
impatience on the part of Alderman G. for his
customary mid-day meal, and sundry expressive
opes from Mrs. N. that she might be enabled to
find a nice of fowl at the next hinn for her lunch,

the coach drove into the populous town of S ,

aud stopped at the principal inn, where our guard


politely informed us, passengers usually dined,
during their stay of half an hour. The Alderman
lost but little time in withdrawing his unwieldiness
from the thraldom of the coach at the cheerful
sound of dinner, nor did his worthy ally, the
common-councilman's lady, snuff the gale for
nought, but, with admirable celerity and ingenuity,
by the aid of her deputy-attendant, extricated
herself from the seat, and dragged her slow length
behind, leaning on her cicisbeo's arm, to the *
dining-room of the Bear and Ragged Staff.
Leaving these worthies to regale themselves, I
shall briefly relate what transpired in reference to
myself and my sorrow-stricken companion.

Alighting from the coach, I once more offered
all the aid I could give to the widow and her help-
less babe, entreating her to alight and take such
nourishment as the inn afforded. She thanked
me with that ease, good breeding, and feeling for
my poor attentions, which completely told me in
what society she had moved. She looked wistfully
around, as she accepted my proffered assistance,


and gave her babe into my arms, informing me
at the same time, to my deep regret, that she had
reached her destination. She had scarcely uttered
these words, when a genteel young man rushed
forth from the inn-yard and pressed her to his
breast. They stood enfolded a few moments, she
like the ivy clinging to some goodly tree, he like
its protecting stem, and the only words I could
hear were my dearest Ellen ! my good brother !
Instantly, as if retiring from the vulgar gaze, he
essayed to lead her forward to the inn, when, as
if some sudden recollection crossed her mind, she
started back for her babe, and, with a hurried
voice, stifled with grief, introduced me to her
brother as a kind Samaritan, who had rendered
her those services she could now claim from no one.
He turned round to me, and, ere we could speak,
our hands never joined since youth, were firmly
clasped together, and all the fond recollections of
our boyhood came thick and strong, into our
hearts, as I beheld the friend of my youth, the
open-hearted Henry Audley, and he saw the
shadow of his old fellow-collegian and schoolfellow,


W F . We retired with his forlorn

sister to an inner room, amidst mutual congratu-
lations and inquiries, and ere five minutes had
elapsed come what would, I had determined,
also, to decline farther companionship with my
London worthies.

For when the young widow his sister retired,
Henry informed me, that as business would ne-
cessarily detain him in town till a late hour, he had
resolved upon staying the night with his sister at

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Online LibraryEdwin A. (Edwin Asbury) KirkpatrickThe excursion of a village curate, or, the fruits and gleanings of a month's ramble in quest of health → online text (page 1 of 8)