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of this kind are unnecessary ; and when we write our
guide, we shall stick to terra firma.

We have qualifications for such a task, which neither
Green nor Wordsworth possessed. We are non-residents
— absentees. Had we lived twenty long years on the
banks of Windermere, or Grassmere, or Keswick, or
Ullswater, an impartial and reasonable work could no
more have been expected from us, than it has been pro-
duced by either of the aforesaid gentlemen. Stationary
inhabitants get insensibly embucd with all manner of pre-
judices, and forget entirely the general sympathies of the
circulating population. They are apt to think that no-
body can understand their scenery but themselves; and
laugh in your face should you happen to deliver a hetero-
dox opinion about a crag or a coppice, a flood or a fell.
You must walk the valleys in leading-strings — lift up your
eyes only when ordered — and not venture even an excla-
mation till privileged by your guide's ejaculatory " glo-
rious !" Birds of passage, like us, wish to enjoy unfettered
the kw months we can pass in that climate; and absurd
as it may seem to these very imperative ornithologists, we
wing our way at our own sweet will, over hill and dale,
and perch at night wherever we find a pleasant shelter, in

166 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

grove or single tree. This wc have done for many sum-
mers, and frequently following, and as frequently deviating
from, the sage advice of Messrs. Wordsworth and Southey,
Professor Wilson, Mr. De Quincey the celebrated opium-
eater, Mr. Hartley Coleridge, the gifted son of a gifted
father, mild and mineralogical, Mr. Maltby, and our hos-
pitable and intelligent friend, Robert Partridge, Esq., of
Covey Cottage, — why, we have made ourselves as tho-
roughly acquainted with that county as any mother's son
of them all; while, having no private pique, prejudice,
or partiality whatever to gratify in regard to any moun-
tain, lake, tarn, force, gill, or bowder-stone, we hold our-
selves as the whole world must do, far better qualified
than any one of those gentlemen to be the Historian of
the Lakes.

A Westmoreland cottage has scarcely any resemblance
to a Scotch one. A Scotch cottage (in the Lowlands) has
rarely any picturesque beauty in itself — a narrow oblong,
with steep thatched-roof, and an ear-like chimney at each
of the two gable-ends. Many of the Westmoreland cot-
tages would seem, to an ignorant observer, to have been
originally built on a model conceived by the finest poetical
genius. In the first place, they are almost always built
precisely where they ought to be, had the builder's prime
object been to beautify the dale ; at least, so we have often
felt in moods, when perhaps our emotions were uncon-
sciously soothed into complacency by the spirit of the
scene. Where the sedgy brink of the lake or tarn circles
into a lone bay, with a low hill of coppice-wood on one
side, and a few tall pines on the other, no — it is a grove of
sycamores, — there, about a hundred yards from the water,
and about ten above its ordinary level, peeps out from its
clieerful seclusion, that prettiest of all hamlets — Braith-
waite-Fold. The hill behind is scarcely sylvan — yet it
lias many hazels — a few bushes — here and there a holly
— and why or wherefore, who can now tell, a grove of
enormous yews. There is sweet pasturage among the
rocks, and as you may suppose it a spring-day, mild with-
out much sunshine, there is a bleating of lambs, a twitter
of small birds, and the deep coo of the stock-dove. A


wreath of smoke is always a feature of such a scene in
description ; but here there is now none, for probably the
whole household are at work in the open air, and the fire,
since fuel is not to be wasted, has been wisely suffered to
expire on the hearth. No. There is a volume of smoke,
as if the chimney were in flame — a tumultuous cloud pours
aloft, straggling and broken, through the broad slate stones
that defend the mouth of the vomitory from every blast.
The matron within is doubtless about to prepare dinner,
and last year's rotten pea-sticks have soon heated the
capacious gridiron. Let the smoke-wreath melt away at
its leisure, and do you admire along with me, the infinite
variety of all those little shelving and sloping roofs. Dear
— dear is the thatch to the eyes of a son of Caledonia, for
he remembers the house in which he was born; but what
thatch was ever so beautiful as that slate from the quarry
of the white moss ? Each one — no — not each one — but
almost each one of these little overhanging roofs seems to
have been slated, or repaired at least, in its own separate
season, so various is the lustre of lichens that bathes the
whole, as richly as ever rock was bathed fronting the sun
on the mountain's brow. Here and there is seen some
small window, before unobserved, curtained perhaps — for
the statesman, and the statesman's wife, and the states-
man's daughters, have a taste — a taste inspired by domestic
happiness, which, seeking simply comfort, unconsciously
creates beauty, and whatever its homely hand touches,
that it adorns. There would seem to be many fireplaces
in Braithwaite-Fold, from such a number of chimney-
pillars, each rising up to a different altitude from a differ-
ent base, round as the bole of a tree — and elegant, as if
shaped by Vitruvius. To us, we confess there is nothing
offensive in the most glaring white roughcast, that ever
changed a cottage into a patch of sunny snow. Yet here
that grayish tempered unobtrusive hue does certainly blend
to perfection with roof, rock, and sky. Every instrument
is in tune. Not even in sylvan glade, nor among the
mountain rocks, did wanderer's eye ever behold a porch
of meeting tree-stems, or reclining cliffs, more gracefully
festooned, than the porch from which now issued the fairest

168 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

of Westmeria's daughters. With one arm crossed before
her eyes in a sudden burst of sunshine, with the other
EUinor Inman waves to her little brother and sisters among
the bark-pcclers in the Rydal woods. The graceful signal
is repealed till seen, and in a few minutes a boat steals
twinkling from the opposite side of the lake, each tug of
the youthful rowers distinctly heard through the hollow of
the vale. A singing voice is heard — but it ceases — as if
the singer were watching the echo — and is not now the
picture complete? So too is our article.


(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1828.)

We have no idea of what is thought of us in the fashion-
able world. Most probably we are looked on as a pretty
considerable quiz. Our external, or personal appearance,
is, we cheerfully confess, somewhat odd, both face and
figure. It is not easy for you to pass us by on the streets
without a stare at our singularity, or to help turning
round, as soon as you think you are out of reach of our
crutch, which, by the by, we sometimes use as a missile,
and can throw almost as far as that celebrated gymnast
of the Six Foot Club can swing the thirteen pound sledge-
hammer ; while, with a placid smile of well-pleased sur-
prise, you wonder if that can indeed be the veritable and
venerable Christopher North.

Such is our natural and acquired modesty, that so far
from being flattered by these proofs of public esteem and
popular favour, they fret and annoy us more than we
care to express. The truth is, we can seldom, on such
occasions, help feeling as if there were a hole in our
black silk stocking, the white peeping through like a patch
of snow — a shoe minus a silver buckle — a button oft' some
part of our dress — the back part of our hat in front — the
half-expanded white rose-bud-tie of our neckcloth, of which
we are alike proud and particular, dissolved into two long
slips, which more than any thing else appertaining to a
man's habiliments, give your person the impress of a
weaver expert at the treddle and fly-shuttle — or, to us
who keep a regular barber on the chin establishment,
with a salary of £80, worst suspicion of all, and if veri-
fied to the touch, death to that day, a beard ! A beard !

VOL. r. 15

170 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

fair reader, as rough as the hrush — naughty little mer-
maid — with which you keep combing your glossy locks
in that mirror — no, you do not think it flatters — both
before you " lie down in your loveliness," and after you
rise up in it, — alarmed by the unexpected and apparently
endless ringing of the breakfast bell.

Yet, we are not so very much of a quiz, after all ; and
considering how the storms of many seasons have beat
against us, it is astonishing how well we wear, both in
root, branch, and stem. We cannot help — in our pride —
Heaven forgive and pity us ! — sometimes likening our-
selves to an old ash beside a church. There stands the
tree, with bark thick as cork, and hard as iron — hoary
arms overshadowing with a pleasant glimmer — for his
leaves are beautiful as those of some little plant, come
late and go early, and are never so umbrageous as to
exclude the blue sky — overshadowing with a pleasant
glimmer a whole family of tombstones, — a stem with
difliculty circled by the united arm-lengths of some half-
dozen schoolboys, never for a day satisfied, without,
during a pause of their play, once more measuring the
giant, — roots, many of them visible like cables along the
gravel-walk leading from the kirkyard-gate, where on
Sabbath stands the elder beside the plate, and each
Christian passing by droppeth in the tinkling charity,
from rich man's gold to widow's mite — and many of them
hidden, and then reappearing far off from among the
graves — while the tap-root, that feeds and upholds all the
visible glory, hath for ages struck through the very
rock-foundation of that humble house of the Most High I
Solemn image ! and never to be by us remembered, but
through a haze of tears ! How kindred the nature of
mirth and melancholy ! What resemblance seemeth that
tree now to have to a poor, world-wearied, and almost
life-sick old man ! For in a few short years more, we
shall have passed away like a shadow, and shall no more
be any where found ; but thou, many and many a mid-
summer, while centuries run their course, wilt hang thy
pensive, " thy dim religious light" — over other and other
generations, while at that mystic and awful table, whiter
than the unst;iincd mountain snow, sit almost in the open

A midsummer-day's dream. 171

air, for the heavens are seen in their beauty through the
open roof of that living temple, the children of the hamlet
and the hall, partaking of the sacrament, — or, ere that
holiest rite be solemnised in simplicity, all listening to the
eloquence of some gray-headed man inspired by his great
goodness, and with the Bible open before him, making,
feeble as he seemed an hour ago before he walked up into
the tent, the hearts of the whole congregation to burn
within them, and the very circle of the green hills to ring
with joy !

What a blessed order of Nature it is, that the footsteps
of Time are " inaudible and noiseless," and that the
seasons of life are like those of the year, so indistin-
guishably brought on, in gentle progress, and impercepti-
bly blended the one with the other, that the human being
scarcely knows, except from a faint and not unpleasant
feeling, that he is growing old ! The boy looks on the
youth, the youth on the man, the man in his prime on
the gray-headed sire, each on the other, as on a sepa-
rate existence in a separate world. It seems sometimes
as if they had no sympathies, no thoughts in common,
that each smiled and wept on account of things for which
the other cared not, and that such smiles and tears were
all foolish, idle, and most vain ; but as the hours, days,
weeks, months and years go by, how changes the one
into the other, till, without any violence, lo ! as if close
together at last, the cradle and the grave ! In this how
Nature and man agree, pacing on and on to the com-
pletion of a year — of a life ! The spring how soft and
tender indeed, with its buds and blossoms, and the blessed-
ness of the light of heaven so fresh, young, and new, a
blessedness to feel, to hear, to see, and to breathe ! Yet
the spring is often- touched by frost — as if it had its own
winter, and is felt to urge and be urged on upon that
summer, of which the green earth, as it murmurs, seems
to have some secret forethought. The summer, a§ it lies
on the broad blooming bosom of the earth, is yet faintly
conscious of the coming-on of autumn with " sere and
yellow leaf," — the sunshine owns the presence of the shade
— and there is at times a pause as of melancholy amid
the transitory mirth ! Autumn comes with its full or

172 VILSON's miscellaneous M'RITINGS.

decaying ripeness, and its colours grave or gorgeous —
the noise of song and sickle — of the wheels of wains —
and all the busy toils of prophetic man gathering up
against the bare cold winter, ])rovision for the body and
for the soul ! Winter ! and cold and bare as fancy pic-
tured — yet not without beauty and joy of its own, while
something belonging to the other seasons that are fled,
some gloamings as of spring-light, and flowers fair as of
spring among the snow — meridians bright as summer
morns, and woods bearing the magnificent hues of autumn
on into the Christmas frost — clothe the old year with
beauty and with glory, not his own — and just so with
old age, the winter, the last season of man's ever-varying,
yet never wholly changed life!

Then blessings on the sages and the bards who, in the
strength of the trust that was within them, have feared not
to crown old age with a diadem of flowers and light !
Shame on the satirists, who, in their vain regret, and
worse ingratitude, have sought to strip it of all " impulses
of soul and sense," and leave it a sorry and shivering
sight, almost too degraded for pity's tears ! True, that to
outward things the eye may be dim, the ear deaf, and the
touch dull ; but there are lights that die not away with the
dying sunbeams — there are sounds that cease not when
the singing of birds is silent — there are motions that still
stir the soul, delightful as the thrill of a daughter's hand
pressing her father's knee in prayer ; and therefore, how
calm, how happy, how reverend, beneath unolfcnded
Heaven, is the head of old age ! Walk on the mountain,
wander down the valley, enter the humble hut, — the
scarcely less humble kirk, — and you will know how
sacred a thing is the hoary hair that lies on the temples
of him who, during his long journey, forgot not his Maker,
and feels that his old age shall be renewed into immortal
youth !

" That strain I licard was of a liiplicr mood !"

But now we must wake a lowlier measure ; — and, gentle
reader ! thou wilt not refuse to go with us, who, in com-
parison with thee are old, for thou art in thy prime — and

A midsummer-day's dream. 173

be not, we implore thee, a prodigal of its blessings — into
the little humming room, whose open window looks over
the lilacs and laburnums now in all their glory almost
painful to look on, so dazzling are they in their blue and
yellow burnished array — and while away an hour with —
start not at the name — the very living flesh-and-blood
Christopher North, whose voice has often been with thee,
as the voice of a solemn or sportive spirit, when rivers and
seas rolled and flowed between, he lying under the birch-
Iree's, and thou, perhaps, under the Banana's shade ! Let
us both be silent. Look at those faces on the wall — how
mild ! how meek ! how magnificent ! You know them,
by an instinct for beauty and grandeur, to be the shadows
of the spirits whose works have sanctified your sleeping
and your waking dreams. The great poets ! — Ay, you
may gaze till twilight on that bust ! Blind Melesigines ! —
But hark ! the front-door bell is ringing — then tap, tap, tap,
tap — and lo ! a bevy of beauty, matrons, and maids, who
have all been a-Maying, and come to lay their wreaths and
garlands at the old man's feet ! Is our age deserted and
forsaken — childless, wifeless though it be — for the whole
world knows that we are a bachelor — when subjected, in
the benignity of Providence, to such visionary visitations
as these] Visionary call them not — though lovelier than
poet's dreams beside the Castalian fountain — for these are
livinw locks of auburn braided over a living brow of
snow — these tresses, black in their glossy richness as the
raven's wing, are no work of glamoury — no shadow she
with the light-blue laughing eyes — she, whose dark orbs
are filled with the divine melancholy of genius,

" Like Lady of the Merc,
Sole-sitting by the shores of old Romance,"

bears, in her soul-fraught beauty, a soft, sweet, familiar
Christian name — but, lo ! like fair sea-birds, they ail gather
together, floating around the lord of the mansion — and is
not Buchanan-Lodge the happiest, the pleasantest of dwell-
ings, and old Christopher North the happiest and the
pleasantest of men?

Perhaps, to see and hear us in another character of our

174 Wilson's miscellaneous wkitings.

perfection, you should mistake the gateway of the Lodge
for that of some other sylvan abode, and come upon us as
we are silting under the blossom-fall of a laburnum ; or
lying carelessly diffused in a small circle of flower- fringed
green-sward, like Love among the roses. Our face, then,
has no expression but that of mildness — you see a man
who would not hurt even a wasp — our intellectual is merged,
not lost, in our moral being — and if you liave read Taci-
tus, you feel the full meaning of his beautiful sentence
about Agricola, — " Bonum virum facile crederes, magnum

Awaking suflicicntly to see that someone is present be-
fore us, wc motion the light or shadow to lie down, and
begin conversing so benignly and so wisely, that the
stanger feels at home as if in his birth[)lace, even as a
son returned from afar to his father. Tlie cheerful still-
ness of the retirement, ibr there is no stir but of birds and
bees, — the sea-murmur is not heard to-day, and the city
bells are silent, — is felt to be accordant wiiii the spirit of
our green old age, and as the various philosophy of human
life overflows the garden, our visiter regards us now as the
indolent and indulgent Epicurus — now as the severe and
searching Stagy rite — now as the poet-sage, on whose lips
in infancy fell that shower of bees, the divine Plato — now
Pythagoras, the silent and the silencing — now " that old
man eloquent," Socrates, the loving and beloved ; and un-
consciously at the close of some strain of our discourse he
recites to himself that fine line of Byron,

" Well hast thou said, Atlicna's wisest son I"

Or, were you to fall in with us as we were angling our
way down the Tweed, on some half-spring lialf-summer
day, some day so made up of cloud and sunshine that you
know not whether it be light or dark, —

" That beautiful uncertain weather,
When gloom and glory meet together,"

some day, when at this hour the air is alive with dancing
insects, and at that very gauzy and gaudy winglet hushed

A midsummer-day's dueam. 175

— some day on which you could wander wild as a red deer
over the high mountains and by the shores of the long-
winding loch, or sit fixed as the cushat in the grove, and
eye the ruins of an old castle; — were you to fall in with
us on such a forenoon, by the pool below Nidpath, or the
meadow-mound of sweet Cardrona-mains, or the ford of
Traquair, near the lively Inverleithen, or the sylvan dens
of Dryburgh, or the rocky rushings of the Trows, or —
but sit down beneath the umbrage of that sycamore —
heavens ! what a tree ! — and be thou Charles Cotton and
we Isaac Walton, and let both of us experience that high
and humane delight which youth and age do mutually
communicate, when kindness is repaid with gratitude, and
love with reverence.

Yet even as we hobble along the city street — the street
of Princes — with one or two filial youngsters at our side
— for old men are our aversion, so nut-deaf are they, so
sand-blind, so perverse, and so cell-bound are their souls
— our company and our converse is not undelightful,
pitched as the latter then is, on a low but lively key, like
the twitter of a bird, even of a sparrow, who, let the world
say what it will, chirps a pleasant song as he frisks along
the eaves, and both in love and war — though there, alas !
the parallel between us falls to the ground — yields to no
brother of his size in the whole aviary of nature. Or if
sparrow please you not, why then we are even as the swal-
low, lover too of the abodes of men — a true household
bird — and seeming, as he wheels in the sunshine, to be
ever at his pastime, yet all the while gathering sustenance
for the nest he loves, and never so happy as when sitting
in his " auld clay biggin," breast to breast — but there
again, wo is us ! fails the similitude — breast to breast,
with his white-throated mate, whom in another month, he
will accompany, along with their full-fledged family, over
the wide wide seas, and, their voyage ended, renew their
loves beneath the eaves of other human dwellings, afar
off and in foreign lands, for all their life is love, and still
they make

" Their annual visit round the globe,
Companions of the spring."

176 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

Nay, you would bo pleased to sit beside, or before, or
behind us, in pit or box of our theatre?, and list our genial
culogiums on Murray, and Mackay, and Mason, and Stan-
ley, and Pritchard ; or him from London town, the inimi-
table, for the name of the actor is lost in that of Long
Tom. No critics, it is well known, are we ; but, when
a true son or daughter of nature, " some well -graced actor
decks the stage," the best of our remarks might grace the
Journal. Yea, the very beauty of the Siddons herself
becomes more starlike — for, mind ye, a star is ever gentle
in its brightest glow, — as if kindling before your eyes in
the fine enthusiasm of our praise. Or, if Pasta, or Paton
— Eliza the modest and the musical — hush the room, it is
pleasant to see old Christopher North sitting almost ghost-
like amid the pathos ! In his younger days, the harp was
the instrument on which he loved to play, but now he
seldom touches a string; yet when beauty with a smile
hints the wish to hear some ancient melody, the old man
is- not unwilling, in a rare hour, to try his trembling hand,
repaid at the close of the Broom o' the Cowdenknows, or
the Flowers o' the Forest — nor has his voice been silent —
repaid, oh, soft-eyed daughter of the son of the dead bro-
ther of our youth, a thousand times repaid by one single
tear !

Or seek you the saloon, " Grandeur's most magnificent
saloon," and mingle, mingle, mingle, with the restless and
glittering fiow of fashionable life, a sea of tossing plumes!
Why even there, you may perchance see Christopher
sitting all by himself in a nook — silent but not sad — grave
but not gloomy — critical but not censorious — in love with
the few, in liking with the many — in good-will with all.
llis gracious eye is not averted even from the flying waltz;
for, " IToni soit qui mal y pcnse," and if yours be the
heart of a man, what evil I bought can be inspired into it
by the breath of innocence! Youth is the season of love
and joy, and inhale therefore into thy inmost soul the bliss
of that balmy breath, and hug to thy inmost soul the ideal
embrace, so faint — so very faint — of that young virgin,
whose waist now thine arm is privileged blamelessly to
encircle ; for where virtue glides in all her blushing beauty,
the touch even of passion's self shall be reverential, and

A midsummer-day's dream. 177

that bright girl and bright boy shall part as they met, as
pure in thought as two doves, that happen to intersect
each other's flight, and after a kw airy evolutions in the
sunshine, flee away, each to its own place of pleasure or

Or, need we allude to ourselves sitting by the ingle-
cheek, so crouse and canty, at the sober — yea, the sober
orgies of our Noctes Ambrosiana; 1 We are no cameleons
— we neither feed on air, nor change our colour. Of
much of the Glenlivet we gulp, the parent barley is yet
unborn — the only ether we imbibe is the ether of the ima-
gination—opium, in drop or pill, touches not our lips, but

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