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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

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in the arrival of the owner of one of the herring-boats, of which there
were several under "the terrace." "Was you wish to go to Glyndewi,
gentlemen? I shall take you so quick as any way; she is capital wind,
and you shall have fine sail." A man who could speak such undeniable
English was in himself a treasure; for an ineffectual attempt at a
bargain for some lobsters (even with a "Welsh interpreter" in our hands)
had warned us that there were in this Christian country unknown tongues
which would have puzzled even the Rev. Edward Irving. So the bargain was
struck: in half-an-hour ourselves and traps were alongside the boat: and
after waiting ten minutes for the embarkation of Mr Sydney Dawson and
his dog Sholto, who seemed to have an abhorrence of sea-voyages,
Branling at last hauled in the latter in the last agonies of
strangulation, and his master having tumbled in over him, to the
detriment of a pair of clean whites and a cerulean waistcoat, we - _i.e._
the rest of us - set sail for Glyndewi in high spirits.

Our boatmen were intelligent fellows, and very anxious to display their
little stock of English. They knew Mr Hanmer well, they said - he had
been at Glyndewi the summer before; he was "nice free gentleman;" and
they guessed immediately the object of our pilgrimage: Glyndewi was
"very much for learning;" did not gentlemen from Oxford College, and
gentlemen from Cambridge College, all come there? We warned him not on
any account to couple us in his mind with "Cambridge gentlemen:" we were
quite a distinct species, we assured him. (They had beaten us that year
in the eight-oar match on the Thames.) But there seemed no sufficient
reason for disabusing their minds of the notion, that this influx of
students was owing to something classical in the air of Glyndewi:
indeed, supposing this theory to be wrong, it was no easy matter to
substitute a sounder one. In what did the superiority of Mrs Jenkins's
smoky parlour at Glyndewi consist, for the purposes of reading for a
degree, compared with my pleasant rooms looking into - - Gardens at
Oxford, or the governor's snug library at home? It is an abstruse
question. Parents and guardians, indeed, whose part upon the stage of
life, as upon the theatrical stage, consists principally in submitting
to be more or less humbugged, attribute surprising effects to a fancied
absence of all amusements, with a mill-horse round of Greek, Latin, and
logic, early rising, and walks in the country with a pocket Horace. From
my own experience of reading parties, I should select as their peculiar
characteristics, a tendency to hats and caps of such remarkable shapes,
as, if once sported in the college quadrangle, would be the subject of a
common-room _instanter_; and, among some individuals (whom we may call
the peripatetic philosophers of the party) a predilection for seedy
shooting-coats and short pipes, with which they perambulate the
neighbourhood to the marvel of the aboriginal inhabitants; while those
whom we may class with the stoics, display a preference for
dressing-gowns and meerschaums, and confine themselves principally to
the doorways and open windows of their respective lodgings. How far
these "helps to knowledge" - for which Oxford certainly does not afford
equal facilities - conduce to the required first or second class, is a
question I do not feel competent to decide; but _if_ reading-parties
_do_ succeed, the secret of their success may at least as probably lie
in these hitherto unregarded phenomena.

Five hours of a fair wind brought us to Glyndewi. Here we found Hanmer
and Gordon, who had taken a house for the party, and seemed already
domesticated. I cannot say that we were royally lodged; the rooms were
low, and the terms high; but as no one thought of taking lodgings at
Glyndewi in the winter, and the rats consequently lived in them
rent-free for six months, it was but fair somebody should pay: and we
did. "Attendance" we had into the bargain. Now, attendance at a
lodging-house has been defined to be, the privilege of ringing your bell
as often as you please, provided you do not expect any one to answer it.
But the bell-ropes in Mrs. Jenkins's parlours being only ornamental
appendages, our privilege was confined to calling upon the landing-place
for a red-headed female, who, when she did come, which was seldom, was
terrible to look upon, and could only be conversed with by pantomime.

To do Mrs. Jenkins and "Gwenny" justice, they were scrupulously clean in
every thing but their own persons, which, the latter's especially,
seemed to have monopolised the dirt of the whole establishment. College
bedrooms are not luxurious affairs, so we were not inclined to be
captious on that head; and we slept soundly, and awoke with a
determination to make out first voyage of discovery in a charitable
spirit.

The result of our morning's stroll was the unanimous conclusion, that
Glyndewi was a rising place. It did not seem inclined to rise at all at
once though; but in patches here and there, with a quarter of a mile or
so between, like what we read of the great sea-serpent. (I fear this
individual is no more; this matter-of-fact age has been the death of
him.) There were two long streets - one parallel to the quay, (or, as the
more refined called it, "the terrace,") and the other at right angles to
it. The first was Herring Street - the second Goose Street. At least such
were the ancient names, which I give for the benefit of antiquarian
readers. Since the then Princess Victoria visited B - - , the loyalty of
the Glyndewi people had changed "Herring" into "Victoria;" and her royal
consort has since had the equivocal compliment paid him of transmuting
"Goose Street" into "Albert Buildings." I trust it will not be
considered disloyal to say, that the original sponsors - the geese and
the herrings - seen to me to have been somewhat hardly used; having done
more for their namesakes, than, as far as I can learn, their royal
successors even promised.

Glyndewi was rising, however, in more respects than in the matter of
taste in nomenclature. Tall houses, all front and windows, were stuck up
here and there; sometimes with a low fisherman's cottage between then,
whose sinking roof and bulging walls looked as if, like the frog in the
fable, it had burst in the vain attempt to rival its majestic neighbour.
At one end stood a large hotel with a small business, and an empty
billiard-room: at the other, a wall some six inches high marked the spot
where subscription-rooms were to be built for the accommodation of
visitors and the public generally, as set forth in the prospectus, as
soon as the visitors and the public chose to find the money. Nearly the
whole of the village was the property of a gentleman who had built the
hotel and billiard-room, and run up a few lodging-houses on a
speculation, which seemed at best a doubtful one, of making it in time a
fashionable watering-place.

Glyndewi had been recommended to us as a quiet place. It was
quiet - horribly quiet. Not the quiet of green fields and deep woods, the
charm of country life; but the quiet of a teetotal supper-party, or a
college in vacation. "Just the place for reading: no gayety - no
temptations." So I had written to tell the governor, in the ardour of my
setting forth as one of a "reading-party:" alas! it was a fatal mistake.
Had it been an ordinarily cheerful place, I think one or two of us could
and should have read there; as it was, our whole wits were set to work
to enliven its dulness. It took us as long to invent an amusement, as
would have sufficed elsewhere for getting tired of half a dozen
different dissipations. The very reason which made us fix upon it as a
place to read in, proved in our case the source of unmitigated idleness.
"No temptations" indeed! there were no temptations - the only temptation
I felt there was to hang or drown myself, and there was not a tree six
feet high within as many miles, and the Dewi was a river "darkly,
deeply, beautifully" - muddy; it would have been smothering rather. We
should not have staid to the end of the first month, had it not been for
very shame; but to run away from a reading-party would have been a joke
against us for ever. So from the time we got up in the morning, until we
climbed Mrs Jenkins's domestic treadmill again at night, the one
question was, what should we do with ourselves? Walk? there were the
A - - and B - - roads - three miles of sand and dust either way. Before
us was the bay - behind the - - shire mountains, up which one might walk
some sixteen miles, (in the month of July,) and yet the same view from
each successive point you reached: viz., a hill before you, which you
thought must be the top at last, and Glyndewi - of which we knew the
number of houses, and the number of windows in each - behind. Ride then?
the two hacks kept by mine host of the Mynysnewydd Arms, deserve a
history to themselves. Rossinante would have been ashamed to be seen
grazing in the same field with such caricatures of his race. There was a
board upon a house a few doors off, announcing that "pleasure and other
boats" were to be let on hire. All the boats that we were acquainted
with must have been the "other" ones - for they smelled of herrings,
sailed at about the pace of a couple of freshmen in a "two - oar," and
gave very pretty exercise - to those who were fond of it - in baling. As
for reading, we were like the performers at a travelling theatre - always
"going to begin."

Branling, indeed, did once shut himself up in his bedroom, as we
afterwards ascertained, with a box of cigars and a black and tan
terrier, and read for three weeks on end in the peculiar atmosphere thus
created. Willingham of Christ Church, and myself, had what was called
the dining-room in common, and proceeded so far on the third day after
our arrival, as to lay out a very imposing spread of books upon all the
tables; and there it remained in evidence of our good intentions, until
the first time we were called upon to do the honours of an extempore
luncheon. Unfortunately, from the very first, Willingham and myself were
set down by Hanmer as the idle men of the party; the sort of prophetical
discrimination, which tutors at Oxford are very much in the habit of
priding themselves upon, tends, like other prophecies, to work its own
fulfilment. Did a civil Welshman favour us with a call? "Show him in to
Mr Hawthorne and Mr Willingham; I dare say they are not very
busy" - quoth our _Jupiter tonans_ from on high in the dining-room, where
he held his court; and accordingly in he came. We had Stilton and
bottled porter in charge for these occasions from the common stock; but
the honours of all these visits were exclusively our own, as far as
houseroom went. In dropped the rest of the party, one by one. Hanmer
himself pitched the Ethics into a corner to make room, as he said, for
substantials, the froth of bottled Guiness damped the eloquence of
Cicero, and Branling having twisted up my analysis of the last-read
chapter into a light for his cigar, there was an end of our morning's
work. How could we read? That was what we always said, and there was
some truth in it.

Mr Branling's reading fit was soon over too; and having cursed the
natives for barbarians, because there was not a pack of harriers within
ten miles, which confirmed him in the opinion he had always expressed of
their utter want of civilization, (for, as he justly remarked, not one
in a dozen could even speak decent English,) he waited impatiently for
September, when he had got leave from some Mr Williams or Jones, I never
remembered which, to shoot over a considerable range about Glyndewi.

But with the 20th of August, a change came over the spirit of our dream.
Hitherto we had seen little of any of the neighbouring families,
excepting that of a Captain George Phillips, who, living only three
miles off, on the bank of the river, and having three sons and two
daughters, and keeping a pretty yacht, had given us a dinner party or
two, and a pleasant day's sail. Capital fellows were the young
Phillipses: Nature's gentlemen; unsophisticated, hearty Welshmen; lads
from sixteen to twenty. Down they used to come, in a most dangerous
little craft of their own, which went by the name of the "Coroner's
Inquest," to smoke cigars, (against which the Captain had published an
interdict at home,) and question us about Oxford larks, and tell us in
return stories of wild-fowl shooting, otter hunting, and salmon fishing,
in all which they were proficient.

Our establishment was not an imposing one, but of them we made no
strangers. Once they came, I remember, self-invited to dinner, in a most
unfortunate state of our larder. The weekly half sheep had not arrived
from B - - ; to get any thing in Glyndewi, beyond the native luxuries of
bacon and herrings, was hopeless; and our dinner happened to be a leash
of fowls, of which we had just purchased a live supply. Mrs Glasse would
have been in despair; we took it coolly; to the three boiled fowls at
top, we added three roast ditto at bottom, and by unanimous consent of
both guests and entertainers, a more excellent dinner was never put on
table.

But the 20th of August! the day of the Glyndewi regatta! _that_ must
have a chapter to itself.


CHAPTER II.

When a dull place like Glyndewi does undertake to be gay, it seldom does
things by halves. Ordinary doses of excitement fail to meet the urgency
of the case. It was the fashion, it appeared, for all the country
families of any pretensions to _ton_, and not a few of the idlers from
the neighbouring watering-places, to be at Glyndewi for the race-week.
And as far as the programme of amusements went, certainly the committee
(consisting of the resident surgeon, the non-resident proprietor of the
"hotel," &c., and a retired major in the H.E.I.C.'s service, called by
his familiars by the endearing name of "Tiger Jones") had made a
spirited attempt to meet the demand. A public breakfast, and a regatta,
and a ball - a "Full Dress and Fancy Ball," the advertisement said, on
the 20th a Horse-Race; and an Ordinary on the 21st; a Cricket Match, if
possible, and any extra fun which the Visitors' own genius might strike
out on the following days.

The little bay of Glyndewi was not a bad place for a boat-race on a
small scale. The "terrace" commanded the whole of it; there were plenty
of herring-boats, about equally matched in sailing deficiencies, ready
and willing to "run" - _i.e._ creep - for the prizes; and an honourable
member of the Yacht Club, who for some years past, for reasons which it
was said his creditors could explain, had found it more convenient to
keep his season at B - - than at Cowes, always paid the stewards the
compliment of carrying off the "Ladies' Challenge Cup."

The two or three years' experience which the Glyndewi people had lately
gained of the nature and habits of "the Oxonians," made them an article
in great demand on these occasions. Mammas and daughters agreed in
looking upon us as undeniable partners in the ballroom, while the
sporting men booked us as safe for getting up a creditable four-oar,
with a strong probability of finding a light weight willing to risk his
neck and reputation at a hurdle-race. Certain it is, that from the time
the races began to be seriously talked about, we began to feel ourselves
invested with additional importance. "Tiger Jones" (who occupied a snug
little box about a mile out of Glyndewi, where he lived upon cheroots
and brandy and water) called, was exceedingly polite, apologized for not
inviting us to dinner - a thing he declared impossible in his
quarters - hoped we would call some day and take a lunch with him, spoke
with rapture of the capital crew which "the gentlemen who were studying
here last summer" had made up, and which ran away from all competitors,
and expressed a fervent hope that we should do likewise.

The sporting surgeon (of course he had called upon us long ago)
redoubled his attentions, begged that if any of us were cricketers we
would endeavour to aid him in getting up a "Glyndewi eleven" against the
"Strangers," and fixed himself upon me as an invaluable acquisition,
when he found I had actually once played in a match against Marylebone.
(I did not tell him that the total score of my innings was "_one_.")
Would I, then, at once take the drilling of as many recruits as he could
get together? And would Mr Willingham and Mr Gordon, who "used to play
at school," get up their practice again? (It wanted about a fortnight to
the races.) The result of this, and sundry other interviews, was, that
Branling at length found a vent for the _vis inertiæ_ in putting us all,
with the exception of Mr Sydney Dawson, whom he declared to be so stiff
in the back that he had no hope of him, into training for a four-oar;
and the surgeon and myself set off in his gig for B - - , to purchase
materials for cricket.

It is true, that our respected tutor did look more than usually grave,
and shook his head with a meaning almost as voluminous as Lord
Burleigh's, when informed of our new line of study. Rowing he declared
to be a most absurd expenditure of time and strength; he never could see
the fun of men breaking bloodvessels, and getting plucked for their
degree, for the honour of "the Trinity Boat." But the cricket touched
him on the raw. He was an old Etonian, and had in his time been a good
player; and was now as active as any stout gentleman of
seven-and-thirty, who had been twelve years a steady admirer of bursary
dinners and common-room port. So, after some decent scruples on his
part, and some well-timed compliments touching his physical abilities on
ours, (he was much vainer of the muscle of his arm than of his high
reputation as a scholar,) we succeeded in drawing from him a sort of
promise, that if we were so foolish as to get up a match, he would try
whether he had forgot all about bowling.

For the next fortnight, therefore, we had occupation enough cut out for
us. Branling was unmerciful in his practice on the river; and
considering that two of us had never pulled an oar but in the slowest of
"Torpids," we improved surprisingly under his tuition. The cricket, too,
was quite a new era in our existence. Davson (we told him that the
"Sydney" must be kept for Sundays) was a perfect fund of amusement in
his zealous practice. He knew as much about the matter as a cow might,
and was rather less active. But if perseverance could have made a
cricketer, he would have turned out a first-rate one. Not content with
two or three hours of it every fine evening, when we all sallied down to
the marsh, followed by every idler in Glyndewi, he used to disappear
occasionally in the mornings, and for some days puzzled us as to where
and how he disposed of himself. We had engaged, in our corporate
capacity, the services of a most original retainer, who cleaned boots,
fetched the beer, eat the cold mutton, and made himself otherwise useful
when required. He was amphibious in his habits, having been a
herring-fisher the best part of his life; but being a martyr to the
rheumatism, which occasionally screwed him up into indescribable forms,
had betaken himself to earning a precarious subsistence as he could on
shore. It was not often that we required his services between breakfast
and luncheon, but one morning, after having dispatched Gwenny in all
directions to hunt for Bill Thomas in vain, we at last elicited from her
that "may-be she was gone with Mr Dawson." Then it came out, to our
infinite amusement, that Dawson was in the habit, occasionally, of
impressing our factotum Bill to carry bat, stumps, and ball down to the
marsh, and there commencing private practice on his own account.

Mr Sydney Dawson and Bill Thomas - the sublime and the
ridiculous - amalgamating at cricket, was far too good a joke to lose; so
we got Hanmer to cut his lecture short, and come down with us to the
scene of action. From the cover of a sandbank, we had a view of all that
was going on in the plain below. There was our friend at the wicket,
with his coat off, and the grey spectacles on, in an attitude which it
must have taken him some study to accomplish, and Bill, with the ball in
his hand, vociferating "Plaiy." A ragged urchin behind the wicket,
attempting to bag the balls as Dawson missed them in what had once been
a hat, and Sholto looking on with an air of mystification, completed the
picture.

"That's too slow," said Sydney, as Bill, after some awful contortions,
at length delivered himself of what he called "a cast." "_Diawl!_" said
Bill, _sotto voce_, as he again got possession of the ball. "That's too
high," was the complaint, as with an extraordinary kind of jerk, it
flew some yards over the batsman's head, and took what remained of the
crown out of the little lazzaroni's hat behind. "_Diawl!_" quoth Bill
again, apologetically, "She got too much way on her that time." Bill was
generally pretty wide of his mark, and great appeared to be the
satisfaction of all parties when Dawson contrived to make a hit, and
Sholto and the boy set off after the ball, while the striker leaned with
elegant _nonchalance_ upon his bat, and Bill mopped his face, and gave
vent to a complimentary varety of "Diawl." It was really a pity to
interrupt the performance; but we did at last. Bill looked rather
ashamed of his share in the business when he saw "Mishtar," as he called
Hanmer; but Dawson's self-complacency and good-humour carried him
through every thing. "By Jove," said Willingham to him, "no wonder you
improve in your style of play; Bill has no bad notion of bowling, has
he?" "Why, no; he does very well for practice; and he is to have
half-a-crown if he gets me out." "Bowl at his legs, Bill," said
Willingham aside, "he's out, you know, if you hit them." "Nay," said
Bill, with a desponding shake of the head, "She squat'n hard on the knee
now just, and made'n proper savage, but I wasn't get nothing for that."

Positively we did more in the way of reading after the boating and the
cricket began, than while we continued in a state of vagrant idleness,
without a fixed amusement of any kind. In the first place, it was
necessary to conciliate Hanmer by some show of industry in the morning,
in order to keep him in good humour for the cricket in the evening; for
he was decidedly the main hope of our having any thing like a decent
eleven. Secondly, the Phillipses took to dining early at home, and
coming to practice with us in the evening, instead of dropping down the
river every breezy morning, and either idling in our rooms, or beguiling
us out mackerel-fishing or flapper-shooting in their boat. And thirdly,
it became absolutely necessary that we should do something, if class
lists and examiners had any real existence, and were not mere bugbears
invented by "alma mater" to instil a wholesome terror into her unruly
progeny. Really, when one compared our actual progress with the Augean
labour which was to be gone through, it required a large amount of faith
to believe that we were all "going up for honours in October."

We spent a very pleasant morning at Llyn-eiros, the den of "Tiger
Jones." He obtained this somewhat appalling soubriquet from a habit of
spinning yarns, more marvellous than his unwarlike neighbours were
accustomed to, of the dangers encountered in his Indian sports; and one
in particular, of an extraordinary combat between his "chokedar" and a
tiger - whether the gist of the story lay in the tiger's eating the
chokedar, or the chokedar eating the tiger, I am not sure - I rather
think the latter. However, in Wales one is always glad to have some
distinguishing appellation to prefix to the name of Jones. If a man's
godfathers and godmothers have the forethought to christen him
"Mountstewart Jones," or "Fitzhardinge Jones," (I knew such instances of
cognominal anticlimax,) then it was all very well - no mistake about the
individuality of such fortunate people. But "Tom Joneses" and "Bob
Joneses" were no individuals at all. They were classes, and large
classes; and had to be again distinguished into "Little Bob Joneses" and
"Long Bob Joneses." Or if there happened to be nothing sufficiently
characteristic in the personal appearance of the rival Joneses, then was
he fortunate who had no less complimentary additions to his style and
title than what might be derived from the name of his location, or the
nature of his engagements. These honours were often hereditary - nay,
sometimes descended in the female line. We hear occasionally, in
England, of "Mrs Doctor Smith," and "Mrs Major Brown;" and absurd as it
is, one does comprehend by intuition that it was the gentleman and not


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Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 3 of 23)