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THE POETRY OF TRAVEL.
and its loveliness is none the less though so little famed or known or painted now.
The horn was in frequent requisition at the many sharp corners, for the way was narrow, the night coming on, and country people are much given to drive in such parts lampless and recklessly, trusting to the little traffic to meet no one. But these turnings and twistings of the road were suggestive of all sorts of pleasant possibilities. We had always the unknown before us; fresh prospects were ever opening out, each one seeming, if such could be, even more beautiful than the preceding. And what can be more delightful than driving through a pretty unfamiliar country in the peaceful gloaming, when the softened light spiritualises the landscape, when the meaner things are hidden in a vague uncertainty, and a glamour of mystery is over all ? Such a drive is the very poetry of travel.
Past half-timbered homes of ancient date, and prosperous - looking, rick - surrounded farmsteads, whose windows gleamed in the golden light ; past old windmills, whose great sails stood out like gigantic outstretched arms darkly silhouetted against the luminous sky; past red-roofed cottages, fragrant with the smell of burning wood, our way led us, till just as the light was fading from land and sky we reached the little town of Hadleigh, and pulled up there before the hospitable door of the ancient and one-time famous White Lion.
Our hostel proved to be a delightful example of the old-fashioned English inn, and the worthy landlord (who told us that he had been there for over twenty-four years) was an excellent specimen of ‘mine host' — civil, obliging, good - natured and chatty. Upon entering this ancient inn we were delightfully surprised to find ourselves in a glassroofed courtyard, with galleries running around covered with clematis, and here and there were flowers and ferns in pots.
Not always does it fall to the lot of the weary traveller to come upon such a pleasant, homely hostel at the end of his day's pilgrimage. In this courtyard, in former times, we were told that the Mystery Plays were performed before large audiences gathered from far and near. At the back of our inn we discovered in the morning a pleasant garden and bowling-green, in which we smoked our after-breakfast pipe and glanced at our guide-book to see what it had to say respecting Hadleigh. We found that it was very full of the past history of the place down to the times of the Saxons, but of the information generally desired by the traveller contained very little, and some even of that little we afterwards discovered to
A charming little countrified town is Hadleigh, full of interesting old houses, many bearing plain evidence of past prosperity, for long years ago Hadleigh was an important seat of the woollen trade. Early in the fourteenth century a large body of Flemings settled here, and to this day the names of the villages around, such as Kersey, Linsey, bear testimony to the former extent of its manufacturing interests by the terms, still retained, that they gave to special products of the loom. And these old
A FINISHED TOWN.
Hadleigh merchants built for themselves enduring homes, beautified them with carvings, adorned their fronts with graceful or quaint devices and many a painted legend. They built for permanency in those times, not for a temporary resting-place; they sought for beauty, too, as well as permanency, cared for it, expected it, obtained it; and though the ancient town has lost its former prosperity, and seems to have fallen into a deep sleep never to waken more, the quaint and picturesque houses still stand, though, alas! some have been more or less damaged by time and others ruined beyond recall by being refronted with little or no feeling for the work of the past.
Yes, in truth a pleasant little town is Hadleigh. I know not a more attractive one, possessing as it does a delightful air of mellowness and old-time calm, so grateful and rare in this busy money-making age.
A town it is that has felt less than most such places the levelling influence of nineteenth-century progress, with all its ugliness and slavish uniformity. It is unspoilt by villas, terraces, or residences eligibly situated (with every modern convenience, but inconvenient withal), and shops of stucco and plate-glass are agreeably 'conspicuous by their absence,' neither has it any scattered outskirts invading the pleasant green fields around. A more charming town to ramble in there could not be; it is full of interest, and abounds in pictures offering a wealth of subjects for the painter or etcher.
These men of old, it is manifest, built first of all for comfort and convenience, then they lovingly decorated their houses. They did not stick on ornaments here and there without reason, as we do now, and deem such a proceeding artistic, nor did they see any beauty in meaningless projections, serving no useful purpose, with which the modern architect covers our walls, adding these merely for effect and but too plainly betraying their origin. Say what we will, such things are mere excrescences; it is a kind of decoration that does not decorate, an ornamentation that does not adorn,' and profits nothing save the builder's purse.
These men of old built dwellings for themselves and as it best pleased them, so these past-time homes are distinctly individual, full of character, and consequently delightful to look upon. A house then was made for the man, not man made to suit the house. The custom that now obtains of building houses by the dozen or fifties or more, in rows or terraces, each one as like the other as peas in a pod, happily did not then prevail.
These old towns charm us so because of the variety and thoughtful intention of their buildings. Each house is different in design and in detail, even the very materials of which they are constructed vary to a greater or less extent; some are partly or wholly of brick, others are of stone (and the stone again varies in kind from free-stone hewn or rough to flints rounded or square cut), others are halftimbered, others still are weather-tiled or have pargetted fronts, and so forth. Then of necessity these old houses differ in height, in projection of front and pitch of gable, causing a changeful play of light and shade in all these ins and outs; the
AN ODDLY BUILT STREET.
windows and doorways too vary in size, shape, and design ; moreover the sky-line is charmingly diversified with clustering chimneys, roofs, and dormer casements ; nowhere is there any sameness of repeated outline to weary the eye. In startling contrast all this with the formal rows of residences that the modern builder gives us, with all their wearisome monotony of multiplied forms, and ornamental details machine-produced by the million.
As we sauntered along the ancient streets of Hadleigh, we could not help feeling what a pleasant town it must have been in the heyday of its prosperity (not but that it is a pleasant one still), but thriving manufacturing towns in these times hardly strike the observer as being either agreeable or beautiful. Hadleigh was both. Commercial towns in the olden days were not the ugly and commonplace collection of factories, tall chimneys, and smoke-stained houses they now are.
We have unlearnt the lesson of combining utility with beauty. The steam-engine and huge factory have necessitated the crowding of workmen into large towns, towns of wretched slums, whose air is smoke and sulphur-laden and whose rivers are blackened with filth. In this competitive age the demand is for an article as cheap as it can possibly be produced, no thought is given as to the method of production or its consequences. What a contrast the smoke-stained collection of factories of to-day with the sunny, artistic towns of two centuries ago, bright, cheerful, and delightful though commercial; but nous avons changé tout cela, and more's the pity. We are now