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A PICTURESQUE VILLAGE.
observed some picturesque half-timbered cottages here that give a pleasing individuality to the place. The clustering village homes, both great and small, are happily and effectually grouped, the outcome of accident, but none the less delightful for that ; an artist could scarcely of set purpose have grouped them better—if as well. The light and shade too, caused by the irregular building of the cottages, added greatly to the picture. A square house 'with no nonsense about it,' and no homelike beauty either for that matter, no suggestiveness of cosy rooms in odd corners—an uncompromising square house, standing either singly by itself or in a terrace, how flat and uninteresting it seems for want of the changeful play of light and shade, varying each hour as the sun goes round! So well did the builders of old understand and strive for the picturesque relief caused by light and shade, that often you will find in their houses the carvings upon the north side, where there is less sun, to be bolder and deeper cut than on the others; partially for this purpose also they sought for irregularity, and were careful to avoid studied uniformity.
A few more miles, without much of particular interest on the way, brought us to the cheerful-looking village of Broomfield, which is built around a pleasant green. This village playground was in the possession of a happy, laughing group of children, whose sun-tanned faces contrast so with the pale visages of the little ones in the London alleys and slums, with only the roadway and thronged pavement for their sports. How much better the working
man's family are off in the country, with a village green to romp upon, or perhaps even the more extensive common to run and chase each other over, with sometimes fields to wander about, and blackberrying, nutting, and birdsnesting all in their season ! Even the poorestcotter's child in the country has the benefit of breathing the fresh air that, at any rate, belongs to rich and needy alike. The quaint old church here stands at one end of
Its massive flint tower is round ; it was like coming unexpectedly upon an old friend to see a round tower again (such a familiar feature to us in the Norfolk landscape). This is manifestly of great antiquity, and we were surprised to find one of so uncommon a form in these parts. The body of the church appeared completely restored, but, with the exception of an added steeple, the tower has apparently suffered but little change.
The churchyard here has a cared-for look that pleased us much ; ornamental trees are planted in it; the tombstones are not given wholly over to decay ; the gravel walks are well kept. If not ‘so beautiful as to make one in love with death,' at least it has not that melancholy, depressing appearance that many country churchyards have, with their rank grass, moss-grown tombstones, and neglected, weedy paths, often these leading right over some memorial slab, the inscription effaced, the very stone worn concave by the tread of the heedless living.
The village 'public' at Broomfield bears the grand title of the Royal Arms '--the first time, as
A DUSTY ROAD.
far as our recollection serves, that we have noticed this sign.
The country still continued to charm us by its quiet pastoral beauty, but the road became dusty, and the freshening wind blew the dust about, so that we did not enjoy that portion of our drive as much as we otherwise should. Strangely enough, considering that England has the reputation of being a rainy country, we have found, during our many driving tours over almost every portion of it, dust rather than wet to be the greatest drawback to our pleasure. This indeed, I think I may safely say, was the one 'fly in our ointment. You may shelter from a sudden shower under some spreading trees, but dust you cannot avoid.
Driving on, we arrived at the decayed market town of Writtle, an exceedingly picturesque little place, almost indeed justifying the term quaint, consisting as it does of many curious and charming old houses, bordering an extensive green, which green is enlivened by a large sheet of water. The church here is a large edifice, much restored-a mixture, muddle rather should I say, of various architectural styles unhappily combined. The builders of old, when they repaired a fane or enlarged one, were careful to harmonise the new with the ancient; they added a chapter to its history in stone rather than took away from it. The spirit in which they worked is gone.
Even when we do condescend to restore a building on the old lines, we lamentably fail for want of the skilled mediæval craftsman ; we are mechanical copyists merely, and ' no process of copying can produce artistic results, unless the animating creative faculty impress the work with the personality of the artist.'
The tower of the church is a massive nondescript structure, massive without being grand, great without being impressive. It was rebuilt in the
of grace–I cannot add taste-1802, as a bold inscription upon it declares. The modern restorer need not have been so careful to assert the authorship of his production ; even without this inscription, I should never have given the ancient builders credit for such a tasteless piling up of stones.
The church is better viewed from a distance; a nearer inspection of it is not inspiriting; it is, however, serviceable as a foil to enhance the simple picturesqueness of the charming old half-timber and plaster cottages that cluster around it-cottages that have retained their ancient picturesqueness unchanged, in spite of the changeful times.
Writtle possesses a genuine old-world flavour. As we wandered about the sleepy little place, making a sketch of a quaint gable here and a quaint chimney or curious bit of architecture there, it was difficult to realise that really we were in this practical and pushing age, so did the primitive peacefulness of the unprogressive place impress us. It seemed almost as though by some strange magic we had awakened from a long slumber, a sort of reversed Rip van Winkle's sleep, and found ourselves with the hand of Time turned back two centuries. The country round about Writtle contains some very interesting old houses. Near to the town may be seen a piece of
AN ESSEX LANDSCAPE.
land, of an acre or more in extent, surrounded by a moat. Here, tradition has it, King John built himself a palace in the year 1211. But whether the tradition rests upon any foundation of fact, I know not.
We now entered upon a long level stretch of country-by level I mean that such was the general impression it gave us, not that it was absolutely or relatively “as flat as a billiard-table,' as some one somewhere has wrongfully termed Essex ; though I am sure as to the correctness of the quotation, who made it, and where, I cannot at the moment recall. I wish that the people who write so glibly about English scenery would sometimes take the trouble to see it first. Compared with Derbyshire or Yorkshire, Essex is tolerably level ; compared with Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire, it might even be considered hilly, taken as a whole. Three-fourths, by rough guess-work, of our road through Essex, both coming and going, was either undulating or positively hilly. So much for preconceived notions !
If the country we passed through for the time was a level one, it was none the less pleasant for that. The sunny landscape that lay stretched out on either side of us, with its scattered villages, frequent prosperous-looking farmsteads, and pretty cottages, gave us the feeling of homely repose. Placid cows were contentedly feeding knee-deep in the rich green grass, or lazily chewing the cud under the shelter of great branching elms, switching away the flies meanwhile with their long tails. Now we passed a meadow golden with buttercups—an English gold-field this !-- now a rustic stile with a