« AnkstesnisTęsti »
nothing of serious import, unless fully borne out by ancient reference; and, to the second, that I admit that the public have nothing to do with this history, save as it may bear a character of general interest for a large circle of those, who, from private friendship, or intimate acquaintance with the locality of the story, are in some way connected with the incidents I have endeavoured to describe, which, throughout, are founded upon history, or carefully gathered from private MSS., accumulated in successive generations since the time of the Conquest, and retained with the greatest care in the Evidence-house at Berkeley Castle.
Without a vain attempt, therefore, to court the smiles of a critic, which (like the folly of the political leaders of a certain liberal party, endeavouring to soften the hostility of their phalanxed enemies by useless civility) would be but words and time worse than thrown away, I shall at once disclaim the hacknied wish to propitiate the severe, and only hope that I may succeed in amusing those, whose liberal qualities of head and heart, predis
pose them to regard an attempt of this description, as one, even rather to be patronized in its failure, than harshly condemned because it does not soar to that triumphant eminence on which the ambition of its author may have wished to place it.
Bound then on a journey to the home of my fathers, Reader, I invite thee to accompany me. Whether thou art one of those galled and gaping critics, whose snarl is ready for every thing and every body; whether, instead, thou art a friendly soul, whose spirit teems with milk and honey; or, though last, not least, if thou art one of the fairer specimens of Nature's goodliest work—a lovely girl or handsome woman, I bid a welcome seat within my carriage to each and all alike.
Thus have we left the ancient City of Gloucester nearly an hour ago. The roads are level, and lightly doth the chariot roll by the heaps of blue and red stone lying by the way-side, broken and ready for use. The gentle shower, just fallen, has caused yon hay-makers to group together beneath the spreading oaks, or under the thickly clustered elms, which
crowd every hedge-row, and has laid the dust of the merry month of June. From the open windows we inhale the thankful sigh of refreshened Nature, and the delicious perfume of the new-mown hay; while the distant lowing of the dairy drove, and the more immediate and surrounding minstrelsy of the feathered tribe, who seem to hold a concert in every twining hedge, pour that sensation of earthly paradise into our souls, which the thronged palaces and selfish sounds of man are alone sufficient to destroy. Yonder, to the right, winds the red and rapid Severn, but now concealed from our view, on the spot we so immediately occupy, by the leafy verdure of the trees; while beyond, and in the distance, you may see the blue hills of the Dean Forest; and further yet, in our rear, the Malvern Mountains, rising in comparatively solitary magnificence.
We are now passing over Wickster's Bridge, and are distant from Gloucester ten miles. Right and left the Castle Estate begins, and we soon enter the village of Slimbridge. Frocester and Selsley Hills lie upon our left; and, further on, the steep sides of
Stinchcomb appear, as also the nearer and smaller eminence of Taitshill, gradually subverging into the grassy vale through which we have for many miles been proceeding.
So we have reached and passed through Nubbesashe Turnpike, (it used to be the boundary of my rides, when first permitted to mount a pony). A smooth level road, with rich green fields on either side, conducts us to, and then over, Berkeley Heath, and we soon see the Castle plantations; through an opening in yonder grove of tall trees, the flagstaff on the tower appears, its banner lowered, the head of the family not being present. As we approach, buttress after buttress, and turret on turret, break forth from among the leafy monarchs of the soil, till the grey outline of the old building stands confessed in a most picturesque point of view. You remark that the castle does not appear to be so strongly situated, but wait and your opinion will be altered.
We now ascend the hill into the town, and, for the present, lose sight of the Castle. Taking the first street that leads to the left, in a few minutes the
fine old church and its detached tower are visible, the latter at one extremity of the church-yard, adjoining a garden, ever to be equally regarded as sacred ground, from the fact, that there used to reside one who conferred a greater benefit on mankind than ever was dispensed by mortal; and in whose death not only the world at large, but private society, as well as the sciences of geology, anatomy, and pathology, lost their brightest ornament-it scarcely need be added, that this garden surrounds the house of the late and deeply lamented Dr. Jenner.
Making a short turn again to the left, round a sharp angle of the walled gardens, we ascend to the castle by a steep approach to the outer gateway, or porter's lodge, where used to be the drawbridge and portcullis, and have thus gained the outer court. Passing thence through another gateway, we halt at the steps of a door on the right hand, the moment we have gained the inner court, and are there received by domestics, some of whom have numbered more than forty years in the service of the family.