Page images

that made him tranquil. The author of the Seasons never tired of the country. White of Selborne never tired of it. Both found incessant occupation in watching the proceedings of the Nature they loved.

It must be observed of Thomson, however, that he lived so near town as to be able to visit it whenever he chose. His house was at beautiful Richmond. I doubt not he would have been happy anywhere with a few trees and friends; but he liked a play also, and streets, and human movement. He would fain not go so far from London as not to be able to interchange the delights of town and country. And why should anybody that can help it? The loveliest country can be found within that reasonable distance, especially in these days of railroads. You may bury yourself in as healthy, if not as wide, a solitude as if you were in the Highlands; and, in an hour or two, you can enhance the pleasures of returning to it, by a book of your own buying, or a toy for your children. To resign forever the convenience and pleasures of intercourse with a great city would be desired by few; and it would be least of all desired (except under very particular circumstances) by those who can enjoy the country most; because the power to discern, and the disposition to be pleased, are equally the secrets of the enjoyment in both cases. These, and a congenial occupation, will make a conscientious man happy anywhere if he has decent health; and if he is sickly, no earthly comforts can supply the want of them, no, not even the affection of those about him: for what is affection, if it show nothing but the good hearts of those who feel it, and is wasted on a thankless temper? Acquirement of information, benignity, something to do, and as many things as possible to love, these are the secrets of bappiness in town or country. If White of Şelborne had been a town instead of a country clergyman, he would have told us all about the birds in the city as well as the suburbs. We should have had the best reason given us why lime-trees flourish in London smoke; lists of flowers for our windows would have been furnished us, together with their times of blooming; we should have been told of the Ratopolis under ground, as well as of the dray-horses above it; and perhaps the discoverer of the double spiracula in the noses of stags would have found out the reason why tallow-chandlers have no noses at all,

Now, what sort of house would most take the fancy of readers who enjoy a book like the present? We mean for repose and comfort, apart from the nobler and severer pleasures (very rare ones) arising

from discharging the duties belonging to a large estate. Certainly pos the house belonging to such an estate ; not a house like Pliny's, the size and "set out” of which it is a labor to read of; not the cold southern halls of the Romans or Italians, unfit for this climate ; nor an ancient Greek, nor modern Eastern house, with the women's apartments imprisoned off from the rest ; nor an old French chateau (except in Mrs. Radcliffe's romances)--for though pretty to read of, as belonging to the Montmorencys or the Rambouillets, it was inconvenient inside, and had formal grounds without; nor the lumbering old German house, such as Goethe describes it, though habit and love may have sanctified all these ; no, nor even the princely palace of Chatsworth, though it be as full of taste as the owner, and of fragrance from conservatories as of blessings from the poor. Comfortable rooms, doubtless, are to be found in that palace; nay, snug ones; for the height of taste implies the height of good sense; and such a nest and corner-loving mood of the mind as that epithet designates, we may be sure is not unprovided for. Yet the corner still is in the great house ; is a part of it; cannot get rid of it; is shouldered and (of any other such mansion you might say) scorned by it. We must have been used to such houses all our lives (which is seldom the case with those whose luxuries lie in books), otherwise we cannot settle ourselves comfortably in idea to the extent and responsibilities of all those suits of apartments, those corridors, pillars, galleries, looks out and looks in, and to the visitations of the steward. It is not a house, but a set of houses thrown into one; not a nest, but a range under cover; not a privacy, but a publicity and an empire! Admiration and blessing be upon it, for it is the great house of a good man and his large heart fits it well; and yet assuredly, in the eyes of us lovers of nooks and books, the idea of him never seems so happy as when it contracts its princely dimensions, and stoops into such cottage rooms as some in which we have had the pleasure of beholding him.

But we must not digress in this manner, with an impertinence however respectful.

The house to be desiderated by the lover of books in ordinary, is a warm, cosy, picturesque, irregular house, either old but not fragile, or new but built upon some good principle; a house possessing, nevertheless, modern comforts; neither big enough to require riches, nor small enough to cause inconvenience; more open to the sun than otherwise ; yet with trees about it, and the sight of more ; a prospect on one of the sides, to give it a sense of freedom, but a closer scene in front, to insure the sense of snugness; a garden neither wild nor formal; or rather two gardens, if possible, though not of expensive size; one to remind him of the time of his ancestors, a “trim garden," with pattern beds of flowers, lavender, &c., and a terracethe other of a freer sort, with a shrubbery, and turf and trees; a bowling-green by all means; (what sane person would be without a bowling-green ?) a rookery ; a dove-cote; a brook; a paddock; a heath for air; hill and dale for variety; walks in a forest, trunks of trees for seats; towers" embosomed” in their companions ; pastures, cottages ; a town not far off; an abbey close by; mountains in the distance; a glimpse of sails in a river, but not large sails ; a combination, in short, of all which is the most

But hold. One twentieth part of all this will suffice, if the air be good, and the neighbors congenial; a cottage, an old farm-house, anything solid and not ugly, always excepting the mere modern house, which looks like a barrack, or like a workhouse, or like a chapel, or like a square box with holes cut into it for windows, or a great bít of cheese or hearth-stone, or yellow ochre. It has a gravel walk up to the door, and a bit of unhappy creeper trying to live upon it; and (under any possible circumstances of quittal) is a disgrace to inhabit.

As to the garden, the only absolute sine qua non is a few good brilliant beds of flowers, some grass, some shade, and a bank. But if there is a bee-hive in a corner it is better; and if there is a bee-hive, there ought to be a brook, provided it is clear, and the soil gravelly.

“ There, in some covert, by a brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,
Hide me from day's garish eye ;
While the bee with honied thigh,
That at her flowery work doth sing,
And the waters murmuring,
With such concert as they keep,

Entice the dewy-feather'd sleep." Beware, though, as Gray says, “ of agoes.It is good in the land of poetry, to sleep by a brook; but in Middlesex it is best to do it in one's chamber. The best place to take a nap in, out of doors, in this lovely but moist country, is a hay-field.

But we are detaining the reader from the houses and gardens provided for him by his books. What signify any others, while the enjoyment of these is upon us ? May-Fair or Saint Mary Axe can alike rejoice in them. The least luxurious room in a street, provided there be but quiet enough to read by, or imagination enough to forget one's self, enables us to be put in possession of a paradise.

We shall begin with the modest retreat desiderated by Cowley, and the eulogy which he has delivered on gardens in general. His style is as sweet and sincere as his wishes. The poetical portion of his essay is addressed to the famous English country gentleman and sylvan patriot, his friend Evelyn, who realized all and more than the sensitive poet did, because his means were greater and his complexion more healthy. But Cowley must have had delicious moments both in fancy and possession; and if there be gardens in heaven resembling those on earth (which some have thought, and which is not so unheavenly a notion as many that are held divine), his innocent heart is surely the inhabitant of one of the best of them.




NEVER had any other desire so strong, and so like to

covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life, only to the culture of them, and study of nature ;

“And there (with no design beyond my wall) whole and entire to lie,

In no unactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.”

Or, as Virgil has said, shorter and better for me, that I might there

“Studiis florere ignobilis otî ;"*

though I could wish that he had rather said, “ Nobilis otî," when he spoke of his own.

* [Take studious flower in undistinguished ease.]

Among many other arts and excellences which you enjoy, I am glad to find this favorite of mine the most predominant. I know nobody that possesses more private happiness than you do in your garden ; and yet no man who makes his happiness more public, by a free communication of the art and knowledge of it to others. All that I myself am able yet to do, is only to recommend to mankind the search of that felicity, which you instruct them how to find out and to enjoy.

Happy art thou, whom God does bless With the full choice of thine own happiness;

And happier yet, because thou’rt blest

With prudence how to choose the best.
In books and gardens, thou hast plac'd aright

(Things which thou well dost understand, And both dost make with thy laborious hand)

Thy noble innocent delight :
And in thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost meet

Both pleasures more refin’d and sweet,
The fairest garden in her looks,

And in her mind the wisest books.
Oh, who would change these soft, yet solid joys,

For empty shows, and senseless noise ;

And all which rank ambition breeds, Which seem such beauteous flowers, and are such poisonous

weeds ?

When Epicurus to the world had taught

That pleasure was the chiefest good,
(And was perhaps i' th' right, if rightly understood),

His life he to his doctrine brought,
And in a garden's shade that sovereign pleasure sought:

« PreviousContinue »