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In leaving them, however, we cannot but point somewhat outgrew that of the works of loflier or. attention to the happy choice of their subjects, and der, proceeding from the same pen—that young in doing this, may venture a remark or two which writers, English and American, began to imitate will lead us on to the works by which Miss Mit. so artless and charming a manner of narration; ford is most widely known-her sketches of coun- and that an obscure Berkshire hamlet, by the try life and scenery. Among the characteristics magic of talent and kindly feeling, was converted which eminently distinguish female authorship, into a place of resort and interest for not a few of it has often struck us, that there is none more the finest spirits of the age. certain and striking than an instinctive quickness It should, perhaps, be owned in speaking of of discovery and happiness in working out avail. these village sketches, that their writer enamels able subjects and fresh veins of fancy. At least, too brightly — not the hedge-rows and the ineaif we travel through the domains of lighter litera- dow-streains, the orchards and the cottage garture during the last fitty years, we shall find dens, for who could exceed nature ? — but the enough to prove our assertion. We shall find the figures which people the scene; that her country supernatural romance growing into eminence boys and village girls are too refined, too constantly under the hands of Anna Radcliffe-the national turned “to favour and to prettiness." But this tale introduced to the public by Miss Edgeworth flattery only shows to us the health and benevoand Lady Morgan--the historical novel by Miss lence of mind belonging to the writer; nor would Lee and the Miss Porters the story of domestic it be just to count it as a fault, unless we also life, with commonplace persons for its actors, were to denounce Crabbe as an unfaithful painter brought to its last perfection by Miss Austen. of English life and scenery, because, with a tenWe shall find “ Kenilworth” anticipated by the dency diametrically opposite, he lingers like a “Recess" (a tale strangely forgotten,) and “ Wer. lover in the workhouse and the hovel, and dwells ner," owing not only its origin, but its very dia- rather upon decay, and meanness, and misery, logue to “Kruitzner"-and the stories of « Fos- than the prosperity and charity and comfort with cari” and “Rienzi,” ere they fell into the hands which their gloom is so largely chequered. He of Byron and Bulwer, fixed upon with a happy may be called the Caravaggio, Miss Milford the boldness by the authoress under notice. But the Claude, of village life in England; and the truth claims of Miss Mitford to swell the list of inven. lies between them. Both, however, are remark. tors, rest upon yet firmer grounds; they rest upon able for the purity and selectness of their lun. those exquisite sketches by which-their scenery guage; both paint with words, in a manner as all, and their characters half real -- she has cre- faithful as it is significant. Crabbe should be re. ated a school of writing, homely but not gar, served for those bright moments when the too familiar but not breeding contempt, (in this point buoyant spirits require a chastener, a memento of alone not resembling the highly finished pictures the days of darkness;" Miss Mitford resorted to of the Dutch school,) wherein the small events in hours of depression and misgiving, wien any and the simple characters of rural life, are made book bearing an olive-branch to tell us that there interesting by the truth and sprightliness with is fair weather abroad, is a blessed visitant. which they are represented.
After publishing five volumes of these charm. Every one now knows “Our Village," and every ing sketches, a wider field for the same descripone knows that the nooks and corners, the haunts tive powers was found in a small market-town, and copses so delightfully described in its pages, its peculiarities and its inhabitants,—and “ Bel. will be found in the immediate neighbourhood of ford Regis" was written. But the family likeness Reading, and more especially around “ Three between this work and “Our Village" is so strong Mile Cross," a cluster of cottages on the Basing- as to spare us the necessity of dwelling upon its stoke road, in one of which our authoress has features. And now our record may be closed, as now resided for many years. But so little was it is not permitted to us to dwell upon the private the peculiar and original excellence of her descrip- pleasures and cares of an uneventful life, spent tions understood, in the first instance, that, after for the most part in a “labourer's cottage, with a having gone the round of rejection through the duchess's flower-garden.” We should mention, more important periodicals, they at last saw the however, the recent addition of Miss Mittord's light in no worthier publication than the Lady's name to the pension-list, as one among many Magazine. But the series of rural pictures grew, gratifying proofs, that literature is increasingly and the venture of collecting them into a separate becoming an object of care and protection to volume was tried. The public began to relish the statesmen, and that in this much-stigmatized style so fresh yet so finished, to enjoy the delicate world, talent and self-sacrifice do not always pass humour and the simple pathos of the tales; and on their way unsympathized with or unrecog. the end was, that the popularity of these sketches nized.
SKETCHES OF RURAL CHARACTER AND SCENERY.
one feels an interest in us.
How pleasant it is to slide into these true-hearted feelings
from the kindly and unconscious influence of The following pages contain an attempt to habit, and to learn to know and to love the delineate country scenery and country man- people about us, with all their peculiarities, pers, as they exist in a small village in the just as we learn to know and to love the south of England. The writer may at least nooks and turns of the shady lanes and sunny claim the merit of a hearty love of her subject, books I like a confined locality, and so do the
commons that we pass every day. Even in and of that local and personal familiarity, critics when they talk of the unities. Nothing which only a long residence in one neighbour- is so tiresome as to be whirled half over hood could have enabled her to attain. Her Europe at the chariot wheels of a hero, to go descriptions have always been written on the to sleep at Vienna, and awaken at Madrid ; spot, and at the moment, and in nearly every On the other hand, nothing is so delightful as
it produces a real fatigue, a weariness of spirit. instance with the closest and most resolute to sit down in a country village in one of fidelity to the place and the people. If she Miss Austen's delicious novels, quite sure be accused of having given a brighter aspect before we leave it to become intimate with to her villagers than is usually met with in every spot and every person it contains; or books, she cannot help it, and would not if
to ramble with Mr. White † over his own she could. She has painted, as they appeared parish of Selborne, and form a friendship with
the fields and coppices, as well as with the to her, their little frailties and their many birds, mice, and squirrels, who inhabit them; virtues, under an intense and thankful con- or to sail with Robinson Crusoe to his island, viction, that in every condition of life, good and live there with him and his goats and his ness and happiness may be found by those man Friday ;-how much we dread any new who seek them, and never more surely than comers, any fresh importation of savage or
sailor! we never sympathise for moment in in the fresh air, the shade, and the sunshine
our hero's want of company, and are quite of nature.
grieved when he gets away ;-or to be shipwrecked with Ferdinand on that other lovelier
island—the island of Prospero, and Miranda, OUR VILLAGE.
and Caliban, and Ariel, and nobody else, none
of Dryden's exotic inventions ;-that is best Or all situations for a constant residence,
of all. And a small neighbourhood is as that which appears to me most delightful is good in sober waking reality as in poetry or a little village far in the country; a small prose; a village neighbourhood, such as this neighbourhood, not of fine mansions finely
Berkshire Hamlet in which I write, a long, peopled, but of cottages and cottage-like straggling winding street at the bottom of a houses, “messuages or tenements," as a friend abounding in carts, horsemen, and carriages,
fine eminence, with a road through it, always of mine calls such ignoble and nondescript and lately enlivened by a stage-coach from dwellings, with inhabitants whose faces are
Bas familiar to us as the flowers in our garden; about ten days ago, and will I suppose return
to S which passed through a little world of our own, close-packed and insulated like ants in an ant-hill
, or bees in a varieties now-a-days; perhaps this may be
some time or other. There are coaches of all hive, or sheep in a fold, or nuns in a convent, intended for a monthly diligence, or a fortnight or sailors in a ship; where we know every one, are known to every one, interested in
+ White's Natural History and Antiquities of Selevery one, and authorised to hope that every borne ; one of the most fascinating books ever written.
I wonder that no naturalist has adopted the same • To the first volume, as originally published. plan.
fly. Will you walk with me through our like an hospital; he has purchased the lease village, courteous reader? The journey is of his commodious dwelling, some even say not long. We will begin at the lower end, that he has bought it out and out; and he has and proceed up the hill.
only one pretty daughter, a light, delicate, The tidy, square, red cottage on the right fair-haired girl of fourteen, the champion, hand, with the long well-stocked garden by protectress, and playfellow of every brat under the side of the road, belongs to a retired pub- three years old, whom she jumps, dances, lican from a neighbouring town; a substantial dandles, and feeds all day long. A very atperson with a comely wife; one who piques tractive person is that child-loving girl. I himself on independence and idleness, talks have never seen any one in her station who politics, reads newspapers, hates the minister, possessed so thoroughly that undefinable and cries out for reform. He introduced into charm, the lady-look. See her on a Sunday our peaceable vicinage the rebellious innova- in her simplicity and her wbite frock, and she tion of an illumination on the queen's acquittal. might pass for an earl's daughter. She likes i Remonstrance and persuasion were in vain; flowers too, and has a profusion of white he talked of liberty and broken windows, stocks under her window, as pure and delicate so we all lighted up. Oh! how he shone as herself. that night with candles and laurel, and white The first house on the opposite side of the bows, and gold paper, and a transparency way is the blacksmith's; a gloomy dwelling, (originally designed for a pocket handker- where the sun never seems to shine; dark chief) with a flaming portrait of her Majesty, and sinoky within and without, like a forge. hatted and feathered, in red ochre. He had The blacksmith is a high officer in our little no rival in the village, that we all acknow-state, nothing less than a constable: but, ledged; the very bonfire was less splendid ; alas ! alas! when tumults arise, and the conthe little boys reserved their best crackers to stable is called for, he will commonly be be expended in his honour, and he gave them found in the thickest of the fray. Lucky full sixpence more than any one else. He would it be for his wife and her eight children would like an illumination once a month; for if there were no public-house in the land : an it must not be concealed that, in spite of gar- inveterate inclination to enter those bewitchdening, of newspaper reading, of jaunting ing doors is Mr. Constable's only fault. about in his little cart, and frequenting both
Next to this official dwelling is a spruce church and meeting, our worthy neighbour brick tenement, red, high, and narrow, boasebegins to feel the weariness of idleness. He ing, one above another, three sash windows, hangs over his gate, and tries to entice pas- the only sash windows in the village, with a sengers to stop and chat; he volunteers little clematis on one side and a rose on the other, jobs all round, smokes cherry-trees to cure tall and narrow like itself. That slender the blight, and traces and blows up all the mansion has a fine genteel look. The little wasp-nests in the parish. I have seen a great parlour seems made for Hogarth's old maid many wasps in our garden to-day, and shall and her stunted footboy; for tea and cardenchant him with the intelligence. He even parties,-it would just hold one table : for assists his wife in her sweepings and dustings. the rustle of faded silks, and the splendour Poor man! he is a very respectable person, of old China; for the delight of four by and would be a very happy one, if he would honours, and a little snug quiet scandal beadd a little employment to his dignity. It tween the deals; for affected gentility and would be the salt of life to him.
real starvation. This should have been its Next to his house, though parted from it by destiny; but fate has been unpropitious: it another long garden with a yew arbour at the belongs to a plump, merry, bustling dame, end, is the pretty dwelling of the shoemaker, with four fat, rosy, noisy children, the very a pale, sickly-looking, black-haired man, the essence of vulgarity and plenty. very model of sober industry. There he sits Then comes the village shop, like other in his little shop from early morning till late village shops, multifarious as a bazaar; a at night. An earthquake would hardly stir repository for bread, shoes, tea, cheese, tape, him: the illumination did not. He stuck ribands, and bacon ; for every thing, in short, immoveably to his last, from the first lighting except the one particular thing which you up, through the long blaze and the slow de- happen to want at the moment, and will be cay, till his large solitary candle was the only sure not to find. The people are civil and light in the place. One cannot conceive any thriving, and frugal withal; they have let thing more perfect than the contempt which the upper part of their house to iwo young the man of transparencies and the man of women (one of them is a pretty blue-eyed shoes must have felt for each other on that girl) who teach little children their A B C, evening. There was at least as much vanity and make caps and gowns for their mam
in the sturdy industry as in the strenuous mas,-parcel schoolmistress, parcel mantuaidleness, for our shoemaker is a man of sub- maker. I believe they find adorning the stance; he employs three journeymen, two body a more profitable vocation than adorning Lame, and one a dwarf, so that his shop looks the mind.