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Cowper, with true burghal feeling, helped to resist. The old bridge, however, is not wholly gone-a portion of it still remains, and even does duty. The “ wearisome" length of the bridge was needful, not because the river is a very broad one--it is, in fact, rather insignificant at this part of its course - but because the meadows on the south are so low that in winter they are generally overflowed, and therefore a bridge is necessary to pass not only the ordinary channel of the river, but the flooded bottoms that are contiguous to it.
Olney is a smaller town than Newport-in fact, though possessed of a weekly market, it has more the appearance of a large village than anything else. It consists chiefly of one large street, stretching to the north-east. At the upper end, the street opens out on the right, and forms a triangular area, which constitutes the “ Market-hill.” At the upper end of this Market-hill, and upon the right hand, stands Cowper's house. It is in some respects of more ambitious pretensions than its neighbours, being a story higher than any of the others, as well as being much Jonger, but without any pretensions to superior elegance of style or convenience of accommodation in fact, it is exactly what Dickens would call “an old, large, rambling house." Its eight windows in a row are all of the same dull common-place style; and, looking at the monotonous appearance of the old house, with the mean accessories that surrounded it, and recollecting all the poverty and distress which Cowper himself describes as surrounding him, we could not feel surprised that a man of his exquisite and morbid sensibilities should have deeply felt the depression these daily scenes were calculated to inspire. The house is so large that it is a marvel how the small establishment of Cowper and Mrs. Unwin could have occupied it; though certainly its size explained at once how it was that the poet was able to entertain so many of his friends at the same time, and to assure the Johnsons and the Roses, that, though Lady Hesketh and her servants were with him, there was still room for their accommodation. It is now no longer in the occupation of one family. At the one end is a grocer's shop, at the other, an infant-school (and the noisy lessons of the children swelled pleasantly in our ears as we stood in the street on that summer's day,) while between them, is a sort of arched gateway, apparently
intended for a carriage entrance, leading to a yard, up which a straw-plait manufacturer carries on his trade. From the marketplace, a narrow lane leads down towards the vicarage. This is Silver End, famous in Cowper's correspondence as the abode of most of the idleness and depravity of Olney. The vicarage itself stands in another street, and nearly opposite to Cowper's house, each house having a garden behind it, with one wall at the upper end, serving for the boundary of both ; and it was that Cowper might meet the Olney curate—that curate was John Newton--without encountering the stare of the “Silver End blackguards,” that a door was broken out in the wall aforesaid, to allow the two friends to communicate through their respective gardens. The vicarage is a sweet and pleasantly situated house, forming a strong contrast to the gloomy old mansion on the Market-hill. Its front is nearly hidden with evergreens and flowering shrubs. We were told that the inmates of Cowper's house, as well as the person who now holds possession of the garden, were very courteous to strangers, and willing to shew the relics that still remained of him. There, it was said, are to be seen the hole he cut in the parlour-door to allow of the uninterrupted gambolling of his tame hares on the carpet, and also the greenhouse in the garden, in which he composed the greater part of the “ Task," and translated the “Iliad,” and which is kept up much as he left it: while, though the door broken out in the garden wall to communicate with the vicarage was closed again when Mr. Newton left for London, still the patching was visible. These were tempting objects to gaze upon; but, on the other hand, we hate to exhibit our enthusiasm before strangers ; we must either indulge our fancies in the presence of a friend or in solitude ; and we turned away to those objects of interest which lay accessible to all, and where we needed no cicerone. Among these was the tall and solitary elm, which grows at the bottom of the market-place, and which forms so conspicuous a feature in all the pictures we have seen of the poet's residence ; and near it there stands the identical pump of whose erection Cowper so humorously complains in one of his letters, as entailing expense on the inhabitants, while it would benefit no one but the shoemaker, opposite whose door it was erected. We repeated the lines with which he commemorated the event
“Let Bannister now lend his aid
To furnish shoes for the baker,
For the use of the said shoemaker.” The pump is now in a state of dilapidation, arising from neglect, so that it does not seem to have gained popularity with years. There is no lamp on the top, nor could we learn there ever had been, so that it is probable the opposition to the schemes of the reforming baker had been too powerful for him as for some greater reformers, and that he had been compelled to give up his design of surmounting it with a lamp as some solace to the out. raged feelings and pockets of the frugal inhabitants.
In wandering through a strange town, it is always instructive to get into its back streets and lanes. We have no faith in the appearance which the main thoroughfares present, as revealing the character of the place or the condition of its inhabitants. They are always sure to put the best face on the matter; they wear a starched, hypocritical demureness, as if to cheat the stranger into a belief in their respectability. But in the back streets, and still more in the narrow lanes, you have the character of the place presented to you without disguise or any effort at concealment. There is no painful struggle there between poverty and respectability ; want, and beggary, and profligacy, feel that there they are upon their own ground, and that they have no occasion to hide their heads. Animated by such feelings as these we turned down Silver End, and through a back street, and emerged again upon the main thoroughfare by a lane that was narrower than any wynd in the High-street of Edinburgh. The accounts that are scattered through Cowper's correspondence of the deep poverty of the people, seemed, as far as we could judge by this hasty glance, to be borne out to the letter. The hovels of the people were small and ruinous, though in most cases scrupulously clean ; while, through the open doors, it could be too plainly discerned, that their huts were almost destitute of furniture. In one case, an aged woman sat at the door of her cottage with her necdles and her pillow, in the act of laceknitting—the very picture of the cottager whom Cowper so finely contrasts with Voltaire as one who
“ Just knew, and knew no more, her Bible true,
A truth the brilliant Frenchman never knew."
From the town, we bent our steps to the churchyard, and pacing in its quiet walks, we mused upon the exalted privilege of genius, which could confer upon an insignificant village like this, and its no less insignificant inhabitants, an immortality for which thousands have struggled in vain. What a satire upon the restless schemes of ambitious men, that in a few years oblivion, in spite of all their efforts, closes over the names and memories of so many of them! while here, without an effort, and without even the intention, the routine business and the petty squabblings carried on in an obscure village, with the petty actors in these ignoble affairs—the Reedons, the Rabans, the Peares, and the Pages, “poor Nat Gee,” and “old Geary Ball”have become enshrined in the memory of every reader of sensibility and taste, and their names have received an immortality as lasting as the English language can bestow. And now, where were they all ? Daniel Raban, the baker, who would not tolerate Thomas Scott, the commentator's preaching, and set up a rival meeting himself—Reedon, the schoolmaster, who had “made his prayer to God that he might become acquainted with some talent, and now, in the acquaintance of this worthy gentleman (meaning me, says Cowper,) had found that prayer fulfilled”Thomas Ashburner, the joiner, who, at a county election, had courageously throttled the ringleader in a riot, and quelled the disturbance-all of them, unknowing and reckless of the fame which had been secured for their memories, slept beneath the turf we trod, without even a stone that we could find to mark their graves.
Musing on these sobering recollections, we turned our steps outside the town, paused again on the old bridge, and gazed on Weston,* about a mile and a half up the river, and which is truly what its name indicates, underwood,' reached the division of the road that leads to Clifton, gained the crest of the hill, and, pausing long on its summit, where the best view of the town could be obtained, we turned at last, and bade farewell to Olney.
* See our Volume for 1835, page 118 et seq: where a detailed account is given of this pretty village.
WHERE IS HE ON SUNDAY? There is certainly nothing new in this enquiry. It is far too commonly asked, and asked with reason, for the whereabout and the employment of thousands on the Sabbath is often a perplexing problem. But we think it may perhaps wear something of a novel aspect if used as a test of loyalty both to the King of kings, and our own earthly sovereign.
A quaint old friend of ours when asked some little time since what was meant by the six points of the charter, confessed in our hearing, his ignorance of all but three, which he said were law. breaking, skull-breaking, and Sabbath-breaking. Whether he was right or not upon the two first points, he certainly spoke truth as regards the last.
For where are almost all of these agitators on a Sunday? Are they keeping it as God requires it to be kept, or are they altogether disregarding it? The facts of the past four months shall answer.
The Sabbath in England is the poetry of the poor man's life. The “ Pearl of Days,” as it has been recently designated, is indeed a jewel in the otherwise unfurnished casket of the cottager. Early in the morning, he throws open his dull and clouded little casement, and the calm and fragrant air thrills his recruited frame with new and strange delight. Before his cottage, on the little strip of green beside the road, the dew still lies untrodden, and the beaten path itself has been as yet untraversed by any but the old sexton who has just entered the church to put things in readiness for the services of the day. By a good old custom the bell is tolled at an early hour to let the good folks of the hamlet know, before even some of them have left their beds, that this day is a high day, and that the church universal is about to put on her royal adornments. For well sang good old Herbert
“The Sundays of man's life,
Threaded together on time's string-
Of the Eternal Glorious King.” There they go--the poor cottagers-clean and comely as circumstances will admit-now over the open fields, now down the shadowy glade—now along the quiet street, till every house is