« PreviousContinue »
103.-AN ELIZABETHAN COUNTRY HOUSE.
SIR JOHN CULLUM. [THERE is a quarto volume, little known to general readers, entitled 'The History and Antiquities of Hawsted and Hardwick, in the County of Suffolk. Yet it is a book full v curious matter, and suggestive of valuable thought. What Gilbert White did for the Naturai History of his own parish of Selborne, the Rev. Sir John Cullum, the author of this book. did for the domestic antiquities of his own parish of Hawsted. He looked with the eyes of a scholar and a general observer at the past history, and the existing state, of the various onjects by which he was surrounded in the rural district of which he was the chief propractor as well as the sacred instructor. He describes its natural features, its church, its manorial and other properties, its landed tenures and cultivation; and, by a minute investigation of every parochial record, he brings together a mass of facts that have a far higher interest than the common pedantries of antiquarianism. Sir John Cullum was born in 1733; was, in 1762, presented to the rectory of Hawsted by his father, whom he succeeded in the baronetey and family estates in 1774; and died in 1785.]
Its situation, as of many old scats in this neighbourhood, is on an eminence, gently sloping towards the south. The whole formed a quadrangle, two hundred and two by two hundred and eleven feet within; an area formerly called the Base Court, afterwards the Court Yard. Three of the sides consisted of barns, stables, a mill-house, slaughter-house, blacksmith's shop, and various other offices, which Harrison, in his description of Britain. tells us, began in this reign to be thrown to a greater distance from the principal house than they were in the time of Henry VIII. The entrance was by a gate-house in the centre of the south side, over which were chambers for carters, &c. This was afterwards laid open, and fenced with iron palisades. The mansion-house, which was also a quadrangle, formed the fourth side, standing higher than the other buildings, and detached from them by a wide moat, faced on all its banks with bricks, and surrounded by a handsome terrace, a consi derable part of which commanded a fine view of the surrounding country, and bespoke a taste superior to the artificial mount, which in many old gardens was to be clambered up for the sake of the prospect. The approach to the house was by a flight of steps, and a strong brick bridge of three arches, through a small jealous wicket, formed in the great well-timbered gate, that rarely grated on its hinges.
Immediately upon your peeping through the wicket, the first object that unavoid ably struck you was a stone figure of Hercules, as it was called, holding in one hand a club across his shoulders, the other resting on one hip, discharging a perennial stream of water into a carved stone bason. On the pedestal of the statue is preserved the date 1578, which was the year the queen graced this house with her presence; so that doubtless this was one of the embellishments bestowed upon place against the royal visit. A fountain was generally (yet surely injudiciously in this climate) esteemed a proper ornament for the inner court of a great house. This, which still continues to flow, was supplied with water by leaden pipes, at no small expense, from a pond near half a mile off.
This inner court, as it was called. in which this statue stood, and about which the house was built, was an area of fifty-eight feet square. The walls of the house within it were covered with the pyracantha (Mespilus pyracantha) of venerable growth, which, with its evergreen leaves, enlivened with clusters of scarlet berries, produced in winter a very agreeable effect.
a name it
Having crept through the wicket before mentioned, a door in the gateway on the right conducted you into a small apartment, called the smoking-room; acquired probably soon after it was built, and which it retained, with good reason, as long as it stood. There is scarcely any old house without a room of this denomination. In these our ancestors, from about the middle of the reign of Elizabeth
till within almost every one's memory, spent no inconsiderable part of their vacant hours, residing more at home than we do, and having fewer resources of elegant amusement. At one period at least, this room was thought to be the scene of wit; for in 1688, Mr. Hervey, afterwards Earl of Bristol, in a letter to Mr. Thomas Cullum, desires "to be remembered by the witty smokers at Hausted." Adjoining to this was a large wood-closet, and a passage that led to the dining-room, of moderate dimensions, with a large buffet. These occupied half the south front. At the end of the dining-room was originally a cloister, or arcade, about forty-five feet long, fronting the east, and looking into a flower garden within the walls of the moat. The arches were afterwards closed up and glazed, and a parlour made at one end. There are few old mansions without one or more of these sheltered walking places; and they certainly had their use: but this age of list, sandbags and carpets, that dreads every breath of air as if it were a pestilence, shudders at the idea of such a body of the element being admitted into any part of a dwelling. This cloister was terminated by the spacious and lofty kitchen, still standing, and well supplied with long oaken tables.
On the left hand of the entrance, and opposite the smoking-room, was the chapel, a room of state, much affected by the whole manorial lords, who seem to have disdained attending the parochial church. The last sacred office performed in it was the christening of the author of this compilation, in July 1733. Through this was a door into the drawing-room or largest parlour, which, with the chapel, occupied the other half of the south front. Adjoining to the parlour was a large gloomy hall at one end of which was a screen of brown wainscot, in which was a door that led to the buttery, &c. These formed the west side of the square. Beneath these apartments, and those on the south side, were the cellars, well vaulted with brick. The north side was occupied by the kitchen, and at the back of it was a drawbridge. These were the apartments on the ground floor, which was raised twelve feet above the surface of the moat. Over the gateway, chapel, and largest parlour were the royal apartments, which were approached by a staircase out of the hall. On this staircase, against the wall, stood some painted boards, representing various domestic scrvants: I have one of them, a very pretty well-painted female, said to be for a housekeeper. I know not whether this fancy be as old as the house; the portrait I have is certainly, from the dress, not more than a century old. Several bedchambers, of common proportions, occupied the chief part of the rest of the first story. Among the rooms on that floor was one called the still-room, an apartment where the ladies of old much amused themselves in distilling waters and cordials, as well for the use of themselves, and of their poor neighbours, as for several purposes of cookery. In this room stood a death's head; no improper emblem of the effects of the operations carried on within it.
Contiguous to one of the bedchambers was a wainscoted closet, about seven feet square; the panels painted with various sentences, emblems, and mottoes. It was
called the painted closet; at first probably designed for an oratory, and, from one of the sentences, for the use of a lady. The dresses of the figures are of the age of James I. This closet was therefore fitted up for the last Lady Drury, and, perhaps, under her direction. The paintings are well executed, and now put up in a small apartment at Hardwick House.
The windows, in general, were spacious, but high above the floors. In still earlier times they were very narrow as well as high, that they might be more difficult marks for the arrows of an enemy; and that, if the arrows did enter, they might pass over the heads of those that were sitting. After this precaution was needless, the windows, though enlarged, continued to be made high, even till modern days. The beauty of landscape, so much studied now, was then but little or not at all re
garded; and high windows, when opened, ventilated the apartments better than low ones, and when shut, the air they admitted was less felt.
The walls of the house were chiefly built of timber and plaster. The plaster in the front was thickly stuck with fragments of glass, which made a brilliant appearance when the sun shone, and even by moonlight. Much of it still remains, and appears to be but little injured by two centuries; perhaps will survive the boasted stucco of modern artists. I wish I could give the receipt for this excellent composition; I can only say, it contains plenty of hair, and was made of coarse sand, abounding with stones almost as big as horse beans. And in some of the old walls round the house, where the bricks have crumbled away, the layers of mortar continue sound, and support themselves by their own compactness. The art was not lost even in the last century; for some plaster on an outhouse, which bears the date 1661, still remains perfectly firm.
This house was no bad specimen of the skill of former artists in erecting what should last. Part has been taken down, not from decay, but because it was become useless. What is left promises to stand many years. The mode of its construction contributed to its durability; for the tiles projected considerably over the first story, and that over the ground floor; so that the walls and sills were scarcely ever wetted. In the year 1685 this house paid taxes for thirty-four fire hearths; two shillings each hearth.
The banks of the moat were planted with yews and variegated hollies; and, at a little distance, surrounded by a terrace that commanded a fine woodland prospect. Here were orchards and gardens in abundance, and a bowling-yard, as it was called, which always used to be esteemed a necessary appendage of a gentleman's seat.
This place was well furnished with fish-ponds. There is near it a series of five large ones, on the gentle declivity of a hill, running into one another; the upper one being fed with a perennial spring. There is another similar series of small ones that served as stews. These must have been made at a very heavy expense; but they were necessary when fish made so considerable a part of our diet as it did before the Reformation, and when bad roads made sea fish not so easily procured as at present.
There was also a rabbit warren in the park, a spot that would have borne good wheat. But it was, like a pigeon-house, a constant appendage to a manorial dwelling. Eighth of James I., a stable near the coney warren was let with the dairy farm: and even in the next year we hear of the warrener's lodge.
One principal reason of the number of warrens formerly was the great use our ancestors made of fur in their clothing. "I judge warrens of coneys," says Harrison, to be almost innumerable, and daily like to encrease, by reason that the black skins of those beasts are thought to countervail the prices of their naked carcasses." The latter were worth 24d a piece, and the former 6d. 17 Henry VIII.
104.-HYMN OF HEAVENLY BEAUTY.
[THE inscription on his monument designates Edmund Spenser as "the prince of poets." Few have had a better claim to so eminent a title. Mr. Craik, in his excellent little work, 'Spenser and his Poetry,' has truly said, "Our only poets before Shakspere who have given to the language any thing that in its kind has not been surpassed, and in some sort superseded, are Chaucer and Spenser--Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, Spenser in his Faerie Queen." Very little is known accurately of Spenser's life, beyond the facts that he was admitted as a sizer of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1569; in 1580 became Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Grey of Wilton, and for his services was rewarded by a large grant of land in the county of Cork; in 1598 was driven from Ireland by a savage outbreak, in which his house was burned, with one of his children; and that he died in January,
1599, "for lack of bread," as Ben Jonson records. Three books of The Faerie Queen' were published in 1590; and three others in 1591. The Two Cantos of Mutability' appeared after his death.]
Rapt with the rage of mine own ravished thought,
I fain* to tell the things that I behold,
Vouchsafe then, O thou most Almighty Sprite !
That with the glory of so goodly sight
Of those fair forms, may lift themselves up higher,
And learn to love, with zealous humble duty,
The eternal fountain of that Heavenly Beauty.
[The Poet then proceeds to look around "on the frame of this wide universe "—the earth, the sky, the stars; and, finally, the spiritual heavens. He then takes up the more immediate subject of his poem:
Cease then, my tongue! and lend unto my mind
Those unto all he daily does display,
His glorious face, which glistereth else so bright
But we, frail wights! whose sight cannot sustain
But that their points rebutted back again
The glory of that majesty divine
In sight of whom both sun and moon are dark,
The means, therefore, which unto us is lent
His goodness, which his beauty doth declare;
Thence gathering plumes of perfect speculation,
For fear lest, if he chance to look on thee,
More firm and durable than steel or brass,
Or the hard diamond, which them both doth pass,
His sceptre is the rod of Righteousness,
With which he bruiseth all his foes to dust,
His seat is Truth, to which the faithful trust,