Title: Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall
Author: Robert Stephen Hawker
Editor: C. E. Byles
Illustrator: J. Ley Pethybridge
Release date: April 4, 2014 [eBook #45316]
Credits: Produced by Henry Flower, Chris Curnow and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.
Hawker’s prose sketches appeared originally as contributions to various periodicals, and in 1870 they were published for him in book form by Mr. John Russell Smith, as “Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall.” In 1893, eighteen years after his death, a new edition was issued by Messrs. Blackwood, entitled “The Prose Works of Rev. R. S. Hawker,” containing two essays previously unpublished, “Humphrey Vivian” and “Old Trevarten.” The late Mr. J. G. Godwin, who was Hawker’s friend and adviser in literary matters, edited the volume, and added the bibliographical footnotes to the several papers. In the present edition it has been thought appropriate to revert to Hawker’s own more picturesque title, and this is to be done also in the case of his poetical works, which will shortly be re-issued as “Cornish Ballads and other Poems.” The two books will thus form companion volumes. It is interesting to read them concurrently, and to compare his treatment of the same themes in prose and verse. An[vi] attempt has been made in the notes to assist such a comparison by indicating some of the more obvious parallels. In the prose, as in the poems, there is the same deep and peculiar love of symbol and miracle and superstition, but the prose further reveals, what might not be suspected from the poems alone, that Hawker was a humourist as much as a mystic.
Hawker won his literary reputation as a ballad-writer, but his prose also deserves a share in his fame. He has the gift of style. Like his handwriting, which makes a manuscript of his a thing of beauty in itself, it is bold and clear, free from prettiness or affectation, but with the massive grace of his native rocks, and made distinctive by a characteristic touch of archaism. The rugged scenery of his abode had its influence upon his work. He was a hewer of words, as Daniel Gumb was a hewer of stone, and his language has the strength of rough masonry wrought in a broad and homely manner out of solid granite. The sea, and the great spaces of lonely moorland that surrounded him, gave to his work a sense of breadth and freedom. He is always at his best in describing his own dearly loved Cornwall, and in particular the wild coast by which all his years were spent. Perhaps the finest passage of this kind is that which concludes the legend of Daniel Gumb, and which forms[vii] a prose counterpart to that grand ending of “The Quest of the Sangraal:”
There is an element of fiction in Hawker’s biographical studies. He never let facts, or the absence of them, stand in the way of his imagination, and he had a Chattertonian habit of passing off compositions of his own as ancient manuscripts.
His letters are full of complaints that legends “invented” by himself have been regarded by others as common property. But this is not surprising when the said inventions wear the solemn garb of history. Hawker had many of the qualities necessary to historical romance. His rich native humour, and his rare gift for telling a story; his vivid presentment of scene, character, and situation, make it a matter of regret that he did not apply his powers more fully in this direction, just as it is a matter of regret that his fine poem, “The Quest of the Sangraal,” is only a fragment, though a fragment worthy to rank beside “Hyperion.”
Both in his prose and his poetry there is a disappointing lack of sustained effort. His literary manner and antiquarian tastes bear many[viii] points of resemblance to those of Scott, whose novels it was his custom to re-read every year as Christmas-time came round. In his local and scanty degree Hawker has done for the legends and worthies of old Cornwall what Sir Walter did for those of Scotland.
The prose impulse seems to have moved Hawker somewhat late in life, all the following papers having been published since 1850, when he had reached the age of forty-seven. These papers, as a matter of fact, represent a brave effort in years of increasing pecuniary anxiety to add to his income by his pen. His letters contain many interesting allusions to his literary struggles and his dealings with the editors of his day, among whom were Froude and Dickens. He also met or corresponded with several other famous contemporaries, including Tennyson, Longfellow, Kingsley, and Cardinals Newman and Manning. Earlier, too, he had a correspondence with Macaulay. But on these matters it will be more fitting to enlarge in the new memoir of Hawker, which is in course of preparation.
It remains for me to express my warmest thanks to those who have helped in the production of this volume. Mr. R. Pearse Chope has been indefatigable in collecting matter for the Appendix, and his are the notes on “Morwenstow,” “Daniel Gumb’s Rock,” “Cruel[ix] Coppinger,” and “Thomasine Bonaventure.” This Appendix, it is hoped, will be of interest both in itself and as showing the sources of Hawker’s information. It enables us, too, to judge his power of imparting colour and romance to a plain record of facts. The account of old Stowe and the Granvilles, and their gigantic retainer, Antony Payne, has been kindly furnished by a descendant of the great Sir Bevill, the Rev. Prebendary Roger Granville, and it has thus a double interest. Mrs. Waddon Martyn of Tonacombe Manor, Morwenstow, and her son, Mr. N. H. Lawrence Martyn, have been especially kind and helpful. The Rev. John Tagert, Vicar of Morwenstow, and his daughter, Miss Tagert, Miss Rowe of Poughill, Miss Louisa Twining, Mr. and Mrs. William Shephard, the Rev. Canon Bone, the Rev. Ll. W. Bevan of Stratton, Mr. J. Sommers James, and the Rev. H. Upton Squire of Tetcott, have also rendered generous and valuable assistance. The portraits of Black John, Arscott of Tetcott, and Parson Rudall have been reproduced from pictures kindly lent by Mrs. Calmady, Mrs. Ford of Pencarrow, and the Rev. S. Baring-Gould respectively. The portrait of Black John was formerly in the possession of Mr. Hawker.
These acknowledgments would be incomplete if they did not refer to the zealous care bestowed[x] by Mr. J. Ley Pethybridge on his charming illustrations. His work has been to a large extent a labour of love. Thanks are also due to the various photographers, amateur and professional, who have lent their aid. Mr. George Penrose, Curator of the Royal Institution of Cornwall at Truro, kindly photographed the painting of Antony Payne and the flask which formerly belonged to the giant. The Manning tomb is from a photo by Mr. T. W. Woodruffe. The interior of Morwenstow Church as it was in Hawker’s time is by S. Thorn of Bude, as is also the piscina.
C. E. Byles.
|The First Cornish Mole||27|
|The Gauger’s Pocket||32|
|The Light of Other Days||41|
|The Remembrances of a Cornish Vicar||46|
|Daniel Gumb’s Rock||90|
|Antony Payne, a Cornish Giant||109|
|The Botathen Ghost||158|
|A Ride from Bude to Boss||176|
|Old Trevarten: A Tale of the Pixies||234|
The Design on the Title-page, by Mr. J. Ley Pethybridge, represents the Carving of The Fruitful Vine, in Welcombe Church.
The Panel Design on the Front Cover represents a Bench End in Morwenstow Church; that of the Border is the Vine Carving of the Roof (see p. 15).
The Panel Design on the Back represents the Carving of The Barren Fig-tree, in Welcombe Church.
FOOTPRINTS OF FORMER MEN IN FAR CORNWALL
There cannot be a scene more graphic in itself, or more illustrative in its history of the gradual growth and striking development of the Church in Celtic and Western England, than the parish of St. Morwenna. It occupies the upper and northern nook of the county of Cornwall; shut in and bounded on the one hand by the Severn Sea, and on the other by the offspring of its own bosom, the Tamar River, which gushes, with its sister stream the Torridge, from a rushy knoll on the eastern wilds of Morwenstow. Once, and in the first period of our history, it was one wide wild stretch of rocky moorland, broken with masses of dunstone and the sullen curve of the warrior’s barrow, and flashing here and there with a bright rill of water or a solitary well. Neither landmarks nor fences nor walls bounded or severed the bold, free, untravelled Cornish domain. Wheel-tracks in old Cornwall there were none; but strange and narrow paths gleamed across the moorlands, which the forefathers said in their simplicity, were first traced by angel’s feet. These, in truth, were trodden and worn by religious men—by the pilgrim as he paced his way toward his chosen and votive bourn, or by the palmer, whose listless footsteps had neither a fixed keblah nor a future abode. Dimly visible by the darker hue of the crushed grass, these straight and narrow roads led the traveller along from chapelry to cell, or to some distant and solitary cave. On the one hand, in this scenery of the past, they would guide us to the “Chapel-piece of St. Morwenna,” a grassy glade along the gorse-clad cliff, where to this very day neither will bramble cling nor heather grow; and, on the other, to the walls and roof and the grooved stone for the waterflow, which still survive, halfway down a headlong precipice, as the relics of St. Morwenna’s Well. But what was the wanderer’s guidance along the bleak, unpeopled surface of these Cornish moors? The wayside cross. Such were the crosses of St. James and St. John, which even yet give name to their ancient sites in Morwenstow, and proclaim to the traveller that, or ever a church was reared or an altar hallowed here, the trophy of old Syria stood in solemn stone, a beacon to the wayfaring man, and that the soldiers of God’s army had won their honours among the unbaptised and barbarous people!
Here, then, let us stand and survey the earliest scenery of pagan Morwenstow. Before us lies a breadth of wild and rocky land; it is bounded by the billowy Atlantic, with its arm of waters, and by the slow lapse of that gliding stream of which the Keltic proverb said, before King Arthur’s day,—
Barrows curve above the dead; a stony cross stands by a mossed and lichened well; here and there glides a shorn and vested monk, whose function it was, often at peril of life and limb, to sprinkle the brow of some hard-won votary, and to breathe the Gospel of the Trinity on the startled ear of the Keltic barbarian. Let us close this theme of thought with a few faint echoes from the River of the West:—
Then arrived, to people this bleak and lonely boundary with the thoughts and doctrines of the Cross, the piety and the legend of St. Morwenna. This was the origin of her name and place.
There dwelt in Wales in the ninth century a Keltic king, Breachan by name—it was from him that the words “Brecon” and “Brecknock” received origin; and Gladwys was his wife and queen. They had, according to the record of Leland, the scribe, children twenty-and-four. Now either these were their own daughters and sons, or they were, according to the usage of those days, the offspring of the nobles of their land, placed for loyal and learned nurture in the palace of the king, and so called the children of his house.
Of these Morwenna was one. She grew up wise, learned, and holy above her generation; and it was evermore the strong desire of her soul to bring the barbarous and pagan people among whom she dwelt to the Christian font. Now so it was that when Morwenna was grown up to saintly womanhood there was a king of Saxon England, and Ethelwolf was his noble name. This was he who laid the endowment of his realm of England on the altar of the Apostles at Rome, the first and eldest Church-king of the islands who occupied the English throne. He, Ethelwolf, had likewise many children; and while he intrusted to the famous St. Swithun the guidance of his sons, he besought King Breachan to send to his court Morwenna, that she might become the teacher of the Princess Edith and the other daughters of his royal house. She came. She sojourned in his palace long and patiently; and she so gladdened King Ethelwolf by her goodness and her grace, that at last he was fain to give her whatsoever she sought.
Now the piece of ground, or the acre of God, which in those old days was wont to be set apart or hallowed for the site of a future shrine and church, was called the “station,” or in native speech the “stowe,” of the martyr or saint whose name was given to the altar-stone. So, on a certain day thus came and so said Morwenna to the King: “Largess, my lord the king, largess, for God’s sake!” “Largess, my daughter?” answered Ethelwolf the king; “largess! be it whatsoever it may.” Then said Morwenna: “Sir, there is a stern and stately headland in thy appanage of the Tamar-land, it is a boundary rugged and tall, and it looks along the Severn Sea; they call it in that Keltic region Hennacliff—that is to say, the Raven’s Crag—because it hath ever been for long ages the haunt and the home of the birds of Elias. Very often, from my abode in wild Wales, have I watched across the waves until the westering sun fell red upon that Cornish rock, and I have said in my maiden vows, ‘Alas! and would to God a font might be hewn and an altar built among the stones by yonder barbarous hill.’ Give me, then, as I beseech thee, my lord the king, a station for a messenger and a priest in that scenery of my early prayer, that so and through me the saying of Esaias the seer may come to pass, ‘In the place of dragons, where each lay, there may be grass with reeds and rushes.’”
Her voice was heard; her entreaty was fulfilled. They came at the cost and impulse of Morwenna; they brought and they set up yonder font, with the carved cable coiled around it in stone, in memory of the vessel of the fishermen of the East anchored in the Galilæan Sea. They built there altar and arch, aisle and device in stone. They linked their earliest structure with Morwenna’s name, the tender and the true; and so it is that notwithstanding the lapse of ten whole centuries of English time, at this very day the bourn of many a pilgrim to the West is the Station of Morwenna, or, in simple and Saxon phrase, Morwenstow. So runs the quaint and simple legend of our Tamar-side; and so ascend into the undated era of the ninth or tenth age the early Norman arches, font, porch, and piscina of Morwenstow church.
The endowment, in abbreviated Latin, still exists in the registry of the diocese. It records that the monks of St. John at Bridgewater, in whom the total tithes and glebe-lands of this parish were then vested, had agreed, at the request of Walter Brentingham, the Bishop of Exeter, to endow an altar-priest with certain lands, bounded on the one hand by the sea, and on the other by the Well of St. John of the Wilderness, near the church. They surrendered, also, for this endowment the garbæ of two bartons of vills, Tidnacomb and Stanbury, the altarage, and the small tithes of the parish. But the striking point in this ancient document is that, whereas the date of the endowment is A.D. 1296, the church is therein referred to by name as an old and well-known structure. To such a remote era, therefore, we must assign the Norman relics of antiquity which still survive, and which, although enclosed within the walls and outline of an edifice enlarged and extended at two subsequent periods, have to this day undergone no material change.
We proceed to enumerate and describe these features of the first foundation of St. Morwenna, and to which I am not disposed to assign a later origin than from A.D. 875 to A.D. 1000.
First among these is a fine Norman doorway at the southern entrance of the present church. The arch-head is semicircular, and it is sustained on either side by half-piers built in stone, with capitals adorned with different devices; and the curve is crowned with the zigzag and chevron mouldings. This moulding is surmounted by a range of grotesque faces—the mermaid and the dolphin, the whale, and other fellow-creatures of the deep; for the earliest imagery of the primeval hewers of stone was taken from the sea, in unison with the great sources of the Gospel,—the Sea of Galilee, the fishing men who were to haul the net, and the “catchers of men.” The crown of the arch is adorned with a richly carved, and even eloquent, device: two dragons are crouching in the presence of a lamb, and underneath his conquering feet lies their passive chain.
But it is time for us to unclose the door and enter in. There stands the font in all its emphatic simplicity. A moulded cable girds it on to the mother church; and the uncouth lip of its circular rim attests its origin in times of a rude taste and unadorned symbolism. For wellnigh ten centuries the Gospel of the Trinity has sounded over this silent cell of stone, and from the Well of St. John the stream has glided in, and the water gushed withal, while another son or daughter has been added to the Christian family. Before us stand the three oldest arches of the Church in ancient Cornwall. They curve upon piers built in channelled masonry, a feature of Norman days which presents a strong contrast with the grooved pillars of solid or of a single stone in succeeding styles of architecture. The western arch is a simple semicircle of dunstone from the shore, so utterly unadorned and so severe in its design that it might be deemed of Saxon origin, were it not for its alliance with the elaborate Norman decoration of the other two. These embrace again, and embody the ripple of the sea and the monsters that take their pastime in the deep waters. But there is one very graphic “sermon in stone” twice repeated on the curve and on the shoulder of the arch. Our forefathers called it (and our people inherit their phraseology) “The Grin of Arius.” The origin of the name is this. It is said that the final development of every strong and baleful passion in the human countenance is a fierce and angry laugh. In a picture of the Council of Nicæa, which is said still to exist, the baffled Arius is shown among the doctors with his features convulsed into a strong and demoniac spasm of malignant mirth. Hence it became one of the usages among the graphic imagery of interior decoration to depict the heretic as mocking the mysteries with that glare of derision and gesture of disdain, which admonish and instruct, by the very name of “The Grin of Arius.” Thence were derived the lolling tongue and the mocking mouth which are still preserved on the two corbels of stone in this early Norman work. To this period we must also allot the piscina, which was discovered and rescued from desecration by the present vicar.
The chancel wall one day sounded hollow when struck; the mortar was removed, and underneath there appeared an arched aperture, which had been filled up with jumbled carved work and a crushed drain. It was cleared out, and so rebuilt as to occupy the exact site of its former existence. It is of the very earliest type of Christian architecture, and, for aught we know, it may be the oldest piscina in all the land. At all events, it can scarcely have seen less than a thousand years. It perpetuates the original form of this appanage of the chancel; for the horn of the Hebrew altar, as is well known to architectural students, was in shape and in usage the primary type of the Christian piscina. These horns were four, one at each corner, and in outline like the crest of a dwarf pillar, with a cup-shaped mouth and a grooved throat, to receive and to carry down the superfluous blood and water of the sacrifices into a cistern or channel underneath. Hence was derived the ecclesiastical custom that, whenever the chalice or other vessel had been rinsed, the water was reverently poured into the piscina, which was usually built into a carved niche of the southward chancel wall. Such is the remarkable relic of former times which still exists in Morwenstow church, verifying, by the unique and remote antiquity of its pillared form, its own primeval origin.
But among the features of this sanctuary none exceed in singular and eloquent symbolism the bosses of the chancel roof. Every one of these is a doctrine or a discipline engraven in the wood by some Bezaleel or Aholiab of early Christian days. Among these the Norman rose and the fleur-de-lis have frequent pre-eminence. The one, from the rose of Sharon downward, is the pictured type of our Lord; the other, whether as the lotus of the Nile or the lily of the vale, is the type of His Virgin Mother; and both of these floral decorations were employed as ecclesiastical emblems centuries before they were assumed into the shields of Normandy or England. Another is the double-necked eagle, the bird of the Holy Ghost in the patriarchal and Mosaic periods of revelation, just as the dove afterwards became in the days of the Gospel; and, mythic writers having asserted that when Elisha sought and obtained from his master “a double portion of Elijah’s spirit,” this miracle was portrayed and perpetuated in architectural symbolism by the two necks of the eagle of Elisha. Four faces cluster on another boss,—three with masculine features, and one with the softer impress of a female countenance, a typical assemblage of the Trinity and the Mother of God. Again we mark the tracery of that “piety of the birds,” as devout writers have named the fabled usage of the pelican. She is shown baring and rending her own veins to nourish with her blood her thirsty offspring,—a group which so graphically interprets itself to the eye and mind of a Christian man that it needs no interpretation.
But very remarkable, in the mid-roof, is the boss of the pentacle of Solomon. This was the five-angled figure which was engraven on an emerald, and wherewith he ruled the demons; for they were the vassals of his mighty seal: the five angles in their original mythicism, embracing as they did the unutterable name, meant, it may be, the fingers of Omnipotence as the symbolic Hand subsequently came forth in shadows on Belshazzar’s wall. Be this as it may, it was the concurrent belief of the Eastern nations that the sigil of the Wise King was the source and instrument of his supernatural power. So Heber writes in his “Palestine”—
Hence it is that we find this mythic figure, in decorated delineation, as the signal of the boundless might of Him whose Church bends over all, the pentacle of Omnipotence! Akin to this graphic imagery is the shield of David, the theme of another of our chancel-bosses. Here the outline is six-angled: Solomon’s device with one angle more, which, I would submit, was added in order to suggest another doctrine—the manhood taken into God, and so to become a typical prophecy of the Incarnation. The framework of these bosses is a cornice of vines. The root of the vines on each wall grows from the altar-side; the stem travels outward across the screen towards the nave. There tendrils cling and clusters bend, while angels sustain the entire tree.
A screen divides the deep and narrow chancel from the nave. A scroll of rich device runs across it, wherein deer and oxen browse on the leaves of a budding vine. Both of these animals are the well-known emblems of the baptised, and the sacramental tree is the type of the Church grafted into God.
A strange and striking acoustic result is accomplished by this and by similar chancel-screens: they act as the tympanum of the structure, and increase and reverberate the volume of sound. The voice uttered at the altar-side smites the hollow work of the screen, and is carried onward, as by some echoing instrument, into the nave and aisles; so that the lattice-work of the chancel, which at first thought might appear to impede the transit of the voice, does in reality grasp and deliver into stronger echo the ministry of tone.
Just outside the screen, and at the step of the nave, is the grave of a priest. It is identified by the reversed position of the carved cross on the stone, which also indicates the self-same attitude in the corpse. The head is laid down toward the east, while in all secular interment the head is turned to the west. Until the era of the Reformation, or possibly to a later date, the head of the priest upon the bier for burial, and afterwards in the grave, was always placed “versus altare;” and, according to all ecclesiastical usage, the discipline was doctrinal also. The following is the reason as laid down by Durandus and other writers. Because the east, “the gate of the morning,” is the keblah of Christian hope, inasmuch as the Messiah, whose symbolic name was “The Orient,” thence arrived, and thence, also, will return on the chariots of cloud for the Judgment: we therefore place our departed ones with their heads westward, and their feet and faces towards the eastern sky, that at the outshine of the Last Day, and the sound of the archangel, they may start from their dust, like soldiers from their sleep, and stand up before the Son of man suddenly! But the apostles were to sit on future thrones and to assist at the Judgment: the Master was to arrive for doom amid His ancients gloriously, and the saints were to judge the world. These prophecies were symbolised by the burial of the clergy, and thence, in contrast with other dead, their posture in the grave. It was to signify that it would be their office to arise and to “follow the Lord in the air,” when He shall arrive from the east and pass onward, gathering up His witnesses toward the west. Thus, in the posture of the departed multitudes, the sign is, “We look for the Son of Man: ad Orientem Judah.” And in the attitude of His appointed ministers, thus saith the legend on the tombs of His priests, “They arose and followed Him.”
The eastern window of the chancel, as its legend records, is the pious and dutiful oblation of Rudolph, Baron Clinton, and Georgiana Elizabeth his wife. The central figure embodies the legend of St. Morwenna, who stands in the attitude of the teacher of the Princess Edith, daughter of Ethelwolf the Founder King; on the one side is shown St. Peter, and on the other St. Paul. The upper spandrels are filled with a Syrian lamb, a pelican with her brood, and the three first letters of the Saviour’s name. The window itself is the recent offering of two noble minds; and while on this theme we may be pardoned for the natural boast that the patrons of this chancel have called by the name of Morwenna one of the fair and graceful daughters of their house. “Nomen, omen,” was the Roman saying,—“Nomen, numen,” be our proverb now! But before we proceed to descend the three steps of the chancel floor, so obviously typical of Faith, Hope, and Charity, let us look westward through the tower-arch; and as we look we discover that the builders, either by chance or design, have turned aside or set out of proportional place the western window of the tower. Is this really so, or does the wall of the chancel swerve? The deviation was intended, nor without an error could we render the crooked straight. And the reason is said to be this: when our Redeemer died, at the utterance of the word τετέλεσται, “It is done!” His head declined towards His right shoulder, and in that attitude He chose to die. Now it was to commemorate this drooping of the Saviour’s head, to record in stone this eloquent gesture of our Lord, that the “wise in heart,” who traced this church in the actual outline of a cross, departed from the precise rules of architect and carpenter.
The southern aisle, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, with its granite and dunstone pillars, is of the later Decorated order, and is remarkable for its singular variety of material in stone. Granite pillars are surmounted by arches of dunstone; and, vice versa, dunstone arches by pillared granite. This is again a striking example of doctrine proclaimed in structure, and is symbolic of the fact that the Spiritual Church gathered into one body every hue and kind of belief; whereas “Jew and Greek, Barbarian and Scythian, bond and free,” were to be all one in Christ Jesus: so the material building personified, in its various and visible embrace, one Church to grasp, and a single roof to bend over all. This, the last addition to the ancient sanctuary of St. Morwenna, bears on the capital of a pillar the date A.D. 1475, and thus the total structure stands a graphic monument of the growth and stature of a scene of ancient worship, which had been embodied and completed before the invention of printing and other modern arts had worked their revolution upon Western Europe.
The worshipper must descend three steps of stone as he enters into this aisle of St. John; and this gradation is intended to recall the time and the place where the multitude went down into the river of Dan “at Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptising.”
The churchyard of Morwenstow is the scene of other features of a remote antiquity. The roof of the total church—chancel, nave, northern and southern aisles—is of wood. Shingles of rended oak occupy the place of the usual, but far more recent, tiles which cover other churches; and it is not a little illustrative of the antique usages of this remote and lonely sanctuary, that no change has been wrought, in the long lapse of ages, in this unique and costly, but fit and durable, roofing. It supplies a singular illustration of the Syriac version of the 90th Psalm, wherein, with prophetic reference to these commemorations of the death-bed of the Messias, it is written, “Lord, Thou hast been our roof from generation to generation.”
The northern side of the churchyard is, according to ancient usage, devoid of graves. This is the common result of an unconscious sense among the people of the doctrine of regions—a thought coeval with the inspiration of the Christian era. This is their division. The east was held to be the realm of the oracles, the especial gate of the throne of God; the west was the domain of the people—the Galilee of all nations was there; the south, the land of the mid-day, was sacred to things heavenly and divine; but the north was the devoted region of Satan and his hosts, the lair of the demon and his haunt. In some of our ancient churches, and in the church of Welcombe, a hamlet bordering on Morwenstow, over against the font, and in the northern wall, there is an entrance named the Devil’s door: it was thrown open at every baptism, at the Renunciation, for the escape of the fiend; while at every other time it was carefully closed. Hence, and because of the doctrinal suggestion of the ill-omened scenery of the northern grave-ground, came the old dislike to sepulture on the north side, so strikingly visible around this church.
The events of the last twenty years have added fresh interest to God’s acre, for such is the exact measure of the grave ground of St. Morwenna. Along and beneath the southern trees, side by side, are the graves of between thirty and forty seamen, hurled by the sea, in shipwreck, on the neighbouring rocks, and gathered up and buried there by the present vicar and his people. The crews of three lost vessels, cast away upon the rocks of the glebe and elsewhere, are laid at rest in this safe and silent ground. A legend for one recording-stone thus commemorates a singular scene. The figurehead of the brig Caledonia, of Arbroath, in Scotland, stands at the graves of her crew, in the churchyard of Morwenstow:—
Halfway down the principal pathway of the churchyard is a granite altar-tomb. It was raised, in all likelihood, for the old “month’s mind,” or “year’s mind,” of the dead: and it records a sad parochial history of the former time. It was about the middle of the sixteenth century that John Manning, a large landowner of Morwenstow, wooed and won Christiana Kempthorne, the vicar’s daughter. Her father was also a wealthy landlord of the parish in that day. Their marriage united in their own hands a broad estate, and in the midst of it the bridegroom built for his bride the manor-house of Stanbury, and labelled the door-heads and the hearths with the blended initials of the married pair. It was a great and a joyous day when they were wed, and the bride was led home amid all the solemn and festal observances of the time. There were liturgical benedictions of the mansion-house, the hearth, and the marriage-bed; for a large estate and a high place for their future lineage had been blended in the twain. Five months afterwards, on his homeward way from the hunting-field, John Manning was assailed by a mad bull, and gored to death not far from his home. His bride, maddened at the sight of her husband’s corpse, became prematurely a mother and died. They were laid, side by side, with their buried joys and blighted hopes, underneath this altar-tomb—whereon the simple legend records that there lie “John Manning and Christiana his wife, who died A.D. 1546, without living issue.”
When the vicar of the parish arrived, in the year 1836, he brought with him, among other carved oak furniture, a bedstead of Spanish chestnut, inlaid and adorned with ancient veneer: and it was set up, unwittingly, in a room of the vicarage which looked out upon the tombs. In the right-hand panel of the framework, at the head, was grooved in the name of John Manning; and in the place of the wife, the left hand, Christiana Manning, with their marriage date between. Nor was it discovered until afterwards that this was the very couch of wedded benediction, a relic of the great Stanbury marriage, which had been brought back and set up within sight of the unconscious grave; and thus that the sole surviving records of the bridegroom and the bride stood side by side, the bedstead and the tomb, the first and the last scene of their early hope and their final rest.
Another and a lowlier grave bears on its recording-stone a broken snatch of antique rhythm, interwoven with modern verse. A young man of this rural people, when he lay a-dying, found solace in his intervals of pain in the remembered echo of, it may be, some long-forgotten dirge; and he desired that the words which so haunted his memory might somehow or other be engraved on his stone. He died, and his parish priest fulfilled his desire by causing the following death-verse to be set up where he lies. We shall close our legends of Morwenstow with these simple lines. The fragment which clung to the dying man’s memory was the first only of these lines:—
A MORALITY FROM THE ROCKY LAND
A lonely life for the dark and silent mole! Day is to her night. She glides along her narrow vaults, unconscious of the glad and glorious scenes of earth and air and sea. She was born, as it were, in a grave; and in one long, living sepulchre she dwells and dies. Is not existence to her a kind of doom? Wherefore is she thus a dark, sad exile from the blessed light of day? Hearken!
Here, in our bleak old Cornwall, the first mole was once a lady of the land. Her abode was in the far west, among the hills of Morwenna, beside the Severn Sea. She was the daughter of a lordly race, the only child of her mother; and the father of the house was dead: her name was Alice of the Combe. Fair was she and comely, tender and tall; and she stood upon the threshold of her youth. But most of all did men marvel at the glory of her large blue eyes. They were, to look upon, like the summer waters, when the sea is soft with light. They were to her mother a joy, and to the maiden herself, ah! benedicite, a pride. She trusted in the loveliness of those eyes, and in her face and features and form; and so it was that the damsel was wont to pass the whole summer day in the choice of rich apparel and precious stones and gold. Howbeit this was one of the ancient and common usages of those old departed days. Now, in the fashion of her stateliness and in the hue and texture of her garments, there was none among the maidens of old Cornwall like Alice of the Combe. Men sought her far and near, but she was to them all, like a form of graven stone, careless and cold. Her soul was set upon a Granville’s love, fair Sir Beville of Stowe—the flower of the Cornish chivalry—that noble gentleman! That valorous knight! he was her star. And well might she wait upon his eyes; for he was the garland of the west. The loyal soldier of a Stuart king—he was that stately Granville who lived a hero’s life and died a warrior’s death! He was her star. Now there was signal made of banquet in the halls of Stowe, of wassail and dance. The messenger had sped, and Alice of the Combe would be there. Robes, precious and many, were unfolded from their rest, and the casket poured forth jewel and gem, that the maiden might stand before the knight victorious. It was the day—the hour—the time—her mother sate at her wheel by the hearth—the page waited in the hall—she came down in her loveliness, into the old oak room, and stood before the mirrored glass—her robe was of woven velvet, rich and glossy and soft; jewels shone like stars in the midnight of her raven hair, and on her hand there gleamed afar off a bright and glorious ring! She stood—she gazed upon her own fair countenance and form, and worshipped! “Now all good angels succour thee, my Alice, and bend Sir Beville’s soul! Fain am I to greet thee wedded wife before I die! I do yearn to hold thy children on my knee! Often shall I pray to-night that the Granville heart may yield! Ay, thy victory shall be thy mother’s prayer.” “Prayer!” was the haughty answer: “now, with the eyes that I see in that glass, and with this vesture meet for a queen, I lack no trusting prayer!” Saint Juliot shield us! Ah! words of fatal sound—there was a sudden shriek, a sob, a cry, and where was Alice of the Combe? Vanished, silent, gone! They had heard wild tones of mystic music in the air, there was a rush, a beam of light, and she was gone, and that for ever! East sought they her, and west, in northern paths and south; but she was never more seen in the lands. Her mother wept till she had not a tear left; none sought to comfort her, for it was vain. Moons waxed and waned, and the crones by the cottage hearth had whiled away many a shadowy night with tales of Alice of the Combe. But at the last, as the gardener in the pleasaunce leaned one day on his spade, he saw among the roses a small round hillock of earth, such as he had never seen before, and upon it something which shone. It was her ring! It was the very jewel she had worn the day she vanished out of sight! They looked earnestly upon it, and they saw within the border, for it was wide, the tracery of certain small fine runes in the ancient Cornish tongue, which said—
Then came the priest of the place of Morwenna, a grey and silent man! He had served long years at his lonely altar, a worn and solitary form. But he had been wise in language in his youth, and men said that he heard and understood voices in the air when spirits speak and glide. He read and he interpreted thus the legend on the ring,—
Now as on a day he uttered these words, in the pleasaunce, by the mound, on a sudden there was among the grass a low faint cry. They beheld, and oh, wondrous and strange! There was a small dark creature, clothed in a soft velvet skin in texture and in hue like the Lady Alice her robe, and they saw, as it groped into the earth, that it moved along without eyes, in everlasting night! Then the ancient man wept, for he called to mind many things and saw what they meant; and he showed them how that this was the maiden, who had been visited with a doom for her Pride! Therefore her rich array had been changed into the skin of a creeping thing; and her large proud eyes were sealed up, and she herself had become
The First Mole of the Hillocks of Cornwall!
Ah, woe is me and well-a-day! that damsel so stately and fair, sweet Lady Alice of the Combe, should become, for a judgment, the dark mother of the Moles! Now take ye good heed, Cornish maidens, how ye put on vain apparel to win love! And cast down your eyes, all ye damsels of the west, and look meekly on the ground! Be ye ever good and gentle, tender and true; and when ye see your own image in the glass, and ye begin to be lifted up with the loveliness of that shadowy thing, call to mind the maiden of the vale of Morwenna, her noble eyes and comely countenance, her vesture of price, and the glittering ring! Set ye by the wheel as of old they sate, and when ye draw forth the lengthening wool, sing ye evermore and say—
Poor old Tristram Pentire! How he comes up before me as I pronounce his name! That light, active, half-stooping form, bent as though he had a brace of kegs upon his shoulders still; those thin, grey, rusty locks that fell upon a forehead seamed with the wrinkles of threescore years and five; the cunning glance that questioned in his eye, and that nose carried always at half-cock, with a red blaze along its ridge, scorched by the departing footstep of the fierce fiend Alcohol, when he fled before the reinforcements of the coast-guard.
He was the last of the smugglers; and when I took possession of my glebe, I hired him as my servant-of-all-work, or rather no-work, about the house, and there he rollicked away the last few years of his careless existence, in all the pomp and idleness of “The parson’s man.” He had taken a bold part in every landing on the coast, man and boy, full forty years; throughout which time all kinds of men had largely trusted him with their brandy and their lives, and true and faithful had he been to them, as sheath to steel.
Gradually he grew attached to me, and I could but take an interest in him. I endeavoured to work some softening change in him, and to awaken a certain sense of the errors of his former life. Sometimes, as a sort of condescension on his part, he brought himself to concede and to acknowledge, in his own quaint, rambling way—
“Well, sir, I do think, when I come to look back, and to consider what lives we used to live,—drunk all night and idle abed all day, cursing, swearing, fighting, gambling, lying, and always prepared to shet [shoot] the gauger,—I do really believe, sir, we surely was in sin!”
But, whatever contrite admissions to this extent were extorted from old Tristram by misty glimpses of a moral sense and by his desire to gratify his master, there were two points on which he was inexorably firm. The one was, that it was a very guilty practice in the authorities to demand taxes for what he called run goods; and the other settled dogma of his creed was, that it never could be a sin to make away with an exciseman. Battles between Tristram and myself on these themes were frequent and fierce; but I am bound to confess that he always managed, somehow or other, to remain master of the field. Indeed, what Chancellor of the Exchequer could be prepared to encounter the triumphant demand with which Tristram smashed to atoms my suggestions of morality, political economy, and finance? He would listen with apparent patience to all my solemn and secular pleas for the revenue, and then down he came upon me with the unanswerable argument—
“But why should the king tax good liquor? If they must have taxes, why can’t they tax something else?”
My efforts, however, to soften and remove his doctrinal prejudice as to the unimportance, in a moral point of view, of putting the officers of his Majesty’s revenue to death, were equally unavailing. Indeed, to my infinite chagrin, I found that I had lowered myself exceedingly in his estimation by what he called standing up for the exciseman.
“There had been divers passons,” he assured me, “in his time in the parish, and very learned clergy they were, and some very strict; and some would preach one doctrine and some another; and there was one that had very mean notions about running goods, and said ’twas a wrong thing to do; but even he, and the rest, never took part with the gauger—never! And besides,” said old Trim, with another demolishing appeal, “wasn’t the exciseman always ready to put us to death when he could?”
With such a theory it was not very astonishing—although it startled me at the time—that I was once suddenly assailed, in a pause of his spade, with the puzzling inquiry, “Can you tell me the reason, sir, that no grass will ever grow upon the grave of a man that is hanged unjustly?”
“No, indeed, Tristram. I never heard of the fact before.”
“Well, I thought every man know’d that from the Scripture: why, you can see it, sir, every Sabbath-day. That grave on the right hand of the path, as you go down to the porch-door, that heap of airth with no growth, not one blade of grass on it—that’s Will Pooly’s grave that was hanged unjustly.”
“Indeed! but how came such a shocking deed to be done?”
“Why, you see, sir, they got poor Will down to Bodmin, all among strangers, and there was bribery, and false swearing; and an unjust judge came down—and the jury all bad rascals, tin-and-copper-men—and so they all agreed together, and they hanged poor Will. But his friends begged the body and brought the corpse home here to his own parish; and they turfed the grave, and they sowed the grass twenty times over, but ’twas all no use, nothing would ever grow—he was hanged unjustly.”
“Well, but, Tristram, you have not told me all this while what this man Pooly was accused of: what had he done?”
“Done, sir! Done? Nothing whatever but killed the exciseman!”
The glee, the chuckle, the cunning glance, were inimitably characteristic of the hardened old smuggler; and then down went the spade with a plunge of defiance, and as I turned away, a snatch of his favourite song came carolling after me like the ballad of a victory:—
Among the “king’s men,” whose achievements haunted the old man’s memory with a sense of mingled terror and dislike, a certain Parminter and his dog occupied a principal place. This officer appeared to have been a kind of Frank Kennedy in his way, and to have chosen for his watchword the old Irish signal, “Dare!”
“Sir,” said old Tristram once, with a burst of indignant wrath—“Sir, that villain Parminter and his dog murdered with their shetting-irons no less than seven of our people at divers times, and they peacefully at work in their calling all the while!”
I found on further inquiry that this man Parminter was a bold and determined officer, whom no threats could deter and no money bribe. He always went armed to the teeth, and was followed by a large, fierce, and dauntless dog, which he had thought fit to call Satan. This animal he had trained to carry in his mouth a carbine or a loaded club, which, at a signal from his master, Satan brought to the rescue. “Ay, they was bold audacious rascals—that Parminter and his dog—but he went rather too far one day, as I suppose,” was old Tristram’s chuckling remark, as he leaned on his spade, and I stood by.
“Did he, Trim; in what way?”
“Why, sir, the case was this. Our people had a landing down at Melhuach, in Johnnie Mathey’s hole, and Parminter and his dog found it out. So they got into the cave at ebb tide, and laid in wait, and when the first boat-load came ashore, just as the keel took the ground, down storms Parminter, shouting for Satan to follow. The dog knew better, and held back, they said, for the first time in all his life: so in leaps Parminter smash into the boat alone, with his cutlass drawn; but” (with a kind of inward ecstasy) “he didn’t do much harm to the boat’s crew——”
“Because,” as I interposed, “they took him off to their ship?”
“No, not they; not a bit of it. Their blood was up, poor fellows; so they just pulled Parminter down in the boat, and chopped off his head on the gunwale!”
The exclamation of horror with which I received this recital elicited no kind of sympathy from Tristram. He went on quietly with his work, merely moralising thus—“Ay, better Parminter and his dog had gone now and then to the Gauger’s Pocket at Tidnacombe Cross, and held their peace—better far.”
The term “The Gauger’s Pocket,” in old Tristram’s phraseology, had no kind of reference to any place of deposit in the apparel of the exciseman, but to a certain large grey rock, which stands upon a neighbouring moorland, not far from the cliffs which overhang the sea. It bears to this day, among the parish people, the name of the Witan-stone—that is to say, in the language of our forefathers, the Rock of Wisdom; because it was one of the places of usual assemblage for the Grey Eldermen of British or of Saxon times—a sort of speaker’s chair or woolsack in the local parliaments. It was, moreover, there is no doubt, one of the natural altars of the old religion; and, as such, it is greeted with a fond and legendary reverence still. Hither Trim guided me one day, to show, as he told me, “the great rock set up by the giants, so they said—long, long ago, before there was any bad laws such as they make now.” It was indeed a wild, strange, striking scene; and one to lift and fill, and, moreover, to subdue the thoughtful mind. Around was the wild, half-cultured moor; yonder, within reach of sight and ear, that boundless, breathing sea, with that shout of waters which came up ever and anon to recall the strong metre of the Greek—
And there, before me, stood the tall, vast, solemn stone: grey and awful with the myriad memorials of ancient ages, when the white fathers bowed around the rocks and worshipped!
“And now, sir,” clashed in a shrill, sharp voice, “let me show you the wonderfullest thing in all the place, and that is, the Gauger’s Pocket.”
Accordingly I followed my guide, for it seems “I had a dream that was not all a dream,” as he led the way to the back of the Witan-stone; and there, grown over with moss and lichen, with a movable slice of rock to conceal its mouth, old Tristram pointed out, triumphantly, a dry and secret crevice, almost an arm’s-length deep. “There, sir,” said he, with a joyous twinkle in his eye,—“there have I dropped a little bag of gold, many and many a time, when our people wanted to have the shore quiet and to keep the exciseman out of the way of trouble; and there he would go, if so be he was a reasonable officer, and the byword used to be, when ’twas all right, one of us would go and meet him, and then say, ‘Sir, your pocket is unbuttoned;’ and he would smile and answer, ‘Ay, ay! but never mind, my man, my money’s safe enough;’ and thereby we knew that he was a just man, and satisfied, and that the boats could take the roller in peace; and that was the very way, sir, it came to pass that this crack in the stone was called for evermore ‘The Gauger’s Pocket.’”
The life and adventures of the Cornish clergy during the eighteenth century would form a graphic volume of ecclesiastical lore. Afar off from the din of the noisy world, almost unconscious of the badge-words High Church and Low Church, they dwelt in their quaint grey vicarages by the churchyard wall, the saddened and unsympathising witnesses of those wild, fierce usages of the west which they were utterly powerless to control. The glebe whereon I write has been the scene of many an unavailing contest in the cause of morality between the clergyman and his flock. One aged parishioner recalls and relates the run—that is, the rescue—of a cargo of kegs underneath the benches and in the tower-stairs of the church. “We bribed Tom Hockaday, the sexton,” so the legend ran, “and we had the goods safe in the seats by Saturday night. The parson did wonder at the large congregation, for divers of them were not regular church-goers at other times; and if he had known what was going on he could not have preached a more suitable discourse, for it was, ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.’ One of his best sermons; but there it did not touch us, you see, for we never tasted anything but brandy or gin. Ah! he was a dear old man our parson, mild as milk; nothing ever put him out. Once I mind, in the middle of morning prayer, there was a buzz down by the porch, and the folks began to get up and go out of church one by one. At last there was hardly three left. So the parson shut the book and took off his surplice, and he said to the clerk, ‘There is surely something amiss.’ And so there certainly was; for when we came out on the cliff there was a king’s cutter in chase of our vessel, the Black Prince, close under the land, and there was our departed congregation looking on. Well, at last Whorwell, who commanded our trader, ran for the Gullrock (where it was certain death for anything to follow him), and the revenue commander sheered away to save his ship. Then off went our hats, and we gave Whorwell three cheers. So, when there was a little peace, the parson said to us all, ‘And now, my friends, let us return and proceed with divine service.’ We did return; and it was surprising, after all that bustle and uproar, to hear how Parson Trenowth went on, just as nothing had come to pass: ‘Here beginneth the Second Lesson.’” But on another occasion, the equanimity and forbearance of the parson were sorely tired. He presided, as the custom was, at a parish feast, in cassock and bands, and had, with his white hair and venerable countenance, quite an apostolic aspect and mien. On a sudden, a busy whisper among the farmers at the lower end of the table attracted his notice, interspersed as it was by sundry nods and glances towards himself. At last one bolder than the rest addressed him, and said that they had a great wish to ask his reverence a question if he would kindly grant them a reply: it was on a religious subject that they had dispute, he said. The bland old man assured them of his readiness to yield them any information or answer in his power.
“But what was the point in debate?”
“Why, sir, we wish to be informed if there were not sins which God Almighty would never forgive?”
Surprised and somewhat shocked, he told them “that he trusted there were no transgressions, common to themselves, but, if repented of and abjured, they might clearly hope to be forgiven.” But, with a natural curiosity, he inquired what kind of iniquities they had discussed as too vile to look for pardon. “Why, sir,” replied their spokesman, “we thought that if a man should find out where run goods was deposited and should inform the gauger, that such a villain was too bad for mercy.”
How widely the doctrinal discussions of those days differed from our own! Let us not, however, suppose that all the clergy were as gentle and unobtrusive as Parson Trenowth. A tale is told of an adjacent parish, situate also on the sea-shore, of a more stirring kind. It was full sea in the evening of an autumn day when a traveller arrived where the road ran along by a sandy beach, just above high-water mark. The stranger, who was a native of some inland town, and utterly unacquainted with Cornwall and its ways, had reached the brink of the tide just as a “landing” was coming off. It was a scene not only to instruct a townsman but also to dazzle and surprise. At sea, just beyond the billows, lay the vessel well moored with anchors at stem and stern. Between the ship and the shore boats laden to the gunwale passed to and fro. Crowds assembled on the beach to help the cargo ashore. On the one hand a boisterous group surrounded a keg with the head knocked in, for simplicity of access to the good cognac, into which they dipped whatsoever vessel came first to hand: one man had filled his shoe. On the other side they fought and wrestled, cursed and swore. Horrified at what he saw, the stranger lost all self-command, and, oblivious of personal danger, he began to shout, “What a horrible sight! Have you no shame? Is there no magistrate at hand? Cannot any justice of the peace be found in this fearful country?”
“No—thanks be to God,” answered a hoarse, gruff voice; “none within eight miles.”
“Well, then,” screamed the stranger, “is there no clergyman hereabout? Does no minister of the parish live among you on this coast?”
“Ay! to be sure there is,” said the same deep voice.
“Well, how far off does he live? Where is he?”
“That’s he yonder, sir, with the lanthorn.” And sure enough there he stood, on a rock, and poured, with pastoral diligence, the light of other days on a busy congregation.
It has frequently occurred to my thoughts that the events which have befallen me since my collation to this wild and remote vicarage, on the shore of the billowy Atlantic sea, might not be without interest to the reader of a more refined and civilised region. When I was collated to the incumbency in 18—, I found myself the first resident vicar for more than a century. My parish was a domain of about seven thousand acres, bounded on the landward border by the course of a curving river, which had its source with a sister stream in a moorland spring within my territory, and, flowing southward, divided two counties in its descent to the sea. My seaward boundary was a stretch of bold and rocky shore, an interchange of lofty headland and deep and sudden gorge, the cliffs varying from three hundred to four hundred and fifty feet of perpendicular or gradual height, and the valleys gushing with torrents, which bounded rejoicingly towards the sea, and leaped at last, amid a cloud of spray, into the waters. So stern and pitiless is this iron-bound coast, that within the memory of one man upwards of eighty wrecks have been counted within a reach of fifteen miles, with only here and there the rescue of a living man. My people were a mixed multitude of smugglers, wreckers, and dissenters of various hue. A few simple-hearted farmers had clung to the grey old sanctuary of the church and the tower that looked along the sea; but the bulk of the people, in the absence of a resident vicar, had become the followers of the great preacher of the last century who came down into Cornwall and persuaded the people to alter their sins. I was assured, soon after my arrival, by one of his disciples, who led the foray among my flock, that my “parish was so rich in resources for his benefit, that he called it, sir, the garden of our circuit.” The church stood on the glebe, and close by the sea. It was an old Saxon station, with additions of Norman structure, and the total building, although of gradual erection, had been completed and consecrated before the middle of the fifteenth century. The vicarage, built by myself, stood, as it were, beneath the sheltering shadow of the walls and tower. My land extended thence to the shore. Here, like the Kenite, I had “built my nest upon the rock,” and here my days were to glide away, afar from the noise and bustle of the world, in that which is perhaps the most thankless office in every generation, the effort to do good against their will to our fellow-men. Mine was a perilous warfare. If I had not, like the apostle, to “fight with wild beasts at Ephesus,” I had to soothe the wrecker, to persuade the smuggler, and to “handle serpents,” in my intercourse with adversaries of many a kind. Thank God! the promises which the clergy inherit from their Founder cannot fail to be fulfilled. It was never prophesied that they should be popular, or wealthy, or successful among men; but only that they “should endure to the end,” that “their generation should never pass away.” Well has this word been kept!
Among my parishioners there were certain individuals who might be termed representative men,—quaint and original characters, who embodied in their own lives the traditions and the usages of the parish. One of these had been for full forty years a wrecker—that is to say, a watcher of the sea and rocks for flotsam and jetsam, and other unconsidered trifles which the waves might turn up to reward the zeal and vigilance of a patient man. His name was Peter Burrow, a man of harmless and desultory life, and by no means identified with the cruel and covetous natives of the strand, with whom it was a matter of pastime to lure a vessel ashore by a treacherous light, or to withhold succour from the seaman struggling with the sea. He was the companion of many of my walks, and the witness with myself of more than one thrilling and perilous scene. Another of my parish notorieties, the hero of contraband adventure, and agent for sale of smuggled cargoes in bygone times, was Tristram Pentire, a name known to the readers of these pages. With a merry twinkle of the eye, and in a sharp and ringing tone, it was old Tristram’s usage to recount for my instruction such tales of wild adventure and of “derring-do” as would make the foot of an exciseman falter and his cheek turn pale. But both these cronies of mine were men devoid of guile, and in their most reckless of escapades innocent of mischievous harm. It was not long after my arrival in my new abode that I was plunged all at once into the midst of a fearful scene of the terrors of the sea. About daybreak of an autumn day I was aroused by a knock at my bedroom-door; it was followed by the agitated voice of a boy, a member of my household, “Oh, sir, there are dead men on vicarage rocks!”
In a moment I was up, and in my dressing-gown and slippers rushed out. There stood my lad, weeping bitterly, and holding out to me in his trembling hands a tortoise alive. I found afterwards that he had grasped it on the beach, and brought it in his hand as a strange and marvellous arrival from the waves, but in utter ignorance of what it might be. I ran across my glebe, a quarter of a mile, to the cliffs, and down a frightful descent of three hundred feet to the beach. It was indeed a scene to be looked on once only in a human life. On a ridge of rock, just left bare by the falling tide, stood a man, my own servant; he had come out to see my flock of ewes, and had found the awful wreck. There he stood, with two dead sailors at his feet, whom he had just drawn out of the water stiff and stark. The bay was tossing and seething with a tangled mass of rigging, sails, and broken fragments of a ship; the billows rolled up yellow with corn, for the cargo of the vessel had been foreign wheat; and ever and anon there came up out of the water, as though stretched out with life, a human hand and arm. It was the corpse of another sailor drifting out to sea. “Is there no one alive?” was my first question to my man. “I think there is, sir,” he said, “for just now I thought I heard a cry.” I made haste in the direction he pointed out, and, on turning a rock, just where a brook of fresh water fell towards the sea, there lay the body of a man in a seaman’s garb. He had reached the water faint with thirst, but was too much exhausted to swallow or drink. He opened his eyes at our voices, and as he saw me leaning over him in my cassock-shaped dressing-gown, he sobbed, with a piteous cry, “O mon père, mon père!” Gradually he revived, and when he had fully come to himself with the help of cordials and food, we gathered from him the mournful tale of his vessel and her wreck. He was a Jersey man by birth, and had been shipped at Malta, on the homeward voyage of the vessel from the port of Odessa with corn. I had sent in for brandy, and was pouring it down his throat, when my parishioner, Peter Burrow, arrived. He assisted, at my request, in the charitable office of restoring the exhausted stranger; but when he was refreshed and could stand upon his feet, I remarked that Peter did not seem so elated as in common decency I expected he would be. The reason soon transpired. Taking me aside, he whispered in my ear, “Now, sir, I beg your pardon, but if you’ll take my advice, now that man is come to himself, if I were you I would let him go his way wherever he will. If you take him into your house, he’ll surely do you some harm.” Seeing my surprise, he went on to explain, “You don’t know, sir,” he said, “the saying on our coast—
There was one Coppinger cast ashore from a brig that struck up at Hartland, on the Point. Farmer Hamlyn dragged him out of the water and took him home, and was very kind to him. Lord, sir! he never would leave the house again! He lived upon the folks a whole year, and at last, lo and behold! he married the farmer’s daughter Elizabeth, and spent all her fortin rollicking and racketing, till at last he would tie her to the bedpost and flog her till her father would come down with more money. The old man used to say he wished he’d let Coppinger lie where he was in the waves, and never laid a finger on him to save his life. Ay, and divers more I’ve heerd of that never brought no good to they that saved them.”
“And did you ever yourself, Peter,” said I, “being, as you have told me, a wrecker so many years—did you ever see a poor fellow clambering up the rock where you stood, and just able to reach your foot or hand, did you ever shove him back into the sea to be drowned?”
“No, sir, I declare I never did. And I do believe, sir, if I ever had done such a thing, and given so much as one push to a man in such a case, I think verily that afterwards I should have been troubled and uncomfortable in my mind.”
“Well, notwithstanding your doctrine, Peter,” said I, “we will take charge of this poor fellow; so do you lead him into the vicarage and order a bed for him, and wait till I come in.”
I returned to the scene of death and danger, where my man awaited me. He had found, in addition to the two corpses, another dead body jammed under a rock. By this time a crowd of people had arrived from the land, and at my request they began to search anxiously for the dead. It was, indeed, a terrible scene. The vessel, a brig of five hundred tons, had struck, as we afterwards found, at three o’clock that morning, and by the time the wreck was discovered she had been shattered into broken pieces by the fury of the sea. The rocks and the water bristled with fragments of mast and spar and rent timbers; the cordage lay about in tangled masses. The rollers tumbled in volumes of corn, the wheaten cargo; and amidst it all the bodies of the helpless dead—that a few brief hours before had walked the deck the stalwart masters of their ship—turned their poor disfigured faces toward the sky, pleading for sepulture. We made a temporary bier of the broken planks, and laid thereon the corpses, decently arranged. As the vicar, I led the way, and my people followed with ready zeal as bearers, and in sad procession we carried our dead up the steep cliff, by a difficult path, to await, in a room at my vicarage which I allotted them, the inquest. The ship and her cargo were, as to any tangible value, utterly lost.
The people of the shore, after having done their best to search for survivors and to discover the lost bodies, gathered up fragments of the wreck for fuel, and shouldered them away,—not perhaps a lawful spoil, but a venal transgression when compared with the remembered cruelties of Cornish wreckers. Then ensued my interview with the rescued man. His name was Le Daine. I found him refreshed, and collected, and grateful. He told me his Tale of the Sea. The captain and all the crew but himself were from Arbroath, in Scotland. To that harbour also the vessel belonged. She had been away on a two years’ voyage, employed in the Mediterranean trade. She had loaded last at Odessa. She touched at Malta, and there Le Daine, who had been sick in the hospital, but recovered, had joined her. There also the captain had engaged a Portuguese cook, and to this man, as one link in a chain of causes, the loss of the vessel might be ascribed. He had been wounded in a street-quarrel the night before the vessel sailed from Malta, and lay disabled and useless in his cabin throughout the homeward voyage. At Falmouth whither they were bound for orders, the cook died. The captain and all the crew, except the cabin-boy, went ashore to attend the funeral. During their absence the boy, handling in his curiosity the barometer, had broken the tube, and the whole of the quicksilver had run out. Had this instrument, the pulse of the storm, been preserved, the crew would have received warning of the sudden and unexpected hurricane, and might have stood out to sea. Whereas they were caught in the chops of the Channel, and thus, by this small incident, the vessel and the mariners found their fate on the rocks of a remote headland in my lonely parish. I caused Le Daine to relate in detail the closing events.
“We received orders,” he said, “at Falmouth to make for Gloucester to discharge. The captain, and mate, and another of the crew, were to be married on their return to their native town. They wrote, therefore, to Arbroath from Falmouth, to announce their safe arrival there from their two years’ voyage, their intended course to Gloucester, and their hope in about a week to arrive at Arbroath for welcome there.”
But in a day or two after this joyful letter, there arrived in Arbroath a leaf torn out of my pocket-book, and addressed “To the Owners of the Vessel,” the Caledonia of Arbroath, with the brief and thrilling tidings, written by myself in pencil, that I wrote among the fragments of their wrecked vessel, and that the whole crew, except one man, were lost “upon my rocks.” My note spread a general dismay in Arbroath, for the crew, from the clannish relationship among the Scots, were connected with a large number of the inhabitants. But to return to the touching details of Le Daine.
“We rounded the Land’s End,” he said, “that night all well, and came up Channel with a fair wind. The captain turned in. It was my watch. All at once, about nine at night, it began to blow in one moment as if the storm burst out by signal; the wind went mad; our canvas burst in bits. We reeved fresh sails; they went also. At last we were under bare poles. The captain had turned out when the storm began. He sent me forward to look out for Lundy Light. I saw your cliff.” (This was a bluff and broken headland just by the southern boundary of my own glebe.) “I sung out, ‘Land!’ I had hardly done so when she struck with a blow, and stuck fast. Then the captain sung out, ‘All hands to the maintop!’ and we all went up. The captain folded his arms, and stood by, silent.”
Here I asked him, anxious to know how they expressed themselves at such a time, “But what was said afterwards, Le Daine?”
“Not one word, sir; only once, when the long-boat went over, I said to the skipper, ‘Sir, the boat is gone!’ But he made no answer.”
How accurate was Byron’s painting—
“At last there came on a dreadful wave, mast-top high, and away went the mast by the board, and we with it, into the sea. I gave myself up. I was the only man on the ship that could not swim, so where I fell in the water there I lay. I felt the waves beat me and send me on. At last there was a rock under my hand. I clung on. Just then I saw Alick Kant, one of our crew, swimming past. I saw him lay his hand on a rock, and I sung out, ‘Hold on, Alick!’ but a wave rolled and swept him away, and I never saw his face more. I was beaten onward and onward among the rocks and the tide, and at last I felt the ground with my feet. I scrambled on. I saw the cliff, steep and dark, above my head. I climbed up until I reached a kind of platform with grass, and there I fell down flat upon my face, and either I fainted away or I fell asleep. There I lay a long time, and when I awoke it was just the break of day. There was a little yellow flower just under my head, and when I saw that I knew I was on dry land.” This was a plant of the bird’s-foot clover, called in old times Our Lady’s Finger. He went on: “I could see no house or sign of people, and the country looked to me like some wild and desert island. At last I felt very thirsty, and I tried to get down towards a valley where I thought I should find water; but before I could reach it I fell and grew faint again, and there, thank God, sir, you found me.”
Such was Le Daine’s sad and simple story, and no one could listen unmoved or without a strong feeling of interest and compassion for the poor solitary survivor of his shipmates and crew. The coroner arrived, held his ’quest, and the usual verdict of “Wrecked and cast ashore” empowered me to inter the dead sailors, found and future, from the same vessel, with the service in the Prayer-book for the Burial of the Dead. This decency of sepulture is the result of a somewhat recent statute, passed in the reign of George III. Before that time it was the common usage of the coast to dig, just above high-water mark, a pit on the shore, and therein to cast, without inquest or religious rite, the carcasses of shipwrecked men. My first funeral of these lost mariners was a touching and striking scene. The three bodies first found were buried at the same time. Behind the coffins, as they were solemnly borne along the aisle, walked the solitary mourner, Le Daine, weeping bitterly and aloud. Other eyes were moist, for who could hear unsoftened the greeting of the Church to these strangers from the sea, and the “touch that makes the whole earth kin,” in the hope we breathed that we, too, might one day “rest as these our brethren did”? It was well-nigh too much for those who served that day. Nor was the interest subdued when, on the Sunday after the wreck, at the appointed place in the service, just before the General Thanksgiving, Le Daine rose up from his place, approached the altar, and uttered, in an audible but broken voice, his thanksgiving for his singular and safe deliverance from the perils of the sea.
The text of the sermon that day demands its history. Some time before, a vessel, the Hero of Liverpool, was seen in distress, in the offing of a neighbouring harbour, during a storm. The crew, mistaking a signal from the beach, betook themselves to their boat. It foundered, and the whole ship’s company, twelve in number, were drowned in sight of the shore. But the stout ship held together, and drifted on to the land so unshattered by the sea that the coast-guard, who went immediately on board, found the fire burning in the cabin. When the vessel came to be examined, they found in one of the berths a Bible, and between its leaves a sheet of paper, whereon some recent hand had transcribed verses the twenty-first, twenty-second, and twenty-third of the thirty-third chapter of Isaiah. The same hand had also marked the passage with a line of ink along the margin. The name of the owner of the book was also found inscribed on the fly-leaf. He was a youth of eighteen years of age, the son of a widow, and a statement under his name recorded that the Bible was “a reward for his good conduct in a Sunday-school.” This text, so identified and enforced by a hand that soon after grew cold, appeared strangely and strikingly adapted to the funeral of shipwrecked men; and it was therefore chosen as the theme for our solemn day. The very hearts of the people seemed hushed to hear it, and every eye was turned towards Le Daine, who bowed his head upon his hands and wept. These are the words: “But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us. The tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.” Shall I be forgiven for the vaunt, if I declare that there was not literally a single face that day unmoistened and unmoved? Few, indeed, could have borne, without deep emotion, to see and hear Le Daine. He remained as my guest six weeks, and during the whole of this time we sought diligently, and at last we found the whole crew, nine in number. They were discovered, some under rocks, jammed in by the force of the water, so that it took sometimes several ebb-tides, and the strength of many hands, to extricate the corpses. The captain I came upon myself lying placidly upon his back, with his arms folded in the very gesture which Le Daine had described as he stood amid the crew on the maintop. The hand of the spoiler was about to assail him when I suddenly appeared, so that I rescued him untouched. Each hand grasped a small pouch or bag. One contained his pistols; the other held two little log-reckoners of brass; so that his last thoughts were full of duty to his owners and his ship, and his latest efforts for rescue and defence. He had been manifestly lifted by a billow and hurled against a rock, and so slain; for the victims of our cruel sea are seldom drowned, but beaten to death by violence and the wrath of the billows. We gathered together one poor fellow in five parts; his limbs had been wrenched off, and his body rent. During our search for his remains, a man came up to me with something in his hand, inquiring, “Can you tell me, sir, what is this? Is it a part of a man?” It was the mangled seaman’s heart, and we restored it reverently to its place, where it had once beat high with life and courage, with thrilling hope and sickening fear. Two or three of the dead were not discovered for four or five weeks after the wreck, and these had become so loathsome from decay, that it was at peril of health and life to perform the last duties we owe to our brother-men. But hearts and hands were found for the work, and at last the good ship’s company—captain, mate, and crew—were laid at rest, side by side, beneath our churchyard trees. Groups of grateful letters from Arbroath are to this day among the most cherished memorials of my escritoire. Some, written by the friends of the dead, are marvellous proofs of the good feeling and educated ability of the Scottish people. One from a father breaks off in irrepressible pathos, with a burst of “O my son! my son!” We placed at the foot of the captain’s grave the figurehead of his vessel. It is a carved image, life-size, of his native Caledonia, in the garb of her country, with sword and shield.
At the end of about six weeks Le Daine left my house on his homeward way, a sadder and a richer man. Gifts had been proffered from many a hand, so that he was able to return to Jersey, with happy and grateful mien, well clothed, and with £30 in his purse. His recollections of our scenery were not such as were in former times associated with the Cornish shore; for three years afterward he returned to the place of his disaster accompanied by his uncle, sister, and affianced wife, and he had brought them that, in his own joyous words, “they might see the very spot of his great deliverance:” and there, one summer day, they stood, a group of happy faces, gazing with wonder and gratitude on our rugged cliffs, that were then clad in that gorgeous vesture of purple and gold which the heather and gorse wind and weave along the heights; and the soft blue wave lapping the sand in gentle cadence, as though the sea had never wreaked an impulse of ferocity, or rent a helpless prey. Nor was the thankfulness of the sailor a barren feeling. Whensoever afterward the vicar sought to purchase for his dairy a Jersey cow, the family and friends of Le Daine rejoiced to ransack the island until they had found the sleekiest, loveliest, best of that beautiful breed; and it is to the gratitude of that poor seaman and stranger from a distant abode that the herd of the glebe has long been famous in the land, and hence, as Homer would have sung—hence came
Strange to say, Le Daine has been twice shipwrecked since his first peril—with similar loss of property, but escape of life; and he is now the master of a vessel in the trade of the Levant.
In the following year a new and another wreck was announced in the gloom of night. A schooner under bare poles had been watched for many hours from the cliffs, with the steersman fastened at the wheel. All at once she tacked and made for the shore, and just as she had reached a creek between two reefs of rock, she foundered and went down. At break of day only her vane was visible to mark her billowy grave. Not a vestige could be seen of her crew. But in the course of the day her boat was drifted ashore, and we found from the name on the stern that the vessel was the Phœnix of St. Ives. A letter from myself by immediate post brought up next day from that place a sailor who introduced himself as the brother of a young man who had sailed as mate in the wrecked ship. He was a rough plain-spoken man, of simple religious cast, without guile or pretence: one of the good old seafaring sort—the men who “go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters:” these, as the Psalmist chants, “see the wonders of the Lord, and His glories in the deep.” At my side he paced the shore day after day in weary quest of the dead. “If I could but get my poor brother’s bones,” he cried out yearningly again and again, “if I could but lay him in the earth, how it would comfort dear mother at home!” We searched every cranny in the rocks, and we watched every surging wave, until hope was exchanged for despair. A reward of meagre import, it is true, offered by the Seaman’s Burial Act, to which I have referred, and within my own domain doubled always by myself, brought us many a comrade in this sickening scrutiny, but for long it was in vain. At last one day, while we were scattered over a broken stretch of jumbled rocks that lay in huddled masses along the base of the cliffs, a loud and sudden shout called me where the seaman of St. Ives stood. He was gazing down into the broken sea—it was on a spot near low-water mark—and there, just visible from underneath a mighty fragment of rock, was seen the ankle of a man and a foot still wearing a shoe. “It is my brother!” yelled the sailor, bitterly; “it is our own dear Jem—I can swear to that shoe!” We gathered around; the tide ebbed a very little after this discovery, and only just enough to leave dry the surface of the rock under which the body lay. Soon the sea began again to flow, and very quickly we were driven by the rising surges from the spot. The anguish of the mourner for his dead was thrilling to behold and terrible to hear. “O my brother! my brother!” was his sob again and again; “what a burial-place for our own dear merry boy!” I tried to soothe him, but in vain: the only theme to which he could be brought to listen was the chance—and I confess it seemed to my own secret mind a hopeless thought—that it might be possible at the next ebb-tide, by skill and strength combined, to move, if ever so little, the monstrous rock, and so recover the corpse. It was low water at evening tide, and there was a bright November moon. We gathered in numbers, for among my parishioners there were kind and gentle-hearted men, such as had “pity, tenderness, and tears,” and all were moved by the tale of the sailor, hurled and buried beneath a rock, by the strong and cruel sea. The scene of our first nightly assemblage was a weird and striking sight. Far, far above loomed the tall and gloomy headlands of the coast: around us foamed and raged the boiling waves: the moon cast her massive lowering shadows on rock and sea—
Stout and stalwart forms surrounded me, wielding their iron bars, pickaxes, and ropes. Their efforts were strenuous but unavailing. The tide soon returned in its strength, and drove us, baffled, from the spot before we had been able to grasp or shake the ponderous mass. It was calculated by competent judges that its weight was full fifteen tons: neither could there be a more graphic image of the resistless strength of the wrathful sea than the aspect of this and similar blocks of rifted stone, that were raised and rolled perpetually, by the power of the billows, and hurled, as in some pastime of the giants, along the shuddering shore! Deep and bitter was the grief of the sailor at our failure and retreat. His piteous wail over the dead recalled the agony of those who are recorded in Holy Writ, they who grieved for their lost ones, “and would not be comforted because they were not!” That night an inspiration visited me in my wakeful bed. At a neighbouring harbour dwelt a relative of mine, who was an engineer, in charge of the machinery on a breakwater and canal. To him at morning light I sent an appeal for succour, and he immediately responded with aidance and advice. Two strong windlasses, worked by iron chains, and three or four skilful men, were sent up by him next day with instructions for their work. Again at evening ebb we were all on the spot. One of our new assistants, a very Tubal-Cain in aspect and stature, and of the same craft with that smith before the Flood, plunged upon the rock as the water reluctantly revealed its upper side, and drilled a couple of holes in the surface with rapid energy, to receive, each of them, that which he called a Lewis-wedge and a ring. To these the chains of the windlasses were fastened on. They then looped a rope around the ankle of the corpse and gave it as the post of honour to me to hold. It was on the evening of Sunday that all this was done, and I had deemed it a venial breach of discipline to omit the nightly service of the Church in order to suit the tide. A Puseyite bishop might have condemned my breach of Rubric and Ritual, but I exercise episcopal authority in my own parish, and accordingly I absolved myself. Forty strong parishioners, all absentees from evening prayer, manned the double windlass power; I intoned the pull; and by a strong and blended effort the rocky mass was slowly, silently, and gently upheaved: a slight haul at the rope, and up to our startled view, and to the sudden lights, came forth the altered, ghastly, flattened semblance of a man! “My brother! my brother!” shrieked a well-known voice at my side, and tears of gratitude and suffering gushed in mingled torrent over his rugged cheek. A coffin had been made ready, under the hope of final success, and therein we reverently laid the poor disfigured carcass of one who a little while before had been the young and joyous inmate of a fond and happy home. We had to clamber up a steep and difficult pathway along the cliff with the body, which was carried by the bearers in a kind of funeral train. The vicar of course led the way. When we were about halfway up a singular and striking event occurred, which moved us all exceedingly. Unobserved—for all were intent on their solemn task—a vessel had neared the shore; she lay to, and, as it seemed, had watched us with night-glasses from the deck, or had discerned us from the torches and lanterns in our hands. For all at once there sounded along the air three deep and thrilling cheers! And we could see that the crew on board had manned their yards. It was manifest that their loyal and hearty voices and gestures were intended to greet and gratulate our fulfilment of duty to a brother mariner’s remains. The burial-place of the dead sailors in this churchyard is a fair and fitting scene for their quiet rest. Full in view and audible in sound for ever rolls the sea. Is it not to them a soothing requiem that
Trees stand, like warders, beside their graves; and the Saxon and shingled church, “the mother of us all,” dwells in silence by, to watch and wail over her safe and slumbering dead. It recalls the imagery of the Holy Book wherein we read of the gathered relics of the ancient slain: “And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for her upon the rock from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.” In such a shelter we laid our brother at rest, rescued from the unhallowed sepulture of the rock; and there the faithful voice of the mourner breathed a last farewell. “Good-bye,” he said, “good-bye! Safe and quiet in the ground!”
A year had passed away when the return of the equinox admonished us again to listen for storms and wrecks. There are men in this district whose usage it is at every outbreak of a gale of wind to watch and ward the cliffs from rise to set of sun. Of these my quaint old parishioner, Peter Burrow, was one. On a wild and dreary winter day I found myself seated on a rock with Peter standing by, at a point that overhung the sea. We were both gazing with anxious dismay at a ship which was beating to and fro in the Channel, and had now drifted much too near to the surges and the shore. She had come into sight some hours before struggling with Harty Race, the local name of a narrow and boisterous run of sea between Lundy and the land, and she was now within three or four miles of our rocks. “Ah, sir,” said Peter, “the coastmen say,
And I think the poor fellows off there will find it so.” All at once, as we still watched the vessel labouring on the sea, a boat was launched over her side, and several men plunged into it one by one. With strained and anxious eyes we searched the billows for the course of the boat. Sometimes we caught a glimpse as it rode upon some surging wave; then it disappeared a while, and no trace was visible for long. At last we could see it no more. Meanwhile the vessel held down Channel, tacked and steered as if still beneath the guidance of some of her crew, although it must have been in sheer desperation that they still hugged the shore. What was to be done? If she struck, the men still on board must perish without help, for nightfall drew on; if the boat reappeared, Peter could make a signal where to land. In hot haste, then, I made for the vicarage, ordered my horse, and returned towards the cliffs. The ship rode on, and I accompanied her way along the shore. She reached the offing of a neighbouring haven, and there grounded on the sand. No boatman could be induced to put off, and thick darkness soon after fell. I returned worn, heart-sick, and weary on my homeward way; there strange tidings greeted me,—the boat which we had watched so long had been rolled ashore by the billows empty. Peter Burrow had hauled her above high-water mark, and had found a name, “The Alonzo, of Stockton-on-Tees,” on her stern. That night I wrote as usual to the owner, with news of the wreck, and the next day we were able to guess at the misfortunes of the stranded ship: a boat had visited the vessel, and found her freighted with iron from Gloucester for a Queen’s yard round the Land’s End. Her papers in the cabin showed that her crew of nine men had been reported all sound and well three days before. The owner’s agent arrived, and he stated that her captain was a brave and trusty officer, and that he must have been compelled by his men to join them when they deserted the ship. They must all have been swamped and lost not long after the launch of the boat, and while we watched for them in vain amid the waves. Then ensued what has long been with me the saddest and most painful duty of the shore: we sought and waited for the dead. Now there is a folk-lore of the beach that no corpse will float or be found until the ninth day after death. The truth is, that about that time the body proceeds to decompose, and as a natural result it ascends to the surface of the current, is brought into the shallows of the tide, and is there found. The owner’s representative was my guest for ten days, and with the help of the ship’s papers and his own personal knowledge we were able to identify the dead. First of all the body of the captain came in; he was a fine, stalwart, and resolute-looking man. His countenance, however, had a grim and angry aspect, and his features wore somewhat of a fierce and reproachful look—just such an expression as would verify the truth of our suspicion that he had been driven by the violence of others to forsake his deck. The face of the dead man was as graphic a record of his living character as a physiognomist could portray. Then arrived the mate and three other men of the crew. None were placid of feature or calm and pleasant in look, as those usually are who are accidentally drowned or who die in their beds. But many of them had that awful expression of countenance which reminded me of a picture once described to me as the result of an experiment by certain artists in France. It was during the Revolution, and amid the anarchy of those times, that they bought a criminal who had been condemned to die, fastened him to a cross, and painted him for a crucifixion; but his face wore the aspect, not of the patient suffering which they intended to portray, but a strong expression of reluctant agony. Such has been the look that I myself have witnessed in many a poor disfigured corpse. The death-struggle of the conscious victim in the strong and cruel grasp of the remorseless sea was depicted in harsh and vivid lines on the brow of the dead.
But one day my strange old man, Peter Burrow, came to me in triumphant haste with the loud greeting, “Sir, we have got a noble corpse down on your beach! We have just laid him down above high-water mark, and he is as comely a body as a man shall see!” I made haste to the spot, and there lay, with the light of a calm and wintry day falling on his manly form, a fine and stately example of a man: he was six feet two inches in height, of firm and accurate proportion throughout; and he must have been, indeed, in life a shape of noble symmetry and grace. On his broad smooth chest was tattooed a rood—that is to say, in artist phrase, our blessed Saviour on His cross, with, on the one hand, His mother, and on the other St. John the evangelist: underneath were the initial letters of a name, “P. B.” His arms also were marked with tracery in the same blue lines. On his right arm was engraved “P. B.” again, and “E. M.,” the letters linked with a wreath; and on his left arm was an anchor, as I imagined the symbol of hope, and the small blue forget-me-not flower. The greater number of my dead sailors—and I have myself said the burial service over forty-two such men rescued from the sea—were so decorated with some distinctive emblem and name; and it is their object and intent, when they assume these pictured signs, to secure identity for their bodies if their lives are lost at sea, and then, for the solace of their friends, should they be cast on the shore and taken up for burial in the earth. What a volume of heroism and resignation to a mournful probability in this calm foresight and deliberate choice, to wear always on their living flesh, as it were, the signature of a sepulchral name! The symbolic figures and the letters which were supposed to designate our dead were all faithfully transcribed and duly entered in the vicar’s book. We carried the strangely decorated man to his comrades of the deck; and gradually, in the course of one month, we discovered and carefully buried the total crew of nine strong men. These gathered strangers, the united assemblage from many a distant and diverse abode, now calmly slept among our rural and homely graves, the stout seamen of the ship Alonzo, of Stockton-on-Tees! The boat which had foundered with them we brought also to the churchyard, and there, just by their place of rest, we placed her beside them, keel upward to the sky, in token that her work, too, was over and her voyage done. There her timbers slowly moulder still, and by-and-by her dust will mingle in the scenery of death with the ashes of those living hearts and hands that manned her, in their last unavailing launch and fruitless struggle for the mastery of life! But the history of the Alonzo is not yet closed. Three years afterwards a letter arrived from the Danish consul at a neighbouring seaport town, addressed to myself as the vicar of the parish; and the hope of the writer was that he might be able to ascertain through myself, for two anxious and grieving parents in Denmark, tidings of their lost son. His name, he said, was Philip Bengstein, and it was in the correspondence that this strange and touching history transpired. The father, who immediately afterward wrote to my address, told me in tearful words, that his son, bearing that name, had gone away from his native home because his parents had resisted a marriage which he was desirous to contract. They found that he had gone to sea before the mast, a position much below his station in life; and they had traced him from ship to ship, until at last they found him on the papers of the Alonzo, of Stockton-on-Tees. Then their inquiry as to the fate of that vessel had led them to the knowledge through the owners that the vicar of a parish on the seaboard of North Cornwall could in all likelihood convey to them some tidings of their long-lost son. I related in reply the history of the death, discovery, and burial of the unfortunate young man. I was enabled to verify and to understand the initial letters of his own name, and of her who was not to become his bride—although she still clung to his memory in loving loneliness in that foreign land! Ample evidence, therefore, verified his corpse, and I was proudly enabled to certify to his parents the reverent burial of their child. A letter is treasured among my papers filled to overflowing with the strong and earnest gratitude of a stranger and a Dane for the kindness we had rendered to one who loved “not wisely,” perchance, “but too well,” to that son who had been lost and was found too late: one, too, “whose course of true love” had brought him from distant Denmark to a green hillock among the dead, beneath a lonely tower among the trees, by the Cornish sea! What a picture was that which we saw painted upon the bosom and the limbs of a dead man, of fond and faithful love, of severed and broken hearts, of disappointed hope, of a vacant chair and a hushed voice in a far-away Danish home! Linked with such themes as these which I have related in this Remembrance are the subjoined verses, which were written on a rock by the shore.
A picture hangs in my library—and it is one of my most treasured relics of old Cornwall—the full-length and “counterfeit presentment,” in oil, of a quaint and singular dwarf. It exhibits a squat figure, uncouth and original, just such a one as Frederick Taylor would delight to introduce in one of his out-of-door pieces of Elizabethan days, as an appendage to the rural lady’s state when she rode afield with her hawk on her wrist. His height is under four feet, hump-backed and misshapen; his head, with tangled elfy hair falling wildly on his shoulders, droops upon his chest. Negro features and a dark skin surround a loose and flabby mouth, which teeth have long ceased to harmonise and fill out. He is clad in a loose antique russet gaberdine, the fashion of a past century: one hand leans on a gnarled staff, and the other holds a wide-brimmed felt hat, with humble gesture and look, as though his master stood by.
The traditionary name of this well-remembered character on the Tamar-side is Black John. He lived from the commencement to the middle of the eighteenth century in the household of an honoured name, Arscott of Tetcott, an ancestor of one of the distinguished families of Cornwall; and as his master was wellnigh the last of the jovial open-housed squires of the West of England, so was Black John the last of the jesters or makers of mirth. When the feast was over, and the “wrath of hunger” had been assuaged, while the hare’s or fox’s head, the festive drinking-cup of silver, went round with the nectar of the Georgian era, “strong punch for strong heads,” the jester was called in to contribute by merry antic and jocose saying to the loud enjoyment of the guests. Such were the functions sustained by my pictured and storied dwarf, and many an anecdote still survives around us in hearth and hall of the feats and stories of the “Tetcott merry-man.” Two of his usual after-dinner achievements were better suited to the rude jollity and coarse mirth of our forefathers than to the refinements of our own time; although they are said to exist here and there, among the “underground men” and miners of Western Cornwall, even to this day. These were “sparrow-mumbling” and swallowing living mice, which were tethered to a string to ensure their safe return to light and life. In the first of these accomplishments, a sparrow, alive, was fastened to the teeth of the artist with a cord, and he was expected to mumble off the feathers from the fluttering and astonished bird, with his lips alone, until he was plucked quite bare without the assistance or touch of finger or hand. A couple of projecting tusks or fangs, such as are called by the Italians Bourbon teeth, were of singular value as sparrow-holders to Black John; but these were one day drawn by violence from his mouth by an exasperated blacksmith, whose kitten had been slain, and who had been persuaded by a wretch, who was himself the actual assassin, that it was the jester who had guillotined the poor creature with his formidable jaws. The passage of the mouse was accomplished very often, amid roars of rude applause, down and up the gullet of the dwarf.
A tale is told of him, that one day, after he had for some time amused the guests, and had drank his full share of the ale, he fell, or seemed to fall, asleep. On a sudden he started up with a loud and terrified cry. Questioned as to the cause of his alarm, he answered, “O sir,” to his master, “I was in a sog [sleep], and I had such a dreadful dream! I thought I was dead, and I went where the wicked people go!”
“Ha, John,” said Arscott of Tetcott, in his grim voice, wide awake for a jest or a tale, “then tell us all about what you heard and saw.”
“Well, master, nothing particular.”
“No, sir; things was going on just as they do upon airth—here in Tetcott Hall—the gentlefolks nearest the fire.”
His master’s house was surrounded with all kinds of tame animals and birds so bold and confiding, from long safety and intercourse, that the rooks would come down at a call and pick up food like pigeons at the very feet of a man. Among the familiar creatures of the Hall were two enormous toads: these were especial favourites with Mr. Arscott, who was a very Chinese in his fondness for the bat and the toad, and who used to feed them very often with his own hands. One morning the family were aroused by sounds near the porch, of battle and fight. A guest from a distant town, who had arrived the night before on a visit, was discovered prone upon the grass, and over him stood as conqueror Black John, belabouring him with his staff. His story was, when rescued and set upon his feet, that on going out to breathe the morning air he had encountered and slain a fierce and venomous reptile—a big bloated creature that came towards him with open mouth. It turned out to be one of the enormous toads, an old and especial pet of master and man, who had heard a sound of feet, and came as usual to be fed, and was ruthlessly put to death; not, however, unavenged, for a wild man of the woods (so the townsman averred) had rushed upon him and knocked him down. When Mr. Arscott had heard the story, he turned on his heel, and never greeted his guest with one farewell word. Black John sobbed and muttered vengeance in his den for many a day for the death of “Old Dawty”—the household name of the toad.
Black John’s lair was a rude hut, which he had wattled for a snug abode, close to the kennel. He loved to retire to it, and sleep near his chosen companions, the hounds. When they were unkennelled, he accompanied and ran with them afoot, and so sinewy and so swift was his stunted form that he was very often in their midst at the death. Then, with the brush of the fox elaborately disposed as the crest of his felt hat, John would make his appearance on the following Sunday at church, where it was displayed, and pompously hung up above his accustomed seat, to his own great delight and the envy of many among the congregation. When the pack found the fox, and the huntsman’s ear was gladdened by their shrill and sudden burst into full cry, Black John’s shout would be heard in the field, with his standing jest, “There they go! there they go! like our missus at home in one of her storms!” As he grew older, and less equal to the exertion of his strong and youthful days, John took to wandering, gipsy-fashion, about the country-side; and he found food and welcome at every cottage and farmhouse. His usual couch was among the reeds or fern of some sheltering brake or wood, and he slept, as he himself used to express it, “rolled up, as warm as a hedgeboar, round his own nose.” One day, in bitter snowy weather, he was found wanting from his accustomed haunts—“one morn they missed him on the usual hill”—and after long search he was discovered shrouded in snow, cold, stiffened, and to all outward appearance dead. He was carried home, and in due course was coffined and borne towards the grave. But there, just as the clergyman who read the service had reached the solemn words which commit the body to the ground, a loud thumping noise was heard within the coffin. The bystanders rent open the lid in hot haste, and up started Black John alive, in amazement, and in furious wrath. He had been in a long deliquium, or death-trance, from cold, and had been restored to life by the motion and warmth of his own funeral ride. As he told the astonished mourners, “He heard the words ‘dust to dust,’ and then,” said he, “I thought it was high time to bumpy.” His words passed into a proverb; and to this very day, when Cornish men in these parts are placed in some sudden extremity, and it becomes necessary to take strong and immediate measures for extrication, the saying is, “It is time to bumpy, as Black John said.” In his anger and mental confusion, Black John ever after attributed his attempted burial to the conspiracy and ill-will of the clergyman, whose words he had interrupted by his sudden resurrection. More than once the reverend gentleman was suddenly assaulted in his walks by a stone hurled at him from a hedge, followed by an angry outcry, in a well-known voice, of “Ha! old Dust-to-dust; here I be, alive and kicking!”
It may be easily believed that Black John was a very refractory subject for clerical interference and admonition. The result of frequent clerical attempts to reform his habits, was a rooted dislike on his part of the black coat and white neckcloth in all its shades and denominations. The visit of the first field-preacher to the precincts of the Hall was signalised by an exhibition of this feeling. John waylaid the poor unsuspecting man, and offered to guide him on his road by a short cut across the park, which, John alleged, would save him a “considerable bit of way.” The treacherous guide led him along a narrow path into a paddock, wherein was shut up for safety Mr. Arscott’s perilous favourite bull. This animal had grown up from calf-hood the wanton but docile companion of Black John, whose wonderful skill in taming all manner of wild animals had made the “sire of the herd” so familiar with his strange warder, that he would follow him and obey his signals and voice like a dog. What took place between the bull and the preacher could only be guessed at. A rush was heard by a passer-by, and a yell; then the rustling of the branches of a tree, and finally a dead thud upon the grass. From the paddock gate some little time after emerged Black John with a fragment of a white cravat in his hand, and this was all, so he steadfastly averred, that ever he could find of “the preacher’s body.” Actually, it was the sole relic of his arrival and existence that survived in those wild parts. He was never heard of more in that region. And although there were rural sceptics who doubted that the bull could have made such quick work of a full-grown man, the story was fearful enough to scare away all wandering preachers from that district while the dwarf lived. On the Sunday following the terrific interview between the preacher and the bull, John took his usual place in church, but, to the astonishment of those who were not in the secret, instead of the usual fox’s brush, a jaunty pennon of white rag floated as the crest of the well-known felt hat.
Black John was long and fondly cherished by his generous master. Mr. Arscott lived like Adam in the garden, surrounded by his animals and pets, each with its familiar and household name; and no man ever more fully realised the truth of the saying that “love makes love,” and that the surest way to kindle kindness is to be kind. Accurately has it been said of him—
None, high or low, during the lifetime of the squire, were allowed with impunity to injure or harass his cross-grained jester, and many a mischievous escapade was hushed up, and the sufferer soothed or pacified by money or influence. When gout and old age had imprisoned Mr. Arscott in his easy-chair, Black John snoozed among the ashes of the vast wood fires of the hearth, or lay coiled upon his rug like some faithful mastiff, watching every look and gesture of his master; starting up to fill the pipe or the tankard of old ale, and then crouching again.
and the good old squire, in the language of the Tamar-side, “passed out of it.” At his death and funeral, the agony of his misshapen retainer was unappeasable. He had to be removed by force from the door of the vault, and then he utterly refused to depart from the neighbourhood of the grave. He made himself another lair, near the churchyard wall, and there he sobbed away the brief remnant of his days, in honest and unavailing grief for the protector whom he had so loved in life, and from whom in death he would not be divided. Thus and there, not long after, he died, as the old men of the parish used to relate, for the “second and last time.” He had what is called in those parts a decent funeral, for his master had bequeathed to him an ample allowance for life and death in his last will. The mourners ate of the fat and drank of the strong, as their Celtic impulses would suggest; and although some among them, who remembered John’s former funeral, may have listened again for a token or sign, poor Black John, alas for him! had no master to come back to now, and declined “to bumpy” any more.
A singular and striking circumstance attended the final funeral of Black John. An aged crone, bent and tottering, “worn Nature’s mournful monument,” was observed following the bier, and the people heard her muttering ever and anon, “Oh, is he really dead? He came to life again once you know, and lived long after.” When assured that all indeed was over, even her wild hope, she cried with a great sob, “O poor dear Johnny! he was so good-looking and so steady till they spoilt him up at the Hall!” Her words recalled her to the memory of some old men who were there, and they knew her as a certain Aunty Bridget, who had been teased and worried, long years agone, at markets and fairs, as “Black John’s sweetheart.”
There is no part of our native country of England so little known, no region so seldom trodden by the feet of the tourist or the traveller, as the middle moorland of old Cornwall. A stretch of wild heath and stunted gorse, dotted with swelling hills, and interspersed with rugged rocks, either of native granite or rough-hewn pillar, the rude memorial of ancient art, spreads from the Severn Sea on the west to the tall ridge of Carradon on the east, and from Warbstow Barrow on the north to the southern civilisation of Bodmin and Liskeard. Throughout this district there is, even in these days, but very scanty sign of settled habitation. Two or three recent and solitary roads traverse the boundaries; here and there the shafts and machinery of a mine announce the existence of underground life; a few clustered cottages, or huts, for the shepherds, are sprinkled along the waste; but the vast and uncultured surface of the soil is suggestive of the bleak steppes of Tartary or the far wilds of Australia, and that in the very heart of modern England. Yet is there no scenery that can be sought by the antiquary or the artist that will so kindle the imagination or requite the eye or the mind of the wanderer as this Cornish solitude. If he travel from our storied Dundagel, eastward, Rowter, the Red Tor, so named from its purple tapestry of heather and heath, and Brunguillie, the Golden Hill, crested with yellow gorse like a crown, will win his approach and reward, with their majestic horizon, the first efforts of his pilgrimage. The summits and sides of these mountains of the west are studded with many a logan-rock or shuddering-stone of the old superstition. This was the pillar of ordeal in Druid times, so poised that while it shook at the slight faint touch of the innocent finger, it firmly withstood the assailing strength of the guilty man.
Passing onward, the traveller will pause amid a winding outline of unhewn granite pillars, and he will gradually discover that these are set up to represent the coils of a gigantic serpent, traced, as it were, in stone. This is a memorial of the dragon-crest of a Viking, or the demon-idol and shrine of an older antiquity. Not far off there gleams a moorland lake or mimic sea, with its rippling laugh of waters—the Dozmere Pool of many an antique legend and tale, the mystic scene of the shadowy vessel and the Mort d’Arthur of our living bard. A sheep-track—for no other visible path will render guidance along the moor—leads on to Kilmarth Tor, from the brow of which lofty crag the eye can embrace the expanse of the two seas which are the boundaries of Cornwall on the right and left. There, too, looms in the distance rocky Carradon, with the valley of the Hurlers at its foot. These tall shapes of granite, grim and grotesque, were once, as local legends say, nine bold upstanding Cornish men who disdained the Sabbath-day; and as they pursued their daring pastime and “put the stone” in spite of the warning of the priest, they were changed, by a sudden doom, where they stood up to play, and so were fixed for ever in monumental rock. Above them lowers the Devil’s Wring, a pile of granite masses, lifted, as though by giant or demon strength, one upon another; but the upper rocks vast and unwieldy, and the lower gradually lessening downward, until they rest, poised, on a pivot of stone so slender and small that it seems as though the wind sweeping over the moor would overtopple it with a breath; and yet centuries many and long have rolled over the heath, and still it stands unshaken and unswerved. Its name is derived from the similitude of the rocky structure to the press wherein the ancient housewives of rude Cornwall were accustomed to “wring” out the milk from their cheese.
Not far off from this singular monument of “ages long ago” there is found to this day a rough and rude assemblage of moorstone slabs, some cast down and others erect, but manifestly brought together and arranged by human hands and skill. There is still traceable amid the fragments the outline of a human habitation, once divided into cells, and this was the origin and purpose of this solitary abode. It was the work and the home of a remarkable man—an eccentric and original character among the worthies of the west—and the place has borne ever since the early years of the last century the name of Daniel Gumb’s Rock. He was a native Cornishman, born in a cottage that bordered on the moor, and in the lowlier ranks of labouring life. In his father’s household he was always accounted a strange and unsocial boy. In his childhood he kept aloof from all pastime and play, and while his companions resorted to their youthful amusements and sports, Daniel was usually seen alone with a book or a slate whereon he worked, at a very early age, the axioms of algebra or the diagrams of Euclid. He had mastered with marvellous rapidity all the books of the country-side, and he had even exhausted the instructions of the schoolmaster of the neighbouring town. Then it became his chosen delight to wander on the moors with some favourite volume in his hand, and a crust from his mother’s loaf in his bag; with his inseparable tools, also, the chisel and the mallet, wherewithal to chip and gather the geological specimens of his own district. Often he would be absent whole nights, and when he was questioned as to his place of shelter, he would reply, “Where John the Baptist slept,” or “At Roche, in the hermit’s bed;” for the ruined cell of a Christian anchorite stood, and yet stands, above the scenery of the wanderings of that solitary boy.
But Daniel’s principal ambition was to know and name the planets and the stars. It was at the time when the discoveries of foreign astronomers had peopled the heavens with fresh imagery, and our own Newton had given to the ethereal phenomena of the sky a “local habitation and a name.” It is very striking to discover when the minds of any nation are flooded with new ideas and original trains of thought, how soon the strange tidings will reach the very skirts of the population, and borne, how we know not, will thrill the hamlet and the village with the wonders that have roused and instructed the far-off and civilised city. Thus even Daniel’s distant district became aware of the novel science of the stars, and this intelligence failed not to excite and foster the faculties of his original mind. Local legends still record and identify the tall and craggy places where the youthful “scholar” was wont to ascend and to rest all night with his face turned upward to the sky, “learning the customs of the stars,” and “finding out by the planets things to come.” Nor were his studies unassisted and alone. A master-mind of those days, Cookworthy of Plymouth, a learned and scientific man, still famous in the west, found out and fostered the genius of the intelligent youth. He gave him access to his library, and allowed him to visit his orrery and other scientific instruments; and the result of this kindness was shown in the tastes and future peculiarities of the mind of Gumb. The stern necessities of life demanded, in the course of time, that Daniel should fulfil the destiny of his birth, and win his bread by the sweat of his brow; for the meagre resources of his cottage-home had to be augmented by his youthful labour. In the choice of an occupation his early habits were not without their influence. He selected the craft of a hewer of stone, a very common calling on the surrounding moors; and there he toiled for several years of his succeeding life, amid the cyclopean models of the early ages. The pillared rocks of that wild domain were the monoliths of Celtic history, and the vast piles of the native moor were the heaped and unhewn pyramids of an ancient and nameless people. All these surrounding scenes acted on his tastes and impulses. “So the foundations of his mind were laid!” His father died, and Daniel became his own master, and had to hew his way through the rugged world by what the Cornish call “the pith of his bones.” That he did so his future history will attest; but it was not unsoothed nor alone; nor was it without the usual incident of human existence. No man ever yet became happily great or joyfully distinguished without that kindling strength, the affectionate presence of a woman.
Such was the solace that arrived to soothe the dreary path of Daniel Gumb. He wooed and won a maiden of his native village, who, amid the rugged rocks and appellatives of Cornwall, had the soft Italian name of Florence. But where, amid the utter poverty of his position and prospects, could he find the peaceful and happy wedding-roof that should bend over him and his bride? His friends were few, and they too poor and lowly to aid his start in life. He himself had inherited nothing save a strong head and heart, and two stalwart hands. He looked around him and afar off, and there was no avenue for house or home. Suddenly he recalled to mind his wandering days and his houseless nights, the scanty food, the absorbing meditation, and the kindly shelter of many a nook in the hollow places of the granite rock. He formed his plan, and made it known to his future and faithful bride; she assented with the full-hearted strength and trusting sacrifice of a woman’s love. Then he went forth in the might of his simple and strong resolve,—his tools in his scrip, and a loaf or two of his accustomed household bread. He sought the well-known slope under Carradon, searched many a mass of Druid rock, and paced around cromlech and pillared stone of old memorial, until he discovered a primeval assemblage of granite slabs suited to his toil. One of these, grounded upon several others, the vast boulders of some diluvian flood, had the rude semblance of a roof. Underneath this shelving rock he scooped away the soil, finding, as he dug on, more than one upright slice of moorstone, which he left to stand as an inner and natural wall. At last, at the end of a few laborious days, Daniel stood before a large cavern of the rocks, divided into chambers by upstanding granite, and sheltered at a steep angle by a mountainous mass of stone. Nerved and sustained by the hopeful visions which crowded on his mind, and of which he firmly trusted that this place would be the future scene, he toiled on until he had finally framed a giant abode such as that wherein Cyclops shut in Ulysses and his companions, and promised to “devour No-man the last.” Materials for the pavement and for closing up the inner walls were scattered abundantly around—nay, the very furniture for that mountain-home was at once ready for his hand; for as Agag, king of the Amalekites, had his vaunted iron bed, so did Gumb frame and hew for himself and Florence, his wife, table and seat and a bedstead of native stone. Then he smoothed out and shot into a groove a thick and heavy door, so that, closed like an Eastern sepulchre, it demanded no common strength to roll away the stone. When all had been prepared, the bridegroom and the bride met at a distant church; the simple wedding-feast was held at her father’s house; and that night the husband led the maiden of his vows, the bride of his youth, to their wedding-rock! If he had known the ode, he might have chanted, in Horatian verse, that day—
Here the wedded pair dwelt in peace long and happy years, mingling the imagery of old romance with the sterner duties of practical life. As a far-famed hewer of stone, the skill and energy of this singular man never lacked employ, nor failed to supply the necessities of his moorland abode. Like a patriarch in his tent amid the solitudes of Syria, he was his own king, prophet, and priest. He paid neither rent, nor taxes, nor tithe. When children were born to him, he exercised unwittingly the power of lay-baptism which was granted in the primitive Church to the inhabitants of a wilderness, afar from the ministry of the priesthood, and his wife was content to be “churched” by her own cherished husband, among the altars of unhewn stone that surrounded their solitary cell. Who shall say that this simple worship of the father and the mother with their household, amid the paradise of hills, was not as sweet, with the balsam of the soul, as the incense-breathing psalm of the cathedral choir? Rightly or wrongly, it is known that Daniel entertained an infinite contempt for “the parsons” whose territories bordered on the moor. Not one of them, it was his wont to aver, could cross the Asses’ Bridge of his favourite Euclid, a feat he had himself accomplished in very early youth; nor could the most learned among them all unravel the mysteries of his chosen companions, the wandering stars that travelled over Carradon every night. Long and frequent were his vigils for astronomical researches and delight. To this day the traveller will encounter on the face of some solitary rock a mathematical diagram carefully carved by some chisel and hand unknown; and while speculation has often been rife as to the Druidical origin of the mystic figure, or the scientific knowledge of the early Kelts, the local antiquary is aware that these are the simple records of the patient studies of Daniel Gumb.
When the writer of this article visited the neighbourhood in 183-, there still survived relics and remembrances of this singular man. There were a few written fragments of his thoughts and studies still treasured up in the existing families of himself and his wife. Here is a transcript: “Mr. Cookworthy told me, when I saw him last, that astronomers in foreign parts, and our great man Sir Isaac here at home, had thought that the planets were so vast, and so like our earth in their ways, that they might have been inhabited by men; but he said, ‘their elements and atmosphere are thought to be unfit for human life and breath.’ But surely God would not have so wasted His worlds as to have made such great bright masses of His creation to roll along all barren, as it were, like desert places of light in the sky. There must be people of some kind there: how I should like to see them, and to go there when I die!”
Another entry on the same leaf: “Florence asked me to-day if I thought that our souls, after we are dead, would know the stars and other wise things better than we can now. And I answered her, Yes; and if I could—that is, if I was allowed to—the first thing I would try should be to square the circle true, and then, if I could, I would mark it and work it out somewhere hereabouts on a flat rock, that my son might find it there, and so make his fortune and be a great man. N.B.—Florence asked me to write this down.”
On a thick sheet of pasteboard, with a ground-plan of a building on the other side, he had written: “January 16, 1756.—A terrible storm last night. Thunder and lightning and hail, with a tempest of wind. Saw several dead sheep on the moor. Shipwrecks, no doubt, at sea. A thought came into my mind, Why should such harm be allowed to be done? I read some reasons once in a book that Mr. Cookworthy lent me, called ‘The Origin of Evil;’ but I could not understand a word of it. My notion is, that when evil somehow came into the world, God did not destroy it at once, because He is so almighty that He let it go on, to make manifest His power and majesty; and so He rules over all things, and turns them into good at the last. N.B.—The devil is called in the Bible the Prince of the Powers of the Air: so he may be, but he must obey his Master. The poor wretch is but a slave after all!”
On the fly-leaves of an old account-book the following strange statement appears: “June 23, 1764.—To-day, at bright noon, as I was at my work upon the moor, I looked up, and saw all at once a stranger standing on the turf, just above my block. He was dressed like an old picture I remember in the windows of St. Neot’s Church, in a long brown garment, with a girdle; and his head was uncovered and grizzled with long hair. He spoke to me, and he said, in a low, clear voice, ‘Daniel, that work is hard!’ I wondered that he should know my name, and I answered, ‘Yes, sir; but I am used to it, and don’t mind it, for the sake of the faces at home.’ Then he said, sounding his words like a psalm, ‘Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening; when will it be night with Daniel Gumb?’ I began to feel queer; it seemed to me that there was something awful about the unknown man. I even shook. Then he said again, ‘Fear nothing. The happiest man in all the earth is he that wins his daily bread by his daily sweat, if he will but fear God and do no man wrong.’ I bent down my head like any one confounded, and I greatly wondered who this strange appearance could be. He was not like a preacher, for he looked me full in the face; nor a bit like a parson, for he seemed very meek and kind. I began to think it was a spirit, only such ones always come by night, and here was I at noonday, and at work. So I made up my mind to drop my hammer and step up and ask his name right out. But when I looked up he was gone, and that clear out of my sight, on the bare wide moor suddenly. I only wish that I had gone forward at once and felt him with my hand, and found out if he was a real man or only a resemblance. What could it mean! Mem. to ask Mr. C.”
This event is recorded in a more formal and painful handwriting than the other MSS. which survive. Nothing could be further removed from superstition or fear than this man’s whole character and mind. Hard as one of his native rocks, and accurate as a diagram, yet here is a tinge of that large and artless belief which is so inseparable from a Keltic origin, and which is so often manifested by the strongest and loftiest minds. Another paragraph, written on the blank page of an almanac, runs thus: “Found to-day, in the very heart of a slab rock that came out below the granite, the bony skeleton of a strange animal, or rather some kind of fish. The stone had never been broken into before, and looked ages older than the rocks above. Now, how came this creature to get in, and to die and harden there? Was it before Adam’s time, or since? What date was it? But what can we tell about dates after all? Time is nothing but Adam’s clock—a measurement that men invented to reckon by. This very rock with the creature in it was made, perhaps, before there was any such thing as time. In eternity may be—that is, before there were any dates begun. At all events, when God did make the rock, He must have put the creature there.” This appears to be a singular and rude anticipation of modern discovery, and a simple solution of a question of science in our own and later time. It is to be lamented that these surviving details of a thoughtful and original life are so few and far between.
Gumb appears to have united in his native character the simplicity of an ancient hermit and the stern contempt of the solitary student for the busy hum of men, with the brave resolution and independent energy of mind which have won success and fame for some of our self-made sons of science and skill. But his opportunities were few, and the severance of his life and abode from contact with his fellow-men forbade that access to the discoveries and researches of his kind which might have rendered him, in other days, the Hugh Miller of the rocks, or the Stephenson or Watt of a scientific solitude. He and his wife inhabited their wedded cell for many years and long. The mother on her stony couch gladdened her anxious husband with sons and daughters; but she had the courage to brave her woman’s trials alone, for neither midwife nor doctor were ever summoned to “the rock.” These, as may well be imagined, were all literally educated at home; but only one of their children—his name was John—appears to have inherited his father’s habits or energy. He succeeded to the caverned home after Daniel’s death, and when his mother had returned to her native village to die also, the existence of John Gumb is casually seen recorded as one of the skilful hewers of stone at the foot of Carradon. But Daniel died “an old man full of days,” and he was carried after all ad plures, and to the silent society of men, in the churchyard of the parish wherein stood afar off his rocky home. He won and he still deserves a nook of remembrance among the legendary sons of the west, “the giants” of Keltic race, “the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.” His mind, though rough-hewn, like a block of his native granite, must have been well balanced: resolute and firm reliance on a man’s own resources, and disdain of external succour, have ever been a signal of native genius. To be able to live alone, according to the adage of an ancient sage, a man must be either an angel or a demon. Gumb was neither, but a simple, strong-hearted, and intellectual man. He had the “mens sana in corpore sano” of the poet’s aspiration. A scenic taste and a mind “to enjoy the universe” he revealed in the very choice of his abode. In utter scorn of the pent-up city, and dislike for the reek of the multitude, he built like “the Kenite, his nest in the rock;” nor did he pitch his stony tent by chance, or in a casual place in the wild. He chose and he fixed his home where his eye could command and exult in a stretch of circumferent scenery a hundred and fifty miles in surrounding extent. In the east, he greeted the morning sun, as he mounted the rugged saddle of Dartmoor and Exmoor for his daily career. To the west, Roche, the rock of the ruined hermitage, lifted a bold and craggy crest to the sky, where long centuries before another solitary of more ascetic mind lay, like the patriarch on his pillow of granite, and reared a ladder to heaven by the energy of nightly prayer. Far, far away to the westward the haughty sun of England went into the storied sea of Arthur and his knights, and touched caressingly the heights of grim Dundagel with a lingering halo of light. These were the visions that soothed and surrounded the worker at his daily toil, and roused and strengthened the energies of the self-sustaining man. The lessons of the legend of Daniel Gumb are simple and earnest and strong. The words of supernatural wisdom might be graven as an added superscription on his rock, “Whatsoever thou doest, do it with all thine heart.” If thou be a man friendless and alone, the slave of the hammer or the axe, and doomed to the sweat of labour day by day till the night shall come that no man can work, “aide-toi et Dieu t’aidera”—aid thyself and God will succour thee.
On the brow of a lofty hill, crested with stag-horned trees, commanding a deep and woodland gorge wherein “the Crooks of Combe” (the curves of a winding river) urge onward to the “Severn Sea,” still survive the remains of famous old Stowe,—that historic abode of the loyal and glorious Sir Beville, the Bayard of old Cornwall, “sans peur et sans reproche,” in the thrilling Stuart wars. No mansion on the Tamar-side ever accumulated so rich and varied a store of association and event. Thither the sons of the Cornish gentry were accustomed to resort, to be nurtured and brought up with the children of Sir Beville Granville and Lady Grace; for the noble knight was literally the “glass wherein” the youth of those ancient times “did dress themselves.” There their graver studies were relieved by manly pastime and athletic exercise. Like the children of the Persians, they were taught “to ride, to bend the bow, and to speak the truth.” At hearth and hall every time-honoured usage and festive celebration was carefully and reverently preserved. Around the walls branched the massive antlers of the red deer of the moors, the trophies of many a bold achievement with horse and hound. At the buttery-hatch hung a tankard marked with the guests’ and the travellers’ peg, and a manchet, flanked with native cheese, stood ready on a trencher for any sudden visitant who might choose to lift the latch; for the Granville motto was, “An open door and a greeting hand.” A troop of retainers, servants, grooms, and varlets of the yard, stood each in his place, and under orders to receive with a welcome the unknown stranger, as well as their master’s kinsman and friend.
Among these, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, appeared a remarkable personage. He was the son of an old tenant on the estate, who occupied the manor-house of Stratton, a neighbouring town. His parents were of the yeoman rank in life, and possessed no singularity of personal aspect or frame, although both were comely. But Antony, their son, was from his earliest years a wonderful boy. He shot up into preternatural stature and strength. His proportions were so vast that, when he was a mere lad, his schoolmates were accustomed to “borrow his back,” and, for sport, to work out their geography lessons or arithmetic on that broad disc in chalk; so that, to his mother’s amazement and dismay, he more than once brought home, like Atlas, the world on his shoulders, for her to rub out. His strength and skill in every boyish game were marvellous, and, unlike many other large men, his mental and intellectual faculties increased with his amazing growth.
It was Antony Payne’s delight to select two of his stoutest companions, whom he termed “his kittens,” and, with one under each arm, to climb some perilous crag or cliff in the neighbourhood of the sea, “to show them the world,” as he said. He was called in the school “Uncle Tony,” for the Cornish to this day employ the names “uncle and aunt” as titles of endearment and respect. Another relic of his boyhood is extant still: the country lads, when they describe anything of excessive dimensions, call it, “As long as Tony Payne’s foot.”
He grew on gradually, and in accurate proportion of sinews and thews, until, at the age of twenty-one, he was taken into the establishment at Stowe. He then measured seven feet two inches without his shoes, and he afterwards added a couple of inches more to his stately growth. Wide-chested, full-armed, and pillared like a rock on lower limbs of ample and exact symmetry, he would have gladdened the critical eyes of Queen Elizabeth, whose Tudor taste led her to exult in “looking on a man.” If his lot had fallen in later days, he might have been hired by some wonder-monger to astonish the provincial mind, or the intellect of cities, as the Cornish Chang. But in good, old, honest, simple-hearted England, they utilised their giants, and deemed that when a cubit was added to the stature of a man, it was for some wise good end, and they looked upon their loftier brother with added honour and respect.
So for many years Payne continued to fulfil his various duties as Sir Beville’s chief retainer at Stowe. He it was who was the leader and the authority in every masculine sport. He embowelled and flayed the hunted deer, and carried the carcass on his own shoulders to the Hall, where he received as his guerdon the horns and the hide. The antlers, cleansed and polished, were hoisted as a trophy on the panelled wall; and the skins, dressed and prepared, were shaped into a jerkin for his goodly chest. It took the spoils of three full-grown red deer to make the garment complete. His master’s sons and their companions, the very pride of the West, who were housed and instructed at Stowe, when released from their graver studies, were under his especial charge. He taught them to shoot, and fish, and to handle arms. Tilt-yard and bowling-green, and the hurler’s ground, can still be identified at Stowe. In the latter, the poising-place and the mark survive, and a rough block of graywacke is called to this day “Payne’s cast;” it lies full ten paces beyond the reach whereat the ordinary players could “put the stone.”
It is said that one Christmas-eve the fire languished in the Hall. A boy with an ass had been sent to the woodland for logs, and the driver loitered on his homeward way. Lady Grace lost patience, and was displeased. All at once a sudden outcry was heard at the gate, and Sir Beville’s Giant appeared with the loaded animal on his mighty back. He threw down his burden in triumph at the hearth-side, shouting merrily, “Ass and fardel! ass and fardel for my lady’s Yule!” Another time he strode along the path from Kilkhampton village to Stowe with a bacon-hog of three hundredweight thrown across his shoulders, and merely because a taunting butcher had doubted his strength for the feat. Among the excellences of Sir Beville’s Giant, it is told of him that he was by no means clumsy or uncouth, as men of unusual size sometimes are, but as nimble and elastic, and as capable of swift and dexterous movement, as a light and muscular man. Added to this, his was a strong and acute intellect; so happy also in his language, and of such a ready wit, that he was called by a writer of the last century, from his resemblance, in these points only, to Shakespeare’s knight, “the Falstaff of the West.”
But a great and sudden change was about to come over the happy halls of Stowe. The king and his Parliament were at fatal strife; and there could be but one place in the land for the true-hearted and chivalrous Sir Beville, and that was at his royal master’s side. The well-known rallying cry went through the hills and valleys of Cornwall, “Granville’s up!” and the hearts and hands of many a noble knight and man-at-arms turned towards old Stowe. Mounted messengers rode to and fro. Strange and stalwart forms arrived to claim a place in the ranks. Retainers were enrolled day and night; and the smooth sward of the bowling-green and the Fawn’s Paddock were dinted by the hoofs of horses and the tread of serried men. Foremost among these scenes we find, as body-guard of his master, the bulky form of Antony Payne. He marshalled and manœuvred the rude levies from the western mines, “the underground men.” He served out arms and rations, and established order, by the mere terror of his presence and strength, among the wild and mixed multitude that gathered “for the king and land.”
Instead of the glad and hospitable scenery of former times, Stowe became in those days like a garrison surrounded by a camp. At last, one day tidings arrived that the battalions of the Parliament, led by Lord Stamford, were on their way northwards, and not many miles off. A picked and goodly company marched forth from the avenue of Stowe, and among them Payne, on his Cornish cob Samson, of pure Guinhilly breed. The next day, eight miles towards the south, the battle of Stratton Hill was fought and won by the royal troops. The Earl of Stamford was repulsed, and fled, bequeathing, by a strange mischance, his own name, though the defeated commander, to the field of battle. It is called to this day Stamford Hill. Sir Beville returned that night to Stowe, but his Giant remained with some other soldiers to bury the dead. He had caused certain large trenches to be laid open, each to hold ten bodies side by side. There he and his followers carried in the slain. On one occasion they had laid down nine corpses, and Payne was bringing in another, tucked under his arm, like one of “the kittens” of his schoolboy days, when all at once the supposed dead man was heard pleading earnestly with him, and expostulating, “Surely you wouldn’t bury me, Mr. Payne, before I am dead?” “I tell thee, man,” was the grim reply, “our trench was dug for ten, and there’s nine in already; you must take your place.” “But I bean’t dead, I say; I haven’t done living yet; be massyful, Mr. Payne—don’t ye hurry a poor fellow into the earth before his time.” “I won’t hurry thee: I mean to put thee down quietly and cover thee up, and then thee canst die at thy leisure.” Payne’s purpose, however, was kinder than his speech. He carried his suppliant carefully to his own cottage not far off, and charged his wife to stanch, if possible, her husband’s rebellious blood. The man lived, and his descendants are among the principal inhabitants of the town of Stratton to this day.
That same year the battle of Lansdown, near Bath, was fought. The forces of the Parliament prevailed, and Sir Beville nobly died. Payne was still at his side, and, when his master fell, he mounted young John Granville, a youth of sixteen, whom he had always in charge, on his father’s horse, and he led the Granville troop into the fight. A letter which the faithful retainer wrote to his lady at Stowe still survives. It breathes in the quaint language of the day a noble strain of sympathy and homage. Thus it ran:—
“Honoured Madam,—Ill news flieth apace. The heavy tidings no doubt hath already travelled to Stowe that we have lost our blessed master by the enemy’s advantage. You must not, dear lady, grieve too much for your noble spouse. You know, as we all believe, that his soul was in heaven before his bones were cold. He fell, as he did often tell us he wished to die, in the great Stuart cause, for his country and his king. He delivered to me his last commands, and with such tender words for you and for his children as are not to be set down with my poor pen, but must come to your ears upon my best heart’s breath. Master John, when I mounted him on his father’s horse, rode him into the war like a young prince, as he is, and our men followed him with their swords drawn and with tears in their eyes. They did say they would kill a rebel for every hair of Sir Beville’s beard. But I bade them remember their good master’s word, when he wiped his sword after Stamford fight; how he said, when their cry was, ‘Stab and slay!’ ‘Halt, men! God will avenge.’ I am coming down with the mournfullest load that ever a poor servant did bear, to bring the great heart that is cold to Kilkhampton vault. Oh, my lady, how shall I ever brook your weeping face? But I will be trothful to the living and to the dead.
“These, honoured madam, from thy saddest, truest servant,
At the Restoration the Stowe Giant reappears upon the scene in attendance on his young master, John Granville. Sir Beville’s son had been instrumental in the return of the king, and had received from Charles II. largess of money, great offices, and the earldom of Bath. Among other places of trust, he was appointed Governor of the Garrison at Plymouth. There Payne received the appointment of Halberdier of the Guns, and the king, who held him in singular favour, commanded his portrait to be painted by the Court artist, Sir Godfrey Kneller. The fate of this picture was one of great vicissitude. It hung in state for some years in the great gallery at Stowe; thence, when that mansion was dismantled at the death of the Earl of Bath, it was removed to Penheale, another manor-house of the Granvilles, in Cornwall; but it ceased to be highly esteemed, from ignorance of the people and the oblivion of years, insomuch so that when Gilbert, the Cornish historian, travelled through the county to collect materials for his work, he discovered the portrait rolled up in an empty room, and described by the farmer’s wife as “a carpet with the effigy of a large man upon it.” It was a gift to her husband, she said, from the landlord’s steward, and she was glad to sell it as she did for £8! When Gilbert died his collection of antique curiosities was sold by auction at Devonport, where he lived, and this portrait of Payne, which had been engraved as the frontispiece to the second volume of his “History of Cornwall,” was bought by a stranger who was passing through the town, and who had strolled in to look at the sale, at the price of forty guineas. The value had been apparently enhanced by oil, and varnish, and frame. This stranger proved to be a connoisseur in paintings: he conveyed it to London, and there it was ascertained to be one of the masterpieces of Kneller; it was resold for the enormous sum of £800. This picture, or even the engraving in Gilbert’s work, reveals still to the eye the Giant of Old Stowe, “in his natural presentment” as he lived. There he stands before the eye, a stalwart soldier of the guard. One hand is placed upon a cannon, and the other wields the tall halberd of his rank and office as yeoman of the guns. By a strange accident this very weapon and a large flask or flagon, sheathed in wicker-work, which is said to have held “Antony’s allowance,” a gallon of wine, and which is placed in the picture on the ground at his feet—both these relics of the time and the man are now in the possession of the writer of this article, in the Vicarage House, near Stowe. It was in Plymouth garrison, and in his later days, that an event is recorded of Payne which testifies that even after long years “his eye had not grown dim, neither was his natural force abated.” The Revolution had come and gone, and William and Mary had been enthroned. At the mess-table of the regiment in garrison, on the anniversary of the day when Charles I. had been beheaded, a sub-officer of Payne’s own rank had ordered a calf’s head to be served up in a “William-and-Mary dish.” This, in those days of new devotion to the house of Hanover, was a coarse and common annual mockery of the beheaded king; and delf, with the faces of these two sovereigns for ornament, was a valued ware (the writer has one large dish). When Payne entered the room, his comrades pointed out to him the insulting and practical jest—to him, too, most offensive, for he was a Stuart man. With a ready and indignant gesture he threw out of the window the symbolic platter and its contents.
A fierce quarrel ensued and a challenge, and at break of day Payne and his antagonist fought with swords on the ramparts. After a strong contest—for the offender was a master of his weapon—Payne ran his adversary through the sword-arm and disabled him. He is said to have accompanied the successful thrust with the taunting shout, “There’s sauce for thy calf’s head!” When the strong man at last began to bow himself down at the approach of one stronger than he, the Giant of Stowe obtained leave to retire. He returned to Stratton, his native place, and found shelter and repose in the very house and chamber wherein he was born.
After his death, neither the door nor the stairs would afford egress for the large and coffined corpse. The joists had to be sawn through, and the floor lowered with rope and pulley, to enable the Giant to pass out towards his mighty grave. Relays of strong bier-men carried him to his rest, and the bells of the tower, by his own express desire, “chimed him home.” He was buried outside the southern wall of Stratton church. When the writer was a boy, the sexton one day broke, by accident, through the side wall of a vast but empty sepulchre. Many went to see the sight, and there, marked by a stone in the wall, was a vault, like the tomb of the Anakim, large enough in these days for the interment of three or four of our degenerate dead. But it was empty, desolate, and bare. No mammoth bones nor mysterious relics of the unknown dead. A massive heap of silent dust!
A record of the wild, strange, lawless characters that roamed along the north coast of Cornwall during the middle and latter years of the last century would be a volume full of interest for the student of local history and semi-barbarous life. Therein would be found depicted the rough sea-captain, half smuggler, half pirate, who ran his lugger by beacon-light into some rugged cove among the massive headlands of the shore, and was relieved of his freight by the active and diligent “country-side.” This was the name allotted to that chosen troop of native sympathisers who were always ready to rescue and conceal the stores that had escaped the degradation of the gauger’s brand. Men yet alive relate with glee how they used to rush at some well-known signal to the strand, their small active horses shaved from forelock to tail, smoother than any modern clip, well soaped or greased from head to foot, so as to slip easily out of any hostile grasp; and then, with a double keg or pack slung on to every nag by a single girth, away went the whole herd, led by some swift well-trained mare, to the inland cave or rocky hold, the shelter of their spoil. There was a famous dun mare—she lived to the age of thirty-seven, and died within legal memory—almost human in her craft and fidelity, who is said to have led a bevy of loaded pack-horses, unassisted by driver or guide, from Bossinney Haun to Roughtor Point. But beside these travellers by sea, there would be found ever and anon, in some solitary farmhouse inaccessible by wheels, and only to be approached by some treacherous foot-path along bog and mire, a strange and nameless guest—often a foreigner in language and apparel—who had sought refuge with the native family, and who paid in strange but golden coins for his shelter and food; some political or private adventurer, perchance, to whom secrecy and concealment were safety and life, and who more than once lived and died in his solitary hiding-place on the moor.
There is a bedstead of carved oak still in existence at Trevotter—a farm among the midland hills—whereon for long years an unknown stranger slept. None ever knew his nation or name. He occupied a solitary room, and only emerged now and then for a walk in the evening air. An oaken chest of small size contained his personal possessions and gold of foreign coinage, which he paid into the hands of his host with the solemn charge to conceal it until he was gone thence or dead—a request which the simple-hearted people faithfully fulfilled. His linen was beautifully fine, and his garments richly embroidered. After some time he sickened and died, refusing firmly the visits of the local clergyman, and bequeathing to the farmer the contents of his chest. He wrote some words, they said, for his own tombstone, which, however, were not allowed to be engraved, but they were simply these—“H. De R. Equees & Ecsul.” The same sentence was found, after his death, carved on the ledge of his bed, and the letters are, or lately were, still traceable on the mouldering wood.
But among the legends of local renown a prominent place has always been allotted to a personage whose name has descended to our times linked to a weird and graphic epithet—“Cruel Coppinger.” There was a ballad in existence within human memory which was founded on the history of this singular man, but of which the first verse only can now be recovered. It runs—
His arrival on the north coast of Cornwall was signalised by a terrific hurricane. The storm came up Channel from the south-west. The shore and the heights were dotted with watchers for wreck—those daring gleaners of the harvest of the sea. It was just such a scene as is sought for in the proverb of the West—
As suddenly as if a phantom ship had loomed in the distance, a strange vessel of foreign rig was discovered in fierce struggle with the waves of Harty Race. She was deeply laden or waterlogged, and rolled heavily in the trough of the sea, nearing the shore as she felt the tide. Gradually the pale and dismayed faces of the crew became visible, and among them one man of herculean height and mould, who stood near the wheel with a speaking-trumpet in his hand. The sails were blown to rags, and the rudder was apparently lashed for running ashore. But the suck of the current and the set of the wind were too strong for the vessel, and she appeared to have lost her chance of reaching Harty Pool. It was seen that the tall seaman, who was manifestly the skipper of the boat, had cast off his garments, and stood prepared upon the deck to encounter a battle with the surges for life and rescue. He plunged over the bulwarks, and arose to sight buffeting the seas. With stalwart arm and powerful chest he made his way through the surf, rode manfully from billow to billow, until with a bound he stood at last upright upon the sand, a fine stately semblance of one of the old Vikings of the northern seas. A crowd of people had gathered from the land, on horseback and on foot, women as well as men, drawn together by the tidings of a probable wreck. Into their midst, and to their astonished dismay, rushed the dripping stranger: he snatched from a terrified old dame her red Welsh cloak, cast it loosely around him, and bounded suddenly upon the crupper of a young damsel, who had ridden her father’s horse down to the beach to see the sight. He grasped her bridle, and, shouting aloud in some foreign language, urged on the double-laden animal into full speed, and the horse naturally took his homeward way. Strange and wild were the outcries that greeted the rider, Miss Dinah Hamlyn, when, thus escorted, she reached her father’s door in the very embrace of a wild, rough, tall man, who announced himself by a name—never afterwards forgotten in those parts—as Coppinger, a Dane. He arrayed himself without the smallest scruple in the Sunday suit of his host. The long-skirted coat of purple velveteen with large buttons, the embroidered vest, and nether garments to match, became him well. So thought the lady of his sudden choice. She, no doubt, forgave his onslaught on her and on her horse for the compliment it conveyed. He took his immediate place at the family board, and on the settle by the hearth, as though he had been the most welcome and long-invited guest in the land. Strange to say, the vessel disappeared immediately he had left her deck, nor was she ever after traced by land or sea. At first the stranger subdued all the fierce phases of his savage character, and appeared deeply grateful for all the kindness he received at the hands of his simple-hearted host. Certain letters which he addressed to persons of high name in Denmark were, or were alleged to be, duly answered, and remittances from his friends were supposed to be received. He announced himself as of a wealthy family and superior rank in his native country, and gave out that it was to avoid a marriage with a titled lady that he had left his father’s house and gone to sea. All this recommended him to the unsuspecting Dinah, whose affections he completely won. Her father’s sudden illness postponed their marriage. The good old man died to be spared much evil to come.
The Dane succeeded almost naturally to the management and control of the house, and the widow held only an apparent influence in domestic affairs. He soon persuaded the daughter to become his wife, and immediately afterwards his evil nature, so long smouldering, broke out like a wild beast uncaged. All at once the house became the den and refuge of every lawless character on the coast. All kinds of wild uproar and reckless revelry appalled the neighbourhood day and night. It was discovered that an organised band of desperadoes, smugglers, wreckers, and poachers were embarked in a system of bold adventure, and that “Cruel Coppinger” was their captain. In those days, and in that unknown and far-away region, the peaceable inhabitants were totally unprotected. There was not a single resident gentleman of property or weight in the entire district; and the clergyman, quite insulated from associates of his own standing, was cowed into silence and submission. No revenue officer durst exercise vigilance west of the Tamar; and to put an end to all such surveillance at once, it was well known that one of the “Cruel” gang had chopped off a gauger’s head on the gunwale of a boat, and carried the body off to sea.
Amid such scenes Coppinger pursued his unlawful impulses without check or restraint. Strange vessels began to appear at regular intervals on the coast, and signals were duly flashed from the headlands to lead them into the safest creek or cove. If the ground-sea were too strong to allow them to run in, they anchored outside the surf, and boats prepared for that service were rowed or hauled to and fro, freighted with illegal spoil. Amongst these vessels, one, a full-rigged schooner, soon became ominously conspicuous. She bore the name of the Black Prince, and was the private property of the Dane, built to his own order in a dockyard of Denmark. She was for a long time the chief terror of the Cornish Channel. Once with Coppinger on board, when under chase, she led a revenue cutter into an intricate channel near the Gull Rock, where, from knowledge of the bearings, the Black Prince escaped scathless, while the king’s vessel perished with all on board. In those times, if any landsman became obnoxious to Coppinger’s men, he was either seized by violence or by craft, and borne away handcuffed to the deck of the Black Prince; where, to save his life, he had to enrol himself, under fearful oaths, as one of the crew. In 1835, an old man of the age of ninety-seven related to the writer that, when a youth, he had been so abducted, and after two years’ service had been ransomed by his friends with a large sum. “And all,” said the old man, very simply, “because I happened to see one man kill another, and they thought I should mention it.”
Amid such practices ill-gotten gold began to flow and ebb in the hands of Coppinger. At one time he chanced to hold enough money to purchase a freehold farm bordering on the sea. When the day of transfer arrived, he and one of his followers appeared before the astonished lawyer with bags filled with various kinds of foreign coin. Dollars and ducats, doubloons and pistoles, guineas—the coinage of every foreign country with a seaboard—were displayed on the table. The man of law at first demurred to such purchase-money; but after some controversy, and an ominous oath or two of “that or none,” the lawyer agreed to take it by weight. The document bearing Coppinger’s name is still extant. His signature is traced in stern, bold, fierce characters, as if every letter had been stabbed upon the parchment with the point of a dirk. Underneath his autograph, also in his own writing, is the word “Thuro.”
Long impunity increased Coppinger’s daring. There were certain byways and bridle-roads along the fields over which he exercised exclusive control. Although every one had a perfect right by law to use these ways, he issued orders that no man was to pass over them by night, and accordingly from that hour none ever did. They were called “Coppinger’s Tracks.” They all converged at a headland which had the name of Steeple Brink. Here the cliff sheered off, and stood three hundred feet of perpendicular height, a precipice of smooth rock toward the beach, with an overhanging face one hundred feet down from the brow. There was a hollow entrance into the cliff, like a huge cathedral door, crowned and surrounded with natural Saxon arches, curved by the strata of native stone. Within was an arched and vaulted cave, vast and gloomy; it ran a long way into the heart of the land, and was as large and tall—so the country-people said—as Kilkhampton church. This stronghold was inaccessible by natural means, and could only be approached by a cable-ladder lowered from above and made fast below on a projecting crag. It received the name of “Coppinger’s Cave,” and was long the scene of fierce and secret revelry that would be utterly inconceivable to the educated mind of the nineteenth century. Here sheep were tethered to the rock, and fed on stolen hay and corn till their flesh was required for a feast: kegs of brandy and hollands were piled around; chests of tea; and iron-bound sea-chests contained the chattels and the revenues of the Coppinger royalty of the sea. No man ever essayed the perilous descent into the cavern except the captain’s own troop, and their loyalty was secured, not only by their participation in his crimes, but by a terrible oath.
The terror linked with Coppinger’s name throughout the coast was so extreme that the people themselves, wild and lawless as they were, submitted to his sway as though he had been the lord of the soil and they his vassals. Such a household as Coppinger’s was of course far from happy or calm. Although when his wife’s father died he had insensibly acquired possession of the stock and farm, there remained in the hands of the widow a considerable amount of money as her dower. This he obtained from the poor helpless woman by instalments; and when pretext and entreaty alike failed, he resorted to a novel mode of levy. He fastened his wife to the pillar of her oak bedstead, and called her mother into the room. He then explained that it was his purpose to flog Dinah with the sea-cat, which he flourished in his hand, until her mother had transferred to him such an amount as he required of her reserved property. This deed of atrocity he repeated until he had utterly exhausted the widow’s store. He had a favourite mare, so fierce and indomitable that none but Coppinger himself could venture on her back, and so fleet and strong that he owed his escape from more than one menacing peril by her speed and endurance. The clergyman had spoken above his breath of the evil doings in the cave, and had thus aroused his wrath and vengeance. On a certain day he was jogging homeward on his parish cob, and had reached the middle of a wide and desolate heath. All at once he heard behind him the clattering of horse-hoofs and a yell such as might have burst from the throat of the visible demon when he hurled the battle on the ancient saint. It was Cruel Coppinger with his double-thonged whip, mounted on his terrible mare. Down came the fearful scourge on his victim’s shuddering shoulders. Escape was impossible. The poor parson knew too well the difference between his own ambling galloway, that never essayed any swifter pace than a jog-trot, and that awful steed behind him with footsteps like the storm. Circling, doubling like a hare, twisting aside, crying aloud for mercy,—all was vain. He arrived at last at his own house, striped like a zebra, and as he rushed in at the gate he heard the parting scoff of his assailant, “There, parson, I have paid my tithe in full; never mind the receipt!”
It was on the self-same animal that Coppinger performed another freak. He had passed a festive evening at a farmhouse, and was about to take his departure, when he spied at the corner of the hearth a little old tailor of the country-side, who went from house to house to exercise his calling. He was a half-witted, harmless old fellow, and answered to the name of Uncle Tom Tape.
“Ha, Uncle Tom!” cried Coppinger; “we both travel the same road, and I don’t mind giving thee a hoist behind me on the mare.”
The old man cowered in the settle. He would not encumber the gentleman,—was unaccustomed to ride such a spirited horse. But all his excuses were overborne. The other guests, entering into the joke, assisted the trembling old man to mount the crupper of the capering mare. Off she bounded, and Uncle Tom, with his arms cast with the strong gripe of terror around his bulky companion, held on like grim death. Unbuckling his belt, Coppinger passed it around Uncle Tom’s thin haggard body, and buckled it on his own front. When he had firmly secured his victim, he loosened his reins, and urged the mare with thong and spur into a furious gallop. Onward they rushed till they fled past the tailor’s own door at the roadside, where his startled wife, who was on the watch, afterwards declared “she caught sight of her husband clinging on to a rainbow.” Loud and piteous were the outcries of Tailor Tom, and earnest his shrieks of entreaty that he might be told where he was to be carried that night, and for what doom he had been buckled on. At last, in a relaxation of their pace going up a steep hill, Coppinger made him a confidential communication.
“I have been,” he said, “under a long promise to the devil that I would bring him a tailor to make and mend for him, poor man; and as sure as I breathe, Uncle Tom, I mean to keep my word to-night!”
The agony of terror produced by this revelation produced such convulsive spasms, that at last the belt gave way, and the tailor fell off like a log among the gorse at the roadside. There he was found next morning in a semi-delirious state, muttering at intervals, “No, no; I never will. Let him mend his breeches with his own drag-chain, as the saying is. I will never so much as thread a needle for Coppinger nor his friend.”
One boy was the only fruit of poor Dinah’s marriage with the Dane. But his birth brought neither gladness nor solace to his mother’s miserable hearth. He was fair and golden-haired, and had his father’s fierce, flashing eyes. But though perfectly well formed and healthful, he was born deaf and dumb. He was mischievous and ungovernable from his birth. His cruelty to animals, birds, and to other children was intense. Any living thing that he could torture appeared to yield him delight. With savage gestures and jabbering moans he haunted the rocks along the shore, and seemed like some uncouth creature cast up by the sea. When he was only six years old he was found one day upon the brink of a tall cliff, bounding with joy, and pointing downward towards the beach with convulsions of delight. There, mangled by the fall and dead, they found the body of a neighbour’s child of his own age, who was his frequent companion, and whom, as it was inferred, he had drawn towards the steep precipice, and urged over by stratagem or force. The spot where this occurred was ever afterwards his favourite haunt. He would draw the notice of any passer-by to the place, and then point downward where the murdered child was found with fierce exultant mockery. It was a saying evermore in the district, that, as a judgment on his father’s cruelty, his child had been born without a human soul. He lived to be the pestilent scourge of the neighbourhood.
But the end arrived. Money had become scarce, and the resources of the cave began to fail. More than one armed king’s cutter were seen day and night hovering off the land. Foreigners visited the house with tidings of peril. So he “who came with the water went with the wind.” His disappearance, like his arrival, was commemorated by a turbulent storm. A wrecker, who had gone to watch the shore, saw, as the sun went down, a full-rigged vessel standing off and on. By-and-by a rocket hissed up from the Gull Rock, a small islet with a creek on the landward side which had been the scene of many a run of smuggled cargo. A gun from the ship answered it, and again both signals were exchanged. At last a well-known and burly form stood on the topmost crag of the island rock. He waved his sword, and the light flashed back from the steel. A boat put off from the vessel with two hands at every oar—for the tide runs with double violence through Harty Race. They neared the rocks, rowed daringly through the surf, and were steered by some practised coxswain into the Gull Greek. There they found their man. Coppinger leaped on board the boat, and assumed the command. They made with strong efforts for their ship. It was a path of peril through that boiling surf. Still, bending at the oar like chained giants, the man watched them till they forced their way through the battling waters. Once, as they drew off the shore, one of the rowers, either from ebbing strength or loss of courage, drooped at his oar. In a moment a cutlass gleamed over his head, and a fierce stern stroke cut him down. It was the last blow of Cruel Coppinger. He and his boat’s crew boarded the vessel, and she was out of sight in a moment, like a spectre or a ghost. Thunder, lightning, and hail ensued. Trees were rent up by the roots around the pirate’s abode. Poor Dinah watched, and held in her shuddering arms her idiot-boy, and, strange to say, a meteoric stone, called in that country a storm-bolt, fell through the roof into the room at the very feet of Cruel Coppinger’s vacant chair.
The aspect of rural England during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries must have presented a strange and striking contrast, in the eye of a traveller, to the agricultural scenery of our own time. Thinly peopled—for the three millions of our chief city nowadays are in excess of the total population of the whole land of the Edwards and the Henrys—the inhabitants occupied hamlets few and far between, and a farm or grange signified usually a moated house amid a cluster of cultivated fields, gathered within fences from the surrounding forest or wold, and gleaming in the distance with rich or green enclosures, rescued from the wilderness, to give “fodder to the cattle, and bread to strengthen the heart of man.” But the great domains of the land for the most part expanded into woodland and marsh and moor, with glades or grassy avenues here and there for access to the lair of the red deer or the wild boar, or other native game, which afforded in that day a principal supply of human food. Yonder in the distance appeared ever and anon a beacon-tower, which marked the place and ward for the warning of hostile advances by night, and for the gathering rest of the hobbelars or horsemen, whose office it was to scour the country and to keep in awe the enemies of God and the king. Wheel-roads, except in the neighbourhood of cities or on the line of a royal progress, there were none; and among the bridle-paths men urged their difficult path in companies, for it was seldom safe for an honest or well-to-do man to travel alone. Rivers glided in silence to the sea without a sail or an oar to ruffle their waters; and there were whole regions, that now are loud with populous life, that might then have been called void places of the uninhabited earth. But more especially did this character of uncultured desolation pervade the extreme borders of the west of England, the country between the Tamar and the sea. There dwelt in scattered villages, or town-places as they are called to this day, the bold and hardy Keltic people, few in number, but, like the race of the Eastern wild man, never taught to bear the yoke. Long after other parts of England had settled into an improved agriculture, and submitted to the discipline of more civilised life, the Cornish were wont to hew their resources out of the bowels of their mother earth, or to haul into their nets the native harvest of the sea. Thus the merchandise of fish, tin, and copper became the vaunted staple of their land. These, the rich productions of their native county, were, even in remote periods of our history, in perpetual request, and formed, together with the wool of their moorland flocks, the great trade of the Cornish people. From all parts, and especially from that storied city whose merchants were then, as now, princes of the land, men were wont to encounter the perilous journey from the Thames to the Tamar, to pursue their traffic with the “underground folk,” as they termed the inhabitants of Cornwall, that rocky land of strangers, as, when literally interpreted, is the exact meaning of its name.
It was in the year 1463, when Edward IV. occupied the English throne, that a tall and portly merchant, in the distinctive apparel of the times, rode along the wilds of a Cornish moor. He sat high and firm upon his horse, a bony gelding, with demipique saddle. A broad beaver, or, as it was then called, a Flanders hat, shaded a grave and thoughtful countenance, wherein shrewdness and good-humour struggled for the mastery and the latter prevailed, and his full brown beard was forked—a happy omen, as it was always held, of prosperous life. His riding garb displayed that contrast of colours which was then so valued by native taste, insomuch that the phrase “motley” had in its origin a complimentary and not an invidious sound. Behind him and near rode his servant, a stout and active-looking knave, armed to the teeth.
The traveller had crossed the ford of a moorland stream, when he halted and reined up at a scene that greeted him on the bank. There, on a green and rushy knoll and underneath a gnarled and wind-swept tree, a damsel in the blossom of youth stood leaning on her shepherd-staff: her companion, a peasant boy, drew back, half shaded by a rock. Sheep of the native breed, the long-forgotten Cornish Knott, gathered around. As he drew nigh, the stranger discovered that the maiden was tall and well formed, and that her rounded limbs had the mould and movement of a natural grace that only health and exercise could develop or bestow. The sure evidence of her Keltic origin was testified by her eyes of violet-blue and abundant hair of rich and radiant brown—the hue that Italian poets delight to describe as the colour of the ripe chestnut, or the stalks and fibres of the maidenhair fern. She had also the bashful nose that appears to retreat from the lip with the unmistakable curve of the Kelt. She was clad in a grey kirtle of native wool, and her bodice also was knitted at the hearth by homely hands. The merchant was first to speak.
“Be not scared,” said he, “fair damsel, by a stranger’s voice. My name is John Bunsby, of the city of London, and I am bound for the hostel of Wike St. Marie, which must be somewhere nigh this moor. What did thy gossips call thee, maiden, at the font?”
“My name, kind sir,” she answered, modestly, “is Thomasine Bonaventure, and my father’s house is hard by at Wike. These are my master’s sheep.”
“The evening falls fast,” said the traveller; “I would fain hire safe guidance to yonder inn.”
She beckoned to the youth and whispered a word in his ear, to which, however, he seemed to listen with reluctance or dislike, and then, with her crook still in her hand, she herself went on to guide the stranger on his way. They arrived in due course at the hostel-door, at the sign of the Rose: but it was the Rose, mere, and without an epithet; for mine host had wisely omitted, in those dangerous days, to designate the hue of that symbolic flower. The traveller dismounted at the door, thanked and requited his gentle guide, and signified that as soon as his leisure allowed he would find his way to her father’s house. After a strict command to his own servant and the varlet of the stable that his horses should receive due vigilance and abundant food, Master Bunsby at last entered the inn. A hecatomb of wood blazed on the earth, shedding light as well as heat around the panelled room—for in those times of old simplicity a single apartment was allotted for household purposes and for the entertainment of guests. The traveller took an offered seat on the carved oak settle, in the place of honour by the fire, and looked on with interest at the homely but original scene. At his right hand a vast oven, with an entrance not unlike a church-door, was about to disgorge its manifold contents. Rye-loaves led the way, sweet and tasty to the final crust (wheat was in those days a luxury unknown in Cornwall); barley-bread and oaten cakes came forth in due procession from the steaming cave; and, last of all, the merchant’s sight and nostrils were greeted by the arrival of a huge and mysterious pie from its depths. The achievements of the dame, who was both cook and hostess in her own person, were duly and triumphantly arrayed upon the board, and the stranger-guest took the accustomed seat at the right hand of “mine host.” His eyes were fixed with curiosity and interest on the hillock of brown dough which stood before him, and reeked like a small volcano with steaming puffs of savoury vapour. At last, when the massive crust which lay like a tombstone over the mighty dish had been broken up, the pie revealed its strange contents. Conger-eels, pilchards, and oysters were mingled piecemeal in the mass beneath, their intervals slushed with melted butter and clotted cream, and the whole well seasoned, not without a savour of garlic, with spices, pepper, and salt. The stranger’s astonishment was manifest in gesture and look, although he by no means repulsed the trencher which came towards him loaded with his bountiful share.
“Sir guest,” said the host, “you doubtless know the byword—‘The Cornish cooks make everything into a pie.’ Our grandames say that the devil never dared cross the Tamar, or he would have been verily put under a crust.”
Satisfied with his fare, the merchant now inquired for the dwelling-place of his guide. It was not far off. The parents of the shepherdess inhabited a thatched hut in the village, with the usual walls of beaten cob, moulded of native clay: all within and without bespoke extreme poverty and want, but there Master John Bunsby soon found himself an honoured visitor seated by the hearth, with a blazing fire of dry gorse gathered from the moor to greet his arrival. There, while the mother stood by her turn or wheel, and span, and the maiden’s nimble fingers flashed her knitting-needles to and fro by the fitful light of the fire, the old man her father and the merchant conversed in a low voice far into the night, on a theme of deep interest to both. The talk was of Thomasine, the child of the house. The merchant related his own prosperous affairs, and spoke of his goodly house in London, governed by a thrifty and diligent wife: the household was one of grave and decent demeanour, with good repute in the vast city wherein dwelt the king. He had taken an immediate interest, he declared, in the old man’s daughter, and desired to rescue her from the life she led on the bleak, unsheltered moor. He pledged himself, if they should consent, to convey her in safety to London, and to place her in especial attendance on his wife; and there, if her conduct were in unison with her looks, he doubted not she would win many friends, and secure a happy livelihood for the rest of her days. He would await their decision at the inn, where he should be detained by business two or three days. Earnest and anxious were their thoughts and their language in the cottage that night and the next day. The aspect and speech of the rich patron were such as invited confidence and trust; but there were the love and fear of two aged hearts to satisfy and subdue. There was the fierce and stubborn repugnance also of the youth, the companion of the maid, who stood with her under the tree upon the moor. He was her cousin, John Dineham, of Swannacote, and they had grown up together from childhood, till, unconsciously to themselves, the tenderness of kindred had strengthened into love. The damsel herself could not conceal a natural longing to visit the great city, where, they said, but it might be untrue, “that the houses were stuck as close together as Wike St. Marie church and tower;” but she would at all events behold for once in her life the dwelling-place of the king. “She would store up every coin, and come back with money enow to buy a flock of sheep of her own, which she and John would tend together, as aforetime, on the moor.” All this shook the scale.
When the merchant arrived to seek their decision, it was made, and in favour of his wish. A pillion or padded seat was obtained from some neighbouring farm, and belted behind the saddle of the merchant’s man. Thereon, with a small fardel in her hand, which held all her worldly goods and gear, mounted Thomasine Bonaventure, while all the villagers came around to bid her farewell—all but one, and it was her cousin John. He had gone, as he had told her, to the moor, and there among the branches of the tree which marked the greeting-place of Master Bunsby the youth waited to watch her out of sight. He lifted up his hand and waved it as she passed on with a gesture of warning, but which she interpreted and returned as a silent caress.
The travellers arrived at their journey’s end after being only a fortnight on the road—a speed so satisfactory and unusual, that it was Dame Bunsby’s emphatic remark that she verily thought they must have flown.
Her mistress received Thomasine with a kind and hearty welcome, and ratified, by her everyday approval, her husband’s choice of the Cornish maid. When she was first told that her name was Bonaventure, and her husband explained that it signified good luck, she said, “Well, sweetheart, when I was a girl they used to say that the name was a fore-sign of the life, and God grant that thine may turn out [so] to be.”
Time passed on, and in a year or two the wild Cornish lass had grown into a frame of thorough symmetry, firmness, and health. Her strong thews, of country origin, rendered her capable of long and active labour, and she had acquired with gradual ease the habits and appliances of city life. She was very soon the favoured and the favourite manager of the household. Her mistress, born and reared in a town, had been long a frail and delicate woman; and life in London in those days, as now, was fraught with the manifold perils of pestilent disease. To one of those ancient scourges of the population, the sweating-sickness, Dame Bunsby succumbed. Her death drew nigh, and, with the touching simplicity of the times, she told her true and tender husband, with smiling tears, that she thought he could not do better than, if they so agreed, to put Thomasine in her place when she was gone. “Tell her it was my last wish.”
This gentle desire so uttered—her strong and grateful feelings towards the master who had taken her, as she expressed it in her rural speech, lean from the moor, and fed her, so that her very bones belonged to him—her happy home, and the power she would acquire to make the latter days in the cottage at Wike St. Marie prosperous and calm,—all these impulses flocked into Thomasine’s heart, and controlled for the time even the remembrance of Cousin John. That poor young man, when the tidings came that she was about to become her master’s wedded wife, suddenly disappeared, and for a while the place of his retreat was unknown; but it afterwards transpired that he had crossed the moor to a “house of religious men,” called the White Monks of St. Cleer, and pleaded for reception there as a needy novice of the gate. His earnest entreaties had prevailed; and six months after his first love, and his last, had put on her silks as a city dame, and begun her rule as the mistress of a goodly house in London, her cousin had taken the vows of his novitiate, and received the first tonsure of St. John.
Her married life did not, however, long endure. Three years after the master became the husband, he took the “plague sore,” and died. They were childless; but he bequeathed “all his goods and chattel property, and his well-furnished mansion, to his dear wife Thomasine Bonaventure, now Bunsby;” and the maid of the moor became one of the wealthy widows of London city. Among the MSS. which still survive, there is a letter which announces the event of her husband’s death and bequest, and then proceeds to notify her solemn donation, as a year’s-mind of Master Bunsby, of ten marks to the Reeve of Wike St. Marie, “to the intent that he shall cause skeelful masons to build a bridge at the Ford of Green-a-Moor: yea, and with stout stonework well laid; and see,” she wrote, “that they do no harm to that tree which standeth fast by the brook, neither dispoyle they the rushes and plants that grow thereby; for there did I passe many goodly hours when I was a simple mayde, and there did I first see the kind face of a fathful frend.” But in another missive to her mother, about the same date, there is a touch of tenderness which shows that her woman’s nature survived all changes, and was strong within her still. She writes: “I know that Cousin John is engaged to the monks of St. Cleer. Hath he been shorn, as they do call it, for the second time? Inquire, I beseech, if he seeketh to dispart from that cell? And will red gold help him away? I am prospered in pouch and coffer, and he need not shame to be indebted unto me, that owe so much to him.” But this frank and kindly effort—“the late remorse of love”—did not avail. John had broken the last link that bound him to the world, and was lost to love and her. Reckless thenceforward, therefore, if not fancy-free, and it may be somewhat schooled by the habits and associations of city life, she did not wear the widow’s wimple long. After an interval of years, we find her the honoured wife “of that worshipful merchant-adventurer, Master John Gall of St. Lawrence, Milk Street.”
Gall was very rich, and he appears to have emptied his money-bags into his wife’s lap, as the gossip of the city ran, for it is on record that soon after her second marriage she manifested her prosperity like a true-hearted Cornish woman by ample “gifts” and largess to the borough of St. Marie, “my native place.” Twenty acres of woodland copse in the neighbourhood were bought and conveyed by that kind and gracious lady, Dame Thomasine Gall, to feoffees and trust-men for the perpetual use of the poor of the paroche, “for fewel to be hewn in parcels once a-year, and justly and equally divided for evermore on the vigil of St. Thomas the twin.” To her mother she sends by “a waggon which has gone on an enterprise into Cornwall for woollen merchandise, a chest with array of clothing, fair weather and foul, head-gear and body raiment to boot, all the choice and costly gifts to my loving parents of my goodman Gall, and in remembrance, as he chargeth me to say, that ye have reared for him a kindly and loving wife.” But the graphic and touching passage in this letter is the message which succeeds: “Lo! I do send you also herewithal in the coffer a litel boke: it is for a gift to my Cousin John. Tell him it is not written as the whilom usage was, and he was wont to teach me my Christ Cross Rhime; but it is what they do call emprinted with a strange device of an iron engin brought from forrin parts. Bid him not despise it, for although it is so small that it will lie on the palm of your hand, yet it did cost me full five marks in exchange.” But her marriage life was doomed to bring her only brief and transitory intervals of wedded happiness. Five years after the date of her letter above quoted, she was again alone in the house. Master Gall died, but not until he had endowed his “tender wife with all and singular his moneys and plate, bills, bonds, and ventures now at sea,” etc., with a long inventory of the “precious things beneath the moon,” too long to rehearse, but each and all to the sole use, enjoyment, and behoof of Dame Thomasine, whose maiden name of Bonaventure was literally interpreted and fulfilled in every successive change of station.
We greet her then once more as a rich and buxom widow of city fame. Her wealth, added to her comeliness—for she was still in the prime of life—brought many “a potent, grave, and reverend seignor” to her feet, and to sue for her hand. Nor did she long linger in her choice. The favoured suitor now was Sir John Perceval, goldsmith and usurer—that is to say, banker, in the phrase of that day; very wealthy, of high repute, alderman of his ward, and in such a position of civic advancement that he would have been described in modern language as next the chair. He wooed and won the “Golden Widow”—for so, because of her double inheritance of the wealth of two rich husbands, she was merrily named. Their wedding was a kind of public festival, and the bride, in acknowledgment of her own large possessions, was invested with a stately dower at the church-door. One year after their marriage her husband, Sir John, was elected to that honourable office which is still supposed by foreign nations to be only second in rank to that of the monarch on the throne, Lord Mayor of the city of London.
Thus, by a strange succession of singular events, the barefooted shepherdess of a Cornish moorland became the Lady Mayoress of metropolitan fame; and the legend of Thomasine Bonaventure—for it was now well known—was the popular theme of royal and noble interest among the lords and ladies of the Court. She demeaned herself bravely and decorously in her ascent among the great and lofty ones of the land. Like all noble natures, her spirit rose with her personal elevation, and took equal place with her compeers of each superior rank. Nor did her true and simple woman’s nature undergo any depreciation or change. It breathes and survives in every sentence of her family letters, transcripts of which have been perpetuated and preserved to our own times. One part of her personal history is illustrative of a scene of life and manners when Henry VII. was king.
“Sweet mother,” she wrote, “thy daughter hath seen the face of the king. We were bidden to a banket at the royal palace, and Sir John and I dared not choose but go. There was such a blaze of lords and ladies in silks and samite, and jewels and gold, that it was like the city of New Jerusalem in the Scriptures; and I, thy maid Thomasine, was arrayed so fine, that they brought up the saying that I was dressed like an altar. When we were led into the chamber of dais, where his highness stood, the king did kiss me on the cheek, as the manner is, and he seemed gentle and kind. But then did he turn to my good lord and husband, and say, with a look stark and stern enow, ‘Ha, Sir John! see to it that thy fair dame be liege and true, for she comes of the burly Cornish kind, and they be ever rebels in blood and bone. Even now they be one and all for that knave Warbeck, who is among them in the West.’ You will gesse, dear mother, how my heart did beat. But withal the king did drink to me at the banket, and did merrily call, ‘Health to our Lady Mayoress, Dame Thomasine Perceval, which now feedeth her flock in the rich pastures of our city of London.’ And thereat they did laugh, and fleer, and shout, and there was flashing of tankards and jingling of cups all down the hall.”
With increase of wealth came also many a renewed token of affectionate regard and sterling bounty to her old and well-beloved dwelling-place of Wike St. Marie. As her wedding-gift of remembrance she directed that “a firm and steadfast road should be laid down with stones,” at her whole cost, along the midst of Green-a-Moor, and fit for man and beast to travel on, with their lawful occasions, from Lanstaphadon to the sea. At another time, and for a New Year’s gift, she gave the sum of forty marks towards the building of a tower for St. Stephen’s church, above the causeway of Dunheved; and it was her desire that they should carry their pinnacles so tall that “they might be seen from Swannacote Cross, by the moor, to the intent that they who do behold it from the Burgage Mound may remember the poor maid which is now a wedded dame of London citie.”
During her three marriages she had no children, and it was her singular lot to survive her third husband, Sir John: it was in long widowhood after him that she lived and died. Her will, bearing date the vigil of the Feast of Christmas, A.D. 1510, is a singular document, for therein the memory and the impulses of her early life are recalled and condensed. She bequeaths large sums of money to be laid out and invested in land for the welfare of the village borough, whereto, amid all the strange vicissitudes of her existence, her heart had always clung with fond and lingering regret. She directs that a chantry with cloisters was to be built near the church of Wike St. Marie, at the discretion and under the control of her executor and cousin, John Dineham, the unforgotten priest. She endows it with thirty marks by the year, and provides that there shall be established therein “a schole for young children born in the paroche of Wike St. Marie; and such to be always preferred as are friendless and poor.” They are to be “taught to read with their fescue from a boke of horn, and also to write, and both as the manner was in that country when I was young.” The well-remembered days of her girlhood appear to tinge every line of her last will. Her very codicil is softened with a touch of her first and fondest love. In it she gives to the priest of the church, where she well knew that her cousin John would serve and sing, “the silver chalice gilt, which good Master Maskelyne the goldsmith had devised for her behoof, with a leetle blue flower which they do call a forget-me-not wrought in Turkess at the bottom of the bowl, to the intent that whensoever it is used the minister may remember her who was once a simple shepherd-maid by the wayside of Wike St. Marie, and who was so wonderfully brought by many great changes to be the Mayoress of London citie before she died.”
There was something very painful and peculiar in the position of the clergy in the west of England throughout the seventeenth century. The Church of those days was in a transitory state, and her ministers, like her formularies, embodied a strange mixture of the old belief with the new interpretation. Their wide severance also from the great metropolis of life and manners, the city of London (which in those times was civilised England, much as the Paris of our own day is France), divested the Cornish clergy in particular of all personal access to the masterminds of their age and body. Then, too, the barrier interposed by the rude rough roads of their country, and by their abode in wilds that were almost inaccessible, rendered the existence of a bishop rather a doctrine suggested to their belief than a fact revealed to the actual vision of each in his generation. Hence it came to pass that the Cornish clergyman, insulated within his own limited sphere, often without even the presence of a country squire (and unchecked by the influence of the Fourth Estate—for until the beginning of this nineteenth century, Flindell’s Weekly Miscellany distributed from house to house from the pannier of a mule, was the only light of the West), became developed about middle life into an original mind and man, sole and absolute within his parish boundary, eccentric when compared with his brethren in civilised regions, and yet, in German phrase, “a whole and seldom man” in his dominion of souls. He was “the parson,” in canonical phrase—that is to say, The Person, the somebody of consequence among his own people. These men were not, however, smoothed down into a monotonous aspect of life and manners by this remote and secluded existence. They imbibed, each in his own peculiar circle, the hue of surrounding objects, and were tinged into distinctive colouring and character by many a contrast of scenery and people. There was the “light of other days,” the curate by the sea-shore, who professed to check the turbulence of the “smugglers’ landing” by his presence on the sands, and who “held the lantern” for the guidance of his flock when the nights were dark, as the only proper ecclesiastical part he could take in the proceedings. He was soothed and silenced by the gift of a keg of hollands or a chest of tea. There was the merry minister of the mines, whose cure was honeycombed by the underground men. He must needs have been artist and poet in his way, for he had to enliven his people three or four times a-year, by mastering the arrangements of a “guary,” or religious mystery, which was duly performed in the topmost hollow of a green barrow or hill, of which many survive, scooped out into vast amphitheatres and surrounded by benches of turf, which held two thousand spectators. Such were the historic plays, “The Creation” and “Noe’s Flood,” which still exist in the original Celtic as well as the English text, and suggest what critics and antiquaries Cornish curates, masters of such revels, must have been,—for the native language of Cornwall did not lapse into silence until the end of the seventeenth century. Then, moreover, here and there would be one parson more learned than his kind in the mysteries of a deep and thrilling lore of peculiar fascination. He was a man so highly honoured at college for natural gifts and knowledge of learned books which nobody else could read, that when he “took his second orders” the bishop gave him a mantle of scarlet silk to wear upon his shoulders in church, and his lordship had put such power into it that, when the parson had it rightly on, he could “govern any ghost or evil spirit,” and even “stop an earthquake.”
Such a powerful minister, in combat with supernatural visitations, was one Parson Rudall, of Launceston, whose existence and exploits we gather from the local tradition of his time, from surviving letters and other memoranda, and indeed from his own “diurnal” which fell by chance into the hands of the present writer. Indeed the legend of Parson Rudall and the Botathen Ghost will be recognised by many Cornish people as a local remembrance of their boyhood.
It appears, then, from the diary of this learned master of the grammar-school—for such was his office as well as perpetual curate of the parish—“that a pestilential disease did break forth in our town in the beginning of the year A.D. 1665; yea, and it likewise invaded my school, insomuch that therewithal certain of the chief scholars sickened and died.” “Among others who yielded to the malign influence was Master John Eliot, the eldest son and the worshipful heir of Edward Eliot, Esquire of Trebursey, a stripling of sixteen years of age, but of uncommon parts and hopeful ingenuity. At his own especial motion and earnest desire I did consent to preach his funeral sermon.” It should be remembered here that, howsoever strange and singular it may sound to us that a mere lad should formally solicit such a performance at the hands of his master, it was in consonance with the habitual usage of those times. The old services for the dead had been abolished by law, and in the stead of sacrament and ceremony, month’s mind and year’s mind, the sole substitute which survived was the general desire “to partake,” as they called it, of a posthumous discourse, replete with lofty eulogy and flattering remembrance of the living and the dead. The diary proceeds:—
“I fulfilled my undertaking, and preached over the coffin in the presence of a full assemblage of mourners and lachrymose friends. An ancient gentleman, who was then and there in the church, a Mr. Bligh of Botathen, was much affected with my discourse, and he was heard to repeat to himself certain parentheses therefrom, especially a phrase from Maro Virgilius, which I had applied to the deceased youth, ‘Et puer ipse fuit cantari dignus.’
“The cause wherefore this old gentleman was thus moved by my applications was this: He had a first-born and only son—a child who, but a very few months before, had been not unworthy the character I drew of young Master Eliot, but who, by some strange accident, had of late quite fallen away from his parent’s hopes, and become moody, and sullen, and distraught. When the funeral obsequies were over, I had no sooner come out of church than I was accosted by this aged parent, and he besought me incontinently, with a singular energy, that I would resort with him forthwith to his abode at Botathen that very night; nor could I have delivered myself from his importunity, had not Mr. Eliot urged his claim to enjoy my company at his own house. Hereupon I got loose, but not until I had pledged a fast assurance that I would pay him, faithfully, an early visit the next day.”
“The Place,” as it was called, of Botathen, where old Mr. Bligh resided, was a low-roofed gabled manor-house of the fifteenth century, walled and mullioned, and with clustered chimneys of dark-grey stone from the neighbouring quarries of Ventor-gan. The mansion was flanked by a pleasaunce or enclosure in one space, of garden and lawn, and it was surrounded by a solemn grove of stag-horned trees. It had the sombre aspect of age and of solitude, and looked the very scene of strange and supernatural events. A legend might well belong to every gloomy glade around, and there must surely be a haunted room somewhere within its walls. Hither, according to his appointment, on the morrow, Parson Rudall betook himself. Another clergyman, as it appeared, had been invited to meet him, who, very soon after his arrival, proposed a walk together in the pleasaunce, on the pretext of showing him, as a stranger, the walks and trees, until the dinner-bell should strike. There, with much prolixity, and with many a solemn pause, his brother minister proceeded to “unfold the mystery.”
“A singular infelicity,” he declared, “had befallen young Master Bligh, once the hopeful heir of his parents and of the lands of Botathen. Whereas he had been from childhood a blithe and merry boy, ‘the gladness,’ like Isaac of old, of his father’s age, he had suddenly, and of late, become morose and silent—nay, even austere and stern—dwelling apart, always solemn, often in tears. The lad had at first repulsed all questions as to the origin of this great change, but of late he had yielded to the importunate researches of his parents, and had disclosed the secret cause. It appeared that he resorted, every day, by a pathway across the fields, to this very clergyman’s house, who had charge of his education, and grounded him in the studies suitable to his age. In the course of his daily walk he had to pass a certain heath or down where the road wound along through tall blocks of granite with open spaces of grassy sward between. There in a certain spot, and always in one and the same place, the lad declared that he encountered, every day, a woman with a pale and troubled face, clothed in a long loose garment of frieze, with one hand always stretched forth, and the other pressed against her side. Her name, he said, was Dorothy Dinglet, for he had known her well from his childhood, and she often used to come to his parents’ house; but that which troubled him was, that she had now been dead three years, and he himself had been with the neighbours at her burial; so that, as the youth alleged, with great simplicity, since he had seen her body laid in the grave, this that he saw every day must needs be her soul or ghost. ‘Questioned again and again,’ said the clergyman, ‘he never contradicts himself; but he relates the same and the simple tale as a thing that cannot be gainsaid. Indeed, the lad’s observance is keen and calm for a boy of his age. The hair of the appearance, sayeth he, is not like anything alive, but it is so soft and light that it seemeth to melt away while you look; but her eyes are set, and never blink—no, not when the sun shineth full upon her face. She maketh no steps, but seemeth to swim along the top of the grass; and her hand, which is stretched out alway, seemeth to point at something far away, out of sight. It is her continual coming; for she never faileth to meet him, and to pass on, that hath quenched his spirits; and although he never seeth her by night, yet cannot he get his natural rest.’
“Thus far the clergyman; whereupon the dinner clock did sound, and we went into the house. After dinner, when young Master Bligh had withdrawn with his tutor, under excuse of their books, the parents did forthwith beset me as to my thoughts about their son. Said I, warily, ‘The case is strange, but by no means impossible. It is one that I will study, and fear not to handle, if the lad will be free with me, and fulfil all that I desire.’ The mother was overjoyed, but I perceived that old Mr. Bligh turned pale, and was downcast with some thought which, however, he did not express. Then they bade that Master Bligh should be called to meet me in the pleasaunce forthwith. The boy came, and he rehearsed to me his tale with an open countenance, and, withal, a modesty of speech. Verily he seemed ‘ingenui vultus puer ingenuique pudoris.’ Then I signified to him my purpose. ‘To-morrow,’ said I, ‘we will go together to the place; and if, as I doubt not, the woman shall appear, it will be for me to proceed according to knowledge, and by rules laid down in my books.’”
The unaltered scenery of the legend still survives, and, like the field of the forty footsteps in another history, the place is still visited by those who take interest in the supernatural tales of old. The pathway leads along a moorland waste, where large masses of rock stand up here and there from the grassy turf, and clumps of heath and gorse weave their tapestry of golden and purple garniture on every side. Amidst all these, and winding along between the rocks, is a natural footway worn by the scant, rare tread of the village traveller. Just midway, a somewhat larger stretch than usual of green sod expands, which is skirted by the path, and which is still identified as the legendary haunt of the phantom, by the name of Parson Rudall’s Ghost.
But we must draw the record of the first interview between the minister and Dorothy from his own words. “We met,” thus he writes, “in the pleasaunce very early, and before any others in the house were awake; and together the lad and myself proceeded towards the field. The youth was quite composed, and carried his Bible under his arm, from whence he read to me verses, which he said he had lately picked out, to have always in his mind. These were Job vii. 14, ‘Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions;’ and Deuteronomy xxviii. 67, ‘In the morning thou shalt say, Would to God it were evening, and in the evening thou shalt say, Would to God it were morning; for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.’
“I was much pleased with the lad’s ingenuity in these pious applications, but for mine own part I was somewhat anxious and out of cheer. For aught I knew this might be a dæmonium meridianum, the most stubborn spirit to govern and guide that any man can meet, and the most perilous withal. We had hardly reached the accustomed spot, when we both saw her at once gliding towards us; punctually as the ancient writers describe the motion of their ‘lemures, which swoon along the ground, neither marking the sand nor bending the herbage.’ The aspect of the woman was exactly that which had been related by the lad. There was the pale and stony face, the strange and misty hair, the eyes firm and fixed, that gazed, yet not on us, but on something that they saw far, far away; one hand and arm stretched out, and the other grasping the girdle of her waist. She floated along the field like a sail upon a stream, and glided past the spot where we stood, pausingly. But so deep was the awe that overcame me, as I stood there in the light of day, face to face with a human soul separate from her bones and flesh, that my heart and purpose both failed me. I had resolved to speak to the spectre in the appointed form of words, but I did not. I stood like one amazed and speechless, until she had passed clean out of sight. One thing remarkable came to pass. A spaniel dog, the favourite of young Master Bligh, had followed us, and lo! when the woman drew nigh, the poor creature began to yell and bark piteously, and ran backward and away, like a thing dismayed and appalled. We returned to the house, and after I had said all that I could to pacify the lad, and to soothe the aged people, I took my leave for that time, with a promise that when I had fulfilled certain business elsewhere, which I then alleged, I would return and take orders to assuage these disturbances and their cause.
“January 7, 1665.—At my own house, I find, by my books, what is expedient to be done; and then, Apage, Sathanas!
“January 9, 1665.—This day I took leave of my wife and family, under pretext of engagements elsewhere, and made my secret journey to our diocesan city, wherein the good and venerable bishop then abode.
“January 10.—Deo gratias, in safe arrival at Exeter; craved and obtained immediate audience of his lordship; pleading it was for counsel and admonition on a weighty and pressing cause; called to the presence; made obeisance; and then by command stated my case—the Botathen perplexity—which I moved with strong and earnest instances and solemn asseverations of that which I had myself seen and heard. Demanded by his lordship, what was the succour that I had come to entreat at his hands? Replied, licence for my exorcism, that so I might, ministerially, allay this spiritual visitant, and thus render to the living and the dead release from this surprise. ‘But,’ said our bishop, ‘on what authority do you allege that I am intrusted with faculty so to do? Our Church, as is well known, hath abjured certain branches of her ancient power, on grounds of perversion and abuse.’ ‘Nay, my lord,’ I humbly answered, ‘under favour, the seventy-second of the canons ratified and enjoined on us, the clergy, anno Domini 1604, doth expressly provide, that “no minister, unless he hath the licence of his diocesan bishop, shall essay to exorcise a spirit, evil or good.” Therefore it was,’ I did here mildly allege, ‘that I did not presume to enter on such a work without lawful privilege under your lordship’s hand and seal.’ Hereupon did our wise and learned bishop, sitting in his chair, condescend upon the theme at some length with many gracious interpretations from ancient writers and from Holy Scripture, and I did humbly rejoin and reply, till the upshot was that he did call in his secretary and command him to draw the aforesaid faculty, forthwith and without further delay, assigning him a form, insomuch that the matter was incontinently done; and after I had disbursed into the secretary’s hands certain moneys for signitary purposes, as the manner of such officers hath always been, the bishop did himself affix his signature under the sigillum of his see, and deliver the document into my hands. When I knelt down to receive his benediction, he softly said, ‘Let it be secret, Mr. R. Weak brethren! weak brethren!’”
This interview with the bishop, and the success with which he vanquished his lordship’s scruples, would seem to have confirmed Parson Rudall very strongly in his own esteem, and to have invested him with that courage which he evidently lacked at his first encounter with the ghost.
The entries proceed: “January 11, 1665.—Therewithal did I hasten home and prepare my instruments, and cast my figures for the onset of the next day. Took out my ring of brass, and put it on the index-finger of my right hand, with the scutum Davidis traced thereon.
“January 12, 1665.—Rode into the gateway at Botathen, armed at all points, but not with Saul’s armour, and ready. There is danger from the demons, but so there is in the surrounding air every day. At early morning then, and alone,—for so the usage ordains,—I betook me towards the field. It was void, and I had thereby due time to prepare. First, I paced and measured out my circle on the grass. Then did I mark my pentacle in the very midst, and at the intersection of the five angles I did set up and fix my crutch of raun [rowan]. Lastly, I took my station south, at the true line of the meridian, and stood facing due north. I waited and watched for a long time. At last there was a kind of trouble in the air, a soft and rippling sound, and all at once the shape appeared, and came on towards me gradually. I opened my parchment-scroll, and read aloud the command. She paused, and seemed to waver and doubt; stood still; then I rehearsed the sentence again, sounding out every syllable like a chant. She drew near my ring, but halted at first outside, on the brink. I sounded again, and now at the third time I gave the signal in Syriac—the speech which is used, they say, where such ones dwell and converse in thoughts that glide.
“She was at last obedient, and swam into the midst of the circle, and there stood still, suddenly. I saw, moreover, that she drew back her pointing hand. All this while I do confess that my knees shook under me, and the drops of sweat ran down my flesh like rain. But now, although face to face with the spirit, my heart grew calm, and my mind was composed. I knew that the pentacle would govern her, and the ring must bind, until I gave the word. Then I called to mind the rule laid down of old, that no angel or fiend, no spirit, good or evil, will ever speak until they have been first spoken to. N.B.—This is the great law of prayer. God Himself will not yield reply until man hath made vocal entreaty, once and again. So I went on to demand, as the books advise; and the phantom made answer, willingly. Questioned wherefore not at rest? Unquiet, because of a certain sin. Asked what, and by whom? Revealed it; but it is sub sigillo, and therefore nefas dictu; more anon. Inquired, what sign she could give that she was a true spirit and not a false fiend? Stated, before next Yule-tide a fearful pestilence would lay waste the land and myriads of souls would be loosened from their flesh, until, as she piteously said, ‘our valleys will be full.’ Asked again, why she so terrified the lad? Replied: ‘It is the law: we must seek a youth or a maiden of clean life, and under age, to receive messages and admonitions.’ We conversed with many more words, but it is not lawful for me to set them down. Pen and ink would degrade and defile the thoughts she uttered, and which my mind received that day. I broke the ring, and she passed, but to return once more next day. At even-song, a long discourse with that ancient transgressor, Mr. B. Great horror and remorse; entire atonement and penance; whatsoever I enjoin; full acknowledgment before pardon.
“January 13, 1665.—At sunrise I was again in the field. She came in at once, and, as it seemed, with freedom. Inquired if she knew my thoughts, and what I was going to relate? Answered, ‘Nay, we only know what we perceive and hear; we cannot see the heart.’ Then I rehearsed the penitent words of the man she had come up to denounce, and the satisfaction he would perform. Then said she, ‘Peace in our midst.’ I went through the proper forms of dismissal, and fulfilled all as it was set down and written in my memoranda; and then, with certain fixed rites, I did dismiss that troubled ghost, until she peacefully withdrew, gliding towards the west. Neither did she ever afterward appear, but was allayed until she shall come in her second flesh to the valley of Armageddon on the last day.”
These quaint and curious details from the “diurnal” of a simple-hearted clergyman of the seventeenth century appear to betoken his personal persuasion of the truth of what he saw and said, although the statements are strongly tinged with what some may term the superstition, and others the excessive belief, of those times. It is a singular fact, however, that the canon which authorises exorcism under episcopal licence, is still a part of the ecclesiastical law of the Anglican Church, although it might have a singular effect on the nerves of certain of our bishops if their clergy were to resort to them for the faculty which Parson Rudall obtained. The general facts stated in his diary are to this day matters of belief in that neighbourhood; and it has been always accounted a strong proof of the veracity of the Parson and the Ghost, that the plague, fatal to so many thousands, did break out in London at the close of that very year. We may well excuse a triumphant entry, on a subsequent page of the “diurnal,” with the date of July 10, 1665: “How sorely must the infidels and heretics of this generation be dismayed when they know that this Black Death, which is now swallowing its thousands in the streets of the great city, was foretold six months agone, under the exorcisms of a country minister, by a visible and suppliant ghost! And what pleasures and improvements do such deny themselves who scorn and avoid all opportunity of intercourse with souls separate, and the spirits, glad and sorrowful, which inhabit the unseen world!”
Dear old Oxford! amid the brawl and uproar of the latter days, and with many a frailty in the curtains of the Ark which the weapons of the Philistines have found and pierced, yet alma mater, mother mild, like our native England, “with all thy faults I love thee still.” And when I recall my own undergraduate life of thirty years and upwards agone, I feel, notwithstanding modern vaunt, the laudator temporis acti earnest within me yet and strong. Nowadays, as it seems to me, there is but little originality of character in the still famous University; a dread of eccentric reputation appears to pervade College and Hall; every “Oxford man,” to adopt the well-known name, is subdued into sameness within and without, controlled as it were into copyism and mediocrity by the smoothing-iron of the nineteenth century. Whereas in my time, and before it, there were distinguished names, famous in every mouth for original achievements and “deeds of daring-do.” There were giants in those days—men of varied renown—and they arose and won for themselves, in strange fields of fame, record and place. Each became in his day a hero of the “Iliad” or “Odyssey” of Oxford life—a kind of Homeric man. Once and again in the course of every term, the whole University would ring with some fearless and practical jest, conceived and executed with a dash of original genius which betokened future victories in the war of wit and the world of men. How well do I remember a bold travesty of discipline which once set the common-rooms in a roar, and even among “mine ancients,” made it
A decree had been issued by the “authorities” of a well-known College (it was in the pre-ritual days) that no undergraduate should present himself at morning chapel service with his scarlet hunting-coat underneath his surplice—a costume neither utterly secular nor completely ecclesiastical, and therefore a motley garb which it did not seem unjust or unreasonable to forbid in a sacred place. However, the order was implicitly obeyed at the ensuing matins, with solemn and suspicious exactitude. Alas! it was “the torrent’s smoothness ere it dash below;” for on the third morning, when the College servants arrived to take down the shutters and to light the fires, they discovered that “a change had come over the spirit of their dream.” Every one of the panelled doors throughout the Quadrangle of the Canons, the very seat of hoar and reverend authority, had been artistically painted during the night with the hue of Nimrod, a glowing hunter’s red! The gates were immediately closed and barred, and every member of the College convened before a grand divan of the Dons, to undergo immediate scrutiny on the origin of that which some of the undergraduates irreverently termed this ultra-observance of the rubric (their wit would be obscure to those who are unaware that rubrica, the etymon of our Church rules, signifies ruddy or red). The authors of this outrage escaped detection, although every painter in Oxford was summoned for examination, and all the dealers in colours and oils. It was subsequently whispered among the initiated that the artist, with his brushes and materials, had been brought down from London in a post-chaise-and-four, secretly introduced through an unnoted postern, and when his work was done, hospitably feasted and paid, and then sent back at full speed through the night to town.
Another “merrie jest,” but with a lowlier scene and an humbler dramatis personæ, raised the laugh of many a common-room and wine-party about the same period of my own undergraduate recollections. There was an ancient woman, blear-eyed and dim-sighted, “worn nature’s mournful monument,” who had the far and wide repute of witchcraft among the College servants and the “baser sort” in the suburbs of the town; but in reality she was a mere “wreck of eld,” a harmless and helpless old creature, who stood at more than one college-gate for alms. Her well-known name was Nanny Heale. Her cottage, or rather decayed old hut, leaned against a steep mound by the castle-wall, and was so hugged in by the ground that, from a path along the ramparts a passer-by might cast a bird’s-eye look down Nanny’s chimney, and watch well her hearth and home. One winter evening certain frolicsome wights, out of College in search of a channel for the exuberant spirits of their age, were pacing, like Hardicanute, the wall east and west, when a glance down the witch’s chimney revealed a quaint and simple scene of humble life. There she crouched, close by the smoking embers, peering into the fire; and before her very nose there hung, just over the fire, a round iron vessel, called in the western counties a crock, filled to the brim with potatoes, and without a cover or lid. This utensil was suspended by its swing-handle to an iron bar, which went from side to side of the chimney-wall. To see and to assail the weak point in a field of battle is evermore the signal of a great captain. The onslaught was instantly planned. A rope, with a hook of iron at the end, was slowly and noiselessly lowered down the chimney, and, unnoted by poor Nanny’s blinking sight, the handle of the iron pot was softly grasped by the crook, and the vessel with its mealy contents began to ascend in silent majesty towards the upper air. Thoroughly roused by this unnatural and ungrateful demeanour of her lifelong companion of the hearth, old Nanny arose from her stool, peered anxiously upward to watch the ascent, and shouted at the top of her voice: “Massy ’pon my sinful soul! art gwain off—taties and all?”
The vessel was quietly grasped, carried down in hot haste, and planted upright outside the cottage-door. A knock, given for the purpose, summoned the inmate, who hurried out and stumbled over, as she afterwards interpreted the event, her penitent crock.
“So then,” was her joyful greeting—“so then! theer’t come back to holt, then! Ay, ’tis a cold out o’ doors.”
Good came out of evil; for her story, which she rehearsed again and again, with all the energy and firm persuasion of truth, at last reached the ears of the parish authorities, and they, on inquiry into the evidence, forthwith decreed the addition of a shilling a-week to poor old Nanny’s allowance, on the plea that her faculties had quite failed her, and that she required greater charity because of her wandering mind. Yet the fact which she testified met the criterion of evidence demanded by Hume, for the event occurred within the experience of the witness herself.
It was by outbreaks of animal spirits such as these that the monotony of collegiate life in those days was relieved, for the University supplied but little excitement of mental kind. The battle-cries of High Church and Low Church—“that bleating of the sheep and that lowing of the oxen” which nowadays we hear—had not yet begun to rouse the Oxford mind; and the only war about vestments that I recollect was our hot fierce struggle after a festive assembly to get first out into the lobby, and to grasp as a spoil the best caps and gowns one by one, until the unhappy freshman who arrived last had to put up with such ragged specimens of University costume as would hardly have satisfied the veriest Puritan for the performance of divine service.
Well, for us two—the subjects of this paper—the life of Oxford, with its freaks and its discipline, for a time was over; we had each passed the final examination so graphically named “the Great Go;” and that so as to be, what man so seldom is in this world, satisfied. In high heart, and with spirits running over, my friend and I appointed a tryst in a small watering-place on the north coast of Cornwall as a starting-point for a ride “all down the thundering shores of Bude and Boss.” In due time, and on a glorious summer day, we mounted our “Galloway nags,” and, like the knights of ancient ballad, “we laughed as we rode away.” The start was from Bude, and we made our first halt at a place twelve miles towards the south-west; a scene of general local renown, and which bears the parochial name of Warbstow Barrow. It stands upon a lofty hill that soars and swells upward into a vast circular mound, enthroned, as it were, amid a wild and boundless stretch of heathy and gorsy moorland. It was soothing to the sight to look down and around on the tapestry of purple and gold intermingled in natural woof, and flowing away in free undulation on every side. The view from this mountain-top was of wonderful extent, but wild, desolate, and bare. Beneath, on three sides, spread the moor, dotted here and there with a grey old church, that crouched toward the shadow of its low Saxon battlemented tower, as if it still sought shelter, after so many ages, from the perils of surrounding barbarism. On the fourth side swelled the sea. But the brow of this hill, like that of many others in the west, dropped into the shape of a mighty circular bowl—a kind of hollow valley turfed with grass, and surrounded by a rim; an amphitheatre, however, large enough to hold five thousand people at once. On the flat level floor of this round crater, and in the exact midst, still swells up uninjured the outline of a viking’s grave, unlike other burial-mounds so common in Cornwall and elsewhere,
and that on every hillside and plain. The shape of the great hillock at Warbstow is neither oval nor round, but survives the exact image of the dragon-ship of northern piracy and war. Moreover, not the shape only, but the size of the ancient vessel of the dead, is perpetuated here. Measured and graduated by scale, this oblong, curved, and narrow grave would yield the dimensions of a boat of fifty tons, which would be about the weight of a Scandinavian serpent of the sea.
We saw that an effort had been made to open this barrow at one of the ends; but an old woman, whom we found at a cottage not far off, assured us “that they that tried it were soon forced to give up their digging and flee, for the thunders came for ’em, and the lightnings also.”
We endeavoured to sound the local mind of our informant as to the history of the place and origin of the grave; but all we could drag out of her, after questions again and again, was “great warriors, supposing, in old times.” Such was the dirge of the mighty dead, and their requiem, at Warbstow Barrow. But the sun had begun to lean, and we were bound for Boscastle, the breviate of Bottreau Castle, and the abode of the earls of that name.
Strange, striking, and utterly unique is the first aspect of this village by the sea. The gorge or valley lies between two vast and precipitous hills, that yawn asunder as though they had been cleft by the spells of some giant warlock of the West, like the Eildon Hill by Michael Scott. As you descend the hill from the north you discover on the opposite side clusters of quaint old-fashioned houses, grotesque and gabled, that appear as though they clung together for mutual support on the slope of that perilous cliff. Between the houses, and sheer down the mountain side, descended, or rather fell, a steep and ugly road; which led, however, to the “safety of the vale,” and landed the traveller at last in a deep cut or gash between the hills, where the creek ebbed and flowed, which was called by strangers in their courtesy, and by the inhabitants, with aboriginal pride, “the Harbour”—Cornice “Hawn.” There “went the ships,” so that they did not exceed sixty tons in freight; and thither arrived, at certain intervals, coals and timber in bulk and quantity, which can be ascertained, no doubt, by the return of imports laid before Parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
We reached in safety our bourn for the night at the bottom of the hill, and discovered the hostelry by the sign which swung above the door. This appeared to us to represent a man’s shoe; but when we had read the legend, we found that it signified the Ship Inn, and was the “actual effigy” of a vessel which belonged to the port. Here we received a smiling welcome from the hostess, a ruddy-visaged widow,—Joan Treworgy was her Keltic name—fubby and interjectional in figure, and manifestly better adapted for her abode at the foot of the hill than at any mansion further up. She was born, as she afterwards related, two doors off: and, except that she had travelled up the hill to Forraburry church to be married there, it appeared that a diameter of five yards would have defined the total circumference of her wandering life.
As soon as we arrived, she called up from some vasty deep underneath her house a grim and shaggy shape, who answered to the name of Tim, but whom we identified as Caliban on the spot, and charged him to take proper care of the Captains’ horses (for by that title all strangers in sound garments and whole hats are saluted in the land of the quarry and the mine), and to be sure that they had plenty of whuts. She then invited us to enter her “parrolar,” a room rather cosy than magnificent; for when our landlady had followed in her two guests, and stood at the door, no one beside could have forced an entrance any more than a cannon-ball could cleave through a feather-bed. We then proceeded to confer about beds for the night, and, not without misgiving, inquired if she could supply a couple of those indispensable places of repose. A demur ensued. All the gentry in the town, she declared, were accustomed to sleep “two in a bed,” and the officers that travelled the country, and stopped at her house, would mostly do the same; but, however, if we commanded two beds for only two people, two we must have; only, although they were both in the same room, we must certainly pay for two, and sixpence a piece was her regular price. We assented, and then went on to entreat that we might dine. She graciously agreed; but to all questions as to our fare her sole response was, “Meat—meat and taties.” “Some call ’em,” she added, in a scornful tone, “‘purtaties,’ but we always say ‘taties’ here.” The specific differences between beef, mutton, veal, etc., seemed to be utterly or artfully ignored, and to every frenzied inquiry her calm inexorable reply was, “Meat—nice wholesome meat and taties.”
In due time we sat down in that happy ignorance as to the nature of our viands which a French cook is said to desire; and although we both made a not unsatisfactory meal, it is a wretched truth that by no effort could we ascertain what it was that was roasted for us that day by widow Treworgy, hostess of the Ship, and which we consumed. Was it a piece of Boscastle baby? as I suggested to my companion in the midst of his enjoyment; and the question caused him to arise and rush out to inquire once again, and insist on knowing the whole truth; but he soon came back baffled, and shouting, “Meat and taties!” There was not a vestige of bone nor any outline that could identify the joint, and the not unsavoury taste was something like tender veal. It was not until years afterwards that light was thrown on our mysterious dinner that day by a passage which I accidentally turned up in an ancient history of Cornwall. Therein I read “that the sillie people of Bouscastle and Boussiney do catch in the summer seas divers young soyles [seals], which, doubtful if they be fish or flesh, conynge housewives will nevertheless roast, and do make thereof very savoury meat.” “Ay, ay,” said my friend and fellow-traveller, when I had transcribed and sent him this extract—“Ay! clear as day—meat and taties; how I wish I had old mother Treworgy now by the throat! I would make her walk up that hill every day for a month, and stop her meat and taties till she was the size of other people.” When the hour arrived that should have been the time of rest, we mounted a cabin-ladder, which our hostess assured us was “the stairs.” We found the two beds which had been allotted to us, but, as it was foretold, in one small, hot, stuffy room. As we entered the narrow door, a solitary casement twinkled on one side of the opposite wall, flanked by a glazed cupboard door, paned to match, on the other. This latter, the false light, my friend opened by mistake—he was near-sighted, and our single dip was dim—to sniff, as he said, the evening air; but he shut it up again in quick disgust, declaring that the whole atmosphere of the village was impregnated with onions and cheese. To bed, but not to rest. Every cubic inch of ozone was exhausted long before midnight, and, as the small hours struck on the kitchen clock below, we found that “Boscastle had murdered sleep, and therefore Oxford could sleep no more.” With the first faint glimmer of day we arose and stole gently out into the dawn. Before us stood the one-arched bridge spanning the river bed. Lower down the creek the mast and rigging of a sloop at anchor was visible, like network traced upon the morning sky. But the lowly level had no attraction for our path: there lay the sluggish mist of night, and it seemed to our distempered fancy like the dull heavy breath of the snorers in that village glen; but above and upwards stretched the tall ascending road, like Jacob’s ladder resting on the earth and reaching to the sky. Surely on the brow of that mountain top there must be breath and room. We turned, therefore, to climb, and for once “vaulting ambition did not o’erleap itself.” Slow and difficult was the way, but cooler and more bracing the air every yard that we achieved.
We stood at last on the brow of the vast gorge, and full five hundred feet above the sea, where church and tower crowned the cliff like a crest. The scene we looked upon was indeed exhilarating, stately, and grand. On the right hand, and to the west, arose and stood the craggy heights of Dundagel, island and main, ennobled by the legends of old historic time. To the left, a boundless reach of granite-sprinkled moor, where barrow, logan rock, and cromlech stood, the mute memorials of Keltic antiquity. Beneath, and afar off, the sea, at that silent hour, like some boundless lake, “its glad waves murmuring all around the soul;” near, and at our feet, the jumbled village, crouching on either side of the steepy road, and clinging to its banks as if the inhabitants sought to secure access for escape when the earthquake should rend or the volcano pour. We prepared to return and descend; but this was by no means an easy feat, from the extreme angle at which the roadway fell. At the first look on the inclined plane it seemed easier to sit down and slide; but on the whole we thought it better to walk, and pause, and creep.
Another and a new feature in the scene now met our gaze. Annexed to every human abode a small hut had been stuck on to the walls for the home of the “gentleman” that, in Cornwall as in Ireland, pays the rent—Keltice, the pig. The hovels of these bristly vassals, like the castles of their lords, were cabined and circumscribed in the extreme. There was just room enough to breathe, but not to snore without impediment of tone. A sudden inspiration awoke in our minds. Surely it would be an act of humanity and kindness to enable these poor suffocating creatures once in their lives to taste the balmy breath of a summer morning. It will be to us, we said and thought, a personal delight to see them emerge from their close and festering abodes and rush out in the free, soft radiance of the dawn! Action followed close on thought. Hastily, busily, every rude rough bar was drawn back, door and substitute for door unclosed; and a general jail-delivery of imprisoned swine was ruled and accomplished on the spot. Undetected by a single human witness, without interruption from slumbering master or lazy hind, the total deed was done. Gradually descending the hill, and scattering, like ancient heroes and modern patriots, freedom and deliverance as we went, never did the children of liberty so exult in their unshackled deliverance as these Boscastle hordes. There was one result, however, which we had not foreseen, and its perilous consequences had quite escaped anticipation. The inmates of every sty, as soon as their opportunities of egress had been ascertained by marching out of their prison-doors and arriving unchecked at the roadside—when they looked upward and surveyed the steep and difficult ascent, and counted mentally the cost of attempting to surmount the steep, they all, as with one hoof and mind, turned down the hill. Sire and dam, lean and corpulent, farrow and suckling, all uno impetu, selected and rushed down the facilis descensus Averni; and although, in all likelihood, they had never pondered the contrast of the Roman poet, yet they spontaneously moved and seconded, and carried the unanimous resolution that revocare gradum, his labor, hoc opus est. The consequence of this choice of way was too soon apparent. Just as we had drawn the last bar, and were approaching the bottom of the steep, we looked back and saw that we were pursued, and should speedily be surrounded, by a mixed multitude of porcine advocates for free discussion in the open air, such as might have gladdened the heart of any critic on the original and cultivated breeds of the west of England. Prominent among them the old Cornish razor-back asserted its pre-eminence of height and bone, nor were punchy representatives of the Berkshire and Suffolk genealogies absent on this festive occasion. Growing now apprehensive of the consequences of discovery, if an early rising owner should ascertain the authors of this daring effort to “deliver their dungeons from the captive,” we hastened to secure ourselves in the shelter of our hostelry of the Ship, and fortunately found, on reaching our “little chamber on the wall,” that the widow and her household were still fast asleep. We fastened the door and listened for results. The outcries and yells were fearful. By-and-by human voices began to mingle with the tumult; there were shouts of inquiry and surprise, then sounds of apparent expostulation and entreaty, and again a “storm of hate and wrath and wakening fear.” Many a battle of soldiers must have fought and ended with less uproar. At last the tumult pierced even the ears of our hostess Joan Treworgy. We heard her puff and blow, and call for Tim. At last, after waiting a prudent time, we thought it best to call aloud for shaving-water, and to inquire with astonishment into the cause of that horrible disturbance which had roused us from our morning sleep. This brought the widow in hot haste to our door.
“Why, they do say, Captain,” was her doleful response, “that all the pegs up-town have a-rebelled, and they’ve a-be, and let one the wother out, and they be all a-gwain to sea huz-a-muz, bang!”
Although this statement was somewhat obscure in its phraseology, and the Keltic byword at the close, wherein the “sense is kindred to the sound,” yet we understood too well that the main facts of the history were as true as if Macaulay had recorded them; so we pretended to dress in great haste, and hurried down to see the war. It was indeed an original scene;
Here a decently dressed woman made many fruitless endeavours to coax out of the brawl five or six squealing farrows, the offspring of a gaunt old dam that, like the felon sow of Rokeby, was “so distraught with noise” that “her own children she mought clean devour.” There a stalwart quarryman, finding all other efforts fruitless, had seized his full-grown porker by the legs and hoisted him on his shoulders to ride home pickaback uttering all the while yells of fierce expostulation and defiance. One hot little man, with a red face and gesticulating hands, had grasped a long pole, and laid about him in mad fury, promiscuously, until a tall and bristly hog rushed at him from behind, and carried him off down the hill seated at full charge like a knight of King Arthur’s Court, with “semblance of a spear,” and tilted him at last head over heels in the bed of the stream. But some way up the hill we came suddenly upon a scene which demanded all our sympathy; help there was none. A panting old woman had singled out her hog and separated him from the crowd; and a fine fat animal he was—four hundred-weight at least—and so unfitted for the slightest exertion, that unless he had resorted to sliding and rolling, it was difficult to conceive how he had accomplished even his downhill journey from the sty. But up hill—as his obdurate mistress appeared to propose,—no, no. There was a look in his eye, as he glanced back at his despairing owner, that seemed to suggest a grunt in strong German emphasis, das geht nicht. He had thrust his snout and half his nose through the bars of a gate; and there he stuck, and manifestly meant to stick fast, while she belaboured him with strokes like a flail. She paused as we approached the spot, and with an appealing look for our assent, she piteously exclaimed, “My peg’s surely mazed, maister, or he’s ill-wished; some ennemie hath a-dond it!” My thought responded to her charge; it was certainly no enemy of the pig that “dond it,” whatsoever he might be to his owner.
We left “her alone in her glory,” and returned to the inn, communing as we went on the store of legend, tale, and history we had laid up for future generations in thus opening a field of achievement for the Boscastle swine. What themes of marvel would travel down by the cottage hearth, there to be rehearsed by wrinkled eld!—the wondrous things always the more believed as they became more incredible. Doubtless the local event would very soon be resolved into demoniac agency, because, ever since the miracle of Gadara, the people have always linked the association of demons and swine; and they refer to the five small dark punctures always visible on the hoof of the hog as the points of entrance and departure for the fiend.
Once in after-life did this fitful freak recur to our minds. We separated, my companion of this ride and myself—I to a country cure, and my friend back to Oxford, “to climb the steep where fame’s proud temple shines afar.” He ascended step by step until he became Dean of the College to which we both belonged. In course of time, after the usual interval, I went up to take my M.A. degree. Now the custom was, and is, that the Dean takes the candidate by the hand, leads him up to the chair of the Vice-Chancellor, and presents him for his degree in a Latin speech. We were all assembled in the appointed place, the Dean, my friend, taking us up in turn one by one. Among the group was a stout burly man, a gentleman commoner, sleek and fat, and manifestly well-to-do in life. With him the Dean had trouble; unwieldy and confused and slow, it was difficult to get him through the crowd and up to his place in time. They passed me in a kind of struggle,—the Dean leading and endeavouring to guide, the candidate hanging back and getting pitched in the throng. Just then I managed to whisper—
“Why, your peg’s surely mazed, maister!”
I was hardly prepared for the result when I “struck the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.” The association came back; the words called up the scene among the swine; and when the crowd gave way, there stood the Dean before the Vice-Chancellor’s chair, greeting him, not with a Latin form, but in spasms of uncontrollable laughter!
To return to the original scene. We ordered Caliban with our ponies to be ready at the door, and we in the meanwhile called on our hostess to produce her bill. She hum’d and ha’d and hesitated, and seemed at a loss to produce the “little dockyment,” which is usually supposed to be a matter of very fluent composition at an inn. It was not until we had again and again explained that we desired her to state in writing what we had to pay, that she seemed at last to comprehend. A deal of scuffling about the kitchen ensued. There was a quick passing to and fro, in and out; there were several muttered discussions of the lower house; a neighbour, who appeared to be a glazier, was sent for; and at last the door opened, and our red pursy little hostess bustled in, bobbed a curtsey, and presented for our perusal her small account, chalked upon the upper lid of the kitchen bellows, which she gracefully held towards us by the snout. Poor old Joan Treworgy! how utterly did thy rough simplicity put to shame the vaunting tariff and the “establishment charges” of this nineteenth century of Messrs. Brag and Sham! The bill, which we duly transcribed, and which was then paid and rubbed out, thus ran:—
|T for 2||0||6|
|Sleep for 2||1||0|
|Meat and Taties and Bier||1||6|
Four shillings and sixpence for bed and board for two wolfish appetites for a night and a day, to say nothing of the pantomime performed gratuitously for our behoof, at a very early hour, by Boscastle amateurs! Good day, Mrs. Treworgy! good day! “To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.”
There is a small outlying hamlet in my parochial charge, about two miles from my vicarage, with a population of about two hundred souls, inhabiting a kind of plateau shut in by lofty hills and skirted by the sea. These rural and simple-hearted people, secluded by their remote place of abode from the access of the surrounding world, present a striking picture of old and Celtic England such as it existed two or three hundred years ago. A notion of their solitude and simplicity may be gathered from the fact that, whereas they have no village postman or office, their only mode of intercourse with the outer life of their kind is accomplished through the weekly or other visit of their clergyman. He carries their letters, which contain “the short and simple annals of the poor,” and he receives and returns their weekly and laborious literary compositions to edify and instruct their distant and more civilised correspondents. The address on each letter is often such as to baffle all ordinary curiosity, and unless deciphered by the skill of the experts of the post-office, must often furnish hieroglyphics for the study of the Postmaster-General as obscure, if not so antique, as the legends on a pyramid or Rosetta stone. A visit to a distant market-town is an achievement to render a man an authority or an oracle among his brethren; and one who has accomplished that journey twice or thrice is ever regarded as a daring traveller, and consulted about foreign countries with a feeling of habitual respect.
They have amongst them no farrier for their cattle, no medical man for themselves, no beerhouse, no shop; a man who travels for a distant town supplies them with tea by the ounce, or sugar in smaller quantities still. Not a newspaper is taken in throughout the hamlet, although they are occasionally astonished and delighted by the arrival from some almost forgotten friend in Canada of an ancient copy of the Toronto Gazette. This publication they pore over to weariness, and on Sunday they will worry the clergyman with questions about Transatlantic places and names of which he is obliged to confess himself utterly ignorant, a confession which consciously lowers him in their veneration and respect. An ancient dame once exhibited her Prayer-book, very nearly worn out, printed in the reign of George II., and very much thumbed at the page from which she assiduously prayed for the welfare of Prince Frederick, without one misgiving that she violated the article of our Church which forbids prayer for the dead.
Among the singular traits of character which are developed amid these, whom I may designate in the German phrase as my mossy parishioners, there is one which I should define, in their extreme simplicity, as exuberant belief, or rather faith in excess. I do not, however, intend by this term any kind of religious peculiarity of tenet or creed, but only a prostration of the intellect before certain old traditionary and inherited impulses of the human mind. They share and they embrace those instinctive tendencies of their Celtic nature which in all ages have led their race to cherish a credence in the existence and power of witches, fairies, and the force of charms and spells. It is well known that all such supernatural influences on ordinary life are singularly congenial to the ancient and the modern Cornish mind. I do not exaggerate when I affirm at all events my own persuasion, that two-thirds of the total inhabitants of Tamar-side implicitly believe in the power of the Mal Occhio, as the Italians name it, or the Evil Eye. Is this incredible in a day when the spasms and raps and bad spelling of a familiar spirit are received with acquiescent belief in polished communities, and even in intellectual London? The old notion that a wizard or a witch so became by a nefarious bargain with the enemy of man, and by a surrender of his soul to his ultimate grasp, although still held in many a nook of our western valleys, and by the crooning dame at her solitary hearth, appears to have been exchanged in my hamlet of Holacombe (for such is its name) for a persuasion that these choosers of the slain inherit their faculty from their birth. Whispers of forbidden ties between their parents, and of monstrous and unhallowed alliances of which these children are the issue, largely prevail in this village. There it is held that the witch, like the poet, is so born. I have been gravely assured that there are well-known marks which distinguish the ill-wishers from all beside. These are black spots under the tongue; in number five, diagonally placed: “Like those, sir, which are always found in the feet of swine,” and which, according to the belief of my poor people, and which, as a Scriptural authority, I was supposed unable to deny, were first made in the unclean animals by the entrance of the demons into the ancestral herd at Gadara. A peculiar kind of eyeball, sometimes bright and clear, and at others covered with a filmy gauze, like a gipsy’s eye, as it is said, by night; or a double pupil, ringed twice; or a larger eye on the left than on the right side; these are held to be tokens of evil omen, and accounted to indicate demoniac power, and certain it is that a peculiar glare or a glance of the eye does exist in those persons who are pointed out as in possession of the craft of the wizard or witch. But an ancient man, who lived in a lone house in a gorge near the church, once actually disclosed to me in mysterious whispers, and with many a gesture of alarm and dread, a plan which he had heard from his grandfather, and by which a person evilly inclined, and anxious for more power than men ought to possess, might at any time become a master of the Evil Eye.
“Let him go to chancel,” said he, “to sacrament, and let him hide and bring away the bread from the hands of the priest; then, next midnight let him take it and carry it round the church, widdershins—that is, from south to north, crossing by east three times: the third time there will meet him a big, ugly, venomous toad, gaping and gasping with his mouth opened wide, let him put the bread between the lips of the ghastly creature, and as soon as ever it is swallowed down his throat he will breathe three times upon the man, and he will be made a strong witch for evermore.”
I did not fail to express the horror and disgust with which I had listened to this grandsire’s tale, and to assure him that any man capable of performing such an atrocious ceremony for such a purpose, must be by his very nature fit for every evil desire, and prepared, of his own mere impulse, to form the most unhallowed wishes for the harm of his fellow-creatures, such as a demon only could delight to fulfil. But the feats which are supposed to be achieved by the witch—for the question proposed by the sapient King Jamie has been solved by the Cornish people, whether the Devil doth not oftener dally with ancient women than men—are invariably deeds of loss and harm: Some felon sow, like her of Rokeby, becomes the grunting mother of a large family of farrows; all at once, like Medea, she hates her own offspring with a fiendish hatred, and spurns them all away from her milk. They pine and squeal, and at last sit upright on their hinder parts like pleading children, put their little paws together in piteous fashion, and die one by one. All this would never have come to pass had not the dame, the day before, refused a bottle of milk to one who “should have been a woman,” “but that her beard forbade them to interpret that such she were.” What graphic tales of “things ill-wished” have I not heard around and within this wild and lonely hamlet! All at once a flock or herd would begin to pine away with some strange and nameless disease, the shepherd’s ewes yeaned dead lambs, and were found standing over their lost offspring aghast. Or his cows, “the milky mothers of the herd,” would rush from field to field, “quite mad,” with their tails erect towards the sky, like the bare poles of a ship in distress scudding before the gale; or the brown mare would refuse to be harnessed, and signify her intention to remain in the stall on a busy day, to her master’s infinite disgust. In the more civilised part of my parish the well-to-do farmer would have a remedy. He would mount his horse one break of day on some secret expedition, and be absent for another day or two. Then he returns armed with a packet of white powders, which he scatters carefully, one at every gate on his farm, and his men hear him as he goes muttering in solemn fashion some strange set words, which turn out, when the scroll is submitted to the schoolmaster afterwards, to contain the blessings of the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, copied in writing for his use. He has paid a visit, it appears, to a distant town, and been closeted with a well-known public character of the west, popularly called the White Witch, and it is he who has not only exposed the name and arts of the parish practitioner of evil, but has supplied an antidote in the shape of baffling powders and “charms of might.”
Some years agone a violent thunderstorm passed over the hamlet of Holacombe, and wrought great damage in its course. Trees were rooted up, cattle killed, and a rick or two set on fire. It so befell that I visited, the day after, one of the chief agricultural inhabitants of the village, and I found the farmer and his men standing by a ditch wherein lay, heels upward, a fine young horse quite dead. “Here sir,” he shouted, as I came on, “only please to look! is not this a sight to see?” I looked at the poor animal, and uttered my sympathy and regret at the loss.
“One of the fearful results,” I happened to say, “of the storm and lightning yesterday.” “There, Jem,” said he to one of his men, triumphantly, “didn’t I say the parson would find it out? Yes, sir,” he said, “it is as you say: it is all that wretched old Cherry Parnell’s doing, with her vengeance and her noise!” I stared with astonishment at this unlooked-for interpretation which he had put into my mouth, and waited for him to explain. “You see, sir,” he went on to say, “the case was this: old Cherry came up to my place, tottering along and mumbling that she wanted a fagot of wood. I said to her, ‘Cherry,’ says I, ‘I gave you one only two days agone, and another two days before that, and I must say that I didn’t make up my woodrick altogether for you.’ So she turned away, looking very grany, and muttering something about ‘Hotter for me hereafter.’ Well, sir, last night I was in bed, I and my wife, and all to once there bursted a thunderbolt, and shaked the very room and house. Up we started, and my wife says, ‘O father, old Cherry’s up! I wish I had gone after her with that there fagot.’ I confess I thought in my mind I wish she had; but it was too late then, and I would try to hope for the best. But now, sir, you see with your own eyes what that revengeful old woman hath been and done. And I do think, sir,” he went on to say, changing his tone to a kind of indignant growl—“I do think that when I call to mind how I’ve paid tithe and rates faithfully all these years, and kept my place in church before your reverence every Sabbath-day, and always voted in the vestries that what hath a be ought to be, and so on, I do think that such ones as old Cherry Parnell never ought to be allowed to meddle with such things as thunder and lightning.” What could I—what could any man in his senses—say to this?
The great charmer of charms in this strange corner of the world is a seventh son born in direct succession from one father and one mother. Find such a person, and you have “the sayer of good words” always at your command. He is called in our folk-lore the doctor of the district. There is such an old man in my hamlet, popularly called Uncle Tony Cleverdon. He was baptised Anthony; but this has been changed by kindly village parlance and the usage of the West. For with us the pet name is generally the short name, and any one venerable from age and amiable in nature is termed, without relationship, but merely for endearment, “uncle” and “aunt.” Uncle Tony has inherited this endowment in a family of thirteen children, he being the seventh born. He often says that his lucky birth has been as good as “a fortin” to him all his life; for although he is forbidden by usage and tradition to take money for the exercise of his functions, nothing has hindered that he should always be invited to sit as an honoured guest at the table furnished with good things in the houses of his votaries. Uncle Tony allowed me, as a vast favour, to take down from his lips some of his formularies: they had never been committed to writing before, he said; not, as I believe, for more than three centuries, for they smack of the Middle Ages. He very much questioned whether their virtue would not be utterly destroyed when he was gone, by their being “put into ink.”
Uncle Tony was like an ancient augur in the science of birds. “Whenever you see one magpie alone by himself,” said he, with a look of inimitable sagacity, “that bird is upon no good: spit over your right shoulder three times, and say—
Among the myriads of sea and land birds that throng this coast, the raven is king of the rock. The headland and bulwark of the slope of Holacombe is a precipice of perpendicular rock. There, undisturbed (for no bribe would induce a villager to slay them, old or young), the ravens dwell, revel, and reign. One day, as we watched them in their flapping flight, said Uncle Tony to me, “Sometimes, sir, these wild creatures will be so merciful that they will even save a man’s life.” “Indeed! how?” “Why, sir, it came to pass on this wise. There was once a noted old wrecker called Kinsman: he lived in my father’s time; and when no wreck was onward, he would get his wages by raising stone in a quarry by the sea-shore. Well, he was to work one day over yonder, half way down Tower Cliff, and all at once he heard a buzz above him in the air, and he looked up, and there were two old ravens flying round and round very near his head. They kept whirling and whirling and coming so nigh, and they seemed so knowing, that the old man thought verily they were trying to speak, as they made a strange croak; but after some time they went away, and old Kinsman went on with his work. Well, sir, by-and-by they both came back again, flying above and round as before; and then at last, lo and behold! the birds dropped right down into the quarry two pieces of wreck-candle just at the old man’s feet.” (Very often the wreckers pick up Neapolitan wax-candles from vessels in the Mediterranean trade that have been lost in the Channel.) “So when Kinsman saw the candles, he thought in his mind, ‘There is surely wreck coming in upon the beach:’ so he packed his tools together and left them just where he stood, and went his way wrecking. He could find no jetsam, however, though he searched far and wide, and he used to say he verily believed that the ravens must have had the candles at hand in their holt, to be so ready with them as they were. Next day he went back to quarry to his work, and he always used to say it was as true as a proverb: there the tools were all buried deep out of sight, for the craig above had given way and fallen down, and if he had tarried only one hour longer he must have been crushed to death! So you see, sir, what knowledge those ravens must have had; how well they knew the old man, and how fond he was of wreck; how crafty they were to hit upon the only plan that would ever have slocked him away: and the birds, moreover, must have been kind creatures, and willing to save a poor fellow’s life. There is nothing on airth so knowing as a bird is, unless it may be a snake. Did you ever hear, sir, how I heal an adder’s bite? You cut a piece of hazelwood, sir, and you fasten a long bit and a short one together into the form of a cross; then you lay it softly upon the wound, and you say, thrice, blowing out the words aloud like one of the commandiments—
“There, sir,” said uncle Tony, “if David had known that charm he never would have wrote the verse in the Psalms about the adder that was so deaf that she would not hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely. I never knew that charm fail in all my life!” Tony added, after a pause—“Fail! of course, sometimes a body may fail, but then ’tis always from people’s obstinacy and ignorance. I dare say, sir, you’ve heard the story of Farmer Colly’s mare, how she bled herself to death; and they say he puts the blame on me. But what’s the true case? His man came rapping at my door after I was in bed. I got up and opened the casement and looked out, and I asked what was amiss. ‘O Tony,’ says he, ‘master’s mare is blooding streams, and I be sent over to you to beg you to stop it.’ ‘Very well,’ I said, ‘I can do it just as well here as if I came down and opened the door: only just tell me the name of the beast, and I’ll proceed.’ ‘Name,’ says he, ‘why, there’s no name that I know by; we allus call her the black mare.’ ‘No name?’ says I; ‘then how ever can I charm her? Why, the name’s the principal thing! Fools! never to give her a name to rule the charm by. Be off! be off! I can’t save her.’ So the poor old thing died in course.” “And what may your charm be, Tony?” said I. “Just one verse in Ezekiel, sir, beginning, ‘I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.’ And so on. I say it only twice, with an outblow between each time. But the finest by-word that I know, sir, is for the prick of a thorn.” And here it follows from my diary in the antique phraseology which Uncle Tony had received from his forefathers through descending generations:—
Another time Uncle Tony said to me, “Sir, there is one thing I want to ask you, if I may be so free, and it is this, Why should a merry-maid” (the local name for mermaid), “that will ride about upon the waters in such terrible storms, and toss from sea to sea in such ruxles as there be upon the coast—why should she never lose her looking-glass and comb?” “Well, I suppose,” said I, “that if there are such creatures, Tony, they must wear their looking-glasses and combs fastened on somehow—like fins to a fish.” “See!” said Tony, chuckling with delight; “what a thing it is to know the Scriptures like your reverence! I never should have found it out. But there’s another point, sir, I should like to know, if you please; I’ve been bothered about it in my mind hundreds of times. Here be I, that have gone up and down Holacombe cliffs and streams fifty years come next Candlemas, and I’ve gone and watched the water by moonlight and sunlight, days and nights, on purpose, in rough weather and smooth (even Sundays, too, saving your presence), and my sight as good as most men’s, and yet I never could come to see a merry-maid in all my life! How’s that, sir?” “Are you sure, Tony,” I rejoined, “that there are such things in existence at all?” “Oh, sir, my old father seen her twice! He was out once by night for wreck (my father watched the coast like most of the old people formerly), and it came to pass that he was down by the duck-pool on the sand at low-water tide, and all at once he heard music in the sea. Well, he croped on behind a rock, like a coastguard-man watching a boat, and got very near the noise. He couldn’t make out the words, but the sound was exactly like Bill Martin’s voice, that singed second counter in church. At last he got very near, and there was the merry-maid very plain to be seen, swimming about upon the waves like a woman bathing—and singing away. But my father said it was very sad and solemn to hear—more like the tune of a funeral hymn than a Christmas carol by far—but it was so sweet that it was as much as he could do to hold back from plunging into the tide after her. And he an old man of sixty-seven, with a wife and a houseful of children at home! The second time was down here by Holacombe Pits. He had been looking out for spars: there was a ship breaking up in the Channel, and he saw some one on the move just at half-tide mark. So he went on very softly, step and step, till he got nigh the place, and there was the merry-maid sitting on a rock, the bootifullest merry-maid that eye could behold, and she was twisting about her long hair, and dressing it just like one of our girls getting ready for her sweetheart on the Sabbath-day. The old man made sure he should greep hold of her before ever she found him out, and he had got so near that a couple of paces more and he would have caught her by the hair as sure as tithe or tax, when, lo and behold! she looked back and glimpsed at him. So in one moment she dived head-foremost off the rock, and then tumbled herself topsy-turvy about in the waters, and cast a look at my poor father, and grinned like a seal!”
Among the changes that have passed over the face of our land with such torrent-like rapidity in this wondrous nineteenth century of marvel and miracle, none are more striking and complete than that which has transformed the torpid clergy of past periods into the active and energetic ministers of our own Church and time. The country incumbent of Macaulay’s “History,” the guests at the second table of the patron and the squire—the Trullibers and the Parson Adams of Fielding and Smollett—would find no deuterotype in the present day. But in the transition period of our ecclesiastical history there are here and there fossil memorials of the former men that would enable a thoughtful mind to construct singular specimens of character which, while embodying the past, would also indicate the future lineaments of gradual change and improvement. Among these is one, a personal friend of the writer when he first entered the ministry, whose kindliness of heart and originality of character may supply sundry graphic and interesting reminiscences. As old Johnson would have said, had he written his life, so let me say of Humphrey Vivian, that he was at once the stately priest, the genial companion, and the faithful, facetious friend. Let me indulge some of these recollections, and gather up some materials of personal history, which are by no means wanting. For it was his great delight, when a guest at my table, after he had done more than justice to the viands set before him, when his gold snuff-box had been produced and ceremoniously offered to all around, and his glass filled with his favourite wine—“sound old Tory port”—to recall in whole volumes the events of his youth and manhood, and to dilate with emphatic gusto on the contrasts of the age and times.
The personal aspect of my friend presented an imposing solemnity to the eye. Tall, even to the measure of six feet two inches, but slender withal as the bole of a poplar-tree, with small features and twinkling eye, and a round undersized head, and yet with a demeanour so pompous, such a frequency of condescending bows, and such a roll of words, that he took immediate rank as a gentleman of the old school. And as to his mental endowments, be it enough to record that there were few men as wise as he looked. His garb was that of a pluralized clergyman of the days of the Georges,—fine black broadcloth, that hung around him in festive moments like mourning on a Maypole. His vest was of rich silk with wide pockets, roomy enough to hold the inevitable snuff-box, the gold étui, and the small cock-fighter’s saw, which was used to cut away the natural spur of the bird when it was replaced with steel. This last was a common equipment of a country gentleman, lay or clerical, in those days. His apparel terminated in black silk stockings and nether garments, buckled with gold or silver at the knee. Buckles also clasped his shoes. Thus attired, he was no unfit representative of the clergy who ruled and reigned in their parochial domain in the west of England in the early part of the eighteenth century. His conversational powers were ample and amusing; but it was when he could be brought to dilate on his own adventures and history in earlier life that he most surely riveted and requited the attention of his auditors.
At my table one day the topic of discourse was the marriage of the clergy. “The young curates,” said he, “should always marry, and that as soon as ever they are ordained. Nothing brightens up a parsonage like the ribbons of a merry wife. I, you know, have buried three Mrs. Vivians; and when I come to look back, I really can hardly decide which it was that made the happiest home. If I had to live my life over again, I should certainly marry all three. And yet I did not win my first love, after all. Her grumpy old father came between us and blighted our days, as the Psalmist puts it. Ah! the very sound of her name is like a charm to me still. Bridget Morrice! But ‘Biddy’ she was always called at home; and very soon she was ‘Biddy dear’ to me.
“I was at Oxford then, and when I came down for the ‘Long’ I used to be very duly at church, because there I could see Biddy. Her pew was opposite to mine; and there was I in full rig as we used to dress in those days,—long scarlet coat, silk waistcoat with a figured pattern, and tights. One Sunday after prayers up comes old Morrice, roaring like a bull. ‘Mr. Vivian,’ he growled, ‘I’ll trouble you to take your eyes off my daughter’s face in church. I saw you, sir, when you pretended to be bowing in the Creed. You were bowing to Biddy, my daughter, sir, across the aisle; and that you call attending divine service, do you, sir?’ However, in spite of the old dragon, we used to meet in the garden, and there, in the arbour, what fruit Biddy used to give me! Such peaches, plums, and sometimes cheesecakes and tarts? Talk of a sweet tooth! I think that in those days I had a whole set; and now I have but one left of any kind, and that is a stump. But Biddy treated me very unkindly after all. There was a regiment of soldiers stationed in the town, and of course lots of gay young officers fluttering about in feathers and lace. Well, one day it was rumoured about that old Morrice and his wife were going to give a spread, and these captain fellows were to be there, head and chief. There were to be dinner and a dance, and I of course thought that, somehow or other, Biddy would manage with her mother to get me a card and a corner. I waited and watched; but no—none came. So at last away I went to the house, angry and fierce, and determined to have matters cleared up. Old Morrice, luckily, was out, and his wife with him; but there was Biddy, up to her elbows in jellies and jams, fussing and fuming like a maid to get things nice and toothsome for cockering up those red rascals, that I hated like grim death. ‘Well, Biddy,’ I said, ‘do you call this pretty, to serve me so? Here you ask everybody to your feasts and your junkets—yes, every one in the town but me!’ And what with the vexation and the smell of the cookery, I actually burst out sobbing like a boy. This made Biddy cry too, and there was a scene, sure enough. ‘It is father’s fault, Henry, utterly and entirely: he is so mad against you because he thinks you want me for the sake of my money.’ ‘Money, Biddy dear!’ I said—‘money! Now I do think that if I bring blood your father ought to bring groats!’
“Just then some one lifted the latch, and poor Biddy began to scream: ‘O Henry, dear! what shall I do? That’s father come back. He’ll surely kill you or me, or do some rash deed. What can I do? Here, here,’ she said, opening a kind of closet-door, ‘step in, that’s a dear, and wait till I can get you out. Don’t cough or sneeze, but keep quiet and still as a mouse till I come to call you.’ In I went, and Biddy shut the door. Well, do you know, I found she had put me in a sort of storeroom, where they kept the sweets; and on a long table there was such a spread: raspberry-creams, ices, jellies, all kinds of flummery, and in the middle a thing I never could resist—a fine sugary cake. Didn’t I help myself! and when I began to think that all these niceties were got up to fill up the waistcoats of those rollicking fellows that had cut me out of my Biddy’s heart, it did make me half mad. However, when I thought of that cake, I said to myself, ‘Not one crumb of that lovely thing shall go down their horrid throats after all—see if it does!’ We wore long wide pockets in those days, big enough to hold a Christmas-pie. So in went the cake; and there was room besides for a whole plate of macaroons. Presently Biddy was at the door, and in such a way. ‘Make, haste, Henry, dear—quick; and do go straight home! I would not have you meet father for the world!’ You may guess how I scudded away through the streets with my skirts bulging out, and the boys shouting after me, ‘There goes the Oxford scholar with his humps slipped down!’
“Next time I met Biddy, it was coming out of church. She could hardly tell whether to laugh or cry. ‘How could you, Henry, dear?’ she said,—‘how could you carry off our beautiful cake?’ ‘How? Biddy, dear,’ said I; ‘why, in my pocket, to be sure.’
“But the worst of all was that Biddy was cold to me from that very time; and when I came home from college the next year I heard that she was engaged to a Captain Upjohns, and she was married to him not long after. So he had Biddy and I had the cake. But she was my first love; and I do think, after all, notwithstanding the three Mrs. Vivians, she was verily my last love also. People say that Queen Mary declared that if she was opened after her death, Calais would be found graven on her heart. And I, too, say often, that if my dead bosom were examined, it would be found that Biddy Morrice was carved on mine.
“Well, well; time passed away—years upon years. I was ordained, and served half-a-dozen curacies—three at once for some time; and then I got, one after another, my two first livings. I was a widower. I had lost the first—no, no, I am sorry to say the second Mrs. Vivian, when one day I heard that Biddy Morrice was a rich widow. Old Upjohns, it seems, had died and left her no end of money. And then the thought occurred to me that we two might come together after all. ‘’Twould be like a romance,’ I said. I found out that she was settled in great style at Bath. So up I went and found, sure enough, she had a splendid house. A fine formal old butler received me, and I sent up my name. I was shown into a splendid drawing-room, with rich furniture, like a bishop’s palace, all velvet and gold. I sat down, thinking over old times, when Biddy used to come to meet me with her rosy cheeks and her strawberry mouth, and a waist you might span with your hand. At last the door opened, and in she came. But alack, alas! such a cat! oh dear, oh dear! and with such a bow-window: it was surprising,—more like old Mrs. Morrice than my Biddy. I was aghast. I never kissed her, as I intended, but I stood staring like a gawky. I remember I offered her a pinch of snuff, which she took. We had a talk, but it was all prisms and prunes with Biddy. However, she invited me to dinner the next day, and I went. Everything first-rate,—turbot and haunch, and so on, all upon silver; fine old Madeira, and glorious port; and that sleek fellow, the butler, ruling over all! There was a moderate dessert, and on the middle dish there was such a cake! ‘I remember,’ said Biddy, but without the shadow of a smile—‘I remember that you are fond of cake.’ Well, after the cloth was removed, I felt all the better for my dinner, and it is at that time I always have most courage, particularly after the third glass. As I looked on the sleek butler and his pompous ways, I thought to myself, ‘I should like to dethrone that rule, and reign myself over her cellar.’
“So I broached the subject of my wishes. ‘Don’t you think, Biddy dear,’ said I, ‘now that my second Mrs. V. has gone, and old Upjohns also out of the way, that we two——?’ ‘O Henry, Henry,’ she broke in; ‘the old Adam is still, I see, strong as ever in you. As sweet Mr. Cheekey says at our Bethesda, “We are all criminally minded to our dying day.”’ Never believe me if Bridget had not turned Methodist, and all that. And so, in short, she cut me dead. However, she sent me this snuff-box, and I had her picture put under the lid. Sweet face, isn’t it? But then it was taken thirty years before that dinner at Bath.”
But it was when the conversation turned upon curacies, and stipends, and the usual topers among clerical guests, that our friend Humphrey’s remembrances became of chief interest and value. “Oh, the changes that I have lived to see!” was his favourite phrase. “I remember so well when I was ordained deacon, and came down in my brand-new bombasine bachelor’s gown, and a hood that made me look behind like a two-year-old goat, and bands half a yard long, what a swell I used to think myself to be! Talk of your one good curacy! why, when I began to work I served four. Ay, and I had £10 apiece for them, and thought myself in paradise. I remember there were three of us. John Braddon—he had two curacies and the evening lecture; and Millerford we thought very low down—he had two and no more. We all lived, sir, in the town, and boarded and lodged together. £20 a year each we paid the unfortunate fellow that took us in. Our first landlord was old Geake, the grocer. He stood it twelve months, and then broke all to pieces, and was made bankrupt by his creditors. He actually said in court that we had eaten and drunk all his substance. Well, then, a man called Stag undertook us. He was a market-gardener; and, do you know, after a time he went too! He said it was not so much the meat we consumed, but he had no more vegetables to sell. So we cut him. At last an old fellow named Brewer came forward, and said he would try his luck with us. He stood it pretty well, but then his wife had private property of her own; but she used to say it all went under the waistcoats of the young clergy. She had no family; but she said she would rather have had six children of her own than keep us three. But, no doubt, she exaggerated. Women will do so sometimes.”
“Did you live well, Mr. Vivian?” we interposed.
“Like fighting-cocks, sir. We insisted on good breakfasts, plain joints and plenty for dinner, and nice hot suppers. We didn’t care much about tea—nobody did in those days. But then, behind the parlour door there was always a keg of brandy on tap, and we had a right to go with our little tin cups and draw the spigot twice a day.”
“No doubt, Mr. Vivian, you worked hard in those days?”
“Didn’t we? To be sure it was only on Sundays, but it was enough for all the week. We used to start in the morning and travel on foot to all the points of the compass, every man of us with his umbrella. My first service was at nine o’clock in the morning, prayers and sermon. Then on to Tregare at half-past eleven, West Lariston at two o’clock, and Kimovick at four, and home in the evening, pretty well done up. Braddon and Millerford just the same tramp. But then, how we did enjoy our roast goose, sirloin, or leg of mutton afterwards! We bargained expressly for a hot dinner on Sundays, and we had it too. Then what fun afterwards! Every man had something to tell about his parish. I remember Millerford had to call and see an old woman, a reputed witch. He was to examine her mouth, and see if the roof had the five black marks that stamped an old woman as a witch. He wished to save her, and he declared that she had but four, and one of them doubtful. One day Braddon had christened a man-child, as he thought, Thomas; but the next week the father came in great perplexity. ‘’Twas the mistake of the nurse. ’Tis a girl. How shall us do? Us can never call a maid Tom. You must christen her over again, sir.’ As this could not be, we had to put our heads together, and at last we advised Braddon to alter the name to Thomasine (pronounced Tamzine), and so he just saved her sex.
“One day I had a good story of my own to relate about a pinch of snuff. It was always the custom in those days for the clergyman after the marriage to salute the bride first, before any other person. Well, it was so that I had just married a very buxom, rosy young lady, and when it was over I proceeded to observe the usual ceremony. But I had just before taken an enormous finger-and-thumb-ful of snuff; so no sooner had the bride received my kiss—and I gave her a smart kiss for her good looks—than she began to sneeze. The bridegroom kissed her, of course, and he began also. Then the best man advanced to the privilege. Better he hadn’t, for he began to sneeze awfully; and by-and-by the bridesmaids also, for they were all kissed in turn, till the whole party went sneezing down the aisle, and the last thing I heard outside the church door was ’tchu, ’tchu, ’tchu, till the noise was drowned by the bells from the tower.”
“But I suppose, Mr. Vivian, you did not remain long a curate; you must have received some of your several livings at an early period of life?”
“So I did, sir, sure enough. My text on such subjects was, ‘Ask not, and you shall never receive.’ First of all, I had the vicarage of Percombe, up towards the moors. This came from a private friend. Next, the Duchy gave me the rectory of South Wingley. I had trouble enough to get it. I went up to London, and besieged the Council two or three times a day. People said they gave me the living to get rid of me from town. But it wasn’t so. Next I had Trelegh from the second Mrs. Vivian’s uncle. Yes, yes, preferment enough for one man. By-the-by, did you ever hear how near I was once to the lawn-sleeves and the bench? That was a close shave! I was staying in Bath, at the York House, and there I always dined in the coffee-room. Well, one day a gentleman came in and ordered dinner in the next box to mine—a sole and a chop. I observed a bottle of Madeira wine; and from his nicety and parlour ways, I judged him to be some big-wig, and very rich. I saw he looked about for a news Gazette, so I offered him mine, and exchanged a few words by way of getting known to him. He offered me a glass of wine, and of course I took it, and sat down to converse. We grew very friendly, and by-and-by it turned out that his name was Vivian, and spelt exactly like mine. It was growing late, and he took leave, but, to my surprise, invited me to dine with him the next day at Lansdowne Crescent. I was only too glad to go. It was a noble house, with a troop of servants and superb furniture, and, what was most to the purpose, a glorious feed. After dinner, at dessert-time, while we were talking over our wine, I saw, over the mantelpiece, a fine picture of Perceval, the Prime Minister at that time. So I ventured to ask, ‘Is Mr. Perceval, sir, a relative of your family?’ ‘No, sir, no,’ he said. ‘I have his picture because I like his politics, and respect him as a Minister and as a man. I have been introduced to him, however, and I can claim some personal acquaintance with him. ‘Have you, my friend?’ thought I. ‘Then, take my word for it, I will make use of you as a stepping-stone in life.’ So, when it was nearly time to wish him good night, I said, ‘I have a favour to ask you, sir. I am going to town in a day or two, and I shall be deeply obliged if you will write a letter to Mr. Perceval, merely telling him that the bearer is a friend of yours, a clergyman in quest of some preferment, and that as he is the patron of so many good things in the Church, you will be much obliged to him if he will bestow something valuable on your friend.’ He looked rather glum at this, and twirled his fingers a bit, and at length said, ‘Why, no, Mr. Vivian, I can’t go so far as that. Consider, I have known you only a few hours, and have never heard you officiate—although, no doubt, you are well qualified to hold preferment in the Church. But I’ll tell you what I will do. I have a friend, the rector of the parish where Mr. Perceval lives, and I know he always attends his church. I will give you a letter to him, and he may suggest some opportunity of promoting your plan.’ Of course I jumped at this, took my letter, and was off by the mail the very next day. The first man I called on was, of course, the clergyman. It was on a Saturday, and by good luck he had been taken ill. I was shown in where he lay on a sofa, looking quite ghastly. ‘Have you got a sermon with you, Mr. Vivian?’ said he; ‘anything will do.’ I always took with me, wherever I went, some half-dozen, and I said so. ‘Because, as you see, I cannot go to church to-morrow, and a friend who was to have taken my duty has disappointed me. I shall be indeed thankful if you will undertake the work.’ This was the very thing; and accordingly I was in the vestry-hall the next morning, an hour before time, rigged out in full canonicals, hired for the day—silk and sarcenet—and my hair well frizzed, as you may suppose. Just before service I said to the clerk, ‘I am told that Mr. Perceval attends your church; can you point out to me his pew?’ ‘That I can, sir,’ said he, ‘in a moment. There it is in full front of the desk and pulpit, the third pew down, with the brass rods and silk curtains.’ Well, the service began; but the said pew was empty till the end of the Belief, when, lo and behold! in came the beadle, marching with great pomp, and after him Mr. Perceval and some friends. You may guess after that what eyes and ears I had for the rest of the congregation. There was the Prime Minister; I see him now, in his purple coat and cuffs, silk waistcoat—fine as Sisera’s—and with a wig that looked like wisdom itself. He was very attentive. I watched him, and saw how careful he was to keep time with all the service. At length came the last psalm, and up I went. The pulpit fitted me as if it had been made for me; and the cushion, I remember, was all velvet and gold. My text was, ‘Where is the wise man? where is the scribe? where is the disputer?’ etc. I saw that Mr. Perceval never took his eyes off my face all through the discourse. It was one of my very best sermons. I saw that he was delighted with it; and when I came to the end, I observed that he turned round and looked up at me, and whispered something to a gentleman who was with him, and then they both looked up at me and smiled. Said I to myself, ‘Humphrey, the golden ball is cast; thy fortune is made, as sure as rates and taxes. Look out for a bishopric, and that soon!’ I never was so happy in all my life. I dined that night at the Mitre in Fleet Street, on a rump-steak; and I often caught myself smiling and slapping my thigh and muttering. I saw the waiter stare when I said to myself, but in an audible voice, ‘Done for a guinea! Make way for my lord!’ Next day I went into the City to meet ——, who was in town on business. After he had settled what he came to do, he walked some way home with me. Well, sir, when we came to the Strand there was a dreadful uproar, people talking very low and seriously. At length a gentleman said to my companion, ‘Have you heard the dreadful news? A rascal called Bellingham has shot Mr. Perceval dead in the lobby of the House of Commons!’ It was like a deathblow to me. Poor fellow! It cut me through like a knife. I was indeed a crushed man, clean dissolved, as the psalm says. And from that very hour I have been convinced and persuaded—ay, I do believe it like the Creed—that the very same ball that shot poor Perceval cut away a mitre from my head as clean as a whistle. Yes, I have never swerved from that belief all these years; and up to this day, when I say my prayers, as I do after I am in bed, I always begin with the Confirmation from ‘Defend, etc., this Thy servant.’”
People may talk if they please about the march of agriculture, and they may boast that by the discoveries of science a man will soon be able to carry into a large field enough manure for its soil in his coat-pocket, but there has been the ready answer, “Yes, and bring away the produce in his fob.” I am half inclined to agree with an old parishioner of mine, who used often to say, “It was an unlucky time for England when the phrase ‘gentleman farmer’ came up, and folks began to try their new-fangled plans—such as clover for horses and turnips for sheep.” “Rents,” he declared, “were never lower than when a tenant would pare and burn, and take their crops out of every field, so as to carry off the land as much as he brought on it”—a theory on which, being a renter himself, he had thriven, and put by money for full fifty years. Equally original, by the way, were the devices cherished by my aged friend for the repair of roads. When Macadam had driven his first turnpike through the West, a public dinner was given in honour of the event; and being presented with a free ticket, and well coaxed into the bargain, Old Trevarten made his appearance as a guest. But it was observed that, amid all the jingling of glasses and cheering of toasts, he sat motionless and mute, if not actually sulky. At length the engineer, somewhat piqued at his silence, said, during a pause, “Why, sir, I am afraid that I have not had the honour of gaining your approval in this undertaking of mine.”
“To tell you the truth, sir,” was the slow and sturdy answer, “I don’t like your road at all, by no means.”
“Well, but what are your reasons, sir, for disliking what most people are pleased with?”
“Why, sir, you have had a brave lot of money out of the country, and there’s nothing as I see to show for it—’tis all gone!”
“Gone, sir, gone! Why, bless me, isn’t there the road—the fine, wide, level road?”
“Well, yes, sartainly; but where’s they matereyals that cost such a sight of taxes? You’ve smashed mun to nort: there’s pilm [dust] in the drought, and there’s mucks [mud] in the rain, but nowt else that I see. Now, when I wor way-warden of Wide Widger, I let the farmers have something to show for their money. Why, sir, ’tis ten year agone come Candlemas that I wor in office for the ways, and I put down stones as big as beehives, and there they be now!”
Access to such a living volume of bygone usages and notions was an advantage not to be despised, and it was long my custom to resort to “mine ancient” for information difficult to be obtained elsewhere. Once “I do remember me” that I encountered him in the middle of a reedy marsh on his farm. He paused, and awaited my approach, leaning on his staff just where the path crossed a bed of the cotton-rush, then in full bloom. I had gathered a handful of the stalks, each with its pod of fine white gossamer threads, like a bunch of snowy silk.
“Ha!” said he, with a kind of half alarm, “you bean’t afeared to pick that there?”
“Afraid? No; why should I be?”
“Why, some people think it’s unlucky to carry off the pisky wool; but perhaps you know from the Scriptures how to keep off any harm.”
I did know better than to reason against such fancies with a Cornish yeoman of threescore and fifteen, and I thought it a good opening for a saw or ancient instance. “Pixies!” was my leading answer; “and who are they?”
“Ancient inhabitants,” was the grave reply—“folks that used to live in the land before us Christians comed here. So, at least, I’ve heerd my mother say. They are a small people.”
“And what about this wool? What use do they make of it.”
“Why, they spin it for clothing, and to keep ’em warm by night. They’d do a power of work for the farmers, and for a very small matter to eat and drink, too; and they would sing, evenings—sing and crowdie like a Christmas choir.”
The solemn tones of his voice, and the grim gravity of visage with which old Trevarten made known these mysteries, attested his own deep belief in their reality and truth. “Had I never seen those rings on the grass upon Hennacleave Hill—circles about a foot wide, of a darker colour than the rest of the turf?” he inquired, well knowing that I had, but rather rejoicing in an opportunity of enlightening me with scientific revelations of his own. “Did I know how they came there, and who made them?”
“Well, that was surprising: he thought that the college teached such things, or why did it cost so much money to go there to learn? Howsomever, he would let me know about they rings. The piskies made mun, dancing hand-in-hand by night. They rise about midnight, and they put on their Sunday clothes, and they agree to meet in such or such a spot, and there one will crowdie and the others daunce, and beat out the time with their feet, till they’ve worn the shape of a round-about in the grass, and nort will wear out that ring for evermore!”
Deeply grateful for this information, I ventured to inquire, “And did you ever see any of these pixy people yourself?”
“Why, I can’t say for sartain that I didno seed mun; my mother hath—so I’ve yeerd her tell divers times. No; but I’ve seed their works, such as tying up the manes of the colts in stirrups for riding by night, and terrifying the cows into the clover till they wor jist a bosted with the wet grass. And I’ve been pisky-eyed more than once coming home from the market or fair; and I’ve yeerd mun at their rollicking night-times frayquently, but I can’t say that I ever seed their faytures, so as to know ’em again another time.”
“Well,” said I, as a sort of closing and clenching remark, “all I can say is that I wish I could lay hold of one of these pixies, just to look at—that’s all.”
“Do you?” was his quick rejoinder; “do you really desire it? I daresay I can oblige you one day. It is not a month agone that I’d all but catched one.”
“Indeed!” said I, half bewildered. “How? Where was it?”
“Why, sir, you see the case was this. I’d a bin to Simon Jude fair, and I stayed rather latish settling with the jobber Brown for some sheep, and so it wor past twelve o’clock at night before I come through Stowe wood; and just as I crossed Combe Water, sure enough I yeerd the piskies. I know’d very well where their ring was close by the gate, and so I stopped my horse and got off. Well, on I croped afoot till there was nothing but a gap between me and the pisky ring, and I could hear every word they said. One had got the crowder, and he was working away his elbow to the tune of ‘Green Slieves’ bravely, and the rest wor dauncing and singing and merrymaking like a stage-play. It made me just ’mazed in my head to look at ’em. Well, I thort to myself, if I could but catch one of these chaps to carry home! I’ve yeerd that there’s nothing so lucky in a house as a tame pisky. So I stooped down and I picked up a stone, oh, as big as my two fistes, and I swinged my arm and I scrashed the stone right into the ring. What a screech there was! Such a yell! and one in pertickler I yeerd screaming and hopping with a leg a-brok like a drashel. That one I was pretty sure of. But still, as it was very late, and my wife would be looking for me home, and it was dark also, so I thout I might as well come down and fetch my pisky in the morning by daylight. Well, sure enough, soon as I rose, I took one of these baskets with a cover that the women have invented—a ridicule, they call it—and down I goes to the ring. And do you know, sir, they’d a be so cunning—they’d a had the art for to carry their comrade clear off, and there wasn’t so much as a screed of one left! But, however,” said my venerable friend, seeing that I did not look quite satisfied with the evidence, “however, there the stone was that I drashed in amongst mun!”
Alas! alas! how often in after-days, when I have encountered the theories of men learned in the ’ologies, and pondered the prodigious inferences which they had deduced from a stratum here and a deposit there,—how irresistibly have my thoughts recurred to old Trevarten and his amount of proof, “There the stone was that I drashed in amongst mun”!
THE REV. PREBENDARY ROGER GRANVILLE,
THE LATE REV. W. WADDON MARTYN
R. PEARSE CHOPE
By R. PEARSE CHOPE
The “endowment” referred to by Mr. Hawker is a copy of the original document, which was executed on May 20th, 1296, by Bishop Thomas de Bytton. The church was appropriated by his predecessor, Bishop Peter Quivil, to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist at Bridgwater, on November 16th, 1290. Bishop Bytton’s Register having been lost, the “endowment” was copied by William Germyne, Registrar to John Woolton, Bishop from 1579 to 1593-94, on a blank page of the Register of Thomas de Brantyngham, Bishop from 1370 to 1394. The name “Walter Brentingham” is probably due to some confusion between this Thomas de Brantyngham and Bishop Walter de Stapeldon, for there was no Bishop of Exeter having the first name. Germyne’s copy is printed in full in the Register of Bishop Brantyngham, edited by the Rev. F. C. Hingeston-Randolph (Part I. p. 106), and is here reproduced.
“Universis presentes Literas inspecturis Thomas, permissione Divina Exoniensis Episcopus, salutem et pacem in Domino sempiternam.—Noverit Universitas vestra quod, cum olim bone memorie Petrus, tunc Exoniensis Episcopus, Ecclesiam de Morewinstowe, cum juribus suis et pertinenciis, Religiosis viris, Magistro et Fratribus Hospitalis Sancti Johannis de Bridgwater, Bathoniensis Diocesis, de consensu Capituli sui appropriasset, et concessisset eisdem in usus proprios imperpetuum possidendam, salva competenti Vicaria, per ipsum et Successores suos taxanda et ordinanda juxta juris exigenciam in eadem; nos, eidem postmodum succedentes in onere et honore, cum res integra adhuc existeret, pensatis ejusdem Ecclesie facultatibus, habita super hoc cognicione debita que requiritur in hac parte, de expresso consensu dictorum Magistri et Fratrum, ipsam Vicariam, quod in subscriptis porcionibus consistat imperpetuum, tenore Presentium ordinamus; videlicet, quod Vicarius qui pro tempore in Ecclesia supradicta fuerit habeat et percipiat, nomine Vicarie, omnes fructus, proventus, et obvenciones totius alterlagii Ecclesie supradicte; sub quo, preter ceteros proventus, decimam feni totius Parochie, simul cum tota decima molendinorum ejusdem Parochie, volumus comprehendi; cum Sanctuario jacente a parte Occidentali curie et croftarum Parsonatus Ecclesie supradicte, sursum a veteri via que ducit usque ad mare et usque ad deorsum ad rivulum in valle, cum duabus croftis subter Ecclesiam a parte Boreali, et cetera terra ibidem usque ad quendam fontem Johannis, quatuor acras terre continente et ultra; cum tota decima garbarum ville de Stanburie et trium villarum de Tunnacombis; volentes et ordinantes quod dicta Religiosi omnes Libros et Ornamenta dicte Ecclesie, si que deficiunt, vel usu seu vetustate consumpta fuerint, que, tamen, ad ipsos parochianos non pertinent, suis sumptibus de novo invenient; alia, vero, si per reparacionem fuerint per tempus non breve duratura, in statum congruum et sufficientem reparent et reficiant hac vice prima; quodque extunc custodia eorundem et reparacio pro tempore successuro, una cum omnibus oneribus ordinariis integraliter, et extraordinariis pro quarta parte dumtaxat, ad Vicarium qui pro tempore fuerit pertineant; residua parte dictorum onerum extraordinariorum, una cum sustentatione, reparatione, et reedificatione Cancelli ipsius Ecclesie dictis Religiosis totaliter incumbente.—In cujus rei testimonium nos, Thomas, Exoniensis Episcopus supradictus, sigillum nostrum, et nos, prefati Magister et Fratres sigillum nostrum commune Presentibus duximus apponendum.—Data apud Chidleghe, xiijo Calendas Junii [May 20th], Anno Domini Millesimo ducentesimo nonagesimo sexto.
“Hec Taxatio vere est Registrata,
The Editor points out, in an interesting note, that the certified copy of this, which was used by Mr. Hawker, has “Tidnacombis” instead of “Tunnacombis.” In the Register itself the letter “u” is turned up at the end, the usual contracted form of “un,” but the writing is obscure; and, although experts would read it correctly without hesitation, it might easily, in this case, be mistaken for “id” by others. One of Mr. Hawker’s most beautiful poems is entitled “The Token Stream of Tidna Combe.” It is interesting to note that Stanbury was the birthplace of John Stanbury, Bishop of Hereford, who died 1474. He was confessor to Henry VI., and was nominated the first Provost of Eton College, although he never took up the office.
The following curious tradition relating to the extremely rude font is quoted by Lieut.-Colonel Harding in a paper on Morwenstow Church in the “Transactions of the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society” (Second Series, vol. i. p. 216). It has been preserved among some valuable MSS. which belong to the Coffin family of Portledge, near Bideford, and were collected by an antiquary of that family about three hundred years ago.
“Moorwinstow, its name is from St. Moorin. The tradition is, that when the parishioners were about to build their church, this saint went down under the cliff and chose a stone for the font which she brought up upon her head. In her way, being weary, she lay down the stone and rested herself, out of which place sprang a well, from thence called St. Moorin’s well. Then she took it up and carried it to the place where now the church standeth. The parishioners had begun their church in another place, and there did convey this stone, but what was built by day was pulled down by night, and the materials carried to this place; whereupon they forbare, and built it in the place they were directed to by a wonder.”
The date on one of the capitals seems to be 1564 instead of 1475. The inscription runs round the capital, each of the twenty letters being on a separate face, thus—
“THIS WAS MADE ANNO MVCLX4”
The next capital has the following inscription, upside down—
“THIS IS THE HOVSE OF THE L.”
The supposed piscina, according to the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, is merely “the base of a small pillar, Norman in style, with a hole in it for a rivet which attached to it the slender column it supported” (“The Vicar of Morwenstow,” ed. 1899, p. 60). It has also been stated that Mr. Hawker obtained the piscina from the ruined chapel at Longfurlong, Hartland, and placed it in his church at Morwenstow (Rev. T. H. Chope, “Hartland Parish,” 1896, p. 17).
By the Late Rev. W. WADDON MARTYN
One of the most beautiful of Mr. Hawker’s poems commences with the words “My Saxon shrine.” It becomes of interest, therefore, to examine as far as possible into the dates which attach to the different periods of architecture of the truly venerable church of Morwenstow.
It is very likely that Mr. Hawker is correct when he speaks of the first church here dedicated to God’s service as being of Saxon times, but it is equally true that, with the exception of perhaps the font, no trace of that early building remains. The earliest portion of the present building consists of the south porch and the three Norman arches which form the western portion of the north arcade. There is a difference in the elaboration of the work of these three arches, but it is scarcely likely that they could have been erected at different times. It is more probable that they are intended to show the varied methods of dealing with the semi-circular arch at that early period. It is of perhaps more interest to decide whether the pattern of the Norman arch bisected, which occurs on the easternmost of the Norman pillars, was placed there at the time of the Norman church or at the time of the construction of the two Gothic arches on the same side. If the former supposition be correct, it will signify, of course, that the whole structure was made at the close of the purely Norman period; if the latter, it would be intended to explain the reason why the architecture of that period passed so strangely from the round to the pointed arch.
Before passing on to speak of the second date of architecture, which was certainly of the pure Gothic or early English character, it may be interesting to speak of the size and shape of the church as it stood in the early Norman times. Taking everything into consideration, it would seem likely that the Norman church consisted of a nave, north aisle, and chancel. The Norman porch consequently stood twelve or fourteen feet further in than at present, the boundary of this church being clearly marked by the foundation plainly visible outside the north wall.
We pass on to consider the next step in the work of enlargement, which consisted in the extension of the north aisle and the erection of two fine, though somewhat rudely constructed, arches with circular pillars. By this means the chancel became absorbed in the new portion of the aisle, and consequently the present chancel was erected further on to the eastward.
The next step consisted in the erection of the three bays of very beautiful polyphant stone on the south side exactly co-extensive with the three Norman arches, so that a line drawn from the foundation-stones of the Norman church southwards through the church would mark the boundary of the polyphant extension also. It is difficult to assign a date to this very beautiful addition, but we must suppose that the present wall-plate, with its richly and boldly carved foliage, dated from this period. There would seem to be good ground for this argument, inasmuch as the last addition to the church in 1564, when the two granite arches were erected on the south-eastern side of the church, had a piece of wall-plate specially carved for that new portion. It is quite certain that the whole roof of the church was put up in 1564 at the time of the erection of the granite arches, and I have no doubt that this roof was placed upon the older and magnificent wall-plate, since much injured by the leaks which a defective roof has caused in so many places. It is worth noting that, although the polyphant arches were erected prior to the granite ones, yet they were taken down and the whole arcade entirely rebuilt at the same time. This I consider proved by the fact that the relieving arches are so very similar in character. The effect, meanwhile, on the wall-plate on the south side of the nave was not good, the exactly perpendicular line of the pillars and arches not catching it on every point, and thus giving it a somewhat ragged appearance which it will require care to rectify.
A word here on the height of the building. It is probable that the present height was attained when the early English arches were erected. Before that time the church was evidently lower. This, again, may be proved by the additional stonework which was added above the Norman arches, and which must have been so added at the next additional work, as the two lofty arches (especially that at the east) would really require it.
A very interesting question remains, as to whether the portion of ground now spanned by the granite arches was formerly disused, or whether it formed a Baptistery or other building in connection with the church, such as priests’ chambers, etc. That it was separated off from the portion of the church at the west end of the south aisle is evident by the discovery of a portion of the wall which so separated it, running southwards from the westernmost of the granite pillars. I may add that in the same way traces of the Norman chancel further to the west than the present chancel were found when the workmen were engaged in the work of restoration.
There only remains to notice the last period of restoration, the first time in which, as far as we can judge, granite was introduced into the building. The date may be found on the westernmost of the two pillars—MDLX4: on the other the words, “This is the House of the Lord.” It is noticeable that the half polyphant pillar, which had at one time formed the boundary of the arcade towards the east, was then carried forwards and placed against the wall of the chancel. It thus seems to mark, not only that the arcade was designed at different periods, but that it was ultimately (the former portion being taken down) all built together.
It was at this time (c. 1564) that the whole fabric of the church (possibly not the chancel) was built [it may be clearly seen where the new work stands on the old early English foundations on the north side], the only remaining portion untaken down being the Norman and early English pillars, and a portion of the wall by the south porch, and (as before observed) possibly the chancel.
The tower was, we may consider, built at the same time as the church, in 1564.
The seats, with their magnificent carving, followed in 1575, as is testified by an inscription on the rail of the front seat touching the pulpit. This will, however, be removed in due course, the position of these few seats being contrary to the original plan. I should think that this rail and the seats also were formerly fixed where the font at present stands at the end of the church.
As we stand within the walls and beneath the bending roofs of this magnificent building, our mind naturally inquires what teaching its designs serve to afford us—the cable on its font, the dog-tooth pattern on its Norman arches. Is it really true that, following out the established teaching of the nave, whereby the ship with inverted side was depicted to us—is it really true that, following out this idea, the cable implied the anchor by which every soul baptized into Christ was bound to Christ? Does the pattern, with its many points (“dog-tooth,” as it is generally spoken of), really signify the ripple on the Lake of Gennesaret? Do the three steps by which we enter allude in very deed to the Baptism of John, the saint of dedication? It would certainly seem probable that, having acknowledged the church to be the nave or ship, we should not find that the imagery would end here, but that it would pass into other matters which the mediæval times knew so well how to formulate. If so, we have a rich vein of thought to be wrought out from this ancient sanctuary of the West, all untouched as it is by ruthless and destructive hands. Solemn be the thoughts of all who enter here! Lowly and humble the hearts that here bend at the feet of their great Liberator and Saviour! In the words of one who will long be remembered in the parish which he loved so well, Robert Stephen Hawker—
Hunt, in his “Popular Romances of the West of England,” quotes the following translation by the Rev. J. C. Atkinson from Hylten Cuvalliec’s “Wärend och Wirdurne,” pp. 287-88. It agrees with many of Hawker’s ideas.
“Inasmuch as all light and all vigour springs from the sun, our Swedish forefathers always made their prayers with their faces turned towards that luminary. When any spell or charm in connection with an ‘earth-fast stone’ is practised, even in the present day, for the removal of sickness, the patient invariably turns his face towards the east, or the sun. When a child is to be carried to church to be baptized, the Wärend usage is for the godmother first to make her morning prayer, face towards the east, and then ask the parents three several times what the child’s name is to be. The dead are invariably interred with their feet lying eastward, so as to have their faces turned towards the rising sun. Frånsols, or with or in a northerly direction, is, on the other hand, according to an ancient popular idea, the home of the evil spirits. The Old Northern Hell was placed far away in the North. When any one desires to remove or break any witch-spell, or the like, by means of ‘reading’ (or charms), it is a matter particularly observed that the stone (i.e. an ‘earth-fast’ one) is sought to the northward of the house. In like manner also the ‘bearing tree’ (any tree which produces fruit, or quasi fruit, apples, pears, &c., rowan tree, especially, and white thorn herbs), or the shrew mouse, by means of which it is hoped to remedy an evil spell, must be met with in a northerly direction from the patient’s home. Nay, if one wants to charm away sickness over (or into) a running stream, it must always be one which runs northwards. On the self-same grounds it has ever been the practice of the people of the Wärend district, even down to the present time, not to bring their dead frånsols—or to the northward—of the church. In that part of the churchyard the contemned främlings högen (strangers’ burial-place) always has its site, and in it are buried malefactors, friendless wretches, and utter strangers. A very old idea, in like manner, connects the north side of the church with suicides’ graves,” etc.
The following quaint verses have been found among some unpublished manuscripts in Hawker’s handwriting:—
The “Crooks of Combe” is a name given to the windings of the stream that runs down Combe Valley to the sea (see p. 109). It seems possible that these verses may have been written to accompany the story of Alice of the Combe, and then discarded. On the other hand, the legend of the mole is associated with Tonacombe Manor, and Tonacombe and Combe are two different valleys. The poem may have been addressed to Miss Kuczynski (afterwards Mrs. Hawker), who used to visit Combe and was fond of riding about the valley. The third line of the last verse is an echo from Coleridge’s poem “Love.” This poem was marked in a copy of Coleridge given by Hawker to his future wife.
This was John Arscott, whose epitaph in the parish church of Tetcott ran as follows:—
“Sacred to the memory of John Arscott late of Tetcott in the Parish, Esqre, who died the 14th day of January 1788.
What his character was need not here be recorded. The deep impression which his extensive benevolence and humanity has left in the minds of his friends and dependents will be transmitted by tradition to late Posterity.”
A little paper-covered book, entitled “J. Arscott, Esq., of Tetcote, and his Jester, Black John,” was published at Plymouth in 1880 by W. H. Luke. From this we take the following:—
“The Arscotts, of Tetcot, were descended from the Arscotts, of Holsworthy, an ancient family that ramified into the several branches of Annery, Tidwell, Holsworthy and Tetcot. A descendant of the Arscotts of Holsworthy, at a remote period, purchased the manor and demesne of Tetcot from the Earl of Huntingdon and made it his principal residence, and the other branches of the family having become dispersed, and married into different houses, the representation of the family and property at Holsworthy and elsewhere became vested in Arscott, of Tetcot. The last descendant of that name—John Arscott,—the subject of the annexed song, died without issue, and devised Tetcot, with its manor and appurtenances, to his relation, the late Sir Arscott Ourry Molesworth, Bart., of Pencarrow. The late celebrated Dartmoor sportsman, known as the Foxhunter Rough and Ready, Paul Ourry Treby, Esq., of Goodamoor, was a near connection of the Tetcot patriarch, and inherited the tastes and followed the pursuits of this collateral ancestor. The lairds of Tetcot had been Sheriffs of the County of Devon, A.D. 1633-38. C.I., 1678-28. C. II., and 1755-15. G. III. The family was noted for its loyalty, and the Tetcott dependents mustered in full force and did their duty at Stratton fight on May 16, 1643, whilst hunters and men were in full working condition.”
The writer proceeds to say that the hunting song in honour of Mr. Arscott was written “170 years ago” (i.e. 1710), but as the last John Arscott lived till 1788, he would hardly have been of an age to inspire hunting songs in 1710. There was an earlier John Arscott, whose epitaph, with that of his wife, is also to be seen in Tetcott church. These epitaphs read as follows:—
“Here lieth the body of John Arscott Esqre who married the daughter of Sir Shilston Calmady. He died while Sheriffe of the County the 25th day of September 1675 aetatis suae 63.
Here also lieth the body of Gertrude wife of the deceased John Arscott Esqre who died the 18th day of October 1699 aged 77.”
If the song existed in 1710, and referred to this John Arscott, it was no doubt written still earlier. The last of the Arscotts, however, Black John’s master, would seem more likely to be the subject of it. Mr. Baring-Gould, who includes it among his “Songs of the West,” says that one of the many versions supplied to him was dated 1772, which would suit this theory. Hawker himself published the song in “Willis’s Current Notes” for December, 1853, and it has since his death been erroneously included in his poems, for apparently he only claimed to have been the first to print it, though he doubtless added some touches of his own. Black John is mentioned in his version, and Mr. Baring-Gould says that “the author of the song is said to have been one Dogget, who used to run after Arscott’s fox-hounds on foot.” A search for this name in the parish registers of Tetcott and Stratton has proved unsuccessful. Mr. R. P. Chope found a version of the song current at Hartland, and an old man there (over eighty in 1903) says that his father used to sing it seventy years ago.
From Luke’s book we learn that—
“The Old house at Tetcott, which, as well as the mansion of Dunsland, had been built under the superintendence of the Architect sent by the government of Charles II. to build Stowe for the Earl of Bath, was taken down in 1831, and a Gothic cottage constructed in its stead. The demolition of the ancient structure was a very unpopular act, and the old crones of the neighbourhood shake their heads and say that Black John and Driver (a staghound), when the Cottage was burnt down a few years only after it had been built, were seen yelling and dancing round the flames. The origin of that fire was never ascertained.”
Hawker’s poem, “Tetcott, 1831,” which is all his own, is an elegy on the destruction of the old house. He quotes one stanza of it on p. 87 of the present volume. The present representative of John Arscott’s family, Mrs. Ford, of Pencarrow, describes Tetcott as “an imposing Queen Anne’s house,” and speaks of “the front door steps under which John Arscott’s pet toad resided, and every morning came out to be fed by his kind master till the envious peacock killed him.”
Mrs. Calmady, of Great Tree, Chagford, writes as follows:—
“An old retainer, called Oliver Abbot, who, with his forefathers, had worked at Tetcott for generations, told me that Arscott of Tetcott kept not only a well-known pack of foxhounds, but a pack of foumart hounds, which he hunted by night. The song, ‘Arscott of Tetcott,’ was undoubtedly not written concerning the Arscott who married Gertrude Calmady, but of the more recent John Arscott, who died in 1788, and was Black John’s master. Gossips will still tell how Black John, though pleasant and amusing enough when things went smoothly, became dangerous when roused. One day, Sir William Molesworth playfully tried to push him into one of the fishponds, when Black John, wrathfully exclaiming, ‘Turn sides, brother Willie, turn sides’ (and, although a dwarf, he was very strong), soon had Sir William in the water, and, in his rage, would have drowned him, had not a man named Beare come to the rescue.
“It is said that Arscott of Tetcott still appears on a phantom horse, with a phantom pack, on the wild moors he used to hunt, and that their cry portends death or misfortune to the unlucky wayfarer; but I am inclined to agree with the man who, when told the devil appeared to people on Cookworthy Moor, replied, ‘I’ve been out on the moor all hours of the day and night; had there been e’er a devil, I must a seen un.’ During the thirty years that Mr. Calmady lived at Tetcott, he kept up with zeal the sporting reputation of the place by keeping a pack of foxhounds and otter hounds, and showing such sport as will long be remembered in the West. During those years, I heard many a story of the olden times. One ascribed, whether rightly or wrongly, to that grand old sportsman, Paul Treby, was to the effect that, on some one asking the meaning of Dosmary Pool, he replied, ‘Don’t e knaw? Why, Do, Dos, Dot damme Mare, give’d up from the Zay, to be Zure.’
“Some years ago I obtained from a cottage in Tetcott an old Staffordshire jug, decorated with game. It was said to have been formerly in the possession of Arscott of Tetcott. This jug I have since given to Mr. Lane, the publisher.”
The surname of Black John, and the place and date of his birth, death, and burial are unknown. The editor would be glad to hear from any one who could supply information on these points.
By R. PEARSE CHOPE
A long account of Daniel Gumb is given in C. S. Gilbert’s “Historical Survey of Cornwall” (vol. i. p. 166). When Gilbert visited the spot in 1814, some remains of the habitation could still be traced, and on the entrance, graven on a rock, was inscribed “D. Gumb, 1735.” (See also Bond’s “Looe,” p. 203.) “Unfortunately they have now altogether disappeared before the march of the barbarians known as quarrymen.”
The Cheesewring itself was claimed by Dr. Borlase as a Rock Idol, in accordance with the quaint Druidical theories of the early antiquaries. He says—
“From its having Rock-basons, from the uppermost Stone’s being a Rocking-stone, from the well-poised structure and the great elevation of this groupe [of rocks], I think we may truely reckon it among the Rock-Deities, and that its tallness and just balance might probably be intended to express the stateliness and justice of the Supreme Being. Secondly, as the Rock-basons shew that it was usual to get upon the top of this Karn, it might probably serve for the Druid to harangue the Audience, pronounce decisions, and foretell future Events.” (“Antiquities of Cornwall,” p. 174.)
The Rev. S. Baring-Gould gives in his “Book of the West” (vol. ii. p. 107) a curious instance of the persistency of tradition in connection with a cairn near the Cheesewring, in which a gold cup was found a few years ago.
“The story long told is that a party were hunting the wild boar in Trewartha Marsh. Whenever a hunter came near the Cheesewring a prophet—by whom an Archdruid is meant—who lived there received him, seated in the stone chair, and offered him to drink out of his golden goblet, and if there were as many hunters approach, each drank, and the goblet was not emptied. Now on this day of the boar-hunt one of those hunting vowed that he would drink the cup dry. So he rode up to the rocks, and there saw the grey Druid holding out his cup. The hunter took the goblet and drank till he could drink no more, and he was so incensed at his failure that he dashed what remained of the wine in the Druid’s face, and spurred his horse to ride away with the cup. But the steed plunged over the rocks and fell with his rider, who broke his neck, and as he still clutched the cup he was buried with it.”
In Carew’s “Survey of Cornwall” (1602) occurs the following quaint description of a logan-stone called Mainamber:—
“And a great rocke the same is, aduaunced upon some others of a meaner size, with so equal a counterpeyze, that the push of a finger, will sensibly moue it too and fro: but farther to remooue it, the united forces of many shoulders are ouer-weake. Wherefore the Cornish wonder-gatherer, thus descrybeth the same.
The following is extracted from Hunt’s ‘Popular Romances of the West of England.’
“Mr. Bond, in his ‘Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Boroughs of East and West Looe,’ writes—
‘This pool is distant from Looe about twelve miles off. Mr. Carew says—
It is a lake of freshwater about a mile in circumference, the only one in Cornwall (unless the Loe Pool near Helston may be deemed such), and probably takes its name from Dome-Mer, sweet or fresh water sea. It is about eight or ten feet deep in many parts. The notion entertained by some, of there being a whirlpool in its middle, I can contradict, having, some years ago, passed all over in a boat then kept there.’
Such is Mr. Bond’s evidence; but this is nothing compared with the popular belief, which declares the pool to be bottomless, and beyond this, is it not known to every man of faith that a thorn-bush thrown into Dosmery Pool has sunk in the middle of it, and after some time has come up in Falmouth (? Fowey) Harbour?
Notwithstanding that Carew says that ‘no streams it empt, nor any fill,’ James Michell, in his parochial history of St. Neot’s, says: ‘It is situate on a small stream called St. Neot’s River, a branch of the Fowey, which rises in Dosmare Pool.’
There is a ballad, ‘Tregeagle; or Dozmaré Poole: an Anciente Cornish Legende, in two parts,’ by John Penwarne.... Speaking of Dozmaré Pool, Mr. Penwarne says—
‘There is a popular story attached to this lake, ridiculous enough, as most of those tales are. It is, that a person of the name of Tregeagle, who had been a rich and powerful man, but very wicked, guilty of murder and other heinous crimes, lived near this place; and that, after his death, his spirit haunted the neighbourhood, but was at length exorcised and laid to rest in Dozmaré Pool. But having in his lifetime, in order to enjoy the good things of this world, disposed of his soul and body to the devil, his infernal majesty takes great pleasure in tormenting him, by imposing on him difficult tasks, such as spinning a rope of sand, dipping out the pool with a limpet shell, etc., and at times amuses himself with hunting him over the moors with his hell-hounds, at which time Tregeagle is heard to roar and howl in a most dreadful manner, so that, “roaring or howling like Tregeagle” is a common expression amongst the vulgar in Cornwall.’”
By The Rev. Prebendary ROGER GRANVILLE
According to the Episcopal Registers of the diocese of Exeter, a marriage license was granted on September 12th, 1612, to “Anthony Payne of Stratton, and Gertrude Deane of the same.” These were evidently the parents of the famous Cornish giant, who served as henchman to Sir Bevill Grenvile at Stowe.
When the Civil War broke out, Anthony Payne followed Sir Bevill to the battlefield, and was doubtless present with him at the engagements of Bradock Down, Modbury, and Sourton, in the early months of 1643. On the 16th of May the battle scene had shifted to his own home at Stratton, where every inch of ground must have been perfectly familiar to him. The Earl of Stamford had occupied a strong position on a hill within a mile of the little town. From five in the morning till three in the afternoon the battle raged, and though the Parliamentarians had the superiority both of numbers and position, they could not prevail over the brave Royalists. At three word was brought to Hopton and Grenvile that their scanty stock of powder was almost exhausted. To retreat would have been fatal. A supreme effort had to be made. Trusting to pike and sword alone, the lithe Cornishmen pressed onwards and upwards, led, can we doubt it, by Anthony Payne?
The boldness of the attack seems to have struck their opponents with terror. Stamford’s Horse turned and fled, and in vain Chudleigh attempted to rally his Foot. He was surrounded and captured, and his men, left without a commander, at once gave way and retreated, and soon the victorious commanders embraced one another on the hard-won hill-top, thanking God for a success for which, at one time, they had hardly ventured to hope.
The following July Anthony Payne was at the battle of Lansdowne, near Bath, where his brave master was mortally wounded. When Sir Bevill fell the fight would have been lost for the King, and in another moment the Cornish would have crowded down the hill. It was the quick nobility of Anthony Payne which won the battle, and the deed should give him an enduring place in history.
“Catching his master’s horse, with a fine knightly impulse, he set little John Grenville, a lad of sixteen, who had followed his gallant father close, on the hacked and gory saddle, and led him to the head of his father’s troop. There was no more giving way after this sight, and the Cornish followed the lad up the hill like men possessed. By this time, too, the musketry had practically routed the Parliament Horse, which were already retreating; and so, while Sir Bevill lay dead on the hillside, his own regiment, led by his giant servant and his little son, gained the top.” (Norway’s “Highways and Byways in Devon and Cornwall,” p. 196.)
There is surely “no finer story to be told than this; nor can there have been, since first men began to slay each other, many sights more noble than that of the child, tearful, excited, triumphant, set upon the great charger, a world too high for him, and led up the hill at the head of his dying father’s troop.” What wonder that the King knighted the boy-warrior at Bristol on the 3rd of August following, for his bravery at Lansdowne fight (cf. Metcalfe’s “Book of Knights,” p. 200), or that Prince Charles, his own contemporary in age, attracted by his heroism, chose him out of all others to be his personal attendant and intimate friend ever afterwards—a friendship that was only broken by death!
We wish that we could bring ourselves to believe that the letter (on page 117), breathing the spirit of rare nobility, and stated by Mr. Hawker to have been written to Lady Grace Grenvile after her valiant husband’s death by his true-hearted giant retainer, was authentic. We fear, however, that it originated in the study at Morwenstow, and is the product of Mr. Hawker’s own versatile and gifted pen.
What became of Anthony Payne after this is not certainly known. Did he return with his master’s body to Stowe, and remain on there to protect his mistress during the four unquiet years of her widowhood? There is, indeed, a tradition which would bear out this supposition, if it is true. It relates that the poor Queen, in her flight (within a week after her confinement) from Exeter, to avoid capture by Lord Essex, escaped to Okehampton with a small body of attendants, where she was met by Anthony Payne, who guided her to Stowe by a series of tracks and lanes, in order to secure greater secrecy, and that from Stowe she went to Lanherne, and so on to Falmouth, whence she escaped to France. In confirmation of this theory a letter is said to have been seen from Lady Grace, in which she mentions the fact of the Queen having slept at Stowe, and of her departure to Lanherne. But the letter is no longer extant, if it ever existed, and it has been proved pretty conclusively by Mr. Paul Q. Karkeek, in a very interesting paper on the subject of the Queen’s flight, that from Okehampton the Queen went to Launceston, the most direct route, under the escort of Prince Maurice, and from Launceston to Falmouth.
Or did Anthony Payne remain on with his young master, who narrowly escaped meeting his father’s fate at the second battle of Newbury, and afterwards took a prominent part in the defence of the West under his uncle, Sir Richard Grenvile, and who so gallantly defended the Scilly Islands, the last rallying point of the Royalists, against Admiral Blake, in 1651, that he obtained exceptionally favourable terms when he was at last compelled to capitulate?
Nothing is heard of Payne again till the Restoration. Then honours were showered thickly on the Grenviles in recognition of all that they had done and sacrificed for the royal cause, and especially of the signal services they had rendered, in conjunction with their cousin, George Monk, in restoring the Monarchy. Sir John Grenvile was created Earl of Bath, and made Governor of Plymouth, where he at once undertook to rebuild and strengthen the fortifications, which had been much damaged in the late war. Upon their completion Lord Bath appointed Payne, whom he evidently still held in great favour, as a yeoman of the guard and halberdier of the guns. The King made a surprise visit by sea in July, 1671, to inspect the new citadel, accompanied by the Dukes of York and Monmouth and a large retinue. They were entertained by Lord Bath at his own cost with great profusion, and the Merry Monarch professed himself highly pleased with his visit. It was probably on this occasion that he commanded Sir Godfrey Kneller to paint Payne’s portrait, which is now in possession of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, at Truro, and which was engraved as a frontispiece to the first volume of Gilbert’s “History of Cornwall.”
Payne remained at Plymouth until old Time pulled the giant down. Obtaining leave to retire, he returned home to Stratton, and died in the same house in which he was born. It is now “The Tree Inn.” On the wall is the following inscription, on a tablet which formerly marked the battle-field.
But the only memento of poor Anthony Payne is a hole in the ceiling, through which his coffin, being too large to be taken out of the window or down the stairs in the usual way, was lowered from the room above. Even the very place of his burial is uncertain. Some say he was buried in the north, others in the south aisle of Stratton Church, on July 13th, 1691, at an age which was little short of eighty years. Let us hope that a sufficient number of appreciative friends may shortly be found who shall be willing to contribute towards the erection of some memorial in Stratton Church worthy of one who proved himself all his days a faithful, loyal, true-hearted servant.
In the parish register of Stratton, which begins in the year 1687, the following entries appear:—
|Sibilla, wife of Anthony Payne||9||July,||1691|
|William and Mary Payne||20||Aug.,||„|
|Richard, son of Anthony Payne||27||March,||1699|
|George „ „ „ „||1708|
The occurrence of four deaths so close together in 1691 suggests that they may have been caused by some epidemic. The previous book has unfortunately been lost, so that it is impossible to verify the dates of Anthony’s baptism and marriage.
The sexton points out a spot in the south aisle where he says that he saw a large grave opened, 8 ft. by 3 ft., at the restoration of the church in 1887, and that this was generally supposed to be the grave of Anthony Payne. Among the many skeletons unearthed at that time was a thigh bone 2 ft. 9 in. long.
During some excavations in the west end of the north aisle a slate stone came to light, very thin and decayed, bearing the names of Nicholas and Grace Payne. These were thought locally to be the parents of the giant, but there is no proof of this.
The Rev. Canon Bone, of Lanhydrock, who was Vicar of Stratton when the church was restored, has kindly supplied a copy of the inscription on the stone. One corner had been broken off, and the remainder bore the following words:—
Canon Bone says—
“The stone was removed to the Vicarage, but it had worn so thin that it broke up, and unfortunately the fragments were lost. I do not know whether the attribution of the stone to Antony Payne’s parents was more than a likely guess.”
The Paynes were evidently a numerous clan in Stratton about that time, but though many names and dates are available, there is little to establish the relationship of the different members of the family. According to a pedigree in the possession of Mr. Herbert Shephard, an Anthony Payne married a Miss Dennis, and had by her a son Hugh. No date appears on the document, but it will be seen below that a Hugh Payne is mentioned as riding to Launceston in 1688. As the giant died in 1691, this Hugh might be his son.
It should be mentioned that in the old registers his Christian name is spelt “Anthony,” the omission of the “h” being peculiar to Hawker.
In the records of the Blanchminster Charity in the parish of Stratton (compiled by R. W. Goulding, 1898) the names of several Paynes appear. The following are some of the entries:—
(1603) “Paid to Nicholas Paine for writtinge of the Quindecem booke 8 [d.].”
By a “Feoffment,” dated “12 Jan., 1618-9,” Walter Yeo and another make over to William Arundell and others, including Anthony Payne and Nicholas Payne, certain property at Mellhoc and elsewhere.
(Either of these, Anthony or Nicholas, might be the father of the giant.)
In a “Feoffment” dated “20 March, 14 Charles II. (1662),” the names of Nicholas and William Payne appear.
“18 March 1688. Item pd Hugh Payne p Riding to Launceston upon the Report yt (that) the ffrench were landed 00 02 06.”
“After the Stockwardens’ account for 1719 there is a statement by Anthony Payne,” etc.
(This Anthony Payne might be a son of the giant.)
The flagon which contained the giant’s allowance of liquor is mentioned by Hawker in a private letter. He says—
“It is now safe in its usual place under my Escritoire.... The Bottle itself is Antony Payne’s Allowance which used to be filled for him every morning at Stowe, and as I measured it last week and found it Six Quarts it ought to have sufficed him.”
From “Collectanea Cornubiensia,” by G. C. Boase (1890), we get the following details as to the portrait of Anthony Payne. In August, 1888, the collection of antiquities at Trematon Castle, near Saltash, was sold by auction on behalf of the executors of Admiral Tucker. One of the lots was the portrait of Payne, and it was sold to a Plymouth dealer for about £4. Through the good offices of Major Parkyn of Truro, Mr. Harvey, on February 12th, 1889, purchased the picture from Skardon & Sons of Plymouth, and presented it to the Royal Institution of Cornwall at Truro.
[The Editor will be very glad to hear from any reader who may be able to supply further information about Anthony Payne, his birth, life, will, etc., that could be added to a future edition of this book.]
By The Rev. Prebendary ROGER GRANVILLE
Hals states that Sir Thomas Grenvile (temp. Henry VI.) was the first of the family who resided at Stowe, but Bishop Brantyngham licensed a chapel there for Sir John de Grenvile on August 30th, 1386, and Henry de Grenvile was buried at Kilkhampton about 1327, and the inquisition after his death was taken there, and I believe that Henry de Grenvile was the first to reside regularly at Stowe. His father, Bartholomew, constantly signed deeds at Bideford, and Bishop Stapledon granted him a license for the celebration of divine service “in capellâ suâ de Bydeford.” So that I think it is safe to say that the Grenviles resided at Stowe from at least the reign of Edward III.
The place was maintained in much style, I expect, in the time of Sir Roger de Grenvile, “the great housekeeper,” famed far and wide for his princely hospitality. Charles Kingsley’s description of the old house in Elizabethan times is probably pretty accurate.
“A huge rambling building, half castle, half dwelling-house. On three sides, to the north, west, and south, the lofty walls of the old ballium still stood, with their machicolated turrets, loop-holes, and dark downward crannies for dropping stones and fire on the besiegers, but the southern court of the ballium had become a flower-garden, with quaint terraces, statues, knots of flowers, clipped yews and hollies, and all the pedantries of the topiarian art. And towards the east, where the vista of the valley opened, the old walls were gone, and the frowning Norman keep, ruined in the wars of the Roses, had been replaced by the rich and stately architecture of the Tudors. Altogether the house, like the time, was in a transitionary state, and represented faithfully enough the passage of the old Middle Age into the newer life that had just burst into blossom throughout Europe, never, let us pray, to see its autumn and winter,” etc.
Hawker’s reference to Stowe having been turned into an academy for all the young men of family in the county is correct. He is quoting from George Granville’s (Lord Lansdowne) letter to his nephew, who tells us that Sir Bevill—
“provided the best masters for all kinds of education, and the children of his neighbours shared the advantage with his own. Thus, in a manner, he became the father of his county, and not only engaged the affection of the present generation, but laid a foundation of friendship for posterity which has not worn out to this day.”
John Granville, Earl of Bath, pulled down old Stowe, and in its place, though on a different site a little farther from the shore, built a magnificent new mansion (covering 3½ acres of ground, and containing, it is said, 365 windows) out of the moneys he had received from the Government as a debt owing to himself and his father for their sacrifices to the royal cause. Dr. Borlase describes this new house as “by far the noblest in the west of England, though with not a tree to shelter it.” And in the MS. diary of Dr. Yonge, F.R.S., a distinguished physician of the latter part of the seventeenth century, the following entry occurs in the year 1685:—
“I waited on my lord of Bathe, then Governor of Plymouth, to his delicious house Stowe. It lyeth on ye ledge of ye North Sea of Devon,—a most curious fabrick beyond all description.”
Here lived John, Earl of Bath. His son Charles, Lord Granville, shot himself (accidentally the jury found) while preparing for the journey into Cornwall to take down his father’s body for burial, and they were both buried together in Kilkhampton Church, September 27th, 1701. His boy, William Henry, then nine years of age, succeeded, but died of small-pox, unmarried, May 17th, 1711, aged nineteen.
The next male heir was George Granville the poet, who presented his cousin, Chamond Granville, to the Rectory of Kilkhampton on October 22nd, 1711, and on December 31st, 1711 (after serving in the Parliaments called in the fourth and seventh years of Queen Anne), he was created Lord Lansdowne of Bideford, “a promotion justly remarked to be not invidious, inasmuch as he was at that time the heir of a family in which two peerages, that of the Earl of Bath and Lord Granville of Potheridge, had recently become extinct.”
Lord Lansdowne’s claim to the estates of the Earls of Bath was, however, disputed by the two surviving daughters of John, first Earl of Bath, viz. Lady Jane Leveson-Gower and Lady Grace Carteret. A family law suit was the result of this claim, which lasted for some years. With the death of Queen Anne (who had specially honoured him with her favour, making him Comptroller of her household, and also Secretary of State for War, and afterwards Treasurer) Lord Lansdowne’s prospects darkened. He was supposed to be in favour of the exiled Stuarts rather than of the House of Hanover; and there seems no little doubt that he was more or less implicated in the scheme for raising an insurrection in the West of England, which Lord Bolingbroke and the Duke of Ormonde were at the head of. At any rate, Lord Lansdowne was seized as a suspected person, and on September 26th, 1715, was committed, along with Lady Lansdowne, to the Tower, where they were confined as close prisoners. Whilst there he compromised the law suit for £30,000, and the Devonshire property passed to Lady Jane Leveson-Gower, and the Cornish to Lady Grace Carteret, who was created Countess Granville in her own right.
Stowe, having stood for a little over half a century, was pulled down in 1739. In Polwhele’s “History of Cornwall” it is stated that a man of Stratton lived long enough to see its site a cornfield before the building existed, and after the building was destroyed a cornfield again. The materials were sold piecemeal by auction. The carved cedar wood in the chapel, executed by Michael Chuke, was bought by Lord Cobham and applied to the same purpose at his mansion of Stowe in Buckinghamshire. The staircase is at Prideaux Place, Padstow, while the Corporation of South Molton, who were then building a new Town Hall, Council Chamber, etc., purchased the following:—
|Lady’s fine Bed-chamber and planching||35||0||0|
|9 shash windows at 10/6 and 2 at 11/6||5||17||6|
|no. 27 ye winscott wthout ye chimney and door casings||11||13||0|
|6 squares of Planching||1||16||0|
|A Tunn and ½ of Sheet & Pipe at 13/||19||10||0|
|7 prs. of winscott window shutters at 8/||2||16||0|
|172 rustic quoins at 1||8||12||0|
|4 Corinthian Capitalls & Pillasters||2||2||0|
|Ye caseing and ornaments of 3 windows||1||11||6|
|3 Architraves wth Pedemts. for doors & 27 yds. of winscott in the Lobby||2||2||0|
|A carved Cornish and Triumph of K. Charles II.||7||7||0|
|2 right panel doors||1||1||0|
These articles, with many others, were taken to Bude, shipped to Barnstaple, and thence carted to South Molton. The outlay for the whole only amounted to £178! The “carved Cornish and Triumph of Charles II.” is still to be seen over the fireplace in the old dining-room in the Town Hall at South Molton.
No doubt the isolated position of Stowe, and the long distance from London was one cause of its being destroyed. Lord Carteret was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Devonshire in 1716, and the previous year he had been doing all he could in support of the new Hanoverian establishment. While the Jacobite rebellion was at its height in the north, Carteret was writing from Stowe to Robethon, the French Secretary of George I.—
“I am now two hundred long miles from you, situated on a cliff overlooking the sea, and every tide have fresh prospects in viewing ships coming home. In this corner of the earth have I received your letter, and without that I should have heard nothing since I came. Sept. 25, 1715.”—Brit. Mus. Sloane MSS. 4107, fol. 171, etc.
Another cause may have been the bursting of the “South Sea Bubble,” in which Countess Granville and the Carterets had invested a good deal of money. Lord Carteret wrote to a friend in October, 1720—
“I don’t know exactly how the fall of the South Sea has affected my family, but they have lost considerably of what they had once gained.”
The stables alone remain, and these have been converted into a farmhouse, the tennis-court into a sheepcote, and the great quadrangle into a rick-yard, and civilisation, spreading wave after wave so fast elsewhere, has surged back from that lovely corner of the land, let us hope only for a while.
Referring to this ruined mansion, Edward Moore exclaimed—
By R. PEARSE CHOPE
The real Coppinger, around whose name Mr. Hawker has woven such a fascinating legend, has been identified by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in a footnote to his account of “The Vicar of Morwenstow” (edit. 1899, p. 113), with an Irishman of that name, having a wife at Trewhiddle, near St. Austell, by whom he had a daughter, who married a son of Lord Clinton. However, there can be little doubt that the Coppinger Mr. Hawker had in his mind lived nearer at hand, in the adjoining parish of Hartland, where several of these tales, together with others of a similar nature, are still told about him. His name was Daniel Herbert Coppinger or Copinger, and he was wrecked, probably at Welcombe Mouth, the end of the romantic glen which separates Welcombe from Hartland, on December 23rd, 1792. He was hospitably received and entertained, not by Mr. Hamlyn, but by Mr. William Arthur, another yeoman farmer, at Golden Park in Hartland. While there he scratched the following inscription on a window-pane, which was preserved for many years, but has now disappeared:—
“D. H. Coppinger, shipwrecked December 23rd, 1792; kindly received by Mr. Wm. Arthur.”
In the following year he married Ann Hamlyn, the elder of the two daughters of Mr. Ackland Hamlyn, of Galsham, and his wife Ann, who was one of the last of the ancient and gentle family of Velly of Velly, a family which had held a prominent position in the parish for at least five hundred years. The marriage is thus entered in the parish register:—
“Daniel Herbert Coppinger of the King’s Royal Navy and Ann Hamlyn mard (by licence) 3 Aug.”
Far from being “a young damsel,” the bride was of the mature age of forty-two. Two years later her sister, Mary, was married to William Randal, but there is no record or local tradition of any issue from either marriage. What rank Coppinger held in the Navy is not known, but his name does not appear in the lists of commissioned officers.
For about two years he carried on his nefarious business of smuggling, and stories are still told of the various methods he adopted of outwitting the gauger. His chief cave was in the cliff at Sandhole, but another is pointed out in Henstridge Wood, a couple of miles inland. On one occasion, perhaps after Coppinger’s time, the caves were watched so closely that the kegs of brandy which had been landed were deposited at the bottom of the zess, as the pile of sheaves in a barn is called, of an accommodating farmer. The gauger, who had his suspicions, wished to search the zess, but the farmer was so willing to help him in turning over the sheaves that his suspicions were allayed, and he went away without finding any of the incriminating articles. On another occasion the result was not so satisfactory for the farmer. On the arrival of the gauger, he produced some empty kegs in order to give his wife an opportunity of hiding a supply of valuable silks which had been left in their care. The safest place she could think of in her hurry was the oven, but she forgot that it had been heated for baking a batch of bread. The result was that, although the gauger failed to find them, they were burnt to ashes.
Mrs. Coppinger’s mother went to live with her other daughter and son-in-law at Cross House in Harton. She was the owner of Galsham, and retained possession of her husband’s money, and the tale runs that, in order to obtain money from her, Coppinger, having been refused admission, had been known to stand, with a pistol in each hand, on the lepping-stock, or horse-block, in front of the house and threaten to shoot any person who appeared at the door or any of the windows unless the required sum was produced. It is even said that once, as he was passing the house, he saw his brother-in-law, Randal, at the window, and fired at him without provocation, but luckily missed his aim.
Mrs. Ann Hamlyn was buried on September 7th, 1800, after which date the farm became the property of Mrs. Coppinger. Coppinger spent what he could, but apparently became bankrupt, for in October, 1802, he was a prisoner in the King’s Bench, in company with a Richard Copinger, who is stated to have been a merchant in the island of Martinique. What became of him afterwards does not seem to be known, but it is said that he lived for many years at Barnstaple, in receipt of an allowance from his wife. She herself went there to live out her days, and died there on August 31st, 1833, at the age of eighty-two. She was buried in the chancel of Hartland Church, in the grave of her friend, Alice Western, and by the side of her mother. Coppinger’s name can still be seen, inscribed in bold characters “D. H. Copinger” on a window-pane at Galsham. Galsham is now the property of Major Kirkwood of Yeo Vale.
Writing to his brother-in-law, Mr. J. Sommers James, in September, 1866, Mr. Hawker asks him, “Do you remember Bold Coppinger the Marsland Pirate? He died eighty-seven (?) years ago. I am collecting materials for his Life for All the Year Round;” and again in November of the same year, “Hadn’t you an Aunt called Coppinger?”
It is interesting to note that Coppinger has “entered fiction” through the pages of Mr. Baring-Gould’s “In the Roar of the Sea.”
By R. PEARSE CHOPE
The tale of the shepherdess who became Lady Mayoress was told by Carew in his “Survey of Cornwall,” and her biography has since been sketched by many different authors, such as Lysons in “Magna Britannia,” W. H. Tregellas in “Cornish Worthies,” and in the “Dictionary of National Biography,” and G. C. Boase in “Collectanea Cornubiensia.” An account appears also in the “Parochial History of Cornwall;” and a book by E. Nicolls, entitled “Thomazine Bonaventure; or, the Maid of Week St. Mary,” was published at Callington in 1865, only two years before Mr. Hawker’s article appeared in All the Year Round. The Churchwardens’ Accounts of St. Mary Woolnoth, from which extracts were given in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1854 (vol. xlii. p. 41), and in the “Transcript of the Registers of the United Parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolnoth Haw,” by J. M. S. Brooke and A. W. C. Hallen (1886, p. xvi.), contain the following entries:—
“1539.—Item receyved of the Master and Wardens of the Merchint Tayllours for the beame light of this church according to the devyse of Dame Thomasyn Percyvall widow late wyf of Sir John Percyvall Knight deceased
Item receyved more of the Master and Wardens of Merchint Tayllors for ij tapers thoon of vij lb. and the other of v lb. to brenne about the Sepulture in this Church at Ester ijs. iiijd. and for the churchwardens labor of this church to gyve attendance at the obit of Sir John Percyvall and otherwyse according to the devyse of Dame Thomasyn Percyvall his wyf
iiijs. vjs. iiijd.
Item receyved of the said Master and Wardens of Merchint Taillors for the Repacions of the ornaments of this church according to the will of the said Sir John Percyvall
Item receyved of the Maister and Wardens of Merchint taillors for a hole yere for our Conduct for kepying the Antempur afore Saint John with his children according to the will of the said Dame Thomasyn Percyvall
A monument erected to Sir John Percival in the old church is mentioned by Stow, but it is no longer in existence. Sir John’s will hangs in the present church.
The following account of the chantry founded by Dame Percival at Week St. Mary was extracted by Oliver from the Chantry Rolls of Devon and Cornwall, preserved among the records of the Court of Augmentations:—
“Saynt Marye Weke.—See Cert. 9, No. 6. The chauntrye called Dame Percyvalls, at the altar of Seynt John Baptist, in the north yeld within the same church. Founded by Dame Tomasyne Percyvall, wyf of syr John Percival, knt., and alderman of London. To fynd a pryste to praye for her sowle in the paryshe churche of Saynt Marye Weke; also [to] teach children freelye in a scole founded by [her] not farr distant from the sayd parishe churche; and he to receyve for his yerelye stipend xijli. vjs. To fynde a mancyple also to instructe children under the sayd scolemaster, and he to have yerelye xxvjs. viijd. To a laundresse for the scolemaster and mancyple yerelye xiijs. iiijd. And the remayne of the lands (all charges of reparacons of the tenements and houses, chalys and ornaments, being first allowed) should be expended in an obytt yerelye for her in the paryshe church.—Cert. 10, No. 8, xiijs. iiijd. to ye pore peple yerelye.
“The yerelye value of the lands and possessions,
xvli. xiiijs. viijd.
“Cert. 9, No. 6. Md.That one John Denham, of Tyston [Devon], one of ye feoffees of founders of the said scole, kepyth land named Ashe in Broadworth and other quylytts thereto adjoinyng, parcel of possessions gyven for sayd scole; and with ye profytts thereof payeth iiijli. yerely to ye manciple ther, and xiijs. iiijd. to ye launder of ye said scole-house.” (Oliver, “Monasticon Dioecesis Exoniensis,” p. 483.)
Carew’s quaint account is worth quoting in full:—
“S. Marie Wike standeth in a fruitfull soyle, skirted with a moore, course for pasture, and combrous for travellers. This village was the birth-place of Thomasine Bonaventure, I know not, whether by descent, or event, so called: for whiles in her girlish age she kept sheepe on the fore-remembred moore, it chanced, that a London marchant passing by, saw her, heeded her, liked her, begged her of her poore parents, and carried her to his home. In processe of time, her mistres was summoned by death to appeare in the other world, and her good thewes, no lesse than her seemely personage, so much contented her master, that he advanced her from a servant to a wife, and left her a wealthy widow. Her second marriage befell with one Henry Gall: her third and last, Sir John Percival, Lord Maior of London, whom she also overlived. And to shew, that vertue as well bare a part in the desert, as fortune in the meanes of her preferment, she employed the whole residue of her life and last widdowhood, to works no lesse bountifull, than charitable: namely, repayring of high waies, building of bridges, endowing of maydens, relieving of prisoners, feeding and apparelling the poor, &c. Amongst the rest, at this S. Mary Wike, she founded a Chauntery and free-schoole, together with faire lodgings, for the Schoolemasters, schollers, and officers, and added twenty pound of yeerely revennue, for supporting the incident charges: wherein as the bent of her desire was holy, so God blessed the same with al wished successe: for divers the best Gent. sonnes of Devon and Cornwall were there vertuously trained up, in both kinds of divine and humane learning, under one Cholwel, an honest and religious teacher, which caused the neighbours so much the rather, and the more to rewe, that a petty smacke onely of Popery, opened a gap to the oppression of the whole, by the statute made in Edw. the 6. raigne, touching the suppression of Chaunteries.” (Carew, “Survey of Cornwall,” edit. 1769, p. 119.)
Mr. W. H. Tregellas states that at the death of Sir John Percyvall, about 1504, his widow retired to her native place; but Carew’s words do not appear to justify this inference, and it is stated in the Stocken MSS. in the Guildhall Library that she was buried at St. Mary Woolnoth. Mr. Tregellas does not appear to have been able to trace the will; but Lysons, whose account was published in 1814, says definitely that the will was dated 1512, and this statement has been accepted by subsequent writers. By this will she bequeathed to her brother, John Bonaventer, £20; she made her cousin, John Dinham, who had married her sister’s daughter, residuary legatee, and committed to his discretion the chantry and grammar school founded in her lifetime; she gave a little gilt goblet, having a blue flower in the bottom, to the Vicar of Liskeard, to the intent that he should pray for her soul; and towards the building of the tower of St. Stephen’s by Launceston she left 20 marks. Robert Hunt, in his “Popular Romances of the West of England,” says that Berry Comb, in Jacobstow, was once the residence of Thomasine, and was given at her death to the poor of Week St. Mary. The “Parochial History of Cornwall” gives 1530 as the approximate date of her death.
The following is extracted from a little book entitled “Some Account of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Launceston,” by S. R. Pattison, 1852:—
“Adjoining is a marble monument, in memory of Sarah, the wife of the Rev. John Ruddle, interred near this place, in 1667. Below the family arms is the following epitaph, entitled “The Husband’s Valediction:”—
A stately monument of fine variegated marble, in the south aisle, is charged with the arms of Bligh, and the following Latin inscription:—
“Juxta hoc marmor jacet Carolus Bligh, Gen.
Aldermanus et hujus municipii sæpius Prætor
Qui cum sibe satis, suis parum diu vixerat
Pietate plenus obiit A.D. 1716, Die 8bris 2do
Hunc jam Æternitatem inhians Iudith uxor 27 Maii
1717mo secuta est.”
The Botathen Ghost story, as told by “the Rev. Mr. Ruddell” himself, occupies five pages of C. S. Gilbert’s “History Survey of Cornwall, 1817” (vol. i. pp. 115-119). Gilbert does not mention how he came by it. Hawker’s version is obviously a paraphrase of this, with some embellishments of his own.
Michael Scott, the Wizard of the North, was a mediæval scientist around whose memory many traditions have gathered. Compare “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” canto 2, stanza 13. The Monk speaks.
In the note on this passage Sir Walter says—
“In the South of Scotland any work of great labour or antiquity is ascribed either to the agency of Auld Michael, of Sir William Wallace, or of the devil.”
Gilfillan tells an amusing anecdote that—
“when Sir Walter was in Italy he happened to remark to Mr. Cheney that it was mortifying to think how Dante thought none worth sending to hell except Italians, on which Mr. C. remarked that he of all men had no right to make this complaint, as his ancestor Michael is introduced in the ‘Inferno.’ This seemed to delight Scott.”
The passage in the “Inferno” occurs in Canto 20—
translated by Cary thus:—
Boccaccio also mentions him (Dec. Giorn. VIII., Nov. 9): “It is not long since there was in this city (Florence) a great master in necromancy, who was called Michele Scotto, because he was from Scotland.” Legend has obscured the real fame of Michael Scott. He lived between 1175 and 1234, studied at Oxford, Paris, Palermo, Toledo (where he translated Aristotle from Arabic), and became court physician and astrologer to the Emperor Frederick II. He took Holy Orders, but declined the Pope’s offer of an Irish archbishopric on the ground of not knowing the Irish language. He probably died in Italy, but fable connects his burial with Holme Coltrame in Cumberland, or with Melrose Abbey. It is said that Sir Walter Scott confused him with another Michael Scott, of Balwearie, and that he “more probably belonged to the border country whence all the families of Scot originally came, and where the traditions of his magic power are common” (“Dict. of Nat. Biog.”). The best book on the subject is the “Life and Legend of Michael Scot (1175-1232),” by Rev. J. Wood Brown, M.A., 1897.
A full and authentic biography of the late Rev. R. S. Hawker, by his son-in-law, is in course of preparation, and will be issued next Spring. It was originally intended to prefix this as an introduction to the present volume, but so much new material has come to light that it could not well be compressed within the limits of a short memoir. This new material includes a most interesting account, written by Hawker himself, of Tennyson’s visit to Morwenstow in 1848, and their conversation. Many unpublished letters of Hawker’s have also been collected. The book will contain numerous illustrations, consisting partly of photographic reproductions, and partly of lithographic drawings by Mr. J. Ley Pethybridge. No pains or expense will be spared to produce a picturesque record of the man and his environment, both so picturesque and romantic in themselves.
Should this notice meet the eye of any one who knew Hawker, or could in any way supply further material for the biography, in the shape of letters, manuscripts, relics, anecdotes, or reminiscences, such will be gladly received, and may be addressed to the editor of the present volume, care of the publisher.
This book will be issued in the Autumn of the present year (1903). It is a revised edition of Hawker’s Complete Poems, published in 1899 at 7s. 6d. The chief differences consist of the reduction in price, the inclusion of a number of fresh illustrations and a few additional poems, and a general improvement in the “get-up” of the book. In binding it will be uniform with “Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall.” The new illustrations will include some or all of the following:—
|ILLUSTRATION. To illustrate||POEM.|
|The Black Rock, Widemouth||“Featherstone’s Doom.”|
|St. Nectan’s Kieve||“The Sisters of Glen Nectan.”|
|Morwenstow Church (Exterior)||“Morwennae Statio.”|
|The Well of St. Morwenna||“The Well of St. Morwenna.”|
|The Well of St. John||“The Well of St. John.”|
|The Source of the Tamar||“The Tamar Spring.”|
|Launcells Church||“The Ringers of Launcells Tower.”|
|The Figure-head of the Caledonia||“The Figure-head of the Caledonia at her Captain’s Grave.”|
|Boscastle cliffs in a storm||“The Silent Tower at Bottreaux.”|
|Hartland Church||“The Cell by the Sea.”|
|St. Madron’s Well||“The Doom-Well of St. Madron.”|
|Hennacliff||“A Croon on Hennacliff.”|
|Tintagel||“The Quest of the Sangraal.”|
|Effigy of Sir Ralph de Blanc-Minster in Stratton Church||“Sir Ralph de Blanc-Minster of Bien-Aimé.”|
|Sharpnose Point||“The Smuggler’s Song.”|
|Portrait of Sir Bevill Granville||“The Gate Song of Stowe.”|
|The Font in Morwenstow Church||“The Font.”|
 The foundations of this article first appeared in Mr. Blight’s “Ancient Cornish Crosses,” Penzance, 1850; in an article entitled “A Cornish Churchyard,” in Chambers’s Journal, 1852; also, as the “Legend of Morwenstow,” in Willis’s Current Notes, 1856; and in its present extended form, in “Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall,” 1870, embodying the author’s latest corrections and impressions.
 Woolley Moor.
 Breachan figures as a saint on a window in St. Neot’s church, called “The Young Women’s Window,” erected in 1529 at the cost of the maidens of the village. Mr. Baring-Gould says that “Brychan” lived in the fifth century, and that Morwenna was probably his grand-daughter.
 According to Mr. Baring-Gould, this story is full of anachronisms, arising from the confusion of three different saints, Morwenna of Cornwall, Modwenna of Burton-on-Trent, and Monynna of Newry.
 Compare Hawker’s poem “A Croon on Hennacliff.”
 This prose description of Morwenstow church has its metrical counterpart in “Morwennæ Statio.” The poetry in stone has never been more beautifully expressed than by those strong and simple lines.
 The water for baptisms at Morwenstow is always drawn from this well, which Hawker won for the glebe by a law-suit soon after his appointment to the living.
 In Blight’s book on “Ancient Cornish Crosses,” etc., there is an engraving of the Morwenstow Piscina and a Hebrew altar, with a note by Hawker.
 Among some unpublished MSS. of Hawker’s is the following verse, dated 1840:—
 Hawker had a seal engraved with this pentacle. Compare the lines in his poem “Baal-Zephon.”
In a letter to Miss Louisa Twining, Hawker writes: “The pentacle of Solomon, or five-pointed figure, was derived from his seal wherewith he ruled the genii. It was a sapphire, and it contained a hand alive which grasped a small serpent, also alive. Through the bright gem both were visible, the hand and the ‘worm’ as of old they called it. When invoked by the king, the fingers moved and the serpent writhed and miracles were wrought by spirits which were vassals of the gem.... Because of this mystic Hand the pentacle or five-pointed (fingered) figure became the Sigil of Signomancy in the early ages.”
 “And Solomon built ... Baalath, and Tadmor in the Wilderness” (1 Kings ix. 17-18).
 This screen was constructed by Mr. Hawker from the rescued remnants of an older screen, pieced together with ironwork. It has since been taken down, and the old carving placed in other parts of the church.
 The chancel has been restored by Lord Clinton. The old altar ornaments used by Mr. Hawker are preserved in the vestry.
 See note on p. 6. Two new lancet windows have since been placed in the chancel, one by Mrs. Waddon Martyn, of Tonacombe, in memory of her husband, the other by friends of the Rev. J. Tagert, to commemorate the restoration of the church during his vicariate. A larger memorial window has also been placed by the Martyn family at the east end of the north aisle.
 Compare the apportionment of the regions among the four great knights, Lancelot, Perceval, Tristan, and Galahad, in “The Quest of the Sangraal.”
The mystic attributes of the four regions are told in lines of incomparable grandeur.
 More about this village is to be found in the article “Holacombe.”
 This dislike is disappearing. When I was at Welcombe recently a grave was being dug on the northern side of the church. The grave-digger said he had been christened and married by Mr. Hawker: “one of the best passons,” he added, “us ever had.”—Ed.
 These initials are still to be seen at Stanbury, now a farmhouse. The scene of Mr. Baring-Gould’s novel “The Gaverocks” is partly laid there.
 Richard Cann, who died February 15, 1842. Compare Hawker’s head-note to the poem in “Cornish Ballads,” where it is called “The Dirge.”
 It may be said that the first editions of some of Hawker’s poems are on the grave-stones in Morwenstow churchyard. Other verses of this kind are those “On the Grave of a Child,” and some of the prose inscriptions bear traces of the same authorship.
 Compare “The Silent Tower of Bottreaux.”
 The scene of this legend is pointed out in the garden at Tonacombe Manor.
 From Household Words, vol. vi. pp. 515-517. 1853.
 A character in “Guy Mannering.”
 A cove some six miles S.W. of Bude. Hawker has a poem on the death of a noted smuggler, “Mawgan of Melhuach.”
 The allusion is to a passage in Æschylus, “Prom. Vinct.” 90.
It was a favourite metaphor of Hawker’s, and occurs over and over again in his poetry. The best instance is in “The Quest of the Sangraal,” where he apostrophises Cornwall.
 From Household Words, vol. viii. pp. 305, 306. 1853.
 From All the Year Round, vol. xiii. pp. 153-156. 1865.
 The Tamar.
 The Torridge.
 John Wesley.
 These are still preserved. They are little sand-glasses, shielded with brass, cylindrical in shape. The sand in one takes twenty-eight seconds to run, that in the other fourteen.
 Hawker is not forgotten in Arbroath. A lecture was delivered there on February 18, 1903, by the Rev. A. E. Crowder, on “Cornwall: its Scenery, People, Antiquities, and Folklore.” The lecturer referred to Hawker and the wreck of the Caledonia.
 “Gebir,” Book I., lines 216, 217. The usual version has “hard wet sand.” Hawker and Landor (it may be remarked by the way) were in many respects kindred spirits.
 Probably Mr. George Casebourne, Civil Engineer, who married a sister of Mr. Hawker’s, and was for some years superintendent of the Bude Canal.
 From All the Year Round, vol. xiii. pp. 454-456. 1865.
 Compare Hawker’s fine description of the feast at Dundagel in “The Quest of the Sangraal”—
 The Rev. Robert Martyn, then Vicar of Stratton.
 On another occasion Black John awoke from a less serious trance. The parson in his sermon was speaking of “that blessedness which on earth it is impossible to find,” when a well-known voice from the gallery shouted, “Not find! Us be sartain to find un to-morrow in Swannacott Wood!”
 In another version of the tale, Black John said to the preacher, “Only just take your hat off and say two words of gospel to ’im, and her won’t touch ’ee.”
 These lines are from Hawker’s poem, “A Legend of the Hive.”
 Compare the lines on Sir Lancelot in “The Quest of the Sangraal,” and Hawker’s note—
The ballad on “The Doom Well of St. Madron” records a similar test of innocence. For Carew’s description of a logan-rock, see end of Appendix D.
 William Cookworthy (1705-1780) started life as a small druggist in Nut Street, Plymouth. He had been educated by the Society of Friends, and at thirty-one he retired from trade, became a Quaker minister, and continued so for twenty-five years. About 1758, having discovered a new process of making porcelain, he set up a manufactory at Plymouth, which was after his death transferred to Bristol, and thence to the Potteries. “Cookworthy is said to have been a believer in the dowsing or divining-rod for discovering mineral veins, and we learn that he became a disciple of Swedenborg.... As a lover of science he was much appreciated, as is proved by the fact that Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Solander, and Captain Cook, dined with him at Plymouth before their voyage round the world” (“Dictionary of National Biography”). His duties led him to travel about the mining districts of Cornwall, and he was a great friend of Nancarrow of Godolphin, a superintendent of mines. It would be on these journeys, no doubt, that he came across Daniel Gumb. Cookworthy died on October 16, 1780, aged 76.
 It was not Agag, but Og, the king of Bashan, who had the bedstead of iron. See Deuteronomy iii. 11.
 This is probably a slip of the pen for “Virgilian.” The line occurs in Virgil’s “Eclogues,” 8, 43. There is no stop at “illum.” The sentence is carried on to the next lines—
Conington translates the passage thus: “Now know I what love is; it is among savage rocks that he is produced by Tmarus or Rhodope or the Garamantes at earth’s end; no child of lineage or blood like ours.” Hawker’s translation, it must be owned, is preferable as far as it goes.
 It was a trick of Hawker’s style to end a sentence with this or similar adverbs. Instances occur on pp. 17 and 172. Elsewhere he writes: “As the lightning leaps from the dark cloud suddenly.” Little points like this suggest the real authorship of Daniel Gumb’s diary.
 Numbers xxiv. 21, “And he (Balaam) looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.”
 It is said locally that Antony’s stocking would hold a peck of wheat.
 C. S. Gilbert in his “History of Cornwall.”
 There is a description of this battle in Q’s novel, “The Splendid Spur,” one of the most vivid and stirring battle pictures in modern fiction.
 In a letter dated September 21, 1866, to his brother-in-law, the late Mr. John Sommers James, Hawker says, “He (Antony Payne) was an Ancestor of Captain Parsons and Sam. He was going to bury your Great Grandfather at Stamford Hill alive, wounded among the other Rebels, but he spared him, and, as I have stated, his ‘descendants are among the most conspicuous of the Inhabitants of Stratton to this day.’”
 The authenticity of this letter is doubtful. If spurious, however, it is interesting as an example of Hawker’s Chattertonian propensities and his skill in catching the antique style. (See Appendix E.)
 Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), a German by birth, was Court painter to five English sovereigns, Charles II., James II., William III., Anne, and George I. He came to England in 1675, and if Charles II., who died in 1685, commanded him to paint the portrait of Antony Payne, it must have been between those years that the picture was executed. According to the dedication under Gilbert’s engraving, however, it was done at the expense of the Earl of Bath. The Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro, has published a pamphlet (price 2d.) entitled “A Short Account of Anthony Payne, the Cornish Giant, and the History of his Portrait.” This states that the picture was painted in 1680. “Ten reigning sovereigns in all sat to Kneller for their portraits. His sitters included almost all persons of rank, wealth, or eminence, in his day, and examples of his brush may be found in nearly every historic mansion or palace in the kingdom.... Kneller can best be studied at Hampton Court” (“Dictionary of National Biography”).
 In the letter to Mr. J. Sommers James quoted above Hawker refers to Antony Payne as “owner of the spear your brother Henry gave me years ago.”
 This flagon was given by Mr. Hawker to Mr. Thomas Shephard, of Stratton, whose daughter, Mrs. William Shephard, of Barnstaple, has presented it to Truro Museum. (See illustration facing p. 14.) The Shephards are descendants of Antony Payne, and Mr. William Shephard has in his possession a pewter shaving cup that belonged to Antony’s father.
 In the original form of this article, a second verse was added, and the first was slightly different.
 Hawker himself used a seal engraved with the one word, “Thorough,” the motto, as he said, of Archbishop Laud.
 Mr. Baring-Gould, in his “Vicar of Morwenstow” (Edition 1899, p. 110), gives another reason for Coppinger’s wrath:—“The Kilkhampton parson hated rook-pie. Coppinger knew it. He invited him to dine with him one day. A large rook-pie was served at one end of the table, and roast rooks at the other, and the parson, who was very hungry, was forced to eat of them. When he departed he invited Coppinger to dine with him on the following Thursday. The smuggler arrived, and was regaled on pie, whether rabbit or hare he could not decide. When he came home he found a cat’s skin and head stuffed into his coat pocket, and thereby discovered what he had been eating.”
 One of Mr. Hawker’s sisters was the wife of John Dineham, surgeon, of Stratton.
 Hawker has a pretty poem for children with this title—
 The love of the Lady Katherine Gordon for Perkin Warbeck is the subject of Hawker’s poem, “The Lady of the Mount.”
 The remains of this old building have been embodied in some cottages. The doorway shown in the illustration forms the front door of one of these. The other is occupied by the Cornwall County Police, and the unsuspecting pilgrim who rambles round without permission is liable to be startled by the gruff remark, “You’m trespassing!” Thus are we recalled from “the baseless fabric” of the past to the stern realities of the living present.
 Hawker gives a romantic turn of his own to this part of the story.
 From All the Year Round, vol. xvii. pp. 501-504. 1867. The story occurs in C. S. Gilbert’s “Historical Survey of Cornwall,” in Mrs. Bray’s “Trelawny of Trelawn,” and in “Histories of Launceston,” by R. and O. B. Peter.
 All this is singularly applicable to Hawker himself.
 John Ruddle, or Rudall, A.M., was instituted Vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, Launceston, on Christmas Day, 1663, on which day he began his ministry. He is entered in the Visitation Book of 1665 as vicar, and in that of 1692 as curate. He became a prebendary of Exeter. On July 15, 1671, he married Mary Bolitho, a widow. He was buried on January 22, 1698. (See Appendix H.)
 See Vivian’s “Visitations of Cornwall,” p. 148.
 For the pedigree of the family of Bligh, of Botathen, see Vivian’s “Visitations of Cornwall,” p. 38. William Bligh, baptized May 18, 1657, was the son of William, who was baptized June 9, 1633, and was, therefore, only thirty-two in 1665. According to ancestries given by Carew and Gilbert, it is probable that the Earls of Darnley are descended from the Blighs of Botathen. (See App. H.)
 This is no doubt a mis-spelling for “Dingley.” A James Dingley was vicar of the parish of South Petherwin, where the ghost appeared, in the same reign, and assisted Parson Rudall in his ministrations at Launceston. The name Dingley exists in that town and district at the present day.
 Compare the lines on Merlin in “The Quest of the Sangraal”—
to which Hawker appends the following note: “Igdrasil, the mystic tree, the ash of the Keltic ritual. The Raun, or Rowan, is also the ash of the mountain, another magic wood of the northern nations.”
 Hawker was quite capable of submitting a poser of this kind to his own bishop, Dr. Phillpotts. It is on record that he once exorcised a rebellious vestry, but whether he obtained the bishop’s licence in this case is not stated.
 From Belgravia, vol. iii. pp. 328-337. 1867.
 The author and Rev. Dr. Jeune, afterwards Bishop of Peterborough, father of Sir Francis Jeune.
(See Appendix A.)
 Compare Tennyson, “In Memoriam”—
 Such things have been known to occur even in these degenerate days.
 A variant of a line in Hawker’s poem, “A Legend of the Hive.”
 The Oxford crone speaks with a Cornish accent, and some think that she hailed from Stratton.
 Hawker came in contact, however, with some of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, as we learn from a letter where he says: “How I recollect their faces and words—Newman, Pusey, Ward, Marriott; they used to be all in the common-room every evening, discussing, talking, reading.” Hawker went up to Oxford in 1822, and won the Newdigate in 1827, when Newman was a Tutor of Oriel and Keble was publishing “The Christian Year.”
 Compare Hawker’s poem,“Trebarrow,” and his footnote thereto.
 From the description of Carradon in “The Quest of the Sangraal.”
 Compare Hawker’s well-known ballad, “The Silent Tower of Bottreaux.”
 There were no “earls” of Bottreaux. Knights, or barons, would be more correct.
 Compare Tennyson—
It was, perhaps, in commemoration of this episode that Hawker when afterwards curate of North Tamerton, kept a tame Berkshire pig. Another parson-poet, Robert Herrick, is also said to have had a pet porker.
 An escapade with pigs occurs in Tennyson’s poem, “Walking to the Mail.”
 Hawker writes in one of his letters: “And now enough of myself. Solitude makes men self-praisers, and a Bemööster Herr—as the Germans call lonely readers—a mossy vicar likes to talk about his own importance.”
 A similar sacrilege occurs in Hawker’s poem, “A Legend of the Hive.”
 An echo from Shakespeare—
 Horace, “Ars Poetica,” 185—
 Charity is the full name.
 There is a chapter on charms in Hunt’s “Popular Romances of the West of England.”
 Compare Hawker’s poem, “Modryb Marya”—
 Compare the poem, “A Croon on Hennacliff.”
 Hawker was no doubt reminded of his own impersonation of a mermaid at Bude. For many quaint legends about mermaids and mermen, see Hunt’s “Popular Romances of the West of England.”
 Compare Browning’s lines—
 The same conceit, humorously applied, occurs in Calverley—
 Perceval was Prime Minister from 1809 to 1812, in the time of the Regency and the Peninsular War.
 The “Dictionary of National Biography” gives the following account of this event: “There was a certain bankrupt named John Bellingham, a man of disordered brain, who had a grievance against the Government originating in the refusal of the English Ambassador at St. Petersburg to interfere with the regular process of Russian law under which he had been arrested. He had applied to Perceval for redress, and the inevitable refusal inflamed his crazy resentment. On Monday, May 11 (1812), the House of Commons went into Committee on the orders in Council, and began to examine witnesses. Brougham complained of Perceval’s absence, and he was sent for. As he passed through the lobby to reach the house, Bellingham placed a pistol to his breast and fired. Perceval was dead before a doctor could be found.... Bellingham was tried at the Old Bailey on May 15, and the plea of insanity being set aside by the court, he was hanged on May 18.”
 Robert Hunt has a delightful chapter on “The Elfin Creed of Cornwall,” in his “Popular Romances of the West of England.”
 Compare “The Doom-Well of St. Madron”—
 A reference to a custom, still followed to some extent in Devon and Cornwall, of paring the turf of grass-fields and burning the sods. It is called “bait-burning,” or “burning bait.”
 “Full of wise saws and modern instances.”—As You Like It.
 Hawker’s account (on p. 11) of the discovery of the piscina in the chancel wall at Morwenstow is, however, very circumstantial. If “the jumbled carved work and a crushed drain,” which, he says came to light when the mortar was removed, proceeded from his imagination, it is a touch of genius in fabrication. In a letter to Mr. Richard Twining dated October 25th, 1855, Hawker writes: “Will you have the kindness to present the inclosed drawing to Miss L. Twining in my name and with my best regards. It is of a piscina discovered by me in the south wall of my chancel, where it has been hidden by mortar full 300 years, and existed there before that date full 500 years more.”
The whole passage from Mr. Baring-Gould is as follows: “The ancient piscina in the wall is of early English date. Mr. Hawker discovered under the pavement in the church, when reseating it, the base of a small pillar, Norman in style, with a hole in it for a rivet which attached to it the slender column it supported. This he supposed was a piscina drain, and accordingly set it up in the recess beside his altar.” Mr. Baring-Gould evidently uses the word “piscina” as meaning the whole “recess” beside the altar. Mr. Chope appears to use it for the pillared structure within the recess. Hawker’s own words seem to show that he found the whole piscina, i.e. the recess with the drain inside it, “in the chancel wall.” He says nothing of any discovery “under the pavement,” and Mr. Baring-Gould does not give his authority for this statement.
At any rate, if the piscina, or piscina drain, or pillar-base, whichever it be, was abstracted from the ruined chapel at Longfurlong, it presumably was not discovered under the pavement of Morwenstow Church, unless by another stroke of genius.
It may be of interest to add that, on thrusting a piece of grass down the hole which Hawker took for a piscina drain, and which Mr. Baring-Gould says is a rivet-hole, I found that it went right through to the floor of the recess, a depth of about 13 inches. It is quite possible, therefore, that, if connected with another hole through the wall, it might at one time have served the purpose of a drain.—Editor.
 The inscription runs as follows: “THIS · WAS · MADE · IN · THE · YERE · OF · OURE · LORDE · GOD · 1575.” The pew bearing it now stands (1903) at the east end of the north aisle, facing south.—Editor.
 The foumart is now extinct in England, though, I believe, to be met with in parts of Scotland.
 The cedar wainscot which lined the chapel is said to have been bought out of a Spanish prize, and the carving is mentioned by Defoe, in his “Western Tour,” as the work of Michael Chuke, and not inferior to Gibbon’s. (C. S. Gilbert, “Survey of Cornwall,” vol. ii. p. 554.)
Illustrations have been moved next to the text to which they relate. The back cover referred to in the List of Illustrations was not included in the scanned book.
The following apparent errors have been corrected:
The following possible errors have been left as printed:
Inconsistent hyphenation has not been changed, nor has use of both Morwennæ and Morwennae. An inscription is given as both MVCLX4 (p. 246) and MDLX4 (p. 251).