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In a passage in the "Satire against Wit," Blackmore reflects upon Nahum Tate, of Psalm-version renown, and Brown replied:
"Rail on, discourteous Knight: if modest Tate
Is slow in making payments, what of that?
These satirical compositions engaged Brown until his death, but has done nothing that permanently tends to blast Blackmore's reputation as a poet. There seems to have been no occurrence of moment upon which this Tom Brown did not expend some of the arrows of wit, with which his quiver was full. He has seen and known Defoe; so he sets to work and pens a Pleasant Dialogue between the Pillory and Daniel de Foe, containing some sharp hits at the times. In another dialogue, called The Last Observator, he reflects upon Sir Roger Lestrange under the name of John Tutchin, showing wit more than honesty, and resigning Sir Roger, as John Tutchin, to the tender mercies of Mary, Queen of William the Third. When King James was labouring to convert the nation, amongst his converts was one, "a still more infamous apostate, Joseph Haines, whose name is now almost forgotten, but who was well known in his own time as an adventurer of versatile parts." "After the Revolution Haines made peace with the town by a penance more scandalous than his offence. One night, before he acted his farce, he appeared on the stage, in a white sheet, with a torch in his hand, and recited some profane doggrel, which he called his recantation." (Macaulay's History.) For this kindred spirit Tom Brown wrote his piece, and entitled it a Reformation Prologue. In one part of Brown's works are about twenty pages of short sentences called his Table Talk. There are pithy and smart observations among them, as, "To be concerned for a family, for children, and things that come after us, is only proper for man; a horse never breaks his repose for thinking whether his son will be preferred to the cart or the coach." "The author of the Whole Duty of Man concealed his name; perhaps he did it out of vanity." And again, "A man that seldom has money takes care to show it in all companies
when he has it. We care not how deep we go when we are in debt; when we pay ready money we are more frugal.”
Perhaps the most amusing of all the pieces in these volumes are those which are called "A Comical View of the Cities of London and Westminster :" a weekly series of prognostications, by Sylvester Partridge. Herein Brown mercilessly satirises the professions and institutions of the metropolis, colouring his insinuations with all the current scandal of the times. But, of necessity, from such a subject, the whole tone throughout is low and vulgar. A succeeding Collection of Letters, original and translated, are equally bad in that respect. Brown's imitations of Lucian have merit as burlesques, but are very bad samples of English. Deformed as are all his writings by a looseness of sentiment and vulgarity of expression, at times, and especially in his poetry, there is a spark of better feeling. Doubtless his poverty made him write worse than he might have done could he have chosen his time and subject. He says, referring to himself,
"But if you had rather convert this poor sinner,
His foul writing mouth may be stopped with a dinner."
Tom Brown wrote for a livelihood, and soon found out that which would bring money, if it did not bring respect and good fame. Unfortunately for his character, a naturally low turn of mind led him to those evil courses in which he was sustained and encouraged by success. One might reasonably conceive that he had some notions of a purer mode of life and writing, and that at times he had in his serious moments an insight into the mire he was scattering over human life. A revolt against his overwhelming grossness sometimes disturbed his thoughts. One piece, singularly coarse and low, he ends with this true and wise reflection,
"So rogues mistaking scandal to be fame,
Deem that their honour, others think their shame."
If Mr. Thomas Brown had but acted up to this sentiment, he would have come down to posterity with a fairer fame. As it is, he is nothing but a wicked wit—a facetious fellow-one who perverted his genius and learning to unworthy and trifling pursuits. With abilities that would have made a man, if rightly directed, he dissipated his talents, and soiled his pages with matter redounding to his own discredit, and to the injury of the morals of his readers.
He died in 1704, and is buried in the East Alley of Westminster Abbey.
A DRIVE FROM SALISBURY TO DORCHESTER.
THE grand spire of one of our finest cathedrals overlooks a wide space of country called Cranbourne Chace, on the borders of Wiltshire and Dorsetshire, which, before Salisbury reared its commanding steeple over the dry chalk plains, had been the scene of many a great battle in our early history. The villages, each clustering round its parish church, stand at long intervals in the midst of sheepdowns dotted over with barrows, the sepulchres of strange warriors, and crossed by one of those straight substantial roads, which enabled the Romans to supply their forces and keep this country in subjection for 400 years. Here and there are the remains of what were once extensive woods; the New Forest, a lasting monument of the selfish tyranny of William the Conqueror, and nearer the borders of Somersetshire, the White Hart Forest, so called from a white hart having been chased in it by Henry III. The king was so pleased with the beautiful animal that he spared its life, an example which might be followed with advantage by modern sportsmen when they see a rare specimen of either bird or beast; but a certain Thomas de la Linde afterwards presuming to kill it, a penalty was inflicted on the neighbourhood of a permanent tax, which is still paid under the name of the White Hart silver.
When Winchester was the capital of the Saxon monarchs, and Cranbourne and Chippenham were fortified towns, this part of England was the point to which invading armies pressed, in the hope of plunder and spoil. The ruins of Stonehenge and Avebury show the importance of Wiltshire in the time of the ancient Britons and Romans; and the Northmen and Danes who overran nearly all England when the Romans had finally withdrawn to defend their own country, and the Saxons thoroughly subdued the northern Picts, have left their mark in the same plains and in the north of Dorsetshire, and probably first traced out the figure of the White Horse, which is visible from the railway near Westbury, cut out in the chalk on the green side of a hill.
The horrors committed by these heathen barbarians have happily long been unparalleled in Western Europe, when the nuns who perished by the sword or in the flames of their convents were considered far happier than the survivors, and when a man was honoured as a martyr, who fell in opposing their progress." In hoc loco quiescit corpus S. Etheldredi, Regis West Saxonum, Martyris, qui Anno Domini
DCCCLXXXII, XXIII Aprilis, per manus Danorum paganorum occubuit,' was the inscription formerly seen on the tomb of the elder brother of Alfred the Great at Wimborne, until it was destroyed by Cromwell's soldiers in the Civil War. The monasteries and religious establishments were the especial objects of the Danish hatred; a fierce desire to avenge their idol Woden on the English who had abandoned his worship, seems to have mingled with the cruelty natural to pirate savages. The courage and sagacity which Alfred displayed in overcoming these enemies, and procuring a term of peace for his distracted country, is too well known to need more than a passing mention; but Dorsetshire furnished him for some time with a place of concealment; and at Shaftesbury he erected and endowed a convent for Benedictine nuns which became the burial place of King Edward the Martyr his descendant in 978. Cranbourne Manor, eleven miles to the south-west of Salisbury, has given a shelter to another fugitive king, Charles the First. It is an ancient castellated building owned by the Marquis of Salisbury, standing close to the village of Cranbourne with the grounds adjoining the churchyard. The dark old dungeons, now used for coal and other household purposes, are still in good repair, as well as the long low kitchen supported by pillars, where the dinners were cooked for the garrison, at the time that the manor was a fortress, and the temporary residence of several English Princes.
A drive from Cranbourne across the Downs of some four or five miles, brought us to Handley, a village on the slope of a hill which at present needs the only adornment of which it could ever boast, its Church, once a conspicuous object in the landscape. When the present vicar was inducted a year and a half ago, the Church was in a most dilapidated state, the fabric being pronounced unsafe and beyond repair, so that he had no alternative but to pull it down and begin to rebuild it on its old foundations. The estimate is only £3,000, but that is a large sum to be raised in a purely agricultural parish already burdened by a heavy debt on account of a large Board School which was erected several years ago, and which has raised the rates to a most disproportionate extent, as the population is only 1,250. The labouring man, who with much effort has secured the freehold of his own homestead, cannot see that the need of a superior education than he himself received is so great for his sons and grandchildren, as to make him cheerfully accept the tax which it entails; and now when the Church has also to be rebuilt he thinks every one is in league against his purse, and that the
schoolroom where the services are at present conducted might just as well be used permanently for Divine Worship. Two dissenting meetinghouses in the neighbourhood will doubtless take advantage of this kind of feeling, to increase their congregations; but the untiring exertions of the Vicar have hitherto had a good effect, and the weekly offertory, though only instituted since he came, has been very well responded to, when it is known that the proceeds, after the usual deduction for the sick poor, go entirely towards rebuilding the Church. Not quite half the sum has at present been obtained, although the neighbouring landowners and the Vicar have contributed with great liberality, and the local resources are now almost exhausted; but perhaps a good harvest next year, or a good nutting season may raise the spirits of the villagers as to their material prospects so far as to increase their donations. The nuts are the chief source of profit in the parish of Handley, which is fourteen miles round, and contains some hazel woods where the villagers have an ancient right to gather the produce. When the nuts are ripe, men, women, and children spend their days among the trees, and London and Portsmouth supply them with purchasers. A good blackberry season also makes the difference to many cottagers of poverty or comfort during the winter months.
There was no resident Vicar less than forty years ago, and then this isolated village must have been indeed in a state of darkness. At last the excellent father of the world-famed author of "Tom Brown" and "The Scouring of the White Horse," gave the present Vicarage to the parish, in order that it might henceforth possess a resident Priest, but the income is still quite insufficient to provide the Vicar with an assistant, though he also serves a chapel in a hamlet called S. Andrew's, Gussage, which is included in Handley parish, and about three and a half miles from the village. On the Sunday we chanced to be there, he conducted two services in the morning, first at S. Andrew's, Gussage, and then in the schoolroom at Handley, besides the Sunday School in the afternoon, and the Evening Service, where the chanting, led by the blind organist, did great credit to the rustic choir, and the chairs and benches of the schoolroom were so crammed with attentive worshippers that late comers had great difficulty in finding a seat.
These villages like Handley, (which is eight miles from a railway station, and ten from Shaftesbury its post town,) vary so little in their populations from century to century, that the descendants of the herdsman and his wife who sheltered Alfred the Great, are probably still to