I came across an old book last year which I have tried to get everywhere and have failed. It is called ' Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening,' by H. Repton, London, 1805. The idea of the illustrations and teaching of this book could be adopted by anyone wishing to improve a large and woody place.What the author did was this :
He drew a faithful sketch of the landscape as it was, with every tree and shrub and undulation marked. You lift up this drawing, and he shows you how he proposes to alter it and how it will look when done. In some cases he merely opens out the view by cutting down the trees, in others he throws up the ground on one side and lowers it on another, so showing up a valley which had been hidden before. In another case he dams up a stream and turns two or three swampy fields into a large lake. The whole book, though old-fashioned and hardly to our modern taste, is full of suggestive ideas. It is a pity it is so scarce. The non-illustrated edition is useless, and one must get the first edition of 1805.
While staying away from home the other day, a kind fellow-guest wrote me out the two following stories, which made us laugh, and which I at least had never heard before.
At a rent-audit dinner, the squire noticed that a new tenant of his, sitting in the place of honour on his right hand, was taking nothing to drink, so he said, 'Well, Johnson, this won't do, you are drinking nothing,' &c. Johnson replied, 'No, squire ; I never drinks nothing with my meals.' 'How's that ?' said the squire, 'are you a teetotaller, or suffering from rheumatism or anything, and acting under doctor's orders ?' 'No, squire, t'aint that. It's this way: if you take a bucket full of watter you can't get no taters into it, but if you puts the taters in fust it's wonnerful what a lot of watter you can get in afterwards.'
A philanthropic old lady in Exeter, very keen on the drink question, got hold of a very bibulous old sailor whom everyone had given up as a bad job. He had lost a leg and one eye, and used to do odd jobs about the market place. He told the old lady that, if he could once get a fairstart onhis own account, he would try to reform, many of the jobs he now did being paid for in drink. The old lady, after much thought, purchased for him a tray to hang round his neck with a broad strap and a supply of nice gingerbread, and she taught him the following sentence to repeat at intervals:
Will any good kind Christian Buy some fine spicey gingerbread Off a poor afflicted old man ? '
When he had sold a shillingsworth, he congratulated himself on his strength of abstinence, and thought he would treat resolution to just one half-pint. This, needless to say, led to two or three more, and when he resumed his station on the pavement his cry became a little mixed, and in a loud voice he appealed to passers-by with:
Will any poor afflicted Christian
Buy some good kind gingerbread
Off a fine spicey old man ?'
Trade became very good, and he again treated resolution, with the result that his cry became :
Will any fine spicey Christian Buy some poor afflicted gingerbread Off a good kind old man ? '
In return, I told him the following: 'I am told that in the Bankruptcy Court the bankrupt is always asked by the Judge if he can give any reason for his failure. A young man who was being thus examined promptly answered, "Oh, yes, quite easily; fast women and slow horses." I did not know him, but I heard with regret that this poor witty young fellow died in the war in South Africa.'
The fashion of everyone discussing health - his own or others' - is so common a one now that the taste sometimes assumes extraordinary developments, and I have been told that, two or three years ago in Paris, cinematographs of hospital operations were the fashionable diversion at evening parties. A check was given to this kind of entertainment by one of the guests fainting on recognising a friend on the operating table. How history repeats itself! In Ten Brink's latest book on the French Re-volution, he gives a graphic account of Paris dinner-tables decorated with toy models of the newly invented guillotine, a doll filled with red scent representing the victim, and ladies dipping their handkerchiefs in the sham blood which spurted out as the head fell into the basket.
To wind up with something more human, I give the following letter from Major A. C. Hamilton, 6th Dragoon Guards, to his mother, who kindly sent it to the press : 'Barberton, September 26. - I have a little moral story which you can publish in a paper if you like with names. I dined with Van de Post, whom we took here. He was a Free State commandant and Speaker of the Volksraad. He told me after the engagement at Ramah he found a soldier who had been out all night bleeding to death and nearly dead. His doctor said, "It is useless to do anything for him," and suggested amputating both legs. Van de Post looked in his pocket and found a letter from his mother to this effect: "Dear George, - I am so anxious about you in this terrible war, but I hope you will be always merciful to the wounded and respect women, and cause as little pain to others as you can, for Christ's sake. - Your Mother." He was so touched he wired for his carriage and the best doctor, sent the man to his own farm, which was near, and he quite recovered. His name was George Cowan, Mounted Infantry. It would be nice if his mother knew this.'
In the 'spectator' of October 18, 1902, there was a review of 'Ballads of the Boer War; selected from the Haversack of Serjeant J. Smith, by "Coldstreamer."' The article was so sympathetic and appreciative that I instantly sent for the book. Although I agree with the ' Spectator's' praise, I must say I think that many of the poems are better than those selected by the reviewer. The one which shows a real imaginative power of a certain kind deals with a very difficult subject, I should have thought - 'The Queen's Chocolate.' It is too long to quote entirely, but these verses, taken without the beginning and the end, explain themselves:-
I never 'ad no truck with gals ;
Soft, stuck-up things, they seems to me An' though I'd h'often see my pals
A-settin' of 'em on their knee, It ain't a thing H'l ever done, Cos why ?I didn't see the fun.
Them gals was nice enough, no doubt,
I ain't a-contradictin' it; I see'd young fellers walking out
When I was polishin' my kit, An' each 'is bit o' chintz 'ad got;-Well, they was welcome to the lot!
And, h'as I'm talking, H'l can say,-Tho' p'raps it sounds a funny thing,-
No woman to this blooming day 'As give me e'er a brooch or ring;
No trunkets, nor the like 0' that,
Nor yet no ribbon from 'er 'at.
An' h'only one, as I recall,
In all these weary months o' war, 'As sent me h'anythink at all,(An' she wont never send no more;)-Ah 1 what was that, an' 'oo was she ? I'll tell you if you'll 'ark to me.
The Queen was driving h'out one day,
And, 'appening to pass a shop, She calls the driveof 'er shay,
'Ere John,' sez she, ' 'ere coachman, stop ! You wait a while outside for me, H'l wants to buy some sweets,' sez she.
The shopman, knowin' who she were,
Urries respeckful to the door ; 'I've thought,' sez she, a-smiling there,
As 'ow my soldiers at the war Would like a suck o' chocolit, So I come in to h'order it!'
Just send a million boxes round,'
Sez she, an' quick she writes a cheque -
I'll pay at once, ten thousand pound, You'll find the signature correck;
That's it, Victo-ri-a, Har. I.,
Take care, the h'ink is 'ardly dry.'
Then h'out she goes, an' drives away, Without the slightest sort o' fuss;
The boxes they comes round next day, An' h'off she sends 'em out to h'us;
An' that was 'ow I got a bit
O' Queen Victoria's chocolit.
The h'only present, fust an' last,
As any woman sent to me In h'all them weary years as passed
Since first we sailed acrost the sea; I've never 'ad no gifts before, An' so I prizes it the more.
An' 'ere's my box, as good as new;
I 'aven't touched the chocolit, Nor yet I ain't a-goin' to do, -
Cos why ? Because I values it. You'd like to buy it, eh ? Good Lor Wot sort o' cove d'you take me for?
Suppose a gal, some New Year's Day,
Sent off a box o' sweets to you; Would you go off an' sell it, eh ?
Is that the sort o' thing you'd do ? Wot would 'er Gracious think of it, If I should sell 'er chocolit ?
She'd never know !' sez you ?May-be !
(Gawd rest 'er soul!) Per'aps you're right. But still I likes to think as she
Is watching 'ow 'er soldiers fight, An' smiling somewheres in the sky A-seeing 'ow 'er soldiers die!
But, h'if she knows or h'if she don't, This blooming chocolit is mine ;
D'you 'ear ? An' part with it I won't, -So there! - for all you talk so fine.
I wouldn't sell it now, you swab,
For fifty, let alone ten bob!
Two pounds, sez you ?You'll make it three ?
Well you're a gentleman, H'I'm sure! Don't push your blooming coins on me!
You thinks to tempt me 'cos I'm poor ? I may be so ; h'it ain't denied; But still I 'as my proper pride.
No use a-h'arsking me to sell,
I'd feel a villain if I did (So you an' yours can go to 'ell!)
I wouldn't, not for twenty quid. Take back your money, h'every bit! I'm richer, - with my chocolit!