An English Mill.
In 1852, Ada, the only child of Lord and Lady Byron, whom he had never seen except in infancy, yet to whom he addressed some of his sweetest lines, was, at her own request (and she was then a woman thirty-five years of age), laid here to rest, not where her mother, Lady Byron, would be buried, -no, but by her father, who had fondly called her "Ada, sole daughter of my house and heart," and on whose lips her name had trembled just before his death. In this connection, it is pathetic to remember that, for years her father's writings and even his portraits had been, as far as possible, kept from that daughter; but she had found and read his poems; and among the lines addressed to her she had discovered these:
"Yet, though dull Hate as duty should be taught, I know that thou wilt love me; . . . Though the grave closed between us, - 'twere the same: I know that thou wilt love me; . . .
Sweet be thy cradled slumbers! O'er the sea,
And from the mountains where I now respire,
Fain would I waft such blessing upon thee,
As, with a sigh, I dream thou might'st have been to me!"
The prophecy of Byron was fulfilled. The grave had closed between them; but she had loved him with a loyal heart, and in their death father and daughter were united.
Of all English writers the one who has made our old home and its inhabitants best known to us is Charles Dickens. To one familiar with his works Old England is no longer strange. His characters are met at every turn, and landmark after landmark in his books is seen and recognized, until we wish that we could go to him and say, as did a simple-hearted citizen of Dublin, "God bless you, Sir, not only for the light of your face, but for the light you've been in my house this many a year"; or act as did a lady of Edinburgh who, her eyes filled with grateful tears, asked him if she might touch the hand which had filled her life with so many friends. Who, for example, can behold an English landscape in the winter time, without a thrill of gratitude to Dickens for all that he has done to make the Christmas season dear to the hearts of old and young throughout the world? Think of his various Christmas stories:" The Chimes," "The Carol," "The Cricket on the Hearth," each one, as it appeared, a Christmas gift of unalloyed pleasure to thousands of expectant readers.
Durham Cathedral In Winter.
There came to Dickens daily about Christmas time innumerable letters from friends and utter strangers, to tell him how "The Carol," or "The Cricket," had been read around their firesides, and had done no end of good. "Blessings on your kind heart," wrote Jeffrey to him, "you should be happy yourself at 'Christmas, for by these books you have done more good, fostered more kindly feelings, and prompted more benevolence than can ever be estimated." In truth, Dickens put as much care and energy into his Christmas stories as into his larger works; and over one of them, he says, he wept and laughed and wept again, and walked, while thinking of it, twenty miles through the black streets of London, after all sober folks had gone to bed.
Dickens always held that mental rest is best obtained from bodily exertion. Hence, after some hours of intellectual excitement, he would start out for what he called a "breather," that is, a walk of twenty miles upon the road. Sometimes, when troubled with sleeplessness, he would rise in the dead of night, and walk ten or fifteen miles into the country to breakfast at some tavern. "I half expect," writes one of his friends, "to see him any time, coming along against the wind at the rate of four and a half miles an hour, the very embodiment of energy, and filled to the brim with life".
"On An English Road".
Some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent in tracing in London and various parts of England the footsteps of Dickens and his characters. When I began to do this, directly after the novelist's death, there was almost no literature on the subject; but now there are several books devoted solely to the identification and preservation of the places mentioned in his novels. London itself, of course, abounds in such localities; but, outside of the city also, one may visit the White Horse Inn at Ipswich, where Mr. Pickwick got into the wrong room; the Kentish marshes, where Pip in "Great Expectations" had his adventure with the escaped convict; Canterbury, with its memories of Agnes, Uriah Heep, and David Copperfield; Brighton, where Little Paul Dombey wondered what the waves were always saying; Yarmouth Beach, where Little Emily lived, and Steerforth was shipwrecked; Barnard's Inn, Yorkshire, where is the school of Squeers, immortalized by Dickens as Do-the-boys Hall; and, above all, Rochester, which figured so prominently in Dickens' works, from one of the earliest of them, "The Pickwick Papers," down to the latest and unfinished "Edwin Drood." The last words Dickens ever wrote describe a summer morning in that attractive city, and in its old cathedral there is a tablet reared "to connect his memory with those associations of Rochester Cathedral and its neighborhood which extended over all his life." Dickens was, also, greatly interested in the ancient Castle of Rochester, and, invariably, took his American visitors to see it, relating to them, in his eager and enthusiastic way, its history and legends. In one of the streets of Rochester stands the house of Miss Haversham, the eccentric spinster of "Great Expectations"; and in another thoroughfare the tourist sees the famous Bull Hotel, where the members of the Pickwick Club were lodged on their first excursion from London. In fact, lest there should be any doubt about the identity of this inn, the proprietor has displayed upon a sign, placed near the entrance, the words: "Good House: Nice Beds: vide Pickwick." The rest of Dickens' description, however, he is careful not to add; for, as uttered by the loquacious Mr. Jingle, it reads thus: "Stop here? Not I. Dear, very dear. Half a crown in the bill if you look at the waiter. Charge you more if you dine at a friend's than if you dined in the coffee-room. Rum fellows, very." Passing into this hotel, I also saw the room in which the celebrated ball was held; and where the gallery for musicians, called by Dickens "an elevated den," is carefully preserved as a literary landmark of much value. But far more interesting than any spot described by him, in fiction, is the estate of Gad's Hill where Dickens died. It fronts upon the road that leads from Rochester to London, and was appropriately the last and crowning residence of Dickens' life. For, when a mere child, going up to London, he had looked upon this mansion with such admiration that his father said to him, if he worked very hard he might possibly some day come to live in such a house. At last, then, his boyish dream was more than realized; and, famous and beloved throughout the world, he came to make this place his home. Here he wrote most of his later works, in easy access to the world of London, which he prized so highly, yet surrounded by meadows, trees, and flowers, which he loved still more; for always, when he wrote, fresh flowers from his garden or conservatory stood upon his desk.