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of whom claim this privilege prescriptively, independently of the Charters granted to the town.
The Church is a spacious building, with a handsome spire, and a good organ; it is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul; and before the Reformation contained several chapels or chantries. Here are also some places of worship for Dissenters; a Charity School; and a Free Grammar School, in which Bishop Jewel, the poet Gay, and other celebrated persons, received the rudiments of education. From its pleasant situation, and other circumstances, Barnstaple has become the residence of many respectable private families; and its well-conducted Theatre, and frequent Balls and Assemblies, give it something of the air of a minor metropolis. Its weekly Market, which is on Friday, is abundantly supplied; and it has three annual Fairs, which, not being chartered, are called Great Markets.
John Gay was born at or near Barnstaple, in 1688. After receiving his education at the Grammar School of this town, he was apprenticed to a silkmercer in London, but soon left this uncongenial occupation, and devoted himself to literature and thé muses.
In 1712, he became Secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth; but as this office was probably little more than a sinecure, it left him leisure for the pursuit of his poetical inclinations; and, about this time, he published his “Rural Sports,” which he dedicated to Pope, and this incident laid the foundation of a friendship for life between them. “ Trivia,” a pleasant mock-heroic, was produced in 1712; and in 1714, “ The Shepherd's Week,” a col. lection of pastorals, intended to ridicule those of Ambrose Philips* The latter poem recommended him to the notice of Lord Bolingbroke, who gave him the situation of Secretary to the Earl of Clarrendon, Ambassador to Hanover; but this mission being shortly closed by the death of Queen Anne, and the Tory party, by whom he was countenanced, being now in disgrace, Gay was again thrown on the world. The persuasions of those distinguished friends whom his amiable disposition had procured him, induced him to publish his Poems by subscription, and he is said to have gained £1000 by this plan; Craggs, the Secretary of State, also made him a present of some South-Sea stock; and he, at one time, believed himself to be master of £20,000; but these golden dreams were dissipated by the failure of that celebrated bubble, and Gay suffered so much from the disappointment, that his life was for some time despaired of. He, however, recovered, by the tender attention of Pope and other friends, and in 1723, wrote a tragedy called “The Captives,” which he was invited to read before the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Caroline, and the distinguished patroness of literary men*. It was afterwards produced at Drury Lane, as some other dramatic productions of his had before been, and, like them, with but small success. In 1726, he wrote the first volume of his Fables, intended for the instruction of the Duke of Cumberland; and, in the following year, when his patroness became Queen, expected prefer ment' and riches; he was offered a paltry situation in the palace, which he rejected with disdain; but his disappointment was more than compensated by the unexampled success of the Beggar's Opera, which was performed at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, 63 nights successively; this gave great offence to the Court party, and the Lord Chamberlain refused to license a second part of it, called “Polly." This opposition was, however, favourable to Gay, who published it by subscription, and gained £1200; while from the Beggar's Opera he had received no more than £400. He was now received into the house of the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, where he passed the remaining portion of his life, in a state of ease and comfort, exceedingly agreeable to his careless disposition. His tranquillity was, however, interrupted at intervals by the attacks of a distemper to which he had long been subject, and which at last carried him off, in December, 1732, in the 15th year of his age. He was interred in Westminster Abbey, where his memory was honoured with an eloquent and affectionate epitaph by Pope. Beside the pieces already mentioned, he produced the “ What d'ye Call it?" a burlesque drama; “ Acis and Galatea,” a sonata; “ Achilles,” an opera; and some other dramatic pieces: he was also famed as a writer of ballads, and his “ Black-eyed Susan” is still read and listened to with pleasure. As a poet, Gay does not rank very high; he had little of the dignity of genius, but much facility of versification; and if he does not often astonish, he seldom fails to please. As a man, he appears to have been eminently gifted with those agreeable and amiable qualities which beget affection and esteem.
* “ These Pastorals,” says Dr. Johnson, “ became popular, and were read with delight, as just representations of real manners and occupations, by those who had no interest in the rivalry of the poets, nor knowledge of the critical dispute:" i. e. whether this species of composition should be written in imitation of Theocritus and Virgil, giving to British rustics the habits and manners of Italian swains; or whether they should be represented, as they are by Gay, with the rudeness and ignorance of English boors; not reclining beneath trees, and piping to their flocks, but engaged in the “barbarous' business of agriculture; or, in the moments of relaxation, guzzling cider, and cudgelling each other by way of amusement.
*“ When the hour for the reading came,” says Johnson," he saw the Princess and her ladies all in expectation; and adva ng, with re too great for any other attention, stumbled at a stool, and falling forwards, threw down a weighty Japan screen. The Princess started, the Jadies screamed, and poor Gay, after all the disturbance, was still to read his play,"
Tawstock, the noble seat of Sir Bourchier Wrey, is about three miles from Barnstaple, delightfully situated between two verdant eminences, crowned with fine trees, and commanding, from its front, a charming prospect, including the river Taw, which meanders through the valley for a considerable distance. The House is of ancient foundation, but was nearly destroyed by fire in 1786; it was shortly after rebuilt in the Gothic style, and is handsomely fitted up. The Park is of considerable extent, and the grounds are laid out with great taste. The Parish Church is at a short distance; it is a handsome building, and contains many monuments of the Bourchier and Wrey families, who have resided here durings everal centuries, and who derive their descent from the Plantagenets, by the marriage of one of their predecessors with Anne, daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, a son of Edward III.
Bishop's Tawton, near Tavistock, is said, although now a mean village, to have been the original seat of the Bishops in this county, the first two of whom resided here, from 905 to 924, when the episcopal dignity was transferred to Crediton.
BEREALSTON, or BEERALSTON, a hamlet of the parish of Bere Ferris, with about 300 inhabitants,
has the privilege of returning two Members to Parliament, who are nominally elected by the burgageholders, created such by the lord of the mapor, upon payment of threepence each, and disqualified as soon as the farce of election is at an end. The “ Lord's Court," at which the Portreeve and other officers of this independent Borough are annually chosen, is held under a large tree! The inhabitants of this place are chiefly employed in mining, and several lead mines, in which a considerable quantity of silver was formerly found, are worked here.
Bere Ferris, the parish of which Berealston forms a part, possesses nothing remarkable, excepting its Church, which is a neat building, beautifully situated near the river Tavy, and contains several handsome monuments: its population is about 1800, and its distance from London 217 miles.
BERRY POMEROY, a parish about two miles from Totness, with a population of 1255 persons, and an ancient Church, containing some fine monuments, is remarkable only for the
which are situated on a rocky eminence, abore a little brook, and are thus vividly described by Dr. Maton. “ The approach is by a thick wood, extending along the slope of a range of hills that entirely intercept any prospect to the south; on the opposite side is a steep rocky ridge, covered with oak, so that the ruins are shut into a beautiful valley. The great gate, with the walls of the south front, the north wing of the court, or quadrangle, some apartments on the west side, and a turret or two, are the principal remains of the building; and these are so finely overhung with the branches of trees and shrubs, which grow close to the walls, so beautifully mantled with ivy, and so richly incrusted with moss, that they constitute the most picturesque objects that can be imagined: and when the surrounding scenery is taken into the account, the noble mass of wood fronting the gate, the bold ridges rising in the horizon, and the fertile valley opening to the east, the ruins of Berry-Pomeroy Castle must be considered as almost unparalleled in their effect.”
This Castle was founded by one of the family of Pomeroy, who possessed the manor from the Conquest until the reign of Edward VI, when it was sold to the Duke of Somerset, in the possession of whose descendants it still remains. It appears to have been originally of a quadrangular form, with no other entrance than the one above mentioned, and was of great strength, until dismantled in the seventeenth century. Considerable additions were made to the building, at an expense of £20,000, by the Seymours; but, says a writer on this subject, now demolished, and all this glory lieth in the dust, buried in its own ruins; there being nothing standing but a few broken walls, which seem to mourn their own approaching funeral.” The grounds which surround this edifice are beautifully broken and varied, and are covered with fine oaks and other trees. Even within the walls, trees of a large growth and considerable age are found, flourishing amid the ruins, and affording a beautiful contrast to the mouldering walls and crumbling magnificence by which they are surrounded.
BIDEFORD, A large and respectable market-town and sea-port, is situated 201 miles from London, and is built on
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