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“ This is some priory; — In, or we are spoil’d."
SHAKSPEARE: Com. of Errors.
We have said that Mordaunt's retreat was the remains of an old religious house. It was called Saint Julian's, and situated in the Vale of Llangollen, in North Wales, whose romantic character is too well known to need description. Here he had been born, and during the great part of his early youth, at least in the vacations from school or college, he had passed much of his time with his uncle, and, from various pleasing reminiscences of study and sport, as well as of some of the neighbouring inhabitants, although it was many years since he had visited it from his uncle having removed to town, he had always thought of it with unabated interest. My knowledge of this made me the more impatiently wait the performance of a promise he had given, to inform me faithfully of all the impressions made upon him by this important change. Yet, I confess, my expectation was not sanguine; and, in truth, I thought that, like many others of the same nature, the plan would be a failure. I had the fate of Cowley himself before my eyes; and, though not so real, yet of those fully as instructive
personages, Euphanor* and Coluinella †, all of whom had joyfully left busy society for what they expected would be happy hermitages, but which proved any thing but a refuge from the evils which they imagined had tormented them.
It was full a month before his expected communication came; and though the interest which it expressed argued tolerably for his success in his experiment, yet, as it was only the commencement of it, allowing for the effects of a new pursuit, I felt doubtful what to decide, and I therefore think it best to let the reader judge for himself.
* See an admirable paper on the disappointments of retirement, No. 37. in the “ Mirror,” by Mr. Craig.
† Or the “Distressed Anchorite;" the clever and interesting old novel of the Rev. Richard Graves.
THE LETTER OF MORDAUNT.
“ Hail, old patrician trees ! so great and good!
Where the poetic birds rejoice,
." ALTHOUGH, spite of the deference which was prompted by your arguments, I did not yield to their efficacy, I assure you they occupied me during the whole of my long and solitary journey. Let me tell you, too, you had no mean ally in the gloomy weather that accompanied me all the way. Had there been sun, I should perhaps not have attended with half the respect I did to your representations. Nor was my arrival at St. Julian's at all more propitious. For though it was twenty years since I had been in the neighbourhood, yet knowing the way of old, I proceeded on a hired horse from Llangollen, to reconnoitre my new domain, totally uncertain of its state, and how far it would assist me in my vision of retreat.
“When I arrived, I found the house the palace of silence, and much dismantled on the outside, though there seemed a promise of a fair habitation within ; and had not the weather enlisted, as I said, on your side,
I might have felt gayer than I own I did. In fact, it is that sort of rambling old house which shocks a modern architect; nor do I say, if I were to build a new one, I would exactly copy such a model, built when labour and materials were cheap. But there is much independence and convenience in these fabrics which new ones want. The Priory, I remembered, had at least seven or eight staircases (some of them taking you to single rooms), and long passages that led to nothing; yet I never thought the indoor space too large, and I particularly enjoyed a gallery (if its narrowness deserved so dignified a name), for the ample space its length gave me for walking exercise, so necessary to the hard student I then was, in the intervals of reading or meditation. Immense casements also suited my taste for domestic objects, for they all looked upon a sunny orchard, which, when in bloom, as I expected it now to be, was superb. It was surrounded by a crenated wall of old stone, so much disjointed with age, that the ivy alone, with which it was covered, kept it from falling. But what had delighted me most, young as I was, in the room I inhabited, was to sit at its window in reverie, watching a flock of pigeons, or tame doves, which coursed gaily, in a thousand rings, round the ancient dovecote that rose at a distance; and beyond, near enough to delight one who, like myself, loved their hoarse music, and too far off to be in the least annoying, there lay scattered a rookery as old as the Conquest. These sights and sounds, I recollected, had turned the room into a palace of dreams, which I never failed to enjoy,
and made me a moral and natural philosopher, though a lazy one, for I never stirred from my armchair. How often had I, when looking from that sunny window upon the outdoor scene, though then but twenty years old, and proprietor only in expectancy, exclaimed, with Alexander Selkirk,
• I am monarch of all I survey;' Or, with that other Alexander, Iden,
• This small inheritance my father left me
Contenteth me, and 's worth a monarchy.' Has the world, for being known, altered these sentiments? You know the answer.
"Well, though I arrived in the rain, my heart beat high with these reminiscences; yet I own the wet morning, and the moaning of the wind, rendered still more melancholy by the total abandonment which appeared, at least without, gave me a sort of gloom which I did not like. It took me full a quarter of an hour to make myself heard, when there appeared an old menial, who, to my London eyes, by no means made the locale of which she was the guardian appear more comfortable. She unlocked the gates of a courtyard, which I had known gay and peopled, but which was now empty and overrun with docks and nettles; and though there was a large dog-kennel, where once dwelt a noble and great favourite of mine, the chain alone remained, with no animal attached to it. It is remarkable how much these circumstances touched me; and you may be sure I inquired of my Sibyl after my four-footed friend, and found he had died the year my uncle left the place; and, as the old lady added, “it was