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Old Halls, Battle Fields,
SCENES ILLUSTRATIVE OF STRIKING PASSAGES
IN ENGLISH HISTORY AND POETRY.
BY WILLIAM HOWITT,
Br 36 18.37 11
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRA
THE BEQUEST OF
PRINTED BY MANNING AND MASON,
IVY LANE, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
There is a passage in De Lamartine's “Pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” which expresses very clearly the nature and object of this work. “I have always loved to wander over the physical scenes inhabited by men I have known, admired, loved, or revered, as well amongst the living as the dead. The country which a great man has inhabited and preferred, during his passage on the earth, has always appeared to me the surest and most speaking relic of himself: a kind of material manifestation of his genius-a mute revelation of a portion of his soula living and sensible commentary on his life, actions, and thoughts. When young, I passed many solitary and contemplative hours, reclined under olive trees which shade the gardens of Horace, in sight of the delightful cascades of the Tiber; and often have I dropped to sleep in the evening, lulled by the noise of the beautiful sea of Naples, under the hanging branches of the vines, near the spot where Virgil wished his ashes to repose, because it was the most delicious site his eyes had ever beheld. How often, at a later period, have I passed mornings and evenings seated at the foot of the beautiful chestnut trees in the little valley of Charmettes, to which the remembrance of Jean Jaques Rousseau attracted me, and where I was retained by sympathy with his impressions, his reveries, his misfortunes, and his genius. And I have been thus attracted with respect to several other authors and great men, whose names and writings were deeply engraven on my memory. I wished to study them; to become acquainted with them on the spot that had given them birth, or that had inspired them; and almost always a scrutinizing glance might discover a secret and profound analogy between the country and the individual who had graced it; between the scene and the actor; between nature and the genius which derived its inspirations therefrom.”
These were exactly my feelings and ideas long before De Lamartine had thus penned them down; and who, indeed, has not experienced, more or less, the same impressions ? We need not visit the distant East to make the discovery; there is no country where the soil is more thickly sown with noble memories than our own, and those of the deeds, the sufferings and the triumphs of our own progenitors. It has long been my opinion that to visit the most remarkable scenes of old English history and manners, and to record the impressions thence derived in their immediate vividness; to restore, as it were, each place and its inhabitants to freshness, and to present them freed from the dust of ages and heaviness of antiquarian rubbish piled upon them, would be a labour responded to with emphasis by readers of the present day. The general approval of the experiment made in “The Rural Life," by introducing visits to Newstead, Annesley, and Hardwicke, and the intimations of great interest in the announcement of this work, received from all quarters, convinced me that I was not mistaken. The field is a wide and a rich one. The present volume may be considered but as a precursor of others on this subject, in which I have long been engaged; and the plan of which will shortly be announced.
I have to present my warmest acknowledgments, not only to many private individuals for valuable hints and information, but also to the possessors of places visited, for the very cordial and liberal manner in which they endeavoured to promote my object.
The illustrations of this volume are all designed and executed by Samuel Williams, except the Title-page Vignette, which was designed by my daughter. The portrait of the Young Shakspeare, it should also be stated, is from an admirable sketch by Mr. Williams, but has been rendered hard, and unequal to the original, in the cutting.
W. H. Esher, Dec. 18th, 1839,