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Peak Scenery, or Excursions in Derbyshire: made chiefly for the purpose of
Picturesque Observations. Illustrated with engravings by Messrs. W. B. and Geo. Cooke, from drawings made by F. L. Chantrey, Esq. Sculptor, R. A. Dedicated, by permission, to His Grace the Duke of Devonshire. by E. Rhodes. Part I. 4to. £1. 14s. Longman and Co.
London. 1818. WORKS of travellers and tourists, when written with taste and judgment, possess a jast claim to be ranked amongst the most useful, as they are certainly the most interesting publications that issue from the press. The description of country alone, unconnected with the bistory of life and manners, not only pleases, when it gives a true and correct picture of beautiful or sublime scenery, but improves the mind by bringing it more intimately acquainted with the various and extensive works of creation and enlarging its ideas of the power and beneficence of the Creator. When to this description, is added the local history of some of the more interesting places through which the tourist or traveller passes, a new source of amusement and knowledge is opened. The book of life as well as that of nature then unfolds to our view its instructive pages, and we have an opportunity of learning valuable lessons which may continue to be of real benefit to us to the end of our days.
With this impression in favour of works of this description, we lately sat down to read the publication now before us, and we will give those of our readers who may not yet have seen it some idea of the plan and merits of this production.
The plan of these Excursions is not the circumscribed plan of the topographer, who, from the nature of his employment as his very name denotes, is compelled to notice every place, however uninteresting and insignificant, in the country or county which he professes to describe : but the more free and unconfined plan of the tourist who passes over, in his rambles, those places which have nothing in their external appearance or local bistory to recommend them to the attention, and dwells only on those scenes which are interestiug or captivating. The author has himself given a correct accoant of his plan in the introduction to his work-in the following words:
“From the preceding remarks it will appear that no regular topographical account of any part of Derbyshire is intended in the following pages; therefore, the author trusts he shall not be censured for not accomplishing what was never in his contemplation. He has selected his own plan and he has chosen that which not only leaves him free and unshackled in his operations but gives him an uncontrouled dominion over every object that may be presented to his observation. The topographer is circumscribed in his proceeding and restrained in all his movements. He must necessarily travel over all the ground his design embraces, however dull and uninteresting it may prove the tourist has higher privileges and a happier avocation ; like a bird upon the wing, he explores a wide horizon, flits over all that is uninviting and rests only on pleasant objects.”
But the plan of this work is not more interesting than the execution is elegant. It is illuminated with engravings done in the first style, by Messrs. Cooke from drawings by Chantrey, and of these there are eight in the first part which is just published: we need scarcely observe that they give an additional interest to the work and serve to impress more strong!y on the mind of the reader the scenes which are described by the writer. But plates, however beautiful, are not the chief recommendation of this work. The descriptions of the writer equal the drawings of the artist, and the picture of the one
affords not a truer copy of nature than the page of the other. The pen of Mr. Rhodes, like the pencil of Mr. Chantrey delineates rural scenes with a felicity which has been seldom attained even by the best writers, and his composition is at once distinguished by taste, judgment and feeling. The scenes he is describing seem to produce on his mind a momentary inspiration which suggests to him those happy expressions that are best calculated to convey to the reader a correct idea of them. He also freqnently throws over his descriptions the colours of a rich and beautiful imagination which, like those of the painter, produce a lively and vivid image of the objects or places be wishes to represent: and if the drawing of the artist be a copy, the description of this writer may be justly entitled a reflection, for his page resembles a broad and lacid lake, on the surface of which the scenes that surround it appear with greater harmony of tint and softness of colour. If so bold an expression might be allowed, we might indeed say that in his page mountains tower, rocks frown, woods wave, and rivers meander with all that grace and sublimity which they possess in the field of nature.
But it is time to adduce some specimens of this anthor's style: we shall therefore gratify our readers by a few quotations from “The Excursions in Derbyshire.” The first passage we shall extract contains a general character and description of the features that compose Derbyshire scenery.
“Travellers accustomed to well wooded and highly cultivated scenes only, have frequently expressed a feeling bordering on disgust, at the bleak and barren appearance of the mountains in the Peak of Derbyshire ; but to the man whose taste is onsophisticated by a fondness for artificial adornments, they possess superior interest, and impart more pleasing sensations. Remotely seen, they are often beautiful; many of their forms, even when near, are decidedly good ; and in distance the features of rudeness, by which they are occasionally marked, are softened down into general and sometimes harmonious masses. The graceful and long continued outline which they present, the breadth of light and shadow that spreads over their extended surfaces, and the de. lightful colouring with which they are often invested, never fail to attract the attention of the Picturesque Traveller. But there are persons, who, unfortunately for them. selves, cannot easily be pleased with what they see, and who, like Smelfungus, “travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry,-'tis all barren.”
“ Nature is not only exceedingly arbitrary, but even capricious in the distribution of her treasures. She does not generally arrange the materials that constitute her wildest scenes in strict conformity to the rules and principles of taste. The pictures she presents are not often harmoniously composed; but here the sloping mountains, turretted with grey projecting rock, not only entertain the eye with romantic forms, but they frequently present very pleasing combinations.
“ It may here be observed that picturesque beauty is not necessarily confined to aby peculiar species of landscape : it belongs not exclusively either to a flat or a billy coud. try. The happy intervention of light and shadow may atone for the absence of variety of form; and impart this delightful quality to scenes and objects apparently at variance with those acknowledged principles on which it is understood to depend: hence it may be found, not only amongst the dales of Derbyshire, but in the level counties of Leicester and Lincoln, where the sight, uninterrupted by hills, freely expatiates an extensive range of well cultivated country. It is refresbing to the spirits, and gra
tifying to the eye, to wander over ground like this, where no objects intervene to distarb that calm sublimity of feeling, produced by contemplatiug an expanse of prospeet, terminating only with the limited powers of buman vision; and where que prevailing tone of colour, broad and bold in the foreground, barmoniously unites an infinity of detail, tbat gradually softens into the blue mists of distance, and imperceptibly melts into the horizon. “ The gratification derived from beholding a landscape of this description, is ne
nearly allied to the ineffable feeling, awakened and cherished by a view of the ocean, onder a clear sky, and onruffled by a breeze ; when the mind, moving over a world of mighty waters, is sensibly impressed with the grandeur arising from a “long continuation of the same idea," and when contemplating immensity above, beneath, and aroand, it be comes expanded and sublimed to the loftiest pitch of human feeling."
The description of Abbey-Dale, as it was seen by the writer of these excursions and his fair companion, under the influence of an autumnal suo, at the break of day, may be added to the foregoing extract as a charming example of hie descriptive style.
“ The hills in the vicinity of Beauchief are singularly graceful in form, and the long line of luxuriant wood with which they are adorned gives them an air of grandeur. It was a calm autumnal morning as we passed through Abbey-Dale. The sun had just ascended above the borizon; his slant lines of light played through the leafy branches of the woody acclivity on the left, and illuminated the tops of the trees; the smoke, 7 from the cottage chimnies on the side of the hill, slowly curling from out the surroundsing foliage, enlivened the landscape with a beavtiful incident. The whole was a delightful morning picture; every feeling acknowledged its influence, and paid an involuntary tribute to the sweet scenery of Abbey-Dale. A thin misty veil, exquisitely soft and tender, was thrown over the principal part of the scene ; the surrounding ojects, enveloped in the haziness that prevailed, were blended harmonioósly together, and they assumed a magnitude, from the medium through which they were beheld, that strongly evinced bow nearly allied obscurity is to grandeur. Shortly, the sun sbone out in all its splendour, the mists disappeared, and the charm dissolved. Its existence, though lovely, was brief and fugitive. A new picture succeeded, extremely unlike the one which had passed away: every object it contained was clearly defined : fresh in colour
ing, and glowing with light, it came upon the eye like an island slowly emerging from w a dea of vapoar, and gradually unfolding its rich variety of parts."
The description of situation and scenery is frequently followed in this interesting work by general reflections, suggested by and connected with them, which are written in the true spirit of philosophy and poetry. Of such is the following:
“Motion, amidst the eternal repose of fixed objects in nature, is always pleasing to the eye, and frequently exhilarating to the mind. The course of clouds, changing place, and shape, and colour continually; and flight of birds, wbether suddenly startled from the bushes, sailing loftily and slowly in the air, or darting to and fro near the earth;
the visible lapse of waters in the variable bed of a river; the flattering of the foliage of . będge-row trees, or the verdapt undulations of a sea of wood tossing in the gale and
shifting its lights and shadows in the sun; the revolutions of a water-wheel or a wind-13 mill; the alternate glimpse and disappearance of carriages on an interrupted line of
road ; the progress of solitary passengers seen here and there in contrary directions; the rambling of apimals, berds on the mountains, sheep on their walks ;~ all these various
forms of motion, if sach they may be called, either present life, or resemble it, and excite peculiar feelings of sympathy, curiosity, and pleasure.”
The most interesting chapter of these excursions is perhaps that on the little village of Eyam, which contains an important portion of its local history at the time it was visited by the plague in 1666. The account of the good Mompesson who beld the living of Eyam at this time, and by his disinterested exertions prevented the contagion from spreading in the surrounding country, is one of the most interesting pieces of biography we have lately read. From this account we extract the following description of the faithful and affectionate pastor, in the act of administering to his little flock, under their heavy affliction, the consolations of religion from the rocky eminence of Cucklet Church.
“ When we figure to ourselves this admirable man surrounded by his parishioners under circumstances so awfully impressive; preaching to them as it were in a wilderness, from the point of a projecting rock; imparting to them the consolations of heaven at a time when such consolations were peculiarly needful, and inspiring them with fortitude in the hour of danger and of dread; is it possible to conceive a picture more truly sublime ? Paul preaching at Athens, or John the Baptist in the wilderness, scarcely excites a more powerful and solemn interest than this minister of God, this “ legate of the skies,” when contemplated on this trying and momentous occasion, " when he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed.”
From the whole of these quotations, which have been selected without study, and to which many of equal or superior excellence might bave been added, our readers cannot but form a very favourable opinon of the Excursions in Derbysbire: the work is indeed a highly finished production, well worthy the perusal of all the admirers of interesting scenery, accurate and glowing descriptions, and elegant plates.
Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great-Britain, during the years 1810 and 1811, by Louis Simond.
[Continued from page 324.] During his stay in the metropolis, Mr. Simond appears to have visited every thing worthy of notice, and he describes the impressions he received from what he saw with considerable candour and impartiality. He carries with bim his characteristic humour, from the height of grave and venerable absurdity to objects which are really whimsical and ridiculous; passing from “grave to gay,” he always finds something by which to amuse and entertain his reader. If his description of the general routine of business in the House of Commons be not of that cast to make us smile, we shall find in his compa. rative estimate of the eloquence of four great ornaments of the British senate, Windham, Fox, Burke, and Pitt, what will excite a higber feeling :
“Mr. Windham is nearly the last survivor of a certain class of statesmen who have adorned the British senate during this reigo. Fox, Burke, and Pitt, were men of talents and characters totally different from each other; and Mr. Windham, one of the great luminaries of this bright constellation, is different from the other three. They however all began,or were, for some early part of their political life, in the opposition; they were more or less reformers. Two of them aimed at giving to Parliament a more popular base, and more purely representative ; none, however, acted upon principles when in power; and all, with the exception of Mr. Fox, renounced the faith
of their youth openly. I am inclined not to think favourably either of a young man, who has little ardour for what is called liberty, or of a man of maturer age, who has much of it ; but Mr. Pitt seems to have changed before the requisite age. The dreadful results of the French struggle for liberty, which Mr. Burke's imagination, at least as much as his wisdom, anticipated, carried him to the opposite extreme; and, towards the end of his life, he seemed to see no safety for mankind, but in absolute power. Had he lived to this day, he would have found that the patriotic French were much of the same mind with him; but this spoiled child of genius, cobstant to his antipathies alone, would probably have fled to liberty back again, as the regicides receded from it. Mr. Fox had the merit of consistency; he always was a friend of temperate liberty; opposed constantly the encroachments of ministerial power; always was a good whig. He seems to me, þowever, to have thought too well of the French revolution, and to have feared too little its influence in England, as his opponent, Pitt, feared it too much, or feigned to fear it. During the short duration of Fox's power, be did little for what he deemed liberty; and seemed as little disposed as his predecessors to sacrifice to peace, after declaiming so long against war. It might indeed be want of power rather than of sincerity. His eloquance appears to have been the genuine English eloquence; simple, direct, and vigorous, rather than subtle and ornamented. In the heat of debate, his voice was apt to become sharp and disagreeable. It is strange, that, knowing so well how to speak, this great man did not write better. The fragment of history published after his death is remarkable for a sort of laborious simplicity; and its morality seems liberal to laxity. I was surprised to find that his diplomatic correspondence with M. Talleyrand was not written in very good French.
“ Pitt, the reverse of Fox in every thing, had more art and logic, a choice of expressions never equalled, and the most poignant irony, without the persuasive eloquence of his great opponent. Burke was all imagination; but, judging particularly from what he wrote on the French revolution, an ungovernable imagination, the liveliness and exuberance of which might dazzle and delight, but proved little, and did not convince. His learning and wit gave his conversation a peculiar charm; yet, at a certain period of bis parliamentary life, it was observed, that the benches of the House became empty whenever be spoke, and he was called from that circumstance the dinner-bell. Possibly the delight attending the exercise of imagination and wit, is greater and more lasting for the actor, than for those acted upon.
“Mr. Windham is less unlike Burke than either of the others, with a simpler style of eloquence, and an imagination more under command ; his ideas, however, appear full as eccentric, and more paradoxical. He likes to cut his way through the opinions and principles of the rest of the world, provided they are modern opinions and principles, – for his innovations consist in changing nothing, and his originality in doing what was always done. He whose object is only resistance, may indeed attain it equally, whether he swims faster than the stream, or stands against it, and lets it pass by him. The following bon mot is given to Mr. Sheridan:—The generality of men, said he, see only two sides to a question, but Mr. Windham çontrives to find always a third, and tben pairs off with himself.”
Mr. S. takes a very extensive view of the British constitution, and the various grand political questions by which the kingdom was agitated during his residence in London. The imprisonment of Sir Francis Burdett in the Tower, the Right of Resistance, &c, &c. all receive their due meed of attention.