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ties were recruiting at Nottingham. We were in the practice of coursing, shooting, hunting or fishing almost every day during the proper 'seasons; but I was so much attached to reading, that, unless my presence was particularly required, I very often declined the amusements of the field.
There was an old gentleman, the Rev. Mr. Syms, the rector or vicar of the neighbouring parish, at whose house I was always cordially received. This well suited my taste : he had a good library of his own, to which I had always access and was also a subscriber to a book club in Nottingham: so that I had the pleasure of seeing both old and new books, as well as several reviews, magazines, &c. I had imbibed early in life, 50 early that I cannot say how, or when I received it, a taste of a romantic kind;-a passion, perhaps common amongst young men whose minds are somewhat ardent, or in any degree enterprisirg. I had conceived a desire of notice, of notoriety of some kind or other. If not talented, so as to be capable of obtaining legitimate and genuine notoriety, I fancied that something of an adventurous or perilous nature, might supply the deficiency. The words of Otway were grating on the hinges of my imagination, when he exclaims thus
Sooner than that (thought I to myself) I will creep to the top of Saint Paul's and jump headlong to the ground ! This was the very tip-top of romance ! or romance on tip-toe! but a second consideration told me that this would not do ! I should be thought mad, and the fame of being a mad-man did not suit my taste. My second idea was this; I asked myself, can I contrive a method of jumping upwards instead of downwards? If I can accomplish this, my fame and fortune are secured for ever. Alas! I have been contriving ever since and am less likely to jump up than ever. But jumping is now out of the question. During the first months I spent at Normanton, I was much thrown into the company of ladies, who improved my manners and took from me a certain timidity, for which I was remarkable. · About this time, too, I indulged, without restraint, in the pleasing dreams of romance, and devoted my thoughts to the contemplation of those visionary fabrics which the inspired fancies of our poets and novelists had reared; or to those, scarcely less wonderful, to which my own busy imagination had given birth. Succeeding years have not wholly damped this active faculty, and even now, I am doubtful, whether indeed it be more advantageous or prejudicial to its possessor.
That it can and does bestow much intense pleasure, none who have ever tasted its sweets can deny. On the one hand, it is too apt, by contrasting them with its own gorgeous scenery, to make the less brilliant realities of earth, seem almost unworthy of us. What skies so bright-what meadows so green-what streamlet so crystal-like-what fountain so cool-- what hill so highwhat glen so wild—what wood so magnificent-but are surpassed, yes, infinitely, by the skies, the meads, the streamlets, the fountains, the hills, the glens, and the woods which imagination summons before the mind's eye, when reason and reality are subjected to her sway. Then again, so pleasing is this faculty, those gifted with it are induced to indulge so freely in its banquets, as to abstract them from the more necessary but less exalted occupations of life. But, upon the whole, I am inclined to think that its advantages more than counterbalance its evils: As a never-failing source of happiness, it is, perhaps, the most lavish that earth supplies, and, where its treasures are not expended too extravagantly, it affords, I believe, a fund which in sickness, in sorrow, and in adversity, when the whole material world can offer no consolation and fortune averts her face from us with a frown :--it affords (I am confident for I have found it so), a generous relief from the weight of present care, and transports the sufferer from the rude scenes around him, to a bright and beautiful place that is unreal and unsubstantial, indeed, but to him as grateful as if it were truly all that it appears and its loveliness other than “the baseless fabric of a vision.”
Indulging as I did without restraint in this fascinating faculty, a visit to the much renowned Forest of Sherwood, it may be supposed, was to me the source of great delight. I could not but recal the romantic stories that had first awakened my childish wonders; and, as I gazed on its majestic avenues of huge oaks, I almost believed that I beheld the forms of those ballad heroes going to and fro, and flitting from one dark covert to another. “Here” said I “ may Robin Hood have many a time reposed or caroused with his merry men. Perhaps this old decayed trunk has felt his arrow's point or witnessed one of his lawless struggles for plunder or the dying agonies of a forest deer expiring beneath his unerring shaft.” Then, as my fancy warmed, I thought I heard the bugle notes swelling upon the wind, and the loud shrill whistle that told the startled traveller by what a foe he was beset. The freebooter himself would seem to stalk before me in his green robes ;-his quivered followers, Little John and Allen-a-dale, methought, would glide down the green alleys and vanish among the dark foliage of a tree whose arms almost leaned upon the earth-while the twang of the bow and the hissing of the shaft seemed to startle the echoes of the wood. I envied the free and happy foresters. Like a true romancer, I made a Paradise of those things that were unattainable and believed that real happiness was only to be found in the freedom of an inaccessible forest, or the unrestrained exercise of a will that could ill brook control. Such were my dreams in the forest of Sherwood. I recal them now because I recollect the intense pleasure with which they were attended at the moment, and, if I dwell on the most pleasant reminiscences of my existence they at least will excuse it who know how much more some minds are inclined to recal the images of past pleasure than of past pain.
But a romance of another kind soon after this occupied my attention. I had perused over and over again with renewed delight, a little work, composed by a great hero, Sir Thomas Perkins, baronet, who resided at Bunny, a village on the road betwixt Nottingham and Loughborough. This eccentric man was re
markable for his extreme fondness for wrestling, nay, he had actually published a volume on the subject, Such was his ardour for this sport, that he left by Will a certain sum of money to be annually wrestled for at Bunny Park, or its neighbourhood, and also, a prize for Bell-ringing which is still continued.
I once was present, when a boy, at one of these annual wrestlings !-I was roused into this sort of heroism by the florid descriptions often given me by an old man who had lived several years in our family; one Joseph Franks, who, in his youthful days, had won this glorious prize! and he ever afterwards wore round his waist the token of victory– the badge of honor-a strong leathern belt which was always given with the prize. Joseph and his son Thomas were ever boasting of this feat of valor---this test of manhood, strength and agility. For Thomas was also a hero in expectancy; and anxiously looked forward to the day when he should entitle hinself to similar honors, by laying some aspiring competitor on his back and at his feet. Such rustic sports were universal in earlier days. It will be recollected that Shakspeare has introduced a wrestling match in his play of “As you like it !” and indeed other things of the kind were conimon in several of these midland counties, therefore it is probable that Shakspeare who was a native of Warwickshire thus took the hint, and carried over the example to the Forest of Arden. But as he himself has observed, breaking of bones is strange sport for ladies. However there is no accounting for tastes ! I will not find fault with any of our rural amusements ! they are the inheritance of the people.