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long illness and a great sorrow, that I could not muster courage to encounter the imaginary dangers of the Box Tunnel, I returned, in the course of a few weeks, so completely restored in mind and body, that when, in the very midst of that same tunnel, the ghost of my departed fear met me in the shape of a story (a .story with variations) of the foolish lady who had been so exquisitely silly as to hire a fly to escape from the peril, my fellow-travellers really refused to believe that the person who laughed so heartily at her past folly could possibly have been the real heroine of the legend. So that I suspect I left two traditions behind me in the Box Tunnel, first as a simpleton, then as
an im. postor.
A place of interesting associations is Bath. The dear friend, whom I principally went to see—one of a privileged few, who carry the lively spirit, the ready indulgence, the quick intelligence of youth, into wise and honoured age, might herself almost pass for one of its recollections. She took me to see the house, where, fifty years before, Madame de Genlis had lived, when sent to England, at the very beginning of the Revolution, with Mademoiselle d'Orleans; and described the looks and manners of the quiet, steady pupil, and the flighty governess, as if it had been yesterday. She walked with me through the street where Mrs. Thrale had shone
forth in both her phases—the hostess and friend of Dr. Johnson, and Piozzi's slandered, defiant, but not unhappy wife. Miss Burney never depicted her better. And Miss Burney herself she showed forth nearly as well as that clever, conceited, prim, affected, die-away little authoress, who never for one moment (unlucky body!) could forget that she was an authoress—ay, and the authoress of « Cecilia” too, has shown herself to all posterity in that looking-glass, her“ Diary.” Then she went through all the past dynasties of the dramaKembles, Linleys, Ellistons; and last of all she took me to Bathford, to gaze upon Gainsborough's admirable portrait of Quin, which looks just as if he was preparing to sit down to a John Dory.
A place full of associations is Bath. When we had fairly done with the real people, there were great fictions to fall back upon; and I am not sure, true and living human beings as Horace Walpole and Madame d'Arblay have shown themselves in their letters and journals—full of that great characteristic of our human nature, inconsistency, of strength and weakness, of wisdom and folly, of virtues and faults; I am not sure, eminently human as these worthies shine forth in their writings, that those who never lived except in the writings of other people—the heroes and heroines of Miss
Austen, for example-are not the more real of the two. Her exquisite story of “Persuasion” absolutely haunted me. Whenever it rained (and it did rain every day that I staid at Bath, except one), I thought of Anne Elliott meeting Captain Wentworth, when driven by a shower to take refuge in a shoe-shop. Whenever I got out of breath in climbing up-hill (which, considering that one dear friend lived in Lansdown Crescent, and another on Beechen Cliff, happened also pretty often), I thought of that same charming Anne Elliott, and of that ascent from the lower town to the upper, during which all her tribulations ceased. And when at last, by dint of trotting up one street and down another, I incurred the unromantic calamity of a blister on the heel, even that grievance became classical by the recollection of the similar catastrophe, which, in consequence of her peregrinations with the Admiral, had befallen dear Mrs. Croft. I doubt if any one, even Scott himself, have left such
perfect impressions of character and place as Jane Austen,
Besides those pleasures of memory, Bath, eight years ago, was not wanting in living illustrations. Poor Miss Pickering, so fertile as a novelist, so excellent as a woman; my friend, Miss Waddington, an elegant authoress, who charmed the languors of illness by the creations of fancy; Mr. Reade, also
my friend, whose poem of “Italy” is so full of classical grace; Mr. Beckford, original in every act and word, whose “Vathek” was as strange a work as his “ Tower on Lansdown," and whose fine place at Fonthill should never have been built, or never have been destroyed ; last and best, Mr. Landor, of whom, with his vivacity, his vigour, and fertility of thought, it was difficult to believe that his first work was published in the last century, and who had gathered together, in a narrow room, specimens of art—"little bits," as he called them, which might put to shame far larger collections. It was impossible not to admire; but it was dangerous to praise in that room; for the proprietor had a trick of bestowing, which caught one so unawares, that one could hardly express the gratitude for the surprise : it was felt though, however ill-spoken. He gave me a small picture, by Wright, of Derby—a night view of Vesuvius, in which the two lights, the moon and the volcano, are shining down upon
as brightly and as distinctly as they could have done in his own
These were the literary names of Bath; and there was a living artist too — Mr. Barker -- an interesting old man, who had, with an artist's improvidence, devoted years of labour to a fine, but immovable fresco-the taking of a Greek island by the Turks -painted on the walls of his own house. The
talent has proved hereditary. I saw there a sketch by his son, of the Death of the Duke of Orleans ; a mere sketch, but one in which the homeliness and evident truth of the accessories added much to the pathos of the scene. I do not remember in art a more touching rendering of family grief; it struck the heart like a cry.
The neighbourhood of Bath is still more beautiful than the city. Even the suburbs, where tree and garden, hill and valley, railway and river, mingle so picturesquely with the rich tint of the stone of which the houses are built, and the striking architectural forms; and where pretty old churches and churchyards, rich in yew and lime, seem to unite town and country. Of the surrounding villages, Batheaston was memorable for the blue-stocking vagaries of a certain Lady Miller, a Somersetshire Clemence Isaure, who some seventy years ago offered prizes for the best verses thrown into an antique vase; the prize consisting, not of a golden violet, but of a wreath of laurel; and the whole affair producing, as was to be expected, a great deal more ridicule than poetry. Claverton, another pretty village, was celebrated for a travestie of a diffrent order—the curious book called “ The Spiritual Quixote," written by Mr. Graves; and Weston, prettiest of all, is the delight and resort of poets, if not their residence.