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in the rear, rejoicing in the possession of massive yew hedges, clipped and terraced in the formally decorative manner that so delighted the hearts and eyes of our ancestors, who loved to walk and talk and flirt between walls of living green. In olden days the architect often planned the garden as well as the house; so, as at Haddon Hall, Montacute, and elsewhere, we frequently find the stone terrace forming an architectural feature in the grounds, and immediately beyond this Nature trimmed, tamed, and domesticated with prim walks and trees fantastically cut into strange shapes. And what delightful retreats and pleasant pictures these old formal gardens make: perhaps it would be well if nowadays the architect of the house were employed to design the grounds that it will stand in; but alas! this is not a home-building age, so only rarely is the idea feasible—for does not the modern man generally buy his “desirable residence” ready-made as he does his furniture, fitting into it as best he may ?
Upon inquiry we learnt that this charming oldworld hall with its dreamy garden, so eloquent of the past, had been purchased by the town for a public park. Fortunate people of Spalding! And what a unique and enjoyable little park it will make if it is only left alone and preserved as it is; but if for a passing fad or fashion the landscape gardener is ever let loose thereon, what havoc may be wrought under the cuckoo-cry of improvement! Such old gardens are the growth of centuries; money will not create them in less time, yet, sad to realise, they may be destroyed in a few weeks or days! What
the modern restorer is to an ancient and beautiful church, so is the modern landscape gardener to the quaintly formal old English garden.
The house itself appeared to be deserted and shut up, so that unfortunately we were unable to obtain a glance at its interior. Some portions of the building looked very old, possibly as early as the fifteenth century, especially a large stone-mullioned window, filled—we judged from the exterior viewwith some interesting specimens of ancient heraldic glass, but the other portions were of later date, and signs of nineteenth-century modernising were not wanting. We asked a man we saw if he knew how old the oldest part of the hall was, and he honestly replied that he did not ; " but it be a goodish bit older nor I. You sees they don't register the birth of buildings as they does babies, so it's difficult to find out how old they be.” Then the man chuckled to himself, “You sees I'se a bit of a wit in my way,” but it was just what we did not see; nevertheless we put on a conventional smile just to please him, whereupon, in a confidential whisper, he informed us where we could get “as good a glass of ale as is to be had in all Lincolnshire, if not better, and I don't mind a-showing you the way there and drinking your very good health.” It is rather damping to think how many of our conversations with rural folk have come to a similar ending. “Why," we rejoined in feigned surprise, "you look like a teetotaler; you surely would not be seen drinking beer in a publichouse.” The air of mute astonishment that pervaded his features was a study. “Well, I'm blest!”
he exclaimed, more in a tone of sorrow than of anger, “I've never been taken for that before"and thereupon he turned round and walked hastily away with as much dignity as he could assume. Could it be that we had hurt his feelings by our unfounded imputation, or could he possibly think that we had made such a base insinuation for the mean purpose of saving our twopence? However, we did not feel inclined to call after him, so the incident closed. One does meet with curious characters on the road—a remark I believe that I have made before. Then we again turned our diverted attention to the old house, which pleased us from the indefinable look it had of having seen an eventful and historic past: one generation had done this, another had done that, one had added, another had pulled down ; so at least we read the story in stone.
Next we found our way by accident, not of set purpose, to the spacious parish church, a much altered and enlarged edifice, unless our judgment by appearances was at fault-a cathedral in miniature. Somehow, though manifestly of considerable archæological interest, the fabric did not appeal to us, but this may have been owing to our mood that day. The interior is vast—but we do not worship mere vastness—and has the peculiarity of possessing four aisles; two, instead of the usual one, on each side. An enthusiastic antiquary, whom I afterwards met, declared to me that Spalding church was one of the finest and most interesting in the county, and jokingly remarked in a good-natured way that my not finding it so proved that I was uninteresting. Well, I accept the reproach, and cling to my own opinion! It is strange how one sometimes takes a sudden dislike to a place or building as well as to a person, for no reason that we can possibly assign to ourselves ; and for my own part, favourable or unfavourable, my first impression lasts. It is a clear case of
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell-
Not being interested in the church, we wandered about the large and grass-grown graveyard, and amidst the moss-encrusted and lichen-laden tombstones, in search of any quaint epitaph that Time and man might have spared, for I regret to say that the despoiling hand of religious prudery is answerable for the deliberate destruction of sundry quaint epitaphs. A flagrant case of this came under my notice on a previous journey, when I learnt that the two concluding lines of a tombstone inscription had been purposely erased as being profane. By fortunate chance I was enabled, through a clergyman who had retained a copy of the sinning lines, to rescue them from oblivion ; though, to be perfectly honest, I have to confess that the words of the obliterated lines were given to me for the purpose of justifying their removal! However, looking upon such things, as I ever endeavour to do, in the spirit of the age that dictated them, the condemned lines appeared innocent enough to me; but then, as a certain high church ecclesiastic once told me, in his GRAVEYARD LITERATURE
opinion, when curious old epitaphs were concerned, my charity was "too wide, and covered too many sins." Whether my charity be too wide or not is a matter I do not care to discuss, but my readers may judge for themselves, if they be so minded and care to take the trouble to refer to a former work of mine, Across England in a Dog-cart, page 386.
Our search in the churchyard at Spalding for any curious epitaphs was unrewarded by any “finds”; we discovered nothing but dreary commonplaces. Graveyard literature is becoming — has become, rather should I say — very proper, very same, yet very sad. Somehow those quaint old-time inscriptions appeal to me; when I read them I seem to understand what manner of man lies sleeping below; they bring the dead to life again, and rescue forgotten traits from total oblivion. It seems to us now strange that our ancestors should have treated death in this lighter strain, though perhaps not stranger than some of the coarse jokes in carvings that the presumably devout monkish medieval sculptor introduced into the churches of the period. Each age sees things from its own standpoint, and I am inclined to think that we take both life and death more seriously than our ancestors :
Each century somewhat new
Is felt and thought of death—the problem strange
With newer knowledge seems to change,
Dim past the centuries that sleep,
We gaze at Death with saddest eyes.