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Title: Lynton and Lynmouth - A Pageant of Cliff & Moorland
Author: Presland, John, Widgery, F. J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lynton and Lynmouth - A Pageant of Cliff & Moorland" ***

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[Frontispiece: Lee Bay]



LYNTON AND LYNMOUTH

A PAGEANT OF CLIFF & MOORLAND


BY

JOHN PRESLAND



ILLUSTRATED BY

F. J. WIDGERY



LONDON

CHATTO & WINDUS

MCMXVII



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

    I. DEVONSHIRE
   II. SOME LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS
  III. BARNSTAPLE
   IV. LYNTON
    V. LYNTON (_continued_), COUNTISBERRY, AND NORTHWARD
   VI. PORLOCK AND EXMOOR
  VII. IN SOMERSET
 VIII. LUNDY
   IX. THE LAST STRONGHOLDS OF TRADITION



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


LEE BAY . . . . . . . . . . . . _frontispiece_

BOSSINGTON HILL

DUNKERY BEACON

THE DOONE VALLEY

WOODY BAY AND DUTY POINT, WEST LYNTON

THE SHEPHERD'S COTTAGE: DOONE VALLEY

LYNMOUTH BAY AND FORELAND

THE VALLEY OF ROCKS

HEDDON'S MOUTH, NEAR LYNTON

CASTLE ROCK, LYNTON

DUTY POINT

THE MOORS NEAR BRENDON TWO GATES

HARVEST MOON, EXMOOR

THE DOONE VALLEY IN WINTER

LYNTON: THE DEVIL'S CHEESERING

DUNKERY BEACON FROM HORNER WOODS



LYNTON AND LYNMOUTH


CHAPTER I

DEVONSHIRE

The original Celtic name for Devonshire, the name used by the Britons
whom Caesar found here when he landed, was probably "Dyfnaint," for a
Latinized form of it, "Dumnonia" or "Damnonia," was used by Diodorus
Siculus when writing of the province of Devon and Cornwall in the third
century A.D.  So that the name by which the men of Devon call their
country is the name by which those ancient men called it who erected
the stone menhirs on Dartmoor, and built the great earth-camp of
Clovelly Dykes, or the smaller bold stronghold of Countisbury.  At
least, conjecturally this is so, and it is pleasant to believe it, for
it links the Devon of our own day, the Devon of rich valleys and windy
moors, the land of streams and orchards, of bleak, magnificent cliff
and rock-guarded bay, of shaded combe and suave, fair villages, in an
unbroken tradition of name and habitation with the men of that silent
and vanished race.

Up and down the length of England, from the Land's End to the
Northumbrian dales, lie the traces of these far-off peoples whose very
names are faint guesses preserved only in the traditions of local
speech.  Strangely and suddenly we come upon the evidence of their life
and death: here a circle of stones on a barren moor or bleak hilltop,
there a handful of potsherds or a flint arrowhead; sometimes, indeed,
though rarely, the bones of their very bodies, laid aside in
earth-barrows or stone coffins for this unknown length of years.  And
there the most unreflective among us feels a sudden awe and wonder at
the momentary vision of the profound antiquity of this land in which we
live, and for a few moments all desires and aims seem futile in face of
this immemorial past.

Only for a few moments, though, and then we step from the "Druid
Circle," or turn away from the barrow, and the current of our everyday
life takes us up once more.

Myself, I agree with Westcote.  Westcote is a charming old gentleman of
King James the First's time, who wrote a book called "A View of
Devonshire in 1630."  In Chapter I he discusses the ancient name of
Devonshire much as I have done, but because in the seventeenth century
you must have a Latin or a Greek at your elbow to give you
respectability as a writer, he brings forward a formidable array of
authorities--Ptolemaeus, Solinus Pylyhistor, and Diodorus Siculus.
But, having had them make their bow before the reader, he remarks that
all these gentlemen lived "far remoted" from Devonshire, and were
therefore liable to error in the transmission of names; "for, in my
opinion," says he, "those that declare the first names of strange
countries far remoted are as the poor which wear their garments all
bepatched and pieced, whereof the pieces that are added are much more
in quantity of cloth than the garment before, when it was first made."

As an example of this error he instances the name of Peru.  "When the
Spaniards had conquered Mexico, and were purposing to proceed farther,
their commander, in his manner, demanded of one of the natives he met
withal what the country was named, who answered, 'Peru,' by which name
it is known unto this day, which in his language was, 'I know not what
you say.'"

Even more fantastic is the etymological origin of Andaluzia, for the
poor countryman of this story, when addressed by the conquering Moor,
merely remarked surlily to his ass, "gee-up Luzia!" or, in his own
tongue, "Ando Luzia!" which was taken by the Moor in remarkable good
faith, and has ever after been the name of that province.

Westcote himself inclines to the origin De (or Di) Avon, "the country
of waters," "diu" being the Celtic for God, and "avon" the word for
river (which it certainly is), and the whole name agreeing with the
character of the country, which is a land of many waters, both great
rivers and small streams.  But he goes on to observe tolerantly that
each man may think as he chooses, even to deriving the word Devonshire
from Dane-shire, the shire of the Danes, though it is known to have had
its name before ever the first Dane landed in England, and there seems
to be little likelihood, therefore, but only "a sympathie in letters."
He concludes his discussion by the couplet:

  "To no man am I so much thrall
  To swear he speaketh truth in all."

And with this tolerant and unpedantic frame of mind I am in hearty
accord.

But if Caesar and the Romans, who for several centuries had a station
at Exeter, their great "camp on the Exe," called the wide province of
Devon and Cornwall "Damnonia," what did the Phoenicians call it when
they traded Cornish tin along the Mediterranean, and even, it is said,
into remote Africa, and ran their galleys into the little bay of Combe
Martin, to lade with the silver and lead which can still be mined
there, and which they may have carried to the old buried palaces of
Knossos, to be fashioned into amulets and trinkets by those Cretans who
built the dancing-floor of Ariadne and the maze of the Minotaur?  That
is a question that we cannot answer; all the busy speech of all those
peoples is silent; only the old mine-workings remain, and the sacked
and buried palaces of Crete, and a Phoenician ingot-mould fished up in
Plymouth Harbour, and fitting, so 'tis said, an ingot which has been
found in Central Africa.

With the coming of the Romans comes, as always, a little light, for
they were a shrewd and mighty people, who liked their house set in
order, and tabulated and recorded and organized, and have left traces
of their orderliness on the face of the land, and the speech of the
people, and the laws of the nations in three continents.  They subdued
Damnonia, and held it from their armed camp at Exeter, where Roman
coins, pottery, brick, and inscriptions are found abundantly.  Perhaps
also they held and transformed several of the great earth-camps for
their own uses, such as the Clovelly Dykes or the escarpments at
Ilfracombe, built by the Britons or some earlier people.  But the
Romans do not appear to have settled in Devonshire as they did in East
Anglia and the Midlands; I believe there are few traces of their
dwellings, villas, roads, or baths, beyond Exeter in the West.

When their rule weakened and declined in the fifth century, certainly
Damnonia would be one of the first provinces over which their
jurisdiction waned, because of its inaccessibility, its deep wooded
valleys, the wastes of Exmoor and Dartmoor, and the danger of its
coasts; and we may well suppose that the old Celtic traditions and
customs continued here but little modified by the Roman occupation.

Then at some time in the fifth and sixth centuries the Saxons came, but
they seem to have come to Devonshire more peaceably than in their
fierce raids on the south and east coasts; they came as Christians to
the Christian British, and though they conquered them, they did not
drive them out, nor compel them into mountain fastnesses, as the
earlier Saxon conquerors drove the British into Wales.  So that in
Devon, though to a lesser degree than in Cornwall, and still less than
in Wales, there is a larger admixture of original Celtic blood than in
Kent, Sussex, Essex, and the counties of the Saxon heptarchy.  But,
according to Westcote--who is, for all his discursiveness, no bad
authority--the Britons and the Saxons came to loggerheads; for the
government being Saxon, and the laws and the language, the poor Britons
could neither hear nor make themselves understood, and so took arms
against the settlers, and were by them driven "beyond the river now
called Taw-meer" (_i.e._, Tamar), and so out of Devon into Cornwall.
This was done by King Athelstan, after he had beaten the Welsh at
Hereford and subdued the Picts and Scots.

From this time forth, says Westcote, the Britons began to be called
"Corn-Welshmen or Cornishmen," and he gives an elaborate etymology of
the name, but adds that he need speak no further of Cornwall, "being
eased of that labour by the industrious labours of the right worthy and
worshipful gentleman Richard Carew, who . . . hath very eloquently
described it."

The Saxons, as we know, led a struggling and turbulent existence for
five or six centuries in contest with the Danes.  Probably the full
total of the misery inflicted on this country by the Danish raids can
never be reckoned, but that they crippled and exhausted Saxon England
by their frequency and the great duration of time over which they
extended is apparent by the advance made in civilization in the short
period between the breaking of their power and the coming of the
Normans.  Devonshire was not spared by them, and the cliffs of
Teignmouth are said to be blood-red since a great slaughter of the
Danes in 970.  Certainly the Saxon Chronicle records contests bloody
and pitiless enough, and tradition lingers still in many places where
history has no record.  In Devon, for instance, wherever the
dwarf-elder grows folk say that Danish blood has been spilt, and that a
group of these trees marks the site of an old battlefield; indeed, the
dwarf-elder is still called "Danes-elder" in the West Country.

Between Bideford and Appledore, on this northern coast of Devon, stands
Kenwith Castle--long called Hennaborough or Henry Hill--under whose
walls the great Alfred and his son met the Danes under Hubba, and
defeated them with great slaughter about the year 877.  The English
captured the famous standard of the Danes, the Raven, which was
"wrought in needlework by the daughters of Lothbroc," and which had
magical properties--clapping its wings when defeat was at hand.  The
remnant of the Danish force, carrying their wounded leader with them,
retreated to their ships, and Hubba died there on the beach, and was
buried by his followers before they fled aboard, under a great rock
called Hubba's Stone, and now in corrupt form Hubblestone, a name which
still clings near the spot, though probably the rock of Hubba is now
swept by the sea.  But under this rock he lies, with his weapons and
trophies about him and his crown of gold on his head, until the last
trump shall rouse him.

[Illustration: Bossington Hill from Porlock Hill]

The grave of Hubba lies under the sea, like King Arthur's lost country
of Lyonesse, where the fisher-folk say they can hear the bells ring
from the drowned churches as they sail over them on still summer
mornings; but near Porlock the sea has yielded the strip of land it has
stolen from Bideford, and the Danish long-ships rode what are now the
green fields around Porlock.

That it was so the very name Porlock shows, for Port-locan means an
enclosed place for ships, under which name it is mentioned twice in the
Saxon Chronicle.  So the sea has retreated a mile and a half since the
Danish raid of A.D. 918, when they entered the Severn, harried Wales,
and landed at Porlock, only to be beaten back to their ships again by
the Saxons.

Harold, the great English Harold who was slain at the Battle of
Hastings, made a raid from Ireland in 1052.  He ran into Porlock with
nine ships, landed and went several miles inland, killing and looting,
and returned in safety.  But this filibustering expedition, so greatly
to his discredit, and so unworthy to find a place among all his other
acts, was almost certainly done in anger and dictated by personal
revenge.  For Porlock, which was plainly an important harbour and one
of the seats of the Saxon Kings--at least, it is mentioned as having a
"King's house" there--was the property of Algar, the son of Leofric,
Earl of Mercia.  But Harold was the son of Godwin, Earl of Kent, and
Kent and Mercia were old and bitter enemies, and it was due to the
intrigues of Mercia that Earl Godwin was banished, and Harold went with
him to Ireland.  Then, fourteen years later, William came to an England
weakened by internal strife, and Harold was slain at Hastings and the
Saxon lords dispossessed of their lands and goods, which were given to
the foreigner.  Here the Domesday Book, with its plain bare statements,
gives us a grim record of the Conquest.  All, or almost all, the Saxon
names of the overlords disappear, and the Norman take their place,
continuing down to our own day.  This same Porlock was taken from
Algar, son of Leofric, and given to Baldwin Redvers.  Countisbury was
taken from Ailmer, and held by William himself.  Lynton was taken from
Ailward Touchstone--it is interesting to find the name of Shakespeare's
fool in Domesday Book--and held by William.  Combe Martin (then called
"Comba") was taken from Aluric and held by Jubel.  Bideford and
Clovelly were taken from Brihtric and given to Queen Matilda.

There is a curious and romantic story about this Brihtric, son of
Aelfgar.  He was one of the most powerful of the Saxon Thanes, and
seems to have owned lands not only in Devon, but in Dorset, Somerset,
and even in Gloucester, though the latter entries in Domesday may refer
to another Brihtric, who was not the son of Aelfgar.  When he was a
young man, and before the marriage of Matilda to William of Normandy,
Brihtric was sent by King Edward on a diplomatic mission to the Count
of Flanders, Matilda's father, and there he met Matilda, who fell in
love with him and offered herself in marriage.  He refused her, and she
married William; but later, when the cycle of events put her old lover
in the power of her husband, she sued for and obtained the grant of
many of his lands.  Brihtric himself was seized at his house at Hanley,
in Worcestershire, on the very day that Wulfstan had hallowed his
chapel, and sent to Winchester, where he died in prison.

This story, which would have made a stirring theme for Sir Walter
Scott, is found in the chronicles of Tewkesbury, in the Anglo-Norman
chronicles, and in Wace, the old rhyming historian of the twelfth
century.  Here are a few lines of the old French version:

  "Laquele jadsi, quant fu pucele,
  Ama un conte dangleterre,
  Brictrich Mau le oi nomer
  Apres le rois ki fu riche ber;
  A lui la pucele enuera messager
  Pur sa amour a lui procurer;
  Meis Brictrich Maude refusa,
  Dune ele m'lt se coruca,
  Hastivement mer passa
  E a Willam bastard se maria.

which we may put into English so:

  "Who formerly, as a maiden,
  Loved an English count,
  Brihtric Maude heard him named;
  And who, save the King, than he was richer?
  To him the maiden sent a messenger
  To obtain his love;
  But Brihtric refused Matilda,
  Whereat she waxed very angry,
  Hastily passed over the sea
  And married William the bastard."


But if this is one of the stories which is preserved to us, with its
fierce love, and its fierce hate, and its unsparing revenge, and all
the human hopes and acts and motives of which it gives but a bare
hint--the pride of Brihtric perhaps, or perhaps his love for another
woman, for an alliance with the Count of Flanders might satisfy an
ambitious man--how many tragic dramas, how many stories of cruelty and
oppression and exile and mourning, lie behind the bare short records of
the Domesday Book?  All these sunny towns of North Devon and
Somerset--Lynton, Crinton, Porlock, Countisbury, Paracombe,
Challacombe, and north to Dunster, and south to Barnstaple and
Bideford--all these wooded or wind-swept spots, which look as if they
could have had no history, save of market-days and fairs, had their
individual drama in that fierce annexation.

Sometimes, perhaps, they suffered hardly at all.  Their Saxon lord
lived elsewhere; he was slain or banished, and they came imperceptibly
under the Norman rule.  But more often, I imagine, particularly on the
smaller estates, the lord dwelt in patriarchal intercourse with his
tenants, with that freedom of speech and right of judgment, which, in
"Ivanhoe," Scott draws in the household and retinue of Cedric; and the
eviction was bitter, and the rule of the new lord oppressive and
hateful.

Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, twenty years after the landing of
William, so that a new generation was already growing up, and the old
scars were beginning to heal.  Here is a translation of the entry on
Lynton:

"William has a manor called Lintona, which Ailward Touchstone held on
the day on which King Edward was alive and dead, and with this manor
was added formerly another called Incrintona, which Algar held.  These
are held by William for one manor, and they rendered geld for one hide.
. . .  Lintona is worth four pounds and Incrintona three pounds.  When
William received them Lintona was worth 20 shillings and Incrintona 15.
. . ."

It is interesting to note how all property throughout England had
advanced in value since "the day that King Edward was alive and dead";
in the old English, "on pam timan pe Eadward cing was cucu and
dead"--_i.e._, on the fifth of January 1066--which is a clear
intimation that the firm rule of the Conqueror had increased the
material prosperity of the country in one generation.

After the Conquest there was peace in Devonshire for many years, though
Exeter was besieged by Stephen for three months in 1137, when he and
Matilda, the mother of Henry II, rent England with a war of succession;
but the young Henry came to the throne in 1152, and ruled wisely and
strongly for thirty-five years.  Under him Devon prospered, as did all
England, and the cloth-making industry, which in Westcote's time, in
the seventeenth century, was so notable a part of the wealth of Devon,
probably had its first considerable beginnings in this reign.

But Henry II is remembered less for his wise laws and far-sighted
government than for the murder of Thomas à Becket, which clouded his
latter years and brought his enemies--his wife and his son among
them--swarming about his ears.  This northern coast of Devon is linked
with that dark crypt in Canterbury where Becket fell in the sacerdotal
robes of High Mass; for it was a Tracy who was one of the four knights
who spurred from London to rid Henry "of this turbulent priest," and
the Tracys owned Lynton, Countisbury, and Morthoe.  It is to Morthoe
that Tracy is supposed to have come after the murder, with the curse
upon him which descended to his family--that, wherever they went,

        "the Tracys
  Have always the wind and the rain in their faces"--

and to have lived out the bitter end of his life with the horror of
sacrilege in his heart.  There is a monument in the church of Morthoe
of William de Tracy, but it is of early fourteenth-century date, and
belongs to a descendant of King Henry's knight, who was rector of the
parish.  A later Tracy was Baron of Barnstaple, and was appointed
Governor of the island of Lundy in the reign of Henry III.

Nearly a century later Edward II, flying from the armies of his Queen
and the turbulent barons, took ship for Lundy, but was driven back to
Wales by contrary winds.  And of this event a poem was made in the
reign of James I, which is quoted by Westcote as written by a "modern
poet," though he does not give us the name.  The verse still retains a
smack of the Elizabethan diction--not the Shakespeare magic, indeed,
but the euphuistic, antithetical, fantastic balance of phrases:

  "To Lundy which in Sabrin's mouth doth stand,
  Carried with hope (still hoping to find ease),
  Imagining it were his native land,
  England itself; Severn, the narrow seas;
  With this conceit, poor soul, himself doth please.
  And sith his rule is over-ruled by men,
  On birds and beasts he'll king it once again."


Devon took its unhappy share in the Wars of the Roses, and Perkin
Warbeck besieged Exeter in 1497, but unsuccessfully, like most other
exploits of that unlucky adventurer.  Fifty years later the West rose
in arms against Henry VIII, in support of the "old religion," and to
protest against the dissolution of the monasteries; but the rising was
put down, and Henry took and subdued Exeter, and carried through his
bold and often ruthless policy.

But it is in the reign of Elizabeth that Devon takes on the special
glamour with which it is still associated in most minds.  For it was
the sixteenth century which gave to England such men as Richard and
John Hawkins, Adrien and Humphrey Gilbert, John Davies--that sailor
friend of Adrien Gilbert's who, inspired by him, made the first dark
voyage into the Polar regions, and traded with the Esquimaux, as told
in Hakluyt's "Voyages"--and Sir Richard Grenville, with his "men of
Bideford in Devon," with whom he fought the _Revenge_ single-handed
against the fifty and three Spanish galleons in that last, greatest
fight of all; and Sir Walter Raleigh, a philosopher among courtiers, a
poet among princes, statesman, dreamer, adventurer, who planned nobly
and executed daringly, and failed more greatly than other men succeed.
Millais has drawn him for us, in his boyhood, sitting on the beach at
Budleigh Salterton, with the wind blowing his hair round his sensitive,
eager face, hugging his knees as he listens to the stories of the
sailor with the bright parrot-feathers in his hat, one of the men,
perhaps, who sailed with Frobisher or terrible John Hawkins, round the
world to the far-off coasts of adventure, the lands of gold and spices.
It is to Raleigh, and to his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, that
we owe the first colony of America, "Virginia," called so by Raleigh
from the Virgin Queen, in the compliment of his day--to them is due the
praise of having seen that "colonization, trade, and the enlargement of
Empire, were all more important for the welfare of England than the
acquisition of gold," and this in an age which was dazzled by the
facilities of wealth lying ready to the greedy hand in that "New World."

And this mind, so daring, so original, so diverse, which could turn a
sonnet or design a battleship (for the _Ark Raleigh_, built after his
plans, was admittedly the best ship of our fleet that met the Armada),
which had experienced the favour and disfavour of princes in the
fullest degree, which had known triumph and discouragement beyond the
ordinary measure of humanity, turned in the last dark years of
imprisonment to a steady contemplation of human activity, and, largely
conceiving here, as in all else, planned a "History of the World."  Let
his own noble words be his epitaph:

"O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast
persuaded; what none have dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world
have flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised; thou
hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride,
cruelty and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two
narrow words, 'Hic jacet.'"

And then there was Drake--Drake, whose name perhaps overshadows all
other names in Devon; Drake, who

        "was playing a rubber of bowls
  When the great Armada came;"

but, being told of the sighting of the fleet, remarked that "they must
wait their turn, good souls," and continued his game; Drake, who, the
year before the sailing of the Armada, "singed the King of Spain's
beard" most mightily, going up and down the coasts of Spain and
Portugal, plundering and burning the ships in their very harbours; who
sailed round the world, with the sun for "fellow traveller," as an
epitaph under his portrait in the Guildhall says of him; who, on the
first independent expedition which he led to America, received a
dangerous wound in his attack on Nombre de Dios, but concealed it from
his men, and led them to the public treasury, telling them "that he had
brought them to the mouth of the treasury of the world," and then
fainted over the great bars of silver and gold, and when they took him
up he was losing "so much blood as filled his very footsteps in the
sand;" Drake, who has become a legend and a myth in Devon, so that the
country-people say that he brought water from Dartmoor to Plymouth, by
compelling a stream to follow his horse's heels all the way into the
town; who, like King Arthur and Barbarossa, is not dead, but will
return again to his country if his people in their need strike on his
drum and call him.

But beyond and behind all these great names, which ring in our ears
like martial music, are the nameless crowd of Devon men who sailed with
them, and fought with them, and worked with them, and loved them.  Men
from Bideford and Appledore and Barnstaple, from Teignmouth and
Budleigh and Dartmouth, from every little harbour along the bold north
coast, from every creek and bay of the south, from the sheltered
villages among their trees, from the wind-swept, hilly little towns,
from the busy quayside or the lonely farm, came the men whose courage
and whose will, whose love of profit and greater love of adventure,
gave a lustre to England in the "golden days of Elizabeth."

Those days passed, and were followed presently by the unhappy years of
the great Civil Wars.  It was perhaps not unfitting that a
Grenville--Sir Bevil Grenville--led an army against the Parliamentarian
troops in the Battle of Lansdown Hill, though it was an army of
Cornishmen he led, and not of Devonshire men, for the Grenvilles were
then living at their Cornish home of Stowe.  Sir Bevil was killed in
battle, but Anthony Payne, his servant, a great giant of a man, and a
true friend to his master, set Sir Bevil's young son upon his father's
horse, and bade him lead his father's men to victory, as, had he lived,
his father would have done.  Afterwards Anthony Payne brought Sir
Bevil's body back to Stowe, and he wrote to Lady Grenville a letter
which deserves to be recorded for its true and simple dignity:


"HONOURED MADAM,--

"Ill news flieth apace: the heavy tidings hath no doubt already
travelled to Stowe that we have lost our blessed master by the enemies'
advantage.  You must not, dear lady, grieve too much for your noble
spouse.  You know, as we all believe, that his soul was in heaven
before his bones were cold.  He fell, as he did often tell us he wished
to die, for the good Stewart cause, for his country and his King.  He
delivered to me his last commands, and with such tender words for you
and for his children as are not to be set down with my poor pen, but
must come to your ears upon my best heart's breath. . . .  I am coming
down with the mournfullest burden that ever a poor servant did bear, to
bring the great heart that is cold to Kilkhampton vault.  Oh, my lady,
how shall I ever brook your weeping face? . . ."


This perhaps, is Cornish history and not Devonshire, except that the
name of Grenville is so inseparably linked in our minds with Devon.

During the Royalist wars from 1642-1650 Exeter was twice besieged by
the Parliamentarians; Ilfracombe twice changed hands, in 1644 being
taken by Doddington for the Royalists, and two years later falling to
Fairfax after his capture of Barnstaple; Tiverton also was besieged by
the Royalists, though it seems to have held within itself the two
irreconcilable factions.  But it was not in Devon that the fiercest
battles of that time were fought, nor the greatest and bitterest
disunion prevailed.  Of the subsequent history of Devon I shall say
little.  The unhappy expedition of the Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme
Regis, just on the borders of Dorset and Devon, and he himself was
joyfully received in Exeter; but it was in Somerset that the battle of
Sedgemoor was lost, and Somerset that suffered chiefly from the Bloody
Assizes.

Let us rather turn to the Devon of to-day, realizing with thankfulness
that the traditions of Drake and Frobisher, of Grenville and Hawkins,
still hold; that the heirs of the men who put out in their frail ships
for the New World, now buffet round our wild coasts in minesweeper or
trawler, destroyer or old cargo tubs, on a far more grim adventure.
Without the hope of gain, without the spur of glory, from every port
and harbour, from every creek and bay and inlet of our coasts comes the
patient, silent, heroic service of the men of the sea.

And on many a hasty grave, in the shot-riddled mud of Flanders, or on
the barren beaches of Gallipoli or the ruined lands of Babylon, might
that poem of Sir Henry Newbolt's which he calls "April on Waggon Hill"
be set up as a fitting epitaph:

  "Lad, and can you rest now,
    There beneath your hill?
  Your hands are on your breast now,
    But is your heart so still?
  'Twas the right death to die, lad,
    A gift without regret,
  But unless truth's a lie, lad,
    You dream of Devon yet.

  "Ay, ay, the year's awaking,
    The fire's among the ling,
  The beechen hedge is breaking,
    The curlew's on the wing;
  Primroses are out, lad,
    On the high banks of Lee,
  And the sun stirs the trout, lad,
    From Brendon to the sea.

  "I know what's in your heart, lad--
    The mare he used to hunt,
  And her blue market-cart, lad,
    With posies tied in front.
  We miss them from the moor road,
    They're getting old to roam,
  The road they're on's a sure road
    And nearer, lad, to home.

  "Your name, the name they cherish?
    'Twill fade, lad, 'tis true:
  But stone and all may perish
    With little loss to you.
  While fame's fame you're Devon, lad,
    The Glory of the West;
  Till the roll's called in heaven, lad,
    You may well take your rest."



CHAPTER II

SOME LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS

From Barnstaple to Dunster, and from Tiverton to Lynton, this beautiful
piece of country is peculiarly rich in literary associations.  Nor is
this to be wondered at when we consider the variety and the loveliness
of the scenery, the great open, heathery wastes of Exmoor, the
wind-swept cliffs and highlands, the fair and luxuriant valleys where
the pure bright waters of these hill-fed streams flow through a green
tunnel of overarching trees, making a fertile paradise of flower and
fern in their course.  And the magnificent bold rocks and forelands of
the coast, the streams broken into feathery spray falling down the
precipitous face of the cliffs, creek and gully and cave, the
wave-washed golden sands of the bays, or the line of foam fretting ever
at the foot of these granite crags.  And beyond is the sea; from every
hilltop the eye turns to it, in the sheltered orchards the air is salt
with it, the thunder of its great breakers on the coast can be heard
far inland, an undercurrent beneath the singing of birds and the hum of
bees; it is never far from the eyes or from the mind, blue as faery
under a June sun, when the wheeling gulls are dazzling white flashes
above it, broken into greys and greens and purples by the sudden hail
of quick spring squalls, a heaving grey waste of waters under steady
rain, or a wild and elemental force, terrible and splendid, under the
fury of a gale.

It is a land for poets and dreamers, a land to touch the fancy and stir
the imagination of men, a land of beauty and of adventure.

It will not, therefore, be without interest to pick up thread after
thread by which the ports and hamlets, woods and waterfalls, are woven
into the history of our literature.

[Illustration: Dunkerry Beacon]

We find a trace, firstly, of the chief of poets and greatest name of
all--Shakespeare--in the municipal records of Barnstaple, where under
the date 1605 an entry records: "Geven to the Kynges players being in
the town this year xs."  That is all, and Shakespeare is not named; but
we know that he was associated with the Kynges Players for many years,
and Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, who is a well-known authority on this
subject, asserts that at this date Shakespeare was still one of the
company.  It is a shadowy trace enough, but in view of the bare
outlines of the life and death of this man, whose name is almost
universal and whose history is almost completely obscure, we seize on
any tiny fact that may help to bring before us so wonderful a
personality.  That Shakespeare was in Barnstaple, went up and down
Boutport Street, the old street that half encircles the town, running
"about the port," that he acted here, lodged here, if only for a week
or two, talked in the tavern and walked in the old town, with that
observant inner eye which noted the veriest detail of life, the swing
of a flower, the swallow under the eaves, the idiosyncrasy of dress or
gesture in the passers-by, and at the same time comprehended and
recorded the springs of action, the fumbling thoughts, the consciences,
the strivings, and the pretences, of the world of men and women that
moved around him--that Shakespeare was, once in his short and wonderful
life, actually in Barnstaple gives even to the most unreflective an
interest and a romance to this town.

It was near Barnstaple, also, and during Shakespeare's lifetime, that
Thomas Westcote, gentleman, was born at Westcote, in the parish of
Marwood, in 1567.  He wrote, towards the end of his life, a description
of the country called "A View of Devon," and a genealogy of the
principal families.  It was not published until 1845, but is well
worthy of being preserved, not only for its antiquarian interest, as
being the earliest account of Devonshire, its agriculture and its
industries, but also for the pleasure of its quaint turns of phrase,
the ponderous classic authorities which he marshals to support a simple
fact--and there are indeed some strange wild-fowl among his
authorities--and above all for a gentle and unobtrusive humour which
seasons all the narrative.  Westcote gives a list of the fish afforded
by the Devon seas (a very imperfect list by modern computation), and
adds:

"It might be much more enlarged, but your server shall stand no longer
at the dresser, lest the first dish be stale ere the last come to the
table.  Yet, notwithstanding, I will here confess that had you supped
with Aulus Gellius, the Roman Emperor, you might say my bill came much
too short; yea! by 1800; for as Suetonius, in lib. 9, and Josephus,
lib. 5, alledge, he was served at one meal with 2,000; (if you please
to believe there are so many species of fish;) but he had indeed a
large country to make his provision in, the whole then known
world. . . .  But for the other supper of 7,000 divers kinds of fowls,
I will not undertake to name them here, nor in Africa, and Asia, with
all the assistance that Gesnerus can afford me."

This is a style without hurry, indeed, in a peaceable rambling world,
and one can imagine Westcote, with his pointed beard and his tall hat
of the fashion of James I., taking a little walk in the afternoon sun
after having spent the morning with his quill-pen and his calf-bound,
close-printed classics--Suetonius, and Gesnerus, and Diodorus Siculus.
His book is interspersed with little rhymes, couplets or longer verses,
in the style of the "Arabian Nights" stories, and which George Meredith
in the "Shaving of Shagpat" has used with such quaint effect; on every
subject and for every statement Westcote has an authority and an
aphorism, whether it is of "Day labourers in Tin-works, and Hirelings
in Husbandry," of fishermen or merchantmen, of trade or
agriculture--"for, as Horace speaketh," says he,

  "Who much do crave, of much have need;
  But well is he whom God indeed,
  Though with a sparing hand, doth feed."

Or again, speaking of "the commodities this country yields":

  "England hath store of bridges, hills, and wool,
  Of churches, wells, and women beautiful."


He is no mere antiquarian, however, and quotes Chaucer and Robert of
Gloucester as well as Theocritus and Horace; he is seriously perturbed
at the decline of agriculture in Devonshire; in spite of the fertility
of the soil, he says, it yields insufficience of bread, beer, and
victual, to feed itself, for which the country has to have recourse to
Wales or Ireland, so much so that in 1610 there was 60,000 pounds of
corn brought into one harbour alone.  The reason for this is the
increase in trades, so that . . . "the meanest sort of people will now
rather place their children to some of these mechanical trades than to
husbandry"; in spite, also, of the almost sacred character of
husbandry, which was clearly recognized in "elder times," so that even
the rudest and most savage peoples respected ploughmen and tillers of
the soil in time of war.  He then quotes some melancholy verses of
Virgil, and gives the whole chapter a twist of humour by ending up
with--"But not a word of this in any case, especially that I told you
so; and we will proceed to the next and speak of mines."

I will also "proceed to the next," and speak of Bishop Jewel, a
fellow-countryman of Westcote's, and one about whom he speaks in the
highest praise: "a perfect rich gem and true jewel indeed . . . so that
if anywhere the observation of Chrysostom be true, that there lies a
great hidden treasure in names, surely it may rightly be said to be
here: grace in John, and eminent perfection in jewel."

John Jewel was born at Berrynarbor, near Ilfracombe, in 1522; he went
to Merton College, Oxford, where he had for tutor John Parkhurst, under
whom he early acquired a bent towards Protestantism.  After the
accession of Mary he allowed himself, in a moment of weakness, to sign
an adherence to the Romish faith, but his recantation weighed upon his
conscience, he fled to the Continent, and there publicly withdrew it.
In the reign of Elizabeth he returned to England, and was one of the
Protestant doctors chosen to dispute before her at Westminster with a
like number of Catholic divines.  He became Bishop of Salisbury in
1560, and held that office till his death in 1571.  His chief work was
an "Apology for the Anglican Church"; and his chief opponent was Thomas
Harding, who was born at Comb Martin, the next parish, and who, like
Jewel, went to the grammar-school at Barnstaple in his early boyhood,
so that they were near neighbours and dear enemies.  "As I cannot well
take a hair from your lying beard, so I wish I could pluck malice from
your blasphemous heart," says Harding to Jewel, in that savage personal
invective that religious controversialists have permitted themselves in
all ages.  Jewel does not seem ever to have answered in this unworthy
strain, and the singular purity of his life, the sincerity of his
opinions, and a certain lovable quality to which all his contemporaries
bear witness, gave even his political adversaries a personal attachment
to him.  "I should love thee, Jewel, wert thou not a Zwinglian," cries
one.  "In thy faith thou art a heretic, but sure in the life thou art
an angel"--surely the most splendid tribute that a man can have, when
we consider the bitterness and animosity bred by a difference of
religious belief.  To all who loved him--and it seems to have been his
whole generation--his name gave the opportunity of affectionate puns,
quips, and little epigrams; to Queen Elizabeth he was "my Jewel," and
the epitaph Westcote makes upon him is that of St. Gregory upon St.
Basil: "His words were thunder, and his life lightning," and his memory
"a fragrant sweet-smelling odour, blown abroad . . . throughout the
whole kingdom."

We may find a lingering trace at Barnstaple, also, before going farther
north, of another eager spirit and earnest reformer, Shelley, whose
gift of poetry we accept, and whose quick courage we profit by, in a
world of thought where we breathe a little freer because of his efforts
and ideals, while we still despise or half shamefacedly apologize for
the strivings and struggles of his life.  He prevailed upon Syle, a
printer of Barnstaple, to publish his "Letter to Lord Ellenborough,"
which was in effect a violent and heated attack upon this Judge for the
sentence he had passed on the publisher of Tom Paine's "Age of Reason,"
which was considered by Lord Ellenborough and that generation as a
dangerous and revolutionary document, subversive of the political
morals of the world.  Those were the days of the French Revolution, and
it seemed to many, as honest as Shelley, that the whole social fabric
was threatening to crumble before the rising flood of anarchy,
bloodshed, and disorder.  Syle was prevailed upon to withdraw the
greater number of copies--it speaks much for his courage and
convictions that he ever published it--and Shelley found it advisable
to leave Devon.

For Shelley had been living at Lynton during the early days of his
ill-fated first marriage with the Harriet; the cottage where they lived
can still be seen, though much altered and modernized since the unhappy
young man and woman tried to work out together a means of right living
and mutual happiness, and made so tragic a failure of it.

It was to Lynton, too, that Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and
Coleridge, came on a visit, and were so ravished by the beauty of the
place that they were nearly decided to settle here, and might have
founded a school of Devon poets instead of Lake poets.  It was at
Lynton, also, that "The Ancient Mariner" was planned, to pay for the
expenses of the holiday, and was begun by Wordsworth and Coleridge
together, though there is actually very little of Wordsworth's work in
it, and the spirit of it, the air of mystery and the sense of brooding
elemental forces with which its simplest lines are somehow invested,
belongs to Coleridge alone, and to that strange genius of his, which
only twice or thrice in his life--in "Christabel," "The Ancient
Mariner," and "Kubla Khan"--produced poetry of inimitable, strange
beauty and wonder.

If Lynton is beautiful now, with its new houses and hotels, and that
air of snugness that prosperity gives to places and persons, the poetic
appeal of its loveliness to Wordsworth and Coleridge can be well
imagined when only the low-browed, thatched little cottages clung to
the steep cliff-paths and clustered round the small harbour, and from
the surrounding heights and hills one looked down upon nothing but
green valleys, and from the valleys one looked up to the bare cliffs
and crags.

Southey also was drawn to this corner of England by the fame of its
beauty; on one occasion, when walking across Exmoor, he was driven to
take refuge at Porlock from the heavy rain, and visitors to the Ship
Inn are still shown the corner by the wide old fireplace where the
poet, presumably, dried his knees and wrote the ode which begins with
the following inadequate description:

  "Porlock, thy verdant vale, so fair to sight,
  Thy lofty hills, with fern and furze so brown,
  Thy waters that so musical roll down
  Thy woody glens, the traveller with delight
  Recalls to memory, and the channel grey
  Circling it, surging in thy level bay."


Then, George Eliot and Lewes discovered this north-west coast, and came
to Ilfracombe, with which they were delighted; and the unconventional
lady, with her broad-brimmed straw hat tied under her chin (in the days
when people wore bonnets), was soon a familiar enough figure, to be
seen scrambling over the rocks of the bay which is haunted by the
spirit of Tracy, or looking for seaweed and anemones in the clear
rock-pools at low-tide.  Ilfracombe then, in the middle of the last
century, kept much of its original character as a seaport of
importance, which in its day had sent representatives to a shipping
council in the fourteenth century, had contributed six ships towards
the Siege of Calais--at a time when Liverpool was only of sufficient
size to send one--and had had enough strategical value to be the scene
of a projected French invasion under Napoleon.  Already Ilfracombe was
beginning to be, however, what it now is pre-eminently, a "holiday
resort."  It was patronized by royalty, and, following royalty, by "the
aristocracy and military," who came to enjoy the "overwhelming charms"
Nature poured forth here "with a tremendous and prolific grandeur which
we shall not pretend to describe," as Mr. Cornish mellifluously
exclaims in his "Rise and Progress of the Towns in North Devon."  In
the seventies the present German Emperor, then Prince William of
Prussia, was sent here with his tutors; and there is a story, preserved
with great pride, of a fight on the beach between him and a
bathing-machine boy, at whose father's property the Prince was throwing
stones.  An account of this historic battle is preserved in a doggerel
ballad, printed and sold locally, and composed Heaven knows where,
which is called "Tapping the War-Lord's Claret: Why Kaiser Bill hates
England."

  "When Kaiser Will'um was a y'uth
  He com'd t' Combe one day,
  And at the big hotel out there
  He stopped on holiday. . . ."


He went bathing in Rapparee Cove, and when his tutors were out of sight
began blazing at the numbers on the boxes, though warned by "young
Alfie Price" not to; and after a wordy altercation the Kaiser knocked
down Alfie, who got up and went for him "just like a Devon bull."

  "He knacked the Kaiser on the nose,
  And tapped the ry'al blid. . . ."


The tutors came up and intervened, and Alf was given thirty shillings
to keep the matter quiet; but Kaiser Bill swore implacable hate of the
English, because of the affront, built his Dreadnoughts and drilled his
army to avenge the insult of Rapparee Cove upon the English nation.

Local publications are always, I think, of some interest, even when
they are as rough and simple a doggerel as the above; and there are two
magazines, printed and published at Barnstaple in the early years of
the nineteenth century, and which may be seen in the Athenaeum Library
of the town.  They are the _Lundy Review_ and _The Cave_, and they
contain stories, poetry, puns, epigrams, acrostics, all with the mild,
faint flavour of a curate's tea-party in a cathedral town, and yet
invested with a kind of charm by the old-fashioned type, the yellowing
paper, and a small, dim picture--like the images of ourselves and our
furniture which we see in those old, round, diminishing mirrors--of the
life of a century ago.  There is poetry of the Lake School fashion,
exhortations to Bideford and Woody Bay, to Lynton or "The Beauties of
Devon"; there is more poetry of the Byronic fashion, fierce and satiric
invective (yet never, be it understood, transgressing the bounds of
decency or good manners!) against the lady of the poet's affection;
there are stories, in which love and virtue triumph over temptation and
evil-doing; there is, of course, at least one story of a blind girl,
and one of a consumptive; there is much harmless punning, and in the
acrostics which the ladies of 1820 so much loved are fantastically
woven the names of the handsome young women of Barnstaple whose only
other record is now upon a tombstone.

There is a strong tone of "patriotism," if by that we mean a dignified
contempt for foreign manners and customs, foreign thought and foreign
speech.  I call to mind one article, where the writer is
good-humouredly but supremely contemptuous of the French, because of
their manner of pronouncing classical names.  What can you expect of a
nation, says he, for whom Titus Livy is no better than a
"tom-tit-liv-ing" in a hedge, and Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor
philosopher, becomes "Mark O'Rail," a mere beggerly, abusive Irishman?

This insularity of ours, which appears in a comic aspect in this
article in _The Cave_, continued throughout the nineteenth century, and
withstood the shock of the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny without
apparently being in any way shaken; it is breaking now, indeed, under
the humiliations of the South African War, when we were made to feel
our isolation in Europe, and under the stress of this greatest war of
all, when at last we feel and say that we are proud to stand with the
nations of the Continent in a common cause.

But, in the nineteenth century, not only was our insular prejudice
extreme, but there was a pride in our very prejudice, which made it
seem hopelessly fixed and stultified.  There is a trail of it through
all but the greatest writings of that time, Tennyson was not without
it, Charles Kingsley, Froude. . . .  To the novel it became actually a
stock-in-trade, and as such it was used by Henry Kingsley in his novel
of "Ravenshoe."  He was a younger brother of Charles, and his life was
as restless and adventurous as a novel.  He was, besides being an
author, an explorer to the Australian goldfields--from which he came
back rich in observation of men and manners, but without having made a
pecuniary fortune--the editor of a paper, the _Edinburgh Daily Review_,
and a correspondent in the Franco-Prussian War.  He was a prolific and
too hasty writer, but his novel of "Ravenshoe," whose scene is
principally laid on the northern strip of Somerset coast, bordering the
Bristol Channel, and which was his own favourite among his works, is
considered by many critics to reach a high level, and to stand
comparison with the work of his more famous brother.  In the _Academy_
of 1901 the following tribute to the book appeared under the initials
C.K.B.: "I first read 'Ravenshoe' at that period when absolute romance
and absolute fact have to live together; and very turbulent partners
they make.  The appeal of the book was instant and permanent.  Even
now, after a dozen years I cannot read the story unmoved. . . .  Each
point holds me of old, by sheer force of its human presentation, its
resourceful dialogue, its unwearied vitality."

I first read "Ravenshoe" in this year of 1917, and to me the world
seems to have travelled so far since its publication in 1862, that its
aims, its ideals, and its point of view, are hardly credible.  Through
it all runs that facile spirit of optimism which seems to me to have
distinguished much of the thought of the mid-Victorian era, that air of
"All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds," that insular
pride of which I have been speaking, but which to us now appears the
narrowest and worst form of parochialism, a certainty that English
beef, English beer, English morals, and English standards, were the
ultimate excellence towards which a world of misguided foreigners might
ultimately aspire, that self-satisfaction, different from pride, that
glorying in prejudice, and wilful blindness to all features of national
life which do not bear out the theory of an earthly paradise.  "Tell me
one thing, Lord Saltire; you have travelled in many countries.  Is
there any land, east or west, that can give us what this dear old
England does--settled order, in which each man knows his place and his
duties?  It is so easy to be good in England."

"Well, no.  It is the first country in the world.  A few bad harvests
would make a hell of it, though."

This was written at a time, remember, when the invention of machinery,
the rapid growth of industrialism, and the increasing mobility of the
population of the world, had broken down the old order of things, had
created large fortunes and reduced thousands to destitution; when men
poured into cities and lived crowded and unhealthy in slums, when the
opening phase of the grim battle between employer and employed was
fought, when trade-unionism was wrested from an unwilling Government,
when housing regulations, health regulations, and poor-laws, were
incapable of dealing with the wars of misery, poverty, and sickness,
they were designed to meet, when little by little vested interests and
class prejudices were brought before the judgment of reason and found
wanting--it was in such a period of our national history that Harry
Kingsley could write of "settled order, in which each one knows his
place and his duties."

This attitude of mind is characteristic of a whole school of
mid-Victorian novelists, and George Meredith--whose earliest novel,
"Richard Feverel," was published about this date--broke many a lance
against it, and scolded us and laughed at us, and upset our dignified
conception of ourselves, and sometimes, in his irritable affection for
his countrymen, took a bludgeon to us, and broke our heads.

I find it also in another and much greater novel, to attack which in a
book dealing with this corner of Devon and Somerset is indeed a sort of
_lèse-majesté_--for, to most people, who says "Exmoor" says "Lorna
Doone."

Yet rereading the book in these present days--and even amid the scenes
whose beauty and whose character Blackmore has so firmly reproduced--I
find the parochialism, the self-satisfaction, and the prejudice, which
lumps the whole un-English world, with its revolutions, and ideals, and
racial problems, under one heading, as "dam-furriners."  John Ridd is
English, therefore he despises what is not English; he is rather
stupid, therefore he despises intellect.  "She was born next day with
more mind than body--the worst thing that can befall a man," he says of
his sister Eliza.  He is a man, so, at the last stage of
self-satisfaction, he despises what is not man--woman.  "Now I spoke
gently to Lorna, seeing how much she had been tried; and I praised her
for her courage, in not having run away, when she was so unable; and my
darling was pleased with this. . . .  But you may take this as a
general rule, that a woman likes praise from the man she loves, and
cannot stop always to balance it."  "But he led me aside in the course
of the evening, and told me all about it; saying that I knew, as well
as he did, that it was not women's business. . . .  Herein I quite
agreed with him, because I always think that women, of whatever mind,
are best when least they meddle with things that appertain to men."  As
the matter under discussion was a question of their all having their
throats cut by the Doones, and the farm being burnt over their heads,
it seems to us to have been, at least in some slight degree, the
women's business.

The hero of "Ravenshoe," Charles, is of the same type, though not drawn
with the firmness of touch with which Blackmore depicts John Ridd, and
which makes him indeed a living personality to us, even if one to
quarrel with.

Charles Ravenshoe is of the type which for many years we have striven
to present to the contemplation of the outside world as the perfect
Englishman.  He is a bluff, hearty fellow, without serious vices,
without, also, serious virtues; he has, of course, a perfect
self-satisfaction, and a deep and unconscious selfishness, tempered by
an easy good-nature and a superficial benevolence, of wishing to get on
well with everybody, and to see everybody round him comfortable.  He is
without ideals or spiritual aims, and has a contemptuous tolerance for
them, as in the case of his brother Cuthbert, who is deeply religious
and desirous of entering a monastery, and yet is held by the
temptations of the world, so that his mind is a continual striving and
renunciation.  Charles's relationship with the lady of his choice may
be gauged by the following: "How is Adelaide?" asks his adopted sister.
"Adelaide is all that the fondest lover could desire," he answers.  Did
the Englishmen of the nineteenth century really talk like that about
their dearest and most intimate affairs?

And yet here is John Ridd, the accepted lover of Lorna, an honest,
clumsy, self-satisfied couple of yards of a man, for whom she has to be
properly grateful in a world of villains, and yet, for my part, I can
never look upon her marriage with him as other than a _mésalliance_.

Of course, it must be understood, even by those who most violently
disagree with me, that these strictures are passed, not upon
Blackmore's novel, but upon the spirit of the age which made John Ridd
the hero of such a novel, the spirit which in the dress of "John Bull"
has insistently presented our less attractive qualities to the outside
world as the true Englishman, and which has been, by the outside world,
adopted and disliked; while such admirable traits as sincerity,
disinterestedness, and self-criticism, have been neglected by us and
ignored by them.

For the novel itself it is difficult to have anything but praise.  The
admirable sense of locality, and the art with which Blackmore has so
identified his persons of fiction with actual places till we no longer
disassociate them, but in the church of Oare, or the Doone Valley, or
Porlock, or Badgeworthy Water, think and speak of Lorna and John Kidd
as if they had had an actual existence; the firm and lively drawing of
the lesser characters, the charming pastoral scenes of the life on the
Ridds' farm, the really magnificent descriptions of the scenery of
Exmoor, and a particular gift of narrative, all place this novel of
Blackmore's on a high level in the literature of the nineteenth
century.  His other novel, of which the scene is laid on this coast, is
"The Maid of Sker," less well known and of less artistic weight, but of
interest to anyone visiting the country between Barnstaple and Lynton,
and containing a particularly vivid account of old Barnstaple Fair.

[Illustration: The Doone Valley]

I have spoken of Henry Kingsley's novel "Ravenshoe," and it is
impossible to write of the literary associations of this district
without mention of his elder and more famous brother; for though
"Westward Ho!" deals with Bideford and its adjacent villages of
Appledore and Northam--it was at the latter village that Amyas Leigh
lived with his mother---and this book elects to deal only with the
country from Barnstaple northwards and westwards, yet Charles Kingsley
is the presiding local deity and guardian spirit, who has loved and
lived in and written in praise of the many beautiful spots, cliff and
cove, or valley and orchard, from the boundaries of Cornwall to
Somerset.

The family of Kingsley, also, is intimately connected with many of the
families of these villages.  The Rev. J. R. Chanter, Vicar of
Parracombe, married a Miss Kingsley.  He himself is the author of a
short monograph on Lundy, a book which is now very scarce, but which
can be seen at the London Library, at the Bideford Public Library, and
at the Athenaeum at Barnstaple.  The Kingsleys and the Chanters are
closely connected through two generations, and the strain of authorship
seems to persist in them, one member after another displaying an
exceptional talent.  Miss Vallings, the young author of a quickly
celebrated novel, "Bindweed," is a granddaughter of Mr. Chanter, and a
grandniece of Kingsley's; and the bold and original writer "Lucas
Mallet" is Canon Kingsley's daughter, and a niece of Henry Kingsley.



CHAPTER III

BARNSTAPLE

Barnstaple is a pleasant English country town, with that air of
cleanliness and quiet prosperity, of excellent sanitation and odd
historic corners, side by side with big new modern buildings and
exquisite green gardens where the old gnarled apple-trees are afroth with
blossom in the spring, which is the peculiar flavour of an English
country town.  The incongruity is the charm; you step from a modern
drapery store, with a respectable display of plate-glass, on to the clean
narrow pavement, and find yourself looking down a small dark passage
opposite, into a sunny paved court, where the houses are cream-washed,
and the roofs are atilt in odd delicious angles, and the casement windows
have still the old diamond panes of Elizabeth's day, and the sun lies
slanting across the pots of wallflower, and the small boys play marbles
as they played marbles there when the Armada sailed.  Barnstaple is a
thriving little modern town, but it has many such charming scenes to the
visitor with an observant eye--a narrow cobbled street, with an irregular
sag of gabled houses either side, the cream and rose-coloured walls
mellow and sunny in the late afternoon, or a cluster of really beautiful
half-timbered houses of the sixteenth century, with carved oak doorposts
and beam-ends, such as those which are known as Church Row, and stand
back from the road, between Boutport Street, and the High Street, by St.
Peter's Church and St. Anne's Chapel.  St. Peter's Church, which stands
between these two main streets in the very centre of the town, is of the
fourteenth century, and has a fine leaded spire, considered to be one of
the finest in Europe, which the nineteenth century was anxious to
abolish, and replace by a western tower of the more ordinary type.
Fortunately Sir Gilbert Scott was called in to restore the church, and
refused to have a hand in destroying the spire, so the old parish church
stands as it was built, but with its spire drawn curiously out of the
perpendicular by the action of the sun's rays on the lead.

Within a few yards of St. Peter's stands the grammar-school, where Bishop
Jewel and his neighbour and enemy, Thomas Harding, went to school in the
early sixteenth century, and the poet Gay in the beginning of the
eighteenth.  It was originally a chapel of St. Anne, and became a
grammar-school on the suppression of the chantries by Henry VIII.  The
upper part of the building dates from 1450, but the crypt is much older,
and it is conjectured to be a Saxon foundation.  The beauty of these
buildings--the church, the grammar-school, and the old houses--consists
so greatly in their surroundings, in the green of the grass and the
unfolding chestnut-trees against the old grey stone, the twinkle of
blossom by the angle of a house, and the soft sky of Devon above, that it
is difficult to reproduce; it is a beauty of atmosphere rather than of
outline, of sentiment and association.

I like, too, this lack of the "picturesque cult" which one finds in these
English towns; the beautiful is allowed always to be the useful, and the
family washing hangs on a line outside many a Tudor house as easily as in
a London slum.  In Boutport Street--that old street that runs more than
halfway round Barnstaple, "about the port"--stands the Golden Lion Hotel,
which was formerly the town house of the Earl of Bath, and was enriched
in the seventeenth century by most beautiful moulded plaster ceilings and
fireplaces, made by Italian craftsman who were brought over from Italy.
The front of the building has been altogether modernized, but much of the
beautiful decorated interior work remains, to enrich the rooms where the
many unseeing visitors take their meals.  The Trevelyan Hotel, in the
High Street, which presents to the street a most unpretentious exterior,
and where, indeed, the principal rooms are the Victorian of Dickens, with
ugly curtains and carpets, wall-papers and furniture, Victorian pictures,
and Victorian bronzes on the coffee-room mantlepiece, has treasures
hidden away up its dark staircases and in its cheaper and more modest
bedrooms--defaced and disregarded, alas!--an Italian ceiling of fine
scroll-work cut in half by a partition boarding, and a fine mantlepiece,
with figures in relief, being built half over, and gas-jets thrust
through the moulding.  They showed me a great open hearth, with decorated
mantle, which must have been that of the dining-room; at present the room
is used for lumber.  Half of it has been pulled down to build a
staircase, and the low casement windows are blocked by a lean-to
coalshed, making the room so dark that I could barely see the plaster
modelling of the wall.

This, I confess, is a vandalism, but I still consider it as the necessary
penalty we pay for not putting all the treasures of our past into
museums, labelling them neatly--and never looking at them.

The Penrose Almshouses in Litchdon Street, a beautiful small quadrangle,
with a low colonnade surmounted by an ornamented lead gutter and steep
dormer windows in a red-tiled roof, are still kept to their old uses.
They stand the wear and tear of time as well as its mellowing, and, like
language, if they are here and there vulgarized by the usage of every
day, without it they would be a dead language.

Queen Anne's Walk, overlooking the river, and close to the town station,
is a small colonnade of the Renaissance style, which is most familiar to
us in the architecture of Bath; it has an outlandish look, with its
classical lines seen against the background of the smooth river and green
Devonshire country, and has not the homely charm of Elizabethan or Stuart
building.

It has, however, its peculiar beauty; it is suggestive of red-heeled
shoes and powder, and an artificial world of beaux and belles.  It must
have been a pleasant enough place to walk in, until the railway came
between it and the river, and its earlier name of the Merchants' Walk (or
the Exchange) gives more of its character than its present name.

One must beware, however, in the present popular quest for the "antique,"
of overlooking the beauty of modern things; the market, for instance,
which is a vast rectangular building standing on the High Street, has a
strange and individual charm when you come into it out of the glare of
the white street.  The windows are fitted with light green glass, which
gives a sort of ghostly twilight to its bare spaciousness, with heavy
masses of gloom among the pillars of the flanking colonnade.  It has no
pretence to artistic ornament of any kind; it was built for a specific
purpose, which it answers admirably, and when it is crowded with stalls
on market-days, and noisy with buyers and sellers, it is a scene of
bustle and movement which would arouse the enthusiasm of a traveller if
he came upon it in some distant city of the East, though the difference
of language and costume is all there is between the two.  But when it is
empty, with its bare walls and bare floor and high dark roof, sun and
shadow make from it a beauty which it is worth a moment's pause and
stepping aside to see.

The Athenaeum, also, which stands in the open space at the head of the
Long Bridge, which is a noble structure of the thirteenth century, is a
modern building, endowed by the late Mr. Rock, and possessing one of the
best libraries in Devonshire.  It is a plain, unpretentious building; on
the ground-floor a geological museum, very useful for a student--for it
contains a complete collection of Devonian rocks and fossils--and the
library upstairs.  Sitting there on a summer afternoon, and seeing
through the open windows the smooth sunlit curve of the river below, and
the gentle slope of wooded hills beyond, the Athenaeum has a charm--that
charm of weather and daily custom--which architectural description fails
to convey for any building, whether it is the Parthenon or a farm-house.
Without it, places lack their intimate personality, as photographs lack
the personality of men and women.  My memory of the Athenaeum Library is
of the familiar, slightly musty smell of books, of the faint creaking of
the librarian's boots, and the hum of bees and the whirr of a mowing
machine, of the smell of an early summer afternoon, the white glare of
the North Walk stretching beside the river, and the reflection of
anchored boats, very perfect on the still water.

Barnstaple is a very ancient borough; it is spoken of in the Devonshire
Domesday as one of the four "burghs" of Devon, and as early as the reign
of Henry I, before the election of Mayors had become part of English
municipal life, it was entitled to elect a chief magistrate for its own
government.  It was a fortified place under the Saxon Kings, and a large
grass-grown mound in the centre of the town (near the town station) marks
the site of Athelstan's castle.  Athelstan is supposed to have come to
Barnstaple in the early tenth century, when he was engaged in driving the
British out of Devonshire, beyond the River Tamar, which marks the
boundary between Devon and Cornwall for the greater part; and this was
only done by him, Westcote affirms, after he had exhausted every means of
gentleness and clemency.  The Taw, the Torridge, the Tamar, and the Tavy,
all comprise some form of the same syllable, "Taw"; and "Tamar" is a
corruption of "Taw-meer," which Westcote takes to mean the
river-boundary, "Taw" occurring in the names of the four principal rivers
"of these parts."

There was a Saxon church at Barnstaple, probably on the site of the
present parish church of St. Peter's, and the tithes were given to the
Abbey of Malmesbury.  The original ecclesiastic seal bore the seated
figure of King Athelstan.  After the Conquest the barony of Barnstaple
(which comprised the church) was given to Judhael of Totnes; from him it
passed to the famous family of Tracy, from them to the Martins (whose
name remains in the little village of Martinshoe, near Lynton), and from
them, again, to the Audleys.

It was a Lord Audley who distinguished himself so greatly in the Battle
of Poitiers, and, as his family were then in possession of Barnstaple, it
appears that the town changed hands frequently in the first three hundred
years after the Conquest.  The story told of Lord Audley is that he had
made a vow that he would strike the first stroke in a battle for Edward
III or for his son, and that at Poitiers he fought with such desperate
courage in the forefront of the battle that he was carried off the field
severely wounded.  After the battle the Black Prince inquired after him,
and was told that he lay wounded in a litter.  "Go and know if he may be
brought hither, or else I will go and see him where he is," said the
Prince; so Audley had his litter taken up by eight of his servants, who
carried him to the Prince's tent.  The Prince took him in his arms, and
kissed him, and praised him for the best and most valiant Knight of all
that had fought that day, nor, though the wounded Knight disclaimed it,
would he admit of any refusal, but gave him a yearly grant of 500 marks
out of his own inheritance.  Lord Audley, being carried back to his own
tent, summoned his four esquires and divided the gift among them.  The
Black Prince, presently hearing of this, had Sir James once more brought
before him, and asked if he did not consider the gift worthy of his
acceptance, or for what other reason he had so disposed of it.

"Sire," said the Knight, "these four esquires have a long time well and
truly served me in many great dangers, and at this present especially, in
such wise that, if they had never done anything else, I was bound unto
them, and ere this time they had never anything of me in reward; and,
Sire, you know I was but one man alone, but by the courage, aid, and
comfort of them I took on me to accomplish my vow; and certainly I had
been dead in the battle had they not holpen me and endured the brunt of
the day.  Wherefore, whenas nature and duty did oblige me to consider the
love they bear me, I should have showed myself too much ungrateful if I
had not rewarded them . . . but whereas I have done this without your
licence, I humbly crave pardon. . . ."

The Black Prince once more embraced him, praised him for his generosity
as much as for his valour, and granted him a further 600 marks in place
of what he had given away.

I have transcribed this episode because it seems to me a pretty tale of
chivalry, of valour and courtesy, of generosity and noble, if fantastic,
ideals.

Under King Athelstan's rule Barnstaple was governed by two Bailiffs, "one
for the King to collect his duties, the other for the town to receive
their customs."  Under Henry I it was granted a charter, which was
confirmed by John and enlarged by Elizabeth.

The earliest industries of the town seem to have been pottery and
weaving; the pottery has always been of the cheaper, coarser kind, and
although some attempt was made at the close of the last century, when the
industry was revived, to bring it to a higher artistic level of colour
and glaze, it still, to my mind, continues mediocre, and has neither the
highly finished beauty of such work as the Ruskin pottery, nor the
genuinely simple lines or colouring of "peasant pottery," such as that
from Quimperle in Brittany.  The Barum ware has a sort of bourgeois
mediocrity between these two different types, and there is room for a
bold innovator to reform the present models and methods.  It is a pity,
perhaps, that he has not yet arisen, for a local industry of this kind
adds greatly to the vitality of a town.

Of the weaving industry, what Westcote calls "lanificium," "the skill and
knowledge of making cloth, under which genus are contained the species of
spinning, knitting, weaving, tucking, pressing, dying, carding, combing
and such-like," we have records from the twelfth century; though until
the reign of Edward IV only friezes and plain coarse cloth were made.  In
Edward's reign an Italian, "Anthony Bonvise," is reputed to have taught
Barnstaple the making of fine "kersies," and spinning with a distaff;
doubtless this was looked upon by the older generation of conservatives
as a deterioration to luxury and soft living; they would hark back to the
standards of a simpler age, when a King's breeches cost him no more than
three shillings, and "friezes" would be good enough for the noblest.  For
Robert of Gloucester, in his Chronicle, tells us of King William Rufus:

  "As his chamberlain him brought, as he rose a day,
  A morrow for to wear, a pair hose of say,
  He asked what they costned; three shillings said the other.
  'Fie, a devil,' quoth the King, 'who say so vile deed?
  King to wear any cloth, but it costned more:
  Buy a pair of a mark, or thou shalt be acorye sore.'
  A worse pair of ynou the other sith him brought,
  And said they were for a mark, and unnethe so he bought.
  'Yea, bel ami,' quoth the King, 'they be well bought;
  In this way serve me, or thou ne shalt serve me not.'"


It was King Stephen, I believe,

        "who was a luckless clown;
  His breeches cost him half a crown;"

but King Stephen had to contend with rebellion and civil war the whole of
his unhappy reign, so doubtless popular sentiment would assign him a
smaller share of the world's goods than King William Rufus.

In Westcote's time, in the early seventeenth century, the wool that was
worked here in Devon was brought from all over England--Dorset,
Gloucester, Wales, London, and also Ireland; and clothmaking had become
so large an industry that agriculture had suffered considerably.  "And
every rumour of war or contagious sickness . . . makes a multitude of the
poorer sort chargeable to their neighbours, who are bound to maintain
them . . . the meanest sort of people also will now rather place their
children to some of these mechanical trades than to husbandry, whereby
husbandry-labourers are more scarce, and hirelings more dear than in
former times."

[Illustration: Woody Bay and Duty Point, West Lynton]

This little passage in Westcote is, I think, of great interest, as
showing the difficulties which had already arisen in the time of James I,
with the extension of industry, which must always flourish at the expense
of agriculture, and which seems to tend, nevertheless, both to personal
and to national prosperity.

It is a problem for which we have not yet found a solution, and at the
present time it comes before us with especial vividness and force.
Westcote gives a list of the various fabrics that are made in Devon; some
of them seem to be materials no longer in use, from the unfamiliarity of
the names.  Exeter manufactured serges, both fine and coarse; Crediton
(the famous locality of the burning of Crediton Barns, in the Middle
Ages) made kersies; and Totnes a stuff called "narrow pin-whites," which
is, I believe, a coarse, loosely woven white material; Barnstaple and
Torrington were noted for "bays," single and double (perhaps of the same
texture as our modern baize), and for "frizados"; and Pilton, adjacent to
Barnstaple, was notorious rather than celebrated for the making of cotton
linings, so cheap and coarse a stuff that a popular "vae" or "woe" was
locally pronounced against them.  "Woe unto you, Piltonians, that make
cloth without wool!"

It was in the woollen trade that the family of De Wichehalse, afterwards
so intimately connected with Lynton, made the fortune that enabled them
to become one of the leading houses of Barnstaple, and to acquire the
beautiful estate near Lynton, which is now known as Lee Abbey.  It may,
perhaps, be of interest to the "curious-minded" to give an inventory of
his shop, taken in 1607 at the death of Nicholas de Wichehalse, who had
married Lettice, the daughter of the Mayor of Barnstaple.

The following are the chief items of the inventory, collected from
manuscript records by Mr. Chanter for the Devonshire Association:

    182 yds. of coloured bays at . . . . . .   1s.  4d. a yd.
     49  "  kersey at  . . . . . . . . . . .   2s.  4d.  "
    broadcloth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8s.  0d.  "
    147 yds. of coarse grey ffrize at  . . .       11d.  "
    buffyns in remnants (whatever
      they may be!)  . . . . . . . . . .  L1 9s. 4d.
  Also lace, silk, black velvet, broad taffeta, leaven taffeta
    . . . and 5 small boxes of marmalade.


Mr. Chanter conjectures that this last item is marmalade, and can read it
as nothing else, though he was not aware that it was a preserve of Queen
Elizabeth's time, nor why, even if it were, it should be in De
Wichehalse's shop.

It was the prosperity of the De Wichehalses, the Salisburys, the
Deamonds, and other enterprising merchants, which beautified the town
with public buildings, almshouses, and their private residences--for the
enrichment of which, as I have already stated, Italian workmen were
brought over--and the seventeenth century was the time of the town's
greatest importance and prosperity, when Barnstaple traded with Virginia
and the West Indies, the Spaniards in South America and on the Continent.
The Customs receipts show a very great import of tobacco, and there was a
considerable manufacture of pipes, as a branch of local pottery.  "The
Exchange," or "the Merchants' Walk," as Queen Anne's Walk was then
called, before it was rebuilt, must have witnessed the inception of many
a venture, been paced by many an anxious foot when the weather was bad
and the returning ship was long overdue, and seen many a bargain struck
by richly dressed merchants, with pointed beards lying over their ruffs,
gravely smoking their pipe of "Virginny" over the deal.

That picturesqueness of dress and custom has passed away, but Barnstaple
is still a prosperous and pleasant city, lying on the sleek curve of the
River Taw, and surrounded by low smooth hills.  Seen from the opposite
side of the river on a spring afternoon, from the steep road that leads
to Bishop's Tawton over Codden Hill, it has a fair aspect.  The tall
modern Gothic tower of Holy Trinity stands out commandingly above the
clustered roofs by the river, and beyond the town, which is small enough,
seen from this height, to come within a single glance, lie the green and
fertile fields, and gentle, wooded hills.  The road to Bishop's
Tawton--which was formerly an episcopal seat of the Bishops of Exeter--is
a typical Devonshire road, steep and stony, with high green banks and
hedges, which, on such an afternoon in spring, are starred with primroses
and clumps of dog-violets, celandines and wild-anemones, and wonderfully
green.  It climbs from the London and South-Western Station, after
crossing the great thirteenth-century bridge from the Square, and within
a few minutes all signs of a town have dropped away, and we are in the
country of fields and farms.  In less than a mile, indeed, we come upon
an old fortified farm; the massive whitewashed wall, three feet thick,
rises steeply from the hilly road.  At one corner a giant yew has thrust
out part of the wall with its knotted roots, which are so huge that some
recent owner of the farm has cut a little summer house out of them, with
a thatched roof.  The dwelling part of the farm faces this way, and,
being built on the hillside above the road, I catch only a glimpse of
steep gables and tall brick chimneys; but I looked in the open gateway of
the cobbled yard, and saw the great thatched barns, and the massive white
walls which surrounded them.  The rear of the farm presented an almost
blank surface, save for one small door, which was open, a sudden black
oblong of shadow in the mellow whiteness.  A cat sat cleaning itself in
the mild sunshine; otherwise there was no life nor movement.  It looked
an enchanted place.

Farther on I came to a fork of the road, where a little stream ran
swiftly past the thatched and whitewashed cottages, their tiny gardens
profusely bright with flowers--hyacinths, daffodils, forget-me-nots, and
the deep red of climbing japonica.  In one of them an old woman in a pink
sunbonnet was leaning on a stick gossiping with a neighbour, while two or
three sunburned children with yellow hair were dabbling in a brook.  It
was idyllically and typically English, that ideal England of artists
which is dreamed of and loved by the sons and daughters of the Colonies,
who, thinking of "home" which they have never seen, think of such a scene
of verdant and homely peace.

Just beyond was a great barrow, a steep green mound perhaps twenty feet
high, with a little cottage beside it, and the small garden encroaching
on its green sides.  I asked a child what she knew about it, wondering if
some local legend still lingered round the spot; but she told me "they
had dug a pond, beyond there, and this was the earth they had thrown up."
I did not explain to her the unlikeliness of such a heavy undertaking,
with a clear stream running by, but went on, wondering what British
chieftain or maraudering Dane lay buried under that great mound, awaiting
the last trump.

Bishop's Tawton is said to have been the seat of the Saxon Bishops of
Devon, established here in the tenth century; a farm now occupies the
site of the old episcopal palace, but the church is Perpendicular, and
the only Saxon remains I could discover was the base of a stone Saxon
cross in the churchyard.  On the opposite bank of the river is Tawstock
church, standing in the grounds of Sir Bourchier Wrey, and close to his
house.  The church is built on rising ground, and set round by trees in
which rooks have built; clamorous and noisy, they fly round and round the
old grey tower morning and evening.  When the October gales are tossing
the trees, and the rain-clouds are gathering on the hills their cawing
has a sound of ill-omen, which makes them seem the unresting and
malignant spirits of those fierce lords of the Dark Ages, evil-doers and
unrepentant.

From Barnstaple to Lynton there are several methods of travel.  Either
one may take train to Ilfracombe, and there take coach, following the
coast-road through Watermouth, Lydford, Combe Martin, Trentishoe, and the
Hunter's Inn, twenty miles of the most magnificent coast scenery in
England; or, if one has the courage to take pack on back, one may walk
it, past Watermouth Castle, and the tiny land-locked harbour beneath,
which was said by Kingsley to be the safest harbour on this coast, smooth
and sheltered always, however high the seas are running outside; past the
tiny village of Lydford, which bears the same name and reminds one of the
seventeenth-century poem of "Lydford Law," though the poem was written of
the town on the Lyd, near Tavistock.  But here are a couple of verses:

  "Oft have I heard of Lydford law,
  How in the morn they hang and draw,
    And sit in judgment after.
  At first I wondered at it much,
  But since I find the matter such
    As it deserves no laughter.

  "They have a castle on a hill;
  I took it for some old wind-mill
    The vanes blown off by weather.
  To lie therein one night 'tis guessed
  'Twere better to be stoned or pressed
    Or hanged, ere you come thither."


"Lydford law" and "Jedburgh justice" seem equally to have been synonyms
for arbitrary and summary punishment.

But, leaving this digression, we proceed on our way, past Berrynarbor and
the old farm of Bowden, where Bishop Jewel was born, and the beautiful
church where he was baptized, with its great Perpendicular tower, built
of red and grey sandstone, rising above the wooded combe, and its old
lich-gate, set in the thickness of the churchyard wall, and almost hidden
by the luxuriant summer foliage; past Combe Martin, famous for its
ancient silver-mines rather than its beauty, yet with a very beautiful
church, with a Perpendicular tower even higher than that of Berrynarbor,
soaring above the sheltering elms, and throwing its long shadow across
the stream which curves round the church-yard among the old yew-bushes--a
church worth stepping aside to see, with a fine carved oak screen in the
interior, of the fifteenth century, the doors of the screen made in such
a way that they will not entirely close, in order to show plainly forth
to all sinners that the gates of heaven are always open; past Martinhoe
village, which was the scene of one of the most cruel and cold-blooded of
all the Doone murders, when they carried off the wife of Christopher
Badcock, a small tenant farmer, and, in rage at finding nothing in the
poor home but a little bacon and cheese, murdered her baby in a fit of
senseless brutality, reciting over it this couplet:

  "If any man asketh who killed thee,
  Say 'twas the Doones of Bagworthy."

And so we come to Heddon's Mouth, and of the seven miles from there to
Lynton I shall speak in the next chapter.

[Illustration: The Shepherd's Cottage, Doone Valley]

But the twenty miles of hilly road may prove too much even for good
walkers, and as the coach service between Ilfracombe and Lynton is
suspended at present, owing to the war, it is best to take the little
narrow-gauge railway that runs from Barnstaple to Lynton.  There might be
many more unfavourable ways, too, of seeing this stretch of country.  The
narrow line twists and winds across the hills, seeming to hang,
sometimes, on a tiny viaduct, while many feet below a mountain stream
pours down its rocky bed, and, owing to the narrowness of the gauge and
the steepness of the gradients, the train progresses hardly quicker than
a horse-drawn carriage, and one has leisure and opportunity to observe
all that one is passing.

From Barnstaple to Chelfham the railway runs along the valley of the Yeo,
through the woodyards and past the whitewashed cottages of the town, and
then alongside of the river itself.  This valley is most beautiful.  I
came through it on a hot afternoon in spring.  Just beside me ran the
clear brown water, breaking into swirls and eddies over the white stones;
on my right hand the hills rose, steeply wooded, with the lovely and
various colours of many trees, the rich brown of the yet unopened
beech-buds, the black buds of the ash, the twisted grey of alders, the
green of hawthorn, and yet more vivid green of early larches, the
delicate silver of palm, the bare branches of oak; on my left hand lay
the rich green pasture of the valley, and beyond the bare hills, brown in
the afternoon sunshine.  Ten minutes away from Barnstaple Station, and I
saw a hawk hovering above the hillside, so quickly do the signs of
habitation drop away among these hills and valleys.

We leave the valley of the Yeo, and climb the steep gradients to Bratton
Fleming and Blackmoor Gate, across the wind-swept open moors, bare and
brown in the afternoon sunshine.  Fold behind fold lies the countryside
in great brown curves, here a cluster of trees in a sheltered valley,
there a lonely farm; sometimes a group of whitewashed buildings under
thatched roofs, more often a bleak granite building, built to withstand
the buffeting of winter storms, grey amid its setting of bare grey
ash-trees or twisted grey alders, with the brown hills behind and the
brilliant blue of the sky overhead.  The air here is keen and brilliant;
there is an edge to all outlines, and a keenness to all colours, which
the softer and more humid air of sheltered country does not give.  The
yellow of the primroses which cluster thickly in hollow and on bank has a
brilliance and delicacy which I have never seen in valley primroses, and
I cannot describe the exquisite clear rose of apple-blossom, above the
gnarled and twisted grey trunk, seen against this background of sombre
brown and dun, and the penetrating blue of moorland sky.



CHAPTER IV

LYNTON

And so, round a spur of the hills, and high above the wooded gorges of
the West Lyn, we come to Lynton.

It lies upon the north-western slope of a hill, deep among trees; the
few houses and hotels--which is all that it consists of--seem to have
their roots stuck deep into the ground, while their tall chimneys soar
above the tree-tops.  If you are freakish-minded, indeed, you may pitch
cherry-stones down your neighbour's chimneys, for the houses stand one
atop of each other, clustering along the North Walk, which is cut round
the side of the cliff; some built high above the road, with steep green
banks of laurel and glossy dark myrtle; some built below it, so that as
you walk the chimney-pots and tall pointed gables lie within touching
distance of your hand.  It is curiously unfamiliar to see houses from
such an angle, a perspective of the roofs, with the windows and doors
become unimportant; it is an aeroplane view of the world, or perhaps,
more properly, a bird's view, for you may pause and poise to look down
on Lynton and Lynmouth as no aeroplane at present can.

[Illustration: Lynmouth Bay and Foreland]

The stony white road from the station and from Lynmouth struggles up
the hill to a small open space--what in any Italian hill-town would be
called a piazza, though it is only a few score feet in extent--opposite
the church and the Valley of Rocks Hotel.  This, I believe, is the only
level spot in the village, save a club tennis-ground, which has been
levelled out of the hillside, for the few shops or houses run
precipitately down the little side-streets, or up towards the top of
Hollerday Hill.  It is also the original site of the old village of
Lynton, when it had no fame as a holiday resort, and barely a history,
being left alone on its lofty cliff, as of no special value to anyone;
for, although the present parish church is partly Perpendicular and
partly of a later date, while the chancel is modern, it stands upon the
foundations of a small earlier church, which, surrounded by a few poor
cottages, with walls of cob and roof of thatch, a rough ladder leading
to a sort of loft, which was the sleeping apartment of all the family,
and a little patch of herb garden in front of each, comprised the
village of Lynton when we find it first, in the thirteenth century,
mentioned as a parish in the "valor" of Pope Nicholas.

Below it, then as now, lay the small fishing village of Lynmouth--or
Leymouth, as it was formerly called--a similar group of rude small
cottages, clustered in isolation, with the sea before and the great
moors behind, the people subsisting chiefly on coarse bread, salted
meat, and fish--often stale fish, for fish was the one thing of value
that Lynmouth yielded, and that would go to some representative of Ford
Abbey, under whose rule Lynton and Lynmouth came.  Yet it should surely
have been easy, with a little help and instruction, to have grown many
varieties of vegetable food, for flowers grow in abundance, and
evergreens grow to a great size and beauty, while the variety of trees
is remarkable--larch, chestnut, sycamore, oak, ash and birch, elm and
beech, showing the fertility of the soil and the temperateness of the
climate, in spite of the seaward position of the village.

But it is not the history of Lynton, nor its old associations, which
calls us to it, but its beauty entirely.  Stand upon one of the
terraces of Lynton on a still summer evening, looking east to
Countisbury Foreland, and see the water of the bay still and gleaming
in the evening light, the great headlands ruddy and golden above it.
The steep sides of the gorge of the East Lyn are warm and sunlit, they
glow richly with purple and russet; over the rocks of the valley a
faint flicker of grey mist begins to hang above the stream.  From the
trees around and below comes a great cawing of rooks, drowning the rush
of the water below; they settle into their nests in the great green
elms, then suddenly there is a caw, a scurry, a rush, and they fly up
as if shot out of the tree-tops.  There is a flapping of wings, and
much angry sound; they circle once or twice, and then sink back to
their homes again.  It is a beautiful sight to watch a rook volplaning
down to a tree as you can watch them from the terraces at Lynton;
moving on a level with your eye, you can see the detail of each
movement of their wings, see them let themselves drop through the air,
yet with muscles taut and legs and claws stretched ready for a foothold
on the particular slender branch which is home.

As you watch, amused and interested, as this protracted nightly
programme is enacted--and never yet, throughout England, have any rooks
gone to bed quietly--the colour fades from the headland and the sea,
the mist has gained on the valley, drawing its grey wisps and streamers
higher and higher up the sides of the gorge; the tide has gone out,
very smooth and still, leaving a broad flat stretch of wet shore in the
little bay, which shines with the last of the daylight like a clear
mirror; the lights of the houses in Lynmouth begin to show through the
trees, pale yellow in the twilight, patches of soft colour, rather than
light; and the rushing of the river sounds very loud because of the
silence of the birds.  Inland the hills lie, fold behind fold, in
gentle, misty curves; it is that exquisite hour which only northern
summers give, when the slowly-fading twilight and the slowly
brightening moon hold earth and sky in a faint pellucid light.

Or take a walk, on a bright May morning, from Lynton to Heddon's Mouth,
along the cliffs, and see open before you, step by step, seven miles of
the loveliest coast scenery, perhaps, in England.

First there is a wooded strip of road, called the North Walk, which
runs round the side of Hollerday Hill.  The shadows are dewy in the
early morning, and birds are singing from the green mass of the trees
on either hand; there is a faint smell of wood-fires from the houses
below, acrid and very pleasant; the chestnut leaves are just opening,
and the sycamores have still the early flush of red on their tiny
leaves; it is very cool and fresh under the trees.  Then the wood stops
abruptly, and the road runs out on the bare hillside and winds round
the great headland to the Valley of Rocks.  Behind, the wall of cliff
rises steeply, great boulders and outcrop of rock, fantastic in the
sunlight; below it falls sheer to the sea, where the misty blue turns
green at the base of the cliff.  Looking down the sheer slope, which is
dull brown with last year's heather, and grey with the wiry grey grass
that grows on moors and mountains, I could see the grey backs of the
gulls, flying far below me.  It was a very still morning, but I saw a
fishing-smack, which had been lying motionless, catch a sudden rise of
wind and come about, leaving a white circle of foam in her wake.  From
the height where I walked she looked infinitely little, like a ship in
a fairy-tale, no bigger than a walnut shell; I could see the clear
small reflection of her tiny hull in the smooth water, her sails
rosy-tinted in the morning sunlight, very beautiful and magical.  There
was no fleck of cloud in all the wide blue of the sky, but the horizon
was hidden by a faint haze, sunlit but impenetrable, and from somewhere
in the mist came the reiterated wails of a siren, from some ship
groping its way up the Bristol Channel.

I rounded a corner from shadow into sun, and below me lay a tiny creek,
a churn of foam round its rocks, the blue water running green and sandy
in the shallows, and a flock of wheeling gulls to possess it; before me
rose the great crag of the Castle Rock, each plane and angle of its
twisted slate pile cut sharply in light and shadow, and against this
sullen grey background a newly flowered gorse bush blazed in the
sunlight.

[Illustration: The Valley of Rocks]

The Castle Rock stands at the mouth of the Valley of Rocks, about which
so much has been written, which has been compared to an amphitheatre of
giants, or the scene of some titanic conflict, where the huge granite
crags and boulders have been torn up and tossed about by supernatural
and terrific forces.  In honesty I must admit that this seems to me an
exaggeration.  Any walker who goes with this in his mind must, I think,
be disappointed; the place is wild enough, and barren enough, a bleak,
bare, waterless brown dip in the high lands, without tree or stream to
soften it, except in a stone fold, a winter shelter for sheep, where a
few twisted and stunted alders exist stubbornly; but the outcrops of
rock from the brown grass are not specially remarkable to anyone
familiar with cliff scenery, and there are many gorges within twenty
miles of Lynton which are, to my mind, wilder and grander.  There are
hut-circles of the neolithic age in the valley, though many of them
have been destroyed by the people who live round, to build the walls of
their own cottages; but the often-repeated fantasy of this valley as
the haunt of Druid rites seems to me, not only unsupported by evidence,
but without justification, in the formation of the valley or the
wildness of the rocks.

Brown under the sunlight, shadeless and glaring, when a blustering
north-easter is blowing down it, the Valley of Rocks is a bitter and
inhospitable spot; I have been glad to go into the sheep-fold and
crouch under the lee of the stone wall for a moment's respite from the
wind and the stinging particles of sharp dust that it flung in my face
as I battled up the road.  Once, in such a wind, I climbed the Castle
Rock, and squeezed myself between two great boulders looking seaward
over the choppy water--it was a land wind, which does not send the
waves rolling in great breakers, very splendid to see, but worries it
and dirties it, leaving broken cross waves of muddy grey water--and I
startled a pair of ravens who had built a nest on a sharp ledge of
rock, just beyond where I sat, and had not heard me coming, because of
the noise of the wind.  They startled me also, as one of them flapped
out, close to my face, and flew screaming away, as I pulled myself up
into shelter, but the other stood on its jut of rock, almost within
arm's length, and looked at me.  I saw its ugly long head as it turned,
its great beak and its neck of a bird of prey, and then it flew off;
and though I sat very still for a long time, hoping they might return,
they only flew round me and past me, showing me the great black sweep
of their wings as they went.  But as I sat there, on that wild crag and
that wild morning, I noticed a tuft of dog-violets, growing out of a
fissure in the grey rock, and shaken and pounded by the bitter wind.
How wonderful is the tenacity of nature.  A few grains of dust blown
into a crack of barren rock, a few seeds wind-carried also, and then
germination in the rain and sun, and when the spring comes, this little
clump of flowers in its due season, part of the intricate and mighty
forces of renewal throughout the fertile world.

When I was walking from Lynton to Heddon's Mouth, however, I crossed
the mouth of the Valley of Rocks, just behind the Castle Crag, and kept
the road to Lee Bay.  Here it runs a few hundred yards inland, through
the grounds of Lee Abbey, a green and fertile fold of ground between a
sea-headland, and gently wooded ground that rises inland.  The abbey,
which is beautifully situated, with a hump of cliff sheltering it
seaward, and a great smooth slope of green sward running down to a tiny
bay, and set among a fine group of sheltering pine-cedars, was built
about 1850, and somewhat too much "after the Gothic style."  Parts of
the house are of pleasant red brick, overgrown with glossy ivy, but a
portion of the building--dining-room or library, I do not know
which--is like an east window of the Perpendicular period, fitted with
sun-blinds!  There was never an Abbey here, either, and the name is as
new as the Gothic, but there is history here, and tradition as well,
for the house stands on the site of the old Grange Farm of Lee, which
was a large, rambling, plain building, with gabled ends and thick
walls, thatched roof and tall chimneys, to which Hugh de Wichehalse
sent his family when the plague ravaged Barnstaple in 1627.

After that the de Wichehalses were for nearly a century the chief
family of Lynton, and the last of them, Mary, to whom her father left
this estate, is said to have returned here, after the ruin of her
family and her betrayal by a faithless lover, and to have lived here
with a faithful servant until she was drowned off Duty Point, either by
an accident, or, as tradition asserts, by throwing herself down from
the cliff, which is the southern point of the little bay.  Her body was
never found, and the mixture of fact and legend which has gathered
round her forms the basis of the tragic tale of Jennifred de Wichehalse
which is given by the Reverend Mundy.

After leaving the grounds of Lee Abbey the road climbs steeply up the
opposite headland.  Up this hot and stony road I went, leaving Lee Bay
below me, the tiniest of bays, a little blue rockgirt pool, guarded
with great shags of rock, into which runs a rivulet, down the greenest
and shadiest of gorges, where the trees meet overhead, and the clear
water runs between narrow banks of primroses, and the bright grass and
flowers follow the stream right down to the wave-smoothed stones of the
beach.

The sun beat on me as I climbed the hill, and the dust rose as I walked
from the loose, stony road.  I came gladly into the shelter of trees,
ash and oak chiefly, not yet out in leaf on this exposed slope, though
the celandines and wild anemone were in flower, and the ground and the
banks were green with new growth, ground-ivy and columbine, with its
heart-shaped glossy leaves, wild parsley, and the beautiful serrated
little leaves of the wild strawberry.  On the left-hand side of the
road, on the higher slopes, the trees had all been cut (one of the sad
exigencies, I fear, of war), and they were burning the ground as I came
past; the smell of burning wood followed me, and the thin wreaths of
blue smoke, curling up the hillside, looked faint but ominous in the
morning sunshine like a warning beacon, indeed, of the approach of some
raider.

As I paused for breath, and stood looking down at the exquisite blue
glimmer of the sea through the grey stems of the ash and the delicate
thin tassels of the larches, a drama of hunting passed before me.
There was a thin squeak of terror and a scurry of wings, and some
swallows fled past with a hawk in pursuit.  He was almost upon the
hindermost, when he crossed the path of a rook, who rose at him, cawing
angrily, and was immediately joined by two or three others, who rose
from the trees.  The hawk turned with incredible swiftness; I saw the
great white bars of his underwings as he "banked" steeply, and went
off.  The swallows had escaped and the rooks sank back into the green
tree-tops.  All this happened within a yard or two of me; I saw it in
detail, terror in the movements of the swallows, and the eager stretch
of the hawk's head and the gleam of his eyes.

This is to me one of the charms of walking along these lonely high
cliffs: you must go quietly, and if not alone, then with a companion
who will stop often and stand quietly, and you will see birds from
beautiful and unfamiliar angles; below you, showing the broad stretch
of their wings and the markings of their backs, or on the level of your
eye, so that you can see the distinctive shape of their head and beak,
their flight and their movements.  To see two buzzard hawks above a
blue sea, circling below you, and then rising higher and higher in a
great sweeping spiral, their wings taut till they have the upward curve
of a bow, and motionless as they ascend, save for an occasional broad
beat as they come, perhaps, to what airmen call a "pocket" in the air,
and so up until they are two specks against the dazzling brightness of
the sky, and you can no longer look at them--this is to me pleasure and
occupation enough for a long summer's morning.  Or to watch the gulls,
hanging motionless head on to a brisk wind, or swooping and diving for
fish, black and white and grey changing swiftly across them as they
turn different angles of back and breast and wing to the sun; or to sit
on a high moorland as the evening falls, and hear the melancholy call
of the plover across the brown heather, and watch their strange, broken
flight as they fly low, and waver, and seem to fall as if you had
winged them--sitting there quietly with your hands before you and
intending no harm to any bird on God's earth--and then with a sudden
turn, which shows you all the white underpart of their wings, rising
again and flying strongly, their broad black wings dark against the
evening sky.  All this may be had by anyone who will walk solitarily
and with seeing eyes.

How beautiful are birds in flight!--the dart of a kingfisher, the sweep
of a hawk, the dip and turn of a swallow, the tremulous beat of a
rising lark, even the scurry of a park sparrow for the little bit of
bread you throw him, all different and all beautiful; and what tiny,
ineffectual, maimed creatures they are when they are dead, and their
wings folded!  What pitiful little structures of flesh and bones and
tiny heart and brain to be so bright and swift in the wide air!

The road rounds a headland and dips again to Woody Bay.  The sweep of
the cliffs here is bold and beautiful, the bay is quite a wide sweeping
curve for this land of creek and gorge, and the slopes of the cliffs
are heavily wooded (which has probably led to the present corruption of
the name from the earlier form of Wooda Bay); but there has been an
outbreak of new houses and a new sanded road, which alarmed me, being
in the mind for birds and solitude, and I kept the high white road
which goes round the summit of the cliffs.  Woody Bay is beginning to
be popular in the summer months among those less conventional folk who
like to live off the beaten track during their holidays, and are not
frightened by long distances or difficulties of access, but it is still
quite a tiny place and has not yet suffered that exploitation of the
picturesque which has overtaken Ilfracombe and Torquay, and many
beautiful spots in Devon.  Seen from the high road that runs round the
cup of the hills its sprinkle of new little pink houses below look like
toys, and their dainty chalet-villa architecture fits the illusion; so
also does its smoothed green terrace of fields, which seem no bigger
than the nursery tablecloth, with Noah's ark animals, cows and horses,
feeding on them.

The road crosses the stream which runs into the bay, and I rested here,
sitting on the parapet of the bridge, before I took to the unshaded,
stony white upper road.  There was a pleasant sound of falling water,
and the stream ran below me, between banks that were very green with
moss and beautifully shaded by sycamores.

From Woody Bay the scene grows wilder and grander.  Seaward tower the
rocky cliffs, falling sheer to their base, jagged slate rocks which are
the home of gulls and ravens, with precipitous slopes of short and
slippery grass, where the mountain sheep feed; inland the brown moor
stretches, bare and open to the sky, with a cluster of little cottages
and a grey church hidden and sheltered in a dip of the ground.

From Woody Bay the road strikes inland to Martinhoe, which takes its
name from the same overlords of the district whose appellation is found
in Combe Martin (which in Domesday is written simply as Comba or Combe)
and across the moors to Parracombe, which has been the home of the
yeoman family of Blackmore since 1683.  The little grey twelfth-century
tower which William de Tracy is said to have built, as he built many
churches in expiation of the murder of Thomas à Becket, stands just
above the railway line from Lynton to Barnstaple, but the church used
by the small population of the village--and this and Trentishoe only
number together three hundred souls--stands lower down the combe.  As
one passes these villages, isolated on the wide moors and guarded each
by its lonely small church, rising squarely and almost without ornament
against the background of the hills, one thinks often of those
beautiful lines of Kipling's in the poem he calls "Sussex":

  "Here through the strong unhampered days
    The twinkling silence thrills;
  Or little, lost, Down churches praise
    The Lord who made the hills."


I crossed a wild and desolate gorge, barren, rocky and windswept; the
tinkle of clear water ran down over the grey boulders out of sight and
dropped down the face of the cliff into the sea; brown and grey lay the
hillsides and rocks under the glaring noonday sun; there was no living
soul in sight, no movement, save far below the flight of a pair of
ravens or the white flick of a gull's wings out to sea.  Gorge beyond
gorge lay the land, still and colourless in the circle of a sea and sky
widely and splendidly blue.  I felt that I walked on a younger earth,
just emerged from its fierce chaos of whirling molten matter, and as
yet unsoftened by luxuriant vegetable growth, an earth of stark rocks
and hot mud, teeming with potential life, of dry thin air and blazing
sunshine, very harsh and desolate and beautiful.

[Illustration: Heddon's Mouth, near Lynton]

Then a great cleft runs inland, fenced by a bold headland on either
hand, and I have rounded Highveer Point and am looking down Heddon's
Mouth.  Heddon is the corruption of the Celtic word "etin," which means
a giant, and the Celtic spirit which so named this wild valley had
indeed a sense of the poetry and grandeur of places.  Sheer either side
rise the slate hills, bare, waterless, and treeless.  The southern hill
is one steep slope of scree; the northern hill, Highveer Point, on
which I stand, is covered with dead gorse and heather, which they have
been burning in the spring, and the sharp smell lingers still.  A
thousand feet below runs the river, shut narrowly between these great
cliffs, with hardly foothold for a sparse sprinkle of trees between
these dark walls, and for the ribbon of white road that runs from the
sea to Hunter's Inn, a mile inland.  There two streams meet, and the
place is as green as a little paradise, and bright with running waters,
but it lies round the bend of the hill on which I stand, and what I see
before me is this shadowless great gorge, without tree or shrub or
flower, the magnificent shoulders of cliff lifted against the hot and
cloudless sky; inland the heat shimmering on the rounded surface of
hill behind hill, and out to sea a little froth of white where the blue
water breaks into foam on the point of some just submerged jag of rock.
A vast silence holds the place, save for the deep undertone of the
rushing water far below, so deep and so distant that it is rather like
a dull vibration in my brain than a sound in my ears.  The heavy
buzzing of a fly and the rattle of the wind in the brim of my straw hat
do not break this impression of great silence; they seem to lie on it
rather, like feathers on the surface of a deep pool.  The shadow of a
hawk goes slowly past me on the dusty white road and across the bare
hillside, on an outcrop of rock, bleak and grey in this brilliant
light, a butterfly, a red admiral, stands motionless, his wonderful
wings of crimson and iridescent blue stretched wide, and shining in the
sunlight with incredible colour.

There are scenes of a different beauty at Lynton from that of these few
miles of cliff--and to me lacking something of the spaciousness and
splendour of Heddon's Mouth--but beautiful none the less.  Go into
Lynmouth, down the steep and stony road--a true Devonshire road, still
the same as Celia Fiennes described them in her tour through England in
1695: "Ye lanes are full of stones and dirt for ye most part, because
they are so close ye sun and wind cannot come at them"--among the
steep, tree-embowered, whitewashed houses, which with the sun blazing
on their flat white walls suggest rather a little village of the
Pyrenees or Northern Italy than Devonshire cottages, that and the
luxuriance of the trees through which the East Lyn and the West Lyn
foam down to the little beach, and the prodigal flowering of bushes and
shrubs.  Follow the East Lyn up to Watersmeet, which is about two miles
from Lynmouth through one of the most beautiful wooded gorges in
England.  Past the hotels you go, and a little straggle of small modern
houses, past the untidy little patch which would be the suburb of a
larger community, with upturned boats and washing drying in the sun,
and within five minutes a turn of the road hides Lynmouth and the sea
from your backward look, and you stand in the heart of a valley and
beyond signs of habitation.  The southern slope is beautifully wooded,
showing every range and variety of green, from the light vivid green of
larches to the dull brownish tone of the oaks.  The northern slope
rises brown and rocky, the edges clear-cut against the brilliant sky;
there is a great sound of birds, and always the noise of water running
over stones.

As you ascend the river the gorge becomes narrow and more thickly
wooded; the path winding along it is hot and close and still; the water
is clear brown in its depths, and green in the shallows and where it
slides over a mossy stone; it bubbles into foam in its tiny waterfalls
and cataracts and miniature whirlpools; it is deliciously sweet and
cool.  The green moss grows to the very edge of its white stones, and
ferns and hart's-tongues and lilies-of-the-valley clothe the sides of
the hill; there are celandines and primroses and wild strawberry in
flower, and the lovely white cup of the ivy-leafed bell-flower.
Nowhere, perhaps, save in the west of England (I do not speak only of
Devon, for I know of little valleys in Cornwall which are as fertile as
the Garden of Eden, held in the rocky jaws of some bleak cliff), but in
what we call "the West," is there such peculiar beauty of contrast,
bold outlines of cliff and cove, great stretches of moor lying open to
the sky, and wooded combe and valley or small green sheltered hollow of
such blossoming fertility.

The Watersmeet, the point where the Hoaroak Water joins the East Lyn,
breaking down over a thunderous small white waterfall, and a beautiful
spot enough, is vulgarized by notices embodying the commercial rivalry
of two different tea-houses.  By one you are invited to walk on the
right bank of the river, as being the only public footpath (given in
the official guide of the Lynton Urban District Council); by the other
you are invited to a "unique view" of the Watersmeet, and assured you
will be solicited for patronage in no way.

On the loneliest, loveliest day in early summer this smacks of tourist
parties, and I made haste to leave the river path and the sheltering
trees and climb the road to Brendon, a road as steep and hot, as stony
and glaring, as I have ever climbed.  Up and up I went for half an
hour, seeing nothing but the banks and hedges on either hand; every
turn in the road I thought was the last span that would bring me out on
the hill-tops, and every turn of the road showed me another.  But at
last I stood above Brendon, and before me spread the moors, brown and
purple in the sunlight, and the little old grey church of Brendon just
below me, in a slight dip of the high ground.

[Illustration: Castle Rock, Lynton]

The woods of the Lyn Valley climbed to my feet, and I sat down in the
shade of the outermost fringe of trees to eat my lunch, and dream and
muse, and doze away the first hot hours of the afternoon.  I sat
looking down over the valley; below me and to right and left the green
spikes of the larches were aflutter in the wind; before me rose a great
bare shoulder of hill, outlined sharply against the blue.  Overhead the
sun was blazing, but in the wood the sunlight hung mistily among the
trunks and branches of oak and birch; it looked as if the wood were
filled with tremulous sunlit water, rather than with air and sun.  The
air from off the moors was keen and very sweet.  I lay on the dry,
clean turf and moss, looking up at the cloudless sky; a solitary
swallow hawking far up seemed no bigger than a fly, and a brilliant
green fly on a leaf above me, buzzing turbulently, seemed portentously
big and important.  I lost my sense of space and time and of the world
in relation to men, set, as it were, as the background to men, and I
slipped into a world which belongs to the birds and the mice and the
moles, and the fish in the clear stream below; I watched the
chaffinches and thrushes, and a little grey ash-tree near me which was
full of linnets, delicious, sleek, grey, sweet-piping, busy little
birds, sliding and skimming in and out of the tree, a little home of
song and love-making, of intimate and familiar life.  I heard a cuckoo
calling from the thick woods of the valley below, like the note of a
bell, very far away.  I noticed the unopened buds of the ash shining
like silver against the flawless blue sky; it seemed to me I had lain
there a hundred years looking at them, and hearing the thin song of the
linnets, in a world entranced from movement or the passing of time.
And then I fell asleep.



CHAPTER V

LYNTON (_continued_), COUNTISBURY, AND NORTHWARD

The word "Lynton," Mr. Chanter tells us in his interesting monograph on
the village, means the town on the lyn, and "lyn" is the Celtic word, not
for river, but for pool, and occurs in this meaning all over England, in
Northumberland, Yorkshire, Kent, Herefordshire.  It is strange, perhaps,
that this rushing mountain stream should have been named from its very
rarely occurring pools, but the authority is indubitable.

The Celtic folk who named it, the "early Britons," as our childish
history books used to call them, were not, of course, the first
inhabitants of this wild and wooded spot; there are neolithic
remains--hut circles and burial-places--fairly thickly scattered along
this coast, and a certain number of flint implements have been found.
The hut circles in the Valley of Rocks, of which traces still remain,
though many of them have been destroyed quite recently, within the last
two hundred years or so, belong to this period, and it is probable that
the earth-camps of Lynton and Countisbury, of Parracombe, Martinhoe, and
Ilfracombe, were built by the immense labour of this vanished people.
Remains of the early Bronze period show that there was a moderate
population in this district before the Roman Conquest.  Of Roman remains
there are none, save a few coins of doubtful authenticity found at
Countisbury, which are supposed to have been scattered and buried by a
resident clergyman at the close of the last century, with the avowed
intention of "fogging" later antiquarians--surely the strangest
"fourberie" ever indulged in by a reverend gentleman.  All other evidence
points to the fact that the Romans never occupied North Devon, though
they may have held in temporary garrison one or other of the existing
camps of the district.

These camps open up most interesting avenues of speculation; many of them
were undoubtedly built as defences, some few--such as the small earthwork
on the din's edge at Martinhoe--as beacons or signalling stations, and
some are conjectured to have been built for burial purposes, not the mere
barrows for single internment, but in connection with sepulchral
ceremonies and rites of the worship of the dead.  Such, perhaps, is the
small camp at Parracombe, which is built with a strong double fosse, but
the inner fosse deeper than the outer, which does not seem to have been
the case with camps built only for defence.  There are two other camps at
Parracombe, one on the common and one on a high hill; near Lynton there
are two simple earth enclosures, called popularly Roborough Castle and
Stock Castle, and seven miles south of Lynton there is a square enclosure
called High Bray Castle, which commands a view of the fortified camps of
the district from Barnstaple to Braunton and Martinhoe.  Tradition has it
that Alfred held this camp against the Danes, not that he built it, for
even in his day its foundation had become legendary and was ascribed to
"men of old time."

The Saxons do not seem to have built earth-camps, but stone
fortifications on hills, like Athelstan's castle at Barnstaple, or
Kenwith Castle, though they used the barrow-camps at their need.  The
Romans, we know, were mighty engineers, and their roads and buildings
bear witness to the endurance of their handiwork, but many of these camps
are indisputably not Roman, and their names bear witness to their Celtic
origin.  Such is the camp at Countisbury, which name is almost certainly
the same as Canterbury--"Kant-ys-bury," the "camp on the headland," and
which is one of the most perfect in Devonshire.  It stands on a hill a
thousand feet above the sea, commanding a view of the coast from Porlock
to Heddon's Mouth, with the line of the Welsh coast opposite; it consists
of a triple rampart and fosse, rising boldly one within the other, with a
gate cut in the northern face of the rampart, and with a small mound
exactly in the centre of the inner camp.  How did these peoples of the
Celtic speech build a work of such engineering magnitude, without the
tools and appliances of the Roman civilization, with implements of flint,
or at best of bronze, a work of such strategical foresight, of such
nicety of proportion, and of such enduring strength, that now after the
lapse of probably twenty-five centuries its bold proportions can be
traced by the most casual glance of the passer-by of the road that runs
past, now that the sheep clamber and feed in its deep fosses, and daisies
sprinkle the grass of its ramparts?

The Saxons seem to have come more or less peaceably to the Britons of
North Devon, who had taken little impress, probably, of the alien Roman
civilization, except Christianity, for many of the churches round still
carry the name of a Celtic saint, showing that the Saxons did not come
devastating villages and destroying the little churches (in which case,
of course, the churches would carry the name of a Saxon saint of their
later Christianity), but settled with the inhabitants, intermarried, and
probably adopted their worship.  There is the church of St. Culbone, St.
Brendon--that tiny village of Brendon, near Lynton, which must have been
a village, with a rude little church of its own, before Hengist and Horsa
landed--of St. Dubricius at Porlock, of St. Brannock at Braunton, near
Barnstaple.

St. Brannock ought to have been an Irish saint; the legends of him have a
levity, and a fantastic and humorous twist, that we do not find in the
stories of the Teutonic saints.  He was the son of the King of Calabria,
and came to North Devon somewhere about A.D. 300.  He searched the hearts
of the inhabitants by various miracles, among them by having a cow
killed, cut in pieces, and boiled in a cauldron, and then, calling the
cow by name, out it walked, alive and whole, and never a penn'orth the
worse.  The story of this is carved on one of the bench-ends of the pews
in the present fourteenth-century church of St. Brannock, and there is a
large carved boss of the roof representing a sow and her litter, because
St. Brannock is said to have been commanded in a dream to build a church
on the spot where he should first meet a sow.  He pressed the deer into
the service of God, and yoked them, making them draw timber from the
woods to build the church.  This is how the rhyme goes--a fairly modern
version of a much older doggerel:

  "He had nor horse, nor ox, nor ass, but the deer so little
    and limber;
  They ran in the forest to please themselves, why shouldn't
    they draw his timber?"


There is also another rhyme which seems to show that a bond of affection
sprang up between him and the cow which had had to serve his miracle:

  "St. Brannock fed on venison when he sat down to table;
  Behind him stood his favourite cow, and his
    valet-de-chambre Abel!"

I do not know why his servant should have been called Abel.

The Norman Conquest also came peaceably to this beautiful and remote
place; the census of the population of Lynton and Countisbury given in
Domesday, which was compiled in 1086, twenty years after the Conquest,
gives the numbers for the two villages as 425.  In 1801 the population
numbered no more than 601, these numbers being as many as the district
could support until the modern distribution of supplies; and the
comparatively small increase in seven hundred years shows that in William
the Conqueror's reign sobriety of government and security of the life of
the individual gave these localities freedom to develop to the limit of
their capacity.  Countisbury had been held by Ailmar "on the day on which
King Edward was alive and dead," and it "rendered geld for half a hide."
A "hide" was the unit of assessment on which the Danegeld was paid in
Saxon times--

  1 virgate = 1/4 of a hide.
  1 ferling = 1/4 of a virgate (also identified with sixteen acres).
  1 ploughland = as much land as 8 oxen could cultivate.
    (In Devonshire 1 ploughland was equivalent to 4 ferlings.)


The "manor" consisted of the "demesne," which was the lord's home-farm,
attached to his dwelling, and the villagers' land, which was held by the
villeins for their own use, on the condition of the cultivation of their
lord's ground.  Hence it will be seen that the condition of the peasantry
in the eleventh century, while actually serfdom, with enforced labour,
and no right of moving from the dominion of the lord under which they
were born, was virtually better than the conditions of the agricultural
population at the beginning of the nineteenth century (and some would
say, even, at the present day) in that they practically owned
smallholdings and were in a position where industry and enterprise could
be better rewarded than many a labourer of our own time could expect,
whose prospects--so long as he remained an agricultural labourer, and in
England--were inalterably bounded by eighteen shillings a week.

The manor of Countisbury rendered geld for half a hide, of which the lord
held one virgate and four ploughs, and the villeins held one virgate and
six ploughs.  Here is a list of the possessions of the overlord in 1086:


"There William has 12 villeins, and 6 bordars, and 15 serfs, and 1
swineherd (who renders 10 swine by the year), and 1 packhorse, and 32
head of cattle, and 24 swine, and 300 sheep less 13, and 35 goats, and 50
acres of wood, and 2 acres of meadow, 1 leuga in length and 1 furlong in
breadth; and it is worth by the year 4 pounds, and it was worth 20
shillings when William received it."


The Danish raids also, though they were frequent up and down this coast,
seem to have passed by Lynton; the narrowness of the landing beach, the
steep rise of the cliffs immediately from the shore, the rocky bed of the
river and the thick woods which fence the valley, all made it difficult
of attack, while Porlock and Ilfracombe lay within a few miles, offering
smoother harbours and easier access.  There are several notices in the
Saxon Chronicle of Danish raids on the coasts of the Severn Sea, in A.D.
845 and in A.D. 917, when the Lidwiccas, under Ohtor and Rhoald, landed
and devastated a great portion of this north-west country, but they
probably came to Watchet, near Minehead, and even then all that Lynton
saw of the fierce raid was the smoke of the beacon fires from Dunkery
Beacon to Martinhoe Beacon, near Heddon's Mouth.

In the twelfth century the manors of Lynton and Countisbury were in the
possession of Henry de Tracy, Becket's murderer, and by him were given to
the Abbey of Ford, in whose right they remained until the dissolution of
the monasteries by Henry VIII.  Ford Abbey was a foundation of Cistercian
monks, an order which was always engaged in matters of practical value,
and under their rule something was done to improve the breed of mountain
sheep round this district and produce wool of greater market value; they
also attempted some development of agriculture and the fishery of
Lynmouth.  They had, indeed, extensive rights of fishery by land and
sea--a very valuable asset, it must be remembered, in the Middle Ages,
when the mass of the population lived almost exclusively on salt fish,
and meat was scarce, except on the tables of the noble.  Their rights
extended over Lynmouth, Martinhoe, Countisbury, and the coast of Wales,
and the monopoly of deep-sea fishing along the Severn Sea.  This went
beyond the old manorial claim, which was "from the shore so far seaward
as a horsed knight could, at low water-springs, reach with his spear."
Beyond was the King's, and was free and open to all his subjects, though
a claim for deep-sea rights was allowed if it could be proved to be of
very ancient usage, as in the case of Ford Abbey.  Lynmouth was a noted
resort for herrings all through the Middle Ages, and curing-houses stood
on the beach for many years until 1607, when nearly all were swept away
by a great storm, and never after properly reconstructed.  The herrings
also at some time in the seventeenth century left these coasts
completely--tradition says because of the avarice of a parson of Lynton,
a hard man and greedy, who cared rather to fleece his flock than feed
them, and who imposed such heavy tithes on his poor parishioners, that,
in spite of the prosperity of their fishing, they were unable to pay
them.  So the herrings left the district, and the parson could whistle
for them, until he mended his ways and reduced his tithes, when they
magically returned.

At the dissolution of the monasteries very little difference in the daily
routine of their lives can have been felt by the country people round
Lynton and Countisbury.  John Chidley, who had been bailiff for Ford
Abbey, applied to the King for continuation in his office, which was
granted to him, and he administered the property for Henry VIII, Edward
VI, and, Elizabeth, as he had administered it for the Abbey of Ford.

Nor did the Civil Wars touch it nearly.  Barnstaple and Dunster were
taken and retaken by the Parliamentarian troops, and armies marched from
Dunster west to Bideford across Exmoor and the great commons, but no
armed troops came down into Lynton; perhaps hardly even a straggler found
his way there.  In the tragic rebellion of 1685 a bloody little drama was
enacted here indeed, but that is connected with the history of the de
Wichehalses, the family of chief interest and importance who have lived
at Lynton.  They did not come to Lynton before the early seventeenth
century; their home was a small hamlet called Wych, near Chudleigh in
Devonshire, though Blackmore invents for them a romantic Dutch pedigree,
and asserts that they fled to England to escape from Spanish persecution
in the Netherlands; this story, however, has been proved entirely without
foundation by the careful researches of Mr. Chanter.  In the time of
Elizabeth, he says, these de Wichehalses had overflowed all over the
country; we find them at Exeter, Chudleigh, Ashcombe, and Powderham.  In
1530 one, Nicholas de Wichehalse, settled at Barnstaple and started in
the woollen trade; he married into the Salisbury family, who were in the
same business; and when he died he decreed by will that his nephew John
should marry his stepdaughter, Katherine Salisbury.  The next Nicholas de
Wichehalse married Lettice Deamond, the daughter of the Mayor of
Barnstaple, and it is an inventory of his shop, taken in 1607, that I
have quoted in a previous chapter.

His son Hugh married in due course, and continued to live at his family
mansion in Crock Street, until, in 1627, the fear of the plague which
ravaged Barnstaple and Bideford (it was supposed to have been brought
into the towns by an infected mattress which had been thrown overboard by
a plague-stricken ship, and was fished out of the river just below
Barnstaple by four children who were fishing) drove the de Wichehalses
out of the city.

Hugh de Wichehalse decided to send his family to the purer air of the old
Grange Farm of Lee, near Lynton.  One can picture the removal: his wife,
his children, his servants, and a whole string of packhorses (carriages
were still rare as a means of transport), coming down Boutport Street,
and across Pilton Causeway, up the beautiful and fertile valley of the
Yeo, to Westland Pound on the edge of Blackmoor, and its inn, where in
all probability they slept.  The next day they would be on the high
barren moors, where the air was too sweet and keen for infection, and so
would come across Parracombe Common, Martinhoe Common, Lynton Common, and
down the Valley of Rocks to Lee (what is now called Lee Abbey).

The farm stood about a mile and a half or two miles from Lynton, and
after the busy life of the town their solitude must have seemed to them
excessive, for their near neighbours would live half a dozen miles away,
and were inaccessible in winter.  There were the Berrys from Crosscombe,
a branch of the Berrynarbor family into which Hugh's sister had married;
the Knights at West Lyn; the Pophams, who came from Porlock.

The family lived there for the next eighty years.  Hugh was buried in the
parish church at Lynton, and his monument can be seen there; it is he to
whom Blackmore refers in "Lorna Doone" as Baron Hugh, who was somewhat
too much hand-in-glove with the Doones; but the "young Squire Marwood,"
who rode too frequently past the Ridds' farm and kissed Annie Ridd, is a
character of fiction, for Hugh de Wichehalse's son was called John, and
not Marwood, there was never one of that name.

John was a strong Parliamentarian, and married into the Venner family;
but very soon they were in opposite camps, and there was great distrust
and anger between them.  Colonel Venner commanded a regiment in
Monmouth's haphazard and ill-fated army in 1685.  Wade, a renegade lawyer
from Holland, with a captain's commission, served in his regiment, and
after the defeat of Monmouth at Sedgemoor, Wade and Ferguson (a notorious
factious Scotchman, and the father of all plots) escaped to Bridgewater
and from thence got passage down to Ilfracombe.  There they hired a small
ship and worked their way up the coast, hoping to rescue other refugees;
they were sighted and chased by one of the King's frigates, and were
forced to run ashore, when Lynton became the scene of one of those grim
and terrible rebel hunts which made the West Country tragic and bloody
during that summer of 1685.  Wade was discovered at Brendon by John de
Wichehalse; he made a run for it, and was shot by de Wichehalse's
servant, John Babb.  The Babbs were said never to have prospered
afterwards; their crops failed, the fisheries failed, and they became
extinct in the second generation.  The last of them, Ursula Babb, the
grand-daughter of John, was to be seen wandering up and down the little
beach of Lynmouth, a half-crazed old crone, cursed with the evil-eye, and
babbling disjointed and incoherent stories of the ruin of the de
Wichehalses.

Partly because of discord between him and the Venner family, partly
because of the strong feeling which was aroused locally by the action of
de Wichehalse, who had the body of a rebel who was shot in Bonham Wood
quartered and hung on the paled gate opposite Lee, he left Lynton and
went to live in London.  The simple Devonshire estates could not support
the expenses of living in London; bit after bit his property was
mortgaged and frittered away, and when he died he possessed East Leymouth
(now Lynmouth) only, which he left to his daughter Mary.  She it was who
became the heroine of all the stories of the "last of the de
Wichehalses," which, indeed, she was.  She met a sudden and unexplained
death off Duty Point, and the White Lady of Castle Rock--a phenomenon
caused by a small aperture, bearing a slight resemblance to a woman's
figure, among the dark masses of the rock--is popularly supposed to be
connected with her fate.  Of her brothers, Charles, the younger, was
killed at the Battle of Almanza in 1707, when the English, under Lord
Galway, lost 18,000 men and all their transport, and the elder brother,
John, died at Port Mahon, in Minorca, in 1721, while on garrison duty,
and this branch of the family became extinct.

[Illustration: Duty Point]

And this is positively all the history of Lynton, until, in the time of
the French Revolution, when the turbulent state of the Continent made it
inadvisable to spend a holiday abroad, its beauty was discovered by those
eager to find in England that enjoyment of the picturesque which before
they had looked for in Italy and Southern France.  We use "picturesque"
now in a slightly derogatory sense, or we use it patronizingly, because
it is old-fashioned and belongs to the nineteenth century, and Ruskin and
Wordsworth, and even Horace Walpole and his "Gothic" ruin on Strawberry
Hill; and we are of the twentieth century, and have discovered the beauty
of docks and harbours and tall factory chimneys and railway stations,
under the guidance of Whistler and Brangwyn and such folk, and we do not
fret at laying a railway through Perthshire or the Lake District, because
railways are fast becoming almost as romantic and old-fashioned to us as
stage-coaches (in these days of aeroplanes and automobiles); but at least
let us remember that it is to the nineteenth century that we owe that
acute appreciation, not only of the visible beauty of the world, but of
the spirit that lies behind it, that personal and intimate character of
places which is one of our dear possessions.  Mountains and woods, cliff
and cove, have become to us a truism of beauty, but let us at least be
grateful to the generation which first dared to see more in the boundless
Scotch hills and moors than "savage and disgusting country," or to
compare the pinnacles of the Alps to human handiwork--greatly to their
disadvantage.  And the small absurdities, the "ruins" that they loved,
the "abbeys" they erected, were only part of that general half-conscious
striving to apprehend and express the spirit of romance with which we are
still moved in our own day, which Kipling expresses in his own fashion
and Conrad in his, down to the small-change of literature which struggles
for expression in our magazines and periodicals.

So when Shelley and Coleridge and Wordsworth came to Lynton, and found it
beautiful, and nearly decided to live there and be the poets of Devon
instead of the poets of the Lake District, it was because they found in
it that quality of beauty which they needed; and when, a little later,
Lynton was "discovered" by one or more people of wealth--notably by Mr.
Coutts, the banker, who built houses there and hotels, and began to noise
its beauty up and down the London world--it was just the outermost ripple
of the vast disturbance of the French Revolution which touched the little
spot, part of the free new eager spirit which sent men questing for a
loveliness they could neither make nor control, and of which they must be
humble and passive spectators, and part also of vast causes and changes,
which drove Englishmen to seek their holidays within their own shores.

Before closing this second chapter on Lynton, I cannot forbear to speak
yet further of the beautiful scenery in which it lies.  There is
Summerhouse Hill, or Lyn Cleave, as it is more charmingly and
appropriately called, the great rocky height, a thousand feet above
Lynmouth, which looks down on the two villages and which divides the
valleys of the East and West Lyn.  Lying on the short dry springy turf,
in the mellow sunlight of late afternoon, you can look along the velvety
wooded valley of the East Lyn, where the stream is hidden by the tufted
banks of the trees, and by shifting ever so slightly on your elbows as
you lie at ease you can look into the bare brown rocky valley of the West
Lyn, and see the gleam of the river foaming over its rocks a thousand
feet below.  All round is the cawing of rooks, as they sail majestically
back to their nests, grave and cheerful with their abundance of food and
their security of tenure.  England belongs to the rooks, says a friend of
mine.  We English may live here, we may build houses and farms, we may
plough and sow and reap, we may make revolutions or wars, sending our
armies marching through the countryside in creeping dusty columns, but we
are only illusions on the page of history, shadows flitting across the
face of the land; the rooks are perpetual, ineradicable, and possessive.
They feed behind our plough; they flock in our green trees; they build in
our valleys and in the shelter of our houses; summer and winter they are
seen flying under our English skies; they mate and nest and bicker round
our cathedrals and our cottages; they are noisy and turbulent and
unrestrained before us, as if we were no more than the hedges we plant
and prune; they are irrepressible as street-arabs, and arrogant as
monarchs.  If all human life were by some unimagined catastrophe swept
from the length and breadth of England, the cawing of the rooks would
sound as certainly, and they would fly forth to their morning meal and
back across the evening sky to their tall green elm-trees as if they had
never sailed over the heads of men who looked up and saw in them the
symbol of peace, security, and comfort, which they loved to call England.

For a good walker the road that lies between Lynmouth and Porlock is an
adventure worth taking, though it gives a taste of the steep and
shadeless roads which lead up and down these moors, pitilessly
sun-scorched in summer, and pitilessly bleak and windswept in winter,
when the rain and sleet comes stinging and driving in your face, and yet
somehow, at all times of the year, worth adventuring for the splendid,
open, untamed beauty they show you.

If you take carriage (in which case you will walk the greater part of the
way!), you will start from Lynmouth, and ascend the steep hill that leads
right up the cliff to Countisbury Foreland--I should have said the
steepest two miles of carriage road in England, had I not also climbed
Porlock Hill, twelve miles northward.  The surface of the road is loose,
and scoured by winter rains, and on a windy day the dust comes swirling
down it like a miniature sandstorm.  I have, indeed, seen even a car
obliged to draw up to let the blinding red swirl go by; and from Lynton,
on the opposite side of the valley, the whole headland has been blurred
and obliterated by the dust, as if it were a fog.

If you are not driving, you may go up the East Lyn Valley, past the
Watersmeet, till you strike the path for Brendon, a more sheltered way on
a hot morning, but steep also, for the hills are not to be avoided, and
you have somehow to climb 1,300 feet from the sea to Countisbury.
Countisbury itself is a tiny, bare, white-washed hamlet, with a small
bare white inn with the sign of the Blue Ball; it stands on the borders
of Devon and Somerset, and hence some have supposed the name to mean the
"county's boundary"--but this, I think, is a case of false analogy, and
the Celtic origin of the "camp on the headland" is far more likely.

[Illustration: The Moors near Brendon Two Gates]

The Foreland is a great bold promontory looking towards the Welsh coast,
which hangs on the horizon like a low silver cloud above the faint haze
of the summer sea.  Below lie Sillery Sands, and the caves of the beach;
beyond, the opening heights of Exmoor, in long flat curves, featureless,
spacious, and beautiful, purple and sombre under the wrack of
rain-clouds, grey and arid in the fierce blaze of the midsummer sun, most
lovely of all on crisp September mornings, when the heather is abloom in
miles on miles of changing purples and the air has a keen, clean edge, as
if it were blown off the top of the world.  The air of Exmoor has always
this sharp sweetness, however much the sun may blaze, as John Ridd knew;
and looking over the wide-stretching countryside, one sees many a farm
that might have been his, a sturdy, whitewashed affair, flanked
generously with out-buildings, and standing high, but sheltered, in a
hollow of the ground, cut off from its neighbours by the rising hills,
and even more isolated in winter by the deep ruts of the roads, muddy and
impassable, that wind from valley to valley.

A mile beyond County Gate is the village of Oare, where John Kidd and
Lorna were married; and as we follow the Porlock road across the moors we
see on our right the dip of the Doone Valley, where Lorna's bower was,
and a few scattered remains of stone huts show the habitations of the
outlaws.  It is a scene of wildness and grandeur; on the left lies the
blue sea, on the right the dun-coloured moors.  There are no trees, save
for a few writhen and stunted alders, covered with lichen till they are
the colour of stone, and look like petrified remains of an earlier age;
they are grown all to one side under the stress of the prevailing wind.
The only signs of life are the scattered sheep, their grey backs scarcely
visible among the heather and close furze, a great buzzard hawk poised
far up in the blue, and, when his shadow has passed, sailing slowly over
the shadeless ground, the sweet, monotonous song of mounting larks.



CHAPTER VI

PORLOCK AND EXMOOR

The road now lies in Somerset; we pass Glenthorne, lying five hundred
feet below, among its beautiful green woods and stretches of vivid
green turf, and separated by some five miles of barren brown moors from
the village of Porlock.  The road that leads from Exmoor down to
Porlock is incredibly steep, the steepest coach-road in England.  It
twists dangerously in sharp right-angle turns, the surface is loose and
stony, worn by the dragging of brakes and the scouring of winter rains,
and on a summer afternoon it is so hot, so dusty and glaring, and so
steep, that it seems impossible for man or beast to climb.  As soon as
you are at the top, however, the fresh air of Exmoor fills your lungs
and freshens your face, so let nobody be dissuaded from it.

Porlock itself was a port in Saxon times and in the reign of William
the Conqueror (I have told elsewhere how not only the Danes, but Saxon
Earl Harold, drove his ships into the harbour on a fierce raiding
expedition), but it is now an inland village, and between it and the
sea lie two miles of flat land of the most wonderful luxuriance.  _De
gustibus_ indeed, and to me Porlock is one of the most beautiful spots
in all England.  It lies in a green bay--what was a bay eight centuries
ago--between two towering headlands.  On three sides of it rise the
heights of Exmoor, barren, beautiful, and windswept; before it stretch
the lands over which the Danes sailed, running out to a thin strip of
marshland, and then a silvery flat beach, and then the tremulous silver
curve of the sea, not like the line of wave that breaks at the foot of
cliffs, but a true marshland sea, seeming to come from nowhere,
infinitely smooth and faint and distant from the level shore to the dim
horizon.

There are many kinds of beauty in the world: beauty of hot suns and
delicate mists, of sea and shore, mountain and lake and city; there is
the beauty of barren moors and of green orchards, and of flat fertile
marshlands where streams run amid a luxuriance of tangled growth,
kingcups and meadowsweet and loose-strife and forget-me-nots, and
feathery willows and rushes where the reed-warblers sing.  And at
Porlock there is such a gathering up of these different beauties that
it is difficult to describe the pleasure that one has in it.  I have
told you how it is fenced by Exmoor, and lies within sight of Dunkery
Beacon, the highest point of the moors; but it is impossible to convey
adequately the peculiar beauty of those great smooth dipping curves,
the satisfying breadth and harmony of their line, the way the sunlight
lies upon them, and the rich deep shadows that slide into their folds.
And below, round Porlock, lie the orchards.  I came there once in the
spring, and as we turned the last angle of the stony road I saw before
me such a sweep of blossom, such a foam of cherry and pear, white above
the luxuriant grass, and of that delicate flushed rose of the
apple-blossom, so exquisite a range of green, the hazy green of willows
and the bright clear green of hawthorn, that it seemed impossible it
should lie just under those miles on miles of moor where nothing
bloomed but furze and heather.

The green fields that stretched away to the sea were just such fields
as in the "Romaunt of the Rose" or the poems of the troubadours, fields
verdantly green, and starred with daisies and golden with
buttercups--the "enamelled meads" of Chaucer and the little illumined
pictures of the fourteenth-century manuscripts; and the hedges were
just such hedges, incredibly green, with here and there a break for the
misty silver of the blackthorn.  Wherever flowers could bloom they
bloomed, in the gardens, in the hedges, by the roadside, in the
crannies of the walls.

Porlock village itself is a quiet, charming spot which, in spite of the
temptation of visitors who come here in considerable numbers in the
autumn, when stag-hunting on Exmoor is in season, keeps most of its
old-world simplicity, and has not much "modernized" itself.  It is
rambling, calm, and whitewashed; the bank itself is a long, low, cream
building with a thatched roof, and a lovely note of colour from a
climbing japonica.  The Ship Inn also is a pleasant old building, with
a dark, cool coffee-room and heavy, timbered roof.  "Southey's corner,"
where he is said to have written his poem, "Porlock, thy verdant
vale . . .," on being detained at the Ship by the heavy moorland rain,
is by an old open fireplace, and has been cut off from a larger room by
thin partitioning walls.  It is a pleasant homely place, with its sound
of horses from the stable-yard, and the clink of its old pewter pots
from the bar, with its low raftered ceiling and brick floor, and the
sunlight seen from its open doors.

Porlock Church has a square tower, with a heavy, octagonal, truncated
spire, which gives the little church an over-weighted appearance, but
very distinctive in this country, of tall Perpendicular towers.  It is
dedicated to St. Dubricius, who is a Celtic saint of the sixth century,
who crowned and anointed Arthur of the Round Table; in the twelfth
century he became a very famous saint once more, after having been
nearly forgotten for several hundred years.  Many miracles were worked
at his tomb, and churches were dedicated to him.  The present church at
Porlock was built about the thirteenth century by Sir Simon Fitz-Roges,
who was a crusader, but I am inclined to think that the dedication to
St. Dubric belonged to the early simple church (probably a thatched and
whitewashed barn) which was there at the time of the Conquest, and
which, like the neighbouring churches of St. Culbone and St. Brendon,
harks back to Celtic Christianity of pre-Saxon times.  The church was
altered in the fifteenth century, and the Harington Chantry, which now
contains the tomb of Baron Harington and his wife, was added, and the
present spire, in place of the old one, which was blown down in a gale.
It is a little, quiet, grey English church, set peacefully in its green
churchyard, shaded by a huge ancient yew, perhaps as old as itself.  In
the winter rain and wind beat round its solid grey walls, in spring the
daffodils bloom in the churchyard, and on summer days the bees are busy
among the clover and daisies over the graves.  There are thousands of
such small, sober, beautiful churches in England; they are the monument
on which a fragment of the history of the race is inscribed; they are
the nucleus of the village life; the beginning and the end of its
activities have their sanction within its walls; they are rich with the
continued service of men's lives, generation from generation taking up
the duty and its privilege; they rise above the clustering roofs of the
village, tower or spire, as the visible landmark of faith--not of a
creed that can change and ebb and flow, but of a faith in the spiritual
core that lies at the heart of material life, like the village church
among the homes of its village.

We who pass casually, and pause, and step in and look, with a curious
and antiquarian eye, for a bit of old brasswork or carved screen, miss
the intimate beauty of these churches as much, perhaps, as if we read
them in a catalogue: "St. Dubric; 12th cent.; fine marble monument of
15th cent. . . ., and so on."  The plainest and simplest holds within
its whitewashed walls the beauty of continuous tradition; you must see
it in all its aspects of daylight and evening light, summer and winter,
the rainy, tumultuous November afternoons and the long, golden, mellow
evenings of June, to realize what it offers, of peace and order,
tenderness and calm.

Inside Porlock Church, which is light and white and simple, there is a
beautiful canopied tomb of the fifteenth century, with the recumbent
figures of Baron Harington and his wife Elizabeth Courteny, carved in
alabaster.  Whoever made these marble figures was an artist; not only
is the detail of the dress intricately and beautifully carved, the
foliated wreath of his helmet, the elaborate decoration of her girdle,
and the curved "horns" of her head-dress rolled either side of her
face, but the whole pose and outline of the figures is firm and
gracious.

I find that this tomb is quite famous among virtuosi, though I was
unaware of it when I came upon the monument in the quiet of a workaday
afternoon; but its beauty at once claimed my eye, presenting something
so different from the average mediaeval tomb, of interest chiefly for
its age.  These figures are slightly defaced, the sharp edges worn
smooth by time, and scores of initials have been scratched roughly on
the surface of his armour or her mantle; but there is a certainty of
line, a sharpness, and at the same time a suavity of angle, a way of
disposing the head and hands and body, all within the stiff convention
of rigid tomb carving, that to any lover of sculpture reveals the sure
hand of a master, whether he were a nameless stonemason, working in a
secluded village, or a renowned man, invited from far.

Standing by this beautiful tomb I can see the sunlight through the open
door, with a black splash across the gold, of the great yews beyond; I
hear the crowing of cocks and the voice of children, the creak of a
passing cart and the song of birds, all the simple, jolly sounds of
that everyday life which is the plain fabric on which all history, of
nations and empires and monarchs, is (if you like) the embroidery.

From Porlock to the little port of Porlock Weir is a walk of two miles
along a narrow lane between high green hedges.  The road leads nowhere
else but there and back; it is a kind of enchanted road which goes to
an enchanted village, a village at the world's end, beyond the circle
of mere reality.  Every cottage in Porlock Weir is just such a little
cottage as J. M. Barrie's fairies might build, low-browed under a steep
thatch, with great tall chimneys, in which are cut just such little
windows as would frame a fairy's head, looking out and laughing and
nodding at you; whitewashed, half-timbered cottages, grouped together
in a jumble of delicious curves and angles, with dusky, deep oak
doorways, and stone steps hollowed by the feet that have gone in and
out, and long leaded windows, softly yellow with lamplight in the
mellow twilight of summer evenings, and gardens--oh, gardens that are
small, and walled with stone, and running over with colour and bloom as
no other gardens in the world could ever be!  Hydrangeas, geranium,
larkspur and evening primrose, columbine, forget-me-not, roses--and,
indeed, the roses have gone wild with freedom, and threaten to overflow
and drown the village, trailing over the wall, running up the tall
chimneys, thrusting in at the open windows--nor are there names for all
the flowers that bloom here, for all the mellow gold and crimson and
blue and yellow and purple that glow in the sunlight, and fade gently
into shadows of themselves as night falls.  Beyond is the sea, all
round the flowering meadows of the marsh, behind the moors; to anyone
who has had the fortune to see Porlock Weir on such a day in May as
this I recall, when this England of ours seems, to our fancy, to gather
up all beauties of colour and sound and scent and sunlight of which the
long winter and the chill, reluctant spring have starved us, and offer
them all at once in immeasurable bounty, this village will seem to them
to have the loveliness of magic.

The beauty of Exmoor is a stranger beauty and more remote than that of
these lovely villages.  It is the beauty of space, I suppose, and the
great open arch of the sky; it is the clouds and cloud shadows, the
changing light from dawn to evening through the blazing colourless
hours of midsummer noon to the tender light of the falling day, when
the land lies in long, suave, misty curves; it is the swirl of mist
down its hillsides, and the solemn banking of great heavy rain-clouds,
purple and black, above it, that gives it so rich and varied a beauty:
for it is like a great open canvas, on which an artist's hand makes
wonderful pictures of a myriad changes of sun and shadow.  Anyone who
has seen Exmoor, as Mr. Widgery has seen and loved and painted it, on a
still September night, under the mellow splendour of the harvest moon,
high above the infinite shadowy blue of the horizon and the misty moor,
has seen a rare loveliness he must travel far to match.

[Illustration: Harvest Moon, Exmoor]

The "forest" of Exmoor is about thirty-five miles in extent from east
to west, and twenty from north to south, running from the valley of
Crowcombe, near the Quantocks, to Hangman Point, near Combe Martin.  It
is a stretch of country which makes its appeal to the sportsman, the
antiquarian, the artist, and the mere idle, happy walker; it is a
little country within a country, having many peculiarities of scenery
and structure, plant life and animal life, history and custom, peculiar
to itself.

And, firstly, though from Saxon times until 1818 it ranked as a "royal
forest," it is not a forest at all.  Trees will hardly live on Exmoor,
not even the black fir, the hardiest tree of all; only here and there a
few twisted and stunted alders planted along the shelter of a wall, and
degenerated into "scrub."  As soon as you descend from the heights,
indeed, the country becomes luxuriantly wooded, as at Glenthorne and
Lynton and Horner Woods; but the great expanse of Exmoor is bare brown
land, covered with short tussocky grass and grey furze.  Why, then, was
it called a "forest" in Saxon times?  Did "forest" mean also moorland,
wild and unarable land?  This opinion has been held by many
authorities, but there is the contrary one put forward, that Exmoor was
at some time a forest, and that all the land from Crowcombe to Combe
Martin was clothed with oak and beech.  We know, indeed, that in early
times, certainly, England was much more densely wooded than now; the
rocky foundation on which Exmoor lies is covered with a peaty deposit
which is formed of decayed vegetable substance--the myriad leaves,
perhaps, of many hundred autumns--and near the Chains, which are a
series of dangerous bogs near Dunkery Beacon, stumps and roots of
bog-oak have been pulled out of the ground.  This last fact does not
seem to me in any way conclusive, for Exmoor may have had wooded
thickets, without being a forest covering half a county, like the New
Forest.

And, if it were, what causes led to its deforestation?  The climate of
Britain was not, we know, more sheltered and temperate in old days than
now, so it seems necessary to suppose human agency to account for so
great a change.  There is one theory, ingenious but fantastic, which
asserts that the whole forest was felled to provide timber props for
the mine-workings of Devon and Cornwall.  Whether this took place in
Celtic times, when the trade with Phoenicia was at its height, or
subsequently--in which case it is strange there is no historical record
of so remarkable a fact--or whether those prehistoric peoples who built
huge camps and erected mighty monoliths were yet capable of so
stupendous a feat as felling the timber of sixty thousand acres, and
carting it over roadless country, is at least open to question.  There
is another theory, that the Romans in their struggle to subdue the
Britons, who took refuge in these wooded fastnesses, fired the forest,
and burned them out, as they are supposed to have done with Hatfield
Moor in Yorkshire, which, now a peaty moor, was 12,000 acres of forest
land until Ostorius, having slain many Britons, drove the remnant into
the forest and destroyed it.  An ingenious gentleman, in support of
this theory, instances Cow Castle (or Cae Castle), near Simonsbath,
which is a large British camp in the centre of Exmoor, and juxtaposes
with it Showlsborough Castle, a few miles away, just beyond the limits
of Exmoor, which is held to be a Roman camp, and where certainly two
Roman swords have been found within recent years, advancing this as
proof that a serious campaign between Romans and Britons was fought
across Exmoor.

All these are interesting speculations; one hesitates to dismiss a
theory because of its apparent unlikeliness, until it has been proved
wrong, for in this unrecorded past of ours so many things are possible;
nevertheless, it seems to me difficult to believe that the Romans would
have or could have burnt forty to sixty thousand acres of
woodland--above all, in a climate so humid and a country so well
watered as ours.

Exmoor is not generally heather-covered, but its tors and hillsides are
clothed with a wiry colourless grass and the hardy, prickly furze.
Heather grows abundantly on its boundaries, and above all on the common
lands, such as Brendon Common, Lynton, and Parracombe Common, which
surround it, and which are distinguished from the moorland proper.
Native agriculturists say, I believe, that the heather grows to its
finest on land which has been turned up by man's labour--like nettles,
which grow so wildly in deserted gardens and ruined villages--and that
this common land on the edge of the moor bears evidence of having once
been cultivated.  With the break-up of the feudal system, certainly, at
the beginning of the sixteenth century, much land in England went out
of cultivation with the abolition of forced labour, and became
pasturage or mere rough common.  The people around here say that, if
you turn up a strip of land on Exmoor, where nothing grows but grass
and furze, and leave it, in a year or so the heather will come.  But
that heather, unlike nettles, does not grow only where the land has
been turned by the plough is proved enough by the heather which grows
on steep hillsides, such as the Scotch mountains or Dunkery Beacon,
which can never have been brought under cultivation.

To all who live in the West Country, who says Exmoor says "the red
deer."  This is the last corner in England where the red deer, an
ancient and native inhabitant of these islands, lives in his natural
state, and where he can be hunted with the freedom, and yet with the
traditional pomps and usages, with which our Saxon and Norman nobles
hunted him.  The hunting passion of the Norman Kings is familiar to us
in our history; how William the Conqueror "loved the tall red deer as
his father," and how he laid waste hamlets and villages in Hampshire,
and the little crops of the toiling villagers, to plant the New Forest
for his pleasure in the deer; and how his son William Rufus met his
death there, while hunting, by an untraced arrow piercing his eye, and
retribution for William's act was made plain to all men.  The Saxon
Kings, doubtless, hunted with less pomp, but with an equal passion.
There was a Saxon palace at Porlock, and also at Dulverton, from which
they might hunt on Exmoor, and it may very well be that Alfred the
Great came to Porlock for rest and refreshment among the labours of his
life, his lawgiving and his translating of Latin books into the
Anglo-Saxon tongue for his people's good, and his bitter and incessant
struggle with the Danes.

The laws by which the Kings protected their sport were among the most
cruel and oppressive ever made in England.  They were not, so far as I
can find, imposed by the Saxon Kings upon their countrymen, but by the
conquering Norman and Plantagenets.  Canute, the Danish King, is said
first to have made death or mutilation the penalties for poaching; but
throughout the Middle Ages the game laws were intricate, rigid, and of
incredible cruelty.  To cut off a man's thumbs so that he could not
hold his tools, to lame him, to hang him, for snaring a hare or
shooting a deer in a land abounding with game, while he tilled another
man's ground and went hungry on his salt fish and coarse bread, while
all around him bred and ran the flesh food his stomach craved, and the
King who owned it lived far away, and neither hunted it nor ate it from
spring to winter--this seems one of the stupid and anomalous cruelties
of which the human race is so amazingly capable.  It was a concession,
granted by Henry II, for men to be allowed to keep dogs at all, even
for the guarding of their homes and their small flocks; but even so the
animals had to be brought before some magistrate every three years, and
maimed, by cutting off the three claws of the fore-feet, to prevent
them from pursuing or seizing game.

There is a description of stag-hunting in Chaucer's "Book of the
Duchess," which dates somewhere from the end of the fourteenth century,
which is substantially the same, I suppose, as a modern hunt on Exmoor;
a few of the terms are different.  The stag is "embossed," meaning
"hidden in a thicket," and Chaucer says he is "rechased" when he means
he is headed back, while the note which the huntsman sounds to recall
the hounds when the stag is lost is a "forloyn."  But stag-hunting
elsewhere than on Exmoor is virtually an archaic imitation of a sport.
The beast is carted to the meet, loosed, chased, and when brought to
bay is recaptured and carted back to captivity.  Here it is a natural
affair, and rendered necessary by the depredations which the deer
commit on the farmers' crops; it also contains an element of danger to
the hunters, and calls for coolness, decision, and endurance: for the
pace is killing, the going rough, the hills tremendously steep, there
are rocky combes down which the rider has to plunge, streams to ford,
bogs which make the going unsafe, if not actually dangerous--and a
rider, unfamiliar with Exmoor, who finds himself caught in an October
mist had better jog quietly home before worse befall him--and, at the
last, the chance of losing the stag, or having him, as happens
occasionally, plunge desperately off the rocks into the sea.

The red deer is the most beautiful of all wild creatures in England;
seen in his native setting on these high, windy moors, the brown grass
and patches of purple heather all round him, the clear brown and white
streams of the combes where he waters, the blue shadows of hill behind
hill, and the grey billows of mist and cloud the wind sends rolling
down the hillsides, he is a noble beast indeed.

Wild-horses also run on Exmoor.  Mr. Page, in his "Exploration of
Exmoor," advances the theory that they are not native ponies, like
those of the New Forest or parts of Scotland, but the descendants of
horses which the Phoenicians brought in their galleys when they traded
with Cornwall and Devon; for their bones are smaller and lighter than
those of our native ponies, and beautifully white and polished like
ivory, as are the bones of the Arab horses of the north coast of
Africa.  This is an entertaining theory, with its romantic conjectures:
the picture of the Phoenician oared galleys pulling into Combe Martin
or Porlock Bay; the scenes on the beach, with the swarthy, beak-nosed
sailors, the Celts, eager for trade and curious to look at any
foreigners come from beyond the sea; the heaps of tin and silver, the
ivory and gold and Eastern gauds with which the Phoenicians bartered;
the plunging, high-spirited little horses, wild with release from the
galleys.  But though the Phoenicians certainly came, it is very likely
the horses did not; for Mr. Snell, another authority on Exmoor, thinks
that the ponies are indigenous, like the red deer, and are at least as
old as the first human inhabitants of this north-west corner.

They are small creatures, as active as cats, and at Bampton Fair, where
many hundreds are driven in for the last Thursday in October, and the
narrow streets are packed with them from end to end, there are scenes
of great liveliness and disorder.  Dulverton, which is the centre of
Exmoor, used also to have a fair, which consisted mainly of Exmoor
ponies and sheep; but it has passed out of existence by reason of
railways and shops, and the greater facility for commercial exchange of
our era, and the charming cobbled, whitewashed town--which was quite an
important town, remember, when John Ridd's cousin Rachael lived
there--now dozes undisturbed among the brown hills.

The sheep of Exmoor are of a horned variety; we all know what excellent
mutton they make from its praises in "Lorna Doone," and John Fry's
lyrical outburst over the saddle of mutton "six year old, and without a
tooth in mun head," and sure to eat as soft as cream.  John Fry was
referring to the custom among the farmers of not killing their sheep
until the teeth begin to go.  Their coats are exceedingly thick, and
their wool a very valuable asset to the whole county; it was more
particularly so in the Middle Ages, when cloth-making was the staple
industry of England.  There is a woolpack in the coat-of-arms of
Minehead, and the most striking feature of the little mediaeval town of
Dunster is the yarn-market in the centre of the main street.

Wolves were plentiful on Exmoor at that time, and doubtless did much
damage among the sheep; in hard winters, even, they would have come
down into the little villages of Simonsbath and Parracombe, but the
last of them was killed in the reign of Elizabeth.  In her reign, also,
wild-pigs could be hunted here, while the existence of such names as
Crane Tor, Lynx Tor, Bear Down, is evidence of an even greater variety
of game in Saxon times than now.  Yet there is abundance still, hares
and foxes, badger and otter; the otter, indeed, makes grievous
depredations among the salmon that come up the river to spawn, for,
like a dingo among sheep, he slays promiscuously what he does not eat.
It is, I suppose, a lingering tradition of our old stern game laws that
imposes a severe penalty for poaching when a man picks up a salmon
which an otter has killed and left.

Birds abound on Exmoor; snipe and woodcock, partridge and black-game,
plover and wild-duck.  Nothing could more exactly express the
loneliness and wildness of this great open country than, when you are
walking solitary, to hear the harsh, melancholy cry of the bittern from
the reedy, desolate bogs, or in the falling daylight of a cloudy
February afternoon to see the plover rise from the tussocks of brown
grass at your feet, and go flying and wailing above you, in that
broken-winged, broken-hearted way of theirs, or to watch the duck
flying home across the sunset, with their strange honk-honk!

For all that I have said about the barrenness of these great moors,
Exmoor is the land of sweet waters.  The Exe, the Barle, the Quarine,
rising near Dunkery Beacon, the Haddes from the Brendon Hills, the Lyn,
the Wear Water, the Badgeworthy (up which little John Ridd fished for
loach), the Parley Water, the Horner, which runs into Porlock Bay, the
East Water, all these beautiful clear, clean streams abound with fish,
and have the freshness and the sparkle of this sparkling upland air.
Wherever there is a fold in the ground there is running water--though
geographically one should put it in the opposite way, that wherever the
water runs there is a fold in the ground--and wherever it runs flowers
and ferns and trees grow in beautiful abundance.  I have already
described the luxuriant green of the wooded gorges of the Lyn, the
variety of trees and the luxuriance of ferns and mosses; the Horner
Woods, near Porlock, have the same green loveliness, though a sharper
air blows through them, as they stand nearer the Exmoor heights and
less sheltered by steep rocks than those that overshadowed the Lyn, and
on a summer afternoon there is a sharp smell of resin from the
sun-warmed pines, and the keen air stirs even in the depths of the wood.

And besides these rivers there are numberless little unnamed streams,
everywhere the tinkle and chatter of water, breaking over stones,
slipping through the peaty earth, falling in a thin spray down the face
of the cliffs, spreading out across the white rocks of an encircled
cove, incessant movement and change of colour and light, a ceaseless
ripple and gleam of reflected water across the lichened trunk of some
old tree, sweet and incessant sound.



CHAPTER VII

IN SOMERSET

"In Somerset," says Miss Celia Fiennes with considerable severity,
"they are likewise as careless when they make cider; they press all
sorts of Apples together, else they might have as good sider as in any
other parts, even as good as the Herriforshire."

This young lady, with her keen criticisms, her spirit of intrepidity,
and her variable spelling, betook herself on a tour on horseback
through England in the reign of William and Mary, and kept a diary of
her travel, noting with equal solemnity the state of agriculture or the
quality of pastry which she encounters in her journey.  She was the
daughter of Colonel Fiennes, a Parliamentary soldier, and being a
delicate girl, was recommended fresh air and exercise by her doctor.
"My journeys, as they were begun to regain my health by variety and
change of air and exercise, so whatever promoted, that was
pursued . . .," she says, rather elliptically, in her preface, and
admonishes Ladies and Gentlemen to follow her example, and profit by
the spectacle of their own country--advice which we of this generation
have taken _au sérieux_, and of which the present book and those akin
to it are sufficient witness!

Her remarks on Somerset are not all strictures, for it is here, she
tells us, that she had the best tarts and "clouted cream" that she ever
had in her life; and this although Devon has given its name to this
excellent dainty, while Cornwall fiercely asserts that it is a Celtic
recipe, and stolen from them by the Saxons of Devon, after they were
driven over the Tamar.

With Somerset, however, we are not dealing in the limits of this book,
neither with its characteristics of scenery or of speech--which, to the
observant eye and ear, make every county in England rich in
individuality and infinitely various, so that Hampshire can never be
confounded with Sussex, nor Somerset with Dorset--but only with that
small strip of it between Porlock and Dunster which lies on the borders
of Exmoor, and belongs to it geographically.  After leaving Porlock,
however, the six miles of road that runs across the moor to Minehead is
on a lower level, and (as the aesthetic writers would say), in a lower
key than the magnificent barren stretch of uplands from Lynton to
Porlock.  The way still lies across Exmoor, but the "forest" lands are
beginning to lose their wildness; they run down to about five hundred
feet above the sea, while the summit of Dunkery Beacon is fifteen
hundred, though rising but little above the moors that surround it; for
the road between Countisbury and Porlock is over twelve hundred feet
above the beach it overhangs.  From Porlock the wooded valleys are more
frequent and more thickly wooded, and the villages lie nestled more
sleekly; the winds are less keen and strong, the sun itself seems more
tempered than when it blazes upon Heddon's Mouth; a more suave and
temperate beauty begins gradually to take the place of the wild open
spaces and grey cliffs.

The villages indeed are beautiful: Selworthy, Luccombe, and Wootton
Courtney, each with its lovely grey church, embowered in trees, its
street of whitewashed houses, its angles of light and shadow, and
gardens filled with colour.  Luccombe, which is said to contain the
same Anglo-Saxon word _locan_, to enclose, as Porlock, lies under one
of the spurs of Dunkery on a little stream which falls into the Horner
Water, and is, indeed, enclosed in a steep wooded combe.  The church
stands behind a tall row of cypresses, which, though planted only
seventy years ago, have grown as tall as the church-tower, and bear
witness to the fertility of the soil and the mildness of the climate;
they give the churchyard a foreign and outlandish look, I think, and
harmonize less perfectly with the characteristically English
architecture of the church than their neighbour, the old yew.  The
tower is battlemented, and has some individual gargoyle heads around
its gutter, and the barrel roof of the interior has richly carved
wooden bosses, with the remains of painting upon them.

The church at Selworthy has also a carved and painted wooden roof,
though of finer workmanship than Luccombe; the church itself was
originally built of red stone, but the tower is the only part
remaining, and this has been covered with stucco.  The window and
tracery of the south aisle is of the lightest and most delicate
Perpendicular, but the interior has been a good deal restored.  The
church is beautifully situated.  It lies high above Selworthy, and
before it stretch the long flat curves of Exmoor; below, Luccombe
Church tower can just be seen above its surrounding trees; to the
south-east, beyond the green luxuriance of Horner Woods, rises the
outline of Dunkery.  From it a path leads down to Selworthy Green,
which is rather a famous beauty-spot, lying on the slope of a hill,
neatly surrounded by trees--and the woods here are very beautiful by
virtue of the great variety of the trees, beech, oak, chestnut and very
fine walnut, and of the fair growth and dignity of the individual
tree--amid a little circle of seven cottages which form Sir Thomas
Acland's almshouses.  The cottages are old and whitewashed, and the
thatched roofs sink into beautiful curves and hollows where the shadows
lie smoothly; in the summer, when visitors from Minehead mostly see
them, the windows stand open to the warm air, and in the shade of the
porches, sweet-scented with climbing roses, they can be given tea by
the old pensioners.

It is beautiful indeed, and yet to me it has lost something of the
appeal of those lovely and desolate little villages--of Brendon, or
Parracombe, or Oare--more bleak and windswept, more sun-scorched and
barren, thrusting each into some cleft or hollow of the high brown
lands, with the wide sky over each, and each its small square church to
witness to the fear of God.  Some quality of freedom and individuality
which is their charm is not in Selworthy.

This is a mere question of taste; we are all apt to look at a place
with the eye of extraneous opinion.  The beauty of Selworthy is not,
indeed, except fancifully, affected by its being a landowner's village,
a swept-and-garnished village where the roofs are repaired by Sir
Thomas Acland's thatcher, for fear they should fall into the evil ways
of slate, and spoil the lovely contours of the village.  A landlord has
as much right to preserve the beauty of his property as he has to the
upkeep of his fences, and we are indeed fortunate to live in an age
when the mellowed beauty of ancient buildings has become almost a
religion.  But to me there is a smugness about such a village, which
has become the hobby, the by no means selfish or unenlightened hobby,
of a single man, which does much to temper my enjoyment.  Selworthy,
with its thatch and cob, its neat old pensioners, its suavity, its
absence of what is unsightly, is an anomaly; it can only be preserved
against the growing pressure of the twentieth century by the artificial
barriers erected by wealth.  Parracombe, smaller, lonelier, with its
white farms and outbuildings and cottages, is the natural outcome of a
small and scattered population, who are not rich enough to build newer
houses, and who live as their forefathers did because their isolation
on Exmoor, and the barren land on which they live, has not induced men
from other districts to come and "expand."

The little village of Culbone, near Porlock--if one may call half a
dozen cottages a village--is not an anomaly; indeed, it is a kind of
geographical whim.  The cleft in which it lies faces towards the north,
and it is so deep and so deeply wooded that for four of the winter
months there is no direct ray of sunlight in the gorge, only the sky or
the light high up on the summits to remind the score of folk who live
there that they are not shut in a green prison.  Even at midsummer
their sunrise is several hours later than for the rest of the world.
Among the darkest part of the green thickets stands the church, which
is probably the smallest parish church in England, or shares that
distinction with the church of Lullington in Sussex or St. Lawrence's
in the Isle of Wight.  One or two of the tiny churches in Cornwall are
smaller.  There is St. Piran's, but that is now a ruin on a beach, with
only the low walls of the very early building remaining; and there is
the church of St. Enodoc, near Wadebridge, which the saint must have
forgotten and the world overlooked, for it got lost among the low
sandhills and the sand drifted over, and it is only fifty years since
it has been found again, a delight to the few who ever see it, with its
squat grey tower barely seen over a tall hedge of tamarisk, and before
it the short grass rich with thyme, giving place to the sand-hills
which run out to the long level stretch of the beach, and behind it the
sand-hills yielding to the clean dry grass of the downs.

But these charming small buildings are mostly of very simple and
primitive construction, and St. Culbone has the construction of a
perfect parish church within the limits of its thirty-four feet from
east window to west door, with a nave, and a tiny chancel thirteen feet
long, and a small truncated spire, similar to that of Porlock Church.
Its patron saint is the Celtic St. Columban--Culbone is a simple
corruption of his name--who lived about the same time that St.
Dubricius crowned Arthur at Caerleon, about A.D. 517; of how this tiny
church came to be built (for the present fifteenth-century building
stands on the site of a pre-Saxon foundation, which was dedicated to
the Celtic saint), or what refuge or sanctuary it was, there is no
historical record; doubtless a remnant of the British, harassed by
Saxon raids on Porlock, hid themselves in this dark gorge, and there
built and dedicated a church to their own saint of the dove's name, in
the hope that he would save them from the claws of the invaders.

Of Minehead as it is now, no greater contrast can be imagined with
Porlock and St. Culbone, except that of Ilfracombe, with the grand
desolation of Heddon's Mouth and the solitariness of Trentishoe or
Morthoe.  For both Ilfracombe and Minehead have become so popular for
summer visiting that most of their original character is lost under a
flood of new houses, trim streets and shops, which have grown to meet
the requirements of a large but fluctuating population.  Unduly to
deplore this is, I suppose, a form of intellectual snobbery.  Both
Minehead and Ilfracombe are still undoubtedly beautiful in their
setting of sea and moorland, the one upon lofty cliffs, the other among
gently rounded and wooded hills; and it is fitting that more people
than the favoured and aristocratically-minded few, who elect to stay in
cottages and shun their fellow-men, should be given opportunity to
enjoy them.

Minehead is a place with a history; its position on the Bristol Channel
made it a port of considerable value, and throughout the Middle Ages it
did a large trade with Ireland, and a foreign trade with France and
Spain, only second to that of Bristol from the West of England.  In the
seventeenth century, like Bristol also, it had an extensive trade with
Virginia and the West Indies, and it exported annually forty thousand
barrels of herrings to the Mediterranean.  But the herrings left these
coasts, as I have already had occasion to state in speaking of Lynton,
and an Act passed in the reign of Charles II, forbidding the import of
Irish cattle, though passed with the intention of protecting the
English farmers against Irish competition, had the usual result of such
short-sighted policy, and, while it crippled the Irish trade and ruined
the prosperity of such ports as Minehead, it ultimately benefited
nobody.  Any ship smuggling cattle, that was captured, was sold, and a
part of the proceeds went to charity and a part to the Crown.  The "Cow
Charity" is a fund which is still administered in Minehead.

Minehead was a "manor" in Domesday Book, and was given along with
Dunster by the Conqueror to William de Mohun, who was one of the first
of his nobles to support his English expedition, and who brought to the
standard of Duke William fifty-seven knights in his retinue, with their
esquires and their men-at-arms.  The name Minehead is a corruption of
the Norman lord's name with the Anglo-Saxon word _heved_, a head; it
used to be written "Manheved."

The Mohuns held it until the time of Henry IV, when, there being only
daughters, it passed out of the direct line, and was sold by Lady Mohun
to the Luttrells, who have held it until the present time.  It was
incorporated by Queen Elizabeth, and governed by a "port-reeve," and
later by two constables.  The place was then of a size to consist of a
Lower, Middle and Upper Town; the Lower Town, now called Quay Town, is
the oldest remaining part.  It lies under the high hill of Culver
Cliff, around the harbour, and has more of the look of a Devon or
Cornwall fishing village--the steep, narrow streets, the whitewashed
cottages with their large chimney-stacks and leaded windows--than the
aspect of modern Minehead would lead one to expect.  It was here,
indeed, that the sea broke in the great gale of 1860, when the shipping
in the harbour tore from its moorings, and was driven literally upon
the houses of Quay Town, as the sea-wall gave way under the pounding of
the waves, and the _Royal Charter_, getting clear from Culver Cliff,
was driven on to the rocks off Anglesea, and lost with all hands.

Thirty years later, in 1891, the Minehead shipping was again wrecked by
one of the fiercest storms that has ever been recorded over England.
It began on March 9, and raged for four days, chiefly over Somerset,
Devon, and Cornwall.  Shipping was driven on to the rocks from Land's
End to Bristol; at Plymouth the solid iron seats on the Hoe were torn
up and hurled about by the force of the wind; the heavy snowdrifts
stopped all communication, even by train; some unfortunate people were
practically buried in their houses; and along with the tragedies and
devastation the strangest and most fantastic adventures happened, such
as an old woman, struggling back from market, having her basket of
provisions blown bodily out of her hand, and picking it up four days
later, with every article in it unharmed, not even a burst packet of
tea!  Where the roads were not blocked with snowdrifts, they were
mostly impassable from fallen trees, for the force of the wind was
greater than anything which has been experienced in England, partaking
more of the character of a cyclone, with the wind varying from N.E. to
S.E. and with very rapid changes, but of greater duration than an
average cyclone, for it raged from the 9th to the 13th.

Many fine and historic old trees were lost, and at Edgcumbe Park alone,
near Plymouth, it was estimated that at least two thousand were blown
down, and the damage was so extensive that it took two years to clear
the park; while at Cotehele, near the little town of Calstock, the
damage was beyond description.  One hundred thousand feet of timber, it
was calculated, suffered in this one small district; and Cotehele
House, which before had lain behind a screen of trees, was afterwards
open to view from the town by this violent deforestation.  Here is one
of the most interesting descriptions of the storm, written by Mr.
Coulter, the steward at Cotehele:

"The wind, having blown a gale the whole day, continued to increase in
violence as evening approached, and from seven till nine p.m.
accomplished, if not all, the greater part of the devastation to house
and woods.  The noise of the storm resembled the frantic yells and
fiendish laughter of millions of maniacs, broken, at frequent
intervals, by what sounded like deafening and rapid volleys of heavy
artillery, and, as these died away, louder and louder again rose the
appalling screams of the storm, with slight intervals of lull and
perfect calm, only to return with tenfold violence, which made the
whole house tremble and vibrate. . . .  Several of the windows facing
east were swept in as easily as a spider's web; lead and glass
scattered all over the rooms, leaving only the shattered frames,
through which rushed the resistless wind and blinding snow. . . .
Through the joints of doors and windows, the cracks and crevices,
before unknown to the eye, the drifting snow penetrated and piled up in
ridges, so that rooms and passages had to be cleared like the pavement
in the streets. . . .  On an examination of Cotehele Woods, the scene
presented gives one the idea of an earthquake rather than that of a
storm.  The majority of the trees are from two to three hundred years
old, torn up by the roots, and tearing up like so much turf yards of
macadamized road and huge blocks of strong stone walls."

The violent storm in the South of England in February, 1916, gives one
only a faint idea of this famous blizzard of 1891; for, great though
the damage was, it was more local, and the storm was of shorter
duration and did not interrupt the train and telegraph services over
many scores of miles, as the earlier storm did, travellers in the West
being out of touch with their friends for as much as four days or a
week, snow-bound in some small village until the railway line was
cleared and the postal service re-established.

[Illustration: The Doone Valley in Winter]

The fury of such a storm across these always windy Exmoor heights can
hardly be imagined; only Conrad could convey in words some adequate
idea of the fury and the force, as he has done in "Typhoon."  Anyone
who was in Exmoor during these three days would have been fortunate to
have reached shelter alive, and not to have been lost, as were so many
unfortunate sheep and ponies, in the deep snowdrifts.  There is a scene
in "Lorna Doone," where John Ridd and his servant Fry go out on a bleak
stormy morning to rescue their sheep from the snow, which gives a vivid
picture of what must have been many times enacted in the Exmoor valleys
during those wild March days.  Of the loveliness of the scene when the
snow had fallen, and after the fury of the wind had abated, when the
March sun shone on the smooth upland curves and beautiful rounded
hollows of the moors, stainlessly white and wonderful under the
clearing sky, Mr. Widgery's picture of Lorna's Bower under snow gives a
beautiful impression.

Apart from its cattle industry and its herrings, Minehead was noted in
the seventeenth century for its alabaster mines, "harder than ye
Darbishire alabaster," says Thomas Gerard in his "Particular
Description of Somerset," written in 1633; "but for variety of mixture
and colours it surpasseth any, I dare say, of this kingdom."  The mines
are said to have been discovered by a Dutchman, but I cannot find that
they were much worked, or were very abundant; for there is no record of
them a century and a half later.  They were not like the Combe Martin
silver-mines, which were worked for centuries--some say in the time of
the Phoenicians, when the mines of Cornwall furnished tin for half the
bronze in Europe--which helped Henry V to pay for his wars in France,
and were reopened by Adrien Gilbert in Queen Elizabeth's time, and a
great cup and cover, fashioned from the silver, was presented by him to
the City of London, and may still be seen among the city plate.  The
water got into the workings, and they were running poor after so many
centuries, and were finally abandoned in the seventeenth century; for
which Combe Martin is the more picturesque, according to our modern
standards, if less prosperous.

There is another industry of Minehead, or, more properly, a curiosity;
for there are no traces of the most enterprising approaching the matter
from a commercial standpoint.  "There is on the rocks at low-water a
species of limpet which contains a liquor very curious for marking fine
linen," says our seventeenth-century authority, and he gives directions
for breaking the mollusc "with one sharp blow," and taking out "by a
bodkin" the little white vein that lies transversely by the head--a
somewhat delicate operation.  "The letters and figures made with this
liquor on linen," he continues, "will appear of a light green colour,
and, if placed in the sun, will change into the following colours: if
in winter about noon, if in summer an hour or two after sun-rising and
so much before setting, for in the heat of the day in summer it will
come on so fast that the succession of each colour will scarcely be
distinguished.

"Next to the first light green it will appear of a deep green, and in a
few minutes change to a full sea-green; after which it will alter to a
blue, then to a purplish-red; after which, lying an hour or two (if the
sun shines) it will be of a deep purple-red, beyond which the sun does
no more.  But this last beautiful colour, after washing in scalding
soap and water, will, on being laid out to dry, be a fair bright
crimson which will abide all future washing."

Is this indeed the "murex," as Browning calls it, of the Tyrian purple,
which can be found on the Minehead rocks at low-tide by the
holiday-makers of our day?--that "purple dye" for which, the weary
Roman usurper said,

  "We'll stain the robe again from clasp to hem
  With blood of friends and kinsmen . . .,"

and yet which is only

  "Crushed from a shellfish, that the fisherman
  Brings up in hundreds, yet rejects as food."


In coming to Dunster we come to the last of the many beautiful places
that lie within the compass of this fifty miles of England, places with
so varied a loveliness that nowhere else, I think, can you match with
them.

There is Barnstaple, suave and clean and sunny, with its well-kept
streets and smooth, broad river, and its air of all prosperity and
peace, the very type and pattern of a decent English country-town; and
almost within stone's throw of it the moors begin, lying widely under
the expanse of the sky, with the perpetual running of waters, and the
lonely farms, from which the smoke curls up, blue against the brown
hillside.  There are the sombre and unpretending small villages,
Parracombe, Brendon, Bratton-Fleming, each with its history and its
little church, and the homesteads from which the young men have gone,
in their humble twos and threes, to take their part in this war of
millions.  There is the grand solitude of Heddon's Mouth and the
raven-haunted cliffs to Lynton; there is Lynton itself, drowned in the
green woods that surge up the steep hillside; there is the West Lyn
Gorge, shadeless and sultry even on a spring day, and the East Lyn
Valley, where ferns and lilies of the valley grow, and every green
thing that loves moisture and shade; and the Watersmeet, where there is
a perpetual rushing of waters which drowns the song of the birds; there
is Porlock, between the moors and the marshes, and the drowned forest
of Porlock Bay; there is the green magnificence of Horner Woods or
Bossington, and the cloud-wreaths that gather and lift on the summit of
Dunkery; and here, easternmost of our journey, is Dunster, the castle
on its wooded hill rising above the long street of the village, and the
edge of Exmoor beyond, dipping now from its bleak heights in gentle
wooded undulations to the shores of the Bristol Channel.  The Tower on
the Hill, that is the meaning of the word "Dunster," and the name
fittingly describes it; for it dominates many miles of beautiful and
fertile country, and stands feudally above the village, perceptible
from every angle of the street, at once a guardian and a menace.  It
has stood so for a thousand years, for it was a stronghold of the Saxon
Kings before William the Conqueror gave it to William de Mohun, and he
built his gloomy Norman fortress, with its massive, windowless walls,
and squat strong towers, of which nothing now remains save a
bowling-green which marks the site of the old keep.

The main part of the present building dates from "the spacious days of
great Elizabeth," when her nobles needed rather magnificent
country-houses than fortresses for defence; but the gatehouse, with its
four flanking towers, was built in the time of Henry V, and the oldest
part of the castle is the gateway by the side of the main entrance,
which was built by Reginald de Mohun in the time of Henry III, while
Henry Luttrell added the south front in the "antique taste" of a
hundred years ago.  Yet, like so many cathedrals, and not a few of the
castles and great houses of England, like Hampton Court or Ely
Cathedral, the varying styles of architecture do not give an appearance
of patchiness or incongruity, but rather a feeling as of the vitality
of the old building, and the continuity of life within it, that century
after century adapts and adds to the uses of the present the habitation
of their ancestors.  The sun and rain mellow all, and the ivy makes all
green; stone urn and Roman column grow old and gracious beside steep
Elizabethan gables and fantastic chimneys, and the grey pointed arches
of the fifteenth-century gateway are as good to ride under to the meet
on crisp September mornings as a Renaissance doorway or an
eighteenth-century portico.  Much of the charm of these old buildings
cannot be reproduced by brush or camera; it lies in their intimate
association with the scene around them, sunshine and cloud, summer and
winter, their hills and their streams; it is the sense of age which
they convey, of long-continued tradition and a certain mellow security.

It was in 1376 that the Luttrells bought the castle from the Mohuns;
and they hold it still; the old receipt for the purchase-money is still
preserved in the castle hall, with various ancient and yellowing
title-deeds, and a list of the "muniments" of the castle, made by
William Prynne, who was sent there as a prisoner by Cromwell in 1650,
after having suffered branding and the loss of his ears at Royalist
hands for his "seditious teachings," and who, firebrand and fanatic as
he was, beguiled his imprisonment with this curiously peaceable
occupation.

The village is as beautiful as the castle; in the long, irregular
street every house is three to four hundred years old.  The projecting
upper stories are supported on great timber balks, often with the ends
grotesquely carved.  Under the projecting eaves the swallows build, and
twitter about the diamond-paned windows which reflect so richly the
sunset light.  In the steep roofs there are dormer-windows, and the old
tiles have mellowed to a deep rose-red, stained yellow with lichen, and
sink into irregular planes and angles of beautiful, varied colour.
There are tall brick chimneys and steep gables, and all manner of odd
delicious scraps and jags of architecture, where one building has
crowded upon its neighbour in its growth, like trees in a forest.
There are old gardens also, long sunny walls with old fruit-trees that
look like hoary serpents writhing up them, until the spring comes and
the delicate, exquisite forms of plum or peach blossom break out of the
gnarled boughs; there are wallflowers and lavender and rosemary, for
the sweet scent and the "remembrance" of them, and tall hollyhocks to
nod over high brick walls; creepers, green or flowering, to grow over
the whitewashed spaces, and great trees for shade on summer afternoons.

In the centre of the long main street is the yarn-market, a beautiful
wooden building of the seventeenth century, built by Sir George
Luttrell when Dunster was still a centre of the wool industry.  It is
built with wide overhanging caves, pierced by eight little
dormer-windows, with a lantern at the apex of the roof, and is a unique
little building whose characteristic features have been sketched and
photographed many scores of times, and is comparable, perhaps, only
with the butter-market at Bingley in Yorkshire.  Opposite is the
Luttrell Arms, a quiet, comfortable, harmonious stone building of the
eighteenth century, but with part of the older building still preserved
inside--a wall that overlooks a paved court, with windows set in frames
of beautiful carved oak, and a gabled roof, a moulded plaster
over-mantle also, and yet with that general air of disregard for these
treasures, amid a hurrying to and fro with plates and bottles, which,
to me, is one of the special charms of these long-established country
inns.

To anyone who loves England, and that beauty which is so
characteristically English, where the life of the present day is
visibly linked with the life of the past through long centuries of
security, where age has ripened all, the great old trees, the colours
of old oak and weather-beaten tiles and warm brick, has gently
undulated straight lines, and softened all sharp angles, where the very
sunlight has the mellowness of old wine, to a mind perceptive of this
peculiar and intimate charm of England, Dunster makes a special call,
set amid the suave curves of its rich country, crowned by its ancient
castle, dignified by its old, beautiful church (grown, like the castle,
through Norman and Early English and Perpendicular styles of
architecture), yet intimate and familiar, and beautiful most of all
because of the use and wont of daily life within its walls.



CHAPTER VIII

LUNDY

It is curious in this twentieth century of ours, when every corner of
the habitable globe is docketed, measured, mapped, and surveyed, when a
railroad runs across "darkest Africa," and the great ice-wall of the
Antarctic cannot keep its inviolability from the feet of those resolute
and heroic explorers who go with camera, microscope, and theodolite,
against such forces of Nature as would daunt anything but the resolute
human heart--it is curious to come across small corners of the world
where the law of nations seemingly does not run, and the current of the
modern world sweeps by, leaving them in a backwater, strangely aloof
and undisturbed.

Such is the island of Herm, in the Channel Isles; such are one or two
volcanic rocks in the Greek Archipelago, which you may purchase for a
song, and live on if you can, though their barren waterlessness under
the midsummer suns will compel you to put out to sea again for all the
dangers of swift currents and black crags; such, too, I imagine, are
some of those enchanted small islands in the South Seas of which Conrad
writes: "It was as if the earth had gone on spinning, and had left that
crumb of its surface alone in space"; such, too, is Lundy.

But Lundy is only fourteen miles from the English coast, this populous
and organized England, and in the mouth of the Bristol Channel, in the
direct track of all the shipping of the West--sighted, it is estimated,
by at least a million vessels a year in their business up and down the
world--and yet, to within the last generation, it was almost as
inaccessible as in the days when the de Mariscos built their castle
there and defied the King and all his armies.

Even now, though in the summer pleasure steamers run from Ilfracombe
and Minehead, and land their noisy crowds on the south-eastern corner
of the island, the narrow peninsula of Lametor, it is during barely
three months of the year; they have ceased before the coming of the
October gales, and the island goes back to its solitude, and the wild
clamour of its innumerable sea-birds, while its few inhabitants wait
their bi-weekly post, and the coming of the Trinity boat on the 1st and
15th of the month, for news of the outside world.

For Lundy is a great rock, about three and a half miles long, and
averaging half a mile in depth, cutting the strong tidal stream which
runs round the south coast of Wales and up the Bristol Channel, with
steep cliffs and outlying crags and peaks of rock over which the surf
is flung ceaselessly, even on still summer days, and with a dangerous
tidal race at its northern end and the south-west and south-east
angles.  It stands, too, in the highway of the winds as well as of the
waters, and is so scored and buffeted by gales that hardly any trees,
except the stunted dwarf-elder, can survive the winter fury on its open
slopes.  When a westerly gale is blowing, many ships run in under its
lee-shore for shelter; but its only landing-place is at the south-east
angle by Rat Island, and that becomes dangerous in an easterly wind, so
that boats have to be beached on the south or west side, though with
difficulty and some danger.  Add to this that the road from the
landing-stage is so narrow and steep that it could be held by two men,
and its suitability as a robber stronghold becomes clear.

It is a land of romance, singular in every aspect: in the formation of
its rocks, in the birds that haunt its cliffs and the beasts that haunt
its caves, in its antiquities, and the whole course of its adventurous
history.  It is a granite rock, with here and there patches of
clay-shale, notably at the south-eastern corner; but the granite is
differentiated from the granite of Devon, to which it is so proximate,
and of so marked a character that it can be traced in many buildings
along the northern coasts of Devon and Cornwall, principally in towers
and churches, proving that quarries must have been worked on Lundy at
some time during the Middle Ages, and before the fifteenth century; for
there is comparatively little building of churches after that date.  A
company was formed in 1863 to work the Lundy granite-quarries, and it
was intended to use this stone in the building of the Thames
Embankment; but the difficulty of shipment from so inaccessible a spot
proving insuperable, the enterprise was abandoned.

But apart from the height and boldness of these granite cliffs, rising
in places almost sheer to a height of more than seven hundred feet,
with outlying reefs and insular rocks bristling black and jagged
through the foaming waters, with gully, creek, and cave, worn by the
action of rain and sea, there is a further wildness given to the island
by a great series of clefts or fissures, running for a considerable
distance in a line irregularly parallel to the cliff, sometimes from
ten to twenty feet across, and as much as eighty feet deep, where they
can be measured; at other places too narrow for sounding, but seeming
to strike right down into the bowels of the earth.  Locally this
phenomenon is called the "earthquake," and the popular tradition of the
island ascribes its appearance to the great earthquake at Lisbon in
1755; but it is certainly older than that date.  However, the shock of
that great disturbance may have further rent the granite and displaced
the mighty boulders.  It extends for about two miles from the southern
coast, running in a northerly direction, and where the slate formation
meets the granite it is fractured in the same sharp manner.  Some
upheaval of the earth's crust in far-off prehistoric times must have
cracked the granite and made these mighty chasms; the wildness and
singularity of their appearance, and the confined locality in which
they occur--for there is no trace of such disturbance elsewhere in the
island--make one wonder if it were no imprisoned demon or angry god,
chained in the blackness under Lundy, who, stretching his mighty sinews
to be free, so contorted and rent the solid granite above him.  The
absence of legend or ancient tradition (for the tradition of the Lisbon
earthquake is comparatively recent) about so arresting a spectacle I
ascribe to the condition of Lundy's history; there has been no
continued habitation of the simple people of the land to pass on, from
generation to generation, the ancient names and the ancient stories of
their dwelling-place, untouched by the changes of rule and ownership
which go over them.

For this reason another strange phenomenon of Lundy, about which the
imagination of an earlier people must have lingered, passes barely
remarked.  There is a great promontory on the coast, opposite the reef
called the Hen and Chickens, which is pierced by a sort of tunnel about
eight hundred feet in length and sixty feet in height, through which a
boat can sail on calm days at high-water; and in the centre of the
tunnel, bubbling up through the sea, rises a perpetual spring of fresh
water.  This is called the Virgin's Well, and I can discover no story
or legend with which it is connected, though the name may possibly
contain some earlier myth, not based upon Christian worship.

[Illustration: Lynton: The Devil's Cheesering]

The names of other remarkable features of the island, the great rocks
which are piled along its coasts, are all descriptive and not legendary
names--the Devil's Chimney, the Cheeses, the Templar's Rock, the
Gannett Rock, the Mousehole.  These names will have been given in
comparatively recent times, at least since the Saxon invasion, for they
show a different mentality from the Celtic names which are found widely
in Cornwall, Devon, Wales, and Northumberland, and which have a poetic
and imaginative quality.  Such is the difference between Heddon's
Mouth, "the Giant's Mouth," or Dunster, "the Tower on the Hill," and
such names as I have quoted above.  The very name of Lundy itself,
which is "Lund-ei," the island of Lund, as Caldy is "Cald-ei," the
island of Cald, show a Teutonic origin, perhaps Scandinavian, but not
named so by the Celts of Britain or Ireland.

But "there were great men before Agamemnon"; certainly there were great
men on this island before the adventurer Lund landed upon it and gave
it his name.

In 1850, in digging foundations near a farmhouse in the southern part
of the island, a great grave, or series of graves, was discovered.
There were two stone coffins, made of hewn blocks of granite, just deep
enough to contain a body, and with the covers sloped and cut each from
a single block.  One was ten feet in length, and contained the huge
skeleton of a man, over eight feet high; the other was eight feet long,
and contained a skeleton well over six feet, which "was imagined to be
that of a woman," but on what grounds I cannot discover, as it does not
seem to have been carefully examined, and is therefore probably mere
conjecture, based upon its juxtaposition to the larger coffin.  In the
account of the excavation a "macabre" incident is recorded.  One of the
workmen, seizing the shin-bone of the giant, placed it against his own
leg, and found that it reached halfway up his thigh; whereupon, taking
up the lower jawbone, he fitted it easily over his own lower jaw,
though he was a burly man and bearded.

  "To what base uses a man may return, Horatio! . . ."

  "Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
  Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
  O that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
  Should patch a wall to expel the winter's flaw."


For that these were the bones of a man mighty in his day the
workmanship of his coffin goes to prove.  For he lay with a stone rest
for his head and feet, made each of a cubic block of fine granite, and
a deep depression hollowed in his pillow to take his head, resting
sideways towards his shoulder.  As these great blocks were cut and
squared and hollowed with stone tools, the labour which they betoken
may be imagined; and none, I suppose, but an imperious Caesar could
have exacted it.  The skeleton was covered and surrounded by a mass of
limpet-shells.  There were seven other skeletons buried in a line with
these two, but without coffins, and they were not of the race of
giants; and then, at a little distance, there was a great pit, filled
with the bones of men, women, and children, as if a slaughtered
multitude had been flung into a common grave.  In this pit were found
some beads, light blue in colour, some sherds of red glazed pottery,
and a few fragments of bronze.  Over all was scattered a vast heap of
limpet-shells.

Here is one of the fascinating problems of archaeology, which comes
with the touch of romance to the dry study of minutiae: When were these
burials made?  Are they of two different dates?  The giant of the stone
coffin perhaps belonged to the far-off Stone Age, already grown dim and
legendary to these later peoples, who knew of the working of metal and
the making of glass.  And were they sacrificed to him, as a dark hero
or demi-god of the past, to propitiate him against plague or conquest?
And what is the magical significance of the limpet-shells, which cover
them and him alike?  These questions, and many others, will, I am
convinced, be answered by the patient research of archaeology within
comparatively few years.  The suggestion that this interment is Danish,
and is the remnant of the force defeated by Alfred the Great outside
Kenwith Castle, is, I think, untenable; the bones of women and children
being found with those of men alone disproves it, apart from the
inaccessibility of Lundy and the very great antiquity of the stone
coffins.

But whoever they may be who left their bones here, it is certain the
story of their lying there is a tragedy, of bloody sacrifice or more
bloody massacre, like all the histories of wild animals and of
primitive peoples.

Not far from the Giant's Grave, as this site is locally called, is
another relic of hoary antiquity, in the shape of a tumulus, which,
when opened, laid bare a kistvaen, or sepulchral chamber, formed of a
great block of granite, weighing nearly five tons, resting on two
upright granite slabs, and enclosing a space about six feet square.
This method of burial is well known throughout the old world; such
burial chambers have been found in Greece, and in considerable numbers
in Ireland, where they are primitive Celtic.  In the Lundy kistvaen no
skeleton was found, nor anything, indeed, save a small fragment of
pottery, though "there was a rank odour in the cavity, very different
from that of newly turned earth."

There is a logan-stone on the eastern side of the island, which, within
the memory of Mr. Heaven, the last owner of the island, was a true
logan-stone, and could be rocked with the hands, but has now slipped
from its socket.  But the whole question of these logan-stones is
controversial, some claiming them as relics of antiquity of whose use
and meaning we are ignorant, and others as the chance product of the
natural forces of rain and weather.

The same also may be said of the "rock-basins," of which a very perfect
example may be found in the Punchbowl Valley, being a granite basin of
four feet in diameter, with a uniform thickness of six inches, with
both the concave and convex surfaces segments of a perfect sphere.
Later opinion inclines to a human, and not a chance, origin for these
interesting phenomena.

But, leaving the dim and still conjectural paths of archaeology, let us
turn to the history of Lundy.  Here again we are confronted with facts
which a conscientious historian would hesitate to assert, save as
legend.  For this singular land, where the King's writ does not run,
which is not assimilated even yet to municipal government, was for
centuries, even down to the eighteenth century, a robber stronghold,
from which, as from those castles on the Rhine, and still earlier and
more powerful castles of the Aegean lords, built athwart the peninsulas
of the trade-routes, the garrison swooped maraudering upon the peaceful
occupations of unprotected folk.

Lundy is supposed, not upon very certain authority, to have been called
"Herculea" in Roman times; and there is no record, nor even tradition,
of how it came by its present name, only a vague conjecture of a
Scandinavian origin, of which I have already spoken.  But there are
evidences of a much earlier occupation than the Roman--indeed, so far
as I know, there have been no Roman remains found yet upon the
island--and it is no unlikely supposition that the great skeleton of
the Giant's Grave was some such feared and piratical chieftain as the
first recorded lord of the island, the fierce de Marisco.  These
Mariscos were a branch of the great family of Montmorency, and they
were ever a thorn in the side of their liege-lord, whether in England,
Ireland, or Lundy.  They must have owned Lundy since the days of the
Norman Conquest, if they had not seized it before; for the great castle
Marisco, built upon the extreme verge of the cliffs, commanding the bay
and the landing-place, and overlooking in a wide sweep all the southern
coast of the island, was already built in the eleventh century.  From
this impregnable fortress, with its massive walls nine feet in
thickness, its squat, strong Norman turrets, its encircling fosse, and
the perpendicular cliffs by which its seaward wall was made unscalable,
Sir Jordan de Marisco used to sally with his retainers, making war on
all alike, levying toll--_blackmail_, if ever there was, in the true
meaning of the word--disobeying the laws of the land, and outraging the
dictates of common humanity.  So that, though he had married a
Plantagenet, a blood relation of the King's, Henry II declared his
estate of Lundy forfeited, and granted it to the Knights-Templars.
Whether peace was made between Sir Jordan and Henry, or whether Henry
was not strong enough to enforce his edict (though he was a powerful
and determined monarch), I do not know; but in 1199, in the reign of
King John, Sir Jordan's son William following in his father's evil
ways, the grant of Lundy was confirmed to the Templars.

But this fortress was a hard nut to crack.  The only approach is from
the south-eastern corner, by a steep and narrow path commanded by the
castle, and held by Marisco's men, and it was no light undertaking for
the invaders to beach their boats and effect a landing against wind,
weather, and attack.  So that, although a tax was levied upon Devon and
Cornwall to support an undertaking for the siege of Lundy, it does not
appear to have been taken; for it was granted to Henry de Tracy (of the
famous family of Tracy, cursed since the murder of Becket), and a few
years later to one Robert Walerand.  Then for some years de Marisco
seems to have found even its mighty walls and granite cliffs too
insecure, for he is found fighting among the French, and in 1217 was
taken prisoner in a sea-fight, when Eustace the Monk, the pilot of the
French fleet, was slain.  Yet a few months later, in November of the
same year, he was reinstated in possession of Lundy, and his wife, his
sons and daughters, who had been seized by Henry III as hostages, were
restored to him.  Now favoured, now disgraced, but turbulent to the
last, he died in possession of Lundy, but in the very year of his death
having paid ransom to Henry of 300 marks.

His grandson, also William de Marisco, filled up the tale of violence
and ill-doing, and forfeited at length the family inheritance, by his
share in the attempted murder of the King at Woodstock.  This is
Westcote's account of the plot, given in his "View of
Devonshire": . . . "Only Matthew Paris speaketh of one William de
Marisco who, conspiring the death of Henry III, persuaded a Knight
sometime of his Court to murder him, and with that intent got at night
by a window into the King's bedchamber; but He, in whose protection the
lives of princes are, disappointed him, for the King lay elsewhere.  He
seeking from chamber to chamber with a naked weapon in his hand, Mrs.
Byset, one of the Queen's women, sitting late up at her devotions,
shrieking at the fearful sight of him, awakened the King's guard, who
presently took him."

The unhappy and probably demented youth was put to death, and de
Marisco fled to his island, which he further fortified, and there,
attaching to himself a band of outlaws and malefactors, lived by
piracy.  Retribution came in its due course, for, having made himself
detested by all decent men, many knights and nobles joined against him,
and contrived to take him by strategem.  He was brought to London,
tried, and condemned to death with sixteen accomplices, dragged from
Westminster to the Tower, and there hanged.  "When he had there
breathed out his wretched soul," he was drawn and quartered--a literal
account of which, as given in Matthew Paris, I forbear to set down--and
the quarters of his body sent to the four principal cities of England.
His father, Geoffrey, fled to France, and the island came under the
government of Henry de Tracy for the Crown.

Yet in the reign of Edward I, one of the Irish branch of the Marisco
family was reinstated in possession for a few years, though Edward II
gave it to his favourite and his worst enemy, Hugh Spencer.  It was
there also, be it remembered, that he purposed taking refuge from his
Barons, but was driven to Wales by contrary winds.  In the time of
Edward III the island came to the Luttrells, the great family that
owned Dunster, Minehead, and many manors on the North Somerset coast;
in the time of Westcote, in the reign of James I, it was in the
possession of the Grenvilles.

It is difficult, and perhaps tedious, to attempt to follow in detail
the many families who had, or laid claim to, possession of Lundy
throughout the course of history; it is clear that it was a stronghold
of importance, from the frequent references to it in our records.  It
was claimed and loaned and bought and held in fee from the eleventh to
the nineteenth century.  It was the scene of a wild and fantastic
adventure in the reign of Charles I, when three Turkish pirate-ships
swooped upon it, and made slave-raids into Devon and Cornwall, taking
sixty men out of a church one Sunday morning, and carrying them away
prisoner.  "Egypt was never more infested with caterpillars," wrote the
captain of a ship of war in 1630, "than the Channel with Biscayers."

The Turks sailed south with their human booty, but the Channel and the
Devon coast became the prey of an English buccaneer, the famous Admiral
Nutt, who was more boldly and splendidly piratical even than the
buccaneers of "Treasure Isle," and who faced the King's navy and got
clear to his stronghold of Lundy, though they dropped thirty great shot
among his fleet, of which Nutt received ten through his own ship.  What
became of the Admiral I do not know; he was not captured and hanged,
and so may have sailed away to the Barbadoes or the Mediterranean, and
there have met his death and scuttled his ship in a last fight against
odds, or perhaps been marooned by a mutinous crew, or set adrift in an
open boat to die of hunger and thirst, or been stabbed in a drunken
scuffle over a bottle of rum.

He passes away from the history of Lundy, but now a French man-o'-war
and now a Spanish made raids up the Bristol Channel and upon Lundy,
until Thomas Bushel held it for Charles I and established some measure
of order.  It was claimed from Bushel by Lord Say and Sele as his
"inheritance," and he wrote to the King for permission to deliver it
up, but proposing:


". . . If your Majesty shall require my longer stay here, be confident,
sir, I shall sacrifice both life and fortune before the loyalty of

"Your obedient humble servant,
  "THOMAS BUSHEL."


Bushel received the following letter from Charles, which I transcribe
because of the light which it throws on the King's character, a letter
written in answer to a faithful and disinterested servant in a mood of
petulant self-pity.  ". . . Now, since the place is inconsiderable in
itself, and yet may be of great advantages to you in respect of your
mines, we do hereby give you leave to use your discretion in it, with
this caution, that you do take example from ourselves, and be not
over-credulous of vain promises, which hath made us great only in our
sufferings and will not discharge our debts."  This letter, more than
any single document I know, shows the hopeless weakness of the Stuart
character, and the unhappiness of serving the Stuart cause; this letter
might have been written by Mary, Queen of Scots, or by James II, or by
the Old Pretender, or by the Young Pretender; in all alike we find what
this letter shows, a certain gracious melancholy, a lack of moral
courage, a great self-pity, and a great selfishness.

Thomas Bushel gave up the island into the hands of Colonel Fiennes, a
Parliamentarian soldier, and the father of the intrepid young lady,
Celia Fiennes, who, a few years later, travelled through the length and
breadth of England on horseback, and wrote an account of her
journeyings.  Lord Say and Sele, who claimed the island, was her
grandfather on the mother's side.

After the Restoration, and under the corrupt administration of Charles,
the Dutch ravaged the shipping of the Channel, as the French did in the
reign of William and Mary and Queen Anne, and as pirates did at all
times, whenever a body of desperate men could establish themselves on
Lundy, and from there make raids on the coastal traffic.  The last and
worst pirate of all, the most inhuman, as the meanest, a trafficker in
human misery for the sake of gold, false even to the partners in his
base contract, was Benson, a rich man by inheritance, and belonging to
one of the oldest Bideford families, the leading citizen of Bideford
and Appledore, and a member of Parliament for Barnstaple.

In 1747 he entered into a contract with the Government for the
exportation of convicts, and gave bond to the Sheriff to transport them
to Virginia or Maryland, which was the horrible method of treating
criminals then in common use.  But in 1748 he leased Lundy Island from
Lord Gower, and, transporting the convicts there, began building walls
and cultivating the island with this slave-labour.  The great wall,
called the Quarter Wall, on Lundy was built by these unhappy convicts.
After a few years, however, Benson was discovered in smuggling, and a
large quantity of tobacco and other goods was found in caves and
chambers cut out of the rock.  For this he was fined 5,000 pounds; but
when his importation of convicts was discovered, and he was taxed with
it, he excused himself by declaring that to send them to Lundy was the
same as sending them to America, so long as they were transported
anywhere out of England.  The termination of his villainous career in
England was owing to a conspiracy to defraud an insurance company, a
vulgar and inglorious crime without the element of danger and adventure
which in some slight degree may be said to have invested the exploits
of the other pirates who have infested Lundy.

Benson, having laded a vessel called the _Nightingale_ with a valuable
cargo of pewter, linen, and salt, insured her heavily before she
sailed, ostensibly, for Maryland.  But he had arranged with her master,
Lancey, to put back at night and land the cargo at Lundy, and then to
burn and scuttle the _Nightingale_.  This was accordingly done, and the
crew took to the boats and were picked up by a homeward-bound ship;
but, as usual in these circumstances, one of the crew, animated by some
personal pique, "blew the gaff," in the parlance of roguery.  Lancey
was taken, tried, and hanged, and Benson escaped to Portugal.

Little more remains to be said of the history of Lundy.  In 1834 it was
purchased by Mr. Heaven, and remained the property of his family for
over sixty years, till 1906, when it once again came on the market, and
was bid for by Germans, but was withdrawn from sale, and remains in
English possession.

But I cannot close this short account of the island without a brief
reference to the wild life which abounds on the pinnacles of its
inaccessible rocks, on the fern-covered, steep slopes, and in its
numberless sea-washed caves, which are haunted by seals, or were until
within the last few years; for the brutality and selfish carelessness
of chance visitors allowed to land by the courtesy of the owner have
driven away much of the timid wild life which had taken refuge against
the advancing tide of civilization.  Seals used to be observed in fair
numbers, particularly at the southern end in a great cave called Seal
Cave, and walruses were occasional visitors.  But lobsters and crabs
are still caught in very great numbers, and, together with the
innumerable conies which breed on the island, form the staple industry
of the island.

Lundy is also the last stronghold of the original old English "black
rat," which has been invaded and destroyed throughout England and
Scotland by the common Scandinavian brown rat; Rat Island, at the
south-eastern corner by the landing-stage, commemorates in its name
this last fortress of a dying race.

But it is for its birds that Lundy is perhaps most notable.  To those
who first approach its mighty cliffs it might appear to be the haunt of
all the birds in creation.  There are gulls of many varieties, falcons,
kestrels, ravens, crows, cormorants, kittiwakes, puffins; there is the
razor-billed auk, and that now extinct bird, the Great Auk, was seen on
the island no later than the last century.

But, indeed, it was no surprise to me to hear of this extinct species
lingering on Lundy; the strangeness and wildness of the place might
lead one to expect it to be the haunt of the Dodo, or that monstrous
and fabulous bird of the "Arabian Nights," the Giant Roc.

The hoopoe, the pretty little Southern bird which haunts the gardens of
Greece, sings its "tio, tio, tio, tio, tix" of Aristophanes' comedy on
this wind-swept Northern isle; the rose-coloured starling, that rare
and beautiful bird of a warmer clime, has been seen here in the spring;
the eagle and the golden eagle hover above its crags; the sparrow-hawk
and the great gyrfalcon prey upon the small birds and little rodents;
even the wild and shy osprey was known to build its eyrie upon Lundy to
within the last half-century.

Many of these birds are visitors only, and do not breed here; for in
the spring and the autumn, when the great tides of migration set north
and south, Lundy lies in the track of their going, and here the birds
alight, in their hundreds of thousands, to rest the wings tired with
the going and coming from Africa or Asia across the miles of water.

But whether in winter or summer, spring or autumn, any bold walker who
ventures round the cliffs and coves of Lundy will find himself
surrounded with such a crowd of screaming sea-fowl, diving, swooping,
poising, or darting, in such myriads as if the foot of man had never
yet scared them from their breeding-places, as the sea-fowl swooped and
screamed from their inviolate heights when the first Norsemen ran their
beaked ship on to the desert beaches of Iceland.



CHAPTER IX

THE LAST STRONGHOLDS OF TRADITION

Schools, newspapers, and railways have gone far in the past hundred
years to destroy the wealth of oral tradition which once satisfied the
imagination and taxed the memories of the country-dwelling population
of England.  And do not let us too greatly deplore this; let us
recognize that it is better for the general welfare of the world that a
man who dwells three hundred miles from London should have some
interest, however slight, in international politics, and some
knowledge, however fragmentary, of natural forces, rather than a
slipshod belief in ghosts, witches, and the omnipotence of "squire."
It is not from such minds that empire is made or deserved, and if with
the increase of cheap schooling, cheap printing, and cheap travelling
much that is beautiful in language or in legend is swept aside and
forgotten, we who have, by the fortune of training, been allowed to see
the beauty of the old things must recognize that what the generation
gains is more for its happiness than what it discards, as a new brass
Birmingham bedstead is cleaner, healthier, and more desirable for a
small crowded cottage than a worm-eaten old wooden four-poster.

This reminder I make to myself more than to any "gentle reader"; for I
have a passionate attachment to antiquity and a curiosity in legend
which leads me into remote paths of speculation and fancy.  Some of the
most interesting survivals of ancient tradition are those customs, far
more common all over England than is supposed, which contain some very
ancient religious rite, long ago forgotten by the people, who practise
as a superstition, or sometimes as a pastime, what was once an act of
worship.  The Christian Church, indeed, embodies many of these
survivals of paganism, not in its dogma or liturgy, but in its customs.
Such, for instance, is the giving of eggs at Easter, the eating of hot
cross buns on Good Friday, the games of All Hallowe'en, the harvest
festival.

Such customs as "touching with a dead hand" as a cure for sickness,
covering the mirrors in a house where one has just died, watching at
the church door on Midsummer Night to see the souls of all the
worshippers pass in, and those who will not live out the year remain
behind and do not pass out--these are part of the common stock of
beliefs, not confined to Devonshire or Scotland, nor directly traceable
to Celt or Saxon or Latin, but surviving from the remote past of the
human race, when the slowly emerging mind was struggling with its
apprehensions of life and death.  But there are other customs,
surviving in the wilder and less accessible parts of our country, in
Scotland, Northumberland, Devon, and Cornwall, which seem to throw a
flash of light on the history of vanished peoples, by their
resemblance--though worn and rubbed by time, like a defaced coin--to
certain rites, well known to us in history, as practised by the Romans,
or the Druid peoples, or the worshippers of Baal.

Of such kind is a ceremony, until a few years ago very common in
Devonshire, where the first armful of corn that is cut is bound into a
little sheaf, called "the nek," and set aside from the rest of the
field.  At the end of the first day's reaping the oldest man present
takes the little sheaf and holds it aloft, crying, "We ha' un!" (We
have it!)  The cry is repeated three times, and the rest of the
reapers, standing round the old man with their reaping-hooks in their
hands, bow down at each cry.  The spokesman then cries out three times,
"Thee Nek!" or, as it is stated by some witnesses of the scene,
"Arnack, Arnack, Arnack!" and the little sheaf is carried off the field
and hung up in the church.  I do not know the meaning of the cries, but
the whole ceremony is undoubtedly a dedication of the corn to the
Corn-Spirit, and the little sheaf which is carried home and hung up is
a rough image of the Corn-Maiden, like those plaited straw figures of
Demeter and Persephone the Greek husbandmen used to make, and which the
peasants of Sicily make still.  Whether the observance of this rite in
Devonshire is of Roman date, or whether it goes farther back, to a
remoter tradition of preclassical times, it is difficult to say.

So it is, also, of the Devonshire custom of making an offering of wine
and honey to bees on the day of their owner's death, and of reversing
their hives until the corpse has been carried out of the house.  The
Greeks poured honey, but not wine, in their rites for the dead, and in
all the ceremonies which had to do with the worship of the earth
deities--the ancient autochthonic gods, older than the Olympians.  But
wine was strictly an offering to the gods of the heavens, not to the
gods of the underworld, or of death.

There is another custom, still very common in North Devon and Somerset,
for the young men of the countryside to climb the nearest hill-top to
see the sunrise over the ridge of the Quantocks or the distant Mendips
on Easter morning.  They account for their action by saying it is "for
luck"; but this custom, if connected popularly with Christian worship,
has at its roots an older, sterner, and perhaps bloody origin.  For,
searching back into the mists of antiquity, we find that those early
and mysterious peoples whose priests we call the "Druids," to whom the
mistletoe was sacred (and with which we decorate our houses at
Christmas, the festival of "peace and good-will"), offered human
sacrifices to their dark gods on high mountains and at the hour of
sunrise.

Whether the Britons whom Caesar describes as sacrificing human beings
in vast wicker cages were the Druidical peoples who built Stonehenge
and the great stone circles of Dartmoor and Cumberland, or whether with
them the mode of worship was already traditional, preserved by a
priestly oligarchy from a yet remoter age, and connected by I know not
what strange links with the fierce Eastern worship of Baal or Melkarth,
it is impossible to say with certainty at present, though the names by
which the Cumberland men still call the peaks and valleys round the
small Druid circle near Keswick contain the elements of those foreign
Phoenician words.

But at least we may assume that the accurate astronomical arrangements
of these Druid stones connected human sacrifice with the movements of
the sun, and the tradition which sends the young men of the countryside
up Dunkery Beacon on Easter morn is certainly older than the first
Roman galley that beached in our bays.

Dunkery Beacon is the highest peak in the West of England; it rises
above Exmoor black and bold above bog and heather, commanding a view
from the Malvern Hills of Worcestershire on the north to the high lands
of Plymouth on the south-west, two hundred miles distant the one from
the other.  The great sweep of the Bristol Channel shines below it on
the west, and beyond that lie the blue hills of Monmouthshire and
Pembrokeshire; eastward the counties of Somerset, Devon, and Dorset lie
under the eyes, and on a clear day it has been computed that no fewer
than fifteen counties can be seen from this one eminence.

[Illustration: Dunkery Beacon, from Horner Woods]

So notable a height might well have been chosen by those Druid peoples
as a fitting stage for the celebration of their worship, and the
tradition which holds it "lucky" to climb the Beacon on a spring
morning is just such a memory and faint superstition as lingers from an
old and forgotten faith.  The country-folk round Keswick used to drive
their cattle up to the Druid circle on the hill-top near on the first
of May, light a fire within the circle, and drive their cattle through
the smoke "for luck," unconscious that they were remembering the
worship of the god Moloch, to whom beasts and human beings were
sacrificed at his Asiatic shrines by passing them through the fire.

On Dunkery Beacon, so far as I can ascertain, there are no remains of a
Druid circle, but only two stone platforms arranged for beacon fires.
As a beacon it has been used for many hundred years.  In the time of
Alfred the Great it flamed a warning of the coming of the Danes; it was
doubtless lighted at the coming of William the Conqueror into the West;
when the Armada went beating up the Channel; time and again when the
rumour ran that Napoleon had started for these shores; the country-folk
lighted it several times as a warning that the Doones were out on one
of their raids, till one night they climbed the beacon and threw the
watchman on the fire, after which it was left black and silent for all
the evil that the Doones did, until in due course retribution overtook
them and their stronghold was seized.  So that I conjecture that the
circle of stones (if there were one) was pulled down to build the
beacon fires.

But the "Hunting of the Earl of Rone" which takes place at Combe Martin
on Ascension Day is probably the most interesting of all ancient
survivals in North Devon.  It is a curious ceremony, partaking
something of the nature of a Guy Fawkes mummery, something, I consider,
of a much older and traditional character.

The "Earl of Rone," actually, was the son of the Earl of Tyrone, the
"Red Hand of Erin," who, in the reign of James I, fled from Ireland and
landed at Combe Martin, wandered about the countryside with a band of
companions, and was finally pursued and captured in Lady Wood, outside
the village.  In the Ascensiontide sports the Earl wears a grotesque
costume: a mask, and a smock padded with straw, and round his neck a
chain of biscuits.  He has with him a hobby-horse and buffoon covered
with fantastic trappings, and carrying a small article called a
"mapper" (which is conjectured to be a misreading for "snapper"), and
representing the teeth and jaws of a horse.  The Earl has also a
donkey, decorated with flowers and with a necklace of biscuit, and the
hunters wear a sort of fantastic grenadier costume.  For a week before
Ascension Day this strange cortege goes in procession round the
neighbourhood.  The ceremony on Ascension Day is as follows: The Earl
of Rone hides in Lady Wood, and is there pursued by the soldiers, fired
upon, and captured.  He is then placed on the donkey, with his face
towards the tail, and led into the village, accompanied by the fool
with his hobby-horse.  They make several halts, at each of which the
Earl is again fired upon and falls wounded from his donkey, mourned by
the fool, but amid the general rejoicing of the spectators.  Finally he
is replaced by the fool, and the affair becomes a mere matter of
buffoonery without special significance.  Contributions are levied from
the public, and enforced by the "mapper," by which they are seized and
held until they have paid.  The fool also has a besom, which he dips in
the gutter, and with which he sprinkles the recalcitrant.

But among much that is mere horseplay, and common to all popular
celebrations which have no religious significance to keep in check a
natural holiday exuberance, we can discover two distinct traditions.
The one is the actual Guy Fawkes celebration of the capture of the
rebel and outlaw Shane O'Neill; the other is much older, going back
into the remote past of unwritten history, and connected with those
strange religious ceremonies which a study of comparative religions has
shown us to be a natural development of the mind of primitive peoples,
struggling out of the darkness of mere barbarism.  Over and over again
we find, among the customs of savage tribes, or behind the elaborate
ceremonial of such civilized nations as the Greeks and Romans, or
lingering in strange and now meaningless ceremonies such as the one I
have just described, this primitive idea of the individual who is
harmful to the community.  From being baleful he became sacred.  They
cast him out of their city, as the Jews did their scapegoat, to wander
in desert places, and as the Greeks did in a city festival which was
older than the Homeric gods among them, and which symbolized, in
classical times, the days when they had literally stoned a man and a
woman from their midst, bound, and with chaplets of flowers on their
heads and necklaces of black figs around their necks.  It is recorded,
among the South Sea Islands, that a traveller once witnessed such a
sacrifice as this memorized in the classic Greek festival.  Then, by a
queer but common inversion of idea, this baleful but sacred individual
is fetched back into the community, as the outcast, hidden in Lady
Wood, was brought back into Combe Martin, being beaten and reviled, and
yet keeping his sacred character as a being set apart from the rest of
men.  His mask and traditional dress, his necklace of biscuit, and the
decking of the donkey with flowers and bread, all point to the
sacrificial character of this ceremony, though long ago forgotten and
become the opportunity for frolic and holiday-making.

The custom of "beating the bounds," which was familiar enough in many
country districts in the last century, is also a remains of primitive
tribal rites; it is a summer festival, falling usually at
Ascensiontide, and is held with greater or less ceremony.  Now, indeed,
it has become just a holiday affair for children, who dress up and
parade the town or village with a hobby-horse and a few vague
ceremonies, now become shadowy and meaningless, as in the beating of
the bounds which takes place in the older part of the town of Minehead.

There are many scores of superstitious practices, as distinguished from
these remains of actual ritual of which I have spoken, still in use
among country-folk.  In Devonshire they still take a sick child, very
early in the morning, and hold it over a stream which is running east,
with a long thread tied to its finger, so that as the water carries the
thread eastwards away from the child the sickness will also be carried
away.  This, which seems to us so incomprehensible a belief, is one of
that very large class of primitive practices which imitate a certain
desired condition, as in the rain-making of certain tribes of red
Indians, when, having danced ceremonially round a large tub of water,
one of the number takes a mouthful and spirts it into the air in
imitation of rain.  This is what they call a "charm"; there are charms
for the stanching of blood, for making the cows yield well, for the
cure of toothache, for averting evil from a young child; when a
Devonshire woman is asked to a christening, she still takes with her a
saffron cake, and gives it to the first stranger that she meets on her
way to church.  But when the cattle are diseased, they have, or had as
late as 1883, when the ceremony was witnessed and recorded, a rite
which is more than a charm; for a sheep or calf is taken from the herd
and sacrificed, and either burned, or buried in a corner of the field
belonging to the farmer whose cattle are diseased.

But there is another practice in Devon and Cornwall which we may
proclaim a superstition, but to which the tragedies of these wild
coasts give but too grim an earnestness to those who practise it.  When
a ship is long overdue, and a woman can bear the suspense no longer,
she goes down to the seashore and calls her husband by name.  Over and
over again she calls him, her neighbours standing by, until over the
waters the voice of her drowned husband comes in answer.  Then she
turns and goes to her desolate cottage, with hope put out of her heart.
How often these cries of sorrow and bereavement have gone out from
these rocky coasts, calling the drowned men by their simple, homely
names of field and cottage use from under the grey waters, how often
the waiting women have been comforted or strengthened by a despairing
certainty, we cannot know or realize who do not live and die by the sea.

Apart from those customs and practices, which contain the germ of some
very ancient ritual or primitive belief, there is another class of
tradition which is purely fantastic, such as ghosts, witches who change
into rabbits and cats, fairies, dragons, and strange portents.  Of such
kind is the story of the Ghost of Porlock Weir, a buccaneer named
Lucott, and no unlikely personage to haunt any of these seaside
hamlets.  He was a malicious and obstinate ghost who appeared boldly a
week after his funeral--when the inhabitants might reasonably have
supposed they had at last got rid of the bad old man--and though he was
exorcised by no less than eleven clergymen he refused to be laid.  At
last the Vicar of Porlock tamed him with a consecrated wafer, compelled
him to ride with him to Watchet, and there imprisoned him in a small
box, which was straight-way thrown into the sea, and he was seen no
more.

There are elements in this story like that of Anstey's novel, where a
genie is imprisoned in a brass pot, which is fished up out of the sea
and opened, with startling results to a quiet modern community; and it
is to be hoped that nobody will bring Lucott ashore again, along with a
catch of fish.

There is another strange tale, also, concerning one John Strange of
Porlock, who, on August 23 of 1499, was hewing wood, and upon sitting
down to his midday meal on a log at the edge of the clearing, and
cutting a piece of bread, observed blood to flow from the incision.  He
went to his neighbours about it, and with them to his parish priest,
and the matter became one of importance, for I find that a Commission
was appointed and recorded in the Register of Wells, to inquire into
this strange occurrence.  Witnesses were called and examined, oaths
taken, the learned Commission sat upon it as solemnly as if it had been
a case of heresy.  John Strange, summoned from his little cottage at
Porlock, was, we can well imagine, a half-unwilling hero.  Nobody seems
to have arrived at any conclusion, and nobody seems to have suggested
that perhaps John Strange had cut his finger!

There is an even stranger and more splendidly fantastic story in
Westcote's "View of Devon," of fiery dragons seen flying about certain
barrows or tumuli near Challacombe, and alighting on them, and how a
certain labouring man, having bought a small plot of waste land near
by, began depleting Broaken Bunow to build himself a house with the
material.  And how, digging into the hillock, he came upon "a little
place, as it had been a large oven, fairly, strongly and closely walled
up," and breaking into this he discovered an earthen pot, which, hoping
it might contain some treasure, he stretched out his hand to seize,
when, as he put his hand upon it he heard a noise as of a great
trampling of horses coming towards him.  So he rose and looked about
him, but, seeing nothing, knelt again to secure the pot, when the same
thing happened again, and so a third time also.  Nevertheless he drew
out the pot and took it home, and found it to contain no treasure, but
only a few ashes and little bones.  And a very little time after he
lost his senses both of sight and hearing, and died within three months.

There is another barrow also, near the same place, where I am inclined
to believe that a "mystical sciencer" worked a trick on two worthy
fellows, whom he promised to enrich with silver and gold if they would
dig into the hillock for him and find therein a great brass pan which
contained the treasure.  This they did, and came to the brass pan
covered with a large stone, which the strongest of them tried to lift,
and was taken with such a faintness "that he could neither work nor
stand," and therefore called to the other to take his place.  This the
man did, and was also taken with faintness; and when they both
recovered, which was in a very short space of time, the "mystical
sciencer" told them that the birds were flown and the nest only left.
And sure enough they found this true: the empty brass pan, with the
bottom bright and clean, as if a treasure had lain there, and all the
rest of it cankered with rust.  Whether this sciencer was some obscure
Roger Bacon, and had discovered the use of a volatile anaesthetic
centuries ago, or whether he was enjoying a solitary practical joke at
the expense of two simpletons, is impossible to say.  "It is at your
choice to believe either or neither," as Westcote says of the two
foregoing stories.  "I have offered them to the shrine of your
judgment, and what truth soever there is in them, they are not unfit
tales for winter nights, when you roast crabs by the fire, whereof this
parish yields none, the climate is too cold, only the fine dainty
fruits of whortles and blackberries."

One of the pleasantest of tales for winter nights is given by Westcote
himself in his introductory chapters, where he speaks of the air of
Devon as "very healthy, temperate, sweet, and pure," and giving long
life to the inhabitants, more particularly in the good old times, when
men were content to live temperately and frugally, and did not weaken
themselves with delicacies, but subsisted on the bare sustenance
afforded by the earth.  Indeed, in the most ancient times they lived on
bark and roots, and on a certain "confection," of which if they took a
small quantity no larger than a bean they neither hungered nor thirsted
for a long while afterwards--so, at least, Diodorus Siculus and Dio
Nicaeus have affirmed, and we can therefore only suppose, in the face
of such authority, that the recipe is long since lost, and that the
habits of Devonshire men have certainly changed since the days when
they lived a hundred and twenty years.

But that must have been before the Phoenicians came to Britain, for
they are certainly reputed to have brought the secret of clotted (or
clouted) cream with them, and to have landed in Cornwall and Devon with
their scald-pans with them, so that the degeneration of the Damnonii in
the matter of delicacies is of very ancient date.

I cannot pass from an account of the wonders of Devon without repeating
Miss Celia Fiennes's description of a "ffowle" (as she calls it) which
lives on the island of Lundy, and which was formerly the property of
her grandfather, Lord Saye and Sele, and "yt lives partly in the water
and partly out, and soe may be called an amphibious Creature."  She
does not claim to have seen it herself, for all her wanderings up and
down England a-horseback--which was, by the way, sufficient of an
adventure for a young lady in the seventeenth century--but she is none
the less detailed in her description.  This queer bird has one foot
like a turkey, and one like a goose, and its habit of laying its eggs
is "in a place the sun shines on, and sets it soe exactly upright on
the small end, and there it remains until taken up, and all the art and
skill of persons cannot set it up soe again to abide."

She does not give the name of this strange "ffowle," but Lundy is no
unfitting habitat for an amphibious creature which is at least as rare
as the Dodo.

Stories of Henry de Tracy, who murdered Thomas à Becket, are numerous
up and down the coast; for the Tracys owned a considerable amount of
property here--Lynton, Crinton, Countisbury, and Parracombe--and, in
spite of historical evidence of the family's continued prosperity,
tradition asserts that the curse brought down by sacrilege was
fulfilled, and that Henry de Tracy wanders up and down these desolate
coves, condemned to weave ropes of sand that can never draw his
wretched soul out of torment till the last trump shall sound.  He has
become, indeed, a figure of legend, merged with such strange persons as
the Wandering Jew and all those restless and unreleased spirits who,
like Sisyphus of Greek legend or Tregeagle of Cornish, for ever toil at
a for ever unaccomplished task.

The legends which have sprung up round the name of Coppinger have been
of quick growth, for "Cruel Coppinger" was a Danish sea-captain who was
wrecked off Hartland at the end of the eighteenth century.  He came
naked ashore, the only survivor from the ship, having swum through the
stormy waves.  He staggered up the beach, seized the red cloak from an
old woman's shoulders, wrapped himself in it, and leapt on the horse of
a young girl who stood by, urged the horse into a gallop, and
disappeared from the beach.  That was a sufficiently striking entrance
to the stage of Devon, and he filled his part adequately.  The young
girl with whom he had ridden off was Dinah Hamlyn; he was taken by her
to her father's farm, where he was fed and clothed.  He married Dinah,
and after her father's death, within a year, he ill-treated shamefully
her and her mother, though it was to them that he practically owed his
life, ship-wrecked strangers in the eighteenth century being apt to
disappear among an inhospitable people.  Coppinger lived by smuggling
and wrecking; he was brave, violent, and of great physical strength,
and he terrorized the population of these little villages by acts of
savagery and cruelty.  A ganger who had had the boldness to interfere
with him he seized, and beheaded on the gunnel of his own boat, and
even for this no one dared to bring him to justice.  He played violent
practical jokes, by inviting to dinner with him unfortunate people who
dared not refuse, and serving them up cats or offal for their meal.

He was in every way a scoundrel and a blackguard, and became such a
pest that at last he earned retribution; and after many local attempts
to convict him of smuggling or wrecking, the revenue officers came out
from Bude to the Bristol Channel to hunt him down.  He was seen last on
the Gull Rock, off Hartland Point, signalling one evening to a ship
which lay in the offing.  He was taken off by a boat, but almost
immediately a storm came up, the ship was blotted out from the sight of
those watching from the cliffs, and when the squall passed she had
totally disappeared.  No one ever knew whether she had foundered with
all hands, or had run out of sight behind Lundy, or whether she had
become, by reason of the wicked wretch aboard her, a second _Flying
Dutchman_, shaping an endless course through stormy seas.

There is a verse of rough doggerel which the children in these parts
still repeat, and which embodies the story of this tyrant:

  "Will you hear of cruel Coppinger?
  He came from a foreign land;
  He was brought to us by the salt water,
  He was carried away by the wind."


Probably Coppinger's wild and picturesque rush from the beach, like a
Centaur in a scarlet cloak, was an actual measure of prudence; for in
those cruel times of wreckers and smugglers the survivors who landed
from a wreck were often murdered by the people they were thrown
amongst, because "dead men tell no tales," and the unfortunate seamen
might otherwise give evidence of false lights which had seemed to
promise safety and refuge, and had drawn them on to the rocks.  Such
was the case of a French ship which was drawn ashore at Hele by
wreckers, and the only survivor was taken to Champernownesheyes (the
old gabled farmhouse which was formerly the home of the well-known
Devonshire family of Champernowne), and there murdered.  There is a
curious ghost-story told in connection with this: The farm in due time
passed into other hands, and all memory of the wreck or the
disappearance of the one unfortunate survivor was lost.  But one
evening, while the farmer who was then living at Champernownesheyes was
smoking his pipe in the garden, he fell to idly counting the windows,
and, having done this several times, he discovered that there was one
window unaccounted for.  He called his wife, and then the servants,
and, having made sure of this, they located the position of the strange
window, and, going upstairs, they broke down the wall which they judged
to be opposite, and found, indeed, that the window lighted a small
room, furnished in sixteenth-century style, and containing a bed, hung
with mouldering tapestry, on which lay a skeleton--the bones of the
shipwrecked survivor who had been murdered.  As they broke into the
room, and went to fling open the long-closed window, they heard a great
rushing noise, and cries and groans, and they declared that the garden
was filled with evil spirits, rustling and whispering, mopping and
mowing, for upwards of an hour afterwards.

There are, of course, many more tales, legends, and traditions, than I
have been able to deal with in the space of one chapter; every village
has them, every cove and creek, dark wooded hollow, or twisted and
fantastic rock, and to collect and collate, to sift and inquire into
all the wealth of folk-lore that our country still holds would be an
attractive but a life-long work.  All I have attempted to give in these
few pages is some general idea of the intimate life of these
country-folk, what beliefs and customs, inherited often from the days
before Christianity, what charms and legends and lore, go to the
fashioning of their minds, just as I have tried to give a general idea
of the beauty and wildness, the peculiar and intimate quality, of the
country in which they live.





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