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that is certainly the most picturesque on the Thames; and a weir that is excelled in that respect by few. The church of Maple-Durham is an old and curious one. There is, by the way, the very unusual custom allowed of performing the Roman Catholic burial service in the church, over the corpses of persons who have died in that communion. The custom has arisen from the family of the Blounts, who are the owners of the manor, having always remained in the Romish faith, to which the greater part of the parishioners also adhere.
From Maple-Durham we may cross by a ferry to the pretty little rustic village of Purley. There is here a showy mansion called Purley House, designed by Wyatt (apparently from a tea-chest) towards the end of the last century. It has been greatly admired, and will serve as a contrast to that we have just left. There is another—a good companion to Purley House—a short way from it. This, which is called Purley Hall, was built about half a century before Purley House, for Law, the celebrated " projector" of the South Sea and Mississippi bubbles: it was the residence of Warren Hastings during his famous trial. Between Purley and Reading, about six miles, the river is greatly varied, and, especially for the first three miles, very beautiful. The islands are a principal feature, and from their difference in size and character— some being large and clothed with rich foliage, others having but a tree or two, and some being bare, or covered only with oziers and skirted with beds of rushes—an extremely pleasing feature in the landscape.
It will have been by this time seen that Pangbourne is a good centre for a rambler who should merely confine himself to the river, but it is an equally good one for him who would extend his circuit. And perhaps the very best way of examining the country is that of making short excursions in all directions around some selected centre, and thus seeing as thoroughly as possible some one locality. Other parts of the district may then be more casually inspected. Besides what has been pointed out, Pangbourne affords a convenient place from which to survey the less-known parts of the country around, and to study the character of the people. The river here cuts through the long range of downs, which on the one hand are known as the Berkshire downs, and stretch away into Wiltshire, and on the other form the famous Chiltern Hills—whose Stewardship is so frequently in request—and which extend through Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire to Hertfordshire. These downs are more enclosed and cultivated than the broad open breezy South Downs; but they have a character of their own,—and so have the peasantry upon them, who are a more uncultivated race than any others anywhere about the lower parts of these counties. The country-people themselves in the neighbouring lowlands speak of them as a sort of Boeotians, and of the district as "the wild country." The names, too, which are still retained about the homely spots are of a very rough kind. At no great distance from where we now are may be found several with such polite designations as "Hell Hole " (which is the name of a farm-house), "Gallows Common," and the like—at least these are the names commonly applied by the countrypeople—they are not in the maps. And, as for the people, I verily believe that the peasantry on the Oxford Hills are among the most uncouth in England. You may trace the character extending from this spot along the ridge into Hertfordshire, and improving very gradually, if improving at all. Buckinghamshire generally is of a better description, but the vein runs through the connecting part between Bledlow and Tring. They are said, however, to be improving, and I hope they are. This is almost the only part of England where you must reckon on not finding a lodging at a village inn, as the rule, and it is the worst part for meeting with even a man who can give a direction. I asked one fellow—it is some years since—the way to Caversham—" You mean Cawsham, I suppose," said he, after eyeing me very carefully; I dare say that's what you call it, I replied :—" Then whoy couldn't you say so at first?" returned he; and stalked in doors without so much as pointing a finger towards the road. But this roughness does not cross the Thames; the race is indigenous to the Chiltern Hills. The Berkshire men are civiller. They are ill-taught—as are all our peasantry, and as all our peasantry will continue to be whilst our country schools are what they are: for, if even the pittance which the children earn in the fields or pick up on the roads (and which is the chief reason that will for a long while prevent the education of the children of the agricultural labourers) did not induce the parents to keep them from school, the village schools, as now managed, would give them little better than the mockery of an education—imparting only the smallest fraction of what commonly receives that name, and leaving the moral sense utterly untouched. But though untaught or ill-taught, there is much of shrewdness about them; and often a vigour of mind, a vein of stronar and serious thought which leads them to express themselves in a straightforward homely style, and with a store of plain expressive English words that reminds one of the racy heartiness of Bunyan and Cobbett. A good deal of this may be seen, for instance—by such as do not mind putting up with some peculiarities for the sake of information, —in those men who get to be "local preachers and class-leaders" among the Wesleyans in these parts.
Before quitting Pangbourne, I would just point out that it, or Streatley, is an admirable place for a young landscape-painter to escape to for a few days from the smoky atmosphere of London. He may with little trouble, and at small expense, bring here his colours and canvas, and then, in some of those delicious spots already spoken of, fix his easel in the open air, and, without darkened windows or reflected lights, or any other atelier contrivances, and forgetting atelier conventionalisms, try to represent what he sees just as he sees it—aiming only to distinguish what is essential and characteristic—giving himself up unrestrainedly to the teaching of Nature, whom he will find to be a far better guide than any connoisseur or picturedealer. The young painter who will do this—who will come aud dwell here for awhile, watching in the early dawn the changing effects of the breaking mists, the deep thick shadows, and the pearly sparkling dew; the brightness and glitter of the noon-tide, as he looks out over the river from the shelter of the rich groves; the mellow radiance which the setting sun flings over trees and river and cloudless sky; and, as "the risin' moon begins to glowr," trace the power of chiaroscuro, of those marvellous combinations of light and shadow which genius has sometimes been able to fix on the canvas, but which Nature is ever lavishing with unsparing hand before him who is abroad to see :—he who will do this, will find that the bounty of Nature is not yet exhausted; that even in such unromantic spots as these, there are to be found passages of river scenery still unappropriated by any of our admirable landscape-painters, and unnoticed by the great painters of old. And he will find also plenty of employment for his sketch-book. There are, as architectural studies, Goring Church, both in parts and as a whole; Hardwick, a capital exercise, and the bays and oriels of Maple-Durham; of homely picturesque buildings he will see plenty about the villages; the mill at Maple-Durham will yield more than one sketch; and he could not desire better models for landscape "figures" than the folks hereabout.
One other person ought not be overlooked—I mean the angler. Pangbourne is a famous spot for him. If he cast the fly, Thames will yield plenty of work: trout abound and rise kindly, and the little Pang brook which enters the Thames by the village (and gives it its name) is also a good trout stream. If he prefer trolling, there are some stout jack which will not let him want sport; and if he be content to fish at bottom, he may always reckon on a good basket of barbel, roach, or chub, if he know how to handle his tackle.