being "upon principle" mechanical and rigid, for so he averred church music should ever be. An attractive object in the park is a curious structure which formerly stood at the meeting of the four principal streets in Oxford, and served to supply the Colleges and Halls with water brought to it from North Hinksey. Its history is told in the following inscription engraven on it:—" This building, called Carfax, erected for a conduit at Oxford, by Otho Nicholson, in the year of our Lord 1590, and taken down in the year 178*7 to enlarge the High Street, was presented by the University to George Simon, Earl Harcourt, who caused it to be placed here." The derivation of the name Carfax is not known, but "it is supposed to be a corruption of quatre faces or carrefour, given to it from the situation in which it was placed where the four streets met."

The village originally stood near the house, but was removed by Lord Harcourt to its present situation outside the park on the Oxford road. From the houses being built in pairs, and the opposite sides of the road exactly corresponding to each other, it has a singular and rather formal appearance. This stiffness of look is somewhat lessened, however, by the gardens and trees in front of the houses, and the whole seems unusually neat and comfortable. When the rest of the cottages in the old village were taken down, one was left standing, and a tree still known as Bab's tree marks its site. The circumstances connected with it are curious and creditable to both the earl and the old dame. Barbara Wyat had dwelt in the cottage the best part of her life; in her youth she had planted the tree beside it, and now that she had outlived husband and family, her tree seemed all that was left to remind her of her early days, and she could not bear to leave it. The earl had provided for her a more comfortable house in his new village, but she earnestly entreated that she might still remain in her old habitation. Her request was complied with, and her cottage not pulled down till after her death; and then the tree was spared, and some commemorative verses were written by Whitehead and placed beneath it.

The earl, who made Nuneham-Courtnay what it is, had spent a good deal of his early life in France, and had become a sort of liberal French marquis of the old regime. He not only improved his house and grounds, and built his church after a new fashion, but sought to improve his tenantry and new-model them. One of his schemes for this purpose was the creation of an " Order of Merit" among them. He established an annual festival, something after the fashion of the village fetes of the North of France, which sentimental tourists spend their heroics upon. The company used to assemble in the church, and there the earl and his lady being seated on elevated ground, and those to be honoured for good conduct during the year being placed apart, an address was delivered on the value of the distinction, their excellencies were enumerated, and then clothes with badges upon them, ribbons, and medals were presented to the most meritorious. Afterwards prizes of industry were distributed in the park. The villagers were regaled with a dinner, and the evening closed with a ball. Finally, the names of the meritorious were painted on the church-walls, and a star with the letter M was fixed on the porch of the house in which each of them dwelt; and they were expected to wear the mark of distinction. Now, doubtless, this was all very pretty; and we occasionally hear and read what sounds like a hankering after this sort of foppery. But let us hope there will be no more of it. We have had too much of such nonsense already. Let small litterateurs long after stars and ribbons, and wear them if they can get them,—our brawny peasantry are better without them. For a match at wrestling, or single-stick, or cricket, a prize of ribbons is well enough. There the merit is palpable, and none can question the award. But we want no aids to moral pride, nor any stimulant to envy. We don't want the / am better than thou spirit to be fostered. A fussy, ostentatious, pharisaic goodness, or a sort of prim starched propriety, may be thus coddled into a rickety existence, and by stays and irons be kept upright; but a healthy manly virtue cannot be so engendered, nor by such means be nourished. Grievously do the morals of our villagers need to be elevated, but it is not by these holiday modes that it can be accomplished. To write over the door of the best behaved man, "Here lives Job Winfarthing, the soberest and most virtuous man in the village," and to deck him with a ribbon and medal, would not be any more likely to make him better, or to improve his neighbours than the Agricultural club's awarding a blue coat and wheatear buttons, or a white frock and corderoy inexpressibles, to the labourer who has raised a dozen children on six shillings a week without parish help, is likely to lead other labourers to be equally prudent and praiseworthy. It has been said that Nuneham-Courtnay is much resorted to by the inhabitants of Oxford; it should be added that the grounds are now, as they always have been, liberally and freely thrown open to all comers. A picturesque cottage was erected by the Earl for the accommodation of such holiday visitors: it stands beside a branch of the Thames, across which a rustic bridge was at the same time thrown.

A short and pleasant walk by the river, which may be shortened by a cut across the fields, will bring us to Abingdon before the daylight is quite gone.



Quiet, clean, and dull is Abingdon now, like many another old town whose small manufacturing trade has departed, leaving it dependent on agriculture for what business is done in it. On market-days it wakes a little from its somnolent condition, but the market is soon over, and it at once relapses into its usual drowsihood. Abingdon is not a place a stranger would long to make his permanent abode, yet something of interest might be found in it for a day or two. Its situation is not striking, nor is the neighbourhood of it remarkable for beauty, yet both are pleasant:—standing near the junction of the Ock with the Thames, where the Thames is not the most picturesque, it still possesses some agreeable features, and some diversity of scenery. Once it was a place of considerable importance. A manuscript in the Cottonian library, quoted in Dugdale's Monasticon, describes it as being anciently a large and wealthy city, where was the residence of the Mercian kings; and whither people resorted to assist at the great councils of the nation. Long previous to the introduction of Christianity it was, if we may trust the same authority, a British station.

As its subsequent fame was long owing to the connexion of the monastery with it, it may not be

« 上一页继续 »