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death, until their fury was appeased by a magnificent funeral, at which he distributed four times more burnt wine than had ever been drunk at any burial in England." (Grammont's Memoirs.) He now became, either really or as a pretence, insane; after awhile, however, he recovered, and his recovery was celebrated by Butler in some satirical verses entitled 'A panegyric upon Sir John Denham's recovery from his sickness.' He died a few months later.
We descend from Cooper's Hill to a spot especially sacred in the history of our country. The long pleasant-looking slip of flat meadow is Runnemede, and the island by the upper end of it bears the name of Magna Charta. Runnemede is said, in the Chronicle usually ascribed to Matthew of Westminster, to have been of old a place where treaties concerning the peace of the nation were made: the name signified " the Mead of Council." On this fair meadow, in the summer time of 1215, met in hostile attitude the Pope's serf, John, the degenerate sovereign of England, and the flower of the English nobility; supported each by an army, but that of the Barons comprising the whole body of yeomen and free peasantry, and a band ot auxiliaries representative of the capital, while the king's army was composed mainly of mercenaries. John had sought help on every side, and it was only by the force of stern compulsion that he had at last assented to the meeting. After brief parley here on this pleasant plain, on Trinity Monday, the 19th of June, 1215, was Magna Chakta signed. It has been the fashion of late to undervalue this great measure, and in the humour of the day to cast ridicule upon the whole proceedings. It is hardly just, and certainly not generous, so to treat a measure, won with so much danger, and which wise men of each succeeding age, till our own, have regarded with unmingled reverence. In a better spirit and with a noble eloquence wrote of it one who had carefully studied its provisions and thoughtfully traced its consequences, and who by his general knowledge of history and acquaintance with the laws of nations was better qualified than most men to estimate it aright. "On the English nation," says Sir James Mackintosh, " undoubtedly the Charter has contributed to bestow the union of establishment with improvement. To all mankind it set the first example of the progress of a great people for centuries, in blending their tumultuary democracy and haughty nobility with a fluctuating and vaguely limited monarchy, so as at length to form from these discordant materials the only form of free government which experience had shown to be reconcilable with widely extended dominions. Whoever in any future age or unborn nation may admire the felicity of the expedient which converted the power of taxation into the shield of liberty, by which discretionary and secret imprisonment was rendered impracticable, and portions of people were trained to exercise a larger share of judicial power than was ever allotted to them in any other civilized state, in such a manner as to secure instead of endangering public tranquillity;—whoever exults at the spectacle of enlightened and independent assemblies, who, under the eye of a well-informed nation, discuss and determine the laws and policy likely to make communities great and happy ;— whoever is capable of comprehending all the effects of such institutions, with all their possible improvements, upon the mind and genius of a people, is sacredly bound to speak with reverential gratitude of the authors of the Great Charter. To have produced it, to have preserved it, to have matured it, constitute the immortal claim of England on the esteem of mankind. Her Bacons and Shaksperes, her Miltons and Newtons, with all the truth which they have revealed, and all the generous virtue which they have inspired, are of inferior value when compared with the subjection of men and their rulers to the principles of justice; if, indeed, if be not more true that these mighty spirits could not have been formed except under equal laws, nor roused into full activity without the influence of that spirit which the Great Charter breathed over their forefathers." (Hist, of Eng. i. 221.)
Runnemede is now used for a somewhat less important purpose than of old, though one not entered upon with less seriousness—the Egham races are annually run upon it. Some, indeed, affirm that it received its name from having been used for a similar purpose in Saxon times, Runnemede being a corruption of Running Mead, instead of meaning the Mead of Council.
According to the popular tradition the Charter was signed on Magna Charta Island—whence its name. The little stone building we see peeping out from among the willows was erected some fourteen or fifteen years ago, in commemoration thereof, by S. Harcourt, Esq., the owner of the island and of the manor. It is prettily fitted up, has windows of stained glass with appropriate emblems; and contains the very stone upon which, as an inscription testifies, the Charter was there signed. Traditions in such matters generally have some truth in them. Recent investigations have brought to light the treaty by which Louis of France agreed to evacuate the country with his foreign followers, after John had made peace with the barons; and that treaty was signed on this island, as the attestation records: from which circumstance, no doubt, arose the tradition that the Great Charter was signed here.
From the island there used to be a ferry to Wraysbury, but now, if credence may be given to a board which is placed by the path that leads from the village to the river, communication is only allowed on that side with the island twice a week, " in consequence of the increasing annoyance experienced from visitors straying into the private walks" of Ankerwyke .House. "Wraysbury (or, as it used to be spelled, Wyrardisbury) is a quiet, straggling, and remarkably secluded little village. The church, which is a very respectable sample of a small village church, has been recently carefully repaired and restored. It is worth examining.
Ankerwyke House stands on the site of a priory of Benedictine nuns founded by Sir Gilbert Montfichet, the owner of the manor in the reign of Henry II. Soon after the suppression of religious houses, a mansion was built where the nunnery stood, but, with the exception of the hall, which still remains, it has given place to a more modern edifice. A yew tree of vast size and great fame stands near the house. It stood there when the Barons met in the neighbouring mead, and it is still vigorous. At three feet from the ground the trunk is twenty-eight feet in girth, and the branches overshadow a circle of above two hundred feet in circumference.
Here the good reader must pardon a digression. At starting it was proposed neither to diverge far from the banks of our river nor to indulge in digressions, however we might be tempted thereto. But that, it soon became apparent, was a rule which would be " more honoured in the breach than the observance ;" and in the hope that the reader is of opinion, with Beroaldus and old Burton, that " however somemislike them as frivolous and impertinent, such digressions do mightily delight and refresh a weary reader "—and such I fear my reader too often is— with those good authorities to support me, " I do therefore the more willingly use them."
A short distance below Ankerwyke we come upon one of the arms by which the Colne unites with the Thames. The Colne—Milton's Colne — is a stream of such singular interest, that I must depart a little from my usual practice when noticing the tributaries of the Thames, in order to trace it somewhat in detail, and just indicate its more memorable points.
That branch of the Colne whose source is farthest from the mouth, rises by a village called Market Street, about five miles south-east of Dunstable; but the branch which bears the name of the Colne to its head, has its source near Hatfield in Hertford