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RAMBLES BY RIYERS,
THE MEAD OF COUNCIL.
Before recommencing his journey, the rambler ought, perhaps, to be reminded that there are a great many places in the vicinity of Windsor and Eton, but at a little distance from the Thames, and consequently not within the limits of this volume, which well deserve a visit, either on account of their interest or their beauty, or of both combined. Although we cannot turn aside to visit them, a few may just be mentioned. On the "Windsor side, there is a delightful stroll through the Great Park and Windsor Forest to Binfield, where, in the house of his father, Pope spent his youthful years, and wrote the greater part of his early poetry. The house, his "paternal cell," as he styles it in the well-known lines,
I "A little house, with trees a row.
And, like its master, very low,"
has given place to a much larger structure; but a room which tradition has fixed on as "Pope's Study " forms a part of the present building. The tree at some distance from the house, under which he is said to have been accustomed to compose, and which bore the inscription " Here Pope sung," was blown down several years ago. There are other noticeable places and pleasant walks, but they have been already referred to generally, in speaking of Windsor Forest, within the precincts of which they chiefly lie.
On the Eton side of the river is Slough, in which is the house that was occupied by Herschel, the eminent astronomer, and after his death by his equally eminent son. Near Slough is Upton, whose venerable and deserted church and quiet churchyard are often said to have suggested the imagery of Gray's famous Elegy: but that honour is more justly claimed for the churchyard of Stoke-Poges, some two or three miles north of Upton. Stoke is altogether intimately associated with the memory of Gray. In early life he spent his College vacations there, and as long as his mother lived he was a frequent resident in the house in which she dwelt with her sister; and there he wrote a good deal of his poetry. The house, known as West-End Cottage, is still standing, but it has been altered from the "compact box of red-brick with sash windows," which he describes, into a smart modern-looking villa. Of Stoke ManorHouse, the scene of his 'Long Story,' only a portion of one of the wings remains. The churchyard, as has been said, is unquestionably the spot that has the fairest claim to the ' Elegy written in a Countiy Churchyard :'—and it is the appropriate
resting-place of the remains of the poet. Burnham is another beautiful locality with which the name of Gray is associated; the reader of his letters will hardly need to be reminded of his lively notice of Burnham Common and Beeches. The common and the almost unrivalled beech-woods remain as when he described them, and appear as lonely now as then, and even more venerable. Burnham is about midway between Stoke and Hedsor, and, except for its connexion with the name of Gray, would have been more properly mentioned when at the latter place—if mentioned at all.*
We will now return to the Thames. The best and pleasantest way to pursue our ramble is to pass through the Playing-fields of Eton College,t and take the field-path to Datchet. To float along | the stream between Eton and Datchet bridges is pleasant enough, but the ordinary path on the right bank of the river is very wearisome to the pedestrian, whose view on that side is closed by the monotonous park wall, which extends the whole distance, while on the opposite side there is little in the level banks to relieve the attention.
No weariness will be felt in a stroll through the
* By some mistake of writer or printer, in the notice of the neighbourhood of Hedsor (i. 196), Waller's residence at Beaconsfield is called Hull Court, instead of Hall Barn.
t There have been many changes in Eton College since the brief notice of it appeared in the first volume. The New Buildings for the Collegers (not Oppidans, as was written by a slip of the pen), including a handsome school library, have been completed, and the greatly improved system of examinations brought into full exercise; improvements of the highest value, and conferring great honour on the liberality of the College authorities. The Chapel has been admirably restored: and, lastly, the Montem has been abolished.