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It would be a pleasant task to say a few words about his writings, had we not gossiped so long about himself. His poetry is too little read. The strangely applied learning with which most of it is overlaid, and the glittering conceits which are so profusely spangled about it, and which were once its chief attraction for the popular eye, now that time has rendered them unfashionable, repel the ordinary reader. But there is much sterling sense, and brilliant fancy and poetic imagery in all of it. His serious poetry, whether pindaric or epic, always exhibits too much of those "laborious effects of idleness" which he complains of in others. He never produces an idea, whether mean or magnificent, but he ransacks the cabinets of his memory, and draws extravagantly on his fancy for some exotic imagery wherewith to deck it. But his Anacreontics have never been surpassed, and others of the gayer and some of the graver among his Miscellanies have had few superior in their way. The plain unaffected vigorous prose in which he clothes the sound sense of his Essays has always excited the admiration of men of manly taste, and is deserving of the most careful study of those who wish to comprehend the power of genuine English.
His house still stands in Guildford Street, and now bears his name. Cowley House is partly of timber, and by its appearance would seem to have been erected very little earlier than the period when the poet inhabited it: but it has been greatly altered since then, so much indeed, as scarcely to retain any resemblance to its original character and appearance. Having fallen into a dilapidated condition, it was, towards the end of the last century, thoroughly repaired by Alderman Clarke, chamberlain of London (and a friend of Doctor Johnson), who made it his residence. Alderman Clarke died here in 1831, at the age of 93 (which, by the way, says something in defence of the healthiness of Chertsey*) ; and the old house is now occupied by his son, the Rev. J. C. Clarke. The porch which was formerly attached to the house, and from which it used to be called the Porch House, was removed many years ago.
When Stukeley visited Chertsey in 1752, he says " they talked of a pretty summer-house which Cowley built, which was demolished not long since, and of a seat under a sycamore by the brook (at the side of the garden), which are mentioned in his poems. There are very good fishponds too of his making." Now, however, if one may venture to say so in despite of some stubborn traditions, very little remains either in house or grounds of what was there when Cowley lived and wrote.
The neighbourhood of Chertsey, except towards St. Anne's Hill, is low and level, but it is everywhere pleasant (except of course near the brick-fields and market-gardens, which, however, occupy so large a space as somewhat to qualify the preceding commendation). Opposite the neat rustic-looking inn at the foot of the hill, which rejoices in the sign of the Golden Grove (and a right civil landlord), stands a venerable elm, whose widespreading branches embrace and support a shady
* There are many gravestones in Chertsey churchyard, which attest that the air of the neighbourhood is not unfavourable to longevity. One commemorates a W. Goring, -who died in 1836, at the respectable age of 104—and he a tailor!
summer-house, which rests on the separation of the greater branches some ten or twelve feet from the ground, and is reached by an easy flight of steps. In the afternoon of a summer's day many a comfortable group may be seen taking their ease in this elevated seat.
A substantial bridge of Purbeck stone now supplies the place of " the goodly bridge of wood over the Thames at Chertsey " which Leland mentions.
CO WAY STAKES.
For some miles below Chertsey the river winds deviously through flat marshy meadows. A raised towing-path runs alongside it, and it is skirted with osiers, and a few willows and alders. Though sufficiently monotonous in character, yet is it not without some charms of the Dutch kind, to which the slow-moving barges and lighter craft contribute their share, as do also the fat cattle in the fields, while the low Surrey hills on the one side, and occasional glimpses of the sister heights of Highgate and Hampstead on the other, serve to relieve and complete the picture. And here the river receives two affluents, the Bourne brook, an unimportant stream that rises near Bagshot; and the river Wey, which has been described in a former volume.
Weybridge is a pleasant healthy village, which seems to be growing into favour as a suburban residence. It is a long, straggling, scattered place, with somewhat of an old-fashioned picturesqueness about many parts of it, which it is to be feared will soon pass away. It is even now a good deal altered from what it was before the railway was brought to it. Some new houses have been erected; and the grounds of Oatlands, once the pride of this neighbourhood, are for the larger part apportioned out "to be let on building leases." One excellent change has been made. Alongside the very plain and uninteresting old church there has just been erected a very handsome new one, in the early English style of architecture.
By "Weybridge the river is, if not strikingly beautiful, yet at le-ist very agreeable. It flows along a wide tranquil stream through meadows of brilliant verdure. A few willows skirt the banks, and larger trees occur at intervals. Two or three swans with their cygnets float stately upon the water. About the broad pastures " fair-eyed cows," as Sir Philip Sidney prettily expresses it, graze or ruminate, or seek shelter from the mid-day sun under the trees, or stand motionless in the stream. Not far off", the tower of a village church rises above the dark foliage of lofty elms; and the blue smoke curls languidly from many a cottage chimney up to the blue vapoury ether. Just such scenery is it as Cuyp would have loved to paint, had he had the good fortune to be an Englishman, and Cooper does paint with genuine Cuypean, and yet honest English relish.
As we proceed, the little quiet-looking village of Shepperton, straggling along at a short distance from the left bank of the river, is the first place that catches the eye, but there is nothing in it that will tempt the stranger to linger long, and there is little in its history to record. It boasts, however, of having been for awhile the dwelling-place of two eminent men—Grocyn and Erasmus. Grocyn, one of the very small band of Englishmen (according to Hal lam numbering only four or five) who at the commencement of the sixteenth century had "any tincture of Greek;" whose name is remembered with respect as one of the revivers of classical