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EVENINGS WITH THE POETS.
Pencilings and Sketches of the English Poets and their
In the pleasant glades of Bedfordshire, in the south of England, and not far from the pretty little markettown of Ampthill, there stands a fine old Elizabethan mansion, situated in the basin formed by the gentle undulating hills, that vary that fertile county like the green waves of the summer corn when shaken by the breeze. It is a curious and antique fabric, full of quaint-looking little recesses, and odd-fashioned cor. ners and turnings, and with winding stairs and rambling passages, such as might serve for the labyrinths to half-a-dozen haunted chambers. Outside it is built of red brick, worn into the most picturesque irregularity by the hand of Time. Heavy clumps of brickwork rise against its gables; the oddest and most fantastic projections and indentations variegate its form; and here and there a pretty cluster of ornamental pinnacles and chimneys relieve the heavy mass below. A luxuriant vine trails along the south and west sides, with roses and honeysuckle contesting with it for the sunny wall, while an ancient clump of ivy has taken root against the north gable, and grown so strong and thick, and rambled so far and high up among the grotesque battlements and chimneytops, that it looks as though it were about to smother the quaint brick mansion, and, like some of the old classic fables, convert it and its inmates into trees.
Towards the close of November 18, there assembled a large circle of friends at this old English mansion. Schoolmates and early acquaintances, with cousins and youthful uncles and aunts were there; and, in short, a numerous party, chiefly at that happy period of life when innocent mirth and festive enjoyment are entered into with a zest never afterwards experienced. Mr. and Mrs. Howard, the owners of the old manor house of Derley, were remarkably fine examples of a hospitable couple of the good old times, as they are called,—times when there was quite as much evil as now, but when there was also kindliness, and charity, and liberal deeds, which we are ever apt to look back upon as pertaining to the era of kind grandpapas and grandmammas, and good old maiden aunts and generous uncles, from whom we have been wont to receive so many acts of kindness and tokens of affection which we have never afterwards been in a condition to experience again. To those who have reached the downhill of life, with all its thorny cares and disappointed hopes, the early happy days of youth will ever be good old times; and now as mirthful a group of strangers to care were assembling at the old brick manor house of Derley as the most benevolent heart could desire.
The party was intended as a reunion of relatives after a long separation. Colonel Howard, the eldest son of the hospitable owners of the fine old mansion, had returned from India, after an absence of many years, bringing with him a son and two daughters, who had not seen any of their English relatives since their infancy. The old couple were among those who cherish the “superstitions of the heart," as they have been very happily termed, with an affectionate zeal that proved the kindly benevolence of their natures. Birthdays had always been looked forward to with glee by the younger folks, as seasons dedicated to
innocent enjoyment. The breaking-up and the return from school were anticipated with hilarous delight; and, above all, the festivities of the old English holi day season of Christmas were kept up with all the frolic and mirthful mummings which have long characterised its celebration among the yeomen and cottagers of merry England.
It was indeed one of those delightful reunions of a long-severed family circle which revive so many pleasing memories to all. Here was the son whose birth had been the subject of rejoicing long years ago in these same old halls; and now he came back to present to his loved parents his own son and daugh. ters, and to demand for them a share of the affection so largely lavished on himself. It was a scene with many happy suggestive associations, and some quiet and thoughtful ones, such as Rogers has pictured in the scenes of Old Llewellyn Hall, with which he opens his beautiful poem of Human Life :
“ The lark has sung his carol in the sky;
And, crowding, stop the cradle to admire
A few short years—and then these sounds shall hail
And soon again shall music swell the breeze;
And once, alas, nor in a distant hour,
A less peaceable and simple lot, however, had awaited the heir of Derley Manor, although his early