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out into the open country past Garsington, on whose salubrious hill the Fellows and scholars of Trinity used to sojourn when the plague raged in Oxford, till, as we descend the slope towards the Thame, we see behind the budding woods and copses of Chiselhampton Lodge the blue line of the Chiltern Hills. And here is Chiselhampton bridge, its grey stone piers looking much as they did when Rupert's horsemen clattered over them that night, but bearing an iron framework and railings due to the taste of some country surveyor of later times. Yet half a mile beyond the Thame and we reach Stadhampton. Here on that night of June 17 Rupert diverged from the Watlington Road to be heard of later by Colonel Morley's troop at Postcombe and the newly raised Bedfordshire levies at Chinnor. We hold on our way across the plain till a low square tower, a quarter of a mile to the right, warns us that we are approaching our goal. It is Chalgrove Church, and this level ploughland Chalgrove Field. Where the road we are following is crossed at right angles by a lane from Chalgrove village stands the monument which marks the place where Hampden fell. As we face northwards and turn our backs on Chalgrove village we see extended to our left the ‘fair pasture of Clarendon's description. It was still open ground when Lord Nugent published his “Memorials of Hampden’ in the year of the Reform Bill, and the smallness of the hedgerow timber shows that its enclosure is of no ancient date. In front the lane from the village leads, tending leftwards, to Warpsgrove farm. To our right rises a low hill, Golder Hill, hiding from our sight the Chilterns to the east, and holding, curiously secluded in its folds, Easington village, a low barn-like church, and a solitary farm. In those flat fields Rupert, returning half baffled, half triumphant, from his foray, came up with a regiment of his infantry, sent it forward to keep open his passage at Chiselhampton bridge, and turned to face his pursuers. Over that lift of ground came Gunter with three troops of horse, his own and those of Captains Sheffield and Crosse. For the last five miles they had hung on Rupert’s rear, and on the way they had been joined by fifty men sent by the officer of the watch at Thame to inquire the cause of the fire at Chinnor, a troop of horse, a troop of dragoons, and some sundries, in all some three hundred mounted men to face Rupert's one thousand. With them was Hampden. He had lain the night before, tradition says, at Watlington (perhaps really at the house of his first wife's father at Pyrton Manor, a mile from there), and “being abroad with Sir Samuel Luke and onely one man, and seeing Major Gunter's forces, did go along with them, putting himself in Captain Crosse's troop.” There was Rupert at bay, and the thing was to hold him till Essex could come up from headquarters in sufficient strength to deal effectually with him. Down over Golder Hill they came, ‘Urry that renegado' (to quote a Parliamentary print) crying, for the information of his fellows, ‘That's Hampden’; ‘That's Gunter’; ‘That's Luke.” Gunter fell at the first charge, and it seems that Captain Crosse, whose troop, Hampden in it, was further to the right, was advancing from the direction of Warpsgrove to support his chief, when Hampden got the hurt which cost him his life. ‘His head hanging down, and resting his hands upon the neck of his horse, so runs the report by one of the prisoners taken on that day, he was seen to “ride off the field before the action was done, which he never used to do.’ First it would seem he headed towards Pyrton, the direction from which he had come, as though he would have made for that familiar house, the home of the wife of his first love. But the enemy held the ground in that direction (Essex writes that Rupert was in such strength that he was able to outflank the Parliamentarians and charge them in the rear), and so he turned north-westwards, meaning doubtless to strike the road between Stadhampton and Thame and make his way to Essex's headquarters at the latter place. We are told of an incident in that mournful ride. “When he was come to a considerable rivulet he was much put to it what to do. He thought that if he alighted he could not possibly get up again, and how to get over he could not well tell, but he resolved at last to try what his horse could do, and so clapt his spurs to and got over.” Following in Hampden's track one makes an attempt to identify the spot. Mr. Blackall, of Great Haseley, whose grandson told the story to the fourth Lord Macclesfield, locates it at ‘ the brook which divides the parishes' of Haseley and Pyrton. Hampden was last seen crossing the grounds of Little Haseley Court. Head northwards from Little to Great Haseley, and you strike nothing more considerable than a meagre drain, dry when the writer saw it in June last year. But take a bee line from Haseley Court for Thame, and you will find yourself brought up by a running ditch with soggy banks, an affluent of the Haseley brook. Those who hunt with the South Oxfordshire must know it well and have crossed it often, and will admit that it was something to give pause to a wounded man on a tired horse. That is where the writer thinks he has identified Hampden’s leap within a field or so. And yet, after all, Mr. Blackall of Great Haseley may be right: water was more plenty in Hampden's time than now, and that dry drain between Great and Little Haseley may have been a considerable rivulet the day that Hampden rode from Chalgrove Field to Thame.
As to the way in which Hampden came by his death, it seems to the writer that the account which purports to have been given by his son-in-law, Sir Robert Pye, to Sir Edward Harley has not received the attention it deserves. The provenance of the MS., now in a Berkshire country house, is obscure. Baldwin, who printed it in the ‘St. James' Chronicle' for 1761, told the father of Henry James Pye, the Poet Laureate, that he found it in a book which came into his possession out of Lord Oxford's family. But the grounds on which Lord Nugent dismisses it—namely, that Pye the Laureate was assured by his father that Sir Robert Pye never mentioned it to his grandfather, though the latter lived with him till he was eighteen—are not conclusive. Sir Robert Pye was on the best of terms with his father-in-law, and the rueful tone in which the tale is told conveys the impression that the incident was not one to which he cared to recur, though it does not exclude the possibility that he related it in a moment of confidence to a friend. After describing how Hampden made his way to Thame, the letter proceeds:
As soon as he possibly could he sent for me; he was in very great pain, and told me that he suspected his wound was mortal, but what makes it still more grievous to me, says he, is, that I am afraid you are in some degree accessory to it, for the hurt I have received his (sic) occasioned by the bursting of one of those pistolls which you gave me. You may be sure I was not a little surprised and concerned at hearing this, and assured him they were bought from one of the best workmen in France, and that I myself had seen them tried. You must know it was Mr. Hampden's custom whenever he was going abroad always to order a raw serving boy that he had to be sure to take care that his pistols were loaded, and it seems the boy did so very effectually, for whenever he was thus ordered he always put in a fresh charge without considering or examining whether the former charge had been made use of or not, and upon examining the remaining pistoll they found it was in this state, quite filled up to the top with two or three supernumerary charges. And the other pistoll having been in the same condition was the occasion of its bursting and shattering Mr. Hampden's arm in such a manner that he received his death by the wound and not by any hurt from the enemy.
The letter has a certain interest, but the matter with which it deals is not of great importance. There was a time when controversy raged round it, and Lord Nugent, author of “Memorials of Hampden,’ went so far as to attempt to settle the question by exhuming Hampden’s body. People seemed to think it derogatory to the dignity of the patriot to deprive him of his two carabine balls in the shoulder. What matter? Killed by the enemy's shot or the bursting of a treacherous weapon, he fell fighting dauntlessly for what he held the right. One may take leave of him not with the studied judgment of Clarendon, but with the heartfelt words of Arthur Goodwin, his colleague in the representation of Bucks: ‘He was a gallant man, an honest man, an able man, and take all I know not to any man livinge second.”
One would be glad to realise the appearance of the man who so greatly impressed his contemporaries. But portraits of Hampden are few and doubtful. The most generally known is that in the possession of Lord St. Germans (reproduced in Green’s ‘History of England'), of which a copy now hangs in Hampden’s own college of Magdalen. It is the portrait of a man not yet middle aged, wearing a cuirass, a man of a ruddy complexion and, it seems to the writer, a somewhat pleasure-loving cast of countenance. But there is the less cause for wonder here if, as is maintained, the original is the very picture which Hampden exchanged for one of Eliot shortly before his friend’s death. Hampden was but thirty-six at the time, and the days of indulgence in “all the license in sports and exercises and company which was used by the men of the most jolly conversation were not so long gone by. More suggestive of the Hampden of Parliamentary fame is the terra-cotta bust—the only memorial of Hampden there—which stands in the National Portrait Gallery. An older, graver, leaner face, it holds you with a quiet eye, and you may stand and look upon it long till an echo of Clarendon penetrates your brain and you wake with a start to stand on your guard against ‘infusions.”
It was by the merest accident that I paid a visit in August last to Iceland, a country which I had never thought of including even in my dreams of travel. But it happened in this way: a party of friends, weary of waiting beyond the end of July for the English summer, which seemed to have been postponed indefinitely, determined to start off on a yacht and visit the North Cape and the ultimate fjords of Norway. We had armed ourselves with a library of books of travel in the regions which we hoped to explore, and so, fully equipped, left Euston Station for Oban, where we were to meet the yacht. But, within an hour of reaching our destination, our host received a telegram whose contents determined him to shorten his holiday by several weeks; wherefore, after a brief consultation, all our plans were altered, and Iceland became our objective instead of Northern Scandinavia. From Oban it was a few days' sea-journey to Reykiavik, the capital of Iceland; but into those four days inexorable fate managed to crowd the maximum of discomfort from fog and cold and Atlantic swell. Nevertheless, the philosophy of our combined party was summoned to endure these passing hardships, and the result was entirely satisfactory. The only thing that really worried us was the fact that none of us knew anything about Iceland, neither where to go nor what to see. The ship's library, rich in travellers’ tales about Africa and Asia and America, contained no volume that could shed a single ray of light upon the outer darkness of our ignorance. Somebody remembered having seen a telegram a few weeks earlier, saying that Iceland was enjoying a really hot summer, a statement which reminded somebody else that “Iceland ’ is not the proper wame of the country, but ‘Island ’; and this fact gave considerable comfort to those who imagined that we were steaming into the Arozen regions of the North Pole. These grains of information, coupled with the news (extracted from some technical handbook discovered in the chart-room) that Iceland is larger than Ireland, and not, as many imagine, about the size of the Isle of Wight, completed our fore-knowledge of the country upon which we were about to descend.