button to main menu  Gents Mag 1849 part 2 p.138

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Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.138
luxuriance of its fresher years - in the sweeping away of its primal woods, and in the eradication of the furze and heath which decked every height with the gorgeous colouring of those incense-breathing shrubs - it has lost something for which the so-called improvements afford no substitute. Few are now the old and gnarled trees, and fewer still the tall dense woods which for ages shaded the lonely shores and promontories of the lake, or, amid grey fern, plumed rocks waved o'er the mountains' sides.
It was about 1790 that Rydal - which, within the memory of persons yet alive, looked so grand in umbrageous honours - ceased to be considered a wondrous scene of woodland beauty; the grey oaks of Gowbarrow, which rendered the Cumberland shores of Ullswater so glorious to behold, fell under the exterminating axe in 1780. The woods which clothed all the shores and islands of Derwentwater with the sylvan nobility of centuries, and which, according to the record furnished by an eye-witness, exhibited, not a century ago, a picture of wide-spread leafy splendour, succumbed beneath the same relentless fate some twenty years before. About the same period, also, the memorable Westmerland forest of Whinfell - the ground of so much legendary story, which had seen the huntings of a Baliol and a Clifford, and beheld the enamoured Clifford of a later generation, with a faithful and life-long love, devoting himself to that peerless mistress whose memory is preserved by the lone farmstead that occupies the site of his fair "Julian's Bower" - was stripped of its stately trees and consigned to its present unsheltered state. Where are the long green shady lanes, with their many windings and hawthorn-scented hedges, rich with wild roses and fragrant honeysuckle, tall hazels, and glistening hollies, and the creeping ivy, which, hanging from tree to tree in graceful wreaths, screened the passer-by from each rude blast? Where the moss-covered dwellings, with their picturesque porches, low mullioned windows, and buttressed chimneys of the stalwart and independent statesmen? And where is now the ancient hall of the manorial lord, whose charities, after the bountiful old fashion, were the comfort of those who once felt that they would not be deserted while the antique manor-house stood? Most of those landmarks of other days have long disappeared, together with the cells of the holy eremites of Troutbeck, St. Katharine's, and St. Mary's Holme, without leaving more than some broken ruins, or here and there a solitary shattered tree to greet the eye, and tell that such things were. Trim hedge rows, homely kept square fields, their formal plantations and garish modern villas, usurp their places, while other novelties proclaim that the outward air of the land, as well as its age of romance and adventure, is altogether changed and passed away for ever. It is M. Montalembert who, in his work on the "Historical Monuments of France," with true antiquarian conservatism, feelingly alludes to the changes taking place in its external appearance; and, as his sentiments, with some allowance, are applicable to a similar conditions of things in England, the following eloquent passage in the book in question may not imaptly close these brief observations on the yearly increasing impoverishment of the fairest beauties of the land:-
"It is impossible not to be struck with the contrast which the actual world presents with the world of that period (the middle ages) in reference to beauty. The beautiful is one of the wants of man - one of his noblest wants - a want that is less satisfied from day to day in this our modern society. I imagine that one of our barbarous ancestors of the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries would complain bitterly, if, returning from the tomb, he compared France, such as he had left it, with the France that we have made it, a country then dotted over with innumerable monuments as marvellous for their beauty as for their inexhaustible variety, but whose surface is now becoming daily more and more flat and uniform. Those towns that were discerned from afar by their forest of steeples, by their majestic ramparts and gates, would, in his view, contrast strangely with our new quartiers erected on the same model in all the subprefectures of the kingdom - those chateaux on every hill, and abbeys in every valley, with our shapeless manufacturing masses - those churches and steeples in every village, abounding with sculptures and original pictures, with the hideous products of official architecture in our own times. Let us then at least leave things
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