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Country House Life in England by Reginald Wynford

The love for country life is, if possible, stronger in England now than at any previous period in her history. There is no other country where this taste has prevailed to the same extent. It arose originally from causes mainly political. In France a similar condition of things existed down to the sixteenth century, and was mainly brought to an end by the policy of ministers, who dreaded the increasing power of petty princes in remote provinces becoming in combination formidable to the central power. It was specially the object of Richelieu and Mazarin to check this sort of baronial imperium in imperio, and it became in the time of Louis XIV the keystone of that monarch's domestic policy. This tended to encourage the "hanging on" of grands seigneurs about the court, where many of the chief of them, after having exhausted their resources in gambling or riotous living, became dependent for place or pension on the Crown, and were in fact the creatures of the king and his minister. Of course this did not apply to all. Here and there in the broad area of France were to be found magnificent châteaux—a few of which, especially in Central France, still survive—where the marquis or count reigned over his people an almost absolute monarch.

There is a passage in one of Horace Walpole's letters in which that virtuoso expresses his regret, after a visit to the ancestral "hôtels" of Paris, whose contents had afforded him such intense gratification, that the nobility of England, like that of France, had not concentrated their treasures of art, etc. in London houses. Had he lived a few years longer he would probably have altered his views, which were such as his sagacious and manly father, who dearly loved his Norfolk home, Houghton, would never have held.

In England, from the time that anything like social life, as we understand the phrase, became known, the power of the Crown was so well established that no necessity for resorting to a policy such as Richelieu's for diminishing the influence of the noblesse existed.

In fact, a course distinctly the reverse came to be adopted from the time of Elizabeth down to even a later period than the reign of Charles II.

In the reign of Elizabeth an act was passed, which is to this hour probably on the statute book, restricting building in or near the metropolis. James I appears to have been in a chronic panic on this subject, and never lost an opportunity of dilating upon it. In one of his proclamations he refers to those swarms of gentry "who, through the instigation of their wives, or to new model and fashion their daughters who, if they were unmarried, marred their reputations, and if married, lost them—did neglect their country hospitality and cumber the city, a general nuisance to the kingdom." He desired the Star Chamber "to regulate the exorbitancy of the new buildings about the city, which were but a shelter for those who, when they had spent their estates in coaches, lacqueys and fine clothes like Frenchmen, lived miserably in their houses like Italians; but the honor of the English nobility and gentry is to be hospitable among their tenants.

"Gentlemen resident on their estates," said he, very sensibly, "were like ships in port: their value and magnitude were felt and acknowledged; but when at a distance, as their size seemed insignificant, so their worth and importance were not duly estimated."

Charles I., with characteristic arbitrariness, carried matters with a still higher hand. His Star Chamber caused buildings to be actually razed, and fined truants heavily. One case which is reported displays the grim and costly humor of the illegal tribunal which dealt with such cases. Poor Mr. Palmer of Sussex, a gay bachelor, being called upon to show cause why he had been residing in London, pleaded in extenuation that he had no house, his mansion having been destroyed by fire two years before. This, however, was held rather an aggravation of the offence, inasmuch as he had failed to rebuild it; and Mr. Palmer paid a penalty of one thousand pounds—equivalent to at least twenty thousand dollars now.

A document which especially serves to show the manner of life of the ancient noblesse is the earl of Northumberland's "Household Book" in the early part of the sixteenth century. By this we see the great magnificence of the old nobility, who, seated in their castles, lived in a state of splendor scarcely inferior to that of the court. As the king had his privy council, so the earl of Northumberland had his council, composed of his principal officers, by whose advice and assistance he established his code of economic laws. As the king had his lords and grooms of the chamber, who waited in their respective turns, so the earl was attended by the constables of his several castles, who entered into waiting in regular succession. Among other instances of magnificence it may be remarked that not fewer than eleven priests were kept in the household, presided over by a doctor or bachelor of divinity as dean of the chapel.

An account of how the earl of Worcester lived at Ragland Castle before the civil wars which began in 1641 also exhibits his manner of life in great detail: "At eleven o'clock the Castle Gates were shut and the tables laid: two in the dining-room; three in the hall; one in Mrs. Watson's appartment, where the chaplains eat; two in the housekeeper's room for my ladie's women. The Earl came into the Dining Room attended by his gentlemen. As soon as he was seated, Sir Ralph Blackstone, Steward of the House, retired. The Comptroller, Mr. Holland, attended with his staff; as did the Sewer, Mr. Blackburn, and the daily waiters with many gentlemen's sons, from two to seven hundred pounds a year, bred up in the Castle; my ladie's Gentleman Usher, Mr. Harcourt; my lord's Gentlemen of the Chamber, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Fox.

"At the first table sat the noble family and such of the nobility as came there. At the second table in the Dining-room sat Knights and honorable gentlemen attended by footmen.

"In the hall at the first table sat Sir R. Blackstone, Steward, the Comptroller, Secretary, Master of the Horse, Master of the Fishponds, my Lord Herbert's Preceptor, with such gentlemen as came there under the degree of knight, attended by footmen and plentifully served with wine.

"At the third table in the hall sate the Clerk of the Kitchen, with the Yeomen, officers of the House, two Grooms of the Chamber, etc.

"Other officers of the Household were the Chief Auditor, Clerk of Accounts, Purveyor of the Castle, Usher of the Hall, Closet Keeper, Gentleman of the Chapel, Keeper of the Records, Master of the Wardrobe, Master of the Armoury, Master Groom of the Stable for the 12 War-horses, Master of the Hounds, Master Falconer, Porter and his men, two Butchers, two Keepers of the Home Park, two Keepers of the Red Deer Park, Footmen, Grooms and other Menial Servants to the number of 150. Some of the footmen were Brewers and Bakers.

"Out offices.—Steward of Ragland, Governor of Chepstow Castle, Housekeeper of Worcester House in London, thirteen Bailiffs, two Counsel for the Bailiffs—who looked after the estate—to have recourse to, and a Solicitor."

In a delicious old volume now rarely to be met with, called The Olio, published eighty years ago, Francis Grose the antiquary thus describes certain characters typical of the country life of the earlier half of the seventeenth century: "When I was a young man there existed in the families of most unmarried men or widowers of the rank of gentlemen, resident in the country, a certain antiquated female, either maiden or widow, commonly an aunt or cousin. Her dress I have now before me: it consisted of a stiff-starched cap and hood, a little hoop, a rich silk damask gown with large flowers. She leant on an ivory-headed crutch-cane, and was followed by a fat phthisicky dog of the pug kind, who commonly reposed on a cushion, and enjoyed the privilege of snarling at the servants, and occasionally biting their heels, with impunity. By the side of this old lady jingled a bunch of keys, securing in different closets and corner-cupboards all sorts of cordial waters, cherry and raspberry brandy, washes for the complexion, Daffy's elixir, a rich seed-cake, a number of pots of currant jelly and raspberry jam, with a range of gallipots and phials and purges for the use of poorer neighbors. The daily business of this good lady was to scold the maids, collect eggs, feed the turkeys and assist at all lyings-in that happened within the parish. Alas! this being is no more seen, and the race is, like that of her pug dog and the black rat, totally extinct.

"Another character, now worn out and gone, was the country squire: I mean the little, independent country gentleman of three hundred pounds a year, who commonly appeared in a plain drab or plush coat, large silver buttons, a jockey cap, and rarely without boots. His travels never exceeded the distance to the county-town, and that only at assize- and session-time, or to attend an election. Once a week he commonly dined at the next market-town with the attorneys and justices. This man went to church regularly, read the weekly journal, settled the parochial disputes between the parish officers at the vestry, and afterward adjourned to the neighboring ale-house, where he usually got drunk for the good of his country. He never played at cards but at Christmas, when a family pack was produced from the mantelpiece. He was commonly followed by a couple of greyhounds and a pointer, and announced his arrival at a friend's house by cracking his whip or giving the view-halloo. His drink was generally ale, except on Christmas, the Fifth of November or some other gala-day, when he would make a bowl of strong brandy punch, garnished with a toast and nutmeg. A journey to London was by one of these men reckoned as great an undertaking as is at present a voyage to the East Indies, and undertaken with scarcely less precaution and preparation. The mansion of one of these squires was of plaster striped with timber, not unaptly called calimanco-work, or of red brick; large casemented bow-windows, a porch with seats in it, and over it a study, the eaves of the house well inhabited by swallows, and the court set round with hollyhocks. The hall was furnished with flitches of bacon, and the mantelpiece with guns and fishing-rods of different dimensions, accompanied by the broadsword, partisan and dagger borne by his ancestors in the Civil Wars. The vacant spaces were occupied by stags' horns. Against the wall was posted King Charles's Golden Rules, Vincent Wing's Almanack and a portrait of the duke of Marlborough: in his window lay Baker's Chronicle, Fox's Book of Martyrs, Glanvil on Apparitions, Quincey's Dispensatory, the Complete Justice and a Book of Farriery. In the corner, by the fireside, stood a large wooden two-armed chair with a cushion; and within the chimney-corner were a couple of seats. Here, at Christmas, he entertained his tenants assembled round a glowing fire made of the roots of trees and other great logs, and told and heard the traditionary tales of the village respecting ghosts and witches till fear made them afraid to move. In the mean time the jorum of ale was in continual circulation. The best parlor, which was never opened but on particular occasions, was furnished with Turk-worked chairs, and hung round with portraits of his ancestors—the men, some in the character of shepherds with their crooks, dressed in full suits and huge full-bottomed perukes, and others in complete armor or buff-coats; the females, likewise as shepherdesses with the lamb and crook, all habited in high heads and flowing robes. Alas! these men and these houses are no more! The luxury of the times has obliged them to quit the country and become humble dependants on great men, to solicit a place or commission, to live in London, to rack their tenants and draw their rents before due. The venerable mansion is in the mean time suffered to tumble down or is partly upheld as a farm-house, till after a few years the estate is conveyed to the steward of the neighboring lord, or else to some nabob, contractor or limb of the law."

It is unquestionably owing to the love of country life amongst the higher classes that England so early attained in many respects what may be termed an even civilization. In almost all other countries the traveler beyond the confines of a few great cities finds himself in a region of comparative semi-barbarism. But no one familiar with English country life can say that this is the case in the rural districts of England, whilst it is most unquestionably so in Ireland, simply because she has through absenteeism been deprived of those influences which have done so much for her wealthy sister. Go where you will in England to-day, and you will find within five miles of you a good turnpike road, leading to an inn hard by, where you may get a clean and comfortable though simple dinner, good bread, good butter, and a carriage—"fly" is the term now, as in the days of Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck—to convey you where you will. And this was the case long before railways came into vogue.

The influence of the great house has very wide ramifications, and extends far beyond the radius of park, village and estate. It greatly affects the prosperity of the country and county towns. Go into Exeter or Shrewsbury on a market-day in the autumn months, and you will find the streets crowded with carriages. If a local herald be with you, he will tell you all about their owners by glancing at the liveries and panels. They belong, half of them, to the old county gentry, who have shopped here—always at the same shops, according as their proprietors are Whigs or Tories—for generations. It may well be imagined what a difference the custom of twenty gentlemen spending on an average twenty-five thousand dollars a year makes to a grocer or draper. Besides, this class of customer demands a first-rate article, and consequently it is worth while to keep it in stock. The fishmonger knows that twenty great houses within ten miles require their handsome dish of fish for dinner as regularly as their bread and butter. It becomes worth his while therefore to secure a steady supply. In this way smaller people profit, and country life becomes pleasant to them too, inasmuch as the demands of the rich contribute to the comfort of those in moderate circumstances.

Let us pass to the daily routine of an affluent country home. The breakfast hour is from nine to eleven, except where hunting-men or enthusiasts in shooting are concerned. The former are often in the saddle before six, and young partridge-slayers may, during the first fortnight of September—after that their ardor abates a bit—be found in the stubbles at any hour after sunrise.

A country-house breakfast in the house of a gentlemen with from three thousand a year upward, when several guests are in the house, is a very attractive meal. Of course its degree of excellence varies, but we will take an average case in the house of a squire living on his paternal acres with five thousand pounds a year and knowing how to live.

It is 10 A.M. in October: family prayers, usual in nine country-houses out of ten, which a guest can attend or not as he pleases, are over. The company is gradually gathering in the breakfast-room. It is an ample apartment, paneled with oak and hung with family pictures. If you have any appreciation for fine plate—and you are to be pitied if you have not—you will mark the charming shape and exquisite chasing of the antique urn and other silver vessels, which shine as brilliantly as on the day they left the silversmiths to Her Majesty, Queen Anne. No "Brummagem" patterns will you find here.

On the table at equidistant points stand two tiny tables or dumb-waiters, which are made to revolve. On these are placed sugar, cream, butter, preserves, salt, pepper, mustard, etc., so that every one can help himself without troubling others—a great desideratum, for many people are of the same mind on this point as a well-known English family, of whom it was once observed that they were very nice people, but didn't like being bored to pass the mustard.

On the sideboard are three beautiful silver dishes with spirit-lamps beneath them. Let us look under their covers. Broiled chicken, fresh mushrooms on toast, and stewed kidney. On a larger dish is fish, and ranged behind these hot viands are cold ham, tongue, pheasant and game-pie. On huge platters of wood, with knives to correspond, are farm-house brown bread and white bread, whilst on the breakfast-table itself you will find hot rolls, toast—of which two or three fresh relays are brought in during breakfast—buttered toast, muffins and the freshest of eggs. The hot dishes at breakfast are varied almost every morning, and where there is a good cook a variety of some twenty dishes is made.

Marmalade (Marie Malade) of oranges—said to have been originally prepared for Mary queen of Scots when ill, and introduced by her into Scotland—and "jams" of apricot and other fruit always form a part of an English or Scotch breakfast. The living is just as good—often better—among the five-thousand-pounds-a-year gentry as among the very wealthy: the only difference lies in the number of servants and guests.

The luncheon-hour is from one to two. At luncheon there will be a roast leg of mutton or some such pièce de résistance, and a made dish, such as minced veal—a dish, by the way, not the least understood in this country, where it is horribly mangled—two hot dishes of meat and several cold, and various sorts of pastry. These, with bread, butter, fruit, cheese, sherry, port, claret and beer, complete the meal.

Few of the men of the party are present at this meal, and those who are eat but little, reserving their forces until dinner. All is placed on the table at once, and not, as at dinner, in courses. The servants leave the room when they have placed everything on the table, and people wait on themselves. Dumb-waiters with clean plates, glasses, etc. stand at each corner of the table, so that there is very little need to get up for what you want.

The afternoon is usually passed by the ladies alone or with only one or two gentlemen who don't care to shoot, etc., and is spent in riding, driving and walking. Englishwomen are great walkers. With their skirts conveniently looped up, and boots well adapted to defy the mud, they brave all sorts of weather. "Oh it rains! what a bore! We can't go out," said a young lady, standing at the breakfast-room window at a house in Ireland; to which her host rejoined, "If you don't go out here when it rains, you don't go out at all;" which is pretty much the truth.

About five o'clock, as you sit over your book in the library, you hear a rapid firing off of guns, which apprises you that the men have returned from shooting. They linger a while in the gun-room talking over their sport and seeing the record of the killed entered in the game-book. Then some, doffing the shooting-gear for a free-and-easy but scrupulously neat attire, repair to the ladies' sitting-room or the library for "kettledrum."

On a low table is placed the tea equipage, and tea in beautiful little cups is being dispensed by fair hands. This is a very pleasant time in many houses, and particularly favorable to fun and flirtation. In houses where there are children, the cousins of the house and others very intimate adjourn to the school-room, where, when the party is further reinforced by three or four boys home for the holidays, a scene of fun and frolic, which it requires all the energies of the staid governess to prevent going too far, ensues.

So time speeds on until the dressing-bell rings at seven o'clock, summoning all to prepare for the great event of the day—dinner. Every one dons evening-attire for this meal; and so strong a feeling obtains on this point that if, in case of his luggage going wrong or other accident, a man is compelled to join the party in morning-clothes, he feels painfully "fish-out-of-waterish." We know, indeed, of a case in which a guest absurdly sensitive would not come down to dinner until the arrival of his things, which did not make their appearance for a week.

Ladies' dress in country-houses depends altogether upon the occasion. If it be a quiet party of intimate friends, their attire is of the simplest, but in many fashionable houses the amount of dressing is fully as great as in London. English ladies do not dress nearly as expensively or with so much taste as Americans, but, on the other hand, they have the subject much less in their thoughts; which is perhaps even more desirable.

There is a degree of pomp and ceremony, which, however, is far from being unpleasant, at dinner in a large country-house. The party is frequently joined by the rector and his wife, a neighboring squire or two, and a stray parson, so that it frequently reaches twenty. Of course in this case the pleasantness of the prandial period depends largely upon whom you have the luck to get next to; but there's this advantage in the situation over a similar one in London—that you have, at all events, a something of local topics in common, having picked up a little knowledge of places and people during your stay, or if you are quite a new-comer, you can easily set your neighbor a-going by questions about surroundings. Generally there is some acquaintance between most of the people staying in a house, as hosts make up their parties with the view of accommodating persons wishing to meet others whom they like. Young men will thus frequently get a good-natured hostess to ask some young lady whose society they especially affect, and thus country-houses become proverbially adapted for match-making.

There are few houses now-a-days in which the gentlemen linger in the dining-room long after the ladies have left it. Habits of hard drinking are now almost entirely confined to young men in the army and the lower classes. The evenings are spent chiefly in conversation: sometimes a rubber of whist is made up, or, if there are a number of young people, there is dancing.

A rather surprising step which occasioned something of a scandalous sensation in the social world was resorted to some years ago at a country-house in Devonshire. Two or three fast young ladies, finding the evening somewhat heavy, and lamenting a dearth of dancing men, rang the bell, and in five minutes the lady of the house, who was in another room, was aghast at seeing them whirling round in their Jeames's arms. It was understood that the ringleader in this enterprise, the daughter of an Irish earl, was not likely to be asked to repeat her visit.

About eleven wine and water and biscuits are brought into the drawing-room, and a few minutes later the ladies retire. The wine and water, with the addition of other stimulants, are then transferred to the billiard- and smoking-rooms, to which the gentlemen adjourn so soon as they have changed their black coats for dressing-gowns or lounging suits, in which great latitude is given to the caprice of individual fancy.

The sittings in these apartments are protracted until any hour, as the servants usually go to bed when they have provided every one with his flat candle-stick—that emblem of gentility which always so prominently recurred to the mind of Mrs. Micawber when recalling the happy days when she "lived at home with papa and mamma." In some fast houses pretty high play takes place at such times.

It not unfrequently happens that the master of the house takes but a very limited share in the recreations of his guests, being much engrossed by the various avocations which fall to the lot of a country proprietor. After breakfast in the morning he will make it his business to see that each gentleman is provided with such recreation as he likes for the day. This man will shoot, that one will fish; Brown will like to have a horse and go over to see some London friends who are staying ten miles off; Jones has heaps of letters which must be written in the morning, but will ride with the ladies in the afternoon; and when all these arrangements are completed the squire will drive off with his old confidential groom in the dog-cart, with that fast-trotting bay, to attend the county meeting in the nearest cathedral town or dispense justice from the bench at Pottleton; and when eight o'clock brings all together at dinner an agreeable diversity is given to conversation by each man's varied experiences during the day.

Of course some houses are desperately dull, whilst others are always agreeable. Haddo House, during the lifetime of Lord Aberdeen, the prime minister, had an exceptional reputation for the former quality. It was said to be the most silent house in England; and silence in this instance was regarded as quite the reverse of golden. The family scarcely ever spoke, and the guest, finding that his efforts brought no response, became alarmed at the echoes of his own voice. Lord Aberdeen and his son, Lord Haddo—an amiable but weak and eccentric man, father of the young earl who dropped his title and was drowned whilst working as mate of a merchantman—did not get on well together, and saw very little of each other for some years. At length a reconciliation was effected, and the son was invited to Haddo. Anxious to be pleasant and conciliatory, he faltered out admiringly, "The place looks nice, the trees are very green." "Did you expect to see 'em blue, then?" was the encouraging paternal rejoinder.

The degree of luxury in many of these great houses is less remarkable than its completeness. Everything is in keeping, thus presenting a remarkable contrast to most of our rich men's attempts at the same. The dinner, cooked by a cordon bleu of the cuisine3—whose resources in the way of "hot plates" and other accessories for furnishing a superlative dinner are unrivaled—is often served on glittering plate, or china almost equally valuable, by men six feet high, of splendid figure, and dressed with the most scrupulous neatness and cleanliness. Gloves are never worn by servants in first-rate English houses, but they carry a tiny napkin in their hands which they place between their fingers and the plates. Nearly all country gentlemen are hospitable, and it very rarely happens that guests are not staying in the house. A county ball or some other such gathering fills it from garret to cellar.

The best guest-rooms are always reserved for the married: bachelors are stowed away comparatively "anywhere." In winter fires are always lit in the bedrooms about five o'clock, so that they may be warm at dressing-time; and shortly before the dressing-bell rings the servant deputed to attend upon a guest who does not bring a valet with him goes to his room, lays out his evening-toilette, puts shirt, socks, etc. to air before the fire, places a capacious pitcher of boiling water on the washing-stand, and having lit the candles, drawn the easy-chair to the fire, just ready on provocation to burst into a blaze, lights the wax candles on the dressing-table and withdraws.

In winter the guest is asked whether he likes a fire to get up by, and in that event a housemaid enters early with as little noise as possible and lights it. On rising in the morning you find all your clothes carefully brushed and put in order, and every appliance for ample ablutions at hand.

A guest gives the servant who attends him a tip of from a dollar and a quarter to five dollars, according to the length of his stay. If he shoots, a couple of sovereigns for a week's sport is a usual fee to a keeper. Some people give absurdly large sums, but the habit of giving them has long been on the decline. The keeper supplies powder and shot, and sends in an account for them. Immense expense is involved in these shooting establishments. The late Sir Richard Sutton, a great celebrity in the sporting world, who had the finest shooting in England, and therefore probably in the world, used to say that every pheasant he killed cost him a guinea. On some estates the sale of the game is in some degree a set-off to the cost of maintaining it, just as the sale of the fruit decreases the cost of pineries, etc. Nothing but the fact that the possession of land becomes more and more vested in those who regard it as luxury could have enabled this sacrifice of farming to sport to continue so long. It is the source of continual complaint and resentment on the part of the farmers, who are only pacified by allowance being made to them out of their rent for damage done by game.

The expense of keeping up large places becomes heavier every year, owing to the constantly-increasing rates of wages, etc., and in some cases imposes a grievous burden, eating heavily into income and leaving men with thousands of acres very poor balances at their bankers to meet the Christmas bills. Those who have large families to provide for, and get seriously behindhand, usually shut up or let their places—which latter is easily done if they be near London or in a good shooting country—and recoup on the Continent; but of late years prices there have risen so enormously that this plan of restoring the equilibrium between income and expenditure is far less satisfactory than it was forty years ago. The encumbrances on many estates are very heavy. A nobleman who twenty years ago succeeded to an entailed estate, with a house almost gutted, through having had an execution put in it, and a heavy debt—some of which, though not legally bound to liquidate, he thought it his duty to settle—acted in a very spirited manner which few of his order have the courage to imitate. He dropped his title, went abroad and lived for some years on about three thousand dollars a year. He has now paid off all his encumbrances, and has a clear income, steadily increasing, of a hundred thousand dollars a year. In another case a gentleman accomplished a similar feat by living in a corner of his vast mansion and maintaining only a couple of servants.

In Ireland, owing to the lower rates of wages and far greater—in the remoter parts—cheapness of provisions, large places can be maintained at considerably less cost, but they are usually far less well kept, partly owing to their being on an absurdly large scale as compared with the means of the proprietors, and partly from the slovenly habits of the country. And in some cases people who could afford it will not spend the money. There are, however, notable exceptions. Powerscourt in Wicklow, the seat of Viscount Powerscourt, and Woodstock in Kilkenny, the beautiful demesne of Mr. Tighe, are probably in as perfect order as any seats in England. A countryman was sent over to the latter one day with a message from another county. "Well, Jerry," said the master on his return, "what did you think of Woodstock?" "Shure, your honor," was the reply, "I niver seed such a power of girls a-swaping up the leaves."

Country-house life in Ireland and Scotland is almost identical with that in England, except that, in the former especially, there is generally less money. Scotland has of late years become so much the fashion, land has risen so enormously in value, and properties are so very large, that some of the establishments, such as those at Drumlanrig, Dunrobin, Gordon Castle and Floors, the seats respectively of the dukes of Buccleuch, Sutherland, Richmond and Roxburghe, are on a princely scale. The number of wealthy squires is far fewer than in England. It is a curious feature in the Scottish character that notwithstanding the radical politics of the country—for scarcely a Conservative is returned by it—the people cling fondly to primogeniture and their great lords, who, probably to a far greater extent than in England, hold the soil. The duke of Sutherland possesses nearly the whole of the county from which he derives his title, whilst the duke of Buccleuch owns the greater part of four.

Horses are such a very expensive item that a large stable is seldom found unless there is a very large income, for otherwise the rest of the establishment must be cut down to a low figure. Hunting millionaires keep from ten to twenty, or even thirty, hacks and hunters, besides four or five carriage-horses. Three or four riding-horses, three carriage-horses and a pony or two is about the usual number in the stable of a country gentleman with from five to six thousand pounds a year. The stable-staff would be coachman, groom and two helpers. The number of servants in country-houses varies from seven or eight to eighty, but probably there are not ten houses in the country where it reaches so high a figure as the last: from fifteen to twenty would be a common number.

There are many popular bachelors and old maids who live about half the year in the country-houses of their friends. A gentleman of this sort will have his chambers in London and his valet, whilst the lady will have her lodgings and maid. In London they will live cheaply and comfortably, he at his club and dining out with rich friends, she in her snug little room and passing half her time in friends' houses. There is not the slightest surrender of independence about these people. They would not stay a day in a house which they did not like, but their pleasant manners and company make them acceptable, and friends are charmed to have them.

One of the special recommendations of a great country-house is that you need not see too much of any one. There is no necessary meeting except at meals—in many houses then even only at dinner—and in the evening. Many sit a great deal in their own rooms if they have writing or work to do; some will be in the billiard-room, others in the library, others in the drawing-room: the host's great friend will be with him in his own private room, whilst the hostess's will pass most of the time in that lady's boudoir.4

In some respects railroads have had a very injurious effect on the sociability of English country life. They have rendered people in great houses too apt to draw their supplies of society exclusively from town. English trains run so fast that this can even be done in places quite remote from London. The journey from London to Rugby, for instance, eighty miles, is almost invariably accomplished in two hours. Leaving at five in the afternoon, a man reaches that station at 7.10: his friend's well-appointed dog-cart is there to meet him, and that exquisitely neat young groom, with his immaculate buckskins and boots in which you may see yourself, will make the thoroughbred do the four miles to the hall in time to enable you to dress for dinner by 7.45. Returning on Tuesday morning—and all the lines are most accommodating about return tickets—the barrister, guardsman, government clerk can easily be at his post in town by eleven o'clock. Thus the actual "country people" get to be held rather cheap, and come off badly, because Londoners, being more in the way of hearing, seeing and observing what is going on in society, are naturally more congenial to fine people in country-houses who live in the metropolis half the year.

It is evident from the following amusing squib, which appeared in one of the Annuals for 1832, how far more dependent the country gentleman was upon his country neighbors in those days, when only idle men could run down from town:

"Mr. J., having frequently witnessed with regret country gentlemen, in their country-houses, reduced to the dullness of a domestic circle, and nearly led to commit suicide in the month of November, or, what is more melancholy, to invite the ancient and neighboring families of the Tags, the Rags and the Bobtails, has opened an office in Spring Gardens for the purpose of furnishing country gentlemen in their country-houses with company and guests on the most moderate terms. It will appear from the catalogue that Mr. J. has a choice and elegant assortment of six hundred and seventeen guests, ready to start at a moment's warning to any country gentleman at any house. Among them will be found three Scotch peers, several ditto Irish, fifteen decayed baronets, eight yellow admirals, forty-seven major-generals on half pay (who narrate the whole Peninsular War), twenty-seven dowagers, one hundred and eighty-seven old maids on small annuities, and several unbeneficed clergymen, who play a little on the fiddle. All the above play at cards, and usually with success if partners. No objection to cards on Sunday evenings or rainy mornings. The country gentleman to allow the guests four feeds a day, and to produce claret if a Scotch or Irish peer be present."

A country village very often has no inhabitants except the parson holding the rank of gentry. The majority of ladies in moderate or narrow circumstances live in county-towns, such as Exeter, Salisbury, etc., or in watering-places, which abound and are of all degrees of fashion and expense. County-town and watering-place society is a thing per se, and has very little to do with "county" society, which means that of the landed gentry living in their country-houses. Thus, noblemen and gentlemen within a radius of five miles of such watering-places as Bath, Tonbridge Wells and Weymouth would not have a dozen visiting acquaintances resident in those towns.

To get into "county" society is by no means easy to persons without advantages of position or connection, even with ample means, and to the wealthy manufacturer or merchant is often a business of years. The upper class of Englishmen, and more especially women, are accustomed to find throughout their acquaintance an almost identical style and set of manners. Anything which differs from this they are apt to regard as "ungentlemanlike or unladylike," and shun accordingly. The dislike to traders and manufacturers, which is very strong in those counties, such as Cheshire and Warwickshire, which environ great commercial centres, arises not from the folly of thinking commerce a low occupation, but because the county gentry have different tastes, habits and modes of thought from men who have worked their way up from the counting-room, and do not, as the phrase goes, "get on" with them, any more than a Wall street broker ordinarily gets on with a well-read, accomplished member of the Bar.

A result of this is that a large number of wealthy commercial men, in despair of ever entering the charmed circle of county society, take up their abode in or near the fashionable watering-places, where, after the manner of those at our own Newport, they build palaces in paddocks, have acres of glass, rear the most marvelous of pines and peaches, and have model farms which cost them thousands of pounds a year. To this class is owing in a great degree the extraordinary increase of Leamington, Torquay, Tonbridge Wells, etc.—places which have made the fortunes of the lucky people who chanced to own them.

English ladies, as a rule, take a great deal of interest in the poor around them, and really know a great deal of them. The village near the hall is almost always well attended to, but it unfortunately happens that outlying properties sometimes come off far less well. The classes which see nothing of each other in English rural life are the wives and daughters of the gentry and those of the wealthier farmers and tradesmen: between these sections a huge gulf intervenes, which has not as yet been in the least degree bridged over. In former days very great people used to have once or twice in the year what were called "public days," when it was open house for all who chose to come, with a sort of tacit understanding that none below the class of substantial yeomen or tradesmen would make their appearance. This custom has now fallen into disuse, but was maintained to the last by the Hon. Doctor Vernon-Harcourt, who was for more than half a century archbishop of York, and is yet retained by Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth House, his princely seat in Yorkshire. There, once or twice a year, a great gathering takes place. Dinner is provided for hundreds of guests, and care is taken to place a member of the family at every table to do his or her part toward dispensing hospitality to high and low.

During the summer and early autumn croquet and archery offer good excuses for bringing young people together, and reunions of this kind palliate the miseries of those who cannot afford to partake of the expensive gayeties of the London season. The archery meetings are often exceedingly pretty fêtes. Somtimes they are held in grounds specially devoted to the purpose, as is the case at St. Leonard's, near Hastings, where the archery-ground will well repay a visit. The shooting takes place in a deep and vast excavation covered with the smoothest turf, and from the high ground above is a glorious view of the old castle of Hastings and the ocean. In Devonshire these meetings have an exceptional interest from the fact that they are held in the park of Powderham Castle, the ancestral seat of the celebrated family of Courtenay. All the county flocks to them, some persons coming fifty miles for this purpose. Apropos of one of these meetings, we shall venture to interpolate an anecdote which deserves to be recorded for the sublimity of impudence which it displays. The railway from London to Plymouth skirts the park of Powderham, running so close beside it that each train sends a herd of deer scampering down the velvety glades. One afternoon a bouncing young lady, who belonged to a family which had lately emerged from the class of yeoman into that of gentry, and whose "manners had not the repose which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere," found herself in a carriage with two fashionably-attired persons of her own sex. As the train ran by the park, one of these latter exclaimed to her companion, "Oh look, there's Powderham! Don't you remember that archery-party we went to there two years ago?" "To be sure," was the rejoinder. "I'm not likely to forget it, there were some such queer people. Who were those vulgarians whom we thought so particularly objectionable? I can't remember." "Oh, H——: H—— of P——! That was the name." Upon this the other young lady in the carriage bounced to her feet with the words, "Allow me to tell you, madam, that I am Miss H—— of P——!" Neither of those she addressed deigned to utter a word in reply to this announcement, nor did it appear in the least to disconcert them. One slowly drew out a gold double eye-glass, leisurely surveyed Miss H—— of P—— from head to foot, and then proceeded to talk to her companion in French. Perhaps the best part of the joke was that Miss H—— made a round of visits in the course of the week, and detailed the disgusting treatment to which she had been subjected to a numerous acquaintance, who, it is needless to say, appeared during the narration as indignant and sympathetic as she could have wished, but who are declared by some ill-natured persons to have been precisely those who in secret chuckled over the insult with the greatest glee.

English gentlemen experience an almost painful sensation as they journey through our land and observe the utter indifference of its wealthier classes to the charms of such a magnificent country. "Pearls before swine," they say in their hearts. "God made the country and man made the town." "Yes, and how obviously the American prefers the work of man to the work of the Almighty!" These and similar reflections no doubt fill the minds of many a thoughtful English traveler as the train speeds over hill and dale, field and forest. What sites are here! he thinks. What a perfect park might be made out of that wild ground! what cover-shooting there ought to be in that woodland! what fishing and boating on that lake! And then he groans in spirit as the cars enter a forest where tree leans against tree, and neglect reigns on all sides, and he thinks of the glorious oaks and beeches so carefully cared for in his own country, where trees and flowery are loved and petted as much as dogs and horses. And if anything can increase the contempt he feels for those who "don't care a rap" for country and country life, it is a visit to such resorts as Newport and Saratoga. There he finds men whose only notion of country life is what he would hold to be utterly destitute of all its ingredients. They build palaces in paddocks, take actually no exercise, play at cards for three hours in the forenoon, dine, and then drive out "just like ladies," we heard a young Oxonian exclaim—"got up" in the style that an Englishman adopts only in Hyde Park or Piccadilly.

When an American went to stay with Lord Palmerston at Broadlands, the great minister ordered horses for a ride in the delicious glades of the New Forest. When they came to the door his guest was obliged to confess himself no horseman. The premier, with ready courtesy, said, "Oh, then, we'll walk: it's all the same to me;" but it wasn't quite the same. The incident was just one of those which separate the Englishman of a certain rank from the American.

There is of course a certain class of Americans, more especially among the jeunesse dorée of New York, who greatly affect sport: they "run" horses and shoot pigeons, but these are not persons who commend themselves to real gentlemen, English or American. They belong to the bad style of "fast men," and are as thoroughly distasteful to a Devonshire or Cheshire squire as to one who merits "the grand old name"—which they conspicuously defame—in their own country.

The English country-loving gentleman to whom we have been referring is, for the most part, of a widely different mould—a man of first-rate education, frequently of high attainments, and often one whose ends and aims in life are for far higher things than pleasure, even of the most innocent kind, but who, when he takes it, derives it chiefly from the country. Many of this kind will instantly occur to those acquainted with English worthies: to mention two—John Evelyn and Sir Fowell Buxton.