MISS MITFORDS COUNTRY STORIES.
THE impression with which we lay down this volume of Country Stories, is that we have been passing a sunny morning with a
charming gossip, in a comfortable, well-ordered country-house; strolling in the garden and visiting the flowers, and takings drive about the rural neighbourhood, listening to the praises el pets, amusing anecdotes and traits of character, (free from bit- terness or scandal,) and the comments of our fair cicerone on the beauties of the scenery—she lets none, however minute, escape her observation. We all this while remain in a passives. state of delight, content to award the most grateful praise—atten- tive silence.
But now 'tis our turn to speak : and assuredly we have it all our own way, quite as much as our delightful entertainer. When we would praise a sprightly, easy piece of writing, we say it reads
like a lady's letter : the effect of Miss MITFORD'S narratives we have already described ; and inasmuch as an agreeable woman's society surpasses even her epistolary communications, so do Min MITFORD'S merits those of ordinary writers—we seem to hear her speak. Her subjects are homely and familiar, but they never
appear insipid or commonplace ; and there is a pervading tone of sunny brightness—the medium through which an equable and cheerful mind views life even in its gravest scenes—that is like the glow of a finely-coloured picture.
Country Stories are a set of incidents and characters, such as the experience of any resident in a country place might supply,
but which only the observant few, or rather the still fewer who join to a clear and quick perception the power of conveying their impressions to others in a forcible and attractive shape, cat
turn to account. Miss MITFORD has a tact truly feminine it
dressing up a trivial circumstance or an ordinary scene, so as to make it striking as well as agreeable : her style, verging on the artificial, never degenerates into vulgar smartness or becomes over
laboured. The locality is the same with which Miss MITFORDS readers are become as familiar as her friends and visiters—tbe town of Belford and the village of Aberleigh : these places we seem never to tire of, but rather to increase in our liking for them, at we do of a well-remembered spot, for its associations more than its peculiar beauties. The most original of the stories, as they are • called, is that of " Jesse Cliffe," the half savage urchin, who pee ferred the life of an animal among the moors to the workhous or the shop, and who, like another Cymon, is transmuted to civilized being by the force of love. This is familiar to us in the pages of some magazine, and readers of periodicals will perhaps meet with other old acquaintances. To give the sum and substance of the book, would be like ae tempting to grasp a sunbeam, or to define an air or manner. The best thing we can do is to let the volume speak for itself in • tracts; though, to give a bit of Miss MITFORD'S pictures, is hke cutting a piece out of one of Dswisrf s or COPLEY FIELDING.S landscapes—and moreover, we lose sight of the story by this process.
A WOODLAND SCENE, WITH COTTAGE CHILDREN.
Every year I go to the Everley woods to gather wild lilies of the valley. UP is one of the delights that May—the charming, ay, and the merry month d May, which I love as fondly as ever that bright and joyous season was loved 11 our older poets—regularly brings in her train; one of those rational 000,1 in which (and it is the great point of superiority over pleasures that are art' ficial and worldly) there is no disappointment. About four years ago, I made such at visit. The day was glorious, and we had driven through lanes perfums! by the fresh green birch, with its bark silvery and many-tinted, and over roe mons where the very air was loaded with the heavy fragrance of the furze,0 odour resembling in richness its golden blossoms, just as the scent of the bard is cool, refreshing, and penetrating, like the exquisite colour of its young leaves-- until we reached the top of the penetrating, where, on one side, the enclosed 04 where the lilies grow, sank gradually, in an amphitheatre of natural terrace,
to a piece of water at the bottom ; whilst on the other, the wild open heath formed a sort of promontory overhanging a steep ravine, through which a slow crept along amongst stunted alders, until it was lust in the
aed sluggidi area."' deep reeMe. of Lidhurst Forest, over the tall trees of which we literally looked down. We had come without a servant ; and on arriving; at the gate of the wood with neither human figure nor human habitation in eight, and a high-
blooded and high-spirited horse in the phaeton, we began to feel all the awk- wardness of our situation. My companion, however, at length espied a thin wreath of smoke issuing from a small clay-built but thatched with furze, built agi inst the steepest part of the hill, of which it seemed a mere excrescence, about half way down the declivity • and, on calling aloud, two children, who had been picking up dry stumps of heath and gorse, and collecting them in a heap for fuel at the door of their hovel, first carefully deposited their little load, and then came running to know what we wanted.
If we had wondered to see human beings living in a habitation which, both for space and appearance, would have been despised by a pig of any pretension, as too small and too mean for his accommodation, so we were again surprised at the strange union of poverty and content evinced by the apparel soil countenances of its young inmates. The children, bareheaded and barefooted, and with little more clothing than one shabby-looking garment, were yet as fine, sturdy, hardy, ruddy, sunburnt urchins, as one should see on a summer day. They were dean, ton : the stunted bit of raiment was patched, but not ragged ; and when the girl, (for, although it wns rather difficult to distinguish between the brother and sister, the pair were of different sexes,) when the bright-eyed, square-made, upright little damsel clasped her two brown bands together, on the top of her bead, pressed down her thick curls, looking at its and listening to us with an air of the most intelligent attention that returned our curiosity with interest ; and when the boy, in answer to our inquiry if he could hold a horse, clutched the reins with his small fingers, and planted himself beside our high mettled steed with an air of firm determination, that seemed to say, " I'm your master ! Run away if you dare I" we both of us felt that they were subjects for a picture. and that, though Sir Joshua might not have painted them, Gainaborough and our own Collins would.
• COPPICE, WITH WOOD-CUTTERS.
I have seldom seen any thing in woodland scenery more picturesque and at- tractive than the old coppice of Lanton, on that soft and balmy April morning. The underwood was nearly cut, and bundles of long split poles for hooping barrels were piled together against the tall oak trees, bursting with their sap ; whilst piles of fagots were built up in other parts of the core, and one or two saw-pits, with light open sheds erected over them, whence issued the measured sound of the saw and the occasional voices of the workmen, almost concealed by their subterranean position, were placed in the hollows. At the far side of the coppice, the operation of hewing dawn the underwood was still proceeding ; and the sharp strokes of the axe and the bill, softened by distance, came across the monotonous jar of the never-ceasing saw.
The surface of the ground was prettily, tumbled about, comprehending as pleasant a variety of bill and dale as could well be comprised in some thirty acres. It declined however, generally speaking, towards the centre of the cop- pice, along which a small, very small rivulet, scarcely more than a runlet, wound its way in a thousand graceful meanders. Tracking upward the course of the little stream, we soon arrived at that which had been the ostensible object of our drive—the spot whence it sprung.
It wer a steep, irregular acclivity, on the highest side of the wood, a mound, I had almost said a rock of earth, cloven in two about the middle, but with so narrow a fissure that the brushwood which grew on either side nearly filled up the opening, so that the source of the spring still remained concealed, although the rapid gushing of the water made a pleasant music in that pleasant place ; and here and there a sunbeam, striking upon the sparkling stream, shone with a bright and glancing light amidst the dark ivies, and brambles, and mossy stumps of trees that grew around. This mound had apparently been cut a year or two ago, so that it presented an appearance of mingled wildness and gayety, that contrasted very agreeably with the rest of the coppice ; whose trodden-down flowers I had grieved over, even whilst admiring the picturesque effect of the wood- cutters and their seve- ral operations. Here, however, reigned the flowery spring in all her glory. Violets, pansies, makes, wadi" the elegant wood-sorrell, the delicate wood- anemone, and the enamelled wild hyacinth, were sprinkled profusely amongst the mosses, and lichens arid dead leaves, which formed so rich a carpet beneath our feet. Primroses, ;trove all, were there of almost every hue, from the rare and pearly white to the deepest pinkish purple, coloured by some diversity of soil, the pretty freak of Nature's gardening ; whilst the common yellow blossom —commonest and prettiest of all—peeped out from amongst the boughs in the stump of an old willow, like (to borrow the simile of a dear friend, now no more) a canary bird from its cage. The wild geranium was already showing its pink stem and searlet.edged leaves, themselves almost gorgeous enough to pass for flowers ; the perivriukle, with its wreaths of shining fuliage, was hang- ing in garlands over the precipitous descent ; and the lily of the valley, the fragrant wood roof, and the silvery wild garlic, were just peeping from the earth in the most sheltered nooks.
THE AVENUE AT STRATHFIELDSAYE.
Nothing can well be prettier than the drive (from Heading) to Strathfieldsaye ; passing, as we do, through a great part of Ileckfield Heath—a tract of wild wood- land, a forest, or rather a chase, full of fine sylvan beauty—thickets of fern and holly, and haw thorn and birch, surmounted by oaks and beeches, and interspersed with lawny glades and deep pools, letting light into the picture. Nothing can be prettier than the approach to the Duke's lodge. And the entrance to the demesne, through a deep dell, dark with magnificent firs, from which we emerge into a finely-wooded park of the richest verdure, is also striking and inipressive. But the distinctive feature of the place (for the mansion, merely a comfortable and convenient nobleman's house, hardly responds to the fame of its owner) is thegrand avenue of noble elms, three quarters of a mile long, which leads to the front door. It is difficult to imagine any thing which 'more completely realizes the poetical fancy, that the pillars and arches of a Gothic cathedral were borrowed from the interlacing of the branches of trees planted at stated intervals, than this avenue, in which Nature has so completely succeeded in outrivalling her handmaiden Art, that not a single trunk, hardly even a bough or a twig, appears to mar the grand regularity of the design as a piece of per- spective. No cathedral aisle was ever more perfect; and the effect, under every variety of aspect, the magical light and shadow of the cold white moon- skine, the cool green light of a cloudy day, and the glancing sunbeams which pierce through the leafy umbrage in the bright summer noon, are such as no words can convey. Separately considered, each tree (and the north of Hamp- shire is celebrated for the size and shape of its elms) is a model of stately growth, and they are now just at perfection, probably about a hundred and
thirty years old. There is scarcely perhaps in the kingdom such another avenue.