CHRONICLES OF A DRIVING TOUR.*
ALTHOUGH every Englishman loves his country, there are few who have really travelled in it, or know very much about it. Mr. Hissey takes as motto for his book a sentence from Linnnus,—" The lost art of travelling in one's own country." The words form a text upon which much might be written. If they were true in the days of the great botanist, when people moved about in a leisurely way, how much more pregnant are they in the present day of rapid transit. By rail, the traveller scampers from point to point as quickly as possible, which may be in itself an excellent thing, but it is hardly travelling, and certainly not pleasurable travelling, in the full sense of the term. The railway has no real association—we are speaking of the rural districts—with the country through which it passes. It was made by strangers, and it remains an intrusion. It is out of relation with the features of the land, and is not seldom directly opposed to them. Its aim has been to exalt valleys and to bring down high places, or to pierce them through. The traveller by rail, attractive though the scenes through which he passes may be, often gains a very different and inaccurate impression of a district from what it really presents to those who live in it, or who drive along its roads, whilst with the in- habitants themselves he comes not into contact at all. On the other hand, there is always an intimate topographical relation between the roads and lanes, the highways and byways, and the locality which they traverse. They are part and parcel of it. They fit into it, and it fits into them. Their course has originally been determined—although this does not apply to the Roman roads—by the needs of the inhabi- tants, often in a very empirical fashion, and in their turn they have attracted to their borders much of the life of the district. In an old country like ours, where the roads have been in use for hundreds of years, past ages have not failed to leave a very strong impress upon them. There is hardly any part of England where a wealth of interest, both architectural and antiquarian, and of historic association, may not be discovered on their track. Then as to charming scenery, away from manufacturing districts, "the beauty of England is a dream of loveliness, gentle, mellow, and peace-bestowing; there is no scenery like it in the world." England happily abounds still in "haunts of ancient peace." In the course of a day's drive, scenes of the most perfect tranquillity and delight may be found. And as to variety, when it is considered how closely scenery depends on geology for the character of its main features, it would be strange indeed if scenic diversity were wanting in a country like ours, affording as it does such a marvellous epitome of geological stratification. Yet, with plenty of change, there is little, if anything, to be met with in the scenery of the ten counties through which Mr. Hissey drove in his latest tour, that is in any way grand or imposing. It is true that there are heights to be climbed, such as Hind Head and Edgehill, from whose summits glorious views are to be enjoyed. But the stern or the severe are wanting. Smiles, not frowns, mark the features of our beautiful island, especially in its southern regions. It is indeed,— " As if God's finger touched, but did not press, In making England."
In the sweet and caressing character of English scenery lies its great attraction, and it is pleasant to find how fully Mr. Hissey is in sympathy with its endearing claims. And he has little but praise to give our English weather. It is dust that he detests ; a showery day gives the most beautiful effects. In the autumn of 1893, when this tour was made, after the • Through Ten English Counties. By J. J. Hissey. London: Bentley and Boa. 18$4.
drought of the almost tropical summer had broken, there was no dust to speak of, and the weather was decidedly change- able, not to say showery.
Those who have read Mr. Hissey's earlier books will be glad to welcome another volume from his easy pen, whilst those to whom he is a stranger will find here an agreeable and characteristic introduction. Mr. Hissey aspires to nothing high; he simply jots down what he saw, and notes the in- cidents of his journey, which was taken comparatively at random, and without any very definite course. The general route was, starting from London, to take "a southerly course for Romsey Abbey, and so by Salisbury and Stonehenge, find our way to the West of England, striking from thence north- ward up to Ludlow and the Welsh border, and so see some- thing of a part of England that we bad not hitherto visited, returning home by another route to be arranged in due course." Thus be followed the Portsmouth Road as far as Petersfield, turning westward through Winchester and Romsey, and so on to Salisbury. Mr. Hissey, who is no mean authority, considers that the view from Standclinch Down, overlooking Salisbury and the Talley of the Avon, is the finest in England. From Salisbury he made a detour to Stonehenge, passing through Warminster and Norton St. Philips, where he found an ancient inn, "worth the whole journey to see, or a dozen such journeys for that matter." Thence on to Cirencester, by way of Tklalmesbury, a little-known but most interesting town of great antiquity. Cirencester may be called the capital of the Cotswolds, "that delightful old-world, primitive, and picturesque region," scarcely touched by railways, unvisited by the modern tripper ; "a bit of real old England set in the midst of the new." Over this elevated tract he drove to Cheltenham, without, however, turning aside to Chedworth, where he would have found a Roman villa in a rare state of preservation, and situated in a valley of great beauty. From Cheltenham he took his way through Tewkesbury, to Leominster, and up the Teme valley to Ludlow, a place fall of antique interest. Thence, to be brief, he wandered on through a most attractive district to Stratford-on-Avon, Banbury, and Buckingham, and finally attained London by the Great North Road. It is impossible to imagine a more enjoyable route, or one more "fraught with old-time associa- tions that link the historic and picturesque past with the prosaic present." "England," as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "is one vast museum." It is strange that its treasures are not better known and more visited. Mr. Hissey's volume has nothing of the guide-book about it, but it would be a very useful companion to any one desiring to follow his example. A word of high praise is due to Mr. Pearson for his capital woodcuts, taken from Mr. Hissey's own very admirable drawings. This chatty book should give pleasure to many readers, and it to be hoped that its perusal may induce some among them to take to the road for their holiday outing. We have to thank Mr. Hissey for a very entertaining volume.