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TVE Castles and Abbeys of England may be justly regarded as the great fixed landmarks in her history. They stand like monumental pillars in the stream of time, inscribed with the names of her native chivalry and early hierarchy, whose patriotic deeds and works of piety they were raised to witness and perpetuate.
Viewed in this connexion, they are subjects of enduring interest and curiosity ; especially to those whose minds have been strongly imbued with a love of the arts, a veneration for the great minds and the wise measures of which they are the splendid memorials. We linger in the feudal court, and muse in the deserted sanctuary, with emotions which we can hardly define: in the one our patriotism gathers strength and decision ; in the other, that piety of which it is the outward evidence, sheds a warmer influence on the heart. We traverse the apartments that once contained the noble founders of our national Freedom; the venerable and intrepid champions of our Faith ; the revered fathers of our Literature ; with a feeling which amounts to almost devotion. We turn aside to the mouldering gates of our ancestors as a pilgrim turns to some favourite shrine; to those ruins which were the cradles of liberty, the residence of men illustrious for their deeds, the stronghold and sanctuary of their domestic virtues and affections. The mutilated
altars of our religion, the crumbling sepulchres of our forefathers, are pregnant with an interest which no other source can afford.
In these venerable remains, the visible stamp of sanctity still clings to the threshold; we tread the ground with a soft silent step, overawed by the solemnity of the scene; we feel that-although the sacred fire is extinguished on the altar, the hallelujahs hushed in the quire, and priest and penitent gone for everwe feel that the presence of a divinitv still hallows the spot; that the wings of the presiding cherubim are still extended over its altar.
But turning from the cloistered abbey, to the castellated fortress of artiquity, a new train of associations springs up. The vaulted gateway. the rudely sculptured shield, the heavy portcullis, and massive towers—all contrast forcibly with the scene we have just left, but present to the mind's eye a no less faithful picture of feudal times. It was from these towers that the flower of English chivalry went forth under the banner of the Cross-carried the terror of their arms to the gates of Jerusalem, and earned those glorious badges' which are now the proud distinction of their respective houses.
In a survey of these primitive strongholds, these rude citadels of our national faith and honour, every feature is invested with traditionary interest. They are intimatelv associated with our native Literature, civil and sacred; with History, Poetry, Painting, and the Drama; with local tradition, legendary and antiquarian lore.
To the early founders of our castles and abbeys, we are mainly indebted for the blessings we still enjoy as a free and independent nation. It was the unflinching fortitude and uncompromising faith of our baronial ancestors which extorted from the hands of Despotism the grand charters of English freedom; and, if the meli who achieved such things ought to live in the grateful remembrance of their country, surely the local habitations with which their names are identified, must ever be viewed as classic scenes with which the grandeur and glory of England are inseparably connected.
It is there that the very Genius of chivalry still presents himself with that stern and majestic countenance which views with disdain the luxurious and degenerate posterity' which has robbed him of his honours. It is there that the scenes of other days recur to the imagination in all their native
FROM THE NATIONAL RECORDS, ANCIENT CHRONICLES, ETC.
solemnity. These were the ancient schools where the manly exercises of knighthood, the generous virtues of patriotism, fortitude, honour, courtesy and wisdom, were habitually taught and practised.
The love and reverence of antiquity are imbibed with our earliest classic discipline; but when we turn to the history of our own country, and contemplate in her castles abbeys, and cathedrals, the monuments of her former greatness, we become animated with a different emotion; we feel the strong bond of relationship which unites us with their founders. We dwell with romantic interest on their valour, munificence, hospitality; a hospitality which was open to all; to knight, pilgrim, and minstrel ; to him whose honoured office“ wedded to immortal verse” the fortunes, achievements, and festivities of the noble owner; and by exciting the first efforts of wit and fancy, secured an introduction to every species of polite learning-to all the softer influences by which the stern manners of the age were gradually softened and refined.
With respect to our ecclesiastical foundations, our abbeys, priories, and cathedrals; how great is the proportion that was built and endowed by our ancient nobility! Next to the glory of bearing arms in the Holy Land, was the desire of founding churches at home; for to honour God with their substance, to brave every danger in defence of their religion, were maxims that regulated the chief actions of their lives, and extended their view beyond the boundaries of time. To them and their long line of descendants, we are indebted for feats of arms, for examples of Christian fortitude, which have
preserved our throne and constitution inviolate, and raised the British character to its zenith of national glory. By the practical lessons which they afford, they inspire us with admiration of their lofty virtues. Their patriotism at home, their perilous adventures abroad, their indomitable courage and inflexible faith, their triumphs at the scaffold and the stake, -all evinced a constancy in virtue, a confidence in God, which nothing could shake or overthrow.
In the history of feudal times, when turbulence and faction were constantly troubling the serene atmosphere of public and private life, we observe the spiritua, and temporal power mutually aiding and restraining each other: both uniting to regulate the balance of the state, to enforce obedience to the laws, to resist those unconstitutional and oppressive measures which
produced such frequent and painful divisions between the sovereign and his Sassals.
But, while thus adverting to the character and polity of feudal times, we are far from maintaining that there was no flaw in the system, no flagrant act of injustice in its administration. On the contrary, we freely admit its imperfection; but we as freely applaud its excellences. We grant that every castle had its dungeon; every dungeon, perhaps, its prisoners and captives; but still, viewed as a scheme of civil freedom, the feudal polity' bears a noble countenance. Deprived of its sustaining power, the very names of right and privilege must have fallen prostrate at the feet of unlimited despotism. If, says Hallam, 'when the people were poor and disunited, the nobility had not been brave and free, the tyranny which on every favourable occasion was breaking through all barriers would have rioted without control.'
In these prefatory remarks, however, we refrain from supporting our views by the evidence of facts; but to the indulgent reader, who feels an interest in the subject, and will accompany us in our tour' through the feudal monuments
1 Having thus faintly premised the leading features illustrate the history of the middle ages in Great of the work in hand, it may be proper to add a few Britain.-But although the writer bad published words respecting the origin of the design, and the works descriptive of the countries mentioned, the humble qualifications of the writer for the task he plan of the work now in hand was partly the result of has undertaken. Familiar in early life with the a conversation with a late distinguished and highly feudal and monastic ruins which invest Border his- accomplished lady”, whose family honours had detory with so many stirring tales and traditions, a scended to her through a long succession of ancestaste for the deeds and days of old, fostered both at tors. Being at that time engaged in an illustrated school and college, was much strengihened by sub- work on Scotland, her Grace favoured the author sequent travelling in France and Italy; where, be- with an original drawing of her ancestral castle; and sides the classical monuments of antiquity, an un on a subsequent occasion suggested an illustrated limited field was thrown open for the study and history of our castellated mansions, with their legends investigation of those which more forcibly illustrate and traditions, as a popular subject. He was hothe middle ages. To the facilities acquired on the noured at the same time with a family memoir, and shores of the Mediterranean, others were presented some MSS. respecting the ancient Sutherland estates, to him in Germany, where much of the feudal cha- such as might have been useful in a work like the racter is still preserved in the living habits of the present. Circumstances, however, which occurred people. Honoured with the commands of a late shortly after, precluded all further attention to the illustrious Personage!, on three successive occa- subject; and it was not till the beginning of last sions, to attend him professionally at some of the autumn that leisure was found to make arrangements minor courts of that country, he had various oppor- for publishing the work in a cheap, popular form: tunities of visiting those religious and baronial edi a plan which it is hoped will bring an originally vofices which, in the old German principalities, are luminous and expensive field of illustration within both numerous and splendid. He next spent a con the reach of every admirer of English monuments. siderable time in Switzerland, among the High Alps and in the valleys of Piedmont, where many vestiges
1 His late Majesty William IV., while Duke of Clarence of feudal customs and government were found to 2 The late Duchess-Countess of Sutherland..
FROM THE NATIONAL RECORDS, ANCIENT CHRONICLES, ETC.
in question, we hope to prove by many interesting records, anecdotes, and illustrations, the beneficial influence of a system, prolific beyond all others in the grandeur of its institutions, and forming what may be justly styled the monumental ages of England
But along with their graver history, these primitive strongholds of the national faith and freedom unite a thousand pleasing and faithful pictures of social life. It was in these palaces, castles, abbeys, halls, and manor houses, that, in the ' merry days of England,' the festivals of our Church and the fêtes of Chivalry, were celebrated in all their splendour. It was there the noble host collected around him his friends and retainers, that the walls were hung with banners, that steel-clad warders paced the battlements, that the sound of the horn summoned the guests from the ‘joust' or the chase,--that the 'boar's head' smoked on the ample board, -that mantling cups were drained to the health of beauty,' and fresh honours decreed to the brave.'
It was in these halls that the ‘ Christmas log,' flashing through the painted casement, announced the reign of hospitality,—when the roast beef of Old England,' her nut-brown October, and the national songs and dance, conspired to produce one long scene of mirth and festivity ; when the harper' sang those romantic and heroic ballads at which the young caught fire, and the old threw aside the weight of years.
Who can reflect on these scenes, now the subject of history, without a lively interest in the Castles and Abbeys of England ?
Hitherto, the grand objection to works of this description, has been their expense,
which has confined the circulation of picturesque antiquarian works to the opulent classes of society. The great recommendation of the present work is its unprecedented cheapness, being illustrated by original views taken on the spot, and not amounting in general to more than a twentieth of the price at which its predecessors in the same field have been published.
6, PARK SQUARE, LONDON.