Picture of John Byng

John Byng

places mentioned

A Tour of Bedfordshire in 1794: May

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A Tour in Bedfordshire

I THINK I have for many years stated my haste, in spring, to get out of London (with pleasure I could quit thee for ever) seizing every opportunity to renovate myself by country air: And to avoid the noises of London and all that Fate has consigned me to, in that quarter. —Diaries form an history of life: and those who write them intend much to be conveyed, 'more is meant than meets the ear'.

I will go out of town at Easter which falls early, to be no longer deafened by accounts of the opera: of crouds collected, without selection, to shame society; and propagate scandel: To learn that nobility is hastening its downfall, and that presumption without wit or good works, creates a shudder.

I love quiet, an abstinence from company, and over-conversation. But who are of my wishes? None that I know:—clamour seems to be the order of the day, of childhood the supreme delight, and full growth seems to enjoy it;—to harrass their neighbours by intrusion, to knock down each others doors; to wonder how they can be tranquil; and to bounce upon them with false politics, egotistical vexations: Astonished how any person can be easy at home, easy in dress or not uneasy about fashions!!! Surely this is a very worrying age? One part of the nation worrying for wealth: Another for a reform of Parliament: All running to and fro, like mad dogs; or like shoemakers sour paste, dissolved by vinegar into eels, turning round and round in ceaseless indetermination, whilst I (unambitious mortal) seek only for such pursuits as will strengthen my mustles bring appetite, and quiet repose— — —

And is Frederick to go with us? Yes. Undetermined about school, divested of his salary1 —I suffer him to run about us, as yet; to employ his mother: To stand in the gap of vexation; and to be my leader to exercise as dragging me forth to the sports of youth, and reconsidering myself young in his gaiety; as an excuse for petty diversions: and a spur to promptitude and propriety. So he rests with us: I hope not to his prejudice: to divert me now and to aid me hereafter: besides he is physician to his mother: for his joys support her, and his plaints give her exercise.

from May 1

I shall strive to recollect from short notes, how I spent My time of absence from the Stamp-Office, at Biggleswade; where I had arrived on the 14th of April in the happiest weather and was two days after, followed by Mrs B[yng], our daughter Bridget2 and Frederick:—Mrs B was so overcome by her journey and her repeated worries: that on the following morning, she was delivered of a dead child;—but had the comforts of an intelligent surgeon, a well behaved nurse and the ready assistance of the servants and kitchen of a good inn, where tho the head quarters of the Cheshire Militia everything was kept in quiet, nor a drum beaten in molestation!

Thus you see me at Biggleswade;—my mare in health; F[rek] scampering upon Mr Wells' old grey poney; my daughter Bridget most kindly received at the parsonage house at Southill.3 I take delightful early morning walks the season for early walking and observation, when the hawthorn is in blossom, and every day produces fresh flowers, and teems with vernal vegetation.—

Of civilities, and attentions I can mention but few! Those of Mr & Mrs Smith4 are steady, and have ever been at hand.—And where shall I find others? Kind and charitable benevolence is all gone by! The memory of it is lost; the thought recurs not unless to hint—'Why throw away a farthing that may deprive us of a pleasure, of a purchase in London?' But it was not extinguished in these humble bosoms who in remembrance of my family,—and acting by others, as they would wish to be acted with, they express'd their promptness of their feelings.—

Mr & Mrs Nodes respectfully compliment to Mr Byng and the Good Lady in the Straw5 begs their acceptance of a small dish offish and a couple of Guiney Chicks.
Friday Morng, 7 o'clock.

As for some other silly offers, I esteem them 'mouth-honour breath which the poor heart would fain deny but dares not'.

As too big and of too great appetite I have parted with Flora and in her stead expected to find here a young spaniel from Nottinghamshire, the gift of Mr M., but it so little suited my wishes that I gave it away: and have now replaced him by a little red and white bitch purchased of an itinerant ratcatcher,—her name Fancy but I fear she is pregnant and she seems to be troubled with a bad cough.—

Every morning I take commonly the same walk to the little hamlets of Upper and Lower Caldecot: making a circuit of above 2 miles: At nine o'clock breakfast at which hour luckily arrives the newspapers and letters; at 10 o'clock F. and I mount our horses, and ride for 3 or 4 hours round about Southill:—frequently calling at the parsonage, to report about Mrs B. and to enquire after their healths—and the goings on of our daughter.—As for my health it is not what it was, or what it might be, I hope, for I am sadly bilious; with a lack of fortune to carry me to Bath to strengthen my stomach and bring on gentlemany gout. Today Mrs B. dined below: She is very faint tho attended by all comforts,—and by a pleasing intelligent nurse.—In the evening I rode about Stratton, Mr B[Arnett]'s,6 and remark'd (in my old deserted-village way) where once an hamlet flourished: now reduced to one farm and two mouldering cottages! On the following morning, we meditated a longer ride and with T. B. Attendant—first to Mr D's at Hill Hall7 Then thro Warden, a very beautifully placed sequestered dry village to Mr T. Inskip's where I was to choose a spaniel puppy.

So by Warden Abbey: where quitting the sand, rough clay roads begin—from the hill is a wild, unpleasant prospect over the Vale of Bedford: Where we put up at the Swan Inn which is quickly to give place to a new inn to be built on nearly the same scite.

The Derby Militia8 are quartered here, dirty, and ill disciplined—;—as an old soldier I am averse from militias; and as a citizen I think it has sadly debauch'd the yeoman officer,—and the peasant soldier: who return from campaigning into their own country, very different subjects from which they left it.—I dined here with my Kitten;—pleasant that? He thus forces me to ride about: —'And I go touring with my boys'— —

But these wars—, and this quartering of soldiers,— make the traveller to pay: 6d added to eating; one penny to each feed of corn,—hay each horse 3 pence:—why but two years past; and 3 pence corn, 2 pence hay—or rather nothing for hay if you order'd corn.

My rougher character of Jaques meliorated into that of the kind humourist William Wimble .9

Sir Roger,

I desire you to accept of a Jack which is the best I have caught this Season.—I intend to come, and stay with you a week, and see how the perch bite in the Black River. I observed with some concern the last time I saw you upon the Bowling green, that your Whip wanted a lash to it; I will bring half a dozen with me that I twisted last week, which I hope will serve you all the time you are in the country. I have not been out of the saddle for six days last past, having been at Eton with Sir John's eldest son—He takes to his learning hugely.

I am Sir,
Your humble Servant,
Will Wimble.

My frequent morning rides are about Southill; there I sit at Well's fancying how I might accommodate myself in his rooms—; how I could improve the front; make a surrounding garden; twine a walk beneath the fir trees and so to the deep pond in his field which might be stocked with fish, and encircled by a plantation; thus I go on: planting, and planning on another's ground, and building ariel castles which like drams to the body—weaken the constitution of the mind.—Sometimes I call upon Mr W[alker] my brothers steward,—a narrow, shirking, downcast, ignorant, lazy, overbearing man,—the very reverse of poor F's Young who lives at the Gothic lodge, open, honest, civil, and industrious:—The one returning happy from his daily labour.—The other rising from his hoard, in discontented pride.—In the evening I often ride upen every part of Sandy Warren where the best air and some fine views are to be had—nor are the sports and racing of the rabbets an unpleasant speculation.—


From water-colours by the Diarist

Three companies of the Cheshire Militia are quartered in Biggleswade a finer body of men I never saw nor of better manners—else the method and government of their officers is both ill judged and unmilitary: When they punish it is not of sufficient correction, and a method thay adopt of fixing a horse clog upon the legs of defaulters renders them hardened.—

Some officers are quartered here;—one lately married: but I avoid all civility beyond bowing: As for F, he is intimate both with officers, and men but particularly with a little smart Fife boy, whom we call the Earl of Fife.

My life is uncomfortable here and from my walks and rides hope to lay in a stock of strength and health: I have stated that my ride after breakfast is generally about Southill—not only for the recurrence of the memory of my youth,—and the many happy days passed there, but as the soil is so dry and the views very beautiful.—My drawing I believe to be a tolerably exact representation of Mr W's residence.

Ah happy hills, ah pleasing shade,
Oh fields belov'd in vain.
Where once my careless childhood stray'd
A stranger yet to pain,
I feel the gales that from thee blow,
A momentary bliss bestow
As waring fresh their gladsome wing,
My weary soul they seem to sooth,
And redolent of joy and youth
To breath a second spring.'

This is a likeness of a very old house that was long in the possession of good yeomanry; (the last of whom I remember,) the dispensers, formerly of charity, and of country hospitality: who stood in the mid-way betwixt the great tyrant and the needy peasant, and were the protectors of liberty, and old customs; by them was religion upheld, freedom of election maintained and justice administered;

But a bold Yeomanry, a country's pride
If once is lost can never be supply'd.

This house, whose avenues and orchards are fell'd is now inhabited by Ld. T[orrington]'s steward, and from a want of repair must soon fall to the ground.

Of my morning walks I must speak with pleasure whether to the two hamlets of Caldecot, passing through many fields of various cultivation and by this (late-erected) farm upon the North Road opposite the 46 mile stone or to this farm near the common, where are some old trees, well nested by the rooks.

                                Now for the Town
Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisom damps,
Oft let me wander, o'er the dewy fields
Where freshness breathes, and dash, the trembling drops,
From the bent bush as thro' the verdant maze
Of sweet briar hedges I pursue my walk.


'Should I my steps turn to the rural seat
Whose lofty elms and venerable oaks.
Invite the rook who high amid the boughs
In early spring, his airy Castle builds
And ceaseless caws amusive.

—Seasons Again.

Here whilst led on by sylvan views and sounds of the
Lark or of the warbling thrush.
The deep toned black bird and the chirping finch,
I urge my path,—Meantime my busy dog
In active sportiveness beguiles the way.—
Or sometimes stooping, try a new pursuit;
Deem myself fossilist, and that this land
The treasures of Golconda might produce.
and, lately many fossills have I found,
Nothing unworthy the engraver's toil:
Here there are new delights, fresh matter all
To calm the passions, and improve the mind.

(A good imitation is it not? )

The season is very dry—very forward: but rain is wanted by the farmer and the rider. Nine letters out often produce vexation. Few people write but to harrass,—to complain, or to demand. From these we cannot fly.

Our next ride was to Waresley—a village 8 miles distant within the borders of Huntingdonshire, upon an errand of Genl. Berties, and to I. M's a gamekeeper of Mr P[ym]'s10 and the keeper of an alehouse there; wherein F. indulged a most eager appetite: Boys are everlastingly hungry and require frequent meals—and were we grown gluttons to eat oftner and less at a time we should not complain of bile, etc, etc, as we now do.

Mr N[eedham]11 who lives at Waresley wastes his life in solitary illness; surely fortune can find friends, or entice companions?

One or the other I would have around me and this seems to be likewise the case at the Hazells (at which house we visited in our return) where Mr P[ym] and his wife a couple much respected would be much happier could they cast off much form and grandeur of living; and adopt an easier stile; permitting the dogs to enter and boots and leathern breeches to sit down to dinner; in these houses of fine breeding I gash and languish for blackguardism and beefsteaks.

In Waresley Church are deposited the remains of my gt. grandmother: Wherein an handsome monument has been erected to her memory by her grandson, P. Ld. Visct. Torrington.

Near this place Lye Interr'd
The Remains of Philadelpha Byng12
She was the daughter of* Johnson
Of Loans in Surrey, Esq, who had
several Employments in the Court of
King Charles the second
She was the Wife of John Byng son
of George Byng of Wrotham in
Kent, Esq.
By Katherine the daughter of
Sr. John Hewit Great Grandfather
to the present Sir John Hewit
of Waresly, Bart.
She§ was the Mother of Sr. George Byng Kt.
Bar Viscount Torrington, Baron of Southill
Rear Admiral of Great Britain.
Admiral and Commander in Chief of
the Fleet.
First Commissioner of the Admiralty.
Treasurer of the Navy Privy Counsellor
and Knight of the Bath.
She|| died in Waresley House in
February 1688, and this Monument
is erected to
Her Memory by Her Grandson
Pattee Viscount Torrington.
In the year 1736—

* How could his Lordship suffer such a scrawl of intermingled pomp and ignorance to be put up? No Research made! No punctuation attempted! Employments not named! Division of the lines!

Son of a what?

History of the Hewits!

§ Hes and Shes without end!

|| A Monument erected all in pomp seemingly to degrade this poor woman and to exalt her son by a string of rediculous titles conferring neither virtue nor religion. From the Hewits, this seat (environ'd by a pretty Park) descended to the Hagars who married the heiress Daughter of Sir John Hewit:—

With the last Hagar I was formerly well acquainted and a good humour'd, jolly fellow was Jack Hagar.—As many others have declined from happiness to misery so did he.—As much as he could afford he spent here in a comfortable way and would then retire to Gastlings Farm,13 (to be mentioned hereafter) rented of Ld. T[orrington] by his friend Jack Woodham14 —for some months privacy and shooting etc.

Thus glided his days in peace and contentment: till in an evil hour—he became acquainted with and was married to a capricious conceited, widow. Now my gentleman is obliged to assume a new character and finds,—as his lady does, that a country life is intolerable.

This estate was therefore sold: A house in Wigmore Street was purchased; she fly's to card parties: He is permitted to waste his evenings at the Mount Coffee House;—where I sometimes met my estranged friend, and saw him drink one sneaker of sour punch before he was carried off by his lady, when the card party was ended.

Miserable, cross and eaten up by the gout, he finished his days leaving all his fortune from his brothers numerous family to his agreeable helpmate.

Is not this the case every day? How comfortable long and happy, might gentry reside at their own good houses in the country: and perhaps, for some years, some do: till madame, getting the upper hand, and urging the old motives of education for the girls and of stirring interest for the boys, drives the unhappy unresisting husband to crawl thro' his shortened, latter, days, miserably, in a dog hole in Marybone parish!

A well spent country life should consist in farming, gardening, fishing, riding, and in reading old and new authors—what more man is to be wish'd for?

For all the rest is scandal, folly, madness! Even the littleness of country sports exceed, surely, the wicked idleness of London occupations?

I and my boy will go ferreting, tomorrow and so we did —both the boys up early.

Monday May 5

A hand basket provided,—brandy and bread and cheese therein: ride away to F. Y[oung]'s at the Gothic Lodge—, then with his ferrets, and an assistant digger to the spot, formerly called Nodes Warren, now a half improved place, some fir trees, some intention but all neglected, unfinish'd—our horses were left at Gastlings Farm. Here did F. entertain himself,—whilst his old papa—as well pleased, fancied himself young and when not attendant to their diggings amused himself by taking the sketches.—

Mamma thinks us cruel; but from our cradle there is a love of field sports handed down to us from Nimrod;— and confirmed by the Norman Conquest; as a right of gentry: Nor do I hope to live to see the Sans Culottes of this land laying all distinction waste—and in defiance of law, and submission proclaiming what they call the rights of man.

From a water-colour by the Diarist

One poor plaister'd cottage shows some attempt at taste;—and stands in a little valley which might be made lovely—but in what taste but the distaste of all fancy, wert thou built? and why not build pleasant cottages? And why not make the cottagers pleasant by allotting them land and an easy rent?

F[rank] Y[oung]'s terrier Nettle was a nice puppy: but he would not sell him to me! That was odd? The day turn'd cold and mizzling and we returned, very hungry, to dinner.

We had brought with us two live rabbets—which we now intended to course with Fancy; but unknown to Mrs B. as being a very savage act .—This finished to the satisfaction of the sportsmen,—I took a solitary walk to the Vale of Stratford, prettily placed below the sandy hills, making a view of the first cottages, where the inhabitants from the assistance of the surrounding gardens, (and the little rabbet plunder) seem to be in a comfortable state—keeping carts, pigs, and poultry.

After this active well spent day, I was eager for an early supper and an early bed; tho' I did stay up till ½ past 10 o'clock and because General B[ertie] had hinted his intention of calling here this evening.—

When I had been some time in bed, the general arrived, but I then found myself too uncordial to rise for those who consider only their own hours.

Tuesday May 6

I had a cool, early, garden-walk before I prepared myself to listen to the general: and great was, then my surprize to learn that he was then posting, on the wings of love, to commit matrimony tomorrow:—15

All his intentions,—hopes and designs, seem to be Accomplish'd!!! How few men can build castles in the air, and render them habitable? I repined not at his good fortune—nor did I feel envy; but only a sickening fretfulness, springing from poverty and the thoughts of quitting an acquaintance I had familiarly known for 32 years. He is starting into the happiness of his own taste:—just as his old friend sinks into poverty; and despair!! These are crude feelings? and give me the bilious cholic to the extreme. He pressed me to go with him as far as Alconbury Hill and before his departure held a long conference with Mrs B.

At twelve o'clock we two and F. began our ride—; his groom with T. B. rode round by Waresly to purchase and bring forward the spotted setter before mentioned—we went over Biggleswade Common Sandy Warren—and so into the North Road at the end of Girford.

The general rode upon a new shewy horse—but of such clumsy shoulders that I advised him by all means to put him into harness—As we were trotting briskly along not far from Eaton, the poor old stiff poney fell head over heels and upon my boy, whom I imagined must be killed! He was in my arms in an instant, and seem'd to be only much stunn'd; tears came to his relief—: wonderful was the escape, as the horse seem'd to fall upen F's back! If not worried enough before, this seem'd to shatter me to shivers.

The truth is the poor old poney is quite worn out; and all young and hasty riders slacken their reins—instead of tightening them when they press their horses forward.

We hurried over a chop dinner with bad wine at the Cock at Eaton—and then the same topick of pride and grandeur gratified—so has been the lady trap'd: He will prove a dawdling, handing about, sideboard, apron-string governed husband; she formal, vain, and extravagant; and—?? No. No. Thats not her turn: This is his best security.

Alconbury Hill would make any person feel miserable for the wind, here, allways bleaks and saddens. The best rooms were engaged. F. took his diversion in seeing a tench caught for our supper—which came most tediously forward—: after an unhappy stay in their bad stables. Of supper we had abundance,— (tho' F was the only eater) a great tench a roasted fowl, scotched collops etc, etc, etc.—

The general then again and again, held forth upon his own hopes, and grandeurs; whilst I, half deaf while reverting in my mind to former evenings, waited anxiously for the hour of rest, F. slept by me in a truckle; and my bile rather subsided—a golden draught would set me up; come not that soon, where shall I be? The beds and the wine here are better than at Biggleswade. But the station is dreary, and all around the house is dirt, and ill keeping.

Wednesday May 7

I awoke early; roused F and then went to the general who was shaving as close as did Gil-Bias for his Antonia.

When shaking his hand I said, 'General, I wish you happy. I shall ever remember the pleasant hours we have passed together:—and with gratitude, reflect on my ever hospitable reception at your brothers house;—but now I feel, I know that you are embarking on a new life which must disever us; and therefore'—

'I dont see that', answer'd the general, 'and hope we shall continue our intimacy:—but no more on any batchelor plan.' [F and I taking our road of return—by a little cottage which is nearly opposite the inn and were glad after a cold, and dusty, ride to stop, for breakfast at the George in Buckden, a good inn, where there was good cream and a political barber—as barbers should be—, to attend me. Mr S, the landlord has a snug house adjoining with a good garden which would suit a man of my turn, who can be contented with quietness, and reading a pamphlet in the evening.

For F's amusement;—as to diversity, we return'd by the lower road thro St. Neots; tho my attention now is taken up by his poney, whom I expect to fall hourly. Mrs B appeared in tolerable plight, and my old stable, two stall'd, which has been occupied by the horses of a militia capt, being restored to me made me feel more at home.—

Our inn, this night was full of uproar, and so much company that the Duke of Hamilton16 was obliged to bed upon a parlour floor. He is a low fellow, and there let him lie.

Were I a man of fortune, my letters and servants should precede me:—and then, at my arrival I should sup in the best parlour. (Drink of my own wine) and sleep in the best bed (upon my own sheets and pillow). But fashion, and folly are generally synonymous terms, and to exhibit the former, the latter must be prevalent. 'Boniface'!17 This should be a man of quality etc.—

Thursday May 8

This morning my mare was shod. After a great want, and wish for rain, the day proved wet till 2 o'clock, our dinner time. In the evening I took a drawling walk; (commenting) upon the many letters I have lately receiv'd, none of comfort: many subtle; more foolish; these retard Mrs B's recovery.

Walk'd from the back of our inn near to this well shaded hovel thro Mr Bircheners grounds to the common; and returned to my usual hour of supper. The rain has laid the dust; but much more would be very acceptable.

Friday May 9

After my regular morning walk,—(most delightful at this season to watch the progress of vegetation; to hear the cawing of rooks, and to listen to the enticing notes of every bird,) and an early breakfast—, F and I rode quickly to Southill parsonage; whence we found them all gone to Haynes village to a sale of the parsonage there.—Ladies love an auction tho very unfit to be trusted as they are sure to purchase something of no worth or of no utility.—We soon overtook Mr S[mith]'s and Mrs Harvey's post chaises; as also the Revd Mr Markham (a name pleasant to me from the writings of Gervaise Markham) who is an angler.

A sale of old pans and bedsteads is a miserable thing, Mrs H[arvey]18 —bidding out of fun purchased a lot of kitchen utensils—and amongst them a small brass pestle and mortar—which she presented to my daughter Biddy—who may keep it till with herself, she presents it to her husband.—The church and parsonage of Haynes are pleasantly placed: the fine old front of H. House is just pull'd down; and will be replaced by a modern bow window'd elegance .

F and I hurry'd forward on our ride; but were quickly Impell'd by the rain to take shelter in a new nice hovel, wherein we stay'd for ½ an hour; till the day clearing up when we resum'd our ride, over the diversified country to Clophill.

Under a wood was a Gypseys encampment—; but except an old male gypsey they were all abroad, else I had had my fortune told having ever been most curious of enquiry concerning these people;—and have never yet been able to get my curiosity satisfied. More rain coming on, hurried us to the George Inn, a small public house at Silsoe— (often mention'd in my tours). Here in the back room towards the garden, we employed ourselves in blowing the fire and in waiting for something to eat. The day was cold and rainy—and this house is only for a hot summer's lounge.

The people—and their best room were taken up by a post chaise company. The stabling is tolerable and the hostler very attentive.—The chops at last burnt up and our bad dinner came in: But all these rides became pleasant in the eagerness and gratifications of my cade lamb—and as the world appears so young to him it prevents my feeling it so old, as I should if I were alone.

The expense was not high for 3 people? Tho' they screw'd up Hay one penny pr. horse.

Had the day been tolerable my intention was to have ridden round Wrest Park and to have seen the alterations and repairs of the house. But this may lay by till another summer and then if??? No coarse brown bread here! Why this is upen the levelling system?

We rode quickly home in the rain all the way and I felt glad to return to even this kind of home. Tea, garden, walk; supper; bed: Life's eventful history is no more. All sameness and folly. Hope and discontent fill the cup: Illness shakes, and death oversets it.

After this happy rain who should abstain from early rising to taste the freshness of the morn and to enjoy the fragrance of the hawthorn.

Saturday May 10

F and I arose early for every child awakes at the call of hope. We were soon at Wells's Farm where they furnish'd our breakfast; and hence had the day proved favorable I had projected a longer ride, but cold storms of hail and rain succeeding each other, made us glad to return.

This change and variety of weather brought on nervous head-achs (to which I have been subject thro' life) which affected me severely on the following day (May 11th). Nor I was able to perform much in the way of exercise: but only loitering about, which I never do—unless prey'd upon by bile, or nervous head-achs.

Sunday May 11

Old May Day is still remember'd by old people, and there yet seems to be a gratulation of the summer—of its comforts of its delights.

Monday May 12

Having been idle yesterday, to-day I become more alert; besides my mare gets too frisky if she holiday makes. F and I took our mornings ride to Potton to call upon Mr Hinson,19 —but he was from home: Thence over Sandy Warren to S village where in the church-yard is the following inscription upon a grave stone:

The Grave is like a refining Pot to true Believers, and when
the flesh hath left the Eyes dross we like the Sun shall Rise.

Having a wish to see what alterations and improvements Mr T[hornton]20 was making at Muggerhanger, we rode 3 miles further to that place which is truly a dismal hopeless spot where Mr T has spent much money but which the best taste, and the first fortune can never bring to beauty or comfort; and it wants water, soil, and timber.—

As the day was fine I accomplished an intention this evening of calling forth 2 chosen bands of Cheshire militia—to exhibit, before me, their county game of prisoners bars which is a sport of mere agility, and speed and seemingly productive of quarrels: In my opinion it is far inferior to cricket, cudgel-playing and many other provincial sports distinguished by skill, and gallantry.—

For lightness and to prevent being touch'd by an Adversary—they strip themselves almost naked.—The party march'd to, and from the ground (by permission of their officers) in military movement. With the officers of this corps I have avoided intercourse: With one lady Mrs T and Mrs B have passed some visits and civilities.—The private men are of fine limb, and stature and would be happier, and freed from mischief, if they had more fieldays, and employ.

Mrs, Miss S[mith] and our daughter Biddy drank tea with us; and stay'd till 8 o'clock.

Tuesday May 13

On Tuesday May 13th I awoke my F. at very early morn. 'Come forth and ride' but where I told him not.—We rode through Langford and Henlow; 'and now F would you like to see Ickleford—the abode of your father for 4 years—18 years since?' At Ickleford Parsonage did we stop to ruminate and gaze for some minutes.

This was a land of my remembrance the 4 years spent at Ickleford—say shall I think how? in pleasure or in pain? Why young in pleasure and not old in pain, they passed away as years I do not want to recollect,—but stopping at Hitchin,—I had to recollect and to describe to my boy my much younger scenes and memory:—

'Around this porch, my Fredk—have I trundled my hoop a thousand times, at every corner of this churchyard have I play'd—but with a sigh to return to my mother—:—but come ye here Frek.—' (Leading him to a bench, near the churchyard gate) Upon this bench, Frek, did my father (44 years since) take his last farewell kiss of me, bidding me be a good boy and to remember him. Let us sit upon it?—'

'No, father, that I would not for the whole world:— Never will I sit upon—that—bench.—

After breakfast we parted; he on his return to Biggleswade I on my way to London, (that emporium of wickedness and foolish fashions)

Beyond Hatfield I was obliged to shelter from the rain, beneath a tree for a long time; and then under an inn gateway.—At Barnet I left my mare, and at a lucky hour took a post-chaise, as it rain'd vehemently, all the way to London—Here I had dinner, and daughters; I thought of the country follies left and heard much of Londons wisdoms , operas, and balls: John came home and sat with me till bedtime.

Wednesday May 14

My next morning was employed in walking about my detestation, London; waiting upon my lawyer; and lounging about till what I thought a good hour of dining: When I put in at the Piazza Coffee House Covent Garden,—and had the room to myself at such an unnatural hour: Thence like an old country put, I adjourned to Drury Lane Playhouse where I enjoy'd the highly wrought exhibition of Mrs S[iddons]'s performance in Catherine in Henry 8th, altho' lost and sent to waste in this wild wide theatre, where close observation cannot be maintained,—nor quick applause received!

Restore me, ye overuling powers to the drama, to the warm close, observant, seats of Old Drury where I may comfortably criticise and enjoy the delights of scenic fancy: These now are past! The nice discriminations, of the actors face, and of the actors feeling, are now all lost in the vast void of the new theatre of Drury Lane.21

Garrick—thou didst retire at the proper time—for wer't thou restored to the stage,—in vain, would now thy finesse,—thy bye play, thy whisper,—thy aside,—and even thine eye, assist thee.—

Thus do I crawl about in London!—Where are my old friends? All gone before me—!!! Where are thy new ones? Why, they understand me not; they speak a new language,—they prescribe fashions,—I think they do not understand comforts. 'Why here is a fine theatre,' say they? 'Aye, it may be fine, it may be magnificent; but I neither hear, nor see in it!!' 'Thats your misfortune'—'So it is I allow; but not yet my failing.

'Does it proceed from the narrowness of my faculties; or the width of your new stage? Answer me that? Is my decrease equal to your increase? No; No; fill your stage with monsters—gigantic cars, and long train'd processions whilst the air vibrates with the sound of trumpets, and kettle drums: These will beat all your actors, and actresses out of the field. Who will listen to, or who can hear the soliloquies of Shakespeare, the inward terrors of the mind—perturbed imaginations and the strugglings of a guilty conscience—?

To see a fellow hunting a dagger about the stage—; or an old princess wasting in a great chair?

Who will go hereafter to see their tiresome attitudes? To hear them none will attempt—, so let us have the battlements,—the combat, the sulphur, the torches,—the town in flames—, and the chorus.

The countryman came home; and went early to bed.—

Thursday May 15

My next day produced nothing of novelty; or to relate; I—what they call—visited in the morning; I dined at home; I read as much as possible: I slept in the evening and went to bed to lay awake.—And indeed my night was rendered wretched by the bile—so that when I awoke—early on (Tuesday) May 16th, I did not find myself equal to a walk; John22 accompanied me to Highgate and thence he return'd to his duty in London;—whilst I against my humour beat the hoof—and as neither chaise, coach, or cart passed, was obliged to crawl on to Barnet.

Here the coffee and toast somewhat restored me, and my mare appear'd in lusty health, but I would not mount her till the Shropshire Regiment had dispersed into their quarters, for a drum would overset me!

From Barnet to Baldock, 27 miles, is too long to pull and should be avoided, if possible, but today I rode to an hour—by promise.

Mrs B[yng] and F[rek] were there before me and dinner was ready, which I relish'd as highly as a return to my home .—

There is no station at the distance from London certainly that can compare with Baldock—for a hare shooting country (with this sport did I begin, with this sport do I wish to end) as it is unbounded and unlimited:—Perhaps hares may be scarce—but I were determined to make the White Horse,—a very good inn, my head quarters for the winter—, why, then I should look about me for a general permission, and indulgence; the shepherds should all be my fee'd servants; and where hares are wanting—I must by application, to the Duke of Bedford, and to Ld Howard,23 procure frequent nettings from Wooburn, and Audley End Parks—, on a Saturday evening my hares would be turn'd out in a vacant country, and when on Monday morning or during the following week, I try'd a hopeless beat—what sport should I have!!

Returning to Baldock, my wines would be excellent—Madeira & Port; the whist table and the stable hour would beguile the evening; and on the following morning, my little steady trailing beagles would move abroad by break of day.

Every man to his diversion—; but tire my friend of this, and four hours will restore you to St. James St.—the opera—and all your dear Metropolitan delights.

F. and I had a pleasant evening ride to Biggleswade; when I was planning all these former (foolish fanciful) ideas.—

Saturday May 17

Our next morning's ride—was about Sutton and to look at a pretty long tail'd poney: In the evening I rode alone—and as my mare escap'd from my hand—when leading her, I much dreaded her return alone before our windows: but after she had finished her frisk she suffer'd herself to be caught.—

Mrs E[dwards] of Henlow, and Miss S. of Southill—both equestrians drank tea with us and to hear the band of musick of the Cambridge Militia—; which regiment, as good perhaps as necessary, are not to be compared to the noble Cheshire Militia.

Sunday May 18

Mrs B. went, the next morning, in Mrs S[mith]'s chaise, to Southill Church to be churched. F. and I did not follow till 12 o'clock: when we long loiter'd about the Southill Grounds—each ruminating according to his years till we thought the pigeons of the dove house were nearly ready for dinner at the Parsonage.

Wishing not to drink bad wine I had appointed the old gardener Brownell to go with me—into the wild, overgrown menagerie—; to cut a variety of walking sticks (in my Will-Wimble way) of which I have a great variety—and one particularly good one the strong stem of a guilder rose.

Mrs B.—Miss S[mith], and Biddy hurried back early to Biggleswade to hear the music and see the soldiery, (That everlasting wish for crouds and company!!)—I came in at 8 o'clock: to an early supper: and intending for an early bed when Sr. Wm. and (my) Lady S[keffington]24 arriving we could not avoid making them a visit.— (Such a vulgar—vain pair is rarely to be seen:—He a newly created baronet—God knows how, wants to be thought debonair—un homme de bonne fortune—and everything that is grand).

The conceited and hackney-bred, retires into affected illness. A lady qualm sick is allways dying under some unknown disorder:—and requires to be sadly pitied.—They are Irish, and as they should be, wrong, headed: He assumptuous, and all the flash: She all the go nteel, and the di licate; 'Betwixt them—twain they got a little gentleman whom the call Master Cain'—but I soil not my leaves with his description.

To rise to greatness, and admiration—he Sr. Wm. must, forsooth, strut forth as a coll. of fencibles:—My lady now accompanies him to Leicester, for a share of the glory. Thus vanity and folly drag them eternally, backwards and forwards, like dogs in couples, who can never agree—and are eternally harassing each other.

Monday May 19

I was up early on Monday morning to see the parade and marching of the Cambridge Militia,—who are neither well chosen nor well disciplined. Why can their officers belong to them without knowledge or zeal? Why not make them good, and happy—for your comfort and for the uses of their intention? F. goes with them to Stevenage: Poor child, his head is almost turned—and he fancies himself an officer.

Mrs B.—with her nurse, intends a drive to dinner at Eaton. I went a round-about to speak to Mr D. at Hill Hall [of] Quarters for a spaniel puppy.

A fine day; tho rain is much wanted.—I met the second Division of the Cambridge Militia, upon their march, in the order of a flock of sheep: with their officers, preceding, or following them in chaises!

Eaton is a gay village with a very fine large church.—Till dinner time I wander'd about the Castle Hill;—a spot of much beauty which might be rendered charming if some plantations and walks were made.

At dinner as a proof of the extraordinary forwardness of the season, there were peas in plenty!!

Whilst Mrs B. went on a visit to old Mrs W—I employ'd myself (never to be idle) in taking a sketch of the opposite gateway leading to his farm-yard, after which and another Castle Hill walk the time of our departure arrived. For variety we returned thro St. Neots ,—I at extreme leisure saunter'd thro Sandy, (in comfortable enjoyment of thought and of time my own) over the common and so home.—

F. who had marched to and then dined with the officers at Stevenage, did not return till his mother's fears came thick upon her.—


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I seldom make visits in London; and when I do, commonly return exhausted by the petulance, contradictions, and ignorance of affectation and vanity.—I think that I state matters fairly, nothing extenuating, nor setting down aught in malice; and never walking beyond my little line of knowledge: Therefore, can less endure to hear others dash at every science, and pretend to every information.—

Some two months past—I was, unluckily, let in to two ladies of excessive vanity; and harden'd in assertions, by the praises of old pompous men, who thus keep up the ball together.—As an Englishman, I am careless of my country, and of absurd partialities for Englishmen, possessing all comforts, a land of beauty, and a dialect of comprehension, free'd from ugly sounds, and ridiculous emphasis, own nothing but what can defend itself.—Not so with most other countries; and those who should least attack, the most by way of concealment.—

I travell about, slowly, on horseback, for observation; ladies, commonly, rapidly in a post chaise—and are not supposed to observe.—

The ladies I visited—are Scotswomen whose first attack upon me (premeditated apparently by them—and unprepared for by me) was about the Sun Inn at Biggleswade, (where I so often reside as they knew) as wretched, Filthy, &c, &c.; and that the road between Buckden to Biggleswade, was horrid. ! Oh horrid ! to the extreme.—

Perhaps had I answer'd properly I had adverted to their own, sweet, delicate country? But I was better bred; neither did I state to them any opinion of the inns or of this road. (For what avails it to combat in argument with women—unless you hope, by it, to possess their persons?)

Why, I have frequented this Sun Inn, and ridden about this country, I have often mention'd (to you my gentle reader), so my only timid observation was that for walking, or riding it was excellently placed; and where you might ride 20 miles in comfort, upon the driest soil.—

'They never heard of this'. Thus the conversation dropp'd: But supposing I had attacked the Land of Cakes, how had they then fired and defended??

'This old Summer House is at the Back of the Sun Inn, which Summer
House did formerly ... receive the Gentry of the Neighbourhood.
Herein did Pattee, Ld. Visct. Torrington, the eccentric Sir D.
Osborn, the dashing Buck Sir Roger Burgoyne, etc, assemble to
Bowl; and to finish their Bowls.'
                  from a water-colour by the Diarist

Now, let me make a statement, in plain truth, of this—(horrid, shocking) road—betwixt Biggleswade and Buckden. As a road of fine gravel it is unequalled—Leaving the Sun Inn of Biggleswade, (one of the cheapest, quietest inns I know) you pass the old bridge over the River Ivell, with a pleasing view of the river, and its frequent navigation. A mile of flat road, thro enclosures, with a distant view of Wardon, and Northill Churches to the left, and of the Sandy Hills to the right, leads into Lower Caldecote hamlet; hence a twining road of another mile to above Beaston hamlet, where you have a charming look of Sandy Church and village, with the two houses of Sir Philip, and Dr. Monoux;25 and closer to the right, the pleasant Vill of Stratford, back'd by the entire Roman camp of Julius Caesar.

Passing thro this neighbourhood, any observer would be astonish'd at the culture, and gardening of the fields; surpassing every thing I ever saw, but just about London; for every field is cropp'd by peas, carrots, parsnips, French beans, cucumbers, &c, &c. even the very open fields; and you cannot prevent your horse from smashing the cucumbers. (I once told this to a friend of mine, who smiled contradiction, till I led him into this garden of a country; and then he owned his surprise and conviction.)

Passing by the end of Beaston hamlet (48 miles) you come to Girford Bridge (over the Ivell) newly built with sand stone. To the left is the newly repaired house of Mr T[hornton] upon the hill at Muggerhanger; and in front, upon the river, the steeple of Blunham Church. Here the road enters the hamlet of Girford—a long and pastoral hamlet surrounded by the cultivation before mentioned.—

Sandy Field exhibits the same shew of fertility: To the right, upon the hill, amidst woods, stands the new built seat of Mr Pym; to the left, over the river, the village of Blunham, the beautiful steeple of its church, and the pretty house of Mrs C.—

At Mile 51 you enter Tempsford village—a little thoroughfare; at the end of which are the grounds and house of Sr. G. P. close to the road, foams the wide River Ouse—now joined by the Ivell.— (as at Sandy there is a Roman—so here is a Danish camp) The village of Wroxton is on the other side of the river; to which there is a ford, passable when the water is down.—At 52 there is a long bridge over the River Ouze (an excellent spot for fishing)—At 53 you come to Wroxton village—; Colmworth Church looks loftily to the left. To the right, over the river is seen the church of Little Barford, at 54 you pass by a range of houses call'd Little End.—At 55 you enter the large village of Eaton; where are several inns, one, The Cock, much frequented by fox hunters, and a noble church.

From the hill above Eaton there is a view of the large market town of St. Neots in the vale which join'd to Eynesbury village makes a great shew: St. Neots Church, and steeple, are much admired.—At Cross Hall, a pretty spot,—where there is a good public house, The Ram, with a grove of trees, you quit Bedfordshire.

At 57 pass the end of Little Paxton village. The high road being adorn'd by the two good houses of Mr Reynolds and Mr Alexander. At 58 you pass thro Southoe Turnpike at the end of Southoe village—mount the hill to Doddington village; where is a very pretty place of Mr Thornhills who has taken the church into his grounds. You now leave Sturtlow village to the right—where stand in view the houses of Mr Brown and of Mr —— with—before the lofty spire of the church, and the palace of the Bishop of Lincoln, at Buckden. Which village you now enter: and I consign you to the good inn, The George.

After having gone thro that I think a road of unusual populousness, fertility—and pleasing views. Ten villages, or hamlets, are pass'd thro in 16 miles!! There are 9 gentlemens seats close upon the road besides many others in view: 3 bridges over navigable rivers are cross'd;

One Roman camp is seen; and at every mile a good public house may be entered in case of storms, or hunger:—at Eaton there is an excellent inn much frequented. The George at Buckden is also excellent; and there is a brisk navigation upon the rivers. Now what can be compared to this in Scotland?

Nor should I observe—this meanly, had I not been so strangely, and ignorantly attacked.—From Biggleswade Sun, I have conducted you by a vehicle of truth, to the Buckden George; where having refreshed ourselves for an hour—We may return to the Sun: Opposite to which there is a wine merchant's whence in an instant you may be supplied with very sound hock—and most excellent claret.

Tuesday May 20

There fell in the night a pleasant and salutary rain: Not so pleasant my letters from—and how difficult to answer? But I must try and write in the delphic stile. At 10 o'clock when it clear'd up our soldiers march'd, a sad set under sad discipline. Mrs. S was expected this morning at 10 o'clock—; but supposing it a bad day, never came; silly that at this season. My morning was spent in drawing; or in lounging about; and in purchasing a new dog, a tarrier—Crab from the gardener who comes to work here from Southill. I must have comfort of some sort and dogs are diverting, quiet uncontradicting easily govern'd, and easily parted with.

We dined, dogs and all, at 2 o'clock (whilst I can keep a parlour dog—I am not quite govern'd) at 4 o'clock I took a lazy, melancholy ride on, and about Sandy Warren: But I was gloomy; and find I cannot ride but to a point—

Wednesday May 21

On Wednesday 21st I was abroad at an early hour, to take out my new dog; but he is no hunter, but a conceited tarrier as most of them are, (I want a busy, bold, cocking spaniel, who will endure travell, range wide, and thread a brake—poor Jock, thy equal in, sense, steadiness—endurance, and courage, is rarely to be found.—) Mrs S. was expected here at 10 o'clock; but none but myself, country labourers, and London chimney sweepers now arise before that hour. The Lancashire Militia—1st Division are not expected here till one o'clock.—Although my mare's nervousness works her up to odd fancies,—almost as bad as restiveness,—yet I must not forego my ride! And to day—F. and I made our first point to Mr E[dwards]'s26 at Henlow—whose grounds having a river flowing thro them—might be made very pretty—but here is a total lack of taste, for every tree is shroved—and there are neither shade, nor neatness!—

Mr E[dwards] is a gentleman of good intention, of honest manners, and of a mechanical turn; but indolence and melancholy self-sufficiency govern his great body: Indifferent and tasteless, he is a cold cordial. Having been educated together, when children, and known to each other in youth, he professes an esteem for me;—but it is the esteem of winter. Whilst I require an equinoctal friendship.—His mother a very antient sensible woman, received us in her flower garden, sitting in a great chair with the gardener beside her, reminding me, (as I told her) of Queen Catherine in Henry 8th.—A tortoise crawl'd to her feet, to be fed. 'Madam,' says I, 'he must not live alone in Eden, I will send him a mate' (and so I did)—Mr E and I discoursed about the times, and the daring creeping on Democracy; from which he is adverse: but so timidly, and slothfully minded that he will never plant himself in the gap to stop it.

Country life is ill understood for early rising, and early beddings are the source of all health, and of all pleasure.

From Henlow, we pursued an ugly ride, and a bad road to Meppershal chapel—now a barn to a large farm situate in grazing grounds—;—but what has it been? A cell to Chicksands? Where am I to seek information? So to the village of Meppershall; to return thanks to the rector for his obliging invitation

Mr W.27 has just finished the building of a new Parsonage which is convenient and sufficiently good—but placed in a dismal country upon a wretch'd soil, in a starving village, with roads nearly impassable: (Nothing but force could set me down in such a place) Some neighbours, tythe holders and were assembled to dine with him; so we made our visit but short, tho pressed to be of the party.—In our return I had to entertain myself, and F. by a recapitulation of the thousand hunts I have had between this village, and Biggleswade.—The doors of our inn being chalk'd with poetry, I enquired about the author—and found it was a private of the Royal Lancashire Militia whom his brother soldiers seem'd to speak of as highly accomplish'd.

This was the only specimen I took down.

'If quarters good you want to find
You must not be a glutton
For here's a cook that's good & kind
Will find you beef and mutton

The Landlord he's a civil man
As any in the Charters
And if you'll civil prove to him
He'll find you all good quarters.

Such quarters ne'r was in the land
It makes us all admire
We live on meat that's very good
Our Name Royal Lancashire.

—Thos. Clayton.

This is a well bodied, well behav'd, corps; and I think you may perceive a superior conduct, and behaviour, in those regiments of militia the further distant born from London. Sadly proving that every additional street built in London becomes an additional drain from, and an additional source of wickedness to the allready exhausted country. How much improved—in sentiments and morality must the militia return from their various camps and quarters to their quiet homes?

I enquired for poet Clayton: and convers'd with him; but to view him fully, I order'd into our parlour in the evening: Where to Mrs B. he related all his history, 'That he was the natural son of a merchant at Liverpool. That he was brought up in a mean charity school but he had taught himself to read and write, that his delights were poetry and dancing; in the last of which he so particularly excell'd—as to subject him to many inconveniences—and to lead him into late hours, and drink,—that he had lately escaped from a dangerous fit of illness—when he repented wonderfully; and then composed his best and gravest poetry; of which he had quantity in his pocket book, whence he read many poems with curious emphasis—He seem'd to be an honest, and extraordinary character.

Thursday May 22

Our next ride was on a visit to W[yboston]n House, From natural civility I sometimes visit in the country; from non-resistance, and passive obedience I am sometimes forced to dine abroad in London: but I feel wretched at the time—and have to consider, at my return, how ill spent my time, has been.

The gentleman we intended to visit—we saw with his huntsman and the hounds in the dog kennel—and there stay'd he—tho I told him I was going to his house: and there let him stay,—as his proper station—and in proper company for him. Tho he is totally ignorant of all that belongs to a huntsman or a hound!!!

His mother was at home—the breakfast being just finished at twelve o'clock! She—a grave old fashioned lady, would have wish'd for other hours, but her vulgar, elegant daughters overule. She sits upon thorns, as modern mothers do, whilst the young ladies debate and contradict each other about caps, and fashions: or else swagger and bounce, in imitation of the men, their brothers intimates, about riding, walking, and other exercises they never perform.

F. and I made our ride extensive, and continuing till 4 o'clock.

Friday May 23

For several evenings Miss S. and our daughter B. have been with us, to see the military roll calling and hear their musick.

Our next ride was not so long as we dined early at the desire of Mr and Mrs S. after their return from church—and the confirmation of B[ridget] from the hands of the Bishop of Lincoln.28

Mr H[arvey] of Ickwell call'd upon us and with such a warm invitation to dine there tomorrow; that a refusal was impossible.

Mr H. is of so different a turn from many country gentlemen, and from his nearest neighbour—as in my mind to claim much respect;—studious, quiet, prudent, and polite with never failing duty to his mother:—But as he will neither drink deep, nor hunt madly, he may, possibly, be esteem'd a milk sop, or a fool. Reading, writing, and shooting seem to employ his time.

Of the continuance of this inn I now tire;—and they may tire of me—notwithstanding I cannot be a very bad customer; for here live at my cost—myself, Mrs B., F, T Bush and the nurse besides two horses in the stable! So I will try some fresh ground and fresh air, which Mr Gall says is absolutely necessary for Mrs B.

Saturday May 24

With this intention did I rise early,—and secretly,—on the following morning, (Saturday, May 24th) when I trotted to Eaton in an hour—for there fell a thick rain—, which tho unpleasant to ride in made riding excellent. After breakfasting I concluded a negotiation with old Mrs W, about our reception at the Cock Inn kept by Mr W. her son—an honest, open farmering character.—My dog Crab I had lost by the way; and was almost sorry to recover such an useless animal from a woman at Wroxton at the expence of a shilling.

A promise from me obtained I will perform—; so I prepared my mind at my return, to go abroad to dinner; nay I even went in Mr H[arvey]'s chaise to Ickwellbury where we were civilly received, and hospitably treated;—but—what but? Why I languish'd for mine inn. You cannot say you are too hot or too cold; you must submit to the gravity of the occasion, and to a late—and to bad wines.

Supposing you are comical, you must not indulge—; and if witty you are not understood—. In a mean rural circle I am as good as F; wit requires a rebound;—how hard to meet with?

The evening was gloomy—; but my walk home—tho in damp I enjoy'd and to the quiet of my stable and my cold supper—but if people dared to make their own houses like inns,—in ease in warmth and by boldly calling about themselves it would be more acceptable to their guests.—Mrs B, now begins to take drives of visiting (in Genl. B[ertie]'s chaise left here) attended by her equerry (F) on horseback, a Jockie behind and Madame her lady of the bedchamber in the chaise.

As for myself I ride my solitary way.—

My next ride with F, was to pay our respects to Mr and Mrs H. when by her I was shewn the gardens, and by him his spaniels, dogkennels, etc.—

How I love to lead F, along without telling him our destination (sometimes I pretend to be lost). Soon we got to Rowney Farm to see the good folks there—to whom, in return for their kindness, I gave a silver guggler.

This old manor farm part of the Abbey lands of Warden Monastery, is placed in a sandy soil upon a hill fronting the east; whence the view is comprehensive and charming.

'The sacred Storehouse of his predecessors,
And Guardian of their bones.'
From a water-colour by the Diarist

To the right is a forestry fir plantation; keeping your eye, gradually to the left are seen the woods of Southill Garden, with the church peeping above the trees: In the fronting vale is the town of Biggleswade—every part of which with the church is clearly discovered, when the sun shines upon it.—More to the left is the grand forest, fir wooded hill of Warden Warren; in the valley is to be seen Northill Church; and, as you turn to the left, you view Warden Church upon the hill, with many cottages of that village.

More to the left, closing the prospect, you discover Warden Abbey, in grasing grounds, back'd by deep woods. I do not know a more diversified inland view, and only wanting the embellishment of some large piece of water. If these church steeples, above mentioned, were to be whiten'd, they would come easily, as well as many others, to the immediate sight.

Keeping in dry and pleasant country, we passed thro' the hamlet of Haynes-Norward End: Then by the seat of Ld. C[arteret]29 —whose august old front—just pull'd down—is to be replaced by some (Clapham) bow windows!

However, this antient dignitary is repaired; and may afford some assistance to the surrounding poor. But for thee—poor Houghton House—I must lament: herein were labourers employed to levell—thy strong built walls:—Down go the floors: Crash fall the rafters—; the overseer—sent by his Grace the Duke of Bedford to oversee this havock, (at which let me suppose the last noble repairer—and inhabitant, the Marquis of T[avistock] to gaze with grief and astonishment) came forth to wonder at my overseeing—but he felt the delight of a butcher at killing a sheep (B) So I see you are hard at work here? (O) Yes Sir it is hard work for it is so strongly built; the materials were to have been sent to Bedford, but that I believe is given up now (B) Did you find anything curious? (O) Some coins Sir—and much painting upon the wall when we ripp'd off the wainscot (B) That of course you attempted to preserve? And before that attempt the D of B had accurate drawings taken from them? (O) No They were beaten to pieces. (B) I remember a room wainscotted with cedar, what became of that? (O) Thrown amongst the other rubbish. (B) I see that his Grace is felling all the old timber as well upon the hill; as in the wood below. (O) Yes, his Grace is making a fine fall—; and this avenue,—Sir, a mile in length and which contains one thousand trees—will come down in the autumn. F. grinn'd anger, and contempt.

Now why all this havock, and ruin? Only a job for the artful, performed by cunning stinginess. Shall I live to see all the noble old mansions of the Kingdom pull'd down, or deserted!! Why not have lent this to any relations, or friends who would inhabit it? Why not let it for a school! Why not permit the Emigres to reside therein: putting up some useful furniture for them? Or why not establish some manufactory?

But such wanton desolation! Such unnecessary levelling! But the D. is a leveller: Perhaps it may come to him and he, in his turn, may be levell'd. There is a quantity of fine and curious stone work about the building, I.R's with crowns, and other emblems.—

We rode down the back avenue of sweet chestnuts by the side of the old kitchen gardens, to the town of Ampthill; a little neat place tho melancholy from want of thorough-fare (here was our first tourist Hentzner)—We put up at the White Hart—a mean miserable inn—just in time as it began to rain, where we bustled about—attending our horses—and ordering our dinner. F. makes me alert and happy—from seeing him active, and pleas'd; he blows the fire, he cuts the cucumber, and then says 'How comfortable we are—this is a good inn'—opposite the inn stands a grand pump—the gift of Lord Ossory.—Here we have increased each feed of corn—one penny.


Dinner 2 0
Brandy 1 3
Wine 1 3
Fire 0 3
Servt. Eating Xtras 0 10
Horses 1 9
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In this town reside Mrs H. a clergyman's poor widow—with her daughters where she maintains a decent appearance—: We dismounted to make our compts. and enquiries and were much pressed to stay; but that could not be as we had a long ride home.—At Malden—we again stopp'd to visit at Col. S's—he was from home, but the ladies fled amain and would only view us from the windows! Thro Clophill, Chicksands Grounds to Southill Parsonage30 to seek Mrs B; but she was neither there nor at Mrs H[arvey]'s at Ickwellbury: So home we came at 8 o'clock.—Short supper—early bed:

As we intended an early ferretting on the next morning, but the day proving chill and rainy, kept us about home till dinner time. An extraordinary figure enter'd our inn, yesterday evening attended by an odd looking groom, and the 3 horses—for there was a led horse, looking as lean and ill-kept as their Master who was cover'd by all kind of odd coverings—; and appeared a modern Don Quixote: He was received civilly by our house, and usher'd into a parlour.

This morning he departed with great solemnity.—I then learn'd who and what he was—: 'It is Ld. M[onbodd]o;31 who often travells this road, to and from Scotland; —his supper is a provincial dish, cook'd from his directions—, after eating which at a very early hour, he retires to bed:—In the morning he allways produces 3 sixpences for the waiter chambermaid, and hostler'.—Here is a lesson for Englishmen, lavish and wanton; who calling for supper, and wines, and dealing out generosity to servants—, consume their fortunes; whilst this wary philosopher trudges his way—, and sneering at the past works forward to his journey end—with rigid economy.

A letter this morning from John; may he prove some comfort to me. The weather is now changed to cold, and gloom, after the wonderful warmth, and gaiety of April—after dinner F, and I had our ride and we went to Wardon to view the Parsonage there, with an occasional villa; if Mr S[mith] the vicar, would fit and furbish up two, or three of the rooms—mend the paling, and paint the premises.

Now my wild thoughts were these:—

'Repair the outhouses.—'Change the entrance into the parlour.—'A new, bow-window to do.—'A chimney built without the house. 'Some new, deal doors.—'New sashing to 3 bedrooms.' 'This and the painting might be done for 50£.' Grates, beds, chairs, and tables I would send.—Suppose I give £5 per annum rent for that house? Consider that the minister is obliged to repair—; and that he will still get an heavy rent from the present poor tenant for the house and glebe. The tenant with his wife would assist us; and of course we should assist them. The neighbouring excellent stables at the Hare and Hounds would receive my horses.—What think you of this plan? It is not a bad one—; but it is one, however that will not do.—

Under this fancy, I look'd into every corner of the house; and contrived my little comforts: 'Here will be my book-case, there the dumb waiter, there my card and only table; & &—and in the cellar, a nice binn or two, for my wines'. The ground farm'd by the tenant is a large spot, very productive of esculents—currants and gooseberries.—The poor people shew'd a strong hope of my coming to reside there; but both they and I will be disappointed!

F. was sadly vex'd not to have had his ferreting today, so on the morrow—we went off after breakfast, to F. Youngs leaving our cavalry at the Wardon Inn; met Mrs S. in Gastlings Grounds; then upon and around Nodes Warren (a beautiful wild spot commanding charming views) did they ferret to the great delight of us both; tho my thoughts were often employed in the melancholy thought that perhaps this was the last time I might survey the spot—as family ground—but that quickly it were to be yielded up to hasty riches, by a devoid of sense; feeling and every true principle.—

We often came near this building; which might be alter'd at a trifling expence to something Gothic or inoffensive looking, by the building of battlements, or corner turrets.—

I owed F. and was resolved to give him a sufficit.

Heartily tired, we returned to our horses; then with a rabbet to Mrs Smyths—, where I sent back Crab, the tarrier, one of my hasty bargains: Rain coming on we spurred home which we did not reach till six o'clock; over eager for dinner.

At the gate leading into Southill Grounds this mean miserable hovel has been built, but could no one have furnish'd some models of better taste?

It was a dark dismal evening: Mamma and F. retire at 9 o'clock, I slumber out another hour worrying my mind by despair, and weakening it by false hopes.

My peace, purse, and constitution all require it. I must look to my reckoning here: Any of my long tours never cost the half of this confinement!—We have been quiet and comfortable here; and have certainly escaped much London noise, and much London expence.—At 5 o'clock this evening (one hour after Mrs B's departure in a chaise to Eaton—with her nurse and the little dog, T. B. sitting behind, going thro St. Neots to see the fair) I had to arrange our bills, servants fees, &c; &c; as fatiguing a work as a ride of 30 miles.

A very long—but a very cheap charge 10d breakfast—1s 6d dinner, 1s supper—pr head, and these all excellent, and superabundant. These charges will very soon appear wonderful!!

As this inn maintains all the methods, and inconveniences of old inns, so it retains a cheap and old fashion'd reckoning.

I am glad to try new ground—for fresh ideas, and from various reasons: Mrs B's weak health requires fresh air—; and more quiet than B. has lately afforded.—A ride of 2 hours brought me to the Cock at Eaton a pleasant spot—where I found F. engaged at trap-ball and Mrs B. comfortably placed in a good parlour: They had pass'd thro the great fair at St. Neots.—I made a walk upon the Castle Hill—upon the rivers brink; then saw the gaiety of the fair folk returning.—We supp'd by day light for the 1st time: Observing from our window, with dread and detestation, the outrageous behaviour of some Cambridge bucks, who were abroad on a route of dissipation.—The waiter was shock'd! At length off they went in their gigs and tandems, at 9 o'clock to drive 19 miles to Cambridge;—arm'd with broomsticks more to encourage than to repell insults: But I sadly fear discipline is lost in our schools and that our young men start blackguards, and democrats.

We quiet folk survey'd the stable; and sat in our parlour, surrounded by our own—and all the dogs of the house;—till we mounted to our new bed chamber: where with much inconvenience, I lodg'd myself in a teak bed with curtains that never close.

Friday May 30

A baddish night; consequently a bad morning. My pleasure here must arise from novel rides; and from observing an improvement in Mrs B's health, and spirits.—My morning walk was about the Castle Hill. A spot of much beauty—and with excellent views towards St. Neots and the village of Eynesbury over rich and verdant meadows. Here are many good objects for a good draftsman;—but far above my attempt: However, I strove at some sketches.

From water-colours by the Diarist

There are two views of Eaton Mill, one taken from the meadows on the opposite side, the other from the grounds of the Castle Hill on the western side.—All about the mill would from a good pencil furnish excellent drawings.

Mrs B. has brought a canary bird with her, bought of Finch32 my hairdresser, and angling companion—another attention added to those already, of my numerous retinue; for here is Fancy my little spaniel just ready to pup: Let me recollect my numbers—there are four mortals of us—2 horses—a dog—and a bird—now to my own parlour companions I admit 2 dogs of the house, a very small and a larger spaniel Duchess and Mustek .

These are allways ready to attend F or me to the Castle ground to hunt for rabbets who quickly run to ground.—F and I—this morning rode after breakfast to Kimbolton—8 miles—a no very pleasant road—pass the end of the village of Hailweston—then to Gt. Stoughton where is the seat of Lord Ludlow; Kimbolton House is a dreary wretched thing—not improved by former Dukes of Manchester, nor likely to be improved by the present drivelling Duke.33 I meant to have seen it; but we were refused admittance.—Kimbolton is a mean melancholy, little town—whose market is disused.—We return'd by the Pack side; wherein the Duke is adding on to its dreary look by felling the timber, to enable him to entertain the bonny Duchess—frae the north.—

We now blunder'd our way thro bad roads, over a bad country, to Little Stoughton—a miserable village,—thence to Bishmede in Bedfordshire,—where Mr Geary resides, and I believe upon the old Scite of ——.

A Priory of Black Canons founded by Hugh Beachamp (Temp. Will Cong) dedicated to the Virgin Mary. But no owner of any religious foundation—that I know—care or enquire about the antiquity of place; search for records; preserve any remaining ruins—,—or investigate any histories—or explore any ground! There may be such owners—, but I never heard of them.—

Tired with our ride, we stopp'd for refreshment—bread and butter and milk at a small publick house—; and talk'd with the man at his means—and the country around him.—

Another 5 miles restored us to Eaton—and to a good dinner, but all the wines are poison!! F. finds followers—and companions here; and awaits for the children of the house coming from school to hunt the rabbets.

I took my evening ride alone; thro St. Neots where continue the relicts of their fair as an elephant and the King of France guillotin'd,34 (Is not this a bad exhibition for the lower people?) Then turning to the left, thro' new enclosures and an unhappy country—till I came to the miserable village of Offord-Darcy; ruminating, as I often do, upon former riding and travel.—

New rounded roads will certainly bear the speedy chaise traveller along at a great rate and if the wish be to hurry from place to place, a great point is gain'd: But let us not suppose that riding is made better—; on the contrary it is made much worse, as the roads are hard, stoney and dusty; whereas, formerly the horse tracks were good riding, and the side paths numerous; besides all the excellent scampering over downs, heaths, and commons, now so generally enclosed: Depend on it that riding is ruin'd by the enclosures and fine rounding of the roads.—I was glad to return, there being nothing to see—, nothing to admire and as the summer advances, the weather becomes colder!

Fancy has pupp'd a cargo often puppies, all curs; but so much the better as they will be quickly destroyed. Mrs B. took, with me, a short walk (would they were longer) to the mill and the Castle Hill. But she allways tires.

A scheme for the next day being settled—old Mrs W. was invited to accompany Mrs B in the General's old lumbring chaise; F and I riding, and with us pretty little Duchess, one of the spaniels of the inn. The sun is warm, but the air is cold. We went by Wroxton turnpike to near Barford; where, parting from the chaise, F and I took the old road to Bedford thro' Goldington. It was market day at Bedford. Call upon Mr B. for ways and means: then survey the new building of the inn which if finish'd and contrived like the stables will turn out a poor thing; and to be built, as I have said, at the expence of Houghton House and the surrounding timber.

Ere we left Bedford we call'd upon two neighbouring lawyers—whose names begin with a P. I then wish'd Mrs B. to drive thro Cardington and Cople, villages and to Wood End, the old mansion of the Lukes and of our Hudibras Sr. S. Luke35 (but few ladies have desires or capacities for touring); returning to Cople Church we stopp'd for the inspection; in which are some old Luke tombs; and some brasses—, but none that would travell.—My road home I took leisurely—we supp'd at 9 o'clock, by day, or rather by moon light; and at a early hour, I betook me to that worst of all inventions a tent bed; where if you propose sleeping you must be properly prepared by strong exercise.—


1 His son Frederick had been made page to George Prince of Wales. (Vol. II, page 284.)

2 His fifth daughter, who married in 1806 the Hon. Charles Herbert. She died in 1876.

3 At the Dissolution Southill Rectory became Crown property. It was leased in 1562-3 to Thomas Marbery, and afterwards to Richard Lydall, and to Edmund Bostocke in 1607. In 1624 it had passed from the Crown into private hands and was conveyed to Humphrey Fishe and his heirs, who still retained half of it in 1695. The other half passed into the keeping of Sir John Keeling, after which it followed the same descent as the advowson until the parish of Southill was enclosed in 1797, when allotments were made to Mr. Whitbread and Mr. Barker as irnpropriators of the great tithes and to the Vicar for the small tithes. The advowson had been purchased by Sir George Byng before 1711, and remained in his family until 1795, when it was sold by George Byng, fourth Lord Torrington, to Samuel Whitbread, who united it to Old Warden in the same year.

4 The Rev. Laurence Smith (or Smyth), Vicar of Warden and Southill, and his wife.

5 A popular expression for a confinement; it probably arose from the fact that straw was often put down to deaden the noise of the horses in the streets outside.

6 Charles Barnett, (See Vol. II, p. 298, note 26.)

7 Hill Manor in Old Warden belonged in the year 1762 to George, Viscount Torrington, who in that year suffered recovery. After 1824 its identity as a manor was not preserved, though its name survives to the present day in Hill Farm.

8 Lord G. Aug. H. Cavendish was Colonel in 1797.

9 See Addison's Spectator—Sir Roger de Coverley .

10 For Mr. Pym, see Vol. II, Tour in Bedfordshire, 1790', p. 291.

11 Probably William Needham, who acquired the property in 1788. (See V.C.H. Huntingdonshire, II, 376.)

12 Mother of the first Viscount Torrington.

13 Gastlings, which derives its name from the Gastlyn family who lived there in the thirteenth century, is in the west of the Parish of Southill, and in the fourteenth century the monks of Warden Abbey had a manor in the Parish of Southill called Gatelins Bury. George, fourth Lord Torrington, sold Gastlings Manor to Samuel Whitbread in 1795.

14 This may refer to John Woodham, distiller, who died isth August, 1790. (European Magazine , 238; Gentleman's Magazine , Vol. 60, Part II, p. 769-).

15 General Bertie married (1) 7th May, 1794, Eliza Maria, widow of Thomas Scrope of Coleby, co. Lincolnshire, daughter of William Clay of Burridge Hall, Notts. She died 1806. He married (2) 1809, Charlotte Susannah Elizabeth Layard, daughter of the Dean of Bristol.

16 Douglas (Hamilton), eighth Duke of Hamilton (1756-1799). 'He was fond of boxing and of low company, and gave dinners to hackney Coachmen'. (G.E.C. Peerage. )

17 A name given to Innkeepers from the landlord of the Inn in Farquhars' Beaux Stratagem.

18 John Harvey, who owned College Farm, Ickwell Bury, and also Ickwell Bury Manor. (V.C.H. Bedfordshire , III, 244-)

19 His brother's agent and an Attorney-at-Law.

20 Moggerhanger Manor was owned by either Robert or Godfrey Thornton. (V.C.H. Bedfordshire , III, 231.)

21 In 1791, the theatre was pulled down to be rebuilt. . . . The architect of the new theatre was Mr. Holland. The dimensions were, length from east to west, 320 feet; breadth, from north to south, 155 feet; width of roof, 1 1 8 feet. The roof was surmounted by a colossal statue of Apollo. The boxes held 1,828 persons; the pit 800; first gallery, 675; second gallery, 308; total, 3,611 sittings. Receipts, when completely filled, £826 6s. There were eight private boxes on each side of the pit, and six on each side of the stage; two tiers of complete boxes, and half-tiers parallel with the gallery . . . On 12th March, 1794, the new theatre was opened, with an Oratorio; and on the ensuing Easter-Monday (2ist April), with Macbeth and the Virgin Unmasked . This new theatre was burned to the ground on 24th February, 1809.

22 His third son, John, who died in 1811.

23 John Griffin (Whitwell, afterwards Griffin), who became, 3rd August, 1784, fourth Lord Howard of Walden, b. 1719, d. at Audley End, 1797, Cr. 1788 Lord Braybrooke, Baron of Braybrooke.

24 Probably Sir William Charles Farrell-Skeffington (1742-1811), cr. Bt. 27th June, 1786, sometime Captain in the 1st Regt. of Foot Guards, Col. of the Leicester Yeomanry Cavalry.

25 Probably brother of Sir Philip Monoux of Sandy Manor, who died in 1809.

26 Perhaps George Edwards, who died (State Papers) 1809, owner of the Manor of Henlow Warden (V.C.H. Bedfordshire , II, 280).

27 James Webster, Rector of Mappershall from 1791 to 1833, built a new rectory in 1792.

28 George Pretyman Tomline (Dean of St. Pauls), Bishop of Lincoln, 1787-1820.

29 Henry Frederick, Lord Carteret, of Haynes Park, probably the most eloquent and accomplished of all the Bedford members of the Cabinet.

30 See note 3.

31 James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799), Scottish Judge, Philosopher and Scientific Specuktor. See article by G. F. Russell Barker in Dictionary of National Biography .

32 The barber and fisherman at Biggleswade.

33 William (Montagu), fifth Duke of Manchester (1771-1843). 'Lady Bessborough, in a letter to Granville Leveson-Gower, dated Sept. (1798), characterises him as "a great fool".' (G.E.C. Peerage .)

34 On 2ist January, 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined.

35 Sir Samuel Luke of Haynes Manor, of Cople Wood End, was a zealous Parliamentarian and a strong Presbyterian, who sat as member for Bedford Borough, in both the Short and the Long Parliaments. At the Restoration he also sat in the Convention Parliament. He took an active part in the Civil War, and his personal appearance in connection with his Puritanism made him an object of Royalist satire. He is said to have been the original of Samuel Butler's 'Hudibras'.

John Byng, The Torrington Diaries: Containing the tours through England And Wales of the Hon. John Byng (Later Fifth Viscount Torrington) between the years 1781 and 1794 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1938)

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