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CHAPTER VII.

HORTON, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE.

1632-1638.

Ox leaving Cambridge, Milton, as he himself informs us, went to live again under his father's roof-not now, however, in the old house in Bread-street, but in a house which his father had taken at some distance from London. "At my father's country residence," he says, "whither he had retired to pass his old age, I, with every advantage of leisure, spent a complete holiday in turning over the Greek and Latin writers; not but that sometimes I exchanged the country for the town, either for the purpose of buying books, or for that of learning something new in Mathematics or in Music, in which sciences I then delighted. Having passed five years in this manner, after my mother's death, I, being desirous of seeing foreign. lands, and especially Italy, went abroad with one servant, having by entreaty obtained my father's consent."1 It is the purpose of the present chapter to fill up the five years, or, more exactly, the five years and nine months, of Milton's life (July 1632 to April 1638) thus sketched by himself in outline.

The "paternal country residence" (paternum rus) mentioned by Milton was at Horton, near Colnbrook, in that part of Buckinghamshire which borders on Middlesex, Berkshire, and Surrey, and which forms, for well-known Parliamentary purposes, the so-called Chiltern Hundreds.

Colnbrook is about seventeen miles due west from London, and may be reached now from London either by the Great Western Railway (Langley Station) or by the London, Richmond and Windsor line (Wraysbury Station). Lying as it does midway between the two lines, and about two miles off either, the town is one of those which have declined in importance since the rise of our railway system. Till then, though never of more than a thousand inhabitants, and consisting but of one narrow street of houses

1 Defensio Secunda: Works, VI. 287.

and a few offshoots, Colnbrook, as being a stage on one of the great highways between London and the West of England, was a place of considerable bustle. In the best of the old coaching days, as many as a hundred coaches are said to have passed through it daily; and, in still older times, carriers and travellers on horseback, setting out from London by Hyde Park Corner, and passing through Kensington, Hammersmith, Turnham Green, Brentford, and Hounslow, would stop to bait at Colnbrook on their way to Maidenhead, Reading, or places still farther west, or, coming from these places Londonwards, would rest at Colnbrook before attacking the residue of road between them and the metropolis. As a consequence, Colnbrook was noted for its inns.

Part of the town of Colnbrook is in the parish of Horton, which extends in the opposite direction to the vicinity of Windsor. The village of Horton, which gives its name to the parish, is about a mile from Colnbrook, intermediate between it and the Wraysbury station on the London and South Western line. Sauntering, any sunny afternoon, from Colnbrook, either towards Wraysbury, or towards Datchet, which is the next station Windsorwards on the same line, the chance pedestrian, with no purpose in view except a leisurely walk to the train, might come to a point near the meeting of some quiet cross-roads, where, by lingering a little, he would discover symptoms of a village. There is no appearance of a continuous street; but a great tree in the centre of the space where three of the roads meet, suggests that there may be more habitations about the spot than are at first visible; and, on looking down one of the roads, the suggestion is confirmed by the sight of a church-tower, a few paces to the left, all but hidden by intervening foliage. On making towards this church, one finds it a small but very ancient edifice-as ancient, probably, as the twelfth or thirteenth century-standing back from the road in a cemetery, in the front of which, and close to the road, are two extremely old yew trees. The tower, which is square, is picturesquely covered with ivy; the walls are strong and checkered with flints and brick-work; and the entrance from the cemetery is by a low porch. Should the door be open, the neat and venerable aspect of the church externally might induce the stranger to stroll up the cemetery-walk to have a glimpse of the interior. He would see no old inscriptions or tombstones in the cemetery-nothing old in it but the yew trees; but within the church he would find both stone and woodwork of sufficient antiquity. There is an old Norman arch within the main porch; there is a nave with two aisles and a chancel; between the nave and the aisles are short circular columns support

ing arches; the pulpit and the pews look as if they had served already for a century or two of rural English Sundays; and there is a stone baptismal font, evidently coëval with the church. All this the visitor might mark with the ordinary interest with which whatever is ecclesiastical and old is noted in a country walk; and only on inquiring might he learn that the church was Horton Church, and that in one of the pews before him, or the spot occupied by one of them, Milton had worshipped regularly, with others of his family, while resident in the adjoining village, from the twenty-fourth to the thirtieth year of his age. This information by chance obtained, and confirmed by a certain evidence which the eyes may behold, the fabric would be examined with new interest. There would be another glance round among the pews within; outside, there would be another look at the tower and at the yew trees in the cemetery; nor would a few minutes more be judged ill-spent in scanning the village come upon so unexpectedly. A few minutes would suffice; and, after extricating himself from the little group of houses scattered irregularly round the church in separate grounds and gardens so as hardly to be all visible except on search, the pedestrian would continue his walk to Wraysbury or to Datchet. In and about the neighborhood through which he has passed so cursorily, it will be for us to linger for a longer while, throwing it back, as far as fancy will permit, to that time when its celebrity was being made, and when, though Wraysbury and Datchet also existed close by as now, no trains whistled through them, and Colnbrook commanded the circumjacent traffic.

With the exception of the church, Horton, as it was known to Milton, is to be found rather in the roads, the paths, and the general aspect of the fields and vegetation, than in the actual houses now remaining. Around the village, and indeed over the whole parish and the adjacent parts of this angle of Bucks, the land is of the kind so characteristic of England—the rich, teeming, verdurous flat, charming by its appearance of plenty, and by the goodly show of wood along the fields and pastures, in the nooks where the houses nestle, and everywhere in all directions to the sky-bound verge of the landscape. The beech, which is nowhere finer than in some parts of the Chiltern Hundreds, is not so common in this part; one sees a good many ugly pollards along the streams; but there are elms, alders, poplars, and cedars; there is no lack of shrubbery and hedging; and in spring the orchards are all abloom with white and pink for miles round. What strikes one most in walking about the neighborhood is the canal-like abundance and distribution of water. There are rivulets brimming through the

meadows among rushes and water-plants; and by the very sides of the ways, in lieu of ditches, there are slow runnels, in which one can see the minnows swimming. Most of these streamlets and runnels are connected with the Colne; which river, having separated itself into several channels in a higher part of its course near Uxbridge, continues for a good many miles to divide Bucks from Middlesex by one or other of these channels on their way to the Thames. The chief branch of the river, after flowing through Colnbrook, to which it gives its name, passes close by Horton. It is a darkish stream, frequently, like its sister-branches, flooding the lands along its course; which are accordingly kept in pasture. Close to Horton the Colne drives several mills. There are excellent wheatfields and beanfields in the neighborhood; but the greater proportion of the land is in grass; and in Milton's time the proportion of meadow to land under plough must have been much greater. On the whole, without taking into account the vicinity of other scenes of beauty and interest-including nothing less than royal Windsor itself, the towers and battlements of which govern the whole landscape-Horton was, and might still be, a most pleasant place of rural retirement either after London or after Cambridge. One could lie under elm-trees on a lawn, or saunter in meadows by the side of a stream, or watch a mill-wheel going from a rustic bridge, or walk along quiet roads well hedged, or deviate into paths leading by farm-yards and orchards, and through pastures for horses, cows and sheep. The occupations of the place were wholly agricultural; nor, indeed, was there anything of the nature of manufacture at that time in the whole county of Buckingham.

At present there are but seven families in Horton and its neighborhood in a grade of life superior to that of tradesmen and husbandmen; and of the seven houses which these families inhabit only five have special names-Horton Manor House, The Rectory, Berkin Manor House, Horton Cottage, and Horton Cedars.1 The probability is that, two hundred and thirty years ago, the economy of the place was much the same -that, out of a total population of some three or four hundred in the parish, only four or five families were considered as of the rank of gentry, and that these had their residences grouped in or close by the village, on spots corresponding to those similarly occupied now, and with corresponding names. The sites of several of these houses and the names of their occupants can still be identified.

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Then, as now, the most important house in the neighborhood was the Manor House, situated on an open tract of ground behind the

1 Kelly's Post Office Directory for Bucks, 1854.

church. The occupants of this house and the lords of the manor of Horton were the well-known Buckinghamshire family of the Bulstrodes of the ancient Bulstrodes of Bulstrode in Hedgerly parish, about nine miles distant, and of Upton, about four miles distant, in the same hundred of Bucks as that to which Horton belongs. Known from of old as the Bulstrodes of Hedgerly-Bulstrode and of Upton, the family had had connections with Horton since the reign of Henry VI.;1 and from 1571, at which date the registers of Horton commence, I find the births, marriages, and deaths of Bulstrodes almost incessant in the parish. It seems, however, to have been after the death of Edward Bulstrode of Hedgerly-Bulstrode and Upton, in 1595, that Horton became the favorite residence of the main line of the Bulstrodes. This Edward, dying at the age of forty-eight, left a young family of sons and daughters by his wife Cecil or Cicely, daughter of Sir John Croke, of Chilton, Bucks. One of the daughters, Elizabeth Bulstrode, having married, in 1602, James, afterwards Sir James, Whitlocke, judge of the King's Bench, became the mother of the celebrated Bulstrode Whitlocke (born 1605); a younger son, Edward, born in 1586, entered the Inner Temple, and rose to distinction as a lawyer, under the patronage of Judge Whitlocke; but the bulk of the family property came to the eldest son, Henry Bulstrode, born at Upton in 1578. This Henry, though still styled of Hedgerly-Bulstrode and of Upton, as his ancestors had been, seems to have resided commonly, if not habitually, at Horton-at all events after his marriage, in or about 1602, with Mary, daughter of Thomas Read, of Barton, Berks. Of seven children borne to him by that wife before her death in 1614-Thomas, Henry, Edward, Elizabeth, Mary, Cicely, and Dorothy - I find the baptisms of four, and the burials of two who died young (Henry and Dorothy), recorded in the Horton register. The births of the others, including Thomas, the eldest son and heir, took place probably at Upton; where also, in the family vault of the Bulstrodes, was buried the mother (Dec., 1614), though her death occurred at Horton. A few months after her death (July, 1615) Henry Bulstrode married a second wife-Bridget, widow of John Allen, citizen of London; and with her he continued to reside at Horton as before, increasing his property in the neighborhood by new purchases. As he had no family by this second wife, it is his children by the first that furnish thenceforward the family incidents to the parish registers. They

1 Liber Famelicus of Sir James Whitlocke, edited by John Bruce, Esq. (1858), p. 28.

2 The earliest entries of the name are the baptism-entries of "Edward Bowlstrode, the

sonne of John Bowlstrode," in 1576, and "Margaret," daughter of the same John, in 1578.

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