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136

BOSCOBEL.

It is one of the especial glories of an old country like England, that there is scarcely a house of more than a hundred years old, or a spot of ground bearing a name, which is not rich in historical associations. To the pleasures of rambling through such a country, to the joy derived from the beauties which everywhere surround us, is added the great charm of some delightful remembrance, some noble tradition, or some romantic legend. We can hardly choose any place for a visit which is not rich in the records of the past; whose owner has not played, some time or other, an important part in his country's history, and left to his heirs, along with their more material possessions, some blessed heir-loom of noble deed, heroic action, or self-sacrifice, sustained for his country's good, or what he faithfully believed to be

It matters not now which part we should have taken in the great struggles of the past,—whether we should have been of the Red or of the White Rose faction, whether our long locks had told our loyalty to the Stuarts, or our short-cropped hair had told of our patriotism to our country :-we can now look back with pride on the devotion of either party, and admire the sacrifices of both. We envy not the bigoted Parliamentarian who could not praise the fidelity of the Penderels, although he might think that fidelity displayed for an unworthy object, and might truly repeat the rather supercilious sneer of Mr. Walter White, that they "would have been just as loyal to Cromwell, at the bidding of their chief, Peter Giffard :" nor do we sympathize with the overzealous and intolerant Cavalier, who would not shout with joy at the valour of the Ironsides, though his own cause had suffered by every stroke they struck. In this large catholic and truly national and patriotic spirit we love to visit all sorts of places, noted and famous in our history, on whatsoever cause and party their fame may reflect honour and glory. It was in such a spirit that we trod on the ground of Edgehill and Naseby; and in the same spirit on a pleasantly smiling May morning we turned our rambling steps towards Boscobel,--the scene of the celebrated oaktree adventure, and one of the residences of the faithful Penderels, wherein reposed the second Charles on the occasion of his flight from Cromwell's ing mercy" at Worcester.

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We had long promised a day's visit to a friend residing near to Chillington, the seat of the Giffards, and on whose estate both Boscobel and the White

We got out at the Codsall station on the Great Western Railway, whence a walk of some two miles awaited us before we reached our friend's house. It was a pleasant walk along English lanes. The banks were literally covered with wild violets, “ blue as her eyes ;" with the pretty and graceful

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wild flower called by children “Billy Button;" with the elegant star-like blossoms of the wild strawberry, full of promise for the children's summer rejoicings; with the exquisitely delicate bloom of the wood-sorrel ; with here and there an occasional campion; with the budding hyacinths, awaiting yet a little more sun ere they hung their pendulous beauty in the air; with the modest cuckoo-flower; while a few forget-me-nots help to complete a nosegay of beauty and sweetness. The hawthorn was only in bud, but the sloe was covered with rich clusters of blossom. All the way the glorious apple-flowers were most luxuriant in their beauty and promise, and added a rare charm to our walk; while its neighbour pear-trees were even more thickly adorned with their pure white flowers. The cherry, the damson, and the plum had covered the grass and earth with the snowy petals of their scattered bloom; and from the many gardens which hid themselves behind the tall and thickly-planted hedges came rich fragrance of the gillyflower; and as we paused to look through or over the many garden-gates, the clusters of polyanthus, caucus, gentians, jonquils, auriculi, and other favourites of Flora, wooed us with beauty, and filled us with joy. The walk thus adorned, and thus lengthened out, prepared an appetite to do full justice to the meal which awaited us at the hospitable domicile to which we were bound.

The breakfast over and the “fragrant weed” lighted, we set off for Boscobel. The kind-hearted and gentle daughter of our host was our guide, and in her company, with pleasant chat about poets and poetry, we had a charming walk of some mile and a half to the royal refuge. We passed the finelywooded Chillington, now, as in the days of the royal fugitive, a possession of the Giffards, who then (but not now) owned Boscobel ; and soon, almost too soon, we saw the antique house we had come to visit. Previous to Charles's concealment here, the Earl of Derby had found out its advantages for such a purpose ; and it was in consequence of his experience and recommendation that the King fled there. “On the 25th of August," says Mr. J. Hughes, in his complete edition of the Boscobel Tracts, " that nobleman was attacked at Wigan by a Parliamentary regiment under Colonel Lilburn, whose superior discipline prevailed over the numbers and courage of the Earl's raw levies. Several Royalists of distinction were slain in the engagement; and Derby himself, wounded, and forced to fly, directed his course towards the King's main army at Worcester. Near Newport, on the borders of Shropshire and Staffordshire, he found entertainment with a Royalist family, by whom he was directed to a place of shelter at Boscobel House, a sequestered spot in the neighbourhood of Breewood and Cannock Chase, and situated on a wild hilly common, in the centre of extensive woods. Here the Earl remained for two days, under the care of William Penderel, a woodman, and retainer of the Catholic family of Giffard, to whom the Boscobel demesne then belonged, adjacent to their principal seat at Chillington. The seclusion of the spot, and the poverty and obscurity of its tenants, all conspired to render this house an unsuspected place of retreat ; and in addition to these advantages, two separate hiding-places had been there contrived for the shelter of Catholic Priests, the one in the floor of the principal garret,—the other, and the most important, built into the body of the main chimney-stack, from whence it communicated from above with a small closet adjoining the best bed-room, and from below with a low door leading into the garden.”

That furious Royalist penman, Thomas Blount, thus mentions the house. He says it is "a very obscure habitation, situate in Shropshire, but adjoining upon Staffordshire, and lies between Tony Castle and Breewood, in a kind of wilderness. John Giffard, Esq., who first built the house, invited Sir Basil Brook with other friends and neighbours to a housewarming feast; at which time Sir Basil was desired by Mr. Giffard to give the house a name: he aptly calls it BOSCOBEL, (from the Italian Bosco-bello, which in that language signifies 'fair wood,') because seated in the midst of many fair woods.” It is a solitary place now, but by no means “in a wilderness.” The country around it is also much wooded, sufficiently so to make the name not a misnomer in our day. The house is built of chequer-work, of timber, and plaster, the latter having but recently given place to concrete, and is a good specimen of a good farm-house of those days. All its possessors, since it sheltered the "merry Monarch " in his flight, have been careful to preserve its old character; and it is still in all its essential

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