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THERE are few things in this beautiful
country of England, more picturesque to the
eye, and agreeable to the fancy, than an old
Cathedral town. Seen in the distance, rising
from among corn-fields, pastures, orchards,
gardens, woods, the river, the bridge, the
roofs of ancient houses, and haply the ruins of
a castle or abbey, the venerable Cathedral
spires, opposed for many hundred years to the
winter wind and summer sun, tower, like a
solemn historical presence, above the city,
conveying to the rudest mind associations
of interest with the dusky Past. On a
nearer approach, this interest is heightened.
Within the building, by the long perspectives
of pillars and arches; by the earthy
smell, preaching more eloquently than deans
and chapters, of the common doom; by
the praying figures of knights and ladies on
the tombs, with little headless generations
of sons and daughters kneeling around them;
by the stained-glass windows, softening and
mellowing the light; by the oaken carvings
of the stalls, where the shorn monks told
their beads; by the battered effigies of
archbishops and bishops, found built up in the
walls, when all the world had been unconscious,
for centuries, of their blunt stone noses; by
the mouldering chapter-room; the crypt,
with its barred loopholes, letting in long gleams
of slanting light from the Cloisters where the
dead lie, and where the ivy, bred among the
broken arches, twines about their graves;
by the sound of the bells, high up in the
massive tower; by the universal gravity,
mystery, decay, and silence. Without, by the old
environing Cathedral-close, with its red-brick
houses and staid gardens; by the same stained
glass, so dark on that side though so bright
within; by the pavement of half-obliterated
tombstones; by the long echoes of the
visitors' footsteps; by the wicket gate, that seems
to shut the moving world out of that retirement;
by the grave rooks and jackdaws that
have built their nests in steeple crevices, where
the after-hum of the chimes reminds them,
perhaps, of the wind among the boughs of
lofty trees; by the ancient scraps of palace
and gateway; by the ivy again, that has
grown to be so thick and strong; by the oak,
famous in all that part, which has struck its
mighty root through the Bishop's wall; by
the Cathedral organ, whose sound fills all that
space, and all the space it opens in the charmed

There may be flaws in this whole, if it be
examined, too closely. It may not be improved
by the contemplation of the shivering choristers
on a winter morning, huddling on their
gowns as they drowsily go to scamper through
their work; by the drawling voice, without a
heart, that drearily pursues the dull routine;
by the avaricious functionary who lays aside
the silver mace to take the silver pieces, and
who races through the Show as if he were the
hero of a sporting wager. Some uncomfortable
doubts may, under special circumstances,
obtrude themselves, of the practical Christianity
of the head of some particular Foundation.
He may be a brawler, or a proud man, or a
sleek, or an artful. He may be usually
silent, in the House of Lords when a Christian
minister should speak, and may make a point
of speaking when he should be silent. He
may even be oblivious of the truth; a stickler
by the letter, not the spirit, for his own
purposes; a pettifogger in the supreme court of
GOD'S high law, as there are pettifoggers in the
lower courts administering the laws of
mortal man. Disturbing recollections may arise,
of a few isolated cases here and there, where
country curates with small incomes and large
families, poor gentlemen and scholars, are
condemned to work, like blind horses in a
mill, while others who do not work get their
rightful pay; or of the inconsistency and
indecorum of the Church being made a Robe and
Candlestick question, while so many shining
lights are hidden under bushels, and so many
black-cloth coats are threadbare. The question
may present itself, by remote chance,
whether some shovel-hats be not made too
much on the model of the banker's shovel with
which the gold is gathered on the counter,
and too little in remembrance of that other
kind of shovel that renders ashes unto ashes,
and dust to dust. But, on the whole, the visitor
will probably be content to say, "the time
was, and this old Cathedral saw it, when these
things were infinitely worse; they will be
better; I will do all honour to the good that
is in them, (which is much) and I will do what
in me lies for the speedier amendment of the