A couple of years ago when I went for my annual eye-test, my friendly optician mentioned a marvellous writer. Exactly two years ago today, I wrote about Mary Russell Mitford who my optician had recommended; Mary Russell Mitford who was born at the end of 1787 (and died at the age of 67 in 1855) wrote Our Village, a series of little vignettes of village scenes and people, from her observations of the village where she lived, Three Mile Cross, near Reading in Berkshire.
The first of June is today and I was looking at Mary Russell Mitford’s little book, ‘Our Village’; this is what she writes for June 25th: “What a glowing glorious day! Summer in its richest prime, noon in its most sparkling brightness, little white clouds dappling the deep blue sky, and the sun, now partially veiled, and now bursting through them with an intensity of light!” Do you think we might have the same in three weeks time?
Mary continues, as she wanders the grounds of a neglected mansion: “The grounds have been left in a merciful neglect; the park, indeed, is broken up, the lawn mown twice a year like a common hayfield, the grotto mouldering into ruin, and the fishponds choked with rushes and aquatic plants; but the shrubs and flowering trees are undestroyed, and have grown into a magnificence of size and wildness of beauty, such as we may imagine them to attain in their native forests. Nothing can exceed their luxuriance, especially in the spring, when the lilac, and laburnum, and double-cherry put forth their gorgeous blossoms. There is a sweet sadness in the sight of such floweriness amidst such desolation; it seems the triumph of nature over the destructive power of man. The whole place, in that season more particularly, is full of a soft and soothing melancholy, reminding me, I scarcely know why, of some of the descriptions of natural scenery in the novels of Charlotte Smith, which I read when a girl, and which, perhaps, for that reason hang on my memory.
But here we are, in the smooth grassy ride, on the top of a steep turfy slope descending to the river, crowned with enormous firs and limes of equal growth, looking across the winding waters into a sweet peaceful landscape of quiet meadows, shut in by distant woods. What a fragrance is in the air from the balmy fir trees and the blossomed limes! What an intensity of odour! And what a murmur of bees in the lime trees! What a coil those little winged people make over our heads! And what a pleasant sound it is! the pleasantest of busy sounds, that which comes associated with all that is good and beautiful—industry and forecast, and sunshine and flowers. Surely these lime trees might store a hundred hives; the very odour is of a honeyed richness, cloying, satiating.