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THE manner in which these conversations originated was the following:

Bourne, Elliot, and Morton were very intimate friends; they had been "fellow collegers," and since the marriage of Bourne they had been in the habit of meeting frequently: within the last year or two, however, Elliot had been much abroad, and Morton chiefly with his relations in the neighbourhood of Dorchester; yet when in London, the latter had not failed often to participate in Bourne's pursuits, directed to obtain a knowledge of the lives and productions of the earlier writers of our country. Of course, regarding such men as Spenser, Shakespeare, and Jonson, every body knows a little, and any body may know a great deal; but Bourne thought that there must be something about their friends, acquaintances, and literary contemporaries,

worth learning, and he thought rightly. Morton could only enter into the subject at intervals, but such lights as he could procure from our bibliographical miscellanies and other ordinary sources, he did not omit to avail himself of in the country; giving them their chief use and application when in company with his friend, who only went before him in knowledge, not in ardour.

From these inquiries the absence of Elliot from England had excluded him, but before he went abroad he was tolerably well versed in the more popular writers of the period to which we have referred: of course all gentlemen now-a-days would justly consider it a scandal not to have Shakespeare at their fingers' ends, but Elliot, though a man of the world, had read Spenser through, and of Ben Jonson, Massinger, and our re-published dramatists, he knew more than many. The difference, therefore, between him and Bourne was exactly this: he was acquainted with what every other person may acquire without difficulty, and Bourne by his perseverance had gained a knowledge of not a few facts of importance and books of value, that had escaped the researches of some of the most indefatigable antiquaries. Yet it could not be said that the latter was more than very slightly infected with what has been termed the black-letter mania, for he always endeavoured to form an estimate of a literary curiosity, independent of the extrinsic circumstances

of its price and rarity: indeed, of the two, who had devoted time to these inquiries, Morton was much the most likely, from his sanguine disposition, to be afflicted with this harmless species of insanity.

Our modern poets found an admirer in Elliot, and undoubtedly since the era the writers of which Bourne had particularly studied, there never has been a time when the laurel has flourished in this kingdom with greater beauty or vigour. Of late years it has made many new and hardy shoots, and every day fresh burgeons are forcing themselves through the rind, giving fair promise of successful progress.

About a fortnight after the return of Elliot from Germany, and during one of Morton's longest visits to London, the three friends had appointed a place of rendezvous, for it was agreed that they should spend ten days or a fortnight together at Bourne's house at Mortlake: they took a boat at Westminsterbridge and embarked for their destination, on one of the serenest evenings of August. The sky was perfectly clear, and the majestic river, swollen to the edge of its banks by what is termed a spring tide, was almost its exact counterpart: both were equally bright and transparent, and as the wherry, by the assistance of a light breath that seemed to evaporate from the water without ruffling its surface, delicately cut its way, the voyagers might almost have fancied themselves in mid air in that ship of heaven so lately and so delightfully described. As this was not, by

several, the first time they had met since the arrival of the "tongue-gifted traveller," the topics which would of course earliest occur had been, in a great degree, exhausted, and the conversation involuntarily turned by the habits of the party, and the natural influence of the scene, upon that subject which, unlike all others, affords something new and delightful whenever it is introduced-poetry. Besides, supposing no absolute novelty in the way of illustration, criticism or quotation be offered, what other matter of discussion can be found that will so well bear repeating? But in truth it is as impossible to exhaust such a source of enjoyment, as that the great stream on which the three friends were embarked should run dry: it may be higher or lower, more or less powerful, at different times, but with its influx it bears tidings from distant shores, and with its reflux it brings down the cultivated beauty of domestic provinces.

The many poets who had made the Thames "their great example as it was their theme," were mentioned by the three friends in succession; Elliot dwelling chiefly upon Gray and Collins; Bourne not forgetting the several tributes of the venerable but neglected Drayton; and Morton repeating with fervour some of the finest descriptive stanzas of the marriage of the Thames and Medway, in the fourth book of the Fairy Queen. This introduced a short discussion, commenced by Elliot, who remarked

that he did not exactly understand the distinction Spenser had taken between "the noble Thames with all his goodly train," destined to wed "the proud Nymph" Medway, and " the ancient Thame," who was represented as the father of "the jolly bridegroom." He was not sufficiently acquainted with the genealogy of river gods to be able to solve the difficulty. It was very easy to know why the Ouse,

"Almost blind through eld that scarce her way could see,"

should be considered the mother of the Thames.

Morton, without addressing himself to remove the objection, observed upon the inconsistency of which the poet had been guilty, in afterwards representing the Ouse as a "plenteous" river, drawing many smaller streams "into his waters." Bourne replied by casting some little good-humoured ridicule upon these hypercritical remarks, adding that the last would be found answered by Spenser himself, in the line "The Ouse whom men do Isis rightly name," and the first, in his view, was perfectly intelligible, allowing but a little latitude to the imagination of the reader. As he had read the description," the ancient Thame," father of the bridegroom, was that higher and more remote part of the river towards the source, which might, without any thing very forced or unnatural, be considered

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