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I must apologise for the length of this letter but the immense importance of the subject treated in it will I am sure be sufficient excuse.
HENRY BELL. Muncaster Vicarage, Cumberland.
The Rifle Corps. On Saturday, May 23rd, the Rifle Corps were called out of School at a quarter to one, to repulse a still more formidable attack than those which they have had to face in former terms. A strong force was advancing on Salisbury from Oxford. Owing to some unaccountable and most unintelligent failure in the Iotelligence Department, there had been no time to destroy the railway from Swindon to Marlborough to a greater distance than the Ogbourne Station, but between this point and Marlborough the road was strongly held with infantry and artillery, and the hills on the right bank of the Og were also occupied in force. It was to the hills on the left bank, those Damely above Rabley Copse, that the M.C.R.V.C. and the Town Corps were summoned, as it was expected tbat an attempt would be made to turn our right flank ; so that the enemy might seize the Mildenhall road, and, by getting to our rear, might make our main position untenable.
The Commissariat showed its superiority to the Intelligence Department, and our men were able to start with one of the chief requisites of successful fighting. Shortly after their arrival on the ground, at about 2.45 the attack was developed. The first position occupied by the School. Corps, with one Section of L Company, was under cover of a hedge facing towards Ogbourne Station, with a detachment tbrown out to the right. They thus covered the road behind Rabley, and if driven from their first position, could retire to a hedge some 300 yards in their rear, behind which there was a stretch of common thickly sprinkled with gorse bushes, and which could not be taken without heavy loss. Finally there was Rabley Copse as the spot for the final stand.
The attacking force, whose movements were reported with marvellous accuracy by the signallers under Corporal Robertson, having detrained at Ogbourne Station began to advance up the hill, firing volleys by sections, to wbich our men replied with admirable steadiness, conscious no doubt that they had supports in a small pit a short dietance in their
But they were not strong enough to hold their
ground for long, and as the enemy advanced steadily up the hill, they were ordered to retire to their main line of defence, a hedge affording good cover, and from which, if the enemy could force it, they had a retreat secured them through the gorge, which was already occupied by a reserve, and where every inch of ground could be disputed, to the impregnable citadel of Rabley Copse. Just as the order for retreat was given an interesting and almost touching incident occurred : a small reinforcement from Devizes appeared upon the scene, anxious, like the Platæans at Marathon, to take part with their Marlborough comrades in the defence of Rabley. But their numbers were too small to justify Major Colston in holding his advanced position any longer, especially as its right flank was already turned by the enemy advancing across a clover-field. And here a mistake occurred, which, if the bullets of the attacking force had deprived the first line of its commanding spirits, Captains Gwillim and Rundall, might have made of the battle of Rabley a second Balaclava. Our men had mistaken their true line of retreat, and were retiring far too much to their left. If this movement had been completed, the enemy could have, cat their line in two, and carried the position at once. Fortunately the required direction was at hand, and they were led in good order to their main position behind the hedge. The enemy followed, exposing themselves recklessly, and sustaining heavy loss in consequence, while our men availed themselves of every inch of cover. Still the hedge was carried after a stubborn resistance and its defenders driven into the gorse, which stretches thence to Rabley Copse. Here a detachment of the enemy, with more bravery than prudence, imagining in the fever of battle that a wire fence was an effectual protection, attempted to turn oor left flank.
What became of them we were unable to see, but no doubt they were shot down to a man by the volleys poured upon them by our men concealed in the gorse bushes. Still the firing went on, the Corps of the School and the Town disputing every foot of ground, as they retired towards the Copse. How the battle would have terminated it is difficult to decide ; the enemy, decimated through their omitting to tako cover could hardly have been in force to drive the defenders from their best shelter ; but at this moment the • Cease-fire' was sounded. What had happened we were unable to learn with accuracy, probably some “solemn covenant," or other arrangement of the kind had been made, observed in this case with greater conscientiousness than usual, as shortly after the entire force, attackers and defenders started off with bands playing and attended by a considerable number of non-combatants to the Common, where the proceedings terminated with a march past before Major Colston.
The Corps, as was natural on such an occasion, turned out more than a hundred strong, and the band, after cheering their comrades on the march, fought valiantly in defence of the Big Drum.
The plan of operations had been carefully prepared by Captain Gwillim, L Company, 2nd Wilts R.V., and the defence was ably conducted by Major Colston of the same Battalion. The numbers were, on the defending side about 150, on the attacking about 300, the largest assembly of Volunteers in the Marlborough district for many years past. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature from a military point of view was the steady volley-firing of the sections. This was most conspicuous before the retirement began, but all through the fight it was very fairly maintained.
We must not forget to mention that a handsome prize of Benares brass ornaments has been very kindly sent us by F. W. Bourdillon, Esq. It has been decided to give it for the best average in sim. ultaneous Matches.
stone and the old red or Devonian sandstone. As we get deeper into the harder sorts of coal the proportion of carbon to hydrogen and oxygen becomes greater, so that in the lowest strata of coal, there is hardly any of the two latter to be found.
The lecturer then went on to the working of coal. The shaft is sometimes 2000 feet deep, and there must be at least two shafts, one for ventilation and to be used in case of accidents by the workmen. Workmen usually begin at the farthest extremity of the seam, so as to guard against the loss of life occasioned by the old method owing to the falling of the roof. In spite of the careful appliances for descending mines, accidents still occur owing to ropes breaking, &o. Perhaps the worst danger is fire damp with its attendant choke damp, through which so many lives are even now lost, as also through sudden inundations. Apparently in about 200 years at the present rate of consumption, 125,000,000 tons a year, the coal of Great Britain will be exhausted.
Mr. Ashwin returned thanks for the most enjoyable evening we had spent. Members of Society prosent 39, school visitors 32.
Natural History Society. On Thursday last the Rev. T. N. Hart-Smith gave a very interesting lecture on coal and coal mines, admirably illustrated by Mr. Baker's drawings, which were executed with his usual skill. The lecturer first gave a short sketch of the history of the use of coal from the earliest time it was known to our own day, showing us specimens of the different sorts of coal from the softer lignite to the almost incombustible anthracite, which had been kindly lent by Mr. Phelps of the Gas Works. Mr. Hart-Smith then went on tell us of the origin of coal, that it was entirely composed of vegetable matter, the remains of vast primeval forests of almost tropical growth. Traces of huge club mosses, calamites, &c., have actually been found on the surface of coal bede. The strata of coal alternating with other mineral strata is accounted for by the rising and sinking of land, which vegetated each time it rose to the surface of the water. The coal measures invariably lie between the new red sand
SCHOOL PRIZES. Cotton English Essay-E. K. Chambers. Mathematical Prizes —
Senior-H. M. Lewis.
Hon. Men.-H. G. A. Leveson. Greek lambic Prize-A. B. Poynton.
NOTICE TO CONTRIBUTORS. If the author of a poem headed “The True American' till send his name, we shall be happy to insert his piece.
ERRATA. In our last number p. 71, 1 16, for Good read Goad ; 1 23 for Tasken read Fasken,
Printed by CHAS. PERKINS, at his General Printing Office,
JANE AUSTEN'S NOVELS.
Austen's novels. Let us try to see what it is in her To the ordinary novel-reader of the present day the works that charmed men of such taste and such name of Jane Austen is almost unknown: or if he powers of criticism. bas come across one of her books, it has soon been When Miss Austen began to write at •the begin. tossed aside on the discovery that the story advances ning of the present century, the style of novel in with very slow steps, and that it seems to consist vogue partook largely of the character of the "penny merely in a series of long conversations of a some- dreadful" of to-day. The hero was always a preux what common-place description, to his mind. And chevalier of the most approved type, who never this is perhaps hardly to be wondered at: for the committed an error or showed himself unequal to requirements of a novel to suit him are that it the occasion, however trying ; while the heroine was should have plenty of 'go' in it, plenty of exciting a paragon of beauty and of excellence. Interspersed incidents, and not too much 'talky-talky,' which, throughout the narrative, which dragged its weary way if it exists, he generally skips. Miss Austen's through five or more lengthy volumes, were horrible novels would appear to him much as Garrick's accounts of murders, secret chambers, and haunted acting did to a certain occupant of the pit; far houses, warranted to make the most prosaic reader's too natural, and like every-day life: he far pre- hair stand on end: in fact they were as unlike anyferred the “robustious perriwig-pated fellow.” thing probable or even possible as could well be
The aforesaid ordinary novel-reader would perhaps imagined. It was against this unreality in fiction be astonished to hear that Scott after reading that Jane Austen set her face, and by her works she through one of her books for the third time acknow- tried to prove that the ordinary events in the daily ledged his own inferiority to her in delineation of routine of a middle-class family could make as character, that Macaulay thought so highly of her interesting a story as the wonderful exploits of an novels that he had fully intended to publish them Udolpho: and she has undoubtedly succeeded, in with a memoir of her from his
wn pen, and that
the opinion of the best judges. Archbishop Whateley on his death-bed liked to hear She certainly set to work with the most unpromisno other book read to him so much as one of Miss ing materials. In “Emma," to our mind her best
novel, her principal characters are Mr. Woodhouse, a silly old valetudinarian, in easy circumstances, living alone with his only daughter Emma, the heroine ; Mrs. Bates, the widow of an old rector, and her daughter; Mr. Knightley, an independent country gentleman of thirty, who is rather of the candid-friend type; a mundane country parson ; a former governess of Emma's, who has just married a widower with an eligible son of eighteen. The story can be told in a few words. Emma Woodhouse, who manages everything in her father's household, and is regarded by him as the perfection of woman-kind, somewhat naturally falls into the error of thinking she is clever enough to arrange all the love affairs of the little village community: so she takes a humble friend, Harriet Smith, in hand, makes her break off her connection with an honest farmer, to whom she was engaged, and settles she is to marry the mundane parson, Mr. Elton.
After employing countless artifices to bring them together she at length discovers that Mr. Elton has been thinking she herself is in love with him, by his suddenly proposing to her, much to her surprise and disgust. Meanwhile Frank Churchill, the eligible step-son of her former governess, makes his appearance, and for a little time Emma thinks she is going to be in love with him herself; but she soon gives up that idea, and then is certain he is violently enamoured of her protegée, Harriet Smith. This illusion is, in its turn, disabused by the discovery of his secret engagement to Jane Fairfax, the granddaughter of Mrs. Bates. Finally Harriet Smith confides to Emma that she thinks herself the object of Mr. Knightley's attentions: and this disclosure makes Emma suddenly discover that she has for a long time been fond of him herself. In the end he confesses his love for her, and after much persuasion they overcome Mr. Woodhouse's strong horror of all marriages in general, and of Emma's in particular, by representing that a strong son-inlaw in the house would be an untold security to him from thieves of all description. Finally Harriet Smith is made happy by marrying the first of her four would-be lovers. Such in brief is the plot of Emma.
We hear our friend, the ordinary novel-reader, ask how any interest could be excited by such a dry uneventful story. We entirely agree with him that none, or hardly any, could be excited by the story itself; but it was not on the story that Miss Austen relied for
success, it was on her power of delineating character. Her method of doing this is to make the different characters take part in the conversations, of which three-quarters of the book is composed. And she can not only put smart sayings and words of wisdom in the mouths of her clever characters, a comparatively easy thing, but, what is infinitely harder, she can put words of folly into the mouths of her fools, and make them consistently foolish throughout. It has been said very truly that she is second only to Shakespeare in faithful rendering of character. She is sometimes perhaps a little unnecessarily prolis and minute, and she may even introduce conversa. tion a little alien to the main thread of the story, but if we were to apply this test of absolute relevancy to Shakespeare himself, how much we should have to cut out from some of his best plays. So under the spell of Miss Austen's faithful and minute touches we can hardly help falling in love with Emma, in spite of all her mistakes and impetuosity, so good-hearted and thoroughly charming is she depicted to us.
How well too we can picture to ourselves the little whist-party at Mr. Woodhouse's, with the kind-hearted but very fussy old host, who is so dreadfully afraid of any. body getting ill, who always finishes up the day with a good wholesome basin of gruel, and on one occasion makes the startling proposition, “My dear Emma, suppose we all take gruel;" with the chatty little old maid, Miss Bates, who on all occasions has a great deal to say on the most trifling subjects; with Mr. Knightley, who though perhaps the least pleasing character in the book, being rather cynical and plain-spoken (as too many of Miss Austen's men are), is at bottom a good hearty English gentleman ; and Emma, who however deep her plans may be for the matrimony of Harriet Smith, is always loving and attentive to her father.
Miss Austen only wrote six novels besides Emma; of these Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park are undoubtedly the best. By some Pride and Prejudice is preferred even to Emma. It Las certainly a little more plot, if that is any recommendation, but somehow one does not feel quite the same
attraction to the heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, as to Emma, whose very faults seem to add to her charm. In this book she hits off splendidly a type of clergyman, which we hope is now extinct in England. The character of Mr. William Collins
could not be better shown than by an extract of a letter he writes to Mr. Bennett as an overture towards healing the breach existing between the two families of cousins :
“Dear Sir,—The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my honoured father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I had the misfortune to lose him I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory for me to be on good terms with anyone with whom it had pleased him to be at variance. My mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having received ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean myself with earnest respect towards her ladyship, and be ever ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England. As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to establish the blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my influence; and on these grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures of peace are highly commendable, and that the circumstance of my not being next in the entail to the Long bourn estate will be kindly overlooked on yonr side, and not lead you to reject the offered olive branch :" and much more in the same strain. Nothing could show better what a conceited coxcomb he is, and at the same time what a tuft-hunter of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, duty to whom he evidently regards as having prior claims to his clerical duties.
In speaking of Miss Austen it would be impossible to pass over her greatest creation, the Aunt Norris of Mansfield Park. The consummate meanness of this woman, the pleasant knack she has of always taking the credit of actions of which others have had the trouble and expense, her “plaguy” ways to those whom she does not like, and the cleverness with which she always manages to appear wise and prudent to those whose favour and countenance she requires, can only be fully understood and appreciated by reading the book. She is an even greater creation than Dickens' Mrs. Gamp, or Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop, because she is not in the least exaggerated; she is the kind of woman one might meet any day of one's life.
Our author, as might be imagined, has not the broad rollicking fun of a Smollett, but she has a sarcastic vein of humour peculiar to herself. And this is seen not only in her conversations, but in the
epigrammatic remarks in which she occasionally indulges in her own person. Here is a delightful description of the way in which a somewhat stingy woman signalizes her sudden esteem for two young ladies whose acquaintance she has lately formed >
“Mrs. Dashwood had never been so much pleased with any young woman in her life as she was with them; had given each of them a needle-book made by some emigrant; called Lucy by her Christian name; and did not know whether she would ever be able to part with them."
The following is a very just description of the feelings of a class of individuals not uncommon :
“He had just compunction enough for having done nothing for his sisters himself to be exceedingly anxious that everybody else should do a great deal.”
Finally, we cannot forbear quoting this remark, applicable to many ladies of fashion at all times :
' Lady Middleton was equally pleased with Mrs. Dashwood. There was a kind of cold-hearted selfishness on both sides which mutually attracted them; and they sympathised with each other in an insipid propriety of demeanour, and a general want of understanding."
In the above sketch we have attempted to point out a few of the charms of Miss Austen's books. That we have by no means done her full justice we are quite ready to admit, but our object will be gained if these inadequate words will induce even the ordinary novel reader to see for himself in what her merit consists.
THE LAST LOOK.
Slowly, slowly fades the twilight