S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Groves, fields, and meadows are at any season of the year pleasant to look upon, but never so much as in the opening of the spring, when they are all new and fresh, with their first glow upon them, and not yet too much accustomed and familiar to the eye. For this reason there is nothing that more enlivens a prospect than rivers, jetteaus, or falls of water, where the scene is perpetually shifting, and entertaining the sight every moment with something that is new.
Take the case of a common English landscape;green meadows with fat cattle; canals, or navigable rivers; well-fenced, well-cultivated fields; neat, clean, scattered cottages; humble antique church, with church-yard elms; and crossing hedge-rows, all seen under bright skies, and in good weather: there is much beauty, as every one will acknowledge, in such a scene. But in what does the beauty consist? Not, certainly, in the mere mixture of colours and forms; for colours more pleasing, and lines more graceful (according to any theory of grace that may be preferred), might be spread upon a board, or a painters pallet, without engaging the eye to a second glance, or raising the least emotion in the mind; but in the picture of human happiness that is presented to our imaginations and affections,and in the visible and unequivocal signs of comfort, and cheerful and peaceful enjoymentand of that secure and successful industry that insures its continuanceand of the piety by which it is exaltedand of the simplicity by which it is contrasted with the guilt and the fever of a city life,in the images of health and temperance and plenty which it exhibits to every eye, and in the glimpses which it affords to warmer imaginations of those primitive or fabulous times when man was uncorrupted by luxury and ambition; and of those humble retreats in which we still delight to imagine that love and philosophy may find an unpolluted asylum.
In those vernal seasons of the year when the air is soft and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake of her rejoicings with heaven and earth.
Very few people [husband and wife] that have settled entirely in the country but have grown at length weary of one another. The ladys conversation generally falls into a thousand impertinent effects of idleness; and the gentleman falls in love with his dogs and his horses, and out of love with everything else . Tis my opinion, tis necessary to be happy that we neither of us think any place more agreeable than that where we are.
Lady Mary W. Montague: To E. W. Montague (before marriage).
There is no character more deservedly esteemed than that of a country gentleman who understands the station in which Heaven and Nature have placed him. He is father to his tenants, and patron to his neighbours, and is more superior to those of lower fortune by his benevolence than his possessions. He justly divides his time between solitude and company so as to use one for the other. His life is spent in the good offices of an advocate, a referee, a companion, a mediator, and a friend. His counsel and knowledge are a guard to the simplicity and innocence of those of lower talents, and the entertainment and happiness of those of equal. When a man in a country life has this turn, as it is hoped thousands have, he lives in a more happy condition than any that is described in the pastoral description of poets, or the vainglorious solitudes recorded by philosophers.
I must detain you a little longer, to tell you that I never enter this delicious retirement but my spirits are revived, and a sweet complacency diffuses itself over my whole mind. And how can it be otherwise, with a conscience void of offence, where the music of falling waters, the symphony of birds, the gentle humming of bees, the breath of flowers, the fine imagery of painting and sculpture, in a word, the beauties and the charms of nature and of art, court all my faculties, refresh the fibres of the brain, and smooth every avenue of thought? What pleasing meditations, what agreeable wanderings of the mind, and what delicious slumbers, have I enjoyed here! And when I turn up some masterly writer to my imagination, methinks here his beauties appear in the most advantageous light, and the rays of his genius shoot upon me with greater force and brightness than ordinary.