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Mr. Sibthorpe to Mr. Williamson.
Since my last we have taken up our abode in the wilderness in good earnest, not in 'sober sadness,' as you think the phrase ought to be shaped. There is, to be sure, an insignificant village within two or three miles of us, but our house is the only dwelling on our little clearing the immense trunks of trees, seemingly as old as the creation, walling us in on every side. There is an indescribable charm in this sort of solitary possession. In Alexander Selkirk's case, I grant that the idea of being monarch of all I survey,' with an impassable ocean around my narrow empire, might suggest some inconvenient ideas. The knowledge that the breathing and sentient world is within a few minutes' walk, forms, it must be owned, no unpleasant difference between our lot and his. But with this knowledge snugly in the background, not obtrusive but ready for
use, comparative solitude has charms, believe me. The constant sighing of the wind through the forest leaves, the wild and
various noises, of which we have not yet learned to distinguish one from the other
distinct yet softly mingled — clearly audible, yet only loud enough to make us remark more frequently the silence which they seem scarcely to disturb, - such masses of deep shade that even in the sunny spots the light seems tinged with green, these things fill the mind with images of repose, of leisure, of freedom, of tranquil happiness, untrammelled by pride and ceremony; of unbounded opportunity for reflection, with the richest materials for the cultivation of our better nature.
Nothing can be more delicious than the weather at this season, in this western country. Italian skies may be set off, perhaps, by relics of ancient power and splendour, and still more by the associations connected with those relics; but I am certain that even you, scornful sceptic as you are on all points touching what you are
pleased to call 'rural fury,' could not deny that the deep, transparent blue which roofs this natural Coliseum, gives out the outline of yonder towering elm with an accuracy a delicacy — which no Calabrian azure ever surpassed. The very sun-glints that flash from the white wings of the eagle which, even as I write, soars majestically across the sky, are distinctly visible, though the distance is so great as to make the bird of heaven seem scarce larger than a dove.
"But I am forgetting that all this will cost you numberless 'fudges,' and I will quit the poetical for the practical at once. Know, then, O common-place mortal! that the fates have not denied to your 'mad' friends a tolerably comfortable house, or, rather (I make the acknowledgment lest you should be tempted by my descriptions to visit us before we have made our additions, and so accuse me of delusion or exaggeration), I confess that the present house is more properly the beginning, or nucleus, of a house, than a structure deserving that title as serving for a gentleman's residence. Yet
here, where no allowance or provision is to be made for pride, and where there is no necessity for spending money to buy the good graces of people who are nobody to you, and who care as little about you in return, the house answers our temporary need tolerably well, having a (so-called) parlour, a kitchen, a bed-chamber, of modest dimensions it is true, a closet for our little Charlotte, and a loft for Chadwell and the faithful Rose, who is willing to put up with anything but the hodd' ways of the people. John and Sophy, who, as you know, have, by the aid of a neighbouring justice of the peace, lately become one, are obliged at present to find lodging at the house of a neighbour, who lives somewhere within a mile of us, in the depths of the wood.
"On our first arrival, John proposed making an extempore lodging-room in the barn, on which occasion we discovered that this essential addition to a country-house had been quite forgotten in my survey of Mr. Doolittle's flattering bargain. You may laugh; but who can think of everything?
And, really, the weather is so fine, that one is almost independent of roofs and walls. A bivouac beneath such skies would be rather attractive than appalling.
"Some difficulties have attended the transportation of our moveables, and I find, too, that my estimate of the must-haves' was rather limited. Florella, who is, you know, of a meditative turn, would have thought a still shorter list might comprise all that was necessary. But she, as well as myself, will be glad of your friendly aid in procuring for us certain articles which you will find enumerated at the close of my letter, and which you will be so good as to see securely packed, and forwarded to the care of Messrs. Detroit. The piano-forte has not yet arrived, and I confess myself at a loss to know how to bestow it when it does come. It had not occurred to me that, in a very small parlour, embellished with no less than six doors and four windows, to say nothing of a staircase and an immense fireplace, there would be but little space for large articles of furniture. And the sofa, on which I promised myself