BETWEEN RIVERS

BETWEEN RIVERS WINTER 2024: A SELECTION OF POEMS BY GLADYS MARY COLES – ALAN HORNE

BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series edited by Alan Horne. It is focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire. You can read about the background to Between Rivers in the Introduction.

For our February 2024 issue Between Rivers features the work of the prolific author Gladys Mary Coles, who has not only published ten volumes of her own poetry, together with a novel, but has also edited thirty anthologies of poetry and prose, and produced volumes combining poetry with visual arts, while teaching Creative Writing at Liverpool University. Her writing has won many prizes. Born in Liverpool and with a longstanding connection to Ruthin in Denbighshire, she writes with an international scope but often with a close attention to the local: Liverpool, the Wirral and the Dee estuary, north-east Wales and the Clwydian hills. In addition to all this, she has a profound engagement with the early 20th Century novelist Mary Webb, author of Precious Bane: Coles’ Flower of Light was the first major biography of Webb, and she has published two further books about the novelist, edited a selection of her poems, and is President of the Mary Webb Society.  Webb’s vivid feeling for the natural world in her Shropshire home plainly resonates with Coles’ own work.  Of which there will be more: in preparation is a further volume of poetry and a book about Webb’s Shropshire.

One way into Coles’ earlier poetry might be through the volume of new and selected verse published by Duckworth as Leafburners in 1986. This includes the poem On Offa’s Dyke, about the eighth century structure which marked the boundary between Mercia and the Welsh kingdoms. Originally published in the 1984 collection Stoat, in Winter, the poem was used in the reopening of the Offa’s Dyke Centre following the recent pandemic. One of the ideas behind Between Rivers is that complexities of border and identity can be found right here, at the heart of the United Kingdom. So, one of the characters in Clay, Coles’ novel of the First World War, announces himself as the Irish invader of a Liverpool street built, named and inhabited by the Welsh. In addition, Coles observes in her biography Mary Webb that, for Webb, “the Border Country that merges into the Beyond” is also a border country of the mind and spirit. On Offa’s Dyke traverses these territories.

 

On Offa’s Dyke

 

Once a concept, now returned to concept

except where the mounded soil

hints of activity, toil,

scoopings, bendings, craft

of earthwork unknit by wind-work.

 

Once a long snake, sinuous over the land,

over hill heights, above cwms:

now it’s disintegrated skin

is ghosted in the ground,

buried in its own earth

yet visible here and there

like the life of Offa, Mercian King.

This, in itself, evidence of him,

hegemony’s power, fear –

the tangible remains.

 

Their truths the walls of history hold:

Hadrian’s, Jerusalem’s, Berlin’s –

humanity walled in, walled out,

a wall for weeping on, a wall for execution;

and all our inner barriers, divisions

numerous as the species of wild growth

embedded in this dyke –

taken by the only natural army.

Leafburners also includes poems from her Liverpool Folio, also published in 1984. Printed in a large format, Liverpool Folio combines her poems with many photographs in an evocation of personal and family memory of the city and its environs. As the child of Liverpudlians I was pleased to find it a world away from media clichés about the city. Liverpool Folio meets Between Rivers at the extremes of the range of each: on Hilbre Island in the Dee estuary. Coles’ poem From Hilbre Island is accompanied by the photograph of the same name by Lindsay Coles.

 

From Hilbre Island

 

Dissolution of day

on the estuary;

night’s vast advance

on the evening tide;

and I, rock lichen, cling

listening to sea-distance,

the murmur of a harmony

within a greater harmony

 

while from the fretted shore

humanity emits

a thousand brutish sounds

diffused and lost:

 

as on a distant plain

the sound of centuries repeats

and noise of conflict boils

from blue-skinned warriors

or scaly knights who swarm

like early amphibians

floundering, sea-emerged.

 

Poems from the 1985 collection Studies in Stone are also represented in Leafburners, including a remarkable sequence, Winter in Clwyd, where close observations of the natural world, built up line by line, open out into an understated drama.

 

Winter in Clwyd: A Sequence

(for my mother, Gladys M. Reid)

 

  1. Snow takes the mountains
    advance forces the frosts:
    no field escapes
    each blade sprigged
    like blast-dust on trees
    the fright-white ghosts of summer.
    The vale in frost-sprayed gown
    a thin hemline of mist
    below the hills.
  2. The Clwydian’s great white shoulders
    nude giants turned to stone
    hiding their faces.
  3. A farmer’s fence along the topmost field
    is a charcoal line demarcating
    from white hill to white sky.
    In the distance sheep move in flock –
    a yellow turgid river
    the dog fussing on its banks.Before me, pencilling of undergrowth
    pointillism of stubble. Closer now,
    I see bird-pricks, flick of wings,
    fox-marks narrow with long central toes,
    indentations of dragged tails – rats
    or slender weasels – the matchless blobs
    of rabbits and, behind, unmistakable
    manprints. Secretly in snow
    new graphics have appeared.
  4. Light breaks over eastern Clwyd:
    the hill hollows fill like breakfast bowls
    milky to the brim. Snow on the tops,
    crystalline mounds dissolving
    at the edge. Changing light eludes
    no matter how long I stare.
    I notice how mountains, their fronts
    in deep pleats at early morning
    become smoothed out by coffee-time.
    I hold a steaming mug: froth clings
    like stale snow the rain disperses.
  5. On the chess board of fields
    a dark King stands cornered
    in check to a white Queen:
    the heavy oak, immobile, hedged in
    before a silver birch, slim
    moving in all directions.
    It’s the wind’s game.

 

A later collection of poems is The Echoing Green of 2001, and our other selections are taken from that. This book contains two sequences about the Shropshire landscape which are outside the remit of Between Rivers but which reward attention: Kingdom of Sphagnum relates to the north Shropshire mosslands and is used by Natural England in its presentation of the area; and The Land Within deals with the life and experiences of Mary Webb. But the first poem from this collection which we will present here is Convolvulus, which picks up on the Roman Catholic tradition in Flintshire.  Note that Coles makes use of the word Nain, Welsh  for grandmother.

 

Convolvulus

 

Mid-July, the bindweed high in the hedge –

a ‘tatty’ hedge Nain calls it, sitting in the yard,

tilting her kitchen chair, as sunlight pinks the sandstone

of soot-crusted walls. The tall house casts its shadow

over the dusty privet, shades Nain’s face.

 

She tells me of the day before –

the large white coach packed with mothers

winding through Flintshire lanes, higher into hills

by Halkyn mountain, to the sheltering greystone Friary –

and how, uncrumpling themselves, the mothers stood

in the peace of Pantasaph, a peace so palpable

they felt they could touch, hold it in their hands,

bring some home with the Holy Pictures.

 

Each one chingled a rosary, processing uphill,

kneeling on the bare ground of the path

at every Station of the Cross, until at last

they formed a circle round the crucifix,

huge, tethered to the hill-top like a mast.

Here they prayed, made secret requests.

Nain wouldn’t tell me hers, but smiled,

whispering as if the wind would hear –

‘A poet, Francis Thompson, once stayed there.

We were shown the window of his room.’

 

Afterwards, downhill to Holywell,

a blessing at St Winefride’s ceaseless spring.

Some mothers wept in the candle-lit shrine,

clear waters calling, reflecting inner wounds;

and constantly rising from the source

its bubbles seemed, Nain thought,

a waterchain of souls, renewing forever.

 

I wanted to bring her flowers, plucked convolvulus

but the white chalices folded in my hand.

 

Our final selection, also from The Echoing Green, is a markedly different poem. Augury draws on the legend of Blodeuwedd from the collection of Welsh folk tales known as the Mabinogion.

In the tale, Llew Llaw Gyffes is unable to marry a human wife, and a wife, Blodeuwedd, is made for him out of flowers. (In English, Blodeuwedd could be translated as ‘Flower-Face’.) She and her lover, Gronw Pebr, conspire to kill Llew. He is injured with a spear but survives and takes his revenge. Gronw is forced to suffer a similar spear-stroke, and is killed, while Blodeuwedd is turned into an owl. Readers of a certain vintage of children’s novel may recognise here the source for Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. In a way, Coles takes the story up after the legend’s endpoint, creating a remarkable contemporary myth. Rather than any conclusion from me, I think we should end with the poem.

 

AUGURY

 

Blodeuwedd, The Mabinogion

 

Tall bedraggled pines, the day’s incessant rain

early nightfall and a river-road. You plunged

swift whiteness into the stream of light

intent on some small creature spotlit

on the camber, caught in my car’s beams.

I felt your winged death impacting,

kept steady as you were woven in

becoming one with metal, rubber.

Not an everyday extinction. Born

of need, and one I saw as a portent.

Next morning, cautious, tense,

I looked at last around the rim

of tyre, wheel-arch, finding you

translated

from feathers into fur into flowers.

 

And death followed three-fold.

 

Last night, one year later, your return

waiting on the wires, intent

close to the cottage eaves.

Your ululation as I arrived,

how you opened your wings like a cloak

to enfold me; how you became

one with the moon’s translucency

your call dwindling into the blackness of Bryn Alyn.

Today, on the slate path to our door, I find

three gifts – your feather, white-tipped,

a dead but perfect field mouse,

a sprig of broom.

 

 

BETWEEN RIVERS AUTUMN 2023: A SELECTION OF POEMS BY DAVID SELZER – ALAN HORNE

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BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series edited by Alan Horne. It is focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire. You can read about the background to Between Rivers in the Introduction.

 

The time has come for us to look at some more of David Selzer’s poems which relate to the Between Rivers area. The selections for this edition are by no means the only poems by David which relate to the area. They are chosen more as an introduction to the breadth of David’s writing about the locality. Some have probably received less attention than they deserve, and this is a chance to consider their value.

The first selection does not, however, fall into that category. It is probably essential that we start with A Short History, first published in Life Lines: Poems from the Cheshire Prize for Literature edited by Ashley Chantler (Cheshire Academic Press, 2005), also published on David’s site in April 2009, and the poem which starts his 2011 collection A Jar of Sticklebacks. It is interesting to compare this poem with the expansive poems, full of politics, history, and human and natural details which are now available on this site in the 50th anniversary publication of his 1973 collection, Elsewhere. In the present poem, the same concerns are subject to a quite astonishing process of concentration. It would take longer to describe this quality than to read the poem which is also, as far as I can discover, the only entrance into literature of the River Gowy; a neglect which Between Rivers exists to rectify. A Short History was originally published as a graphic and is reproduced in that form here.

 

A completely different style is adopted in The Optimism of Engineers, first published on this site in March 2013. This meditation on the town of Fflint and its surroundings proceeds in an almost conversational manner from  Richard II and Bolingbroke, in conflict in 1399, to two unruly teenagers in the present day.

 

The Optimism of Engineers

For John Huddart

Whichever way you approach the town of Fflint,

on the coast road east or west, down Halkyn

Mountain, from the Dee Estuary, you see

the towers first – Richard, Bolingbroke and Castle

Heights, three 1960s, multi-storey

social housing blocks – not the castle.

 

Richard Plantagenet, Richard of Bordeaux,

King of England, surrendered to his cousin

and childhood friend, Henry of Bolingbroke,

in the inner bailey of the castle,

nearly seven hundred years ago.

Richard’s great grandfather had it built –

by engineers, carpenters, charcoal burners,

diggers, dykers, masons, smiths, woodmen

from the counties of Chester, Lancaster,

Leicester, Lincoln, Salop, Stafford, Warwick –

based on a French model. Logistically –

being merely a day’s ride from Chester

and having the estuary lap its walls –

it was well placed to punish the Welsh.

 

In the ‘70s, as well as the Heights,

Courtaulds dominated the town, its mills

employing ten thousand. Now there is

MacDonalds, Sainsbury’s, a Polski Sklep.

The castle’s ruins have been preserved, of course,

made accessible, and its setting landscaped.

Across the wide river are the white houses

of Parkgate, where the packets to Ireland

would moor offshore in the roads.

Canalising the Dee to keep Chester

a port for sea-going fly boats and cutters

silted that side of the estuary,

transformed Liverpool and the Mersey.

 

A purpose-made barge passes, Afon

Dyfrdwy, taking an A380 wing

from Airbus at Broughton to the port

at Mostyn, some twenty miles, for shipment,

by purpose-made ferries, to Bordeaux.

As if on cue, a Beluga, an Airbus

Super Transporter, its nose like the fish’s

head, banks south east for Airbus at Toulouse.

 

The castle was closed for a time because of

vandalism and under age drinking.

Two teenage youths, wielding a six-pack each

of Sainsbury’s St Cervois lager,  pass

beneath the curtain wall. Laughing,

they offer the cans to two elderly

anglers returning from the river,

who decline, embarrassed, and move on.  It is

one o’clock on a weekday. The two lads,

both opening a can and showering

each other, run towards the shore, cursing.

 

This and several other of David’s poems take up a perspective, literal and metaphorical, on the Dee estuary. For those unfamiliar with the area, this is a wide area of marshland produced by canalising the river, its perimeter industrialised and then de-industrialised, leaving a wide expanse of grassy mudflats, grazed by sheep and subject to occasional inundation by high tides. Although popular with migrating birds, it is not conventionally attractive. There is a significant amount of writing about the Dee, but most of it avoids this part. The Same Shared Ground, first published on this site in July 2009, sees it on an almost geological timescale.

The Same Shared Ground

Larks and herons rise from the same shared ground –

a salt-marsh sprinkled with scurvy grass

like early snow. A navigable channel

is impossibly distant, far-off as

childhood’s spring tides. Silt obscured endeavour.

Sailors and milkmaids and priests lie low

as the worked-out coal seams. Glaciers made this –

ice miles, thick as centuries, combing valleys,

teasing out hills, a slow explosion

of seas. I imagine, back in Europe’s

reticular forests, a homely,

mackerel sky caught in another’s vision –

ancient weathers, sand settling in a pool,

pebbles jarred momentarily, the shape

and sense of time.

 

Towing the continent,

hulks sailed west. Only fulmars passed. The past

stretches like a landscape from this instant,

encompassing it. The oneness of things,

their disparateness I taste like blood:

the jest at the heart – being here and now

who could so easily have been elsewhere

or no one. Oblivious of ironies,

soarers and coasters cohabit. The ice

was deep as mountains. I am shrouded in

imagining’s ponderous white oceans.

 

For the final selection we proceed inland. An Abridged History of the World, first published on this site in July 2012, considers the painting below, Holt Bridge on the River Dee, by Richard Wilson R.A.

‘Holt Bridge On The River Dee’ By Richard Wilson RA

On the one hand, the title is plainly a pun. We might roll our eyes. On the other, it suggests that the poem will again be one in which a grand sweep of history is marshalled and expressed through succinct detail. This is the real joke, as the poem starts off in this vein but then comes to focus on the gaze, as history is abridged to the question of who is looking at whom, or even who are you looking at?

An Abridged History of the World

Near where the Romans made pottery and tiles

from the rich boulder clay the Ice Age brought,

a fourteenth century eight arch sandstone bridge

spans the River Dee, Afon Dyfrdwy,

linking Welsh Holt and English Farndon.

The bridge’s stones are from the same quarry

as Holt Castle’s, the first the invaders built.

Three centuries later the Roundheads took it.

 

Occasional salmon from the Atlantic

navigate the industrial detritus –

found downstream below Chester, upstream

above Ruabon – to spawn in the shallow,

white waters of the river’s upper reaches.

But here the current flows tawny and deep –

past grazing dairy cattle – its banks choked

with sweet-smelling Himalayan Balsam.

On the Farndon side are Triassic cliffs

from when the earth had one continent.

Ancestral dinosaurs hunted here.

 

Richard Wilson, known, although born in Wales,

as ‘the father of English landscape painting’,

and acknowledged an influence by Turner

and Constable, has, of course, in part,

romanticised the scene. The middle distance –

the bridge, which a drover and his beasts

are crossing, still then with its gate tower

– the horizon – marked by the hills and mountains

of the Clwydian range – and the light

itself are the Welsh Marches to the life.

But the foreground seems more Campagna

than Cheshire – the side from which he has painted

the scene, from somewhere above the cliffs,

below which sheep graze and, on top of which,

are four figures, one female and three male,

framed by an Italianate-looking tree and bush.

 

Perhaps they are shepherds and a shepherdess.

Certainly, the youngest male is playing a flute.

But there is irony in this eclogue.

The older three are staring at the painter.

One, a staff or gun strapped to his back,

has climbed up the cliff to get a better look.

The remaining two are a rather portly

Daphnis and Chloë. The former lies prone,

his legs crossed at the ankles, one hand

propping up his head, the other holding

what appears to be a pair of sheep shears

or a broad-bladed knife. He seems affronted,

his mouth gaping. His Chloë – in a blue dress

and white smock, her legs tucked under her –

has one hand placed both possessively and

protectively across his back. She shields,

with her other hand, her eyes from the sun,

to see more clearly what has caused her swain’s

self-righteous, tongue-tied rage.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed this selection of David’s poems. In working through his writings for this edition of Between Rivers it became obvious to me that there were certain themes which might become a focus for later editions: wildlife and industry are cases in point, and there is also more work about Richard II and Bolingbroke at Fflint castle. We will come back to these at some point. More to look forward to!

 

BETWEEN RIVERS SUMMER 2023: ANNE DOUGLAS, POET & ARTIST – ALAN HORNE

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BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series edited by Alan Horne. It is focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire. You can read about the background to Between Rivers in the Introduction.

In this August 2023 edition, we feature works by the contemporary Wrexham-based poet and artist Anne Douglas. She is a member of Cross Border Poets, based at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden in Flintshire.

Most of her poems are meditations on natural features. We start with her poem The Alyn, about one of the defining streams of the Between Rivers project. The accompanying illustration, Morning Glory, is a drawing by the poet of convolvulus, often found on the banks of the river.

The Alyn

Ambling down Rossett’s Manor Lane
Passing the River Alyn,
Part of which traverses our road
We pass trees, hedgerows and tall trees
At the side of the fence.
We hear the dulcet, lyrical sounds
Of the blackcap,
The goldfinches flitting down
Between seed head weeds.
Later, we pass woodland and pastures
On which friendly cattle graze,
Through a country garden the Alyn
flows.
We cannot follow the meandering Alyn to its end
because it disappears through
neighbouring fields,
But we meet with the Alyn later as it snakes through kingfisher country:
they fly low, skimming over water.
We stop here and listen to the sound
of the river
Eventually the river becomes one of the tributaries of the River Dee
Or the Holy Dee.

 

Part of the interest of Anne Douglas’ poems is that they often appear at first to be transparent and simple, but then give a sense of something else happening just out of view. In Rose Wall or The Close of the Day this is almost literally the case, as the world of the poem is divided by a wall. It is accompanied by the poet’s drawing Rose Hips.

Rose Wall or The Close of the Day

Near a shady wall
A rose once blossomed
Fair and tall she grew
And through a gap
Her tendril crept
To dream
Of what might lie
On the other side
She breathed out
Her fragrance more and more
It was no different
On the other side
Still she grew there
Near the shady wall
Just as she would
Scattering her fragrance
Forever and a day
Until her life ebbed away
The evening sun
At the close of  day

 

Although born in Cheshire and being a long-time resident of north-east Wales, Anne Douglas was brought up in the Far East and has travelled extensively. This is reflected in many of her poems, which are sometimes almost haunted by the memory of a distant land. Here is The Bees Must Have A Name For It.

 

The Bees Must Have A Name For It.

With the cries of the birds
Perhaps the honey-guide bird
I come across a flounce of red flowers
In a pearlescent dusk
The bees must have a name for it
Lazy-blowing fragrance
Of the carnation border
Or of the bean blossom
They must have a name for it too
In bee language
Honey flowers
Here and there
More and more
As the branch
Peeps over the garden wall
Until at length
With a final kiss from the sun
Tiny fragranced flowers close
And night has come

 

If you would like to read more of Anne Douglas’ poetry, you will find her poems in the Love Wrexham online magazine and on the Cross Border Poets site.

 

BETWEEN RIVERS SPRING 2023: ‘CONNECTIONS’  BY SARAH LEWIS & DIANA SANDERS – ALAN HORNE

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BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series edited by Alan Horne. It is focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire. You can read about the background to BETWEEN RIVERS here: https://www.davidselzer.com/2022/05/between-rivers-introduction/.

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For May 2023 we have an issue devoted to a contemporary project which combines poetry and music together with some visual art. This is Connections by Sarah Lewis and Diana Sanders, which links creative work relating to two rivers close to their respective homes, the Alun in Flintshire (the Welsh spelling is preferred to Alyn, which we use above) and the Alwen in Conwy. Connections was originally published in 2016 as a pamphlet and accompanying audio CD. Poems and artwork are by the two authors, while the music is by Diana Sanders, Pete Regan and A Handful Of Darkness. This feature presents some selected items and then, in the hope that you may like to read and listen further, we have with the authors’ permission embedded the whole pamphlet and links to other audio tracks at the end.

In the introduction, Sarah Lewis describes the village in the Alun valley where she lives.

Rhydymwyn lies in the Alun valley.  The river springs from the moors, high above Llangollen and winds its way down through the softer land, cutting through the limestone, and scooping out the valley on its way to join the Dee.  The limestone and the river shaped the industry that grew in the valley around Rhydymwyn and the remains of lead mines, mills and leetes can all be found by the sharp-eyed wanderer.  The presence of the river also influenced the sighting of a secret weapons factory during WW2.  The site, owned by DEFRA, is now a managed nature reserve and accessible to the public through membership of one of the local groups.   The camouflaged buildings, anti-spark paths, huge hangers and crumbling walls covered in old calculations and formulae, tell us of its history.  But gradually nature is reclaiming her space.  There are otters in the river, great-crested newts in the ponds, horseshoe bats in the tunnels, ravens in the woods, swallows in the hangers, grass snakes coiled under old rubble and a blissful peace that baffles and calms those who know of its turbulent past.

Diana Sanders describes her home too, and we can immediately see the contrast.

The second valley is that of the river Alwen and the village of Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr which was the inspiration behind William Wordsworth’s poem Vale of Meditation.  It lies 350 metres above sea level, on the edge of the Hiraethog Moors.  It is the home of otters, dippers, trout and salmon.  On the hilltops, overlooking the river, the landscape appears to be empty but that would not be the truth.  There are brown hares in the sheep fields.  Foxes use the single-track lanes as their own highways.  There are raptors and song birds and the occasional shy woodcock.  It is a landscape filled with streams, glacial lakes and reservoirs.  It is a land overflowing with history.  Old farmhouses lie in the bottom of reservoirs, drowned to provide water for the people of the Wirral.  Old roads can be seen disappearing into the water.  Medieval sheep enclosures make rectangular patterns in the grass and bronze age burial mounds crown hilltops.  The weather in Hiraethog can be wild, with winds that shake buildings and bring down trees.  Horizontal rain leaves sheep hunched and us miserable and yet there is something about this valley that gets under your skin and gives meaning to the word ‘Hiraeth’ – the Welsh for yearning for home.

Connections is in two parts, the first about the Alun and the second about the Alwen, with both authors contributing to each. One of the attractions for Between Rivers is that one thing the first section does is to memorialise the Valley Works, that strange and extensive site of the former weapons factory which Sarah Lewis has described in her introduction. The frontispiece for this section shows calculations written on a wall in one of the surviving buildings.

And here is a related poem by Sarah Lewis.

Silent Chemist

She’s mixing up sunlight
with carbon dioxide and water,
dispensing oxygen for us to breathe.

She lingers and goldfinches spark up
from teasels, willow-herb flames light
up the places where buildings once stood.

She’s stirring up enzymes in the born-again wood,
dissolving the limbs of willow and ash
to nourish anemones, bluebells and beetles.

Inside a bat-filled ruin, she’s covering
the walls of faded formulae,
silencing the ghosts of war-time chemists.

She’s taking back her valley.

Sarah Lewis also has a contrasting poem, Unstoppable, which gives voice to the Alun river itself. You can hear the poem, with musical accompaniment, here: Stream Unstoppable – a poem by Sarah Lewis. by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud.

The second section deals with the more untamed environment of the Hiraethog moors and the Alwen. Hares run through a number of these poems,  as if spirits of the moor. Another of the themes is the drowning of communities to create reservoirs. Here is Diana Sanders’ Llyn Brenig. (‘Llyn’ is the Welsh word for a lake.)

 

Llyn Brenig

Wind

creates shapes.

Waves curl and swarm

into a walk-on-water heron

which trembles into wood smoke

and a girl skimming stones across

the river.  River, hidden under the lake.

Full of memories and dreams and windows.

Bryn Hir, farmhouse, where wood is popping

in the hearth and flames warm chilled fingers.

Winter holds fast and the shepherd curls into his

sheep’s wool bed.   He dreams of waves

breaking in through thatch and door.

The land is sighing out an ache.

Hiraeth, home lost to flood,

Valley lane, moss soft.

Tarmac rippled.

Falling into

water.

The second section contains most of the audio tracks. Some feature the unaccompanied spoken word, others have elaborate musical accompaniment for the poems. An example of the latter is Diana Sanders’ Halloween. You can listen to it here: Stream Halloween by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud.

This is just a taster. Connections is an ambitious project of the kind that David and I hoped to discover when we started out with Between Rivers. There is much in it to see, read and listen to. Here is the complete publication:

Additional audio tracks can be found below:-

Stream Music by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Stream Like A Raven – A poem by Sarah Lewis. by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Stream You can take the river out of the moors – a poem by Sarah Lewis. Music by Diana Sanders by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Stream Origami by Sarah Lewis by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Stream Llyn Brenig by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

 All Souls by Diana Sanders by Diana Sanders (soundcloud.com)

Stream Sight And Birth by Diana Sanders | Listen online for free on SoundCloud.

I should like to thank Diana Sanders and Sarah Lewis for allowing us to make the whole of Connections available on Between Rivers.

You can see more of Sarah Lewis’ work, and her driftwood sculptures, on her Facebook page: (2) ShoreLark | Facebook

And there is more of Diana Sanders’ poetry and audio work on her Facebook page: (2) Diana Sanders – Poet and Sound Artist | Facebook

 

©Alan Horne 2023

BETWEEN RIVERS WINTER 2023: TWO POEMS BY HELEN HILL & EXCERPTS FROM ‘THE CIVIL WARS IN CHESHIRE’ BY R. N. DORE –  ALAN HORNE

BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series edited by Alan Horne. It is focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire. You can read about the background to Between Rivers in the Introduction.

This edition shifts the focus to some new locations in the Between Rivers area. First we have two short contemporary poems by Helen Hill about the Deeside strip. Then, from the 1960s, we have the historian R. N. Dore writing on the English Civil War in the area between the rivers Dee and Gowy.

 

Poems by Helen Hill

Helen Hill is a member of Crossborder Poets. She has also had an involvement with Chester Poets, and the featured poems have previously been published under the Chester Poets’ imprint, Cestrian Press. In these poems she pays attention to the modern Deeside scene. The emphasis is less on the history of heavy industry, which can become rather mythologised, and more on the present-day experience of post-industrial regeneration. She picks up on elements which will be familiar to locals, though often unremarked.

 

The Bridge to Nowhere

Meditation on the Flintshire Bridge

 

Arching , silver as salmon

over the river,

standing tall, white as heron,

wings spanning the Dee.

 

From all points of the compass,

Flint heights to Quay hill,

from Shotton over to Ness,

this bridge surprises.

 

A huge fishbone picked clean,

I love its empty space,

its silent, windswept air,

its sense of place,

 

the freedom of a road

leading nowhere,

its elegance, its art,

jewel of Flintshire.

 

Author’s note: Built in 1998, this wonderful bridge was meant to relieve the traffic in Deeside, but few locals use it and call it jokingly the road to nowhere!

 

Deeside Strip

They travel together,

the rough strip of coast road

where neon lights shudder,

the soft silver river

 

where seabirds hover.

Through blue bridge, new bridge they ride

leading parallel lives, the road and the river,

in slow ebb and flow, the Deeside divide.

 

 

Excerpts from The Civil Wars in Cheshire by R. N. Dore

 

After the First World War a network of rural community councils was set up to help small towns and villages deal with the impact of the interwar depression. Cheshire Community Council was one such. The role expanded, and in the 1960s and 70s the Council published books and periodicals relating to the county, notably A History Of Cheshire in twelve volumes. These are short books written by well-established historians who aim to synthesise knowledge about historical Cheshire for the general reader. They vary a little in readability, but there are no duds. Production values were high, and the books have stood up well to the passage of time. Looking back from our present perspective this seems a heroic investment in public education, and it is pleasing to find that the Council has not been consigned to history, a supposed dinosaur, but lives on as Cheshire Community Action.

 

Possibly the most impressive volume of the series in terms of historiography is The Civil Wars in Cheshire by R. N. Dore. Robert Dore (1906-97) was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and wrote extensively about the northwest of England in the seventeenth century. Scholarship moves on, but what lasts is Dore’s ability to write history in a clear and pithy style. Here are two brief excerpts from the book. The first describes the battle of Rowton Moor on 24 September 1645. This was the only major battle fought in relation to the siege of Chester which persisted on and off from September 1644 to February 1646 and, while not the most significant battle of the war, it represented King Charles’ best opportunity to win control of the Dee ports, to which Royalist and possibly Catholic armies could have sailed in from Ireland. The modern village of Rowton is two miles south of Chester, and Miller’s Heath (modern day Milner’s Heath) is a little farther out. Dore’s map, and his helpful guide to the commanders on either side, is reproduced below.

Here is Dore’s account of the battle. Much hinged on the arrival of Colonel General Sydnam Poyntz with the parliamentary cavalry.

Next day the King arrived, riding himself with his lifeguards and Lord Gerard’s troop of horse over the Dee bridge into the city, while the main body – almost all cavalry – under Sir Marmaduke Langdale crossed the Dee at Holt and encamped on Miller’s Heath to the south-east. They hoped the next day to block the retreat of the parliamentarians to Tarvin and trap them in the suburbs they had just captured. This possibility had already occurred to [parliamentarians] Jones and Lothian who had sent off a messenger to hunt for Poyntz the night before. On the day after the King’s arrival they had no news of him but the royalists had. The messenger found him at Whitchurch but his prompt reply – that he was marching through the night to their assistance – fell into Langdale’s hands. So when at dawn on 24th September Poyntz too arrived on Miller’s Heath he found Langdale’s force barring the way. An attempt to break through it by a charge of his advance guard failed. Therefore, he drew back and the two sides stood to arms throughout the morning while their messengers sought aid in Chester. Despite the brilliant improvisation of Colonel Geoffrey Shakerley who paddled across the Dee in a tub, parliamentarian reinforcements were sooner in the field. They had a much shorter route through the East Gate and were in any case preparing to evacuate the suburbs on an early rumour – afterwards corrected – that Poyntz had been utterly routed. The royalists on the other hand were busy removing earth and dung from the East Gate preparatory to a joint attack with Langdale on the suburbs. They had a great deal of reorganization to do and a long journey via the North Gate and the unoccupied suburbs. Early in the afternoon Jones and Colonel John Booth led out about 1,000 horse and foot heralded by two cannon shot whch caused huge enthusiasm in Poyntz’ slightly apprehensive ranks. The two forces joined late in the afternoon and Langdale, who had drawn westwards a little to avoid being caught between them accepted battle. Both armies were largely composed of cavalry and the ground was open and suitable for their operations, but Colonel Booth’s musketeers were cunningly disposed in two detachments on the inside of their wings, where they could fire into the flanks of the royalist horse. This and Poyntz’ superiority in numbers gave him the advantage and after a stiff little combat Langdale’s men fell back in some confusion. Just at this moment Gerard, with about 1,000 men from the garrison and the royal guards, was rounding the eastern suburbs to come to their aid. Seeing them pass, the ever-resourceful Lothian, although he had some men posted on the mud walls and others watching the East Gate for a sally, scraped together a little force of Cheshire foot and Salop horse under Chidley Coote and sent them out. They fell on the backs of Gerard’s men just as the latter’s van became entangled with Langdale’s fliers, and soon the whole wide heathy expanse south-east of the city, known collectively as Rowton Moor, was covered with disorderly flights and confused resistance. In one instance the advancing cavalry of Jones and Poyntz drove a mixed body of Langdale’s fliers and Gerard’s reinforcements into Coote’s men and thrust them all up against the mud walls, where Lothian’s guards fired indiscriminately upon the human sandwich. As night fell the royalists fled in all directions: some doubled back and got away over Holt bridge into Wales; others were driven over the Gowy deeper into Cheshire; others again, though with great difficulty, struggled back into Chester through the North Gate.

Dore is not just a chronicler of battles. Much of the book is devoted to explaining the social and religious conflicts driving the war and how they had local effects. One aspect was the controversy about church government. Royalists generally supported traditional church government by bishops and could therefore be accused of covert Roman Catholicism. They faced Presbyterians who wanted a less hierarchical version with councils of church elders. But once the old traditions were challenged, a myriad of voices were liberated who felt that no intermediary was needed between man and God, and the Presbyterians faced their own rebels, an upsurge of sects and religious individuals who have tended to be known as the Independents, or Dissenters. As religious freedom without political freedom was merely tolerance, which could be (and sometimes was) arbitrarily withdrawn, some of the Independents made political demands which were unprecedented at the time. This was of heightened importance as Independents were numerous in the New Model Army and enjoyed Cromwell’s sympathy: the Putney Debates were an attempt to address the resulting conflicts within the Parliamentary side. One group which emerged at the time was that of the Quakers. In our final excerpt, Dore tells of the arrival of Quakers at Malpas – between Chester and Whitchurch – and elsewhere in Cheshire.

This was the period of the wanderings of George Fox throughout the length and breadth of England, preaching the doctrine of the individual soul’s immediate contact with its maker without the necessity of church or priest. Although early Quakers, in reaction from the religio-military enthusiasm of other Puritans, were pacifists and uninterested in economic or social change, they were by no means the peaceful and co-operative members of the community that they have later become. They sought out the professional parson to bring him into confusion and disrepute, and the best opportunity for this was when the ‘hireling’, as they called him, was conducting his empty ceremonial in his ‘steeple-house’. ‘Ministers… they despised and counted as Dung of the Earth; making it their ordinary practice to disturb them in their sermons’, said Edward Burghall who several times suffered their intrusions in Acton church. To Cromwell’s soldier-administrators and magistrates they were a great problem because although they never created a disturbance themselves, their conduct in church and market place almost always provoked one. When in 1652-3 they first appeared in Cheshire, John Lawson ‘beare a public testimony against the public ministry in the public place’ in Malpas and was soon thrust out. Thomas Yarwood ‘declaring the truth’ in his birthplace, Knutsford, had violent hands laid upon him and was afterwards pursued into a private house by a man with a weapon. Major-General Worsley was obviously unsure what his attitude ought to be: he wrote to Cromwell, ‘The Quakers abound much in these countryes to the great disturbance of the best people. I have done and shall what I can but crave your Highness further orders and instructions how to deal with them’. Colonel Daniell with his Cheshire regiment in garrison in Perth was more certain as to his duty. They were ‘a canker’, and he thought it very unwise of those in charge of the army to regard them as harmless. His bitter views were partly due to the conversion of his captain-lieutenant Davenport, who had been with him fourteen years as a most reliable soldier, but ‘now the man is growne so besotted with his notions one may as well speak to the walls as him’. When he returned from leave and his soldiers saluted him, ‘the men doeing their duty by holding of their hats, he bade them put them on, he expected noe such thing from them’. As Davenport showed no sign of resigning, Daniell began to fear proselytes, which was indeed the reason why many Quaker soldiers prolonged their stay in a profession totally opposed to all their principles.

 

©Alan Horne 2023

 

BETWEEN RIVERS AUTUMN 2022: JANE BRERETON – ALAN HORNE

BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series – https://www.davidselzer.com/2022/05/between-rivers-introduction/  – focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire.

For Autumn 2022 we have a special edition devoted to a selection of the work of Jane Brereton (1685-1740), a Welsh poet writing in English:

Melissa to Sylvanus Urban: from the Gentleman’s Magazine, October 1735 (excerpt);

To Cynthio. In imitation of the thirty third Ode of the first Book of Horace;

Letter to Miss ****, In answer to hers of December 2, 1739;

An Account of the Life of Mrs BRERETON (excerpt).

 

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Jane Brereton

Jane Hughes was born in Mold in 1685. She was the only surviving child of her parents, and her father took pains with her education. She soon began writing her own poetry, and went on to live the life of an educated gentlewoman of modest means. In 1711 she married Thomas Brereton, and they moved to London to pursue their common interest in literature at a time when women poets were beginning to emerge into publication. Unfortunately, the marriage did not go well. Thomas was prone to fits of temper and failed with both money and work. In 1721 Jane separated from him and returned with their children to Mold. Thomas soon obtained a post not far away, with the Customs in Parkgate on the Wirral, and the couple’s relationship may have been cordial; but he died in an accident the following year. After that, Jane Brereton moved to Wrexham, joining the literary circle around Mary Myddelton of Croesnewydd. She lived in Wrexham until her death in 1740.

We know of Brereton for two reasons. The first is that during the 1730s she was a regular contributor of poetry, under the pen-name Melissa, to the Gentleman’s Magazine, published in London by Edward Cave: the magazine has received some attention in more recent times. The second is that, on her death, friends and supporters subscribed to a volume of her work, the splendidly titled Poems on Several Occasions: with letters to her friends and an account of her life. Copies of this, placed in the National Library of Wales and British Library, might have mouldered down the centuries but for the growth of interest in the ‘Atlantic Archipelago’ as a curative to British history focused on London or England. Thanks to the British Library’s programme of digitization, the complete work is now available for you to read online here and a facsimile paperback edition is available. Brereton features in Sarah Prescott’s Eighteenth-Century Writing From Wales: Bards and Britons, published in 2008 by the University of Wales Press.

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Four selections from Poems on Several Occasions are given here: an excerpt from the verse correspondence in the Gentleman’s Magazine; the short poem To Cynthio, an example of her more serious work; a letter to an anonymous correspondent; and an excerpt from the account of her life, which tells of her relationship with her husband, and his untimely death. Some eighteenth-century typesetting conventions are replaced for ease of reading; otherwise, the text is as in the original.

Melissa to Sylvanus Urban: from the Gentleman’s Magazine, October 1735 (excerpt).

In an era when the ability to write correspondence in verse was an educated accomplishment and a means of clarifying one’s thought, Brereton wrote a number of letter-poems, and came to public attention through those published under her pen-name Melissa in the Gentleman’s Magazine, especially in ‘the Controversy with Fidelia, Fido &c. which so agreeably entertained the Public in the Years 1734 and 1735.’ Melissa to Sylvanus Urban is one of her contributions to that controversy.

A prize of £50 had been offered for ‘the best POEM by May next on five Subjects, viz. Life, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.’ Another woman correspondent, Fidelia (possibly Kezia Wesley, youngest sister of John Wesley), responded in verses declaring that an extra zero should be added to the prize for such a task; or that an alternative prize for women could be marriage to Jonathan Swift, whose splenetic poem  The Furniture of a Woman’s Mind, had been published in the magazine. Others replied with their own displays of wit, including Melissa (Brereton), who suggested – incorrectly, it would seem – that Fidelia’s verses were really written by the editor. Brereton discussed this and further submissions with Thomas Beach, one of her friends in Wrexham. Without her knowledge, at least at first, Beach joined in the correspondence, using the name Captain Fido and posing as Fidelia’s admirer.  There was then a rather flirtatious war of wit between Melissa, Fidelia, and Captain Fido, who eventually signed off with some disparaging remarks about women writers. But Beach then wrote again, with a new persona, Mrs Prudence Manage (who has a daughter: Miss Manage). Brereton, perhaps catching on, carried out her own switch of gender: her final verses were in the name of clerical heart-throb Parson Lovemore. Our preconceptions as to what women might write about in the 1730s are set right: there is much poking of fun, discussion of who admires whom, and a joke about farting. In this excerpt, Melissa has put Captain Fido in his place, and turns her attention to Fidelia. She is responding to witticisms about her own supposedly devastating beauty. Urban is Edward Cave, who used the name Sylvanus Urban in his role as editor.

But, now, for Fidelia’s Epistle profound,-

(Which she hobbles about, like a Lancashire Round)

That her Vein is most easy, by Fido’s decreed;

But I’m greatly concern’d, now, I find she can’t read:

But to those that can, I appeal for this Truth,

That I neither pretended to Beauty, or Youth.

Whoe’er will my Lines condescend to revise,

Will find I make free with my own hollow Eyes.

‘Twas Fido, the Head of your triple Alliance,

First sent the poor Things (and my Pen) a defiance;

The innocent Peepers, he attack’d with much spight,

Abandon’d Fidelia, wou’d veil them from Light.

Yet longs for to see of my Face every Feature;

Good Urban! convey my kind Thanks to the Creature.

I hope she’ll be satisfy’d, when she is told,

Melissa declares herself – ugly and old.

And surely the Publick, will grant this Confession,

From a Woman’s own Hand, is an ample Concession!

But if Fidy persists, – I’ll here lay before ye,

For her Consid’ration, a very short Story.

A Monarch more famous for Wit, than for Grace,

Once pluck’t off a Mask, from a Lady’s foul Face;

But finding her vext, that her Face had been shewn,

He appeas’d her, by shewing a worse of his own.

My Meaning, as plain as a Pikestaff, I’ll make,

For I find dear Fidelia is apt to mistake.

‘Tis rude to expose my poor Phiz to disgrace,

Unless, like the Monarch, she’ll shew a worse Face.

As Fido to Sylvius; – so now, I declare,

If Fidy replies not; – here ends all the War.

Her Champion is gone; – and with her, I’ve done;

Who stood out a Blunderbuss, scorns a Pot-gun.

 

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To Cynthio. In imitation of the thirty third Ode of the first Book of Horace.

Away from the freedom of her informal epistolatory verse, Brereton’s serious poetry can seem rather conventional to the twenty-first century reader. This is not a matter of the rhyming couplets, peopled by Jove, Phœbus & Co., but of seemingly conventional sentiments of piety, pro-Hanoverian patriotism and Enlightenment virtues. The sketch of her life in Poems on Several Occasions says that she worried that her displays of wit might be prideful, and perhaps these were curbed in the poems. But some of the concerns which seem conventional to us were not to her. The Hanoverian settlement and the Enlightenment were battles being fought during her lifetime. The Stuart rising of 1715, which attempted to place James Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender) on the throne, took place when she was thirty; and the last burning of a woman for witchcraft in Britain was in 1727: one of Brereton’s verses refers to the Witchcraft Act of 1735, which abolished the offence. In a way Brereton was a political poet, with a new perspective as a Welsh woman. Only our distance from the events of those days causes these poems to seem conventional at first sight.

Some of the poems are more personal. An example is To Cynthio, with its wry reflections on love which, in the last verse, are suddenly turned back against the ‘I’ of the poem.

Cease, gen’rous Cynthio, cease to mourn!

And let the proud Eliza’s Scorn

No more thy Anger move:

No more in soft Complaints declare,

The giddy injudicious Fair

Prefers a meaner Love.

 

The beauteous Cloe Damon loves;

But he Corinna more approves,

Though stock’d with much Ill-nature,

While she regardless of his Sighs,

As he from Cloe, from him flies

T’embrace another Creature.

 

Thus cruel Love maintains his Sway!

The Rich, the Mean, the Rude, the Gay,

Unequal he insnares:

In vain or Sense or Merit pleads,

In vain sincerest Truth persuades;

He laughs at all our Cares!

 

E’en I this mad Caprice have prov’d,

When gentle Youths admir’d and lov’d,

And did my Grace implore:

Ill-natured Cymon I receive,

Rough as the wild Hibernian Wave,

That beats our Cambrian Shore!

 

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Letter to Miss ****, In answer to hers of December 2, 1739.

In addition to the letter-poems, five of Brereton’s prose letters are included in Poems on Several Occasions. They are discussions with friends (all anonymized by the editor) about faith, philosophy and society. They show that Brereton’s Christian belief was carefully thought through. All the letters are vivid and direct: arguably her most striking work. Brereton generally moves between protesting her lack of wit and contradicting the opinion of some established authority: in this case William Law, for whose devotional works she expressed a great, but by no means uncritical, liking despite his Jacobite loyalties. Here she takes issue with his fictional character Miranda, a model of the frugal gentlewoman. The Downs, mentioned at the end of the letter, is an anchorage off Deal in Kent, at the junction of the North Sea and the English Channel.

I grant you, Madam, that Pride is an insinuating and predominant Passion; but that there is the least Appearance, or Symptom of it, in your Letter, is what I can by no means admit. Nothing can be more just than your Sentiments of that Passion; and nothing less so, than your Application of it to yourself. There is certainly a Pleasure in the giving, or receiving a just disinterested Approbation; but I cannot believe, that a Pleasure of this Nature is either a Cause or a Consequence of Pride: On the contrary, I apprehend it to be, the pure Joy, and Satisfaction, which a benevolent Mind receives from whatever is Praise-worthy.

It must be confess’d that Pride is a sort of a Proteus; it can vary its Form, to gratify its own Vanity, or to elude Discovery: It is sometimes imperceptible, where it bears the greatest Sway; and, on the other Hand, it is often suspected to be where it really is not. As, for Instance, in the Article of Dress: A fashionable Garb, put on in a genteel Manner, is, in the Opinion of some rigid People, an infallible Indication of Pride. But if, as some have thought, (and if my Memory deceives me not, Mr Ray says) the improving and beautifying the Earth, with Plantations, Gardens &c. ought to be considered as a religious Duty; why is it not laudable in the Chief of the Creation to adorn themselves with all the Elegance of Dress, suitable to their Age and Condition, and conformable to the Mode of the Country they live in?

Some Divines have taught, that the Consideration of the richest Garments being chiefly made of the Bowels of an ugly Worm, should humble the Wearer. -True;- But may not this be an Argument for wearing that, which affords an humbling Consideration?

Mr Law, in his character of Miranda (in his Call to a devout and holy Life) says, she dresses meanly, that she may be able to support indigent Families. There are Calamities and Circumstances, which ought to be particularly considered. But, in the general, is there not greater Charity in employing the Industrious, and, consequently, preventing them from being reduc’d to Poverty, than in relieving them when they are so? There may be, I am persuaded, as much Pride in the Contempt of Dress, as in too great a Fondness of it. Who doubts, but that Diogenes was prouder in his Tub than Plato on his Carpet? The Remark which that polite Philosopher made on seeing the Cynic up to the Chin in Water was certainly very just. – But where am I rambling! – I know not how far I might have expatiated on this Topic, which you threw in my Way; had not the shocking Thought of the Situation, the mad Cynic was in, joyn’d with the severe coldness of the Weather, set me a shuddering, tho’ by a good Fire, and, happily for you, put a stop to my Speculations.

I should be glad to know the Name of the Ship, which your Friend goes in, that I may rejoyce with you, tho’ at the Distance of two hundred Miles, when I read the News, that she is safely arriv’d in the Downs, with a rich Prize.

I have made a long Paper-Visit; but as I have not been able to say any thing entertaining, I think the most obliging Thing I can do, is to take my Leave: So shall only stay to assure you, that I am,

Dear Madam!

Jan. 18, 1740                                         Yours, &c.

J.B.

 

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An Account of the Life of Mrs BRERETON (excerpt).

We might think of Brereton today as a neglected poet, but at her death more than a hundred friends and supporters subscribed so that Poems on Several Occasions might be published by Edward Cave. In addition to the poems and letters, this includes an Advertisement, possibly written by Cave, and an account of Brereton’s life. The latter tends to dwell on Brereton’s virtues rather than her acts. But the following excerpt, about her relationship with her husband and the circumstances of his death, fills out Brereton’s hints, in verses and letters, at a difficult family life; and the anonymous author’s high-mindedness combines with the folly surrounding her husband’s death to give us an absurd tragedy. In this passage there is, in addition to Brereton’s husband, another Thomas Brereton, a relative and a member of Parliament for Liverpool; Mrs Hughes is Jane Brereton prior to her marriage.

When Major Brereton died, he left his Son a considerable Fortune in Money; but being too young, and in the Management of Guardians, and his Mother marrying Captain Brown, there was not the Care taken of his Education that ought to have been: Mr Brereton was so much a fine Gentleman that he soon ran out most of his Fortune. He went over for a short Time to Paris; and, at his Return, the Earl of Stair, then Ambassador there, was pleased to recommend him, in the strongest Manner, to the Duke of Marlborough, as the Son of his old Soldier Major Brereton, and his Grace seem’d determined to provide for him if his ill State of Health had not prevented it. Some time after this, Mrs Brereton was advised, by all who had any Regard for her, to separate from her Husband: But tho’ all the Reason in the World pleaded for it, yet she express’d great Reluctance at it, especially unless she could have her Children with her; and that being at last brought about, she left London about the Year 1721, and retired to her native Country Wales, where she led a solitary Life, seeing little Company, except some intimate Friends, Persons of great Merit; well knowing what a critical Case it is to behave without the Censure of the World, when separated from an Husband. Soon after this Mr Brereton had a Post given him by the late Earl of Sunderland, belonging to the Customs at Park-Gate, near Chester. This brought him down from London. That Nobleman had promised also to advance him on the first proper Vacancy; but he liv’d not to claim it; for on the [number missing] Day of February 1722, he was unfortunately drown’d in adventurously crossing the Water of Saltney, when the Tide was coming in. His Body was afterwards found, and decently interred in Shotwick Chapel belonging to Thomas Brereton Esq; one of the Representatives in Parliament for Liverpoole, his intimate Friend and Relation, and in whose Service he lost his Life; for this Gentleman being at that Time concern’d in an Election, with a very powerful Antagonist, Mr Brereton, out of his great Zeal for his Friend, wrote a sort of Libel against the Gentleman, and in it he gave himself such a Loose as to come within the Power of the Law; upon which Mr Brereton advised him to abscond to avoid Prosecution (tho’ he highly lik’d the Piece which was written by his Instigation,) and so, by making too much Haste to get beyond the Knowledge of his Persuers, rush’d into Eternity. He was an unhappy Proof of the Prejudice of an indulgent Education. He used to say himself, that he never in his Life remembered being contradicted. His Parts were naturally very good; but entirely neglected. He was very positive and passionate; but could upon Occasion command himself surprisingly; so that while he made his Addresses to Mrs Hughes, she took him for a person of a sweet calm Temper: And his first Fit of Passion, after their Marriage, was like a Thunder-clap to her; yet he would sometimes, in a handsome Manner, acknowledge his Fault, and seem so sensible, that any, who did not know him too well, would have imagined him secure against a Relapse. He was generous to a Fault; a very indulgent Father; used frequently to admire his Wife’s Oeconomy; and confess that his Fortune must have been spent long before it was, had it not been for her surprizing Management. He was remarkable for his skill in swimming, beyond most Men, on which he relied too much, at the Time of his Death; and he was entreated by people on the Shore, not to quit his Horse, which he would do, and so perished about the two and thirtieth Year of his Age. He frequently saw his Children, while he was in that Neighbourhood, and had that Satisfaction the very Night before he was lost. So sudden a Death was an inexpressible Grief to his Wife; she could hardly support herself under the Shock; she fell into violent Faintings, when a Clergyman of great Piety, and a Lady, her intimate Friend, acquainted her with the News, tho’ she was perfectly free from any Kind of Fits, till this unhappy Accident.

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