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 When I am dead, my body shall go back To the hills between the Ridgeway and the Sea—
To the Earthworks and terracing and ancient bridle-track
To the Dorset hills my heart has held in fee;
My limbs that thrived on them shall be their very own,
I shall live again in little wayside flowers;
My flesh and bones and sinew shall give life to trees
And my spirit shall in ancient towers.
When I am dead, my dust shall mix with clay,
And "" some dew-pond on the hill,
So every Dorset lad who drinks upon his way
Will somehow lead me back to Dorset still.
Dorchester deserves to be chosen as the headquarters of the earliest of a series of excursions in Dorset, not only by reason of the position which it holds in the country, but also on account of the multitude of interesting surroundings which claim the attention of the literary pilgrim, the antiquary and the archæologist. The town is on a hill which slopes on the one side to the valley of the Frome, and extends on the other in an open country, across which run the Roman roads, still used as the highways. The principal thoroughfares divide Dorchester pretty equally, the High Street intersecting it from east to west, the South Street and North Market in the opposite direction. On the south-west is the suburb of Fordington. The principal street—on the line of the Via Iceniana—ends at the fields, and on the south and west is the rampart, planted with rows of sycamore and trees as a walk.
Daniel Defoe, in his whimsical description of his pilgrimage From London to Land's End, published in 1724, gives an entertaining survey of the town at that period. He says: "Dorchester is indeed a pleasant, agreeable town to live in, and where I thought the people seemed less divided in and parties than in other places; for though here are divisions, and the people are not all of one mind, either as to religion or politics, yet they did not seem to separate with so much animosity as in other places. Here I saw the Church of England clergyman and the minister or preacher drinking tea together, and with civility and good neighbourhood, like Catholic and men of a catholic and extensive charity. The town is , though not large; the streets broad; but the buildings old and low. However, there is good company, and a good deal of it; and a man that a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time, and as well, in Dorchester as in any town I know in England.... There are abundance of good families and of very ancient lines in the neighbourhood of this town of Dorchester, as the Napiers, the Courtneys, Strangeways, Seymours, Banks, Tregonwells, Sydenhams, and many others, some of which have very great estates in the county, and in particular Colonel Strangeways (ancestor of the present Earl of Ilchester), Napier (ancestor of the present Lord Arlington) and Courtney."
As to the healthiness of Dorchester, the editors of Hutchins's second edition wrote: "The pleasant and healthy situation of this town deserves an . The famous Doctor Arbuthnot, coming hither in his early days with a view to settle in it, gave as a reason for his departure that 'a physician could neither live nor die in Dorchester.'"
St Peter's Church, a venerable , occupies a prominent position at the of the four streets and rises in its tower to a height of ninety feet. It is a well-proportioned building, with Norman porch and some monuments, with , to Lord Holles of Ifield and to two unknown Crusaders, in coats of mail, with their legs crossed.
In the north wall of the chancel is placed an altar-tomb, which is supposed to be that of the . A mural tablet on the south wall THOMAS , Esquire, of Melcombe Regis, who founded and endowed the Free Grammar School.
There were two , now lost, one on the chancel floor, on grey stone, over the of a woman kneeling, reading:
"Miserere mei d's s'dum magnum mi'am tuam."
The other:
"Hic jacet Johanna de Sto. Omero, relicta Rob'bi More, qui obiit in vigilia ste. Trinitatis sc'do Die mensis Anno D'ni MCCCCXXXVI. Cuj'. a'ie p'piciet' D. Amen."
Tradition says that the church was by "Geoffrey Van, his wife Anne and his maid Nan." Two of the six bells are mediæval. Close to the south porch is a bronze statue of William Barnes. His learning, his writings and poems in the Dorset dialect, his to his poor and his parish made him universally beloved. The pedestal bears the simple : "William Barnes. 1801-1886," and the following lines from his poem, Culverdell and the :
"Zoo now I hope his feace
Is gone to vind a better pleace,
But still we' vo'k a-left behind,
He'll always be a-kept in mind."
On 3rd September 1685 Judge Jeffreys opened his Assize at Dorchester. Lord Macaulay says: "By order of the Chief Justice, the court was hung with , and this innovation seemed to the multitude to indicate a bloody purpose. More than 300 prisoners were to be tried. The work seemed heavy, but Jeffreys had a contrivance for making it light. He let it be understood that the only chance of obtaining pardon or was to plead guilty. Twenty-nine who put themselves on their country, and were convicted, were ordered to be tied up without delay. The remaining prisoners pleaded guilty by the score. Two hundred and ninety-two received sentence of death." Thirteen were executed here on 7th September. The formidable judge's chair is preserved in the Town Hall, and visitors are shown the timber house in High Street West at which, tradition hath it, this judge .
Dorchester its name from the ancient Roman name of Durnovaria, and Thomas Hardy has transferred part of this Latinity in writing of Fordington as "Durnover" in his novels. Close to the London and South-Western Railway station, on the Weymouth Road, is a field, now a municipal pleasure ground, containing what is called Maumbury Rings—a large, oval, , curved like a horseshoe. This great earthen ring, which it is estimated would hold 10,000 spectators, is supposed to be the work of man, adapted by the Romans to the purposes of an amphitheatre. Extensive were carried on in the amphitheatre by the British Archæological Association and the Dorset Field Club during five summers—1908, 1909, 1910, 1912 and 1913—and among many interesting finds by the archæologists' spade must be mentioned the oblong cave at the east end, probably for the of beasts, prehistoric in which picks of red-deer antlers, worked flints, etc., were found, human skeletons , and a well of the Civil War period, during which the symmetrical terraces were added to the original ancient banks.
A crowd of 10,000 people is said to have been gathered upon it at the execution of Mary Channing, the wife of a grocer at Dorchester, who was strangled and burnt in the for poisoning her husband in 1705.
The Via Iceniana or Icknield Street came out of Wiltshire by Blandford to Dorchester and strikes on towards the west by Eggerdun Hill, about ten miles from the town, where it is clearly marked.
A Roman road went from Dorchester to Ilchester, by Bradford and Stratton, so called as the Stret-tun, the village on the Roman or road.
"It is impossible," writes Mr Hardy, "to dig more than a foot or two deep about the town, fields and gardens without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the Empire, who had lain there in his silent, unobtrusive rest for one thousand five hundred years. He was mostly found lying on his side, in an oval in the chalk, like a chicken in its shell, his knees up to his chest, sometimes with the of his spear against his arm, a fibula or brooch of bronze on his breast or forehead, an at his knees, a jar at his throat, a bottle at his mouth, and mystified poring down upon him from the eyes of boys and men who had turned to gaze at the familiar spectacle as they passed on."
In the excavations made when Mr Hardy's house at Max Gate was commenced graves were discovered, of which Mr Hardy wrote: "In two of them, and I believe in a third, a body lay on its right side, the knees being drawn up to the chest and the arm extended , so that the hand rested against the ankles. Each body was fitted with, one may almost say, perfect accuracy into the oval hole, the crown of the head the chalk at one end and the toes at the other, the tight-fitting situation being strongly suggestive of the chicken in the egg-shell."
Maiden Castle, the Mai Dun or "Hill of Strength," one of the finest old camps in England, is situated most to the right of a Roman road (now the Weymouth highway). It may astonish the traveller by the scale of its three earthen ramparts, the innermost being sixty feet in height and a mile or more in . It is about two and a quarter miles south-west from the centre of the town, and may be reached by continuing on through Cornhill, crossing the bridge over the Great Western Railway and turning to the right just beyond it. Here, where the road reaches the open, the left-hand track must be followed. On climbing to the camp the pilgrim will find that these ramparts are as steep as they are lofty, and that they are pierced by intricate entrances formed by the ends of the valla and additionally strengthened by outworks. The view is commanding, but not for beauty, the principal features being the Roman roads from Dorchester and the innumerable barrows which dot the hills near the sea. Opinions differ as to the origin of this remarkable hill , but the weight of authority is in favour of its construction by the Britons and its subsequent occupation as a summer camp by the Roman troops stationed at Dorchester.
The visitor will be interested in the old inns of Dorchester. In High Street East stands, just as described in The Mayor of Casterbridge, that fine and most comfortable of country hotels—the King's Arms. From a on the opposite side of the street Susan and Elizabeth-Jane, amid the crowd, witnessed the dinner given to the mayor. Through the archway of this inn Boldwood carried Bathsheba, fainting at the news of her husband's death. From the diary of a landowner of the neighbourhood (Mr Richards, of Warmwell), written more than a hundred and fifty years ago, we find that the King's Arms and were Dorchester inns in his days, as he writes that on Saturday, 13th October 1697, he "agreed wth Captn Sidenham, at the Antelope in Dorchestr, for 100 great bushells of his choice oats, at 6s. 8d. pr sack," and at other times dined and other business there; and at the King's Arms bought "choice early pease for seed at 3s. 6d. per bushell."
At the Antelope Hotel, which is in South Street, Lucetta, passing through the town on her way to Budmouth (Weymouth), appoints to meet Henchard, but is not on the coach she mentioned. The White Hart stands at the east entrance to the town, close to the bridge. Here Troy lay in hiding, planning his surprise return to Bathsheba; we also encounter this inn again in The Arm. Gertrude came here on her fatal visit to Casterbridge .
On the opposite side of the road to the King's Arms the pilgrim may still take his ale at the Phœnix, the scene of Janny's last dance in Wessex Poems. In The Mayor of Casterbridge Hardy mentions a low inn in Mixen Lane (Mill Lane, Dorchester) frequented by all sorts of bad characters. In early editions it is called "St Peter's Finger," and it would seem that the author borrowed this curious name from a genuine inn sign at Lychett Minster. The real inn was called the King's Head, which has now been pulled down.
The Grammar School is in South Street, an Elizabethan foundation, built in 1569, endowed with a small farm at Frome Vauchurch, and some houses in the town, by Thomas Hardy, Esq., of Melcombe Regis. Additions were made to it in 1618, on ground given by Sir Robert Napper.
Close to the school are Napier's Almshouses, called Napper's , founded in 1616 by Sir Robert Napier for ten poor men, who have a weekly and a small section of garden ground. The front, which opens into a small , bears a clock, on a large stone ogee-corbelled bracket, a model of one that bears the sign of the old George, or Pilgrim's, Inn at Glastonbury.
The Hangman's Cottage, mentioned in the story of The Withered Arm, is still extant. It is a small grey cottage in the meadows by the Frome, opposite the gaol. It is one of a cluster of cottages built of flint and chalk, faced with red brick and strengthened with iron ties.
The Bull Stake and the gaol, both of which figure in the novels, are in North Square, near St Peter's and the Corn Exchange. Approaching the Frome, we pass close to the Friary Mill (the old mill of the suppressed Franciscan Priory), near which was Jopp's cottage, to which Henchard after his . "Trees, which seemed old enough to have been planted by the friars, still stood around, and the back hatch of the original mill yet formed a which had raised its terrific roar for centuries. The cottage itself was built of old stones from the long Priory, of tracery, moulded window-jambs and arch-labels being mixed in with the of the walls." The remains of the Priory ruins were used up as building material and no trace is left. The prison was largely built from its remains, while in its turn it is said to have been erected from the ruins of a castle built by the Chidiocks.
In South Street we shall find the High Place Hall, which was Lucetta's house. It stands at the corner of Durngate Street, but the façade has been modernised and the lower portion has been converted into business . The depressing mask which formed the Keystone of the back door was taken from Colyton House, in another part of the town. If we go to the bottom of South Street and take the turning to the left we quickly come to a quiet byway on the right near the shire hall, called Glydepath Road. On the left of this narrow thoroughfare is the early eighteenth-century called Colyton House. Here will be found the long filled-in archway, with the mask as its keystone: "Originally the mask had exhibited a comic leer, as could still be discerned; but generations of Casterbridge boys had thrown stones at the mask, aiming at its open mouth, and the blows thereat had chipped off the lips and as if they had been eaten away by disease." The building to which the archway belongs was the county town residence of the Churchills. This is Lucetta's house as to character, though not as to situation.
Just beyond the White Hart we come to the first of the two bridges (the second, Grey's Bridge, being only a few hundred yards farther along) which have their parts in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Thomas Hardy has described these bridges and has upon the habits of their frequenters:
"Two bridges stood near the lower part of Casterbridge (Dorchester) town. The first, of weather-stained brick, was immediately at the end of High Street, where a diverging branch from that thoroughfare ran round to the low-lying Durnover lanes, so that the precincts of the bridge formed the merging-point of respectability and . The second bridge, of stone, was farther out on the highway—in fact, fairly in the meadows, though still within the town boundary.... Every in each was worn down to , partly by weather, more by from generations of loungers, whose toes and heels had from year to year made restless movements against these parapets, as they had stood there on the aspect of affairs.
"To this pair of bridges gravitated all the failures of the town.... There was a marked difference of quality between the personages who haunted the near bridge of brick and the personages who haunted the far one of stone. Those of lowest character preferred the former, adjoining the town; they did not mind the glare of the public eye.... The miserables who would pause on the remoter bridge were of a politer stamp."
Dorchester has now lost its fame for beer. But about 1725 the ale of this town acquired a very great name. In Byron's manuscript journal (since printed by the Chetham Society) the following entry appears:—
"May 18, 1725. I found the effect of last night drinking that foolish Dorset, which was pleasant enough, but did not at all agree with me, for it made me stupid all day."
A mighty local reputation had "Dorchester Ale," and it still commands a local influence, for this summer I was advised by the waiter of the Phœnix Hotel to try a bottle of "Grove's Stingo" made in the town. It is a beverage—and needs to be treated with respect, to be drunk slowly and in moderation. Thomas Hardy thus describes this wonderful stuff, the "pale-hued Dorchester" in his novel, The Major:
"In the liquor line Loveday laid in an ample barrel of Dorchester strong beer.... It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; , yet without a twang; as an autumn sunset; free] from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady."
Francis Fawkes, in his song of the Brown (1720-1777), mentions the "Dorchester ," and perhaps the Dorset reader, with, it may be, some tender memories of his own, will fancifully identify "sweet Nan of the Vale" with another maid down Blackmore Vale way.
"Dear Tom, this brown jug that now with mild ale
(In which I will drink to sweet Nan of the Vale),
Was once Toby Fillpot, a thirsty old soul
As e'er drank a bottle or fathom'd a bowl;
In boosing about 'twas his praise to excel,
And among jolly topers he bore off the bell.
It chanced as in dog-days he sat at his ease
In his flow'r-woven arbour as gay as you please,
With a friend and a pipe sorrows away,
And with honest old stingo was soaking his clay,
His breath-doors of life on a sudden were shut,
And he died full as big as a Dorchester butt.
His body, when long in the ground it had lain,
And time into clay had resolved it again,
A potter found out in its so ,
And with part of fat Toby he form'd this brown jug:
Now sacred to friendship and mirth and mild ale,—
So here's to my lovely sweet Nan of the Vale!"
Far from the Madding Crowd is a novel concerned with Dorchester and the neighbourhood, most of the incidents happening in "Weatherbury" (Puddletown) and "Casterbridge" (Dorchester). On market day at Dorchester one still meets prosperous farmers, stiffly dressed children, lean, tanned, rough-necked labourers caged in their Sunday clothes and horse-dealers in grey gaiters and black hats, and it is not difficult to up a picture of the hiring fair mentioned by Hardy, where Gabriel Oak appeared in search of a situation as bailiff. It will be recalled that Bathsheba was in the habit of attending the Casterbridge market to sell her corn, and here she met William Boldwood, who attracted her attention on account of his to her. Bathsheba comes before us with her " in the " in the place of her uncle. We can picture her with her beautiful black hair and soft, eyes attracting considerable attention as she displayed her sample bags, "adopting the professional pour into the hand, holding up the grains in her narrow palm for in perfect Casterbridge manner." There was "an in her firmness that removed it from obstinacy," and "a naïveté in her cheapening which saved it from meanness." In a "Casterbridge shop Bathsheba bought the valentine which she sent to Boldwood to tease him. It was this fatal valentine that drew his attention to Bathsheba, and caused him to fall strongly in love with her, and in the end to shoot Troy dead. After this deed Boldwood travelled over Mellstock Hill and Durnover (Fordington Moor) into Casterbridge, and turning into "Bull-Stake Square," halted before an archway of heavy stonework which was closed by an iron-studded pair of doors," and gave himself up for murder.
The White Hart Tavern at "Casterbridge" serves to call to the reader's mind the reappearance of Sergeant Troy, in propria persona, after playing the part of Turpin in a circus at Greenhill Fair.
Yellowham Wood, "Yallam" Wood locally, and the "Yalbury Wood" of Far from the Madding Crowd, is about three miles from Dorchester on the road to Puddletown. In a keeper's cottage here dwelt sweet Fancy Day, and here it was, as told in another novel, that Joseph Poorgrass had the experience the recounting of which used to put that most bashful of men to the blush. "Once he had been working late at Yalbury Bottom, and had had a drop of drink, and lost his way as he was coming home along through Yalbury Wood.... And as he was coming along in the middle of the night, much afeared, and not able to find his way out of the trees nohow, a' cried out, 'Man-a-lost! Man-a-lost!' An in a tree happened to be crying 'Whoo-whoo whoo!' as do, you know, Shepherd, and Joseph, all in a tremble, said, 'Joseph Poorgrass, of Weatherbury, sir!' 'No, no, now, that's too much,' said the timid man.... 'I didn't say sir.... I never said sir to the bird, knowing very well that no man of a gentleman's rank would be hollerin' there at that time o' night. "Joseph Poorgrass, of Weatherbury," that's every word I said, and I shouldn't ha' said that if't hadn't been for keeper Day's metheglin.'"
Here, as in many other passages, Hardy shows his minute knowledge of nature. He appears to know every sight and sound of animal and bird life, at all seasons of the year. Some readers have perhaps, as they walked in the woods just before the thrushes and blackbirds have finished their evensong, heard the note of the brown owl—a long and somewhat tremulous "Whoo-oo." It is a very musical note, and it does not at all resemble Shakespeare's "To-whit, tu-whoo," which so many other writers have copied. Long may the brown owl live to chant his dim song in "Yallam" Wood—and long may he escape the gun and trap of the gamekeeper! For, of all the cursed and things in this world, there is nothing that is worse than the trap that some beautiful wild thing and keeps it prisoner for long hours in patient suffering, unrelieved of any hope but of being torn from the cruel teeth and dashed to death against a wall. Yet thousands of owls have been destroyed for the sake of a few pheasants in the , and after all the done by and owls has been greatly exaggerated—it is part of the ignorance of the . Perhaps if we are in ferny of Yellowham Woods "when light on dark is growing" we may hear that curious sound which has been compared to the of a duck with a sore throat, and after it a sound not unlike a dog might make while scratching at a rat-hole. This is a hedgehog taking his constitutional. The witch in Macbeth says, "Thrice the hedgepig whines," but as my acquaintance with "hedgepigs" goes, their conversation is limited to a "" and a "snuff."
Fordington is a large suburb adjoining Dorchester. The Church of St George is a fine old edifice, with a tall battlemented tower which is a for those approaching the town by road. Within is a stone pulpit dated "1592, E.R." Over the top of a doorway of the south porch there is a of great representing a vision of St George at the battle of Antioch. The saint, mounted, has thrust his spear into the mouth of a Saracen soldier with great force and unerring aim. He looks very bored and might be saying: "This is very tame sport to one who is accustomed to dragons." No doubt the semi-prone Saracen, who is trying to pull the spear out of his mouth, feels very bored too!
Away to the east of Fordington is the little village of Stinsford, which is reached by leaving Dorchester by the road leading east to Puddletown and bearing to the right soon after leaving the town. This is the "Mellstock" of the tale, Under the Greenwood Tree. In the churchyard of the ivy-covered church there are tombstones of members of the Hardy family, and on the face of the tower there is a bas-relief of St Michael. The parish school is one in which Fancy Day is introduced as the new teacher at Mellstock in Under the Greenwood Tree. "The Fiddler of the Reels," Mop Ollamore, whose skill with the produced a "moving effect" on people's souls, lived in one of the thatched cottages of this village.
To the south of Dorchester are the Winterborne villages, all places of rural content, in the shallow valley of a stream which only becomes visible in the winter. The church of Winterborne Steepleton possesses an ancient stone steeple. In the porch—a cool grey place on the hottest day—there are stone seats and flagstones of antiquity, and on the outer wall is an angel carved in stone which is said to date from before the Conquest. The most interesting of the Winterbornes is Came. Barnes, the Dorset poet, was rector here for the last twenty-five years of his life. The church is a thirteenth-century building, hidden in a hollow among flowers, paths, outbuildings and cottages of an unattractive mansion. Barnes is buried beneath a simple cross in the churchyard. Herringtone adjoins Came, and its chief feature is the old manor-house, the seat of the Herring family, and, since James I.'s , of the Williamses. Winterborne Monkton and Winterborne St Martin are both contiguous to Maiden Castle. The old church of the former has been much restored; that of the latter contains a Norman font and some old stone shafts near the altar.
The pilgrim who shall elect to reach Abbotsbury will find a road, which forks by a picturesque old pond, about half-an-hour's walk towards Winterborne Abbas.
It will be noticed in some of Hardy's novels that the name of a village or town will often crop up in the name of a character, as, for instance, Jude Fawley living in Marygreen, which may be identified with the village of Fawley Magna, in Berkshire; and the name of the schoolmaster of Leddenton, really the village of Gillingham, near Shaftesbury, is Gillingham. It was at Fawley Magna church that Phillotson and Sue were married after she had parted from Jude: "A tall new building of German Gothic design, to English eyes, had been erected on a new piece of ground by a certain of historic records who had run down from London and back in a day. The site whereon so long had stood the ancient temple to the divinities was not even recorded on the green and level grass-plot that had immemorially been the churchyard, the graves being by ninepenny cast-iron crosses warranted to last five years."
The unusual way in which the town of Dorchester met in one line with the open country is described by Hardy: "The farmer's boy could sit under the and pitch a stone into the office window of the town clerk ... the red-robed judge, when he a sheep-stealer, pronounced sentence to the of Baa, that floated in from the remainder of the flock hard by; and at executions the waiting crowd stood in a meadow immediately before the drop out of which the cows had been temporarily driven to give the spectators room."
The intermixture of town and country life is again touched upon in a of Fordington: "Here wheat ricks overhung the old Roman street, and thrust their eaves against the church tower; great thatched barns with as high as the gates of Solomon's Temple opened directly upon the main thoroughfare. Barns, indeed, were so numerous as to alternate with every half-dozen houses along the way. Here lived burgesses who daily walked the fallow—shepherds in an intramural squeeze."
The original manuscript of The Mayor of Casterbridge, which is described in the Dorchester Guide by Pouncy (published by Longman, Cornhill Press, Dorchester), as "an example of rare beauty of penmanship and of absorbing interest, especially in regard to the " is now in the Dorset County Museum. The leaves of the manuscript have been bound in book form, and Captain Acland, the Curator, informs me the has resulted in the edges of the paper being cut, and the top edges being . Let us hope that the marginal notes have not been maimed by the binder's guillotine—that is, if any marginal notes were added. However, the "absorbingly interesting alterations" are not yet for the public gaze, and Captain Acland was immovable before my to be allowed to make notes on them.
A most interesting from Dorchester is along the Sherborne Road for eight miles to Cerne Abbas. The road from Dorchester bears to the left not far from the Great Western Railway and follows the River Frome. A mile along the road on the right, lying back and surrounded by trees, is Wolverton House, which figures in Hardy's Group of Noble . This was formerly the seat of the Trenchards, and is an interesting fifteenth-century house which has obtained a in history thus: "In this house John Russel, Esq., of Berwick, laid the foundation of the honours and fortunes of the illustrious family of the Duke of Bedford. Having resided some years in Spain, he was sent for by his relation, Sir Thomas Trenchard, to attend and entertain the Arch-Duke of Austria, King of Castile, who recommended him to the notice of King Henry VII., who took him into favour, and appointed him one of the Gentlemen of his ; and afterwards recommended him to his son Henry VIII." (Hutchins). The Russels were seated at Kingston Russel, where their old manor-house still remains. Wolverton was in later days the scene of a recorded by Aubrey. The chief feature of the hall was a screen carven with the effigies of the kings of England; and "on the third of Nov., 1640, the day the Long Parliament began to sit, the sceptre fell from the figure of King Charles the First, while the family and a large company were at dinner in the parlour." No wonder, when the Trenchard of that day proved a sturdy rebel, and did yeoman service for the Parliament in the county.
Lady Penelope, in Hardy's A Group of Noble Dames, was not an imaginary character, but a noble in real life. She was a daughter of Lord Darcy and in turn married George Trenchard, Sir John and Sir William Hervey. She is described in Hardy's story as "a lady of noble family and extraordinary beauty. She was of the purest descent.... She no great wealth ... but was endowed. Her beauty was so perfect, and her manner so entrancing, that suitors seemed to spring out of the ground wherever she went." The three suitors mentioned above would not be , and she jestingly promised to marry all three in turn. In the end Fate that her jest should fall true. First Penelope married Sir George Trenchard, who in the course of a few months died. A little while after she became the wife of Sir John Gale, who treated her rather badly. Two or three years after he died and Sir William Hervy came forward. In a short time she became Hervy's wife, and thus her promise, which was made so lightly, became an established fact. But the canker-worm of attributed the death of Sir John Gale to poison given him by his wife, and Sir William, believing it, went abroad and remained there. Penelope divined the cause of his departure, and she grieved so much that at last nothing—not even Sir William's return—availed to save her, and she died broken-hearted. Sir William afterwards was assured by the doctor who had examined Gale's body that there was no ground for the cruel suspicions, and that his death resulted from natural causes.
The road continues through Charminster, a large and village, and to Godmanston, five miles from Dorchester.
A mile beyond, the road still rising, is Cerne, with a tiny church, situated. Steadily climbing another two miles, we reach Cerne Abbas, an exceedingly interesting little place, surrounded by chalk hills, on the River Cerne. It derives its distinguishing name from an abbey, which was founded in memory of Edmund the , King of East Anglia, who met his death at the hands of the Danes A.D. 870. It was erected about a hundred years later and was a place of some importance. Canute the church. Here Margaret of Anjou sought refuge on the day following her landing at Weymouth, when she received tidings of the defeat of her cause at the battle of Barnet, 1471. The remains consist of a gate-house, bearing the escutcheon of the abbey, and those of the Earl of Cornwall, Fitz-James and Beauford; the abbey-barn, a long, building, and some traces of the park and gardens.
The church, to St Mary, is of style and supposed to have been built by the abbots.
Immediately above the town rises a lofty , popularly called the Giant's Hill, from an figure cut on its chalky surface. It represents a man, 180 feet in height, holding in his right hand a club and stretching the other. "Vulgar tradition," says Britton, "makes this figure the destruction of a giant, who, having feasted on some sheep in Blackmoor, and laid himself to sleep on this hill, was down, like another Gulliver, and killed by the peasants, who immediately traced his dimensions for the information of ." On the summit of the hill is an called Trendle (i.e. a circle, Saxon). The Cerne giant is believed by some authorities to be of Phœnician origin and to represent Baal, but no one really knows much about him, and, it must be also added, the Dorset rustic cares very little about the matter.

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