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whom was George Bridges, now Lord Chandos, a boy of about twelve years of age. Both mother and children, we chance to know, lived at Harefield with the grandmother in 1631; and the estate of Harefield itself, we also learn, was to descend, after the Countess-Dowager's death, to Lady Chandos, otherwise left "destitute," and so to her son, young Lord Chandos. (2.) An additional group of relatives, also sharing the affections of the venerable Lady of Harefield, consisted of the children of her youngest daughter, the Countess of Huntingdon : viz. Ferdinando, Lord Hastings, twenty-two years of age, and heir-apparent to the earldom of Huntingdon; his younger brother Henry, afterwards Lord Loughborough; a daughter, Alice, married to Sir Gervase Clifton; and another daughter, Elizabeth. These four grandchildren would sometimes be on visits to their grandmother at Harefield from their own homes in London, Ashbyde-la-Zouch, and elsewhere. (3.) There was still a third group of relatives around the venerable lady. At or near the time when she herself had married the Lord Keeper Egerton, as we have seen, her second daughter by her former husband, Lady Frances Stanley, had married the Lord Keeper's son, Sir John Egerton. When his father was raised to the peerage as Baron Ellesmere (1603), this Sir John Egerton had become "baron-expectant,' - a designation which rose to the higher one of "Lord Egerton" when his father was made Viscount Brackley (1616). On his father's death, a few months afterwards (March 1616-17), he succeeded him as Viscount. But his dignities did not stop at that point. In May 1617, an earldom which had been intended for the father, in recognition of his long services as Lord Chancellor, was bestowed on the son, and he became Earl of Bridgewater. Thus the Countess-Dowager of Derby saw her second daughter, as well as her youngest, take rank as a Countess. A far larger family of children had been born to this daughter than to either of her sisters. Out of fifteen children, born in all, at least ten were alive in 1633, in order of age as follows: the Lady Frances Egerton, married to Sir John Hobart, of Blickling, Norfolk; the Lady Arabella, married to Lord St. John of Bletso, son and heir of the Earl of Bolingbroke; the Ladies Elizabeth, Mary, Penelope, Catherine, Magdalen, and Alice, yet unmarried,—the last, Lady Alice, being in her thirteenth or fourteenth year; John,
Viscount Brackley, the son and heir, in his twelfth year; and his brother, Mr. Thomas Egerton, about a year younger. The London head-quarters of this numerous family, or of such of them as were unmarried, were the Earl of Bridgewater's town-house in the Barbican, Aldersgate Street; their country seat was the Earl's mansion of Ashridge, Hertfordshire, about sixteen miles from Harefield.
We are now prepared to understand the exact circumstances of the Arcades. Some time in 1633, if that was the year, some of the younger members of the different groups of the relatives of the Dowager Countess of Derby determined to get up an entertainment in her honour, at her house at Harefield. The occasion may have been the aged lady's birthday, or it may have been some incidental gathering at Harefield for a family purpose. Whatever it was, the young people had resolved to amuse themselves by some kind of festivity in compliment to the venerable lady of whom they were all so proud. What could it be but a masque? Harefield with its avenue of elms called "the Queen's Walk" in memory of Queen Elizabeth's visit, and with its fine park of grassy slopes and well-wooded knolls, was exactly the place for a masque; besides which, was not the Countess accustomed to this kind of entertainment? Would it not be in good taste to remind her of the masques and similar poetical and musical entertainments that had pleased her in her youth, when she had been the theme of Spenser's muse, and had sat by the side of her first husband, Lord Strange, beholding plays brought out under his patronage? Masques, indeed, were even more in fashion now, in the reign of Charles I., than they had been in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, and a masque in a noble family on any occasion of family-rejoicing was the most natural thing in the world.
There was then to be a masque, or at least a bit of a masque, at Harefield; and the actors were already provided. But for a good masque, or even a good bit of a masque, more is required than willing actors. Who was to write the words for the little masque, and who was to set the songs in it to music?
The latter question may be answered first. There can be little doubt that the person to whom the young people of the family of the Countess-Dowager of Derby trusted for all the
musical requisites of the masque, if not the person who suggested it originally and entirely superintended it, was Henry Lawes, gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and one of his Majesty's private musicians. Farther particulars respecting this interesting man, one of the most celebrated musical composers of his day, will be given in the Introduction to that one of Milton's Sonnets which is addressed to him (Sonnet XIII.) What we have to attend to here is that, though Lawes had professional connexions with not a few aristocratic families, by far the most lasting and intimate of these was with the Bridgewater branch of the Countess-Dowager of Derby's family. As early as our present date, the proof tends to show, Lawes, then about thirty years of age, and already of distinction in the English musical world, though with much of his reputation still to make, reckoned among his chief patrons and employers the Earl and Countess of Bridgewater; and among his most hopeful pupils at that time were several of the children of the Earl and Countess. Others of the Countess of Derby's grandchildren may have been pupils of Lawes ; but those of the Bridgewater branch were the most musical in their tastes, and it was to them, in their town-house in the Barbican, or in their country-seat at Ashridge, that Lawes's visits were most frequent. Quite possibly, therefore, it was they that originated the notion of a masque in honour of the Countess. But, even if some of her relatives of the other groups were concerned in the plan, or admitted into it, the singing parts would fall to the Bridgewaters, and the arrangement of the music, and the general management, to their instructor, Lawes. Business of this kind was part of the profession of musical composers in those days, and Lawes was an expert in it.
An additional argument in favour of the idea that Lawes was the manager of the entertainment and arranged its music is found in the fact that the poetry for it was furnished by Milton. For Milton's intimacy with Lawes is a known fact. The friendship between the two, of which many interesting proofs remain, may have begun even in Milton's boyhood. Noted in the musical world as was Milton's own father, there can have been few musical artists in London that were not occasional visitors in his house in Bread Street; and there were many things in Lawes, when once he and the younger Milton were brought together, to rivet an attachment to him.
On the other hand, Milton's poetical powers must have been well known to Lawes. Accordingly, when the notion of the masque at Harefield had been started, and Lawes and his Bridgewater pupils were busy over the project, it was to Milton that Lawes applied for the necessary words or libretto. Horton, where Milton was then probably residing, is within about ten miles, cross country, from Harefield. Wherever it was that the two met to consult, Lawes about thirty-three years of age and Milton eight years younger, we can see what happened. Lawes explained to Milton the circumstances of the proposed entertainment and the kind of thing that was wanted; and Milton, meditating the affair for a few days, produced Arcades or The Arcadians.
Let the reader now go back in imagination to Harefield, on a spring or summer evening two hundred and fifty years ago. Certain revels or pageants in the grounds have perhaps preceded, and the time, we say, seems now to be evening. Harefield House is lit up; and in front of it, on a throne of state arranged so as to glitter in the light, is seated the aged Countess, with the seniors of the assembled party around her as spectators. Suddenly torches are seen flickering among the trees in the park, and out from among those trees, towards where the Countess is sitting, there bursts a band of nymphs and shepherds. They are, in fact, some noble persons of her family who appear on the scene in pastoral habit, moving toward the seat of state." When they have approached near enough, they pause, as if overcome by the splendour of the vision before them; and then one voice breaks out from the rest in recognition of the Countess. This is the first Song: :
"Look, Nymphs and Shepherds, look!
Is that," etc.
This song ended, the nymphs and shepherds renew their approach to the object of their wonder; but, "as they come forward, the Genius of the Wood [Lawes ?] appears, and turning toward them speaks." The speech of this Genius of the Wood is in eighty-three lines of blank verse. In it the Genius first addresses the shepherds, or male performers in the masque, and tells them he recognises them, through their disguise, as noble Arcadians; then he addresses the nymphs
in a similar strain; then, after introducing himself as the Genius of the Wood, describing his occupations in that capacity, and descanting on his particular affection for music, and his desire to do his best in that art in praise of her whom he had often admired in secret as the Queen of the place, and whom his auditory have come to gaze upon, he offers to lead them to her. Accordingly, lute or other instrument in hand, he advances, with this song, sung probably in solo :—
"O'er the smooth enamelled green,
Where no print of step hath been,
Following him, accordingly, the masquers do obeisance to the Lady, and range themselves round her; whereupon there is a third and concluding song, sung probably by many voices, madrigal-wise, and ending with a repetition of the final words of the previous song :—
"Such a rural Queen
All Arcadia hath not seen."
The entertainment was probably not yet over: but whatever more of it there was, out-of-doors or indoors, was not of Milton's composition.
The Countess-Dowager of Derby survived the entertainment only a few years. She died at Harefield, January 26, 1636-7. Her estate of Harefield descended to Lady Chandos, then her only remaining daughter, and so came to her grandson, Lord Chandos, and his heirs; but in 1675 it was purchased back by Sir Richard Newdegate, Bart., of Arbury, Warwickshire, whose family had been the original possessors of the property, but had parted with it in 1585. Accordingly, Harefield is now in possession of the Newdegates. The place is worth visiting, not only as the scene of the Arcades, but for other reasons. Harefield House indeed has disappeared. It was burnt down by accident in 1660. But the pedestrian on the road from Uxbridge to Rickmansworth may still identify the site of the house by one or two mounds and hollows, and a large cedar of Lebanon, on the quiet slopes behind Harefield Church; and in the church itself he may see, besides other antiquities of interest, the tomb of the heroine of the Arcades. It is a richly-sculptured and heraldically emblazoned marble monument, exhibiting the