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THIS is the lady who, under the title of Countess of Coventry, used to make such a figure in our childhood upon some old pocket-pieces of that city. We hope she is in request there still; otherwise the inhabitants deserve to be sent from Coventry. That city was famous in saintly legends for the visit of the eleven thousand virgins-an "incredible number," quoth Selden. But the eleven thousand virgins have vanished with their credibility, and a noble-hearted woman of flesh and blood is Coventry's true immortality.

The story of Godiva is not a fiction, as many suppose it. At least it is to be found in Matthew of Westminster, and is not of a nature to have been a mere invention. Her name, and that of her husband, Leofric, are mentioned in an old chapter recorded by another early historian. That the story is omitted by Hume and others, argues little against it; for the latter are accustomed to confound the most interesting anecdotes of times and manners with something below the dignity of history (a very absurd mistake); and Hume, of whose philosophy better things might have been expected, is notoriously less philosophical in his history than in any other of his works. A certain coldness of temperament, not unmixed with aristocratical pride, or at least with a great aversion from everything like vulgar credulity, rendered his scepticism so extreme that it became a sort of superstition in turn, and blinded him to the claims of every species of enthusiasm, civil as well as religious. Milton, with his poetical eyesight, saw better, when he meditated the history of his native country. We do not remember whether he relates the present story, but we remember well, that at the beginning of his fragment on that subject, he says he shall relate doubtful stories as

well as authentic ones, for the benefit of those, if no others, who will know how to make use of them, namely, the poets.* We have faith, however, in the story ourselves. It has innate evidence enough for us, to give full weight to that of the old annalist. Imagination can invent a good deal; affection more; but affection can sometimes do things, such as the tenderest imagination is not in the habit of inventing; and this piece of noble-heartedness we believe to have been one of them.

Leofric, Earl of Leicester, was the lord of a large feudal territory in the middle of England, of which Coventry formed a part. He lived in the time of Edward the Confessor; and was so eminently a feudal lord, that the hereditary greatness of his dominion appears to have been singular, even at that time, and to have lasted with an uninterrupted succession from Ethelbald to the Conquest-a period of more than three hundred years. He was a great and useful opponent of the famous Earl Godwin.

Whether it was owing to Leofric or not, does not appear, but Coventry was subject to a very oppressive tollage, by which it would seem that the feudal despot enjoyed the greater part of the profit of all marketable commodities. The progress of knowledge has shown us how abominable, and even how unhappy for all parties, is an injustice of this description; yet it gives one an extraordinary idea of the mind in those times, to see it capable of piercing through the clouds of custom, of ignorance, and even of self-interest, and petitioning the petty tyrant to forego such a privilege. This mind was Godiva's. The other sex, always more slow to admit reason through the medium of feeling, were then occupied to the full in their warlike habits. It was reserved for a woman to anticipate ages of liberal opinion, and to surpass them in the daring virtue of setting a principle above a custom.

Godiva entreated her lord to give up his fancied right; but in vain. At last, wishing to put an end to her importunities, he told her, either in a spirit of bitter jesting, or with a playful raillery

* When Dr. Johnson, among his other impatient accusations of our great republican, charged him with telling unwarrantable stories in his history, he must have overlooked this announcement; and yet, if we recollect, it is but in the second page of the fragment. So hasty, and blind, and liable to be put to shame, is prejudice.

that could not be bitter with so sweet an earnestness, that he would give up his tax, provided she rode through the city of Coventry, naked. She took him at his word. One may imagine the astonishment of a fierce, unlettered chieftain, not untinged with chivalry, at hearing a woman, and that too of the greatest delicacy and rank, maintaining seriously her intention of acting in a manner contrary to all that was supposed fitting for her sex, and at the same time forcing upon him a sense of the very beauty of her conduct by its principled excess. It is probable, that as he could not prevail upon her to give up her design, he had sworn some religious oath when he made his promise; but be this as it may, he took every possible precaution to secure her modesty from hurt. The people of Coventry were ordered to keep within doors, to close up all their windows and outlets, and not to give a glance into the streets upon pain of death. The day came; and Coventry, it may be imagined, was silent as death. The lady went out at the palace door, was set on horseback, and at the same time divested of her wrapping garment, as if she had been going into a bath; then taking the fillet from her head, she let down her long and lovely tresses, which poured around her body like a veil; and so, with only her white legs. remaining conspicuous, took her gentle way through the streets.*

What scene can be more touching to the imagination—beauty, modesty, feminine softness, a daring sympathy; an extravagance, producing by the nobleness of its object and the strange gentleness of its means, the grave and profound effect of the most reverend custom. We may suppose the scene taking place in the warm noon; the doors all shut, the windows closed; the Earl and his court serious and wondering; the other inhabitants, many of them gushing with grateful tears, and all reverently listening to hear the footsteps of the horse; and lastly, the lady herself, with a downcast but not a shamefaced

• 66 Nuda," says Matthew of Westminster, " equum ascendens, crines capitis et tricas dissolvens, corpus suum totum, præter crura candidissima, inde velavit." See Selden's Notes to the Polyolbion of Drayton: Song 13. It is Selden from whom we learn, that Leofric was Earl of Leicester, and the other particulars of him mentioned above. The Earl was buried at Coventry; his Countess most probably in the same tomb.

eye, looking towards the earth through her flowing locks, and riding through the dumb and deserted streets, like an angelic spirit.

It was an honorable superstition in that part of the country, that a man who ventured to look at the fair saviour of his native town, was said to have been struck blind. But the vulgar use to which this superstition has been turned by some writers of late times, is not so honorable. The whole story is as unvulgar and as sweetly serious as can be conceived.

Drayton has not made so much of this subject as might have been expected; yet what he says is said well and earnestly:

-Coventry at length

From her small mean regard, recovered state and strength;
By Leofric her lord, yet in base bondage held,

The people from her marts by tollage were expelled:
Whose duchess which desired this tribute to release,

Their freedom often begged. The duke, to make her cease,
Told her, that if she would his loss so far enforce,
His will was, she should ride stark naked upon a horse
By daylight through the street: which certainly he thought
In her heroic breast so deeply would have wrought,
That in her former suit she would have left to deal.
But that most princely dame, as one devoured with zeal,
Went on, and by that mean the city clearly freed.


Pleasant Memories connected with various parts of the Metropolis.

ONE of the best secrets of enjoyment is the art of cultivating pleasant associations. It is an art that of necessity increases with the stock of our knowledge; and though in acquiring our knowledge we must encounter disagreeable associations also, yet if we secure a reasonable quantity of health by the way, these will be far less in number than the agreeable ones: for unless the circumstances which gave rise to the associations press upon us, it is only for want of health that the power of throwing off these burdensome images becomes suspended.

And the beauty of this art is, that it does not insist upon pleasant materials to work on. Nor indeed does health. Health will give us a vague sense of delight in the midst of objects that would teaze and oppress us during sickness. But healthy association peoples this vague sense with agreeable images. It will comfort us, even when a painful sympathy with the distresses of others becomes a part of the very health of our minds. For instance, we can never go through St. Giles's, but the sense of the extravagant inequalities in human condition presses more forcibly upon us; and yet some pleasant images are at hand, even there, to refresh it. They do not displace the others so as to injure the sense of public duty which they excite; they only serve to keep our spirits fresh for their task, and hinder them from running into desperation or hopelessness. In St. Giles's church lie Chapman, the earliest and best translator of Homer; and Andrew Marvell, the wit and patriot, whose poverty Charles the Second could not bribe. We are sure to think of these two men, and of all the good and pleasure they have done to the world, as of the less happy objects about us. The steeple of the church itself, too, is a handsome one; and there is a flock of pigeons in that neighbor

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