Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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80                    THE MILLER AND SWEET DEATH               chap.
a mania. His coffin was made while he was still a young man, and it remained under his bed until its time was ripe, fitted— to bring it to a point of preparedness unusual even with the Chinese, those masters of anticipatory obsequies—with wheels, which the miller, I doubt not, regularly oiled. John Oliver did not stop there. Having his coffin comfortably at hand, he proceeded to erect his tomb. This was built in 1766, with tedious verses upon it from the miller's pen ; while in an alcove near the tomb was a mechanical arrangement of death's-heads which might keep the miller's thoughts from straying, when, as with Dr. Johnson's philosopher, cheerfulness would creep in.
The miller lived in the company of his coffin, his tomb, and his mementi mori, until 1793, when at the age of eighty-four his hopes were realised. Those who love death die old.
Between two and three thousand persons attended the funeral; no one was permitted to wear any but gay clothes ; and the funeral sermon was read by a little girl of twelve, from the text, Micah vii. 8, 9.
The mill of John Oliver has vanished, nothing but a de­pression in the turf now indicating where its foundations stood. Too many Sussex windmills have disappeared. Clayton still has her twain, landmarks for many miles—I have seen them on exceptionally clear days from the Kentish hills—and other windmills are scattered over the county; but many more than now exist have ceased to be, victims of the power of steam. There is probably no contrast aesthetically more to the disadvantage of the modern substitute than that of the steam mill of to-day with the windmill of yesterday. The steam mill is always ugly, always dusty, always noisy, usually in a town. The windmill stands high and white, a thing of life and radiance and delicate beauty, surrounded by grass, in communion with the heavens. Such noise as it has is elemental, justifiable, like a ship's cordage in a gale. No one would paint a steam mill; a picture with a windmill can hardly be a failure. Constable, who knew everything about
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