Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

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

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392
THE DUVIDNEY LADIES
CHAP.
gave the first stone basin for the spring—hence " Queen's Well"—and whose subscription of £100 led to the purchase of the pantiles that paved the walk now bearing that name. Subsequently it was called the Parade, but to the older style everyone has very sensibly reverted.
Tunbridge Wells is still a health resort, but the waters no longer constitute a part of the hygienic routine. Their com­panion element, air, is the new recuperative. Not that the spring at the foot of the Pantiles is wholly deserted: on the contrary, the presiding old lady does quite a business in filling and cleaning the little glasses ; but those visitors that descend her steps are impelled rather by curiosity than ritual, and many never try again. Nor is the trade in Tunbridge ware, inlaid work in coloured woods, what it was. A hundred years ago there was hardly a girl of any pretensions to good form but kept her pins in a Tunbridge box.
The Pantiles are still the resort of the idle, but of the anonymous rather than famous variety. Our men of mark and great Chams of Literature, who once flourished here in the season, go elsewhere for their recreation and renovation — abroad for choice. Tunbridce Wells now draws them no more than Bath. But in the eighteenth century a large print was popular containing the portraits of all the illustrious intellectuals as they lounged on the Pantiles, with Dr. Johnson and Mr. Samuel Richardson among the chief lions.
The residential districts of Tunbridge Wells —its Mounts, Pleasant, Zion and Ephraim, with their discreet and prosperous villas—suggest to me only Mr. Meredith's irreproachable Duvidney ladies. In one of these well-ordered houses must they have lived and sighed over Victor's tangled life—sur­rounded by laurels and laburnum ; the lawn either cut yesterday or to be cut to-day; the semicircular drive a miracle of gravel unalloyed; a pan of wrater for Tasso beside the dazzling step. Receding a hundred years, the same author peoples Tunbridge Wells again, for it was here, in its heyday, that Chloe suffered.
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