Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

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

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24                           GILBERT WHITE IN SUSSEX                     chap.
other than soothing and still: no stress of weather produces in them any of that sense of fatality that one is conscious of in Westmoreland. Thunder-clouds empurple the turf and blacken the hangers, but they cannot break the imperturbable equanimity of the line; rain throws over the range a gauze veil of added softness; a mist makes them more wonderful, unreal, romantic; snow brings them to one's doors. At sunrise they are magical, a background for Malory; at sunset they are the lovely home of the serenest thoughts, a spectacle for Marcus Aurelius. Their combes, or hollows, are then filled with purple shadow cast by the sinking sun, while the summits and shoulders are gold.
Gilbert White has an often-quoted passage on these hills :— " Though I have now travelled the Sussex downs upwards of thirty years, yet I still investigate that chain of majestic moun­tains with fresh admiration year by year, and I think I see new beauties every time I traverse it. This range, which runs from Chichester eastward as far as East Bourn, is about sixty miles in length, and is called the South Downs, properly speaking, only round Lewes. As you pass along you command a noble view of the wild, or weald, on one hand, and the broad downs and sea on the other. Mr. Ray used to visit a family [Mr. Court-hope, of Danny] just at the foot of these hills, and was so ravished with the prospect from Plumpton Plain, near Lewes, that he mentions those scapes in his Wisdom of God in the Works of the Creation with the utmost satisfaction, and thinks them equal to anything he had seen in the finest parts of Europe. For my own part, I think there is somewhat pecu­liarly sweet and amusing in the shapely-figured aspect of the chalk hills in preference to those of stone, which are rugged, broken, abrupt, and shapeless. Perhaps I may be singular in my opinion, and not so happy as to convey to you the same idea; but I never contemplate these mountains without think­ing I perceive somewhat analogous to growth in their gentle swellings and smooth fungus-like protuberances, their fluted
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