CYCLING—PAGEANTS OF THE ROADS—ROADSIDE CREATURES—HARMONIOUS BUILDING—COLLECTING OLD FURNITURE AND CHINA.
“I may soberly confess that sometimes, walking abroad after
my studies, I have been almost mad with pleasure—the effect
of nature upon my soul having been inexpressibly ravishing
and beyond what I can convey to you.”
I suppose that the bicycle has given, and gives, as much pleasure to fairly active people as any machine ever invented. I must have been one of the first cyclists in England, as my experience dates from the days when bicycles were first imported from France. The high bicycle appeared later, but the earlier machines were about the height of the present safety, with light wooden wheels and iron tyres. The safety, with pneumatic tyres, did not arrive till nearly thirty years later, and it was the latter invention that brought about the popularity of cycling.
The difference between cycling and walking has been stated thus:
“When a man walks a mile he takes on an average 2,263 steps, lifting the weight of his body with each step. When he rides a bicycle of the average gear he covers a mile with the equivalent of 627 steps, bears no burden, and covers the same distance in less than one third of the time.”
People constantly tell me that cycling is all very well for getting from place to place, but otherwise they don’t care about it, which I can only account for by supposing that they find it a labour more or less irksome, or that they have never developed their perceptive faculties, and have no real sympathy with the life of woods and fields or the spirit of the ancient farms and villages.
Cycling to me is a very easy and pleasant exercise, but it is far more than that; it is like passing through an endless picture-gallery filled with masterpieces of form and colour. The roads of England not only present these delights to the physical sense, but they stir the imagination with historic visions from the earliest times. There are the ancient camps, now silent and deserted, which become at the bidding of fancy peopled with the unkempt and savage British, and later with their well-disciplined and well-equipped Roman conquerers: archers and men in armour appear; pilgrims’ processions such as we read of in Chaucer; knights and ladies on their stately steeds. There are the ghosts of royal progresses, kings and queens, and wonderful pageantry gorgeous in array; decorously ambling cardinals and abbots with their trains of servitors; hawking parties with hawks and attendants; soldiers after Sedgemoor in pursuit of Monmouth’s ill-fated followers; George IV. and his gay courtiers on the Brighton road; beaux and beauties in their well-appointed carriages bound for Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham, or Bath; splendid teams with crowded coaches, and great covered waggons laden with merchandise; the highwayman at dusk in quest of belated travellers, and companies of farmers and cattle-dealers riding home from market together for safety.