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22. The Thornes Of Ullathorne
On the following Sunday Mr Arabin was to read himself in at his new church. It was
agreed at the rectory that the archdeacon should go over with him and assist at the
reading-desk, and that Mr Harding should take the archdeacon's duty at Plumstead
Church. Mrs Grantly had her school and her buns to attend to, and professed that she
could not be spared; but Mrs Bold was to accompany them. It was further agreed also,
that they would lunch at the squire's house, and return home after the afternoon service.
Wilfred Thorne, Esq., of Ullathorne, was the squire of St Ewold's; or rather the squire of
Ullathorne; for the domain of the modern landlord was of wider notoriety than the fame
of the ancient saint. He was a fair specimen of what that race has come to in our days,
which a century ago was, as we are told, fairly represented by Squire Western. If that
representation be a true one, few classes of men can have made faster strides in
improvement. Mr Thorne, however, was a man possessed of quite a sufficient number
of foibles to lay him open to much ridicule. He was still a bachelor, being about fifty, and
was not a little proud of his person. When living at home at Ullathorne there was not
much room for such pride, and there therefore he always looked like a gentleman, and
like that which he certainly was, the first man in his parish. But during the month or six
weeks which he annually spent in London, he tried so hard to look like a great man
there also, which he certainly was not, that he was put down as a fool by many at his
club. He was a man of considerable literary attainment in a certain way and on certain
subjects. His favourite authors were Montaigne and Burton, and he knew more perhaps
than any other man in his own county, and the next to it, of the English essayists of the
two last centuries. He possessed complete sets of the 'Idler', the 'Spectator,' the 'Tatler,'
the 'Guardian,' and the 'Rambler;' and would discourse by hours together on the
superiority of such publications to anything which has since been produced in our
Edinburghs and Quarterlies. He was a great proficient in all questions of genealogy, and
knew enough of almost every gentleman's family in England to say of what blood and
lineage were descended all those who had any claim to be considered as possessors of
any such luxuries. For blood and lineage he himself had a must profound respect. He
counted back his own ancestors to some period long antecedent to the Conquest; and
could tell you, if you would listen to him, how it had come to pass that they, like Cedric
the Saxon, had been permitted to hold their own among the Norman barons. It was not,
according to his showing, on account of any weak complaisance on the part of his
family towards their Norman neighbours. Some Ealfried of Ullathorne once fortified his
own castle, and held out, not only that, but the then existing cathedral of Barchester
also, against one Godfrey de Burgh, in the time of King John; and Mr Thorne possessed
the whole history of the siege written on vellum, and illuminated in a most costly
manner. It little signified that no one could read the writing, as, had that been possible,
no one could have understood the language. Mr Thorne could, however, give you all the
particulars in good English, and had no objection to do so.
It would be unjust to say that he looked down in men whose families were of recent
date. He did not do so. He frequently consorted with such, and had chosen many of his