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LAYS

OF

LOWLY LIFE.

BY

RUTH WILLS.

" Le bon Dieu me dit, Chante,
Chante pauvre petit.”

Beranger.

LONDON:
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND CO.

LEICESTER: PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY WINKS AND SON.

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PREFACE.

In offering this small volume of verse to the public, I have no better apology to make, than to say that I do so by the advice of friends whose taste and judgment have been publicly acknowledged. It was suggested to me at first by one with whom I have accounted it my highest privilege to be acquainted, and to whose words of wisdom and eloquence it has been for the last few years the great joy of my life to listen; I refer to the late Rev. Dr. LEGGE, whose unexpected removal from our midst, while this little book has been going through the press, has been to me as to many others, an almost overwhelming sorrow, and has taken away the chief pleasure I should have had in its appearance. Had he been spared a little longer he would himself have introduced it to the public, and I should have had the great gratification of being allowed to dedicate it to him. He is gone; and earth has lost a portion of its glory, but heaven has an added splendour. There is nothing left me now but to treasure up some of the beautiful thoughts to which he gave utterance, and let them be to me as when first spoken, an inspiration and a joy. The elegiac verses which conclude the volume feebly, but sincerely, express my deep sense of the loss I have sustained.

If the reading of these pieces shall lead any in my own station to discover that their minds need not be wholly absorbed by their efforts to procure a maintenance, that it is possible for the soul to rise above the low level even when the hands are engaged in the most ordinary occupations, if it shall teach them that there is for them as well as for their more favoured brethren a world of beauty and charm, in which the reason may expatiate, and the fancy

“ wander at its own sweet will,"

then I shall be truly glad that I have followed the advice of those whose good opinion I have been so fortunate as to win, and am most solicitous to retain.

To the dear friends whose generous help has enabled me to bring out this little book, I take the present opportunity of returning my warmest acknowledgments, and not more for their ready assistance than for their kindly and heartily expressed sympathy, which has been to me most sweet and encouraging, assuring them at the same time that I quite despair of ever deserving half the kindness I have already received at their hands.

To those whom curiosity or kind interest may inspire with a wish to know more of the belongings and surroundings of the author of these humble “ Lays,” I commend the following sketch.

LEICESTER, MARCH, 1861.

P.S.-For a description of Bradgate Park, see Appendix.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

In endeavouring to recall the scenes and circumstances of my early days, I find but little that appears to me worth relating. My parents were poor and illiterate; but they belonged to that illustrious band who are “rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven," and they sought, by every means in their power to bring up their children to honest and industrious habits, and to instil into their minds sentiments of piety and virtue. Among my earliest recollections is that of being sent to a Dame's school, where I imagine I could not have been a very docile pupil, as I well remember some rather sharp contests carried on between the good old dame and myself concerning the pronunciation of certain words, and for which, as I would not give up my own opinion, I received some floggings.

When five years old I was received into the Bond Street Sunday School; and to this circumstance I recur with feelings of warmest gratitude, as I owe to it, under the blessing of God, more both intellectually and spiritually, than to any other influences.

At seven an irreparable loss befell me in the death of my beloved father, who had been a most affectionate parent. He had served in the army, and was stationed with his regiment at Madras for eleven years; and many were the tales with which he was wont to amuse his children of that land of the sun. I fancy that his descriptions of the tiger-haunted jungles, of the luxuriant vegetation, and of the poor soldier's weary march under the glowing sky of the tropics, must have been tolerably graphic, at any rate they took great hold of my imagination, for I used to dream of them years afterwards. My loss, I said, was irreparable, though, of course, I was too young to know its full extent; but I learned some lessons from the meek

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