England without and Within

By Richard Grant White; Hamlet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI.
THE HEART OF ENGLAND.

IT was on a bright Sunday morning in October that I set out from Warwick for Stratford-on-Avon. Autumn was more than half gone; and yet the almost cloudless sky was one of a succession of smiling welcomes which, meeting me in the southern counties, had gone with me to Cambridge and to Oxford, and now followed me into Warwickshire, the heart of England, for so this most midland shire is called.

I see that I have just spoken of southern counties and a midland shire. It cannot be strictly said that those two parts of the country are thus distinguished; but although "shire" and "county" are synonyms to a certain extent, there is a difference in their use which is in a certain degree distinctive. Although shire is the older and the truly English word, all the shires are counties, but all the counties are not shires. Kent, Sussex, Essex, Surrey, Norfolk, and Suffolk are not called shires; and their people speak of going to or coming from "the shires", meaning the ??est of England. I observed evidences of some little local pride in these people who "did not belong to the shires." Whence is the origin of this pride I do not certainly know; but I am inclined to think that it has two causes quite unsuspected by the people who have it, the feeling being traditional, while the facts from which it sprung are long forgotten. These

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