Part 5 out of 10
knees, I made shift to limp along, bent almost double, and ended by sitting
down for a couple of hours, and looking about me, in a country which would
have seemed dreary enough, I suppose, to any one but a freshly-liberated
captive, such as I was. At last I got up and limped on, stiffer than ever
from my rest, when a gig drove past me towards Cambridge, drawn by a stout
cob, and driven by a tall, fat, jolly-looking farmer, who stared at me as
he passed, went on, looked back, slackened his pace, looked back again, and
at last came to a dead stop, and hailed me in a broad nasal dialect--
"Whor be ganging, then, boh?"
"Thew'st na git there that gate. Be'est thee honest man?"
"I hope so," said I, somewhat indignantly.
"A tailor," I said.
"Tailor!--guide us! Tailor a-tramp? Barn't accoostomed to tramp, then?"
"I never was out of London before," said I, meekly--for I was too worn-out
to be cross--lengthy and impertinent as this cross-examination seemed.
"Oi'll gie thee lift; dee yow joomp in. Gae on, powney! Tailor, then! Oh!
ah! tailor, saith he."
I obeyed most thankfully, and sat crouched together, looking up out of
the corner of my eyes at the huge tower of broad-cloth by my side, and
comparing the two red shoulders of mutton which held the reins, with my own
wasted, white, woman-like fingers.
I found the old gentleman most inquisitive. He drew out of me all my
story--questioned me about the way "Lunnon folks" lived, and whether they
got ony shooting or "pattening"--whereby I found he meant skating--and
broke in, every now and then, with ejaculations of childish wonder, and
clumsy sympathy, on my accounts of London labour and London misery.
"Oh, father, father!--I wonders they bears it. Us'n in the fens wouldn't
stand that likes. They'd roit, and roit, and roit, and tak' oot the
dook-gunes to un--they would, as they did five-and-twenty year agone. Never
to goo ayond the housen!--never to go ayond the housen! Kill me in a three
months, that would--bor', then!"
"Are you a farmer?" I asked, at last, thinking that my turn for questioning
"I bean't varmer; I be yooman born. Never paid rent in moy life, nor never
wool. I farms my own land, and my vathers avore me, this ever so mony
hoondred year. I've got the swoord of 'em to home, and the helmet that they
fut with into the wars, then when they chopped off the king's head--what
was the name of um?"
"Charles the First?"
"Ees--that's the booy. We was Parliament side--true Britons all we was,
down into the fens, and Oliver Cromwell, as dug Botsham lode, to the head
of us. Yow coom down to Metholl, and I'll shaw ye a country. I'll shaw
'ee some'at like bullocks to call, and some'at like a field o' beans--I
wool,--none o' this here darned ups and downs o' hills" (though the country
through which we drove was flat enough, I should have thought, to please
any one), "to shake a body's victuals out of his inwards--all so flat as a
barn's floor, for vorty mile on end--there's the country to live in!--and
vour sons--or was vour on 'em--every one on 'em fifteen stone in his shoes,
to patten again' any man from Whit'sea Mere to Denver Sluice, for twenty
pounds o' gold; and there's the money to lay down, and let the man as
dare cover it, down with his money, and on wi' his pattens, thirteen-inch
runners, down the wind, again' either a one o' the bairns!"
And he jingled in his pockets a heavy bag of gold, and winked, and
chuckled, and then suddenly checking himself, repeated in a sad, dubious
tone, two or three times, "Vour on 'em there was--vour on 'em there was;"
and relieved his feelings by springing the pony into a canter till he came
to a public-house, where he pulled up, called for a pot of hot ale, and
insisted on treating me. I assured him that I never drank fermented
"Aw? Eh? How can yow do that then? Die o' cowd i' the fen, that gate, yow
would. Love ye then! they as dinnot tak' spirits down thor, tak' their
pennord o' elevation, then--women-folk especial."
"Oh! ho! ho!--yow goo into druggist's shop o' market-day, into Cambridge,
and you'll see the little boxes, doozens and doozens, a' ready on the
counter; and never a ven-man's wife goo by, but what calls in for her
pennord o' elevation, to last her out the week. Oh! ho! ho! Well, it keeps
women-folk quiet, it do; and it's mortal good agin ago pains."
"But what is it?"
"Opium, bor' alive, opium!"
"But doesn't it ruin their health? I should think it the very worst sort of
"Ow, well, yow moi soy that-mak'th 'em cruel thin then, it do; but what can
bodies do i' th'ago? Bot it's a bad thing, it is. Harken yow to me. Didst
ever know one called Porter, to yowr trade?"
I thought a little, and recollected a man of that name, who had worked with
us a year or two before--a great friend of a certain scatter-brained Irish
lad, brother of Crossthwaite's wife.
"Well, I did once, but I have lost sight of him twelve months, or more."
The old man faced sharp round on me, swinging the little gig almost over,
and then twisted himself back again, and put on a true farmer-like look of
dogged, stolid reserve. We rolled on a few minutes in silence.
"Dee yow consider, now, that a mon mought be lost, like, into Lunnon?"
"Why, yow told o' they sweaters--dee yow think a mon might get in wi' one
o' they, and they that mought be looking for un not to vind un?"
"I do, indeed. There was a friend of that man Porter got turned away from
our shop, because he wouldn't pay some tyrannical fine for being saucy, as
they called it, to the shopman; and he went to a sweater's--and then to
another; and his friends have been tracking him up and down this six
months, and can hear no news of him."
"Aw! guide us! And what'n, think yow, be gone wi' un?"
"I am afraid he has got into one of those dens, and has pawned his clothes,
as dozens of them do, for food, and so can't get out."
"Pawned his clothes for victuals! To think o' that, noo! But if he had
work, can't he get victuals?"
"Oh!" I said, "there's many a man who, after working seventeen or eighteen
hours a day, Sundays and all, without even time to take off his clothes,
finds himself brought in in debt to his tyrant at the week's end. And if
he gets no work, the villain won't let him leave the house; he has to stay
there starving, on the chance of an hour's job. I tell you, I've known half
a dozen men imprisoned in that way, in a little dungeon of a garret, where
they had hardly room to stand upright, and only just space to sit and work
between their beds, without breathing the fresh air, or seeing God's sun,
for months together, with no victuals but a few slices of bread-and-butter,
and a little slop of tea, twice a day, till they were starved to the very
"Oh, my God! my God!" said the old man, in a voice which had a deeper
tone of feeling than mere sympathy with others' sorrow was likely to have
produced. There was evidently something behind all these inquiries of his.
I longed to ask him if his name, too, was not Porter.
"Aw yow knawn Billy Porter? What was a like? Tell me, now--what was a like,
in the Lord's name! what was a like unto?"
"Very tall and bony," I answered.
"Ah! sax feet, and more? and a yard across?--but a was starved, a was a'
thin, though, maybe, when yow sawn un?--and beautiful fine hair, hadn't a,
like a lass's?"
"The man I knew had red hair," quoth I.
"Ow, ay, an' that it wor, red as a rising sun, and the curls of un like
gowlden guineas! And thou knew'st Billy Porter! To think o' that, noo."--
Another long silence.
"Could you find un, dee yow think, noo, into Lunnon? Suppose, now,
there was a mon 'ud gie--may be five pund--ten pund--twenty pund, by
* * *--twenty pund down, for to ha' him brocht home safe and soun'--Could
yow do't, bor'? I zay, could yow do't?"
"I could do it as well without the money as with, if I could do it at all.
But have you no guess as to where he is?"
He shook his head sadly.
"We--that's to zay, they as wants un--hav'n't heerd tell of un vor this
three year--three year coom Whitsuntide as ever was--" And he wiped his
eyes with his cuff.
"If you will tell me all about him, and where he was last heard of, I will
do all I can to find him."
"Will ye, noo? will ye? The Lord bless ye for zaying that." And he grasped
my hand in his great iron fist, and fairly burst out crying.
"Was he a relation of yours?" I asked, gently.
"My bairn--my bairn--my eldest bairn. Dinnot yow ax me no moor--dinnot
then, bor'. Gie on, yow powney, and yow goo leuk vor un."
Another long silence.
"I've a been to Lunnon, looking vor un."
"I went up and down, up and down, day and night, day and night, to all
pot-houses as I could zee; vor, says I, he was a'ways a main chap to drink,
he was. Oh, deery me! and I never cot zight on un--and noo I be most spent,
And he pulled up at another public-house, and tried this time a glass of
brandy. He stopped, I really think, at every inn between that place and
Cambridge, and at each tried some fresh compound; but his head seemed, from
habit, utterly fire-proof.
At last, we neared Cambridge, and began to pass groups of gay horsemen, and
then those strange caps and gowns--ugly and unmeaning remnant of obsolete
The old man insisted on driving me up to the gate of * * * College, and
there dropped me, after I had given him my address, entreating me to "vind
the bairn, and coom to zee him down to Metholl. But dinnot goo ax for
Farmer Porter--they's all Porters there away. Yow ax for Wooden-house
Bob--that's me; and if I barn't to home, ax for Mucky Billy--that's my
brawther--we're all gotten our names down to ven; and if he barn't to home,
yow ax for Frog-hall--that's where my sister do live; and they'll all veed
ye, and lodge ye, and welcome come. We be all like one, doon in the ven;
and do ye, do ye, vind my bairn!" And he trundled on, down the narrow
I was soon directed, by various smart-looking servants, to my cousin's
rooms; and after a few mistakes, and wandering up and down noble courts and
cloisters, swarming with gay young men, whose jaunty air and dress seemed
strangely out of keeping with the stem antique solemnity of the Gothic
buildings around, I espied my cousin's name over a door; and, uncertain how
he might receive me, I gave a gentle, half-apologetic knock, which,
was answered by a loud "Come in!" and I entered on a scene, even more
incongruous than anything I had seen outside.
"If we can only keep away from Jesus as far as the corner, I don't care."
"If we don't run into that first Trinity before the willows, I shall care
with a vengeance."
"If we don't it's a pity," said my cousin. "Wadham ran up by the side of
that first Trinity yesterday, and he said that they were as well gruelled
as so many posters, before they got to the stile."
This unintelligible, and to my inexperienced ears, irreverent conversation,
proceeded from half a dozen powerful young men, in low-crowned
sailors' hats and flannel trousers, some in striped jerseys, some in
shooting-jackets, some smoking cigars, some beating up eggs in sherry;
while my cousin, dressed like "a fancy waterman," sat on the back of a
sofa, puffing away at a huge meerschaum.
"Alton! why, what wind on earth has blown you here?"
By the tone, the words seemed rather an inquiry as to what wind would be
kind enough to blow me back again. But he recovered his self-possession in
"Delighted to see you! Where's your portmanteau? Oh--left it at the Bull!
Ah! I see. Very well, we'll send the gyp for it in a minute, and order some
luncheon. We're just going down to the boat-race. Sorry I can't stop, but
we shall all be fined--not a moment to lose. I'll send you in luncheon as
I go through the butteries; then, perhaps, you'd like to come down and see
the race. Ask the gyp to tell you the way. Now, then, follow your noble
captain, gentlemen--to glory and a supper." And he bustled out with his
While I was staring about the room, at the jumble of Greek books,
boxing-gloves, and luscious prints of pretty women, a shrewd-faced, smart
man entered, much better dressed than myself.
"What would you like, sir? Ox-tail soup, sir, or gravy-soup, sir? Stilton
cheese, sir, or Cheshire, sir? Old Stilton, sir, just now."
Fearing lest many words might betray my rank--and, strange to say, though
I should not have been afraid of confessing myself an artisan before the
"gentlemen" who had just left the room, I was ashamed to have my low estate
discovered, and talked over with his compeers, by the flunkey who waited on
them--I answered, "Anything--I really don't care," in as aristocratic and
off-hand a tone as I could assume.
"Porter or ale, sir?"
"Water," without a "thank you," I am ashamed to say for I was not at that
time quite sure whether it was well-bred to be civil to servants.
The man vanished, and reappeared with a savoury luncheon, silver forks,
snowy napkins, smart plates--I felt really quite a gentleman.
He gave me full directions as to my "way to the boats, sir;" and I started
out much refreshed; passed through back streets, dingy, dirty, and
profligate-looking enough; out upon wide meadows, fringed with enormous
elms; across a ferry; through a pleasant village, with its old grey church
and spire; by the side of a sluggish river, alive with wherries. I had
walked down some mile or so, and just as I heard a cannon, as I thought,
fire at some distance, and wondered at its meaning, I came to a sudden bend
of the river, with a church-tower hanging over the stream on the opposite
bank, a knot of tall poplars, weeping willows, rich lawns, sloping down to
the water's side, gay with bonnets and shawls; while, along the edge of
the stream, light, gaudily-painted boats apparently waited for the
race,--altogether the most brilliant and graceful group of scenery which I
had beheld in my little travels. I stopped to gaze; and among the ladies on
the lawn opposite, caught sight of a figure--my heart leapt into my mouth!
Was it she at last? It was too far to distinguish features; the dress was
altogether different--but was it not she? I saw her move across the lawn,
and take the arm of a tall, venerable-looking man; and his dress was the
same as that of the Dean, at the Dulwich Gallery--was it? was it not?
To have found her, and a river between us! It was ludicrously
miserable--miserably ludicrous. Oh, that accursed river, which debarred me
from certainty, from bliss! I would have plunged across--but there were
three objections--first, that I could not swim; next, what could I do when
I had crossed? and thirdly, it might not be she after all.
And yet I was certain--instinctively certain--that it was she, the idol of
my imagination for years. If I could not see her features under that little
white bonnet, I could imagine them there; they flashed up in my memory as
fresh as ever. Did she remember my features, as I did hers? Would she know
me again? Had she ever even thought of me, from that day to this? Fool!
But there I stood, fascinated, gazing across the river, heedless of the
racing-boats, and the crowd, and the roar that was rushing up to me at the
rate of ten miles an hour, and in a moment more, had caught me, and swept
me away with it, whether I would or not, along the towing-path, by the side
of the foremost boats.
And yet, after a few moments, I ceased to wonder either at the Cambridge
passion for boat-racing, or at the excitement of the spectators. "_Honi
soit qui mal y pense_." It was a noble sport--a sight such as could only be
seen in England--some hundred of young men, who might, if they had chosen,
been lounging effeminately about the streets, subjecting themselves
voluntarily to that intense exertion, for the mere pleasure of toil.
The true English stuff came out there; I felt that, in spite of all
my prejudices--the stuff which has held Gibraltar and conquered at
Waterloo--which has created a Birmingham and a Manchester, and colonized
every quarter of the globe--that grim, earnest, stubborn energy, which,
since the days of the old Romans, the English possess alone of all the
nations of the earth. I was as proud of the gallant young fellows as if
they had been my brothers--of their courage and endurance (for one could
see that it was no child's-play, from the pale faces, and panting lips),
their strength and activity, so fierce and yet so cultivated, smooth,
harmonious, as oar kept time with oar, and every back rose and fell in
concert--and felt my soul stirred up to a sort of sweet madness, not merely
by the shouts and cheers of the mob around me, but by the loud fierce pulse
of the rowlocks, the swift whispering rush of the long snake-like eight
oars, the swirl and gurgle of the water in their wake, the grim, breathless
silence of the straining rowers. My blood boiled over, and fierce tears
swelled into my eyes; for I, too, was a man, and an Englishman; and when I
caught sight of my cousin, pulling stroke to the second boat in the long
line, with set teeth and flashing eyes, the great muscles on his bare arms
springing up into knots at every rapid stroke, I ran and shouted among the
maddest and the foremost.
But I soon tired, and, footsore as I was, began to find my strength fail
me. I tried to drop behind, but found it impossible in the press. At last,
quite out of breath, I stopped; and instantly received a heavy blow from
behind, which threw me on my face; and a fierce voice shouted in my ear,
"Confound you, sir! don't you know better than to do that?" I looked up,
and saw a man twice as big as myself sprawling over me, headlong down the
bank, toward the river, whither I followed him, but alas! not on my feet,
but rolling head over heels. On the very brink he stuck his heels into the
turf, and stopped dead, amid a shout of, "Well saved, Lynedale!" I did not
stop; but rolled into some two-feet water, amid the laughter and shouts of
I scrambled out, and limped on, shaking with wet and pain, till I was
stopped by a crowd which filled the towing-path. An eight-oar lay under the
bank, and the men on shore were cheering and praising those in the boat for
having "bumped," which word I already understood to mean, winning a race.
Among them, close to me, was the tall man who had upset me; and a very
handsome, high-bred looking man he was. I tried to slip by, but he
recognized me instantly, and spoke.
"I hope I didn't hurt you much, Really, when I spoke so sharply, I did not
see that you were not a gownsman!"
The speech, as I suppose now, was meant courteously enough. It indicated
that though he might allow himself liberties with men of his own class, he
was too well bred to do so with me. But in my anger I saw nothing but the
words, "not a gownsman." Why should he see that I was not a gownsman?
Because I was shabbier?--(and my clothes, over and above the ducking they
had had, were shabby); or more plebeian in appearance (whatsoever that may
mean)? or wanted something else, which the rest had about them, and I had
not? Why should he know that I was not a gownsman? I did not wish,
of course, to be a gentleman, and an aristocrat; but I was nettled,
nevertheless, at not being mistaken for one; and answered, sharply enough--
"No matter whether I am hurt or not. It serves me right for getting among
you cursed aristocrats."
"Box the cad's ears, Lord Lynedale," said a dirty fellow with a long
pole--a cad himself, I should have thought.
"Let him go home and ask his mammy to hang him out to dry," said another.
The lord (for so I understood he was) looked at me with an air of surprise
and amusement, which may have been good-natured enough in him, but did not
increase the good-nature in me.
"Tut, tut, my good fellow. I really am very sorry for having upset you.
Here's half-a-crown to cover damages."
"Better give it me than a muff like that," quoth he of the long pole; while
I answered, surlily enough, that I wanted neither him nor his money, and
burst through the crowd toward Cambridge. I was so shabby and plebeian,
then, that people actually dare offer me money! Intolerable!
The reader may say that I was in a very unwholesome and unreasonable frame
So I was. And so would he have been in my place.
THE LOST IDOL FOUND.
On my return, I found my cousin already at home, in high spirits at having,
as he informed me, "bumped the first Trinity." I excused myself for my
dripping state, simply by saying that I had slipped into the river. To tell
him the whole of the story, while the fancied insult still rankled fresh in
me, was really too disagreeable both to my memory and my pride.
Then came the question, "What had brought me to Cambridge?" I told him all,
and he seemed honestly to sympathize with my misfortunes.
"Never mind; we'll make it all right somehow. Those poems of yours--you
must let me have them and look over them; and I dare say I shall persuade
the governor to do something with them. After all, it's no loss for you;
you couldn't have got on tailoring--much too sharp a fellow for that;--you
ought to be at college, if one could only get you there. These sizarships,
now, were meant for--just such cases as yours--clever fellows who could not
afford to educate themselves; if we could only help you to one of them,
"You forget that in that case," said I, with something like a sigh, "I
should have to become a member of the Church of England."
"Why, no; not exactly. Though, of course, if you want to get all out of the
university which you ought to get, you must do so at last."
"And pretend to believe what I do not; for the sake of deserting my own
class, and pandering to the very aristocrats, whom--"
"Hullo!" and he jumped with a hoarse laugh. "Stop that till I see whether
the door is sported. Why, you silly fellow, what harm have the aristocrats,
as you call them, ever done you? Are they not doing you good at this
moment? Are you not, by virtue of their aristocratic institutions, nearer
having your poems published, your genius recognized, etc. etc., than ever
you were before?"
"Aristocrats? Then you call yourself one?"
"No, Alton, my boy; not yet," said he quietly and knowingly. "Not yet: but
I have chosen the right road, and shall end at the road's end; and I advise
you--for really, as my cousin, I wish you all success, even for the mere
credit of the family, to choose the same road likewise."
"Come up to Cambridge, by hook or by crook, and then take orders."
I laughed scornfully.
"My good cousin, it is the only method yet discovered for turning a snob
(as I am, or was) into a gentleman; except putting him into a heavy cavalry
regiment. My brother, who has no brains, preferred the latter method. I,
who flatter myself that I have some, have taken the former." The thought
was new and astonishing to me, and I looked at him in silence while he ran
"If you are once a parson, all is safe. Be you who you may before, from
that moment you are a gentleman. No one will offer an insult. You are good
enough for any man's society. You can dine at any nobleman's table. You can
be friend, confidant, father confessor, if you like, to the highest women
in the land; and if you have person, manners, and common sense, marry one
of them into the bargain, Alton, my boy."
"And it is for that that you will sell your soul--to become a hanger-on of
the upper classes, in sloth and luxury?"
"Sloth and luxury? Stuff and nonsense! I tell you that after I have taken
orders, I shall have years and years of hard work before me; continual
drudgery of serving tables, managing charities, visiting, preaching, from
morning till night, and after that often from night to morning again.
Enough to wear out any but a tough constitution, as I trust mine is. Work,
Alton, and hard work, is the only way now-a-days to rise in the Church, as
in other professions. My father can buy me a living some day: but he
can't buy me success, notoriety, social position, power--" and he stopped
suddenly, as if he had been on the point of saying something more which
should not have been said.
"And this," I said, "is your idea of a vocation for the sacred ministry? It
is for this, that you, brought up a dissenter, have gone over to the Church
"And how do you know"--and his whole tone of voice changed instantly
into what was meant, I suppose, for a gentle seriousness and reverent
suavity--"that I am not a sincere member of the Church of England? How do
you know that I may not have loftier plans and ideas, though I may not
choose to parade them to everyone, and give that which is holy to the
"I am the dog, then?" I asked, half amused, for I was too curious about his
state of mind to be angry.
"Not at all, my dear fellow. But those great men to whom we (or at least I)
owe our conversion to the true Church, always tell us (and you will feel
yourself how right they are) not to parade religious feelings; to look upon
them as sacred things, to be treated with that due reserve which springs
from real reverence. You know, as well as I, whether that is the fashion
of the body in which we were, alas! brought up. You know, as well as I,
whether the religious conversation of that body has heightened your respect
for sacred things."
"I do, too well." And I thought of Mr. Wigginton and my mother's tea
"I dare say the vulgarity of that school has, ere now, shaken your faith in
all that was holy?"
I was very near confessing that it had: but a feeling came over me, I knew
not why, that my cousin would have been glad to get me into his power, and
would therefore have welcomed a confession of infidelity. So I held my
"I can confess," he said, in the most confidential tone, "that it had for a
time that effect on me. I have confessed it, ere now, and shall again and
again, I trust. But I shudder to think of what I might have been believing
or disbelieving now, if I had not in a happy hour fallen in with Mr.
Newman's sermons, and learnt from them, and from his disciples, what the
Church of England really was; not Protestant, no; but Catholic in the
deepest and highest sense."
"So you are one of these new Tractarians? You do not seem to have adopted
yet the ascetic mode of life, which I hear they praise up so highly,"
"My dear Alton, if you have read, as you have, your Bible, you will
recollect a text which tells you not to appear to men to fast. What I do
or do not do in the way of self-denial, unless I were actually profligate,
which I give you my sacred honour I am not, must be a matter between Heaven
There was no denying that truth; but the longer my cousin talked the less I
trusted in him--I had almost said, the less I believed him. Ever since the
tone of his voice had changed so suddenly, I liked him less than when he
was honestly blurting out his coarse and selfish ambition. I do not think
he was a hypocrite. I think he believed what he said, as strongly as he
could believe anything. He proved afterwards that he did so, as far as
man can judge man, by severe and diligent parish work: but I cannot help
doubting at times, if that man ever knew what believing meant. God forgive
him! In that, he is no worse than hundreds more who have never felt the
burning and shining flame of intense conviction, of some truth rooted in
the inmost recesses of the soul, by which a man must live, for which he
would not fear to die.
And therefore I listened to him dully and carelessly; I did not care to
bring objections, which arose thick and fast, to everything he said. He
tried to assure me--and did so with a great deal of cleverness--that this
Tractarian movement was not really an aristocratic, but a democratic one;
that the Catholic Church had been in all ages the Church of the poor; that
the clergy were commissioned by Heaven to vindicate the rights of the
people, and to stand between them and the tyranny of Mammon. I did not
care to answer him that the "Catholic Church" had always been a Church of
slaves, and not of free men; that the clergy had in every age been the
enemies of light, of liberty; the oppressors of their flocks; and that to
exalt a sacerdotal caste over other aristocracies, whether of birth or
wealth, was merely to change our tyrants. When he told me that a clergyman
of the Established Church, if he took up the cause of the working classes,
might be the boldest and surest of all allies, just because, being
established, and certain of his income, he cared not one sixpence what he
said to any man alive, I did not care to answer him, as I might--And more
shame upon the clergy that, having the safe vantage-ground which you
describe, they dare not use it like men in a good cause, and speak their
minds, if forsooth no one can stop them from so doing. In fact, I was
distrustful, which I had a right to be, and envious also; but if I had a
right to be that, I was certainly not wise, nor is any man, in exercising
the said dangerous right as I did, and envying my cousin and every man in
But that evening, understanding that a boating supper, or some jubilation
over my cousin's victory, was to take place in his rooms, I asked leave to
absent myself--and I do not think my cousin felt much regret at giving me
leave--and wandered up and down the King's Parade, watching the tall gables
of King's College Chapel, and the classic front of the Senate House, and
the stately tower of St. Mary's, as they stood, stern and silent, bathed in
the still glory of the moonlight, and contrasting bitterly the lot of those
who were educated under their shadow to the lot which had befallen me.
[Footnote: It must be remembered that these impressions of, and comments on
the universities, are not my own. They are simply what clever working men
thought about them from 1845 to 1850; a period at which I had the fullest
opportunities for knowing the thoughts of working men.]
"Noble buildings!" I said to myself, "and noble institutions! given freely
to the people, by those who loved the people, and the Saviour who died
for them. They gave us what they had, those mediaeval founders: whatsoever
narrowness of mind or superstition defiled their gift was not their fault,
but the fault of their whole age. The best they knew they imparted freely,
and God will reward them for it. To monopolize those institutions for the
rich, as is done now, is to violate both the spirit and the letter of
the foundations; to restrict their studies to the limits of middle-aged
Romanism, their conditions of admission to those fixed at the Reformation,
is but a shade less wrongful. The letter is kept--the spirit is thrown
away. You refuse to admit any who are not members of the Church of England,
say, rather, any who will not sign the dogmas of the Church of England,
whether they believe a word of them or not. Useless formalism! which lets
through the reckless, the profligate, the ignorant, the hypocritical:
and only excludes the honest and the conscientious, and the mass of the
intellectual working men. And whose fault is it that THEY are not members
of the Church of England? Whose fault is it, I ask? Your predecessors
neglected the lower orders, till they have ceased to reverence either you
or your doctrines, you confess that, among yourselves, freely enough. You
throw the blame of the present wide-spread dislike to the Church of England
on her sins during 'the godless eighteenth century.' Be it so. Why are
those sins to be visited on us? Why are we to be shut out from the
universities, which were founded for us, because you have let us grow
up, by millions, heathens and infidels, as you call us? Take away your
subterfuge! It is not merely because we are bad churchmen that you exclude
us, else you would be crowding your colleges, now, with the talented poor
of the agricultural districts, who, as you say, remain faithful to the
church of their fathers. But are there six labourers' sons educating in
the universities at this moment! No! the real reason for our exclusion,
churchmen or not, is, because we are _poor_--because we cannot pay your
exorbitant fees, often, as in the case of bachelors of arts, exacted for
tuition which is never given, and residence which is not permitted--because
we could not support the extravagance which you not only permit, but
encourage--because by your own unblushing confession, it insures the
university 'the support of the aristocracy.'"
"But, on religious points, at least, you must abide by the statutes of the
Strange argument, truly, to be urged literally by English Protestants in
possession of Roman Catholic bequests! If that be true in the letter,
as well as in the spirit, you should have given place long ago to the
Dominicans and the Franciscans. In the spirit it is true, and the Reformers
acted on it when they rightly converted the universities to the uses of the
new faith. They carried out the spirit of the founders' statutes by making
the universities as good as they could be, and letting them share in the
new light of the Elizabethan age. But was the sum of knowledge, human and
divine, perfected at the Reformation? Who gave the Reformers, or you, who
call yourselves their representatives, a right to say to the mind of man,
and to the teaching of God's Spirit, "Hitherto, and no farther"? Society
and mankind, the children of the Supreme, will not stop growing for your
dogmas--much less for your vested interests; and the righteous law of
mingled development and renovation, applied in the sixteenth century, must
be reapplied in the nineteenth; while the spirits of the founders, now
purged from the superstitions and ignorances of their age, shall smile from
heaven, and say, "So would we have had it, if we had lived in the great
nineteenth century, into which it has been your privilege to be born."
But such thoughts soon passed away. The image which I had seen that
afternoon upon the river banks had awakened imperiously the frantic
longings of past years; and now it reascended its ancient throne, and
tyrannously drove forth every other object, to keep me alone with its own
tantalizing and torturing beauty. I did not think about her--No; I only
stupidly and steadfastly stared at her with my whole soul and imagination,
through that long sleepless night; and, in spite of the fatigue of my
journey, and the stiffness proceeding from my fall and wetting, I lay
tossing till the early sun poured into my bedroom window. Then I arose,
dressed myself, and went out to wander up and down the streets, gazing
at one splendid building after another, till I found the gates of King's
College open. I entered eagerly, through a porch which, to my untutored
taste, seemed gorgeous enough to form the entrance to a fairy palace, and
stood in the quadrangle, riveted to the spot by the magnificence of the
huge chapel on the right.
If I had admired it the night before, I felt inclined to worship it this
morning, as I saw the lofty buttresses and spires, fretted with all their
gorgeous carving, and "storied windows richly dight," sleeping in the glare
of the newly-risen sun, and throwing their long shadows due westward down
the sloping lawn, and across the river which dimpled and gleamed below,
till it was lost among the towering masses of crisp elms and rose-garlanded
chestnuts in the rich gardens beyond.
Was I delighted? Yes--and yet no. There is a painful feeling in seeing
anything magnificent which one cannot understand. And perhaps it was a
morbid sensitiveness, but the feeling was strong upon me that I was an
interloper there--out of harmony with the scene and the system which had
created it; that I might be an object of unpleasant curiosity, perhaps of
scorn (for I had not forgotten the nobleman at the boat-race), amid those
monuments of learned luxury. Perhaps, on the other hand, it was only from
the instinct which makes us seek for solitude under the pressure of intense
emotions, when we have neither language to express them to ourselves, nor
loved one in whose silent eyes we may read kindred feelings--a sympathy
which wants no words. Whatever the cause was, when a party of men, in their
caps and gowns, approached me down the dark avenue which led into the
country, I was glad to shrink for concealment behind the weeping-willow
at the foot of the bridge, and slink off unobserved to breakfast with my
We had just finished breakfast, my cousin was lighting his meerschaum, when
a tall figure passed the window, and the taller of the noblemen, whom I
had seen at the boat-race, entered the room with a packet of papers in his
"Here, Locule mi! my pocket-book--or rather, to stretch a bad pun till
it bursts, my pocket-dictionary--I require the aid of your
benevolently-squandered talents for the correction of these proofs. I am,
as usual, both idle and busy this morning; so draw pen, and set to work for
"I am exceedingly sorry, my lord," answered George, in his most obsequious
tone, "but I must work this morning with all my might. Last night,
recollect, was given to triumph, Bacchus, and idleness."
"Then find some one who will do them for me, my Ulysses polumechane,
"I shall be most happy (with a half-frown and a wince) to play Panurge to
your lordship's Pantagruel, on board the new yacht."
"Oh, I am perfect in that character, I suppose? And is she after all, like
Pantagruel's ship, to be loaded with hemp? Well, we must try two or three
milder cargoes first. But come, find me some starving genius--some graeculus
"Who will ascend to the heaven of your lordship's eloquence for the
"Five shillings a sheet--there will be about two of them, I think, in the
"May I take the liberty of recommending my cousin here?"
"Your cousin?" And he turned to me, who had been examining with a sad and
envious eye the contents of the bookshelves. Our eyes met, and first a
faint blush, and then a smile of recognition, passed over his magnificent
"I think I had--I am ashamed that I cannot say the pleasure, of meeting him
at the boat race yesterday."
My cousin looked inquiringly and vexed at us both. The nobleman smiled.
"Oh, the fault was mine, not his."
"I cannot think," I answered, "that you have any reasons to remember with
shame your own kindness and courtesy. As for me," I went on bitterly, "I
suppose a poor journeyman tailor, who ventures to look on at the sports of
gentlemen, only deserves to be run over."
"Sir," he said, looking at me with a severe and searching glance, "your
bitterness is pardonable--but not your sneer. You do not yourself think
what you say, and you ought to know that I think it still less than
yourself. If you intend your irony to be useful, you should keep it till
you can use it courageously against the true offenders."
I looked up at him fiercely enough, but the placid smile which had returned
to his face disarmed me.
"Your class," he went on, "blind yourselves and our class as much by
wholesale denunciations of us, as we, alas! who should know better, do by
wholesale denunciations of you. As you grow older, you will learn that
there are exceptions to every rule."
"And yet the exception proves the rule."
"Most painfully true, sir. But that argument is two-edged. For instance,
am I to consider it the exception or the rule, when I am told that you, a
journeyman tailor, are able to correct these proofs for me?"
"Nearer the rule, I think, than you yet fancy."
"You speak out boldly and well; but how can you judge what I may please to
fancy? At all events, I will make trial of you. There are the proofs. Bring
them to me by four o'clock this afternoon, and if they are well done, I
will pay you more than I should do to the average hack-writer, for you will
I took the proofs; he turned to go, and by a side-look at George beckoned
him out of the room. I heard a whispering in the passage; and I do not deny
that my heart beat high with new hopes, as I caught unwillingly the words--
"Such a forehead!--such an eye!--such a contour of feature as that!--Locule
mi--that boy ought not to be mending trousers."
My cousin returned, half laughing, half angry.
"Alton, you fool, why did you let out that you were a snip?"
"I am not ashamed of my trade."
"I am, then. However, you've done with it now; and if you can't come the
gentleman, you may as well come the rising genius. The self-educated dodge
pays well just now; and after all, you've hooked his lordship--thank me for
that. But you'll never hold him, you impudent dog, if you pull so hard
on him"--He went on, putting his hands into his coat-tail pockets, and
sticking himself in front of the fire, like the Delphic Pythoness upon the
sacred tripod, in hopes, I suppose, of some oracular afflatus--"You will
never hold him, I say, if you pull so hard on him. You ought to 'My lord'
him for months yet, at least. You know, my good fellow, you must take every
possible care to pick up what good breeding you can, if I take the trouble
to put you in the way of good society, and tell you where my private
birds'-nests are, like the green schoolboy some poet or other talks of."
"He is no lord of mine," I answered, "in any sense of the word, and
therefore I shall not call him so."
"Upon my honour! here is a young gentleman who intends to rise in the
world, and then commences by trying to walk through the first post he
meets! Noodle! can't you do like me, and get out of the carts' way when
they come by? If you intend to go ahead, you must just dodge in and out
like a dog at a fair. 'She stoops to conquer' is my motto, and a precious
good one too."
"I have no wish to conquer Lord Lynedale, and so I shall not stoop to him."
"I have, then; and to very good purpose, too. I am his whetstone, for
polishing up that classical wit of his on, till he carries it into
Parliament to astonish the country squires. He fancies himself a second
Goethe, I hav'n't forgot his hitting at me, before a large supper party,
with a certain epigram of that old turkeycock's about the whale having his
unmentionable parasite--and the great man likewise. Whale, indeed! I bide
my time, Alton, my boy--I bide my time; and then let your grand aristocrat
look out! If he does not find the supposed whale-unmentionable a good stout
holding harpoon, with a tough line to it, and a long one, it's a pity,
Alton my boy!"
And he burst into a coarse laugh, tossed himself down on the sofa, and
re-lighted his meerschaum.
"He seemed to me," I answered, "to have a peculiar courtesy and liberality
of mind towards those below him in rank."
"Oh! he had, had he? Now, I'll just put you up to a dodge. He intends to
come the Mirabeau--fancies his mantle has fallen on him--prays before the
fellow's bust, I believe, if one knew the truth, for a double portion of
his spirit; and therefore it is a part of his game to ingratiate himself
with all pot-boy-dom, while at heart he is as proud, exclusive an
aristocrat, as ever wore nobleman's hat. At all events, you may get
something out of him, if you play your cards well--or, rather, help me
to play mine; for I consider him as my property, and you only as my
"I shall play no one's cards," I answered, sulkily. "I am doing work
fairly, and shall be fairly paid for it, and keep my own independence."
"Independence--hey-day! Have you forgotten that, after all, you are
my--guest, to call it by the mildest term?"
"Do you upbraid me with that?" I said, starting up. "Do you expect me to
live on your charity, on condition of doing your dirty work? You do not
know me, sir. I leave your roof this instant!"
"You do not!" answered he, laughing loudly, as he sprang over the sofa, and
set his back against the door. "Come, come, you Will-o'-the-Wisp, as full
of flights, and fancies, and vagaries, as a sick old maid! can't you see
which side your bread is buttered? Sit down, I say! Don't you know that I'm
as good-natured a fellow as ever lived, although I do parade a little Gil
Bias morality now and then, just for fun's sake? Do you think I should be
so open with it, if I meant anything very diabolic? There--sit down, and
don't go into King Cambyses' vein, or Queen Hecuba's tears either, which
you seem inclined to do."
"I know you have been very generous to me," I said, penitently; "but a
kindness becomes none when you are upbraided with it."
"So say the copybooks--I deny it. At all events, I'll say no more; and
you shall sit down there, and write as still as a mouse till two, while
I tackle this never-to-be-enough-by-unhappy-third-years'-men-execrated
* * * * *
At four that afternoon, I knocked, proofs in hand, at the door of Lord
Lynedale's rooms in the King's Parade. The door was opened by a little
elderly groom, grey-coated, grey-gaitered, grey-haired, grey-visaged. He
had the look of a respectable old family retainer, and his exquisitely
neat groom's dress gave him a sort of interest in my eyes. Class costumes,
relics though they are of feudalism, carry a charm with them. They are
symbolic, definitive; they bestow a personality on the wearer, which
satisfies the mind, by enabling it instantly to classify him, to connect
him with a thousand stories and associations; and to my young mind, the
wiry, shrewd, honest, grim old serving-man seemed the incarnation of all
the wonders of Newmarket, and the hunting-kennel, and the steeple-chase,
of which I had read, with alternate admiration and contempt, in the
newspapers. He ushered me in with a good breeding which surprised
me;--without insolence to me, or servility to his master; both of which I
had been taught to expect.
Lord Lynedale bade me very courteously sit down while he examined the
proofs. I looked round the low-wainscoted apartment, with its narrow
mullioned windows, in extreme curiosity. What a real nobleman's abode could
be like, was naturally worth examining, to one who had, all his life, heard
of the aristocracy as of some mythic Titans--whether fiends or gods, being
yet a doubtful point--altogether enshrined on "cloudy Olympus," invisible
to mortal ken. The shelves were gay with morocco, Russia leather, and
gilding--not much used, as I thought, till my eye caught one of the
gorgeously-bound volumes lying on the table in a loose cover of polished
leather--a refinement of which poor I should never have dreamt. The walls
were covered with prints, which soon turned my eyes from everything else,
to range delighted over Landseers, Turners, Roberts's Eastern sketches,
the ancient Italian masters; and I recognized, with a sort of friendly
affection, an old print of my favourite St. Sebastian, in the Dulwich
Gallery. It brought back to my mind a thousand dreams, and a thousand
sorrows. Would those dreams be ever realized? Might this new acquaintance
possibly open some pathway towards their fulfilment?--some vista towards
the attainment of a station where they would, at least, be less chimerical?
And at that thought, my heart beat loud with hope. The room was choked up
with chairs and tables, of all sorts of strange shapes and problematical
uses. The floor was strewed with skins of bear, deer, and seal. In a corner
lay hunting-whips, and fishing-rods, foils, boxing-gloves, and gun-cases;
while over the chimney-piece, an array of rich Turkish pipes, all amber and
enamel, contrasted curiously with quaint old swords and daggers--bronze
classic casts, upon Gothic oak brackets, and fantastic scraps of
continental carving. On the centre table, too, reigned the same rich
profusion, or if you will, confusion--MSS., "Notes in Egypt," "Goethe's
Walverwandschaften," Murray's Hand-books, and "Plato's Republic." What
was there not there? And I chuckled inwardly, to see how _Bell's Life in
London_ and the _Ecclesiologist_ had, between them, got down "McCulloch
on Taxation," and were sitting, arm-in-arm, triumphantly astride of him.
Everything in the room, even to the fragrant flowers in a German glass,
spoke of a travelled and cultivated luxury--manifold tastes and powers of
self-enjoyment and self-improvement, which, Heaven forgive me if I envied,
as I looked upon them. If I, now, had had one-twentieth part of those
books, prints, that experience of life, not to mention that physical
strength and beauty, which stood towering there before the fire--so simple;
so utterly unconscious of the innate nobleness and grace which shone out
from every motion of those stately limbs and features--all the delicacy
which blood can give, combined, as one does sometimes see, with the broad
strength of the proletarian--so different from poor me!--and so different,
too, as I recollected with perhaps a savage pleasure, from the miserable,
stunted specimens of over-bred imbecility whom I had often passed in
London! A strange question that of birth! and one in which the philosopher,
in spite of himself, must come to democratic conclusions. For, after
all, the physical and intellectual superiority of the high-born is only
preserved, as it was in the old Norman times, by the continual practical
abnegation of the very caste-lie on which they pride themselves--by
continual renovation of their race, by intermarriage with the ranks below
them. The blood of Odin flowed in the veins of Norman William; true--and so
did the tanner's of Falaise!
At last he looked up and spoke courteously--
"I'm afraid I have kept you long; but now, here is for your corrections,
which are capital. I have really to thank you for a lesson in writing
English." And he put a sovereign into my hand.
"I am very sorry," said I, "but I have no change."
"Never mind that. Your work is well worth the money."
"But," I said, "you agreed with me for five shillings a sheet, and--I do
not wish to be rude, but I cannot accept your kindness. We working men make
a rule of abiding by our wages, and taking nothing which looks like--"
"Well, well--and a very good rule it is. I suppose, then, I must find out
some way for you to earn more. Good afternoon." And he motioned me out
of the room, followed me down stairs, and turned off towards the College
I wandered up and down, feeding my greedy eyes, till I found myself again
upon the bridge where I had stood that morning, gazing with admiration
and astonishment at a scene which I have often expected to see painted or
described, and which, nevertheless, in spite of its unique magnificence,
seems strangely overlooked by those who cater for the public taste, with
pen and pencil. The vista of bridges, one after another spanning the
stream; the long line of great monastic palaces, all unlike, and yet all in
harmony, sloping down to the stream, with their trim lawns and ivied walls,
their towers and buttresses; and opposite them, the range of rich gardens
and noble timber-trees, dimly seen through which, at the end of the
gorgeous river avenue, towered the lofty buildings of St. John's. The whole
scene, under the glow of a rich May afternoon, seemed to me a fragment
out of the "Arabian Nights" or Spencer's "Fairy Queen." I leaned upon the
parapet, and gazed, and gazed, so absorbed in wonder and enjoyment, that I
was quite unconscious, for some time, that Lord Lynedale was standing by my
side, engaged in the same employment. He was not alone. Hanging on his arm
was a lady, whose face, it seemed to me, I ought to know. It certainly was
one not to be easily forgotten. She was beautiful, but with the face and
figure rather of a Juno than a Venus--dark, imperious, restless--the lips
almost too firmly set, the brow almost too massive and projecting--a queen,
rather to be feared than loved--but a queen still, as truly royal as the
man into whose face she was looking up with eager admiration and delight,
as he pointed out to her eloquently the several beauties of the landscape.
Her dress was as plain as that of any Quaker; but the grace of its
arrangement, of every line and fold, was enough, without the help of the
heavy gold bracelet on her wrist, to proclaim her a fine lady; by which
term, I wish to express the result of that perfect education in taste and
manner, down to every gesture, which Heaven forbid that I, professing to be
a poet, should undervalue. It is beautiful; and therefore I welcome it, in
the name of the Author of all beauty. I value it so highly, that I would
fain see it extend, not merely from Belgravia to the tradesman's villa,
but thence, as I believe it one day will, to the labourer's hovel, and the
Half in bashfulness, half in the pride which shrinks from anything like
intrusion, I was moving away; but the nobleman, recognising me with a smile
and a nod, made some observation on the beauty of the scene before us.
Before I could answer, however, I saw that his companion's eyes were fixed
intently on my face.
"Is this," she said to Lord Lynedale, "the young person of whom you were
speaking to me just now? I fancy that I recollect him, though, I dare say,
he has forgotten me."
If I had forgotten the face, that voice, so peculiarly rich, deep, and
marked in its pronunciation of every syllable, recalled her instantly to my
mind. It was the dark lady of the Dulwich Gallery!
"I met you, I think," I said, "at the picture gallery at Dulwich, and you
were kind enough, and--and some persons who were with you, to talk to me
about a picture there."
"Yes; Guido's St. Sebastian. You seemed fond of reading then. I am glad to
see you at college."
I explained that I was not at college. That led to fresh gentle questions
on her part, till I had given her all the leading points of my history.
There was nothing in it of which I ought to have been ashamed.
She seemed to become more and more interested in my story, and her
"And have you tried to write? I recollect my uncle advising you to try a
poem on St. Sebastian. It was spoken, perhaps, in jest; but it will not, I
hope, have been labour lost, if you have taken it in earnest."
"Yes--I have written on that and on other subjects, during the last few
"Then, you must let us see them, if you have them with you. I think my
uncle, Arthur, might like to look over them; and if they were fit for
publication, he might be able to do something towards it."
"At all events," said Lord Lynedale, "a self-educated author is always
interesting. Bring any of your poems, that you have with you, to the Eagle
this afternoon, and leave them there for Dean Winnstay; and to-morrow
morning, if you have nothing better to do, call there between ten and
He wrote me down the dean's address, and nodding a civil good morning,
turned away with his queenly companion, while I stood gazing after him,
wondering whether all noblemen and high-born ladies were like them in
person and in spirit--a question which, in spite of many noble exceptions,
some of them well known and appreciated by the working men, I am afraid
must be answered in the negative.
I took my MSS. to the Eagle, and wandered out once more, instinctively,
among those same magnificent trees at the back of the colleges, to enjoy
the pleasing torment of expectation. "My uncle!" was he the same old man
whom I had seen at the gallery; and if so, was Lillian with him? Delicious
hope! And yet, what if she was with him--what to me? But yet I sat silent,
dreaming, all the evening, and hurried early to bed--not to sleep, but to
lie and dream on and on, and rise almost before light, eat no breakfast,
and pace up and down, waiting impatiently for the hour at which I was to
find out whether my dream, was true.
And it was true! The first object I saw, when I entered the room, was
Lillian, looking more beautiful than ever. The child of sixteen had
blossomed into the woman of twenty. The ivory and vermilion of the
complexion had toned down together into still richer hues. The dark hazel
eyes shone with a more liquid lustre. The figure had become more rounded,
without losing a line of that fairy lightness, with which her light
morning-dress, with its delicate French semi-tones of colour, gay and
yet not gaudy, seemed to harmonize. The little plump jewelled hands--the
transparent chestnut hair, banded round the beautiful oval masque--the tiny
feet, which, as Suckling has it,
Underneath her petticoat
Like little mice peeped in and out--
I could have fallen down, fool that I was! and worshipped--what? I could
not tell then, for I cannot tell even now.
The dean smiled recognition, bade me sit down, and disposed my papers,
meditatively, on his knee. I obeyed him, trembling, choking--my eyes
devouring my idol--forgetting why I had come--seeing nothing but
her--listening for nothing but the opening of these lips. I believe the
dean was some sentences deep in his oration, before I became conscious
"--And I think I may tell you, at once, that I have been very much
surprised and gratified with them. They evince, on the whole, a far
greater acquaintance with the English classic-models, and with the laws of
rhyme and melody, than could have been expected from a young man of your
class--_macte virtute puer_. Have you read any Latin?"
"A little." And I went on staring at Lillian, who looked up, furtively,
from her work, every now and then, to steal a glance at me, and set my poor
heart thumping still more fiercely against my side.
"Very good; you will have the less trouble, then, in the preparation
for college. You will find out for yourself, of course, the immense
disadvantages of self-education. The fact is, my dear lord" (turning to
Lord Lynedale), "it is only useful as an indication of a capability of
being educated by others. One never opens a book written by working men,
without shuddering at a hundred faults of style. However, there are some
very tolerable attempts among these--especially the imitations of Milton's
Poor I had by no means intended them as imitations; but such, no doubt,
"I am sorry to see that Shelley has had so much influence on your writing.
He is a guide as irregular in taste, as unorthodox in doctrine; though
there are some pretty things in him now and then. And you have caught his
melody tolerably here, now--"
"Oh, that is such a sweet thing!" said Lillian. "Do you know, I read it
over and over last night, and took it up-stairs with me. How very fond
of beautiful things you must be, Mr. Locke, to be able to describe so
passionately the longing after them."
That voice once more! It intoxicated me, so that I hardly knew what I
stammered out--something about working men having very few opportunities
of indulging the taste for--I forget what. I believe I was on the point
of running off into some absurd compliment, but I caught the dark lady's
warning eye on me.
"Ah, yes! I forgot. I dare say it must be a very stupid life. So little
opportunity, as he says. What a pity he is a tailor, papa! Such an
unimaginative employment! How delightful it would be to send him to college
and make him a clergyman!"
Fool that I was! I fancied--what did I not fancy?--never seeing how that
very "_he_" bespoke the indifference--the gulf between us. I was not a
man--an equal; but a thing--a subject, who was to be talked over, and
examined, and made into something like themselves, of their supreme and
"Gently, gently, fair lady! We must not be as headlong as some people would
kindly wish to be. If this young man really has a proper desire to rise
into a higher station, and I find him a fit object to be assisted in
that praiseworthy ambition, why, I think he ought to go to some training
college; St. Mark's, I should say, on the whole, might, by its strong
Church principles, give the best antidote to any little remaining taint of
_sansculottism_. You understand me, my lord? And, then, if he distinguished
himself there, it would be time to think of getting him a sizarship."
"Poor Pegasus in harness!" half smiled, half sighed, the dark lady.
"Just the sort of youth," whispered Lord Lynedale, loud enough for me to
hear, "to take out with us to the Mediterranean as secretary--s'il y avait
la de la morale, of course--"
Yes--and of course, too, the tailor's boy was not expected to understand
French. But the most absurd thing was, how everybody, except perhaps the
dark lady, seemed to take for granted that I felt myself exceedingly
honoured, and must consider it, as a matter of course, the greatest
possible stretch of kindness thus to talk me over, and settle everything
for me, as if I was not a living soul, but a plant in a pot. Perhaps they
were not unsupported by experience. I suppose too many of us would have
thought it so; there are flunkeys in all ranks, and to spare. Perhaps the
true absurdity was the way in which I sat, demented, inarticulate, staring
at Lillian, and only caring for any word which seemed to augur a chance of
seeing her again; instead of saying, as I felt, that I had no wish whatever
to rise above my station; no intention whatever of being sent to training
schools or colleges, or anywhere else at the expense of other people. And
therefore it was that I submitted blindly, when the dean, who looked as
kind, and was really, I believe, as kind as ever was human being, turned to
me with a solemn authoritative voice--
"Well, my young friend, I must say that I am, on the whole, very much
pleased with your performance. It corroborates, my dear lord, the
assertion, for which I have been so often ridiculed, that there are many
real men, capable of higher things, scattered up and down among the masses.
Attend to me, sir!" (a hint which I suspect I very much wanted). "Now,
recollect; if it should be hereafter in our power to assist your prospects
in life, you must give up, once and for all, the bitter tone against the
higher classes, which I am sorry to see in your MSS. As you know more of
the world, you will find that the poor are not by any means as ill used as
they are taught, in these days, to believe. The rich have their sorrows
too--no one knows it better than I"--(and he played pensively with his gold
pencil-case)--"and good and evil are pretty equally distributed among all
ranks, by a just and merciful God. I advise you most earnestly, as you
value your future success in life, to give up reading those unprincipled
authors, whose aim is to excite the evil passions of the multitude; and
to shut your ears betimes to the extravagant calumnies of demagogues, who
make tools of enthusiastic and imaginative minds for their own selfish
aggrandisement. Avoid politics; the workman has no more to do with them
than the clergyman. We are told, on divine authority, to fear God and the
king, and meddle not with those who are given to change. Rather put before
yourself the example of such a man as the excellent Dr. Brown, one of the
richest and most respected men of the university, with whom I hope to have
the pleasure of dining this evening--and yet that man actually, for several
years of his life, worked at a carpenter's bench!"
I too had something to say about all that. I too knew something about
demagogues and working men: but the sight of Lillian made me a coward; and
I only sat silent as the thought flashed across me, half ludicrous, half
painful, by its contrast, of another who once worked at a carpenter's
bench, and fulfilled his mission--not by an old age of wealth,
respectability, and port wine; but on the Cross of Calvary. After all, the
worthy old gentleman gave me no time to answer.
"Next--I think of showing these MSS. to my publisher, to get his opinion as
to whether they are worth printing just now. Not that I wish you to build
much on the chance. It is not necessary that you should be a poet. I should
prefer mathematics for you, as a methodic discipline of the intellect.
Most active minds write poetry, at a certain age--I wrote a good deal, I
recollect, myself. But that is no reason for publishing. This haste to rush
into print is one of the bad signs of the times--a symptom of the unhealthy
activity which was first called out by the French revolution. In the
Elizabethan age, every decently-educated gentleman was able, as a matter of
course, to indite a sonnet to his mistress's eye-brow, or an epigram on his
enemy; and yet he never dreamt of printing them. One of the few rational
things I have met with, Eleanor, in the works of your very objectionable
pet Mr. Carlyle--though indeed his style is too intolerable to have allowed
me to read much--is the remark that 'speech is silver'--'silvern' he calls
it, pedantically--'while silence is golden.'"
At this point of the sermon, Lillian fled from the room, to my extreme
disgust. But still the old man prosed--
"I think, therefore, that you had better stay with your cousin for the next
week. I hear from Lord Lynedale that he is a very studious, moral, rising
young man; and I only hope that you will follow his good example. At the
end of the week I shall return home, and then I shall be glad to see more
of you at my house at D * * * *, about * * * * miles from this place. Good
I went, in rapture at the last announcement--and yet my conscience smote
me. I had not stood up for the working men. I had heard them calumniated,
and held my tongue--but I was to see Lillian. I had let the dean fancy I
was willing to become a pensioner on his bounty--that I was a member of
the Church of England, and willing to go to a Church Training School--but
I was to see Lillian. I had lowered myself in my own eyes--but I had seen
Lillian. Perhaps I exaggerated my own offences: however that may be, love
soon, silenced conscience, and I almost danced into my cousin's rooms on my
* * * * *
That week passed rapidly and happily. I was half amused with the change in
my cousin's demeanour. I had evidently risen immensely in his eyes; and I
could not help applying, in my heart, to him, Mr. Carlyle's dictum about
the valet species--how they never honour the unaccredited hero, having
no eye to find him out till properly accredited, and countersigned, and
accoutred with full uniform and diploma by that great god, Public Opinion.
I saw through the motive of his new-fledged respect for me--and yet
encouraged it; for it flattered my vanity. The world must forgive me. It
was something for the poor tailor to find himself somewhat appreciated at
last, even outwardly. And besides, this sad respect took a form which was
very tempting to me now--though the week before it was just the one which
I should have repelled with scorn. George became very anxious to lend me
money, to order me clothes at his own tailor's, and set me up in various
little toilette refinements, that I might make a respectable appearance
at the dean's. I knew that he consulted rather the honour of the family,
than my good; but I did not know that his aim was also to get me into his
power; and I refused more and more weakly at each fresh offer, and at last
consented, in an evil hour, to sell my own independence, for the sake of
indulging my love-dream, and appearing to be what I was not.
I saw little of the University men; less than I might have done; less,
perhaps, than I ought to have done. My cousin did not try to keep me from
them; they, whenever I met them, did not shrink from me, and were civil
enough: but I shrank from them. My cousin attributed my reserve to modesty,
and praised me for it in his coarse fashion: but he was mistaken. Pride,
rather, and something very like envy, kept me silent. Always afraid (at
that period of my career) of young men of my own age, I was doubly afraid
of these men; not because they were cleverer than I, for they were not, but
because I fancied I had no fair chance with them; they had opportunities
which I had not, read and talked of books of which I knew nothing; and when
they did touch on matters which I fancied I understood, it was from a point
of view so different from mine, that I had to choose, as I thought, between
standing up alone to be baited by the whole party, or shielding myself
behind a proud and somewhat contemptuous silence. I looked on them as
ignorant aristocrats; while they looked on me, I verily believe now, as a
very good sort of fellow, who ought to talk well, but would not; and went
their way carelessly. The truth is, I did envy those men. I did not envy
them their learning; for the majority of men who came into my cousin's room
had no learning to envy, being rather brilliant and agreeable men than
severe students; but I envied them their opportunities of learning; and
envied them just as much their opportunities of play--their boating, their
cricket, their foot-ball, their riding, and their gay confident carriage,
which proceeds from physical health and strength, and which I mistook for
the swagger of insolence; while Parker's Piece, with its games, was a sight
which made me grind my teeth, when I thought of the very different chance
of physical exercise which falls to the lot of a London artisan.
And still more did I envy them when I found that many of them combined, as
my cousin did, this physical exercise with really hard mental work, and
found the one help the other. It was bitter to me--whether it ought to have
been so or not--to hear of prizemen, wranglers, fellows of colleges, as
first rate oars, boxers, foot-ball players; and my eyes once fairly filled
with tears, when, after the departure of a little fellow no bigger or
heavier than myself, but with the eye and the gait of a game-cock, I was
informed that he was "bow-oar in the University eight, and as sure to be
senior classic next year as he has a head on his shoulders." And I thought
of my nights of study in the lean-to garret, and of the tailor's workshop,
and of Sandy's den, and said to myself bitter words, which I shall not
set down. Let gentlemen readers imagine them for themselves; and judge
rationally and charitably of an unhealthy working-man like me, if
his tongue be betrayed, at moments, to envy, hatred, malice, and all
However, one happiness I had--books. I read in my cousin's room from
morning till night. He gave me my meals hospitably enough: but disappeared
every day about four to "hall"; after which he did not reappear till eight,
the interval being taken up, he said, in "wines" and an hour of billiards.
Then he sat down to work, and read steadily and well till twelve, while
I, nothing loth, did the same; and so passed, rapidly enough, my week at
A CATHEDRAL TOWN.
At length, the wished-for day had arrived; and, with my cousin, I was
whirling along, full of hope and desire, towards the cathedral town of
D * * * *--through a flat fen country, which though I had often heard it
described as ugly, struck my imagination much. The vast height and width
of the sky-arch, as seen from those flats as from an ocean--the grey haze
shrouding the horizon of our narrow land-view, and closing us in, till
we seemed to be floating through infinite space, on a little platform of
earth; the rich poplar-fringed farms, with their herds of dappled oxen--the
luxuriant crops of oats and beans--the tender green of the tall-rape, a
plant till then unknown to me--the long, straight, silver dykes, with their
gaudy carpets of strange floating water-plants, and their black banks,
studded with the remains of buried forests--the innumerable draining-mills,
with their creaking sails and groaning wheels--the endless rows of pollard
willows, through which the breeze moaned and rung, as through the strings
of some vast AEolian harp; the little island knolls in that vast sea of
fen, each with its long village street, and delicately taper spire; all
this seemed to me to contain an element of new and peculiar beauty.
"Why!" exclaims the reading public, if perchance it ever sees this tale of
mine, in its usual prurient longing after anything like personal gossip, or
scandalous anecdote--"why, there is no cathedral town which begins with a
D! Through the fen, too! He must mean either Ely, Lincoln, or Peterborough;
that's certain." Then, at one of those places, they find there is dean--not
of the name of Winnstay, true--"but his name begins with a W; and he has
a pretty daughter--no, a niece; well, that's very near it;--it must be
him. No; at another place--there is not a dean, true--but a canon, or an
archdeacon-something of that kind; and he has a pretty daughter, really;
and his name begins--not with W, but with Y; well, that's the last letter
of Winnstay, if it is not the first: that must be the poor man! What a
shame to have exposed his family secrets in that way!" And then a whole
circle of myths grow up round the man's story. It is credibly ascertained
that I am the man who broke into his house last year, after having made
love to his housemaid, and stole his writing-desk and plate--else, why
should a burglar steal family-letters, if he had not some interest in
them?... And before the matter dies away, some worthy old gentleman, who
has not spoken to a working man since he left his living, thirty years ago,
and hates a radical as he does the Pope, receives two or three anonymous
letters, condoling with him on the cruel betrayal of his confidence--base
ingratitude for undeserved condescension, &c., &c.; and, perhaps, with an
enclosure of good advice for his lovely daughter.
But wherever D * * * * is, we arrived there; and with a beating heart,
I--and I now suspect my cousin also--walked up the sunny slopes, where
the old convent had stood, now covered with walled gardens and noble
timber-trees, and crowned by the richly fretted towers of the cathedral,
which we had seen, for the last twenty miles, growing gradually larger and
more distinct across the level flat. "Ely?" "No; Lincoln!" "Oh! but really,
it's just as much like Peterborough!" Never mind, my dear reader; the
essence of the fact, as I think, lies not quite so much in the name of the
place, as in what was done there--to which I, with all the little respect
which I can muster, entreat your attention.
It is not from false shame at my necessary ignorance, but from a fear lest
I should bore my readers with what seems to them trivial, that I refrain
from dilating on many a thing which struck me as curious in this my first
visit to the house of an English gentleman. I must say, however, though
I suppose that it will be numbered, at least, among trite remarks, if
not among trivial ones, that the wealth around me certainly struck me,
as it has others, as not very much in keeping with the office of one who
professed to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. But I salved
over that feeling, being desirous to see everything in the brightest light,
with the recollection that the dean had a private fortune of his own;
though it did seem at moments, that if a man has solemnly sworn to devote
himself, body and soul, to the cause of the spiritual welfare of the
nation, that vow might be not unfairly construed to include his money as
well as his talents, time, and health: unless, perhaps, money is considered
by spiritual persons as so worthless a thing, that it is not fit to be
given to God--a notion which might seem to explain how a really pious and
universally respected archbishop, living within a quarter of a mile of one
of the worst _infernos_ of destitution, disease, filth, and profligacy--can
yet find it in his heart to save L120,000 out of church revenues, and
leave it to his family; though it will not explain how Irish bishops can
reconcile it to their consciences to leave behind them, one and all,
large fortunes--for I suppose from fifty to a hundred thousand pounds
is something--saved from fees and tithes, taken from the pockets of a
Roman Catholic population, whom they have been put there to convert to
Protestantism for the last three hundred years--with what success, all the
world knows. Of course, it is a most impertinent, and almost a blasphemous
thing, for a working man to dare to mention such subjects. Is it not
"speaking evil of dignities"? Strange, by-the-by, that merely to mention
facts, without note or comment, should be always called "speaking evil"!
Does not that argue ill for the facts themselves? Working men think so; but
what matter what "the swinish multitude" think?
When I speak of wealth, I do not mean that the dean's household would
have been considered by his own class at all too luxurious. He would have
been said, I suppose, to live in a "quiet, comfortable, gentlemanlike
way"--"everything very plain and very good." It included a butler--a
quiet, good-natured old man--who ushered us into our bedrooms; a footman,
who opened the door--a sort of animal for which I have an extreme
aversion--young, silly, conceited, over-fed, florid--who looked just the
man to sell his soul for a livery, twice as much food as he needed, and the
opportunity of unlimited flirtations with the maids; and a coachman, very
like other coachmen, whom I saw taking a pair of handsome carriage-horses
out to exercise, as we opened the gate.
The old man, silently and as a matter of course, unpacked for me my
little portmanteau (lent me by my cousin), and placed my things neatly in
various drawers--went down, brought up a jug of hot water, put it on the
washing-table--told me that dinner was at six--that the half-hour bell
rang at half-past five--and that, if I wanted anything, the footman would
answer the bell (bells seeming a prominent idea in his theory of the
universe)--and so left me, wondering at the strange fact that free men,
with free wills, do sell themselves, by the hundred thousand, to perform
menial offices for other men, not for love, but for money; becoming, to
define them strictly, bell-answering animals; and are honest, happy,
contented, in such a life. A man-servant, a soldier, and a Jesuit, are to
me the three great wonders of humanity--three forms of moral suicide, for
which I never had the slightest gleam of sympathy, or even comprehension.
* * * * *
At last we went down to dinner, after my personal adornments had been
carefully superintended by my cousin, who gave me, over and above, various
warnings and exhortations as to my behaviour; which, of course, took due
effect, in making me as nervous, constrained, and affected, as possible.
When I appeared in the drawing-room, I was kindly welcomed by the dean, the
two ladies, and Lord Lynedale.
But, as I stood fidgeting and blushing, sticking my arms and legs, and head
into all sorts of quaint positions--trying one attitude, and thinking it
looked awkward, and so exchanged it for another, more awkward still--my eye
fell suddenly on a slip of paper, which had conveyed itself, I never knew
how, upon the pages of the Illustrated Book of Ballads, which I was turning
"Be natural, and you will be gentlemanlike. If you wish others to forget
your rank, do not forget it yourself. If you wish others to remember you
with pleasure, forget yourself; and be just what God has made you."
I could not help fancying that the lesson, whether intentionally or not,
was meant for me; and a passing impulse made me take up the slip, fold it
together, and put it into my bosom. Perhaps it was Lillian's handwriting! I
looked round at the ladies; but their faces were each buried behind a book.
We went in to dinner; and, to my delight, I sat next to my goddess, while
opposite me was my cousin. Luckily, I had got some directions from him as
to what to say and do, when my wonders, the servants, thrust eatables and
drinkables over nay shoulders.
Lillian and my cousin chatted away about church-architecture, and the
restorations which were going on at the cathedral; while I, for the first
half of dinner, feasted my eyes with the sight of a beauty, in which I
seemed to discover every moment some new excellence. Every time I looked
up at her, my eyes dazzled, my face burnt, my heart sank, and soft thrills
ran through every nerve. And yet, Heaven knows, my emotions were as pure as
those of an infant. It was beauty, longed for, and found at last, which I
adored as a thing not to be possessed, but worshipped. The desire, even the
thought, of calling her my own, never crossed my mind. I felt that I could
gladly die, if by death I could purchase the permission to watch her. I
understood, then, and for ever after, the pure devotion of the old knights
and troubadours of chivalry. I seemed to myself to be their brother--one
of the holy guild of poet-lovers. I was a new Petrarch, basking in the
light-rays of a new Laura. I gazed, and gazed, and found new life in
gazing, and was content.
But my simple bliss was perfected, when she suddenly turned to me, and
began asking me questions on the very points on which I was best able to
answer. She talked about poetry, Tennyson and Wordsworth; asked me if I
understood Browning's Sordello; and then comforted me, after my stammering
confession that I did not, by telling me she was delighted to hear that;
for she did not understand it either, and it was so pleasant to have a
companion in ignorance. Then she asked me, if I was much struck with the
buildings in Cambridge?--had they inspired me with any verses yet?--I was
bound to write something about them--and so on; making the most commonplace
remarks look brilliant, from the ease and liveliness with which they were
spoken, and the tact with which they were made pleasant to the listener:
while I wondered at myself, for enjoying from her lips the flippant,
sparkling tattle, which had hitherto made young women to me objects of
unspeakable dread, to be escaped by crossing the street, hiding behind
doors, and rushing blindly into back-yards and coal-holes.
The ladies left the room; and I, with Lillian's face glowing bright in my
imagination, as the crimson orb remains on the retina of the closed eye,
after looking intently at the sun, sat listening to a pleasant discussion
between the dean and the nobleman, about some country in the East, which
they had both visited, and greedily devouring all the new facts which, they
incidentally brought forth out of the treasures of their highly cultivated
I was agreeably surprised (don't laugh, reader) to find that I was allowed
to drink water; and that the other men drank not more than a glass or two
of wine, after the ladies had retired. I had, somehow, got both lords and
deans associated in my mind with infinite swillings of port wine, and
bacchanalian orgies, and sat down at first, in much fear and trembling,
lest I should be compelled to join, under penalties of salt-and-water; but
I had made up my mind, stoutly, to bear anything rather than get drunk;
and so I had all the merit of a temperance-martyr, without any of its
"Well" said I to myself, smiling in spirit, "what would my Chartist
friends say if they saw me here? Not even Crossthwaite himself could
find a flaw in the appreciation of merit for its own sake, the courtesy
and condescension--ah! but he would complain of it, simply for being
condescension." But, after all, what else could it be? Were not these men
more experienced, more learned, older than myself? They were my superiors;
it was in vain for me to attempt to hide it from myself. But the wonder
was, that they themselves were the ones to appear utterly unconscious of
it. They treated me as an equal; they welcomed me--the young viscount and
the learned dean--on the broad ground of a common humanity; as I believe
hundreds more of their class would do, if we did not ourselves take a pride
in estranging them from us--telling them that fraternization between our
classes is impossible, and then cursing them for not fraternizing with us.
But of that, more hereafter.
At all events, now my bliss was perfect. No! I was wrong--a higher
enjoyment than all awaited me, when, going into the drawing-room, I found
Lillian singing at the piano. I had no idea that music was capable of
expressing and conveying emotions so intense and ennobling. My experience
was confined to street music, and to the bawling at the chapel. And, as
yet, Mr. Hullah had not risen into a power more enviable than that of
kings, and given to every workman a free entrance into the magic world of
harmony and melody, where he may prove his brotherhood with Mozart and
Weber, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Great unconscious demagogue!--leader of
the people, and labourer in the cause of divine equality!--thy reward is
with the Father of the people!
The luscious softness of the Italian airs overcame me with a delicious
enervation. Every note, every interval, each shade of expression spoke to
me--I knew not what: and yet they spoke to my heart of hearts. A spirit
out of the infinite heaven seemed calling to my spirit, which longed to
answer--and was dumb--and could only vent itself in tears, which welled
unconsciously forth, and eased my heart from the painful tension of
* * * * *
Her voice is hovering o'er my soul--it lingers,
O'ershadowing it with soft and thrilling wings;
The blood and life within those snowy fingers
Teach witchcraft to the instrumental strings.
My brain is wild, my breath comes quick.
The blood is listening in my frame;
And thronging shadows, fast and thick,
Fall on my overflowing eyes.
My heart is quivering like a flame;
As morning-dew that in the sunbeam dies,
I am dissolved in these consuming ecstacies.
* * * * *
The dark lady, Miss Staunton, as I ought to call her, saw my emotion, and,
as I thought unkindly, checked the cause of it at once.
"Pray do not give us any more of those die-away Italian airs, Lillian. Sing
something manful, German or English, or anything you like, except those
Lillian stopped, took another book, and commenced, after a short prelude,
one of my own songs. Surprise and pleasure overpowered me more utterly than
the soft southern melodies had done. I was on the point of springing up and
leaving the room, when my raptures were checked by our host, who turned
round, and stopped short in an oration on the geology of Upper Egypt.
"What's that about brotherhood and freedom, Lillian? We don't want anything
of that kind here."
"It's only a popular London song, papa," answered she, with an arch smile.
"Or likely to become so," added Miss Staunton, in her marked dogmatic tone.
"I am very sorry for London, then." And he returned to the deserts.
THE MAN OF SCIENCE.
After breakfast the next morning, Lillian retired, saying laughingly, that
she must go and see after her clothing club and her dear old women at the
almshouse, which, of course, made me look on her as more an angel than
ever. And while George was left with Lord Lynedale, I was summoned to a
private conference with the dean, in his study.
I found him in a room lined with cabinets of curiosities, and hung all over
with strange horns, bones, and slabs of fossils. But I was not allowed
much time to look about me; for he commenced at once on the subject of
my studies, by asking me whether I was willing to prepare myself for the
university, by entering on the study of mathematics?
I felt so intense a repugnance to them, that at the risk of offending
him--perhaps, for what I knew, fatally--I dared to demur. He smiled--
"I am convinced, young man, that even if you intended to follow poetry as a
profession--and a very poor one you will find it--yet you will never attain
to any excellence therein, without far stricter mental discipline than
any to which you have been accustomed. That is why I abominate our modern
poets. They talk about the glory of the poetic vocation, as if they
intended to be kings and world-makers, and all the while they indulge
themselves in the most loose and desultory habits of thought. Sir, if they
really believed their own grandiloquent assumptions, they would feel that
the responsibility of their mental training was greater, not less, than
any one's else. Like the Quakers, they fancy that they honour inspiration
by supposing it to be only extraordinary and paroxysmic: the true poet,
like the rational Christian, believing that inspiration is continual
and orderly, that it reveals harmonious laws, not merely excites sudden
emotions. You understand me?"
I did, tolerably; and subsequent conversations with him fixed the thoughts
sufficiently in my mind, to make me pretty sure that I am giving a faithful
verbal transcript of them.
"You must study some science. Have you read any logic?"
I mentioned Watts' "Logic," and Locke "On the Use of the
Understanding"--two books well known to reading artizans.
"Ah," he said, "such books are very well, but they are merely popular.
'Aristotle,' 'Bitter on Induction,' and Kant's 'Prolegomena' and
'Logic'--when you had read them some seven or eight times over, you might
consider yourself as knowing somewhat about the matter."
"I have read a little about induction in Whately."
"Ah, very good book, but popular. Did you find that your method of thought
received any benefit from it?"
"The truth is--I do not know whether I can quite express myself
clearly--but logic, like mathematics, seems to tell me too little about
things. It does not enlarge my knowledge of man or nature; and those are
what I thirst for. And you must remember--I hope I am not wrong in saying
it--that the case of a man of your class, who has the power of travelling,
of reading what he will, and seeing what he will, is very different from
that of an artisan, whose chances of observation are so sadly limited. You
must forgive us, if we are unwilling to spend our time over books which
tell us nothing about the great universe outside the shop-windows."
He smiled compassionately. "Very true, my boy, There are two branches of
study, then, before you, and by either of them a competent subsistence is
possible, with good interest. Philology is one. But before you could arrive
at those depths in it which connect with ethnology, history, and geography,
you would require a lifetime of study. There remains yet another. I see you
stealing glances at those natural curiosities. In the study of them, you
would find, as I believe, more and more daily, a mental discipline superior
even to that which language or mathematics give. If I had been blest with
a son--but that is neither here nor there--it was my intention to have
educated him almost entirely as a naturalist. I think I should like to try
the experiment on a young man like yourself."
Sandy Mackaye's definition of legislation for the masses, "Fiat
experimentum in corpore vili," rose up in my thoughts, and, half
unconsciously, passed my lips. The good old man only smiled.
"That is not my reason, Mr. Locke. I should choose, by preference, a man
of your class for experiments, not because the nature is coarser, or less
precious in the scale of creation, but because I have a notion, for which,
like many others, I have been very much laughed at, that you are less
sophisticated, more simple and fresh from nature's laboratory, than the
young persons of the upper classes, who begin from the nursery to be more
or less trimmed up, and painted over by the artificial state of society--a
very excellent state, mind, Mr. Locke. Civilization is, next to
Christianity of course, the highest blessing; but not so good a state for
trying anthropological experiments on."
I assured him of my great desire to be the subject of such an experiment;
and was encouraged by his smile to tell him something about my intense love
for natural objects, the mysterious pleasure which I had taken, from my
boyhood, in trying to classify them, and my visits to the British Museum,
for the purpose of getting at some general knowledge of the natural groups.
"Excellent," he said, "young man; the very best sign I have yet seen in
you. And what have you read on these subjects?"
I mentioned several books: Bingley, Bewick, "Humboldt's Travels," "The
Voyage of the Beagle," various scattered articles in the Penny and Saturday
Magazines, &c., &c.
"Ah!" he said, "popular--you will find, if you will allow me to give you my
I assured him that I was only too much honoured--and I truly felt so. I
knew myself to be in the presence of my rightful superior--my master on
that very point of education which I idolized. Every sentence which he
spoke gave me fresh light on some matter or other; and I felt a worship for
him, totally irrespective of any vulgar and slavish respect for his rank
or wealth. The working man has no want for real reverence. Mr. Carlyle's
being a "gentlemen" has not injured his influence with the people. On the
contrary, it is the artisan's intense longing to find his real _lords_ and
guides, which makes him despise and execrate his sham ones. Whereof let
society take note.
"Then," continued he, "your plan is to take up some one section of the
subject, and thoroughly exhaust that. Universal laws manifest themselves
only by particular instances. They say, man is the microcosm, Mr. Locke;
but the man of science finds every worm and beetle a microcosm in its way.
It exemplifies, directly or indirectly, every physical law in the universe,
though it may not be two lines long. It is not only a part, but a mirror,
of the great whole. It has a definite relation to the whole world, and the
whole world has a relation to it. Really, by-the-by, I cannot give you a
better instance of what I mean, than in my little diatribe on the Geryon
Trifurcifer, a small reptile which I found, some years ago, inhabiting
the mud of the salt lakes of Balkhan, which fills up a long-desired link
between the Chelonia and the Perenni branchiate Batrachians, and, as I
think, though Professor Brown differs from me, connects both with the
Herbivorous Cetacea,--Professor Brown is an exceedingly talented man, but
a little too cautious in accepting any one's theories but his own.
"There it is," he said, as he drew out of a drawer a little pamphlet of
some thirty pages--"an old man's darling. I consider that book the outcome
of thirteen years' labour."
"It must be very deep," I replied, "to have been worth such long-continued
"Oh! science is her own reward. There is hardly a great physical law which
I have not brought to bear on the subject of that one small animal; and
above all--what is in itself worth a life's labour--I have, I believe,
discovered two entirely new laws of my own, though one of them, by-the-by,
has been broached by Professor Brown since, in his lectures. He might have
mentioned my name in connection with the subject, for I certainly imparted
my ideas to him, two years at least before the delivery of those lectures
of his. Professor Brown is a very great man, certainly, and a very
good man, but not quite so original as is generally supposed. Still, a
scientific man must expect his little disappointments and injustices. If
you were behind the scenes in the scientific world, I can assure you,
you would find as much party-spirit, and unfairness, and jealousy, and
emulation there, as anywhere else. Human nature, human nature, everywhere!"
I said nothing, but thought the more; and took the book, promising to study
"There is Cuvier's 'Animal Kingdom,' and a dictionary of scientific terms
to help you; and mind, it must be got up thoroughly, for I purpose to set
you an examination or two in it, a few days hence. Then I shall find out
whether you know what is worth all the information in the world."
"What is that, sir?"
"The art of getting information _artem discendi_, Mr. Locke, wherewith the
world is badly provided just now, as it is overstocked with the _artem
legendi_--the knack of running the eye over books, and fancying that it
understands them, because it can talk about them. You cannot play that
trick with my Geryon Trifurcifer, I assure you; he is as dry and tough as
his name. But, believe me, he is worth mastering, not because he is mine,
but simply because he is tough."
I promised all diligence.
"Very good. And be sure, if you intend to be a poet for these days (and I
really think you have some faculty for it), you must become a scientific
man. Science has made vast strides, and introduced entirely new modes of
looking at nature, and poets must live up to the age. I never read a word
of Goethe's verse, but I am convinced that he must be the great poet of
the day, just because he is the only one who has taken the trouble to go
into the details of practical science. And, in the mean time, I will give
you a lesson myself. I see you are longing to know the contents of these
cabinets. You shall assist me by writing out the names of this lot of
shells, just come from Australia, which I am now going to arrange."
I set to work at once, under his directions; and passed that morning, and
the two or three following, delightfully. But I question whether the good
dean would have been well satisfied, had he known, how all his scientific
teaching confirmed my democratic opinions. The mere fact, that I could
understand these things when they were set before me, as well as any one
else, was to me a simple demonstration of the equality in worth, and
therefore in privilege, of all classes. It may be answered, that I had no
right to argue from myself to the mob; and that other working geniuses have
no right to demand universal enfranchisement for their whole class, just
because they, the exceptions, are fit for it. But surely it is hard to
call such an error, if it be one, "the insolent assumption of democratic
conceit," &c., &c. Does it not look more like the humility of men who
are unwilling to assert for themselves peculiar excellence, peculiar
privileges; who, like the apostles of old, want no glory, save that which
they can share with the outcast and the slave? Let society among other
matters, take note of that.
I was thus brought in contact, for the first time in my life, with two
exquisite specimens of cultivated womanhood; and they naturally, as
the reader may well suppose, almost entirely engrossed my thoughts and
Lillian, for so I must call her, became daily more and more agreeable; and
tried, as I fancied, to draw me out, and show me off to the best advantage;
whether from the desire of pleasing herself, or pleasing me, I know not,
and do not wish to know--but the consequences to my boyish vanity were such
as are more easy to imagine, than pleasant to describe. Miss Staunton, on
the other hand, became, I thought, more and more unpleasant; not that she
ever, for a moment, outstepped the bounds of the most perfect courtesy; but
her manner, which was soft to no one except to Lord Lynedale, was, when she
spoke to me, especially dictatorial and abrupt. She seemed to make a point
of carping at chance words of mine, and of setting me, down suddenly, by
breaking in with some severe, pithy observation, on conversations to which
she had been listening unobserved. She seemed, too, to view with dislike
anything like cordiality between me and Lillian--a dislike, which I was
actually at moments vain enough (such a creature is man!) to attribute
to--jealousy!!! till I began to suspect and hate her, as a proud, harsh,
and exclusive aristocrat. And my suspicion and hatred received their
confirmation, when, one morning, after an evening even more charming than
usual, Lillian came down, reserved, peevish, all but sulky, and showed that
that bright heaven of sunny features had room in it for a cloud, and that
an ugly one. But I, poor fool, only pitied her, made up my mind that some
one had ill-used her; and looked on her as a martyr--perhaps to that harsh
cousin of hers.
That day was taken up with writing out answers to the dean's searching
questions on his pamphlet, in which, I believe, I acquitted myself
tolerably; and he seemed far more satisfied with my commentary than I was
with his text. He seemed to ignore utterly anything like religion, or even
the very notion of God, in his chains of argument. Nature was spoken of as
the wilier and producer of all the marvels which he describes; and every
word in the book, to my astonishment, might have been written just as
easily by an Atheist as by a dignitary of the Church of England.
I could not help, that evening, hinting this defect, as delicately as I
could, to my good host, and was somewhat surprised to find that he did not
consider it a defect at all.
"I am in no wise anxious to weaken the antithesis between natural and
revealed religion. Science may help the former, but it has absolutely
nothing to do with the latter. She stands on her own ground, has her own
laws, and is her own reward. Christianity is a matter of faith and of the
teaching of the Church. It must not go out of its way for science, and
science must not go out of her way for it; and where they seem to differ,
it is our duty to believe that they are reconcilable by fuller knowledge,
but not to clip truth in order to make it match with doctrine."
"Mr. Carlyle," said Miss Staunton, in her abrupt way, "can see that the God
of Nature is the God of man."
"Nobody denies that, my dear."
"Except in every word and action; else why do they not write about Nature
as if it was the expression of a living, loving spirit, not merely a dead
"It may be very easy, my dear, for a Deist like Mr. Carlyle to see _his_
God in Nature; but if he would accept the truths of Christianity, he would
find that there were deeper mysteries in them than trees and animals can
"Pardon me, sir," I said, "but I think that a very large portion of
thoughtful working men agree with you, though, in their case, that opinion
has only increased their difficulties about Christianity. They complain
that they cannot identify the God of the Bible with the God of the world
around them; and one of their great complaints against Christianity is,
that it demands assent to mysteries which are independent of, and even
contradictory to, the laws of Nature."
The old man was silent.
"Mr. Carlyle is no Deist," said Miss Staunton; "and I am sure, that unless
the truths of Christianity contrive soon to get themselves justified by the
laws of science, the higher orders will believe in them as little as Mr.
Locke informs us that the working classes do."
"You prophesy confidently, my darling."
"Oh, Eleanor is in one of her prophetic moods to-night," said Lillian,
slyly. "She has been foretelling me I know not what misery and misfortune,
just because I choose to amuse myself in my own way."
And she gave another sly pouting look at Eleanor, and then called me to
look over some engravings, chatting over them so charmingly!--and stealing,
every now and then, a pretty, saucy look at her cousin, which seemed to
say, "I shall do what I like, in spite of your predictions."
This confirmed my suspicions that Eleanor had been trying to separate us;
and the suspicion received a further corroboration, indirect, and perhaps
very unfair, from the lecture which I got from my cousin after I went
He had been flattering me very much lately about "the impression" I was
making on the family, and tormenting me by compliments on the clever way
in which I "played my cards"; and when I denied indignantly any such
intention, patting me on the back, and laughing me down in a knowing way,
as much as to say that he was not to be taken in by my professions of
simplicity. He seemed to judge every one by himself, and to have no notion
of any middle characters between the mere green-horn and the deliberate
schemer. But to-night, after commencing with the usual compliments, he went
"Now, first let me give you one hint, and be thankful for it. Mind your
game with that Eleanor--Miss Staunton. She is a regular tyrant, I happen to
know: a strong-minded woman, with a vengeance. She manages every one here;
and unless you are in her good books, don't expect to keep your footing in
this house, my boy. So just mind and pay her a little more attention and
Miss Lillian a little less. After all, it is worth the trouble. She is
uncommonly well read; and says confounded clever things, too, when she
wakes up out of the sulks; and you may pick up a wrinkle or two from her,
worth pocketing. You mind what she says to you. You know she is going to be
married to Lord Lynedale."
I nodded assent.
"Well, then, if you want to hook him, you must secure her first."
"I want to hook no one, George; I have told you that a thousand times."
"Oh, no! certainly not--by no means! Why should you?" said the artful
dodger. And he swung, laughing, out of the room, leaving in my mind a
strange suspicion, of which I was ashamed, though I could not shake it off,
that he had remarked Eleanor's wish to cool my admiration for Lillian, and
was willing, for some purpose of his own, to further that wish. The truth
is, I had very little respect for him, or trust in him: and I was learning
to look, habitually, for some selfish motive in all he said or did.
Perhaps, if I had acted more boldly upon what I did see, I should not have
been here now.
SERMONS IN STONES.
The next afternoon was the last but one of my stay at D * * *. We were to
dine late, after sunset, and, before dinner, we went into the cathedral.
The choir had just finished practising. Certain exceedingly ill-looking
men, whose faces bespoke principally sensuality and self-conceit, and whose
function was that of praising God, on the sole qualification of good bass
and tenor voices, were coming chattering through the choir gates; and
behind them a group of small boys were suddenly transforming themselves
from angels into sinners, by tearing off their white surplices, and
pinching and poking each other noisily as they passed us, with as little
reverence as Voltaire himself could have desired.
I had often been in the cathedral before--indeed, we attended the service
daily, and I had been appalled, rather than astonished, by what I saw and
heard: the unintelligible service--the irreverent gabble of the choristers
and readers--the scanty congregation--the meagre portion of the vast
building which seemed to be turned to any use: but never more than that
evening, did I feel the desolateness, the doleful inutility, of that vast
desert nave, with its aisles and transepts--built for some purpose or other
now extinct. The whole place seemed to crush and sadden me; and I could not
re-echo Lillian's remark:
"How those pillars, rising story above story, and those lines of pointed
arches, all lead the eye heavenward! It is a beautiful notion, that about
pointed architecture being symbolic of Christianity."
"I ought to be very much ashamed of my stupidity," I answered; "but I
cannot feel that, though I believe I ought to do so. That vast groined
roof, with its enormous weight of hanging stone, seems to crush one--to
bar out the free sky above. Those pointed windows, too--how gloriously the
western sun is streaming through them! but their rich hues only dim and
deface his light. I can feel what you say, when I look at the cathedral on
the outside; there, indeed, every line sweeps the eye upward--carries it
from one pinnacle to another, each with less and less standing-ground, till
at the summit the building gradually vanishes in a point, and leaves the
spirit to wing its way, unsupported and alone, into the ether.
"Perhaps," I added, half bitterly, "these cathedrals may be true symbols
of the superstition which created them--on the outside, offering to
enfranchise the soul and raise it up to heaven; but when the dupes had
entered, giving them only a dark prison, and a crushing bondage, which
neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear."
"You may sneer at them, if you will, Mr. Locke," said Eleanor, in her
severe, abrupt way. "The working classes would have been badly off without
them. They were, in their day, the only democratic institution in the
world; and the only socialist one too. The only chance a poor man had of
rising by his worth, was by coming to the monastery. And bitterly the
working classes felt the want of them, when they fell. Your own Cobbett can
tell you that."
"Ah," said Lillian, "how different it must have been four hundred years
ago!--how solemn and picturesque those old monks must have looked, gliding
about the aisles!--and how magnificent the choir must have been, before all
the glass and carving, and that beautiful shrine of St. * * * *, blazing
with gold and jewels, were all plundered and defaced by those horrid
"Say, reformer-squires," answered Eleanor; "for it was they who did the
thing; only it was found convenient, at the Restoration, to lay on
the people of the seventeenth century the iniquities which the
country-gentlemen committed in the sixteenth."
"Surely," I added, emboldened by her words, "if the monasteries were what
their admirers say, some method of restoring the good of the old system,
without its evil, ought to be found; and would be found, if it were not--"
I paused, recollecting whose guest I was.
"If it were not, I suppose," said Eleanor, "for those lazy, overfed,
bigoted hypocrites, the clergy. That, I presume, is the description of them
to which you have been most accustomed. Now, let me ask you one question.
Do you mean to condemn, just now, the Church as it was, or the Church as
it is, or the Church as it ought to be? Radicals have a habit of confusing
those three questions, as they have of confusing other things when it suits
"Really," I said--for my blood was rising--"I do think that, with the
confessed enormous wealth of the clergy, the cathedral establishments
especially, they might do more for the people."
"Listen to me a little, Mr. Locke. The laity now-a-days take a pride in
speaking evil of the clergy, never seeing that if they are bad, the laity
have made them so. Why, what do you impute to them? Their worldliness,
their being like the world, like the laity round them--like you, in short?
Improve yourselves, and by so doing, if there is this sad tendency in the
clergy to imitate you, you will mend them; if you do not find that after