Part 6 out of 10
all, it is they who will have to mend you. 'As with the people, so with the
priest,' is the everlasting law. When, fifty years ago, all classes were
drunkards, from the statesman to the peasant, the clergy were drunken
also, but not half so bad as the laity. Now the laity are eaten up with
covetousness and ambition; and the clergy are covetous and ambitious, but
not half so bad as the laity. The laity, and you working men especially,
are the dupes of frothy, insincere, official rant, as Mr. Carlyle would
call it, in Parliament, on the hustings, at every debating society and
Chartist meeting; and, therefore, the clergyman's sermons are apt to be
just what people like elsewhere, and what, therefore, they suppose people
will like there."
"If, then," I answered, "in spite of your opinions, you confess the clergy
to be so bad, why are you so angry with men of our opinions, if we do plot
sometimes a little against the Church?"
"I do not think you know what my opinions are, Mr. Locke. Did you not hear
me just now praising the monasteries, because they were socialist and
democratic? But why is the badness of the clergy any reason for pulling
down the Church? That is another of the confused irrationalities into which
you all allow yourselves to fall. What do you mean by crying shame on a man
for being a bad clergyman, if a good clergyman is not a good thing? If the
very idea of a clergyman, was abominable, as your Church-destroyers ought
to say, you ought to praise a man for being a bad one, and not acting out
this same abominable idea of priesthood. Your very outcry against the sins
of the clergy, shows that, even in your minds, a dim notion lies somewhere
that a clergyman's vocation is, in itself, a divine, a holy, a beneficent
"I never looked at it in that light, certainly," said I, somewhat
"Very likely not. One word more, for I may not have another opportunity
of speaking to you as I would on these matters. You working men complain
of the clergy for being bigoted and obscurantist, and hating the cause of
the people. Does not nine-tenths of the blame of that lie at your door? I
took up, the other day, at hazard, one of your favourite liberty-preaching
newspapers; and I saw books advertised in it, whose names no modest woman
should ever behold; doctrines and practices advocated in it from which
all the honesty, the decency, the common human feeling which is left in
the English mind, ought to revolt, and does revolt. You cannot deny it.
Your class has told the world that the cause of liberty, equality, and
fraternity, the cause which the working masses claim as theirs, identifies
itself with blasphemy and indecency, with the tyrannous persecutions of
trades-unions, with robbery, assassinations, vitriol-bottles, and midnight
incendiarism. And then you curse the clergy for taking you at your word!
Whatsoever they do, you attack them. If they believe you, and stand up for
common, morality, and for the truths which they know are all-important to
poor as well as rich, you call them bigots and persecutors; while if they
neglect, in any way, the very Christianity for believing which you insult
them, you turn round and call them hypocrites. Mark my words, Mr. Locke,
till you gain the respect and confidence of the clergy, you will never
rise. The day will come when you will find that the clergy are the only
class who can help you. Ah, you may shake your head. I warn you of it. They
were the only bulwark of the poor against the mediaeval tyranny of Rank;
you will find them the only bulwark against the modern tyranny of Mammon."
I was on the point of entreating her to explain herself further, but at
that critical moment Lillian interposed.
"Now, stay your prophetic glances into the future; here come Lynedale and
papa." And in a moment, Eleanor's whole manner and countenance altered--the
petulant, wild unrest, the harsh, dictatorial tone vanished; and she
turned to meet her lover, with a look of tender, satisfied devotion, which
transfigured her whole face. It was most strange, the power he had over
her. His presence, even at a distance, seemed to fill her whole being
with rich quiet life. She watched him with folded hands, like a mystic
worshipper, waiting for the afflatus of the spirit; and, suspicious and
angry as I felt towards her, I could not help being drawn to her by this
revelation of depths of strong healthy feeling, of which her usual manner
gave so little sign.
This conversation thoroughly puzzled me; it showed me that there might be
two sides to the question of the people's cause, as well as to that of
others. It shook a little my faith in the infallibility of my own class,
to hear such severe animadversions on them, from a person who professed
herself as much a disciple of Carlyle as any working man; and who evidently
had no lack either of intellect to comprehend or boldness to speak out his
doctrines; who could praise the old monasteries for being democratic and
socialist, and spoke far more severely of the clergy than I could have
done--because she did not deal merely in trite words of abuse, but showed a
real analytic insight into the causes of their short-coming.
* * * * *
That same evening the conversation happened to turn on dress, of which Miss
Staunton spoke scornfully and disparagingly, as mere useless vanity and
frippery--an empty substitute for real beauty of person as well as the
higher beauty of mind. And I, emboldened by the courtesy with which I was
always called on to take my share in everything that was said or done,
ventured to object, humbly enough, to her notions.
"But is not beauty," I said, "in itself a good and blessed thing,
softening, refining, rejoicing the eyes of all who behold?" (And my eyes,
as I spoke, involuntary rested on Lillian's face--who saw it, and blushed.)
"Surely nothing which helps beauty is to be despised. And, without the
charm of dress, beauty, even that of expression, does not really do itself
justice. How many lovely and lovable faces there are, for instance,
among the working classes, which, if they had but the advantages which
ladies possess, might create delight, respect, chivalrous worship in the
beholder--but are now never appreciated, because they have not the same
fair means of displaying themselves which even the savage girl of the South
Sea Islands possesses!"
Lillian said it was so very true--she had really never thought of it
before--and somehow I gained courage to go on.
"Besides, dress is a sort of sacrament, if I may use the word--a sure sign
of the wearer's character; according as any one is orderly, or modest, or
tasteful, or joyous, or brilliant"--and I glanced again at Lillian--"those
excellences, or the want of them, are sure to show themselves, in the
colours they choose, and the cut of their garments. In the workroom, I and
a friend of mine used often to amuse ourselves over the clothes we were
making, by speculating from them on the sort of people the wearers were to
be; and I fancy we were not often wrong."
My cousin looked daggers at me, and for a moment I fancied I had committed
a dreadful mistake in mentioning my tailor-life. So I had in his eyes, but
not in those of the really well-bred persons round me.
"Oh, how very amusing it must have been! I think I shall turn milliner,
Eleanor, for the fun of divining every one's little failings from their
caps and gowns!"
"Go on, Mr. Locke," said the dean, who had seemed buried in the
"Transactions of the Royal Society." "The fact is novel, and I am more
obliged to any one who gives me that, than if he gave me a bank-note. The
money gets spent and done with; but I cannot spend the fact: it remains for
life as permanent capital, returning interest and compound interest _ad
infinitum_. By-the-by, tell me about those same workshops. I have heard
more about them than I like to believe true."
And I did tell him all about them; and spoke, my blood rising as I went on,
long and earnestly, perhaps eloquently. Now and then I got abashed, and
tried to stop; and then the dean informed me that I was speaking well and
sensibly, while Lillian entreated me to go on. She had never conceived
such things possible--it was as interesting as a novel, &c., &c.; and Miss
Staunton sat with compressed lips and frowning brow, apparently thinking of
nothing but her book, till I felt quite angry at her apathy--for such it
seemed to me to be.
And now the last day of our stay at D * * * had arrived, and I had as yet
heard nothing of the prospects of my book; though, indeed, the company
in which I had found myself had driven literary ambition, for the time
being, out of my head, and bewitched me to float down the stream of daily
circumstance, satisfied to snatch the enjoyment of each present moment.
That morning, however, after I had fulfilled my daily task of arranging
and naming objects of natural history, the dean settled himself back in
his arm-chair, and bidding me sit down, evidently meditated a business
He had heard from his publisher, and read his letter to me. "The poems were
on the whole much liked. The most satisfactory method of publishing for all
parties, would be by procuring so many subscribers, each agreeing to take
so many copies. In consideration of the dean's known literary judgment and
great influence, the publisher would, as a private favour, not object to
take the risk of any further expenses."
So far everything sounded charming. The method was not a very independent
one, but it was the only one; and I should actually have the delight of
having published a volume. But, alas! "he thought that the sale of the book
might be greatly facilitated, if certain passages of a strong political
tendency were omitted. He did not wish personally to object to them as
statements of facts, or to the pictorial vigour with which they were
expressed; but he thought that they were somewhat too strong for the
present state of the public taste; and though he should be the last to
allow any private considerations to influence his weak patronage of rising
talent, yet, considering his present connexion, he should hardly wish to
take on himself the responsibility of publishing such passages, unless with
"You see," said the good old man, "the opinion of respectable practical
men, who know the world, exactly coincides with mine. I did not like to
tell you that I could not help in the publication of your MSS. in their
present state; but I am sure, from the modesty and gentleness which I have
remarked in you, your readiness to listen to reason, and your pleasing
freedom from all violence or coarseness in expressing your opinions, that
you will not object to so exceedingly reasonable a request, which, after
all, is only for your good. Ah! young man," he went on, in a more feeling
tone than I had yet heard from him, "if you were once embroiled in that
political world, of which you know so little, you would soon be crying like
David, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove, then would I flee away and be
at rest!' Do you fancy that you can alter a fallen world? What it is, it
always has been, and will be to the end. Every age has its political and
social nostrums, my dear young man, and fancies them infallible; and
the next generation arises to curse them as failures in practice, and
superstitious in theory, and try some new nostrum of its own."
"Ah! you may sigh. But we have each of us to be disenchanted of our dream.
There was a time once when I talked republicanism as loudly as raw youth
ever did--when I had an excuse for it, too; for when I was a boy, I saw the
French Revolution; and it was no wonder if young, enthusiastic brains
were excited by all sorts of wild hopes--'perfectibility of the species,'
'rights of man,' 'universal liberty, equality, and brotherhood.'--My dear
sir, there is nothing new under the sun; all that is stale and trite to
a septuagenarian, who has seen where it all ends. I speak to you freely,
because I am deeply interested in you. I feel that this is the important
question of your life, and that you have talents, the possession of which
is a heavy responsibility. Eschew politics, once and for all, as I have
done. I might have been, I may tell you, a bishop at this moment, if I had
condescended to meddle again in those party questions of which my youthful
experience sickened me. But I knew that I should only weaken my own
influence, as that most noble and excellent man, Dr. Arnold, did, by
interfering in politics. The poet, like the clergyman and the philosopher,
has nothing to do with politics. Let them choose the better part, and it
shall not be taken from them. The world may rave," he continued, waxing
eloquent as he approached his favourite subject--"the world may rave, but
in the study there is quiet. The world may change, Mr. Locke, and will; but
'the earth abideth for ever.' Solomon had seen somewhat of politics, and
social improvement, and so on; and behold, then, as now, 'all was vanity
and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and
that which is wanting cannot be numbered. What profit hath a man of all his
labour which he taketh under the sun? The thing which hath been, it is that
which shall be, and there is no new thing under the sun. One generation
passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.' No
wonder that the wisest of men took refuge from such experience, as I have
tried to do, in talking of all herbs, from the cedar of Lebanon to the
hyssop that groweth on the wall!
"Ah! Mr. Locke," he went on, in a soft melancholy, half-abstracted
tone--"ah! Mr. Locke, I have felt deeply, and you will feel some day, the
truth of Jarno's saying in 'Wilhelm Meister,' when he was wandering alone
in the Alps, with his geological hammer, 'These rocks, at least, tell
me no lies, as men do.' Ay, there is no lie in Nature, no discord in
the revelations of science, in the laws of the universe. Infinite, pure,
unfallen, earth-supporting Titans, fresh as on the morning of creation,
those great laws endure; your only true democrats, too--for nothing is too
great or too small for them to take note of. No tiniest gnat, or speck of
dust, but they feed it, guide it, and preserve it,--Hail and snow, wind and
vapour, fulfilling their Maker's word; and like him, too, hiding themselves
from the wise and prudent, and revealing themselves unto babes. Yes, Mr.
Locke; it is the childlike, simple, patient, reverent heart, which science
at once demands and cultivates. To prejudice or haste, to self-conceit or
ambition, she proudly shuts her treasuries--to open them to men of humble
heart, whom this world thinks simple dreamers--her Newtons, and Owens,
and Faradays. Why should you not become such a man as they? You have the
talents--you have the love for nature, you seem to have the gentle and
patient spirit, which, indeed, will grow up more and more in you, if you
become a real student of science. Or, if you must be a poet, why not sing
of nature, and leave those to sing political squabbles, who have no eye for
the beauty of her repose? How few great poets have been politicians!"
I gently suggested Milton.
"Ay! he became a great poet only when he had deserted politics, because
they had deserted him. In blindness and poverty, in the utter failure of
all his national theories, he wrote the works which have made him immortal.
Was Shakespeare a politician? or any one of the great poets who have arisen
during the last thirty years? Have they not all seemed to consider it a
sacred duty to keep themselves, as far as they could, out of party strife?"
I quoted Southey, Shelley, and Burns, as instances to the contrary; but his
induction was completed already, to his own satisfaction.
"Poor dear Southey was a great verse-maker, rather than a great poet; and
I always consider that his party-prejudices and party-writing narrowed and
harshened a mind which ought to have been flowing forth freely and lovingly
towards all forms of life. And as for Shelley and Burns, their politics
dictated to them at once the worst portions of their poetry and of their
practice. Shelley, what little I have read of him, only seems himself when
he forgets radicalism for nature; and you would not set Burns' life or
death, either, as a model for imitation in any class. Now, do you know, I
must ask you to leave me a little. I am somewhat fatigued with this long
discussion" (in which, certainly, I had borne no great share); "and I am
sure, that after all I have said, you will see the propriety of acceding to
the publisher's advice. Go and think over it, and let me have your answer
by post time."
I did go and think over it--too long for my good. If I had acted on the
first impulse, I should have refused, and been safe. These passages were
the very pith and marrow of the poems. They were the very words which I had
felt it my duty, my glory, to utter. I, who had been a working man, who had
experienced all their sorrows and temptations--I, seemed called by every
circumstance of my life to preach their cause, to expose their wrongs--I
to squash my convictions, to stultify my book for the sake of popularity,
money, patronage! And yet--all that involved seeing more of Lillian. They
were only too powerful inducements in themselves, alas! but I believe I
could have resisted them tolerably, if they had not been backed by love.
And so a struggle arose, which the rich reader may think a very fantastic
one, though the poor man will understand it, and surely pardon it
also--seeing that he himself is Man. Could I not, just once in a way, serve
God and Mammon at once?--or rather, not Mammon, but Venus: a worship which
looked to me, and really was in my case, purer than all the Mariolatry in
Popedom. After all, the fall might not be so great as it seemed--perhaps I
was not infallible on these same points. (It is wonderful how humble and
self-denying one becomes when one is afraid of doing one's duty.) Perhaps
the dean might be right. He had been a republican himself once, certainly.
The facts, indeed, which I had stated, there could be no doubt of; but I
might have viewed them through a prejudiced and angry medium. I might have
been not quite logical in my deductions from them--I might.... In short,
between "perhapses" and "mights" I fell--a very deep, real, damnable fall;
and consented to emasculate my poems, and become a flunkey and a dastard.
I mentioned my consent that evening to the party; the dean purred content
thereat. Eleanor, to my astonishment, just said, sternly and abruptly,
"Weak!" and then turned away, while Lillian began:
"Oh! what a pity! And really they were some of the prettiest verses of all!
But of course my father must know best; you are quite right to be guided by
him, and do whatever is proper and prudent. After all, papa, I have got the
naughtiest of them all, you know, safe. Eleanor set it to music, and wrote
it out in her book, and I thought it was so charming that I copied it."
What Lillian said about herself I drank in as greedily as usual; what she
said about Eleanor fell on a heedless ear, and vanished, not to reappear in
my recollection till--But I must not anticipate.
So it was all settled pleasantly; and I sat up that evening writing a
bit of verse for Lillian, about the Old Cathedral, and "Heaven-aspiring
towers," and "Aisles of cloistered shade," and all that sort of thing;
which I did not believe or care for; but I thought it would please her, and
so it did; and I got golden smiles and compliments for my first, though not
my last, insincere poem. I was going fast down hill, in my hurry to rise.
However, as I said, it was all pleasant enough. I was to return to town,
and there await the dean's orders; and, most luckily, I had received that
morning from Sandy Mackaye a characteristic letter:
"Gowk, Telemachus, hearken! Item 1. Ye're fou wi' the Circean cup, aneath
the shade o' shovel hats and steeple houses.
"Item 2. I, cuif-Mentor that I am, wearing out a gude pair o' gude Scots
brogues that my sister's husband's third cousin sent me a towmond gane fra
Aberdeen, rinning ower the town to a' journals, respectable and ither,
anent the sellin o' your 'Autobiography of an Engine-Boiler in the Vauxhall
Road,' the whilk I ha' disposit o' at the last, to O'Flynn's _Weekly
Warwhoop_; and gin ye ha' ony mair sic trash in your head, you may get your
meal whiles out o' the same kist; unless, as I sair misdoubt, ye're praying
already, like Eli's bairns, 'to be put into ane o' the priest's offices,
that ye may eat a piece o' bread.'
"Yell be coming the-morrow? I'm lane without ye; though I look for ye
surely to come ben wi' a gowd shoulder-note, and a red nose."
This letter, though it hit me hard, and made me, I confess, a little
angry at the moment with my truest friend, still offered me a means of
subsistence, and enabled me to decline safely the pecuniary aid which I
dreaded the dean's offering me. And yet I felt dispirited and ill at ease.
My conscience would not let me enjoy the success I felt I had attained. But
next morning I saw Lillian; and I forgot books, people's cause, conscience,
* * * * *
I went home by coach--a luxury on which my cousin insisted--as he did on
lending me the fare; so that in all I owed him somewhat more than eleven
pounds. But I was too happy to care for a fresh debt, and home I went,
considering my fortune made.
My heart fell, as I stepped into the dingy little old shop! Was it the
meanness of the place after the comfort and elegance of my late abode?
Was it disappointment at not finding Mackaye at home? Or was it that
black-edged letter which lay waiting for me on the table? I was afraid to
open it; I knew not why. I turned it over and over several times, trying
to guess whose the handwriting on the cover might be; the postmark was two
days old; and at last I broke the seal.
"Sir,--This is to inform you that your mother, Mrs. Locke, died this
morning, a sensible sinner, not without assurance of her election: and
that her funeral is fixed for Wednesday, the 29th instant.
"The humble servant of the Lord's people,
SHORT AND SAD.
I shall pass over the agonies of the next few days. There is
self-exenteration enough and to spare in my story, without dilating on
them. They are too sacred to publish, and too painful, alas! even to
recall. I write my story, too, as a working man. Of those emotions which
are common to humanity, I shall say but little--except when it is necessary
to prove that the working man has feelings like the rest of his kind,
But those feelings may, in this case, be supplied by the reader's own
imagination. Let him represent them to himself as bitter, as remorseful as
he will, he will not equal the reality. True, she had cast me off; but had
I not rejoiced in that rejection which should have been my shame? True, I
had fed on the hope of some day winning reconciliation, by winning fame;
but before the fame had arrived, the reconciliation had become impossible.
I had shrunk from going back to her, as I ought to have done, in filial
humility, and, therefore, I was not allowed to go back to her in the pride
of success. Heaven knows, I had not forgotten her. Night and day I had
thought of her with prayers and blessings; but I had made a merit of my own
love to her--my forgiveness of her, as I dared to call it. I had pampered
my conceit with a notion that I was a martyr in the cause of genius and
enlightenment. How hollow, windy, heartless, all that looked now. There! I
will say no more. Heaven preserve any who read these pages from such days
and nights as I dragged on till that funeral, and for weeks after it was
over, when I had sat once more in the little old chapel, with all the
memories of my childhood crowding up, and tantalizing me with the vision
of their simple peace--never, never, to return! I heard my mother's dying
pangs, her prayers, her doubts, her agonies, for my reprobate soul,
dissected for the public good by my old enemy, Mr. Wigginton, who dragged
in among his fulsome eulogies of my mother's "signs of grace," rejoicings
that there were "babes span-long in hell." I saw my sister Susan, now a
tall handsome woman, but become all rigid, sour, with coarse grim lips, and
that crushed, self-conscious, reserved, almost dishonest look about the
eyes, common to fanatics of every creed. I heard her cold farewell, as she
put into my hands certain notes and diaries of my mother's, which she had
bequeathed to me on her death-bed. I heard myself proclaimed inheritor of
some small matters of furniture, which had belonged to her; told Susan
carelessly to keep them for herself; and went forth, fancying that the
curse of Cain was on my brow.
I took home the diary; but several days elapsed before I had courage to
open it. Let the words I read there be as secret as the misery which
dictated them. I had broken my mother's heart!--no! I had not!--The
infernal superstition which taught her to fancy that Heaven's love was
narrower than her own--that God could hate his creature, not for its sins,
but for the very nature which he had given it--that, that had killed her.
And I remarked too, with a gleam of hope, that in several places where
sunshine seemed ready to break through the black cloud of fanatic
gloom--where she seemed inclined not merely to melt towards me (for there
was, in every page, an under-current of love deeper than death, and
stronger than the grave), but also to dare to trust God on my behalf--whole
lines carefully erased page after page torn out, evidently long after the
MSS. were written. I believe, to this day, that either my poor sister or
her father-confessor was the perpetrator of that act. The _fraus pia_ is
not yet extinct; and it is as inconvenient now as it was in popish times,
to tell the whole truth about saints, when they dare to say or do things
which will not quite fit into the formulae of their sect.
But what was to become of Susan? Though my uncle continued to her
the allowance which he had made to my mother, yet I was her natural
protector--and she was my only tie upon earth. Was I to lose her, too?
Might we not, after all, be happy together, in some little hole in Chelsea,
like Elia and his Bridget? That question was solved for me. She declined
my offers; saying, that she could not live with any one whose religious
opinions differed from her own, and that she had already engaged a room at
the house of a Christian friend; and was shortly to be united to that dear
man of God, Mr. Wigginton, who was to be removed to the work of the Lord in
I knew the scoundrel, but it would have been impossible for me to undeceive
her. Perhaps he was only a scoundrel--perhaps he would not ill-treat her.
And yet--my own little Susan! my play-fellow! my only tie on earth!--to
lose her--and not only her, but her respect, her love!--And my spirit, deep
enough already, sank deeper still into sadness; and I felt myself alone on
earth, and clung to Mackaye as to a father--and a father indeed that old
man was to me.
PEGASUS IN HARNESS.
But, in sorrow or in joy, I had to earn my bread; and so, too, had
Crossthwaite, poor fellow! How he contrived to feed himself and his little
Katie for the next few years is more than I can tell; at all events he
worked hard enough. He scribbled, agitated, ran from London to Manchester,
and Manchester to Bradford, spouting, lecturing--sowing the east wind, I am
afraid, and little more. Whose fault was it? What could such a man do, with
that fervid tongue, and heart, and brain of his, in such a station as his,
such a time as this? Society had helped to make him an agitator. Society
has had, more or less, to take the consequences of her own handiwork. For
Crossthwaite did not speak without hearers. He could make the fierce,
shrewd, artisan nature flash out into fire--not always celestial, nor
always, either, infernal. So he agitated and lived--how, I know not. That
he did do so, is evident from the fact that he and Katie are at this moment
playing chess in the cabin, before my eyes, and making love, all the while,
as if they had not been married a week.... Ah, well!
I, however, had to do more than get my bread; I had to pay off these
fearful eleven pounds odd, which, now that all the excitement of my stay at
D * * * had been so sadly quenched, lay like lead upon my memory. My list
of subscribers filled slowly, and I had no power of increasing it by any
canvassings of my own. My uncle, indeed, had promised to take two copies,
and my cousin one; not wishing, of course, to be so uncommercial as to run
any risk, before they had seen whether my poems would succeed. But, with
those exceptions, the dean had it all his own way; and he could not be
expected to forego his own literary labours for my sake; so, through all
that glaring summer, and sad foggy autumn, and nipping winter, I had to
get my bread as I best could--by my pen. Mackaye grumbled at my writing
so much, and so fast, and sneered about the _furor scribendi_. But it
was hardly fair upon me. "My mouth craved it of me," as Solomon says.
I had really no other means of livelihood. Even if I could have gotten
employment as a tailor, in the honourable trade, I loathed the business
utterly--perhaps, alas! to confess the truth, I was beginning to despise
it. I could bear to think of myself as a poor genius, in connection with my
new wealthy and high-bred patrons; for there was precedent for the thing.
Penniless bards and squires of low degree, low-born artists, ennobled by
their pictures--there was something grand in the notion of mind triumphant
over the inequalities of rank, and associating with the great and wealthy
as their spiritual equal, on the mere footing of its own innate nobility;
no matter to what den it might return, to convert it into a temple of the
Muses, by the glorious creations of its fancy, &c., &c. But to go back
daily from the drawing-room and the publisher's to the goose and the
shopboard, was too much for my weakness, even if it had been physically
possible, as, thank Heaven, it was not.
So I became a hack-writer, and sorrowfully, but deliberately, "put my
Pegasus into heavy harness," as my betters had done before me. It was
miserable work, there is no denying it--only not worse than tailoring.
To try and serve God and Mammon too; to make miserable compromises daily
between the two great incompatibilities, what was true, and what would
pay; to speak my mind, in fear and trembling, by hints, and halves, and
quarters; to be daily hauling poor Truth just up to the top of the well,
and then, frightened at my own success, let her plump down again to the
bottom; to sit there trying to teach others, while my mind was in a whirl
of doubt; to feed others' intellects while my own were hungering; to grind
on in the Philistine's mill, or occasionally make sport for them, like some
weary-hearted clown grinning in a pantomime in a "light article," as blind
as Samson, but not, alas! as strong, for indeed my Delilah of the West-end
had clipped my locks, and there seemed little chance of their growing
again. That face and that drawing-room flitted before me from morning till
eve, and enervated and distracted my already over-wearied brain.
I had no time, besides, to concentrate my thoughts sufficiently for poetry;
no time to wait for inspiration. From the moment I had swallowed my
breakfast, I had to sit scribbling off my thoughts anyhow in prose; and
soon my own scanty stock was exhausted, and I was forced to beg, borrow,
and steal notions and facts wherever I could get them. Oh! the misery of
having to read not what I longed to know, but what I thought would pay!
to skip page after page of interesting matter, just to pick out a single
thought or sentence which could be stitched into my patchwork! and then
the still greater misery of seeing the article which I had sent to press
a tolerably healthy and lusty bantling, appear in print next week after
suffering the inquisition tortures of the editorial censorship, all maimed,
and squinting, and one-sided, with the colour rubbed off its poor cheeks,
and generally a villanous hang-dog look of ferocity, so different from its
birth-smile that I often did not know my own child again!--and then, when I
dared to remonstrate, however feebly, to be told, by way of comfort, that
the public taste must be consulted! It gave me a hopeful notion of the said
taste, certainly; and often and often I groaned in spirit over the temper
of my own class, which not only submitted to, but demanded such one-sided
bigotry, prurience, and ferocity, from those who set up as its guides and
Mr. O'Flynn, editor of the _Weekly Warwhoop_, whose white slave I now found
myself, was, I am afraid, a pretty faithful specimen of that class, as it
existed before the bitter lesson of the 10th of April brought the Chartist
working men and the Chartist press to their senses. Thereon sprang up a
new race of papers, whose moral tone, whatever may be thought of their
political or doctrinal opinions, was certainly not inferior to that of the
Whig and Tory press. The _Commonwealth_, the _Standard of Freedom_, the
_Plain Speaker_, were reprobates, if to be a Chartist is to be a reprobate:
but none except the most one-sided bigots could deny them the praise of
a stern morality and a lofty earnestness, a hatred of evil and a craving
after good, which would often put to shame many a paper among the oracles
of Belgravia and Exeter Hall. But those were the days of lubricity and
O'Flynn. Not that the man was an unredeemed scoundrel. He was no more
profligate, either in his literary or his private morals, than many a man
who earns his hundreds, sometimes his thousands, a year, by prophesying
smooth things to Mammon, crying in daily leaders "Peace! peace!" when
there is no peace, and daubing the rotten walls of careless luxury and
self-satisfied covetousness with the untempered mortar of party statistics
and garbled foreign news--till "the storm shall fall, and the breaking
thereof cometh suddenly in an instant." Let those of the respectable press
who are without sin, cast the first stone at the unrespectable. Many of
the latter class, who have been branded as traitors and villains, were
single-minded, earnest, valiant men; and, as for even O'Flynn, and those
worse than him, what was really the matter with them was, that they were
too honest--they spoke out too much of their whole minds. Bewildered, like
Lear, amid the social storm, they had determined, like him, to become
"unsophisticated," "to owe the worm no silk, the cat no perfume"--seeing,
indeed, that if they had, they could not have paid for them; so they tore
off, of their own will, the peacock's feathers of gentility, the sheep's
clothing of moderation, even the fig-leaves of decent reticence, and became
just what they really were--just what hundreds more would become, who
now sit in the high places of the earth, if it paid them as well to
be unrespectable as it does to be respectable; if the selfishness and
covetousness, bigotry and ferocity, which are in them, and more or less in
every man, had happened to enlist them against existing evils, instead of
for them. O'Flynn would have been gladly as respectable as they; but, in
the first place, he must have starved; and in the second place, he must
have lied; for he believed in his own radicalism with his whole soul. There
was a ribald sincerity, a frantic courage in the man. He always spoke the
truth when it suited him, and very often when it did not. He did see, which
is more than all do, that oppression is oppression, and humbug, humbug.
He had faced the gallows before now without flinching. He had spouted
rebellion in the Birmingham Bullring, and elsewhere, and taken the
consequences like a man; while his colleagues left their dupes to the
tender mercies of broadswords and bayonets, and decamped in the disguise
of sailors, old women, and dissenting preachers. He had sat three months
in Lancaster Castle, the Bastille of England, one day perhaps to fall like
that Parisian one, for a libel which he never wrote, because he would
not betray his cowardly contributor. He had twice pleaded his own cause,
without help of attorney, and showed himself as practised in every
law-quibble and practical cheat as if he had been a regularly ordained
priest of the blue-bag; and each time, when hunted at last into a corner,
had turned valiantly to bay, with wild witty Irish eloquence, "worthy," as
the press say of poor misguided Mitchell, "of a better cause." Altogether,
a much-enduring Ulysses, unscrupulous, tough-hided, ready to do and suffer
anything fair or foul, for what he honestly believed--if a confused,
virulent positiveness be worthy of the name "belief"--to be the true and
Those who class all mankind compendiously and comfortably under the two
exhaustive species of saints and villains, may consider such a description
garbled and impossible. I have seen few men, but never yet met I among
those few either perfect saint or perfect villain. I draw men as I have
found them--inconsistent, piece-meal, better than their own actions,
worse than their own opinions, and poor O'Flynn among the rest. Not that
there were no questionable spots in the sun of his fair fame. It was
whispered that he had in old times done dirty work for Dublin Castle
bureaucrats--nay, that he had even, in a very hard season, written court
poetry for the _Morning Post_; but all these little peccadilloes he
carefully veiled in that kindly mist which hung over his youthful years.
He had been a medical student, and got plucked, his foes declared, in his
examination. He had set up a savings-bank, which broke. He had come over
from Ireland, to agitate for "repale" and "rint," and, like a wise man as
he was, had never gone back again. He had set up three or four papers in
his time, and entered into partnership with every leading democrat in turn;
but his papers failed, and he quarrelled with his partners, being addicted
to profane swearing and personalities. And now, at last, after Ulyssean
wanderings, he had found rest in the office of the _Weekly Warwhoop_, if
rest it could be called, that perennial hurricane of plotting, railing,
sneering, and bombast, in which he lived, never writing a line, on
principle, till he had worked himself up into a passion.
I will dwell no more on so distasteful a subject. Such leaders, let us
hope, belong only to the past--to the youthful self-will and licentiousness
of democracy; and as for reviling O'Flynn, or any other of his class, no
man has less right than myself, I fear, to cast stones at such as they.
I fell as low as almost any, beneath the besetting sins of my class; and
shall I take merit to myself, because God has shown me, a little earlier
perhaps than to them, somewhat more of the true duties and destinies of The
Many? Oh, that they could see the depths of my affection to them! Oh, that
they could see the shame and self-abasement with which, in rebuking their
sins, I confess my own! If they are apt to be flippant and bitter, so was
I. If they lust to destroy, without knowing what to build up instead, so
did I. If they make an almighty idol of that Electoral Reform, which ought
to be, and can be, only a preliminary means, and expect final deliverance
from "their twenty-thousandth part of a talker in the national palaver,"
so did I. Unhealthy and noisome as was the literary atmosphere in which I
now found myself, it was one to my taste. The very contrast between the
peaceful, intellectual luxury which I had just witnessed, and the misery of
my class and myself, quickened my delight in it. In bitterness, in sheer
envy, I threw my whole soul into it, and spoke evil, and rejoiced in evil.
It was so easy to find fault! It pampered my own self-conceit, my own
discontent, while it saved me the trouble of inventing remedies. Yes; it
was indeed easy to find fault. "The world was all before me, where to
choose." In such a disorganized, anomalous, grumbling, party-embittered
element as this English society, and its twin pauperism and luxury, I had
but to look straight before me to see my prey.
And thus I became daily more and more cynical, fierce, reckless. My mouth
was filled with cursing--and too often justly. And all the while, like
tens of thousands of my class, I had no man to teach me. Sheep scattered
on the hills, we were, that had no shepherd. What wonder if our bones lay
bleaching among rocks and quagmires, and wolves devoured the heritage of
Mackaye had nothing positive, after all, to advise or propound. His wisdom
was one of apophthegms and maxims, utterly impracticable, too often merely
negative, as was his creed, which, though he refused to be classed with any
sect, was really a somewhat undefined Unitarianism--or rather Islamism. He
could say, with the old Moslem, "God is great--who hath resisted his will?"
And he believed what he said, and lived manful and pure, reverent and
self-denying, by that belief, as the first Moslem did. But that was not
"Not enough? Merely negative?"
No--_that_ was positive enough, and mighty; but I repeat it, it was not
enough. He felt it so himself; for he grew daily more and more cynical,
more and more hopeless about the prospects of his class and of all
humanity. Why not? Poor suffering wretches! what is it to them to know that
"God is great," unless you can prove to them God is also merciful? Did he
indeed care for men at all?--was what I longed to know; was all this misery
and misrule around us his will--his stern and necessary law--his lazy
connivance? And were we to free ourselves from it by any frantic means that
came to hand? or had he ever interfered himself? Was there a chance, a
hope, of his interfering now, in our own time, to take the matter into his
own hand, and come out of his place to judge the earth in righteousness?
That was what we wanted to know; and poor Mackaye could give no comfort
there. "God was great--the wicked would be turned into hell." Ay--the few
wilful, triumphant wicked; but the millions of suffering, starving wicked,
the victims of society and circumstance--what hope for them? "God was
great." And for the clergy, our professed and salaried teachers, all I can
say is--and there are tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of workmen who
can re-echo my words--with the exception of the dean and my cousin, and one
who shall be mentioned hereafter, a clergyman never spoke to me in my life.
Why should he? Was I not a Chartist and an Infidel? The truth is, the
clergy are afraid of us. To read the _Dispatch_, is to be excommunicated.
Young men's classes? Honour to them, however few they are--however hampered
by the restrictions of religious bigotry and political cowardice. But the
working men, whether rightly or wrongly, do not trust them; they do not
trust the clergy who set them on foot; they do not expect to be taught at
them the things they long to know--to be taught the whole truth in them
about history, politics, science, the Bible. They suspect them to be mere
tubs to the whale--mere substitutes for education, slowly and late adopted,
in order to stop the mouths of the importunate. They may misjudge the
clergy; but whose fault is it if they do? Clergymen of England!--look at
the history of your Establishment for the last fifty years, and say, what
wonder is it if the artisan mistrust you? Every spiritual reform, since the
time of John Wesley, has had to establish itself in the teeth of insult,
calumny, and persecution. Every ecclesiastical reform comes not from
within, but from without your body. Mr. Horsman, struggling against every
kind of temporizing and trickery, has to do the work which bishops, by
virtue of their seat in the House of Lords, ought to have been doing years
ago. Everywhere we see the clergy, with a few persecuted exceptions (like
Dr. Arnold), proclaiming themselves the advocates of Toryism, the dogged
opponents of our political liberty, living either by the accursed system of
pew-rents, or else by one which depends on the high price of corn; chosen
exclusively from the classes who crush us down; prohibiting all free
discussion on religious points; commanding us to swallow down, with faith
as passive and implicit as that of a Papist, the very creeds from which
their own bad example, and their scandalous neglect, have, in the last
three generations, alienated us; never mixing with the thoughtful working
men, except in the prison, the hospital, or in extreme old age; betraying,
in every tract, in every sermon, an ignorance of the doubts, the feelings,
the very language of the masses, which would be ludicrous, were it not
accursed before God and man. And then will you show us a few tardy
improvements here and there, and ask us, indignantly, why we distrust you?
Oh! gentlemen, if you cannot see for yourselves the causes of our distrust,
it is past our power to show you. We must leave it to God.
* * * * *
But to return to my own story. I had, as I said before, to live by my pen;
and in that painful, confused, maimed way, I contrived to scramble on the
long winter through, writing regularly for the _Weekly Warwhoop_, and
sometimes getting an occasional scrap into some other cheap periodical,
often on the very verge of starvation, and glad of a handful of meal from
Sandy's widow's barrel. If I had had more than my share of feasting in the
summer, I made the balance even, during those frosty months, by many a
And here let me ask you, gentle reader, who are just now considering me
ungentle, virulent, and noisy, did you ever, for one day in your whole
life, literally, involuntarily, and in spite of all your endeavours,
longings, and hungerings, _not get enough to eat_? If you ever have, it
must have taught you several things.
But all this while, it must not be supposed that I had forgotten my
promise to good Farmer Porter, to look for his missing son. And, indeed,
Crossthwaite and I were already engaged in a similar search for a friend
of his--the young tailor, who, as I told Porter, had been lost for
several months. He was the brother of Crossthwaite's wife, a passionate,
kind-hearted Irishman, Mike Kelly by name, reckless and scatter-brained
enough to get himself into every possible scrape, and weak enough of will
never to get himself out of one. For these two, Crossthwaite and I had
searched from one sweater's den to another, and searched in vain. And
though the present interest and exertion kept us both from brooding over
our own difficulties, yet in the long run it tended only to embitter and
infuriate our minds. The frightful scenes of hopeless misery which we
witnessed--the ever widening pit of pauperism and slavery, gaping for fresh
victims day by day, as they dropped out of the fast lessening "honourable
trade," into the ever-increasing miseries of sweating, piece-work, and
starvation prices; the horrible certainty that the same process which was
devouring our trade was slowly, but surely, eating up every other also;
the knowledge that there was no remedy, no salvation for us in man, that
political economists had declared such to be the law and constitution of
society, and that our rulers had believed that message, and were determined
to act upon it;--if all these things did not go far towards maddening us,
we must have been made of sterner stuff than any one who reads this book.
At last, about the middle of January, just as we had given up the search
as hopeless, and poor Katie's eyes were getting red and swelled with daily
weeping, a fresh spur was given to our exertions, by the sudden appearance
of no less a person than the farmer himself. What ensued upon his coming
must be kept for another chapter.
THE SWEATER'S DEN.
I was greedily devouring Lane's "Arabian Nights," which had made their
first appearance in the shop that day.
Mackaye sat in his usual place, smoking a clean pipe, and assisting his
meditations by certain mysterious chironomic signs; while opposite to him
was Farmer Porter--a stone or two thinner than when I had seen him last,
but one stone is not much missed out of seventeen. His forehead looked
smaller, and his jaws larger than ever, and his red face was sad, and
furrowed with care.
Evidently, too, he was ill at ease about other matters besides his son. He
was looking out of the corners of his eyes, first at the skinless cast on
the chimney-piece, then at the crucified books hanging over his head, as
if he considered them not altogether safe companions, and rather expected
something "uncanny" to lay hold of him from behind--a process which
involved the most horrible contortions of visage, as he carefully abstained
from stirring a muscle of his neck or body, but sat bolt upright, his
elbows pinned to his sides, and his knees as close together as his stomach
would permit, like a huge corpulent Egyptian Memnon--the most ludicrous
contrast to the little old man opposite, twisted up together in his
Joseph's coat, like some wizard magician in the stories which I was
reading. A curious pair of "poles" the two made; the mesothet whereof, by
no means a _"punctum indifferens,"_ but a true connecting spiritual idea,
stood on the table--in the whisky-bottle.
Farmer Porter was evidently big with some great thought, and had all a true
poet's bashfulness about publishing the fruit of his creative genius. He
looked round again at the skinless man, the caricatures, the books; and,
as his eye wandered from pile to pile, and shelf to shelf, his face
brightened, and he seemed to gain courage.
Solemnly he put his hat on his knees, and began solemnly brushing it with
his cuff. Then he saw me watching him, and stopped. Then he put his pipe
solemnly on the hob, and cleared his throat for action, while I buried my
face in the book.
"Them's a sight o' larned beuks, Muster Mackaye?"
"Yow maun ha' got a deal o' scholarship among they, noo?"
"Dee yow think, noo, yow could find out my boy out of un, by any ways o'
"Conjuring--to strike a perpendicular, noo, or say the Lord's Prayer
"Wadna ye prefer a meeracle or twa?" asked Sandy, after a long pull at the
"Or a few efreets?" added I.
"Whatsoever you likes, gentlemen. You're best judges, to be sure," answered
Farmer Porter, in an awed and helpless voice.
"Aweel--I'm no that disinclined to believe in the occult sciences. I dinna
haud a'thegither wi' Salverte. There was mair in them than Magia naturalis,
I'm thinking. Mesmerism and magic-lanterns, benj and opium, winna explain
all facts, Alton, laddie. Dootless they were an unco' barbaric an' empiric
method o' expressing the gran' truth o' man's mastery ower matter. But the
interpenetration o' the spiritual an' physical worlds is a gran' truth too;
an' aiblins the Deity might ha' allowed witchcraft, just to teach that
to puir barbarous folk--signs and wonders, laddie, to mak them believe
in somewhat mair than the beasts that perish: an' so ghaists an warlocks
might be a necessary element o' the divine education in dark and carnal
times. But I've no read o' a case in which necromancy, nor geomancy, nor
coskinomancy, nor ony other mancy, was applied to sic a purpose as this.
Unco gude they were, may be, for the discovery o' stolen spunes--but no
that o' stolen tailors."
Farmer Porter had listened to this harangue, with mouth and eyes gradually
expanding between awe and the desire to comprehend; but at the last
sentence his countenance fell.
"So I'm thinking, Mister Porter, that the best witch in siccan a case is
ane that ye may find at the police-office."
"Thae detective police are gran' necromancers an' canny in their way: an' I
just took the liberty, a week agone, to ha' a crack wi' ane o' 'em. An noo,
gin ye're inclined, we'll leave the whusky awhile, an' gang up to that cave
o' Trophawnius, ca'd by the vulgar Bow-street, an' speir for tidings o' the
twa lost sheep."
So to Bow-street we went, and found our man, to whom the farmer bowed with
obsequiousness most unlike his usual burly independence. He evidently half
suspected him to have dealings with the world of spirits: but whether he
had such or not, they had been utterly unsuccessful; and we walked back
again, with the farmer between us, half-blubbering--
"I tell ye, there's nothing like ganging to a wise 'ooman. Bless ye, I mind
one up to Guy Hall, when I was a barn, that two Irish reapers coom down,
and murthered her for the money--and if you lost aught she'd vind it, so
sure as the church--and a mighty hand to cure burns; and they two villains
coom back, after harvest, seventy mile to do it--and when my vather's cows
was shrew-struck, she made un be draed under a brimble as growed together
at the both ends, she a praying like mad all the time; and they never got
nothing but fourteen shilling and a crooked sixpence; for why, the devil
carried off all the rest of her money; and I seen um both a-hanging in
chains by Wisbeach river, with my own eyes. So when they Irish reapers
comes into the vens, our chaps always says, 'Yow goo to Guy Hall, there's
yor brithren a-waitin' for yow,' and that do make um joost mad loike, it
do. I tell ye there's nowt like a wise 'ooman, for vinding out the likes o'
At this hopeful stage of the argument I left them to go to the Magazine
office. As I passed through Covent Garden, a pretty young woman stopped me
under a gas-lamp. I was pushing on when I saw it was Jemmy Downes's Irish
wife, and saw, too, that she did not recognise me. A sudden instinct made
me stop and hear what she had to say.
"Shure, thin, and ye're a tailor, my young man?"
"Yes," I said, nettled a little that my late loathed profession still
betrayed itself in my gait.
"From the counthry?"
I nodded, though I dared not speak a white lie to that effect. I fancied
that, somehow, through her I might hear of poor Kelly and his friend
"Ye'll be wanting work, thin?"
"I have no work."
"Och, thin, it's I can show ye the flower o' work, I can. Bedad, there's a
shop I know of where ye'll earn--bedad, if ye're the ninth part of a man,
let alone a handy young fellow like the looks of you--och, ye'll earn
thirty shillings the week, to the very least--an' beautiful lodgings;
och, thin, just come and see 'em--as chape as mother's milk! Gome along,
thin--och, it's the beauty ye are--just the nate figure for a tailor."
The fancy still possessed me; and I went with her through one dingy back
street after another. She seemed to be purposely taking an indirect road,
to mislead me as to my whereabouts; but after a half-hour's walking,
I knew, as well as she, that we were in one of the most miserable
slop-working nests of the East-end.
She stopped at a house door, and hurried me in, up to the first floor,
and into a dirty, slatternly parlour, smelling infamously of gin; where
the first object I beheld was Jemmy Downes, sitting before the fire,
three-parts drunk, with a couple of dirty, squalling children on the
hearthrug, whom he was kicking and cuffing alternately.
"Och, thin, ye villain, beating the poor darlints whinever I lave ye a
minute." And pouring out a volley of Irish curses, she caught up the
urchins, one under each arm, and kissed and hugged them till they were
nearly choked. "Och, ye plague o' my life--as drunk as a baste; an' I
brought home this darlint of a young gentleman to help ye in the business."
Downes got up, and steadying himself by the table, leered at me with
lacklustre eyes, and attempted a little ceremonious politeness. How this
was to end I did not see; but I was determined to carry it through, on the
chance of success, infinitely small as that might be.
"An' I've told him thirty shillings a week's the least he'll earn; and
charge for board and lodgings only seven shillings."
"Thirty!--she lies; she's always a lying; don't you mind her.
Five-and-forty is the werry lowest figure. Ask my respectable and most
piousest partner, Shemei Solomons. Why, blow me--it's Locke!"
"Yes, it is Locke; and surely you're my old friend Jemmy Downes? Shake
hands. What an unexpected pleasure to meet you again!"
"Werry unexpected pleasure. Tip us your daddle! Delighted--delighted, as I
was a saying, to be of the least use to yer. Take a caulker? Summat heavy,
then? No? 'Tak' a drap o' kindness yet, for auld langsyne?"
"You forget I was always a teetotaller."
"Ay," with a look of unfeigned pity. "An' you're a going to lend us a hand?
Oh, ah! perhaps you'd like to begin? Here's a most beautiful uniform,
now, for a markis in her Majesty's Guards; we don't mention names--tarn't
businesslike. P'r'aps you'd like best to work here to-night, for
company--'for auld langsyne, my boys;' and I'll introduce yer to the gents
"No," I said; "I'll go up at once, if you've no objection."
"Och, thin, but the sheets isn't aired--no--faix; and I'm thinking the
gentleman as is a going isn't gone yet."
But I insisted on going up at once; and, grumbling, she followed me. I
stopped on the landing of the second floor, and asked which way; and seeing
her in no hurry to answer, opened a door, inside which I heard the hum
of many voices, saying in as sprightly a tone as I could muster, that I
supposed that was the workroom.
As I had expected, a fetid, choking den, with just room enough in it for
the seven or eight sallow, starved beings, who, coatless, shoeless, and
ragged, sat stitching, each on his truckle-bed. I glanced round; the man
whom I sought was not there.
My heart fell; why it had ever risen to such a pitch of hope I cannot tell;
and half-cursing myself for a fool, in thus wildly thrusting my head into a
squabble, I turned back and shut the door, saying--
"A very pleasant room, ma'am, but a leetle too crowded."
Before she could answer, the opposite door opened; and a face
appeared--unwashed, unshaven, shrunken to a skeleton. I did not recognise
it at first.
"Blessed Vargen! but that wasn't your voice, Locke?"
"And who are you?"
"Tear and ages! and he don't know Mike Kelly!"
My first impulse was to catch him up in my arms, and run down-stairs with
him. I controlled myself, however, not knowing how far he might be in his
tyrant's power. But his voluble Irish heart burst out at once--
"Oh! blessed saints, take me out o' this! take me out for the love of
Jesus! take me out o' this hell, or I'll go mad intirely! Och! will nobody
have pity on poor sowls in purgatory--here in prison like negur slaves?
We're starved to the bone, we are, and kilt intirely with cowld."
And as he clutched my arm, with his long, skinny, trembling fingers, I
saw that his hands and feet were all chapped and bleeding. Neither shoe
nor stocking did he possess; his only garments were a ragged shirt and
trousers; and--and, and in horrible mockery of his own misery, a grand
new flowered satin vest, which to-morrow was to figure in some gorgeous
"Och! Mother of Heaven!" he went on, wildly, "when will I get out to the
fresh air? For five months I haven't seen the blessed light of sun, nor
spoken to the praste, nor ate a bit o' mate, barring bread-and-butter.
Shure, it's all the blessed Sabbaths and saints' days I've been a working
like a haythen Jew, an niver seen the insides o' the chapel to confess my
sins, and me poor sowl's lost intirely--and they've pawned the relaver
[Footnote: A coat, we understand, which is kept by the coatless wretches in
these sweaters' dungeons, to be used by each of them in turn when they want
to go out.--EDITOR.] this fifteen weeks, and not a boy of us iver sot foot
in the street since."
"Vot's that row?" roared at this juncture Downes's voice from below.
"Och, thin," shrieked the woman, "here's that thief o' the warld, Micky
Kelly, slandhering o' us afore the blessed heaven, and he owing L2. 14s.
1/2d. for his board an' lodging, let alone pawn-tickets, and goin' to
rin away, the black-hearted ongrateful sarpent!" And she began yelling
indiscriminately, "Thieves!" "Murder!" "Blasphemy!" and such other
ejaculations, which (the English ones at least) had not the slightest
reference to the matter in hand.
"I'll come to him!" said Downes, with an oath, and rushed stumbling up
the stairs, while the poor wretch sneaked in again, and slammed the door
to. Downes battered at it, but was met with a volley of curses from the
men inside; while, profiting by the Babel, I blew out the light, ran
down-stairs, and got safe into the street.
In two hours afterwards, Mackaye, Porter, Crossthwaite, and I were at the
door, accompanied by a policeman, and a search-warrant. Porter had insisted
on accompanying us. He had made up his mind that his son was at Downes's;
and all representations of the smallness of his chance were fruitless. He
worked himself up into a state of complete frenzy, and flourished a huge
stick in a way which shocked the policeman's orderly and legal notions.
"That may do very well down in your country, sir; but you arn't a goin' to
use that there weapon here, you know, not by no hact o' Parliament as I
"Ow, it's joost a way I ha' wi' me." And the stick was quiet for fifty
yards or so, and then recommenced smashing imaginary skulls.
"You'll do somebody a mischief, sir, with that. You'd much better a lend it
Porter tucked it under his arm for fifty yards more; and so on, till we
reached Downes's house.
The policeman knocked: and the door was opened, cautiously, by an old Jew,
of a most un-"Caucasian" cast of features, however "high-nosed," as Mr.
Disraeli has it.
The policeman asked to see Michael Kelly.
"Michaelsh? I do't know such namesh--" But before the parley could go
farther, the farmer burst past policeman and Jew, and rushed into the
passage, roaring, in a voice which made the very windows rattle,
"Billy Poorter! Billy Poorter! whor be yow? whor be yow?"
We all followed him up-stairs, in time to see him charging valiantly,
with his stick for a bayonet, the small person of a Jew-boy, who stood
at the head of the stairs in a scientific attitude. The young rascal
planted a dozen blows in the huge carcase--he might as well have thumped
the rhinoceros in the Regent's Park; the old man ran right over him,
without stopping, and dashed up the stairs; at the head of which--oh,
joy!--appeared a long, shrunken, red-haired figure, the tears on its dirty
cheeks glittering in the candle-glare. In an instant father and son were in
each other's arms.
"Oh, my barn! my barn! my barn! my barn!" And then the old Hercules held
him off at arm's length, and looked at him with a wistful face, and hugged
him again with "My barn! my barn!" He had nothing else to say. Was it not
enough? And poor Kelly danced frantically around them, hurrahing; his own
sorrows forgotten in his friend's deliverance.
The Jew-boy shook himself, turned, and darted down stairs past us; the
policeman quietly put out his foot, tripped him headlong, and jumping down
after him, extracted from his grasp a heavy pocket-book.
"Ah! my dear mothersh's dying gift! Oh, dear! oh dear! give it back to a
"Didn't I see you take it out o' the old un's pocket, you young villain?"
answered the maintainer of order, as he shoved the book into his bosom, and
stood with one foot on his writhing victim, a complete nineteenth-century
"Let me hold him," I said, "while you go up-stairs."
"_You_ hold a Jew-boy!--you hold a mad cat!" answered the policeman,
contemptuously--and with justice--for at that moment Downes appeared on the
first-floor landing, cursing and blaspheming.
"He's my 'prentice! he's my servant! I've got a bond, with his own hand to
it, to serve me for three years. I'll have the law of you--I will!"
Then the meaning of the big stick came out. The old man leapt down the
stairs, and seized Downes. "You're the tyrant as has locked my barn up
here!" And a thrashing commenced, which it made my bones ache only to look
at. Downes had no chance; the old man felled him on his face in a couple of
blows, and taking both hands to his stick, hewed away at him as if he had
been a log.
"I waint hit a's head! I waint hit a's head!"--whack, whack. "Let me
be!"--whack, whack-puff. "It does me gude, it does me gude!"--puff,
puff, puff--whack. "I've been a bottling of it up for three years, come
Whitsuntide!"--whack, whack, whack--while Mackaye and Crossthwaite stood
coolly looking on, and the wife shut herself up in the side-room, and
The unhappy policeman stood at his wits' end, between the prisoner below
and the breach of the peace above, bellowing in vain, in the Queen's name,
to us, and to the grinning tailors on the landing. At last, as Downes's
life seemed in danger, he wavered; the Jew-boy seized the moment, jumped
up, upsetting the constable, dashed like an eel between Crossthwaite and
Mackaye, gave me a back-handed blow in passing, which I felt for a week
after, and vanished through the street-door, which he locked after him.
"Very well!" said the functionary, rising solemnly, and pulling out a
note-book--"Scar under left eye, nose a little twisted to the right, bad
chilblains on the hands. You'll keep till next time, young man. Now,
you fat gentleman up there, have you done a qualifying of yourself for
The old man had ran up-stairs again, and was hugging his son; but when the
policeman lifted Downes, he rushed back to his victim, and begged, like a
great school-boy, for leave to "bet him joost won bit moor."
"Let me bet un! I'll pay un!--I'll pay all as my son owes un! Marcy me!
where's my pooss?" And so on raged the Babel, till we got the two poor
fellows safe out of the house. We had to break open the door to do it,
thanks to that imp of Israel.
"For God's sake, take us too!" almost screamed five or six other voices.
"They're all in debt--every onesh; they sha'n't go till they paysh, if
there's law in England," whined the old Jew, who had re-appeared.
"I'll pay for 'em--I'll pay every farden, if so be as they treated my boy
well. Here, you, Mr. Locke, there's the ten pounds as I promised you. Why,
whor is my pooss?"
The policeman solemnly handed it to him. He took it, turned it over,
looked at the policeman half frightened, and pointed with his fat thumb at
"Well, he said as you was a conjuror--and sure he was right."
He paid me the money. I had no mind to keep it in such company; so I got
the poor fellows' pawn-tickets, and Crossthwaite and I took the things
out for them. When we returned, we found them in a group in the passage,
holding the door open, in their fear lest we should be locked up, or
entrapped in some way. Their spirits seemed utterly broken. Some three or
four went off to lodge where they could; the majority went upstairs again
to work. That, even that dungeon, was their only home--their only hope--as
it is of thousands of "free" Englishmen at this moment.
We returned, and found the old man with his new-found prodigal sitting on
his knee, as if he had been a baby. Sandy told me afterwards, that he had
scarcely kept him from carrying the young man all the way home; he was
convinced that the poor fellow was dying of starvation. I think really
he was not far wrong. In the corner sat Kelly, crouched together like a
baboon, blubbering, hurrahing, invoking the saints, cursing the sweaters,
and blessing the present company. We were afraid, for several days, that
his wits were seriously affected.
And, in his old arm-chair, pipe in mouth, sat good Sandy Mackaye, wiping
his eyes with the many-coloured sleeve, and moralizing to himself, _sotto
"The auld Romans made slaves o' their debitors; sae did the Anglo-Saxons,
for a' good Major Cartwright has writ to the contrary. But I didna ken
the same Christian practice was part o' the Breetish constitution. Aweel,
aweel--atween Riot Acts, Government by Commissions, and ither little
extravagants and codicils o' Mammon's making, it's no that easy to ken,
the day, what is the Breetish constitution, and what isn't. Tak a drappie,
Billy Porter, lad?"
"Never again so long as I live. I've learnt a lesson and a half about that,
these last few months."
"Aweel, moderation's best, but abstinence better than naething. Nae man
shall deprive me o' my leeberty, but I'll tempt nae man to gie up his." And
he actually put the whisky-bottle by into the cupboard.
The old man and his son went home next day, promising me, if I would but
come to see them, "twa hundert acres o' the best partridge-shooting, and
wild dooks as plenty as sparrows; and to live in clover till I bust, if I
liked." And so, as Bunyan has it, they went on their way, and I saw them no
AN EMERSONIAN SERMON.
Certainly, if John Crossthwaite held the victim-of-circumstance doctrine
in theory, he did not allow Mike Kelly to plead it in practice, as
an extenuation of his misdeeds. Very different from his Owenite
"it's-nobody's-fault" harangues in the debating society, or his admiration
for the teacher of whom my readers shall have a glimpse shortly, was his
lecture that evening to the poor Irishmen on "It's all your own fault."
Unhappy Kelly! he sat there like a beaten cur, looking first at one
of us, and then at the other, for mercy, and finding none. As soon
as Crossthwaite's tongue was tired, Mackaye's began, on the sins of
drunkenness, hastiness, improvidence, over-trustfulness, &c., &c., and,
above all, on the cardinal offence of not having signed the protest years
before, and spurned the dishonourable trade, as we had done. Even his most
potent excuse that "a boy must live somehow," Crossthwaite treated as
contemptuously as if he had been a very Leonidas, while Mackaye chimed in
"An' ye a Papist! ye talk o' praying to saints an' martyrs, that died in
torments because they wad na do what they should na do? What ha' ye to
do wi' martyrs?--a meeserable wretch that sells his soul for a mess o'
pottage--four slices per diem o' thin bread-and-butter? Et propter veetam
veevendi perdere causas! Dinna tell me o' your hardships--ye've had your
deserts--your rights were just equivalent to your mights, an' so ye got
"Faix, thin, Misther Mackaye, darlint, an' whin did I desarve to pawn me
own goose an' board, an' sit looking at the spidhers for the want o' them?"
"Pawn his ain goose! Pawn himsel! pawn his needle--gin it had been worth
the pawning, they'd ha' ta'en it. An' yet there's a command in Deuteronomy,
Ye shall na tak the millstone in pledge, for it's a man's life; nor yet
keep his raiment ower night, but gie it the puir body back, that he may
sleep in his ain claes, an' bless ye. O--but pawnbrokers dinna care for
blessings--na marketable value in them, whatsoever."
"And the shopkeeper," said I, "in 'the Arabian Nights,' refuses to take the
fisherman's net in pledge, because he gets his living thereby."
"Ech! but, laddie, they were puir legal Jews, under carnal ordinances, an'
daur na even tak an honest five per cent interest for their money. An' the
baker o' Bagdad, why he was a benighted heathen, ye ken, an' deceivit by
that fause prophet, Mahomet, to his eternal damnation, or he wad never ha'
gone aboot to fancy a fisherman was his brither."
"Faix, an' ain't we all brothers?" asked Kelly.
"Ay, and no," said Sandy, with an expression which would have been a smile,
but for its depths of bitter earnestness; "brethren in Christ, my laddie."
"An' ain't that all over the same?"
"Ask the preachers. Gin they meant brothers, they'd say brothers, be sure;
but because they don't mean brothers at a', they say brethren--ye'll mind,
brethren--to soun' antiquate, an' professional, an' perfunctory-like, for
fear it should be ower real, an' practical, an' startling, an' a' that;
and then jist limit it down wi' a' in Christ,' for fear o' owre wide
applications, and a' that. But
"For a' that, and a' that.
It's comin' yet, for a' that,
When man an' man, the warld owre,
Shall brothers be, for a' that--
"An' na brithren any mair at a'!"
"An' didn't the blessed Jesus die for all?"
"What? for heretics, Micky?"
"Bedad, thin, an' I forgot that intirely!"
"Of course you did! It's strange, laddie," said he, turning to me, "that
that Name suld be everywhere, fra the thunderers o' Exeter Ha' to this
puir, feckless Paddy, the watchword o' exclusiveness. I'm thinking ye'll no
find the workmen believe in't, till somebody can fin' the plan o' making it
the sign o' universal comprehension. Gin I had na seen in my youth that a
brither in Christ meant less a thousand-fold than a brither out o' him, I
might ha' believit the noo--we'll no say what. I've an owre great organ o'
marvellousness, an' o' veneration too, I'm afeard."
"Ah!" said Crossthwaite, "you should come and hear Mr. Windrush to-night,
about the all-embracing benevolence of the Deity, and the abomination of
limiting it by all those narrow creeds and dogmas."
"An' wha's Meester Windrush, then?"
"Oh, he's an American; he was a Calvinist preacher originally, I believe;
but, as he told us last Sunday evening, he soon cast away the worn-out
vestures of an obsolete faith, which were fast becoming only crippling
"An' ran oot sarkless on the public, eh? I'm afeard there's mony a man else
that throws awa' the gude auld plaid o' Scots Puritanism, an' is unco fain
to cover his nakedness wi' ony cast popinjay's feathers he can forgather
wi'. Aweel, aweel--a puir priestless age it is, the noo. We'll e'en gang
hear him the nicht, Alton, laddie; ye ha' na darkened the kirk door this
mony a day--nor I neither, mair by token."
It was too true. I had utterly given up the whole problem of religion as
insoluble. I believed in poetry, science, and democracy--and they were
enough for me then; enough, at least, to leave a mighty hunger in my heart,
I knew not for what. And as for Mackaye, though brought up, as he told me,
a rigid Scotch Presbyterian, he had gradually ceased to attend the church
of his fathers.
"It was no the kirk o' his fathers--the auld God--trusting kirk that
Clavers dragoonit down by burns and muirsides. It was a' gane dead an' dry;
a piece of Auld-Bailey barristration anent soul-saving dodges. What did he
want wi' proofs o' the being o' God, an' o' the doctrine o' original sin?
He could see eneugh o' them ayont the shop-door, ony tide. They made puir
Rabbie Burns an anything-arian, wi' their blethers, an' he was near gaun
the same gate."
And, besides, he absolutely refused to enter any place of worship where
there were pews. "He wadna follow after a multitude to do evil; he wad na
gang before his Maker wi' a lee in his right hand. Nae wonder folks were so
afraid o' the names o' equality an' britherhood, when they'd kicked them
out e'en o' the kirk o' God. Pious folks may ca' me a sinfu' auld Atheist.
They winna gang to a harmless stage play--an' richt they--for fear o'
countenancing the sin that's dune there, an' I winna gang to the kirk, for
fear o' countenancing the sin that's dune there, by putting down my hurdies
on that stool o' antichrist, a haspit pew!"
I was, therefore, altogether surprised at the promptitude with which he
agreed to go and hear Crossthwaite's new-found prophet. His reasons for so
doing may be, I think, gathered from the conversation towards the end of
Well, we went; and I, for my part, was charmed with Mr. Windrush's
eloquence. His style, which was altogether Emersonian, quite astonished me
by its alternate bursts of what I considered brilliant declamation, and
of forcible epigrammatic antithesis. I do not deny that I was a little
startled by some of his doctrines, and suspected that he had not seen much,
either of St. Giles's cellars or tailors' workshops either, when he talked
of sin as "only a lower form of good. Nothing," he informed us, "was
produced in nature without pain and disturbance; and what we had been
taught to call sin was, in fact, nothing but the birth-throes attendant on
the progress of the species.--As for the devil, Novalis, indeed, had gone
so far as to suspect him to be a necessary illusion. Novalis was a mystic,
and tainted by the old creeds. The illusion was not necessary--it was
disappearing before the fast-approaching meridian light of philosophic
religion. Like the myths of Christianity, it had grown up in an age of
superstition, when men, blind to the wondrous order of the universe,
believed that supernatural beings, like the Homeric gods, actually
interfered in the affairs of mortals. Science had revealed the
irrevocability of the laws of nature--was man alone to be exempt from them?
No. The time would come when it would be as obsolete an absurdity to talk
of the temptation of a fiend, as it was now to talk of the wehrwolf, or
the angel of the thunder-cloud. The metaphor might remain, doubtless,
as a metaphor, in the domain of poetry, whose office was to realize,
in objective symbols, the subjective ideas of the human intellect; but
philosophy, and the pure sentiment of religion, which found all things,
even God himself, in the recesses of its own enthusiastic heart, must
abjure such a notion."
* * * * *
"What!" he asked again, "shall all nature be a harmonious whole,
reflecting, in every drop of dew which gems the footsteps of the morning,
the infinite love and wisdom of its Maker, and man alone be excluded
from his part in that concordant choir? Yet such is the doctrine of the
advocates of free-will, and of sin--its phantom-bantling. Man disobey his
Maker! disarrange and break the golden wheels and springs of the infinite
machine! The thought were blasphemy!--impossibility! All things fulfil
their destiny; and so does man, in a higher or lower sphere of being. Shall
I punish the robber? Shall I curse the profligate? As soon destroy the
toad, because my partial taste may judge him ugly; or doom to hell, for
his carnivorous appetite, the muscanonge of my native lakes! Toad is not
horrible to toad, or thief to thief. Philanthropists or statesmen may
environ him with more genial circumstances, and so enable his propensities
to work more directly for the good of society; but to punish him--to punish
nature for daring to be nature!--Never! I may thank the Upper Destinies
that they have not made me as other men are--that they have endowed me with
nobler instincts, a more delicate conformation than the thief; but I have
my part to play, and he has his. Why should we wish to be other than the
All-wise has made us?"
"Fine doctrine that," grumbled Sandy; "gin ye've first made up your mind
wi' the Pharisee, that ye _are_ no like ither men."
"Shall I pray, then? For what? I will coax none, natter none--not even the
Supreme! I will not be absurd enough to wish to change that order, by which
sun and stars, saints and sinners, alike fulfil their destinies. There is
one comfort, my friends; coax and flatter as we will, he will not hear us."
"Pleasant, for puir deevils like us!" quoth Mackaye.
"What then remains? Thanks, thanks--not of words, but of actions. Worship
is a life, not a ceremony. He who would honour the Supreme, let him
cheerfully succumb to the destiny which the Supreme has allotted, and,
like the shell or the flower--('Or the pickpocket,' added Mackaye,
almost audibly)--become the happy puppet of the universal impulse. He
who would honour Christ, let him become a Christ himself! Theodore of
Mopsuestia--born, alas! before his time--a prophet for whom as yet no
audience stood ready in the amphitheatre of souls--'Christ!' he was wont
to say; 'I can become Christ myself, if I will.' Become thou Christ, my
brother! He has an idea--the idea of utter submission--abnegation of his
own fancied will before the supreme necessities. Fulfil that idea, and thou
art he! Deny thyself, and then only wilt thou be a reality; for thou hast
no self. If thou hadst a self, thou wouldst but lie in denying it--and
would The Being thank thee for denying what he had given thee? But thou
hast none! God is circumstance, and thou his creature! Be content! Fear
not, strive not, change not, repent not! Thou art nothing! Be nothing, and
thou becomest a part of all things!"
And so Mr. Windrush ended his discourse, which Crossthwaite had been all
the while busily taking down in short-hand, for the edification of the
readers of a certain periodical, and also for those of this my Life.
I plead guilty to having been entirely carried away by what I heard. There
was so much which was true, so much more which seemed true, so much which
it would have been convenient to believe true, and all put so eloquently
and originally, as I then considered, that, in short, I was in raptures,
and so was poor dear Crossthwaite; and as we walked home, we dinned Mr.
Windrush's praises one into each of Mackaye's ears. The old man, however,
paced on silent and meditative. At last--
"A hunder sects or so in the land o' Gret Britain; an' a hunder or so
single preachers, each man a sect of his ain! an' this the last fashion!
Last, indeed! The moon of Calvinism's far gone in the fourth quarter,
when it's come to the like o' that. Truly, the soul-saving business is
a'thegither fa'n to a low ebb, as Master Tummas says somewhere!"
"Well, but," asked Crossthwaite, "was not that man, at least, splendid?"
"An' hoo much o' thae gran' objectives an' subjectives did ye comprehen',
then, Johnnie, my man?"
"Quite enough for me," answered John, in a somewhat nettled tone.
"An' sae did I."
"But you ought to hear him often. You can't judge of his system from one
sermon, in this way."
"Seestem! and what's that like?"
"Why, he has a plan for uniting all sects and parties, on the one broad
fundamental ground of the unity of God as revealed by science--"
"Verra like uniting o' men by just pu'ing aff their claes, and telling 'em,
'There, ye're a' brithers noo, on the one broad fundamental principle o'
want o' breeks.'"
"Of course," went on Crossthwaite, without taking notice of this
interruption, "he allows full liberty of conscience. All he wishes for is
the emancipation of intellect. He will allow every one, he says, to realize
that idea to himself, by the representations which suit him best."
"An' so he has no objection to a wee playing at Papistry, gin a man finds
it good to tickle up his soul?"
"Ay, he did speak of that--what did he call it? Oh! 'one of the ways in
which the Christian idea naturally embodied itself in imaginative minds!'
but the higher intellects, of course, would want fewer helps of that kind.
'They would see'--ay, that was it--'the pure white light of truth, without
requiring those coloured refracting media.'"
"That wad depend muckle on whether the light o' truth chose or not, I'm
thinking. But, Johnnie, lad--guide us and save us!--whaur got ye a' these
gran' outlandish words the nicht?"
"Haven't I been taking down every one of these lectures for the press?"
"The press gang to the father o't--and you too, for lending your han' in
the matter--for a mair accursed aristocrat I never heerd, sin' I first ate
haggis. Oh, ye gowk--ye gowk! Dinna ye see what be the upshot o' siccan
doctrin'? That every puir fellow as has no gret brains in his head will
be left to his superstition, an' his ignorance to fulfil the lusts o' his
flesh; while the few that are geniuses, or fancy themselves sae, are to
ha' the monopoly o' this private still o' philosophy--these carbonari,
illuminati, vehmgericht, samothracian mysteries o' bottled moonshine. An'
when that comes to pass, I'll just gang back to my schule and my catechism,
and begin again wi' 'who was born o' the Virgin Mary, suffered oonder
Pontius Pilate!' Hech! lads, there's no subjectives and objectives there,
na beggarly, windy abstractions, but joost a plain fact, that God cam' down
to look for puir bodies, instead o' leaving puir bodies to gang looking for
Him. An' here's a pretty place to be left looking for Him in--between gin
shops and gutters! A pretty Gospel for the publicans an' harlots, to tell
'em that if their bairns are canny eneugh, they may possibly some day be
allowed to believe that there is one God, and not twa! And then, by way of
practical application--'Hech! my dear, starving, simple brothers, ye manna
be sae owre conscientious, and gang fashing yourselves anent being brutes
an' deevils, for the gude God's made ye sae, and He's verra weel content to
see you sae, gin ye be content or no.'"
"Then, do you believe in the old doctrines of Christianity?" I asked.
"Dinna speir what I believe in. I canna tell ye. I've been seventy years
trying to believe in God, and to meet anither man that believed in him. So
I'm just like the Quaker o' the town o' Redcross, that met by himself every
First-day in his ain hoose."
"Well, but," I asked again, "is not complete freedom of thought a glorious
aim--to emancipate man's noblest part--the intellect--from the trammels of
custom and ignorance?"
"Intellect--intellect!" rejoined he, according to his fashion, catching one
up at a word, and playing on that in order to answer, not what one said,
but what one's words led to. "I'm sick o' all the talk anent intellect I
hear noo. An' what's the use o' intellect? 'Aristocracy o' intellect,'
they cry. Curse a' aristocracies--intellectual anes, as well as anes o'
birth, or rank, or money! What! will I ca' a man my superior, because
he's cleverer than mysel?--will I boo down to a bit o' brains, ony mair
than to a stock or a stane? Let a man prove himsel' better than me, my
laddie--honester, humbler, kinder, wi' mair sense o' the duty o' man, an'
the weakness o' man--and that man I'll acknowledge--that man's my king, my
leader, though he war as stupid as Eppe Dalgleish, that could na count five
on her fingers, and yet keepit her drucken father by her ain hands' labour
for twenty-three yeers."
We could not agree to all this, but we made a rule of never contradicting
the old sage in one of his excited moods, for fear of bringing on a week's
silent fit--a state which generally ended in his smoking himself into a
bilious melancholy; but I made up my mind to be henceforth a frequent
auditor of Mr. Windrush's oratory.
"An' sae the deevil's dead!" said Sandy, half to himself, as he sat
crooning and smoking that night over the fire. "Gone at last, puir
fallow!--an' he sae little appreciated, too! Every gowk laying his ain
sins on Nickie's back, puir Nickie!--verra like that much misunderstood
politeecian, Mr. John Cade, as Charles Buller ca'd him in the Hoose o'
Commons--an' he to be dead at last! the warld'll seem quite unco without
his auld-farrant phizog on the streets. Aweel, aweel--aiblins he's but
"When pleasant Spring came on apace,
And showers began to fa',
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them a'.
"At ony rate, I'd no bury him till he began smell a wee strong like. It's a
grewsome thing, is premature interment, Alton, laddie!"
THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.
But all this while, my slavery to Mr. O'Flynn's party-spirit and coarseness
was becoming daily more and more intolerable--an explosion was inevitable;
and an explosion came.
Mr. O'Flynn found out that I had been staying at Cambridge, and at a
cathedral city too; and it was quite a godsend to him to find any one who
knew a word about the institutions at which he had been railing weekly for
years. So nothing would serve him but my writing a set of articles on the
universities, as a prelude to one on the Cathedral Establishments. In
vain I pleaded the shortness of my stay there, and the smallness of my
"Och, were not abuses notorious? And couldn't I get them up out of any
Radical paper--and just put in a little of my own observations, and a
dashing personal cut or two, to spice the thing up, and give it an original
look? and if I did not choose to write that--why," with an enormous oath,
"I should write nothing." So--for I was growing weaker and weaker, and
indeed my hack-writing was breaking down my moral sense, as it does that
of most men--I complied; and burning with vexation, feeling myself almost
guilty of a breach of trust toward those from whom I had received nothing
but kindness, I scribbled off my first number and sent it to the editor--to
see it appear next week, three-parts re-written, and every fact of my own
furnishing twisted and misapplied, till the whole thing was as vulgar and
commonplace a piece of rant as ever disgraced the people's cause. And all
this, in spite of a solemn promise, confirmed by a volley of oaths, that
I "should say what I liked, and speak my whole mind, as one who had seen
things with his own eyes had a right to do."
Furious, I set off to the editor; and not only my pride, but what literary
conscience I had left, was stirred to the bottom by seeing myself made,
whether I would or not, a blackguard and a slanderer.
As it was ordained, Mr. O'Flynn was gone out for an hour or two; and,
unable to settle down to any work till I had fought my battle with
him fairly out, I wandered onward, towards the West End, staring into
print-shop windows, and meditating on many things.
As it was ordained, also, I turned up Regent Street, and into Langham
Place; when, at the door of All-Souls Church, behold a crowd and a long
string of carriages arriving, and all the pomp and glory of a grand
I joined the crowd from mere idleness, and somehow found myself in the
first rank, just as the bride was stepping out of the carriage--it was
Miss Staunton; and the old gentleman who handed her out was no other
than the dean. They were, of course, far too deeply engaged to recognise
insignificant little me, so that I could stare as thoroughly to my heart's
content as any of the butcher-boys and nursery-maids around me.
She was closely veiled--but not too closely to prevent my seeing her
magnificent lip and nostril curling with pride, resolve, rich tender
passion. Her glorious black-brown hair--the true "purple locks" which Homer
so often talks of--rolled down beneath her veil in great heavy ringlets;
and with her tall and rounded figure, and step as firm and queenly as
if she were going to a throne, she seemed to me the very ideal of those
magnificent Eastern Zubeydehs and Nourmahals, whom I used to dream of after
reading the "Arabian Nights."
As they entered the doorway, almost touching me, she looked round, as if
for some one. The dean whispered something in his gentle, stately way, and
she answered by one of those looks so intense, and yet so bright, so full
of unutterable depths of meaning and emotion, that, in spite of all my
antipathy, I felt an admiration akin to awe thrill through me, and gazed
after her so intently, that Lillian--Lillian herself--was at my side, and
almost passed me before I was aware of it.
Yes, there she was, the foremost among a bevy of fair girls, "herself the
fairest far," all April smiles and tears, golden curls, snowy rosebuds, and
hovering clouds of lace--a fairy queen;--but yet--but yet--how shallow that
hazel, eye, how empty of meaning those delicate features, compared with the
strength and intellectual richness of the face which had preceded her!
It was too true--I had never remarked it before; but now it flashed
across me like lightning--and like lightning vanished; for Lillian's eye
caught mine, and there was the faintest spark of a smile of recognition,
and pleased surprise, and a nod. I blushed scarlet with delight; some
servant-girl or other, who stood next to me, had seen it too--quick-eyed
that women are--and was looking curiously at me. I turned, I knew not why,
in my delicious shame, and plunged through the crowd to hide I knew not
I walked on--poor fool--in an ecstasy; the whole world was transfigured
in my eyes, and virtue and wisdom beamed from every face I passed. The
omnibus-horses were racers, and the drivers--were they not my brothers of
the people? The very policemen looked sprightly and philanthropic. I shook
hands earnestly with the crossing-sweeper of the Regent Circus, gave him
my last twopence, and rushed on, like a young David, to exterminate that
Ah well! I was a great fool, as others too have been; but yet, that little
chance-meeting did really raise me. It made me sensible that I was made
for better things than low abuse of the higher classes. It gave me courage
to speak out, and act without fear, of consequences, once at least in
that confused facing-both-ways period of my life. O woman! woman! only
true missionary of civilization and brotherhood, and gentle, forgiving
charity; is it in thy power, and perhaps in thine only, to bind up the
broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives? One real lady, who
should dare to stoop, what might she not do with us--with our sisters? If--
There are hundreds, answers the reader, who do stoop. Elizabeth Fry was a
lady, well-born, rich, educated, and she has many scholars.
True, my dear readers, true--and may God bless her and her scholars.
Do you think the working men forget them? But look at St. Giles's, or
Spitalfields, or Shadwell, and say, is not the harvest plentiful, and the
labourers, alas! few? No one asserts that nothing is done; the question is,
is enough done? Does the supply of mercy meet the demand of misery? Walk
into the next court and see!
* * * * *
I found Mr. O'Flynn in his sanctum, busy with paste and scissors, in the
act of putting in a string of advertisements--indecent French novels,
Atheistic tracts, quack medicines, and slopsellers' puffs; and commenced
with as much dignity as I could muster:
"What on earth do you mean, sir, by re-writing my article?"
"What--(in the other place)--do you mean by giving me the trouble of
re-writing it? Me head's splitting now with sitting up, cutting out, and
putting in. Poker o' Moses! but ye'd given it an intirely aristocratic
tendency. What did ye mane" (and three or four oaths rattled out) "by
talking about the pious intentions of the original founders, and the
democratic tendencies of monastic establishments?"
"I wrote it because I thought it."
"Is that any reason ye should write it? And there was another bit, too--it
made my hair stand on end when I saw it, to think how near I was sending
the copy to press without looking at it--something about a French
Socialist, and Church Property."
"Oh! you mean, I suppose, the story of the French Socialist, who told me
that church property was just the only property in England which he would
spare, because it was the only one which had definite duties attached
to it, that the real devourers of the people were not the bishops, who,
however rich, were at least bound to work in return for their riches,
but the landlords and millionaires, who refused to confess the duties of
property, while they raved about its rights."
"Bedad, that's it; and pretty doctrine, too!"
"But it's true: it's an entirely new and a very striking notion, and I
consider it my duty to mention it."
"Thrue! What the devil does that matter? There's a time to speak the truth,
and a time not, isn't there? It'll make a grand hit, now, in a leader upon
the Irish Church question, to back the prastes against the landlords. But
if I'd let that in as it stood, bedad, I'd have lost three parts of my
subscribers the next week. Every soul of the Independents, let alone the
Chartists, would have bid me good morning. Now do, like a good boy, give us
something more the right thing next time. Draw it strong.--A good drunken
supper-party and a police-row; if ye haven't seen one, get it up out of
Pater Priggins--or Laver might do, if the other wasn't convanient. That's
Dublin, to be sure, but one university's just like another. And give us a
seduction or two, and a brace of Dons carried home drunk from Barnwell by
"Really I never saw anything of the kind; and as for profligacy amongst
the Dons, I don't believe it exists. I'll call them idle, and bigoted, and
careless of the morals of the young men, because I know that they are so;
but as for anything more, I believe them to be as sober, respectable a set
of Pharisees as the world ever saw."
Mr. O'Flynn was waxing warm, and the bully-vein began fast to show itself.
"I don't care a curse, sir! My subscribers won't stand it, and they
sha'n't! I am a man of business, sir, and a man of the world, sir, and
faith that's more than you are, and I know what will sell the paper, and by
J----s I'll let no upstart spalpeen dictate to me!"
"Then I'll tell you what, sir," quoth I, waxing warm in my turn, "I don't
know which are the greater rogues, you or your subscribers. You a patriot?
You are a humbug. Look at those advertisements, and deny it if you can.
Crying out for education, and helping to debauch the public mind with
Voltaire's 'Candide,' and Eugene Sue--swearing by Jesus, and puffing
Atheism and blasphemy--yelling at a quack government, quack law,
quack priesthoods, and then dirtying your fingers with half-crowns
for advertising Holloway's ointment and Parr's life pills--shrieking
about slavery of labour to capital, and inserting Moses and Son's
doggerel--ranting about searching investigations and the march of
knowledge, and concealing every fact which cannot be made to pander to the
passions of your dupes--extolling the freedom of the press, and showing
yourself in your own office a tyrant and a censor of the press. You a
patriot? You the people's friend? You are doing everything in your power to
blacken the people's cause in the eyes of their enemies. You are simply a
humbug, a hypocrite, and a scoundrel; and so I bid you good morning."
Mr. O'Flynn had stood, during this harangue, speechless with passion, those
loose lips of his wreathing like a pair of earthworms. It was only when I
stopped that he regained his breath, and with a volley of incoherent oaths,
caught up his chair and hurled it at my head. Luckily, I had seen enough of
his temper already, to keep my hand on the lock of the door for the last
five minutes. I darted out of the room quicker than I ever did out of one
before or since. The chair took effect on the luckless door; and as I threw
a flying glance behind me, I saw one leg sticking through the middle panel,
in a way that augured ill for my skull, had it been in the way of Mr.
I ran home to Mackaye in a state of intense self-glorification, and told
him the whole story. He chuckled, he crowed, he hugged me to his bosom.
"Leeze me o' ye! but I kenned ye were o' the true Norse blude after a'!
"For a' that, an' a' that,
A man's a man for a' that.
"Oh, but I hae expeckit it this month an' mare! Oh, but I prophesied it,
"Then why, in Heaven's name, did you introduce me to such a scoundrel?"
"I sent you to schule, lad, I sent you to schule. Ye wad na be ruled by me.
Ye tuk me for a puir doited auld misanthrope; an' I thocht to gie ye the
meat ye lusted after, an' fill ye wi' the fruit o' your ain desires. An'
noo that ye've gane doon in the fire o' temptation, an' conquered, here's
your reward standin' ready. Special prawvidences!--wha can doot them? I ha'
had mony--miracles I might ca' them, to see how they cam' just when I was
gaun daft wi' despair."
And then he told me that the editor of a popular journal, of the Howitt
and Eliza Cook school, had called on me that morning, and promised me work
enough, and pay enough, to meet all present difficulties.
I did indeed accept the curious coincidence, if not as a reward for an act
of straightforwardness, in which I saw no merit, at least as proof that the
upper powers had not altogether forgotten me. I found both the editor and
his periodical, as I should have wished them, temperate and sunny--somewhat
clap-trap and sentimental, perhaps, and afraid of speaking out, as all
parties are, but still willing to allow my fancy free range in light
fictions, descriptions of foreign countries, scraps of showy rose-pink
morality and such like; which, though they had no more power against the
raging mass of crime, misery, and discontent, around, than a peacock's
feather against a three-decker, still were all genial, graceful, kindly,
humanizing, and soothed my discontented and impatient heart in the work of
THE TOWNSMAN'S SERMON TO THE GOWNSMAN.
One morning in February, a few days after this explosion, I was on the
point of starting to go to the dean's house about that weary list of
subscribers, which seemed destined never to be filled up, when my cousin
George burst in upon me. He was in the highest good spirits at having just
taken a double first-class at Cambridge; and after my congratulations,
sincere and hearty enough, were over, he offered to accompany me to that
reverend gentleman's house.
He said in an off-hand way, that he had no particular business there, but
he thought it just as well to call on the dean and mention his success, in
case the old fellow should not have heard of it.
"For you see," he said, "I am a sort of _protege_, both on my own account
and on Lord Lynedale's--Ellerton, he is now--you know he is just married to
the dean's niece, Miss Staunton--and Ellerton's a capital fellow--promised
me a living as soon as I'm in priest's orders. So my cue is now," he went
on as we walked down the Strand together, "to get ordained as fast as ever
"But," I asked, "have you read much for ordination, or seen much of what a
clergyman's work should be?"
"Oh! as for that--you know it isn't one out of ten who's ever entered a
school, or a cottage even, except to light a cigar, before he goes into the
church: and as for the examination, that's all humbug; any man may cram it
all up in a month--and, thanks to King's College, I knew all I wanted to
know before I went to Cambridge. And I shall be three-and-twenty by Trinity
Sunday, and then in I go, neck or nothing. Only the confounded bore is,
that this Bishop of London won't give one a title--won't let any man into
his diocese, who has not been ordained two years; and so I shall be shoved
down into some poking little country-curacy, without a chance of making
play before the world, or getting myself known at all. Horrid bore! isn't
"I think," I said, "considering what London is just now, the bishop's
regulation seems to be one of the best specimens of episcopal wisdom that
I've heard of for some time."
"Great bore for me, though, all the same: for I must make a name, I
can tell you, if I intend to get on. A person must work like a horse,
now-a-days, to succeed at all; and Lynedale's a desperately particular
fellow, with all sorts of _outre_ notions about people's duties and
vocations and heaven knows what."
"Well," I said, "my dear cousin, and have you no high notions of a
clergyman's vocation? because we--I mean the working men--have. It's just
their high idea of what a clergyman should be, which makes them so furious
at clergymen for being what they are."
"It's a queer way of showing their respect to the priesthood," he answered,
"to do all they can to exterminate it."
"I dare say they are liable, like other men, to confound the thing with its
abuses; but if they hadn't some dim notion that the thing might be made a
good thing in itself, you may depend upon it they would not rave against
those abuses so fiercely." (The reader may see that I had not forgotten my
conversation with Miss Staunton.) "And," thought I to myself, "is it not
you, and such as you, who do so incorporate the abuses into the system,
that one really cannot tell which is which, and longs to shove the whole
thing aside as rotten to the core, and make a trial of something new?"
"Well, but," I said, again returning to the charge, for the subject was
altogether curious and interesting to me, "do you really believe the
doctrines of the Prayer-book, George?"
"Believe them!" he answered, in a tone of astonishment, "why not? I was
brought up a Churchman, whatever my parents were; I was always intended for
the ministry. I'd sign the Thirty-nine Articles now, against any man in
the three kingdoms: and as for all the proofs out of Scripture and Church
History, I've known them ever since I was sixteen--I'll get them all up
again in a week as fresh as ever."
"But," I rejoined, astonished in my turn at my cousin's notion of what
belief was, "have you any personal faith?--you know what I mean--I hate
using cant words--but inward experience of the truth of all these great
ideas, which, true or false, you will have to preach and teach? Would you
live by them, die for them, as a patriot would for his country, now?"
"My dear fellow, I don't know anything about all those Methodistical,
mystical, Calvinistical, inward experiences, and all that. I'm a Churchman,
remember, and a High Churchman, too; and the doctrine of the Church is,
that children are regenerated in holy baptism; and there's not the least
doubt, from the authority both of Scripture and the fathers, that that's
"For Heaven's sake," I said, "no polemical discussions! Whether you're
right or wrong, that's not what I'm talking about. What I want to know is
this:--you are going to teach people about God and Jesus Christ. Do you
delight in God? Do you love Jesus Christ? Never mind what I do, or think,
or believe. What do you do, George?"
"Well, my dear fellow, if you take things in that way, you know, of
course"--and he dropped his voice into that peculiar tone, by which all
sects seem to think they show their reverence; while to me, as to most
other working men, it never seemed anything but a symbol of the separation
and discrepancy between their daily thoughts and their religious ones--"of
course, we don't any of us think of these things half enough, and I'm sure
I wish I could be more earnest than I am; but I can only hope it will come
in time. The Church holds that there's a grace given in ordination; and
really--really, I do hope and wish to do my duty--indeed, one can't help
doing it; one is so pushed on by the immense competition for preferment; an
idle parson hasn't a chance now-a-days."
"But," I asked again, half-laughing, half-disgusted, "do you know what your
"Bless you, my good fellow, a man can't go wrong there. Carry out the
Church system; that's the thing--all laid down by rule and method. A man
has but to work out that--and it's the only one for the lower classes I'm
"Strange," I said, "that they have from the first been so little of that
opinion, that every attempt to enforce it, for the last three hundred
years, has ended either in persecution or revolution."
"Ah! that was all those vile puritans' fault. They wouldn't give the Church
a chance of showing her powers."
"What! not when she had it all her own way, during the whole eighteenth
"Ah! but things are very different now. The clergy are awakened now to the
real beauty of the Catholic machinery; and you have no notion how much is
doing in church-building and schools, and societies of every sort and kind.
It is quite incredible what is being done now for the lower orders by the
"I believe," I said, "that the clergy are exceedingly improved; and I
believe, too, that the men to whom they owe all their improvement are the
Wesleys and Whitfields--in short, the very men whom they drove one by one
out of the Church, from persecution or disgust. And I do think it strange,
that if so much is doing for the lower classes, the working men, who form
the mass of the lower classes, are just those who scarcely feel the effects
of it; while the churches seem to be filled with children, and rich and
respectable, to the almost entire exclusion of the adult lower classes. A
strange religion this!" I went on, "and, to judge by its effects, a very
different one from that preached in Judea 1800 years ago, if we are to
believe the Gospel story."
"What on earth do you mean? Is not the Church of England the very purest
form of Apostolic Christianity?"
"It may be--and so may the other sects. But, somehow, in Judea, it was
the publicans and harlots who pressed into the kingdom of heaven; and it
was the common people who heard Christ gladly. Christianity, then, was a
movement in the hearts of the lower order. But now, my dear fellow, you
rich, who used to be told, in St. James's time, to weep and howl, have
turned the tables upon us poor. It is _you_ who are talking, all day long,
of converting _us_. Look at any place of worship you like, orthodox and
heretical.--Who fill the pews?--the outcast and the reprobate? No! the
Pharisees and the covetous, who used to deride Christ, fill His churches,
and say still, 'This people, these masses, who know not the Gospel are
accursed.' And the universal feeling, as far as I can judge, seems to be,
not 'how hardly shall they who have,' but how hardly shall they who have
_not_, 'riches, enter into the kingdom of heaven!'"
"Upon my word," said he, laughing, "I did not give you credit for so much
eloquence: you seem to have studied the Bible to some purpose, too. I
didn't think that so much Radicalism could be squeezed out of a few texts
of Scripture. It's quite a new light to me. I'll just mark that card, and
play it when I get a convenient opportunity. It may be a winning one in
these democratic times."
And he did play it, as I heard hereafter; but at present he seemed to
think that the less that was said further on clerical subjects the better,
and commenced quizzing the people whom we passed, humorously and neatly
enough; while I walked on in silence, and thought of Mr. Bye-Ends, in the
"Pilgrim's Progress." And yet I believe the man was really in earnest. He
was really desirous to do what was right, as far as he knew it; and all
the more desirous, because he saw, in the present state of society, what
was right would pay him. God shall judge him, not I. Who can unravel the
confusion of mingled selfishness and devotion that exists even in his own
heart, much less in that of another?
The dean was not at home that day, having left town on business. George
nodded familiarly to the footman who opened the door.
"You'll mind and send me word the moment your master comes home--mind now!"
The fellow promised obedience, and we walked away.
"You seem to be very intimate here," said I, "with all parties?"
"Oh! footmen are useful animals--a half-sovereign now and then is not
altogether thrown away upon them. But as for the higher powers, it is very
easy to make oneself at home in the dean's study, but not so much so as
to get a footing in the drawing-room above. I suspect he keeps a precious
sharp eye upon the fair Miss Lillian."
"But," I asked, as a jealous pang shot through my heart, "how did you
contrive to get this same footing at all? When I met you at Cambridge, you
seemed already well acquainted with these people."
"How?--how does a hound get a footing on a cold scent? By working and
casting about and about, and drawing on it inch by inch, as I drew on them
for years, my boy; and cold enough the scent was. You recollect that day
at the Dulwich Gallery? I tried to see the arms on the carriage, but there
were none; so that cock wouldn't fight."