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Memoirs of Sir Wemyss Reid 1842-1885 by Stuart J. Reid, ed.

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MEMOIRS OF
SIR WEMYSS REID
1842-1885

[Illustration: Wemyss Reid]

MEMOIRS OF
SIR WEMYSS REID
1842-1885

EDITED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY
STUART J. REID

TO
Lady Reid,
THE DEVOTED WIFE OF
MY BROTHER,
THESE PAGES ARE INSCRIBED.

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION.

The sense of personal loss occasioned by my brother's death is still so
keen and vivid that if I am to write at all about him--and my duty in
that respect is clear--it must be out of the fulness of my heart. My
earliest recollections of him begin when I was a child and he was a
bright, self-reliant lad in the home at Newcastle, the characteristics of
which are with artless realism described in the opening pages of this
book. It is the simple truth to say that we grew up in an atmosphere of
love and duty. Our father was a man of studious habit, passing rich in
the possession of a library of dry works on theology which his children
never read, and among which they searched in vain for the fairy books and
stories, or even the poetry, dear to the youthful heart. He was a
faithful, rather than a gifted preacher, and I have always thought that
his power--it was real and far-reaching--lay in his modest, unselfish
life, and in that unfailing sympathy which kept him on a perpetual round
of visits to the sick and sorrowful, year in, year out. He had a quiet
sense of humour, and was never so happy as when he could steal a day off
from the insistent claims of pastoral work for a ramble in the country
with his boys.

Always a public-spirited man, and keenly interested in political affairs,
he talked to us freely about the events of the time, and made us feel
that the little affairs of our own home and immediate environment could
never be seen in their true perspective until they were set against the
larger life of the town, and, in a sense, of the nation. When any great
event occurred he used to tell us all about it; when any great man died,
if we did not know the significance of his life and the loss it meant to
the country, it was not his fault. He was a quiet, rather reserved man,
terribly in earnest, we thought, and with a touch of sternness about him
which vanished in later life. He mellowed with the passing years, and
long before old age crept quietly upon him the prevailing note of his
character was charity. He had been in early life associated to some
extent with the Press, and later had written one or two books, so that
ink was in my brother's blood.

Our mother was almost his opposite in character. She was quick, almost
imperious in temper, vivacious and witty of speech, full of sense and
sensibility, in revolt--I see it now--against the narrow conditions of
her lot, and yet bravely determined to do her best, not merely for her
husband and children, but for the rather austere little community in
which she was always a central figure. There was a charm about her to
which all sorts and sizes of people surrendered at discretion, and she
loved books more modern and more mundane than the dingy volumes on my
father's shelves. She had received, what was more rare then than now, a
liberal education, and, besides modern languages, had at least a moderate
acquaintance with the classics. She held herself gallantly in the dim,
half-educated society of her husband's chapel, but reserved her
friendships--sometimes with a touch of wilfulness--for those who
represented whatever there was of sweetness and light in the wider
society of the town. In one respect she was absolutely in harmony with my
father, and that was in her sympathy with the poor and in quiet,
unparaded determination to hold out a helping hand to all that sought it.
She had imagination, and she sent it on errands of good-will. I think my
brother inherited from her his alertness of mind and not a little of his
quickness of apprehension.

I can remember him coming back from Bruce's school all aglow with his
prizes, and I can recall, as if it were but yesterday, his audacious
speeches, and the new books with which, as soon as he earned a shilling,
he began to leaven the dull old library, much to the delectation of the
other children. I can recall a rough cartoon in one of the local journals
which was greeted with huge merriment in the family circle, because it
represented Tom as "Ye Press of Newcastle"--a mere boy in a short jacket
perched on a stool, scribbling for dear life at the foot of a platform on
which some local orator was denouncing the tyranny of the existing
Government. He must then have been about seventeen, certainly not more,
and he was even at that time somewhat of a youthful prodigy. Then he
developed a passion for the collection of autographs, and used to write
the most alluring letters to celebrities, and astound my modest father by
the replies--they were invariably written as to a man of mature life and
public importance--which he had elicited from eminent people in politics
and the world of letters. He, a mere youth, invited a well-known Arctic
explorer to Newcastle to lecture on his perils in the frozen North, and
my father bought him his first hat to go to the railway station to meet
the gallant sailor, who brought his pathetic relics of Franklin to our
house, where he stayed as guest. The great man's chagrin when he found
that a lad scarcely out of short jackets had invited him to Newcastle
vanished in the genial firelight, and in the subsequent reception of the
good townsfolk. Then my brother conceived the ambitious scheme of the
West End Literary Institute, and by dint of energetic and persistent
begging carried the project out, and with a high hand.

Suddenly, when he was still a young reporter, a great calamity befell the
locality. The Hartley Colliery catastrophe plunged all Tyneside in gloom.
He was the youngest reporter on the local Press, but his account of the
long-drawn agony of that terrible time, when two hundred brave fellows
lost their lives, was the most graphic. It brought him local renown. It
was published as a shilling pamphlet, after it had done duty in the
_Newcastle Journal_, and to his credit he gave, though as poor as a
church mouse, the whole of the proceeds--a sum of 40, I think--to the
Relief Fund. It was a characteristic act which was not belied by the
subsequent generosity of his life. All too soon--for he brought as a
young reporter a breezy, new atmosphere into the family circle--he went
to Preston, on the principle of promotion by merit. Then Leeds claimed
him, and next he settled in London, in the short-lived happiness of his
early married life, returning to Yorkshire--this time as chief of the
paper he had served so well. During his career as editor of the _Leeds
Mercury_ I saw comparatively little of him. We were both busy, though
in different ways; but we kept up, then and always, a brisk
correspondence, and his letters, all of them brimful of public interest
and family affection, are before me now. The world is a different place
to me now, but "memory is a fountain of perpetual youth" and nothing can
rob me of its sweetness.

There is scarcely an incident recorded in these pages which he did not
tell me at the time in familiar talk. There is much, also, that he has
not set down here, all of it honourable to himself, which I could recount
about those early days in Newcastle, and to a certain extent also in
Leeds, where I was again and again his guest; but, as he has chosen to be
silent, it is not for me to speak. Oddly enough, I never in my life heard
him deliver a political speech, nor do I think he excelled in that
direction. But he was admirable as a lecturer on literary subjects, and I
have seen him again and again hold a large audience spellbound when his
subject was Charlotte or Emily Bront, Mrs. Carlyle, the Inner Working of
an English Newspaper, the Character of General Gordon, or some other
theme which appealed to him. He spoke rapidly and clearly, and between
the years 1882 and 1886 gave his services without stint in this direction
to the people of Leeds, Bradford, and other of the Yorkshire towns. The
manuscripts of these lectures are before me as I write; they are all in
his own hand, and they must have taken from an hour to an hour and a half
in delivery. Yet one of the most important of them--it runs to between
sixty and seventy closely written manuscript pages, and bears no marks of
haste--was, as a note in his own hand at the outset shows, begun one day
and finished the next--a proof, if any were needed, of his rapidity in
work. He made many enthusiastic friends amongst the shrewd working people
of the North by these deliverances.

The last twenty years of my brother's life are outside the present
narrative. Two of them were spent in Leeds in ever-widening newspaper
work, and the remaining eighteen in London, under circumstances he has
himself described in another volume, which, for political reasons, is for
the present withheld. It will appear eventually, and personally I feel no
doubt whatever that it will take its place, quite apart from its
self-revelation, as one of the most important and authentic records, in
the political sense, of the later decades of Queen Victoria's reign. My
brother's knowledge of the secret history of the Liberal party in the
memorable days when Mr. Gladstone was fighting his historic battle for
Home Rule, and during the subsequent Premiership of Lord Rosebery, was
exceptional. He was the trusted friend of both statesmen, and probably no
other journalist was so absolutely in the confidence of the leaders of
the Liberal party--a circumstance which was due quite as much to his
character as to his capacity. It is not my intention to anticipate the
story, as he himself tells it, either of the "Hawarden Kite" or the Home
Rule split, much less to disclose his opinions--they are emphatic and
deliberate--of the men who made mischief at that crisis. I leave also
untouched the plain, unvarnished account he gives, on unimpeachable
authority, of a subsequent and not less discreditable phase in the annals
of the Liberal party. There are reasons, obvious to everyone who gives
the matter a moment's thought, that render it inadvisable in the
interests of the political cause with which my brother all his life was
identified, and for which he suffered more than is commonly known, to
yield to the very natural temptation to throw reticence to the winds.

To one point only will I permit myself to make brief but significant
allusion, for I cannot allow this book to go forth to the world with the
knowledge that the publication of the companion volume is--through force
of circumstances--for the present postponed, without at least a passing
reference to what in the authoritative biography of Mr. Gladstone is
called the "barren controversy" which arose in 1892, as to whether the
present Duke of Devonshire, in 1880, tried to form a Government. That
controversy was assuredly "barren" to my brother in everything but the
testimony of a good conscience. He was assailed by almost the whole Press
of the country for the part which he played in it, and not least
mercilessly by journalists of his own party. As he said to me himself at
the time, "If I had been Mr. Parnell, fresh from the revelations of the
Divorce Court, I could not have been treated with greater contumely." If
there was one thing on the possession of which he prided himself in life
more than another, it was loyalty, and seldom was political loyalty
subjected to a more cruel strain. He held his peace with all the
materials for his own vindication in his hand, rather than embarrass Mr.
Gladstone at a great political crisis.

The letters on which he based his statements are in existence. I wished
to print them, without note or comment of mine, in an Appendix to the
present volume, but permission has been withheld. They cannot remain for
ever in ambush, and when they are published, with my brother's full and
magnanimous comments, it will be apparent to all the world how greatly he
was misjudged. It is enough for the present to say that Mr. Gladstone
himself admitted in a note under his own hand that the interpretation
which my brother put upon the facts submitted to him _absolutely and
entirely justified_ the course which he took in that controversy. Mr.
Gladstone, as Mr. Morley somewhat drily states in his biography,
"reckoned on a proper stoicism in the victims of public necessity," and I
suppose my brother was regarded as thin-skinned, but a man may be
forgiven a measure of sensitiveness when his honour is impeached.

He always used to speak with gratitude of the action of Lord Russell of
Killowen at that period. He heard the gossip of the clubs, and was not
content, like the majority of men, either to believe it or to dismiss the
matter with a shrug of the shoulders. He sought my brother out at his own
house, heard the whole story from his own lips--through an informal but
stringent process of cross-examination--drew his own conclusions, and did
more than anyone else to turn the tide of misrepresentation. Lord Russell
never rested until Wemyss Reid was elected an honorary member of the
Eighty Club, a distinction shared by only two or three persons, and one
which did not a little to bring about, in the Liberal party at least, a
quick reversal of public opinion. The chivalrous action of Lord Russell
was all the more creditable as the two men at the time were only slightly
acquainted. Other honours came to my brother within the next two years.
The University of St. Andrews in 1893 conferred upon him the degree of
LL.D., and in the following year he was knighted "for services to Letters
and Politics."

It is a pleasure to hark back to the literary interests which grew around
the later years of my brother in London. He went thither in 1887 to take
control of the business of Messrs. Cassell & Company--a position of wide
influence and hard work which he retained to the last day of his life. He
used to tell me that he detested the City and the irksomeness of keeping
office hours, but he stuck manfully to his post, and his presence at the
desk there lent a lustre even to the traditions of a great publishing
house. I betray no confidences when I say that at first he found his new
duties somewhat uncongenial. He had won his spurs as a journalist, he was
fond of the cut and thrust of party politics, he missed the rush of
public life, and he felt that perhaps he had been ill-advised in quitting
the editorial saddle. But this feeling of depression quickly wore off
when he set himself, with characteristic energy, to master the details of
his new work, though to the last he often cast longing glances backwards
to the years in which he inspired the policy of a great daily newspaper.
Before he left Leeds--and here I may say that he did not leave without
substantial proof of the esteem in which he was held--he accepted two
literary commissions, either of which would have satisfied most men and
absorbed all their energies for a term of years.

One was the preparation of an authoritative biography of Mr. Forster, the
other a similar work--less political and more literary--on the first Lord
Houghton. He was, of course, in a position to speak from close personal
knowledge of both men, and in each case all their private letters and
papers were placed at his discretion. He found relief from the prosaic
details of a business career in these congenial tasks, if such a term is
applicable to what in reality were labours of love. Both were big books,
and the marvel is how, with all that he had in hand at the time, he
contrived to write them. But the passion for work was the zest of his
life, and it was never turned to more admirable account than in these
labours. "The Life of the Right Hon. W. E. Forster" was published in
1888, and "The Life, Letters, and Friendships of Lord Houghton" in 1890,
and both met with a reception which it is hardly within my province to
describe. It is enough to say that they widened his reputation, added
materially to his influence, and, best of all, brought him many new and
powerful friends.

Almost before he had finished writing the second of these books, at the
instance of Mr. Bryce (with whom his relations were always most close and
cordial) and other well-known men in the Liberal party, he, in
conjunction with Sir John Brunner, founded the _Speaker_, a weekly
journal which was started on similar lines to the _Spectator_, but
devoted to the advocacy of the Home Rule cause, and broadly of the policy
of Mr. Gladstone. The first number was published on January 4th, 1890,
and from that time until October, 1899, he alone was responsible for its
editorial control. He gathered around him a brilliant staff of
contributors; he used laughingly to say that he was over-weighted by
them, and, if I may venture a criticism, he gave them too free a hand.
Contemporary politics were discussed amongst others by Mr. Morley, Mr.
Bryce, Mr. J. A. Spender, and Mr. Herbert Paul. Literary criticism,
economic questions, and other phases of public affairs, were handled by
Sir Alfred Lyall, Mr. Birrell, Mr. Frederic Harrison, Mr. James Payn, Mr.
Henry James, Mr. J.M. Barrie, Mr. Quiller-Couch, Mr. Sidney Webb, Mr. L.
F. Austin, Mr. A. B. Walkley, and a score of young writers; whilst men
like the late Lord Acton and Principal Fairbairn, and occasionally Mr.
Gladstone himself, lent further distinction to its pages. No one worked
harder in those days for the _Speaker_ than my brother's ever loyal
assistant in its direction, Mr. Barry O'Brien, whose intimate knowledge
of the trend in Irish politics was invaluable. I shall not anticipate by
any comments of my own the vivid and always genial pen-and-ink pictures
which are given of the chief members of the _Speaker_ staff in that
part of the Memoirs which yet remains unprinted.

I prefer to fall back in this connection on a little bit of reminiscence,
printed in one of the daily papers on the morrow of my brother's death.
It was written by Mr. L. F. Austin, who alas! has so quickly followed him
to the grave. "Some months ago, feeling himself under sentence of death,
Sir Wemyss Reid applied his leisure to the task of completing his
Memoirs. 'Here is a chapter that may interest you,' he said to me one
day, producing a roll of manuscript. It did interest me very much, and
when it comes to be published it will be read with no little emotion by
the men who formed the regular staff of the _Speaker_ under Sir
Wemyss Reid's editorship. He deals with us all in turn in a spirit of the
kindliest remembrance and simple goodwill; and as I read those pages, I
felt they were his farewell to some of the men who have good reason to
think of him as the staunchest of friends." I was in very close
association with my brother during the whole of the ten years in which he
retained control of the _Speaker_, and took my full share of the
work. They were for him years of strenuous and unremitting toil, but he
used to say that there were few greater rewards for a man of his
temperament than to be in the thick of the political movement, and to be
in the front rank of the fighters. He adopted as his motto in life
"Onwards"--the watchword of his old school at Newcastle, emblazoned on
the back of the prizes which he took in far-off days; and from first to
last he lived up to it. Brusque he sometimes was, decisive always;
perhaps he was too easily ruffled in little affairs, but he was
magnanimous to the point of self-sacrifice in great. After quitting,
under circumstances entirely honourable to himself, the editorial chair
of the _Speaker_, my brother, who for years previously had been an
occasional contributor to the pages of the _Nineteenth Century_,
contributed regularly to that review a political survey of the month.
Some of his best work was put into these articles, and the last of them
was written under great physical stress, and appeared almost
simultaneously with the announcement of his death. It was the last task
to which he put his hand, and the wish of his life was granted: he died
in harness.

It is not too much to say that neither his interest nor his influence in
political affairs suffered the least abatement in the six closing years
of his life, which bridged the distance between his relinquishment of the
_Speaker_ and the hour when he finally laid down his pen. The
withheld portion of this Autobiography makes that abundantly clear, for,
as in a mirror, it reflects the secret history of the Liberal party. His
relations with Lord Rosebery, both during and after that statesman's
brilliant but difficult Administration, were singularly intimate and
cordial--a circumstance which invests with peculiar interest the final
chapters which he wrote. They throw a dry light on the political
intrigues which occurred after Mr. Gladstone's retirement; they reveal
the difficulties--both open and unsuspected--which beset his successor.
Lord Rosebery has written me a letter, and I have his permission to quote
from it:--"I can only dwell on the sterling notes of courage and
friendship. As to the first, he had taken part in many controversies,
which it is now unnecessary to revive, and borne himself gallantly in
them. But before his life ended he was to display a rarer quality. In
September, 1903, he wrote to me that he could only count on a few weeks
longer of life--that he was condemned by all doctors.... He partially
recovered from that attack, though from that day he was doomed to speedy
death. I saw him in February for the last time, not long before the end.
He told me, as he always did, that he did not feel amiss, but that his
doctors all unanimously condemned him to a short shrift; that his friend
Sir Frederick Treves was putting him under a new treatment, from which he
hoped to derive some benefit; but that, whatever happened, he should go
on writing as if nothing were wrong until the end came. That did not long
tarry. In the evening of Thursday, February 23rd, he was taken ill, and
before ten o'clock on Sunday morning he was dead. During the seventeen
months which elapsed from the time of the doom pronounced by his
physicians until its fulfilment, Wemyss Reid so demeaned himself that
none could have penetrated his secret. He was as gay and high in spirit,
as strenuous in work, as thoughtful for others, as ever; so that those
who knew the fatal truth could not bring themselves to believe it. He was
at work for the _Nineteenth Century_ the day before he was taken
with his final attack. But he himself, cheerful and smiling, never lost
the certainty that death hung over him by a thread.

"So much for his courage; and now for the other note that I would
touch--his friendship. His ideal of friendship was singularly lofty and
generous. He was the devoted and chivalrous champion of those he loved;
he took up their cause as his own, and much more than his own; he was the
friend of their friends and the enemy of their enemies. No man ever set a
higher value on this high connection, which, after all, whether brought
about by kinship, or sympathy, or association, or gratitude, or stress,
is under Heaven the surest solace of our poor humanity; and so it
coloured and guided the life of Wemyss Reid. His chief works were all
monuments to that faith; it inspired him in tasks which he knew would be
irksome and which could scarcely be successful, or which, at least, could
ill satisfy his own standard. This is a severe test for a man of letters,
but he met it without fail.... All this seems lame and tame enough when I
read it over. But it was true and vivid when Wemyss Reid was living, and
giving to his friends the high example of a brave and unselfish life.
Among them, his memory will be a precious fact, and an inheritance long
after any obituary notice is forgotten. It will live as long as they
live; he would scarcely have cared to be remembered by others." Lord
Rosebery's kindness to my brother--it was constant, delicate, and
unwavering--can never be forgotten by any of his relatives. He was the
first visitor to the house of mourning on Sunday, February 26th; he came
in haste, with the hope that he might still be in time to see my brother
alive.

Here, perhaps, is the place to mention some other of his friends: I mean,
of course, those with whom he was most intimate in his closing years. It
may be I have forgotten some; if so, I need scarcely add that it is
without intention. But I do not like to end without at least recalling
his close relations with Lord Burghclere, Mr. Bryce, Sir Henry Fowler,
Mr. Edmund Robertson, Sir Henry Roscoe, Sir Norman Lockyer, Sir Frederick
Treves, Sir John Brunner, Principal Fairbairn, Dr. Guinness Rogers, the
Rev. R. H. Hadden, Mr. W. H. Macnamara, Mr. Douglas Walker, Mr. J. C.
Parkinson, Mr. G. A. Barkley, Mr. Charles Mathews, Mr. J. A. Duncan, Mr.
Edwin Bale, Mr. Barry O'Brien, Mr. Herbert Paul, Mr. J. A. Spender, and
last, but certainly not least, Mr. Malcolm Morris, who was with him at
the end. James Payn, William Black, Sir John Robinson represent the
losses of the last few years of his life; all of them were men with
whom--literature and politics apart--he had much in common.

It is impossible to cite the Press comments on the morrow of my brother's
death, but room at least must be found for one of them--the generous
tribute of his friend Mr. J. A. Spender in the _Westminster
Gazette_:--

"I well remember how bravely and serenely he bore his death-sentence and
how modestly he communicated it to his friends, as if an apology were
needed for speaking of anything so personal. And then he picked himself
up and started again, determined that his work should go forward and his
interests lose none of their edge, though his days were short. He was the
last man in the world to think of such a thing; and yet to many of us he
seemed the perfect example of how a man should bear himself in such a
strait. I have heard young men speak of him as old-fashioned, and, judged
by some modern standards, his virtues were indeed those of the antique
world. He loved his profession for its own sake, believed in its
influence and dignity, hated sensationalism--whether in politics or in
newspapers--would rather that any rival should gain any advantage over
him than that he should divulge a secret or betray the confidence of a
friend. And so he came to be the confidant and adviser of many eminent
men who were attached to him for his sterling qualities of head and
heart, for his knowledge, his integrity, his admirable common-sense. Of
all his qualities none was more attractive than the staunchness of his
friendship. To those whom he really liked, old or young, eminent or
obscure, Wemyss Reid was always the same, a champion who would brook no
slight, and whose help was readiest when times were worst. A literary
man, he was quite without literary jealousy, and never so happy as when
giving a hand-up to a new writer or a young journalist. All of us who
knew him are in his debt--_neque ego desinam debere_."

I will permit myself to make one other quotation, and only one. In
September, 1903, we lost our only sister. We three brothers had been at
her funeral in Scotland; it was the last time we were all together. I
lunched a day or two later with him at the Reform Club, and though, like
myself, he was naturally depressed, he spoke cheerfully, and there was
nothing to hint that he was more than tired. Three days later, September
19th, he wrote me a long letter, which began with the words, "Heaven
knows, I do not want to add to your anxieties at the present moment, but
I think I ought to tell you what has happened to me." He then went on to
say that his friend Mr. Malcolm Morris had met him at the Club on the
same day that I was there, and, startled by his appearance, had asked him
a number of questions. Mr. Morris had been abroad and had not seen him
for some time, but he insisted on an immediate visit to a specialist, and
this was arranged for the following Saturday, the day on which he wrote
the letter from which I am citing. He was told at that interview that his
condition was most serious, even critical--in fact, that he had not long
to live. So he wrote, "I have clearly to put my house in order, and to
wait as calmly as possible for what may happen. The thing has come upon
me very suddenly in the end, but I have had forebodings for some time
past. You remember what I said to you on my way to Kilmarnock last week?
I want nobody to worry about me personally. If my work is to come to an
end soon, it will at least have been a full day's work. I know I can
count on your brotherly love and sympathy."

Lady Reid and his children were at the moment from home. I went to him at
once; he was sitting alone in his house, and he received me with a smile.
He talked calmly and without a shadow of fear, and with no hint of
repining. He had gathered from the specialist that he had only a few
weeks at the most to live, and he told me that as he rode away in a
hansom from the house where he had received what he called his sentence
of death, he looked at the people in the street like a man in a dream,
and with a curious feeling of detachment from the affairs of the world.
But he rallied, and went about his work as usual, was as keenly
interested as ever in the politics of the hour, and gave to those who
knew how much he suffered an example of submission and fortitude which is
not common.

Naturally I saw much of him in his closing days, and in talk with me he
nearly always turned to the old sacred memories which we had in common.
When I was a mere youth and he at the beginning of his career as a
journalist, I remember his telling me never to forget that blood was
thicker than water. His letters to me during thirty years, and many
practical deeds as well, if I were to publish the one or to state the
other, would prove how constantly he himself bore that in mind. Others
can speak of his gift as a raconteur, his superb power of work, his moral
courage, his quick capacity in the handling of public questions; all this
I know, and I know besides, better perhaps than anyone else who is likely
to speak, his intense family affection, his real though unparaded loyalty
to conviction, and the magic of a kindliness which was never so apparent
as when the way was rough and the heart was sore.

All the letters which arrived after his death--and they came in
battalions--were quick with the sense of personal loss. They came from
all sorts of people--from school-fellows in the distant Newcastle days,
and obscure folk who had their own story to tell of his kindness, to
statesmen of Cabinet rank, and men whose names are famous in almost every
walk of life. Personally, I think I was most touched by the remark of a
poor waiter, "a lame dog" whom, it seems, he had helped over a difficult
stile in life, and who declared that he was "one in a thousand."
Assuredly, as far as courage and sympathy are concerned, those simple
words were true.

STUART J. REID.

_Blackwell Cliff, East Grinstead.
October 12th, 1905._

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

One who tries to tell the story of his life and of his personal
experiences, public and private, undertakes a task of rare difficulty.
Now that I have completed the work that I set myself to perform some
years ago, I recognise more fully than I did at the outset the greatness
of this difficulty, and I am only too conscious that, at the best, I have
succeeded but partially in overcoming it. The egotism which is
inseparable from a narrative written, as this necessarily is, in the
first person, is perhaps the most obvious of all the defects which it
must present to the reader. Quite frankly I may say that, on reading
these pages, I am filled with something like confusion by the extent to
which I have been forced to bring my own personality, my own sayings and
doings, even into those chapters which deal with public affairs. I can
only plead in extenuation of my offence that I do not see how it could
have been avoided in that which is neither more nor less than an
Autobiography. I may add that I have tried always to speak the truth, and
have never consciously magnified my own part in the transactions upon
which I have touched.

The closing chapters of the story have been written under what seemed to
be the shadow of approaching death. Indeed, at one time I had no hope
that I could live to complete my task. No man who writes thus, on the
verge of another world, would willingly swerve by so much as a
hair's-breadth from what he believes to be the truth. But human nature
and human limitations remain the same from the beginning to the end of
life, and I am fully conscious of the fact that the soundness of my
judgments upon affairs and my fellow-men is not less open to impeachment
to-day than when I was moving in the main current of human activity. If
in anything that I have written I have wronged any of my fellow-creatures
it has been absolutely without intention on my part, and I can only hope
that they will vindicate themselves, after the publication of these
pages, as quickly and completely as possible.

I have had no exciting story to tell, and no personal triumphs to
chronicle. My simple desire has been to write of the persons and events
of my own time in the light in which they appeared to my own eyes, and by
doing so to give possibly some information regarding them which may be
new to many of my readers. I have been always much more of a spectator
than of an actor in the arena; but it has been my lot to be very near,
for many years, to those who were actively engaged in that "high chess
game whereof the pawns are men"; and we have authority for the belief
that the onlooker sees more than the actual player of the drama he
describes.

I must add that nowhere, except in a few cases in which I make special
mention of the fact, have I trusted to mere hearsay evidence. I have
confined myself to that which I know to be the truth, either from my
personal observation or from documents of unimpeachable authority. My
opinions may be of very little value, but my facts are, I believe,
incontrovertible.

WEMYSS REID.

_26, Bramham Gardens, South Kensington,
January 1st_, 1905.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.
EARLY DAYS.
Birth and Parentage--Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 'Forties--A Visit to St.
Andrews--The Scottish Sabbath--First Acquaintance with a Printing
Office--Tyneside in the Mid-Century--In Peril of Housebreakers--At Dr.
Collingwood Bruce's School--A Plague of Flies--Cholera--Fire.

CHAPTER II.
PROBATION.
Aspirations After a Journalistic Life--A Clerk's Stool in the W.B. Lead
Office--Literary Ambitions--An Accepted Contribution--The _Northern
Daily Express_ and its Editor--Founding a Literary Institute--Letters
from Charles Kingsley and Archbishop Longley--Joseph Cowen and his
Revolutionary Friends--Orsini--Thackeray's Lectures and Dickens's
Readings.

CHAPTER III.
MY LIFE-WORK BEGUN.
On the Staff of the _Newcastle Journal_--In a Dilemma--Lord John
Russell and Mr. Gladstone at Newcastle-upon-Tyne--Mr. Gladstone's
Triumphal Progress--A Memorable Colliery Disaster: A Pit-Sinker's
Heroism--Adventure at a Dickens Reading.

CHAPTER IV.
FROM REPORTER TO EDITOR.
First Visit to London--The Capital in 1862--Acquaintance with
Sothern--Bursting of the Bradfield Reservoir--Attendance at Public
Executions and at Floggings--Assuming the Editorship of the _Preston
Guardian_--Political and Literary Influences--Great Speeches by
Gladstone and Bright--Bright's Contempt for Palmerston--Robertson
Gladstone Defends his Brother--Death of Abraham Lincoln--Meeting with
his Granddaughter.

CHAPTER V.
WORK ON THE LEEDS MERCURY
My New Duties--Betrothal--The Writing of Leading Articles--The Founder of
the _Leeds Mercury_--Edward Baines the Second--Thomas Blackburn
Baines--Patriotic Nonconformists--Another Colliery Disaster: A Story of
Heroism--An Abortive Fenian Raid at Chester--Reminiscences of the Prince
of Wales's Visits to Yorkshire--Mr. Bright and the Reform Demonstrations
of 1866--The Closing Speech at St. James's Hall--The Tribune of the
People Vindicates the Queen.

CHAPTER VI.
LIFE IN LONDON.
Appointed London Correspondent of the _Leeds Mercury_--My
Marriage--Securing Admission to the Reporters' Gallery--Relations between
Reporters and Members--Inadequate Accommodation for the
Press--Reminiscences of the Clerkenwell Explosion--The Last Public
Execution--The Arundel Club--James Macdonell--Robert Donald--James
Payn--Mrs. Riddell and the _St. James's Magazine_--My First
Novel--How Sala Cut Short an Anecdote--Disraeli as Leader of the House in
1868--A Personal Encounter with him at Aylesbury--Mr. Gladstone's First
Ministry--Bright and Forster--W.E. Baxter--Irish Church Disestablishment
Debate in the House of Lords--Mr. Mudford--Bereavement.

CHAPTER VII.
EDITOR OF THE _LEEDS MERCURY_.
Forming Good Resolutions--Provincial Journalism in the 'Seventies--
Recollections of the Franco-German War--The Loss of the _Captain_
and its Consequences to me--Settling Down at Leeds--Acquaintance with
Monckton Milnes--Visits to Fryston--Lord Houghton's Chivalry--His
Talk--His Skill in Judging Men--Stories about George Venables--Lord
Houghton's Regard for Religious Observances.

CHAPTER VIII.
MY FIRST CONTINENTAL TOUR.
A Generous Scot--Paris after the Commune--An Uncomfortable Journey
Home--Illness of the Prince of Wales--Revived Popularity of the
Throne--Death and Funeral of Napoleon III.--Burial of the Prince
Imperial--Forster's Educational Policy--Bruce's Licensing Bill--My Second
Marriage.

CHAPTER IX.
A NEW ERA IN PROVINCIAL JOURNALISM.
Bringing the _Leeds Mercury_ into Line with the London
Dailies--Friendship with William Black--The Dissolution of 1874--The
Election at Leeds--Mr. Chamberlain's Candidature for Sheffield--Mr.
Gladstone's Resignation--Election of his Successor--Birth of the
Caucus--The System Described--Its Adoption at Leeds--Its Effect upon the
Fortunes of the Liberal Party--The Bulgarian Atrocities Agitation.

CHAPTER X.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO BRONT LITERATURE.
Visit to Haworth--Feeling Against the Bronts in Yorkshire--Miss Nussey
and her Discontent with Mrs. Gaskell's "Life"--Publication of "Charlotte
Bront: a Monograph"--Mr. Swinburne's Appreciation--An Abortive Visit to
the Poet--Lecture on Emily Bront and "Wuthering Heights"--Miss Nussey's
Visit to Haworth after Charlotte's Marriage.

CHAPTER XI.
VISITS TO THE CONTINENT.
Politics in Paris in 1877--An Oration by Gambetta--the Balloting--The
Republic Saved--Gambetta's Funeral--A Member of the Reform Club--The
Century Club--A Draught of Turpentine and Soda--The "Press Gang" at the
Reform--James Payn and William Black--George Augustus Sala and Sir John
Robinson--Disraeli's Triumph in 1878--A European Tour.

CHAPTER XII.
A CHAPTER OF MISFORTUNES.
Death of my Sister's Husband and of my Brother James--An Accident on
Marston Moor--Sir George Wombwell's Story of the Charge of the Light
Brigade--His Adventure on the Ouse--Editing a Daily Newspaper from a Sick
Bed--Reflections on Death--Death of my Mother--Serious Illness of my Only
Daughter.

CHAPTER XIII.
THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1880.
Mr. Gladstone's Position in 1879--His Decision to Contest Midlothian--How
he came to be Adopted by the Leeds Liberals--The Conversation Club--A
Visit from John Morley--The Dissolution of 1880--Lecture on Mr.
Gladstone--His Triumphant Return for Leeds--His Election for
Midlothian--Mr. Herbert Gladstone Adopted as his Successor at Leeds--Mr.
Gladstone's Visit to Leeds in 1881--A Fiasco Narrowly Avoided--A
Wonderful Mass Meeting--Mr. Gladstone's Collapse and Recovery--My
Introduction to Him--An Excursion to Tunis--"The Land of the Bey"--Mr.
A.M. Broadley's Prophecies--Howard Payne's Grave--A Series of
Coincidences.

CHAPTER XIV.
CONCERNING W.E. FORSTER AND OTHERS.
The Beginning of Mr. Stead's Journalistic Career--His Methods--Birth of
the New Journalism--Madame Novikoff and Mr. Stead--Mr. Stead's Attacks
upon Joseph Cowen--How he dealt with a Remonstrance--W. E. Forster--Mr.
Chamberlain's Antagonism--The _Leeds Mercury_'s Defence of
Forster--How he was Jockeyed out of the Cabinet--Forster's
Resignation--News of the Phoenix Park Murders--Forster's Reflections--Mr.
Gladstone's Pity for Social Outcasts--Mr. Chamberlain's Brothers
Blackballed at the Reform--Failure of an Attempt to Crush the _Leeds
Mercury_--Forster's Gratitude.

CHAPTER XV.
THE FIRST LIBERAL IMPERIALIST.
Forster a Pioneer of Liberal Imperialism--His Political Courage--His
Unfortunate Manner--His Home Life--Intrigues in the Cabinet--The Plots
against Forster's Life--Reaction in his Favour--Forster and Lord
Hartington--The Former's Grief for Gordon--Forster and Lord Rosebery--Mr.
Stead and the _Pall Mall Gazette_--His Responsibility for the
Gordon Imbroglio.

CHAPTER XVI.
NOVELS AND NOVELISTS.
"The Lumley Entail"--"Gladys Fane"--My Experience in Novel-Writing--About
Sad Endings--Imaginary Characters and Characters Drawn from Life--Visits
from William Black and Bret Harte--Black as an After-Dinner Speaker--How
Bret Harte saw Haworth Parsonage, and was Roughly Entreated by a
Yorkshire Admirer--A Candid Opinion on the Bront Monograph.

CHAPTER XVII.
TO THE DEFEAT OF THE GOVERNMENT (1885).
More Antagonism towards Forster--A Household Suffrage Demonstration at
Leeds--A Meeting at the Carlton Club and a Coincidence--Forster and "the
most Powerful Man in England"--Single-Member Constituencies and the
Cumulative Vote--Dynamite Outrages--Police Protection for Statesmen--I
Receive Threatening Letters and Get a Fright--Death of Lord
Houghton--Lord Derby and how he was Misunderstood--An Unconventional
Dinner at Lord Houghton's--A Visit to Tangier--In Peril of the
Sea--Gibraltar "a Magnificent Imposture"--Captain W. and the M.P.--To the
North Cape--Cheering a Funeral Party--News of Mr. Gladstone's
Overthrow--Home Again.

MEMOIRS OF
SIR WEMYSS REID.

* * * * *

CHAPTER I.

EARLY DAYS.

Birth and Parentage--Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 'Forties--A Visit to St.
Andrews--The Scottish Sabbath--First Acquaintance with a Printing
Office--Tyneside in the Mid-Century--In Peril of Housebreakers--At Dr.
Collingwood Bruce's School--A Plague of Flies--Cholera--Fire.

It was in the old town, now the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne that I first
saw the light--March 29, 1842. My father, the Rev. Alexander Reid, was
trained first at the University of St. Andrews, under Dr. Chalmers, and
afterwards at Highbury College, London, under Dr. Pye-Smith, for the
Congregational ministry. On leaving College he settled in 1830 at
Newcastle, and there remained for half a century a faithful and honoured
preacher, retiring in 1880 amid the esteem of the whole community on
Tyneside. He died in 1887 under the roof of my younger brother Stuart, at
Wilmslow, Cheshire, a year which was memorable to me in other than a
sorrowful sense, since it was then that I settled in London. It was said
of my father at the time of his death, in one of the Newcastle papers,
that for a man to be in difficulty or sorrow was a passport to his help
and sympathy. My mother was the daughter of Thomas Wemyss, of Darlington,
a well known Biblical scholar and critic, a kinsman of the poet Campbell,
and a direct descendant of the Stewarts of Ascog, Bute, a family which
traced its descent in unbroken succession--with the bar sinister at the
start--from Robert II. of Scotland.

Of the six children who grew up in the austerely simple but happy
surroundings of my father's home, the eldest, Mary, was the daughter of
my father by a previous marriage; she married the Rev. William Bathgate,
D.D., of Kilmarnock, and died as recently as 1903, to my great sorrow. My
elder brother James, with whom I was most closely associated in boyhood
and youth, was always more or less of an invalid, and died at Leeds in
1880--the year in which our mother also passed away. I came next in the
family, and my younger brothers are Alexander, now manager of the Dublin
and Wexford Railway, and Stuart, who, like myself, has followed
journalism and literature. It only remains for me to mention the youngest
member of the family, John Paul, a bright and affectionate little fellow
of thirteen, whose loss in 1868 threw a shadow over the home which only
the passage of long years softened.

Newcastle, in those days, was scarcely a third of its present size, and
the river Tyne, which is now a mere ditch, hemmed in on either side by
great manufactories, shipbuilding yards, and wharves, from its mouth to a
point above Newcastle, was then a fair and noble river, which watered
green meadows and swept past scenes of rural beauty. The house in which I
was born stood in Elswick Row, and in the year of my birth--1842--that
terrace of modest houses formed the boundary-line of the town on the
west. Beyond it was nothing but fields and open country. There was no
High Level Bridge in those days, spanning the river and forming a link in
the great iron highway between the English and Scotch capitals; nor had
so much as the first stone of the famous Elswick Ordnance and Engineering
Works been laid. The future Lord Armstrong, whom I met at dinner not long
ago, looking hardly older than when I first saw him, was then a
solicitor, whose office stood in Westgate Street, and whose dreams could
scarcely have foreshadowed his ultimate destiny. Richard Granger was just
completing that great reconstruction of the centre of the town which gave
Newcastle so noble and unprovincial an appearance; but the fine streets
he had constructed--finer than any others to be found in England at that
period--were still untenanted, and it was melancholy in walking along
Clayton Street to see nine houses out of ten mere empty shells without
doors or windows.

My earliest recollections start out of the void with great distinctness
on one particular day. It was my third birthday, and I can still recall
vividly the two boys--myself and my brother James--who were playing
together in the garden in front of the pleasant house we then occupied in
Summerhill Terrace, when I was called into the drawing-room to receive my
birthday gifts.

It is not, however, with the memories of a child that I wish to entertain
my readers, except in so far as they may have some intrinsic interest of
their own. Dimly I can recall the year of storm and stress on the
Continent, when thrones were toppling and the tide of revolution
threatened a general catastrophe; vaguely, too, I remember the firing of
the guns from the old castle, which announced the death of Queen Adelaide
in 1849; but it was not until 1850 that my real life may be said to have
begun. In the spring of that year I went on a long visit to my paternal
grandfather at St. Andrews, where his family had been settled for many
generations. In the station of Berwick-upon-Tweed the luggage of
passengers was examined in order to see that whiskey was not being
smuggled across the Border, and I was filled with childish wonder as I
watched the process.

St. Andrews, as it was in 1850, bore little resemblance to the well-known
pleasure resort of to-day. So far as I can remember, there was not a
modern building in the city, and as a picture of an old-world Scottish
town it was without a flaw. No club-house faced the sea, nor were there
the fashionable residences which adorn the modern St. Andrews. The grass
grew and the oats ripened where now stretch the long terraces devoted to
summer lodgings for the visitors. North Street and South Street were the
two city thoroughfares, if thoroughfares they could be called, seeing
that even in them the green weeds grew freely. Antiquity and repose
characterised the place as a whole, though in the winter months the stir
of young life filled the little city, troops of red-cloaked students
passing to and fro between the grey, weather-beaten halls of the
University and their lodgings. At the end of South Street stood the ruins
of the cathedral with the fine tower, in which the beams of some great
vessel of the Spanish Armada, wrecked on the neighbouring Bell Rock, were
carefully preserved, and the graceful arches of the sacred building, for
the destruction of which John Knox was responsible. Many generations of
my forefathers slept side by side in one particular portion of the
cathedral grounds, and here my grandfather used to bring me to play among
the tombs and to spell out the names of kinsmen who had died a century or
more before my own earthly pilgrimage began. The whole place, with its
noble ruins of castle and cathedral, its grey and empty streets, its
venerable halls, its green links and fine coast-line, made a profound
impression upon my imagination as a child. To this day I can recall not
only the scene itself, but the sounds, the colours, the briny odours, the
very atmosphere of the place.

Golf was then, as now, the one great amusement of the citizens, though
there was this difference between the past and the present. In those days
the game was almost unknown to the rest of the world, and to all intents
and purposes St. Andrews had a monopoly of it. [Footnote: Blackheath, of
course, had then, as now, its ancient golf club.] We all talked golf,
even if we did not all play it. The shop-boys rose betimes of a summer's
morning to enjoy a round on the links before breakfast, and learned
professors and staid ministers gave their afternoons to the same
absorbing pursuit. Child though I was, even I had my clubs, and played in
my own fashion at the game.

My grandfather, who had retired from his business as a manufacturer of
flax some years before, had a number of poor relations and dependents
whom he frequently visited, taking me with him as a companion. Many of
these were weavers, and in those days the weaver carried on his craft at
home. I can see distinctly the little stone cottages in the narrow wynds
off South Street, which I was wont to visit; I can recall the whirr and
rattle of the loom "ben the house," and picture to myself the grave
elderly man who on my entrance would rise from the rickety machine in
front of which he was seated, and, after refreshing himself with a pinch
of snuff, adjust his horn-rimmed spectacles and stare, with a seriousness
which to me was somewhat disquieting, at the little English boy who had
found his way into his presence. Kind they were without exception, these
simple homely folk; but their gravity was hardly to be measured. Stern
Calvinists to a man and a woman, the world was clearly to them no
playground, no place for the frivolous pursuit of pleasure; and even the
innocent sports of a child seemed to jar on their sense of the fitness of
things.

It was on Sunday, however, that the full severity of the Scotch
Puritanism of that day made itself felt in my inmost soul. Oh, the dreary
monotony of those Sabbaths at St. Andrews! The long, long service and yet
longer sermon in the forenoon, the funereal procession of the
congregation to their homes, the hasty meal, consisting chiefly of tea
and cold, hard-boiled eggs, which took the place of dinner, and the
return within a few minutes to the kirk, where the vitiated atmosphere
left by the morning congregation had not yet passed away. Even when the
second service had come to a close, the solemnities of the day were not
ended, for the Sunday School met in the late afternoon, and remained in
session for a couple of hours. But it was not the public services,
terrible though these were, that formed the most depressing feature of
Sunday in St. Andrews; it was the rigid discipline which pervaded her
home-life. My grandfather, I believe, was looked upon as being somewhat
lax in his religious views, and he was undoubtedly more liberal--perhaps
one might say more advanced--than many of his neighbours. Yet even he had
to render homage to the universal law. So when Sunday came round the
blinds were closely drawn, lest the rays of the sun should dissipate the
gloom befitting the solemn day, whilst no voice in the household was
raised above a sepulchral whisper. Lucky for me was it that I was sent to
bed early, and that thus the horrors of the Sabbath were in my case
abbreviated. The older members of the family sat in a silent semicircle
round the smouldering fire, each holding, and some possibly reading, a
book, the suitableness of which for use at such a time was beyond
question. The Bible, the metrical version of the Psalms, and one or two
volumes of discourses by divines of undoubted orthodoxy, formed the only
literature recognised on these occasions. For myself, I had brought with
me from home a copy of the delightful, though now forgotten, book called
"Evenings at Home." and my Sabbatical sufferings were intensified by the
sight of this volume on a high bookshelf, where it remained beyond my
reach from Saturday night till Monday morning.

My life among these grave, elderly men and women would probably have been
a sad one but for one fact. Adjoining my grandfather's residence was a
small printing office, which he had established some years before for the
benefit of a widowed daughter-in-law. A door opened from the house into
the printing office, and through it I would steal whenever I got the
chance. It was not only that the journeyman printer (there _were_
journeymen in those days) was the kindest of men, whose memory I cherish
with affection to this hour, and who never failed to welcome me with a
smile and a pleasant word when I invaded his domain. The place had a
charm of its own for me, mysterious, inexplicable, but absolutely
enthralling. The cases of type, the presses, the ink-rollers, the damp
proof-sheets--chiefly of bills announcing public meetings or the "roup"
of some bankrupt farmer's stock--filled me with wonder and delight. Child
as I was, I saw in these humble implements of the petty tradesman the
means by which one mind can place itself in contact with many.

It is not to be supposed that I had even the dimmest perception of
anything beyond the most obvious features of the printer's business, but
the seed was sown then which was to fructify throughout my whole
remaining life, and from the day when I first felt the fascination of
that humble printer's workshop, I never ceased to regard myself as in a
special degree a child of the printing-press. How delightful were the
hours which I and David, the journeyman aforesaid, spent together when
business was slack--and it was often slack! Then it was that together we
would compose the most wonderful announcements of the great enterprises
to which I was to commit myself in after life. Now it was the prospectus
of a "genteel academy" of which I was to be the principal, and again it
was the announcement of the opening of a vast emporium for the sale of
goods of every description under my direction, that we thus composed and
printed. These advertisements were invariably printed on gilt-edged paper
in the bluest of ink, and, when I subsequently returned home, excited
prodigious envy in my elder brother, who had never been privileged to
"see himself in print."

My stay at St. Andrews ended at last in a somewhat melancholy fashion. As
the place seemed to agree with me, it was settled that I should remain
for a year at least; and in order that the time might not be wasted I was
sent to school, the school being the well-known Madras College. Here both
boys and girls were taught together. Of the present state of that famous
institution I know nothing, nor do I wish to utter a word of
disparagement of those who were responsible for its management fifty
years ago; but to me, a timid boy who, in spite of his Northumbrian burr,
was turned to ridicule as a Cockney by the Fifeshire lads and lasses, it
wore the aspect of a veritable place of torment. That classic instrument
of discipline, the tawse, was in use at every hour of the day, girls as
well as boys receiving barbarous punishment under the eyes of their
class-mates. Perhaps the cruelty was not so great as it seemed to me, but
at all events it was enough, so far as I was concerned. My dread of the
terrible lash grew into a brooding horror, which poisoned my days and
destroyed my nights; and before I had been a month at the school I was
seized with an attack upon the brain which nearly proved fatal.

Let me mention here, by way of testifying to the orthodoxy of the
religious training given to my young soul, that on the first night on
which I became delirious I was pursued by a phantom, plainly visible to
my overwrought imagination, which wore the exact guise of the Evil One.
Horns, hoofs, tail, and trident, were all clearly seen, and I sprang
wildly from side to side of my bed trying to evade the fiend's attempt to
capture me, until at last I took refuge, trembling and almost fainting,
in my grandfather's arms. My youth and my good constitution carried me
safely through an illness of no ordinary severity, and one day, as I lay
in bed in the first stage of convalescence, I had the joy of hearing my
mother's voice, and of knowing that she was with me once more. A few days
later I returned with her to Newcastle, and thus ended the attempt to
make a Scotsman of me.

My visit to the North, however, had the effect of stimulating my
intelligence, and giving me a real interest in things around me. Travel
had, in short, done its usual work of instructing and vivifying the mind.
Henceforward I had a standard of comparison to apply to home scenes and
experiences which I had not previously possessed. One favourite resort of
ours at home was a grove of trees situate midway between the outskirts of
the town and the village of Benwell. To us children, and to certain other
young folk who were our playmates, it was known as Diana's Grove, though
whether the name came from some fancy of our own or some bygone
tradition, I was never able to ascertain. On the maps of those days it
bore quite another designation. It was a delightful spot, and when,
accompanied by our nursemaid, my brothers and I set off to spend a long
summer morning there, we seemed to have reached the height of bliss. The
grove was separated from Elswick Lane by sloping fields, where wheat and
barley grew luxuriantly, and the narrow path by which we ran, shouting
with joy, through these fields to our haven among the trees led past a
little fountain at which we always stopped to drink. The grove itself was
a small wood of oak and fir trees, covering a piece of rising ground from
which the most delightful views of the beautiful Tyne Valley and the
country lying south of the river were to be obtained. How often as a
child, when tired with my boyish games, I have sat with my brother
beneath one of the trees of the grove, and looked with eyes of wonder on
the scene before me! The noble river seemed to flow almost at our feet,
and the only signs of life upon its surface were the great keels passing
slowly up and down. Beyond it were the green meadows of Dunstan, whilst,
rising behind them, was the fine amphitheatre crowned by the pretty
village of Wickham and the woods of Ravensworth and Gibside. Young as I
was, I could quote poetry; and I remember how, as I looked upon this
scene, there invariably occurred to me the lines--

"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood
While Jordan rolled between."

Away yonder, across the brimming river, was the Canaan of my
imagination--the mysterious, unknown land into which my little feet were
so eager to wander, reckless of what might happen there. Why do I dwell
upon this simple scene? I do so because, alas, it is now a scene of the
past. Where my young comrades and I made merry fifty years ago in the
shade of the oak trees, or beside the well in the meadow, there is now a
vast cemetery, and some of those who played with me there now sleep
peacefully almost in the shadow of the Diana's Grove we loved so well.
And the prospect from the grove--where is it now? Along the north bank of
the Tyne, at that very spot, stretch the immense works of Lord Armstrong,
whilst the houses of his workmen, in thickly-planted streets, cover the
fair meadows of my youth, and the dense cloud of smoke for ever rising
from forge and furnace blots out the prospect of the southern shore.

Hardly less melancholy is the change which has overtaken the favourite
seaside resorts of my childhood. Tynemouth was the earliest
watering-place of which I knew anything. In those days the pleasant
village, not yet defiled by the soot of Shields, consisted of three
streets, called respectively Front Street, Middle Street, and Back
Street. There was no great pier casting its mighty arm into the sea
across the mouth of the river, and the favourite resort of visitors, the
place where we children played and bathed, and our elders lounged and
read or flirted, according to their tastes, was the quaint little haven
now given up to the pier works. How high the breakers were that rolled
into that haven as I stood, a wondering child, and watched them from the
shore! I have tossed on many seas since then, and have stood on many a
storm-swept headland; but nowhere have I seen waves so high--so
irresistible in their majesty, as those waves at Tynemouth seemed to my
innocent eyes to be.

Far greater than the change at Tynemouth is that which has taken place at
Whitley, another of our favourite summer resorts, on the delightful
Northumbrian coast. What Whitley is now I do not know; but when I last
saw it, more than a dozen years ago, it had become a rambling, ugly,
ill-built town, chiefly given over to lodging-house keepers, though
redeemed by its fine stretch of hard sand. Very different was the Whitley
with which I first made acquaintance in 1849. There was no lodging-house
in the place; nothing but a sequestered village, which could not boast of
church or chapel, and which had only one small shop. My parents used to
hire a charming little cottage belonging to the village blacksmith. Its
front opened upon the village street, and behind was a garden, full of
the simple cottage flowers which are so strangely unfamiliar to those
doomed to dwell in towns. A summer-house, clothed in honeysuckle, was one
of the features of the garden, and the delicious scent seemed to me in
those happy days, when I first reached the cottage on one of our summer
holidays, to be as it were the fragrance of heaven itself. Nobody else
seemed to visit Whitley in those first years of our sojourn there; so
that we had the noble stretch of sands and the long line of cliffs almost
to ourselves during the long summer's day, and my father, lying on the
yielding turf above the sands, could study his sermon for the coming
Sunday at peace, unmolested and almost unseen by any man. There must
still, I suppose, be spots somewhere on the long coastline of this island
where one might find combined the peace, the seclusion, and the beauty of
that bit of Northumberland as I knew it fifty years ago; and yet,
whatever my understanding may say, my heart tells me that I shall never
again see anything like the Whitley of my youth. [Footnote: Since these
pages were penned, the memory of the blacksmith's cottage at Whitley has
been vividly brought back to me under rather singular circumstances. In
the spring of 1895 I was dining in Downing Street with Lord Rosebery,
then Prime Minister. Next to me at dinner was seated Sir James Joicey,
the millionaire colliery owner and Member of Parliament. Sir James is,
like myself, a Northumbrian, and our conversation naturally turned upon
our native county. I spoke of the blacksmith's cottage, and the bower of
honeysuckle at Whitley, with the enthusiasm which old memories evoked. To
my surprise, there was an answering gleam of pleasure and tenderness on
my friend's face. "_You_ lived in the blacksmith's cottage?" said
he. "Why, so did we when I was a boy!" We found, on comparing dates, that
the Joiceys had followed my own parents as tenants of the tiny house when
the latter gave it up. To both of us it seemed a far cry from the honest
blacksmith's modest cottage to Mr. Pitt's dining-room in Downing Street.]

It was in the autumn of 1850 that a rather curious adventure befell me,
which might well have cut short my career, and prevented these pages from
ever seeing the light. We were about to remove from Summerhill Terrace to
a house not far distant which had just been bought by my father, and, as
it happened, one dull afternoon I was left alone at home, my mother and
the servants being all engaged at the new house. I was left with strict
injunctions to "put the chain on the front door," and to bolt the kitchen
door, which was on a lower level than the other. The first order I
obeyed, but the second, under the temptation of an entrancing story in
_Tait's Edinburgh Magazine_ which absorbed my thoughts, I entirely
forgot. I was devouring this story, as only children do devour stories,
when I heard the front door opened. I was sitting in the parlour, at the
back of the house, so that I could not see anyone enter the garden.
Running to the door, under the belief that my mother had returned, I
found myself confronted by two men. They were--or pretended to
be--pedlars; and one of them carried a case filled with sham jewellery.
Their great desire seemed to be to get me to unchain the door. I was
simple enough to tell them that I was alone in the house, but my
simplicity did not carry me so far as a compliance with their urgent
request. After arguing with me for several minutes, and even endeavouring
to bribe me with a trumpery jewel, the men withdrew, muttering. I watched
them for a moment, and took note of the keen, earnest gaze they bent upon
the house before leaving the garden. But the voice of the charmer in
_Tait_ was calling too loudly to allow me to dwell upon anything
else, and I was quickly back again in the parlour and deep in mystery.

It might have been twenty minutes later that there fell upon my startled
ear a sound which under the circumstances was distinctly sinister--that
of a man's foot on the sanded floor of the kitchen passage below. A timid
child at all times, there is no need to say that when I crept to the head
of the stairs, and, after listening there breathlessly for a few seconds,
ascertained beyond doubt that more than one man was moving about in the
rooms below me, I was filled with almost a paralysing sense of terror.
Here at last the "robbers" of whom I and my brother had so often talked
in frightened whispers in our beds, were come in good earnest. What was
to be done? And then there flashed upon me, like an inspiration, the
recollection of a plan which we had talked over together when discussing
the best means of driving the robbers from our house, should they ever
enter it. We had both agreed, then, that if we could but induce any
ordinary thief to believe that a certain big relative of ours, whose
colossal proportions we had often admired, was on the premises, there
would be no need to do anything else to make the intruder flee
affrighted. My mind was made up. Creeping softly back into the parlour, I
seized the tongs. These I hurled suddenly down the kitchen stairs, and
when the terrible din thus raised had died out, I cried in my childish
treble, "Uncle John! Uncle John! Come downstairs! There are thieves in
the house!" There was a cry of rage or alarm from the kitchen, a hurried
scuffling of feet on the floor, and then through a window I saw my two
friends the pedlars flying through the yard, and pausing not to look
behind. I ought, of course, to have forthwith gone downstairs and done my
duty by that back door, which I had so shamefully neglected earlier in
the day; but I am ashamed to say that my momentary access of courage had
entirely died away by this time, and that for no imaginable sum of money
would I have dared to descend those stairs, and pass through the dark
passage leading to the back door. The thieves were in due time captured
and transported for another offence; but my parents refused to prosecute
them in order that I might escape the ordeal of a public examination.
They were desperate ruffians, and the police declared their belief that
if they had known I was alone in the house they would have murdered me.

I now come to my schooldays in the distant years 1852-4. My father, as I
have already said, was a minister of religion for fifty years at
Newcastle. He was one of the gentlest and noblest of men, one whom I have
never ceased to revere as the very pattern and exemplar of a Christian
gentleman. But those who follow such a calling cannot expect to gain
riches as their reward, and my father was a poor man. Despite his
poverty, he was resolved that his sons should have the best education
that he could procure for them. That meant that they must be sent to the
best school in the town--Percy Street Academy. So when my elder brother
in 1848 was of school age, he took him to Mr., not then Dr., Bruce, to
enter him as a pupil. I have no doubt that he went with some trepidation,
knowing full well that the school fees would be a heavy tax upon his
small income. I was sitting with my mother in the drawing-room of
Summerhill Terrace when my father returned, and I saw that there was an
unwonted brightness on his gentle face. He told my mother how Mr. Bruce,
after examining my brother, had pronounced him to be fully qualified to
enter the school; and then my father asked about the fees. The answer he
received was, "My dear Mr. Reid, I never take a fee from a minister of
religion." And so it came to pass that not only my brother James but
myself and my two younger brothers were educated at Percy Street without
any fee being paid on our behalf. No one will wonder that I cherish Dr.
Bruce's memory with unstinted gratitude and reverence.

Schooldays, despite the popular theory, are, as a matter of fact,
generally as uninteresting to the schoolboy as their story is to the
public, and I shall not detain the reader with much about this period of
my life. Dr. Collingwood Bruce, the father, by the way, of Mr. Justice
Bruce, was then and long afterwards the most famous school master in the
North of England, and under him I received that small fraction of my
education which a man usually obtains during pupilage. Percy Street
Academy, Newcastle, has long since disappeared, after having counted no
inconsiderable proportion of the best-known residents among its pupils.
It occupied a series of rambling buildings with an imposing house at the
end of the row, in which lived "The Doctor," the assistant masters, and
the boarders. But though the school is gone, my old schoolmaster died but
recently, enjoying to the last the respect of his fellow citizens and the
repose of a happy old age. He is known to fame as the author of the
leading work on the Roman Wall, and as an antiquary of high repute. I
have a grateful recollection of many of his acts during my school career;
and, looking back, there are none I now esteem more highly than the
attempts he constantly made to interest his pupils in the general affairs
of the world outside the school-gates.

How well, for example, do I remember the school being summoned one
morning in November, 1854, to the large writing room! Here the Doctor was
standing at his desk awaiting us, armed with a copy of the _Times_.
It had just arrived, and it contained W. H. Russell's brilliant account
of the battle of Inkermann. In a few well-chosen words, the Doctor--who
was an excellent public speaker--explained that he had called us from our
tasks in order that we might listen to the story of a great deed done for
England of which every Englishman ought to be proud; and then he read the
whole story of the battle as it is told in Russell's graphic narrative,
whilst we boys cheered each deed of English valour and groaned at the
Russians as lustily as though we had been ourselves spectators of the
fight. It was a wise act on the part of Dr. Bruce, and many others
besides myself must have been grateful to him for having thus made us
participators in the emotion which in those stirring times thrilled the
nation.

It was before the Crimean War, however, that we in Newcastle passed
through an experience the like of which I shall hardly encounter again.
Newcastle was then notorious for its bad sanitation. A great part of the
town consisted of houses of extreme antiquity, crowded together in narrow
alleys in the neighbourhood of the river. These alleys, I may note in
passing, were known as "chares"--a designation which used habitually to
puzzle the Judges of Assize when they had to inquire into the
circumstances of one of the not infrequent riots which in those days
chequered the harmony of life on the banks of the Tyne. It was towards
the end of July, 1853, that the rumour spread, reaching even a schoolboy
like myself, that the cholera was approaching. A few weeks later it was
with us in all its grim reality. Its actual appearance in the town was
preceded by an extraordinary phenomenon which may, or may not, have been
connected with the epidemic. One hot morning in August, when I left home
for school, I was struck by the curious appearance of the atmosphere. No
sooner had I stepped out of doors than I found that the strange dimness
which pervaded everything was due to swarms of minute flies, which
literally darkened the skies and settled in innumerable hosts upon every
object animate and inanimate. It was impossible to breathe without
inhaling these loathsome insects whenever the mouth was opened, and in
order to protect ourselves my brother and I fastened our pocket
handkerchiefs over our faces and walked to school in this fashion. We
found that most other persons had adopted the same device. The plague
lasted in Egyptian intensity for the whole of that day. The next day it
had to a certain extent subsided, and on the third the dead flies might
have been seen literally in heaps, each one of which must have contained
countless thousands, in the corners of halls and passages. Everybody
connected this most disagreeable phenomenon with the approach of the
pestilence, and, whether they did so rightly or wrongly, the cholera only
too certainly followed upon its heels.

Its first appearance raised feelings of terror in many hearts. I confess
for myself that when I heard that three persons had died of cholera in
the town on the previous day I fell into a small panic; but it was then
that my mother, always a deeply religious woman, seeing how things were
going with us, called her children together, and in the happiest manner
succeeded in converting our dread of an unknown and mysterious evil into
a perfect and childlike trust in the protection of a Heavenly Father.
What she said I cannot now recall; I only know that from that moment,
whilst many of our companions in school and at play went about with
pallid faces and unstrung nerves, all our fears seemed as if by magic to
have vanished. But the reality of the plague was terrible indeed, and the
month of September, 1853, is never likely to be forgotten by anyone who
then lived at Newcastle. It was not merely that the mortality was
enormous, the deaths on some days being above a hundred, but that the
circumstances attending the plague were of a gruesome and harrowing
character. Not a few of the scenes in the streets recalled the story of
the Great Plague of London. We had the same incidents of the dead lying
unburied because there were none left to carry them to the grave. We had
the piles of coffins waiting for interment in the churchyard. We had sad
stories of men seen wheeling the corpse of wife or child in a barrow to
the place of burial. In the evenings workmen carried burning
disinfectants through the streets, the blue flames and sickening stench
of which heightened the horrors of our situation. And perhaps most awful
of all was the suddenness with which the disease slew. One evening in
that terrible month my brothers and I were playing in the garden of our
next-door neighbour with his children; by-and-by he himself came out to
smoke his evening pipe, and as usual he had a kindly word for each one of
us. We left him, when we went to bed, sauntering in the placid eventide
among the flowers he was wont carefully to tend. When I got downstairs
next morning a rough country servant, who was then in our employment,
bluntly told me that "that laddie B----" (naming our neighbour) had died
of the cholera during the night.

It is easy to conceive the effect which an incident like this necessarily
had upon the mind of a child; and there were many such incidents. I
verily believe that if we had not been clad by our mother's care and
wisdom in that armour of trusting faith, we should have suffered
irremediable injury. As it was, it became apparent that we must be
removed from the plague-stricken town. But whither could we go? No
visitor from Newcastle or any other riverside town could find admittance
into any of the lodging-houses on the coast. Happily a port of refuge was
open to us in the little blacksmith's cottage at Whitley, and thither, to
our great relief, we were transported about the time when the virulence
of the epidemic began to abate. My father had himself suffered from an
attack of the disease, probably incurred whilst visiting, with quiet but
unstinted devotion, the sick, and I also had had a very slight touch of
it. The fine air of Whitley and the sunny hours spent on the lonely sands
did wonders for us all; and when we returned home it was to find
Newcastle restored to its ordinary life, with only the empty places in
many households to remind us of the ordeal through which the town had
passed.

I have spoken of the resemblance between this outbreak of cholera and the
Great Plague of London. Curiously enough, the likeness between the
experiences of the northern town in the nineteenth century and the
capital in the seventeenth was to be made yet closer. It was just a year
after the epidemic had passed away that we were visited by another
calamity, infinitely less appalling, and yet at the time of its
occurrence far more startling. Sound asleep in the middle of a dark
October night, I began to dream, and, naturally enough at the time, my
dreams were of the war which had then begun. A Russian fleet escaping
from the Baltic had sailed up the Tyne and was bombarding Newcastle. So
ran my vision, and its effect was heightened by the firing of the guns I
heard in my sleep.

Suddenly my dream and everything else vanished from my mind, driven out
by a shock the like of which I had never experienced before. I was
sitting up in bed, trembling violently, and wondering what awful thing it
was that had broken in upon my slumbers. It was a sound--but such a
sound! Nothing approaching to it had ever fallen on my ears before; and
even when wide awake I still heard its echoes vibrating around me. My
brother James, strange to say, had slept peacefully through the roar of
an explosion the noise of which was heard at Sunderland, fourteen miles
away. In response to my cries he awoke, and at my urgent request went to
the window, which I was myself at the moment too much unnerved to
approach. Directly he drew aside the curtain the room was filled with a
glare that rendered every object as plainly visible as in broad daylight.
We believed that a large building used as a tannery immediately behind
our house must be on fire, but the building stood, and we saw that the
glare which lighted up the whole heavens was far away. It was shortly
after three o'clock on the morning of October 6th, 1854. Presently our
natural agitation was increased by a violent knocking on the front door
of the house at that untimely hour. It was the old man who "kept" my
father's chapel at Tuthill Stairs, and he brought with him a doleful
story. Evidently hysterical from the shock he had received, he told my
father, amid his sobs, that half of Newcastle and Gateshead had been
blown down by a frightful explosion in one of the Gateshead bonded
warehouses; that the dead and dying were lying about in hundreds, and
that, to crown everything, Tuthill Stairs Chapel had been destroyed.

It was indeed a tale of woe; and though my father promptly discounted it,
it was impossible to doubt, with the evidence of that flaming sky before
our eyes, that something very terrible had happened. Whether old Dixon
expected my father to act as an amateur fireman, or whether he hoped for
services of a more spiritual kind, I do not know; but he resolutely
refused to return to the scene of the disaster unless my father
accompanied him. So by-and-by my brother and I found ourselves
accompanying my father and the chapel-keeper on their way to the fire.

A strange spectacle it was which was presented to us. Thousands of
persons were hurrying down towards the river side; and upon their faces
shone the reflection of the glowing sky. By-and-by, as we came within
range of the effects of the explosion, we found broken windows and
shattered doorways on every side. It was not, however, until we reached
the High Level Bridge, and from the giddy height of the roadway looked
down upon the river and the two towns, that we realised the full extent
of the disaster which had happened so suddenly. To our right, as we stood
on the bridge, raged a fire of immense extent. The flames were roaring
upwards from one of the great bonded warehouses of Gateshead, and
threatening at every moment to attack the old parish church, which stood
like a rock strangely illumined in the glare; to our left, in the crowded
streets and alleys of the lower part of Newcastle, I counted no fewer
than seven fires burning fiercely in different places, whilst on the
river there were three ships in flames. It was wonderful to look up and
see burning sparks and fragments hurtling through air, resembling nothing
so much (I thought at the time) as a snowstorm every flake of which was a
point of fire; it was wonderful, too, to see the shipping in the river,
the broad stream itself, and the long lines of houses on either side
glowing in the dancing flames. We could hear the rush of the fire
heavenwards; we could see the mere handfuls of men--soldiers, police, and
what not--who were vainly striving to cope with the terrible enemy they
had so suddenly been called upon to face; and even as we looked we saw
fresh fires break out, and above the roar of the mighty furnace on the
Gateshead side--with the glowing crater which marked the site of the
great explosion--could hear at intervals the cries of the workers.
Looking back, I think that was upon the whole the most sublimely
impressive sight I ever beheld. The two burning towns; the river between
them glittering as though its waters had been turned to gold; the dense
silent crowds around me--these made up a picture the memory of which can
never fade.

Though old Dixon's "hundreds of dead and dying" was the wildest of
exaggerations, there had been a most lamentable loss of life as a
consequence of the explosion. What had happened was this: about midnight
a fire had broken out in a vinegar manufactory in the densely-crowded
district of Gateshead lying between the parish church and the river. This
fire, baffling the efforts of the fire brigade, spread quickly, until it
reached some large bonded warehouses adjoining the vinegar manufactory.
By this time it had acquired such proportions that it had been found
necessary to summon the military from the Newcastle Barracks to assist in
the effort to extinguish it, whilst vast crowds of people assembled, not
only in the neighbourhood of the fire itself, but on the bridges and
Newcastle quay, from which an excellent view was to be obtained. The fire
at last reached a warehouse owned by a gentleman named Bertram, and here
it assumed a new character. The exact contents of the warehouse remain
undiscovered to this day. At the time it was freely asserted that Mr.
Bertram had, in direct breach of the law, warehoused a large quantity of
gunpowder; but scientific witnesses who were subsequently examined showed
that it was possible that certain chemicals stored in the warehouse, when
suddenly combined, as by the falling of the floors, would be quite as
explosive as gunpowder itself.

Be this as it may, after one or two slight explosions--those which in my
dream were transformed into the cannonade of a Russian force--the whole
warehouse with all its contents was suddenly blown into the air by the
force of an explosion seldom equalled in its terrible violence. That
explosion not only carried the burning materials across the river to
Newcastle, where they quickly produced another conflagration as serious
in its character as that which was raging in Gateshead, but inflicted
terrible injury both to life and property. The persons in the
neighbourhood of the burning building, including soldiers, firemen,
police, and Mr. Bertram, the owner of the warehouse, were instantly
killed; and in many cases not a trace of their remains could afterwards
be found. On the bridges and on Newcastle quay the great crowds of
onlookers were thrown to the ground by the shock, and several were killed
outright; whilst, far and wide, buildings were partially unroofed,
windows broken, and a great and populous district reduced to the state in
which one might have expected to see it after a bombardment. The exact
number of those killed was never ascertained, but I believe that between
thirty and forty persons lost their lives.

As I came away with my father and brother from the scene of the fire, my
young nerves received the shock which invariably follows the first sight
of death. In the Sandhill--the scene of Lord Eldon's elopement with the
beautiful Bessie Surtees--a man was lying on the pavement who had been
killed by the force of the explosion. As I passed, they were lifting the
body into a cart, and the sight of the head, hanging helplessly like that
of a dead bird, was one I never forgot. All that day the fires burned
fiercely, and it was not until the third day that they were really
subdued. Indeed, on the Gateshead side the ruined warehouses smoked and
smouldered for more than a week. In all, the value of the property
destroyed was something like a million sterling.

Never shall I forget my morning at school on the day on which the fire
first broke out. Boylike, it was the wonder rather than the horror of the
thing which was uppermost in my mind, and I and my schoolfellows, before
the morning bell sounded, eagerly related to each other all that we had
seen; those who, like myself, had been early on the ground having much to
tell to eager listeners. It was only when we had trooped excitedly into
our class-rooms, and found ourselves face to face with our masters, that
we began to realise the actual solemnity of a catastrophe the like of
which had never before befallen an English provincial town. In the Latin
room, where I was due at the opening of the school, I was unfeignedly
surprised to see Mr. Garven, our old classical tutor, sitting in tears at
his desk, and I can still hear the broken whispers in which he attempted
to speak to us of the terrible event.

It came home, I ought to say, very closely to "Bruce's school." More than
one of those killed had been pupils, and the son of Mr. Bertram, upon
whom already an excited public opinion was seeking to fasten the
responsibility for the explosion, was one of our schoolfellows, and had
but the day before joined us in our lessons. Suddenly as, in a
half-hearted way, we began our usual tasks, Dr. Bruce entered, pale and
agitated. "Boys," he said, "a dreadful thing has happened to our good old
town. God knows how far the mischief may extend, and what ruin may be
wrought; but we know already that more than one old pupil here have lost
their lives, and that some of you boys have lost those near and dear to
you. There can be no school to-day. It would not be decent----" And then
the Doctor's voice fairly gave way, and we found ourselves dismissed to
an unexpected--and, for once, an undesired--holiday. These things sink
deep into the youthful imagination, and the memory of them can never be
lost. As I look back upon the years I spent at school, that dark October
morning stands out with a prominence that causes every other day of my
school life to sink into insignificance.

CHAPTER II.

PROBATION.

Aspirations After a Journalistic Life--A Clerk's Stool in the W.B. Lead
Office--Literary Ambitions--An Accepted Contribution--The _Northern
Daily Express_ and its Editor--Founding a Literary Institute--Letters
from Charles Kingsley and Archbishop Longley--Joseph Cowen and his
Revolutionary Friends--Orsini--Thackeray's Lectures and Dickens's
Readings.

One day, in the summer of 1856, I was walking along Princes Street,
Edinburgh, looking with wonder and delight upon the beautiful panorama
that was spread before my eyes. I was little for my age, and the
gentleman who was my companion, and who was pointing out to me the many
famous buildings and monuments that form the glory of the modern Athens,
was leading me by the hand.

Probably he thought me still younger than I was, and treated me as a mere
child. I had come to Edinburgh on a brief holiday, and was staying at the
house of one of my father's friends. By-and-by, having duly fulfilled his
duty as showman, my companion, in a kindly, patronising way, sought to
draw me out. "And what do you mean to be, my boy, when you grow up?" he
asked. My answer was instantaneous and assured. "I mean to be a newspaper
editor, sir." My friend flung my hand from him and burst into a roar of
laughter, which surprised me even more than it did the passers-by. "A
newspaper editor!" he cried, still convulsed by what appeared to me a
most unseemly, if not offensive, merriment. "Good heavens! And what in
the world has put such a thing as that into the child's head?" My wounded
dignity came to my aid. Was I not fourteen? and had I not already left
school and begun to earn my own living? "I made up my mind a long time
ago," I said in the accents of injured innocence. "When I am a man I mean
to be that, and nothing else." I had a sad time of it for the rest of the
day, for this worthy gentleman appreciated what he regarded as the joke
so keenly that whenever he met a friend he stopped him, and said, "Let me
introduce to you a live editor--that is to be some day." He enjoyed the
situation more than I did.

But it was quite true. Young as I was, I had made up my mind, and was
resolved that nothing should move me from my purpose. Perhaps the
printer's ink of the dear old composing room at St. Andrews had
inoculated me, and made me proof against the usual temptations by which a
boy, dreaming of his future path in life, is beset. Or perhaps it was
because printer's ink is in the blood of the family. Whatever may have
been the cause, journalism was my first precocious love, and my last;
and, looking back across the years of heavy work which now separate me
from that June morning at Edinburgh, I see no reason to repent my early
choice or the loss of every other chance of success in life.

Yet, at the outset, there were a hundred obstacles barring my way to the
door through which I longed to pass. I was already, as I have said, at
work. Knowing full well the narrowness of my father's means, I had
cheerfully taken a situation as a clerk, and kindly Fortune had smiled
upon me in the appointment I secured. Most boys of my time on leaving
school went, as it was phrased in those days, "on the quay side" at
Newcastle; that is to say, they entered the office of one of the great
merchants by whose hands the prosperous trade of the Tyne was carried on.
Here their lives were full from morning to night with the business which
in such a hive of industry seemed to know no slackening. No doubt, a
position in a shipping or colliery office at Newcastle in those days was
one to which many advantages were attached. Not a few schoolfellows of my
own, starting with no greater advantages than I possessed, have become
men of large fortune, have acquired landed estates, have sat in
Parliament, have founded county families. But it was not towards these
ends that my youthful ambition urged me; and, happily for me, the office
to which I went one January morning in the 'fifties, in the humble
capacity of junior clerk, had nothing in common with the bustling,
worrying places of business on the quay side, where the race for wealth
seemed to absorb the thoughts of all, from highest to lowest.

Through the influence of a friend, and chiefly in virtue of my father's
name, I secured a place in what was then known as the W.B. Lead Office.
There was at that time a certain quality of lead distinguished by these
letters which carried off the palm in the lead markets of the world;
indeed, its price was constantly from one to two pounds a ton higher than
that of any other lead procurable. This lead was obtained from the great
mines in Weardale and Allandale, then and for many generations owned by
the Beaumont family. Mr. Wentworth Blackett Beaumont was at that time the
head of the family. There was no eager bustle, due to the keenness of
business competition, in the quiet rooms of the W.B. Lead Office in
Northumberland Street, when I entered it as a boy. The whole of the
produce of the mines was sold to half a dozen great London firms, and the
sales were made in such large quantities that a score of transactions
sufficed for a year's work. How great those transactions were may be
gathered from the fact that I sometimes had to make out a single invoice
in which the sole item stated represented a sum of 40,000.

Very soon I found that my chief duty as junior clerk in this eminently
sedate and respectable establishment was to read the _Times_ to my
immediate superior. This gentleman I must always remember with a lively
sense of gratitude. His name was Fothergill, and, like myself, he had
little taste for mere business avocations. He was a student, a lover of
literature, a collector of books, and a writer of verse. Fortunate was it
for me to meet with such a companion at that stage in my life--the stage
when one is most susceptible to outside influences. For five years we sat
opposite to each other in the same quiet room, and never once did I hear
fall from his lips an unworthy idea or suggestion. He suffered from
serious weakness of the eyes, and it was for this reason that so much of
my spare time (and it was nearly all spare time there) was devoted to
reading aloud to him. He had only a clerk's income, small enough in all
conscience, but he never wanted money to spend on a book or a magazine. I
remember his delight when the first number of the _Saturday Review_,
to which he had subscribed on its appearance, was placed in his hands.
From that time forward my daily readings of the leaders in the
_Times_ were varied by weekly readings of the brilliant sarcasm and
invective which then distinguished the new review that had entered the
field of journalism with so bold a mien, and was holding its own so
fearlessly against all comers. With such a friend, always ready to give
me of his best--alas, at the time, in my youthful ignorance of men, I
failed altogether to appreciate my good fortune in meeting a companion
like this--my mind rapidly expanded, and before I was half way through my
teens I was learning to put boyish things behind me. Although Fothergill
did not encourage my precocious affection for the press, wisely holding
that a literary life was one reserved only for the few, and, like
matrimony, not to be "taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly,"
he did not, as so many men in his place might have done, stamp ruthlessly
upon my aspirations or subject them to that cruel sarcasm which is so
killing to the ambitions of the young. This, it is true, was done by
another person in the same office--the manager; but, fortunately, that
gentleman was altogether so obnoxious to me for many reasons that his
special dislike of my literary bent, and the sneers with which he greeted
my early appearances in print, did not affect my purpose in the slightest
degree.

I could say much of those five years of my life spent in the W.B. Lead
Office, but I must not weary my readers with that which would be at best
a humdrum tale. My education went on apace. In the evenings I took
lessons at home, and during the day, when I was not otherwise engaged, I
had always a book or a pen in my hand. How high one's aspirations soar in
that season when everything seems possible to the unfledged soul! The
glory of Milton itself seemed hardly beyond attainment, and I nursed the
illusion that within me lay the potentiality of a new Scott, or Dickens,
or Thackeray. Happy, foolish dreams, from cherishing which no man has
ever been the worse! A hundred times I essayed to produce something
worthy of being printed. But the stories, the essays, and--save the
mark!--the poems I attempted had a knack of remaining unfinished, or,
when finished, were so obviously bad, even to my untrained judgment, that
they were promptly destroyed. When at last I did taste the fearful joys
of a first appearance in print, it was on a very humble stage. A great
controversy was raging in Newcastle in 1857 over the appointment of the
then vicar to another living in the town; an appointment that was
obnoxious not only because it was a clear case of pluralism, but because
the vicar himself belonged to the then unpopular High Church party. I
read the articles in the papers, and the letters in which my indignant
fellow-townsmen gave expression to their views, with keen interest, and
at last I was myself prompted to join in the fray. Having carefully
composed a letter to the editor of the _Northern Daily Express_,
which I signed "A Bedesman," I furtively dropped it into the letter-box
at the newspaper office, and tremblingly awaited the result.

I had not long to wait. The next morning, as I was on my way to the
office, I chanced upon a contents bill of the _Express_, and there,
with dazzled eyes, the testimony of which I could hardly believe, I read
the announcement that the paper of the day contained a letter by "A
Bedesman." And here I must make a humiliating confession. The price of
the paper was a penny, and at that particular moment I discovered that I
had not a penny in the world. My weekly pocket-money was sixpence, and it
generally went at one of the old bookstalls in the market before the week
was far advanced. But I could not face the day before me with the
dreadful uncertainty weighing upon my soul as to whether another person
might not have adopted the same signature as myself, and whether,
consequently, I might not be labouring under a fond delusion. I turned
and fled home (fortunately I always started for work in good time), and
asked my mother to lend me the penny I needed. In a broken whisper I
confided to her the fact that I believed there was really a letter of
mine in that morning's _Express_. I got my penny, and in a few
minutes I was feasting my eyes upon that sight--dearer than any other the
world can show to the young literary aspirant--my first printed
composition. I had then just entered my fifteenth year.

Not one writer in a thousand has stopped at a first book, and not one
newspaper contributor in a million has stopped at a first letter to the
editor. Like much better people, I had made the discovery that whilst my
opinions regarding the Genius of Shakespeare, the Art of Fiction, and the
Character of Cromwell were not wanted by anybody, there were some
questions cropping up, as it were, at my own door, about which I might,
if I liked, give an opinion that some persons at all events would think
worth printing. In short, I was enabled to see that though I could not
fly, I might at least walk. How eagerly I turned to profit the discovery
I had thus made need not be told here. For the moment my ambitious
designs were laid on one side. I no longer dreamed of an Epic that should
rival "Paradise Lost" or a novel that might outshine "Vanity Fair"; but I
prepared to discuss the local questions of the hour, the site of a post
office, the opening of a hospital, the grievance of some small public
official, with the zest which I had only felt hitherto when dealing with
the great literary and social problems, to the discussion of which my
untrained intelligence could contribute nothing of value. What I wrote on
such topics as those I have named I cannot pretend to remember; but there
must have been some little promise in my contributions to the
_Express_, for one memorable day, when I got home from work, my
father told me that he had received a visit from Mr. Marshall, the chief
proprietor of that paper, and that this visit closely concerned me. Mr.
Marshall had inquired as to my age and occupation, and having suggested
that my leaning towards journalism ought not to be repressed, had offered
to have me taught shorthand by the reporter of the _Express_.
Finally he had left with my father half a sovereign, which he desired me
to accept in payment of my various contributions to the paper. So, whilst
I was still a mere boy, not having as yet entered on my sixteenth year, I
found myself enrolled among the more or less irregular camp-followers of
journalism.

It was indeed a rapturous moment when I heard this news. If I had been
allowed, I would forthwith have thrown up my place at the W.B. Lead
office and taken service--even the humblest--on the Press. But on this
point my father was firm. I must stick to my proper work for the present,
though there could be no harm in my devoting my evenings to such study
and practice as might fit me for journalism hereafter. Not that he or my
mother desired to see me become a journalist. The Press--at all events in
provincial towns--in those days was the reverse of respectable in the
eyes of the world; and truly there was some reason for the low esteem in
which it was held. The ordinary reporter on a country paper was generally
illiterate, was too often intemperate, and was invariably ill-paid. Again
and again did my mother seek to check my eager yearning for a life on the
Press with the repetition of dismal stories dinned into her ears by
sympathising friends, who deplored the fact that her son should dream of
leaving so secure and respectable a position as a clerkship in the W.B.
Lead Office for the poor rewards and dubious respectability of a
newspaper career.

There was an old friend of my father's--Innes by name--who took it upon
himself to remonstrate with me. After exhorting me fervently for some
time, he sought to illustrate the dangers of the course on which I was
anxious to embark by a personal experience. "Thomas," he said solemnly
(and oh, how I hated to be called Thomas!), "I knew a laddie called
Forster. His father was a most respectable, decent man, that kept a
butcher's shop at the top o' the Side--a first-rate business; and this
laddie--his name was John--got just such notions into his head as ye
have; he was always reading and writing, and nothing would suit him but
to go to college instead of sticking to the shop. And at last he went
away to London, and his poor father died, and the business went all to
pieces, and I've never heard tell of that laddie from the day he went to
London until now. He's died of starvation, most likely, by this time."

"Why, Mr. Innes," I cried, "do you really mean to say that you have never
heard of Mr. Forster's books--his Life of Oliver Goldsmith and 'The
Arrest of the Five Members'? He's one of our great writers now, and if I
could only reach a position like his--" But this prospect was so dazzling
that it fairly took my breath away, and I lapsed into silence, delighted
to find that my old friend's "awful example" should have been a man in
whose footsteps I most ardently desired to tread.

As I have mentioned the opposition which my parents offered to my design
to become a journalist, it is only right that I should say that if it had
not been for the atmosphere in which I lived at home, the accomplishment
of that design would never have become possible. Ours was a home of
narrow and stinted means, but of wide and generous sympathies. We
children learned from the example of our dear father and mother to look
beyond ourselves and our own small interests upon the battle of life as
it was being fought in the world at large. If our table was of the
plainest, there were always books and newspapers in the house, and they
were not there for show. My mother had a genuine taste for literature,
and a judgment which, if not infallible, was at least sound. Many a time
would we discuss together the books we were reading. They were not, as a
rule, hot from the Press; but why should they have been, in the case of a
boy with all the literary treasures of the world still untasted? My
father leaned, as was natural, to the more serious side of literature;
but he had a keen interest in public affairs, and he brought to their
study a sagacious and well-informed mind. Whilst the spirit in which both
he and my mother viewed life and the problems which it daily presented to
them was that of a pure and lofty Puritanism, it was broadened and
softened, more particularly in the case of my father, by the gentleness
and liberality of their own characters. So it was in an atmosphere of
culture and liberal thought that I lived my life in those days both at
home and at the W.B. Lead Office.

The _Northern Daily Express_ was a penny newspaper which laid claim
to be the first provincial daily published at that price. The claim has,
I believe, been disputed by Mr. Justin McCarthy, who claims the honour
for a Liverpool journal with which he was himself at one time connected.
But whether first or second, it is certain that the _Express_ was
very early in the field. It had been started at Darlington in 1855 by a
gentleman named Watson. A year later it was transferred to Newcastle, and
it was in the _Express_ office that I first became acquainted with
actual newspaper work. A very curious place was that office when I first
knew it. It consisted simply of two rooms and two cellars in a house in
West Clayton Street. One of the rooms was devoted to the compositors who
set the little sheet; the other was by day the counting-house and the
place where the papers were sold and advertisements received, whilst at
night it became the editorial office--the editor, sub-editor, and
reporters all working together here at the desks occupied by the clerks
during the day. I ought, perhaps, to explain that the staff was not quite
so large as my description of it might lead people to suppose. The
sub-editor, for instance, doubled his part and acted as reporter also.
Still, it was a tight fit in that little room in West Clayton Street when
I went there of an evening to write some paragraph or letter for the next
morning's paper. In the cellars was the machine on which the
_Express_ was printed, and the stock of paper.

In one respect, the _Express_ was better equipped than is many a
pretentious journal of to-day. Its editor--Manson by name--was a man of
remarkable ability, and his carefully-prepared leading articles were
certainly second to none in the newspaper press of his day. This is a
strong saying, but my reader will not think it unjustified when he hears
that Manson's services had been eagerly sought for by more than one
London newspaper, including the _Times_. He was a man of real
genius, but, unfortunately, not without the defects of his qualities. In
my young eyes he was a marvel, and almost an idol. To sit beside him, as
I sometimes did, whilst he forged the thunderbolts which produced so
great an effect upon the opinion of the town, was to me a joy almost too
great for words. I would sit and watch the untiring hand moving across
the slips of blue paper with a mind filled with the awe and reverence
with which a pupil of Michael Angelo might have watched the master at
work. I had at last got my foot on the first rung of the ladder, and my
soul was filled with absolute content. True, my days were given to the
W.B. Lead Office; but seldom did an evening come round without finding
me, on one pretext or another, in the house in West Clayton Street.
Indeed, I had now become almost a recognised member of the staff, and my
little contributions in the shape of paragraphs, letters, and the
inevitable verses appeared almost daily.

I had been trying to teach myself shorthand, and had made some progress
with Pitman's system of phonography; but now, thanks to the kindness of
Mr. Marshall, I secured the services of a first-rate teacher, and soon
made rapid progress in that difficult art. My teacher was Mr. Lowes, an
admirable shorthand writer, who wrote a system of his own. To Mr. Lowes,
phonography appeared to be the chief evil afflicting mankind. What little
things divide the world! In my teacher's opinion it was divided into
phonographers and stenographers, and never did the schoolmen of old show
more bitterness in maintaining their own shibboleths than did Lowes in
asserting the superiority of his system to that of Mr. Pitman--an opinion
which I need scarcely say was not shared by the world.

Lowes was a good fellow, and a most kind and patient teacher. Under his
guidance I soon acquired a certain amount of facility in ordinary
press-work. Contributions to _Chambers's Journal_, the _Leisure
Hour_, and one or two minor religious magazines, gave me as the years
passed an opportunity of addressing a wider audience than the readers of
the _Express_, and though I had as many misfortunes and
disappointments as most young writers, I stuck steadily to my task, and
bit by bit strengthened my position in the world of journalism.

There were other fields of activity, besides the press, that I
assiduously cultivated. For example, in the plenitude of my wisdom, at
the age of seventeen I founded an institution in the west end of
Newcastle, not far from my father's church. I called it the "West End
Literary Institute," and truly it was designed upon a most ambitious
scale. When I recall the way in which I begged money from all and sundry
among my friends for the purpose of starting the institute, and the
manner in which I pestered distinguished authors for presentation copies
of their books, in order to furnish the shelves of the library, I am
driven to the painful conclusion that I must have been a terrible person
in the days of my youth, and something of a prig to boot. Apropos of the
begging for books as free gifts from authors, I had one or two amusing
experiences. Among those whom I importuned in this impertinent way were
Charles Kingsley, and the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Longley.
Kingsley replied to my request in a manner that was as sensible as it was
severe, bluntly telling me that he was a poor man who wrote books in
order to get money, and who could not afford to give them away. I have
written books myself since then, and have had many an application as
unreasonable as that which I addressed to the author of "Alton Locke."
This fact, perhaps, explains my entire approval of the snubbing which
that distinguished man administered to me.

Very different, however, was the response of the Archbishop of
Canterbury. It was a courteous and dignified epistle, expressing his
pleasure at being able to comply with my request, and fifteen handsome
octavo volumes of sermons were forthwith forwarded to me from Hatchard's.
I had other similar experiences, and the result was that when my library
was thrown open to the public the amount of theology which it contained
far outweighed every other department of literature. However, people came
to my reading-room, and I was fortunately able to provide them with other
entertainment besides the reading of old sermons. I started a course of
lectures and readings. I blush to say that I distinguished myself one
evening by reading the play of _Macbeth_ to an unhappy audience of
bored victims. Heaven forgive me! I carried on my West End Institute for
some years, started a flourishing penny bank in connection with it, and
formed numerous acquaintances among the more intelligent artisans of the
district; but at last the building was wanted for an extension of the
Sunday schools connected with my father's congregation, and the little
performance came to an end. I trust it had not made me an incurable prig,
but I fear that it did not do anybody very much good; though, perhaps, it
kept some out of mischief.

No account of Newcastle at this period (1850-60) would be complete
without some reference to one of its most notable inhabitants, Mr. Joseph
Cowen, commonly known at that time to his fellow-townsmen as "Joe." Mr.
Cowen's subsequent career in Parliament, brief though it was, gained for
him a reputation for eloquence hardly inferior to that enjoyed by the
most illustrious of his contemporaries. But in those early days of my
youth it was not his eloquence but his advanced opinions about which his
fellow-townsmen thought most. He openly professed to be a Republican, in
theory at all events, and all his sympathies were engaged on the side of
the oppressed nationalities of Europe. A man of culture, of commanding
abilities, and of considerable wealth, he lived by choice in the plainest
fashion, delighting to be known as one of the people. He dressed at all
times in the kind of suit which a Northumbrian pitman wears when not
actually at work. Years afterwards, when he had just thrilled all England
by a great speech in the House of Commons on the subject of Russian
oppression, I chanced to meet him one day in Pall Mall, and, stopping to
talk to him, was amused to see the glances of curiosity which were cast
at the strangely attired man who had found his way to that fashionable
thoroughfare.

Nor was it only in his dress that he affected a likeness to the
working-men of Tyneside. In his speech he exaggerated the burr of the
Newcastle tongue. Most of us were anxious to get rid of that undesirable
distinction. Mr. Cowen clung to it as one of the most precious of his
possessions. He had to pay for this piece of affectation in later life,
when he became a figure in the House of Commons. His first notable speech
in that assembly was on the Royal Titles Bill of Mr. Disraeli. It was a
very brilliant performance, greatly admired by those who were able to
appreciate it. But, unfortunately, it was not understood by everybody.
The day after it was delivered, Mr. Disraeli was questioned at a
dinner-party by a lady, who asked him what he thought of the new orator
whose presence had been revealed to the House. "I'm sorry I can't answer
your question," said the Prime Minister. "It is true that a gentleman,
whom I had never seen before, got up on the Opposition side and made a
speech which seemed to excite great enthusiasm in a certain part of the
House; but, unfortunately, he spoke in a language I had never heard, and
I haven't the slightest idea in the world what he said."

But in the days of which I am now writing Mr. Cowen was still a long way
from the House of Commons. His fame, however, was even then of no common
kind. He was known throughout Europe as a man willing to befriend, not
merely with speech and pen, but with purse, every victim of political
oppression. By the despotic Governments of the Continent he was held in
feverish hatred, and at one time his modest house at Blaydon Burn was
regularly watched by French, Russian, and Austrian spies; nor was it
without good reason that the tyrants of Europe saw in him their natural
enemy. Under his roof many of the most eminent refugees from the
countries I have named and from Italy found a welcome shelter, and in one
room in that house was a small printing press on which thousands of
revolutionary proclamations in all the languages of Europe had been
printed. Mazzini, Garibaldi, Kossuth, Felice Orsini, and scores of other
notable revolutionaries whose names I forget, were his friends and
guests, and through his influence a large party of us in Newcastle were
led to take almost as warm an interest in political affairs on the
Continent as in the movements of parties at home. Again and again in
those days, when France was crushed under the heel of the Second Empire,
when Poland was vainly writhing in her cruel bonds, when Hungary was
filled with the spirit of rebellion, and when the people of Italy were
taking their first steps by the intricate paths of conspiracy and
insurrection towards unity and freedom, Joe Cowen would find some excuse
for summoning a public meeting in the old Lecture Room, Nelson Street, in
order that we might listen to some patriot exile as he told the story of
his country's wrongs, or give expression to our own detestation of the
despotism which at that time weighed upon Europe, from the banks of the
Seine to those of the Volga.

No impressionable youth could fail to be affected by such an influence as
this, and if in those days I shrank from Mr. Cowen's views on home
politics as being too advanced, I was one of the most enthusiastic of his
adherents in his self-appointed mission against the tyrannies of the
Continent. How well do I remember some of the faces and figures of Mr.
Cowen's friends and guests! I can still see Kossuth with his grey hair
and wrinkled brow, and Mazzini with his melancholy eyes and handsome
face; I can still hear the tones of Louis Blanc as he stands on the
platform of the lecture room and talks to us in excellent English of the
epoch of the Great Revolution. But the one man whose face and figure
dwell most vividly in my recollection is Orsini, the great Italian who,
after a lifetime spent in the attempt to deliver Tuscany and Lombardy
from the yoke of the tyrant, died under the guillotine in Paris, and by
his death secured for Italy her long-sought freedom. Orsini came to
Newcastle shortly after his escape from an Austrian dungeon at Mantua,
and addressed a great meeting in the Lecture Room. He spoke English
fairly well; but it was the appearance of the man, and the knowledge of
all that he had suffered in the struggle for Italian freedom, that
appealed to one more eloquently than his words. Never had I seen any man
whose appearance equalled that of this Italian martyr who died as an
assassin. His features were almost faultless, whilst his jet-black hair
set off the lustrous pallor of his complexion with extraordinary
effectiveness. Attired in fashionable evening dress, his hands encased in
white kid gloves, and a smile, gentle rather than pathetic, lighting up
his beautiful face, he looked the last man in the world whom one would
naturally associate with desperate deeds. Yet, not many weeks after I had
grasped his hand, he had brought about the terrible attempt upon the life
of the Emperor Napoleon, when the latter was driving through the Rue
Lepelletier, Paris, by which many innocent persons perished, and was
himself lying in prison under sentence of death. Mr. Cowen once told me
that it was he who provided the funds for carrying out Orsini's plot
against Louis Napoleon's life, but he did so in absolute ignorance of the
fact that this was the purpose to which the money was to be appropriated.
He understood that it was wanted for the equipment of another
insurrectionary expedition against the Austrians in Italy, and he
willingly subscribed the amount asked for.

As for Orsini, he met his death like a hero; but it is well known that
before dying he succeeded, as a leading member of the Carbonari, in
extracting from the French Emperor, who had himself belonged to that
society, a promise that he would free Italy from Austrian oppression. By
giving that promise, Louis Napoleon was delivered from the fear of
violent death at the hands of the Carbonari, whilst his fulfilment of it
in the war of 1859 gave Italy her first great step towards unity and
freedom. Even the romantic page of history has never recorded a more
notable transaction than that which thus took place in a condemned cell
between an assassin lying under sentence of death and a reigning Emperor;
nor would it be possible to denounce regicide so absolutely as most of us
do if there were many instances in which it had proved so successful as
it did in the case of Orsini.

I have dwelt at undue length on an episode which my readers probably
think altogether outside the scope of this narrative, but it does not lie
quite so far apart from it as they may imagine. It was my association as
a boy with Mr. Cowen's enthusiastic assertion of the rights of oppressed
nationalities, and the stirring of my spirit which necessarily resulted
from contact, however slight, with men like Kossuth and Orsini, that
first made me a real Liberal in politics.

As I have mentioned the Lecture Room--a dismal, stuffy, ill-lighted
little theatre--I may refer to two meetings unconnected with foreign
politics which I remember in it. One was in 1857, when the Dissenters of
Newcastle had revolted against the domination of the Whig clique, and at
the general election had set up a candidate of their own. They had great
difficulty in finding one, for they required a man who would pay his own
expenses (in those days a very serious item), and the chance of success
was by no means brilliant. At last, however, they secured a rich retired
Bombay merchant, and he came down to Newcastle forthwith to address his
first meeting. The Lecture Room was crowded with enthusiastic
Nonconformists, and these were the words with which the unhappy candidate
began his speech: "Gentlemen, four-and-twenty hours ago, if anybody had
asked me where Newcastle-on-Tyne was, I could not have told them." This,
to an audience full of the local pride which possessed the soul of every
genuine Newcastle man! I need hardly say that, having ascertained where
Newcastle was, Mr. C. speedily departed from it, amid a storm of
indignation, never again to be seen in its streets.

More vivid still is my recollection of the Lecture Room on the occasion
when Thackeray delivered his lectures on the Four Georges to an audience
more select than numerous. I was at the age when, as the author of
"Vanity Fair" himself has said, "to behold Brown, the author of the last
romance, in the flesh, is a joy and a delight." Anybody who had written a
book seemed to me to be a hero; what was it then to see and to hear the
literary idol of my youth? Thackeray, with his tall figure, his silvery
hair, his upturned face, expressive and striking, though by no means
beautiful, seemed to me as I sat on my bench and listened to him to be
nothing less than one of the gods. He was an admirable lecturer; his
voice was musical and clear, his pronunciation singularly distinct and
accurate, and the little touches of sarcasm and humour which he conveyed
to his audience by a tone or an inflection, quite inimitable. I heard, as
I sat listening to his lecture on George the Third--by far the best of
the series--someone near me yawn, and my soul was filled with horror at
what I thought nothing less than an act of sacrilege. I never saw the
great novelist except on the occasion of his visit to Newcastle, but to
the end of my days it will be a delight thus to have beheld him in the
flesh. Dickens I heard read several times, though never in the Lecture
Room; yet I cannot say that any of his readings made upon me the
impression produced by Thackeray's lectures. The actor and the arts of
the popular entertainer were too plainly visible in all that he did, and

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