Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Memorials and Other Papers by Thomas de Quincey

Part 2 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

And now, nearly a hundred years after Warburton, what is the opinion of
scholars upon this point? Two of the latest and profoundest I will
cite:--1. Lobeck, in his "Aglaophamus," expressly repels all such
notions; 2. Otfried Mueller, in the twelfth chapter, twenty-fourth
section, of his "Introduction to a System of Mythology," says: "I have
here gone on the assumption which I consider unavoidable, that there
was no regular instruction, no dogmatical communication, connected with
the Grecian worship in general. _There could be nothing_ of the
kind introduced into the public service from the way in which it was
conducted, for the priest _did not address the people at all_."
These opinions, which exactly tallied with my own assertion to Lady
Carbery, that all religion amongst the Pagans resolved itself into a
mere system of ceremonial worship, a pompous and elaborate
_cultus_, were not brought forward in Germany until about ten or
twelve years ago; whereas, my doctrine was expressly insisted on in
1800; that is, forty years earlier than any of these German writers had
turned their thoughts in that direction.

Had I, then, really all that originality on this subject which for many
years I secretly claimed? Substantially I had, because this great
distinction between the modern (or Christian) idea of "a religion" and
the ancient (or Pagan) idea of "a religion," I had nowhere openly seen
expressed in words. To myself exclusively I was indebted for it.
Nevertheless, it is undeniable that this conception must have been long
ago germinating in the world, and perhaps bearing fruit. This is past
all denial, since, about thirteen or fourteen years ago, I read in some
journal (a French journal, I think) this statement: namely, that some
oriental people--Turks, according to my present impression, but it
might have been Arabs--make an old traditional distinction (so said the
French journal) between what they call "religions of the book" and all
other religions. The religions of the book, according to them, are
three, all equally founded upon written and producible documents,
namely: first, the Judaic system, resting upon the Pentateuch, or more
truly, I should imagine, upon the Law and the Prophets; secondly, the
Christian system, resting upon the Old and New Testaments; thirdly, the
Mahometan system, resting confessedly upon the Koran. The very meaning,
therefore, of styling these systems, by way of honorable distinction,
_religions of the book_, is, not that accidentally they had
written vouchers for their creed, whereas the others had only oral
vouchers, but that they severally offer to men's acceptance a large
body of philosophic truth, such as requires and presupposes a book.
Whereas the various religions contradistinguished from these three--
namely, the whole body of Pagan idolatries--are mere forms of adoration
addressed to many different divinities; and the brief reason why they
are essentially opposed to religions of the book is, not that they
_have_ not, but logically that they _cannot_ have, books or
documents, inasmuch as they have no truths to deliver. They do not
profess to teach anything whatsoever. What they profess, as their
justifying distinction, is, to adore a certain deity, or a certain
collective Pantheon, according to certain old authorized forms--
authorized, that is to say, by fixed, ancient, and oftentimes local

What was the great practical inference from the new distinction which I
offered? It was this: that Christianity (which included Judaism as its
own germinal principle, and Islamism as its own adaptation to a
barbarous and imperfect civilization) carried along with itself its own
authentication; since, whilst other religions introduced men simply to
ceremonies and usages, which could furnish no aliment or material for
their intellect, Christianity provided an eternal _palæstra_ or
place of exercise for the human understanding vitalized by human
affections: for every problem whatever, interesting to the human
intellect, provided only that it bears a _moral_ aspect, immediately
passes into the field of religious speculation. Religion had thus
become the great organ of human culture. Lady Carbery advanced
half-way to meet me in these new views, finding my credentials as a
theologian in my earnestness and my sincerity. She herself was
painfully and sorrowfully in earnest. She had come at this early age of
seven or eight and twenty, to the most bitter sense of hollowness, and
(in a philosophic sense) of _treachery_ as under-lying all things
that stood round her; and she sought escape, if escape there were,
through religion. Religion was to be sought in the Bible. But was the
Bible intelligible at the first glance? Far from it. Search the
Scriptures, was the cry in Protestant lands amongst all people, however
much at war with each other. But I often told her that this was a vain
pretence, without some knowledge of Greek. Or perhaps not always and
absolutely a pretence; because, undoubtedly, it is true that oftentimes
mere ignorant simplicity may, by bringing into direct collision
passages that are reciprocally illustrative, restrain an error or
illuminate a truth. And a reason, which I have since given in print (a
reason additional to Bentley's), for neglecting the thirty thousand
various readings collected by the diligence of the New Testament
collators, applied also to this case, namely: That, first, the
transcendent nature, and, secondly, the _recurrent_ nature, of
Scriptural truths cause them to surmount verbal disturbances. A
doctrine, for instance, which is sowed broadcast over the Scriptures,
and recurs, on an average, three times in every chapter, cannot be
affected by the casual inaccuracy of a phrase, since the phrase is
continually varied. And, therefore, I would not deny the possibility of
an effectual searching by very unlearned persons. Our authorized
translators of the Bible in the Shakspearian age were not in any
exquisite sense learned men; they were very able men, and in a better
sense able than if they had been philologically profound scholars,
which at that time, from the imperfect culture of philology, they could
not easily have been; men they were whom religious feeling guided
correctly in choosing their expressions, and with whom the state of the
language in some respects cooperated, by furnishing a diction more
homely, fervent, and pathetic, than would now be available. For their
apostolic functions English was the language most in demand. But in
polemic or controversial cases Greek is indispensable. And of this Lady
Carbery was sufficiently convinced by my own demur on the word
_metanoia_. If I were right, how profoundly wrong must those have
been whom my new explanation superseded. She resolved, therefore,
immediately on my suggesting it, that she would learn Greek; or, at
least, that limited form of Greek which was required for the New
Testament. In the language of Terence, dictum factum--no sooner said
than done. On the very next morning we all rode in to Stamford, our
nearest town for such a purpose, and astounded the bookseller's
apprentice by ordering four copies of the Clarendon Press Greek
Testament, three copies of Parkhurst's Greek and English Lexicon, and
three copies of some grammar, but what I have now forgotten. The books
were to come down by the mail-coach without delay. Consequently, we
were soon at work. Lady Massey and my sister, not being sustained by
the same interest as Lady Carbery, eventually relaxed in their
attention. But Lady Carbery was quite in earnest, and very soon became
expert in the original language of the New Testament.

I wished much that she should have gone on to the study of Herodotus.
And I described to her the situation of the vivacious and mercurial
Athenian, in the early period of Pericles, as repeating in its main
features, for the great advantage of that Grecian Froissart, the
situation of Adam during his earliest hours in Paradise, himself being
the describer to the affable archangel. The same genial climate there
was; the same luxuriation of nature in her early prime; the same
ignorance of his own origin in the tenant of this lovely scenery; and
the same eager desire to learn it. [Footnote: "About me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains,
And liquid lapse of murmuring streams; by these
Creatures that lived and moved, and walked or flew;
Birds on the branches warbling; all things smiled;
With fragrance and with joy my heart o'erflowed.
Myself I then perused, and limb by limb
Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
With supple joints, as lively vigor led;
_But who I was or where, or from what cause_,
Knew not."--_Paradise Lost_, Book viii.
The _who_, the _where_ (in any extended sense, that is, as
regarded the _external_ relations of his own country), and the
_from what cause_--all these were precisely what the Grecian did
_not_ know, and first learned from Herodotus.] The very truth, and
mere facts of history, reaching Herodotus through such a haze of remote
abstraction, and suffering a sort of refraction at each translation
from atmosphere to atmosphere, whilst continually the uninteresting
parts dropped away as the whole moved onwards, unavoidably assumed the
attractions of romance. And thus it has happened that the air of
marvellousness, which seems connected with the choice and preferences
of Herodotus, is in reality the natural gift of his position. Culling
from a field of many nations and many generations, reasonably he
preferred such narratives as, though possible enough, wore the coloring
of romance. Without any violation of the truth, the mere extent of his
field as to space and time gave him great advantages for the wild and
the marvellous. Meantime, this purpose of ours with regard to Herodotus
was defeated. Whilst we were making preparations for it, suddenly one
morning from his Limerick estate of Carass returned Lord Carbery. And,
by accident, his welcome was a rough one; for, happening to find Lady
Carbery in the breakfast-room, and naturally throwing his arm about her
neck to kiss her, "Ruffian," a monster of a Newfoundland dog,
singularly beautiful in his coloring, and almost as powerful as a
leopard, flew at him vindictively as at a stranger committing an
assault, and his mistress had great difficulty in calling him off. Lord
Carbery smiled a little at our Greek studies; and, in turn, made us
smile, who knew the original object of these studies, when he suggested
mildly that three or four books of the "Iliad" would have been as
easily mastered, and might have more fully rewarded our trouble. I
contented myself with replying (for I knew how little Lady Carbery
would have liked to plead the _religious_ motive to her husband),
that Parkhurst (and there was at that time no other Greek-
_English_ Lexicon) would not have been available for Homer;
neither, it is true, would he have been available for Herodotus. But,
considering the simplicity and uniformity of style in both these
authors, I had formed a plan (not very hard of execution) for
interleaving Parkhurst with such additional words as might have been
easily mustered from the special dictionaries (Græco-Latin) dedicated
separately to the service of the historian and of the poet. I do not
believe that more than fifteen hundred _extra_ words would have
been required; and these, entered at the rate of twenty per hour, would
have occupied only ten days, for seven and a half hours each. However,
from one cause or other, this plan was never brought to bear. The
preliminary labor upon the lexicon always enforced a delay; and any
delay, in such case, makes an opening for the irruption of a thousand
unforeseen hindrances, that finally cause the whole plan to droop
insensibly. The time came at last for leaving Laxton, and I did not see
Lady Carbery again for nearly an entire year.

In passing through the park-gates of Laxton, on my departure northward,
powerfully, and as if "with the might of waters," my mind turned round
to contemplate that strange enlargement of my experience which had
happened to me within the last three months. I had seen, and become
familiarly acquainted with, a young man, who had in a manner died to
every object around him, had died an intellectual death, and suddenly
had been called back to life and real happiness--had been, in effect,
raised from the dead--by the accident of meeting a congenial female
companion. But, secondly, that very lady from whose lips I first heard
this remarkable case of blight and restoration, had herself passed
through an equal though not a similar blight, and was now seeking
earnestly, though with what success I could never estimate, some
similar restoration to some new mode of hopeful existence, through
intercourse with religious philosophy. What vast revolutions (vast for
the individual) within how narrow a circle! What blindness to
approaching catastrophes, in the midst of what nearness to the light!
And for myself, whom accident had made the silent observer of these
changes, was it not likely enough that I also was rushing forward to
court and woo some frantic mode of evading an endurance that by
patience might have been borne, or by thoughtfulness might have been
disarmed? Misgivingly I went forwards, feeling forever that, through
clouds of thick darkness, I was continually nearing a danger, or was
myself perhaps wilfully provoking a trial, before which my
constitutional despondency would cause me to lie down without a



To teach is to learn: according to an old experience, it is the very
best mode of learning--the surest, and the shortest. And hence,
perhaps, it may be, that in the middle ages by the monkish word
_scholaris_ was meant indifferently he that learned and he that
taught. Never in any equal number of months had my understanding so
much expanded as during this visit to Laxton. The incessant demand made
upon me by Lady Carbery for solutions of the many difficulties
besetting the study of divinity and the Greek Testament, or for such
approximations to solutions as my resources would furnish, forced me
into a preternatural tension of all the faculties applicable to that
purpose. Lady Carbery insisted upon calling me her "Admirable
Crichton;" and it was in vain that I demurred to this honorary title
upon two grounds: first, as being one towards which I had no natural
aptitudes or predisposing advantages; secondly (which made her stare),
as carrying with it no real or enviable distinction. The splendor
supposed to be connected with the attainments of Crichton I protested
against, as altogether imaginary. How far that person really had the
accomplishments ascribed to him, I waived as a question not worth
investigating. My objection commenced at an earlier point: real or not
real, the accomplishments were, as I insisted, vulgar and trivial.
Vulgar, that is, when put forward as exponents or adequate expressions
of intellectual grandeur. The whole rested on a misconception; the
limitary idea of knowledge was confounded with the infinite idea of
power. To have a quickness in copying or mimicking other men, and in
learning to do dexterously what _they_ did clumsily,--ostentatiously
to keep glittering before men's eyes a thaumaturgic versatility
such as that of a rope-dancer, or of an Indian juggler, in petty
accomplishments,--was a mode of the very vulgarest ambition: one
effort of productive power,--a little book, for instance, which should
impress or should agitate several successive generations of men, even
though far below the higher efforts of human creative art--as, for
example, the "De Imitatione Christi," or "The Pilgrim's Progress," or"
Robinson Crusoe," or "The Vicar of Wakefield,"--was worth any
conceivable amount of attainments when rated as an evidence of anything
that could justly denominate a man "admirable." One felicitous ballad
of forty lines might have enthroned Crichton as really admirable,
whilst the pretensions actually put forward on his behalf simply
install him as a cleverish or dexterous ape. However, as Lady Carbery
did not forego her purpose of causing me to shine under every angle, it
would have been ungrateful in me to refuse my cooperation with her
plans, however little they might wear a face of promise. Accordingly I
surrendered myself for two hours daily to the lessons in horsemanship
of a principal groom who ranked as a first-rate rough-rider; and I
gathered manifold experiences amongst the horses--so different from the
wild, hard-mouthed horses at Westport, that were often vicious, and
sometimes trained to vice. Here, though spirited, the horses were
pretty generally gentle, and all had been regularly broke. My education
was not entirely neglected even as regarded sportsmanship; that great
branch of philosophy being confided to one of the keepers, who was very
attentive to me, in deference to the interest in myself expressed by
his idolized mistress, but otherwise regarded me probably as an object
of mysterious curiosity rather than of sublunary hope.

Equally, in fact, as regarded my physics and my metaphysics,--in short,
upon all lines of advance that interested my ambition,--I was going
rapidly ahead. And, speaking seriously, in what regarded my
intellectual expansion, never before or since had I been so distinctly
made aware of it. No longer did it seem to move upon the hour-hand,
whose advance, though certain, is yet a pure matter of inference, but
upon the seconds'-hand, which _visibly_ comes on at a trotting
pace. Everything prospered, except my own present happiness, and the
possibility of any happiness for some years to come. About two months
after leaving Laxton, my fate in the worst shape I had anticipated was
solemnly and definitively settled. My guardians agreed that the most
prudent course, with a view to my pecuniary interests, was to place me
at the Manchester Grammar School; not with a view to further
improvement in my classical knowledge, though the head-master was a
sound scholar, but simply with a view to one of the school
_exhibitions_. [Footnote: "_Exhibitions_."--This is the technical
name in many cases, corresponding to the _bursæ_ or _bursaries_
of the continent; from which word bursæ is derived, I believe,
the German term _Bursch_,--that is, a bursarius, or student, who
lives at college upon the salary allowed by such a bursary.
Some years ago the editor of a Glasgow daily paper called upon
Oxford and Cambridge, with a patronizing flourish, to imitate some one
or more of the Scottish universities in founding such systems of
aliment for poor students otherwise excluded from academic advantages.
Evidently he was unaware that they had existed for centuries before the
state of civilization in Scotland had allowed any opening for the
foundation of colleges or academic life. Scottish bursaries, or
exhibitions (a term which Shakspeare uses, very near the close of the
first act in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona," as the technical expression
in England), were few, and not generally, I believe, exceeding ten
pounds a-year. The English were many, and of more ancient standing, and
running from forty pounds to one hundred pounds a-year. Such was the
simple difference between the two countries: otherwise they agreed
altogether.] Amongst the countless establishments, scattered all over
England by the noble munificence of English men and English women in
past generations, for connecting the provincial towns with the two
royal universities of the land, this Manchester school was one; in
addition to other great local advantages (namely, _inter alia_, a
fine old library and an ecclesiastical foundation, which in this
present generation has furnished the materials for a bishopric of
Manchester, with its deanery and chapter), this noble foundation
secured a number of exhibitions at Brasenose College, Oxford, to those
pupils of the school who should study at Manchester for three
consecutive years. The pecuniary amount of these exhibitions has since
then increased considerably through the accumulation of funds, which
the commercial character of that great city had caused to be neglected.
At that time, I believe each exhibition yielded about forty guineas a-
year, and was legally tenable for seven successive years. Now, to me
this would have offered a most seasonable advantage, had it been
resorted to some two years earlier. My small patrimonial inheritance
gave to me, as it did to each of my four brothers, exactly one hundred
and fifty pounds a-year: and to each of my sisters exactly one hundred
pounds a-year. The Manchester exhibition of forty guineas a-year would
have raised this income for seven years to a sum close upon two hundred
pounds a-year. But at present I was half-way on the road to the
completion of my sixteenth year. Commencing my period of pupilage from
that time, I should not have finished it until I had travelled half-way
through my nineteenth year. And the specific evil that already weighed
upon me with a sickening oppression was the premature expansion of my
mind; and, as a foremost consequence, intolerance of boyish society. I
ought to have entered upon my _triennium_ of school-boy servitude
at the age of thirteen. As things were,--a delay with which I had
nothing to do myself,--this and the native character of my mind had
thrown the whole arrangement awry. For the better half of the three
years I endured it patiently. But it had at length begun to eat more
corrosively into my peace of mind than ever I had anticipated. The
head-master was substantially superannuated for the duties of his
place. Not that intellectually he showed any symptoms of decay: but in
the spirits and physical energies requisite for his duties he did: not
so much age, as disease, it was that incapacitated him. In the course
of a long day, beginning at seven A. M. and stretching down to five P.
M., he succeeded in reaching the further end of his duties. But how?
Simply by consolidating pretty nearly into one continuous scene of
labor the entire ten hours. The full hour of relaxation which the
traditions of this ancient school and the by-laws had consecrated to
breakfast was narrowed into ten, or even seven minutes. The two hours'
interval, in like manner prescribed by the old usages from twelve to
two P. M., was pared down to forty minutes, or less. In this way he
walked conscientiously through the services of the day, fulfilling to
the letter every section the minutest of the traditional rubric. But he
purchased this consummation at the price of all comfort to himself:
and, having done _that_, he felt himself the more entitled to
neglect the comfort of others. The case was singular: he neither showed
any indulgence to himself more than to others (which, however, could do
nothing towards indemnifying others for the severe confinement which
his physical decay inflicted upon them--a point wholly forgotten by
him); nor, secondly, in thus tenaciously holding on to his place did he
(I am satisfied) govern himself by any mercenary thought or wish, but
simply by an austere sense of duty. He discharged his public functions
with constant fidelity, and with superfluity of learning; and felt,
perhaps not unreasonably, that possibly the same learning united with
the same zeal might not revolve as a matter of course in the event of
his resigning the place. I hide from myself no part of the honorable
motives which might (and probably _did_) exclusively govern him in
adhering to the place. But not by one atom the less did the grievous
results of his inability to grapple with his duties weigh upon all
within his sphere, and upon myself, by cutting up the time available
for exercise, most ruinously.

Precisely at the worst crisis of this intolerable darkness (for such,
without exaggeration, it was in its effects upon my spirits) arose, and
for five or six months steadily continued, a consolation of that nature
which hardly in dreams I could have anticipated. For even in dreams
would it have seemed reasonable, or natural, that Laxton, with its
entire society, should transfer itself to Manchester? Some mighty
caliph, or lamp-bearing Aladdin, might have worked such marvels: but
else who, or by what machinery? Nevertheless, without either caliph or
Aladdin, and by the most natural of mere human agencies, this change
was suddenly accomplished.

Mr. White, whom I have already had occasion to mention elsewhere, was
in those days the most eminent surgeon by much in the north of England.
He had by one whole generation run before the phrenologists and
craniologists,--having already measured innumerable skulls amongst the
omnigenous seafaring population of Liverpool, illustrating all the
races of men,--and was in society a most urbane and pleasant companion.
On my mother's suggestion, he had been summoned to Laxton, in the hope
that he might mitigate the torments of Mrs. Schreiber's malady. If I am
right in supposing that to have been cancer, I presume that he could
not have added much to the prescriptions of the local doctor. And yet,
on the other hand, it is a fact--so slowly did new views travel in
those days, when scientific journals were few, and roads were heavy--
that ten years later than this period I knew a case, namely, the case
of a butcher's wife in Somersetshire who had never enjoyed the benefit
of hemlock in relieving the pangs of a cancerous complaint, until an
accident brought Mr. Hey, son to the celebrated Hey of Leeds, into the
poor woman's neighborhood.

What might be the quality or the extent of that relief with which Mr.
White was able to crown the expectations of poor Mrs. Schreiber, I do
not know; but that the relief could not have been imaginary is certain,
for he was earnestly invited to repeat his visits, costly as
unavoidably they were. Mrs. Schreiber did not reside at Laxton.
Tenderly as she loved Lady Carbery, it did not seem consistent with her
dignity that she should take a station that might have been grossly
misinterpreted; and accordingly she bought or hired a miniature kind of
villa, called _Tixover_, distant about four miles from Laxton. A
residence in such a house, so sad and silent at this period of
affliction for its mistress, would have offered too cheerless a life to
Mr. White. He took up his abode, therefore, at Laxton during his
earliest visit; and this happened to coincide with that particular
visit of my own during which I was initiating Lady Carbery into the
mysteries of New Testament Greek. Already as an infant I had known Mr.
White; but now, when daily riding over to Tixover in company, and daily
meeting at breakfast and dinner, we became intimate. Greatly I profited
by this intimacy; and some part of my pleasure in the Laxton plan of
migration to Manchester was drawn from the prospect of renewing it.
Such a migration was suggested by Mr. White himself; and fortunately he
_could_ suggest it without even the appearance of any mercenary
views. His interest lay the other way. The large special retainer,
which it was felt but reasonable to pay him under circumstances so
peculiar, naturally disturbed Mr. White; whilst the benefits of visits
so discontinuous became more and more doubtful. He proposed it,
therefore, as a measure of prudence, that Mrs. Schreiber should take up
her abode in Manchester. This counsel was adopted; and the entire
Laxton party in one week struck their Northamptonshire tents, dived, as
it were, into momentary darkness, by a loitering journey of stages,
short and few, out of consideration for the invalid, and rose again in
the gloomy streets of Manchester.

Gloomy they were at that time--mud below, smoke above--for no torch of
improvement had yet explored the ancient habitations of this Lancashire
capital. Elsewhere I have expressed the inexhaustible admiration which
I cherish for the _moral_ qualities, the unrivalled energy and
perseverance, of that native Lancashire population, as yet not much
alloyed with Celtic adulteration. My feelings towards them are the same
as were eloquently and impressively avowed by the late eminent Dr.
Cooke Taylor, after an _official_ inquiry into their situation.
But in those days the Manchester people realized the aspiration of the
noble Scythian; not the place it was that glorified _them_, but
they that glorified the place. No great city (which technically it then
was not, but simply a town or large village) could present so repulsive
an exterior as the Manchester of that day. Lodgings of _any_ sort
could with difficulty be obtained, and at last only by breaking up the
party. The poor suffering lady, with her two friends, Lady Carbery and
my mother, hired one house, Lord and Lady Massey another, and two
others were occupied by attendants--all the servants, except one
lady's-maid, being every night separated by a quarter of a mile from
their mistresses. To me, however, all these discomforts were scarcely
apparent in the prodigious revolution for the better which was now
impressed upon the tenor of my daily life. I lived in the house of the
head-master; but every night I had leave to adjourn for four or five
hours to the drawing-room of Lady Carbery. Her anxiety about Mrs.
Schreiber would not allow of her going abroad into society, unless upon
the rarest occasions. And I, on my part, was too happy in her
conversation--so bold, so novel, and so earnest--voluntarily to have
missed any one hour of it.

Here, by the way, let me mention that on this occasion arose a case of
pretended "_tuft-hunting_," which I, who stood by a silent
observer, could not but feel to involve a malicious calumny. Naturally
it happened that coroneted carriages, superb horses, and numerous
servants, in a town so unostentatious and homely as the Manchester of
that day, drew the public gaze, and effectually advertised the visit of
the Laxton ladies. Respect for the motive which had prompted this visit
coöperated with admiration for the distinguished personal qualities of
Lady Carbery, to draw upon her from several leading families in the
town such little services and attentions as pass naturally, under a
spontaneous law of courtesy, between those who are at home and those
who suffer under the disadvantages of _strangership_. The Manchester
people, who made friendly advances to Lady Carbery, did so, I am
persuaded, with no ulterior objects whatsoever of pressing into
the circle of an aristocratic person; neither did Lady Carbery herself
interpret their attentions in any such ungenerous spirit, but accepted
them cordially, as those expressions of disinterested goodness which I
am persuaded that in reality they were. Amongst the families that were
thus attentive to her, in throwing open for her use various local
advantages of baths, libraries, picture-galleries, etc., were the wife
and daughters of Mr. White himself. Now, one of these daughters was
herself the wife of a baronet, Sir Richard Clayton, who had honorably
distinguished himself in literature by translating and _improving_
the work of Tenhove the Dutchman (or Belgian?) upon the house of the
_De' Medici_--a work which Mr. Roscoe considered "the most engaging
work that has, perhaps, ever appeared on a subject of literary
history." Introduced as Lady Clayton had been amongst the elite of our
aristocracy, it could not be supposed that she would be at all
solicitous about an introduction to the wife of an Irish nobleman,
simply _as_ such, and apart from her personal endowments. Those
endowments, it is true,--namely, the beauty and the talents of Lady
Carbery, made known in Manchester through Mr. White's report of them,
and combined with the knowledge of her generous devotion to her dying
friend, secluding her steadily from all society through a period of
very many months,--did, and reasonably might, interest many Manchester
people on her behalf. In all this there was nothing to be ashamed of;
and, judging from what personally I witnessed, this seems to have been
the true nature and extent of the "tuft-hunting;" and I have noticed it
at all simply because there is a habit almost national growing up
amongst us of imputing to each other some mode of unmanly prostration
before the aristocracy, but with as little foundation for the charge
generally, I believe, as I am satisfied there was in this particular

Mr. White possessed a museum--formed chiefly by himself, and
originally, perhaps, directed simply to professional objects, such as
would have little chance for engaging the attention of females. But
surgeons and speculative physicians, beyond all other classes of
intellectual men, cultivate the most enlarged and liberal curiosity; so
that Mr. White's museum furnished attractions to an unusually large
variety of tastes. I had myself already seen it; and it struck me that
Mr. White would be gratified if Lady Carbery would herself ask to see
it; which accordingly she did; and thus at once removed the painful
feeling that he might be extorting from her an expression of interest
in his collection which she did not really feel.

Amongst the objects which gave a scientific interest to the collection,
naturally I have forgotten one and all--first, midst, and last; for
this is one of the cases in which we all felicitate ourselves upon the
art and gift of forgetting; that art which the great Athenian
[Footnote: "The great Athenian"--Themistocles.] noticed as amongst the
_desiderata_ of human life--that gift which, if in some rare cases
it belongs only to the regal prerogatives of the grave, fortunately in
many thousands of other cases is accorded by the treachery of a human
brain. Heavens! what a curse it were, if every chaos, which is stamped
upon the mind by fairs such as that London fair of St. Bartholomew in
years long past, or by the records of battles and skirmishes through
the monotonous pages of history, or by the catalogues of libraries
stretching over a dozen measured miles, could not be erased, but
arrayed itself in endless files incapable of obliteration, as often as
the eyes of our human memory happened to throw back their gaze in that
direction! Heaven be praised, I have forgotten everything; all the
earthly trophies of skill or curious research; even the ærolithes, that
might possibly _not_ be earthly, but presents from some superior
planet. Nothing survives, except the _humanities_ of the collection;
and amongst these, two only I will molest the reader by noticing.
One of the two was a _mummy;_ the other was a _skeleton_. I,
that had previously seen the museum, warned Lady Carbery of both; but
much it mortified us that only the skeleton was shown. Perhaps
the mummy was too closely connected with the personal history
of Mr. White for exhibition to strangers; it was that of a lady
who had been attended medically for some years by Mr. White, and had
owed much alleviation of her sufferings to his inventive skill. She
had, therefore, felt herself called upon to memorialize her gratitude
by a very large bequest--not less (I have heard) than twenty-five
thousand pounds; but with this condition annexed to the gift--that she
should be embalmed as perfectly as the resources in that art of London
and Paris could accomplish, and that once a year Mr. White, accompanied
by two witnesses of credit, should withdraw the veil from her face. The
lady was placed in a common English clock-case, having the usual glass
face; but a veil of white velvet obscured from all profane eyes the
silent features behind. The clock I had myself seen, when a child, and
had gazed upon it with inexpressible awe. But, naturally, on my report
of the case, the whole of our party were devoured by a curiosity to see
the departed fair one. Had Mr. White, indeed, furnished us with the key
of the museum, leaving us to our own discretion, but restricting us
only (like a cruel Bluebeard) from looking into any ante-room, great is
my fear that the perfidious question would have arisen amongst us--what
o'clock it was? and all possible ante-rooms would have given way to the
just fury of our passions. I submitted to Lady Carbery, as a liberty
which might be excused by the torrid extremity of our thirst after
knowledge, that she (as our leader) should throw out some angling
question moving in the line of our desires; upon which hint Mr. White,
if he had any touch of indulgence to human infirmity--unless Mount
Caucasus were his mother, and a she-wolf his nurse--would surely
relent, and act as his conscience must suggest. But Lady Carbery
reminded me of the three Calendars in the "Arabian Nights," and argued
that, as the ladies of Bagdad were justified in calling upon a body of
porters to kick those gentlemen into the street, being people who had
abused the indulgences of hospitality, much more might Mr. White do so
with us; for the Calendars were the children of kings (Shahzades),
which we were not; and had found their curiosity far more furiously
irritated; in fact, Zobeide had no right to trifle with any man's
curiosity in that ferocious extent; and a counter right arose, as any
chancery of human nature would have ruled, to demand a solution of what
had been so maliciously arranged towards an anguish of insupportable
temptation. Thus, however, it happened that the mummy, who left such
valuable legacies, and founded such bilious fevers of curiosity, was
not seen by us; nor even the miserable clock-case.

The mummy, therefore, was not seen; but the skeleton was. Who was he?
It is not every day that one makes the acquaintance of a skeleton; and
with regard to such a thing--thing, shall one say, or person?--there is
a favorable presumption from beforehand; which is this: As he is of no
use, neither profitable nor ornamental to any person whatever,
absolutely _de trop_ in good society, what but distinguished merit
of some kind or other could induce any man to interfere with that
gravitating tendency that by an eternal _nisus_ is pulling him
below ground? Lodgings are dear in England. True it is that, according
to the vile usage on the continent, one room serves a skeleton for bed-
room and sitting-room; neither is his expense heavy, as regards wax-
lights, fire, or "bif-steck." But still, even a skeleton is chargeable;
and, if any dispute should arise about his maintenance, the parish will
do nothing. Mr. White's skeleton, therefore, being costly, was
presumably meritorious, before we had seen him or heard a word in his
behalf. It was, in fact, the skeleton of an eminent robber, or perhaps
of a murderer. But I, for my part, reserved a faint right of suspense.
And as to the profession of robber in those days exercised on the roads
of England, it was a liberal profession, which required more
accomplishments than either the bar or the pulpit: from the beginning
it presumed a most bountiful endowment of heroic qualifications--
strength, health, agility, and exquisite horsemanship, intrepidity of
the first order, presence of mind, courtesy, and a general
ambidexterity of powers for facing all accidents, and for turning to a
good account all unlooked-for contingencies. The finest men in England,
physically speaking, throughout the eighteenth century, the very
noblest specimens of man considered as an animal, were beyond a doubt
the mounted robbers who cultivated their profession on the great
leading roads, namely, on the road from London to York (technically
known as "the great north road"); on the road west to Bath, and thence
to Exeter and Plymouth; north-westwards from London to Oxford, and
thence to Chester; eastwards to Tunbridge; southwards by east to Dover;
then inclining westwards to Portsmouth; more so still, through
Salisbury to Dorsetshire and Wilts. These great roads were farmed out
as so many Roman provinces amongst pro-consuls. Yes, but with a
difference, you will say, in respect of moral principles. Certainly
with a difference; for the English highwayman had a sort of conscience
for gala-days, which could not often be said of the Roman governor or
procurator. At this moment we see that the opening for the forger of
bank-notes is brilliant; but practically it languishes, as being too
brilliant; it demands an array of talent for engraving, etc., which,
wherever it exists, is sufficient to carry a man forward upon
principles reputed honorable. Why, then, should _he_ court danger
and disreputability? But in that century the special talents which led
to distinction upon the high road had oftentimes no career open to them
elsewhere. The mounted robber on the highways of England, in an age
when all gentlemen travelled with fire-arms, lived in an element of
danger and adventurous gallantry; which, even from those who could
least allow him any portion of their esteem, extorted sometimes a good
deal of their unwilling admiration. By the necessities of the case, he
brought into his perilous profession some brilliant qualities--
intrepidity, address, promptitude of decision; and, if to these he
added courtesy, and a spirit (native or adopted) of forbearing
generosity, he seemed almost a man that merited public encouragement;
since very plausibly it might be argued that his profession was sure to
exist; that, if he were removed, a successor would inevitably arise,
and that successor might or might _not_ carry the same liberal and
humanizing temper into his practice. The man whose skeleton was now
before us had ranked amongst the most chivalrous of his order, and was
regarded by some people as vindicating the national honor in a point
where not very long before it had suffered a transient eclipse. In the
preceding generation, it had been felt as throwing a shade of disgrace
over the public honor, that the championship of England upon the high
road fell for a time into French hands; upon French prowess rested the
burden of English honor, or, in Gallic phrase, of English _glory_.
Claude Duval, a French man of undeniable courage, handsome, and noted
for his chivalrous devotion to women, had been honored, on his
condemnation to the gallows, by the tears of many ladies who attended
his trial, and by their sympathizing visits during his imprisonment.
But the robber represented by the skeleton in Mr. White's museum (whom
let us call X, since his true name has perished) added to the same
heroic qualities a person far more superb. Still it was a dreadful
drawback from his pretensions, if he had really practised as a
murderer. Upon what ground did that suspicion arise? In candor (for
candor is due even to a skeleton) it ought to be mentioned that the
charge, if it amounted to so much, arose with a lady from some part of
Cheshire--the district of Knutsford, I believe;--but, wherever it was,
in the same district, during the latter part of his career, had resided
our X. At first he was not suspected even as a robber--as yet not so
much as suspected of being suspicious; in a simple rustic neighborhood,
amongst good-natured peasants, for a long time he was regarded with
simple curiosity, rather than suspicion; and even the curiosity pointed
to his horse more than to himself. The robber had made himself popular
amongst the kind-hearted rustics by his general courtesy. Courtesy and
the spirit of neighborliness go a great way amongst country people; and
the worst construction of the case was, that he might be an embarrassed
gentleman from Manchester or Liverpool, hiding himself from his
creditors, who are notoriously a very immoral class of people. At
length, however, a violent suspicion broke loose against him; for it
was ascertained that on certain nights, when, perhaps, he had
_extra_ motives for concealing the fact of having been abroad, he
drew woollen stockings over his horse's feet, with the purpose of
deadening the sound in riding up a brick-paved entry, common to his own
stable and that of a respectable neighbor. Thus far there was a
reasonable foundation laid for suspicion; but suspicion of what?
Because a man attends to the darning of his horse's stockings, why must
he be meditating murder? The fact is--and known from the very first to
a select party of amateurs--that X, our superb-looking skeleton, did,
about three o'clock on a rainy Wednesday morning, in the dead of
winter, ride silently out of Knutsford; and about forty-eight hours
afterwards, on a rainy Friday, silently and softly did that same superb
blood-horse, carrying that same blood-man, namely, our friend the
superb skeleton, pace up the quiet brick entry, in a neat pair of
socks, on his return.

During that interval of forty-eight hours, an atrocious murder was
committed in the ancient city of Bristol. By whom? That question is to
this day unanswered. The scene of it was a house on the west side of
the College Green, which is in fact that same quadrangle planted with
trees, and having on its southern side the Bristol Cathedral, up and
down which, early in the reign of George III., Chatterton walked in
jubilant spirits with fair young women of Bristol; up and down which,
some thirty years later, Robert Southey and S. T. C. walked with young
Bristol belles from a later generation. The subjects of the murder were
an elderly lady bearing some such name as Rusborough, and her female
servant. Mystery there was none as to the motive of the murder--
manifestly it was a hoard of money that had attracted the assassin; but
there was great perplexity as to the agent or agents concerned in the
atrocious act, and as to the mode by which an entrance, under the known
precautions of the lady, could have been effected. Because a thorough-
bred horse could easily have accomplished the distance to and fro (say
three hundred miles) within the forty-eight hours, and because the two
extreme dates of this forty-eight hours' absence tallied with the
requisitions of the Bristol tragedy, it did not follow that X must have
had a hand in it. And yet, had these coincidences _then_ been
observed, they would certainly--now that strong suspicions had been
directed to the man from the extraordinary character of his nocturnal
precautions--not have passed without investigation. But the remoteness
of Bristol, and the rarity of newspapers in those days, caused these
indications to pass unnoticed. Bristol knew of no such Knutsford
highwayman--Knutsford knew of no such Bristol murder. It is singular
enough that these earlier grounds of suspicion against X were not
viewed as such by anybody, until they came to be combined with another
and final ground. Then the presumptions seemed conclusive. But, by that
time, X himself had been executed for a robbery; had been manufactured
into a skeleton by the famous surgeon, Cruickshank, assisted by Mr.
White and other pupils. All interest in the case had subsided in
Knutsford, that could now have cleared up the case satisfactorily; and
thus it happened that to this day the riddle, which was read pretty
decisively in a northern county, still remains a riddle in the south.
When I saw the College Green house in 1809-10, it was apparently empty,
and, as I was told, had always been empty since the murder: forty years
had not cicatrized the bloody remembrance; and, to this day, perhaps,
it remains amongst the gloomy traditions of Bristol.

But whether the Bristol house has or has not shaken off that odor of
blood which offended the nostrils of tenants, it is, I believe, certain
that the city annals have not shaken off the mystery: which yet to
certain people in Knutsford, as I have said, and to us the spectators
of the skeleton, immediately upon hearing one damning fact from the
lips of Mr. White, seemed to melt away and evaporate as convincingly as
if we had heard the explanation issuing in the terms of a confession
from the mouth of the skeleton itself. What, then, _was_ the fact?
With pain, and reluctantly, we felt its force, as we looked at the
royal skeleton, and reflected on the many evidences which he had given
of courage, and perhaps of other noble qualities. The ugly fact was
this: In a few weeks after the College Green tragedy, Knutsford, and
the whole neighborhood as far as Warrington (the half-way town between
Liverpool and Manchester), were deluged with gold and silver coins,
moidores, and dollars, from the Spanish mint of Mexico, etc. These,
during the frequent scarcities of English silver currency, were
notoriously current in England. Now, it is an unhappy fact, and
subsequently became known to the Bristol and London police, that a
considerable part of poor Mrs. Rusborough's treasure lay in such coins,
gold and silver, from the Spanish colonial mints.

Lady Carbery at this period made an effort to teach me Hebrew, by way
of repaying in _kind_ my pains in teaching Greek to _her_. Where,
and upon what motive, she had herself begun to learn Hebrew, I
forget: but in Manchester she had resumed this study with energy on a
casual impulse derived from a certain Dr. Bailey, a clergyman of this
city, who had published a Hebrew Grammar. The doctor was the most
unworldly and guileless of men. Amongst his orthodox brethren he was
reputed a "Methodist;" and not without reason; for some of his Low-
Church views he pushed into practical extravagances that looked like
fanaticism, or even like insanity. Lady Carbery wished naturally to
testify her gratitude for his services by various splendid presents:
but nothing would the good doctor accept, unless it assumed a shape
that might be available for the service of the paupers amongst his
congregation. The Hebrew studies, however, notwithstanding the personal
assistance which we drew from the kindness of Dr. Bailey, languished.
For this there were several reasons; but it was enough that the
systematic vagueness in the pronunciation of this, as of the other
Oriental languages, disgusted both of us. A word which could not be
pronounced with any certainty, was not in a true sense possessed. Let
it be understood, however, that it was not the correct and original
pronunciation that we cared for--_that_ has perished probably
beyond recall, even in the case of Greek, in spite of the Asiatic and
the Insular Greeks--what we demanded in vain was any pronunciation
whatever that should be articulate, apprehensible, and intercommunicable,
such as might differentiate the words: whereas a system of mere vowels
too inadequately strengthened by consonants, seemed to leave all words
pretty nearly alike. One day, in a pause of languor amongst these arid
Hebrew studies, I read to her, with a beating heart, "The Ancient
Mariner." It had been first published in 1798; and, about this time
(1801), was re-published in the first _two_-volume edition of "The
Lyrical Ballads." Well I knew Lady Carbery's constitutional inaptitude
for poetry; and not for the world would I have sought sympathy from her
or from anybody else upon that part of the L. B. which belonged to
Wordsworth. But I fancied that the wildness of this tale, and the triple
majesties of Solitude, of Mist, and of the Ancient Unknown Sea, might
have won her into relenting; and, in fact, she listened with gravity
and deep attention. But, on reviewing afterwards in conversation such
passages as she happened to remember, she laughed at the finest parts,
and shocked me by calling the mariner himself "an old quiz;" protesting
that the latter part of his homily to the wedding guest clearly pointed
him out as the very man meant by Providence for a stipendiary curate to
the good Dr. Bailey in his over-crowded church. [Footnote: St. James',
according to my present recollection.] With an albatross perched on his
shoulder, and who might be introduced to the congregation as the immediate
organ of his conversion, and supported by the droning of a bassoon, she
represented the mariner lecturing to advantage in English; the doctor
overhead in the pulpit enforcing it in Hebrew. Angry I was, though
forced to laugh. But of what use is anger or argument in a duel with
female criticism? Our ponderous masculine wits are no match for the
mercurial fancy of women. Once, however, I had a triumph: to my great
surprise, one day, she suddenly repeated by heart, to Dr. Bailey, the
beautiful passage--

"It ceased, yet still the sails made on," &c.

asking what he thought of _that?_ As it happened, the simple,
childlike doctor had more sensibility than herself; for, though he had
never in his whole homely life read more of poetry than he had drunk of
Tokay or Constantia,--in fact, had scarcely heard tell of any poetry
but Watts' Hymns,--he seemed petrified: and at last, with a deep sigh,
as if recovering from the spasms of a new birth, said, "I never heard
anything so beautiful in my whole life."

During the long stay of the Laxton party in Manchester, occurred a
Christmas; and at Christmas--that is, at the approach of this great
Christian festival, so properly substituted in England for the Pagan
festival of January and the New Year--there was, according to ancient
usage, on the breaking up for the holidays, at the Grammar School, a
solemn celebration of the season by public speeches. Among the six
speakers, I, of course (as one of the three boys who composed the head
class), held a distinguished place; and it followed, also, as a matter
of course, that all my friends congregated on this occasion to do me
honor. What I had to recite was a copy of Latin verses (Alcaics) on the
recent conquest of Malta. _Melite Britannis Subacta_--this was the
title of my worshipful nonsense. The whole strength of the Laxton party
had mustered on this occasion. Lady Carbery made a point of bringing in
her party every creature whom she could influence. And, probably, there
were in that crowded audience many old Manchester friends of my father,
loving his memory, and thinking to honor it by kindness to his son.
Furious, at any rate, was the applause which greeted me: furious was my
own disgust. Frantic were the clamors as I concluded my nonsense.
Frantic was my inner sense of shame at the childish exhibition to
which, unavoidably, I was making myself a party. Lady Carbery had, at
first, directed towards me occasional glances, expressing a comic
sympathy with the thoughts which she supposed to be occupying my mind.
But these glances ceased; and I was recalled by the gloomy sadness in
her altered countenance to some sense of my own extravagant and
disproportionate frenzy on this occasion: from the indulgent kindness
with which she honored me, her countenance on this occasion became a
mirror to my own. At night she assured me, when talking over the case,
that she had never witnessed an expression of such settled misery, and
also (so she fancied) of misanthropy, as that which darkened my
countenance in those moments of apparent public triumph, no matter how
trivial the occasion, and amidst an uproar of friendly felicitation. I
look back to that state of mind as almost a criminal reproach to
myself, if it were not for the facts of the case. But, in excuse for
myself, this fact, above all others, ought to be mentioned--that, over
and above the killing oppression to my too sensitive system of the
monotonous school tasks, and the ruinous want of exercise, I had fallen
under medical advice the most misleading that it is possible to
imagine. The physician and the surgeon of my family were men too
eminent, it seemed to me, and, consequently, with time too notoriously
bearing a high pecuniary value, for any school-boy to detain them with
complaints. Under these circumstances, I threw myself for aid, in a
case so simple that any clever boy in a druggist's shop would have
known how to treat it, upon the advice of an old, old apothecary, who
had full authority from my guardians to run up a most furious account
against me for medicine. This being the regular mode of payment,
inevitably, and unconsciously, he was biased to a mode of treatment;
namely, by drastic medicines varied without end, which fearfully
exasperated the complaint. This complaint, as I now know, was the
simplest possible derangement of the liver, a torpor in its action that
might have been put to rights in three days. In fact, one week's
pedestrian travelling amongst the Caernarvonshire mountains effected a
revolution in my health such as left me nothing to complain of.

An odd thing happened by the merest accident. I, when my Alcaics had
run down their foolish larum, instead of resuming my official place as
one of the trinity who composed the head class, took a seat by the side
of Lady Carbery. On the other side of her was seated a stranger: and
this stranger, whom mere chance had thrown next to her, was Lord
Belgrave, her old and at one time (as some people fancied) favored
suitor. In this there was nothing at all extraordinary. Lord Grey de
Wilton, an old _alumnus_ of this Manchester Grammar School, and an
_alumnus_ during the early reign of this same _Archididascalus_,
made a point of showing honor to his ancient tutor, especially now when
reputed to be decaying; and with the same view he brought Lord
Belgrave, who had become his son-in-law after his rejection
by Lady Carbery. The whole was a very natural accident. But
Lady Carbery was not sufficiently bronzed by worldly habits to treat
this accident with _nonchalance_. She did not _to the public
eye_ betray any embarrassment; but afterwards she told me that no
incident could have been more distressing to her.

Some months after this, the Laxton party quitted Manchester, having no
further motive for staying. Mrs. Schreiber was now confessedly dying:
medical skill could do no more for her; and this being so, there was no
reason why she should continue to exchange her own quiet little
Rutlandshire cottage for the discomforts of smoky lodgings. Lady
Carbery retired like some golden pageant amongst the clouds; thick
darkness succeeded; the ancient torpor reestablished itself; and my
health grew distressingly worse. Then it was, after dreadful self-
conflicts, that I took the unhappy resolution of which the results are
recorded in the "Opium Confessions." At this point, the reader must
understand, comes in that chapter of my life; and for all which
concerns that delirious period I refer him to those "Confessions." Some
anxiety I had, on leaving Manchester, lest my mother should suffer too
much from this rash step; and on that impulse I altered the direction
of my wanderings; not going (as I had originally planned) to the
English Lakes, but making first of all for St. John's Priory, Chester,
at that time my mother's residence. There I found my maternal uncle,
Captain Penson, of the Bengal establishment, just recently come home on
a two years' leave of absence; and there I had an interview with my
mother. By a temporary arrangement I received a weekly allowance, which
would have enabled me to live in _any_ district of Wales, either
North or South; for Wales, both North and South, is (or at any rate
_was_) a land of exemplary cheapness. For instance, at Talyllyn,
in Merionethshire, or anywhere off the line of tourists, I and a
lieutenant in our English navy paid sixpence uniformly for a handsome
dinner; sixpence, I mean, apiece. But two months later came a golden
blockhead, who instructed the people that it was "sinful" to charge
less than three shillings. In Wales, meantime, I suffered grievously
from want of books; and fancying, in my profound ignorance of the
world, that I could borrow money upon my own expectations, or, at
least, that I could do so with the joint security of Lord Westport (now
Earl of Altamont, upon his father's elevation to the Marquisate of
Sligo), or (failing _that_) with the security of his amiable and
friendly cousin, the Earl of Desart, I had the unpardonable folly to
quit the deep tranquillities of North Wales for the uproars, and
perils, and the certain miseries, of London. I had borrowed ten guineas
from Lady Carbery; and at that time, when my purpose was known to
nobody, I might have borrowed any sum I pleased. But I could never
again avail myself of that resource, because I must have given some
address, in order to insure the receipt of Lady Carbery's answer; and
in that case, so sternly conscientious was she, that, under the notion
of saving me from ruin, my address would have been immediately
communicated to my guardians, and by them would have been confided to
the unrivalled detective talents, in those days, of Townsend, or some
other Bow-street officer.

* * * * *

That episode, or impassioned parenthesis in my life, which is
comprehended in "The Confessions of the Opium-Eater," had finished;
suppose it over and gone, and once more, after the storms of London,
suppose me resting from my dreadful remembrances, in the deep monastic
tranquillity, of St. John's Priory; and just then, by accident, with no
associates except my mother and my uncle. What was the Priory like? Was
it young or old, handsome or plain? What was my uncle the captain like?
Young or old, handsome or plain? Wait a little, my reader; give me
time, and I will tell you all. My uncle's leave of absence from India
had not expired; in fact, it had nine or ten months still to run; and
this accident furnished us all with an opportunity of witnessing his
preternatural activity. One morning early in April of the year 1803, a
gentleman called at the Priory, and mentioned, as the news of the
morning brought down by the London mail, that there had been a very hot
and very sudden "press" along the Thames, and simultaneously at the
outports. Indeed, before this the spiteful tone of Sebastiani's Report,
together with the arrogant comment in the _Moniteur_ on the
supposed inability of Great Britain to contend "single-handed" with
France; and, finally, the public brutality to our ambassador, had
prepared us all for war. But, then, might not all this blow over? No;
apart from any choice or preference of war on the part of Napoleon, his
very existence depended upon war. He lived by and through the army.
Without a succession of wars and martial glories in reserve for the
army, what interest had _they_ in Napoleon? This was obscurely
acknowledged by everybody. More or less consciously perceived, a
feeling deep and strong ran through the nation that it was vain to seek
expedients or delays; a mighty strife had to be fought out, which could
not be evaded. Thence it was that the volunteer system was so rapidly
and earnestly developed. As a first stage in the process of national
enthusiasm, this was invaluable. The first impulse drew out the

Next, as might have been foreseen, came an experience which taught us
seasonably that these redundant materials, crude and miscellaneous,
required a winnowing and sifting, which very soon we had; and the
result was, an incomparable militia. Chester shone conspicuously in
this noble competition. But here, as elsewhere, at first there was no
cavalry. Upon that arose a knot of gentlemen, chiefly those who hunted,
and in a very few hours laid the foundation of a small cavalry force.
Three troops were raised in the _city_ of Chester, one of the
three being given to my uncle. The whole were under the command of
Colonel Dod, who had a landed estate in the county, and who (like my
uncle) had been in India. But Colonel Dod and the captains of the two
other troops gave comparatively little aid. The whole working
activities of the system rested with my uncle. Then first I saw energy:
then first I knew what it meant. All the officers of the three troops
exchanged dinner-parties with each other; and consequently they dined
at the Priory often enough to make us acquainted with their
characteristic qualities. That period had not yet passed away, though
it was already passing, when gentlemen did not willingly leave the
dinner-table in a state of absolute sobriety. Colonel Dod and my uncle
had learned in Bengal, under the coërcion of the climate, habits of
temperance. But the others (though few, perhaps, might be systematic
drinkers) were careless in this respect, and drank under social
excitement quite enough to lay bare the ruling tendencies of their
several characters. Being English, naturally the majority were
energetic, and beyond all things despised dreaming _fainéans_
(such, for instance, as we find the politicians, or even the
conspirators, of Italy, Spain, and Germany, whose whole power of action
evaporates in talking, and histrionically gesticulating). Yet still the
best of them seemed inert by comparison with my uncle, and to regard
_his_ standard of action and exertion as trespassing to a needless
degree upon ordinary human comfort.

Commonplace, meantime, my uncle was in the character of his intellect;
there he fell a thousand leagues below my mother, to whom he looked up
with affectionate astonishment. But, as a man of action, he ran so far
ahead of men generally, that he ceased to impress one as commonplace.
He, if any man ever did, realized the Roman poet's description of being
_natus rebus agendis_--sent into this world not for talking, but
for doing; not for counsel, but for execution. On that field he was a
portentous man, a monster; and, viewing him as such, I am disposed to
concede a few words to what modern slang denominates his "antecedents."

Two brothers and one sister (namely, my mother) composed the household
choir of children gathering round the hearth of my maternal grand-
parents, whose name was Penson. My grandfather at one time held an
office under the king; how named, I once heard, but have forgotten;
only this I remember, that it was an office which conferred the title
of _Esquire;_ so that upon each and all of his several coffins,
lead, oak, mahogany, he was entitled to proclaim himself an
_Armiger;_ which, observe, is the newest, oldest, most classic
mode of saying that one is privileged to bear arms in a sense
intelligible only to the Herald's College. This _Armiger_, this
undeniable Squire, was doubly distinguished: first, by his iron
constitution and impregnable health; which were of such quality, and
like the sword of Michael, the warrior-angel ("Paradise Lost," B. vi.),
had "from the armory of God been given him tempered so," that no
insurance office, trafficking in life-annuities, would have ventured to
look him in the face. People thought him good, like a cat, for eight or
nine generations; nor did any man perceive at what avenue death could
find, or disease could force, a practicable breach; and yet, such
anchorage have all human hopes, in the very midst of these windy
anticipations, this same granite grandpapa of mine, not yet very far
ahead of sixty, being in fact three-score years and none, suddenly
struck his flag, and found himself, in his privileged character of
_Armiger_, needing those door (coffin-door) plates, which all
reasonable people had supposed to be reserved for the manufacturing
hands of some remote century. "_Armiger_, pack up your traps"--
"Collige sarcinas"--"Squire, you're wanted:" these dreadful citations
were inevitable; come they must; but surely, as everybody thought, not
in the eighteenth, or, perhaps, even the nineteenth century. _Diis
aliter visum._ My grandfather, built for an _Æonian_ duration,
did not come within hail of myself; whilst his gentle partner, my
grandmother, who made no show of extra longevity, lived down into my
period, and had the benefit of my acquaintance through half a dozen
years. If she turned this piece of good fortune to no great practical
account, that (you know) was no fault of mine. Doubtless, I was ready
with my advice, freely and gratuitously, if she had condescended to ask
for it. Returning to my grandfather: the other distinguishing
endowment, by which he was so favorably known and remembered amongst
his friends, was the magical versatility of his talents, and his power
of self-accommodation to all humors, tempers, and ages.

"Omnis Aristippum decuit color, et status, et res."

And in allusion to this line from Horace it was, that amongst his
literary friends he was known familiarly by the name of Aristippus. His
sons, Edward and Thomas, resembled him, by all accounts, in nothing;
neither physically, nor in moral versatility. These two sons of the
Squire, Edward and Thomas, through some traditional prejudice in the
family, had always directed their views to the military profession. In
such a case, the king's army is naturally that to which a young man's
expectations turn. But to wait, and after all by possibility to wait in
vain, did not suit my fiery grandfather. The interest which he could
put into motion was considerable; but it was more applicable to the
service of the East India Company than to any branch of the home
service. This interest was so exerted that in one day he obtained a
lieutenantcy in the Company's service for each of his sons. About 1780
or 1781, both young men, aged severally sixteen and seventeen years,
went out to join their regiments, both regiments being on the Bengal
establishment. Very different were their fates; yet their
qualifications ought to have been the same, or differing only as
sixteen differs from seventeen; and also as sixteen overflowing with
levity differs from seventeen prematurely thoughtful. Edward Penson was
early noticed for his high principle, for his benignity, and for a
thoughtfulness somewhat sorrowful, that seemed to have caught in
childhood some fugitive glimpse of his own too brief career. At
noonday, in some part of Bengal, he went out of doors bareheaded, and
died in a few hours.

In 1800-1801, my mother had become dissatisfied with Bath as a
residence; and, being free from all ties connecting her with any one
county of England rather than another, she resolved to traverse the
most attractive parts of the island, and, upon personal inspection, to
select a home; not a ready-built home, but the ground on which she
might herself create one; for it happened that amongst the few
infirmities besetting my mother's habits and constitution of mind, was
the costly one of seeking her chief intellectual excitement in
architectural creations. She individually might be said to have built
Greenhay; since to _her_ views of domestic elegance and propriety
my father had resigned _almost_ everything. This was her _coup-
d'essai_; secondly, she built the complement to the Priory in
Cheshire, which cost about one thousand pounds; thirdly, Westhay, in
Somersetshire, about twelve miles from Bristol, which, including the
land attached to the house, cost twelve thousand five hundred pounds,
not including subsequent additions; but this was built at the cost of
my uncle; finally, Weston Lea, close to Bath, which being designed
simply for herself in old age, with a moderate establishment of four
servants (and some reasonable provision of accommodations for a few
visitors), cost originally, I believe, not more than one thousand
pounds--excluding, however, the cost of all after alterations.

It may serve to show how inevitably an amateur architect, without
professional aid and counsel, will be defrauded, that the first of
these houses, which cost six thousand pounds, sold for no more than
twenty-five hundred pounds, and the third for no more than five
thousand pounds. The person who superintended the workmen, and had the
whole practical management of one amongst these four houses, was a
common builder, without capital or education, and the greatest knave
that personally I have known. It may illustrate the way in which lady
architects, without professional aid, are and ever will be defrauded,
that, after all was finished, and the entire wood-work was to be
measured and valued, each party, of course, needing to be represented
by a professional agent, naturally the knavish builder was ready at
earliest dawn with _his_ agent; but, as regarded my mother's
interest, the task of engaging such an agent had been confided to a
neighboring clergyman,--"evangelical," of course, and a humble
sycophant of Hannah More, but otherwise the most helpless of human
beings, baptized or infidel. He contented himself with instructing a
young gentleman, aged about fifteen, to take his pony and ride over to
a distant cathedral town, which was honored by the abode of a virtuous
though drunken surveyor. This respectable drunkard he was to engage,
and also with obvious discretion to fee beforehand. All which was done:
the drunken surveyor had a sort of fits, it was understood, that always
towards sunset inclined him to assume the horizontal posture.
Fortunately, however, for that part of mankind whom circumstances had
brought under the necessity of communicating with him, these fits were
intermitting; so that, for instance, in the present case, upon a severe
call arising for his pocketing the fee of ten guineas, he astonished
his whole household by suddenly standing bolt upright as stiff as a
poker; his sister remarking to the young gentleman that he (the
visitor) was in luck that evening: it wasn't everybody that could get
that length in dealing with Mr. X. O. However, it is distressing to
relate that the fits immediately returned; and, with that degree of
exasperation which made it dangerous to suggest the idea of a receipt;
since that must have required the vertical attitude. Whether that
attitude ever was recovered by the unfortunate gentleman, I do not
know. Forty-and-four years have passed since then. Almost everybody
connected with the case has had time to assume permanently the
horizontal posture,--namely, that knave of a builder, whose knaveries
(gilded by that morning sun of June) were controlled by nobody; that
sycophantish parson; that young gentleman of fifteen (now, alas! fifty-
nine), who must long since have sown his wild oats; that unhappy pony
of eighteen (now, alas! sixty-two, if living; ah! venerable pony, that
must (or mustest) now require thy oats to be boiled); in short, one and
all of these venerabilities--knaves, ponies, drunkards, receipts--have
descended, I believe, to chaos or to Hades, with hardly one exception.
Chancery itself, though somewhat of an Indian juggler, could not play
with such aerial balls as these.

On what ground it was that my mother quarrelled with the advantages of
Bath, so many and so conspicuous, I cannot guess. At that time, namely,
the opening of the nineteenth century, the old traditionary custom of
the place had established for young and old the luxury of sedan-chairs.
Nine tenths, at least, of the colds and catarrhs, those initial stages
of all pulmonary complaints (the capital scourge of England), are
caught in the transit between the door of a carriage and the genial
atmosphere of the drawing-room. By a sedan-chair all this danger was
evaded: your two chairmen marched right into the hall: the hall-door
was closed; and not until then was the roof and the door of your chair
opened: the translation was--from one room to another. To my mother,
and many in her situation, the sedan-chair recommended itself also by
advantages of another class. Immediately on coming to Bath her carriage
was "laid up in ordinary." The trifling rent of a coach-house, some
slight annual repairs, and the tax, composed the whole annual cost. At
that time, and throughout the war, the usual estimate for the cost of a
close carriage in London was three hundred and twenty pounds; since, in
order to have the certain services of two horses, it was indispensable
to keep three. Add to this the coachman, the wear-and-tear of harness,
and the duty; and, even in Bath, a cheaper place than London, you could
not accomplish the total service under two hundred and seventy pounds.
Now, except the duty, all this expense was at once superseded by the
sedan-chair--rarely costing you above ten shillings a week, that is,
twenty-five guineas a year, and liberating you from all care or
anxiety. The duty on four wheels, it is true, was suddenly exalted by
Mr. Pitt's triple assessment from twelve guineas to thirty-six; but
what a trifle by comparison with the cost of horses and coachman! And,
then, no demands for money were ever met so cheerfully by my mother as
those which went to support Mr. Pitt's policy against Jacobinism and
Regicide. At present, after five years' sinecure existence, unless on
the rare summons of a journey, this dormant carriage was suddenly
undocked, and put into commission. Taking with her two servants, and
one of my sisters, my mother now entered upon a _periplus_, or
systematic circumnavigation of all England; and in England only--
through the admirable machinery matured for such a purpose, namely,
inns, innkeepers, servants, horses, all first-rate of their class--it
was possible to pursue such a scheme in the midst of domestic comfort.
My mother's resolution was--to see all England with her own eyes, and
to judge for herself upon the qualifications of each county, each town
(not being a bustling seat of commerce), and each village (having any
advantages of scenery), for contributing the main elements towards a
home that might justify her in building a house. The qualifications
insisted on were these five: good medical advice somewhere in the
neighborhood; first-rate means of education; elegant (or, what most
people might think, aristocratic) society; agreeable scenery: and so
far the difficulty was not insuperable in the way of finding all the
four advantages concentrated. But my mother insisted on a fifth, which
in those days insured the instant shipwreck of the entire scheme; this
was a church of England parish clergyman, who was to be strictly
orthodox, faithful to the articles of our English church, yet to these
articles as interpreted by Evangelical divinity. My mother's views were
precisely those of her friend Mrs. Hannah More, of Wilberforce, of
Henry Thornton, of Zachary Macaulay (father of the historian), and
generally of those who were then known amongst sneerers as "the Clapham
saints." This one requisition it was on which the scheme foundered. And
the fact merits recording as an exposition of the broad religious
difference between the England of that day and of this. At present, no
difficulty would be found as to this fifth requisition. "Evangelical"
clergymen are now sown broad-cast; at that period, there were not, on
an average, above six or eight in each of the fifty-two counties.

The conditions, as a whole, were in fact incapable of being realized;
where two or three were attained, three or two failed. It was too much
to exact so many advantages from any one place, unless London; or
really, if any other place could be looked to with hope in such a
chase, that place was Bath--the very city my mother was preparing to
leave. Yet, had this been otherwise, and the prospect of success more
promising, I have not a doubt that the pretty gem, which suddenly was
offered at a price unintelligibly low, in the ancient city of Chester,
would have availed (as instantly it _did_ avail, and, perhaps,
ought to have availed) in obscuring those five conditions of which else
each separately for itself had seemed a _conditio sine qua non_.
This gem was an ancient house, on a miniature scale, called the
_Priory_; and, until the dissolution of religious houses in the
earlier half of the sixteenth century, had formed part of the Priory
attached to the ancient church (still flourishing) of St. John's.
Towards the end of the sixteenth and through the first quarter of the
seventeenth century, this Priory had been in the occupation of Sir
Robert Cotton, the antiquary, the friend of Ben Jonson, of Coke, of
Selden, etc., and advantageously known as one of those who applied his
legal and historical knowledge to the bending back into constitutional
moulds of those despotic twists which new interests and false counsels
had developed in the Tudor and Stuart dynasties. It was an exceedingly
pretty place; and the kitchen, upon the ground story, which had a noble
groined ceiling of stone, indicated, by its disproportionate scale, the
magnitude of the establishment to which once it had ministered.
Attached to this splendid kitchen were tributary offices, etc. On the
upper story were exactly five rooms: namely, a servants' dormitory,
meant in Sir Robert's day for two beds [Footnote: The contrivance
amongst our ancestors, even at haughty Cambridge and haughtier Oxford,
was, that one bed rising six inches from the floor ran (in the day-
time) under a loftier bed; it ran upon castors or little wheels. The
learned word for a little wheel is _trochlea_; from which Grecian
and Latin term comes the English word _truckle_-bed.] at the
least; and a servants' sitting-room. These were shut off into a
separate section, with a little staircase (like a ship's companion-
ladder) and a little lobby of its own. But the principal section on
this upper story had been dedicated to the use of Sir Robert, and
consisted of a pretty old hall, lighted by an old monastic-painted
window in the door of entrance; secondly, a rather elegant dining-room;
thirdly, a bed-room. The glory of the house internally lay in the
monastic kitchen; and, secondly, in what a Frenchman would have called,
properly, Sir Robert's own _apartment_ [Footnote: _Apartment_.--
Our English use of the word "apartment" is absurd, since it leads to
total misconceptions. We read in French memoirs innumerable of _the
king's apartment_, of _the queen's apartment_, etc., and for us English
the question arises, How? Had the king, had her majesty, only one room?
But, my friend, they might have a thousand rooms, and yet have only one
apartment. An apartment means, in the continental use, a section or
_compartment_ of an edifice.] of three rooms; but, thirdly and chiefly,
in a pile of ruined archways, most picturesque so far as they went, but
so small that Drury Lane could easily have found room for them on its
stage. These stood in the miniature pleasure-ground, and were
constantly resorted to by artists for specimens of architectural
decays, or of nature working for the concealment of such decays by her
ordinary processes of gorgeous floral vegetation. Ten rooms there may
have been in the Priory, as offered to my mother for less than five
hundred pounds. A drawing-room, bed-rooms, dressing-rooms, etc., making
about ten more, were added by my mother for a sum under one thousand
pounds. The same miniature scale was observed in all these additions.
And, as the Priory was not within the walls of the city, whilst the
river Dee, flowing immediately below, secured it from annoyance on one
side, and the church, with its adjacent church-yard, insulated it from
the tumults of life on all the other sides, an atmosphere of conventual
stillness and tranquillity brooded over it and all around it forever.

Such was the house, such was the society, in which I now found myself;
and upon the whole I might describe myself as being, according to the
modern phrase, "in a false position." I had, for instance, a vast
superiority, as was to have been expected, in bookish attainments, and
in adroitness of logic; whilst, on the other hand, I was ridiculously
short-sighted or blind in all fields of ordinary human experience. It
must not be supposed that I regarded my own particular points of
superiority, or that I used them, with any vanity or view to present
advantages. On the contrary, I sickened over them, and labored to
defeat them. But in vain I sowed errors in my premises, or planted
absurdities in my assumptions. Vainly I tried such blunders as putting
four terms into a syllogism, which, as all the world knows, ought to
run on three; a tripod it ought to be, by all rules known to man, and,
behold, I forced it to become a quadruped. Upon my uncle's military
haste, and tumultuous energy in pressing his opinions, all such
delicate refinements were absolutely thrown away. With disgust _I_
saw, with disgust _he_ saw, that too apparently the advantage lay
with me in the result; and, whilst I worked like a dragon to place
myself in the wrong, some fiend apparently so counterworked me, that
eternally I was reminded of the Manx half-pennies, which lately I had
continually seen current in North Wales, bearing for their heraldic
distinction three human legs in armor, but so placed in relation to
each other that always one leg is vertical and mounting guard on behalf
of the other two, which, therefore, are enabled to sprawl aloft in the
air--in fact, to be as absurdly negligent as they choose, relying upon
their vigilant brother below, and upon the written legend or motto,
STABIT QUOCUNQUE JECERIS (Stand it will upright, though you should
fling it in any conceivable direction). What gave another feature of
distraction and incoherency to my position was, that I still occupied
the position of a reputed boy, nay, a child, in the estimate of my
audience, and of a child in disgrace. Time enough had not passed since
my elopement from school to win for me, in minds so fresh from that
remembrance, a station of purification and assoilment. Oxford might
avail to assoil me, and to throw into a distant retrospect my boyish
trespasses; but as yet Oxford had not arrived. I committed, besides, a
great fault in taking often a tone of mock seriousness, when the
detection of the playful extravagance was left to the discernment or
quick sympathy of the hearer; and I was blind to the fact, that neither
my mother nor my uncle was distinguished by any natural liveliness of
vision for the comic, or any toleration for the extravagant. My mother,
for example, had an awful sense of conscientious fidelity in the
payment of taxes. Many a respectable family I have known that would
privately have encouraged a smuggler, and, in consequence, were beset
continually by mock smugglers, offering, with airs of affected mystery,
home commodities liable to no custom-house objections whatsoever, only
at a hyperbolical price. I remember even the case of a duke, who bought
in Piccadilly, under laughable circumstances of complex disguise, some
silk handkerchiefs, falsely pretending to be foreign, and was so
incensed at finding himself to have been committing no breach of law
whatever, but simply to have been paying double the ordinary shop
price, that he pulled up the _soi-disant_ smuggler to Bowstreet,
even at the certain price of exposure to himself. The charge he alleged
against the man was the untenable one of _not_ being a smuggler.
My mother, on the contrary, pronounced all such attempts at cheating
the king, or, as I less harshly termed it, cheating the tax-gatherer,
as being equal in guilt to a fraud upon one's neighbor, or to direct
appropriation of another man's purse. I, on my part, held, that
government, having often defrauded me through its agent and creature
the post-office, by monstrous over-charges on letters, had thus created
in my behalf a right of retaliation. And dreadfully it annoyed my
mother, that I, stating this right in a very plausible rule-of-three
form--namely, As is the income of the said fraudulent government to my
poor patrimonial income of one hundred and fifty pounds per annum, so
is any one special fraud (as, for instance, that of yesterday morning,
amounting to thirteen pence upon a single letter) to that equitable
penalty which I am entitled to recover upon the goods and chattels
(wherever found) of the ill-advised Britannic government. During the
war with Napoleon, the income of this government ran, to all amounts,
between fifty and seventy millions pounds sterling. Awful, therefore,
seemed the inheritance of retaliation, inexhaustible the fund of
reprisals, into which I stepped. Since, even a single case of robbery,
such as I could plead by dozens, in the course of a few years, though
no more than thirteen pence, yet multiplied into seventy million times
two hundred and forty pence, _minus_ one hundred and fifty pounds,
made a very comfortable property. The right was clear; and the sole
difficulty lay in asserting it; in fact, that same difficulty which
beset the philosopher of old, in arguing with the Emperor Hadrian;
namely, the want of thirty legions for the purpose of clearly pointing
out to Cæsar where it was that the truth lay; the secret truth; that
rarest of all "nuggets."

This counter-challenge of government, as the first mover in a system of
frauds, annoyed, but also perplexed my mother exceedingly. For an
argument that shaped itself into a rule-of-three illustration seemed
really to wear too candid an aspect for summary and absolute rejection.

Such discussions wore to me a comic shape. But altogether serious were
the disputes upon INDIA--a topic on separate grounds equally
interesting to us all, as the mightiest of English colonies, and the
superbest monument of demoniac English energy, revealing itself in such
men as Clive, Hastings, and soon after in the two Wellesleys. To my
mother, as the grave of one brother, as the home of another, and as a
new centre from which Christianity (she hoped) would mount like an
eagle; for just about that time the Bible Society was preparing its
initial movements; whilst to my uncle India appeared as the
_arena_ upon which his activities were yet to find their adequate
career. With respect to the Christianization of India, my uncle assumed
a hope which he did not really feel; and in another point, more trying
to himself personally, he had soon an opportunity for showing the
sincerity of this deference to his spiritual-minded sister. For, very
soon after his return to India, he received a civil appointment
(_Superintendent of Military Buildings in Bengal_), highly
lucrative, and the more so as it could be held conjointly with his
military rank; but a good deal of its pecuniary advantages was said to
lie in fees, or perquisites, privately offered, but perfectly regular
and official, which my mother (misunderstanding the Indian system)
chose to call "bribes." A very ugly word was _that_; but I argued
that even at home, even in the courts at Westminster, in the very
fountains of justice, private fees constituted one part of the
salaries--a fair and official part, so long as Parliament had not made
such fees illegal by commuting them for known and fixed equivalents.

It was mere ignorance of India, as I dutifully insisted against
"Mamma," that could confound these regular oriental "nuzzers" with the
clandestine wages of corruption. The _pot-de-vin_ of French
tradition, the pair of gloves (though at one time very costly gloves)
to an English judge of assize on certain occasions, never was offered
nor received in the light of a bribe. And (until regularly abolished by
the legislature) I insisted--but vainly insisted--that these and
similar _honoraria_ ought to be accepted, because else you were
lowering the prescriptive rights and value of the office, which you--a
mere _locum tenens_ for some coming successor--had no right to do
upon a solitary scruple or crotchet, arising probably from dyspepsia.
Better men, no doubt, than ever stood in _your_ stockings, had
pocketed thankfully the gifts of ancient, time-honored custom. My
uncle, however, though not with the carnal recusancy which besieged the
spiritual efforts of poor Cuthbert Headrigg, that incorrigible
worldling, yet still with intermitting doubts, followed my mother's
earnest entreaties, and the more meritoriously (I conceive), as he
yielded, in a point deeply affecting his interest, to a system of
arguments very imperfectly convincing to his understanding. He held the
office in question for as much (I believe) as eighteen or nineteen
years; and, by knowing old bilious Indians, who laughed immoderately at
my uncle and my mother, as the proper growth of a priory or some such
monastic establishment, I have been assured that nothing short of two
hundred thousand pounds ought, under the long tenure of office, to have
been remitted to England. But, then, said one of these gentlemen, if
your uncle lived (as I have heard that he did) in Calcutta and Meer-ut,
at the rate of four thousand pounds a year, _that_ would account
for a considerable share of a mine which else would seem to have been
worked in vain. Unquestionably, my uncle's system of living was under
no circumstances a self-denying one. To enjoy, and to make others
enjoy--_that_ was his law of action. Indeed, a more liberal creature,
or one of more princely munificence, never lived.

It might seem useless to call back any fragment of conversations
relating to India which passed more than fifty years ago, were it not
for two reasons: one of which is this,--that the errors (natural at
that time) which I vehemently opposed, not from any greater knowledge
that I had, but from closer reflection, are even now the prevailing
errors of the English people. My mother, for instance, uniformly spoke
of the English as the subverters of ancient thrones. I, on the
contrary, insisted that nothing political was ancient in India. Our own
original opponents, the Rajahs of Oude and Bengal, had been all
upstarts: in the Mysore, again, our more recent opponents, Hyder, and
his son Tippoo, were new men altogether, whose grandfathers were quite
unknown. Why was it that my mother, why is it that the English public
at this day, connect so false an image--that of high, cloudy antiquity
--with the thrones of India? It is simply from an old habit of
associating the spirit of change and rapid revolution with the
activities of Europe; so that, by a natural reaction of thought, the
Orient is figured as the home of motionless monotony. In things
religious, in habits, in costume, it _is_ so. But so far otherwise
in things political, that no instance can be alleged of any dynasty or
system of government that has endured beyond a century or two in the
East. Taking India in particular, the Mogul dynasty, established by
Baber, the great-grandson of Timour, did not subsist in any vigor for
two centuries; and yet this was by far the most durable of all
established princely houses. Another argument against England urged by
my mother (but equally urged by the English people at this day) was,
that she had in no eminent sense been a benefactress to India; or,
expressing it in words of later date, that the only memorials of our
rule, supposing us suddenly ejected from India, would be vast heaps of
champagne-bottles. I, on the other hand, alleged that our benefits,
like all truly great and lasting benefits (religious benefits, for
instance), must not be sought in external memorials of stone and
masonry. Higher by far than the Mogul gifts of mile-stones, or
travelling stations, or even roads and tanks, were the gifts of
security, of peace, of law, and settled order. These blessings were
travelling as fast as our rule advanced. I could not _then_ appeal
to the cases of Thuggee extirpated, of the Pindanees (full fifteen
thousand bloody murderers) forever exterminated, or of the Marhattas
bridled forever--a robber nation that previously had descended at
intervals with a force of sometimes one hundred and fifty thousand
troopers upon the afflicted province of Bengal, and Oude its neighbor;
because these were events as yet unborn. But they were the natural
extensions of that beneficent system on which I rested my argument. The
two terrors of India at that particular time were Holkar and Scindiah
(pronounced _Sindy_), who were soon cut short in their career by
the hostilities which they provoked with us, but would else have
proved, in combination, a deadlier scourge to India than either Hyder
or his ferocious son. My mother, in fact, a great reader of the poet
Cowper, drew from _him_ her notions of Anglo-Indian policy and its
effects. Cowper, in his "Task," puts the question,--

"Is India free? and does she wear her plumed
And jewelled turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still?"

Pretty much the same authority it is which the British public of this
day has for its craze upon the subject of English oppression amongst
the Hindoos.

My uncle, meantime, who from his Indian experience should reasonably
have known so much better, was disposed, from the mere passive habits
of hearing and reading unresistingly so many assaults of this tone
against our Indian policy, to go along with my mother. But he was too
just, when forced into reflection upon the subject, not to bend at
times to my way of stating the case for England. Suddenly, however, our
Indian discussions were brought to a close by the following incident.
My uncle had brought with him to England some Arabian horses, and
amongst them a beautiful young Persian mare, called Sumroo, the
gentlest of her race. Sumroo it was that he happened to be riding, upon
a frosty day. Unused to ice, she came down with him, and broke his
right leg. This accident laid him up for a month, during which my
mother and I read to him by turns. One book, which one day fell to my
share by accident, was De Foe's "Memoirs of a Cavalier." This book
attempts to give a picture of the Parliamentary war; but in some places
an unfair, and everywhere a most superficial account. I said so; and my
uncle, who had an old craze in behalf of the book, opposed me with
asperity; and, in the course of what he said, under some movement of
ill-temper, he asked me, in a way which I felt to be taunting, how I
could consent to waste my time as I did. Without any answering warmth,
I explained that my guardians, having quarrelled with me, would not
grant for my use anything beyond my school allowance of one hundred
pounds per annum. But was it not possible that even this sum might by
economy be made to meet the necessities of the case? I replied that,
from what I had heard, very probably it was. Would I undertake an
Oxford life upon such terms? Most gladly, I said. Upon that opening he
spoke to my mother; and the result was, that, within seven days from
the above conversation, I found myself entering that time-honored




It was in winter, and in the wintry weather of the year 1803, that I
first entered Oxford with a view to its vast means of education, or
rather with a view to its vast advantages for study. A ludicrous story
is told of a young candidate for clerical orders--that, being asked by
the bishop's chaplain if he had ever "been to Oxford," as a colloquial
expression for having had an academic education, he replied, "No: but
he had twice been to Abingdon:" Abingdon being only seven miles
distant. In the same sense I might say that once before I had been at
Oxford: but _that_ was as a transient visitor with Lord W----,
when we were both children. Now, on the contrary, I approached these
venerable towers in the character of a student, and with the purpose of
a long connection; personally interested in the constitution of the
university, and obscurely anticipating that in this city, or at least
during the period of my nominal attachment to this academic body, the
remoter parts of my future life would unfold before me. All hearts were
at this time occupied with the public interests of the country. The
"sorrow of the time" was ripening to a second harvest. Napoleon had
commenced his Vandal, or rather Hunnish War with Britain, in the spring
of this year, about eight months before; and profound public interest
it was, into which the very coldest hearts entered, that a little
divided with me the else monopolizing awe attached to the solemn act of
launching myself upon the world. That expression may seem too strong as
applied to one who had already been for many months a houseless
wanderer in Wales, and a solitary roamer in the streets of London. But
in those situations, it must be remembered, I was an unknown,
unacknowledged vagrant; and without money I could hardly run much risk,
except of breaking my neck. The perils, the pains, the pleasures, or
the obligations, of the world, scarcely exist in a proper sense for him
who has no funds. Perfect weakness is often secure; it is by imperfect
power, turned against its master, that men are snared and decoyed. Here
in Oxford I should be called upon to commence a sort of establishment
upon the splendid English scale; here I should share in many duties and
responsibilities, and should become henceforth an object of notice to a
large society. Now first becoming separately and individually
answerable for my conduct, and no longer absorbed into the general unit
of a family, I felt myself, for the first time, burthened with the
anxieties of a man, and a member of the world.

Oxford, ancient mother! hoary with ancestral honors, time-honored, and,
haply, it may be, time-shattered power--I owe thee nothing! Of thy vast
riches I took not a shilling, though living amongst multitudes who owed
to thee their daily bread. Not the less I owe thee justice; for that is
a universal debt. And at this moment, when I see thee called to thy
audit by unjust and malicious accusers--men with the hearts of
inquisitors and the purposes of robbers--I feel towards thee something
of filial reverence and duty. However, I mean not to speak as an
advocate, but as a conscientious witness in the simplicity of truth;
feeling neither hope nor fear of a personal nature, without fee, and
without favor.

I have been assured from many quarters that the great body of the
public are quite in the dark about the whole manner of living in our
English universities; and that a considerable portion of that public,
misled by the totally different constitution of universities in
Scotland, Ireland, and generally on the continent, as well as by the
different arrangements of collegiate life in those institutions, are in
a state worse than ignorant (that is, more unfavorable to the truth)--
starting, in fact, from prejudices, and absolute errors of fact, which
operate most uncharitably upon their construction of those insulated
statements, which are continually put forward by designing men. Hence,
I can well believe that it will be an acceptable service, at this
particular moment, when the very constitution of the two English
universities is under the unfriendly revision of Parliament, when some
roving commission may be annually looked for, under a contingency which
I will not utter in words (for I reverence the doctrine of
_euphæmismos_), far worse than Cromwellian, that is, merely
personal, and to winnow the existing corporation from disaffection to
the state--a Henry the Eighth commission of sequestration, and levelled
at the very integrity of the institution--under such prospects, I can
well believe that a true account of Oxford _as it is_ (which will
be valid also for Cambridge) must be welcome both to friend and foe.
And instead of giving this account didactically, or according to a
logical classification of the various items in the survey, I will give
it historically, or according to the order in which the most important
facts of the case opened themselves before myself, under the accidents
of my own personal inquiry. No situation could be better adapted than
my own for eliciting information; for, whereas most young men come to
the university under circumstances of absolute determination as to the
choice of their particular college, and have, therefore, no cause for
search or inquiry, I, on the contrary, came thither in solitary self-
dependence, and in the loosest state of indetermination.

Though neither giving nor accepting invitations for the first two years
of my residence, never but once had I reason to complain of a sneer, or
indeed any allusion whatever to habits which might be understood to
express poverty. Perhaps even then I had no reason to complain, for my
own conduct in that instance was unwise; and the allusion, though a
personality, and so far ill-bred, might be meant in real kindness. The
case was this: I neglected my dress in one point habitually; that is, I
wore clothes until they were threadbare--partly in the belief that my
gown would conceal their main defects, but much more from carelessness
and indisposition to spend upon a tailor what I had destined for a
bookseller. At length, an official person, of some weight in the
college, sent me a message on the subject through a friend. It was
couched in these terms: That, let a man possess what talents or
accomplishments he might, it was not possible for him to maintain his
proper station, in the public respect, amongst so many servants and
people, servile to external impressions, without some regard to the
elegance of his dress.

A reproof so courteously prefaced I could not take offence at; and at
that time I resolved to spend some cost upon decorating my person. But
always it happened that some book, or set of books,--that passion being
absolutely endless, and inexorable as the grave,--stepped between me
and my intentions; until one day, upon arranging my toilet hastily
before dinner, I suddenly made the discovery that I had no waistcoat
(or _vest_, as it is now called, through conceit or provincialism),
which was not torn or otherwise dilapidated; whereupon, buttoning up my
coat to the throat, and drawing my gown as close about me as possible,
I went into the public "hall" (so is called in Oxford the public
eating-room) with no misgiving. However, I was detected; for a
grave man, with a superlatively grave countenance, who happened on
that day to sit next me, but whom I did not personally know, addressing
his friend sitting opposite, begged to know if he had seen the last
Gazette, because he understood that it contained an order in council
laying an interdict upon the future use of waistcoats. His friend
replied, with the same perfect gravity, that it was a great
satisfaction to his mind that his majesty's government should have
issued so sensible an order; which he trusted would be soon followed up
by an interdict on breeches, they being still more disagreeable to pay
for. This said, without the movement on either side of a single muscle,
the two gentlemen passed to other subjects; and I inferred, upon the
whole, that, having detected my manoeuvre, they wished to put me on my
guard in the only way open to them. At any rate, this was the sole
personality, or equivocal allusion of any sort, which ever met my ear
during the years that I asserted my right to be as poor as I chose.
And, certainly, my censors were right, whatever were the temper in
which they spoke, kind or unkind; for a little extra care in the use of
clothes will always, under almost any extremity of poverty, pay for so
much extra cost as is essential to neatness and decorum, if not even to
elegance. They were right, and I was wrong, in a point which cannot be
neglected with impunity.

But, to enter upon my own history, and my sketch of Oxford life.--Late
on a winter's night, in the latter half of December, 1803, when a snow-
storm, and a heavy one, was already gathering in the air, a lazy
Birmingham coach, moving at four and a half miles an hour, brought me
through the long northern suburb of Oxford, to a shabby coach-inn,
situated in the Corn Market. Business was out of the question at that
hour. But the next day I assembled all the acquaintances I had in the
university, or had to my own knowledge; and to them, in council
assembled, propounded my first question: What college would they, in
their superior state of information, recommend to my choice? This
question leads to the first great characteristic of Oxford, as
distinguished from most other universities. Before me at this moment
lie several newspapers, reporting, at length, the installation in
office (as Chancellor) of the Duke of Wellington. The original Oxford
report, having occasion to mention the particular college from which
the official procession moved, had said, no doubt, that the gates of
University, the halls of University, &c., were at such a point of time
thrown open. But most of the provincial editors, not at all
comprehending that the reference was to an individual college, known by
the name of University College, one of twenty-five such establishments
in Oxford, had regularly corrected it into "gates of the University,"
&c. Here is the first misconception of all strangers. And this feature
of Oxford it is which has drawn such exclamations of astonishment from
foreigners. Lipsius, for example, protested with fervor, on first
seeing this vast establishment of Oxford, that one college of this
university was greater in its power and splendor, that it glorified and
illustrated the honors of literature more conspicuously by the pomps
with which it invested the ministers and machinery of education, than
any entire university of the continent.

What is a university almost everywhere else? It announces little more,
as respects the academic buildings, than that here is to be found the
place of rendezvous--the exchange, as it were, or, under a different
figure, the _palæstra_ of the various parties connected with the
prosecution of liberal studies. This is their "House of Call," their
general place of muster and parade. Here it is that the professors and
the students converge, with the certainty of meeting each other. Here,
in short, are the lecture-rooms in all the faculties. Well: thus far we
see an arrangement of convenience--that is, of convenience for one of
the parties, namely, the professors. To them it spares the disagreeable
circumstances connected with a private reception of their students at
their own rooms. But to the students it is a pure matter of
indifference. In all this there is certainly no service done to the
cause of good learning, which merits a state sanction, or the aid of
national funds. Next, however, comes an academic library, sometimes a
good one; and here commences a real use in giving a national station to
such institutions, because their durable and monumental existence,
liable to no flux or decay from individual caprice, or accidents of
life, and their authentic station, as expressions of the national
grandeur, point them out to the bequests of patriotic citizens. They
fall also under the benefit of another principle--the conservative
feeling of amateurship. Several great collections have been bequeathed
to the British Museum, for instance--not chiefly _as_ a national
institution, and under feelings of nationality, but because, being
such, it was also permanent; and thus the painful labors of collecting
were guaranteed from perishing. Independently of all this, I, for my
part, willingly behold the surplus of national funds dedicated to the
consecration, as it were, of learning, by raising temples to its honor,
even where they answer no purpose of direct use. Next, after the
service of religion, I would have the service of learning externally
embellished, recommended to the affections of men, and hallowed by the
votive sculptures, as I may say, of that affection, gathering in amount
from age to age. _Magnificabo apostolatum meum_ is a language
almost as becoming to the missionaries and ministers of knowledge, as
to the ambassadors of religion. It is fit that by pompous architectural
monuments, that a voice may forever be sounding audibly in human ears
of homage to these powers, and that even alien feelings may be
compelled into secret submission to their influence. Therefore, amongst
the number of those who value such things, upon the scale of direct
proximate utility, rank not me: that _arithmetica officina_ is in
my years abominable. But still I affirm that, in our analysis of an
ordinary university, or "college" as it is provincially called, we have
not yet arrived at any element of service rendered to knowledge or
education, large enough to call for very extensive national aid. Honor
has thus far been rendered to the good cause by a public attestation,
and that is well: but no direct promotion has been given to that cause,
no impulse communicated to its progress, such that it can be held out
as a result commensurate to the name and pretensions of a university.
As yet there is nothing accomplished which is beyond the strength of
any little commercial town. And as to the library in particular,
besides that in all essential departments it might be bought, to order,
by one day's common subscription of Liverpool or Glasgow merchants,
students very rarely indeed have admission to its free use.

What other functions remain to a university? For those which I have
mentioned of furnishing a point of rendezvous to the great body of
professors and students, and a point of concentration to the different
establishments of implements and machinery for elaborate researches
[as, for instance, of books and MSS., in the first place; secondly, of
maps, charts, and globes; and, thirdly, perhaps of the costly apparatus
required for such studies as Sideral astronomy, galvanic chemistry or
physiology, &c.]; all these are uses which cannot be regarded in a
higher light than as conveniences merely incidental and collateral to
the main views of the founders. There are, then, two much loftier and
more commanding ends met by the idea and constitution of such
institutions, and which first rise to a rank of dignity sufficient to
occupy the views of a legislator, or to warrant a national interest.
These ends are involved: 1st, in the practice of conferring
_degrees_, that is, formal attestations and guarantees of competence
to give advice, instruction, or aid, in the three great branches
of liberal knowledge applicable to human life; 2d, in that
appropriation of fixed funds to fixed professorships, by means of which
the uninterrupted succession of public and authorized teachers is
sustained in all the higher branches of knowledge, from generation to
generation, and from century to century. By the latter result it is
secured that the great well-heads of liberal knowledge and of severe
science shall never grow dry. By the former it is secured that this
unfailing fountain shall be continually applied to the production and
to the _tasting_ of fresh labors in endless succession for the
public service, and thus, in effect, that the great national fountain
shall not be a stagnant reservoir, but, by an endless _derivation_
(to speak in a Roman metaphor!), applied to a system of national
irrigation. These are the two great functions and qualifications of a
collegiate incorporation: one providing to each separate generation its
own separate rights of heirship to all the knowledge accumulated by its
predecessors, and converting a mere casual life-annuity into an estate
of inheritance--a mere fleeting _agonisma_ into a _ktæma es æi_; the
other securing for this eternal dowry as wide a distribution as
possible: the one function regarding the dimension of _length_ in the
endless series of ages through which it propagates its gifts; the other
regarding the dimension of _breadth_ in the large application
throughout any one generation of these gifts to the public service.
Here are grand functions, high purposes; but neither one nor the other
demands any edifices of stone and marble; neither one nor the other
presupposes any edifice at all built with human hands. A collegiate
incorporation, the church militant of knowledge, in its everlasting
struggle with darkness and error, is, in this respect, like the
church of Christ--that is, it is always and essentially invisible
to the fleshly eye. The pillars of this church are human champions; its
weapons are great truths so shaped as to meet the shifting forms of
error; its armories are piled and marshalled in human memories; its
cohesion lies in human zeal, in discipline, in childlike docility; and
all its triumphs, its pomps, and glories, must forever depend upon
talent, upon the energies of the will, and upon the harmonious
cooperation of its several divisions. Thus far, I say, there is no call
made out for _any_ intervention of the architect.

Let me apply all this to Oxford. Among the four functions commonly
recognized by the founders of universities, which are--1st, to find a
set of halls or places of meeting; 2d, to find the implements and
accessaries of study; 3d, to secure the succession of teachers and
learners; 4th, to secure the profitable application of their
attainments to the public service. Of these four, the two highest need
no buildings; and the other two, which are mere collateral functions of
convenience, need only a small one. Wherefore, then, and to what end,
are the vast systems of building, the palaces and towers of Oxford?
These are either altogether superfluous, mere badges of ostentation and
luxurious wealth, or they point to some fifth function not so much as
contemplated by other universities, and, at present, absolutely and
chimerically beyond their means of attainment. Formerly we used to hear
attacks upon the Oxford discipline as fitted to the true
_intellectual_ purposes of a modern education. Those attacks, weak
and most uninstructed in facts, false as to all that they challenged,
and puerile as to what implicitly they propounded for homage, are
silent. But, of late, the battery has been pointed against the Oxford
discipline in its _moral_ aspects, as fitted for the government
and restraint of young men, or even as at all contemplating any such
control. The Beverleys would have us suppose, not only that the great
body of the students are a licentious crew, acknowledging no discipline
or restraints, but that the grave elders of the university, and those
who wield the nominal authority of the place, passively resign the very
shows of power, and connive at general excesses, even when they do not
absolutely authorize them in their personal examples. Now, when such
representations are made, to what standard of a just discipline is it
that these writers would be understood as appealing? Is it to some
ideal, or to some existing and known reality? Would they have England
suppose that they are here comparing the actual Oxford with some
possible hypothetic or imaginable Oxford,--with some ideal case, that
is to say, about which great discussions would arise as to its
feasibility,--or that they are comparing it with some known standard of
discipline actually realized and sustained for generations, in Leipsic,
suppose, or Edinburgh, or Leyden, or Salamanca? This is the question of
questions, to which we may demand an answer; and, according to that
answer, observe the dilemma into which these furciferous knaves must
drop. If they are comparing Oxford simply with some ideal and better
Oxford, in some ideal and better world, in that case all they have
said--waiving its falsehoods of fact--is no more than a flourish of
rhetoric, and the whole discussion may be referred to the shadowy
combats of scholastic declamation-mongers--those mock gladiators, and
_umbratiles doctores_. But if, on the other hand, they pretend to
take their station upon the known basis of some existing institution,--
if they will pretend that, in this impeachment of Oxford, they are
proceeding upon a silent comparison with Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jena,
Leipsic, Padua, &c.,--then are they self-exposed, as men not only
without truth, but without shame. For now comes in, as a sudden
revelation, and as a sort of _deus ex machina_, for the vindication
of the truth, the simple answer to that question proposed above,
Wherefore, and to what end, are the vast edifices of Oxford? A
university, as universities are in general, needs not, I have shown, to
be a visible body--a building raised with hands. Wherefore, then, is
the _visible_ Oxford? To what _fifth_ end, refining upon the
ordinary ends of such institutions, is the far-stretching system of
Oxford _hospitia_, or monastic hotels, directed by their founders,
or applied by their present possessors? Hearken, reader, to the answer:

These vast piles are applied to an end, absolutely indispensable to any
even tolerable system of discipline, and yet absolutely unattainable
upon any commensurate scale in any other university of Europe. They are
applied to the personal settlement and domestication of the students
within the gates and walls of that college to whose discipline they are
amenable. Everywhere else the young men live _where_ they please
and _as_ they please; necessarily distributed amongst the towns-
people; in any case, therefore, liable to no control or supervision
whatever; and in those cases where the university forms but a small
part of a vast capital city, as it does in Paris, Edinburgh, Madrid,
Vienna, Berlin, and Petersburg, liable to every mode of positive
temptation and distraction, which besiege human life in high-viced and
luxurious communities. Here, therefore, it is a mockery to talk of
discipline; of a nonentity there can be no qualities; and we need not
ask for the description of the discipline in situations where
discipline there can be none. One slight anomaly I have heard of as
varying _pro tanto_ the uniform features of this picture. In
Glasgow I have heard of an arrangement by which young academicians are
placed in the family of a professor. Here, as members of a private
household, and that household under the presiding eye of a
conscientious, paternal, and judicious scholar, doubtless they would
enjoy as absolute a shelter from peril and worldly contagion as parents
could wish; but not _more_ absolute, I affirm, than belongs,
unavoidably, to the monastic seclusion of an Oxford college--the gates
of which open to no egress after nine o'clock at night, nor after
eleven to any ingress which is not regularly reported to a proper
officer of the establishment. The two forms of restraint are, as
respects the effectual amount of control, equal; and were they equally
diffused, Glasgow and Oxford would, in this point, stand upon the same
level of discipline. But it happens that the Glasgow case was a
personal accident; personal, both as regarded him who volunteered the
exercise of this control, and those who volunteered to appropriate its
benefits; whereas the Oxford case belongs to the very system, is
coextensive with the body of undergraduates, and, from the very
arrangement of Oxford life, is liable to no decay or intermission.

Here, then, the reader apprehends the first great characteristic
distinction of Oxford--that distinction which extorted the rapturous
admiration of Lipsius as an exponent of enormous wealth, but which I
now mention as applying, with ruinous effect, to the late calumnies
upon Oxford, as an inseparable exponent of her meritorious discipline.
She, most truly and severely an "Alma Mater" gathers all the juvenile
part of her flock within her own fold, and beneath her own vigilant
supervision. In Cambridge there is, so far, a laxer administration of
this rule, that, when any college overflows, undergraduates are allowed
to lodge at large in the town. But in Oxford this increase of peril and
discretionary power is thrown by preference upon the senior graduates,
who are seldom below the age of twenty-two or twenty-three; and the
college accommodations are reserved, in almost their whole extent, for
the most youthful part of the society. This extent is prodigious. Even
in my time, upwards of two thousand persons were lodged within the
colleges; none having fewer than two rooms, very many having three, and
men of rank, or luxurious habits, having often large suites of rooms.
But that was a time of war, which Oxford experience has shown to have
operated most disproportionably as a drain upon the numbers disposable
for liberal studies; and the total capacity of the university was far
from being exhausted. There are now, I believe, between five and six
thousand names upon the Oxford books; and more than four thousand, I
understand, of constant residents. So that Oxford is well able to
lodge, and on a very sumptuous scale, a small army of men; which
expression of her great splendor I now mention (as I repeat) purely as
applying to the question of her machinery for enforcing discipline.
This part of her machinery, it will be seen, is unique, and absolutely
peculiar to herself. Other universities, boasting no such enormous
wealth, cannot be expected to act upon her system of seclusion.
Certainly, I make it no reproach to other universities, that, not
possessing the means of sequestering their young men from worldly
communion, they must abide by the evils of a laxer discipline. It is
their misfortune, and not their criminal neglect, which consents to so
dismal a relaxation of academic habits. But let them not urge this
misfortune in excuse at one time, and at another virtually disavow it.
Never let _them_ take up a stone to throw at Oxford, upon this
element of a wise education; since in them, through that original vice
in their constitution, the defect of all means for secluding and
insulating their society, discipline is abolished by anticipation--
being, in fact, an impossible thing; for the walls of the college are
subservient to no purpose of life, but only to a purpose of
convenience; they converge the students for the hour or two of what is
called lecture; which over, each undergraduate again becomes _sui
juris_, is again absorbed into the crowds of the world, resorts to
whatsoever haunts he chooses, and finally closes his day at----if, in
any sense, at home--at a home which is not merely removed from the
supervision and control, but altogether from the bare knowledge, of his
academic superiors. How far this discipline is well administered in
other points at Oxford, will appear from the rest of my account. But,
thus far, at least, it must be conceded, that Oxford, by and through
this one unexampled distinction--her vast disposable fund of
accommodations for junior members within her own private cloisters--
possesses an advantage which she could not forfeit, if she would,
towards an effectual knowledge of each man's daily habits, and a
control over him which is all but absolute.

This knowledge and this control is much assisted and concentrated by
the division of the university into separate colleges. Here comes
another feature of the Oxford system. Elsewhere the university is a
single college; and this college is the university. But in Oxford the
university expresses, as it were, the army, and the colleges express
the several brigades, or regiments.

To resume, therefore, my own thread of personal narration. On the next
morning after my arrival in Oxford, I assembled a small council of
friends to assist me in determining at which of the various separate
societies I should enter, and whether as a "commoner," or as a
"gentleman commoner." Under the first question was couched the
following latitude of choice: I give the names of the colleges, and the
numerical account of their numbers, as it stood in January, 1832; for
this will express, as well as the list of that day, (which I do not
accurately know), the _proportions_ of importance amongst them.

1. University College ................. 207
2. Balliol " ................. 257
3. Merton " ................. 124
4. Exeter " ................. 299
5. Oriel " ................. 293
6. Queen's " ................. 351
7. New " ................. 157
8. Lincoln " ................. 141
9. All Souls' " ................. 98
10. Magdalene " ................. 165
11. Brazennose " ................. 418
12. Corpus Christi " ................. 127
13. Christ Church " ................. 949
14. Trinity " ................. 259
15. St. John's " ................. 218
16. Jesus " ................. 167
17. Wadham " ................. 217
18. Pembroke " ................. 189
19. Worcester " ................. 231

Then, besides these colleges, five _Halls_, as they are technically
called, (the term _Hall_ implying chiefly that they are societies not
endowed, or not endowed with fellowships as the colleges are), namely:

1. St. Mary Hall. .............. 83
2. Magdalen " .............. 178
3. New Inn " .............. 10
4. St. Alban " .............. 41
5. St. Edmund " .............. 96

Such being the names, and general proportions on the scale of local
importance, attached to the different communities, next comes the very
natural question, What are the chief determining motives for guiding
the selection amongst them? These I shall state. First of all, a man
not otherwise interested in the several advantages of the colleges has,
however, in all probability, some choice between a small society and a
large one; and thus far a mere ocular inspection of the list will serve
to fix his preference. For my part, supposing other things equal, I
greatly preferred the most populous college, as being that in which any
single member, who might have reasons for standing aloof from the
general habits of expense, of intervisiting, etc., would have the best
chance of escaping a jealous notice. However, amongst those "other
things" which I presumed equal, one held a high place in my estimation,
which a little inquiry showed to be very far from equal. All the
colleges have chapels, but all have not organs; nor, amongst those
which have, is the same large use made of the organ. Some preserve the
full cathedral service; others do not. Christ Church, meantime,
fulfilled _all_ conditions: for the chapel here happens to be the
cathedral of the diocese; the service, therefore, is full and
ceremonial; the college, also, is far the most splendid, both in
numbers, rank, wealth, and influence. Hither I resolved to go; and
immediately I prepared to call on the head.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest