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Philip Gilbert Hamerton by Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al

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"Intellectual living is not so much an accomplishment as a state or
condition of the mind in which it seeks earnestly for the highest and
purest truth.... If we often blunder and fail for want of perfect wisdom
and clear light, have we not the inward assurance that our aspiration
has not been all in vain, that it has brought us a little nearer to the
Supreme Intellect whose effulgence draws us while it dazzles?"--_The
Intellectual Life_.


About twelve years ago my husband told me that he had begun to write an
Autobiography intended for publication, but not during his lifetime. He
worked upon it at intervals, as his literary engagements permitted, but
I found after his sudden death that he had only been able to carry it as
far as his twenty-fourth year. Such a fragment seemed too brief for
separate publication, and I earnestly desired to supplement it by a
Memoir, and thus to give to those who knew and loved his books a more
complete understanding of his character and career. But though I longed
for this satisfaction and solace, the task seemed beyond my power,
especially as it involved the difficulty of writing in a foreign
language. Considering, however, that the Autobiography was carried, as
it happened, up to the date of our marriage, and that I could therefore
relate all the subsequent life from intimate knowledge, as no one else
could, I was encouraged by many of Mr. Hamerton's admirers to make the
attempt, and with the great and untiring help of his best friend, Mr.
Seeley, I have been enabled to complete the Memoir--such as it is.

I offer my sincere thanks to Mr. Sidney Colvin and to his co-executor
for having allowed the insertion of Mr. R. L. Stevenson's letters; to
Mr. Barrett Browning for those of his father; to Sir George and Lady
Reid, Mr. Watts, Mr. Peter Graham, and Mr. Burlingame for their own.

I also beg Mr. A. H. Palmer to accept the expression of my gratitude for
his kind permission to use as a frontispiece to this book the fine
photograph taken by him.


_September_, 1896.




My reasons for writing an Autobiography.--That a man knows the history
of his own life better than a biographer can know it.--Frankness and
reserve.--The contemplation of death.



My birthplace.--My father and mother.--Circumstances of their
marriage.--Their short married life.--Birth of their child.--Death of
my mother.--Her character and habits.--My father as a widower.--Dulness
of his life.--Its degradation.



My childhood is passed at Barnley with my aunts.--My grandfather and
grandmother.--Estrangement between Gilbert Hamerton and his brother of
Hellifield Peel.--Death of Gilbert Hamerton.--His taste for the French
language.--His travels in Portugal, and the conduct of a steward during
his absence.--His three sons.--Aristocratic tendencies of his
daughters.--Beginning of my education.--Visits to my father.



A tour in Wales in 1842.--Extracts from my Journal of this tour.--My
inborn love for beautiful materials.--Stay at Rhyl.--Anglesea and
Caernarvon.--Reasons for specially remembering this tour.



A painful chapter to write.--My father calls me home.--What kind of a
house it was.--Paternal education and discipline.--My life at that time
one of dulness varied by dread.



My extreme loneliness.--Thoughts of flight.--My father's last illness
and death.--Circumstances of my last interview with him.--His funeral.



Dislike to Shaw in consequence of the dreadful life I lead there with my
father.--My guardian.--Her plan for my education.--Doncaster
School.--Mr. Cape and his usher.--The usher's intolerance of
Dissenters.--My feeling for architecture and music.--The
drawing-master.--My guardian insists on my learning French.--Our French
master, Sig. Testa.--A painful incident.--I begin to learn the
violin.--Dancing.--My aversion to cricket.--Early readings.--Love of
Scott.--My first library.--Classical studies.



Early attempts in English verse.--Advantages of life at Doncaster.--A
school incident.--Fagging.--Story of a dog.--Robbery.--My school-fellow
Henry Alexander.--His remarkable influence.--Other school-fellows.
--Story of a boat.--A swimming adventure.--Our walks and battles.



Early interest in theology.--Reports of sermons.--Quiet influence of Mr.
Cape.--Failure of Mr. Cape's health.--His death.



My education becomes less satisfactory.--My guardian's state of
health.--I pursue my studies at Burnley.--Dr. Butler.--He encourages me
to write English.--Extract from a prize poem.--Public discussions in
Burnley School.--A debate on Queen Elizabeth.



My elder uncle.--We go to live at Hollins.--Description of the place.
--My strong attachment to it.--My first experiment in art-criticism.
--The stream at Hollins.--My first catamaran.--Similarity of my life at
Hollins to my life in France thirty-six years later.



Interest in the Middle Ages.--Indifference to the Greeks and Romans.
--Love for Sir Walter Scott's writings.--Interest in heraldry and
illuminations.--Passion for hawking.--Old books in the school library at
Burnley.--Mr. Edward Alexander of Halifax.--Attempts in literary
composition.--Contributions to the "Historic Times."--"Rome in
1849."--"Observations on Heraldry."



Political and religious opinions of my relations.--The Rev. James
Bardsley.--Protestant controversy with Rome.--German neology.--The
inspiration of the Scriptures.--Inquiry into foundation for the
doctrine.--I cease to be a Protestant.--An alternative presents
itself.--A provisional condition of prolonged inquiry.--Our medical
adviser.--His remarkable character.--His opinions.



First visit to London in 1851.--My first impression of the place.--
Nostalgia of the country.--Westminster.--The Royal Academy.--Resolution
never to go to London again.--Reason why this resolution was afterwards



The lore of reading a hindrance to classical studies.--Dr. Butler
becomes anxious about my success at Oxford.--An insuperable
obstacle.--My indifference to degrees.--Irksome hypocrisy.--I am nearly
sent to a tutor at Brighton.--I go to a tutor in Yorkshire.--His
disagreeable disposition.--Incident about riding.--Disastrous effect of
my tutor's intellectual influence upon me.--My private reading.--My
tutor's ignorance of modern authors.--His ignorance of the fine
arts.--His religious intolerance.--I declare my inability to sign the
Thirty-nine Articles.



Choice of a profession.--Love of literature and art.--Decision to make
trial of both.--An equestrian tour.--Windermere.--Derwentwater.--I take
lessons from Mr. J. P. Pettitt.--Ulleswater.--My horse turf.--Greenock,
a discovery.--My unsettled cousin.--Glasgow.--Loch
Lomond.--Inverary.--Loch Awe.--Inishail.--Inmstrynich.--Oban.--A
sailing excursion.--Mull and Ulva.--Solitary reading.



A journal.--Self-training.--Attempts in periodical literature.--The
time given to versification well spent.--Practical studies in art.--
Beginning of Mr. Ruskin's influence.--Difficulty in finding a master in
landscape-painting.--Establishment of the militia.--I accept a
commission.--Our first training.--Our colonel and our adjutant.--The
Grand Llama.--Paying off the men.



A project for studying in Paris.--Reading.--A healthy life.--
Quinsy.--My most intimate friend.



London again.--Accurate habits in employment of time.--Studies with Mr.
Pettitt.--Some account of my new master.--His method of technical
teaching.--Simplicity of his philosophy of art.--Incidents of his
life.--Rapid progress under Pettitt's direction.



Acquaintance with R. W. Mackay.--His learning and accomplishments.--His
principal pursuit.--His qualities as a writer.--Value of the artistic
element in literature.--C. R. Leslie, R. A.--Robinson, the
line-engraver.--The Constable family.--Mistaken admiration for minute
detail.--Projected journey to Egypt.--Mr. Ruskin.--Bonomi.--Samuel



A Visit to Rogers.--His Home.--Geniality in poets.--Talfourd.--Sir
Walter Scott.--Leslie's picture, "The Rape of the Lock."--George
Leslie.--Robert Leslie.--His nautical instincts.--Watkiss
Lloyd.--Landseer.--Harding.--Richard Doyle.



Miss Marian Evans.--John Chapman, the publisher.--My friend William
Shaw.--His brother Richard.--Mead, the tragedian.--Mrs. Rowan and her
daughter.--A vexatious incident.--I suffer from nostalgia for the



Some of my relations emigrate to New Zealand.--Difficulties of a poor
gentleman.--My uncle's reasons for emigration.--His departure.--Family
separations.--Our love for Hollins.



Resignation of commission in the militia.--Work from nature.--Spenser,
the poet.--Hurstwood.--Loch Awe revisited.--A customer.--I determine to
learn French well.--A tour in Wales.--Swimming.--Coolness on account of
my religious beliefs.--My guardian.--Evil effects of religions
bigotry.--Refuge in work.--My drawing-master.--Our excursion in Craven.



Publication of "The Isles of Loch Awe and other Poems."--Their
sale.--Advice to poetic aspirants.--Mistake in illustrating my book of
verse.--Its subsequent history.--Want of art in the book.--Too much
reality.--Abandonment of verse. A critic in "Fraser."--Visit to Paris
in 1855.--Captain Turnbull.--Ball at the Hotel de Ville.--Louis Napoleon
and Victor Emmanuel.



Thackeray's family in Paris.--Madame Mohl.--Her husband's encouraging
theory about learning languages.--Mr. Scholey.--His friend, William
Wyld.--An Indian in Europe.--An Italian adventuress.--Important meeting
with an American.--Its consequences.--I go to a French hotel.--People
at the _table d'hote_.--M. Victor Ouvrard.--His claim on the
Emperor.--M. Gindriez.--His family.--His eldest daughter.



Specialities in painting.--Wyld's practice.--Projected voyage on the
Loire.--Birth of the Prince Imperial.--Scepticism about his inheritance
of the crown.--The Imperial family.--I return home.--Value of the French
language to me.



My first encampment in Lancashire.--Value of encamping as a part of
educational discipline.--Happy days in camp.--The natural and the
artificial in landscape.--Sir James Kay Shuttleworth's Exhibition
project.--I decline to take an active part in it.--His energetic and
laborious disposition.--Charlotte Bronte.--General Scarlett.


I visit the homes of my forefathers at Hamerton, Wigglesworth, and
Hellifield Peel.--Attainder and execution of Sir Stephen Hamerton.
--Return of Hellifield Peel to the family.--Sir Richard.--The Hamertons
distinguished only for marrying heiresses.--Another visit to the Peel,
when I see my father's cousin.--Nearness of Hellifield Peel and Hollins.



Expedition to the Highlands in 1857.--Kindness of the Marquis of
Breadalbane and others.--Camp life, its strong and peculiar
attraction.--My servant.--Young Helliwell.--Scant supplies in the
camp.--Nature of the camp.--Necessity for wooden floors in a bad
climate.--Double-hulled boats.--Practice of landscape-
painting.--Changes of effect.--Influences that governed my way of study
in those days.--Attractive character of the Scottish Highlands.--Their
scenery not well adapted for beginners.--My intense love of it.



Small immediate results of the expedition to the Highlands.--Unsuitable
system of work.--Loss of time.--I rent the house and island of
Innistrynich.--My dread of marriage and the reasons for
it.--Notwithstanding this I make an offer and am refused.--Two young
ladies of my acquaintance.--Idea of a foreign marriage.--Its
inconveniences.--Decision to ask for the hand of Mdlle. Gindriez.--I go
to Paris and am accepted.--Elective affinities.



Reception at home after engagement.--Preparations at Innistrynich.--I
arrive alone in Paris.--My marriage.--The religious ceremony.--An
uncomfortable wedding.--The sea from Dieppe.--London.--The Academy
Exhibition of 1858.--Impressions of a Frenchwoman.--The Turner
collection.--The town.--Loch Awe.--The element wanting to happiness.




My first sight of Loch Awe.--Arrival at Innistrynich.--Our domestic
life.--Difficulties about provisions.--A kitchen-garden.



Money matters.--Difficulties about servants.--Expensiveness of our mode
of life.



Painting from nature.--Project of an exhibition.--Photography.--Plan of
"A Painter's Camp."--Topographic art.--Charm of our life in the



English and French manners.--My husband's relatives.--First journey to
France after our marriage.--Friends in London.--Miss Susan Hamerton.



Visits from friends and relatives.--A Frenchman in the Highlands.--
Project of buying the island of Innistrynich.



Financial complications.--Summer visitors.--Boats and boating.--Visit
to Paris.--W. Wyld.--Project of a farm in France.--Partnership with M.



Effects of the Highland climate.--Farewell to Loch Awe.--Journey to the
south of France.--Death of Miss Mary Hamerton.--Settlement at
Sens.--Death of M. Gindriez.--Publication of "A Painter's Camp."
--Removal to Pre-Charmoy.



Canoeing on the Unknown River.--Visit of relatives.--Tour in
Switzerland.--Experiments in etching.--The "Saturday Review."--Journeys
to London.--Plan of "Etching and Etchers."--New friends in
London.--Etching exhibited at the Royal Academy.--Serious illness in
London.--George Eliot.--Professor Seeley.



Studies of animals.--A strange visitor.--Illness at Amiens.--Resignation
of post on the "Saturday Review."--Nervous seizure in railway
train.--Mrs. Craik.--Publication of "Etching and Etchers."
--Tennyson.--Growing reputation in America.



"Wenderholme."--The Mont Beuvray.--Botanical studies.--La
Tuilerie.--Commencement of "The Portfolio."--The Franco-Prussian War.



Landscape-painting.--Letters of Mr. Peter Graham, R.A.--Incidents of the
war-time.--"The Intellectual Life."--"The Etcher's Handbook."



Popularity of "The Intellectual Life."--Love of animals.--English
visitors.--Technical notes.--Sir S. Seymour Haden.--Attempts to resume
railway travelling.



"Round my House."--Journey to England after seven years' absence.--Visit
to Mr. Samuel Palmer.--Articles for the "Encyclopedia Britannica."
--Death of my sister.--Mr. Appleton.



"Marmorne."--Paris International Exhibition.--"Modern Frenchmen."
--Candidature for the Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Arts.--The Bishop of
Autun.--The "Life of Turner."



Third edition of "Etching and Etchers."--Kew.--The "Graphic
Arts."--"Human Intercourse."



"Paris."--Miss Susan Hamerton's death.--Burnley revisited.--Hellifield
Peel.--"Landscape" planned.--Voyage to Marseilles.



"Landscape."--The Autobiography begun.--"Imagination in Landscape
Painting."--"The Saone."--"Portfolio Papers."



"Man in Art" begun.--Family events.--Mr. G. F. Watts.--Mr.
Bodley.--"French and English."



Decision to live near Paris.--Practice in painting and etching.--Search
for a house.--Clematis.



Removal to Paris.--Interest in the Bois de Boulogne.--M. Vierge.--"Man
in Art."--Contributions to "Scribner's Magazine."--New form of "The
Portfolio."--Honorary degree.--Last Journey to London.--Society of
Illustrators.--Illness and death.






My reasons for writing an autobiography.--That a man knows the history
of his own life better than a biographer can know it.--Frankness and
reserve.--The contemplation of death.

My principal reasons for writing an autobiography are because I am the
only person in the world who knows enough about my history to give a
truthful account of it, and because I dread the possibility of falling
into the hands of some writer who might attempt a biography with
inadequate materials. I have already been selected as a subject by two
or three biographers with very friendly intentions, but their
friendliness did not always ensure accuracy. When the materials are not
supplied in abundance, a writer will eke them out with conjectural
expressions which he only intends as an amplification, yet which may
contain germs of error to be in their turn amplified by some other
writer, and made more extensively erroneous.

It has frequently been said that an autobiography must of necessity be
an untrue representation of its subject, as no man can judge himself
correctly. If it is intended to imply that somebody else, having a much
slighter acquaintance with the man whose life is to be narrated, would
produce a more truthful book, one may be permitted to doubt the validity
of the inference. Thousands of facts are known to a man himself with
reference to his career, and a multitude of determinant motives, which
are not known even to his most intimate friends, still less to the
stranger who so often undertakes the biography. The reader of an
autobiography has this additional advantage, that the writer must be
unconsciously revealing himself all along, merely by his way of telling

With regard to the great question of frankness and reserve, I hold that
the reader has a fair claim to hear the truth, as a biography is not
avowedly a romance, but at the same time that it is right to maintain a
certain reserve. My rule shall be to say nothing that can hurt the
living, and the memory of the dead shall be dealt with as tenderly as
may be compatible with a truthful account of the influences that have
impelled me in one direction or another.

I have all the more kindly feelings towards the dead, that when these
pages appear I shall be one of themselves, and therefore unable to
defend my own memory as they are unable to defend theirs.

The notion of being a dead man is not entirely displeasing to me. If the
dead are defenceless, they have this compensating advantage, that nobody
can inflict upon them any sensible injury; and in beginning a book which
is not to see the light until I am lying comfortably in my grave, with
six feet of earth above me to deaden the noises of the upper world, I
feel quite a new kind of security, and write with a more complete
freedom from anxiety about the quality of the work than has been usual
at the beginning of other manuscripts.

Nevertheless, the clear and steady contemplation of death (I have been
looking the grim king in the face for the last hour) may produce a
paralyzing effect upon a man by making his life's work seem very small
to him. For, whatever we believe about a future state, it is evident
that the catastrophe of death must throw each of us instantaneously into
the past, from the point of view of the living, and they will see what
we have done in a very foreshortened aspect, so that except in a few
very rare cases it must look small to them, and ever smaller as time
rolls on, and they will probably not think much of it, or remember us
long on account of it. And in thinking of ourselves as dead we
instinctively adopt the survivor's point of view. Besides which, it is
reasonable to suppose that whatever fate may be in store for us, a
greater or less degree of posthumous reputation in two or three nations
on this planet can have little effect on our future satisfaction; for if
we go to heaven, the beatitude of the life there will be so incomparably
superior to the pleasures of earthly fame that we shall never think of
such vanity again; and if we go to the place of eternal tortures they
will leave us no time to console ourselves with pleasant memories of any
kind; and if death is simply the ending of all sensation, all thought,
memory, and consciousness, it will matter nothing to a handful of dust
what estimate of the name it once bore may happen to be current amongst
the living--

"Les grands Dieux savent seuls si l'ame est immortelle,
Mais le juste travaille a leur oeuvre eternelle."



My birthplace.--My father and mother.--Circumstances of their
marriage.--Their short married life.--Birth of their child.--Death of
my mother.--Her character and habits.--My father as a widower.--Dulness
of his life.--Its degradation.

I was born at Laneside near Shaw, which is now a manufacturing town of
some importance about two miles from Oldham in Lancashire, and about
four miles from Rochdale in the same county.

Laneside is a small estate with some houses and a little cotton-mill
upon it, which belonged to my maternal grandfather. The house is of
stone, with a roof of stone slate such as is usual in those parts, and
it faces the road, from which it is separated by a little enclosure,
that may be called a garden if you will. When I was a child, there were
two or three poplar trees in that enclosure before the house; but trees
do not prosper there, and now there is probably not one on the whole
estate. One end of the house (which is rather long for its height and
depth) abuts against the hill, and close behind it is the cotton-mill
which my grandfather worked, with no great profit to himself or
advantage to his descendants. I have mentioned a road that passes the
house; it is steep, narrow, and inconvenient. It leads up to an elevated
tract of the most dreary country that can be imagined, but there are one
or two fields on the Laneside estate, above the stone-quarry, from which
there is a good view in the direction of Rochdale.

I never knew my grandfather Cocker, but have heard that he was a lively
and vigorous man, who enjoyed life very heartily in his way. He married
a Miss Crompton, who had a little property and was descended from the De
Cromptons of Crompton Hall. I am not aware that she had any family
pride, but, like most people in that neighborhood, she had a great
appreciation of the value of money, and when she was left alone with her
daughter, in consequence of Philip Cocker's premature death, she was
more inclined to favor wealthy than impecunious suitors.
My father had come to Shaw as a young attorney some time before he asked
for Anne Cocker in marriage. He had very little to recommend him except
a fine person, great physical strength, and fifteen quarterings. He had
a reputation for rather dissolute habits, was a good horseman, an
excellent shot, looked very well in a ball-room, and these, I believe,
were all his advantages, save an unhappy faculty for shining in such
masculine company as he could find in a Lancashire village in the days
of George IV. Money he had none, except what he earned in his
profession, at one time rather a good income.

Miss Anne Cocker was a young lady with a will of her own, associated, I
have been told (the two characteristics are by no means incompatible),
with a very sweet and amiable disposition. At a time when my grandmother
still vigorously opposed the match with my father, there happened to be
a public charity ball in Shaw, and Miss Cocker showed her intentions in
a very decided manner, by declining to dance with several gentlemen
until the young lawyer presented himself, when she rose immediately with
a very gracious smile, which was observed by all near enough to witness
it. This was rather unkind perhaps to the other aspirants, and is, in
fact, scarcely defensible, but it was Miss Cocker's way of declaring her
intentions publicly. When my father made his offer, he was refused by my
grandmother's orders, but received encouragement from her daughter (a
tone of voice, or a look, yet more a tear, would be enough for a lover's
hope), and counted upon the effects of perseverance. At length, when he
and Miss Cocker thought they had waited long enough, they determined to
marry without Mrs. Cocker's consent, and the determination was notified
to my grandmother in the following very decided terms:--

"DR. Madam,--You are no doubt well aware of the warm attachment which
has long existed betwixt your dear daughter and myself. Upwards of
twelve months ago our affections were immovably fixed upon each other,
and I now consider it my duty to inform you that we are fully engaged,
and have finally concluded to be married within a fortnight of the
present time.

"I sincerely trust that all your hostile feelings towards me are
entirely worn out, and that you will receive me as the affectionate
husband of your beloved daughter, and I with great confidence hope we
shall be a happy family and live together with peace and harmony.

"At my request your daughter will have all her property settled upon
herself, so that I can have no control over it--thus leaving it
impossible that I should waste it. And I trust that by an active
attention to my profession I may be enabled not inconsiderably to
augment it.

"Be assured, Dear Madam, that your daughter and myself feel no little
solicitude for your comfort and happiness, and that we shall at all
times be most happy to promote them.

"It is our mutual and most anxious wish that you should not attempt to
throw any obstacle in the way of our marriage, as the only tendency it
could have under present circumstances would be to lessen the happiness
and comfort of our union.

"We trust therefore that your regard for your daughter's happiness will
induce you at once to give your full assent to the fulfilment of our
engagement, as you would thereby divest our marriage of all that could
possibly lessen the happiness we anticipate from it.

"I know that your principal objection to me has been on account of my
unsteadiness, and I deeply regret ever having given you cause to raise
such an objection; but I trust my conduct for some time back having been
of a very different character, will convince you that I have seen my
error. The gayety into which I have fallen may partly be ascribed to the
peculiarity of my situation; having no relations near me, no family
ties, no domestic comforts, &c., I may be the more excusable for having
kept the company of young men, but I can assure you I have lost all
inclination for the practice of such follies as I have once fallen into,
and I look to a steady, sober married life as alone calculated to afford
me happiness.

"I will wait upon you on Monday with most anxious hopes for your
favorable answer.

"I am, Dear Madam,

"Yours most respectfully,


"Shaw, June 1st, 1833."

The reader may be surprised by the double _m_ in the signature. It was
my father's custom to write our name so, for a reason that will be
explained in another chapter. The letter itself is rather formal,
according to the fashion of the time, but I think it is a good letter in
its way, and believe it to have been perfectly sincere. No doubt my
father fully intended to reform his way of life, but it is easier to
make a good resolution than to adhere to it. I do not know enough of the
degree of excess to which his love of pleasure led him, to be able to
describe his life as a young man accurately, but as my mother had been
well brought up and was a refined person for her rank in society, I
conclude that she would not have encouraged a notorious evil-liver.
Those who knew my father in his early manhood have told me that he was
very popular, and yet at the same time that he bore himself with
considerable dignity, one old lady going so far as to say that when he
walked through the main street at Shaw, it seemed as if all the town
belonged to him. It is difficult for us to understand quite accurately
the social code of the Georgian era, when a man might indulge in
pleasures which seem to us coarse and degrading, and yet retain all the
pride and all the bearing of a gentleman.

The marriage took place according to the fixed resolution of the
contracting parties, and their life together was immensely happy during
the short time that it lasted. Most unfortunately it came to an end
after little more than one year by my mother's lamentably premature
death. I happen to possess a letter from my father's sister to her
sister Anne in which she gives an account of this event, and print it
because it conveys the reality more vividly than a narrative at second
hand. The reader will pardon the reference to myself. It matters nothing
to a dead man--as I shall be when this page is printed--whether at the
age of fourteen days he was considered a fine-looking child or a

"_Friday Morning._

"MY DEAR ANNE,--You will not calculate upon so speedy an answer as this
to your long and welcome epistle, nor will you calculate upon the
melancholy intelligence I have to communicate. Poor John's wife,
certainly the most amiable of all woman-kind, departed this life at
twenty minutes past eleven last night. Her recovery from her confinement
was very wonderful, we thought, but alas! it was a false one. The Drs.
Whitaker of Shaw, Wood of Rochdale, and Bardsley of Manchester all agree
in opinion that she has died of mere weakness without any absolute
disease. She has been very delicate for a long time. Poor dear John--if
I were quite indifferent to him I should grieve to see his agonies--he
says at sixty it might have happened in the common course of things and
he would have borne it better, but at twenty-nine, just when he is
beginning life, his sad bereavement does indeed seem untimely. It is a
sore affliction to him, sent for some good, and may he understand and
apply it with wisdom! They had, to be sure, hardly been married long
enough to quarrel, but I never saw a couple so intent on making each
other happy; they had not a thought of each other but what tended to
please. The poor little boy is a very fine one, and I hope he will be
reared, though it often happens that when the mother is consumptive the
baby dies. I do hope when John is able to look after his office a little
that the occupation of his mind will give him calm. He walks from room
to room, and if I meet him and he is able to articulate at all, he says,
'Ah! where must I be? what must I do?' He says nobody had such a wife,
and I do think nobody ever had. He wanted me not to write till
arrangements were made about the funeral. I thought you would be sorry
to be informed late upon a subject so near John's heart, and that it was
too late for Mr. Hinde [Footnote: The Rev. Thomas Hinde, Vicar of
Featherstone, brother-in-law of the writer of the letter.] to come to
the funeral. I have really nothing to say except that our poor sister
was so tolerable on Wednesday morning that I went with the Milnes of
Park House to Henton Park races, which I liked very well, but as things
have turned out I heartily repent going. Ann was, we hoped, positively
recovering on Monday and Tuesday, but it seems to have been a lightening
before death. She was a very long time in the agonies of death, but
seemed to suffer very little. Our afflicted brother joins me in best
love to you and your dear children. Kind compliments to Mr. Hinde.

"I remain,

"Your affectionate Sister,


The letter is without date, but it bears the Manchester postmark of
September 27, 1834, and the day of my birth was the tenth of the same
month. The reader may have observed a discrepancy with reference to my
mother's health. First it is said that the doctors all agreed in the
opinion that she died of mere weakness, without any absolute disease,
but afterwards consumption is alluded to. I am not sure, even yet,
whether my mother was really consumptive or only suffered from debility.
Down to the time when I write this (fifty-one years after my mother's
death) there have never been any symptoms of consumption in me.

No portrait of my mother was ever taken, so that I have never been able
to picture her to myself otherwise than vaguely, but I remember that on
one occasion in my youth when I played the part of a young lady in a
charade, several persons present who had known her, said that the
likeness was so striking that it almost seemed as if she had appeared to
them in a vision, and they told me that if I wanted to know what my
mother was like, I had only to consult a looking-glass. She had blue
eyes, a very fair complexion, and hair of a rich, strongly-colored
auburn, a color more appreciated by painters than by other people. In
the year 1876 I was examining a large boxful of business papers that had
belonged to my father, and burning most of them in a garden in
Yorkshire, when a little packet fell out of a legal document that I was
just going to throw upon the fire. It was a lock of hair carefully
folded in a piece of the bluish paper my father used for his law
correspondence, and fastened with an old wire-headed pin. I at once took
it to a lady who had known my mother, and she said without a moment's
hesitation that the hair was certainly hers, so that I now possess this
relic, and it is all I have of my poor mother whose face I never saw,
and whose voice I never heard. Few people who have lived in the world
have left such slight traces. There are no letters of hers except one or
two formal compositions written at school under the eye of the mistress,
which of course express nothing of her own mind or feelings. Those who
knew her have told me that she was a very lively and amiable person,
physically active, and a good horsewoman. She and my father were fond of
riding out together, and indeed were separated as little as might be
during their brief happiness. She even, on one occasion, went out
shooting with him and killed something, after which she melted into
tears of pity over her victim. [Footnote: A lady related to my mother
shot well, and killed various kinds of game, of which I remember seeing
stuffed specimens as trophies of her skill.]

The reader will pardon me for dwelling thus on these few details of a
life so sadly and prematurely ended. The knowledge that my mother had
died early cast a certain melancholy over my childhood; I found that
people looked at me with some tenderness and pity for her sake, so I
felt vaguely that there had been a great loss, though unable to estimate
the extent of it. Later, when I understood better what pains and perils
Nature inflicts on women in order that children may come into the world,
it seemed that the days I lived had been bought for me by the sacrifice
of days that my mother ought to have lived. She was but twenty-four when
she passed away, so that now I have lived more than twice her span.

The effect of the loss upon my father was utterly disastrous. His new
and good projects were all shattered, and a cloud fell over his
existence that was never lifted. He did not marry again, and he lost his
interest in his profession. My mother left him all her property
absolutely, so he felt no spur of necessity and became indolent or
indifferent; yet those who were capable of judging had a good opinion of
his abilities as a lawyer. Just before his wife's death, my father had
rather distinguished himself in an important case, and received a
testimonial from his client with the following inscription:--

_Presented to Mr. Hammerton, Solr, by his obliged client Mr. Waring, as
a token of Esteem for his active services in the cause tried against
Stopherd at Lancaster, in the arrangement of the argument arising
thereon at Westminster, and his successful defence to the Equity Suit
instituted by the Deft_. 1834.

My father's practice at that time was beginning to be lucrative, and
would no doubt have become much more so in a few years; but the blow to
his happiness that occurred in the September of 1834 produced such
discouragement that he sought relief from his depression in the society
of lively companions. Most unfortunately for him, there was no lively
masculine society in the place where he lived that was not at the same
time a constant incitement to drinking. There were a few places in the
Lancashire of those days where convivial habits were carried to such a
degree that they destroyed what ought to have been the flower of the
male population. The strong and hearty men who believed that they could
be imprudent with impunity, the lively, intelligent, and sociable men
who wanted the wittiest and brightest talk that was to be had in the
neighborhood, the bachelor whose hearth was lonely, and the widower
whose house had been made desolate, all these were tempted to join
meetings of merry companions who set no limits to the strength or the
quantity of their potations. My poor father was a man of great physical
endowments, and he came at last to have a mistaken pride in being able
to drink deeply without betraying any evil effects; but a few years of
such an existence undermined one of the finest constitutions ever given
to mortal man. A quarryman once told me that my father had appeared at
the quarry at six o'clock in the morning looking quite fresh and hearty,
when, taking up the heaviest sledge-hammer he could find, he gayly
challenged the men to try who could throw it farthest. None of them came
near him, on which he turned and said with a laugh of satisfaction,
--"Not bad that, for a man who drank thirty glasses of brandy the
day before!" Whether he had ever approached such a formidable
number I will not venture to say, but the incident exactly paints my
father in his northern pride of strength, the fatal pride that believes
itself able to resist poison because it has the muscles of an athlete.

It was always said by those who knew the family that my father was the
cleverest member of it, but his ability must have expended itself in
witty conversation and in his professional work, as I do not remember
the smallest evidence of what are called intellectual tastes. My mother
had a few books that had belonged to her family, and to these my father
added scarcely anything. I can remember his books quite clearly, even at
this distance of time. One was a biography of William IV., another a set
of sketches of Reform Ministers, a third was Baines's "History of
Lancashire," a fourth a Geographical Dictionary. These were, I believe,
almost all the books (not concerned with the legal profession) that my
father ever purchased. His bookcase did not contain a single volume by
the most popular English poets of his own time, nor even so much as a
novel by Sir Walter Scott. I have no recollection of ever having seen
him read a book, but he took in the "Times" newspaper, and I clearly
remember that he read the leading articles, which it was the fashion at
that time to look upon as models of style. This absence of interest in
literature was accompanied by that complete and absolute indifference to
the fine arts which was so common in the middle classes and the country
aristocracy of those days. I mention these deficiencies to explain the
extreme dulness of my poor father's existence during his widowhood, a
dulness that a lover of books must have a difficulty in imagining. A man
living alone with servants (for his son's childhood was spent
elsewhere), who took hardly any interest in a profession that had become
little more than nominal for him, who had not even the stimulus of a
desire to accumulate wealth (almost the only recognized object in the
place where he lived), a man who had no intellectual pursuits whatever,
and whose youth was too far behind him for any joyous physical activity,
was condemned to seek such amusements as the customs of the place
afforded, and these all led to drinking. He and his friends drank when
they were together to make society merrier, and when they happened to be
alone they drank to make solitude endurable. Had they drunk light wines
like French peasants, or beer like Germans, they might have lasted
longer, but their favorite drink was brandy in hot strong grogs,
accompanied by unlimited tobacco. They dined in the middle of the day,
and had the spirit decanters and the tobacco-box on the table instead of
dessert, frequently drinking through the whole afternoon and a long
evening afterwards. In the morning they slaked alcoholic thirst with
copious draughts of ale. My father went on steadily with this kind of
existence without anything whatever to rescue him from its gradual and
fatal degradation. He separated himself entirely from the class he
belonged to by birth, lived with men of little culture, though they may
have had natural wit, and sacrificed his whole future to mere village
conviviality. Thousands of others have followed the same road, but few
have sacrificed so much. My father had a constitution such as is not
given to one man in ten thousand, and his mind was strong and clear,
though he had not literary tastes. He was completely independent, free
to travel or to make a fortune in his profession if he preferred a
sedentary existence, but the binding force of habit overcame his
weakened will, and he fell into a kind of life that placed intellectual
and moral recovery alike beyond his reach.



My childhood is passed at Burnley with my aunts.--My grandfather and
grandmother.--Estrangement between Gilbert Hamerton and his brother of
Hellifield Peel.--Death of Gilbert Hamerton.--His taste for the French
language.--His travels in Portugal, and the conduct of a steward during
his absence.--His three sons.--Aristocratic tendencies of his
daughters.--Beginning of my education.--Visits to my father.

I was not brought up during childhood under my father's roof, but was
sent to live with his two unmarried sisters. These ladies were then
living in Burnley with their mother.

Burnley is now a large manufacturing town of seventy thousand
inhabitants, but in those days it was just rising in importance, and a
few years earlier it had been a small country town in an uncommonly
aristocratic neighborhood. The gate of Towneley Park opens now almost
upon the town itself, and in former times there were many other seats of
the greater or lesser squires within a radius of a very few miles. It is
a common mistake in the south of England to suppose that Lancashire is a
purely commercial county. There are, or were in my youth, some very
aristocratic neighborhoods in Lancashire, and that immediately about
Burnley was one of them. The creation of new wealth, and the extinction
or departure of a few families, may have altered its character since
then, but in the days of my grandfather nobody thought of disputing the
supremacy of the old houses. There was something almost sublime in the
misty antiquity of the Towneley family, one of the oldest in all
England, and still one of the wealthiest, keeping house in its venerable
castellated mansion in a great park with magnificent avenues. Other
houses of less wealth and more modern date had their pedigrees in the
history of Lancashire.

My grandfather, Gilbert Hamerton, possessed an old gabled mansion with a
small but picturesque estate, divided from Towneley Park by a public
road, and he had other property in the town and elsewhere enough to make
him independent, but not enough to make him one of the great squires.
However, as he was the second son of an ancient Yorkshire family, and as
pedigrees and quarterings counted for something in those comparatively
romantic times, the somewhat exclusive aristocracy about Burnley had
received him with much cordiality from the first, and he continued all
his life to belong to it. His comparative poverty was excused by a
well-known history of confiscation in his family, and perhaps made him
rather more interesting, especially as it did not go far enough to
become--what poverty becomes so easily--ridiculous. He lived in a large
old house, and plentifully enough, but without state and style. His
marriage had been extremely imprudent from the worldly point of view. An
aunt of my grandfather's, on his mother's side, had invited him to stay
with her, and had not foreseen the attractions of a farmer's daughter
who was living in the house as a companion. My good, unworldly
grandfather fell in love with this girl, and married her. He never had
any serious reason to regret this very imprudent step, for Jane Smith
became an excellent wife and mother, and she did not even injure his
position in society, where she knew how to make herself respected, and
was much beloved by her most intimate friends. I remember her, though I
never knew my grandfather. My recollection of her is a sort of picture
of an old lady always dressed in black, and seated near a window, or
walking slowly with a stick. The dawn of reason and feeling is
associated in my memory with an intense affection for this old lady and
with the kind things she said to me, not yet forgotten. I remember, too,
the awful stillness of her dead body (hers was the first dead human body
I looked upon), and the strange emptiness of the house when it had been
taken away.

Though my grandmother was only a farmer's daughter, her parents were
well-to-do in their own line of life, and at various times helped my
grandfather with sums of money; but the fact remained that he had
married quite out of his class, and it has always seemed to me probable
that the marriage may have had some connection with the complete and
permanent estrangement that existed between Gilbert Hamerton and his
brother, the squire of Hellifield Peel. As soon as I was old enough to
understand a little about relationships, I reflected that the houses of
my own uncles were open to me, that my cousins were all like brothers
and sisters to me, and yet that my father and my aunts had never been to
their uncle's house at Hellifield, and that our relations there never
came to see us at Burnley. The explanation of this estrangement given by
my grandfather, was that there had been a disagreement about land; but
perhaps he may have felt some delicacy about telling his children that
his unambitious marriage had contributed to render the separation
permanent. However this may have been, my grandmother never once saw the
inside of her brother-in-law's house, and when she died there was, I
believe, not even the formal expression of condolence that is usual
among acquaintances. Gilbert Hamerton had lived at Hollins, a house and
estate inherited from his mother; and James Hamerton, the elder brother,
lived in a castellated peel or border tower at Hellifield, which had
been built by Lawrence Hamerton in 1440. The two places are not much
more than twenty miles apart; but the brothers never met after their
quarrel, and my grandfather's sons and daughters never saw their uncle's
house. One result of the estrangement was that we hardly seemed to
belong to our own family; and I remember a lady, who had some very vague
and shadowy claims to a distant connection with the family at
Hellifield, asking one of my aunts in a rather patronizing manner if she
also did not "claim to be connected" with the Hamertons of Hellifield
Peel. Even to this day it is difficult for me to realize the simple fact
that she was niece to an uncle whom she had never seen, and first cousin
to his successor.

My grandfather had lived in apparently excellent health till the age of
seventy-seven, when one afternoon as he was seated in his dining-room at
Hollins, nobody being present except his eldest daughter Mary, he asked
her to open the window, and then added, "Say a prayer." She immediately
began to repeat a short prayer, and before she had reached the end of it
he was dead. There is a strange incident connected with his death, which
may be worth something to those who take an interest in what is now
called "Psychical Research." At the same hour his married daughter was
sitting in a room forty miles away with her little boy, a child just old
enough to talk, and the child stared with intense interest at an empty
chair. His mother asked what attracted his attention, and the child
said, "Don't you see, mamma, the old gentleman who is sitting in that
chair?" I am careful not to add details, as my own imagination might
unconsciously amplify them, but my impression is that the child was
asked to describe the vision more minutely, and that his description
exactly accorded with his grandfather's usual appearance.

The old gentleman preserved the costume and manners of the eighteenth
century, wearing his pig-tail, breeches, and shoe-buckles. He took life
too easily for any intellectual achievements, but he had a great liking
for the French language, and wrote a very original French grammar, which
he had curiously printed in synoptic sheets, at his private expense,
though it was never completed or published. I have sometimes thought it
possible that my own aptitude and affinity for that language may have
been inherited from him, and that his labors may in a manner have
overcome many difficulties for me by the wonderful process of
transmission. He never lived in France, and I believe he never visited
the country, his French conversations being chiefly held with a
good-natured Roman Catholic chaplain at Towneley Hall. My grandfather's
most extensive travels were in Portugal, lasting six months, and with
regard to that journey I remember two painful incidents. His travelling
companion, a younger brother, died abroad, in consequence of having
slept in a damp bed. The other incident is vexatious rather than
tragical, and yet Wordsworth would have seen tragedy in it also. During
his absence from home, my grandfather had confided the care of his
estate to an agent, who cut down the old avenue of oaks that led to the
house, on the pretext that some of the trees were showing signs of
decay, and that he had an acceptable offer for the whole. The road
retained the name of "The Avenue" for many years, but the trees were
never replaced.

Perhaps the reader will think this incident hardly worth mentioning, but
to a lover of trees, avenues, and old houses, such as I confess myself
to be, it seems the very perfection of a vexatious incident. I cannot
imagine anything whatever, not entailing any serious consequences, that
would have tried my own temper more.

On my grandfather's death, the whole of his property went to his eldest
son. He had brought up all his three sons to be solicitors, not because
he had any peculiar enthusiasm for the legal profession, but simply as
the readiest means of earning a living. The sons themselves had no
natural affinity for the law; my eldest uncle heartily disliked it, the
other regarded it with cool indifference, and my father expressed his
desire that I should never be a lawyer, on the ground that a man had
enough to plague him in his own concerns without troubling his mind
about those of other people. One curious distinction may be noted here,
as the result probably of that intermingling with the every-day world,
which happens naturally in the career of provincial attorneys. Whilst my
aunts remained all their lives aristocratic in their feelings, and
rather liked to enjoy the hospitality of the great houses in the
neighborhood, my uncles, and my father also, abandoned all aristocratic
memories and aspirations, and entered frankly into the middle class.
Each of them did what was natural under the circumstances. Women are
generally more aristocratic than men, and cling more decidedly to their
class, and I think my aunts showed better taste in liking refined
society than my father did in lowering himself to associate with men of
an inferior stamp in rank, in manners, and in habits. I distinctly
remember how one of my aunts told me that somebody had made a remark on
her liking for great people, and the only comment she made was, that she
preferred gentlefolks because their manners were more agreeable. She was
not a worshipper of rank, but she liked the quiet, pleasant manners of
the aristocracy, which indeed were simply her own manners.

My childhood could not have been better cared for, even by my own
mother, than by these two excellent ladies. They gave me a beginning of
education, and they have told me since that I learned to read English
with the greatest facility, so that when I was sent to the Grammar
School at Burnley, at the early age of five and a half, the master
considered me so well forward that I was set at once to Latin. In those
days it was a part of the wisdom of our educators to make us learn Latin
out of a grammar written in that language, and I retain some
recollection of the perfectly useless mental fatigue and puzzlement that
I was made to undergo in learning abstract statements about grammatical
science that were written in a tongue which I could not possibly
understand. The idea of taking a child five and a half years old, and
making it learn a dead language by abstract rules, is of itself a great
error. The proper way to teach a child Latin is simply to give it a
vocabulary, including only the things that it can see or imagine, and a
few verbs to make little phrases. I had learned to read English so
easily that good hopes were entertained for the rest of my education,
but my progress in Latin was very slow, and the only result of my early
training was to give me a horror of everything printed in Latin, that I
did not overcome for many years.

There was another child-pupil rather older than I, and the head-master
of those days (Dr. Butler's predecessor), who had a rude disposition,
sometimes amused himself by putting me on one of his knees, and the
other little boy on the other knee, after which, by an adroit
simultaneous movement of the two legs, he suddenly brought our heads
into collision. I quite remember the sensation of being stunned on these
occasions, but am not aware that my Latin was any the better for it.

My recollection of those early years is extremely vague, and there is
little in them that could interest the reader. I was taken once or twice
a year to my father, and always disliked and dreaded those visits, as I
feared him greatly, and with good reason. On one of these visits, when
quite a child, I persuaded my father's groom to let me mount his
saddle-horse, which I remember as a gray animal of what seemed a
prodigious altitude. The man put me on the horse's back, and being
entirely destitute of common-sense or prudence, actually gave me a whip
and left the bridle to me. I applied the whip vigorously, and was very
soon thrown off and carried back to the house covered with blood,
happily without more serious consequences. Another little incident has
more of the comic element. My father employed a tailor for himself, and
told the man to make me a suit without entering into any particulars.
The tailor being thus left to his own wisdom, made a costume that was
the exact copy of a full-grown squire's dress on a small scale. It was
composed of a green cut-away coat, a yellow waistcoat, and green
trousers, the whole adorned with gilt buttons. The tailor dressed me,
and then, proud of his work, presented me to my father and the ladies.
If the tailor was proud, my pride and satisfaction were at least equal
to his, and we neither of us could in the least understand the roars of
laughter that my appearance provoked, whilst our feelings were deeply
wounded by my father's tyrannical decree that I was never to wear those
beautiful clothes at all. Even to this day I am capable of regretting
that suit, and certainly I often see children now whose costumes are at
least equally absurd.



A tour in Wales in 1842.--Extracts from my journal of this tour.--My
inborn love for beautiful materials.--Stay at Rhyl.--Anglesea and
Caernarvon.--Reasons for specially remembering this tour.

The pleasantest recollections I have of my father are connected with a
tour in Wales that he undertook with me and his eldest sister in the
summer of 1842. My aunt made me keep a journal of that tour, which I
still possess, and by its help those days come hack to me with a
vividness that is very astonishing to myself. Being accustomed to live
with grown-up people, and having no companions of my own age in the same
house (though I had cousins at Hollins and friends at school), I had
acquired a way of talking about things as older people talk, so that the
journal in question contains many observations that do not seem natural
for a child. The fact, no doubt, is that I listened to my father and
aunt, and then put down many of their remarks in my little history of
our tour; but I was very observant on my own account, and received very
strong impressions, especially from buildings, such as old castles and
cathedrals, and great houses, and I had a topographic habit of mind even
in childhood, which made every fresh locality interesting to me and
engraved it on my memory. Perhaps the reader may like to see a page of
the diary. It seems rather formal and elderly to be written by a child
eight years old, but it must be remembered that it was an exercise
written by my father's desire and to please him. Letters to my cousins
at the same date would have been more juvenile. Nevertheless, it was
perfectly natural for me then to use words employed by older people, and
the reader will remember that I had been learning Latin for more than
two years.

"On the road from Rhydland to Abergele we saw Hemmel Park, the seat of
Lord Dinorbin, lately burnt down. Near Rhydland is Penwarn, the seat of
Lord Mostyn; the house is small and unpretending, the grounds are
beautiful. There is a very handsome dog-kennel, in which are kept
forty-four couple of fine fox-hounds ready for work, besides old ones in
one kennel, and young ones in another: the dogs all in such good order
and kennels so perfectly clean. In one field were sixteen hunters
without shoes. Lord Mostyn does not live much at Penwarn, generally in
London. He is an old man, and at present an invalid. We had several
pleasant days' fishing in the Clwyd and Elway; a Mr. Graham at Rhyl has
permission to fish in Lord Mostyn's preserve, and he may take a friend,
which character Papa and I personated for the time.

"About eight miles from Rhyl is Trelacre, the seat of Sir Pyers Mostyn,
a very excellent modern building; the grounds are laid out with most
luxuriant taste, nothing is wanting to give effect to it as a whole. In
the woods opposite the house is a rich but rather formal distribution of
flower-beds; everything appeared to be in blossom. On an elevation is
placed the most ingeniously contrived Grotto; at every turn there is a
device of another character to the last, here a lion couchant, there the
head of Momus, a wild boar's head, a heron, a skeleton, &c., &c. In one
place were two old friars seated, each leaning on his stick, apparently
in earnest conversation; all these are roughly, but with great accuracy,
formed upon the numerous pillars which support a room or two above. The
last object you arrive at is a hermit as large as life seated in his
cell, with one book beside him and another on his knee, upon which his
left hand is placed; his right is laid across his breast. The pillars
are so contrived that the little cavern is light in every part; at the
entrance is an immense sea-dragon with large glaring eyes and a long red
tongue hanging half-way out. The monster had an effect somewhat
startling. Next above the grotto is a small room hewn out of the rock,
with sofas and pillows on each side the fireplace hewn out of the same
rock. In the centre is a stone table, upon which were some beautiful
antique bowls, cups, &c. The door to this apartment is a great
curiosity, being made to appear as if of rock; we did not think at first
that it was a real door. Over this room is another, the residence of a
lame woman, who showed us upon the leads above her dwelling a very
extensive prospect; amongst the objects was the mouth of the river Dee.
She afterwards [took us] to a moss house, and several other nice points
in the garden. The walks are covered with the material left in washing
the lead ore, through which no weed can even peep. It is many-colored,
and the glittering of here and there a bit of ore, lead, or silver, has
a very pretty effect indeed."

The reader will have had enough of the journal by this time. Its only
merit is the accurate noting down of details that I had seen; but many
of the details are such as children of that age do not commonly pay
attention to, as, for instance, in this bit about an old church:--

"The church at Dyserth has an east window which is considered the
greatest antiquity in Wales; many figures of the saints are represented
in colored glass, the lead betwixt the panes is the breadth of two
fingers. The yard has several old trees--two very fine yews, and
certainly the largest birch for miles round."

I notice a great interest in all beautiful materials throughout the
pages of this journal; the kind of wood used for the suites of furniture
is invariably mentioned, as, for example, the chairs of solid ebony in
the dining-room at Penrhyn Castle, the old oak in the dining-room at
Trelacre, and the light oak in the drawing-room, the carved oak ceilings
and pillars at Penrhyn, and the use of stone from St. Helen's there, as
well as the bedstead that is made of slate, and the enormous table of
the same material in the servants' hall. The interest in materials is a
special instinct, a kind of sympathy with Nature showing itself by
appreciation of the different qualities of her products. This instinct
has always been very strong in me, and I have often noticed it in
others, especially in artists. Some poets are very fond of describing
beautiful materials; but the instinct is not confined to poetical or
artistic natures, being often found amongst workmen in the handicrafts,
and it may be associated with a sense of the usefulness of materials, as
well as with admiration of their beauty. With me the interest in them is
both artistic and utilitarian; all metals, woods, marble, etc., are
delightful to me in some way.

In 1842 Rhyl was a little quiet place known to the Liverpool people as a
good bathing-place, but not spoiled by formal rows of houses and big
hotels. There was at that time in Rhyl a gentleman who possessed a sort
of genteel cottage in a relatively large garden, and though the house
was small, it might have done for a widower like my father, and it was
for sale. I remember urging my father to buy it, as Rhyl pleased me on
account of the possibilities of boating and riding on the sands, besides
which we had enjoyed some excellent fishing, which delighted me as a
child, though I gave up the amusement afterwards. I mention the house
here for a particular reason. It has remained very distinctly in my
memory ever since, as my father's last chance of escape from his habits
and associates. Whilst we were in Wales together he conducted himself as
a man ought to do who is travelling with a lady and a child. He was not
harsh with me, and notwithstanding my habitual fear of him, some of my
Welsh days with him are pleasant to live over again in memory. Now, if
he had bought that house, the sort of life we were then leading might
have become habitual, and he might possibly have been saved from the sad
fate that awaited him. However, though tempted for a moment, he refused
because it did not seem a good investment, being a flimsy little
building, not very well contrived.

Though my father would not buy the house to please me, he bought me a
little bay mare at Rhyl that was a pretty and swift creature, and we
took her on the steamer to Menai, where, for want of a convenient
arrangement for landing horses, she was pitched into the sea and made to
swim ashore. She had been in a hot place on the steamer, near the
engines, and the sudden change to the cold sea-water was probably (so we
thought afterwards) the reason why she became broken-winded, which was a
great grief to me. I hardly know why I record these trifles, but they
have an importance in the feelings of a boy, and I am weak enough to
have very tender feelings about animals down to the present day.

We visited Anglesea and Caernarvon, and other places too well known for
the reader to tolerate a description of them here. In those days the
tubular bridge had not yet been thought of; but the beautiful suspension
bridge at Menai was already in existence, and was the most remarkable
bridge then existing in the world. I was more struck by the beauty of
the structure than by its costliness or size; the journal says, "It is
indeed wonderfully beautiful." On one of our excursions we saw what in
rainy weather is a good waterfall, and I find a reference to this that I
quote for the curious bit of Welsh-English that is included in it,--"We
came to a little village, which has in a wet season a very fine
waterfall; the driver said it would not be seen to advantage because
there was 'few water.' There certainly was 'few water,' but the fine
high rocks gave a powerful idea of what it would have been had the
rushing of waters taken the place of the death-like stillness which then

The reader will perhaps pardon me for having dwelt longer on this Welsh
tour than the interest of it may seem to warrant; but I look back to it
with lingering regret as the last agreeable association connected with
the memory of my father. It was a most happy little tour. I had an
intensely strong affection for my father's eldest sister Mary, who
accompanied us, and whose dear handwriting I recognize in a few
corrections in the journal. Besides, that year 1842 is absolutely the
last year of my life in which I could live in happy ignorance of evil
and retain all the buoyancy of early boyhood. A terrible experience was
in reserve for me that soon aged me rapidly, and made a really merry
boyish life impossible for me after having passed through it.



A painful chapter to write.--My father calls me home.--What kind of a
house it was.--Paternal education and discipline.--My life at that time
one of dulness varied by dread.

The writing of this chapter is so painful to me that the necessity for
it has made me put off the composition of this autobiography year after
year. Then why not omit the chapter altogether? The omission is
impossible, because the events of the year 1843-1844 were quite the most
important of my early boyhood, and have had a most powerful and in some
respects a disastrous influence over my whole life.

Notwithstanding my father's kindness to me during our Welsh tour, my
feelings towards him were not, and could not be, those of trust and
confidence. He was extremely severe at times, often much more so than
the occasion warranted, this being partly natural in a strong
authoritative man, and partly the result of irritability brought on by
his habit of drinking. When inflamed with brandy he became positively
dangerous, and I had a well-founded dread of his presence. At all times
he was very uncertain--he might greet me with a kind word or he might be
harsh or silent, just as it happened. During my visits to him at Shaw,
one of my two aunts invariably accompanied me and stayed as long as I
stayed, which was a great protection for me. The idea of being left
alone with my father, even for a day, was enough to fill me with
apprehension; however, it did not seem likely that I should have to live
with him, as I should probably be sent to some distant school, and only
come home for the holidays.

This was the view of my future that was taken by my aunts and myself,
when one day in the year 1843, I believe in the month of June, there
came a letter from my father peremptorily declaring, in terms which
admitted of no discussion, that although a child might live with ladies
it was not good for a boy, and that he had determined to have me for the
future under his own roof. The news came upon me like a thunderclap in a
clear sky. I had grateful and affectionate feelings towards both my
aunts, but to the elder my feelings were those of a son, and a very
loving son, towards his mother. She had, in fact, taken the place of my
mother so completely that I remained unconscious of my loss. I reserve
for a pleasanter chapter than this the delightful duty of painting her
portrait; at present it is enough to say that a separation from her in
childhood was the most bitter grief that could be experienced by me, and
my father's ukase made this separation seem destined to be eternal,
except perhaps a short visit in the holidays. In a word, my filial life
with her seemed at an end.

I was taken to my father's and left alone with him. Some years before,
he had bought a house in Shaw called Ivy Cottage,--a house with a front
of painted stucco, looking on a garden,--and though the gable end of the
house looked on a street, the other end had a view over some fields, not
then built over. My father rented one or two of these fields for his
horses and cows, and some farm buildings just big enough for his small
establishment. He did not keep a carriage, and had even given up his
dogcart, but he always had a saddle-horse for himself and a pony for me;
at one time I had two ponies. His horses were his only luxury, but he
was as exacting about them as if he had been a rich nobleman. He would
not tolerate careless grooming for an instant; bits and stirrups were
always kept in a state of exemplary brightness, and when he rode through
Shaw he was quite fit to be seen in Hyde Park. At that time he had a
jet-black mare of a vicious temper, which only gratified his pride as a
horseman, and it so happened (I am not inventing this for a contrast)
that my pony was of the purest white with full mane and tail of the
same, and shaped exactly like the sturdy war-horses in old pictures. As
he was still a fine-looking, handsome man and I was a healthy boy, no
doubt we looked well enough, and it is probable that many a poor factory
lad envied me my good luck in being able to ride about in that way,
instead of working in a mill; but I rode in constant dread of my
father's heavy hunting-whip. It had a steel hammer at the end of the
long handle, and if at any time its owner fancied that I was turning my
toes out, he did not say anything, but with a dexterity acquired by
practice he delivered a sharp blow with that hammer on my foot which
made me writhe with pain. Nothing vexed him more than any appearance of
gentleness or tenderness. I loved my pony, Lily, and did not like to
beat her when she was doing her best, and she had hard work to keep up
with my father's ill-tempered mare, so he would say, "D--n it, can't you
whip her? Can't you whip better than that? The strokes of that whip of
yours are so feeble that they wouldn't kill a fly!" Nobody could say
that of _his_ hitting. I had a little young dog that was very dear to
me, and when it pleased my father one day to walk into the kitchen, it
unluckily so happened that the dog was, or seemed to be, in his way, so
he gave it a kick that sent it into the middle of the room, and there it
lay quivering. He took no notice of it, said what he had to say, in his
usual peremptory tone, and then left the room. I knelt down by the poor
little dog, which was in its death-agony, and shortly breathed its last.

During our rides my dreaded companion would stop at many inns and
private houses, where he slaked his perpetual thirst in stirrup-cups, or
sometimes he would go in and sit for a long time whilst the horses were
cared for by some groom. The effects of these refreshments could not
fail to be evident as we returned home; and it was more by good luck
than anything else, except his habitually excellent horsemanship, that
he was able to ride at all in that condition. I clearly remember one
particular occasion when he seemed to be keeping his seat with more than
usual uncertainty, and at last fairly rolled out of it. We were riding
along a paved street, so that the fall would have been very serious; but
two or three men who were watching him foresaw the accident just in
time, and rushed forward to catch him as he fell. On another occasion
when I was not present (indeed this happened before my settled residence
with my father) he fell in a most dangerous way, with his foot caught in
the stirrup, and was dragged violently down a steep hill till the horse
was brought to a stand. Fortunately my father wore a top-coat at the
time, which was soon torn off his back by the friction, and so were his
other clothes, and the back itself was almost flayed; but the doctor
said that if he had been lightly dressed the accident would have been far
more serious.

My father would sometimes send me on errands to a considerable distance
with the pony, and as he hated all dawdling and loitering in others,
though he had become a perfectly undisciplined man himself, he would
limit me strictly to the time necessary for my journey, a time that I
never ventured to exceed. In some respects the education that he was
giving me, though of Spartan severity, was not ill calculated for the
formation of a manly character. He quite understood the importance of
applying the mind completely to the thing which occupied it for the
moment. If he saw me taking several books together that had no
connection with each other, he would say, "Take one of those books and
read it steadily, don't potter and play with half-a-dozen."

Desultory effort irritated him, and he was quick to detect busy idleness
under its various disguises. He swore very freely himself, and as I
heard so many oaths I was beginning to acquire the same accomplishment,
when he overheard me accidentally and gave me such a stern lecture on
the subject that I knew ever after I was not to follow the paternal
example. What his soul hated most, however, was a lie or the shadow of a
lie. He could not tolerate the little fibs that are common with women
and children, and are often their only protection against despotism.
"Tell the truth and shame the devil" was one of his favorite precepts,
though why the devil should feel ashamed because I spoke the truth was
never perfectly clear to my childish intellect. However, the precept
sank deep into my nature, and got mixed up with a feeling of
self-respect, so that it became really difficult for me to tell fibs. I
remember on one occasion being a martyr for truth in peculiarly trying
circumstances. It was before I lived permanently under the paternal
roof, and on one of those visits we paid to my father. An aunt was with
me (not the one who accompanied us to Wales), and she was often rather
hard and severe. My father had made a law that I was to practise with
dumb-bells a quarter of an hour every morning, and this exercise was
taken in the garden, but before beginning I always looked at the clock
which was in the sitting-room. On coming back into the house one
morning, I met my father, who said, "Have you done your fifteen
minutes?" "Yes, papa." "That is not true," said my aunt from the next
room, "he has only practised for ten minutes; look at the clock!" My
terrible master looked at the clock; the finger stood at ten minutes
after eleven, and this was taken as conclusive evidence against me. I
simply answered (what was true) that I had begun five minutes before the
hour. This "additional lie" put my father into a fury, and he ordered me
to do punishment drill with those dumb-bells for two hours without
stopping. Of those hundred and twenty minutes he did not remit one. Long
before their expiration I was ready to drop, but he came frequently to
show that he had his eye upon me, and the horrible machine-like motion
must continue. On other occasions I got punished for lying, when my only
fault was the common childish inability to explain. "Why did you tear
that piece of paper?" "Please, papa, I did not tear it; _I pulled it,
and it tore_." Here is a child attempting to explain that he had not
torn a piece of paper voluntarily, that he had stretched it only, and
had himself been surprised by the tearing. In my father's code that was
a "confounded lie," and I was to be severely punished for it.

His system of education included riding as an essential part, and that
he taught me well, so far as a child of that age could learn it. But
though there were harriers within a few miles he could not take me to
hunt, as children are sometimes taken in easier countries, the fields in
Lancashire being so frequently divided by stone walls. The nature of our
neighborhood equally prevented him from teaching me to swim, which he
would otherwise have done, as there were no streams deep enough, or left
in their natural purity. To accustom me to water, however, he made me
take cold shower-baths, certainly the best substitute for a plunge that
can be had in an ordinary room. In mental education he attached great
importance to common things, to arithmetic, for example, and to good
reading aloud, and intelligible writing. His own education had been very
limited; he knew no modern language but his own, and I believe he knew
no Greek whatever, and only just enough Latin for a solicitor, which in
those days was not very much; but if he was a Philistine in neglecting
his own culture, he had not the real Philistine's contempt for culture
in others and desired to have me well taught; yet there was nobody near
at hand to continue my higher education properly, and I was likely, had
we lived long together at Shaw, to become like the regular middle-class
Englishmen of those days, who from sheer want of preliminary training
were impervious to the best influences of literature and art. I might
have written a clear business letter, and calculated interest

To accustom me to money matters, child as I was, my father placed gold
and silver in my keeping, and whatever I spent was to be accounted for.
In this way money was not to be an imaginary thing for me, but a real
thing, and I was not to lose the control of myself because I had my
pocket full of sovereigns. This was a very original scheme in its
application to so young a child, but it perfectly succeeded, and I never
either lost or misapplied one halfpenny of the sums my father entrusted
to my keeping. He was evidently pleased with his success in this.

There was a village school near his house kept by a respectable man for
children of both sexes, and there I was sent to practise calligraphy and
arithmetic. During school-hours there was at least complete relief from
the paternal supervision, and besides this I managed to fall in love
with a girl about a year older than myself, who was a very nice girl
indeed, though she squinted to an unfortunate degree. That is the great
advantage of having the young of both sexes in the same schoolroom,--the
manners of the brutal sex may be made tender by the presence of the
refined one. Boys and girls both went to the Grammar School at Burnley,
in the now forgotten days when Mr. Raws was head-master there; but that
was long before my time.

My existence at Ivy Cottage was one of extreme dulness varied by dread.
Every meal was a _tete-a-tete_ with my father, unrelieved by the
presence of any lady or young person, and he became more and more gloomy
as his nervous system gradually gave way, so that after having been
simply stern and unbending, he was now like a black cloud always hanging
over me and ready, as it seemed, to be my destruction in some way or
other not yet clearly defined. It was an immense relief to me when a
guest came to dinner, and I remember being once very much interested in
a gentleman who sat opposite me at table, for the simple reason that I
believed him to be the Duke of Wellington. There was rather more fuss
than usual in the way of preparation, and my father treated his guest
with marked deference, besides which the stranger had the Wellingtonian
nose, so my youthful mind was soon made up on the subject, and I
listened eagerly in the hope that the hero of Waterloo would fight some
of his battles over again. He remained, however, silent on that subject,
and I afterwards had the disappointment of learning that our guest was
not the Duke, but only the holder of a high office in the county.



My extreme loneliness.--Thoughts of flight.--My father's last illness
and death.--Circumstances of my last interview with him.--His funeral.

It was one of the effects of the constant anxiety and excitement, and
the dreadful wretchedness of that time, that my brain received the
images of all surrounding creatures and things with an unnatural
clearness and intensity, and that they were impressed upon it for life.
Even now everything about Ivy Cottage is as clear as if the forty years
were only as many days, and the writing of these chapters brings
everything before me most vividly, not only the faces of the people and
the habits and motions of the animals, but even the furniture, of which
I remember every detail, down to the coloring of the services in the
bedrooms, and the paint on my father's rocking-chair. An anecdote has
been told in these pages about exercise with dumb-bells and an appeal to
the clock. In writing that, I saw the real clock with the moon on its
face (for it showed the phases of the moon), and my aunt standing near
the window with her work in her hand and glancing up from the work to
the clock, just as she did in reality.

Amongst other particular occasions I remember one night when the moon
shone very brightly in the garden, and I was sitting near my bedroom
window looking over it, meditating flight. My father's cruelty had then
reached its highest point. I was always spoken to harshly when he
condescended to take any notice of me at all, and was very frequently
beaten. Our meals together had become perfectly intolerable. He would
sit and trifle with his cutlet, and cover it with pepper, for his
appetite was completely gone, and there was no conversation except
perhaps an occasional expression of displeasure. The continual tension
caused by anxiety made my sleep broken and uncertain, and that night I
sat up alone in the bedroom longer than usual and looking down upon the
moonlit garden. There was an octagonal summer-house of trellis-work on
the formal oblong lawn, and on the top of it was a large hollow ball of
sheet-copper painted green that had cost my grandmother three pounds. It
is oddly associated with my anxieties on that night, because I looked
first at it and then at the moon alternately whilst thinking. The
situation had become absolutely intolerable, the servants were my only
protectors, and though devoted they never dared to interfere when their
master was actually beating me. I therefore seriously weighed, in my own
childish manner, the possibilities of a secret flight. The moonlight was
tempting--it would be easy to go alone to the stable and saddle the
pony. On a fine night I could be many miles away before morning. There
was no difficulty whatever about money; I had plenty of sovereigns in a
drawer to be accounted for afterwards to my father, and meanwhile could
employ them in escaping from him. Still, I knew that such an employment
of _his_ money would be looked upon by him as a breach of trust, and
would, in fact, _be_ a breach of trust. This consideration was not
easily set aside, though I now see that it was needlessly scrupulous,
and have no doubt whatever that if a child is left by the ignorance or
the carelessness of superior authority in the hands of a madman, it has
a clear right to provide for its own safety by any means in its power.

But where was I to go? My uncles were two very cool lawyers, always on
the side of authority, and they would not be likely to believe my story
entirely. A vague but sure instinct warned me that they would set me
down for a rebellious boy who wanted to escape from justly severe
paternal authority, and that they would at once send me back to Ivy
Cottage. One of my two maiden aunts would be very likely to take the
same view, but if the other received me with kindness, she could not
have strength to resist my father, who would send or go to her at once
and claim me. After thinking over all these things, I came to the
conclusion that real safety was only to be found amongst strangers, and
it seemed so hazardous to ask protection from unknown people that I
decided to remain; but a very little would have settled it the other
way. If those sovereigns had been really my own, I should probably have
crept out of the house, saddled the pony, and ridden many miles; but so
young a boy travelling alone would have been sure to attract attention,
and the attempt to win deliverance would have been a failure. In after
years, one of my elder relatives said that the attempt would almost
certainly have caused my father to disinherit me by a new will, as my
mother's property had been left to him absolutely. This danger was quite
of a serious kind (more serious than the reader will think probable from
what I choose to say in this place), as my father had another heir in
view whom I never saw, but who was held _in terrorem_ over me.

I awoke one bleak winter's morning about five o'clock, and heard the
strangest cries proceeding from his room. His manservant had been
awakened before me and had gone to the room already, where he was
engaged in a sort of wrestling match with my father, who, in the belief
that the house was full of enemies, was endeavoring to throw himself out
of the window. Other men had been called for, who speedily arrived, and
they overpowered him, though even the remnant of his mighty strength was
such that it took six men to hold him on his bed. The attack lasted a
whole week, and the house would have been a perfect hell, had not a
certain event turned it for me into a Paradise.

I had not been able somehow to get to sleep late at night for a short
time, when a light in the room awoke me. The horrible life I had been
leading for many a day and night had produced a great impressionability,
and I was particularly afraid of my father in the night-time, so I
started up in bed with the idea that he was come to beat me, when lo!
instead of his terrible face, I saw what for me was the sweetest and
dearest face in the whole world! It was his sister Mary, she who had
taken my mother's place, and whom I loved with a mingled sentiment of
filial tenderness and gratitude that remained undiminished in force,
though it may have altered in character, during all the after years. For
the suddenness of revulsion from horror to happiness, there has never
been a minute in my existence comparable to the minute when I realized
the idea that she had come. At first it seemed only a deceptive dream.
Such happiness was incredible, and I did not even know she had been sent
for; but the sweet reality entered into my heart like sunshine, and
throwing my arms about her neck I burst into a passion of tears. She, in
her quiet way, for she hardly ever yielded to a strong emotion, though
her feelings were deep and tender, looked at me sadly and kindly and
told me to sleep in peace, as she was going to remain in the house some
time. Then she left the room, and I lay in the darkness, but with a new
light brighter than sunshine in the hope that the miserable life with my
father had at length come to an end. It had only been six months in all,
but it had seemed longer than any half-dozen years gone through before
or after.

If this book were a novel, a very effective chapter might be written to
describe my father's sufferings during his week of delirium, and all the
dreadful fancies by which his disordered brain was oppressed and
tortured; but I prefer to skip that week altogether, and come to a
morning when his recovery was thought to be assured. He was no longer
delirious, but apparently quite calm, though his manner was hard and
imperious. He ordered me to be sent up to him, and I went almost
trembling with the old dread of him, and with a wretched feeling that
after my single week of respite the tyranny was to begin again. Such may
have been the feelings of an escaped slave when he has been caught and
brought back in irons, and stands once more in his master's presence. I
tried to congratulate my master on his recovery in a clumsy childish
way, but he peremptorily ordered me to fetch the "Times" and read to
him. I began, as usual, one of the leading articles on the politics of
the day, and before I had read many sentences my hearer declared that I
was reading badly and made the article nonsense. Why had I put in such
and such words of my own? he asked. His own precept that I was always to
tell the truth under any circumstances had habituated me to be truthful
even to him, so I answered boldly that I had not inserted the words
attributed to me. Then I read a little farther, and he accused me of
inserting something else that was not and could not be in the text; I
said it was he who was mistaken, and he flew into an uncontrollable
fury, one of those rages in which it had been his custom to punish me
without mercy. What he might have done to me I cannot tell; he raised
himself in bed and glared at me with an expression never to be
forgotten. My aunt, however, had been listening at the door, thinking it
probable that I should be in danger, and she now opened it and told me
to come away. I have a confused recollection of reaching the door under
a parting volley of imprecations.

It was a mistake to let my father see me, as, in the perverted state of
his mind, the mere sight of me was enough to make him furious. Whether
he hated me or not, nobody knows; but he treated me as if I was the most
odious little object that could be brought before his eyes. Very soon
after the scene about the article in the "Times," and probably in
consequence of the excitement brought on by it, my father had a fit of
apoplexy, and lingered till the next morning about nine o'clock. I was
not in the room when he died, but my aunt took me to see him immediately
after, and then I received an impression which has lasted to the present
day. The corpse was lying on its side amidst disordered bedclothes, and
to this day I can never go into a bedroom where the bed has not been
made without feeling as if there were a corpse in it. That dreadful
childish sensation received when I saw my father's body just as it lay
at the close of the death-agony, can even now be revived by the sight of
a disordered bed; such is the force of early impressions, especially
when they are received by a nervous system that has been overwrought by
the extreme of mental wretchedness.

The reader will hardly believe that the death of so hard a father could
have been felt otherwise than as an inexpressible relief, and yet I was
deeply affected by his loss. The kindest of fathers could hardly have
been wept for more. My aunt's tears were more explicable; she was old
enough to understand the frightful waste of the best gifts involved in
that premature ending; as for my grief, perhaps the true explanation of
it may be that I mourned rather the father who had been kind to me in
Wales, than the cruel master at Ivy Cottage.

I sometimes try to imagine what he might have been under more favorable
circumstances. There were times after his wife's death when he meditated
a complete change of residence, which might have saved him. He would
always have been severe and authoritative, but without alcohol he would
probably not have been cruel.

I remember the day of the funeral quite distinctly. My father's two
brothers came, though he had had scarcely any intercourse with them for
years. They were most respectable men, quite free from my father's
errors; but they had not half his life and energy. Such was the strength
of his constitution that so recently as the time of our journey in Wales
his health was not visibly impaired, and at the time of his death he had
that rare possession for a man of thirty-nine, a complete set of
perfectly sound teeth.

His coffin was carried on the shoulders of six men from Ivy Cottage to
the graveyard near the chapel. Shaw at that time had only a chapel, a
hideous building on a bleak piece of rising ground, surrounded by many
graves. It never looked more dreary than on that wretched January day in
1844, when we stood round as the sexton threw earth on my father's
coffin. He was laid in the same tomb with the poor young wife who had
loved him truly, and to whom he had been a tender and devoted husband
whilst their short union lasted.

I am the only survivor of that day's ceremony. The little procession has
all followed my father into the darkness, descending one by one into
graves separated by great spaces of land and sea. And when this is
printed I, too, shall be asleep in mine.



Dislike to Shaw in consequence of the dreadful life I led there with my
father.--My guardian.--Her plan for my education.--Doncaster
School.--Mr. Cape and his usher.--The usher's intolerance of Dissenters.
--My feeling for architecture and music.--The drawing-master.--My
guardian insists on my learning French.--Our French master, Sig.
Testa.--A painful incident.--I begin to learn the violin.--Dancing.--My
aversion to cricket.--Early readings.--Love of Scott.--My first
library.--Classical studies.

One consequence of the horrible life I had led at Ivy Cottage was a
permanent dislike to the place and the neighborhood, the evil effects of
which will be seen in the sequel. For the present it is enough to say
that I never went there again quite willingly. After my father's death
my grandmother lived in the village, and I was taken to see her every
year until her death; but though she was a very kind old lady, it was a
trial to me to visit her. I used to lie awake in her house at nights,
realizing those horrible nights I had passed at Ivy Cottage, with such
extreme intensity that it seemed as if my father might enter the room at
any time. This was not a superstitious dread of apparitions; but the
association of ideas brought back the past with a clearness that was
extremely painful. Even now, at a distance of more than forty years, I
avoid whatever reminds me of that time, and am not sorry that this
narrative now leads to something else.

My father had no great affection for his brothers, who on their part
could not have much esteem for him, so there was a mutual coolness which
prevented him from appointing either of them to be my guardian. Probably
they felt this as a slight, for, although always kind to me, they held
completely aloof from anything like paternal interference with my
education. My father had named his eldest sister, Mary, as my sole
guardian, with, two lawyers as co-executors with her. The reader will
probably think it was a mistake to appoint an old maid to be guardian to
a boy; but my aunt was a woman of excellent sense, and certainly not
disposed to bring me up effeminately; indeed, her willingness to
encourage me in everything manly was such that she would always inflict
upon herself considerable anxiety about my safety rather than prevent me
from taking my full share of the more or less perilous exercises of
youth. As to my education and profession her scheme was very simple and
clear, and would have been perfectly rational if I had been all that she
wished me to be. According to her plan I was to go to good schools
first, and then be prepared for Oxford by tutors, and become a
clergyman. There was some thought at one time of sending me to one of
the great public schools; but this was abandoned, and I was first sent
to Burnley School again, and then, after the summer holidays of 1845, to
Doncaster, where I was a boarder in the house of the head-master.

A word from me in favor of one of the public schools would probably have
decided my guardian to send me there; but there was a _vis inertiae_ in
my total want of social and scholastic ambition. I never in my life felt
the faintest desire to rise in the world either by making the
acquaintance of people of rank (which is the main reason why boys of
middling station are sent to aristocratic schools), or by getting
letters put after my name as a reward for learning what had no intrinsic
charm for me. In the worldly sense I never had any ambition whatever.

It seemed rather hard, after living at Burnley with my kind guardian, to
be sent to Doncaster School and separated from her for five months at a
time, but she thought the separation necessary, as there was nothing in
the world she dreaded more than that her great affection might spoil me.
Always gentle in her ways, always kind and considerate, that admirable
woman had still a remarkable firmness of character, and would act, on
due occasion, in direct opposition both to her own feelings and to mine,
if she believed that duty required it.

In those days there was no railway station at Doncaster, and my guardian
took me from Featherstone (where her brother-in-law, Mr. Hinde, was
vicar) to Doncaster in a hired carriage. I remember that it was an open
carriage and we had nobody with us except the driver, and it was a fine
hot day in August. I remember the long road, the arrival at an inn at
Doncaster not far from the new church, and my first presentation to Mr.
Cape, the head-master, who seemed a very kind and gentle sort of
clergyman to a boy not yet acquainted with his cane. Then I was left
alone in the strange school, not in the best of spirits, and if it had
been difficult to restrain tears when my guardian left me, it became
impossible in the little iron bed in the dormitory at night.

There were not many boarders, perhaps a dozen, and three or four private
pupils who were preparing for Cambridge. All these were lodged in the
head-master's house, which was in a pleasant, open part of the town, on
the road leading to the race-course, just beyond the well-known
Salutation Hotel. Besides these, there were rather a large number of day
scholars,--I forget how many, perhaps fifty or sixty,--and in those days
the schoolhouse was a ground floor under the old theatre. We marched
down thither in the morning under the control of an usher, who was
always with us in our walks. This usher, whose name I well remember, but
do not choose to print, was a vulgar, overbearing man whom it was
difficult to like, yet at the same time we all felt that he was a very
valuable master. Boys feel the difference between a master who is a
gentleman and one who falls short of that ideal. We were clearly aware
that the head-master, Mr. Cape, was a gentleman, and that the usher was
not. Nevertheless, in spite of his occasional coarseness and even
brutality, the usher was a painstaking, honest fellow, who did his duty
very energetically. His best quality, which I appreciate far more now
than I did then, was an extreme readiness to help a willing boy in his
work, by clearly explaining those difficulties that are likely to stop
him in his progress. Mr. Cape was more an examiner than a teacher, at
least for us; with the private pupils he may have been more didactic.
The usher evidently liked to be asked; he was extremely helpful to me,
and thanks to him chiefly I made very rapid progress at Doncaster.
Unfortunately an occasional injustice made it difficult to be so
grateful to him as we ought to have been. Here is an example. One
evening in the playground he told me to get on the back of another boy,
and then thrashed me with a switch from an apple-tree. I begged to be
told for what fault this punishment was inflicted, and the only answer
he condescended to give me was that a master owed no explanation to a
schoolboy. Down to the present time I have never been able to make out
what the punishment was for, and strongly suspect that it was simply to
exercise the usher's arm, which was a powerful one. He was a fair
cricketer, though rather too fat for that exercise, and a capital
swimmer, for which his fat was an advantage. He was an immoderate
snuff-taker. Sometimes he would lay a train of snuff on the back of his
hand and snuff it up greedily and voluptuously. In hot weather he
sometimes sat in his shirt-sleeves, and would occasionally amuse himself
by laying the snuff on his thick fat arm and then pass it all under his
nose, which drew it up as the pneumatic discharging machines drew grain
from the hold of a vessel. The odor of snuff was inseparable from his

On Sunday mornings we were made to read chapters in the Bible before

Book of the day: