Part 5 out of 6
descendants, foiled in their attempt to capture England with
the Spanish Armada, settled in the principality of Yorkshire,
adopted the noble name of Cayley, and still governed that
province as members of the British Parliament.
From that day we were treated with every mark of distinction.
Here is another of my friend's pranks. I will let Cayley
speak; for though I kept no journal, we had agreed to write a
joint account of our trip, and our notebooks were common
After leaving Malaga we met some beggars on the road, to one
of whom, 'an old hag with one eye and a grizzly beard,' I
threw the immense sum of a couple of 2-cuarto pieces. An old
man riding behind us on an ass with empty panniers, seeing
fortunes being scattered about the road with such reckless
and unbounded profusion, came up alongside, and entered into
a piteous detail of his poverty. When he wound up with plain
begging, the originality and boldness of the idea of a
mounted beggar struck us in so humorous a light that we could
not help laughing. As we rode along talking his case over,
Cayley said, 'Suppose we rob him. He has sold his market
produce in Malaga, and depend upon it, has a pocketful of
money.' We waited for him to come up. When he got fairly
between us, Cayley pulled out his revolver (we both carried
pistols) and thus addressed him:
'Impudent old scoundrel! stand still. If thou stirr'st hand
or foot, or openest thy mouth, I will slay thee like a dog.
Thou greedy miscreant, who art evidently a man of property
and hast an ass to ride upon, art not satisfied without
trying to rob the truly poor of the alms we give them.
Therefore hand over at once the two dollars for which thou
hast sold thy cabbages for double what they were worth.'
The old culprit fell on his knees, and trembling violently,
prayed Cayley for the love of the Virgin to spare him.
'One moment, CABALLEROS,' he cried, 'I will give you all I
possess. But I am poor, very poor, and I have a sick wife at
the disposition of your worships.'
'Wherefore art thou fumbling at thy foot? Thou carriest not
thy wife in thy shoe?'
'I cannot untie the string - my hand trembles; will your
worships permit me to take out my knife?'
He did so, and cutting the carefully knotted thong of a
leather bag which had been concealed in the leg of his
stocking, poured out a handful of small coin and began to
Said Cayley, 'Come, come, none of that, or we shall feel it
our duty to shoot thy donkey that thou may'st have something
to whimper for.'
The genuine tears of the poor old fellow at last touched the
heart of the jester.
'We know now that thou art poor,' said he, 'for we have taken
all thou hadst. And as it is the religion of the Ingleses,
founded on the practice of their celebrated saint, Robino
Hoodo, to levy funds from the rich for the benefit of the
needy, hold out thy sombero, and we will bestow a trifle upon
So saying he poured back the plunder; to which was added, to
the astonishment of the receiver, some supplementary pieces
that nearly equalled the original sum.
BEFORE setting out from Seville we had had our Foreign Office
passports duly VISED. Our profession was given as that of
travelling artists, and the VISE included the permission to
carry arms. More than once the sight of our pistols caused
us to be stopped by the CARABINEROS. On one occasion these
road-guards disputed the wording of the VISE. They protested
that 'armas' meant 'escopetas,' not pistols, which were
forbidden. Cayley indignantly retorted, 'Nothing is
forbidden to Englishmen. Besides, it is specified in our
passports that we are 'personas de toda confianza,' which
We both sketched, and passed ourselves off as 'retratistas'
(portrait painters), and did a small business in this way -
rather in the shape of caricatures, I fear, but which gave
much satisfaction. We charged one peseta (seven-pence), or
two, a head, according to the means of the sitter. The
fiction that we were earning our bread wholesomely tended to
moderate the charge for it.
Passing through the land of Don Quixote's exploits, we
reverentially visited any known spot which these had rendered
famous. Amongst such was the VENTA of Quesada, from which,
or from Quixada, as some conjecture, the knight derived his
surname. It was here, attracted by its castellated style,
and by two 'ladies of pleasure' at its door - whose virginity
he at once offered to defend, that he spent the night of his
first sally. It was here that, in his shirt, he kept guard
till morning over the armour he had laid by the well. It was
here that, with his spear, he broke the head of the carrier
whom he took for another knight bent on the rape of the
virgin princesses committed to his charge. Here, too, it was
that the host of the VENTA dubbed him with the coveted
knighthood which qualified him for his noble deeds.
To Quesada we wended our way. We asked the Senor Huesped
whether he knew anything of the history of his VENTA. Was it
not very ancient?
'Oh no, it was quite modern. But on the site of it had stood
a fine VENTA which was burnt down at the time of the war.'
'An old building?'
'Yes, indeed! A COSA DE SIEMPRE - thing of always. Nothing,
was left of it now but that well, and the stone trough.'
These bore marks of antiquity, and were doubtless as the
gallant knight had left them. Curiously, too, there were
remains of an outhouse with a crenellated parapet, suggestive
enough of a castle.
From Quesada we rode to Argamasilla del Alba, where Cervantes
was imprisoned, and where the First Part of Don Quixote was
In his Life of Cervantes, Don Gregorio Mayano throws some
doubt upon this. Speaking of the attacks of his
contemporary, the 'Aragonian,' Don Gregorio writes (I give
Ozell's translation): 'As for this scandalous fellow's
saying that Cervantes wrote his First Part of "Don Quixote"
in a prison, and that that might make it so dull and
incorrect, Cervantes did not think fit to give any answer
concerning his being imprisoned, perhaps to avoid giving
offence to the ministers of justice; for certainly his
imprisonment must not have been ignominious, since Cervantes
himself voluntarily mentions it in his Preface to the First
Part of "Don Quixote."'
This reasoning, however, does not seem conclusive; for the
only reference to the subject in the preface is as follows:
'What could my sterile and uncultivated genius produce but
the history of a child, meagre, adust, and whimsical, full of
various wild imaginations never thought of before; like one
you may suppose born in a prison, where every inconvenience
keeps its residence, and every dismal sound its habitation?'
We took up our quarters in the little town at the 'Posada de
la Mina.' While our OLLA was being prepared; we asked the
hostess whether she had ever heard of the celebrated Don
Miguel de Cervantes, who had been imprisoned there? (I will
'No, Senores; I think I have heard of one Cervantes, but he
does not live here at present.'
'Do you know anything of Don Quixote?'
'Oh, yes. He was a great CABALLERO, who lived here some
years ago. His house is over the way, on the other side of
the PLAZA, with the arms over the door. The father of the
Alcalde is the oldest man in the PUEBLO; perhaps he may
We were amused at his hero's fame outliving that of the
author. But is it not so with others - the writers of the
Book of Job, of the Pentateuch, and perhaps, too, of the
'Iliad,' if not of the 'Odyssey'?
But, to let Cayley speak:
'While we were undressing to go to bed, three gentlemen were
announced and shown in. We begged them to be seated. . . .
We sat opposite on the ends of our respective beds to hear
what they might have to communicate. A venerable old man
opened the conference.
'"We have understood, gentlemen, that you have come hither
seeking for information respecting the famous Don Quixote,
and we have come to give you such information as we may; but,
perhaps you will understand me better if I speak in Latin."
'"We have learnt the Latin at our schools, but are more
accustomed to converse in Castilian; pray proceed."
'"I am the Medico of the place, an old man, as you see; and
what little I know has reached me by tradition. It is
reported that Cervantes was paying his addresses to a young
lady, whose name was Quijana or Quijada. The Alcalde,
disapproving of the suit, put him into a dungeon under his
house, and kept him there a year. Once he escaped and fled,
but he was taken in Toboso, and brought back. Cervantes
wrote 'Don Quixote' as a satire on the Alcalde, who was a
very proud man, full of chivalresque ideas. You can see the
dungeon to-morrow; but you should see the BATANES (water-
mills) of the Guadiana, whose 'golpear' so terrified Sancho
Panza. They are at about three leagues distance."'
The old gentleman added that he was proud to receive
strangers who came to do honour to the memory of his
illustrious townsman; and hoped we would visit him next day,
on our return from the fulling-mills, when he would have the
pleasure of conducting us to the house of the Quijanas, in
the cellars of which Cervantes was confined.
To the BATANES we went next morning. Their historical
importance entitles them to an accurate description. None
could be more lucid than that of my companion. 'These
clumsy, ancient machines are composed of a couple of huge
wooden mallets, slung in a timber framework, which, being
pushed out of the perpendicular by knobs on a water-wheel,
clash back again alternately in two troughs, pounding
severely whatever may be put in between the face of the
mallet and the end of the trough into which the water runs.'
It will be remembered that, after a copious meal, Sancho
having neglected to replenish the gourd, both he and his
master suffered greatly from thirst. It was now 'so dark,'
says the history, 'that they could see nothing; but they had
not gone two hundred paces when a great noise of water
reached their ears. . . . The sound rejoiced them
exceedingly; and, stopping to listen from whence it came,
they heard on a sudden another dreadful noise, which abated
their pleasure occasioned by that of the water, especially
Sancho's. . . . They heard a dreadful din of irons and chains
rattling across one another, and giving mighty strokes in
time and measure which, together with the furious noise of
the water, would have struck terror into any other heart than
that of Don Quixote.' For him it was but an opportunity for
some valorous achievement. So, having braced on his buckler
and mounted Rosinante, he brandished his spear, and explained
to his trembling squire that by the will of Heaven he was
reserved for deeds which would obliterate the memory of the
Platirs, Tablantes, the Olivantes, and Belianesas, with the
whole tribe of the famous knights-errant of times past.
'Wherefore, straighten Rosinante's girths a little,' said he,
'and God be with you. Stay for me here three days, and no
more; if I do not return in that time you may go to Toboso,
where you shall say to my incomparable Lady Dulcinea that her
enthralled knight died in attempting things that might have
made him worthy to be styled "hers."'
Sancho, more terrified than ever at the thoughts of being
left alone, reminded his master that it was unwise to tempt
God by undertaking exploits from which there was no escaping
but by a miracle; and, in order to emphasize this very
sensible remark, secretly tied Rosinante's hind legs together
with his halter. Seeing the success of his contrivance, he
said: 'Ah, sir! behold how Heaven, moved by my tears and
prayers, has ordained that Rosinante cannot go,' and then
warned him not to set Providence at defiance. Still Sancho
was much too frightened by the infernal clatter to relax his
hold of the knight's saddle. For some time he strove to
beguile his own fears with a very long story about the
goatherd Lope Ruiz, who was in love with the shepherdess
Torralva - 'a jolly, strapping wench, a little scornful, and
somewhat masculine.' Now, whether owing to the cold of the
morning, which was at hand, or whether to some lenitive diet
on which he had supped, it so befell that Sancho . . . what
nobody could do for him. The truth is, the honest fellow was
overcome by panic, and under no circumstances would, or did,
he for one instant leave his master's side. Nay, when the
knight spurred his steed and found it could not move, Sancho
reminded him that the attempt was useless, since Rosinante
was restrained by enchantment. This the knight readily
admitted, but stoutly protested that he himself was anything
but enchanted by the close proximity of his squire.
We all remember the grave admonitions of Don Quixote, and the
ingenious endeavours of Sancho to lay the blame upon the
knight. But the final words of the Don contain a moral
apposite to so many other important situations, that they
must not be omitted here. 'Apostare, replico Sancho, que
pensa vuestra merced que yo he hecho de mi persona alguna
cosa que no deba.' 'I will lay a wager,' replied Sancho,
'that your worship thinks that I have &c.' The brief, but
memorable, answer was: 'Peor es meneallo, amigo Sancho,'
which, as no translation could do justice to it, must be left
as it stands. QUIETA NON MOVERE.
We were nearly meeting with an adventure here. While I was
busy making a careful drawing of the BATANES, Cayley's pony
was as much alarmed by the rushing waters as had been Sancho
Panza. In his endeavours to picket the animal, my friend
dropped a pistol which I had lent him to practise with,
although he carried a revolver of his own. Not till he had
tied up the pony at some little distance did he discover the
loss. In vain he searched the spot where he knew the pistol
must have escaped from his FAJA. Near it, three rough-
looking knaves in shaggy goatskin garments, with guns over
their shoulders, were watching the progress of my sketch. On
his return Cayley asked two of these (the third moved away as
he came up) whether they had seen the pistol. They declared
they had not; upon which he said he must search them. He was
not a man to be trifled with, and although they refused at
first, they presently submitted. He then overtook the third,
and at once accused him of the theft. The man swore he knew
nothing of the lost weapon, and brought his gun to the
charge. As he did so, Cayley caught sight of the pistol
under the fellow's sheepskin jacket, and with characteristic
promptitude seized it, while he presented a revolver at the
thief's head. All this he told me with great glee a minute
or two later.
When we got back to Argamasilla the Medico was already
awaiting us. He conducted us to the house of the Quijanas,
where an old woman-servant, lamp in hand, showed the way down
a flight of steps into the dungeon. It was a low vaulted
chamber, eight feet high, ten broad, and twenty-four long,
dimly lighted by a lancet window six feet from the ground.
She confidently informed us that Cervantes was in the habit
of writing at the farthest end, and that he was allowed a
lamp for the purpose. We accepted the information with
implicit faith; silently picturing on our mental retinas the
image of him whose genius had brightened the dark hours of
millions for over three hundred years. One could see the
spare form of the man of action pacing up and down his cell,
unconscious of prison walls, roaming in spirit through the
boundless realms of Fancy, his piercing eyes intent upon the
conjured visions of his brain. One noted his vast expanse of
brow, his short, crisp, curly hair, his high cheek-bones and
singularly high-bridged nose, his refined mouth, small
projecting chin and pointed beard. One noticed, too, as he
turned, the stump of the left wrist clasped by the remaining
hand. Who could stand in such a presence and fail to bow
with veneration before this insulted greatness! Potentates
pass like Ozymandias, but not the men who, through the ages,
help to save us from this tread-mill world, and from
We visited Cuenca, Segovia, and many an out-of-the-way spot.
If it be true, as Don Quixote declares, that 'No hay libro
tan malo que no tenga alguna cosa buena' ('there is no book
so worthless that has not some good in it'), still more true
is this of a country like Spain. And the pleasantest places
are just those which only by-roads lead to. In and near the
towns every other man, if not by profession still by
practice, is a beggar. From the seedy-looking rascal in the
street, of whom you incautiously ask the way, and who
piteously whines 'para zapatos' - for the wear and tear of
shoe leather, to the highest official, one and all hold out
their hands for the copper CUARTO or the eleemosynary
sinecure. As it was then, so is it now; the Government wants
support, and it is always to be had, at a price; deputies
always want 'places.' For every duty the functionary
performs, or ought to perform, he receives his bribe. The
Government is too poor to keep him honest, but his POUR-
BOIRES are not measured by his scruples. All is winked at,
if the Ministry secures a vote.
Away in the pretty rural districts, in the little villages
amid the woods and the mountains, with their score or so of
houses and their little chapel with its tinkling old bell and
its poverty-stricken curate, the hard-working, simple-minded
men are too proud and too honest to ask for more than a pinch
of tobacco for the CIGARILLO. The maidens are comely, and as
chaste as - can reasonably be expected.
Madrid is worth visiting - not for its bull-fights, which are
disgusting proofs of man's natural brutality, but for its
picture gallery. No one knows what Velasquez could do, or
has done, till he has seen Madrid; and Charles V. was
practically master of Europe when the collection was in his
hands. The Escurial's chief interests are in its
associations with Charles V. and Philip II. In the dark and
gloomy little bedroom of the latter is a small window opening
into the church, so that the King could attend the services
in bed if necessary.
It cannot be said of Philip that he was nothing if not
religious, for Nero even was not a more indefatigable
murderer, nor a more diabolical specimen of cruelty and
superstition. The very thought of the wretch tempts one to
revolt at human piety, at any rate where priestcraft and its
fabrications are at the bottom of it.
When at Madrid we met Mr. Arthur Birch. He had been with
Cayley at Eton, as captain of the school. While we were
together, he received and accepted the offer of an Eton
mastership. We were going by diligence to Toledo, and Birch
agreed to go with us. I mention the fact because the place
reminds me of a clever play upon its name by the Eton
scholar. Cayley bought a Toledo sword-blade, and asked Birch
for a motto to engrave upon it. In a minute or two he hit
off this: TIMETOLETUM, which reads Time Toletum=Honour
Toledo, or Timeto Letum=Fear death. Cayley's attempts,
though not so neat, were not bad. Here are a couple of
Though slight I am, no slight I stand,
Saying my master's sleight of hand.
Come to the point; unless you do,
The point will shortly come to you.
Birch got the Latin poem medal at Cambridge the same year
that Cayley got the English one.
Before we set forth again upon our gipsy tramp, I received a
letter from Mr. Ellice bidding me hasten home to contest the
Borough of Cricklade in the General Election of 1852. Under
these circumstances we loitered but little on the Northern
roads. At the end of May we reached Yrun. Here we sold our
ponies - now quite worn out - for twenty-three dollars -
about five guineas. So that a thousand miles of locomotion
had cost us a little over five guineas apiece. Not counting
hotels at Madrid and such smart places, our daily cost for
selves and ponies rarely exceeded six pesetas, or three
shillings each all told. The best of it was, the trip
restored the health of my friend.
IN February of this year, 1852, Lord Palmerston, aided by an
incongruous force of Peelites and Protectionists, turned Lord
John Russell out of office on his Militia Bill. Lord Derby,
with Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of
the House of Commons, came into power on a cry for
Not long after my return to England, I was packed off to
canvas the borough of Cricklade. It was then a very
extensive borough, including a large agricultural district,
as well as Swindon, the headquarters of the Great Western
Railway. For many years it had returned two Conservative
members, Messrs. Nield and Goddard. It was looked upon as an
impregnable Tory stronghold, and the fight was little better
than a forlorn hope.
My headquarters were at Coleshill, Lord Radnor's. The old
lord had, in his Parliamentary days, been a Radical; hence,
my advanced opinions found great favour in his eyes. My
programme was - Free Trade, Vote by Ballot, and
Disestablishment. Two of these have become common-places
(one perhaps effete), and the third is nearer to
accomplishment than it was then.
My first acquaintance with a constituency, amongst whom I
worked enthusiastically for six weeks, was comic enough. My
instructions were to go to Swindon; there an agent, whom I
had never seen, would join me. A meeting of my supporters
had been arranged by him, and I was to make my maiden speech
in the market-place.
My address, it should be stated - ultra-Radical, of course -
was mainly concocted for me by Mr. Cayley, an almost rabid
Tory, and then member for the North Riding of Yorkshire, but
an old Parliamentary hand; and, in consequence of my
attachment to his son, at that time and until his death, like
a father to me.
When the train stopped at Swindon, there was a crowd of
passengers, but not a face that I knew; and it was not till
all but one or two had left, that a business-looking man came
up and asked if I were the candidate for Cricklade. He told
me that a carriage was in attendance to take us up to the
town; and that a procession, headed by a band, was ready to
accompany us thither. The procession was formed mainly of
the Great Western boiler-makers and artisans. Their
enthusiasm seemed slightly disproportioned to the occasion;
and the vigour of the brass, and especially of the big drum,
so filled my head with visions of Mr. Pickwick and his friend
the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, that by the time I reached the
market-place, I had forgotten every syllable of the speech
which I had carefully learnt by heart. Nor was it the band
alone that upset me; going up the hill the carriage was all
but capsized by the frightened horses and the breaking of the
pole. The gallant boiler-makers, however, at once removed
the horses, and dragged the carriage with cheers of defiance
into the crowd awaiting us.
My agent had settled that I was to speak from a window of the
hotel. The only available one was an upper window, the lower
sash of which could not be persuaded to keep up without being
held. The consequence was, just as I was getting over the
embarrassment of extemporary oration, down came the sash and
guillotined me. This put the crowd in the best of humours;
they roared with laughter, and after that we got on capitally
A still more inopportune accident happened to me later in the
day, when speaking at Shrivenham. A large yard enclosed by
buildings was chosen for the meeting. The difficulty was to
elevate the speaker above the heads of the assembly. In one
corner of the yard was a water-butt. An ingenious elector
got a board, placed it on the top of the butt - which was
full of water - and persuaded me to make this my rostrum.
Here, again, in the midst of my harangue - perhaps I stamped
to emphasize my horror of small loaves and other Tory
abominations - the board gave way; and I narrowly escaped a
ducking by leaping into the arms of a 'supporter.'
The end of it all was that my agent at the last moment threw
up the sponge. The farmers formed a serried phalanx against
Free Trade; it was useless to incur the expense of a poll.
Then came the bill. It was a heavy one; for in addition to
my London agent - a professional electioneering functionary -
were the local agents at towns like Malmesbury, Wootton
Bassett, Shrivenham, &c., &c. My eldest brother, who was a
soberer-minded politician than I, although very liberal to me
in other ways, declined to support my political opinions. I
myself was quite unable to pay the costs. Knowing this, Lord
Radnor called me into his study as I was leaving Coleshill,
and expressed himself warmly with respect to my labours;
regretting the victory of the other side, he declared that,
as the question of Protection would be disposed of, one of
the two seats would be safe upon a future contest.
'And who,' asked the old gentleman, with a benevolent grin on
his face, 'who is going to pay your expenses?'
'Goodness knows, sir,' said I; 'I hope they won't come down
upon me. I haven't a thousand pounds in the world, unless I
tap my fortune.'
'Well,' said his Lordship, with a chuckle, 'I haven't paid my
subscription to Brooks's yet, so I'll hand it over to you,'
and he gave me a cheque for 500 pounds.
The balance was obtained through Mr. Ellice from the
patronage Secretary to the Treasury. At the next election,
as Lord Radnor predicted, Lord Ashley, Lord Shaftesbury's
eldest son, won one of the two seats for the Liberals with
the greatest ease.
As Coleshill was an open house to me from that time as long
as Lord Radnor lived, I cannot take leave of the dear old man
without an affectionate word at parting. Creevey has an ill-
natured fling at him, as he has at everybody else, but a
kinder-hearted and more perfect gentleman would be difficult
to meet with. His personality was a marked one. He was a
little man, with very plain features, a punch-like nose, an
extensive mouth, and hardly a hair on his head. But in spite
of these peculiarities, his face was pleasant to look at, for
it was invariably animated by a sweet smile, a touch of
humour, and a decided air of dignity. Born in 1779, he
dressed after the orthodox Whig fashion of his youth, in buff
and blue, his long-tailed coat reaching almost to his heels.
His manner was a model of courtesy and simplicity. He used
antiquated expressions: called London 'Lunnun,' Rome 'Room,'
a balcony a 'balcony'; he always spoke of the clergyman as
the 'pearson,' and called his daughter Lady Mary, 'Meary.'
Instead of saying 'this day week' he would say this day
sen'nit' (for sen'night).
The independence of his character was very noticeable. As an
instance: A party of twenty people, say, would be invited
for a given day. Abundance of carriages would be sent to
meet the trains, so that all the guests would arrive in ample
time for dinner. It generally happened that some of them,
not knowing the habits of the house, or some duchess or great
lady who might assume that clocks were made for her and not
she for clocks, would not appear in the drawing-room till a
quarter of an hour after the dinner gong had sounded. If
anyone did so, he or she would find that everybody else had
got through soup and fish. If no one but Lady Mary had been
down when dinner was announced, his Lordship would have
offered his arm to his daughter, and have taken his seat at
the table alone. After the first night, no one was ever
late. In the morning he read prayers to the household before
breakfast with the same precise punctuality.
Lady Mary Bouverie, his unmarried daughter, was the very best
of hostesses. The house under her management was the
perfection of comfort. She married an old and dear friend of
mine, Sir James Wilde, afterwards the Judge, Lord Penzance.
I was his 'best man.'
My 'Ride over the Rocky Mountains' was now published; and, as
the field was a new one, the writer was rewarded, for a few
weeks, with invitations to dinner, and the usual tickets for
'drums' and dances. To my astonishment, or rather to my
alarm, I received a letter from the Secretary of the Royal
Geographical Society (Charles Fox, or perhaps Sir George
Simpson had, I think, proposed me - I never knew), to say
that I had been elected a member. Nothing was further from
my ambition. The very thought shrivelled me with a sense of
ignorance and insignificance. I pictured to myself an
assembly of old fogies crammed with all the 'ologies. I
broke into a cold perspiration when I fancied myself called
upon to deliver a lecture on the comparative sea-bottomy of
the Oceanic globe, or give my theory of the simultaneous
sighting by 'little Billee' of ' Madagascar, and North, and
South Amerikee.' Honestly, I had not the courage to accept;
and, young Jackanapes as I was, left the Secretary's letter
But a still greater honour - perhaps the greatest compliment
I ever had paid me - was to come. I had lodgings at this
time in an old house, long since pulled down, in York Street.
One day, when I was practising the fiddle, who should walk
into my den but Rogers the poet! He had never seen me in his
life. He was in his ninetieth year, and he had climbed the
stairs to the first floor to ask me to one of his breakfast
parties. To say nothing of Rogers' fame, his wealth, his
position in society, those who know what his cynicism and his
worldliness were, will understand what such an effort,
physical and moral, must have cost him. He always looked
like a death's head, but his ghastly pallor, after that
Alpine ascent, made me feel as if he had come - to stay.
These breakfasts were entertainments of no ordinary
distinction. The host himself was of greater interest than
the most eminent of his guests. All but he, were more or
less one's contemporaries: Rogers, if not quite as dead as
he looked, was ancient history. He was old enough to have
been the father of Byron, of Shelley, of Keats, and of Moore.
He was several years older than Scott, or Wordsworth, or
Coleridge, and only four years younger than Pitt. He had
known all these men, and could, and did, talk as no other
could talk, of all of them. Amongst those whom I met at
these breakfasts were Cornewall Lewis, Delane, the Grotes,
Macaulay, Mrs. Norton, Monckton Milnes, William Harcourt (the
only one younger than myself), but just beginning to be
known, and others of scarcely less note.
During the breakfast itself, Rogers, though seated at table
in an armchair, took no part either in the repast or in the
conversation; he seemed to sleep until the meal was over.
His servant would then place a cup of coffee before him, and,
like a Laputian flapper, touch him gently on the shoulder.
He would at once begin to talk, while others listened. The
first time I witnessed this curious resurrection, I whispered
something to my neighbour, at which he laughed. The old
man's eye was too sharp for us.
'You are laughing at me,' said he; 'I dare say you young
gentlemen think me an old fellow; but there are younger than
I who are older. You should see Tommy Moore. I asked him to
breakfast, but he's too weak - weak here, sir,' and he tapped
his forehead. 'I'm not that.' (This was the year that Moore
died.) He certainly was not; but his whole discourse was of
the past. It was as though he would not condescend to
discuss events or men of the day. What were either to the
days and men that he had known - French revolutions, battles
of Trafalgar and Waterloo, a Nelson and a Buonaparte, a Pitt,
a Burke, a Fox, a Johnson, a Gibbon, a Sheridan, and all the
men of letters and all the poets of a century gone by? Even
Macaulay had for once to hold his tongue; and could only
smile impatiently at what perhaps he thought an old man's
astonishing garrulity. But if a young and pretty woman
talked to him, it was not his great age that he vaunted, nor
yet the 'pleasures of memory' - one envied the adroitness of
his flattery, and the gracefulness of his repartee.
My friend George Cayley had a couple of dingy little rooms
between Parliament Street and the river. Much of my time was
spent there with him. One night after dinner, quite late, we
were building castles amidst tobacco clouds, when, following
a 'May I come in?' Tennyson made his appearance. This was
the first time I had ever met him. We gave him the only
armchair in the room; and pulling out his dudeen and placing
afoot on each side of the hob of the old-fashioned little
grate, he made himself comfortable before he said another
word. He then began to talk of pipes and tobacco. And
never, I should say, did this important topic afford so much
ingenious conversation before. We discussed the relative
merits of all the tobaccos in the world - of moist tobacco
and dry tobacco, of old tobacco and new tobacco, of clay
pipes and wooden pipes and meerschaum pipes. What was the
best way to colour them, the advantages of colouring them,
the beauty of the 'culotte,' the coolness it gave to the
smoke, &c. We listened to the venerable sage - he was then
forty-three and we only five or six and twenty - as we should
have listened to a Homer or an Aristotle, and he thoroughly
enjoyed our appreciation of his jokes.
Some of them would have startled such of his admirers who
knew him only by his poems; for his stories were anything but
poetical - rather humorous one might say, on the whole.
Here's one of them: he had called last week on the Duchess
of Sutherland at Stafford House. Her two daughters were with
her, the Duchess of Argyll and the beautiful Lady Constance
Grosvenor, afterwards Duchess of Westminster. They happened
to be in the garden. After strolling about for a while, the
Mama Duchess begged him to recite some of his poetry. He
chose 'Come into the garden, Maud' - always a favourite of
the poet's, and, as may be supposed, many were the fervid
exclamations of 'How beautiful!' When they came into the
house, a princely groom of the chambers caught his eye and
his ear, and, pointing to his own throat, courteously
whispered: 'Your dress is not quite as you would wish it,
'I had come out without a necktie; and there I was, spouting
my lines to the three Graces, as DECOLLETE as a strutting
The only other allusion to poetry or literature that night
was a story I told him of a Mr. Thomas Wrightson, a Yorkshire
banker, and a fanatical Swedenborgian. Tommy Wrightson, who
was one of the most amiable and benevolent of men, spent his
life in making a manuscript transcript of Swedenborg's works.
His writing was a marvel of calligraphic art; he himself, a
curiosity. Swedenborg was for him an avatar; but if he had
doubted of Tennyson's ultimate apotheosis, I think he would
have elected to seek him in 'the other place.' Anyhow, Mr.
Wrightson avowed to me that he repeated 'Locksley Hall' every
morning of his life before breakfast. This I told Tennyson.
His answer was a grunt; and in a voice from his boots, 'Ugh!
enough to make a dog sick!' I did my utmost to console him
with the assurance that, to the best of my belief, Mr.
Wrightson had once fallen through a skylight.
As illustrating the characters of the admired and his
admirer, it may be related that the latter, wishing for the
poet's sign-manual, wrote and asked him for it. He addressed
Tennyson, whom he had never seen, as 'My dear Alfred.' The
reply, which he showed to me, was addressed 'My dear Tom.'
MY stepfather, Mr. Ellice, having been in two Ministries -
Lord Grey's in 1830, and Lord Melbourne's in 1834 - had
necessarily a large parliamentary acquaintance; and as I
could always dine at his house in Arlington Street when I
pleased, I had constant opportunities of meeting most of the
prominent Whig politicians, and many other eminent men of the
day. One of the dinner parties remains fresh in my memory -
not because of the distinguished men who happened to be
there, but because of the statesman whose name has since
become so familiar to the world.
Some important question was before the House in which Mr.
Ellice was interested, and upon which he intended to speak.
This made him late for dinner, but he had sent word that his
son was to take his place, and the guests were not to wait.
When he came Lord John Russell greeted him with -
'Well, Ellice, who's up?'
'A younger son of Salisbury's,' was the reply; 'Robert Cecil,
making his maiden speech. If I hadn't been in a hurry I
should have stopped to listen to him. Unless I am very much
mistaken, he'll make his mark, and we shall hear more of
There were others dining there that night whom it is
interesting to recall. The Grotes were there. Mrs. Grote,
scarcely less remarkable than her husband; Lord Mahon,
another historian (who married a niece of Mr. Ellice's), Lord
Brougham, and two curious old men both remarkable, if for
nothing else, for their great age. One was George Byng,
father of the first Lord Strafford, and 'father' of the House
of Commons; the other Sir Robert Adair, who was Ambassador at
Constantinople when Byron was there. Old Mr. Byng looked as
aged as he was, and reminded one of Mr. Smallweed doubled up
in his porter's chair. Quite different was his compeer. We
were standing in the recess of the drawing-room window after
dinner when Sir Robert said to me:
'Very shaky, isn't he! Ah! he was my fag at Eton, and I've
got the best of it still.'
Brougham having been twice in the same Government with Mr.
Ellice, and being devoted to young Mrs. Edward Ellice, his
charming daughter-in-law, was a constant visitor at 18
Arlington Street. Mrs. Ellice often told me of his
peculiarities, which must evidently have been known to
others. Walter Bagehot, speaking of him, says:
'Singular stories of eccentricity and excitement, even of
something more than either of these, darken these latter
What Mrs. Ellice told me was, that she had to keep a sharp
watch on Lord Brougham if he sat near her writing-table while
he talked to her; for if there was any pretty little knick-
knack within his reach he would, if her head were turned,
slip it into his pocket. The truth is perhaps better than
the dark hint, for certainly we all laughed at it as nothing
But the man who interested me most (for though when in the
Navy I had heard a hundred legends of his exploits, I had
never seen him before) was Lord Dundonald. Mr. Ellice
presented me to him, and the old hero asked why I had left
'The finest service in the world; and likely, begad, to have
something to do before long.'
This was only a year before the Crimean war. With his strong
rough features and tousled mane, he looked like a grey lion.
One expected to see him pick his teeth with a pocket
The thought of the old sailor always brings before me the
often mooted question raised by the sentimentalists and
humanitarians concerning the horrors of war. Not long after
this time, the papers - the sentimentalist papers - were
furious with Lord Dundonald for suggesting the adoption by
the Navy of a torpedo which he himself, I think, had
invented. The bare idea of such wholesale slaughter was
revolting to a Christian world. He probably did not see much
difference between sinking a ship with a torpedo, and firing
a shell into her magazine; and likely enough had as much
respect for the opinions of the woman-man as he had for the
There is always a large number of people in the world who
suffer from emotional sensitiveness and susceptibility to
nervous shocks of all kinds. It is curious to observe the
different and apparently unallied forms in which these
characteristics manifest themselves. With some, they exhibit
extreme repugnance to the infliction of physical pain for
whatever end; with others there seems to be a morbid dread of
violated pudicity. Strangely enough the two phases are
frequently associated in the same individual. Both
tendencies are eminently feminine; the affinity lies in a
hysterical nature. Thus, excessive pietism is a frequent
concomitant of excessive sexual passion; this, though notably
the case with women, is common enough with men of unduly
Only the other day some letters appeared in the 'Times' about
the flogging of boys in the Navy. And, as a sentimental
argument against it, we were told by the Humanitarian
Leaguers that it is 'obscene.' This is just what might be
expected, and bears out the foregoing remarks. But such
saintly simplicity reminds us of the kind of squeamishness of
which our old acquaintance Mephisto observes:
Man darf das nicht vor keuschen Ohren nennen,
Was keusche Herzen nicht entbehren konnen.
(Chaste ears find nothing but the devil in
What nicest fancies love to revel in.)
The same astute critic might have added:
And eyes demure that look away when seen,
Lose ne'er a chance to peep behind the screen.
It is all of a piece. We have heard of the parlour-maid who
fainted because the dining-table had 'ceder legs,' but never
before that a 'switching' was 'obscene.' We do not envy the
unwholesomeness of a mind so watchful for obscenity.
Be that as it may, so far as humanity is concerned, this
hypersensitive effeminacy has but a noxious influence; and
all the more for the twofold reason that it is sometimes
sincere, though more often mere cant and hypocrisy. At the
best, it is a perversion of the truth; for emotion combined
with ignorance, as it is in nine hundred and ninety-nine
cases out of a thousand, is a serious obstacle in the path of
Is sentimentalism on the increase? It seems to be so, if we
are to judge by a certain portion of the Press, and by
speeches in Parliament. But then, this may only mean that
the propensity finds easier means of expression than it did
in the days of dearer paper and fewer newspapers, and also
that speakers find sentimental humanity an inexhaustible fund
for political capital. The excess of emotional attributes in
man over his reasoning powers must, one would think, have
been at least as great in times past as it is now. Yet it is
doubtful whether it showed itself then so conspicuously as it
does at present. Compare the Elizabethan age with our own.
What would be said now of the piratical deeds of such men as
Frobisher, Raleigh, Gilbert, and Richard Greville? Suppose
Lord Roberts had sent word to President Kruger that if four
English soldiers, imprisoned at Pretoria, were molested, he
would execute 2,000 Boers and send him their heads? The
clap-trap cry of 'Barbaric Methods' would have gone forth to
some purpose; it would have carried every constituency in the
country. Yet this is what Drake did when four English
sailors were captured by the Spaniards, and imprisoned by the
Spanish Viceroy in Mexico.
Take the Elizabethan drama, and compare it with ours. What
should we think of our best dramatist if, in one of his
tragedies, a man's eyes were plucked out on the stage, and if
he that did it exclaimed as he trampled on them, 'Out, vile
jelly! where is thy lustre now?' or of a Titus Andronicus
cutting two throats, while his daughter ''tween her stumps
doth hold a basin to receive their blood'?
'Humanity,' says Taine, speaking of these times, 'is as much
lacking as decency. Blood, suffering, does not move them.'
Heaven forbid that we should return to such brutality! I
cite these passages merely to show how times are changed; and
to suggest that with the change there is a decided loss of
manliness. Are men more virtuous, do they love honour more,
are they more chivalrous, than the Miltons, the Lovelaces,
the Sidneys of the past? Are the women chaster or more
gentle? No; there is more puritanism, but not more true
piety. It is only the outside of the cup and the platter
that are made clean, the inward part is just as full of
wickedness, and all the worse for its hysterical
To what do we owe this tendency? Are we degenerating morally
as well as physically? Consider the physical side of the
question. Fifty years ago the standard height for admission
to the army was five feet six inches. It is now lowered to
five feet. Within the last ten years the increase in the
urban population has been nearly three and a half millions.
Within the same period the increase in the rural population
is less than a quarter of one million. Three out of five
recruits for the army are rejected; a large proportion of
them because their teeth are gone or decayed. Do these
figures need comment? Can you look for sound minds in such
unsound bodies? Can you look for manliness, for self-
respect, and self-control, or anything but animalistic
It is not the character of our drama or of our works of
fiction that promotes and fosters this propensity; but may it
not be that the enormous increase in the number of theatres,
and the prodigious supply of novels, may have a share in it,
by their exorbitant appeal to the emotional, and hence
neurotic, elements of our nature? If such considerations
apply mainly to dwellers in overcrowded towns, there is yet
another cause which may operate on those more favoured, - the
vast increase in wealth and luxury. Wherever these have
grown to excess, whether in Babylon, or Nineveh, or Thebes,
or Alexandria, or Rome, they have been the symptoms of
decadence, and forerunners of the nation's collapse.
Let us be humane, let us abhor the horrors of war, and strain
our utmost energies to avert them. But we might as well
forbid the use of surgical instruments as the weapons that
are most destructive in warfare. If a limb is rotting with
gangrene, shall it not be cut away? So if the passions which
occasion wars are inherent in human nature, we must face the
evil stout-heartedly; and, for one, I humbly question whether
any abolition of dum-dum bullets or other attempts to
mitigate this disgrace to humanity, do, in the end, more good
It is elsewhere that we must look for deliverance, - to the
overwhelming power of better educated peoples; to closer
intercourse between the nations; to the conviction that, from
the most selfish point of view even, peace is the only path
to prosperity; to the restraint of the baser Press which, for
mere pelf, spurs the passions of the multitude instead of
curbing them; and, finally, to deliverance from the 'all-
potent wills of Little Fathers by Divine right,' and from the
ignoble ambition of bullet-headed uncles and brothers and
cousins - a curse from which England, thank the Gods! is, and
let us hope, ever will be, free. But there are more
countries than one that are not so - just now; and the world
may ere long have to pay the bitter penalty.
IT is curious if one lives long enough to watch the change of
taste in books. I have no lending-library statistics at
hand, but judging by the reading of young people, or of those
who read merely for their amusement, the authors they
patronise are nearly all living or very recent. What we old
stagers esteemed as classical in fiction and BELLES-LETTRES
are sealed books to the present generation. It is an
exception, for instance, to meet with a young man or young
woman who has read Walter Scott. Perhaps Balzac's reason is
the true one. Scott, says he, 'est sans passion; il
l'ignore, ou peut-etre lui etait-elle interdite par les
moeurs hypocrites de son pays. Pour lui la femme est le
devoir incarne. A de rares exceptions pres, ses heroines
sont absolument les memes ... La femme porte le desordre dans
la societe par la passion. La passion a des accidents
infinis. Peignez donc les passions, vous aurez les sources
immenses dont s'est prive ce grand genie pour etre lu dans
toutes les familles de la prude Angleterre.' Does not
Thackeray lament that since Fielding no novelist has dared to
face the national affectation of prudery? No English author
who valued his reputation would venture to write as Anatole
France writes, even if he could. Yet I pity the man who does
not delight in the genius that created M. Bergeret.
A well-known author said to me the other day, he did not
believe that Thackeray himself would be popular were he
writing now for the first time - not because of his freedom,
but because the public taste has altered. No present age can
predict immortality for the works of its day; yet to say that
what is intrinsically good is good for all time is but a
truism. The misfortune is that much of the best in
literature shares the fate of the best of ancient monuments
and noble cities; the cumulative rubbish of ages buries their
splendours, till we know not where to find them. The day may
come when the most valuable service of the man of letters
will be to unearth the lost treasures and display them,
rather than add his grain of dust to the ever-increasing
Is Carlyle forgotten yet, I wonder? How much did my
contemporaries owe to him in their youth? How readily we
followed a leader so sure of himself, so certain of his own
evangel. What an aid to strength to be assured that the true
hero is the morally strong man. One does not criticise what
one loves; one didn't look too closely into the doctrine
that, might is right, for somehow he managed to persuade us
that right makes the might - that the strong man is the man
who, for the most part, does act rightly. He is not over-
patient with human frailty, to be sure, and is apt, as
Herbert Spencer found, to fling about his scorn rather
recklessly. One fancies sometimes that he has more respect
for a genuine bad man than for a sham good one. In fact, his
'Eternal Verities' come pretty much to the same as Darwin's
'Law of the advancement of all organic bodies'; 'let the
strong live, and the weakest die.' He had no objection to
seeing 'the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers, or
ants making slaves.' But he atones for all this by his
hatred of cant and hypocrisy. It is for his manliness that
we love him, for his honesty, for his indifference to any
mortal's approval save that of Thomas Carlyle. He convinces
us that right thinking is good, but that right doing is much
better. And so it is that he does honour to men of action
like his beloved Oliver, and Fritz, - neither of them
paragons of wisdom or of goodness, but men of doughty deeds.
Just about this time I narrowly missed a longed-for chance of
meeting this hero of my PENATES. Lady Ashburton - Carlyle's
Lady Ashburton - knowing my admiration, kindly invited me to
The Grange, while he was there. The house was full - mainly
of ministers or ex-ministers, - Cornewall Lewis, Sir Charles
Wood, Sir James Graham, Albany Fonblanque, Mr. Ellice, and
Charles Buller - Carlyle's only pupil; but the great man
himself had left an hour before I got there. I often met him
afterwards, but never to make his acquaintance. Of course, I
knew nothing of his special friendship for Lady Ashburton,
which we are told was not altogether shared by Mrs. Carlyle;
but I well remember the interest which Lady Ashburton seemed
to take in his praise, how my enthusiasm seemed to please
her, and how Carlyle and his works were topics she was never
tired of discussing.
The South Western line to Alresford was not then made, and I
had to post part of the way from London to The Grange. My
chaise companion was a man very well known in 'Society'; and
though not remarkably popular, was not altogether
undistinguished, as the following little tale will attest.
Frederick Byng, one of the Torrington branch of the Byngs,
was chiefly famous for his sobriquet 'The Poodle'; this he
owed to no special merit of his own, but simply to the
accident of his thick curly head of hair. Some, who spoke
feelingly of the man, used to declare that he had fulfilled
the promises of his youth. What happened to him then may
perhaps justify the opinion.
The young Poodle was addicted to practical jokes - as usual,
more amusing to the player than to the playee. One of his
victims happened to be Beau Brummell, who, except when he
bade 'George ring the bell,' was as perfect a model of
deportment as the great Mr. Turveydrop himself. His studied
decorum possibly provoked the playfulness of the young puppy;
and amongst other attempts to disturb the Beau's complacency,
Master Byng ran a pin into the calf of that gentleman's leg,
and then he ran away. A few days later Mr. Brummell, who had
carefully dissembled his wrath, invited the unwary youth to
breakfast, telling him that he was leaving town, and had a
present which his young friend might have, if he chose to
fetch it. The boy kept the appointment, and the Beau his
promise. After an excellent breakfast, Brummell took a whip
from his cupboard, and gave it to the Poodle in a way the
young dog was not likely to forget.
The happiest of my days then, and perhaps of my life, were
spent at Mr. Ellice's Highland Lodge, at Glenquoich. For
sport of all kinds it was and is difficult to surpass. The
hills of the deer forest are amongst the highest in Scotland;
the scenery of its lake and glens, especially the descent to
Loch Hourne, is unequalled. Here were to be met many of the
most notable men and women of the time. And as the house was
twenty miles from the nearest post-town, and that in turn two
days from London, visitors ceased to be strangers before they
left. In the eighteen years during which this was my autumn
home, I had the good fortune to meet numbers of distinguished
people of whom I could now record nothing interesting but
their names. Still, it is a privilege to have known such men
as John Lawrence, Guizot, Thiers, Landseer, Merimee, Comte de
Flahault, Doyle, Lords Elgin and Dalhousie, Duc de Broglie,
Pelissier, Panizzi, Motley, Delane, Dufferin; and of gifted
women, the three Sheridans, Lady Seymour - the Queen of
Beauty, afterwards Duchess of Somerset - Mrs. Norton, and
Lady Dufferin. Amongst those who have a retrospective
interest were Mr. and Lady Blanche Balfour, parents of Mr.
Arthur Balfour, who came there on their wedding tour in 1843.
Mr. Arthur Balfour's father was Mrs. Ellice's first cousin.
It would be easy to lengthen the list; but I mention only
those who repeated their visits, and who fill up my mental
picture of the place and of the life. Some amongst them
impressed me quite as much for their amiability - their
loveableness, I may say - as for their renown; and regard for
them increased with coming years. Panizzi was one of these.
Dufferin, who was just my age, would have fascinated anyone
with the singular courtesy of his manner. Dicky Doyle was
necessarily a favourite with all who knew him. He was a
frequent inmate of my house after I married, and was engaged
to dine with me, alas! only eight days before he died.
Motley was a singularly pleasant fellow. My friendship with
him began over a volume of Sir W. Hamilton's Lectures. He
asked what I was reading - I handed him the book.
'A-h,' said he, 'there's no mental gymnastic like
Many a battle we afterwards had over them. When I was at
Cannes in 1877 I got a message from him one day saying he was
ill, and asking me to come and see him. He did not say how
ill, so I put off going. Two days after I heard he was dead.
Merimee's cynicism rather alarmed one. He was a capital
caricaturist, though, to our astonishment, he assured us he
had never drawn, or used a colour-box, till late in life. He
had now learnt to use it, in a way that did not invariably
give satisfaction. Landseer always struck me as sensitive
and proud, a Diogenes-tempered individual who had been spoilt
by the toadyism of great people. He was agreeable if made
much of, or almost equally so if others were made little of.
But of all those named, surely John Lawrence was the
greatest. I wish I had read his life before it ended. Yet,
without knowing anything more of him than that he was Chief
Commissioner of the Punjab, which did not convey much to my
understanding, one felt the greatness of the man beneath his
calm simplicity. One day the party went out for a deer-
drive; I was instructed to place Sir John in the pass below
mine. To my disquietude he wore a black overcoat. I assured
him that not a stag would come within a mile of us, unless he
covered himself with a grey plaid, or hid behind a large rock
there was, where I assured him he would see nothing.
'Have the deer to pass me before they go on to you?' he
'Certainly they have,' said I; 'I shall be up there above
'Well then,' was his answer, 'I'll get behind the rock - it
will be more snug out of the wind.'
One might as well have asked the deer not to see him, as try
to persuade John Lawrence not to sacrifice himself for
others. That he did so here was certain, for the deer came
within fifty yards of him, but he never fired a shot.
Another of the Indian viceroys was the innocent occasion of
great discomfort to me, or rather his wife was. Lady Elgin
had left behind her a valuable diamond necklace. I was going
back to my private tutor at Ely a few days after, and the
necklace was entrusted to me to deliver to its owner on my
way through London. There was no railway then further north
than Darlington, except that between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
When I reached Edinburgh by coach from Inverness, my
portmanteau was not to be found. The necklace was in a
despatch-box in my portmanteau; and by an unlucky oversight,
I had put my purse into my despatch-box. What was to be
done? I was a lad of seventeen, in a town where I did not
know a soul, with seven or eight shillings at most in my
pocket. I had to break my journey and to stop where I was
till I could get news of the necklace; this alone was clear
to me, for the necklace was the one thing I cared for.
At the coach office all the comfort I could get was that the
lost luggage might have gone on to Glasgow; or, what was more
probable, might have gone astray at Burntisland. It might
not have been put on board, or it might not have been taken
off the ferry-steamer. This could not be known for twenty-
four hours, as there was no boat to or from Burntisland till
the morrow. I decided to try Glasgow. A return third-class
ticket left me without a copper. I went, found nothing, got
back to Edinburgh at 10 P.M., ravenously hungry, dead tired,
and so frightened about the necklace that food, bed, means of
continuing my journey, were as mere death compared with
irreparable dishonour. What would they all think of me? How
could I prove that I had not stolen the diamonds? Would Lord
Elgin accuse me? How could I have been such an idiot as to
leave them in my portmanteau! Some rascal might break it
open, and then, goodbye to my chance for ever! Chance? what
chance was there of seeing that luggage again? There were so
many 'mights.' I couldn't even swear that I had seen it on
the coach at Inverness. Oh dear! oh dear! What was to be
done? I walked about the streets; I glanced woefully at
door-steps, whereon to pass the night; I gazed piteously
through the windows of a cheap cook's shop, where solid
wedges of baked pudding, that would have stopped digestion
for a month, were advertised for a penny a block. How rich
should I have been if I had had a penny in my pocket! But I
had to turn away in despair.
At last the inspiration came. I remembered hearing Mr.
Ellice say that he always put up at Douglas' Hotel when he
stayed in Edinburgh. I had very little hope of success, but
I was too miserable to hesitate. It was very late, and
everybody might be gone to bed. I rang the bell. 'I want to
see the landlord.'
'Any name?' the porter asked.
'No.' The landlord came, fat, amiable looking. 'May I speak
to you in private?' He showed the way to an unoccupied room.
'I think you know Mr. Ellice?'
'Glenquoich, do you mean?'
'Oh, very well - he always stays here on his way through.'
'I am his step-son; I left Glenquoich yesterday. I have lost
my luggage, and am left without any money. Will you lend me
five pounds?' I believe if I were in the same strait now,
and entered any strange hotel in the United Kingdom at half-
past ten at night, and asked the landlord to give me five
pounds upon a similar security, he would laugh in my face, or
perhaps give me in charge of a policeman.
My host of Douglas' did neither; but opened both his heart
and his pocket-book, and with the greatest good humour handed
me the requested sum. What good people there are in this
world, which that crusty old Sir Peter Teazle calls 'a d-d
wicked one.' I poured out all my trouble to the generous
man. He ordered me an excellent supper, and a very nice
room. And on the following day, after taking a great deal of
trouble, he recovered my lost luggage and the priceless
treasure it contained. It was a proud and happy moment when
I returned his loan, and convinced him, of what he did not
seem to doubt, that I was positively not a swindler.
But the roofless night and the empty belly, consequent on an
empty pocket, was a lesson which I trust was not thrown away
upon me. It did not occur to me to do so, but I certainly
might have picked a pocket, if - well, if I had been brought
up to it. Honesty, as I have often thought since, is dirt
cheap if only one can afford it.
Before departing from my beloved Glenquoich, I must pay a
passing tribute to the remarkable qualities of Mrs. Edward
Ellice and of her youngest sister Mrs. Robert Ellice, the
mother of the present member for St. Andrews. It was, in a
great measure, the bright intelligence, the rare tact, and
social gifts of these two ladies that made this beautiful
Highland resort so attractive to all comers.
THE winter of 1854-55 I spent in Rome. Here I made the
acquaintance of Leighton, then six-and-twenty. I saw a good
deal of him, as I lived almost entirely amongst the artists,
taking lessons myself in water colours of Leitch. Music also
brought us into contact. He had a beautiful voice, and used
to sing a good deal with Mrs. Sartoris - Adelaide Kemble -
whom he greatly admired, and whose portrait is painted under
a monk's cowl, in the Cimabue procession.
Calling on him one morning, I found him on his knees
buttering and rolling up this great picture, preparatory to
sending it to the Academy. I made some remark about its
unusual size, saying with a sceptical smile, 'It will take up
a lot of room.'
'If they ever hang it,' he replied; 'but there's not much
chance of that.'
Seeing that his reputation was yet to win, it certainly
seemed a bold venture to make so large a demand for space to
begin with. He did not appear the least sanguine. But it
was accepted; and Prince Albert bought it before the
Gibson also I saw much of. He had executed a large alto-
rilievo monument of my mother, which is now in my parish
church, and the model of which is on the landing of one of
the staircases of the National Gallery. His studio was
always an interesting lounge, for he was ever ready to
lecture upon antique marbles. To listen to him was like
reading the 'Laocoon,' which he evidently had at his fingers'
ends. My companion through the winter was Mr. Reginald
Cholmondeley, a Cambridge ally, who was studying painting.
He was the uncle of Miss Cholmondeley the well-known
authoress, whose mother, by the way, was a first cousin of
George Cayley's, and also a great friend of mine.
On my return to England I took up my abode in Dean's Yard,
and shared a house there with Mr. Cayley, the Yorkshire
member, and his two sons, the eldest a barrister, and my
friend George. Here for several years we had exceedingly
pleasant gatherings of men more or less distinguished in
literature and art. Tennyson was a frequent visitor - coming
late, after dinner hours, to smoke his pipe. He varied a
good deal, sometimes not saying a word, but quietly listening
to our chatter. Thackeray also used to drop in occasionally.
George Cayley and I, with the assistance of his father and
others, had started a weekly paper called 'The Realm.' It
was professedly a currency paper, and also supported a fiscal
policy advocated by Mr. Cayley and some of his parliamentary
clique. Coming in one day, and finding us hard at work,
Thackeray asked for information. We handed him a copy of the
paper. 'Ah,' he exclaimed, with mock solemnity, '"The
Rellum," should be printed on vellum.' He too, like
Tennyson, was variable. But this depended on whom he found.
In the presence of a stranger he was grave and silent. He
would never venture on puerile jokes like this of his
'Rellum' - a frequent playfulness, when at his ease, which
contrasted so unexpectedly with his impenetrable exterior.
He was either gauging the unknown person, or feeling that he
was being gauged. Monckton Milnes was another. Seeing me
correcting some proof sheets, he said, 'Let me give you a
piece of advice, my young friend. Write as much as you
please, but the less you print the better.'
'For me, or for others?'
George Cayley had a natural gift for, and had acquired
considerable skill, in the embossing and working of silver
ware. Millais so admired his art that he commissioned him to
make a large tea-tray; Millais provided the silver. Round
the border of the tray were beautifully modelled sea-shells,
cray-fish, crabs, and fish of quaint forms, in high relief.
Millais was so pleased with the work that he afterwards
painted, and presented to Cayley, a fine portrait in his best
style of Cayley's son, a boy of six or seven years old.
Laurence Oliphant was one of George Cayley's friends.
Attractive as he was in many ways, I had little sympathy with
his religious opinions, nor did I comprehend Oliphant's
exalted inspirations; I failed to see their practical
bearing, and, at that time I am sorry to say, looked upon him
as an amiable faddist. A special favourite with both of us
was William Stirling of Keir. His great work on the Spanish
painters, and his 'Cloister Life of Charles the Fifth,'
excited our unbounded admiration, while his BONHOMIE and
radiant humour were a delight we were always eager to
George Cayley and I now entered at Lincoln's Inn. At the end
of three years he was duly called to the Bar. I was not; for
alas, as usual, something 'turned up,' which drew me in
another direction. For a couple of years, however, I 'ate'
my terms - not unfrequently with William Harcourt, with whom
Cayley had a Yorkshire intimacy even before our Cambridge
Old Mr. Cayley, though not the least strait-laced, was a
religious man. A Unitarian by birth and conviction, he began
and ended the day with family prayers. On Sundays he would
always read to us, or make us read to him, a sermon of
Channing's, or of Theodore Parker's, or what we all liked
better, one of Frederick Robertson's. He was essentially a
good man. He had been in Parliament all his life, and was a
broad-minded, tolerant, philosophical man-of-the-world. He
had a keen sense of humour, and was rather sarcastical; but,
for all that, he was sensitively earnest, and conscientious.
I had the warmest affection and respect for him. Such a
character exercised no small influence upon our conduct and
our opinions, especially as his approval or disapproval of
these visibly affected his own happiness.
He was never easy unless he was actively engaged in some
benevolent scheme, the promotion of some charity, or in what
he considered his parliamentary duties, which he contrived to
make very burdensome to his conscience. As his health was
bad, these self-imposed obligations were all the more
onerous; but he never spared himself, or his somewhat scanty
means. Amongst other minor tasks, he used to teach at the
Sunday-school of St. John's, Westminster; in this he
persuaded me to join him. The only other volunteer, not a
clergyman, was Page Wood - a great friend of Mr. Cayley's -
afterwards Lord Chancellor Hatherley. In spite of Mr.
Cayley's Unitarianism, like Frederick the Great, he was all
for letting people 'go to Heaven in their own way,' and was
moreover quite ready to help them in their own way. So that
he had no difficulty in hearing the boys repeat the day's
collect, or the Creed, even if Athanasian, in accordance with
the prescribed routine of the clerical teachers.
This was right, at all events for him, if he thought it
right. My spirit of nonconformity did not permit me to
follow his example. Instead thereof, my teaching was purely
secular. I used to take a volume of Mrs. Marcet's
'Conversations' in my pocket; and with the aid of the
diagrams, explain the application of the mechanical forces, -
the inclined plane, the screw, the pulley, the wedge, and the
lever. After two or three Sundays my class was largely
increased, for the children keenly enjoyed their competitive
examinations. I would also give them bits of poetry to get
by heart for the following Sunday - lines from Gray's
'Elegy,' from Wordsworth, from Pope's 'Essay on Man' - such
in short as had a moral rather than a religious tendency.
After some weeks of this, the boys becoming clamorous in
their zeal to correct one another, one of the curates left
his class to hear what was going on in mine. We happened at
the moment to be dealing with geography. The curate,
evidently shocked, went away and brought another curate.
Then the two together departed, and brought back the rector -
Dr. Jennings, one of the Westminster Canons - a most kind and
excellent man. I went on as if unconscious of the
censorship, the boys exerting themselves all the more eagerly
for the sake of the 'gallery.' When the hour was up, Canon
Jennings took me aside, and in the most polite manner thanked
me for my 'valuable assistance,' but did not think that the
'Essay on Man,' or especially geography, was suited for the
teaching in a Sunday-school. I told him I knew it was
useless to contend with so high a canonical authority;
personally I did not see the impiety of geography, but then,
as he already knew, I was a confirmed latitudinarian. He
clearly did not see the joke, but intimated that my services
would henceforth be dispensed with.
Of course I was wrong, though I did not know it then, for it
must be borne in mind that there were no Board Schools in
those days, and general education, amongst the poor, was
deplorably deficient. At first, my idea was to give the
children (they were all boys) a taste for the 'humanities,'
which might afterwards lead to their further pursuit. I
assumed that on the Sunday they would be thinking of the
baked meats awaiting them when church was over, or of their
week-day tops and tipcats; but I was equally sure that a time
would come when these would be forgotten, and the other
things remembered. The success was greater from the
beginning than could be looked for; and some years afterwards
I had reason to hope that the forecast was not altogether too
While the Victoria Tower was being built, I stopped one day
to watch the masons chiselling the blocks of stone.
Presently one of them, in a flannel jacket and a paper cap,
came and held out his hand to me. He was a handsome young
fellow with a big black beard and moustache, both powdered
with his chippings.
'You don't remember me, sir, do you?'
'Did I ever see you before?'
'My name is Richards; don't you remember, sir? I was one of
the boys you used to teach at the Sunday-school. It gave me
a turn for mechanics, which I followed up; and that's how I
took to this trade. I'm a master mason now, sir; and the
whole of this lot is under me.'
'I wonder what you would have been,' said I, 'if we'd stuck
to the collects?'
'I don't think I should have had a hand in this little job,'
he answered, looking up with pride at the mighty tower, as
though he had a creative share in its construction.
All this while I was working hard at my own education, and
trying to make up for the years I had wasted (so I thought of
them), by knocking about the world. I spent laborious days
and nights in reading, dabbling in geology, chemistry,
physiology, metaphysics, and what not. On the score of
dogmatic religion I was as restless as ever. I had an
insatiable thirst for knowledge; but was without guidance. I
wanted to learn everything; and, not knowing in what
direction to concentrate my efforts, learnt next to nothing.
All knowledge seemed to me equally important, for all bore
alike upon the great problems of belief and of existence.
But what to pursue, what to relinquish, appeared to me an
unanswerable riddle. Difficult as this puzzle was, I did not
know then that a long life's experience would hardly make it
simpler. The man who has to earn his bread must fain resolve
to adapt his studies to that end. His choice not often rests
with him. But the unfortunate being cursed in youth with the
means of idleness, yet without genius, without talents even,
is terribly handicapped and perplexed.
And now, with life behind me, how should I advise another in
such a plight? When a young lady, thus embarrassed, wrote to
Carlyle for counsel, he sympathetically bade her 'put her
drawers in order.'
Here is the truth to be faced at the outset: 'Man has but
the choice to go a little way in many paths, or a great way
in only one.' 'Tis thus John Mill puts it. Which will he,
which should he, choose? Both courses lead alike to
incompleteness. The universal man is no specialist, and has
to generalise without his details. The specialist sees only
through his microscope, and knows about as much of cosmology
as does his microbe. Goethe, the most comprehensive of
Seers, must needs expose his incompleteness by futile
attempts to disprove Newton's theory of colour. Newton must
needs expose his, by a still more lamentable attempt to prove
the Apocalypse as true as his own discovery of the laws of
gravitation. All science nowadays is necessarily confined to
experts. Without illustrating the fact by invidious hints, I
invite anyone to consider the intellectual cost to the world
which such limitation entails; nor is the loss merely
negative; the specialist is unfortunately too often a bigot,
when beyond his contracted sphere.
This, you will say, is arguing in a circle. The universal
must be given up for the detail, the detail for the
universal; we leave off where we began. Yes, that is the
dilemma. Still, the gain to science through a devotion of a
whole life to a mere group of facts, in a single branch of a
single science, may be an incalculable acquisition to human
knowledge, to the intellectual capital of the race - a gain
that sometimes far outweighs the loss. Even if we narrow the
question to the destiny of the individual, the sacrifice of
each one for the good of the whole is doubtless the highest
aim the one can have.
But this conclusion scarcely helps us; for remember, the
option is not given to all. Genius, or talent, or special
aptitude, is a necessary equipment for such an undertaking.
Great discoverers must be great observers, dexterous
manipulators, ingenious contrivers, and patient thinkers.
The difficulty we started with was, what you and I, my
friend, who perhaps have to row in the same boat, and perhaps
'with the same sculls,' without any of these provisions, what
we should do? What point of the compass should we steer for?
'Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.'
Truly there could be no better advice. But the 'finding' is
the puzzle; and like the search for truth it must, I fear, be
left to each one's power to do it. And then - and then the
countless thousands who have the leisure without the means -
who have hands at least, and yet no work to put them to -
what is to be done for these? Not in your time or mine, dear
friend, will that question be answered. For this, I fear we
must wait till by the 'universal law of adaptation' we reach
'the ultimate development of the ideal man.' 'Colossal
optimism,' exclaims the critic.
IN February, 1855, Roebuck moved for a select committee to
inquire into the condition of the Army before Sebastopol.
Lord John Russell, who was leader of the House, treated this
as a vote of censure, and resigned. Lord Palmerston resisted
Roebuck's motion, and generously defended the Government he
was otherwise opposed to. But the motion was carried by a
majority of 157, and Lord Aberdeen was turned out of office.
The Queen sent for Lord Derby, but without Lord Palmerston he
was unable to form a Ministry. Lord John was then appealed
to, with like results; and the premiership was practically
forced upon Palmerston, in spite of his unpopularity at
Court. Mr. Horsman was made Chief Secretary for Ireland; and
through Mr. Ellice I became his private secretary.
Before I went to the Irish Office I was all but a stranger to
my chief. I had met him occasionally in the tennis court;
but the net was always between us. He was a man with a great
deal of manner, but with very little of what the French call
'conviction.' Nothing keeps people at a distance more
effectually than simulated sincerity; Horsman was a master of
the art. I was profoundly ignorant of my duties. But though
this was a great inconvenience to me at first, it led to a
friendship which I greatly prized until its tragic end. For
all information as to the writers of letters, as to Irish
Members who applied for places for themselves, or for others,
I had to consult the principal clerk. He was himself an
Irishman of great ability; and though young, was either
personally or officially acquainted, so it seemed to me, with
every Irishman in the House of Commons, or out of it. His
name is too well known - it was Thomas Bourke, afterwards
Under Secretary, and one of the victims of the Fenian
assassins in the Phoenix Park. His patience and amiability
were boundless; and under his guidance I soon learnt the
tricks of my trade.
During the session we remained in London; and for some time
it was of great interest to listen to the debates. When
Irish business was before the House, I had often to be in
attendance on my chief in the reporters' gallery. Sometimes
I had to wait there for an hour or two before our questions
came on, and thus had many opportunities of hearing Bright,
Gladstone, Disraeli, and all the leading speakers. After a
time the pleasure, when compulsory, began to pall; and I used
to wonder what on earth could induce the ruck to waste their
time in following, sheeplike, their bell-wethers, or waste
their money in paying for that honour. When Parliament was
up we moved to Dublin. I lived with Horsman in the Chief
Secretary's lodge. And as I had often stayed at Castle
Howard before Lord Carlisle became Viceroy, between the two
lodges I saw a great deal of pleasant society.
Amongst those who came to stay with Horsman was Sidney
Herbert, then Colonial Secretary, a man of singular nobility
of nature. Another celebrity for the day, but of a very
different character, was Lord Cardigan. He had just returned
from the Crimea, and was now in command of the forces in
Ireland. This was about six months after the Balaklava
charge. Horsman asked him one evening to give a description
of it, with a plan of the battle. His Lordship did so; no
words could be more suited to the deed. If this was 'pell-
mell, havock, and confusion,' the account of it was
proportionately confounded. The noble leader scrawled and
inked and blotted all the phases of the battle upon the same
scrap of paper, till the batteries were at the starting-point
of the charge, the Light Brigade on the far side of the guns,
and all the points of the compass, attack and defence, had
changed their original places; in fact, the gallant Earl
brandished his pen as valiantly as he had his sword. When
quite bewildered, like everybody else, I ventured mildly to
ask, 'But where were you, Lord Cardigan, and where were our
men when it came to this?'
'Where? Where? God bless my soul! How should I know where
anybody was?' And this, no doubt, described the situation to
My office was in the Castle, and the next room to mine was
that of the Solicitor-General Keogh, afterwards Judge. We
became the greatest of friends. It was one of Horsman's
peculiarities to do business circuitously. He was fond of
mysteries and of secrets, secrets that were to be kept from
everyone, but which were generally known to the office
messengers. When Keogh and I met in the morning he would
say, with admirable imitation of Horsman's manner, 'Well, it
is all settled; the Viceroy has considered the question, and
has decided to act upon my advice. Mind you don't tell
anyone - it is a profound secret,' then, lowering his voice
and looking round the room, 'His Excellency has consented to
score at the next cricket match between the garrison and the
Civil Service.' If it were a constabulary appointment, or
even a village post-office, the Attorney or the Solicitor-
General would be strictly enjoined not to inform me, and I
received similar injunctions respecting them. In spite of
his apparent attention to details, Mr. Horsman hunted three
days a week, and stated in the House of Commons that the
office of Chief Secretary was a farce, meaning when excluded
from the Cabinet. All I know is, that his private secretary
was constantly at work an hour before breakfast by candle-
light, and never got a single day's holiday throughout the
Horsman had hired a shooting - Balnaboth in Scotland; here,
too, I had to attend upon him in the autumn, mainly for the
purpose of copying voluminous private correspondence about a
sugar estate he owned at Singapore, then producing a large
income, but the subsequent failure of which was his ruin.
One year Sir Alexander Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice, came
to stay with him; and excellent company he was. Horsman had
sometimes rather an affected way of talking; and referring to
some piece of political news, asked Cockburn whether he had
seen it in the 'Courier.' This he pronounced with an accent
on the last syllable, like the French 'Courrier.' Cockburn,
with a slight twinkle in his eye, answered in his quiet way,
'No, I didn't see it in the "Courrier," perhaps it is in the
"Morning Post,"' also giving the French pronunciation to the
Sir Alexander told us an amusing story about Disraeli. He
and Bernal Osborne were talking together about Mrs. Disraeli,
when presently Osborne, with characteristic effrontery,
exclaimed: 'My dear Dizzy, how could you marry such a
woman?' The answer was; 'My dear Bernal, you never knew what
gratitude was, or you would not ask the question.'
The answer was a gracious one, and doubtless sincere. But,
despite his cynicism, no one could be more courteous or say
prettier things than Disraeli. Here is a little story that
was told me at the time by my sister-in-law, who was a woman
of the bedchamber, and was present on the occasion. When her
Majesty Queen Alexandra was suffering from an accident to her
knee, and had to use crutches, Disraeli said to her: 'I have
heard of a devil on two sticks, but never before knew an
angel to use them.'
Keogh, Bourke, and I, made several pleasant little excursions
to such places as Bray, the Seven Churches, Powerscourt, &c.,
and, with a chosen car-driver, the wit and fun of the three
clever Irishmen was no small treat. The last time I saw
either of my two friends was at a dinner-party which Bourke
gave at the 'Windham.' We were only four, to make up a whist
party; the fourth was Fred Clay, the composer. It is sad to
reflect that two of the lot came to violent ends - Keogh, the
cheeriest of men in society, by his own hands. Bourke I had
often spoken to of the danger he ran in crossing the Phoenix
Park nightly on his way home, on foot and unarmed. He
laughed at me, and rather indignantly - for he was a very
vain man, though one of the most good-natured fellows in the
world. In the first place, he prided himself on his physique
- he was a tall, well-built, handsome man, and a good boxer
and fencer to boot. In the next place, he prided himself
above all things on being a thorough-bred Irishman, with a
sneaking sympathy with even Fenian grievances. 'They all
know ME,' he would say. 'The rascals know I'm the best
friend they have. I'm the last man in the world they'd harm,
for political reasons. Anyway, I can take care of myself.'
And so it was he fell.
The end of Horsman's secretaryship is soon told. A bishopric
became vacant, and almost as much intrigue was set agoing as
we read of in the wonderful story of 'L'Anneau d'Amethyste.'
Horsman, at all times a profuse letter-writer, wrote folios
to Lord Palmerston on the subject, each letter more
exuberant, more urgent than the last. But no answer came.
Finally, the whole Irish vote, according to the Chief
Secretary, being at stake - not to mention the far more
important matter of personal and official dignity - Horsman
flew off to London, boiling over with impatience and
indignation. He rushed to 10 Downing Street. His Lordship
was at the Foreign office, but was expected every minute;
would Mr. Horsman wait? Mr. Horsman was shown into his
Lordship's room. Piles of letters, opened and unopened, were
lying upon the table. The Chief Secretary recognised his own
signatures on the envelopes of a large bundle, all amongst
the 'un's.' The Premier came in, an explanation EXTREMEMENT
VIVE followed; on his return to Dublin Mr. Horsman resigned
his post, and from that moment became one of Lord
Palmerston's bitterest opponents.
THE lectures at the Royal Institution were of some help to
me. I attended courses by Owen, Tyndall, Huxley, and Bain.
Of these, Huxley was FACILE PRINCEPS, though both Owen and
Tyndall were second to no other. Bain was disappointing. I
was a careful student of his books, and always admired the
logical lucidity of his writing. But to the mixed audience
he had to lecture to - fashionable young ladies in their
teens, and drowsy matrons in charge of them, he discreetly
kept clear of transcendentals. In illustration perhaps of
some theory of the relation of the senses to the intellect,
he would tell an amusing anecdote of a dog that had had an
injured leg dressed at a certain house, after which the
recovered dog brought a canine friend to the same house to
have his leg - or tail - repaired. Out would come all the
tablets and pretty pencil cases, and every young lady would
be busy for the rest of the lecture in recording the
marvellous history. If the dog's name had been 'Spot' or
'Bob,' the important psychological fact would have been
faithfully registered. As to the theme of the discourse,
that had nothing to do with - millinery. And Mr. Bain
doubtless did not overlook the fact.
Owen was an accomplished lecturer; but one's attention to him
depended on two things - a primary interest in the subject,
and some elementary acquaintance with it. If, for example,
his subject were the comparative anatomy of the cycloid and
ganoid fishes, the difference in their scales was scarcely of
vital importance to one's general culture. But if he were
lecturing on fish, he would stick to fish; it would be
essentially a JOUR MAIGRE.
With Huxley, the suggestion was worth more than the thing
said. One thought of it afterwards, and wondered whether his
words implied all they seemed to imply. One knew that the
scientist was also a philosopher; and one longed to get at
him, at the man himself, and listen to the lessons which his
work had taught him. At one of these lectures I had the
honour of being introduced to him by a great friend of mine,
John Marshall, then President of the College of Surgeons. In
later years I used to meet him constantly at the Athenaeum.
Looking back to the days of one's plasticity, two men are
pre-eminent among my Dii Majores. To John Stuart Mill and to
Thomas Huxley I owe more, educationally, than to any other
teachers. Mill's logic was simply a revelation to me. For
what Kant calls 'discipline,' I still know no book, unless it
be the 'Critique' itself, equal to it. But perhaps it is the
men themselves, their earnestness, their splendid courage,
their noble simplicity, that most inspired one with
reverence. It was Huxley's aim to enlighten the many, and he
enlightened them. It was Mill's lot to help thinkers, and he
helped them. SAPERE AUDE was the motto of both. How few
there are who dare to adopt it! To love truth is valiantly
professed by all; but to pursue it at all costs, to 'dare to
be wise' needs daring of the highest order.
Mill had the enormous advantage, to start with, of an
education unbiassed by any theological creed; and he brought
exceptional powers of abstract reasoning to bear upon matters
of permanent and supreme importance to all men. Yet, in
spite of his ruthless impartiality, I should not hesitate to
call him a religious man. This very tendency which no
imaginative mind, no man or woman with any strain of poetical
feeling, can be without, invests Mill's character with a
clash of humanity which entitles him to a place in our
affections. It is in this respect that he so widely differs
from Mr. Herbert Spencer. Courageous Mr. Spencer was, but
his courage seems to have been due almost as much to absence
of sympathy or kinship with his fellow-creatures, and to his
contempt of their opinions, as from his dispassionate love of
truth, or his sometimes passionate defence of his own tenets.
My friend Napier told me an amusing little story about John
Mill when he was in the East India Company's administration.
Mr. Macvey Napier, my friend's elder brother, was the senior
clerk. On John Mill's retirement, his co-officials
subscribed to present him with a silver standish. Such was
the general sense of Mill's modest estimate of his own
deserts, and of his aversion to all acknowledgment of them,
that Mr. Napier, though it fell to his lot, begged others to
join in the ceremony of presentation. All declined; the
inkstand was left upon Mill's table when he himself was out
of the room.
Years after the time of which I am writing, when Mill stood
for Westminster, I had the good fortune to be on the platform
at St. James's Hall, next but one to him, when he made his
first speech to the electors. He was completely unknown to
the public, and, though I worshipped the man, I had never
seen him, nor had an idea what he looked like. To satisfy my
curiosity I tried to get a portrait of him at the
photographic shop in Regent Street.
'I want a photograph of Mr. Mill.'
'Mill? Mill?' repeated the shopman, 'Oh yes, sir, I know - a
great sporting gent,' and he produced the portrait of a
sportsman in top boots and a hunting cap.
Very different from this was the figure I then saw. The hall
and the platform were crowded. Where was the principal
personage? Presently, quite alone, up the side steps, and
unobserved, came a thin but tallish man in black, with a tail
coat, and, almost unrecognised, took the vacant front seat.
He might have been, so far as dress went, a clerk in a
counting-house, or an undertaker. But the face was no
ordinary one. The wide brow, the sharp nose of the Burke
type, the compressed lips and strong chin, were suggestive of
intellect and of suppressed emotion. There was no applause,
for nothing was known to the crowd, even of his opinions,
beyond the fact that he was the Liberal candidate for
Westminster. He spoke with perfect ease to himself, never
faltering for the right word, which seemed to be always at
his command. If interrupted by questions, as he constantly
was, his answers could not have been amended had he written
them. His voice was not strong, and there were frequent
calls from the far end to 'speak up, speak up; we can't hear
you.' He did not raise his pitch a note. They might as well
have tried to bully an automaton. He was doing his best, and
he could do no more. Then, when, instead of the usual
adulations, instead of declamatory appeals to the passions of
a large and a mixed assembly, he gave them to understand, in
very plain language, that even socialists are not infallible,
- that extreme and violent opinions, begotten of ignorance,
do not constitute the highest political wisdom; then there
were murmurs of dissent and disapproval. But if the ignorant
and the violent could have stoned him, his calm manner would
still have said, 'Strike, but hear me.'
Mr. Robert Grosvenor - the present Lord Ebury - then the
other Liberal member for Westminster, wrote to ask me to take
the chair at Mill's first introduction to the Pimlico
electors. Such, however, was my admiration of Mill, I did
not feel sure that I might not say too much in his favour;
and mindful of the standish incident, I knew, that if I did
so, it would embarrass and annoy him.
Under these circumstances I declined the honour.
When Owen was delivering a course of lectures at Norwich, my
brother invited him to Holkham. I was there, and we took
several long walks together. Nothing seemed to escape his
observation. My brother had just completed the recovery of
many hundred acres of tidal marsh by embankments. Owen, who
was greatly interested, explained what would be the effect
upon the sandiest portion of this, in years to come; what the
chemical action of the rain would be, how the sand would
eventually become soil, how vegetation would cover it, and
how manure render it cultivable. The splendid crops now
grown there bear testimony to his foresight. He had always
something instructive to impart, stopping to contemplate
trifles which only a Zadig would have noticed.
'I observe,' said he one day, 'that your prevailing wind here
'How do you know?' I asked.
'Look at the roots of all these trees; the large roots are
invariably on the north-west side. This means that the
strain comes on this side. The roots which have to bear it
loosen the soil, and the loosened soil favours the extension
and the growth of the roots. Nature is beautifully
Some years after this, I published a book called 'Creeds of
the Day.' My purpose was to show, in a popular form, the
bearings of science and speculative thought upon the
religious creeds of the time. I sent Owen a copy of the
work. He wrote me one of the most interesting letters I ever
received. He had bought the book, and had read it. But the
important content of the letter was the confession of his own
faith. I have purposely excluded all correspondence from
these Memoirs, but had it not been that a forgotten collector
of autographs had captured it, I should have been tempted to
make an exception in its favour. The tone was agnostic; but
timidly agnostic. He had never freed himself from the
shackles of early prepossessions. He had not the necessary
daring to clear up his doubts. Sometimes I fancy that it was
this difference in the two men that lay at the bottom of the
unfortunate antagonism between Owen and Huxley. There is in
Owen's writing, where he is not purely scientific, a touch of
the apologist. He cannot quite make up his mind to follow
evolution to its logical conclusions. Where he is forced to
do so, it is to him like signing the death warrant of his
dearest friend. It must not be forgotten that Owen was born
more than twenty years before Huxley; and great as was the
offence of free-thinking in Huxley's youth, it was nothing
short of anathema in Owen's. When I met him at Holkham, the
'Origin of Species' had not been published; and Napier and I
did all we could to get Owen to express some opinion on
Lamarck's theory, for he and I used to talk confidentially on
this fearful heresy even then. But Owen was ever on his
guard. He evaded our questions and changed the subject.
Whenever I pass near the South Kensington Museum I step aside
to look at the noble statues of the two illustrious men. A
mere glance at them, and we appreciate at once their
respective characters. In the one we see passive wisdom, in
the other militant force.
BEFORE I went to America, I made the acquaintance of Dr.
George Bird; he continued to be one of my most intimate
friends till his death, fifty years afterwards. When I first
knew him, Bird was the medical adviser and friend of Leigh
Hunt, whose family I used often to meet at his house. He had
been dependent entirely upon his own exertions; had married
young; and had had a pretty hard fight at starting to provide
for his children and for himself. His energy, his abilities,
his exceeding amiability, and remarkable social qualities,
gradually procured him a large practice and hosts of devoted
friends. He began looking for the season for sprats - the
cheapest of fish - to come in; by middle life he was
habitually and sumptuously entertaining the celebrities of
art and literature. With his accomplished sister, Miss Alice
Bird, to keep house for him, there were no pleasanter dinner
parties or receptions in London. His CLIENTELE was mainly
amongst the artistic world. He was a great friend of Miss
Ellen Terry's, Mr. Marcus Stone and his sisters were
frequenters of his house, so were Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Woolner
the sculptor - of whom I was not particularly fond - Horace
Wigan the actor, and his father, the Burtons, who were much
attached to him - Burton dedicated one volume of his 'Arabian
Nights' to him - Sir William Crookes, Mr. Justin Macarthy and
his talented son, and many others.
The good doctor was a Radical and Home Ruler, and attended
professionally the members of one or two labouring men's
clubs for fees which, as far as I could learn, were
rigorously nominal. His great delight was to get an order
for the House of Commons, especially on nights when Mr.
Gladstone spoke; and, being to the last day of his life as
simple-minded as a child, had a profound belief in the
statemanship and integrity of that renowned orator.
As far as personality goes, the Burtons were, perhaps, the
most notable of the above-named. There was a mystery about
Burton which was in itself a fascination. No one knew what
he had done; or consequently what he might not do. He never
boasted, never hinted that he had done, or could do, anything
different from other men; and, in spite of the mystery, one
felt that he was transparently honest and sincere. He was
always the same, always true to himself; but then, that
'self' was a something PER SE, which could not be
categorically classed - precedent for guidance was lacking.