A WRITER’S RECOLLECTIONS (IN TWO VOLUMES), VOLUME I
BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Published November, 1918
[Illustration: DR. THOMAS ARNOLD OF RUGBY]
T. H. W.
(In memory of April 6, 1872)_
I. EARLY DAYS
II. FOX HOW
III. THE FAMILY OF FOX HOW
IV. OTHER CHILDREN OF FOX HOW
V. THE FRIENDS OF FOX HOW
VI. YOUNG DAYS AT OXFORD
VII. BALLIOL AND LINCOLN
VIII. EARLY MARRIED LIFE
IX. THE BEGINNINGS OF “ROBERT ELSMERE”
DR. THOMAS ARNOLD OP RUGBY _Frontispiece_
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN J
FOX HOW, THE WESTMORLAND HOME OF THE ARNOLDS
A WRITER’S RECOLLECTIONS
Do we all become garrulous and confidential as we approach the gates of old age? Is it that we instinctively feel, and cannot help asserting, our one advantage over the younger generation, which has so many over us?–the one advantage of _time!_
After all, it is not disputable that we have lived longer than they. When they talk of past poets, or politicians, or novelists, whom the young still deign to remember, of whom for once their estimate agrees with ours, we can sometimes put in a quiet, “I saw him”–or, “I talked with him”–which for the moment wins the conversational race. And as we elders fall back before the brilliance and glitter of the New Age, advancing “like an army with banners,” this mere prerogative of years becomes in itself a precious possession. After all, we cannot divest ourselves of it, if we would. It is better to make friends with it–to turn it into a kind of _panache_–to wear it with an air, since wear it we must.
So as the years draw on toward the Biblical limit, the inclination to look back, and to tell some sort of story of what one has seen, grows upon most of us. I cannot hope that what I have to say will be very interesting to many. A life spent largely among books, and in the exercise of a literary profession, has very obvious drawbacks, as a subject-matter, when one comes to write about it. I can only attempt it with any success, if my readers will allow me a large psychological element. The thoughts and opinions of one human being, if they are sincere, must always have an interest for some other human beings. The world is there to think about; and if we have lived, or are living, with any sort of energy, we _must_ have thought about it, and about ourselves in relation to it–thought “furiously” often. And it is out of the many “thinkings” of many folk, strong or weak, dull or far-ranging, that thought itself grows. For progress surely, whether in men or nations, means only a richer knowledge; the more impressions, therefore, on the human intelligence that we can seize and record, the more sensitive becomes that intelligence itself.
But of course the difficulty lies in the seizing and recording–in the choice, that is, of what to say, and how to say it. In this choice, as I look back over more than half a century, I can only follow–and trust–the same sort of instinct that one follows in the art of fiction. I shall be telling what is primarily true, or as true as I can make it, as distinguished from what is primarily imagination, built on truth. But the truth one uses in fiction must be interesting! Milton expresses that in the words “sensuous” and “passionate,” which he applies to poetry in the _Areopagitica_. And the same thing applies to autobiography, where selection is even more necessary than in fiction. Nothing ought to be told, I think, that does not interest or kindle one’s own mind in looking back; it is the only condition on which one can hope to interest or kindle other minds. And this means that one ought to handle things broadly, taking only the salient points in the landscape of the past, and of course with as much detachment as possible. Though probably in the end one will have to admit–egotists that we all are!–that not much detachment _is_ possible.
For me, the first point that stands out is the arrival of a little girl of five, in the year 1856, at a gray-stone house in a Westmorland valley, where, fourteen years earlier, the children of Arnold of Rugby, the “Doctor” of _Tom Brown’s Schooldays_, had waited on a June day, to greet their father, expected from the South, only to hear, as the summer day died away, that two hours’ sharp illness, that very morning, had taken him from them. Of what preceded my arrival as a black-haired, dark-eyed child, with my father, mother, and two brothers, at Fox How, the holiday house among the mountains which the famous headmaster had built for himself in 1834, I have but little recollection. I see dimly another house in wide fields, where dwarf lilies grew, and I know that it was a house in Tasmania, where at the time of my birth my father, Thomas Arnold, the Doctor’s second son, was organizing education in the young colony. I can just recall, too, the deck of a ship which to my childish feet seemed vast–but the _William Brown_ was a sailing-ship of only 400 tons!–in which we made the voyage home in 1856. Three months and a half we took about it, going round the Horn in bitter weather, much run over by rats at night, and expected to take our baths by day in two huge barrels full of sea water on the deck, into which we children were plunged shivering by our nurse, two or three times a week. My father and mother, their three children, and some small cousins, who were going to England under my mother’s care, were the only passengers.
I can remember, too, being lifted–weak and miserable with toothache–in my father’s arms to catch the first sight of English shores as we neared the mouth of the Thames; and then the dismal inn by the docks where we first took shelter. The dreary room where we children slept the first night, its dingy ugliness and its barred windows, still come back to me as a vision of horror. Next day, like angels of rescue, came an aunt and uncle, who took us away to other and cheerful quarters, and presently saw us off to Westmorland. The aunt was my godmother, Doctor Arnold’s eldest daughter–then the young wife of William Edward Forster, a Quaker manufacturer, who afterward became the well-known Education Minister of 1870, and was Chief Secretary for Ireland in the terrible years 1880-82.
To my mother and her children, Fox How and its inmates represented much that was new and strange. My mother was the granddaughter of one of the first Governors of Tasmania, Governor Sorell, and had been brought up in the colony, except for a brief schooling at Brussels. Of her personal beauty in youth we children heard much, as we grew up, from her old Tasmanian friends and kinsfolk who would occasionally drift across us; and I see as though I had been there a scene often described to me–my mother playing Hermione in the “Winter’s Tale,” at Government House when Sir William Denison was Governor–a vision, lovely and motionless, on her pedestal, till at the words, “Music! awake her! Strike!” she kindled into life. Her family were probably French in origin. Governor Sorell had been a man of promise in his youth. His father, General William Alexander Sorell, of the Coldstream Guards, was a soldier of some eminence, whose two sons, William and Thomas, both served under Sir John Moore and at the Cape. But my great-grandfather ruined his military career, while he was Deputy Adjutant-General at the Cape, by a love-affair with a brother officer’s wife, and was banished or promoted–whichever one pleases to call it–to the new colony of Tasmania, of which he became Governor in 1816. His eldest son, by the wife he had left behind him in England, went out as a youth of twenty-one or so, to join his father, the Governor, in Tasmania, and I possess a little calf-bound diary of my grandfather written in a very delicate and refined hand, about the year 1823. The faint entries in it show him to have been a devoted son. But when, in 1830 or so, the Governor left the colony, and retired to Brussels, my grandfather remained in Van Diemen’s Land, as it was then generally called, became very much attached to the colony, and filled the post of Registrar of Deeds for many years under its successive Governors. I just remember him, as a gentle, affectionate, upright being, a gentleman of an old, punctilious school, strictly honorable and exact, content with a small sphere, and much loved within it. He would sometimes talk to his children of early days in Bath, of his father’s young successes and promotions, and of his grandfather, General Sorell, who, as Adjutant of the Coldstream Guards from 1744 to 1758, and associated with all the home and foreign service of that famous regiment during those years, through the Seven Years’ War, and up to the opening of the American War of Independence, played a vaguely brilliant part in his grandson’s recollections. But he himself was quite content with the modest affairs of an infant colony, which even in its earliest days achieved, whether in its landscape or its life, a curiously English effect; as though an English midland county had somehow got loose and, drifting to the Southern seas, had there set up–barring a few black aborigines, a few convicts, its mimosas, and its tree-ferns–another quiet version of the quiet English life it had left behind.
But the Sorells, all the same, had some foreign and excitable blood in them. Their story of themselves was that they were French Huguenots, expelled in 1685, who had settled in England and, coming of a military stock, had naturally sought careers in the English army. There are points in this story which are puzzling; but the foreign touch in my mother, and in the Governor–to judge from the only picture of him which remains–was unmistakable. Delicate features, small, beautifully shaped hands and feet, were accompanied in my mother by a French vivacity and quickness, an overflowing energy, which never forsook her through all her trials and misfortunes. In the Governor, the same physical characteristics make a rather decadent and foppish impression–as of an old stock run to seed. The stock had been reinvigorated in my mother, and one of its original elements which certainly survived in her temperament and tradition was of great importance both for her own life and for her children’s. This was the Protestant–the _French_ Protestant–element; which no doubt represented in the family from which she came a history of long suffering at the hands of Catholicism. Looking back upon her Protestantism, I see that it was not the least like English Evangelicalism, whether of the Anglican or dissenting type. There was nothing emotional or “enthusiastic” in it–no breath of Wesley or Wilberforce; but rather something drawn from deep wells of history, instinctive and invincible. Had some direct Calvinist ancestor of hers, with a soul on fire, fought the tyranny of Bossuet and Madame de Maintenon, before–eternally hating and resenting “Papistry”–he abandoned his country and kinsfolk, in the search for religious liberty? That is the impression which–looking back upon her life–it often makes upon me. All the more strange that to her it fell, unwittingly, imagining, indeed, that by her marriage with a son of Arnold of Rugby she was taking a step precisely in the opposite direction, to be, by a kind of tragic surprise, which yet was no one’s fault, the wife of a Catholic.
And that brings me to my father, whose character and story were so important to all his children that I must try and draw them, though I cannot pretend to any impartiality in doing so–only to the insight that affection gives; its one abiding advantage over the critic and the stranger.
He was the second son of Doctor Arnold of Rugby, and the younger brother–by only eleven months–of Matthew Arnold. On that morning of June 12, 1842, when the headmaster who in fourteen years’ rule at Rugby had made himself so conspicuous a place, not merely in the public-school world, but in English life generally arose, in the words of his poet son–to tread–
In the summer morning, the road–
Of death, at a call unforeseen–
My father, a boy of eighteen, was in the house, and witnessed the fatal attack of _angina pectoris_ which, in two hours, cut short a memorable career, and left those who till then, under a great man’s shelter and keeping, had–
Rested as under the boughs
Of a mighty oak….
Bare, unshaded, alone.
[Footnote 1: At the moment of correcting these proofs, my attention has been called to a foolish essay on my grandfather by Mr. Lytton Strachey, none the less foolish because it is the work of an extremely clever man. If Mr. Strachey imagines that the effect of my grandfather’s life and character upon men like Stanley and Clough, or a score of others who could be named, can be accounted for by the eidolon he presents to his readers in place of the real human being, one can only regard it as one proof the more of the ease with which a certain kind of ability outwits itself.]
He had been his father’s special favorite among the elder children, as shown by some verses in my keeping addressed to him as a small boy, at different times, by “the Doctor.” Those who know their _Tom Brown’s Schooldays_ will perhaps remember the various passages in the book where the softer qualities of the man whom “three hundred reckless childish boys” feared with all their hearts, “and very little besides in heaven or earth,” are made plain in the language of that date. Arthur’s illness, for instance, when the little fellow, who has been at death’s door, tells Tom Brown, who is at last allowed to see him: “You can’t think what the Doctor’s like when one’s ill. He said such brave and tender and gentle things to me–I felt quite light and strong after it, and never had any more fear.” Or East’s talk with the Doctor, when the lively boy of many scrapes has a moral return upon himself, and says to his best friend: “You can’t think how kind and gentle he was, the great grim man, whom I’ve feared more than anybody on earth. When I stuck, he lifted me, just as if I’d been a little child. And he seemed to know all I’d felt, and to have gone through it all.” This tenderness and charm of a strong man, which in Stanley’s biography is specially mentioned as growing more and more visible in the last months of his life, was always there for his children. In a letter written in 1828 to his sister, when my father as a small child not yet five was supposed to be dying, Arnold says, trying to steel himself against the bitterness of coming loss, “I might have loved him, had he lived, too dearly–you know how deeply I do love him now.” And three years later, when “little Tom,” on his eighth birthday, had just said, wistfully–with a curious foreboding instinct, “I think that the eight years I have now lived will be the happiest of my life,” Arnold, painfully struck by the words, wrote some verses upon them which I still possess. “The Doctor” was no poet, though the best of his historical prose–the well-known passage in the Roman History, for instance, on the death of Marcellus–has some of the essential notes of poetry–passion, strength, music. But the gentle Wordsworthian quality of his few essays in verse will be perhaps interesting to those who are aware of him chiefly as the great Liberal fighter of eighty years ago. He replies to his little son:
Is it that aught prophetic stirred
Thy spirit to that ominous word,
Foredating in thy childish mind
The fortune of thy Life’s career– That naught of brighter bliss shall cheer What still remains behind?
Or is thy Life so full of bliss
That, come what may, more blessed than this Thou canst not be again?
And fear’st thou, standing on the shore, What storms disturb with wild uproar
The years of older men?
* * * * *
At once to enjoy, at once to hope–
That fills indeed the largest scope Of good our thoughts can reach.
Where can we learn so blest a rule, What wisest sage, what happiest school, Art so divine can teach?
The answer, of course, in the mouth of a Christian teacher is that in Christianity alone is there both present joy and future hope. The passages in Arnold’s most intimate diary, discovered after his death, and published by Dean Stanley, show what the Christian faith was to my grandfather, how closely bound up with every action and feeling of his life. The impression made by his conception of that faith, as interpreted by his own daily life, upon a great school, and, through the many strong and able men who went out from it, upon English thought and feeling, is a part of English religious history.
[Illustration: MATTHEW ARNOLD.
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. From a drawing in possession of H. E. Wilberforce, Esq.]
But curiously enough the impression upon his own sons _appeared_, at any rate, to be less strong and lasting than in the case of others. I mean, of course, in the matter of opinion. The famous father died, and his children had to face the world without his guiding hand. Matthew and Tom, William and Edward, the eldest four sons, went in due time to Oxford, and the youngest boy into the Navy. My grandmother made her home at Fox How under the shelter of the fells, with her four daughters, the youngest of whom was only eight when their father died. The devotion of all the nine children to their mother, to one another, and to the common home was never weakened for a moment by the varieties of opinion that life was sure to bring out in the strong brood of strong parents. But the development of the elder two sons at the University was probably very different from what it would have been had their father lived. Neither of them, indeed, ever showed, while there, the smallest tendency to the “Newmanism” which Arnold of Rugby had fought with all his powers; which he had denounced with such vehemence in the Edinburgh article on “The Oxford Malignants.” My father was at Oxford all through the agitated years which preceded Newman’s secession from the Anglican communion. He had rooms in University College in the High Street, nearly opposite St. Mary’s, in which John Henry Newman, then its Vicar, delivered Sunday after Sunday those sermons which will never be forgotten by the Anglican Church. But my father only once crossed the street to hear him, and was then repelled by the mannerism of the preacher. Matthew Arnold occasionally went, out of admiration, my father used to say, for that strange Newmanic power of words, which in itself fascinated the young Balliol poet, who was to produce his first volume of poems two years after Newman’s secession to the Church of Rome. But he was never touched in the smallest degree by Newman’s opinions. He and my father and Arthur Clough, and a few other kindred spirits, lived indeed in quite another world of thought. They discovered George Sand, Emerson, and Carlyle, and orthodox Christianity no longer seemed to them the sure refuge that it had always been to the strong teacher who trained them as boys. There are many allusions of many dates in the letters of my father and uncle to each other, as to their common Oxford passion for George Sand. _Consuelo_, in particular, was a revelation to the two young men brought up under the “earnest” influence of Rugby. It seemed to open to them a world of artistic beauty and joy of which they had never dreamed; and to loosen the bands of an austere conception of life, which began to appear to them too narrow for the facts of life. _Wilhelm Meister_, read in Carlyle’s translation at the same time, exercised a similar liberating and enchanting power upon my father. The social enthusiasms of George Sand also affected him greatly, strengthening whatever he had inherited of his father’s generous discontent with an iron world, where the poor suffer too much and work too hard. And this discontent, when the time came for him to leave Oxford, assumed a form which startled his friends.
He had done very well at Oxford, taking his two Firsts with ease, and was offered a post in the Colonial Office immediately on leaving the University. But the time was full of schemes for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein should dwell equality and righteousness. The storm of 1848 was preparing in Europe; the Corn Laws had fallen; the Chartists were gathering in England. To settle down to the old humdrum round of Civil Service promotion seemed to my father impossible. This revolt of his, and its effect upon his friends, of whom the most intimate was Arthur Clough, has left its mark on Clough’s poem, the “Vacation Pastoral,” which he called “The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich,” or, as it runs in my father’s old battered copy which lies before me, “Tober-na-Fuosich.” The Philip of the poem, the dreamer and democrat, who says to Adam the Tutor–
Alas, the noted phrase of the prayer-book Doing our duty in that state of life to which God has called us, Seems to me always to mean, when the little rich boys say it, Standing in velvet frock by Mama’s brocaded flounces, Eying her gold-fastened book, and the chain and watch at her bosom, Seems to me always to mean, Eat, drink, and never mind others–
was in broad outline drawn from my father, and the impression made by his idealist, enthusiastic youth upon his comrades. And Philip’s migration to the Antipodes at the end–when he
rounded the sphere to New Zealand, There he hewed and dug; subdued the earth and his spirit–
was certainly suggested by my father’s similar step in 1847, the year before the poem appeared. Only in my father’s life there had been as yet no parallel to the charming love-story of “The Bothie.” His love-story awaited him on the other side of the world.
At that moment, New Zealand, the land of beautiful mountain and sea, with its even temperate climate, and its natives whom English enthusiasm hoped not only to govern, but to civilize and assimilate, was in the minds of all to whom the colonies seemed to offer chances of social reconstruction beyond any that were possible in a crowded and decadent Europe. “Land of Hope,” I find it often called in these old letters. “The gleam” was on it, and my father, like Browning’s Waring, heard the call.
After it; follow it. Follow the gleam!
He writes to his mother in August, 1847, from the Colonial Office:
Every one whom I meet pities me for having to return to London at this dull season, but to my own feelings, it is not worse than at other times. The things which would make me loathe the thought of passing my life or even several years in London, do not depend on summer or winter. It is the chronic, not the acute ills of London life which are real ills to me. I meant to have talked to you again before I left home about New Zealand, but I could not find a good opportunity. I do not think you will be surprised to hear that I cannot give up my intention–though you may think me wrong, you will believe that no cold-heartedness towards home has assisted me in framing my resolution. Where or how we shall meet on this side the grave will be arranged for us by a wiser will than our own. To me, however strange and paradoxical it may sound, this going to New Zealand is become a work of faith, and I cannot but go through with it.
And later on when his plans are settled, he writes in exultation to his eldest sister:
The weather is gusty and rainy, but no cheerlessness without can repress a sort of exuberant buoyancy of spirit which is supplied to me from within. There is such an indescribable blessedness in looking forward to a manner of life which the heart and conscience approve, and which at the same time satisfies the instinct for the heroic and beautiful. Yet there seems little enough in a homely life in a New Zealand forest; and indeed there is nothing in the thing itself, except in so far as it flows from a principle, a faith.
And he goes on to speak in vague exalted words of the “equality” and “brotherhood” to which he looks forward in the new land; winding up with an account of his life in London, its daily work at the Colonial Office, his walks, the occasional evenings at the opera where he worships Jenny Lind, his readings and practisings in his lodgings. My poor father! He little knew what he was giving up, or the real conditions of the life to which he was going.
For, though the Philip of “The Bothie” may have “hewed and dug” to good purpose in New Zealand, success in colonial farming was a wild and fleeting dream in my father’s case. He was born for academic life and a scholar’s pursuits. He had no practical gifts, and knew nothing whatever of land or farming. He had only courage, youth, sincerity, and a charming presence which made him friends at sight. His mother, indeed, with her gentle wisdom, put no obstacles in his way. On the contrary, she remembered that her husband had felt a keen imaginative interest in the colonies, and had bought small sections of land near Wellington, which his second son now proposed to take up and farm. But some of the old friends of the family felt and expressed consternation. In particular, Baron Bunsen, then Prussian Ambassador to England, Arnold of Rugby’s dear and faithful friend, wrote a letter of earnest and affectionate remonstrance to the would-be colonist. Let me quote it, if only that it may remind me of days long ago, when it was still possible for a strong and tender friendship to exist between a Prussian and an Englishman!
Bunsen points out to “young Tom” that he has only been eight or nine months in the Colonial Office, not long enough to give it a fair trial; that the drudgery of his clerkship will soon lead to more interesting things; that his superiors speak well of him; above all, that he has no money and no practical experience of farming, and that if he is going to New Zealand in the hope of building up a purer society, he will soon find himself bitterly disillusioned.
Pray, my dear young friend, do not reject the voice of a man of nearly sixty years, who has made his way through life under much greater difficulties perhaps than you imagine–who was your father’s dear friend–who feels deeply attached to all that bears the honored and blessed name of Arnold–who in particular had _your father’s promise_ that he would allow me to offer to _you_, after I had seen you in 1839, something of that care and friendship he had bestowed upon Henry [Bunsen’s own son]–do not reject the warning voice of that man, if he entreats you solemnly not to take a _precipitate_ step. Give yourself time. Try a change of scene. Go for a month or two to France or Germany. I am sure you wish to satisfy your friends that you are acting wisely, considerately, in giving up what you have.
_Spartam quam nactus es, orna_–was Niebuhr’s word to me when once, about 1825, wearied with diplomatic life, I resolved to throw up my place and go–not to New Zealand, but to a German University. Let me say that concluding word to you and believe me, my dear young friend,
Your sincere and affectionate friend
P.S.–If you feel disposed to have half an hour’s quiet conversation with me alone, pray come to-day at six o’clock, and then dine with us quietly at half-past six. I go to-morrow to Windsor Castle for four days.
Nothing could have been kinder, nothing more truly felt and meant. But the young make their own experience, and my father, with the smiling open look which disarmed opposition, and disguised all the time a certain stubborn independence of will, characteristic of him through life, took his own way. He went to New Zealand, and, now that it was done, the interest and sympathy of all his family and friends followed him. Let me give here the touching letter which Arthur Stanley, his father’s biographer, wrote to him the night before he left England.
UNIV. COLL., OXFORD, _Nov. 4, 1847._
Farewell!–(if you will let me once again recur to a relation so long since past away) farewell–my dearest, earliest, best of pupils. I cannot let you go without asking you to forgive those many annoyances which I fear I must have unconsciously inflicted upon you in the last year of your Oxford life–nor without expressing the interest which I feel, and shall I trust ever feel, beyond all that I can say, in your future course. You know–or perhaps you hardly can know–how when I came back to Oxford after the summer of 1842, your presence here was to me the stay and charm of my life–how the walks–the lectures–the Sunday evenings with you, filled up the void which had been left in my interests, and endeared to me all the beginnings of my College labors. That particular feeling, as is natural, has passed away–but it may still be a pleasure to you to feel in your distant home that whatever may be my occupations, nothing will more cheer and support me through them than the belief that in that new world your dear father’s name is in you still loved and honored, and bringing forth the fruits which he would have delighted to see.
Farewell, my dear friend. May God in whom you trust be with you.
Do not trouble yourself to answer this–only take it as the true expression of one who often thinks how little he has done for you in comparison with what he would.
A. P. STANLEY.
[Footnote 1: By the sudden death of Doctor Arnold.]
But, of course, the inevitable happened. After a few valiant but quite futile attempts to clear his land with his own hands, or with the random labor he could find to help him, the young colonist fell back on the education he had held so cheap in England, and bravely took school-work wherever in the rising townships of the infant colony he could find it. Meanwhile his youth, his pluck, and his Oxford distinctions had attracted the kindly notice of the Governor, Sir George Grey, who offered him his private secretaryship–one can imagine the twinkle in the Governor’s eye, when he first came across my father building his own hut on his section outside Wellington! The offer was gratefully refused. But another year of New Zealand life brought reconsideration. The exile begins to speak of “loneliness” in his letters home, to realize that it is “collision” with other kindred minds that “kindles the spark of thought,” and presently, after a striking account of a solitary walk across unexplored country in New Zealand, he confesses that he is not sufficient for himself, and that the growth and vigor of the intellect were, for him, at least, “not compatible with loneliness.”
A few months later, Sir William Denison, the newly appointed Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, hearing that a son of Arnold of Rugby, an Oxford First Class man, was in New Zealand, wrote to offer my father the task of organizing primary education in Van Diemen’s Land.
He accepted–yet not, I think, without a sharp sense of defeat at the hands of Mother Earth!–set sail for Hobart, and took possession of a post that might easily have led to great things. His father’s fame preceded him, and he was warmly welcomed. The salary was good and the field free. Within a few months of his landing he was engaged to my mother. They were married in 1850, and I, their eldest child, was born in June, 1851.
And then the unexpected, the amazing thing happened. At the time of their marriage, and for some time after, my mother, who had been brought up in a Protestant “scriptural” atmosphere, and had been originally drawn to the younger “Tom Arnold,” partly because he was the son of his father, as Stanley’s _Life_ had now made the headmaster known to the world, was a good deal troubled by the heretical views of her young husband. She had some difficulty in getting him to consent to the baptism of his elder children. He was still in many respects the Philip of the “Bothie,” influenced by Goethe, and the French romantics, by Emerson, Kingsley, and Carlyle, and in touch still with all that Liberalism of the later ‘forties in Oxford, of which his most intimate friend, Arthur Clough, and his elder brother, Matthew Arnold, were to become the foremost representatives. But all the while, under the surface, an extraordinary transformation was going on. He was never able to explain it afterward, even to me, who knew him best of all his children. I doubt whether he ever understood it himself. But he who had only once crossed the High Street to hear Newman preach, and felt no interest in the sermon, now, on the other side of the world, surrendered to Newman’s influence. It is uncertain if they had ever spoken to each other at Oxford; yet that subtle pervasive intellect which captured for years the critical and skeptical mind of Mark Pattison, and indirectly transformed the Church of England after Newman himself had left it, now, reaching across the world, laid hold on Arnold’s son, when Arnold himself was no longer there to fight it. A general reaction against the negations and philosophies of his youth set in for “Philip,” as inevitable in his case as the revolt against St. Sulpice was for Ernest Renan. For my father was in truth born for religion, as his whole later life showed. In that he was the true son of Arnold of Rugby. But his speculative Liberalism had carried him so much farther than his father’s had ever gone, that the recoil was correspondingly great. The steps of it are dim. He was “struck” one Sunday with the “authoritative” tone of the First Epistle of Peter. Who and what was Peter? What justified such a tone? At another time he found a _Life of St. Brigit of Sweden_ at a country inn, when he was on one of his school-inspecting journeys across the island. And he records a mysterious influence or “voice” from it, as he rode in meditative solitude through the sunny spaces of the Tasmanian bush. Last of all, he “obtained”–from England, no doubt–the _Tracts for the Times_. And as he went through them, the same documents, and the same arguments, which had taken Newman to Rome, nine years before, worked upon his late and distant disciple. But who can explain “conversion”? Is it not enough to say, as was said of old, “The Holy Ghost fell on them that believed”? The great “Malignant” had indeed triumphed. In October, 1854, my father was received at Hobart, Tasmania, into the Church of Rome; and two years later, after he had reached England, and written to Newman asking the new Father of the Oratory to receive him, Newman replied:
How strange it seems! What a world this is! I knew your father a little, and I really think I never had any unkind feeling toward him. I saw him at Oriel on the Purification before (I think) his death (January, 1842). I was glad to meet him. If I said ever a harsh thing against him I am very sorry for it. In seeing you, I should have a sort of pledge that he at the moment of his death made it all up with me. Excuse this. I came here last night, and it is so marvelous to have your letter this morning.
So, for the moment, ended one incident in the long bout between two noble fighters, Arnold and Newman, each worthy of the other’s steel. For my father, indeed, this act of surrender was but the beginning of a long and troubled history. My poor mother felt as though the earth had crumbled under her. Her passionate affection for my father endured till her latest hour, but she never reconciled herself to what he had done. There was in her an instinctive dread of Catholicism, of which I have suggested some of the origins–ancestral and historical. It never abated. Many years afterward, in writing _Helbeck of Bannisdale_, I drew upon what I remembered of it in describing some traits in Laura Fountain’s inbred, and finally indomitable, resistance to the Catholic claim upon the will and intellect of men.
And to this trial in the realm of religious feeling there were added all the practical difficulties into which my father’s action plunged her and his children. The Tasmanian appointment had to be given up, for the feeling in the colony was strongly anti-Catholic; and we came home, as I have described, to a life of struggle, privation, and constant anxiety, in which my mother suffered not only for herself, but for her children.
But, after all, there were bright spots. My father and mother were young; my mother’s eager, sympathetic temper brought her many friends; and for us children, Fox How and its dear inmates opened a second home, and new joys, which upon myself in particular left impressions never to be effaced or undone. Let me try and describe that house and garden and those who lived in it, as they were in 1856.
The gray-stone house stands now, as it stood then, on a “how” or rising ground in the beautiful Westmorland valley leading from Ambleside to Rydal. The “Doctor” built it as a holiday paradise for himself and his children, in the year 1833. It is a modest building, with ten bedrooms and three sitting-rooms. Its windows look straight into the heart of Fairfield, the beautiful semicircular mountain which rears its hollowed front and buttressing scaurs against the north, far above the green floor of the valley. That the house looked north never troubled my grandfather or his children. What they cared for was the perfect outline of the mountain wall, the “pensive glooms,” hovering in that deep breast of Fairfield, the magic never-ending chase of sunlight and cloud across it on fine days, and the beauty of the soft woodland clothing its base. The garden was his children’s joy as it became mine. Its little beck with its mimic bridges, its encircling river, its rocky knolls, its wild strawberries and wild raspberries, its queen of birch-trees rearing a stately head against the distant mountain, its rhododendrons growing like weeds on its mossy banks, its velvet turf, and long silky grass in the parts left wild–all these things have made the joy of three generations.
Inside, Fox How was comfortably spacious, and I remember what a palace it appeared to my childish eyes, fresh from the tiny cabin of a 400-ton sailing-ship, and the rough life of a colony. My grandmother, its mistress, was then sixty-one. Her beautiful hair was scarcely touched with gray, her complexion was still delicately clear, and her soft brown eyes had the eager, sympathetic look of her Cornish race. Charlotte Brontë, who saw her a few years earlier, while on a visit to Miss Martineau, speaks of her as having been a “very pretty woman,” and credits her and her daughters with “the possession of qualities the most estimable and endearing.” In another letter, however, written to a less familiar correspondent, to whom Miss Brontë, as the literary lady with a critical reputation to keep up, expresses herself in a different and more artificial tone, she again describes my grandmother as good and charming, but doubts her claim to “power and completeness of character.” The phrase occurs in a letter describing a call at Fox How, and its slight pomposity makes the contrast with the passage in which Matthew Arnold describes the same visit the more amusing.
At seven came Miss Martineau, and Miss Brontë (Jane Eyre); talked to Miss Martineau (who blasphemes frightfully) about the prospects of the Church of England, and, wretched man that I am, promised to go and see her cow-keeping miracles to-morrow, I who hardly know a cow from a sheep. I talked to Miss Brontë (past thirty and plain, with expressive gray eyes, though) of her curates, of French novels, and her education in a school at Brussels, and sent the lions roaring to their dens at half-past nine.
No one, indeed, would have applied the word “power” to my grandmother, unless he had known her very well. The general impression was always one of gentle sweetness and soft dignity. But the phrase, “completeness of character,” happens to sum up very well the impression left by her life both on kindred and friends. What Miss Brontë exactly meant by it it is difficult to say. But the widowed mother of nine children, five of them sons, and all of them possessed of strong wills and quick intelligence, who was able so to guide their young lives that to her last hour, thirty years after her husband’s death had left her alone with her task, she possessed their passionate reverence and affection, and that each and all of them would have acknowledged her as among the dearest and noblest influences in their lives, can hardly be denied “completeness of character.” Many of her letters lie before me. Each son and daughter, as he or she went out into the world, received them with the utmost regularity. They knew that every incident in their lives interested their mother; and they in their turn were eager to report to her everything that came to them, happy or unhappy, serious or amusing. And this relation of the family to their mother only grew and strengthened with years. As the daughters married, their husbands became so many new and devoted sons to this gentle, sympathetic, and yet firm-natured woman. Nor were the daughters-in-law less attached to her, and the grandchildren who in due time began to haunt Fox How. In my own life I trace her letters from my earliest childhood, through my life at school, to my engagement and marriage; and I have never ceased to feel a pang of disappointment that she died before my children were born. Matthew Arnold adored her, and wrote to her every week of his life. So did her other children. William Forster, throughout his busy life in Parliament, vied with her sons in tender consideration and unfailing loyalty. And every grandchild thought of a visit to Fox How as not only a joy, but an honor. Indeed, nothing could have been more “complete,” more rounded, than my grandmother’s character and life as they developed through her eighty-three years. She made no conspicuous intellectual claim, though her quick intelligence, her wide sympathies, and clear judgment, combined with something ardent and responsive in her temperament, attracted and held able men; but her personality was none the less strong because it was so gently, delicately served by looks and manner.
Perhaps the “completeness” of my grandmother’s character will be best illustrated by one of her family letters, a letter which may recall to some readers Stevenson’s delightful poem on the mother who sits at home, watching the fledglings depart from the nest.
So from the hearth the children flee, By that almighty hand
Austerely led; so one by sea
Goes forth, and one by land;
Nor aught of all-man’s sons escapes from that command.
* * * * *
And as the fervent smith of yore
Beat out the glowing blade,
Nor wielded in the front of war
The weapons that he made,
But in the tower at home still plied his ringing trade;
So like a sword the son shall roam
On nobler missions sent;
And as the smith remained at home
In peaceful turret pent,
So sits the while at home the mother well content.
The letter was written to my father in New Zealand in the year 1848, as a family chronicle. The brothers and sisters named in it are Walter, the youngest of the family, a middy of fourteen, on board ship, and not very happy in the Navy, which he was ultimately to leave for Durham University and business; Willy, in the Indian Army, afterward the author of _Oakfield_, a novel attacking the abuses of Anglo-Indian life, and the first Director of Public Instruction in the Punjab–commemorated by his poet brother in “A Southern Night”; Edward, at Oxford; Mary, the second daughter, who at the age of twenty-two had been left a widow after a year of married life; and Fan, the youngest daughter of the flock, who now, in 1917, alone represents them in the gray house under the fells. The little Westmorland farm described is still exactly as it was; and has still a Richardson for master, though of a younger generation. And Rydal Chapel, freed now from the pink cement which clothed it in those days, and from the high pews familiar to the children of Fox How, still sends the cheerful voice of its bells through the valley on Sunday mornings.
The reader will remember, as he reads it, that he is in the troubled year of 1848, with Chartism at home and revolution abroad. The “painful interest” with which the writer has read Clough’s “Bothie” refers, I think, to the fact that she has recognized her second son, my father, as to some extent the hero of the poem.
Fox How, _Nov. 19, 1848._
My Dearest Tom,–… I am always intending to send you something like a regular journal, but twenty days of the month have now passed away, and it is not done. Dear Matt, who was with us at the beginning, and who I think bore a part in our last letters to you, has returned to his post in London, and I am not without hope of hearing by to-morrow’s post that he has run down to Portsmouth to see Walter before he sails on a cruise with the Squadron, which I believe he was to do to-day. But I should think they would hardly leave Port in such dirty weather, when the wind howls and the rain pours, and the whole atmosphere is thick and lowering as I suppose you rarely or never see it in New Zealand. I wish the more that Matt may get down to Spithead, because the poor little man has been in a great ferment about leaving his Ship and going into a smaller one. By the same post I had a letter from him, and from Captain Daws, who had been astonished and grieved by Walter’s coming to him and telling him he wished to leave the ship. It was evident that Captain D. was quite distressed about it.
She then discusses, very shrewdly and quietly, the reasons for her boy’s restlessness, and how best to meet it. The letter goes on:
Certainly there is great comfort in having him with so true and good a friend as Captain D. and I could not feel justified in acting against his counsel. But as he gets to know Walter better, I think it very likely that he will himself think it better for him to be in some ship not so likely to stay about in harbor as the _St. Vincent_; and will judge that with a character like his it might be better for him to be on some more distant stations.
I write about all this as coolly as if he were not my own dear youngest born, the little dear son whom I have so cherished, and who was almost a nursling still, when the bond which kept us all together was broken. But I believe I do truly feel that if my beloved sons are good and worthy of the name they bear, are in fact true, earnest, Christian men, I have no wish left for them–no selfish longings after their companionship, which can for a moment be put in comparison with such joy. Thus it almost seemed strange to me when, in a letter the other day from Willy to Edward, in reference to his–E’s–future destination–Willy rather urged upon him a home, domestic life, on _my_ account, as my sons were already so scattered. As I say, those loving words seemed strange to me; because I have such an overpowering feeling that the all-in-all to me is that my sons should be in just that vocation in life most suited to them, and most bringing out what is highest and best in them; whether it might be in England, or at the furthest extremity of the world.
* * * * *
_November 24, 1848._–I have been unwell for some days, dearest Tom, and this makes me less active in all my usual employments, but it shall not, if I can help it, prevent my making some progress in this letter, which in less than a week may perhaps be on its way to New Zealand. I have just sent Fan down-stairs, for she nurses her Mother till I begin to think some change good for her. She has been reading aloud to me, and now, as the evening advances I have asked some of them to read to me a long poem by Clough–(the “Bothie”) which I have no doubt will reach you. It does not _look_ attractive to me, for it is in English Hexameters, which are to me very cumbrous and uninviting; but probably that may be for some want of knowledge in my own ear and taste. The poem is addressed to his pupils of last summer, and in scenery, etc., will have, I suppose, many touches from his Highland residence; but, in a brief Preface, he says that the tale itself is altogether fiction.
* * * * *
To turn from things domestic to things at large, what a state of things is this at Berlin! a state of siege declared, and the King at open issue with his representatives!–from the country districts, people flocking to give him aid, while the great towns are almost in revolt. “Always too late” might, I suppose, have been his motto; and when things have been given with one hand, he has seemed too ready to withdraw them with the other. But, after all, I must and do believe that he has noble qualities, so to have won Bunsen’s love and respect.
_November 25._–Mary is preparing a long letter, and it will therefore matter the less if mine is not so long as I intended. I have not yet quite made up the way I have lost in my late indisposition, and we have such volumes of letters from dear Willy to answer, that I believe this folio will be all I can send to you, my own darling; but you do not dwell in my heart or my thoughts less fondly. I long inexpressibly to have some definite ideas of what you are now–after some eight months of residence–doing, thinking, feeling; what are your occupations in the present, what your aims and designs for the future. The assurance that it is your first and heartful desire to please God, my dear son; that you have struggled to do this and not allowed yourself to shrink from whatever you felt to be involved in it, this is, and will be my deepest and dearest comfort, and I pray to Him to guide you into all truth. But though supported by this assurance, I do not pretend to say that often and often I do not yearn over you in my thoughts, and long to bestow upon you in act and word, as well as in thought, some of that overflowing love which is cherished for you in your home.
And here follows a tender mother-word in reference to an early and unrequited attachment of my father’s, the fate of which may possibly have contributed to the restlessness which sent him beyond the seas.
But, dear Tom, I believe that though the hoped for flower and fruit have faded, yet that the plant has been strengthened and purified…. It would be a grief to me not to believe that you will yet be most happy in married life; and when you can make to yourself a home I shall perhaps lose some of my restless longing to be near you and ministering to your comfort, and sharing in your life–if I can think of you as cheered and helped by one who loved you as I did your own beloved father.
_Sunday, November 26._–Just a year, my son, since you left England! But I really must not allow myself to dwell on this, and all the thoughts it brings with it; for I found last night that the contrast between the fulness of thought and feeling, and my own powerlessness to express it weighed on me heavily; and not having yet quite recovered my usual tone, I could not well bear it. So I will just try to collect for you a few more home Memoranda, and then have done…. Our new tenant, James Richardson, is now fairly established at his farm, and when I went up there and saw the cradle and the happy childish faces around the table, and the rows of oatmeal cake hanging up, and the cheerful, active Mother going hither and thither–now to her Dairy–now guiding the steps of the little one that followed her about–and all the time preparing things for her husband’s return from his work at night, I could not but feel that it was a very happy picture of English life. Alas! that there are not larger districts where it exists! But I hope there is still much of it; and I feel that while there is an awful undercurrent of misery and sin–the latter both caused by the first and causing it–and while, on the surface, there is carelessness, and often recklessness and hardness and trifling, yet that still, in our English society, there is, between these two extremes, a strength of good mixed with baser elements, which must and will, I fully believe, support us nationally in the troublous times which are at hand–on which we are actually entered.
But again I am wandering, and now the others have gone off to the Rydal Chapel without me this lovely Sunday morning. There are the bells sounding invitingly across the valley, and the evergreens are white and sparkling in the sun.
I have a note from Clough…. His poem is as remarkable, I think, as you would expect, coming from him. Its _power_ quite overcame my dislike to the measure–so far at least as to make me read it with great interest–often, though, a painful one. And now I must end.
As to Miss Brontë’s impressions of Matthew Arnold in that same afternoon call of 1850, they were by no means flattering. She understands that he was already the author of “a volume of poems” (_The Poems by A,_ 1849), remarks that his manner “displeases from its seeming foppery,” but recognizes, nevertheless, in conversation with him, “some genuine intellectual aspirations”! It was but a few years later that my uncle paid his poet’s homage to the genius of the two sisters–to Charlotte of the “expressive gray eyes”–to Emily of the “chainless soul.” I often try to picture their meeting in the Fox How drawing-room: Matthew Arnold, tall, handsome, in the rich opening of his life, his first poetic honors thick upon him, looking with a half-critical, half-humorous eye at the famous little lady whom Miss Martineau had brought to call upon his mother; and beside him that small, intrepid figure, on which the worst storms of life had already beaten, which was but five short years from its own last rest. I doubt whether, face to face, they would ever have made much of each other. But the sister who could write of a sister’s death as Charlotte wrote, in the letter that every lover of great prose ought to have by heart–
Emily suffers no more from pain or weakness now, she never will suffer more in this world. She is gone, after a hard, short conflict…. We are very calm at present, why should we be otherwise? The anguish of seeing her suffer is over; the spectacle of the pains of death is gone; the funeral day is past. We feel she is at peace. No need now to tremble for the hard frost and the keen wind. _Emily does not feel them_.–
must have stretched out spiritual hands to Matthew Arnold, had she lived to read “A Southern Night”–that loveliest, surely, of all laments of brother for brother.
THE FAMILY OF FOX HOW
Doctor Arnold’s eldest daughter, Jane Arnold, afterward Mrs. W.E. Forster, my godmother, stands out for me on the tapestry of the past, as one of the noblest personalities I have ever known. She was twenty-one when her father died, and she had been his chief companion among his children for years before death took him from her. He taught her Latin and Greek, he imbued her with his own political and historical interests, and her ardent Christian faith answered to his own. After his death she was her mother’s right hand at Fox How; and her letters to her brothers–to my father, especially, since he was longest and farthest away–show her quick and cultivated mind, and all the sweetness of her nature. We hear of her teaching a younger brother Latin and Greek; she goes over to Miss Martineau on the other side of the valley to translate some German for that busy woman; she reads Dante beside her mother, when the rest of the family have gone to bed; she sympathizes passionately with Mazzini and Garibaldi; and every week she walks over Loughrigg through fair weather and foul, summer and winter, to teach in a night school at Skelwith. Then the young Quaker manufacturer, William Forster, appears on the scene, and she falls happily and completely in love. Her letters to the brother in New Zealand become, in a moment, all joy and ardor, and nothing could be prettier than the account, given by one of the sisters, of the quiet wedding in Rydal Chapel, the family breakfast, the bride’s simple dress and radiant look, Matthew Arnold giving his sister away–with the great fells standing sentinel. And there exists a delightful unpublished letter by Harriet Martineau which gives some idea of the excitement roused in the quiet Ambleside valley by Jane Arnold’s engagement to the tall Yorkshireman who came from surroundings so different from the academic and scholarly world in which the Arnolds had been brought up.
Then followed married life at Rawdon near Bradford, with supreme happiness at home, and many and growing interests in the manufacturing, religious, and social life around the young wife. In 1861 William Forster became member for Bradford, and in 1869 Gladstone included him in that Ministry of all the talents, which foundered under the onslaughts of Disraeli in 1874. Forster became Vice-President of the Council, which meant Minister for Education, with a few other trifles like the cattle-plague thrown in. The Education Bill, which William Forster brought in in 1870 (as a girl of eighteen, I was in the Ladies’ Gallery of the House of Commons on the great day to hear his speech), has been the foundation-stone ever since of English popular education. It has always been clear to me that the scheme of the bill was largely influenced by William Forster’s wife, and, through her, by the convictions and beliefs of her father. The compromise by which the Church schools, with the creeds and the Church catechism, were preserved, under a conscience clause, while the dissenters got their way as to the banishment of creeds and catechisms, and the substitution for them of “simple Bible-teaching,” in the schools founded under the new School Boards, which the bill set up all over England, has practically–with, of course, modifications–held its ground for nearly half a century. It was illogical; and the dissenters have never ceased to resent the perpetuation of the Church school which it achieved. But English life is illogical. It met the real situation; and it would never have taken the shape it did–in my opinion–but for the ardent beliefs of the young and remarkable woman, at once a strong Liberal and a devoted daughter of the English Church, as Arnold, Kingsley, and Maurice understood it, who had married her Quaker husband in 1850, and had thereby been the innocent cause of his automatic severance from the Quaker body. His respect for her judgment and intellectual power was only equaled by his devotion to her. And when the last great test of his own life came, how she stood by him!–through those terrible days of the Land League struggle, when, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, Forster carried his life in his hand month after month, to be worn out finally by the double toil of Parliament and Ireland, and to die just before Mr. Gladstone split the Liberal party in 1886, by the introduction of the Home Rule Bill, in which Forster would not have followed him.
I shall, however, have something to say later on in these Reminiscences about those tragic days. To those who watched Mrs. Forster through them, and who knew her intimately, she was one of the most interesting figures of that crowded time. Few people, however, outside the circle of her kindred, knew her intimately. She was, of course, in the ordinary social and political world, both before and after her husband’s entrance upon office, and admission to the Cabinet; dining out and receiving at home; attending Drawing-rooms and public functions; staying at country houses, and invited to Windsor, like other Ministers’ wives, and keenly interested in all the varying fortunes of Forster’s party. But though she was in that world, she was never truly of it. She moved through it, yet veiled from it, by that pure, unconscious selflessness which is the saint’s gift. Those who ask nothing for themselves, whose whole strength is spent on affections that are their life, and on ideals at one with their affections, are not easily popular, like the self-seeking, parti-colored folk who make up the rest of us; who flatter, caress, and court, that we in our turn may be flattered and courted. Their gentleness masks the indomitable soul within; and so their fellows are often unaware of their true spiritual rank.
It is interesting to recall the instinctive sympathy with which a nature so different from Charlotte Brontë’s as that of Arnold’s eldest daughter, met the challenge of the Brontë genius. It would not have been wonderful–in those days–if the quiet Fox How household, with its strong religious atmosphere, its daily psalms and lessons, its love for _The Christian Year_, its belief in “discipline” (how that comes out in all the letters!) had been repelled by the blunt strength of _Jane Eyre_; just as it would not have been wonderful if they had held aloof from Miss Martineau, in the days when it pleased that remarkable woman to preach mesmeric atheism, or atheistic mesmerism, as we choose to put it. But there was a lifelong friendship between them and Harriet Martineau; and they recognized at once the sincerity and truth–the literary rank, in fact–of _Jane Eyre_. Not long after her marriage, Jane Forster with her husband went over to Haworth to see Charlotte Brontë. My aunt’s letter, describing the visit to the dismal parsonage and church, is given without her name in Mrs. Gaskell’s _Life_, and Mr. Shorter, in reprinting it in the second of his large volumes, does not seem to be aware of the identity of the writer.
Miss Brontë put me so in mind of her own Jane Eyre [wrote my godmother]. She looked smaller than ever, and moved about so quietly and noiselessly, just like a little bird, as Rochester called her; except that all birds are joyous, and that joy can never have entered that house since it was built. And yet, perhaps, when that old man (Mr. Brontë) married and took home his bride, and children’s voices and feet were heard about the house, even that desolate graveyard and biting blast could not quench cheerfulness and hope. Now (i.e. since the deaths of Emily and Anne) there is something touching in the sight of that little creature entombed in such a place, and moving about herself there like a spirit; especially when you think that the slight still frame incloses a force of strong, fiery life, which nothing has been able to freeze or extinguish.
This letter was written before my birth and about six years before the writer of it appeared, as an angel of help, in the dingy dock-side inn, where we tired travelers had taken shelter on our arrival from the other side of the world, and where I was first kissed by my godmother. As I grew up into girlhood, “Aunt K.” (K. was the pet name by which Matthew Arnold always wrote to her) became for me part of the magic of Fox How, though I saw her, of course, often in her own home also. I felt toward her a passionate and troubled affection. She was to me “a thing enskied” and heavenly–for all her quick human interests, and her sweet ways with those she loved. How could any one be so good!–was often the despairing reflection of the child who adored her, caught herself in the toils of a hot temper and a stubborn will; but all the same, to see her enter a room was joy, and to sit by her the highest privilege. I don’t know whether she could be strictly called beautiful. But to me everything about her was beautiful–her broad brow, her clear brown eyes and wavy brown hair, the touch of stately grace with which she moved, the mouth so responsive and soft, yet, at need, so determined, the hand so delicate, yet so characteristic.
She was the eldest of nine. Of her relation to the next of them–her brother Matthew–there are many indications in the collection of my uncle’s letters, edited by Mr. George Russell. It was to her that “Resignation” was addressed, in recollection of their mountain walks and talks together; and in a letter to her, the Sonnet “To Shakespeare,” “Others abide our question–thou art free,” was first written out. Their affection for each other, in spite of profound differences of opinion, only quickened and deepened with time.
Between my father and his elder brother Matthew Arnold there was barely a year’s difference of age. The elder was born in December, 1822, and the younger in November, 1823. They were always warmly attached to each other, and in spite of much that was outwardly divergent–sharply divergent–they were more alike fundamentally than was often suspected. Both had derived from some remoter ancestry–possibly through their Cornish mother, herself the daughter of a Penrose and a Trevenen–elements and qualities which were lacking in the strong personality of their father. Imagination, “rebellion against fact,” spirituality, a tendency to dream, unworldliness, the passionate love of beauty and charm, “ineffectualness” in the practical competitive life–these, according to Matthew Arnold, when he came to lecture at Oxford on “The Study of Celtic Literature,” were and are the characteristic marks of the Celt. They were unequally distributed between the two brothers. “Unworldliness,” “rebellion against fact,” “ineffectualness” in common life, fell rather to my father’s share than my uncle’s; though my uncle’s “worldliness,” of which he was sometimes accused, if it ever existed, was never more than skin-deep. Imagination in my father led to a lifelong and mystical preoccupation with religion; it made Matthew Arnold one of the great poets of the nineteenth century.
There is a sketch of my father made in 1847, which preserves the dreamy, sensitive look of early youth, when he was the center of a band of remarkable friends–Clough, Stanley, F.T. Palgrave, Alfred Domett (Browning’s Waring), and others. It is the face–nobly and delicately cut–of one to whom the successes of the practical, competitive life could never be of the same importance as those events which take place in thought, and for certain minds are the only real events. “For ages and ages the world has been constantly slipping ever more and more out of the Celt’s grasp,” wrote Matthew Arnold. But all the while the Celt has great compensations. To him belongs another world than the visible; the world of phantasmagoria, of emotion, the world of passionate beginnings, rather than of things achieved. After the romantic and defiant days of his youth, my father, still pursuing the same natural tendency, found all that he needed in Catholicism, and specially, I think, in that endless poetry and mystery of the Mass which keeps Catholicism alive.
Matthew Arnold was very different in outward aspect. The face, strong and rugged, the large mouth, the broad lined brow, and vigorous coal-black hair, bore no resemblance, except for that fugitive yet vigorous something which we call “family likeness,” to either his father or mother–still less to the brother so near to him in age. But the Celtic trace is there, though derived, I have sometimes thought, rather from an Irish than a Cornish source. Doctor Arnold’s mother, Martha Delafield, according to a genealogy I see no reason to doubt, was partly of Irish blood; one finds, at any rate, Fitzgeralds and Dillons among the names of her forebears. And I have seen in Ireland faces belonging to the “black Celt” type–faces full of power and humor, and softness, visibly molded out of the good common earth by the nimble spirit within, which have reminded me of my uncle. Nothing, indeed, at first sight could have been less romantic or dreamy than his outer aspect. “Ineffectualness” was not to be thought of in connection with him. He stood four-square–a courteous, competent man of affairs, an admirable inspector of schools, a delightful companion, a guest whom everybody wanted and no one could bind for long; one of the sanest, most independent, most cheerful and lovable of mortals. Yet his poems show what was the real inner life and genius of the man; how rich in that very “emotion,” “love of beauty and charm,” “rebellion against fact,” “spirituality,” “melancholy” which he himself catalogued as the cradle gifts of the Celt. Crossed, indeed, always, with the Rugby “earnestness,” with that in him which came to him from his father.
It is curious to watch the growing perception of “Matt’s” powers among the circle of his nearest kin, as it is reflected in these family letters to the emigrant brother, which reached him across the seas from 1847 to 1856, and now lie under my hand. The _Poems by A._ came out, as all lovers of English poetry know, in 1849. My grandmother writes to my father in March of that year, after protesting that she has not much news to give him:
But the little volume of Poems!–that is indeed a subject of new and very great interest. By degrees we hear more of public opinion concerning them, and I am very much mistaken if their power both in thought and execution is not more and more felt and acknowledged. I had a letter from dear Miss Fenwick to-day, whose first impressions were that they were by _you_, for it seems she had heard of the volume as much admired, and as by one of the family, and she had hardly thought it could be by one so moving in the busy haunts of men as dear Matt…. Matt himself says: “I have learned a good deal as to what is _practicable_ from the objections of people, even when I thought them not reasonable, and in some degree they may determine my course as to publishing; e.g., I had thoughts of publishing another volume of short poems next spring, and a tragedy I have long had in my head, the spring after: at present I shall leave the short poems to take their chance, only writing them when I cannot help it, and try to get on with my Tragedy (‘Merope’), which however will not be a very quick affair. But as that must be in a regular and usual form, it may perhaps, if it succeeds, enable me to use meters in short poems which seem proper to myself; whether they suit the habits of readers at first sight or not. But all this is rather vague at present…. I think I am getting quite indifferent about the book. I have given away the only copy I had, and now never look at them. The most enthusiastic people about them are young men of course; but I have heard of one or two people who found pleasure in ‘Resignation,’ and poems of that stamp, which is what I like.”
“The most enthusiastic people about them are young men, of course.” The sentence might stand as the motto of all poetic beginnings. The young poet writes first of all for the young of his own day. They make his bodyguard. They open to him the gates of the House of Fame. But if the divine power is really his, it soon frees itself from the shackles of Time and Circumstance. The true poet becomes, in the language of the Greek epigram on Homer, “the ageless mouth of all the world.” And if, “The Strayed Reveller,” and the Sonnet “To Shakespeare,” and “Resignation,” delighted those who were young in 1849, that same generation, as the years passed over it, instead of outgrowing their poet, took him all the more closely to their hearts. Only so can we explain the steady spread and deepening of his poetic reputation which befell my uncle up to the very end of his life, and had assured him by then–leaving out of count the later development of his influence both in the field of poetry and elsewhere–his place in the history of English literature.
But his entry as a poet was gradual, and but little heralded, compared to the debuts of our own time. Here is an interesting appreciation from his sister Mary, about whom I shall have more to say presently. At the time this letter was written, in 1849, she was twenty-three, and already a widow, after a tragic year of married life during which her young husband had developed paralysis of the brain. She was living in London, attending Bedford College, and F.D. Maurice’s sermons, much influenced, like her brothers, by Emerson and Carlyle, and at this moment a fine, restless, immature creature, much younger than her years in some respects, and much older in others–with worlds hitherto unsuspected in the quiet home life. She writes:
I have been in London for several months this year, and I have seen a good deal of Matt, considering the very different lives we lead. I used to breakfast with him sometimes, and then his Poems seemed to make me know Matt so much better than I had ever done before. Indeed it was almost like a new Introduction to him. I do not think those Poems could be read–quite independently of their poetical power–without leading one to expect a great deal from Matt; without raising I mean the kind of expectation one has from and for those who have, in some way or other, come face to face with life and asked it, in real earnest, what it means. I felt there was so much more of this practical questioning in Matt’s book than I was at all prepared for; in fact that it showed a knowledge of life and conflict which was _strangely like experience_ if it was not the thing itself; and this with all Matt’s great power I should not have looked for. I do not yet know the book well, but I think that “Mycerinus” struck me most, perhaps, as illustrating what I have been speaking of.
And again, to another member of the family:
It is the moral strength, or, at any rate, the _moral consciousness_ which struck and surprised me so much in the poems. I could have been prepared for any degree of poetical power, for there being a great deal more than I could at all appreciate; but there is something altogether different from this, something which such a man as Clough has, for instance, which I did not expect to find in Matt; but it is there. Of course when I speak of his Poems I only speak of the impression received from those I understand. Some are perfect riddles to me, such as that to the Child at Douglas, which is surely more poetical than true.
_Strangely like experience!_ The words are an interesting proof of the difficulty we all have in seeing with accuracy the persons and things which are nearest to us. The astonishment of the sisters–for the same feeling is expressed by Mrs. Forster–was very natural. In these early days, “Matt” often figures in the family letters as the worldling of the group–the dear one who is making way in surroundings quite unknown to the Fox How circle, where, under the shadow of the mountains, the sisters, idealists all of them, looking out a little austerely, for all their tenderness, on the human scene, are watching with a certain anxiety lest Matt should be “spoiled.” As Lord Lansdowne’s private secretary, very much liked by his chief, he goes among rich and important people, and finds himself, as a rule, much cleverer than they; above all, able to amuse them, so often the surest road to social and other success. Already at Oxford “Matt” had been something of an exquisite–or, as Miss Brontë puts it, a trifle “foppish”; and (in the manuscript) _Fox How Magazine_, to which all the nine contributed, and in which Matthew Arnold’s boyish poems may still be read, there are many family jests leveled at Matt’s high standard in dress and deportment.
But how soon the nascent dread lest their poet should be somehow separated from them by the “great world” passes away from mother and sisters–forever! With every year of his life Matthew Arnold, besides making the sunshine of his own married home, became a more attached, a more devoted son and brother. The two volumes of his published letters are there to show it. I will only quote here a sentence from a letter of Mrs. Arnold’s, written in 1850, a year after the publication of the _Poems by A._ She and her eldest daughter, then shortly to become William Forster’s wife, were at the time in London. “K” had been seriously ill, and the marriage had been postponed for a short time.
Matt [says Mrs. Arnold] has been with us almost every day since we came up–now so long ago!–and it is pleasant indeed to see his dear face, and to find him always so affectionate, and so unspoiled by his being so much sought after in a kind of society entirely different from anything we can enter into.
But, indeed, the time saved, day after day, for an invalid sister, by a run-after young man of twenty-seven, who might so easily have made one or other of the trifling or selfish excuses we are all so ready to make, was only a prophecy of those many “nameless unremembered acts” of simple kindness which filled the background of Matthew Arnold’s middle and later life, and were not revealed, many of them, even to his own people, till after his death–kindness to a pupil-teacher, an unsuccessful writer, a hard-worked schoolmaster or schoolmistress, a budding poet, a school-boy. It was not possible to “spoil” Matthew Arnold. Meredith’s “Comic Spirit” in him, his irrepressible humor, would alone have saved him from it. And as to his relation to “society,” and the great ones in it, no one more frankly amused himself–within certain very definite limits–with the “cakes and ale” of life, and no one held more lightly to them. He never denied–none but the foolish ever do deny–the immense personal opportunities and advantages of an aristocratic class, wherever it exists. He was quite conscious–none but those without imagination can fail to be conscious–of the glamour of long descent and great affairs. But he laughed at the “Barbarians,” the materialized or stupid holders of power and place, and their “fortified posts”–i.e., the country houses–just as he laughed at the Philistines and Mr. Bottles; when he preached a sermon in later life, it was on Menander’s motto, “Choose Equality”; and he and Clough–the Republican–were not really far apart. He mocked even at Clough, indeed, addressing his letters to him, “Citizen Clough, Oriel Lyceum, Oxford”; but in the midst of the revolutionary hubbub of 1848 he pours himself out to Clough only–he and “Thyrsis,” to use his own expression in a letter, “agreeing like two lambs in a world of wolves,” and in his early sonnet (1848) “To a Republican Friend” (who was certainly Clough) he says:
If sadness at the long heart-wasting show Wherein earth’s great ones are disquieted; If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow
The armies of the homeless and unfed– If these are yours, if this is what you are, Then I am yours, and what you feel, I share.
Yet, as he adds, in the succeeding sonnet, he has no belief in sudden radical change, nor in any earthly millennium–
Seeing this vale, this earth, whereon we dream, Is on all sides o’ershadowed by the high Uno’erleaped mountains of necessity,
Sparing us narrower margin than we dream.
On the eagerness with which Matthew Arnold followed the revolutionary spectacle of 1848, an unpublished letter written–piquantly enough!–from Lansdowne House itself, on February 28th, in that famous year, to my father in New Zealand, throws a vivid light. One feels the artist in the writer. First, the quiet of the great house and courtyard, the flower-pricked grass, the “still-faced babies”; then the sudden clash of the street-cries! “Your uncle’s description of this house,” writes the present Lord Lansdowne, in 1910, “might almost have been written yesterday, instead of in 1848. Little is changed, Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf are still on the top of the bookcase, and the clock is still hard by; but the picture of the Jewish Exiles…has been given to a local School of Art in Wiltshire! The green lawn remains, but I am afraid the crocuses, which I can remember as a child, no longer come up through the turf. And lastly one of the ‘still-faced babies’ [i.e., Lord Lansdowne himself] is still often to be seen in the gravel court! He was three years old when the letter was written.”
Here, then, is the letter:
LANSDOWNE HOUSE, _Feb. 8, 1848._
MY DEAREST TOM,–…Here I sit, opposite a marble group of Romulus and Remus and the wolf; the two children fighting like mad, and the limp-uddered she-wolf affectionately snarling at the little demons struggling on her back. Above it is a great picture, Rembrandt’s Jewish Exiles, which would do for Consuelo and Albert resting in one of their wanderings, worn out upon a wild stony heath sloping to the Baltic–she leaning over her two children who sleep in their torn rags at her feet. Behind me a most musical clock, marking now 24 Minutes past 1 P.M. On my left two great windows looking out on the court in front of the house, through one of which, slightly opened, comes in gushes the soft damp breath, with a tone of spring-life in it, which the close of an English February sometimes brings–so different from a November mildness. The green lawn which occupies nearly half the court is studded over with crocuses of all colors–growing out of the grass, for there are no flower-beds; delightful for the large still-faced white-robed babies whom their nurses carry up and down on the gravel court where it skirts the green. And from the square and the neighboring streets, through the open door whereat the civil porter moves to and fro, come the sounds of vehicles and men, in all gradations, some from near and some from far, but mellowed by the time they reach this backstanding lordly mansion.
But above all cries comes one whereat every stone in this and other lordly mansions may totter and quake for fear:
“Se…c…ond Edition of the Morning _Herald_–L…a…test news from Paris:–arrival of the King of the French.”
I have gone out and bought the said portentous _Herald_, and send it herewith, that you may read and know. As the human race forever stumbles up its great steps, so it is now. You remember the Reform Banquets [in Paris] last summer?–well!–the diners omitted the king’s health, and abused Guizot’s majority as corrupt and servile: the majority and the king grew excited; the Government forbade the Banquets to continue. The king met the Chamber with the words “_passions aveugles_” to characterize the dispositions of the Banqueters: and Guizot grandly declared against the spirit of Revolution all over the world. His practice suited his words, or seemed to suit them, for both in Switzerland and Italy, the French Government incurred the charge of siding against the Liberals. Add to this the corruption cases you remember, the Praslin murder, and later events, which powerfully stimulated the disgust (moral indignation that People does not feel!) entertained by the lower against the governing class.
Then Thiers, seeing the breeze rising, and hoping to use it, made most telling speeches in the debate on the Address, clearly defining the crisis as a question between revolution and counter-revolution, and declaring enthusiastically for the former. Lamartine and others, the sentimental and the plain honest, were very damaging on the same side. The Government were harsh– abrupt–almost scornful. They would not yield–would not permit banquets: would give no Reform till they chose. Guizot spoke (alone in the Chamber, I think) to this effect. With decreasing Majorities the Government carried the different clauses of the address, amidst furious scenes; opposition members crying that they were worse than Polignac. It was resolved to hold an Opposition banquet in Paris in spite of the Government, last Tuesday, the 22d. In the week between the close of the debate and this day there was a profound, uneasy excitement, but nothing I think to appall the rulers. They had the fortifications; all kinds of stores; and 100,000 troops of the line. To be quite secure, however, they determined to take a formal legal objection to the banquet at the doors; but not to prevent the procession thereto. On that the Opposition published a proclamation inviting the National Guard, who sympathized, to form part of the procession in uniform. Then the Government forbade the meeting altogether–absolutely–and the Opposition resigned themselves to try the case in a Court of Law.
_So did not the people!_
They gathered all over Paris: the National Guard, whom Ministers did not trust, were not called out: the Line checked and dispersed the mob on all points. But next day the mob were there again: the Ministers in a constitutional fright called out the National Guard: a body of these hard by the Opéra refused to clear the street, they joined the people. Troops were brought up: the Mob and the National Guard refused to give them passage down the Rue le Pelletier, which they occupied: after a moment’s hesitation, they were marched on along the Boulevard.
This settled the matter! Everywhere the National Guard fraternized with the people: the troops stood indifferent. The King dismissed the Ministers: he sent for Molé; a shade better: not enough: he sent for Thiers–a pause; this was several shades better–still not enough: meanwhile the crowd continued, and attacks on different posts, with slight bloodshed, increased the excitement: finally _the King abdicated_ in favor of the Count of Paris, and fled. The Count of Paris was taken by his mother to the Chamber–the people broke in; too late–not enough:–a republic–an appeal to the people. The royal family escaped to all parts, Belgium, Eu, England: _a Provisional Government named_.
You will see how they stand: they have adopted the last measures of Revolution.–News has just come that the National Guard have declared against a Republic, and that a collision is inevitable.
If possible I will write by the next mail, and send you a later paper than the _Herald_ by this mail.
Your truly affectionate, dearest Tom,
To this let me add here two or three other letters or fragments, all unpublished, which I find among the papers from which I have been drawing, ending, for the present, with the jubilant letter describing his election to the Poetry Professorship at Oxford, in 1857. Here, first of all, is an amusing reference, dated 1849, to Keble, then the idol of every well-disposed Anglican household:
I dined last night with a Mr. Grove, a celebrated man of science: his wife is pretty and agreeable, but not on a first interview. The husband and I agree wonderfully on some points. He is a bad sleeper, and hardly ever free from headache; he equally dislikes and disapproves of modern existence and the state of excitement in which everybody lives: and he sighs after a paternal despotism and the calm existence of a Russian or Asiatic. He showed me a picture of Faraday, which is wonderfully fine: I am almost inclined to get it: it has a curious likeness to Keble, only with a calm, earnest look unlike the latter’s Flibbertigibbet, fanatical, twinkling expression.
[Footnote 1: Afterward Sir William Grove, F.R.S., author of the famous essay on “The Correlation of Physical Force.”]
Did ever anybody apply such adjectives to John Keble before! Yet if any one will look carefully at the engraving of Keble so often seen in quiet parsonages, they will understand, I think, exactly what Matthew Arnold meant.
In 1850 great changes came upon the Arnold family. The “Doctor’s” elder three children–Jane, Matthew, and my father–married in that year, and a host of new interests sprang up for every member of the Fox How circle. I find in a letter to my father from Arthur Stanley, his father’s biographer, and his own Oxford tutor, the following reference to “Matt’s” marriage, and to the second series of Poems–containing “Sohrab and Rustum”–which were published in 1854. “You will have heard,” writes Stanley, “of the great success of Matt’s poems. He is in good heart about them. He is also–I must say so, though perhaps I have no right to say so–greatly improved by his marriage–retaining all the genius and nobleness of mind which you remember, with all the lesser faults pruned and softened down.” Matt himself wrote to give news of his wedding, to describe the bride–Judge Wightman’s daughter, the dear and gracious little lady whom we grandchildren knew and loved as “Aunt Fanny Lucy”–and to wish my father joy of his own. And then there is nothing among the waifs and strays that have come to me worth printing, till 1855, when my uncle writes to New Zealand:
I hope you have got my book by this time. What you will like best, I think, will be the “Scholar Gipsy.” I am sure that old Cumner and Oxford country will stir a chord in you. For the preface I doubt if you will care, not having much before your eyes the sins and offenses at which it is directed: the first being that we have numbers of young gentlemen with really wonderful powers of perception and expression, but to whom there is wholly wanting a “_bedeutendes Individuum”_–so that their productions are most unedifying and unsatisfactory. But this is a long story.
As to Church matters. I think people in general concern themselves less with them than they did when you left England. Certainly religion is not, to all appearance at least, losing ground here: but since the great people of Newman’s party went over, the disputes among the comparatively unimportant remains of them do not excite much interest. I am going to hear Manning at the Spanish Chapel next Sunday. Newman gives himself up almost entirely to organizing and educating the Roman Catholics, and is gone off greatly, they say, as a preacher.
God bless you, my dearest Tom: I cannot tell you the almost painful longing I sometimes have to see you once more.
The following year the brothers met again; and there followed, almost immediately, my uncle’s election to the Poetry Professorship at Oxford. He writes, in answer to my father’s congratulations:
HAMPTON, _May 16, 1857._
MY DEAR TOM,–My thoughts have often turned to you during my canvass for the Professorship–and they have turned to you more than ever during the last few days which I have been spending at Oxford. You alone of my brothers are associated with that life at Oxford, the _freest_ and most delightful part, perhaps, of my life, when with you and Clough and Walrond I shook off all the bonds and formalities of the place, and enjoyed the spring of life and that unforgotten Oxfordshire and Berkshire country. Do you remember a poem of mine called “The Scholar Gipsy”? It was meant to fix the remembrance of those delightful wanderings of ours in the Cumner hills before they were quite effaced–and as such Clough and Walrond accepted it, and it has had much success at Oxford, I am told, as was perhaps likely from its _couleur locale_. I am hardly ever at Oxford now, but the sentiment of the place is overpowering to me when I have leisure to feel it, and can shake off the interruptions which it is not so easy to shake off now as it was when we were young. But on Tuesday afternoon I smuggled myself away, and got up into one of our old coombs among the Cumner hills, and into a field waving deep with cowslips and grasses, and gathered such a bunch as you and I used to gather in the cowslip field on Lutterworth road long years ago.
You dear old boy, I love your congratulations although I see and hear so little of you, and, alas! _can_ see and hear but so little of you. I was supported by people of all opinions, the great bond of union being, I believe, the affectionate interest felt in papa’s memory. I think it probable that I shall lecture in English: there is no direction whatever in the Statute as to the language in which the lectures shall be: and the Latin has so died out, even among scholars, that it seems idle to entomb a lecture which, in English, might be stimulating and interesting.
On the same occasion, writing to his mother, the new Professor gives an amusing account of the election day, when my uncle and aunt came up to town from Hampton, where they were living, in order to get telegraphic news of the polling from friends at Oxford. “Christ Church”–i.e., the High Church party in Oxford–had put up an opposition candidate, and the excitement was great. My uncle was by this time the father of three small boys, Tom, Trevenen–_alias_ Budge–and Richard–“Diddy.”
We went first to the telegraph station at Charing Cross. Then, about 4, we got a message from Walrond–“nothing certain is known, but it is rumored that you are ahead.” Then we went to get some toys for the children in the Lowther Arcade, and could scarcely have found a more genuine distraction than in selecting wagons for Tom and Trev, with horses of precisely the same color, not one of which should have a hair more in his tail than the other–and a musical cart for Diddy. A little after five we went back to the telegraph office, and got the following message–“Nothing declared, but you are said to be quite safe. Go to Eaton Place.” [“Eaton Place” was then the house of Judge Wightman, Mrs. Matthew Arnold’s father.] To Eaton Place we went, and then a little after 6 o’clock we were joined by the Judge in the highest state of joyful excitement with the news of my majority of 85, which had been telegraphed to him from Oxford after he had started and had been given to him at Paddington Station…. The income is £130 a year or thereabouts: the duties consist as far as I can learn in assisting to look over the prize compositions, in delivering a Latin oration in praise of founders at every alternate commemoration, and in preparing and giving three Latin lectures on ancient poetry in the course of the year. _These lectures I hope to give in English_.
The italics are mine. The intention expressed here and in the letter to my father was, as is well known, carried out, and Matthew Arnold’s Lectures at Oxford, together with the other poetic and critical work produced by him during the years of his professorship, became so great a force in the development of English criticism and English taste, that the lifelike detail of this letter acquires a kind of historical value. As a child of fourteen I first made acquaintance with Oxford while my uncle was still Professor. I remember well some of his lectures, the crowded lecture-hall, the manner and personality of the speaker, and my own shy pride in him–from a great distance. For I was a self-conscious, bookish child, and my days of real friendship with him were still far ahead. But during the years that followed, the ten years that he held his professorship, what a spell he wielded over Oxford, and literary England in general! Looking back, one sees how the first series of _Essays in Criticism_, the _Lectures on Celtic Literature_, or _On Translating Homer, Culture, and Anarchy_ and the rest, were all the time working on English taste and feeling, whether through sympathy or antagonism; so that after those ten years, 1857-1867, the intellectual life of the country had absorbed, for good and all, an influence, and a stimulus, which had set it moving on new paths to new ends. With these thoughts in mind, supplying a comment on the letter which few people could have foreseen in 1857, let me quote a few more sentences:
Keble voted for me after all. He told the Coleridges he was so much pleased with my letter (to the electors) that he could not refrain. … I had support from all sides. Archdeacon Denison voted for me, also Sir John Yarde Buller, and Henley, of the high Tory party. It was an immense victory–some 200 more voted than have ever, it is said, voted in a Professorship election before. It is a great lesson to Christ Church, which was rather disposed to imagine it could carry everything by its great numbers.
Good-by, my dearest mother…. I have just been up to see the three dear little brown heads on their pillows, all asleep…. My affectionate thanks to Mrs. Wordsworth and Mrs. Fletcher for their kind interest in my success.
It is pleasant to think of Wordsworth’s widow, in her “old age serene and bright,” and of the poet’s old friend, Mrs. Fletcher, watching and rejoicing in the first triumphs of the younger singer.
So the ten years of approach and attack–in the intellectual sense–came to an end, and the ten central years of mastery and success began. Toward the end of that time, as a girl of sixteen, I became a resident in Oxford. Up to then Ruskin–the _Stones of Venice_ and certain chapters in _Modern Painters_–had been my chief intellectual passion in a childhood and first youth that cut but a very poor figure, as I look back upon them, beside the “wonderful children” of this generation! But it must have been about 1868 that I first read _Essays in Criticism._ It is not too much to say that the book set for me the currents of life; its effect heightened, no doubt, by the sense of kinship. Above all it determined in me, as in many others, an enduring love of France and of French literature, which played the part of schoolmaster to a crude youth. I owe this to my uncle, and it was a priceless boon. If he had only lived a little longer–if he had not died so soon after I had really begun to know him–how many debts to him would have been confessed, how many things said, which, after all, were never said!
OTHER CHILDREN OF FOX HOW
I have now to sketch some other figures in the Fox How circle, together with a few of the intimate friends who mingled with it frequently, and very soon became names of power to the Tasmanian child also.
Let me take first Doctor Arnold’s third son, “Uncle Willy”–my father’s junior by some four years. William Delafield Arnold is secure of long remembrance, one would fain think, if only as the subject of Matthew Arnold’s two memorial poems–“A Southern Night” and “Stanzas from Carnac.” But in truth he had many and strong claims of his own. His youth was marked by that “restlessness,” which is so often spoken of in the family letters as a family quality and failing. My father’s “restlessness” made him throw up a secure niche in English life, for the New Zealand adventure. The same temperament in Mary Twining, the young widow of twenty-two, took her to London, away from the quiet of the Ambleside valley, and made her an ardent follower of Maurice, Kingsley, and Carlyle. And in Willy, the third son, it showed itself first in a revolt against Oxford, while he was still at Christ Church, leading to his going out to India and joining the Indian Army, at the age of twenty, only to find the life of an Indian subaltern all but intolerable, and to plunge for a time at least into fresh schemes of change.
Among the early photographs at Fox How there is a particularly fine daguerreotype of a young officer in uniform, almost a boy, slim and well proportioned, with piled curly hair, and blue eyes, which in the late ‘fifties I knew as “Uncle Willy”; and there were other photographs on glass of the same young man, where this handsome face appeared again, grown older–much older–the boyish look replaced by an aspect of rather grave dignity. In the later pictures he was grouped with children, whom I knew as my Indian cousins. But him, in the flesh, I had never seen. He was dead. His wife was dead. On the landing bookcase of Fox How there was, however, a book in two blue volumes, which I soon realized as a “novel,” called _Oakfield_, which had been written by the handsome young soldier in the daguerreotype. I tried to read it, but found it was about things and persons in which I could then take no interest. But its author remained to me a mysteriously attractive figure; and when the time came for me to read my Uncle Matthew’s poems, “A Southern Night,” describing the death at Gibraltar of this soldier uncle, became a great favorite with me. I could see it all as Matthew Arnold described it–the steamer approaching Gibraltar, the landing, and the pale invalid with the signs on him of that strange thing called “death,” which to a child that “feels its life in every limb” has no real meaning, though the talk of it may lead vaguely to tears, as that poem often did with me.
Later on, of course, I read _Oakfield_, and learned to take a more informed pride in the writer of it. But it was not until a number of letters written from India by William Arnold to my father in New Zealand between 1848 and 1855, with a few later ones, came into my possession, at my father’s death, that I really seemed to know this dear vanished kinsman, though his orphaned children had always been my friends.
[Illustration: FOX HOW, THE WESTMORELAND HOME OF THE ARNOLDS.]
The letters of 1848 and 1849 read like notes for _Oakfield_. They were written in bitterness of soul by a very young man, with high hopes and ideals, fresh from the surroundings of Oxford and Rugby, from the training of the Schoolhouse and Fox How, and plunged suddenly into a society of boys–the subalterns of the Bengal Native Infantry–living for the most part in idleness, often a vicious idleness, without any restraining public opinion, and practically unshepherded, amid the temptations of the Indian climate and life. They show that the novel is, indeed, as was always supposed, largely autobiographical, and the references in them to the struggle with the Indian climate point sadly forward to the writer’s own fate, ten years later, when, like the hero of his novel, Edward Oakfield, he fell a victim to Indian heat and Indian work. The novel was published in 1853, while its author was at home on a long sick leave, and is still remembered for the anger and scandal it provoked in India, and the reforms to which, no doubt, after the Mutiny, it was one of the contributing impulses. It is, indeed, full of interest for any student of the development of Anglo-Indian life and society; even when one remembers how, soon after it was published, the great storm of the Mutiny came rushing over the society it describes, changing and uprooting everywhere. As fiction, it suffers from the Rugby “earnestness” which overmasters in it any purely artistic impulse, while infusing a certain fire and unity of its own. But various incidents in the story–the quarrel at the mess-table, the horse-whipping, the court martial, the death of Vernon, and the meeting between Oakfield and Stafford, the villain of the piece, after Chilianwallah–are told with force, and might have led on, had the writer lived, to something more detached and mature in the way of novel-writing.
But there were few years left to him, “poor gallant boy!”–to quote the phrase of his poet brother; and within them he was to find his happiness and his opportunity in love and in public service, not in literature.
Nothing could be more pathetic than the isolation and revolt of the early letters. The boy Ensign is desperately homesick, pining for Fox How, for his mother and sisters, for the Oxford he had so easily renounced, for the brothers parted from him by such leagues of land and sea.
The fact that one learns first in India [he says, bitterly] is the profound ignorance which exists in England about it. You know how one hears it spoken of always as a magnificent field for exertion, and this is true enough in one way, for if a man does emerge at all, he emerges the more by contrast–he is a triton among minnows. But I think the responsibility of those who keep sending out here young fellows of sixteen and seventeen fresh from a private school or Addiscombe is quite awful. The stream is so strong, the society is so utterly worldly and mercenary in its best phase, so utterly and inconceivably low and profligate in its worst, that it is not strange that at so early an age, eight out of ten sink beneath it. … One soon observes here how seldom one meets _a happy man_.
I came out here with three great advantages [he adds]. First, being twenty instead of seventeen; secondly not having been at Addiscombe; third, having been at Rugby and Christ Church. This gives me a sort of position–but still I know the danger is awful–for constitutionally I believe I am as little able to stand the peculiar trials of Indian life as anybody.
And he goes on to say that if ever he feels himself in peril of sinking to the level of what he loathes–“I will go at once.” By coming out to India he had bound himself to one thing only–“to earn my own bread.” But he is not bound to earn it “as a gentleman.” The day may come–
when I shall ask for a place on your farm, and if you ask how I am to get there, you, Tom, are not the person to deny that a man who is in earnest and capable of forming a resolution can do more difficult things than getting from India to New Zealand!
And he winds up with yearning affection toward the elder brother so far away.
I think of you very often–our excursion to Keswick and Greta Hall, our walk over Hardknot and Wrynose, our bathes in the old Allen Bank bathing-place [Grasmere], our parting in the cab at the corner of Mount St. One of my pleasantest but most difficult problems is when and where we shall meet again.
In another letter, written a year later, the tone is still despondent. “It is no affectation to say that I feel my life, in one way, cannot now be a happy one.” He feels it his duty for the present to “lie still,” as Keble says, to think, it may be to suffer. “But in my castle-buildings I often dream of coming to you.” He appreciates, more fully than ever before, Tom’s motives in going to New Zealand–the desire that may move a man to live his own life in a new and freer world. “But when I am asked, as I often am, why you went, I always grin and let people answer themselves; for I could not hope to explain without preaching a sermon. An act of faith and conviction cannot be understood by the light of worldly motives and interests; and to blow out this light, and bring the true one, is not the work of a young man with his own darkness to struggle through; so I grin as aforesaid.” “God is teaching us,” he adds–i.e., the different members of the family–“by separation, absence, and suffering.” And he winds up–“Good-by. I never like finishing a letter to you–it seems like letting you fall back again to such infinite distance. And you are often very near me, and the thought of you is often cheery and helpful to me in my own conflict.” Even up to January, 1850, he is still thinking of New Zealand, and signing himself, “ever, dear Tom, whether I am destined to see you soon, or never again in this world–Your most truly affectionate brother.”
Alack! the brothers never did meet again, in this world which both took so hardly. But for Willy a transformation scene was near. After two years in India, his gift and his character had made their mark. He had not only been dreaming of New Zealand; besides his daily routine, he had been working hard at Indian languages and history. The Lawrences, both John and Henry, had found him out, and realized his quality. It was at Sir Henry Lawrence’s house in the spring of 1850 that he met Miss Fanny Hodgson, daughter of the distinguished soldier and explorer, General Hodgson, discoverer of the sources of the Ganges, and at that time the Indian Surveyor-General. The soldier of twenty-three fell instantly in love, and tumult and despondency melted away. The next letter to New Zealand is pitched in quite another key. He still judges Indian life and Indian government with a very critical eye. “The Alpha and Omega of the whole evil in Indian Society” is “the regarding India as a rupee-mine, instead of a Colony, and ourselves as Fortune-hunters and Pension-earners rather than as emigrants and missionaries.” And outside his domestic life his prospects are still uncertain. But with every mail one can see the strained spirit relaxing, yielding to the spell of love and to the honorable interests of an opening life.
“To-day, my Thomas [October 2, 1850], I sit, a married man in the Bengal army, writing to a brother, it may be a married man, in Van Diemen’s Land.” (Rumors of Tom’s courtship of Julia Sorell had evidently just reached him.) He goes on to describe his married home at Hoshyarpore, and his work at Indian languages. He has been reading Carlyle’s _Cromwell_, and marveling at the “rapid rush of thought which seems more and more to be engrossing people in England!” “In India you will easily believe that the torpor is still unbroken.” (The Mutiny was only seven short years ahead!) And he is still conscious of the “many weights which do beset and embitter a man’s life in India.” But a new stay within, the reconciliation that love brings about between a man and the world, upholds him.
“‘To draw homeward to the general life,’ which you, and dear Matt himself, and I, and all of us, are–or at least may be–living, independent of all the accidents of time and circumstance–this is a great alleviation.” The “_fundamentals”_ are safe. He dwells happily on the word–“a good word, in which you and I, so separated, as far as accidents go, it may be for all time, can find great comfort, speaking as it does of Eternity.” One sees what is in his mind–the brother’s “little book of poems” published a year before:
Yet they, believe me, who await
No gifts from chance, have conquered fate, They, winning room to see and hear,
And to men’s business not too near Though clouds of individual strife
Draw homeward to the general life. * * * * *
To the wise, foolish; to the world Weak;–yet not weak, I might reply,
Not foolish, Fausta, in His eye,
To whom each moment in its race,
Crowd as we will its neutral space, Is but a quiet watershed
Whence, equally, the seas of life and death are fed.
Six months later the younger brother has heard “as a positive fact” of Tom’s marriage, and writes, with affectionate “chaff”:
I wonder whether it has changed you much?–not made a Tory of you, I’ll undertake to say! But it is wonderfully sobering. After all, Master Tom, it is not the very exact _finale_ which we should have expected to your Republicanism of the last three or four years, to find you a respectable married man, holding a permanent appointment!
Matt’s marriage, too, stands pre-eminent among the items of family news. What blind judges, sometimes, the most attached brothers are of each other!
I hear too by this mail of Matt’s engagement, which suggests many thoughts. I own that Matt is one of the very last men in the world whom I can fancy happily married–or rather happy in matrimony. But I dare say I reckon without my host, for there was such a “_longum intervallum”_ between dear old Matt and me, that even that last month in town, when I saw so much of him, though there was the most entire absence of elder-brotherism on his part, and only the most kind and thoughtful affection, for which I shall always feel grateful, yet our intercourse was that of man and boy; and though the difference of years was not so formidable as between “Matthew” and Wordsworth, yet we were less than they a “pair of Friends,” though a pair of very loving brothers.
But even in this gay and charming letter one begins to see the shadows cast by the doom to come. The young wife has gone to Simla, having been “delicate” for some time. The young husband stays behind, fighting the heat.
The hot weather, old boy, is coming on like a tiger. It is getting on for ten at night; but we sit with windows all wide open, the punkah going, the thinnest conceivable garments, and yet we sweat, my brother, very profusely…. To-morrow I shall be up at gun-fire, about half-past four A.M. and drive down to the civil station, about three miles off, to see a friend, an officer of our own corps … who is sick, return, take my Bearer’s daily account, write a letter or so, and lie down with _Don Quixote_ under a punkah, go to sleep the first chapter that Sancho lets me, and sleep till ten, get up, bathe, re-dress and breakfast; do my daily business, such as it is–hard work, believe me, in a hot sleep- inducing, intestine-withering climate, till sunset, when doors and windows are thrown open … and mortals go out to “eat the air,” as the natives say.