a r ,.
LIFE, CHARACTER, AND. GENIUS
Gear**. SWIe l hU,i f S
€t)t Corn 2Lato ft&pmer,
W IT 1 1
CRITICISMS UPON HIS WRITINGS.
BY JANUARY SEARLE. p *> iv<A
WHITTAKER & CO., AVE-MARIA LANE;
AND J. BROOK, HUDDERSFIELD.
THE EIGHT HON. THE EAEL OF CAKLISLE,
IN SINCEBE ADMIEATION OF
HIS LOEDSHIP'S EMINENT TALENTS, HIS PUBLIC AND PBIVATE VIBTUES,
AND HIS LAEGE POPULAB SYMPATHIES,
€jji5 jjnmMp %n\wm is initjj prrmission IPpMrntfu,
BY HIS LOBDSHIP S
MOST FAITHFUL AND OBEDIENT SEEYANT,
V IX E F ACE.
On the appearance of the first edition of this work, or
that part of it, rather, which is properly mine, 1 was
accused by some of Elliott's friends of doing him an
injustice in saving- that he never fully appreciated
"Wordsworth as a poet. But upon mature consideration,
I am inclined to stand by that statement. I know well
enough that numerous passages from the letters and
prose writings of Elliott might be adduced to show that
he held Wordsworth in high estimation, and he is
credited to this extent in my analysis of his genius
and writings. What he did not appreciate, however,
was what Wordsworth most valued in the judgment of
his readers, namely, the spirituality with which he
endeavoured to invest external nature, and the life of
man. And this endeavour, which lies at the root of all
Wordsworth's writings, Elliott had little or no sympathy
with. In the conclusion of his Autobiography he says :
"My mind is the mind of my eyes;" and it could not
have been better characterized. Wordsworth's mind
made his eyes ; and here lies the grand distinction
between the two poets.
In conclusion, I have to return thanks to all who have
helped me in this volume ; especially to my friend
Thomas Lister of Barnsley ; and, if it were possible for
my thanks to reach him, to my poor dead correspondent,
Paul Rodgers of Sheffield : Bequiescat in pace !
December 1st, 1851.
LIFE,' CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
EBENEZEll ELLIOT T.
KEYIEW OF EBENEZEll ELLIOTT'S MIND AND WBITIXGS.
I have to speak in this paper upon the
genius and character of Ebenezer Elliott,
whose stormy life is now ended, and whose
great musical heart lies still and silent in
the grave. And although, if I consulted
my own feelings, the love which I bore
the departed poet would prompt me to
write a threnody over his ashes, rather
than a cool analysis of his mind and
2 LIFE, CHARACTER, AJS T D GENIUS
writings, yet I will endeavour to merge
all private sympathies in this discourse,
and treat my subject in a catholic spirit,
from the historical point of view alone.
Fortunately, the materials for this work
are near at hand ; and the poet has not
been long enough dead to have passed into
the perplexing regions either of mythology
or tradition. Indeed it was but yesterday
that I conversed with him in his own house,
heard him read his own poems, and joined
with his fair daughters in singing the
beautiful melodies which, at their request,
he wrote and adapted to some of our most
popular airs. And when I think of the
good and brave old man — Avith his venerable
grey hairs — his kind eyes, now beaming with
love, and now flashing with indignant fire,
as he spoke of human wrong and misery —
I can scarcely reconcile myself to the idea
that he is gone for ever from the world.
The stern truth, however, returns to me
with solemn emphasis, in spite of my in-
credulity, and I know but too surely, that
I shall see him no more. It is, nevertheless,
a high consolation to look back upon the
noble and manly life which he lived ; for he
was an examplar worthy, in many important
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 3
particulars, to be imitated and reverenced.
He was no half-and-half man, wavering with
doubtful indecision between two opinions,
but an earnest and sincere, if not a complete
and many-sided character. It was his way
throughout life, first of all to master every
subject that interested him, and then heroic-
ally, and without calculating the chances of
defeat, or caring for the world's sanction or
opposition, to throw himself into the arena
as its champion. Like the warriors of the
old chivalry, wherever he appeared he left
the marks of his battle-axe behind him.
Indeed, Nature seems to have cast him in
such sharp and decisive moulds that she
might be sure of her man, and secure herself
from all counterfeits of him. It is at all
events certain, that while the mannerism of
every other considerable poet has been seized
upon by verse-wrights, and persons of that
ilk, and passed into the general currency of
literature, Elliott is the only bard whose
genius has not been corrupted by these
base coiners. Looking at him through Iris
writings, he reminds me of some grim
Cyclop, into whose body a divine soul has
passed, radiating him with glory, and making
even his deformities beautiful. Eor he is not
4i LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
dressed in the ordinary costume of the bards*
having his garland and singing robes around
him — such as Spencer and Milton, wore —
but he appears in the naked buff of a hard-
working man — grimed with soot and sweat,
and singing of the " accursed Bread Tax," —
made manifest to him as such, in the empty
trenchers of his famished children ! We
must not look, therefore, in his pages for
that external polish and courtly bearing
which characterise the highest nobility of
the poetic order ; for there is nothing which
he so little professes. And yet he is not
without polish, but, on the contrary, he
sometimes surprises us with delicate touches,
and even with whole pictures, finished in the
best style of art. The secret of this rude
demeanour — this bandying of coarse names
and crooked epithets, which are so common
in his writings, lies primarily in the earnest-
ness of his nature, and, in a secondary sense,
in that lack of early culture which he sets
forth so prominently in his autobiography.
It is this rugged, fiery, and impetuous utter-
ance, however, which gives the main charm
to his poetry, and makes it, like Luther's
speech, a continual battle. I, for one, do
not wish to see these scars and trenches
OF EBEXEZER ELLIOTT. O
erased from his writings. They are the
birth-pangs of his spirit, as it burst forth,
with mighty upheavings, from its dumb
sepulchre, and arose triumphant into life
In his later writings he evinces more
mastery over his imagination and feelings
than in most of his earlier productions, but
his wild spirit was never entirely tamed ;
and the spots and claws of the leopard are
everywhere visible in his pages. Few men,
however, have proved themselves greater
masters than he of the secrets of rhythmical
science. Many of his poems are executed
with consummate skill; and his descriptive
passages are so true, natural, and beautiful,
that they can scarcely be surpassed by any
similar efforts in the lamma2;e. He excels
most in this kind of writing — because he is
always at home with Nature — and loves her
like a mother, with a gentle, confiding, and
most affectionate heart. But no sooner do
the dark aspects of humanity — the wrongs,
the follies, the pride, and the crimes of men
pass over his mind, than he bursts forth
into passionate and vehement exclamation,
and the calm heavens, and the meek and
beautiful earth, are suddenly darkened and
6 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
distorted with the fiery ashes of his wrath.
We see in all that he does a strong man;
a sort of gigantic Titan, who hates his
chains ; in whom the Divine impulses are
so powerful that he must speak, even
if it be in flame; for although he has a
wonderful faculty of condensation — both in
thought and matter — yet he rarely evinces
that subdued power, that central balance
and equipoise, which are the highest marks
of greatness. He knows nothing of the
deep repose, the sorrowful strength, which
is manifested in Wordsworth ; nor did he
ever fully appreciate the writings of that
noble and philosophical bard. He mistook
in several instances the artistic simplicity,
and the pure Greek beauty, of Wordsworth,
for sheer weakness, and thought very meanly
of the Ecclesiastical Sonnets. He allowed
that there was merit in the " Peter Bell,"
but gave his praise grudgingly, like one who
was half ashamed of his judgment. He had
no sympathy with those high speculations
which are for ever haunting the mind of
Wordsworth, and are so beautifully em-
bodied in his poetry. He was a far-seeing,
much-enduring, hard-working, practical man;
dealing always with practical questions, and
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 7
rarely attempting to soar into the higher
regions of thought. Whatever was tinged
with mysticism, and did not represent some
tangible matter, which he could grasp and
wrestle with, was to him idle and empty
dreaming. He was cradled into poetry by
human wrong and misery, and was emphat-
ically, the Bard of Poverty — singing of the
poor man's loves and sorrows, and denounc-
ing his oppressors. This he conceived to
be his mission; and whilst the Corn Laws
existed, and Labour and Famine went hand
in hand together, he had no time for the
dainty speculations of philosophy, even if
he had possessed the capacity for them. His
mind, however, was not metaphysical ; but,
as I said, practical ; and his want of relish for
Wordsworth as a whole, lay in the necessity
of his intellect.
I remember reading to him, after a long
conversation upon the relative merits of
Wordsworth and Byron, the fine ode of
the former poet, called. " Intimations of
Immortality, gathered from Recollections
of Early Childhood ; " but notwithstanding
the profound significance, and deep anthem-
melody of the poem, he would not acknow-
ledge its merit. — Nay, he confessed that it
8 LIFE, CHAKACTEK, AND GENIUS
was beyond his depth, although he after-
wards quoted one or two fine lines, which
had struck him during the reading, and
seemed to haunt him in spite of himself. —
This poem, which may he called the Apo-
theosis of life, and is in every respect a
wonderful performance, both in spirit, com-
pass, and execution, is the test by which
one might measure the depth and culture
of all candidates for honours in the Poetical
Tripos. And as some one has said — I
believe Berkeley — that unless a man have
doubted the fact of his own existence, he
may be sure he has no aptitude for meta-
physics, so it may likewise be said, that he
who cannot understand the moral fitness
and spiritual aim of the ode in question,
has no claim to be admitted into the highest
regions of poetical inspiration. The truth
of this postulate is borne out, so far as
Elliott is concerned, both in his public
writings and private discourse. The fine
Platonism of the ode alluded to, finds no echo
in his heart ; the shadowy recollections, as
of a dim and forgotten existence, which flit
over the golden brain of childhood, and
which to Wordsworth are evidences of an
old, dateless, and eternal birth, and which,
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 9
" be they what they may,
Are still the common light of all our day;
Are still the fountain light of all our seeing ;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the Eternal Sdence ; "—
these recollections, I say, suggest no such
deep thoughts and high emprises to the
mind of Elliott, but have a psychological
base, and may be psychologically explained.
He looked, in fact, for a literal meaning in
the ode, and missed, therefore, the Avhole
grandeur and sublimity of its aim. " Eor
what purpose," said he, " should the soul
return again to earth, after it lias once left
it ? Is life, then, and such a life as this
famine-life of England, so loveable ? " The
question is a key to Elliott's mind, and
we can see very well how many, and what
kind of chambers in the Spiritual kingdom,
it will unlock. I find the same practical
and obstinate question occurring in one of
his latest poems, the " Plaint," written, as
he told me, one night to withdraw his
mind from the pain and agony of his bodily
suffering. This " Plaint," which is the most
mystical of all his poems, is pitched in the
same key-note as the "Silent Land," by Salis,
10 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
and is wonderfully beautiful and striking.
It is the sorrowful wail of a soul wandering
in the dark, on the very margin of the
eternal shores ; companioned by millions, and
yet going all alone, into the dark, silent,
dread, Unknown. I know of nothing so
sad and melancholy in literature; and the
gloomy, almost heart-breaking effect of the
poem is heightened by the dreary melody
of the rhythm, and the skill whereby the
main idea of one verse is repeated in the
next, and merged into some new and still
more mournful thought. The question to
which I have alluded will be found in the
sixth verse of this poem, where the desire
for the re-union of the soul, either with
the world or with its ex-tenants in the
immortal spheres, is regarded as selfish and
profane, because God is all. Here is the
poem : —
" Daek, deep, and cold, the current flows,
Unto the sea where no wind blows,
Seeking the land which no one knows.
O'er its sad gloom stdl comes and goes,
The mingled wail of friends and foes,
Borne to the laud which no one knows.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. H
Why shrieks for help yon wretch who goes,
"With millions, from a world of woes,
Unto the land which no one knows ?
Though myriads go with him who goes,
Alone he goes, where no wind hlows.
Unto the land which no one knows.
For all must go where no wind blows.
And none can go for him who goes ;
None, none return, whence no one knows.
Tet why should he who shrieking goes
With millions, from a world of woes,
Re-union seek with it or those ?
Alone with God, where no wind blows,
And Death, His shadow, doom'd he goes,
That God is there the shadow shows.
Oh ! shoreless Deep ! where no wind blows !
And thou, oh Land, which no one knows !
That God is All, His shadow shows."
Still, altliougii Elliott could not penetrate
the deep allusions of Wordsworth, nor ap-
preciate his philosophy, he held the Bard in
great reverence, and spoke of the "Excursion"
12 LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
as one of the poems destined for immortality.
He could quote all its finest descriptive
passages; and regarded many of Wordsworth's
Minor Effusions, as pieces of pure nature.
His love for Southey, "who condescended,"
as he says, " to teach him the art of poetry,"
was sincere, natural, and characteristic. For
Elliott was a worshipper of power and beauty
and delighted in the architectural pomp of
poetry, where he could sit as in a vast cathe-
dral, and contemplate the gorgeous creations
of genius upon its painted domes. Hence he
spoke of "Thalaha" as the most wonderful
effort of the human imagination, and more
than one of his pieces is stained with the
fiery colouring of that caballistic poem. His
admiration of Byron amounted almost to
idolatry ; and he was impatient of all dissent
from his judgment in this particular. Neither
would he allow you to differ from him, unless
you could at once substantiate your opinion
by a direct reference to the poet's writings.
Nor was it easy to convince him that there
was a single flaw in the rhetoric or sentiments
of his noble idol. He would not admit that
he was irreligious or immoral in his writings;
and denounced all such judgment as " cant,
twaddle, and hypocrisy." " It has become
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 13
fashionable," he said, "to abuse Lord Byron,
but he will live when the bones of his blas-
phemers shall have rotted." And then, after
he had exhausted the fierce tornadoes of his
wrath against all such blasphemers, he would
quote you endless passages from this poet, all
of them full of human beauty, and breathing
a fine spirit of natural piety. lie had a rich
and costly edition of " Childe Harold" —
illustrated, if I remember rightly, by Turner
— which he cherished with an almost holy
love; for he declared this poem to be the
finest master-piece of melody which our
noble English tongue can boast of. Shelley
and Keats were likewise great favourites
with him. The former he loved not only for
his genius, but for his deep sympathy with
his race; and the latter he estimated more
highly than any modern poet, with the
exception of Byron ; not so much from what
he had actually accomplished, as for the
promise which his performances manifested.
In these likings and estimates of the genius
of his contemporaries, we see the objective
tendency of his mind, and its delight in
sensuous, rather than in spiritual beauty
and speculative thought.
I think, therefore, from these consider-
14 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
ations, and others to be shown hereafter,
that Elliott can scarcely be classed amongst
the highest order of poetical minds. And yet
he belongs to the "true breed of the vermin/'
as he himself expressed it in speaking of a
much humbler person. Eor in his writings
are to be found all the elements of a beauti-
ful and aesthetic, as well as of a grand moral
poetry. And it is precisely in the aesthetic
and moral sphere, as distinguished from the
spiritual, that he takes his place as a poet;
looking upon all things through the medium
of the beautiful, in their relation to the
moral laws. There is something Hebraic
and sublime in the stern justice which he
executes upon falsehood and wrong-doing.
He is like the Indian impersonation of
Brahm — all eyes, all ears, all feet — keen to
see, powerful to perform, swift to overtake.
He has one central idea — terrible and awful
in its aspect, although beautiful and benefi-
cent in its spirit — before which he tries all
causes, and men, and things. It is the
Eternal Idea of Bight; his synonyme of God.
And this idea is perpetually present in his
mind, pervades all his thoughts, will not be
shuffled nor cheated, but demands a full
satisfaction from all violators of it. The
OP EBENEZEK ELLIOTT. 15
Titled Scoundrel, and the Mitred Priest,
the Bread-Tax-Eater, the Pox-Hunter, the
Game-Law-Squire, the Hundred Popes of
England's Jesuitry, are all summoned before
this tribunal, and dealt with — sometimes
with an over-severe judgment. One can
make allowance, however, for the occasional
exaggeration of the sentence, because the
doom of his delinquents is always just.
Besides, a man whose feelings, as he says,
" have been hammered until they have
become cold-short, and are apt to snap and
fly off in sarcasms," is not likely to be choice
in his expressions, when he is dealing with
known lies; nor have they any mercy to
expect at his hands. Por poetry, with Elliott,
was no pastime, nor even a musical unrest,
but a stern and inspired demonic labour,
deep as life, strong as death ; involving life,
or death issues. He had a great contempt for
dilettante poetry, and could pardon notlrihg
short of genius ; and even then, genius must
be married to practical endeavour, or God
had thrown away his highest gift upon an
indolent dreamer. "We cannot spare one
true man from the ranks of thought and
progress, in these distracted times," he said ;
"and it grieves me to see any man waste
16 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
his talents in constructing cobwebs, when
the world has to be built anew/' Eor he
looked upon the world as altogether diseased;
right and wrong had changed places in it,
and the divine was undermost. A hireling
church, and a do-nothing, eat-every-thing
Aristocracy, were his nightmare of this
moral death ; and he devoted all his powers
to crush it. The waving com fields, and
the sweet-singing birds, piping their rich
melodies in the trees and hedge-rows around
him, made him sad. "God has given us
food to eat, and man, the tyrant and oppres-
sor, has taxed it !" he one day exclaimed, as
I wandered with him, in the valley below
his house, "and these beautiful birds are
sino-ina: as if there were no sorrow in the
world. Ye break my heart, ye little birds,'*
he added, turning with his eyes brimful of
tears, to the unconscious musicians. It was
a touching sight ; for Elliott was then grey,
and bowed down with the weight of years
and affliction. He could not find one pure,
unmixed pleasure in all the landscapes,
woodlands, and cloudlands of Nature; for
this divine harmony which he saw every
where around him, became, as I said, sad
and painful when contrasted, as by the very
OF EEENEZER ELLIOTT. 17
law of his mind it was sure to be, with
the wretchedness and misery of men. For
the Poet had looked upon Nature in so
many and such various moods, that all
her phenomena and forms were transfigured
by the power of his feelings and passions,
and had become to him the symbols and
the representatives of human thought and
life. Nature and man's life were fused
indeed into one great whole, and in the
midst of sunshine, and waters, and singing
birds, he heard the wild wail of famine,
and the shrieks and moans of bleeding and
broken hearts. Nay, he took a strange
and unwearied pleasure in drawing pictures
of woe and misery, and making them speak
in a language that melts all hearts. AVe
may thank Crabbe for much of this, and
for the gloomy colouring which darkens the
genius of our manful and earnest poet.
Crabbe was his model in early life, and
confirmed the natural bias of his mind
towards those dark and doleful subjects.
All his heroes are unhappy; the victims
of social wrong and Corn Law oppression.
He regarded Poverty as the waste and
flaming Sahara of Life, where no flowers
grew, no rain descended, no stars shone. It
18 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
was his extremest, deepest hell ; and he
peopled it with horror and despair. On
the other hand, outward prosperity and a
" Home of Taste," for the working man,
were his highest visions of a terrestrial
Paradise. These were the two Poles of
his ethical and political science. He could
not understand that Poverty was no evil;
that it might he a great good ; capahle of
yielding priceless blessings : he called it an
immitigable curse. Por he looked at it with
the eyes of a Political Economist, and could
not, or would not, entertain it as a question
of morals. Prom a very sufficient trial of
poverty, however, I can pronounce it good
for discipline, consolation, guidance, strength;
a very Hercules' cradle ; and not at all, there-
fore, a curse, but a blessing ; provided always
that a trustful and hopeful heart be at the
bottom of it. But Elliott could not see the
Angel through this disguise of rags ; and his
professed business was to denounce it as a
loathsome harlot ; the mother of crime and
infamy. As a politician, he was stone-blind
to the moral uses of suffering ; and neither
the public history of nations, nor the private
lives of great men, who had been tried and
purified in that fire, could instruct him in
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 10
the wisdom of the Institution, or induce him
to regard it as a divine appointment. Free
trade was his religion, and heaven was paved
with cheap bread, and rich mosaics of golden
untaxed ^rain. From the altar of this en-
thusiasm he preached his new gospel of
commerce, which was to emancipate the
world from tyranny and superstition, and
regenerate the lives and ways of men. It
is curious and instructive to observe the
strong faith which he has in the power
and consequences of this material reform;
what impossible things he expects from it !
and how earnestly he believes the demon
that possesses him, and speaks through his
tongue. Had he been born a little earlier,
he would have been a leader in the Com-
monwealth — perhaps a Puritan preacher, a
regicide, and Poet Laureate to the Lord
Protector. He would have fought well too,
at Marston Moor, if one may judge from
the battle-music which rings through his
verses. But as a divine guide, and teacher
of heavenly things, he has no faculty, and
therefore no mission. He is a poet, but
not a priest ; and one always feels dark and
lonely with him, except when he goes forth
to worship on the hill tops. The beautiful
20 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
and sorrowful stars instruct us in a holier
lore than that of Corn Law Rhymes, and
anti-Corn Law curses ; and the poet himself
is never so human, natural, and happy, as
when singing the songs which they inspire.
His thoughts and wavs are his own, how-
ever — the proper and necessary unfolding of
his nature, and should be received and
accepted as such.
The philosophy of Adam Smith and Jeremy
Bentham was the substratum upon which his
mind was built ; and this philosophy, inter-
penetrated by his genius, found at last a
voice which burst forth in Corn Law Rhymes.
It was the first melody that ever came from
the dead and monotonous mill-wheels of
political economy, and is the best result
which I, for one, can hope for from that
quarter. The works of the above authors,
and those of the good Colonel Thompson,
made Elliott a politician; and he no sooner
saw the evil effects of the Corn Laws upon
the industry of the nation, than he began to
denounce them. Unfortunately, his hatred
of monopoly made him a monoplist in his
hatred, limited his vision, dwarfed his sym-
pathies, and converted him into a kind «£
of Polyphemus — a one-eyed King of Song.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 21
The Corn Laws were at the root of all our
evils; social, moral, political, and religious.
Destroy these laws, and you will have free
trade, and with it a happy, contented, and
virtuous population ! Such was the remedy
which the Poet proposed for the deep spiritual
disease of the nation.
His insight did not extend beyond the
cuticle of the world ; and all its spiritual
wants and necessities were as impenetrably
hidden from his eyes as if they had been
closed by the seven seals spoken of in the
Apocalypse. But no man living in his time
had a clearer practical vision, or a more
readv and seasonable wit. He alwavs struck
at the right moment, whilst the iron was
hot, and sent the hissing and burning sparks
around him, with good effect. And thus,
Avhether speaking at public meetings, lec-
turing at mechanics' institutes, or writing
political lyrics, he was always successful.
His early poems are remarkable for rude
power, and for a wild and somewhat turgid
imagination. They remind me of the Voluspa,
and the Prose Edda of the Scandinavians,
Avhere the Norse genius revels in unrestrained
license, and conjures its gigantic creations
out of the tempest and the whirlwind, and
•22 MFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
the ghostly regions of eternal ice and snow.
We see that the wild Eagle has not yet
acquired the mastery over its wings ; although
in all its heavenward attempts there is much
of glory, if also of defeat. It is extremely
interesting to trace the progress of the poet's
mind from his first effort, " The Vernal
Walk," made in his seventeenth year, up
to the publication of the "Uanter" and
the "Corn Law Khymes." He gathers
fresh strength at every step, and beats up
the thunder from the hard highway as he
marches along, giving us assurance that an
earnest fighting man is on the road, who
means, by the grace of God, to become a
hero and a conqueror. Unfortunately, he
is too often a Quixotic spendthrift of his
power : and, although he does not fight
windmills, he often grinds in them — like
blind Sampson — and that too, with no prac-
tical result, but merely to shake off the
superabundance of his strength. I have
read the "Vernal Walk" with pleasure, as
a literary curiosity; and with the same
feelings which induce us to look into the
early literature of great nations. It is very
singular too, the striking resemblance in the
development of ideas which exists between
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 23
the youth of man, and the youth of nations.
"Wonder and worship are the elements of
human culture, and religion flows naturally
out of the loving heart, in the presence of
Nature. Hence all great nations have their
theogonies and theosophies, whose origin lies
in the very morning of their existence;
and hence also the earliest efforts of our
best poets have a religious source. Elliott's
"Vernal Walk," originally published by
Mr. Eowler, of Cambridge, is full of this
devotional feeling, and is moreover no incon-
siderable performance, in the literary sense,
if we take into the account his neglected
education, and the age at which it was
written. I fancy also that I can discover
in this poem the seeds of the future man,
his love of Nature, his worship of the
beautiful, his earnestness, strength, and
weakness. The same fusion of human
sorrow with natural beauty, which marks
all he does in after years, is likewise visible
here. It is, however, an imitative and
reminiscent, rather than an inspired poem;
and he apologises for including it in Ms
collected works by saying, that as the idiot
of the family is sometimes a favourite, so
this poem is endeared to him by the critical
24 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS,
persecution which it has suffered. I subjoin
a few extracts, which will give some idea of
this earliest effusion of the poet: —
" Hark ! 'tis the hymn of Nature ! Love-taught birds
Salute, with songs of gratulation sweet,
The sweet May morning. How harmoniously
Over these meadows of the rising sun
The music floats ! O Love ! Love ever young !
On the soft bosom of the Spring reclined ;
Nurse of the tender thought, and generous deed !
Thou comest to bless thy children. * *
Oft have I passed yon cottage door at eve.
Where sat the swain, his daily labour done,
Nursing his little children on his knee,
And kissing them at times, whilst o'er him bent
His happy partner, smiling as she viewed
Her lisping babes ; then have I blessed thee, Love !
And fondly called thee Fount of Social Peace !
What art thou, deathless, all-pervading power,
That, like a meek, yet universal sun,
Through universal Nature gently shinest ?
Art thou a ray from light's unclouded source ?
An emanation of divinity ?
No; thou art God!"
*,y* au j£. <y.
"7? -w tp ?;■
" Here springs the odorous primrose ; sweetly here
The orchard blooms; here bees are full of Spring.
The poet courts the violet as he strays ;
But Winter cometh, and the flower is gone ;
And then saith he, ' 'Tis faded.' Thus, Man !
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 25
Thou livest, and diest ! Strong is thy youthful frame,
But soou the feeble steps of Age approach,
Follow'd by Death. Even on thy new-made grave
Oblivion sits "
"Ere there lived one soul
To worship thee, Oh God of Holiness !
Wrapt in incomprehensibility,
Pleased with self-contemplation, thou didst muse
In silence on thine own eternal thoughts.
Through all extent thou piercest ; nothing is
Where thou art not : even in me thou dwellest,
Thou movest the strings of mental melody
Which tune my soul to harmony and love.
Thou bidd'st my fancy soar to realms of light,
Bidd'st reason, holy reason, muse ou thee
And in thy works behold thee, throned o'er heights
And depths of glory inaccessible.
I, in the majesty of Nature, see
The greatness of eternal majesty;
I, in her smiling scenery, behold
The bounteous smile of beauty infinite.
Thy goodness is unbounded, God of Love !
Here, or wherever uncreated light
Flames in the sea of ever-vital beams,
World peopled — as this vernal air with buds —
Father and God ! thy sons shall worship thee !"
But notwithstanding that these early effu-
sions are rudely and coarsely constructed,
28 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
there are gleams of real talent in them,
and touches of that deep pathos whereof
Elliott has since proved himself so great
a master. The Rejected's Song in " The
Second Nuptials " may be instanced as a
specimen of his early skill in this depart-
ment of poetry.
At a very early period of his poetical ca-
reer, Elliott was fortunate enough to secure
the friendship of the poet Southey; who,
on the appearance of his second volume,
which originally comprised "Bothwell," — a
dramatic poem, "The Exile," and "Second
Nuptials," with a Preface from " Peter
Eaultless to his brother Simon," — defying
his reviewers — wrote him as follows : " There
is power in the least of these tales ; but
the higher you pitch your tone the better
you succeed. Thirty years ago they would
have made your reputation ; and thirty
years hence, the world will wonder that
they did not do so." Elliott's third volume
contained a satire, under the title of
" Giaour," which, strange enough, was a
vehement attack upon Lord Byron. The
secret of its history is one of the many
curiosities of literature. According to
Elliott's own statement, it was written
OF EBENEZEK ELLIOTT. 27
with a view to goad Lord Byron into
a notice of him; and to revenge himself
for an affront which he fancied he had
received from the noble lord, in the old
Bank at Rotherham. Tke party wko re-
lates tkis storv, tkinks it skould receive
but a qualified credence. There seems,
however, to be no reason to doubt its
accuracy — since the original statement was
made by Elliott himself ; and I have fre-
quently remarked, that he was not only
candid in the announcement, but severe in
the condemnation of his own faikngs. It
is, moreover, easy enougk to see now a
young and sensitive man — conscious of kis
own unacknowledged merits, might be en-
trapped by the impetuosity of his feelings,
into an ungenerous revenge of a supposed
insult. Byron's " English Bards and Scotch
Reviewers " is an example of this head-
strong retaliation ; and Elliott could very
well plead it as a precedent, if not as a
justification. But in neither instance must
we draw too hasty conclusions, from these
erratic outbursts ; for they are no true
indications of the character of either party.
In both cases it is wounded pride that
speaks, and not a corrupt and revengeful
28 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
heart. I do not seek, however, to apologise
for Elliott's conduct in this instance; and
will merely add that Lord Byron took no
notice of his assailant.
" Corn Law Rhymes and the Ranter '
appeared next, in one volume, and were
noticed in the "Eclectic," and in "Black-
wood's Magazine." In 1829, he published
the "Village Patriarch," which was praised
by the "Westminster," but did not bring
Mm the suffrage and applause of the public.
He owes the celebrity which he soon after
acquired, to an accidental visit which Dr.
Bowring paid to T. A. Ward, Esq., of
Sheffield. This gentleman placed a copy
of the " Corn Law Bhymes, &c," in the
hands of the Doctor — who was immediately
struck with the great merit of the Poet,
and was subsequently introduced to him
by Mr. Ward. In returning to London,
Dr. Bowring visited William Howitt, at
Nottingham, where he met Wordsworth, and
made them acquainted with the "wonderful
poet of Sheffield, not Montgomery, but a new
name." Mr. Howitt claims to have direct-
ed Southey's attention to Elliott, through
Wordsworth; but this is an error, for Elliott
had already been known to Southey for ten
OF EBENEZETt ELLIOTT. 29
or eleven years. In London, Dr. Bowring
showed Elliott's poems to Bulwer, who
introduced them to the public in an anony-
mous letter in the "New Monthly Magazine."
It is dated March 19th, 1831, and is entitled
"A Letter to Dr. Southey, &c, Poet-
Laureate, respecting a remarkable poem by
a Mechanic." Bulwer concludes his letter
thus : " And now I think you will admit
that I am borne out in the praises with
which I have prefaced this poem. I do
not know whether the author be young, or
old ; if the former, I must unaffectedly add,
that to my judgment, he has given such a
promise as few men, even in this age — an
age wronged and unappreciated — would be
capable of performing. "
This friendly notice may be regarded
as the culminating point in Elliott's poet-
ical career; for from this time his fame
spread over the land, and his merit was
generally acknowledged. Miss Jewsbury, in
the "Athenaeum," Mrs. Holland, in the
"New Monthly," and various other writers,
hastened to pay him homage; and Thomas
Carlyle wrote a genial criticism upon his
writings, in the " Edinburgh Review." In
1833, '34, and '35, he collected and published
LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
his poems in three successive volumes, and in
1840, the previous editions being exhausted,
he published the whole of his works in one
volume, through Tait, of Edinburgh. His
later poems have since been published in two
volumes, by Pox, London, under the title
of "More Verse and Prose/' by the Corn
I do not propose to enter into a critical
analysis of these works, in their separate
character; but I may make a few short
remarks upon them by way of illustrating
the genius and limits of the writer. It is
singular enough, as I said awhile ago, that
his tales are all sad, and his heroes
unhappy. He had studied the physiology
and anatomy of human misery, and was
its poetical demonstrator. Every painful
throb, and every agony of the heart, was
familiar to his ear, and he reproduced them
in melodies which drop down into the soul
like the tears of Music. He loves the
cypress and the yew ; and the gloomy
aisles of death and the grave. I have
before alluded to his powers of pathos;
and it is strange how such tenderness, pity,
and deep womanly love, should be united
to so much rugged manliness, sternness,
OF EBENEZEE, ELLIOTT. 31
fierceness, and valour, as met together in
his nohle and hospitable nature. It was
this mixture of opposing elements, however,
which gave strength, beauty, and consist-
ency, to his character; and although his
curses and his hatred were so violent, that
he exhausted all the capabilities of language
in his utterance of them — yet there was
nothing low or vulgar in all this, and
looked at from the true point of vision it
was even grand and prophetic, — like the
half savage, half archangelic denunciations
of the old Hebrew seers. For this hate
sprang from love; from the inmost depths
of a heart that vibrated with sympathies
for all that was high and dear to man.
Hence an act of oppression done to tho
meanest creature, was done to him; and as
if he had been God's deputy on earth, he
seized his thunderbolts, and hurled them
flaming upon the head of the aggressor.
He pleads for the poor, because they have
no one else to plead for them; and it is
most beautiful and touching to see him
kneeling before the Maker of all the
worlds, and imploring heavenly justice at
his hands, for these wronged and suffering
children. He is blamed for writing political
32 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
poetry, and his most friendly critics — Carlyle
amongst the number — admonished him of the
fleeting nature of such effusions. But politics
were his element — the motive and the cue
for all his actions and literary achievements.
His mission, indeed, from the beginning to
the end of his life, was that of a reformer —
chiefly in the political sphere ; and he clothed
his message in the forms of poetry, and
the robes of song, that he might render
it attractive and successful. In later ages
his poetry will mark the history of his
time ; for it is the embodiment of the
wrongs and sufferings of the people, and
of that "bloodless revolution" which has
just terminated in commercial freedom.
He has reflected, likewise, in his verse all
the great political movements of the age;
and we see there, in shadowy outline, the
mighty pageantry of Europe as it passed
in blood and fire before the eyes of men
in 1848 and '49. Nothing escapes him con-
nected with these external movements ; for
he is deeply and personally interested, not
only as a poet, but as a man, in all these
outward and human concerns. His genius,
however, is not universal, but limited. He
has but one die in his mint wherewith he
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 33
stamps all his issues. lie does not, like
Shakspcre, give us endless types of cha-
racter, hut reproduces himself in his poems,
as Byron did hefore him. His sympathies
are deep and extensive; hut they are all of
one class. His very love is sorrow. He
cannot laugh at any time, without weeping.
He has wrung from knowledge its deepest
lesson, and finds it hitter as hlood. His
teaching is all hopeless, save in one direc-
tion, and that in the lowest of all directions
— namely, the political. He lacked faith
and spiritual insight, and could not harmo-
nize the distracting elements of the human
world ; nor contemplate them aloof from
their present and practical hearings. The
world disturbed him too much, and he was
too much of a man to he a philosopher in
it. His poetry was not art — although he
was an artist — hut impulse and passion.
He did not, like Goethe, study men and
things, nor pass through all the grades of
animal, intellectual, and spiritual experience,
for literary purposes, or for his develop-
ment as a complete man; — he had no such
ice in his nature ; he was all fervour and
fire, and lie loved the world too well to make
experiments upon it for artistic purposes.
34 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
There is a moral in his politics, and a
moral even in his most trifling effusions;
and whilst he spares not the classes above
him in social rank, neither does he spare
those of his own order. A knave is as
infamous to him in a fustian jacket as in
an ermine robe,
I have said that Crabbe was the Poet
who first formed his style of writing, and
determined the natural tendency of his mind
to sorrowful themes. He followed Crabbe,
likewise, in the structure of his tales,
although he is immeasurably superior to
him in imagination, diction, and melody.
"The Exile," dedicated to Bulwer, is after
this model, but deeper in its feeling than
anything to be found in Crabbe, and incom-
parably more powerful. So, likewise, the
poem called " The Letter, " is of that
household character which Crabbe loved
to delineate. This is a beautiful, simple,
touching, and domestic tragedy; a common
tale of common occurrence. It is managed
throughout with great skill ; and contains
passages of real and marvellous beauty.
Both these poems are examples of the
power of genius to exalt human passion
and human misery, and invest them with
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 35
enduring interest. His picture of the
maiden Anna, prior to her marriage and
desertion, is one of the sweetest in poetry ;
and he ransacks all the charms of nature
wherewith to clothe her virgin heauty.
Indeed, whenever he speaks of woman,
his words melt into music ; and violets
and all sweet flowers spring up and blossom
around him, as if by enchantment. The
poem which he calls "Love," is almost
an Anthem; and would be worthy to be
celebrated as such, in some grand cathedral
service, if it were perfect in its representa-
tions of the divine passion. But in this,
as in all other of Elliott's performances,
we miss the highest voices, the choral
symphonies of the spiritual spheres. He
sings of human love in its relation to
the sexes, and to social life, with the lyre
and emphasis of a master ; but of the
divinest love, to which all other love is
but the prelude and the initiation, he
knows nothing. He sticks to flesh and
blood, and dare not trust the heavenly
inspirations, lest they should lead him into
mysticism. Still, this poem is worthy to
have been pronounced at the banquet
of Plato ; and old Plutarch would have
36 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
worshipped the author of it. Let the
following passages speak for themselves : —
" Love ! eldest Muse, Time heard thine earliest lay
When light through heaven led forth the new-born day.
The stars that give no accent to the wind,
Are golden odes, and music to the mind;
So, Passion's thrill is Nature's minstrelsy ;
So, to the young heart love is poetry.
God of the soid ! illumination caught
From thy bright glance, is energy to thought ;
And song bereft of thee is cold and tame.
But when the heart looks through the eyes of love
On Nature's form, things lifeless breathe and move.
The dewy forest smiles ; dim Morning shakes
The rainbow from his plumage ; music wakes
The dimpled ripple of the azure wave ;
In fiery floods green hills their tresses lave,
And myriad flowers, all brightening from the dews,
Day's earth-born stars, their golden beams effuse ;
Transported passion bids rocks, floods, and skies,
Burst into song, while her delighted eyes
To all they see their own rich hues impart ;
And the heart's language speaks to every heart."
A little further on I find the following
lines, which, as they have a personal hearing
upon the poet and his home, will he read
with interest : —
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 37
" Love, 'twas my heart that named thee — sweetest word,
Here, or in highest heaven, pronounced or heard.
Whether by seraph near the throne above,
Or soul-sick maiden, in the vernal grove,
Or matron, with her first-born on her knee,
Or sweeter, lisped by rose-lipped infancy !
Yes, love ! my heart did name thee ; not becaua
Thy mandate gave the bright-haired comet law* ;
Not that thy hand, in good Almightiest showers
The ever-blooming, fiery petalled flowers,
"Wide o'er the fields of hyacinthine heaven ;
But that to me thy richest smile hath given
Bliss, tried in pain. So 'mid my rosy boys,
In joy and grief, I sing thy griefs and joys."
He then bursts out in these beautiful
strains, picturing his own family group,
and domestic happiness : —
" Blessed is the hearth when daughters gird the fire,
And sons that shall be happier than their sire,
Who sees them crowd around his evening chair,
While love and hope inspire his wordless prayer.
O from their home paternal may they go,
With little to unlearn, though much to know !
Them, may no poisoned tongue, no evil eye,
Curse for the virtues that refuse to die ;
The generous heart, the independent mind,
Till truth, like falsehood, leaves a sting behmd !
May Temperance crown their feast, and Friendship share !
May Pity come, Love's sister spirit, there !
May they shun baseness, as they shun the grave !
May they be frugal, pious, humble, brave !
38 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
Sweet peace be theirs— the moonlight of the breast-
Arid occupation, and alternate rest ;
And dear to care and thought the rural walk ;
Theirs' be no flower that withers on the stalk,
But roses cropped, that shall not bloom in vain ;
And Hope's blessed sun, that sets to rise again.
Be chaste their nuptial bed, their home be sweet,
Their floor resound the tread of little feet ;
Blessed beyond fear and fate, if blessed by thee,
And heirs, Love! of thine Eternity."
Elliott's longest, and best work upon the
whole, is "The Village Patriarch." It is
professedly a political poem; and in the
dedication— which is addressed to Henry
Brougham — he calls it the incarnation of
a century. Enoch "YVray, the blind old
Patriarch of the Village, is finely drawn,
and his early recollection of better days
is made to tell, with painful effect, upon
the miseries which surround him in the
desolation of his age. It is, in fact, an
Epic of misery; and Elliott, like Dante, had
been in hell. It is a book without hope,
and his prophecies of England's future are
as terrible as anything in Isaiah. It is
embued, too, with the Hamlet spirit; or,
perhaps I should say, with that of Manfred.
But it is set in such a frame-work of poetic
jewels, that it would be difficult to find its
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 39
compeer; and for pathos there is certainly
no poem in our language to match it. It
reads as if it were written in tears. The
pictures of rustic scenery, however, which it
contains, are sunny, genial, and glowing with
life. Elliott knows most of the wild flowers
hy name, and the colour and fashion of
their leaves and petals. Enoch appears at
his cottage door, attracted by the [ brief
sunshine of the winter's day, and the poet
makes the red-breast trill his lay in the old
man's ears, perched on a blossoming hazel.
Rivers flow and murmur through his verses,
and flash in the sunshine, through valley
and meadow, or fall with trumpet voices
over rocks in the dark and lonesome glen.
The hum of the bee, and the twitter of
the wren, are familiar and musical sounds
to him; and he knows the song of all the
forest birds. There is nothing too humble
for his notice and love. The weed on the
wall, the snake in the grass, the poor harm-
less fly — as gentle Shakspere calls it — are
all God's creatures, and dear to his heart.
He says in his Autobiography, that he
became acquainted in his walks with a
beautiful green snake, about a yard long,
which, on the fine Sabbath mornings, about
40 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS,
ten o'clock, seemed to expect Mm at the top
of Primrose Lane, It became so familiar
that it ceased to uncurl at his approach.
And he has sat on the stile beside it, until
it seemed unconscious of his presence.
" When I arose to go, " he says, " it
would only lift the scales behind its head
or the skin beneath them, and they shone
in the sun like fire. I know not how
often this beautiful and harmless child of
God may have sat for his picture in my
writings; a dozen at the least." And it
was by this close observance of Nature,
and through this deep love for her manifold
creatures, that he came to represent them
so truthfully in his poems. I know of
nothing finer than this apostrophe to the
Moors, which occurs in the fifth book of
the Village Patriarch :—
" The moors ! all hail ! ye changeless, ye sublime !
That seldom hear a voice save that of Heaven.
Scorners of chance, and fate, and death, and time.
But not of him whose viewless hand hath riven
The chasm, through which the mountain stream is driven.
How like a prostrate giant — not in sleep —
But listening to his beating heart, ye lie.
With winds and clouds dread harmony ye keep ;
Ye seem alone beneath the boundless sky ;
Ye speak, are mute, and there is no reply."
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 41
In the centre, however, of all this out-
ward array of beauty, which clothes the
poem, the worm of decay and death is
gnawing; and the poet leads us from the
banqueting halls of Nature to a horrid
feast of skulls. Misery and famine are
everywhere ; and when the curtain falls
over the poem, it is as if a dark blanket
were dropped down from heaven by sor-
rowing angels, over some region of beauty
abandoned to despair.
The concluding lines of this fine poem are
amongst his happiest and most successful
efforts : —
"And when the woodbine's clustered trumpet blows;
And when the pink's melodious hues shall speak,
In unison of sweetness with the rose,
Joining the song of every bird that knows
How sweet it is of wedded love to sing ;
And when the fells, fresh bathed in azure air,
Wide as the summer day's all golden wing,
Shall blush to Heaven, that nature is so fair,
And man condemned to labour in despair ;
Then the gay gnat, that sports its little hour ;
The falcon, wheeling from the ancient wood ;
The redbreast, fluttering o'er its fragrant bower ;
The yellow-bellied lizard of the flood ;
And dewy morn, and evening — in her hood
Of crimson, fringed with lucid shadows grand —
Shall miss the Patriarch ; at his cottage door
42 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
The bee shall seek to settle oil his hand,
But from the vacant bench haste to the moor,
Mourning the last of England's high-souled poor,
And bid the mountains weep for Enoch Wray !
And for themselves ! — albeit of things that last
Unaltered most ; for they shall pass away
Like Enoch, though their iron roots seem fast
Bound to the eternal future, as the past ;
The Patriarch died ! and they shall be no more.
Yes, and the sailless worlds, which navigate
The unutterable deep, that hath no shore,
Will lose their starry splendour soon or late !
Like tapers, quenched by him whose will is fate !
Tes, and the Angel of Eternity,
Who numbers worlds, and writes their names in light,
Ere long, Oh Earth, will look in vain for thee !
And start, and stop, in his unerring flight,
And, with his wings of sorrow and affright,
Veil his impassioned brow and heavenly tears ! "
"The Splendid Village" is a poem of the
same cast as " The Village Patriarch," and is
another chapter of the prophecies of Jeremiah,
although written as a satire. He laments the
decay of old virtues and customs, and mourns
once more over the bloated prosperity of the
bad, and the wretchedness and poverty of the
people. It contains, like all his poems, pas-
sages of great tenderness and beauty.
" Bothwell" and " Kerhonah" are attempts
at dramatic poetry, and failures. For Elliott
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 43
is no Proteus, and can assume no other form
than his own. His individuality is too strong
in him to be put off, and he makes all men
in his own likeness.
" The Ranter " and " The Corn Law
Rhymes," which first attracted the general
notice of the public to the Poet, are amongst
his happiest effusions. "The Gospel Tree"
sermon is a historic record, and reflects all
that the eloquent preacher Stephens, or the
Chartist orator Vincent, has thought, felt,
and spoken in the late disastrous times. —
Whilst, however, I can understand the in-
tense earnestness which breathes throughout
this poem, I find fault with the poem it sell',
as I do with most of Elliott's longer works,
because it is too literary. He is always at
the height of his strength, and one can feel
the strong writer in his sentences, and detect
his art. In other words, he aims at powerful
writing, and his real strength often passes
away in thunder-clouds. It was the fault of
his nature, which on one side was all antago-
nism, and on the other all love. There is a
strange fascination, however, about this short
poem, which nothing but genius could pro-
duce. The materials are bare and scanty,
and there is neither plot nor plan in it ;
4i LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
yet it is wonderfully effective. We have first
of all a picture of the cottage where the
Ranter lodges — then we see the poor widow
rise at daybreak, to prepare breakfast for her
little household, for it is the Sabbath morn-
ing, and the Ranter's congregation of mecha-
nics will soon await him at the Gospel Tree.
Presently she goes to awake her son, and we
see her trembling with indecision as she gazes
upon the face of her " o'er laboured boy" —
half inclined to let him sleep on. But she
knows it would pain him to miss the morn-
ing's discourse, for it may be the last he will
ever hear from the poor preacher, whose pale
and wasted form is already smitten with the
blight and mildew of death. So she rouses
him ; and he accompanies the Ranter to the
place of meeting, whilst,
" the mountains one by one
Ascend in light ; and slow the mists retire
From vale and plain. The clouds on Stannington
Behold a rocket — No, 'tis Morthen spire!
The sun is risen ! cries Stanedge, tipped with fire ;
On Norwood's flowers the dew-drops shine and shake ;
Up, sluggards, up ! and drink the morning breeze.
The birds on cloud-left Osgathorpe awake ;
And Wincobank is waving all his trees
O'er subject towns, and farms, and villages,
And gleaming streams, and woods, and waterfalls.
OF EBEXEZER ELLIOTT. 45
Up climb the oak crown'd summit ! Hoober Stand,
And Keppel's Pillar gaze on "Wentworth's halls,
And misty lakes, that brighten and expand,
And distant hills, that watch the western strand.
Up ! trace God's foot-prints where they paint the mould
With heavenly green, and hues that blush and glow
Like angels' wings ; while skies of blue and gold
Stoop for Miles Gordon on the mountain's brow. "
And in the midst of this magnificent
scenery, under the old oak of Shirecliffe,
the Ranter delivers his sermon. After
which the congregation disperses, and the
poor brave Preacher disappears to die. But
the image of the man never leaves you after
reading the poem, although Elliott gives no
portrait of him. It is the words he speaks
which fashion him to our minds, and give
him such a distinct individuality. I may
add also, that the conclusion of the sermon
is the most hopeful prophecy to be found
in Elliott's writings, and I will quote it
here as a specimen of the sunny side of
his mind : —
" Poor Bread-taxed Slaves ! have ye no hope on earth ?
Yes ! God from evil still educes good ;
Sublime events are rushing to their birth ;
Lo, tyrants by their victims are withstood !
And Freedom's seed still grows, though steeped in blood.
46 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
When by our Pather's voice the skies are riven,
That, like the winnowed chaff, disease may fly ;
And seas are shaken by the breath of Heaven,
Lest hi their depths the living Spirit die ;
Man views the scene with awed, but grateful eye,
And trembling feels, could God abuse his power
Nor man, nor Nature, would endure an hour.
But there is mercy in his seeming wrath ;
It smites to save — not tyrant-like to slay :
And storms have beauty as the lily hath :
Grand are the clouds, that mirrored on the bay,
Boll, like the shadows of lost worlds, away,
When bursts through broken gloom, the startled light ;
Grand are the waves that, like that broken gloom,
Are smitten into splendour by his might ;
And glorious is the storm's tremendous boom,
Although it waileth o'er a watery tomb,
And is a dreadful Ode on Oceans drowned.
Despond not, then, ye plundered sons of trade !
Hope's wounded wing shall yet disdain the ground,
And Commerce, while the powers of evil fade,
Shout o'er all seas, — ' All Lands for me were made.'
Her's are the apostles destined to go forth
Upon the wings of mighty winds, and preach
Christ crucified! To her the south and north
Look through their tempests; and her love shall reach
Their farthest ice, if life there be to teach.
Yes, world-reforming Commerce, one by one,
Thou vanquishest earth's tyrants ! and the hour
Cometh, when all shall fall before thee — gone
Their splendour, fallen their trophies, lost their power.
Then o'er the enfranchised nations wilt thou shower,
Like dew-drops from the pinions of the dove,
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 47
Plenty and peace ; and never more on thee
Shall bondage wait ; hut as the thoughts of love,
Free shalt thou fly, unchainable and free ;
And men, thenceforth, shall call thee ' liberty ! '
The Corn Law PJrymes, notwithstanding
their occasional coarseness, are real poetry —
effusions from the heart. They are dedicated
" to all who revere the memory of Jeremy
Bentham, our second Locke, and wish to
promote the greatest happiness of the great-
est number, for the greatest length of time."
Poor Elliott ! How fast a hold the spirit of
Political Economy has upon his mind ! and
how strangely it distorts and darkens his
vision. One could have wished that he
had seen a little deeper than good Jeremy
Bentham's philosophy; or at least, that he
might have outlived it ; flinging it from him
as the lumber of a dead world, through
which he had victoriously fought his way.
But neither in these Rhvmes, nor in his
latest writings, is there any evidence of
his Spiritual progression. He is painfully
bound in chains, like Prometheus to his
rock, and in the highest sense, can neither
sink nor soar. He always harps on the
same string — with a Paganini's hand, it is
true — but one wearies even of the most
48 LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
beautiful variations, when the melody is
always the same.
His writings divide themselves naturally
into three distinct parts ; each of which
represents a phase of the mind and genius
of the Poet. They consist, firstly, of the
Political Poems ; secondly, of the ^Esthetic,
or those which relate to the affections, and
the cultivation of the Taste; and, thirdly,
those of a Moral and Descriptive nature,
wherein the poet, by a direct teaching and
exhortation, seeks to raise the minds of
the people into the regions of truth and
duty. It must not be supposed, however,
that these divisions follow in consecutive
order, or that the Poet designed his writings
to fall into this classification. He simply
obeyed his genius, and wrote as he was
inspired, without reference to psychological
manifestation. Whoso, however, will take
the trouble to examine his works, will
find that they resolve themselves into the
divisions above alluded to. In some of
his greater poems there will of course be
found a fusion of the faculties, which are
singly predominant in others ; for in all
serious undertakings of this nature, what-
ever is in a poet will come out of him;
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 19
and he is sure to develope the entire wealth
and capabilities of his genius. But in his
lyrical moments he will obey the mood
which possesses him, whether it be Political,
^Esthetic, or Moral.
I will now quote examples of his art
under the three divisions I have named,
commencing with the Political ones.
" Day, like our souls, is fiercely dark—
What then ? 'Tis day !
We sleep uo more : the crows — hark !
To arms ! away !
They come ! they come ! the kuell is ruug
Of us, or them ;
AVide o'er their march the pomp is iluug
Of gold, aud gem.
What collared hound of lawless sw aj
To famine dear —
What pensioned slave of Attda,
Leads in the rear ?
Come they from Scythian wdds afar,
Our blood to spill ?
Wear they the livery of the Czar ?
They do his will.
Nor tassel'd sdk, uor epaulette,
Nor plume, nor corse ;
50 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
No splendour gilds, all sternly met,
Our foot and horse.
But dark and still, we inly glow,
Condensed in ire !
Strike, tawdry slaves ! and ye stall know,
Our gloom is fire.
In vain your pomp, ye evil powers,
Insults the land ;
Wrongs, vengeance, and the cause are ours !
And God's right hand !
Madmen ! they trample into snakes
The wormy clod !
Like fire beneath their feet awakes
The sword of God.
Behind, before, above, below,
They rouse the brave ;
"Where'er they go, they make a foe,
Or find a grave."
This is perhaps the finest of his Political
Poems, and reminds one, in its spirit, of
the wonderful " Sword Song, " by Korner.
The opening verse is full of martial music;
and we can hear the gathering of mighty
hosts, and the trampling of armed feet,
throughout the poem. Terrible and defiant
stand the two hostile armies; and the
pageantry of the " tawdry slaves : of
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 51
power, is finely contrasted with the dark
unbannered " foot and horse " of the op-
pressed, all sternly met for battle. It is
an ideal celebration of the fight between
Right and Wrong, which Elliott, in all
probability, imagined would one day be
realized in the terrible manner he has
described. But this song will give no idea
of the Poet, in his coarse and eccentric
moods; and as I design to exhibit every
phase of his character, it will be necessary
to quote the following : —
" Come, Lord Pauper ! pay my bill
For radish tops and fire ;
Ploughman Joe, and "Weaver Will,
Keep Eobert Leech, Esquire.
You say, shares are fairly shared
Between the high and low ;
While we starve, this joke runs hard
On bread-taxed Will and Joe.
Leech drinks wine ; sometimes enough ;
But then he drinks in style :
Club-feast ale is sinful stuff;
And pewter plate is vile.
Bobert rides, and Eobert drives, —
His feeders bare-foot go ;
Will is clamming ; bread-tax thrives ;
And tread-mill's clamming Joe.
52 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
' Give,' of old, the Horse Leech cried :
Squire Robert cries, ' Give ! Give 1 *
How the leeches are belied I
They suck, yet cannot live.
Little soids grow less and less,
And ever downward grow :
' Live and let live,' they profess,
And feed on Will and Joe I
Bread tax murders trade and hope:
Lord Pauper cries c Well done I *
Bread tax is not yet a rope
To every rascal's son.
Justice is not done, 'tis said,
To Bobert Leech & Co. ;
Gibbet is not tax on bread, —
But Bread tax gibbets Joe.'"
Here is another poem belonging to the
same class as the last, although it is more
serious, and indeed fearfully earnest : —
" Ye coop us up, and tax our bread,
And wonder why we pine ;
But ye are fat, and round, and red,
And filled with tax-bought wine :
Thus twelve rats starve while three rats thrive,
(Like you on mine and me,)
When fifteen rats are caged alive,
With food for nine and three.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 53
Haste ! Havoc's torch begins to glow —
The ending is begun ;
Make haste ! Destruction thinks ye slow ;
Make haste to be undone !
Why are ye called ' my Lord,' and ' Squire,'
While fed by mine and me,
And wringing food, and clothes, and fire,
From bread taxed misery ?
Make haste, slow rogues ! prohibit trade,
Prohibit honest gain ;
Turn all the good that God hath made
To fear, and hate, and pain ;
Till beggars all, assassins all,
All cannibals we be,
And death shall have no funeral
From shipless sea to sea."
I will not dwell longer, however, upon
these political effusions, but proceed to give
specimens of his aesthetic poems. These
cannot be introduced more appropriately than
by the following picture of —
THE HOME OF TASTE.
" You seek a home of taste, and find
The proud mechanic there,
Rich as a king, and less a slave,
Throned in his elbow-chair !
Or on his sofa reading Locke,
Beside his open door .'
54 LIFE, CHAEACTER, AND GENIUS
"Why start ? — "Why envy worth like his
The carpet on his floor ?
Tou seek the home of sluttery —
' Is John at home ? ' yon say,
'No, sir ; he's at the " Sportman's Arms ;"
The dog fight's o'er the way.'
Oh, lift the workman's heart and mind
Above low sensual sin !
Give him a home ! the home of taste !
Outbid the house of gin !
Oh, give him taste ! it is the link
"Which binds us to the skies —
A bridge of rainbows thrown across
The gulph of tears and sighs ;
Or like a Avidower's little one —
An angel in a child —
That leads him to her mother's chair,
And shows him how she smiled."
It was one of Elliott's darling schemes,
to raise the homes of the working classes;
and he knew that this could only be done
by cultivating their taste, feelings, and in-
tellectual faculties. Hence, he exhorted
them to ceaseless thrift and industry, and
to the study of good and ennobling books
in their leisure hours. To stimulate them
to this course, he described in many of his
poems the beauty and dignity of home,
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 55
when presided over by wise and virtuous
people. He showed, likewise, that the
limited means of the industrious classes
were no bar to elegance and happiness;
and there is a direct teaching of this sort
in the following household pictures : —
" To-moeeow will be Sunday, Ann, —
Get up nay child with me ;
Thy father rose at four o'clock
To toil for ine and thee.
The fine folks use the plate he makes,
And praise it when they dine ;
For John has taste — so we'll be neat,
Although we can't be fine.
Then let us shake the carpet well,
And wash and scour the floor,
And hang the weather-glass he made
Beside the cupboard-door
And polish thou the grate, my love ;
I'll mend the sofa arm ;
The autumn winds blow damp and chill ;
And John lores to be warm.
And bring the new white curtain out,
And string the pink tape on —
Mechanics should be neat and clean :
And I'll take heed for John.
56 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
And brush the little table, child,
And fetch the ancient books —
John loves to read ; and when he reads,
How like a king he looks !
And fill the music-glasses up
"With water fresh and clear ;
To-morrow, when he sings and plays,
The street will stop to hear.
And throw the dead flowers from the vase,
And rub it till it glows ;
For in the leafless garden yet
He'll find a winter rose.
And lichen from the wood he'll bring,
And mosses from the dell :
And from the sheltered stubble-field
The scarlet pimpernel."
Here is a holiday for the working man
most beautifully described : —
" Oh blessed ! when some holiday
Brings townsmen to the moor,
And in the sunbeams brighten up
The sad looks of the poor.
The bee puts on her richest gold,
As if that worker knew —
How hardly (and for little) they
Their sunless task pursue.
OP EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 57
P>ut from their souls the sense of wrong
On dove-like pinion flies ;
And, throned o'er all, forgiveness sees
His image in their eyes.
Soon tired, the street-born lad lies down
On marjoram and thyme,
And through his grated fingers sees
The falcon's flight sublime ;
Then his pale eyes, so bluely dull
Grow darkly blue with light,
And his lips redden like the bloom
O'er miles of mountain bright.
The little lovely maiden-hair
Turns up its happy face,
And saith unto the poor man's heart,
' Thou'rt welcome to this place.'
The infant river leapeth free
Amid the bracken tall,
And cries, - for ever there is one
Who reigneth over all ;
1 And unto him, as unto me,
Thou'rt welcome to partake
His gift of light, His gift of air,
O'er mountain, glen, and lake.
' Our father loves us, want-worn man !
And know thou this from me,
The pride that makes thy pain his couch,
May wake to envy thee.
58 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
' Hard, hard to bear are want and toil,
As thy worn features tell ;
But Wealth is armed with fortitude,
And bears thy sufferings well.' '
The following is an example of the poet's
moral teaching ; and perhaps nothing can
better express his constant delight in con-
templating the works of Nature, and his deep
reverence for Nature's God, than the quota-
tion of this solemn and hopeful
" Eathee ! our brother's course is run,
And we bring home Thy weary son ;
No more he toils, no more he weeps ;
And shall we mourn because he sleeps ?
He thank' d Thee, God of earth and sky,
Bor all that creep, and all that fly ;
Bor weeds, that silent anthems raise,
And thoughts, that make their silence praise.
Bor every thorn and every flower !
Bor conquering Bight and baffled Bower ;
Bor all the meek and all the proud,
He thank' d the Lord of sun and cloud.
Bor soul to feel and sight to see,
In all Thy works, but types of Thee ;
Bor all Thy works, and for Thy "Word,
In life and death, he thank'd Thee, Lord.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 59
He thank'd Thee, too, for struggles long,
For storms that make the feeble strong ;
For every pang Thy goodness gave ;
For hope deferr'd — and for the grave.
Oh, welcome in the morn, the road
That climbs to Virtue's high abode !
But when descends the evening dew,
The inn of rest is welcome, too.
Thou say'st to man, ' Arise, and run
Thy glorious course, like yonder sun ! '
But when Thy children need repose,
Their Father's hand the curtain draws.
"What though with eyes that yet can weep,
The sinner trembles into sleep ?
Thou know'st he yet shall wake and rise
To gaze on Mercy's brightest skies.
The fearful child, though still caress'd,
Will tremble on his mother's breast ;
But he, she knows, is safe from ill,
Though, watched by love, he trembles still.
Lord ! when our brother wakes, may they
Who watch beneath thy footstool, say,
' Another wanderer is forgiven !
Another child is born in Heaven !' "
" Forest "Worship " is likewise a beautiful
poem, notwithstanding the mixture of poli-
tics and religion which it contains : —
60 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
" Within tlie sunlit forest,
Our roof the bright blue sky,
"Where fountains flow, and wild flowers blow,
"We lift our hearts on high.
Beneath the frown of wicked men
Our country's strength is bowing ;
But, thanks to God ! they can't prevent
The lone wild flowers from blowing.
High, high, above the tree-tops,
The lark is soaring free,
Where streams the light through broken clouds
His speckled breast I see :
Beneath the might of wicked men
The poor man's worth is dying;
But, thanked be God ! in spite of them,
The lark still warbles flying !
The preacher prays, ' Lord bless us ! '
' Lord bless us ! ' Echo cries ;
' Amen ! ' the breezes murmur low,
' Amen ! ' the rill replies ;
The ceaseless toil of wo-worn hearts,
The proud with pangs are paying ;
But here, O God of earth and heaven !
The humble heart is praying !
How softly in the pauses
Of song, re-echoed wide,
The cushet's coo, the linnet's lay,
O'er rill and river glide !
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 61
With evil deeds of evil men
The affrighted land is ringing,
But still, O Lord ! the pious heart
And soul-toned voice are singing !
Hush ! hush ! the Preacher preacheth !
' Wo ! to the oppressor, wo !
But sudden gloom o'ercasts the sun
And saddened flowers below :
So frowns the Lord! — hut tyrants, ye
Deride his indignation,
And see not in his gathered brow
Tour days of tribulation ! '
Speak low, thou heaven-paid teacher !
The tempest bursts above :
God whispers in the thunder ; hear
The terrors of his love !
On useful hands, and honest hearts,
The base their wrath are wreaking ;
But, thank' d be God ! they can't prevent
The storm of heaven from speaking."
I will close these extracts with a few more
specimens from his miscellaneous poems ;
and the reader will then have a fair concep-
tion of the range of Elliott's mind. The two
which follow are very striking and beautiful,
and are in his highest manner : —
G2 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
LEAVES AND MEN.
" Dkop, drop into the grave, Old Leaf,
Drop, drop into the grave ;
Thy acorus grown, thy acorns sown, —
Drop, drop into the grave.
December's tempests rave, Old Leaf,
Above thy forest-grave, Old Leaf ;
Drop, drop into the grave.
The birds in Spring, will, sweetly siug,
That death alone is sad ;
The grass will grow, the primrose show,
That death alone is sad ;
Lament above thy grave, Old Leaf ;
Eor what has life to do with grief ?
'Tis death alone that's sad.
What then ? "We two have both lived through
The sunshine and the rain ;
And blessed be He, to me and thee,
Who sent His sun and rain.
We've had our sun and rain, Old Leaf,
And God will send again, Old Leaf,
The sunshine and the rain.
Race after race of leaves and men,
Bloom, wither, and are gone :
As wiuds and waters rise and fall,
So life and death roll on ;
And long as ocean heaves, Old Leaf
And bud and fade the leaves, Old Leaf,
AVill life and death roll on.
OF EBENEZEE ELLIOTT. 63
How like am I to thee, Old Leaf!
"We'll drop together down ;
How like art thou to me, Old Leaf !
We'll drop together down.
I'm grey, and thou art brown, Old Leaf!
We'll drop together down, Old Leaf,
We'll drop together down.
Drop, drop into the grave, Old Leaf,
Drop, drop into the grave ;
Thy acorns grown, thy acorns sown, —
Drop, drop into the grave.
December's tempests rave, Old Leal'.
Above thy forest-grave, Old Leaf;
Drop, drop into the grave ! "
OH, TELL US.
" Companioned each, by all and none,
A mob of souls, yet each alone,
We journey to the dread Unknown.
In nothing found, in all tilings shown,
In all life living, yet alone,
Where may it be, that dread Unknown ?
Oh, who, or what, so dreadly shown,
And world-attended, yet alone,
Is that all-sought, all-known Unknown ? "
64 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
The following lines remind ns of Goethe
TO EANNY ANN.
" As the flower bloweth,
As the stream floweth,
Daughter of beauty,
Do thou thy duty.
"What, though the morrow
May dawn in sorrow ?
E'en as light hasteth,
Darkness, too, wasteth ;
Morn then discloses,
Rain-drops on roses !
Daughter of beauty,
"What then is duty ?
Time says, 'Death knoweth !'
Death says, ' Time showeth 1' "
The poem which I shall now quote was
sent me in MS., and appeared originally in
" The Truth Seeker " Magazine, edited by
my friend, Dr. Lees, of Leeds. It is entitled
LET ME BEST.
" He does well who does his best ;
Is he weary ? Let him rest :
Brothers ! I have done my best ;
I am weary — let me rest.
After toiling oft in vain,
Baffled, yet to struggle fain ;
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 65
After toiling long to gain
Little good, and mickle pain ;
Let me rest — but lay me low,
Where the hedge-side roses blow ;
Where the little daisies grow ;
Where the winds a- Maying go ;
Where the foot-path rustics plod ;
Where the breeze-bowed poplars nod ;
Where the old woods worship God ;
Where His pencil paints the sod ;
Where the wedded throstle sings ;
Where the young bird tries his wings,
Where the wailing plover swings
Near the runlet's rushy springs !
Where at times the tempest's roar,
Shaking distant sea and shore,
Still will rave old Barnsdale o'er,
To be heard by me no more ;
There, beneath the breezy west,
Tired and thankful, let me rest,
Like a child, that sleepeth best
On its gentle mother's breast."
The following poems may be cited, as speci-
mens of the pathetic power developed in the
Corn Law Rhvmes : —
" Where the poor cease to pay,
Go loved one, and rest,
Thou art wearing away
To the land of the blest.
06 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
Our father is gone
Where the wronged are forgiven.
And that dearest one,
Thy husband, in heaven.
No toil in despair ;
No tyrant, no slave ;
No Bread-tax is there,
With a maw like the grave ;
But the Poacher, thy pride,
Whelmed in ocean afar :
And his brother who died
Land-butchered in war ;
And their mother who sank
Broken-hearted, to rest ;
And the baby that drank
Till it froze on her breast ;
With tears and with smiles,
Are waiting for thee
In the beautiful isles,
Where the wronged are the free.
Go loved one, and rest ;
Where the poor cease to pay !
To the land of the blest
Thou art wearing away ;
But the son of thy pride
Shall yet stay with thee,
And poor little Jane,
Look sadly like thee."
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 67
" Child, is thy father dead ?
Father is gone !
Why did they tax his bread ?
God's will be done !
Mother has sold her bed ;
Better to die than wed !
Where shall she lay her head ?
Home we have none !
Father clamm'd thrice a week —
God's will be done !
Long for work did he seek,
Work he found none.
Tears on his hollow cheek
Told what no tongue could speak
Why did his master break ?
God's will be done !
Doctor said air was best —
Food we had none ;
Father, with panting breast.
Groaned to be gone :
Now he is with the blest —
Mother says death is best !
We have no place of rest —
Tes, ye have one ! "
ast'ograp&p of tbt poet.
BIOGEArHT OF THE I>OET.
And now, having given a general character-
ization of the niind and writings of onr
Poet, let ns take a glimpse at his early
history, and try if we can discover the
process hy which his mind and character
were developed. His Autobiography, which
appeared in No. 1159 of the Athenaeum,
and extends to his twenty-third year, will
enable ns to accomplish this ; and it is one
of the most interesting pieces of personal
history upon record. It is written in a
style as unvarnished as that of Gibbon, and
contains all the prominent features in his
early career, both of mind and fortune. It
is too long to extract in these pages, but
it will well repay the student for a private
and careful reading. We will first relate
the particulars of his birth and parentage,
and then run rapidly over such parts of
72 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS,
his subsequent history, as may throw light
upon our investigation.
Elliott was born at the New Foundry,
Masbrough, in the parish of Rotherham,
March 17th, 1781; and was well nigh
smothered before he had been in the world
a quarter of an hour. His son Francis,
who relates the story to me in a private
letter, says : "In the hurry and confusion
attendant upon his birth, he was laid in an
open drawer, which was presently shut by
another person, who did not notice its con-
tents, and the child was missing for some
minutes, and could not be found. Fortu-
nately, however, he was rescued from his
perilous situation by the same hands that
placed him in it, and restored to his mother.
Three quarters of a century later, this child
repealed the Corn Laws; and it would be
interesting to know how many hungry deaths,
how many broken fortunes, how many broken
hearts, the timely opening of that drawer has
saved." His father, who, for his eccentrici-
ties, and ultra- calvinistic notions, was called
" Devil Elliott," was a dissenter ; and our
Poet was baptized by one Tommy Wright, a
Barnsley tinker, who belonged to the same
school of theology as Elliott's father, and
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 73
believed that " hell was hung round with
little children, a span long;" a belief by no
means uncommon in those days, nor even
in later times, as I have good reason to
remember. He describes the ancestors of
his grandfather Elliott, as border thieves,
who lived on the cattle they stole, both from
English and Scotch, and thinks he has made
out a good pedigree so far. Of his own father
he speaks in high terms. He was married to
an opulent yeoman's daughter near Hudders-
field, and settled in business at Masbrough,
as an iron -founder, where Ebenezer, and ail
his other children were born and bred. " I
can remember seeing," says the poet's son
Francis, " when very young, the name Elliott
in twisted iron, over the door of a little, low,
time-dark building, at the top of the High
Street, in the town above-named, where my
father and his brother Giles, if I mistake not,
spent many years of their youth and early
manhood in serving customers with iron-
mongery. My grandfather was a man of
great natural shrewdness and penetration,
with a talent for humour and satire, fond
of controversy, especially on theology, and
possessed of respectable literary powers.
" I have seen a ' rhymed Paraphrase of
74 LIFE, CIIAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
Job,' written by him; and I must do my
buried ancestor the justice to say that it did
not require a Job's patience to read it. If
not very poetical in its structure, it is at
least as good as many noted pieces in Pope
and Dryden. It is sententious, concise, and
logical. My grandmother was a very differ-
ent person ; all heart, sensitiveness, and
meekness. The slightest look, word, or tone
of unkindness, cut her to the quick; whilst
a whole world of injuries could not arouse
within her the shadow of a desire for revenge.
She had great personal attractions, a soft and
gentle style of beauty, which was sister to her
heart. She was a very violet in sweetness
and unobtrusiveness, and she had a violet's
fate, too. She lived unnoticed, and misfor-
tune trod her out of life. My grandfather's
bankruptcy broke her heart."
Mr. P. Hodgers, of Sheffield, has furnished
me with the following anecdote of the poet's
father. " In those days, when the French
were generally considered Atheists, and the
divine right of kings was an article of almost
universal belief — it is no wonder that the
poet's father, who was a Jacobin and ultra-
calvinist, should be regarded with dread by
some, and suspicion by others. He was not
OF EBENEZEE ELLIOTT. /5
a man, however, to be trodden upon with im-
punity. His son alludes, in the poem called
'The Jacobin's Prayer,' to an incident in his
father's life which I well remember, and
which furnishes a good illustration of his
character. The Rotherhani troop of Yeo-
manry had had a field-day. It was getting
towards evening ; and previous to the dis-
missal of the men, they were drawn up in a
line, in High Street, with their faces to the
Crown Inn, while some one was addressing
a loyal speech to them from one of the win-
dows. Mr. Elliott's shop being in the nar-
rowest part of the street, and, from some
cause or other, one or more of the military
steeds, which stood with their hinder parts
towards his door and windows, beginning to
prance, they were not long before their tails
and haunches came through the glass. The
old man immediately conceived the idea, that
the seeming accident was done on purpose,
and because he was a Jacobin. Under this
impression he flew into a terrible rage, seized,
I believe, upon some offensive weapon, which
the stock in his own shop supplied, and
rushed to the assault. A disturbance en-
dued, but no blood was shed; and thus the
affair did not end so seriously as it might
76 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
have done, considering what it was to quarrel
with the authorities in those days. Probably,
Mr. Elliott's real respectability in the eyes of
his neighbours, together with his commercial
influence in the town, protected him from
similar consequences to those which befel the
more unfortunate James Montgomery, at a
little earlier date, in Sheffield. "
Such, then, was the parentage of the poet
— and his physical and mental characteristics
may be traced, in a great measure, to this
source. lie had his father's strength of
mind and character, and his mother's sensi-
tiveness and nervous weakness. He gives us
a picture of his father's home, whilst he was
a clerk at the foundry, and before he became
the proprietor of it, which is interesting in
many important respects. "Under the room
where I was born," he says, " in a little par-
lour like the cabin of a ship, which was yearly
painted green, and blessed with a beautiful
thoroughfare of light — for there was no
window-tax in those days — my father used
to preach every fourth Sunday, to persons
who came from distances of twelve to four-
teen miles, to hear his tremendous doctrines
of ultra-calvinism. On other days, pointing
to the aqua-tint pictures on the walls, he de-
OP EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 77
lighted to declaim on the virtues of slandered
Cromwell, and of Washington the rebel ; or,
shaking his sides "with laughter, explain the
glories of the ' glorious victory of his Ma-
jesty's forces over the rebels at Bunker's
Hill.' " " Here," he adds, " the reader has a
key which will unlock all my future politics."
And the fact is worth remembering. He re-
lates, as proof of his nervous sensibility, that
at twelve years of age he fell in love with a
young woman, to whom he never spoke a
word in his life, and whose voice he never
heard. "Yet if I thought she saw me," he
adds, "as I passed her father's house, I felt
as if weights were tied to my feet." This is
the old story, in a new form, illustrative of
the power of love over the youthful heart ;
and Elliott is not the last person who will
feel these weights to his feet, in the presence
of the beloved object. The fact, however,
made a deep impression upon him throughout
life; for it was the first sunbeam that fell
upon the dark fallows of his nature, and
quickened them into flowers and verdure.
Prom this moment he was a new being, and
his poetical tendencies began to develop them-
selves. In the yard of the foundry, sur-
rounded by blast furnaces, and half-naked
78 LIFE, CIIAKACTEK, AND GENIUS
smiths, hammering at innumerable anvils,
he contrived a little garden of mugwort and
wormwood, and placed a pan of water in the
midst of it, where he could see the reflection
of the sun and clouds, and of the plants
themselves, as from the surface of a natural
fountain. And this anecdote, trifling as it
may seem, contains the microcosm of the
poet's genius ; for Nature has no new me-
thods, hut repeats, and re-repeats herself in
every one of her processes; and the macro-
cosm is hut the microcosm, on a large and
complete scale. Combined, however, with
this love for the beautiful, Elliott had also a
strange taste for the horrible — a passion — a
rage, for seeing the faces of the hanged or
the drowned. These frightful visages made
his life a burden, followed him wherever he
went, and haunted him in his dreams. He
cannot account for this morbid love of the
dark and obscene imagery of death ; and asks
whether it was a result of constitutional in-
firmity ? and whether it had any connexion
with his taste for writing of horrors and
crimes? I think there can be no doubt of
the answer to either of these questions, and
I can trace the effects of this morbid taste in
his poems. During childhood he had no
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 79
associates ; and although the neighbourhood
swarmed with children, he was alone. Hence
his mind fell back upon itself, and by dwell-
ing too much upon its own reflections, and
constantly brooding over the mixed imagery
of beauty and horror which possessed it, he
grew unhealthy and diseased. Still his soli-
tude was not painful; and he occasionally
occupied himself in constructing boats and
ships. He remarks, however, that his imita-
tive talents secured him no respect ; and he
was altogether unaware that he possessed
others of a higher and nobler order, which
were one day to awake the admiration and
secure the applause of the world. Nature,
however, knew what she was about in im-
pelling him to these ingenious devices of boats
and ships ; for now he must go down to the
water's side and launch them; and there, in
the midst of sunshine, flowers, and darnels,
she taught him many preparatory poetic
He speaks with unconscious complaint of
his "wondrous brother Giles," — who was
beautiful as an angel, — and compared with
whom he (the poet) was ugliness itself. " In
the presence of his splendid abilities," he
says, " I might well look like a fool, and
80 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
believe myself one. As I grew up, my fond-
ness for solitude increased; for I could not
but observe the homage that was paid to
him, and feel the contempt with which I was
regarded; although I am not aware that I
ever envied or at all disliked him."
His ninth year was an era in his life, he
says, for his father having cast a great pan,
weighing several tons, for an uncle who lived
in Thurlstone, the young embryo poet re-
solved to travel thither with it ; and accord-
ingly, at sunset, he stole unperceived, and hid
himself inside the pan amongst the hay. As
the night advanced, he looked forth from
his hiding-place, and gazed long with new,
strange, and excited feelings, upon the great
blue vault of heaven, with its solemn and
lonely stars. " I have not forgotten," he
writes, " how much I was excited by the
solemnity of the night, and its shooting stars,
until I arrived at Thurlstone, about four
o'clock in the morning." His uncle, who
was of course surprised to see him, made the
best of his visit, and sent him to school at
Penistone, where he learnt nothing. His
heart, too, was with his mother ; and he spent
his evenings in looking from the back of his
uncle's house to Hoy land Swaine; for he had
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 81
discovered that Masbrough lay beyond that
village ; " and ever when the sun went down,
I felt," he says, " as if some great wrong
had been done me."
When he returned from this " land of the
great Pan," as he calls it, he was sent to
Hollis's School, in Sheffield, but made no
proficiency in his studies. All his sums were
done for him by the other boys, and his father
regarded him as a confirmed dunce. He
confesses that he could never learn anything
at school — that he got into the Rule of Three
without having any knowledge of numera-
tion, and stuck in Decimals, like Christian in
his bog of Despond. Still he was looked up
to, by the other boys at school, and his
brother Giles, when in danger, always took
Elliott out to defend him. His father, as a last
resource, finding that he had made nothing
out at Hollis's Hospital, sent him to Dalton
School, two miles from Masbrough, where
he hoped to have him more under his own
eye. "I see," says Elliott, "at this moment,
as vividly as if fifty years had not since passed
over me, the kingfisher shooting along the
Don, as I passed schoolward through the
Aldwark Meadows, eating my dinner four
hours before dinner-time." And so Nature
82 LIFE, CHAKACTEK, AND GENIUS
was revenged upon the schoolmaster ; for she
taught the boy her great mystic alphabet
and deep symbol writing, before he could
either read a book, or write a line. She took
her own way likewise in doing it, eschewing
the methods of the pedant. Elliott made no
proficiency at this new school — although his
master was a kind and good man — " a sort
of sad-looking, half- starved angel without
wings," he says, "and I have stood for hours
beside his desk, with the tears running down
my face, utterly unable to set down one cor-
rect figure." His ignorance, and apparent
want of common capacity, disgusted him with
school duties, and during the summer months
he was almost always absent — playing truant
amongst the woods of Dalton, Deign, Silver-
wood, and Thryberg Park. On one of these
occasions he stole duck eggs, mistaking them
for the eggs of wild birds, and was brought
before the Lady of the Manor for his delin-
quency, who dismissed him when she saw
what a live goose he was.
These truantings were soon discovered by
tbe poet's father, who resolved at last to
make him work in the foundry. " The result
of this experiment," says Elliott, " vexed the
experimenter ; for it was soon found that I
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 83
could play my part at the York Keelman,
with the best of its customers." He was
never fond of the alehouse, however, and his
thoughts were always wandering to the canal
banks, which were covered all over with the
golden " ladies' -bedstraw" and to his little
ships. In other respects the trial at the
foundry proved successful, for Elliott found
he was not less clever than other beginners,
and the work he had to do, was done. He
mentions that about this time, he had strong
religious impressions, and attended the min-
istrations of an eccentric Domine Sampson,
with regularity and profit. But Nature at
this juncture played him another trick, and
dissipated his religious moods with her fine
nicknackery of flowers. Happening to call
one Sunday at his Aunt Robinson's — a widow
with three children and £30 a-year, out of
which she gave her two sons an education,
which made them both gentlemen — he became
acquainted with "Sowerby's English Botany."
" Never shall I forget," he says, " the im-
pression made upon me by the beautiful
plates. I actually touched the figure of the
primrose, half convinced that the mealiness
on the leaves was real." The good aunt
seeing the delight he took in these pictures,
84 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
showed him how to draw the figures, by
holding them to the light with a thin piece
of paper before them. Finding he could
draw them correctly, he ivas lifted at once,
he says, above the inmates of the alehouse, at
least a foot in mental stature. And here we
may see the reason why, in his aesthetic
poems, he exhorts the working classes to
cultivate a " Home of Taste." His aunt
then showed him a book of Dry Plants, which,
with the Botanical work, belonged to her son
Benjamin. And these cheap and simple
exhibitions gave an impulse to Elliott's mind
which never abandoned him, until it had
completed its work, and conducted him to
the Elysian fields of poetry. He soon after
began to study Botany on his own account
— not, however, in a consecutive and scien-
tific manner — for to the day of his death he
never relished Botany as a science ; the clas-
sifications of which seemed to him to be like
preparations for sending flowers to prison.
The minister, who had begun to entertain
hopes of Elliott's conversion, made frequent
inquiries at the paternal home why Ebenezer
did not come to chapel as usual ; and the
poet says that he passed his Sundays in
gathering flowers, that he might make pic-
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 85
tures of them; totally unconscious that he
was learning the art of poetry in his wood-
land wanderings. Nay, he then hated poetry,
especially that of Pope, which " always gave
him the headache." His floral and herbal
gatherings soon made him a noted person in
his neighbourhood, and people stopped him
with his plants to inquire what diseases he
was going to cure. Even his wondrous bro-
ther Giles, condescended to admire his Sortus
Siccus ; and he had been so long a stranger
to the voice of praise, that it sounded sweetly
in his ears, and he welcomed it when it came
with joy and triumph. About this time,
his brother read to him the first book of
Thompson's " Seasons," and when he came
to the description of the polyanthus and the
auricula — " I waited," says Elliott, " impa-
tiently until he had laid down the book ; I
then took it into the garden, where I com-
pared the description with the living flowers.
Here was a new idea ! Botany in verse ! —
a prophecy," he continues, " that the days
of scribbling were at hand." The account
which he gives of his first essay in verse is
interesting enough. It was an imitation in
rhyme of Thompson's blank verse thunder-
storm. " I knew perfectly well," he writes,
86 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
" that sheep could not take flight after being
killed, but the rhyme seemed to be of opinion
that they should be so described; and as it
doggedly abided by this perversity, there was
nothing for it but to describe my flock scud-
ding away after the lightning had slain
them." His cousin Benjamin criticised the
poem mercilessly, and Elliott never forgave
him. This cousin, it seems, was a scholar,
and the poet was never so happy as while
listening to his recitations of Homer's Greek
— of which, although he did not understand
a word — yet after the lapse of nearly half a
century, its music had not departed from his
soul. He regarded his brother Giles as a
prodigy, and became at last painfully alive
to his own deficiencies. Giles's accomplish-
ments stung him into self-instruction; and
the misery of his mind at this crisis may be
gathered from the fact that he lost his round
healthy proportions, and fell into the disease
of all students, namely, that of leanness and
pale-faced anxiety. He bought a grammar,
and studied it laboriously — but could never
retain a single rule in his memory. Then
he took to the key, and read it through and
through, a hundred times. " I found at
last," he says, " that by reflection, and by
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 87
supplying elisions, &c, I could detect and
correct grammatical errors. At this moment
I do not know a single rule in grammar,
although I natter myself I can write English
as well as Samuel Johnson could, and detect
errors in a greater author — Samuel Bailey." *
His attempt at learning the French language
was equally unsuccessful; and his teacher,
who seems to have been an incompetent
person, got in this instance all the blame.
An accident assisted him much at this
period, by placing a number of books at his
disposal; and as Elliott confesses that his
writings owe something to the list which he
furnishes in the text of his Autobiography,
section 5th, I shall be pardoned for naming
them. Thev are " Barrow's Sermons,"
" Bay's Wisdom of God," " Derham's Phy-
sico Theology," " Young's Night Thoughts,"
"Hervey's Meditations," " Herepin's Travels,"
and three volumes of the "Boyal Magazine,"
embellished with engravings. " I was never
weary," he says, " of Barrow, and Young
taught me to condense." Shenstone was
afterwards a favourite with him, and he
thinks that he is now undervalued. The
* S. Bailey, Esq., of Sheffield : Author of " Essays
on the Formation and Publication of Opinions,"
88 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
following passage contains a good word to
all students. " I never could read a feeble
book through ; and it follows that I read
masterpieces only — the best thoughts of the
highest minds; after Milton, Shakspere, then
Ossian, then Junius, with my father's Jacob-
inism, for a commentary. Paine's Common
Sense, Swift's Tale of a Tub, Joan of Arc,
Schiller's Hobbers, Burger's Leonora, Gib-
bon's Decline and Fall, and long afterwards
Tasso, Dante, De Stael, Schlegel, Hazlitt,
and the Westminster Review." A strange
medley, but valuable as revealing something
of the sources of Elliott's peculiarities of
writing and thinking.
He complains that his memory sometimes
fails him altogether ; and yet he almost knew
the Bible by heart at twelve years of age,
and could repeat, at sixteen, loithout missing
a word, the first, second, and sixth books of
He is conscious, to a considerable extent,
of his own powers, although he does not do
full justice to his good angel, and speaks dis-
paragingly of his acknowledged merits and
genius. " Time," he says, " has developed
in me, not genius, but powers which exist in
all men, and lie dormant in most. I cannot,
OP EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 89
like Byron and Montgomery, pour poetry
from my heart as from an unfailing fountain ;
and of my inability to identify myself, like
Shakspere and Scott, with the character of
other men, my abortive ' Kerhoneh' and
' Taurepdes,' and similar rejected failures, are
melancholy instances. My thoughts are all
exterior ; my mind is the mind of my eyes.
A primrose is to me a primrose, and nothing
more. I love it because it is nothing more.
There is not in my writings one good idea
that has not been suggested to me by some
real occurrence, or by some object actually
before my eyes, or by some remembered
object or occurrence, or by the thoughts of
other men heard or read." At the close of
his Autobiography he says : — " Newspaper-
taught as I am, and having no ideas of my
own, I can only seize those of others as they
occur, earnestly applying them to current
occasions. If I have been mistaken in my
objects, I am sorry for it ; but I have never
advocated any cause without first trying to
know the principle on which it was based.
On looking back on my public conduct,
thanks to the science which poor Cobbett,
ever floundering, but great and brave, called
in scorn, ' Poleetical Economy,' I find I have
90 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
had little to unlearn. And when I shall go
to my account, and the Great Questioner,
whose judgments err not, shall say to me,
' What didst thou with the lent talent ? ' I
can truly answer, ' Lord, it is here, and with
it all that I could add to it, doing my best to
make little, mticli? "
Such, in a condensed form, is the account
which Elliott gives of his early years. I am
warned, however, by his son Francis not to
place implicit reliance upon the statements
it contains. " I doubt not," he says, "that
it is as correct as my father could make it ;
but he was the unfittest man in the world to
write or speak of himself. His estimate of
his merits was far below the true one ; and
he was neither the dunce and simpleton at
school, nor the lesser light, paled by the
brilliant brother Giles, which he described
and believed himself. Giles was a first-rate
business man, but he was nothing more ; and
my father was that, and something more.
I am not surprised, however, that his more
solid and sterling qualities were but a poor
foil to the mortal thrusts, which, in the eyes
of his father's household, Giles's brilliance
dealt him. All of them homaged and flat-
tered Giles, and my father hid his despised
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 91
head in the brightness of his brother's glory.
I have always thought that the disparage-
ment which he received from all about him,
had much influence in producing that melan-
choly and love of gloom which through the
rest of his life so strongly characterized his
mind. At school he fared no better than at
home ; and unless he was consoled by his
almost constant truantings in the woods and
fields, his youth must have been one of
unrelieved repining and despondency. I am
inclined to think, however, that the ambitious
lad was happier in so making himself a poet,
than he would have been in outshining his
schoolfellows in studies distasteful to him."
This statement is further confirmed by
Mr. John Fowler, and Mr. Paul Rodgers, of
Sheffield, who were both friends of the poet.
The latter says : * " Mr. Elliott, in the ac-
count of himself recently published in the
Athenaeum, talks about his own remarkable
dulness when a boy. I do not think he is
right ; in fact, he was no judge at all in the
matter. It was rather that his brother's
taste and his differed, than that Ebenezer
was essentially inferior in any way. I have
* MSS. memoranda of the poet, which will be found
in the Appendix.
92 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS .
no doubt lie showed as much genius among
the modellers and mechanists in the manu-
factory, as the other did in the shop or the
counting-house. Mr. Mark Gregory, then a
youth about his own age, and long a workman
of Elliott's father's — a man whom Ebenezer
always highly esteemed — says he never knew
that his young master was dull at anything,
but always regarded him as very much the
Mr. Hodgers likewise gives the following
description of the " wondrous brother Giles,"
who later on in life fell, I regret to add, into
intemperate habits, and blighted his own
prospects and the hopes which his family
had entertained of him : — " He was rather a
handsome-faced youth, but lame, went with
a limp, and wore a high-heeled shoe. He
had very quick parts, and was Ebenezer's
Erom his sixteenth to his twenty-third
year Elliott worked for his father — as labo-
riously as any servant he had — and without
wages, except a shilling or two for pocket
His first trial at business, which proved so
melancholy in its results, is thus spoken of
by his son, from whose letter I have previ-
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 93
ously quoted: — " The fortune he received
with my mother was invested in a business
already bankrupt beyond redemption, and
my father went in as a partner with the old
firm, consisting of many partners, amongst
whom was my grandfather. Here he passed
several years in hopeless efforts, and hopeless
hopes and yearnings, to retrieve the des-
perate affair. He lost the last penny he had
in it ; and found an asvlum under the roof of
my mother's maiden sisters, with whom he
spent many months, in a state of wretched-
ness, which was relieved, however, by the
tenderest solicitude for his happiness, on the
part of his friends. He endeavoured to beat
down despair by writing poems, and painting
landscapes in oil, from views in the neigh-
bourhood. But his state of mind will be
readily conceived when it is remembered
that he was an honest man, a proud man,
and possessed of all the sensitiveness which
characterizes the poet."
In 1821, when he was forty years of age,
he was enabled, chiefly by the affectionate
generosity of his wife's sisters, to make
another venture in business. He began
with a capital of £150, and managed at
last to accumulate a fortune ; making £20
94 LIFE, CHARACTEE, AND GENIUS
a day sometimes, without stirring from his
counting-house, or ever seeing the goods he
disposed of, which exchanged hands as they
were landed at the wharf.* His warehouse is
described as a small, dingy place, piled all
round with bars of iron, having a bust of
Shakspere in the centre of it ; and his
counting-house contained casts of Achilles,
Ajax, and Napoleon. The following anecdote,
(the circumstances of which occurred in this
warehouse,) illustrative of his attachment to
his poorer guests, and of his impatience at
insolent behaviour, has been forwarded to
me from Sheffield, f " All readers of Elliott,"
the writer commences, " will be prepared to
learn that a man of such strong passions
did not always conduct himself with perfect
smoothness, under circumstances of real
provocation. No one ever saw him guilty
of anything like a deliberate, or even
thoughtless insult ; but in reply to insolence
he was always indignant. A friend of mine,
in humble life, happening to call at his
warehouse in Gibraltar Street, found himself
in company there, with a third party, — a
* These, however, were very rare occasions. See
Mr. Thomas Lister's paper upon Elliott, in the Appendix,
t By Mr. Paul Kodgers.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 95
semi-clerical gentleman. Whether this gen-
tleman had a previous pique against my
friend, or whether something arose during
the conversation which caused a misunder-
standing between them, I cannot tell; but
from some cause or other, the said gentle-
man deliberately insulted him. Whereupon,
losing all control over himself, Elliott started
up, and shouting ' Away with you ! Do my
friends come here to be insulted by you ? '
seized a broom-stick which was within reach,
and dealt his blows on the offender without
mercy, not ceasing until he had pursued
him into the middle of the street." This is
certainly the most striking anecdote which
I have been able to gather from the poet's
history ; and like that of the old woman who
flung the stool at the head of the bishop — in
the Scotch kirk — in Charles the First's time,
it sticks very fast to the memory.
Up to the time of Elliott's second trial of
business, in 1821, " he had written," says
his son, " nothing of importance ; nothing
which gave prophecy of Ebenezer Elliott.
But shortly after this event, works of greater
pretension to poetic power appeared; and
the world had an opportunity — and used
it — of disregarding some of the finest poetry
96 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
he ever penned, and which it now lauds as
such, under other titles, in the poems of
1 Love ' and ' Night.' Of the ' Giaour,' and
' Scotch Nationality,' * poems of ahout the
same period, I am not able to speak so
highly. The one contained first-rate satire,
which is never even the worst poetry; and
the other an attempt at humour, which was
of course a failure — for humour was a faculty
which he did not possess."
Many of his poems were written at the
request of his friends; and the following
deeply interesting letter explains the origin
of "The Sinless Cain" — which celebrates
the life tragedy of genius : —
" Upperthorpe, 15th Oct. 1835.
" Young Ladt, — Your father requested me to write
you a poem, and I did so, and called it ' The Sinless
Cam.' But you are come into a world filled with
dangers, and instead of sending you the poem, I think
it better, on the whole, to refer you to it, when it shall
appear in some one or other of the Magazines. You
will remember that you are the occasion of its having
been written. It describes a wretched being who has
wandered over the earth, playing various parts, almost
all of them sad ones, during more than six thousand
* Vide Appendix.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 97
years. If in after days you chance to meet with him, do
not believe that the rags which may clothe him, are the
garment of God's indignation. Should he ask you for a
pittance, borrow a penny for him, if you have not one.
Should he silently implore your pity only, turn not away ;
for he has a heart that will thank you for a tear, with its
last throb. But should he solicit your love, tell him that
you once heard of a maiden, who dreaming that she saw
and heard a celestial spirit (that had eyes bright as pas-
sion, and a voice like that of the woods in spring), loved
it with excessive love, but embracing it, found it a corpse!
— -sweet, indeed, and sadly beautiful, with tears in its
eyelids, like a white rose gathered in the dew — but still
a corpse ! "Which, had it never known the touch of
mortal passion, might have continued to walk even on
the earth, a spirit of life and joy. There is a meaning in
all this, which, if you cannot understand, come and learn
" Ebenezer Elliott.
" To Miss Eodgers."
I have already related how the poet
became acquainted with Southey, and was
cheered on by him ; and how, likewise,
he was suddenly raised into fame by the
publication of the Corn Law Hhymcs. It
will be interesting to get a personal glimpse
of liim at this period of his life ; and I
will, therefore, quote from Mr. Stanton, an
American writer, who visited him about
this time, and presents us with the follow-
ing picture both of the poet and his home : —
98 LIFE, CHAEACTER, AND GENIUS
" I inquired," says he, "of a young man
dressed in a frock besmeared with iron and
coal, for the head of the establishment.
' My father,' said he, ' is just gone : you'll
find him at his house yonder.' I repaired
thither. The Corn Law Rhymer stood on
the threshold, in his stocking feet, holding
a pair of coarse shoes in his hand. His
frank ' walk in ' assured me I was welcome.
I had just left the residence of Montgomery.
The transition could hardly have been greater
— from James Montgomery to Ebenezer
Elliott. The former was polished in his
manners, exquisitely neat in his personal
appearance, and his bland conversation
never rose above a calm level, except once,
when he spoke with an indignation which
years had not abated, of his repeated impri-
sonment in York Castle, for the publication
— first in verse and then in prose — of liberal
and humane sentiments, which offended the
government. And now I was confronted
with a burly ironmonger, rapid in speech,
glowing with enthusiasm, putting and an-
swering a dozen questions in a breath ;
eulogising American republicanism, and
denouncing British aristocracy ; throwing
sarcasms at the Duke of Wellington, and
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 99
anointing General Jackson with the oil of
flattery; pouring out a flood of racy talk
about church establishments, poetry, politics,
the price of iron, and the price of corn ;
while ever and anon he thurst his clamp
feet in the embers, and hung his shoes on
the grate to dry." As his prosperity in-
creased, he took a handsome house in the
suburbs of Sheffield, where he could look
down upon the smoky chimneys of the town,
full of prophetic thoughts, like Teufelsdrock
in the " Sartor Resartus." A path at the
back of the house led to the hills, and the
vale of the Pivelin, about which he loved
to sing. Here he entertained all comers
right hospitably, attracting around him
troops of friends, who listened to his songs
and speech as to an oracle.
During the whole of his residence in
Sheffield, and indeed throughout life, he
identified himself with its interests, took
part in all the public concerns of the town,
was an active member of the Committee
of the Mechanics' Institution, and delivered
a course of lectures there, " On Poets and
Poetry," some of which were published in
Tait's Magazine, and are admirable literary
100 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
Mr. Robert Leader, jun., in an article
which appeared in The Sheffield and Mother-
ham Independent, December 8th, 1849, gives
the following summary of Elliott's political
career : —
" In politics, the great object of Mr.
Elliott was the abolition of the food mon-
opoly. Some were ready to say that he
was a monomaniac on this subject. But
he saw that this question lay at the root of
all others in regard to politics and national
prosperity ; that a nation confined to a
limited supply of food could never be
permanently happy and prosperous ; and
that a commercial system based on restric-
tion could not be sound. The great cause
of Mr. Elliott's rejoicing in the triumph of
Reform was the conviction that it must
speedily ensure the repeal of the Corn Laws.
He soon after formed a local society for
promoting this object. But the restoration
of transitory prosperity diverted the public
mind from the subject, and the Anti-Corn
Law agitation failed. Mr. Elliott continued
to raise his warning voice, but it was not
until 1838 that people could be induced
again to move. Then commenced the
agitation of the Anti-Corn Law League,
OF EEESTEZER ELLIOTT. 101
and also that for the Charter. Mr. Elliott
had been so much disheartened by the
previous apathy shown towards his great
subject, that he seemed to lack faith in
the sincerity and power of the movement
in Manchester. The cotton lords had so
long been apathetic that he could not all
at once give them credit for having honestly
and heartily taken up the cause. He seems
to have had more hope in the movement
for the Charter, which commenced about
the same time, and in which, at first, some
influential Birmingham Reformers took part.
In September, 1838, Mr. Elliott attended
a conference in London, and in the same
month he presided at a meeting in Hoscoe
Eields, when the Charter was first publicly
brought forward in Sheffield. But when,
in the succeeding January, the Chartists
put themselves in opposition at an Anti-
Corn Law meeting, Mr. Elliott was found
supporting the effort which they opposed.
He did not completely separate himself
from them, however, till further proof
had been given of the desperate nature
of the counsels which prevailed among
them. When Peter Foden was arrested
for sedition in August, 1839, Mr. Elliott,
102 LIFE, CHAKACTEK, AND GENIUS
who seems not to have watched Eoden's
course, gave bail for him, at the same
time reprobating the men who counselled
violence. His want of caution was pun-
ished, as might fairly have been expected,
by the absconding of Eoden ; and Mr.
Elliott's recognizance was estreated. The
more complete demonstration of the prin-
ciples then dominant among the Chartists,
which the events of the winter of 1839-40
afforded, seems to have satisfied Mr. Elliott
completely, that the Chartist cause was in
wrong hands. He continued to aid by his
writings the Anti-Corn Law movement,
but he felt that with him the time for
active personal effort was passed. He
retired from business, and from active in-
terference in politics, and left Sheffield in
1841, to spend his last years at Great
Houghton, near Barnsley, where he built
a house upon a small estate of his own.
Many persons have wondered that he took
so little part in the operations of the Anti-
Corn Law League. We believe the primary
cause to have been a conviction that his
work was done, and this was not unmingled
with a doubt whether it was yet possible
to save the country from the anarchy into
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 103
which he foresaw that the continuance of
monopoly must inevitably plunge it. Be-
coming interested, too, in rural engagements,
being separated from the friends with whom
he had been used to converse on public
affairs, and left behindhand, as it were, in
the current news of the day, he lacked
the stimulus to play his accustomed part.
During great part of his residence at Great
Houghton, he wrote and published little.
To various invitations to take part in
public affairs, he pleaded the old man's
excuse, and gradually withdrew himself."
The following letter, upon the Corn Laws,
addressed to Mr. Rodgers, of Sheffield,
and dated Houghton Common, May 7th,
1842, is almost a prophecy ; and shows
the political sagacity and foresight of the
poet : —
" Eat each other, said we ? Yes ! but bare bones are
poor picking. I have still the remains of a forlorn hope
in the Tories. Peel, I have long thought, understands
our position, and will do his best to prevent the coming
catastrophe ; but he wants moral courage. Wellington
does not understand our position ; when he does, if
ever, he will act boldly on his convictions — perhaps too
" But the ' fifty pound tenant-at-will-clause Whigs ; —
the ballot-refusing Whigs ; — the reform-defecting Whigs ;
104 LIFE, CHARACTER AND GENIUS
— the monopoly-defending "Whigs ; — the Bank Charter-
renewing "Whigs ; — the Coercion-bill "Whigs : the twenty-
milhon- slave -holder -rewarding "Whigs; — the half-faced,
double-faced "Whigs ; who could once have saved the
State, and would not — can do no good, if willing. Their
time is past.
" Ebenezeb Elliott."
The active part which he took at political
meetings in Sheffield, and elsewhere, and the
fierce poems and epigrams which he scattered
over the land, made him many enemies ; and
to such an extent did the virulence of party
feeling prevail against him, that when, in
1839, he sought admission to the Sheffield
Literary and Philosophical Society, the gen-
tlemen members blackballed him ! Elliott,
who was fearful lest this transaction, so
disgraceful to the parties concerned in it,
should damage in its results the Mechanics'
Institution — of which he was a member —
wrote the following letter to Messrs. Paul
Rodgers and John Powler, members of the
Committee, offering to withdraw himself
from all active part in its counsels and
proceedings. He was the more readily in-
duced to this course, because certain weak
minded persons had already taken offence
at his remarks upon a late occasion, whilst
introducing the Reverend B. Stannus, an
OF EBENEZEE, ELLIOTT. 105
eloquent Unitarian minister of Sheffield, and
for many years editor of the Sheffield Iris —
a paper originally started by James Mont-
gomery, the poet — to the audience, prepara-
tory to the delivery, by that gentleman, of a
lecture " On Burns." The letter runs thus :
" Sheffield, 11th March, 1839.
" To Messrs. Paul Eodgers and John Fowler.
" In my old age, I have got the heart-ache. The few
words with which I introduced Mr. Stannus, I am told
offended influential friends, or foes, of the institution.
Certainly, when I said he would show that ' tow hack-
lers have souls,' I forgot that not one in fifty of my
hearers knew that poor Burns had been a tow hackler.
You at least will not suspect me of trying to injure the
Institution. Besides, you know, if tow kacklers have
soids, cutters and grinders have ! This may be a scandal,
but the conclusion seems inevitable. Tou are aware how
unwilling I am to come forward on any public occasion,
and that I never do so but from a wish to be useful. All
the misfortunes of the Institution, it is said, are owing
to two or three infidels, of whom I am the worst. It
tortures me to hear it said that no institution can stand,
if I am known to support it. They err, however, who
think that I am an irreligious man. I know more of the
Book than some persons who five by it. Having studied
the evidence on both sides of the question, I am a
Christian from conviction, and because I cannot help it.
But would it not be better, not to elect me to any
office in the Institution? I could then mingle with
106 LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
the audience, and should not offend by my seeming
presumption. There would then be no drawback on
my efforts to serve the Institution ; and no loss could
be sustained, as I am useless on committees, and worse
than useless in the chair.
"Might I suggest to Mr. Fowler, that in moving a
vote of thanks to Mr. Stannus, it would be well to say
something to the following purport. In Mr. Stannus's.
first lecture, he told us that we have to thank John
Knox for the schools and the educational systems of
Scotland. How much, then, does the world owe to John
Knox ? He sowed the fire-seeds which, growing into
a flame, enabled the English Puritans, not long after-
wards, to kindle another flame, that seems destined to
enlighten the whole earth. But for him, and the schools
of Scotland, perhaps, there would not have been in the
world, at this day, a shadow or a dream of public liberty.
The mention of a fact so honourable to John Knox,
connected as it is with a similar fact in the history of
Burns, who established the first Scotch book-club, shows
what a mighty educational engine public lecturing may
become ; and so long as one person can be found to give
lectures, splendid as those which have been heard from
the reverend gentleman, I for one, will not despair of
the Sheffield Mechanics' Institution. It stands yet ; and
if the edifice of society is to stand, such institutions
must not fall. If this country is to escape ruin, it will
not be by monopolizing ignorance.
* «M. Jf. At. J*.
■TV" "A* "JT TP
Now don't suppose that I should not have written this
letter if the phflosophers had not blackballed me. I
should not care a straw for a hogshead full of their black
balls, unless they were black peas, and I had permission
to feed a pig with them. "
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 107
Elliott was at this time amongst the highest
subscribers to the funds of the Institution ;
and he manifested his attachment to the cause
of Popular Education by his own labours
therein, and by the counsel which he gave
to others respecting it. Altogether, he was
not only a good poet, but a good citizen,
and a true patriot. Prom the beginning
to the end of his life, there was not a blot
or flaw upon his character. His attention
to his business was almost proverbial; and
although many of his poems were written
in his counting-house, he never allowed
his genius to interfere with his bread. He
was deeply loved by the higher class of
artizans in Sheffield, who read and appre-
ciated his poems ; whilst the middle classes,
as a whole, never understood him, and can
scarcely be said, even now, to be acquainted
with his works. The lower orders of the town
knew him only as a politician, and public
speaker; and it frequently happened, whilst
upon the platform or hustings, that he was
carried away by the force of his own
thoughts into a complete forgetfulness of
the conventional uses of language. On
more than one occasion he has shocked
the propriety of his hearers, and of the
108 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
town at large, by the utterance of for-
bidden words, whilst speaking upon the
ultimate consequences of the Corn Laws,
of which he was at the time totally uncon-
scious. He was so absorbed in his subject
that he forgot to dress it in decent costume ;
and from these and similar causes sprang
the prejudice which ordinary people con-
ceived against him.
Nevertheless, he was a brave, high-minded,
and noble person ; one of the few men who
come to us across the centuries, and restore
our faith in man and manful action. His
whole life was a poem, an epic that closed
with the demolition of the Corn Laws.
His prosperity at Sheffield was interrupted
by the panic of 1837 ; and the subsequent
commercial revolution, caused by the oper-
ation of the Corn Laws — against which
he was still fighting — swept away a great
part of his earnings. " I lost fully one-
third of my savings," he says, "and after
enabling my six boys to quit the nest,
got out of the fracas with about £6000,
which I will try to keep." He now left
his villa, near Sheffield, and retired to
Hargate Hill, near Great Houghton, where
he built a good substantial house, suitable
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 109
to his family and resources. In an interest-
ing letter which he wrote to Mr. Tait, of
Edinburgh, after he was quietly domiciled
in his new abode, he relates all the par-
ticulars of the purchase, and gives an
account of the fortunes and prospects of
his children, which I will here extract : —
"My eldest son, Ebenezer, whom you
saw at Sheffield, is a clergyman of the
establishment, being at Lothedale, near
Skipton, on a salary of about £140 per
annum, and a house better fur than mine,
rent free. He has married a lady of great
merit, who has a fortune of a hundred a
year, made safe to herself, and which is in
Chancery. Perhaps a more simple-man-
nered, unassuming man never lived. lie
is no poet, and yet there is a touch of the
poetic in all he does or suffers. If he
opens his snuff-box to a stranger, he spills
the snuff of course ; and he gets on best
when he stumbles. His mother thinks he
has some resemblance to me.
" My son Benjamin, unwarned by his
father's losses, is carrying on a steel trade
at Sheffield, in my old premises, where
(as he thinks, poor fellow ! for he is a
great hoper,) he has some prospect ; in
110 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
any other country he would already have
made an independency. He endures pri-
vations such as no man of his pretensions
ought to endure anywhere, and such as no
man will here endure if free trade he
obtained before all is lost. He is a fine
young man, upwards of six feet high, of
superior abilities, and the highest moral
worth ; but, alas ! not unindebted to his
" My sons Henry and Francis (as I wish
them to do) are living as bachelors on
the interest of money earned and saved by
themselves, and increased by gifts from me.
Henry is tall, handsome, and mechanical;
he ought to have been apprenticed to en-
gineering. Francis is tall and good-looking,
but he has the misfortune to be a born
poet ; for my mother has transmitted to
him, through me, her nervous constitution
and body-consuming sensibilities. Is poetic
genius, then, a disease ? My seventh son,
Edwin, is a clergyman of the established
church, for which he may be almost said to
have educated himself, and into which he
has won his way by his own efforts. Less
assisted by me than any of my other sons,
he is now a rector in the West Indies, where
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. Ill
he has, I am told, a better income than I
have been able to secure after all my toils.
He is a Lytton-Bulwer-looking person, not
unlike a well-grown young clergy-justice,
with forehead enough for three. At school
he was remarkable for laughing hostility
into kindness — a favourite wherever he went.
We always called him the gentleman of the
family. Having observed, when quite a
youth, that fine folks ride, he broke open
his thrift-box, and with the contents (after
drawing tears and kisses from his mother)
bought an ass of a Tory's son (all his asso-
ciates were Tories,) who sold it because it was
starving. Edwin knew that he had nothing
for it to eat; but the ass, accustomed to hope
in despair, had expectations. It commenced
business at my place in Burgus Street, by
thrusting its lean neck through the kitchen
window and eating a pound of butter. The
servant lass, suspecting it to be a thief, kick-
ed it into the street. From the street it got
into the fields, and thence into the pin-fold.
To prevent the lad's heart from breaking, I
paid seven shillings and sixpence for trespass,
and released the famished creature. What
then was to be done? Mark the difference
between the Tories and the toried ! At last,
112 LIFE, CHARACTER, ATVD GENIUS
after various efforts in stock-feeding, I made
a present of it to a small manufacturing free-
holder, who always voted blue. He fattened
it by night in his neighbour's field, and then
sold it to him for two guineas.
" My poor son John, the weakling — kind-
hearted, intelligent, five feet four inches
high, and almost blind — is druggisting at
Sheffield, in a sort of chimney called a
shop, for which he pays £40 a year. He is
engaged, almost without a moment's pause,
from seven in the morning until ten at
night, in dealing out halfpenny-worths of
drugs ; yet I, who have been accustomed to
sell goods by tons, think that he is as likely
to thrive as most of his neighbours, and
believe that there are thousands of persons
in Sheffield who would gladly change places
with him. But what can our constitution
be worth, if it should turn out at last that
my sons Henry and Francis, living poorly
on the interest of their earnings, are wiser
in their generation than the trade-troubled?
The worst I wish the Dukes of Richmond
and Buckingham is, that they may be forced,
in my time, to earn their living as my sons
Benjamin and John earn theirs. Old as I
am, I would engage to hop a mile without
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 113
changing leg, or die rather than not, to see
them at it ; for to their unholy legislation,
I impute it, that of my six sons, the only
two who could afford to marry may be said
to be maintained by the labour of others.
" Of my thirteen children, five are gone
— William, Thomas, Charles, and the two
unchristened ones. They left behind them
no memorial, and the old inscription has
departed from the grave of Charles. But
they are safe in the bosom of mercy, and
not yet quite forgotten even here."
We have now before us the leading
features in the external life of the poet.
As a boy, he was dull, idle, and incapable
of learning the simplest rudiments of educa-
tion. Up to his thirteenth year he does
not manifest a single faculty from which
his future greatness might be augured.
His affection for his mother is the only
redeeming quality which he seems to have
possessed. Por although, he says, he can-
not remember when he was not fond of
ruralities, one can scarcely call his endless
truantings a manifestation of his love for
Nature. It was vagabondism, induced by
shame, not unmixed with sorrow, at his
114 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND QENIUS
own wilful ignorance. Still, the forms of
Nature impressed themselves upon his soul
in these wild, woodland ramblings, and
remained there in dumb pictury, until he
was able to reproduce them in song. I
notice, likewise, that he never forgets a
single vision of Nature; and that all her
phenomena and beautiful creatures range
themselves round his mind as if he was
the sole centre of the universe. The king-
fisher flying over the waters of the Don
is remembered through the darkness of fifty
years; and the lonely and solemn night,
with its flaming stars and meteors, is the
unforgotten canopy of his Hejira into the
land of the great Pan. The nightingales
in Bassingthorpe Wood; the snake which
waited for him on the sunny Sabbath
mornings at the top of Primrose Lane,
are all related to him, and flow towards
hirn by the law of polarity. They are
waiting to be sung ; although he is un-
conscious of that deep underlying faculty
which they are gradually and silently
awakening within him. The botanical
book, and the specimens of dry plants,
which he saw at his aunt's, gave the first
quickening impulse to his mind and genius.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 115
Up to this time he had been a frequent
visitor at the York Keelman ; was drunk,
even, a few days before this memorable
visit to his aunt's cottage ; but now, when
he found he had talents, could admire,
and, by mechanical process, draw the
flowers, in the botanical book, he was
lifted three feet all at once above his ale-
house companions ; and for the first time
in his life the good demon opened the
windows of his soul, and gave him a
glimpse of the wonders and beauties of the
universe. Then followed the impressions
made upon him on hearing his brother
Giles read that first book of Thomson's
Seasons — his comparison of the poetical
description of the flowers with the flowers
themselves; and the new idea which burst
upon him of Botany in Verse ! Afterwards,
we find him rambling for a purpose, mys-
teriously collecting plants, for the cure of
diseases the people thought, and thought
truly, although the diseases were not such
as they imagined. Then Homer's Greek
turns all his thoughts into melody; and
at last he attempts his rhymed thunder-
storm, where the sheep are represented
running away after they were killed by
116 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
lightning, because the rhyme would have
it so; and thus, by slow and imperceptible
degrees, was the mind of the poet developed;
and thus he sought to break the chains
of his spirit, and uplift the awful veil of
Nature. He served, however, a long ap-
prenticeship to his art before he produced
anything worthy of a place in the Pantheon
of literature. Twenty years elapsed between
the publication of " The Vernal Walk," and
that of " The Corn Law Rhymes ; " and
although these are by no means his best
performances, yet they won for him a name,
which led to an appreciation by the public
of those higher books which he had written
in the interim alluded to. Prom the first
his muse was wedded to politics and to
social wrong. These, indeed, were the
materials from which his inspiration was
drawn, and he found in them the region of
his work and power. Hence, he never
loses sight of his mission, but with the
jealous eye and vehement soul of a Prophet
and Reformer, labours without ceasing for
its accomplishment. He is of all other
men, the Man of his age. Such scars are
upon the face of this old warrior — such
lightnings in Ins eyes — such thunder and
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 117
terror upon his brow — yet, withal such
pity and womanly tenderness — such musical
pathos in his heart, and all so strangely
and inextricably woven in his nature and
radiating his person, that were I to meet
him a thousand years hence, in the most
out-of-the-wav corner of Heaven, I should
recognize him in spite of his celestial
raiment, and rejoice with him that life
was at last swallowed up in victory.
I must not omit, before proceeding to the
final division of my subject, to quote in this
place, a short and characteristic note, written
to the editor of The Sheffield Independent,
by James Montgomery, the sole remaining
poet now, in the town of fire and steel, upon
the subject of this paper : —
" I do not remember having ever been for
an hour in Mr. Elliott's company. Our
occasional meetings were few, and short, and
far between, though he was known and ad-
mired by me as a poet, before the world
would either know or honour him as such.
He published several small volumes, at inter-
vals, the manuscripts of which (mostly) he
had confidentially submitted to me; and they
had my best encouragement, on the ground
of their merit; but not one of these could
118 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
command public attention, till he broke out
in ' The Corn Law Rhymes,' as Waller said
of Denham, ' like the Irish Rehellion, forty
thousand strong, when nobody thought of such
a thing' Then, indeed, he compelled both
astonishment and commendation from all
manner of critics : Whig, Tory, and Radical
reviewers vieing with each other who should
magnanimously extol the talents which they
had either not discovered, or had superci-
liously overlooked, till, for their own credit,
they could no longer hold their peace,
or affect to despise what they had not
had heart to acknowledge, when their
countenance would have done service to
the struggling author. A few of his mas-
terpieces did find their way into the Iris, but
I believe these were all republished by himself
in his successive miscarrying volumes. I,
however, am quite willing to hazard any cri-
tical credit by avowing my persuasion, that
in originality, power, and even heauty, when
he chose to be beautiful,—- he might have
measured heads beside Byron in tremendous
energy, Crabbe in graphic description, and
Coleridge in effusions of domestic tenderness ;
while in intense sympathy with the poor, in
whatever he deemed their wrongs or their
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 119
sufferings, he excelled them all, — and per-
haps everybody else among- contemporaries, in
prose or verse. He was, in a transcendental
sense, the Poet of the Poor, whom, if not
always 'wisely,* I at least dare not say, he
loved ' too well.'' His personal character, his
fortunes, and his genius, would require, and
they deserve a full investigation, as fur-
nishing an extraordinary study of human
The allusions made by Montgomery, in
the above letter, to Elliott's " Effusions of
Domestic Tenderness," and to his " intense "
sympathy with the people, cannot be better
illustrated than by the following poems : —
THE DYING BOY TO THE SLOE BLOSSOM.
" Before thy leaves thou comest once more,
"White blossom of the sloe !
Thy leaves will come as heretofore ;
But this poor heart, its troubles o'er,
Will then lie low.
A month at least before thy time
Thou comest, pale flower, to me ;
For well thou know'st the frosty rime
Will blast me, ere my vernal prime,
Xo more to be.
120 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
Why here in winter ? No storm lowers
O'er Nature's silent shroud !
But blithe larks meet the sunny showers,
High o'er the doomed untimely flowers
In beauty bowed.
Sweet violets, in the budding grove,
Peep where the glad waves run ;
The wren below, the thrush above,
Of bright to-morrow's joys and love
Sing to the sun.
And where the rose-leaf, ever bold,
Hears bees chant hymns to God,
The breeze-bowed palm, mossed o'er with gold,
Smfles on the well, in summer cold,
And daisied sod.
But thou, pale blossom, thou art come,
And flowers in winter blow,
To tell me that the worm makes room
Bor me, her brother, in the tomb,
And thinks me slow.
Bor as the rainbow of the dawn
Boretells an eve of tears,
A sunbeam on the saddened lawn,
I smile, and weep to be withdrawn
In early years.
Thy leaves will come ; but songful spring
Will see no leaf of mine ;
Her bells will ring, bride' s-maids sing,
"When my young leaves are withering
Where no suns shine.
OF EBENEZEK ELLIOTT. 121
might I breathe morn's dewy breath,
When June's sweet Sabbaths chime !
But thine before my time, O death !
1 go where no flower blossometh,
Before my time.
Even as the blushes of the morn
Vanish, and long ere noon,
The dewdrop dieth on the thorn,
So fair I bloomed ; and was I born
To die as soon ?
To love my mother and to die -
To perish in my bloom ;
Is this my sad brief history ;
A tear dropped from a mother's eye
Into the tomb.
He lived and loved — will sorrow say-
By early sorrow tried :
He smiled, he sighed, he past away ;
His life was but an April day —
He loved and died !
My mother smiles, then turns away,
But turns away to weep :
They whisper round me — what they say
I need not hear, for in the clay
I soon must sleep.
122 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
Oh, love is sorrow ! sad it is
To be both tried and true ;
I ever trembled in my bliss ;
Now there are farewells in a kiss —
They sigh adieu,
But woodbines flaunt when blue bells fade,
"Where Don reflects the skies ;
And many a youth in Shirecliff's shade
Will ramble where my boyhood played,
Though Alfred dies.
Then panting woods the breeze will feel,
And bowers, as heretofore,
Beneath their load of roses reel ;
But I through woodbined lanes shall steal
No more, no more.
Well, lay me by my brother's side.
Where late we stood and wept ;
For I was stricken when he died—
I felt the arrow as he sighed
His last, and slept."
The above poem needs no comment; and
the following, entitled "The People's An-
them," will show what Montgomery means
by Elliott's love for the people.
OF E13ENEZER ELLIOTT. 123
" WiiEtf wilt thou save the people ':'
Oh, God of Mercy ! when ?
Not kings and lords, hut nations !
Not thrones and crowns, hut men !
Flowers of thy heart, oh God, are they,
Let them not pass like weeds away !
Their heritage a sunless d:iv !
God save the people !
Shall crime "bring crime for ever, —
Strength aiding still the strong ?
Is it thy will, oh Father,
That men shall toil for wrong ?
« No ! ' say thy mountains ; ' No ! ' thy skies ;
' Man's clouded sun shall brightly rise
And songs be heard instead of sighs.'
God save the people !
When wilt thou save the people ?
Oh, God of Mercy ! when ?
The people, Lord ! the people !
Not thrones and crowns, but men !
God save the people ! thine they are,
Thy children, as thy angels fair :
Save them from bondage, and despair ?
God ! save the people.' '
afttminfarenrc* of tl)e $oet.
REMINISCENCES OE THE POET IN HIS RETIREMENT AT HARGATE
It only now remains for me to speak of the
poet in his retirement at Hargate Hill, and
present a picture of his private life. And as
I design to give personal reminiscences of
him, I hope I shall not incur the charge
of egotism, if, in the execution of my pur-
pose, I shall find it necessary to take a more
prominent part than I could otherwise wish
or consent to. At all events, egotism is very
far from my intention. I have thought the
matter well over, however, and do not see
how I could better render justice to my
subject, than by adopting the plan I have
chosen ; and with this explanation will ad-
dress myself forthwith to the work before
Hargate Hill is about eight miles from
Barnsley, and three from Darfield Station,
on the North Midland Railway. " I chose
128 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
this place," says the poet,* " for its beauty,
which, as is usual in affairs of the heart, is
invisible to all but the enamoured. Rising
early one morning, I took a beautiful walk
of eighteen miles, through parks, wild lanes,
and footpaths ; reached the place ; liked it ;
and returning the same day, resolved to buy
it. Supposing the cottage, which stood upon
it, to be worth £60, I gave £180 for the
land, say £18 per acre. It was a wild land,
having being a wood, and fox cover ; called
on the maps Argilt Hill, or wood. I have
laid out upon it, land and all, about a
thousand guineas. My establishment," he
continues, " is illustrious for a St. Bernard's
dog, and a Welsh pony, ' the observed of
all observers,' which in its green old age of
twenty years, draws a small gig; both un-
taxed. Gig, harness, and mare, cost alto-
gether £8. 10s. My family here consists of
Mrs. Elliott, my two daughters, or rather
one daughter, for they keep house for one
of my sons at Sheffield in turn, — a servant
maid, and a man who works for me occasion-
ally. Rid the Corn Laws, and I shall not
be without dim visions of a flunkey."
It is a lovely walk from Darfield Station
* In a letter previously quoted, addressed to Mr. Tait.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 129
up to the poet's house, and the surrounding
country is of an undulating, quiet, and
pastoral character. The road runs through
thick hedges and tall trees ; with wide, green
pastures on either side of it, where sheep
and oxen graze in undisturbed tranquillity.
I have many beautiful recollections of this
old green road, with its musical birds and
flowers ; its cool brooks, and shadowy outline
of trees, falling in sunny mosaics upon the
pathway. I remember, too, the wild roses
and the honeysuckles which grew upon the
hedges ; especially the latter, whose " clus-
tered trumpets," as Elliott calls them, seemed
to be blowing anthems of incense upon the
morning air, to the praise of the Great Crea-
tor. For it always happened in my summer
visits to Elliott that the days were fine and
sunny ; so that I look back upon them as
Sabbaths consecrated to the genius of friend-
ship and poetry.
After walking about two miles through
this fine country, you come to Great
Houghton, a long and straggling village,
chiefly remarkable for an old dilapidated
hall, from which Wentworth, Lord Strafford,
married his third wife, and where he lived
for some time afterwards. It is a fine old
130 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
ruin; and I remember with what interest
I regarded it, on my first visit in that
direction, to the poet. It was very early
one summer's morning, and long before I
arrived at the village, I saw the grey massy
building looming through the sunny mists,
and presently, beheld its grotesque gables,
and projecting windows. There was such
an antique look about the place, that I
could have imagined myself, for the mo-
ment, drawn suddenly back into the middle
ages. A nearer approach, however, dissi-
pated the illusion; for it was soon evident
that the old glory had departed from its
walls, and with it the ancient spirit of its
chivalrous owners. At the end of the field
enclosing it on the west, which it was
evident enough, from the scattered elms
and chesnut trees, had once been a park,
hung a wooden gate upon two stone pillars,
formerly a chief entrance to the mansion.
A stone wall ran from this gate to the
mansion itself; and upon an inspection of
the front, I found it was converted into
an inn, where provender was furnished to
man and beast for money. I opened the
great door and entered the house ; for
Elliott had frequently desired me to in-
OF EBENEZEK ELLIOTT. 131
spect the old mansion, and named it with
pride, as the most interesting historic ruin
in his neighbourhood. A large fire was blaz-
ing up the huge chimney, and the landlady
was washing her chubby-faced children in
an earthen pancheon, before it. A servant
girl brought me a cup of milk, and asked
if I would not like a drop of rum in it.
The landlord, who was dressed in a velveteen
shooting jacket, and corduroy breeches, was
quietly devouring his hot toast and tea ;
whilst a braw fellow, who had brought a
team of horses from Sheffield, was regaling
himself on the oak settle, with a pint of
beer. I enquired how the house came to
be in such a dilapidated condition, and the
landlord told me that the steward of the
property had frequently promised to patch
up the old rooms, and make them habitable
for him and his family — but always forgot
to keep his word. The roof was quite
rotten, he said, from neglect ; and he could
not afford to repair it himself, out of the
profits of the little farm he rented. And to
this complexion, thought I, has the pride of
Wentworth come at last ! The lofty rooms,
and tracery on the oaken beams and wain-
scots, seemed to mock the vulgarity and
132 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND OENIUS
poverty of their present occupiers; and I
could not help thinking that so fine a
building — with its rich historic memories —
might have been devoted to a better purpose
than that of an alehouse. Having obtained
permission, I wandered over the hall, up
massy stone staircases ; into large rooms
lighted by magnificent Avindows ; along
twilight galleries, where old family pic-
tures, instinct with life, were wont to stare
from the walls upon observing visitors, in
the dim times that are gone. Here were
dark antechambers; the floors all rotten,
and breaking into dust beneath the foot ;
and there were others well lighted, and
looking out upon a fair and beautiful
country, over which the sun shone as
brightly as in Strafford's proudest and
happiest days. But Strafford himself, and
his third wife, and all their retainers,
where were they ? The eastern part of
the building is a mere ruin. The walls
are dismantled, and have fallen in in some
places, leaving nothing to be seen but
broken staircases and mouldering stones,
where the ivy clings, and the bat and the
owl inhabit. Elliott, in speaking of this
old hall to a friend, who reports his last
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 133
visit to him. in an interesting paper which
appeared in a late number of " Eliza Cook's
Journal," says: "after Wentworth's time
it became the property of Sir William
Rhodes, a stout Presbyterian and Parlia-
mentarian. When the Civil War broke
out, Rhodes took the field with his tenantry,
on the side of the Parliament, and the first
encounter between the two parties is said
to have taken place only a few miles to
the north of Old Houghton. While Rhodes
was at Tadcaster, with Sir Thomas Fairfax,
Captain Grey, (an ancestor of the present
Earl Grev,) at the head of a bodv of about
three hundred royalist horse, attacked the
old hall, and there being only some thirty
servants left to defend it, took the place
and set fire to it, destroying all that would
burn. But Cromwell rode down the Cav-
aliers with his ploughmen at Marston Moor,
not very far from here either, and then
Rhodes built the little chapel that you will
see still standing at the west end of the
hall, and established a godly Presbyterian
divine to minister there; forming a road
from thence to Driffield, about three miles
off, to enable the inhabitants of that place
to reach it by a short and convenient route.
134 LIFE, CIIAKACTER, AND GENIUS
I forget how it happened, (continued the
poet,) I believe it was by marriage — but
so it was — that the estate fell into the
possession in these latter days, of Monckton
Milnes, the poet's father, to whom it
Resting myself awhile after I had explored
the dusty chambers and ruins of the hall, I
resumed my walk through Great Houghton
village, about half a mile from which, at the
top of a hill, stands the poet's house. And
as I ascended from the valley, I heard afar
off the well-known bark of the great St.
Bernard's dog already alluded to, as one of
the notable appendages to Elliott's establish-
ment. The red marly road led me under
beautiful shady trees, up to Houghton Com-
mon, which spread out with its blossoming
gorse bushes, like a sea of gold and emeralds.
On the right hand there was a farm-house,
with great stacks piled up on one side of it,
and a little cluster of trees in the back-
ground ; and on the left, fenced in from the
common by a good and substantial stone
wall, stood Elliott's villa. Here I turned off
upon the gravel road leading to the large
blue gates, and entered the poet's grounds,
where I was saluted by the great shaggy dog
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 135
whose bark I had heard below. He came at
me with a bound, wagging his huge tail, and
jumping with his paws upon my shoulder
he thrust his friendly snout into my face. I
entered the garden, and soon stood within
the porch of the door. It was about nine
o'clock, and I remained awhile to listen, for
I heard the sound of musical voices within,
accompanied by the piano-forte. It Avas soon
evident that the whole family were engaged
in singing those beautiful matins ; and I
heard the poet's voice mingling its plaintive
wailings with the general harmony. I walked
into the hall, took off my hat and coat, and
suddenly presented myself in the sitting-room.
There was a general exclamation of surprise,
joy, and welcome. The poet advanced first
to shake me by the hand, flinging his specta-
cles over his shaggy brows, whilst his blue
eyes were lighted up as with the sunshine of
all the worlds. It was something to feel the
warm grip of that manly hand, and to hear
the kind, hearty, and hospitable words that
accompanied it. Nor was it less pleasant to
be greeted by the good wife and fair daughter,
who constituted at that time the little house-
hold at Hargate. I shall never forget that
morning. The warm sunshine streamed into
136 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
the room from the open casement, as we sat
at breakfast, and the sweet roses looked
through the window-panes, smiling upon the
happy group within. An open canary cage
stood upon a table under the window, and
the pretty yellow warbler sang its richest
song all breakfast time, flying across the
room at intervals, and settling with loving
wings upon the head of the venerable poet.
Then we had a pleasant conversation about
the beautiful country that lay around us,
with its dark woods, valleys, dells, and moor-
lands ; and the poet related to me all the
local traditions and histories, which he had
gathered from the " Deanery of Doncaster,"
and other sources. He spoke of two great
oaks about a mile from his house, where the
Wapentake assembled in ancient times, and
where, in the hollow of one of them, Nevison,
the celebrated highwayman, used to secrete
himself when in danger. He likewise related
the history of Nevison, who was born at
Wortley in Charles the Second's time, and
knew the site of the public-house where he
was at last captured: "A heart-breaking
story, I have no doubt," said Elliott, in speak-
ing of it, " for the daughter of the innkeeper
was Nevison' s sweetheart." The site of this
OF EBENE2ER ELLIOTT. 137
house is at Ringstone Hill, otherwise cele-
brated as the place where Sir Godfrey Rhodes
assembled the first troop in the parliamen-
tary war. He spoke likewise of South Kirby
— a little village abont two and a half miles
off — as interesting to him from the fact that
there the Rev. George Beanmont lived as
vicar, who was tried and executed February
18th, 1648, for holding correspondence with
Colonel Morris, who had surprised Pontefract
Castle for the King. Pope's mother was
born also in his neighbourhood, he said, viz.,
at Marrow Thorn, although it was nearer
Barnsley than Hargate. Her maiden name
was Edith Turner, and the registry of her
birth is dated the 18th of June, 1049. These
historical facts were deeply interesting to
him, and he loved to relate them to his
friends and visitors. I shall not soon forget
the indignation with which he spoke of one
Thomas Gargrave, who, at the age of thirty-
four, was hanged, for burning a poor servant
boy of his in an oven at Great Houghton.
When breakfast was over, the poet related
to me many incidents in his early life, and
spoke of his ramblings around Sheffield, as
the most beautiful of all his memories. The
hill above the old Park Wood, where the
138 LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
scene of the Ranter's last sermon is placed,
was a favourite haunt of his ; and he heard
the sound of the many voiced rivers — the
Don, the Loxley, Ewden, Rivelin, Sheaf,
and Porter — like the songs of innumerable
Syrens, singing to him for ever, and cheer-
ing him in his Hargate solitude. His love
for these beautiful streams had grown into
a passion, which was increased by his long
absence from them; and whilst alluding
to them on the morning in question, he
repeated the following "Farewell to Riv-
elin" — which he had written previous to
his leaving Sheffield : —
" Beautiful Biver ! Goldenly shining
Where, with the cistus, Woodbines are twining,
(Birklands around thee, Mountains above thee,)
Bivelin wildest ! Do I not love thee ?
Why do I love thee, Heart-breaking Biver ?
Love thee, and leave thee ? Leave thee for ever !
Never to see thee, Where the storms greet thee !
Never to hear thee, Bushing to meet me !
Never to hail thee, Joyfully chiming
Beauty in music, Sister of Wyming !
Blayfully mingling Laughter and sadness,
Eibbledin's sister! Sad in thy gladness.
OP EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 139
Oh, when thy poet, "Weary reposes,
Coffin'd in slander, Far from thy roses,
Tell slave and tyrant (Heart-breaking Eiver !)
Tell them I loved thee, Love thee for ever!"
He was, however, well satisfied with his pre-
sent position. " People," he said, " laughed
at me for buying this little estate, and
thought I should soon die of ennui, so far
removed as I am from friends, companions,
and the conveniences of civilization. But
they were all mistaken. I am happy with
my family and books ; and spend my time in
laying out my garden, planting trees, walk-
ing, driving, reading, writing. I envy no
man, nor have I any right to do so. This is
not an unlovely neighbourhood (he added) for
a poet in his old age, as I will prove to you
before you return. And in the meanwhile,
look out of the window, and tell me what
you think of the view from it." I did so,
and found that the poet had made artificial
openings in the trees which bounded the
croft beyond the garden, through which the
best pictures of the landscape were visible.
Here were the hall and village of Great
Houghton, and the dim landscape beyond it ;
and a little to the right, far off, through
another opening of foliage, lay the manufac-
140 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
turing villages of Swinton and Wath ; * and
nearer in the valley, the beautiful church
of Darfield looked over the quiet scenery
towards the poet's house, backed by the
woods of Wentworth, through which the
monuments of Hoober Stand, Needles' Eye,
and Smoothing Iron, shot gleaming in the
sunshine, whilst a line of dark hills bounded
the horizon. " Confess now," said the poet,
"that I have not made a foolish choice, in
coming up here to live." Shortly after-
wards, at my request, he read to me some of
his unpublished poems. These were written
in a large folio book, which he kept in a
wooden box, on one side the piano. He
repeated, likewise, several melodies which he
had adapted to some of our national airs,
and I afterwards had the pleasure of joining
his daughter in singing them. In this way
we beguiled several hours, and then took a
short ramble over the moor, and through the
fields and woods, conversing by the way, of
the aspects and tendencies of the age, and of
the truly great men now living amongst us.
In the political sphere, Cobden was his idol.
He called him the Hero of the Bloodless
Revolution ; — the golden - mouthed orator,
* Earthenware is the staple manufacture of these villages.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 141
whose plainest words rang with music, and
whose eloquence, at once simple, powerful,
earnest, argumentative, and convincing, was
the most wonderful which ancient or modern
times could boast of. "I look to Cobden,"
he said, " as the leader of the Advance Body
Guard of Man ! Great as the Corn Law
Battle was, and incalculably great as it will
be in its results, Cobden will yet effect
another revolution as great as that. He will
destroy monopoly in all its forms ; and by
reducing our taxation, he will rid the country
of its titled paupers, and enable the working
man not only to eat cheap bread, but to
possess a comfortable home — to educate his
children — to live as a man ! ' He named
Bright, too, as a fiery and energetic speaker
and actor, but intellect ually considered, as
a Melancthon leaning upon the bosom of
Luther. Of Lord John Russell and the
"Whigs he had no hope, and spoke of them
in contemptuous and not very polite lan-
guage. But he respected Sir Robert Peel,
and regretted that he had " retired from
business." I have previously shown, in an
extract from one of his letters, that he had
all but prophesied, ten years before the event
took place, that Sir Robert would repeal
142 LIFE, CHAKACTEK, AND GENIUS
the Corn Laws, as soon as he understood the
true commercial position of England ; " and
now," he said, " we want Sir Robert to exe-
cute his own measures ; for we have not got
Free Trade yet, and when we do get it, we
shall have hard work to keep it." Speaking
of Colonel Thompson — the brave Reformer
and accomplished scholar — he called him the
Prince of Politicians ; and said that every
letter of the Corn Law Catechism ought to
be printed in gold, and read once a day on
Sundays from every pulpit in the land. Por
this book was Elliott's gospel ; and I am not
quite sure that he did not go to heaven with
it in his hand. He will read it there to
Bentham, as he advised Tennyson, when he
died, to read Longfellows' "Evangeline" to
I ventured to allude to the neglect with
which he had been treated by his own party,
as a sort of probe which I thought might
reach him; but he had no bitterness in his
heart against his quondam associates, and
fellow- workers. " I am no longer wanted,"
he said; "I have done my work, and can
die, when God calls me ; thankful that the
battle is over, and the ' good time coming.' "
We were now in the midst of a wood,
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 143
wandering knee-deep in blue bells, whilst
the birds were singing merrily around us.
"These," he said, pointing to the flowers,
and trees, and birds, " are my companions ;
from them I derive consolation and hope, for
Nature is all harmony and beauty, and man
will one day be like her, and the war of
castes and the war for bread will be no more."
And then he stooped down, and gathering a
flower, placed it affectionately in my hand,
and bade me keep it in remembrance of that
day's ramble. " For," he added, with the
most touching emphasis of voice, " when
these old woods are brown with their autum-
nal attire, I shall, in all probability, be at
rest in the grave."
The afternoon of that day was spent in
walking up and down the grass-plot before
the house, where we continued our morn-
ing's conversation, interrupted occasionally
by the St. Bernard's dog, who seemed to
be jealous of my monopoly of the poet,
and came to ask for his wonted caresses.
We were sometimes joined likewise by Mrs.
Elliott and her daughter, who, when they
had heard enough of our politics, retired
amongst the flowers, and left us alone in
the full glory of debate. It is well known
144 LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
that Elliott was a redoubted champion of
competition, and that he looked upon com-
munism as fatal to the best interests of man;
as a system where Do-nothing was to have
all, with George Sand for a king.* It is
related of him that walking once in company
with a leading Socialist of Sheffield, discuss-
ing this subject, they came to a sudden turn
of the road, which revealed a number of
willow trees in a meadow, all recently cut
into one uniform shape. At this strange
and unexpected sight Elliott extended his
* Elliott's Epigram, which lie called " Bully Idle's
Prayer," will convey a good idea of his hatred of com-
munism, and of his unfairness also in dealing with the
great problem which communism has opened up to
modern enquiry. Here it is : —
" Lord, send us weeks of Sundays ;
A Saint's day, every day ;
Shirts gratis, ditto breeches,
No work, and double pay ;
Tell Short and Long they're both short now ;
To Slow and East one meed allow ;
Let Louis Blanc take Ashley's cow,
And Richmond give her hay."
A letter by Isaac Ironside, of Sheffield, respecting this
epigram will be found in the Appendix, and will be
read, I think, with interest.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 145
arms, and cried aloud, " Behold a society of
ready-made Socialists ! " He was apt enough
at this work, and never let slip a good oppor-
tunity of illustrating his arguments by such
casual examples as fell in his way. His
hatred of communism, however, blinded him,
as usual, to the whole merits of the subject,
which he had never studied, and which he
said was not worth studying. George Sand
was his Mother of Harlots in the new regime;
and he called Louis Blanc the fit legislator
of an infernal Noodledom. He regarded the
communistic tendencies of the age as the
most death-like sign, which, if not arrested
would plunge the nation into anarchy,
confusion, and ruin. No argument drawn
from the anomalies of our social state, could
convince him that Capital had not a right to
rule the world, according to the law of
supply and demand ; and no horrible Irish
famine ; no criminal statistics ; no facts of
daily starvation ; no revelation of fever cel-
lars — of starving needlewomen making shirts
at 4d. a day, and that they might not die,
compelled to the most pitiable, sorrowful
degradation— (such as one cannot think of
without tears and agony) — I say none of
these things could move Elliott one inch
146 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
from his political doctrine, or make him
doubt for a moment that competition was
the great social law of God, destined to
rule the world to the end of time. Nei-
ther would he admit the validity of the
higher argument drawn from the Christian
precepts, in favour of co-operation. Eree
trade, he said, would give us all we wanted
of material wealth ; and education would
gradually introduce a better feeling, and a
kinder understanding between masters and
men. Not that Elliott was impassible to
the sufferings of the classes we have al-
luded to ; for it is notorious, that he was
keenly alive to them. It was as a poet,
however, not as a political economist. In
the former capacity he would have died to
save them ; in the latter, he could have seen
the earth filled with graves, rather than have
abandoned it to poor Dudevant, " Ashley's
Cow," and Louis Blanc.
Returning once more to the Corn Law
Agitation he said, " You spoke this morning
about the neglect which you imagined me to
have received at the hands of the old League;
and you are not perhaps aware that the
League itself originated in Sheffield ; and
that the Anti-Corn Law Association com-
OF E13ENEZER ELLIOTT. 1^7
mencecl the crusade against monopoly, and
engaged Paulton as their lecturer." He
likewise claimed for himself the honour of
having given the first decided impulse to the
movement, and by his songs, epigrams, and
satires, prepared the way for the reception
of the Anti-Corn Law doctrines. He spoke,
too, with great and pardonable pride upon
his position with respect to the Corn Law
Agitation. " I have won my name as the
1 Rhymer of the Revolution,' " he said, "and
am prouder of that distinction than I should
be if I were made Poet Laureate of England."
He did not seem to be aware that his fame
as a poet could not last upon that foundation
alone; or that there was anything in his
poetry of which he might be more justly
proud than of these political effusions. He
was delighted when his correspondents styled
him Ebenezer Elliott, C. L. R. (Corn Law
Rhymer), and he had a seal with these
initials surmounting his own name, which
he was in the habit of using upon his letters.
In conversation he was sometimes slow and
deliberate ; condensing his thoughts in as few
words as possible, and giving the net result
— as with a "whip of fire," without letting
one see the "cold process" of his thinking.
148 LIFE, CHAEACTEE, AND GENIUS
Hence he was often sudden and startling in
liis annunciations ; but he was no dogmatist
— in the rigid meaning of that word — and
if his premises were disputed, would take
infinite pains to establish them, conducting
afterwards the entire argument with logical
accuracy. But when the subject was a sacred
one to him, and he grew warm over it, there
was no bound to his rhetoric. He would
utter the finest things, one after another,
with the throat of Etna, scattering them
about in blasts of fire and thunder. He was
a sort of walking earthquake, clad in flowers
and rainbows, one of the most beautiful and
terrible of men.
I need not say that he was a thorough
democrat in principle, for all his poems bear
witness to the fact ; but he had no patience
with Mobocracy, and despised the dema-
gogues who made it their business to mislead
the people, coolly pocketing the wages of
their iniquity. At one period of his life,
when William Lovett guided the popular
movement for reform, Elliott did all in his
power to promote the enfranchisement of
the people, both by speaking and writ-
ing ; but when O'Connor and the physical
force Chartists appeared, he withdrew from
OP EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 149
the movement, and warned the working
men of the inevitable issue of that busi-
And whilst we were walking this afternoon
in the garden at Hargate, he fought his
old Reform Battles over again ; and told
me how he trembled when he had to face
a public meeting; how he prepared all his
speeches, and committed them to memory,
singing them in public, to the same tune
wherein he had learned them in private.
And when we were tired of talking, he con-
ducted me round the house and garden, and
over his little farm of corn fields, grass,
and clover. The garden, which was laid out
by the poet himself, was very tastefully
arranged, having many winding paths in it,
running between rich borders of shrubs and
flowers. A mound, artificially elevated, on
one side of the garden, commanded a beautiful
and extensive prospect of hills, woods, dales,
and streams. On the west lay a sunny dell,
and just beyond it, on the side of the hill,
stood a farm-house and buildings — whilst
several cows were grouped under the branches
of a large beech tree in the farm croft.
Lady Wood, West Wood, Spring Wood, and
Lunn Wood, stretched away at our feet,
150 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
covering many hundred acres, and forming
a fine foreground to the wide and distant
scenery, lying between them and the Hud-
dersfield Hill, which bounded the horizon.
" We can see West Nab and Home Moss
distinctly from this mound," said the poet,
" and in damp weather they look as if they
would come into my parlour windows." We
proceeded from this mound down the hill
side, which the poet had planted with trees
and shrubs, to the little dell below, where a
trout stream went babbling along over its
shallow and stony bed. When we arrived
opposite the corn-fields, just as they slope
down to the lowlands — we being still in the
dell — the poet led me to a tree, which spread
its friendly branches over the beautiful
waving grass at our feet. " Under this
tree," he said, with a plaintive and serious
voice, — " I mean to be buried. I shall sleep
well enough here, out of the consecrated
churchyard ; and who knows but I may feel
the daisies growing over my grave, and hear
the birds sing to me in my winding-sheet ! "
He once desired to be buried at Shirecliffe,
under the Gospel Tree, which he has cele-
brated in his poem of the "Ranter;" and
had even driven a large nail in it, and com-
OP EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 151
municated the fact to two beloved friends in
Sheffield, that they might know it, and see
his wishes enforced in case of his sudden
death. But his sepulture on his own estate
at Hargate was a more pleasing and touch-
ing desire, full of pastoral simplicity and
patriarchal beauty. That it was his earnest
desire to be thus buried, and that he had
long contemplated the event, there can be
no doubt. Writing to a friend, (Isaac Iron-
side, of Sheffield,) in September, 1848, he
says : "I suffer great pain, and after losing
more than twenty-eight pounds in weight, I
continue to lose at the rate of one pound
weekly. You cannot fatten calves in that
way ! If I am not removed suddenly, I
shall last till April next." He then con-
tinues, " I wish to be buried in mv skin at
the foot of Lord Galway's ash tree here.
My folks are all for holy ground and costs,
so I suppose I must submit; and Rotherhani
Church being full of corruption, and one of
our neighbouring clergymen happening to be
here, I have been trying to bargain with him
for a grave at Darfield. Could you think it !
Sinking the offal, it will cost 40s. for the use
of the ground alone." In this way he grimly
played with the subject, but it had a deep
152 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
hold of him, nevertheless, as the little poem
entitled "Let me rest: — "
" "Where the wayside daisies grow,
Where the winds a- Maying go,"
will sufficiently testify. Neither did he look
on death as trifling and unimportant, but as
a serious event, upon which were suspended
the awful reprisals of a future judgment and
an eternal doom. He confessed, however,
that he knew nothing of this great Hereafter,
whose starry curtain all mortals are forbidden
to undraw. But he clung with an infinite
faith to the idea of immortality, and knew
that he must soon unriddle the problem
which it presents to us.
As we returned to the front of the house,
he pointed to the wooded hills in the east,
where Hickleton Hall, the seat of Sir Charles
Wood (present Chancellor of the Exchequer)
was situated ; with Conisbro' Castle in the
distance, all of them visible in clear weather.
We then crossed the garden, and went to the
back of the house, where we had a fine view
of Houghton Common — with its gorse and
bracken — whilst lines of dark trees fenced it
on the right, and thick towering woods on
the left. Descending the hill side, which
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 153
was well planted with trees, we again entered
the dell ; and the poet led me to a fish pond
which he had laid down himself, and stocked
with trout from the neighbouring streams.
It was a cool and beautiful spot, like some
quiet nook in the mythic vale of Tempe.
The birds sang there all day ; and the pond
itself was supplied by water which gushed
in living streams out of the hill side. Elliott
promised himself many happy hours in fish-
ing and musing upon its banks. He had
been a fisher in early life, and the statement
of this fact, led naturally to Izaak Walton
and his beautiful book on Angling, which
contains, perhaps, the very best pastoral
description in our language. I found that
Elliott knew Walton by heart, and loved the
fine old commonswealth-man, too, notwith-
standing his loyalty to the king. All books,
indeed, which were true reflexes of nature,
were his delight. Hence the Howitts were
his especial favourites, two of Nature's most
beautiful children, whose lives were all sun-
shine and poetry. He spoke of their mutual
wanderings, and visits to remarkable places,
as a rare and pleasant feature in the married
life of literary people; and so inseparable
were they, he said, in his mind, that he
154 LIFE, CHAKACTEK, AND GENIUS
always associated with their names the old
William and Mary shillings.*
When we returned to the house, we found
Mrs. Elliott and her daughter waiting for us
at the tea table. The little yellow canary
was still singing, perched outside its cage;
and the distant lowland landscape was be-
ginning to darken in the blue twilight of
evening, as we gazed upon it through the
open casement. The room in which we were
assembled was large and convenient, having
the true household look about it, with none
of the modern finery which marks the sitting
rooms of the wealthy. There was the poet's
library against the wall opposite the window,
* It is but right to add here, that Elliott's opinion of
the Howitts underwent considerable modification, after
the unhappy dispute between "William Howitt, himself,
and John Sanders, in the matter of the " People's
Journal;" and he frequently expressed himself in no
measured terms against what he called the " unfair
statements " made by "W. H. respecting the easy manner
in which he (Elliott) had made his fortune. (See the
" Visit to Elliott " hi Howitt's " Homes and Haunts
of the British Poets.") All that I can say here, from a
personal knowledge of W. Howitt, is, that he is utterly
incapable of falsehood or wilful misrepresentation, and
must have misunderstood Elliott in the particular matter
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 155
which, with his easy chair, and the wooden
box wherein he kept his MSS., are now the
most interesting of these household relics.
The piano he did not look upon as a luxury,
but as a necessary article, which ought to
appertain to every home, even the poorest,
and a deal box, instead of a mahogany case,
to put the instrument in, would bring it, he
said, within reach of the humblest means.
Music was a great source of consolation to
him, and often charmed him into forgetful-
ness of his bodily pain. For music has a
language of her own, and speaks to us of
things which, as Jean Paul says, " in all our
endless life we have not found, and shall not
find." The best parlour was opposite to
the one we were sitting in, and contained
portraits of the poet, his wife, and children.
That of Elliott himself is the best I have yet
seen, although it is far from being a true
representation of the man. It is singular,
that all the attempts made by various art-
ists to paint him upon canvass, have been
unsuccessful. "William Howitt compliments
Margaret Gillies upon the sketch she made
of him, which appeared in the " People's
Journal" during its palmy days, but it is a
most comical failure, and reminds me of the
156 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
following criticism which the poet passed
upon four portraits of him in oil, which
appeared in the first exhibition on behalf of
the Sheffield Mechanics' Institute. "Taking
them altogether, I could imagine them to
represent four important scenes in the life of
a Tailor : first, the tailor turned . gentleman ;
second, the tailor going a picturesqueing ;
third, the tailor seeking cabbage ; fourth,
the tailor selecting his own grave." As I
said, however, the portrait possessed by his
family is the best I have seen.
After tea we fell gradually into an earnest
conversation upon the literature of the day.
I have already spoken of his admiration of
Byron, Keats, and other poets ; and in allud-
ing to the Life of Keats, by R. Monckton
Mimes* — which he thought a fine piece of
biography on the whole, although rather too
hasty in its finish — he said the death of
Keats, as described by his friend Severne,
was the most painful and deeply- affecting
scene upon record. And, indeed, the world
is deeply indebted to this true and beautiful
brother, who, with the love of St. John in
* Elliott thought very highly of E. M. Milnes, but
said he was a lazy poet, aud too rich to do justice to his
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 157
his great and devoted heart, watched the
poor dying poet — day after day — week after
week, and never left him until the stern
work of death was over. " Had Keats
lived," said Elliott, " there is nothing which
he might not have achieved in the way of
poetry." It was remarked that the poem
called " St. Agnes Eve," had no rival in our
language as a picture of media3\ r al life ; that
its feudal and religious architecture was per-
fect, and that all the characters were as truly
and faithfully drawn as those in the Romeo
and Juliet of Shakspere, of which, indeed, it
was a kind of episode. " But the Hyperion,
sir," said Elliott, " what do you think of
that ? " That it is a beautiful ruin, created
and deserted by the gods. "Aye," he an-
swered, " and what a ruin ! " He then read
the following lines upon Keats, which are
published in the first volume of his " More
Prose and Verse, etc."
" He lived, and loved ! He was a power
That left its thought more felt than spoken :
' A fading flower, a falling shower,
A breaking wave '• — which now is broken.
Can greatness die and be unborn ?
It cannot thou in scorn repliest ;
158 LIFE, CIIAEACTEK, AND GENIUS
He perished in his scorn of scorn,
And lowest deemed, of all was highest.
A vapour quenched his visions grand ;
Ah ! hope destroyed is worth's undoing !
He left the deathless deed he planned,
A deed undone ! — And what a Euin ! "
We then spoke of Scott and Tennyson, of
Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, Philip Bailey,
and Charles Reece Pemberton. Scott was his
greatest favourite, and he quoted long pas-
sages from " Marmion " and the " Lady of
the Lake." " I envy Scott his narrative
power in poetry," he said, " more than any
other faculty he possesses. Nothing is more
difficult than to tell a tale well in rhyme;
and Scott has succeeded better than any one
else. I have begun," he continued, " a nar-
rative epic in twelve books, four of which are
finished ; and each book is complete in itself.
I will read it to you before you go, and you
will then see, in my own failure, why I envy
Scott." * I afterwards heard the poem in
* Elliott was fond of depreciating his own powers, and
I believe there was a good deal of egotism in the practice.
He knew very well what he could do, and what his poetry
was worth. He was, when he chose to be so, an excellent
and judicious critic, both of his o'vn performances and
those of others.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 150
question, which is printed in his new vol-
umes ; and I cannot understand why it has
dropped silently from the press ; for it is a
poem of great power and beauty, and con-
tains passages superior to anything which
Elliott had previously written. There is a
little incongruity and indistinctness perhaps
in some of the characters, but this is amply
atoned for by the general skill of the narra-
tive, and the harmony of its plan and details.
There are one or two blots in it, however,
of which he was duly warned by friendly
critics ; and these consist in that love of the
horrible, which, he says in his autobiography,
haunted him so in his young days. I allude
more particularly to the picture of the
drowned woman who fell a victim to Lord
Konig's lust — which occurs in the sixteenth
section of the second book of this poem* — and
which, in spite of the moral and poetical
drapery thrown over it by the poet, is a
loathsome and not a " beauteous horror.'"
This was pointed out to him when he read
it, and it was endeavoured to be shown that
things horrible and repulsive in themselves
were not fit subjects for poetry, and could
* " Etheline," an epic in four books, each book complete
in itself; printed in " More Prose and Verse, etc."
160 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
not be elevated, even by tlie highest genius,
into the region of human sympathy. He
acknowledged the justice of this criticism,
and promised to alter the passage, and I
have no doubt would have done so, if death
had not summoned him away so soon after
Elliott loved Tennyson for his pathos, and
the courtly finish of his marvellous verse.
He has caught a few echoes of the Marianne
in a soliloquy which occurs in the opening
of " Etheline ;" but Tennyson was too dreamy
a poet to make much impression on the Corn
Law- Rhymer, although he spoke of him with
affection and reverence. Bailey's " Eestus ' :
had a stronger hold of him; but he knew
very well how to discriminate between a
panorama of pictures and a poetic work of
art. His admiration of " Pestus " was,
therefore, limited to its glorious passages
and wild flights of imagination, and to the
lyrics scattered through its pages. He se-
verely condemned the theological soliloquies
which darken the last edition of this poem,
and so painfully burden its action. "The
book," he said, " wanted cutting down before
in the first edition, and now it sprawls its
unwieldy length to such an appalling extent,
OF EBENEZEK ELLIOTT. 161
that its many and manifest beauties will
hardly save it from perishing."
He spoke with great enthusiasm of Carlyle,
and had a copy of "The French Revolution,
a History," in his library. He was a long
while before he knew what to make of that
book ; but when he had grown familiar with
its strange terminology, and could steer his
way amid the endless pageants that swept
in glaring colours past him upon that wild
revolutionary ocean of blood and fire, he
found it the most vivid and splendid of
histories. He called it poetry in prose, and
named Carlyle the Homer of his age. And
then as he warmed in his eulogies, he rose
from his seat, and advancing to the bookcase
took down the first volume — the Bastille — ■
and said, " Now, sir, I will give you a scene
from this book that would wring tears from
marble." He then read, with a voice full of
pathos, the following letter, signed Queret
Demery, which was found in one of the cells
of the Bastille, after its demolition by the
populace : —
" If, for my consolation, Monseigneur
would grant me, for the sake of God, and
the most Blessed Trinity, that I could have
news of my dear wife, were it only her name
162 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
on a card, to show that she is alive ! it
were the greatest consolation I could receive,
and I should for ever bless the greatness of
" There, sir," he said, wiping away the
tears which streamed down his furrowed
cheeks, " that is the most painful and
agonizing passage in the language. You see
it has made a woman of me; and I should
be a brute if I could not weep over such
great, sad sufferings, such calm resignation
in the midst of I know not how many years
of despair, which only breaks silence at last
in a touching, heart-breaking appeal to this
d d Monseigneur, that it would please
him to send the poor captive tidings of his
dear wife, were it onlv ' her name on a card.'
O God," he continued, " how dreadfully the
wail of that poor, unknown, broken heart
sounds in the ears of men for ever. Bless
the greatness of Monseigneur ! " he added,
walking fiercely up and down the room,
" yes ! and pray, too, that hell might be hot
enough for him ! God forgive these scoun-
drels, sir, it is not in me !"
Later in the evening he asked me if I had
seen Emerson during his visit to this country,
and when I replied that I had the honour to
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 1G3
entertain him during the greater part of his
stay in Huddersfield, he requested me to
describe the man, and his hearing in social
life. My great reverence for Emerson made
me draw, perhaps, too partial a picture of
him ; for the poet remarked, that such a high
and impassable nature, with such simple and
winning manners, rarely met together in so
illustrious a person, and that he approached
the ideal he had formed of the great Plato,
lie had not read Emerson, however, and was
only acquainted with him through extracts
from his printed works, which he had seen
in the periodicals of the day, and through
the public reports of his lectures. If he had
known more of him, he would have liked
him less ; for the so called Transcendental
Philosophy was to him a stumbling-block.
He was too strongly tied with his natal-cord
to the objective world to appreciate the
speculations and inner revealings of the
Massachusetts Philosopher ; although his
mind was broad enough in its aesthetic and
intellectual relations, and could grasp all the
beauty of the universe, and resolve — in some
fashion at least — not a few of the moral pro-
blems which affect the destiny of the race.
But beauty was not symbolical to him ; or at
164 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
least, not in the same sense as it was to
Shakspere, Plotinus, or Swedenborg. It
was God's silent gospel, revealing God as tlie
Beautiful ; and beauty was his divinest Idea.
He did not see that beauty was fleeting and
evanescent, the mere garment of the Invisible,
behind which HE sat enthroned, whose are
all the worlds. And because he could not
pierce through the painted robes of thePhe-
nominal, he never read the Divine Secrets,
and could form, therefore, no conception of
the " Ubi," or " Whereness," of Emerson.
Still there was enough of the practical and
homely in this author to recommend itself
to the poet; and as the newspapers, which
always cater for the mass, instinctively assi-
milated such passages, as they were thrown
off by the reviewers, Elliott's estimate of
Emerson was formed almost exclusively upon
them. He much regretted that neither
Carlyle nor Emerson had visited him, espe-
cially since they had both been in his
neighbourhood. He was informed that Car-
lyle had once set off with Monckton Milnes
to visit him, but was detained on the way
by some occurrence which had slipped the
memory of the speaker ; and moreover, that
Carlyle had asked many questions about him
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 165
upon one or two occasions which were spe-
cified ; and Elliott in his turn now asked for
particulars respecting Carlyle. The conver-
sation terminated by the poet expressing his
deep regret that the opportunity alluded to
was gone by for ever. For now, he said, we
shall never meet, unless in heaven.
I have previously given the general cha-
racteristics of Elliott's conversational speech,
but I find it impossible to do him justice in
this respect. The poor fragments which I
have rendered in these pages will give no
idea of him, except to those who knew him
personally (for they can vivify these broken
sentences, by putting the fire of the mam
into them) ; to all others they must be com-
paratively lifeless. And this seems to be the
fittest place to describe Elliott's personal
appearance, not as he was when a young
man, but at the time I am now speaking of.
Most of his readers imagine him to have
been a man of large proportions, a true son
of the forge — broad-set, strong, and muscular
as a Cyclop. But he was the reverse of all
this. In stature he was not more than five
feet six inches, of a slender make, and a
bilious-nervous temperament. His hair was
quite grey ; and his eyes, which were of
1G6 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
a greyish blue, were surmounted by thick
bushy brows, which looked like the thunder
clouds of Jove. His forehead was not broad,
but rather narrow ; and his head was small.
There was great pugnacity in the mouth,
especially when he was excited, but in repose
it seemed to smile, more in consciousness of
strength, however, than in sunny unconscious
beauty. His nostrils were full of scorn; and
his eyes — which were the true indices of his
soul — literally smote you with fire, or beamed
with kindness and affection, according to the
mood he was in. In earnest debate, his
whole face was lighted up, and became terri-
ble and tragic. At such times he paced up
and down the room with a firm foot, full of
trampling scorn, and his words were whirl-
winds. In gayer moments he would attempt
comedy, and I have heard him recite passages
from Molliere — who was a great favourite
with him — until I scarcely knew whether to
laugh or weep. For he had no comic faculty,
and all his attempts that way were mere
travestied tragedy. His voice was as musical
as a lute, and capable of the deepest pathos.
He was very fond of that fine old song by
Burns, "Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon,"
and during the evening I am now speaking
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 1G7
of, he recited and sang it with great effect,
notwithstanding his weakness. Fancy the
grey old man, standing, during this perform-
ance, behind his easy chair, dressed in a hlue
frock-coat, a blue waistcoat, which came down
to the hips, and a pair of blue trousers, for
this was his ordinary attire, and he walked
about his garden with a blue cap on. These
facts are, to me at least, very interesting;
and I think they are not without general
He had a great love for the Latin and
Greek classics, which he read through Eng-
lish translations. Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles,
and Tacitus, were his chief favourites. He
was well acquainted with " iEschylus," was
keenly alive to its beauties, and was fond of
comparing the different translations of this
tragedy ; never failing to adopt the best
renderings of particular lines. In a book
called a "Monopoly graph," by Samuel Gower,
a scholar and poet of Holmfirth, near Hud-
dersfield, he found the following beautiful
translation of one of the most difficult lines
in this tragedy, which he was never weary
of repeating. I will quote the passage ;
and it is the last line to which I now
allude : — ;
1G8 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
" Oh, thou divine and boundless atmosphere !
And you, ye swift-winged winds of heaven ; and thou
Oh countless laughter of the salt-sea waves! "
There can be no question that this is a great
improvement npon the old translations — and
that it is rendered in the true spirit of the
I said that Elliott's prejudices were very
strong, and will now relate an anecdote to
illustrate this fact, although, indeed, such
illustration is scarcely necessary. We had
been speaking about mesmerism : and Mrs.
Elliott, who had seen many experiments
performed by Dr. Holland* of Sheffield, con-
fessed her entire belief in this mysterious
and occult science. The poet, however, was
loud in his denunciations of it, and insisted
that it was mere collusion and quackery.
As this was a charge brought against many
men whom I knew to have practised mes-
merism, and whose characters were unim-
peachable, I ventured to remonstrate with
him, intimating at the same time that I had
* O. C. Holland, Esq., M.D., of Sheffield, was an old
and intimate friend of Elliott's — a poet, a scholar, and a
man of considerable eminence in his profession.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 109
proved the truth of mesmerism myself, in
various cases, and at various times. " If
that be the case," said Elliott, " you can
mesmerize me. Come, sir, try your power ;
and if you succeed I will believe in this
infernal art." I was unwilling, however,
to make the attempt, because I do not like
playing at such a serious game ; but I told
him I had no doubt I should succeed, in case
I tried. He called this a subterfuge, and
laughed at me with the merriest mockery ;
literally crowing with exultation, and repeat -
ing his challenge, as he paced up and down
the room. At the request of his daughter
and Mrs. Elliott, who were very anxious that
he should be convinced, I at last accepted the
challenge. Accordingly, the poet sat down
in his chair, and the moment my hand came
in contact with his head, he shrunk as if
struck by a Voltaic Pile, uttered a deep sigh,
fell back upon his chair, and all conscious-
ness fled from him. I shall never forget my
sensations at that moment, as I contemplated
the pale and lifeless form of the poet — thus
suddenly silenced — all the fire of his spirit
quenched, and put out as if by the hand of
Death. His daughter, however, became
alarmed, and to relieve her I began to
170 LIFE, CHABACTER, AND GENIUS
clemesmerize him. He gradually roused
himself, and when consciousness returned,
he rubbed his eyes, started from his chair,
and exclaimed, "What, have I been asleep ?"
" Yes," was the triumphant reply of his
daughter ; and Mrs. Elliott clapped her
hands in chorus. The poet, however, was
still dubious ; and would have it that he
had fallen asleep from exhaustion.
In religious matters it is difficult to say
what he believed, and what he disbelieved.
Like the great mass of literary men, he had
no creed, properly so called, and no faith in
sects or parties. Still he loved Christianity
for the human beauty which pervades it, and
the divine revelations which it unfolds to
man. In one of his letters to a friend,
already quoted, he says, " I am a Christian
from conviction, and because I cannot help
it." The same friend to whom this letter
was written confesses himself much indebted
to Elliott for removing his religious doubts,
although the method adopted by the poet
was strange, and quite alien to orthodox
teaching. " Eor instance," says the party
alluded to, " on my expressing a conjecture,
or a hope, or a belief, of which he saw the
absurdity, he would, by a single striking
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 171
sentence, send a flash of conviction to my
mind, which suddenly demolished my airy
castles. He well knew that wholesale doubt
led to enquiry, and enquiry to consistent and
lasting faith. He seldom meddled with theo-
logical views, and thought religion more a
passion than a belief. The character, real
works and doctrine of Christ, he maintained
were only to be accounted for on the grounds
of God's presence and power in Christ.
Lastly, he had a strong faith in the immor-
tality of the soul." Such is the account
furnished me by this Sheffield friend; but
it must be remembered that this is a remi-
niscence of years long since passed away;
and I have no means of knowing what were
Elliott's latest convictions on these import-
ant subjects. I will quote, however, a
passage from one of his letters to me, dated
September 11th, 1848, in which, speaking
upon the availableness of prayer, he says :
" Long, long ago, perhaps fifteen years,
when food -taxing and much - mortgaged
Chandos — who grieved to see anything eat-
able escape his maw — had been accusing his
victims of luxurious living, and want of
forethought, I prayed aloud, in the presence
of eight or ten thousand Sheffielders, in
172 LIFE, CHATCACTEE, AND GENIUS
Paradise Square assembled, ' that be might
live to know what it is to be poor.' Though
a murmured, yet sublime, 'Amen ! ' respond-
ed to me, persons present, and afterwards
persons not present, called me ' monster?
with the saving clause, ' if not madman.''
But God heard my prayer. I then ought
not to say that supplications addressed im-
mediately to Him are useless. The following*,
however, is my creed : The only true, because
the only useful prayer, is that which human
beings (after vainly doing their best for
themselves) address to their fellow-creatures
for assistance. And it justifies begging !
Unless desperate people are to be forced to
that awful and sole remaining alternative,
which they have just the same right to use
that a drowning man has to catch at a
The best summary, however, of his reli-
gious convictions is contained in the following
poem : —
" ~Wn at is religion ? speak the truth in love,
Reject no good : mend, if thou canst, tby lot.
Doubting, enquire,— nor dictate till thou prove.
Enjoy thy own — exceed not, trespass not.
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 173
Pity the scorners of life's meanest thing.
If wronged, forgive — that hate may lose his sting.
Think, speak, work, get ; bestow, or wisely keep.
So live, that thou may'st smile and no one weep.
Be blessed — like birds that sing because they love.
And bless — like rivers singing to the sun,
Giving and taking blessings, as they run ;
Or soft voiced showers, that cool the answering grove
When cloudy wings are seen in heaven displayed,
And blessings brighten o'er the freshened sod
Till earth is like the countenance of God.
This is Kelijnon ! saith the Bard of Trade."
Ill the year 1818, I proposed to deliver a
lecture upon his writings, and he furnished
me with the following particulars, which,
added to the sketch I have already drawn
of his person and manners, will complete
" You may say," he begins, " that there
is nothing remarkable in Elliott's personal
appearance, except, perhaps, his gentle man-
ners. He has neither a shoulder like a leg
of mutton, nor a hinder-end broader than a
blacksmith's bellows. He is five feet seven
inches high, and slimly rather than strongly
made. His eyes are dim and pale; mostly
kind in their expression, but sometimes wild.
His features are harsh, but expressive, and
not unpleasing. On the whole, he is just
174 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
the man who, if unknown, would pass unno-
This letter was written October 5th, 1848.
and on the 7th of the same month, I received
the following : —
" What you have to say of me will not be
complete without this addition, which you
can use, or not : He is a politician and a
poet. With his politics, you know, I have
here nothing to do. Poets, you also know,
are usually people who, having expressed in
verse, thoughts not fit or not good enough
for prose, get pensioned or die in the work-
house. It is a real distinction to the Corn
Law Rhymer, that in his grey hairs, and in
the land of palaces and workhouses, he is
not yet either a pauper or a pensioner.
Tired, and comparatively poor, but self-sus-
tained, like one who, after hard labour,
reaches his home and rests, he sits on his
own hill top."
The first notice of serious illness we find
in his letters is dated May, 1838. " I have
been lately troubled," says he, writing to
Mr. Tait, " with a disease which the doctors
tell me is not dangerous, although it may
become so, unless I remove some of the
causes of it. It is a spasmodic affection of
OF EBENEZEK ELLIOTT. 175
the nerves, caused or exasperated by over-
excitement of any kind, and particularly
public speaking. Even lecturing, I am
told, is injurious. I must, then, lecture
no more." *
" 21st December, 1839. — I am warned
that I cannot speak at public meetings
without great danger of sudden death.
You are not aware, perhaps, that I have
been for two years or more liable, after
excitement of any kind, to dreadful breath-
lcssness — a sensation of being hanged with-
out a rope — resulting, I suppose, from a
change at head-quarters. I have been
better, however, since the great Chartist
meeting here. When the hustings fell,
something gave way in my left side, or
rather towards it, as if two fingers had
been thrust down it inside."
* When Mr. Elliott became well known, lie lectured
occasionally on poetry and other subjects. The following
is his frank estimate of his own powers as a lecturer : —
" Tou ask if I am eloquent ? Yes, when I have got the
steam up. But I cannot manage details well, and
consequently am not fit to lecture on the corn laws. I
have more thoughts than words ; but I can condense
long arguments into short phrases, and give, like a blow
from a whip of fire, the result of thinking without the
170 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley. — If you
print this article, I will accept nothing for it.
It is quite unworthy of the subject, and yet
I have done my best. My mind is gone."
This continued to torment him at intervals
for six years, when a more serious complaint
took its place.
" Argilt Hill, near Barnsley, 9th May,
1849. — Four years ago I had got rid of the
breathlessness which often frightened me
at Sheffield, and I thought I never was
stronger; but I have since been two and a
half years ill of a bowel complaint, suffering
intense pain by day and night, except when
dozed with laudanum. About a month ago
the disease was discovered to be that of
which Talma died — stricture of the great
gut, threatening enclosure. For some days
I have been rather better ; and if I recover,
I shall certainly bestow my tediousness upon
you in an Highland tour."
" 19th September. — I have been for some
months very, very ill."
Here these letters stop suddenly ; and in
little more than two months — that is, on the
1st of December, 1849, the struggles of their
writer, first with ignorance, then with for-
tune, then with bread-tax, then with disease,
OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT. 177
touched and elevated throughout by gleams
of poetry, and of pure, gentle, and beautiful
feeling, terminated in death.*
In conclusion, I will quote what the poet's
son writes me respecting his father's last ill-
ness : " He was troubled with acute internal
pain of a fixed character. It was cancer of
the rectum. By means of the strongest
stimulants and opiates, his life was prolonged
until the close of 18-19. Then his sufferings
rapidly increased. The last month of his life
Avas one of great torture, and equal fortitude ;
and he died in the presence of his family
early on the morning of the first of Decem-
ber, and was buried, in great privacy, as he
wished to be, in the churchyard of the beau-
tiful little village of Darfield. The tower of
the church can be seen from the windows of
his house, and forms a distinguishing feature
in a landscape that was dear to his eyes.
" What can I say more ? Shall I tell you
how beautifully, how poetically he watched
the approach of death ? ' Francis,' he often
said to me, ' I am to die ; and if I am to live
in pain, I do not ask to live. I could have
* The above passage, including the extracts from
Elliott's letters, is quoted from a tract ou the poet,
published by the Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh.
178 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
wished to finish Eth-Kon-Tel (this was the
name he had intended to give to a narrative
poem, consisting of three narrative poems,
each a part of the same story, and yet a
complete story in itself, 'Etheline' heing the
first of them) ; I die with my work undone
— with my faculties undeveloped. I cannot
help mourning over Eth-Kon-Tel.' He
hastened the contemplated marriage of his
daughter Eanny — his beloved daughter —
whose name was her mother's, and desired
to be buried in the church where she was
married. On the wedding day he was sup-
ported from the bed to the window, to see
the return of the party from church. The
fatigue was almost more than he was capable
of bearing. ' My child,' he said to Eanny,
* I feel so weak that an infant could fell me
with a primrose.' He heard a robin singing
one morning in the garden beneath his
chamber window, and composed the lines I
send you below, dictating them to me as
lie lay upon his pillow. They are his last
notes : —
" ' Thy notes, sweet Robin, soft as dew,
Heard soon or late, are dear to me ;
To music I could bid adieu,
But not to thee.
OF EBENEZEE ELLIOTT. 179
When from my eyes this lifeful throng
Has passed away, no more to be ;
Then Autumn's primrose, Kobin's song,
Return to me.' "
And thus in strains of gentle music did
the spirit of our brave poet pass away for
ever from the earth. Those who knew him
best, loved him most ; and will feel for some
time yet to come as if, in his death, " some
great wrong " had been done to them. Time,
however, will bring with it its own wisdom,
and convert this private and apparent wrong
into universal justice, which all shall see and
acknowledge. In the meanwhile, let us be
thankful for the rich legacy which the poet
has left us in his songs, and for the example
which he has set us of a life lived for a
LIFE, CHARACTER, AND GENIUS
Mr. Thomas Lister, the Barnslcy Poet,
has sent me the letter and extracts which I
print below ; and I am glad of an opportun-
ity so favourable as the present to say a word
or two respecting this excellent man, whom
Elliott delighted to call his friend, and for
whom I also have great respect and esteem.
Mr. Lister was on terms of intimacy with
the Corn Law Rhymer for upwards of
fifteen years. During the last eight or
nine years Mr. Lister was a frequent guest
at Elliott's house ; for Barnsley and Hargate
Hill are not more than seven or eight miles
apart. It was my good fortune to visit
Elliott — when I was first introduced to
him — with Mr. Lister, and I recollect with
pleasure the beautiful drive we had through
that richly-wooded country, and the many
objects of interest which Lister pointed out
to me on the way. When we arrived at
Hargate Hill I was surprised to find Elliott
a man of short stature, instead of the bulky
Titan I had pictured him in imagination.
The sound of our gig wheels in the court-
yard brought him to the door. He was
dressed in a complete suit of blue, and wore
a blue cap, as I have described him in the
third part of this memoir. He welcomed us
with real hospitality, and as his serving-man
was away from the house, lie fell to, with
great dexterity, and began to unbuckle our
harness himself. His wife and daughter
received us in the hall, and ushered us into
the sitting-room, where we spent a happy
and memorable evening. I had been invited
to spend a few days with the poet, and after
Mr. Lister was gone, Elliott and I made a
night of it.
And now let me give a short sketch of
Lister's life, in the words of a friendlv and
competent critic : —
" Our rustic Bard was lured by the charms
of Nature, which luxuriate in his native
valley, and by the trains of contemplation
to which existing events prompted him, to
indulge in the sweet seducemcnts of Poesy,
before he had acquired almost any acquaint-
ance with the proudest and least perishable
of her songs. Possessing but a slight know-
ledge of the rules of composition, and still
less of the laws which regulate the standard
of taste — he has composed, chiefly whilst
pursuing his daily toils in the open air, many
productions which have found favour amongst
those who know him, and have excited a
warm interest throughout the country.
" Some time after his ' warblmgs wild' had
attracted the notice of his townsmen, and
particularly of James Porter, Esq., of Park
House, his warmest advocate and weightiest
supporter, a vacancy occurred in the office of
post-master, at Barnsley, his native town.
The appointment of a successor rested with
Lord Morpeth. His lordship, remembering
the Yorkshire bard who had been introduced
to him during the election for Yorkshire,
generously nominated him to the office, and
was seconded in his choice by the principal
inhabitants of the town. But an insuperable
obstacle prevented the fulfilment of his wishes
— an oath was then, by law, required, previ-
ous to an instalment in a government office.
Though the contrast between the manage-
ment of a horse and cart (which was then
Lister's occupation) and that of a profitable
situation, was greatly in favour of the latter,
yet Lister could only fill this post by sacri-
ficing his principle. He had been trained up
under the eye of honest and revered parents
in the principles of the Society of Friends,
and hence his objection to taking an oath."
I may add, that a very interesting corre-
spondence took place between the young poet
and Lord Morpeth upon this subject of the
oath, which ended in mutual regrets on the
part of the writers ; for as Lister could not
violate his conscience by taking the required
oath, neither could the noble and generous
lord suspend the existing law in the objector's
favour. Lister, therefore, lost the situation
and kept his conscience, like a brave and
A subsequent alteration in the law enabled
him, however, when the office became again
vacant, to accept the appointment, which he
still retains. The "warblings wild" alluded
to in the previous extracts, were published
in a volume called " The Puistic Wreath,"
and had a sale of upwards of 3,000 copies.
Some of the poems are beautiful; and they
are all far above mediocrity. In character
they are simple and descriptive, sometimes
pathetic and humorous. The " Yorkshire
Hirings " is full of fun, and hits off the
provincial dialect in admirable style. Since
his duties commenced as post-master, Mr. L.
has written no more poems. He has devoted
himself, however, to science and scientific
pursuits, and is a good botanist, ornithologist,
and geologist. If he would write a descrip-
tion of his own neighbourhood, after the
manner of " White's Natural History of Sel-
bourne," (for which he is well qualified,) he
would produce a book that would add consi-
derably to his reputation, and give pleasure
and instruction to all.
THOMAS LISTER TO JANUARY SEARLE.
" Post Office, Barnsley, i/h mo. 21st, 1850.
" I was at Leeds yesterday, and was
reminded (from certain matters which then transpired)
of thy request to furnish a few particulars of the literary
life of our lamented friend, Ehenczer Elliott. Although,
at the time, I had no intention of undertaking this duty,
to any extent, partly from a cause which operates in hoth
of us, though diversely — that is, a dread of taking up the
pen for lengthy communications — and partly, hecause
the experiences I had known of Elliott's literary life
were too much connected with myself to be generally
interesting, or even desuable to be made public ; yet,
notwithstanding these objections, I had previously formed
a resolve to collect, from my manifold reminiscences of
the last fifteen years, a few choice souvenirs of my wan-
derings, conversations, and correspondence with Elliott.
That task has proceeded no farther than the opening
step ; and I cannot answer for my morbid indolence —
so far as writing is concerned — when I shall be able to
bring it to a conclusion. I have seen nothing yet to
satisfy me, either in delineations of the Life and character,
or criticisms on the writings, recently ushered into the
world, of this extraordinary man ; nor is it in my power
to supply the desideratum. His 'More Prose and Verse '
was reviewed by The Examiner ; many of the poetic
excellencies contained therein were ably pointed out ;
but I differ greatly with them in their under estimate
of his capability for prose composition ; witness the
beauty and strength combined in his Lectures on the
English Poets, three of which now appear in the second
volume, just issued. This volume, The Spectator of
yesterday reviews. I think the editor's discriminating
notice of the merits and demerits of the poetry therein
is just — even the severer portions thereof, which condemn
the unreflecting manner in which everything, good, bad,
or indifferent, that has proceeded from Elliott's pen
for the last few years, — gleanings from ' Tait,' the
Sheffield Papers, and innumerable periodicals — have been
issued in these posthumous volumes. The critic supposes
the blame to rest with the over anxiety of survivors ;
it was not so. Elliott's own deliberate will lias resolved,
and his own uncontrolled act has accomplished, their
publication ; every line was sent to the publisher before
his death ; and it was only the last few proofs that his
energy — scarce vanquished by the gripe of Death — failed
to overlook. Even that coarseness, and virulence towards
the landed gentry, manifested in his style, when those
vexatious questions were touched, was adopted by him
on principle. When I have contended the point with
him, as to marring the beauty of a fine passage, or a
whole poem, by some violent or unpoetic expression, he
always had a reason to offer for such violation of the
poetic proprieties. Take the following as an example
of what I mean ; the passage occurs at the close of ' The
Splendid Village : ' —
" ' Path of the quiet fields, which oft, of yore,
Led me at morn o'er Shenstone's page to pore ;
Sweet, dewy, sunny, flowery footpath, thou
Art gone for ever like the poor man's cow.
No more the pious youth, with book in hand,
Spelling the words he fain would understand,
Shall bless thy mazes, while the evening bell
Sounds o'er the valley, softened, up the dell.
But, from the window of the loyal inn,
The great unpaid, who cannot err or sin,
Well pleased, shall see the pomp of Lawyer Eidge,
And poor Squire Grub's stctrv'd maids and dandy bridge,'
" Again, in that noble delineation of mountain grand-
eur and desolate sterilitv — the scenery of which is
embodied in that picture of liiin which hangs in the
parlour at Hargate Hill : —
" ' I thank ye, billows of a granite sea,
That the bribed plougb, defeated, halts below ;
And thanks, majestic barrenness ! to thee,
For one grim region, in a land of woe,
Wliere tax-soivn wlieat, and paupers will not grow.'
" To my objections as to having so rich a draught
of pleasure so rudely dashed from my lips, he would
reply, 'I always endeavour to use words which express
my meaning. I wish to stir up indignation against
Lawyer Eidge and Squire Grub.' Again, in the other
passage, I name the ' bribed plough,' because it is so in
effect ; and ' tax-sown wlieat ' because the land is ' sown
" To this I should acquiesce in silence ; I could not
gainsay the logic, whatever I might advance as to the
poetry. But I by no means admit the supposition of
The Spectator, that the cause of this coarse violence
has been the narrowness of his education ; not intended
by The Spectator to be considered as such, perhaps,
as to book-learning, but with respect to a certain low
provincial range of association and acquaintance, and a
desire — manifest enough, The Spectator thinks, in his
writings — to become the head of the company. To speak
from what I know, I have almost always had the pleasure
to meet him, when in company with minds of a superior
stamp to the ordinary run of society. For instance — I
met him first with Pemberton ; after one of the spirited
delineations of Shakspere, given by the latter, in a
manner that I have never seen excelled ; (and Pemberton
was able to give two hours' talk after that effort) on which
occasion Elliott as well as myself" were the interested
listeners of the company. On another occasion I have
met him, with the same party and others, at the house
of Thomas Asline Ward, Esq., of Sheffield — to whom,
as The Man of the People, one of Elliott's poems is
dedicated. I have met him also often with Mr. Stannus,
an eloquent minister of the Unitarian persuasion ; with
John Eowler, Hon. Secretary of the Sheffield Institute
and editor of the 'Remains of C. R. Pemberton;'
with Spencer T. Hall ; etc., etc.
" Then there are the interviews and communications
of our humble selves, with this inestimable bard; and,
spite of The Spectator, we will not class ourselves either
with the narrow or vulgar. In addition to all these,
there are numerous distinguished men that Elliott, al
home and abroad, has met and communicated with ;
amongst others, Southey, to whom he gives the credit
of having 'taught him the art of Poetry;' and Dr.
Bowring, both of whom had a main hand in making his
talents more widely known. Also Colonel Thompson
and O'Connell, at great meetings, both in Manchester
and London. Adams, (Junius Rendivivus,) who often
visited him at Sheffield and Hargate Hill ; Montgomery
and Gr. C. Holland, fellow-townsmen and co-labourers
in the wide, pleasant fields of poesy : enough, amply
so, to prove the superior class of his companionship.
Then as to his ' seeking to be the head of the company,' 1
the contrary was the case. Though he was civd and
amiable to all, gentle and simple, that came across him,
or with whom he came in contact, he rather shunned
than sought company or public notice. To any conver-
sation of interest he was always a willing listener, and
never assumed to be the Oracle of the circle. On Corn
Law and monied subjects we grant he was allowed to
discourse, ad libitum. In all my intercourse with him, I
never observed in him an ungenerous action, nor heard —
except of factions — an unkind word. My first interview,
detailed in an accompanying extract, was followed by
many others before he left Sheffield. I accompanied him
to one or two sites in that neighbourhood, but he did not
fix on one eligible as a residence. About ten years ago
he bought, at great advantage, a plot of ten acres at
Hargate Hill, on Houghton Common. He has since told
me that more than the purchase money was soou made of
the bark and a portion of the wood. I walked over with
him to view the spot, through the vale of the Dearne,
whose sylvan pastoral scenes delighted him greatly.
There was nothing on the estate but a small cottage,
which now forms the kitchen of the poet's house. At a
second visit with him, J. Fowler, and other Sheffield
friends, something in the way of planning the building
and grounds was accomplished. The neighbouring
farmers laughed at the idea of a comfortable spot and
productive grounds being made on a mere 'fox cover,'
and prophesied him a succession of plentiful crops of
whins and brackens. Even his Sheffield friends augured
great discomfort, almost approaching to starvation, in the
probability that he would have everything to fetch from
Barnsley ; and Fowler humorously remarked that he had
better affix a board at the end of his house, inscribed,
1 Ebenezer Elliott, Poet and Common Carrier.' What the
result of his patient toils and well-executed plans prove,
I need not say — it is a most delightful home for a retired
poet,* and up to the last few weeks before his death, he
* Siuee Elliott's death the estate lias been sold, and I am glad
to say re-purchased, though at some disadvantage. I hope it will
never go again out of the family. J. S-
busied himself with projects to make the grounds still
more pleasant and picturesque.
" I have made it a point to visit him at least once every
season ; and many and delightful are the rambles we have
taken in that richly-diversified locality, to which Ilowitt,
with all his descriptive powers, has done nothing like
justice in his unsatisfactory account of a visit to Elliott's
" New Park Spring conjoined to Lady Cross Wood ;
the bold stretch of billowy woodland which his residence!
commands ; with the Dearne Valley and wooded slopes
beyond, on the Barnsley side, were frequently explored
by us. The Lady Cross was pointed out by him amid
these woods separating two domains. Then, in the
opposite direction, was the delightful walk over the
common, blossoming with gorse and broom, to Howell
"Wood- — a walk thou wilt remember well, being taken on
our memorable first visit.
" At another time we should diverge by Howell Spring,
a small fountained glen, abounding with the freshest and
purest water, by Clayton-in-the-Clay — through Hooton
Pagnell Park to AVatchley Crags, returning by Frickley
Hall. Another rich and commanding scene was found
in prolonging the route, over Houghton Common to
Kirby Common, examining the sole remaining oak of the
colossal couple, ' Adam and Eve,' one of which sheltered
Nevison during his sojourn at Eingstone Hill. Then
descending the elevated slopes, by Brierley Manor, we
took the field path to Grimethorpe, and returned through
Lady Cross Wood. In these rambles, Elliott's intense
love for all natural objects was continually manifested,
and his marvellous power of depicting them vividly.
Though presuming on no scientific skill, he had consider-
able knowledge of trees, flowers, and birds, by their
common names, and was always glad to increase liis stock
of information from those who had gone more minutely
into the various walks of natural history and science.
To me the most interesting journey we took was in his
small pony-gig through Thurnscoe, Bolton-on-Dearne, to
Conishorough Castle. The spacious valley of the Don,
(a rich alluvial bed lying between the magnesian lime-
stone beds on the one hand, stretching in a bold
continuous ridge from Hickleton Park to Sprot borough,
and the first swell of the coal measures on the side of
Conisborough and Dennaby) — the neat village of Conis-
borough, where we dined, the frowning keep of the old
Saxon Castle towering above town and river — and above
all, the locality itself, stamped with the ineffaceable
triumphs of Scott's genius, in his incomparable ' Ivanhoe,'
made a permanent impression on Elliott's mind, though
his years did not permit him to mount the keep with me,
and enjoy the commanding scene from that elevation.
Our return by the flourishing village of Wath-upon-
Dearne, and Darfielcl, was an agreeable variation of our
route. In one of the treasured scraps received from
him, he says : — ' If I live till summer, I could like to
revisit Conisborough with you. A result of our visit is
a long poem, which I think my best. Edliugton Wood,
I am told, is worth a visit.' The poem alluded to is
' Etheline.' A loose remark of mine about the Don
Valley appearing like the bed of an ancient lake, he told
me, originated the conception of the poem. None of the
newspaper critics, not even the local ones, admit any
merit in this poem. I know none, with the fatal facility
of the octosyllabic measux*e, of more sustained strength
and beauty. On my last visit he spoke of his probable
Biography, for which he has collected much matter. He
had heard of the life of poor Keats, by E. M. Milnes —
fortunately, I had secured the work, and sent it — and the
mode of allowing Keats's correspondence and writings to
tell the tale of his life, met his approbation.
" T. Lister."
I subjoin the following extract froni Mr.
Lister's note-book, for the year 1836 : —
" I was first introduced to Elliott by Charles Pemberton,
the graceful elocutionist, the fiery-souled patriot. Since
that time, months elapsed without my seeing Elliott
again. However, I took the privilege of kindred feeling,
though low in its stamp, and made bold to visit him in
his own abode. Our presuppositions of a person's cha-
racter, from his works, are often fallacious ; one would
hardly expect, from the bold and fiery spirit stamped on
his writings, to meet a man of mild speech and urbane
manners. But when his heart glows with his subject,
especially in recitation, whether of his own impassioned
lines, or the strains of some of those worthies whom he
worships as stars of song, his features kindle into energy,
his eyes, otherwise somewhat sunken and grey, glisten
with rapture, and his voice assumes a rich and tuneful
accent, characterizing expressly the subject on which his
powers are awakened. One of his themes was ' Kibble-
den,' or 'The Christening;' — Ribbleden being a small
mountain stream, near Sheffield, tumbling down a darkly-
shaded ravine, and falling into the Bivilin, after a short
but beautiful and romantic course ; and he read the poem
with great effect. I have seen Ribbleden, and other
scenes celebrated in his poems, with the poet himself, and
shall never forget it. His conversation on these occasions
was fully equal to his best compositions. It was, in fact,
a second edition of his poetry. His language does not
flow either in swift or copious streams, but always with
precision and force, conveying solid enlightened senti-
ments, strongly condensed, yet full and well defined, so
that at this distance of time I can give a slight delineation
" Walking up Shirecliffe "Wood, where in a few
moments, from the full glare of the town, we found
ourselves as much shut out from the world as in the
heart of the New Forest, these remarks fell from him ■ —
' No one could have dreamed of a seclusion like this
within bow-shot of the town. What a treat to the inha-
bitants, did they but know it ! This scene is worth
thousands of pounds to Sheffield. Money can be no
equivalent for pure pleasures like these. Tou surely
would not part with your present tastes and feelings foF
a mine of wealth. I shall never forget the last time I
came here with Charles R. Pemberton — that tree which
overlooks the summit he climbed with as much agility as
if the act were as familiar to him as walking is to us.
He clasped the stem with his sinewy limbs, set his toil-
strung muscles in motion, and went up like a man of
wire. How the view delighted him ! I, too, have my
predilections for the spot. It is the scene of my
" Ranter." From that tree I made my observations of
the bold striking scene around. I am attached to the
place from the associated idea. I know not that the
"Ranter" is my best poem, but it is the first that
brought me into notice, and I am grateful to it on that
account.' At another time the conversation turned on
books most worthy to be read. ' Have you seen aught
of Joanna Baillie's?' (No! I had no notion of her
merits as a writer.) ' Oh ! sir, you should read " De
Montford ; " it only wants a little to equal Shakspere,
and that is almost as much as to say we have seen
another god. It wants originality though ; the leading
idea, the plot of the story, is Southey's. Have you read
any German work ? ' (No.) ' Well, you have a new
country to open upon you. Read Schiller's " Wallen-
stein," translated by Coleridge. Such an original, and
such a translation ! Have you read any of Hazlitt ? '
(Only the choice specimens of him in 'Tait.') 'Not
read Hazlitt, nor De Stiiel, nor Godwin, nor Schiller !
I wonder how you got your taste to the standard it now
reaches, and that it is not narrow and grovelling. The
reading of Hazlitt was an epoch to me.'
The " Giaour" and " Scotch Nationality"
I have not been able to procure a sight of,
and am indebted to my friend Mr. John
Fowler, of Sheffield, for the following ex-
tract from the "Scotch Nationality," — a
poem, I am told, which virulently attacked
the Scotch character, and of which Mr.
Elliott was so heartily ashamed in later times,
that he bought up and destroyed all the copies
that fell in his way.
A DAT DREAM.
" While keenly blew the biting North,
He dream'd his spirit wander'd forth.
# *- # #
He seem'd to trudge beneath the pall
Of darkness supernatural.
The wind, that hurried sullenly,
Not o'er, but through a starless ocean,
(Like swift Time in Eternity,)
Whisper' d aloue of life or motion ;
And soon that wind, like one grown old,
Expired — and all was gloom and cold.
Long then he roam'd the realms of night,
his only light,
Which, glimmering pale on shadows, show'd
That death had paved with ice the road ;
And o'er a gulph of darkness lay-
That narrow, strange, and dismal way.
He seem'd to move, with hollow tread,
O'er countless fragments of the dead,
Tet could not trace
Of limb or face ;
No hone, no frozen winding-sheet,
Crackled beneath his feet ;
No sound was there, no flutter' d wing,
No leaf, no form, no living thing, —
No beating heart but his, — no air ;
But cold that pierced the soul was there ;
And horror which no tongue can tell,
And silence insupportable.
'Twas depth unplumed, 'twas gloom untrod,
'Twas shuddering thought alone with God !
And on he went alone, — alone —
And felt like life frozen into stone ;
Or life, in earth and gloom laid low,
With pangs untold, with speechless woe,
With buried soul ; that living death,
That direst life, which heaves no breath,
Which would, but cannot, move or moan,
Tet feels and bears, too weak to groan,
(While the worm pauses, as in awe,)
What life, unburied, hath not known,
And e'en abhors, in thought, to bear.
His tears were frozen in his heart :
He knew he was, but knew not where ;
He felt he was a thing apart
From all companionship, — a bird
That wings th' eternal calm unheard ;
On death's wide waste the conscious one ;
A flag above the waves, with none
To tell that ship and crew are gone ;
A sad memorial, never read ;
A meteor in the eyeless gloom ;
A blind, endanger' d wretch, unled,
Who would bave flown on the lightning's wing
To clasp earth's foulest living thing.
He fear'd no worse, but cursed his doom,
And mutter'd, in his dreary mood,
' There is no hell but solitude ! * ' "
As a specimen of Elliott's prose composi-
tion I subjoin the following passage from his
printed lectures, upon —
COWPER AND BURNS.
" I must now conclude, with a few observations on the
lives and characters of the two great founders of the
Modern School of Poetry. Perhaps no falsehood has
been more frequently repeated than that men of genius
are less fortunate and less virtuous than other men ; but
the obvious truth that they who attempt little are less
liable to failure than they who attempt much, will account
for the proverbial good luck of fools. In our estimate of
the sorrows and failings of literary men, we forget that
sorrow is the common lot ; we forget, too, that the mis-
* Several of the ideas, and some of the couplets of this fragment
are woven into his last poem, " Etheline."
fortunes and the errors of men of genius are recorded ;
and that, although their virtues may be utterly forgotten,
their minutest faults will be sure to find zealous histo-
rians. And this is as it should be. Let the dead instruct
us. But slanderers blame, in individuals, what belongs
to the species. ' We women,' says Clytemnestra, iu
'JEschylus,' when meditating the murder of her hus-
band, and in reply to an attendant who was praising the
gentleness of the sex, ' We women are — what we are.'
So is it with us all. Then, let every fault of men of
genius be known ; but let not hypocrisy come with a
sponge, and wipe away their virtues.
" Of the misfortunes of Cowper we have all heard, and
certainly he was unfortunate, for he was liable to fits of
insanity. But it might be said of him that he was tended
through life by weeping angels. Warm-hearted friends
watched and guarded him with intense and unwearied
solicitude ; the kindest-hearted of the softer sex, the best
of the best, seem to have been born only to anticipate
his wants. A glance at the world will show us that his
fate, though sad, was not saddest ; for how many madmen
are there, and how many men still more unfortunate than
madmen, who have no living creature to aid, or soothe, or
pity them ! Think of Mdton — ' blind among enemies ! '
" But the saddest incident in the life of Cowper
remains to be told. In his latter days he was pensioned
by the crown — a misfortune which I can forgive to him,
but not to destiny. It is consoling to think that he was
not long conscious of his degradation after the cruel
kindness was inflicted on him. But why did not his
friends — if weary of sustaining their kinsman stricken
by the arrows of the Almighty, suffer him to perish in a
beggar 's madhouse ? Would he had died in a ditch rather
than this shadow had darkened over his grave ! Burns
was more fortunate in his death than Cowper ; he lived
self-supported to the end. Glorious -hearted Burns!
Noble but unfortunate Cowper !
" Burns was one of the few poets fit to he seen. It
has been asserted that genius is a disease — the malady of
physical inferiority. It is certain that we have heard of
Pope, the hunchback ; of Scott and Byron, the cripples ;
of the epileptic Julius Ca?sar, who, it is said, never
planned a great battle without going into fits ; and of
Napoleon, whom a few years of trouble killed : whilst
Cobbett (a man of talent, not of genius) would have
melted St. Helena, rather than have given up the ghost
with a full belly. If Pope could have leaped over five-
barred gates, he probably would not have written his
inimitable sofa-and-lap-dog poetry ; but it does not follow
that he would not have written the ' Essay on Man:' and
they who assert that genius is a physical disease, should
remember, that as true critics are more rare than true
poets (we have only one in our language, "William Hazlitt,)
so very tall and complete men are as rare as genius itself,
a fact well known to persons who have the appointment
of constables. And if it be undeniable that God wastes
nothing, and that we, therefore, perhaps seldom find a
gigantic body combined with a soul of iEolian tones ; it
is equally undeniable that Burns was an exception to the
rule — a man of genius, tall, strong, and handsome, as
any man that could be picked out of a thousand at a
" But he was unfortunate we are told. Unfortunate !
He was a tow-hackler who cleared six hundred pounds by
the sale of his poems, of which sum he left two hundred
pounds behind him, in the hands of his brother Gilbert ;
two facts which prove that he could neither be so unfor-
tunate, nor so imprudent, as we are told he was."
The following is a fair specimen of Elliott's
power and style as a speaker, and shows how
thoroughly practical he was, and what a keen
eye he had in business transactions : —
" Mb. Chairman and Gentlemen. — Here is another
Dead Stock to sell, for the benefit of the vendors ! But
if a majority of you are not canal proprietors, in the
name of all creeping things, why are we to buy these
dead ditches ? And if we are to deal in dead things,
why are we to deal in dead canals only ? Why not buy
dead road-coach-and-cart interests ? Plenty of them can
be had dog cheap, and worth nothing ; capital bargains,
as railway bargains go. I know a carrier whose interest
might be bought for ten pounds, and he has a better
claim on our charity than these canal gentlemen. If you
commit one great stock error, you will never divide a
shilling out of profits. Be cautious, then, for this motion
is a trap — not, I hope, set by your directors, but for
them ; it is a trap, laid by a broken-down whale to catch
railway gudgeons. It is founded on the assumption, that
River Dun shares, which cost originally one hundred
pounds per share, are worth one hundred and twenty
pounds per annum per share for ever. For ever, mind !
Now £120 is the interest of £3000 at 4 per cent. Then
it is clear as figures can show it, that we are to give
£3000 per share for Eiver Dun shares, which is £500
per share more than they were ever worth, and I believe
thirty times as much as they would sell for if offered to
the market in mass, as they are offered to you — supposing
that they would sell at all in that way, which I don't •
believe. Well, out of what are you to pay this £120
per share per annum ? Not out of one penny per ton
per mile, freight and dues, for that will barely pay canal
expenses, and railways can carry profitably at a halfpenny.
Then you are to pay it out of the profits of your main
line, and literally throw £100,000 away. But how do
you know that you will have any profits ? Your direc-
tors cannot be very sanguine on that point, if they are
putting off the evil day, by paying dividends out of
capital. But even if we were idiotic enough to enter
into this partnership with the dead-alive on any terms,
why are we to run all risks, and they none ? Beware
how jou place yourselves in the position of parties, who
out of their ultimate 3 or 4 per cent, will have to pay
the deficits of their amalgamations, guaranteed at 6, 8,
10, and 12| per cent., and yet by no means so prepos-
terously guaranteed as your directors now propose that
you shall guarantee the Biver Dun Co. If the Railway
King himself, who will bite anything like bait, will take
this bare hook, he ought to be called Gudgeon the Great.
Don't buy a horse-laugh too dear. We are laughed at
in all directions ; in every train persons are shaking their
sides at this expected hooking of railway gudgeons. A
great fat fellow from near Bolton was laughing at us
through his very guts this morning — and he shook mine !
for mine are not so well lined as he intends his to be, if
you pass this motion : he is a Biver Dun shareholder.
You may laugh ; some people laugh at funerals — the
winners, I mean ; but don't you give a splendid funeral
to a dead interest, if the residt is to be beggary and a
parish coffin for your own. The proposal is monstrous ;
monstrously characteristic of the brazen modesty of the
parties making it ; and until it was made, I did not know
that even their brass could bear so black a polish. Whom
are we to enrich with our hard-earned savings ? Men
who are supporting the cause of the destruction of their
own property — and thus rush into railway speculation a
hundred years before the time, by leaving nothing else to
rush into ? Look at their prospectus. Why, with one
noble exception, there is hardly a man on the list who is
not either a landowner and monopolist through bone and
marrow, or a River Dun shareholder. Is it for such
people that we have been toiling all our lives ? I thought
I had been toiling to keep the oppressor's foot from my
neck, his greedy mouth from my children's trenchers.
And what is this Dun and Coal Railway to pay, if made ?
Nothing to the good faith of shareholders ; three thousand
per cent, to the setters of the trap ! Why, they are
getting out, as shareholders, though they believe you to
be stark mad. To be sure, the guarantee of madmen
cannot be worth much. And mad indeed you are, if you
are prepared to pass this motion. If it pass, you wdl
see your shares at £50.* If it pass, I can have no faith
in public bodies; for I must conclude that they can be
led wrong at any time, by any party who will take the
Allusion is made more than once in these
memoirs to the ballad called " Devil Byron,"
and to the tradition upon which it is
founded. I transcribe it here, therefore, for
the benefit of the reader, who, if I mistake
not, will agree with me in thinking it one
of the most extraordinary poems in our
* They were then at £117. They are now (September, 1819,)
f He got seven votes, out of about three hundred.
* " A strange man own'd } r on Abbey once,
Men call'd him Devil Byron ;
Yet he a sister had who loved
Well that man of iron.
And well he loved that sister — Love
Is strong in rugged bosoms ;
* " I had the facts on which this ballad is founded from
Luke Adams, an old forgeman, who had worked many years, when
young, in a small Charcoal Bloomery near Newstead Abbey ; but I
have not adhered strictly to his narrative. The words uttered by
the lady were ' Speak to me, my lord ! ' uttering which words, she
was often seen on horseback, accompanying her brother in his
drives. The character which Luke Adams gave me of the old lord
of Newstead differs from the received and accredited one. Ho
seems to have been rather a kind man. His rich neighbours
sneered at him because he was poor, and hated him because the
poor loved him. Never was it said of Devil Byron that he prose-
cuted any one for killing God's hares ; but Chaworth was a strict
game-preserver. The duel, however, was not caused by disputes
about game alone. Chaworth was in the habit of calling Byron
'A poor little lord! ' his lordship being not only poor, but of low
stature. My informant was himself a character. It is still told of
him, that when he became too old to work, and retired to a quiet
place, there to live on his club-money, (which he received from two
or three clubs,) he could not sleep out of the sound of the Hasbro'
forge-hammer ! He lost his sight, at last, but still found his way
to my house on the Saturdays, when he knew my boys were not at
school, bringing gingerbread for them ; and was never satisfied till
they took it out of his pocket — a smile passing over his rough face,
as he felt the touch of their hands."
E'en as the barren-seeming bough
Off hoards richest blossoms.
Yet from his heart, when she espoused
A peasant, he dismiss'd her ;
And thenceforth Devil Byron spoke
Never, to his sister.
Therefore, whene'er he drove abroad,
She chased the Man of iron,
Rode by his wheels, and riding cried,
' Speak to me, Lord Byron ! '
Thus, at his chariot's side, she pray'd;
For was he not her brother ?
' Do speak to me, my lord ! ' she said ;
"Was he not her brother ?
Her quiv'ring hand, her voice, her looks,
Might wring soft speech from iron ;
But he speaks not ! — her heart will break :
He is Devil Byron.
Yet down his cheeks tears shoot, like had ;
Then, speak, thou Angel's brother!
"Why struggle, in thy burning soul
"Wordless fire to smother ?
Oh, Power is cruel ! — "Wilful Man !
Why kill thy helpless sister ?
Belent ! repent ! already, lo,
Beauteous blight hath kiss'd her!
Men say, a spectre with thee walks,
And will not from thee sever ;
A shadow — not, alas ! thy own !
Pointing at thee ever.
Oh think of Chaworth rashly slain,
And wrath, too late repenting !
Think of the kiss men give the dead !
Vainly, then, relenting.
Think of thy sister's mother's grave;
Think of your days of childhood —
The little hands in fondness join'd,
Wandering through the wild-wood.
The hedgerose, then, was not so fair
As she, in gladness ranging ;
Now, sorrowful as beautiful ;
Changed, and sadly changing!
The wither' d hand, the failing voice,
Moved they the Man of iron ?
The live rose took the dead one's hue :
God, forgive thee, Byron !
As rainbow fades, she perish'd. Then,
How fared the stubborn-hearted ?
With her, the wrong'd and lost, he lived —
Never to be parted.
The Abbot's garden well he liked,
But there a shape was sighing ;
There in each pale, reproaehful flower,
Sinless love seem'd dying.
The bird that on the belfry wail'd,
It all her tones did borrow ;
The shadows in his banquet-hall
"Wore her brow of sorrow.
Where'er he went, she with him went —
Alas, thou stubborn-hearted !
The grey old Abbey's gloom did groan,
' Life and Death be parted ! '
He wish'd, but did not pray, for death —
Pray, pray, thou Heart of iron !
Dying he heard her heart's last pray'r,
' Speak to me, Lord Byron.'
Dying, he saw her dying face ;
And as with poison' d lashes,
Its look'd forgiveness, its slow smile,
Smote him — He is ashes.
Well sleep the dead ; in holy ground
Well sleeps the Heart of irou ;
The worm that pares his sister's cheek,
What cares it for Byron ?
Yet when her night of death comes round,
They ride and drive together,
And ever when they drive and ride,
Wilful is the weather.
On mighty winds, in spectre-coach,
Fast speeds the Heart of iron ;
On spectre-steed, the spectre-dame —
Side by side with Byron.
Tlie winds they blow rain, sleet, and snow,
To welcome Devil Byron ;
Through sleet and snow the hail doth go,
Ripped — like shot of iron.
A star ? Tis gone. The moon ? How fast
She hurries through wild weather!
The coach and steed chase moon and star,
Lost and seen together.
* Halloo !' — The slain hath left his grave !
He knows thee, Heart of iron !
And with a laugh that dafts hellfire,
Hails thy sister, Byron i
"Which is most sad of saddest things ?
The laughter ? or the weeping ?
Laughs Chaworth, while her Feast of Sighs
Love-in-Death is keeping ?
Thou ghastly thing ! thou mockery
Of life, and human doings !
"With flame-like eyes, on shadows fix'd!
Shadows which are ruins !
Thou see'st but sadness in her smile,
And pity in her sadness,
And in her slander' d innocence
Pain, that once was gladness.
And canst thou — while Night groans — do less
Than weep for injured woman ?
Man ! is thy manhood manliness ?
Is she not a woman ?
Oh, Night doth love her ! oh, the clouds
They do her form environ !
The lightning weeps — it hears her sob,
' Speak to me, Lord Byron ! '
On winds, on clouds, they ride, they drive-
Oh, hark, thou Heart of iron !
The thunder whispers moiirnfully,
' Speak to her, Lord Byron ! '
My God ! thy judgments dreadful are
When thought its vengeance wreaketh,
And mute reproach is agony :
Now, thy thunder speaketh !
He doth not speak ! he cannot speak ;
Then, break, thou Heart of iron !
It cannot break ! it cannot break !
I can weep for Byron.
The uttered word is oft a sin,
Its stain oft' everlasting ;
But, oh, that saddest unsaid word ;
Its dumb guilt is blasting !
Eternity, the ever young
Hath, with fixed hand, recorded
The speechless deed unspeakable ;
Ne'er to be unworded !
Oh, write it, then, ' in weeping blood,'
Te purified and thwarted !
Oh, House of Brokenheartedness !
Spare the broken-hearted.
TeJl not the fallen that he fell,
The foil'cl that there are winners,
If He, whose name is Purity,
Died, to ransom sinners.
No, spare the wronger and the wrong' d,
Oh, ye, who wrongs inherit !
' A wounded spirit who can bear ? '
Soothe the erring spirit !
He, earning least, and taking most,
May love the wrong in blindness,
Not needing less, but all the more,
Pity, help, and kindness."
REMARKS UPON ELLIOTTS POETRY,
Jlemorantm of t\)t $oet*
EEMAEKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETEY,
MEMORANDA OE THE POET
BY THOMAS LISTER.
The heads of this discourse may be thus
stated: The descriptive beauty and earnest-
ness of Elliott's poetic genius, combining
poetry with painting — with music — descrip-
tion with sentiment : The poet and philan-
thropist — the poet and seer.
" By the term ' poetry with painting ' we do not
necessarily understand that Elliott was a man who drew
pictures by the aid of pencils and colours, but that the
arts of design, the grouping and colouring of objects,
were matters of earnest study to him ; and that clear
and vivid representation of all objects in nature coming
within the reach of his vision, in a series of word paint-
ings, were the residt. My first walk with him on the
banks of the Don, under Shirecliffe Wood, illustrated
216 REMAKES UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
the close attention he paid to such matters : ' Observe,'
said he, ' the effect of the light on the water, as we stand
on a level with it — it is like the gleaming of heated steel ;
I have not seen that effect in any painting.' Having
crossed the river, and ascended the opposite hill, he said,
' Now look at the water.' I observed it was a beautiful
blue. 'Do you perceive the cause of the change?' I
not answering, he pointed upwards: 'It is the blue of
the sky imaged down on the water — that is reflection;
you have the light from above. Before, when on the
same level, it was refraction.'
" "When I accompanied him the first time to view the
plot of ground on which he fixed his residence, we walked
down the Yale of Dearne, by Storr Mill to Houghton
Common, and he enlivened the way by producing a series
of mental pictures. The substance of his conversation is
permanently impressed on my mind, so that in default of
any written memoranda I may hope faintly to recal it,
though I cannot give the rich and varied tones of the
voice, nor the soul that animated it. In the meadow
path over Grange Bridge, looking at the ruins of Monk
Bretton Priory and Lunn Wood beyond, he remarked,
• What a lovely subject for a sketch. Let us make our
own landscape, and be our own artists. Lf you want to
make a picture, place your arms thus ; ' extending his
arms, and bringing the hands in contact before his head,
' here is my picture-frame and the picture in it. That
further bank of the stream, with its shady trees, its
variously coloured herbs and flowers, with the group of
cattle in the meadow above it, shall be my foreground-
that venerable ivy-clad ruin, and the old farm buildings,
form the middle ground — and yon bold leafy wood, with
those rich pastoral eminences, make as fine a background
as could be wished.' Nor was he less happy in designing
AND MEMORANDA OF TIIE POET. 217
pictures on a smaller scale. A little further, in one of
those beautiful windings of the stream, he thus attracted
my attention : — ' Observe that group of calves and young
heifers, with their heads over a rail stretching across the
bed of the stream, how picturesque they look, and how
tranquilly they enjoy their retreat under the shade of
those old trees. Many a painter would give his ears for
such a subject.' The trunk of an old tree, mottled finely
with lichens and mosses, having a wreck of shattered
boughs above adorned with ivy, was pointed out as another
delightful subject. This trunk, which was in the bed of
the stream at the lower end of Sunny Bank Wood, has
since been swept away by some of the floods frequently
occurring in the Dearne. ' Here is a striking illustration
of the laws of light and shade,' said he, directing my atten-
tion to a bank by Oscar Wood, which was principally in
the shade ; ' observe that thistle, with a bee feeding on the
topmost flower, how richly they stand out in the light,
every object around them in the shade. How the minute
and the vast, the near and the remote, are here blended ;
and what is the connecting link ? that straggling sunbeam
escaping from the interstices of those cloud masses brings
light from yon glorious orb millions of miles, to gild the
humble flower and the feeding bee. That illustrates
what I have sometimes told you of the faculty of ima-
gination as distinct from fancy — its uniting, expanding
power, and its tendency to the infinite. I like this valley
of yours ; it is a perfect sylvan retirement ; it has not
the grand features of our Don Valley under the Old Park
Wood, but it has a sweeter character of its own — of
beauty in repose.'
" There is ground for the application of the term
' painter,' in its literal sense, to Elliott. After his mind
had been awakened to the study of flowers— a taste by
218 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY :
which lie said he was lifted above the inmates of the
alehouse a foot in mental stature, — he practised a little
the art of painting landscapes in oil. One of the greatest
treasures to me, in his library, was the noble work of
Sowerby, giving, to the very life, coloured representations
of all our British plants. c I am proud of that work,' he
said, ' it made a poet of me — my aunt showed me how to
draw the figures exactly by holding the plates, with a
piece of thin paper before them, to the pane — it acted
like a charm, and lead me to the fields and woods to
search out these floral treasures. It was the turning
point of my life, which decided whether I was to be a
man or a malt swill ! ' It is abundantly manifest that
he not only possessed the faculty, but that he frequently
introduced the very terms of the painter. The first
example I give, to exemplify this, is extracted from a
poem called ' The Tear of Seeds,' which appeared in his
last publication : * —
" ' Art thou a colourist ? Mark how yon reel
Poppy, and that bright patch of yellow bloom,
Cliff-borne above green depths and purply gloom,
Like spark and blaze on smiling darkness shed,
Give and take beauty ! Mark, too, over head,
How the rich verdure of this ancient tree,
And the deep purple of the bank agree
To thrive in partnership ! And while the bed
Of the clear stream, through tints of every hue,
Lifts its bathed pebbles, lo ! to brighten all,
The little harebell brings its bit of blue,
And is a gainer ; happy to behold
Red blessing green, and purple gilding gold, —
Of light and shade a marriage festival ! '
" Again, what exquisite colouring, what knowledge of
* " More Prose and Verse," by the Corn Law Rhymer.
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 210
light and shade, of the effect of trees and flowers growing
over a stream, viewed in their natural position, and in
their reflected aspect in the water, are manifest in these
portions of his tribute to Burns : —
" ' Be proud man-childed Scotland !
Of earth's unpolish'd gem,
And bonny Doon, and Heaven aboon,
For Burns has hallow' d them.
Be proud, though sin dishonour'd
And grief baptized thy child,
As rivers run, in shade and sun,
He ran his courses wild.
Grieve not though savage forests
Look'd grimly on the wave,
Where dim-eyed flowers, and shaded bowers,
Seemed living in the grave,' etc.
" The principles of the art of painting are not only
developed in those parts of his writings which a fanciful
judgment might arrange under this head — they pervade
his whole poetry, in a greater degree in some poems than
in others ; and here I will endeavour, by an easy transi-
tion, to pass to my next division, and to connect paint-
ing by ' links of sweetness ' with the sister art of
music. With this view I will quote ' Lines written after
seeing at Mr. J. Heppenstall's, of Upperthorpe, near
Sheffield, the plates of Audubon's birds of America.'
" c Painting is sdent music, so said one
Whose prose was sweetest painting,' etc.
" Poetry with Music. The expression may seem unne-
cessary because obvious, as all true poetry should have
music as one of its constituents ; but how different in the
notes themselves and their variations ! I do not apply
this phrase to Elliott solely on account of the melody or
rhythm of his verses, for in this, as in the admirable
220 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETKY,
adaptation of the words to the thoughts, Coleridge,
Tennyson, and many others in then lyrical writings,
might well vie with him. But with Coleridge and
Tennyson there is more of the melody of the inner soul,
than that conquest of the elements of harmonious ex-
pression in external nature which Elliott has effected.
From the gentle to the terrible all sounds in nature
are made in unison with his spirit — from the gushing
spring to the bursting torrent ; from the whispering of
the summer woods and the carols of their feathered
inmates, to the struggle of the elements in their wrath;
amid the groaning forest or lightning-shattered peak, he
feels ever at home. I need but evidence one instance of
the gentle and one of the stormy character, calling to
your attention, as in the case of painting, how the very
language of the art, as well as the spirit of music, mingle
in his vivid descriptions : —
RIBBLEDIN; OR, THE CHRISTENING*
" ' No name hast thou, lone streamlet,
That marriest Rivelin ;
Here, if a bard may christen thee,
I call thee Ribbledin.
Here, where first murmuring from thine urn,
Thy voice deep joy expresses,
And down the rocks like music flows
The wildness of thy tresses.
* Mr. Wm. Howitt, in his beautiful book upon the "Homes
and Haunts of the British Poets," bas the following passage upon
the valley of the Rivelin : — " Our next visit was to the valley of
the Rivelin, so often named in Elliott's poetry. The Rivelin is one
of the five rivers that run from tbe moorland hills and join near
Sheffield ; and the scenery is very peculiar, from the singular fea-
tures which art and trade have added to those of nature. The
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 221
Dim world of weeping mosses !
A hundred years ago,
Yon hoary-headed holly tree
Beheld thy streamlet flow ;
See how he bends him down to hear
The tune that ceases never !
Old as the rocks, wild stream, he seems,
While thou art young for ever.
river is one of those streams which show their mountain origin by
their rapid flow over their rugged beds, scattered with masses of
stone. It has a tinge of the peat moss, and is overhung by woods
and alternate steep banks of saudstone rock, clothed with the
bilberry plant. But what gives it, to a stranger, the most striking
character, are the forges and grinding-wheels, as they call them,
scattered along them. Formerly these stood chiefly out amongst
the neighbouring hills, being turned by the streams that descend
from them, and you still find them in all the neighbouring valleys,
the rivulets and rivers which run along them being damned up into
a chain of ponds, which give a peculiar character to the scene.
These ponds look dark brown, as from the rust of iron, which is
ground oft' with the water, and are generally flanked by dark alders,
or are overhung by the woods which clothe the sides of the valleys ;
and you now come to a forge where the blast roars, and the flame
glances out from the sooty chimney-tops, and the hammers resound
and tinkle in various cadences from within ; and now to low mill-
like buildings, with huge wheels revolving between two of them, or
beside one of them : and these are the grinding-mills, or wheels, as
they are termed. Formerly they were all turned by these streams,
which are conveyed in channels, cut for them, and spouts, and let
fall on those great wheels ; but now steam is applied, as to every-
thing else, and large grinding-wheels as they are still called, that is,
mills, meet you along all the lower parts of the town, as they still
require a good supply of water for their engines, and for their wet
grinding, that is, to keep their grinding- stones wet for some par-
ticular articles. Owing to this introduction of steam, as you
advance further up amongst the moorland hills and streamlets, you
find the old and picturesque grinding-wheels falling to decay.
222 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
Would that I were a river,
To wander all alone
Through some sweet Eden of the wild,
In music of my own ;
Such is the scenery of Rivelin. Far up, solitude and falling wheels
give a pleasing melancholy to the scene ; but as you return nearer
to Sheffield, you see the huge hammers of forges put in motion by
stream or steam, thumping away at the heated bars of iron, while
water is kept trickling upon their great handles to keep them cool."
Elliott gives the following description of these five rivers,
alluded to by Howitt, in his " Village Patriarch."
" Five rivers, like the fingers of a hand,
Flung from black mountains, mingle, and are one
Where sweetest valleys quit the wdd and grand,
And eldest forests, o'er the sylvan Don,
Bid their immortal brother journey on,
A stately Pilgrim, watched by all the hills.
Say, shall we wander where, through warriors' graves,
The infant Yewden, mountain cradled, trills
Her Doric notes ? or where the Loxley raves
Of broil and battle, and the rocks and caves
Dream yet of ancient days ? or where the sky
Darkens o'er Rivelin, the clear and cold,
That throws his blue length, like a snake, from high ?
Or where deep azure brightens into gold
O'er Sheaf, that mourns in Eden ? or where rolled,
On tawny sands, through regions passion wild
And groves of love, in jealous beauty dark,
Complains the Porter, nature's thwarted chdd,
Born in the waste, like headlong Wiming ? Hark,
The poised hawk calls thee Village Patriarch ?
He calls thee to his mountains ! Up, away !
Up, up, to Standedge ! higher still ascend,
Tdl kindred rivers from the summit grey
To distant seas their course in beauty bend ;
And, like the lives of human millions blend,
Disparted waves in one immensity !"
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 223
And bathed in bliss, and fed with dew,
Distilled o'er mountains hoary,
Return unto my home in heaven
On wings of joy and glory !
Or that I were a skylark,
To soar and sing above,
Filling all hearts with joyful sounds,
And my own soul with love !
Then o'er the mourner and the dead,
And o'er the good man dying
My song should come like buds and flowers
When music warbles flying,' etc.
" The ascent of "Win Hill, and the storm witnessed on
its summit, will supply one of the nohlest amongst many
instances throughout his writings, of the mastery this
poet exercises over the mightier elements of the min-
strel's art : —
" ' Blow, blow, thou breeze of mountain freshness, blow !
Stronger and fresher still as we ascend,
Strengthen' d and freshen'd till the land below
Lies like a map ! On ! on ! those clouds portend
Hail, rain, and fire ! Hark ! how the rivers send
Their skyward voices hither, and their words
Of liquid music ! See how bluely blend
The east moors with the sky ! The lowing herds
To us are silent now, and hush'd the songful birds.
# * # #
High on the topmost jewel of thy crown,
Win Hill ! I sit bare-headed, ancle deep
In tufts of rose-cupp'd bilberries ; and look down
On towns that smoke below, and homes that creep
Into the silvery clouds, which far off keep
Their sultry state ! and many a mountain stream,
And many a mountain, 'vale, and ridgy' steep ;
The Peak and all his mountains, where they gleam
Or frown, remote or near, more distant than they seem !
224 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
There flows the Ashop, yonder bounds the Wye,
And Derwent here towards princely Chatsworth tends ;
But, while the Nough steals purple from the sky,
Lo ! northward far, what giant shadow bends ?
A voice of torrents, hark ! its wailing sends :
Who drives yon tortured cloud through stone-still air ?
A rush ! a roar ! a wing ! a whirlwind rends
The stooping larch ! The moorlands cry prepare !
It comes ! ye gore-gorged foes of want and toil beware !
It comes ! behold ! black Blakelow hoists on high
His signals to the blast from GHedhilTs brow.
Now expectation listens, mute and pale,
While ridged with sudden foam the Derwent brawls ;
Arrow-like comes the rain, like fire the hail ;
And hark ! Mam-Tor on shuddering Standedge calls ;
See, what a frown o'er castled Winnat falls !
Down drops the death-black sky ! and Kinderscout,
Conscious of glory, laughs at intervals ;
Then lifts his helmet, throws the thunder out,
Bathes all the hills in flame, and hails their stormy shout.'
The poem from which the above extract is taken is one
of many noble productions, in which graphic descriptions
of the poet's native scenery abound. The whole basin
of the Don and its tributaries, exhibiting every kind of
scene, from the picturesque well-wooded valleys and
fertile plains of south Yorkshire — the green fountained
dales on the moor edges to the innermost recesses and
bleakest heights of the western range of hills, known by
the appellation of ' the back-bone of Eugland ' — may be
justly said to have gained a deeper interest from the
illustrations of his powerful pen. The upper part of
this region, extending to the well-heads of the Don,
Dearne, Derwent, and Mersey, whence the infant feeders
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 225
of these rivers diverge to different seas, lie may fairly
claim as his own— being new poetic ground : — and to
him we are indebted for the embodiment of some of our
fairest and grandest scenes in deathless verse. From
"Win Hill, southward, 'King of the Peak,' and Lord's
Seat, overlooking his own sweet valley of Eivelin, to
Blakelow Scar, commanding the "VVoodhead valley, north-
ward, he has sung of their diversified aspects and old
recollections, both in his longer poems, as ' The Letter,'
and ' The Village Patriarch ; ' in his shorter lyrics, as
his touching ' Farewell to Bivelin ; ' and in his sonnets,
which also embrace a wider range, yielding pleasing
recollections of more renowned Yorkshire scenes, as
Bolton, and Fountain's Abbey, and the massive crags of
Brimham. The latter species of verse, as well as hex-
ameters, were tried as experiments ; showing, as his
various correspondence proves, how much the mere form
of metrical composition had been an object of his
culture. On one occasion he wrote me as follows : —
' I now send a legitimate sonnet for your Doncaster
friend, (the editor of the Gazette;') I will send you
three more, with an explanatory note — one of them
in the legitimate form, and the other two in measures
which I think more harmonious and more agreeable
with the genius of our language. But it does not
follow that my practice is right. I will write them
on purpose. ' In the communication which accompanied
these sonnets, he gave his reason for preferring the form
alluded to — which is simply an extension of Spenser's
melodious Stanza, of nine lines to fourteen, the limit of
the sonnet. ' The Spenserian Stanza, ' he remarked,
'preceded by five lines linked to it in melody, and
concluding occasionally with an Alexandrine, is the best
which an English sonneteer can employ. ' Space forbids
226 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
ine to give more than the conclusion of this Spenserian
sonnet, and portions of the Petrarchan or legitimate
forms. Though marked by that sententious brevity,
which is a distinguishing feature of Elliott, in prose or
poetry, and containing the same elements of pictorial de-
lineation and musical expression already pointed out, and
here manifesting themselves in the changeful hues of
earth and sky, and the hymning of the forest trees to
that Being ' who makes the clouds his harp strings,' yet
with all these merits it is doubtful whether even Elliott
can make the sonnet popular to the English mind, or
appreciated with more than passing interest, except by
" He admonishes the young writer, whose hopes are
high for the advancement of the dawning age to earnest-
ness in the task, which, without a sense of his true
mission, should not be undertaken : —
* * * " ' As the rose,
Growing beside the streamlet of the field,
Sends sweetness forth on every breeze that blows ;
Bloom like the woodbine where the linnets build;
Be to the mourner as the clouds, that shield,
With wings of meeken'd flame, the summer flower ;
Still in thy season, beautifully yield
The seeds of beauty ; sow eternal power,
And wed eternal Truth ! though suffering be her dower.
Don whispers audibly ; but Whamcliffe's dread,
In speechless adoration, hymns the Lord ;
While, smiting his broad lyre with thunder stored,
He makes the clouds his harp-strings. Gloom is spread
O'er Midhope, gloom o'er Tankersley, with red
Streak'd ; and noon's midnight silence doth afford
Deep meanings, like the preaching of the Word
To dying men. Then let thy heart be fed
With honest thoughts. * * *
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 227
Yes, minstrel ! bear to him who toils and sighs,
The primrose and the daisy, in thy rhyme ;
Bring to his workshop odorous mint and thyme ;
Shine like the stars on graves, and say, arise,
Seed sown in sorrow ! that our Father's eyes
May see the bright consummate flower of mind ;
And the great heart of ransom'd human kind,
Sing in all homes the anthem of the wise,
" Freedom is Peace ! Knowledge is Liberty !
Truth is Religion ! " '
" To connect this portion of my theme with the next,
viz : description blending with sentiment, I quote from one
of his hest poems, 'Ethcline,' which, for musical flow
and sustained beauty, is not exceeded by any of his
choicest productions. I select the striking description
of Wharncliffe. The poem of ' Etheline,' dedicated to
Miss E. Eendall, which at first was slighted by the
press, has a peculiar value to me, not only as effecting
a conquest over the difficulty experienced by most poets,
in what Byron calls ' the fatal facility of the octosyllabic
measure,' but from the interesting circumstances in
which it stands to myself. The first intimation I had
of its existence was in the following letter : —
" ' Hargate Hilt, Jan. 3, 1849.
" ' Deae Sie, — Thank you for securing The Spectator for
me. If I live till summer, I could like to re-visit Conisbro' with
you. A result of our visit is a long poem, which I think my best.
Edlington Wood, I am told, is worth a visit.
" ' With our best wishes to you both, I am yours very truly,
" ' EBENEZER ELLIOTT.'
" On my next visit I asked to see the piece written
respecting our trip to Conisbro' Castle. ' It is a loug
poem,' he said, ' of many hundred lines ; you can't read
228 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
it now, we have other matters to engage us this even-
ing ; stay all night, and you shall have it at full length
in the morning. I took the idea of the poem from your
remark, " that the Don Valley looked like the bed of an
ancient lake." I have transformed it into a lake, girt
with its vast primeval woods.' Not beiug able to accept
his invitation for the night, I never saw the manuscript ;
and on a subsequent visit, full of pleasant and painful
reminiscences, I took my leave of him, and of his kind-
hearted family, without having had my longing to see the
poem gratified. When I saw his posthumous publication
it was with mingled pleasure and regret. Its beautiful
construction surpassed my warmest hopes, and proved
that his hand had not forgotten its mastery of the lyre
to the last — but many inquiries which I fain would have
made of the author were rendered hopeless by the stern
finisher — Death.
" ' O'er Wharncliffe of the Demons thou,
Dear Ellen, hast a wanderer been ;
Thy second letter places now
Before my soul the beauteous scene.
But thou hast named a name that brings
Back the deplored and hopeless past,
And o'er remember'd Wharncliffe flings
An angel's shadow flitting fast :
Why didst thou name that mournful name ?
Beautiful in its worth and woe,
Over my sadden' d heart it came
Like funeral music wailing low ;
Or like a deep cathedral toll
At midnight swung o'er Witham's wave,
Proclaiming that a weary soul
Had cast his staff into the grave.
Oh, never more will Lycid see
That relic of the forest old,
AND MEMOEANDA OF THE POET. 229
Which spread like an eternity
Its green night over plain and wold !
Grey Wharnclitfe, and the oaks that stand
Like spectres of their sires sublime ;
Yet how unlike, though old and grand,
Those giants of the olden time !
Symbols of age-long funerals,
They frown'd o'er fear's suspended breath,
And pillar'd in their living halls
The deathless might of mental death.
Oh, Superstition ! cruel, blind,
False, restless, fair as ocean's foam,
How shall I paint ? where shall I find,
Save in man's darkness, thy dark home? '
" The expression ' Wharncliffe of the Demons ' alludes
to a wild supernatural poem written by him at an early
period. The present poem ' Etheline,' the execution of
which is better than the plan or the strange groundwork,
of the tale, embodies a powerful censure against the
superstitions of all times, while delineating those of our
pagan forefathers, whose cruel altars he places on the
giant crags, amid the deepest forest recesses of old
"Wharncliffe. The allusion to a departed friend in the
plaintive spirit of Milton's Lycidas, adds that sombre
tinge of gloom which in one form or another is seldom
absent from his finest compositions. His city-bred
reviewers and transcendental critics may slight ' Etheline,'
and pronounce it, as some of them have been pleased to
do, a failure ; it may be, to those who have communed
little with their own hearts amid the quiet shades of
retirement, nor taught themselves to feel the beauty
which exists, apart from the polished circle, in objects
overlooked or rarely glanced upon, nor stilled the cravings
for excitement in the majestic temple of creation. To
bring it to the test of performances rather than words,
230 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
let one of these transcendentalists attempt what he whom
they call a realist has here achieved. In this further
selection, for example, are portions of a richer delineation
of forest scenery than the above. Let those who have
been fascinated with the opening page of ' Ivanhoe ' —
calling up before the mind, and peopling with beings in
accordance with the scene the vast tracts of forest land
extending from Wharncliffe (haunt of the fabled Dragon
of Wantley) to Wentworth, and the sloping heights that
overlook the confluence of the Bother and the Don — let
such who have glowed over this picture (and what York-
shire reader has not) of our own native region, as it
existed in the time of the Crusades, throw their imagina-
tions back a thousand years previous to that era, to
realize Elliott's embodiment of the same scenes in the
times of the Druids, when the vast primeval forest
' Spread like an eternity
Its green night over plain and wold,'
ere the Roman had hacked his way through its tangled
depths, or the Saxon had planted his homestead amid its
" ' They traversed realms of verdant night,
And many a treeless isle of light,
"Whose peaceful bliss the eyes of love
Watch'd fondly through the blue above ;
A wilderness of shaded flowers,
A wilderness of virgin bowers,
Of beauty calm not passionless,
And lonely song, a wilderness ;
Ear on, on, far and long they went,
Through paths of green bewilderment,
Where oft the Ouzle, perch'd on high,
Beneath his clouds, above his woods,
Poui''d his full notes in gushing floods,
Flattering the wood-rill tunefully,
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 231
Then listened to its still reply,
In all a bard's regality.
They reach' d at last the mount where stood
The father of the boundless wood,
An oak, before whose vastness man,
Dwarf'd to a gnat's dimensions, shrunk.
Twelve full-sized men had failed to span
With outstretch'd arms his giant trunk :
One mighty limb, extended forth,
Might have a war-ship's frame supplied;
One shoulder, twisted to the north,
A thousand winters had defied.
The tree was call'd the " Wizard's Chair,"
And in his hollow trunk the gloom
Reveal' d an uncouth banquet room ;
Perchance, in after ages, dined
In such a tree stout Robin Hood,
Amid the depths of Barnsdale wood,
Feasting his men on hart and hind.'
" Under the bead of Poetry, where description blends
with sentiment, I might class a large proportion of the
poems of Elliott ; indeed, the secret of beauty and power
combined in his strains, lies in the vehemence and fervour
with which he throws the whole feelings of his soid into
his subject. Tbis is also the reason of the distaste with
which, in some circles, he is regarded ; he being a fearless,
out-spoken man, not caring whether his words of terrible
earnestuess accord with the canonical rules of poetic
taste, or conventional propriety, so that they only convey
the meaning he intends. His mental vision, in a direct
line, was clearer than that of most men. ' My mind, '
he said, 'is the mind of my eyes. All my ideas are from
my own observations, or what I have made my own by
reflection on the thoughts of other men. Some of my
232 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
finest thoughts come from the minds of others, but so
adapted to my own that the theft is not traced. I am
enriched, and I leave them no poorer ; for instance,
Homer, in Cowper's translation — the best our language
boasts — says, of the meeting of two armies: "The earth
beneath them trembled, and the heavens sang them
together with a trumpet's voice." I thus transfer the
thought : —
" O light that, cheer'st all life from sky to sky,
As with a hymn to which the stars reply."
The trumpet I transform to a hymn, and the change is
complete and undetected. '
" To describe and narrate well, are excellent qualities
in a poet j but to invest the object with sentiment, to
pour soid and feeling therein, is a much higher advance
in the art. I will exemplify this by a selection from
' The Splendid Village, ' where the twice exded victim
of usurping power breathes a sad farewell to England,
which he thus passionately apostrophizes : —
" ' Yet in my heart thy verdant Eden smiles ;
Land where my Hannah died and hath no tomb,
Still in my soul thy dewy roses bloom.
E'en mid Niagara's roar remembrance still
Shall hear thy throstle by the lucid rill,
At lucid eve — the bee at stillest noon ;
And when clouds chase the heart-awaking moon,
The mocking bird, where Erie's waters swell,
Shall sing of fountain' d vales and Philomel ;
To my sick soul bring, over worlds of waves,
Dew-glistening Albion's rocks, and dripping caves,
But with her, redbreast, linnet, lark, and wren,
Her blasted homes and much-enduring men.'
" That perfect little poem, ' The Dying Boy to the
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 233
Sloe-Blossom,' is an exquisite illustration of the principle
here enunciated; and equally sweet and perfect are
< Come and Gone ;' ' To the Bramble Flower ;' and ' The
Wonders of the Lane. ' Many choice pieces also adorn
his last publication, such as 'Lyrics for my Daughters;'
the pleasure of reading which is only exceeded by that
of hearing them sung and played — the heart mingling
with the strain— in the household circle for which they
were composed; ' God Save the People ;' and ' The Sun's
Bird,' breathing the same spirit as the Ettrick Shepherd's
' Skylark,' but less sustained in its exultant cheerfulness.
These fully prove that the poetic gift was as potent,
when he willed it, in his declining years, as in his manly
prime. Tet in these posthumous volumes, it must be
mournfully confessed, there are many blemishing verses,
which it could have been hoped his riper judgment had
either not composed, or rejected from an after collection
— it being quite possible, as he himself has sometimes
proved, to utter strong truths without offensive language.
" A judicious selector might extract a cabinet of gems
from his works. Such, one would think," might find
favour in the eyes of those who have been repelled by
what they consider the violence, approaching to coarse-
ness, of his political opinions. They who have said that
the Corn Law Rhymer's fame will die, when the exciting'
questions of partizan strife that brought him into notice,
have subsided, may be partially right in their opinion ;
that the lower aspect of politics, the harping on party
measures, is inimical to poetry ; but, they are deplorably
wrong, when they pronounce him who has made politics
so important a staple of his productions, to be no poet.
The pieces named above, and many more from [which
there is a strong temptation to quote, are equal to any
of their class. They may stand by the master-pieces
234 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
of Coleridge, Keats, and Tennyson. And how is it that
Elliott may compare, without loss, in the same kind of
poetry — natural description blending with natural sen-
timent—with men more richly endowed with the poet's
best gift, imagination, than he admitted himself to be ?
The response is simply this : because his heart was homed
with nature ; he had familiarized himself more with her
varied aspects, and listened more attentively to her
teachings than any of the ideal poets, "Wordsworth alone
excepted. This venerable bard, sojourning nearly all his
long existence among his native hills, open to all the in-
fluences of nature, revealing to other hearts her secret
whisperings to his own, after toiling through an age of
contumely, lived to be hailed, by general consent, as her
ministering priest. In one important element, passion,
that which gives life to all composition, Elliott possessed
an advantage over the last hallowed bard, as over all
modern poets, unless Byron be deemed his equal, who
excels him in splendour of diction, but yields to him
in reverential love and knowledge of the surrounding
creation. Elliott's remarkable definition, ' Poetry is
impassioned Truth, ' paradox though it seem, is ably
borne out in his masterly lectures, first published in
' Tait, ' and now the choicest of them in ' More Prose
" These lectures, while they are true exponents of Ins
poetical views, are written in a style, beautiful as it is
brief, equal to that of his verse, and would be a profitable
study to some of his judges, who disallow this claim.
The condensed fulness of such prose would make many of
these scribes rich indeed. Referring once to these lec-
tures, he remarked, ' Tou ask how I attained my peculiar
prose style ? There is a secret lies in that : I have
served a long apprenticeship to it. I allow no word
AND MEMORANDA OF TIIE POET. 235
to pass in composition that docs not answer my purpose.
I can afford to wait, and the world also, until the right
word be found. I never wrote an idle line in my life,
nor used a word for effect, or for rhyme, unless it gave
my full meaning. Would our numerous writers and
young poets look to this, they would not rush into
authorship without feeling assured they had a call to
the work. '
" Again, to cause my divisions of the subject to flow
easily into each other, I connect this head with the
succeeding one, by an epistle to his friend Francis
Fisher, who was then living in Sheffield, in which rare
powers of description, and wondrously varied sentiment,
combine with an ardent, active philanthropy; exhibiting
also, the quaintly humourous side of the poet's mind,
mingled with touching pathos. This was an experiment
in ' Metrical Epistolary Composition,' written to drive
away painful thoughts, as he states in a subsequent letter
to F. Fisher, apologizing for sending it to ' Tait,' ' though
there is nothing in it which could hurt his feelings, or
injure or prejudice him.' That amiable youth, now de-
ceased, whose loss is, no doubt, the one introduced in the
"Wharnclifte reminiscence, would excuse everything there-
in, knowing the source from which it sprung ; but there
are some passages, which, to the hard-judging conventional
world, had better have been erased ; and such omission
would have made this one of the finest specimens of
the Rhymed Epistle — -worthy to rank with those of his
cherished favourites, Cowper and Burns : —
" ' This sixteenth morn of new-styled May
Brings me your letter. Ah, you say,
You cannot come to Hargate Hill ;
I'm sorry, but my bees are come.
There's gold, there's fire, on Hargate Hill ;
236 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
The forests kindle into green ;
Sun-bright the landscape burns between,
And bees hum o'er my apple bloom.
You will not come, but they are come,
The bees, my punctual bees, are come.
Oh, when arrives my hour of doom,
Bury me where the orchards bloom,
That to my grave the bees may come ;
And while the wren his dinner gets,
Murmur a song of violets.
I've pass'd with bees some happiest hours,
For well they know, I dwell with flowers :
They love me, dou't they, little wags !
Ay, just as heirs do miser bags :
My flowers they seek, my flowers, not me.
Good taste is thine, my bonny bee.
As skylarks love the clouded sky,
Where bees and flowers are, there am I.
Who loves not flowers ? I know not who :
But this I know most good folk do.
No foe of flowers could I forgive,
They are my life, in them I live ;
But oh ! there's frailty in their beauty,
How mutely making sadness duty.
# # # #
My steps to health are slow and sure,
My choking fits are few and fewer.
Thanks to the air of Hargate Hill,
And breeze, and bee, and flower, and rill ;
And rides, and drives, in carriage low,
To Nostell, Watchley, jjilla'd Mar,
Tower'd Bilham, Castle- Conisbro',
Or palaced Wentworth, famous far ; —
And pathless walks o'er sweetest thyme,
By fountain'd Howell's dewy chime,
Or Waltheof s moat, or hall of Grime ;
Through woods that wave in golden rhyme,
To roofless mill — half crushed by time—
And grey historic oak sublime.'
AND MEMORANDA OF TIIE TOET. 237
To complete this aspect of his character, and to evince
his intense desire for the social and moral elevation of
the working community, I give another extract from his
last published work, the closing prayer of his Temperance
ballad, mingled as that effusion is with harsh uncouth
expressions and startling views : —
" ' Lord, grant to poor o'er-labour'd man
More leisure, and less prayer,
More church, less priest — and homes for inns,
More libraries and fewer sins ;
More music and less care.
And when the tardy Sabbath dawns,
Bid townsmen leave behind
The goldfinch, smother'd on his perch,
Gin-shop and chapel, jail and church,
And drink the mountain wind.
Or teach the artizan to seek
Some village house of prayer,
And kneel an apparition meek,
Amid the rustics red and hale,
And humbly worship there.
Or bid him (in the temple, built
By skill Divine for all,)
Expound to pallid listeners near,
While rose-cheek'd pilgrims stop to hear
The words of Christ or Paul.
There in lone shelter' d dales, amid
Their patriarchal trees,
Beneath the skylark's quivering wing,
Let parents, sons, and daughters, sing
Great Handel's harmonies.
238 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY,
Then to the dome of boundless blue,
O'er-rooiing sea and land,
Triumphant hope and faith will rise,
And with the anthems of the skies
Mingle their anthem grand.
And sinners saved shall weep again
For sins repented long,
And broken-hearted, though forgiven,
Repeat in music-hallow' d Heav'n
Earth's spirit- warbled song.'
" In a note to this passage, which it must be borne in
mind is made to proceed from the lips of a poor reformed
sot, Elliott says : ' Yes, more music. Do I then mean
that churches and chapels in towns should be deserted ?
No, let the rich attend them, for they can breathe fresh
air when they please, which the poor can only breathe on
the "poor man's day."' He suggests the building of
churches and chapels at the railway stations. By the
phrase 'less prayei*,' which may appear irreverent, I would
understand shorter prayers, and more to the purpose.
The contest bears out this view. To ' prayer, the soul's
sincere desire,' he cannot object. He frequently exhorts
' Him who toils six days in seven
To climb the hills amid their flowers to pray,'
on the only day when he can refresh his toil-worn frame
in the free country air. Doubtless Elliott had been
struck with the contrast between a long drawn-out
supplication, and the simple heart-utterance of the Lord's
Prayer that concludes it, as though the speaker pro-
nounced unconsciously in the fulness of these few closing
words, an expressive condemnation of his past lengthened
effort. The noblest models of the effective Teacher he
AND MEMOEANDA OF THE POET. 239
held out in the characters of Christ and Paul, as enforced
in this piece, and embodied in ' The Ranter/ where
' preaching ought to be its own reward' — a task of love.
The religion he advocated was one of the spirit rather
than of form ; of deeds rather than of words. One of
the evils of this age, which he never failed to enter his
strong protest against, was that of many words in the
expression of few or feeble thoughts. A frequent excla-
mation of his, when sick of the interminable disquisitions
of this much-writing, long-talking age was, ' O that men
would see the beauty of brevity.' In a very characteristic
letter, he binds the lecturer with almost too close a tether
— long enough if a dull affair, but where interest is
manifested, one hour might be allowed, with a few
minutes' grace to wind up. ' No lecture should exceed
three quarters of an hour in the delivery. Always send
your audience away full yet hungry, rather than tired
and wanting. Speak slowly and clearly, standing bolt
upright ; if you cannot speak like one having authority,
what right have you to speak at all ? Use very few
long sentences. Interpose round shot (short ones) for
emphasis, also for safety ; you may want time to breathe.
If you extemporise, you may as a Quaker use the Quaker's
privilege (as Emerson does) in the occasional dignity of
silence ! '
" The public lecturer he looked upon as a mighty
instrument in the work of social progression, and
in the above he has well prescribed the rules of his
calling. Linked with this, as co-operating to the same
end, were educational and literary institutions. He
was an advocate for popular education long before
that class of objections to any enlarged national
scheme of it which have wearied the world of late
had even an existence in thought. He at one time
2i0 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETEY,
contemplated, ' under a solemn sense of a"* duty to be
performed,' to write ' Educational Rhymes.' It is to be
regretted that he consigned such a noble task to any one
else, either"too indolent or incompetent to carry out his
enlightened instructions. The text laid down by him,
being for the good of mankind, may be introduced here ;
the objection to exhibiting private correspondence is less-
ened by considering this part of the communication as
more of the nature of public property than such as is
but individual ' in its character. From an interesting
letter, dated 1839, written in the indulgent spirit he was
wont to manifest towards his young correspondents, he
thus touches on the question referred to : ' What a
name you may win, and what good you may do, by
writing short pieces, after the manner of your Tem-
perance Rhymes, to be called Education Rhymes.
What a world of pathos, beauty, hope, humour, and
merciful sarcasm, is within your reach ! Be this your
text, to be expounded in a thousand ways, with a thou-
sand sad and beautiful elucidations — " From national
ignorance result not drunkenness only, but all other
public evils ! " When you conquered the rare power of
expressing every-day and common-life thoughts in rhyme,
you bent the bow of TJlysses. This power, and your love
of the beautiful, with your knowledge of the people, and
your graphic power to paint them, all point you out as
the man who is to be the Education Rhymer. What
felicitous opportunities you will have of introducing
your fine pictures of rural scenery, and what might be
and ought to be happiness ! AVhat a universe of sorrowful
thoughts, and sweet contrasts, and heavenly anticipations.
But do not go out of your way to seek poetry. I find some
of your very best in your ' Temperance Rhymes,' and it
is found in them because it came unsought. For instance:
AND MEMORANDA OF THE POET. 241
' Such joys are but the meteor's flash
That through the darkness gleams ;
Their memories knotted cords that lash
The thoughtless from their dreams. '
" And here is a capital bit of education poetry :—
' Drunkard— I cannot read a single line,
Nor spell a single word. '
Remove the great cause of evil, and not intemperance
only, but all its other bad consequences will cease,' etc.
The best plea for this extract is the importance of
EDiott's testimony to the great question which has
enlisted already the proud names of Chalmers, Vaughan,
Earl Carlisle, Cobden, Dawson, and a host of worthies,
who have pleaded for national enlightenment in their
respective spheres, upon such comprehensive principles
as reason and conscience dictated to them was best.
To wait until all sects have made up their minds as to
the plan upon which a National Education shall be
founded, were as hopeless as the aim of Charles V. to
subdue the world to one faith. Not alone in expressive
prose, terse, full, and musical, but in more varied verse,
Elliott has proved himself an effective pleader in this
cause ; witness, among other meritorious poems, ' The
Press ; ' ' The Home of Taste ; ' and the lines on the
'Sheffield Mechanics' Exhibition.' The last closes with
an impressive appeal to the classes who have power to
do something effectual in giving the first right impulse
to the faculties and habits of the rising race. These
prove that Elliott is no malignant agitator, but an
earnest tranquillizer of those conflicting elements of
society which threaten to spread, like a wasting torrent,
when unwisely influenced or left to their own unregulated
course : —
2i2 REMARKS UPON ELLIOTT'S POETRY.
' Truth, Mercy, Knowledge, Justice,
Are powers that ever stand ;
They build their temples in the soul,
They work with God's right hand.
Then trader, lord, or yeoman,
If thou a patriot art ;
If thou wouldst weep to see the light,
Erom England's name depart,
Her streets blood-flooded, and her plains
In boundless conflagration,
Instruct her poor benighted sons,
And save a sinking nation.
Shall we not lift the lowly,
Whom law and custom ban ?
O help us to exalt and praise
Grod in the mind of man, ' etc.
This, in its aspirations, is closely linked with his
prophetic language in that sublime hymn, where he
looks forward to the time —
' When man, by painful ages taught,
Shall build at last on truthful thought,
And wisdom won from sorrow.'
" To this I add, in 'conclusion, the magnificent close of
'The Ranter, ' foretelling the certain triumph of com-
mercial freedom, of which he lived to see the fulfilment.
He thus anticipates the ultimate achievements of ' world-
reforming commerce,' of which he was at once the
prophet and dauntless pioneer : —
' When o'er the enfranchised nations thou wilt shower,
Like dew-drops from the pinions of the dove,
Plenty and Peace ; and never more on thee
Shall bondage wait; but as the thoughts of love,
Eree shalf thou fly, unchainable and free,
And men henceforth shall call thee liberty.' '
lUrnllrctiono nf (Plictmer (Elliott,
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS.
THE LATK MR, PAUL ROBGERS.
Since the following MSS. came to my band, the
author has been gathered to his long home. It was
not my good fortune to know much of him, but
what little I knew, and more that I heard, impressed
me very much in his favour. He was an intelligent,
affable, and most kind-hearted man, and was esteemed
as such in his town and neighbourhood. He was lir>l
introduced to me as a friend of Elliott's, and it is in this
light that he now appears before the reader in the notes
and reminiscences which follow. As a brief aecoun!
of his life and struggles may not, however, be uninterest-
ing, I will subjoin the following memoir, extracted from
The Sheffield Independent, of September 27th, 1851 :-
The late Mr. Paul Eodoers was a man so well known and
so much respected that his departure from amongst us must be
widely regretted. Although his life was unmarked by any striking
events, his characteristics was strong and well defined. Born at
Greasbrough, near Rotherham, in the year 1788, he was at an
early age bound apprentice to a shoemaker. Being of a serious
turn of mind, he joined the Methodists, and in the course of time
became one of their local preachers. He married, and settled at
Greasbrough, working at his trade and using his best exertions to
support a large family of children. Though possessed of little
school learning, he was a reader and a thinker. To amuse himself
he tried his hand at literary composition, and his productions won
not merely the approbation of his village companions, but also the
praise of individuals of superior judgment. He gained the intimate
friendship of several of the then popular Methodist preachers of the
248 THE LATE MR. PAUL RODGERS.
Rotherham Circuit, and especially of the Rev. Francis Hall, the
late incumbent of Greasbrough. His opinions on certain religious
doctrines changed, and he ceased to be a member of the Wesleyan
Connexion. Speaking of this in after years, he said, " To the
Methodists, amongst whom I was brought up, and with whom I
was pleasantly connected for many years, I retain a constant and
deep feeling of respect : and certain I am, could the same belief
have been preserved by any legitimate efforts of my own under-
standing, the pleasant and prolonged intercourse with the friends
of my youth, would not be broken by any choice of mine." He
contributed to a magazine, which was published in the neighbour-
ing village of Wath, and his writings attracted considerable
attention. Our townsman, G. C. Holland, M.D., was not slow to
recognise the abilities of the rustic author ; and through his influ-
ence, in the beginning of 1833, Mr. Rodgers was induced to leave
his native village, and to take up his abode in ShefBeld. For
several years Mr. Rodgers was engaged as secretary to the Sheffield
Mechanics' Institution. In that capacity he became acquainted with
men of eminence from most parts of the kingdom. He laboured long
and zealously for the Mechanics' Institution, and his efforts in its
behalf were in many emergencies extremely successful. His own
views were enlarged by a more extended knowledge of the world.
He secured the friendship of Ebenezer Elliott, and of many gentle-
men of the highest standing in the town. When he resigned his
official connexion with the Mechanics' Institution, he was appointed
canvasser, and subsequently collector, to the Sheffield New Gas
Company. On the amalgamation of the two Gas Companies, his
services as collector were fotmd acceptable to the directors of the
United Company ; and he retained that situation to the day of his
death. His literary works, written entirely in the leisure hours of
a busy life, consist of a volume of poems, the " Memoirs of Matthias
D' Amour," several tales, and miscellaneous essays. During the whole
of his residence in Sheffield, he was an occasional correspondent of
The Independent, and ever took a warm interest in its prosperity.
He was skilled in versification, and some of his best effusions in
rhyme richly deserve the name of poetry. The bent of his mind,
however, was decidedly metaphysical. This is shown in his verse
and in his prose ; and those who enjoyed the pleasure of his conver-
sation had often reason to remark his readiness to suggest topics
THE LATE MR. PAUL RODGERS. 249
for discussion of an abstruse nature. With better training lie might
have been distinguished in sorr.u of t .lie higher branches of philosophy.
As a politician, Mr. Rodgers was favourable to all rational plans of
progress. On some points his sentiments bordered on the extremity
of Radicalism ; but he was always tolerant of the opinions of others.
To do good was his constant aim. His fadings sprung from his
virtues. He delighted to soothe the afflicted, and to succour the dis-
tressed. In all domestic relations he was most kind aud affectionate.
His means were small, but his spirit was bountiful ; and many were
the designs of benevolence that he originated. One of the latest of
his labours of love was the attempt, and not without success, to raise
funds for the erection of a monument to the memory of his friend
Ebenezer Elliott. He lived not for himself but for others. His
cordial manner and familiar face will long be missed by the many
persons with whom he was necessarily associated ; and his death will
be regarded as a public loss. After a severe illness of about twelve
days, and with a full knowledge that his end was at hand, Mr.
Rodgers peacefully expired last Monday morning, 22nd of Septem-
ber, 1851, in the presence of the principal members of his family.
His remains were interred in Grcasbrough churchyard on Thursday
E E C O L LECTIO N S
EBENEZER ELLIOTT, HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS:
BY PAUL RODGERS.
I knew the family of Mr. Ebenezer Elliott from about
the second year of the present century. His father,
who was also called Ebenezer, kept an ironmonger's shop,
then the only mil in the town of Eotherham. It was
situated at the top of High Street, opposite to the shop
now occupied by Mr. Wigfield. As I was a shoemaker's
apprentice at Greasbrough I had frequently to visit -Mr.
Elliott's shop for the purchase of various articles in out-
line of work.
I recollect old Mr. Elliott very well, for he was a most
marked character. In person he was low and squat, with
a broad face, as the poet has described him. I know not
how it was that he coidd be so constantly in attendance
upon the shop, having the important concerns of the
foundry on hand at the same time. Ebenezer, the poet,
was then about twenty years of age ; and notwithstanding
what he says about his oven juvenile dulness, I suspect
that at that age he was a better man than his father. It
is a tact, however, that the old gentleman was the prin-
cipal shopkeeper. I always liked to have business at his
252 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZEE, ELLIOTT,
counter, for I was foud of hearing his quaint remarks,
and his pithy Jacobin epigrams and speeches. I was the
more pleased, however, when an older person, and one of
more consequence, had taken the precedence of me ; for
I had then to stand and wait, and was certain to hear
more of his pithy speeches, and witness more of his
strange gesticulations, than I should otherwise have
This was during the period when Mr. Pitt was in
office, and when the active and daring spirit of Bona-
parte was keeping the world in such a state of bustle
and excitement. The popularity of the first French
Revolution had entirely died away in England, and, in
fact, the excesses which the French had run into, first
by murdering each other at home, and then by their lust
of conquest abroad, had completely turned the English
people into the opposite extreme of loyalty. Yeomanry
Cavalry, and Volunteers of Infantry were the great
engrossing subjects of the time. In those days a hearty
old Jacobin was something rare. I only knew two such
of any consequence. One was a Joseph Oxley, of Elscar,
who got the nick-name of Boney, which he has always
since retained, for he is still living in extreme old age,
and the other was this same Mr. Elliott.
I have thought since, that old Ebenezer must have
been rather fonder of talking, and less prone to conden-
sation, than his son was, or he would never have endured
some of the loquacious characters, who, I know, were in
the habit of holding conversations with him. One of
them, namely, old Godfrey Thompson of Grreasbrough, was
a particularly long-winded fellow. He would have talked
till doomsday. I have frequently seen him in Elliott's
shop, and as I recollect, he had not all the talk to him-
self. As an incident, illustrative of Thompson's talking
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 25
propensity, I may mention that he once started to walk
from G-reasbrough to Wath, a distance of four miles, in
company with a neighbour, about some business in which
they were jointly interested. They had not proceeded more
tban two hundred yards from the village, ere they were
met by a third party, who engaged Godfrey in his beloved
art of talking. The friend proceeded without him, slowly
at first, but ultimately with a more average speed. Vain-
ly he continued to look behind him for his companion.
Mile after mile passed, till he arrived at Wath. After
waiting there sometime, in vain, he proceeded to transact
the business himself; which, in time, he did. He then
set out on his return, wending his way leisurely along
till, having walked eight miles, lie arrived at the same
field where he left the disputants, and there he still
found them in the heat of debate.
One reason why I so well recollect Godfrey Thompson
in connexion with the elder Mr. Elliott is, that I was
once in the latter gentleman's shop, and saw him give or
lend Godfrey a publication of his own, being a poetic, or
at least rhymed " Paraphrase of the Book of Job." At
that time I was wonderfully struck with the idea of being
in the presence of a man who had printed a book. As
such, the incident made a lasting impression on me.
As I have spoken of one original character in connexion
with the elder Mr. Elliott, I will allude to another, who
has been specially distinguished by the poet, in the
magazine preface which he published to his poem called
" Hevd Byron." The character I mean was Luke Adams.
Old Luke, whom Mr. Elliott calls "one of God's own,"
was a forgeman. In figure he was short and thick-set,
with an uncommonly swarthy face. His appearance,
altogether, gave a mixed idea of fun and importance.
Among his own associates he was a very important man,
254 EEC0LLECT10NS OF EBENEZEE ELLIOTT,
and being a small literary genius was often appealed to,
as a learned authority, by his mates.
I believe all through life, Luke had a lively sense of
religion, though he sometimes took singular methods of
manifesting it. He was much attached to the Method-
ists. His call to preach was so powerful, that he needed
neither the laying on of hands, nor even a place on the
Local Preacher's Plan. He had many acquaintances and
associates in the villages round about, and to one of these
villages he would go, call on some original in his own line
whose house he could occupy for his purpose ; seud, or go
round the neighbourhood to invite the people together,
and then hold forth in a most voluble style, making use
of words, which neither he nor they understood, to
the great wonder of the simple people, and to his own
entire satisfaction. At Greasbrough, Luke always held
these primitive kinds of preaching at old Polly Sharpe's.
I must not omit to mention that on one occasion Luke
was preaching at Brightside, where several of his old
pot-companions lived, for he was unfortunately addicted
to drinking. One of these, called Oilman, happened to
be drinking at a public-house hard by. The toper, know-
ing Luke's propensity, and feeling for what he considered
his unenviable position, took his own tankard of ale in
his hand, and with his pipe in his mouth, deliberately
walked into the assembly. As the attention of the
auditors was turned towards him, the fellow held out the
pot, saying, " Luke, lad, take hold and drink, thou must
be very dry." Taking the invitation as it was meant,
kindly, Luke drank off the ale, and then resumed the
Mr. Mark Gregory, an old workman of Elliott's, gave
me another edition of the story, namely, that Luke did
not actually drink, but merely suspended his discourse a
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 255
moment, waived his hand to his friend, and said in an under
tone, "take your time, Gilman, I'll be with thee soon."
Luke's fondness for drink was very strong, and very
unfortunate. His great house of call in Eotherham was
the Red Bear, in Bridge Gate. It is related of him,
that in one of his remorseful moods, having resolved to
be heroically virtuous, he actuallv got quite past the Red
Bear without calling. He had not proceeded more chu_i
fifty yards, however, chuckling in self-esteem over his
victory, when his usual strong desire attacked him again,
and he audibly resolved that he would give so deserving a
resolution a special treat, and he actually turned back for
But Luke was also a literary genius. To give an
instance of his readiness at literary criticism : One of
his fellow-workmen, namely, John Martin, was a religious
man. I knew John ; he was a reader iu a certain line.
Having met, one day, witli the word oblivion, and not
understanding its meaning, he solicited the necessary
information from Luke Adams as follows : " Luke,"
says he, "what does ob-li-vi-on mean?" Luke con-
founding, I believe, the word as pronounced, with the
word Apollyon, in the Book of Revelation, but, never
wishing to be thought wanting in a difficulty, though
generally as much in the dark as his querists, promptly
answered, (not without a tone of scorn at the man's
confessed ignorance,) " what does ob-li-vi-on mean ? the
Devil, to be sure." Notwithstanding, Luke Adams was
a character; and it was to Mr. Elliott's honour that he
knew and appreciated what was good in him.
John Woffenden, the Greasbrough boat-builder,* whom
* Mr. Rodgers alludes here to the fact that Elliott, when a boy,
having built and. rigged a sort of model ship, presented it to
Woffenden, who, in his turn, presented it to Lord Fitzwilliam, as
256 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
Mr. Elliott names in connexion with Earl Fitzwilliam,
affords another illustration of the same sort. I knew
him very well. He brought a large family from Thome
to Greasbrough, about 1796, and commenced a boat-
building establishment by the canal side. He was a
mere working man ; how he raised the means to com-
mence business I cannot tell. He was a remarkable
instance of honest persevering industry, combined with
many humorous and jovial characteristics. Though the
sound of the boat-builder's hammer has loug since ceased,
and though the canal itself has disappeared, John's son,
John, still lives in the same house, highly respected.
Elliott found out old John Woffenden in some of his
fishing rambles, which he was fond of taking up the
Greasbrough canal. If I mistake not, my own personal
knowledge of the poet originated while pursuing the
same art, in the same locality. I should then be about
ten or twelve years old. He would be eighteen or
Mr. Elliott had a younger brother, named Edward,
who attended a school at Greasbrough, during part of
the time that I was serving my apprenticeship there.
As our shop was near the school, and as we occasionally
worked for the family, this Edward used frequently to
spend his hour of noon with me in the shop. To
show how Ebenezer was regarded at home, I may name,
that this boy always spoke of him in more affectionate
terms than he did of the rest. If he had to mention
anything which had occurred at home, of a pleasing
character, Ebby was sure to have been the hero of the
a sample of what lie (Woffcnden) could do in the boat-building
line ! His lordship was so pleased with it, that he made Woffenden
his boat-builder ; and Elliott relates this very questionable circum-
stance, with a little dash of triumph, in his autobiography.
HIS FAMILY, AND FEIENDS. 257
circumstance. This trifling evidence does not justify
Ebenezer's idea of his own dulness.
My next recollections of Ebenezer Elliott are those
of frequently meeting him when newly married, with
his young wife by his side, on the Sunday morning, on
the Greasbrough road, as I went to Masbrough chapel.
Sometimes he would be alone, and either musing aloud,
or occupied in evident but silent contemplation. Those
who have only known him during his later years, cau
have no conception of the perfectly erect gait, and stylish
dress and air which he then manifested.
Mr. Elliott, like his father, always knew the value
of money, and the difficulty of getting and keeping it.
Notwithstanding, he failed in business. While Ebenezer
and Giles were yet young men, Ebenezer, by arrange-
ment, took to the entire business of the foundry. The
father had the shop to himself; and GUes commenced a
similar ironmongery concern at Doncaster. Poor Giles,
who had early contracted intemperate habits, soon blighted
his own prospects. This unfortunate propensity, with
its consequences, was a source of great grief to the
family, and, perhaps, most of all to the fond and sensitive
heart of his brother, the poet. Meantime, Ebenezer
found that a large payment which he had agreed to
make to his father and brother on their separation from
him, was more than he shoidd ever have undertaken,
and its consequences more than he could long contend
against. He gradually sunk, and became, I believe, a
perfect specimen of an honest bankrupt. Poor Ebenezer !
His heart was long and sorely rent ; nor had he then the
consolation of knowing how Providence was preparing
him to be the consoler of thousands who should be fixed
in similar circumstances.
The first indication which I received of Mr. Elliott's
258 KECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZEE ELLIOTT,
poetic character, was from The Iris newspaper. I have
little notion of the date of the circumstance, but it is a
great many years ago. Mr. Montgomery was then
editor of The Iris. Some poetry appeared in the corner
of the paper usually appropriated to it, headed "Night,"
and introduced by the editor in words like these: —
' The following lines are from a beautiful, but unpublished
poem, called < Wharncliffe, ' by Mr. Ebenezer Elliott, of
Eotherham." The lines were the concluding paragraph of
the above-named poem; and they now stand on the seven-
teenth page of Tait's edition of Elliott's Poetical Works.
"Without any knowledge of particulars, but rather
judging from incidental remarks and allusions which I
have frequently heard him make, I believe that after his
unfortunate fadure, Mr. Elliott had to struggle hard for
a considerable time under its consequences. At last
he received essential help in an extraordinary way. His
name, as a writer, was becoming known, if not to the
world, at least, among a circle of literary men ; and the
late truly-generous Earl Fitzwilliam being aware of his
difficulties and his merits, voluntarily remitted to him
a considerable present. This, I have heard the poet say,
saved him from final ruin.
It was after Mr. Elliott had been several years in
Sheffield, that my attention was called to one of his
earliest published volumes, containing, among other
poems, " The Village Patriarch." The man who showed
it to me was Mr. Samuel Crooks, Bookseller, then of
Eotherham, now of Chester ; and. because he knew I
could not afford to buy it, he kindly (after pointing out
some of its beauties) lent it me out of his shop, that I
migbt have an opportunity of reading it.
Soon after the date of the last-named circumstance,
Mr. Elliott's name had become far better known. A
HIS FAMILY, AND FKIENDS. 259
small local publication called "The Wath Magazine,"
to which I had contributed, introduced me to Mr. Larett
Langley, of Brampton, who was its principal editor ; of
him I borrowed a thin volume, consisting chiefly of
Elliott's short and striking poems, called " Corn Law
.Rhymes." Mr. Langley was an excellent critic of lan-
guage, as well as a judge of general literature ; and he gave
me a deep impression of Elliott's composition, independ-
ently of his political views and feelings. This, together
with my previous knowledge, both of the man and his
works, caused me to take the volume home from
Brampton, with the expectation of receiving a rich treat,
and I was not disappointed. I read the poems over,
one after another, first to myself, and then to my wife
and children. As the subjects were chiefly suffering
poverty, of which we had been, and still were, large
partakers, they suited us amazingly. We sympathized
with the poet, even tearfully, because he sympathized
with us. An honest-hearted old collier, worn out with
a life of hard work, and who was then a pauper, and
frequented my little shop as a place for pastime, wept
again and again, as I read the passages to him. In fact,
though some of Ebenezer's strong expressions at first
rather shocked my religious prejudices, I was not long
before I venerated his character, as I should have ven-
erated an old inspired Hebrew prophet.
I am not aware that I had hitherto been personally
known to Mr. Elliott. Soon after I removed to Sheffield,
which was in January, 1833, I saw him for the first time
after many years. He was walking up Barker Pool, towards
his own house, and I was walking behind him. Instead
of the straight and upright figure which I had still
retained in the eye of my memory, I was amazed to see
a bent and time-worn man. I wished much to speak
260 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
and make myself known to kim, but could not find a
pretext to do it at tkat time. Subsequently, I kaving
publisked some lines in The Sheffield Iris, wkick kad
tke good luck to be slightly admired, and kaving kad a
few copies of tkem struck off for private circulation, my
friend, Dr. Gr. C. Holland, persuaded me to call on
Elliott, and present one to kim, togetker witk kis (Dr.
Holland's) compliments. I did so, and was received
witk extreme courtesy. As to my verses, I know not
wkat extravagant tkings ke said about tkem. I recollect
ke ended by telling me, that I kad tkrown botk
Montgomery and kimself into tke skade ! * Of course
I was not so foolisk as to swallow tkis nonsense, literally ;
yet, I confess, I was not only muck pleased witk kis
kind reception, but a good deal intoxicated witk tke
praise. Wkat poor scribbler could kave been otkerwise ?
I soon learned to value Mr. Elliott's off-kand flattery
more at its real value. Tet tkis injudicious way of
buoying people up, I always tkougkt one of tke irrecon-
cilable tkings in my friend's conduct. It is true, after
one knew kim better, tkere was a way of getting at kis
* This was a grave fault of Elliott's. He praised young authors
so indiscriminately, that he did immense mischief; and often
encouraged talents which would have been more profitably em-
ployed in blacking shoes than in soiling paper with bad rhymes.
I once remonstrated with him for persisting in this injurious
habit, and his answer was : " I do not like to give pain. Writing
will do these poor devils no harm, but good, and 3ave them from
worse things." My reply was : "But your criticisms are not just,
if they were, they would be serviceable." "But," he said, " these
scribblers don't want justice, but praise ; and if my praise can do
them any good, they are welcome to it." This was bad enough,
and I think unpardonable. Yet Elliott was a true critic when
he pleased to be so, " but not to fools," as he emphatically said.
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 261
real opinions ; but the enquirer must be himself capa-
ble of reasoning, and of putting this and that together.
It is but justice to say, that I had afterwards many
proofs of honest criticism from him, which, by -the -by,
were not so pleasant, if more useful.
From that clay — I say it with gratitude, as well as
pride — Mr. Elliott waa my friend. One thing which
helped to keep up and increase our intercourse, was the
circumstance, that while I was the assistant-secretary
of the Mechanics' Institution, he was, at the same time,
a member of its committee. I had not been very long
known to him, before I gave him to understand that I
had formed some excellent acquaintances among the
members and managers of the Institution, one of whom,
particularly, I should much like him to know. "When
I mentioned the name, I was glad and surprised to
learn that he already knew and appreciated him. Those
who know anything of me and my associates will scarcely
need informing that the individual meant was my still
highly-esteemed friend, Mr. John Fowler. Mr. Elliott
immediately gave a hearty invitation to his house for any
or all of us. This was the origin and commencement of
many pleasant meetings and excursions, and of at least
sixteen years of varied but always satisfactory intercourse
between the poet, myself, and four or five others.
With regard to myself, I will diverge from my subject
so much as to say, that I had now, as far as interesting
associates went, satisfied a craving which I had long
experienced. For many previous years I had vainly
sighed for congenial society. As for literary genius, I
had once been greatly pleased to walk sixteen nnles to
look upon and listen to James Montgomery. Now, I
was an honoured member of a voluntary and select band,
any of which were capable of literary appreciation, and
262 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
exercise too, and numbering one of almost world-wide
fame. I can look back to the time to which I am allud-
ing, and see how crude many of my own notions were,
and how vaguely my principles were jumbled together.
Having led more than twenty years of my previous life
as a conventionally religious man, but having recently
had my orthodoxy shaken by reading and study, I was
just then a curious medley of doubt, conjecture, and
speculation. My naturally strong religious feelings had
given way, and I was bewildered, something like a certain
personage in his celebrated journey through chaos ; first,
I was lifted up by some ideal "nitrous cloud" into the
third heaven of speculation ; and, anon, dropping into a
"boggy syrtis" of despair. In this condition, I am not
aware that I could have met with a more efficient help
than Mr. Elliott proved to be. "Whatever the world may
say to the contrary, he was a deeply religious man ; and
when deep feeling comes to be appreciated as a better
test than mere profession of belief, religion like his will
not then be questioned.
In one of the letters which I had the pleasure of
receiving from him, Mr. Elliott states, that nearly all
his poems originated in real circumstances. I had
conjectured that such was the case, before he told me.
"The Jacobin's Prayer," I think, is no doubt made
up of curses and singularly-expressed wishes which he
had heard over and over from his own father. The
" His war-horse through the panes
Of quiet people who had brains,"
was an incident in the old man's history ; and the
cursings, after the fashion of David, King of Israel,
are no less genuine remembrancers, to all who knew
anything of old Ebenezer, the Ironmonger.
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 263
Those who did not personally know Mr. Elliott, will,
of course, have learned from his writings how much the
iniquity of the corn and provision-restricting laws were
hated and condemned hy him. But such persons cannot
be fully aware of the extent of his feeling, and the
occasional frenzy of his excited powers, when the subject
was introduced in conversation. One of the individuals
whom I alluded to as belonging to our literary and social
circle, was the late lamented Mr. Francis Fisher. This
amiable young gentleman, though not then in the regular
ministry, was in the habit of preaching at Stannington,
and various places, in connexion with the Unitarians. Of
all benevolent, truth-loving individuals, I never knew his
superior. Mr. Elliott thought equally highly of him.
Though extremely modest, Mr. E. was fond of preaching,
and of talking about his sermons, and Mr. Elliott had
invited him to read one of them to a few of us, at his
house, at Upperthorpe, one Sunday afternoon. After the
sermon, which was a real good one, and whde the party
were engaged in conversation, it happened that Mr.
Eisher, who did not think exactly with Mr. EUiott on
the subject, by some allusion or other, introduced his
view of the Corn Laws. I shall never forget the scene
which followed. It was tremendous. He had evidently
allowed his mind to get over-balanced by strong and long
continued excitement. Half an hour, however, set all
right again ; the poet was as gentle as a lamb.
In conversation, Mr. EUiott was what a reader of his
works would have expected him to be. No one who
has studied his poems would imagine that he was a
loquacious person. He thought too well, and selected
his language with too much care, to be always talking.
Perhaps, in the art of condensation, he never had his
equal. It is certain, that in this power he even sur-
264 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
passed Burns. It will be easy to conceive, that to such
a thinker, and to such a master of language, mere talk
would be very annoying.
Perhaps it was owing to his systematic mode of think-
ing and speaking, that one often got a glimpse of what
he was contemplating in his study, even before he
formally announced it. "While the thoughts which were
intended to live were becoming clothed in language
whose beauty would stereotype it, he not unfrequently
allowed the newly-coined ideas and phrases to emanate
beforehand. I have frequently been struck while reading
his last published piece, to find one or other of its most
striking passages already tingling, as it were, in the ear
of my memory, from their repetition in recent conver-
sations. If I am right on this subject, and I think I
am, it not only shows how rich he was in material for
thought, but how carefully he husbanded that material,
and how economical even genius sometimes is.
The first appearance of the late Charles B-eece Pember-
ton in Sheffield, was an event which influenced Elliott both
immediately and in its consequences. Pemberton had
previously written the Pel Verguice Papers, and other
things which had raised his name high in the esteem of
an influential class of literary men. One of his first
enquiries, on reaching the town, by the hills of Norton,
was for the Mechanics' Institution. His next was for
Ebenezer Elliott. I believe their first meeting was at
Mr. Elliott's warehouse. Such persons needed no intro-
duction. They . had been acquainted before they met ;
and, if a personal recognition, increased their mutual
attachment, it no more altered its nature than it origin-
ated the feeling. Mr. Elliott hailed with increased
delight every subsequent visit of the distinguished
di'amatist. During Pemberton' s long and painful illness
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 205
Elliott cheerfully joined Sergeant Talfourd, W. J. Fox,
Dr. Holland, and many other sympathising friends in
their efforts to promote his relief and recovery.
How Pemberton's death affected Mr. Elliott all his
friends know who have read his touching and beautiful
lines, entitled " Poor Charles." I have often thought
how highly and appropriately honoured the memory of
Pemberton was, in Finsbury Square Chapel, on that
Sunday morning when those lines were sung to music,
composed for the occasion by the sweetly-gifted, now
deceased, Miss Flower. I will here quote the verses : —
" Shunn'd by the rich, the vain, the dull,
Truth's all-forgiving son,
The gentlest of the beautiful,
His painful course hath run ;
Content to live, to die resign'd ;
In meekness, proud of wishes kind,
And duties nobly done.
A godlike child hath left the earth ;
In heaven a child is born :
Cold world! thou could' st not know his worth,
And well he earned thy scorn ;
For he believed that all may be
What martyrs are, in spite of thee.
Nor wear thy crown of thorn.
Smiling, he wreathed it round his brain,
And dared what martyrs dare ;
For God, who wastes not joy nor pain,
Had armed his soul to bear :
But vain his hope to find below
That peace which heaven alone can know;
He died, to seek it there."
2GG RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
Poor Charles, indeed ! Elliott long mourned his distress-
ing illness and his painful wanderings. If, however, his
spirit could feel a sense of recompense in heaven, for his
earthly sufferings, it must have been in looking down and
witnessing such a trio of geniuses as Elliott, Fox, and
Elower, surrounded, perhaps, by the most intellectual
Christian congregation in the world, all conspiring to
honour his memory.
At the time when the "Working-men's Associations"
were first formed, for the improvement and subsequent
enfranchisement of the working classes, Mr. Elliott, like
the rest of us, joined in the project, heart and soul. He
wrote for us, spoke at public meetings, joined our sub-
scriptions, and laid himself out in every possible way to
advance the cause of the people. "While such men as
William Lovett guided the movement, nothing was
wanting on Elliott's part. As soon, however, as the
demagogues got the upper hand, and physical -force
became the order of the day, Elliott knew better than to
allow his name to remain attached to such a debased
and ruined cause. He withdrew, like many more, in
It is a fact that will perhaps astonish some people,
to know that Elliott, as a writer, is very little known,
and poorly appreciated, in Sheffield. Had he not been
a politician, and sometimes a public speaker, thousands
of his townsmen would never have known him at all.
One apology may be made for this apparent apathy,
namely, the prodigious condensation, and consequent
frequent incomprehensibility of his style. This is
peculiarly applicable to many of his political epigrams,
and such short pieces as often appeared in the news-
papers. I need not say to such as have read him
thoroughly, that lie sometimes wrote as effectively to
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 2G7
the plainest understanding, and as touchingly to the
most rustic heart of nature's true child, as either Scott,
Burns, or Shakspere. But this was far from being
always the case. From experience, I can say that the
common understanding frequently failed to comprehend
him at the first sight. Many were the occasions on
which I laid down the newspaper or magazine, resolving
that, at last, Ebenezer had written something which
I could not understand, and of course, could not like.
I scarcely need add, that in every instance, I found the
fault was in my own dulness, and that the persevering
intellect was always rewarded. Many of his readers,
however, wanted the interest which I felt ; they merely
wondered what he aimed at, and laid aside the paper.
Though every one acknowledged his merit, it is with
him as it has often been with others — popular opinion
follows that of acknowledged literary authority. Popular
opinion would raise a monument to Elliott ; but more
because his name is in every newspaper, than because
the populace have read, understood, and appreciated
him. It is true, it was very different, if the lines coming
under observation were such as " Hannah Badcliffe,"
"The Home of Taste," "The Dying Boy to the Sloe
Blossom," and other pieces of a similar popular character.
The above was one reason why Elliott was not univers-
ally appreciated; but there were others. A man who
does not support conventional interests, but rather takes
every opportunity of opposing selfish and oppressive
authority, is sure to make himself many enemies. And
the greater the power he brings to bear against the evils,
the more he will be slandered and persecuted. It will
be easily seen, that his energetic zeal manifested against
the Corn Laws, would cause his name to be hated by a
larsfe and influential class. But neither was this the last
268 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
reason. Ebenezer Elliott was not religiously orthodox.
It would not have signified much had he been a mere
practical atheist ; that is, if he had forgotten that there
is a God in heaven ; if he had overlooked the oppressed
and the oppressors on earth. He might have done all
this, and have been one of the boon associates of these
professedly orthodox Christians ; but he could not let
tyranny and hypocrisy alone. Like an inspired bard,
as he was, he told the tyrants the truth, and they hated
him, and called him an injidel ! Shame on the calum-
niators ! If ever a Christian heart beat in a human
bosom, it was in that of the Corn Law Ilhymer. It will
never be forgotten, that when Ebenezer Elliott, in the
year 1839, simply sought admission to the Sheffield
Literary and Philosophical Society, the members of that
society black-balled him !
As a member of the Mechanics' Institution Committee,
Mr. Elliott constantly exerted himself, energetically and
effectively, for its welfare. His course of Lectures on
" Poets and Poetry," part of which were published in
" Tait's Magazine," were written for and delivered to the
Mechanics' Institution at our request. Eor a consider-
able period he devoted much of his time in waiting on
manufacturers and neighbouring gentlemen, on behalf of
the fund for the erection of the building in Surrey Street.
Nor did he withhold his money. Besides his name being
in the highest list of annual subscribers, he gave several
The circumstances which led to Mr. Elliott's removal,
with his family, from Sheffield to the neighbourhood of
Grreat Houghton, as they were related by himself, deserve
recording. I think it was in the ante-room of the Com-
mercial News-room, High Street, that he gave me the
following account. "Many years ago," he said, "while
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 2G9
he was waiting to transact some business at an office in
East Parade, Sheffield, being seated with his eye towards
tbe churchyard, he observed a dog gnawing a human bone
which had been flung from a new-made grave. Being
nervously sensitive on such subjcts, he turned away with
the greatest disgust, and was for some time agitated dis-
tressingly. He immediately determined that if ever he
became able, he would purchase at least as much land as
would afford himself a quiet grave."
He next went on to tell me, " that a few days ago he
had gone down to Eotherham, for the purpose of transact-
ing some business with Mr. Benjamin Badger, auctioneer.
AVhen he got to Eotherham, jM r. Badger happened to be
in his auction-room, attempting to sell a few acres of land,
which he described as lying on the edge of Houghton
Common. For a short time he (Mr Elliott) walked
about outside tbe room ; presently some one spoke to
him of what was going on within, and of what an excel-
lent bargain a person might make avIio had the means and
the inclination. His old determination to become a free-
holder came into his mind. He stepped in, and, if I
mistake not, Mr. Badger personally addressed him on the
unmistakable chance of a cheap pennyworth. The land
was described as to situation, extent, what part was
arable, what was covered with a small wood, etc. Mr.
Elliott concluded to make a bid. He did so, and suddenly
became possessed of a laud estate." At the time he
related these circumstances, he had been over to look at
the property, and was still evidently pleased with his
bargain ; talked of making a good deal of the purchase-
money, by clearing the land of wood, and of the probability
of his building himself a house, and going to live upon it;
all which, time and his own energies brought to pass.
To show that his idea of a rural and private grave was
A A 2
270 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
a serious desire of his mind, I may mention that he once
wrote a most feeling letter to Mr. Fowler and myself,
wherein he manifested an earnest wish that if it was
possible his remains might be buried under a certain tree
on the top' of Shirecliffe. For our guidance, he had
marked the tree by driving a nail into it. Under this
tree, he told us, and around it, was the ideal scene of the
Sunday morning preaching of Miles Gordon, the Eanter.
And a glorious scene it is truly; the most interesting,
perhaps, of any around Sheffield. Nearly every hill, and
wood, and spire, and monument, which he enumerates in
the poem so beautifully, are not only to be seen, but, with
their picturesque associations, fully justify his glorious
I have often thought, while reading this poem or think-
ing about it, that had Ebenezer Elliott been somewhat
differently educated, he might himself have made the very
prototype of Miles Gordon. Had his strong religious
feeling only been guided in a more orthodox channel, that
same feeling, combined with his great benevolence and
firmness of character, would have fitted him for any work
of love and self-denial. Respecting his wish to be buried
beneath the Gospel Tree, who can blame him, after con-
sidering how interestingly dear his musings must have
made the scene to his own heart ? How such a project
was ever to be accomplished, without the concurrence of
the members of his own family, was another thing ; we
never enquired, however ; concluding that not to oppose
him peremptorily, but to let the matter die away out of
his mind, by means of time and other circumstances,
would be the best policy.
I recollect that a little while before he left Sheffield I
made a kind of casual and slight request to Mr. Elliott,
that he would sometime give the particular list of friends
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 271
amongst whom I ranked myself, and whom he had so
long distinguished by a degree of attachment, the further
honour of being knit together by means of a few verses
of his valued rhymes. It is unnecessary to acknowledge,
on my part, a degree of vanity in this request. I hope,
however, it will be deemed pardonable. My veneration
for a real poet has been profound, ever since I became
acquainted with the writings of Cowper, Goldsmith,
Young, and Montgomery, in my youthful days. "Whether
Mr. Elliott again thought of my request, or whether it
went out of his mind, and the idea originated some other
way, I know not ; but after he had resided awhile at
Houghton, having occasion to write to one of our party,
namely, Mr. Michael Beale, watchmaker, about a new
watch which he was thinking of purchasing, he took
occasion to accompany his letter on business by the
following copy of singular verses.* The piece has never
been published : —
THE WORLD'S BEST.
" Said the world's best of men (to the knowing, known well
As a fish that could swim with the stream)
Let us sing to the glory and praise of oursel'
My ninety-ninth hymn on that theme.
* I hope the reader will pardon me for inserting these question-
able verses. They are however so highly characteristic of Elliott,
in his free moods, and possess such real merit, and, what is singular,
humour, also, that I felt I could not omit them without manifest
injustice. Effusions of a similar nature will be found amongst the
poems of Burns, and I must plead this precedent in my own justifi-
cation in the present matter.
272 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT,
I cannot conceive how a wise man, (can you ?)
Could differ from me and do well ;
Eor my god, Prudence bight, is a god well to do,
Alias, Marry Tak' Care o' Mysel.
The best of all maxims is " Keep what you've got "
Says Marry Tak' Care o' Mysel ;
So I keep to myself what I know, and know not,
Or they who know nothing, would tell.
While my tongue is as close as my fist, taking care
That I seem to know more than is known,
Who suspects that my treasures, pick'd up here and there,
Are bits of fios silk and staiu'd bone ?
God curse that John Fowler, and cobbling old Paul !
They would teach beggar's boys to know more
Than your deep gifted men, who know nothing at all
About Freedom, and such beggar's lore.
My servant mate, Kit, turns her nose up at me !
The tinner's blear' d lad as I pass
Cries, "Who'll buy a bag of sloe-leaves for bohea?
Here's the elephant goose, in an ass ! "
The Devil take Fisher and Lowe, with their zeal
For the love of the lovely and true !
And burn in his pit, Spencer Hall, and Mic' Beale !
What have I with their rambles to do ?
Yet I'm blamed by Hell-thunder the parson, who sees
That e'en Kitty comes seldom to pray :
I'd have her devout, as my mare's broken knees,
Why is she not, d — n her ? I say.
I ask'd her last night, "Why in duty so slack ? "
" He calls us base scum ! " she replied ;
But we're good as his master, and not quite so black,
And we don't curse the chaise, if we ride.
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 273
Now, God in his mercy, confound squinting Sam,
For lending her " Nature Revealed ! " *
But they'd both be religious, as I myself am,
Were I king while two backs could be peeled.
For they're both gone astray from the fold to the den ;
From the saints and salvation they're flown ;
From Wesley and Heaven, to the chapel of men,
AVhere the Devil is preached by his own."
Although Elliott was deficient of the humour necessary
to create a " Sir John Falstaff, " or even a " Tain
o'Shanter," he was by no means without humour, as
the above, as well as several of his publications prove.
It never was matter of surprise to me that he thought
he possessed more of it than he really did; for I have
known many instances of self-deception on this very
point. That he thought he had humour, the following
extract from one of his letters will show. After finding
fault with one of my rhymed epistles, for want of humour,
he says : —
" I intend to ' shame the fools' who say I have no
humour, by transcribing the ' Gipsy,' and sending it to
John Fowler for his opinion. t But once again, and once
for all, I disclaim all personal allusion in that poem. J
Like most of my poems, it is a result of observation, and
not more personal than the least personal of them
* " Nature, a Revelation."
t He had a high and just opinion of Mr. Fowler's judgment.
But though he sent the poem as proposed, and promptly received a
full acknowledgment of many of its peculiar beauties, he was not, I
believe, gratified with an unqualified confirmation of his own
X I had previously intimated that the poem contained personal
274 RECOLLECTIONS OF ENENEZER ELLIOTT,
On the subject of humour I shall be excused in tran-
scribing part of another letter, as no mean proof that he
was not entirely without it. I had sent him a printed
copy of an account of a pleasure excursion among the
hills and dales of Derbyshire. The passage may not suit
every one, but we shall never all think alike ; and Elliott,
I am sure, would have been the last to make light of what
he conscientiously deemed sacred subjects. Here is
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley, \M7t Oct., 1846.
" Dear Mr. Rodgees,
" I wronged all the souls in my carcase, (if any are left,)
when I thought I was forgotten even of Paul.
" Thanks for your ' Days in the Dales,' and —
" When next you mount your one-horse chay,
May I ride with you all the way.
* * # #
" Railway trips to the moors not heing yet the fashion, and
economy being, of course, an object with all poets, I suggest an
improvement on the one-horse chaise. As Sheffield poets (unless
they are altered) sometimes travel on the Sabbath, I think we might
prevail on a certain personage, who shall be nameless, to constitute
his back our locomotive, when next we go a picturesquing. We
might hold on by his tail; taking care to grease it first, that we
might slip him at his hall door,* if he took it into his head to carry
us further than we bargained for. Ask Fowler what he thinks of
this plan ?
" Ebenezee, C.L.R."
As a writer and public speaker Mr. Elliott was truly
no respecter of persons. Although their well-known
champion and defender on most occasions, when he saw
the people in the wrong, as he frequently did, he no more
flattered them than the rest. It is well recollected in
* The Peak Cavern, at Castleton, called by the vulgar "The
Devil's Hole," " The Devil's House of the Peak," etc.
HIS FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. 275
Sheffield how indignantly he hurled his ue against the
physical-force Chartists. The Socialists, too, had little
mercy at his hands. Two or three of the latter sect were
well known to him. On a subject, however, of such vital
importance to the interests of society, no associations of
friendship, or worldly consideration, blinded him to the
truth, or prevented him from uttering its dictates.
Mr. Elliott's judgment on public matters and questions
of business I always thought varied a good deal. I know
not whether it was that he did not, in every case, bring
the whole of his powers to bear on the subject before
him, or how it was, but while his perception and decision
seemed now and then faulty, generally and most especially
on points of importance, his judgment was clear and his
mind foreseeing. Perhaps he was sometimes warped by
prejudice. I think it is clear that he was so on subjects
connected with the conduct of the aristocracy. He had
contemplated their occasional baseness, till he suspected
them in everything. On the subject which he studied
well he almost always decided right. Being very attentive
to his business, I believe he seldom committed business
With regard to Mr. Elliott's frame and figure, he has
been sorely handled by the painters and engravers.
Those who never knew him ought to be told, that the
published portraits convey scarcely any idea at all of the
man. The one in Tait's copy is a mere scare-crow.
On the first publication of the volume, he kindly sent
several copies as presentations among his friends. I
recollect he told me in a note accompanying mine, that
he "had touched the portrait up a little." And so he
had, with a strong hand, for he had made the eye-brows
and hair stand staring out like the prickles on a hedge-
hog. I should not now, however, be soon induced to
276 RECOLLECTIONS OF EBEKEZER ELLIOTT.
part with the valued relic. The portrait of him by-
Margaret Gillies, in "Howitt's Journal," may be a better
picture, but is still less like him. It is amusing to read
Mr. Howitt's congratulatory remarks upon it. He says :
" Here he sits, in his own proper likeness, as he sat on
that pleasant Sunday morning in January last." Mr.
Howitt thought so, or he would not have said it ; but
" God forbid," say Elliott's friends, "that such a common
looking thing should be taken for anything resembling
Ebenezer Elliott." Among the engraved portraits, the
one which conveys the best impression of him, is that
in the first volume of his works, published in 1833.
Mr. Elliott's head was not large; and he often said,
that supposing it true that he had something in it, its
want of size belied phrenology. His frame was energetic
and wiryj more remarkable for nerve than sinew. In
youth, as I have said before, he was singularly upright,
like a little man who did not wish to lose a hair's-breadth
of height. As age came on, he became a little bent, a
good deal bleached, and wrinkled ; and altogether carry-
ing the appearance of a weather-beaten, care-worn man.
Tbe last time I had the pleasure of seeing him, was the
day on which he planted a tree, by request, in our
The following characteristic letters were addressed
to Mr. George Tweddell, editor of " The Yorkshire
" Great Houghton Common, near Barnsley,
\Zth Avgust, 1844.
" Dear Sir,
" I feci honoured by the receipt of a letter fom such a man
as George Tweddell. But it grieves me to say that I have no
unpublished non-political poem, except one which is 300 lines too
long for any magazine, and having been written as an experiment to
combine the humorous and the beautiful, by a writer destitute of
humour, is, of course, a failure. I will send you something soon,
if I can bring my drape of a muse to her milk again. But what
can you expect from an old bitch past bearing ? I set her to work
for you last night, and she conceived and brought forth certain
glimmerings of moonshine, but of such a red, ferrety, anti-corn-law
hue, that I put them into the fire, without at all weakening the
flame. She is like the painter who could paint nothing but red
lions ; if she tries to paint angels, it is plain at a glance that they
come of red lions, let the lady say what she will. Perhaps the
truth is, that I am humbled by the excellence of the poetry in your
magazine. Who is Sylvan? I have long suspected that I am
nobody in such company. The author of ' The Island of Demons,'
gone to the Capulets, was assuredly somebody.
' Why should futurity give nie or thee hopes,
WTien not a pinch of dust is left of Cheopes ? '
Oould we persuade some other great folks to suspect that they are
not gods, but mortals of the useless species, our bread-taxers would
be much wiser and happier devils than they are.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Ebenezer Elliott.
B B 2
" I am uiiwilliug to depress you, yet I must in honesty say, that
you cannot succeed without a miracle, and miracles are no longer
wrought, except for the strong. No town out of London,
(Edinburgh excepted) has been able to support a magazine; not
Manchester, nor Liverpool ; it is whispered, not Dublin, though,
like Edinburgh, a metropolis.
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley, 8th Jan., 1845.
" Dear Sir,
" If I have not sent you a contribution, it is because I have
not been able to write one likely to be of service to you. The only
things I have sent to the press during the last three years are
failures, extreme in their politics. Indeed, I did not leave Sheffield
before my energies had left me. I need no bookseller, and have
none, for the only book I buy is a weekly newspaper at second hand.
But that I have read a few articles in the Westminster Review, I
might say that I am newspaper taught, and after passing a very
active life, I cannot read without being ill. I am sorry you blame the
people for not helping you : famine is helping hundreds of thousands
of them into the grave, and the survivors will be more to be pitied
than the dead. * * I have tried in vain to obtain a subscriber
or two for you. I live surrounded by several hundred acres of
wood, nine miles from the nearest market town, with three neigh-
bours in the circuit of a mile, reading no book but Old Moore.
With Roseberry — with the whole district of Hambleton, Helmsley,
Guisbrough, Rosedale, Eskdale, — I am much better acquainted than
I dare try to be with these police-haunted woods, and farmsteads
tenanted by unliveried dependents of palaced paupers. Alter or
omit the lines in your poem which refer to your detracters. Why
stand on your defence without occasion ? Live them down, or die
" I am, dear Sir, yours truly,
" Great Houghton, 25th Feb., 1845.
" Dear Sir,
" I thank you for your favour of the 20th instant, and
gladly subscribe for your friend's ' Songs of the Heart,' heartily
wishing him success, though the days of verse are numbered. My
Sonnet on the Dearne is utterly worthless. In ' Tait' there are
one or two good ones of mine, addressed to our friend Thomas
Lister. You will find him in many respects remarkable — a
courageous, energetic, gristle-bodied man, with a bump of * I'll
have my own way,' bigger than a hen's egg, on his summit-ridge ;
his face is handsome, except the eyes, or rather their position,
which is cavernous ; the eyes themselves are keen and characteristic ;
his lips are beautiful. If there is truth in phrenology, his observant
faculties should be strong and active, as his writings seem to prove.
If I had known such a man forty years earlier, I could have climbed
Ben Lomond with him , for, with the assistance of my hands, I
could then have sprung over such a man. But well-a-day!
' My hair is grey, my blood is cold,
The minstrel is infiriu and old.'
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Ebenezer Elliott.
" I shall be glad to see you in my den, but home-brewed I have
none. When I married ' Ar Mester,' she agreed that she would
have two bairns, a lad and a lass, and the best home-brewed ale in
England. She more than kept her promise as to the bairns, for
they came so fast that they stopped the brewing."
The six subsequent letters, addressed to Mr. Isaac
Ironside, the leading Socialist of Sheffield, and for a
long time Elliott's friend and business agent, will show
how determined was the hatred with which Elliott
regarded the communistic ideas and communism. I
will insert them according to their dates.
" Sheffield, 10th March, 1834.
" My son Ben advises me to have nothing to do with your
meeting. Why, he asks, should it be called ? If your object is
to prove me wrong and Owen right, why did you not do so long
since, before all England ? Instead of doing so, what have you
done ? You have used the worst fallacies, and the worst language,
of your worst enemies, the Tories, for the purpose of bullying a
man whom you cannot refute, and whom you would not attempt to
bully, if you were not dupes. And who are now your allies ? The
Patrons of Blackwood — the bread-tax-eaters themselves ! ' Why,'
my son asks, ' should Ebenezer Elliott encourage a set of hulking
idlers to come here with the money of the Charles Street Gang
under their tongues, and an endless farrago of abuse and common-
place plausibilities at the end of them, all got by rote ? ' Is it
worth a public meeting to give certain geese an opportunity of
crowing like cocks, if a man, who so far from being a public
speaker, despises both the babble and the babblers, should not be
able, or willing, to outgabble half a dozen deluded fools, and
perhaps half a dozen vile hirelings beside ? Hirelings? Yes. You
say your parent society has now plenty of money. Whence comes
it ? If you are sold, who bought you ? Where are the accounts ?
I don't like mystery. My conduct in your society has been
straightforward and undisguised, and you have suffered it to be
misrepresented. But my opinions are before the public. And
your barrister — the greatest goose of Manchester and Salford — has
taken good care not to re-publish them. As to your plan of what
you call Regeneration, the more impracticable it is the better,
provided you act upon it, instead of talking about it. In all the
circumstances — a late motion in the Commons on the Corn Laws
included — perhaps you cannot do better for all England than follow
the advice of Owen and Fielding, Do so, in sufficient numbers,
and the bread-tax-eaters, whose dupes you are, will awake with a
start ! There will be no occasion then to ask either you or them to
rid the Corn Laws ; they will then be got rid of with a vengeance."
The following letter, from Mr. Ironside of Sheffield,
has been alluded to in the ' Memoir,' and will be read
here with interest, as an explanation of the above
letter : —
" Sheffield, June 23rd, 1850.
" My deae January,
" I was on intimate terms with Elliott when he wrote me
the letter in 1834. Its roughness was caused in the following
manner. Owen had been here lecturing in favour of the National
Regeneration Society : Elliott heard him. A committee was
formed, which met at my house. At one meeting, Elliott produced
a memorial to Owen, a beautifully done thing, w^ith far more love
in it than he could afford to objects of which he disapproved. He
moved its adoption ; tried hard ; but, on a division, was floored.
He and the minority signed it and published it in The Iris for
February, 1834. I have recently read it, and trust it w r ill be
exhumed when his life is written. He told me, with some dis-
pleasure, that he should have carried it in the committee but for
me. On its publication, the central committee wrote me, and old
Pitkethly, of Huddersfield, came, and we agreed to send Elliott a
challenge to meet Condy, a Manchester barrister, in public discus-
sion on the subject. I did so, and in my letter told him that he
would run no risk of expenses, as we (meaning the Sheffield com-
mittee) would guarantee him as we had plenty of money. It had
been subscribed by ourselves, not given. He was so fairly and
fully met, mat nis ire was roused, and he wrote me as you see,
making a dishonest use of what I had said. What you knew of
him would teach you that he was an unscrupulous opponent
where free trade was concerned : we soon got round again,
however. I cannot concentrate my mind to read much, but I
read your book. Perhaps my love of the man was one reason.
On the whole, I think you have given a fair description of him.
The personal sketches are very graphic and life-like. I was with
you throughout your described visit. The dog, and the canary
which hopped from my head to his and back, the mound, the com-
mon, woods, etc., all were as familiar as possible. I saw him vividly
when ridiculing mesmerism. He was not truthful where his pre-
judices or free trade were concerned. He never would admit that
you had any power over him, although his wife and daughters
assured me it was so ; but they did not like to irritate him. You
have hit the striking inconsistency in his character. As a man, he
wept for the miseries of the poor, and would have done anything
for them ; as a political economist, he left them to its mercy. To-
wards his later years, he began to see that free trade was not the
only gospel. He would admit this inferentially in conversation,
while, at the same time, he would be wTitiug as furiously as ever in
its favour, and mauling anything not in strict accordance with his
notion of it. In my reply to his letter criticising ' England the
Civilizer,' I told him that the principle of trade therein embodied
was far superior to his e Fair exchange of positive surplus, value
for value.' This, I told him, was fair trade, and was preferable to
" He saw communism arising inevitably, and was enraged that he
could not stop it. He told me not to be surprised if I heard of
him burning the Bible, because its principles were essentially com-
munistic* His wife has frequently begged of me not to discuss
with him, as it excited him, and he could not bear it. I used to
retreat under shelter of a headache, which he regarded as a proof
that he had silenced me, although my obstinacy would not allow
me to be convinced.
" On the appearance of ' Bully Idle's Prayer,' Goodwyn Barmby
wrote an answer in the same style, commencing thus : —
' Lord send Elliott his reason.'
T>-..-„l,_ ^.:„1, „j „,„ i, _,i. u .\,„„„4-„;i ;„ Win TnJenpnrle'nt wTiaw flip
'Prayer' had first appeared. Leader declined. So did The Times.
I went to Houghton, intending to have it out there. On reading
it to the wife and daughters they earnestly begged that I would not
read it to him. I did not like to give it up, but could not with-
stand their entreaties. I eventually gave it to Dr. Watts to get it
in The Manchester Examiner. They however, declined, and it has
not yet been published."
" Yours right truly,
"January Searle." "ISAAC IRONSIDE."
" Great Houghton, 29th September, 1847.
" Dbab Sir,
" Your favour of the 21st instant, with your correspondent's
article on ' Railways and Bullionism,' reached me in a parcel from
Sheffield on the 28th instant, and my house being fidl of visitors,
I cannot give it at present the consideration which the vast import-
ance of the subject demands. But I have attentively read the
paper, and find that the writer is wrong from beginning to end. An
issue of the stuff, which he is pleased to call money, might increase
* This was one of Elliott's extravagances. He would not hare burnt George
Sand's ' Cousuelo,' much less the Bible.
Railway speculation, and would enable some speculators to get out
of their dirt-holes ; hut it is capital — not what is called money —
that is wanted to complete railways. A few years ago, railways
offered the only feasible investment for surplus capital in food-taxed
Britain ; but so slowly was that surplus produced, that even the
Midland was executed with difficulty. Yet now, when the compar-
ative safety with which accommodation bills, endorsed by Joint-
Stock Banks, can be re-discounted, has facilitated undue speculation,
he would increase the evil! He talks, too, of one pound notes
circulating with sovereigns ! Can you tell me where the sovereigns
would be found, and at what price purchasable in six months after
the appearance of the notes ? I can tell you who would take good
care of them, and sell them at a profit (30 per cent, perhaps),
especially if Tony Lumpkins' cousins wanted (what they always
want) a foreign war. Thank God, the notes would not do much
throat-cutting out of Britain ! It is painful to think that the only
use he makes of his free trade argument is to sustain a sham. Now
free trade means ' Something for Something,' but accommodation
bills, if receivable by the tax-gatherer (which is all that your
friend's security implies), means an increase of taxation ! and finally,
' Nothing for Something,' as poor Louis the Sixteenth's red necklace
dismally proved. But the fact suggests a very important question."
" Great Houghton, 20th September, 1848.
" Dear Sie,
" I shall never be able to repay your kindness. You have
behaved like a father to me, and whenever I speak of you in future
my speech shidl be in this wise, ' Our father Ironside ! '
" I have delayed answering your favour of the 10th August, in
the hope that I should have good news to tell you, and give my
opinion of 'England the Civilizer,' the brave, wise, and most
tolerant authoress of which extraordinary book deserves and shall
have a re-perusal before I presume to pronounce on its merits. (! !)
" If you can spare the bath please place it at my debit, as it will
be useful to my family. I ceased to use it on Saturday la3t. It
has driven the blood, accumulated by the straining, from the seat
to the back, whence I hope the constitution will be able to distri-
bute it through the system. I shall recover I am told. The truth
is, I improve desperately. I suffer great pain, and after losing more
than twenty-eight pounds in weight, I continue to lose weight at
the rate of about one pound weekly. You cannot fatten calves in
that way. If I am not removed suddenly, I shall last till April next.
"I wish to be buried in my skin at the foot of Lord Galway's
ash tree here ; my folks are all for holy ground and costs. Bother-
ham churchyard being full of corruption, and one of our clergymen
happening to be here, I have been trying to bargain with him for a
grave at Darfield. Could you think it ? Sinking the offal, it will
cost ten shillings for the use of the ground alone.
" If you know any poor devil who meditates rusticide (or death
by living in the country), kill him with his granted wish ; sell him
the estate you have bought. Though as a country residence near
Sheffield, it must be dog-cheap at the price you are to pay for it,
you will not like it. The approach to it is a thoroughfare crossing
your threshold ! If you have bought the rising ground beyond the
wall, in front of the cottage, you may enclose a portion for lawn,
etc., and so remove the road a few yards from you, and be able,
right and left, to see approaching rascalry, which will be a great
satisfaction ! Help-seeking friends, also, will visit you, under pre-
tence of seeing Wiming, and desolation beyond it ; but you will not
be able to say, with the earnestness of the smoke-dried rhymer : —
" ' I thank ye, billows of a granite sea,
That the bribed plough, defeated, halts below !
And thanks, majestic Barrenness, to thee,
For one grim region in a world of woe,
Where tax-grown wheat, and paupers will not grow.'
"I have before me a wood-cut of great George (the man!)
Stephenson. The expression of the countenance is more than
beautiful — almost divine, godlike in its calm and thoughtful sim-
plicity. If Phidias had left us such a head and face of Jupiter,
the world would never have tired of praising it.
" Eemember us to your excellent wife ; and if you see sweet
sister Kate, tell her she will hear from me in a few days."
" Great Houghton, 20th November, 1848.
" I return you three books, and show my gratitude by
advising you to lend no more. At Sheffield I made it a rule to
lend the book that instructed me. When I came hither, intending
to use my books, I found that I had lent and lost the very books
which I most wanted.
" I have been much pleased with the ' Irish Lyrics,' and am a
thought richer for reading them, having contrived to steal a thought
from one of them without robbing the author.
" I hardly know whether Henry Sutton's book* or Fanny Wright's
is the more extraordinary. May they ever continue to be singular
exhibitions of talent, labouring to be absurd! He, I am happy to
believe, will not be able to make man in the image of his conceit,
nor she in that of her bigotry.
"Puzzled by 'England the Civilizer,' I gave it, I am sorry to
say, a second and very careful reading. Two-thirds of it, at least,
consist of wearisome repetitions ; explanations which do not explain ;
and pompous truisms not worth asserting. She exchanges one word
for another, and thinks she has done something. Instead of govern-
ment, she says, we are to have administration — government using
things, and administration men ; what the latter are to use, except
things, I cannot see. The only point that she proves is, that (not
England but) Italy, has been the civilizer ; and she repudiates the
only power that ever did, or can improve the condition of mankind;
that power, whose last invented tool — the rail — has done more in
ten years for the emancipation of the human race, than unaided
agriculture (which means linger-grubbiug for pig-nuts) could in ten
" Great Houghton, 2nd January, 1849.
" Dear Sir,
" A plague on all your houses ! Your Hall of Science, your
Chapel of Jabez, your Church of Peter, your House that Jack built,
and the House that Martin stole. The result of Neddy's general-
ship will be a 6s. duty. For this end, (affirming the deadly prin-
ciple of protection,) the monopolists have retained the Is. duty.
That duty — though as a revenue duty it will only produce £400,000
a year, even if our yearly imports are 8,000,000 of quarters — wdl
be a class-tax of £2,500,000 a year, and consequently a 6s. duty
* It is but right to add here, that Elliott afterwards acknowledged he had
been unjust to Sutton.
will be a similar tax of £15,000,000. Lord, have mercy on us, or,
ere long, England will be (for years to come) from sea to sea, a sea
of blood and fire. Why fight a battle, useless if won — and if lost,
fatal ? "
" Margate Hill, Barnsley, 5th Oct., 1849-
" Dear Sib,
" I thank you for your favour of the 2nd, covering the
balance of account to 30th Sept, last, £20 2s. 6d.
" Though I despise the nonsense of Communism, think not that
I despair of man's federation. No, brother ! read, as I have done,
(for I have had the honour of reading the proof sheets,) in, I
believe, the forthcoming number of the ' Westminster Review,' an
article on ' Human Progress,' one of the most eloquent and encou-
raging productions ever w-ritten. The author is, perhaps, our
greatest living mechanician, (and certainly one of our greatest
living benefactors of his kind) a Communist, worthy of any good
" In his choice of an habitation he has proved the adaptability of
communal principles to individual taste. Living in the kernel of
London, he breathes a pure atmosphere, commanding from his
windows perhaps the grandest and loveliest prospect in the world ;
and with all the advantages of the highest civilization, within a few
yards around him, enjoys (for to him it is enjoyment) the absolute
solitude of an anchorite ! He fives on the eighth and highest
landing of a huge pile of buildings, a portion of the roof of which
is his yard : the infinite blue kisses his noble forehead ; and beneath
him flows the Thames, with its universe of life and motion.
" If you will contrive to quote the above at a public meeting,
you will advertise the book, and give the good cause a shove ; for
all your 'shorts' are reported — I grieve to find you spinning long
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
The four next letters were addressed to Mr. Paid
Rodgers of Sheffield.
" Hargale Hill, near Barnsleg, 2'drd Jan. 1M9.
"Dear Paul Rodger?,
" You know Mark Gregory, then ? You cannot know a
I or man. And so the son i* gone before the sire. Well, it lifts
me up to learn that he left love and means sufficient to bring his
poor remains home for interment. Then God speed your ' Word
for the Poor.' But why the poor ? Nay, they are the rich ! the
" Your song i3 very pleasing, and if it will sing, you ought to
crow ! I cannot write anything that will sing, because, I am told,
I will not suffer each succeeding stanza to be like the preceding in
rhythm. But the truth is, head-work is not heart-work.
" I think I have written some poems here which excel all un-
published doings. The last and best is a long narrative, or rather
only a part of one, yet in itself complete. I have a capital knack
of writing poems in three parts, and leaving two of them unbegun;
the day of epics having gone by, and an abortive epic being the
very thing I will not do. The scene is at Conisbrough, many cen-
turies before the Christian era. I have taken the liberty to suppose
that the Vale of Don and Dar, from Wath to Cadeby, was then a
lake, with a little Niagara at the east end.
" Give my respects to Mrs. R. and to all your family, and to
John Fowler, our son ' by better ties than blood.' I suppose he is
by this time John Fowler, Esq. Never mind. I shall touch my
hat to him, as I did to Jemmy Teapot, who nodded not again. To
be sure, I had told him that he would go the carriage-road to God.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Kargate Rill, near Barnsley, 2Uh Aug. 18-i9.
"My master-critic says, 'your narrative has no characters,
unless your Derbyshire emigrant is a character; and if he is, his
dialect is his character. The story, however, is not, she thinks,
less true to nature on that account ; for, in her opinion, sacks
stuffed with straw, if they could talk, and were numbered 1, 2, 3,
or 3, 2, 1, might pass for men, as well as nineteen-twentieths of the
human beings we meet with. If so, Carlyle is right, and we must
wait not for circumstances, but the man, who is to make and be
them." You've nae sic cricket i' your town.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley, \f>th July, 1848.
" Dear Sir,
" It is a comfort to see again this hand-writing. To meet
the writer, and the friends named, in Wentworth Park, would be
a greater blessing still ; but it is not to be. Not that it might not
easily be. I should only have to take a teaspoonful or two of
laudanum ; but I should suffer great pain afterwards — to say
nothing of the horrid ' black-drop muddle.'
" My present disease (the only serious one I ever had) is imputed
to the influenza, which again and again attacked me some months
ago. I believe it commenced before I left Sheffield. The feeling
of suffocation which generally followed my speechifying there, was
premonitory of it, and of the slow breaking up of my constitution.
It will end either in apoplexy or consumption.
" You say nothing how you and Fowler are, and what you are
doing or meditating. No evil, I am sure. Has he left the Insti-
" My ' People's Anthem,' it seems, is printed. I wrote it at the
request of one of Mr. Willowby Wood's brothers, who said he
would set it to music. Perhaps ' People's Doings ' have changed
his mind. He suggested alterations essential to the tune ; and I
send you a corrected copy in the hope that Mr. Leader will print
it for the note's sake.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Ebenezer Elliott."
" Do not suppose that you always go without me on your
excursions : ' I inherit your wanderings, and am still.' Might I
recommend to you, for a iveek-day out, a visit, by rail, to the
Etherow Viaduct ? On to Dunwell, that you may know what
barrenness is, and be thankful !
"Thank Mr. Fowler for me; but T did not fear that he or you
would forget me.
" The wording of my ' Home of Taste ' might justify The Daily
News in their interpretation. They have, however, misunderstood
me. I did not mean to give the workman a Home of Taste, but
to let him earn one ; permission to do so being really all that is
wanted. And this brings me back to the note appended to my
' People's Anthem,' in Tlie Independent : it does not say all that
I ought to have said. Add as follows, after me, whenever you
have an opportunity; never mind whose thoughts they are — 1
would fain atone for original sin before I die : —
" ' The right to vote for members of parliament is founded on
property and knowledge, that property and knowledge which every
self-sustained person possesses in the labour and skill which enable
him or her to live ; and taxation and represeutation ousrht to be
co-extensive, because taxes are paid by self- sustained persons alone.
The pauper, be he palaced or hovelled, pays no taxes ; the murder-
ous protectionist, be he voter or legislator, none. Little knows the
latter, if he is rich, for whom and what he has been an impoverisher ;
and woe be to hiui and his appropriations, if his folly and wickedness
are to be much longer misruling forces.'
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
The following letters, addressed to tlie Author of this
volume, will explain themselves, although nothing but an
anxious desire to place Elliott truly and faithfully before
the public could have induced him to publish them.
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley, 29th July, 1848.
" Deab Sir,
" In the land of palaces and jails, where poverty is a crime,
I would not say to everybody what I am about to tell you. If I
could well make ends meet, you would not need to ask me to sub-
scribe for your book.* I should have done so already, for you have
* The book alluded to is called " Essays, Poems, Allegories, Fables; with an
Elucidation and Analysis of the ' Bhagavat Geeta.' " John Chapman, Strand,
2 c c
been heard of, even in this wilderness ; but I ought not to afford
it, and the book itself would bear witness against ine. I could
driuk a glass of rum in the city of cornstacks, and fear no informer ;
but your book would remain with me, and say as plainly as words
could, ' This fellow, who is indebted to his butcher for two months'
meat, has expended 10s. in silent conversation with the best thoughts
of January Searle, thirty miles hence.' It would enlarge this ' cloud
of witnesses,' this assembly of souls, (blessed companions, who
never quarrel with me, and never mean to betray me, though they
betray,) this library — which must have cost my poor family at
least twenty pounds.
"Should we ever 'grip fists,' (which is not likely,) the 'knuckle
sparks' will hardly be mine, for my hand is all but that of a corpse.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Great Houghton, near Bamsley, 6th Aug. 1848.
" Do not despond : think nothing impossible if your hand-
writ iug can be read: what a d d inconceivable, unfathomable
autogulph it is !
" The railway speculation will absorb every spare penny for some
time to come ; and the publishiug trade is always the last to mend ;
but it will mend. I have written a volume of far better verse than
auy I have printed ; and though I am notorious, if Dot famous,
I doubt whether I could at present find a publisher who would risk
it, and divide profits But verse has now absolutely no reading
public. You are wise in mixing prose with your verse. I would
have done so, and it woidd have been of some use, if I could have
prevailed upon Tait to be of my opinion. I know nothing of his
successors. I lately sent them some verses of the politico-
economical species, (which you know will not keep;) whether
they printed them or not, I don't know.
" I have always eggs, bacon, and a spare bed, and should be glad
to see you, if you could come and stop a day or two, though I
should be poor company. Dou't come if you mean to hurry away
again in a few hours.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Ebenezer Elliott."
" Great Houghton Common, near Bamsley,
23rd August, 1848.
" Every work of art ought to tell its own story. If it need
explaining, the artist has to that extent failed. And as you par-
ticularly allude in your Eclogue* to one lady only, the words ' her'
and 'she' must, in strict construction, apply to that lady. There-
fore when it receives your final corrections, you should inform the
reader that not the matron but a maiden sat for the portrait which
■ you have so beautifully painted.
"I have read 'The Gala' with great delight, and if I ever come
your way, I will endeavour to see Kirklees. What is the name of
the nearest station ?
" I know not whether I like best your prose or your verse. In
both you are often remarkably felicitous!
" In the second sentence of your preface I find a slight inaccuracy,
two other errors in page 17, and a fourth in page 27. I mention
these trifles, because 'the country's eyes is on us.'
" Instead of stating what was not true, you should have apos-
trophized your absent friend, and said, ' How happy he would have
been to be with you, and you to see him.'
" Your comparison of the Institute with the old monasteries is
grand as the sleep of the latter.
" I have heard of one ' Pan,' and I think I see a pair of ' young
rogue's eyes' asking if he was a fiddler? Your mention of him
reminds me of an incident in the life of a mayor of Doncastcr, who
had received a letter from the then prime minister, Lord Shelburne.
' Shelburne ! Shelburne ! I don't know him. Shelburne ! Shel-
burne ! He buys no bread at my shop.'
"Verse ought to be equal, as language, to the best prose.
' Unfather'd, save by him and God in heav'n,'
though bad, woiild be better than
' All fatherless, save God in heav'n and him.'
" Can false natural history be true poetry ? Flowers burn, and
* This poem is called "The Eectory in the Yale of Trent," and is included, as
all the other pieces are to which Elliott alludes in these letters, with the exception
of the " Gala," in the " Essays " published by Chapman.
are cool. I am not aware that I ever saw the hyacinth, violet,
kingcup, primrose, and harebell, blooming together. You may
think I like to find fault. Never with fools. I think you are
capable of doing the true, and I therefore exercise on you the
pedant's privilege. But your philosophy is as mischievous as your
natural history is incorrect. He ' who pays wages for work,' has
not, on that account, any right to ride his fellow-men. The paid
and the payer are quits. By one act good is done to two parties,
and evil to nobody. You a hater of tyranny ! and teaching the doc-
trines of a slave ! If your wish is to instruct the rising race, I can
— but that I fear to offend you — name a book that might teach you
the A B C of your business, the Corn Law Catechism ; a book that
contains more thought than any other book of this century. Still,
and for ever (with such books unread) shall the people's teachers
continue to be, like Cobbett and Howitt, all fingers and no wrist ?
" There is power in your lines which associate the localities of
Bobin Hood's life with his grave : they exemplify the fusing power
of genius, and I have seldom read sweeter poetry than your reflec-
tions on the graveyard of the convent ; but — and I hardly know
why — I don't like the word 'promiscuous.' Nor can I bid you
good bye, without blackballing ' iEolus.' The devil take him, and
all the breed of him, including his relations ' Nimp' and ' Dryhead.'*
If they were otters or badgers I could understand them. And the
devil take all comparisons that do not dlustrate, or (better stall,)
demonstrate something, like Colonel Thompson's. Bead him, you
b — ch, if you would be Amazonian.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Ebenezee Elliott."
* "I beg pardon of these folks. ' Nymph ' and ' Dryad ' is the proper spelling."
" Great Houghton Common, 26th Aug. 1848.
" In criticising any poem, really such, I coidd find in my
heart to be hypercritical ; because, while fearing that poetry bas
seen her best days, I am unwilling to conclude that her days are
numbered, and that the ' old melody ' will soon be heard no more
for ever. Living in an age of poetical unbelief — and which boasts
that it has outlived the 'artifice of verse ' — we ought to have faith
in a precept of old Isaac Walton's, which applies equally to verse-
making and angling. ' When you use your worm,' said he, 'put
him on the hook as if you loved him.' So he who, in these days,
professes to write poetry, should write it as if he were writing for
his life. Yet I could point out in your poem, lines which are not
verse of any kind. You, I doubt not, wrote them with a purpose.
But I have no faith in what are called imitative verse : consonantal
English is harsh in itself: to write musically is our bow of Ulysses.
Do not, however, misunderstand me. Your versification usually
sings your thoughts well.
" The paid and the payer, you admit, are quits ; and yet you talk
of the payer's 'mastership;' a heresy too widely believed to need
inculcating, and which must be abjured if either of the parties is to
be a man. If neither of them is to be a man, I can understand why
one of them is to luxuriate, or wallow in the insolence of condescen-
tion, at the expense of the others.
" I requested my daughter, at Sheffield, to look at your piano,
and she writes me, in reply, that her brother has given £20 for a
new one, on which she is practising.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Qreat Houghton, near Barnsley, 2nd Sep, 18-48.
" Dear Sib,
" Late events seem to be verifying your prediction ' that
Germany has an important mission to fulfil in the world.' The
authoress of 'England the Civilizer' has also risked some predic-
tions which have already received startling confirmation.
" I don't like your ' Bridge of Death.' When you sat down to
write it, you were in search of a great victim for execution. So,
you said mentally, ' Dilly, dilly, duckling, come and be killed!' It
came, alas ! and frightful work you made of it. I know nothing
like it but Frank Alsop's sermon, when he preached before the
blazing tar-barrel. ' Terrible work ! Woe to the wicked ! None
of your works ! None of your works ! Damn your works ! Free
grace is all.'
" You never, I am sorry to say, write lines of ten syllables pro-
nounced in the time of nine. The effect of such lines is always
bad, and no precedents can make it otherwise. Lines of eleven
syllables pronounced in the time of ten, have often a good effect,
as the following line from Gray, and your general practice prove : —
' Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.'
Here the words ' many a' form a dactyl — three syllables pronounced
in the time of two. Of all arts and mysteries there is scarcely one
that requires so long an apprenticeship as this beggarly trade of
poetry ; and you are an envious villain for having learned it so well.
" But, Lord be thanked, you are not faultless. I defy you to
make verse of any kind, by any seaming, of any one of these lines
from 'The Gala :'—
' With the great glad blessedness of knowledge.'
'Honest John, plain-spoken as a bell.'
* Lies stained with coloured Are in the sun.'
This last is a line of nine syllables, pronounced in the time of ten.
The effect is that of offering a fourpenny-bit for sixpence.
" I am, dear Sir, your much gratified faidtfinder,
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley, 11th Sept. 1848.
" I have seldom read better prose than your essay on
' Prayer and Other Things.' It is more poetical than any of your
mounted poetry that I have yet seen. And in my cabbage book,
(I am naturally a tailor,) ' formality is selfishness on stilts,' stands
at your credit. Lord, if that book were fairly posted, what a tale
it would tell about the originalities of — you know who !
'"Long, long ago,' (perhaps fifteen years,) when food-taxing
and much-mortgaged Chandos, (grieved to see anything eatable
escape his maw,) had been accusing his victims of luxurious living
and want of forethought, I prayed aloud in the presence of eight
or ten thousand Sheffielders, in Paradise Square assembled, ' That
he might live to know what it is to be poor.' Though a murmured,
yet sublime ' Amen ' responded to me, persons present, (and
afterwards persons not present,) called me 'monster!' with the
Bftving clause of, 'if not madmau.' But God heard my prayer.
I then ought not to say that supplications, addressed immediately
to him, are useless. The following, however, is my creed, and it
probably differs little from your own : ' The only true, because the
ouly useful prayer, is that which human beings, (after vainly doing
their best for themselves,) address to their fellow creatures for
assistance. And it justifies begging ! unless desperate people are
to be forced on that awful, and sole remaining alternative, which
they have full the same right to use, that a drowning man has to
catch at a straw.'
" Your constant teazer,
" Hargate Hill, near Barnsley, oth Oct. 1848.
" Dear Sir,
" As an ultimate corrective of blunders, I have written an
account of my boyhood and youth — say a history of the education
of my mind — and made a present of it. Of course I could not
comply with your request, without destroying the value of the gift.
But if you like you may speak of me thus : ' Ebenezer Elliott,
the Corn Law Rhymer, a poet of the people if ever they had one,
was born at Masbrough, in March, 1781. He is the second son of
a commercial clerk, who had eleven children, and a salary of £70 a
year. The bard, when a boy, was so dull, or so inattentive, that at
last he was thought incapable of learning anything at school.
After being sent to two schools, with little or uo result, he was
allowed to have pretty much his own way. To this circumstance
he attributes any merit he may have displayed. Thrown on himself,
he learned to think for himself; and in God's good time saw the
necessity of educating himself. His merit, such as it is, is his own,
for, says he, I earned it ; and T have heard his wife say that he has
to thank himself only for all that he knows. His laziness never
could learn grammar ; but he can correct inaccurate language by
reflection ; and he thinks he writes better English than some people
who teach Latin. There is nothing remarkable in his personal
appearance, except, perhaps, his gentle manners. He has neither a
shoulder like a leg of mutton, nor a hinder-end broader than a
blacksmith's bellows. He is five feet seven inches high, and slimly
rather than strongly made. His eyes, dim aud pale, kindle wildly
sometimes. His features are harsh, but expressive and not unpleas-
ing. On the whole, he is just the man, who if unknown, would
pass unnoticed anywhere.'
" Say for my book what you can, and for or of me the less the
better. People are dog sick of the topic.
" I still suffer great pain, and lose a pound in weight weekly. If
not removed suddenly by this dizziness, or by this fluttering, I shall
last till April.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Great Houghton, near Barnsley, 7t7i Oct. 1848.
" "What you have to say of me will not be complete without
this addition, which you can use or not : — 'He is a politician and a
poet. With his politics, you know, I have here nothing to do.
Poets, you also know, are iisually people who having expressed in
verse thoughts not fit or not good enough for prose, get pensioned,
or die in the workhouse. It is a real distinction to the Corn Law
Rhymer, that in his grey hairs, and in the land of palaces and
workhouses, he is not either a pauper or a pensioner. Tired and
comparatively poor, but self-sustained, like one who after hard
labour reaches his home and rests, he sits on his own hill-top.'
" Yours very truly,
" Ebenezee Elliott."
" Hargate Hill, near Barnsley, \Zth Nov. 1848.
" Though I am becoming great in the peg line, having lost
two front teeth since last Wednesday, I think I could yet make
your 'Discourse on Plutarch' tell in a Mechanics' Hall. Oh, that I
were conditioned to recite it, Roary O' Thunder, before a thousand
radicals! I have read it to Mrs. E. and my younger daughter,
who both say they know not when they had such a treat before.
It is indeed a noble oration. I greatly like your style. None of
your sentences are too long ; and your short ones give time to
breathe. Some of your passages are perfect music. Verse to the
devil, then! you can write prose. But can you afford such com-
"I have, so far, kept my carcass out of the cask filled with
the black droning stingers, that eat the honey of all workers, and
poison what they do not devour.
"I have quoted from the letter of a lady-friend a passage very
like one of yours, in my preface to a poem, or rather trilogy, in
twelve books, of which the first part in four books is finished and
complete in itself. Whether I proceed or not with the remaining
two parts, I shall want defenders; for the action is placed in
eldest time, and yet the characters, etc., I am told, are rather
modern; but I think with you, 'that he who speaks truly to one
age, speaks truly to all ages.' Shall I do this into verse ?
' He truly to all ages speaks,
Who truly speaks to one.'
"I have lost five pounds since I weighed last, and am now just
ten pounds heavier than cuckold's weight.
"I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Hargate Rill, 20lh March, 1849.
"I said in my heart, 'Where is he? Surely the city
of counties, the swallower of giants, hath gobbled him up,
and evermore to be forgotten by him is the lone hill and its
"Come when you may, you will be welcome here, and I hope
I need not say how glad I shall be to see you if, when you come,
I am in the land of the living.
"I rejoice to hear that you are progressing. Who is Troup?
Tait's editor ? As I see neither Tait's nor Blackwood's Magazine,
let me know when anything of yours appears in either, and I
will buy the number.
" We have not seen the second part of the Banquet of Plutarch ;
but we have been contrasting your prose style with that of a writer
in ' The North British Review,' who seems determined to burst his
readers with his long-winded sentences, and interminable wordiness.
" Of an epic in three parts, each complete in itself, to be called
respectively 'Etheline,' 'Konig,' and 'Telmerine,' I have finished
the first part in four books. I mean it to form portion of a volume
of prose and verse which I am preparing for the press ; but, alas!
in such discredit is political honesty, that I doubt whether I shall
be able to find a publisher, even on the principle of sharing profits.
" One of my daughters-in-law, going to the West Indies, said to
me, ' Write me a song.' So I said I would, and I did do. You
live in the land of ' Great Sings.' If it will sing tell me. You say
nothing of your lecture on the Greatest Goose.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Ebenezer Elliott."
Tune — Limy ago.
" Sing her a song of the white-headed one,
Gone, gone before ! Gone, gone before !
Sing to her tears of the Sire who is gone !
When to come more ? Never more !
Heart-breaking sea, when she weepeth alone,
Tell his sad child that the white-headed one
Went to the grave blessing her who was gone,
Wide, wide waves o'er ! wide waves o'er !
Now sighs the widow unto the lone sea,
' Bring her again ! Bring her again !
Sea, let the sad find a true friend in thee !
Bring her again ! Soon again ! '
Wild was the parting, but may there not be
Tears which are blissful ? when sings the old sea,
' Mother and child, thank the good God for me :
Meet, meet again ! Meet again.' "
" Margate Hill, Barnsley, 30th March, 1849.
" Dear Sib,
"Easter Sunday at latest—and dinna forget.
" Your ' Ballad History of the Norman Conquest ' gives me a
higher conception of your poetical likelihood than anything else
of yours that I have seen. It proves you to be a poet. But our
noble fourteen syllable line, which young bards chirp instinctively
(though there is 'thunder on its tongue" capable of earthquake
impression, yet,) having but two notes (B and C) would be intol-
erably tiresome in a long poem. The first part of my three-in-one
poem is written in a ballad measure, or rather in ballad measures ;
the longest lines containing nine syllables. But I purpose to write
the second part in our heroic Iambic, rhyming irregularly, (and
not at too long intervals,) running the hues into each other, as
the most eloquent of poets does in the fourth canto of his ' Childe.'
" I am, dear Sir, yours truly,
" Ebenezeb Elliott."
" Hargate Rill, near Barnsley, 12th April, 1849.
" Dear Sib,
" I have tried all I know at Rotherham and Sheffield to get
'The Christian Teacher,' from which Mr. Howitt, in his 'People's
Journal,' picked the pretty. It cannot be had at either of those
places. But it was edited at Manchester by an Unitarian minister,
and I think a letter to some Unitarian minister there or there-
abouts, would procure you such numbers of it as relate to me. My
best cricket (the angel of my hearth) having objected to the song
I gave you, I enclose it, corrected by her.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" DoNOtTGHT would have everything ;
Eat the lark, and use its wings ;
Sip the sweet, and be the sting :
Donought is the only king.
Donought is an alchemist ;*
Hencock is a communist ;
* Alchemist, or thief, he must be : or how does he live ?
Idlehead is heavy-fist ;
Will's a right-line — with a twist.
Hark ! the throstle ! what sings he ?
' Worm, my beauty, come to me ! '
Yet all lovely things are free ;
Chain'd and happy ! can it be ?
See the daisies, how they grow !
When they list, the breezes blow :
Why can't weary man do so ?
All enjoy, and nothing owe ?
' Mouth, keep open ! Eyes, be shut ! :
Take no care for back or gut :
Best of women is the slut !
Hey for cattle, cook'd and cut ! "
" Hargate Hill, near Barnsley, 22nd June, 1849.
" It is quite true that I have been so ill as to be scarcely
able to say I was alive, and also true that laudanum must be making
havoc of my intellectuals, if I did not answer your letters. Men-
tally, I am quite sure, I answered them, thanking you sincerely for
them, and all your kindness ; but I can find no copy of my answer.
How kind it is in you to think of a poor broken-down man like
me ! You are close upon some of the finest scenery in England ;
scenery which I have long purposed to see, and which I will see, if
I live another year.
" Southey thought Gordale Scar finer than anything of the kind
in Britain. Ingleborough ! MalhamTarn! MalhamCove! Kilnsey
Pike ! all in a ring of twelve miles ! But the fall at Malham, 300
feet high, is worth seeing only after a heavy rain. Is Dr. Carlyle's
residence in Huddersfield ? What is the price of his translation of
Dante? I will strain a point to buy it, if it is not very high.
Two and a half years ago, when I first sought medical aid, my
disease was curable. I have discovered the cause of it — constriction
of the great gut, threatening closure, and a death of torture. Talmer
died of it, eight inches of the rectum having closed ! It is now,
perhaps, incurable, but mitigation is still possible, and such com-
parative relieve from pain as will allow mo to prepare another
volume for the press. You see what I am made of: I talk of
myself. You think of me, and how you can serve me. God
" I am, dear Sir, yours truly,
" Hargate Hill, 3rd July, 1849.
" Dear Sib,
" Alas, then, the water-cure does not cure you ! ! ! Cold
immersion would not cure me. Could you describe the process of
water-cure ? I have cold water here ; better, none anywhere. But
if I could get 'dacent 1 I would try Scarborough.
" Both Tait and Bulwer have asked me to perform the task you
set me. I never could set about it ; and at the risk of being
thought ungrateful, I must say that I much doubt the possibility
of my writing a page of such composition, though I delight to read
such. Nor, if able, could I wisely undertake any new tasks.
There are three things which I ought to do, not one of which shall
I be allowed to do — so I fear. I woidd fain write the two remain-
ing parts of my epic, ' Eth-Kon-Tel,' of which I read you the first
part in four books. I would fain arrange my letters, papers, etc.,
for publication, if wanted, when I am gone. And I would fain
prepare a new volume for the press. This last I am trying to do,
but if I use the pen half an hour I suffer torments which I hope
the damned do not suffer.
" They whose corn laws blessed the ' agricultural hills and
valleys of ILkley' with weavers working sixteen hours for fivepence,
did not create those hills and valleys ; but they talk to us as if they
did, and you believe them. Heaven help us !
" My son Erank is here, reading aloud your Sketches of Hudders-
field scenery. But the scene itself is present with me.
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
" Great Houglrfon, near Barnsley, 5th Sept. 1849.
" I should fear I had offended you if you came so near
as Wentworth without calling on me. Seriously, I mean not to
be complimentary when I say it, for it is true, we see so few
humans here, that the devil would be welcome if he came, as I
hope he will some day soon. Wentworth Castle is another most
" I am, dear Sir, yours very truly
J. BROOK, PRINTER, WESTGATE, UUDDEHSFIELD.
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