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John Ruskin 



London : George Allen 



May 1907 

IZth io iSth Thousand 

All rights reserved 


I HAVE written these sketches of effort and 
incident in former years for my friends ; and 
for those of the public who have been pleased 
by my books. 

I have written them therefore, frankly, 
garrulously, and at ease; speaking of what 
it gives me joy to remember at any length I 
like — sometimes very carefully of what I think 
it may be useful for others to know; and 
passing in total silence things which I have 
no pleasure in reviewing, and which the reader 
would find no help in the account of. My 
described life has thus become more amusing 
than I expected to myself, as I summoned its 
long past scenes for present scrutiny : — its 
main methods of study, and principles of 
work, I feel justified in commending to other 
students; and very certainly any habitual 
readers of my books will understand them 


better, for having knowledge as complete as 
I can give them of the personal character 
which, without endeavour to conceal, I yet 
have never taken pains to display, and even, 
now and then, felt some freakish pleasure in 
exposing to the chance of misinterpretation. 

I write these few prefatory words on my 
father's birthday, in what was once my 
nursery in his old house, — to which he 
brought my mother and me, sixty-two years 
since, I being then four years old. What 
would otherwise in the following pages have 
been little more than an old man's recreation 
in gathering visionary flowers in fields of 
youth, has taken, as I wrote, the nobler 
aspect of a dutiful offering at the grave of 
parents who trained my childhood to all the 
good it could attain, and whose memory makes 
declining life cheerful in the hope of being 
soon again with them. 

Herne Hill, 

loth May, 18S5. 


[Note. — The Tables of Contents which are now added to this 
edition of " Preeterita" have been prepared by the compiler of 
the Index. The dates at the head of each chapter are those with 
which the chapter mainly deals, although other topics, referring 
to later years, are often included in the same chapter.'] 


Preface v 




Author's first masters— Scott and Homer— Defoe and 
Bunyan— The Bible— His Toryism— Idle kingship— 
Hisfather's business— Author born at 54 Hunter Street, 
Brunswick Square— Early travels through England — 
Maternal grandparents— His mother— Her sister at 
Croydon— Author's childhood— Toys and amusements 
— Portrait by Northcote - Dress — Learns to read and 
write— Destined for the Church— His own sermon 
"People, be good!" — His father's partners— Mr. 
Domecq — Mr. Henry Telford — Gives author Rogers' 
Italy — His travelling chariot — Nurse Anne — Tra- 
velling in olden days — Cottages and castles . . 1-34 




Removal to Heme Hill — The house and neighbourhood 
described — Pleasures of author's childhood — His 



father's manner of life— Reading aloud — Bible and 
Latin lessons with his mother — Home blessings — 
Peace, obedience, faith — Analytical power — Home 
deficiencies — No one to love : nothing to endure — 
Untrained manners — Want of independent action — 
General effect on author's character — " Prseterita" 
to be amiable— Heme Hill then and now further 
described — Its garden ...... 35-62 



Author's powers as a child — Early reading and writing 
— First efforts in authorship — "Harry and Lucy" — 
Poems on steam-engine and rainbow — Daily routine 
— Love of toy bricks — Modern toys — Interest in 
Mowers — " Eudosia, a Poem on the Universe" — 
Mineralogy — Evenings at home — His father reading 
aloud — Paternal grandparents — His father's sister 
Jessie — Her home at Perth — Her servant Mause — 
Her children — By the banks of Tay — Accidents of 
childhood — A dog's bite — A good ducking . . 63-92 




Illness at Dunkeld (1828) — Death of cousin Jessie -and 
her mother — Foresight dreams — Author's cousin 
Mary, adopted by his parents (1829) — Sundays in 
childhood — Dr. Andrews of Beresford Chapel — 
Author's first tutor — Greek lessons — Copying Cruik- 
shank's Grimm — Cousin Mary— Matlock (1829) 
and mineralogy — Author's poem " Iteriad" (1830-32) 



— First drawing master, Mr. Runciman (1831) — 
Author's first sketch book — Love of watching the 
sea— 1832 — At Heme Hill — Gift of Rogers' Italy — 
1833 — Prout's sketches in Flanders and Germany 
— Tour abroad — Author's drawings there — Poetical 
journal (1834) — Author's schoolmaster, Rev. T. Dale 
— Schoolfellows, Matson, Key, Jones — Author's 
Scotch grammar — Mr. Rowbotham and mathematics 
— Author (1834) gets leave to copy in the Louvre 93-117 



Death of author's Croydon aunt — Her family — Careers of 
her sons — Charles at Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. — 
Annuals — Forget-me-not — Friendship's offering — Mr. 
Pringle — Prints author's verses — Takes him to see 
S. Rogers — The Ettrick Shepherd — Visits to Clifton, 
Bristol, Chepstow, Malvern — The English Lakes 
— Tour in Wales — Plynlimmon — Riding lessons — 
Mineralogy— Dr. Grant— Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gray 
— Mr. and Mrs. Cockburn and their sons— Marryat's 
novels— The field of Waterloo .... 118-145 




Paris 1823— Author's recollection of his visit there and to 
Brussels— Nanny Clowsley— Travelling chariots in old 
days— "Vix ea nostra voco"— French post-horses- 
Couriers— Salvador— Author's father, his expenditure 
and habits in travelling— Schaffhausen 1833— The 
Black Forest— The gates of the hills— William Tell— 
VOL. I. f, 



First sight of the Alps — Into Italy by the Splugen — 
The Lake of Como — Milan — Modern electro-plate 
tourists — What went ye out for to see? . . 146-171 



Author's occupations — Poetry without ideas — Engraving 
— Architecture without design — Geology — Character 
of his parents — His father's reading aloud — His 
mother's birth and education — His father's youth — 
Letter (1807) of Dr. Thomas Brown to him — His 
parents' nine years' engagement — Their marriage — 
Author's ignorance of his family affairs — His mother's 
self-culture — His father's health — Business powers and 
position — Commercial guests at Heme Hill — Secluded 
and simple life there — Dr. Andrews of Walworth — 
Offices of Ruskin, Telford, and Domecq — Maisie — 
Love of home — Death of Cousin Charles at sea 
(Jan. 22, 1834) 172-204 




Heme Hill friends — Mr. and Mrs. Fall and their son 
Richard — Author's reading — The Annuals — Byron 
read aloud to him by his father — His mother's puri- 
tanism, inoffensive prudery, and humour — Byron's 
true qualities — Remarks on his letters to Moore about 
Sheridan, and to Murray about poetry — Author's early 
but limited appreciation of him and of Pope's Homer 
— Byron's simple truth — His rhythm — Johnson's influ- 
ence on author — Author's illness, 1835 — Dr. Walsh- 
man — Preparations for tour abroad — Cyanometer — 
Poetical diary 205-229 






Abbeville — Its history — St. Riquier — St. Wulfran — 
Author's thought centres ; Rouen, Geneva, Pisa — His 
love of Abbeville — Paris to Geneva in old days — La 
Cloche, Dijon, Auxonne, Dole — Poligny — Jura — 
Champagnole — Saussure's description — The source of 
the Orbe — Carlyle quoted on gardens — Les Rousses — 
Col de la Faucille— Effect on author, 1835 . . 230-256 



Author's taste for music — Anecdote of him at Tunbridge 
Wells (1827) — His father's choice of his clerks — Henry 
Watson and his sisters — Their musical gifts — Mr. 
Domecq's daughters and home in Paris — The opera 
there — " I Puritani" — Grisi andMalibran — Taglioni — 
Patti — Author's music and singing lessons at Oxford 
(1837) — Mr. Dale's lectures at King's College (1836) 
— Visit of the Domecq girls to Heme Hill — Adele 
Domecq — Author's story of "Leoni" — His Venetian 
tragedy — Reading Byron and Shelley — Matriculation 
at Christ Church (1836) — Entered as a gentleman 
commoner — Dean Gaisford — Going into residence 257-287 



I S3 7- 

First days at Oxford — Author's inclinations and character 
— His reading and view of the Bible — Christ Church 
Cathedral — The occupants of the choir — The Hall, 



degraded by "collections " — Dean Gaisford — Flooring 
a tutor — Too good an essay — Mr. Strangways' approval 
— Henry Acland — Osborne Gordon — Charles Newton 
— Author's mother living in Oxford — The day's routine 
— The tutors — Walter Brown — Messrs. Hill, Kynas- 
ton, Hussey — Dr. Pusey — The Dean again — A bright 
exception — DeanLiddell — Dr. Bucklandandhisfamily 
— H. Acland's friendship — Story of his calmness in a 
shipwreck — Author's debt to him and Dr. Buckland — 
Lord Wemyss (F. Charteris) — Lord Desart — Oxford 
wines — Bob Grimston — Scott Murray — Lord Kildare 
— Thucydides — Dr. Arnold's preface quoted 288-324 




Copley Fielding — Author's drawing-lessons from him — 
A letter from Northcote (1830) — Author's knowledge 
of Turner (1836) — Turner's pictures of that year — 
Author's reply to Blackwood — Turner's letter to him 
on it — Mr. Munro of Novar — Tours in Yorkshire and 
the Lakes (1837), Scotland (1838), Cornwall (1839) 
— Author's peculiar love of wild scenery — Words- 
worth, Shelley, and Turner — Author's feelings com- 
bine theirs, and are still unchanged — Mr. and Mrs. 
Withers and their daughter — Loch Katrine — Roslyn 
and Melrose — "The Poetry of Architecture" (1837-38) 
— Influence of Johnson — Mr. Ritchie — Adele again — 
Disobedience of wishing to disobey — Miss Wardell — 
Miss S. Dowie 3 2 S~35 3 




[ The reader must be advised that the first two chapters are 
reprinted, with slight revision, from Fors Clavigera, 
having beeti written there chiefly for the political lessons, 
which appear now introduced somewhat violently.] 

I. I AM, and my father was before me, a vio- 
lent Tory of the old school ; — Walter Scott's 
school, that is to say, and Homer's. I name 
these two out of the numberless great Tory 
writers, because they were my own two masters. 
I had Walter Scott's novels and the Iliad, 
(Pope's translation,) for constant reading when 
I was a child, on week-days : on Sunday their 
effect was tempered by Robinson Crusoe and the 
Pilgrim's Progress ; my mother having it deeply 
in her heart to make an evangelical clergyman 
of me. Fortunately, I had an aunt more evan- 
gelical than my mother ; and my aunt gave me 

VOL. I. A 


cold mutton for Sunday's dinner, which — as I 
much preferred it hot — greatly diminished the 
influence of the Pilgrim's Progress, and the 
end of the matter was, that I got all the noble 
imaginative teaching of Defoe and Bunyan, and 
yet — am not an evangelical clergyman. 
yj 2. I had, however, still better teaching than 
theirs, and that compulsorily, and every day of 
the week. 

Walter Scott and Pope's Homer were read- 
ing of my own election, and my mother forced 
me, by steady daily toil, to learn long chapters 
of the Bible by heart ; as well as to read it 
every syllable through, aloud, hard names and 
all, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, about once 
a year : and to that discipline — patient, accu- 
rate, and resolute — I owe, not only a know- 
ledge of the book, which I find occasionally 
serviceable, but much of my general power of 
taking pains, and the best part of my taste 
in literature. From Walter Scott's novels I 
might easily, as I grew older, have fallen to 
other people's novels ; and Pope might, per- 
haps, have led me to take Johnson's English, 
or Gibbon's, as types of language; but, once 
knowing the 32nd of Deuteronomy, the 1 19th 


Psalm, the 15 th of 1st Corinthians, the Ser- 
mon on the Mount, and most of the Apoca- 
lypse, every syllable by heart, and having 
always a way of thinking with myself what 
words meant, it was not possible for me, even 
in the foolishest times of youth, to write 
entirely superficial or formal English ; and the 
affectation of trying to write like Hooker and 
George Herbert was the most innocent I could 
have fallen into. 

3. From my own chosen masters, then, 
Scott and Homer, I learned the Toryism 
which my best after-thought has only served 
to confirm. 

That is to sa}', a most sincere love of kings, 
and dislike of everybody who attempted to 
disobey them. Only, both by Homer and 
Scott, I was taught strange ideas about kings, 
which I find for the present much obsolete; 
for, I perceived that both the author of the 
Iliad and the author of Waverley made their 
kings, or king-loving persons, do harder work 
than anybody else. Tydides or Idomeneus 
always killed twenty Trojans to other people's 
one, and Redgauntlet speared more salmon 
than any of the Solway fishermen, and — 


which was particularly a subject of admiration 
to me — I observed that they not only did 
more, but in proportion to their doings, got 
less than other people — nay, that the best of 
them were even ready to govern for nothing ! 
and let their followers divide any quantity of 
spoil or profit. Of late it has seemed to me 
that the idea of a king has become exactly 
the contrary of this, and that it has been 
supposed the duty of superior persons gene- 
rally to govern less, and get more, than any- 
body else. So that it was, perhaps, quite as 
well that in those early days my contemplation 
of existent kingship was a very distant one. 

4. The aunt who gave me cold mutton on 
Sundays was my father's sister: she lived at 
Bridge-end, in the town of Perth, and had 
a garden full of gooseberry-bushes, sloping 
down to the Tay, with a door opening to the 
water, which ran past it, clear-brown over 
the pebbles three or four feet deep; swift- 
eddying, — an infinite thing for a child to look 
down into. 

5. My father began business as a wine- 
merchant, with no capital, and a consider- 
able amount of debts bequeathed him by my 


grandfather. He accepted the bequest, and 
paid them all before he began to lay by any- 
thing for himself, — for which his best friends 
called him a fool, and I, without expressing 
any opinion as to his wisdom, which I knew 
in such matters to be at least equal to mine, 
have written on the granite slab over his grave 
that he was 'an entirely honest merchant.' 
As days went on he was able to take a house 
in Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, No. 54, 
(the windows of it, fortunately for me, com- 
manded a view of a marvellous iron post, out 
of which the water-carts were filled through 
beautiful little trap-doors, by pipes like boa- 
constrictors ; and I was never weary of con- 
templating that mystery, and the delicious 
dripping consequent); and as years went on, 
and I came to be four or five years old, he 
could command a postchaise and pair for two 
months in the summer, by help of which, with 
my mother and me, he went the round of his 
country customers (who liked to see the 
principal of the house his own traveller) ; so 
that, at a jog-trot pace, and through the pano- 
ramic opening of the four windows of a post- 
chaise, made more panoramic still to me 


because my seat was a little bracket in front, 
(for we used to hire the chaise regularly for 
the two months out of Long Acre, and so 
could have it bracketed and pocketed as we 
liked,) I saw all the high-roads, and most of 
the cross ones, of England and Wales, and 
great part of lowland Scotland, as far as 
Perth, where every other year we spent the 
whole summer; and I used to read the Abbot 
at Kinross, and the Monastery in Glen Farg, 
which I confused with ' Glendearg/ and 
thought that the White Lady had as certainly 
lived by the streamlet in that glen of the 
Ochils, as the Queen of Scots in the island of 
Loch Leven. 
v 6. To my farther great benefit, as I grew 

older, I thus saw nearly all the noblemen's 
houses in England j in reverent and healthy 
delight of uncovetous admiration, — perceiving, 
as soon as I could perceive any political truth 
at all, that it was probably much happier to 
live in a small house, and have Warwick 
Castle to be astonished at, than to live in 
Warwick Castle and have nothing to be 


astonished at ; but that, at all events, it would 
not make Brunswick Square in the least more 


pleasantly habitable, to pull Warwick Castle 
down. And at this day, though I have kind 
invitations enough to visit America, I could 
not, even for a couple of months, live in a 
country so miserable as to possess no castles. 
7. Nevertheless, having formed my notion 
of kinghood chiefly from the Fitzjames of the 
Lady of the Lake, and of noblesse from the 
Douglas there, and the Douglas in Marmion, 
a painful wonder soon arose in my child-mind, 
why the castles should now be always empty. 
Tantallon was there; but no Archibald of 
Angus: — Stirling, but no Knight of Snow- 
doun. The galleries and gardens of England 
were beautiful to see — but his Lordship and 
her Ladyship were always in town, said the 
housekeepers and gardeners. Deep yearning / 
took hold of me for a kind of ' Restoration,' 
which I began slowly to feel that Charles the 
Second had not altogether effected, though I 
always wore a gilded oak-apple very piously 
in my button-hole on the 29th of May. It 
seemed to me that Charles the Second's 
Restoration had been, as compared with the 
Restoration I wanted, much as that gilded 
oak-apple to a real apple. And as I grew 


wiser, the desire for sweet pippins instead of 
bitter ones, and Living Kings instead of dead 
ones, appeared to me rational as well as 
romantic ; and gradually it has become the 
main purpose of my life to grow pippins, and 
its chief hope, to see Kings. * 

8. I have never been able to trace these 
prejudices to any royalty of descent : of my 
father's ancestors I know nothing, nor of my 
mother's more than that my maternal grand- 
mother was the landlady of the Old King's 
Head in Market Street, Croydon ; and I wish 
she were alive again, and I could paint her 
Simone Memmi's King's Head, for a sign. 

My maternal grandfather was, as I have 
said, a sailor, who used to embark, like Robin- 
son Crusoe, at Yarmouth, and come back at 
rare intervals, making himself very delightful 
at home. I have an idea he had something to 
do with the herring business, but am not clear 
on that point ; my mother never being much 
communicative concerning it. He spoiled her, 

* The St. George's Company was founded for the pro- 
motion of agricultural instead of town life : and my only 
hope of prosperity for England, or any other country, in 
whatever life they lead, is in their discovering and obeying 
men capable of Kinghood. 


and her (younger) sister, with all his heart, 
when he was at home ; unless there appeared 
any tendency to equivocation, or imaginative 
statements, on the part of the children, which 
were always unforgiveable. My mother being 
once perceived by him to have distinctly told 
him a lie, he sent the servant out forthwith to 
buy an entire bundle of new broom twigs to 
whip her with. 'They did not hurt me so 
much as one' (twig) 'would have done,' said 
my mother, ' but I thought a good deal of it.' 

9. My grandfather was killed at two-and- 
thirty, by trying to ride, instead of walk, into 
Croydon ; he got his leg crushed by his horse 
against a wall ; and died of the hurt's morti- 
fying. My mother was then seven or eight 
years old, and, with her sister, was sent to 
quite a fashionable (for Croydon) day-school, 
Mrs. Rice's, where my mother was taught 
evangelical principles, and became the pattern 
girl and best needlewoman in the school ; and 
where my aunt absolutely refused evan- 
gelical principles, and became the plague and 
pet of it. 

10. My mother, being a girl of great power, 
with not a little pride, grew more and more 


exemplary in her entirely conscientious career, 
much laughed at, though much beloved, by 
her sister; who had more wit, less pride, and 
no conscience. At last my mother, formed 
into a consummate housewife, was sent for to 
Scotland to take care of my paternal grand- 
father's house ; who was gradually ruining 
himself; and who at last effectually ruined, 
and killed, himself. My father came up to 
London ; was a clerk in a merchant's house for 
nine years, without a holiday ; then began busi- 
ness on his own account; paid his father's debts; 
and married his exemplary Croydon cousin. 

II. Meantime my aunt had remained in 
Croydon, and married a baker. By the time I 
was four years old, and beginning to recollect 
things, — my father rapidly taking higher 
commercial position in London, — there was 
traceable — though to me, as a child, wholly 
incomprehensible, — just the least possible 
shade of shyness on the part of Hunter Street, 
Brunswick Square, towards Market Street, 
Croydon. But whenever my father was ill, — 
and hard work and sorrow had already set 
their mark on him, — we all went down to 
Croydon to be petted by my homely aunt ; 


and walk on Duppas Hill, and on the heather 
of Addington. 

12. My aunt lived in the little house still 
standing — or which was so four months ago — 
the fashionablest in Market Street, having 
actually two windows over the shop, in the 
second story; but I never troubled myself 
about that superior part of the mansion, 
unless my father happened to be making 
drawings in Indian ink, when I would sit 
reverently by and watch ; my chosen domains 
being, at all other times, the shop, the bake- 
house, and the stones round the spring of 
crystal water at the back door (long since let 
down into the modern sewer) ; and my chief 
companion, my aunt's dog, Towzer, whom she 
had taken pity on when he was a snappish, 
starved vagrant ; and made a brave and affec- 
tionate dog of : which was the kind of thing 
she did for every living creature that came in 
her way, all her life long. 

13. Contented, by help of these occasional 
glimpses of the rivers of Paradise, I lived 
until I was more than four years old in 
Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, the greater 
part of the year ; for a few weeks in the 


summer breathing country air by taking lodg- 
ings in small cottages (real cottages, not 
villas, so-called) either about Hampstead, or 
at Dulwich, at 'Mrs. Ridley's,' the last of a 
row in a lane which led out into the Dulwich 
fields on one side, and was itself full of butter- 
cups in spring, and blackberries in autumn. 
But my chief remaining impressions of those 
days are attached to Hunter Street. ( My 
mother's general principles of first treatment 
were, to guard me with steady watchfulness 
from all avoidable pain or danger ; and, for 
the rest, to let me amuse myself as I liked, 
provided I was neither fretful nor trouble- 
some. But the law was, that I should find 
my own amusement. No toys of any kind 
were at first allowed ; — and the pity of my 
Croydon aunt for my monastic poverty in 
this respect was boundless. On one of my 
birthdays, thinking to overcome my mother's 
resolution by splendour of temptation, she 
bought the most radiant Punch and Judy she 
could find in all the Soho bazaar — as big as a 
real Punch and Judy, all dressed in scarlet 
and gold, and that would dance, tied to the 
leg of a chair. I must have been greatly 


impressed, for I remember well the look of the 
two figures, as my aunt herself exhibited their 
virtues. My mother was obliged to accept 
them; but afterwards quietly told me it was 
not right that I should have them ; and I 
never saw them again. 

14. Nor did I painfully wish, what I was 
never permitted for an instant to hope, or even 
imagine, the possession of such things as one 
saw in toy-shops. I had a bunch of keys to 
play with, as long as I was capable only of 
pleasure in what glittered and jingled; as I 
grew older, I had a cart, and a ball ; and when 
I was five or six years old, two boxes of well- 
cut wooden bricks. With these modest, but, 
I still think, entirely sufficient possessions, and 
being always summarily whipped if I cried, 
did not do as I was bid, or tumbled on the 
stairs, I soon attained serene and secure 
methods of life and motion ; and could pass 
my days contentedly in tracing the squares 
and comparing the colours of my carpet ;— . 
examining the knots in the wood of the floor, 
or counting the bricks in the opposite houses ; 
with rapturous intervals of excitement during 
the filling of the water - cart, through its 


leathern pipe, from the dripping iron post 
at the pavement edge; or the still more 
admirable proceedings of the turncock, when 
he turned and turned till a fountain sprang up 
in the middle of the street. But the carpet, 
and what patterns I could find in bed covers, 
dresses, or wall-papers to be examined, were 
my chief resources, and my attention to the 
particulars in these was soon so accurate, 
that when at three and a half I was taken to 
have my portrait painted by Mr. Northcote, 
I had not been ten minutes alone with him 
before I asked him why there were holes in 
his carpet.^ The portrait in question represents 
a very pretty child with yellow hair, dressed 
in a white frock like a girl, with a broad light- 
blue sash and blue shoes to match ; the feet 
of the child wholesomely large in proportion 
to its bod}' ; and the shoes still more whole- 
somely large in proportion to the feet. 

15. These articles of my daily dress were 
all sent to the old painter for perfect reali- 
zation ; but they appear in the picture more 
remarkable than they were in my nursery, 
because I am represented as running in a 
field at the edge of a wood with the trunks 


of its trees striped across in the manner of 
Sir Joshua Reynolds; while two rounded 
hills, as blue as my shoes, appear in the 
distance, which were put in by the painter 
at my own request ; for I had already been 
once, if not twice, taken to Scotland ; and 
my Scottish nurse having always sung to me 
as we approached the Tweed or Esk, — 

' For Scotland, my darling, lies full in thy view, 
With her barefooted lassies, and mountains so blue,' 

the idea of distant hills was connected in my 
mind with approach to the extreme felicities 
of life, in my Scottish aunt's garden of goose- 
berry bushes, sloping to the Tay. But that, 
when old Mr. Northcote asked me (little 
thinking, I fancy, to get any answer so ex- 
plicit) what I would like to have in the distance 
of my picture, I should have said ' blue hills ' 
instead of ' gooseberry bushes,' appears to me 
— and I think without any morbid tendency 
to think over-much of myself — a fact suffi- 
ciently curious, and not without promise, in 
a child of that age. 

16. I think it should be related also that 
having, as aforesaid, been steadily whipped 


if I was troublesome, my formed habit of 
serenity was greatly pleasing to the old 
painter ; for I sat contentedly motionless, 
counting the holes in his carpet, or watching 
him squeeze his paint out of its bladders, 
— a beautiful operation, indeed, to my think- 
ing ; — but I do not remember taking any 
interest in Mr. Northcote's application of 
the pigments to the canvas ; my ideas of 
delightful art, in that respect, involving in- 
dispensably the possession of a large pot, 
filled with paint of the brightest green, and 
of a brush which would come out of it soppy. 
But my quietude was so pleasing to the old 
man that he begged my father and mother to 
let me sit to him for the face of a child which 
he was painting in a classical subject ; where 
I was accordingly represented as reclining on 
a leopard skin, and having a thorn taken out 
of my foot by a wild man of the woods. 

17. In all these particulars, I think the 
treatment, or accidental conditions, of my 
childhood, entirely right, for a child of my 
temperament : but the mode of my introduc- 
tion to literature appears to me questionable, 
and T am not prepared to carry it out in St. 


George's schools, without much modification. 
I absolutely declined to learn to read by 
syllables; but would get an entire sentence 
by heart with great facility, and point with 
accuracy to every word in the page as I 
repeated it. As, however, when the words 
were once displaced, I had no more to say, 
my mother gave up, for the time, the en- 
deavour to teach me to read, hoping only 
that I might consent, in process of years, to 
adopt the popular system of syllabic study. 
But I went on to amuse myself, in my own 
way, learnt whole words at a time, as I did 
patterns; and at five years old was sending 
for my 'second volumes' to the circulating 

1 8. This effort to learn the words in their 

collective aspect, was assisted by my real 

admiration of the look of printed type, 

which I began to copy for my pleasure^ 

ns other children draw dogs and horses. 

The following inscription, facsimiled from 

the fly-leaf of my Seven Champions of 

Christendom, (judging from the independent 

views taken in it of the character of the 

letter L, and the relative elevation of G ) I 
vol. i. ' J 



believe to be an extremely early art study 
of this class ; and as by the will of Fors, 
the first lines of the note, written after an 
interval of fifty years, underneath my copy 
of it, in direction to Mr. Burgess, presented 

>W2 jvbusVo'.W- u*fc ^\oo\^ aV \A <Sax-vn£ hero 

some notable points of correspondence with 
it, I thought it well he should engrave them 
together, as they stood. 
^ 19. My mother had, as she afterwards told 
me, solemnly ' devoted me to God ' before I 
was born : in imitation of Hannah. 


Very good women are remarkably apt to 
make away with their children prematurely, 
in this manner : the real meaning of the pious 
act being, that, as the sons of Zebedee are 
not (or at least they hope not), to sit on the 
right and left of Christ, in His kingdom, their 
own sons may perhaps, they think, in time 
be advanced to that respectable position in 
eternal life ; especially if they ask Christ very 
humbly for it every day; and they always 
forget in the most naive way that the position 
is not His to give ! 

20. ' Devoting me to God,' meant, as far as 
my mother knew herself what she meant, that 
she would try to send me to college, and make 
a clergyman of me: and I was accordingly 
bred for ' the Church.' My father, who— rest 
be to his soul — had the exceedingly bad habit 
of yielding to my mother in large things and 
taking his own way in little ones, allowed me, 
without saying a word, to be thus withdrawn 
from the sherry trade as an unclean thing; 
not without some pardonable participation in 
my mother's ultimate views for me. For 
many and many a year afterwards, I re- 
member, while he was speaking to one of 


our artist friends, who admired Raphael, and 
greatly regretted my endeavours to interfere 
with that popular taste, — while my father and 
he were condoling with each other on my 
having been impudent enough to think I could 
tell the public about Turner and Raphael, — 
instead of contenting myself, as I ought, with 
explaining the way of their souls' salvation to 
them — and what an amiable clergyman was 
lost in me, — ' Yes,' said my father, with tears 
in his eyes — (true and tender tears, as ever 
father shed,) ' he would have been a Bishop.' 

21. Luckily for me, my mother, under these 
distinct impressions of her own duty, and 
with such latent hopes of my future eminence, 
took me very early to church ; — where, in 
spite of my quiet habits, and my mother's 
golden vinaigrette, alwa} r s indulged to me 
there, and there only, with its lid unclasped 
that I might see the wreathed open pattern 
above the sponge, I found the bottom of the 
pew so extremely dull a place to keep quiet in, 
(my best story-books being also taken away 
from me in the morning,) that, as I have 
somewhere said before, the horror of Sunday 
used even to cast its prescient gloom as far 



back in the week as Friday — and all the glory 
of Monday, with church seven days removed 
again, was no equivalent for it. 

22. Notwithstanding, I arrived at some 
abstract in my own mind of the Rev. Mr. 
Howell's sermons ; and occasionally, in imita- 
tion of him, preached a sermon at home over 
the red sofa cushions ; — this performance being 
always called for by my mother's dearest 
friends, as the great accomplishment of my 
childhood. The sermon was, I believe, some 
eleven words long ; very exemplary, it seems 
to me, in that respect — and I still think must 
have been the purest gospel, for I know it 
began with, ' People, be good.' 

23. We seldom had company, even on week 
days ; and I was never allowed to come down 
to dessert, until much later in life — when I 
was able to crack nuts neatly. I was then 
permitted to come down to crack other people's 
nuts for them — (I hope they liked the minis- 
tration) — but never to have any myself; nor 
anything else of dainty kind, either then or 
at other times. Once at Hunter Street, I 
recollect my mother giving me three raisins, 
in the forenoon, out of the store cabinet ; and 


I remember perfectly the first time I tasted 
custard, in our lodgings in Norfolk Street — 
where we had gone while the house was being 
painted, or cleaned, or something. My father 
was dining in the front room, and did not 
finish his custard ; and my mother brought 
me the bottom of it into the back room. 

24. But for the reader's better understanding 
of such further progress of my poor little life 
as I may trespass on his patience in describ- 
ing, it is now needful that I give some account 
of my father's mercantile position in London. 

The firm of which he was head partner 
may be yet remembered by some of the older 
city houses, as carrying on their business in 
a small counting-house on the first floor of 
narrow premises, in as narrow a thoroughfare 
of East London, — Billiter Street, the principal 
traverse from Leadenhall Street into Fen- 
church Street. 

The names of the three partners were given 
in full on their brass plate under the counting- 
house bell, — Ruskin, Telford, and Domecq. 

25. Mr. Domecq's name should have been 
the first, by rights, for my father and Mr. 
Telford were only his agents. He was the 


sole proprietor of the estate which was the 
main capital of the firm, — the vineyard of 
Macharnudo, the most precious hillside, for 
growth of white wine, in the Spanish penin- 
sula. The quality of the Macharnudo vin- 
tage essentially fixed the standard of Xeres 
'sack,' or 'dry' — secco — sherris, or sherry, 
from the days of Henry the Fifth to our own ; 
— the unalterable and unrivalled chalk-marl of 
it putting a strength into the grape which age 
can only enrich and darken, — never impair. 

26. Mr. Peter Domecq was, I believe, Spanish 
born ; and partly French, partly English bred ; 
a man of strictest honour, and kindly dis- 
position ; how descended, I do not know ; 
how he became possessor of his vineyard, I 
do not know ; what position he held, when 
young, in the firm of Gordon, Murphy, and 
Company, I do not know; but in their house 
he watched their head clerk, my father, during 
his nine years of duty, and when the house 
broke up, asked him to be his own agent in 
England. My father saw that he could fully 
trust Mr. Domecq's honour, and feeling ; — but 
not so fully either his sense, or his industry; 
and insisted, though taking only his agent's 


commission, on being both nominally, and 
practically, the head-partner of the firm. 

27. Mr. Domecq lived chiefly in Paris ; 
rarely visiting his Spanish estate, but having 
perfect knowledge of the proper processes of 
its cultivation, and authority over its labourers 
almost like a chief's over his clan. He kept 
the wines at the highest possible standard ; 
and allowed my father to manage all matters 
concerning their sale, as he thought best. 
The . second partner, Mr. Henry Telford, 
brought into the business what capital was 
necessary for its London branch. The pre- 
mises in Billiter Street belonged to him ; 
and he had a pleasant country house at 
Widmore, near Bromley ; a quite far-away 
Kentish village in those days. 

He was a perfect type of an English country 
gentleman of moderate fortune; unmarried, 
living with three unmarried sisters, — who, in 
the refinement of their highly educated, un- 
pretending, benevolent, and felicitous lives, 
remain in my memory more like the figures 
in a beautiful story than realities. Neither 
in story, nor in reality, have I ever again 
heard of, or seen, anything like Mr. Henry 


Telford ; — so gentle, so humble, so affectionate, 
so clear in common sense, so fond of horses, 
— and so entirely incapable of doing, thinking, 
or saying, anything that had the slightest 
taint in it of the racecourse or the stable. 

28. Yet I believe he never missed any great 
race; passed the greater part of his life on 
horseback; and hunted during the whole 
Leicestershire season ; but never made a bet, 
never had a serious fall, and never hurt a 
horse. Between him and my father there 
was absolute confidence, and the utmost 
friendship that could exist without com- 
munity of pursuit. My father was greatly 
proud of Mr. Telford's standing among the 
country gentlemen; and Mr. Telford was 
affectionately respectful to my father's steady 
industry and infallible commercial instinct. 
Mr. Telford's actual part in the conduct of 
the business was limited to attendance in 
the counting-house during two months at 
Midsummer, when my father took his holiday, 
and sometimes for a month at the beginning 
of the year, when he travelled for orders. 
At these times Mr. Telford rode into London 
daily from Widmore, signed what letters and 


bills needed signature, read the papers, and 
rode home again ; any matters needing de- 
liberation were referred to my father, or 
awaited his return. All the family at Wid- 
more would have been limitlessly kind to 
my mother and me, if they had been permitted 
any opportunity ; but my mother always felt, 
in cultivated society, — and was too proud to 
feel with patience, — the defects of her own 
early education ; and therefore (which was 
the true and fatal sign of such defect) never 
familiarly visited any one whom she did not 
feel to be, in some sort, her inferior. 

Nevertheless, Mr. Telford had a singu- 
larly important influence in my education. 
By, I believe, his sisters' advice, he gave me, 
as soon as it was published, the illustrated 
edition of Rogers' Italy. This book was the 
first means I had of looking carefully at 
Turner's work : and I might, not without 
some appearance of reason, attribute to the 
gift the entire direction of my life's energies. 
But it is the great error of thoughtless bio- 
graphers to attribute to the accident which 
introduces some new phase of character, all 
the circumstances of character which gave 


the accident importance. The essential point 
to be noted, and accounted for, was that I 
could understand Turner's work, when I saw 
it ; — not by what chance, or in what year, 
it was first seen. Poor Mr. Telford, never- 
theless, was always held by papa and 
mamma primarily responsible for my Turner 

29. In a more direct, though less intended 
way, his help to me was important. For, 
before my father thought it right to hire a 
carriage for the above mentioned Midsummer 
holiday, Mr. Telford always lent us his own 
travelling chariot. 

Now the old English chariot is the most 
luxurious of travelling carriages, for two 
persons, or even for two persons and so 
much of third personage as I possessed at 
three years old. The one in question was 
hung high, so that we could see well over 
stone dykes and average hedges out of it ; 
such elevation being attained by the old- 
fashioned folding steps, with a lovely padded 
cushion fitting into the recess of the door, 
— steps which it was one of my chief tra- 
velling delights to see the hostlers fold up 


and down ; though my delight was painfully 
alloyed by envious ambition to be allowed 
to do it myself : — but I never was, — lest I 
should pinch my fingers. 

30. The 'dickey/ — (to think that I should 
never till this moment have asked myself the 
derivation of that word, and now be unable to 
get at it !) — being, typically, that commanding 
seat in her Majesty's mail, occupied by the 
Guard ; and classical, even in modern litera- 
ture, as the scene of Mr. Bob Sawyer's 
arrangements with Sam, — was thrown* far 
back in Mr. Telford's chariot, so as to give 
perfectly comfortable room for the legs (if one 
chose to travel outside on fine days), and to 
afford beneath it spacious area to the boot, a 
storehouse of rearward miscellaneous luggage. 
Over which — with all the rest of forward and 
superficial luggage — my nurse Anne presided, 
both as guard and packer ; unrivalled, she, in 
the flatness and precision of her in-laying of 
dresses, as in turning of pancakes ; the fine 
precision, observe, meaning also the easy wit 
and invention of her art; for, no more in 
packing a trunk than commanding a campaign, 
is precision possible without foresight. 


31. Among the people whom one must miss 
out of one's life, dead, or worse than dead, by 
the time one is past fifty, I can only say for 
my own part, that the one I practically and 
truly miss most next to father and mother, 
(and putting losses of imaginary good out of 
the question,) is this Anne, my father's nurse, 
and mine. She was one of our ' many,' * (our 
many being always but few,) and from her 
girlhood to her old age, the entire ability of 
her life was given to serving us. She had a 
natural gift and speciality for doing disagree- 
able things; above all, the service of a sick 
room ; so that she was never quite in her 
glory unless some of us were ill. She had 
also some parallel speciality for saying dis- 
agreeable things ; and might be relied upon to 
give the extremely darkest view of any sub- 
ject, before proceeding to ameliorative action 
upon it. And she had a very creditable and 
republican aversion to doing immediately, or 
in set terms, as she was bid ; so that when 
my mother and she got old together, and my 
mother became very imperative and particular 
about having her teacup set on one side of her 

* Formerly ' Meinie,' 'attendant company.' 


little round table, Anne would observantly 
and punctiliously put it always on the other ; 
which caused my mother to state to me, every 
morning after breakfast, gravely, that if ever a 
woman in this world was possessed by the 
Devil, Anne was that woman. But in spite of 
these momentary and petulant aspirations to 
liberality and independence of character, poor 
Anne remained very servile in soul all her 
days; and was altogether occupied, from the 
age of fifteen to seventy-two, in doing other 
people's wills instead of her own, and seeking 
other people's good instead of her own : nor 
did I ever hear on any occasion of her doing 
harm to a human being, except by saving two 
hundred and some odd pounds for her rela- 
tions ; in consequence of which some of them, 
after her funeral, did not speak to the rest for 
several months. 

32. The dickey then aforesaid, being indis- 
pensable for our guard Anne, was made wide 
enough for two, that my father might go out- 
side also when the scenery and day were fine. 
The entire equipage was not a light one of its 
kind ; but, the luggage being carefully limited, 
went gaily behind good horses on the then 


perfectly smooth mail roads; and posting, in 
those days, being universal, so that at the 
leading inns in every country town, the cry 
" Horses out ! " down the yard, as one drove 
up, was answered, often instantly, always 
within five minutes, by the merry trot through 
the archway of the booted and bright-jacketed 
rider, with his caparisoned pair, — there was 
no driver's seat in front : and the four large, 
admirably fitting and sliding windows, admit- 
ting no drop of rain when they were up, and 
never sticking as they were let down, formed 
one large moving oriel, out of which one saw 
the country round, to the full half of the 
horizon. My own prospect was more ex- 
tended still, for my seat was the little box 
containing my clothes, strongly made, with a 
cushion on one end of it ; set upright in front 
(and well forward), between my father and 
mother. I was thus not the least in their 
way, and my horizon of sight the widest pos- 
sible. When no object of particular interest 
presented itself, I trotted, keeping time with 
the postboy on my trunk cushion for a saddle, 
and whipped my father's legs for horses ; at 
first theoretically only, with dexterous motion 


of wrist ; but ultimately in a quite practical 
and efficient manner, my father having pre- 
sented me with a silver-mounted postillion's 

33. The Midsummer holiday, for better 
enjoyment of which Mr. Telford provided 
us with these luxuries, began usually on 
the fifteenth of May, or thereabouts ; — 
my father's birthday was the tenth ; on 
that day I was always allowed to gather 
the gooseberries for his first gooseberry pie 
of the year, from the tree between the 
buttresses on the north wall of the Heme 
Hill garden ; so that we could not leave 
before that festa. The holiday itself con- 
sisted in a tour for orders through half 
the English counties ; and a visit (if the 
counties lay northward) to my aunt in 

34. The mode of journeying was as fixed 
as that of our home life. We went from 
forty to fifty miles a day, starting always 
early enough in the morning to arrive com- 
fortably to four o'clock dinner. Generally, 
therefore, getting off at six o'clock, a stage 
or two were done before breakfast, with 



the dew on the grass, and first scent from 
the hawthorns; if in the course of the 
midday drive there were any gentleman's 
house to be seen, — or, better still, a lord's 
— or, j best of all, a duke's, — my father 
baited the horses, and took my mother 
and me reverently through the state rooms; 
always speaking a little under our breath 
to the housekeeper, major domo, or other 
authority in charge; and gleaning worship- 
fully what fragmentary illustrations of the 
history and domestic ways of the family 
might fall from their lips. 

35. In analyzing above, page 6, the effect 
on my mind of all this, I have perhaps a 
little antedated the supposed resultant im- 
pression that it was probably happier to live 
Sn a small house than a large one. But 
assuredly, while I never to this day pass a 
lattice-windowed cottage without wishing to 
be its cottager, I never yet saw the castle 
ivhich I envied to its lord ; and although 
n the course of these many worshipful 
pilgrimages I gathered curiously extensive 
knowledge, both of art and natural scenery, 
^fterwards infinitely useful, it is evident to 

VOL. I, 



me in retrospect that my own character and 
affections were little altered by them ; and 
that the personal feeling and native instinct 
of me had been fastened, irrevocably, long 
before, to things modest, humble, and pure 
in peace, under the low red roofs of Croydor 
and by the cress-set rivulets in which tb 
sand danced and minnows darted above tl 
Springs of Wandel. 





36. WHEN I was about four years old my 
father found himself able to buy the lease of 
a house on Heme Hill, a rustic eminence 
four miles south of the ' Standard in Corn- 
hill'; of which the leafy seclusion remains, 
in all essential points of character, unchanged 
to this day : certain Gothic splendours, lately 
indulged in by our wealthier neighbours, 
being the only serious innovations ; and 
these are so graciously concealed by the fine 
trees of their grounds, that the passing viator 
remains unappalled by them ; and I can still 
walk up and down the piece of road between 
the Fox tavern and the Heme Hill station, 
imagining myself four }^ears old. 

37. Our house was the northernmost of 
a group which stand accurately on the top 
or dome of the hill, where the ground is 

for a small space level, as the snows are, (I 



understand,) on the dome of Mont Blanc ; pre- 
sently falling, however, in what may be, in 
the London clay formation, considered a pre- 
cipitous slope, to our valley of Chamouni (or 
of Dulwich) on the east ; and with a softer 
descent into Cold Harbour-lane* on the west : 
on the south, no less beautifully declining to 
the dale of the Effra, (doubtless shortened 
from Effrena, signifying the 'Unbridled' river; 
recently, I regret to say, bricked over for 
the convenience of Mr. Biffin, chemist, and 
others) ; while on the north, prolonged indeed 
with slight depression some half mile or so, 
and receiving, in the parish of Lambeth, the 
chivalric title of ' Champion Hill,' it plunges 
down at last to efface itself in the plains of 
Peckham, and the rural barbarism of Goose 

38. The group, of which our house was 
the quarter, consisted of two precisely similar 
partner-couples of houses, gardens and all 
to match ; still the two highest blocks of 
buildings seen from Norwood on the crest 

* Said in the History of Croydon to be a name which 
has long puzzled antiquaries, and nearly always found near 
Roman military stations. 


of the ridge ; so that the house itself, three- 
storied, with garrets above, commanded, in 
those comparatively smokeless days, a very 
notable view from its garret windows, of the 
Norwood hills on one side, and the winter 
sunrise over them ; and of the valley of the 
Thames on the other, with Windsor telescopi- 
cally clear in the distance, and Harrow, 
conspicuous always in fine weather to open 
vision against the summer sunset. It had 
front and back garden in sufficient proportion 
to its size ; the front, richly set with old ever- 
greens, and well-grown lilac and laburnum ; 
the back, seventy yards long by twenty wide, 
renowned over all the hill for its pears and 
apples, which had been chosen with extreme 
ire by our predecessor, (shame on me to 
forget the name of a man to whom I owe so 
much !) — and possessing also a strong old 
mulberry tree, a tall white-heart cherry tree, 
a black Kentish one, and an almost unbroken 
hedge, all round, of alternate gooseberry and 
currant bush ; decked, in due season, (for 
the ground was wholly beneficent,) with 
magical splendour of abundant fruit : fresh 
green, soft amber, and rough-bristled crimson 



bending the spinous branches ; clustered pearl 
and pendant ruby joyfully discoverable under 
the large leaves that looked like vine. 

39. The differences of primal importance 
which I observed between the nature of this 
garden, and that of Eden, as I had imagined 
it, were, that, in this one, all the fruit was 
forbidden ; and there were no companionable 
beasts : in other respects the little domain 
answered every purpose of Paradise to me; 
and the climate, in that cycle of our years, 
allowed me to pass most of my life in it. My 
mother never gave me more to learn than 
she knew I could easily get learnt, if I set 
myself honestly to work, by twelve o'clock. 
She never allowed anything to disturb me 
when my task was set; if it was not said 
rightly by twelve o'clock, I was kept in till 
I knew it, and in general, even when Latin 
Grammar came to supplement the Psalms, I 
was my own master for at least an hour 
before half-past one dinner, and for the rest 
of the afternoon. 

40. My mother, herself finding her chief 
personal pleasure in her flowers, was often 
planting or pruning beside me, at least if I 


chose to stay beside her. I never thought 
of doing anything behind her back which I 
would not have done before her face ; and 
her presence was therefore no restraint to 
me ; but, also, no particular pleasure, for, 
from having always been left so much alone, 
I had generally my own little affairs to see 
after ; and, on the whole, by the time I was 
seven years old, was already getting too in- / 
dependent, mentally, even of my father and 
mother; and, having nobody else to be de- 
pendent upon, began to lead a very small, 
perky, contented, conceited, Cock-Robinson- 
Crusoe sort of life, in the central point which 
it appeared to me, (as it must naturally appear 
to geometrical animals,) that I occupied in the 

41. This was partly the fault of my father's 
modesty ; and partly of his pride. He had 
so much more confidence in my mother's 
judgment as to such matters than in his own, . 
that he never ventured even to help, much less 
to cross her, in the conduct of my education ; 
on the other hand, in the fixed purpose of 
making an ecclesiastical gentleman of me, with 
the superfinest of manners, and access to the 



highest circles of fleshly and spiritual society, 
the visits to Croydon, where I entirely loved 
my aunt, and young baker-cousins, became 
rarer and more rare : the society of our 
neighbours on the hill could not be had 
without breaking up our regular and sweetly 
selfish manner of living ; and on the whole, 
I had nothing animate to care for, in a childish 
way, but myself, some nests of ants, which 
the gardener would never leave undisturbed 
for me, and a sociable bird or two ; though I 
never had the sense or perseverance to make 
one really tame. But that was partly because, 
if ever I managed to bring one to be the least 
trustful of me, the cats got it. 

Under these circumstances, what powers 
of imagination I possessed, either fastened 
themselves on inanimate things — the sky, the 
leaves, and pebbles, observable within the 
walls of Eden, — or caught at any opportunity 
of flight into regions of romance, compatible 
with the objective realities of existence in 
the nineteenth century, within a mile and a 
quarter of Camberwell Green. 

42. Herein my father, happily, though with 
no definite intention other than of pleasing 


me, when he found he could do so without 
infringing any of my mother's rules, became 
my guide. I was particularly fond of watch- 
ing him shave; and was always allowed to 
come into his room in the morning (under 
the one in which I am now writing), to be 
the motionless witness of that operation. Over 
his dressing-table hung one of his own water- 
colour drawings, made under the teaching of 
the elder Nasmyth ; I believe, at the High 
School of Edinburgh. It was done in the 
early manner of tinting, which, just about 
the time when my father was at the High 
School, Dr. Munro was teaching Turner; 
namely, in grey under-tints of Prussian blue 
and British irk, washed with warm colour 
afterwards on the lights. It represented 
Conway Castle, with its Frith, and, in the 
foreground, a cottage, a fisherman, and a boat 
at the water's edge.* 

43. When my father had finished shaving, 
he always told me a story about this picture. 
The custom began without any initial purpose 
of his, in consequence of my troublesome 

This drawing is still over the chimney-piece of my bed- 
room at Brantwood. 


curiosity whether the fisherman lived in the 
cottage, and where he was going to in the 
boat. It being settled, for peace' sake, that 
he did live in the cottage, and was going in 
the boat to fish near the castle, the plot of 
the drama afterwards gradually thickened ; 
and became, I believe, involved with that of 
the tragedy of Douglas, and of the Castle 
Spectre, in both of which pieces my father 
had performed in private theatricals, before 
my mother, and a select Edinburgh audience, 
when he was a boy of sixteen, and she, at grave 
twenty, a model housekeeper, and very scorn- 
ful and religiously suspicious of theatricals. 
But she was never weary of telling me, in 
later years, how beautiful my father looked 
in his Highland dress, with the high black 

44. In the afternoons, when my father re- 
turned (always punctually) from his business, 
he dined, at half- past four, in the front par- 
lour, my mother sitting beside him to hear 
the events of the day, and give counsel and 
encouragement with respect to the same ; — 
chiefly the last, for my father was apt to be 
vexed if orders for sherry fell the least short 


of their due standard, even for a day or two. 
I was never present at this time, however, 
and only avouch what I relate by hearsay 
and probable conjecture ; for between four 
and six it would have been a grave mis- 
demeanour in me if I so much as approached 
the parlour door. After that, in summer time, 
we were all in the garden as long as the day 
lasted ; tea under the white-heart cherry tree ; 
or in winter and rough weather, at six o'clock 
in the drawing-room, — I having my cup of 
milk, and slice of bread-and-butter, in a little 
recess, with a table in front of it, wholly 
sacred to me ; and in which I remained in 
the evenings as an Idol in a niche, while my 
mother knitted, and my father read to her, — 
and to me, so i«r as I chose to listen. 

45. The series of the Waverley novels, 
then drawing towards its close, was still the 

chief source of delight in all households 
caring for literature; and I can no more 

recollect the time when I did not know 
them than when I did not know the 
Bible; but I have still a vivid remem- 
brance of my father's intense expression 
of sorrow mixed with scorn, as he threw 

44 prjEterita. 

down Count Robert of Paris, after reading 
three or four pages ; and knew that the 
life of Scott was ended : the scorn being a 
very complex and bitter feeling in him, — 
partly, indeed, of the book itself, but chiefly 
of the wretches who were tormenting and 
selling the wrecked intellect, and not a little, 
deep down, of the subtle dishonesty which 
had essentially caused the ruin. My father 
never could forgive Scott his concealment of 
the Ballantyne partnership. 

46. Such being the salutary pleasures of 
Heme Hill, I have next with deeper grati- 
tude to chronicle what I owe to my mother 
for the resolutely consistent lessons which 
so exercised me in the Scriptures as to 
make every word of them familiar to my ear 
in habitual music, — yet in that familiarity 
reverenced, as transcending all thought, and 
ordaining all conduct.* 

This she effected, not by her own sayings 
or personal authority ; but simply by com- 
pelling me to read the book thoroughly, for 
myself. As soon as I was able to read with 

* Compare the 52nd paragraph of chapter iii. of The Bible 
of Amiens. 


fluency, she began a course of Bible work 
with me, which never ceased till I went to 
Oxford. She read alternate verses with me, 
watching, at first, every intonation of my 
voice, and correcting the false ones, till she 
made me understand the verse, if within my 
reach, rightly, and energetically. It might 
be beyond me altogether ; that she did not 
care about ; but she made sure that as soon 
as I got hold of it at all, I should get hold 
of it by the right end. 

In this way she began with the first verse 
of Genesis, and went straight through, to 
the last verse of the Apocalypse ; hard 
names, numbers, Levitical law, and all; and 
began again i. l Genesis the next day. If a 
name was hard, the better the exercise in 
pronunciation, — if a chapter was tiresome, 
the better lesson in patience, — if loathsome, 
the better lesson in faith that there was 
some use in its being so outspoken. After 
our chapters, (from two to three a day, 
according to their length, the first thing 
after breakfast, and no interruption from 
servants allowed, — none from visitors, who 
either joined in the reading or had to stay 


upstairs, — and none from any visitings or 
excursions, except real travelling,) I had to 
learn a few verses by heart, or repeat, to 
make sure I had not lost, something of what 
was already known ; and, with the chapters 
thus gradually possessed from the first word 
to the last, I had to learn the whole body of 
the fine old Scottish paraphrases, which are 
good, melodious, and forceful verse ; and 
to which, together with the Bible itself, 
I owe the first cultivation of my ear in 

It is strange that of all the pieces of the 
Bible which my mother thus taught me, that 
which cost me most to learn, and which was, 
to my child's mind, chiefly repulsive — the 
119th Psalm — has now become of all the 
most precious to me, in its overflowing and 
glorious passion of love for the Law of God, 
in opposition to the abuse of it by modern 
preachers of what they imagine to be His 

47. But it is only by deliberate effort that 
I recall the long morning hours of toil, as 
regular as sunrise, — toil on both sides equal — 
by which, year after year, my mother forced 


me to learn these paraphrases, and chapters, 
(the eighth of 1st Kings being one — try it, 
good reader, in a leisure hour !) allowing not 
so much as a syllable to be missed or mis- 
placed ; while every sentence was required 
to be said over and over again till she was 
satisfied with the accent of it. I recollect 
a struggle between us of about three weeks, 
concerning the accent of the 'of in the 


' Shall any following spring revive 
The ashes of the urn ? ' — 

I insisting, partly in childish obstinacy, and 
partly in true instinct for rhythm, (being 
wholly careless on the subject both of urns 
and their conte. f s,) on reciting it with an 
accented of. It was not, I say, till after three 
weeks' labour, that my mother got the accent 
lightened on the 'of and laid on the ashes, 
to her mind. But had it taken three years 
she would have done it, having once under- 
taken to do it. And, assuredly, had she not 
done it, — well, there's no knowing what would 
have happened ; but I'm very thankful she 

48. I have just opened my oldest (in use) 


Bible, — a small, closely, and very neatly 
printed volume it is, printed in Edinburgh by 
Sir D. Hunter Blair and J. Bruce, Printers 
to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, in 
1 8 16. Yellow, now, with age, and flexible, 
but not unclean, with much use, except that 
the lower corners of the pages at 8th of 1st 
Kings, and 32nd Deuteronomy, are worn 
somewhat thin and dark, the learning of 
these two chapters having cost me much 
pains. My mother's list of the chapters with 
which, thus learned, she established my soul 
in life,* has just fallen out of it. I will take 
what indulgence the incurious reader can 
give me, for printing the list thus acci- 
dentally occurrent : — 

Exodus, chapters 15th and 20th. 

2 Samuel ,, 1st, from 17th verse 

to the end. 
1 Kings „ 8th. 

* This expression in Fors has naturally been supposed by 
some readers to mean that my mother at this time made m| 
vitally and evangelically religious. The fact was far other- 
wise. I meant only that she gave me secure ground for all. 
future life, practical or spiritual. See the paragraph next 




23rd, 32nd, 90th, 9ISt, 

103rd, 112th, 119th, 



2nd, 3rd, 8th, 1 2th. 






5th, 6th, 7th. 




1 Corinthians 


13th, 15th. 






5th, 6th. 

And truly, though I have picked up the 
elements of a little further knowledge — in 
mathematics, meteorology, and the like, in 
after life, — and owe not a little to the teaching 
of many people, this maternal installation of 
my mind in that property of chapters, I 
count very confidently the most precious, 
and, on the whole, the one essential part of 
all my education. 

And it is perhaps already time to mark 
what advantage and mischief, by the chances 
of life up to seven years old, had been irre- 
vocably determined for me. 

I will first count my blessings (as a not 
unwise friend once recommended me to do, 

VOL. I. D 



continually; whereas I have a bad trick of 
always numbering the thorns in my fingers 
and not the bones in them). 

And for best and truest beginning all 
blessings, I had been taught the perfect 
meaning of Peace, in thought, act, and 

I never had heard my father's or mother's 
voice once raised in any question with each 
other; nor seen an angry, or even slightly 
hurt or offended, glance in the eyes of either. 
I had never heard a servant scolded ; nor 
even suddenly, passionately, or in any severe 
manner, blamed. I had never seen a moment's 
trouble or disorder in any household matter ; 
nor anything whatever either done in a hurry, 
or undone in due time. I had no conception 
of such a feeling as anxiety ; my father's 
occasional vexation in the afternoons, when 
he had only got an order for twelve butts 
after expecting one for fifteen, as I have just 
stated, was never manifested to me ; and 
itself related only to the question whether 
his name would be a step higher or lower in 
the year's list of sherry exporters ; for he 
never spent more than half his income, and 


therefore found himself little incommoded by 
occasional variations in the total of it. I 
had never done any wrong that I knew of — 
beyond occasionally delaying the commitment 
to heart of some improving sentence, that I 
might watch a wasp on the window pane, or 
a bird in the cherry tree ; and I had never 
seen any grief. 

49. Next to this quite priceless gift of 
Peace, I had received the perfect understand- 
ing of the natures of Obedience and Faith. 
I obeyed word, or lifted finger, of father or 
mother, simply as a ship her helm ; not only 
without idea of resistance, but receiving the 
direction as a part of my own life and force, 
a helpful law, as necessary to me in every 
moral action as the law of gravity in leaping. 
And my practice in Faith was soon complete : 
nothing was ever promised me that was not 
given ; nothing ever threatened me that was 
not inflicted, and nothing ever told me that 
was not true. 

Peace, obedience, faith ; these three for 
chief good ; next to these, the habit of fixed 
attention with both eyes and mind — on which 
I will not further enlarge at this moment, 


this being the main practical faculty of my 
life, causing Mazzini to say of me, in con- 
versation authentically reported, a year or 
two before his death, that I had 'the most 
analytic mind in Europe.' An opinion in 
which, so far as I am acquainted with Europe, 
I am myself entirely disposed to concur. 

Lastly, an extreme perfection in palate and 
all other bodily senses, given by the utter 
prohibition of cake, wine, comfits, or, except 
in carefullest restriction, fruit ; and by fine 
preparation of what food was given me. Such 
I esteem the main blessings of my child- 
hood; — next, let me count the equally dominant 

50. First, that I had nothing to love. 

My parents were — in a sort — visible powers 
of nature to me, no more loved than the sun 
and the moon : only I should have been 
annoyed and puzzled if either of them had 
gone out ; /(how much, now, when both are 
darkened !) — still less did I love God ; not 
that I had any quarrel with Him, or fear 
of Him ; but simply found what people 
told me was His service, disagreeable ; and 
what people told me was His book, not 


entertaining. I had no companions to quarrel 
with, neither; nobody to assist, and nobody 
to thank. Not a servant was ever allowed to 
do anything for me, but what it was their 
duty to do ; and why should I have been 
grateful to the cook for cooking, or the 
gardener for gardening, — when the one dared 
not give me a baked potato without asking 
leave, and the other would not let my ants' 
nests alone, because they made the walks 
untidy ? The evil consequence of all this 
was not, however, what might perhaps have 
been expected, that I grew up selfish or un- 
affectionate ; but that, when affection did 
come, it came with violence utterly rampant 
and unmanageable, at least by me, who never 
before had anything to manage. 

51. For (second of chief calamities) I had * 
nothing to endure. Danger or pain of any > 
kind I knew not : my strength was never 
exercised, my patience never tried, and my 
courage never fortified. Not that I was ever 
afraid of anything, — either ghosts, thunder, or 
beasts ; an^ one of the nearest approaches to 
insubordination which I was ever tempted 
into as a child, was in passionate effort to 

5 4 pr^eterita. 

get leave to play with the lion's cubs in 
Wombwell's menagerie. 

J 52. Thirdly. I was taught no precision nor 
etiquette of manners ; it was enough if, in the 
little society we saw, I remained unobtrusive, 
and replied to a question without shyness: 
but the shyness came later, and increased as I 
grew conscious of the rudeness arising from 
the want of social discipline, and found it 
impossible to acquire, in advanced life, dex- 
terity in any bodily exercise, skill in any 
pleasing accomplishment, or ease and tact in 
ordinary behaviour. 

J 53. Lastly, and chief of evils. My judg- 
ment of right and wrong, and powers of 
independent action,* were left entirely un- 
developed ; because the bridle and blinkers 
were never taken off me. Children should 
have their times of being off duty, like 
soldiers ; and when once the obedience, if 
required, is certain, the little creature should 
be very early put for periods of practice in 
complete command of itself; set on the bare- 
backed horse of its own will, and left to break 

* Action, observe, I say here : in thought I was too in- 
dependent, as I said above. 


it by its own strength. But the ceaseless 
authority exercised over my youth left me, 
when cast out at last into the world, unable 
for some time to do more than drift with its 

54. My present verdict, therefore, on the 
general tenor of my education at that time, 
must be, that it was at once too formal and 
too luxurious ; leaving my character, at the 
most important moment for its construction, 
cramped indeed, but not disciplined ; and only 
by protection innocent, instead of by practice 
virtuous. My mother saw this herself, and 
but too clearly, in later years ; and whenever 
I did anything wrong, stupid, or hard-hearted, 
— (and I have done many things that were all 
three,) — always said, ' It is because you were 
too much indulged.' 

55. Thus far, with some omissions, I have 
merely reprinted the account of these times 
given in Fors : and I fear the sequel may be 
more trivial, because much is concentrated in 
the foregoing broad statement, which I have 
now to continue by slower steps ; — and yet 
less amusing, because I tried always in Fors 
to say things, if I could, a little piquantly ; 


and the rest of the things related in this book 
will be told as plainly as I can. But whether 
I succeeded in writing piquantly in Fors or 
not, I certainly wrote often obscurely; and 
the description above given of Heme Hill 
seems to me to need at once some reduction 
to plainer terms. 

56. The actual height of the long ridge 
of Heme Hill, above Thames, — at least 
above the nearly Thames-level of its base at 
Camberwell Green, is, I conceive, not more 
than one hundred and fifty feet : but it gives 
the whole of this fall on both sides of it in 
about a quarter of a mile ; forming, east and 
west, a succession of quite beautiful pleasure- 
ground and gardens, instantly dry after rain, 
and in which, for children, running down is 
pleasant play, and rolling a roller up, vigorous 
work. The view from the ridge on both sides 
was, before railroads came, entirely lovely : 
westward at evening, almost sublime, over 
softly wreathing distances of domestic wood ; 
— Thames herself not visible, nor any fields 
except immediately beneath; but the tops of 
twenty square miles of politely inhabited 
groves. On the other side, east and south, 


the Norwood hills, partly rough with furze, 
partly wooded with birch and oak, partly in 
pure green bramble copse, and rather steep 
pasture, rose with the promise of all the rustic 
loveliness of Surrey and Kent in them, and 
with so much of space and height in their 
sweep, as gave them some fellowship with 
hills of true hill-districts. Fellowship now 
inconceivable, for the Crystal Palace, without 
ever itself attaining any true aspect of size, 
and possessing no more sublimity than a 
cucumber frame between two chimneys, yet 
by its stupidity of hollow bulk, dwarfs the 
hills at once ; so that now one thinks of them 
no more but as three long lumps of clay, on 
lease for building. But then, the Nor-wood, 
or North wood, so called as it was seen from 
Croydon, in opposition to the South wood of 
the Surrey downs, drew itself in sweeping 
crescent good five miles round Dulwich to the 
south, broken by lanes of ascent, Gipsy Hill, 
and others ; and, from the top, commanding 
views towards Dartford, and over the plain of 
Croydon, — in contemplation of which I one 
day frightened my mother out of her wits by 
saying ' the eyes were coming out of my 

5 8 


head ! ' She thought it was an attack of 

57. Central in such amphitheatre, the 
crowning glory of Heme Hill was accordingly, 
that, after walking along its ridge southward 
from London through a mile of chestnut, lilac, 
and apple trees, hanging over the wooden 
palings on each side — suddenly the trees 
stopped on the left, and out one came on the 
top of a field sloping down to the south into 
Dulwich valley — open field animate with cow 
and buttercup, and below, the beautiful 
meadows and high avenues of Dulwich ; and 
beyond, all that crescent of the Norwood 
hills ; a footpath, entered by a turnstile, going 
down to the left, always so warm that invalids 
could be sheltered there in March, when to 
walk elsewhere would have been death to 
them ; and so quiet, that whenever I had any- 
thing difficult to compose or think of, I used 
to do it rather there than in our own garden. 
The great field was separated from the path 
and road only by light wooden open palings, 
four feet high, needful to keep the cows in. 
Since I last composed, or meditated there, 
various improvements have taken place ; first 


the neighbourhood wanted a new church, and 
built a meagre Gothic one with a useless spire, 
for the fashion of the thing, at the side of the 
field ; then they built a parsonage behind it, 
the two stopping out half the view in that 
direction. Then the Crystal Palace came, for 
ever spoiling the view through all its compass, 
and bringing every show-day, from London, a 
flood of pedestrians down the footpath, who 
left it filthy with cigar ashes for the rest of 
the week : then the railroads came, and expa- 
tiating roughs by every excursion train, who 
knocked the palings about, roared at the cows, 
and tore down what branches of blossom they 
could reach over the palings on the enclosed 
side. Then the residents on the enclosed 
side built a brick wall to defend themselves. 
Then the path got to be insufferably hot 
as well as dirty, and was gradually aban- 
doned to the roughs, with a policeman on 
watch at the bottom. Finally, this year, a 
six foot high close paling has been put 
down the other side of it, and the processional 
excursionist has the liberty of obtaining what 
notion of the country air and prospect he 
may, between the wall and that, with one bad 

60 pr^eterita. 

cigar before him, another behind him, and 
another in his mouth. 

58. I do not mean this book to be in any 
avoidable way disagreeable or querulous ; but 
expressive generally of my native disposition 
— which, though I say it, is extremely amiable, 
when I'm not bothered : I will grumble else- 
where when I must, and only notice this 
injury alike to the resident and excursionist 
at Heme Hill, because questions of right-of- 
way are now of constant occurrence ; and 
in most cases, the mere path is the smallest 
part of the old Right, truly understood The 
Right is of the cheerful view and sweet air 
which the path commanded. 

Also, I may note in passing, that for all 
their talk about Magna Charta, very few 
Englishmen are aware that one of the main 
provisions of it is that Law should not 
be sold ; * and it seems to me that the 
law of England might preserve Banstead 
and other downs free to the poor of Eng- 
land, without charging me, as it has just 
done, a hundred pounds for its temporary 

* "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or 
defer, Right, or Justice." 


performance of that otherwise unremunera- 
tive duty. 

59. I shall have to return over the ground 
of these early years, to fill gaps, after getting 
on a little first ; but will yet venture here the 
tediousness of explaining that my saying " in 
Heme Hill garden all fruit was forbidden," 
only meant, of course, forbidden unless under 
defined restriction ; which made the various 
gatherings of each kind in its season a sort 
of harvest festival ; and which had this further 
good in its apparent severity, that, although 
in the at last indulgent areas, the peach which 
my mother gathered for me when she was 
sure it was ripe, and the cherry pie for which 
I had chosen the cherries red all round, were, 
I suppose, of more ethereal flavour to me than 
they could have been to children allowed to 
pluck and eat at their will ; still the unalloyed 
and long continuing pleasure given me by our 
fruit-tree avenue was in its blossom, not in 
its bearing. For the general epicurean enjoy- 
ment of existence, potatoes well browned, 
green pease well boiled, — broad beans of the 
true bitter, — and the pots of damson and 
currant for whose annual filling we were 



dependent more on the greengrocer than the 
garden, were a hundredfold more important 
to me than the dozen or two of nectarines of 
which perhaps I might get the halves of three, 
— (the other sides mouldy) — or the bushel or 
two of pears which went directly to the store- 
shelf. So that, very early indeed in my 
thoughts of trees, I had got at the principle 
given fifty years afterwards in " Proserpina," 
that the seeds and fruits of them were for the 
sake of the flowers, not the flowers for the 
fruit. The first joy of the year being in its 
snowdrops, the second, and cardinal one, was 
in the almond blossom, — every other garden 
and woodland gladness following from that 
in an unbroken order of kindling flower and 
shadowy leaf; and for many and many a year 
to come, — until indeed, the whole of life be- 
came autumn to me, — my chief prayer for the 
kindness of heaven, in its flowerful seasons, 
was that the frost might not touch the almond 



60. THE reader has, I hope, observed that in 
all I have hitherto said, emphasis has been 
laid only on the favourable conditions which 
surrounded the child whose history I am 
writingjjand on the docile and impressionable 
quietness of its temper^ 

No claim has been made for it to any 
special power or capacity ; for, indeed, none 
such existed, except that patience in looking, 
and precision in feeling, which afterwards, 
with due industry, formed my analytic power, j 

In all essential qualities of genius, except 
these, I was deficient ; my memory only of 
average power. I have literally never known 
a child so incapable of acting a part, or telling 
a tale. On the other hand, I have never 
known one whose thirst for visible fact was 
at once so eager and so methodic. 

61. I find also that in the foregoing accounts, 



modest as I meant them to be, higher literature 
is too boastfully spoken of as my first and 
exclusive study. My little Pope's Iliad, and, 
in any understanding of them, my Genesis 
and Exodus, were certainly of little account 
with me till after I was ten. My calf milk of 
books was, on the lighter side, composed of 
Dame Wiggins of Lee, the Peacock at Home, 
and the like nursery rhymes ; and on the 
graver side, of Miss Edgeworth's Frank, and 
Harry and Lucy, combined with Joyce's Scien- 
tific Dialogues. The earliest dated efforts I 
can find, indicating incipient motion of brain- 
molecules, are six ' poems ' on subjects selected 
from those works; between the fourth and 
fifth of which my mother has written : "Janu- 
ary, 1826. This book begun about September 
or October, 1826, finished about January, 
1827." The whole of it, therefore, was written 
and printed in imitation of book-print, in my 
seventh year. The book is a little red one, 
ruled with blue, six inches high by four wide, 
containing forty-five leaves pencilled in imita- 
tion of print on both sides, — the title-page, 
written in the form here approximately imitated, 
on the inside of the cover. 







in four volumes 

vol I 

with copper 


PRINTED and composed by a little boy 

and also drawn 
vol. 1. e 


62. Of the promised four volumes, it appears 
that (according to my practice to this day) I 
accomplished but one and a quarter, the first 
volume consisting only of forty leaves, the 
rest of the book being occupied by the afore- 
said six 'poems,' and the forty leaves losing 
ten of their pages in the 'copper plates,' 
of which the one, purporting to represent 
' Harry's new road,' is, I believe, my first 
effort at mountain drawing. The passage 
closing the first volume of this work is, 
I think, for several reasons, worth preser- 
vation. I print it, therefore, with its own 
divisions of line, and three variations of 
size in imitated type. Punctuation must be 
left to the reader's kind conjecture. The 
hyphens, it is to be noticed, were put long 
or short, to make the print even, not that 
it ever succeeds in being so, but the vari- 
ously spaced lines here imitate it pretty 

Harry knew very well- 
what it was and went 
on with his drawing but 


Lucy soon called him aw- 
ay and bid him observe 
a great black cloud from- 
the north which seemed ra 
ther electrical. Harry ran 

for an electrical apparatus which 
his father had given him and the- 
cloud electrified his apparatus positively 
after that another cloud came which 
electrified his apparatus negatively 


and then a long train of smaller 
ones but before this cloud came 
a great cloud of dust rose from 
the ground and followed the pos 
itive cloud and at length seemed 
to come in contact with it and 
when the other cloud came 

a flash of lightning was seen 
to dart through the cloud of 
dust upon which the negative 
cloud spread very much and 
dissolved in rain which pres 
ently cleared the sky 

After this phenomenon was over 
and also the surprise Harry began 
to wonder how electricity 
could get where there was 
so much water but he soon- 
observed a rainbow and a- 
rising mist under it which 


his fancy soon transform 
ed into a female form. He 
then remembered the witch of 
the waters at the Alps who 
was raised from them by- 
takeing some water in the- 
hand and throwing it into 
the air pronouncing some 
unintelligable words. And 

though it was a tale it- 
affected Harry now when 
he saw in the clouds some- 
end of Harry thing 
and Lucy like it. 

63. The several reasons aforesaid, which in- 
duce me to reprint this piece of, too literally, 
1 composition,' are — the first, that it is a toler- 
able specimen of my seven years old spelling ; 
— tolerable only, not fair, since it was ex- 
tremely unusual with me to make a mistake 
at all, whereas here there are two (taking 


and unintelligible), which I can only account 
for by supposing I was in too great a hurry 
to finish my volume ; — the second, that the 
adaptation of materials for my story out of 
Joyce's Scientific Dialogues * and Manfred, is 
an extremely perfect type of the interwoven 
temper of my mind, at the beginning of days 
just as much as at their end — which has 
always made foolish scientific readers doubt 
my books because there was love of beauty 
in them, and foolish aesthetic readers doubt 

* The original passage is as follows, vol. vi., edition of 
1S21, p. 138 : — 

"Dr. Franklin mentions a remarkable appearance which 
occurred to Mr. Wilke, a considerable electrician. On the 
20th of July, 1758, at three o'clock in the afternoon, he 
observed a great quantity of dust rising from the ground, 
and covering a field, and part of the town in which he then 
was. There was no wind, and the dust moved gently 
towards the east, where there appeared a great black cloud, 
which electrified his apparatus positively to a very high 
degree. This cloud went towards the west, the dust 
followed it, and continued to rise higher and higher, till it 
composed a thick pillar, in the form of a sugar-loaf, and at 
length it seemed to be in contact with the cloud. At some 
distance from this, there came another great cloud, with a 
long stream of smaller ones, which electrified his apparatus 
negatively ; and when they came near the positive cloud, a 
flash of lightning was seen to dart through the cloud of 
dust, upon which the negative clouds spread very much, 
and dissolved in rain, which presently cleared the atmos- 


my books because there was love of science 
in them ; — the third, that the extremely reason- 
able method of final judgment, upon which I 
found my claim to the sensible reader's respect 
for these dipartite writings, cannot be better 
illustrated than by this proof, that, even at 
seven years old, no tale, however seductive, 
could "affect" Harry, until he had seen — in 
the clouds, or elsewhere — " something like it." 
Of the six poems which follow, the first is 
on the Steam-engine, beginning, 

" When furious up from mines the water pours, 
And clears from rusty moisture all the ores ;" 

and the last on the Rainbow, " in blank verse," 
as being of a didactic character, with observa- 
tions on the ignorant and unreflective disposi- 
tions of certain people. 

" But those that do not know about that light, 
Reflect not on it ; and in all that light, 
Not one of all the colours do they know." 

64. It was only, I think, after my seventh 
year had been fulfilled in these meditations, 
that my mother added the Latin lesson to the 
Bible-reading, and accurately established the 
daily routine which was sketched in the 


foregoing chapter. But it extremely surprises 
me, in trying, at least for my own amusement, 
if not the reader's, to finish the sketch into its 
corners, that I can't recollect now what used 
to happen first in the morning, except break- 
fasting in the nursery, and if my Croydon 
cousin Bridget happened to be staying with 
us, quarrelling with her which should have 
the brownest bits of toast. That must have 
been later on, though, for I could not have 
been promoted to toast at the time I am think- 
ing of. Nothing is well clear to me of the 
day's course, till, after my father had gone to 
the City by the coach, and my mother's house- 
hold orders been quickly given, lessons began 
at half-past nine, with the Bible readings 
above described, and the two or three verses 
to be learned by heart, with a verse of para- 
phrase ; — then a Latin declension or a bit of 
verb, and eight words of vocabulary from 
Adam's Latin Grammar, (the best that ever 
was,) and the rest of the day was my own. 
Arithmetic was wholesomely remitted till much 
later; geography I taught myself fast enough 
in my own way; history was never thought 
of, beyond what I chose to read of Scott's 


Tales of a Grandfather. Thus, as aforesaid, 
by noon I was in the garden on fine days, or 
left to my own amusements on wet ones ; of 
which I have farther at once to note that 
nearly as soon as I could crawl, my toy-bricks 
of lignum vitac had been constant companions : 
and I am graceless in forgetting by what ex- 
travagant friend, (I greatly suspect my Croydon 
aunt,) I was afterwards gifted with a two- 
arched bridge, admirable in fittings of voussoir 
and keystone, and adjustment of the level 
courses of masonry with bevelled edges, into 
which they dovetailed, in the style of Waterloo 
Bridge. Well-made centreings, and a course 
of inlaid steps down to the water, made this 
model largely, as accurately, instructive : and 
I was never weary of building, wwbuilding, — 
(it was too strong to be thrown down, but 
had always to be taken down,) — and rebuilding 
it. This inconceivable passive — or rather im- 
passive — contentment in doing, or reading, the 
same thing over and over again, I perceive to 
have been a great condition in my future power 
of getting thoroughly to the bottom of matters. 
65. Some people would say that in getting 
these toys lay the chance that guided me to 


an early love of architecture ; but I never 
saw or heard of another child so fond of its 
toy bricks, except Miss Edgeworth's Frank. 
To be sure, in this present age, — age of 
universal brickfield though it be, — people 
don't give their children toy bricks, but toy 
puff-puffs ; and the little things are always 
taking tickets and arriving at stations, without 
ever fathoming — none of them will take pains 
enough to do t/iat, — the principle of a puff- 
puff! And what good could they get of it if 
they did, — unless they could learn also, that 
no principle of Puff-puff would ever supersede 
the principle of Breath ? 

But I not only mastered, with Harry and 
Lucy, the entire motive principle of puff-puff; 
but also, by help of my well-cut bricks, very 
utterly the laws of practical stability in towers 
and arches, by the time I was seven or eight 
years old : and these studies of structure were 
farther animated by my invariable habit of 
watching, with the closest attention, the pro- 
ceedings of any bricklayers, stone-sawyers, or 
paviours, — whose work my nurse would allow 
me to stop to contemplate in our walks; or, 
delight of delights, might be seen at ease 


from some fortunate window of inn or lodging 
on our journeys. In those cases the day was 
not long enough for my rapturous and riveted 

66. Constantly, as aforesaid, in the garden 
when the weather was fine, my time there 
was passed chiefly in the same kind of close 
watching of the ways of plants. I had not 
the smallest taste for growing them, or taking 
care of them, any more than for taking care of 
the birds, or the trees, or the sky, or the sea. 
My whole time passed in staring at them, or 
into them. In no morbid curiosity, but in 
admiring wonder, I pulled every flower to 
pieces till I knew all that could be seen of 
it with a child's eyes ; and used to lay up 
little treasures of seeds, by way of pearls and 
beads, — never with any thought of sowing 
them. The old gardener only came once a 
week, for what sweeping and weeding needed 
doing ; I was fain to learn to sweep the walks 
with him, but was discouraged and shamed by 
his always doing the bits I had done over 
again. I was extremely fond of digging holes, 
but that form of gardening was not allowed. 
Necessarily, I fell always back into my merely 


contemplative mind, and at nine years old 
began a poem, called Eudosia, — I forget 
wholly where I got hold of this name, or 
what I understood by it, — ' On the Universe,' 
though I could understand not a little by it, 
now. A couplet or two, as the real beginning 
at once of Deucalion and Proserpina, may be 
perhaps allowed, together with the preceding, 
a place in this grave memoir ; the rather that 
I am again enabled to give accurate date — 
September 28th, 1828 — for the beginning of 
its ' First book,' as follows : — 

' When first the wrath of heaven o'erwhelmed the world, 
And o'er the rocks, and hills, and mountains, hurl'd 
The waters' gathering mass ; and sea o'er shore, — 
Then mountains fell, and vales, unknown before, 
Lay where they were. Far different was the Earth 
When first the flood came down, than at its second birth. 
Now for its produce ! — Queen of flowers, O rose, 
From whose fair coloured leaves such odour flows, 
Thou must now be before thy subjects named, 
Both for thy beauty and thy sweetness famed. 
Thou art the flower of England, and the flow'r 
Of Beauty too — of Venus' odrous bower. 
And thou wilt often shed sweet odours round, 
And often stooping, hide thy head on ground.* 

* An awkward way — chiefly for the rhyme's sake — of 
saying that roses are often too heavy for their stalks. 


And then the lily, towering up so proud, 
And raising its gay head among the various crowd, 
There the black spots upon a scarlet ground, 
And there the taper-pointed leaves are found.' 

67. In 220 lines, of such quality, the first 
book ascends from the rose to the oak. The 
second begins — to my surprise, and in ex- 
tremely exceptional violation of my above- 
boasted custom — with an ecstatic apostrophe to 
what I had never seen ! 

' I sing the Pine, which clothes high Switzer's * head. 
And high enthroned, grows on a rocky bed, 
On gulphs so deep, on cliffs that are so high, 
He that would dare to climb them dares to die.' 

This enthusiasm, however, only lasts — 
mostly exhausting itself in a description, 
verified out of Harry and Lucy, of the slide 
of Alpnach, — through j6 lines, when the 
verses cease, and the book being turned up- 
side down, begins at the other end with the 
information that ' Rock-crystal is accompanied 
by Actynolite, Axinite, and Epidote, at Bourg 
d'Oisans in Dauphiny.' But the garden- 
meditations never ceased, and it is impossible 
to say how much strength was gained, or how 

* Switzer, clearly short for Switzerland. 


much time uselessly given, except in pleasure, 
to these quiet hours and foolish rhymes. 
Their happiness made all the duties of outer 
life irksome, and their unprogressive reveries 
might, the reader may think, if my mother had 
wished, have been changed into a beginning 
of sound botanical knowledge. But, while 
there were books on geology and mineralogy 
which I could understand, all on botany were 
then, — and they are little mended now, — 
harder than the Latin grammar. The minera- 
logy was enough for me seriously to work at, 
and I am inclined finally to aver that the 
garden-time could not have been more rightly 
passed, unless in weeding. 

68. At six punctually I joined my father 
and mother at tea, being, in the drawing- 
room, restricted to the inhabitation of the 
sacred niche above referred to, a recess beside 
the fireplace, well lighted from the lateral 
window in the summer evenings, and by the 
chimney-piece lamp in winter, and out of all 
inconvenient heat, or hurtful draught. A 
good writing-table before it shut me well in, 
and carried my plate and cup, or books in 
service. After tea, my father read to my 


mother what pleased themselves, I picking up 
what I could, or reading what I liked better 
instead. Thus I heard all the Shakespeare 
comedies and historical plays again and again, 
— all Scott, and all Don Quixote, a favourite 
book of my father's, and at which I could 
then laugh to ecstasy; now, it is one of the 
saddest, and, in some things, the most offen- 
sive of books to me. 

My father was an absolutely beautiful reader 
of the best poetry and prose ; — of Shakespeare, 
Pope, Spenser, Byron, and Scott ; as of Gold- 
smith, Addison, and Johnson. Lighter ballad 
poetry he had not fineness of ear to do justice 
to : his sense of the strength and wisdom of 
true meaning, and of the force of rightly 
ordered syllables, made his delivery of Hamlet, 
Lear, Caesar, or Marmion, melodiously grand 
and just; but he had no idea of modulating 
the refrain of a ballad, and had little patience 
with the tenor of its sentiment. He looked 
always, in the matter of what he read, for 
heroic will and consummate reason ; never 
tolerated the morbid love of misery for its own 
sake, and never read, either for his own 
pleasure or my instruction, such ballads as 


Burd Helen, the Twa Corbies, or any other 
rhyme or story which sought its interest in 
vain love or fruitless death. 

But true, pure, and ennobling sadness began 
very early to mingle its undertone with the 
constant happiness of those days; — a ballad 
music, beautiful in sincerity, and hallowing 
them like cathedral chant. Concerning which, 
— I must go back now to the days I have 
only heard of with the hearing of the ear, 
and yet of which some are to me as if mine 
eyes had seen them. 

69. It must have been a little after 1780 
that my paternal grandmother, Catherine 
Tweeddale, ran away with my paternal grand- 
father when she was not quite sixteen ; and 
my aunt Jessie, my father's only sister, was 
born a year, afterwards ; a few weeks after 
which event, my grandmother, not yet seven- 
teen, was surprised, by a friend who came into 
her room unannounced, dancing a threesome 
reel, with two chairs for her partners; she 
having found at the moment no other way of 
adequately expressing the pleasure she took in 
this mortal life, and its gifts and promises. 

The latter failed somewhat afterwards ; and 


my aunt Jessie, a very precious and perfect 

creature, beautiful in her dark-eyed, Highland 

way, — utterly religious, in her quiet Puritan 

way, — and very submissive to Fates mostly 

unkind, was married to a somewhat rough 

tanner, with a fairly good business in the 

good town of Perth : and, when I was old 

enough to be taken first to visit them, my 

aunt and my uncle the tanner lived in a 

square-built grey stone house in the suburb 

of Perth known as 'Bridge-End,' the house 

some fifty yards north of the bridge ; its 

garden sloping steeply to the Tay, which 

eddied, three or four feet deep of sombre 

crystal, round the steps where the servants 

dipped their pails. 

70. A mistaken correspondent in Fors once 

complained of my coarse habit of sneering at 

people of no ancestry. I have no such habit ; 

though not always entirely at ease in writing 

of my uncles the baker and the tanner. And 

my readers may trust me when I tell them 

that, in now remembering my dreams in the 

house of the entirely honest chief baker of 

Market Street, Croydon, and of Peter — not 

Simon — the tanner, whose house was by the 
vol. 1. F 


riverside of Perth, I would not change the 
dreams, far less the tender realities, of those 
early days, for anything I hear now remem- 
bered by lords or dames, of their days of 
childhood in castle halls, and by sweet lawns 
and lakes in park-walled forest. 

Lawn and lake enough indeed I had, in the 
North Inch of Perth, and pools of pausing 
Tay, before Rose Terrace, (where I used to 
live after my uncle died, briefly apoplectic, at 
Bridge-End,) in the peace of the fair Scotch 
summer days, with my widowed aunt, and my 
little cousin Jessie, then traversing a bright 
space between her sixth and ninth year ; dark- 
eyed deeply,* like her mother, and similarly 
pious ; so that she and I used to compete in 
the Sunday evening Scriptural examinations ; 
and be as proud as two little peacocks because 
Jessie's elder brothers, and sister Mary, used 
to get ' put down,' and either Jessie or I was 
always ' Dux.' We agreed upon this that we 
would be married when we were a little older ; 
not considering it to be preparatorily necessary 
to be in any degree wiser. 

* As opposed to the darkness of mere iris, making the 
eyes like black cherries. 


71. Strangely, the kitchen servant-of-all- 
work in the house at Rose Terrace was a 
very old " Mause," — before, my grandfather's 
servant in Edinburgh, — who might well have 
been the prototype of the Mause of ' Old 
Mortality,' * but had even a more solemn, 
fearless, and patient faith, fastened in her by 
extreme suffering; for she had been nearly 
starved to death when she was a girl, and had 
literally picked the bones out of cast-out dust- 
heaps to gnaw; and ever afterwards, to see 
the waste of an atom of food was as shocking 
to her as blasphemy. " Oh, Miss Margaret ! " 
she said once to my mother, who had shaken 

* Vulgar modern Puritanism has shown its degeneracy 
in nothing more than in its incapability of understanding 
Scott's exquisitely finished portraits of the Covenanter. In 
' Old Mortality ' alone, there are four which cannot be 
surpassed ; the typical one, Elspeth, faultlessly sublime and 
pure ; the second, Ephraim Macbriar, giving the too common 
phase of the character, which is touched with ascetic insanity ; 
the third, Mause, coloured and made sometimes ludicrous 
by Scottish conceit, but utterly strong and pure at heart ; 
the last, Balfour, a study of supreme interest, showing the 
effect of the Puritan faith, sincerely held, on a naturally and 
incurably cruel and base spirit. Add to these four studies, 
from this single novel, those in the ' Heart of Midlothian,' 
and Nicol Jarvie and Andrew Fairservice from ' Rob Roy,' 
and you have a series of theological analyses far beyond those 
of any other philosophical work that I know, of any period. 


some crumbs off a dirty plate out of the 
window, " I had rather you had knocked me 
down." She would make her dinner upon 
anything in the house that the other servants 
wouldn't eat ; — often upon potato skins, giving 
her own dinner away to any poor person she 
saw; and would always stand during the 
whole church service, (though at least seventy 
years old when I knew her, and very feeble,) 
if she could persuade any wild Amorite out of 
the streets to take her seat. Her wrinkled 
and worn face, moveless in resolution and 
patience, incapable of smile, and knit some- 
times perhaps too severely against Jessie and 
me, if we wanted more creamy milk to our 
porridge, or jumped off our favourite box on 
Sunday, — (' Never mind, John,' said Jessie to 
me, once seeing me in an unchristian state 
of provocation on this subject, ' when we're 
married, we'll jump off boxes all day long, if 
we like ! ') — may have been partly instru- 
mental in giving me that slight bias against 
Evangelical religion, which I confess to be 
sometimes traceable in my later works ; but I 
never can be thankful enough for having 
seen, in our own " Old Mause," the Scottish 


Puritan spirit in its perfect faith and force; 
and been enabled therefore afterwards to 
trace its agency in the reforming policy of 
Scotland, with the reverence and honour it 

72. My aunt, a pure dove-priestess, if ever 
there was one, of Highland Dodona, was of a 
far gentler temper; but still, to me, remained 
at a wistful distance. She had been much 
saddened by the loss of three of her children 
before her husband's death. Little Peter, 
especially, had been the corner-stone of her 
love's building; and it was thrown down 
swiftly : — white swelling came in the knee ; he 
suffered much, and grew weaker gradually, 
dutiful always, and loving, and wholly patient. 
She wanted him one day to take half a glass 
of port wine, and took him on her knee, and 
put it to his lips. ' Not now, mamma ; in a 
minute,' said he; and put his head on her 
shoulder, and gave one long, low sigh, and 
died. Then there was Catherine; and — I 
forget the other little daughter's name, I did 
not see them ; my mother told me of them ; 
— eagerly always about Catherine, who had 
been her own favourite. My aunt had been 


talking earnestly one day with her husband 
about these two children ; planning this 
and that for their schooling and what 
not : at night, for a little while she could 
not sleep; and as she lay thinking, she 
saw the door of the room open, and two 
spades come into it, and stand at the foot 
of her bed. Both the children were dead 
within brief time afterwards. I was about 
to write ' within a fortnight ' — but I cannot 
be sure of remembering my mother's words 

73. But when I was in Perth, there were 
still — Mary, her eldest daughter, who looked 
after us children when Mause was too busy ; 
James and John, William and Andrew ; (I 
can't think whom the unapostolic William was 
named after). But the boys were then all at 
school or college, — the scholars, William and 
Andrew, only came home to tease Jessie and 
me, and eat the biggest jargonel pears ; the 
collegians were wholly abstract ; and the two 
girls and I played in our quiet ways on the 
North Inch, and by the ' Lead/ a stream 
' led ' from the Tay past Rose Terrace into the 
town for molinary purposes ; and long ago, I 


suppose, bricked over or choked with rubbish ; 
but then lovely, and a perpetual treasure of 
flowing diamond to us children. Mary, by 
the way, was ascending towards twelve — 
fair, blue-eyed, and moderately pretty ; and 
as pious as Jessie, without being quite so 

74. My father rarely stayed with us in 
Perth, but went on business travel through 
Scotland, and even my mother became a curi- 
ously unimportant figure at Rose Terrace. I 
can't understand how she so rarely walked 
with us children ; she and my aunt seemed 
always to have their own secluded ways. 
Mary, Jessie, and I were allowed to do what 
we liked on the Inch : and I don't remember 
doing any lessons in these Perth times, except 
the above-described competitive divinity on 

Had there been anybody then to teach me 
anything about plants or pebbles, it had been 
good for me ; as it was, I passed my days 
much as the thistles and tansy did, only with 
perpetual watching of all the ways of running 
water, — a singular awe developing itself in 
me, both of the pools of Tay, where the water 


changed from brown to blue-black, and of the 
precipices of Kinnoull ; partly out of my own 
mind, and partly because the servants always 
became serious when we went up Kinnoull 
way, especially if I wanted to stay and 
look at the little crystal spring of Bower's 

75. ' But you say you were not afraid of 
anything?' writes a friend, anxious for the 
unassailable veracity of these memoirs. Well, 
I said, not of ghosts, thunder, or beasts, — 
meaning to specify the commonest terrors of 
mere childhood. Every day, as 1 grew wiser, 
taught me a reasonable fear ; else I had not 
above described myself as the most reason- 
able person of my acquaintance. And by the 
swirls of smooth blackness, broken by no 
fleck of foam, where Tay gathered herself like 
Medusa,* I never passed without awe, even 
in those thoughtless days ; neither do I in the 
least mean that I could walk among tomb- 
stones in the night (neither, for that matter, 
in the day), as if they were only paving 
stones set upright. Far the contrary; but it 

* I always think of Tay as a goddess river, as Greta a 
nymph one. 


is important to the reader's confidence in 
writings which have seemed inordinately im- 
pressional and emotional, that he should know 
I was never subject to — I should perhaps 
rather say, sorrowfully, never capable of — any 
manner of illusion or false imagination, nor in 
the least liable to have my nerves shaken by 
surprise. When I was about five years old, 
having been on amicable terms for a while 
with a black Newfoundland, then on probation 
for watch dog at Heme Hill ; after one of our 
long summer journeys my first thought on 
getting home was to go to see Lion. My 
mother trusted me to go to the stable with our 
one serving-man, Thomas, giving him strict 
orders that I was not to be allowed within 
stretch of the dog's chain. Thomas, for 
better security, carried me in his arms. Lion 
was at his dinner, and took no notice of either 
of us; on which I besought leave to pat him. 
Foolish Thomas stooped towards him that I 
might, when the dog instantly flew at me, and 
bit a piece clean out of the corner of my lip 
on the left side. I was brought up the back 
stairs, bleeding fast, but not a whit frightened, 
except lest Lion should be sent away. Lion 

9 o 


indeed had to go ; but not Thomas : my 
mother was sure he was sorry, and I think 
blamed herself the most. The bitten side of 
the (then really pretty) mouth, was spoiled for 
evermore, but the wound, drawn close, healed 
quickly; the last use I made of my move- 
able lips before Dr. Aveline drew them into 
ordered silence for a while, was to observe, 
' Mama, though I can't speak, I can play 
upon the fiddle.' But the house was of 
another opinion, and I never attained any 
proficiency upon that instrument worthy of 
my genius. Not the slightest diminution of 
my love of dogs, nor the slightest nervous- 
ness in managing them, was induced by the 

I scarcely know whether I was in any real 
danger or not when, another day, in the same 
stable, quite by myself, I went head foremost 
into the large water-tub kept for the garden. 
I think I might have got awkwardly wedged 
if I had tried to draw my feet in after me : 
instead, I used the small watering-pot I had 
in my hand to give myself a good thrust up 
from the bottom, and caught the opposite edge 
of the tub with my left hand, getting not a 


little credit afterwards for my decision of 
method. Looking back to the few chances 
that have in any such manner tried my head, 
I believe it has never failed me when I wanted 
it, and that I am much more likely to be con- 
fused by sudden admiration than by sudden 

j6. The dark pools of Tay, which have led 
me into this boasting, were under the high 
bank at the head of the North Inch, — the 
path above them being seldom traversed 
by us children unless at harvest time, 
when we used to go gleaning in the fields 
beyond ; Jessie and I afterwards grinding 
our corn in the kitchen pepper-mill, and 
kneading and toasting for ourselves cakes 
of pepper bread, of quite unpurchaseable 

In the general course of this my careful 
narration, I rebut with as much indignation 
as may be permitted without ill manners, the 
charge of partiality to anything merely because 
it was seen when I was young. I hesitate, 
however, in recording as a constant truth for 
the world, the impression left on me when 
I went gleaning with Jessie, that Scottish 


sheaves are more golden than are bound in 
other lands, and that no harvests elsewhere 
visible to human eyes are so like the 'corn 
of heaven ' * as those of Strath-Tay and 

* Psalm Ixxviii. 24. 



yj. WHEN I was about eight or nine I had 
a bad feverish illness at Dunkeld, during 
which I believe I was in some danger, and am 
sure I was very uncomfortable. It came on 
after a long walk in which I had been gather- 
ing quantities of foxgloves and pulling them 
to pieces to examine their seeds, and there 
were hints about their having poisoned me ; 
very absurd, but which extended the gather- 
ing awe from river eddies to foxglove dells. 
Not long after that, when we were back 
at home, my cousin Jessie fell ill, and died 
very slowly, of water on the brain. I was 
very sorry, not so much in any strength 
of early affection, as in the feeling that the 
happy, happy days at Perth were for ever 
ended, since there was no more Jessie. 

Before her illness took its fatal form, — 
before, indeed, I believe it had at all declared 



itself — my aunt dreamed one of her foresight 
dreams, simple and plain enough for any one's 
interpretation ; — that she was approaching the 
ford of a dark river, alone, when little Jessie 
came running up behind her, and passed her, 
and went through first. Then she passed 
through herself, and looking back from the 
other side, saw her old Mause approaching 
from the distance to the bank of the stream. 
And so it was, that Jessie, immediately after- 
wards, sickened rapidly and died ; and a few 
months, or it might be nearly a year after- 
wards, my aunt died of decline ; and Mause, 
some two or three years later, having had no 
care after her mistress and Jessie were gone, 
but when she might go to them. 

78. I was at Plymouth with my father and 
mother when my Scottish aunt died, and had 
been very happy with my nurse on the hill 
east of the town, looking out on the bay and 
breakwater; and came in to find my father, 
for the first time I had ever seen him, in deep 
distress of sobbing tears. 

I was very sorry that my aunt was dead, 
but, at that time, (and a good deal since, also,) 
I lived mostly in the present, like an animal, 


and my principal sensation was, — What a pity 
it was to pass such an uncomfortable evening 
— and we at Plymouth ! 

The deaths of Jessie and her mother of 
course ended our Scottish days. The only 
surviving daughter, Mary, was thenceforward 
adopted by my father and mother, and 
brought up with me. She was fourteen when 
she came to us, and I four years younger; — 
so with the Perth days, closed the first decade 
of my life. Mary was a rather pretty, blue- 
eyed, clumsily-made girl, very amiable and 
affectionate in a quiet way, with no parts, but 
good sense and good principle, honestly and 
inoffensively pious, and equal tempered, but 
with no pretty girlish ways or fancies. She 
became a serene additional neutral tint in the 
household harmony; read alternate verses of 
the Bible with my mother and me in the 
mornings, and went to a day school in the 
forenoon. When we travelled she took some- 
what of a governess position towards me, we 
being allowed to explore places together with- 
out my nurse ; — but we generally took old 
Anne too for better company. 

79. It began now to be of some importance 


what church I went to on Sunday morning. 
My father, who was still much broken in 
health, could not go to the long Church of 
England service, and, my mother being 
evangelical, he went contentedly, or at least 
submissively, with her and me to Beresford 
Chapel, Walworth, where the Rev. D. Andrews 
preached, regularly, a somewhat eloquent, 
forcible, and ingenious sermon, not tiresome 
to him : — the prayers were abridged from the 
Church Service, and we, being the grandest 
people in the congregation, were allowed — 
though, as I now remember, not without 
offended and reproachful glances from the 
more conscientious worshippers — to come in 
when even those short prayers were half over. 
Mary and I used each to write an abstract of 
the sermon in the afternoon, to please our- 
selves, — Mary dutifully, and I to show how 
well I could do it. We never went to church 
in afternoon or evening. •■ I remember yet the 
amazed and appalling sensation, as of a vision 
preliminary to the Day of Judgment, of going, 
a year or two later, first into a church by 

80. We had no family worship, but our 


servants were better cared for than is often 
the case in ostentatiously religious houses. 
My mother used to take them, when girls, from 
families known to her, sister after sister, and 
we never had a bad one. 

On the Sunday evening my father would 
sometimes read us a sermon of Blair's, or it 
might be, a clerk or a customer would dine 
with us, when the conversation, in mere 
necessary courtesy, would take generally the 
direction of sherry. Mary and I got through 
the evening how we could, over the Pilgrim's ./ 
Progress, Bunyan's Holy War, Quarles's 
Emblems, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Mrs. Sher- 
wood's Lady of the Manor, — a very awful 
book to me, because of the stories in it of 
wicked girls who had gone to balls, dying im- 
mediately after of fever, — and Mrs. Sherwood's 
Henry Milner, — of which more presently, — 
the Youth's Magazine, Alfred Campbell the 
young pilgrim, and, though rather as a profane 
indulgence, permitted because of the hardness 
of our hearts, Bingley's Natural History. We 
none of us cared for singing hymns or 
psalms as such, and were too honest to 

amuse ourselves with them as sacred music, 
vol. i. G 


besides that we did not find their music 

8 1. My father and mother, though due 
cheques for charities were of course sent to 
Dr. Andrews, and various civilities at Christ- 
mas, in the way of turkeys or boxes of raisins, 
intimated their satisfaction with the style of 
his sermons and purity of his doctrine, — had 
yet, with their usual shyness, never asked for 
his acquaintance, or even permitted the state 
of their souls to be inquired after in pastoral 
visits. Mary and I, however, were charmed 
merely by the* distant effect of him, and used 
to walk with Anne up and down in Walworth, 
merely in the hope of seeing him pass on the 
other side of the way. At last, one day, when, 
by extreme favour of Fortune, he met us in a 
great hurry on our own side of it, and nearly 
tumbled over me, Anne, as he recovered 
himself, dropped him a low curtsey ; where- 
upon he stopped, inquired who we were, and 
was extremely gracious to us ; and we, coming 
home in a fever of delight, announced, not 
much to my mother's satisfaction, that the 
Doctor had said he would call some day ! And 
so, little by little, the blissful acquaintance was 


made. I might be eleven or going on twelve 
by that time. Miss Andrews, the eldest sister 
of the " Angel in the House," was an extremely 
beautiful girl of seventeen; she sang "Tam- 
bourgi, Tambourgi " * with great spirit and a 
rich voice, went at blackberry time on rambles 
with us at the Norwood Spa, and made me 
feel generally that there was something in 
girls that I did not understand, and that was 
curiously agreeable. And at last, because I 
was so fond of the Doctor, and he had the 
reputation (in Walworth) of being a good 
scholar, my father thought he might pleasantly 
initiate me in Greek, such initiation having 
been already too long deferred. The Doctor, 
it afterwards turned out, knew little more of 
Greek than the letters, and declensions of 
nouns ; but he wrote the letters prettily, and 
had an accurate and sensitive ear for rhythm. 
He began me with the odes of Anacreon, 
and made me scan both them and my Virgil 
thoroughly, sometimes, by way of interlude, 
reciting bits of Shakespeare to me with force 
and propriety. The Anacreontic metre en- 
tirely pleased me, nor less the Anacreontic 

* Hebrew melodies. 


sentiment. I learned half the odes by heart 
merely to please myself, and learned with 
certainty, what in later study of Greek art it 
has proved extremely advantageous to me to 
know, that the Greeks liked doves, swallows, 
and roses just as well as I did. 

82. In the intervals of these unlaborious 
Greek lessons, I went on amusing myself — 
partly in writing English doggerel, partly in 
map drawing, cr copying Cruikshank's illus- 
trations to Grimm, which I did with great, 
and to most people now incredible, exactness, 
a sheet of them being, by good hap, well 
preserved, done when I was between ten and 
eleven. But I never saw any boy's work in 
my life showing so little original faculty, or 
grasp by memory. I could literally draw 
nothing, not a cat, not a mouse, not a boat, 
not a bush, ' out of my head,' and there was, 
luckily, at present no idea on the part either 
of parents or preceptor, of teaching me to 
draw out of other people's heads. 

Nevertheless, Mary, at her day school, was 
getting drawing lessons with the other girls. 
Her report of the pleasantness and zeal of 
the master, and the frank and somewhat 


unusual execution of the drawings he gave 
her to copy, interested my father, and he was 
still more pleased by Mary's copying, for a 
proof of industry while he was away on his 
winter's journey — copying, in pencil so as to 
produce the effect of a vigorous engraving, the 
little water-colour by Prout of a wayside 
cottage, which was the foundation of our 
future water-colour collection, being then our 
only possession in that kind — of other kind, 
two miniatures on ivory completed our gallery. 

83. I perceive, in thinking over the good 
work of that patient black and. white study, 
that Mary could have drawn, if she had been 
well taught and kindly encouraged. But her 
power of patient copying did not serve her 
in drawing from nature, and when, that same 
summer, I between ten and eleven (1829), we 
went to stay at Matlock in Derbyshire, all 
that she proved able to accomplish was an 
outline of Caxton's New Bath Hotel, in which 
our efforts in the direction of art, for that 
year, ended. 

But, in the glittering white broken spar, 
specked with galena, by which the walks of 
the hotel garden were made bright, and in 


the shops of the pretty village, and in many 
a happy walk among its cliffs, I pursued my 
mineralogical studies on fluor, calcite, and the 
ores of lead, with indescribable rapture when 
I was allowed to go into a cave. My father 
and mother showed far more kindness than I 
knew, in yielding to my subterranean passion ; 
for my mother could not bear dirty places, 
and my father had a nervous feeling that the 
ladders would break, or the roof fall, before 
we got out again. They went with me, never- 
theless, wherever I wanted to go, — my father 
even into the terrible Speedwell mine at 
Castleton, where, for once, I was a little 
frightened myself. 

From Matlock we must have gone on to 
Cumberland, for I find in my father's writing 
the legend, "Begun 28th November, 1830, 
finished nth January, 1832," on the fly-leaf 
of the ' Iteriad/ a poem in four books, which 
I indited, between those dates, on the subject 
of our journey among the Lakes, and of which 
some little notice may be taken farther on. 

84. It must have been in the spring of 
1 83 1 that the important step was taken of 
giving me a drawing master. Mary showed 


no gift of representing any of the scenes of 
our travels, and I began to express some 
wish that I could draw myself. Whereupon, 
Mary's pleasant drawing master, to whom my 
father and mother were equitable enough not 
to impute Mary's want of genius, was invited 
to give me also an hour in the week. 

I suppose a drawing master's business can 
only become established by his assertion of 
himself to the public as the possessor of a 
style ; and teaching in that only. Neverthe- 
less, Mr. Runciman's memory sustains disgrace 
in my mind in that he gave no impulse nor 
even indulgence to the extraordinary gift I 
had for drawing delicately with the pen point. 
Any work of that kind was done thenceforward 
only to please myself. Mr. Runciman gave me 
nothing but his own mannered and inefficient 
drawings to copy, and greatly broke the force 
both of my mind and hand. 

Yet he taught me much, and suggested 
more. He taught me perspective, at once 
accurately and simply — an invaluable bit of 
teaching. He compelled me into a Swiftness 
and facility of hand which I found afterwards 
extremely useful, though what I have just 


called the ' force,' the strong accuracy of my 
line, was lost. He cultivated in me, — indeed 
founded, — the habit of looking for the essential 
points in the things drawn, so as to abstract 
them decisively, and he explained to me the 
meaning and importance of composition, though 
he himself could not compose. 

85. A very happy time followed, for about 
two years. 

I was, of course, far behind Mary in touch- 
skill of pencil drawing, and it was good for 
her that this superiority was acknowledged, 
and due honour done her for the steady pains 
of her unimpulsive practice and unwearied 
attention. For, as she did not write poems 
like me, nor collect spars like me, nor exhibit 
any prevailing vivacity of mind in any direc- 
tion, she was gradually sinking into far too 
subordinate a position to my high-mightiness. 
But I could make no pretence for some time 
to rival her in free-hand copying, and my first 
attempts from nature were not felt by my 
father to be the least flattering to his vanity. 

These were made under the stimulus of 
a journey to Dover with the forethought of 
which my mother comforted me through an 


illness of 1829. I find my quite first sketch- 
book, an extremely inconvenient upright small 
octavo in mottled and flexible cover, the paper 
pure white, and ribbedly gritty, filled with out- 
lines, irregularly defaced by impulsive efforts 
at finish, in arbitrary places and corners, of 
Dover and Tunbridge Castles and the main 
tower of Canterbury Cathedral. These, with 
a really good study, supplemented by detached 
detail, of Battle Abbey, I have set aside for 
preservation; the really first sketch I ever 
made from nature being No. 1, of a street 
in Sevenoaks. I get little satisfaction and less 
praise by these works ; but the native archi- 
tectural instinct is instantly developed in these 
— highly notable for any one who cares to 
note such nativities. Two little pencillings 
from Canterbury south porch and central 
tower, I have given to Miss Gale, of Burgate 
House, Canterbury ; the remnants of the book 
itself to Mrs. Talbot, of Tyn-y-Ffynon, Bar- 
mouth, both very dear friends. 

86. But before everything, at this time, came 
my pleasure in merely watching the sea. I 
was not allowed to row, far less to sail, nor 
to walk near the harbour alone; so that I 


learned nothing of shipping or anything else 
worth learning, but spent four or five hours 
every day in simply staring and wondering 
at the sea, — an occupation which never failed 
me till I was forty. Whenever I could get 
to a beach it was enough for me to have the 
waves to look at, and hear, and pursue and 
fly from. I never took to natural history of 
shells, or shrimps, or weeds, ot jelly-fish. 
Pebbles ? — yes if there were any ; otherwise, 
merely stared all day long at the tumbling 
and creaming strength of the sea. Idiotically, 
it now appears to me, wasting all that priceless 
youth in mere dream and trance of admiration ; 
it had a certain strain of Byronesque passion 
in it, which meant something : but it was a 
fearful loss of time. 

87. The summer of 1832 must, I think, 
have been passed at home, for my next 
sketch-book contains only some efforts at 
tree-drawing in Dulwich, and a view of the 
bridge over the now bricked-up ' Effra,' by 
which the Norwood road then crossed it at 
the bottom of Heme Hill : the road itself, just 
at the place where, from the top of the bridge, 
one looked up and down the streamlet, 


bridged now into putridly damp shade by the 
railway, close to Heme Hill Station. This 
sketch was the first in which I was ever 
supposed to show any talent for drawing. 
But on my thirteenth (?) birthday, 8th 
February, 1832, my father's partner, Mr. 
Henry Telford, gave me Rogers' Italy, and 
determined the main tenor of my life. 

At that time I had never heard of Turner, 
except in the well remembered saying of Mr. 
Runciman's, that ' the world had lately been 
much dazzled and led away by some splendid 
ideas thrown out by Turner.' But I had no 
sooner cast eyes on the Rogers vignettes than 
I took them for my only masters, and set 
myself to imitate them as far as I possibly 
could by fine pen shading. 

88. I have told this story so often that I 
begin to doubt its time. It is curiously tire- 
some that Mr. Telford did not himself write 
my name in the book, and my father, who 
writes in it, ' The gift of Henry Telford, Esq.,' 
still more curiously, for him, puts no date : 
if it was a year later, no matter; there is 
no doubt however that early in the spring 
of 1833 Prout published his Sketches in 


Flanders and Germany. I well remember 
going with my father into the shop where 
subscribers entered their names, and being 
referred to the specimen print, the turreted 
window over the Moselle, at Coblentz. We 
got the book home to Heme Hill before the 
time of our usual annual tour; and as my 
mother watched my father's pleasure and mine 
in looking at the wonderful places, she said, 
why should not we go and see some of them 
in reality ? My father hesitated a little, 
then with glittering eyes said — why not ? And 
there were two or three weeks of entirely 
rapturous and amazed preparation. I recol- 
lect that very evening bringing down my big 
geography book, still most precious to me ; 
(I take it down now, and for the first time put 
my own initials under my father's name in 
it) — and looking with Mary at the outline of 
Mont Blanc, copied from Saussure, at p. 201, 
and reading some of the very singular infor- 
mation about the Alps which it illustrates. 
So that Switzerland must have been at once 
included in the plans, — soon prosperously, 
and with result of all manner of good, by 
God's help fulfilled. 


89. We went by Calais and Brussels to 
Cologne ; up the Rhine to Strasburg, across 
the Black Forest to Schaffhausen, then made 
a sweep through North Switzerland by Basle, 
Berne, Interlachen, Lucerne, Zurich, to Con- 
stance, — following up the Rhine still to Coire, 
then over Splugen to Como, Milan, and Genoa ; 
meaning, as I now remember, for Rome. But, 
it being June already, the heat of Genoa 
warned us of imprudence : we turned, and 
came back over the Simplon to Geneva, saw 
Chamouni, and so home by Lyons and Dijon. 

To do all this in the then only possible 
way, with post-horses, and, on the lakes, with 
oared boats, needed careful calculation of time 
each day. My father liked to get to our 
sleeping place as early as he could, and never 
would stop the horses for me to draw anything 
(the extra pence to postillion for waiting being 
also an item of weight in his mind); — thus I 
got into the bad habit, yet not without its 
discipline, of making scrawls as the carriage 
went along, and working them up ' out of my 
head ' in the evening. I produced in this 
manner, throughout the journey, some thirty 
sheets or so of small pen and Indian ink 


drawings, four or five in a sheet ; some not 
inelegant, all laborious, but for the most part 
one just like another, and without exception 
stupid and characterless to the last degree. 

90. With these flying scrawls on the road, 
I made, when staying in towns, some elaborate 
pencil and pen outlines, of which perhaps 
half-a-dozen are worth register and preserva- 
tion. My father's pride in a study of the 
doubly-towered Renaissance church of Dijon 
was great. A still more laborious Hotel de 
Ville of Brussels remains with it at Brantwood. 
The drawing of that Hotel de Ville by me now 
at Oxford is a copy of Prout's, which I made 
in illustration of the volume in which I wrote 
the beginning of a rhymed history of the 

For it had excited all the poor little faculties 
that were in me to their utmost strain, and I 
had certainly more passionate happiness, of 
a quality utterly indescribable to people who 
never felt the like, and more, in solid quantity, 
in those three months, than most people have 
in all their lives. The impression of the Alps 
first seen from Schaffhausen, of Milan and 
of Geneva, I will try to give some account 


of afterwards, — my first business now is to 
get on. 

91. The winter of '33, and what time I 
could steal to amuse myself in, out of '34, 
were spent in composing, writing fair, and 
drawing vignettes for the decoration of the 
aforesaid poetical account of our tour, in 
imitation of Rogers' Italy. The drawings 
were made on separate pieces of paper and 
pasted into the books ; many have since been 
taken out, others are there for which the 
verses were never written, for I had spent 
my fervour before I got up the Rhine. I 
leave the unfinished folly in Joanie's care, 
that none but friends may see it. 

Meantime, it having been perceived by my 
father and mother that Dr. Andrews could 
neither prepare me for the University, nor 
for the duties of a bishopric, I was sent as 
a day scholar to the private school kept by 
the Rev. Thomas Dale, in Grove Lane, within 
walking distance of Heme Hill. Walking 
down with my father after breakfast, carrying 
my blue bag of books, I came home to half- 
past one dinner, and prepared my lessons 
in the evening for next day. Under these 


conditions I saw little of my fellow-scholars, 
the two sons of Mr. Dale, Tom and James ; and 
three boarders, the sons of Colonel Matson, 
of Woolwich ; of Alderman Key, of Denmark 
Hill ; and a fine lively boy, Willoughby Jones, 
afterwards Sir W., and only lately, to my 
sorrow, dead. 

92. Finding me in all respects what boys 
could only look upon as an innocent, they 
treated me as I suppose they would have 
treated a girl ; they neither thrashed nor 
chaffed me, — finding, indeed, from the first 
that chaff had no effect on me. Generally I 
did not understand it, nor in the least mind 
it if I did, the fountain of pure conceit in my 
own heart sustaining me serenely against all 
deprecation, whether by master or companion. 
I was fairly intelligent of books, had a good 
quick and holding memory, learned whatever 
I was bid as fast as I could, and as well ; and 
since all the other boys learned always as 
little as they could, though I was far in retard 
of them in real knowledge, I almost always 
knew the day's lesson best. I have already 
described, in the first chapter of Fiction Fair 
and Foul, Mr. Dale's rejection of my clearly 



known old grammar as a 'Scotch tiling.' In 
that one action he rejected himself from being 
my master ; and I thenceforward learned all 
he told me only because I had to do it. 

93. While these steps were taken for my 
classical advancement, a master was found 
for me, still in that unlucky Walworth, to 
teach me mathematics. Mr. Rowbotham was 
an extremely industrious, deserving, and fairly 
well-inibrmed person in his own branches, 
who, with his wife, and various impediments 
and inconveniences in the way of children, 
kept a 'young gentleman's Academy' near the 
Elephant and Castle, in one of the first houses 
which have black plots of grass in front, fenced 
by iron railings from the Walworth Road. 

He knew Latin, German, and French 
grammar ; was able to teach the ' use of the 
globes ' as far as needed in a preparatoiy 
school, and was, up to far be}ond the point 
needed for me, a really sound mathematician. 
For the rest, utterly unacquainted with men or 
their history, with nature and its meanings ; 
stupid and disconsolate, incapable of any 
manner of mirth or fancy, thinking mathe- 
matics the only proper occupation of human 

vol. 1. H 


intellect, asthmatic to a degree causing often 
helpless suffering, and hopelessly poor, spend- 
ing his evenings, after his school-drudgery 
was over, in writing manuals of arithmetic 
and algebra, and compiling French and German 
grammars, which he allowed the booksellers to 
cheat him out of, — adding perhaps, with all 
his year's lamp-labour, fifteen or twenty pounds 
to his income ; — a more wretched, innocent, 
patient, insensible, unadmirable, uncomfortable, 
intolerable being never was produced in this 
sera of England by the culture characteristic 
of her metropolis. 

94. Under the tuition, twice a week in the 
evening, of Mr. Rowbotham, (invited always 
to substantial tea with us before the lesson as 
a really efficient help to his hungry science, 
after the walk up Heme Hill, painful to 
asthma,) I prospered fairly in 1834, picking up 
some bits of French grammar, of which I had 
really felt the want, — I had before got hold, 
somehow, of words enough to make my way 
about with, — and I don't know how, but I 
recollect, at Paris, going to the Louvre under 
charge of Salvador, (I wanted to make a sketch 
from Rembrandt's Supper at Emmaus,) and 


on Salvador's application to the custode for 
permission, it appeared I was not old enough 
to have a ticket, — fifteen was then the earliest 
admission-age ; but seeing me look woebegone, 
the good-natured custode said he thought if 
I went in to the 'Board,' or whatever it was, 
of authorities, and asked for permission myself, 
they would give it me. Whereupon I instantly 
begged to be introduced to the Board, and the 
custode taking me in under his coat lappets, I 
did verily, in what broken French was feasible 
to me, represent my case to several gentlemen 
of an official and impressive aspect, and got 
my permission, and outlined the Supper at 
Emmaus with some real success in expression, 
and was extremely proud of myself. But my 
narrow knowledge of the language, though 
thus available for business, left me sorrowful 
and ashamed after the fatal dinner at Mr. 
Domecq's, when the little Elise, then just nine, 
seeing that her elder sisters did not choose to 
trouble themselves with me, and being herself 
of an entirely benevolent and pitiful temper, 
came across the drawing-room to me in my 
desolation, and leaning an elbow on my 
knee, set herself deliberately to chatter to me 


mellifluously for an hour and a half by the time- 
piece, — requiring no answer, of which she saw 
I was incapable, but satisfied with my grateful 
and respectful attention, and admiring interest, 
if not exactly always in what she said, at least 
in the way she said it. She gave me the 
entire history of her school, and of the objec- 
tionable characters of her teachers, and of the 
delightful characters of her companions, and 
of the mischief she got into, and the surrepti- 
tious enjoyments they devised, and the joys of 
coming back to the Champs Elysees, and the 
general likeness of Paris to the Garden of 
Edenj And the hour and a half seemed but 
too short, and left me resolved, anyhow, to do 
my best to learn French. 

95. So, as I said, I progressed in this stud}' 
to the contentment of Mr. Rowbotham, went 
easily through the three first books of Euclid, 
and got as far as quadratics in Algebra. But 
there I stopped, virtually, for ever. The 
moment I got into sums of series, or symbols 
expressing the relations instead of the real 
magnitudes of things, — partly in want of 
faculty, partly in an already well-developed 
and healthy hatred of things vainly bothering 


and intangible, — I jibbed — or stood stunned. 
Afterwards at Oxford tbey dragged me through 
some conic sections, of which the facts re- 
presentable by drawing became afterwards of 
extreme value to me ; and taught me as much 
trigonometry as made my mountain work, in 
plan and elevation, unaccusable. In elemen- 
tary geometry I was always happy, and, for 
a boy, strong ; and my conceit, developing 
now every hour more venomously as I began 
to perceive the weaknesses of my masters, 
led me to spend nearly every moment I could 
command for study in my own way, through 
the year 1835, in trying to trisect an angle. 
For some time afterwards I had the sense to 
reproach myself for the waste of thoughtful 
hours in that year, little knowing or dreaming 
how many a year to come, from that time 
forth, was to be worse wasted. 

While the course of my education was 
thus daily gathering the growth of me into 
a stubborn little standard bush, various frost- 
stroke was stripping away from me the poor 
little flowers — or herbs — of the forest, that 
had once grown, happily for me, at my side. 




96. I HAVE allowed, in the last chapter, my 
record of boyish achievements and experiments 
in art to run on to a date much in advance 
of the early years which were most seriously 
eventful for me in good and evil. I resume 
the general story of them with the less hesita- 
tion, because, such as it is, nobody else can 
tell it ; while, in later years, my friends in 
some respects know me better than I know 

The second decade of my life was cut away 
still more sharply from the perfectly happy 
time of childhood, by the death of my Croydon 
aunt ; death of ' cold ' literally, caught in some 
homely washing operations in an east wind. 
Her brown and white spaniel, Dash, lay beside 
her body, and on her coffin, till they were 
taken away from him ; then he was brought 

to Heme Hill, and 1 think had been my 



companion some time before Mary came 
to us. 

With the death of my Croyo'on aunt ended 
for me all the days by Wan del streams, as 
at Perth by Tay ; and thus when I was ten 
years old, an exclusively Heme Hill- .top life 
set in (when we were not travelling), of no 
very beneficial character. 

97. My Croydon aunt left four sons — John, 
William, George, and Charles ; and two 
daughters — Margaret and Bridget. All hand- 
some lads and pretty lasses ; but Margaret, 
in early youth, met with some mischance 
that twisted her spine, and hopelessly de- 
formed her. She was clever, and witty, like 
her mother ; but never of any interest to me, 
though I gave a kind of brotherly, rather than 
cousinly, affection to all my Croydon cousins. 
But I never liked invalids, and don't to this 
day ; and Margaret used to wear her hair in 
ringlets, which I couldn't bear the sight of. 

Bridget was a very different creature ; a 
black-eyed, or, with precision, dark hazel- 
eyed, slim-made, lively girl ; a little too sharp 
in the features to be quite pretty, a little too 
wiry-jointed to be quite graceful ; capricious, 


and more or less selfish in temper, yet nice 
enough to be once or twice asked to Perth 
with ns, or tn stay for a month or two at 
Heme Hill ; but never attaching herself much 
to us, neither us to her. I felt her an incon- 
venience in my nursery arrangements, the 
nursery having become my child's study as I 
g,rew studious; and she had no mind, or, it 
might be, no leave, to work with me in the 

98. The four boys were all of them good, 
and steadily active. The eldest, John, with 
wider business habits than the rest, went soon 
to push his fortune in Australia, and did 
so ; the second, William, prospered also in 

The third brother, George, was the best of 
boys and men, but of small wit. He ex- 
tremely resembled a rural George the Fourth, 
with an expansive, healthy, benevolent eager- 
ness of simplicity in his face, greatly bettering 
him as a type of British character. He went 
into the business in Market Street, with his 
father, and both were a great joy to all of us 
in their affection ateness and truth : neither of 
them in all their lives ever did a dishonest, 


unkind, or otherwise faultful thing — but still 
less a clever one ! For the present, I leave 
them happily rilling and driving their cart of 
quartern loaves in morning round from Market 

99. The fourth, and youngest, Charles, was 
like the last-born in a fairy tale, ruddy as the 
boy David, bright of heart, not wanting in 
common sense, or even in good sense ; and 
affectionate, like all the rest. He took to his 
schooling kindly, and became grammatical, 
polite, and presentable in our high Heme Hill 
circle.' His elder brother, John, had taken 
care of his education in more important 
matters : very early in the child's life he put 
him on a barebacked pony, with the simple 
elementary instruction that he should be 
thrashed if he came off. And he stayed on. 
Similarly, for first lesson in swimming, he 
pitched the boy like a pebble into the middle 
of the Croydon Canal, jumping in, of course, 
after him ; but I believe the lad squattered to 
the bank without help, and became when he 
was only 'that high' a fearless master of 
horse and wave. 

100. My mother used to tell these two 


stories with the greater satisfaction, because, 
in her own son's education, she had sacrificed 
her pride in his heroism to her anxiety for his 
safety ; and never allowed me to go to the 
edge of a pond, or be in the same field with a 
pony. As ill-luck also would have it, there 
was no manner of farm or marsh near us, 
which might of necessity modify these restric- 
tions ; but I have already noted with thankful- 
ness the good I got out of the tadpole-haunted 
ditch in Croxted Lane ; while also, even 
between us and tutorial Walworth, there was 
one Elysian field for me in the neglected grass 
of Camberwell Green. There was a pond in 
the corner of it, of considerable size, and un- 
known depth, — probably, even in summer, full 
three feet in the middle ; the sable opacity of 
its waters adding to the mystery of danger. 
Large, as I said, for a pond, perhaps sixty 
or seventy yards the long way of the Green, 
fifty the short ; while on its western edge 
grew a stately elm, from whose boughs, it 
was currently reported, and conscientiously 
believed, a wicked boy had fallen into the 
pond on Sunday, and forthwith the soul of 
him into a deeper and darker pool. 


It was one of the most valued privileges of 
my early life to be permitted by my nurse to 
contemplate this judicial pond with awe, from 
the other side of the way. The loss of it, by 
the sanitary conversion of Camberwell Green 
into a bouquet for Camberwell's button-hole, 
is to this day matter of perennial lament 
to me. 

10 1 . In the carrying out of the precautionary 
laws above described I was, of course, never 
allowed, on my visits to Croydon, to go out 
with my cousins, lest they should lead me 
into mischief; and no more adventurous joys 
were ever possible to me there, than my walks 
with Anne or my mother where the stream 
from Scarborough pond ran across the road ; 
or on the crisp turf of Duppas Hill ; my 
watchings of the process of my father's draw- 
ings in Indian ink, and my own untired con- 
templations of the pump and gutter on the 
other side of the so-called street, but really 
lane, — not more than twelve feet from wall to 
wall. So that, when at last it was thought 
that Charles, with all his good natural gifts 
and graces, should be brought from Croydon 
town to London city, and initiated into the 

1 24 pr#:terita. 

lofty life and work of its burgess orders ; and 
when, accordingly, he was, after various taking 
of counsel and making of enquiry, apprenticed 
to Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co., of 65, Cornhill, 
with the high privilege of coming out to dine 
at Heme Hill every Sunday, the new and 
beaming presence of cousin Charles became 
a vivid excitement, and admirable revelation 
of the activities of youth to me, and I began 
to get really attached to him. 

I was not myself the sort of creature that 
a boy could care much for, — or indeed any 
human being, except papa and mama, and 
Mrs. Richard Gray (of whom more presently); 
being indeed nothing more than a conceited 
and unentertainingly troublesome little monkey. 
But Charles was always kind to me, and natu- 
rally answered with some cousinly or even 
brotherly tenderness my admiration of him, 
and delight in him. 

102. At Messrs. Smith & Elder's he was 
an admittedly exemplary apprentice, rapidly 
becoming a serviceable shopman, taking orders 
intelligently, and knowing well both his books 
and his customers. As all right-minded ap- 
prentices and good shopmen do, he took 


personal pride in everything produced by the 
firm ; and on Sundays always brought a 
volume or two in his pocket to show us the 
character of its most ambitious publications ; 
especially choosing, on my behalf, any which 
chanced to contain good engravings. In this 
wa) f I became familiar with Stanfield and 
Harding long before I possessed a single 
engraving myself from either of them ; but 
the really most precious, and continuous in 
deep effect upon me, of all gifts to my child- 
hood, was from my Croydon aunt, of the 
Forget-me-not of 1827, with a beautiful en- 
graving in it of Prout's ' Sepulchral monument 
at Verona.' 

Strange, that the true first impulse to the 
most refined instincts of my mind should have 
been given by my totally uneducated, but 
entirely good and right-minded, mother's 

103. But more magnificent results came of 
Charles's literary connection, through the in- 
terest we all took in the embossed and gilded 
small octavo which Smith & Elder published 
annually, by title ' Friendship's Offering. 5 
This was edited by a pious Scotch missionary, 


and minor — very much minor — key, poet, 
Thomas Pringle ; mentioned once or twice 
with a sprinkling of honour in Lockhart's Life 
of Scott. A strictly conscientious and earnest, 
accurately trained, though narrowly learned, 
man, with all the Scottish conceit, restlessness 
for travel, and petulant courage of the Parks 
and Livingstones ; with also some pretty 
tinges of romance and inklings of philosophy 
to mellow him, he was an admitted, though 
little regarded, member of the best literary 
circles, and acquainted, in the course of cater- 
ing for his little embossed octavo, with every- 
body in the outer circles, and lower, down to 
little me. He had been patronised by Scott ; 
was on terms of polite correspondence with 
Wordsworth and Rogers ; of familiar inter- 
course with the Ettrick Shepherd ; and had 
himself written a book of poems on the 
subject of Africa, in which antelopes were 
called springboks, and other African manners 
and customs carefully observed. 

104. Partly to oblige the good-natured and 
lively shopboy, who told wonderful things 
of his little student cousin ; — partly in the 
look-out for thin compositions of tractable 


stucco, wherewith to fill interstices in the 
masonry of • Friendship's Offering/ Mr. 
Pringle visited us at Heme Hill, heard the 
traditions of my literary life, expressed some 
interest in its farther progress, — and some- 
times took a copy of verses away in his pocket. 
He was the first person who intimated to my 
father and mother, with some decision, that 
there were as yet no wholly trustworthy in- 
dications of my one day occupying a higher 
place in English literature than either Milton 
or Byron ; and accordingly I think none of 
us attached much importance to his opinions. 
But he had the sense to recognise, through 
the parental vanity, my father's high natural 
powers, and exquisitely romantic sensibility ; 
nor less my mother's tried sincerity in the 
evangelical faith, which he had set himself 
apart to preach : and he thus became an 
honoured, though never quite cordially 
welcomed, guest on occasions of state Sun- 
day dinner ; and more or less an adviser 
thenceforward of the mode of my education, 
He himself found interest enough in my real 
love of nature and ready faculty of rhyme, to 
induce him to read and criticize for me some of 

I 2 8 PR-rtHTERITA. 

my verses with attention ; and at last, as a 
sacred Eleusinian initiation and Delphic pil- 
grimage, to take me in his hand one day when 
he had a visit to pay to the poet Rogers. 

105. The old man, previously warned of 
my admissible claims, in Mr. Pringle's sight, 
to the beatitude of such introduction, was 
sufficiently gracious to me, though the cultiva- 
tion of germinating genius was never held 
by Mr. Rogers to be an industry altogether 
delectable to genius in its zenith. Moreover, 
I was unfortunate in the line of observations 
by which, in return for his notice, I endea- 
voured to show myself worthy of it. I con- 
gratulated him with enthusiasm on the beauty 
of the engravings by which his poems were 
illustrated, — but betrayed, I fear me, at the 
same time some lack of an equally vivid inte- 
rest in the composition of the poems them- 
selves. At all events, Mr. Pringle — I thought 
at the time, somewhat abruptly — diverted the 
conversation to subjects connected with Africa. 
These were doubtless more calculated to in- 
terest the polished minstrel of St. James's 
Place; but again I fell into misdemeanours by 
allowing my own attention, as my wandering 


eyes too frankly confessed, to determine itself 
on the pictures glowing from the crimson- 
silken walls; and accordingly, after we had 
taken leave, Mr. Pringle took occasion to 
advise me that, in future, when I was in 
the company of distinguished men, I should 
listen more attentively to their conversation. 

106. These, and such other — (I have else- 
where related the Ettrick Shepherd's favour- 
ing visit to us, also obtained by Mr. Pringle) 
— glorifications and advancements being the 
reward of my literary efforts, I was neverthe- 
less not beguiled by them into any abandon- 
ment of the scientific studies which were 
indeed natural and delightful to me. I have 
above registered their beginnings in the sparry 
walks at Matlock: but my father's business 
also took him often to Bristol, where he 
placed my mother, with Mary and me, at 
Clifton. Miss Edgeworth's story of Lazy 
Lawrence, and the visit to Matlock by Harry 
and Lucy, gave an almost romantic and 
visionary charm to mineralogy in those dells ; 
and the piece of iron oxide with bright Bristol 
diamonds, — No. 51 of the Brantwood collec- 
tion, — was I think the first stone on which 

vol. 1. j 


I began my studies of silica. The diamonds 
of it were bright with many an association 
besides, since from Clifton we nearly always 
crossed to Chepstow, — the rapture of being 
afloat, for half-an-hour even, on that muddy sea, 
concentrating into these impressive minutes 
the pleasures of a year of other boys' boating, 
— and so round by Tintern and Malvern, 
where the hills, extremely delightful in them- 
selves to me because I was allowed to run 
free on them, there being no precipices to 
fall over nor streams to fall into, were also 
classical to me through Mrs. Sherwood's 
' Henry Milner,' a book which I loved long, 
and respect still. So that there was this of 
curious and precious in the means of my edu- 
cation in these years, that my romance was 
always ratified to me by the seal of locality 
— and every charm of locality spiritualized by 
the glow and the passion of romance. 

107. There was one district, however, that 
of the Cumberland lakes, which needed no 
charm of association to deepen the appeal of 
its realities. I have said somewhere that my 
first memory in life was of Friar's Crag on 
Derwentwater  — meaning, I suppose, my first 


memory of things afterwards chiefly precious 
to me; at all events, I knew Keswick before 
I knew Perth, and after the Perth days were 
ended, my mother and I stayed either there, 
at the Royal Oak, or at Lowwood.Inn, or 
at Coniston Waterhead, while my father went 
on his business journeys to Whitehaven, Lan- 
caster, Newcastle, and other northern towns. 
The inn at Coniston was then actually at the 
upper end of the lake, the road from Amble- 
side to the village passing just between it 
and the water; and the view of the long 
reach of lake, with its softly wooded lateral 
hills, had for my father a tender charm 
which excited the same feeling as that with 
which he afterwards regarded the lakes of 
Italy. Lowwood Inn also was then little 
more than a country cottage, — and Amble- 
side a rural village ; and the absolute peace 
and bliss which any one who cared for grassy 
hills and for sweet waters might find at every 
footstep, and at every turn of crag or bend 
of bay, was totally unlike anything I ever 
saw, or read of, elsewhere. 

108. My first sight of bolder scenery was 
in Wales ; and I have written, — more than it 



would be wise to print, — about the drive from 
Hereford to Rhaiadyr, and under Plynlimmon 
to Pont-y-Monach : the joy of a walk with 
my father in the Sunday afternoon towards 
Hafod, gashed only with some alarmed sense 
of the sin of being so happy among the hills, 
instead of writing out a sermon at home; — 
my father's presence and countenance not 
wholly comforting me, for we both of us had 
alike a subdued consciousness of being pro- 
fane and rebellious characters, compared to 
my mother. 

From Pont-y-Monach we went north, 
gathering pebbles on the beach at Aberyst- 
with, and getting up Cader Idris with help of 
ponies : — it remained, and rightly, for many 
a year after, a king of mountains to me. 
Followed Harlech and its sands, Festiniog, 
the pass of Aberglaslyn, and marvel of Menai 
Straits and Bridge, which I looked at, then, 
as Miss Edgeworth had taught me, with 
reverence for the mechanical skill of man, — 
little thinking, poor innocent, what use I 
should see the creature putting his skill to, in 
the half century to come. 

The Menai Bridge it was, remember, good 


reader, not tube ; — but the trim plank roadway 
swinging smooth between its iron cobwebs 
from tower to tower. 

109. And so on to Llanberis and up Snow- 
don, of which ascent I remember, as the most 
exciting event, the finding for the first time in 
my life a real " mineral " for myself, a piece of 
copper pyrites ! But the general impression 
of Welsh mountain form was so true and 
clear that subsequent journeys little changed 
or deepened it. 

And if only then my father and mother had 
seen the real strengths and weaknesses of 
their little John ; — if they had given me but a 
shaggy scrap of a Welsh pony, and left me in 
charge of a good Welsh guide, and of his wife, 
if I needed any coddling, they would have 
made a man of me there and then, and after- 
wards the comfort of their own hearts, and 
probably the first geologist of my time in 

If only ! But they could no more have 
done it than thrown me like my cousin 
Charles into Croydon Canal, trusting me to 
find my way out by the laws of nature. 

1 10. Instead, they took me back to London, 


and my father spared time from his business 
hours, once or twice a week, to take me to 
a four-square, sky-lighted, sawdust-floored 
prison of a riding-school in Moorfields, the 
smell of which, as we turned in at the gate of 
it, was a terror and horror and abomination to 
me : and there I was put on big horses that 
jumped, and reared, and circled, and sidled; 
and fell off them regularly whenever they did 
any of those things ; and was a disgrace to 
my family, and a burning shame and misery 
to myself, till at last the riding-school was 
given up on my spraining my right-hand fore- 
finger (it has never come straight again since), 
— and a well-broken Shetland pony bought for 
me, and the two of us led about the Norwood 
roads by a riding master with a leading string. 
I used to do pretty well as long as we went 
straight, and then get thinking of something, 
and fall off when we turned a corner. I 
might have got some inkling of a seat in 
Heaven's good time, if no fuss had been made 
about me, nor inquiries instituted whether I 
had been off or on ; but as my mother, the 
moment I got home, made searching scrutiny 
into the day's disgraces, I merely got more 


and more nervous and helpless after every 
tumble ; and this branch of my education was 
at last abandoned, my parents consoling them- 
selves, as best they might, in the conclusion 
that my not being able to learn to ride was 
the sign of my being a singular genius. 

in. The rest of the year was passed in 
such home employment as I have above 
described; — but, either in that or the pre- 
ceding year, my mineralogical taste received 
a new and very important impulse from a 
friend who entered afterwards intimately into 
our family life, but of whom I have not yet 

My illness at Dunkeld, above noticed, was 
attended by two physicians, — my mother, — 
and Dr. Grant. The Doctor must then have 
been a youth who had just obtained his 
diploma. I do not know the origin of his 
acquaintance with my parents; but I know 
that my father had almost paternal influence 
over him ; and was of service to him, to what 
extent I know not, but certainly continued 
and effective, in beginning the world. And as 
I grew older I used often to hear expressions 
of much affection and respect for Dr. Grant 


from my father and mother, coupled with 
others of regret or blame that he did not 
enough bring out his powers, or use his 

Ever after the Dunkeld illness, Dr. Grant's 
name was associated in my mind with a 
brown powder — rhubarb, or the like — of a 
gritty and acrid nature, which, by his orders, 
I had then to take. The name thenceforward 
always sounded to me gr-r-ish and granular; 
and a certain dread, not amounting to dislike 
— but, on the contrary, affectionate, (for me) 
— made the Doctor's presence somewhat 
solemnizing to me ; the rather as he never 
jested, and had a brownish, partly austere, 
and sere, wrinkled, and — rhubarby, in fact, 
sort of a face. For the rest, a man entirely 
kind and conscientious, much affectionate to 
my father, and acknowledging a sort of 
ward-to-guardian's duty to him, together 
with the responsibility of a medical adviser, 
acquainted both with his imagination and his 

112. I conjecture that it must have been 
owing to Dr. Grant's being of fairly good 
family, and in every sense and every reality 


of the word a gentleman, that, soon after 
coming up to London, he got a surgeon's 
appointment in one of His Majesty's frigates 
commissioned for a cruise on the west coast 
of South America. Fortunately the health of 
her company gave the Doctor little to do pro- 
fessionally ; and he was able to give most of 
his time to the study of the natural history 
of the coast of Chili and Peru. One of the 
results of these shore expeditions was the 
finding such a stag-beetle as had never be- 
fore been seen. It had peculiar or colossal 
nippers, and — I forget what ' chiasos ' means 
in Greek, but its jaws were chiasoi. It was 
brought home beautifully packed in a box of 
cotton ; and, when the box was opened, ex- 
cited the admiration of all beholders, and was 
called the ' Chiasognathos Grantii.' A second 
result was his collection of a very perfect 
series of Valparaiso humming birds, out of 
which he spared, for a present to my mother, 
as many as filled with purple and golden 
flutter two glass cases as large as Mr. Gould's 
at the British Museum, which became re- 
plendent decorations of the drawing-room at 
Heme Hill, — were to me, as I grew older, 


conclusive standards of plume texture and 
colour, — and are now placed in the best 
lighted recess of the parish school at Coniston. 

113. The third result was more important 
still. Dr. Grant had been presented by the 
Spanish masters of mines with characteristic 
and rich specimens of the most beautiful vein- 
stones of Copiapo. It was a mighty fact for 
me, at the height of my child's interest in 
minerals, to see our own parlour table loaded 
with foliated silver and arborescent gold. Not 
only the man of science, but the latent miser 
in me, was developed largely in an hour or 
two ! In the pieces which Dr. Grant gave me, 
I counted my treasure grain by grain ; and 
recall to-day, in acute sympathy with it, 
the indignation I felt at seeing no instantly 
reverential change in cousin Charles's coun- 
tenance, when I informed him that the film 
on the surface of an unpresuming specimen, 
amounting in quantity to about the sixteenth 
part of a sixpence, was ' native silver ' ! 

Soon after his return from this prosperous 
voyage, Dr. Grant settled himself in a respect- 
able house half-way down Richmond Hill, 
where gradually he obtained practice and 


accepted position among the gentry of that 
town and its parkly neighbourhood. And 
every now and then, in the summer mornings, 
or the gaily frost-white winter ones, we used, 
papa and mamma, and Mary and I, to drive 
over Clapham and Wandsworth Commons to a 
breakfast picnic with Dr. Grant at the " Star 
and Garter." Breakfasts much impressed on 
my mind, partly by the pretty view from the 
windows ; but more, because while my ortho- 
dox breakfast, even in travelling, was of stale 
baker's bread, at these starry picnics I was 
allowed new French roll. 

114. Leaving Dr. Grant, for the nonce, 
under these pleasant and dignifiedly crescent 
circumstances, I must turn to the friends who 
of all others, not relatives, were most power- 
fully influential on my child life, — Mr. and 
Mrs. Richard Gray. 

Some considerable time during my father's 
clerkdom had been passed by him in Spain, in 
learning to know sherry, and seeing the ways 
of making and storing it at Xerez, Cadiz, and 
Lisbon. At Lisbon he became intimate with 
another young Scotsman of about his own age, 
also employed, I conceive, as a clerk, in some 


Spanish house, but himself of no narrow 
clerkly mind. On the contrary, Richard Gray 
went far beyond my father in the romantic 
sentiment, and scholarly love of good litera- 
ture, which so strangely mingled with my 
father's steady business habits. Equally 
energetic, industrious, and high - principled, 
Mr. Gray's enthusiasm was nevertheless 
irregularly, and too often uselessly, coruscant ; 
being to my father's, as Carlyle says of French 
against English fire at Dettingen, "faggot 
against anthracite." Yet, I will not venture 
absolutely to maintain that, under Richard's 
erratic and effervescent influence, an expedi- 
tion to Cintra, or an assistance at a village 
festa, or even at a bull-fight, might not some- 
times, to that extent, invalidate my former 
general assertion that, during nine years, my 
father never had a holiday. At all events, 
the young men became close and affec- 
tionate friends ; and the connection had 
a softening, cheering, and altogether bene- 
ficent effect on my father's character. Nor 
was their brotherly friendship any whit 
flawed or dimmed, when, a little while 
before leaving Spain, Mr. Gray married an 


extremely good and beautiful Scotch girl, 
Mary Monro. 

115. Extremely good, and, in the gentlest 
way ; — entirely simple, meek, loving, and 
serious ; not clever enough to be any way 
naughty, but saved from being stupid by a 
vivid nature, full of enthusiasm like her 
husband's. Both of them evangelically pious, 
in a vivid, not virulent, way; and each of 
them sacredly, no less than passionately, in 
love with the other, they were the entirely 
best-matched pair I have yet seen in this 
match-making world and dispensation. Yet, 
as fate would have it, they had the one grief 
of having no children, which caused it, in 
years to come, to be Mrs. Gray's principal 
occupation in life to spoil me. By the time 
I was old enough to be spoiled, Mr. Gray, 
having fairly prospered in business, and come 
to London, was established, with his wife, her 
mother, and her mother's white French poodle, 
Petite, in a dignified house in Camberwell 
Grove. An entirely happy family ; old Mrs. 
Monro as sweet as her daughter, perhaps 
slightly wiser ; Richard rejoicing in them both 
with all his heart ; and Petite, having, perhaps, 



as much sense as any two of them, delighted 
in, and beloved by all three. 

116. Their house was near the top of the 
Grove, — which was a real grove in those 
days, and a grand one, some three-quarters of 
a mile long, steepishly down hill, — beautiful in 
perspective as an unprecedently " long-drawn 
aisle ; " trees, elm, wych elm, sycamore and 
aspen, the branches meeting at top ; the 
houses on each side with trim stone path- 
ways up to them, through small plots of well- 
mown grass ; three or four storied, mostly 
in grouped terraces, — well-built, of sober- 
coloured brick, with high and steep slated roof 
— not gabled, but polygonal; all well to do, well 
kept, well broomed, dignifiedly and pleasantly 
vulgar, and their own Grove- world all in all to 
them. It was a pleasant mile and a furlong 
or two's walk from Heme Hill to the Grove ; 
and whenever Mrs. Gray and my mother had 
anything to say to each other, they walked — 
up the hill or down — to say it; and Mr. 
Gray's house was always the same to us as 
our own at any time of day or night. But 
our house not at all so to the Grays, having 
its formalities inviolable; so that during the 


whole of childhood I had the sense that we 
were, in some way or other, always above our 
friends and relations, — more or less patroniz- 
ing everybody, favouring them by our advice, 
instructing them by our example, and called 
upon, by what was due both to ourselves, and 
the constitution of society, to keep them at a 
certain distance. 

117. With one exception; which I have 
deep pleasure in remembering. In the first 
chapter of the Antiquary, the landlord at 
Queen's Ferry sets down to his esteemed 
guest a bottle of Robert Cockburn's best port ; 
with which Robert Cockburn duly supplied 
Sir Walter himself, being at that time, if not 
the largest, the leading importer of the finest 
Portugal wine, as my father of Spanish. But 
Mr. Cockburn was primarily an old Edinburgh 
gentleman, and only by condescension a wine- 
merchant ; a man of great power and pleasant 
sarcastic wit, moving in the first circles of 
Edinburgh ; attached to my father by many 
links of association with the 'auld toun/ and 
sincerely respecting him. He was much the 
stateliest and truest piece of character who 
ever sate at our merchant feasts. 

1 44 PR^TERITA. 

Mrs. Cockburn was even a little higher, — as 
representative of the Scottish lady of the old 
school, — indulgent yet to the new. She had 
been Lord Byron's first of first loves ; she 
was the Mary Duff of Lachin-y-Gair. When 
I first remember her, still extremely beautiful 
in middle age, full of sense ; and, though with 
some mixture of proud severity, extremely 

1 1 8. They had two sons, Alexander and 
Archibald, both in business with their father, 
both clever and energetic, but both distinctly 
resolute — as indeed their parents desired — 
that they would be gentlemen first, salesmen 
second : a character much to be honoured and 
retained among us ; nor in their case the least 
ambitious or affected : gentlemen the} 7 were, — 
born so, and more at home on the hills than 
in the counting-house, and withal attentive 
enough to their business. The house, never- 
theless, did not become all that it might have 
been in less well-bred hands. 

The two sons, one or other, often dined 
with us, and were more distinctly friends than 
most of our guests. Alexander had much of 
his father's humour; Archibald, a fine, young, 


dark Highlander, was extremely delightful to 
me, and took some pains with me, for the sake 
of my love of Scott, telling me anything about 
fishing or deer-stalking that I cared to listen 
to. For, even from earliest days, I cared to 
listen to the adventures of other people, though 
I never coveted any for myself. I read all 
Captain Marryat's novels, without ever wishing 
to go to sea ; traversed the field of Waterloo 
without the slightest inclination to be a soldier ; 
went on ideal fishing with Isaac Walton with- 
out ever casting a fly ; and knew Cooper's 
' Deerslayer ' and ' Pathfinder ' almost by heart, 
without handling anything but a pop-gun, or 
having any paths to find beyond the solitudes 
of Gipsy-Hill. I used sometimes to tell my- 
self stories of campaigns in which I was an 
ingenious general, or caverns in which I dis- 
covered veins of gold ; but these were merely 
to fill vacancies of fancy, and had no reference 
whatever to things actual or feasible. I already 
disliked growing older, — never expected to be 
wiser, and formed no more plans for the future 
than a little black silkworm does in the middle 
of its first mulberry leaf. 

VOL. I. K 



119. The visit to the field of Waterloo, 
spoken of by chance in last chapter, must 
have been when I was five years old, — on the 
occasion of papa and mamma's taking a fancy 
to see Paris in its festivities following the 
coronation of Charles X. We stayed several 
weeks in Paris, in a quiet family inn, and then 
some days at Brussels, — but I have no memory 
whatever of intermediate stages. It seems to 
me, on revision of those matin times, that I 
was very slow in receiving impressions, and 
needed to stop two or three days at least in a 
place, before I began to get a notion of it ; 
but the notion, once got, was, as far as it 
went, always right ; and since I had no 
occasion afterwards to modify it, other im- 
pressions fell away from that principal one, and 
disappeared altogether. Hence what people 

call my prejudiced views of things, — which 



are, in fact, the exact contrary, namely, post- 
judiced. (I do not mean to introduce this 
word for general service, but it saves time and 
print just now.) 

120. Another character of my perceptions I 
find curiously steady — that I was only inte- 
rested by things near me, or at least clearly 
visible and present. I suppose this is so 
with children generally ; but it remained — and 
remains — a part of my grown-up temper. In 
this visit to Paris, I was extremely taken up 
with the soft red cushions of the arm-chairs, 
which it took one half an hour to subside 
into after sitting down, — with the exquisitely 
polished floor of the salon, and the good-natured 
French ' Boots ' (more properly ' Brushes '), 
who skated over it in the morning till it be- 
came as reflective as a mahogany table, — with 
the pretty court full of flowers and shrubs in 
beds and tubs, between our rez-de-chaussee 
windows and the outer gate, — with a nice 
black servant belonging to another family, who 
used to catch the house-cat for me ; and with 
an equally good-natured fille de chambre, 
who used to catch it back again, for fear I 
should teaze it, (her experience of English 


boy-children having made her dubious of 
my intentions ) ; — all these things and people 
I remember, — and the Tuileries garden, and 
the ' Tivoli ' gardens, where my father took me 
up and down a 'Russian mountain,' and I 
saw fireworks of the finest. But I remember 
nothing of the Seine, nor of Notre Dame, nor 
of anything in or even out of the town, except 
the windmills on Mont Martre. 

121. Similarly at Brussels. I recollect no 
Hotel de Ville, no stately streets, no surprises, 
or interests, except only the drive to Waterloo 
and slow walk over the field. The defacing 
mound was not then built — it was only nine 
years since the fight ; and each bank and 
hollow of the ground was still a true exponent 
of the courses of charge or recoil. Fastened 
in my mind by later reading, that sight of 
the slope of battle remains to me entirely 
distinct, while the results of a later examina- 
tion of it after the building of the mound, 
have faded mostly away. 

I must also note that the rapture of getting 
on board a steamer, spoken of in last letter, 
was of later date ; as a child I cared more 
for a beach on which the waves broke, or 


sands in which I could dig, than for wide 
sea. There was no ' first sight ' of the sea 
for me. I had gone to Scotland in Captain 
Spinks' cutter, then a regular passage boat, 
when I was only three years old ; but the 
weather was fine, and except for the pleasure 
of tattooing myself with tar among the ropes, 
I might as well have been ashore.; but I 
grew into the sense of ocean, as the Earth 
shaker, by the rattling beach, and lisping 

122. I had meant, also in this place, to 
give a word or two to another poor relative, 
Nanny Clowsley, an entirely cheerful old 
woman, who lived, with a Dutch clock and 
some old teacups, in a single room (with 
small bed in alcove) on the third storey of 
a gabled house, part of the group of old ones 
lately pulled down on Chelsea side of Batter- 
sea bridge. But I had better keep what I 
have to say of Chelsea well together, early 
and late ; only, in speaking of shingle, I must 
note the use to me of the view out of 
Nanny Clowsley's window right down upon 
the Thames tide, with its tossing wherries 
at the flow, and stranded barges at ebb. 


And now, I must get on, and come to the 
real first sights of several things. 

123. I said that, for our English tours, Mr. 
Telford usually lent us his chariot. But for 
Switzerland, now taking Mary, we needed 
stronger wheels and more room ; and for this, 
and all following tours abroad, the first pre- 
paration, and the beginning of delight was 
the choosing a carriage to our fancy, from 
the hireable reserves at Mr. Hopkinson's, of 
Long Acre. 

The poor modern slaves and simpletons 
who let themselves be dragged like cattle, 
or felled timber, through the countries they 
imagine themselves visiting, can have no 
conception whatever of the complex joys, and 
ingenious hopes, connected with the choice 
and arrangement of the travelling carriage in 
old times. The mechanical questions first, 
of strength — easy rolling — steady and safe 
poise of persons and luggage ; the general 
stateliness of effect to be obtained for the 
abashing of plebeian beholders ; the cunning 
design and distribution of store-cellars under 
the seats, secret drawers under front windows, 
invisible pockets under padded lining, safe 


from dust, and accessible only by insidious 
slits, or necromantic valves like Aladdin's 
trap-door; the fitting of cushions where they 
would not slip, the rounding of corners for 
more delicate repose ; the prudent attachments 
and springs of blinds ; the perfect fitting of 
windows, on which one-half the comfort of 
a travelling carriage really depends ;• and the 
adaptation of all these concentrated luxuries 
to the probabilities of who would sit where, 
in the little apartment which was to be 
virtually one's home for five or six months ; 
— all this was an imaginary journey in itself, 
with every pleasure, and none of the discom- 
fort, of practical travelling. 

124. On the grand occasion 01 our first 
continental journey — which was meant to be 
half a year long — the carriage was chosen 
with, or in addition fitted with, a front seat 
outside for my father and Mary, a dickey, un- 
usually large, for Anne and the courier, and 
four inside seats, though those in front very 
small, that papa and Mary might be received 
inside in stress of weather. I recollect, 
when we had finally settled which carriage 
we would have, the polite Mr. Hopkinson, 


advised of my dawning literary reputa- 
tion, asking me (to the joy of my father) if 
I could translate the motto of the former 
possessor, under his painted arms, — " Vix ea 
nostra voco" — which I accomplishing success- 
fully, farther wittily observed that however 
by right belonging to the former possessor, 
the motto was with greater propriety applic- 
able to us. 

125. For a family carriage of this solid 
construction, with its luggage, and load of six 
or more persons, four horses were of course 
necessary to get any sufficient way on it; 
and half-a-dozen such teams were kept at 
every post-house. The modern reader may 
perhaps have as much difficulty in realizing 
these savagely and clumsily locomotive periods, 
though so recent, as any aspects of migratory 
Saxon or Goth ; and may not think me vainly 
garrulous in their description. 

The French horses, and more or less those 
on all the great lines of European travel- 
ling, were properly stout trotting cart- 
horses, well up to their work and over it ; 
untrimmed, long - tailed, good - humouredly 
licentious, whinnying and frolicking with each 


other when they had a chance ; sagaciously 
steady to their work; obedient to the voice 
mostly, to the rein only for more explicitness ; 
never touched by the whip, which was used 
merely to express the driver's exultation in 
himself and them, — signal obstructive vehicles 
in front out of the way, and advise all the in- 
habitants of the villages and towns traversed 
on the day's journey, that persons of distinc- 
tion were honouring them by their transitory 
presence. If everything was right, the four 
horses were driven by one postillion riding 
the shaft horse ; but if the horses were young, 
or the riders unpractised, there was a postillion 
for the leaders also. As a rule, there were 
four steady horses and a good driver, rarely 
drunk, often very young, the men of stronger 
build being more useful for other work, and 
any clever young rider able to manage the 
well-trained and merry-minded beasts, besides 
being lighter on their backs. Half the weight 
of the cavalier, in such cases, was in his 
boots, which were often brought out slung 
from the saddle like two buckets, the postillion, 
after the horses were harnessed, walking along 
the pole and getting into them. 


126. Scarcely less official, for a travelling 
carriage of good class than its postillions, was 
the courier, or properly, avant-courier, whose 
primary office it was to ride in advance at 
a steady gallop, and order the horses at each 
post-house to be harnessed and ready wait- 
ing, so that no time might be lost between 
stages. His higher function was to make all 
bargains and pay all bills, so as to save the 
family unbecoming cares and mean anxieties, 
besides the trouble and disgrace of trying to 
speak French or any other foreign language. 
He, farther, knew the good inns in each town, 
and all the good rooms in each inn, so that 
he could write beforehand to secure those 
suited to his family. He was also, if an 
intelligent man and high-class courier, well 
acquainted with the proper sights to be seen in 
each town, and with all the occult means to 
be used for getting sight of those that weren't 
to be seen by the vulgar. Murray, the reader 
will remember, did not exist in those days ; 
the courier was a private Murray, who knew, if 
he had any wit, not the things to be seen only, 
but those you would yourself best like to see, 
and gave instructions to your valet-de-place 


accordingly, interfering only as a higher 
power in cases of difficulty needing to be 
overcome by money or tact. He invariably 
attended the ladies in their shopping expedi- 
tions, took them to the fashionable shops, and 
arranged as he thought proper the prices of 
articles. Lastly, he knew, of course, all the 
other high-class couriers on the road, and 
told you, if you wished to know, all the 
people of consideration who chanced to be 
with you in the inn. 

127. My father would have considered it 
an insolent and revolutionary trespass on 
the privileges of the nobility to have mounted 
his courier to ride in advance of us ; besides 
that, wisely liberal of his money for comfort 
and pleasure, he never would have paid the 
cost of an extra horse for show. The horses 
were, therefore, ordered in advance, when 
possible, by the postillions of any preceding 
carriage (or, otherwise, we did not mind wait- 
ing till they were harnessed), and we carried 
our courier behind us in the dickey with Anne, 
being in all his other functions and accom- 
plishments an indispensable luxury to us. 
Indispensable, first, because none of us could 


speak anything but French, and that only 
enough to ask our way in ; for all specialties 
of bargaining, or details of information, we 
were helpless, even in France, — and might as 
well have been migratory sheep, or geese, in 
Switzerland or Italy. Indispensable, secondly, 
to my father's peace of mind, because, with 
perfect liberality 'of temper, he had a great 
dislike to being over-reached. He perfectly 
well knew that his courier would have his 
commission, and allowed it without question ; 
but he knew also that his courier would not 
be cheated by other people, and was content 
in his representative. Not for ostentation, 
but for real enjoyment and change of sensa- 
tion from his suburban life, my father liked 
large rooms ; and my mother, in mere con- 
tinuance of her ordinary and essential habits, 
liked clean ones ; clean, and large, means a 
good inn and a first floor. Also my father 
liked a view from his windows, and reasonably 
said, " Why should we travel to see less than 
we may ? " — so that meant first floor front. 
Also my father liked delicate cookery, just 
because he was one of the smallest and rarest 
eaters; and my mother liked good meat. 


That meant, dinner without limiting price, in 
reason. Also, though my father never went 
into society, he all the more enjoyed getting 
a glimpse, reverentially, of fashionable people 
— I mean, people of rank, — he scorned fashion, 
and it was a great thing to him to feel that 

Lord and Lady were on the opposite 

landing, and that, at any moment, he might 
conceivably meet and pass them on the stairs. 
Salvador, duly advised, or penetratively per- 
ceptive of these dispositions of my father, 
entirely pleasing and admirable to the courier 
mind, had carte-blanche in all administrative 
functions and bargains. We found our plea- 
sant rooms always ready, our good horses 
always waiting, everybody took their hats off 
when we arrived and departed. Salvador 
presented his accounts weekly, and they were 
settled without a word of demur. 

128. To all these conditions of luxury and 
felicity, can the modern steam-puffed tourist 
conceive the added ruling and culminating one 
— that we were never in a hurry ? coupled 
with the correlative power of always starting 
at the hour we chose, and that if we weren't 
ready, the horses would wait ? As a rule, we 


breakfasted at our own home time — eight ; 
the horses were pawing and neighing at the 
door (under the archway, I should have said) 
by nine. Between nine and three, — reckoning 
seven miles an hour, including stoppages, for 
minimum pace, — we had done our forty to 
fifty miles of journey, sate down to dinner at 
four, — and I had two hours of delicious ex- 
ploring by myself in the evening ; ordered in 
punctually at seven to tea, and finishing my 
sketches till half-past nine, — bed-time. 

On longer days of journey we started at 
six, and did twenty miles before breakfast, 
coming in for four o'clock dinner as usual. 
In a quite long day we made a second stop, 
dining at any nice village hostelry, and 
coming in for late tea, after doing our eighty 
or ninety miles. But these pushes were 
seldom made unless to get to some pleasant 
cathedral town for Sunday, or pleasant Alpine 
village. We never travelled on Sunday ; my 
father and I nearly always went — as philo- 
sophers — to mass, in the morning, and my 
mother, in pure good-nature to us, (I scarcely 
ever saw in her a trace of feminine curiosity,) 
would join with us in some such profanity as 


a drive on the Corso, or the like, in the after- 
noon. But we all, even my father, liked a 
walk in the fields better, round an Alpine 
chalet village. 

129. At page no I threatened more 
accurate note of my first impressions of 
Switzerland and Italy in 1833. Of customary 
Calais I have something to say later on, — 
here I note only our going up Rhine to 
Strasburg, where, with all its miracles of 
building, I was already wise enough to feel 
the cathedral stiff and iron-worky; but was 
greatly excited and impressed by the high 
roofs and rich fronts of the wooden houses, 
in their sudden indication of nearness to 
Switzerland; and especially by finding the 
scene so admirably expressed by Prout in the 
36th plate of his Flanders and Germany, still 
uninjured. And then, with Salvador was 
held council in the inn-parlour of Strasburg, 
whether — it was then the Friday afternoon 
— we should push on to-morrow for our 
Sunday's rest to Basle, or to Schaffhausen. 

130. How much depended — if ever any- 
thing 'depends' on anything else, — on the 
issue of that debate ! Salvador inclined to 


the straight and level Rhine-side road, with 
the luxury of the Three Kings attainable by 
sunset. But at Basle, it had to be admitted, 
there were no Alps in sight, no cataract 
within hearing, and Salvador honourably laid 
before us the splendid alternative possibility 
of reaching, by traverse of the hilly road of 
the Black Forest, the gates of Schaff hausen 
itself, before they closed for the night. 

The Black Forest! The fall of Schaff- 
hausen ! The chain of the Alps ! within 
one's grasp for Sunday ! What a Sunday, 
instead of customary Walworth and the 
Dulwich fields ! My impassioned petition at 
last carried it, and the earliest morning saw 
us trotting over the bridge of boats to Kehl, 
and in the eastern light I well remember 
watching the line of the Black Forest hills 
enlarge and rise, as we crossed the plain of 
the Rhine. "Gates of the hills"; opening 
for me to a new life — to cease no more, 
except at the Gates of the Hills whence one 
returns not. 

131. And so, we reached the base of the 
Schwartzwald, and entered an ascending dingle; 
and scarcely, I think, a quarter of an hour 


after entering, saw our first ' Swiss cottage.' * 
How much it meant to all of us, — how much 
prophesied to me, no modern traveller could 
the least conceive, if I spent days in trying to 
tell him. A sort of triumphant shriek — like 
all the railway whistles going off at once at 
Clapham Junction — has gone up from the 
Fooldom of Europe at the destruction of the 
myth of William Tell. To us, every word of 
it was true — but mythically luminous with 
more than mortal truth; and here, under the 
black woods, glowed the visible, beautiful, 
tangible testimony to it in the purple 
larch timber, carved to exquisiteness by 
the joy of peasant life, continuous, motionless 
there in the pine shadow on its ancestral 
turf, — unassailed and unassailing, in the 
blessedness of righteous poverty, of religious 

The myth of William Tell is destroyed 
forsooth ? and you have tunnelled Gothard, 
and filled, it may be, the Bay of Uri ; — and it 
was all for you and your sake that the grapes 
dropped blood from the press of St. Jacob, 

* Swiss, in character and real habit — the political boun- 
daries are of no moment 

VOL. I, L 


and the pine club struck down horse and helm 
in Morgarten Glen ? 

132. Difficult enough for you to imagine, 
that old travellers' time when Switzerland 
was yet the land of the Swiss, and the Alps 
had never been trod by foot of man. Steam, 
never heard of yet, but for short fair weather 
crossing at sea (were there paddle-packets 
across Atlantic ? I forget). Any way, the 
roads by land were safe ; and entered once 
into this mountain Paradise, we wound on 
through its balmy glens, past cottage after 
cottage on their lawns, still glistering in the 

The road got into more barren heights by 
the mid-day, the hills arduous ; once or twice 
we had to wait for horses, and we were still 
twenty miles from Schaffhausen at sunset ; 
it was past midnight when we reached her 
closed gates. The disturbed porter had the 
grace to open them — not quite wide enough ; 
we carried away one of our lamps in collision 
with the slanting bar as we drove through the 
arch. How much happier the privilege of 
dreamily entering a mediaeval city, though 
with the loss of a lamp, than the free ingress 


of being jammed between a dray and a tram- 
car at a railroad station ! 

133. It is strange that I but dimly recollect 
the following morning ; I fancy we must have 
gone to some sort of church or other; and 
certainly, part of the day went in admiring 
the bow-windows projecting into the clean 
streets. None of us seem to have thought 
the Alps would be visible without profane 
exertion in climbing hills. We dined at four, 
as usual, and the evening being entirely fine, 
went out to walk, all of us, — my father and 
mother and Mary and I. 

We must have still spent some time in 
town-seeing, for it was drawing towards sun- 
set when we got up to some sort of garden 
promenade — west of the town, I believe; and 
high above the Rhine, so as to command the 
open country across it to the south and west. 
At which open country of low undulation, far 
into blue, — gazing as at one of our own 
distances from Malvern of Worcestershire, 
or Dorking of Kent, — suddenly — behold — 
beyond ! 

134. There was no thought in any of us 
for a moment of their being clouds. They 



were clear as crystal, sharp on the pure 
horizon sky, and already tinged with rose by 
the sinking sun. Infinitely beyond all that 
we had ever thought or dreamed, — the seen 
walls of lost Eden could not have been more 
beautiful to us ; not more awful, round heaven, 
the walls of sacred Death. 

It is not possible to imagine, in any time of 
the world, a more blessed entrance into life, 
for a child of such a temperament as mine. 
True, the temperament belonged to the age : 
a very few years, — within the hundred, — 
before that, no child could have been born to 
care for mountains, or for the men that lived 
among them, in that way. Till Rousseau's 
time, there had been no ' sentimental ' love 
of nature ; and till Scott's, no such appre- 
hensive love of ' all sorts and conditions of 
men,' not in the soul merely, but in the flesh. 
St. Bernard of La Fontaine, looking out to 
Mont Blanc with his child's eyes, sees above 
Mont Blanc the Madonna; St. Bernard of 
Talloires, not the Lake of Annecy, but the 
dead between Martigny and Aosta. ^But for 
me, the Alps and their people were alike 
beautiful in their snow, and their humanity ; 


and I wanted, neither for them nor myself, 
sight of any thrones in heaven but the rocks, 
or of any spirits in heaven but the clouds. 

135. Thus, in perfect health of life and fire 
of heart, not wanting to be anything but the 
boy I was, not wanting to have anything more 
than I had; knowing of sorrow only just so 
much as to make life serious to me, not 
enough to slacken in the least its sinews ; 
and with so much of science mixed with feel- 
ing as to make the sight of the Alps not only 
the revelation of the beauty of the earth, but 
the opening of the. first page of its volume, — 
I went down that evening from the garden- 
terrace of Schaffhausen with my destiny fixed 

X in all of it that was to be sacred and useful. 
To that terrace, and the shore of the Lake 
of Geneva, my heart and faith return to this 
day, in every impulse that is yet nobly alive 
in them, and every thought that has in it 
help or peace. 

136. The morning after that Sunday's eve 
at Schaffhausen was also cloudless, and we 
drove early to the falls, seeing again the chain 
of the Alps by morning light, and learning, 
at Lauffen, what an Alpine river was. Coming 

1 66 


out of the gorge of Balstall, I got another ever 
memorable sight of the chain of the Alps, and 
these distant views, never seen by the modern 
traveller, taught me, and made me feel, more 
than the close marvels of Thun and Inter- 
lachen. It was again fortunate that we took 
the grandest pass into Italy, — that the first 
ravine of the main Alps I saw was the Via 
Mala, and the first lake of Italy, Como. 

We took boat on the little recessed lake 
of Chiavenna, and rowed down the whole 
way of waters, passing another Sunday at 
Cadenabbia, and then, from villa to villa, 
across the lake, and across, to Como, and so 
to Milan by Monza. 

It was then full, though early, summer 
time ; and the first impression of Italy always 
ought to be in her summer. It was also well 
that, though my heart was with the Swiss 
cottager, the artificial taste in me had been 
mainly formed by Turner's rendering of those 
very scenes, in Rogers' Italy. The ' Lake of 
Como,' the two moonlight villas, and the 
' Farewell,' had prepared me for all that was 
beautiful and right in the terraced gardens, 
proportioned arcades, and white spaces of 


sunny wall, which have in general no honest 
charm for the English mind. But to me, they 
were almost native through Turner, — familiar 
at once, and revered. I had no idea then of 
the Renaissance evil in them ; they were 
associated only with what I had been told 
of the ' divine art ' of Raphael and Lionardo, 
and, by my ignorance of dates, associated 
with the stories of Shakespeare. Portia's 
villa, — Juliet's palace, — I thought to have 
been like these. 

Also, as noticed in the epilogue to reprint 
of vol. ii. of Modern Painters, I had always 
a quite true perception of size, whether in 
mountains or buildings, and with the percep- 
tion, joy in it ; so that the vastness of scale 
in the Milanese palaces, and the ' mount of 
marble, a hundred spires,' of the duomo, im- 
pressed me to the full at once : and not having 
yet the taste to discern good Gothic from bad, 
the mere richness and fineness of lace-like 
tracery against the sky was a consummate 
rapture to me — how much more getting up 
to it and climbing among it, with the Monte 
Rosa seen between its pinnacles across the 
plain ! 


137. I had been partly prepared for this 
view by the admirable presentment of it in 
London, a year or two before, in an exhibi- 
tion, of which the vanishing has been in later 
life a greatly felt loss to me, — Burford's pano- 
rama in Leicester Square, which was an 
educational institution of the highest and 
purest value, and ought to have been sup- 
ported by the Government as one of the 
most beneficial school instruments in London. 
There I had seen, exquisitely painted, the 
view from the roof of Milan Cathedral, when 
I had no hope of ever seeing the reality, but 
with a joy and wonder of the deepest; — and 
now to be there indeed, made deep wonder 
become fathomless. 

Again, most fortunately, the weather was 
clear and cloudless all day long, and as the 
sun drew westward, we were able to drive 
to the Corso, where, at that time, the higher 
Milanese were happy and proud as ours in 
their park, and whence, no railway station 
intervening, the whole chain of the Alps was 
visible on one side, and the beautiful city with 
its dominant frost-crystalline Duomo on the 
other. Then the ' drive home in the open 


carriage through the quiet twilight, up the 
long streets, and round the base of the 
Duomo, the smooth pavement under the 
wheels adding with its silentness to the sense 
of dream wonder in it all, — the perfect air in 
absolute calm, the just seen majesty of encom- 
passing Alps, the perfectness — so it seemed to 
me — and purity, of the sweet, stately, stainless 
marble against the sky. What more, what 
else, could be asked of seemingly immutable 
good, in this mutable world ? 

138. I wish in general to avoid interference 
with the reader's judgment on the matters 
which I endeavour serenely to narrate; but 
may, I think, here be pardoned for observ- 
ing to him the advantage, in a certain way, of 
the contemplative abstraction from the world 
which, during this early continental travelling, 
was partly enforced by our ignorance, and 
partly secured by our love of comfort. There 
is something peculiarly delightful — nay, de- 
lightful inconceivably by the modern German- 
plated and French-polished tourist, in passing 
through the streets of a foreign city without 
understanding a word that anybody says ! 
One's ear for all sound of voices then becomes 


entirely impartial ; one is not diverted by the 
meaning of syllables from recognizing the - 
absolute guttural, liquid, or honeyed quality of 
them : while the gesture of the body and the 
expression of the face have the same value for 
you that they have in a pantomime ; every 
scene becomes a melodious opera to you, or 
a picturesquely inarticulate Punch. Consider, 
also, the gain in so consistent tranquillity. 
Most young people nowadays, or even lively 
old ones, travel more in search of adventures 
than of information. One of my most valued 
records of recent wandering is a series of 
sketches by an amiable and extremely clever 
girl, of the things that happened to her people 
and herself every day that they were abroad. 
Here it is brother Harry, and there it is 
mamma, and now paterfamilias, and now her 
little graceful self, and anon her merry or re- 
monstrant sisterhood, who meet with enchant- 
ing hardships, and enviable misadventures ; 
bind themselves with fetters of friendship, 
and glance into sparklings of amourette, with 
any sort of people in conical hats and fringy 
caps : and it is all very delightful and con- 
descending; and, of course, things are learnt 


about the country that way which can be 
learned in no other way, but only about that 
part of it which interests itself in }'ou, or 
which you have pleasure in being acquainted 
with. Virtually, you are thinking of yourself 
all the time ; you necessarily talk to the cheer- 
ful people, not to the sad ones ; and your 
head is for the most part vividly taken up 
with very little things. I don't say that our 
isolation was meritorious, or that people in 
general should know no language but their 
own. Yet the meek ignorance has these ad- 
vantages. We did not travel for adventures, 
nor for company, but to see with our eyes, 
and to measure with our hearts. If you have 
sympathy, the aspect of humanity is more 
true to the depths of it than its words ; and 
even in my own land, the things in which I 
have been least deceived are those which I 
have learned as their Spectator. 



139. THE work to which, as partly above 
described, I set myself during the year 1834 
under the excitement remaining from my 
foreign travels, was in four distinct directions, 
in any one of which my strength might at that 
time have been fixed by definite encourage- 
ment. There was first the effort to express 
sentiment in rhyme ; the sentiment being 
really genuine, under all the superficial vani- 
ties of its display ; and the rhymes rhythmic, 
only without any ideas in them. It was im- 
possible to explain, either to myself or other 
people, why I liked staring at the sea, or 
scampering on a moor ; but, one had pleasure 
in making some sort of melodious noise about 
it, like the waves themselves, or the peewits. 
Then, secondly, there was the real love of en- 
graving, and of such characters of surface and 

shade as it could give. I have never seen 



drawing, by a youth, so entirely industrious 
in delicate line ; and there was really the 
making of a fine landscape, or figure outline, 
engraver in me. But fate having ordered 
otherwise, I mourn the loss to engraving less 
than that before calculated, or rather incal- 
culable, one, to geology ! Then there was, 
thirdly, the violent instinct for architecture ; 
but I never could have built or carved any- 
thing, because I was without power of design ; 
and have perhaps done as much in that direc- 
tion as it was worth doing with so limited 
faculty. And then, fourthly, there was the un- 
abated, never to be abated, geological instinct, 
now fastened on the Alps. My fifteenth 
birthday gift being left to my choice, I asked 
for Saussure's ' Voyages dans les Alpes/ and 
thenceforward began progressive work, carry- 
ing on my mineralogical dictionary by the 
help of Jameson's three-volume Mineralogy, 
(an entirely clear and serviceable book ;) com- 
paring his descriptions with the minerals in 
the British Museum, and writing my own 
more eloquent and exhaustive accounts in a 
shorthand of many ingeniously symbolic char- 
acters, which it took me much longer to write 


my descriptions in, than in common text, and 
which neither I nor anybody else could read 
a word of, afterwards. 

140. Such being the quadrilateral plan of 
my fortifiable dispositions, it is time now to 
explain, with such clue as I have found to 
them, the somewhat peculiar character and 
genius of both my parents ; the influence of 
which was more important upon me, then, 
and far on into life, than any external condi- 
tions, either of friendship or tutorship, whether 
at the University, or in the world. 

It was, in the first place, a matter of 
essential weight in the determination of subse- 
quent lines, not only of labour but of thought, 
that while my father, as before told, gave me 
the best example of emotional reading, — read- 
ing, observe, proper, not recitation, which he 
disdained, and I disliked, — my mother was both 
able to teach me, and resolved that I should 
learn, absolute accuracy of diction and pre- 
cision of accent in prose ; and made me know, 
as soon as I could speak plain, what I have 
in all later years tried to enforce on my 
readers, that accuracy of diction means accu- 
racy of sensation, and precision of accent, 


precision of feeling. Trained, herself in girl- 
hood, only at Mrs. Rice's country school, my 
mother had there learned severely right prin- 
ciples of truth, charity, and housewifery, with 
punctilious respect for the purity of that 
English which in her home surroundings she 
perceived to be by no means as undefiled 
as the ripples of Wandel. She was the 
daughter, as aforesaid, of the early widowed 
landlady of the King's Head Inn and Tavern, 
which still exists, or existed a year or two 
since, presenting its side to Croydon market- 
place, its front and entrance door to the 
narrow alley which descends, steep for pedes- 
trians, impassable to carriages, from the High 
Street to the lower town. 

141. Thus native to the customs and dialect 
of Croydon Agora, my mother, as I now read 
her, must have been an extremely intelligent, 
admirably practical, and naively ambitious 
girl; keeping, without contention, the head- 
ship of her class, and availing herself with 
steady discretion of every advantage the 
country school and its modest mistress could 
offer her. I never in her after-life heard 
her speak with regret, and seldom without 


respectful praise, of any part of the discipline 
of Mrs. Rice. 

I do not know for what reason, or under 
what conditions, my mother went to live with 
my Scottish grandfather and grandmother, 
first at Edinburgh, and then at the house of 
Bower's Well, on the slope of the Hill of 
Kinnoul, above Perth. I was stupidly and 
heartlessly careless of the past history of my 
family as long as I could have learnt it ; not 
till after my mother's death did I begin to 
desire to know what I could never more be 

But certainly the change, for her, was into 
a higher sphere of society, — that of real, 
though sometimes eccentric, and frequently 
poor, gentlemen and gentlewomen. She must 
then have been rapidly growing into a tall, 
handsome, and very finely made girl, with a 
beautiful mild firmness of expression ; a fault- 
less and accomplished housekeeper, and a 
natural, essential, unassailable, yet inoffensive, 
prude. I never heard a single word of any 
sentiment, accident, admiration, or affection 
disturbing the serene tenor of her Scottish 
stewardship; yet I noticed that she never 


spoke without some slight shyness before my 
father, nor without some pleasure, to other 
people, of Dr. Thomas Brown. 

142. That the Professor of Moral Philo- 
sophy was a frequent guest at my grand- 
mother's tea-table, and fond of benignantly 
arguing with Miss Margaret, is evidence 
enough of the position she held in Edinburgh 
circles ; her household skills and duties never 
therefore neglected — rather, if anything, still 
too scrupulously practised. Once, when she 
had put her white frock on for dinner, and 
hurried to the kitchen to give final glance 
at the state and order of things there, old 
Mause, having run against the white frock 
with a black saucepan, and been, it seems, 
rebuked by her young mistress with too 
little resignation to the will of Providence in 
that matter, shook her head sorrowfully, 
saying, 'Ah, Miss Margaret, ye are just like 
Martha, carefu' and troubled about mony 

143. When my mother was thus, at twenty, 

in a Desdemona-like prime of womanhood, 

intent on highest moral philosophy, — "though 

still the house affairs would draw her thence " 
vol. 1. M 


— my father was a dark-eyed, brilliantly active, 
and sensitive youth of sixteen. Margaret 
became to him an absolutely respected and 
admired — mildly liked — governess and confi- 
dante. Her sympathy was necessary to him 
in all his flashingly transient amours ; her 
advice in all domestic business or sorrow, 
and her encouragement in all his plans of 

These were already determined for com- 
merce ; — yet not to the abandonment of liberal 
study. He had learned Latin thoroughly, 
though with no large range of reading, under 
the noble traditions of Adams at the High 
School of Edinburgh : while, by the then 
living and universal influence of Sir Walter, 
every scene of his native city was exalted in 
his imagination by the purest poetry, and 
the proudest history, that ever hallowed or 
haunted the streets and rocks of a brightly 
inhabited capital. I have neither space, nor 
wish, to extend my proposed account of things 
that have been, by records of correspond- 
ence ; — it is too much the habit of modern 
biographers to confuse epistolary talk with 
vital fact. But the following letter from Dr. 


Thomas Brown to my father, at this critical 
juncture of his life, must be read, in part as 
a testimony to the position he already held 
among the youths of Edinburgh, and yet more 
as explaining some points of his blended char- 
acter, of the deepest significance afterwards, 
both to himself and to me. 

144- "8, N. St. David's Street, 

"Edinburgh, February i8//z, 1807. 

" My dear Sir, — When I look at the date 
of the letter which you did me the honour to 
send me as your adviser in literary matters 
— an office which a proficient like you scarcely 
requires — I am quite ashamed of the interval 
which I have suffered to elapse. I can truly 
assure you, however, that it has been un- 
avoidable, and has not arisen from any want 
of interest in your intellectual progress. Even 
when you were a mere boy I was much de- 
lighted with your early zeal and attainments ; 
and for }'our own sake, as well as for your 
excellent mother's, I have always looked to 
you with great regard, and with the belief 
that you would distinguish yourself in what- 
ever profession you might adopt. 


" You seem, I think, to repent too much the 
time you have devoted to the Belles Lettres. 
I confess I do not regret this for you. You 
must, I am sure, have felt the effect which 
such studies have in giving a general refine- 
ment to the manners and to the heart, which, 
to anyone who is not to be strictly a man of 
science, is the most valuable effect of literature. 
You must remember that there is a great dif- 
ference between studying professionally, and 
studying for relaxation and ornament. In 
the society in which you are to mix, the 
writers in Belles Lettres will be mentioned 
fifty times, when more abstract science will 
not be mentioned once ; and there is this 
great advantage in that sort of knowledge, 
that the display of it, unless very immoderate 
indeed, is not counted pedantry, when the 
display of other intellectual attainments might 
run some risk of the imputation. There is 
indeed one evil in the reading of poetry and 
other light productions, that it is apt to be 
indulged in to downright gluttony, and to 
occupy time which should be given to busi- 
ness ; but I am sure I can rely on you that 
you will not so misapply your time. There 


is, however, one science, the first and greatest 
of sciences to all men, and to merchants 
particularly — the science of Political Economy. 
To this I think your chief attention should 
be directed. It is in truth the science of 
your own profession, which counteracts the 
— (word lost with seal) — and narrow habits 
which that profession is sometimes apt to pro- 
duce ; and which is of perpetual appeal in 
every discussion on mercantile and financial 
affairs. A merchant well instructed in Politi- 
cal Economy must always be fit to lead the 
views of his brother merchants — without it, 
he is a mere trader. Do not lose a day, 
therefore, without providing yourself with a 
copy of Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations,' 
and read and re-read it with attention — as I 
am sure you must read it with delight. In 
giving you this advice I consider you as a 
merchant, for as that is to be your profession 
in life, your test of the importance of any 
acquirement should be how far it will tend 
to render you an honourable and distinguished 
merchant ; — a character of no small estima- 
tion in this commercial country. I therefore 
consider the physical sciences as greatly 


subordinate in relation to your prospects in 
life, and the society in which you will be called 
to mingle. All but chemistry require a greater 
preparation in mathematics than you probably 
have, and chemistry it is quite impossible to 
understand without some opportunity of see- 
ing experiments systematical^ carried on. 
If, however, you have the opportunity to 
attend any of the lecturers on that science 
in London, it will be well worth your while, 
and in that case I think you should purchase 
either Dr. Thompson's or Mr. Murray's new 
system of chemistr}', so as to keep up con- 
stantly with your lecturer. Even of physics 
in general it is pleasant to have some view, 
however superficial, and therefore though you 
cannot expect without mathematics to have 
anything but a superficial view, you had 
better try to attain it. With this view you 
may read Gregory's ' Economy of Nature,' 
which though not a good book, and not 
always accurate, is, I believe, the best popu- 
lar book we have, and sufficiently accurate 
for your purposes. Remember, however, 
that though you may be permitted to be 
a superficial natural philosopher, no such 


indulgence is to be given you in Political 

" The only other circumstance remaining 
for me to request of you is that you will not 
suffer yourself to lose any of the languages 
you have acquired. Of the modern languages 
there is less fear, as your mercantile com- 
munications will in some measure keep them 
alive ; but merchants do not correspond in 
Latin, and you may perhaps lose it uncon- 
sciously. Independently, however, of the 
admirable writers of whom you would thus 
deprive yourself, and considering the language 
merely as the accomplishment of a gentleman, 
it is of too great value to be carelessly re- 

" Farewell, my dear sir. Accept the regard 
of all this family, and believe me, with every 
wish to be of service to you, 

Your sincere friend, 

" T. Brown." 

145. It may easily be conceived that a 
youth to whom such a letter as this was 
addressed by one of the chiefs of the purely 
intelli etual circles of Edinburgh, would be 


regarded with more respect by his Croydon 
cousin than is usually rendered by grown 
young women to their schoolboy friends. 

Their frank, cousinly relation went on, 
however, without a thought on either side of 
any closer ties, until my father, at two or 
three and twenty, after various apprentice- 
ship in London, was going finally to London 
to begin his career in his own business. By 
that time he had made up his mind that 
Margaret, though not the least an ideal 
heroine to him, was quite the best sort of 
person he could have for a wife, the rather as 
they were already so well used to each other; 
and in a quiet, but enough resolute way, 
asked her if she were of the same mind, and 
would wait until he had an independence 
to offer her. His early tutress consented 
with frankly confessed joy, not indeed in the 
Agnes Wickfield way, ' I have loved you all 
my life,' but feeling and admitting that it was 
great delight to be allowed to love him now. 
The relations between Grace Nugent and Lord 
Colambre in Miss Edgeworth's ' Absentee ' 
extremely resemble those between my father 
and mother, except that Lord Colambre is a 


more eager lover. My father chose his wife 
much with the same kind of serenity and 
decision with which afterwards he chose his 

146. A time of active and hopeful content- 
ment for both the young people followed, my 
mother being perhaps the more deeply in love, 
while John depended more absolutely on her 
sympathy and wise friendship than is at all 
usual with young men of the present day in 
their relations with admired young ladies. 
But neither of them ever permitted their feel- 
ings to degenerate into fretful or impatient 
passion. My mother showed her affection 
chiefly in steady endeavour to cultivate her 
powers of mind, and form her manners, so 
as to fit herself to be the undespised com- 
panion of a man whom she considered much 
her superior : my father in unremitting atten- 
tion to the business on the success of which 
his marriage depended : and in a methodical 
regularity of conduct and correspondence 
which never left his mistress a moment of 
avoidable anxiety, or gave her motive for any 
serious displeasure. 

On these terms the engagement lasted nine 


years ; at the end of which time, my grand- 
father's debts having been all paid, and my 
father established in a business gradually 
increasing, and liable to no grave contingency, 
the now not very young people were married 
in Perth one evening after supper, the servants 
of the house having no suspicion of the event 
until John and Margaret drove away together 
next morning to Edinburgh. 

147. In looking back to my past thoughts 
and ways, nothing astonishes me more than 
my want of curiosity about all these matters ; 
and that, often and often as my mother used 
to tell with complacency the story of this 
carefully secret marriage, I never asked, ' But, 
mother, why so secret, when it was just what 
all the friends of both of you so long expected, 
and what all your best friends so heartily 
wished ? J 

But, until lately, I never thought of writing 
any more about myself than was set down 
in diaries, nor of my family at all : and thus 
too carelessly, and, as I now think, profanely, 
neglected the traditions of my people. ' What 
does it all matter, now ? ' I said ; ' we are what 
we are, and shall be what we make ourselves.' 


Also, until very lately, I had accustomed 
myself to consider all that my parents had 
done, so far as their own happiness was con- 
cerned, entirely wise and exemplary. Yet 
the reader must not suppose that what I have 
said in my deliberate writings on the propriety 
of long engagements had any reference to this 
singular one in my own family. Of the 
heroism and patience with which the sacrifice 
was made, on both sides, I cannot judge : — 
but that it was greater than I should myself 
have been capable of, I know, and I believe 
that it was unwise. For during these years 
of waiting, my father fell gradually into a 
state of ill-health, from which he never entirely 
recovered ; and in close of life, they both had 
to leave their child, just when he was begin- 
ning to satisfy the hopes they had formed for 

148. I have allowed this tale of the little I 
knew of their early trials and virtues to be 
thus chance told, because I think my history 
will, in the end, be completest if I write as its 
connected subjects occur to me, and not with 
formal chronology of plan. My reason for 
telling it in this place was chiefly to explain 


how my mother obtained her perfect skill 
in English reading, through the hard effort 
which, through the years of waiting, she made 
to efface the faults, and supply the defects, of 
her early education ; effort which was aided 
and directed unerringly by her natural — for 
its intensity I might justly call it supernatural 
— purity of heart and conduct, leading her 
always to take most delight in the right and 
clear language which only can relate lovely 
things. Her unquestioning evangelical faith 
in the literal truth of the Bible placed me, as 
soon as I could conceive or think, in the 
presence of an unseen world ; and set my 
active analytic power early to work on the 
questions of conscience, free will, and re- 
sponsibility, which are easily determined in 
days of innocence ; but are approached too 
often with prejudice, and always with disad- 
vantage, after men become stupified by the 
opinions, or tainted by the sins, of the outer 
world : while the gloom, and even terror, 
with which the restrictions of the Sunday, 
and the doctrines of the Pilgrim's Progress, 
the Holy War, and Quarks' Emblems, op- 
pressed the seventh part of my time, was 



useful to me as the only form of vexation 
which I was called on to endure ; and re- 
deemed by the otherwise uninterrupted cheer- 
fulness and tranquillity of a household wherein 
the common ways were all of pleasantness, 
and its single and strait path, of perfect 

149. My father's failure of health, following 
necessarily on the long years of responsibility 
and exertion, needed only this repose to effect 
its cure. Shy to an extreme degree in general 
company, all the more because he had natural 
powers which he was unable to his own satis- 
faction to express, — his business faculty was 
entirely superb and easy : he gave his full 
energy to counting-house work in the morn- 
ing, and his afternoons to domestic rest. 
With instant perception and decision in all 
business questions ; with principles of dealing 
which admitted of no infraction, and involved 
neither anxiety nor concealment, the counting- 
house work was more of an interest, or even 
an amusement, to him, than a care. His 
capital was either in the Bank, or in St. 
Catherine's Docks, in the form of insured 
butts of the finest sherry in the world ; his 

1 90 PR^.TERITA. 

partner, Mr. Domecq, a Spaniard as proud as 
himself, as honourable, and having perfect 
trust in him, — not only in his probity, but 
his judgment, — accurately complying with all 
his directions in the preparation of wine for 
the English market, and no less anxious than 
he to make every variety of it, in its several 
rank, incomparably good. The letters to 
Spain therefore needed only brief statement 
that the public of that year wanted their wine 
young or old, pale or brown, and the like ; 
and the letters to customers were as brief in 
their assurances that if they found fault with 
their wine, they did not understand it, and if 
they wanted an extension of credit, they could 
not have it. These Spartan brevities of 
epistle were, however, always supported by 
the utmost care in executing his correspon- 
dents' orders ; and by the unusual attention 
shown them in travelling for those orders 
himself, instead of sending an agent or a 
clerk. His domiciliary visits of this kind 
were always conducted by him with great 
savoir /aire and pleasant courtes}', no less 
than the most attentive patience : and they 
were productive of the more confidence 


between him and the country merchant, that he 
was perfectly just and candid in appraise- 
ment of the wine of rival houses, while his 
fine palate enabled him always to sustain 
triumphantly any and every ordeal of blind- 
fold question which the suspicious customer 
might put him to. Also, when correspondents 
of importance came up to town, my father 
would put himself so far out of his way as to 
ask them to dine at Heme Hill, and try the 
contents of his own cellar. These London 
visits fell into groups, on any occasions in 
the metropolis of interest more than usual to 
the provincial mind. Our business dinners 
were then arranged so as to collect two or 
three country visitors together, and the table 
made symmetrical by selections from the 
house's customers in London, whose con- 
versation might be most instructive to its rural 

Very early in my boy's life I began much 
to dislike these commercial feasts, and to 
form, by carefully attending to their dialogue, 
when it chanced to turn on any other subject 
than wine, an extremely low estimate of the 
commercial mind as such ; — estimate which 


I have never had the slightest reason to 

Of our neighbours on Heme Hill we saw 
nothing, with one exception only, afterwards 
to be noticed. They were for the most part 
well-to-do London tradesmen of the better 
class, who had little sympathy with my 
mother's old-fashioned ways, and none with 
my father's romantic sentiment. 

150. There was probably the farther reason 
for our declining the intimacy of our imme- 
diate neighbours, that most of them were far 
more wealthy than we, and inclined to demon- 
strate their wealth by the magnificence of 
their establishments. My parents lived with 
strict economy, kept only female servants,* 
used only tallow candles in plated candle- 
sticks, were content with the leasehold terri- 
tory of their front and back gardens, — scarce 
an acre altogether, — and kept neither horse 
nor carriage. Our shop-keeping neighbours, 
on the contrary, had usually great cortege 
of footmen and glitter of plate, extensive 

* Thomas left us, I think partly in shame for my per. 
manently injured lip ; and we never had another indoor 


pleasure grounds, costly hot-houses, and 
carriages driven by coachmen in wigs. It 
may be perhaps doubted by some of my 
readers whether the coldness of acquaint- 
anceship was altogether on our side; but 
assuredly my father was too proud to join 
entertainments for which he could give no 
like return, and my mother did not care to 
leave her card on foot at the doors of ladies 
who dashed up to hers in their barouche. 

151. Protected by these monastic severities 
and aristocratic dignities, from the snares and 
disturbances of the outer world, the routine 
of my childish days became fixed, as of the 
sunrise and sunset to a nestling. It may 
seem singular to many of my readers that I 
remember with most pleasure the time when 
it was most regular and most solitary. The 
entrance of my cousin Mary into our house- 
hold was coincident with the introduction of 
masters above described, and with other 
changes in the aims and employments of the 
day, which, while they often increased its 
interest, disturbed its tranquillity. The ideas 
of success at school or college, put before me 

by my masters, were ignoble and comfortless, 
vol. 1. N 


in comparison with my mother's regretful 
blame, or simple praise : and Mary, though of 
a mildly cheerful and entirely amiable disposi- 
tion, necessarily touched the household heart 
with the sadness of her orphanage, and some- 
thing interrupted its harmony by the differ- 
ence, which my mother could not help 
showing, between the feelings with which she 
regarded her niece and her child 

152. And although I have dwelt with 
thankfulness on the many joys and advantages 
of these secluded years, the vigilant reader 
will not, I hope, have interpreted the accounts 
rendered of them into general praise of a like 
home education in the environs of London. 
But one farther good there was in it, hitherto 
unspoken ; that great part of my acute per- 
ception and deep feeling of the beauty of 
architecture and scenery abroad, was owing 
to the well-formed habit of narrowing myself 
to happiness within the four brick walls of 
our fifty by one hundred yards of garden ; 
and accepting with resignation the aesthetic 
external surroundings of a London suburb, 
and, }'et more, of a London chapel. For 
Dr. Andrews' was the Londonian chapel in 


its perfect type, definable as accurately as a 
Roman basilica, — an oblong, flat-ceiled barn, 
lighted by windows with semi-circular heads, 
brick-arched, filled by small-paned glass held 
by iron bars, like fine threaded halves of cob- 
webs ; galleries propped on iron pipes, up 
both sides ; pews, well shut in, each of them, 
by partitions of plain deal, and neatly brass- 
latched deal doors, filling the barn floor, all 
but its two lateral straw-matted passages ; 
pulpit, sublimely isolated, central from sides 
and clear of altar rails at end ; a stout, four- 
legged box of well-grained wainscot, high as 
the level of front galleries, and decorated with 
a cushion of crimson velvet, padded six inches 
thick, with gold tassels at the corners; which 
was a great resource to me when I was tired 
of the sermon, because I liked watching the 
rich colour of the folds and creases that came 
in it when the clergyman thumped it. 

153. Imagine the change between one 
Sunday and the next, — from the morning 
service in this building, attended by the 
families of the small shopkeepers of the Wal- 
worth Road, in their Sunday trimmings ; (our 
plumber's wife, fat, good, sensible Mrs. Goad, 

1 96 PR^TERITA. 

sat in the next pew in front of us, sternly 
sensitive to the interruption of her devotion 
by our late arrivals) ; fancy the change from 
this, to high mass in Rouen Cathedral, its 
nave filled by the white-capped peasantry of 
half Normandy ! 

Nor was the contrast less enchanting or 
marvellous between the street architecture 
familiar to my eyes, and that of Flanders 
and Italy, as an exposition of mercantile taste 
and power. My father's counting-house was 
in the centre of Billiter Street, some years 
since effaced from sight and memory of men, 
but a type, then, of English city state in per- 
fection. We now build house fronts as ad- 
vertisements, spending a hundred thousand 
pounds in the lying mask of our bankruptcies. 
But in my father's time both trade and build- 
ing were still honest. His counting-house 
was a room about fifteen feet by twenty, 
including desks for two clerks, and a small 
cupboard for sherry samples, on the first 
floor, with a larger room opposite for private 
polite receptions of elegant visitors, or the 
serving of a chop for himself if he had to 
stay late in town. The ground floor was 


occupied by friendly Messrs. Wardell and 
Co., a bottling retail firm, I believe. The 
only advertisement of the place of business 
was the brass plate under the bell-handle, 
inscribed ' Ruskin, Telford, and Domecq,' 
brightly scrubbed by the single female ser- 
vant in charge of the establishment, old 
Maisie, — abbreviated or tenderly diminished 
into the 'sie,' from I know not what Chris- 
tian name — Marion, I believe, as Mary into 
Mause. The whole house, three-storied, with 
garrets, was under her authority, with, doubt- 
less, assistant morning charwoman, — cooking, 
waiting, and answering the door to distin- 
guished visitors, all done by Maisie, the 
visitors being expected of course to announce 
themselves by the knocker with a flourish in 
proportion to their eminence in society. The 
business men rang the counting-house bell 
aforesaid, (round which the many coats of 
annual paint were cut into a beautiful slant 
section by daily scrubbing, like the coats of an 
agate ;) and were admitted by lifting of latch, 
manipulated by the head clerk's hand in the 
counting-house, without stirring from his seat. 
154. This unpretending establishment, as 


I said, formed part of the western side of 
Billiter Street, a narrow trench — it may have 
been thirty feet wide — admitting, with careful 
and precise driving, the passing each other 
of two brewers' drays. I am not sure that 
this was possible at the ends of the street, 
but only at a slight enlargement opposite the 
brewery in the middle. Effectively a mere 
trench between three-storied houses of pro- 
digious brickwork, thoroughly well laid, and 
presenting no farther entertainment whatever 
to the aesthetic beholder than the alternation 
of the ends and sides of their beautifully level 
close courses of bricks, and the practised and 
skilful radiation of those which formed the 
window lintels. 

Typical, I repeat, of the group of London 
edifices, east of the Mansion House, and 
extending to the Tower ; the under-hill pic- 
turesquenesses of which, however, were in 
early days an entirely forbidden district to 
me, lest I should tumble into the docks ; but 
Fenchurch and Leadenhall Streets, familiar 
to me as the perfection of British mercantile 
state and grandeur, — the reader may by effort, 
though still dimly, conceive the effect on my 


imagination of the fantastic gables of Ghent, 
and orange-scented cortiles of Genoa. - 

155. I can scarcely account to myself, on 
any of the ordinary principles of resignation, 
for the undimmed tranquillity of pleasure with 
which, after these infinite excitements in 
foreign lands, my father would return to his 
desk opposite the brick wall of the brewery, 
and I to my niche behind the drawing-room 
chimney piece. But to both of us, the steady 
occupations, the beloved samenesses, and the 
sacred customs of home were more precious 
than all the fervours of wonder in things new 
to us, or delight in scenes of incomparable 
beauty. Very early, indeed, I had found that 
novelty was soon exhausted, and beauty, 
though inexhaustible, beyond a certain point 
or time of enthusiasm, no more to be enjoyed ; 
but it is not so often observed by philosophers 
that home, healthily organized, is always en- 
joyable ; nay, the sick thrill of pleasure 
through all the brain and heart with which, 
after even so much as a month or two of 
absence, I used to catch the first sight of the 
ridge of Heme Hill, and watch for every turn 
of the well-known road and every branch of 


the familiar trees, was — though not so deep 
or overwhelming — more intimately and vitally 
powerful than the brightest passions of joy in 
strange lands, or even in the unaccustomed 
scenery of my own. To my mother, her 
ordinary household cares, her reading with 
Mary and me, her chance of a chat with Mrs. 
Gray, and the unperturbed preparation for my 
father's return, and for the quiet evening, were 
more than all the splendours or wonders of 
the globe between poles and equator. 

1 56. Thus we returned — full of new thoughts, 
and faithful to the old, to this exulting rest 
of home in the close of 1833. An unforeseen 
shadow was in the heaven of its charmed 

Every day at Cornhill, Charles became 
more delightful and satisfactory to everybody 
who knew him. How a boy living all day in 
London could keep so bright a complexion, 
and so crisply Achillean curls of hair — and 
all the gay spirit of his Croydon mother — was 
not easily conceivable ; but he became a per- 
fect combination of the sparkle of Jin Vin 
with the steadiness of Tunstall, and was un- 
troubled by the charms of any unattainable 


Margaret, for his master had no daughter; 
but, as worse chance would have it, a son : so 
that looking forward to possibilities as a rising 
apprentice ought, Charles saw that there were 
none in the house for him beyond the place 
of cashier, or perhaps only head-clerk. His 
elder brother, who had taught him to swim 
by throwing him into Croydon canal, was 
getting on fast as a general trader in'Australia, 
and naturally longed to have his best-loved 
brother there for a partner. Bref, it was 
resolved that Charles should go to Australia. 
The Christmas time of 1833 passed heavily, 
for I was very sorry; Mary, a good deal 
more so : and my father and mother, though 
in their hearts caring for nobody in the world 
but me, were grave at the thought of Charles's 
going so far away; but, honestly and justifi- 
ably, thought it for the lad's good. I think 
the whole affair was decided, and Charles's 
outfit furnished, and ship's berth settled, and 
ship's captain interested in his favour, in 
something less than a fortnight, and down 
he went to Portsmouth to join his ship joy- 
fully, with the world to win. By due post 
came the news that he was at anchor off 


Cowes, but that the ship could not sail 
because of the west wind. And post suc- 
ceeded post, and still the west wind blew. 
We liked the west wind for its own 
sake, but it was a prolonging of farewell 
which teazed us, though Charles wrote that 
he was enjoying himself immensely, and the 
captain, that he had made friends with every 
sailor on board, besides the passengers. 

157. And still the west wind blew. I do 
not remember how long — some ten days or 
fortnight, I believe. At last, one day my 
mother and Mary went with my father into 
town on some shopping or sight-seeing busi- 
ness of a cheerful character ; and I was left 
at home, busy also about something that 
cheered me greatly, I know not what ; but 
when I heard the others come in, and upstairs 
into the drawing-room, I ran eagerly down 
and into the room, beginning to tell them 
about this felicity that had befallen me, what- 
ever it was. They all stood like statues, my 
father and mother very grave. Mary was 
looking out of the window — the farthest of 
the front three from the door. As I went 
on, boasting of myself, she turned round 


suddenly, her face all streaming with tears, 
and caught hold of me, and put her face 
close to mine, that I might hear the sobbing 
whisper, ' Charles is gone.' 

158. The west wind had still blown, clearly 
and strong, and the day before there had 
been a fresh breeze of it round the isle, at 
Spithead, exactly the kind of breeze that 
drifts the clouds, and ridges the waves, in 
Turner's Gosport. 

The ship was sending her boat on shore 

for some water, or the like — her little cutter, 

or somehow sailing, boat. There was a heavy 

sea running, and the sailors, and, I believe. 

also a passenger or two, had some difficulty 

in getting on board. ' May I go, too ? ' .said 

Charles to the captain, as he stood seetng 

them down the side. ' Are yoiv not afraid ? ' 

said the captain. ' I never .was afraid of 

anything in my life,' said Charles, and went 

down the side and leaped in. 

F) 3£Wfts ~ 
The boat had not got fifty yards from the 

ship before she went over, but there were 

other boats sailing all about them, like gnats 

in midsummer Two or three scudded to 

the spot' in' a minute, and every soul was 


saved, except Charles, who went down like a 

22nd January, 1834. 

All this we knew by little and little. For 
the first day or two we would not believe it, 
but thought he must have been taken up by 
some other boat and carried to sea. At last 
came word that his body had been thrown 
ashore at Cowes : and his father went down 
to see him buried. That done, and all the 
story heard, for still the ship stayed, he came 
to Heme Hill, to tell Charles's 'auntie' all 
about it. (The old man never called my 
mother anything else than auntie.) It was 

in J the morning, in the front parlour — my 

bit? ' - 



mother knitting in her usual place at the fire 

sTaeyl at my drawing, or the like, in my 

place aiso/' My- uncle told all the story, 

the quie^ sfeady sort, of way that the 

English doj uli just at the end he broke down 

into sobbing, saying \I can hear the words 

now), 'They caught ttfc cap off of his head, 

and yet they couldn t save him. 

Iha g'i fnw t 

-Tth<fe M t 




159. THE death of Charles closed the doors 
of my heart again for that time ; and the self- 
engrossed quiet of the Heme Hill life con- 
tinued for another year, leaving little to be 
remembered, and less to be told. My parents 
made one effort, however, to obtain some 
healthy companionship for me, to which I 
probably owe more than I knew at the 

Some six or seven gates down the hill 
towards the field, (which I have to return 
most true thanks to its present owner, Mr. 
Sopper, for having again opened to the public 
sight in consequence of the passage above 
describing the greatness of its loss both to 
the neighbour and the stranger), some six or 
seven gates down that way, a pretty lawn, 
shaded by a low spreading cedar, opened 

before an extremely neat and carefully kept 



house, where lived two people, modest in 
their ways as my father and mother them- 
selves, — Mr. and Mrs. Fall ; happier, how- 
ever, in having son and daughter instead of 
an only child. Their son, Richard, was a 
year younger than I, but already at school 
at Shrewsbury, and somewhat in advance of 
me therefore in regular discipline ; extremely 
gentle and good-natured, — his sister, still 
younger, a clever little girl, her mother's 
constant companion : and both of them un- 
pretending, but rigid, examples of all Heme 
Hill proprieties, true religions, and useful 
learnings. I shudder still at the recollec- 
tion of Mrs. Fall's raised eyebrows one 
day at my pronunciation of ' naivete ' as 
' naivette.' 

1 60. I think it must have been as early 
as 1832 that my father, noticing with great 
respect the conduct of all matters in this 
family, wrote to Mr. Fall in courteous request 
that ' the two boys ' might be permitted, when 
Richard was at home, to pursue their holiday 
tasks, or recreations, so far as it pleased them, 
together. The proposal was kindly taken : 
the two boys took stock of each other, — 


agreed to the arrangement, — and, as I had 
been promoted by that time to the possession 
of a study, all to myself, while Richard had 
only his own room, (and that liable to sisterly 
advice or intrusion,) the course which things 
fell into was that usually, when Richard was 
at home, he came up past the seven gates 
about ten in the morning; did what lessons 
he had to do at the same table with me, occa- 
sionally helping me a little with mine ; and 
then we went together for afternoon walk with 
Dash, Gipsy, or whatever dog chanced to be 

161. I do not venture to affirm that the 
snow of those Christmas holidays was whiter 
than it is now, though I might give some 
reasons for supposing that it remained longer 
white. But I affirm decisively that it used 
to fall deeper in the neighbourhood of London 
than has been seen for the last twenty or 
twenty-five years. It was quite usual to find 
in the hollows of the Norwood Hills the field 
fences buried under crested waves of snow, 
while, from the higher ridges, half the counties 
of Kent and Surrey shone to the horizon like 
a cloudless and terrorless Arctic sea. 


Richard Fall was entirely good-humoured, 
sensible, and practical; but had no particular 
tastes; a distaste, if anything, for my styles 
both of art and poetry. He stiffly declined 
arbitration on the merits of my compositions ; 
and though with pleasant cordiality in daily 
companionship, took rather the position of 
putting up with me, than of pride in his 
privilege of acquaintance with a rising author. 
He was never unkind or sarcastic ; but 
laughed me inexorably out of writing bad 
English for rhyme's sake, or demonstrable 
nonsense either in prose or rhyme. We got 
gradually accustomed to be together, and far 
on into life were glad when any chance 
brought us together again. 

162. The year 1834 passed innocuously 
enough, but with little profit, in the quadri- 
partite industries before described, followed 
for my own pleasure ; — with minglings of 
sapless effort in the classics, in which I 
neither felt, nor foresaw, the least good. 

Innocuously enough, I say,— meaning, with 
as little mischief as a well-intentioned boy, 
virtually masterless, could suffer from having 
all his own way, and daily confirming himself 


in the serious impression that his own way 
was always the best. 

I cannot analyse, at least without taking 
more trouble than I suppose any reader would 
care to take with me, the mixed good and evil 
in the third rate literature which I preferred 
to the Latin classics. My volume of the 
Forget-me-not, which gave me that precious 
engraving of Verona, (curiously also another 
by Prout of St. Mark's at Venice), was some- 
what above the general caste of annuals in 
its quality of letterpress ; and contained three 
stories, 'The Red-nosed Lieutenant/ by the 
Rev. George Croly ; ' Mans in Kelder,' by the 
author of ' Chronicles of London Bridge ; ' and 
'The Comet,' by Henry Neele, Esq., which 
were in their several ways extremely impres- 
sive to me. The partly childish, partly dull, 
or even, as aforesaid, idiotic, way I had of 
staring at the same things all day long, 
carried itself out in reading, so that I could 
read the same things all the year round. As 
there was neither advantage nor credit to be 
got by remembering fictitious circumstances, 
I was, if anything, rather proud of my skill 

in forgetting, so as the sooner to recover 
vol. 1. o 


the zest of the tales ; and I suppose these 
favourites, and a good many less important 
ones of the sort, were read some twenty 
times a year, during the earlier epoch of 

163. I wonder a little at my having been 
allowed so long to sit in that drawing-room 
corner with only my Rogers' Italy, my 
Forget-me-not, the Continental Annual, and 
Friendships' Offering, for my working library ; 
and I wonder a little more that my father, in 
his passionate hope that I might one day 
write like Byron, never noticed that Byron's 
early power was founded on a course of 
general reading of the masters in every walk 
of literature, such as is, I think, utterly un- 
paralleled in any other young life, whether 
of student or author. But I was entirely 
incapable of such brain-work, and the real 
gift I had in drawing involved the use in its 
practice of the best energy of the day. Hans 
in Kelder, and The Comet, were my manner 
of rest. 

I do not know when my father first began 
to read Byron to me, with any expectation of 
my liking him ; all primary training, after the 


Iliad, having been in Scott ; but it must have 
been about the beginning of the teen period, 
else I should recollect the first effect of it. 
Manfred evidently, I had got at, like Macbeth, 
for the sake of the witches. Various ques- 
tionable changes were made, however, at that 
1 83 1 turning of twelve, in the Hermitage 
discipline of Heme Hill. I was allowed to 
taste wine; taken to the theatre; and, on 
festive days, even dined with my father and 
mother at four : and it was then generally at 
dessert that my father would read any other- 
wise suspected delight : the Noctes Ambro- 
sianae regularly when they came out — without 
the least missing of the naughty words ; and 
at last, the shipwreck in Don Juan, — of which, 
finding me rightly appreciative, my father 
went on with nearly all the rest. I recollect 
that he and my mother looked across the table 
at each other with something of alarm, when, 
on asking me a few festas afterwards what 
we should have for after dinner reading, I 
instantly answered 'Juan and Haidee.' My 
selection was not adopted, and, feeling there 
was something wrong somewhere, I did not 
press it, attempting even some stutter of 



apology which made matters worse. Perhaps 
I was given a bit of Childe Harold instead, 
which I liked at that time nearly as well ; and, 
indeed, the story of Haidee soon became too 
sad for me. But very certainly, by the end 
of this year 1834, I knew my Byron pretty 
well all through, all but Cain, Werner, the 
Deformed Transformed, and Vision of Judg- 
ment, none of which I could understand, nor 
did papa and mamma think it would be well 
I should try to. 

164. The ingenuous reader may perhaps be 
so much surprised that mamma fell in with 
all this, that it becomes here needful to mark 
for him some peculiarities in my mother's 
prudery which he could not discover for him- 
self, from anything hitherto told of her. He 
might indeed guess that, after taking me at 
least six times straight through the Bible, 
she was not afraid of plain words to, or for, 
me ; 'but might not feel that in the energy and 
affectionateness of her character, she had as 
much sympathy with all that is noble and 
beautiful in Byron as my father himself; nor 
that her Puritanism was clear enough in 
common sense to see that, while Shakespeare 


and Burns lay open on the table all day, there 
was no reason for much mystery with Byron 
(though until later I was not allowed to read 
him for myself). She had trust in my dis- / 
position and education, and was no more 
afraid of my turning out a Corsair or a Giaour 

than a Richard III., or a Solomon. And 

she was perfectly right, so far. I never got 
the slightest harm from Byron : what harm 
came to me was from the facts of life, and 
from books of a baser kind, including a wide 
range of the works of authors popularly con- 
sidered extremely instructive — from Victor 
Hugo down to Doctor Watts. , 

165. Farther, I will take leave to explain in 
this place what I meant by saying that my 
mother was an ' inoffensive ' prude. She was 
herself as strict as Alice Bridgenorth ; but 
she understood the doctrine of the religion 
she had learnt, and, without ostentatiously 
calling herself a miserable sinner, knew that 
according to that doctrine, and probably in 
fact, Madge Wildfire was no worse a sinner 
than she. She was like her sister in universal 
charity — had sympathy with every passion, 
as well as every virtue, of true womanhood; 


and, in her heart of hearts, perhaps liked the 
real Margherita Cogni quite as well as the 
ideal wife of Faliero. 

1 66. And there was one more feature in my 
mother's character which must be here asserted 
at once, to put an end to the notion of which 
I see traces in some newspaper comments on 
my past descriptions of her, that she was in 
any wise like Esther's religious aunt in Bleak 
House. Far on the contrary, there was a 
hearty, frank, and sometimes even irrepres- 
sible, laugh in my mother ! Never sardonic, 
yet with a very definitely Smollettesque turn 
in it ! so that, between themselves, she and 
my father enjoyed their Humphrey Clinker 
extremely, long before / was able to under- 
stand either the jest or gist of it. Much more, 
she could exult in a harmless bit of Smol- 
lettesque reality. Years and years after this 
time, in one of our crossings of the Simplon, 
just at the top, where we had stopped to look 
about us, Nurse Anne sat down to rest her- 
self on the railings at the roadside, just in 
front of the monastery ; — the off roadside, from 
which the bank slopes steeply down outside 
the fence. Turning to observe the panoramic 


picturesque, Anne lost her balance, and went 
backwards over the railings down the bank. 
My father could not help suggesting that she 
had done it expressly for the entertainment of 
the Holy Fathers ; and neither he nor my 
mother could ever speak of the ' performance ' 
(as they called it) afterwards, without laughing 
for a quarter of an hour. 

167. If, however, there was the least bitter- 
ness or irony in a jest, my mother did not like 
it ; but my father and I liked it all the more, 
if it were just ; and, so far as I could under- 
stand it, I rejoiced in all the sarcasm of Don 
Juan. But my firm decision, as soon as I got 
well into the later cantos of it, that Byron 
was to be my master in verse, as Turner in 
colour, was made of course in that gosling 
(or say cygnet) epoch of existence, without 
consciousness of the deeper instincts that 
prompted it : only two things I consciously 
recognized, that his truth of observation was 
the most exact, and his chosen expression the 
most concentrated, that I had yet found in 
literature. By that time my father had him- 
self put me through the two first books of 
Livy, and I knew, therefore, what close-set 


language was ; but I saw then that Livy, as 
afterwards that Horace and Tacitus, were 
studiously, often laboriously, and sometimes 
obscurely, concentrated : while Byron wrote, 
as easily as a hawk flies, and as clearly as a 
lake reflects, the exact truth in the precisely 
narrowest terms ; nor only the exact truth, 
but the most central and useful one. 

1 68. Of course I could no more measure 
Byron's greater powers at that time than I 
could Turner's ; but I saw that both were 
right in all things that / knew right from 
wrong in ; and that they must thenceforth be 
my masters, each in his own domain. The 
modern reader, not to say also, modern 
scholar, is usually so ignorant of the essential 
qualities of Byron, that I cannot go farther in 
the story of my own novitiate under him with- 
out illustrating, by rapid example, the things 
which I saw to be unrivalled in his work. 

For this purpose I take his common prose, 
rather than his verse, since his modes of 
rhythm involve other questions than those 
with which I am now concerned. Read, for 
chance-first, the sentence on Sheridan, in his 
letter to Thomas Moore, from Venice, June 


1st (or dawn of June 2nd!), 1818. 'The 
Whigs abuse him ; however, he never left 
them, and such blunderers deserve neither 
credit nor compassion. As for his creditors 
— remember Sheridan never had a shilling, 
and was thrown, with great powers and pas- 
sions, into the thick of the world, and placed 
upon the pinnacle of success, with no other 
external means to support him in his ele- 
vation. Did Fox pay his debts ? or did 

Sheridan take a subscription ? Was 's 

drunkenness more excusable than his ? Were 
his intrigues more notorious than those of all 
his contemporaries ? and is his memory to be 
blasted and theirs respected ? Don't let your- 
self be led away by clamour, but compare him 
with the coalitioner Fox, and the pensioner 
Burke, as a man of principle; and with ten 
hundred thousand in personal views ; and 
with none in talent, for he beat them all out 
and out. Without means, without connection, 
without character (which might be false at 
first, and drive him mad afterwards from 
desperation), he beat them all, in all he ever 
attempted. But, alas poor human nature ! 
Good-night, or rather morning. It is four, 


and the dawn gleams over the Grand Canal, 
and unshadows the Rialto.' 
i/ 169. Now, observe, that passage is noble, 
primarily because it contains the utmost 
number that will come together into the 
space, of absolutely just, wise, and kind 
thoughts. But it is more than noble, it is 
perfect, because the quantity it holds is not 
artificially or intricately concentrated, but with 
the serene swiftness of a smith's hammer- 
strokes on hot iron ; and with choice of terms 
which, each in its place, will convey far more 
than they mean in the dictionary. Thus, 
'however' is used instead of 'yet,' because it 
stands for ' howsoever,' or, in full, for ' yet 
whatever they did.' 'Thick' of society, be- 
cause it means, not merely the crowd, but the 
fog of it ; ' ten hundred thousand ' instead of 
'a million,' or 'a thousand thousand,' to take 
the sublimity out of the number, and make us 
feel that it is a number of nobodies. Then 
the sentence in parenthesis, ' which might be 
false,' etc., is indeed obscure, because it was 
impossible to clarify it without a regular pause, 
and much loss of time ; and the reader's sense 
is therefore left to expand it for himself into 



'it was, perhaps, falsely said of him at first, 
that he had no character,' etc. Finally, the 
dawn 'unshadows' — lessens the shadow on — 
the Rialto, but does not gleam on that, as on 
the broad water. 

170. Next, take the two sentences on 
poetry, in his letters to Murray of September 
15 th, 1817, and April 12th, 181 8; (for the 
collected force of these compare the deliberate 
published statement in the answer to Black- 
wood in 1820.) 

1 8 17. 'With regard to poetry in general, I 
am convinced, the more I think of it, that 
he (Moore), and all of us — Scott, Southey, 
Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, I, — are all in 
the wrong, one as much as another; that 
we are upon a wrong revolutionary poetical 
system, or systems, not worth a damn in itself, 
and from which none but Rogers and Crabbe 
are free : and that the present and next genera- 
tions will finally be of this opinion. I am 
the more confirmed in this by having lately 
gone over some of our classics, particularly 
Pope, whom I tried in this way: 1 took 
Moore's poems, and my own, and some others, 
and went over them side by side with Pope's, 


and I was really astonished (I ought not to 
have been so) and mortified, at the ineffable 
distance in point of sense, learning, effect, and 
even imagination, passion, and invention, be- 
tween the little Queen Anne's man, and us 
of the Lower Empire. Depend upon it, it is 
all Horace then, and Claudian now, among 
us ; and if I had to begin again, I would 
mould myself accordingly. Crabbe's the 
man ; but he has got a coarse and imprac- 
ticable subject, and ... is retired upon half- 
pay, and has done enough, unless he were to 
do as he did formerly.' 

1818. 'I thought of a preface, defending 
Lord Hervey against Pope's attack, but Pope 
— quoad Pope, the poet, — against all the 
world, in the unjustifiable attempts begun by 
Warton, and carried on at this day by the 
new school of critics and scribblers, who 
think themselves poets because they do not 
write like Pope. I have no patience with 
such cursed humbug and bad taste ; your 
whole generation are not worth a canto 
of the Rape of the Lock, or the Essay 
on Man, or the Dunciad, or "anything that 
is his.'" 


171. There is nothing which needs explana- 
tion in the brevities and amenities of these 
two fragments, except, in the first of them, 
the distinctive and exhaustive enumeration of 
the qualities of great poetry, — and note especi- 
ally the order in which he puts these. 

A. Sense. That is to say, the first thing 
you have to think of is whether the would-be 
poet is a wise man — so also in the answer to 
Blackwood, 'They call him (Pope) the poet 
of reason ! — is that any reason why he should 
not be a poet ? ' 

B. Learning. The Ayrshire ploughman 
may have good gifts, but he is out of 
court with relation to Homer, or Dante, or 

C. Effect. Has he efficiency in his verse ? 
— does it tell on the ear and the spirit in 
an instant? See the 'effect' on her audience 
of Beatrice's ' ottave,' in the story at p. 286 of 
Miss Alexander's Songs of Tuscany. 

D. Imagination. Put thus low because 
many novelists and artists have this faculty, 
yet are not poets, or even good novelists or 
painters; because they have not sense to 
manage it, nor the art to give it effect. 

22 2 PR^TERITA. 

E. Passion. Lower yet, because all good 
men and women have as much as either they 
or the poet ought to have. 

F. Invention. And this lowest, because one 
may be a good poet without having this at 
all. Byron had scarcely any himself, while 
Scott had any quantity — yet never could write 
a play. 

172. But neither the force and precision, 
nor the rhythm, of Byron's language, were at 
all the central reasons for my taking him for 
master. Knowing the Song of Moses and 
the Sermon on the Mount by heart, and half 
the Apocalypse besides, I was in no need of 
tutorship either in the majesty or simplicity of 
English words ; and for their logical arrange- 
ment, I had had Byron's own master, Pope, 
since I could lisp. But the thing wholly 
new and precious to me in Byron was his 
measured and living truth — measured, as com- 
pared with Homer ; and living, as compared 
with everybody else. My own inexorable 
measuring wand, — not enchanter's, but cloth- 
worker's and builder's, — reduced to mere in- 
credibility all the statements of the poets 
usually called sublime. It was of no use for 


Homer to tell me that Pelion was put on the 
top of Ossa. I knew perfectly well it wouldn't 
go on the top of Ossa. Of no use for Pope 
to tell me that trees where his mistress looked i 
would crowd into a shade, because I was 
satisfied that they would do nothing of the 
sort. Nay, the whole world, as it was de- 
scribed to me either by poetry or theology, 
was every hour becoming more and more 
shadowy and impossible. I rejoiced in all 
stories of Pallas and Venus, of Achilles and 
Eneas, of Elijah and St. John : but, without 
doubting in my heart that there were real 
spirits of wisdom and beauty, nor that there 
had been invincible heroes and inspired pro- 
phets, I felt already, with fatal and increasing 
sadness, that there was no clear utterance 
about any of them — that there were for me 
neither Goddess guides nor prophetic teachers ; 
and that the poetical histories, whether of 
this world or the next, were to me as the 
words of Peter to the shut up disciples — ' as 
idle tales ; and they believed them not.' 

173. But here at last I had found a man 
who spoke only of what he had seen, and 
known ; and spoke without exaggeration, 

2 24 PR-iETERITA. 

without mystery, without enmity, and without 
mercy. ' That is so ; — make what you will of 
it ! ' Shakespeare said the Alps voided their 
rheum on the valleys, which indeed is pre- 
cisely true, with the final truth, in that matter, 
of James Forbes, — but it was told in a mythic 
manner, and with an unpleasant British bias 
to the nasty. But Byron, saying that ' the 
glacier's cold and restless mass moved onward 
day by day,' said plainly what he saw and 
knew, — no more. So also, the Arabian 
Nights had told me of thieves who lived in 
enchanted caves, and beauties who fought 
with genii in the air; but Byron told me of 
thieves with whom he had ridden on their 
own hills, and of the fair Persians or Greeks 
who lived and died under the very sun that 
rose over my visible Norwood hills. 

And in this narrow, but sure, truth, to 
Byron, as already to me, it appeared that 
Love was a transient thing, and Death a 
dreadful one. He did not attempt to console 
me for Jessie's death, by saying she was 
happier in Heaven ; or for Charles's, by say- 
ing it was a Providential dispensation to me 
on Earth. He did not tell me that war was a 


just price for the glory of captains, or that the 
National command of murder diminished its 
guilt. Of all things within range of human 
thought he felt the facts, and discerned the 
natures with accurate justice. 

But even all this he might have done, and 
yet been no master of mine, had not he 
sympathized with me in reverent love of 
beauty, and indignant recoil from ugliness. 
The witch of the Staubbach in her rainbow 
was a greatly more pleasant vision than 
Shakespeare's, like a rat without a tail, or 
Burns's, in her cutty sark. The sea-king ^ 
Conrad had an immediate advantage with me 
over Coleridge's long, lank, brown, and 
ancient, mariner; and whatever Pope might 
have gracefully said, or honestly felt of 
Windsor woods and streams, was mere tink- 
ling cymbal to me, compared with Byron's 
love of Lachin-y-Gair. 

174. I must pause here, in tracing the 

sources of his influence over me, lest the 

reader should mistake the analysis which I am 

now able to give them, for a description of 

the feelings possible to me at fifteen. Most 

of these, however, were assuredly within the 
vol. 1. p 

2 26 PR^.TERITA. 

knot of my unfolding mind — as the saffron of 
the crocus yet beneath the earth ; and Byron 
— though he could not teach me to love moun- 
tains or sea more than I did in childhood, first 
animated them for me with the sense of real 
human nobleness and grief. He taught me 
the meaning of Chillon and of Meillerie, and 
bade me seek first in Venice — the ruined 
homes of Foscari and Falier. 

And observe, the force with which he struck 
depended again on there being unquestionable 
reality of person in his stories, as of principle 
in- his thoughts. Romance, enough and to 
spare, I had learnt from Scott — but his Lady 
of the Lake was as openly fictitious as his 
White Maid of Avenel : while Rogers was a 
mere dilettante, who felt no difference between 
landing where Tell leaped ashore, or standing 
where ' St. Preux has stood.' Even Shake- 
speare's Venice was visionary ; and Portia as 
impossible as Miranda. But Byron told me 
of, and reanimated for me, the real people 
whose feet had worn the marble I trod on. 

175- ^ ne word only, though it trenches on 
a future subject, I must permit myself about 
his rhythm. Its natural flow in almost prosaic 


simplicity and tranquillity interested me ex- 
tremely, in opposition alike to the symmetrical 
clauses of Pope's logical metre, and to the 
balanced strophes of classic and Hebrew verse. 
But though I followed his manner instantly in 
what verses I wrote for my own amusement, 
my respect for the structural, as opposed to 
fluent, force of the classic measures, supported 
as it was partly by Byron's contempt for his 
own work, and partly by my own architect's 
instinct for ' the principle of the pyramid,' 
made me long endeavour, in forming my prose 
style, to keep the cadences of Pope and John- 
son for all serious statement. Of Johnson's 
influence on me I have to give account in the 
last chapter of this volume ; meantime, I must 
get back to the days of mere rivulet-singing, 
in my poor little watercress life. 

176. I had a sharp attack of pleurisy in the 
spring of '35, which gave me much gasping 
pain, and put me in some danger for three 
or four days, during which our old family 
physician, Dr. Walshman, and my mother, 
defended me against the wish of all other 
scientific people to have me bled. ' He wants 
all the blood he has in him to fight the illness/ 


said the old doctor, and brought me well 
through, weak enough, however, to claim a 
fortnight's nursing and petting afterwards, 
during which I read the ' Fair Maid of Perth,' 
learned the song of ' Poor Louise,' and feasted 
on Stanfield's drawing of St. Michael's Mount, 
engraved in the ' Coast Scenery,' and Turner's 
Santa Saba, Pool of Bethesda, and Corinth, 
engraved in the Bible series, lent me by 
Richard Fall's little sister. I got an immense 
quantity of useful learning out of those four 
plates, and am very thankful to possess now 
the originals of the Bethesda and Corinth. 

Moreover, I planned all my proceedings on 
the journey to Switzerland, which was to 
begin the moment I was strong enough. I 
shaded in cobalt a ' cyanometer ' to measure 
the blue of the sky with ; bought a ruled note- 
book for geological observations, and a large 
quarto for architectural sketches, with square 
rule and foot-rule ingeniously fastened outside. 
And I determined that the events and senti- 
ments of this journey should be described in a 
poetic diary in the style of Don Juan, artfully 
combined with that of Childe Harold. Two 
cantos of this work were indeed finished — 


carrying me across France to Chamouni — 
where I broke down, finding that I had ex- 
hausted on the Jura all the descriptive terms 
at my disposal, and that none were left for 
the Alps. I must try to give, in the next 
chapter, some useful account of the same part 
of the journey in less exalted language. 



177. About the moment in the forenoon 
when the modern fashionable traveller, intent 
on Paris, Nice, and Monaco, and started by 
the morning mail from Charing Cross, has a 
little recovered himself from the qualms of 
his crossing, and the irritation of fighting for 
seats at Boulogne, and begins to look at his 
watch to see how near he is to the buffet of 
Amiens, he is apt to be baulked and worried 
by the train's useless stop at one inconsider- 
able station, lettered ABBEVILLE. As the 
carriage gets in motion again, he may see, if 
he cares to lift his eyes for an instant from his 
newspaper, two square towers, with a curi- 
ously attached bit of traceried arch, dominant 
over the poplars and osiers of the marshy 
level he is traversing. Such glimpse is pro- 
bably all he will ever wish to get of them ; 

and I scarcely know how far I can make even 



the most sympathetic reader understand their 
power over my own life. 

The country town in which they are central, 
— once, like Croyland, a mere monk's and 
peasant's refuge (so for some time called 
'Refuge'), — among the swamps of Somme, 
received about the year 650 the name of 
'Abbatis Villa,'— « Abbot's-ford,' I had like 
to have written : house and village, I suppose 
we may rightly say, — as the chief depend- 
ence of the great monastery founded by St. 
Riquier at his native place, on the hillside 
five miles east of the present town. Con- 
cerning which saint I translate from the 
Dict re des Sciences Ecclesq ues , what it may 
perhaps be well for the reader, in present 
political junctures, to remember for more 
weighty reasons than any arising out of such 
interest as he may take in my poor little 
nascent personality. 

178. 'St. Riquier, in Latin " Sanctus Rich- 
arius," born in the village of Centula, at two 
leagues from Abbeville, was so touched by the 
piety of two holy priests of Ireland, whom he 
had hospitably received, that he also embraced 
"la penitence." Being ordained priest, he 


devoted himself to preaching, and so passed 
into England. Then, returning into Ponthieu, 
he became, by God's help, powerful in work 
and word in leading the people to repentance. 
He preached at the court of Dagobert, and, a 
little while after that prince's death, founded 
the monastery which bore his name, and 
another, called Forest-Moutier, in the wood 
of Crecy, where he ended his life and 

I find further in the Ecclesiastical History 
of Abbeville, published in 1646 at Paris 
by Francois Pelican, ' Rue St. Jacques, a 
l'enseigne du Pelican,' that St. Riquier was 
himself of royal blood, that St. Angilbert, 
the seventh abbot, had married Charlemagne's 
second daughter Bertha — ' qui se rendit 
aussi Religieuse de l'ordre de Saint Be- 
noist.' Louis, the eleventh abbot, was cousin- 
german to Charles the Bald ; the twelfth 
was St. Angilbert's son, Charlemagne's grand- 
son. Raoul, the thirteenth abbot, was the 
brother of the Empress Judith ; and Car- 
loman, the sixteenth, was the son of Charles 
the Bald. 

179. Lifting again your eyes, good reader, 


2 33 

as the train gets to its speed, you may see 
gleaming opposite on the hillside the white 
village and its abbey, — not, indeed, the walls 
of the home of these princes and princesses, 
(afterwards again and again ruined,) but the 
still beautiful abbey built on their foundations 
by the monks of St. Maur. 

In the year when the above quoted history 
of Abbeville was written (say 1600 for surety), 
the town, then familiarly called 'Faithful 
Abbeville,' contained 40,000 souls, 'living 
in great unity among themselves, of a marvel- 
lous frankness, fearing to do wrong to their 
neighbour, the women modest, honest, full 
of faith and charity, and adorned with a 
goodness and beauty toute innocente : the 
noblesse numerous, hardy, and adroit in arms, 
the masterships (maistrises) of arts and trades, 
with excellent workers in every profession 
under sixty-four Mayor-Bannerets, who are 
the chiefs of the trades, and elect the mayor 
of the city, who is an independent Home 
Ruler, de grande probite, d'authorite, et sans 
reproche, aided by four eschevins of the 
present, and four of the past year; having 
authority of justice, police, and war, and right 


to keep the weights and measures true and 
unchanged, and to punish those who abuse 
them, or sell by false weight or measure, or 
sell anything without the town's mark on it.' 
Moreover, the town contained, besides the 
great church of St. Wulfran, thirteen parish 
churches, six monasteries, eight nunneries, 
and five hospitals, among which churches 
I am especially bound to name that of St. 
George, begun by our own Edward in 1368, 
on the 10th of January ; transferred and 
reconsecrated in 1469 by the Bishop of 
Bethlehem, and enlarged by the Marguilliers 
in 1536, ' because the congregation had so 
increased that numbers had to remain outside 
on days of solemnity.' 

These reconstructions took place with so 
great ease and rapidity at Abbeville, owing 
partly to the number of its unanimous work- 
men, partly to the easily workable quality 
of the stone they used, and partly to the 
uncertainty of a foundation always on piles, 
that there is now scarce vestige left of any 
building prior to the fifteenth century. St. 
Wulfran itself, with St. Riquier, and all that 
remain of the parish churches (four only, now, 

ik. THE COL Dl£ LA FAUCILLE. 23 5 

I believe, besides St. Wulfran), are of the 
same flamboyant Gothic, — walls and towers 
alike coeval with the gabled timber houses 
of which the busier streets chiefly consisted 
when first I saw them. 

1 80. I must here, in advance, tell the 
general reader that there have been, in sum, 
three centres of my life's thought : Rouen, 
Geneva, and Pisa. All that I did at Venice 
was bye-work, because her history had been 
falsely written before, and not even by any 
of her own people understood ; and because, 
in the world of painting, Tintoret was vir- 
tually unseen, Veronese unfelt, Carpaccio 
not so much as named, when I began 
to study them ; something also was due 
to my love of gliding about in gondolas. 
But Rouen, Geneva, and Pisa have been 
tutresses of all I know, and were mistresses 
of all I did, from the first moments I entered 
their gates. 

In this journey of 1835 I first saw Rouen 
and Venice — Pisa not till 1840; nor could I 
understand the full power of any of those great 
scenes till much later. But for Abbeville, 
which is the preface and interpretation of 


Rouen, I was ready on that 5th of June, and 
felt that here was entrance for me into 
immediately healthy labour and joy. 

181. For here I saw that art (of its local 
kind), religion, and present human life, were 
yet in perfect harmony. There were no dead 
six days and dismal seventh in those sculp- 
tured churches ; there was no beadle to lock 
me out of them, or pew-shutter to shut me in. 
I might haunt them, fancying myself a ghost ; 
peep round their pillars, like Rob Roy ; kneel 
in them, and scandalize nobody ; draw in them, 
and disturb none. Outside, the faithful old 
town gathered itself, and nestled under their 
buttresses like a brood beneath the mother's 
wings; the quiet, uninjurious aristocracy of 
the newer town opened into silent streets, 
between self-possessed and hidden dignities 
of dwelling, each with its courtyard and 
richly trellised garden. The commercial 
square, with the main street of traverse, con- 
sisted of uncompetitive shops, such as were 
needful, of the native wares : cloth and 
hosiery spun, woven, and knitted within the 
walls; cheese of neighbouring Neuchatel ; 
fruit of their own gardens, bread from the 


fields above the green coteaux ; meat of their 
herds, untainted by American tin ; smith's 
work of sufficient scythe and ploughshare, 
hammered on the open anvil ; groceries dainty, 
the coffee generally roasting odoriferously in 
the street, before the door; for the modistes, 
— well, perhaps a bonnet or two from Paris, 
the rest, wholesome dress for peasant and 
dame of Ponthieu. Above the prosperous, 
serenely busy and beneficent shop, the old 
dwelling - house of its ancestral masters ; 
pleasantly carved, proudly roofed, keeping 
its place, and order, and recognised function, 
unfailing, unenlarging, for centuries. Round 
all, the breezy ramparts, with their long 
waving avenues ; through all, in variously 
circuiting cleanness and sweetness of navi- 
gable river and active millstream, the green 
chalk-water of the Somme. 

My most intense happinesses have of course 
been among mountains. But for cheerful, un- 
alloyed, unwearying pleasure, the getting in 
sight of Abbeville on a fine summer afternoon, 
jumping out in the courtyard of the Hotel de 
l'Europe, and rushing down the street to see 
St. Wulfran again before the sun was off the 


towers, are things to cherish the past for, — to 
the end. 

182. Of Rouen, and its Cathedral, my say- 
ing remains yet to be said, if days be given 
me, in ' Our Fathers have told us.' The sight 
of them, and following journey up the Seine 
to Paris, then to Soissons and Rheims, deter- 
mined, as aforesaid, the first centre and circle 
of future life-work. Beyond Rheims, at Bar- 
le-Duc, I was brought again within the greater 
radius of the Alps, and my father was kind 
enough to go down by Plombieres to Dijon, 
that I might approach them by the straightest 
pass of Jura. 

The reader must pardon my relating so 
much as I think he may care to hear of this 
journey of 1835, rather as what used to happen, 
than as limitable to that date ; for it is ex- 
tremely difficult for me now to separate the 
circumstances of an}' one journey from those 
of subsequent days, in which we stayed at the 
same inns, with variation only from the blue 
room to the green, saw the same sights, and 
rejoiced the more in every pleasure — that it 
was not new. 

And this latter part of the road from Paris 


to Geneva, beautiful without being the least 
terrific or pathetic, but in the most lovable and 
cheerful way, became afterwards so dear and 
so domestic to me, that I will not attempt here 
to check my gossip of it. 

183. We used always to drive out of the 
yard of La Cloche at Dijon in early morning — 
seven, after joyful breakfast at half-past six. 
The small saloon on the first floor to the 
front had a bedroom across the passage at 
the west end of it, whose windows commanded 
the cathedral towers over a low roof on the 
opposite side of the street. This was always 
mine, and its bed was in an alcove at the 
back, separated only by a lath partition from 
an extremely narrow passage leading from 
the outer gallery to Anne's room. It was a 
delight for Anne to which I think she looked 
forward all across France, to open a little 
hidden door from this passage, at the back of 
the alcove exactly above my pillow, and sur- 
prise, or wake, me in the morning. 

I think I only remember once starting in 
rain. Usually the morning sun shone through 
the misty spray and far thrown diamonds of 
the fountain in the south-eastern suburb, and 


threw long poplar shadows across the road to 

Genlis, Auxonne, Dole, Mont-sous- Vaudrey 
— three stages of 12 or 14 kilometres each, 
two of 18; in all about 70 kilometres = 42 
miles, from Dijon gate to Jura foot — we went 
straight for the hills always, lunching on French 
plums and bread. 

Level plain of little interest to Auxonne. 
I used to wonder how any mortal creature 
could be content to live within actual sight 
of Jura, and never go to see them, all their 
lives ! At Auxonne, cross the Saone, wide 
and beautiful in clear shallows of green stream 
— little more, yet, than a noble mountain 
torrent ; one saw in an instant it came from 
Jura. Another hour of patience, and from 
the broken yellow limestone slopes of Dole 
— there, at last, they were — the long blue 
surges of them fading as far as eye could see 
to the south, more abruptly near to the north- 
east, where the bold outlier, almost island, 
of them, rises like a precipitous Wrekin, 
above Salins. Beyond Dole, a new wildness 
comes into the more undulating country, 
notable chiefly for its clay-built cottages 


with enormously high thatched gables of 
roof. Strange, that I never inquired into 
the special reason of that form, nor looked 
into a single cottage to see the mode of its 
inhabitation ! 

1 84. The village, or rural town, of Poligny, 
clustered out of well-built old stone houses, 
with gardens and orchards; and gathering at 
the midst of it into some pretence or manner 
of a street, straggles along the roots of Jura 
at the opening of a little valley, which in 
Yorkshire or Derbyshire limestone would 
have been a gorge between nodding cliffs, 
with a pretty pattering stream at the bottom : 
but, in Jura is a far retiring theatre of rising 
terraces, with bits of field and garden getting 
foot on them at various heights ; a spiry 
convent in its hollow, and well-built little 
nests of husbandry-building set in corners 
of meadow, and on juts of rock; — no stream, 
to speak of, nor springs in it, nor the smallest 
conceivable reason for its being there, but that 
God made it. 

'Far' retiring, I said, — perhaps a mile into 
the hills from the outer plain, by half a mile 
across, permitting the main road from Paris 

VOL. I. q 

242 PR.^TERITA. 

to Geneva to serpentine and zigzag capri- 
ciously up the cliff terraces with innocent 
engineering, finding itself every now and 
then where it had no notion of getting to, 
and looking, in a circumflex of puzzled level, 
where it was to go next; — retrospect of the 
plain of Burgundy enlarging under its back- 
ward sweeps, till at last, under a broken bit 
of steep final crag, it got quite up the side, 
and out over the edge of the ravine, where 
said ravine closes as unreasonably as it had 
opened, and the surprised traveller finds him- 
self, magically as if he were Jack of the Bean- 
stalk, in a new plain of an upper world. A 
world of level rock, breaking at the surface 
into yellow soil, capable of scanty, but healthy, 
turf, and sprinkled copse and thicket ; with 
here and there, beyond, a blue surge of pines, 
and over those, if the evening or morning 
were clear, always one small bright silvery 
likeness of a cloud. 

185. These first tracts of Jura differ in 
many pleasant ways from the limestone levels 
round Ingleborough, which are their English 
t} r pes. The Yorkshire moors are mostly by 
a hundred or two feet higher, and exposed 


to drift of rain under violent, nearly constant, 
wind. They break into wide fields of loose 
blocks, and rugged slopes of shale ; and are 
mixed with sands and clay from the millstone 
grit, which nourish rank grass, and lodge in 
occasional morass : the wild winds also for- 
bidding any vestige or comfort of tree, except 
here and there in a sheltered nook of new 
plantation. But the Jura sky is as calm and 
clear as that of the rest of France ; if the 
day is bright on the plain, the bounding hills 
are bright also; the Jura rock, balanced in 
the make of it between chalk and marble, 
weathers indeed into curious rifts and 
furrows, but rarely breaks loose, and has 
long ago clothed itself either with forest 
flowers, or with sweet short grass, and all 
blossoms that love sunshine. The pure air, 
even on this lower ledge of a thousand feet 
above sea, cherishes their sweetest scents and 
liveliest colours, and the winter gives them 
rest under thawless serenity of snow. 

186. A still greater and stranger difference 
exists in the system of streams. For all their 
losing themselves and hiding, and intermitting, 
their presence is distinctly felt on a Yorkshire 


moor; one sees the places they have been in 
yesterday, the wells where they will flow after 
the next shower, and a tricklet here at the 
bottom of a crag, or a tinkle there from the 
top of it, is always making one think whether 
this is one of the sources of Aire, or rootlets 
of Ribble, or beginnings of Bolton Strid, or 
threads of silver which are to be spun into 

But' no whisper, nor murmur, nor patter, 
nor song, of streamlet disturbs the enchanted 
silence of open Jura. The rain-cloud clasps 
her cliffs, and floats along her fields; it passes, 
and in an hour the rocks are dry, and only 
beads of dew left in the Alchemilla leaves, — 
but of rivulet, or brook, — no vestige yesterday, 
or to-day, or to-morrow. Through unseen 
fissures and filmy crannies the waters of cliff 
and plain have alike vanished, only far down 
in the depths of the main valley glides the 
strong river, unconscious of change. 

187. One is taught thus much for one's 
earliest lesson, in the two stages from Poligny 
to Champagnole, level over the absolutely 
crisp turf and sun-bright rock, without so 
much water anywhere as a cress could grow 


in, or a tadpole wag his tail in, — and then, by 
a zigzag of shady road, forming the Park and 
Boulevard of the wistful little village, down 
to the single arched bridge that leaps the Ain, 
which pauses underneath in magnificent pools 
of clear pale green: the green of spring leaves; 
then clashes into foam, half weir, half natural 
cascade, and into a confused race of currents 
beneath hollow overhanging of crag festooned 
with leafage. The only marvel is, to anyone 
knowing Jura structure, that rivers should 
be visible anywhere at all, and that the rocks 
should be consistent enough to carry them in 
open air through the great valleys, without 
perpetual ' pertes ' like that of the Rhone. 
Below the Lac de Joux the Orbe thus loses 
itself indeed, reappearing seven hundred feet * 
beneath in a scene of which I permit myself to 
quote my Papa Saussure's description. 

1 88. 'A semicircular rock at least two hun- 
dred feet high, composed of great horizontal 
rocks hewn vertical, and divided f by ranks of 
pine which grow on their projecting ledges, 
closes to the west the valley of Valorbe. 

* Six hundred and eighty French feet. Saussure, §§ 385. 
t ' Tailles a pic, et entrecoupees.' 



Mountains yet more elevated and covered with 
forests, form a circuit round this rock, which 
opens only to give passage to the Orbe, whose 
source is at its foot. Its waters, of a perfect 
limpidity, flow at first with a majestic tran- 
quillity upon a bed tapestried with beautiful 
green moss (Fontinalis antipyretica), but soon, 
drawn into a steep slope, the thread of the 
current breaks itself in foam against the rocks 
which occupy the middle of its bed, while the 
borders, less agitated, flowing alwaj^s on their 
green ground, set off the whiteness of the 
midst of the river; and thus it withdraws 
itself from sight, in following the course of a 
deep valley covered with pines, whose black- 
ness is rendered more striking by the vivid 
green of the beeches which are scattered 
among them. 

'Ah, if Petrarch had seen this spring and 
had found there his Laura, how much would 
not he have preferred it to that of Vaucluse, 
more abundant, perhaps, and more rapid, but 
of which the sterile rocks have neither the 
greatness of ours, nor the rich parure, which 
embellishes them.' 

I have never seen the source of the Orbe, 


but would commend to the reader's notice the 
frequent beauty of these great springs in 
literally rising at the base of cliffs, instead 
of falling, as one would have imagined likely, 
out of clefts in the front of them. In our 
own English antitype of the source of Orbe, 
Malham Cove, the flow of water is, in like 
manner, wholly at the base of the rock, and 
seems to rise to the ledge of its outlet from 
a deeper interior pool. 

189. The old Hotel de la Poste at Cham- 
pagnole stood just above the bridge of Ain, 
opposite the town, where the road got level 
again as it darted away towards Geneva. I 
think the year 1842 was the first in which we 
lengthened the day from Dijon by the two 
stages beyond Poligny ; but afterwards, the 
Hotel de la Poste at Champagnole became a 
kind of home to us : going out, we had so 
much delight there, and coming home, so 
many thoughts, that a great space of life 
seemed to be passed in its peace. No one 
was ever in the house but ourselves ; if a 
family stopped every third day or so, it was 
enough to maintain the inn, which, besides, 
had its own farm ; and those who did stop, 


rushed away for Geneva early in the morning. 
We, who were to sleep again at Morez, were 
in no hurry ; and in returning always left 
Geneva on Friday, to get the Sunday at 

190. But my own great joy was in the 
early June evening, when we had arrived 
from Dijon, and I got out after the quickly 
dressed trout and cutlet for the first walk on 
rock and under pine. 

With all my Tory prejudice (I mean, prin- 
ciple), I have to confess that one great joy 
of Swiss — above all, Jurassic Swiss — ground 
to me, is in its effectual, not merely theoretic, 
liberty. Among the greater hills, one can't 
always go just where one chooses, — all around 
is the too far, or too steep, — one wants to get 
to this, and climb that, and can't do either; 
— but in Jura one can go every way, and be 
happy everywhere. Generally, if there was 
time, I used to climb the islet of crag to the 
north of the village, on which there are a few 
grey walls of ruined castle, and the yet trace- 
able paths of its ' pleasance,' whence to look 
if the likeness of white cloud were still on 
the horizon. Still there, in the clear evening, 


and again and again, each year more mar- 
vellous to me; the derniers rochers, and 
calotte of Mont Blanc. Only those ; that is 
to say just as much as may be seen over the 
Dome du Goute from St. Martin's. But it 
looks as large from Champagnole as it does 
there — glowing in the last light like a harvest 

If there were not time to reach the castle 
rock, at least I could get into the woods 
above the Ain, and gather my first Alpine 
flowers. Again and again, I feel the duty 
of gratitude to the formalities and even vul- 
garities of Heme Hill, for making me to 
feel by contrast the divine wildness of Jura 

Then came the morning drive into the 
higher glen of the Ain, where the road began 
first to wind beside the falling stream. One 
never understands how those winding roads 
steal with their tranquil slope from height to 
height ; it was but an hour's walking beside 
the carriage, — an hour passed like a minute ; 
and one emerged on the high plain of St. 
Laurent, and the gentians began to gleam 
among the roadside grass, and the pines swept 


round the horizon with the dark infinitude of 

191. All Switzerland was there in hope 
and sensation, and what was less than 
Switzerland was in some sort better, in its 
meek simplicity and healthy purity. The 
Jura cottage is not carved with the stately 
richness of the Bernese, nor set together 
with the antique strength of Uri. It is 
covered with thin slit fine shingles, side- 
roofed as it were to the ground for mere 
dryness' sake, a little crossing of laths here 
and there underneath the window its only 
ornament. It has no daintiness of garden 
nor wealth of farm about it, — is indeed 
little more than a delicately- built chalet, 
yet trim and domestic, mildly intelligent of 
things other than pastoral, watch -making 
and the like, though set in the midst of 
the meadows, the gentian at its door, 
the lily of the valley wild in the copses 
hard by. 

My delight in these cottages, and in the 
sense of human industry and enjoyment 
through the whole scene, was at the root 
of all pleasure in its beauty; see the passage 


afterwards written in the " Seven Lamps " in- 
sisting on this as if it were general to human 
nature thus to admire through sympathy. I 
have noticed since, with sorrowful accuracy, 
how many people there are who, wherever 
they find themselves, think only ' of their 
position.' But the feeling which gave me so 
much happiness, both then and through life, 
differed also curiously, in its impersonal char- 
acter, from that of many even of the best and 
kindest persons. 

192. In the beginning of the Carlyle- 
Emerson correspondence, edited with too little 
comment by my dear friend Charles Norton, 
I find at page 18 this — to me entirely dis- 
putable, and to my thought, so far as 
undisputed, much blameable and pitiable, ex- 
clamation 01 my master's : ' Not till we can 
think that here and there one is thinking of 
us, one is loving us, does this waste earth 
become a peopled garden.' My training, as 
the reader has perhaps enough perceived, 
produced in me the precisely opposite senti- 
ment. My times of happiness had always 
been when nobody was thinking of me ; and 
the main discomfort and drawback to all 


proceedings and designs, the attention and 
interference of the public — represented by my 
mother and the gardener. The garden was 
no waste place to me, because I did not sup- 
pose myself an object of interest either to the 
ants or the butterflies ; and the only qualifi- 
cation of the entire delight of my evening 
walk at Champagnole or St. Laurent was the 
sense that my father and mother were think- 
ing of me, and would be frightened if I was 
five minutes late for tea. 

I don't mean in the least that I could have 
done without them. They were, to me, much 
more than Carlyle's wife to him ; and if Car- 
lyle had written, instead of, that he wanted 
Emerson to think of him in America, that he 
wanted his father and mother to be thinking 
of him at Ecclefechan, it had been well. But 
that the rest of the world was waste to him' 
unless he had admirers in it, is a sorry state 
of sentiment enough ; and I am somewhat 
tempted, for once, to admire the exactly 
opposite temper of my own solitude. My 
entire delight was in observing without being 
myself noticed, — if I could have been invisible, 
all the better. I was absolutely interested in 


men and their ways, as I was interested in 
marmots and chamois, in tomtits and trout. 
If only they would stay still and let me look 
at them, and not get into their holes and up 
their heights ! The living inhabitation of the 
world — the grazing and nesting in it, — the 
spiritual power of the air, the rocks, the 
waters, to be in the midst of it, and rejoice 
and wonder at it, and help it if I could, — • 
happier if it needed no help of mine, — this 
was the essential love of Nature in me, this 
the root of all that I have usefully become, 
and the light of all that I have rightly 

193. Whether we slept at St. Laurent or 
Morez, the morning of the next day was an 
eventful one. In ordinarily fine weather, the 
ascent from Morez to Les Rousses, walked 
most of the way, was mere enchantment ; so 
also breakfast, and fringed-gentian gathering, 
at Les Rousses. Then came usually an hour 
of tortured watching the increase of the noon 
clouds; for, however early we had risen, it 
was impossible to reach the Col de la Faucille 
before two o'clock, or later if we had bad 
horses, and at two o'clock, if there are clouds 

254 pr^eterita. 

above Jura, there will be assuredly clouds on 
the Alps. 

It is worth notice, Saussure himself not 
having noticed it, that this main pass of 
Jura, unlike the great passes of the Alps, 
reaches its traverse-point very nearly under 
the highest summit of that part of the chain. 
The col, separating the source of the Bienne, 
which runs down to Morez and St. Claude, 
from that of the Valserine, which winds 
through the midst of Jura to the Rhone at 
Bellegarde, is a spur of the Dole itself, under 
whose prolonged masses the road is then 
carried six miles farther, ascending very 
slightly to the Col de la Faucille, where the 
chain opens suddenly, and a sweep of the 
road, traversed in five minutes at a trot, 
opens the whole Lake of Geneva, and the 
chain of the Alps along a hundred miles of 

194. I have never seen that view perfectly 
but once — in this year 1835 ; when I drew it 
carefully in my then fashion, and have been 
content to look back to it as the confirming 
sequel of the first view of the Alps from 
Schaffhausen. Very few travellers, even in 


old times, saw it at all; tired of the long 
posting journey from Paris, by the time they 
got to the col they were mostly thinking 
only of their dinners and rest at Geneva; 
the guide books said nothing about it; and 
though, for everybody, it was an inevitable 
task to ascend the Righi, nobody ever thought 
there was anything to be seen from the 

Both mountains have had enormous in- 
fluence on my whole life; — the Dole con- 
tinually and calmly; the Righi at sorrowful 
intervals, as will be seen. But the Col de 
la Faucille, on that day of 1835, opened to 
me in distinct vision the Holy Land of my 
future work and true home in this world. 
My eyes had been opened, and my heart 
with them, to see and to possess royally 
such a kingdom ! Far as the eye could 
reach — that land and its moving or pausing 
waters; Arve, and his gates of Cluse, and 
his glacier fountains ; Rhone, and the in- 
finitude of his sapphire lake, — his peace 
beneath the narcissus meads of Vevay — his 
cruelty beneath the promontories of Sierre. 
And all that rose against and melted into 


the sky, of mountain and mountain snow ; 
and all that living plain, burning with human 
gladness — studded with white homes, — a 
milky way of star-dwellings cast across its 
sunlit blue. 



195. WHETHER in the biography of a nation, 
or of a single person, it is alike impos- 
sible to trace it steadily through successive 
years. Some forces are failing while others 
strengthen, and most act irregularly, or else at 
uncorresponding periods of renewed enthu- 
siasm after intervals of lassitude. For all 
clearness of exposition, it is necessary to 
follow first one, then another, without con- 
fusing notices of what is happening in other 

I must accordingly cease talk of pictorial 
and rhythmic efforts of the year 1835, at this 
point ; and go back to give account of another 
segment of my learning, which might have 
had better consequence than ever came of it, 
had the stars so pleased. 

196. I cannot, and perhaps the reader 

will be thankful, remember anything of the 
vol. 1. 2S7 R 


Apolline instincts under which I averred to 
incredulous papa and mamma that, ' though I 
could not speak, I could play upon the fiddle.' 
But even to this day, I look back with starts 
of sorrow to a lost opportunity of showing 
what was in me, of that manner of genius, on 
the occasion of a grand military dinner in the 
state room of the Sussex, at Tunbridge Wells ; 
where, when I was something about eight or 
nine years old, we were staying in an unadven- 
turous manner, enjoying the pantiles, the 
common, the sight, if not the taste, of the 
lovely fountain, and drives to the High Rocks. 
After the military dinner there was military 
music, and by connivance of waiters, Anne 
and I got in, somehow, mixed up with the 
dessert. I believe I was rather a pretty boy 
then, and dressed in a not wholly civilian 
manner, in a sort of laced and buttoned sur- 
tout. My mind was extremely set on watch- 
ing the instrumental manoeuvres of the band, 
— with admiration of all, but burning envy of 
the drummer. 

The colonel took notice of my rapt attention, 
and sent an ensign to bring me round to him ; 
and after getting, I know not how, at my mind 


in the matter, told me I might go and ask the 
drummer to give me his lovely round-headed 
sticks, and he would. I was in two minds to 
do it, having good confidence in my powers of 
keeping time. But the dismal shyness con- 
quered :— I shook my head woefully, and my 
musical career was blighted. No one will ever 
know what I could then have brought out of 
that drum, or (if my father had perchance 
taken me to Spain) out of a tambourine. 

197. My mother, busy in graver matters, 
had never cultivated the little she had been 
taught of music, though her natural sensibility 
to it was great. Mrs. Richard Gray used 
sometimes to play gracefully to me, but if ever 
she struck a false note, her husband used to 
put his fingers in his ears, and dance about 
the room, exclaiming, ' O Mary, Mary dear ! ' 
and so extinguish her. Our own Perth Mary 
played dutifully her scales, and little more ; 
but I got useful help, almost unconsciously, 
from a family of young people who ought, if 
my chronology had been .systematic, to have 
been affectionately spoken of long ago. 

In above describing my father's counting- 
house, I said the door was opened by a latch 


pulled by the head clerk. This head clerk, or, 
putting it more modestly, topmost of two clerks, 
Henry Watson, was a person of much import 
in my father's life and mine ; import which, I 
perceive, looking back, to have been as in 
many respects tender and fortunate, yet in 
others extremely doleful, both to us and 

The chief fault in my father's mind, (I say 
so reverently, for its faults were few, but 
necessarily, for they were very fatal,) was his 
dislike of being excelled. He knew his own 
power — felt that he had not nerve to use or 
display it, in full measure ; but all the more, 
could not bear, in his own sphere, any ap- 
proach to equality. He chose his clerks first 
for trustworthiness, secondly for — z/zcapacity. 
I am not sure that he would have sent away 
a clever one, if he had chanced on such a 
person ; but he assuredly did not look for 
mercantile genius in them, but rather for sub- 
ordinates who would be subordinate for ever. 
Frederick the Great chose his clerks in the 
same way ; but then, his clerks never sup- 
posed themselves likely to be king, while a 
merchant's clerks are apt to hope they may 


at least become partners, if not successors. 
Also, Friedrich's clerks were absolutely fit for 
their business ; but my father's clerks were, 
in many ways, utterly unfit for theirs. Of 
which unfitness my father greatly complaining, 
nevertheless by no means bestirred himself to 
find fitter ones. He used to send Henry 
Watson on business tours, and assure him 
afterwards that he had done more harm than 
good : he would now and then leave Henry 
Ritchie to write a business letter; and, I 
think, find with some satisfaction that it was 
needful afterwards to write two, himself, in 
correction of it. There was scarcely a day 
when he did not come home in some irritation 
at something that one or other of them had 
done, or not done. But they stayed with him 
till his death. 

198. Of the second in command, Mr. Ritchie, 
I will say what is needful in another place ; 
but the clerk of confidence, Henry Watson, 
has already been left unnoticed too long. He 
was, I believe, the principal support of a 
widowed mother and three grown-up sisters, 
amiable, well educated, and fairly sensible 
women, all of them ; refined beyond the 


average tone of their position, — and desirous, 
not vulgarly, of keeping themselves in the 
upper-edge circle of the middle class. Not vul- 
garly, I say, as caring merely to have carriages 
stopping at their door, but with real sense of 
the good that is in good London society, in 
London society's way. They liked, as they 
did not drop their own h's, to talk with people 
who did not drop theirs ; to hear what was 
going on in polite circles; and to have entree 
to a pleasant dance, or rightly given concert. 
Being themselves both good and pleasing 
musicians, (the qualities are not united in all 
musicians,) this was not difficult for them; — 
nevertheless it meant necessarily having a 
house in a street of tone, near the Park, and 
being nicely dressed, and giving now and then 
a little reception themselves. On the whole, 
it meant the total absorption of Henry's salary, 
and of the earnings, in some official, or other- 
wise plumaged occupations, of two brothers 
besides, David and William. The latter, now 
I think of it, was a West-End wine merchant, 
supplying the nobility with Clos-Vougeot, 
Hochheimer, dignifiedly still Champagne, and 
other nectareous drinks, of which the bottom 


fills up half the bottle, and which are only to 
be had out of the cellars of Grand Dukes and 
Counts of the Empire. The family lived, to 
the edge of their means, — not too narrowly : 
the young ladies enjoyed themselves, studied 
German — and at that time it was thought very 
fine and poetical to study German ; — sang 
extremely well, gracefully and easily; had 
good taste in dress, the better for being a 
little matronly and old-fashioned : and the 
whole family thought themselves extremely 
£ite ) in a substantial and virtuous manner. 

199. When Henry Watson was first taken, 
(then, I believe, a boy of sixteen,) I know not 
by what chance, or on what commendation, 
into my father's counting-house, the opening 
was thought by his family a magnificent one ; 
they were very thankful and happy, and, of 
course, in their brother's interest, eager to do 
all they could to please my father and mother. 
They found, however, my mother not very 
easily pleased ; and presently began them- 
selves to be not a little surprised and dis- 
pleased by the way things went on, both in 
the counting-house and at Heme Hill. At 
the one, there was steady work ; at the other, 



little show: the clerks could by no means 
venture to leave their desks for a garden-party, 
and after dark were allowed only tallow 
candles. That the head of the Firm should 
live in the half of a party-walled house, beyond 
the suburb of Camberwell, was a degradation 
and disgrace to everybody connected with the 
business ! and that Henry should be obliged 
every morning to take omnibus into the 
eastern City, and work within scent of Bill- 
ingsgate, instead of walking elegantly across 
Piccadilly to an office in St. James's Street, 
was alike injurious to him, and disparaging to 
my father's taste and knowledge of the world. 
Also, to the feminine circle, my mother was a 
singular, and sorrowfully intractable, pheno- 
menon. Taking herself no interest in German 
studies, and being little curious as to the 
events, and little respectful to the opinions, 
of Mayfair, she was apt to look with some 
severity, perhaps a tinge of jealousy, on what 
she thought pretentious in the accomplish- 
ments, or affected in the manners, of the 
young people : while they, on the other hand, 
though quite sensible of my mother's worth, 
grateful for her good will, and in time really 


attached to her, were not disposed to pay 
much attention to the opinions of a woman 
who knew only her own language ; — and were 
more restive than responsive under kindnesses 
which frequently took the form of advice. 

2O0. These differences in feeling, irrecon- 
cilable though they were, did not hinder the 
growth of consistently pleasant and sincerely 
affectionate relations between my mother and 
the young housewives. With what best of 
girl nature was in them, Fanny, Helen, and 
foolishest, cleverest little Juliet, enjoyed, in 
spring time, exchanging for a day or two the 
dusty dignity of their street of tone in Mayfair 
for the lilacs and laburnums of Herne-hill : 
and held themselves, with their brother Henry, 
always ready at call to come out on any 
occasion of the hill's hospitality to some re- 
spected correspondent of the House, and sing 
to us the prettiest airs from the new opera, 
with a due foundation and tonic intermixture 
of classical German. 

Henry had a singularly beautiful tenor voice; 
and the three sisters, though not, any one of 
them, of special power, sang their parts with 
sufficient precision, with intelligent taste, and 

2 66 PR^TERITA. 

with the pretty unison of sisterly voices. 
In this way, from early childhood, I was 
accustomed to hear a great range of good 
music completely and rightly rendered, without 
breakings down, missings out, affectations of 
manner, or vulgar prominence of execution. 
Had the quartette sung me English glees, or 
Scotch ballads, or British salt water ones, or 
had any one of the girls had gift enough to 
render higher music with its proper splendour, 
I might easily have been led to spare some 
time from my maps and mineralogy for atten- 
tive listening. As it was, the scientific German 
compositions were simply tiresome to me, and 
the pretty modulations of Italian, which I 
understood no syllable of, pleasant only as the 
trills of the blackbirds, who often listened, and 
expressed their satisfaction by joining in the 
part-songs through the window that opened to 
the back garden in the spring evenings. Yet 
the education of my ear and taste went on 
without trouble of mine. I do not think I 
ever heard any masterly professional music, 
until, as good hap was, I heard the best, only 
to be heard during a narrow space of those 
young days. 


201. I too carelessly left without explana- 
tion the casual sentence about 'fatal dinner 
at Mr. Domecq's ' when I was fourteen, above, 
Chap. IV., p. 115. My father's Spanish 
partner was at that time living in the Champs 
Elysees, with his English wife and his five 
daughters; the eldest, Diana, on the eve of 
her marriage with one of Napoleon's officers, 
Count Maison ; the four others, much younger, 
chanced to be at home on vacation from their 
convent school: and we had happy family 
dinner with them, and mamma and the girls 
and a delightful old French gentleman, Mr. 
Badell, played afterwards at Ma toilette de 
Madame' with me; only I couldn't remember 
whether I was the necklace or the garters; 
and then Clotilde and C£cile played 'les 
Echos ' and other fascinations of dance- 
melody, — only I couldn't dance; and at last 
Elise had to take pity on me as above de- 
scribed. But the best, if not the largest r part 
of the conversation among the elders was of 
the recent death of Bellini, the sorrow of all 
Paris for him, and the power with which his ' I 
Puritani ' was being rendered by the reigning 
four great singers for whom it was written. 


202. It puzzles me that I have no recol- 
lection of any first sight and hearing of an 
opera. Not even, for that matter, of my first 
going to a theatre, though I was full twelve, 
before being taken ; and afterwards, it was a 
matter of intense rapture, of a common sort, 
to be taken to a pantomime. And I greatly 
enjoy theatre to this day — it is one of the 
pleasures that have least worn out ; yet, while 
I remember Friar's Crag at Derwentwater 
when I was four years old, and the courtyard 
of our Paris inn at five, I have no memory 
whatever, and am a little proud to have none, 
of my first theatre. To be taken now at 
Paris to the feebly dramatic ' Puritani ' was 
no great joy to me ; but I then heard, and it 
will always be a rare, and only once or twice 
in a century possible, thing to hear, four 
great musicians, all rightly to be called of 
genius, singing together, with sincere desire 
to assist each other, not eclipse; and to 
exhibit, not only their own power of singing, 
but the beauty of the music they sang. 

203. Still more fortunately it happened that 
a woman of faultless genius led the following 
dances, — Taglioni ; a person of the highest 


natural faculties, and stainlessly simple char- 
acter, gathered with sincerest ardour and 
reverence into her art. My mother, though 
she allowed me without serious remonstrance 
to be taken to the theatre by my father, had 
the strictest Puritan prejudice against the 
stage; yet enjoyed it so much that I think 
she felt the sacrifice she made in not going 
with us to be a sort of price accepted by 
the laws of virtue for what was sinful in 
her concession to my father and me. She 
went, however, to hear and see this group 
of players, renowned, without any rivals, 
through all the cities of Europe ; — and, 
strange and pretty to say, her instinct of the 
innocence, beauty, and wonder, in every 
motion of the Grace of her century, was so 
strong, that from that time forth my mother 
would always, at a word, go with us to see 

Afterwards, a season did not pass without 
my hearing twice or thrice, at least, those 
four singers ; and I learned the better because 
my ear was never jaded the intention of the 
music written for them, or studied by them ; 
and am extremely glad now that I heard their 

2 70 PR^TERITA. 

renderings of Mozart and Rossini, neither of 
whom can be now said ever to be heard at 
all, owing to the detestable quickening of the 
time. Grisi and Malibran sang at least one- 
third slower than any modern cantatrice ; * 
and Patti, the last time I heard her, massacred 
Zerlina's part in ' La ci darem,' as if the 
audience and she had but the one object of 
getting Mozart's air done with, as soon as 

204. Afterwards, (the confession may as 
well be got over at once,) when I had got 
settled in my furrow at Christ Church, it 
chanced that the better men of the college had 
founded a musical society, under instruction 
of the cathedral organist, Mr. Marshall, an 
extremely simple, good-natured, and good- 
humoured person, by whose encouragement I 
was brought to the point of trying to learn to 
sing, ' Come mai posso vivere se Rosina non 
m'ascolta,' and to play the two lines of prelude 
to the 'A te o cara,' and what notes I could 
manage to read of accompaniments to other 

* It is a pretty conceit of musical people to call them- 
selves scientific, when they have not yet fixed their unit of 
time ! 


songs of similarly tender purport. In which, 
though never even getting so far as to read 
with ease, I nevertheless, between my fine 
rhythmic ear, and true lover's sentiment, got 
to understand some principles of musical art, 
which I shall perhaps be able to enforce with 
benefit on the musical public mind, even 
to-day, if only I can get first done with this 

What the furrow at Christ Church was 
to be like, or where to lead, none of my people 
seem at this time to have been thinking. My 
mother, watching the naturalistic and methodic 
bent of me, was, I suppose, tranquil in the 
thought of my becoming another White of 
Selborne, or Vicar of Wakefield, victorious in 
Whistonian and every other controversy. My 
father perhaps conceived more cometic or 
meteoric career for me, but neither of them 
put the matter seriously in hand, however 
deeply laid up in heart : and I was allowed 
without remonstrance to go on measuring the 
blue of the sky, and watching the flight of the 
clouds, till I had forgotten most of the Latin 
I ever knew, and all the Greek, except 
Anacreon's ode to the rose. 


205. Some little effort was made to pull me 
together in 1836 by sending me to hear Mr. 
Dale's lectures at King's College, where I 
explained to Mr. Dale, on meeting him one 
day in the court of entrance, that porticoes 
should not be carried on the top of arches ; 
and considered myself exalted because I went 
in at the same door with boys who had square 
caps on. The lectures were on early English 
literature, of which, though I had never read 
a word of any before Pope, I thought myself 
already a much better judge than Mr. Dale. 
His quotation of " Knut the king came sailing 
by " stayed with me ; and I think that was 
about all I learnt during the summer. For, 
as my adverse stars would have it, that year, 
my father's partner, Mr. Domecq, thought it 
might for once be expedient that he should 
himself pay a complimentary round of visits to 
his British customers, and asked if meanwhile 
he might leave his daughters at Heme Hill to 
see the lions at the Tower, and so on. How 
we got them all into Heme Hill corners and 
cupboards would be inexplicable but with a 
plan of the three stories ! The arrangements 
were half Noah's ark, half Doll's house, but 


we got them all in : Clotilde, a graceful oval- 
faced blonde of fifteen ; Cecile, a dark, finely- 
browed, beautifully-featured girl of thirteen; 
Elise, again fair, round-faced like an English 
girl, a treasure of good nature and good sense ; 
Caroline, a delicately quaint little thing of 
eleven. They had all been born abroad, 
Clotilde at Cadiz, and of course convent-bred ; 
but lately accustomed to be much in society 
during vacation at Paris. Deeper than any 
one dreamed, the sight of them in the Champs 
Elysees had sealed itself in me, for they were 
the first well-bred and well-dressed girls I 
had ever seen — or at least spoken to. I 
mean of course, by well-dressed, perfectly 
simply dressed, with Parisian cutting and 
fitting. They were all "bigoted" — as Pro- 
testants would say ; quietly firm, as they ought 
to say — Roman Catholics; spoke Spanish 
and French with perfect grace, and English 
with broken precision : were all fairly sensible, 
Clotilde sternly and accurately so, Elise gaily 
and kindly, Cecile serenely, Caroline keenly. 
A most curious galaxy, or southern cross, of 
unconceived stars, floating on a sudden into 

my obscure firmament of London suburb. 
vol. 1. c 

2 74 ' PR^TERITA. 

206. How my parents could allow their 
young novice to be cast into the fiery furnace 
of the outer world in this helpless manner the 
reader may wonder, and only the Fates know ; 
but there was this excuse for them, that they 
had never seen me the least interested or 
anxious about girls — never caring to stay in 
the promenades at Cheltenham or Bath, or 
on the parade at Dover; on the contrary, 
growling and mewing if I was ever kept there, 
and off to the sea or the fields the moment 
I got leave ; and they had educated me in 
such extremely orthodox English Toryism and 
Evangelicalism that they could not conceive 
their scientific, religious, and George the 
Third revering youth, wavering in his con- 
stitutional balance towards French Catholics. 
And I had never said anything about the 
Champs Elysees ! Virtually convent -bred 
more closely than the maids themselves, with- 
out a single sisterly or cousinly affection for 
refuge or lightning rod, and having no athletic 
skill or pleasure to check my dreaming, I was 
thrown, bound hand and foot, in my unaccom- 
plished simplicity, into the fiery furnace, or 
fiery cross, of these four girls, — who of course 


reduced me to a mere heap of white ashes in 
four days. Four days, at the most, it took 
to reduce me to ashes, but the Mercredi des 
cendres lasted four years. 

Anything more comic in the externals of it, 
anything more tragic in the essence, could not 
have been invented by the skilfullest designer 
in either kind. In my social behaviour and 
mind I was a curious combination of Mr. 
Traddles, Mr. Toots, and Mr. Winkle. I had 
the real fidelity and single-mindedness of Mr. 
Traddles, with the conversational abilities of 
Mr. Toots, and the heroic ambition of Mr. 
Winkle ; — all these illuminated by imagination 
like Mr. Copperfield's, at his first Norwood 

207. Clotilde (Adele Clotilde in full, but her 
sisters called her Clotilde, after the queen- 
saint, and I Adele, because it rhymed to shell, 
spell, and knell) was only made more resplen- 
dent by the circlet of her sisters' beauty; 
while my own shyness and unpresentableness 
were farther stiffened, or rather sanded, by a 
patriotic and Protestant conceit, which was 
tempered neither by politeness nor sympathy ; 
so that, while in company I sate jealously 


miserable like a stock fish (in truth, I imagine, 
looking like nothing so much as a skate in an 
aquarium trying to get up the glass), on any 
blessed occasion of tete-a-tete I endeavoured 
to entertain my Spanish-born, Paris-bred, and 
Catholic-hearted mistress with my own views 
upon the subjects of the Spanish Armada, 
the Battle of Waterloo, and the doctrine of 

To these modes of recommending myself, 
however, I did not fail to add what display 
I could make of the talents I supposed myself 
to possess. I wrote with great pains, and 
straining of my invention, a story about 
Naples (which I had never seen), and 'the 
Bandit Leoni,' whom I represented as typical 
of what my own sanguinary and adventurous 
disposition would have been had I been 
brought up a bandit; and 'the Maiden Giu- 
letta,' in whom I portrayed all the perfections 
of my mistress. Our connection with Messrs. 
Smith & Elder enabled me to get this story 
printed in 'Friendship's Offering;' and Adele 
laughed over it in rippling ecstasies of de- 
rision, of which I bore the pain bravely, for 
the sake of seeing her thoroughly amused. 


I dared not address any sonnets straight to 
herself; but when she went back to Paris, 
wrote her a French letter seven quarto pages 
long, descriptive of the desolations and soli- 
tudes of Heme Hill since her departure. This 
letter, either Elise or Caroline wrote to tell me 
she had really read, and ' laughed immensely 
at the French of.' Both Caroline and Elise 
pitied me a little, and did not like to say she 
had also laughed at the contents. 

208. The old people, meanwhile, saw little 
harm in all this. Mr. Domecq, who was ex- 
tremely good-natured, and a good judge of 
character, rather liked me, because he saw 
that I was good-natured also, and had some 
seedling brains, which would come up in time : 
in the interests of the business he was per- 
fectly ready to give me any of his daughters 
I liked, who could also be got to like me, but 
considered that the time was not come to talk 
of such things. My father was entirely of the 
same mind, besides being pleased at my getting 
a story printed in 'Friendship's Offering,' 
glad that I saw something of girls with good 
manners, and in hopes that if I wrote poetry 
about them, it might be as good as the Hours 


of Idleness. My mother, who looked upon 
the idea of my marrying a Roman Catholic as 
too monstrous to be possible in the decrees 
of Heaven, and too preposterous to be even 
guarded against on earth, was rather annoyed 
at the whole business, as she would have been 
if one of her chimneys had begun smoking, — 
but had not the slightest notion her house was 
on fire. She saw more, however, than my 
father, into the depth of the feeling, but did 
not, in her motherly tenderness, like to grieve 
me by any serious check to it. She hoped, 
when the Domecqs went back to Paris, we 
might see no more of them, and that Adele's 
influence and memory would pass away — with 
next winter's snow. 

209. Under these indulgent circumstances, 
— bitterly ashamed of the figure I had made, 
but yet not a whit dashed back out of my 
daily swelling foam of furious conceit, sup- 
ported as it was by real depth of feeling, and 
(note it well, good reader) by a true and 
glorious sense of the newly revealed miracle 
of human love, in its exaltation of the physical 
beauty of the world I had till then sought by 
its own light alone, — I set myself in that my 


seventeenth year, in a state of majestic imbe- 
cility, to write a tragedy on a Venetian sub- 
ject, in which the sorrows of my soul were 
to be enshrined in immortal verse, — the fair 
heroine, Bianca, was to be endowed with the 
perfections of Desdemona and the brightness 
of Juliet, — and Venice and Love were to be 
described, as never had been thought of 
before. I may note in passing, that on my 
first sight of the Ducal Palace, the year before, 
I had deliberately announced to my father and 
mother, and — it seemed to me stupidly in- 
credulous — Mary, that I meant to make such 
a drawing of the Ducal Palace as never had 
been made before. This I proceeded to per- 
form by collecting some hasty memoranda on 
the spot, and finishing my design elaborately 
out of my head at Treviso. The drawing 
still exists, — for a wonder, out of perspective, 
which I had now got too conceited to follow 
the rules of, — and with the diaper pattern of 
the red and white marbles represented as 
a bold panelling in relief. No figure dis- 
turbs the solemn tranquillity of the Riva, 
and the gondolas — each in the shape of a 
Turkish crescent standing on its back on 


the water — float about without the aid of 

I remember nothing more of that year, 
1836, than sitting under the mulberry tree 
in the back garden, writing my tragedy. I 
forget whether we went travelling or not, or 
what I did in the rest of the day. It is 
all now blank to me, except Venice, Bianca, 
and looking out over Shooter's Hill, where 
I could see the last turn of the road to 

Some Greek, though I don't know what, 
must have been read, and some mathematics, 
for I certainly knew the difference between 
a square and cube root when I went to 
Oxford, and was put by my tutor into Hero- 
dotus, out of whom I immediately gathered 
materials enough to write my Scythian drink- 
ing song, in imitation of the Giaour. 

210. The reflective reader can scarcely but 
have begun to doubt, by this time, the ac- 
curacy of my statement that I took no harm 
from Byron. But he need not. The parti- 
cular form of expression which my folly took 
was indeed directed by him ; but this form 
was the best it could have taken. I got better 


practice in English by imitating the Giaour 
and Bride of Abydos than I could have had 
under any other master, (the tragedy was of 
course Shakespearian !) and the state of my 
mind was — my mind's own fault, and that of 
surrounding mischance or mismanagement — 
not Byron's. In that same year, 1836, I took 
to reading Shelley also, and wasted much time 
over the Sensitive Plant and Epipsychidion ; 
and I took a good deal of harm from him, in 
trying to write lines like ' prickly and pulpous 
and blistered and blue ; ' or 'it was a little 
lawny islet by anemone and vi'let, — like 
mosaic paven,' etc. ; but in the state of frothy 
fever I was in, there was little good for me to 
be got out of anything. The perseverance 
with which I tried to wade through the Revolt 
of Islam, and find out (I never did, and don't 
know to this day) who revolted against whom, 
or what, was creditable to me ; and the 
Prometheus really made me understand some- 
thing of iEschylus. I am not sure that, for 
what I was to turn out, my days of ferment 
could have been got over much easier : at 
any rate, it was better than if I had been 
learning to shoot, or hunt, or smoke, or 


gamble. The entirely inscrutable thing to 
me, looking back on myself, is my total want 
of all reason, will, or design in the business : 
I had neither the resolution to win Adele, 
the courage to do without her, the sense to 
consider what was at last to come of it all, or 
the grace to think how disagreeable I was 
making myself at the time to everybody about 
me. There was really no more capacity nor 
intelligence in me than in a just fledged owlet, 
or just open-eyed puppy, disconsolate at the 
existence of the moon. 

21 1. Out of my feebly melodious complaints 
to that luminary, however, I was startled by 
a letter to my father from Christ Church, ad- 
vising him that there was room for my resi- 
dence in the January term of 1837, and that I 
must come up to matriculate in October of 
the instant year, 1836. 

Strangely enough, my father had never 
enquired into the nature and manner of ma- 
triculation, till he took me up to display in 
Oxford ; — he, very nearly as much a boy as 
I, for anything we knew of what we were 
about. He never had any doubt about 
putting me at the most fashionable college, 


and of course my name had been down at 
Christ Church years before I was called up; 
but it had never dawned on my father's mind 
that there were two, fashionable and unfash- 
ionable, orders, or castes, of undergraduate 
at Christ Church, one of these being called 
Gentlemen-Commoners, the other Commoners; 
and that these last seemed to occupy an 
almost bisectional point between the Gentle- 
men-Commoners and the Servitors. All these 
' invidious ' distinctions are now done away 
with in our Reformed University. Nobody 
sets up for the special rank of a gentleman, 
but nobody will be set down as a commoner; 
and though, of the old people, anybody will 
beg or canvass for a place for their children 
in a charity school, everybody would be 
furious at the thought of his son's wearing, 
at college, the gown of a Servitor. 

212. How far I agree with the modern 
British citizen in these lofty sentiments, my 
general writings have enough shown; but I 
leave the reader to form his own opinions 
without any contrary comment of mine, on the 
results of the exploded system of things in 
my own college life. 



My father did not like the word ' commoner,' 
— all the less, because our relationships in- 
general were not uncommon. Also, though 
himself satisfying his pride enough in being 
the head of the sherry trade, he felt and saw 
in his son powers which had not their full 
scope in the sherry trade. His ideal of my 
future, — now entirely formed in conviction of 
my genius, — was that I should enter at college 
into the best society, take all the prizes every 
year, and a double first to finish with ; marry 
Lady Clara Vere de Vere ; write poetry as 
good as Byron's, only pious ; preach sermons 
as good as Bossuet's, only Protestant ; be 
made, at forty, Bishop of Winchester, and at 
fifty, Primate of England. 

213. With all these hopes, and under all 
these temptations, my father was yet restrained 
and embarrassed in no small degree by his 
old and steady sense of what was becoming to 
his station in life : and he consulted anxiously, 
but honestly, the Dean of Christ Church, 
(Gaisford,) and my college tutor that was to 
be, Mr. Walter Brown, whether a person in 
his position might without impropriety enter 
his son as a gentleman-commoner. I did not 


hear the dialogues, but the old Dean must have 
answered with a grunt, that my father had 
every right to make me a gentleman-commoner 
if he liked, and could pay the fees ; the tutor, 
more attentively laying before him the con- 
ditions of the question, may perhaps have said, 
with courtesy, that it would be good for the 
college to have a reading man among the 
gentlemen-commoners, who, as a rule, were 
not studiously inclined ; but he was compelled 
also to give my father a hint, that as far as my 
reading had already gone, it was not altogether 
certain I could pass the entrance examination 
which had to be sustained by commoners. 
This last suggestion was conclusive. It was 
not to be endured that the boy who had been 
expected to carry all before him, should get 
himself jammed in the first turnstile. I was 
entered as a Gentleman-Commoner without 
farther debate, and remember still, as if it were 
yesterday, the pride of first walking out of 
the Angel Hotel, and past University College, 
holding my father's arm, in my velvet cap and 
silk gown. 

214. Yes, good reader, the velvet and silk 
made a difference, not to my mother only, but 


to me ! Quite one of the telling and weighty 
points in the home debates concerning this 
choice of Hercules, had been that the com- 
moner's gown was not only of ugly stuff, but 
had no flowing lines in it, and was virtually 
only a black rag tied to one's shoulders. One 
was thrice a gownsman in a flowing gown. 

So little, indeed, am I disposed now in 
maturer years to deride these unphilosophical 
feelings, that instead of effacing distinction 
of dress at the University (except for the 
boating clubs), I would fain have seen them 
extended into the entire social order of the 
country. I think that nobody but duchesses 
should be allowed to wear diamonds ; that 
lords should be known from common people 
by their stars, a quarter of a mile off; that 
every peasant girl should boast her county by 
some dainty ratification of cap or bodice ; and 
that in the towns a vintner should be known 
from a fishmonger by the cut of his jerkin. 

That walk to the Schools, and the waiting, 
outside the Divinity School, in comforting 
admiration of its door, my turn for matricula- 
tion, continue still for me, at pleasure. But 
I remember nothing more that year ; nor 


anything of the first days of the next, until 
early in January we drove down to Oxford, 
only my mother and I, by the beautiful Henley 
road, weary a little as we changed horses for 
the last stage from Dorchester ; solemnized, 
in spite of velvet and silk, as we entered 
among the towers in the twilight ; and after 
one more rest under the domestic roof of the 
Angel, I found myself the next day at evening, 
alone, by the fireside, entered into command 
of my own life, in my own college room in 



215. ALONE, by the fireside of the little 
back room, which looked into the narrow lane, 
chiefly then of stabling, I sate collecting my 
resolution for college life. 

I had not much to collect ; nor, so far as I 
knew, much to collect it against. I had about 
as clear understanding of my whereabouts, or 
foresight of my fortune, as Davie Gellatly 
might have had in my place ; with these 
farther inferiorities to Davie, that I could 
neither dance, sing, nor roast eggs. There 
was not the slightest fear of my gambling, for 
I had never touched a card, and looked upon 
dice as people now do on dynamite. No fear 
of my being tempted by the strange woman, 
for was not I in love ? and besides, never 
allowed to be out after half-past nine. No 
fear of my running in debt, for there were no 

Turners to be had in Oxford, and I cared for 



nothing else in the world of material pos- 
session. No fear of my breaking my neck out 
hunting, for I couldn't have ridden a hack 
down the High Street ; and no fear of my 
ruining myself at a race, for I never had been 
but at one race in my life, and had not the 
least wish to win anybody else's money. 

I expected some ridicule, indeed, for these 
my simple ways, but was safe against ridicule 
in my conceit : the only thing I doubted my- 
self in, and very rightly, was the power of 
applying for three years to work in which I 
took not the slightest interest. I resolved, 
however, to do my parents and myself as 
much credit as I could, said my prayers very 
seriously, and went to bed in good hope. 

216. And here I must stay, for a minute 
or two, to give some account of the state of 
mind I had got into during the above- 
described progress of my education, touching 
religious matters. 

As far as I recollect, the steady Bible 
reading with my mother ended with our first 
continental journey, when I was fourteen ; one 
could not read three chapters after breakfast 
while the horses were at the door. For this 

vol. 1. t 



lesson was substituted my own private read- 
ing of a chapter, morning and evening, and, 
of course, saying the Lord's Prayer after it, 
and asking for everything that was nice for 
myself and my family ; after which I waked 
or slept, without much thought of anything 
but my earthly affairs, whether by night or 

It had never entered into my head to doubt 
a word of the Bible, though I saw well enough 
already that its words were to be understood 
otherwise than I had been taught ; but the 
more I believed it, the less it did me any 
good. It was all very well for Abraham to 
do what angels bid him, — so would I, if any 
angels bid me ; but none had ever appeared 
to me that I knew of, not even Adele, who 
couldn't be an angel because she was a 
Roman Catholic. 
^ 217. Also, if I had lived in Christ's time, 
of course I would have gone with Him up to 
the mountain, or sailed with Him on the Lake 
of Galilee; but that was quite another thing 
from going to Beresford chapel, Walworth, 
or St. Bride's, Fleet Street. Also, though 
I felt mvself somehow called to imitate 


Christian in the Pilgrim's Progress, I couldn't 
see that either Billiter Street and the Tower 
Wharf, where my father had his cellars, or 
the cherry-blossomed garden at Heme Hill, 
where my mother potted her flowers, could 
be places 1 was bound to fly from as in the 
City of Destruction. Without much reason- 
ing on the matter, I had virtually concluded 
from my general Bible reading that, never 
having meant or done any harm that I knew 
of, I could not be in danger of hell : while I 
saw also that even the creme de la creme of 
religious people seemed to be in no hurry to 
go to heaven. On the whole, it seemed to 
me, all that was required of me was to say 
my prayers, go to church, learn my lessons, 
obey my parents, and enjoy my dinner. 

218. Thus minded, in the slowly granted 
light of the winter morning I looked out upon 
the view from my college windows, of Christ 
Church library and the smooth-gravelled 
square of Peckwater, vexed a little because 
I was not in an oriel window looking out on ■• 
a Gothic chapel : but quite unconscious of the 
real condemnation I had fallen under, or of 
the loss that was involved to me in having 



nothing but Christ Church library, and a 
gravelled square, to see out of window during 
the spring-times of two years of youth. 

At the moment I felt that, though dull, it 
was all very grand ; and that the architecture, 
though Renaissance, was bold, learned, well- 
proportioned, and variously didactic. In 
reality, I might just as well have been sent 
to the dungeon of Chillon, except for the 
damp ; better, indeed, if I could have seen 
the three small trees from the window slit, 
and good groining and pavement, instead of 
the modern vulgar upholstery of my room 

Even the first sight of college chapel 
disappointed me, after the large churches 
abroad ; but its narrow vaults had very dif- 
ferent offices. 

On the whole, of important places and 
services for the Christian souls of England, 
the choir of Christ Church was at that epoch 
of English history virtually the navel, and 
seat of life. There remained in it the tradi- 
tions of Saxon, Norman, Elizabethan, religion 
unbroken, — the memory of loyalty, the reality 
of learning, and, in nominal obedience at least, 


and in the heart of them with true docility, 
stood every morning, to be animated for the 
highest duties owed to their country, the 
noblest of English youth. The greater 
number of the peers of England, and, as a 
rule, the best of her squirealty, passed neces- 
sarily through Christ Church. 

The cathedral itself was an epitome of 
English history. Every stone, every pane of 
glass, every panel of woodwork, was true, and 
of its time, — not an accursed sham of archi- 
tect's job. The first shrine of St. Frideswide 
had indeed been destroyed, and her body rent 
and scattered on the dust by the Puritan ; but 
her second shrine was still beautiful in its 
kind, — most lovely English work both of 
heart and hand. The Norman vaults above 
were true English Norman ; bad and rude 
enough, but the best we could do with our 
own wits, and no French help. The roof was 
true Tudor, — grotesque, inventively construc- 
tive, delicately carved ; it, with the roof of 
the hall staircase, summing the builder's skill 
of the fifteenth century. The west window, 
with its clumsy painting of the Adoration of 
the Shepherds, a monument of the transition 




from window to picture which ended in Dutch 
pictures of the cattle without either shepherds 
or Christ, — but still, the best men could do of 
the day ; and the plain final woodwork of the 
stalls represented still the last art of living 
England in the form of honest and comfort- 
able carpentry. 

219. In this choir, written so closely and 
consecutively with indisputable British history, 
met every morning a congregation represent- 
ing the best of what Britain had become, — 
orderly, as the crew of a man-of-war, in the 
goodly ship of their temple. Every man in 
his place, according to his rank, age, and 
learning; every man of sense or heart there 
recognizing that he was either fulfilling, or 
being prepared to fulfil, the gravest duties 
required of Englishmen. A well-educated 
foreigner, admitted to that morning service, 
might have learned and judged more quickly 
and justly what the country had been, and 
still had power to be, than by months of stay 
in court or city. There, in his stall, sat the 
greatest divine of England, — under his com- 
mandant niche, her greatest scholar, — among 
the tutors the present Dean Liddell, and a 


man of curious intellectual power and simple 
virtue, Osborne Gordon. The group of noble- 
men gave, in the Marquis of Kildare, Earl of 
Desart, Earl of Emlyn, and Francis Charteris, 
now Lord Wemyss, — the brightest types of 
high race and active power. Henry Acland 
and Charles Newton among the senior under- 
graduates, and I among the freshmen, showed, 
if one had known it, elements of curious 
possibilities in coming days. None of us 
then conscious of any need or chance of 
change, least of all the stern captain, who, 
with rounded brow and glittering dark eye, 
led in his old thunderous Latin the responses 
of the morning prayer. 

For all that I saw, and was made to think, 
in that cathedral choir, I am most thankful 
to this day. 

220. The influence on me of the next good- 
liest part of the college buildings, — the hall, 
— was of a different and curiously mixed 
character. Had it only been used, as it only 
ought to have been, for festivity and magnifi- 
cence, — for the refectory daily, the reception 
of guests, the delivery of speeches on state 
occasions, and the like, — the hall, like the 

296 pra;terita. 

cathedral, would have had an entirely salutary 
and beneficently solemnizing effect on me, 
hallowing to me my daily bread, or, if our 
Dean Abbot had condescended sometimes to 
dine with us, our incidental venison. But 
with the extremely bad taste (which, to my 
mind, is our cardinal modern sin, the staple 
to the hinge of our taste for money, and 
distaste for money's worth, and every other 
worthiness) — in that bad taste, I say, the 
Abbot allowed our Hall to be used for ' collec- 
tions.' The word is wholly abominable to 
my mind, whether as expressing extorted 
charities in church, or extracted knowledge 
in examination. ' Collections,' in scholastic 
sense, meant the college examination at the 
end of every term, at which the Abbot had 
always the worse than bad taste to be present 
as our inquisitor, though he had never once 
presided at our table as our host. Of course 
the collective quantit}' of Greek possessed by 
all the undergraduate heads in hall, was to 
him, infinitesimal. Scornful at once, and vin- 
dictive, thunderous always, more sullen and 
threatening as the day went on, he stalked 
with baleful emanation of Gorgonian cold 


from dais to door, and door to dais, of the 
majestic torture chamber, — vast as the great 
council hall of Venice, but degraded now by 
the mean terrors, swallow-like under its eaves, 
of doleful creatures who had no counsel in 
them, except how to hide their crib in time, 
at each fateful Abbot's transit. Of course / 
never used a crib, but I believe the Dean 
would rather I had used fifty, than borne the 
puzzled and hopeless aspect which I presented 
towards the afternoon, over whatever I had 
to do. And as my Latin writing was, I 
suppose, the worst in the university, — as I 
never by any chance knew a first from a 
second future, or, even to the end of my 
Oxford career, could get into my head where 
the Pelasgi lived, or where the Heraclidae 
returned from, — it may be imagined with what 
sort of countenance the Dean gave me his 
first and second fingers to shake at our part- 
ing, Or with what comfort I met the inquiries 
of my father and mother as to the extent to 
which I was, in college opinion, carrying all 
before me. 

221. As time went on, the aspect of my 
college hall to me meant little more than the 




fear and shame of those examination days', 
but even in the first surprise and sublimity 
of finding myself dining there, were many 
reasons for the qualification of my pleasure. 
The change from our front parlour at Heme 
Hill, some fifteen feet by eighteen, and meat 
and pudding with my mother and Mary, to a 
hall about as big as the nave of Canterbury 
Cathedral, with its extremity lost in mist, its 
roof in darkness, and its company, an in- 
numerable, immeasurable vision in vanishing 
perspective, was in itself more appalling to me 
than appetizing ; but also, from first to last, 
I had the clownish feeling of having no busi- 
ness there. 

In the cathedral, however born or bred, I 
felt myself present by as good a right as its 
bishop, — nay, that in some of its lessons and 
uses, the building was less his than mine. 
But at table, with this learned and lordly per- 
spective of guests, and state of worldly service, 
I had nothing to do ; my own proper style of 
dining was for ever, I felt, divided from this — 
impassably. With baked potatoes under the 
mutton, just out of the oven, into the little 
parlour off the shop in Market Street, or 


beside a gipsy's kettle on Addington Hill 
(not that I had ever been beside a gipsy's 
kettle, but often wanted to be) ; or with an 
oat-cake and butter — for I was always a 
gourmand — in a Scotch shepherd's cottage, to 
be divided with his collie, I was myself, and 
in my place : but at the gentlemen-com- 
moners' table, in Cardinal Wolsey's dining- 
room, I was, in all sorts of ways at once, less 
than myself, and in all sorts of wrong places 
at once, out of my place. 

222. I may as well here record a some- 
what comic incident, extremely trivial, which 
took place a little while afterwards ; and 
which, in spite of its triviality, farther con- 
tributed to diminish in my own mind the 
charm of Christ Church hall. I had been 
received as a good-humoured and inoffensive 
little cur, contemptuously, yet kindly, among 
the dogs of race at the gentlemen-commoners' 
table; and my tutor, and the men who read 
in class with me, were beginning to recognize 
that I had some little gift in reading with 
good accent, thinking of what I read, and 
even asking troublesome questions about it, 
to the extent of being one day eagerly and 


admiringly congratulated by the whole class 
the moment we got out into quad, on the con- 
summate manner in which I had floored our 
tutor. I having had no more intention to 
floor, or consciousness of flooring, the tutor, 
than a babe unborn ! but had only happened, 
to the exquisite joy of my companions, to ask 
him something which he didn't happen to 
know. But, a good while before attaining 
this degree of public approval, I had made a 
direct attempt to bring myself into favourable 
notice, which had been far less successful. 

It was an institution of the college that 
every week the undergraduates should write 
an essay on a philosophical subject, expli- 
catory of some brief Latin text of Horace, 
Juvenal, or other accredited and pithy writer; 
and, I suppose, as a sort of guarantee to the 
men that what they wrote was really looked 
at, the essay pronounced the best was read 
aloud in hall on Saturday afternoon, with en- 
forced attendance of the other undergraduates. 
Here, at least, was something in which I felt 
that my little faculties had some scope, and 
both conscientiously, and with real interest 
in the task, I wrote my weekly essay with all 


the sagacity and eloquence I possessed. And 
therefore, though much flattered, I was not 
surprised, when, a few weeks after coming up, 
my tutor announced to me, with a look of 
approval, that I was to read my essay in hall 
next Saturday. 

223. Serenely, and on good grounds, con- 
fident in my powers of reading rightly, and 
with a decent gravity which I felt to be be- 
coming on this my first occasion of public dis- 
tinction, I read my essay, I have reason to 
believe, not ungracefully ; and descended from 
the rostrum to receive — as I doubted not — the 
thanks of the gentlemen-commoners for this 
creditable presentment of the wisdom of that 
body. But poor Clara, after her first ball, 
receiving her cousin's compliments in the 
cloak-room, was less surprised than I by my 
welcome from my cousins of the long-table. 
Not in envy, truly, but in fiery disdain, varied 
in expression through every form and man- 
ner of English language, from the Olympian 
sarcasm of Charteris to the level - delivered 
volley of Grimston, they explained to me that 
I had committed grossest Ihe-majeste against 
the order of gentlemen-commoners ; that no 


gentleman-commoner's essa}' ought ever to con- 
tain more than twelve lines, with four words in 
each ; and that even indulging to my tolly, and 
conceit, and want of savoir /aire, the impro- 
priety of writing an essay with any meaning 
in it, like vulgar students, — the thoughtlessness 
and audacity of writing one that would take at 
least a quarter of an hour to read, and then 
reading it all, might for this once be forgiven 
to such a greenhorn, but that Coventry wasn't 
the word for the place I should be sent to if 
ever I did such a thing again. I am happy at 
least in remembering that I bore my fall from 
the clouds without much hurt, or even too 
ridiculous astonishment. I at once admitted 
the justice of these representations, yet do not 
remember that I modified the style of my future 
essays materially in consequence, neither do I 
remember what line of conduct I had proposed 
to myself in the event of again obtaining the 
privilege of edifying the Saturday's congrega- 
tion. Perhaps my essays really diminished in 
value, or perhaps even the tutors had enough 
of them. All I know is, I was never asked to. 
224. I ought to have noticed that the first 
introductions to the men at my table were 


made easier by the chance of my having been 
shut up for two clays of storm at the Hospice 
of the Grimsel, in 1835, with some thirty 
travellers from various countries, among whom 
a Christ Church gentleman-commoner, Mr. 
Strangways, had played chess with me, and 
been a little interested in the way I drew 
granite among the snow. He at once ac- 
knowledged me in Hall for a fellow-creature ; 
and the rest of his set, finding they could get 
a good deal out of me in amusement without 
my knowing it, and that I did not take upon 
myself to reform their manners from any Evan- 
gelical, or otherwise impertinent, point of view, 
took me up kindly ; so that, in a fortnight or 
so, I had fair choice of what companions I 
liked, out of the whole college. 

Fortunately for me — beyond all words, 
fortunately — Henry Acland, by about a year 
and a half my senior, chose me; saw what 
helpless possibilities were in me, and took me 
affectionately in hand. His rooms, next the 
gate on the north side of Canterbury, were 
within fifty yards of mine, and became to me 
the onty place where I was happy. He quietly 
showed me the manner of life of English youth 


of good sense, good family, and enlarged edu- 
cation ; we both of us already lived in elements 
far external to the college quadrangle. He 
told me of the plains of Troy ; a year or two 
afterwards I showed him, on his marriage 
journey, the path up the Montanvert ; and the 
friendship between us has never changed, but 
by deepening, to this day. 

225. Of other friends, I had some sensible 
and many kind ones ; an excellent college 
tutor ; and later on, for a private one, the en- 
tirely right-minded and accomplished scholar 
already named, Osborne Gordon. At the 
corner of the great quadrangle lived Dr. Buck- 
land, always ready to help me, — or, a greater 
favour still, to be helped by me, in diagram 
drawing for his lectures. My picture of the 
granite veins in Trewavas Head, with a cutter 
weathering the point in a squall, in the style 
of Copley Fielding, still, I believe, forms part 
of the resources of the geological department. 
Mr. Parker, then first founding the Archi- 
tectural Society, and Charles Newton, already 
notable in his intense and curious way of 
looking into things, were, there to sympathize 
with me, and to teach me more accurately 


the study of architecture. Within eight miles 
were the pictures of Blenheim. In all ways, 
opportunities, and privileges, it was not con- 
ceivable that a youth of my age could have 
been placed more favourably — if only he 
had had the wit to know them, and the will to 
use them. Alas ! there I stood — or tottered — 
partly irresolute, partly idiotic, in the midst 
of them : nothing that I can think of among 
men, or birds, or beasts, quite the image of 
me, except poor little Shepherdess Agnes's 
picture of the ' Duckling Astray.' 

226. I count it is just a little to my credit 
that I was not ashamed, but pleased, that my 
mother came to Oxford with me to take such 
care of me as she could. Through all three 
years of residence, during term time, she had 
lodging in the High Street (first in Mr. Adams's 
pretty house of sixteenth century wood-work), 
and my father lived alone all through the week 
at Heme Hill, parting with wife and son at 
once for the son's sake. On the Saturday, he 
came down to us, and I went with him and my 
mother, in the old domestic way, to St. Peter's, 
for the Sunday morning service : otherwise, 
they never appeared with me in public, lest 

vol. 1. U 


my companions should laugh at me, or any 
one else ask malicious questions concerning 
vintner papa and his old-fashioned wife. 

None of the men, through my whole college 
career, ever said one word in depreciation of 
either of them, or in sarcasm at my habitually 
spending my evenings with my mother. But 
once, when Adele's elder sister came with her 
husband to see Oxford, and I mentioned, 
somewhat unnecessarily, at dinner, that she 
was the Countess Diane de Maison, they had 
no mercy on me for a month afterwards. 

The reader will please also note that my 
mother did not come to Oxford because she 
could not part with me, — still less, because 
she distrusted me. She came simply that 
she might be at hand in case of accident 
or sudden illness. She had always been my 
physician as well as my nurse ; on several 
occasions her timely watchfulness had saved 
me from the most serious danger ; nor was her 
caution now, as will be seen, unjustified by the 
event. But for the first two years of my college 
life I caused her no anxiety ; and my day was 
always happier because I could tell her at tea 
whatever had pleased or profited me in it. 


227. The routine of day is perhaps worth 
telling. I never missed chapel ; and in winter 
got an hour's reading before it. Breakfast at 
nine, — half-an-hour allowed for it to a second, 
for Captain Marryat with my roll and butter. 
College lectures till one. Lunch, with a little 
talk to anybody who cared to come in, or 
share their own commons with me. At two, 
Buckland or other professor's lecture. Walk 
till five, hall dinner, wine either given or 
accepted, and quiet chat over it with the 
reading men, or a frolic with those of my own 
table; but I always got round to the High 
Street to my mother's tea at seven, and 
amused myself till Tom * rang in, and I got 
with a run to Canterbury gate, and settled to 
a steady bit of final reading till ten. I can't 
make out more than six hours' real work in 
the day, but that was constantly and unflinch- 
ingly given. 

228. My Herodotean history, at an}' rate, 
got well settled down into me, and remains a 
greatly precious possession to this day. Also 

* I try to do without notes, but for the sake of any not 
English reader must explain that ' Tom ' is the name of the 
great bell of Oxford, in Christ Church western tower. 


my college tutor, Mr. Walter Brown, became 
somewhat loved by me, and with gentleness 
encouraged me into some small acquaintance 
with Greek verbs. My mathematics pro- 
gressed well under another tutor whom I 
liked, Mr. Hill; the natural instinct in me for 
pure geometry being keen, and my grasp of it, 
as far as I had gone, thorough. At my '■ little 
go' in the spring of '38, the diagrams of 
Euclid being given me, as was customary with 
the Euclid examination paper, I handed the 
book back to the examiner, saying scornfully, 
' I don't want any figures, Sir.' ' You had 
better take them,' replied he, mildly; which 
I did, as he bid me ; but I could then, and 
can still, dictate blindfold the demonstration 
of any problem, with any letters, at any of its 
points. I just scraped through, and no more, 
with my Latin writing, came creditably off 
with what else had to be done, and my tutor 
was satisfied with me, — not enough recog- 
nizing that the 'little go' had asked, and got 
out of me, pretty nearly all I had in me, or 
was ever likely to have in that kind. 

229. It was extremely unfortunate for me 
that the two higher lecturers of the college, 


Kynaston (afterwards Master of St. Paul's) 
in Greek, and Hussey, the censor, in I don't 
recollect what of disagreeable, were both to 
my own feeling repellent. They both de- 
spised me, as a home-boy, to begin with ; 
Kynaston with justice, for I had not Greek 
enough to understand anything he said ; and 
when good-naturedly one day, in order to 
bring out as best he might my supposed 
peculiar genius and acquirements, he put me 
on at the Opa Be yei'ao) rpi<y\i>(pa)i>, oiroi icevov 
8ifia<; Kadelvai, of the Iphigenia in Tauris, and 
found, to his own and all the class's astonish- 
ment and disgust, that I did not know what a 
triglyph was, — never spoke to me with any 
patience again, until long afterwards at St. 
Paul's, where he received me, on an occasion 
of school ceremony, with affection and respect. 
Hussey was, by all except the best men of 
the college, felt to be a censorious censor; 
and the manners of the college were un- 
happily such as to make any wise censor 
censorious. He had, by the judgment of 
heaven, a grim countenance ; and was to me 
accordingly, from first to last, as a Christ- 
church Gorgon or Erinnys, whose passing 


cast a shadow on the air as well as on the 

I am amused, as I look back, in now per- 
ceiving what an aesthetic view I had of all my 
tutors and companions, — how consistently 
they took to me the aspect of pictures, and 
how I from the first declined giving any atten- 
tion to those which were not well painted 
enough. My ideal of a tutor was founded on 
what Holbein or Durer had represented in 
Erasmus or Melanchthon, or, even more 
solemnly, on Titian's Magnificoes or Boni- 
fazio's Bishops. No presences of that kind 
appeared either in Tom or Peckwater; and 
even Doctor Pusey (who also never spoke to 
me) was not in the least a picturesque or 
tremendous figure, but only a sickly and 
rather ill put together English clerical 
gentleman, who never looked one in the 
face, or appeared aware of the state of the 

230. My own tutor was a dark-eyed, ani- 
mated, pleasant, but not in the least impressive 
person, who walked with an unconscious air 
of assumption, noticeable by us juniors not to 
his advantage. Kynaston was ludicrously like 


a fat schoolboy, llussey, grim and brown 
as I said, somewhat lank, incapable of jest, 
equally incapable of enthusiasm ; for the rest, 
doing his duty thoroughly, and a most esti- 
mable member of the college and university, —  
but to me, a resident calamity far greater than 
1 knew, whose malefic influence I recognize in*- 
memory only. 

Finally, the Dean himself, though venerable 
to me, from the first, in his evident honesty, 
self-respect, and real power of a rough kind, 
was yet in his general aspect too much like 
the sign of the Red Pig which I afterwards 
saw set up in pudding raisins, with black 
currants for eyes, by an imaginative grocer 
in Chartres fair; and in the total bodily and 
ghostly presence of him was to me only a 
rotundly progressive terror, or sternly en- 
throned and niched Anathema. 

There was one tutor, however, out of my 
sphere, who reached my ideal, but disappointed 
my hope, then, — as perhaps his own, since ; —  
a man sorrowfully under the dominion of the 
Greek avdyicr) — the present Dean. He was, 
and is, one of the rarest types of nobly- 
presenced Englishmen, but I fancy it was his 



adverse star that made him an Englishman at 
all — the prosaic and practical element in him 
having prevailed over the sensitive one. He 
was the only man in Oxford among the 
masters of my day who knew anything of art ; 
and his keen saying of Turner, that he ' had 
got hold of a false ideal/ would have been 
infinitely helpful to me at that time, had he 
explained and enforced it. But I suppose he 
did not see enough in me to make him take 
trouble with me, — and, what was much more 
serious, he saw not enough in himself to take 
trouble, in that field, with himself. 

231. There was a more humane and more 
living spirit, however, inhabitant of the north- 
west angle of the Cardinal's Square : and a 
great many of the mischances which were 
only harmful to me through my own folly may 
be justly held, and to the full, counterbalanced 
by that one piece of good fortune, of which I 
had the wit to take advantage. Dr. Buckland 
was a Canon of the Cathedral, and he, with 
his wife and family, were all sensible and 
good-natured, with originality enough in the 
sense of them to give sap and savour to the 
whole college. 


Originality — passing slightly into grotesque- 
ness, and a little diminishing their effective 
power. The Doctor had too much humour 
ever to follow far enough the dull side of a 
subject. Frank was too fond of his bear cub 
to give attention enough to the training of the 
cubbish element in himself; and a day scarcely 
passed without Mit's com-mit-ting herself in 
some manner disapproved by the statelier 
college demoiselles. But all were frank, kind, 
and clever, vital in the highest degree ; to me, 
medicinal and saving. 

Dr. Buckland was extremely like Sydney 
Smith in his staple of character ; no rival with 
him in wit, but like him in humour, common 
sense, and benevolently cheerful doctrine of 
Divinity. At his breakfast-table I met the 
leading scientific men of the day, from Herschel 
downwards, and often intelligent and courteous 
foreigners, — with whom my stutter of French, 
refined by Adele into some precision of accent, 
was sometimes useful. Every one was at 
ease and amused at that breakfast-table, — the 
menu and service of it usually in themselves 
interesting. I have always regretted a day of 
unlucky engagement on which I missed a 


delicate toast of mice ; and remembered, with 
delight, being waited upon one hot summer 
morning by two graceful and polite little Caro- 
lina lizards, who kept off the flies. 

232. I have above noticed the farther and 
incalculable good it was to me that Acland 
took me up in my first and foolishest days, 
and with pretty irony and loving insight, — or, 
rather, sympathy with what was best, and 
blindness to what was worst in me, — gave me 
the good of seeing a noble young English 
life in its purity, sagacity, honour, reckless 
daring, and happy piety ; its English pride 
shining prettily through all, like a girl's in 
her beauty. It is extremely interesting to 
me to contrast the Englishman's silently con- 
scious pride in what he is, with the vexed rest- 
lessness and wretchedness of the Frenchman, 
in his thirst for ' gloire,' to be gained by agon- 
ized effort to become something he is not. 

One day when the Cherwell was running 
deep over one of its most slippery weirs, 
question arising between Acland and me 
whether it were traversable, and I declaring 
it too positively to be impassable, Acland 
instantly took off boot and sock, and walked 


over and back. He ran no risk but of a sound 
ducking, being, of course, a strong swimmer : 
and I suppose him wise enough not to have 
done it had there been real danger. But he 
would certainly have run the margin fine, and 
possessed in its quite highest, and in a certain 
sense, most laughable degree, the constitu- 
tional English serenity in danger, which, with 
the foolish of us, degenerates into delight in 
it, but with the wise, whether soldier or 
physician, is the basis of the most fortunate 
action and swiftest decision of deliberate skill. 
When, thirty years afterwards, Dr. Acland 
was wrecked in the steamer Tyne, off the 
coast of Dorset, the steamer having lain 
wedged on the rocks all night, — no one knew 
what rocks, — and the dawn breaking on half- 
a-mile of dangerous surf between the ship and 
shore, — the officers, in anxious debate, the 
crew, in confusion, the passengers, in hysterics 
or at prayers, were all astonished, and many 
scandalized, at the appearance of Dr. Acland 
from the saloon in punctilious morning dress, 
with the announcement that ' breakfast was 
ready.' To the impatient clamour of indigna- 
tion with which his unsympathetic conduct 

3 1 6 pr,£terita. 

was greeted, he replied by pointing out that 
not a boat could go on shore, far less come 
out from it, in that state of the tide, and that 
in the meantime, as most of them were wet, 
all cold, and at the best must be dragged 
ashore through the surf, if not swim for their 
lives in it, they would be extremely prudent 
to begin the day, as usual, with breakfast. 
The hysterics ceased, the confusion calmed, 
what wits anybody had became available to 
them again, and not a life was ultimately 

233. In all this playful and proud heroism 
of his youth, Henry Acland delighted me as 
a leopard or a falcon would, without in the 
least affecting my own character by his 
example. I had been too often adjured and 
commanded to take care of myself, ever to 
think of following him over slippery weirs, or 
accompanying him in pilot boats through 
white-topped shoal water ; but both in art and 
science he could pull me on, being years ahead 
of me, yet glad of my sympathy, for, till I 
came, he was literally alone in the university 
in caring for either. To Dr. Buckland, geology 
was only the pleasant occupation of his own 


merry life. To Henry Acland physiology 
was an entrusted gospel of which he was the 
solitary and first preacher to the heathen ; and 
already in his undergraduate's room in Canter- 
bury he was designing — a few years later in 
his professional room in Tom quad, he was 
realizing, — the introduction of physiological 
study which has made the university what she 
has now become. 

Indeed, the curious point in Acland's char- 
acter was its early completeness. Already in 
these yet boyish days, his judgment was 
unerring, his aims determined, his powers 
developed ; and had he not, as time went 
on, been bound to the routine of professional 
work, and satisfied in the serenity, not to 
say arrested by the interests, of a beautiful 

home life, it is no use thinking or saying 

what he might have been ; those who know 
him best are the most thankful that he is 
what he is. 

234. Next to Acland, but with a many-feet- 
thick wall between, in my aesthetic choice of 
idols, which required primarily of man or 
woman that they should be comely, before I 
regarded any of their farther qualities, came 


Francis Charteris. I have always held 
Charteris the most ideal Scotsman, and on 
the whole the grandest type of European 
Circassian race hitherto visible to me ; and 
his subtle, effortless, inevitable, unmalicious 
sarcasm, and generally sufficient and available 
sense, gave a constantly natural, and therefore 
inoffensive, hauteur to his delicate beauty. He 
could do what he liked with anyone, — at least 
with anyone of good humour and sympathy ; 
and when one day, the old sub-dean coming 
out of Canterbury gate at the instant Charteris 
was dismounting at it in forbidden pink, and 
Charteris turned serenely to him, as he took 
his foot out of the stirrup, to inform him that 
1 he had been out with the Dean's hounds,' 
the old man and the boy were both alike 

Charteris never failed in anything, but never 
troubled himself about anything. Naturally 
of high ability and activity, he did all he chose 
with ease, — neither had falls in hunting, nor 
toil in reading, nor ambition nor anxiety in 
examination, — nor disgrace in recklessness of 
life. He was partly checked, it may be in 
some measure weakened, by hectic danger in 


his constitution, possibly the real cause of his 
never having made his mark in after life. 

235. The Earl of Desart, next to Charteris, 
interested me most of the men at my table. 
A youth of the same bright promise, and of 
kind disposition, he had less natural activity, 
and less — being Irish, — common sense, than 
the Scot ; and the University made no attempt 
to give him more. It has been the pride of 
recent days to equalize the position, and dis- 
guise the distinction of noble and servitor. 
Perhaps it might have been wiser, instead of 
effacing the distinction, to reverse the manner 
of it. In those days the happy servitor's 
tenure of his college-room and revenue de- 
pended on his industry, while it was the 
privilege of the noble to support with lavish 
gifts the college, from which he expected no 
return, and to buy with sums equivalent to 
his dignity the privileges of rejecting alike its 
instruction and its control. It seems to me 
singular, and little suggestive of sagacity in 
the common English character, that it had 
never occurred to either an old dean, or a 
young duke, that possibly the Church of 
England and the House of Peers might hold 


a different position in the country in years to 
come if the entrance examination had been 
made severer for the rich than the poor ; and 
the nobility and good breeding of a student 
expected to be blazoned consistently by the 
shield on his seal, the tassel on his cap, the 
grace of his conduct, and the accuracy of his 

In the last respect, indeed, Eton and Harrow- 
boys are for ever distinguished, — whether idle 
or industrious in after life, — from youth of 
general England ; but how much of the best 
capacity of her noblesse is lost by her care- 
lessness of their university training, she may 
soon have more serious cause to calculate than 
I am willing to foretell. 

I have little to record of my admired Irish 
fellow-student than that he gave the supper 
at which my freshman's initiation into the 
body of gentlemen-commoners was to be duly 
and formally ratified. Curious glances were 
directed to me under the ordeal of the neces- 
sary toasts, — but it had not occurred to the 
hospitality of my entertainers that I probably 
knew as much about wine as they did. When 
we broke up at the small hours, I helped to 


carry the son of the head of my college down- 
stairs, and walked across Peckwater to my 
own rooms, deliberating, as I went, whether 
there was any immediately practicable trigono- 
metric method of determining whether I was 
walking straight towards the lamp over the 

236. From this time — that is to say, from 
about the third week after I came into resi- 
dence — it began to be recognized that, muff or 
milksop though I might be, I could hold my 
own on occasion ; and in next term, when I 
had to return civilities, that I gave good wine, 
and that of curious quality, without any bush ; 
and saw with good-humour the fruit I had 
sent for from London thrown out of the 
window to the porter's children : farther, that 
I could take any quantity of jests, though I 
could not make one, and could be extremely 
interested in hearing conversation on topics 
I knew nothing about, — to that degree that 
Bob Grimston condescended to take me with 
him one day to a tavern across Magdalen 
Bridge, to hear him elucidate from the land- 
lord some points of the horses entered for 
the Derby, an object only to be properly 
vol. 1. X 


accomplished by sitting with indifference on a 
corner of the kitchen table, and carrying on 
the dialogue with careful pauses, and more 
by winks than words. 

The quieter men of the set were also some 
of them interested in my drawing ; and one 
or two — Scott Murray, for instance, and Lord 
Kildare — were as punctual as I in chapel, and 
had some thoughts concerning college life and 
its issues, which they were glad to share with 
me. In this second year of residence, my 
position in college was thus alike pleasant, and 
satisfactorily to my parents, eminent : and I 
was received without demur into the Christ- 
Church society, which had its quiet club-room 
at the corner of Oriel Lane, looking across to 
the ' beautiful gate ' of St. Mary's ; and on 
whose books were entered the names of most 
of the good men belonging to the upper table 
and its set, who had passed through Christ 
Church for the last ten or twelve years. 

237. Under these luxurious, and — in the 
world's sight — honourable, conditions, my mind 
gradually recovering its tranquillity and spring, 
and making some daily, though infinitesimal, 
progress towards the attainment of common 


sense, I believe that I did harder and better 
work in my college reading than I can at all 
remember. It seems to me now as if I had 
known Thucydides, as I knew Homer (Pope's!), 
since I could spell ; but the fact was, that for 
a youth who had so little Greek to bless him- 
self with at seventeen, to know every syllable 
of his Thucydides at half past eighteen meant 
some steady sitting at it. The perfect honesty 
of the Greek soldier, his high breeding, his 
political insight, and the scorn of construction 
with which he knotted his meaning into a 
rhythmic strength that writhed and wrought 
every way at once, all interested me intensely 
in him as a writer; while his subject, the 
central tragedy of all the world, the suicide 
of Greece, was felt by me with a sympathy 
in which the best powers of my heart and 
brain were brought up to their fullest, for 
my years. 

I open, and lay beside me as I write, the 
perfectly clean and well - preserved third 
volume of Arnold, over which I spent so much 
toil, and burnt with such sorrow ; my close- 
written abstracts still dovetailed into its pages ; 
and read with surprised gratitude the editor's 

324 PRi^TERITA. 

final sentence in the preface dated ' Fox How, 
Ambleside, January, 1835.' 

"Not the wildest extravagance of atheistic 
wickedness in modern times can go further 
than the sophists of Greece went before them. 
Whatever audacity can dare, and subtlety 
contrive, to make the words 'good' and 'evil' 
change their meaning, has been already tried 
in the days of Plato, and by his eloquence, 
and wisdom, and faith unshaken, put to 



238. I MUST yet return, before closing the 
broken record of these first twenty years, to 
one or two scattered days in 1836, when 
things happened which led forward into 
phases of work to be given account of in 
next volume. 

I cannot find the date of my father's buying 
his first Copley Fielding, — ' Between King's 
House and Inveroran, Argyllshire.' It cost a 
tremendous sum, for us — forty-seven guineas ; 
and the day it came home was a festa, and 
many a day after, in looking at it, and fancy- 
ing the hills and the rain were real. 

My father and I were in absolute sympathy 

about Copley Fielding, and I could find it in 

my heart now to wish I had lived at the 

Land's End, and never seen any art but 

Prout's and his. We were very much set up 

at making his acquaintance, and then very 



happy in it : the modestest of presidents he 
was ; the simplest of painters, without a 
vestige of romance, but the purest love of daily 
sunshine and the constant hills. Fancy him, 
while Stanfield and Harding and Roberts 
were grand-touring in Italy, and Sicily, and 
Stiria, and Bohemia, and Illyria, and the Alps, 
and the Pyrenees, and the Sierra Morena, — 
Fielding never crossing to Calais, but year 
after year returning to Saddleback and Ben 
Venue, or, less ambitious yet, to Sandgate 
and the Sussex Downs. 

239. The drawings I made in 1835 were 
really interesting even to artists, and ap- 
peared promising enough to my father to justify 
him in promoting me from Mr. Runciman's 
tutelage to the higher privileges of art-instruc- 
tion. Lessons from any of the members of 
the Water-Colour Society cost a guinea, and 
six were supposed to have efficiency for the 
production of an adequately skilled water- 
colour amateur. There was, of course, no 
question by what master they should be given ; 
and I know not whether papa or I most en- 
joyed the six hours in Newman Street : my 
father's intense delight in Fielding's work 


making it a real pleasure to the painter that 
he should stay chatting while I had my lesson. 
Nor was my father's talk (if he could be got 
to talk) unworthy any painter's attention, 
though he never put out his strength but in 
writing. I chance in good time on a letter 
from Northcote in 1830, showing how much 
value the old painter put on my father's judg- 
ment of a piece of literary work which remains 
classical to this day, and is indeed the best 
piece of existing criticism founded on the 
principles of Sir Joshua's school : 

240. 'DEAR Sir, — I received your most 
kind and consoling letter, yet I was very sorry 
to find you had been so ill, but hope you 
have now recovered your health. The praise 
you are so good as to bestow on me and 
the Volume of Conversations gives me more 
pleasure than perhaps you apprehend, as the 
book was published against my consent, and, 
in its first appearance in the magazines, totally 
without my knowledge. I have done all in 
my power to prevent its coming before the 
public, because there are several hard and 
cruel opinions of persons that I would not 



have them see in a printed book ; besides that, 
Hazlitt, although a man of real abilities, yet 
had a desire to give pain to others, and has 
also frequently exaggerated that which I had 
said in confidence to him. However, I thank 
God that this book, which made me tremble at 
its coming before the world, is received with 


unexpected favour A to my part, and the 
approbation of a mind like yours give {sic — 
short for " cannot but give ") me the greatest 
consolation I can receive, and sets my mind 
more at ease. 

' Please to present my respectful compli- 
ments to Mrs. Ruskin, who I hope is well, 
and kind remembrances to your son. 
' I remain always, dear Sir, 

• Your most obliged friend * 
'And very humble servant, 
'James Northcote. 

'Argyll House, 
' October \2>th, 1830. 
' To John J. Ruskin, Esq.' 

* In memory of the quiet old man who thus honoured us 
with his friendship, and in most true sense of their value, I 
hope to reprint the parts of the Conversations which I think 
he would have wished to be preserved. 


241. And thus the proposed six lessons in 
Newman Street ran on into perhaps eight or 
nine, during which Copley Fielding taught me 
to wash colour smoothly in successive tints, to 
shade cobalt through pink madder into yellow 
ochre for skies, to use a broken scraggy touch 
for the tops of mountains, to represent calm 
lakes by broad strips of shade with lines of 
light between them (usually at about the 
distance of the lines of this print), to produce 
dark clouds and rain with twelve or twenty 
successive washes, and to crumble burnt 
umber with a dry brush for foliage and fore- 
ground. With these instructions, I succeeded 
in copying a drawing which Fielding made 
before me, some twelve inches by nine, of 
Ben Venue and the Trosachs, with brown 
cows standing in Loch Achray, so much to 
my own satisfaction that I put my work up 
over my bedroom chimney-piece the last thing 
at night, and woke to its contemplation in the 
morning with a rapture, mixed of self-com- 
placency and the sense of new faculty, in 
which I floated all that day, as in a newly-dis- 
covered and strongly buoyant species of air. 

In a very little while, however, I found that 


this great first step did not mean consistent pro- 
gress at the same pace. I saw that my washes, 
however careful or multitudinous, did not in 
the end look as smooth as Fielding's, and that 
my crumblings of burnt umber became uninte- 
resting after a certain number of repetitions. 

With still greater discouragement, I per- 
ceived the Fielding processes to be inappli- 
cable to the Alps. My scraggy touches did 
not to my satisfaction represent aiguilles, nor 
my ruled lines of shade, the Lake of Geneva. 
The water-colour drawing was abandoned, 
with a dim under-current of feeling that I had 
no gift for it, — and in truth I had none for 
colour arrangement, — and the pencil outline 
returned to with resolute energy. 

242. I had never, up to this time, seen a 
Turner drawing, and scarcely know whether 
to lay to the score of dulness, or prudence, 
the tranquillity in which I copied the engrav- 
ings of the Rogers vignettes, without so much 
as once asking where the originals were. The 
facts being that they lay at the bottom of an 
old drawer in Queen Anne Street, inaccessible 
to me as the bottom of the sea, — and that, 
if I had seen them, they would only have 


destroyed my pleasure in the engravings,— 
my rest in these was at least fortunate : and 
the more I consider of this and other such 
forms of failure in what most people would 
call laudable curiosity, the more I am disposed 
to regard with thankfulness, and even respect, 
the habits which have remained with me 
during life, of always working resignedly at 
the thing under my hand till I could do it, 
and looking exclusively at the thing before 
my eyes till I could see it. 

On the other hand, the Academy Turners 
were too far beyond all hope of imitation to 
disturb me, and the impressions they produced 
before 1836 were confused; many of them, 
like the Quilleboeuf, or- the ' Keelmen heaving 
in coals,' being of little charm in colour; and 
the Fountain of Indolence, or Golden Bough, 
perhaps seeming to me already fantastic, beside 
the naturalism of Landseer, and the human in- 
terest and intelligible finish of Wilkie. 

243. But in 1836 Turner exhibited three 
pictures, in which the characteristics of his 
later manner were developed with his best 
skill and enthusiasm : Juliet and her Nurse, 
Rome from Mount Aventine, and Mercury and 

3 3 2 PR.ETERITA. 

Argus. His freak in placing Juliet at Venice 
instead of Verona, and the mysteries of lamp- 
light and rockets with which he had disguised 
Venice herself, gave occasion to an article in 
Blackwood's Magazine of sufficiently telling 
ribaldry, expressing, with some force, and ex- 
treme discourtesy, the feelings of the pupils of 
Sir George Beaumont at the appearance of 
these unaccredited views of Nature. 

The review raised me to the height of 
'black anger' in which I have remained pretty 
nearly ever since ; and having by that time 
some confidence in my power of words, and — " 
not merely judgment, but sincere experience — 
of the charm of Turner's work, I wrote an 
answer to Blackwood, of which I wish I could 
now find any fragment. But my father 
thought it right to ask Turner's leave for its 
publication ; it was copied in my best hand ; 
and sent to Queen Anne Street, and the old 
man returned kindly answer, as follows : — 

'47, Queen Ann (sic) Street West, 
« October 6t/i. 1836. 

'My DEAR Sir, — I beg to thank you for 
your zeal, kindness, and the trouble you have 


taken in my behalf, in regard of the criticism 
of Blackwood's Magazine for October, respect- 
ing my works ; but I never move in these 
matters, they are of no import save mischief 
and the meal tub, which Maga fears for by 
my having invaded the flour tub. 

' P.S. — If you wish to have the manuscript 
back, have the goodness to let me know. If 
not, with your sanction, I will send it on to 
the possessor of the picture of Juliet.' 

I cannot give the signature of this letter, 
which has been cut off for some friend ! In 
later years it used to be, to my father, ' Yours 
most truly/ and to me, ' Yours truly.' 

The ' possessor of the picture ' was Mr. 
Munro of Novar, who never spoke to me of 
the first chapter of ' Modern Painters ' thus 
coming into his hands. Nor did I ever care 
to ask him about it ; and still, for a year or 
two longer, I persevered in the study of 
Turner engravings only, and the use of Copley 
Fielding's method for such efforts at colour 
as I made on the vacation journeys during 
Oxford days. 

244. We made three tours in those 

334 pRjETErita. 

summers, without crossing Channel. In 1837, 
to Yoikshire and the Lakes ; in 1838, to Scot- 
land ; in 1839, to Cornwall. 

On the journey of 1837, when I was 
eighteen, I felt, for the last time, the pure 
childish love of nature which Wordsworth so 
idly takes for an intimation of immortality. 
We went down by the North Road, as usual ; 
and on the fourth day arrived at Catterick 
Bridge, where there is a clear pebble-bedded 
stream, and both west and east some rising 
of hills, foretelling the moorlands and dells of 
upland Yorkshire ; and there the feeling came 
back to me — as it could never return more. 

It is a feeling only possible to youth, for 
all care, regret, or knowledge of evil destroys 
it ; and it requires also the full sensibility of 
nerve and blood, the conscious strength of 
heart, and hope; not but that I suppose the 
purity of youth may feel what is best of it 
even through sickness and the waiting for 
death ; but only in thinking death itself God's 

245. In myself, it has always been quite 
exclusively confined to wild, that is to say, 
wholly natural places, and especially to scenery 



animated by streams, or by the sea. The 
sense of the freedom, spontaneous, unpolluted 
power of nature was essential in it. I enjoyed 
a lawn, a garden, a daisied field, a quiet pond, 
as other children do; but by the side of 
Wandel, or on the downs of Sandgate, or by 
a Yorkshire stream under a cliff, I was dif- 
ferent from other children, that ever I have 
noticed: but the feeling cannot be described 
by any of us that have it. Wordsworth's 
1 haunted me like a passion ' is no description 
of it, for it is not like, but is, a passion ; the 
point is to define how it differs from other 
passions, — what sort of human, pre-eminently 
human, feeling it is that loves a stone for a 
stone's sake, and a cloud for a cloud's. A 
monkey loves a monkey for a monkey's sake, 
and a nut for the kernel's, but not a stone for 
a stone's. I took stones for bread, but not 
certainly at the Devil's bidding. 

I was different, be it once more said, from 
other children even of my own type, not so 
much in the actual nature of the feeling, but 
in the mixture of it. I had, in my little clay 
pitcher, vialfuls, as it were, of Wordsworth's 
reverence, Shelley's sensitiveness, Turner's 


\1 accuracy, all in one. A snowdrop was to me, 
1 as to Wordsworth, part of the Sermon on the 
mount ; but I never should have written 
sonnets to the celandine, because it is of a 
coarse yellow, and imperfect form. With 
Shelley, I loved blue sky and blue eyes, but 
never in the least confused the heavens with 
my own poor little Psychidion. And the 
reverence and passion were alike kept in 
their places by the constructive Turnerian 
element ; and I did not weary myself in wish- 
ing that a daisy could see the beauty of its 
shadow, but in trying to draw the shadow 
rightly, myself. 

246. But so stubborn and chemically in- 
alterable the laws of the prescription were, 
that now, looking back from 1886 to that 
brook shore of 1837, whence I could see the 
whole of my youth, I find myself in nothing 
whatsoever changed. Some of me is dead, 
more of me stronger. I have learned a few 
things, forgotten many ; in the total of me, 
I am but the same youth, disappointed and 

And in illustration of this stubbornness, not 
by stiffening of the wood with age, but in the 


structure of the pith, let me insist a minute 
or two more on the curious joy I felt in 1837 
in returning to the haunts of boyhood. No 
boy could possibly have been more excited 
than I was by seeing Italy and the Alps ; 
neither boy nor man ever knew better the 
difference between a Cumberland cottage and 
Venetian palace, or a Cumberland stream and 
the Rhone : — my very knowledge of this dif- 
ference will be found next year expressing 
itself in the first bit of promising literary 
work I ever did; but, after all the furious 
excitement and wild joy of the Continent, the 
coming back to a Yorkshire streamside felt 
like returning to heaven. We went on into 
well known Cumberland ; my father took me 
up Scawfell and Helvellyn, with a clever 
Keswick guide, who knew mineralogy, Mr. 
Wright ; and the summer passed beneficently 
and peacefully. 

247. A little incident which happened, I 
fancy in the beginning of '38, shows that I 
had thus recovered some tranquillity and 
sense, and might at that time have been 
settled down to simple and healthy life, easily 

enough, had my parents seen the chance. 
vol. 1. Y 


I forgot to say, when speaking of Mr. and 
Mrs. Richard Gray, that, when I was a child, 
my mother had another religious friend, who 
lived just at the top of Camberwell Grove, 
or between it and the White Gate, — Mrs. 
Withers ; an extremely amiable and charitable 
person, with whom my mother organized, I 
imagine, such schemes of almsgiving as her 
own housekeeping prevented her seeing to 
herself. Mr. Withers was a coal-merchant, 
ultimately not a successful one. Of him I 
remember only a reddish and rather vacant 
face ; of Mrs. Withers, no material aspect, 
only the above vague but certain facts; and 
that she was a familiar element in my mother's 
life, dying out of it however without much 
notice or miss, before I was old enough to 
get any clear notion of her. 

In this spring of '38, however, the widowed 
Mr. Withers, having by that time retired to 
the rural districts in reduced circumstances, 
came up to town on some small vestige of 
carboniferous business, bringing his only 
daughter with him to show my mother; — 
who, for a wonder, asked her to stay with 
us, while her father visited his umquwhile 


clientage at the coal-wharves. Charlotte 
Withers was a fragile, fair, freckled, sensitive 
slip of a girl about sixteen ; graceful in an 
unfinished and small wild-flower sort of a 
way, extremely intelligent, affectionate, wholly 
right-minded, and mild in piety. An alto- 
gether sweet and delicate creature of ordinary 
sort, not pretty, but quite pleasant to see, 
especially if her eyes were looking your way, 
and her mind with them. 

248. We got to like each other in a mildly 
confidential way in the course of a week. 
We disputed on the relative dignities of music 
and painting; and I wrote an essay nine 
foolscap pages long, proposing the entire 
establishment of my own opinions, and the 
total discomfiture and overthrow of hers, ac- 
cording to my usual manner of paying court 
to my mistresses. Charlotte Withers, how- 
ever, thought I did her great honour, and 
carried away the essay as if it had been a 
school prize. 

And, as I said, if my father and mother had 
chosen to keep her a month longer, we should 
have fallen quite melodiously and quietly in 
love ; and they might have given rae an 



excellently pleasant little wife, and set me up, 
geology and all, in the coal business, without 
any resistance or farther trouble on my part. 
I don't suppose the idea ever occurred to 
them ; Charlotte was not the kind of person 
they proposed for me. So Charlotte went 
away at the week's end, when her father was 
ready for her. I walked with her to Camber- 
well Green, and we said good-bye, rather 
sorrowfully, at the corner of the New Road ; 
and that possibility of meek happiness van- 
ished for ever. A little while afterwards, her 
father ' negotiated ' a marriage for her with a 
well-to-do Newcastle trader, whom she took 
because she was bid. He treated her pretty 
much as one of his coal sacks, and in a year 
or two she died. 

249. Very dimly, and rather against my 
own will, the incident showed me what my 
mother had once or twice observed to me, to 
my immense indignation, that Adele was not 
the only girl in the world ; and my enjoyment 
of our tour in the Trosachs was not described 
in any more Byronian heroics ; the tragedy 
also having been given up, because, when I 
had described a gondola, a bravo, the heroine 


Bianca, and moonlight on the Grand Canal, 

I found I had not much more to say. 

Scott's country took me at last well out of 

it all. It is of little use to the reader now 

to tell him that still at that date the shore 

of Loch Katrine, at the east extremity of the 

lake, was exactly as Scott had seen it, and 


' Onward, amid the copse 'gan peep, 
A narrow inlet, still and deep.' 

In literal and lovely truth, that was so : — by 
the side of the footpath (it was no more) 
which wound through the Trosachs, deep 
and calm under the blaeberry bushes, a dark 
winding clear-brown pool, not five feet wide 
at first, reflected the entangled moss of its 
margin, and arch of branches above, with 
scarcely a gleam of sky. 

That inlet of Loch Katrine was in itself an 
extremely rare thing; I have never myself 
seen the like of it in lake shores. A winding 
recess of deep water, without any entering 
stream to account for it — possible only, I 
imagine, among rocks of the quite abnormal 
confusion of the Trosachs; and besides the 
natural sweetness and wonder of it, made 

3 4 2 PR^TERITA. 

sacred by the most beautiful poem that Scot- 
land ever sang by her stream sides. And all 
that the nineteenth century conceived of wise 
and right to do with this piece of mountain 
inheritance, was to thrust the nose of a 
steamer into it, plank its blaeberries over with 
a platform, and drive the populace headlong 
past it as fast as they can scuffle. 

It had been well for me if I had climbed 
Ben Venue and Ben Ledi, hammer in hand, 
as Scawfell and Helvellyn. But I had given 
myself some literary work instead, to which 
I was farther urged by the sight of Roslyn 
and Melrose. 

250. The idea had come into my head in 
the summer of '37, and, I imagine, rose imme- 
diately out of my sense of the contrast between 
the cottages of Westmoreland and those of 
Italy. Anyhow, the November number of 
Loudon's Architectural Magazine for 1837 
opens with ' Introduction to the Poetry of 
Architecture ; or, The Architecture of the 
Nations of Europe considered in its Asso- 
ciation with Natural Scenery and National 
Character,' by Kataphusin. I could not have 
put in fewer, or more inclusive words, the 


definition of what half nay future life was to 
be spent in discoursing of; while the nom-de- 
plume I chose, 'According to Nature/ was 
equally expressive of the temper in which I 
was to discourse alike on that and every other 
subject. The adoption of a nom-de-plume at 
all, implied (as also the concealment of name 
on the first publication of ' Modern Painters ') 
a sense of a power of judgment in myself, 
which it would not have been becoming in a 
youth of eighteen to claim..- Had either my 
father or tutor then said to me, ' Write as it is 
becoming in a youth to write, — let the reader 
discover what you know, and be persuaded to 
what you judge,' I perhaps might not now have 
been ashamed of my youth's essays. Had 
they said to me more sternly, ' Hold your 
tongue till you need not ask the reader's con- 
descension in listening to you,' I might per- 
haps have been satisfied with my work when 
it was mature. 

As it is, these youthful essays, though 
deformed by assumption, and shallow in 
contents, are curiously right up to the points 
they reach ; and already distinguished above 
most of the literature of the time, for the skill 



of language which the public at once felt for 
a pleasant gift in me. 

251. I have above said that had it not been 
for constant reading of the Bible, I might 
probably have taken Johnson for my model of 
English. To a useful extent I have always 
done so; in these first essays, partly because 
I could not help it, partly of set, and well set, 

On our foreign journeys, it being of course 
desirable to keep the luggage as light as 
possible, my father had judged that four 
little volumes of Johnson — the Idler and the 
Rambler — did, under names wholly appro- 
priate to the circumstances, contain more 
substantial literary nourishment than could 
be, from any other author, packed into so 
portable compass. And accordingly, in spare 
hours, and on wet days, the turns and returns of 
reiterated Rambler and iterated Idler fastened 
themselves in my ears and mind ; nor was it 
possible for me, till long afterwards, to quit 
myself of Johnsonian symmetry and balance in 
sentences intended, either with swordsman's or 
paviour's blow, to cleave an enemy's crest, or 
drive down the oaken pile of a principle. I 


never for an instant compared Johnson to 
Scott, Pope, Byron, or any of the really 
great writers whom I loved. But I at once 
and for ever recognized in him a man entirely 
sincere, and infallibly wise in the view and 
estimate he gave of the common questions, 
business, and ways of the world. I valued 
his sentences not primarily because they were 
symmetrical, but because they were just, and 
clear; it is a method of judgment rarely used 
by the average public, who ask from an author 
always, in the first place, arguments in favour 
of their own opinions, in elegant terms ; and 
are just as ready with their applause for a 
sentence of Macaulay's, which may have no 
more sense in it than a blot pinched between 
doubled paper, as to reject one of Johnson's, 
telling against their own prejudice, — though 
its symmetry be as of thunder answering from 
two horizons. 

252. 1 hold it more than happy that, during 
those continental journeys, in which the vivid 
excitement of the greater part of the day left 
me glad to give spare half-hours to the study 
of a thoughtful book, Johnson was the one 
author accessible to me. No other writer 



could have secured me, as he did, against 
all chance of being misled by my own san- 
guine and metaphysical temperament. He 
taught me carefully to measure life, and dis- 
trust fortune ; and he secured me, by his 
adamantine common -sense, for ever, from 
being caught in the cobwebs of German meta- 
physics, or sloughed in the English drainage 
of them. 

I open, at this moment, the larger of the 
volumes of the Idler to which I owe so much. 
After turning over a few leaves, I chance on 
the closing sentence of No. 65, which tran- 
scribing, I may show the reader in sum what 
it taught me, — in words which, writing this 
account of myself, I conclusively obey. 

' Of these learned men, let those who aspire 
to the same praise imitate the diligence, and 
avoid the scrupulosity. Let it be always re- 
membered that life is short, that knowledge 
is endless, and that many doubts deserve not 
to be cleared. Let those whom nature and 
study have qualified to teach mankind, tell 
us what they have learned while they are 
yet able to tell it, and trust their reputation 
only to themselves.' 


It is impossible for me now to know how 
far my own honest desire for truth, and com- 
passionate sense of what is instantly helpful 
to creatures who are every instant perishing, 
might have brought me, in their own time, 
to think and judge as Johnson thought and 
measured, — even had I never learned of him. 
He at least set me in the straight path from 
the beginning, and, whatever time I might 
waste in vain pleasure, or weak effort, he 
saved me for ever from false thoughts and 
futile speculations. 

253. Why, I know not, for Mr. Loudon 
was certainly not tired of me, the Kataphusin 
papers close abruptly, as if their business was 
at its natural end, without a word of allusion 
in any part of them, or apology for the want 
of allusion, to the higher forms of civil and 
religious architecture. I find, indeed, a casual 
indication of some ulterior purpose in a pon- 
derous sentence of the paper on the West- 
moreland cottage, announcing that ' it will be 
seen hereafter, when we leave the lowly valley 
for the torn ravine, and the grassy knoll for 
the ribbed precipice, that if the continental 
architects cannot adorn the pasture with the 


humble roof, they can crest the crag with 
eternal battlements.' But this magnificent 
promise ends in nothing more tremendous 
than a 'chapter on chimneys,' illustrated, as 
I find this morning to my extreme surprise, 
by a fairly good drawing of the building 
which is now the principal feature in the view 
from my study window, — Coniston Hall. 

On the whole, however, these papers, 
written at intervals during 1838, indicate a 
fairly progressive and rightly consolidated 
range of thought on these subjects, within the 
chrysalid torpor of me. 

254. From the Trosachs we drove to Edin- 
burgh : and, somewhere on the road near 
Linlithgow, my father, reading some letters 
got by that day's post, coolly announced to 
my mother and me that Mr. Domecq was 
going to bring his four daughters to England 
again, to finish their schooling at New Hall, 
near Chelmsford. 

And I am unconscious of anything more in 
that journey, or of anything after it, until I 
found myself driving down to Chelmsford. 
My mother had no business of course to take 
me with her to pay a visit in a convent ; but 


I suppose felt it would be too cruel to leave 
me behind. The young ladies were allowed 
a chat with us in the parlour, and invited 
(with acceptance) to spend their vacations 
always at Heme Hill. And so began a 
second aera of that part of my life which is 
not ' worthy of memory,' but only of the 
4 Guarda e Passa.' 

There was some solace during my autumnal 
studies in thinking that she was really in 
England, really over there, — I could see the 
sky over Chelmsford from my study window, 
— and that she was shut up in a convent and 
couldn't be seen by anybody, or spoken to, 
but by nuns ; and that perhaps she wouldn't 
quite like it, and would like to come to Heme 
Hill again, and bear with me a little. 

255. I wonder mightily now what sort of 
a creature I should have turned out, if at this 
time Love had been with me instead of 
against me; and instead of the distracting 
and useless pain, I had had the joy of ap- 
proved love, and the untellable, incalculable 
motive of its sympathy and praise. 

It seems to me such things are not allowed 
in this world. The men capable of the 


highest imaginative passion are always tossed 
on fiery waves by it : the men who find it 
smooth water, and not scalding, are of another 
sort. My father's second clerk, Mr. Ritchie, 
wrote unfeelingly to his colleague, bachelor 
Henry, who would not marry for his mother's 
and sister's sakes, " If you want to know 
what happiness is, get a wife, and half a 
dozen children, and come to Margate." But 
Mr. Ritchie remained all his life nothing more 
than a portly gentleman with gooseberry eyes, 
of the Irvingite persuasion. 

There must be great happiness in the love- 
matches of the typical English squire. Yet 
English squires make their happy lives only 
a portion for foxes. 

256. Of course, when Adele and her sisters 
came back at Christmas, and stayed with us 
four or five weeks, every feeling and folly 
that had been subdued or forgotten, returned 
in redoubled force. I don't know what would 
have happened if Adele had been a perfectly 
beautiful and amiable girl, and had herself in 
the least liked me. I suppose then my 
mother would have been overcome. But 
though extremely lovely at fifteen, Adele was 


not prettier than French girls in general at 
eighteen; she was firm, and fiery, and high 
principled; but, as the light traits already 
noticed of her enough show, not in the least 
amiable; and although she would have mar- 
ried me, had her father wished it, was always 
glad to have me out of her way. My love 
was much too high and fantastic to be di- 
minished by her loss of beauty; but I per- 
fectly well saw and admitted it, having never 
at any time been in the slightest degree 
blinded by love, as I perceive other men are, 
out of my critic nature. And day followed 
on day, and month to month, of complex 
absurdity, pain, error, wasted affection, and 
rewardless semi-virtue, which I am content 
to sweep out of the way of what better things 
I can recollect at this time, into the smallest 
possible size of dust heap, and wish the 
Dustman Oblivion good clearance of them. 

With this one general note, concerning 
children's conduct to their parents, that a 
great quantity of external and irksome obedi- 
ence may be shown them, which virtually 
is no obedience, because it is not cheerful 
and total. The wish to disobey is already 


disobedience ; and although at this time I was 
really doing a great many things I did not 
like, to please my parents, I have not now 
one self-approving thought or consolation in 
having done so, so much did its sullenness and 
maimedness pollute the meagre sacrifice. 

257. But, before I quit, for this time, the 
field of romance, let me write the epitaph of 
one of its sweet shadows, which some who 
knew the shadow may be glad I should write. 
The ground floor, under my father's counting- 
house at Billiter Street, I have already said 
was occupied by Messrs. Wardell & Co. The 
head of this firm was an extremely intelligent 
and refined elderly gentleman, darkish, with 
spiritedly curling and projecting dark hair, 
and bright eyes ; good-natured and amiable in 
a high degree, well educated, not over wise, 
alwaj's well pleased with himself, happy in 
a sensible wife, and a very beautiful, and 
entirely gentle and good, only daughter. Not 
over wise, I repeat, but an excellent man of 
business ; older, and, I suppose, already con- 
siderably richer, than my father. He had a 
handsome house at Hampstead, and spared no 
pains on his daughter's education. 




It must have been some time about this 
year 1839, or the previous one, that my father 
having been deploring to Mr. Wardell the 
discomfortable state of mind I had got into 
about Adele, Mr. Wardell proposed to him 
to try whether some slight diversion of my 
thoughts might not be effected by a visit to 
Hampstead. My father's fancy was still set 
on Lady Clara Vere de Vere; but Miss 
Wardell was everything that a girl should be, 
and an heiress, — of perhaps something more 
than my own fortune was likely to come to. 
And the two fathers agreed that nothing could 
be more fit, rational, and desirable, than such 
an arrangement. So I was sent to pass a 
summer afternoon, and dine at Hampstead. 

258. It would have been an extremely 
delightful afternoon for any youth not a 
simpleton. Miss Wardell had often enough 
heard me spoken of by her father as a well- 
conducted 3'outh, already of some literary 
reputation — author of the ' Poetry of Architec- 
ture ' — winner of the Newdigate, — First class 
man in expectation. She herself had been 
brought up in a way closely resembling my 

own, in severe seclusion by devoted parents, 
vol. 1. z 


at a suburban villa with a pretty garden, to 
skip, and gather flowers, in. The chief dif- 
ference was that, from the first, Miss Wardell 
had had excellent masters, and was now an 
extremely accomplished, intelligent, and fault- 
less maid of seventeen ; fragile and delicate 
to a degree enhancing her beauty with some 
solemnity of fear, yet in perfect health, as far as 
a fast-growing girl could be ; a softly moulded 
slender brunette, with her father's dark curl- 
ing hair transfigured into playful grace round 
the pretty, modest, not unthoughtful, gray- 
eyed face. Of the afternoon at Hampstead, 
1 remember only that it was a fine day, and 
that we walked in the garden ; mamma, as her 
mere duty to me in politeness at a first visit, 
superintending, — it would have been wiser to 
have left us to get on how we could. I very 
heartily and reverently admired the pretty 
creature, and would fain have done, or said, 
anything I could to please her. Literally to 
please her, for that is, indeed, my hope with i 
all girls, in spite of what I have above related 
of my mistaken ways of recommending myself. 
My primary thought is how to serve them, 
and make them happy, and if they could use 


me for a plank bridge over a stream, or set 
me up for a post to tie a swing to, or anything 
of the sort not requiring me to talk, I should 
be always quite happy in such promotion. 
This sincere devotion to them, with intense 
delight in whatever beauty or grace they 
chance to have, and in most cases, perceptive 
sympathy, heightened by faith in their right 
feelings, for the most part gives me consider- 
able power with girls : but all this prevents 
me from ever being in the least at ease with 
them, — and I have no doubt that during the 
whole afternoon at Hampstead, I gave little 
pleasure to my companion. For the rest, 
though I extremely admired Miss Wardell, 
she was not my sort of beauty. I like oval 
j faces, crystalline blonde, with straightish, at 
i the utmost wavy, (or, in length, wreathed) 
t hair, and the form elastic, and foot firm. 
j Miss Wardell's dark and tender grace had 
n no power over me, except to make me ex- 
c tremely afraid of being tiresome to her. On 
Ci the whole, I suppose I came off pretty well, for 
__ she afterwards allowed herself to be brought 
5l out to Heme Hill to see the pictures, and 
so on ; and I recollect her looking a little 

3 5^ PRiETERlTA. 

frightenedly pleased at my kneeling down to 
hold a book for her, or some such matter. 

259. After this second interview, however, 
my father and mother asking me seriously 
what I thought of her, and I explaining to 
them that though I saw all her beauty, and 
merit, and niceness, she yet was not my sort 
of girl, — the negotiations went no farther at 
that time, and a little while after, were ended 
for all time ; for at Hampstead they went on 
teaching the tender creature High German, 
and French of Paris, and Kant's Metaphysics, 
and Newton's Principia ; and then they took 
her to Paris, and tired her out with seeing 
everything every day, all day long, besides the 
dazzle and excitement of such a first outing 
from Hampstead ; and she at last getting too 
pale and weak, they brought her back to 
some English seaside place, I forget where : 
and there she fell into nervous fever and 
faded away, with the light of death flickering 
clearer and clearer in her soft eyes, and never 
skipped in Hampstead garden more. 

How the parents, especially the father, 
lived on, I never could understand ; but I 
suppose they were honestly religious without 


talking of it, and they had nothing to blame 
themselves in, except not having known 
better. The father, though with grave lines 
altering his face for ever, went steadily on 
with his business, and lived to be old. 

260. I cannot be sure of the date of either 
Miss Withers' or Miss Wardell's death ; that 
of Sybilla Dowie (told in Fors), more sad 
than either, was much later ; but the loss 
of her sweet spirit, following her lover's, had 
been felt by us before the time of which I am 
now writing. I had never myself seen Death, 
nor had an}' part in the grief or anxiety of a 
sick chamber; nor had I ever seen, far less 
conceived, the misery of unaided poverty. 
But I had been made to think of it ; and in 
the deaths of the creatures whom I had reen 
joyful, the sense of deep pity, not sorrow for 
myself, but for them, began to mingle with all ; 
the thoughts, which, founded on the Homeric, 
./Eschylean, and Shakespearian tragedy, had 
now begun to modify the untried faith of 
childhood. The blue of the mountains be- 
came deep to me with the purple of mourning, 
— the clouds that gather round the setting 
51m, not subdued, but raised in awe as the 

3 5 8 PR^TERITA. 

harmonies of a Miserere, — and all the strength 
and framework of my mind, lurid, like the 
vaults of Roslyn, when weird fire gleamed 
on its pillars, foliage-bound, and far in the 
depth of twilight, ' blazed every rose-carved 
buttress fair.' 



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