Front Page Titles (by Subject) THIRD PERIOD. TO THE AGE OF THIRTY. - Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, vol. 1
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THIRD PERIOD. TO THE AGE OF THIRTY. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 1 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 1.
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I returned home in April, 1819, and continued to reside in Norwich till November, 1832. These thirteen years, extending from my entering upon womanhood to my complete establishment in an independent position, as to occupation and the management of my own life, seem to form a marked period of themselves; and I shall treat them in that way.
My eldest sister’s marriage in 1820 made young women at once of Rachel and myself. It was on all accounts a happy event, though we dreaded excessively the loss of her from home, which she eminently graced. But never did woman grow in grace more remarkably than she did by her marriage. When she had found her own heart, it proved a truly noble one; and the generosity, sweetness, and wisdom of her whole conduct towards her own children showed that her mistakes in her treatment of us were merely the crudities of inexperience. I may say, once for all, that her home at Newcastle was ever open to us, and that all possible kindness from her hospitable husband and herself was always at our command, without hindrance or difficulty, till my recovery from a hopeless illness, in 1844, by Mesmerism, proved too much for the natural prejudice of a surgeon and a surgeon’s wife, and caused, by the help of the ill-offices of another relation, a family breach, as absurd as it was lamentable. My sister was then under the early symptoms of her last illness; and matters might have ended more happily if she had been in her usual state of health and nerve, as they certainly would if advantage had not been taken of her natural irritation against Mesmerism to gratify in another jealousies to which she was herself far superior. My own certainty of this, and my grateful remembrance of the long course of years during which I enjoyed her friendship and generosity, and her cordial sympathy in my aims and successes, incline me to pass over her final alienation, and dwell upon the affectionate intercourse we enjoyed, at frequent intervals, for twenty years from her marriage day.
Our revered and beloved eldest brother had, by this time, settled in Norwich as a surgeon, in partnership with our uncle, Mr. P. M. Martineau, the most eminent provincial surgeon of his day, — in some departments, if not altogether. My brother’s health was delicate, and we were to lose him by death in five years. One of the sweetest recollections of my life is that I had the honour and blessing of his intimate friendship, which grew and deepened from my sister’s marriage to the time of his own death. My mother, too, took me into her confidence more and more as my mind opened, and, I may add, as my deafness increased, and bespoke for me her motherly sympathy. For some years, indeed, there was a genuine and cordial friendship between my mother and me, which was a benefit to me in all manner of ways; and, from the time when I began to have literary enterprises, (and quite as much before I obtained success as after) I was sustained by her trustful, generous, self-denying sympathy and maternal appreciation. After a time, when she was fretted by cares and infirmities, I became as nervous in regard to her as ever, (even to the entire breaking down of my health;) but during the whole period of which I am now treating, — (and it is a very large space in my life) — there were no limitations to our mutual confidence.
One other relation which reached its highest point, and had begun to decline, during this period was one which I must abstain from discussing. The briefest possible notice will be the best method of treatment. All who have ever known me are aware that the strongest passion I have ever entertained was in regard to my youngest brother, who has certainly filled the largest space in the life of my affections of any person whatever. Now, the fact, — the painful fact, — in the history of human affections is that, of all natural relations, the least satisfactory is the fraternal. Brothers are to sisters what sisters can never be to brothers as objects of engrossing and devoted affection. The law of their frames is answerable for this: and that other law — of equity — which sisters are bound to obey, requires that they should not render their account of their disappointments where there can be no fair reply. Under the same law, sisters are bound to remember that they cannot be certain of their own fitness to render an account of their own disappointments, or to form an estimate of the share of blame which may be due to themselves on the score of unreasonable expectations. These general considerations decide me to pass over one of the main relations and influences of my life in a few brief and unsatisfactory lines, though I might tell a very particular tale. If I could see a more truthful, just, and satisfactory method of treating the topic, I should most gladly adopt it. — As for the other members of our numerous family, I am thankful and rejoiced to bear testimony that they have given all possible encouragement to the labours of my life; and that they have been the foremost of all the world to appreciate and rejoice in my successes, and to respect that independence of judgment and action on my part which must often have given them pain, and which would have overpowered any generosity less deeply rooted in principle and affection than theirs.
When I was young, it was not thought proper for young ladies to study very conspicuously; and especially with pen in hand. Young ladies (at least in provincial towns) were expected to sit down in the parlour to sew, — during which reading aloud was permitted, — or to practice their music; but so as to be fit to receive callers, without any signs of blue-stockingism which could be reported abroad. Jane Austen herself, the Queen of novelists, the immortal creator of Anne Elliott, Mr. Knightley, and a score or two more of unrivalled intimate friends of the whole public, was compelled by the feelings of her family to cover up her manuscripts with a large piece of muslin work, kept on the table for the purpose, whenever any genteel people came in. So it was with other young ladies, for some time after Jane Austen was in her grave; and thus my first studies in philosophy were carried on with great care and reserve. I was at the work table regularly after breakfast, — making my own clothes, or the shirts of the household, or about some fancy work: I went out walking with the rest, — before dinner in winter, and after tea in summer: and if ever I shut myself into my own room for an hour of solitude, I knew it was at the risk of being sent for to join the sewing-circle, or to read aloud, — I being the reader, on account of my growing deafness. But I won time for what my heart was set upon, nevertheless, — either in the early morning, or late at night. I had a strange passion for translating, in those days; and a good preparation it proved for the subsequent work of my life. Now, it was meeting James at seven in the morning to read Lowth’s Prelections in the Latin, after having been busy since five about something else, in my own room. Now it was translating Tacitus, in order to try what was the utmost compression of style that I could attain. — About this I may mention an incident while it occurs. We had all grown up with a great reverence for Mrs. Barbauld (which she fully deserved from much wiser people than ourselves) and, reflectively, for Dr. Aikin, her brother, — also able in his way, and far more industrious, but without her genius. Among a multitude of other labours, Dr. Aikin had translated the Agricola of Tacitus. I went into such an enthusiasm over the original, and especially over the celebrated concluding passage, that I thought I would translate it, and correct it by Dr. Aikin’s, which I could procure from our public library. I did it, and found my own translation unquestionably the best of the two. I had spent an infinity of pains over it, — word by word; and I am confident I was not wrong in my judgment. I stood pained and mortified before my desk, I remember, thinking how strange and small a matter was human achievement, if Dr. Aikin’s fame was to be taken as a testimony of literary desert. I had beaten him whom I had taken for my master. I need not point out that, in the first place, Dr. Aikin’s fame did not hang on this particular work; nor that, in the second place, I had exaggerated his fame by our sectarian estimate of him. I give the incident as a curious little piece of personal experience, and one which helped to make me like literary labour more for its own sake, and less for its rewards, than I might otherwise have done. — Well: to return to my translating propensities. Our cousin J. M. L., then studying for his profession in Norwich, used to read Italian with Rachel and me, — also before breakfast. We made some considerable progress, through the usual course of prose authors and poets; and out of this grew a fit which Rachel and I at one time took, in concert with our companions and neighbours, the C.’s, to translate Petrarch. Nothing could be better as an exercise in composition than translating Petrarch’s sonnets into English of the same limits. It was putting ourselves under compulsion to do with the Italian what I had set myself voluntarily to do with the Latin author. I believe we really succeeded pretty well; and I am sure that all these exercises were a singularly apt preparation for my after work. At the same time, I went on studying Blair’s Rhetoric (for want of a better guide) and inclining mightily to every kind of book or process which could improve my literary skill, — really as if I had foreseen how I was to spend my life.
These were not, however, my most precious or serious studies. I studied the Bible incessantly and immensely; both by daily reading of chapters, after the approved but mischievous method, and by getting hold of all commentaries and works of elucidation that I could lay my hands on. A work of Dr. Carpenter’s, begun but never finished, called “Notes and Observations on the Gospel History,” which his catechumens used in class, first put me on this track of study, — the results of which appeared some years afterwards in my “Traditions of Palestine.” It was while reading Mr. Kenrick’s translation from the German of “Helon’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” with which I was thoroughly bewitched, that I conceived, and communicated to James, the audacious idea of giving a somewhat resembling account of the Jews and their country, under the immediate expectation of the Messiah, and even in his presence, while carefully abstaining from permitting more than his shadow to pass over the scene. This idea I cherished till I found courage, under a new inspiration some years after, to execute it: and so pleasant was the original suggestion, and so congenial the subject altogether, that even now, at the distance of a quarter of a century, I regard that little volume with a stronger affection than any other of my works but one; — that one being “Eastern Life.”
Dr. Carpenter was inclined also to the study of philosophy, and wrote on it, — on mental and moral philosophy; and this was enough, putting all predisposition out of the question, to determine me to the study. He was of the Locke and Hartley school altogether, as his articles on “Mental and Moral Philosophy,” in Rees’s Cyclopedia, and his work on “Systematic Education” show. He used to speak of Hartley as one who had the intellectual qualities of the seraphic order combined with the affections of the cherubic; and it was no wonder if Hartley became my idol when I was mistress of my own course of study. I must clear myself from all charge of having ever entertained his doctrine of Vibrations. I do not believe that Dr. Carpenter himself could have prevailed with me so far as that. But neither did Hartley prevail with Dr. Carpenter so far as that. The edition of Hartley that I used was Dr. Priestley’s, — that which gives the philosophy of Association, cleared from the incumbrance of the Vibration theory. That book I studied with a fervour and perseverance which made it perhaps the most important book in the world to me, except the bible; and there really is in it, amidst its monstrous deficiencies and absurdities, so much that is philosophically true, as well as holy, elevating and charming, that its influence might very well spread into all the events and experience of life, and chasten the habits and feelings, as it did in my case during a long series of years. So far from feeling, as Dr. Channing and other good men have done, that the influence of that philosophy is necessarily, in all cases, debasing, I am confident at this moment that the spirit of the men, Locke and Hartley, redeems much of the fault of their doctrine in its operation on young minds; and moreover, that the conscientious accuracy with which they apply their doctrine to the moral conduct of the smallest particulars of human life (Hartley particularly) forms a far better discipline, and produces a much more exalting effect on the minds of students than the vague metaphysical imaginations, — as various and irreconcilable as the minds that give them forth, which Dr. Channing and his spiritual school adopted (or believed that they adopted) as a “spiritual philosophy.” I know this, — that while I read the Germans, Americans and English who are the received exponents of that philosophy with a general and extremely vague sense of elevation and beauty as the highest emotion produced, I cannot at this hour look at the portrait of Hartley prefixed to his work, or glance at his strange Scholia, — which I could almost repeat, word for word, — without a strong revival of the old mood of earnest desire of self-discipline, and devotion to duty which I derived from them in my youth. While the one school has little advantage over the other in the abstract department of their philosophy, the disciples of Hartley have infinitely the advantage over the dreaming school in their master’s presentment of the concrete department of fact and of action. Compelled as I have since been to relinquish both as philosophy, I am bound to avow, (and enjoy the avowal) that I owe to Hartley the strongest and best stimulus and discipline of the highest affections and most important habits that it is perhaps possible, (or was possible for me) to derive from any book. — The study of Priestley’s character and works (natural to me because he was the great apostle of Unitarianism) necessarily led me to the study of the Scotch school of philosophy, which I took the liberty to enjoy in its own way, in spite of Priestley’s contempt of it. I never believed in it, because it was really inconceivable to me how anybody should; and I was moreover entirely wrong in not perceiving that the Scotch philosophers had got hold of a fragment of sound truth which the other school had missed, — in their postulate of a fundamental complete faculty, which could serve as a basis of the mind’s operations, — whereas Hartley lays down simply the principle of association, and a capacity for pleasure and pain. I ought to have perceived that the Scotch proposition of Common Sense would answer much better for purposes of interpretation, if I had not yet knowledge enough to show me that it was much nearer the fact of the case. I did not perceive this, but talked as flippantly as Priestley, with far less right to do so. At the same time, I surrendered myself, to a considerable extent, to the charm of Dugald Stewart’s writings, — having no doubt that Priestley, if then living, would have done so too. About Beattie and Reid I was pert enough, from a genuine feeling of the unsatisfactoriness of their writings; but the truth of detail scattered through Dugald Stewart’s elegant elucidations, the gentle and happy spirit, and the beautiful style, charmed me so much that I must have been among his most affectionate disciples, if I had not been fortified against his seductions by my devotion to Hartley.
It appears to me now that, though my prevailing weakness in study is excessive sympathy, intellectual as well as moral, with my author, I even then felt something of the need which long after became all-powerful in me, of a clear distinction between the knowable and the unknowable, — of some available indication of an indisputable point of view, whence one’s contemplation of human nature, as of every thing else in the universe, should make its range. It may be that I am carrying back too far in my life this sense of need. When I consider how contentedly I went on, during the whole of this third period, floating and floundering among metaphysical imaginations, and giving forth inbred conceptions as truths of fact, I am disposed to think it probable that I am casting back the light of a later time among the mists of an earlier, and supposing myself sooner capable than I really was of practically distinguishing between a conception and a conviction. But there can be no mistake about the time and manner of my laying hold of a genuine conviction in a genuine manner, as I will presently tell. It would no doubt have been a fine thing for me, — an event which would have elevated my whole after-life, — if a teacher had been at hand to show me the boundary line between the knowable and the unknowable, as I see it now, and to indicate to me that the purely human view of the universe, derived solely from within, and proceeding on the supposition that Man and his affairs and his world are the centre and crown of the universe, could not possibly be the true one. But, in the absence of such a teacher, — in my inability to see the real scope and final operation of the discovery of Copernicus and Galileo, — and the ultimate connexion of physical and moral science, — it was the next best thing, perhaps, to obtain by my own forces, and for my own use, the grand conviction which henceforth gave to my life whatever it has had of steadiness, consistency, and progressiveness.
I have told how, when I was eleven years old, I put a question to my brother about the old difficulty of foreknowledge and freewill, — the reconciliation of God’s power and benevolence, — and how I was baulked of an answer. That question had been in my mind ever since; and I was not driven from entertaining it by Milton’s account of its being a favourite controversy in hell, nor even by a rebuke administered to one of our family by Mr. Turner of Newcastle, who disapproved inquiry into what he took for granted to be an unknowable thing. To me it seemed, turn it which way I would, to be certainly a knowable thing, — so closely as it presses on human morality, — to say nothing of man’s religion and internal peace. Its being reconcilable with theology is quite another affair. I tried long to satisfy myself with the ordinary subterfuge; — with declaring myself satisfied that good comes out of evil, and a kind of good which could accrue in no other way: but this would not do. I wrote religious poetry upon it, and wrought myself up to it in talk: but it would not do. This was no solution; and it was unworthy of a rational being to pretend to think it so. I tried acquiescence and dismissal of the subject; but that would not do, because it brought after it a clear admission of the failure of the scheme of creation in the first place, and of the Christian scheme in the next. The time I am now speaking of was, of course, prior to my study of Priestley and of Hartley, or I should have known that there was a recognised doctrine of Necessity.
One summer afternoon, when my brother James (then my oracle) was sitting with my mother and me, telling us some of his experience after his first session at the York College (the Unitarian college) I seized upon some intimation that he dropped about this same doctrine of Necessity. I uttered the difficulty which had lain in my mind for so many years; and he just informed me that there was, or was held to be, a solution in that direction, and advised me to make it out for myself. I did so. From that time the question possessed me. Now that I had got leave, as it were, to apply the Necessarian solution, I did it incessantly. I fairly laid hold of the conception of general laws, while still far from being prepared to let go the notion of a special Providence. Though at times almost overwhelmed by the vastness of the view opened to me, and by the prodigious change requisite in my moral views and self-management, the revolution was safely gone through. My labouring brain and beating heart grew quiet, and something more like peace than I had ever yet known settled down upon my anxious mind. Being aware of my weakness of undue sympathy with authors whom I read with any moral interest, I resolved to read nothing on this question till I had thought it out; and I kept to my resolve. When I was wholly satisfied, and could use my new method of interpretation in all cases that occurred with readiness and ease, I read every book that I could hear of on the subject of the Will; and I need not add that I derived confirmation from all I read on both sides. I am bound to add that the moral effect of this process was most salutary and cheering. From the time when I became convinced of the certainty of the action of laws, of the true importance of good influences and good habits, of the firmness, in short, of the ground I was treading, and of the security of the results which I should take the right means to attain, a new vigour pervaded my whole life, a new light spread through my mind, and I began to experience a steady growth in self-command, courage, and consequent integrity and disinterestedness. I was feeble and selfish enough at best; but yet, I was like a new creature in the strength of a sound conviction. Life also was like something fresh and wonderfully interesting, now that I held in my hand this key whereby to interpret some of the most conspicuous of its mysteries.
That great event in my life seems very remote; and I have been hearing more or less of the free-will difficulty ever since; and yet it appears to me, now as then, that none but Necessarians at all understand the Necessarian doctrine. This is merely saying in other words that its truth is so irresistible that, when once understood, it is adopted as a matter of course. Some, no doubt, say of the doctrine that every body can prove it, but nobody believes it; an assertion so far from true as not to be worth contesting, if I may judge by my own intercourses. Certainly, all the best minds I know are among the Necessarians; — all indeed which are qualified to discuss the subject at all. Moreover, all the world is practically Necessarian. All human action proceeds on the supposition that all the workings of the universe are governed by laws which cannot be broken by human will. In fact, the mistake of the majority in this matter is usually in supposing an interference between the will and the action of Man. The very smallest amount of science is enough to enable any rational person to see that the constitution and action of the human faculty of Will are determined by influences beyond the control of the possessor of the faculty: and when this very plain fact is denied in words it is usually because the denier is thinking of something else, — not of the faculty of willing, but of executing the volition. It is not my business here to argue out a question which has been settled in my own mind for the greater part of my life; but I have said thus much in explanation of the great importance of the conviction to me. For above thirty years I have seen more and more clearly how awful, and how irremediable except by the spread of a true philosophy, are the evils which arise from that monstrous remnant of old superstition, — the supposition of a self-determining power, independent of laws, in the human will; and I can truly say that if I have had the blessing of any available strength under sorrow, perplexity, sickness and toil, during a life which has been any thing but easy, it is owing to my repose upon eternal and irreversible laws, working in every department of the universe, without any interference from any random will, human or divine. — As to the ordinary objection to the doctrine, — that it is good for endurance but bad for action, — besides the obvious reply that every doctrine is to be accepted or rejected for its truth or falsehood, and not because mere human beings fancy its tendency to be good or bad, — I am bound to reply from my own experience that the allegation is not true. My life has been (whatever else) a very busy one; and this conviction, of the invariable action of fixed laws, has certainly been the main-spring of my activity. When it is considered that, according to the Necessarian doctrine, no action fails to produce effects, and no effort can be lost, there seems every reason for the conclusion which I have no doubt is the fact, that true Necessarians must be the most diligent and confident of all workers. The indolent dreamers whom I happen to know are those who find an excuse for their idleness in the doctrine of free-will, which certainly leaves but scanty encouragement to exertion of any sort: and at the same time, the noblest activity that I ever witness, the most cheerful and self-denying toil, is on the part of those who hold the Necessarian doctrine as a vital conviction.
As to the effect of that conviction on my religion, in those days of my fanaticism and afterwards, I had better give some account of it here, though it will lead me on to a date beyond the limits of this third period of my life. — In the first place, it appeared to me when I was twenty, as it appears to me now, that the New Testament proceeds on the ground of necessarian, rather than free-will doctrine. The prayer for daily bread is there, it is true; but the Lord’s prayer is compiled from very ancient materials of the theocratic age. The fatalistic element of the Essene doctrine strongly pervades the doctrine and morality of Christ and the apostles; and its curious union with the doctrine of a special providence is possible only under the theocratic supposition which is the basis of the whole faith. — As for me, I seized upon the necessarian element with eagerness, as enabling me to hold to my cherished faith; and I presently perceived, and took instant advantage of the discovery, that the practice of prayer, as prevailing throughout Christendom, is wholly unauthorised by the New Testament. Christian prayer, as prevailing at this day, answers precisely to the description of that pharisaic prayer which Christ reprobated. His own method of praying, the prayer he gave to his disciples, and their practice, were all wholly unlike any thing now understood by Christian prayer, in protestant as well as catholic countries. I changed my method accordingly, — gradually, perhaps, but beginning immediately and decidedly. Not knowing what was good for me, and being sure that every external thing would come to pass just the same, whether I liked it or not, I ceased to desire, and therefore to pray for, any thing external, — whether “daily bread,” or health, or life for myself or others, or any thing whatever but spiritual good. There I for a long time drew the line. Many years after I had outgrown the childishness of wishing for I knew not what, — of praying for what might be either good or evil, — I continued to pray for spiritual benefits. I can hardly say for spiritual aid; for I took the necessarian view of even the higher form of prayer, — that it brought about, or might bring about, its own accomplishment by the spiritual dispositions which it excited and cherished. This view is so far from simple, and so irreconcilable with the notion of a revelation of a scheme of salvation, that it is clear that the one or the other view must soon give way. The process in my case was this. A long series of grave misfortunes brought me to the conviction that there is no saying beforehand what the external conditions of internal peace really are. I found myself now and then in the loftiest moods of cheerfulness when in the midst of circumstances which I had most dreaded, and the converse; and thus I grew to be, generally speaking, really and truly careless as to what became of me. I had cast off the torment of fear, except in occasional weak moments. This experience presently extended to my spiritual affairs. I found myself best, according to all trustworthy tests of goodness, when I cared least about the matter. I continued my practice of nightly examination of my hourly conduct; and the evidence grew wonderfully strong that moral advancement came out of good influences rather than self-management; and that even so much self-reference as was involved in “working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling” was demoralizing. Thus I arrived, — after long years, — at the same point of ease or resignation about my spiritual as my temporal affairs, and felt that (to use a broad expression uttered by somebody) it was better to take the chance of being damned than be always quacking one’s self in the fear of it. (Not that I had any literal notion of being damned, — any more than any other born and bred Unitarian.) What I could not desire for myself, I could not think of stipulating for for others; and thus, in regard to petition, my prayers became simply an aspiration, — “Thy will be done!” But still, the department of praise remained. I need hardly say that I soon drew back in shame from offering to a Divine being a homage which would be offensive to an earthly one: and when this practice was over, my devotions consisted in aspiration, — very frequent and heartfelt, — under all circumstances and influences, and much as I meditate now, almost hourly, on the mysteries of life and the universe, and the great science and art of human duty. In proportion as the taint of fear and desire and self-regard fell off, and the meditation had fact instead of passion for its subject, the aspiration became freer and sweeter, till at length, when the selfish superstition had wholly gone out of it, it spread its charm through every change of every waking hour, — and does now, when life itself is expiring.
As to the effect that all this had on my belief in Christianity, — it did not prevent my holding on in that pseudo-acceptance of it which my Unitarian breeding rendered easy. It was a grand discovery to me when I somewhere met with the indication, (since become a rather favourite topic with Unitarian preachers) that the fact of the miracles has nothing whatever to do with the quality of the doctrine. When miracles are appealed to by the Orthodox as a proof of, not only the supernatural origin, but the divine quality of the doctrine, the obvious answer is that devils may work miracles, and the doctrine may therefore be from hell. Such was the argument in Christ’s time; and such is it now among a good many protestants, — horrifying the Catholics and High-Churchmen of our time as much as it horrified the evangelists of old. The use to which it is turned by many who still call themselves Unitarians, and to which it was applied by me is, — the holding to Christianity in a manner as a revelation, after surrendering belief in the miracles. I suppose the majority of Unitarians still accept all the miracles (except the Miraculous Conception, of course) — even to the withering away of the figtree. Some hold to the resurrection, while giving up all the rest; and not a few do as I did, — say that the interior evidence of a divine origin of that doctrine is enough, and that no amount of miracles could strengthen their faith. It is clear however that a Christianity which never was received as a scheme of salvation, — which never was regarded as essential to salvation, — which might be treated, in respect to its records, at the will and pleasure of each believer, — which is next declared to be independent of its external evidences, because those evidences are found to be untenable, — and which is finally subjected in its doctrines, as in its letter, to the interpretation of each individual, — must cease to be a faith, and become a matter of speculation, of spiritual convenience, and of intellectual and moral taste, till it declines to the rank of a mere fact in the history of mankind. These are the gradations through which I passed. It took many years to travel through them; and I lingered long in the stages of speculation and taste, intellectual and moral. But at length I recognised the monstrous superstition in its true character of a great fact in the history of the race, and found myself, with the last link of my chain snapped, — a free rover on the broad, bright breezy common of the universe.
At this time, — (I think it must have been in 1821,) was my first appearance in print. I had some early aspirations after authorship, — judging by an anecdote which hangs in my memory, though I believe I never thought about it, more or less, while undergoing that preparation which I have described in my account of my studies and translations. When I was assorting and tabulating scripture texts, in the way I described some way back, I one day told my mother, in a moment of confidence, that I hoped it might be printed, and make a book, and then I should be an authoress. My mother, pleased, I believe, with the aspiration, told my eldest sister; and she, in an unfortunate moment of contempt, twitted me with my conceit in fancying I could be an authoress; whereupon I instantly resolved “never to tell any body any thing again.” How this resolution was kept it is rather amusing now to consider, seeing that of all people in the world, I have perhaps the fewest reserves. The ambition seems to have disappeared from that time; and when I did attempt to write, it was at the suggestion of another, and against my own judgment and inclination. My brother James, then my idolized companion, discovered how wretched I was when he left me for his college, after the vacation; and he told me that I must not permit myself to be so miserable. He advised me to take refuge, on each occasion, in a new pursuit; and on that particular occasion, in an attempt at authorship. I said, as usual, that I would if he would: to which he answered that it would never do for him, a young student, to rush into print before the eyes of his tutors; but he desired me to write something that was in my head, and try my chance with it in the “Monthly Repository,” — the poor little Unitarian periodical in which I have mentioned that Talfourd tried his young powers. What James desired, I always did, as of course; and after he had left me to my widowhood soon after six o’clock, one bright September morning, I was at my desk before seven, beginning a letter to the Editor of the “Monthly Repository,” — that editor being the formidable prime minister of his sect, — Rev. Robert Aspland. I suppose I must tell what that first paper was, though I had much rather not; for I am so heartily ashamed of the whole business as never to have looked at the article since the first flutter of it went off. It was on Female Writers on Practical Divinity. I wrote away, in my abominable scrawl of those days, on foolscap paper, feeling mightily like a fool all the time. I told no one, and carried my expensive packet to the post-office myself, to pay the postage. I took the letter V for my signature, — I cannot at all remember why. The time was very near the end of the month: I had no definite expectation that I should ever hear any thing of my paper; and certainly did not suppose it could be in the forthcoming number. That number was sent in before service-time on a Sunday morning. My heart may have been beating when I laid hands on it; but it thumped prodigiously when I saw my article there, and, in the Notices to Correspondents, a request to hear more from V. of Norwich. There is certainly something entirely peculiar in the sensation of seeing one’sself in print for the first time: — the lines burn themselves in upon the brain in a way of which black ink is incapable, in any other mode. So I felt that day, when I went about with my secret. — I have said what my eldest brother was to us, — in what reverence we held him. He was just married, and he and his bride asked me to return from chapel with them to tea. After tea he said, “Come now, we have had plenty of talk; I will read you something;” and he held out his hand for the new “Repository.” After glancing at it, he exclaimed, “They have got a new hand here. Listen.” After a paragraph, he repeated, “Ah! this is a new hand; they have had nothing so good as this for a long while.” (It would be impossible to convey to any who do not know the “Monthly Repository” of that day, how very small a compliment this was.) I was silent, of course. At the end of the first column, he exclaimed about the style, looking at me in some wonder at my being as still as a mouse. Next (and well I remember his tone, and thrill to it still) his words were — “What a fine sentence that is! Why, do you not think so?” I mumbled out, sillily enough, that it did not seem any thing particular. “Then,” said he, “you were not listening. I will read it again. There now!” As he still got nothing out of me, he turned round upon me, as we sat side by side on the sofa, with “Harriet, what is the matter with you? I never knew you so slow to praise any thing before.” I replied, in utter confusion, — “I never could baffle any body. The truth is, that paper is mine.” He made no reply; read on in silence, and spoke no more till I was on my feet to come away. He then laid his hand on my shoulder, and said gravely (calling me “dear” for the first time) “Now, dear, leave it to other women to make shirts and darn stockings; and do you devote yourself to this.” I went home in a sort of dream, so that the squares of the pavement seemed to float before my eyes. That evening made me an authoress.
It was not all so glorious, however. I immediately after began to write my first work, — “Devotional Exercises,” of which I now remember nothing. But I remember my brother’s anxious doubting looks, in which I discerned some disappointment, as he read the M.S. I remember his gentle hints about precision and arrangement of ideas, given with the utmost care not to discourage me; and I understood the significance of his praise of the concluding essay (in a letter from Madeira, where he was closing his precious life) — praise of the definiteness of object in that essay, which, as he observed, furnished the key to his doubts about the rest of the book, and which he conveyed only from an anxious desire that I should work my way up to the high reputation which he felt I was destined to attain. This just and gentle treatment, contrasting with the early discouragements which had confused my own judgment, affected me inexpressibly. I took these hints to heart in trying my hand at a sort of theologico-metaphysical novel, which I entered upon with a notion of enlightening the world through the same kind of interest as was then excited by Mr. Ward’s novel, “Tremaine,” which was making a prodigious noise, and which perfectly enchanted me, except by its bad philosophy. I mightily enjoyed the prospect of this work, as did my mother; and I was flattered by finding that Rachel had higher expectations from it than even my own. But, at the end of half a volume, I became aware that it was excessively dull, and I stopped. Many years afterwards I burned it; and this is the only piece of my work but two (and a review) in my whole career that never was published.
Already I found that it would not do to copy what I wrote; and here (at the outset of this novel) I discontinued the practice for ever, — thus saving an immense amount of time which I humbly think is wasted by other authors. The prevalent doctrine about revision and copying, and especially Miss Edgeworth’s account of her method of writing, — scribbling first, then submitting her manuscript to her father, and copying and altering many times over till, (if I remember right) no one paragraph of her “Leonora” stood at last as it did at first, — made me suppose copying and alteration to be indispensable. But I immediately found that there was no use in copying if I did not alter; and that, if ever I did alter, I had to change back again; and I, once for all, committed myself to a single copy. I believe the only writings I ever copied were “Devotional Exercises,” and my first tale; — a trumpery story called “Christmas Day.” It seemed clear to me that distinctness and precision must be lost if alterations were made in a different state of mind from that which suggested the first utterance; and I was delighted when, long afterwards, I met with Cobbett’s advice; — to know first what you want to say, and then say it in the first words that occur to you. The excellence of Cobbett’s style, and the manifest falling off of Miss Edgeworth’s after her father’s death (so frankly avowed by herself) were strong confirmations of my own experience. I have since, more than once, weakly fallen into mannerism, — now metaphysically elliptical, — now poetically amplified, and even, in one instance, bordering on the Carlylish; but through all this folly, as well as since having a style of my own, — (that is, finding expression by words as easy as breathing air) — I have always used the same method in writing. I have always made sure of what I meant to say, and then written it down without care or anxiety, — glancing at it again only to see if any words were omitted or repeated, and not altering a single phrase in a whole work. I mention this because I think I perceive that great mischief arises from the notion that botching in the second place will compensate for carelessness in the first. I think I perceive that confusion of thought, and cloudiness or affectation in style are produced or aggravated by faulty prepossessions in regard to the method of writing for the press. The mere saving of time and labour in my own case may be regarded as no inconsiderable addition to my term of life. — Some modifications of this doctrine there must of course be in accordance with the strength or weakness of the natural faculty of expression by language: but I speak as strongly as I have just done because I have no reason to believe that the natural aptitude was particularly strong in myself. I believe that such facility as I have enjoyed has been mainly owing to my unconscious preparatory discipline; and especially in the practice of translation from various languages, as above related. And, again, after seeing the manuscripts or proof-sheets of many of the chief authors of my own time, I am qualified to say that the most marked mannerists of their day are precisely those whose manuscripts show most erasures, and their proof-sheets most alterations.
I have said that it was through a long train of calamities that I learned some valuable truths and habits. Those calamities were now coming fast upon me. In 1820, my deafness was suddenly encreased by what might be called an accident, which I do not wish to describe. I ought undoubtedly to have begun at that time to use a trumpet; but no one pressed it upon me; and I do not know that, if urged, I should have yielded; for I had abundance of that false shame which hinders nine deaf people out of ten from doing their duty in that particular. The redeeming quality of personal infirmity is that it brings its special duty with it; but this privilege waits long to be recognised. The special duty of the deaf is, in the first place, to spare other people as much fatigue as possible; and, in the next, to preserve their own natural capacity for sound, and habit of receiving it, and true memory of it, as long as possible. It was long before I saw, or fully admitted this to myself; and it was ten years from this time before I began to use a trumpet. Thus, I have felt myself qualified to say more in the way of exhortation and remonstrance to deaf people than could be said by any one who had not only never been deaf, but had never shared the selfish and morbid feelings which are the ordinary attendant curses of suffering so absolutely peculiar as that of personal infirmity.
Next, our beloved brother, who had always shown a tendency to consumption, ruptured a blood-vessel in the lungs, and had to give up his practice and professional offices, and to go, first into Devonshire, and afterwards to Madeira, whence he never returned. He died at sea, on his way home. I went with him and his wife into Devonshire, for the spring of 1823; and it was my office to read aloud for many hours of every day, which I did with great satisfaction, and with inestimable profit from his comments and unsurpassed conversation. Before breakfast, and while he enjoyed his classical reading on the sofa, I rambled about the neighbourhood of Torquay, — sometimes sketching, sometimes reading, sometimes studying the sea from the shelter of the caves, and, on the whole, learning to see nature, under those grave circumstances, with new eyes. Soon after our return, their child was born; and never was infant more beloved. It was my great solace during the dreary season of dismantling that home which we had had so much delight in forming, and sending those from us who were the joy of our lives. It was then that I learned the lesson I spoke of, — of our peace of mind being, at least in times of crisis, independent of external circumstances. Day by day, I had been silently growing more heartsick at the prospect of the parting; and I especially dreaded the night before; — the going to bed, with the thoughtful night before me, after seeing every thing packed, and knowing that the task of the coming day was the parting. Yet that night was one of the happiest of my life. It is easy to conceive what the process of thought was, and what the character of the religious emotion which so elevated me. The lesson was a sound one, whatever might be the virtue of the thoughts and feelings involved. The next day, all was over at length. I was the last who held the dear baby, — even to the moment of his being put into the carriage. The voyage was injurious to him; and it was probably the cause of his death, which took place soon after reaching Madeira. There was something peaceful, and very salutary in the next winter, though it could not reasonably be called a very happy one. There was a close mutual reliance between my mother and myself, — my sister Rachel being absent, and our precious little Ellen, the family darling, at school. We kept up a close correspondence with our absent ones; and there were the beautiful Madeira letters always to look for. I remember reading Clarendon’s Rebellion aloud to my mother in the evenings; and we took regular walks in all weathers. I had my own troubles and anxieties, however. A dream had passed before me since the visit of a student friend of my brother James’s, which some words of my father’s and mother’s had strengthened into hope and trust. This hope was destined to be crushed for a time in two hearts by the evil offices of one who had much to answer for in what he did. This winter was part of the time of suspense. Under my somewhat heavy troubles my health had some time before begun to give way; and now I was suffering from digestive derangement which was not cured for four years after; and then only after severe and daily pain from chronic inflammation of the stomach. Still, with an ailing body, an anxious and often aching heart, and a mind which dreaded looking into the future, I regarded this winter of 1823-4 as a happy one; — the secret of which I believe to have been that I felt myself beloved at home, and enjoyed the keen relish of duties growing out of domestic love. At the end of the next June, my brother died. We were all prepared for the event, as far as preparation is ever possible; but my dear father, the most unselfish of men, who never spoke of his own feelings, and always considered other people’s, never, we think, recovered from this grief. He was very quiet at the time; but his health began to go wrong, and his countenance to alter; and during the two remaining years of his life, he sustained a succession of cares which might have broken down a frame less predisposed for disease than his had become. In our remembrance of him there is no pain on the ground of any thing in his character. Humble, simple, upright, self-denying, affectionate to as many people as possible, and kindly to all, he gave no pain, and did all the good he could. He had not the advantage of an adequate education; but there was a natural shrewdness about him which partly compensated for the want. He was not the less, but the more, anxious to give his children the advantages which he had never received; and the whole family have always felt that they owe a boundless debt of gratitude to both their parents for the self-sacrificing efforts they made, through all the vicissitudes of the times, to fit their children in the best possible manner for independent action in life. My father’s business, that of a Norwich manufacturer, was subject to the fluctuations to which all manufacture was liable during the war, and to others of its own; and our parents’ method was to have no reserves from their children, to let us know precisely the state of their affairs, and to hold out to us, in the light of this evidence, the probability that we might sooner or later have to work for our own living, — daughters as well as sons, — and that it was improbable that we should ever be rich. The time was approaching which was to prove the wisdom of their method. My father’s business, never a very enriching one, had been for some time prosperous; and this year (1824) he indulged my brother James and myself with a journey; — a walking tour in Scotland, in the course of which we walked five hundred miles in a month. I am certainly of opinion now that that trip aggravated my stomach-complaint; and I only wonder it was no worse. I spent the next winter with my married sister, my sister-in-law, and other friends, and returned to Norwich in April, to undergo long months, — even years — of anxiety and grief.
In the reviews of my “History of the Thirty Years’ Peace,” one chapter is noticed more emphatically than all the rest; — the chapter on the speculations, collapse, and crash of 1825 and 1826. If that chapter is written with some energy, it is no wonder; for our family fortunes were implicated in that desperate struggle, and its issue determined the whole course of life of the younger members of our family, — my own among the rest. One point on which my narrative in the History is emphatic is the hardship on the sober man of business of being involved in the destruction which overtook the speculator; and I had family and personal reasons for saying this. My father never speculated; but he was well nigh ruined during that calamitous season by the deterioration in value of his stock. His stock of manufactured goods was larger, of course, than it would have been in a time of less enterprise; and week by week its value declined, till, in the middle of the winter, when the banks were crashing down all over England, we began to contemplate absolute ruin. My father was evidently a dying man; — not from anxiety of mind, for his liver disease was found to be owing to obstruction caused by a prodigious gall-stone: but his illness was no doubt aggravated and rendered more harassing by his cares for his family. In the spring he was sent to Cheltenham, whence he returned after some weeks with the impression of approaching death on his face. He altered his Will, mournfully reducing the portions left to his daughters to something which could barely be called an independence. Then, three weeks before his death, he wisely, and to our great relief, dismissed the whole subject. He told my brother Henry, his partner in the business, that he had done what he could while he could: that he was now a dying man, and could be of no further use in the struggle, and that he wished to keep his mind easy for his few remaining days: so he desired to see no more letters of business, and to hear no more details. For a few more days, he sunned himself on the grass-plat in the garden, in the warm June mornings: then could not leave the house; then could not come down stairs; and, towards the end of the month died quietly, with all his family round his bed. — As for my share in this family experience, — it was delightful to me that he took an affectionate pleasure in my poor little book, — of value to me now for that alone, — “Addresses, Prayers and Hymns, for the use of families and school.” It was going through the press at that time; and great was my father’s satisfaction; and high were his hopes, I believe, of what I should one day be and do. Otherwise, I have little comfort in thinking of his last illness. The old habit of fear came upon me, more irresistibly than ever, on the assembling of the family; and I mourn to think how I kept out of the way, whenever it was possible, and how little I said to my father of what was in my heart about him and my feelings towards him. The more easily his humility was satisfied with whatever share of good fell to him, the more richly he should have been ministered to. By me he was not, — owing to this unhappy shyness. My married sister, who was an incomparable nurse, did the duty of others besides her own; and mine among the rest, while I was sorrowing and bitterly chiding myself in silence, and perhaps in apparent insensibility.
And now my own special trial was at hand. It is not necessary to go into detail about it. The news which got abroad that we had grown comparatively poor, — and the evident certainty that we were never likely to be rich, so wrought upon the mind of one friend as to break down the mischief which I have referred to as caused by ill-offices. My friend had believed me rich, was generous about making me a poor man’s wife, and had been discouraged in more ways than one. He now came to me, and we were soon virtually engaged. I was at first very anxious and unhappy. My veneration for his morale was such that I felt that I dared not undertake the charge of his happiness: and yet I dared not refuse, because I saw it would be his death blow. I was ill, — I was deaf, — I was in an entangled state of mind between conflicting duties and some lower considerations; and many a time did I wish, in my fear that I should fail, that I had never seen him. I am far from wishing that now; — now that the beauty of his goodness remains to me, clear of all painful regrets. But there was a fearful period to pass through. Just when I was growing happy, surmounting my fears and doubts, and enjoying his attachment, the consequences of his long struggle and suspense overtook him. He became suddenly insane; and after months of illness of body and mind, he died. The calamity was aggravated to me by the unaccountable insults I received from his family, whom I had never seen. Years afterwards, when his sister and I met, the mystery was explained. His family had been given to understand, by cautious insinuations, that I was actually engaged to another, while receiving my friend’s addresses! There has never been any doubt in my mind that, considering what I was in those days, it was happiest for us both that our union was prevented by any means. I am, in truth, very thankful for not having married at all. I have never since been tempted, nor have suffered any thing at all in relation to that matter which is held to be all-important to woman, — love and marriage. Nothing, I mean, beyond occasional annoyance, presently disposed of. Every literary woman, no doubt, has plenty of importunity of that sort to deal with; but freedom of mind and coolness of manner dispose of it very easily: and since the time I have been speaking of, my mind has been wholly free from all idea of love-affairs. My subsequent literary life in London was clear from all difficulty and embarrassment, — no doubt because I was evidently too busy, and too full of interests of other kinds to feel any awkwardness, — to say nothing of my being then thirty years of age; an age at which, if ever, a woman is certainly qualified to take care of herself. I can easily conceive how I might have been tempted, — how some deep springs in my nature might have been touched, then as earlier; but, as a matter of fact, they never were; and I consider the immunity a great blessing, under the liabilities of a moral condition such as mine was in the olden time. If I had had a husband dependent on me for his happiness, the responsibility would have made me wretched. I had not faith enough in myself to endure avoidable responsibility. If my husband had not depended on me for his happiness, I should have been jealous. So also with children. The care would have so overpowered the joy, — the love would have so exceeded the ordinary chances of life, — the fear on my part would have so impaired the freedom on theirs, that I rejoice not to have been involved in a relation for which I was, or believed myself unfit. The veneration in which I hold domestic life has always shown me that that life was not for those whose self-respect had been early broken down, or had never grown. Happily, the majority are free from this disability. Those who suffer under it had better be as I, — as my observation of married, as well as single life assures me. When I see what conjugal love is, in the extremely rare cases in which it is seen in its perfection, I feel that there is a power of attachment in me that has never been touched. When I am among little children, it frightens me to think what my idolatry of my own children would have been. But, through it all, I have ever been thankful to be alone. My strong will, combined with anxiety of conscience, makes me fit only to live alone; and my taste and liking are for living alone. The older I have grown, the more serious and irremediable have seemed to me the evils and disadvantages of married life, as it exists among us at this time: and I am provided with what it is the bane of single life in ordinary cases to want, — substantial, laborious and serious occupation. My business in life has been to think and learn, and to speak out with absolute freedom what I have thought and learned. The freedom is itself a positive and never-failing enjoyment to me, after the bondage of my early life. My work and I have been fitted to each other, as is proved by the success of my work and my own happiness in it. The simplicity and independence of this vocation first suited my infirm and ill-developed nature, and then sufficed for my needs, together with family ties and domestic duties, such as I have been blessed with, and as every woman’s heart requires. Thus, I am not only entirely satisfied with my lot, but think it the very best for me, — under my constitution and circumstances: and I long ago came to the conclusion that, without meddling with the case of the wives and mothers, I am probably the happiest single woman in England. Who could have believed, in that awful year 1826, that such would be my conclusion a quarter of a century afterwards!
My health gave way, more and more; and my suffering throughout the year 1827 from the pain which came on every evening was such as it is disagreeable to think of now. For pain of body and mind it was truly a terrible year, though it had its satisfactions, one of the chief of which was a long visit which I paid to my brother Robert and his wife (always a dear friend of mine to this day) at their home in Dudley. I remember our walks in the grounds of Dudley Castle, and the organ-playing at home, after my brother’s business hours, and the inexhaustible charm of the baby, as gleams amidst the darkness of that season. I found then the unequalled benefit of long solitary walks in such a case as mine. I had found it even at Norwich, in midwinter, when all was bleak on that exposed level country; and now, amidst the beauty which surrounds Dudley, there was no end of my walks or of my relish for them; and I always came home with a cheered and lightened heart. Such poetry as I wrote (I can’t bear to think of it) I wrote in those days. The mournful pieces, and those which assume not to be mournful, which may be found in my “Miscellanies” (published in America) may be referred to that period. And so may some dull and doleful prose writings, published by the solemn old Calvinistic publisher, Houlston, of Wellington in Shropshire. An acquaintance of mine had some time before put me in the way of correspondence with Houlston; and he had accepted the first two little eightpenny stories I sent him. I remember the amusement and embarrassment of the first piece of pecuniary success. As soon as it was known in the house that the letter from Wellington contained five pounds, every body wanted, and continued to want all day, to borrow five pounds of me. After a pause, Houlston wrote to ask for another story of somewhat more substance and bulk. My Globe newspaper readings suggested to me the subject of Machine-breaking as a good one, — some recent outrages of that sort having taken place: but I had not the remotest idea that I was meditating writing on Political Economy, the very name of which was then either unknown to me, or conveyed no meaning. I wrote the little story called “The Rioters;” and its success was such that some hosiers and lace-makers of Derby and Nottingham sent me a request to write a tale on the subject of Wages, which I did, calling it “The Turn Out.” The success of both was such as to dispose Mr. Houlston to further dealings; and I wrote for him a good many tracts, which he sold for a penny, and for which he gave me a sovereign apiece. This seems to be the place in which to tell a fact or two about the use made of those early writings of mine by the old man’s sons and successors. Old Houlston died not very long afterwards, leaving among his papers, (I now remember,) a manuscript story of mine which I suppose lies there still; about a good governess, called, I think, “Caroline Shirley.” I mention this that, if that story should come out with my name after my death, it may be known to have been written somewhere about this time, — 1827. Old Houlston died, on perfectly good terms with me, as far as I remember. The next thing I heard was (and I heard it from various quarters) that those little tracts of mine, and some of my larger tales, were selling and circulating as Mrs. Sherwood’s, — Houlston being her publisher. This was amusing; and I had no other objection to it than that it was not true. Next, certain friends and relations of my own who went to the Houlstons’ shop in Paternoster Row, and asked for any works by me, had foisted upon them any rubbish that was convenient, under pretence of its being mine. A dear old aunt was very mysterious and complimentary to me, one day, on her return from London, about “Judith Potts;” and was puzzled to find all her allusions lost upon me. At length, she produced a little story so entitled, which had been sold to her as mine over the Houlstons’ counter, and, as she believed, by Mr. Houlston himself. This was rather too bad; for “Judith Potts” was not altogether a work that one would wish to build one’s fame on: but there was worse to come. Long years after, when such reputation as I have had was at its height, (when I was ill at Tynemouth, about 1842) there had been some machine breaking; and Messrs. Houlston and Stoneman (as the firm then stood) brought out afresh my poor little early story of “The Rioters,” with my name in the title-page for the first time, and not only with every external appearance of being fresh, but with interpolations and alterations which made it seem really so. For instance, “His Majesty” was altered to “Her Majesty.” By advice of my friends, I made known the trick far and wide; and I wrote to Messrs. Houlston and Stoneman, to inform them that I was aware of their fraudulent transaction, and that it was actionable. These caterers for the pious needs of the religious world replied with insults, having nothing better to offer. They pleaded my original permission to their father to use my name or not; which was a fact, but no excuse for the present use of it: and to the gravest part of the whole charge, — that of illegal alterations for the fraudulent purpose of concealing the date of the book, they made no reply whatever. I had reason to believe, however, that by the exertions of my friends, the trick was effectually exposed. As far as I remember, this is almost the only serious complaint I have had to make of any publisher, during my whole career.
Meantime, in 1827 I was on excellent terms with old Houlston, and writing for him a longer tale than I had yet tried my hand on. It was called “Principle and Practice;” and it succeeded well enough to induce us to put forth a “Sequel to Principle and Practice” three or four years after. These were all that I wrote for Houlston, as far as I remember, except a little book whose appearance made me stand aghast. A most excellent young servant of ours, who had become quite a friend of the household, went out to Madeira with my brother and his family, and confirmed our attachment to her by her invaluable services to them. Her history was a rather remarkable, and a very interesting one; and I wrote it in the form of four of Houlston’s penny tracts. He threw them together, and made a little book of them; and the heroine, who would never have heard of them as tracts, was speedily put in possession of her Memoirs in the form of the little book called “My Servant Rachel.” An aunt of mine, calling on her one day, found her standing in the middle of the floor, and her husband reading the book over her shoulder. She was hurt at one anecdote, — which was certainly true, but which she had forgotten: but, as a whole, it could not but have been most gratifying to her. She ever after treated me with extreme kindness, and even tenderness; and we are hearty friends still, whenever we meet. — And here ends the chapter of my authorship in which Houlston, my first patron, was concerned.
It was in the autumn of 1827, I think, that a neighbour lent my sister Mrs. Marcet’s “Conversations on Political Economy.” I took up the book, chiefly to see what Political Economy precisely was; and great was my surprise to find that I had been teaching it unawares, in my stories about Machinery and Wages. It struck me at once that the principles of the whole science might be advantageously conveyed in the same way, — not by being smothered up in a story, but by being exhibited in their natural workings in selected passages of social life. It has always appeared very strange to me that so few people seem to have understood this. Students of all manner of physical sciences afterwards wanted me to “illustrate” things of which social life (and therefore fiction) can afford no illustration. I used to say till I was tired that none but moral and political science admitted of the method at all; and I doubt whether many of those who talk about it understand the matter, to this day. In the Edinburgh Review of my Political Economy series, — a review otherwise as weak as it is kind, — there is the best appreciation of the principle of the work that I have seen any where; — a page or so* of perfect understanding of my view and purpose. That view and purpose date from my reading of Mrs. Marcet’s Conversations. During that reading, groups of personages rose up from the pages, and a procession of action glided through its arguments, as afterwards from the pages of Adam Smith, and all the other Economists. I mentioned my notion, I remember, when we were sitting at work, one bright afternoon at home. Brother James nodded assent; my mother said “do it;” and we went to tea, unconscious what a great thing we had done since dinner.
There was meantime much fiddle-faddling to be gone through, with such work as “Principle and Practice” and the like. But a new educational period was about to open. — My complaint grew so serious, and was so unbearably painful, and, in truth, medically mismanaged at Norwich, that my family sent me to Newcastle, to my sister’s, where her husband treated me successfully, and put me in the way of entire cure. It was a long and painful business; but the method succeeded; and, in the course of time, and by the unremitting care of my host and hostess, I was sent home in a condition to manage myself. It was some years before the stomach entirely recovered its tone; but it was thoroughly healthy from that time forward.
While I was at Newcastle, a spirited advertisement from the new editor of the Monthly Repository, Mr. Fox, met my eye, appealing for literary aid to those who were interested in its objects. I could not resist sending a practical reply; and I was gratified to learn, long afterwards, that when my name was mentioned to Mr. Fox, before he issued his appeal, he had said that he wished for my assistance from the moment when he, as editor, discovered from the office books that I was the writer of certain papers which had fixed his attention: but that he could not specially invite my contributions while he had no funds which could enable him to offer due remuneration. His reply to my first letter was so cordial that I was animated to offer him extensive assistance; and if he had then no money to send me, he paid me in something more valuable — in a course of frank and generous criticism which was of the utmost benefit to me. His editorial correspondence with me was unquestionably the occasion, and in great measure the cause, of the greatest intellectual progress I ever made before the age of thirty. I sent him Essays, Reviews and poetry (or what I called such) — the best specimens of which may be found in the “Miscellanies,” before mentioned. — The Diffusion Society was at that time the last novelty. A member of the Committee who overrated his own influence, invited me to write a Life of Howard the Philanthropist, which I did, with great satisfaction, and under the positive promise of thirty pounds for it. From time to time, tidings were sent to me of its being approved, and at length of its being actually in type. In the approaching crisis of my fortunes, when I humbly asked when I might expect any part of the payment, I could obtain no clear answer: and the end of the matter was that it was found that half-a-dozen or more Lives of Howard had been ordered in a similar manner, by different members of the Committee; that my manuscript was found, after several years, at the bottom of a chest, — not only dirty, but marked and snipped, — its contents having been abundantly used without any acknowledgment, — as was afterwards admitted to me by some of the members who were especially interested in the prison question. I am far from regretting the issue now, because new materials have turned up which would have shamed that biography out of existence: but the case is worth mentioning, as an illustration of the way in which literary business is managed by corporate directories. I believe most people who ever had any connexion with the Diffusion Society have some similar story to tell.
While I was at Newcastle, a change, which turned out a very happy one, was made in our domestic arrangements. My cousin, James Martineau Lee, who had succeeded my brother as a surgeon at Norwich, having died that year, his aged mother, — (my father’s only surviving sister) came to live with us; and with us she remained till her death in 1840. She was hardly settled with us when the last of our series of family misfortunes occurred. I call it a misfortune, because in common parlance it would be so treated; but I believe that my mother and all her other daughters would have joined heartily, if asked, in my conviction that it was one of the best things that ever happened to us. My mother and her daughters lost, at a stroke, nearly all they had in the world by the failure of the house, — the old manufactory, — in which their money was placed. We never recovered more than the merest pittance; and at the time, I, for one, was left destitute; — that is to say, with precisely one shilling in my purse. The effect upon me of this new “calamity,” as people called it, was like that of a blister upon a dull, weary pain, or series of pains. I rather enjoyed it, even at the time; for there was scope for action; whereas, in the long, dreary series of preceding trials, there was nothing possible but endurance. In a very short time, my two sisters at home and I began to feel the blessing of a wholly new freedom. I, who had been obliged to write before breakfast, or in some private way, had henceforth liberty to do my own work in my own way; for we had lost our gentility. Many and many a time since have we said that, but for that loss of money, we might have lived on in the ordinary provincial method of ladies with small means, sewing, and economizing, and growing narrower every year: whereas, by being thrown, while it was yet time, on our own resources, we have worked hard and usefully, won friends, reputation and independence, seen the world abundantly, abroad and at home, and, in short, have truly lived instead of vegetated.
It was in June, 1829, that the old Norwich house failed. I had been spending a couple of days at a country town, where the meeting of the provincial Unitarian Association took place. Some of the members knew, on the last day, what had happened to us; but I heard it first in the streets of Norwich on my way to our own house. As well as I can remember, a pretty faithful account of the event is given in one of my Political Economy tales, — “Berkeley the Banker;” mixed up however with a good many facts about other persons and times. I need not give the story over again here, nor any part of it but what is concerned in the history of my own mind and my own work. — It was presently settled that my mother, my dear old aunt and I should live on in the family house. One sister went forth to earn the independence which she achieved after busy and honourable years of successful exertion. The youngest was busy teaching and training the children, chiefly, of the family, till her marriage.
The question was — what was I to do, with my deafness precluding both music and governessing. I devised a plan for guiding the studies of young people by correspondence, and sent out written proposals: but, while every body professed to approve the scheme, no pupil ever offered. I was ere long very glad of this; for the toil of the pen would have been great, with small results of any kind, in comparison to those which accrued from what I did write. — In the first place, I inquired about my “Life of Howard,” and found, to my interior consternation, that there was no prospect in that quarter. Nobody knew that I was left with only one shilling, insomuch that I dreaded the arrival of a thirteenpenny letter, in those days of dear postage. The family supposed me to be well-supplied, through Houlston’s recent payment for one of my little books: but that money had gone where all the rest was. The sale of a ball-dress brought me three pounds. That was something. I hoped, and not without reason, that my needle would bring me enough for my small expenses, for a time; and I did earn a good many pounds by fancy-work, in the course of the next year, — after which it ceased to be necessary. For two years, I lived on fifty pounds a year. My mother, always generous in money matters, would not hear of my paying my home expences till she saw that I should be the happier for her allowing it: and then she assured me, and proved to me, that, as she had to keep house at all events, and as my habits were exceedingly frugal (taking no wine, &c.) thirty pounds a year would repay her for my residence. Twenty pounds more sufficed for clothes, postage and sundries: and thus did I live, as long as it was necessary, on fifty pounds a year. — I must mention here a gift which dropped in upon me at that time which gave me more pleasure than any money-gift that I ever received. Our rich relations made bountiful presents to my sisters, for their outfit on leaving home: but they supposed me in possession of the money they knew I had earned, and besides concluded that I could not want much, as I was to stay at home. My application about the Howard manuscript however came to the knowledge of a cousin of mine, — then and ever since, to this hour, a faithful friend to me; and he, divining the case, sent me ten pounds, in a manner so beautiful that his few lines filled me with joy. That happened on a Sunday morning; and I well remember what a happy morning it was. I had become too deaf now for public worship; and I went every fair Sunday morning over the wildest bit of country near Norwich, — a part of Mousehold, which was a sweet breezy common, overlooking the old city in its most picturesque aspect. There I went that Sunday morning; and I remember well the freshness of the turf and the beauty of the tormentilla which bestarred it, in the light and warmth of that good cousin’s kindness.
I now wrote to Mr. Fox, telling him of my changed circumstances, which would compel me to render less gratuitous service than hitherto to the “Repository.” Mr. Fox replied by apologetically placing at my disposal the only sum at his command at that time, — fifteen pounds a year, for which I was to do as much reviewing as I thought proper. With this letter arrived a parcel of nine books for review or notice. Overwhelming as this was, few letters that I had ever received had given me more pleasure than this. Here was, in the first place, work; in the next, continued literary discipline under Mr. Fox; and lastly, this money would buy my clothes. So to work I went, with needle and pen. I had before begun to study German; and now, that study was my recreation; and I found a new inspiration in the world of German literature, which was just opening, widely and brightly, before my eager and awakened mind. It was truly life that I lived during those days of strong intellectual and moral effort.
After I had received about a dozen books, Mr. Fox asked me to send him two or three tales, such as his “best readers” would not pass by. I was flattered by this request; but I had no idea that I could fulfil his wish, any more than I could refuse to try. Now was the time to carry out the notion I had formed on reading “Helon’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” — as I related above. I wrote “The Hope of the Hebrew” (the first of the “Traditions of Palestine,”) and two others, as unlike it and each other as I could make them: — viz, “Solitude and Society,” and “The Early Sowing,” — the Unitarian City Mission being at that time under deliberation.
I carried these stories to London myself, and put them into Mr. Fox’s own hands, — being kindly invited for a long stay at the house of an uncle, in pursuit of my own objects. The Hebrew tale was put forth first; and the day after its appearance, such inquiries were made of Mr. Fox at a public dinner in regard to the authorship that I was at once determined to make a volume of them; and the “Traditions of Palestine” appeared accordingly, in the next spring. Except that first story, the whole volume was written in a fortnight. By this little volume was my name first made known in literature. I still love the memory of the time when it was written, though there was little other encouragement than my own pleasure in writing, and in the literary discipline which I continued to enjoy under Mr. Fox’s editorship. With him I always succeeded; but I failed in all other directions during that laborious winter and spring. I had no literary acquaintance or connexion whatever; and I could not get any thing that I wrote even looked at; so that every thing went into the “Repository” at last. I do not mean that any amount of literary connexion would necessarily have been of any service to me; for I do not believe that “patronage,” “introductions” and the like are of any avail, in a general way. I know this; — that I have always been anxious to extend to young or struggling authors the sort of aid which would have been so precious to me in that winter of 1829 - 1830, and that, in above twenty years, I have never succeeded but once. I obtained the publication of “The Two Old Men’s Tales,” — the first of Mrs. Marsh’s novels: but, from the time of my own success to this hour, every other attempt, of the scores I have made, to get a hearing for young or new aspirants has failed. My own heart was often very near sinking, — as were my bodily forces; and with reason. During the daylight hours of that winter, I was poring over fine fancy-work, by which alone I earned any money; and after tea, I went upstairs to my room, for my day’s literary labour. The quantity I wrote, at prodigious expenditure of nerve, surprises me now, — after my long breaking-in to hard work. Every night that winter, I believe, I was writing till two, or even three in the morning, — obeying always the rule of the house, — of being present at the breakfast table as the clock struck eight. Many a time I was in such a state of nervous exhaustion and distress that I was obliged to walk to and fro in the room before I could put on paper the last line of a page, or the last half sentence of an essay or review. Yet was I very happy. The deep-felt sense of progress and expansion was delightful; and so was the exertion of all my faculties; and, not least, that of will to overcome my obstructions, and force my way to that power of public speech of which I believed myself more or less worthy. The worst apprehension I felt, — far worse than that of disappointment, mortification and poverty, — was from the intense action of my mind. Such excitement as I was then sustaining and enjoying could not always last; and I dreaded the reaction, or the effects of its mere cessation. I was beginning, however, to learn that the future, — our intellectual and moral future, — had better be left to take care of itself, as long as the present is made the best use of; and I found, in due course, that each period of the mind’s training has its own excitements, and that the less its condition is quacked, or made the subject of anticipation at all, the better for the mind’s health. But my habit of anxiety was not yet broken. It was scarcely weakened. I have since found that persons who knew me only then, do not recognize me or my portraits now, — or at any time within the last twenty years. The frown of those old days, the rigid face, the sulky mouth, the forbidding countenance, which looked as if it had never had a smile upon it, told a melancholy story which came to an end long ago: but it was so far from its end then that it amazes me now to think what liberality and forbearance were requisite in the treatment of me by Mr. Fox and the friends I met at his house, and how capable they were of that liberality. My Sabbatarian strictness, and my prejudices on a hundred subjects must have been absurd and disagreeable enough to them: but their gentleness, respect and courtesy were such as I now remember with gratitude and pleasure. They saw that I was outgrowing my shell, and they had patience with me till I had rent it and cast it off; and if they were not equally ready with their sympathy when I had found freedom, but disposed to turn from me, in proportion as I was able to take care of myself, to do the same office for other incipient or struggling beings, this does not lessen my sense of obligation to them for the help and support they gave me in my season of intellectual and moral need.
My griefs deepened towards the close of that London visit. While failing in all my attempts to get my articles even looked at, proposals were made to me to remain in town, and undertake proof-correcting and other literary drudgery, on a salary which would, with my frugal habits, have supported me, while leaving time for literary effort on my own account. I rejoiced unspeakably in this opening, and wrote home in high satisfaction at the offer which would enable my young sister, — then only eighteen, — to remain at home, pursuing her studies in companionship with a beloved cousin of nearly her own age, and gaining something like maturity and self-reliance before going out into the cold dark sphere of governessing. But, to my disappointment, — I might almost say, horror, — my mother sent me peremptory orders to go home, and to fill the place which my poor young sister was to vacate. I rather wonder that, being seven and twenty years old, I did not assert my independence, and refuse to return, — so clear as was, in my eyes, the injustice of remanding me to a position of helplessness and dependence, when a career of action and independence was opening before me. If I had known what my young sister was thinking and feeling, I believe I should have taken my own way, for her sake: but I did not know all: the instinct and habit of old obedience prevailed, and I went home, with some resentment, but far more grief and desolation in my heart. My mother afterwards looked back with surprise upon the peremptoriness with which she had assumed the direction of my affairs; and she told me, (what I had suspected before) that my well-meaning hostess, who knew nothing of literature, and was always perplexing me with questions as to “how much I should get” by each night’s work, had advised my return home, to pursue, — not literature but needlework, by which, she wrote, I had proved that I could earn money, and in which career I should always have the encouragement and support of herself and her family. (Nothing could be more gracious than the acknowledgment of their mistake volunteered by this family at a subsequent time.) My mother was wont to be guided by them, whenever they offered their counsel; and this time it cost me very dear. I went down to Norwich, without prospect, — without any apparent chance of independence; but as fully resolved against being dependent as at any time before or after.
My mother received me very tenderly. She had no other idea at the moment than that she had been doing her best for my good; and I, for my part, could not trust myself to utter a word of what was swelling in my heart. I arrived worn and weary with a night journey; and my mother was so uneasy at my looks that she made me lie down on her bed after breakfast, and, as I could not sleep, came and sat by me for a talk. — My news was that the Central Unitarian Association had advertized for prize Essays, by which Unitarianism was to be presented to the notice of Catholics, Jews, and Mohammedans. The Catholic one was to be adjudicated on at the end of September (1830) and the other two in the following March. Three sub-committees were appointed for the examination of the manuscripts sent in, and for decision on them: and these sub-committees were composed of different members, to bar all suspicion of partiality. The essays were to be superscribed with a motto; and the motto was to be repeated on a sealed envelope, containing the writer’s name, which was not to be looked at till the prize was awarded; and then only in the case of the successful candidate. The prizes were, ten guineas for the Catholic, fifteen for the Jewish, and twenty for the Mohammedan essay. I told my mother, as she sat by the bedside, of this gleam of a prospect for me; and she replied that she thought it might be as well to try for one prize. My reply was “If I try at all, it shall be for all.” The money reward was trifling, even in the eyes of one so poor and prospectless as I was; but I felt an earnest desire to ascertain whether I could write, as Mr. Fox and other personal friends said I could. I saw that it was a capital opportunity for a fair trial of my competency in comparison with others; and I believe it was no small consideration to me that I should thus, at all events, tide over many months before I need admit despair. My mother thought this rather desperate work; but she gave me her sympathy and encouragement during the whole period of suspense, — as did the dear old aunt who lived with us. No one else was to know; and my secret was perfectly kept. The day after my return, I began to collect my materials; and before the week was done, I had drawn out the scheme of my Essay, and had begun it. It was done within a month; and then it had to be copied, lest any member of the sub-committee should know my hand. I discovered a poor school-boy who wrote a good hand; and I paid him a sovereign which I could ill spare for his work. The parcel was sent in a circuitous way to the office in London: and then, while waiting in suspense, I wrote the Tale called “Five Years of Youth,” which I have never looked at since, and have certainly no inclination to read. Messrs. Darton and Harvey gave me twenty pounds for this; and most welcome was such a sum at that time. It set me forward through the toil of the Mohammedan Essay, which I began in October, I think. The “Monthly Repository” for October contained a notification that the sub-committee sitting on the first of the three occasions had adjudged the prize for the Catholic Essay to me; and the money was presently forwarded. That announcement arrived on a Sunday morning; and again I had a charming walk over Mousehold, as in the year before, among the heather and the bright tormentilla.
Next day, I went to the Public Library, and brought home Sale’s Koran. A friend whom I met said “What do you bore yourself with that book for? You will never get through it.” He little guessed what I meant to get out of it, and out of Sale’s preliminary Essay. It occurred to me that the apologue form would suit the subject best; and I ventured upon it, though fearing that such daring might be fatal. One of the sub-committee, an eminent scholar, told me afterwards that it was this which mainly influenced his suffrage in my favour. In five weeks, the work was done: but my tribulation about its preparation lasted much longer; for the careless young usher who undertook the copying was not only idle but saucy; and it was doubtful to the last day whether the parcel could be in London by the first of March. Some severe threatening availed however; and that and the Jewish Essay, sent round by different hands (the hands of strangers to the whole scheme) done up in different shapes, and in different kinds of paper, and sealed with different wax and seals, were deposited at the office on the last day of February. The Jewish Essay was beautifully copied by a poor woman who wrote a clerk-like hand. The titles of the three Essays were —
“The Essential Faith of the Universal Church” (to Catholics).
“The Faith as Unfolded by Many Prophets” (to Mohammedans).
“The Faith as Manifested through Israel” (to Jews).
The last of these was grounded on Lessing’s “Hundred Thoughts on the Education of the Human Race,” which had taken my fancy amazingly, in the course of my German studies, — fancy then being the faculty most concerned in my religious views. Though my mind was already largely prepared for this piece of work by study, and by having treated the theory in the “Monthly Repository,” and though I enjoyed the task in a certain sense, it became very onerous before it was done. I was by that time nearly as thin as possible; and I dreamed of the destruction of Jerusalem, and saw the burning of the Temple, almost every night. I might well be exhausted by that great and portentous first of March; for the year had been one of tremendous labour. I think it was in that year that a prize was offered by some Unitarian authority or other for any Essay on Baptism, for which I competed, but came in only third. If that was the year, my work stood thus: — my literary work, I mean; for, in that season of poverty, I made and mended every thing I wore, — knitting stockings while reading aloud to my mother and aunt, and never sitting idle a minute. I may add that I made considerable progress in the study of German that year. My writings within the twelve months were as follows: —
“Traditions of Palestine” (except the first tale).
“Five Years of Youth.”
Seven tracts for Houlston.
Essay on Baptism.
Three Theological Essays for prizes, and
Fifty-two articles for the Monthly Repository.
By this time my mother was becoming aware of the necessity of my being a good deal in London, if I was to have any chance in the field of literature; and she consented to spare me for three months in the spring of every year. An arrangement was made for my boarding at the house of a cousin for three months from the first of March; and up I went, little dreaming what would be happening, and how life would be opening before me, by that day twelvemonths. One of my objects in the first instance was improving myself in German. An admirable master brought me forward very rapidly, on extremely low terms, in consideration of my helping him with his English prefaces to some of his works. After a few weeks of hard work, writing and studying, I accepted an invitation to spend a few days with some old friends in Kent. There I refreshed myself among pretty scenery, fresh air, and pleasant drives with hospitable friends, and with the study of Faust at night, till a certain day, early in May, which was to prove very eventful to me. I returned on the outside of the coach, and got down, with my heavy bag, at my German master’s door, where I took a lesson. It was very hot; and I dragged myself and my bag home, in great fatigue, and very hungry. Dinner was ordered up again by my hostess, and I sat an hour, eating my dinner, resting and talking. Then I was leaving the room, bonnet in hand, when a daughter of my hostess seemed to recollect something, and called after me to say, “O, I forgot! I suppose” (she was a very slow and hesitating speaker) — “I suppose . . . . . . you know . . . . . . you know about . . . . . . those prizes . . . . . . those prize essays, you know.”
“No . . . . . . not I! What do you mean?”
“O! well, we thought . . . . . . . . . we thought you knew . . . . . .”
“Well, — but what?”
“O! you have . . . . . . . . . why, . . . you have got all the prizes.”
“Why J! why did you not tell me so before?”
“O! I thought . . . . . . I thought you might know.”
“How should I, — just up from the country? But what do you know?”
“Why, only . . . . . . . . . only the Secretary of the Unitarian Association has been here, — with a message, — with the news from the Committee.” — It was even so.
The next day was the Unitarian May Meeting; and I had come up from Kent to attend it. I was shocked to hear, after the morning service, that, in reading the Report in the evening, the whole story of the Essays must be told, with the announcement of the result. I had reckoned for weeks on that meeting, at which Rammohun Roy was to be present, and where the speaking was expected to be particularly interesting; and I neither liked to stay away nor to encounter the telling of my story. Mr. and Mrs. Fox promised to put me into a quiet pew if I would go as soon as the gates were opened. I did so; but the Secretary came, among others, to be introduced, and to congratulate; and I knew when the dreaded moment was coming, amidst his reading of the Report, by a glance which he sent in my direction, to see if his wife, who sat next me, was keeping up my attention. I thought the story of all the measures and all the precautions taken by the various Committees the longest I had ever sat under, and the silence with which it was listened to the very deadest. I heard little indeed but the beating of my own heart. Then came the catastrophe, and the clapping and the “Hear! Hear!” I knew that many of my family connexions must be present, who would be surprised and gratified. But there was one person more than I expected. I slipped out before the meeting was over, and in the vestibule was met by my young sister with open arms, and with an offer to go home with me for the night. She was in the midst of an uncomfortable brief experiment of governessing, a few miles from town, and had been kindly indulged with a permission to go to this meeting, too late to let me know. She had arrived late, and got into the gallery; and before she had been seated many minutes, heard my news, so strangely told! She went home with me; and, after we had written my mother the account of the day, we talked away nearly all the rest of that May night. — It was truly a great event to me, — the greatest since my brother’s reception of my first attempt in print. I had now found that I could write, and I might rationally believe that authorship was my legitimate career.
Of course, I had no conception at that time of the thorough weakness and falseness of the views I had been conveying with so much pains and so much complacency. This last act in connexion with the Unitarian body was a bonâ fide one; but all was prepared for that which ensued, — a withdrawal from the body through those regions of metaphysical fog in which most deserters from Unitarianism abide for the rest of their time. The Catholic essay was ignorant and metaphysical, if my recollection of it is at all correct; and the other two mere fancy pieces: and I can only say that if either Mohammedans or Jews have ever been converted by them, such converts can hardly be rational enough to be worth having. I had now plunged fairly into the spirit of my time, — that of self-analysis, pathetic self-pity, typical interpretation of objective matters, and scheme-making, in the name of God and Man. That such was the stage then reached by my mind, in its struggles upward and onward, there is outstanding proof in that series of papers called “Sabbath Musings” which may be found in the “Monthly Repository” of 1831. There are the papers: and I hereby declare that I considered them my best production, and expected they would outlive every thing else I had written or should write. I was, in truth, satisfied that they were very fine writing, and believed it for long after, — little aware that the time could ever come when I should write them down, as I do now, to be morbid, fantastical, and therefore unphilosophical and untrue. I cannot wonder that it did not occur to the Unitarians (as far as they thought of me at all) that I was really not of them, at the time that I had picked up their gauntlet, and assumed their championship. If it did not occur to me, no wonder it did not to them. But the clearsighted among them might and should have seen, by the evidence of those essays themselves, that I was one of those merely nominal Christians who refuse whatever they see to be impossible, absurd or immoral in the scheme or the records of Christianity, and pick out and appropriate what they like, or interpolate it with views, desires and imaginations of their own. I had already ceased to be an Unitarian in the technical sense. I was now one in the dreamy way of metaphysical accommodation, and on the ground of dissent from every other form of Christianity: the time was approaching when, if I called myself so at all, it was only in the free-thinking sense. Then came a few years during which I remonstrated with Unitarians in vain against being claimed by them, which I considered even more injurious to them than to me. They were unwilling, as they said, and as I saw, to recognize the complete severance of the theological bond between us: and I was careful to assert, in every practicable way, that it was no doing of mine if they were taunted by the orthodox with their sectarian fellowship with the writer of “Eastern Life.” At length, I hope and believe my old co-religionists understand and admit that I disclaim their theology in toto, and that by no twisting of language or darkening of its meanings can I be made out to have any thing whatever in common with them about religious matters. I perceive that they do not at all understand my views or the grounds of them, or the road to them: but they will not deny that I understand theirs, — chosen expositor as I was of them in the year 1831; and they must take my word for it that there is nothing in common between their theology and my philosophy. Our stand-point is different; and all our views and estimates are different accordingly. Of course, I consider my stand-point the truer one; and my views and estimates the higher, wider, and more accurate, as I shall have occasion to show. I consider myself the best qualified of the two parties to judge of the relative value of the views of either, because I have the experience of both, while I see that they have no comprehension of mine: but the point on which we may and ought to agree is that my severance from their faith was complete and necessarily final when I wrote “Eastern Life,” though many of them could not be brought to admit it, nor some (whom I asked) to assert it at the time. While I saw that many Unitarians resented as a slander the popular imputation that their sect is “a harbourage for infidels,” I did not choose that they should have that said of them in my case: and it is clear that if they were unwilling to exchange a disownment with me, they could have no right to quarrel with that imputation in future.
My prize-money enabled me to go to Dublin, to visit my brother James and his wife; and I staid there till September, — writing all the time, and pondering the scheme of my Political Economy Series. I sketched out my plan in a very small blue book which was afterwards begged of me as a relic by a friend who was much with me at that time. My own idea was that my stories should appear quarterly. My brother and the publishers urged their being monthly. The idea was overwhelming at first: and there were times when truly I was scared at other parts of the scheme than that. The whole business was the strongest act of will that I ever committed myself to; and my will was always a pretty strong one. I could never have even started my project but for my thorough, well-considered, steady conviction that the work was wanted, — was even craved by the popular mind. As the event proved me right, there is no occasion to go into the evidence which determined my judgment. I now believed that for two years I must support an almost unequalled amount of literary labour: that, owing to the nature of some of the subjects to be treated, my effort would probably be fatal to my reputation: that the chances of failure in a scheme of such extent, begun without money or interest, were most formidable; and that failure would be ruin. I staked my all upon this project, in fact, and with the belief that long, weary months must pass before I could even discern the probabilities of the issue; for the mere preparations must occupy months. In the first place, — in that autumn of 1831, — I strengthened myself in certain resolutions, from which I promised myself that no power on earth should draw me away. I was resolved that, in the first place, the thing should be done. The people wanted the book; and they should have it. Next, I resolved to sustain my health under the suspense, if possible, by keeping up a mood of steady determination, and unfaltering hope. Next, I resolved never to lose my temper, in the whole course of the business. I knew I was right; and people who are aware that they are in the right need never lose temper. Lastly, I resolved to refuse, under any temptation whatever, to accept any loan from my kind mother and aunt. I felt that I could never get over causing them any pecuniary loss, — my mother having really nothing to spare, and my aunt having been abundantly generous to the family already. My own small remnant of property (which came to nothing after all) I determined to risk; and, when the scheme began to take form, I accepted small loans from two opulent friends, whom I was able presently to repay. They knew the risks as well as I; and they were men of business; and there was no reason for declining the timely aid, so freely and kindly granted. What those months of suspense were like, it is necessary now to tell.
I wrote to two or three publishers from Dublin, opening my scheme; but one after another declined having any thing to do with it, on the ground of the disturbed state of the public mind, which afforded no encouragement to put out new books. The bishops had recently thrown out the Reform Bill; and every body was watching the progress of the Cholera, — then regarded with as much horror as a plague of the middle ages. The terrifying Order in Council which froze men’s hearts by its doleful commands and recommendations, was issued just at the same time with my poor proposals; and no wonder that I met only refusals. Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock, however, requested me to take London on my way back to Norwich, that we might discuss the subject. I did so; and I took with me as a witness a lawyer cousin who told me long afterwards what an amusing scene it was to him. Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock sat superb in their arm-chairs, in their brown wigs, looking as cautious as possible, but relaxing visibly under the influence of my confidence. My cousin said that, in their place, he should have felt my confidence a sufficient guarantee, — so fully as I assigned the grounds of it: and Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock seemed to be nearly of the same mind, though they brought out a long string of objections, beginning with my proposed title, and ending with the Reform Bill and the Cholera. They wanted to suppress the words Political Economy altogether: but I knew that science could not be smuggled in anonymously. I gave up the point for the time, feeling assured that they would find their smuggling scheme impracticable. “Live and let live” was their title; and its inadequacy was vexatious enough, as showing their imperfect conception of the plan: but it was necessary to let them have their own way in the matter of preliminary advertising. They put out a sort of feeler in the form of an advertisement in some of the Diffusion Society’s publications; but an intimation so vague and obscure attracted no notice. This melancholy fact Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock duly and dolefully announced to me. Still, they did not let go for some time; and I afterwards heard that they were so near becoming my publishers that they had actually engaged a stitcher for my monthly numbers. Fortunately for me, as it turned out, but most discouragingly at the time, they withdrew, after a hesitation of many weeks. They had read and approved of a part of the manuscript of “Life in the Wilds,” — my first number: but they went on doubting; and at last wrote to me that, considering the public excitement about the Reform Bill and the Cholera, they dared not venture.
Here was the whole work to begin again. I stifled my sighs, and swallowed my tears, and wrote to one publisher after another, receiving instant refusals from all, except Messrs. Whittaker. They kept up the negotiation for a few posts, but at length joined the general chorus about the Reform Bill and the Cholera. They offered, however, to do their best for the work as mere publishers, on the usual terms of commission. My mother and aunt re-urged my accepting a loan from them of money which they were willing to risk in such a cause: but of course I would not hear of this. Mr. Fox appeared at that time earnest in the project; and a letter from him came by the same post with Messrs. Whittakers’ last, saying that booksellers might be found to share the risk; and he named one (who, like Baldwin and Cradock, afterwards failed) who would be likely to go halves with me in risk and profit. I did not much relish either the plan or the proposed publisher; but I was in no condition to refuse suggestions. I said to my mother, “You know what a man of business would do in my case.” — “What?” — “Go up to town by the next mail, and see what is to be done.” — “My dear, you would not think of doing such a thing, alone, and in this weather!” — “I wish it.” — “Well, then, let us show Henry the letters after dinner, and see what he will say.” — As soon as the cloth was removed, and we had drawn round the fire, I showed my brother Henry the letters, with the same remark I had made to my mother. He sat looking into the fire for several minutes, while nobody spoke: and then he turned to me, and said oracularly “Go!” — I sprang up, — sent to have my place taken by the early morning coach, tied up and dispatched borrowed books, and then ran to my room to pack. There I found a fire, and my trunk airing before it. All was finished an hour before tea time; and I was at leisure to read to my old ladies for the rest of the evening. On my mother observing that she could not have done it, my aunt patted me on the shoulder, and said that, at least, the back was fitted to the burden. This domestic sympathy was most supporting to me; but, at the same time, it rendered success more stringently necessary.
My scheme of going to London was not at all a wild one, unless the speed of the movement, and the state of the weather made it so. It was the beginning of December, foggy and sleety. I was always sure of a home in London, with or without notice; and without notice I presented myself at my cousin’s door that dreary December Saturday night. It was a great Brewery house, always kept open, and cooking daily going on, for the use of the partners. My kind cousin and his family were to leave home the next morning, for three weeks: but, as he observed, this would rather aid than hinder my purposes, as I went for work. I was really glad to be alone during those three eventful weeks, — feeling myself no intruder, all the while, and being under the care of attentive servants.
My first step on Monday was seeing the publisher mentioned by Mr. Fox. He shook his head; his wife smiled; and he begged to see the opening chapters, promising to return them, with a reply, in twenty-four hours. His reply was what was already burnt in upon my brain. He had “no doubt of the excellence, — wished it success — but feared that the excitement of the public mind about the Reform Bill and the Cholera would afford it no chance,” &c., &c. I was growing as sick of the Reform Bill as poor King William himself. I need not detail, even if I could remember, the many applications I made in the course of the next few days. Suffice it that they were all unsuccessful, and for the same alleged reasons. Day after day, I came home weary with disappointment, and with trudging many miles through the clay of the streets, and the fog of the gloomiest December I ever saw. I came home only to work; for I must be ready with two first numbers in case of a publisher turning up any day. All the while, too, I was as determined as ever that my scheme should be fulfilled. Night after night, the Brewery clock struck twelve, while the pen was still pushing on in my trembling hand. I had promised to take one day’s rest, and dine and sleep at the Foxes’. Then, for the first time, I gave way, in spite of all my efforts. Some trifle having touched my feelings before saying “Good-night,” the sluices burst open, and I cried all night. In the morning, Mr. Fox looked at me with great concern, stepped into the next room, and brought a folded paper to the breakfast table, saying “Don’t read this now. I can’t bear it. These are what may be called terms from my brother.” (A young bookseller who did not pretend to have any business, at that time.) “I do not ask you even to consider them; but they will enable you to tell publishers that you hold in your hand terms offered by a publisher: and this may at least procure attention to your scheme.” These were, to the subsequent regret of half a score of publishers, the terms on which my work was issued at last.
I immediately returned to town, and went straight to Whittaker’s. Mr. Whittaker looked bored, fidgetted, yawned, and then said, with extreme rudeness, “I have told you already that these are not times for new enterprises.” “Then,” said I, rising, “it is now time for me to consider the terms from another publisher which I hold in my hand.” “O, indeed, — really, Ma’am?” said he, reviving. “Do me the favour to give me a short time for consideration. Only twenty-four hours, Ma’am.” I refreshed his memory about the particulars, and endeavoured to make him see why the times were not unseasonable for this special work, though they might be for light literature.
It was next necessary to look at the paper I had been carrying. I read it with dismay. The very first stipulation was that the work should be published by subscription: and, moreover, the subscription must be for five hundred copies before the work began. Subscribers were to be provided by both parties; and Charles Fox was to have half the profits, besides the usual bookseller’s commission and privileges. The agreement was to cease at the end of any five numbers, at the wish of either party. As Charles Fox had neither money nor connexion, I felt that the whole risk was thrown upon me; and that I should have all the peril, as well as the toil, while Charles Fox would enjoy the greater part of the proceeds, in case of success, and be just where he was before, in case of failure. In fact, he never procured a single subscriber; and he told me afterwards that he knew from the beginning that he never should. After pondering this heart-sickening Memorandum, I looked with no small anxiety for Whittaker’s final reply. I seemed to see the dreaded words through the envelope; and there they were within. Mr. Whittaker expressed his “regrets that the public mind being so engrossed with the Reform Bill and the approach of the Cholera,” &c., &c. The same story to the end! Even now, in this low depth of disappointment, there were lower depths to be explored. The fiercest trial was now at hand.
I remonstrated strongly with Mr. Fox about the subscription stipulation; but in vain. The mortification to my pride was not the worst part of it, though that was severe enough. I told him that I could not stoop to that method, if any other means were left; to which he replied “You will stoop to conquer.” But he had no consolation to offer under the far more serious anxiety which I strove to impress on his mind as my main objection to the scheme. Those persons from whom I might hope for pecuniary support were precisely those to whom I despaired of conveying any conception of my aim, or of the object and scope of my work. Those who would, I believed, support it were, precisely, persons who had never seen or heard of me, and whose support could not be solicited. My view was the true one, as I might prove by many pages of anecdote. Suffice it that, at the very time when certain members of parliament were eagerly inquiring about the announced work, the wife of one of them, a rich lady of my acquaintance, to whom a prospectus had been sent, returned it, telling me that she “knew too well what she was about to buy a pig in a poke:” and the husband of a cousin of mine, a literary man in his way, sent me, in return for the prospectus, a letter, enclosing two sovereigns, and a lecture against my rashness and presumption in supposing that I was adequate to such work as authorship, and offering the enclosed sum as his mite towards the subscription; but recommending rather a family subscription which might eke out my earnings by my needle. I returned the two sovereigns, with a declaration that I wished for no subscribers but those who expected full value for their payment, and that I would depend upon my needle and upon charity when I found I could not do better, and not before. This gentleman apologised handsomely afterwards. The lady never did. It should be remembered that it is easy enough to laugh at these incidents now; but that it was a very different matter then, when success seemed to be growing more and more questionable and difficult every day. I had no resource, however, but to try the method I heartily disapproved and abhorred. I drew up a Prospectus, in which I avoided all mention of a subscription, in the hope that it might soon be dispensed with, but fully explanatory of the nature and object of the work. To this I added in my own handwriting an urgent appeal to all whom I could ask to be subscribers. I went to Mr. Fox’s, one foggy morning, to show him one of these, and the advertisement intended for the next day’s papers, announcing the first of February as the day of publication: (for it was now too late to open with the year). I found Mr. Fox in a mood as gloomy as the day. He had seen Mr. James Mill, who had assured him that my method of exemplification, — (the grand principle of the whole scheme) could not possibly succeed; and Mr. Fox now required of me to change my plan entirely, and issue my Political Economy in a didactic form! Of course, I refused. He started a multitude of objections, — feared every thing, and hoped nothing. I saw, with anguish and no little resentment, my last poor chance slipping from me. I commanded myself while in his presence. The occasion was too serious to be misused. I said to him “I see you have taken fright. If you wish that your brother should draw back, say so now. Here is the advertisement. Make up your mind before it goes to press.” He replied, “I do not wish altogether to draw back.” “Yes, you do,” said I: “and I had rather you would say so at once. But I tell you this: — the people want this book, and they shall have it.” “I know that is your intention,” he replied: “but I own I do not see how it is to come to pass.” — “Nor I: but it shall. So, say that you have done with it, and I will find other means.” “I tell you, I do not wish altogether to draw out of it; but I cannot think of my brother going on without decisive success at the outset.” “What do you mean, precisely?” “I mean that he withdraws at the end of two numbers, unless the success of the work is secured in a fortnight.” “What do you mean by success being secured?” “You must sell a thousand in a fortnight.” “In a fortnight! That is unreasonable! Is this your ultimatum?” “Yes.” “We shall not sell a thousand in the first fortnight: nevertheless, the work shall not stop at two numbers. It shall go on to five, with or without your brother.” “So I perceive you say.” “What is to be done with this advertisement?” I inquired. “Shall I send it, — yes or no?” “Yes: but remember Charles gives up at the end of two numbers, unless you sell a thousand in the first fortnight.”
I set out to walk the four miles and a half to the Brewery. I could not afford to ride, more or less; but, weary already, I now felt almost too ill to walk at all. On the road, not far from Shoreditch, I became too giddy to stand without support; and I leaned over some dirty palings, pretending to look at a cabbage bed, but saying to myself, as I stood with closed eyes, “My book will do yet.” I moved on as soon as I could, apprehending that the passers-by took me to be drunk: but the pavement swam before my eyes so that I was glad enough to get to the Brewery. I tried to eat some dinner; but the vast rooms, the plate and the liveried servant were too touching a contrast to my present condition; and I was glad to go to work, to drown my disappointment in a flow of ideas. Perhaps the piece of work that I did may show that I succeeded. I wrote the Preface to my “Illustrations of Political Economy” that evening; and I hardly think that any one would discover from it that I had that day sunk to the lowest point of discouragement about my scheme. — At eleven o’clock, I sent the servants to bed. I finished the Preface just after the Brewery clock had struck two. I was chilly and hungry: the lamp burned low, and the fire was small. I knew it would not do to go to bed, to dream over again the bitter disappointment of the morning. I began now, at last, to doubt whether my work would ever see the light. I thought of the multitudes who needed it, — and especially of the poor, — to assist them in managing their own welfare. I thought too of my own conscious power of doing this very thing. Here was the thing wanting to be done, and I wanting to do it; and the one person who had seemed best to understand the whole affair now urged me to give up either the whole scheme, or, what was worse, its main principle! It was an inferior consideration, but still, no small matter to me, that I had no hope or prospect of usefulness or independence if this project failed: and I did not feel that night that I could put my heart into any that might arise. As the fire crumbled, I put it together till nothing but dust and ashes remained; and when the lamp went out, I lighted the chamber candle; but at last it was necessary to go to bed; and at four o’clock I went, after crying for two hours, with my feet on the fender. I cried in bed till six, when I fell asleep; but I was at the breakfast table by half-past eight, and ready for the work of the day.
The work of the day was to prepare and send out my Circulars. After preparing enough for my family, I took into my confidence the before-mentioned cousin, — my benefactor and my host at that time. He was regarded by the whole clan as a prudent and experienced man of business; and I knew that his countenance would be of great value to me. That countenance he gave me, and some good suggestions, and no discouragement. — It was very disagreeable to have to appeal to monied relations whose very confidence and generosity would be a burden on my mind till I had redeemed my virtual pledges; while the slightest indulgence of a critical spirit by any of them must be exceedingly injurious to my enterprise. It was indeed not very long before I had warnings from various quarters that some of my relations were doing me “more harm by their tongues than they could ever do good by their guineas.” This was true, as the censors themselves have since spontaneously and handsomely told me. I could not blame them much for saying what they thought of my rashness and conceit, while I cordially honour the candour of their subsequent confession: but their sayings were so much added to the enormous obstructions of the case. From my first act of appeal to my monied relations, however, I derived such singular solace that every incident remains fresh in my mind, and I may fairly indulge in going over it once more.
My oldest surviving uncle and his large family, living near Clapham, had always been ready and kind in their sympathy; and I was now to find the worth of it more than ever in connexion with the greatest of my enterprises. On the next Sunday, I returned with them when they went home from Chapel. While at luncheon, my uncle told me that he understood I had some new plan, and he was anxious to know what it was. His daughters proposed that I should explain it after dinner, when their brothers would be present. After dinner, accordingly, I was called upon for my explanation, which I gave in a very detailed way. All were silent, waiting for my uncle to make his remark, the very words of which I distinctly remember, at the distance of nearly a quarter of a century. In his gentle and gracious manner he said, “You are a better judge, my dear, than we of this scheme; but we know that your industry and energy are the pride of us all, and ought to have our support.” When we ladies went to the drawing-room, I knew there would be a consultation between my uncle and his sons: and so there was. At the close of the pleasant evening, he beckoned to me, and made me sit beside him on the sofa, and told me of the confidence of his family and himself that what I was doing would be very useful: that his daughters wished for each a copy of the Series, his sons two each; and that he himself must have five. “And,” he concluded, “as you will like to pay your printer immediately, you shall not wait for our money.” So saying, he slipped a packet of bank notes and gold into my hand, to the amount of payment for fourteen copies of the whole series! To complete the grace of his hospitality, he told me that he should go to town late the next morning, and would escort me; and he desired me to sleep as late as I liked. And I did sleep, — the whole night through, and awoke a new creature. Other members of the family did what they thought proper, in the course of the week; and then I had only to go home, and await the result.
I was rather afraid to show myself to my mother, — thin as I was, and yellow, and coughing with every breath; and she was panic-struck at the evident symptoms of liver-complaint which the first half-hour disclosed. I was indeed in wretched health; and during the month of April following, when I was writing “Demerara,” I was particularly ill. I do not think I was ever well again till, at the close of 1833, I was entirely laid aside, and confined to my bed for a month, by inflammation of the liver. I am confident that that serious illness began with the toils and anxieties, and long walks in fog and mud, of two years before. My mother took my health in hand anxiously and most tenderly. In spite of my entreaties, she would never allow me to be wakened in the morning; and on Sundays, the day when Charles Fox’s dispatches came by a manufacturer’s parcel, my breakfast was sent up to me, and I was not allowed to rise till the middle of the day. For several weeks I dreaded the arrival of the publisher’s weekly letter. He always wrote gloomily, and sometimes rudely. The subscription proceeded very little better than I had anticipated. From first to last, about three hundred copies were subscribed for: and before that number had been reached, the success of the work was such as to make the subscription a mere burden. It was a thoroughly vexatious part of the business altogether, — that subscription. A clever suggestion of my mother’s, at this time, had, I believe, much to do with the immediate success of the book. By her advice, I sent, by post, a copy of my Prospectus (without a word about subscription in it) to almost every member of both Houses of Parliament. There was nothing of puffery in this, — nothing that I had the least objection to do. It was merely informing our legislators that a book was coming out on their particular class of subjects.
I may as well mention in this place, that I had offered (I cannot at all remember when) one of my tales, — the one which now stands as “Brooke and Brooke Farm,” — to the Diffusion Society, whence it had been returned. Absurd as were some of the stories afterwards set afloat about this transaction, there was thus much foundation for them. Mr. Knight, then the publisher of the Society, sent me a note of cordial and generous encouragement; but a sub-committee, to whose judgment the manuscript was consigned, thought it “dull,” and pronounced against its reception accordingly. I knew nothing about this sub-committee, or about the method employed, and had in fact forgotten, among so many failures, that particular one, when, long after, I found to my regret and surprise, that the gentlemen concerned had been supposing me offended and angry all the while, and somehow an accomplice in Lord Brougham’s mockery of their decision. In vain I told them that I now thought them perfectly right to form and express their own judgment, and that I had never before heard who had been my judges. I fear the soreness remains in their minds to this day, though there never was any in mine. Lord Brougham’s words travelled far and wide, and were certainly anything but comfortable to the subcommittee. He said he should revive the torture for their sakes, as hanging was too good for them. He tore his hair over the tales, he added, unable to endure that the whole Society, “instituted for the very purpose, should be driven out of the field by a little deaf woman at Norwich.” — As I have said, I cannot remember at what time I made my application; but I imagine it must have been during that eventful year 1831, — in which case the writing of that story must come into the estimate of the work of that year.
A cheering incident occurred during the interval of awaiting the effects of the Circular. Every body knows that the Gurneys are the great bankers of Norwich. Richard Hanbury Gurney, at that time one of the Members for Norfolk, was in the firm; and he was considered to be one of the best-informed men in England on the subject of Currency. The head officer of the bank, Mr. Simon Martin, deserved the same reputation, and had it, among all who knew him. He sent for my brother Henry, who found him with my Circular before him. He said that he had a message to communicate to me from the firm: and the message was duly delivered, when Mr. Martin had satisfied himself that my brother conscientiously believed me adequate to my enterprise. Messrs. Gurney considered the scheme an important one, promising public benefit: they doubted whether it would be immediately appreciated: they knew that I could not afford to go on at a loss, but thought it a pity that a beneficial enterprise should fall to the ground for want of immediate support: and they therefore requested that, in case of discouragement in regard to the sale, I should apply to them before giving up. “Before she gives up, let her come to us,” were their words: words which were as pleasant to me in the midst of my success as they could have been if I had needed the support so generously offered.
Meantime the weekly letter grew worse and worse. But on the Sunday preceding the day of publication came a bit of encouragement in the shape of a sentence in these, or nearly these words. “I see no chance of the work succeeding unless the trade take it up better. We have only one considerable booksellers’ order — from A and B for a hundred copies.” “Why, there,” said my mother, “is a hundred towards your thousand!” “Ah, but,” said I, “where are the other nine hundred to come from, in a fortnight?” The edition consisted of fifteen hundred.
To the best of my recollection, I waited ten days from the day of publication, before I had another line from the publisher. My mother, judging from his ill-humour, inferred that he had good news to tell: whereas I supposed the contrary. My mother was right; and I could now be amused at his last attempts to be discouraging in the midst of splendid success. At the end of those ten days, he sent with his letter a copy of my first number, desiring me to make with all speed any corrections I might wish to make, as he had scarcely any copies left. He added that the demand led him to propose that we should now print two thousand. A postscript informed me that since he wrote the above, he had found that we should want three thousand. A second postscript proposed four thousand, and a third five thousand. The letter was worth having, now it had come. There was immense relief in this; but I remember nothing like intoxication; — like any painful reaction whatever. I remember walking up and down the grassplat in the garden (I think it was on the tenth of February) feeling that my cares were over. And so they were. From that hour, I have never had any other anxiety about employment than what to choose, nor any real care about money. Eight or nine years after, I found myself entirely cut off by illness from the power of working; and then my relations and friends aided me in ways so generous as to make it easy for me to accept the assistance. But even then, I was never actually pinched for money; and, from the time that the power of working was restored, I was at once as prosperous as ever, and became more and more so till now, when illness has finally visited me in a condition of independence. I think I may date my release from pecuniary care from that tenth of February, 1832.
The entire periodical press, daily, weekly, and, as soon as possible, monthly, came out in my favour; and I was overwhelmed with newspapers and letters, containing every sort of flattery. The Diffusion Society wanted to have the Series now; and Mr. Hume offered, on behalf of a new society of which he was the head, any price I would name for the purchase of the whole. I cannot precisely answer for the date of these and other applications; but, as far as I remember, there was, from the middle of February onwards, no remission of such applications, the meanest of which I should have clutched at a few weeks before. Members of Parliament sent down blue books through the postoffice, to the astonishment of the postmaster, who one day sent word that I must send for my own share of the mail, for it could not be carried without a barrow; — an announcement which, spreading in the town, caused me to be stared at in the streets. Thus began that sort of experience. Half the hobbies of the House of Commons, and numberless notions of individuals, anonymous and other, were commended to me for treatment in my Series, with which some of them had no more to do than geometry or the atomic theory. I had not calculated on this additional labour, in the form of correspondence; and very weary I often was of it, in the midst of the amusement. One necessity arose out of it which soon became very clear, — that I must reside in London, for the sake of the extensive and varied information which I now found was at my service there, and which the public encouragement of my work made it my duty to avail myself of.
It seemed hard upon my kind mother and aunt that the first consequence of the success they buoyed me up in hoping for should be to take me to London, after all: but the events of the summer showed them the necessity of the removal. We treated it as for a time; and I felt that my mother would not endure a permanent separation. The matter ended in their joining me in a small house in London, before many months were over: and meantime, my mother stipulated for my being in the house of some family well known to her. I obtained lodgings in the house of a tailor in Conduit Street, whose excellent wife had been an acquaintance of ours from her childhood to her marriage. There I arrived in November, 1832; and there I lodged till the following September, when I went, with my mother and aunt, into a house (No. 17) in Fludyer Street, Westminster, where I resided till the breakdown of my health (which took place in 1839) removed me from London altogether.
Here I stop, thinking that the third period of my life may be considered as closing with the conquest of all difficulty about getting a hearing from the public for what I felt I had to say. Each period of my life has had its trials and heart-wearing difficulties, — except (as will be seen) the last; but in none had the pains and penalties of life a more intimate connexion with the formation of character than in the one which closes here. And now the summer of my life was bursting forth without any interval of spring. My life began with winter, burst suddenly into summer, and is now ending with autumn, — mild and sunny. I have had no spring: but that cannot be helped now. It was a moral disadvantage, as well as a great loss of happiness: but we all have our moral disadvantages to make the best of; and “happiness” is not, as the poet says, “our being’s end and aim,” but the result of one faculty among many, which must be occasionally overborne by others, if there is to be any effectual exercise of the whole being. So I am satisfied in a higher sense than that in which the Necessarian is always satisfied. I cannot but know that in my life there has been a great waste of precious time and material: but I had now, by thirty years of age, ascertained my career, found occupation, and achieved independence; and thus the rest of my life was provided with its duties and its interests. Any one to whom that happens by thirty years of age may be satisfied; and I was so.
[* ]Edinburgh Review. Vol. lvii., pp. 6 and 7.