Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I. - Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, vol. 1
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SECTION I. - 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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It was a dark foggy November morning when I arrived in London. My lodgings were up two pair of stairs; for I did not yet feel secure of my permanent success, and had no conception of what awaited me in regard to society. A respectable sitting room to the front, and a clean, small bedroom behind seemed to me all that could possibly be desired, — seeing that I was to have them all to myself. To be sure, they did look very dark, that first morning of yellow fog: but it was seldom so dark again; and when the spring came on, and I moved down into the handsomer rooms on the first floor, I thought my lodgings really pleasant. In the summer mornings, when I made my coffee at seven o’clock, and sat down to my work, with the large windows open, the sun-blinds down, the street fresh watered, and the flower-girls’ baskets visible from my seat, I wished for nothing better. The evening walks in the Parks, when London began to grow “empty,” were one of my chief pleasures; and truly I know few things better than Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine in the evenings of August and September. I had lived in a narrow street all my life, except during occasional visits; and I therefore did not now object to Conduit Street, though it was sometimes too noisy, or too foggy, or too plashy, or too hot. It is well that I did not then know the charms of a country residence; or, knowing them, never thought of them as attainable by me. I have long felt that nothing but the strongest call of duty could make me now live in a street; and if I allowed myself to give way to distress at the mysteries of human life, one of my greatest perplexities would be at so many people being obliged so to live. Now that I have dwelt for nine years in a field, where there is never any dust, never any smoke, never any noise; where my visitors laugh at the idea of the house ever being cleaned, because it never gets dirty; where there is beauty to be seen from every window, and in bad weather it is a treat to stand in the porch and see it rain, I cannot but wonder at my former contentment. I have visited and gone over our old house in Magdalen Street, at Norwich, within a few years; and I could not but wonder how my romantic days could ever have come on in such a place. There it stands, — a handsome, plain brick house, in a narrow street, — Norwich having nothing but narrow streets. There it is, — roomy and good-looking enough; but prosaic to the last degree. Except the vine on its back gable, there is not an element of naturalness or poetry about it. Yet there were my dreamy years passed. In my London lodging, a splendid vision was to open upon me, — one which I am glad to have enjoyed, because it was enjoyment; and because a diversified experience is good; and because I really gained much knowledge of human life and character from it. I became the fashion, and I might have been the “lion” of several seasons, if I had chosen to permit it. I detested the idea, and absolutely put down the practice in my own case: but I saw as much of a very varied society as if I had allowed myself to be lionised, and with a more open mind than if I had not insisted on being treated simply as a lady or let alone. The change from my life in Norwich to my life in London was certainly prodigious, and such as I did not dream of when I exchanged the one for the other. Before we lost our money, and when I was a young lady “just introduced,” my mother insisted on taking me to balls and parties, though that sort of visiting was the misery of my life. My deafness was terribly in the way, both because it made me shy, and because underbred people, like the card-players and dancers of a provincial town, are awkward in such a case. Very few people spoke to me; and I dare say I looked as if I did not wish to be spoken to. From the time when I went to London, all that was changed. People began with me as with a deaf person; and there was little more awkwardness about hearing, when they had once reconciled themselves to my trumpet. They came to me in good will, or they would not have come at all. They and I were not jumbled together by mere propinquity; we met purposely; and, if we continued our intercourse, it was through some sort of affinity. I now found what the real pleasures of social intercourse are, and was deeply sensible of its benefits: but it really does not appear to me that I was intoxicated with the pleasure, or that I over-rated the benefit. I think so because I always preferred my work to this sort of play. I think so because some sober friends, — two or three whom I could trust, — said, first, that I might and probably should say and do some foolish things, but that I should “prove ultimately unspoilable;” and afterwards that I was not spoiled. I think so because I altered no plan or aim in life on account of any social distinction; and I think so, finally, because, while vividly remembering the seven years from 1832 to 1839, and feeling as gratefully and complacently as ever the kindness and attachment of friends, and the good-will of a multitude of acquaintances, I had no inclination to return to literary life in London after my recovery at Tynemouth, and have for ten years rejoiced, without pause or doubt, in my seclusion and repose in my quiet valley. There is an article of mine on “Literary Lionism” in the London and Westminster Review of April, 1839, which was written when the subject was fresh in my thoughts and feelings. In consideration of this, and of my strong repugnance to detailing the incidents of my own reception in society, on entering the London world, while such an experience cannot be wholly passed over in an account of my life, I think the best way will be to cite that article, — omitting those passages only which are of a reviewing character. By this method, it will appear what my impressions were while in conflict with the practice of literary lionism; and I shall be spared the disgusting task of detailing old absurdities and dwelling on old flatteries, which had myself for their subject. Many of the stories which I could tell are comic enough; and a few are exceedingly interesting: but they would be all spoiled, to myself and every body else, by their relating to myself. The result on my own convictions and feelings is all that it is necessary to give; and that result can be given in no form so trustworthy as in the record penned at the time. It must be remembered that the article appeared in an anonymous form, or some appearance of conceit and bad taste may hang about even that form of disclosure. — The statement and treatment of the subject will however lead forward so far into my London life that I must fill up an intermediate space. I must give some account of my work before I proceed to treat of my playhours.
In meditating on my course of life at that time, and gathering together the evidences of what I was learning and doing, I am less disposed than I used to be to be impatient with my friends for their incessant rebukes and remonstrances about over-work. From the age of fifteen to the moment in which I am writing, I have been scolded in one form or another, for working too hard; and I wonder my friends did not find out thirty years ago that there is no use in their fault-finding. I am heartily sick of it, I own; and there may be some little malice in the satisfaction with which I find myself dying, after all, of a disease which nobody can possibly attribute to over-work. Though knowing all along that my friends were mistaken as to what was moderate and what immoderate work, in other cases than their own (and I have always left them free to judge and act for themselves) I have never denied that less toil and more leisure would be wholesome and agreeable to me. My pleas have been that I have had no power of choice, and that my critics misjudged the particular case. Almost every one of them has proceeded on the supposition that the labour of authorship involved immense “excitement;” and I, who am the quietest of quiet bodies, when let alone in my business, have been warned against “excitement” till I am fairly sick of the word. One comfort has always been that those who were witnesses of my work-a-day life always came round to an agreement with me that literary labour is not necessarily more hurtfully exciting than any other serious occupation. My mother, alarmed at a distance, and always expecting to hear of a brain fever, used to say, amidst the whirl of our London spring days, “My dear, I envy your calmness.” And a very intimate friend, one of the strongest remonstrants, told me spontaneously, when I had got through a vast pressure of work in her country house, that she should never trouble me more on that head, as she saw that my authorship was the fulfilment of a natural function, — conducive to health of body and mind, instead of injurious to either. It would have saved me from much annoyance (kindly intended) if others had observed with the same good sense, and admitted conviction with equal candour. Authorship has never been with me a matter of choice. I have not done it for amusement, or for money, or for fame, or for any reason but because I could not help it. Things were pressing to be said; and there was more or less evidence that I was the person to say them. In such a case, it was always impossible to decline the duty for such reasons as that I should like more leisure, or more amusement, or more sleep, or more of any thing whatever. If my life had depended on more leisure and holiday, I could not have taken it. What wanted to be said must be said, for the sake of the many, whatever might be the consequences to the one worker concerned. Nor could the immediate task be put aside, from the remote consideration, for ever pressed upon me, of lengthening my life. The work called for to-day must not be refused for the possible sake of next month or next year. While feeling far less injured by toil than my friends took for granted I must be, I yet was always aware of the strong probability that my life would end as the lives of hard literary workers usually end, — in paralysis, with months or years of imbecility. Every one must recoil from the prospect of being thus burdensome to friends and attendants; and it certainly was a matter of keen satisfaction to me, when my present fatal disease was ascertained, that I was released from that liability, and should die of something else, far less formidable to witnesses and nurses. Yet, the contemplation of such a probability in the future was no reason for declining the duty of the time; and I could not have written a volume the less if I had foreknown that, at a certain future day and hour, I should be struck down like Scott and Southey, and many another faithful labourer in the field of literature.
One deep and steady conviction, obtained from my own experience and observation, largely qualified any apprehensions I might have, and was earnestly impressed by me upon my remonstrating friends; that enormous loss of strength, energy and time is occasioned by the way in which people go to work in literature, as if its labours were in all respects different from any other kind of toil. I am confident that intellectual industry and intellectual punctuality are as practicable as industry and punctuality in any other direction. I have seen vast misery of conscience and temper arise from the irresolution and delay caused by waiting for congenial moods, favourable circumstances, and so forth. I can speak, after long experience, without any doubt on this matter. I have suffered, like other writers, from indolence, irresolution, distaste to my work, absence of “inspiration,” and all that: but I have also found that sitting down, however reluctantly, with the pen in my hand, I have never worked for one quarter of an hour without finding myself in full train: so that all the quarter hours, arguings, doubtings and hesitation as to whether I should work or not which I gave way to in my inexperience, I now regard as so much waste, not only of time but, far worse, of energy. To the best of my belief, I never but once in my life left my work because I could not do it: and that single occasion was on the opening day of an illness. When once experience had taught me that I could work when I chose, and within a quarter of an hour of my determining to do so, I was relieved, in a great measure, from those embarrassments and depressions which I see afflicting many an author who waits for a mood instead of summoning it, and is the sport, instead of the master, of his own impressions and ideas. — As far as the grosser physical influences are concerned, an author has his lot pretty much in his own hands, because it is in his power to shape his habits in accordance with the laws of nature: and an author who does not do this has no business with the lofty vocation. I am very far indeed from desiring to set up my own practices as an example for others; and I do not pretend that they are wholly rational, or the best possible: but, as the facts are clear — that I have, without particular advantages of health and strength, done an unusual amount of work without fatal, perhaps without injurious consequences, and without the need of pernicious stimulants and peculiar habits, — it may be as well to explain what my methods were, that others may test them experimentally, if they choose.
As for my hours, — it has always been my practice to devote my best strength to my work; and the morning hours have therefore been sacred to it, from the beginning. I really do not know what it is to take any thing but the pen in hand, the first thing after breakfast, except, of course, in travelling. I never pass a day without writing; and the writing is always done in the morning. There have been times when I have been obliged to “work double tides,” and therefore to work at night: but it has never been a practice; and I have seldom written any thing more serious than letters by candlelight. In London, I boiled my coffee at seven or half-past, and went to work immediately till two, when it was necessary to be at liberty for visitors till four o’clock. It was impossible for me to make calls. I had an immense acquaintance, no carriage, and no time: and I therefore remained at home always from two till four, to receive all who came; and I called on nobody. I knew that I should be quizzed or blamed for giving myself airs: but I could not help that. I had engaged before I came to London to write a number of my Series every month for two years; and I could not have fulfilled my engagement and made morning visits too. Sydney Smith was one of the quizzers. He thought I might have managed the thing better, by “sending round an inferior authoress in a carriage to drop the cards.”
When my last visitor departed, I ran out for an hour’s walk, returning in time to dress and read the newspaper, before the carriage came, — somebody’s carriage being always sent, — to take me out to dinner. An evening visit or two closed the day’s engagements. I tried my best to get home by twelve or half-past, in order to answer the notes I was sure to find on my table, or to get a little reading before going to rest between one and two. A very refreshing kind of visit was (and it happened pretty often) when I walked to the country, or semi-country house of an intimate friend, and slept there, — returning before breakfast, or in time to sit down to my morning’s work. After my mother and aunt joined me in London, I refused Sunday visiting altogether, and devoted that evening to my old ladies. So much for the times of working.
I was deeply impressed by something which an excellent clergyman told me one day, when there was nobody by to bring mischief on the head of the relater. This clergyman knew the literary world of his time so thoroughly that there was probably no author of any mark then living in England, with whom he was not more or less acquainted. It must be remembered that a new generation has now grown up. He told me that he had reason to believe that there was no author or authoress who was free from the habit of taking some pernicious stimulant; — either strong green tea, or strong coffee at night, or wine or spirits or laudanum. The amount of opium taken, to relieve the wear and tear of authorship, was, he said, greater than most people had any conception of: and all literary workers took something. “Why, I do not,” said I. “Fresh air and cold water are my stimulants.” — “I believe you,” he replied. “But you work in the morning; and there is much in that.” I then remembered that when, for a short time, I had to work at night (probably on one of the Poor-law tales, while my regular work occupied the mornings) a physician who called on me observed that I must not allow myself to be exhausted at the end of the day. He would not advise any alcoholic wine; but any light wine that I liked might do me good. “You have a cupboard there at your right hand,” said he. “Keep a bottle of hock and a wine-glass there, and help yourself when you feel you want it.” — “No, thank you,” said I. “If I took wine, it should not be when alone; nor would I help myself to a glass. I might take a little more and a little more, till my solitary glass might become a regular tippling habit. I shall avoid the temptation altogether.” Physicians should consider well before they give such advice to brain-worn workers.
As for the method, in regard to the Political Economy Tales, I am not sorry to have an opportunity of putting it on record. — When I began, I furnished myself with all the standard works on the subject of what I then took to be a science. I had made a skeleton plan of the course, comprehending the four divisions, Production, Distribution, Exchange and Consumption: and, in order to save my nerves from being overwhelmed with the thought of what I had undertaken, I resolved not to look beyond the department on which I was engaged. The subdivisions arranged themselves as naturally as the primary ones; and when any subject was episodical (as Slave Labour) I announced it as such. — Having noted my own leading ideas on the topic before me, I took down my books, and read the treatment of that particular subject in each of them, making notes of reference on a separate sheet for each book, and restraining myself from glancing even in thought towards the scene and nature of my story till it should be suggested by my collective didactic materials. It was about a morning’s work to gather hints by this reading. The next process, occupying an evening, when I had one to spare, or the next morning, was making the Summary of Principles which is found at the end of each number. This was the most laborious part of the work, and that which I certainly considered the most valuable. — By this time, I perceived in what part of the world, and among what sort of people, the principles of my number appeared to operate the most manifestly. Such a scene I chose, be it where it might.
The next process was to embody each leading principle in a character: and the mutual operation of these embodied principles supplied the action of the story. It was necessary to have some accessories, — some out-works to the scientific erection; but I limited these as much as possible; and I believe that in every instance, they really were rendered subordinate. An hour or two sufficed for the outline of my story. If the scene was foreign, or in any part of England with which I was not familiar, I sent to the library for books of travel or topography: and the collecting and noting down hints from these finished the second day’s work. The third day’s toil was the severest. I reduced my materials to chapters, making a copious table of contents for each chapter on a separate sheet, on which I noted down, not only the action of the personages and the features of the scene, but all the political economy which it was their business to convey, whether by exemplification or conversation, — so as to absorb all the materials provided. This was not always completed at one sitting, and it made me sometimes sick with fatigue: but it was usually done in one day. After that, all the rest was easy. I paged my paper; and then the story went off like a letter. I never could decide whether I most enjoyed writing the descriptions, the narrative, or the argumentative or expository conversations. I liked each best while I was about it.
As to the actual writing, — I did it as I write letters, and as I am writing this Memoir, — never altering the expression as it came fresh from my brain. On an average I wrote twelve pages a day, — on large letter paper (quarto, I believe it is called) the page containing thirty-three lines. In spite of all precautions, interruptions occurred very often. The proof-correcting occupied some time; and so did sitting for five portraits in the year and half before I went to America. The correspondence threatened to become infinite. Many letters, particularly anonymous ones, required or deserved no answer: but there were others from operatives, young persons, and others which could be answered without much expenditure of thought, and wear and tear of interest: and I could not find in my heart to resist such clients. Till my mother joined me, I never failed to send her a bulky packet weekly; as much for my own satisfaction as for her’s, — needing as I did to speak freely to some one of the wonderful scenes which life was now opening to me. Having no maid, I had a good deal of the business of common life upon my hands. On the conclusion of a number, I sometimes took two days’ respite; employing it in visiting some country house for the day and night, and indulging in eight hours’ sleep, instead of the five, or five and a half, with which I was otherwise obliged to be satisfied: but it happened more than once that I finished one number at two in the morning, and was at work upon another by nine. During the whole period of the writing of the three Series, — the Political Economy, Taxation, and Poor Laws, — I never remember but once sitting down to read whatever I pleased. That was a summer evening, when I was at home and my old ladies were out, and I had two hours to do what I liked with. I was about to go to the United States; and I sat down to study the geography and relations of the States of the American Union; and extremely interesting I found it, — so soon as I was hoping to travel through them.
The mode of scheming and constructing my stories having been explained, it remains to be seen whence the materials were drawn. A review of the sources of my material will involve some anecdotes which may be worth telling, if I may judge by my own interest, and that which I witness in others, in the history of the composition of any well-known work.
If I remember right, I was busy about the twelfth number, — “French Wines and Politics,” — when I went to London, in November, 1832. That is, I had done with the department of Production, and was finishing that of Distribution. The first three numbers were written before the stir of success began: and the scenery was furnished by books of travel obtained from the Public Library, and of farming by the late Dr. Rigby of Norwich, — a friend of the late Lord Leicester, (when Mr. Coke). The books of travel were Lichtenstein’s South Africa for “Life in the Wilds:” Edwards’s (and others’) “West Indies” for “Demerara:” and McCulloch’s “Highlands and Islands of Scotland” for the two Garveloch stories. Mr. Cropper of Liverpool heard of the Series early enough to furnish me with some statistics of Slavery for “Demerara;” and Mr. Hume, in time to send me Blue Books on the Fisheries, for “Ella of Garveloch.” — My correspondence with Mr. Cropper deserves mention, in honour of that excellent and devoted man. About the time that the success of my scheme began to be apparent, there arrived in Norwich a person who presented himself as an anti-slavery agent. It was the well-known Elliott Cresson, associated with the American Colonization scheme, which he hoped to pass upon us innocent provincial Britons as the same thing as anti-slavery. Many even of the Quakers were taken in; and indeed there were none but experienced abolitionists, like the Croppers, who were qualified even to suspect, — much less to detect, — this agent of the slaveholders and his false pretences. Kind-hearted people, hearing from Mr. Cresson that a slave could be bought and settled blissfully in Liberia for seven pounds ten shillings, raised the ransom in their own families and among their neighbours, and thought all was right. Mr. Cresson obtained an introduction to my mother and me, and came to tea, and described what certainly interested us very much, and offered to furnish me with plenty of evidence of the productiveness of Liberia, and the capabilities of the scheme, with a view to my making it the scene and subject of one of my tales. I was willing, thinking it would make an admirable framework for one of my pieces of doctrine; and I promised, not to write a story, but to consider of it when the evidence should have arrived. The papers arrived; and my conclusion was — not to write about Liberia. Some time after, I had a letter from Mr. Cropper, who was a perfect stranger to me, saying that Elliott Cresson was announcing every where from the platform in his public lectures that I had promised him to make the colony of Liberia one of my Illustrations of Political Economy: and it was the fact that the announcement was made in many places. Mr. Cropper offered to prove to me the unreliableness of Cresson’s representations, and the true scope and aim of the Colonization scheme. He appealed to me not to publish in its favour till I had heard the other side; and offered to bear the expense of suppressing the whole edition, if the story was already printed. I had the pleasure of telling him by return of post that I had given no such promise to Mr. Cresson, and that I had not written, nor intended to write, any story about Liberia or American Colonization. Before I went to the United States, this agent of the slaveholders had exposed his true character by lecturing, all over England, in a libellous tone, against Garrison and the true abolitionists of America. When I had begun to see into the character and policy of the enterprise, and before I had met a single abolitionist in America, I encountered Mr. Cresson, face to face, in the Senate Chamber at Washington. He was very obsequious; but I would have nothing to say to him. He was, I believe, the only acquaintance whom I ever “cut.” It was out of this incident that grew the correspondence with Mr. Cropper which ended in his furnishing me with material for an object precisely the reverse of Elliott Cresson’s.
On five occasions in my life I have found myself obliged to write and publish what I entirely believed would be ruinous to my reputation and prosperity. In no one of the five cases has the result been what I anticipated. I find myself at the close of my life prosperous in name and fame, in my friendships and in my affairs. But it may be considered to have been a narrow escape in the first instance; for every thing was done that low-minded recklessness and malice could do to destroy my credit and influence by gross appeals to the prudery, timidity, and ignorance of the middle classes of England. My own innocence of intention, and my refusal to conceal what I thought and meant, carried me through: but there is no doubt that the circulation of my works was much and long restricted by the prejudices indecently and maliciously raised against me by Mr. Croker and Mr. Lockhart, in the Quarterly Review. I mention these two names, because Messrs. Croker and Lockhart openly assumed the honour of the wit which they (if nobody else) saw in the deed; and there is no occasion to suppose any one else concerned in it. As there is, I believe, some lingering feeling still, — some doubt about my being once held in horror as a “Malthusian,” I had better tell simply all I know of the matter.
When the course of my exposition brought me to the Population subject, I, with my youthful and provincial mode of thought and feeling, — brought up too amidst the prudery which is found in its great force in our middle class, — could not but be sensible that I risked much in writing and publishing on a subject which was not universally treated in the pure, benevolent, and scientific spirit of Malthus himself. I felt that the subject was one of science, and therefore perfectly easy to treat in itself; but I was aware that some evil associations had gathered about it, — though I did not know what they were. While writing “Weal and Woe in Garveloch,” the perspiration many a time streamed down my face, though I knew there was not a line in it which might not be read aloud in any family. The misery arose from my seeing how the simplest statements and reasonings might and probably would be perverted. I said nothing to any body; and, when the number was finished, I read it aloud to my mother and aunt. If there had been any opening whatever for doubt or dread, I was sure that these two ladies would have given me abundant warning and exhortation, — both from their very keen sense of propriety and their anxious affection for me. But they were as complacent and easy as they had been interested and attentive. I saw that all ought to be safe. But it was evidently very doubtful whether all would be safe. A few words in a letter from Mr. Fox put me on my guard. In the course of some remarks on the sequence of my topics, he wrote, “As for the Population question, let no one interfere with you. Go straight through it, or you’ll catch it.” I did go straight through it; and happily I had nearly done when a letter arrived from a literary woman, who had the impertinence to write to me now that I was growing famous, after having scarcely noticed me before, and (of all subjects,) on this, though she tried to make her letter decent by putting in a few little matters besides. I will call her Mrs. Z. as I have no desire to point out to notice one for whom I never had any respect or regard. She expressed, on the part of herself and others, an anxious desire to know how I should deal with the Population question; said that they did not know what to wish about my treating or omitting it; — desiring it for the sake of society, but dreading it for me; and she finished by informing me that a Member of Parliament, who was a perfect stranger to me, had assured her that I already felt my difficulty; and that he and she awaited my decision with anxiety. Without seeing at the moment the whole drift of this letter, I was abundantly disgusted by it, and fully sensible of the importance of its being answered immediately, and in a way which should admit of no mistake. I knew my reply was wanted for show; and I sent one by return of post which was shown to some purpose. It stopped speculation in one dangerous quarter. I showed my letter to my mother and brother; and they emphatically approved it, though it was rather sharp. They thought, as I did, that some sharpness was well directed towards a lady who professed to have talked over difficulties of this nature, on my behalf, with an unknown Member of Parliament by her own fireside. My answer was this. I believe I am giving the very words; for the business impressed itself deeply on my mind. “As for the questions you put about the principles of my Series, — if you believe the Population question to be, as you say, the most serious now agitating society, you can hardly suppose that I shall omit it, or that I can have been heedless of it in forming my plan. I consider it, as treated by Malthus, a strictly philosophical question. So treating it, I find no difficulty in it; and there can be no difficulty in it for those who approach it with a single mind. To such I address myself. If any others should come whispering to me what I need not listen to, I shall shift my trumpet, and take up my knitting.” I afterwards became acquainted with the Member of Parliament whom my undesired correspondent quoted; and I feel confident that his name was used very unwarrantably, for the convenience of the lady’s prurient curiosity. — I also saw her. She called on me at my lodgings (to catch a couple of franks from a Member of Parliament) and she mentioned my letter, — obtaining no response from me. She was then a near neighbour and an acquaintance of an intimate friend of mine. One winter morning, I was surprised by a note from this friend, sent three miles by a special messenger, to say, “Mrs. Z. purposes to visit you this morning. I conjure you to take my advice. On the subject which she will certainly introduce, be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid. I will explain hereafter.” The morning was so stormy that no Mrs. Anybody could come. My friend’s explanation to me was this. Mrs. Z. had declared her anxiety to her, in a morning call, to obtain from me, for her own satisfaction and other people’s, an avowal which might be reported as to the degree of my knowledge of the controversies which secretly agitated society on the true bearings of the Population question. All this was no concern of mine; and much of it was beyond my comprehension. The whole interference of Mrs. Z. and her friends (if indeed there was anybody concerned in it but herself) was odious and impertinent nonsense in my eyes; and the fussy lady ever found me, as well as my friend, ready to be as “deaf, dumb, blind and stupid” as occasion might require. — I rather suspect that Mrs. Z. herself was made a tool of for the purposes of Mr. Lockhart, who employed his then-existing intimacy with her to get materials for turning her into ridicule afterwards. The connexion of Mr. Lockhart with this business presently appeared.
In an evening party in the course of the winter, I was introduced to a lady whose name and connexions I had heard a good deal of. Instead of being so civil as might be anticipated from her eagerness for an introduction, she was singularly rude and violent, so as to make my hostess very uncomfortable. She called me “cruel” and “brutal,” and scolded me for my story — “Cousin Marshall.” I saw that she was talking at random, and asked her whether she had read the story. She had not. I good-humouredly, but decidedly, told her that when she had read it, we would discuss it, if she pleased; and that meantime we would drop it. She declared she would not read it for the world; but she presently followed me about, was kind and courteous, and finished by begging to be allowed to set me down at my lodgings. When I alighted, she requested leave to call. She did so, when my mother was with me for two or three weeks, and invited us to dine at her house in the country, on the first disengaged day. She called for us, and told us during our drive that she had resisted the strongest entreaties from Mr. Lockhart to be allowed to meet me that day. She had some misgiving, it appeared, which made her steadily refuse; but she invited Lady G—, a relative of Lockhart’s, and an intimate friend of her own. Lady G. was as unwilling as Lockhart was eager to come; and very surly she looked when introduced. She sat within hearing of my host and me at dinner; and as soon as we returned to the drawing-room, she took her seat by me, with a totally changed manner, and conversed kindly and agreeably. I was wholly unaware what lay under all this: but the fact soon came out that the atrocious article in the Quarterly Review which was avowedly intended to “destroy Miss Martineau,” was at that time actually printed; and Mr. Lockhart wanted to seize an opportunity which might be the last for meeting me, — all unsuspecting as I was, and trusting to his being a gentleman, on the strength of meeting him in that house. I was long afterwards informed that Lady G. went to him early the next day, (which was Sunday) and told him that he would repent of the article, if it was what he had represented to her; and I know from the printers that Mr. Lockhart went down at once to the office, and cut out “all the worst passages of the review,” at great inconvenience and expense. What he could have cut out that was worse than what stands, it is not easy to conceive.
While all this was going on without my knowledge, warnings came to me from two quarters that something prodigious was about to happen. Mr. Croker had declared at a dinner party that he expected a revolution under the whigs, and to lose his pension; and that he intended to lay by his pension while he could get it, and maintain himself by his pen; and that he had “begun by tomahawking Miss Martineau in the Quarterly.” An old gentleman present, Mr. Whishaw, was disgusted at the announcement and at the manner of it, and, after consulting with a friend or two, called to tell me of this, and put me on my guard. On the same day, another friend called to tell me that my printers (who also printed the Quarterly) thought I ought to know that “the filthiest thing that had passed through the press for a quarter of a century” was coming out against me in the Quarterly. I could not conceive what all this meant; and I do not half understand it now: but it was enough to perceive that the design was to discredit me by some sort of evil imputation. I saw at once what to do. I wrote to my brothers, telling them what I had heard, and earnestly desiring that they would not read the next Quarterly. I told them that the inevitable consequence of my brothers taking up my quarrels would be to close my career. I had entered upon it independently, and I would pursue it alone. From the moment that any of them stirred about my affairs, I would throw away my pen; for I would not be answerable for any mischief or trouble to them. I made it my particular request that we might all be able to say that they had not read the article. I believe I am, in fact, the only member of the family who ever read it. — The day before publication, which happened to be Good Friday, a friend called on me, — a clergyman who occasionally wrote for the Quarterly, — and produced the forthcoming number from under his cloak. “Now,” said he, “I am going to leave this with you. Do not tell me a word of what you think of it; but just mark all the lies in the margin: and I will call at the door for it, on my way home in the afternoon.” I did it; sat down to my work again (secure from visitors on a Good Friday) and then went out, walking and by omnibus, to dine in the country. I remember thinking in the omnibus that the feelings called forth by such usage are, after all, more pleasurable than painful; and again, when I went to bed, that the day had been a very happy one. The testing of one’s power of endurance is pleasurable; and the testing of one’s power of forgiveness is yet sweeter: and it is no small benefit to learn something more of one’s faults and weaknesses than friends and sympathisers either will or can tell. The compassion that I felt on this occasion for the low-minded and foulmouthed creatures who could use their education and position as gentlemen to “destroy” a woman whom they knew to be innocent of even comprehending their imputations, was very painful: but, on the other hand, my first trial in the shape of hostile reviewing was over, and I stood unharmed, and somewhat enlightened and strengthened. I mentioned the review to nobody; and therefore nobody mentioned it to me. I heard, some years after, that one or two literary ladies had said that they, in my place, would have gone into the mountains or to the antipodes, and never have shown their faces again; and that there were inquiries in abundance of my friends how I stood it. But I gave no sign. The reply always was that I looked very well and happy, — just as usual. — The sequel of the story is that the writer of the original article, Mr. Poulett Scrope, requested a mutual friend to tell me that he was ready to acknowledge the political economy of the article to be his; but that he hoped he was too much of a gentleman to have stooped to ribaldry, or even jest; and that I must understand that he was not more or less responsible for any thing in the article which we could not discuss face to face with satisfaction. Messrs. Lockhart and Croker made no secret of the ribaldry being theirs. When the indignation of the literary world was strong in regard to this and other offences of the same kind, and Mr. Lockhart found he had gone too far in my case, he spared no intreaties to the lady who made Lady G. meet me to invite him, — professing great admiration and good-will, and declaring that I must know his insults to be mere joking. She was won upon at last, and came one day with her husband, to persuade me to go over to dinner to meet Mr. Lockhart. When I persisted in my refusal, she said, in some vexation, — “But what am I to say to Lockhart? — because I promised him.” I replied, “I have nothing to do with what you say to Mr. Lockhart: but I will tell you that I will never knowingly meet Mr. Lockhart; and that, if I find myself in the same house with him, I will go out at one door of the drawing-room when he comes in at the other.” Her husband, hitherto silent, said, “You are quite right. I would on no account allow you to be drawn in to an acquaintance with Lockhart at our house: and the only excuse I can offer for my wife’s rashness is that she has never read that Quarterly article.” From other quarters I had friendly warnings that Lockhart had set his mind on making my acquaintance, in order to be able to say that I did not mind what he had done. He was the only person but two whose acquaintance I ever refused. I never saw him but once; and that was twenty years afterwards, when he wore a gloomy and painful expression of countenance, and walked listlessly along the street and the square, near his own house, swinging his cane. My companion told me who he was; and we walked along the other side of the street, having a good and unobserved view of him till he reached his own house. The sorrows of his later years had then closed down upon him, and he was sinking under them: but the pity which I felt for him then was not more hearty, I believe, than that which filled my mind on that Good Friday, 1833, when he believed he had “destroyed” me.
As for destroying me, — it was too late, for one thing. I had won my public before Croker took up his “tomahawk.” The simple fact, in regard to the circulation of my Series, was that the sale increased largely after the appearance of the Quarterly review of it, and diminished markedly and immediately on the publication of the flattering article on it in the Edinburgh Review. The Whigs were then falling into disrepute among the great body of the people; and every token of favour from whig quarters was damaging to me, for a time. In the long run, there is no doubt that the Quarterly injured me seriously. For ten years there was seldom a number which had not some indecent jest about me, — some insulting introduction of my name. The wonder is what could be gained that was worth the trouble: but it certainly seems to me that this course of imputation originated some obscure dread of me and my works among timid and superficial readers. For one instance among many: — a lady, calling on a friend of mine, wondered at seeing books of mine on the table, within the children’s reach; — they being “improper books,” she had been told, — declared to be so by the Quarterly Review. My friend said “Though I don’t agree with you, I know what you are thinking of. You must carry this home, and read it,” — taking down from the shelf the volume which contained the Garveloch stories. The visitor hesitated, but yielded, and a few days after, brought back the book, saying that this could not be the one, for it was so harmless that her husband had read it aloud to the young people in the evening. “Well,” said my friend, “try another.” The lady and her husband read the whole series through in this way, and never could find out the “improper book.”
And what was all this for? I do not at all know. All that I know is that a more simple-minded, virtuous man, full of domestic affections, than Mr. Malthus, could not be found in all England; and that the desire of his heart and the aim of his work were that domestic virtue and happiness should be placed within the reach of all, as Nature intended them to be. He found, in his day, that a portion of the people were underfed; and that one consequence of this was a fearful mortality among infants; and another consequence, the growth of a recklessness among the destitute which caused infanticide, corruption of morals, and, at best, marriage between pauper boys and girls, while multitudes of respectable men and women, who paid rates instead of consuming them, were unmarried at forty, or never married at all. Prudence as to the time of marriage, and to making due provision for it was, one would think, a harmless recommendation enough, under the circumstances. Such is the moral aspect of Malthus’s work. As to its mathematical basis, there is no one, as I have heard Mr. Hallam say, who could question it that might not as well dispute the multiplication table. As for whether Mr. Malthus’s doctrine, while mathematically indisputable, and therefore assailable in itself only by ribaldry and corrupt misrepresentation, may not be attacking a difficulty at the wrong end, — that is a fair matter of opinion. In my opinion, recent experience shows that it does attack a difficulty at the wrong end. The repeal of the corn-laws, with the consequent improvement in agriculture, and the prodigious increase of emigration have extinguished all present apprehension and talk of “surplus population,” — that great difficulty of forty or fifty years ago. And it should be remembered, as far as I am concerned in the controversy, that I advocated in my Series a free trade in corn, and exhibited the certainty of agricultural improvement, as a consequence; and urged a carefully conducted emigration; and, above all, education without limit. It was my business, in illustrating Political Economy, to exemplify Malthus’s doctrine among the rest. It was that doctrine “pure and simple,” as it came from his virtuous and benevolent mind, that I presented; and the presentment was accompanied by an earnest advocacy of the remedies which the great natural laws of Society put into our power, — freedom for bringing food to men, and freedom for men to go where food is plentiful; and enlightenment for all, that they may provide for themselves under the guidance of the best intelligence. Mr. Malthus, who did more for social ease and virtue than perhaps any other man of his time, was the “best-abused man” of the age. I was aware of this; and I saw in him, when I afterwards knew him, one of the serenest and most cheerful men that society can produce. When I became intimate enough with the family to talk over such matters, I asked Mr. Malthus one day whether he had suffered in spirits from the abuse lavished on him. “Only just at first,” he answered. — “I wonder whether it ever kept you awake a minute.” — “Never after the first fortnight,” was his reply. The spectacle of the good man in his daily life, in contrast with the representations of him in the periodical literature of the time, impressed upon me, more forcibly than any thing in my own experience, the everlasting fact that the reformers of morality, personal and social, are always subject at the outset to the imputation of immorality from those interested in the continuance of corruption. — I need only add that all suspicious speculation, in regard to my social doctrines, seems to have died out long ago. I was not ruined by this first risk, any more than by any subsequent enterprises; but I was probably never so near it as when my path of duty led me among the snares and pitfalls prepared for the innocent and defenceless by Messrs. Croker and Lockhart, behind the screen of the Quarterly Review.
The behaviour of the Edinburgh was widely different. From the time of my becoming acquainted with the literary Whigs who were paramount at that time, I had heard the name of William Empson on all hands: and it once or twice crossed my mind that it was odd that I never saw him. Once he left the room as I entered it unexpectedly: and another time, he ran in among us at dessert, at a dinner party, to deliver a message to the hostess, and was gone, without an introduction to me, — the only stranger in company. When his review of my Series in the Edinburgh was out, and he had ascertained that I had read it, he caused me to be informed that he had declined an introduction to me hitherto, because he wished to render impossible all allegations that I had been favourably reviewed by a personal friend: but that he was now only awaiting my permission to pay his respects to me. The review was, to be sure, extraordinarily laudatory; but the praise did not seem to me to be very rational and sound; while the nature of the criticism showed that all accordance between Mr. Empson and me on some important principles of social morals was wholly out of the question. His objection to the supposition that society could exist without capital punishment is one instance of what I mean; and his view of the morality or immorality of opinions (apart from the process of forming them) is another. But there was some literary criticism which I was thankful for; and there was such kindliness and generosity in the whole character of the man’s mind; — his deeds of delicate goodness came to my knowledge so abundantly; and he bore so well certain mortifications about the review with which he had taken his best pains, that I was as ready as himself to be friends. And friends we were, for several years. We were never otherwise than perfectly friendly, though I could not help feeling that every year, and every experience, separated us more widely in regard to intellectual and moral sympathy. He was not, from the character of his mind, capable of having opinions; and he was, as is usual in such cases, disposed to be afraid of those who had. He was in a perpetual course of being swayed about by the companions of the day, on all matters but politics. There he was safe; for he was hedged in on every side by the dogmatic Whigs, who made him their chief dogmatist. He was full of literary knowledge; — an omnivorous reader with a weak intellectual digestion. He was not personally the wiser for his reading; but the profusion that he could pour out gave a certain charm to his conversation, and even to his articles, which had no other merit, except indeed that of a general kindliness of spirit. During my intercourse with him and his set, he married the only child of his old friend, Lord Jeffrey: and after the death of Mr. Napier, who succeeded Jeffrey in the editorship of the Edinburgh Review, Mr. Empson accepted the offer of it, — rather to the consternation of some of his best friends. He had been wont to shake his head over the misfortunes of the review in Napier’s time, saying that that gentleman had no literary faculty or cultivation whatever. When he himself assumed the management, people said we should now have nothing but literature. Both he and his predecessor, however, inserted (it was understood) as a matter of course, all articles sent by Whig Ministers, or by their underlings, however those articles might contradict each other even in the same number. All hope of real editorship, of political and moral consistency, was now over; and an unlooked-for failure in modesty and manners in good Mr. Empson spoiled the literary prospect; so that the review lost character and reputation quarter by quarter, while under his charge. His health had so far, and so fatally, failed before he became Editor, that he ought not to have gone into the enterprise; and so his oldest and best friends told him. But the temptation was strong; and, unfortunately, he could not resist it. Unfortunately, if indeed it is desirable that the Edinburgh Review should live, — which may be a question. It is a great evil for such a publication to change its politics radically; and this must be done if the Edinburgh is to live; for Whiggism has become mere death in life, — a mere transitional state, now nearly worn out. When Mr. Empson’s review of me appeared, however, the Whigs were new in office, Jeffrey’s parliamentary career was an object of high hope to his party, and the Edinburgh was more regarded than the younger generation can now easily believe. Mr. Empson’s work was therefore of some consequence to him, to me, and to the public. As I have said, the sale of my Series declined immediately, — under the popular notion that I was to be a pet of the Whigs. As for ourselves, we met very pleasantly at dinner, at his old friend, Lady S.’s, where nobody else was invited. Thence we all went together to an evening party; and I seldom entered a drawing-room afterwards without meeting my kind-hearted reviewer. — Such were the opposite histories of my first appearance in the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews. — I may as well add that I speak under no bias, in either case, of contributor or candidate interest; for I never wrote or desired to write for either review. I do not remember that I was ever asked; and I certainly never offered. I think I may trust my memory so far as to say this confidently.
To return to the subject of the materials furnished to me as I proceeded in my work. There were still three more numbers written in Norwich, besides those which I have mentioned. The Manchester operatives were eager to interest me in their controversies about Machinery and Wages; and it was from them that I received the bundles of documents which qualified me to write “A Manchester Strike.”
It was while I was about this number that the crisis of the Reform Bill happened. One May morning, I remember, the people of Norwich went out, by hundreds and thousands, to meet the mail. At that time, little Willie B—, the son of the Unitarian Minister at Norwich, used to come every morning to say certain lessons to my mother, with whom he was a great favourite. On that morning, after breakfast, in came Willie, looking solemn and business-like, and stood before my mother with his arms by his sides, as if about to say a lesson, and said, “Ma’am, papa sends you his regards, and the Ministry has resigned.” “Well, Willie, what does that mean?” “I don’t know, Ma’am.” We, however, knew so well that, for once, and I believe for the only time in those busy years, I could not work. When my mother came in from ordering dinner, she found me sitting beside Willie, mending stockings. She expressed her amazement: and I told her, what pleased her highly, that I really could not write about twopenny galloons, the topic of the morning, after hearing of Lord Grey’s resignation. We went out early into the town, where the people were all in the streets, and the church bells were muffled and tolling. I do not remember a more exciting day. My publisher wrote a day or two afterwards, that the London booksellers need not have been afraid of the Reform Bill, any more than the Cholera, for that during this crisis, he had sold more of my books than ever. Every thing, indeed, justified my determination not to defer a work which was the more wanted the more critical became the affairs of the nation.
In spite of all I could say, the men of Manchester persisted that my hero was their hero, whose name however I had never heard. It gratified me to find that my doctrine was well received, and I may say, cordially agreed in, even at that time, by the leaders of the genuine Manchester operatives; and they, for their part, were gratified by their great topics of interest being discussed by one whom they supposed to have “spent all her life in a cotton-mill,” as one of their favourite Members of Parliament told me they did. — It occurs to me that my life ought indeed to be written by myself or some one else who can speak to its facts; for, if the reports afloat about me from time to time were to find their way into print after my death, it would appear the strangest life in the world. I have been assigned a humbler life than that of the Cotton-mill. A friend of mine heard a passenger in a stage-coach tell another that I was “of very low origin, — having been a maid-of-all-work.” This was after the publication of my model number of the “Guide to Service,” done at the request of the Poor-law Commissioners. My reply to the request was that I would try, if the Maid-of-all-work might be my subject. I considered it a compliment, when I found I was supposed to have been relating my own experience. One aunt of mine heard my Series extolled (also in a coach) as wonderful for a young creature, seventeen and no more on her last birthday; and another aunt heard the same praise, in the same way, but on the opposite ground that I was wonderfully energetic for eighty-four! So many people heard that I was dreadfully conceited, and that my head was turned with success, that I began to think, in spite of very sober feelings and of abundant self-distrust, that the account must be true. A shopman at a printseller’s was heard by a cousin of mine, after the publication of “Vanderput and Snoek,” giving an impressive account of my residence in Holland: and, long after, Mr. Laing made inquiries of a relation about how long I had lived in Norway, — of which “Feats on the Fiord” were supposed to be an evidence: but I had visited neither country when I wrote of them, and shall die without seeing Norway now. Every body believed at one time that I had sought Lord Brougham’s patronage; — and this report I did not like at all. Another, — that he had written the chief part of the books, — was merely amusing. Another gave me some little trouble, in the midst of the amusement; — that I had been married for two years before the Series was finished, and that I concealed the fact for convenience. More than one of my own relations required the most express and serious assurance from me that this was not true before they would acquit me of an act of trickery so unlike me, — who never had any secrets. The husband thus assigned to me was a gentleman whom I had then never heard of, and whom I never saw till some years afterwards, when he had long been a married man. After my Eastern journey in 1846, it was widely reported, and believed in Paris, that my party and I had quarrelled, as soon as we landed in France; and that I had gone on by myself, and travelled through those eastern countries entirely alone. I could not conceive what could be the meaning of the compliments I received on my “wonderful courage,” till I found how unwilling people were to credit that I had been well taken care of. My “Eastern Life” disabused all believers in this nonsense; and I hope this Memoir will discredit all the absurd reports which may yet be connected with my station and my doings in life, in the minds of those who know me only from rumour.
“Cousin Marshall,” which treats of the Poor-laws, was written and at press before Lord Brougham had devised his scheme of engaging me to illustrate the operation of the Poor-laws. I obtained my material, as to details, from a brother who was a Guardian, and from a lady who took an interest in workhouse management. For “Ireland” and “Homes Abroad,” I obtained facts from Blue-books on Ireland and Colonization which were among the many by this time sent me by people who had “hobbies.” These were all that I wrote at Norwich.
Five of my numbers had appeared before Lord Brougham saw any of them, or knew any thing about them. He was at Brougham in June, 1832, when Mr. Drummond, — the Thomas Drummond of sacred memory in Ireland, — sent him my numbers, up to “Ella of Garveloch” (inclusive). A friend of both was at that time at Norwich, canvassing for the representation; and Lord Brougham wrote to him, with his customary vehemence, extolling me and my work, and desiring him to engage me to illustrate the poor-laws, in aid of the Commission then appointed to the work of poor-law inquiry. It was hardly right in me to listen to any invitation to further work. That I should have done so for any considerations of fame or money can never have been believed by any who knew what proposals and solicitations from all manner of editors and publishers I refused. It was the extreme need and difficulty of poor-law reform that won me to the additional task. I had for many years been in a state of despair about national affairs, on account of this “gangrene of the state,” as the French commissioners had reported it, “which it was equally impossible to remove and to let alone.” When Lord Brougham wrote to his friend an account of the evidence which was actually obtained, and which would be placed at my disposal; and when he added that there was an apparent possibility of cure, declaring that his “hopes would be doubled” if I could be induced to help the scheme, the temptation to over-work was irresistible. When I met Lord Brougham in town, he urged me strongly to promise six numbers within a year. I was steady in refusing to do more than four altogether: and truly, that was quite enough, in addition to the thirty numbers of my own Series, (including the “Illustrations of Taxation.”) These thirty-four little volumes were produced in two years and a half, — the greater part of the time being one unceasing whirl of business and social excitement. After my settlement in London, Lord Brougham called on me to arrange the plan. He informed me that the evidence would be all placed in my hands; and that my Illustrations would be published by the Diffusion Society. He then requested me to name my terms. I declined. He proceeded to assign the grounds of the estimate he was about to propose, telling me what his Society and others had given for various works, and why he considered mine worth more than some to which I likened it. Finally, he told me I ought not to have less than one hundred pounds apiece for my four numbers. He said that the Society would pay me seventy-five pounds on the day of publication of each; and that he then and there guaranteed to me the remaining twenty-five pounds for each. If I did not receive it from the Society, I should from him. He afterwards told the Secretary of the Society and two personal friends of his and mine that these were the terms he had offered, and meant to see fulfilled. I supplied the works which, he declared, fully answered his expectations; and indeed he sent me earnest and repeated thanks for them. The Society fulfilled its engagements completely and punctually: but Lord Brougham did not fulfil his own, more or less. I never saw or heard any thing of the four times twenty-five pounds I was to receive to make up my four hundred pounds. I believe that he was reminded of his engagement, while I was in America, by those to whom he had avowed it: but I have never received any part of the money, to this day. I never made direct application to him for it; partly because I never esteemed or liked him, or relished being implicated in business with him, after the first flutter was over, and I could judge of him for myself; and partly because such an amount of unfulfilled promises lay at his door, at the time of his enforced retirement from power, that I felt that my application would be, like other people’s applications, as fruitless as it would be disagreeable. I do not repent doing those tales, because I hope and believe they were useful at a special crisis: but they never succeeded to any thing like the extent of my own Series; and it certainly appeared that all connexion with the Diffusion Society, and Lord Brougham, and the Whig government, was so much mere detriment to my usefulness and my influence.
I had better relate here all that I have to say about that batch of Tales. Lord Brougham sent me all the evidence as it was delivered in by the Commissioners of Inquiry into the operation of the Poor-laws. There can be no stronger proof of the strength of this evidence than the uniformity of the suggestions to which it gave rise in all the minds which were then intent on finding the remedy. I was requested to furnish my share of conclusions and suggestions. I did so, in the form of a programme of doctrine for my illustrations, some of which expose the evils of the old system, while others pourtray the features of its proposed successor. My document actually crossed in the street one sent me by a Member of the government detailing the heads of the new Bill. I sat down to read it with no little emotion, and some apprehension; and the moment when, arriving at the end, I found that the government scheme and my own were identical, point by point, was not one to be easily forgotten. I never wrote any thing with more glee than “The Hamlets,” — the number in which the proposed reform is exemplified: and the spirit of the work carried me through the great effort of writing that number and “Cinnamon and Pearls” in one month, — during a country visit in glorious summer weather.
Soon after my Poor-law Tales began to appear, I received a message from Mr. Barnes, Editor-in-chief of the “Times,” intimating that the “Times” was prepared to support my work, which would be a valuable auxiliary of the proposed reform. I returned no answer, not seeing that any was required from an author who had never had any thing to do with her reviewers, or made any interest in reviews. I said this to the friend who delivered the message, expressing at the same time my satisfaction that the government measure was to have the all-powerful support of the “Times.” The Ministers were assured of the same support by the same potentate. How the other newspapers would go there was no saying, because the proposed reform was not a party measure; but, with the “Times” on our side we felt pretty safe. It was on the seventeenth of April, 1834, that Lord Althorp introduced the Bill. His speech, full of facts, earnest, and deeply impressive, produced a strong effect on the House; and the Ministers went home to bed with easy minds, — little imagining what awaited them at the breakfast table. It was no small vexation to me, on opening the “Times” at breakfast on the eighteenth, to find a vehement and total condemnation of the New Poor-law. Every body in London was asking how it happened. I do not know, except in as far as I was told by some people who knew more of the management of the paper than the world in general. Their account was that the intention had really been, up to the preceding day, to support the measure; but that such reports arrived of the hostility of the country-justices, — a most important class of customers, — that a meeting of proprietors was held in the evening, when the question of supporting or opposing the measure was put to the vote. The policy of humouring the country-justices was carried by one vote. So went the story. Another anecdote, less openly spoken of, I believe to have been true. Lord Brougham wrote a note, I was told, to Lord Althorp, the same morning, urging him to timely attendance at the Cabinet Council, as it must be immediately decided whether Barnes, (who was not very favourably described,) and the “Times” should be propitiated or defied. A letter or message arriving from Lord Althorp which rendered the sending the note unnecessary, Lord Brougham tore it up, and threw it into the waste-basket under the table. The fragments were by somebody or other abstracted from the basket, pasted together, and sent to Mr. Barnes, whose personal susceptibility was extreme. From that day began the baiting of Lord Brougham in the “Times” which set every body inquiring what so fierce a persecution could mean; and the wonder ceased only when the undisciplined politician finally fell from his rank as a statesman, and forfeited the remains of his reputation within two years afterwards. A searching domestic inquiry was instituted; but, up to the time of my being told the story, no discovery had been made of the mischief-maker who had picked up the scraps of the note.
After talking over the debate and the comment on it with my mother and aunt, that April morning, I went up to my study to work, and was presently interrupted by a note which surprised me so much that I carried it to my mother. It was from a lady with whom I had only a very slight acquaintance, — the wife of a Member of Parliament of high consideration. This lady invited me to take a drive with her that morning, and mentioned that she was going to buy plants at a nursery. My mother advised me to leave my work early, for once, and go, for the fresh air and the pleasure. My correspondent called for me, and, before we were off the stones, out came the reason of the invitation. Her husband was aghast at the course of the “Times,” and had been into the City to buy the “Morning Chronicle,” — then a far superior paper to what it has been since. He and a friend were now the proprietors of the “Chronicle,” and no time was to be lost in finding writers who could and would support the New Poor-law. I was the first to be invited, because I was known to have been acquainted with the principles and provisions of the measure from the beginning. The invitation to me was to write “leaders” on the New Poor-law, as long as such support should be wanted. I asked why the proprietor did not do it himself, and found that he was really so engaged in parliamentary committees as to be already over-worked. I declared myself over-worked too; but I was entreated to take a few hours for consideration. An answer was to be sent for at five o’clock. My mother and I talked the matter over. The inducements were very strong; for I could not but see that I was the person for the work: but my mother said it would kill me, — busy as I was at present. I believed that it would injure my own Series; and I therefore declined. — For many months afterwards, even for years, it was a distasteful task to read the “Times” on the New Poor-law, — so venomous, so unscrupulous, so pertinacious, so mischievous in intention, and so vicious in principle was its opposition to a reform which has saved the state. But, as the reform was strong enough to stand, this hostility has been eventually a very great benefit. Bad as was the spirit of the opposition, it assumed the name of humanity, and did some of the work of humanity. Every weak point of the measure was exposed, and every extravagance chastised. Its righteousness and principled humanity were ignored; and every accidental pressure or inconvenience was made the most of. The faults of the old law were represented (as by Mr. Dickens in “Oliver Twist”) as those of the new, and every effort was made to protract the exercise of irresponsible power by the country justices: but the measure was working, all the while, for the extinction of the law-made vices and miseries of the old system; and the process was aided by the stimulating vigilance of the “Times,” which evoked at once the watchfulness and activity of officials and the spirit of humanity in society, — both essential conditions of the true working of the new law. — My share in the punishment I could never understand. Neither my mother nor I mentioned to any person whatever the transaction of that morning: but in a few days appeared a venomous attack on the Member of Parliament who had bought the “Chronicle,” in the course of which he was taunted with going to a young lady in Fludyer Street for direction in his political conduct. After that, there were many such allusions: — my friends were appealed to to check my propensity to write about all things whatsoever, — the world having by this time quite books enough of mine: and the explanation given of the ill success and bad working of the Whig measures was that the Ministers came to me for them. This sort of treatment gave me no pain, because I was not acquainted with any body belonging to the “Times,” and I was safe enough with the public by this time: but I thought it rather too much when Mr. Sterling, “the Thunderer of the Times,” and at that period editor-in-chief, obtained an invitation to meet me, after the publication of my books on America, alleging that he himself had never written a disrespectful word of me. My reply was that he was responsible, as editor, and that I used the only method of self-defence possible to a woman under a course of insult like that, in declining his acquaintance. Not long afterwards, when I was at Tynemouth, hopelessly ill, poor and helpless, the “Times” abused and insulted me for privately refusing a pension. Again Mr. Sterling made a push for my acquaintance; and I repeated what I had said before: where-upon he declared that “it cut him to the heart” that I should impute to him the ribaldry and coarse insults of scoundrels and ruffians who treated me as I had been treated in the “Times.” I dare say what he said of his own feelings was true enough; but it will never do for responsible editors, like Sterling and Lockhart, to shirk their natural retribution for the sins of their publications by laying the blame on some impalpable offender who, on his part, has very properly relied on their responsibility. It appears to me that social honesty and good faith can be preserved only by thus enforcing integrity in the matter of editorial responsibility.
A curious incident occurred, much to the delight of my Edinburgh reviewer, in connexion with that story, — “The Hamlets,” — which, as I have said, I enjoyed writing exceedingly. While I was preparing its doctrine and main facts, I went early one summer morning, with a sister, to the Exhibition at Somerset House, (as it was in those days). I stopped before a picture by Collins, — “Children at the Haunts of the Sea-fowl;” and, after a good study of it, I told my sister that I had before thought of laying the scene by the sea-side, and that this bewitching picture decided me. The girl in the corner, in the red petticoat, was irresistible; and she should be my heroine. There should be a heroine, — a girl and a boy, instead of two boys. I did this, and, incited by old associations, described myself and a brother (in regard to character) in these two personages. Soon after, at a music-party, my hostess begged to introduce to me Mr. Collins the artist, who wished to make his acknowledgments for some special obligation he was under to me. This seemed odd, when I was hailing the opportunity for precisely the same reason. Mr. Collins begged to shake hands with me because I had helped him to his great success at the Academy that year. He explained that Mrs. Marcet had paid him a visit when he had fully sketched, and actually begun his picture, and had said to him “Before you go on with this, you ought to read Miss Martineau’s description in ‘Ella of Garveloch’ of destroying the eagle’s nest.” Mr. Collins did so, and in consequence altered his picture in almost every part; and now, in telling me the incident, he said that his chief discontent with his work was not having effaced the figure of the girl in the corner. He was reconciled to her, however, when I told him that the girl in the red petticoat was the heroine of the story I was then writing. This incident strikes me as a curious illustration of the way in which minds play into one another when their faculties of conception and suggestion are kindred, whatever may be their several modes of expression. One of my chief social pleasures was meeting Wilkie, and planning pictures with him, after his old manner, though alas! he was now painting in his new. He had returned from Spain, with his portfolios filled with sketches of Spanish ladies, peasants and children; and he enjoyed showing these treasures of his, I remember, to my mother and me one day when we went by invitation to Kensington, to see them. But his heart was, I am sure, in his old style. He used to watch his opportunity, — being very shy, — to get a bit of talk with me unheard, about what illustrations of my stories should be, saying that nothing would make him so happy, if he were but able, as to spend the rest of his painting-life in making a gallery from my Series. He told me which group or action he should select from each number, as far as then published, and dwelt particularly, I remember, on the one in “Ireland,” which was Dora letting down her petticoat from her shoulders as she entered the cabin. I write this in full recollection of Wilkie’s countenance, voice and words, but in total forgetfulness of my own story, Dora, and the cabin. I have not the book at hand for reference, but I am sure I am reporting Wilkie truly. He told me that he thought the resemblance of our respective mind’s-eyes was perfectly singular; and that, for aught he saw, each of us might, as well as not, have done the other’s work, as far as the pictorial faculties were concerned.
I have one more little anecdote to tell about the heroine of “The Hamlets.” I was closely questioned by Miss Berry, one day when dining there, about the sources of my draughts of character, — especially of children, — and above all, of Harriet and Ben in “The Hamlets.” I acknowledged that these last were more like myself and my brother than any body else. Whereupon the lively old lady exclaimed, loud enough to be heard by the whole party, “My God! did you go out shrimping?” “No,” I replied: “nor were we workhouse children. What you asked me about was the characters.”
While these Poor-law tales were appearing, I received a letter from Mrs. Fry, requesting an interview for purposes of importance, at any time and place I might appoint. I appointed a meeting in Newgate, at the hour on a Tuesday morning when Mrs. Fry was usually at that post of sublime duty. Wishing for a witness, as our interview was to be one of business, I took with me a clerical friend of mine as an appropriate person. After the usual services, Mrs. Fry led the way into the Matron’s room, where we three sat down for our conference. Mrs. Fry’s objects were two. The inferior one was to engage me to interest the government in her newly planned District Societies. The higher one was connected with the poor-law reform then in preparation. She told me that her brother, J. J. Gurney, and other members of her family had become convinced by reading “Cousin Marshall” and others of my tales that they had been for a long course of years unsuspectingly doing mischief where they meant to do good; that they were now convinced that the true way of benefiting the poor was to reform the Poor-law system; and that they were fully sensible of the importance of the measure to be brought forward, some months hence, in parliament. Understanding that I was in the confidence of the government as to this measure, they desired to know whether I could honourably give them an insight into the principles on which it was to be founded. Their object in this request was good. They desired that their section of the House of Commons should have time and opportunity to consider the subject, which might not be attainable in the hurry of a busy session. On consideration, I had no scruple in communicating the principles, without, of course, any disclosure of the measures. Mrs. Fry noted them down, with cheerful thanks, and assurances that they would not be thrown away. They were not thrown away. That section of Members came well prepared for the hearing of the measure, and one and all unflinchingly supported it.
From the time of my settlement in London, there was no fear of any dearth of information on any subject which I wished to treat. Every party, and every body who desired to push any object, forwarded to me all the information they held. It was, in fact, rather ridiculous to see the onset on my acquaintances made by riders of hobbies. One acquaintance of mine told me, as I was going to his house to dinner, that three gentlemen had been at his office that morning; — one beseeching him to get me to write a number on the navigable rivers of Ireland; a second on (I think) the Hamiltonian (or other) system of Education; and a third, who was confident that the welfare of the nation depended on it, on the encouragement of flax-growing in the interior of Guiana. Among such applicants, the Socialists were sure to be found; and Mr. Owen was presently at my ear, laying down the law in the way which he calls “proof,” and really interesting me by the candour and cheerfulness, the benevolence and charming manners which would make him the most popular man in England if he could but distinguish between assertion and argument, and abstain from wearying his friends with his monotonous doctrine. If I remember right, it was after my anti-socialist story, “For Each and for All,” that I became acquainted with Mr. Owen himself; but the material was supplied by his disciples, — for the chance of what use I might make of it: so that I was perfectly free to come out as their opponent. Mr. Owen was not at all offended at my doing so. Having still strong hopes of Prince Metternich for a convert, he might well have hopes of me: and, believing Metternich to be, if the truth were known, a disciple of his, it is no wonder if I also was given out as being so. For many months, my pleasant visitor had that hope of me; and when he was obliged to give it up, it was with a kindly sigh. He was sure that I desired to perceive the truth; but I had got unfortunately bewildered. I was like the traveller who could not see the wood for the trees. I cannot recal that story, more or less; (“For Each and All;”) but I know it must have contained the stereotyped doctrine of the Economists of that day. What I witnessed in America considerably modified my views on the subject of Property; and from that time forward I saw social modifications taking place which have already altered the tone of leading Economists, and opened a prospect of further changes which will probably work out in time a totally new social state. If that should ever happen, it ought to be remembered that Robert Owen was the sole apostle of the principle in England at the beginning of our century. Now that the Economy of Association is a fact acknowledged by some of our most important recent institutions, — as the London Clubs, our Model Lodging-houses, and dozens of new methods of Assurance, every one would willingly assign his due share of honour to Robert Owen, but for his unfortunate persistency in his other characteristic doctrine, — that Man is the creature of circumstances, — his notion of “circumstances” being literally surroundings, no allowance, or a wholly insufficient allowance, being made for constitutional structure and differences. His certainty that we might make life a heaven, and his hallucination that we are going to do so immediately, under his guidance, have caused his wisdom to be overlooked in his absurdity, and his services to be too nearly forgotten in vexation and fatigue at his eccentricity. I own I became weary of him, while ashamed, every time I witnessed his fine temper and manners, of having felt so. One compact that we made, three parts in earnest, seems to me, at this distance of time, excessively ludicrous. I saw that he was often wide of the mark, in his structures on the religious world, through his ignorance of the Bible; and I told him so. He said he knew the Bible so well as to have been heartily sick of it in his early youth. He owned that he had never read it since. He promised to read the four Gospels carefully, if I would read “Hamlet,” with a running commentary of Necessarian doctrine in my own mind. My share was the easier, inasmuch as I was as thoroughgoing a Necessarian as he could desire. I fulfilled my engagement, internally laughing all the while at what Shakspere would be thinking, if he could know what I was about. No doubt, Mr. Owen did his part too, like an honourable man; and no doubt with as much effect produced on him by this book as by every other, as a blind man in the presence of the sunrise, or a deaf one of an oratorio. Robert Owen is not the man to think differently of a book for having read it; and this from no want of candour, but simply from more than the usual human inability to see any thing but what he has made up his mind to see.
I cannot remember what put the scene and story of my twelfth number, “French Wines and Politics,” into my head: but I recal some circumstances about that and the following number, “The Charmed Sea,” which amused me extremely at the time. Among the very first of my visitors at my lodgings was Mrs. Marcet, whose “Conversations” had revealed to me the curious fact that, in my early tales about Wages and Machinery, I had been writing Political Economy without knowing it. Nothing could be more kindly and generous than her acknowledgment and enjoyment of what she called my “honours.” The best of it was, she could never see the generosity on which her old friends complimented her, because, by her own account, there was no sort of rivalship between us. She had a great opinion of great people; — of people great by any distinction, — ability, office, birth and what not: and she innocently supposed her own taste to be universal. Her great pleasure in regard to me was to climb the two flights of stairs at my lodgings (asthma notwithstanding) to tell me of great people who were admiring, or at least reading, my Series. She brought me “hommages” and all that sort of thing, from French savans, foreign ambassadors, and others; and, above all the rest was her satisfaction in telling me that the then new and popular sovereign, Louis Philippe, had ordered a copy of my Series for each member of his family, and had desired M. Guizot to introduce a translation of it into the national schools. This was confirmed, in due time, by the translator, who wrote to me for some particulars of my personal history, and announced a very large order for the work from M. Guizot. Before I received this letter, my twelfth number was written, and I think in the press. About the same time, I heard from some other quarter, (I forget what) that the Emperor of Russia had ordered a copy of the Series for every member of his family; and my French translator wrote to me, some time afterwards, that a great number of copies had been bought, by the Czar’s order, for his schools in Russia. While my twelfth number was printing, I was writing the thirteenth, “The Charmed Sea,” — that sea being the Baikal Lake, the scenery Siberian, and the personages exiled Poles. The Edinburgh Review charged me with relaxing my Political Economy for the sake of the fiction, in this case, — the reviewer having kept his article open for the appearance of the latest number obtainable before the publication of the review. There was some little mistake about this; the fact being that the bit of doctrine I had to deal with, — the origin of currency, — hardly admitted of any exemplification at all. Wherever the scene had been laid, the doctrine would have been equally impracticable in action, and must have been conveyed mainly by express explanation or colloquial commentary. If any action were practicable at all, it must be in some scene where the people were at the first remove from a state of barter: and the Poles in Siberia, among Mongolian neighbours, were perhaps as good for my purpose as any other personages. Marco Polo’s account of the stamped leather currency he met with in his travels determined me in regard to Asiatic scenery, in the first place; and the poet Campbell’s appeals to me in behalf of the Poles, before I left Norwich, and the visits of the venerable Niemcewicz, and other Poles and their friends, when I went to London, made me write of the Charmed Sea of Siberia. My reviewer was right as to the want of the due subordination of other interests to that of the science; but he failed to perceive that that particular bit of science was abstract and uninteresting. I took the hint, however; and from that time I was on my guard against making my Series a vehicle for any of the “causes” of the time. I saw that if my Edinburgh reviewer could not perceive that some portions of doctrine were more susceptible of exemplification than others, such discrimination was not to be expected of the whole public; and I must afford no occasion for being supposed to be forsaking my main object for such temporary interests as came in my way. — Meantime, the incidents occurred which amused my friends and myself so much, in connexion with these two numbers. On the day of publication of the twelfth, Mrs. Marcet climbed my staircase, and appeared, more breathless than ever, at a somewhat early hour, — as soon as my door was open to visitors. She was in a state of distress and vexation. “I thought I had told you,” said she, in the midst of her panting, — “but I suppose you did not hear me: — I thought I had told you that the King of the French read all your stories, and made all his family read them: and now you have been writing about Egalité; and they will never read you again.” I told her I had heard her very well; but it was not convenient to me to alter my story, for no better reason than that. It was from history, and not from private communication, that I drew my materials; and I had no doubt that Louis Philippe and his family thought of his father very much as I did. My good friend could not see how I could hope to be presented at the Tuileries after this: and I could only say that it had never entered my head to wish it. I tried to turn the conversation to account by impressing on my anxious friend the hopelessness of all attempts to induce me to alter my stories from such considerations as she urged. I wrote with a view to the people, and especially the most suffering of them; and the crowned heads must, for once, take their chance for their feelings. A month after, I was subjected to similar reproaches about the Emperor of Russia. He was, in truth, highly offended. He ordered every copy of my Series to be delivered up, and then burnt or deported; and I was immediately forbidden the empire. His example was followed in Austria; and thus, I was personally excluded, before my Series was half done, from two of the three greatest countries in Europe, and in disfavour with the third — supposing I wished to go there. My friends, Mr. and Mrs. F—, invited me to go to the south of Europe with them on the conclusion of my work: and our plan was nearly settled when reasons appeared for my going to America instead. My friends went south when I went west. Being detained by inundation on the borders of Austrian Italy, they were weary of their dull hotel. All other amusement being exhausted, Mr. F— sauntered round the open part of the house, reading whatever was hung against the walls. One document contained the names and description of persons who were not to be allowed to pass the frontier; and mine was among them. If I had been with my friends, our predicament would have been disagreeable. They could not have deserted me; and I must have deprived them of the best part of their journey.
In planning my next story, “Berkeley the Banker,” I submitted myself to my reviewer’s warning, and spared no pains in thoroughly incorporating the doctrine and the tale. I remember that, for two days, I sat over my materials from seven in the morning till two the next morning, with an interval of only twenty minutes for dinner. At the end of my plotting, I found that, after all, I had contrived little but relationships, and that I must trust to the uprising of new involutions in the course of my narrative. I had believed before, and I went on during my whole career of fiction-writing to be more and more thoroughly convinced, that the creating a plot is a task above human faculties. It is indeed evidently the same power as that of prophecy: that is, if all human action is (as we know it to be) the inevitable result of antecedents, all the antecedents must be thoroughly comprehended in order to discover the inevitable catastrophe. A mind which can do this must be, in the nature of things, a prophetic mind, in the strictest sense; and no human mind is that. The only thing to be done, therefore, is to derive the plot from actual life, where the work is achieved for us: and, accordingly, it seems that every perfect plot in fiction is taken bodily from real life. The best we know are so derived. Shakspere’s are so: Scott’s one perfect plot (“the Bride of Lammermoor”) is so; and if we could know where Boccaccio and other old narrators got theirs, we should certainly find that they took them from their predecessors, or from the life before their eyes. I say this from no mortification at my own utter inability to make a plot. I should say the same, (after equal study of the subject) if I had never tried to write a tale. I see the inequality of this kind of power in contemporary writers; an inequality wholly independent of their merits in other respects; and I see that the writers (often inferior ones) who have the power of making the best plots do it by their greater facility in forming analogous narratives with those of actual experience. They may be, and often are, so inferior as writers of fiction to others who cannot make plots that one is tempted to wish that they and their superiors could be rolled into one, so as to make a perfect novelist or dramatist. For instance, Dickens cannot make a plot, — nor Bulwer, — nor Douglas Jerrold, nor perhaps Thackeray; while Fanny Kemble’s forgotten “Francis the First,” written in her teens, contains mines of plot, sufficient to furnish a groundwork for a score of fine fictions. As for me, my incapacity in this direction is so absolute that I always worked under a sense of despair about it. In “the Hour and the Man,” for instance, there are prominent personages who have no necessary connexion whatever with the story; and the personages fall out of sight, till at last, my hero is alone in his dungeon, and the story ends with his solitary death. I was not careless, nor unconscious of my inability. It was inability, “pure and simple.” My only resource therefore was taking suggestion from facts, witnessed by myself, or gathered in any way I could. That tale of “Berkeley the Banker” owed its remarkable success, not to my hard work of those two days; but to my taking some facts from the crisis of 1825 - 6 for the basis of my story. The toil of those two days was not thrown away, because the amalgamation of doctrine and narrative was more complete than it would otherwise have been: but no protraction of the effort would have brought out a really good plot, any more than the most prodigious amount of labour in practicing would bring out good music from a performer unendowed with musical faculty.
That story was, in a great degree, as I have already said, our own family history of four years before. The most amusing thing to me was that the relative (not one of my nearest relations) who was presented as Berkeley, — (by no means exactly, but in the main characteristics and in some conspicuous speeches) was particularly delighted with that story. He seized it eagerly, as being about banking, and expressed his admiration, far and wide, of the character of the banker, as being so extremely natural! His unconscious pleasure was a great relief to me: for, while I could not resist the temptation his salient points offered me, I dreaded the consequences of my free use of them.
About the next number, “Vanderput and Snoek,” I have a curious confession to make. It was necessary to advertise on the cover of each tale the title of the next. There had never been any difficulty thus far, — it being my practice, as I have said, to sit down to the study of a new number within a day or two, or a few hours, of finishing its predecessor. My banking story was, however, an arduous affair; and I had to write the first of my Poor-law series. I was thus driven so close that when urged by the printer for the title of my next number, I was wholly unprepared. All I knew was that my subject was to be Bills of Exchange. The choice of scene lay between Holland and South America, where Bills of Exchange are, or then were, either more numerous or more important than any where else. I thought Holland on the whole the more convenient of the two; so I dipped into some book about that country (Sir William Temple, I believe it was) picked out the two ugliest Dutch names I could find, made them into a firm, and boldly advertised them. Next, I had to consider how to work up to my title: and in this I met with most welcome assistance from my friends, Mr. and Mrs. F—, of Highbury. They were well acquainted with the late British Consul at Rotterdam, then residing in their neighbourhood. They had previously proposed to introduce me to this gentleman, for the sake of the information he could give me about Dutch affairs: and I now hastened to avail myself of the opportunity. The ex-consul was made fully aware of my object, and was delighted to be of use. We met at Mr. F.’s breakfast table; and in the course of the morning he gave me all imaginable information about the aspect and habits of the country and people. When I called on his lady, some time afterwards, I was struck by the pretty picture presented by his twin daughters, who were more exactly alike than any other twins I have ever seen. They sat beside a work-table, at precisely the same angle with it: each had a foot on a footstool, for the sake of her netting. They drew their silk through precisely at the same instant, and really conveyed a perplexing impression of a mirror where mirror there was none. The Dromios could not be more puzzling. The temptation to put these girls into a story was too strong to be resisted: but, as I knew the family were interested in my Series at the moment, I waited a while. After a decent interval, they appeared in “The Park and the Paddock;” and then only in regard to externals; for I knew nothing more of them whatever.
When I had to treat of Free Trade, I took advantage, of course, of the picturesque scenery and incidents connected with smuggling. The only question was what part of the coast I should choose for my seventeenth and eighteenth numbers, “The Loom and the Lugger.” I questioned all my relations and friends who had frequented Eastbourne and that neighbourhood about the particulars of the locality and scenery. It struck me as curious that, of all the many whom I asked, no one could tell me whether there was a lighthouse at Beachy Head. A cousin told me that she was acquainted with a farmer’s family living close by Beachy Head, and in the very midst of the haunts of the smugglers. This farmer was under some obligation to my uncle, and would be delighted at the opportunity of rendering a service to any of the name. My publisher was willing to set down the trip to the account of the expenses of the Series; and I went down, with a letter of introduction in my hand, to see and learn all I could in the course of a couple of days. My time was limited, not only by the exigencies of my work, but by an engagement to meet my Edinburgh reviewer for the first time, — as I have mentioned above, — and to another very especial party for the same evening. On a fine May evening, therefore, I presented myself at the farm-house door, with my letter in my hand. I was received with surpassing grace by two young girls, — their father and elder sister being absent at market. Tea was ready presently; and then, one of the girls proposed a walk to “the Head” before dark. When we returned, every thing was arranged; and the guest chamber looked most tempting to an overworked Londoner. The farmer and one daughter devoted the whole of the next day to me. We set forth, carrying a new loaf and a bottle of beer, that we might not be hurried in our explorations. I then and there learned all that appears in “The Loom and the Lugger” about localities and the doings of smugglers. Early the following morning I went to see Pevensey Castle, and in the forenoon was in the coach on my way back to town. I was so cruelly pressed for time that, finding myself alone in the coach, I wrote on my knees all the way to London, in spite of the jolting. At my lodging, I was in consternation at seeing my large round table heaped with the letters and parcels which had arrived during those two days. I dispatched fourteen notes, dressed, and was at Lady S.’s by the time the clock struck six. The quiet, friendly dinner was a pure refreshment: but the evening party was a singular trial. I had been compelled to name the day for this party, as I had always been engaged when invited by my hostess. I thought it odd that my name was shouted by the servants, in preference to that of Lady C—, with whom I entered the room: and the way in which my hostess took possession of me, and began to parade me before her noble and learned guests showed me that I must at once take my part, if I desired to escape the doom of “lionising.” The lady, having two drawing-rooms open, had provided a “lion” for each. Rammohun Roy was stationed in the very middle of one, meek and perspiring; and I was intended for the same place in the other. I saw it just in time. I took my stand with two or three acquaintances behind the folding-doors, and maintained my retirement till the carriage was announced. If this was bad manners, it was the only alternative to worse. I owe to that incident a friendship which has lasted my life. That friend, till that evening known to me only by name, had been behind the scenes, and had witnessed all the preparations; and very curious she was to see what I should do. If I had permitted the lionising, she would not have been introduced to me. When I got behind the door, she joined our trio; and we have been intimate friends to this day. Long years after, she gave me her account of that memorable evening. What a day it was! When Lady S. set me down at midnight, and I began to undress, and feel how weary I was, it seemed incredible that it was that very morning that I had seen Pevensey Castle, and heard the dash of the sea, and listened to the larks on the down. The concluding thought, I believe, before I fell into the deep sleep I needed, was that I would never visit a second time at any house where I was “lionised.”
The Anti-corn law tale, “Sowers not Reapers,” cost me great labour, — clear as was the doctrine, and familiar to me for many a year past. I believe it is one of the most successful for the incorporation of the doctrine with the narrative: and the story of the Kays is true, except that, in real life, the personages were gentry. I had been touched by that story when told it, some years before; and now it seemed to fit in well with my other materials. Two years afterwards I met with a bit of strong evidence of the monstrous vice and absurdity of our corn-laws in the eyes of Americans. This story, “Sowers not Reapers,” was republished in America while I was there; and Judge Story, who knew more about English laws, manners and customs, condition, literature, and even topography than any other man in the United States, told me that I need not expect his countrymen in general to understand the book, as even he, after all his preparedness, was obliged to read it twice, — first to familiarise himself with the conception, and then to study the doctrine. Thus incredible was it that so proud and eminent a nation as ours should persist in so insane and suicidal a policy as that of protection, in regard to the most indispensable article of food.
Among the multitude of letters of suggestion which had by this time been sent me, was an anonymous one from Oxford, which gave me the novel information that the East India Company constituted a great monopoly. While thinking that, instead of being one, it was a nest of monopolies (in 1833) I speculated on which of them I might best take for an illustration of my anti-monopoly doctrine. I feared an opium story might prove immoral, and I did not choose to be answerable for the fate of any Opium-eaters. Salt was too thirsty a subject for a July number. Cinnamon was fragrant, and pearls pretty and cool: and these, of course, led me to Ceylon for my scenery. I gathered what I could from books, but really feared being obliged to give up a singularly good illustrative scene for want of the commonest facts concerning the social life of the Cingalese. I found scarcely any thing even in Maria Graham and Heber. At this precise time, a friend happened to bring to my lodging, for a call, the person who could be most useful to me, — Sir Alexander Johnstone, who had just returned from governing Ceylon, where he had abolished Slavery, established Trial by Jury, and become more thoroughly acquainted with the Cingalese than perhaps any other man then in England. It was a remarkable chance; and we made the most of it; for Sir Alexander Johnstone was as well pleased to have the cause of the Cingalese pleaded as I was to become qualified to do it. Before we had known one another half an hour, I confided to him my difficulty. He started off, promising to return presently; and he was soon at the door again, with his carriage full of books, prints and other illustrations, affording information not to be found in any ordinarily accessible books. Among the volumes he left with me was a Colombo almanack, which furnished me with names, notices of customs, and other valuable matters. The friend who had brought us together was highly delighted with the success of the introduction, and bestirred himself to see what else he could do. He invited me to dinner the next day (aware that there was no time to lose;) and at his table I met as many persons as he could pick up who had recently been in Ceylon. Besides Sir Alexander Johnstone, there was Holman, the blind traveller, and Captain Mangles, and two or three more; and a curiously oriental day we had of it, in regard to conversation and train of thought. I remember learning a lesson that day on other than Cingalese matters. Poor Holman boasted of his achievements in climbing mountains, and of his always reaching the top quicker than his comrades; and he threw out some sarcasms against the folly of climbing mountains at all, as waste of time, because there were no people to be found there, and there was generally rain and cold. It evidently never occurred to him that people with eyes climb mountains for another purpose than a race against time; and that his comrades were pausing to look about them when he outstripped them. It was a hint to me never to be critical in like manner about the pleasures of the ear. — After I had become a traveller, Sydney Smith amused himself about my acquaintance with Holman; and I believe it was reading what I said in the preface to my American book which put his harmless jokes into his head. In that preface I explained the extent to which my deafness was a disqualification for travel, and for reporting of it: and I did it because I knew that, if I did not, the slaveholders would make my deafness a pretext for setting aside any part of my testimony which they did not like. Soon after this preface appeared, and when he had heard from me of my previous meeting with Holman, Sydney Smith undertook to answer a question asked by somebody at a dinner party, what I was at that time about. “She is writing a book,” said Sydney Smith, “to prove that the only travellers who are fit to write books must be both blind and deaf.”
My number on the monopolies in cinnamon and pearls went off pleasantly after my auspicious beginning. Sir A. Johnstone watched over its progress, and seriously assured me afterwards, in a call made for the purpose, that there was, to the best of his belief, not a single error in the tale. There was much wrath about it in Ceylon, however; and one man published a book to show that every statement of mine, on every point, from the highest scientific to the lowest descriptive, was absolutely the opposite of the truth. This personage was an Englishman, interested in the monopoly: and the violence of his opposition was of service to the right side.
Soon after I went to my London lodgings, my mother came up, and spent two or three weeks with me. I saw at once that she would never settle comfortably at Norwich again; and I had great difficulty in dissuading her from at once taking a house which was very far beyond any means that I considered it right to reckon on. For the moment, and on occasion of her finding the particular house she had set her mind on quite out of the question, I prevailed on her to wait. I could not wonder at her desire to come up, and enjoy such society as she found me in the midst of; and I thought it, on the whole, a fortunate arrangement when, under the sanction of two of my brothers, she took the small house in Fludyer Street, Westminster, where the rest of my London life was passed. That small house had, for a wonder, three sitting-rooms; and we three ladies needed this. The house had no nuisances, and was as airy as a house in Fludyer Street could well be: and its being on the verge of St. James’s Park was a prodigious advantage for us all, — the Park being to us, in fact, like our own garden. We were in the midst of the offices, people and books which it was most desirable for me to have at hand; and the house was exactly the right size for us; and of the right cost, — now that I was able to pay the same amount as my aunt towards the expenses of our household. My mother’s little income, with these additions, just sufficed; — allowance being made for the generosity which she loved to exercise. I may as well finish at once what I have to say about this matter. For a time, as I anticipated, all went well. My mother’s delight in her new social sphere was extreme. But, as I had also anticipated, troubles arose. For one of two great troubles, meddlers and mischief-makers were mainly answerable. The other could not be helped. It was, (to pass it over as lightly as possible) that my mother, who loved power and had always been in the habit of exercising it, was hurt at confidence being reposed in me, and distinctions shown, and visits paid to me; and I, with every desire to be passive, and being in fact wholly passive in the matter, was kept in a state of constant agitation at the influx of distinctions which I never sought, and which it was impossible to impart. What the meddlers and mischief-makers did was to render my old ladies, and especially my mother, discontented with the lowliness of our home. They were for ever suggesting that I ought to live in some sort of style, — to have a larger house in a better street, and lay out our mode of living for the society in which I was moving. Of course they were not my own earned friends who made such suggestions. Their officiousness proved their vulgarity: and my mother saw and said this. Yet, every word told upon her heart; and thence, every word helped to pull down my health and strength. No change could be made but by my providing the money; and I could not conscientiously engage to do it. It was my fixed resolution never to mortgage my brains. Scott’s recent death impressed upon me an awful lesson about that. Such an effort as that of producing my Series was one which could never be repeated. Such a strain was quite enough for one lifetime. I did not receive any thing like what I ought for the Series, owing to the hard terms under which it was published. I had found much to do with my first gains from it; and I was bound in conscience to lay by for a time of sickness or adversity, and for means of recreation, when my task should be done. I therefore steadily refused to countenance any scheme of ambition, or to alter a plan of life which had been settled with deliberation, and with the sanction of the family. To all remonstrances about my own dignity my reply was that if my acquaintance cared for me, they would come and see me in a small house and a narrow street: and all who objected to the smallness of either might stay away. I could not expose myself to the temptation to write in a money-getting spirit; nor yet to the terrible anxieties of assuming a position which could be maintained only by excessive toil. It was necessary to preserve my independence of thought and speech, and my power of resting, if necessary; — to have, in short, the world under my feet instead of hanging round my neck: and therefore did I refuse all intreaty and remonstrance about our house and mode of living. I was supported, very cordially, by the good cousin who managed my affairs for me: but an appeal to my brothers became necessary, at last. They simply elicited by questions the facts that the circumstances were unchanged; — that the house was exactly what we had expected; that our expenses had been accurately calculated; and that my mother’s income was the same as when she had considered the house a proper one for our purposes: in short, that there was no one good reason for a change. The controversy was thus closed; but not before the train was laid for its being closed in another manner. The anxieties of my home were too much for me, and I was by that time wearing down fast. The illness which laid me low for nearly six years at length ensued; and when it did, there could be no doubt in any mind of its being most fortunate that I had contracted no responsibilities which I could not fulfil. It was a great fault in me, (and I always knew that it was) that I could not take these things more lightly. I did strive to be superior to them: but I began life, as I have said, with a most beggarly set of nerves; I had gone through such an amount of suffering and vicissitude as had weakened my physique, if it had strengthened my morale; and now, I was under a pressure of toil which left me no resource wherewith to meet any constant troubling of the affections. I held my purpose, because it was clearly right: but I could not hold my health and nerve. They gave way; and all questions about London residence were settled a few years after by our leaving London altogether. Soon after my illness laid me low, my dear old aunt died; and my mother removed to Liverpool, to be taken care of by three of her children who were settled there.
I was entering upon the first stage of this career of anxiety when I was writing my twenty-first number, — “A Tale of the Tyne.” The preparation of it was terribly laborious, for I had to superintend at that time the removal into the Fludyer Street house. The weather was hot, and the unsettlement extreme. I had to hire and initiate the servants, to receive and unpack the furniture; and to sit down at night, when all this was done, to write my number. At that time, of all seasons, arose a very serious trouble, which not only added to my fatigue of correspondence in the day, but kept me awake at night by very painful feelings of indignation, grief and disappointment. It was thought desirable, by myself as well as by others, that my plan of Illustration of Political Economy should be rendered complete by some numbers on modes of Taxation. The friends with whom I discussed the plan reminded me that I must make fresh terms with Charles Fox, the publisher. They were of opinion that I had already done more than enough for him by continuing the original terms through the whole series thus far, the agreement being dissoluble at the end of every five numbers, and he having never fulfilled, more or less, the original condition of obtaining subscribers. He had never obtained one. I accordingly wrote to Mr. Charles Fox, to inquire whether he was willing to publish five additional numbers on the usual terms of booksellers’ commission. The reply was from his brother; and it was long before I got over the astonishment and pain that it caused. He claimed, for Charles, half the profits of the series, to whatever length it might extend. He supported the claim by a statement of eight reasons, so manifestly unsound that I was equally ashamed for myself and for him that he should have ventured to try them upon me. In my reply, I said that there was no foundation in law or equity for such a claim. As Mr. Charles Fox wrote boastfully of the legal advice he should proceed upon, I gladly placed the affair in the hands of a sound lawyer, — under the advice of my counsellors in the business. I put all the documents, — the original agreement and the whole correspondence, — into my lawyer’s hands; and his decision was that my publisher, in making this claim, had “not a leg to stand upon.” I was very sure of this; but the pain was not lessened thereby. I could not but feel that I had thrown away my consideration and my money upon a man who made this consideration the ground of an attempt to extort more. The whole invention and production of the work had been mine; and the entire sale was, by his own admission, owing to me. The publisher, holding himself free to back out of a losing bargain if I had not instantly succeeded, had complacently pocketed his commission of thirty per cent (on the whole) and half the profits, for simply selling the book to the public whom I sent to his shop: and now he was threatening to go to law with me for a prolongation of his unparalleled bargain. I sent him my lawyer’s decision, and added that, as I disliked squabbles between acquaintances on money matters, I should obviate all pretence of a claim on his part by making the new numbers a supplement, with a new title, — calling them “Illustrations of Taxation.” I did not take the work out of his hands, from considerations of convenience to all parties: but I made no secret of his having lost me for a client thenceforth. He owed to me such fortune as he had; and he had now precluded himself from all chance of further connexion. He published the Supplement, on the ordinary terms of commission: and there was an end. I remember nothing of that story, — “A Tale of the Tyne;” and I should be rather surprised if I did under the circumstances. The only incident that I recal about it is that Mr. Malthus called on purpose to thank me for a passage, or a chapter, (which has left no trace in my memory) on the glory and beauty of love and the blessedness of domestic life; and that others, called stern Benthamites, sent round messages to me to the same effect. They said, as Mr. Malthus did, that they had met with a faithful expositor at last.
In “Briery Creek” I indulged my life-long sentiment of admiration and love of Dr. Priestley, by making him, under a thin disguise, the hero of my tale. I was staying at Lambton Castle when that number appeared; and I was extremely surprised by being asked by Lady Durham who Dr. Priestley was, and all that I could tell her about him. She had seen in the newspapers that my hero was the Doctor; and I found that she, the daughter of the Prime Minister, had never heard of the Birmingham riots! I was struck by this evidence of what fearful things may take place in a country, unknown to the families of the chief men in it.
Of number twenty-three, “The Three Ages,” I remember scarcely any thing. The impression remaining is that I mightily enjoyed the portraiture of Wolsey and More, and especially a soliloquy or speech of Sir Thomas More’s. What it is about I have no recollection whatever: and I need not say that I have never looked at the story from the day of publication till now: but I have a strong impression that I should condemn it, if I were to read it now. I have become convinced that it is a mistake of serious importance to attempt to put one’s mind of the nineteenth century into the thought of the sixteenth; and wrong, as a matter of taste, to fall into a sort of slang style, or mannerism, under the notion of talking old English. The temptation is strong to young people whose historical associations are vivid, while their intellectual sympathy is least discriminating; and young writers of a quarter of a century ago may claim special allowance from the fact that Scott’s historical novels were then at the height of their popularity; but I believe that, all allowance being made, I should feel strong disgust at the affectations which not only made me very complacent at the time, but brought to me not a few urgent requests that I would write historical novels. Somewhere in that number there is a passage which Lord John Russell declared to be treason, saying that it would undoubtedly bear a prosecution. The publisher smirked at this, and heartily wished somebody would prosecute. We could not make out what passage his Lordship meant; but we supposed it was probably that part which expresses pity for the Royal Family in regard to the mode in which their subsistence is provided; — such of them, I mean, as have not official duties. If it be that passage, I can only say that every man and every woman who is conscious of the blessing of living either by personal exertion or on hereditary property is thus declared guilty of treason in thought, whenever the contrast of a pensioned or eleemosynary condition and an independent one presents itself, in connexion with the royal family, as it was in the last generation. It might be in some other passage, however, that the liability lurked. I did not look very closely; for I cannot say that I should have at all relished the prosecution, — the idea of which was so exhilarating to my publisher.
Number twenty-four, “The Farrers of Budge Row,” seems on the whole to be considered the best story of the Series. I have been repeatedly exhorted to reproduce the character of Jane in a novel. This Jane was so far a personal acquaintance of mine that I had seen her, two or three times, on her stool behind the books, at the shop where we bought our cheese, in the neighbourhood of Fludyer Street. Her old father’s pride then was in his cheeses, — which deserved his devotion as much as cheeses can: but my mother and I were aware that his pride had once a very different object; and it was this knowledge which made me go to the shop, to get a sight of the father and daughter. There had been a younger brother of that quiet woman, who had been sent to college, and educated for one of the learned professions; but his father changed his mind, and insisted so cruelly and so long on the young man being his shopman, that the poor fellow died broken-hearted. This anecdote, and an observation that I heard on the closeness with which the daughter was confined to the desk originated the whole story.
I wrote the chief part of the concluding number, “The Moral of Many Fables,” during the journey to the north which I took to see my old grandmother before my departure for America, and to visit my eldest sister at Newcastle, and Lord and Lady Durham at Lambton Castle. The fatigue was excessive; and when at Lambton, I went down a coal-pit, in order to see some things which I wanted to know. The heats and draughts of the pit, combined with the fatigue of an unbroken journey by mail from Newcastle to London, in December, caused me a severe attack of inflammation of the liver, and compelled the omission of a month in the appearance of my numbers. The toil and anxiety incurred to obtain the publication of the work had, as I have related, disordered my liver, two years before. I believe I had never been quite well, during those two years; and the toils and domestic anxieties of the autumn of 1833 had prepared me for overthrow by the first accident. — After struggling for ten days to rise from my bed, I was compelled to send word to printer and publisher that I must stop for a month. Mr. Fox (the elder) sent a cheering and consolatory note which enabled me to give myself up to the pleasure of being ill, and lying still, (as still as the pain would let me) without doubt or remorse. There was something to be done first, however; for the printer’s note was not quite such a holiday matter as Mr. Fox’s. It civilly explained that sixteen guineas’ worth of paper had been wetted, which would be utterly spoiled, if not worked off immediately. It was absolutely necessary to correct two proofs, which, as it happened, required more attention than any which had ever passed under my eye, from their containing arithmetical statements. Several literary friends had offered to correct my proofs; but these were not of a kind to be so disposed of. So, I set to work, with dizzy eyes and a quivering brain; propped up with pillows, and my mother and the maid alternately sitting by me with sal volatile, when I believed I could work a little. I was amused to hear, long afterwards, that it was reported to be my practice to work in this delightful style, — “when exhausted, to be supported in bed by her mother and her maid.” These absurd representations about myself and my ways taught me some caution in receiving such as were offered me about other authors.
It was no small matter, by this time, to have a month’s respite from the fluctuations of mind which I underwent about every number of my work. These fluctuations were as regular as the tides; but I did not recognise this fact till my mother pointed it out in a laughing way which did me a world of good. When I told her, as she declared I did once a month, that the story I was writing would prove an utter failure, she was uneasy for the first few months, but afterwards amused: and her amusement was a great support to me. The process was indeed a pretty regular one. I was fired with the first conception, and believed that I had found a treasure. Then, while at work, I alternately admired and despised what I wrote. When finished, I was in absolute despair; and then, when I saw it in print, I was surprised to see how well it looked. After an interval of above twenty years, I have not courage to look at a single number, — convinced that I should be disgusted by bad taste and metaphysics in almost every page. Long before I had arrived at this closing number, my mother and aunt had got into the way of smiling at each other, and at me, whenever I bade them prepare for disgrace; and they asked me how often I had addressed the same exhortation to them before. — There was another misery of a few hours long which we had to bear once a month: and that was the sending the manuscript to the printing-office. This panic was the tax I have always paid for making no copy of any thing I write. I sent the parcel by a trusty messenger, who waited for a receipt. One day, the messenger did not return for several hours, — the official being absent whose duty it was to receive such packets. My mother said, “I tell you what, Harriet; I can’t bear this . . . . . . . . . ” “Nor I either,” I replied. “We must carry it ourselves next time.” “So I would every time; but I doubt our being the safest messengers,” I was replying, when the note of acknowledgment was brought in. Now, at this new year 1834, I had a whole month of respite from all such cares, and could lie in bed without grudging the hours as they passed. It was indeed a significant yielding when, in 1831, I gave way to solicitations to produce a number a month. I did give way, (though with a trembling heart) because I knew that when I had once plunged into an enterprise, I always got through it, at whatever cost. I could not have asked any body to go into such an undertaking; and the cost was severe: but I got through; and, — if my twenty-fourth number was really the best, as people said, — without disgrace.
I was not through it yet, however. The “Illustrations of Taxation” had still to be written. I had designed six; and I forget when and why I determined there should be only five: but I rather think it was when I found the first series must have an additional number. All I am sure of is that it was a prodigious relief, which sent my spirits up sky high, when I resolved to spare myself a month’s work. Rest and leisure had now become far more important to me than fame and money. Nothing struck me so much, or left so deep and abiding an impression after the close of this arduous work, as my new sense of the value of time. A month had never before appeared to me what it now became; and I remember the real joy of finding in February, 1832, that it was leap year, and that I had a day more at my command than I had calculated. The abiding effect has perhaps not been altogether good. No doubt I have done more than I should without such an experience: but I think it has narrowed my mind. When I consider how some who knew me well have represented me as “industrious in my pleasures;” and how some of my American friends had a scheme at Niagara to see whether I could pass a day without asking or telling what o’clock it was, I feel convinced that my respect for “time and the hour” has been too much of a superstition and a bigotry. I say this now (1855) while finding that I can be idle; while, in fact, feeling myself free to do what I please, — that is, what illness admits of my doing, for above half of every day. I find, in the last stage of life, that I can play and be idle; and that I enjoy it. But I still think that the conflict between constitutional indolence and an overwrought sense of the value of time has done me some harm in the midst of some important good.
The Taxation numbers had, as I have said, still to be done; and, I think, the last of the Poor-law tales. I was aware that, of all the many weak points of the Grey administration, the weakest was Finance. Lord Althorp, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, complained of the hardship of being put into that office, when Nature had made him a grazier. It struck me that some good might be done, and no harm, if my Illustrations proceeded pari passu with the financial reforms expected from the Whig government; and I spoke on the subject to Lieutenant Drummond, who had just become private secretary to Lord Althorp. I was well acquainted with Mr. Drummond; and it occurred very naturally that I told him that if he knew of any meditated measure which would be aided by illustration, I would help, in all silence and discretion, — provided always that I approved of the scheme. About this time, the London shopkeepers were raising a selfish outcry against the House-tax, one of the very best on the list of imposts. It was understood on all hands that the clamour was not raised by the house-owners, but by their tenants, whose rents had been fixed in consideration of their payment of the tax. If they could get rid of the tax, the tenants would pocket the amount during the remaining term of their leases. Large and noisy deputations besieged the Treasury; and many feared that the good-natured Lord Althorp would yield. Just at this time, Mr. Drummond called on me, with a private message from Lords Grey and Althorp, to ask whether it would suit my purpose to treat of Tithes at once, instead of later, — the reason for such inquiry being quite at my service. As the principles of Taxation involve no inexorable order, like those of Political Economy at large, I had no objection to take any topic first which might be most useful. When I had said so, Mr. Drummond explained that a tithe measure was prepared by the Cabinet which Ministers would like to have introduced to the people by my Number on that subject, before they themselves introduced it in parliament. Of course, this proceeded on the supposition that the measure would be approved by me. Mr. Drummond said he would bring the document, on my promising that no eye but my own should see it, and that I would not speak of the affair till it was settled; — and, especially, not to any member of any of the Royal Commissions, then so fashionable. It was a thing unheard of, Mr. Drummond said, to commit any cabinet measure to the knowledge of any body out of the Cabinet before it was offered to parliament. Finally, the Secretary intimated that Lord Althorp would be obliged by any suggestion in regard to principles and methods of Taxation.
Mr. Drummond had not been gone five minutes before the Chairman of the Excise Commission called, to ask in the name of the Commissioners, whether it would suit my purpose to write immediately on the Excise, offering, on the part of Lord Congleton (then Sir Henry Parnell) and others, to supply me with the most extraordinary materials, by my exhibition of which the people might be enlightened and prepared on the subject before it should be brought forward in parliament. The Chairman, Mr. Henry Wickham, required a promise that no eye but my own should see the evidence; and that the secret should be kept with especial care from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his secretary, as it was a thing unheard of that any party unconcerned should be made acquainted with this evidence before it reached the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I could hardly help laughing in his face; and wondered what would have happened if he and Mr. Drummond had met on the steps, as they very nearly did. Of course, I was glad of the information offered; but I took leave to make my own choice among the materials lent. A few days afterwards I met Mr. Wickham before the Horse Guards, and thought he would not know me, — so deep was he in reverie. Before I was quite past, however, he started, and stopped me with eagerness, saying intensely, “O! Miss Martineau, Starch! Starch!” And he related the wonderful, the amazing evidence that had reached the Commissioners on the mischievousness of the duty on starch. I was obliged, however, to consider some other matters than the force of the evidence, and I declined expatiating on starch, finding the subject of green glass bottles, soap and sweets answer my purpose better. These two last, especially, yielded a very strong case.
At the end of a note to Mr. Drummond on Tithes that evening, I expressed myself plainly about the house-tax and the shopkeepers, avowing my dread that Lord Althorp might yield to the clamour. Mr. Drummond called next day with the promised tithe document; and he told me that he had handed my note to Lord Althorp, who had said “Tell her that I may be altogether of her mind; but that if she was here, in my place, with hundreds of shopkeepers yelling about the doors, she would yield, as I must do.” “Never,” was my message back, “so long as the House-tax is admitted to be the best on the list.” And I fairly told him that the Whig government was perilling the public safety by yielding every thing to clamour, and nothing without it.
I liked the Tithe measure, and willingly propounded it in my tale “The Tenth Haycock.” It was discussed that session, but deferred; and it passed, with some modifications, a session or two later. — Mr. Drummond next came to open to me, on the same confidential conditions, Lord Althorp’s scheme for the Budget, then due in six weeks. His object was to learn what I thought of certain intended alterations of existing taxes. With some pomp and preface, he announced that a change was contemplated which Lord Althorp hoped would be agreeable to me as a dissenter, — a change which Lord Althorp anticipated would be received as a boon by the dissenters. He proposed to take off the tax upon saddle-horses, in the case of the clergy and dissenting ministers. “What shall I tell Lord Althorp that you think of this?” inquired the Secretary. “Tell him I think the dissenting Ministers would like it very much if they had any saddle-horses,” I replied. — “What! do you mean that they will not take it as a boon?” — “If you offer it as a boon, they will be apt to take it as an insult. How should dissenting Ministers have saddle-horses, unless they happen to have private fortunes?” He questioned me closely about the dissenting Ministers I knew; and we found that I could actually point out only two among the Unitarians who kept saddle-horses: and they were men of property.
“What, then, would you substitute?” was the next question. “I would begin upon the Excise; set free the smallest articles first, which least repay the expense of collection, and go on to the greatest.” — “The Excise! Ah! Lord Althorp bade me tell you that the Commission on Excise have collected the most extraordinary evidence, which he will take care that you shall have, as soon as he gets it himself.” (It was at that moment in the closet, within two feet of my visitor.) I replied that the evils of the excise system were well known to be such as to afford employment to any Chancellor of the Exchequer for a course of years; and I should venture to send Lord Althorp my statement of them, hoping that he would glance at it before he brought out his Budget. I worked away at the two Excise stories (“The Jerseymen Meeting” and “The Jerseymen Parting,”) making out a strong case, among others, about Green Glass Bottles and Sweets, more as illustrative examples than as individual cases. I sent the first copy I could get to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a day and a half before he brought out his Budget. When I opened the “Times,” the morning after, I was highly amused at seeing that he had made a curious alteration in his intentions about the saddle-horse duty, applying the remission to those clergymen and ministers only whose income was under two hundred pounds a year, — having evidently no idea of the cost of keeping a horse. Not less amusing was it to see that he had taken off the duty from green glass bottles and sweets. He was in fact open to suggestion and correction from any quarter, — being consciously, as I have mentioned that he said, one of Nature’s graziers, and a merely man-made Chancellor of the Exchequer.
By this time, the summer of 1834 was far advanced, and I was much exhausted with fatigue and hot weather, and the hurry of preparation for my trip to America. I was drooping in idea over my last number, “The Scholars of Arneside,” when a cordial friend of mine said, “You will go with great spirit through your last number, — the final task of such an enterprise.” This prophecy wrought its own accomplishment. I did go through it with spirit; and I found myself, after making my calls, with one day left for packing and preparation. Many interruptions occurred during the last few days which deferred my conclusion till I felt and saw that my mother was so anxious that I must myself keep down worry of nerves. On the Friday before I was to leave home for above two years, my mother said, with anxious kindness, “My dear, have you done?” “No, mother.” On Saturday night, she put her head in at my study door, with “My dear, have you done?” “Indeed I have not.” Sunday came, — my place taken by mail for Tuesday, no packing done, and my number unfinished! The case seemed desperate. My mother said at home, and took every precaution against my being disturbed: but some one came on indispensable business, and did not release me till our early Sunday dinner hour. My mother looked anxiously in my face; and I could only shake my head. After dinner, she in a manner mounted guard over my study door. At five o’clock I flew down stairs with the last sheet, with the ink still wet, in my hand. My sister Ellen was with us, and at the moment writing to some Derbyshire friends. By a sudden impulse, I seized her paper, and with the wet pen with which I had just written “The End,” I announced the conclusion of my work. My mother could say little but “After all we have gone through about this work, to think how it has ended!” I flew up stairs again to tie up parcels and manuscripts, and put away all my apparatus; and I had just finished this when I was called to tea. After tea I went into St. James’s Park for the first thoroughly holiday walk I had taken for two years and a half. It felt very like flying. The grass under foot, the sky overhead, the trees round about, were wholly different from what they had ever appeared before. My business was not, however, entirely closed. There were the proof-sheets of the last Number to be looked over. They followed me to Birmingham, where Ellen and I travelled together, in childish spirits, on the Tuesday.
My mother had reason for her somewhat pathetic exultation on the conclusion of my Series. Its success was unprecedented, I believe. I am told that its circulation had reached ten thousand in England before my return from America. Mr. Babbage, calling on me one day, when he was in high spirits about the popularity of his own work, “Machinery and Manufactures,” said, “Now there is nobody here to call us vain, we may tell each other that you and I are the only people in the market. I find no books are selling but yours and mine.” (It was a time of political agitation.) I replied, “I find no books are selling but yours and mine.” “Well!” said he, “what I came to say is that we may as well advertise each other. Will you advertise mine if I advertise yours, &c. &c.?” And this was the work which had struggled into existence with such extreme difficulty! Under the hard circumstances of the case, it had not made me rich. I have at this time received only a little more than two thousand pounds for the whole work. But I got a hearing, — which was the thing I wanted. The barrier was down, and the course clear; and the money was a small matter in comparison. It was pleasant too, to feel the ease of having money, after my straitened way of life for some years. My first indulgence was buying a good watch, — the same which is before my eyes as I write. I did not trouble myself with close economies while working to such advantage; and I now first learned the bliss of helping the needy effectually. I was able to justify my mother in removing to London, and to refresh myself by travel, at the end of my task. My American journey cost me four hundred pounds, in addition to one hundred which I made when there. I had left at home my usual payment to my mother; but she refused to take it, as she had a boarder in my place. Soon after my return, when my first American book was published, I found myself able to lay by one thousand pounds, in the purchase of a deferred annuity, of which I am now enjoying the benefit in the receipt of one hundred pounds a year. I may finish off the subject of money by saying that I lately calculated that I have earned altogether by my books somewhere about ten thousand pounds. I have had to live on it, of course, for five-and-twenty years; and I have found plenty to do with it: but I have enough, and I am satisfied. I believe I might easily have doubled the amount, if it had been my object to get money; or even, if an international copyright law had secured to me the proceeds of the sale of my works in foreign countries. But such a law was non-existent in my busy time, and still is in regard to America. There is nothing in money that could pay me for the pain of the slightest deflexion from my own convictions, or the most trifling restraint on my freedom of thought and speech. I have therefore obtained the ease and freedom, and let slip the money. I do not speak as one who has resisted temptation, for there has really been none. I have never been at a loss for means, or really suffering from poverty, since the publication of my Series. I explain the case simply that there may be no mystery about my not being rich after such singular success as I so soon met with.
One more explanation will bring this long section to a close. I make it the more readily because it is possible that an absurd report which I encountered in America may be still in existence. It was said that I travelled, not on my own resources, but on means supplied by Lord Brougham and his relative Lord Henley, to fulfil certain objects of theirs. Nobody acquainted with me would listen to such nonsense; but I may as well explain what Lord Henley had to do with my going to America. Lord Brougham had no concern with it whatever, beyond giving me two or three letters of introduction. The story is simply this. One evening, in a party, Lady Mary Shepherd told me that she was commissioned to bring about an interview between myself and her nephew, Lord Henley, who had something of importance to say to me: and she fixed me to meet Lord Henley at her house at luncheon a day or two after. She told me meantime the thing he chiefly wanted, which was to know how, if I had three hundred pounds a year to spend in charity, I should employ it. When we met, I was struck by his excessive agitation, which his subsequent derangement might account for. His chief interest was in philanthropic subjects; and he told me, with extreme emotion, (what so many others have told me) that he believed he had been doing mischief for many years where he most meant to do good, by his methods of alms-giving. Since reading “Cousin Marshall” and others of my Numbers, he had dropped his subscriptions to some hurtful charities, and had devoted his funds to Education, Benefit Societies and Emigration. Upon his afterwards asking whether I received visitors, and being surprised to find that I could afford the time, some remarks were made about the extent and pressure of my work; and then Lord Henley asked whether I did not mean to travel when my Series was done. Upon my replying that I did, he apologised for the liberty he took in asking where I thought of going. I said I had not thought much about it; but that I supposed it would be the usual route, to Switzerland and Italy. “O! do not go over that beaten track,” he exclaimed. “Why should you? Will you not go to America?” I replied, “Give me a good reason, and perhaps I will.” His answer was, “Whatever else may or may not be true about the Americans, it is certain that they have got at principles of justice and mercy in their treatment of the least happy classes of society which we should do well to understand. Will you not go, and tell us what they are?” This, after some meditation, determined me to cross the Atlantic. Before my return, Lord Henley had disappeared from society; and he soon after died. I never saw him, I believe, but that once.
After short visits, with my sister Ellen, at Birmingham, in Derbyshire and at Liverpool, I sailed (for there were no steamers on the Atlantic in those days) early in August, 1834.