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SECTION IV. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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The same mail which brought back my M. S. from Mr. Murray brought the news of the flight of Louis Philippe. My petty interests seemed unworthy of mention, even to myself, in the same day with that event. Mine were re-arranged in three days, while the affairs of the Continent became more exciting from hour to hour. Towards the end of March, when my book was finished, and nearly ready for publication, letters came in, in increasing numbers, appealing to me for help, in one form or another, for or against popular interests, so far as they were supposed to be represented by Chartism. Of these letters, one was from the wife of a Cabinet Minister, an old acquaintance, who was in a terrible panic about Feargus O’Connor and the threatened Chartist outbreak of the tenth of April, then approaching. She told me that she wrote under her husband’s sanction, to ask me, now that they saw my book was advertised for publication, to use my power over the working-classes, to bring them to reason, &c., &c. The letter was all one tremor in regard to the Chartists, and flattery to myself. I replied that I had no influence, as far as I knew, with the Chartists; and that, as a matter of fact, I agreed with them in some points of doctrine while thinking them sadly mistaken in others, and in their proposed course of action. I told her that I had seen something in the newspapers which had made me think of going to London: and that if I did go, I would endeavour to see as many political leaders (in and out of parliament) as possible, and would, if she pleased, write her an account of what should seem to me the state of things, and the best to be done, by myself and others. It was an advertisement in the newspapers which had made me think of going; — the advertisement of a new periodical to be issued by Mr. Knight, called “The Voice of the People.” It was pointed out to me by several of my friends, as full of promise in such hands at such a time. The day after my letter to Lady — was sent, I heard from Mr. Knight. He desired to see me so earnestly that he said, if I could not go to town, he would come to me, — ill as he could just then spare the time: or, he would come and fetch me, if I wished it. Of course, I went immediately; and I helped to the extent Mr. Knight wished, in his new periodical. But I saw immediately, as he did, that the thing would never do. The Whig touch perished it at once. The Whig officials set it up, and wished to dictate and control its management in a way which no literary man could have endured, if their ideas and feelings had been as good as possible. But the poverty and perverseness of their ideas, and the insolence of their feelings were precisely what might be expected by all who really knew that remarkably vulgar class of men. They proposed to lecture the working-classes, who were by far the wiser party of the two, in a jejune, coaxing, dull, religious-tract sort of tone, and criticised and deprecated every thing like vigour, and a manly and genial tone of address in the new publication, while trying to push in, as contributors, effete and exhausted writers, and friends of their own who knew about as much of the working-classes of England as of those of Turkey. Of course, the scheme was a complete and immediate failure. On the insertion of an article by a Conservative Whig, (which was certainly enough to account for the catastrophe,) the sale fell to almost nothing at all; and Mr. Knight, who had before stood his ground manfully against the patrons of the scheme, threw up the business.
Meantime, the tenth of April arrived (while I was near London) and passed in the way which we all remember. Lady — wrote to me in a strain of exultation, as vulgar, to say the least, as Feargus O’Connor’s behaviour, about the escape of the government. She told of O’Connor’s whimpering because his toes were trodden on; and was as insolent in her triumph about a result which was purely a citizen work as she had been abject when in fear that the Chartists would hold the metropolis. I felt the more obliged to write the promised letter, when I had seen several leading politicians of the liberal party; and I did it when I came home. I did it carefully; and I submitted my letter to two ladies who were judges of manners, as well as of politics; and they gave it their sanction, — one of them copying it, with entire approbation. Lady —’s reply was one of such insolence as precluded my writing to her again. She spoke of the “lower classes” (she herself being a commoner by birth) as comprising all below the peerage; so that she classed together the merchants and manufacturers with “cottagers” and even paupers; and, knowing me to be a manufacturer’s daughter, she wrote of that class as low, and spoke of having been once obliged to pass a week in the house of a manufacturer, where the governess was maltreated with the tyranny which marks low people. My two consultees reddened with indignation at the personal insolence to myself; which I had overlooked in my disgust at the wrong to my “order,” and to the “cottagers” with whom she classed us. By their advice, I wrote a short note to this lady’s husband, to explain that my letter was not a spontaneous address, as his lady now assumed, but written in answer to her request. This little transaction confirmed the impression which I had derived from all my recent intercourse with official Whigs; — that there was nothing to be expected from them now that they were spoiled by the possession of place and power. I had seen that they had learned nothing by their opportunities: that they were hardened in their conceit and their prejudices, and as blind as bats to the new lights which time was introducing into society. I expected what became apparent in the first year of the war, when their incapacity and aristocratic self-complacency disgraced our administration, and lowered our national character in the eyes of the world, and cost their country many thousands of lives and many millions of treasure. I have seen a good deal of life and many varieties of manners; and it now appears to me that the broadest vulgarity I have encountered is in the families of official Whigs, who conceive themselves the cream of society, and the lights and rulers of the world of our empire. The time is not far off, though I shall not live to see it, when that coterie will be found to have brought about a social revolution more disastrous to themselves than any thing that could have been rationally anticipated from poor Feargus O’Connor and his Chartist host of April 10th, 1848.
What Mr. Knight wanted of me at that time was not mainly my assistance in his new periodical, but to carry on an old enterprise which had been dropped. The “History of the Thirty Years’ Peace” had been begun long before; but difficulties had occurred which had brought it to a stand for two years past. That his subscribers should have been thus apparently deserted, and left with the early numbers useless on their hands, was a heavy care to my good friend; and he proposed to me to release him from his uncomfortable position by undertaking to finish the work. I felt tempted; but I did not at all know whether I could write History. Under his encouragement, I promised to try, if he could wait three months. I was writing “Household Education,” and I had promised him an account of the Lake District, for the work he was publishing, called “The Land we live in.” It was on or about the 1st of August that I opened, for study, the books which Mr. Knight had been collecting and forwarding to me for the sources of my material.
This year was the beginning of a new work which has afforded me more vivid and unmixed pleasure than any, except authorship, that I ever undertook;—that of delivering a yearly course of lectures to the mechanics of Ambleside and their families. Nothing could have been further from my thoughts, at the outset, than such an extension of the first effort. On my return from the East, I was talking with a neighbour about the way in which children, and many other untravelled persons, regard the Holy Land. When Dr. Carpenter taught me in my youth, among his other catechumens, the geography of Palestine, with notices from Maundrell’s travels there, it was like finding out that a sort of fairy land was a real and substantial part of our everyday earth; and my eagerness to learn all about it was extreme, and highly improving in a religious sense. I remarked now to my neighbour that it was a pity that the school-children should not learn from me something of what I had learned in my youth from Maundrell. She seized upon the idea, and proposed that I should give familiar lectures to the monitors and best scholars of the national school, — sometimes, when convenient, to escape visitation, called the Squire’s school. I was willing, and we went to the school-mistress, whose reception of the scheme amused us much. She said she knew, and had taught the children, “all about the sources of the Nile;” but that she should be glad to hear any thing more that I had to tell. We could hardly refrain from asking her to teach us “all about the sources of the Nile:” but we satisfied ourselves with fixing the plan for my addressing the children in the school-house. I was more nervous the first time than ever after, — serious as was the extension of the plan. After the first lecture, which was to two or three rows of children and their school-mistress, a difficulty arose. The incumbent’s lady made a speech in School Committee, against our scheme, saying that the incumbent had found so much discontent in the parish from a dissenter having been allowed to set foot in the school-house, that its doors must be closed against me. She added some compliments to me and the lectures, which she expressed a great wish to hear, and so on. My neighbour immediately took all the blame on herself, saying that I had not even known where the school-house was till she introduced me to it; and that what I had done was at her request. She went straight to the authorities of the chapel which stands at the foot of my rock, and in an hour obtained from them in writing an assurance that it would give them “the greatest pleasure” that I should lecture in their school-rooms. Armed with this, and blushing all over, my neighbour came, and was relieved to find that I was not offended but amused at the transaction. I proposed to have the children in my kitchen, which would hold them very well; and that we should invite the incumbent’s lady to be present. My neighbour said “No, no: she does not deserve that,” and produced the Methodists’ gracious letter. I may add here that last year the incumbent’s lady said, in a railway carriage, in the hearing of a friend of mine, that there was great alarm among the clergy when I first came to live at Ambleside: but that it had died away gradually and completely (even after the publication of the Atkinson Letters) from their finding that, while I thought it right to issue through the press whatever I thought, I never meddled with any body’s opinions in private. I may add, too, that I have been treated with courtesy and kindness, whenever occasion brought us together.
It occurs to me also to add an anecdote which diverted me and my friends at the time, and which seems more odd than ever, after the lapse of a few years. There is a Book-club at Ambleside, the members of which are always complaining to outsiders of the dullness of the books, and the burdensomeness of the connexion. I had had hints about the duty of neighbours to subscribe to the Book-club; and when one or two books that I wished to see were circulating, I told a member that I was not anxious to join, at an expense which could hardly be compensated, — judging by what I heard about the choice of books: but that, if I ever joined, it should be then. She mentioned this to another member; and it was agreed that I should be proposed and seconded. But the gentleman she spoke to — always a friendly neighbour to me, — called on her to communicate, with much concern, his apprehension that I might possibly be black-balled. He was entirely uncertain; but he had some notion that it might be so. The lady came, very nervous, to ask whether I would proceed or not. I had half a mind to try the experiment, — it would have been such a rich joke, — so voluminous a writer, and one so familiar in literary society in London, being black-balled in a country book-club! But I thought it more considerate not to thrust myself into any sort of connexion with any body who might be afraid of me. I profited by an invitation to join a few families in a subscription to a London library, by which, for less money, I got a sight of all the books I wished to see, — and no others; for my friends and I are of the same mind in our choice of reading.
At the second lecture, some of the parents and elder brothers and sisters of the children stole in to listen; and before I had done, there was a petition that I would deliver the lectures to grown people. I saw at once what an opportunity this was, and nerved myself to use it. I expanded the lectures, and made them of a higher cast; and before another year, the Mechanics of Ambleside and their families were eager for other subjects. I have since lectured every winter but two; and with singular satisfaction. The winter was the time chosen, because the apprentices and shop-keepers could not leave their business in time, when the days lengthened. No gentry were admitted, except two or three friends who took tea with me, and went as my staff, — in order to help me, if any difficulty arose, and to let me know if I spoke either too loud or too low; a matter of which, from my deafness, I could not judge. It is rather remarkable that, being so deaf, and having never before spoken in any but a conversational tone, I never got wrong as to loudness. I placed one of my servants at the far end of the room; and relied on her to take out her handkerchief if she failed to hear me; but it always went well. I made notes on half-a-sheet of paper, of dates or other numbers, or of facts which might slip my memory; but I trusted entirely to my power at the time for my matter and words. I never wrote a sentence; and I never once stopped for a word. — The reasons why no gentry were admitted were, first, because there was no room for more than the “workies:” and next, that I wished to keep the thing natural and quiet. If once the affair got into the newspapers, there would be an end of the simplicity of the proceeding. Again, I had, as I told the gentry, nothing new to tell to persons who had books at home, and leisure to read them. — My object was to give rational amusement to men whom all circumstances seemed to conspire to drive to the public-house, and to interest them in matters which might lead them to books, or at least give them something to think about. My lectures were maliciously misrepresented by a quizzer here and there, and especially by a lawyer or two, who came this way on circuit, and professed to have been present: but they were welcome to their amusement, as long as it was an indisputable matter that they had not been present.
The second course was on Sanitary matters; and it was an effectual preparation for my scheme of instituting a Building Society. In a place like Ambleside, where wages are high, the screw is applied to the working men in regard to their dwellings. The great land-owners, who can always find room to build mansions, have never a corner for a cottage: and not only are rents excessively high, but it is a serious matter for a working man to offend his landlord, by going to chapel instead of church, for instance, when he may be met by the threat — “If you enter that chapel again, I will turn your family out of your cottage; and you know you can’t get another.” When the people are compelled to sleep, ten, twelve, or fourteen in two rooms, there can be little hope for their morals or manners; and one of the causes of the excessive intemperance of the population is well known to be the discomfort of the crowded dwellings. When the young men come home to bad smells and no room to turn, they go off to the public-house. The kind-hearted among the gentry tend the sick, and pray with the disheartened, and reprove the sinner; but I have found it singularly difficult to persuade them that, however good may be wine and broth, and prayers and admonition, it is better to cut off the sources of disease, sin and misery by a purer method of living. My recourse was to the “workies” themselves, in that set of lectures; in which I endeavoured to show them that all the means of healthy and virtuous living were around them, — in a wide space of country, slopes for drainage, floods of gushing water, and the wholesomest air imaginable. I showed them how they were paying away in rent, money enough to provide every head of a household with a cottage of his own in a few years; and I explained to them the principle of such a Building Society as we might have, — free from the dangers which beset such societies in large towns, where the members are unknown to each other, and sharp lawyers may get in to occasion trouble. They saw at once that if twenty men lay by together, instead of separately, a shilling a week each, they need not wait twenty weeks for any one to have the use of a pound; but the twentieth man may have his pound, just the same, while the other nineteen will have had earlier use of theirs, and be paying interest for it. Hence arose our Building Society; the meeting to form it being held in my kitchen. A generous friend of mine advanced the money to buy a field, which I got surveyed, parcelled out, drained, fenced, and prepared for use. The lots were immediately purchased, and paid for without default. Impediments and difficulties arose, as might be expected. Jealousy and ridicule were at work against the scheme. Some who might have helped it were selfish, and others timid. Death (among a population where almost every man drinks) and emigration, and other causes impeded an increase of members; and the property was less held by working men, and more by opulent persons, than I had desired and intended; but the result is, on the whole, satisfactory, inasmuch as thirteen cottages have arisen already; and more are in prospect: and this number is no small relief in a little country town like Ambleside. The eye of visitors is now caught by an upland hamlet, just above the parsonage, where there are two good houses, and some ranges of cottages which will stand, as the builders say, “a thousand years,” — so substantial is the mode of building the gray stone dwellings of the district. I scarcely need add that I made no reference, in the lectures or otherwise, to the form of tyranny exercised by the owners of land and houses. My business was to preclude the tyranny, by showing the people that their own interests were in their own hands, and by no means to excite angry feelings about grievances which I hoped to mitigate, or even extinguish.
The generous friend who enabled me to buy the land declined to receive the money back. She is the proprietress of two of the cottages and their gardens; and she placed the rest of the money at my disposal, for the benefit of the place, as long as it was wanted. Since my illness began, three months ago, I have transferred the trust to other hands; and there is reason to hope that the place will be provided with a good Mechanics’ Institute, and Baths, — which are now the next great want.
In the two last lectures of the Sanitary course, there was an opportunity for dealing with the great curse of the place, — its intemperance. Those two lectures were on the Stomach and Brain. I drew the outline of the stomach on a large expanse of paper, which was fixed in front of the desk; and I sent round the coloured prints, used in Temperance Societies, of the appearances of progressive disease in the drunkard’s stomach, — from the first faint blush of inflammation to the schirrous condition. It was a subject which had long and deeply engaged my attention; and my audience, so closely packed as that the movement of one person swayed the whole, were as much interested as myself; so that my lecture spread out to an hour and twenty minutes, without my being at all aware of the time. The only stir, except when the prints were handed round, was made by a young man who staggered out, and fainted at the door. He was a recent comer to the place, and had lately begun to tipple, like his neighbours. After that night, he joined my Building Society, that he might have no money for the public-house. Many told me afterwards that they were sick with pain of mind during that lecture; and I found, on inquiry, that there was probably hardly a listener there, except the children, who had not family reasons for strong emotion during an exposure of the results of intemperate habits.
The longest course I have given was one of twenty lectures on the History of England, from the earliest days of tradition to the beginning of the present century. Another was on the History of America, from its discovery by Columbus to the death of Washington. This was to have been followed by a course which I shall not live to offer; — the modern History of the United States, — with a special view to recommend the Anti-slavery cause. Last November and December, I addressed my neighbours for the last time, — On Russia and the War. At the close, I told them that if I were alive and well next winter, we would carry on the subject to the close of the campaign of 1855. I should be happy to know that some one would take up my work, and not allow my neighbours to suffer by my departure. I found myself fatigued and faint during the two last lectures; and I spoke seriously when making my conditional promise for another season; but I had no clear notion how ill I was, even then, and that I should never meet that array of honest, earnest faces again.
There was some fear that the strong political interests of the spring of 1848 would interfere with the literary prosperity of the season. Whether they did or not, I do not know. For my own part I cared more for newspapers than books in that exciting year; but my own book had an excellent sale. The remembrance of the newspaper reading of those revolutionary times recalls a group of circumstances in my own experience which may be worth recording, — to show how important a work it is to give an account of the constitution and politics of a foreign nation. — Ten years before this, — (I think it was the year before my long illness began) a gentleman was brought to a soirée at my mother’s house, and introduced to me by a friend, who intimated that the stranger had a message to deliver to me. The gentleman had been for some time resident in Sweden, where he was intimately acquainted with the late Prime Minister. The Crown Prince Oscar of that day (the present King) was earnestly desirous of introducing constitutional reforms on a large scale, many of which, as we all know, he has since achieved. The retired Prime Minister desired my guest of that evening to procure an introduction to me, and to be the bearer of an invitation to me to spend a Swedish summer at the Minister’s country-house, where his lady and family would make me welcome. His object was, he said, to discuss some political topics of deep interest to Sweden; and he conceived that my books on America showed me to be the person whom he wanted; — to be capable, in fact, of understanding the working of the constitutions of foreign nations. He wanted to talk over the condition and prospects of Sweden in the light of the experiments of other countries. I could not think of going; and I forgot the invitation till it was recalled to memory by an incident which happened in April 1839. I was then going to Switzerland with three friends, and our passage to Rotterdam was taken, when a friend of my family, the English representative of an Irish county, called on me with an earnest request that I would suspend my scheme, for reasons which he would assign in a few days. I explained that I really could not do so, as I was pledged to accompany a sick cousin. In a day or two, my friend called, to insist on my dining at his house the next Wednesday, to meet Mr. O’Connell on business of importance. Mr. O’Connell could not be in town earlier, because the freedom of some place (I forget what) was to be presented to him on Tuesday; and travelling all night would bring him to London only on Wednesday afternoon. I could not meet him, as we were to go on board the packet on Wednesday evening. — My friend, hoping still to dissuade me, told me what Mr. O’Connell wanted. He had private reasons for believing that “Peel and the Tories” would soon come into power: (in fact, the Bedchamber Question occurred within a month after) and he feared more than ever for the liberties of Ireland, and felt that not a day must be lost in providing every assistance to the cause that could be obtained. He had long been convinced that one of the chief misfortunes of Ireland was that her cause was pleaded in print by authors who represented only the violent, and vulgar and factious elements of Irish discontent; by Irish people, in fact, who could not speak in a way which the English were willing to listen to. He considered that my American books established my capacity to understand and represent the political and social condition of another country; and what he had to request was that I would study Irish affairs on the spot, and report of them. He offered introductions to the best-informed Catholic families in any or every part of Ireland, and besought me to devote to the object all the time I thought needful, — either employing twelve months or so in going over the whole of Ireland, or a shorter time in a deeper study of any particular part, — publishing the results of my observations without interference from any body, or the expression of any desire from any quarter that my opinions should be of one colour rather than another.
It was impossible for me to say any thing to this scheme at the time: but my family and friends were deeply impressed by it. It was frequently discussed by my comrades and myself during our continental journey; and one of them, — the same generous friend to whom I have had occasion to refer in connexion with my Ambleside schemes, — offered to accompany me, with a servant, to help and countenance me, and hear for me, and further the object in every possible way: and she was not the only one who so volunteered. It stood before my mind as the next great work to be undertaken: but, in another month, not only were “Peel and the Tories” sent to the right-about for the time, but I was prostrate in the illness which was to lay me aside for nearly six years. On our return from Italy, we fell in with the family of Lord Plunket, to whom, in the course of conversation about Ireland, we related the incident. Miss Plunket seemed as much struck with the rationality of the scheme as we were; and, after some consultation apart, Miss Plunket came to me with an express offer of introductions from Lord Plunket to intelligent Protestants, in any or every part of Ireland where this business might carry me. My illness, however, broke up the scheme.
This incident, again, was recalled to my memory by what happened the next time I was abroad. It occurred in the spring of 1847. Our desert party agreed, at Jerusalem, to make an excursion of three days to the Jordan and the Dead Sea. On the eve of the trip, three European gentlemen sent a petition to Lady Harriet K—, that they might be allowed to ride with our party, on account of the dangerous state of the road to Jericho. They joined our troop in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and rode among us all day. It did not occur to me to ask who they were. In the course of the next morning, when the ladies of the party were going through the wood on the bank of the Jordan, to bathe northwards, while the gentlemen went southwards, we met one of these strangers; and I told him where he might find his companions. I never doubted his being English, — he looked so like a country squire, with his close-cropped, rather light hair, and sunburned complexion. He appeared to be somewhere about five-and-thirty. On leaving the Jordan, we had to traverse an open tract, in excessive heat, to the margin of the Dead Sea. The hard sand looked trustworthy; and I put my horse to a gallop, for the sake of the wind thus obtained. I soon heard other horses coming up; and this gentleman, with two others, appeared: and he rode close by my side till an accident to one of the party obliged him to dismount and give help. I was among those who rode on when we found that no harm was done; and presently after I was asked by Lady Harriet K— whether I would allow Count Porro to be introduced to me, — he being desirous of some conversation with me. For Silvio Pellico’s sake, as well as Count Porro’s father’s and his own, I was happy to make his acquaintance; and I supposed we should meet at our halting place, — at Santa Saba. But Count Porro and his companions were to strike off northwards by the Damascus road; and they were gone before I was aware. — A few weeks afterwards, when we four, of the Nile party, rode up to our hotel at Damascus, Count Porro was awaiting us; and he helped us ladies down from our horses. He had remained some days, in order to see me. He desired some conversation with me at a convenient time; and that convenient time proved to be the next morning, when he joined me on the divan, in the alcove in the quadrangle. He was so agitated that he could scarcely speak. His English, however, was excellent. He told me that in what he was going to say he was the mouth-piece of many of his countrymen, as well as of his own wishes; and especially of several fellow-citizens of Milan. What he said was as nearly as could be a repetition of O’Connell’s plea and request. He said it was the misfortune of his country to be represented abroad by injured and exasperated patriots, who demanded more than the bulk of the people desired, and gave forth views which the citizens in general disclaimed. It was believed by the leading men in Lombardy that the changes which were really most essential might be obtained from Austria, if sought in a temperate and rational manner; and that the best way of obtaining these changes would be by means of a report on the condition of affairs by some traveller of reputation, who had shown, as they considered that I had done by my work on the United States, a capacity to understand and report of a foreign state of society. He was therefore authorised to request that I would reside in Milan for six months or a year, and to say that every facility should be afforded for my obtaining information, and all possible respect shown to my liberty of judgment and representation. All they wanted was that I should study their condition, and report it fully, on my return to England. He told me (in consideration of my deafness, which disabled me for conversation, though not, of course, for reading, in a foreign language) that every educated Milanese speaks English; and that every thing should be done to render my abode as pleasant as possible; and so forth. — I positively declined, being, in truth, heartily homesick, — longing for my green, quiet valley, and the repose of my own abode. My duties there seemed more congenial and natural than investigating the politics of Lombardy; and I did not therefore think it selfish to refuse. With increasing agitation, Count Porro declared that he would take no refusal. He asked how much time these home duties would occupy; said, in spite of all my discouragements, that he should go to England the next spring; and declared, when taking his leave next day, that, on landing at Southampton, his first step would be to put himself into the train for Ambleside, whence he would not depart without my promise to go to Milan.
When that “next spring” arrived, — the anniversary of those conversations of ours at Damascus, — Count Porro was a member of the Provisional Government at Milan, telling Austria by his acts and decrees what it was that Lombardy required. The mention, in my narrative, of the revolutions of 1848 brought up these three stories at once to my recollection; and their strong resemblance to each other seems to show that there must be something in them which makes them worth the telling.
I began my great task of the History under much anxiety of mind. My mother was known to be dying from the spring onwards; and she died in August. She was removed, while yet able, to the house of her eldest surviving son, at Edgbaston; and there, amidst the best possible tendance, she declined and died. Her life hung upon perfect quiet; and therefore, as all her children had seen her not long before, it was considered best to leave her in the good hands of one of the families. I saw her at Liverpool, on my return home from the East. By evil offices, working on her prejudice against mesmerism, she had been prevented from meeting me after my recovery: but such a cause of separation was too absurd to be perpetual. I knew that the sound of my voice, and my mere presence for five minutes, would put to flight all objections to my mode of recovery: and we did meet and part in comfort and satisfaction. I did hope to have had the pleasure of a visit from her that summer, though I proposed it with much doubt. She was now blind; and she could not but be perpetually hearing of the charms of the scenery. She could walk only on smooth and level ground; and walking was essential to her health: and it is not easy to find smooth level ground in our valley. Yet, as one main inducement to my building and settling here was that there might be a paradise for any tired or delicate members of my family to rest in, I did wish that my mother should have tried it, this first practicable summer: but she was too ill to do more than go to Edgbaston, and find her grave there. She was in her seventy-sixth year. — I have never felt otherwise than soundly and substantially happy, during this last term of my life: but certainly those months of July and August 1848 were the most anxious of the whole ten years since I left Tynemouth. The same faithful old friend to whom I have often referred, must come into my history again here. She came to me when I was becoming most anxious, and remained above two months, — saving me from being overwhelmed with visits from strangers, and taking me quiet drives, when my work was done; — a recreation which I have always found the most refreshing of all. Some of my own family came before the event, and some after; and a few old and dear friends looked in upon me, in the course of the season.
When I had laid out my plan for the History, and begun upon the first portion, I sank into a state of dismay. I should hardly say “sank;” for I never thought of giving up or stopping; but I doubt whether, at any point of my career, I ever felt so oppressed by what I had undertaken as during the first two or three weeks after I had begun the History. The idea of publishing a number of my Political Economy series every month was fearful at first: but that was only the quantity of work. The Discontented Pendulum comforted me them, — not only because every month’s work would have its own month to be done in, but because there was a clear, separate topic for each number, which would enable the work to take care of itself, in regard to subject as well as time. In America, I was overwhelmed with the mass of material to be dealt with; but then, I was not engaged to write a book; and by the time I had made up my mind to do so, the mass had become classified. Now, the quantity and variety of details fairly overpowered my spirits, in that hot month of August. I feel my weakness, — more in body than (consciously) in mind — in having to deal with many details. The most fatiguing work I ever have to do is arranging my library; and even packing my trunks for a journey, or distributing the contents when I come home, fatigues me more than it seems to do other people. In this case, I fear I afflicted my friend by my discouragement, — the like of which she had never seen in me. At times, she comforted me with assurances that the chaos would become orderly; but, on the whole, she desired that I should throw up the work, — a thing which I could not even meditate for a moment, under the circumstances in which Mr. Knight found himself. No doubt, the nervous watching of the post at that time had much to do with my anxiety. My habit was to rise at six, and to take a walk, — returning to my solitary breakfast at half-past seven. For several years, while I was strong enough, I found this an excellent preparation for work. My household orders were given for the day, and all affairs settled, out of doors and in, by a quarter or half-past eight, when I went to work, which I continued without interruption, except from the post, till three o’clock, or later, when alone. While my friend was with me, we dined at two; and that was, of course, the limit of my day’s work. The post came in at half-past ten; and my object was to keep close to my work till the letters appeared. When my mother became so ill that this effort was beyond my power, I sent to meet the coach, and got my letters earlier; but the wear and tear of nerve was very great. One strong evidence of the reality of my recovery was that my health stood the struggle very well. In a few weeks, I was in full career, and had got my work well in hand. My first clear relief came when I had written a certain passage about Canning’s eloquence, and found in the course of it that I really was interested in my business. Mr. Knight, happily, was satisfied; and I was indebted to him for every kind of encouragement. By the 1st of February, the last M.S. of the first volume was in the hands of the printer. I mention this because a contemporary review spoke of “two years” as the time it had occupied me, — calling it very rapid work; whereas, from the first opening of the books to study for the History to the depositing of the M.S. of the first volume at press was exactly six months. The second volume took six months to do, with an interval of some weeks of holiday, and other work. I delivered the last sheets into Mr. Knight’s hands in November 1849.
During the year 1849, the dismal cholera year, — I found that I had been overworking; and in the autumn I accepted Mrs. Knight’s invitation to join their family at St. Leonards for a month, and then to stay with them for the remaining weeks which were necessary to finish the History. The Sunday when I put the last batch of M.S. into Mr. Knight’s hands was a memorable day to me. I had grown nervous towards the end; and especially doubtful, without any assignable reason, whether Mr. Knight would like the concluding portion. To put it out of my mind, I went a long walk after breakfast with Mr. Atkinson, to Primrose Hill (where I had never been before) and Regent’s Park. My heart fluttered all the way; and when I came home, to meet a farewell family party at lunch, I could not eat. Mr. Knight looked at me, with an expression of countenance which I could not interpret; and when he beckoned me into the drawing-room, I was ready to drop. I might have spared myself the alarm. His acknowledgments were such as sent me to my room perfectly happy; and I returned to my Knoll with a light heart. I was soon followed by an invitation from Mr. Knight to write the introductory period, from the opening of the century to the Peace, to be followed by the four years to 1850, if we should live to see the close of that year, so as to make a complete “History of the Half Century.” The work would be comparatively light, from the quantity of material supplied by the Memoirs of the statesmen now long dead. I was somewhat disappointed in regard to the pleasure of it from Mr. Knight’s frequent changes of mind as to the form in which it was to be done. I imagine he had become somewhat tired of the scheme; for, not only was I kept waiting weeks, and once three months, for a promised letter which should guide me as to space and other particulars; but he three times changed his mind as to the form in which he should present the whole. He approved, as cordially as ever, what I wrote; but finally decided to print the portion from 1800 to the Peace as an Introductory volume, relinquishing the project of completing the Half Century by a History of the last four years. I state these facts because it was afterwards believed by many people, who quoted his authority, that he broke off the scheme, to his own injury, from terror at the publication of the Atkinson Letters, — as if he had been taken by surprise by that publication. I can only say that it was as far as possible from being my intention to conceal our plan of publishing those Letters. I not only told him of it while at his house in the autumn of 1849, and received certain sarcasms from him on our “infidel” philosophy; but I read to Mrs. Knight two of the boldest of Mr. Atkinson’s letters: and it was after this that Mr. Knight invited me to write the Introductory volume. Moreover, it was after some of his changes of plan that he staid at my house (May 1850) with Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Jerrold, and considerately took Mr. Jerrold for a walk, on the last day of their visit, to leave Mr. Atkinson and me at liberty to read our manuscript. He was certainly panic-stricken when the volume appeared, in January, 1851; but, if he was surprised, it was through no fault of mine, as the dates show. In July, 1851, half-a-year after the “Letters” appeared, when he paid me for my work at his own house, he expressed himself more than satisfied with the Introductory History, and told me that, though the Exhibition had interfered with the publishing season, he had sold two thirds of the edition, and had no doubt of its entire success in the next. Before the next season opened, however, he sold off the whole work. With his reasons for doing so I have no concern, as the preceding facts show. In regard to him, I need only say, — which I do with great pleasure, — that he has continued to show me kindness and affection, worthy of our long friendship. In regard to the History, — it has passed into the hands of Messrs. Chambers of Edinburgh, who invited me, last summer, to bring the History of the Peace down to the War. I agreed to do so; and the scheme was only broken off by my present illness, which, of course, renders the execution of it impossible.