ENGAGEMENT AND MARRIAGE.
It was late in the afternoon of the 24th January, 1857, that two of my sisters and I were walking in the woods of Claverton Manor. To the left of the house when facing it, is one of the avenues of beautiful beech trees which the notable Ralph Allen, Fielding’s “Squire Allworthy,” planted when he was the owner of Claverton. This particular avenue was called “the Beechery,” and led by a moss-grown path up to “the Rocks” on Claverton Downs, where Gainsborough wandered and sketched. On this afternoon we had struck by a smaller pathway into the woods on the right leading down the hill to a stream. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. Certain moments of life lodge themselves ineffaceably in the memory without apparently any adequate cause. We heard sounds of wheels. We agreed “that Mr. Bag-hot must be arriving”. We did not know how to pronounce his name, and felt no interest in his arrival, so continued our walk. He had been introduced to my father as a “young banker in the West of England” who wanted to write in the Economist, and he arrived that 24th of January at Claverton Manor to discuss banking and political economy with my father, then Financial Secretary to the Treasury and member for Devonport. Unfortunately the day before his arrival my father’s mare “Beauty” had shied, and crushed his ankle against a wall, so he was confined to his bed. There was a dinner-party of neighbours and acquaintances from Bath that evening at which my father could not appear, but he interviewed Walter Bagehot in his room upstairs after dinner. One of the guests at dinner was the successor to the celebrated Beau Nash, and was reigning in his stead as master of the ceremonies at the Bath balls. The fact that he, Walter Bagehot, coming to Claverton to discuss the solemnities of banking and political economy with the Secretary of the Treasury and proprietor of the Economist, should be confronted by a gentleman whose vocation was of so frivolous a character, tickled his humour greatly he told us in after days. As two of my sisters and I were still in the schoolroom it was not till breakfast the next day that we first saw him. But then he made his mark. When breakfast was over, and our German governess had left the room, he turned big dark eyes quickly round upon us, of the schoolroom, and exclaimed: “Your governess is like an egg!” We at once saw she was like an egg! From that moment he rose in our eyes from the status of a political economist to that of a fellow-creature. He became one of us. Poor governess! My memory of her since is chiefly associated with the starting-point of the good understanding which from the first existed between Walter Bagehot and his five sisters-in-law. We were six sisters without a brother. It was something strangely new, delightful and nutritious that he brought into our lives. My sister Eliza whom he married was the eldest of the six, I the youngest. She did not come down to that first breakfast when Walter established his position with us, having a headache; but she had so far arrested his attention the evening before at dinner that he missed her. He left Claverton the next day, and my father with some of the family went to London a few days later, as Parliament was to open early in February.
To the young the appearance of a person is of great importance, and, after he had called our Fraülein “like an egg,” we closely inspected Walter Bagehot’s appearance. We were puzzled. We could not call him handsome, but decidedly he was not plain. He was like no one else. His strong individuality over-rode any classification. He was tall and thin with rather high, narrow, square shoulders; his hands were long and delicate and the movements of his fingers very characteristic. He held his fingers quite straight from the knuckles and would often stroke his mouth or rub his forehead when he was thinking or talking.
Dr. Woodrow Wilson gives this description of his appearance: “The very appearance of the man,” says President Woodrow Wilson, “was a sort of outer index to the singular variety of capacity which has made him so notable a figure in the literary annals of England. A mass of black, wavy hair; a dark eye, with depths full of slumberous, playful fire; a ruddy skin that bespoke active blood, quick in its rounds; the lithe figure of an excellent horseman; a nostril full, delicate, quivering, like that of a blooded racer; such were the fitting outward marks of a man in whom life and thought and fancy abounded; the aspect of a man of unflagging vivacity, of wholesome, hearty humour, of a ready intellectual sympathy, of wide and penetrative observation.”
Though President Wilson never saw Walter Bagehot, this description is particularly happy, except that “ruddy” hardly described Walter Bagehot’s complexion. He had a very fine skin, very white near where the hair started, and a high colour—what might be called a hectic colour—concentrated on the cheek bones, as you often see it in the West country. Such a colour is associated with soft winds and a moist air, cider-growing orchards, and very green, wet grass. His eyelids were thin, and of singularly delicate texture, and the white of the eyeballs was a blue white. He would pace a room when talking, and, as the ideas framed themselves in words, he would throw his head back as some animals do when sniffing the air. The way he moved, his voice, everything about him, was individual. To us Walter was ever Walter—and that meant something quite unlike anybody else.
The upshot of the talk at Claverton was a series of letters which he started at once in the Economist, signed “A Banker”. The first commences and concludes with the following passages in the Economist of 7th February, 1857:—
“The General Aspect of the Banking Question.
“To the Editor of the ‘Economist’.
“In addressing to you a series of letters upon banking, I do not pretend to have any perfectly new theory to advance. On a topic of which the literature is already so copious, absolute novelty would be scarcely a recommendation, but on a complicated question it is desirable that the various lights in which its details strike individual minds should be continually expressed. The history of science shows that you cannot otherwise be secure against hasty assumptions, a slavish following of able men, and an unthinking adoption of plausible and popular theories. . . .
“There appears, therefore, to be no reason for departing from the obvious view, that while the Act of 1819 is prima facie reasonable in enacting that promises shall be performed, that of 1847 is prima facie unreasonable in enacting that certain promises seemingly innocuous shall not be made. Of course this is not conclusive; many prima facie conclusions are wholly erroneous; but, as I observed before, it is a disadvantage if a legislative settlement is not in accordance with natural impressions, and the onus probandi is always on those who say that acts apparently harmless are very hurtful. With a criticism on the arguments by which this opinion is sought to be made out, I shall venture soon to trouble you.
“I am, yours obediently,
“3rd February, 1857.”
This letter made its mark, eliciting the following letter from Lord Radnor—whose interest in the journal of free trade remained unabated since he and my father had invented the scheme of the Economist.
Highworth, 8th February, 1857.
“Lord Radnor trusts that ‘A Banker’ will not think him impertinent, if he offers the expression of his great satisfaction at the perusal of the letter in the Economist of last night.
“It appears to Lord Radnor that to treat the subject of the Bank Charter Bill in the mere pettyfogging style of—’s speech is simply ridiculous, and that the time is come when the question of Banking and of the right to issue notes, should be put on a fixed and intelligible basis consistent with the immutable principles of justice, public convenience, and political economy.
“Other questions of great importance both to the Bank and the community, ought (as it appears to Lord Radnor) now to be settled: e.g. its freedom from, or connection with the Government: its duties, whether due in the first place to the public, or to the proprietors of stocks; its functions as Banker of the State, and as Manager of the Public Debts Monopoly.
“Lord Radnor hopes that if ‘A Banker’ agrees with him, he will not omit to urge these topics in the same forcible manner. Lord Radnor has many apologies to offer for this intrusion.”
Very shortly after my father’s arrival in London Walter dined at our London house, 15 Hertford Street, Mayfair, where we lived during seventeen years when in London, and where I was born. This house had a special interest for my father, because Lord Grey, the statesman who greatly helped to pass the Reform Bill of 1832, had been born in it.
That week-end visit to Claverton resulted in a momentous change in Walter Bagehot’t life, and was to prove a fresh starting-point for him. The milieu into which he then entered was a new experience. He was introduced into the inner circle of political life, and was to make personal friends of some of the prominent men in this circle. Vividly alive to all stirring influences in social and public life, he had not yet tasted a full draught in that big world of London, in which life, in all directions, is filled up to the brim. His surroundings had not, except from an intellectual point of view, been such as to widen his outlook on Society. Bagehot’s visit to Claverton brought him personally into intimate contact with my father, one of the foremost leaders of the Free-Trade movement, and a member of the Government. He found a social life full of swing and vivacity, with notable people coming and going, a family of six sisters with whom he at once made friends,—all the more eagerly, perhaps, because he had never had sisters of his own. Mr. W. R. Greg almost lived with us at that time, and by his intellectual gifts and singularly pleasant manners added much to the charm of the life we were then leading; also Mr. Hutton, editor of the Economist, and Bagehot’s greatest friend, was constantly on the scene. From a mere acquaintance Mr. Hutton soon became one of our dearest friends. His friendship for my sisters, Mrs. Bagehot and Mrs. Greg and for myself, was felt, up to the day of his death, to be one of those strong props in life which never failed us. The fact that Walter Bagehot found, when he first came to Claverton, an intimate acquaintanceship existing between my father and this, his closest friend, naturally quickened his intimacy with us.
Claverton itself was an appropriate alighting spot for one who has become famous as a writer. It had notable literary associations. It was classic ground haunted by the memories of many great people who had come there as guests of Ralph Allen.
The only remnants of the large “Gothic Mansion renowned in the Civil Wars” which now exist are the level grass site on which it stood, and the beautiful terraces and flights of steps in front. These remain intact, flanked on one side by the old church and on the other by the gardener’s pretty gabled cottage. The newer house on the hill is large, commodious, but architecturally uninteresting. When we lived there it contained a fine library, especially rich in illustrated works, from which I gathered my first knowledge of the treasures to be found in the great galleries of Europe. There was also a picture-gallery, used as a billiard-room, where hung Sir Joshua Reynolds’ “Puck,” a life-sized three-quarter figure by Paul Veronese, and some notable Dutch paintings.
Of the season of 1857 in London and Walter’s visits to Hertford Street I have no personal recollection, the sister next to me and I being left with the “Egg” at Claverton. In the Life, Letters and Journals of George Ticknor, the American, there is a description of a small dinner-party in Hertford Street when Walter was one of the guests.
“I dined with Mr. Wilson, a member of Parliament, Financial Secretary of the Treasury; owner, and formerly editor, of the Economist, and the person on whom the Government depends in questions of banking and finance. He never reads a book; he gets all his knowledge from documents and conversation, as Greg tells me—that is, at first-hand. But he talks uncommonly well on all subjects; strongly, and with a kind of original force, that you rarely witness. He has a young wife, and three nice, grown-up daughters, who, with Greg, a barrister [Walter Bagehot] whose name I did not get—one other person and myself, filled up a very luxurious table, as far as eating and drinking are concerned. And who do you think that other person was? Nobody less than Madame Mohl; who talked as fast and as amusingly as ever, full of good-natured kindness, with a little sub-acid as usual, to give it a good flavour. The young ladies, Greg accounts among the most intelligent of his acquaintance, and they certainly talk French as few English girls can, for De Tocqueville came in after dinner, and we all changed language at once, except the master, who evidently has but one tongue in his head, and needs but one, considering the strong use he makes of it.” It may have been true that my father at that time had not time to read a book, but in his boyhood and youth he was a voracious reader.
It was after the family returned to Claverton early in August that the courting began in real earnest. Walter was constantly coming and going, and every visit brought the climax nearer. Much vitality prevailed in our family life in those Claverton and Hertford Street days, vitality of many kinds—social, literary, political, artistic. There was a great deal of riding, a great deal of reading, a great deal of music, a great many visitors. Instigated by Mr. Greg, my elder sisters, chiefly my sister Julia, afterwards Mrs. Greg, wrote reviews of books in the Economist and in the National Review. My mother was a good musician, and having studied in Germany, we were perhaps more musician-like in our performances than many amateurs of that day. We all played the piano, my sister Matilda (Mrs. Horan) and I played the harp, and we all sang. My father was very fond of music, and also of pictures: I was always drawing. From childhood I was always at it in one form or another. In those days a master came out from Bath to teach me “the touch for an oak—ditto for a beech—ditto for a chestnut tree”— and such like theoretic interpretations of foliage.
The source of all this vitality was my father. In looking back to that past—and I think without partiality I may say it, my father possessed more than any one I ever met that special genius which instinctively discovers how to make something good for others as well as for itself out of every moment of life. I can only think of one person who possessed a like passion for work, the same fervour with which my father tackled the labour, however arduous, involved in carrying out everything he undertook to do, and the same delightful social qualities. That person was a friend of later days, Lord Leighton. Both had the same staying power, the same indomitable energy. Both my father and Leighton revelled in work. It was said of my father when he was Financial Secretary of the Treasury, that he spoilt all the clerks in the department because he did half their work for them.
In his memoir of my father, Walter Bagehot writes: “In the country, where his habits were necessarily more obvious, he habitually spent the whole day from eleven till eight, with some slight interval for a short ride in the middle of the day, over his Treasury bag; and as such was his notion of holiday, it may be easily conceived that in London, when he had still more to do in a morning, and had to spend almost every evening in the House of Commons, his work was greater than an ordinary constitution could have borne. And it was work of a rather peculiar kind. Some men of routine habits spend many hours over their work, but do not labour very intensely at one time; other men of more excitable natures work impulsively, and clear off everything they do by eager efforts in a short time. But Mr. Wilson in some sense did both. Although his hours of labour were so very protracted, yet if a casual observer happened to enter his library at any moment, he would find him with his blind down to exclude all objects of external interest, his brow working eagerly, his eye fixed intently on the figures before him, and, very likely, his rapid pen passing fluently over the paper. He had all the labour of the chronic worker, and all the labour of the impulsive worker too. And those admitted to his intimacy used to wonder that he was never tired. He came out of his library in an evening more ready for vigorous conversation—more alive to all subjects of daily interest, more quick to gain new information—more ready to expound complicated topics, than others who had only passed an easy day of idleness or ordinary exertion.”
My father’s natural gifts, together with an earnest, delightful nature, and the influence of his official position, made our home attractive to various kinds of interesting people. Walter Bagehot, among the number, found in its atmosphere stimulating conditions, besides the special charm which, from his first visit, my sister had inspired. It seems on looking back a little curious that a person of his notable ability and twice our age should have been treated by us of the schoolroom with so little awe. One explanation for this seeming irreverence lies in the fact, I believe, that my father’s personal influence so completely placed him in the position of great Llama with all his surroundings—without his meaning in the least to occupy such a position—that every one of the family and those who shared the intimate family life, such as Walter Bagehot, Mr. Hutton and Mr. Greg, gathered as mere satellites round a greater centre luminary. There was also Walter’s own strong repugnance to “mounting the camel” in any sense whatever. Never was there any person as wise and good as he, who more instinctively objected to posing as a “superior person”. As a family we interested him, and our lives were brightened, our interests intensified, and our horizon widened, by his becoming one of us. It may easily be imagined how great a gain was the invasion of such a brother, at once a sage, a wit, and a boy, into the home life of six hitherto brotherless sisters. He came and went, each time becoming more intimate. Long rides on the downs, long walks were taken; but for the walks a donkey had to be provided for my sister who was the heroine of the situation. She was not strong enough to walk far. Walter, in order to secure a tête-à-tête with her, was observed by the vigilant eyes of her younger sisters to kick this donkey and make it trot on beyond the walkers. I, as the chief artist in the family, immortalised one of these walks on the Claverton Downs by drawing a caricature in water-colour which exists unto this day. When shown to him at the time, it had a depressing effect upon the aspirant. He feared he had not much chance if my sister did not mind this, to him, anxious—almost solemn situation—being caricatured. He was desperately, poetically in love. My father had always been jealous of any one who seemed likely to rob him of a daughter, and though he entirely approved (theoretically) of Walter Bagehot as a son-in-law, the idea of one of his daughters leaving him made him ill. On the 5th November the proposal took place, but the answer was not given till three days later in London, where my mother and my two sisters, Eliza and Sophie went, en route for Edinburgh. A certain Dr. Beveridge, one of the first believers in massage, had been recommended by Lady Kinnaird as likely to cure my two sisters of ailments with which they were troubled, so to Dr. Beveridge at Edinburgh they went for three months.
I remember well the day of the proposal. I do not think any event, previous or subsequent, produced so much excitement among us. The news was brought up to the schoolroom by my sister Zoe, and we sat on the piano and talked!—talked!—talked! The “Egg” had returned to Germany and we were pursuing, or not pursuing, our studies by ourselves, certain remote professors in Bath being supposed to fill the gap.
On the 7th November, 1858, at 10 o’clock a.m. in the dining-room of 15 Hertford Steet, Mayfair, my sister and Walter Bagehot were engaged. He breakfasted with my father and sisters, then rushed off to Mr. Hutton with the good news. Mr. Hutton called the same morning to congratulate.
Sketch from memory of Elizabeth Wilson by her sister Emilie J. Wilson
My sister’s diary relates:—
“11th November.—Got a letter from Mr. Bagehot (my first) from Langport, saying he was to return to London tomorrow morning to watch the crisis. Sent an answer to the Queen’s Hotel.”
“12th November.—Papa had a letter from Mr. Bagehot’s father and one from himself, the latter to thank him for the trust reposed in him. He came by morning express and called on Papa at the Treasury. He came to see me at 6 o’clock, and we talked together till dinner-time. He brought me Selections from Wordsworth. Mamma and Sophie went to the English Opera at the Lyceum. Papa did not come to dinner till 8.30, having been busy about the crisis. The Government sent letters to the Bank suspending Sir Robert Peel’s Bank Act of 1844. The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England called to discuss matters with Papa at 10 p.m.”
“14th November.—Mr. Bagehot came at 4. I introduced him to Susan. He read me Wordsworth’s ‘Lord Clifford’ and we had a very long talk after dinner. Mr. Hutton dined with us and told Mr. Bagehot in walking home that he is engaged to Miss Roscoe, a cousin of his first wife.”
“17th November.—Mr. Bagehot came at 9 and breakfasted with us and went with us to the station at 10.30—he and I together. Papa and Mr. Bagehot went to the British Museum after seeing us off to Scotland, to see the new reading-room and the new fragments of ancient statues from Halicarnassus.”
In this Victorian-era fashion were Walter Bagehot and Elizabeth Wilson betrothed. A fashion earnest, deliberate, closely under the chaperonage of parents, none the less exciting—thrillingly so—to all therein concerned.
The following quotations are from Walter Bagehot’s letters to my sister while she was in Edinburgh. The first written from Langport on the 10th November, began: “I have just rushed down here from Bristol and it appears to me that I shall rebound again to London to-morrow. I rather fancy I shall have to stay some days there, as the panic is getting worse and requires watching. . . . I cannot be in a panic at all myself. I have never felt such happiness as for the last two days, ever since our first walk in the Cemetery [Walter’s name for Hamilton Gardens]. . . . I do not quite believe in my happiness yet, one requires detail to make one believe in anything so strange. . . .”
Eight days later he writes from Yeovil: “. . . What do you think your father and myself did the moment you were gone? We went to see the antiquities of Halicarnassus!! They are a set of odd legs and bodies of great statues just arrived, and they alleviated our feelings very much. It happened in this way. We drove past the British Museum on our way home, and Mr. Wilson asked if I had seen the new reading-room, and as I had not, he forthwith took me to see it. We were ushered into old Panizzi who was doing nothing in a fine armchair, and he proposed we should see the venerable fragments just arrived from Greece. I am not sure, however, that we appreciated them. I have an unfortunate prejudice in favour of statues in one piece—at least in not more than six pieces, and these are broken up very small indeed—and it is a controversy whose arm belongs to whose body; but I believe real lovers of art admire these perplexities. On the whole, however, we spent our hour cheerfully, and, in consequence, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a heap of Scotch bankers were kept half an hour waiting. Seriously I felt pretty well although you were gone. I am so soothed by the last week . . . and it is such a rest. I believe too I am a little tired. The affections are always fatiguing; then there is the panic which is wearing, and really a trifle anxious, and your father’s conversation, and what I guess from it, lets me into the interior of matters in which I am so much interested that currency becomes an excitement, and altogether I am pleasingly tired, and though I think of you very much, about two minutes in three, it is nicely and mildly. I must brace myself more to my work in the morning, however, for it won’t do to be always thinking of our drive to the station and the fireside in Hertford Street. . . .
“Mr. Moffatt gave us a grand dinner, capital wine and excellent food. We talked currency till half-past one and then Mr. Wilson and myself walked to Hertford Street, and stood on the door-step ever so long talking of Michel Chevallier and the double standard in France. Mr. Moffatt is a sensible man, acquainted with money, and was really interested in what he was saying. There were only five of us, and a small party is always pleasanter. Mr. Robert Lowe, and the American Banker were the others; the latter was instructive. Mr. Lowe said he disapproved of subscriptions for windows. He thought they had better means of getting on than any one else, if they were proper people to keep alive, which I mention to you as a characteristic expression of the ‘masculine element’.
“I came down here (Yeovil) by the evening express to see one of my partners in the bank who lives here, named Batten, who would amuse you. . . . He is an intimate friend of mine. . . . Does the doctor seem a human being? I hate him. He will try to keep you in Edinburgh under pretence of curing you.”
On the 19th November he writes:—
“. . . I do not believe much in your being ill. I think you are jaded and want to have rubbish talked to you (as you seem to like it, which is odd), but as you do like it, it is better than being rubbed. Is the physician a sensible man out of physic? One can’t judge of drugs, but of common sense one can, and all professional people should be judged of by that test. The papers say Mr. Wilson is going to Devonport next week. He evidently did not intend going when I left town. He puts the worst on the crisis as an excuse. It is spreading and widening, but less intense at the focus in London. It is utterly useless giving your message to my mother, though I will do so. She believes you must mean to break off the engagement or you would never have gone to Edinburgh. I agree with her, but it produces no effect. I thought of you all day yesterday under the pretence of a day’s hunt with very little sport. During a run your image waned, but returned at the decease of the hare. There is no time for quiet reflection like the intervals of the hunt and I was so happy. . . .
“My spirits always make me cheerful in a superficial way, but they do not satisfy, and somehow life, even before I was engaged to you, was sweeter and gentler, and the jars and jangles of action lost their influence, and literature had a new value since you liked my writing, and everything has had a gloss upon it, though I have come to Claverton the last few times with the notion that the gloss would go, that I should burst out, and you would be tranquil and kind and considerate, and refuse, and I should never see you again. I had a vision of the thing which I keep by me. As it has not happened I am afraid this is egotistical, indeed I know it is, but I am not sure that egotism is bad in letters, and if I write to you I must write about what I feel for you. . . .
“To change the subject. What is the particular advantage of being rubbed at Edinburgh? Since writing yesterday I have made careful inquiries and am assured that the English can rub. Why not be rubbed in Somerset? Let the doctor mark the place and have a patch put to show where, and let an able-bodied person in the West of England rub on the same place and surely it will be as well? Does the man’s touch do good to disease like the King’s?
“By incredible researches in an old box I have found the poem I mentioned to you. I wish I had not, for I thought it was better. I have not seen it for several years, and it is not so good as I fancied, perhaps not good at all, but I think you may care to read it. The young lady’s name is Orithyia. The Greek legend is that she was carried away by the north wind. I have chosen to believe she was in love with the north wind, but I am not aware that she ever declared her feelings explicitly in any document. By the way, you have. I have just read your letter in that light, and I go about murmuring ‘I have made that dignified person commit herself. I have, I have,’ and then I vault over the sofa with exultation. Those are the feelings of the person you have connected yourself with. Please do not be offended at my rubbish. Sauciness is my particular line. I am always rude to everybody I respect. I could write to you of the deep and serious feelings which I hope you believe really are in my heart, but my pen jests of itself and always will. . . .
“I hope the doctor does not think there is anything seriously the matter with your sister. Do not let him do much to her. I am more afraid of remedies than of diseases. . . .
“Enclosed in this letter is the poem ‘Orithyia’.”
- What am I and where am I?
- Why do I leave the city of my youth,
- And the sweet streets where linger all I know,
- And the fair home where I have lived and loved?
- To mark how on Hissus gentle face
- The eager north wind venteth his quick will,
- Or how the long ribbed plane leaves vex the air,
- And how subtle and calm the light clouds hang
- In amorous poise upon the breath that wafts them?
- I do remember me that in my youth
- I strayed, where in Aeropolis the hills
- Regard Eubœa, and the sweet air was hushed,
- The distant waves Æolian music made,
- The very hills were faint as the next world,
- And all things murmured. Yet there was nought.
- But all at once the breeze began to murmur
- ‘Orithyia,’ and the calm hills remurmured
- ‘Orithyia,’ and the fair waves re-echoed
- ‘Orithyia,’ and in their hollow throat
- The caves half muttered ‘Orithyia’;
- Yet there was nothing save a too deep calm,
- An overfulness and a weight in air—
- Since then I have not loved what maidens love,
- To me the winding dance, the hasteful words,
- The gentle music and the gentler home,
- The tranquil evening and the pleasant morn,
- The flexile fancies and the talk of friends,
- The converse low and sweet in evening time,
- The taskless work and busy rest were nought,
- Nor all the homely harmony of life.
- Nor them that fain would love me could I love,
- For ever unto me mine own heart seemed
- Too awful to be spent on things of earth,
- But walked I sole and consecrate, as doth
- The moon in heaven. Yet were there longings strange.
- Such as with lisping tongues of half-formed waves
- The tranquil sea doth utter in its musing.
- Longings for one immortal whom I knew
- And yet knew not. And so in sooth was all.
- Now I awake. The dream of this world ends,
- A thickening cloud o’er-shadows all the world,
- A mind is in the air:—for I am called.
- At once a sudden thrill shakes earth and heaven
- For He who rules the awful air doth call me.
- Boreas, I come, I come, I pant and pause,
- I faint, press on, and pause; for what am I
- That He who rules the awful air should love me?
- Yet He hath called me twice and now again,—
- My shaking eyes turn dim; my breath beat thick;
- And all my breast is filled with subtle love,—
- Boreas, I come, I come.
Again on the 25th November he attacks the “rubbing”.
“I do not like this about gaslight, and you may depend upon it the horrid dullness you describe is exactly what you ought not to have. What is life worth relieved only by a piano? If you must not come home by yourself why not come home with Susan? I do not believe in patent rubbing. Anybody can rub. Perhaps Scotch hands are larger, but I doubt that being an advantage. What does your sister Julia mean by your being spoilt? It is all rubbish, you want to be made much off, . . . and you go away to a back street by a boys’ school and hope to be comforted by a piano and the wife of a Lord Advocate!!”
29th November, 1857.
“. . . I came over here yesterday. Everything in its usual channel. The only event which has occurred is that your sister Emilie dined yesterday, and naturally insisted that Jetty should dine in public also, which Mr. Wilson forbad and this cast a momentary shade on life, but it is gone now. I think I have distinguished myself about money. I wrote a letter in the Economist four columns of leader type. Everything was postponed to it—an article of Mr. Wilson’s (!!)—one of Hutton’s; and something else. Your father seemed to like it, and Greg said, ‘Better than any of your literary things, Bagehot?’ which is paying a compliment and spoiling it rather.
“. . . I am going over to Claverton this afternoon. You seem to me very poorly. You may depend on it no remedies will do you the least good unless you are in the midst of cheerful associations and society. Your prospects do not seem cheerful. I shall speak to your sister Julia. I have some hope she could arrange your coming home. You can obey Mr. Beveridge’s directions anywhere surely. He won’t admit that of course, and will have endless learned reasons, because he will be paid if you stay, and have nothing if you go; but you must allow for these obliquities in the greatest scientific constitutions.”
“. . . I think I should warn you that in practical things I have rather an anxious disposition. I am cheerful but not sanguine. I can make the best of anything, but I have a difficulty in expecting that the future will be very good. The most successful men of action rather overestimate their chances of success in action. I cannot do this at all. I have always to work in the bare cold probability. My energy is fair and my spirits very good, but this difficulty of intellect I have always had. If you will soothe me in this it will be almost too great happiness, though you are a little anxious naturally too. Still we will have headaches in life together, and that will be to me immense. Talking of headaches, I cannot be reconciled to your staying in Edinburgh. I am rather learned in head complaints from my own experience. My impression is that they are half in the mind, and that cheerful, easy excitement is better for them than anything else, and you are quite out of the way of that. . . . What do you think of my verses? You are not obliged to like them. They entirely represent my past self. I read them as if another person had written them. Do they seem to you like mine?”
4th December, 1857.
“. . . Everything seems very quiet. I really think in about a week I could run up to Edinburgh, even if you are cured by Christmas which you must be. I have no faith in Mr. Beveridge, but some faith in your faith in him. All these head diseases are somewhat in the mind, at least I found it so, and if you believe he is doing you good he will do you good; but the great thing is that you should be happy. . . . I admire your talking about my choice? Young ladies should not let their hair fly in the wind; that was the original beginning. Seriously, it is not right to talk so. I feel my whole being drawn towards you, not by my own will, but some other and unexpressible way as I believe by a power greater than either of us. . . .”
Walter—still Mr. Bagehot in the Diary—joined my mother and sisters in Edinburgh on 13th December, and on the 16th, my sister’s birthday, he presented her with eight volumes bound in red leather, containing the poetry of Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, and on that same day engagement rings were exchanged. My father arrived in Edinburgh on the day of these events; having been kept in London on account of the crisis. While in Edinburgh, Walter was occupied in writing his article on this crisis for the National Review.
During this winter Walter Bagehot put together his early essays and brought them out in a volume, calling them Estimates of some Englishmen and Scotchmen. He wrote to my sister:—
“I am very glad I decided on reprinting my essays for your sake, because they will help you to understand my mind better than anything else. You may consider the book in the nature of a ‘love letter’. It never would have been put together but from a floating idea that perhaps you might read it and perhaps you might like me better for it. We shall see. I am afraid I am callous, possibly proud, and do not care for mere general reputation. Of course it would be a pleasure if it should come, but it is a thing which no sane man ought to make necessary to his happiness, or think of it but as a temporary luxury, even if it should come to him. First rate fame—the fame of great productive artists—is a matter of ultimate certainty, but no other fame is. Posterity cannot take up little people, there are so many of them. Reputation must be acquired at the moment and the circumstances of the moment are matters of accident. In my case I have had a good deal of newspaper praise for these essays, at least for some of them—when they first came out, and I must expect very little more. Besides I know they will be abused and by whom; and if one puts aside unfavourable criticisms in newspapers carelessly, one has scarcely a right to set much store by the favourable ones. I do care, however, a good deal for some kind of reputation. In proof of which I send you a letter we received in the course of the National Review operations from Matthew Arnold. We wrote to him to ask him to write on Béranger, and I kept his answer which is wholly unprecedented with me. It gave me a good deal of pleasure, as he is rather a severe judge of poetical criticism, and I will give it to you.”
Enclosed was the following letter from Matthew Arnold:—
Yorkshire, 27th October, 1856.
“My dear Sir,
“I beg to thank you most warmly for your flattering proposals: I assure you the subject tempts me so much that the rate of remuneration would weigh very little with me in deciding whether to try it or not: but the real truth is I am so much occupied that I feel I could not do justice either to your Review or to myself by any article which I could produce for you under my present circumstances. I am therefore compelled gratefully to decline this offer from you as I have declined similar offers from others; but perhaps you will allow me to say that I have been so much interested by your Review that it is with unusual reluctance that I forego the opportunity which you kindly extend to me of contributing to it. It was only a day or two ago that I read the article on Shelley in the last number; that article and one or two others (in which I imagine that I trace the same hand) seem to me to be of the very first quality, showing not talent only, but a concern for the simple truth which is rare in English literature as it is in English politics and English religion—whatever zeal, vanity and ability may be exhibited by the performers in each of these three spheres.
“Believe me, my dear Sir, in much haste,
Your faithful and obliged servant,
“R. H. Hutton, Esq.”
Addressed to Rosse Priory
8th January, 1858.
“. . . I am glad beyond measure to hear you are better. I think it is my going away, just as Mr. Beveridge’s patients are benefited principally after they leave him. I wish you would soon adopt that course. Is it not Lady Kinnaird whom he cured afterwards by magic at a great distance? You should inquire into it now you are staying with her. I am quite ready to believe in him if he will cure you in Somerset. I am glad you like Matthew Arnold’s letter. I am reading his new tragedy which is clever, but too much ‘high art,’ and not addressed enough to the common feelings and minds of ordinary people. I used to tell Clough he believed legibility to be a defect, and I am sure the high art criticism and practice tend steadily in that direction. Possibly my essay being a trifle dull was the reason M. Arnold liked it.”
“. . . All the ‘hymeneal arrangements’ are quite in your hands. I insist on your being married yourself, on this point I shall be firm; but as to the rest you may be quite despotic. . . . I have no clerical friend whom I at all care to ask to marry me. I have only one very intimate one at all now, and he lives in Rutlandshire, which is a good way from Claverton; and he is not nearly so episcopal looking as you describe your uncle to be. I have only one cousin I care to ask, if I may, to be your bridesmaid. Her name is Mary Watson Bagehot.
“I am very glad you can think of me in beautiful scenery. I do not quite see the connection of ideas, still I am very glad there is a connection. I have never seen Perthshire, as I went from Aberdeen to Edinburgh by the packet, being in a hurry. I like the Scotch scenery very much, it is such rough simple beauty. Possibly Perthshire may be more cultivated, but in the part I have seen the elements of beauty are the simplest imaginable; heather, rude hills and rough stones; and yet, with the deep colours which pass over them the fascination is very great.”
“. . . I had a pleasant evening at Wimbledon last night. The only defect was that Mr. Greg has gone into captivity to an over-fascinating woman, a Mrs. ——. She has been a professional beauty and appeared in a nocturnal sort of silk robe surmounted by a red head-dress. She had taken to mind on the waning of her exterior charms, and is a friend of Tennyson’s and talks of ‘sweet ideas’ and ‘hard facts’. Greg went into utter captivity to her and she seems a lion in the Putney suburb. I came up with Clough in the train and asked him if he knew her, and he made an excruciating face, and said: ‘I believe there is a woman’. Her husband was an influential member of council at Calcutta, a much better sort of creature with white hair. I liked Miss Greg the aged, very much” [the Aunt Sally who presided over Mr. Greg’s home]. “There is a homely narrowness about her which is pleasant. She has not over-civilised away her character. . . . FitzJames Stephen was there. He was pleasant; he is angular and has a rather aggressive development of conscience, but he talks sense and is agreeable. Greg, of course, was most genial himself.”
17th January, 1858.
“. . . I admire your defending the ‘charming’ Mrs. —— [Mr. Greg’s friend]. I am sure you would not like her. You must not expect me to believe in the universal perfection of ladies. Some, I will always maintain, to be utter humbugs. Mrs. —— is, I assure you. She is not clever. She pays attention to clever men; she strokes their minds soothingly and ingeniously, but that is all. She has been very pretty and you know my strong preference for pretty people, and you ought to know my intense love for one thing, deep mind. . . . I like very much that you are to have Greg’s daughter for one of your bridesmaids. You might tell him sometime how grateful I am to him for bringing me to Claverton. I never should be able to get it out, if I saw him daily all my life.
“I am very glad the incrustation on the bones of the neck, which is clever enough to appear in the eyes, has been removed; nobody could be happy with such a subtle clever thing about them. I am also rejoiced that there is to be a rubber in London, that if you retain your affectionate sentiment for this alleviation you may obtain it within rational limits. If you are right and headaches can be cured in this way, friction will become ubiquitous; small boy at every corner (like the shoe cleaners) will call out, ‘Rub your neck, sir, rub your neck!’ and all the world will be rubbed. By the interest and talk that are spent on your trousseau you seem to be likely to have apparel now which will be enough till the end of your life. I approve of this as I shall save by it. Let me advise enduring materials (canvas, I am assured, wears well), at any rate, if that is not lady-like, which I am too ignorant to be quite sure of, something which will stand the wear and tear of life. It would be pitiable to be found in old age with only gossamer (what is gossamer?) gowns. I must go to bed now, as it is past one in the morning, and I have to hunt. I have not been out since I returned from Edinburgh and the duties of our life must be done. You must not think because I write cheerfully that I do not feel an immense deal your staying away.
“. . . I have been reading The Three Clerks (Anthony Trollope’s) in scraps here and there when I could catch hold of the volume. It is not nearly so clever as Barchester Towers on the whole, and is very unmethodically written, or rather, I fear, it is written on the commercial method, whole dissertations and irrelevant reflections being inserted to make up three volumes; still there are some very clever things. There is a very nice girl of sixteen, not the least dignified, who falls in love with a not very steady young gentleman, and then wastes away, and goes to Torquay because he has debts, etc. I have always liked to read about women suffering—that is young women. They stand up in a ball-room and irritate you with a petty, futile happiness which is most offensive, and besides they inflict at times such endless pain, that it is right they should suffer in their turn. Possibly it may not be the same people who inflict the suffering that endure it, but in a large universe like this we must not expect a very exact nicety; which ‘blue and pink girl’ suffers does not much matter, you will agree with me. I dare say the fates impending justice did not know them apart. I never could at all.
“The crisis is all over and everybody has too much money. It is really a very ridiculous world. The last few times I have been here everybody was on their knees asking for money—now you have nearly to go on your knees to ask people to take it. Neither of these two extremes is very pleasant.”
“. . . I am very proud naturally and nothing has ever really humbled me before. All my million deficiencies and failings constantly rise up before me. . . . I have not, I know, a good mind, but I have, I think, a firm and true one in its real depths. The expression which seems to express what I feel in contrast with last year is the phrase of the Bible, if one might use it, ‘a new heart’. I did not think I could have such feelings.”
“21st January, 1858.
“. . . I was much pleased with Sir C. Lewis’s remark and more at your being pleased with it. The Times says, Mr. J. Wilson, M.P., Mrs. Wilson, Misses Wilson (two) were at the State Ball last night. You have not stolen to town without telling me, or did you obey Her Majesty’s summons by telegraph? . . .
“There are reviews of my essays in the Press and the Spectator, the latter only a short notice, as they say its contents will be fresh in people’s minds, which is a compliment as implying that one is read and remembered. The Press says I am ‘childish and indescribably trivial’. This is fame, you observe, that enlightened appreciation for which authors long. I am much afraid Hutton will out-Herod Herod about me in the Economist. I can’t say I think my book will begin a new era at all, though the covers are very good and the type is so too.”
“I want to take Bella Vista. I am sure it will do for us. The house stands in, or rather on the edge of, a firwood, belonging to Sir A. Elton, which looks as if it belonged to Bella Vista, but does not. The view is really lovely, and so are the walks in almost every direction, and the beauties are quite near. Although Clevedon, which is a little watering-place stuck on to a very little old village is near, you are quite in the country as much as at Claverton. Inside the rooms are small and an immense number of them; in fact it is a minced house, and it would not do for persons who wished to give enormous entertainments. . . . There is a half tower at the top of the house from which the view is really wonderful.
“[Part missed out] I never saw any love letters in real life scarcely, but I am sure it is natural for those who stand in the relation we do to pour out our hearts to each other quite simply and as the words come. I believe what seems to others very silly love letters often do this to the persons concerned, though there is no meaning in the words in themselves or to others. To be able to express deep feeling rationally and yet adequately is a very rare gift, and it is better to utter it irrationally and at the risk of ridicule than not to utter it at all. I am sure you won’t complain of my letters being neat or elaborate. I feel you would know they were not thorough letters of mine if they were so. They would be uncharacteristic.”
“. . . I hope you enjoyed Lady Palmerston’s. It is all nonsense or morbidness, as you say, to call the world all hollow. It is an object of the greatest intellectual interest to those who have the mind and opportunity to study it. The mistake is to treat it as giving more than any intellectual interest ever can. The deepest part of the soul after a little revolts at anything merely intellectual. Such things seem trivial and unworthy when forced on us as substitutes for what is deeper. It is amusing that I should explain to you the charm of the world. It is horribly against my own interest, but I have a certain abstract love of truth which is much in the way.”
On 18th February the travellers returned to Claverton after stopping in London to buy the then de rigueur dressing-case, and to order the trousseau. Walter appeared at Claverton on the 19th. Constant visits followed, and discussions on the preparations for the wedding were interlarded with readings of Shelley, of the essay by Walter on Bishop Butler, battledore and shuttlecock, riding, music, and whist. Cup-and-ball was Walter’s favourite game. How distinctly I see him now steadying the ball while gazing at it sideways very intently with his large round black eyes, an eye-glass stuck in one. He was thirty-two years of age, but he still had a boy’s keen zest in playing certain games, as he had also in riding, in hunting, and in playing cards. He rather scorned the view most of us took of cards, the indifference we showed as to whether we lost or won. One of my sisters he thought it worth while playing with, as she had the true gambler’s spirit. Her temper was affected when she lost. “It was of no use,” Walter would say, “to play with people callous as to whether their cards are good or bad.”
From 51 Lombard Street, on 24th February, 1858, Walter writes: “I am amused at your finding a difficulty in writing to me at Claverton. Living in the sisterly world brings back all your old ideas and associations, and you have had no time at home as yet to get used to it. I quite feel as you do about general events. Real affection enters into our background of thought and heart. I confess to not caring as I used to do about the change of administration. I used to care more than suited the principles I used to maintain. I had a theory that one ought to attend almost exclusively to affairs around one. I used to say ‘I did not care how many wives the King of Siam had. I could not help him.’ Still until quite lately I did care about public matters an immense deal, and it seems to me quite strange that I do not do so more. I breakfasted with Mr. Wilson this morning. He seemed to anticipate glory in opposition and to have a sensation of freedom in having to maintain only what it pleased him to maintain, and to have no official etiquette to restrain him; but he will feel the non-arrival of the Treasury bag in a Long Vacation, if Lord Derby could live so long. I cannot dream that he will, still the political world is so strange that no case is ever desperate. If the opposition did anything factious, he might rise in popularity and dissolve.
“I astonished a heap of people by saying with positiveness that the 21st of next month was on a Wednesday. I think about that day rather too much I fear for getting through my work on other days. I hope I shall have a line from you in the morning. You take up so entirely my imagination that my mind seems poor of all dodges and inventions about everything else.”
During the weeks before his wedding day Walter was carrying on unremittingly the business of a banker at Bristol and Langport, thinking out original ideas in writing his essay on the “Waverley Novels” for the National Review, partly doing the work of editing the Review, settling the renting and furnishing of his future home, and—by his high spirits, wit, humour, and cordial comradeship, filling the position of an ideal future brother-in-law. This was a very animated comradeship with continual sallies of amusing criticism and undisturbing satire. Nothing he ever said could be resented. He always steered clear of the sensibilities that could get hurt. One of my sisters, whose guileless nature led her to be over-credulous at times, was inclined not only to theorise, but to take earnest flights in argument, starting from the ground of her own credulity, whereupon Walter would say, “——ought to be put on the chimney piece”. She was to be treated as an ornament, not seriously listened to. His own favourite seat was the china stove in the picture gallery looking down on to the billiard table where he would perch to read aloud to us poetry or prose; the Saturday Review, the National Review, anything that he wanted to read at the moment. Literature was a living companion to him, and his interest in it was contagious.
In Walter Bagehot’s essay on the “Waverley Novels,” written during those weeks, the kinship of his sympathies with those of Sir Walter Scott is evinced; the same “healthy and natural sense,” the same fellow-feeling with the instinctive inclinations of men; understanding well both their wise and their unwise inclinations. Both were to the core gentle-men, with humanitarian and merciful consideration for the feeble as for the strong. Neither could have been beguiled by any passion of partisanship into believing that any permanent benefit can be bestowed on any human creature by riding rough-shod over the feelings, customs, or prejudices of even the most uncultured and unreasoning of classes. Of Scott’s ideas of political economy Walter Bagehot writes that they “are equally characteristic of his strong sense and genial mind. He was always sneering at Adam Smith and telling many legends of that philosopher’s absence of mind and inaptitude for the ordinary conduct of life. A contact with the Edinburgh logicians had doubtless not augmented his faith in the formal deductions of abstract economy; nevertheless, with the facts before him, he could give a very plain and satisfactory exposition of the genial consequences of old abuses, the distinct necessity for stern reform, and the delicate humanity requisite for introducing that reform temperately and with feeling;” then follows the quotation from Guy Mannering describing the ruthless way in which the Laird of Ellangowan commenced his magisterial reform and the disastrous effects which followed this riding rough-shod over the old customs and feelings of the peasant class.
It was settled that the future home was to be at Clevedon. As aforesaid, when a student at the Bristol College, Walter went for week-ends to Clevedon on visits to certain cousins who lived there, and would write enthusiastic letters about the place to his parents. Sir Arthur Elton, the owner of Clevedon Court, a beautiful early fourteenth-century mansion under the hill, was a keen Liberal, and had sat at my father’s feet when he first entered the House of Commons. Clevedon Court was haunted by associations with Arthur Hallam, who was a cousin of the Eltons, and with Tennyson and Thackeray. Arthur Hallam lies buried in the old Clevedon Church by the sea, still an out-of-the-world, solitary spot. A few wind-blown trees and an open down lead to the walls of cliff above the Severn. The waves on a stormy day attack their rocky sides; but the lonely twelfth-century building has resisted, steadfast and strong, against all hurricanes. In a side chapel lie the bones of the modern Jonathan who inspired the wail of passionate love and loss “In Memoriam”.
- The Danube to the Severn came
- The darkened heart that beat no more;
- They laid him by the pleasant shore,
- And in the hearing of the wave.
- There twice a day the Severn fills,
- The salt sea-water passes by,
- And hushes half the babbling Wye,
- And makes a silence in the hills.
Sir Arthur Elton had built a house near the top of the hill above Clevedon to resort to in the autumn when the fall of the leaf made it damp and misty in the valley below; but he only lived in it one winter and subsequently let it. It was conveniently placed between Claverton and Herd’s Hill, the right sort of size—neither too large nor too small—so it was chosen for Walter and my sister’s first home. With Sir Arthur Elton’s permission, Walter changed the name from Bella Vista to The Arches, he having taken a fancy to the archways which supported the terrace running round two sides of the house.
The great event was fixed to take place on 21st April. My sister writes in her diary: “21st April. Our wedding day. Beautiful and hot. We started at 11.15. Church quite full. Used our pew for vestry. Walked on lawn after church. Hanoverian band playing. We drove to Frome, changed horses and took up luggage and got to Stourton at 7. Had rooms at the Inn—had tea dinner. The fête-champetre at Claverton kept up till 9th October , over 200. Great fun.”
It was not considered well for Mrs. Bagehot to attend so exciting a scene as Walter’s wedding, and Mr. Bagehot had remained with her at Herd’s Hill.
At Frome Walter posted a little letter written in pencil. (Post-mark) 21st April, Frome.
Frome (written in the carriage).
“My dearest Mother,
“We are married. Everything went off well and my wife sends her love.
“Yours with greatest affection,
Diary. “22nd April. Walter and I wandered into Sir H. Hoare’s park morning—afternoon read poetry and drove at 4.30 through the woods to Alfred’s Tower. Got out and looked over the country.”
This Alfred’s Tower is seen from the train between Frome and Bruton, reared high on a hill overlooking the woods of splendid timber in the grounds of Stourton, the property of the Hoares. The Cornish expresses now rush past it to and fro many times a day.
Another letter Walter wrote to his mother two days after the wedding:—
“Stourton, 23rd April, 1858.
“My dearest Mother,
“You will, ere you receive this, have heard some account of my wedding from somebody. I sent you a note in pencil from Frome to say that it had been achieved. I am scarcely an impartial judge, but it seemed to me a very bright affair, and that not only the persons married, but the others enjoyed themselves which generally they do not. Nobody shed a tear—Eliza was a most composed bride—a little anxious at the crisis, but very cheerful after it was over. Vincent Wood made a splendid ‘best man,’ only that the multitude would think he was the bridegroom. Mary (Walter’s cousin) was much admired, and all the bridesmaids were very animated and nice. There was wonderful oratory at the breakfast. A Mr. Moffat, M.P. for Ashburton, proposed our health in a copious and eloquent manner, and spoke of the ‘hundred of thousands’ who had read my writings,—whom I myself should wish to see particularly. Sir William Topham proposed the health of the bridesmaids in a very clever speech in a sort of Lord Palmerston style. He is a man about the Court, Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, and understands the ‘touch and go’ style of oratory rather well. My attention was rather distracted from what he said by wondering why ‘that man’ should be speaking at my wedding. Few people seem so far off my beat. I believe the dance, etc., after we went away, was also successful, and the day was so gorgeous that I think it made people cheerful. Mind will tell in life especially in the weather. We had a delicious drive to this place, and have done nothing but potter about it ever since. Eliza is a trifle tired by the crisis, but very well and seems able to endure futurity. The post is going, so I must leave off.
“With my best love to my father,
Ever your affectionate son,
“(Turn over.) I am your affectionate daughter,
“This is the first time I have signed my new name.”
A few short notes to his father were written during the honeymoon. With a great deal of reading of poetry, F. Denison Maurice sermons, Lyra Apostolica—posting from place to place in Devonshire, taking occasionally trains, the honeymoon was passed at Glastonbury, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Chudleigh, Bibbacombe Bay, Plymouth, Ivy Bridge, Bideford, Clovelly, Ilfracombe, Lynmouth.
Here the diary says, “Walter wrote his article on the ‘Sinking Fund’ for the Economist”. The same day a letter brings news from London: “Papa, Mamma, Zoë and Sophie went to Lady Palmerston’s where people were mad with excitement about political matters”. Again, “Posted from Minehead twenty-seven miles, St. Audrey , Williton, etc., and took the train at Bridgwater. We reached Clevedon at 5.20 and drove home. Went all over The Arches and garden before dinner. House quite ready.” The next day was Sunday and they passed the morning in the summer-house, Walter reading Matthew Arnold’s poems aloud, and going to Church in the evening.
I was sitting in that same summer-house but a few days ago. It is more than fifty years since I had last seen it. How the ghosts of the things and people of half a century back rallied round it! The beautiful blue Mendip Hills across over the plain on the horizon, alone take precisely the same forms as they did on that Sunday morning passed in the summer-house of Walter Bagehot’s and my sister’s first home on the 30th May, 1858. Trees have grown tall, creepers planted by my sister have covered in thick masses much of the stone work of the house. As I sat among the ghosts a whimsical feeling as of a dream haunted the whole thing. It was the place—and yet that past to which it belongs did not feel quite real! Certain moments, and what occurred at those moments, and the precise spot at The Arches where they occurred, are lodged in my memory as is lodged the exact scene in the Claverton Woods when we heard the wheels of the carriage that brought Walter Bagehot first among us; I can still find those spots at The Arches, I can still see vividly the scenes as they took place, and yet—how to explain this haunting sense that that past all belongs to dreamland! What happens in the brain that weaves a web across the former self and the self of the present. Is it that these ghosts we conjure up as haunting the old places are in reality there, in spirit with us, shedding over us an influence from their new existence? To them our whole world may have become phantom-like, as are those scenes of the past we are re-enacting in memory.
[Page 256, line 17,]for came read gave.
[Page 257, line 5,]for 9th October read 9 o’clock.
[Page 258, line 4 from foot,]for Bibbacombe read Babbacombe.
[Page 259, line 4,]for Audrey read Audries.
In Mr. Skrine’s Rivers of England he describes Claverton as it was in Ralph Allen’s day: “About midway in this ascent, overlooking Warleigh and the river, the pleasing village of Claverton seems to hang, suspended, where its large gothic mansion (renowned in the Civil War) and its little Church, with the pyramidical tomb of the late much esteemed Mr. Allen, are striking objects”. Mr. Graves the Rector of Claverton from 1750 to 1800 in his account of this notable person writes: “After Mr. Allen had purchased Claverton in the year 1758 from Mr. Skrine” (his descendant bought it back shortly after my father went to India), “he was so much pleased with the romantic situation, and with the Manor House, that he brought most of his company to see it; and generally dined there once a week”. This “company” who visited Ralph Allen included Pope who “was almost a constant inmate of the family during the Bath Season for many years,” Fielding, Hurd, Dr. Warburton Bishop of Gloucester, and the great Pitt, and many other people of note. Pitt wrote of Allen: “No incident can make the least change in the honour and love I bear him, or in the justice my heart does to his humane and benevolent virtues”.
Our old nurse who lived in the family for fifty-three years, and died at Herd’s Hill in 1885.
“Jetty” was my inseparable, a black-and-tan toy terrier. I knew at the time that Walter took my part, he always took the part of children.
During a ride to Orchardleigh my sister’s hair came down, and made Walter aware of the fact that he was in love.
Mrs. Schwann, daughter of Mr. Edward Bagehot.
This poor lady who Walter criticised so severely, was treated in like manner by his friend Mr. Hutton, as well as by Arthur Clough. Mr. Hutton wrote a nonsense verse about her which I illustrated:—“There was an old lady of Putney,Who looked as if she would butt me;She came with a rush and a passionate gush,That ecstatic old lady of Putney.”
This aversion was a typical example of an inveterate antipathy which Mr. Hutton, Mr. Clough, Walter Bagehot and other men of their set entertained towards a certain flashy form of insincerity.
Sir George Cornewall Lewis had written to my father saying that the article in the National Review (Bagehot’s) was the only good one he had seen on the Crisis.
On 25th February, 1858, Lord Derby replaced Lord Palmerston as Prime Minister.