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III.: PARENTS. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 1 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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My father, born in 1790, whose Christian name was William George, but who was distinguished as George, because there was a younger brother named William, was the eldest of the surviving brothers. A passage quoted at the close of the last chapter, will justify the remark that he was “the flower of the flock:” to use a mixed metaphor which, absurd though it is, has gained general currency. To faculties which he had in common with the rest (except the humour of Henry and the linguistic facility of Thomas) he added faculties they gave little sign of. One was inventive ability and another was artistic perception, joined with skill of hand. In some respects, too, he was morally their superior. To exclude misinterpretation of my motive for saying this, let me join with it the confession that in sundry respects I am his inferior. Save in certain faculties specially adapting me to my work, inherited from him with increase, I consider myself as in many ways falling short of him, both intellectually and emotionally as well as physically.
Though not robust in the full sense, he had a constitution which was well balanced and capable of considerable endurance as witness the fact that he, when a young man, in company with two of his brothers, walked sixty miles in a day. Standing six feet when shod, he was noteworthy for a well-built figure and a carriage which united dignity and grace in a degree rarely equalled. I never saw anyone walk better. This trait was so marked, even after he was 70, that ladies turned around to watch him when he had passed: a fact I recently verified by appealing to one who had done so. But there is independent testimony on this point in the second series of the Rev. Thomas Mozley’s Reminiscences, &c. Here is his description:—
“He was a tall, spare, upright figure, more decidedly good-looking than my clerical friend James Dean, of about the same build, with the tight-fitting blue frock-coat of the period. With the advantage of such a figure and of an equable movement, he could not appear in a street without everybody in it becoming immediately sensible of the fact” (vol. ii, p. 144).
Now that I have quoted Mr. Mozley on this point, it occurs to me that I may with advantage quote him on various other points. Before he studied under my uncle Thomas he was a pupil of my father, and he has said a good deal about him. In the Reminiscences of Oriel College, &c., there was given in vol. I, pp. 145-9 an incidental description of his ideas and sentiments, to which I found it needful to take exception publicly. The result was that in his second autobiographic work, Reminiscences chiefly of Towns, Villages, and Schools, Mr. Mozley made a reply to my protests; and, in doing so, devoted four short chapters to an account of my father. Before utilizing his statements, it will be well to indicate the extent to which many of them must be discounted: the needful caution being measured by an example. Incidentally referring to my works, he describes them as an “imposing system which occupies several yards of shelf in most public libraries” (vol. I, p. 146). The least number connoted by the word “several” is three, and at the time Mr. Mozley wrote, the volumes I had published occupied 21 inches, or less than a fifth. Picturesqueness and vigour are doubtless achieved by over-statements of this kind, which are common with Mr. Mozley; but obviously, in many cases, they must be seriously misleading. Premising this, let me now give sundry passages from his two series of reminiscences; making, on some of them, the requisite qualifying comments.
After introducing his account in the second series by the statement that “Mr. George Spencer was a considerable factor in my education, and consequently of my being,” Mr. Mozley presently says:—
“Everybody liked him; but all the elders made the same remark, which was that Mr. Spencer discussed speculative questions instead of giving the whole, or the most of his attention to teaching. Not that I ever heard any complaint as to the results” (vol. ii, p. 145).
Speaking of 1818-19, during which my father gave lessons to his brothers and sisters but not to him—lessons, however, at which he was sometimes present, he goes on to say:—
“I was indeed an intruder, but it was always a treat to have a talk with him, all the more if there was some disagreement. In the Bartholomew holidays of 1821 or 1822, I went regularly to his house for lessons in Euclid, and learnt the two first books, I may almost say, better than anything I have learnt in my life” (Ibid.).
“In the lessons at home my recollection of Mr. Spencer is that he was a patient listener as well as a good talker, and that I never noticed any want of variety in his topics. These were ethical and political speculations. When Mr. Spencer, with his wife, joined our large family circle in the evening, his talk was perhaps more broken and desultory, as tea-table talk is apt to be. We very early came to the conclusion that Mr. Spencer had chosen his employment, which might be pleasant, but could not be very remunerative, as the only possible means of disseminating his philosophy” (Ibid., p. 146).
Had my father been a man of independent means, this, though not very probable, would have been possible; but considering that he had been born to his occupation rather than had chosen it, and considering that his income was derived almost wholly from it, the supposition was a very wild one.
In his first series of reminiscences Mr. Mozley had described my father as “a strenuous upholder of truth, justice, and purity, but without any faith or religion whatever, as far as one could see” (vol. ii, p. 267). Referring in his second series to my protests, he says:—
“Mr. Herbert Spencer objects to these words. I really think that if he had objected that truth, justice, and purity, and a life spent, with some sacrifice, in inculcating them, was itself a religion in effect, and not without a form, being indeed a presence and a power in a great town, I should have felt very much moved, even though unable to see my way to any truer expression of my meaning” (vol. ii, p. 147).
I had given to Mr. Mozley quotations from various letters which yielded clear disproof of his statement, but had apparently no effect on him: his explanation being that religion, as he understood it, included those outward demonstrations which my father did not make. He had said:—
“Spencer never recognized any religious authority. He held that social worship ended inevitably in degradation, and was fundamentally untruthful and unreal” (First Series, vol. i, p. 149).
This being so (and in large measure it was so) Mr. Mozley, as he says in his second series, came to the “conclusion that Mr. Spencer had no religion in the sense I then attached to that word” (vol. ii, p. 146). This implies the belief that without such forms as are used by most Christians, there can be no substance of Christianity—implies the belief that the Quakers, for example, are not Christians.
Concerning other opinions of my father here are some further passages of interest:—
“I had derived straight from the elder Spencer a constant repugnance to all living authority and a suspicion of all ordinary means of acquiring knowledge. From him I had learnt to believe that what you were simply taught you did not really learn; and that every man who wished to know things really must rummage them out for himself in all sorts of ways, the odder, the more out of the way, the more difficult, all the better.” (First Series, vol. i, p. 146.)
Everyone may see, especially from its closing lines, that this statement should be largely discounted. The truth which it adumbrates is that my father in all cases advocated self help and independent exploration, rather than passive recipience. The following also requires toning down:—
“He used to insist on the propriety, indeed the honesty, of always employing the same word for the same thing, and not attempting to please the ear of the hearer or the reader by the use of words not really synonymous as meaning the same. In this he anticipated the Revisers of the Authorized version, though not with the same intent.” (Ib. p. 147.)
Here is another passage which is but partially true:—
“Mr. George Spencer’s philosophy might be materialistic in its tone and tendency; but it was ethical, social, and political—that is, in the relations of man to man and to his own inner sense. It was abstract, for he had to avoid the politics of the day, and perhaps had no decided opinions upon them. I do not remember that he ever touched on the formation of material existences.” (Second Series, vol. ii, p. 151.)
My father was a pronounced Whig or something more. If, instead of describing him as having “to avoid the politics of the day,” Mr. Mozley had said that he had little interest in personal politics, he would have been right. But his statement is wrong as it stands. The following passage, too, though partially correct, needs a good deal of qualification:—
“Institutions, classes, privileges, ranks, honours, and all like creations of human vanity and ambition, he regarded as essentially wrong, to be endured indeed, but steadily counteracted and undermined in order to their final extinction. I should say the only right he accorded to such things was that of sufferance, or toleration under the circumstances.” (Ib., vol. ii, p. 166.)
That there is much truth in this statement, is implied by the fact that my father would never take off his hat to anyone, no matter of what rank, and by the further fact that he could not be induced to address anyone as “Esquire” or as “Reverend”: all his letters were addressed “Mr.” While ignoring those forms of Christian worship which Mr. Mozley thought essential, he did his best to carry out what he thought Christian principles, in the direction of class-relations as in other directions. But his views were less extreme than is here asserted; for I remember that when a young man he shook his head at the anti-monarchical views I sometimes uttered.
One further extract only will I give. It well illustrates Mr. Mozley’s biassed judgments. After saying how weary my father must have been in “having to go over Euclid day by day for half a century with all sorts of pupils,” he speaks of receiving from him late in life “a little work likely to surprise anyone not familiar with the author’s character.”
“It was entitled ‘Inventional Geometry. A Series of Questions, Problems, and Explanations, intended to familiarize the pupil with geometrical conceptions, to exercise his inventive faculty, and prepare him for Euclid and the higher mathematics.’ This really interesting as well as curious manual contains about as much labour, difficulty, and scattering and shattering of brains, as could conveniently be condensed into 446 questions, thirty-two pages, and a penny postage stamp. Most of the questions are considerably more difficult than any in Euclid.” (Ib., vol. ii, p. 163.)
To show the quality of this representation I will, in the first place, state the fact, observed by myself, that boys may become so eager in seeking solutions for these problems as to regard their geometry-lesson as the chief treat in the week. I may add the kindred fact that, among girls carried through the system by my father, it was not uncommon for some to ask for problems to solve during their holidays. Again there is the fact that my father’s little book has been adopted in more than one of our public schools, and is widely used in America. And then comes the still more conclusive fact that Mr. Francis C. Turner, B. A., who had twice asked me for permission to issue an edition of the Inventional Geometry in a form better fitted for use in schools (which I did not grant), read a eulogistic paper on the system at the “Oxford Conference of the Teachers’ Guild” in 1893, in which he described it as “of the greatest value” and contended that “this pre-Euclidean geometry . . . ought to enter into the curricula of all schools in which mathematical studies are begun, and should replace, in the elementary schools, the didactic and unsuggestive teaching of South Kensington.” To which add that Prof. Hudson, of King’s College, London, on the strength of his own experience “agreed entirely with Mr. Turner”; and that his opinion was endorsed by two other male teachers and by three female teachers: no dissent being expressed by anyone.*
The origin of the perversions of judgment thus exemplified in Mr. Mozley, is not difficult to perceive. Under my father he had been led into independent ways of thinking, and had carried the ignoring of authority to an extreme. When he came in contact with the leaders of the Oxford Movement, whose aim was to re-establish authority, they presently caused in him a violent revulsion, and accompanying repugnance to the early influences he had been subject to. In the above opinion of unauthorized geometry versus authorized geometry, we see the bias strongly pronounced. It affected all his views, and necessarily warped his conceptions of my father’s nature and his teaching. Probably he was himself aware of this, and conscientiously endeavored to guard against it, but with only partial success.
Nevertheless this portrait he has drawn (called a caricature by his younger brother, the Rev. Arthur Mozley, also a pupil of my father) serves to bring out certain pronounced traits; some of which I might have overlooked, and others of which are better indicated by a non-relative than by me. I feel indebted to Mr. Mozley for furnishing me with so good a basis for my own portrait, to which I now pass.
My father’s career as a teacher dated from boyhood—beginning, I suppose, in his father’s school; and he was not out of his boyhood when he gave private lessons. I have heard him speak of the pride he felt when, on going over to Chaddesden Hall, where he had as pupils the children of Sir Robert Wilmot, he was promoted from a boy’s jacket to a coat. He commenced teaching elsewhere while still only seventeen; notably in the family of the leading physician, Dr. Fox, when but little older than the young Foxes: the relation then initiated between him and them being such that throughout life they continued to call one another by their Christian names. It seems probable that his natural tendency towards non-coercive treatment, was accentuated during these early days, when the attitude of master was scarcely practicable, and the attitude of friend in a measure necessitated. At any rate his policy continued always to be thus characterized. Among illustrations was his method of dealing with trangressors, during the years in which he carried on a school in addition to his private teaching. This method was to form some of the boys into a jury, and to have the offence investigated in a judicial manner; finally leaving them to decide on the punishment. The result was that usually he found it needful to mitigate the sentence. Of course this conduced to friendly relations between him and his scholars. The kind of feeling entertained for him is well shown by the following passage in a letter from one who had been for some years a private pupil of his—Lady White Cooper. She writes:—
“Looking back on those lessons, the feelings of reverence, love and gratitude remain, while the special subjects have vanished from my mind; but I still possess wonderfully neat copy books, full of algebra, questions on Euclid, astronomy and physics, which at that time I well understood; and perhaps without much difficulty could re-learn. Mr. Spencer was remarkable for his calmness, patience, and punctuality; we used to think he had power over circumstances—nothing ever ruffled him—being myself brought up in a strictly evangelical school the new ideas he suggested on religious subjects were more interesting, and his facility in quoting scripture was evidence of his knowledge of the Bible. He was so truly sympathetic too, and never though it a trouble to listen to complaints or grudge time, to help one’s little difficulties, suggesting ideas which seemed to expand as one’s own. As a girl I quite worshipped Mr. Spencer, and shall ever be grateful to have known and had the friendship of so truly great and good a man.”
Absolute punctuality in his teaching-appointments was one of his traits—a trait naturally resulting from that regard for others’ claims which he displayed in all ways. But while he was punctual in commencing his lessons he was not so in leaving them off; but, supposing other engagements permitted, would often continue long beyond the hour—a habit which, late in his life, I used to observe with some annoyance, for he had then no spare strength to spend. How dominant was the thought of other’s improvement was shown by the fact that, on some occasions, he gave gratis instruction. A young man of the artisan class, of whom he had formed a good opinion, he would invite to come occasionally in the evening, to receive an informal lesson of one or other kind. I can recall the faces of three such. This he did though he ought rather to have been relaxing.
His sympathy for those of lower position was curiously shown by his behaviour to an old Quaker pedlar, who perambulated the Derbyshire villages, supplying the aged with spectacles. My father invited him, whenever Derby fell in his rounds, to come to our house for tea and an hour or two’s conversation. Altruistic feeling was shown, too, in the care of his tenants (he had a number of small houses) whose health he looked after and for whom he frequently prescribed. Always he would step out of his way to kick a stone off the pavement lest someone should trip over it. If he saw boys quarrelling he stopped to expostulate; and he could never pass a man who was ill-treating his horse without trying to make him behave better.* The wish to advance human welfare, taking an impersonal form, sometimes prompted extravagant acts. Two instances I well remember. The Society of Arts brought out an educational microscope at a low price—two or three pounds, perhaps. He bought one of these, though he had no appreciable use for it, for he was then getting old. When I asked why he had done a thing he could so ill afford to do, the reply was that he considered the undertaking a very useful one and wished to encourage it. The other extravagance resulted from the issue of Dr. Vaughan’s work The Age of Great Cities. He was greatly pleased with this, and, thinking it would do good, he bought three copies to lend about among friends and others.
Great firmness in carrying out what he considered to be right was a marked trait. I cannot recall any instance of yielding. Those unconventionalities in respect to forms of address and forms of salutation which I have named as illustrating one of Mr. Mozley’s statements, were adhered to without exception. There were kindred ones in which he similarly persisted. He never would put on any sign of mourning, even for father or mother: holding, I believe, that such signs were in so many cases insincere that they should be discouraged. So was it with his dress in general. There was no change in it during all that part of his life which I remember. A style of coat and hat which satisfied his own tastes in respect of convenience and appearance, was adhered to throughout all changes of fashion. Indeed, the thought of any consultation with his tailor respecting the style of the day, raises in me a smile by its incongruity. Among various other deviations from usage I may name his resistance to canvassing at elections. He disapproved the practice and invariably refused to give any intimation about his voting. Yet his persistence in unusual courses of conduct, some of them (as addressing everyone “Mr.”) liable to offend people, never seemed to produce alienation. Partly because his suavity was great and partly because his sincerity was manifest, he was accepted by all on his own terms and invariably treated with friendliness and courtesy.
Respecting his intellectual powers something has been said. Unusual keenness of the senses, which is one factor in discrimination—the basis of all intelligence—characterized him. Joined with quickness of observation and skill of hand, this gave that artistic faculty I have already noted. He would have made a first rate portrait-painter, judging from what little he did without any instruction, and with scarcely any practice; for his life was too much occupied to permit much. The portrait given of him, made at the age of 28, was taken by the aid of two looking-glasses. Among other products of his pencil was a sketch, taken in court, of Jeremiah Brandreth, a man tried for high treason—a sketch afterwards engraved. That he would have achieved reputation as a sculptor is also probable, judging from kindred evidences. He did very little, but that little was good. The delicacy of manipulation implied by these successes, distinguished him in various directions, down to small details—even to the cutting of a pen or pencil, which had a certain ease and finish about it I never could approach, though I am not awkward. As an experimental investigator he would have been admirable, as was often shown when performing electrical and pneumatic experiments for the instruction of his pupils. But that he would have been a correspondingly good physical explorer, I am by no means certain; for there was a constitutional defect of judgment about which I shall presently say something. Along with this trait of manipulative skill may fitly be named the trait of inventiveness. Though not answering to Mr. Mozley’s exaggerated description, it was doubtless marked, and while otherwise exercised in small matters was exercised habitually on his Inventional Geometry.
Closely associated with his artistic and inventive faculties was his ideality. Improvement was his watchword always and everywhere. One curious manifestation was his particularity of expression, even in small matters. He could not despatch a note concerning an appointment without first writing a rough draft and, after making erasures and interlineations, copying it. Emendations in books were prompted by this desire for perfect fitness. I have a copy of Chambers’ Euclid which is full of words crossed out and marginal substitutions. He thus made corrections not only where some advantage might possibly result, but exercised his critical faculty on things of no value. One of the concomitants was a partiality for revising dictionaries. A copy of Walker’s, which I have, is full of amendments. When Webster’s came out he adopted that instead, and has left scarcely a page without some addition, or some modification of a definition. This love of ideal completeness not only often caused wasteful expenditure of time and energy, but in some cases led to serious evils—more especially the endless delay over his Lucid Shorthand.* He never knew when to cease making alterations in details—prefixes, affixes, arbitraries, and ways of writing certain words; and the tendency thus exemplified in an extreme degree, led to the sacrifice of large ends to small ends. The photoprint here given is enlarged from a carte-de-visite, taken when he was over seventy.
There remains only to name the one great drawback—he was not kind to my mother. Exacting and inconsiderate, he did not habitually display that sympathy which should characterize the marital relation. His uniform habit of deciding on a course of conduct and persisting in it regardless of circumstances, was here injuriously displayed. He held, for instance, that everyone should speak clearly, and that those who did not ought to suffer the resulting evil. Hence if he did not understand some question my mother put, he would remain silent; not asking what the question was, and letting it go unanswered. He continued this course all through life, notwithstanding its futility: there resulted no improvement. Of course behaviour variously influenced in analogous ways, tended towards chronic alienation. It was not that sympathy was absent, but it was habitually repressed in pursuance of fixed determinations; for when my mother was unwell there was due manifestation of tenderness. Indeed, during the closing years of her life his solicitude about her was great; and I believe that the depression caused by his anxiety, joined perhaps with an awakening to the fact that he had not been so careful of her as he ought to have been, had much to do with his death: rendering him less capable of resisting the illness which carried him off in 1866.
Three causes co-operated in producing this conduct so much at variance with his usual character. He had a great deal of that “passion for reforming the world” ascribed to Shelley; and, as is implied by Mr. Mozley’s account, was ever thinking either of self-improvement or of the improvement of others. I doubt not that during their engagement my mother displayed interest in his aims—a factitious interest, prompted by the relation then existing between them. After marriage she gave little or no sign of such interest, and my father was doubtless much disappointed. His disappointment was the greater because he was not aware that intellectual activity in women is liable to be diminished after marriage by that antagonism between individuation and reproduction everywhere operative throughout the organic world; and that hence such intellectual activity as is natural, and still more that which is artificial, is restrained. The remaining cause was that chronic irritability consequent on his nervous disorder, which set in some two or three years after marriage and continued during the rest of his life. Letters show that he was conscious of this abnormal lack of control over temper; but, as unhappily I can testify from personal experience, consciousness of such lack does not exclude the evil or much mitigate it.
While not ignoring this serious defect (which in the absence of these causes would probably never have been manifested) I contemplate my father’s nature with much admiration. On looking round among those I have known, I cannot find anyone of higher type.
Concerning my mother, nće Harriet Holmes, in 1794, the fact first to be named is that no signs were manifest in her of that small infusion of Huguenot blood and trace of Hussite blood, along one line of ancestry, which we have inferred. So far from showing any ingrained nonconformity, she rather displayed an ingrained conformity. It is true that, brought up as a Wesleyan and adhering to Wesleyanism throughout life, she might, according to one understanding of the word, be classed as a nonconformist. But she simply accepted and retained the beliefs given to her in early days, and would have similarly accepted and retained another set of beliefs. I never heard her pass any criticism on a pulpit-utterance, or express any independent judgments on religious, ethical, or political questions. Constitutionally she was averse to change. Still, there may have been a tendency, necessarily small in amount, of the kind to be expected. In conformity with the general principle of the limitation of heredity by sex, it is possible that this tendency manifested itself only in the males of the line; or, otherwise, as happens in many cases, it may have been latent, and ready to be manifested under fit conditions.
The engagement between my father and my mother, extending over a period of six or seven years, was, as before indicated, persistently opposed by my maternal grandmother; and, during a part of this interval, my mother, in pursuance of the ideas of filial duty still prevailing at that time, broke off the engagement. How it came to be renewed I do not know; but most likely the interdict ceased only when my grandfather’s great loss of property took away my grandmother’s chief ground of opposition. In those days valentines were not, as they have since become, mere compliments, or else practical jokes, but were written in all seriousness; and, among family papers, I have three written by my father to my mother—all of them acrostics on her name. The verses do not show in my father any marked poetic power, nor are the pictorial decorations by which they are surrounded as artistic as I should have expected, judging from other products of his.
When talking, some years ago, to an old lady of eighty or more, who had known my mother before marriage, the trait specially named was her sweetness. The portrait in this volume, reduced from an oil-painting taken when she was under twenty, is not inconsistent with this trait; and I can well believe that it was from the beginning conspicuous. Early correspondence and friendships implied it, as well as conduct throughout later life. Indeed, when trying to recollect a display of unamiability, I cannot do so. Generally patient, it was but rarely that she manifested irritation, and then in a very moderate manner—too moderate, indeed, for her submissiveness invited aggression. A trait which injuriously co-operated with this was an utter absence of tact. Unlike women in general, she was too simple minded to think of manœuvring; or if, exceptionally, she attempted it, she showed her cards in an absurd way. Benevolent feeling was displayed, as by my father, but it was less diffused. In him it caused an interest in the welfare of all he came in contact with; in her it did not show itself so much towards unknown persons: save, perhaps, in her membership of a Dorcas Society throughout life, and in the active part she took in getting up petitions during the Anti-Slavery Agitation. The subordination-element of religion was more dominant in her than in him, and strongly reinforced the ethical element; so that the sense of duty, doubly rooted, was very powerful. One result was that throughout life she perpetually sacrificed herself unduly, notwithstanding the protests I often made, until she brought on, during her latter years, a state of chronic exhaustion.
Along with these traits went much attention to religious observances. Obviously in her case, acts of worship and the anticipations of a happier future accompanying them, formed a great consolation under the trials of a life which in itself was not enviable. She well illustrated the truth, ever to be remembered, that during a state of the world in which many evils have to be suffered, the belief in compensations to be hereafter received, serves to reconcile men to that which they would otherwise not bear. Habits of thought and feeling continued through many years, had made organic in her the two dominant ideas of fulfilling domestic obligations and the ordinances of her creed, and during her last years, when her faculties had in considerable measure failed, it was pathetic to see the way in which consciousness oscillated between the two: each recurring at its appropriate part of the day. In this volume appears a photoprint enlarged from a carte-de-visite taken when she was approaching seventy.
Of my mother’s intellect there is nothing special to be remarked. In letters written to my father during their long engagement, there are passages showing grace of thought and grace of expression. During all those years throughout which her mental manifestations were known to me, circumstances did not favour display of her natural powers, and justice was not done to them. There is ground for believing that she had a sound judgment in respect of ordinary affairs—sounder than my father’s. This may have been consequent on that aversion to schemes of every kind, caused by distressing experiences; for her father, as well as her husband, and sundry of his brothers, had variously suffered from speculative courses. An attitude of opposition to enterprise, joined as it would be with the assigning of difficulties and the expression of scepticism, would naturally give the appearance of judicial-mindedness. My own proceedings and plans she always criticized discouragingly, and urged the adoption of some commonplace career. In nearly all cases her advice would have been wise; and it may be that her natural or acquired way of looking at the affairs of life, was really a manifestation of good judgment. She had no interest in nature, and never gathered any scientific ideas from my father or from me, though truths pertaining to this or that division of natural knowledge were frequently matters of conversation. There was, however, precision of thought in simple things, as was shown by her style, which in later letters as in earlier letters was always clear. She understood what constitutes a proposition; and was not in the habit of running one sentence into another, as very many so-called educated women, and sometimes even men, do. Her reading furnished, perhaps, the best test of her intellectual tendencies. Such kind of matter as makes up Chambers’Journal, interested her—articles of popular information alternating with short stories. Throughout the earlier part of her life she never read novels; being prevented by her ascetic creed, which practically interdicted pleasurable occupations at large. But in later life I think she read a few, including those of George Eliot. No books of travels or history or biography were looked at by her; nor any poetry, unless, indeed, fragments of religious poetry. That she knew some of my essays I gather indirectly, though I have no recollection that she ever spoke about them; but my larger works were not, I believe, attempted, or if attempted were promptly given up as incomprehensible. Probably besides the difficulties they presented, the consciousness of their divergence from the beaten track repelled her; for, as already implied, she was essentially conservative. In this the contrast between her and my father was very strong. While he remained plastic to the end of his life—so plastic that he changed his religious opinions after he was seventy, her mind finished its development by the time she was five and twenty, and thereafter she never modified her views.
Briefly characterized, she was of ordinary intelligence and of high moral nature—a moral nature of which the deficiency was the reverse of that commonly to be observed: she was not sufficiently self-asserting: altruism was too little qualified by egoism. The familiar truth that we fail properly to value the good things we have, and duly appreciate them only when they are gone, is here well illustrated. She was never sufficiently prized. Among those aspects of life which in old age incline the thoughts towards pessimism, a conspicuous one is the disproportioning of rewards to merits. Speaking broadly, the world may be divided into those who deserve little and get much and those who deserve much and get little. My mother belonged to the last class; and it is a source of unceasing regret with me that I did not do more to prevent her inclusion in this class.
[*]See The Journal of Education (Supplement) for June 1, 1893.
[*]This reference to his habit of expostulation recalls an anecdote he told of the reply which once resulted. While he was travelling (between Derby and Nottingham, I think) there got on to the coach a man who was half intoxicated. My father entered into conversation with him, and sought to reform his habit by pointing out the evils resulting from it. After listening good-temperedly for a time the man replied—“Well, y’see, master, there mun be sum o’ all sorts, and I’m o’ that sort.”
[*]The name he chose for it was Legible Shorthand, but when, many years after his death, I published it, I found that this title had been appropriated, and had to choose another.