Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: YOUTH AT HINTON. 1833—36. Æt. 13—16. - An Autobiography, vol. 1
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CHAPTER IV.: YOUTH AT HINTON. 1833—36. Æt. 13—16. - 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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YOUTH AT HINTON.
Though Hinton Charterhouse figured in the last chapter, no description was given of its character, surroundings, and society. As a considerable portion of my youth was passed there, something under these heads seems called for.
On the road from Bath to Frome, which is eight miles further, Hinton stands on the top of one of the higher tracts in those regions. Though not itself a picturesque place, it has picturesque places all around. The country is hilly; and distant downs of oolite close in the adjacent valleys. Near at hand, is a beautiful village called Freshford, on the banks of the Avon, which runs through it to Bath and finally to Bristol. This was at that time, and perhaps is now, a place of residence for retired naval and military officers, and kindred people. Among others, the Colonel Napier who wrote the History of the Peninsular War, lived there.
In the village of Hinton Charterhouse itself, the chief place was Hinton House, where resided Mrs. Day, of whom we saw nothing. At one time my uncle visited there, but some coolness had arisen. There was also Hinton Abbey—a gothic building of some age with detached ruins dating from monkish times. It had long been the seat of a family named Humphreys, into which a Captain Simmons married; and his daughter had been married to my aunt’s brother, Mr. Harold Brooke. Hinton Parsonage was situated about a third of a mile from the village on the way towards Bath. It had been built by my uncle with funds which, though added to by himself, were chiefly raised. Ecclesiastically, Hinton had long been an appendage to the neighbouring parish of Norton. Centuries had passed since there had been a resident clergyman. Indeed my uncle was the first since catholic days; and by a strange coincidence, his catholic predecessor bore the same name—Thomas Spencer.
At the time I went to Hinton, my uncle was about 36, and my aunt, I think, about 26. He was a man of energetic, strongly-marked character; and, himself exemplifying the results of successful effort, had a somewhat too unqualified belief that in all cases those who did not succeed had themselves to blame. Thoroughly sincere in his beliefs, he was at the same time much more liberal than most in the construction he put upon the beliefs of others. The honours he took at Cambridge show him to have been intellectually above the average; and he was not without originality of thought. Indeed he exhibited a good deal of this, considering the narrowing discipline he had passed through. Of my aunt, née Anna Maria Brooke, I may say that she was a woman of ordinary intelligence and superior moral nature; having much philanthropic feeling, joined with much self-control. She belonged, as did my uncle, to the evangelical school: he, when at Cambridge, having been one of the adherents of Mr. Simeon. She was of Irish-Scotch extraction. Her grandfather had been at one time governor of St. Helena; and her father, a military officer in India, had died many years before her marriage.
Not much social intercourse was kept up by my uncle and his wife. He was not a man who made himself attractive in society. Always absorbed in some one topic which at the time interested him (usually connected with public welfare) he was too apt to turn the conversation in his own direction; and this trait, joined with absence of taste for the trivial talk of county dinner-parties, put him out of sympathy with most of his neighbours: differences of opinion concerning political and ecclesiastical questions probably aiding. Hence, excepting rare exchanges of calls and dinners with some two or three friends at Freshford, and with connexions at Hinton Abbey, there were no visits save those to my aunt’s Anglo-Indian relations in Bath, which were frequent.
My uncle had long been in the habit of taking resident pupils, generally to prepare them for college. The one to whom I have already referred as being there at the time I went to Hinton, was a young Irishman, S———. Unfortunately S——— was not a desirable companion. Though five years my senior, his knowledge and ability were not such as made me feel my inferiority; and hence my natural independence was fostered rather than repressed. Moreover, his disposition was none of the best, and our relations continually tended towards antagonism; so that on the whole, an undesirable effect was produced by the association.
For some time my life now passed in an uneventful way. The daily routine was not a trying one. In the morning Euclid and Latin, in the afternoon commonly gardening, or sometimes, a walk; and in the evening, after a little more study, usually of Algebra I think, came reading, with occasionally chess. I became at that time very fond of chess, and acquired some skill. My aversion to linguistic studies, early shown, still continued. Under date September 29, 1833, my father writes to me—
“Certainly you have a taste for composition, and it would indeed be strange if it should so happen that you should have a distaste for words of which such composition is formed.”
And, writing to my uncle on October 28, he says—
“What do you conceive he is the most adapted to? Does he still retain the aversion to Latin that he had? And if he does, how do you account for it? And will it be well to yield to it?”
Very different was my attitude towards mathematics. At about the same date there is mention of demonstrations made by myself of propositions in the fourth book of Euclid: not, however, approved by my uncle. Of the tendency to independent thinking thus illustrated, a very significant illustration was supplied by a discussion concerning a question in mechanics. In October, one of my letters home refers to the reading aloud of Dr. Arnott’s work on Physics (edition of 1833). Among other subjects the book deals with, is that of inertia; and a statement respecting it drew forth a demurrer from me. The following must, I think, be the passage containing the doctrine to which I could not assent.
“It is the resistance overcome . . . which is called the inertia of the mass, or the vis intertiæ, and sometimes to help the conception of the student, the stubbornness, sluggishness, or inactivity; but no one of these words can originally suggest to the mind all that is intended to be conveyed.”—Pp. 51-2.
In opposition to this I contended that there could not be a vis inertiæ—that inertia was not a positive force. It seemed to me clear that a body could have nothing more than simple passiveness; and that there could not be in it any principle of active resistance, as implied by Arnott’s words. My uncle took the view which Arnott appeared to take, in adopting the word stubbornness as explanatory; and my constitutional disregard for authority was shown by dissenting from the opinions of both. I can still remember that to illustrate my position, I said that if a man-of-war could be suspended from the heavens, a push against the side of it would move it—of course very little. Naturally my uncle was irritated by my obstinate defence of my belief; in presence, too, of my fellow pupil and my aunt. Certainly it was strange for a boy of thirteen to display such self-confidence. And it was not only morally significant as showing how deep-seated was the tendency to criticize opinions, and to reject those which did not commend themselves; but it was significant intellectually as showing a quick insight into physical truths. For I was right in my position, notwithstanding the authorities against me.
The trait of character thus displayed was, I see, shortly afterwards displayed in another, and less offensive, way. In a letter to my father dated January 28, 1834, there occurs the passage:—
“I forgot to tell you in my last letter that I had made some problems in Algebra with which my uncle was much pleased, and as I want something to fill up I will tell you them all.” [Here follow seven algebraic problems, sundry of which might serve for a beginner.] “My uncle was most pleased with the 5th of these, which the [he] thought was very original.”
Correspondence shows that in March, I was learning French grammar, Greek, and Trigonometry. In both the French and the Greek my progress was extremely small; and what little there was was under pressure. With Trigonometry I speak as being delighted: sending my father some solutions of trigonometrical questions. It was at this time, too, that I sent home a sketch of the parsonage, which, inartistic enough, was a tolerably good representation of the house and its surroundings.
A little before this time, the New Poor Law came into operation. Previously, my uncle had always been a pauper’s friend: habitually siding with the pauper against the overseer. But the debates during the passage of the bill through Parliament, had opened his eyes; and as soon as it passed he began to apply its provisions to Hinton, before yet the Bath Union was formed (obtaining, I believe, authority from the Poor Law Commissioners with whom he was in communication). His actions in the parish formed daily topics of conversation; so that I was perpetually hearing social questions raised and commented upon.
Euclid was gone through again at this time; and mention is made of the fact that I was able to repeat some of the propositions without the figures: not, as might be supposed, by rote-learning, but by the process of mentally picturing the figures and their letters, and carrying on the demonstrations from the mental pictures.
The following extracts from letters indicate the results of the year’s training, moral and intellectual. Writing to my grandmother on June 9, my uncle says of me:—
“He has not yet attained the power of studying of his own accord, and if he were at home, it is my opinion he would not learn as much in a year as he ought to do in a month.”
And on June 20, he writes to my father:—
“At different times during the last few months I should have been rather inconsistent with myself in my opinions of Herbert, had I given them to you. Sometimes I have seen much that was hopeful and at other times much that was discouraging. Of his talents there can be no doubt they are of a very superior order, and when he is under the restraining effect of an observing tutor and all trivial pursuits are banished from his thoughts, then a calm and grave diligence in study and cheerful quickness of intellect distinguish all he does, and one cannot help treating him with an increase of confidence in manner and that kind of commendation at least which evident satisfaction with his conduct shews. But the mischief is that too soon the injurious effects of this are seen by diminished diligence and modesty. The grand deficiency in Herbert’s natural character is in the principle of Fear. And it is only so far as his residence with me has supplied that principle in a degree unusual to him, that after a few struggles he entirely surrendered himself to obey me with a promptness & alacrity that would have given you pleasure to witness; & the more obedient I have observed him the more I have refrained from exercising authority. By Fear, I mean both that ‘Fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom,’ and that fear of Parents, Tutors, &c.”
That the opinions expressed in these extracts were in large measure true, I have no doubt. I was at that time, as always before and ever after, very idle unless under the stimulus of some powerful motive: usually the desire to compass some large end.
Towards the close of June, in company with my uncle, I went to London. Reaching Watford the day after, I there joined my father and mother who were visiting Mr. Charles Fox (afterwards Sir Charles Fox) who had in boyhood been a pupil of my father, and was engaged as sub-engineer under Mr. Robert Stephenson on the London and Birmingham Railway (the initial part of the London and North Western), then in course of construction. A pleasant fortnight was passed there: one of the pleasures being the novel one of feeling myself an object of parental approval. There was some fishing, too; for I had taken my rod on the strength of the conclusion that the name of the place, Watford, implied a river. Some interesting days were passed in going with Mr. Fox over the line, and among other places into the Watford tunnel, at that time being pierced. Moreover, I made, rather I fancy as a task than from liking, a sketch of Mr. Fox’s house in oils: miserable enough artistically but tolerable as a portrait. This, I remember, my father preserved, stuck up in his bedroom for many years; though certainly not because of any decorative value it had.
Another fortnight was spent with friends in London. Along with the ordinary sights seen was one at that time not ordinary—the Zoological Gardens; then a private collection visited only by fellows of the Zoological Society or by those they introduced. One of the fellows, Mr. T. Rymer Jones, afterwards professor at King’s College, another of my father’s old pupils, took, us. Beyond the general impression of the place, then relatively small, I recall only, by an unaccountable freak of memory, a discussion about going to theatres, between Mr. Jones and my father—my father reprobating the practice. He had not at that time outgrown the puritanical bias of the family, as, later in life, he did.
At the close of the holidays I accompanied my parents home to Derby, and there soon verified my uncle’s prophecy; as witness the following extract from a letter of his dated August 14, apparently in response to some letter from my father:—
“I am led more particularly to this by the fact that he has learnt only 24 propositions of 6th book in a fortnight, when he knows well he could easily learn the whole book in a week.”
Correspondence shows, however, that as some addition to this small amount of work, I had commenced perspective under my father’s instruction. In this case, as in others, he adopted the self-help method of teaching. Having explained what perspective is, using a plate of glass with an object behind it, and showing me the relations of the different elements—point of sight, centre of the picture, horizon, and so forth—he set me to solve each of the successive problems myself. I am not sure when this series of lessons came to an end—whether that year or the next; but I remember that I went through the whole of perspective in this manner.
When I got back to Hinton in October, I found there an additional pupil, Robert P———, a youth of 18 or 19, who had been at Harrow, and came to my uncle for a year before going to India. He had not much more capacity than S———; but was good-humoured. A sentence concerning him in a letter from my uncle to my father, may fitly be quoted because of the implications it contains:—
“Anna’s cousin Robert P———, is a very agreeable, polite and intelligent young man, so much more gentlemanly than S———, and showing off S——— to such disadvantage, that Anna and I both begin to think the fault was more with S——— than with Herbert whenever they disagreed.”
There was now made a discovery which brought me into disgrace, and which, had it been made earlier, would have in great measure negatived the favourable estimate made of me when I went home. An old musket was kept in the house, for safety’s sake; and during the previous spring I had fallen into the habit of going with this after small birds about the place, while my uncle and aunt and S——— were at Bath. This went on for months and nothing transpired. In the autumn after my return, S———, who had brought a fowling-piece from home, lent it to me, and I used this instead of the musket. Not only did I thus waste my own time, but I sometimes led into idleness a young fellow employed as groom and gardener, by taking him with me. Of course when these facts came out, there resulted an explosion; and I was under a cloud for some time.
Letters show that in December I was put under more pressure than previously in respect of the studies I was averse to. Arrangements were made by my father under which I had, before given dates, to send him certain amounts of translations. I continued to be very stupid. On December 8, my uncle writes:—
“Herbert sets himself to work in any difficulty in a very bungling manner; displaying great ignorance of the nature of his own language, as well as the Latin. He never knew much of English Grammar. . . . I find it much more laborious on this account, and also from his very great forgetfulness of his Latin Grammar, even in parts that he has repeated to me.”
A letter from him of a previous week contains a passage which I had not expected to find. He says:—
“I think he has got a much better notion of construing Greek. He can only prepare for me a few verses of St. John; but what he does prepare he has very accurately, which is a very important matter.”
I am surprised that it was ever possible to say as much even as this, seeing how unteachable I continued always to be. As to my ignorance of English grammar, my uncle’s statement might have been properly much stronger. He should have said I knew nothing of English grammar. It was one of the things I was excused from when at school, in consequence of my father’s desire that I should not be pressed. My knowledge of it was limited to such few words and phrases as occasionally caught my ears from school-fellows who were saying their lessons; and as the subject was repugnant to me, these made on my mind mere mechanical impressions, the meanings of which I never thought about. The acquaintance I gained under pressure with the Latin, Greek, and French grammars was but small. I never got to the end of the conjugations in any one of them; and as to syntax, not a single rule of any kind was taught me. I believe one cause for my dislike to language learning was that I had an aversion to everything purely dogmatic. It seemed as though in all matters statements must be put before me under forms comprehensible by reason; or, at any rate, not under the form of mere assertion. Present anything as a rule—No; present it as a principle—Yes. These words will briefly express my indifference and interest in the two cases. The antithesis is exemplified by a fact which I have observed of myself when having to perform calculations. As a boy I was taught the rule of three; but it soon faded from my memory. As a boy, not long after, I was taught the laws of proportion. These I have remembered; and now, whenever an arithmetical operation involving the rule of three has to be performed, I never think of the rule as learnt, but I deduce my rule afresh from the truth that in any proportion the product of the extremes is equal to the product of the means.
Shortly after the dates of the above letters, my uncle visited Derby; and a letter to me from my father then written, contains passages worth quoting:—
“The accounts received (since my dear brother’s arrival) of your obedience and desire to oblige, have been highly cheering to our minds; drooping as they occasionally are under your absence, and under the thought of your future prospects in life.” . . . “Both your uncle and aunt have noticed, that at certain times, your voice assumes a very unharmonious tone. I have repeatedly observed the same thing myself.” . . . “Depend upon it my dear fellow that the maker of us all has so ordained the universe, that a kind state of feeling will be accompanied by a kind tone of voice. And a kind tone of voice is almost synonymous with a musical voice. Look around you through nature, and I shall be much surprised if you don’t find the rule general if not universal.”
After his return to Hinton my uncle says concerning me, in a letter of Jan. 23:—
“I have made particular enquiries as to his conduct during my absence. I find Anna allowed him the 1st week almost for himself, and particularly observed whether, of his own accord, he would take up his painting or any other subject of self-improvement, but was disappointed to find he in no instance did so. Amusement, and reading Chambers’s Journal, were the only occupations.” . . . “With this exception of a main spring in this machine, all other things go on well. He uses in my absence a little dictatorial manner of speaking to R. P——— I understand; but as far as I see, he has much less of that fault than he formerly had.” . . . “Anything more attentive than his manner to me cannot be imagined; but still this stimulus he cannot always have, and if we can but see some inward principle of action it would be very cheering.”
During the spring of 1835 things appear to have gone on smoothly: comments being made upon my diligence. Before the end of May I had been through the eleventh book of Euclid and also through “Lectures on Mechanics”—either Wood’s Mechanics, a text-book in my uncle’s college days, which I certainly went through at some time, or else the Cambridge Lectures which he had written down, and which we studied from his MS. Referring to these studies, and giving me a problem to solve, my father says in a letter of August 4:—
“Now if you can’t answer this and the other questions which I have sent, I shall think that you have not digested well what you have already eaten. And I suppose you will agree with me that without food is well digested, it affords little or no strength, however nice it may have been in the eating. Remember, also, that unless a person takes a deal of exercise they may soon eat more than does them good, although they may have excellent stomachs. In your next apply these illustrations to intellectual pursuits.”
I presume that this admonition was not in my case much needed; since if I had not assimilated the mechanical principles already taught to me, my uncle would not have advanced me to a higher stage, as he had done some days before the above passage was written. In a letter to my father dated July 28, I apologized for breaking off because “I have to learn a quantity of Newton to keep up with the others this morning;” and there occurs the sentence—“But I am very proud of having got into Newton.” Reference to the MS. book, which I still possess, shows that I did not go very far; but this it appears was due to the fact that I shortly left Hinton for a time.
About this period we read aloud Miss Martineau’s Tales of Political Economy. Years before, when at home, I had read sundry of them; and comments to my advantage had been made in consequence. I believe that these were but little deserved, and that I read for the stories and skipped the political economy. However, from remarks in my letters written in the spring of 1835, it appears that I had gathered something of a solid kind.
In August, 1835, I went home. As before, so again, it resulted that when not subject to my uncle’s discipline, I studied but little. There was, however, an additional pursuit, namely Chemistry; my experiments in which are named in letters to Hinton. There is also mention of discussions on physical and moral questions with my father: some of them being raised afresh when writing to my uncle, with a request for his opinion.
I was received back at Hinton very cordially in November. There I found a new comer replacing S———, who had gone home. He also was from Ireland—an Irishman I was going to say; but literally an Irish youth, younger than myself, named F———. He did not raise my conception of the average intelligence; for he had still less faculty than preceding pupils. However, though stupid, he was good-tempered; and that made the exchange advantageous.
A letter written home in December contains a sketch-plan of the house and grounds, not made from measure, but from general inspection and knowledge of the place. It was thought that I could not have done such a thing without a copy; but this was untrue. My perception of locality was at that time somewhat unusual—much greater than in later life. It was one of those powers which sometimes develop early and afterwards sink into the background; as in the cases of boys showing special powers of calculation.
At the close of the year I made my first appearance in print. A small periodical called The Bath Magazine had been announced to make its first appearance on January 1, 1836; and my uncle had been invited to contribute. I heard much about the proposed periodical while preliminaries were being arranged, and my ambition to write for it was aroused. This I did secretly. My contribution was a letter describing the formation of certain curiously-shaped floating crystals which I had observed during the preceding autumn when crystallizing common salt. The letter appeared in due course to my great delight, and to the surprise of my relations. Once having commenced, of course the ambition was to continue; and a topic then dominant in the conversation at Hinton furnished the subject of a second letter—a reply to a communication antagonistic to the New Poor Law, which had been published in the first number of the magazine. I name the circumstance as showing that, even at that time, there was interest in topics of widely diverse kinds.
My letters to my father continued to contain more or less that was original—sometimes problems which I set him in Geometry or Algebra, and at other times ideas in Mechanics. A passage in one of them dated January 31, 1836, runs as follows:—
“I have just invented an improvement on the air pump, that is, on the manner of working it. If you remember I mentioned to you while I was at home, that I thought it would be a great improvement if we could turn the handle the whole instead of half-way round; because on the present plan you not only stand in a disadvantageous position, but every time you stop the handle, you lose the momentum acquired in going half way round, whereas by my plan in which there are only three more wheels, you may go right round.”
Whether I deluded myself or not in supposing my plan practicable, the incident is significant: partly as again showing that which has already been shown in so many ways—the self-reliance which, among other results, prompts original thought—and partly as implying some mechanical ingenuity. Another illustration of this self-reliance is furnished by correspondence at that time. Mention is made of proofs of my uncle’s pamphlets read by me for the correction of typographical errors and punctuation; and the mention is accompanied by some criticism on his style (!) A propos of these pamphlets, some of which were on the Poor Laws and some on other topics, I may add that my uncle had been recently appointed the first Chairman of the Board of Guardians of the Bath Union. He also took part in the temperance agitation, as well as in other philanthropic activities; and the correspondence proves that I had a considerable interest in all that went on. The daily discussions constituted a useful discipline, having results in after life.
One of my fellow-pupils, P———, obtained his expected Indian appointment about the close of 1835, and thereafter disappeared from our circle. Our relation had been amicable; and at parting he presented me with all his fishing gear. In a letter to my father dated January 7, 1836, the following remarks are made by my aunt in reference to this change:—
“He has I think felt Robt. P———’s loss a good deal. Not that I mean to say he cared much for him as a favourite friend—but merely as a companion, Herbert still continuing so dependent on others for amusement and happiness. I know this is natural to all young people; but I do not think for that reason they are improved by having companions constantly with them—I mean boys of their own age. He still continues very reserved; but I certainly see a great improvement in many things.”
Correspondence soon after this refers to some facts which perhaps have a general physiological meaning, and are therefore here worth noting, though otherwise of no interest. I was, it seems, growing rapidly—three inches per year: having previously been rather slow of growth. In a letter to my father which quotes remarks made about my increasing stature, there is a statement respecting my mental condition, which neither I nor those around seem to have suspected had any relation to the rapid growth, though it probably had. Here is a quotation:—
“I do not find my mind in as bright a state as I could wish. Just now I feel as though I had lost nearly all my energy. I think it is partly owing to want of competition, for now P——— is gone I have less stimulus to exertion; but I do not think it can be all owing to that and I am at a loss to account for it.”
My uncle, too, at the same period comments on my dulness and failure of memory. Certainly this last trait must have been very marked. Not only have I absolutely forgotten some books I read at that time, but until perusal of my letters proved that I had read them, I did not know that I had ever seen them. Was not growth the cause? If excess of muscular effort, as in a pedestrian tour, is apt to leave behind inertness of brain, which for a time makes mental work difficult, it is reasonable to suppose that an unusual draft upon the resources of the system for building up the body, may, in like manner, leave the brain inadequately supplied, and cause feebleness in its action.
It is worth inquiring whether in such cases there is not produced a simultaneous moral effect. If there is such an effect, an explanation is yielded of the fact which the correspondence of the time proves, that there occurred a deterioration in my relations to my uncle and aunt. I got out of favour with them, and I was dissatisfied with my uncle’s treatment of me. Is there not reason to think that rapid growth may temporarily affect the emotional nature disadvantageously, in common with the intellectual nature? As in children failure of cerebral nutrition, when caused by inactivity of the alimentary canal, is commonly accompanied by ill-temper; so, it seems not improbable that when the failure of cerebral nutrition is caused by the demands made for increase of the bodily structure, a kindred result may be entailed. Conditions which bring about a defective supply of blood to the brain, tend to throw the higher powers out of action while they leave the lower in action: the later and less evolved faculties feeling the effects of an ebb-tide of blood, more than the earlier and fully evolved ones. Such a relation, if proved to exist, should be taken into account in the treatment of young people.
Nothing worthy of record occurred during the spring of 1836. The treacherousness of memory complained of, while it decreased my already-small aptitude for linguistic studies, told less in other directions. That which remained with me best was the mathematical knowledge I had acquired; for though the details of this slipped, I readily renewed them. Thus in May 1836 I describe myself in a letter as going through six books of Euclid in a week and a half.
This appears to have been my last piece of student-work. In June I went home finally; and my life at Hinton closed after having lasted three years—or rather, deducting the intervals spent at home, nearly two years and a half.
A brief review of its results may be worth making. Certainly it had been physically advantageous. I returned to Derby strong, in good health, and of good stature: my ultimate height (not then reached, however), being five feet ten inches. I had doubtless benefited both by the rural life and by the climate, which is bracing.
Intellectually I had profited much. A fair amount of mathematics had been acquired; and the accompanying discipline had strengthened my reasoning powers. In the acquisition of languages but trifling success had been achieved: in French nothing beyond the early part of the grammar and a few pages of a phrase book; in Greek a little grammar I suppose, and such knowledge as resulted from rendering into English a few chapters of the New Testament; and in Latin some small ability to translate the easy books given to beginners—always, however, with more or less of blundering. Education at Hinton was not wide in its range. No history was read; there was no culture in general literature; nor had the concrete sciences any place in our course. Poetry and fiction were left out entirely. All shortcomings recognized, however, I derived great benefit from being made to apply far more than I should have done otherwise. Probably, but for my life at Hinton I should have gone on idly, learning next to nothing.
Morally, too, the régime I had lived under was salutary. Unfortunately during the years of my life at home, there was not that strong government required to keep me in order, while there was a continual attempt at government: the results being frequent disobediences and reprimands. Out of the objectionable mood of mind consequent on this, my uncle’s firmer rule got me. It was better to be under a control which I no doubt resented, but to which I had to conform, than to be under a control which prompted resistance because resistance was frequently successful. The best results would have been achieved by one who had my father’s higher ideal along with my uncle’s stronger will. Had there been an adequate appeal to the higher nature, something much superior would, I think, have resulted; for I remember cases which prove that I might have been self-coerced through the sympathies and affections had these been kept awake. One of the defects in my uncle’s training was due to the asceticism in which he had been brought up. This prevented him from adequately recognizing the need for positive amusement. There was in the daily life laid out for us little provision for other relaxation than that which came from leaving off intellectual work and turning to some occupation out of doors, such as gardening.
But criticism is somewhat out of place. I was treated with much more consideration and generosity than might have been expected. There was shown great patience in prosecuting what seemed by no means a hopeful undertaking. Had I been in my uncle’s place I think I should have soon relinquished it. Of my aunt, also, I may say that there was displayed by her much kindly feeling and a strong sense of duty. Indeed they might be instanced in proof that religious convictions reinforce naturally right tendencies, and cause perseverance in good works notwithstanding discouragements. Reading the correspondence has impressed me strongly with the fact that I owe very much to them. They had to deal with intractable material—an individuality too stiff to be easily moulded.
On reading over the foregoing account, based partly on my own recollections and partly on family correspondence, it occurs to me that the impressions it leaves may need discounting: more especially the impressions likely to be produced by the letters of my father and my uncle. Some of the unquoted passages written by them, showed that in forming their estimates of me they used, as measures, the remembrances of their own boyhood, and also show that they were eminently “good” boys. Thus gauged, not by the average boy-nature but by an exceptional boy-nature, I was more unfavourably judged than I should otherwise have been. I am led to make this remark by recalling the descriptions of doings at boys’ schools (and especially public schools) which I have occasionally read; ending with the recent incident at King’s College School, (April, 1885) where a boy’s death resulted from ill-usage by his school-fellows. Certainly the brutalities commonly committed I could never have committed. Transgressions due to insubordination, such as going out of bounds and the like, would probably have been more numerous than usual; but transgressions of a graver kind would, I believe, have been less numerous. The extrinsically-wrong actions would have been many, but the intrinsically-wrong actions would have been few.
I do not insist much on this qualification, but it occurs to me to name it as perhaps one that should be made.