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Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 1 [1855]

Edition used:

Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 1.

About this Title:

Thinking she was close to death Martineau wrote her autobiography in 1855 but lived for another 20 years. She recounts her activities in various mid-19th century reform movements, her struggle to become a professional writer, and her work in popularizing the ideas of free market political economy.

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

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Harriet Martineau 1833.

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“Etiam capillus unus habet umbram suam.”


“And this dear freedom hath begotten me this peace, that I mourn not that end which must be, nor spend one wish to have one minute added to the uncertain date of my years.”

JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY, Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co.
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Copyright, 1877.


University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co., Cambridge

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In making arrangements for the issue of this Autobiography presently after my decease, one important point is its publication in the United States.

It is my wish, and that of my Executors, that it should be published by our friends, Messrs. Fields, Osgood, & Co., of Boston; and every requisite has been provided for their edition being of a similar character and quality with the English. Theirs is therefore the edition authorized by me and my Executors.

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  • INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . Page 1
  • PERIOD I. to eight years old.
    • Section I. — Ill health and terrors. Fragments of recollection. Early piety. Early politics. Early social morals. Love of money and management of it. Sewing . . . . . . . 7
    • Section II. — Journey to Newcastle. A sun-dial. A falling star. Religious progress . . . . . . . . . 22
  • PERIOD II. to seventeen years old.
    • Section I. — Tabulating Bible morals. Unitarianism and Christianity. Milton. Opening speculation. Vain-glorious visions. Training in self-denial. Absence from home. Birth and infancy of a sister. Schooling at home. Fear. Laziness. Notions of death. Seeing the sea. Not seeing objects . . . . . . . 27
    • Section II. — School life. Home life. Reading. Deafness. Politics and foreigners . . . . . . . . . 47
    • Section III. Faults and misery. Going to Bristol . . . 64
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  • PERIOD III. to thirty years old.
    • Section I. — Family relations. Studies. Fundamental conviction. Effect on religious belief . . . . . . . . 75
    • Section II. First appearance in print. Method of composition . 90
    • Section III. — Calamities. Deafness. Death of brother and his child. Of father. Of betrothed. Bad health. More authorship. The Houlstons. Mr. Fox. Diffusion Society. Loss of property. Efforts. Disappointment. Prize essays. Close of my Unitarian period . . . . . . . . . 95
    • Section IV. — Scheme of the Political Economy Series. Unsuccessful negotiations. Arrangements. Success. Removal to London 122
  • PERIOD IV. to thirty-seven years old.
    • Section I. — London lodgings. Life there. Amount of work. Times of work. Methods of work. Materials. Anecdote of Mr. Cropper. The Population question and the Quarterly Review. Mr. Malthus. The Edinburgh Review. Mr. Empson. Poor-law Series. Lord Brougham. Poor-law reform and the Times. Collins and Wilkie. Miss Berry. Mrs. Fry. Robert Owen. Mrs. Marcet. My political disgraces abroad. Plot in fiction. Dutch detail. Beachy Head. Protection doctrine. Sir Alexander Johnstone. Mother and Aunt come to me. Publisher’s encroachment. “Briery Creek.” “The Three Ages.” “The Farrers of Budge Row.” Illness. Co-operation with government. Conclusion of the work. Money matters. Why I went to America . . . 139
    • Section II. — “Literary Lionism.” Norwich at the beginning of the century. William Taylor. Mrs. Barbauld. Miss Aikin. Mr. Hallam. Moore. Lord Brougham. Lord Durham. Lord Jeffrey. Dean Milman. Lord Murray. Sydney Smith. Malthus. Mr. Whishaw and the Romillys. The Hallams. Mr. Rogers’s breakfasts. Mr. Harness. Whig literary parties. Lord Campbell. Archbishop Whately. Bishops Stanley, Lonsdale, and Otter. Charles Buller. Milnes. Mr. Grote. Mr. Roebuck. Mr. Macaulay. Vanity in men. Campbell. Babbage, Sir E. Landseer. Dr. Whewell. Bulwer. Campbell. Babbage. Admiral Beaufort. Sir C. and Lady Lyell. Charles Darwin. Dr. Dalton.Edition: current; Page: [ix] Mrs. Somerville. Joanna Baillie. Political and scientific men. Sir C. Bell and others. The Artists. Sir A. Callcott. Chantrey. Allan Cunningham. Westmacott. Phillips. Macready. The Kembles. Sir C. Eastlake. Other artists. Blue-stocking parties. Miss Berry’s. Lady Mary Shepherd’s. Lady Stepney. My own soirées. Intimate friends. Mrs. Marsh’s first novel. The Carlyles. Mazzini. John Sterling. Leigh Hunt. Thomas Carlyle. Occasional mornings. Sitting for portraits and casts. Mr. Warburton’s Dissection Bill. Mr. Toynbee’s request. Professional phrenologists’ judgments on me. Coleridge. Godwin. Condition of Woman. Basil Montagu. Morning visitors. Dr. Chalmers. Mr. Chadwick. Rowland Hill. Lord Monteagle. Mr. G. R. Porter. Mr. Urquhart. Other morning visitors. Capel Lofft, junior. The Brownings. Miss Mitford. Talfourd. Mr. H. F. Chorley. Miss Landon. Correspondents. Miss Edgeworth. Fraser’s hoax. Miss Kelty. Miss Bremer. Modes of authorship among my acquaintance . . . . . . . . 205
    • Section III. — Mr. Mill on national character. My objects in travelling. My companion. Anti-slavery experience. Dr. Julius. Our pilot. New York riots. Three parties. Alarms at Philadelphia and elsewhere. Establishing an understanding. Hearing all sides. Crisis at Boston. Invitation to an Anti-slavery meeting. Consequences to myself. Other results. Last trial for Blasphemy. Censure from friends. Virtual treachery from friends. Personal danger. The journey. The Texas question. Scepticism and apathy of the citizen majority. Change in the times. The English in America. Americans of note. The Emersons. Mr. Everett. The Sedgwicks. Statesmen. Calhoun. Clay. Webster. Deterioration in public men. Margaret Fuller. Mad people. N. P. Willis. Curious incident. Parable. Depth of American impression. Safety of travel. Judge Marshall’s letter. Mysterious valediction. Voyage home . . . . . 329
    • Section IV. — Booksellers’ proffers and methods. “Society in America.” “Retrospect of Western Travel.” Proposed Scheme of a new periodical. First novel. “Deerbrook.” Remarkable suggestion. “How to Observe,” and smaller pieces. The Princess Victoria. The Queen. Her Coronation. Lord Durham and his family. Topographical notes to Shakspere’s Scotch and Italian plays. British Association meeting at Newcastle. The Lakes and Scotland. Mrs. Crowe and Dr. Samuel Brown. Ailsie. Continental journey. Illness . . . . . . . . 398
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  • PERIOD V. to forty-three years old.
    • Section I. — Morbid conditions as a matter of study. Causes of illness. Retreat to Tynemouth. “The Hour and the Man.” “The Playfellow.” Taking advice in authorship. “Life in the Sick-room.” Refusal of a pension. Charity fund. Testimonial 439
    • Section II. — Anti-theological progression . . . . . 466
    • Section III. — Recovery. “Letters on Mesmerism.” Persecution of convalescents restored by Mesmerism. Leaving Tynemouth . 472
  • PERIOD VI. to fifty-three years old.
    • Section I. — Relish of life at last. No dislike of death. Medical criticism. First seeing Mr. Atkinson. Lodging at Waterhead. Country visiting declined. Reasons for settling at Ambleside. Buying field and planning house . . . . . . 483
    • Section II. — Long credit system. Building house. Mysterious present. Wordsworth’s tree. First acquaintance with Wordsworth. The poet and the man. Hartley Coleridge. Exploration of the District. Mesmerising the sick. Liabilities. Margaret Fuller. Jane’s arrival. “Forest and Game-law Tales.” Correspondence with Sir Robert Peel. Garden and sun-dial. Tourists. Leaving home . . . . . . . . . . 502
    • Section III. — “The Billow and the Rock.” Going to the East. Detention in the Mediterranean. Politics in Egypt. Profit of travel. Conception of book. Preparation of book. Correspondence with Mr. Atkinson. Emerson. “Household Education.” “Eastern Life” . . . . . . . . . . 531
  • Appendix A. — Miss Berry . . . . . . . . 553
  • Appendix B. — Memorial against Prosecution for Opinion . . 557
  • Appendix C. — A Month at Sea . . . . . . . 559
  • Appendix D. — Correspondence about a Pension . . . . 587
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Sketched by HAMMERSLEY, drawn on wood by HARVEY, and engraved by HARRIET L. CLARKE.
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From my youth upwards I have felt that it was one of the duties of my life to write my autobiography. I have always enjoyed, and derived profit from, reading that of other persons, from the most meagre to the fullest: and certain qualities of my own mind, — a strong consciousness and a clear memory in regard to my early feelings, — have seemed to indicate to me the duty of recording my own experience. When my life became evidently a somewhat remarkable one, the obligation presented itself more strongly to my conscience: and when I made up my mind to interdict the publication of my private letters, the duty became unquestionable. For thirteen or fourteen years it has been more or less a weight on my mind that the thing was not done. Twice in my life I made a beginning; once in 1831, and again about ten years later, during my long illness at Tynemouth: but both attempts stopped short at an early period, answering no other purpose than preserving some facts of my childhood which I might otherwise have forgotten. Of late years, I have often said to my most intimate friends that I felt as if I could not die in peace till this work was done; and there has been no lack of encouragement and instigation on their part: but, while I was in health, there was always so much to do that was immediately wanted, that, as usually happens in such cases, that which was not immediately necessary was deferred. At Edition: current; Page: [2] the beginning of this last winter, however, I had hopes of being able to unite my political work with this; and on New Year’s Day I said to myself that the year must not close without my having recorded the story of my life. I was probably strengthened in this purpose by having for some time past felt that my energies were declining, and that I had no longer a right to depend on being able to do whatever I chose. Two or three weeks more settled the business. Feeling very unwell, I went to London to obtain a medical opinion in regard to my health. Two able physicians informed me that I had a mortal disease, which might spare me some considerable space of life, but which might, as likely as not, destroy me at any moment. No doubt could remain after this as to what my next employment should be: and as soon after my return home as I had settled my business with my Executor, I began this autobiography. I thought it best to rewrite the early portion, that the whole might be offered from one point of view, and in a consistent spirit. Without any personal desire about living a few months or weeks more or less, I rather hope that I may be able to finish my story with my own hands. If not, it will be done by another, from materials of more or less value. But one part which ought to be done by myself is the statement of my reasons for so serious a step as forbidding the publication of my private correspondence; and I therefore stop at the Third Period of my Memoir, to write this Introduction, to the following passages of which I request the reader’s earnest attention.

I admit, at the outset, that it is rather a piece of self-denial in me to interdict the publication of my letters. I have no solicitude about fame, and no fear of my reputation of any sort being injured by the publication of any thing I have ever put upon paper. My opinions and feelings have been remarkably open to the world; and my position has been such as to impose no reserves on a disposition naturally open and communicative; so that if any body might acquiesce in the publication of correspondence, it should be myself. Moreover, I am disposed to think that what my friends tell me is true; that it would be rather an advantage to me than the contrary to be known by my Edition: current; Page: [3] private letters. All these considerations point out to me that I am therefore precisely the person to bear emphatic practical testimony on behalf of the principle of the privacy of epistolary intercourse; and therefore it is that I do hereby bear that testimony.

Epistolary correspondence is written speech; and the onus rests with those who publish it to show why the laws of honor which are uncontested in regard to conversation may be violated when the conversation is written instead of spoken. The plea is of the utility of such material for biographical purposes; but who would admit that plea in regard to fireside conversation? The most valuable conversation, and that which best illustrates character, is that which passes between two friends, with their feet on the fender, on winter nights, or in a summer ramble: but what would be thought of the traitor who should supply such material for biographical or other purposes? How could human beings ever open their hearts and minds to each other, if there were no privacy guaranteed by principles and feelings of honor? Yet has this security lapsed from that half of human conversation which is written instead of spoken. Whether there is still time to restore it, I know not: but I have done my part towards an attempted restoration by a stringent provision in my Will against any public use whatever being made of my letters, unless I should myself authorize the publication of some, which will, in that case, be of some public interest, and not confidential letters. Most of my friends have burnt my letters, — partly because they knew my desire thus to enforce my assertion of the principle, and partly because it was less painful to destroy them while I was still among them than to escape the importunities of hunters of material after my death. Several eminent persons of this century have taken stringent precautions against the same mischief; and very many more, I fear, have taken the more painful precaution of writing no letters which any body would care to have. Seventy years ago, Dr. Johnson said in conversation “It is now become so much the fashion to publish letters, that, in order to avoid it, I put as little into mine as I can.” Nobody will question the hardship and mischief of a practice Edition: current; Page: [4] which acts upon epistolary correspondence as the spy system under a despotism acts upon speech: and when we find that a half a dozen of the greatest minds of our time have deprived themselves and their friends of their freedom of epistolary speech for the same reason, it does seem to be time that those qualified to bear testimony against such an infringement on personal liberty should speak out.

“But,” say unscrupulous book-makers and readers, “there are many eminent persons who are so far from feeling as you do that they have themselves prepared for the publication of their letters. There was Doddridge: — he left a copy of every letter and note that he ever wrote, for this very purpose. There was Madame D’Arblay: — on her death-bed, and in extreme old age, she revised and had copies made of all the letters she received and wrote when in the height of her fame as Fanny Burney, — preparing for publication the smooth compliments and monstrous flatteries written by hands that had long become dust. There was Southey: — he too kept copies, or left directions, by which he arranged the method of making his private letters to his friends property to his heirs. These, and many more, were of a different way of thinking from you.” — They were indeed: and my answer is, — what were the letters worth, as letters, when these arrangements became known? What would fireside conversation be worth, as confidential talk, if it was known that the speaker meant to make it a newspaper article the next day? And when Doddridge’s friends, and Southey’s, heard that what they had taken for conversational out-pouring on paper was so much literary production, to appear hereafter in a book, — what was the worth of those much-prized letters then? Would the correspondents not as soon have received a page of a dissertation, or the proof of a review article? Surely the only word necessary as to this part of the question is a word of protest against every body, or every eminent person, being deprived of epistolary liberty because there have been some among their predecessors or contemporaries who did not know how to use it, or happen to value it.

We are recommended, again, to “leave the matter to the discretion Edition: current; Page: [5] of survivors.” I, for my part, have too much regard for my Executors to bequeath to them any such troublesome office as withstanding the remonstrances of any number of persons who may have a mind to see my letters, or of asserting a principle which it is my business to assert for myself. If they were to publish my letters, they would do what I believe to be wrong: and if they refused to publish them, they might be subject to importunity or censure which I have no right to devolve upon them. And why are we to leave this particular piece of testamentary duty to the discretion of survivors, when we are abundantly exhorted, in the case of every other, to do our own testamentary duty ourselves, — betimes, carefully and conscientiously?

Then comes the profit argument, — the plea of how much the world would have lost without the publication of the letters of A. B. and C. This is true, in a way. The question is whether the world has not lost more by the injury to epistolary freedom than it has gained by reading the letters of nonconsenting letter-writers. There will always be plenty of consenting and willing letter-writers: let society have their letters. But there should be no others, — at least till privacy is altogether abolished as an unsocial privilege. This grossly utilitarian view does not yet prevail; and I do not think it ever will. Meantime, I claim the sanction of every principle of integrity, and every feeling of honor and delicacy, on behalf of my practice. I claim, over and above these, the sanction of the law. — Law reflects the principles of morals; and in this case the mirror presents a clear image of the right and the duty. The law vests the right of publication of private letters solely in the writer, no one else having any such right during the author’s life, or after his death, except by his express permission. On the knowledge of this provision I have acted, in my arrangements about my own correspondence; and I trust that others, hitherto unaccustomed to the grave consideration of the subject, will feel, in justice to myself and others who act with me, that there can be no wrong, no moral inexpediency, in the exercise of a right thus expressly protected by the Law. If, by what I have done, I have fixed attention upon the morality of the case, this will be a greater social benefit than Edition: current; Page: [6] the publication of any letters written by me, or by persons far wiser and more accomplished than myself.

I have only to say further, in the way of introduction, a word or two as to my descent and parentage. On occasion of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1688, a surgeon of the name of Martineau, and a family of the name of Pierre, crossed the Channel, and settled with other Huguenot refugees, in England. My ancestor married a young lady of the Pierre family, and settled in Norwich, where his descendants afforded a succession of surgeons up to my own day. My eminent uncle, Mr. Philip Meadows Martineau, and my eldest brother, who died before the age of thirty, were the last Norwich surgeons of the name. — My grandfather, who was one of the honorable series, died at the age of forty-two, of a fever caught among his poor patients. He left a large family, of whom my father was the youngest. When established as a Norwich manufacturer, my father married Elizabeth Rankin, the eldest daughter of a sugarrefiner at Newcastle upon Tyne. My father and mother had eight children, of whom I was the sixth: and I was born on the 12th of June, 1802.

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My first recollections are of some infantine impressions which were in abeyance for a long course of years, and then revived in an inexplicable way, — as by a flash of lightning over a far horizon in the night. There is no doubt of the genuineness of the remembrance, as the facts could not have been told me by any one else. I remember standing on the threshold of a cottage, holding fast by the doorpost, and putting my foot down, in repeated attempts to reach the ground. Having accomplished the step, I toddled (I remember the uncertain feeling) to a tree before the door, and tried to clasp and get round it; but the rough bark hurt my hands. At night of the same day, in bed, I was disconcerted by the coarse feel of the sheets, — so much less smooth and cold than those at home; and I was alarmed by the creaking of the bedstead when I moved. It was a turn-up bedstead in a cottage, or small farm-house at Carleton, where I was sent for my health, being a delicate child. My mother’s account of things was that I was all but starved to death in the first weeks of my life, — the wetnurse being very poor, and holding on to her good place after her milk was going or gone. The discovery was made when I was three months old, and when I was fast Edition: current; Page: [8] sinking under diarrhœa. My bad health during my whole childhood and youth, and even my deafness, was always ascribed by my mother to this. However it might be about that, my health certainly was very bad till I was nearer thirty than twenty years of age; and never was poor mortal cursed with a more beggarly nervous system. The long years of indigestion by day and night-mare terrors are mournful to think of now. — Milk has radically disagreed with me, all my life: but when I was a child, it was a thing unheard of for children not to be fed on milk: so, till I was old enough to have tea at breakfast, I went on having a horrid lump at my throat for hours of every morning, and the most terrific oppressions in the night. Sometimes the dim light of the windows in the night seemed to advance till it pressed upon my eyeballs, and then the windows would seem to recede to an infinite distance. If I laid my hand under my head on the pillow, the hand seemed to vanish almost to a point, while the head grew as big as a mountain. Sometimes I was panic struck at the head of the stairs, and was sure I could never get down; and I could never cross the yard to the garden without flying and panting, and fearing to look behind, because a wild beast was after me. The starlight sky was the worst; it was always coming down, to stifle and crush me, and rest upon my head. I do not remember any dread of thieves or ghosts in particular; but things as I actually saw them were dreadful to me; and it now appears to me that I had scarcely any respite from the terror. My fear of persons was as great as any other. To the best of my belief, the first person I was ever not afraid of was Aunt Kentish, who won my heart and my confidence when I was sixteen. My heart was ready enough to flow out; and it often did: but I always repented of such expansion, the next time I dreaded to meet a human face. — It now occurs to me, and it may be worth while to note it, — what the extremest terror of all was about. We were often sent to walk on the Castle Hill at Norwich. In the wide area below, the residents were wont to expose their feather-beds, and to beat them with a stick. That sound, — a dull shock, — used to make my heart stand still: and it was no use my standing at the rails above, and Edition: current; Page: [9] seeing the process. The striking of the blow and the arrival of the sound did not correspond; and this made matters worse. I hated that walk; and I believe for that reason. My parents knew nothing of all this. It never occurred to me to speak of any thing I felt most: and I doubt whether they ever had the slightest idea of my miseries. It seems to me now that a little closer observation would have shown them the causes of the bad health and fitful temper which gave them so much anxiety on my account; and I am sure that a little more of the cheerful tenderness which was in those days thought bad for children, would have saved me from my worst faults, and from a world of suffering.

My hostess and nurse at the above-mentioned cottage was a Mrs. Merton, who was, as was her husband, a Methodist or melancholy Calvinist of some sort. The family story about me was that I came home the absurdest little preacher of my years (between two and three) that ever was. I used to nod my head emphatically, and say “Never ky for tyfles:” “Dooty fust, and pleasure afterwards,” and so forth: and I sometimes got courage to edge up to strangers, and ask them to give me — “a maxim.” Almost before I could join letters, I got some sheets of paper, and folded them into a little square book, and wrote, in double lines, two or three in a page, my beloved maxims. I believe this was my first effort at book-making. It was probably what I picked up at Carleton that made me so intensely religious as I certainly was from a very early age. The religion was of a bad sort enough, as might be expected from the urgency of my needs; but I doubt whether I could have got through without it. I pampered my vain-glorious propensities by dreams of divine favor, to make up for my utter deficiency of self-respect: and I got rid of otherwise incessant remorse by a most convenient confession and repentance, which relieved my nerves without at all, I suspect, improving my conduct.

To revert to my earliest recollections: — I certainly could hardly walk alone when our nursemaid took us, — including my sister Elizabeth, who was eight years older than myself, — an unusual walk; through a lane, (afterwards called by us the Edition: current; Page: [10] “Spinner’s Lane”) where some Miss Taskers, acquaintances of Elizabeth’s and her seniors, were lodging, in a cottage which had a fir grove behind it. Somebody set me down at the foot of a fir, where I was distressed by the slight rising of the ground at the root, and by the long grass, which seemed a terrible entanglement. I looked up the tree, and was scared at its height, and at that of so many others. I was comforted with a fir-cone; and then one of the Miss Taskers caught me up in her arms and kissed me; and I was too frightened to cry till we got away. — I was not more than two years old when an impression of touch occurred to me which remains vivid to this day. It seems indeed as if impressions of touch were at that age more striking than those from the other senses. I say this from observation of others besides myself; for my own case is peculiar in that matter. Sight, hearing and touch were perfectly good in early childhood; but I never had the sense of smell; and that of taste was therefore exceedingly imperfect. On the occasion I refer to, I was carried down a flight of steep back stairs, and Rachel (a year and half older than I) clung to the nursemaid’s gown, and Elizabeth was going before, (still quite a little girl) when I put down my finger ends to feel a flat velvet button on the top of Rachel’s bonnet. The rapture of the sensation was really monstrous, as I remember it now. Those were our mourning bonnets for a near relation; and this marks the date, proving me to have been only two years old.

I was under three when my brother James was born. That day was another of the distinct impressions which flashed upon me in after years. I found myself within the door of the best bedroom, — an impressive place from being seldom used, from its having a dark, polished floor, and from the awful large gay figures of the chintz bed hangings. That day the curtains were drawn, the window blinds were down, and an unknown old woman, in a mob cap, was at the fire, with a bundle of flannel in her arms. She beckoned to me, and I tried to go, though it seemed impossible to cross the slippery floor. I seem to hear now the pattering of my feet. When I arrived at her knee, the Edition: current; Page: [11] nurse pushed out with her foot a tiny chair, used as a footstool, made me sit down on it, laid the bundle of flannel across my knees, and opened it so that I saw the little red face of the baby. I then found out that there was somebody in the bed, — seeing a nightcap on the pillow. This was on the 21st of April, 1805. I have a distinct recollection of some incidents of that summer. My mother did not recover well from her confinement, and was sent to the sea, at Yarmouth. On our arrival there, my father took me along the old jetty, — little knowing what terror I suffered. I remember the strong grasp of his large hand being some comfort; but there were holes in the planking of the jetty quite big enough to let my foot through; and they disclosed the horrible sight of waves flowing and receding below, and great tufts of green weeds swaying to and fro. I remember the sitting room at our lodgings, and my mother’s dress as she sat picking shrimps, and letting me try to help her. — Of all my many fancies, perhaps none was so terrible as a dream that I had at four years old. The impression is as fresh as possible now; but I cannot at all understand what the fright was about. I know nothing more strange than this power of re-entering, as it were, into the narrow mind of an infant, so as to compare it with that of maturity; and therefore it may be worth while to record that piece of precious nonsense, — my dream at four years old. I imagine I was learning my letters then from cards, where each letter had its picture, — as a stag for S. I dreamed that we children were taking our walk with our nursemaid out of St. Austin’s Gate (the nearest bit of country to our house.) Out of the public-house there came a stag, with prodigious antlers. Passing the pump, it crossed the road to us, and made a polite bow, with its head on one side, and with a scrape of one foot, after which it pointed with its foot to the public-house, and spoke to me, inviting me in. The maid declined, and turned to go home. Then came the terrible part. By the time we were at our own door it was dusk, and we went up the steps in the dark; but in the kitchen it was bright sunshine. My mother was standing at the dresser, breaking sugar; and she lifted me up, and set me in the sun, and gave me a bit of sugar. Edition: current; Page: [12] Such was the dream which froze me with horror! Who shall say why? But my panics were really unaccountable. They were a matter of pure sensation, without any intellectual justification whatever, even of the wildest kind. A magic-lantern was exhibited to us on Christmas-day, and once or twice in the year besides. I used to see it cleaned by daylight, and to handle all its parts, — understanding its whole structure; yet, such was my terror of the white circle on the wall, and of the moving slides, that, to speak the plain truth, the first apparition always brought on bowel-complaint; and, at the age of thirteen, when I was pretending to take care of little children during the exhibition, I could never look at it without having the back of a chair to grasp, or hurting myself, to carry off the intolerable sensation. My bitter shame may be conceived; but then, I was always in a state of shame about something or other. I was afraid to walk in the town, for some years, if I remember right, for fear of meeting two people. One was an unknown old lady who very properly rebuked me one day for turning her off the very narrow pavement of London Lane, telling me, in an awful way, that little people should make way for their elders. The other was an unknown farmer, in whose field we had been gleaning (among other trespassers) before the shocks were carried. This man left the field after us, and followed us into the city, — no doubt, as I thought, to tell the Mayor, and send the constable after us. I wonder how long it was before I left off expecting that constable. There were certain little imps, however, more alarming still. Our house was in a narrow street; and all its windows, except two or three at the back, looked eastwards. It had no sun in the front rooms, except before breakfast in summer. One summer morning, I went into the drawing-room, which was not much used in those days, and saw a sight which made me hide my face in a chair, and scream with terror. The drops of the lustres on the mantle-piece, on which the sun was shining, were somehow set in motion, and the prismatic colors danced vehemently on the walls. I thought they were alive, — imps of some sort; and I never dared go into that room alone in the morning, from that time forward. I am afraid Edition: current; Page: [13] I must own that my heart has beat, all my life long, at the dancing of prismatic colors on the wall.

I was getting some comfort, however, from religion by this time. The Sundays began to be marked days, and pleasantly marked, on the whole. I do not know why crocuses were particularly associated with Sunday at that time; but probably my mother might have walked in the garden with us, some early spring Sunday. My idea of Heaven was of a place gay with yellow and lilac crocuses. My love of gay colors was very strong. When I was sent with the keys to a certain bureau in my mother’s room, to fetch miniatures of my father and grandfather, to be shown to visitors, I used to stay an unconscionable time, though dreading punishment for it, but utterly unable to resist the fascination of a certain watch-ribbon kept in a drawer there. This ribbon had a pattern in floss silk, gay and beautifully shaded; and I used to look at it till I was sent for, to be questioned as to what I had been about. The young wild parsley and other weeds in the hedges used to make me sick with their luscious green in spring. One crimson and purple sunrise I well remember, when James could hardly walk alone, and I could not therefore have been more than five. I awoke very early, that summer morning, and saw the maid sound asleep in her bed, and “the baby” in his crib. The room was at the top of the house; and some rising ground beyond the city could be seen over the opposite roofs. I crept out of bed, saw James’s pink toes showing themselves invitingly through the rails of his crib, and gently pinched them, to wake him. With a world of trouble I got him over the side, and helped him to the window, and upon a chair there. I wickedly opened the window, and the cool air blew in; and yet the maid did not wake. Our arms were smutted with the blacks on the window-sill, and our bare feet were corded with the impression of the rush-bottomed chair; but we were not found out. The sky was gorgeous, and I talked very religiously to the child. I remember the mood, and the pleasure of expressing it, but nothing of what I said.

I must have been a remarkably religious child, for the only Edition: current; Page: [14] support and pleasure I remember having from a very early age was from that source. I was just seven when the grand event of my childhood took place, — a journey to Newcastle to spend the summer (my mother and four of her children) at my grandfather’s; and I am certain that I cared more for religion before and during that summer than for anything else. It was after our return, when Ann Turner, daughter of the Unitarian Minister there, was with us, that my piety first took a practical character; but it was familiar to me as an indulgence long before. While I was afraid of everybody I saw, I was not in the least afraid of God. Being usually very unhappy, I was constantly longing for heaven, and seriously, and very frequently planning suicide in order to get there. I was sure that suicide would not stand in the way of my getting there. I knew it was considered a crime; but I did not feel it so. I had a devouring passion for justice; — justice, first to my own precious self, and then to other oppressed people. Justice was precisely what was least understood in our house, in regard to servants and children. Now and then I desperately poured out my complaints; but in general I brooded over my injuries, and those of others who dared not speak; and then the temptation to suicide was very strong. No doubt, there was much vindictiveness in it. I gloated over the thought that I would make somebody care about me in some sort of way at last: and, as to my reception in the other world, I felt sure that God could not be very angry with me for making haste to him when nobody else cared for me, and so many people plagued me. One day I went to the kitchen to get the great carving knife, to cut my throat; but the servants were at dinner, and this put it off for that time. By degrees, the design dwindled down into running away. I used to lean out of the window, and look up and down the street, and wonder how far I could go without being caught. I had no doubt at all that if I once got into a farm-house, and wore a woollen petticoat, and milked the cows, I should be safe, and that nobody would inquire about me any more. — It is evident enough that my temper must have been very bad. It seems to me now that it was downright devilish, except for a placability which used to Edition: current; Page: [15] annoy me sadly. My temper might have been early made a thoroughly good one, by the slightest indulgence shown to my natural affections, and any rational dealing with my faults: but I was almost the youngest of a large family, and subject, not only to the rule of severity to which all were liable, but also to the rough and contemptuous treatment of the elder children, who meant no harm, but injured me irreparably. I had no self-respect, and an unbounded need of approbation and affection. My capacity for jealousy was something frightful. When we were little more than infants, Mr. Thomas Watson, son of my father’s partner, one day came into the yard, took Rachel up in his arms, gave her some grapes off the vine, and carried her home, across the street, to give her Gay’s Fables, bound in red and gold. I stood with a bursting heart, beating my hoop, and hating every body in the world. I always hated Gay’s Fables, and for long could not abide a red book. Nobody dreamed of all this; and the “taking down” system was pursued with me as with the rest, issuing in the assumed doggedness and wilfulness which made me desperately disagreeable during my youth, to every body at home. The least word or tone of kindness melted me instantly, in spite of the strongest predeterminations to be hard and offensive. Two occasions stand out especially in my memory, as indeed almost the only instances of the enjoyment of tenderness manifested to myself individually.

When I was four or five years old, we were taken to a lecture of Mr. Drummond’s, for the sake, no doubt, of the pretty shows we were to see, — the chief of which was the Phantasmagoria of which we had heard, as a fine sort of magic-lantern. I did not like the darkness, to begin with; and when Minerva appeared, in a red dress, at first extremely small, and then approaching, till her owl seemed coming directly upon me, it was so like my nightmare dreams that I shrieked aloud. I remember my own shriek. A pretty lady who sat next us, took me on her lap, and let me hide my face in her bosom, and held me fast. How intensely I loved her, without at all knowing who she was! From that time we knew her, and she filled a large space in my life; and above forty years after, I had the honor of having her for my Edition: current; Page: [16] guest in my own house. She was Mrs. Lewis Cooper, then the very young mother of two girls of the ages of Rachel and myself, of whom I shall have to say more presently. — The other occasion was when I had a terrible ear-ache one Sunday. The rest went to chapel in the afternoon; and my pain grew worse. Instead of going into the kitchen to the cook, I wandered into a lumber room at the top of the house. I laid my aching ear against the cold iron screw of a bedstead, and howled with pain; but nobody came to me. At last, I heard the family come home from chapel. I heard them go into the parlour, one after another, and I knew they were sitting round the fire in the dusk. I stole down to the door, and stood on the mat, and heard them talking and laughing merrily. I stole in, thinking they would not observe me, and got into a dark corner. Presently my mother called to me, and asked what I was doing there. Then I burst out, — that my ear ached so I did not know what to do! Then she and my father both called me tenderly, and she took me on her lap, and laid the ear on her warm bosom. I was afraid of spoiling her starched muslin handkerchief with the tears which would come; but I was very happy, and wished that I need never move again. Then of course came remorse for all my naughtiness; but I was always suffering that, though never, I believe, in my whole childhood, being known to own myself wrong. I must have been an intolerable child; but I need not have been so.

I was certainly fond of going to chapel before that Newcastle era which divided my childhood into two equal portions: but my besetting troubles followed me even there. My passion for justice was baulked there, as much as any where. The duties preached were those of inferiors to superiors, while the per contra was not insisted on with any equality of treatment at all. Parents were to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and to pay servants due wages; but not a word was ever preached about the justice due from the stronger to the weaker. I used to thirst to hear some notice of the oppression which servants and children had (as I supposed universally) to endure, in regard to their feelings, while duly clothed, Edition: current; Page: [17] fed, and taught: but nothing of the sort ever came; but instead, a doctrine of passive obedience which only made me remorseful and miserable. I was abundantly obedient in act; for I never dreamed of being otherwise; but the interior rebellion kept my conscience in a state of perpetual torture. As far as I remember, my conscience was never of the least use to me; for I always concluded myself wrong about every thing, while pretending entire complacency and assurance. My moral discernment was almost wholly obscured by fear and mortification. — Another misery at chapel was that I could not attend to the service, nor refrain from indulging in the most absurd vain-glorious dreams, which I was ashamed of, all the while. The Octagon Chapel at Norwich has some curious windows in the roof; — not skylights, but letting in light indirectly. I used to sit staring up at those windows, and looking for angels to come for me, and take me to heaven, in sight of all the congregation, — the end of the world being sure to happen while we were at chapel. I was thinking of this, and of the hymns, the whole of the time, it now seems to me. It was very shocking to me that I could not pray at chapel. I believe that I never did in my life. I prayed abundantly when I was alone; but it was impossible to me to do it in any other way; and the hypocrisy of appearing to do so was a long and sore trouble to me. — All this is very painful; but I really remember little that was not painful at that time of my life. — To be sure, there was Nurse Ayton, who used to come, one or two days in the week, to sew. She was kind to me, and I was fond of her. She told us long stories about her family; and she taught me to sew. She certainly held the family impression of my abilities, — that I was a dull, unobservant, slow, awkward child. In teaching me to sew, she used to say (and I quite acquiesced) that “slow and sure” was the maxim for me, and “quick and well” was the maxim for Rachel. I was not jealous about this, — it seemed to me so undeniable. On one occasion only I thought Nurse Ayton unkind. The back of a rickety old nursing-chair came off when I was playing on it; and I was sure she could save me from being scolded by sewing it on again. I insisted that she could sew anything. This made my mother Edition: current; Page: [18] laugh when she came up; and so I forgave nurse: and I believe that was our only quarrel.

My first political interest was the death of Nelson. I was then four years old. My father came in from the counting-house at an unusual hour, and told my mother, who cried heartily. I certainly had some conception of a battle, and of a great man being a public loss. It always rent my heart-strings (to the last day of her life,) to see and hear my mother cry; and in this case it was clearly connected with the death of a great man. I had my own notions of Bonaparte too. One day, at dessert, when my father was talking anxiously to my mother about the expected invasion, for which preparations were made all along the Norfolk coast, I saw them exchange a glance, because I was standing staring, twitching my pinafore with terror. My father called me to him, and took me on his knee, and I said “But, papa, what will you do if Boney comes?” “What will I do?” said he, cheerfully, “Why, I will ask him to take a glass of Port with me,” — helping himself to a glass as he spoke. That wise reply was of immense service to me. From the moment I knew that “Boney” was a creature who could take a glass of wine, I dreaded him no more. Such was my induction into the department of foreign affairs. As to social matters, — my passion for justice was cruelly crossed, from the earliest time I can remember, by the imposition of passive obedience and silence on servants and tradespeople, who met with a rather old-fashioned treatment in our house. We children were enough in the kitchen to know how the maids avenged themselves for scoldings in the parlor, before the family and visitors, to which they must not reply; and for being forbidden to wear white gowns, silk gowns, or any thing but what strict housewives approved. One of my chief miseries was being sent with insulting messages to the maids, — e. g., to “bid them not be so like carthorses overhead,” and the like. On the one hand, it was a fearful sin to alter a message; and, on the other, it was impossible to give such an one as that: so I used to linger and delay to the last moment, and then deliver something civil, with all imaginable sheepishness, so that the maids used to look at one another Edition: current; Page: [19] and laugh. Yet, one of my most heartfelt sins was towards a servant who was really a friend of my mother’s, and infinitely respected, and a good deal loved, by us children, — Susan Ormsby, who came to live with us just before James was born, and staid till that memorable Newcastle journey, above four years afterwards. When she was waiting at dinner one day, I stuck my knife upright, in listening to something, so that the point cut her arm. I saw her afterwards washing it at the pump; and she shook her head at me in tender reproach. My heart was bursting; but I dared not tell her how sorry I was. I never got over it, or was happy with her again; and when we were to part, the night before our journey, and she was kissing us with tears, it was in dumb grief and indignation that I heard her tell my mother that children do not feel things as grown people do, and that they could not think of any thing else when they were going a journey.

One more fact takes its place before that journey, — the awakening of a love of money in me. I suspect I have had a very narrow escape of being an eminent miser. A little more, or a little less difficulty, or another mode of getting money would easily have made me a miser. The first step, as far as I remember, was when we played cards, one winter evening, at our uncle Martineau’s, when I was told that I had won twopence. The pavement hardly seemed solid when we walked home, — so elated was I. I remember equal delight when Mrs. Meadows Taylor gave us children twopence when we expected only a halfpenny, to buy string for a top: but in this last case it was not the true amor nummi, as in the other. The same avarice was excited in the same way, a few years later, when I won eighteen-pence at cards, on a visit. The very sight of silver and copper was transporting to me, without any thought of its use. I stood and looked long at money, as it lay in my hand. Yet, I do not remember that this passion ever interfered with my giving away money, though it certainly did with my spending it otherwise. I certainly was very close, all my childhood and youth. I may as well mention here that I made rules and kept them, in regard to my expenditure, from the time I had an allowance. I believe we gave away Edition: current; Page: [20] something out of our first allowance of a penny a week. When we had twopence, I gave away half. The next advance was to half-a-guinea a quarter, to buy gloves and sashes: then to ten pounds a year (with help) for clothes; then fifteen, and finally twenty, without avowed help. I sewed indefatigably all those years, — being in truth excessively fond of sewing, with the amusement of either gossiping, or learning poetry by heart, from a book, lying open under my work. I never had the slightest difficulty in learning any amount of verse; and I knew enough to have furnished me for a wandering reciter, — if there had been such a calling in our time, — as I used to wish there was. While thus busy, I made literally all my clothes, as I grew up, except stays and shoes. I platted bonnets at one time, knitted stockings as I read aloud, covered silk shoes for dances, and made all my garments. Thus I squeezed something out of the smaller allowance, and out of the fifteen pounds, I never spent more than twelve in dress; and never more than fifteen pounds out of the twenty. The rest I gave away, except a little which I spent in books. The amount of time spent in sewing now appears frightful; but it was the way in those days, among people like ourselves. There was some saving in our practice of reading aloud, and in mine of learning poetry in such mass: but the censorious gossip which was the bane of our youth drove prose and verse out of the field, and wasted more of our precious youthful powers and dispositions than any repentance and amendment in after life could repair. This sort of occupation, the sewing however, was less unfitting than might now appear, considering that the fortunes of manufacturers, like my father, were placed in jeopardy by the war, and that there was barely a chance for my father ever being able to provide fortunes for his daughters. He and my mother exercised every kind of self-denial to bring us up qualified to take care of ourselves. They pinched themselves in luxuries to provide their girls, as well as their boys, with masters and schooling; and they brought us up to an industry like their own; — the boys in study and business, and the girls in study and household cares. Thus was I saved from being a literary lady who could not sew; and when, in Edition: current; Page: [21] after years, I have been insulted by admiration at not being helpless in regard to household employments, I have been wont to explain, for my mother’s sake, that I could make shirts and puddings, and iron and mend, and get my bread by my needle, if necessary, — (as it once was necessary, for a few months), before I won a better place and occupation with my pen.

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But it is time to set out on the second period of my childhood, — beginning with that memorable Newcastle journey. That period was memorable, not only from the enlarging of a child’s ideas which ensues upon a first long journey, but because I date from it my becoming what is commonly called “a responsible being.” On my return home I began to take moral charge of myself. I had before, and from my earliest recollections, been subject to a haunting, wretched, useless remorse; but from the time of our return from Newcastle, bringing Ann Turner with us, I became practically religious with all my strength. Ann was, I think, fourteen when I was seven; and that she made herself my friend at all was a great thing for me; and it fell out all the more easily for her tendencies being exclusively religious, while I was only waiting for some influence to determine my life in that direction.

Travelling was no easy matter in those days. My mother, our dear, pretty, gentle aunt Margaret, sister Elizabeth, aged fifteen, Rachel, myself, and little James, aged four, and in nankeen frocks, were all crammed into a post-chaise, for a journey of three or four days. Almost every incident of those days is still fresh: but I will report only one, which is curious from showing how little aware we children were of our own value. I really think, if I had once conceived that any body cared for me, nearly all the sins and sorrows of my anxious childhood would have been spared me; and I remember well that it was Ann Turner who first conveyed the cheering truth to me. She asked me why my mother sat sewing so diligently for us children, and sat up at night to mend my stockings, if she did not care for me; and I was convinced at once; — only too happy to believe it, and being unable to resist such evidence as the stocking-mending Edition: current; Page: [23] at night, when we children were asleep. Well: on our second day’s journey, we stopped at Burleigh House, and the three elders of the party went in, to see the picture gallery. — Children were excluded; so we three little ones were left to play among the haymakers on the lawn. After what seemed a long time, it suddenly struck us that the elders must have forgotten us, and gone on to Newcastle without us. I, for my part, was entirely persuaded that we should never be missed, or remembered more by any body; and we set up a terrible lamentation. A good-natured haymaker, a sunburnt woman whose dialect we could not understand, took us in hand, and led us to the great door, where we were soon comforted by my mother’s appearance. I remember wondering why she and aunt Margaret laughed aside when they led us back to the chaise.

Of course it was difficult to amuse little children so cooped up for so long. There was a little quiet romping, I remember, and a great deal of story telling by dear aunty: but the finest device was setting us to guess what we should find standing in the middle of grandpapa’s garden. As it was something we had never seen or known about, there was no end to the guessing. When we arrived at the gates of the Forth, (my grandfather’s house) the old folks and their daughters came out to meet us, all tearful and agitated: and I, loathing myself for the selfishness, could not wait, but called out, — “I want to see what that thing is in the garden.” After an enlightening hint, and without any rebuke, our youngest aunt took me by the hand, and led me to face the mystery. I could make nothing of it when I saw it. It was a large, heavy, stone sundial. That dial is worth this much mention, for it was of immeasurable value to me. I could see its face only by raising myself on tiptoe on its step: and there, with my eyes on a level with the plate, did I watch and ponder, day by day, painfully forming my first clear conceptions of Time, amidst a bright confusion of notions of day and night, and of the seasons, and of the weather. I loved that dial with a sort of superstition; and when, nearly forty years after, I built a house for myself at Ambleside, my strong wish was to have this very dial for the platform below the terrace: but it was not Edition: current; Page: [24] to be had. It had been once removed already, — when the railway cut through the old garden; and the stone mass was too heavy, and far too much fractured and crumbled for a second removal. So a dear friend set up for me a beautiful new dial; and I can only hope that it may possibly render as great a service to some child of a future generation as my grandfather’s did for me.

It seems to me now that I seldom asked questions in those days. I went on for years together in a puzzle, for want of its ever occurring to me to ask questions. For instance, no accounts of a spring-gun answered to my conception of it; — that it was a pea-green musket, used only in spring! This absurdity at length lay by unnoticed in my mind till I was twenty! Even so! At that age, I was staying at Birmingham; and we were returning from a country walk in the dusk of the evening, when my host warned us not to cross a little wood, for fear of spring-guns; and he found and showed us the wire of one. I was truly confounded when the sense of the old mistake, dormant in my mind till now, came upon me. Thus it was with a piece of mystification imposed on me by my grandfather’s barber in 1809. One morning, while the shaving-pot was heating, the barber took me on his knee, and pretended to tell me why he was late that morning. Had I ever heard of a falling star? Yes, I had. Well: a star had fallen in the night; and it fell in the Forth lane, which it completely blocked up, beside Mr. Somebody’s orchard. It was quite round, and of the beautifullest and clearest crystal. “Was it there still?” O yes, — or most of it: but some of the crystal was shivered off, and people were carrying it away when he arrived at the spot. He had to go round by Something Street; and it was that which made him late. “Would there be any left by the time we went for our walk?” He hoped there might. I got through my lessons in a fever of eagerness that morning, and engaged the nurse maid to take us through that lane. There was the orchard, with the appletree stretching over the wall: but not a single spike of the crystal was left. I thought it odd; but it never occurred to me to doubt the story, or to speak to any body about it, except the barber. Edition: current; Page: [25] I lay in wait for him the next morning; and very sorry he professed to be; — so sorry that he had not just picked up some crystals for me while there were so many; but no doubt I should come in the way of a fallen star myself, some day. We kept this up till October, when we bade him good bye: and my early notions of astronomy were cruelly bewildered by that man’s rhodomontade. I dare not say how many years it was before I got quite clear of it.

There is little that is pleasant to say of the rest of that absence from home. There was a naughty boy staying at my grandfather’s, who caused us to be insulted by imputations of stealing the green fruit, and to be shut out of the garden, where we had never dreamed of touching a gooseberry: and he led little James into mischief; and then canted and made his own part good. Our hearts swelled under the injuries he caused us. Then, we were injudiciously fed, and my nightmare miseries were intolerable. The best event was that my theological life began to take form. I had a prodigious awe of clergymen and ministers, and a strong yearning towards them for notice. No doubt there was much vanity in this; but it was also one investment of the religious sentiment, as I know by my being at times conscious of a remnant of the feeling now, while radically convinced that the intellectual and moral judgment of priests of all persuasions is inferior to that of any other order of men. The first of the order who took any direct notice of me was, as far as I know, good Mr. Turner of Newcastle, my mother’s pastor and friend before her marriage. At Newcastle, we usually went to tea at his house on Sunday evenings; and it was then that we began the excellent practice of writing recollections of one of the sermons of the day. When the minister preaches what children can understand, this practice is of the highest use in fixing their attention, and in disclosing to their parents the character and imperfections of their ideas on the most important class of subjects. On occasion of our first attempt, — Rachel’s and mine, — I felt very triumphant beforehand. I remembered the text; and it seemed to me that my head was full of thoughts from the sermon. I scrawled over the whole of a large slate, Edition: current; Page: [26] and was not a little mortified when I found that all I had written came into seven or eight lines of my mother’s handwriting. I made sure that I had not been cheated, and then fell into discouragement at finding that my grand “sermon” came to nothing more. However, my attempt was approved; I was allowed to “sit up to supper,” and the Sunday practice was begun which continued till I grew too deaf to keep up my attention successfully. For some years of that long period, our success was small, because Mr. Madge’s, (our minister’s) sermons conveyed few clear ideas to children, though much sweet and solemn impression. Dr. Carpenter’s were the best I ever listened to for the purpose: — so good that I have known him carry a “recollection” written by a cousin of mine at the age of sixteen, to Mrs. Carpenter, as a curiosity, — not a single sentence of his sermon being altogether absent from the hearer’s version of it. — Another religious impression that we children brought from Newcastle is very charming to me still. Our gentle, delicate aunt Mary, whom I remember so well in her white gown, with her pink color, thin silky brown hair, and tender manner towards us, used to get us round her knees as she sat in the window-seat at the Forth, where the westerly sun shone in, and teach us to sing Milton’s hymn “Let us with a gladsome mind.” It is the very hymn for children, set to its own simple tune; and I always, to this day, hear aunt Mary’s weak, earnest voice in it. That was the gentle hymn. The woe-breathing one was the German Evening Hymn. The heroic one, which never failed to rouse my whole being was “Awake, my soul; stretch every nerve,” sung to Artaxerxes. In those days, we learned Mrs. Barbauld’s Prose Hymns by heart; and there were parts of them which I dearly loved: but other parts made me shiver with awe. I did not know what “shaking bogs” were, and was alarmed at that mysterious being “Child of Mortality.” On the whole, however, religion was a great comfort and pleasure to me; and I studied the New Testament very heartily and profitably, from the time that Ann Turner went south with us, and encouraged me to confession and morning and nightly prayer.

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I think it could not have been long after that time that I took up a project which was of extraordinary use to me. My mind, considered dull and unobservant and unwieldy by my family, was desperately methodical. Every thing must be made tabular that would at all admit of it. Thus, I adopted in an immense hurry Dr. Franklin’s youthful and absurd plan of pricking down his day’s virtues and vices under heads. I found at once the difficulty of mapping out moral qualities, and had to give it up, — as I presume he had to. But I tried after something quite as foolish, and with immense perseverance. I thought it would be a fine thing to distribute scripture instructions under the heads of the virtues and vices, so as to have encouragement or rebuke always ready at hand. So I made (as on so many other occasions) a paper book, ruled and duly headed. With the Old Testament, I got on very well; but I was amazed at the difficulty with the New. I knew it to be of so much more value and importance than the Old, that I could not account for the small number of cut and dry commands. I twisted meanings and wordings, and made figurative things into precepts, at an unconscionable rate, before I would give up: but, after rivalling any old puritan preacher in my free use of scripture, I was obliged to own that I could not construct the system I wanted. Thus it was that I made out that great step in the process of thought and knowledge, — that whereas Judaism was a preceptive religion, Christianity was mainly a religion of principles, — or assumed to be so.

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For many years past, my amazement has been continually on the increase that Unitarians can conceive that they are giving their children a Christian education in making their religious training what it is. Our family certainly insisted very strongly, and quite sincerely, on being Christians, while despising and pitying the orthodox as much as they could be despised and pitied in return; while yet, it must have been from wonderful slovenliness of thought, as well as ignorance, that we could have taken Unitarianism to be Christianity, in any genuine sense, — in any sense which could justify separate Christian worship. In our particular case, family pride and affection were implicated in our dissent. It was not the dissent that was to be wondered at, but its having degenerated into Unitarianism. Our French name indicates our origin. The first Martineaus that we know of were expatriated Huguenots, who came over from Normandy on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They were, of course, Calvinists, — so fully admitting the Christian religion to be a scheme of redemption as to deserve, without limitation or perversion, the title of Christians. But their descendants passed by degrees, with the congregations to which they belonged, out of Calvinism into the pseudo-Christianity of Arianism first, and then of Uniterianism, under the guidance of pastors whose natural sense revolted from the essential points of the Christian doctrine, while they had not learning enough, biblical, ecclesiastical, historical or philosophical, to discover that what they gave up was truly essential, and that the name of Christianity was a mere sham when applied to what they retained. One evening when I was a child, I entered the parlor when our Unitarian minister, Mr. Madge, was convicting of error (and what he called idiotcy) an orthodox schoolmaster who happened to be our visitor. “Look here,” said Mr. Madge, seizing three wine-glasses, and placing them in a row: “here is the Father, — here’s the Son, — and here’s the Holy Ghost; do you mean to tell me that those three glasses can be in any case one? ’Tis mere nonsense.” And so were we children taught that it was “mere nonsense.” I certainly wondered exceedingly that so vast a majority of the people of Norwich could accept such nonsense, Edition: current; Page: [29] and so very few see through it as the Unitarians of the city: but there was no one to suggest to me that there might be more in the matter than we saw, or than even our minister was aware of. This was pernicious enough: but far worse was the practice, necessarily universal among Unitarians, of taking any liberties they please with the revelation they profess to receive. It is true, the Scriptures are very properly declared by them to be not the revelation itself, but the record of it: but it is only through the record that the revelation can be obtained — at least by Protestants: and any tamperings with the record are operations upon the revelation itself. To appreciate the full effect of such a procedure, it is only necessary to look at what the Unitarians were doing in the days of my youth. They were issuing an Improved Version, in which considerable portions were set aside (printed in a different type) as spurious. It is true, those portions flatly contradicted some other portions in regard to dates and other facts; but the shallow scholarship of the Unitarians made its own choice what to receive and what to reject, without perceiving that such a process was wholly incompatible with the conception of the Scriptures being the record of a divine revelation at all. Having begun to cut away and alter, there was no reason for stopping; and every Unitarian was at liberty to make the Scriptures mean what suited his own views. Mr. Belsham’s Exposition of the Epistles is a remarkable phenomenon in this way. To get rid of some difficulties about heaven and hell, the end of the world, salvation and perdition, &c., he devised a set of figurative meanings which he applied with immense perseverance, and a poetical ingenuity remarkable in so thoroughly prosaic a man; and all the while, it never seems to have occurred to him that that could hardly be a revelation designed for the rescue of the human race from perdition, the explanation of which required all this ingenuity at the hand of a Belsham, after eighteen centuries. I was as deeply-interested a reader of those big volumes as any Unitarian in England; and their ingenuity gratified some of my faculties exceedingly; but there was throughout a haunting sense of unreality which made me uneasy, — a consciousness that this kind of solemn amusement was no Edition: current; Page: [30] fitting treatment of the burdensome troubles of conscience, and the moral irritations which made the misery of my life. This theological dissipation, and the music and poetry of psalms and hymns, charmed away my woes for the hour; but they were not the solid consolation I needed. So, to work I went in my own way, again and again studying the New Testament, — making “Harmonies,” poring over the geography, greedily gathering up every thing I could find in the way of commentary and elucidation, and gladly working myself into an enthusiasm with the moral beauty and spiritual promises I found in the Sacred Writings. I certainly never believed, more or less, in the “essential doctrines” of Christianity, which represent God as the predestinator of men to sin and perdition, and Christ as their rescuer from that doom. I never was more or less beguiled by the trickery of language by which the perdition of man is made out to be justice, and his redemption to be mercy. I never suffered more or less from fear of hell. The Unitarianism of my parents saved me from that. But nothing could save me from the perplexity of finding so much of indisputable statement of those doctrines in the New Testament, nor from a covert sense that it was taking a monstrous liberty with the Gospel to pick and choose what made me happy, and reject what I did not like or could not receive. When I now find myself wondering at Unitarians who do so, — who accept heaven and reject hell, — who get rid somehow of the reign of Christ and the apostles on earth, and derive somehow a sanction of their fancy of a heaven in the stars, peopled with old acquaintances, and furnished for favourite pursuits, I try to recal the long series of years during which I did the same thing, with far more, certainly, of complacency than of misgiving. I try to remember how late on in life I have said that I confidently reckoned on entering the train of Socrates in the next world, and getting some of his secrets out of Pythagoras, besides making friendship with all the Christian worthies I especially inclined to. When I now see the comrades of my early days comfortably appropriating all the Christian promises, without troubling themselves with the clearly-specified condition, — of faith in Christ as a Redeemer, — I remind Edition: current; Page: [31] myself that this is just what I did for more than the first half of my life. The marvel remains how they now, and I then, could possibly wonder at the stationary or declining fortunes of their sect, — so evidently as Unitarianism is a mere clinging, from association and habit, to the old privilege of faith in a divine revelation, under an actual forfeiture of all its essential conditions.

My religious belief, up to the age of twenty, was briefly this. I believed in a God, milder and more beneficent and passionless than the God of the orthodox, inasmuch as he would not doom any of his creatures to eternal torment. I did not at any time, I think, believe in the Devil, but understood the Scriptures to speak of Sin under that name, and of eternal detriment under the name of eternal punishment. I believed in inestimable and eternal rewards of holiness; but I am confident that I never in my life did a right thing, or abstained from a wrong one from any consideration of reward or punishment. To the best of my recollection, I always feared sin and remorse extremely, and punishment not at all; but, on the contrary, desired punishment or any thing else that would give me the one good that I pined for in vain, — ease of conscience. The doctrine of forgiveness on repentance never availed me much, because forgiveness for the past was nothing without safety in the future; and my sins were not curable, I felt, by any single remission of their consequences, — if such remission were possible. If I prayed and wept, and might hope that I was pardoned at night, it was small comfort, because I knew I should be in a state of remorse again before the next noon. I do not remember the time when the forgiveness clause in the Lord’s Prayer was not a perplexity and a stumbling-block to me. I did not care about being let off from penalty. I wanted to be at ease in conscience; and that could only be by growing good, whereas I hated and despised myself every day. My belief in Christ was that he was the purest of all beings, under God; and his sufferings for the sake of mankind made him as sublime in my view and my affections as any being could possibly be. The Holy Ghost was a mere fiction to me. I took all the miracles for facts, and contrived to Edition: current; Page: [32] worship the letter of the Scriptures long after I had, as desired, given up portions as “spurious,” “interpolations” and so forth. I believed in a future life as a continuation of the present, and not as a new method of existence; and, from the time when I saw that the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul could not both be true, I adhered to the former, — after St. Paul. I was uncomfortably disturbed that Christianity had done so little for the redemption of the race: but the perplexity was not so serious as it would have been if I had believed in the perdition of the majority of men; and, for the rest, I contrived to fix my view pretty exclusively on Christendom itself, — which Christians in general find a grand resource in their difficulties. In this way, and by the help of public worship, and of sacred music, and Milton, and the Pilgrim’s Progress, I found religion my best resource, even in its first inconsistent and unsatisfactory form, till I wrought my way to something better, as I shall tell by and by.

When I was seven years old, — the winter after our return from Newcastle, — I was kept from chapel one Sunday afternoon by some ailment or other. When the house door closed behind the chapel-goers, I looked at the books on the table. The ugliest-looking of them was turned down open; and my turning it up was one of the leading incidents of my life. That plain, clumsy, calf-bound volume was “Paradise Lost;” and the common blueish paper, with its old-fashioned type, became as a scroll out of heaven to me. The first thing I saw was “Argument,” which I took to mean a dispute, and supposed to be stupid enough: but there was something about Satan cleaving Chaos, which made me turn to the poetry; and my mental destiny was fixed for the next seven years. That volume was henceforth never to be found but by asking me for it, till a young acquaintance made me a present of a little Milton of my own. In a few months, I believe there was hardly a line in Paradise Lost that I could not have instantly turned to. I sent myself to sleep by repeating it: and when my curtains were drawn back in the morning, descriptions of heavenly light rushed into my memory. I think this must have been my first experience Edition: current; Page: [33] of moral relief through intellectual resource. I am sure I must have been somewhat happier from that time forward; though one fact of which I am perfectly certain shows that the improvement must have been little enough. From the time when Ann Turner and her religious training of me put me, as it were, into my own moral charge, I was ashamed of my habit of misery, — and especially of crying. I tried for a long course of years, — I should think from about eight to fourteen, — to pass a single day without crying. I was a persevering child; and I know I tried hard: but I failed. I gave up at last; and during all those years, I never did pass a day without crying. Of course, my temper and habit of mind must have been excessively bad. I have no doubt I was an insufferable child for gloom, obstinacy and crossness. Still, when I remember my own placability, — my weakness of yielding every thing to the first word or tone of tenderness, I cannot but believe that there was grievous mistake in the case, and that even a little more sympathy and moral support would have spared me and others a hideous amount of fault and suffering.

How I found my way out we shall see hereafter: meantime, one small incident, which occurred when I was eleven years old, may foreshadow my release. Our eldest brother, Thomas, was seven years older than myself. He was silent and reserved generally, and somewhat strict to us younger ones, to whom he taught our Latin grammar. We revered and loved him intensely, in the midst of our awe of him: but once in my childhood I made him laugh against his will, by a pun in my Latin lesson (which was a great triumph) and once I ventured to confide to him a real difficulty, — without result. I found myself by his side during a summer evening walk, when something gave me courage to ask him — (the man of eighteen!) — the question which I had long been secretly revolving: — how, if God foreknew everything, we could be blamed or rewarded for our conduct, which was thus absolutely settled for us beforehand. He considered for a moment, and then told me, in a kind voice, that this was a thing which I could not understand at present, nor for a long time to come. I dared not remonstrate; Edition: current; Page: [34] but I was disappointed: and I felt that if I could feel the difficulty, I had a right to the solution. No doubt, this refusal of a reply helped to fix the question in my mind.

I have said that by this time I had begun to take moral or spiritual charge of myself. I did try hard to improve; but I fear I made little progress. Every night, I reviewed the thoughts and actions of the day, and tried to repent; but I could seldom comfort myself about any amendment. All the while, however, circumstances were doing for me what I could not do for myself, — as I have since found to be incessantly happening. The first great wholesome discipline of my life set in (unrecognized as such) when I was about eight years old. The kind lady who took me upon her lap at Mr. Drummond’s lecture had two little girls, just the ages of Rachel and myself: and, after that incident, we children became acquainted, and very soon, (when the family came to live close beside us in Magdalen Street) as intimate as possible. I remember being at their house in the Market Place when I was seven years old; and little E. could not stand, nor even sit, to see the magic-lantern, but was held in her papa’s arms, because she was so very lame. Before the year was out, she lost her leg. Being a quiet-tempered child, and the limb being exceedingly wasted by disease, she probably did not suffer very much under the operation. However that might be, she met the occasion with great courage, and went through it with remarkable composure, so that she was the talk of the whole city. I was naturally very deeply impressed by the affair. It turned my imagination far too much on bodily suffering, and on the peculiar glory attending fortitude in that direction. I am sure that my nervous system was seriously injured, and especially that my subsequent deafness was partly occasioned by the exciting and vain-glorious dreams that I indulged in for many years after my friend E. lost her leg. All manner of deaths at the stake and on the scaffold, I went through in imagination, in the low sense in which St. Theresa craved martyrdom; and night after night, I lay bathed in cold perspiration till I sank into the sleep of exhaustion. All this is detestable to think of now; but it is a duty to relate the truth, because Edition: current; Page: [35] parents are apt to know far too little of what is passing in their children’s imaginations, unless they win the confidence of the little creatures about that on which they are shyest of all, — their aspirations. The good side of this wretched extravagance of mine was that it occasioned or strengthened a power of patience under pain and privation which was not to be looked for in a child so sensitive and irritable by nature. Fortitude was in truth my favorite virtue; and the power of bearing quietly a very unusual amount of bodily pain in childhood was the poor recompense I enjoyed for the enormous detriment I suffered from the turn my imagination had taken.

This, however, is not the discipline I referred to as arising from my companionship with E. In such a case as hers, all the world acquiesces in the parents’ view and method of action: and in that case the parents made a sad mistake. They enormously increased their daughter’s suffering from her infirmity by covering up the fact in an unnatural silence. E.’s lameness was never mentioned, nor recognized in any way, within my remembrance, till she, full late, did it herself. It was taken for granted that she was like other children; and the delusion was kept up in play-hours at my expense. I might almost say that from the time E. and I grew intimate, I never more had any play. Now, I was fond of play, — given to romp; and I really wonder now when I look back upon the many long years during which I stood, with cold feet and a longing mind, with E. leaning on my arm, looking on while other children were at play. It was a terrible uneasiness to me to go walks with her, — shy child as I was, — fancying every body in the streets staring at us, on account of E.’s extreme difficulty in walking. But the long self-denial which I never thought of refusing or grumbling at, must have been morally good for me, if I may judge by the pain caused by two incidents; — pain which seems to me now to swallow up all that issued from mere privation. — The fatigue of walking with E. was very great, from her extreme need of support, and from its being always on the same side. I was never very strong; and when growing fast, I was found to be growing sadly crooked, from E.’s constant tugging at one arm. Edition: current; Page: [36] I cannot at all understand how my mother could put it upon me to tell E.’s mother that I must not walk with her, because it made me crooked: but this ungracious message I was compelled to carry; and it cost me more pain than long years of privation of play. The hint was instantly taken; but I suffered the shame and regret over again every time that I saw E. assigned to any one else; and I had infinitely rather have grown crooked than have escaped it by such a struggle. — The other incident was this. We children were to have a birthday party; and my father gave us the rare and precious liberty to play hide-and-seek in the warehouse, among the packing-cases and pigeon-holes where the bombasines were stored. For weeks I had counted the days and hours till this birthday and this play; but E. could not play hide-and-seek; and there we stood, looking at the rest, — I being cold and fidgety, and at last uncontrollably worried at the thought that the hours were passing away, and I had not had one bit of play. I did the fatal thing which has been a thorn in my mind ever since. I asked E. if she would much mind having some one else with her for a minute while I hid once, — just once. O no, — she did not mind; so I sent somebody else to her, and ran off, with a feeling of self-detestation which is fresh at this day. I had no presence-of-mind for the game, — was caught in a minute; and came back to E. damaged in self-respect, for the whole remaining course of our friendship. However, I owe her a great deal; and she and her misfortune were among the most favourable influences I had the benefit of after taking myself in hand for self-government. I have much pleasure in adding that nothing could be finer than her temper in after life, when she had taken her own case in hand, and put an end, as far as it lay with her to do so, to the silence about her infirmity. After I wrote my “Letter to the Deaf,” we seemed to be brought nearer together by our companionship in infirmity. Years after that, when I had written “The Crofton Boys,” and was uneasy lest my evident knowledge of such a case should jar upon her feelings, — always so tenderly considered, — I wrote her a confession of my uneasiness, and had in reply a most charming letter, — free, cheerful, magnanimous; — Edition: current; Page: [37] such a letter as has encouraged me to write as I have now done.

The year 1811 was a marked one to me, — first, by my being sent into the country for my health, for the whole summer and autumn; and next, for the birth of the best-beloved member of my family, — my sister Ellen. — It was not a genuine country life in a farm-house, that summer, but a most constrained and conventional one, in the abode of a rich lawyer, — a cousin of my father’s, who sent a daughter of his to our house for the advantage of city masters, in exchange for me, who went for health. I was not, on the whole, happy there: — indeed, it is pretty clear by this time that I was not happy anywhere. The old fancy for running away came back strongly upon me, and I was on the very point of attempting it when a few words of concession and kindness upset my purpose, as usual. I detested the governess, — and with abundant reason. The very first day, she shut me up and punished me because I, a town-bred child, did not know what a copse was. “Near yonder copse,” &c. She insisted that every body must know what a copse is, and that therefore I was obstinate and a liar. After such a beginning, it will be easily conceived that our relations could not be cordial or profitable. She presently showed herself jealous of my being in advance of her pupils in school-room knowledge; and she daily outraged my sense of justice, expressly, and in the most purpose-like manner. She was thoroughly vulgar; and in a few weeks she was sent away. — One annoyance that I remember at that place was (what now appears very strange) the whispers I overheard about myself, as I sat on a little stool in a corner of the dining-room, reading. My hostess, who might have said anything in her ordinary voice without my attending to her, used to whisper to her morning visitors about my wonderful love of reading, — that I never heard anything that was said while I sat reading, and that I had written a wonderful sermon. All the while, she pretended to disguise it, winking and nudging, and saying “We never hear any thing when we are reading:” “We have written a sermon which is really quite wonderful at our age,” &c. &c. I wished that sermon at Jericho Edition: current; Page: [38] a hundred times; for in truth, I was heartily ashamed of it. It was merely a narrative of St. Paul’s adventures, out of the Acts; and I knew it was no more a sermon than a string of parables out of the Gospels would have been.

There were some sweet country pleasures that summer. I never see chesnuts bursting from their sheaths, and lying shining among the autumn leaves, without remembering the old Manor-house where we children picked up chesnuts in the avenue, while my hostess made her call at the house. I have always loved orchards and apple-gatherings since, and blossomy lanes. The truth is, my remembrances of that summer may be found in “Deerbrook,” though I now finally, (as often before,) declare that the characters are not real. More or less suggestion from real characters there certainly is; but there is not one, except the hero, (who is not English,) that any person is justified in pointing out as “from the life.” Of the scenery too, there is more from Great Marlow than from that bleak Norfolk district: but the fresh country impressions are certainly derived from the latter. It was there that I had that precious morsel of experience which I have elsewhere detailed;* — the first putting my hand in among the operations of Nature, to modify them. After a morning walk, we children brought in some wild strawberry roots, to plant in our gardens. My plant was sadly withered by the time we got home; and it was then hot noon, — the soil of my garden was warm and parched, and there seemed no chance for my root. I planted it, grieved over its flabby leaves, watered it, got a little child’s chair, which I put over it for shelter, and stopped up the holes in the chair with grass. When I went at sunset to look at it, the plant was perfectly fresh; and after that, it grew very well. My surprise and pleasure must have been very great, by my remembering such a trifle so long; and I am persuaded that I looked upon Nature with other eyes from the moment that I found I had power to modify her processes.

In November came the news which I had been told to expect. My sister Rachel had been with us in the country for a fortnight; Edition: current; Page: [39] and we knew that there was to be a baby at home before we went back; and I remember pressing so earnestly, by letter, to know the baby’s name as to get a rebuff. I was told to wait till there was a baby. At last, the carrier brought us a letter one evening which told us that we had a little sister. I still longed to know the name, but dared not ask again. Our host saw what was in my mind. He went over to Norwich a day or two after, and on his return told me that he hoped I should like the baby’s name now she had got one; — “Beersheba.” I did not know whether to believe him or not; and I had set my mind on “Rose.” “Ellen,” however, satisfied me very well. — Homesick before, I now grew downright ill with longing. I was sure that all old troubles were wholly my fault, and fully resolved that there should be no more. Now, as so often afterwards, (as often as I left home) I was destined to disappointment. I scarcely felt myself at home before the well-remembered bickerings began; — not with me, but from the boys being troublesome, James being naughty; and our eldest sister angry and scolding. I then and there resolved that I would look for my happiness to the new little sister, and that she should never want for the tenderness which I had never found. This resolution turned out more of a prophecy than such decisions, born of a momentary emotion, usually do. That child was henceforth a new life to me. I did lavish love and tenderness on her; and I could almost say that she has never caused me a moment’s pain but by her own sorrows. There has been much suffering in her life; and in it I have suffered with her: but such sympathetic pain is bliss in comparison with such feelings as she has not excited in me during our close friendship of above forty years. When I first saw her it was as she was lifted out of her crib, at a fortnight old, asleep, to be shown to my late hostess, who had brought Rachel and me home. The passionate fondness I felt for her from that moment has been unlike any thing else I have felt in life, — though I have made idols of not a few nephews and nieces. But she was a pursuit to me, no less than an attachment. I remember telling a young lady at the Gate-House Concert, (a weekly undress concert) the next night, that Edition: current; Page: [40] I should now see the growth of a human mind from the very beginning. I told her this because I was very communicative to all who showed me sympathy in any degree. Years after, I found that she was so struck by such a speech from a child of nine that she had repeated it till it had spread all over the city, and people said somebody had put it into my head: but it was perfectly genuine. My curiosity was intense; and all my spare minutes were spent in the nursery, watching, — literally watching, — the baby. This was a great stimulus to me in my lessons, to which I gave my whole power, in order to get leisure the sooner. That was the time when I took it into my head to cut up the Bible into a rule of life, as I have already told; and it was in the nursery chiefly that I did it, — sitting on a stool opposite the nursemaid and baby, and getting up from my notes to devour the child with kisses. There were bitter moments and hours, — as when she was vaccinated or had her little illnesses. My heart then felt bursting, and I went to my room, and locked the door, and prayed long and desperately. I knew then what the Puritans meant by “wrestling in prayer.” — One abiding anxiety which pressed upon me for two years or more was lest this child should be dumb: and if not, what an awful amount of labour was before the little creature! I had no other idea than that she must learn to speak at all as I had now to learn French, — each word by an express effort: and if I, at ten and eleven, found my vocabulary so hard, how could this infant learn the whole English language? The dread went off in amazement when I found that she sported new words every day, without much teaching at first, and then without any. I was as happy to see her spared the labour as amused at her use of words in her pretty prattle.

For nearly two years after our return from that country visit, Rachel and I were taught at home. Our eldest brother taught us Latin, and the next brother, Henry, writing and arithmetic: and our sister, French, reading and exercises. We did not get on well, except with the Latin. Our sister expected too much from us, both morally and intellectually; and she had not been herself carried on so far as to have much resource as a teacher. We owed Edition: current; Page: [41] to her however a thorough grounding in our French grammar (especially the verbs) which was of excellent service to us afterwards at school, as was a similar grounding in the Latin grammar, obtained from our brother. As for Henry, he made our lessons in arithmetic, &c. his funny time of day; and sorely did his practical jokes and ludicrous severity afflict us. He meant no harm; but he was too young to play schoolmaster; and we improved less than we should have done under less head-ache and heart-ache from his droll system of torture. I should say, on their behalf, that I, for one, must have seemed a most unpromising pupil, — my wits were so completely scattered by fear and shyness. I could never give a definition, for want of presence of mind. I lost my place in class for every thing but lessons that could be prepared beforehand. I was always saying what I did not mean. The worst waste of time, energy, money and expectation was about my music. Nature made me a musician in every sense. I was never known to sing out of tune. I believe all who knew me when I was twenty would give a good account of my playing. There was no music that I ever attempted that I did not understand, and that I could not execute, — under the one indispensable condition, that nobody heard me. Much money was spent in instruction; and I dislike thinking of the amount of time lost in copying music. My mother loved music, and, I know, looked to me for much gratification in this way which she never had. My deafness put an end to all expectation of the kind at last; but long before that, my music was a misery to me, — while yet in another sense, my dearest pleasure. My master was Mr. Beckwith, organist of Norwich Cathedral; — an admirable musician; but of so irritable a temper as to be the worst of masters to a shy girl like me. It was known that he had been dismissed from one house or more for rapping his pupils’ knuckles; and that he had been compelled to apologize for insufferable scolding. Neither of these things happened at our house; but really I wondered sometimes that they did not, — so very badly did I play and sing when he was at my elbow. My fingers stuck together as in cramp, and my voice was as husky as if I had had cotton-wool in my throat. Edition: current; Page: [42] Now and then he complimented my ear; but he oftener told me that I had no more mind than the music-book, — no more feeling than the lid of the piano, — no more heart than the chimney-piece; and that it was no manner of use trying to teach me any thing. All this while, if the room-door happened to be open without my observing it when I was singing Handel by myself, my mother would be found dropping tears over her work, and I used myself, as I may now own, to feel fairly transported. Heaven opened before me at the sound of my own voice when I believed myself alone; — that voice which my singing-master assuredly never heard. It was in his case that I first fully and suddenly learned the extent of the mischief caused by my shyness. He came twice a week. On those days it was an effort to rise in the morning, — to enter upon a day of misery; and nothing could have carried me through the morning but the thought of the evening, when he would be gone, — out of my way for three days, or even four. The hours grew heavier: my heart fluttered more and more: I could not eat my dinner; and his impatient loud knock was worse to me than sitting down in the dentist’s chair. Two days per week of such feelings, strengthened by the bliss of the evenings after he was gone, might account for the catastrophe, which however did not shock me the less for that. Mr. Beckwith grew more and more cross, thinner and thinner, so that his hair and beard looked blacker and blacker, as the holidays approached, when he was wont to leave home for a week or two. One day when somebody was dining with us, and I sat beside my father at the bottom of the table, he said to my mother, “By the way, my dear, there is a piece of news which will not surprise you much, I fancy. Poor John Beckwith is gone. He died yesterday.” Once more, that name made my heart jump into my mouth; but this time, it was with a dreadful joy. While the rest went on very quietly saying how ill he had looked for some time, and “who would have thought he would never come back?” — and discussing how Mrs. B. and the children were provided for, and wondering who would be organist at the Cathedral, my spirits were dancing in secret rapture. The worst of my besetting terrors was over Edition: current; Page: [43] for ever! All days of the week would henceforth be alike, as far as that knock at the door was concerned. Of course, my remorse at this glee was great; and thus it was that I learned how morally injured I was by the debasing fear I was wholly unable to surmount.

Next to fear, laziness was my worst enemy. I was idle about brushing my hair, — late in the morning, — much afflicted to have to go down to the apple-closet in winter; and even about my lessons I was indolent. I learned any thing by heart very easily, and I therefore did it well: but I was shamefully lazy about using the dictionary, and went on, in full anticipation of rebuke, translating la rosée the rose, tomber to bury, and so on. This shows that there must have been plenty of provocation on my side, whatever mistakes there may have been on that of my teachers. I was sick and weary of the eternal “Telemachus,” and could not go through the labours of the dictionary for a book I cared so little about. This difficulty soon came to an end; for in 1813 Rachel and I went to a good day-school for two years, where our time was thoroughly well spent; and there we enjoyed the acquisition of knowledge so much as not to care for the requisite toil.

Before entering on that grand new period, I may as well advert to a few noticeable points. — I was certainly familiar with the idea of death before that time. The death of Nelson, when I was four years old, was probably the earliest association in my mind of mournful feelings with death. When I was eight or nine, an aunt died whom I had been in the constant habit of seeing. She was old-fashioned in her dress, and peculiar in her manners. Her lean arms were visible between the elbow-ruffles and the long mits she wore; and she usually had an apron on, and a muslin handkerchief crossed on her bosom. She fell into absent-fits which puzzled and awed us children: but we heard her so highly praised (as she richly deserved) that she was a very impressive personage to us. One morning when I came down, I found the servants at breakfast unusually early: they looked very gloomy; bade me make no noise; but would not explain what it was all about. The shutters were half-closed; Edition: current; Page: [44] and when my mother came down, she looked so altered by her weeping that I hardly knew whether it was she. She called us to her, and told us that aunt Martineau had died very suddenly, of a disease of the heart. The whispers which were not meant for us somehow reached our ears all that week. We heard how my father and mother had been sent for in the middle of the night by the terrified servants, and how they had heard our poor uncle’s voice of mourning before they had reached the house; and how she looked in her coffin, and all about the funeral: and we were old enough to be moved by the sermon in her praise at chapel, and especially by the anthem composed for the occasion, with the words from Job, — “When the ear heard her then it blessed her,” &c. My uncle’s gloomy face and unpowdered hair were awful to us; and, during the single year of his widowhood, he occasionally took us children with him in the carriage, when he went to visit country patients. These drives came to an end with the year of widowhood; but he gave us something infinitely better than any other gift or pleasure in his second wife, whose only child was destined to fill a large space in our hearts and our lives. — Soon after that funeral, I somehow learned that our globe swims in space, and that there is sky all round it. I told this to James; and we made a grand scheme which we never for a moment doubted about executing. We had each a little garden, under the north wall of our garden. The soil was less than two feet deep; and below it was a mass of rubbish, — broken bricks, flints, pottery, &c. We did not know this; and our plan was to dig completely through the globe, till we came out at the other side. I fully expected to do this, and had an idea of an extremely deep hole, the darkness of which at the bottom would be lighted up by the passage of stars, slowly traversing the hole. When we found our little spades would not dig through the globe, nor even through the brickbats, we altered our scheme. We lengthened the hole to our own length, having an extreme desire to know what dying was like. We lay down alternately in this grave, and shut our eyes, and fancied ourselves dead, and told one another our feelings when we came out again. As far Edition: current; Page: [45] as I can remember, we fully believed that we now knew all about it.

A prominent event of my childhood happened in 1812, when we went to Cromer for the sake of the baby’s health. I had seen the sea, as I mentioned, when under three years old, as it swayed under the old jetty at Yarmouth: and I had seen it again at Tynemouth, when I was seven: but now it was like a wholly new spectacle; and I doubt whether I ever received a stronger impression than when, from the rising ground above Cromer, we caught sight of the sparkling expanse. At Tynemouth, that singular incident took place which I have elsewhere narrated,* — that I was shown the sea, immediately below my feet, at the foot of the very slope on which I was standing, and could not see it. The rest of the party must have thought me crazy or telling a lie; but the distress of being unable to see what I had so earnestly expected, was real enough; and so was the amazement when I at last perceived the fluctuating tide. All this had gone out of my mind when we went to Cromer; and the spectacle seemed a wholly new one. That was a marvellous month that the nursemaid and we children spent there. When we were not down on the sands, or on the cliffs, I was always perched on a bank in the garden whence I could see that straight blue line, or those sparkles which had such a charm for me. It was much that I was happy for a whole month; but I also obtained many new ideas, and much development; — the last chiefly, I think, in a religious direction.

In the preceding year another instance had occurred, — a most mortifying one to me, — of that strange inability to see what one is looking for (no doubt because one looks wrongly) of which the Tynemouth sea-gazing was a strong illustration. When the great comet of 1811 was attracting all eyes, my star-gazing was just as ineffectual. Night after night, the whole family of us went up to the long windows at the top of my father’s warehouse; and the exclamations on all hands about the comet perfectly exasperated me, — because I could not see it! “Why, Edition: current; Page: [46] there it is!” “It is as big as a saucer.” “It is as big as a cheese-plate.” “Nonsense; you might as well pretend not to see the moon.” Such were the mortifying comments on my grudging admission that I could not see the comet. And I never did see it. Such is the fact; and philosophers may make of it what they may, — remembering that I was then nine years old, and with remarkably good eyes.

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I was eleven when that delectable schooling began which I always recur to with clear satisfaction and pleasure. There was much talk in 1813 among the Norwich Unitarians of the conversion of an orthodox dissenting minister, the Rev. Isaac Perry, to Unitarianism. Mr. Perry had been minister of the Cherry Lane Chapel, and kept a large and flourishing boys’ school. Of course, he lost his pulpit, and the chief part of his school. As a preacher he was wofully dull; and he was far too simple and gullible for a boys’ schoolmaster. The wonder was that his school kept up so long, considering how completely he was at the mercy of naughty boys. But he was made to be a girls’ schoolmaster. Gentlemanly, honourable, well provided for his work, and extremely fond of it, he was a true blessing to the children who were under him. — Rachel and I certainly had some preconception of our approaching change, when my father and mother were considering it; for we flew to an upper window one day to catch a sight of this Mr. Perry and our minister, Mr. Madge, before they turned the corner. That was my first sight of the black coat and grey pantaloons, and powdered hair, and pointing and see-sawing fore-finger, which I afterwards became so familiar with.

We were horribly nervous, the first day we went to school. It was a very large vaulted room, whitewashed, and with a platform for the master and his desk; and below, rows of desks and benches, of wood painted red, and carved all over with idle boys’ devices. Some good many boys remained for a time; but the girls had the front row of desks, and could see nothing of the boys but by looking behind them. The thorough way in which the boys did their lessons, however, spread its influence over us, and we worked as heartily as if we had worked together. I Edition: current; Page: [48] remember being somewhat oppressed by the length of the first morning, — from nine till twelve, — and dreading a similar strain in the afternoon, and twice every day: but in a very few days, I got into all the pleasure of it, and a new state of happiness had fairly set in. I have never since felt more deeply and thoroughly the sense of progression than I now began to do. As far as I remember, we never failed in our lessons, more or less. Our making even a mistake was very rare: and yet we got on fast. This shows how good the teaching must have been. We learned Latin from the old Eton grammar, which I therefore, and against all reason, cling to, — remembering the repetition-days (Saturdays) when we recited all that Latin, prose and verse, which occupied us four hours. Two other girls, besides Rachel and myself, formed the class; and we certainly attained a capability of enjoying some of the classics, even before the two years were over. Cicero, Virgil, and a little of Horace were our main reading then: and afterwards I took great delight in Tacitus. I believe it was a genuine understanding and pleasure, because I got into the habit of thinking in Latin, and had something of the same pleasure in sending myself to sleep with Latin as with English poetry. Moreover, we stood the test of verse-making, in which I do not remember that we ever got any disgrace, while we certainly obtained, now and then, considerable praise. When Mr. Perry was gone, and we were put under Mr. Banfather, one of the masters at the Grammar-school, for Latin, Mr. B. one day took a little book out of his pocket, and translated from it a passage which he desired us to turn into Latin verse. My version was precisely the same as the original, except one word (annosa for antiqua) and the passage was from the Eneid. Tests like these seem to show that we really were well taught, and that our attainment was sound, as far as it went. Quite as much care was bestowed on our French, the grammar of which we learned thoroughly, while the pronunciation was scarcely so barbarous as in most schools during the war, as there was a French lady engaged for the greater part of the time. Mr. Perry prided himself, I believe, on his process of composition being exceedingly methodical; and he enjoyed above every thing initiating us into Edition: current; Page: [49] the mystery. The method and mystery were more appropriate in our lessons in school than in his sermons in chapel; — at least, the sermons were fearfully dull; whereas the lessons were highly interesting and profitable. The only interest we could feel in his preaching was when he first brought the familiar fore-finger into play, and then built up his subject on the scaffolding which we knew so well. There was the Proposition, to begin with: then the Reason, and the Rule; then the Example, ancient and modern; then the Confirmation; and finally, the Conclusion. This may be a curious method, (not altogether apostolic) of preaching the gospel; but it was a capital way of introducing some order into the chaos of girls’ thoughts. One piece of our experience which I remember is highly illustrative of this. In a fit of poetic fervour one day we asked leave for once to choose our own subject for a theme, — the whole class having agreed before-hand what the subject should be. Of course, leave was granted; and we blurted out that we wanted to write “on Music.” Mr. Perry pointed out that this was not definite enough to be called a subject. It might be on the Uses of Psalmody, or on the effect of melody in certain situations, or of martial music, or of patriotic songs, &c. &c.: but he feared there would be some vagueness if so large a subject were taken, without circumscription. However, we were bent on our own way, and he wisely let us have it. The result may easily be foreseen. We were all floating away on our own clouds, and what a space we drifted over may be imagined. We came up to Mr. P.’s desk all elate with the consciousness of our sensibility and eloquence; and we left it prodigiously crest-fallen. As one theme after another was read, no two agreeing even so far as the Proposition, our folly became more and more apparent; and the master’s few, mild, respectful words at the end were not necessary to impress the lesson we had gained. Up went the fore-finger, with “You perceive, ladies” ......... and we saw it all; and thenceforth we were thankful to be guided, or dictated to, in the choice of our topics. Composition was my favourite exercise; and I got credit by my themes, I believe. Mr. Perry told me so, in 1834, when I had just completed the publication of my Political Economy Edition: current; Page: [50] Tales, and when I had the pleasure of making my acknowledgments to him as my master in composition, and probably the cause of my mind being turned so decidedly in that direction. That was a gratifying meeting, after my old master and I had lost sight of one another for so many years. It was our last. If I remember right, we met on the eve of my sailing for America; and he was dead before my return.

Next to Composition, I think arithmetic was my favourite study. My pleasure in the working of numbers is something inexplicable to me, — as much as any pleasure of sensation. I used to spend my play hours in covering my slate with sums, washing them out, and covering the slate again. The fact is, however, that we had no lessons that were not pleasant. That was the season of my entrance upon an intellectual life. In an intellectual life I found then, as I have found since, refuge from moral suffering, and an always unexhausted spring of moral strength and enjoyment.

Even then, and in that happy school, I found the need of a refuge from trouble. Even there, under the care of our just and kind master, I found my passion for justice liable to disappointment as elsewhere. Some of our school-fellows brought a trumpery charge, out of school, against Rachel and me; and our dismay was great at finding that Mrs. Perry, and therefore, no doubt, Mr. Perry believed us capable of a dirty trick. We could not establish our innocence; and we had to bear the knowledge that we were considered guilty of the offence in the first place, and of telling a lie to conceal it in the next. How vehemently I used to determine that I would never, in all my life, believe people to be guilty of any offence, where disproof was impossible, and they asserted their innocence. — Another incident made a great impression on me. — It happened before the boys took their final departure; and it helped to make me very glad when we girls (to the number of sixteen) were left to ourselves.

Mr. Perry was one day called out, to a visitor who was sure to detain him for some time. On such occasions, the school was left in charge of the usher, whose desk was at the farther end of the great room. On this particular day, the boys would not let Edition: current; Page: [51] the girls learn their lessons. Somehow, they got the most absurd masks within the sphere of our vision; and they said things that we could not help laughing at, and made soft bow-wows, cooings, bleatings, &c., like a juvenile House of Commons, but so as not to be heard by the distant usher. While we girls laughed, we were really angry, because we wanted to learn our lessons. It was proposed by somebody, and carried unanimously, that complaint should be made to the usher. I believe I was the youngest; and I know I was asked by the rest to convey the complaint. Quite innocently I did what I was asked. The consequence, — truly appalling to me, — was that coming up the school-room again was like running the gauntlet. O! that hiss! “S-s-s — tell-tale — tell-tale!” greeted me all the way up: but there was worse at the end. The girls who had sent me said I was served quite right, and they would have nothing to do with a tell-tale. Even Rachel went against me. And was I really that horrible thing called a tell-tale? I never meant it; yet not the less was it even so! When Mr. Perry came back, the usher’s voice was heard from the lower regions — “Sir!” and then came the whole story, with the names of all the boys in the first class. Mr. Perry was generally the mildest of men; but when he went into a rage, he did the thing thoroughly. He became as white as his powdered hair, and the ominous fore-finger shook: and never more than on this occasion. J. D., as being usually “correct,” was sentenced to learn only thirty lines of Greek, after school. (He died not long after, much beloved.) W. D., his brother, less “correct” in character, had fifty. Several more had from thirty to fifty; and R. S. (now, I believe, the leading innkeeper in old Norwich) — “R. S., always foremost in mischief, must now meet the consequences. R. S. shall learn seventy lines of Greek before he goes home.” How glad should I have been to learn any thing within the compass of human knowledge to buy off those boys! They probably thought I enjoyed seeing them punished. But I was almost as horror-struck at their fate as at finding that one could be a delinquent, all in a moment, with the most harmless intentions.

An incident which occurred before Mr. Perry’s departure from Edition: current; Page: [52] Norwich startled me at the time, and perhaps startles me even more now, as showing how ineffectual the conscience becomes when the moral nature of a child is too much depressed. — All was going on perfectly well at school, as far as we knew, when Mr. Perry one day called, and requested a private interview with my father or mother. My mother and he were talking so long in the drawing-room, that dinner was delayed above half-an-hour, during which time I was growing sick with apprehension. I had no doubt whatever that we had done something wrong, and that Mr. Perry had come to complain of us. This was always my way, — so accustomed was I to censure, and to stiffen myself under it, right or wrong; so that all clear sense of right and wrong was lost. I believe that, at bottom, I always concluded myself wrong. In this case it made no difference that I had no conception what it was all about. When my mother appeared, she was very grave: the mood spread, and the dinner was silent and gloomy, — father, brothers and all. My mother had in her heart a little of the old-fashioned liking for scenes: and now we had one, — memorable enough to me! “My dear,” said she to my father, when the dessert was on the table, and the servant was gone, “Mr. Perry has been here.” “So I find, my love.” “He had some very important things to say. He had something to say about — Rachel — and — Harriet.” I had been picking at the fringe of my doily; and now my heart sank, and I felt quite faint. “Ah! here it comes,” thought I, expecting to hear of some grand delinquency. My mother went on, very solemnly. “Mr. Perry says that he has never had a fault to find with Rachel and Harriet; and that if he had a school full of such girls, he should be the happiest man alive.” The revulsion was tremendous. I cried desperately, I remember, amidst the rush of congratulations. But what a moral state it was, when my conscience was of no more use to me than this! The story carries its own moral.

What Mr. Perry came to say was, however, dismal enough. He was no man of the world; and his wife was no manager; and they were in debt and difficulty. Their friends paid their debts (my father taking a generous share) and they removed to Edition: current; Page: [53] Ipswich. It was the bitterest of my young griefs, I believe, — their departure. Our two years’ schooling seemed like a lifetime to look back upon: and to this day it fills a disproportionate space in the retrospect of my existence, — so inestimable was its importance. When we had to bid our good master farewell, I was deputed to utter the thanks and good wishes of the pupils: but I could not get on for tears, and he accepted our grief as his best tribute. He went round, and shook hands with us all, with gracious and solemn words, and sent us home passionately mourning. — Though this seemed like the close of one period of my life, it was in fact the opening of its chief phase, — of that intellectual existence which my life has continued to be, more than any thing else, through its whole course.

After his departure, and before I was sent to Bristol, our mode of life was this. We had lessons in Latin and French, and I in music, from masters; and we read aloud in family a good deal of history, biography, and critical literature. The immense quantity of needlework and music-copying that I did remains a marvel to me; and so does the extraordinary bodily indolence. The difficulty I had in getting up in the morning, the detestation of the daily walk, and of all visiting, and of every break in the monotony that I have always loved, seem scarcely credible to me now, — active as my habits have since become. My health was bad, however, and my mind ill at ease. It was a depressed and wrangling life; and I have no doubt I was as disagreeable as possible. The great calamity of my deafness was now opening upon me; and that would have been quite enough for youthful fortitude, without the constant indigestion, languor and muscular weakness which made life a burden to me. My religion was a partial comfort to me; and books and music were a great resource: but they left a large margin over for wretchedness. My beloved hour of the day was when the cloth was drawn, and I stole away from the dessert, and read Shakspere by firelight in winter in the drawing-room. My mother was kind enough to allow this breach of good family manners; and again at a subsequent time when I took to newspaper reading very Edition: current; Page: [54] heartily. I have often thanked her for this forbearance since. I was conscious of my bad manners in keeping the newspaper on my chair all dinner-time, and stealing away with it as soon as grace was said; and of sticking to my Shakspere, happen what might, till the tea was poured out: but I could not forego those indulgences, and I went on to enjoy them uneasily. Our newspaper was the Globe, in its best days, when, without ever mentioning Political Economy, it taught it, and viewed public affairs in its light. This was not quite my first attraction to political economy (which I did not know by name till five or six years later;) for I remember when at Mr. Perry’s fastening upon the part of our geography book (I forget what it was) which treated of the National Debt, and the various departments of the Funds. This was fixed in my memory by the unintelligible raillery of my brothers and other companions, who would ask me with mock deference to inform them of the state of the Debt, or would set me, as a forfeit at Christmas Games, to make every person present understand the operation of the Sinking Fund. I now recal Mr. Malthus’s amusement, twenty years later, when I told him I was sick of his name before I was fifteen. His work was talked about then, as it has been ever since, very eloquently and forcibly, by persons who never saw so much as the outside of the book. It seems to me that I heard and read an enormous deal against him and his supposed doctrines; whereas when, at a later time, I came to inquire, I could never find any body who had read his book. In a poor little struggling Unitarian periodical, the Monthly Repository, in which I made my first appearance in print, a youth, named Thomas Noon Talfourd, was about this time making his first attempts at authorship. Among his earliest papers, I believe, was one “On the System of Malthus,” which had nothing in fact to do with the real Malthus and his system, but was a sentimental vindication of long engagements. It was prodigiously admired by very young people: not by me, for it was rather too luscious for my taste, — but by some of my family, who read it, and lived on it for awhile: but it served to mislead me about Malthus, and helped to sicken me of his name, as I told him Edition: current; Page: [55] long afterwards. In spite of this, however, I was all the while becoming a political economist without knowing it, and, at the same time, a sort of walking Concordance of Milton and Shakspere.

The first distinct recognition of my being deaf, more or less, was when I was at Mr. Perry’s, — when I was about twelve years old. It was a very slight, scarcely-perceptible hardness of hearing at that time; and the recognition was merely this; — that in that great vaulted school-room before-mentioned, where there was a large space between the class and the master’s desk or the fire, I was excused from taking places in class, and desired to sit always at the top, because it was somewhat nearer the master, whom I could not always hear further off. When Mr. Perry changed his abode, and we were in a smaller school-room, I again took places with the rest. I remember no other difficulty about hearing at that time. I certainly heard perfectly well at chapel, and all public speaking (I remember Wilberforce in our vast St. Andrew’s Hall) and general conversation everywhere: but before I was sixteen, it had become very noticeable, very inconvenient, and excessively painful to myself. I did once think of writing down the whole dreary story of the loss of a main sense, like hearing; and I would not now shrink from inflicting the pain of it on others, and on myself, if any adequate benefit could be obtained by it. But, really, I do not see that there could. It is true, — the sufferers rarely receive the comfort of adequate, or even intelligent sympathy: but there is no saying that an elaborate account of the woe would create the sympathy, for practical purposes. Perhaps what I have said in the “Letter to the Deaf,” which I published in 1834, will serve as well as anything I could say here to those who are able to sympathise at all; and I will therefore offer no elaborate description of the daily and hourly trials which attend the gradual exclusion from the world of sound.

Some suggestions and conclusions, however, it is right to offer. — I have never seen a deaf child’s education well managed at home, or at an ordinary school. It does not seem to be ever considered by parents and teachers how much more is learned by Edition: current; Page: [56] oral intercourse than in any other way; and, for want of this consideration, they find too late, and to their consternation, that the deaf pupil turns out deficient in sense, in manners, and in the knowledge of things so ordinary that they seem to be matters of instinct rather than of information. Too often, also, the deaf are sly and tricky, selfish and egotistical; and the dislike which attends them is the sin of the parent’s ignorance visited upon the children. These worst cases are of those who are deaf from the outset, or from a very early age; and in as far as I was exempt from them, it was chiefly because my education was considerably advanced before my hearing began to go. In such a case as mine, the usual evil (far less serious) is that the sufferer is inquisitive, — will know every thing that is said, and becomes a bore to all the world. From this I was saved (or it helped to save me) by a kind word from my eldest brother. (From how much would a few more such words have saved me?) He had dined in company with an elderly single lady, — a sort of provincial blue-stocking in her time, — who was growing deaf, rapidly, and so sorely against her will that she tried to ignore the fact to the last possible moment. At that dinner-party, this lady sat next her old acquaintance, William Taylor of Norwich, who never knew very well how to deal with ladies (except, to his honour be it spoken, his blind mother;) and Miss N—teased him to tell her all that every body said till he grew quite testy and rude. My brother told me, with tenderness in his voice, that he thought of me while blushing, as every body present did, for Miss N—; and that he hoped that if ever I should grow as deaf as she, I should never be seen making myself so irksome and absurd. This helped me to a resolution which I made and never broke, — never to ask what was said. Amidst remonstrance, kind and testy, and every sort of provocation, I have adhered to this resolution, — confident in its soundness. I think now, as I have thought always, that it is impossible for the deaf to divine what is worth asking for and what is not; and that one’s friends may always be trusted, if left unmolested, to tell one whatever is essential, or really worth hearing.

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One important truth about the case of persons deficient in a sense I have never seen noticed; and I much doubt whether it ever occurs to any but the sufferers under that deficiency. We sufferers meet with abundance of compassion for our privations: but the privation is, (judging by my own experience) a very inferior evil to the fatigue imposed by the obstruction. In my case, to be sure, the deficiency of three senses out of five renders the instance a very strong one: but the merely blind or deaf must feel something of the laboriousness of life which I have found it most difficult to deal with. People in general have only to sit still in the midst of Nature, to be amused and diverted (in the strict sense of the word, — distracted, in the French sense) so as to find “change of work as good as rest:” but I have had, for the main part of my life, to go in search of impressions and influences, as the alternative from abstract or unrelieved thought, in an intellectual view, and from brooding, in a moral view. The fatigue belonging to either alternative may easily be conceived, when once suggested: and considerate persons will at once see what large allowance must in fairness be made for faults of temper, irritability or weakness of nerves, narrowness of mind, and imperfection of sympathy, in sufferers so worn with toil of body and mind as I, for one, have been. I have sustained, from this cause, fatigue which might spread over double my length of life; and in this I have met with no sympathy till I asked for it by an explanation of the case. From this labour there is, it must be remembered, no holiday, except in sleep. Life is a long, hard, unrelieved working-day to us, who hear, or see, only by express effort, or have to make other senses serve the turn of that which is lost. When three out of five are deficient, the difficulty of cheerful living is great, and the terms of life are truly hard. — If I have made myself understood about this, I hope the explanation may secure sympathy for many who cannot be relieved from their burden, but may be cheered under it.

Another suggestion that I would make is that those who hear should not insist on managing the case of the deaf for them. As much sympathy as you please; but no overbearing interference in a case which you cannot possibly judge of. The fact is, — Edition: current; Page: [58] the family of a person who has a growing infirmity are reluctant to face the truth; and they are apt to inflict frightful pain on the sufferer to relieve their own weakness and uneasiness. I believe my family would have made almost any sacrifice to save me from my misfortune; but not the less did they aggravate it terribly by their way of treating it. First, and for long, they insisted that it was all my own fault, — that I was so absent, — that I never cared to attend to any thing that was said, — that I ought to listen this way, or that, or the other; and even (while my heart was breaking) they told me that “none are so deaf as those that won’t hear.” When it became too bad for this, they blamed me for not doing what I was sorely tempted to do, — inquiring of them about every thing that was said, and not managing in their way, which would have made all right. This was hard discipline; but it was most useful to me in the end. It showed me that I must take my case into my own hands; and with me, dependent as I was upon the opinion of others, this was redemption from probable destruction. Instead of drifting helplessly as hitherto, I gathered myself up for a gallant breasting of my destiny; and in time I reached the rocks where I could take a firm stand. I felt that here was an enterprise; and the spirit of enterprise was roused in me; animating me to sure success, with many sinkings and much lapse by the way. While about it, I took my temper in hand, — in this way. I was young enough for vows, — was, indeed, at the very age of vows; — and I made a vow of patience about this infirmity; — that I would smile in every moment of anguish from it; and that I would never lose temper at any consequences from it, — from losing public worship (then the greatest conceivable privation) to the spoiling of my cap-borders by the use of the trumpet I foresaw I must arrive at. With such a temper as mine was then, an infliction so worrying, so unintermitting, so mortifying, so isolating as loss of hearing must “kill or cure.” In time, it acted with me as a cure, (in comparison with what my temper was in my youth:) but it took a long long time to effect the cure; and it was so far from being evident, or even at all perceptible when I was fifteen, that my parents were determined by Edition: current; Page: [59] medical advice to send me from home for a considerable time, in hope of improving my health, nerves and temper by a complete and prolonged change of scene and objects.

Before entering upon that new chapter of my life, however, I must say another word about this matter of treatment of personal infirmity. We had a distant relation, in her young womanhood when I was a child, who, living in the country, came into Norwich sometimes on market days, and occasionally called at our house. She had become deaf in infancy, — very very deaf; and her misfortune had been mismanaged. Truth to speak, she was far from agreeable: but it was less for that than on account of the trouble of her deafness that she was spoken of as I used to hear, long before I ever dreamed of being deaf myself. When it was announced by any child at the window that —— was passing, there was an exclamation of annoyance; and if she came up the steps, it grew into lamentation. “What shall we do?” “We shall be as hoarse as ravens all day.” “We shall be completely worn out,” and so forth. Sometimes she was wished well at Jericho. When I was growing deaf, all this came back upon me; and one of my self-questionings was — “Shall I put people to flight as — — does? Shall I be dreaded and disliked in that way all my life?” The lot did indeed seem at times too hard to be borne. Yet here am I now, on the borders of the grave, at the end of a busy life, confident that this same deafness is about the best thing that ever happened to me; — the best, in a selfish view, as the grandest impulse to self-mastery; and the best in a higher view, as my most peculiar opportunity of helping others, who suffer the same misfortune without equal stimulus to surmount the false shame, and other unspeakable miseries which attend it.

By this time, the battle of Waterloo had been fought. I suppose most children were politicians during the war. I was a great one. I remember Mr. Perry’s extreme amusement at my breaking through my shyness, one day, and stopping him as he was leaving the school-room, to ask, with much agitation, whether he believed in the claims of one of the many Louis XVII.’s who have turned up in my time. It must be considered Edition: current; Page: [60] that my mother remembered the first French Revolution. Her sympathies were with the royal family; and the poor little Dauphin was an object of romantic interest to all English children who knew anything of the story at all. The pretence that he was found set thousands of imaginations on fire, whenever it was raised; and among many other wonderful effects, it emboldened me to speak to Mr. Perry about other things than lessons. Since the present war (of 1854) broke out, it has amused me to find myself so like my old self of forty years before, in regard to telling the servants the news. In the old days, I used to fly into the kitchen, and tell my father’s servants how sure “Boney” was to be caught, — how impossible it was that he should escape, — how his army was being driven back through the Pyrenees, — or how he had driven back the allies here or there. Then, I wanted sympathy, and liked the importance and the sensation of carrying news. Now, the way has been to summon my own servants after the evening post, and bid them get the map, or come with me to the globe, and explain to them the state of the war, and give them the latest news, — probably with some of the old associations lingering in my mind; but certainly with the dominant desire to give these intelligent girls an interest in the interests of freedom, and a clear knowledge of the position and duties of England in regard to the war. I remember my father’s bringing in the news of some of the Peninsular victories, and what his face was like when he told my mother of the increase of the Income-tax to ten per cent, and again, of the removal of the Income-tax. I remember the proclamation of peace in 1814, and our all going to see the illuminations; those abominable transparencies, among the rest, which represented Bonaparte (always in green coat, white breeches and boots) as carried to hell by devils, pitch-forked in the fiery lake by the same attendants, or haunted by the Duc d’Enghien. I well remember the awful moment when Mr. Drummond (of the chemical lectures) looked in at the back door (on his way from the counting-house) and telling my mother that “Boney” had escaped from Elba, and was actually in France. This impressed me more than the subsequent hot Midsummer morning when Edition: current; Page: [61] somebody (I forget whether father or brother) burst in with the news of the Waterloo slaughter. It was the slaughter that was uppermost with us, I believe, though we never had a relative, nor, as far as I know, even an acquaintance, in either army or navy.

I was more impressed still with the disappointment about the effects of the peace, at the end of the first year of it. The country was overrun with disbanded soldiers, and robbery and murder were frightfully frequent and desperate. The Workhouse Boards were under a pressure of pauperism which they could not have managed if the Guardians had been better informed than they were in those days; and one of my political panics (of which I underwent a constant succession) was that the country would become bankrupt through its poor-law. Another panic was about revolution, — our idea of revolution being, of course, of guillotines in the streets, and all that sort of thing. Those were Cobbett’s grand days, and the days of Castlereagh and Sid-mouth spy-systems and conspiracies. Our pastor was a great radical; and he used to show us the caricatures of the day (Hone’s, I think) in which Castlereagh was always flogging Irishmen, and Canning spouting froth, and the Regent insulting his wife, and the hungry, haggard multitude praying for vengeance on the Court and the Ministers; and every Sunday night, after supper, when he and two or three other bachelor friends were with us, the talk was of the absolute certainty of a dire revolution. When, on my return from Bristol in 1819, I ventured to say what my conscience bade me say, and what I had been led to see by a dear aunt, that it was wrong to catch up and believe and spread reports injurious to the royal family, who could not reply to slander like other people, I was met by a shout of derision first, and then by a serious reprimand for my immorality in making more allowance for royal sinners than for others. Between my dread of this worldliness, and my sense that they had a worse chance than other people, and my further feeling that respect should be shown them on account of their function first, and their defenceless position afterwards, I was in what the Americans would call “a fix.” The conscientious Edition: current; Page: [62] uncertainty I was in was a real difficulty and trouble to me; and this probably helped to fix my attention upon the principles of politics and the characteristics of parties, with an earnestness not very common at that age. Still, — how astonished should I have been if any one had then foretold to me that, of all the people in England, I should be the one to write the “History of the Peace!”

One important consequence of the peace was the interest with which foreigners were suddenly invested, in the homes of the middle classes, where the rising generation had seen no foreigners except old emigrés, — powdered old Frenchmen, and ladies with outlandish bonnets and high-heeled shoes. About this time there came to Norwich a foreigner who excited an unaccountable interest in our house, — considering what exceedingly proper people we were, and how sharp a look-out we kept on the morals of our neighbors. It was poor Polidori, well known afterwards as Lord Byron’s physician, as the author of “the Vampire,” and as having committed suicide under gambling difficulties. When we knew him, he was a handsome, harum-scarum young man, — taken up by William Taylor as William Taylor did take up harum-scarum young men, — and so introduced into the best society the place afforded, while his being a Catholic, or passing for such, insured him a welcome in some of the most aristocratic of the county houses. He was a foolish rattle, — with no sense, scarcely any knowledge, and no principle; but we took for granted in him much that he had not, and admired whatever he had. For his part, he was an avowed admirer of our eldest sister (who however escaped fancy-free;) and he was forever at our house. We younger ones romanced amazingly about him, — drew his remarkable profile on the backs of all our letters, dreamed of him, listened to all his marvellous stories, and, when he got a concussion of the brain by driving his gig against a tree in Lord Stafford’s park, were inconsolable. If he had (happily) died then, he would have remained a hero in our imaginations. The few following years (which were very possibly all the wilder for that concussion of the brain) disabused every body of all expectation of good from him; but yet when he died, Edition: current; Page: [63] frantic under gaming debts, the shock was great, and the impression, on my mind at least, deep and lasting. My eldest sister, then in a happy home of her own, was shocked and concerned; but we younger ones felt it far more. I was then in the height of my religious fanaticism; and I remember putting away all doubts about the theological propriety of what I was doing, for the sake of the relief of praying for his soul. Many times a day, and with my whole heart, did I pray for his soul.

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As I have said, it was the state of my health and temper which caused me to be sent from home when I was in my sixteenth year. So many causes of unhappiness had arisen, and my temper was so thoroughly ajar, that nothing else would have done any effectual good. Every thing was a misery to me, and was therefore done with a bad grace; and hence had sprung up a habit of domestic criticism which ought never to have been allowed, in regard to any one member of the family, and least of all towards one of the youngest, and certainly the most suffering of all. My mother received and administered a check now and then, which did good for the time: but the family habit was strong; and it was a wise measure to institute an entire change. Two or three anecdotes will suffice to give an idea of what had to be surmounted.

I was too shy ever to ask to be taught any thing, — except, indeed, of good-natured strangers. I have mentioned that we were well practiced in some matters of domestic management. We could sew, iron, make sweets, gingerbread and pastry, and keep order generally throughout the house. But I did not know, — what nobody can know without being taught, — how to purchase stores, or to set out a table, or to deal with the butcher and fishmonger. It is inconceivable what a trouble this was to me for many years. I was always in terror at that great mountain of duty before me, and wondering what was to become of me if my mother left home, or if I should marry. Never once did it occur to me to go to my mother, and ask to be taught: and it was not pride but fear which so incapacitated me. I liked that sort of occupation, and had great pleasure in doing what I could do in that way; insomuch that I have sometimes felt myself what General F. called his wife, — “a good housemaid spoilt.” My “Guides Edition: current; Page: [65] to Service,” (“The Maid-of-all-work,” “Housemaid,” “Lady’s Maid,” and “Dress-maker,”) written twenty years afterwards, may show something of this. Meantime, never was poor creature more dismally awkward than I was when domestic eyes were upon me: and this made me a most vexatious member of the family. I remember once upsetting a basin of moist sugar into a giblet pie. (I remember nothing else quite so bad.) I never could find any thing I was sent for, though I could lay my hands in the dark on any thing I myself wanted. On one occasion, when a workwoman was making mourning in the midst of us, I was desired to take the keys, and fetch a set of cravats for marking, out of a certain drawer. My heart sank at the order, and already the inevitable sentence rung in my ears, — that I was more trouble than I was worth; which I sincerely believed. The drawer was large, and crammed. I could not see one thing from another; and in no way could I see any cravats. Slowly and fearfully I came back to say so. Of course, I was sent again, and desired not to come back without them. That time, and again the next, I took every thing out of the drawer; and still found no cravats. My eldest sister tried next; and great was my consolation when she returned crest-fallen, — having found no cravats. My mother snatched the keys, under a strong sense of the hardship of having to do every thing herself, when Rachel suggested another place where they might have been put. There they were found; and my heart was swelling with vindictive pleasure when my mother, by a few noble words, turned the tide of feeling completely. In the presence of the workwoman, she laid her hand on my arm, kissed me, and said, “And now, my dear, I have to beg your pardon.” I answered only by tears; but the words supported me for long after.

I look back upon another scene with horror at my own audacity, and wonder that my family could endure me at all. At Mr. Perry’s, one of our school-fellows was a clever, mischievous girl, — so clever, and so much older than myself as to have great influence over me when she chose to try her power, though I disapproved her ways very heartily. She one day asked me, in a corner, in a mysterious sort of way, whether I did not perceive Edition: current; Page: [66] that Rachel was the favourite at home, and treated with manifest partiality. Every body else, she said, observed it. This had never distinctly occurred to me. Rachel was handy and useful, and not paralysed by fear, as I was; and, very naturally, our busy mother resorted to her for help, and put trust in her about matters of business, not noticing the growth of an equally natural habit in Rachel of quizzing or snubbing me, as the elder ones did. From the day of this mischievous speech of my school-fellow, I was on the watch, and with the usual result to the jealous. Months, — perhaps a year or two — passed on while I was brooding over this, without a word to any one; and then came the explosion, one winter evening after tea, when my eldest sister was absent, and my mother, Rachel and I were sitting at work. Rachel criticised something that I said, in which I happened to be right. After once defending myself, I sat silent. My mother remarked on my “obstinacy,” saying that I was “not a bit convinced.” I replied that nothing convincing had been said. My mother declared that she agreed with Rachel, and that I ought to yield. Then I passed the verge, and got wrong. A sudden force of daring entering my mind, I said, in the most provoking way possible, that this was nothing new, as she always did agree with Rachel against me. My mother put down her work, and asked me what I meant by that. I looked her full in the face, and said that what I meant was that every thing that Rachel said and did was right, and every thing that I said and did was wrong. Rachel burst into an insulting laugh, and was sharply bidden to “be quiet.” I saw by this that I had gained some ground; and this was made clearer by my mother sternly desiring me to practise my music. I saw that she wanted to gain time. The question now was how I should get through. My hands were clammy and tremulous: my fingers stuck to each other; my eyes were dim, and there was a roaring in my ears. I could easily have fainted; and it might have done no harm if I had. But I made a tremendous effort to appear calm. I opened the piano, lighted a candle with a steady hand, began, and derived strength from the first chords. I believe I never played better in my life. Then the question was — how was I ever to Edition: current; Page: [67] leave off? On I went for what seemed to me an immense time, till my mother sternly called to me to leave off and go to bed. With my candle in my hand, I said “Good-night.” My mother laid down her work, and said, “Harriet, I am more displeased with you to-night than ever I have been in your life.” Thought I, “I don’t care: I have got it out, and it is all true.” “Go and say your prayers,” my mother continued; “and ask God to forgive you for your conduct to-night; for I don’t know that I can. Go to your prayers.” Thought I, — “No, I shan’t.” And I did not: and that was the only night from my infancy to mature womanhood that I did not pray. I detected misgiving in my mother’s forced manner; and I triumphed. If the right was on my side (as I entirely believed) the power was on hers; and what the next morning was to be I could not conceive. I slept little, and went down sick with dread. Not a word was said, however, then or ever, of the scene of the preceding night; but henceforth, a most scrupulous impartiality between Rachel and me was shown. If the occasion had been better used still, — if my mother had but bethought herself of saying to me, “My child, I never dreamed that these terrible thoughts were in your mind. I am your mother. Why do you not tell me every thing that makes you unhappy?” I believe this would have wrought in a moment that cure which it took years to effect, amidst reserve and silence.

It has been a difficulty with me all my life (and its being a difficulty shows some deep-seated fault in me) how to reconcile sincerity with peace and good manners in such matters as other people’s little mistakes of fact. As an example of what I mean, a school-fellow spelled Shakspere as I spell it here. Mr. Perry put in an a, observing that the name was never spelt in print without an a. I ventured to doubt this; but he repeated his assertion. At afternoon school, I showed him a volume of the edition we had at home, which proved him wrong. He received the correction with so indifferent a grace that I was puzzled as to whether I had done right or wrong, — whether sincerity required me to set my master right before the face of his scholars. Of course, if I had been older, I should have done it more Edition: current; Page: [68] privately. But this is a specimen of the difficulties of that class that I have struggled with almost ever since. The difficulty was immensely increased by the family habit of requiring an answer from me, and calling me obstinate if the reply was not an unconditional yielding. I have always wondered to see the ease and success with which very good people humour and manage the aged, the sick and the weak, and sometimes every body about them. I could never attempt this; for it always seemed to me such contemptuous treatment of those whom I was at the moment respecting more than ever, on account of their weakness. But I was always quite in the opposite extreme; — far too solemn, too rigid, and prone to exaggeration of differences and to obstinacy at the same time. It was actually not till I was near forty that I saw how the matter should really be, — saw it through a perfect example of an union of absolute sincerity with all possible cheerfulness, sweetness, modesty and deference for all, in proportion to their claims. I have never attained righteous good-manners, to this day; but I have understood what they are since the beauties of J. S.’s character and manners were revealed to me under circumstances of remarkable trial.

While organised, it seems to me, for sincerity, and being generally truthful, except for the exaggeration which is apt to beset persons of repressed faculties, I feel compelled to state here (what belongs to this part of my life) that towards one person I was habitually untruthful, from fear. To my mother I would in my childhood assert or deny any thing that would bring me through most easily. I remember denying various harmless things, — playing a game at battledore, for one; and often without any apparent reason: and this was so exclusively to one person that, though there was remonstrance and punishment, I believe I was never regarded as a liar in the family. It seems now all very strange: but it was a temporary and very brief phase. When I left home, all temptation to untruth ceased, and there was henceforth nothing more than the habit of exaggeration and strong expression to struggle with.

Before I went to Bristol, I was the prey of three griefs, — prominent among many. I cannot help laughing while I write Edition: current; Page: [69] them. They were my bad hand-writing, my deafness, and the state of my hair. Such a trio of miseries! I was the first of my family who failed in the matter of hand-writing; and why I did remains unexplained. I am sure I tried hard; but I wrote a vulgar, cramped, untidy scrawl till I was past twenty; — till authorship made me forget manner in matter, and gave freedom to my hand. After that, I did very well, being praised by compositors for legibleness first, and in course of time, for other qualities. But it was a severe mortification while it lasted; and many bitter tears I shed over the reflections that my awkward hand called forth. It was a terrible penance to me to write letters home from Bristol; and the day of the week when it was to be done was very like the Beckwith music-lesson days. If any one had told me then how many reams of paper I should cover in the course of my life, life would have seemed a sort of purgatory to me. — As to my deafness, I got no relief about that at Bristol. It was worse when I returned in weak health. — The third misery, which really plagued me seriously, was cured presently after I left home. I made my dear aunt Kentish the depositary of my confidence in all matters; and this, of course, among the rest. She induced me to consult a friend of hers, who had remarkably beautiful hair; and then it came out that I had been combing overmuch, and that there was nothing the matter with my hair, if I would be content with brushing it. So that grief was annihilated, and there was an end of one of those trifles which “make up the sum of human things.”

And now the hour was at hand when I was to find, for the first time, a human being whom I was not afraid of. That blessed being was my dear aunt Kentish, who stands distinguished in my mind by that from all other persons whom I have ever known.

I did not understand the facts about my leaving home till I had been absent some months; and when I did, I was deeply and effectually moved by my mother’s consideration for my feelings. We had somehow been brought up in a supreme contempt of boarding-schools: and I was therefore truly amazed when my mother sounded me, in the spring of 1817, about going for a Edition: current; Page: [70] year or two to a Miss Somebody’s school at Yarmouth. She talked of the sea, of the pleasantness of change, and of how happy L. T—, an excessively silly girl of our acquaintance, was there: but I made such a joke of L. and her studies, and of the attainments of the young ladies, as we had heard of them, that my mother gave up the notion of a scheme which never could have answered. It would have been ruin to a temper like mine at that crisis to have sent me among silly and ignorant people, to have my “manners formed,” after the most ordinary boarding-school fashion. My mother did much better in sending me among people so superior to myself as to improve me morally and intellectually, though the experiment failed in regard to health. A brother of my mother’s had been unfortunate in business at Bristol, and had not health to retrieve his affairs; and his able and accomplished wife, and clever young daughters opened a school. Of the daughters, one was within a few weeks of my own age; and we have been intimate friends from that time (the beginning of 1818) till this hour. Another was two years younger; another, two years older; while the eldest had reached womanhood. Of these clever cousins we had heard much, for many years, without having seen any of them. At the opening of the year 1818, a letter arrived from my aunt to my mother, saying that it was time the young people should be becoming acquainted; that her girls were all occupied in the school, for the routine of which Rachel was somewhat too old; but that if Harriet would go, and spend some time with them, and take the run of the school, she would be a welcome guest, &c. &c. This pleased me much, and I heard with joy that I was to go when my father took his next journey to Bristol, — early in February. My notion was of a stay of a few weeks; and I was rather taken aback when my mother spoke of my absence as likely to last a year or more. It never entered my head that I was going to a boarding-school; and when I discovered, long after, that the Bristol family understood that I was, I was not (as I once might have been) angry at having been tricked into it, but profoundly contrite for the temper which made such management necessary, and touched by the trouble Edition: current; Page: [71] my mother took to spare my silly pride, and consider my troublesome feelings.

I was, on the whole, happy during the fifteen months I spent at Bristol, though home-sickness spoiled the last half of the time. My home affections seem to have been all the stronger for having been repressed and baulked. Certainly, I passionately loved my family, each and all, from the very hour that parted us; and I was physically ill with expectation when their letters became due; — letters which I could hardly read when they came, between my dread of something wrong, and the beating heart and swimming eyes with which I received letters in those days. There were some family anxieties during the latter part of the time; and there was one grand event, — the engagement of my eldest sister, who had virtually ceased to belong to us by the time I returned home.

I found my cousins even more wonderfully clever than I had expected; and they must have been somewhat surprised at my striking inferiority in knowledge, and in the power of acquiring it. I still think that I never met with a family to compare with theirs for power of acquisition, or effective use of knowledge. They would learn a new language at odd minutes; get through a tough philosophical book by taking turns in the court for air; write down an entire lecture or sermon, without missing a sentence; get round the piano after a concert, and play and sing over every new piece that had been performed. Ability like this was a novel spectacle to me; and it gave me the pure pleasure of unmixed admiration; for I was certainly not conscious of any ability whatever at that time. I had no great deal to do in the school, being older than every girl there but one; and I believe I got no particular credit in such classes as I did join. For one thing, my deafness was now bad enough to be a disadvantage; but it was a worse disqualification that my memory, always obedient to my own command, was otherwise disobedient. I could remember whatever I had learned in my own way, but was quite unable to answer in class, like far younger girls, about any thing just communicated. My chief intellectual improvement during that important period was derived from Edition: current; Page: [72] private study. I read some analytical books, on logic and rhetoric, with singular satisfaction; and I lost nothing afterwards that I obtained in this way. I read a good deal of History too, and revelled in poetry, — a new world of which was opened to me by my cousins. The love of natural scenery was a good deal developed in me by the beauty around Bristol. One circumstance makes me think that I had become rather suddenly awakened to it not long before, — though my delight in the sea at Cromer dated some years earlier. Mr. Perry tried upon us the reading of L’Allegro and Il Penseroso; and it failed utterly. I did not feel any thing whatever, though I supposed I understood what I heard. Not long after he was gone, I read both pieces in the nursery, one day; and straightway went into a transport, as if I had discovered myself in possession of a new sense. Thus it was again now, when I was transferred from flat, bleak Norfolk to the fine scenery about Bristol. Even the humble beauty of our most frequent walk, by the Logwood Mills, was charming to me, — the clear running water, with its weedy channel, and the meadow walk on the brink: and about Leigh woods, Kingsweston, and the Downs, my rapture knew no bounds.

Far more important, however, was the growth of kindly affections in me at this time, caused by the free and full tenderness of my dear aunt Kentish, and of all my other relations then surrounding me. My heart warmed and opened, and my habitual fear began to melt away. I have since been told that, on the day of my arrival, when some of the school-girls asked my cousin M. what I was like, (as she came out of the parlour where I was) she said that I looked as if I was cross; but that she knew I was not; and that I looked unhappy. When I left Bristol, I was as pale as a ghost, and as thin as possible; and still very frowning and repulsive-looking; but yet with a comparatively open countenance. The counteracting influence to dear aunt Kentish’s was one which visited me very strongly at the same time, — that of a timid superstition. She was herself, then and always, very religious; but she had a remarkable faculty of making her religion suggest and sanction whatever she Edition: current; Page: [73] liked: and, as she liked whatever was pure, amiable, unselfish and unspoiling, this tendency did her no harm. Matters were otherwise with me. My religion too took the character of my mind; and it was harsh, severe and mournful accordingly. There was a great furor among the Bristol Unitarians at that time about Dr. Carpenter, who had recently become their pastor. He was a very devoted Minister, and a very earnest pietist: superficial in his knowledge, scanty in ability, narrow in his conceptions, and thoroughly priestly in his temper. He was exactly the dissenting minister to be worshipped by his people, (and especially by the young) and to be spoiled by that worship. He was worshipped by the young, and by none more than by me; and his power was unbounded while his pupils continued young: but, as his instructions and his scholars were not bound together by any bond of essential Christian doctrine, every thing fell to pieces as soon as the merely personal influence was withdrawn. A more extraordinary diversity of religious opinion than existed among his pupils when they became men and women could not be seen. They might be found at the extremes of catholicism and atheism, and every where between. As for me, his devout and devoted Catechumen, he made me desperately superstitious, — living wholly in and for religion, and fiercely fanatical about it. I returned home raving about my pastor and teacher, remembering every word he had ever spoken to me, — with his instructions burnt in, as it were, upon my heart and conscience, and with an abominable spiritual rigidity and a truly respectable force of conscience curiously mingled together, so as to procure for me the no less curiously mingled ridicule and respect of my family. My little sister, then learning to sew on her stool at my mother’s knee, has since told me what she perceived, with the penetrating eyes and heart of childhood. Whenever I left the room, my mother and elder sisters used to begin to quiz my fanaticism, — which was indeed quizzical enough; but the little one saw a sort of respect for me underlying the mockery, which gave her her first clear sense of moral obligation, and the nature of obedience to it.

The results of the Bristol experiment were thus good on the Edition: current; Page: [74] whole. My health was rather worse than better, through wear and tear of nerves, — home-sickness, religious emotions, overmuch study (so my aunt said, against my conviction) and medical mismanagement. I had learned a good deal, and had got into a good way of learning more. My domestic affections were regenerated; and I had become sincerely and heartily religious, with some improvement in temper in consequence, and not a little in courage, hope and conscientiousness. The fanaticism was a stage which I should probably have had to pass through at any rate, — and by the same phase of pastor-worship, — whoever the pastor might have been.

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I returned home in April, 1819, and continued to reside in Norwich till November, 1832. These thirteen years, extending from my entering upon womanhood to my complete establishment in an independent position, as to occupation and the management of my own life, seem to form a marked period of themselves; and I shall treat them in that way.

My eldest sister’s marriage in 1820 made young women at once of Rachel and myself. It was on all accounts a happy event, though we dreaded excessively the loss of her from home, which she eminently graced. But never did woman grow in grace more remarkably than she did by her marriage. When she had found her own heart, it proved a truly noble one; and the generosity, sweetness, and wisdom of her whole conduct towards her own children showed that her mistakes in her treatment of us were merely the crudities of inexperience. I may say, once for all, that her home at Newcastle was ever open to us, and that all possible kindness from her hospitable husband and herself was always at our command, without hindrance or difficulty, till my recovery from a hopeless illness, in 1844, by Mesmerism, proved too much for the natural prejudice of a surgeon and a surgeon’s wife, and caused, by the help of the ill-offices of another relation, a family breach, as absurd as it was lamentable. My sister was then under the early symptoms of her last illness; and matters might have ended more happily if Edition: current; Page: [76] she had been in her usual state of health and nerve, as they certainly would if advantage had not been taken of her natural irritation against Mesmerism to gratify in another jealousies to which she was herself far superior. My own certainty of this, and my grateful remembrance of the long course of years during which I enjoyed her friendship and generosity, and her cordial sympathy in my aims and successes, incline me to pass over her final alienation, and dwell upon the affectionate intercourse we enjoyed, at frequent intervals, for twenty years from her marriage day.

Our revered and beloved eldest brother had, by this time, settled in Norwich as a surgeon, in partnership with our uncle, Mr. P. M. Martineau, the most eminent provincial surgeon of his day, — in some departments, if not altogether. My brother’s health was delicate, and we were to lose him by death in five years. One of the sweetest recollections of my life is that I had the honour and blessing of his intimate friendship, which grew and deepened from my sister’s marriage to the time of his own death. My mother, too, took me into her confidence more and more as my mind opened, and, I may add, as my deafness increased, and bespoke for me her motherly sympathy. For some years, indeed, there was a genuine and cordial friendship between my mother and me, which was a benefit to me in all manner of ways; and, from the time when I began to have literary enterprises, (and quite as much before I obtained success as after) I was sustained by her trustful, generous, self-denying sympathy and maternal appreciation. After a time, when she was fretted by cares and infirmities, I became as nervous in regard to her as ever, (even to the entire breaking down of my health;) but during the whole period of which I am now treating, — (and it is a very large space in my life) — there were no limitations to our mutual confidence.

One other relation which reached its highest point, and had begun to decline, during this period was one which I must abstain from discussing. The briefest possible notice will be the best method of treatment. All who have ever known me are aware that the strongest passion I have ever entertained was Edition: current; Page: [77] in regard to my youngest brother, who has certainly filled the largest space in the life of my affections of any person whatever. Now, the fact, — the painful fact, — in the history of human affections is that, of all natural relations, the least satisfactory is the fraternal. Brothers are to sisters what sisters can never be to brothers as objects of engrossing and devoted affection. The law of their frames is answerable for this: and that other law — of equity — which sisters are bound to obey, requires that they should not render their account of their disappointments where there can be no fair reply. Under the same law, sisters are bound to remember that they cannot be certain of their own fitness to render an account of their own disappointments, or to form an estimate of the share of blame which may be due to themselves on the score of unreasonable expectations. These general considerations decide me to pass over one of the main relations and influences of my life in a few brief and unsatisfactory lines, though I might tell a very particular tale. If I could see a more truthful, just, and satisfactory method of treating the topic, I should most gladly adopt it. — As for the other members of our numerous family, I am thankful and rejoiced to bear testimony that they have given all possible encouragement to the labours of my life; and that they have been the foremost of all the world to appreciate and rejoice in my successes, and to respect that independence of judgment and action on my part which must often have given them pain, and which would have overpowered any generosity less deeply rooted in principle and affection than theirs.

When I was young, it was not thought proper for young ladies to study very conspicuously; and especially with pen in hand. Young ladies (at least in provincial towns) were expected to sit down in the parlour to sew, — during which reading aloud was permitted, — or to practice their music; but so as to be fit to receive callers, without any signs of blue-stockingism which could be reported abroad. Jane Austen herself, the Queen of novelists, the immortal creator of Anne Elliott, Mr. Knightley, and a score or two more of unrivalled intimate friends of the whole public, was compelled by the feelings of her family to Edition: current; Page: [78] cover up her manuscripts with a large piece of muslin work, kept on the table for the purpose, whenever any genteel people came in. So it was with other young ladies, for some time after Jane Austen was in her grave; and thus my first studies in philosophy were carried on with great care and reserve. I was at the work table regularly after breakfast, — making my own clothes, or the shirts of the household, or about some fancy work: I went out walking with the rest, — before dinner in winter, and after tea in summer: and if ever I shut myself into my own room for an hour of solitude, I knew it was at the risk of being sent for to join the sewing-circle, or to read aloud, — I being the reader, on account of my growing deafness. But I won time for what my heart was set upon, nevertheless, — either in the early morning, or late at night. I had a strange passion for translating, in those days; and a good preparation it proved for the subsequent work of my life. Now, it was meeting James at seven in the morning to read Lowth’s Prelections in the Latin, after having been busy since five about something else, in my own room. Now it was translating Tacitus, in order to try what was the utmost compression of style that I could attain. — About this I may mention an incident while it occurs. We had all grown up with a great reverence for Mrs. Barbauld (which she fully deserved from much wiser people than ourselves) and, reflectively, for Dr. Aikin, her brother, — also able in his way, and far more industrious, but without her genius. Among a multitude of other labours, Dr. Aikin had translated the Agricola of Tacitus. I went into such an enthusiasm over the original, and especially over the celebrated concluding passage, that I thought I would translate it, and correct it by Dr. Aikin’s, which I could procure from our public library. I did it, and found my own translation unquestionably the best of the two. I had spent an infinity of pains over it, — word by word; and I am confident I was not wrong in my judgment. I stood pained and mortified before my desk, I remember, thinking how strange and small a matter was human achievement, if Dr. Aikin’s fame was to be taken as a testimony of literary desert. I had beaten him whom I had taken for my master. I need not point out that, in the Edition: current; Page: [79] first place, Dr. Aikin’s fame did not hang on this particular work; nor that, in the second place, I had exaggerated his fame by our sectarian estimate of him. I give the incident as a curious little piece of personal experience, and one which helped to make me like literary labour more for its own sake, and less for its rewards, than I might otherwise have done. — Well: to return to my translating propensities. Our cousin J. M. L., then studying for his profession in Norwich, used to read Italian with Rachel and me, — also before breakfast. We made some considerable progress, through the usual course of prose authors and poets; and out of this grew a fit which Rachel and I at one time took, in concert with our companions and neighbours, the C.’s, to translate Petrarch. Nothing could be better as an exercise in composition than translating Petrarch’s sonnets into English of the same limits. It was putting ourselves under compulsion to do with the Italian what I had set myself voluntarily to do with the Latin author. I believe we really succeeded pretty well; and I am sure that all these exercises were a singularly apt preparation for my after work. At the same time, I went on studying Blair’s Rhetoric (for want of a better guide) and inclining mightily to every kind of book or process which could improve my literary skill, — really as if I had foreseen how I was to spend my life.

These were not, however, my most precious or serious studies. I studied the Bible incessantly and immensely; both by daily reading of chapters, after the approved but mischievous method, and by getting hold of all commentaries and works of elucidation that I could lay my hands on. A work of Dr. Carpenter’s, begun but never finished, called “Notes and Observations on the Gospel History,” which his catechumens used in class, first put me on this track of study, — the results of which appeared some years afterwards in my “Traditions of Palestine.” It was while reading Mr. Kenrick’s translation from the German of “Helon’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” with which I was thoroughly bewitched, that I conceived, and communicated to James, the audacious idea of giving a somewhat resembling account of the Jews and their country, under the immediate expectation of the Edition: current; Page: [80] Messiah, and even in his presence, while carefully abstaining from permitting more than his shadow to pass over the scene. This idea I cherished till I found courage, under a new inspiration some years after, to execute it: and so pleasant was the original suggestion, and so congenial the subject altogether, that even now, at the distance of a quarter of a century, I regard that little volume with a stronger affection than any other of my works but one; — that one being “Eastern Life.”

Dr. Carpenter was inclined also to the study of philosophy, and wrote on it, — on mental and moral philosophy; and this was enough, putting all predisposition out of the question, to determine me to the study. He was of the Locke and Hartley school altogether, as his articles on “Mental and Moral Philosophy,” in Rees’s Cyclopedia, and his work on “Systematic Education” show. He used to speak of Hartley as one who had the intellectual qualities of the seraphic order combined with the affections of the cherubic; and it was no wonder if Hartley became my idol when I was mistress of my own course of study. I must clear myself from all charge of having ever entertained his doctrine of Vibrations. I do not believe that Dr. Carpenter himself could have prevailed with me so far as that. But neither did Hartley prevail with Dr. Carpenter so far as that. The edition of Hartley that I used was Dr. Priestley’s, — that which gives the philosophy of Association, cleared from the incumbrance of the Vibration theory. That book I studied with a fervour and perseverance which made it perhaps the most important book in the world to me, except the bible; and there really is in it, amidst its monstrous deficiencies and absurdities, so much that is philosophically true, as well as holy, elevating and charming, that its influence might very well spread into all the events and experience of life, and chasten the habits and feelings, as it did in my case during a long series of years. So far from feeling, as Dr. Channing and other good men have done, that the influence of that philosophy is necessarily, in all cases, debasing, I am confident at this moment that the spirit of the men, Locke and Hartley, redeems much of the fault of their doctrine in its operation on young minds; and moreover, that the conscientious Edition: current; Page: [81] accuracy with which they apply their doctrine to the moral conduct of the smallest particulars of human life (Hartley particularly) forms a far better discipline, and produces a much more exalting effect on the minds of students than the vague metaphysical imaginations, — as various and irreconcilable as the minds that give them forth, which Dr. Channing and his spiritual school adopted (or believed that they adopted) as a “spiritual philosophy.” I know this, — that while I read the Germans, Americans and English who are the received exponents of that philosophy with a general and extremely vague sense of elevation and beauty as the highest emotion produced, I cannot at this hour look at the portrait of Hartley prefixed to his work, or glance at his strange Scholia, — which I could almost repeat, word for word, — without a strong revival of the old mood of earnest desire of self-discipline, and devotion to duty which I derived from them in my youth. While the one school has little advantage over the other in the abstract department of their philosophy, the disciples of Hartley have infinitely the advantage over the dreaming school in their master’s presentment of the concrete department of fact and of action. Compelled as I have since been to relinquish both as philosophy, I am bound to avow, (and enjoy the avowal) that I owe to Hartley the strongest and best stimulus and discipline of the highest affections and most important habits that it is perhaps possible, (or was possible for me) to derive from any book. — The study of Priestley’s character and works (natural to me because he was the great apostle of Unitarianism) necessarily led me to the study of the Scotch school of philosophy, which I took the liberty to enjoy in its own way, in spite of Priestley’s contempt of it. I never believed in it, because it was really inconceivable to me how anybody should; and I was moreover entirely wrong in not perceiving that the Scotch philosophers had got hold of a fragment of sound truth which the other school had missed, — in their postulate of a fundamental complete faculty, which could serve as a basis of the mind’s operations, — whereas Hartley lays down simply the principle of association, and a capacity for pleasure and pain. I ought to have perceived that the Scotch proposition of Common Edition: current; Page: [82] Sense would answer much better for purposes of interpretation, if I had not yet knowledge enough to show me that it was much nearer the fact of the case. I did not perceive this, but talked as flippantly as Priestley, with far less right to do so. At the same time, I surrendered myself, to a considerable extent, to the charm of Dugald Stewart’s writings, — having no doubt that Priestley, if then living, would have done so too. About Beattie and Reid I was pert enough, from a genuine feeling of the unsatisfactoriness of their writings; but the truth of detail scattered through Dugald Stewart’s elegant elucidations, the gentle and happy spirit, and the beautiful style, charmed me so much that I must have been among his most affectionate disciples, if I had not been fortified against his seductions by my devotion to Hartley.

It appears to me now that, though my prevailing weakness in study is excessive sympathy, intellectual as well as moral, with my author, I even then felt something of the need which long after became all-powerful in me, of a clear distinction between the knowable and the unknowable, — of some available indication of an indisputable point of view, whence one’s contemplation of human nature, as of every thing else in the universe, should make its range. It may be that I am carrying back too far in my life this sense of need. When I consider how contentedly I went on, during the whole of this third period, floating and floundering among metaphysical imaginations, and giving forth inbred conceptions as truths of fact, I am disposed to think it probable that I am casting back the light of a later time among the mists of an earlier, and supposing myself sooner capable than I really was of practically distinguishing between a conception and a conviction. But there can be no mistake about the time and manner of my laying hold of a genuine conviction in a genuine manner, as I will presently tell. It would no doubt have been a fine thing for me, — an event which would have elevated my whole after-life, — if a teacher had been at hand to show me the boundary line between the knowable and the unknowable, as I see it now, and to indicate to me that the purely human view of the universe, derived solely from within, and proceeding Edition: current; Page: [83] on the supposition that Man and his affairs and his world are the centre and crown of the universe, could not possibly be the true one. But, in the absence of such a teacher, — in my inability to see the real scope and final operation of the discovery of Copernicus and Galileo, — and the ultimate connexion of physical and moral science, — it was the next best thing, perhaps, to obtain by my own forces, and for my own use, the grand conviction which henceforth gave to my life whatever it has had of steadiness, consistency, and progressiveness.

I have told how, when I was eleven years old, I put a question to my brother about the old difficulty of foreknowledge and freewill, — the reconciliation of God’s power and benevolence, — and how I was baulked of an answer. That question had been in my mind ever since; and I was not driven from entertaining it by Milton’s account of its being a favourite controversy in hell, nor even by a rebuke administered to one of our family by Mr. Turner of Newcastle, who disapproved inquiry into what he took for granted to be an unknowable thing. To me it seemed, turn it which way I would, to be certainly a knowable thing, — so closely as it presses on human morality, — to say nothing of man’s religion and internal peace. Its being reconcilable with theology is quite another affair. I tried long to satisfy myself with the ordinary subterfuge; — with declaring myself satisfied that good comes out of evil, and a kind of good which could accrue in no other way: but this would not do. I wrote religious poetry upon it, and wrought myself up to it in talk: but it would not do. This was no solution; and it was unworthy of a rational being to pretend to think it so. I tried acquiescence and dismissal of the subject; but that would not do, because it brought after it a clear admission of the failure of the scheme of creation in the first place, and of the Christian scheme in the next. The time I am now speaking of was, of course, prior to my study of Priestley and of Hartley, or I should have known that there was a recognised doctrine of Necessity.

One summer afternoon, when my brother James (then my oracle) was sitting with my mother and me, telling us some of his experience after his first session at the York College (the Unitarian Edition: current; Page: [84] college) I seized upon some intimation that he dropped about this same doctrine of Necessity. I uttered the difficulty which had lain in my mind for so many years; and he just informed me that there was, or was held to be, a solution in that direction, and advised me to make it out for myself. I did so. From that time the question possessed me. Now that I had got leave, as it were, to apply the Necessarian solution, I did it incessantly. I fairly laid hold of the conception of general laws, while still far from being prepared to let go the notion of a special Providence. Though at times almost overwhelmed by the vastness of the view opened to me, and by the prodigious change requisite in my moral views and self-management, the revolution was safely gone through. My labouring brain and beating heart grew quiet, and something more like peace than I had ever yet known settled down upon my anxious mind. Being aware of my weakness of undue sympathy with authors whom I read with any moral interest, I resolved to read nothing on this question till I had thought it out; and I kept to my resolve. When I was wholly satisfied, and could use my new method of interpretation in all cases that occurred with readiness and ease, I read every book that I could hear of on the subject of the Will; and I need not add that I derived confirmation from all I read on both sides. I am bound to add that the moral effect of this process was most salutary and cheering. From the time when I became convinced of the certainty of the action of laws, of the true importance of good influences and good habits, of the firmness, in short, of the ground I was treading, and of the security of the results which I should take the right means to attain, a new vigour pervaded my whole life, a new light spread through my mind, and I began to experience a steady growth in self-command, courage, and consequent integrity and disinterestedness. I was feeble and selfish enough at best; but yet, I was like a new creature in the strength of a sound conviction. Life also was like something fresh and wonderfully interesting, now that I held in my hand this key whereby to interpret some of the most conspicuous of its mysteries.

That great event in my life seems very remote; and I have Edition: current; Page: [85] been hearing more or less of the free-will difficulty ever since; and yet it appears to me, now as then, that none but Necessarians at all understand the Necessarian doctrine. This is merely saying in other words that its truth is so irresistible that, when once understood, it is adopted as a matter of course. Some, no doubt, say of the doctrine that every body can prove it, but nobody believes it; an assertion so far from true as not to be worth contesting, if I may judge by my own intercourses. Certainly, all the best minds I know are among the Necessarians; — all indeed which are qualified to discuss the subject at all. Moreover, all the world is practically Necessarian. All human action proceeds on the supposition that all the workings of the universe are governed by laws which cannot be broken by human will. In fact, the mistake of the majority in this matter is usually in supposing an interference between the will and the action of Man. The very smallest amount of science is enough to enable any rational person to see that the constitution and action of the human faculty of Will are determined by influences beyond the control of the possessor of the faculty: and when this very plain fact is denied in words it is usually because the denier is thinking of something else, — not of the faculty of willing, but of executing the volition. It is not my business here to argue out a question which has been settled in my own mind for the greater part of my life; but I have said thus much in explanation of the great importance of the conviction to me. For above thirty years I have seen more and more clearly how awful, and how irremediable except by the spread of a true philosophy, are the evils which arise from that monstrous remnant of old superstition, — the supposition of a self-determining power, independent of laws, in the human will; and I can truly say that if I have had the blessing of any available strength under sorrow, perplexity, sickness and toil, during a life which has been any thing but easy, it is owing to my repose upon eternal and irreversible laws, working in every department of the universe, without any interference from any random will, human or divine. — As to the ordinary objection to the doctrine, — that it is good for endurance but bad for action, — besides the obvious Edition: current; Page: [86] reply that every doctrine is to be accepted or rejected for its truth or falsehood, and not because mere human beings fancy its tendency to be good or bad, — I am bound to reply from my own experience that the allegation is not true. My life has been (whatever else) a very busy one; and this conviction, of the invariable action of fixed laws, has certainly been the main-spring of my activity. When it is considered that, according to the Necessarian doctrine, no action fails to produce effects, and no effort can be lost, there seems every reason for the conclusion which I have no doubt is the fact, that true Necessarians must be the most diligent and confident of all workers. The indolent dreamers whom I happen to know are those who find an excuse for their idleness in the doctrine of free-will, which certainly leaves but scanty encouragement to exertion of any sort: and at the same time, the noblest activity that I ever witness, the most cheerful and self-denying toil, is on the part of those who hold the Necessarian doctrine as a vital conviction.

As to the effect of that conviction on my religion, in those days of my fanaticism and afterwards, I had better give some account of it here, though it will lead me on to a date beyond the limits of this third period of my life. — In the first place, it appeared to me when I was twenty, as it appears to me now, that the New Testament proceeds on the ground of necessarian, rather than free-will doctrine. The prayer for daily bread is there, it is true; but the Lord’s prayer is compiled from very ancient materials of the theocratic age. The fatalistic element of the Essene doctrine strongly pervades the doctrine and morality of Christ and the apostles; and its curious union with the doctrine of a special providence is possible only under the theocratic supposition which is the basis of the whole faith. — As for me, I seized upon the necessarian element with eagerness, as enabling me to hold to my cherished faith; and I presently perceived, and took instant advantage of the discovery, that the practice of prayer, as prevailing throughout Christendom, is wholly unauthorised by the New Testament. Christian prayer, as prevailing at this day, answers precisely to the description of that pharisaic prayer which Christ reprobated. His own method Edition: current; Page: [87] of praying, the prayer he gave to his disciples, and their practice, were all wholly unlike any thing now understood by Christian prayer, in protestant as well as catholic countries. I changed my method accordingly, — gradually, perhaps, but beginning immediately and decidedly. Not knowing what was good for me, and being sure that every external thing would come to pass just the same, whether I liked it or not, I ceased to desire, and therefore to pray for, any thing external, — whether “daily bread,” or health, or life for myself or others, or any thing whatever but spiritual good. There I for a long time drew the line. Many years after I had outgrown the childishness of wishing for I knew not what, — of praying for what might be either good or evil, — I continued to pray for spiritual benefits. I can hardly say for spiritual aid; for I took the necessarian view of even the higher form of prayer, — that it brought about, or might bring about, its own accomplishment by the spiritual dispositions which it excited and cherished. This view is so far from simple, and so irreconcilable with the notion of a revelation of a scheme of salvation, that it is clear that the one or the other view must soon give way. The process in my case was this. A long series of grave misfortunes brought me to the conviction that there is no saying beforehand what the external conditions of internal peace really are. I found myself now and then in the loftiest moods of cheerfulness when in the midst of circumstances which I had most dreaded, and the converse; and thus I grew to be, generally speaking, really and truly careless as to what became of me. I had cast off the torment of fear, except in occasional weak moments. This experience presently extended to my spiritual affairs. I found myself best, according to all trustworthy tests of goodness, when I cared least about the matter. I continued my practice of nightly examination of my hourly conduct; and the evidence grew wonderfully strong that moral advancement came out of good influences rather than self-management; and that even so much self-reference as was involved in “working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling” was demoralizing. Thus I arrived, — after long years, — at the same point of ease or resignation about my spiritual as my Edition: current; Page: [88] temporal affairs, and felt that (to use a broad expression uttered by somebody) it was better to take the chance of being damned than be always quacking one’s self in the fear of it. (Not that I had any literal notion of being damned, — any more than any other born and bred Unitarian.) What I could not desire for myself, I could not think of stipulating for for others; and thus, in regard to petition, my prayers became simply an aspiration, — “Thy will be done!” But still, the department of praise remained. I need hardly say that I soon drew back in shame from offering to a Divine being a homage which would be offensive to an earthly one: and when this practice was over, my devotions consisted in aspiration, — very frequent and heartfelt, — under all circumstances and influences, and much as I meditate now, almost hourly, on the mysteries of life and the universe, and the great science and art of human duty. In proportion as the taint of fear and desire and self-regard fell off, and the meditation had fact instead of passion for its subject, the aspiration became freer and sweeter, till at length, when the selfish superstition had wholly gone out of it, it spread its charm through every change of every waking hour, — and does now, when life itself is expiring.

As to the effect that all this had on my belief in Christianity, — it did not prevent my holding on in that pseudo-acceptance of it which my Unitarian breeding rendered easy. It was a grand discovery to me when I somewhere met with the indication, (since become a rather favourite topic with Unitarian preachers) that the fact of the miracles has nothing whatever to do with the quality of the doctrine. When miracles are appealed to by the Orthodox as a proof of, not only the supernatural origin, but the divine quality of the doctrine, the obvious answer is that devils may work miracles, and the doctrine may therefore be from hell. Such was the argument in Christ’s time; and such is it now among a good many protestants, — horrifying the Catholics and High-Churchmen of our time as much as it horrified the evangelists of old. The use to which it is turned by many who still call themselves Unitarians, and to which it was applied by me is, — the holding to Christianity in a manner as a revelation, after Edition: current; Page: [89] surrendering belief in the miracles. I suppose the majority of Unitarians still accept all the miracles (except the Miraculous Conception, of course) — even to the withering away of the figtree. Some hold to the resurrection, while giving up all the rest; and not a few do as I did, — say that the interior evidence of a divine origin of that doctrine is enough, and that no amount of miracles could strengthen their faith. It is clear however that a Christianity which never was received as a scheme of salvation, — which never was regarded as essential to salvation, — which might be treated, in respect to its records, at the will and pleasure of each believer, — which is next declared to be independent of its external evidences, because those evidences are found to be untenable, — and which is finally subjected in its doctrines, as in its letter, to the interpretation of each individual, — must cease to be a faith, and become a matter of speculation, of spiritual convenience, and of intellectual and moral taste, till it declines to the rank of a mere fact in the history of mankind. These are the gradations through which I passed. It took many years to travel through them; and I lingered long in the stages of speculation and taste, intellectual and moral. But at length I recognised the monstrous superstition in its true character of a great fact in the history of the race, and found myself, with the last link of my chain snapped, — a free rover on the broad, bright breezy common of the universe.

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At this time, — (I think it must have been in 1821,) was my first appearance in print. I had some early aspirations after authorship, — judging by an anecdote which hangs in my memory, though I believe I never thought about it, more or less, while undergoing that preparation which I have described in my account of my studies and translations. When I was assorting and tabulating scripture texts, in the way I described some way back, I one day told my mother, in a moment of confidence, that I hoped it might be printed, and make a book, and then I should be an authoress. My mother, pleased, I believe, with the aspiration, told my eldest sister; and she, in an unfortunate moment of contempt, twitted me with my conceit in fancying I could be an authoress; whereupon I instantly resolved “never to tell any body any thing again.” How this resolution was kept it is rather amusing now to consider, seeing that of all people in the world, I have perhaps the fewest reserves. The ambition seems to have disappeared from that time; and when I did attempt to write, it was at the suggestion of another, and against my own judgment and inclination. My brother James, then my idolized companion, discovered how wretched I was when he left me for his college, after the vacation; and he told me that I must not permit myself to be so miserable. He advised me to take refuge, on each occasion, in a new pursuit; and on that particular occasion, in an attempt at authorship. I said, as usual, that I would if he would: to which he answered that it would never do for him, a young student, to rush into print before the eyes of his tutors; but he desired me to write something that was in my head, and try my chance with it in the “Monthly Repository,” — the poor little Unitarian periodical in which I have mentioned that Talfourd tried his young powers. What James Edition: current; Page: [91] desired, I always did, as of course; and after he had left me to my widowhood soon after six o’clock, one bright September morning, I was at my desk before seven, beginning a letter to the Editor of the “Monthly Repository,” — that editor being the formidable prime minister of his sect, — Rev. Robert Aspland. I suppose I must tell what that first paper was, though I had much rather not; for I am so heartily ashamed of the whole business as never to have looked at the article since the first flutter of it went off. It was on Female Writers on Practical Divinity. I wrote away, in my abominable scrawl of those days, on foolscap paper, feeling mightily like a fool all the time. I told no one, and carried my expensive packet to the post-office myself, to pay the postage. I took the letter V for my signature, — I cannot at all remember why. The time was very near the end of the month: I had no definite expectation that I should ever hear any thing of my paper; and certainly did not suppose it could be in the forthcoming number. That number was sent in before service-time on a Sunday morning. My heart may have been beating when I laid hands on it; but it thumped prodigiously when I saw my article there, and, in the Notices to Correspondents, a request to hear more from V. of Norwich. There is certainly something entirely peculiar in the sensation of seeing one’sself in print for the first time: — the lines burn themselves in upon the brain in a way of which black ink is incapable, in any other mode. So I felt that day, when I went about with my secret. — I have said what my eldest brother was to us, — in what reverence we held him. He was just married, and he and his bride asked me to return from chapel with them to tea. After tea he said, “Come now, we have had plenty of talk; I will read you something;” and he held out his hand for the new “Repository.” After glancing at it, he exclaimed, “They have got a new hand here. Listen.” After a paragraph, he repeated, “Ah! this is a new hand; they have had nothing so good as this for a long while.” (It would be impossible to convey to any who do not know the “Monthly Repository” of that day, how very small a compliment this was.) I was silent, of course. At the end of the first column, Edition: current; Page: [92] he exclaimed about the style, looking at me in some wonder at my being as still as a mouse. Next (and well I remember his tone, and thrill to it still) his words were — “What a fine sentence that is! Why, do you not think so?” I mumbled out, sillily enough, that it did not seem any thing particular. “Then,” said he, “you were not listening. I will read it again. There now!” As he still got nothing out of me, he turned round upon me, as we sat side by side on the sofa, with “Harriet, what is the matter with you? I never knew you so slow to praise any thing before.” I replied, in utter confusion, — “I never could baffle any body. The truth is, that paper is mine.” He made no reply; read on in silence, and spoke no more till I was on my feet to come away. He then laid his hand on my shoulder, and said gravely (calling me “dear” for the first time) “Now, dear, leave it to other women to make shirts and darn stockings; and do you devote yourself to this.” I went home in a sort of dream, so that the squares of the pavement seemed to float before my eyes. That evening made me an authoress.

It was not all so glorious, however. I immediately after began to write my first work, — “Devotional Exercises,” of which I now remember nothing. But I remember my brother’s anxious doubting looks, in which I discerned some disappointment, as he read the M.S. I remember his gentle hints about precision and arrangement of ideas, given with the utmost care not to discourage me; and I understood the significance of his praise of the concluding essay (in a letter from Madeira, where he was closing his precious life) — praise of the definiteness of object in that essay, which, as he observed, furnished the key to his doubts about the rest of the book, and which he conveyed only from an anxious desire that I should work my way up to the high reputation which he felt I was destined to attain. This just and gentle treatment, contrasting with the early discouragements which had confused my own judgment, affected me inexpressibly. I took these hints to heart in trying my hand at a sort of theologico-metaphysical novel, which I entered upon with a notion of enlightening the world through the same kind of interest as was then excited by Mr. Ward’s novel, “Tremaine,” Edition: current; Page: [93] which was making a prodigious noise, and which perfectly enchanted me, except by its bad philosophy. I mightily enjoyed the prospect of this work, as did my mother; and I was flattered by finding that Rachel had higher expectations from it than even my own. But, at the end of half a volume, I became aware that it was excessively dull, and I stopped. Many years afterwards I burned it; and this is the only piece of my work but two (and a review) in my whole career that never was published.

Already I found that it would not do to copy what I wrote; and here (at the outset of this novel) I discontinued the practice for ever, — thus saving an immense amount of time which I humbly think is wasted by other authors. The prevalent doctrine about revision and copying, and especially Miss Edgeworth’s account of her method of writing, — scribbling first, then submitting her manuscript to her father, and copying and altering many times over till, (if I remember right) no one paragraph of her “Leonora” stood at last as it did at first, — made me suppose copying and alteration to be indispensable. But I immediately found that there was no use in copying if I did not alter; and that, if ever I did alter, I had to change back again; and I, once for all, committed myself to a single copy. I believe the only writings I ever copied were “Devotional Exercises,” and my first tale; — a trumpery story called “Christmas Day.” It seemed clear to me that distinctness and precision must be lost if alterations were made in a different state of mind from that which suggested the first utterance; and I was delighted when, long afterwards, I met with Cobbett’s advice; — to know first what you want to say, and then say it in the first words that occur to you. The excellence of Cobbett’s style, and the manifest falling off of Miss Edgeworth’s after her father’s death (so frankly avowed by herself) were strong confirmations of my own experience. I have since, more than once, weakly fallen into mannerism, — now metaphysically elliptical, — now poetically amplified, and even, in one instance, bordering on the Carlylish; but through all this folly, as well as since having a style of my own, — (that is, finding expression by words as Edition: current; Page: [94] easy as breathing air) — I have always used the same method in writing. I have always made sure of what I meant to say, and then written it down without care or anxiety, — glancing at it again only to see if any words were omitted or repeated, and not altering a single phrase in a whole work. I mention this because I think I perceive that great mischief arises from the notion that botching in the second place will compensate for carelessness in the first. I think I perceive that confusion of thought, and cloudiness or affectation in style are produced or aggravated by faulty prepossessions in regard to the method of writing for the press. The mere saving of time and labour in my own case may be regarded as no inconsiderable addition to my term of life. — Some modifications of this doctrine there must of course be in accordance with the strength or weakness of the natural faculty of expression by language: but I speak as strongly as I have just done because I have no reason to believe that the natural aptitude was particularly strong in myself. I believe that such facility as I have enjoyed has been mainly owing to my unconscious preparatory discipline; and especially in the practice of translation from various languages, as above related. And, again, after seeing the manuscripts or proof-sheets of many of the chief authors of my own time, I am qualified to say that the most marked mannerists of their day are precisely those whose manuscripts show most erasures, and their proof-sheets most alterations.

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I have said that it was through a long train of calamities that I learned some valuable truths and habits. Those calamities were now coming fast upon me. In 1820, my deafness was suddenly encreased by what might be called an accident, which I do not wish to describe. I ought undoubtedly to have begun at that time to use a trumpet; but no one pressed it upon me; and I do not know that, if urged, I should have yielded; for I had abundance of that false shame which hinders nine deaf people out of ten from doing their duty in that particular. The redeeming quality of personal infirmity is that it brings its special duty with it; but this privilege waits long to be recognised. The special duty of the deaf is, in the first place, to spare other people as much fatigue as possible; and, in the next, to preserve their own natural capacity for sound, and habit of receiving it, and true memory of it, as long as possible. It was long before I saw, or fully admitted this to myself; and it was ten years from this time before I began to use a trumpet. Thus, I have felt myself qualified to say more in the way of exhortation and remonstrance to deaf people than could be said by any one who had not only never been deaf, but had never shared the selfish and morbid feelings which are the ordinary attendant curses of suffering so absolutely peculiar as that of personal infirmity.

Next, our beloved brother, who had always shown a tendency to consumption, ruptured a blood-vessel in the lungs, and had to give up his practice and professional offices, and to go, first into Devonshire, and afterwards to Madeira, whence he never returned. He died at sea, on his way home. I went with him and his wife into Devonshire, for the spring of 1823; and it was my office to read aloud for many hours of every day, which I did Edition: current; Page: [96] with great satisfaction, and with inestimable profit from his comments and unsurpassed conversation. Before breakfast, and while he enjoyed his classical reading on the sofa, I rambled about the neighbourhood of Torquay, — sometimes sketching, sometimes reading, sometimes studying the sea from the shelter of the caves, and, on the whole, learning to see nature, under those grave circumstances, with new eyes. Soon after our return, their child was born; and never was infant more beloved. It was my great solace during the dreary season of dismantling that home which we had had so much delight in forming, and sending those from us who were the joy of our lives. It was then that I learned the lesson I spoke of, — of our peace of mind being, at least in times of crisis, independent of external circumstances. Day by day, I had been silently growing more heartsick at the prospect of the parting; and I especially dreaded the night before; — the going to bed, with the thoughtful night before me, after seeing every thing packed, and knowing that the task of the coming day was the parting. Yet that night was one of the happiest of my life. It is easy to conceive what the process of thought was, and what the character of the religious emotion which so elevated me. The lesson was a sound one, whatever might be the virtue of the thoughts and feelings involved. The next day, all was over at length. I was the last who held the dear baby, — even to the moment of his being put into the carriage. The voyage was injurious to him; and it was probably the cause of his death, which took place soon after reaching Madeira. There was something peaceful, and very salutary in the next winter, though it could not reasonably be called a very happy one. There was a close mutual reliance between my mother and myself, — my sister Rachel being absent, and our precious little Ellen, the family darling, at school. We kept up a close correspondence with our absent ones; and there were the beautiful Madeira letters always to look for. I remember reading Clarendon’s Rebellion aloud to my mother in the evenings; and we took regular walks in all weathers. I had my own troubles and anxieties, however. A dream had passed before me since the visit of a student friend of my brother James’s, which Edition: current; Page: [97] some words of my father’s and mother’s had strengthened into hope and trust. This hope was destined to be crushed for a time in two hearts by the evil offices of one who had much to answer for in what he did. This winter was part of the time of suspense. Under my somewhat heavy troubles my health had some time before begun to give way; and now I was suffering from digestive derangement which was not cured for four years after; and then only after severe and daily pain from chronic inflammation of the stomach. Still, with an ailing body, an anxious and often aching heart, and a mind which dreaded looking into the future, I regarded this winter of 1823-4 as a happy one; — the secret of which I believe to have been that I felt myself beloved at home, and enjoyed the keen relish of duties growing out of domestic love. At the end of the next June, my brother died. We were all prepared for the event, as far as preparation is ever possible; but my dear father, the most unselfish of men, who never spoke of his own feelings, and always considered other people’s, never, we think, recovered from this grief. He was very quiet at the time; but his health began to go wrong, and his countenance to alter; and during the two remaining years of his life, he sustained a succession of cares which might have broken down a frame less predisposed for disease than his had become. In our remembrance of him there is no pain on the ground of any thing in his character. Humble, simple, upright, self-denying, affectionate to as many people as possible, and kindly to all, he gave no pain, and did all the good he could. He had not the advantage of an adequate education; but there was a natural shrewdness about him which partly compensated for the want. He was not the less, but the more, anxious to give his children the advantages which he had never received; and the whole family have always felt that they owe a boundless debt of gratitude to both their parents for the self-sacrificing efforts they made, through all the vicissitudes of the times, to fit their children in the best possible manner for independent action in life. My father’s business, that of a Norwich manufacturer, was subject to the fluctuations to which all manufacture was liable during the war, and to others of its own; and our parents’ Edition: current; Page: [98] method was to have no reserves from their children, to let us know precisely the state of their affairs, and to hold out to us, in the light of this evidence, the probability that we might sooner or later have to work for our own living, — daughters as well as sons, — and that it was improbable that we should ever be rich. The time was approaching which was to prove the wisdom of their method. My father’s business, never a very enriching one, had been for some time prosperous; and this year (1824) he indulged my brother James and myself with a journey; — a walking tour in Scotland, in the course of which we walked five hundred miles in a month. I am certainly of opinion now that that trip aggravated my stomach-complaint; and I only wonder it was no worse. I spent the next winter with my married sister, my sister-in-law, and other friends, and returned to Norwich in April, to undergo long months, — even years — of anxiety and grief.

In the reviews of my “History of the Thirty Years’ Peace,” one chapter is noticed more emphatically than all the rest; — the chapter on the speculations, collapse, and crash of 1825 and 1826. If that chapter is written with some energy, it is no wonder; for our family fortunes were implicated in that desperate struggle, and its issue determined the whole course of life of the younger members of our family, — my own among the rest. One point on which my narrative in the History is emphatic is the hardship on the sober man of business of being involved in the destruction which overtook the speculator; and I had family and personal reasons for saying this. My father never speculated; but he was well nigh ruined during that calamitous season by the deterioration in value of his stock. His stock of manufactured goods was larger, of course, than it would have been in a time of less enterprise; and week by week its value declined, till, in the middle of the winter, when the banks were crashing down all over England, we began to contemplate absolute ruin. My father was evidently a dying man; — not from anxiety of mind, for his liver disease was found to be owing to obstruction caused by a prodigious gall-stone: but his illness was no doubt aggravated and rendered more harassing by his cares for his Edition: current; Page: [99] family. In the spring he was sent to Cheltenham, whence he returned after some weeks with the impression of approaching death on his face. He altered his Will, mournfully reducing the portions left to his daughters to something which could barely be called an independence. Then, three weeks before his death, he wisely, and to our great relief, dismissed the whole subject. He told my brother Henry, his partner in the business, that he had done what he could while he could: that he was now a dying man, and could be of no further use in the struggle, and that he wished to keep his mind easy for his few remaining days: so he desired to see no more letters of business, and to hear no more details. For a few more days, he sunned himself on the grass-plat in the garden, in the warm June mornings: then could not leave the house; then could not come down stairs; and, towards the end of the month died quietly, with all his family round his bed. — As for my share in this family experience, — it was delightful to me that he took an affectionate pleasure in my poor little book, — of value to me now for that alone, — “Addresses, Prayers and Hymns, for the use of families and school.” It was going through the press at that time; and great was my father’s satisfaction; and high were his hopes, I believe, of what I should one day be and do. Otherwise, I have little comfort in thinking of his last illness. The old habit of fear came upon me, more irresistibly than ever, on the assembling of the family; and I mourn to think how I kept out of the way, whenever it was possible, and how little I said to my father of what was in my heart about him and my feelings towards him. The more easily his humility was satisfied with whatever share of good fell to him, the more richly he should have been ministered to. By me he was not, — owing to this unhappy shyness. My married sister, who was an incomparable nurse, did the duty of others besides her own; and mine among the rest, while I was sorrowing and bitterly chiding myself in silence, and perhaps in apparent insensibility.

And now my own special trial was at hand. It is not necessary to go into detail about it. The news which got abroad that we had grown comparatively poor, — and the evident certainty Edition: current; Page: [100] that we were never likely to be rich, so wrought upon the mind of one friend as to break down the mischief which I have referred to as caused by ill-offices. My friend had believed me rich, was generous about making me a poor man’s wife, and had been discouraged in more ways than one. He now came to me, and we were soon virtually engaged. I was at first very anxious and unhappy. My veneration for his morale was such that I felt that I dared not undertake the charge of his happiness: and yet I dared not refuse, because I saw it would be his death blow. I was ill, — I was deaf, — I was in an entangled state of mind between conflicting duties and some lower considerations; and many a time did I wish, in my fear that I should fail, that I had never seen him. I am far from wishing that now; — now that the beauty of his goodness remains to me, clear of all painful regrets. But there was a fearful period to pass through. Just when I was growing happy, surmounting my fears and doubts, and enjoying his attachment, the consequences of his long struggle and suspense overtook him. He became suddenly insane; and after months of illness of body and mind, he died. The calamity was aggravated to me by the unaccountable insults I received from his family, whom I had never seen. Years afterwards, when his sister and I met, the mystery was explained. His family had been given to understand, by cautious insinuations, that I was actually engaged to another, while receiving my friend’s addresses! There has never been any doubt in my mind that, considering what I was in those days, it was happiest for us both that our union was prevented by any means. I am, in truth, very thankful for not having married at all. I have never since been tempted, nor have suffered any thing at all in relation to that matter which is held to be all-important to woman, — love and marriage. Nothing, I mean, beyond occasional annoyance, presently disposed of. Every literary woman, no doubt, has plenty of importunity of that sort to deal with; but freedom of mind and coolness of manner dispose of it very easily: and since the time I have been speaking of, my mind has been wholly free from all idea of love-affairs. My subsequent literary life in London was clear from all difficulty and embarrassment, Edition: current; Page: [101] — no doubt because I was evidently too busy, and too full of interests of other kinds to feel any awkwardness, — to say nothing of my being then thirty years of age; an age at which, if ever, a woman is certainly qualified to take care of herself. I can easily conceive how I might have been tempted, — how some deep springs in my nature might have been touched, then as earlier; but, as a matter of fact, they never were; and I consider the immunity a great blessing, under the liabilities of a moral condition such as mine was in the olden time. If I had had a husband dependent on me for his happiness, the responsibility would have made me wretched. I had not faith enough in myself to endure avoidable responsibility. If my husband had not depended on me for his happiness, I should have been jealous. So also with children. The care would have so overpowered the joy, — the love would have so exceeded the ordinary chances of life, — the fear on my part would have so impaired the freedom on theirs, that I rejoice not to have been involved in a relation for which I was, or believed myself unfit. The veneration in which I hold domestic life has always shown me that that life was not for those whose self-respect had been early broken down, or had never grown. Happily, the majority are free from this disability. Those who suffer under it had better be as I, — as my observation of married, as well as single life assures me. When I see what conjugal love is, in the extremely rare cases in which it is seen in its perfection, I feel that there is a power of attachment in me that has never been touched. When I am among little children, it frightens me to think what my idolatry of my own children would have been. But, through it all, I have ever been thankful to be alone. My strong will, combined with anxiety of conscience, makes me fit only to live alone; and my taste and liking are for living alone. The older I have grown, the more serious and irremediable have seemed to me the evils and disadvantages of married life, as it exists among us at this time: and I am provided with what it is the bane of single life in ordinary cases to want, — substantial, laborious and serious occupation. My business in life has been to think and learn, and to speak out with absolute freedom what I have Edition: current; Page: [102] thought and learned. The freedom is itself a positive and never-failing enjoyment to me, after the bondage of my early life. My work and I have been fitted to each other, as is proved by the success of my work and my own happiness in it. The simplicity and independence of this vocation first suited my infirm and ill-developed nature, and then sufficed for my needs, together with family ties and domestic duties, such as I have been blessed with, and as every woman’s heart requires. Thus, I am not only entirely satisfied with my lot, but think it the very best for me, — under my constitution and circumstances: and I long ago came to the conclusion that, without meddling with the case of the wives and mothers, I am probably the happiest single woman in England. Who could have believed, in that awful year 1826, that such would be my conclusion a quarter of a century afterwards!

My health gave way, more and more; and my suffering throughout the year 1827 from the pain which came on every evening was such as it is disagreeable to think of now. For pain of body and mind it was truly a terrible year, though it had its satisfactions, one of the chief of which was a long visit which I paid to my brother Robert and his wife (always a dear friend of mine to this day) at their home in Dudley. I remember our walks in the grounds of Dudley Castle, and the organ-playing at home, after my brother’s business hours, and the inexhaustible charm of the baby, as gleams amidst the darkness of that season. I found then the unequalled benefit of long solitary walks in such a case as mine. I had found it even at Norwich, in midwinter, when all was bleak on that exposed level country; and now, amidst the beauty which surrounds Dudley, there was no end of my walks or of my relish for them; and I always came home with a cheered and lightened heart. Such poetry as I wrote (I can’t bear to think of it) I wrote in those days. The mournful pieces, and those which assume not to be mournful, which may be found in my “Miscellanies” (published in America) may be referred to that period. And so may some dull and doleful prose writings, published by the solemn old Calvinistic publisher, Houlston, of Wellington in Shropshire. An acquaintance Edition: current; Page: [103] of mine had some time before put me in the way of correspondence with Houlston; and he had accepted the first two little eightpenny stories I sent him. I remember the amusement and embarrassment of the first piece of pecuniary success. As soon as it was known in the house that the letter from Wellington contained five pounds, every body wanted, and continued to want all day, to borrow five pounds of me. After a pause, Houlston wrote to ask for another story of somewhat more substance and bulk. My Globe newspaper readings suggested to me the subject of Machine-breaking as a good one, — some recent outrages of that sort having taken place: but I had not the remotest idea that I was meditating writing on Political Economy, the very name of which was then either unknown to me, or conveyed no meaning. I wrote the little story called “The Rioters;” and its success was such that some hosiers and lace-makers of Derby and Nottingham sent me a request to write a tale on the subject of Wages, which I did, calling it “The Turn Out.” The success of both was such as to dispose Mr. Houlston to further dealings; and I wrote for him a good many tracts, which he sold for a penny, and for which he gave me a sovereign apiece. This seems to be the place in which to tell a fact or two about the use made of those early writings of mine by the old man’s sons and successors. Old Houlston died not very long afterwards, leaving among his papers, (I now remember,) a manuscript story of mine which I suppose lies there still; about a good governess, called, I think, “Caroline Shirley.” I mention this that, if that story should come out with my name after my death, it may be known to have been written somewhere about this time, — 1827. Old Houlston died, on perfectly good terms with me, as far as I remember. The next thing I heard was (and I heard it from various quarters) that those little tracts of mine, and some of my larger tales, were selling and circulating as Mrs. Sherwood’s, — Houlston being her publisher. This was amusing; and I had no other objection to it than that it was not true. Next, certain friends and relations of my own who went to the Houlstons’ shop in Paternoster Row, and asked for any works by me, had foisted upon them any rubbish that was Edition: current; Page: [104] convenient, under pretence of its being mine. A dear old aunt was very mysterious and complimentary to me, one day, on her return from London, about “Judith Potts;” and was puzzled to find all her allusions lost upon me. At length, she produced a little story so entitled, which had been sold to her as mine over the Houlstons’ counter, and, as she believed, by Mr. Houlston himself. This was rather too bad; for “Judith Potts” was not altogether a work that one would wish to build one’s fame on: but there was worse to come. Long years after, when such reputation as I have had was at its height, (when I was ill at Tynemouth, about 1842) there had been some machine breaking; and Messrs. Houlston and Stoneman (as the firm then stood) brought out afresh my poor little early story of “The Rioters,” with my name in the title-page for the first time, and not only with every external appearance of being fresh, but with interpolations and alterations which made it seem really so. For instance, “His Majesty” was altered to “Her Majesty.” By advice of my friends, I made known the trick far and wide; and I wrote to Messrs. Houlston and Stoneman, to inform them that I was aware of their fraudulent transaction, and that it was actionable. These caterers for the pious needs of the religious world replied with insults, having nothing better to offer. They pleaded my original permission to their father to use my name or not; which was a fact, but no excuse for the present use of it: and to the gravest part of the whole charge, — that of illegal alterations for the fraudulent purpose of concealing the date of the book, they made no reply whatever. I had reason to believe, however, that by the exertions of my friends, the trick was effectually exposed. As far as I remember, this is almost the only serious complaint I have had to make of any publisher, during my whole career.

Meantime, in 1827 I was on excellent terms with old Houlston, and writing for him a longer tale than I had yet tried my hand on. It was called “Principle and Practice;” and it succeeded well enough to induce us to put forth a “Sequel to Principle and Practice” three or four years after. These were all that I wrote for Houlston, as far as I remember, except a little Edition: current; Page: [105] book whose appearance made me stand aghast. A most excellent young servant of ours, who had become quite a friend of the household, went out to Madeira with my brother and his family, and confirmed our attachment to her by her invaluable services to them. Her history was a rather remarkable, and a very interesting one; and I wrote it in the form of four of Houlston’s penny tracts. He threw them together, and made a little book of them; and the heroine, who would never have heard of them as tracts, was speedily put in possession of her Memoirs in the form of the little book called “My Servant Rachel.” An aunt of mine, calling on her one day, found her standing in the middle of the floor, and her husband reading the book over her shoulder. She was hurt at one anecdote, — which was certainly true, but which she had forgotten: but, as a whole, it could not but have been most gratifying to her. She ever after treated me with extreme kindness, and even tenderness; and we are hearty friends still, whenever we meet. — And here ends the chapter of my authorship in which Houlston, my first patron, was concerned.

It was in the autumn of 1827, I think, that a neighbour lent my sister Mrs. Marcet’s “Conversations on Political Economy.” I took up the book, chiefly to see what Political Economy precisely was; and great was my surprise to find that I had been teaching it unawares, in my stories about Machinery and Wages. It struck me at once that the principles of the whole science might be advantageously conveyed in the same way, — not by being smothered up in a story, but by being exhibited in their natural workings in selected passages of social life. It has always appeared very strange to me that so few people seem to have understood this. Students of all manner of physical sciences afterwards wanted me to “illustrate” things of which social life (and therefore fiction) can afford no illustration. I used to say till I was tired that none but moral and political science admitted of the method at all; and I doubt whether many of those who talk about it understand the matter, to this day. In the Edinburgh Review of my Political Economy series, — a review otherwise as weak as it is kind, — there is the best appreciation of Edition: current; Page: [106] the principle of the work that I have seen any where; — a page or so* of perfect understanding of my view and purpose. That view and purpose date from my reading of Mrs. Marcet’s Conversations. During that reading, groups of personages rose up from the pages, and a procession of action glided through its arguments, as afterwards from the pages of Adam Smith, and all the other Economists. I mentioned my notion, I remember, when we were sitting at work, one bright afternoon at home. Brother James nodded assent; my mother said “do it;” and we went to tea, unconscious what a great thing we had done since dinner.

There was meantime much fiddle-faddling to be gone through, with such work as “Principle and Practice” and the like. But a new educational period was about to open. — My complaint grew so serious, and was so unbearably painful, and, in truth, medically mismanaged at Norwich, that my family sent me to Newcastle, to my sister’s, where her husband treated me successfully, and put me in the way of entire cure. It was a long and painful business; but the method succeeded; and, in the course of time, and by the unremitting care of my host and hostess, I was sent home in a condition to manage myself. It was some years before the stomach entirely recovered its tone; but it was thoroughly healthy from that time forward.

While I was at Newcastle, a spirited advertisement from the new editor of the Monthly Repository, Mr. Fox, met my eye, appealing for literary aid to those who were interested in its objects. I could not resist sending a practical reply; and I was gratified to learn, long afterwards, that when my name was mentioned to Mr. Fox, before he issued his appeal, he had said that he wished for my assistance from the moment when he, as editor, discovered from the office books that I was the writer of certain papers which had fixed his attention: but that he could not specially invite my contributions while he had no funds which could enable him to offer due remuneration. His reply to my first letter was so cordial that I was animated to offer him extensive assistance; and if he had then no money to send me, Edition: current; Page: [107] he paid me in something more valuable — in a course of frank and generous criticism which was of the utmost benefit to me. His editorial correspondence with me was unquestionably the occasion, and in great measure the cause, of the greatest intellectual progress I ever made before the age of thirty. I sent him Essays, Reviews and poetry (or what I called such) — the best specimens of which may be found in the “Miscellanies,” before mentioned. — The Diffusion Society was at that time the last novelty. A member of the Committee who overrated his own influence, invited me to write a Life of Howard the Philanthropist, which I did, with great satisfaction, and under the positive promise of thirty pounds for it. From time to time, tidings were sent to me of its being approved, and at length of its being actually in type. In the approaching crisis of my fortunes, when I humbly asked when I might expect any part of the payment, I could obtain no clear answer: and the end of the matter was that it was found that half-a-dozen or more Lives of Howard had been ordered in a similar manner, by different members of the Committee; that my manuscript was found, after several years, at the bottom of a chest, — not only dirty, but marked and snipped, — its contents having been abundantly used without any acknowledgment, — as was afterwards admitted to me by some of the members who were especially interested in the prison question. I am far from regretting the issue now, because new materials have turned up which would have shamed that biography out of existence: but the case is worth mentioning, as an illustration of the way in which literary business is managed by corporate directories. I believe most people who ever had any connexion with the Diffusion Society have some similar story to tell.

While I was at Newcastle, a change, which turned out a very happy one, was made in our domestic arrangements. My cousin, James Martineau Lee, who had succeeded my brother as a surgeon at Norwich, having died that year, his aged mother, — (my father’s only surviving sister) came to live with us; and with us she remained till her death in 1840. She was hardly settled with us when the last of our series of family misfortunes Edition: current; Page: [108] occurred. I call it a misfortune, because in common parlance it would be so treated; but I believe that my mother and all her other daughters would have joined heartily, if asked, in my conviction that it was one of the best things that ever happened to us. My mother and her daughters lost, at a stroke, nearly all they had in the world by the failure of the house, — the old manufactory, — in which their money was placed. We never recovered more than the merest pittance; and at the time, I, for one, was left destitute; — that is to say, with precisely one shilling in my purse. The effect upon me of this new “calamity,” as people called it, was like that of a blister upon a dull, weary pain, or series of pains. I rather enjoyed it, even at the time; for there was scope for action; whereas, in the long, dreary series of preceding trials, there was nothing possible but endurance. In a very short time, my two sisters at home and I began to feel the blessing of a wholly new freedom. I, who had been obliged to write before breakfast, or in some private way, had henceforth liberty to do my own work in my own way; for we had lost our gentility. Many and many a time since have we said that, but for that loss of money, we might have lived on in the ordinary provincial method of ladies with small means, sewing, and economizing, and growing narrower every year: whereas, by being thrown, while it was yet time, on our own resources, we have worked hard and usefully, won friends, reputation and independence, seen the world abundantly, abroad and at home, and, in short, have truly lived instead of vegetated.

It was in June, 1829, that the old Norwich house failed. I had been spending a couple of days at a country town, where the meeting of the provincial Unitarian Association took place. Some of the members knew, on the last day, what had happened to us; but I heard it first in the streets of Norwich on my way to our own house. As well as I can remember, a pretty faithful account of the event is given in one of my Political Economy tales, — “Berkeley the Banker;” mixed up however with a good many facts about other persons and times. I need not give the story over again here, nor any part of it but what is concerned in the history of my own mind and my own work. — Edition: current; Page: [109] It was presently settled that my mother, my dear old aunt and I should live on in the family house. One sister went forth to earn the independence which she achieved after busy and honourable years of successful exertion. The youngest was busy teaching and training the children, chiefly, of the family, till her marriage.

The question was — what was I to do, with my deafness precluding both music and governessing. I devised a plan for guiding the studies of young people by correspondence, and sent out written proposals: but, while every body professed to approve the scheme, no pupil ever offered. I was ere long very glad of this; for the toil of the pen would have been great, with small results of any kind, in comparison to those which accrued from what I did write. — In the first place, I inquired about my “Life of Howard,” and found, to my interior consternation, that there was no prospect in that quarter. Nobody knew that I was left with only one shilling, insomuch that I dreaded the arrival of a thirteenpenny letter, in those days of dear postage. The family supposed me to be well-supplied, through Houlston’s recent payment for one of my little books: but that money had gone where all the rest was. The sale of a ball-dress brought me three pounds. That was something. I hoped, and not without reason, that my needle would bring me enough for my small expenses, for a time; and I did earn a good many pounds by fancy-work, in the course of the next year, — after which it ceased to be necessary. For two years, I lived on fifty pounds a year. My mother, always generous in money matters, would not hear of my paying my home expences till she saw that I should be the happier for her allowing it: and then she assured me, and proved to me, that, as she had to keep house at all events, and as my habits were exceedingly frugal (taking no wine, &c.) thirty pounds a year would repay her for my residence. Twenty pounds more sufficed for clothes, postage and sundries: and thus did I live, as long as it was necessary, on fifty pounds a year. — I must mention here a gift which dropped in upon me at that time which gave me more pleasure than any money-gift that I ever received. Our rich relations made bountiful Edition: current; Page: [110] presents to my sisters, for their outfit on leaving home: but they supposed me in possession of the money they knew I had earned, and besides concluded that I could not want much, as I was to stay at home. My application about the Howard manuscript however came to the knowledge of a cousin of mine, — then and ever since, to this hour, a faithful friend to me; and he, divining the case, sent me ten pounds, in a manner so beautiful that his few lines filled me with joy. That happened on a Sunday morning; and I well remember what a happy morning it was. I had become too deaf now for public worship; and I went every fair Sunday morning over the wildest bit of country near Norwich, — a part of Mousehold, which was a sweet breezy common, overlooking the old city in its most picturesque aspect. There I went that Sunday morning; and I remember well the freshness of the turf and the beauty of the tormentilla which bestarred it, in the light and warmth of that good cousin’s kindness.

I now wrote to Mr. Fox, telling him of my changed circumstances, which would compel me to render less gratuitous service than hitherto to the “Repository.” Mr. Fox replied by apologetically placing at my disposal the only sum at his command at that time, — fifteen pounds a year, for which I was to do as much reviewing as I thought proper. With this letter arrived a parcel of nine books for review or notice. Overwhelming as this was, few letters that I had ever received had given me more pleasure than this. Here was, in the first place, work; in the next, continued literary discipline under Mr. Fox; and lastly, this money would buy my clothes. So to work I went, with needle and pen. I had before begun to study German; and now, that study was my recreation; and I found a new inspiration in the world of German literature, which was just opening, widely and brightly, before my eager and awakened mind. It was truly life that I lived during those days of strong intellectual and moral effort.

After I had received about a dozen books, Mr. Fox asked me to send him two or three tales, such as his “best readers” would not pass by. I was flattered by this request; but I had no idea Edition: current; Page: [111] that I could fulfil his wish, any more than I could refuse to try. Now was the time to carry out the notion I had formed on reading “Helon’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” — as I related above. I wrote “The Hope of the Hebrew” (the first of the “Traditions of Palestine,”) and two others, as unlike it and each other as I could make them: — viz, “Solitude and Society,” and “The Early Sowing,” — the Unitarian City Mission being at that time under deliberation.

I carried these stories to London myself, and put them into Mr. Fox’s own hands, — being kindly invited for a long stay at the house of an uncle, in pursuit of my own objects. The Hebrew tale was put forth first; and the day after its appearance, such inquiries were made of Mr. Fox at a public dinner in regard to the authorship that I was at once determined to make a volume of them; and the “Traditions of Palestine” appeared accordingly, in the next spring. Except that first story, the whole volume was written in a fortnight. By this little volume was my name first made known in literature. I still love the memory of the time when it was written, though there was little other encouragement than my own pleasure in writing, and in the literary discipline which I continued to enjoy under Mr. Fox’s editorship. With him I always succeeded; but I failed in all other directions during that laborious winter and spring. I had no literary acquaintance or connexion whatever; and I could not get any thing that I wrote even looked at; so that every thing went into the “Repository” at last. I do not mean that any amount of literary connexion would necessarily have been of any service to me; for I do not believe that “patronage,” “introductions” and the like are of any avail, in a general way. I know this; — that I have always been anxious to extend to young or struggling authors the sort of aid which would have been so precious to me in that winter of 1829 - 1830, and that, in above twenty years, I have never succeeded but once. I obtained the publication of “The Two Old Men’s Tales,” — the first of Mrs. Marsh’s novels: but, from the time of my own success to this hour, every other attempt, of the scores I have made, to get a hearing for young or new aspirants has failed. My own Edition: current; Page: [112] heart was often very near sinking, — as were my bodily forces; and with reason. During the daylight hours of that winter, I was poring over fine fancy-work, by which alone I earned any money; and after tea, I went upstairs to my room, for my day’s literary labour. The quantity I wrote, at prodigious expenditure of nerve, surprises me now, — after my long breaking-in to hard work. Every night that winter, I believe, I was writing till two, or even three in the morning, — obeying always the rule of the house, — of being present at the breakfast table as the clock struck eight. Many a time I was in such a state of nervous exhaustion and distress that I was obliged to walk to and fro in the room before I could put on paper the last line of a page, or the last half sentence of an essay or review. Yet was I very happy. The deep-felt sense of progress and expansion was delightful; and so was the exertion of all my faculties; and, not least, that of will to overcome my obstructions, and force my way to that power of public speech of which I believed myself more or less worthy. The worst apprehension I felt, — far worse than that of disappointment, mortification and poverty, — was from the intense action of my mind. Such excitement as I was then sustaining and enjoying could not always last; and I dreaded the reaction, or the effects of its mere cessation. I was beginning, however, to learn that the future, — our intellectual and moral future, — had better be left to take care of itself, as long as the present is made the best use of; and I found, in due course, that each period of the mind’s training has its own excitements, and that the less its condition is quacked, or made the subject of anticipation at all, the better for the mind’s health. But my habit of anxiety was not yet broken. It was scarcely weakened. I have since found that persons who knew me only then, do not recognize me or my portraits now, — or at any time within the last twenty years. The frown of those old days, the rigid face, the sulky mouth, the forbidding countenance, which looked as if it had never had a smile upon it, told a melancholy story which came to an end long ago: but it was so far from its end then that it amazes me now to think what liberality and forbearance were requisite in the treatment of me by Mr. Fox Edition: current; Page: [113] and the friends I met at his house, and how capable they were of that liberality. My Sabbatarian strictness, and my prejudices on a hundred subjects must have been absurd and disagreeable enough to them: but their gentleness, respect and courtesy were such as I now remember with gratitude and pleasure. They saw that I was outgrowing my shell, and they had patience with me till I had rent it and cast it off; and if they were not equally ready with their sympathy when I had found freedom, but disposed to turn from me, in proportion as I was able to take care of myself, to do the same office for other incipient or struggling beings, this does not lessen my sense of obligation to them for the help and support they gave me in my season of intellectual and moral need.

My griefs deepened towards the close of that London visit. While failing in all my attempts to get my articles even looked at, proposals were made to me to remain in town, and undertake proof-correcting and other literary drudgery, on a salary which would, with my frugal habits, have supported me, while leaving time for literary effort on my own account. I rejoiced unspeakably in this opening, and wrote home in high satisfaction at the offer which would enable my young sister, — then only eighteen, — to remain at home, pursuing her studies in companionship with a beloved cousin of nearly her own age, and gaining something like maturity and self-reliance before going out into the cold dark sphere of governessing. But, to my disappointment, — I might almost say, horror, — my mother sent me peremptory orders to go home, and to fill the place which my poor young sister was to vacate. I rather wonder that, being seven and twenty years old, I did not assert my independence, and refuse to return, — so clear as was, in my eyes, the injustice of remanding me to a position of helplessness and dependence, when a career of action and independence was opening before me. If I had known what my young sister was thinking and feeling, I believe I should have taken my own way, for her sake: but I did not know all: the instinct and habit of old obedience prevailed, and I went home, with some resentment, but far more grief and desolation in my heart. My mother afterwards looked Edition: current; Page: [114] back with surprise upon the peremptoriness with which she had assumed the direction of my affairs; and she told me, (what I had suspected before) that my well-meaning hostess, who knew nothing of literature, and was always perplexing me with questions as to “how much I should get” by each night’s work, had advised my return home, to pursue, — not literature but needlework, by which, she wrote, I had proved that I could earn money, and in which career I should always have the encouragement and support of herself and her family. (Nothing could be more gracious than the acknowledgment of their mistake volunteered by this family at a subsequent time.) My mother was wont to be guided by them, whenever they offered their counsel; and this time it cost me very dear. I went down to Norwich, without prospect, — without any apparent chance of independence; but as fully resolved against being dependent as at any time before or after.

My mother received me very tenderly. She had no other idea at the moment than that she had been doing her best for my good; and I, for my part, could not trust myself to utter a word of what was swelling in my heart. I arrived worn and weary with a night journey; and my mother was so uneasy at my looks that she made me lie down on her bed after breakfast, and, as I could not sleep, came and sat by me for a talk. — My news was that the Central Unitarian Association had advertized for prize Essays, by which Unitarianism was to be presented to the notice of Catholics, Jews, and Mohammedans. The Catholic one was to be adjudicated on at the end of September (1830) and the other two in the following March. Three sub-committees were appointed for the examination of the manuscripts sent in, and for decision on them: and these sub-committees were composed of different members, to bar all suspicion of partiality. The essays were to be superscribed with a motto; and the motto was to be repeated on a sealed envelope, containing the writer’s name, which was not to be looked at till the prize was awarded; and then only in the case of the successful candidate. The prizes were, ten guineas for the Catholic, fifteen for the Jewish, and twenty for the Mohammedan essay. I told my mother, as Edition: current; Page: [115] she sat by the bedside, of this gleam of a prospect for me; and she replied that she thought it might be as well to try for one prize. My reply was “If I try at all, it shall be for all.” The money reward was trifling, even in the eyes of one so poor and prospectless as I was; but I felt an earnest desire to ascertain whether I could write, as Mr. Fox and other personal friends said I could. I saw that it was a capital opportunity for a fair trial of my competency in comparison with others; and I believe it was no small consideration to me that I should thus, at all events, tide over many months before I need admit despair. My mother thought this rather desperate work; but she gave me her sympathy and encouragement during the whole period of suspense, — as did the dear old aunt who lived with us. No one else was to know; and my secret was perfectly kept. The day after my return, I began to collect my materials; and before the week was done, I had drawn out the scheme of my Essay, and had begun it. It was done within a month; and then it had to be copied, lest any member of the sub-committee should know my hand. I discovered a poor school-boy who wrote a good hand; and I paid him a sovereign which I could ill spare for his work. The parcel was sent in a circuitous way to the office in London: and then, while waiting in suspense, I wrote the Tale called “Five Years of Youth,” which I have never looked at since, and have certainly no inclination to read. Messrs. Darton and Harvey gave me twenty pounds for this; and most welcome was such a sum at that time. It set me forward through the toil of the Mohammedan Essay, which I began in October, I think. The “Monthly Repository” for October contained a notification that the sub-committee sitting on the first of the three occasions had adjudged the prize for the Catholic Essay to me; and the money was presently forwarded. That announcement arrived on a Sunday morning; and again I had a charming walk over Mousehold, as in the year before, among the heather and the bright tormentilla.

Next day, I went to the Public Library, and brought home Sale’s Koran. A friend whom I met said “What do you bore yourself with that book for? You will never get through it.” Edition: current; Page: [116] He little guessed what I meant to get out of it, and out of Sale’s preliminary Essay. It occurred to me that the apologue form would suit the subject best; and I ventured upon it, though fearing that such daring might be fatal. One of the sub-committee, an eminent scholar, told me afterwards that it was this which mainly influenced his suffrage in my favour. In five weeks, the work was done: but my tribulation about its preparation lasted much longer; for the careless young usher who undertook the copying was not only idle but saucy; and it was doubtful to the last day whether the parcel could be in London by the first of March. Some severe threatening availed however; and that and the Jewish Essay, sent round by different hands (the hands of strangers to the whole scheme) done up in different shapes, and in different kinds of paper, and sealed with different wax and seals, were deposited at the office on the last day of February. The Jewish Essay was beautifully copied by a poor woman who wrote a clerk-like hand. The titles of the three Essays were —

“The Essential Faith of the Universal Church” (to Catholics).

“The Faith as Unfolded by Many Prophets” (to Mohammedans).

“The Faith as Manifested through Israel” (to Jews).

The last of these was grounded on Lessing’s “Hundred Thoughts on the Education of the Human Race,” which had taken my fancy amazingly, in the course of my German studies, — fancy then being the faculty most concerned in my religious views. Though my mind was already largely prepared for this piece of work by study, and by having treated the theory in the “Monthly Repository,” and though I enjoyed the task in a certain sense, it became very onerous before it was done. I was by that time nearly as thin as possible; and I dreamed of the destruction of Jerusalem, and saw the burning of the Temple, almost every night. I might well be exhausted by that great and portentous first of March; for the year had been one of tremendous labour. I think it was in that year that a prize was offered by some Unitarian authority or other for any Essay on Baptism, for which I competed, but came in only third. If that was the year, my work stood thus: — my literary work, I Edition: current; Page: [117] mean; for, in that season of poverty, I made and mended every thing I wore, — knitting stockings while reading aloud to my mother and aunt, and never sitting idle a minute. I may add that I made considerable progress in the study of German that year. My writings within the twelve months were as follows: —

“Traditions of Palestine” (except the first tale).

“Five Years of Youth.”

Seven tracts for Houlston.

Essay on Baptism.

Three Theological Essays for prizes, and

Fifty-two articles for the Monthly Repository.

By this time my mother was becoming aware of the necessity of my being a good deal in London, if I was to have any chance in the field of literature; and she consented to spare me for three months in the spring of every year. An arrangement was made for my boarding at the house of a cousin for three months from the first of March; and up I went, little dreaming what would be happening, and how life would be opening before me, by that day twelvemonths. One of my objects in the first instance was improving myself in German. An admirable master brought me forward very rapidly, on extremely low terms, in consideration of my helping him with his English prefaces to some of his works. After a few weeks of hard work, writing and studying, I accepted an invitation to spend a few days with some old friends in Kent. There I refreshed myself among pretty scenery, fresh air, and pleasant drives with hospitable friends, and with the study of Faust at night, till a certain day, early in May, which was to prove very eventful to me. I returned on the outside of the coach, and got down, with my heavy bag, at my German master’s door, where I took a lesson. It was very hot; and I dragged myself and my bag home, in great fatigue, and very hungry. Dinner was ordered up again by my hostess, and I sat an hour, eating my dinner, resting and talking. Then I was leaving the room, bonnet in hand, when a daughter of my hostess seemed to recollect something, and called after me to say, “O, I forgot! I suppose” (she was a very slow Edition: current; Page: [118] and hesitating speaker) — “I suppose . . . . . . you know . . . . . . you know about . . . . . . those prizes . . . . . . those prize essays, you know.”

“No . . . . . . not I! What do you mean?”

“O! well, we thought . . . . . . . . . we thought you knew . . . . . .”

“Well, — but what?”

“O! you have . . . . . . . . . why, . . . you have got all the prizes.”

“Why J! why did you not tell me so before?”

“O! I thought . . . . . . I thought you might know.”

“How should I, — just up from the country? But what do you know?”

“Why, only . . . . . . . . . only the Secretary of the Unitarian Association has been here, — with a message, — with the news from the Committee.” — It was even so.

The next day was the Unitarian May Meeting; and I had come up from Kent to attend it. I was shocked to hear, after the morning service, that, in reading the Report in the evening, the whole story of the Essays must be told, with the announcement of the result. I had reckoned for weeks on that meeting, at which Rammohun Roy was to be present, and where the speaking was expected to be particularly interesting; and I neither liked to stay away nor to encounter the telling of my story. Mr. and Mrs. Fox promised to put me into a quiet pew if I would go as soon as the gates were opened. I did so; but the Secretary came, among others, to be introduced, and to congratulate; and I knew when the dreaded moment was coming, amidst his reading of the Report, by a glance which he sent in my direction, to see if his wife, who sat next me, was keeping up my attention. I thought the story of all the measures and all the precautions taken by the various Committees the longest I had ever sat under, and the silence with which it was listened to the very deadest. I heard little indeed but the beating of my own heart. Then came the catastrophe, and the clapping and the “Hear! Hear!” I knew that many of my family connexions must be present, who would be surprised and gratified. But there was one person more than I expected. I slipped out before the meeting was over, and in the vestibule was met by my young sister with open arms, and with an offer to go home Edition: current; Page: [119] with me for the night. She was in the midst of an uncomfortable brief experiment of governessing, a few miles from town, and had been kindly indulged with a permission to go to this meeting, too late to let me know. She had arrived late, and got into the gallery; and before she had been seated many minutes, heard my news, so strangely told! She went home with me; and, after we had written my mother the account of the day, we talked away nearly all the rest of that May night. — It was truly a great event to me, — the greatest since my brother’s reception of my first attempt in print. I had now found that I could write, and I might rationally believe that authorship was my legitimate career.

Of course, I had no conception at that time of the thorough weakness and falseness of the views I had been conveying with so much pains and so much complacency. This last act in connexion with the Unitarian body was a bonâ fide one; but all was prepared for that which ensued, — a withdrawal from the body through those regions of metaphysical fog in which most deserters from Unitarianism abide for the rest of their time. The Catholic essay was ignorant and metaphysical, if my recollection of it is at all correct; and the other two mere fancy pieces: and I can only say that if either Mohammedans or Jews have ever been converted by them, such converts can hardly be rational enough to be worth having. I had now plunged fairly into the spirit of my time, — that of self-analysis, pathetic self-pity, typical interpretation of objective matters, and scheme-making, in the name of God and Man. That such was the stage then reached by my mind, in its struggles upward and onward, there is outstanding proof in that series of papers called “Sabbath Musings” which may be found in the “Monthly Repository” of 1831. There are the papers: and I hereby declare that I considered them my best production, and expected they would outlive every thing else I had written or should write. I was, in truth, satisfied that they were very fine writing, and believed it for long after, — little aware that the time could ever come when I should write them down, as I do now, to be morbid, fantastical, and therefore unphilosophical and untrue. I cannot wonder that it Edition: current; Page: [120] did not occur to the Unitarians (as far as they thought of me at all) that I was really not of them, at the time that I had picked up their gauntlet, and assumed their championship. If it did not occur to me, no wonder it did not to them. But the clearsighted among them might and should have seen, by the evidence of those essays themselves, that I was one of those merely nominal Christians who refuse whatever they see to be impossible, absurd or immoral in the scheme or the records of Christianity, and pick out and appropriate what they like, or interpolate it with views, desires and imaginations of their own. I had already ceased to be an Unitarian in the technical sense. I was now one in the dreamy way of metaphysical accommodation, and on the ground of dissent from every other form of Christianity: the time was approaching when, if I called myself so at all, it was only in the free-thinking sense. Then came a few years during which I remonstrated with Unitarians in vain against being claimed by them, which I considered even more injurious to them than to me. They were unwilling, as they said, and as I saw, to recognize the complete severance of the theological bond between us: and I was careful to assert, in every practicable way, that it was no doing of mine if they were taunted by the orthodox with their sectarian fellowship with the writer of “Eastern Life.” At length, I hope and believe my old co-religionists understand and admit that I disclaim their theology in toto, and that by no twisting of language or darkening of its meanings can I be made out to have any thing whatever in common with them about religious matters. I perceive that they do not at all understand my views or the grounds of them, or the road to them: but they will not deny that I understand theirs, — chosen expositor as I was of them in the year 1831; and they must take my word for it that there is nothing in common between their theology and my philosophy. Our stand-point is different; and all our views and estimates are different accordingly. Of course, I consider my stand-point the truer one; and my views and estimates the higher, wider, and more accurate, as I shall have occasion to show. I consider myself the best qualified of the two parties to judge of the relative value of the views Edition: current; Page: [121] of either, because I have the experience of both, while I see that they have no comprehension of mine: but the point on which we may and ought to agree is that my severance from their faith was complete and necessarily final when I wrote “Eastern Life,” though many of them could not be brought to admit it, nor some (whom I asked) to assert it at the time. While I saw that many Unitarians resented as a slander the popular imputation that their sect is “a harbourage for infidels,” I did not choose that they should have that said of them in my case: and it is clear that if they were unwilling to exchange a disownment with me, they could have no right to quarrel with that imputation in future.

Edition: current; Page: [122]


My prize-money enabled me to go to Dublin, to visit my brother James and his wife; and I staid there till September, — writing all the time, and pondering the scheme of my Political Economy Series. I sketched out my plan in a very small blue book which was afterwards begged of me as a relic by a friend who was much with me at that time. My own idea was that my stories should appear quarterly. My brother and the publishers urged their being monthly. The idea was overwhelming at first: and there were times when truly I was scared at other parts of the scheme than that. The whole business was the strongest act of will that I ever committed myself to; and my will was always a pretty strong one. I could never have even started my project but for my thorough, well-considered, steady conviction that the work was wanted, — was even craved by the popular mind. As the event proved me right, there is no occasion to go into the evidence which determined my judgment. I now believed that for two years I must support an almost unequalled amount of literary labour: that, owing to the nature of some of the subjects to be treated, my effort would probably be fatal to my reputation: that the chances of failure in a scheme of such extent, begun without money or interest, were most formidable; and that failure would be ruin. I staked my all upon this project, in fact, and with the belief that long, weary months must pass before I could even discern the probabilities of the issue; for the mere preparations must occupy months. In the first place, — in that autumn of 1831, — I strengthened myself in certain resolutions, from which I promised myself that no power on earth should draw me away. I was resolved that, in the first place, the thing should be done. The people wanted the book; and they should have it. Next, I Edition: current; Page: [123] resolved to sustain my health under the suspense, if possible, by keeping up a mood of steady determination, and unfaltering hope. Next, I resolved never to lose my temper, in the whole course of the business. I knew I was right; and people who are aware that they are in the right need never lose temper. Lastly, I resolved to refuse, under any temptation whatever, to accept any loan from my kind mother and aunt. I felt that I could never get over causing them any pecuniary loss, — my mother having really nothing to spare, and my aunt having been abundantly generous to the family already. My own small remnant of property (which came to nothing after all) I determined to risk; and, when the scheme began to take form, I accepted small loans from two opulent friends, whom I was able presently to repay. They knew the risks as well as I; and they were men of business; and there was no reason for declining the timely aid, so freely and kindly granted. What those months of suspense were like, it is necessary now to tell.

I wrote to two or three publishers from Dublin, opening my scheme; but one after another declined having any thing to do with it, on the ground of the disturbed state of the public mind, which afforded no encouragement to put out new books. The bishops had recently thrown out the Reform Bill; and every body was watching the progress of the Cholera, — then regarded with as much horror as a plague of the middle ages. The terrifying Order in Council which froze men’s hearts by its doleful commands and recommendations, was issued just at the same time with my poor proposals; and no wonder that I met only refusals. Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock, however, requested me to take London on my way back to Norwich, that we might discuss the subject. I did so; and I took with me as a witness a lawyer cousin who told me long afterwards what an amusing scene it was to him. Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock sat superb in their arm-chairs, in their brown wigs, looking as cautious as possible, but relaxing visibly under the influence of my confidence. My cousin said that, in their place, he should have felt my confidence a sufficient guarantee, — so fully as I assigned the grounds of it: and Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock seemed to be Edition: current; Page: [124] nearly of the same mind, though they brought out a long string of objections, beginning with my proposed title, and ending with the Reform Bill and the Cholera. They wanted to suppress the words Political Economy altogether: but I knew that science could not be smuggled in anonymously. I gave up the point for the time, feeling assured that they would find their smuggling scheme impracticable. “Live and let live” was their title; and its inadequacy was vexatious enough, as showing their imperfect conception of the plan: but it was necessary to let them have their own way in the matter of preliminary advertising. They put out a sort of feeler in the form of an advertisement in some of the Diffusion Society’s publications; but an intimation so vague and obscure attracted no notice. This melancholy fact Messrs. Baldwin and Cradock duly and dolefully announced to me. Still, they did not let go for some time; and I afterwards heard that they were so near becoming my publishers that they had actually engaged a stitcher for my monthly numbers. Fortunately for me, as it turned out, but most discouragingly at the time, they withdrew, after a hesitation of many weeks. They had read and approved of a part of the manuscript of “Life in the Wilds,” — my first number: but they went on doubting; and at last wrote to me that, considering the public excitement about the Reform Bill and the Cholera, they dared not venture.

Here was the whole work to begin again. I stifled my sighs, and swallowed my tears, and wrote to one publisher after another, receiving instant refusals from all, except Messrs. Whittaker. They kept up the negotiation for a few posts, but at length joined the general chorus about the Reform Bill and the Cholera. They offered, however, to do their best for the work as mere publishers, on the usual terms of commission. My mother and aunt re-urged my accepting a loan from them of money which they were willing to risk in such a cause: but of course I would not hear of this. Mr. Fox appeared at that time earnest in the project; and a letter from him came by the same post with Messrs. Whittakers’ last, saying that booksellers might be found to share the risk; and he named one (who, like Baldwin and Cradock, afterwards failed) who would be likely to go Edition: current; Page: [125] halves with me in risk and profit. I did not much relish either the plan or the proposed publisher; but I was in no condition to refuse suggestions. I said to my mother, “You know what a man of business would do in my case.” — “What?” — “Go up to town by the next mail, and see what is to be done.” — “My dear, you would not think of doing such a thing, alone, and in this weather!” — “I wish it.” — “Well, then, let us show Henry the letters after dinner, and see what he will say.” — As soon as the cloth was removed, and we had drawn round the fire, I showed my brother Henry the letters, with the same remark I had made to my mother. He sat looking into the fire for several minutes, while nobody spoke: and then he turned to me, and said oracularly “Go!” — I sprang up, — sent to have my place taken by the early morning coach, tied up and dispatched borrowed books, and then ran to my room to pack. There I found a fire, and my trunk airing before it. All was finished an hour before tea time; and I was at leisure to read to my old ladies for the rest of the evening. On my mother observing that she could not have done it, my aunt patted me on the shoulder, and said that, at least, the back was fitted to the burden. This domestic sympathy was most supporting to me; but, at the same time, it rendered success more stringently necessary.

My scheme of going to London was not at all a wild one, unless the speed of the movement, and the state of the weather made it so. It was the beginning of December, foggy and sleety. I was always sure of a home in London, with or without notice; and without notice I presented myself at my cousin’s door that dreary December Saturday night. It was a great Brewery house, always kept open, and cooking daily going on, for the use of the partners. My kind cousin and his family were to leave home the next morning, for three weeks: but, as he observed, this would rather aid than hinder my purposes, as I went for work. I was really glad to be alone during those three eventful weeks, — feeling myself no intruder, all the while, and being under the care of attentive servants.

My first step on Monday was seeing the publisher mentioned Edition: current; Page: [126] by Mr. Fox. He shook his head; his wife smiled; and he begged to see the opening chapters, promising to return them, with a reply, in twenty-four hours. His reply was what was already burnt in upon my brain. He had “no doubt of the excellence, — wished it success — but feared that the excitement of the public mind about the Reform Bill and the Cholera would afford it no chance,” &c., &c. I was growing as sick of the Reform Bill as poor King William himself. I need not detail, even if I could remember, the many applications I made in the course of the next few days. Suffice it that they were all unsuccessful, and for the same alleged reasons. Day after day, I came home weary with disappointment, and with trudging many miles through the clay of the streets, and the fog of the gloomiest December I ever saw. I came home only to work; for I must be ready with two first numbers in case of a publisher turning up any day. All the while, too, I was as determined as ever that my scheme should be fulfilled. Night after night, the Brewery clock struck twelve, while the pen was still pushing on in my trembling hand. I had promised to take one day’s rest, and dine and sleep at the Foxes’. Then, for the first time, I gave way, in spite of all my efforts. Some trifle having touched my feelings before saying “Good-night,” the sluices burst open, and I cried all night. In the morning, Mr. Fox looked at me with great concern, stepped into the next room, and brought a folded paper to the breakfast table, saying “Don’t read this now. I can’t bear it. These are what may be called terms from my brother.” (A young bookseller who did not pretend to have any business, at that time.) “I do not ask you even to consider them; but they will enable you to tell publishers that you hold in your hand terms offered by a publisher: and this may at least procure attention to your scheme.” These were, to the subsequent regret of half a score of publishers, the terms on which my work was issued at last.

I immediately returned to town, and went straight to Whittaker’s. Mr. Whittaker looked bored, fidgetted, yawned, and then said, with extreme rudeness, “I have told you already that these are not times for new enterprises.” “Then,” said I, rising, Edition: current; Page: [127] “it is now time for me to consider the terms from another publisher which I hold in my hand.” “O, indeed, — really, Ma’am?” said he, reviving. “Do me the favour to give me a short time for consideration. Only twenty-four hours, Ma’am.” I refreshed his memory about the particulars, and endeavoured to make him see why the times were not unseasonable for this special work, though they might be for light literature.

It was next necessary to look at the paper I had been carrying. I read it with dismay. The very first stipulation was that the work should be published by subscription: and, moreover, the subscription must be for five hundred copies before the work began. Subscribers were to be provided by both parties; and Charles Fox was to have half the profits, besides the usual bookseller’s commission and privileges. The agreement was to cease at the end of any five numbers, at the wish of either party. As Charles Fox had neither money nor connexion, I felt that the whole risk was thrown upon me; and that I should have all the peril, as well as the toil, while Charles Fox would enjoy the greater part of the proceeds, in case of success, and be just where he was before, in case of failure. In fact, he never procured a single subscriber; and he told me afterwards that he knew from the beginning that he never should. After pondering this heart-sickening Memorandum, I looked with no small anxiety for Whittaker’s final reply. I seemed to see the dreaded words through the envelope; and there they were within. Mr. Whittaker expressed his “regrets that the public mind being so engrossed with the Reform Bill and the approach of the Cholera,” &c., &c. The same story to the end! Even now, in this low depth of disappointment, there were lower depths to be explored. The fiercest trial was now at hand.

I remonstrated strongly with Mr. Fox about the subscription stipulation; but in vain. The mortification to my pride was not the worst part of it, though that was severe enough. I told him that I could not stoop to that method, if any other means were left; to which he replied “You will stoop to conquer.” But he had no consolation to offer under the far more serious anxiety which I strove to impress on his mind as my main objection Edition: current; Page: [128] to the scheme. Those persons from whom I might hope for pecuniary support were precisely those to whom I despaired of conveying any conception of my aim, or of the object and scope of my work. Those who would, I believed, support it were, precisely, persons who had never seen or heard of me, and whose support could not be solicited. My view was the true one, as I might prove by many pages of anecdote. Suffice it that, at the very time when certain members of parliament were eagerly inquiring about the announced work, the wife of one of them, a rich lady of my acquaintance, to whom a prospectus had been sent, returned it, telling me that she “knew too well what she was about to buy a pig in a poke:” and the husband of a cousin of mine, a literary man in his way, sent me, in return for the prospectus, a letter, enclosing two sovereigns, and a lecture against my rashness and presumption in supposing that I was adequate to such work as authorship, and offering the enclosed sum as his mite towards the subscription; but recommending rather a family subscription which might eke out my earnings by my needle. I returned the two sovereigns, with a declaration that I wished for no subscribers but those who expected full value for their payment, and that I would depend upon my needle and upon charity when I found I could not do better, and not before. This gentleman apologised handsomely afterwards. The lady never did. It should be remembered that it is easy enough to laugh at these incidents now; but that it was a very different matter then, when success seemed to be growing more and more questionable and difficult every day. I had no resource, however, but to try the method I heartily disapproved and abhorred. I drew up a Prospectus, in which I avoided all mention of a subscription, in the hope that it might soon be dispensed with, but fully explanatory of the nature and object of the work. To this I added in my own handwriting an urgent appeal to all whom I could ask to be subscribers. I went to Mr. Fox’s, one foggy morning, to show him one of these, and the advertisement intended for the next day’s papers, announcing the first of February as the day of publication: (for it was now too late to open with the year). I found Mr. Fox in a mood as gloomy Edition: current; Page: [129] as the day. He had seen Mr. James Mill, who had assured him that my method of exemplification, — (the grand principle of the whole scheme) could not possibly succeed; and Mr. Fox now required of me to change my plan entirely, and issue my Political Economy in a didactic form! Of course, I refused. He started a multitude of objections, — feared every thing, and hoped nothing. I saw, with anguish and no little resentment, my last poor chance slipping from me. I commanded myself while in his presence. The occasion was too serious to be misused. I said to him “I see you have taken fright. If you wish that your brother should draw back, say so now. Here is the advertisement. Make up your mind before it goes to press.” He replied, “I do not wish altogether to draw back.” “Yes, you do,” said I: “and I had rather you would say so at once. But I tell you this: — the people want this book, and they shall have it.” “I know that is your intention,” he replied: “but I own I do not see how it is to come to pass.” — “Nor I: but it shall. So, say that you have done with it, and I will find other means.” “I tell you, I do not wish altogether to draw out of it; but I cannot think of my brother going on without decisive success at the outset.” “What do you mean, precisely?” “I mean that he withdraws at the end of two numbers, unless the success of the work is secured in a fortnight.” “What do you mean by success being secured?” “You must sell a thousand in a fortnight.” “In a fortnight! That is unreasonable! Is this your ultimatum?” “Yes.” “We shall not sell a thousand in the first fortnight: nevertheless, the work shall not stop at two numbers. It shall go on to five, with or without your brother.” “So I perceive you say.” “What is to be done with this advertisement?” I inquired. “Shall I send it, — yes or no?” “Yes: but remember Charles gives up at the end of two numbers, unless you sell a thousand in the first fortnight.”

I set out to walk the four miles and a half to the Brewery. I could not afford to ride, more or less; but, weary already, I now felt almost too ill to walk at all. On the road, not far from Shoreditch, I became too giddy to stand without support; and I leaned over some dirty palings, pretending to look at a cabbage Edition: current; Page: [130] bed, but saying to myself, as I stood with closed eyes, “My book will do yet.” I moved on as soon as I could, apprehending that the passers-by took me to be drunk: but the pavement swam before my eyes so that I was glad enough to get to the Brewery. I tried to eat some dinner; but the vast rooms, the plate and the liveried servant were too touching a contrast to my present condition; and I was glad to go to work, to drown my disappointment in a flow of ideas. Perhaps the piece of work that I did may show that I succeeded. I wrote the Preface to my “Illustrations of Political Economy” that evening; and I hardly think that any one would discover from it that I had that day sunk to the lowest point of discouragement about my scheme. — At eleven o’clock, I sent the servants to bed. I finished the Preface just after the Brewery clock had struck two. I was chilly and hungry: the lamp burned low, and the fire was small. I knew it would not do to go to bed, to dream over again the bitter disappointment of the morning. I began now, at last, to doubt whether my work would ever see the light. I thought of the multitudes who needed it, — and especially of the poor, — to assist them in managing their own welfare. I thought too of my own conscious power of doing this very thing. Here was the thing wanting to be done, and I wanting to do it; and the one person who had seemed best to understand the whole affair now urged me to give up either the whole scheme, or, what was worse, its main principle! It was an inferior consideration, but still, no small matter to me, that I had no hope or prospect of usefulness or independence if this project failed: and I did not feel that night that I could put my heart into any that might arise. As the fire crumbled, I put it together till nothing but dust and ashes remained; and when the lamp went out, I lighted the chamber candle; but at last it was necessary to go to bed; and at four o’clock I went, after crying for two hours, with my feet on the fender. I cried in bed till six, when I fell asleep; but I was at the breakfast table by half-past eight, and ready for the work of the day.

The work of the day was to prepare and send out my Circulars. After preparing enough for my family, I took into my Edition: current; Page: [131] confidence the before-mentioned cousin, — my benefactor and my host at that time. He was regarded by the whole clan as a prudent and experienced man of business; and I knew that his countenance would be of great value to me. That countenance he gave me, and some good suggestions, and no discouragement. — It was very disagreeable to have to appeal to monied relations whose very confidence and generosity would be a burden on my mind till I had redeemed my virtual pledges; while the slightest indulgence of a critical spirit by any of them must be exceedingly injurious to my enterprise. It was indeed not very long before I had warnings from various quarters that some of my relations were doing me “more harm by their tongues than they could ever do good by their guineas.” This was true, as the censors themselves have since spontaneously and handsomely told me. I could not blame them much for saying what they thought of my rashness and conceit, while I cordially honour the candour of their subsequent confession: but their sayings were so much added to the enormous obstructions of the case. From my first act of appeal to my monied relations, however, I derived such singular solace that every incident remains fresh in my mind, and I may fairly indulge in going over it once more.

My oldest surviving uncle and his large family, living near Clapham, had always been ready and kind in their sympathy; and I was now to find the worth of it more than ever in connexion with the greatest of my enterprises. On the next Sunday, I returned with them when they went home from Chapel. While at luncheon, my uncle told me that he understood I had some new plan, and he was anxious to know what it was. His daughters proposed that I should explain it after dinner, when their brothers would be present. After dinner, accordingly, I was called upon for my explanation, which I gave in a very detailed way. All were silent, waiting for my uncle to make his remark, the very words of which I distinctly remember, at the distance of nearly a quarter of a century. In his gentle and gracious manner he said, “You are a better judge, my dear, than we of this scheme; but we know that your industry and energy are the pride of us all, and ought to have our support.” When we Edition: current; Page: [132] ladies went to the drawing-room, I knew there would be a consultation between my uncle and his sons: and so there was. At the close of the pleasant evening, he beckoned to me, and made me sit beside him on the sofa, and told me of the confidence of his family and himself that what I was doing would be very useful: that his daughters wished for each a copy of the Series, his sons two each; and that he himself must have five. “And,” he concluded, “as you will like to pay your printer immediately, you shall not wait for our money.” So saying, he slipped a packet of bank notes and gold into my hand, to the amount of payment for fourteen copies of the whole series! To complete the grace of his hospitality, he told me that he should go to town late the next morning, and would escort me; and he desired me to sleep as late as I liked. And I did sleep, — the whole night through, and awoke a new creature. Other members of the family did what they thought proper, in the course of the week; and then I had only to go home, and await the result.

I was rather afraid to show myself to my mother, — thin as I was, and yellow, and coughing with every breath; and she was panic-struck at the evident symptoms of liver-complaint which the first half-hour disclosed. I was indeed in wretched health; and during the month of April following, when I was writing “Demerara,” I was particularly ill. I do not think I was ever well again till, at the close of 1833, I was entirely laid aside, and confined to my bed for a month, by inflammation of the liver. I am confident that that serious illness began with the toils and anxieties, and long walks in fog and mud, of two years before. My mother took my health in hand anxiously and most tenderly. In spite of my entreaties, she would never allow me to be wakened in the morning; and on Sundays, the day when Charles Fox’s dispatches came by a manufacturer’s parcel, my breakfast was sent up to me, and I was not allowed to rise till the middle of the day. For several weeks I dreaded the arrival of the publisher’s weekly letter. He always wrote gloomily, and sometimes rudely. The subscription proceeded very little better than I had anticipated. From first to last, about three hundred copies were subscribed for: and before that number had been reached, the Edition: current; Page: [133] success of the work was such as to make the subscription a mere burden. It was a thoroughly vexatious part of the business altogether, — that subscription. A clever suggestion of my mother’s, at this time, had, I believe, much to do with the immediate success of the book. By her advice, I sent, by post, a copy of my Prospectus (without a word about subscription in it) to almost every member of both Houses of Parliament. There was nothing of puffery in this, — nothing that I had the least objection to do. It was merely informing our legislators that a book was coming out on their particular class of subjects.

I may as well mention in this place, that I had offered (I cannot at all remember when) one of my tales, — the one which now stands as “Brooke and Brooke Farm,” — to the Diffusion Society, whence it had been returned. Absurd as were some of the stories afterwards set afloat about this transaction, there was thus much foundation for them. Mr. Knight, then the publisher of the Society, sent me a note of cordial and generous encouragement; but a sub-committee, to whose judgment the manuscript was consigned, thought it “dull,” and pronounced against its reception accordingly. I knew nothing about this sub-committee, or about the method employed, and had in fact forgotten, among so many failures, that particular one, when, long after, I found to my regret and surprise, that the gentlemen concerned had been supposing me offended and angry all the while, and somehow an accomplice in Lord Brougham’s mockery of their decision. In vain I told them that I now thought them perfectly right to form and express their own judgment, and that I had never before heard who had been my judges. I fear the soreness remains in their minds to this day, though there never was any in mine. Lord Brougham’s words travelled far and wide, and were certainly anything but comfortable to the subcommittee. He said he should revive the torture for their sakes, as hanging was too good for them. He tore his hair over the tales, he added, unable to endure that the whole Society, “instituted for the very purpose, should be driven out of the field by a little deaf woman at Norwich.” — As I have said, I cannot remember at what time I made my application; but I imagine Edition: current; Page: [134] it must have been during that eventful year 1831, — in which case the writing of that story must come into the estimate of the work of that year.

A cheering incident occurred during the interval of awaiting the effects of the Circular. Every body knows that the Gurneys are the great bankers of Norwich. Richard Hanbury Gurney, at that time one of the Members for Norfolk, was in the firm; and he was considered to be one of the best-informed men in England on the subject of Currency. The head officer of the bank, Mr. Simon Martin, deserved the same reputation, and had it, among all who knew him. He sent for my brother Henry, who found him with my Circular before him. He said that he had a message to communicate to me from the firm: and the message was duly delivered, when Mr. Martin had satisfied himself that my brother conscientiously believed me adequate to my enterprise. Messrs. Gurney considered the scheme an important one, promising public benefit: they doubted whether it would be immediately appreciated: they knew that I could not afford to go on at a loss, but thought it a pity that a beneficial enterprise should fall to the ground for want of immediate support: and they therefore requested that, in case of discouragement in regard to the sale, I should apply to them before giving up. “Before she gives up, let her come to us,” were their words: words which were as pleasant to me in the midst of my success as they could have been if I had needed the support so generously offered.

Meantime the weekly letter grew worse and worse. But on the Sunday preceding the day of publication came a bit of encouragement in the shape of a sentence in these, or nearly these words. “I see no chance of the work succeeding unless the trade take it up better. We have only one considerable booksellers’ order — from A and B for a hundred copies.” “Why, there,” said my mother, “is a hundred towards your thousand!” “Ah, but,” said I, “where are the other nine hundred to come from, in a fortnight?” The edition consisted of fifteen hundred.

To the best of my recollection, I waited ten days from the day Edition: current; Page: [135] of publication, before I had another line from the publisher. My mother, judging from his ill-humour, inferred that he had good news to tell: whereas I supposed the contrary. My mother was right; and I could now be amused at his last attempts to be discouraging in the midst of splendid success. At the end of those ten days, he sent with his letter a copy of my first number, desiring me to make with all speed any corrections I might wish to make, as he had scarcely any copies left. He added that the demand led him to propose that we should now print two thousand. A postscript informed me that since he wrote the above, he had found that we should want three thousand. A second postscript proposed four thousand, and a third five thousand. The letter was worth having, now it had come. There was immense relief in this; but I remember nothing like intoxication; — like any painful reaction whatever. I remember walking up and down the grassplat in the garden (I think it was on the tenth of February) feeling that my cares were over. And so they were. From that hour, I have never had any other anxiety about employment than what to choose, nor any real care about money. Eight or nine years after, I found myself entirely cut off by illness from the power of working; and then my relations and friends aided me in ways so generous as to make it easy for me to accept the assistance. But even then, I was never actually pinched for money; and, from the time that the power of working was restored, I was at once as prosperous as ever, and became more and more so till now, when illness has finally visited me in a condition of independence. I think I may date my release from pecuniary care from that tenth of February, 1832.

The entire periodical press, daily, weekly, and, as soon as possible, monthly, came out in my favour; and I was overwhelmed with newspapers and letters, containing every sort of flattery. The Diffusion Society wanted to have the Series now; and Mr. Hume offered, on behalf of a new society of which he was the head, any price I would name for the purchase of the whole. I cannot precisely answer for the date of these and other applications; but, as far as I remember, there was, from the middle of Edition: current; Page: [136] February onwards, no remission of such applications, the meanest of which I should have clutched at a few weeks before. Members of Parliament sent down blue books through the postoffice, to the astonishment of the postmaster, who one day sent word that I must send for my own share of the mail, for it could not be carried without a barrow; — an announcement which, spreading in the town, caused me to be stared at in the streets. Thus began that sort of experience. Half the hobbies of the House of Commons, and numberless notions of individuals, anonymous and other, were commended to me for treatment in my Series, with which some of them had no more to do than geometry or the atomic theory. I had not calculated on this additional labour, in the form of correspondence; and very weary I often was of it, in the midst of the amusement. One necessity arose out of it which soon became very clear, — that I must reside in London, for the sake of the extensive and varied information which I now found was at my service there, and which the public encouragement of my work made it my duty to avail myself of.

It seemed hard upon my kind mother and aunt that the first consequence of the success they buoyed me up in hoping for should be to take me to London, after all: but the events of the summer showed them the necessity of the removal. We treated it as for a time; and I felt that my mother would not endure a permanent separation. The matter ended in their joining me in a small house in London, before many months were over: and meantime, my mother stipulated for my being in the house of some family well known to her. I obtained lodgings in the house of a tailor in Conduit Street, whose excellent wife had been an acquaintance of ours from her childhood to her marriage. There I arrived in November, 1832; and there I lodged till the following September, when I went, with my mother and aunt, into a house (No. 17) in Fludyer Street, Westminster, where I resided till the breakdown of my health (which took place in 1839) removed me from London altogether.

Here I stop, thinking that the third period of my life may be considered as closing with the conquest of all difficulty about Edition: current; Page: [137] getting a hearing from the public for what I felt I had to say. Each period of my life has had its trials and heart-wearing difficulties, — except (as will be seen) the last; but in none had the pains and penalties of life a more intimate connexion with the formation of character than in the one which closes here. And now the summer of my life was bursting forth without any interval of spring. My life began with winter, burst suddenly into summer, and is now ending with autumn, — mild and sunny. I have had no spring: but that cannot be helped now. It was a moral disadvantage, as well as a great loss of happiness: but we all have our moral disadvantages to make the best of; and “happiness” is not, as the poet says, “our being’s end and aim,” but the result of one faculty among many, which must be occasionally overborne by others, if there is to be any effectual exercise of the whole being. So I am satisfied in a higher sense than that in which the Necessarian is always satisfied. I cannot but know that in my life there has been a great waste of precious time and material: but I had now, by thirty years of age, ascertained my career, found occupation, and achieved independence; and thus the rest of my life was provided with its duties and its interests. Any one to whom that happens by thirty years of age may be satisfied; and I was so.

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It was a dark foggy November morning when I arrived in London. My lodgings were up two pair of stairs; for I did not yet feel secure of my permanent success, and had no conception of what awaited me in regard to society. A respectable sitting room to the front, and a clean, small bedroom behind seemed to me all that could possibly be desired, — seeing that I was to have them all to myself. To be sure, they did look very dark, that first morning of yellow fog: but it was seldom so dark again; and when the spring came on, and I moved down into the handsomer rooms on the first floor, I thought my lodgings really pleasant. In the summer mornings, when I made my coffee at seven o’clock, and sat down to my work, with the large windows open, the sun-blinds down, the street fresh watered, and the flower-girls’ baskets visible from my seat, I wished for nothing better. The evening walks in the Parks, when London began to grow “empty,” were one of my chief pleasures; and truly I know few things better than Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine in the evenings of August and September. I had lived in a narrow street all my life, except during occasional visits; and I therefore did not now object to Conduit Street, though it was sometimes too noisy, or too foggy, or too plashy, or too hot. It is well that I did not then know the charms of a country residence; or, knowing them, never thought of them as attainable by me. I have long felt that nothing but the Edition: current; Page: [140] strongest call of duty could make me now live in a street; and if I allowed myself to give way to distress at the mysteries of human life, one of my greatest perplexities would be at so many people being obliged so to live. Now that I have dwelt for nine years in a field, where there is never any dust, never any smoke, never any noise; where my visitors laugh at the idea of the house ever being cleaned, because it never gets dirty; where there is beauty to be seen from every window, and in bad weather it is a treat to stand in the porch and see it rain, I cannot but wonder at my former contentment. I have visited and gone over our old house in Magdalen Street, at Norwich, within a few years; and I could not but wonder how my romantic days could ever have come on in such a place. There it stands, — a handsome, plain brick house, in a narrow street, — Norwich having nothing but narrow streets. There it is, — roomy and good-looking enough; but prosaic to the last degree. Except the vine on its back gable, there is not an element of naturalness or poetry about it. Yet there were my dreamy years passed. In my London lodging, a splendid vision was to open upon me, — one which I am glad to have enjoyed, because it was enjoyment; and because a diversified experience is good; and because I really gained much knowledge of human life and character from it. I became the fashion, and I might have been the “lion” of several seasons, if I had chosen to permit it. I detested the idea, and absolutely put down the practice in my own case: but I saw as much of a very varied society as if I had allowed myself to be lionised, and with a more open mind than if I had not insisted on being treated simply as a lady or let alone. The change from my life in Norwich to my life in London was certainly prodigious, and such as I did not dream of when I exchanged the one for the other. Before we lost our money, and when I was a young lady “just introduced,” my mother insisted on taking me to balls and parties, though that sort of visiting was the misery of my life. My deafness was terribly in the way, both because it made me shy, and because underbred people, like the card-players and dancers of a provincial town, are awkward in such a case. Very few people spoke to me; and I Edition: current; Page: [141] dare say I looked as if I did not wish to be spoken to. From the time when I went to London, all that was changed. People began with me as with a deaf person; and there was little more awkwardness about hearing, when they had once reconciled themselves to my trumpet. They came to me in good will, or they would not have come at all. They and I were not jumbled together by mere propinquity; we met purposely; and, if we continued our intercourse, it was through some sort of affinity. I now found what the real pleasures of social intercourse are, and was deeply sensible of its benefits: but it really does not appear to me that I was intoxicated with the pleasure, or that I over-rated the benefit. I think so because I always preferred my work to this sort of play. I think so because some sober friends, — two or three whom I could trust, — said, first, that I might and probably should say and do some foolish things, but that I should “prove ultimately unspoilable;” and afterwards that I was not spoiled. I think so because I altered no plan or aim in life on account of any social distinction; and I think so, finally, because, while vividly remembering the seven years from 1832 to 1839, and feeling as gratefully and complacently as ever the kindness and attachment of friends, and the good-will of a multitude of acquaintances, I had no inclination to return to literary life in London after my recovery at Tynemouth, and have for ten years rejoiced, without pause or doubt, in my seclusion and repose in my quiet valley. There is an article of mine on “Literary Lionism” in the London and Westminster Review of April, 1839, which was written when the subject was fresh in my thoughts and feelings. In consideration of this, and of my strong repugnance to detailing the incidents of my own reception in society, on entering the London world, while such an experience cannot be wholly passed over in an account of my life, I think the best way will be to cite that article, — omitting those passages only which are of a reviewing character. By this method, it will appear what my impressions were while in conflict with the practice of literary lionism; and I shall be spared the disgusting task of detailing old absurdities and dwelling on old flatteries, which had myself for their subject. Edition: current; Page: [142] Many of the stories which I could tell are comic enough; and a few are exceedingly interesting: but they would be all spoiled, to myself and every body else, by their relating to myself. The result on my own convictions and feelings is all that it is necessary to give; and that result can be given in no form so trustworthy as in the record penned at the time. It must be remembered that the article appeared in an anonymous form, or some appearance of conceit and bad taste may hang about even that form of disclosure. — The statement and treatment of the subject will however lead forward so far into my London life that I must fill up an intermediate space. I must give some account of my work before I proceed to treat of my playhours.

In meditating on my course of life at that time, and gathering together the evidences of what I was learning and doing, I am less disposed than I used to be to be impatient with my friends for their incessant rebukes and remonstrances about over-work. From the age of fifteen to the moment in which I am writing, I have been scolded in one form or another, for working too hard; and I wonder my friends did not find out thirty years ago that there is no use in their fault-finding. I am heartily sick of it, I own; and there may be some little malice in the satisfaction with which I find myself dying, after all, of a disease which nobody can possibly attribute to over-work. Though knowing all along that my friends were mistaken as to what was moderate and what immoderate work, in other cases than their own (and I have always left them free to judge and act for themselves) I have never denied that less toil and more leisure would be wholesome and agreeable to me. My pleas have been that I have had no power of choice, and that my critics misjudged the particular case. Almost every one of them has proceeded on the supposition that the labour of authorship involved immense “excitement;” and I, who am the quietest of quiet bodies, when let alone in my business, have been warned against “excitement” till I am fairly sick of the word. One comfort has always been that those who were witnesses of my work-a-day life always came round to an agreement with me that literary labour is not necessarily more hurtfully exciting than any other Edition: current; Page: [143] serious occupation. My mother, alarmed at a distance, and always expecting to hear of a brain fever, used to say, amidst the whirl of our London spring days, “My dear, I envy your calmness.” And a very intimate friend, one of the strongest remonstrants, told me spontaneously, when I had got through a vast pressure of work in her country house, that she should never trouble me more on that head, as she saw that my authorship was the fulfilment of a natural function, — conducive to health of body and mind, instead of injurious to either. It would have saved me from much annoyance (kindly intended) if others had observed with the same good sense, and admitted conviction with equal candour. Authorship has never been with me a matter of choice. I have not done it for amusement, or for money, or for fame, or for any reason but because I could not help it. Things were pressing to be said; and there was more or less evidence that I was the person to say them. In such a case, it was always impossible to decline the duty for such reasons as that I should like more leisure, or more amusement, or more sleep, or more of any thing whatever. If my life had depended on more leisure and holiday, I could not have taken it. What wanted to be said must be said, for the sake of the many, whatever might be the consequences to the one worker concerned. Nor could the immediate task be put aside, from the remote consideration, for ever pressed upon me, of lengthening my life. The work called for to-day must not be refused for the possible sake of next month or next year. While feeling far less injured by toil than my friends took for granted I must be, I yet was always aware of the strong probability that my life would end as the lives of hard literary workers usually end, — in paralysis, with months or years of imbecility. Every one must recoil from the prospect of being thus burdensome to friends and attendants; and it certainly was a matter of keen satisfaction to me, when my present fatal disease was ascertained, that I was released from that liability, and should die of something else, far less formidable to witnesses and nurses. Yet, the contemplation of such a probability in the future was no reason for declining the duty of the time; and I could not have written Edition: current; Page: [144] a volume the less if I had foreknown that, at a certain future day and hour, I should be struck down like Scott and Southey, and many another faithful labourer in the field of literature.

One deep and steady conviction, obtained from my own experience and observation, largely qualified any apprehensions I might have, and was earnestly impressed by me upon my remonstrating friends; that enormous loss of strength, energy and time is occasioned by the way in which people go to work in literature, as if its labours were in all respects different from any other kind of toil. I am confident that intellectual industry and intellectual punctuality are as practicable as industry and punctuality in any other direction. I have seen vast misery of conscience and temper arise from the irresolution and delay caused by waiting for congenial moods, favourable circumstances, and so forth. I can speak, after long experience, without any doubt on this matter. I have suffered, like other writers, from indolence, irresolution, distaste to my work, absence of “inspiration,” and all that: but I have also found that sitting down, however reluctantly, with the pen in my hand, I have never worked for one quarter of an hour without finding myself in full train: so that all the quarter hours, arguings, doubtings and hesitation as to whether I should work or not which I gave way to in my inexperience, I now regard as so much waste, not only of time but, far worse, of energy. To the best of my belief, I never but once in my life left my work because I could not do it: and that single occasion was on the opening day of an illness. When once experience had taught me that I could work when I chose, and within a quarter of an hour of my determining to do so, I was relieved, in a great measure, from those embarrassments and depressions which I see afflicting many an author who waits for a mood instead of summoning it, and is the sport, instead of the master, of his own impressions and ideas. — As far as the grosser physical influences are concerned, an author has his lot pretty much in his own hands, because it is in his power to shape his habits in accordance with the laws of nature: and an author who does not do this has no business with the Edition: current; Page: [145] lofty vocation. I am very far indeed from desiring to set up my own practices as an example for others; and I do not pretend that they are wholly rational, or the best possible: but, as the facts are clear — that I have, without particular advantages of health and strength, done an unusual amount of work without fatal, perhaps without injurious consequences, and without the need of pernicious stimulants and peculiar habits, — it may be as well to explain what my methods were, that others may test them experimentally, if they choose.

As for my hours, — it has always been my practice to devote my best strength to my work; and the morning hours have therefore been sacred to it, from the beginning. I really do not know what it is to take any thing but the pen in hand, the first thing after breakfast, except, of course, in travelling. I never pass a day without writing; and the writing is always done in the morning. There have been times when I have been obliged to “work double tides,” and therefore to work at night: but it has never been a practice; and I have seldom written any thing more serious than letters by candlelight. In London, I boiled my coffee at seven or half-past, and went to work immediately till two, when it was necessary to be at liberty for visitors till four o’clock. It was impossible for me to make calls. I had an immense acquaintance, no carriage, and no time: and I therefore remained at home always from two till four, to receive all who came; and I called on nobody. I knew that I should be quizzed or blamed for giving myself airs: but I could not help that. I had engaged before I came to London to write a number of my Series every month for two years; and I could not have fulfilled my engagement and made morning visits too. Sydney Smith was one of the quizzers. He thought I might have managed the thing better, by “sending round an inferior authoress in a carriage to drop the cards.”

When my last visitor departed, I ran out for an hour’s walk, returning in time to dress and read the newspaper, before the carriage came, — somebody’s carriage being always sent, — to take me out to dinner. An evening visit or two closed the day’s engagements. I tried my best to get home by twelve or half-past, Edition: current; Page: [146] in order to answer the notes I was sure to find on my table, or to get a little reading before going to rest between one and two. A very refreshing kind of visit was (and it happened pretty often) when I walked to the country, or semi-country house of an intimate friend, and slept there, — returning before breakfast, or in time to sit down to my morning’s work. After my mother and aunt joined me in London, I refused Sunday visiting altogether, and devoted that evening to my old ladies. So much for the times of working.

I was deeply impressed by something which an excellent clergyman told me one day, when there was nobody by to bring mischief on the head of the relater. This clergyman knew the literary world of his time so thoroughly that there was probably no author of any mark then living in England, with whom he was not more or less acquainted. It must be remembered that a new generation has now grown up. He told me that he had reason to believe that there was no author or authoress who was free from the habit of taking some pernicious stimulant; — either strong green tea, or strong coffee at night, or wine or spirits or laudanum. The amount of opium taken, to relieve the wear and tear of authorship, was, he said, greater than most people had any conception of: and all literary workers took something. “Why, I do not,” said I. “Fresh air and cold water are my stimulants.” — “I believe you,” he replied. “But you work in the morning; and there is much in that.” I then remembered that when, for a short time, I had to work at night (probably on one of the Poor-law tales, while my regular work occupied the mornings) a physician who called on me observed that I must not allow myself to be exhausted at the end of the day. He would not advise any alcoholic wine; but any light wine that I liked might do me good. “You have a cupboard there at your right hand,” said he. “Keep a bottle of hock and a wine-glass there, and help yourself when you feel you want it.” — “No, thank you,” said I. “If I took wine, it should not be when alone; nor would I help myself to a glass. I might take a little more and a little more, till my solitary glass might become a regular tippling habit. I shall avoid the temptation altogether.” Edition: current; Page: [147] Physicians should consider well before they give such advice to brain-worn workers.

As for the method, in regard to the Political Economy Tales, I am not sorry to have an opportunity of putting it on record. — When I began, I furnished myself with all the standard works on the subject of what I then took to be a science. I had made a skeleton plan of the course, comprehending the four divisions, Production, Distribution, Exchange and Consumption: and, in order to save my nerves from being overwhelmed with the thought of what I had undertaken, I resolved not to look beyond the department on which I was engaged. The subdivisions arranged themselves as naturally as the primary ones; and when any subject was episodical (as Slave Labour) I announced it as such. — Having noted my own leading ideas on the topic before me, I took down my books, and read the treatment of that particular subject in each of them, making notes of reference on a separate sheet for each book, and restraining myself from glancing even in thought towards the scene and nature of my story till it should be suggested by my collective didactic materials. It was about a morning’s work to gather hints by this reading. The next process, occupying an evening, when I had one to spare, or the next morning, was making the Summary of Principles which is found at the end of each number. This was the most laborious part of the work, and that which I certainly considered the most valuable. — By this time, I perceived in what part of the world, and among what sort of people, the principles of my number appeared to operate the most manifestly. Such a scene I chose, be it where it might.

The next process was to embody each leading principle in a character: and the mutual operation of these embodied principles supplied the action of the story. It was necessary to have some accessories, — some out-works to the scientific erection; but I limited these as much as possible; and I believe that in every instance, they really were rendered subordinate. An hour or two sufficed for the outline of my story. If the scene was foreign, or in any part of England with which I was not familiar, I sent to the library for books of travel or topography: and the Edition: current; Page: [148] collecting and noting down hints from these finished the second day’s work. The third day’s toil was the severest. I reduced my materials to chapters, making a copious table of contents for each chapter on a separate sheet, on which I noted down, not only the action of the personages and the features of the scene, but all the political economy which it was their business to convey, whether by exemplification or conversation, — so as to absorb all the materials provided. This was not always completed at one sitting, and it made me sometimes sick with fatigue: but it was usually done in one day. After that, all the rest was easy. I paged my paper; and then the story went off like a letter. I never could decide whether I most enjoyed writing the descriptions, the narrative, or the argumentative or expository conversations. I liked each best while I was about it.

As to the actual writing, — I did it as I write letters, and as I am writing this Memoir, — never altering the expression as it came fresh from my brain. On an average I wrote twelve pages a day, — on large letter paper (quarto, I believe it is called) the page containing thirty-three lines. In spite of all precautions, interruptions occurred very often. The proof-correcting occupied some time; and so did sitting for five portraits in the year and half before I went to America. The correspondence threatened to become infinite. Many letters, particularly anonymous ones, required or deserved no answer: but there were others from operatives, young persons, and others which could be answered without much expenditure of thought, and wear and tear of interest: and I could not find in my heart to resist such clients. Till my mother joined me, I never failed to send her a bulky packet weekly; as much for my own satisfaction as for her’s, — needing as I did to speak freely to some one of the wonderful scenes which life was now opening to me. Having no maid, I had a good deal of the business of common life upon my hands. On the conclusion of a number, I sometimes took two days’ respite; employing it in visiting some country house for the day and night, and indulging in eight hours’ sleep, instead of the five, or five and a half, with which I was otherwise obliged to be satisfied: but it happened more than once that I finished one number Edition: current; Page: [149] at two in the morning, and was at work upon another by nine. During the whole period of the writing of the three Series, — the Political Economy, Taxation, and Poor Laws, — I never remember but once sitting down to read whatever I pleased. That was a summer evening, when I was at home and my old ladies were out, and I had two hours to do what I liked with. I was about to go to the United States; and I sat down to study the geography and relations of the States of the American Union; and extremely interesting I found it, — so soon as I was hoping to travel through them.

The mode of scheming and constructing my stories having been explained, it remains to be seen whence the materials were drawn. A review of the sources of my material will involve some anecdotes which may be worth telling, if I may judge by my own interest, and that which I witness in others, in the history of the composition of any well-known work.

If I remember right, I was busy about the twelfth number, — “French Wines and Politics,” — when I went to London, in November, 1832. That is, I had done with the department of Production, and was finishing that of Distribution. The first three numbers were written before the stir of success began: and the scenery was furnished by books of travel obtained from the Public Library, and of farming by the late Dr. Rigby of Norwich, — a friend of the late Lord Leicester, (when Mr. Coke). The books of travel were Lichtenstein’s South Africa for “Life in the Wilds:” Edwards’s (and others’) “West Indies” for “Demerara:” and McCulloch’s “Highlands and Islands of Scotland” for the two Garveloch stories. Mr. Cropper of Liverpool heard of the Series early enough to furnish me with some statistics of Slavery for “Demerara;” and Mr. Hume, in time to send me Blue Books on the Fisheries, for “Ella of Garveloch.” — My correspondence with Mr. Cropper deserves mention, in honour of that excellent and devoted man. About the time that the success of my scheme began to be apparent, there arrived in Norwich a person who presented himself as an anti-slavery agent. It was the well-known Elliott Cresson, associated with the American Colonization scheme, which he Edition: current; Page: [150] hoped to pass upon us innocent provincial Britons as the same thing as anti-slavery. Many even of the Quakers were taken in; and indeed there were none but experienced abolitionists, like the Croppers, who were qualified even to suspect, — much less to detect, — this agent of the slaveholders and his false pretences. Kind-hearted people, hearing from Mr. Cresson that a slave could be bought and settled blissfully in Liberia for seven pounds ten shillings, raised the ransom in their own families and among their neighbours, and thought all was right. Mr. Cresson obtained an introduction to my mother and me, and came to tea, and described what certainly interested us very much, and offered to furnish me with plenty of evidence of the productiveness of Liberia, and the capabilities of the scheme, with a view to my making it the scene and subject of one of my tales. I was willing, thinking it would make an admirable framework for one of my pieces of doctrine; and I promised, not to write a story, but to consider of it when the evidence should have arrived. The papers arrived; and my conclusion was — not to write about Liberia. Some time after, I had a letter from Mr. Cropper, who was a perfect stranger to me, saying that Elliott Cresson was announcing every where from the platform in his public lectures that I had promised him to make the colony of Liberia one of my Illustrations of Political Economy: and it was the fact that the announcement was made in many places. Mr. Cropper offered to prove to me the unreliableness of Cresson’s representations, and the true scope and aim of the Colonization scheme. He appealed to me not to publish in its favour till I had heard the other side; and offered to bear the expense of suppressing the whole edition, if the story was already printed. I had the pleasure of telling him by return of post that I had given no such promise to Mr. Cresson, and that I had not written, nor intended to write, any story about Liberia or American Colonization. Before I went to the United States, this agent of the slaveholders had exposed his true character by lecturing, all over England, in a libellous tone, against Garrison and the true abolitionists of America. When I had begun to see into the character and policy of the enterprise, and before Edition: current; Page: [151] I had met a single abolitionist in America, I encountered Mr. Cresson, face to face, in the Senate Chamber at Washington. He was very obsequious; but I would have nothing to say to him. He was, I believe, the only acquaintance whom I ever “cut.” It was out of this incident that grew the correspondence with Mr. Cropper which ended in his furnishing me with material for an object precisely the reverse of Elliott Cresson’s.

On five occasions in my life I have found myself obliged to write and publish what I entirely believed would be ruinous to my reputation and prosperity. In no one of the five cases has the result been what I anticipated. I find myself at the close of my life prosperous in name and fame, in my friendships and in my affairs. But it may be considered to have been a narrow escape in the first instance; for every thing was done that low-minded recklessness and malice could do to destroy my credit and influence by gross appeals to the prudery, timidity, and ignorance of the middle classes of England. My own innocence of intention, and my refusal to conceal what I thought and meant, carried me through: but there is no doubt that the circulation of my works was much and long restricted by the prejudices indecently and maliciously raised against me by Mr. Croker and Mr. Lockhart, in the Quarterly Review. I mention these two names, because Messrs. Croker and Lockhart openly assumed the honour of the wit which they (if nobody else) saw in the deed; and there is no occasion to suppose any one else concerned in it. As there is, I believe, some lingering feeling still, — some doubt about my being once held in horror as a “Malthusian,” I had better tell simply all I know of the matter.

When the course of my exposition brought me to the Population subject, I, with my youthful and provincial mode of thought and feeling, — brought up too amidst the prudery which is found in its great force in our middle class, — could not but be sensible that I risked much in writing and publishing on a subject which was not universally treated in the pure, benevolent, and scientific spirit of Malthus himself. I felt that the subject was one of science, and therefore perfectly easy to treat in itself; but I was aware that some evil associations had gathered about it, — though Edition: current; Page: [152] I did not know what they were. While writing “Weal and Woe in Garveloch,” the perspiration many a time streamed down my face, though I knew there was not a line in it which might not be read aloud in any family. The misery arose from my seeing how the simplest statements and reasonings might and probably would be perverted. I said nothing to any body; and, when the number was finished, I read it aloud to my mother and aunt. If there had been any opening whatever for doubt or dread, I was sure that these two ladies would have given me abundant warning and exhortation, — both from their very keen sense of propriety and their anxious affection for me. But they were as complacent and easy as they had been interested and attentive. I saw that all ought to be safe. But it was evidently very doubtful whether all would be safe. A few words in a letter from Mr. Fox put me on my guard. In the course of some remarks on the sequence of my topics, he wrote, “As for the Population question, let no one interfere with you. Go straight through it, or you’ll catch it.” I did go straight through it; and happily I had nearly done when a letter arrived from a literary woman, who had the impertinence to write to me now that I was growing famous, after having scarcely noticed me before, and (of all subjects,) on this, though she tried to make her letter decent by putting in a few little matters besides. I will call her Mrs. Z. as I have no desire to point out to notice one for whom I never had any respect or regard. She expressed, on the part of herself and others, an anxious desire to know how I should deal with the Population question; said that they did not know what to wish about my treating or omitting it; — desiring it for the sake of society, but dreading it for me; and she finished by informing me that a Member of Parliament, who was a perfect stranger to me, had assured her that I already felt my difficulty; and that he and she awaited my decision with anxiety. Without seeing at the moment the whole drift of this letter, I was abundantly disgusted by it, and fully sensible of the importance of its being answered immediately, and in a way which should admit of no mistake. I knew my reply was wanted for show; and I sent one by return of post which was Edition: current; Page: [153] shown to some purpose. It stopped speculation in one dangerous quarter. I showed my letter to my mother and brother; and they emphatically approved it, though it was rather sharp. They thought, as I did, that some sharpness was well directed towards a lady who professed to have talked over difficulties of this nature, on my behalf, with an unknown Member of Parliament by her own fireside. My answer was this. I believe I am giving the very words; for the business impressed itself deeply on my mind. “As for the questions you put about the principles of my Series, — if you believe the Population question to be, as you say, the most serious now agitating society, you can hardly suppose that I shall omit it, or that I can have been heedless of it in forming my plan. I consider it, as treated by Malthus, a strictly philosophical question. So treating it, I find no difficulty in it; and there can be no difficulty in it for those who approach it with a single mind. To such I address myself. If any others should come whispering to me what I need not listen to, I shall shift my trumpet, and take up my knitting.” I afterwards became acquainted with the Member of Parliament whom my undesired correspondent quoted; and I feel confident that his name was used very unwarrantably, for the convenience of the lady’s prurient curiosity. — I also saw her. She called on me at my lodgings (to catch a couple of franks from a Member of Parliament) and she mentioned my letter, — obtaining no response from me. She was then a near neighbour and an acquaintance of an intimate friend of mine. One winter morning, I was surprised by a note from this friend, sent three miles by a special messenger, to say, “Mrs. Z. purposes to visit you this morning. I conjure you to take my advice. On the subject which she will certainly introduce, be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid. I will explain hereafter.” The morning was so stormy that no Mrs. Anybody could come. My friend’s explanation to me was this. Mrs. Z. had declared her anxiety to her, in a morning call, to obtain from me, for her own satisfaction and other people’s, an avowal which might be reported as to the degree of my knowledge of the controversies which secretly agitated society on the true bearings of the Population question. Edition: current; Page: [154] All this was no concern of mine; and much of it was beyond my comprehension. The whole interference of Mrs. Z. and her friends (if indeed there was anybody concerned in it but herself) was odious and impertinent nonsense in my eyes; and the fussy lady ever found me, as well as my friend, ready to be as “deaf, dumb, blind and stupid” as occasion might require. — I rather suspect that Mrs. Z. herself was made a tool of for the purposes of Mr. Lockhart, who employed his then-existing intimacy with her to get materials for turning her into ridicule afterwards. The connexion of Mr. Lockhart with this business presently appeared.

In an evening party in the course of the winter, I was introduced to a lady whose name and connexions I had heard a good deal of. Instead of being so civil as might be anticipated from her eagerness for an introduction, she was singularly rude and violent, so as to make my hostess very uncomfortable. She called me “cruel” and “brutal,” and scolded me for my story — “Cousin Marshall.” I saw that she was talking at random, and asked her whether she had read the story. She had not. I good-humouredly, but decidedly, told her that when she had read it, we would discuss it, if she pleased; and that meantime we would drop it. She declared she would not read it for the world; but she presently followed me about, was kind and courteous, and finished by begging to be allowed to set me down at my lodgings. When I alighted, she requested leave to call. She did so, when my mother was with me for two or three weeks, and invited us to dine at her house in the country, on the first disengaged day. She called for us, and told us during our drive that she had resisted the strongest entreaties from Mr. Lockhart to be allowed to meet me that day. She had some misgiving, it appeared, which made her steadily refuse; but she invited Lady G—, a relative of Lockhart’s, and an intimate friend of her own. Lady G. was as unwilling as Lockhart was eager to come; and very surly she looked when introduced. She sat within hearing of my host and me at dinner; and as soon as we returned to the drawing-room, she took her seat by me, with a totally changed manner, and conversed kindly and Edition: current; Page: [155] agreeably. I was wholly unaware what lay under all this: but the fact soon came out that the atrocious article in the Quarterly Review which was avowedly intended to “destroy Miss Martineau,” was at that time actually printed; and Mr. Lockhart wanted to seize an opportunity which might be the last for meeting me, — all unsuspecting as I was, and trusting to his being a gentleman, on the strength of meeting him in that house. I was long afterwards informed that Lady G. went to him early the next day, (which was Sunday) and told him that he would repent of the article, if it was what he had represented to her; and I know from the printers that Mr. Lockhart went down at once to the office, and cut out “all the worst passages of the review,” at great inconvenience and expense. What he could have cut out that was worse than what stands, it is not easy to conceive.

While all this was going on without my knowledge, warnings came to me from two quarters that something prodigious was about to happen. Mr. Croker had declared at a dinner party that he expected a revolution under the whigs, and to lose his pension; and that he intended to lay by his pension while he could get it, and maintain himself by his pen; and that he had “begun by tomahawking Miss Martineau in the Quarterly.” An old gentleman present, Mr. Whishaw, was disgusted at the announcement and at the manner of it, and, after consulting with a friend or two, called to tell me of this, and put me on my guard. On the same day, another friend called to tell me that my printers (who also printed the Quarterly) thought I ought to know that “the filthiest thing that had passed through the press for a quarter of a century” was coming out against me in the Quarterly. I could not conceive what all this meant; and I do not half understand it now: but it was enough to perceive that the design was to discredit me by some sort of evil imputation. I saw at once what to do. I wrote to my brothers, telling them what I had heard, and earnestly desiring that they would not read the next Quarterly. I told them that the inevitable consequence of my brothers taking up my quarrels would be to close my career. I had entered upon it independently, and I would Edition: current; Page: [156] pursue it alone. From the moment that any of them stirred about my affairs, I would throw away my pen; for I would not be answerable for any mischief or trouble to them. I made it my particular request that we might all be able to say that they had not read the article. I believe I am, in fact, the only member of the family who ever read it. — The day before publication, which happened to be Good Friday, a friend called on me, — a clergyman who occasionally wrote for the Quarterly, — and produced the forthcoming number from under his cloak. “Now,” said he, “I am going to leave this with you. Do not tell me a word of what you think of it; but just mark all the lies in the margin: and I will call at the door for it, on my way home in the afternoon.” I did it; sat down to my work again (secure from visitors on a Good Friday) and then went out, walking and by omnibus, to dine in the country. I remember thinking in the omnibus that the feelings called forth by such usage are, after all, more pleasurable than painful; and again, when I went to bed, that the day had been a very happy one. The testing of one’s power of endurance is pleasurable; and the testing of one’s power of forgiveness is yet sweeter: and it is no small benefit to learn something more of one’s faults and weaknesses than friends and sympathisers either will or can tell. The compassion that I felt on this occasion for the low-minded and foulmouthed creatures who could use their education and position as gentlemen to “destroy” a woman whom they knew to be innocent of even comprehending their imputations, was very painful: but, on the other hand, my first trial in the shape of hostile reviewing was over, and I stood unharmed, and somewhat enlightened and strengthened. I mentioned the review to nobody; and therefore nobody mentioned it to me. I heard, some years after, that one or two literary ladies had said that they, in my place, would have gone into the mountains or to the antipodes, and never have shown their faces again; and that there were inquiries in abundance of my friends how I stood it. But I gave no sign. The reply always was that I looked very well and happy, — just as usual. — The sequel of the story is that the writer of the original article, Mr. Poulett Scrope, requested a Edition: current; Page: [157] mutual friend to tell me that he was ready to acknowledge the political economy of the article to be his; but that he hoped he was too much of a gentleman to have stooped to ribaldry, or even jest; and that I must understand that he was not more or less responsible for any thing in the article which we could not discuss face to face with satisfaction. Messrs. Lockhart and Croker made no secret of the ribaldry being theirs. When the indignation of the literary world was strong in regard to this and other offences of the same kind, and Mr. Lockhart found he had gone too far in my case, he spared no intreaties to the lady who made Lady G. meet me to invite him, — professing great admiration and good-will, and declaring that I must know his insults to be mere joking. She was won upon at last, and came one day with her husband, to persuade me to go over to dinner to meet Mr. Lockhart. When I persisted in my refusal, she said, in some vexation, — “But what am I to say to Lockhart? — because I promised him.” I replied, “I have nothing to do with what you say to Mr. Lockhart: but I will tell you that I will never knowingly meet Mr. Lockhart; and that, if I find myself in the same house with him, I will go out at one door of the drawing-room when he comes in at the other.” Her husband, hitherto silent, said, “You are quite right. I would on no account allow you to be drawn in to an acquaintance with Lockhart at our house: and the only excuse I can offer for my wife’s rashness is that she has never read that Quarterly article.” From other quarters I had friendly warnings that Lockhart had set his mind on making my acquaintance, in order to be able to say that I did not mind what he had done. He was the only person but two whose acquaintance I ever refused. I never saw him but once; and that was twenty years afterwards, when he wore a gloomy and painful expression of countenance, and walked listlessly along the street and the square, near his own house, swinging his cane. My companion told me who he was; and we walked along the other side of the street, having a good and unobserved view of him till he reached his own house. The sorrows of his later years had then closed down upon him, and he was sinking under them: but the pity which I felt for him Edition: current; Page: [158] then was not more hearty, I believe, than that which filled my mind on that Good Friday, 1833, when he believed he had “destroyed” me.

As for destroying me, — it was too late, for one thing. I had won my public before Croker took up his “tomahawk.” The simple fact, in regard to the circulation of my Series, was that the sale increased largely after the appearance of the Quarterly review of it, and diminished markedly and immediately on the publication of the flattering article on it in the Edinburgh Review. The Whigs were then falling into disrepute among the great body of the people; and every token of favour from whig quarters was damaging to me, for a time. In the long run, there is no doubt that the Quarterly injured me seriously. For ten years there was seldom a number which had not some indecent jest about me, — some insulting introduction of my name. The wonder is what could be gained that was worth the trouble: but it certainly seems to me that this course of imputation originated some obscure dread of me and my works among timid and superficial readers. For one instance among many: — a lady, calling on a friend of mine, wondered at seeing books of mine on the table, within the children’s reach; — they being “improper books,” she had been told, — declared to be so by the Quarterly Review. My friend said “Though I don’t agree with you, I know what you are thinking of. You must carry this home, and read it,” — taking down from the shelf the volume which contained the Garveloch stories. The visitor hesitated, but yielded, and a few days after, brought back the book, saying that this could not be the one, for it was so harmless that her husband had read it aloud to the young people in the evening. “Well,” said my friend, “try another.” The lady and her husband read the whole series through in this way, and never could find out the “improper book.”

And what was all this for? I do not at all know. All that I know is that a more simple-minded, virtuous man, full of domestic affections, than Mr. Malthus, could not be found in all England; and that the desire of his heart and the aim of his work were that domestic virtue and happiness should be placed Edition: current; Page: [159] within the reach of all, as Nature intended them to be. He found, in his day, that a portion of the people were underfed; and that one consequence of this was a fearful mortality among infants; and another consequence, the growth of a recklessness among the destitute which caused infanticide, corruption of morals, and, at best, marriage between pauper boys and girls, while multitudes of respectable men and women, who paid rates instead of consuming them, were unmarried at forty, or never married at all. Prudence as to the time of marriage, and to making due provision for it was, one would think, a harmless recommendation enough, under the circumstances. Such is the moral aspect of Malthus’s work. As to its mathematical basis, there is no one, as I have heard Mr. Hallam say, who could question it that might not as well dispute the multiplication table. As for whether Mr. Malthus’s doctrine, while mathematically indisputable, and therefore assailable in itself only by ribaldry and corrupt misrepresentation, may not be attacking a difficulty at the wrong end, — that is a fair matter of opinion. In my opinion, recent experience shows that it does attack a difficulty at the wrong end. The repeal of the corn-laws, with the consequent improvement in agriculture, and the prodigious increase of emigration have extinguished all present apprehension and talk of “surplus population,” — that great difficulty of forty or fifty years ago. And it should be remembered, as far as I am concerned in the controversy, that I advocated in my Series a free trade in corn, and exhibited the certainty of agricultural improvement, as a consequence; and urged a carefully conducted emigration; and, above all, education without limit. It was my business, in illustrating Political Economy, to exemplify Malthus’s doctrine among the rest. It was that doctrine “pure and simple,” as it came from his virtuous and benevolent mind, that I presented; and the presentment was accompanied by an earnest advocacy of the remedies which the great natural laws of Society put into our power, — freedom for bringing food to men, and freedom for men to go where food is plentiful; and enlightenment for all, that they may provide for themselves under the guidance of the best intelligence. Mr. Malthus, who did more Edition: current; Page: [160] for social ease and virtue than perhaps any other man of his time, was the “best-abused man” of the age. I was aware of this; and I saw in him, when I afterwards knew him, one of the serenest and most cheerful men that society can produce. When I became intimate enough with the family to talk over such matters, I asked Mr. Malthus one day whether he had suffered in spirits from the abuse lavished on him. “Only just at first,” he answered. — “I wonder whether it ever kept you awake a minute.” — “Never after the first fortnight,” was his reply. The spectacle of the good man in his daily life, in contrast with the representations of him in the periodical literature of the time, impressed upon me, more forcibly than any thing in my own experience, the everlasting fact that the reformers of morality, personal and social, are always subject at the outset to the imputation of immorality from those interested in the continuance of corruption. — I need only add that all suspicious speculation, in regard to my social doctrines, seems to have died out long ago. I was not ruined by this first risk, any more than by any subsequent enterprises; but I was probably never so near it as when my path of duty led me among the snares and pitfalls prepared for the innocent and defenceless by Messrs. Croker and Lockhart, behind the screen of the Quarterly Review.

The behaviour of the Edinburgh was widely different. From the time of my becoming acquainted with the literary Whigs who were paramount at that time, I had heard the name of William Empson on all hands: and it once or twice crossed my mind that it was odd that I never saw him. Once he left the room as I entered it unexpectedly: and another time, he ran in among us at dessert, at a dinner party, to deliver a message to the hostess, and was gone, without an introduction to me, — the only stranger in company. When his review of my Series in the Edinburgh was out, and he had ascertained that I had read it, he caused me to be informed that he had declined an introduction to me hitherto, because he wished to render impossible all allegations that I had been favourably reviewed by a personal friend: but that he was now only awaiting my permission to pay his respects to me. The review was, to be sure, extraordinarily Edition: current; Page: [161] laudatory; but the praise did not seem to me to be very rational and sound; while the nature of the criticism showed that all accordance between Mr. Empson and me on some important principles of social morals was wholly out of the question. His objection to the supposition that society could exist without capital punishment is one instance of what I mean; and his view of the morality or immorality of opinions (apart from the process of forming them) is another. But there was some literary criticism which I was thankful for; and there was such kindliness and generosity in the whole character of the man’s mind; — his deeds of delicate goodness came to my knowledge so abundantly; and he bore so well certain mortifications about the review with which he had taken his best pains, that I was as ready as himself to be friends. And friends we were, for several years. We were never otherwise than perfectly friendly, though I could not help feeling that every year, and every experience, separated us more widely in regard to intellectual and moral sympathy. He was not, from the character of his mind, capable of having opinions; and he was, as is usual in such cases, disposed to be afraid of those who had. He was in a perpetual course of being swayed about by the companions of the day, on all matters but politics. There he was safe; for he was hedged in on every side by the dogmatic Whigs, who made him their chief dogmatist. He was full of literary knowledge; — an omnivorous reader with a weak intellectual digestion. He was not personally the wiser for his reading; but the profusion that he could pour out gave a certain charm to his conversation, and even to his articles, which had no other merit, except indeed that of a general kindliness of spirit. During my intercourse with him and his set, he married the only child of his old friend, Lord Jeffrey: and after the death of Mr. Napier, who succeeded Jeffrey in the editorship of the Edinburgh Review, Mr. Empson accepted the offer of it, — rather to the consternation of some of his best friends. He had been wont to shake his head over the misfortunes of the review in Napier’s time, saying that that gentleman had no literary faculty or cultivation whatever. When he himself assumed the management, people said we should now have nothing but literature. Edition: current; Page: [162] Both he and his predecessor, however, inserted (it was understood) as a matter of course, all articles sent by Whig Ministers, or by their underlings, however those articles might contradict each other even in the same number. All hope of real editorship, of political and moral consistency, was now over; and an unlooked-for failure in modesty and manners in good Mr. Empson spoiled the literary prospect; so that the review lost character and reputation quarter by quarter, while under his charge. His health had so far, and so fatally, failed before he became Editor, that he ought not to have gone into the enterprise; and so his oldest and best friends told him. But the temptation was strong; and, unfortunately, he could not resist it. Unfortunately, if indeed it is desirable that the Edinburgh Review should live, — which may be a question. It is a great evil for such a publication to change its politics radically; and this must be done if the Edinburgh is to live; for Whiggism has become mere death in life, — a mere transitional state, now nearly worn out. When Mr. Empson’s review of me appeared, however, the Whigs were new in office, Jeffrey’s parliamentary career was an object of high hope to his party, and the Edinburgh was more regarded than the younger generation can now easily believe. Mr. Empson’s work was therefore of some consequence to him, to me, and to the public. As I have said, the sale of my Series declined immediately, — under the popular notion that I was to be a pet of the Whigs. As for ourselves, we met very pleasantly at dinner, at his old friend, Lady S.’s, where nobody else was invited. Thence we all went together to an evening party; and I seldom entered a drawing-room afterwards without meeting my kind-hearted reviewer. — Such were the opposite histories of my first appearance in the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews. — I may as well add that I speak under no bias, in either case, of contributor or candidate interest; for I never wrote or desired to write for either review. I do not remember that I was ever asked; and I certainly never offered. I think I may trust my memory so far as to say this confidently.

To return to the subject of the materials furnished to me as I proceeded in my work. There were still three more numbers Edition: current; Page: [163] written in Norwich, besides those which I have mentioned. The Manchester operatives were eager to interest me in their controversies about Machinery and Wages; and it was from them that I received the bundles of documents which qualified me to write “A Manchester Strike.”

It was while I was about this number that the crisis of the Reform Bill happened. One May morning, I remember, the people of Norwich went out, by hundreds and thousands, to meet the mail. At that time, little Willie B—, the son of the Unitarian Minister at Norwich, used to come every morning to say certain lessons to my mother, with whom he was a great favourite. On that morning, after breakfast, in came Willie, looking solemn and business-like, and stood before my mother with his arms by his sides, as if about to say a lesson, and said, “Ma’am, papa sends you his regards, and the Ministry has resigned.” “Well, Willie, what does that mean?” “I don’t know, Ma’am.” We, however, knew so well that, for once, and I believe for the only time in those busy years, I could not work. When my mother came in from ordering dinner, she found me sitting beside Willie, mending stockings. She expressed her amazement: and I told her, what pleased her highly, that I really could not write about twopenny galloons, the topic of the morning, after hearing of Lord Grey’s resignation. We went out early into the town, where the people were all in the streets, and the church bells were muffled and tolling. I do not remember a more exciting day. My publisher wrote a day or two afterwards, that the London booksellers need not have been afraid of the Reform Bill, any more than the Cholera, for that during this crisis, he had sold more of my books than ever. Every thing, indeed, justified my determination not to defer a work which was the more wanted the more critical became the affairs of the nation.

In spite of all I could say, the men of Manchester persisted that my hero was their hero, whose name however I had never heard. It gratified me to find that my doctrine was well received, and I may say, cordially agreed in, even at that time, by the leaders of the genuine Manchester operatives; and they, for Edition: current; Page: [164] their part, were gratified by their great topics of interest being discussed by one whom they supposed to have “spent all her life in a cotton-mill,” as one of their favourite Members of Parliament told me they did. — It occurs to me that my life ought indeed to be written by myself or some one else who can speak to its facts; for, if the reports afloat about me from time to time were to find their way into print after my death, it would appear the strangest life in the world. I have been assigned a humbler life than that of the Cotton-mill. A friend of mine heard a passenger in a stage-coach tell another that I was “of very low origin, — having been a maid-of-all-work.” This was after the publication of my model number of the “Guide to Service,” done at the request of the Poor-law Commissioners. My reply to the request was that I would try, if the Maid-of-all-work might be my subject. I considered it a compliment, when I found I was supposed to have been relating my own experience. One aunt of mine heard my Series extolled (also in a coach) as wonderful for a young creature, seventeen and no more on her last birthday; and another aunt heard the same praise, in the same way, but on the opposite ground that I was wonderfully energetic for eighty-four! So many people heard that I was dreadfully conceited, and that my head was turned with success, that I began to think, in spite of very sober feelings and of abundant self-distrust, that the account must be true. A shopman at a printseller’s was heard by a cousin of mine, after the publication of “Vanderput and Snoek,” giving an impressive account of my residence in Holland: and, long after, Mr. Laing made inquiries of a relation about how long I had lived in Norway, — of which “Feats on the Fiord” were supposed to be an evidence: but I had visited neither country when I wrote of them, and shall die without seeing Norway now. Every body believed at one time that I had sought Lord Brougham’s patronage; — and this report I did not like at all. Another, — that he had written the chief part of the books, — was merely amusing. Another gave me some little trouble, in the midst of the amusement; — that I had been married for two years before the Series was finished, and that I concealed the fact for convenience. Edition: current; Page: [165] More than one of my own relations required the most express and serious assurance from me that this was not true before they would acquit me of an act of trickery so unlike me, — who never had any secrets. The husband thus assigned to me was a gentleman whom I had then never heard of, and whom I never saw till some years afterwards, when he had long been a married man. After my Eastern journey in 1846, it was widely reported, and believed in Paris, that my party and I had quarrelled, as soon as we landed in France; and that I had gone on by myself, and travelled through those eastern countries entirely alone. I could not conceive what could be the meaning of the compliments I received on my “wonderful courage,” till I found how unwilling people were to credit that I had been well taken care of. My “Eastern Life” disabused all believers in this nonsense; and I hope this Memoir will discredit all the absurd reports which may yet be connected with my station and my doings in life, in the minds of those who know me only from rumour.

“Cousin Marshall,” which treats of the Poor-laws, was written and at press before Lord Brougham had devised his scheme of engaging me to illustrate the operation of the Poor-laws. I obtained my material, as to details, from a brother who was a Guardian, and from a lady who took an interest in workhouse management. For “Ireland” and “Homes Abroad,” I obtained facts from Blue-books on Ireland and Colonization which were among the many by this time sent me by people who had “hobbies.” These were all that I wrote at Norwich.

Five of my numbers had appeared before Lord Brougham saw any of them, or knew any thing about them. He was at Brougham in June, 1832, when Mr. Drummond, — the Thomas Drummond of sacred memory in Ireland, — sent him my numbers, up to “Ella of Garveloch” (inclusive). A friend of both was at that time at Norwich, canvassing for the representation; and Lord Brougham wrote to him, with his customary vehemence, extolling me and my work, and desiring him to engage me to illustrate the poor-laws, in aid of the Commission then appointed to the work of poor-law inquiry. It was hardly right Edition: current; Page: [166] in me to listen to any invitation to further work. That I should have done so for any considerations of fame or money can never have been believed by any who knew what proposals and solicitations from all manner of editors and publishers I refused. It was the extreme need and difficulty of poor-law reform that won me to the additional task. I had for many years been in a state of despair about national affairs, on account of this “gangrene of the state,” as the French commissioners had reported it, “which it was equally impossible to remove and to let alone.” When Lord Brougham wrote to his friend an account of the evidence which was actually obtained, and which would be placed at my disposal; and when he added that there was an apparent possibility of cure, declaring that his “hopes would be doubled” if I could be induced to help the scheme, the temptation to over-work was irresistible. When I met Lord Brougham in town, he urged me strongly to promise six numbers within a year. I was steady in refusing to do more than four altogether: and truly, that was quite enough, in addition to the thirty numbers of my own Series, (including the “Illustrations of Taxation.”) These thirty-four little volumes were produced in two years and a half, — the greater part of the time being one unceasing whirl of business and social excitement. After my settlement in London, Lord Brougham called on me to arrange the plan. He informed me that the evidence would be all placed in my hands; and that my Illustrations would be published by the Diffusion Society. He then requested me to name my terms. I declined. He proceeded to assign the grounds of the estimate he was about to propose, telling me what his Society and others had given for various works, and why he considered mine worth more than some to which I likened it. Finally, he told me I ought not to have less than one hundred pounds apiece for my four numbers. He said that the Society would pay me seventy-five pounds on the day of publication of each; and that he then and there guaranteed to me the remaining twenty-five pounds for each. If I did not receive it from the Society, I should from him. He afterwards told the Secretary of the Society and two personal friends of his and mine that these were the terms he Edition: current; Page: [167] had offered, and meant to see fulfilled. I supplied the works which, he declared, fully answered his expectations; and indeed he sent me earnest and repeated thanks for them. The Society fulfilled its engagements completely and punctually: but Lord Brougham did not fulfil his own, more or less. I never saw or heard any thing of the four times twenty-five pounds I was to receive to make up my four hundred pounds. I believe that he was reminded of his engagement, while I was in America, by those to whom he had avowed it: but I have never received any part of the money, to this day. I never made direct application to him for it; partly because I never esteemed or liked him, or relished being implicated in business with him, after the first flutter was over, and I could judge of him for myself; and partly because such an amount of unfulfilled promises lay at his door, at the time of his enforced retirement from power, that I felt that my application would be, like other people’s applications, as fruitless as it would be disagreeable. I do not repent doing those tales, because I hope and believe they were useful at a special crisis: but they never succeeded to any thing like the extent of my own Series; and it certainly appeared that all connexion with the Diffusion Society, and Lord Brougham, and the Whig government, was so much mere detriment to my usefulness and my influence.

I had better relate here all that I have to say about that batch of Tales. Lord Brougham sent me all the evidence as it was delivered in by the Commissioners of Inquiry into the operation of the Poor-laws. There can be no stronger proof of the strength of this evidence than the uniformity of the suggestions to which it gave rise in all the minds which were then intent on finding the remedy. I was requested to furnish my share of conclusions and suggestions. I did so, in the form of a programme of doctrine for my illustrations, some of which expose the evils of the old system, while others pourtray the features of its proposed successor. My document actually crossed in the street one sent me by a Member of the government detailing the heads of the new Bill. I sat down to read it with no little emotion, and some apprehension; and the moment when, arriving at the end, Edition: current; Page: [168] I found that the government scheme and my own were identical, point by point, was not one to be easily forgotten. I never wrote any thing with more glee than “The Hamlets,” — the number in which the proposed reform is exemplified: and the spirit of the work carried me through the great effort of writing that number and “Cinnamon and Pearls” in one month, — during a country visit in glorious summer weather.

Soon after my Poor-law Tales began to appear, I received a message from Mr. Barnes, Editor-in-chief of the “Times,” intimating that the “Times” was prepared to support my work, which would be a valuable auxiliary of the proposed reform. I returned no answer, not seeing that any was required from an author who had never had any thing to do with her reviewers, or made any interest in reviews. I said this to the friend who delivered the message, expressing at the same time my satisfaction that the government measure was to have the all-powerful support of the “Times.” The Ministers were assured of the same support by the same potentate. How the other newspapers would go there was no saying, because the proposed reform was not a party measure; but, with the “Times” on our side we felt pretty safe. It was on the seventeenth of April, 1834, that Lord Althorp introduced the Bill. His speech, full of facts, earnest, and deeply impressive, produced a strong effect on the House; and the Ministers went home to bed with easy minds, — little imagining what awaited them at the breakfast table. It was no small vexation to me, on opening the “Times” at breakfast on the eighteenth, to find a vehement and total condemnation of the New Poor-law. Every body in London was asking how it happened. I do not know, except in as far as I was told by some people who knew more of the management of the paper than the world in general. Their account was that the intention had really been, up to the preceding day, to support the measure; but that such reports arrived of the hostility of the country-justices, — a most important class of customers, — that a meeting of proprietors was held in the evening, when the question of supporting or opposing the measure was put to the vote. The policy of humouring the country-justices was carried by one vote. So went the story. Edition: current; Page: [169] Another anecdote, less openly spoken of, I believe to have been true. Lord Brougham wrote a note, I was told, to Lord Althorp, the same morning, urging him to timely attendance at the Cabinet Council, as it must be immediately decided whether Barnes, (who was not very favourably described,) and the “Times” should be propitiated or defied. A letter or message arriving from Lord Althorp which rendered the sending the note unnecessary, Lord Brougham tore it up, and threw it into the waste-basket under the table. The fragments were by somebody or other abstracted from the basket, pasted together, and sent to Mr. Barnes, whose personal susceptibility was extreme. From that day began the baiting of Lord Brougham in the “Times” which set every body inquiring what so fierce a persecution could mean; and the wonder ceased only when the undisciplined politician finally fell from his rank as a statesman, and forfeited the remains of his reputation within two years afterwards. A searching domestic inquiry was instituted; but, up to the time of my being told the story, no discovery had been made of the mischief-maker who had picked up the scraps of the note.

After talking over the debate and the comment on it with my mother and aunt, that April morning, I went up to my study to work, and was presently interrupted by a note which surprised me so much that I carried it to my mother. It was from a lady with whom I had only a very slight acquaintance, — the wife of a Member of Parliament of high consideration. This lady invited me to take a drive with her that morning, and mentioned that she was going to buy plants at a nursery. My mother advised me to leave my work early, for once, and go, for the fresh air and the pleasure. My correspondent called for me, and, before we were off the stones, out came the reason of the invitation. Her husband was aghast at the course of the “Times,” and had been into the City to buy the “Morning Chronicle,” — then a far superior paper to what it has been since. He and a friend were now the proprietors of the “Chronicle,” and no time was to be lost in finding writers who could and would support the New Poor-law. I was the first to be invited, because I was known to have been acquainted with the principles and provisions Edition: current; Page: [170] of the measure from the beginning. The invitation to me was to write “leaders” on the New Poor-law, as long as such support should be wanted. I asked why the proprietor did not do it himself, and found that he was really so engaged in parliamentary committees as to be already over-worked. I declared myself over-worked too; but I was entreated to take a few hours for consideration. An answer was to be sent for at five o’clock. My mother and I talked the matter over. The inducements were very strong; for I could not but see that I was the person for the work: but my mother said it would kill me, — busy as I was at present. I believed that it would injure my own Series; and I therefore declined. — For many months afterwards, even for years, it was a distasteful task to read the “Times” on the New Poor-law, — so venomous, so unscrupulous, so pertinacious, so mischievous in intention, and so vicious in principle was its opposition to a reform which has saved the state. But, as the reform was strong enough to stand, this hostility has been eventually a very great benefit. Bad as was the spirit of the opposition, it assumed the name of humanity, and did some of the work of humanity. Every weak point of the measure was exposed, and every extravagance chastised. Its righteousness and principled humanity were ignored; and every accidental pressure or inconvenience was made the most of. The faults of the old law were represented (as by Mr. Dickens in “Oliver Twist”) as those of the new, and every effort was made to protract the exercise of irresponsible power by the country justices: but the measure was working, all the while, for the extinction of the law-made vices and miseries of the old system; and the process was aided by the stimulating vigilance of the “Times,” which evoked at once the watchfulness and activity of officials and the spirit of humanity in society, — both essential conditions of the true working of the new law. — My share in the punishment I could never understand. Neither my mother nor I mentioned to any person whatever the transaction of that morning: but in a few days appeared a venomous attack on the Member of Parliament who had bought the “Chronicle,” in the course of which he was taunted with going to a young lady in Edition: current; Page: [171] Fludyer Street for direction in his political conduct. After that, there were many such allusions: — my friends were appealed to to check my propensity to write about all things whatsoever, — the world having by this time quite books enough of mine: and the explanation given of the ill success and bad working of the Whig measures was that the Ministers came to me for them. This sort of treatment gave me no pain, because I was not acquainted with any body belonging to the “Times,” and I was safe enough with the public by this time: but I thought it rather too much when Mr. Sterling, “the Thunderer of the Times,” and at that period editor-in-chief, obtained an invitation to meet me, after the publication of my books on America, alleging that he himself had never written a disrespectful word of me. My reply was that he was responsible, as editor, and that I used the only method of self-defence possible to a woman under a course of insult like that, in declining his acquaintance. Not long afterwards, when I was at Tynemouth, hopelessly ill, poor and helpless, the “Times” abused and insulted me for privately refusing a pension. Again Mr. Sterling made a push for my acquaintance; and I repeated what I had said before: where-upon he declared that “it cut him to the heart” that I should impute to him the ribaldry and coarse insults of scoundrels and ruffians who treated me as I had been treated in the “Times.” I dare say what he said of his own feelings was true enough; but it will never do for responsible editors, like Sterling and Lockhart, to shirk their natural retribution for the sins of their publications by laying the blame on some impalpable offender who, on his part, has very properly relied on their responsibility. It appears to me that social honesty and good faith can be preserved only by thus enforcing integrity in the matter of editorial responsibility.

A curious incident occurred, much to the delight of my Edinburgh reviewer, in connexion with that story, — “The Hamlets,” — which, as I have said, I enjoyed writing exceedingly. While I was preparing its doctrine and main facts, I went early one summer morning, with a sister, to the Exhibition at Somerset House, (as it was in those days). I stopped before a picture by Edition: current; Page: [172] Collins, — “Children at the Haunts of the Sea-fowl;” and, after a good study of it, I told my sister that I had before thought of laying the scene by the sea-side, and that this bewitching picture decided me. The girl in the corner, in the red petticoat, was irresistible; and she should be my heroine. There should be a heroine, — a girl and a boy, instead of two boys. I did this, and, incited by old associations, described myself and a brother (in regard to character) in these two personages. Soon after, at a music-party, my hostess begged to introduce to me Mr. Collins the artist, who wished to make his acknowledgments for some special obligation he was under to me. This seemed odd, when I was hailing the opportunity for precisely the same reason. Mr. Collins begged to shake hands with me because I had helped him to his great success at the Academy that year. He explained that Mrs. Marcet had paid him a visit when he had fully sketched, and actually begun his picture, and had said to him “Before you go on with this, you ought to read Miss Martineau’s description in ‘Ella of Garveloch’ of destroying the eagle’s nest.” Mr. Collins did so, and in consequence altered his picture in almost every part; and now, in telling me the incident, he said that his chief discontent with his work was not having effaced the figure of the girl in the corner. He was reconciled to her, however, when I told him that the girl in the red petticoat was the heroine of the story I was then writing. This incident strikes me as a curious illustration of the way in which minds play into one another when their faculties of conception and suggestion are kindred, whatever may be their several modes of expression. One of my chief social pleasures was meeting Wilkie, and planning pictures with him, after his old manner, though alas! he was now painting in his new. He had returned from Spain, with his portfolios filled with sketches of Spanish ladies, peasants and children; and he enjoyed showing these treasures of his, I remember, to my mother and me one day when we went by invitation to Kensington, to see them. But his heart was, I am sure, in his old style. He used to watch his opportunity, — being very shy, — to get a bit of talk with me unheard, about what illustrations of my stories should be, Edition: current; Page: [173] saying that nothing would make him so happy, if he were but able, as to spend the rest of his painting-life in making a gallery from my Series. He told me which group or action he should select from each number, as far as then published, and dwelt particularly, I remember, on the one in “Ireland,” which was Dora letting down her petticoat from her shoulders as she entered the cabin. I write this in full recollection of Wilkie’s countenance, voice and words, but in total forgetfulness of my own story, Dora, and the cabin. I have not the book at hand for reference, but I am sure I am reporting Wilkie truly. He told me that he thought the resemblance of our respective mind’s-eyes was perfectly singular; and that, for aught he saw, each of us might, as well as not, have done the other’s work, as far as the pictorial faculties were concerned.

I have one more little anecdote to tell about the heroine of “The Hamlets.” I was closely questioned by Miss Berry, one day when dining there, about the sources of my draughts of character, — especially of children, — and above all, of Harriet and Ben in “The Hamlets.” I acknowledged that these last were more like myself and my brother than any body else. Whereupon the lively old lady exclaimed, loud enough to be heard by the whole party, “My God! did you go out shrimping?” “No,” I replied: “nor were we workhouse children. What you asked me about was the characters.”

While these Poor-law tales were appearing, I received a letter from Mrs. Fry, requesting an interview for purposes of importance, at any time and place I might appoint. I appointed a meeting in Newgate, at the hour on a Tuesday morning when Mrs. Fry was usually at that post of sublime duty. Wishing for a witness, as our interview was to be one of business, I took with me a clerical friend of mine as an appropriate person. After the usual services, Mrs. Fry led the way into the Matron’s room, where we three sat down for our conference. Mrs. Fry’s objects were two. The inferior one was to engage me to interest the government in her newly planned District Societies. The higher one was connected with the poor-law reform then in preparation. She told me that her brother, J. J. Gurney, and other Edition: current; Page: [174] members of her family had become convinced by reading “Cousin Marshall” and others of my tales that they had been for a long course of years unsuspectingly doing mischief where they meant to do good; that they were now convinced that the true way of benefiting the poor was to reform the Poor-law system; and that they were fully sensible of the importance of the measure to be brought forward, some months hence, in parliament. Understanding that I was in the confidence of the government as to this measure, they desired to know whether I could honourably give them an insight into the principles on which it was to be founded. Their object in this request was good. They desired that their section of the House of Commons should have time and opportunity to consider the subject, which might not be attainable in the hurry of a busy session. On consideration, I had no scruple in communicating the principles, without, of course, any disclosure of the measures. Mrs. Fry noted them down, with cheerful thanks, and assurances that they would not be thrown away. They were not thrown away. That section of Members came well prepared for the hearing of the measure, and one and all unflinchingly supported it.

From the time of my settlement in London, there was no fear of any dearth of information on any subject which I wished to treat. Every party, and every body who desired to push any object, forwarded to me all the information they held. It was, in fact, rather ridiculous to see the onset on my acquaintances made by riders of hobbies. One acquaintance of mine told me, as I was going to his house to dinner, that three gentlemen had been at his office that morning; — one beseeching him to get me to write a number on the navigable rivers of Ireland; a second on (I think) the Hamiltonian (or other) system of Education; and a third, who was confident that the welfare of the nation depended on it, on the encouragement of flax-growing in the interior of Guiana. Among such applicants, the Socialists were sure to be found; and Mr. Owen was presently at my ear, laying down the law in the way which he calls “proof,” and really interesting me by the candour and cheerfulness, the benevolence and charming manners which would make him the most Edition: current; Page: [175] popular man in England if he could but distinguish between assertion and argument, and abstain from wearying his friends with his monotonous doctrine. If I remember right, it was after my anti-socialist story, “For Each and for All,” that I became acquainted with Mr. Owen himself; but the material was supplied by his disciples, — for the chance of what use I might make of it: so that I was perfectly free to come out as their opponent. Mr. Owen was not at all offended at my doing so. Having still strong hopes of Prince Metternich for a convert, he might well have hopes of me: and, believing Metternich to be, if the truth were known, a disciple of his, it is no wonder if I also was given out as being so. For many months, my pleasant visitor had that hope of me; and when he was obliged to give it up, it was with a kindly sigh. He was sure that I desired to perceive the truth; but I had got unfortunately bewildered. I was like the traveller who could not see the wood for the trees. I cannot recal that story, more or less; (“For Each and All;”) but I know it must have contained the stereotyped doctrine of the Economists of that day. What I witnessed in America considerably modified my views on the subject of Property; and from that time forward I saw social modifications taking place which have already altered the tone of leading Economists, and opened a prospect of further changes which will probably work out in time a totally new social state. If that should ever happen, it ought to be remembered that Robert Owen was the sole apostle of the principle in England at the beginning of our century. Now that the Economy of Association is a fact acknowledged by some of our most important recent institutions, — as the London Clubs, our Model Lodging-houses, and dozens of new methods of Assurance, every one would willingly assign his due share of honour to Robert Owen, but for his unfortunate persistency in his other characteristic doctrine, — that Man is the creature of circumstances, — his notion of “circumstances” being literally surroundings, no allowance, or a wholly insufficient allowance, being made for constitutional structure and differences. His certainty that we might make life a heaven, and his hallucination that we are going to do so Edition: current; Page: [176] immediately, under his guidance, have caused his wisdom to be overlooked in his absurdity, and his services to be too nearly forgotten in vexation and fatigue at his eccentricity. I own I became weary of him, while ashamed, every time I witnessed his fine temper and manners, of having felt so. One compact that we made, three parts in earnest, seems to me, at this distance of time, excessively ludicrous. I saw that he was often wide of the mark, in his structures on the religious world, through his ignorance of the Bible; and I told him so. He said he knew the Bible so well as to have been heartily sick of it in his early youth. He owned that he had never read it since. He promised to read the four Gospels carefully, if I would read “Hamlet,” with a running commentary of Necessarian doctrine in my own mind. My share was the easier, inasmuch as I was as thoroughgoing a Necessarian as he could desire. I fulfilled my engagement, internally laughing all the while at what Shakspere would be thinking, if he could know what I was about. No doubt, Mr. Owen did his part too, like an honourable man; and no doubt with as much effect produced on him by this book as by every other, as a blind man in the presence of the sunrise, or a deaf one of an oratorio. Robert Owen is not the man to think differently of a book for having read it; and this from no want of candour, but simply from more than the usual human inability to see any thing but what he has made up his mind to see.

I cannot remember what put the scene and story of my twelfth number, “French Wines and Politics,” into my head: but I recal some circumstances about that and the following number, “The Charmed Sea,” which amused me extremely at the time. Among the very first of my visitors at my lodgings was Mrs. Marcet, whose “Conversations” had revealed to me the curious fact that, in my early tales about Wages and Machinery, I had been writing Political Economy without knowing it. Nothing could be more kindly and generous than her acknowledgment and enjoyment of what she called my “honours.” The best of it was, she could never see the generosity on which her old friends complimented her, because, by her own account, there was no sort of rivalship between us. She had a great opinion Edition: current; Page: [177] of great people; — of people great by any distinction, — ability, office, birth and what not: and she innocently supposed her own taste to be universal. Her great pleasure in regard to me was to climb the two flights of stairs at my lodgings (asthma notwithstanding) to tell me of great people who were admiring, or at least reading, my Series. She brought me “hommages” and all that sort of thing, from French savans, foreign ambassadors, and others; and, above all the rest was her satisfaction in telling me that the then new and popular sovereign, Louis Philippe, had ordered a copy of my Series for each member of his family, and had desired M. Guizot to introduce a translation of it into the national schools. This was confirmed, in due time, by the translator, who wrote to me for some particulars of my personal history, and announced a very large order for the work from M. Guizot. Before I received this letter, my twelfth number was written, and I think in the press. About the same time, I heard from some other quarter, (I forget what) that the Emperor of Russia had ordered a copy of the Series for every member of his family; and my French translator wrote to me, some time afterwards, that a great number of copies had been bought, by the Czar’s order, for his schools in Russia. While my twelfth number was printing, I was writing the thirteenth, “The Charmed Sea,” — that sea being the Baikal Lake, the scenery Siberian, and the personages exiled Poles. The Edinburgh Review charged me with relaxing my Political Economy for the sake of the fiction, in this case, — the reviewer having kept his article open for the appearance of the latest number obtainable before the publication of the review. There was some little mistake about this; the fact being that the bit of doctrine I had to deal with, — the origin of currency, — hardly admitted of any exemplification at all. Wherever the scene had been laid, the doctrine would have been equally impracticable in action, and must have been conveyed mainly by express explanation or colloquial commentary. If any action were practicable at all, it must be in some scene where the people were at the first remove from a state of barter: and the Poles in Siberia, among Mongolian neighbours, were perhaps as good for my purpose as any other Edition: current; Page: [178] personages. Marco Polo’s account of the stamped leather currency he met with in his travels determined me in regard to Asiatic scenery, in the first place; and the poet Campbell’s appeals to me in behalf of the Poles, before I left Norwich, and the visits of the venerable Niemcewicz, and other Poles and their friends, when I went to London, made me write of the Charmed Sea of Siberia. My reviewer was right as to the want of the due subordination of other interests to that of the science; but he failed to perceive that that particular bit of science was abstract and uninteresting. I took the hint, however; and from that time I was on my guard against making my Series a vehicle for any of the “causes” of the time. I saw that if my Edinburgh reviewer could not perceive that some portions of doctrine were more susceptible of exemplification than others, such discrimination was not to be expected of the whole public; and I must afford no occasion for being supposed to be forsaking my main object for such temporary interests as came in my way. — Meantime, the incidents occurred which amused my friends and myself so much, in connexion with these two numbers. On the day of publication of the twelfth, Mrs. Marcet climbed my staircase, and appeared, more breathless than ever, at a somewhat early hour, — as soon as my door was open to visitors. She was in a state of distress and vexation. “I thought I had told you,” said she, in the midst of her panting, — “but I suppose you did not hear me: — I thought I had told you that the King of the French read all your stories, and made all his family read them: and now you have been writing about Egalité; and they will never read you again.” I told her I had heard her very well; but it was not convenient to me to alter my story, for no better reason than that. It was from history, and not from private communication, that I drew my materials; and I had no doubt that Louis Philippe and his family thought of his father very much as I did. My good friend could not see how I could hope to be presented at the Tuileries after this: and I could only say that it had never entered my head to wish it. I tried to turn the conversation to account by impressing on my anxious friend the hopelessness of all attempts to induce me to alter my stories Edition: current; Page: [179] from such considerations as she urged. I wrote with a view to the people, and especially the most suffering of them; and the crowned heads must, for once, take their chance for their feelings. A month after, I was subjected to similar reproaches about the Emperor of Russia. He was, in truth, highly offended. He ordered every copy of my Series to be delivered up, and then burnt or deported; and I was immediately forbidden the empire. His example was followed in Austria; and thus, I was personally excluded, before my Series was half done, from two of the three greatest countries in Europe, and in disfavour with the third — supposing I wished to go there. My friends, Mr. and Mrs. F—, invited me to go to the south of Europe with them on the conclusion of my work: and our plan was nearly settled when reasons appeared for my going to America instead. My friends went south when I went west. Being detained by inundation on the borders of Austrian Italy, they were weary of their dull hotel. All other amusement being exhausted, Mr. F— sauntered round the open part of the house, reading whatever was hung against the walls. One document contained the names and description of persons who were not to be allowed to pass the frontier; and mine was among them. If I had been with my friends, our predicament would have been disagreeable. They could not have deserted me; and I must have deprived them of the best part of their journey.

In planning my next story, “Berkeley the Banker,” I submitted myself to my reviewer’s warning, and spared no pains in thoroughly incorporating the doctrine and the tale. I remember that, for two days, I sat over my materials from seven in the morning till two the next morning, with an interval of only twenty minutes for dinner. At the end of my plotting, I found that, after all, I had contrived little but relationships, and that I must trust to the uprising of new involutions in the course of my narrative. I had believed before, and I went on during my whole career of fiction-writing to be more and more thoroughly convinced, that the creating a plot is a task above human faculties. It is indeed evidently the same power as that of prophecy: that is, if all human action is (as we know it to be) the inevitable Edition: current; Page: [180] result of antecedents, all the antecedents must be thoroughly comprehended in order to discover the inevitable catastrophe. A mind which can do this must be, in the nature of things, a prophetic mind, in the strictest sense; and no human mind is that. The only thing to be done, therefore, is to derive the plot from actual life, where the work is achieved for us: and, accordingly, it seems that every perfect plot in fiction is taken bodily from real life. The best we know are so derived. Shakspere’s are so: Scott’s one perfect plot (“the Bride of Lammermoor”) is so; and if we could know where Boccaccio and other old narrators got theirs, we should certainly find that they took them from their predecessors, or from the life before their eyes. I say this from no mortification at my own utter inability to make a plot. I should say the same, (after equal study of the subject) if I had never tried to write a tale. I see the inequality of this kind of power in contemporary writers; an inequality wholly independent of their merits in other respects; and I see that the writers (often inferior ones) who have the power of making the best plots do it by their greater facility in forming analogous narratives with those of actual experience. They may be, and often are, so inferior as writers of fiction to others who cannot make plots that one is tempted to wish that they and their superiors could be rolled into one, so as to make a perfect novelist or dramatist. For instance, Dickens cannot make a plot, — nor Bulwer, — nor Douglas Jerrold, nor perhaps Thackeray; while Fanny Kemble’s forgotten “Francis the First,” written in her teens, contains mines of plot, sufficient to furnish a groundwork for a score of fine fictions. As for me, my incapacity in this direction is so absolute that I always worked under a sense of despair about it. In “the Hour and the Man,” for instance, there are prominent personages who have no necessary connexion whatever with the story; and the personages fall out of sight, till at last, my hero is alone in his dungeon, and the story ends with his solitary death. I was not careless, nor unconscious of my inability. It was inability, “pure and simple.” My only resource therefore was taking suggestion from facts, witnessed by myself, or gathered in any way I could. That tale of “Berkeley Edition: current; Page: [181] the Banker” owed its remarkable success, not to my hard work of those two days; but to my taking some facts from the crisis of 1825 - 6 for the basis of my story. The toil of those two days was not thrown away, because the amalgamation of doctrine and narrative was more complete than it would otherwise have been: but no protraction of the effort would have brought out a really good plot, any more than the most prodigious amount of labour in practicing would bring out good music from a performer unendowed with musical faculty.

That story was, in a great degree, as I have already said, our own family history of four years before. The most amusing thing to me was that the relative (not one of my nearest relations) who was presented as Berkeley, — (by no means exactly, but in the main characteristics and in some conspicuous speeches) was particularly delighted with that story. He seized it eagerly, as being about banking, and expressed his admiration, far and wide, of the character of the banker, as being so extremely natural! His unconscious pleasure was a great relief to me: for, while I could not resist the temptation his salient points offered me, I dreaded the consequences of my free use of them.

About the next number, “Vanderput and Snoek,” I have a curious confession to make. It was necessary to advertise on the cover of each tale the title of the next. There had never been any difficulty thus far, — it being my practice, as I have said, to sit down to the study of a new number within a day or two, or a few hours, of finishing its predecessor. My banking story was, however, an arduous affair; and I had to write the first of my Poor-law series. I was thus driven so close that when urged by the printer for the title of my next number, I was wholly unprepared. All I knew was that my subject was to be Bills of Exchange. The choice of scene lay between Holland and South America, where Bills of Exchange are, or then were, either more numerous or more important than any where else. I thought Holland on the whole the more convenient of the two; so I dipped into some book about that country (Sir William Temple, I believe it was) picked out the two ugliest Dutch names I could find, made them into a firm, and boldly Edition: current; Page: [182] advertised them. Next, I had to consider how to work up to my title: and in this I met with most welcome assistance from my friends, Mr. and Mrs. F—, of Highbury. They were well acquainted with the late British Consul at Rotterdam, then residing in their neighbourhood. They had previously proposed to introduce me to this gentleman, for the sake of the information he could give me about Dutch affairs: and I now hastened to avail myself of the opportunity. The ex-consul was made fully aware of my object, and was delighted to be of use. We met at Mr. F.’s breakfast table; and in the course of the morning he gave me all imaginable information about the aspect and habits of the country and people. When I called on his lady, some time afterwards, I was struck by the pretty picture presented by his twin daughters, who were more exactly alike than any other twins I have ever seen. They sat beside a work-table, at precisely the same angle with it: each had a foot on a footstool, for the sake of her netting. They drew their silk through precisely at the same instant, and really conveyed a perplexing impression of a mirror where mirror there was none. The Dromios could not be more puzzling. The temptation to put these girls into a story was too strong to be resisted: but, as I knew the family were interested in my Series at the moment, I waited a while. After a decent interval, they appeared in “The Park and the Paddock;” and then only in regard to externals; for I knew nothing more of them whatever.

When I had to treat of Free Trade, I took advantage, of course, of the picturesque scenery and incidents connected with smuggling. The only question was what part of the coast I should choose for my seventeenth and eighteenth numbers, “The Loom and the Lugger.” I questioned all my relations and friends who had frequented Eastbourne and that neighbourhood about the particulars of the locality and scenery. It struck me as curious that, of all the many whom I asked, no one could tell me whether there was a lighthouse at Beachy Head. A cousin told me that she was acquainted with a farmer’s family living close by Beachy Head, and in the very midst of the haunts of the smugglers. This farmer was under some obligation to my Edition: current; Page: [183] uncle, and would be delighted at the opportunity of rendering a service to any of the name. My publisher was willing to set down the trip to the account of the expenses of the Series; and I went down, with a letter of introduction in my hand, to see and learn all I could in the course of a couple of days. My time was limited, not only by the exigencies of my work, but by an engagement to meet my Edinburgh reviewer for the first time, — as I have mentioned above, — and to another very especial party for the same evening. On a fine May evening, therefore, I presented myself at the farm-house door, with my letter in my hand. I was received with surpassing grace by two young girls, — their father and elder sister being absent at market. Tea was ready presently; and then, one of the girls proposed a walk to “the Head” before dark. When we returned, every thing was arranged; and the guest chamber looked most tempting to an overworked Londoner. The farmer and one daughter devoted the whole of the next day to me. We set forth, carrying a new loaf and a bottle of beer, that we might not be hurried in our explorations. I then and there learned all that appears in “The Loom and the Lugger” about localities and the doings of smugglers. Early the following morning I went to see Pevensey Castle, and in the forenoon was in the coach on my way back to town. I was so cruelly pressed for time that, finding myself alone in the coach, I wrote on my knees all the way to London, in spite of the jolting. At my lodging, I was in consternation at seeing my large round table heaped with the letters and parcels which had arrived during those two days. I dispatched fourteen notes, dressed, and was at Lady S.’s by the time the clock struck six. The quiet, friendly dinner was a pure refreshment: but the evening party was a singular trial. I had been compelled to name the day for this party, as I had always been engaged when invited by my hostess. I thought it odd that my name was shouted by the servants, in preference to that of Lady C—, with whom I entered the room: and the way in which my hostess took possession of me, and began to parade me before her noble and learned guests showed me that I must at once take my part, if I Edition: current; Page: [184] desired to escape the doom of “lionising.” The lady, having two drawing-rooms open, had provided a “lion” for each. Rammohun Roy was stationed in the very middle of one, meek and perspiring; and I was intended for the same place in the other. I saw it just in time. I took my stand with two or three acquaintances behind the folding-doors, and maintained my retirement till the carriage was announced. If this was bad manners, it was the only alternative to worse. I owe to that incident a friendship which has lasted my life. That friend, till that evening known to me only by name, had been behind the scenes, and had witnessed all the preparations; and very curious she was to see what I should do. If I had permitted the lionising, she would not have been introduced to me. When I got behind the door, she joined our trio; and we have been intimate friends to this day. Long years after, she gave me her account of that memorable evening. What a day it was! When Lady S. set me down at midnight, and I began to undress, and feel how weary I was, it seemed incredible that it was that very morning that I had seen Pevensey Castle, and heard the dash of the sea, and listened to the larks on the down. The concluding thought, I believe, before I fell into the deep sleep I needed, was that I would never visit a second time at any house where I was “lionised.”

The Anti-corn law tale, “Sowers not Reapers,” cost me great labour, — clear as was the doctrine, and familiar to me for many a year past. I believe it is one of the most successful for the incorporation of the doctrine with the narrative: and the story of the Kays is true, except that, in real life, the personages were gentry. I had been touched by that story when told it, some years before; and now it seemed to fit in well with my other materials. Two years afterwards I met with a bit of strong evidence of the monstrous vice and absurdity of our corn-laws in the eyes of Americans. This story, “Sowers not Reapers,” was republished in America while I was there; and Judge Story, who knew more about English laws, manners and customs, condition, literature, and even topography than any other man in the United States, told me that I need not expect his countrymen Edition: current; Page: [185] in general to understand the book, as even he, after all his preparedness, was obliged to read it twice, — first to familiarise himself with the conception, and then to study the doctrine. Thus incredible was it that so proud and eminent a nation as ours should persist in so insane and suicidal a policy as that of protection, in regard to the most indispensable article of food.

Among the multitude of letters of suggestion which had by this time been sent me, was an anonymous one from Oxford, which gave me the novel information that the East India Company constituted a great monopoly. While thinking that, instead of being one, it was a nest of monopolies (in 1833) I speculated on which of them I might best take for an illustration of my anti-monopoly doctrine. I feared an opium story might prove immoral, and I did not choose to be answerable for the fate of any Opium-eaters. Salt was too thirsty a subject for a July number. Cinnamon was fragrant, and pearls pretty and cool: and these, of course, led me to Ceylon for my scenery. I gathered what I could from books, but really feared being obliged to give up a singularly good illustrative scene for want of the commonest facts concerning the social life of the Cingalese. I found scarcely any thing even in Maria Graham and Heber. At this precise time, a friend happened to bring to my lodging, for a call, the person who could be most useful to me, — Sir Alexander Johnstone, who had just returned from governing Ceylon, where he had abolished Slavery, established Trial by Jury, and become more thoroughly acquainted with the Cingalese than perhaps any other man then in England. It was a remarkable chance; and we made the most of it; for Sir Alexander Johnstone was as well pleased to have the cause of the Cingalese pleaded as I was to become qualified to do it. Before we had known one another half an hour, I confided to him my difficulty. He started off, promising to return presently; and he was soon at the door again, with his carriage full of books, prints and other illustrations, affording information not to be found in any ordinarily accessible books. Among the volumes he left with me was a Colombo almanack, which furnished me with names, notices of customs, and other valuable matters. The friend who Edition: current; Page: [186] had brought us together was highly delighted with the success of the introduction, and bestirred himself to see what else he could do. He invited me to dinner the next day (aware that there was no time to lose;) and at his table I met as many persons as he could pick up who had recently been in Ceylon. Besides Sir Alexander Johnstone, there was Holman, the blind traveller, and Captain Mangles, and two or three more; and a curiously oriental day we had of it, in regard to conversation and train of thought. I remember learning a lesson that day on other than Cingalese matters. Poor Holman boasted of his achievements in climbing mountains, and of his always reaching the top quicker than his comrades; and he threw out some sarcasms against the folly of climbing mountains at all, as waste of time, because there were no people to be found there, and there was generally rain and cold. It evidently never occurred to him that people with eyes climb mountains for another purpose than a race against time; and that his comrades were pausing to look about them when he outstripped them. It was a hint to me never to be critical in like manner about the pleasures of the ear. — After I had become a traveller, Sydney Smith amused himself about my acquaintance with Holman; and I believe it was reading what I said in the preface to my American book which put his harmless jokes into his head. In that preface I explained the extent to which my deafness was a disqualification for travel, and for reporting of it: and I did it because I knew that, if I did not, the slaveholders would make my deafness a pretext for setting aside any part of my testimony which they did not like. Soon after this preface appeared, and when he had heard from me of my previous meeting with Holman, Sydney Smith undertook to answer a question asked by somebody at a dinner party, what I was at that time about. “She is writing a book,” said Sydney Smith, “to prove that the only travellers who are fit to write books must be both blind and deaf.”

My number on the monopolies in cinnamon and pearls went off pleasantly after my auspicious beginning. Sir A. Johnstone watched over its progress, and seriously assured me afterwards, Edition: current; Page: [187] in a call made for the purpose, that there was, to the best of his belief, not a single error in the tale. There was much wrath about it in Ceylon, however; and one man published a book to show that every statement of mine, on every point, from the highest scientific to the lowest descriptive, was absolutely the opposite of the truth. This personage was an Englishman, interested in the monopoly: and the violence of his opposition was of service to the right side.

Soon after I went to my London lodgings, my mother came up, and spent two or three weeks with me. I saw at once that she would never settle comfortably at Norwich again; and I had great difficulty in dissuading her from at once taking a house which was very far beyond any means that I considered it right to reckon on. For the moment, and on occasion of her finding the particular house she had set her mind on quite out of the question, I prevailed on her to wait. I could not wonder at her desire to come up, and enjoy such society as she found me in the midst of; and I thought it, on the whole, a fortunate arrangement when, under the sanction of two of my brothers, she took the small house in Fludyer Street, Westminster, where the rest of my London life was passed. That small house had, for a wonder, three sitting-rooms; and we three ladies needed this. The house had no nuisances, and was as airy as a house in Fludyer Street could well be: and its being on the verge of St. James’s Park was a prodigious advantage for us all, — the Park being to us, in fact, like our own garden. We were in the midst of the offices, people and books which it was most desirable for me to have at hand; and the house was exactly the right size for us; and of the right cost, — now that I was able to pay the same amount as my aunt towards the expenses of our household. My mother’s little income, with these additions, just sufficed; — allowance being made for the generosity which she loved to exercise. I may as well finish at once what I have to say about this matter. For a time, as I anticipated, all went well. My mother’s delight in her new social sphere was extreme. But, as I had also anticipated, troubles arose. For one of two great troubles, meddlers and mischief-makers were mainly answerable. Edition: current; Page: [188] The other could not be helped. It was, (to pass it over as lightly as possible) that my mother, who loved power and had always been in the habit of exercising it, was hurt at confidence being reposed in me, and distinctions shown, and visits paid to me; and I, with every desire to be passive, and being in fact wholly passive in the matter, was kept in a state of constant agitation at the influx of distinctions which I never sought, and which it was impossible to impart. What the meddlers and mischief-makers did was to render my old ladies, and especially my mother, discontented with the lowliness of our home. They were for ever suggesting that I ought to live in some sort of style, — to have a larger house in a better street, and lay out our mode of living for the society in which I was moving. Of course they were not my own earned friends who made such suggestions. Their officiousness proved their vulgarity: and my mother saw and said this. Yet, every word told upon her heart; and thence, every word helped to pull down my health and strength. No change could be made but by my providing the money; and I could not conscientiously engage to do it. It was my fixed resolution never to mortgage my brains. Scott’s recent death impressed upon me an awful lesson about that. Such an effort as that of producing my Series was one which could never be repeated. Such a strain was quite enough for one lifetime. I did not receive any thing like what I ought for the Series, owing to the hard terms under which it was published. I had found much to do with my first gains from it; and I was bound in conscience to lay by for a time of sickness or adversity, and for means of recreation, when my task should be done. I therefore steadily refused to countenance any scheme of ambition, or to alter a plan of life which had been settled with deliberation, and with the sanction of the family. To all remonstrances about my own dignity my reply was that if my acquaintance cared for me, they would come and see me in a small house and a narrow street: and all who objected to the smallness of either might stay away. I could not expose myself to the temptation to write in a money-getting spirit; nor yet to the terrible anxieties of assuming a position which could be maintained only by excessive Edition: current; Page: [189] toil. It was necessary to preserve my independence of thought and speech, and my power of resting, if necessary; — to have, in short, the world under my feet instead of hanging round my neck: and therefore did I refuse all intreaty and remonstrance about our house and mode of living. I was supported, very cordially, by the good cousin who managed my affairs for me: but an appeal to my brothers became necessary, at last. They simply elicited by questions the facts that the circumstances were unchanged; — that the house was exactly what we had expected; that our expenses had been accurately calculated; and that my mother’s income was the same as when she had considered the house a proper one for our purposes: in short, that there was no one good reason for a change. The controversy was thus closed; but not before the train was laid for its being closed in another manner. The anxieties of my home were too much for me, and I was by that time wearing down fast. The illness which laid me low for nearly six years at length ensued; and when it did, there could be no doubt in any mind of its being most fortunate that I had contracted no responsibilities which I could not fulfil. It was a great fault in me, (and I always knew that it was) that I could not take these things more lightly. I did strive to be superior to them: but I began life, as I have said, with a most beggarly set of nerves; I had gone through such an amount of suffering and vicissitude as had weakened my physique, if it had strengthened my morale; and now, I was under a pressure of toil which left me no resource wherewith to meet any constant troubling of the affections. I held my purpose, because it was clearly right: but I could not hold my health and nerve. They gave way; and all questions about London residence were settled a few years after by our leaving London altogether. Soon after my illness laid me low, my dear old aunt died; and my mother removed to Liverpool, to be taken care of by three of her children who were settled there.

I was entering upon the first stage of this career of anxiety when I was writing my twenty-first number, — “A Tale of the Tyne.” The preparation of it was terribly laborious, for I had Edition: current; Page: [190] to superintend at that time the removal into the Fludyer Street house. The weather was hot, and the unsettlement extreme. I had to hire and initiate the servants, to receive and unpack the furniture; and to sit down at night, when all this was done, to write my number. At that time, of all seasons, arose a very serious trouble, which not only added to my fatigue of correspondence in the day, but kept me awake at night by very painful feelings of indignation, grief and disappointment. It was thought desirable, by myself as well as by others, that my plan of Illustration of Political Economy should be rendered complete by some numbers on modes of Taxation. The friends with whom I discussed the plan reminded me that I must make fresh terms with Charles Fox, the publisher. They were of opinion that I had already done more than enough for him by continuing the original terms through the whole series thus far, the agreement being dissoluble at the end of every five numbers, and he having never fulfilled, more or less, the original condition of obtaining subscribers. He had never obtained one. I accordingly wrote to Mr. Charles Fox, to inquire whether he was willing to publish five additional numbers on the usual terms of booksellers’ commission. The reply was from his brother; and it was long before I got over the astonishment and pain that it caused. He claimed, for Charles, half the profits of the series, to whatever length it might extend. He supported the claim by a statement of eight reasons, so manifestly unsound that I was equally ashamed for myself and for him that he should have ventured to try them upon me. In my reply, I said that there was no foundation in law or equity for such a claim. As Mr. Charles Fox wrote boastfully of the legal advice he should proceed upon, I gladly placed the affair in the hands of a sound lawyer, — under the advice of my counsellors in the business. I put all the documents, — the original agreement and the whole correspondence, — into my lawyer’s hands; and his decision was that my publisher, in making this claim, had “not a leg to stand upon.” I was very sure of this; but the pain was not lessened thereby. I could not but feel that I had thrown away my consideration and my money upon a man who made this Edition: current; Page: [191] consideration the ground of an attempt to extort more. The whole invention and production of the work had been mine; and the entire sale was, by his own admission, owing to me. The publisher, holding himself free to back out of a losing bargain if I had not instantly succeeded, had complacently pocketed his commission of thirty per cent (on the whole) and half the profits, for simply selling the book to the public whom I sent to his shop: and now he was threatening to go to law with me for a prolongation of his unparalleled bargain. I sent him my lawyer’s decision, and added that, as I disliked squabbles between acquaintances on money matters, I should obviate all pretence of a claim on his part by making the new numbers a supplement, with a new title, — calling them “Illustrations of Taxation.” I did not take the work out of his hands, from considerations of convenience to all parties: but I made no secret of his having lost me for a client thenceforth. He owed to me such fortune as he had; and he had now precluded himself from all chance of further connexion. He published the Supplement, on the ordinary terms of commission: and there was an end. I remember nothing of that story, — “A Tale of the Tyne;” and I should be rather surprised if I did under the circumstances. The only incident that I recal about it is that Mr. Malthus called on purpose to thank me for a passage, or a chapter, (which has left no trace in my memory) on the glory and beauty of love and the blessedness of domestic life; and that others, called stern Benthamites, sent round messages to me to the same effect. They said, as Mr. Malthus did, that they had met with a faithful expositor at last.

In “Briery Creek” I indulged my life-long sentiment of admiration and love of Dr. Priestley, by making him, under a thin disguise, the hero of my tale. I was staying at Lambton Castle when that number appeared; and I was extremely surprised by being asked by Lady Durham who Dr. Priestley was, and all that I could tell her about him. She had seen in the newspapers that my hero was the Doctor; and I found that she, the daughter of the Prime Minister, had never heard of the Birmingham riots! I was struck by this evidence of what fearful Edition: current; Page: [192] things may take place in a country, unknown to the families of the chief men in it.

Of number twenty-three, “The Three Ages,” I remember scarcely any thing. The impression remaining is that I mightily enjoyed the portraiture of Wolsey and More, and especially a soliloquy or speech of Sir Thomas More’s. What it is about I have no recollection whatever: and I need not say that I have never looked at the story from the day of publication till now: but I have a strong impression that I should condemn it, if I were to read it now. I have become convinced that it is a mistake of serious importance to attempt to put one’s mind of the nineteenth century into the thought of the sixteenth; and wrong, as a matter of taste, to fall into a sort of slang style, or mannerism, under the notion of talking old English. The temptation is strong to young people whose historical associations are vivid, while their intellectual sympathy is least discriminating; and young writers of a quarter of a century ago may claim special allowance from the fact that Scott’s historical novels were then at the height of their popularity; but I believe that, all allowance being made, I should feel strong disgust at the affectations which not only made me very complacent at the time, but brought to me not a few urgent requests that I would write historical novels. Somewhere in that number there is a passage which Lord John Russell declared to be treason, saying that it would undoubtedly bear a prosecution. The publisher smirked at this, and heartily wished somebody would prosecute. We could not make out what passage his Lordship meant; but we supposed it was probably that part which expresses pity for the Royal Family in regard to the mode in which their subsistence is provided; — such of them, I mean, as have not official duties. If it be that passage, I can only say that every man and every woman who is conscious of the blessing of living either by personal exertion or on hereditary property is thus declared guilty of treason in thought, whenever the contrast of a pensioned or eleemosynary condition and an independent one presents itself, in connexion with the royal family, as it was in the last generation. It might be in some other passage, however, that the liability Edition: current; Page: [193] lurked. I did not look very closely; for I cannot say that I should have at all relished the prosecution, — the idea of which was so exhilarating to my publisher.

Number twenty-four, “The Farrers of Budge Row,” seems on the whole to be considered the best story of the Series. I have been repeatedly exhorted to reproduce the character of Jane in a novel. This Jane was so far a personal acquaintance of mine that I had seen her, two or three times, on her stool behind the books, at the shop where we bought our cheese, in the neighbourhood of Fludyer Street. Her old father’s pride then was in his cheeses, — which deserved his devotion as much as cheeses can: but my mother and I were aware that his pride had once a very different object; and it was this knowledge which made me go to the shop, to get a sight of the father and daughter. There had been a younger brother of that quiet woman, who had been sent to college, and educated for one of the learned professions; but his father changed his mind, and insisted so cruelly and so long on the young man being his shopman, that the poor fellow died broken-hearted. This anecdote, and an observation that I heard on the closeness with which the daughter was confined to the desk originated the whole story.

I wrote the chief part of the concluding number, “The Moral of Many Fables,” during the journey to the north which I took to see my old grandmother before my departure for America, and to visit my eldest sister at Newcastle, and Lord and Lady Durham at Lambton Castle. The fatigue was excessive; and when at Lambton, I went down a coal-pit, in order to see some things which I wanted to know. The heats and draughts of the pit, combined with the fatigue of an unbroken journey by mail from Newcastle to London, in December, caused me a severe attack of inflammation of the liver, and compelled the omission of a month in the appearance of my numbers. The toil and anxiety incurred to obtain the publication of the work had, as I have related, disordered my liver, two years before. I believe I had never been quite well, during those two years; and the toils and domestic anxieties of the autumn of 1833 had prepared me for overthrow by the first accident. — After struggling for ten Edition: current; Page: [194] days to rise from my bed, I was compelled to send word to printer and publisher that I must stop for a month. Mr. Fox (the elder) sent a cheering and consolatory note which enabled me to give myself up to the pleasure of being ill, and lying still, (as still as the pain would let me) without doubt or remorse. There was something to be done first, however; for the printer’s note was not quite such a holiday matter as Mr. Fox’s. It civilly explained that sixteen guineas’ worth of paper had been wetted, which would be utterly spoiled, if not worked off immediately. It was absolutely necessary to correct two proofs, which, as it happened, required more attention than any which had ever passed under my eye, from their containing arithmetical statements. Several literary friends had offered to correct my proofs; but these were not of a kind to be so disposed of. So, I set to work, with dizzy eyes and a quivering brain; propped up with pillows, and my mother and the maid alternately sitting by me with sal volatile, when I believed I could work a little. I was amused to hear, long afterwards, that it was reported to be my practice to work in this delightful style, — “when exhausted, to be supported in bed by her mother and her maid.” These absurd representations about myself and my ways taught me some caution in receiving such as were offered me about other authors.

It was no small matter, by this time, to have a month’s respite from the fluctuations of mind which I underwent about every number of my work. These fluctuations were as regular as the tides; but I did not recognise this fact till my mother pointed it out in a laughing way which did me a world of good. When I told her, as she declared I did once a month, that the story I was writing would prove an utter failure, she was uneasy for the first few months, but afterwards amused: and her amusement was a great support to me. The process was indeed a pretty regular one. I was fired with the first conception, and believed that I had found a treasure. Then, while at work, I alternately admired and despised what I wrote. When finished, I was in absolute despair; and then, when I saw it in print, I was surprised to see how well it looked. After an interval of above Edition: current; Page: [195] twenty years, I have not courage to look at a single number, — convinced that I should be disgusted by bad taste and metaphysics in almost every page. Long before I had arrived at this closing number, my mother and aunt had got into the way of smiling at each other, and at me, whenever I bade them prepare for disgrace; and they asked me how often I had addressed the same exhortation to them before. — There was another misery of a few hours long which we had to bear once a month: and that was the sending the manuscript to the printing-office. This panic was the tax I have always paid for making no copy of any thing I write. I sent the parcel by a trusty messenger, who waited for a receipt. One day, the messenger did not return for several hours, — the official being absent whose duty it was to receive such packets. My mother said, “I tell you what, Harriet; I can’t bear this . . . . . . . . . ” “Nor I either,” I replied. “We must carry it ourselves next time.” “So I would every time; but I doubt our being the safest messengers,” I was replying, when the note of acknowledgment was brought in. Now, at this new year 1834, I had a whole month of respite from all such cares, and could lie in bed without grudging the hours as they passed. It was indeed a significant yielding when, in 1831, I gave way to solicitations to produce a number a month. I did give way, (though with a trembling heart) because I knew that when I had once plunged into an enterprise, I always got through it, at whatever cost. I could not have asked any body to go into such an undertaking; and the cost was severe: but I got through; and, — if my twenty-fourth number was really the best, as people said, — without disgrace.

I was not through it yet, however. The “Illustrations of Taxation” had still to be written. I had designed six; and I forget when and why I determined there should be only five: but I rather think it was when I found the first series must have an additional number. All I am sure of is that it was a prodigious relief, which sent my spirits up sky high, when I resolved to spare myself a month’s work. Rest and leisure had now become far more important to me than fame and money. Nothing struck me so much, or left so deep and abiding an impression after the Edition: current; Page: [196] close of this arduous work, as my new sense of the value of time. A month had never before appeared to me what it now became; and I remember the real joy of finding in February, 1832, that it was leap year, and that I had a day more at my command than I had calculated. The abiding effect has perhaps not been altogether good. No doubt I have done more than I should without such an experience: but I think it has narrowed my mind. When I consider how some who knew me well have represented me as “industrious in my pleasures;” and how some of my American friends had a scheme at Niagara to see whether I could pass a day without asking or telling what o’clock it was, I feel convinced that my respect for “time and the hour” has been too much of a superstition and a bigotry. I say this now (1855) while finding that I can be idle; while, in fact, feeling myself free to do what I please, — that is, what illness admits of my doing, for above half of every day. I find, in the last stage of life, that I can play and be idle; and that I enjoy it. But I still think that the conflict between constitutional indolence and an overwrought sense of the value of time has done me some harm in the midst of some important good.

The Taxation numbers had, as I have said, still to be done; and, I think, the last of the Poor-law tales. I was aware that, of all the many weak points of the Grey administration, the weakest was Finance. Lord Althorp, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, complained of the hardship of being put into that office, when Nature had made him a grazier. It struck me that some good might be done, and no harm, if my Illustrations proceeded pari passu with the financial reforms expected from the Whig government; and I spoke on the subject to Lieutenant Drummond, who had just become private secretary to Lord Althorp. I was well acquainted with Mr. Drummond; and it occurred very naturally that I told him that if he knew of any meditated measure which would be aided by illustration, I would help, in all silence and discretion, — provided always that I approved of the scheme. About this time, the London shopkeepers were raising a selfish outcry against the House-tax, one Edition: current; Page: [197] of the very best on the list of imposts. It was understood on all hands that the clamour was not raised by the house-owners, but by their tenants, whose rents had been fixed in consideration of their payment of the tax. If they could get rid of the tax, the tenants would pocket the amount during the remaining term of their leases. Large and noisy deputations besieged the Treasury; and many feared that the good-natured Lord Althorp would yield. Just at this time, Mr. Drummond called on me, with a private message from Lords Grey and Althorp, to ask whether it would suit my purpose to treat of Tithes at once, instead of later, — the reason for such inquiry being quite at my service. As the principles of Taxation involve no inexorable order, like those of Political Economy at large, I had no objection to take any topic first which might be most useful. When I had said so, Mr. Drummond explained that a tithe measure was prepared by the Cabinet which Ministers would like to have introduced to the people by my Number on that subject, before they themselves introduced it in parliament. Of course, this proceeded on the supposition that the measure would be approved by me. Mr. Drummond said he would bring the document, on my promising that no eye but my own should see it, and that I would not speak of the affair till it was settled; — and, especially, not to any member of any of the Royal Commissions, then so fashionable. It was a thing unheard of, Mr. Drummond said, to commit any cabinet measure to the knowledge of any body out of the Cabinet before it was offered to parliament. Finally, the Secretary intimated that Lord Althorp would be obliged by any suggestion in regard to principles and methods of Taxation.

Mr. Drummond had not been gone five minutes before the Chairman of the Excise Commission called, to ask in the name of the Commissioners, whether it would suit my purpose to write immediately on the Excise, offering, on the part of Lord Congleton (then Sir Henry Parnell) and others, to supply me with the most extraordinary materials, by my exhibition of which the people might be enlightened and prepared on the subject before it should be brought forward in parliament. The Edition: current; Page: [198] Chairman, Mr. Henry Wickham, required a promise that no eye but my own should see the evidence; and that the secret should be kept with especial care from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his secretary, as it was a thing unheard of that any party unconcerned should be made acquainted with this evidence before it reached the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I could hardly help laughing in his face; and wondered what would have happened if he and Mr. Drummond had met on the steps, as they very nearly did. Of course, I was glad of the information offered; but I took leave to make my own choice among the materials lent. A few days afterwards I met Mr. Wickham before the Horse Guards, and thought he would not know me, — so deep was he in reverie. Before I was quite past, however, he started, and stopped me with eagerness, saying intensely, “O! Miss Martineau, Starch! Starch!” And he related the wonderful, the amazing evidence that had reached the Commissioners on the mischievousness of the duty on starch. I was obliged, however, to consider some other matters than the force of the evidence, and I declined expatiating on starch, finding the subject of green glass bottles, soap and sweets answer my purpose better. These two last, especially, yielded a very strong case.

At the end of a note to Mr. Drummond on Tithes that evening, I expressed myself plainly about the house-tax and the shopkeepers, avowing my dread that Lord Althorp might yield to the clamour. Mr. Drummond called next day with the promised tithe document; and he told me that he had handed my note to Lord Althorp, who had said “Tell her that I may be altogether of her mind; but that if she was here, in my place, with hundreds of shopkeepers yelling about the doors, she would yield, as I must do.” “Never,” was my message back, “so long as the House-tax is admitted to be the best on the list.” And I fairly told him that the Whig government was perilling the public safety by yielding every thing to clamour, and nothing without it.

I liked the Tithe measure, and willingly propounded it in my tale “The Tenth Haycock.” It was discussed that session, but Edition: current; Page: [199] deferred; and it passed, with some modifications, a session or two later. — Mr. Drummond next came to open to me, on the same confidential conditions, Lord Althorp’s scheme for the Budget, then due in six weeks. His object was to learn what I thought of certain intended alterations of existing taxes. With some pomp and preface, he announced that a change was contemplated which Lord Althorp hoped would be agreeable to me as a dissenter, — a change which Lord Althorp anticipated would be received as a boon by the dissenters. He proposed to take off the tax upon saddle-horses, in the case of the clergy and dissenting ministers. “What shall I tell Lord Althorp that you think of this?” inquired the Secretary. “Tell him I think the dissenting Ministers would like it very much if they had any saddle-horses,” I replied. — “What! do you mean that they will not take it as a boon?” — “If you offer it as a boon, they will be apt to take it as an insult. How should dissenting Ministers have saddle-horses, unless they happen to have private fortunes?” He questioned me closely about the dissenting Ministers I knew; and we found that I could actually point out only two among the Unitarians who kept saddle-horses: and they were men of property.

“What, then, would you substitute?” was the next question. “I would begin upon the Excise; set free the smallest articles first, which least repay the expense of collection, and go on to the greatest.” — “The Excise! Ah! Lord Althorp bade me tell you that the Commission on Excise have collected the most extraordinary evidence, which he will take care that you shall have, as soon as he gets it himself.” (It was at that moment in the closet, within two feet of my visitor.) I replied that the evils of the excise system were well known to be such as to afford employment to any Chancellor of the Exchequer for a course of years; and I should venture to send Lord Althorp my statement of them, hoping that he would glance at it before he brought out his Budget. I worked away at the two Excise stories (“The Jerseymen Meeting” and “The Jerseymen Parting,”) making out a strong case, among others, about Green Glass Bottles and Sweets, more as illustrative examples than as individual cases. Edition: current; Page: [200] I sent the first copy I could get to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a day and a half before he brought out his Budget. When I opened the “Times,” the morning after, I was highly amused at seeing that he had made a curious alteration in his intentions about the saddle-horse duty, applying the remission to those clergymen and ministers only whose income was under two hundred pounds a year, — having evidently no idea of the cost of keeping a horse. Not less amusing was it to see that he had taken off the duty from green glass bottles and sweets. He was in fact open to suggestion and correction from any quarter, — being consciously, as I have mentioned that he said, one of Nature’s graziers, and a merely man-made Chancellor of the Exchequer.

By this time, the summer of 1834 was far advanced, and I was much exhausted with fatigue and hot weather, and the hurry of preparation for my trip to America. I was drooping in idea over my last number, “The Scholars of Arneside,” when a cordial friend of mine said, “You will go with great spirit through your last number, — the final task of such an enterprise.” This prophecy wrought its own accomplishment. I did go through it with spirit; and I found myself, after making my calls, with one day left for packing and preparation. Many interruptions occurred during the last few days which deferred my conclusion till I felt and saw that my mother was so anxious that I must myself keep down worry of nerves. On the Friday before I was to leave home for above two years, my mother said, with anxious kindness, “My dear, have you done?” “No, mother.” On Saturday night, she put her head in at my study door, with “My dear, have you done?” “Indeed I have not.” Sunday came, — my place taken by mail for Tuesday, no packing done, and my number unfinished! The case seemed desperate. My mother said at home, and took every precaution against my being disturbed: but some one came on indispensable business, and did not release me till our early Sunday dinner hour. My mother looked anxiously in my face; and I could only shake my head. After dinner, she in a manner mounted guard over my study door. At five o’clock I flew down stairs Edition: current; Page: [201] with the last sheet, with the ink still wet, in my hand. My sister Ellen was with us, and at the moment writing to some Derbyshire friends. By a sudden impulse, I seized her paper, and with the wet pen with which I had just written “The End,” I announced the conclusion of my work. My mother could say little but “After all we have gone through about this work, to think how it has ended!” I flew up stairs again to tie up parcels and manuscripts, and put away all my apparatus; and I had just finished this when I was called to tea. After tea I went into St. James’s Park for the first thoroughly holiday walk I had taken for two years and a half. It felt very like flying. The grass under foot, the sky overhead, the trees round about, were wholly different from what they had ever appeared before. My business was not, however, entirely closed. There were the proof-sheets of the last Number to be looked over. They followed me to Birmingham, where Ellen and I travelled together, in childish spirits, on the Tuesday.

My mother had reason for her somewhat pathetic exultation on the conclusion of my Series. Its success was unprecedented, I believe. I am told that its circulation had reached ten thousand in England before my return from America. Mr. Babbage, calling on me one day, when he was in high spirits about the popularity of his own work, “Machinery and Manufactures,” said, “Now there is nobody here to call us vain, we may tell each other that you and I are the only people in the market. I find no books are selling but yours and mine.” (It was a time of political agitation.) I replied, “I find no books are selling but yours and mine.” “Well!” said he, “what I came to say is that we may as well advertise each other. Will you advertise mine if I advertise yours, &c. &c.?” And this was the work which had struggled into existence with such extreme difficulty! Under the hard circumstances of the case, it had not made me rich. I have at this time received only a little more than two thousand pounds for the whole work. But I got a hearing, — which was the thing I wanted. The barrier was down, and the course clear; and the money was a small matter in comparison. It was pleasant too, to feel the ease of having money, after Edition: current; Page: [202] my straitened way of life for some years. My first indulgence was buying a good watch, — the same which is before my eyes as I write. I did not trouble myself with close economies while working to such advantage; and I now first learned the bliss of helping the needy effectually. I was able to justify my mother in removing to London, and to refresh myself by travel, at the end of my task. My American journey cost me four hundred pounds, in addition to one hundred which I made when there. I had left at home my usual payment to my mother; but she refused to take it, as she had a boarder in my place. Soon after my return, when my first American book was published, I found myself able to lay by one thousand pounds, in the purchase of a deferred annuity, of which I am now enjoying the benefit in the receipt of one hundred pounds a year. I may finish off the subject of money by saying that I lately calculated that I have earned altogether by my books somewhere about ten thousand pounds. I have had to live on it, of course, for five-and-twenty years; and I have found plenty to do with it: but I have enough, and I am satisfied. I believe I might easily have doubled the amount, if it had been my object to get money; or even, if an international copyright law had secured to me the proceeds of the sale of my works in foreign countries. But such a law was non-existent in my busy time, and still is in regard to America. There is nothing in money that could pay me for the pain of the slightest deflexion from my own convictions, or the most trifling restraint on my freedom of thought and speech. I have therefore obtained the ease and freedom, and let slip the money. I do not speak as one who has resisted temptation, for there has really been none. I have never been at a loss for means, or really suffering from poverty, since the publication of my Series. I explain the case simply that there may be no mystery about my not being rich after such singular success as I so soon met with.

One more explanation will bring this long section to a close. I make it the more readily because it is possible that an absurd report which I encountered in America may be still in existence. It was said that I travelled, not on my own resources, but on Edition: current; Page: [203] means supplied by Lord Brougham and his relative Lord Henley, to fulfil certain objects of theirs. Nobody acquainted with me would listen to such nonsense; but I may as well explain what Lord Henley had to do with my going to America. Lord Brougham had no concern with it whatever, beyond giving me two or three letters of introduction. The story is simply this. One evening, in a party, Lady Mary Shepherd told me that she was commissioned to bring about an interview between myself and her nephew, Lord Henley, who had something of importance to say to me: and she fixed me to meet Lord Henley at her house at luncheon a day or two after. She told me meantime the thing he chiefly wanted, which was to know how, if I had three hundred pounds a year to spend in charity, I should employ it. When we met, I was struck by his excessive agitation, which his subsequent derangement might account for. His chief interest was in philanthropic subjects; and he told me, with extreme emotion, (what so many others have told me) that he believed he had been doing mischief for many years where he most meant to do good, by his methods of alms-giving. Since reading “Cousin Marshall” and others of my Numbers, he had dropped his subscriptions to some hurtful charities, and had devoted his funds to Education, Benefit Societies and Emigration. Upon his afterwards asking whether I received visitors, and being surprised to find that I could afford the time, some remarks were made about the extent and pressure of my work; and then Lord Henley asked whether I did not mean to travel when my Series was done. Upon my replying that I did, he apologised for the liberty he took in asking where I thought of going. I said I had not thought much about it; but that I supposed it would be the usual route, to Switzerland and Italy. “O! do not go over that beaten track,” he exclaimed. “Why should you? Will you not go to America?” I replied, “Give me a good reason, and perhaps I will.” His answer was, “Whatever else may or may not be true about the Americans, it is certain that they have got at principles of justice and mercy in their treatment of the least happy classes of society which we should do well to understand. Will you not go, and tell us what they are?” This, after some Edition: current; Page: [204] meditation, determined me to cross the Atlantic. Before my return, Lord Henley had disappeared from society; and he soon after died. I never saw him, I believe, but that once.

After short visits, with my sister Ellen, at Birmingham, in Derbyshire and at Liverpool, I sailed (for there were no steamers on the Atlantic in those days) early in August, 1834.

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According to my promise,* I reprint the bulk of an article on “Literary Lionism,” written in 1839, which will shew better than anything which I can now relate, how I regarded the flatteries of a drawing-room while living in the midst of them. It makes me laugh as I read it to have recalled to my memory the absurd incidents which were occurring every day, and which drove me to write this article as a relief to feelings of disgust and annoyance. There is not a stroke that is not from the life. The works reviewed are “The Lion of a party,” from a publication of that time, “Heads of the People;” and an Oration of Emerson’s on the Life of the Scholar. Omitting only the review part and the extracts, I give the whole.

“This ‘Lion’ is indeed one of the meanest of his tribe; but he is one of a tribe which has included, and does now include, some who are worthy of a higher classification. Byron was an ‘interesting creature,’ and received blushing thanks for his last ‘divine poem.’ Scott lost various little articles which would answer for laying up in lavender; and Madame de Stael was exhibited almost as ostensibly at the British Gallery as any of the pictures on the walls, on the evening when the old Marquis of A— obtained an introduction to her, and accosted her with ‘Come now, Madame de Stael, you must talk English to me.’ As she scornfully turned from him, and continued her discourse in her own way, the discomfited Marquis seemed to think himself extremely ill used in being deprived of the entertainment he expected from the prima donna of the company. In as far as such personages as these last acquiesce in the modern practice of ‘Lionism,’ they may be considered to be implicated in whatever reproach attaches to it; but the truth seems to be that, however Edition: current; Page: [206] disgusting and injurious the system, and however guilty some few individuals may be in availing themselves of it for their small, selfish, immediate purposes, the practice, with its slang term, is the birth of events, and is a sign of the times, — like newspaper puffery, which is an evidence of over population, or like joint stock companies and club-houses, which indicate that society has obtained a glimpse of that great principle of the economy of association, by which it will probably, in some future age, reconstitute itself.

“The practice of ‘Lionism’ originates in some feelings which are very good, — in veneration for intellectual superiority, and gratitude for intellectual gifts; and its form and prevalence are determined by the fact, that literature has reached a larger class, and interested a different order of people from any who formerly shared its advantages. A wise man might, at the time of the invention of printing, have foreseen the age of literary ‘Lionism,’ and would probably have smiled at it as a temporary extravagance. The whole course of literary achievement has prophecied its transient reign. The voluntary, self-complacent, literary ‘Lion’ might, in fact, be better called the mouse issuing from the labouring mountain, which has yet to give birth to the volcano.

“There was a time when literature was cultivated only in the seclusion of monasteries. There sat the author of old, alone in his cell, — alone through days, and months, and years. The echoes of the world have died away; the voice of praise could not reach him there, and his grave yawned within the very inclosure whence he should never depart. He might look abroad from the hill-side, or the pinnacle of rock where his monastery stood, on

  • ‘the rich leas,
  • The turfy mountains, where live nibbling sheep,
  • And flat meads thatch’d with stover them to keep:
  • — the broom groves,
  • Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves,
  • Being lass-lorn: the pole-clipt vineyard,
  • And the sea-marge, sterile and rocky hard.’

On these he might look abroad, but never on the assemblages of men. Literary achievement in such circumstances might be, to Edition: current; Page: [207] a certain degree, encouraged by visions of future usefulness and extended fame, but the strongest stimulus must have been the pleasure of intellectual exercise. The toil of composition must there have been its own reward, and we may even now witness with the mind’s eye the delight of it painted upon the face under the cowl. One may see the student hastening from the refectory to the cell, drawn thither by the strong desire of solving a problem, of elucidating a fact, of indulging the imagination with heavenly delights, and contemplating the wealth stored in his memory. One may see him coming down with radiant countenance from the heights of speculation, to cast into the worship of the chapel the devotion he had there gained. One may see the glow upon his cheek as he sits alone beside his lamp, noting his discoveries, or elaborating the expression of his ideas. There are many who think that no one ever wrote a line, even in the most private diary, without the belief, or the hope, that it would be read. It might be so with the monastic author; but in his case there could rarely be the appendage of praise to the fact of its being read; and the prospect of influence and applause was too remote to actuate a life of literary toil. It is probable that if an echo of fame came to him on any of the four winds, it was well, and he heartily enjoyed the music of the breeze; but that in some instances he would have passed his days in the same manner, cultivating literature for its own sake, if he had known that his parchments would be buried with him.

“The homage paid to such men when they did come forth into the world was, on the part of the many, on the ground of their superiority alone. A handful of students might feel thankfulness towards them for definite services, but the crowd gazed at them in vague admiration, as being holier or wiser than other people. As the blessings of literature spread, strong personal gratitude mingled with the homage — gratitude not only for increase of fame and honour to the country and nation to which the author belonged, but for the good which each worshipper derived from the quickening of his sympathies, the enlargement of his views, the elevation of his intellectual being. To each of the crowd the author had opened up a spring of fresh ideas, Edition: current; Page: [208] furnished a solution of some doubt, a gratification of the fancy or the reason. When, on a certain memorable Easter day in the fourteenth century, Petrarch mounted the stairs of the Capitol, crowned with laurel, and preceded by twelve noble youths, reciting passages of his poetry, the praise was of the noblest kind that it has been the lot of authorship to receive. It was composed of reverence and gratitude, pure from cold selfishness and from sentimental passion, which is cold selfishness in a flame-coloured disguise. When, more than four centuries later, Voltaire was overpowered with acclamations in the theatre at Paris, and conveyed home in triumph, crying feebly, ‘You suffocate me with roses,’ the homage, though inferior in character to that which greeted Petrarch, was honourable, and of better origin than popular selfishness. The applauding crowd had been kept ignorant by the superstition which had in other ways so afflicted them, that they were unboundedly grateful to a man of power who promised to relieve them from the yoke. Voltaire had said, ‘I am tired of hearing it repeated that twelve men were sufficient to found Christianity: I will show the world that one is sufficient to destroy it;’ and he was believed. He was mistaken in his boast, and his adorers in confiding in it; but this proves only that they were ignorant of Christianity, and not that their homage of one whom they believed to have exploded error and disarmed superstition, and whom they knew to have honoured and served them by his literary labours, was otherwise than natural and creditable to their hearts.

“The worship of popular authors at the present time is an expression of the same thoughts and feelings as were indicated by the crowning of Petrarch and the greeting of Voltaire in the theatre, but with alterations and additions according to the change in the times. Literary ‘lions’ have become a class, — an inconceivable idea to the unreflecting in the time of Petrarch, and even of Voltaire. This testifies to the vast spread of literature among our people. How great a number of readers is required to support, by purchase and by praise, a standing class of original writers! It testifies to the deterioration of literature as a whole. If, at any one time, there is a class of persons to Edition: current; Page: [209] whom the public are grateful for intellectual excitement, how médiocre must be the quality of the intellectual production! It by no means follows that works of merit, equal to any which have yet blessed mankind, are not still in reserve; but it is clear that the great body of literature has entirely changed its character — that books are no longer the scarce fruit of solemn and protracted thought, but rather, as they have been called, ‘letters to all whom they may concern.’ That literary ‘lions’ now constitute a class, testifies to the frequency of literary success, — to the extension of the number of minds from which a superficial and transient sympathy may be anticipated. But the newest feature of all is the class of ‘lionisers,’ — new, not because sordid selfishness is new — not because social vanity is new — not because an inhuman disregard of the feelings of the sensitive, the foibles of the vain, the privileges of the endowed, is new: but because it is somewhat new to see the place of cards, music, masks, my lord’s fool, and my lady’s monkey, supplied by authors in virtue of their authorship.

“It is, to be sure, quite to be expected that low-minded persons should take advantage of any prevalent feeling, however respectable, to answer their own purposes; but the effect, in this instance, would be odd to a resuscitated gentleman of the fifteenth century. If he happened to be present at one of the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he would there see the popular veneration for intellectual achievement under a pretty fair aspect. There is no harm, and some good, in seeing a group waiting for Sir John Herschel to come out into the street, or a rush in the rooms to catch a sight of Faraday, — or ladies sketching Babbage, and Buckland, and Back, — or a train of gazers following at the heels of Whewell or Sedgwick, or any popular artist or author who might be present among the men of science. In all this there is no reproach, and some honour, to both parties, though of a slight and transient kind. The sordid characteristics of the modern system appear when the eminent person becomes a guest in a private house. If the resuscitated gentleman of the fifteenth century were to walk into a country house in England in company Edition: current; Page: [210] with a lady of literary distinction, he might see at once what is in the mind of the host and hostess. All the books of the house are lying about — all the gentry in the neighbourhood are collected; the young men peep and stare from the corners of the room; the young ladies crowd together, even sitting five upon three chairs, to avoid the risk of being addressed by the stranger. The lady of the house devotes herself to ‘drawing out’ the guest, asks for her opinion of this, that, and the other book, and intercedes for her young friends, trembling on their three chairs, that each may be favoured with ‘just one line for her album.’ The children are kept in the nursery, as being unworthy the notice of a literary person, or brought up severally into the presence, ‘that they may have it to say all their lives that they had been introduced,’ &c. &c. Some youth in a corner is meantime sketching the guest, and another is noting what she says — probably something about black and green tea, or the state of the roads, or the age of the moon. Such a scene, very common now in English country houses, must present an unfavourable picture of our manners to strangers from another country or another age. The prominent features are the sufferings of one person, and the selfishness of all the rest. They are too much engrossed with the excitement of their own vanity and curiosity to heed the pain they are inflicting on one who, if she happens to have more feeling and less vanity than they, can hardly enjoy being told that children cannot be interesting to her, and that young people do not wish to speak to her.

“In a country town it is yet worse. There may be seen a coterie of ‘superior people’ of the place, gathered together to make the most of a literary foreigner who may be passing through. Though he speaks perfect English, the ladies persist in uttering themselves, after hems and haws, in French that he can make nothing of, — French as it was taught in our boarding schools during the war. The children giggle in a corner at what the boys call ‘the jabber;’ and the maid who hands the tea strives to keep the corners of her mouth in order. In vain the guest speaks to the children, and any old person who may be present, in English almost as good as their own; he is annoyed Edition: current; Page: [211] to the last by the ‘superior people,’ who intend that it should get abroad through the town that they had enjoyed a vast deal of conversation in French with the illustrious stranger.

“Bad as all this is, the case is worse in London, — more disgusting, if it is impossible to be more ridiculous. There, ladies of rank made their profit of the woes of the Italian and Polish refugees, the most eagerly in the days of the deepest unhappiness of the exiles, when the novelty was strongest. These exiles were collected in the name of hospitality, but for purposes of attraction, within the doors of fashionable saloons; there they were stared out of countenance amidst the sentimental sighs of the gazers; and if any one of them, — any interesting Count or melancholy-looking Prince, happened unfortunately to be the author of a ‘sweet poem,’ or a ‘charming tragedy,’ he was called out from among the rest to be flattered by the ladies, and secured for fresh services. It was not uncommon, during the days of the novelty of the Italian refugees, while they were yet unprovided with employments by which they might live, (and for aught we know, it may not be uncommon still,) for ladies to secure the appearance of one or two of these first-rate ‘lions’ with them the next evening at the theatre or opera, and to forget to pay. Till these gentlemen had learned by experience to estimate the friendship of the ladies to whom they were so interesting, they often paid away at public places the money which was to furnish them with bread for the week. We have witnessed the grief and indignation with which some of them have announced their discovery that their woes and their accomplishments were hired with champagne, coffee, and fine words, to amuse a party of languid fine people.

“These gentlemen, however, are no worse treated than many natives. A new poet, if he innocently accepts a promising invitation, is liable to find out afterwards that his name has been inserted in the summonses to the rest of the company, or sent round from mouth to mouth to secure the rooms being full. If a woman who has written a successful play or novel attends the soirée of a ‘lionising’ lady, she hears her name so announced on the stairs as to make it certain that the servants have had their Edition: current; Page: [212] instructions; she finds herself seized upon at the door by the hostess, and carried about to lord, lady, philosopher, gossip, and dandy, each being assured that she cannot be spared to each for more than ten seconds. She sees a ‘lion’ placed in the centre of each of the two first rooms she passes through, — a navigator from the North Pole in the one, a dusky Egyptian bey or Hindoo rajah in another; and it flashes upon her that she is to be the centre of attraction in a third apartment. If she is vain enough to like the position, the blame of ministering to a pitiable and destructive weakness remains with the hostess, and she is answerable for some of the failure of power which will be manifest in the next play or novel of her victim. If the guest be meek and modest, there is nothing for it but getting behind a door, or surrounding herself with her friends in a corner. If she be strong enough to assert herself, she will return at once to her carriage, and take care how she enters that house again. A few instances of what may be seen in London during any one season, if brought together, yield but a sorry exhibition of the manners of persons who give parties to gratify their own vanity, instead of enjoying the society and the pleasure of their friends. In one crowded room are three ‘lions,’ — a new musical composer, an eminent divine who publishes, and a lady poet. These three stand in three corners of the room, faced by a gaping crowd. Weary at length of their position, they all happen to move towards the centre table at the same moment. They find it covered with the composer’s music, the divine’s sermons, and the lady’s last new poem; they laugh in each other’s faces, and go back to their corners. A gentleman from the top of Mont Blanc, or from the North Pole, is introduced to a lady who is dying to be able to say that she knows him, but who finds at the critical moment that she has nothing to say to him. In the midst of a triple circle of listeners, she asks him whether he is not surprised at his own preservation; whether it does not prove that Providence is everywhere, but more particularly in barren places? If a sigh or a syllable of remonstrance escapes from any victim, there is one phrase always at hand for use, a phrase which, if it ever contained any truth, or exerted any consolatory influence, has Edition: current; Page: [213] been long worn out, and become mere words, — ‘This is a tax you must pay for your eminence.’ There may, perhaps, be as much assumption with regard to the necessity of this tax as of some others. Every tax has been called absolutely necessary in its day; and the time may arrive when some shall dispute whether it be really needful that an accomplished actor should be pestered with the flattery of his art, that authors should be favoured with more general conversation only that any opinions they may drop may be gathered up to be reported; and that women, whom the hardest treatment awaits if their heads should be turned, should be compelled to hear what the prime minister, or the Russian ambassador, or the poet laureate, or the ‘lion’ of the last season, has said of them. Those on whom the tax is levied would like to have the means of protest, if they should not see its necessity quite so clearly as others do. They would like to know why they are to be unresistingly pillaged of their time by importunity about albums, and despoiled of the privacy of correspondence with their friends by the rage for autographs, so that if they scribble a joke to an acquaintance in the next street, they may hear of its existence five years after in a far corner of Yorkshire, or in a book of curiosities at Hobart Town. They would like to know why they must be civil when a stranger, introduced by an acquaintance at a morning call, makes her curtsey, raises her glass, borrows paper and pencil of the victim, draws a likeness, puts it into her reticule, and departs. They would like to know why they are expected to be gratified when eight or nine third-rate painters beg them to sit for their portraits, to be hung out as signs to entice visitors to the artist’s rooms.”

* * * * * *

“Authors would like to know why they must receive flattery as if it were welcome, and be made subject to fine speeches, which presuppose a disgusting degree of vanity in the listener. They would like to know whether it is absolutely necessary that they should be accused of pride and ingratitude if they decline honours of such spurious origin as most of these, and of absurd vanity if they do not repel them. They would like to know Edition: current; Page: [214] whether it is quite necessary, in generous and Christian England, that any class should submit to have its most besetting sin, its peculiar weakness, fostered and aggravated for the purposes of persons whose aim it is to have brilliant parties and a celebrated acquaintance. The being honoured through the broad land, while the soul is sinking under its sense of ignorance and weakness at home, is a tax which a popular author must pay; and so is the being censured for what may prove the best deeds of his life, and the highest thoughts of his mind. He may be obliged to submit to be gazed at in public, and to be annoyed with handfuls of anonymous letters in his study, where he would fain occupy himself with something far higher and better than himself and his doings. These things may be a tax which he must pay; but it may be questionable whether it is equally necessary for him to acquiesce in being the show and attraction of an assemblage to which he is invited as a guest, if not as a friend.

“This matter is not worth losing one’s temper about, — just because nothing is worth it. There is another reason, too, why indignation would be absurd, — that no individuals or classes are answerable for the system. It is the birth of the times, as we said before, and those may laugh who can, and those who must suffer had better suffer good-humouredly; but not the less is the system a great mischief, and therefore to be exposed and resisted by those who have the power. If its effects were merely to insure and hasten the ruin of youthful poets, who are satisfied to bask in compliments and the lamp-light of saloons, to complete the resemblance to pet animals of beings who never were men, the world would lose little, and this species of coxcombry, like every other, might be left to have its day. But this is far from being all that is done. There is a grievous waste of time of a higher order of beings than the rhyming dandy — waste of the precious time of those who have only too few years in which to think and to live. There is an intrusion into the independence of their observation of life. If their modesty is not most painfully outraged, their idea of the literary life is depraved. The one or the other must be the case, and we generally witness both in the literary pets of saloons.

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“Some plead that the evil is usually so temporary, that it cannot do much mischief to any one who really has an intellect, and is therefore of consequence to the world. But the mischief is not over with praise and publicity. The reverse which ensues may be salutary. As Carlyle says, ‘Truly, if Death did not intervene; or, still more happily, if Life and the Public were not a blockhead, and sudden unreasonable oblivion were not to follow that sudden unreasonable glory, and beneficently, though most painfully, damp it down, one sees not where many a poor glorious man, still more, many a poor glorious woman (for it falls harder on the distinguished female), could terminate, far short of Bedlam.’ Such reverse may be the best thing to be hoped; but it does not leave things as they were before the season of flattery set in. The safe feeling of equality is gone; habits of industry are impaired; the delicacy of modesty is exhaled; and it is a great wonder if the temper is not spoiled. The sense of elevation is followed by a consciousness of depression: those who have been the idols of society feel, when deposed, like its slaves; and the natural consequence is contempt and repining. Hear Dryden at the end of a long course of mutual flatteries between himself and his patrons, and of authorship to please others, often to the severe mortification of his better nature: — ‘It will continue to be the ingratitude of mankind, that they who teach wisdom by the surest means shall generally live poor and unregarded, as if they were born only for the public, and had no interest in their own well-being, but were to be lighted up like tapers, and waste themselves for the benefit of others.’ ”

* * * * * *

“The crowning evil which arises from the system of ‘lionism’ is, that it cuts off the retreat of literary persons into the great body of human beings. They are marked out as a class, and can no longer take refuge from their toils and their publicity in ordinary life. This is a hardship shared by authors who are far above being directly injured by the prevalent practice. There are men who continue to enter society for the sake of the good it yields, enjoying intercourse, despising homage, smiling at the vanities of those who must needs be vain, and overlooking the Edition: current; Page: [216] selfishness of such as are capable of no higher ambition than of being noted for their brilliant parties — there are men thus superior to being ‘lions’ who yet find themselves injured by ‘lionism.’ The more they venerate their own vocation, and the more humbly they estimate the influence of their own labours on human affairs, the more distinctly do they perceive the mischief of their separation from others who live and think; of their being isolated as a class. The cabinet-maker is of a different class from the hosier, because one makes furniture and the other stockings. The lawyer is of a different class from the physician, because the science of law is quite a different thing from the science of medicine. But the author has to do with those two things precisely which are common to the whole race — with living and thinking. He is devoted to no exclusive department of science; and the art which he practises — the writing what he thinks — is quite a subordinate part of his business. The very first necessity of his vocation is to live as others live, in order to see and feel, and to sympathise in human thought. In proportion as this sympathy is impaired, will his views be partial, his understanding, both of men and books, be imperfect, and his power be weakened accordingly. A man aware of all this will sigh, however goodnaturedly he may smile, at such lamentations as may often be overheard in ‘brilliant parties.’ ‘How do you like Mrs. —, now you have got an introduction to her?’ ‘O, I am so disappointed! I don’t find that she has anything in her.’ ‘Nothing in her! Nothing, with all her science!’ ‘O, I should never have found out who she was, if I had not been told; and she did not say a thing that one could carry away.’ Hence — from people not finding out who she was without being told — came Mrs. —’s great wisdom; and of this advantage was all the world trying to deprive her.”

* * * * * *

“Amidst the ‘lower observances’ of life, even the pedantry of literary coteries, the frivolities of the drawing-room, and the sentimentalities of ‘lion’ worship, there is for the self-relying, ‘tuition in the serene and beautiful laws’ of human existence. But the tuition is for the self-relying alone — for those who, in Edition: current; Page: [217] the deep interest of their vocation of thought, work from far other considerations than the desire of applause. None but a man who can do without praise can come out safe from the process of being ‘lionised:’ and no one who cannot do without praise is likely to achieve anything better than he has already done. The newspapers may tell of his ‘expanding intellect,’ and his publisher may prophecy of the rich fruits of his coming years: but he has done his best. Having gained much applause by a particular quality of his writing, he will be always trying to get more applause by a stronger exhibition of the quality, till it grows into pure extravagance. If he has energy, it will grow into bombast in the hot-house of drawing-room favour. If he is suggestive, and excels in implication, he will probably end in a Lord Burleigh’s shake of the head. He deprives himself of the repose and independence of thought, amid which he might become aware of his own tendencies, and nourish his weaker powers into an equality with the stronger. Fashion, with all its lights, its music, its incense, is to him a sepulchre — the cold deep grave in which his powers and his ambition must rot into nothingness. We have often wondered, while witnessing the ministering of the poison to the unwary, the weak and the vain, whether their course began with the same kind of aspiration, felt as early, as that which the greatest of the world’s thinkers have confessed. It seems as if any who have risen so far into success as to attract the admiration, (and therefore the sympathy) of numbers, must have had a long training in habits of thought, feeling, and expression; must have early felt admiration of intellectual achievement, and the consciousness of kindred with the masters of intellect; must have early known the stirrings of literary ambition, the pleasure of thinking, the luxury of expressing thought, and the heroic longing to create or arouse somewhat in other minds. It is difficult to believe that any one who has succeeded has not gone through brave toils, virtuous struggles of modesty, and a noble glow of confidence: that he has not obtained glimpses of realities unseen by the outward eye, and been animated by a sense of the glory of his vocation: that, up to the precincts of the empire of fashion, he has been, in all essential Edition: current; Page: [218] respects, on an equality with any of God’s peerage. If so, what a sight of ruin is here: aspirations chained down by the fetters of complaisance! desires blown away by the breath of popularity, or the wind of ladies’ fans! confidence pampered into conceit; modesty depraved into misgiving and dependence; and the music of the spheres exchanged for opera airs and the rhymes of an album! Instead of ‘the scholar beloved of earth and heaven,’ we have the mincing dandy courted by the foolish and the vain. Instead of the son of wisdom, standing serene before the world to justify the ways of his parent, we have the spoiled child of fortune, ready to complain, on the first neglect, that all the universe goes wrong because the darkness is settling down upon him after he has used up his little day. What a catastrophe of a mind which must have had promise in its dawn!

“Even where the case is not so mournful as this, the drawing-room is still the grave of literary promise. There are some who on the heath, or in the shadow of the wood, whispered to themselves, with beating hearts, while communing with some mastermind, ‘I also am a poet.’ In those days they could not hear the very name of Chaucer or Shakspere without a glow of personal interest, arising out of a sense of kindred. Now, lounging on sofas, and quaffing coffee and praise, they are satisfied with mediocrity, gratified enough that one fair creature has shut herself up with their works at noon-day, and that another has pored over them at midnight. They now speak of Chaucer and Shakspere with the same kind of admiration with which they themselves are addressed by others. The consciousness, the heart-felt emotion, the feeling of brotherhood — all that is noble is gone, and is succeeded by a low and precarious self-complacency, a sceptical preference of mediocrity to excellence. They underrate their vocation, and are lost.”

* * * * * *

“When we think how few writers in a century live for centuries, it is astonishing to perceive how many in every year dismiss all doubt of their own greatness, and strut about in the belief that men’s minds are full of them, and will be full of them when a new age has arisen, and they and their flatterers have Edition: current; Page: [219] long been gone to learn elsewhere, perhaps, the littleness of all our knowledge. Any degree of delight, any excess of glee may be allowed for, and even respected, in one actually in the intense enjoyment of authorship, when all comparison with others is out of the question for the hour, and the charm of his own conceptions eclipses all other beauty, the fervour of his own persuasions excludes the influence of all other minds; but if a man not immediately subject to the inspiration of his art, deliberately believes that his thoughts are so far beyond his age, or his feelings so universal and so felicitously expressed as that he is even now addressing a remote posterity, no further proof of his ignorance and error is needed. The prophecy forbids its own accomplishment. There is probably no London season when some author is not told by some foolish person that he or she is equal to Shakspere; and it is but too probable that some have believed what they have been told, and in consequence stopped short of what, by patient and humble study and labour, they might have achieved; while it is almost certain, if such could but see it, that whenever Shakspere’s equal shall arise, it will be in some unanticipated form, and in such a mode that the parity of glory shall be a secret to himself, and to the world, till he is gone from it.

“Another almost unavoidable effect of literary ‘lionism’ is to make an author overrate his vocation; which is, perhaps, as fatal an error as underrating it. All people interested in their work are liable to overrate their vocation. There may be makers of dolls’ eyes who wonder how society would go on without them. But almost all men, but popular authors, leave behind them their business and the ideas which belong to it when they go out to recreate themselves. The literary ‘lion,’ however, hears of little but books, and the kind of books he is interested in. He sees them lining the walls and strewing the tables wherever he goes: all the ideas he hears are from books; all the news is about books, till it is no wonder if he fancies that books govern the affairs of the world. If this fancy once gets fixed in his brain there is an end of his achievements. His sagacity about human interests, and his sympathy with human feelings, are gone. If he had not been enchanted, held captive within Edition: current; Page: [220] the magic circle of fashion, he might have stepped abroad to see how the world really goes on. He might have found there philosophers who foresee the imperishable nature of certain books; who would say to him ‘Cast forth thy word into the everliving, everworking universe; it is a seed grain that cannot die; unnoticed to-day, it will be found flourishing as a banyan-grove (perhaps, alas! as a hemlock forest) after a thousand years:’* all this, however, supposing vital perfection in the seed, and a fitting soil for it to sink into. He might have found some who will say with Fenelon, with all earnestness, ‘If the riches of both Indies, if the crowns of all the kingdoms of Europe were laid at my feet, in exchange for my love of reading, I would spurn them all.’ But even among these, the reading and thinking class, he would be wise to observe how much more important are many things than books; how little literature can compete in influence with the winds of heaven, with impulses from within, with the possession of land and game, with professional occupations, with the news of the day, with the ideas and affections belonging to home and family. All these rank, as they ought to do, before books in their operation upon minds. If he could have gone out of the circle of the highly cultivated, he would have found the merchant on ’change, the shopkeeper at his ledger, mothers in their nurseries, boys and girls serving their apprenticeships or earning their bread, with little thought of books. It is true that in this class may be found those who are, perhaps, the most wrought upon by books — those to whom literature is a luxury: but to such, two or three books are the mental food of a whole youth, while two or three more may sustain their mature years. These are they to whom the vocation of the author, in the abstract, is beyond comparison for nobleness, but to whom the vocation of this particular author is of less importance than that of the monkey that grimaces on Bruin’s back, as he paces along Whitechapel or Cheapside. If he could have gone further still, he would have heard little children talking to their haggard mothers of some happy possibility of bacon to their potatoes on some Edition: current; Page: [221] future day; he would have seen whole societies where no book is heard of but the ‘Newgate Calendar.’ How do books act upon the hundreds of thousands of domestic servants — upon the millions of artisans who cannot sever the sentences they speak into the words which compose them — upon the multitude who work on the soil, the bean-setters in spring, the mowers in summer, the reapers in autumn, who cover the broad land? How do books act upon the tribe who traverse the seas, obtaining guidance from the stars, and gathering knowledge from every strand? There is scarcely anything which does not act more powerfully upon them — not a word spoken in their homes, not an act of their handicraft, not a rumour of the town, not a glimpse of the green fields. The time will doubtless come when books will influence the life of such; but then this influence will be only one among many, and the books which will give it forth will hardly be of the class in which the literary ‘lion’ has an interest. Meantime, unless he goes abroad, in imagination at least, from the enchanted circle of which he is, for the time, the centre, he is in imminent peril, while relaxing in his intellectual toil, of overrating his vocation.

“This, however, is sometimes a preparation for being ashamed of the vocation. Some of the anxiety which popular authors have shown, towards the end of their career, to be considered as gentlemen rather than as authors, is no doubt owing to the desire, in aristocratic England, to be on a par with their admirers in the qualifications which most distinguish them: and much also to the universal tendency to depreciate what we possess in longing for something else — the tendency which inclines so many men of rank to distinguish themselves as authors, statesmen, or even sportsmen, while authors and legislators are struggling for rank. But there can be no doubt that the subsidence of enthusiasm, which must sooner or later follow the excitement caused by popular authorship, the mortifications which succeed the transports of popularity, have a large share in producing the desire of aristocratic station, the shame of their vocation, by which some favourites of the drawing-room cast a shadow over their own fame. Johnson says of Congreve — ‘But he treated Edition: current; Page: [222] the muses with ingratitude; for, having long conversed familiarly with the great, he wished to be considered rather as a man of fashion than of wit; and when he received a visit from Voltaire, disgusted him by the despicable foppery of desiring to be considered, not as an author, but a gentleman: to which the Frenchman replied, “that if he had been only a gentleman, he should not have come to visit him.” ’

“He must be a strong man who escapes all the pitfalls into this tomb of ambition and of powers. He must have not only great force of intellect to advance amidst such hindrances, but a fine moral vigour to hold the purpose of his life amidst the voices which are crying to him all the way up the mountain of his toil; syren voices, in which he must have an accurate ear to discover that there is little of the sympathy he needs, however much of the blandishment that he cannot but distrust.

“To any one strong enough to stand it, however, the experience of literary ‘lionism’ yields much that is worth having. If authorship be the accomplishment of early and steady aspiration; if the author feels that it is the business of his life to think and say what he thinks, while he is far from supposing it the business of other people’s lives to read what he says: if he holds to his aim, regarding the patronage of fashion, and the flattery of the crowd only as a piece of his life, like a journey abroad, or a fit of sickness, or a legacy, or anything which makes him feel for the time, without having any immediate connexion with the chief interest of his existence, he is likely to profit rather than suffer by his drawing-room reputation. Some essential conditions must be observed. It is essential that his mind should not be spent and dissipated amidst a crowd of pleasures; that his social engagements should not interfere with his labours of the study. He must keep his morning hours (and they must be many) not only free but bright. He must have ready for them a clear head and a light heart. His solitude must be true solitude while it lasts, unprofaned by the intrusions of vanities, (which are cares in masquerade) and undisturbed by the echoes of applause. It is essential that he should be active in some common business of life, not dividing the whole of his time Edition: current; Page: [223] between the study and the drawing-room, and so confining himself to the narrow world of books and readers.”

* * * * * *

“A man so seriously devoted to an object is not likely to find himself the guest of the coarsest perpetrators of ‘lionism.’ He is not likely to accept the hospitality on condition of being made a show; but he need not part with his good humour. Those who give feasts, and hire the talents of their neighbours to make those feasts agreeable, are fulfilling their little part — are doing what they are fit for, and what might be expected of them, as the dispensers of intellectual feasts are doing their part in bringing together beauty and attraction from the starry skies, and the green earth, and the acts and thoughts of men. When once it is discerned that it is useless to look for the grapes and figs of these last among the thorns and thistles of the first, the whole matter is settled. Literary ‘lionism’ is a sign of the times; and it is the function of certain small people to exhibit it; and there is an end. Neither it nor they are to be quarrelled with for what cannot be helped.

“It will be hard upon the author faithful to his vocation, and it will be strange, if some valuable friendships do not arise out of the intercourses of the drawing-room where his probation goes forward. This is one of the advantages which his popularity, however temporary, is likely to leave behind. He is likely, moreover, to shake off a few prejudices, educational, or engendered in the study. He can hardly fail to learn something of the ways of thinking and feeling of new classes of persons, or orders of minds before unknown. He is pretty sure, also, to hear much that is said in his own dispraise that would never have reached him in retirement; and this kind of information has great weight, if not great virtue with every one; not only because there is almost invariably some truth involved in every censure, but because most people agree with Racine in his experience, that an adverse criticism gives more pain than the extremest applause can afford pleasure. These things constitute altogether a great sum of advantages, in addition to the enjoyments of relaxation and kindly intercourse which are supposed Edition: current; Page: [224] to be the attributes of all social assemblages. If many small wits and feeble thinkers have been extinguished by the system of literary ‘lionism,’ it may be hoped that some few have taken what is good and left what is bad in it, deriving from their exposure to it an improved self-reliance and fresh intellectual resources.

“Many are the thousands who have let the man die within them from cowardly care about meat and drink, and a warm corner in the great asylum of safety, whose gates have ever been thronged by the multitude who cannot appreciate the free air and open heaven. And many are the hundreds who have let the poet die within them that their complacency may be fed, their vanity intoxicated, and themselves securely harboured in the praise of their immediate neighbours. Few, very few are they who, ‘noble in reason,’ and conscious of being ‘infinite in faculties,’ have faith to look before and after — faith to go on to ‘reverence the dreams of their youth’ — faith to appeal to the godlike human mind yet unborn — the mind which the series of coming centuries is to reveal. Among the millions who are now thinking and feeling on our own soil, is it likely that there is not one who might take up the song of Homer — not one who might talk the night away with Socrates, — not one who might be the Shakspere of an age when our volcanoes shall have become regions of green pasture and still waters, and new islands shall send forth human speech from the midst of the sea? What are such men about? If one is pining in want, rusting in ignorance, or turning from angel to devil under oppression, it is too probable that another may be undergoing extinction in the drawing-rooms — surrendering his divine faculties to wither in lamplight, and be wafted away in perfume and praise. As surely as the human thought has power to fly abroad over the expanse of a thousand years, it has need to rest on that far shore, and meditate, ‘Where now are the flatteries, and vanities, and competitions, which seemed so important in their day? Where are the ephemeral reputations, the glow-worm ideas, the gossamer sentiments, which the impertinent voice of Fashion pronounced immortal and divine? The deluge of oblivion has swept over Edition: current; Page: [225] them all, while the minds which were really immortal and divine are still there, “for ever singing as they shine” in the firmament of thought, and mirrored in the deep of ages out of which they rose.’ ”*

Among the traits from the life is that paragraph of the foregoing extracts about the pedantry of the “superior people” of a provincial town. Norwich, which has now no claims to social superiority at all, was in my childhood a rival of Lichfield itself, in the time of the Sewards, for literary pretension and the vulgarity of pedantry. William Taylor was then at his best; when there was something like fulfilment of his early promise, when his exemplary filial duty was a fine spectacle to the whole city, and before the vice which destroyed him had coarsened his morale, and drowned his intellect. During the war, it was a great distinction to know any thing of German literature; and in Mr. Taylor’s case it proved a ruinous distinction. He was completely spoiled by the flatteries of shallow men, pedantic women, and conceited lads. We girls had the advantage. We could listen and amuse ourselves, without being called upon to take any part; and heartily amused we often were, after the example of our mother. When she went to Norwich, a bonny young bride, with plenty of sense and observation, and a satirical turn, and more knowledge, even of books, than the book people gave her credit for, she used to carry home her own intense amusement from the supper-tables of the time, and keep her good stories alive till we were old enough to enjoy them. We took our cue from her; and the blue-stocking ladies who crammed themselves from reviews and publishers’ lists in the morning to cut a figure in the evening, as conversant with all the literature of the day, were little aware how we children were noting all their vanities and egotisms, to act them to-morrow in our play. The lady who cleared her throat to obtain a hearing for her question whether Mr. William Taylor had read the charming anecdote of the Chinese Emperor Chim-Cham-Chow, was a capital subject for us: and so was another who brought Edition: current; Page: [226] out her literary observations amidst an incessant complacent purring: and so was another who sported youthful vivacity, and political enthusiasm with her scanty skirts and uncovered head to past seventy. These and many more barely condescended to notice my mother, (who, in genuine ability, was worth them all,) except in her quality of hostess. The gentlemen took wine with her, and the ladies ate her fricassees and custards; but they talked vile French in her presence, knowing that she did not understand it, and that the foreigner they had caught could speak English very well. This sort of display, and the contrast which struck us whenever we chanced to meet with genuine superiority, was no doubt of service to us, as a preparation for the higher kind of life which we were afterwards to work out for ourselves. It enabled me, for one, to see, twenty years later, that there is no essential difference between the extreme case of a cathedral city and that of literary London, or any other place, where dissipation takes the turn of book talk instead of dancing or masquerading.

Among the mere pedants were some who were qualified for something better. Such women as Mrs. Opie and Mrs. John Taylor ought to have been superior to the nonsense and vanity in which they participated. I do not remember Dr. Sayers; and I believe he died before I could possibly remember him; but I always heard of him as a genuine scholar; and I have no doubt he was superior to his neighbours in modesty and manners. Dr. Enfield, a feeble and superficial man of letters, was gone also from these literary supper-tables before my time. There was Sir James Smith, the botanist, — made much of, and really not pedantic and vulgar, like the rest, but weak and irritable. There was Dr. Alderson, Mrs. Opie’s father, solemn and sententious and eccentric in manner, but not an able man, in any way. William Taylor was managed by a regular process, — first, of feeding, then of wine-bibbing, and immediately after of poking to make him talk: and then came his sayings, devoured by the gentlemen, and making ladies and children aghast; — defences of suicide, avowals that snuff alone had rescued him from it: information given as certain, that ‘God save the King’ was sung Edition: current; Page: [227] by Jeremiah in the temple of Solomon, — that Christ was watched on the day of his supposed ascension, and observed to hide himself till dusk, and then to make his way down the other side of the mountain; and other such plagiarisms from the German Rationalists. When William Taylor began with “I firmly believe,” we knew that something particularly incredible was coming. We escaped without injury from hearing such things half a dozen times in a year; and from a man who was often seen to have taken too much wine: and we knew, too, that he came to our house because he had been my father’s schoolfellow, and because there had always been a friendship between his excellent mother and our clan. His virtues as a son were before our eyes when we witnessed his endurance of his father’s brutality of temper and manners, and his watchfulness in ministering to the old man’s comfort in his infirmities. When we saw, on a Sunday morning, William Taylor guiding his blind mother to chapel, and getting her there with her shoes as clean as if she had crossed no gutters in those flint-paved streets, we could forgive anything that had shocked or disgusted us at the dinner table. But matters grew worse in his old age, when his habits of intemperance kept him out of the sight of ladies, and he got round him a set of ignorant and conceited young men, who thought they could set the world right by their destructive propensities. One of his chief favourites was George Borrow, as George Borrow has himself given the world to understand. When this polyglot gentleman appeared before the public as a devout agent of the Bible-society in foreign parts, there was one burst of laughter from all who remembered the old Norwich days. At intervals, Southey came to see his old friend, William Taylor: and great was the surprise that one who became such a bigot on paper, in religion and politics, could continue the friend of so wild a rover in those fields as William Taylor, who talked more blasphemy, and did more mischief to young men (through his entire lack of conviction and earnestness and truth-speaking) than the Hones and Carliles and others whom Southey abhorred as emissaries of Satan. After reading Southey’s Life and Correspondence, the maintenance of that friendship appears to me more singular than Edition: current; Page: [228] when we young people used to catch a glimpse in the street of the author of ‘Thalaba’ and ‘Kehama.’ The great days of the Gurneys were not come yet. The remarkable family from which issued Mrs. Fry, and Priscilla and Joseph John Gurney, were then a set of dashing young people, — dressing in gay riding habits and scarlet boots, as Mrs. Fry told us afterwards, and riding about the country to balls and gaieties of all sorts. Accomplished and charming young ladies they were; and we children used to overhear some whispered gossip about the effects of their charms on heart-stricken young men: but their final characteristics were not yet apparent.

There was one occasional apparition which kept alive in us a sense of what intellectual superiority ought to be and to produce. Mrs. Barbauld came to Norwich now and then; and she always made her appearance presently at our house. In her early married life, before the happiness of the devoted wife was broken up by her gentle husband’s insanity, she had helped him in his great school at Palgrave in Suffolk, by taking charge of the very little boys. William Taylor and my father had stood at her knee with their slates; and when they became men, and my father’s children were older than he was when she first knew him, she retained her interest in him, and extended it to my mother and us. It was a remarkable day for us when the comely elderly lady in her black silk cloak and bonnet came and settled herself for a long morning chat. She used to insist on holding skeins of silk for my mother to wind, or on winding, while one of us children was the holder: and well I remember her gentle lively voice, and the stamp of superiority on all she said. We knew she was very learned, and we saw she was graceful, and playful, and kindly and womanly: and we heard with swelling hearts the anecdotes of her heroism when in personal danger from her husband’s hallucinations, and when it was scarcely possible to separate her from him, when her life and his poor chance of restoration required it. I still think her one of the first of writers in our language, and the best example we have of the benefits of a sound classical education to a woman. When I was old enough to pass a few weeks with my aunt Lee, at Edition: current; Page: [229] Stoke Newington, I went more than once with my aunt to Mrs. Barbauld’s to tea, and was almost confounded at the honour of being allowed to make tea. It was owing to her that I had one literary acquaintance when I went to London in 1832. Miss Aikin, niece of Mrs. Barbauld, came to Norwich now and then, and was well-known to my mother: and when I was in the City Road in that memorable spring of the success of the Prize Essays, my mother gave me a letter of introduction to Miss Aikin, then living at Hampstead. She received me with kindness at once, and with distinction when the Prize Essays had come under her eye. When my Series was struggling for publication, I sent her my prospectus. She returned a bare message of acknowledgment. This rather surprised me; and it was not till some years afterwards that I learned how the matter was. The anecdote is so creditable to her candour, that it ought to be told. Naturally regarding me as a youngster, as my friendly elderly critics always did, even when I was long past thirty, she was so struck with the presumption of the enterprise that she thought it her duty to rebuke me for it. She accordingly wrote a letter which she showed to her literary friends, informing me that I could have no idea how far beyond any powers of mine was such a scheme; that large information, an extensive acquaintance with learned persons and with affairs, &c., &c., were indispensable; and that she counselled me to burn my prospectus and programme, and confine myself to humbler tasks, such as a young woman might be competent to. Those who saw the letter admired it much, and hoped I should have the grace to thank my stars that I had so faithful a friend, to interpose between me and exposure. She hesitated, however, about sending it; and she put off the act till my success was decided and notorious. She then burned the letter, and herself told the story with capital grace, — felicitating herself on her having burned the letter, instead of me on being the object of it. I heard unintelligible references to this letter, from time to time, and did not know what they meant, till the complete story, as told by herself, was repeated to me, after the lapse of years. — She rendered me a real service, about the time of the burning Edition: current; Page: [230] of the letter. Her friend, Mr. Hallam, found fault at her house with two statements of mine about the operation of the law or custom of primogeniture; and she begged of him to make known his criticisms to me, and told me she had done so, — being assured that such an authority as Mr. Hallam would be fitly honoured by me. I was grateful, of course; and I presently received a long letter of pretty sharp criticism from Mr. Hallam. In my reply, I submitted myself to him about one point, but stood my ground in regard to the other, — successfully, as he admitted. He wrote then a very cordial letter, — partly of apology for the roughness of his method, by which he had desired to ascertain whether I could bear criticism, and partly to say that he hoped he might consider our correspondence a sufficient introduction, authorising Mrs. Hallam and himself to call on me. He was from that time forward, and is now, one of the most valued of my literary friends. One more transaction, however, was to take place before I could make him and Miss Aikin quite understand what my intentions and views were in indulging myself with the benefits and pleasures of literary society in London.

Mr. Hallam one day called, when, as it was the first of the month, my table was spread with new periodicals, sent me by publishers. I was not in the room when Mr. Hallam entered; and I found him with the “Monthly Repository” in his hands, turning over the leaves. He pointed to the Editor’s name (Mr. Fox) on the cover, and asked me some questions about him. After turning over, and remarking upon a few others, he sat down for a chat. A few days after, I received a note from Miss Aikin, kindly congratulating me on my “success, thus far, in society,” and on my “honours” generally; and then admonishing me that the continuance of such “success” and such “honours” would depend on my showing due deference to the opinions and standing of persons older and more distinguished than myself; so that she felt it was an act of friendship to warn me against appearing to know of periodicals so low as, for instance, the “Monthly Repository,” and having any information to give about dissenting ministers, like Mr. Fox.

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I replied without loss of time, that there might be no more mistake as to my views in going into society. I thanked her for her kindness and her frankness: told her that I objected to the word “success,” as she had used it, because success implies endeavour; and I had nothing to strive for in any such direction. I went into society to learn and to enjoy, and not to obtain suffrages: and I hoped to be as frank and unrestrained with others as I wished them to be with me. I told her how I perceived that Mr. Hallam was her informant, and by what accident it was that he saw the periodical, and heard about its editor: but I said that I was a dissenter, and acquainted with dissenting ministers, and should certainly never deny it when asked, as I was by Mr. Hallam, or object to all the world knowing it. Once for all, I concluded, I had no social policy, and no personal aims; no concealments, nor reasons for compromise. Society was very pleasant; but it would cease to be so from the moment that it was any thing but a simple recreation from work, accepted without the restraint of politic conditions. She took my reply in good part; was somewhat aghast at my not being “destroyed” by hostile reviews, when she trembled at the prospect of favourable ones of her own books; but was always gracious and kind when we met, — which seldom happened, however, when she grew old and I had left London.

Mr. Hallam’s call opened to me a curious glimpse into some of the devices of this same London literary society. He told me that if I had not considered our correspondence a sufficient introduction, we should yet have become acquainted, — his friend, Dr. — having promised him an introduction. I laughed, and said there must be some mistake, as Dr. — was an entire stranger to me. Mr. Hallam’s surprise was extreme: Dr. — had told him we were relations, and had spoken as if we were quite intimate. I replied that there was a very distant connexion by marriage; but that we were utter strangers; and in fact, I had never seen Dr. —. I was less amazed than Mr. Hallam at the stroke of policy on the part of a courtier-like London physician, and was amused when Mr. Hallam said he must learn from him where the mistake lay. My new friends had not Edition: current; Page: [232] been gone half an hour, when up drove Dr. —. In the presence of other visitors, he took my hand in both his, in true family style, and lavished much affection upon me, — though he had never recognised my existence during any former visits of mine to London. The excess of his humility in asking me to dinner was shocking. He, a physician in immense practice, entreated me to name my own day and hour, which I, of course, declined. When I went, on the first disengaged day, I met a pleasant, small party, and enjoyed the day, — except its close, when my host not only led me through all the servants in the hall, but leaned into my hackney-coach to thank me for the honour, &c., &c. This kind of behaviour was very disagreeable to me; and I never went to the house again but once. My mother and I were incessantly invited; and we really could not go because the invitations were short, and I was always engaged: but I was not very sorry, remembering the beginning of our acquaintance. — The one other time that I visited Dr. — was the occasion of an incident of which it may be worth while to give a true version, as a false one was industriously spread. I have said above, that there were three persons only to whom I have refused to be introduced; and two of these have been seen to be Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Sterling. The third was the poet Moore. One day my mother was distressed at finding in the “Times” a ribald song addressed to me. She folded it in the innermost part of the paper, and hoped, as I was in the country that morning, that I should not see it. The event showed her that it would not do to conceal any thing of the sort from me, as I could not conduct my own peculiar case without knowing as much of the circumstances of it as other people. The song was copied everywhere, and ascribed so positively to Moore that I was compelled to suppose it his, though there was not a trace of wit to redeem its coarseness. At Dr. — ’s party, a few nights after, the host came to me to say that Mr. Rogers and Mr. Moore had come for the purpose of making my acquaintance: and Mr. Moore was standing within earshot, waiting for his introduction. I was obliged to decide in a moment what to do; and I think what I did was best, under such a difficulty. I said I should be happy Edition: current; Page: [233] to be honoured by Mr. Rogers’s acquaintance; but that, if Mr. Moore was, as was generally understood, the author of a recent insult to me in the “Times” newspaper, I did not see how I could permit an introduction. I added that there might be a mistake about the authorship; in which case I should be happy to know Mr. Moore. Dr. — was, of course, very uncomfortable. Having seated Mr. Rogers beside me, he and Moore left the room together for a little while. When they returned, Moore went to the piano, and sang several songs. Then, he screened his little person behind a lady’s harp; and all the time she was playing, he was studying me through his eye-glass. When she finished her piece he went away to another party, where a friend of mine happened to be; and there he apologised for being late, on the plea that he had been “singing songs to Harriet Martineau.” The story told was that I had asked Dr. — to introduce us, and had then declined. The incident was, in one sense, a trifle not worth dwelling on: but in another view, it was important to me. At the outset of so very new a course of life, it seemed to me necessary to secure personal respect by the only means in a woman’s power; — refusing the acquaintance of persons who have publicly outraged consideration and propriety. My mother thought me right; and so did the other friends who witnessed the transaction: and it was effectual. I never had any trouble of the sort again.

The first sight of Brougham, then just seated on the woolsack, and the object of all manner of expectation which he never fulfilled, was an incident to be remembered. I had not previously shared the general expectation of great national benefits from him. I believed that much of his effort for popular objects, even for education, was for party and personal purposes; and that he had no genuine popular sympathy, or real desire that the citizens at large should have any effectual political education. I distrusted his steadiness, and his disinterestedness, and his knowledge of the men and interests of his own time. I believed him too vain and selfish, and too low in morals and unrestrained in temper, to turn out a really great man when his day of action came. Many a time has my mother said to me, “Harriet, Edition: current; Page: [234] you will have much to answer for for speaking as you do if Brougham turns out what the rest of us expect:” to which my answer was “Yes, Mother, indeed I shall.” She was at length very glad that I was not among the disappointed. Yet, there was a strong interest in meeting for the first time, and on the safe ground of substantial business, the man of whom I had heard so much from my childhood, and who now had more power over the popular welfare than perhaps any other man in the world. After two or three interviews, he was so manifestly wild, that the old interest was lost in pity and dislike; but at first I knew nothing of the manifestations of eccentricity which he presently made public enough. Those were the days when he uttered from the platform his laments over his folly in accepting a peerage, and when he made no secret to strangers who called on him on business, of his being “the most wretched man on earth.” But I first met him when nothing of the sort had taken place so publicly but that his adorers and toadies could conceal it.

A day or two after my arrival in London, I met him at dinner at the house of the correspondent of his through whom he engaged me to help in poor-law reform. By his desire, no one else was asked. The first thing that struck me was his being not only nervous, but thin-skinned to excess. Our hostess’s lap-dog brought out the nervousness immediately, by jumping up at his knee. He pretended to play with Gyp, but was obviously annoyed that Gyp would not be called away. He was not accustomed to lap-dogs, it was clear. Before we went to dinner, I could not but see how thin-skinned he was. The “Examiner” newspaper lay on the table; and it chanced to contain, that week, an impertinent article, warning me against being flattered out of my own aims by my host, who was Brougham’s cat’s-paw. The situation was sufficiently awkward, it must be owned. Brougham did not read the article now, because he had seen it at home: but I saw by glances and pointings that the gentlemen were talking it over, while my hostess and I were consulting about her embroidery: and Brougham looked, not only very black upon it, but evidently annoyed and stung. He looked black in another sense, I remember, — not a morsel of his dress Edition: current; Page: [235] being anything but black, from the ridge of his stock to the toes of his polished shoes. Not an inch of white was there to relieve the combined gloom of his dress and complexion. He was curiously afraid of my trumpet,* and managed generally to make me hear without. He talked excessively fast, and ate fast and prodigiously, stretching out his long arm for any dish he had a mind to, and getting hold of the largest spoons which would dispatch the most work in the shortest time. He watched me intently and incessantly when I was conversing with any body else. For my part, I liked to watch him when he was conversing with gentlemen, and his mind and its manifestations really came out. This was never the case, as far as my observation went, when he talked with ladies. I believe I have never met with more than three men, in the whole course of my experience, who talked with women in a perfectly natural manner; that is, precisely as they talked with men: but the difference in Brougham’s case was so great as to be disagreeable. He knew many cultivated and intellectual women; but this seemed to be of no effect. If not able to assume with them his ordinary manner towards silly women, he was awkward and at a loss. This was by no means agreeable, though the sin of his bad manners must be laid at the door of the vain women who discarded their ladyhood for his sake, went miles to see him, were early on platforms where he was to be, and admitted him to very broad flirtations. He had pretty nearly settled his own business, in regard to conversation with ladies, before two more years were over. His swearing became so incessant, and the occasional indecency of his talk so insufferable, that I have seen even coquettes and adorers turn pale, and the lady of the house tell her husband that she could not undergo another dinner party with Lord Brougham for a guest. I, for my part, determined to decline quietly henceforth any small party where he was expected; and this simply because there was on pleasure in a visit where every body was on thorns as to what any one guest might say and do next. My own impression Edition: current; Page: [236] that day was that he was either drunk or insane. Drunk he was not; for he had been publicly engaged in business till the last moment. All manner of protestations have been made by his friends, to this day, that he is, with all his eccentricities, “sane enough:” but my impression remains that no man who conducted himself as he did that summer day in 1834 could be sane and sober.

I remember now, with no little emotion, a half hour of my visit at Lambton Castle, a few months before that uncomfortable dinner. One evening, when a guest, Lord H—, had been talking with me about some matters of popular interest which led us to discuss the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Lord Durham invited me to the room where music was going on, and where we could not be overheard. He asked me whether Lord H— had understood me right, that the surest way not to reach the people was to address them through the Society, and by the agency of the Whig managers. I replied that I had said so; and I told him why, giving him evidence of the popular distrust of Lord Brougham and his teaching and preaching clique. Lord Durham heard me with evident concern, and said at last, in his earnest, heart-felt way, — “Brougham has done, and will do, foolish things enough: but it would cut me to the heart to think that Brougham was false.” The words and the tone were impressed on my mind by the contrast which they formed with the way in which Brougham and his toadies were in the habit of speaking of Lord Durham. Brougham’s envy and jealousy of the popular confidence enjoyed by Lord Durham at that time were notorious. If Lord Durham was unaware of it, he was the only person who was. I need not continue the story which is remembered by every body of my own generation, and which the next may read in the records of the time, — the Grey dinner at Edinburgh when Lord Durham involuntarily triumphed, — the attack on him at Salisbury and in a traitorous article in the Edinburgh Review, which revealed Cabinet secrets, — the challenge and anticipated encounter of the two noblemen on the floor of the House of Lords, — and the terror of the feeble King, who dissolved parliament to Edition: current; Page: [237] preclude the encounter, deprived Brougham of the Seals, and sent Lord Durham on a foreign mission. I need not tell over again the terrible story of the triumph of Brougham’s evil passions, in perilling the safety, and overthrowing the government of Canada, and in destroying the career and breaking the heart of the generous, sensitive, honest and magnanimous statesman whom he chose to consider his enemy. It was as much as I could well bear to contrast the tones of the two men and their adherents before Lord Durham knew that there was any thing wrong between them: and when the dismal story proceeded, my heart swelled, many a time, when I recalled the moment of Lord Durham’s first reception of a doubt of Brougham’s honesty, and the serious countenance and sweet voice of remonstrance in which he said “It would cut me to the heart to think that Brougham was false.” In seven years from that time he was in his grave, — sent there by Brougham’s falseness.

With Brougham, his ancient comrades were naturally associated in the mind of one who knew them only through books and newspapers. I saw much of Jeffrey, and the Murrays, and Sydney Smith. My first sight of Jeffrey was odd enough in its circumstances. It makes me laugh to think of it now. My mother was with me in my second-floor lodgings in my first London winter. It happened to be my landlady’s cleaning day; and the stair-carpets were up, and the housemaid on her knees, scouring, when Mrs. Marcet and Lord Jeffrey made their way as they could between the pail and the bannisters. While Mrs. Marcet panted for breath enough to introduce us, Jeffrey stood with his arms by his side and his head depressed, — the drollest spectacle of mock humility: — and then he made some solemn utterance about “homage,” &c., to which I replied by asking him to sit down. Almost before we had well begun to talk, in burst Mrs. A—, a literary woman whose ways were well known to my mother and me. The moment she saw Lord Jeffrey, she forgot to speak to us, but so thrust herself between Lord Jeffrey and me as actually to push me backwards and sit on my knee. I extricated myself as soon as possible, and left my seat. As she turned her back on me, my mother cast a droll glance at me Edition: current; Page: [238] which I fancy Lord Jeffrey saw; for, though one of the most egregious flatterers of this lady, — as of vain women in general, — he played her off in a way which she must have been very complacent not to understand. He showed that he wanted to talk to me, and said, when he saw she was determined to go away with him, that he considered this no visit, and would, if I pleased, come again on the first practicable day. I am convinced that he discovered in that short interview what my mother and I felt about the ways of literary people like Mrs. A—; and, though he could not easily drop, in any one case, his habit of flattery, he soon found that I did not like it, did not believe in it, and thought the worse of him for it. I never made any secret of my opinion of the levity, cruelty and unmanliness of literary men who aggravate the follies, and take advantage of the weakness of vain women; and this was Jeffrey’s most conspicuous and very worst fault. As for my mother and me, we had a hearty laugh over this little scene, when our visitors were gone; — it was so very like old Norwich, in the days of the suppers of the “superior people!”

Whatever there might be of artificial in Jeffrey’s manners, — of a set “company state of mind” and mode of conversation, — there was a warm heart underneath, and an ingenuousness which added captivation to his intellectual graces. He could be absurd enough in his devotion to a clever woman; and he could be highly culpable in drawing out the vanity of a vain one, and then comically making game of it; but his better nature was always within call; and his generosity was unimpeachable in every other respect, — as far as I knew him. His bounties to needy men of letters, — bounties which did not stop to make ill-timed inquiries about desert, — were so munificent, that the world, which always knew him to be generous, would be amazed at the extent of the munificence: and it was done with so much of not only delicacy but respect, — in such a hearty love of literature, that I quite understand how easy it would be to accept money from him. If I had needed assistance of that kind, there is no one from whom I could more freely have asked it. — As for his conversation, it appeared to me that he cared more for moralising than any other Edition: current; Page: [239] great converser I have known: but this might be adaptation to my likings; and I heard none of his conversation but what was addressed to myself. I must say that while I found, (or perceived) myself regarded as romantic, high-flown, extravagant, and so forth by good Mr. Empson, and the Jeffrey set generally, (even including Sydney Smith,) whenever I opened my mouth on matters of morals, — such as the aims of authorship, the rights and duties of opinion, the true spirit of citizenship, &c., — I never failed to find cordial sympathy in Jeffrey. If at times he was more foolish and idle than most men of his power would choose to appear, he was always higher than them all when his moral sympathies and judgment were appealed to. I remember a small incident which impressed me, in connexion with this view of him; and, as it relates to him, it may be worth noting. At one of Mr. Rogers’s breakfasts, I was seated between him and his friend Milman, when the conversation turned on some special case (I forget what) of excessive vanity. I was pitying the person because, whatever flattery he obtained, there was always some censure; and the smallest censure, to the vain, outweighs the largest amount of praise. Milman did not think so, saying that the vain are very happy; — “no people more apt at making themselves happy than the vainest:” — “they feed upon their own praises, and dismiss the censure; and, having no heart, they are out of the way of trouble.” I made the obvious remark that if they have no heart they cannot be very happy. Jeffrey’s serious assent to this, and remark that it settled the question, discomposed Milman extremely. He set to work to batter his egg and devour it without any reply, and did not speak for some time after. It was amusing that we two heretics should be administering instruction on morals to a Church dignitary of such eminence as a sacred poet as the Dean of St. Paul’s.

I have however seen Milman so act, and so preserve a passive state, as to be a lesson to all present. One incident especially which happened at Mr. Hallam’s dinner table, gave me a hearty respect for his command of a naturally irritable temper. He behaved incomparably on that occasion. It was a pleasant party of eight or ten people, — every one, as it happened, of considerable Edition: current; Page: [240] celebrity, and therefore not to be despised in the matter of literary criticism, or verdict on character. I was placed near the top of the table, between Milman and Mr. Rogers; and the subject of animated conversation at the bottom presently took its turn among us. Mrs. Trollope’s novel, “Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw,” had just come out, and was pronounced on by every body present but myself, — I not having read it. As I had lately returned from the United States, I was asked what Mrs. Trollope’s position was there. My reply was that I had no scruple in saying that Mrs. Trollope had no opportunity of knowing what good society was in America, generally speaking. I added that I intended to say this, as often as I was inquired of; for the simple reason that Mrs. Trollope had thought proper to libel and slander a whole nation. If she had been an ordinary discontented tourist, her adventures in America would not be worth the trouble of discussing; but her slanderous book made such exposures necessary. Every body, except Milman, asked questions, and I answered them. She certainly had no admirers among the party when she was first mentioned; and the account I gave of her unscrupulous method of reporting surprised nobody. At last, Milman put in a word for her. He could not help thinking that she had been illused:—he knew facts indeed of her having been taken in about her bazaar. “No doubt,” said I. “Any English traveller who begins the game of diamond cut diamond with Yankee speculators is likely to get the worst of it. No doubt she was abundantly cheated; and hence this form of vengeance, — a vituperative book.” Milman continued that he was aware of what hard usage she had to complain of, by his acquaintance with her. He was proceeding when Rogers broke in with one of his odd tentative speeches, — one of those probings by which he seemed to try how much people could bear. “O yes,” said he; “he is acquainted with Mrs. Trollope. He had the forming of her mind.” There was a moment of dead pause, and then every body burst into a hearty laugh; every body but Milman. He was beginning with a vehement “No, no;” but he checked himself and said nothing. He had begun to speak on behalf of Mrs. Trollope, and he would not give it up Edition: current; Page: [241] now that Rogers had so spoken. His high colour and look of distress showed what his magnanimous silence cost him; but not a word more did he say. As I expected and hoped, he called on me the next morning. He often did so, as we were neighbours; but that morning he came as soon as the clock had struck two. His first care was to disclaim having educated Mrs. Trollope, who was, in fact, about his own age. His mother and hers, I think, were friends. At all events, he had known her nearly all his life. He frankly told me now, in the proper place and time, why he thought Mrs. Trollope ill-qualified to write travels and describe a nation: “but,” he continued, “the thing is done, and can’t be helped now: so that, unless you feel bound in conscience to expose her, — which might be to ruin her, — I would intercede for her.” Laying his finger on a proof-sheet of my American book which lay at his elbow, he went on, “Can’t you, now, say what you think of the same people, and let that be her answer?” “Why,” exclaimed I, “you don’t suppose I am going to occupy any of my book with Mrs. Trollope! I would not dirty my pages with her stories, even to refute them. What have I to do with Mrs. Trollope but to say what I know when inquired of?” “O, well, that is all right,” said he. “I took for granted you meant to do it in your book: and I don’t say that you could be blamed if you did. But if you mean in conversation, you are certainly quite right, and Mrs. Trollope herself could have no title to complain.” I thought the candour, kindness and generosity shown in this incident quite remarkable; and I have always recalled it with pleasure.

With Jeffrey his old Edinburgh comrades were naturally associated, as far as the influences of time and chance yet permitted. Brougham had before this withdrawn himself almost entirely from those friends of his youth. Horner’s Life and Correspondence had not then been published; but I had gathered up enough about him to see him, in a spiritual sense, sitting in the midst of them. “Did you know Horner?” inquired Sydney Smith. “You should have known Horner: but I suppose he was gone before you were invented.” With Horner’s name the most closely associated of all was that of John A. Murray, (Lord Murray, Edition: current; Page: [242] who was Lord Advocate when I first knew him.) Of all my acquaintance, no one was a greater puzzle to me than Horner’s beloved John Murray, whose share of their published correspondence shows why there were once splendid expectations from him. His career as Lord Advocate and Judge was so little successful that the world could not but wonder how there could be such an issue from such promise. Jeffrey’s failure in political office and as a parliamentary speaker, was easily accounted for by his uncertain health, his weak voice, his love of ease and literary trifling, and his eminence in a totally different function: and he ended by being an admirable Judge. But in the other case, there was no success in any other direction to account or atone for the failure of Lord Murray, when opportunity opened before him in what should have been the vigour of his years. He was a kind neighbour, however, and a thoroughly good hearted man, — always happy to give pleasure, though reducing the amount he bestowed by a curious little pomposity of manner. His agreeable wife joined her efforts with his to make their guests happy, and enjoyed society as much as he did. When one could once put away the association of Horner and those old Edinburgh days, the Murray’s parties were really delightful. I had a general invitation to their Thursday evenings at St. Stephen’s; and their carriage usually came for me and took me home. They lived at the Lord Advocate’s Chambers, under the same roof with the Houses of Parliament; and there, on Thursday evenings during the session, was a long broad table spread, with a prodigious Scotch cake, iced and adorned, on a vast trencher in the midst. Members of both Houses dropped in and out, when the debates were tiresome; and there were always a few guests like myself, who went on their way to or from other visits, and gathered up the political news of the night, curiously alternating with political anecdotes or Edinburgh jokes of thirty or forty years before. It was pleasant to see the Jeffreys come in when Sydney Smith was there, and to look on these grey-headed friends as the very men who had made such a noise in the days of my childhood, and who were venerable for what they had done and borne in those days, though they had disappointed expectation Edition: current; Page: [243] when their opportunity came at last. It was at Lord Murray’s table that Sydney Smith told me of the fun the Edinburgh reviewers used to make of their work. I taxed him honestly with the mischief they had done by their ferocity and cruel levity at the outset. It was no small mischief to have silenced Mrs. Barbauld; and how much more utterance they may have prevented, there is no saying. It is all very well to talk sensibly now of the actual importance of reviews, and the real value of reviewers’ judgments: but the fact remains that spirits were broken, hearts were sickened, and authorship was cruelly discouraged by the savage and reckless condemnations passed by the Edinburgh review in its early days. “We were savage,” replied Sydney Smith. “I remember” (and it was plain that he could not help enjoying the remembrance) “how Brougham and I sat trying one night how we could exasperate our cruelty to the utmost. We had got hold of a poor nervous little vegetarian, who had put out a poor silly little book; and when we had done our review of it, we sat trying,” — (and here he joined his finger and thumb as if dropping from a phial) “to find one more chink, one more crevice, through which we might drop in one more drop of verjuice, to eat into his bones.” Very candid always, and sometimes very interesting, were the disclosures about the infant Edinburgh review. In the midst of his jocose talk, Sydney Smith occasionally became suddenly serious, when some ancient topic was brought up, or some life-enduring sensibility touched; and his voice, eye and manner at such times disposed one to tears almost as much as his ordinary discourse did to laughter. Among the subjects which were thus sacred to him was that of the Anti-slavery cause. One evening, at Lord Murray’s, he inquired with earnest solicitude about the truth of some news from America, during the “reign of terror,” as we used to call the early persecution of the abolitionists. As I had received letters and newspapers just before I left home, I could tell him what he wanted to know. He expressed, with manly concern, his sorrow for the sufferings of my friends in America, and feared it must cause me terrible pain. “Not unmixed pain,” I told him; and then I explained how well we knew that that mighty question Edition: current; Page: [244] could be carried only by the long perseverance of the highest order of abolitionists; and that an occasional purgation of the body was necessary, to ascertain how many of even the well-disposed had soundness of principle and knowledge, as well as strength of nerve, to go through with the enterprise: so that even this cruel persecution was not a pure evil. He listened earnestly, and sympathised in my faith in my personal friends among the abolitionists; and then a merry thought came into his head, as I saw by the change in his eye. “Now, I am surprised at you, I own,” said he. “I am surprised at your taste, for yourself and your friends. I can fancy you enjoying a feather (one feather) in your cap; but I cannot imagine you could like a bushel of them down your back with the tar.”

My first sight of Sydney Smith was when he called on me, under cover of a whimsical introduction, as he considered it. At a great music party, where the drawing-rooms and staircases were one continuous crowd, the lady who had conveyed me fought her way to my seat, — which was, in consideration of my deafness, next to Malibran, and near the piano. My friend brought a message which Sydney Smith had passed up the staircase; — that he understood we desired one another’s acquaintance, and that he was awaiting it at the bottom of the stairs. He put it to my judgment whether I, being thin, could not more easily get down to him than he, being stout, could get up to me: and he would wait five minutes for my answer. I really could not go, under the circumstances; and it was a serious thing to give up my seat and the music; so Mr. Smith sent me a goodnight, and promise to call on me, claiming this negotiation as a proper introduction. He came, and sat down, broad and comfortable, in the middle of my sofa, with his hands on his stick, as if to support himself in a vast development of voice; and then he began, like the great bell of St. Paul’s, making me start at the first stroke. He looked with shy dislike at my trumpet, for which there was truly no occasion. I was more likely to fly to the furthest corner of the room. It was always his boast that I did not want my trumpet when he talked with me.

I do not believe that any body ever took amiss his quizzical Edition: current; Page: [245] descriptions of his friends. I am sure I never did: and when I now recall his fun of that sort, it seems to me too innocent to raise an uneasy feeling. There were none, I believe, whom he did not quiz; but I never heard of any hurt feelings. He did not like precipitate speech; and among the fastest talkers in England were certain of his friends and acquaintance; — Mr. Hallam, Mr. Empson, Dr. Whewell, Mr. Macaulay and myself. None of us escaped his wit. His account of Mr. Empson’s method of out-pouring stands, without the name, in Lady Holland’s Life of her father. His praise of Macaulay is well known; “Macaulay is improved! Macaulay improves! I have observed in him of late, — flashes of silence!” His account of Whewell is something more than wit: — “Science is his forte: omniscience is his foible.” As for his friend Hallam, he knew he might make free with his characteristics, of oppugnancy and haste among others, without offence. In telling us what a blunder he himself made in going late to a dinner party, and describing how far the dinner had proceeded, and how every body was engaged, he said “And there was Hallam, with his mouth full of cabbage and contradiction!” Nothing could be droller than his description of all his friends in influenza, in the winter of 1832-3; and of these, Hallam was the drollest of all that I remember. “And poor Hallam was tossing and tumbling in his bed when the watchman came by and called ‘Twelve o’clock and a starlight night.’ Here was an opportunity for controversy when it seemed most out of the question! Up jumped Hallam, with ‘I question that, — I question that! Starlight! I see a star, I admit; but I doubt whether that constitutes starlight.’ Hours more of tossing and tumbling; and then comes the watchman again: ‘Past two o’clock, and a cloudy morning.’ ‘I question that, — I question that,’ says Hallam. And he rushes to the window, and throws up the sash, — influenza notwithstanding. ‘Watchman! do you mean to call this a cloudy morning? I see a star. And I question its being past two o’clock: — I question it, I question it!’ ” And so on. The story of Jeffrey and the North pole, as told by Sydney Smith, appears to me strangely spoiled in the Life. The incident happened Edition: current; Page: [246] while the Jeffreys were my near neighbours in London; and Mrs. Sydney Smith related the incident to me at the time. Captain (afterwards Sir John) Ross had just returned from an unsuccessful polar expedition, and was bent upon going again. He used all his interest to get the government stirred up to fit out another expedition: and among others, the Lord Advocate was to be applied to, to bespeak his good offices. The mutual friend who undertook to do Captain Ross’s errand to Jeffrey arrived at an unfortunate moment. Jeffrey was in delicate health, at that time, and made a great point of his daily ride; and when the applicant reached his door, he was putting his foot in the stirrup, and did not want to be detained. So he pished and pshawed, and cared nothing for the North Pole, and at length “damned” it. The applicant spoke angrily about it to Sydney Smith, wishing that Jeffrey would take care what he was about, and use more civil language. “What do you think he said to me?” cried the complainant. “Why, he damned the North Pole!” “Well, never mind! never mind!” said Sydney Smith, soothingly. “Never mind his damning the North Pole. I have heard him speak disrespectfully of the equator.”

Much as I enjoyed the society of both in London, I cared more for the letters of Sydney Smith and Jeffrey during my long illness at Tynemouth than I ever did for their glorious conversation. The air of the drawing-room had some effect on both; or I believed that it had: but our intercourse when Jeffrey was ill, and I was hopelessly so, and Sydney Smith old and in failing spirits (as he told me frequently) was thoroughly genuine. Sydney Smith wrote me that he hated the pen, now in his old age, when that love of ease was growing on him, common to aged dogs, asses and clergymen; and his letters were therefore a valuable gift, and, I am sure, duly prized. There was no drawback on intercourse with him except his being a clergyman. To a dissenter like myself, who had been brought up in strict non-conformist notions of the sacredness of the clerical office, and the absolute unworldliness which was its first requisite, there was something very painful in the tone always taken by Sydney Smith about Church matters. The broad avowals in his “Letters Edition: current; Page: [247] to Singleton” of the necessity of having “prizes” in the Church, to attract gentlemen into it and keep them there; — his treatment of the vocation as a provision, a source of honour, influence, and money, are so offensive as to be really wonderful to nearnest dissenters. His drawing-room position and manners were not very clerical; but that did not matter so much as the lowness of view which proved that he was not in his right place, to those who, like me, were unaware that the profession was not his choice. He discharged his duty admirably, as far as his conscience was concerned, and his nature would allow: but he had not the spiritual tendencies and endowments which alone can justify an entrance into the pastoral office.

He was not quite the only one of my new friends who did not use my trumpet in conversation. Of all people in the world, Malthus was the one whom I heard quite easily without it; — Malthus, whose speech was hopelessly imperfect, from defect in the palate. I dreaded meeting him when invited by a friend of his who made my acquaintance on purpose. He had told this lady that he should be in town on such a day, and entreated her to get an introduction, and call and invite me; his reason being that whereas his friends had done him all manner of mischief by defending him injudiciously, my tales had represented his views precisely as he could have wished. I could not decline such an invitation as this: but when I considered my own deafness, and his inability to pronounce half the consonants in the alphabet, and his hare-lip which must prevent my offering him my tube, I feared we should make a terrible business of it. I was delightfully wrong. His first sentence, — slow and gentle, with the vowels sonorous, whatever might become of the consonants, — set me at ease completely. I soon found that the vowels are in fact all that I ever hear. His worst letter was l: and when I had no difficulty with his question, — “Would not you like to have a look at the Lakes of Killarney?” I had nothing more to fear. It really gratified him that I heard him better than any body else; and whenever we met at dinner, I somehow found myself beside him, with my best ear next him; and then I heard all he said to every body at table.

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Before we had been long acquainted, Mr. and Mrs. Malthus invited me to spend some of the hot weather with them at Haileybury, promising that every facility should be afforded me for work. It was a delightful visit; and the well planted county of Herts was a welcome change from the pavement of London in August. Mr. Malthus was one of the professors of the now expiring College at Haileybury, and Mr. Empson was another: and the families of the other professors made up a very pleasant society, — to say nothing of the interest of seeing in the students the future administrators of India. On my arrival, I found that every facility was indeed afforded for my work. My room was a large and airy one, with a bay-window and a charming view; and the window side of the room was fitted up with all completeness, with desk, books, and every thing I could possibly want. Something else was provided which showed even more markedly the spirit of hospitality. A habit and whip lay on the bed. My friends had somehow discovered from my tales that I was fond of riding; and horse, habit and whip were prepared for me. Almost daily we went forth when work was done, — a pleasant riding party of five or six, and explored all the green lanes, and enjoyed all the fine views in the neighbourhood. We had no idea that it would be my only visit: but Mr. Malthus died while I was in America; and when I returned, his place was filled, both in College and home. I have been at Haileybury since, when Professor Jones was the very able successor of Mr. Malthus in the Chairs of Political Economy and History; and Mr. Empson lived in the pleasant house where I had spent such happy days. Now they are all gone; and the College itself, abolished by the new Charter of the East India Company, will soon be no more than a matter of remembrance to the present generation, and of tradition to the next. The subdued jests and external homage and occasional insurrections of the young men; the archery of the young ladies; the curious politeness of the Persian professor; the fine learning and eager scholarship of Principal Le Bas; and the somewhat old-fashioned courtesies of the summer evening parties, are all over now, except as pleasant pictures in the interior gallery of those who knew the place, — of whom I am thankful to have been one.

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Mr. Hallam was one of the coterie of whom I have said so much: and Mr. Whishaw was another; and so were his then young friends, — his wards, the Romillys. The elder Romillys found themselves in parliament, after the passage of the Reform Bill; and Sir John’s career since that time speaks for itself. They had virtuous projects when they entered political life, and had every hope of achieving service worthy of their father’s fame: but their aspirations were speedily tamed down, — as all high aspirations are lowered by Whig influences. They were warned by prudent counsellors to sit silent for a few years in the presence of their elders in the legislature: and, when months and years slid away over their silence, they found it more and more difficult, and at last impossible to speak. The lawyer brother got over this, of necessity; but Edward never did. With poor health and sensitive nerves, and brought up in the very hot-bed of Whiggism, they could perhaps be hardly expected to do more; but hope in them was strong, in the days of the Reform Bill, and still alive when I left London. Good old Mr. Whishaw was still fond and proud of his “boys,” and still preaching caution while expecting great things from them, when I last saw him. I met that respected old man at every turn; and he did for me the same kind office as Mr. Rogers, — coming for me, and carrying me home in his carriage. When the drive was a long one, — as to Hampstead, or even to Haileybury, there was time for a string of capital old stories, even at his slow rate of utterance: and he made me feel as if I had known the preceding generation of Whig statesmen and men of letters. Mr. Whishaw was not only lame, (from the loss of a leg in early life) but purblind and growing deaf, when I knew him: but every body was eager to amuse and comfort him. He sat in the dining-room before dinner, with host or hostess to converse with him till the rest came down; and every body took care that he carried away plenty of conversation. The attentions of the Romillys to their old guardian were really a beautiful spectacle.

His attached friend, Mr. Hallam, made abundant amends for the slowness of the Whishaw discourse. It would have been a wonderful spectacle, I have sometimes thought, if Hallam, Edition: current; Page: [250] Macaulay and Empson had been induced to talk for a wager; — in regard to quantity merely, without stopping to think of quality; while their friends Rogers, Whishaw and Malthus would have made good counterparts. Mr. Hallam was in the brightest hour of his life when I first knew him. His son Arthur was living and affording the splendid promise of which all have been made aware by Tennyson, in “In Memoriam.” In a little while, Arthur was gone, — found dead on the sofa by his father, one afternoon during a continental journey. Supposing him to be asleep, after a slight indisposition, Mr. Hallam sat reading for an hour after returning from a walk, before the extraordinary stillness alarmed him. Alone, and far from home, he was in a passion of grief. Few fathers have had such a son to lose; and the circumstances were singularly painful. — Then, there was the eldest daughter, on his arm at Carlyle’s lectures, and the companion of her delightful mother; — she died in just the same way, — on the sofa, after a slight illness, and while her mother was reading to her. She exclaimed “Stop!” and was dead within five minutes: and when Dr. Holland had come, and found that there was nothing to be done, he had to go in search of the father, who had gone for his walk, and tell him of the new desolation of his home. Not long after, Mrs. Hallam died with equal suddenness; and now, in his failing age, the affectionate family-man finds himself bereft of all his large household, — all his ten children gone, except one married daughter. His works show that, social as he has always been, he has enjoyed solitary study. I remember his once making a ludicrous complaint of London dinners, and of the sameness of the luxuries he and I saw every day; and he told me his greatest longing was for a few days of cold beef and leg of mutton. He was, like most of the set, a capital gossip. Nothing happened that we ladies did not hear from Whishaw, Empson, or Hallam: and Mr. Hallam poured it all out with a child-like glee and innocence which were very droll in a man who had done such things, and who spent so much of his time between passing judicial sentences in literature, and attending councils on politics and the arts with grave statesmen and with people of the highest Edition: current; Page: [251] rank, to whom he showed a most solemn reverence. He was apt to say rash and heedless things in his out-pourings, which were as amusing as they were awkward. I remember his blurting out, when seated on a sofa between Mr. Whishaw and the remarkably plain and literary Miss —, a joke on somebody’s hobbling with a wooden leg; and then an observation on Mrs. — being the only handsome authoress. (As there were certainly two who would answer the description, I put no initials.) Of Mr. Hallam’s works I say nothing, because they are fully discussed in the reviews of the time, by critics far more competent than myself. I enjoy them singularly; and especially his “History of Literature.” I had a profound respect for him as an author, long before I ever dreamed of having him for a friend: and nothing that I ever observed in him lessened that respect in any degree, while a cordial regard was, I believe, continually growing stronger between us, from the hour of our first meeting till now. It does not follow that we agreed on all matters of conduct, any more than of opinion. I could never sympathise fully with his reverence for people of rank: and he could not understand my principle and methods of self-defence against the dangers and disgusts of “lionism.” For one instance; I never would go to Lansdowne House, because I knew that I was invited there as an authoress, to undergo, as people did at that house, the most delicate and refined process of being lionised, — but still, the process. The Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, and a son and daughter, caused me to be introduced to them at Sir Augustus Callcott’s, and their not being introduced to my mother, who was with me, showed the footing on which I stood. I was then just departing for America. On my return, I was invited to every kind of party at Lansdowne House, — a concert, a state dinner, a friendly dinner party, a small evening party, and a ball; and I declined them all. I went nowhere but where my acquaintance was sought, as a lady, by ladies. Mr. Hallam told me, — what was true enough, — that Lady Lansdowne, being one of the Queen’s ladies, and Lord Lansdowne, being a Cabinet Minister, could not make calls. If so, it made no difference in my disinclination to go, in a blue-stocking Edition: current; Page: [252] way, to a house where I was not really acquainted with any body. Mr. Hallam, I saw, thought me conceited and saucy: but I felt I must take my own methods of preserving my social independence. Lord Lansdowne would not give the matter up. Finding that General Fox was coming one evening to a soirée of mine, he invited himself to dine with him, in order to accompany him. I thought this somewhat impertinent, while Mr. Hallam regarded it as an honour. I did not see why a nobleman and Cabinet Minister was more entitled than any other gentleman to present himself uninvited, after his own invitations had been declined. The incident was a trifle; but it shows how I acted in regard to this “lionising.”

Mr. Rogers was my neighbour from the time when I went to live in Fludyer Street; and many were the parties to which he took me in his carriage. Many also were the breakfasts to which he invited me; — those breakfasts, the fame of which has spread over the literary world. I could not often go; — indeed, scarcely ever, — so indispensable to my work were my morning hours and strength: and when Mr. Rogers perceived this, he asked me to dinner, or in the evening. But I did occasionally go to breakfast; and he made it easy by saving me the street passage. He desired his gardener to leave the garden gate unlocked; and I merely crossed the park and stepped in through the breakfast-room window. It was there that, besides my familiar friends, I met some whom I was glad to see after many years’ acquaintance through books. It was there that I met Southey, when he had almost left off coming to London. He was then indeed hardly fit for society. It was in the interval between the death of his first wife and his second marriage. He was gentle, kindly and agreeable; and well disposed to talk of old Norwich, and many things besides. But there was a mournful expression of countenance, occasionally verging upon the distress of perplexity: and he faltered for words at times; and once was painfully annoyed at being unable to recover a name or a date, rubbing his head and covering his eyes long before he would give it up. I told my mother, on coming home, that I feared that he was going the way of so many hard literary workers. We were greatly Edition: current; Page: [253] surprised to hear of his marriage, after what I had seen, and some worse indications of failure of which we had heard. The sequel of the story is known to every body. — I met Lord Mahon there (now Lord Stanhope) when his historical reputation was already established; and my agreeable friend Mr. Harness, whom I liked in all ways but as a dramatist. The Milmans used to extol the “finish” of his plays; and the author of “Fazio” ought to be a far better judge than I; but, as I told him, it seems to me that spirit is the first thing in a drama, and matter the next; and that “finish” comes only third, if so soon; and I could never see or feel beauty and elevation enough in Mr. Harness’s plays to make me think it worth his while to write them. But he was one of my very pleasantest acquaintances, for his goodness at home and abroad, — to his sister and niece, to his parishioners, and to his friends in society. With poor health, and literary tastes craving the gratification which was constantly within his reach, he was a devoted parish priest; and he made duty pleasure, and endurance an enjoyment, or at worst a matter of indifference, — by his cheerful and disinterested temper. He was a fine example of an accomplished gentleman and poet in the Church, who did his clerical duty to the utmost, and with simplicity, while as agreeable a man of the world as you could meet. I never could fully enter into his dramatic propensities and enthusiasms, any more than into Mr. Dickens’s, — in both which cases the drama seems to have drawn to itself an unaccountable amount of thought and interest; but the fault is probably in me, — that I cannot extend my worship of Shakspere so as to take an interest in all forms of dramatic presentment, as these two of my friends do. To me Shakspere is so much of a poet as to be supreme and sole as a dramatist: and they probably appreciate him better than I do, and prove it by loving meaner labours and productions for his sake. Considering that Göthe had the same preponderant taste, I can have no doubt that it is a case of deficiency in me, and not of eccentricity in them.

The Whig dinners of that day were at their highest point of agreeableness. The Queen on her accession found her ministers “a set of pleasant fellows,” as was well understood at the time; — Edition: current; Page: [254] gentlemen of literary accomplishments, to a moderate extent, which seemed very great to her, accustomed as she had been to such society as her uncles had got about them. The Whigs were in the highest prosperity and briskness of spirits at the time when I first knew them, — in the freshness of power under the declining old King, who had not got out of humour with them, as he did after Brougham’s pranks in the autumn of 1834. And then again they were in high feather, after the Queen’s accession, before they had arrived at presuming on their position, and while some vestiges of modesty remained among some of them. On returning to London a good many years later, I found a melancholy change which had occurred precisely through their desire that there should be no change at all. I found some who had formerly been “pleasant fellows” and agreeable ladies, now saying the same things in much the same manner as of old, only with more conceit and contempt of every body but themselves. Their pride of station and office had swelled into vulgarity; and their blindness in regard to public opinion and the progress of all the world but themselves was more wonderful than ever. All that I have seen of late years has shown me that in those pleasant dinners I saw the then leading society in literary London to the utmost advantage; — a privilege which I certainly enjoyed exceedingly.

My place was generally between some one of the notabilities and some rising barrister. From the latter I could seldom gather much, — so bent were all the rising barristers I met on knowing my views on “the progress of education and the increase of crime.” I was so weary of that eternal question that it was a drawback on the pleasure of many a dinner-party. In 1838, I went a journey of some weeks into the Lake district and Scotland, with a party of friends, — some of whom were over-worked like myself. We agreed to banish all topics connected with public affairs and our own labours, and to give ourselves up to refreshment, without any thought of improvement. We arrived at Fort William, where the inn was overcrowded with passengers for the Loch Ness steamer, in the evening, so tired that we (and I, especially) could scarcely keep awake till our room (where Edition: current; Page: [255] all the ladies of our party were to be lodged somehow,) was prepared. Mr. P—, our leader, very properly brought in a gentleman who could not find a place to sit down in, to have tea with us. My companions, seeing me drooping with sleep, did their utmost to seat him at the opposite side of the table: but he seized a stool, forced himself in next me, and instantly began (rising barrister as he was) to ask my opinion on the progress of education and the increase of crime in Scotland. I had no clear idea what I replied : but my companions told me, with inextinguishable laughter, after our guest was gone, that I had informed him that I knew nothing of those matters, and had made no inquiry, because we had all agreed before we left home that we would not improve our minds. They said that his stare of astonishment was a sight to be remembered. — In my London days, Lord Campbell was “Plain John Campbell:” but Plain John was wonderfully like the present Lord ; — facetious, in and out of place, politic, flattering to an insulting degree, and prone to moralising in so trite a way as to be almost as insulting. He was full of knowledge, and might have been inexhaustibly entertaining if he could have forgotten his prudence and been natural. When his wife, Lady Stratheden, was present, there was some explanation of both the worldly prudence and the behaviour to ladies, — as if they were spoiled children, — which Plain John supposed would please them. Others were there, Judges then or since, — the Parkes, the present Lord Chancellor Cranworth, the then Lord Chancellor Brougham, Coltman, Crompton, Romilly, Alderson; (not Talfourd, who was then only a rising barrister, and not yet seen among the literary Whigs.)

There were a few bishops; — Whately, with his odd, overbearing manners, and his unequal conversation, — sometimes rude and tiresome, and at other times full of instruction, and an occasional drollery coming out amidst a world of effort. Perhaps no person of all my acquaintance has from the first appeared to me so singularly overrated as he was then. I believe it is hardly so now. Those were the days when he said a candid thing which did him honour. He was quite a new bishop then; and Edition: current; Page: [256] he said one day, plucking at his sleeve, as if he had his lawn ones on, “I don’t know how it is: but when we have got these things on, we never do any thing more.” Then, there was the nervous, good-natured, indiscreet rattle, — the Bishop of Norwich (Stanley), who could never get under weigh without being presently aground. Timid as a hare, sensitive as a woman, heedless and flexible as a child, he was surely the oddest bishop that ever was seen: and, to make the impression the more strange, he was as like Dr. Channing as could well be, except that his hair was perfectly white, and Dr. Channing’s dark. That the solemn, curt, inaccessible, ever-spiritual Dr. Channing should so resemble the giddy, impressible Dr. Stanley, who carried his heart upon his sleeve (too often “for daws to peck at”) was strange enough: but so it was. Bishop Stanley was, however, admirable in his way. If he had been a rural parish priest all his life, out of the way of dissenters and of clerical espionage, he would have lived and died as beloved as he really was, and much more respected. In Norwich, his care and furtherance of the schools were admirable; and in the function of benevolence to the poor and afflicted, he was exemplary. But censure almost broke his heart and turned his brain. He had no courage or dignity at all under the bad manners of his tory clergy; and he repeatedly talked in such a style to me about it as to compel me to tell him plainly that dissenters like myself are not only accustomed to ill-usage for differences of opinion, but are brought up to regard that trial as one belonging to all honest avowal of convictions, and to be borne with courage and patience like other trials. His innocent amazement and consternation at being ill-used on account of his liberal opinions were truly instructive to a member of a despised sect: but they were painful, too. I have often thought that if Bishop Stanley put himself in the power of other people as he did in mine he might expect at any hour the destruction of his peace, if not of his position, — so grievous were his complaints, and so desperate his criticisms of people who did not like his opinions, and teased him accordingly. His lady and daughters did much good in Norwich; and, on the whole, the city, which loved its old Bishop Bathurst, considered itself well off in his Edition: current; Page: [257] successor. — Then there was the somewhat shy but agreeable Bishop Lonsdale (Lichfield); and the gracious, kindly and liberal, — but not otherwise remarkable — Bishop Otter (Chichester).

The common stream of Members of Parliament presented a curious uniformity, — even considering that they were almost all Whigs. They all had the same intense conviction that every thing but Whiggism was bête; that they could teach “the people” every thing that it was good for them to know; and that the way to do it was by addressing them in a coaxing and admonitory way. They all had the same intense admiration of Whig measures before they were tried; and the same indifference and shamelessness in dropping those measures when it was found that they would not work. But among these there were a few who belonged to no party, and were too good to be confounded with the rest. There was Charles Buller, the admired and beloved, and now and always the deeply mourned. He was more than a drawing-room acquaintance of mine. He was my friend; and we had real business to discuss occasionally, besides lighter matters. Many an hour he spent by my fireside, both before and after Lord Durham’s government of Canada. By means of my American travel and subsequent correspondence, I was able, — or Charles Buller thought I was, — to supply some useful information, and afford some few suggestions: and I was quite as much impressed by his seriousness and fine sense in affairs of business as by his infinite cleverness and drollery in ordinary conversation. — The readers of my “History of the Peace” must perceive that I had some peculiar opportunities of knowing the true story of that Canada governmental campaign. I feared that it might be taken for granted that Lord Durham or his family gave me the information; whereas he and they were singularly careful to make no party, and to leave his case in silence till a time should arrive for explanation, without risk of turning out Lord Melbourne’s government. They told me nothing of their personal grievances; and I have said so in a note, in the History. But I could not then tell where I did get my information. It was mainly from Charles Buller’s Journal of Edition: current; Page: [258] his residence in Canada, which was confided to me on his return by a friend of his and mine. I felt myself bound not to say so while he was living, and with a political career before him which such a disclosure might have injured: but, now that he and his father and mother are gone, and that remarkable household has vanished, and is remembered as a dream, I see no reason why I should not declare on what high authority I made the statements relating to Lord Durham’s residence in Canada. There was another journal, by another of the party, put into my hands at the same time, from which I have derived some incidents and suggestions: but Charles Buller’s narrative, written from day to day, was the one on which I chiefly relied — His capacity, and his probable future, could not be adequately judged of by any thing he had said or done when his always frail health finally gave way. The Canada Report is noted for its ability; and the men of his generation remember how thorough were his Colonization speeches, and how his fine temper and well-timed wit soothed and brightened the atmosphere of the House in tempestuous times. But the sound greatness that lay beneath was known only to his intimates; and they mourned over an untimely arrest of a glorious career of statesmanship, while the rest of the world regarded the loss simply as of an effective and accomplished Member of Parliament.

Another, who stood out from the classification of Tory and Whig was my friend R. Monckton Milnes, whom I know too well, and am too sincerely attached to, to describe as if he were dead, or on less friendly terms with me. When I first knew him, it was amidst the bustle of the discovery of his being a poet; or, at least, I had seen him, as far as I remember, only once before that. One evening, at Lady Mary Shepherd’s (where I never went again, for reasons which I will give presently) my hostess told me that she was to introduce me, if I pleased, to a young friend of hers who had just returned from travels in Greece. I understood his name to be Mills, and did not think of connecting him with the Yorkshire family whose name was so well known to me. When the young friend arrived, he did look young, — with a round face and a boyish manner, free from all Edition: current; Page: [259] shyness and gravity whatever. (Sydney Smith had two names for him in those days: “Dick Modest Milnes,” and “the Cool of the Evening.”) I was just departing, early, when he first had some conversation with me in the drawing-room and then went down to the cloak room, where he said something which impressed me much, and made me distinctly remember the earnest youth, before I discovered that he was the same with “the new poet,” Milnes. He asked me some question about my tales, — then about half done; and my answer conveyed to him an impression I did not at all intend, — that I made light of the work. “No, now, — don’t say that,” said he, bluntly. “It is unworthy of you to affect that you do not take pains with your work. It is work which cannot be done without pains; and you should not pretend to the contrary.” I showed him, in a moment, that he had misapprehended me; and I carried away a clear impression of his sincerity, and of the gravity which lay under his insouciant manners. When his poems came out, — wonderfully beautiful in their way, as they have ever seemed to me, — they and their author were a capital topic for the literary gossips, — Empson and Whishaw, and their coterie; and I did not wonder at their going from house to house, to announce the news, and gather and compare opinions. My pleasure in those poems was greatest when I read them in my Tynemouth solitude. My copy is marked all over with hieroglyphics involving the emotions with which I read them. He came to see me there, and did me good by his kindness in various ways. He visited me there again on my recovery; and he has been here to see me, lately, in my present illness. From time to time, incidents which he supposes to be absolute secrets have come to my knowledge which prove him to be as nobly and substantially bountiful to needy merit and ability as he is kindly in intercourse, and sympathising in suffering. The most interesting feature of his character, as it stands before the world, is his catholicity of sentiment and manner, — his ability to sympathise with all manner of thinkers and speakers, and his superiority to all appearance of exclusiveness, while, on the one hand, rather enjoying the reputation of having access to all houses, and, on Edition: current; Page: [260] the other, being serious and earnest in the deepest recesses of his character. — This may look rather like doing what I said I could not; — describing a personal friend: but it is really not so: I have touched on none but the most patent aspects of an universally known man. If I were to describe him as a personal friend, I should have much more to say.

Another acquaintance who became a friend was Mr. Grote, then one of the Members for London. That was not the period of his life which he relished most. While doing his duty in parliament in regard to the Ballot, and Colonization, and other great questions of the time, and exercising hospitality as became his position, he looked back rather mournfully to the happy quiet years when, before his father suddenly made an eldest son of him, he was writing his History of Greece; and earnestly did he long for the time, (which arrived in due course) when he might retire to his study and renew his labours. I was always glad to meet him and his clever wife, who were full, at all times, of capital conversation; — she with all imaginable freedom; and he with a curious, formal, old-fashioned, deliberate courtesy, with which he strove to cover his constitutional timidity and shyness. The publication of his fine History now precludes all necessity of describing his powers and his tastes. He was best known in those days as the leading member of the Radical section in parliament; and few could suppose then that his claims on that ground would be swallowed up by his reputation as a scholar and author in one of the highest walks of literature. As a good man and a gentleman his reputation was always of the highest. — With him, the remembrance of his and my friend Roebuck is naturally associated. Mr. Roebuck’s state of health, — his being subject to a most painful malady, — accounted to those who knew him well for faults of temper which were singularly notorious. I always felt, in regard to both him and Lord Durham, that so much was said about faults of temper because there was nothing else to be fastened upon to their disadvantage. I can only say that, well as I knew them both, I never witnessed any ill temper in either. Mr. Roebuck was full of knowledge, full of energy, full of ability; with great vanity, certainly, but of so Edition: current; Page: [261] honest a kind that it did not much matter. When in pain, he was an example of wonderful fortitude; and there was a singular charm in the pathetic voice and countenance with which he discussed subjects that it was wonderful he could take an interest in under the circumstances. When he was well, his lively spirits were delightful; and a more agreeable guest or host could not be. Since I saw him last, he has undergone the severest trials of sickness; and it must be almost as great a surprise to himself as to me and others that he is now Chairman of the Sebastopol Committee, and able to take a leading part in the politics of our present serious national crisis. His position now seems to be a sort of retribution on Lord John Russell and other Whig politicians, who treated him with outrageous insolence, in public and private, while there was a Radical section for him to lead. Those who outlive me may yet see the balance struck between the popular and colonial tribune and the insolent official liberals, as they called themselves, who have one and all proved themselves incompetent to wield the power which they so greedily clutched, and held with so shameless a tenacity. I hope Mr. Roebuck may live to retrieve some mistakes, and to fulfil some of his long baffled aspirations. His chance seems at least better than that of his most insolent contemners.

Bulwer and Talfourd were hardly thought of as Members of Parliament at that time, except in connexion with the international copyright treaty which authors were endeavouring to procure, and with the Copyright Act, which was obtained a few years after. Mr. Macaulay was another Member of Parliament who associated his name very discreditably at first with the copyright bill, which was thrown out one session in consequence of a speech of his which has always remained a puzzle to me. What could have been the inducement to such a man to talk such nonsense as he did, and to set at naught every principle of justice in regard to authors’ earnings, it is impossible, to me and others, to conceive. Nothing that he could propose, — nothing that he could do, could ever compensate to him for the forfeiture of good fame and public confidence which he seems to have actually volunteered in that speech. He changed his mind or his Edition: current; Page: [262] tactics afterwards; but he could not change people’s feelings in regard to himself, or make any body believe that he was a man to be relied upon. He never appeared to me to be so. When I went to London he was a new Member of Parliament, and the object of unbounded hope and expectation to the Whig statesmen, who, according to their curious practice of considering all of the generation below their own as chicks, spoke rapturously of this promising young man. They went on doing so till his return from India, five years afterwards, by which time the world began to inquire when the promise was to begin to fructify, — this young fellow being by that time seven-and-thirty. To impartial observers, the true quality of Macaulay’s mind was as clear then as now. In Parliament, he was no more than a most brilliant speaker; and in his speeches there was the same fundamental weakness which pervades his writings, — unsoundness in the presentment of his case. Some one element was sure to be left out, which falsified his statement, and vitiated his conclusions; and there never was perhaps a speaker or writer of eminence, so prone to presentments of cases, who so rarely offered one which was complete and true. My own impression is, and always was, that the cause of the defect is constitutional in Macaulay. The evidence seems to indicate that he wants heart. He appears to be wholly unaware of this deficiency; and the superficial fervour which suns over his disclosures probably deceives himself, as it deceives a good many other people; and he may really believe that he has a heart. To those who do not hold this key to the interpretation of his career, it must be a very mysterious thing that a man of such imposing and real ability, with every circumstance and influence in his favour, should never have achieved any complete success. As a politician, his failure has been signal, notwithstanding his irresistible power as a speaker, and his possession of every possible facility. As a practical legislator, his failure was unsurpassed, when he brought home his Code from India. I was witness to the amazement and grief of some able lawyers, in studying that Code, — of which they could scarcely lay their finger on a provision through which you could not drive a coach and six. It Edition: current; Page: [263] has long been settled that literature alone remains open to him; and in that he has, with all his brilliancy and captivating accomplishment, destroyed the ground of confidence on which his adorers met him when, in his mature years, he published the first two volumes of his History. His review articles, and especially the one on Bacon, ought to have abolished all confidence in his honesty, as well as in his capacity for philosophy. Not only did he show himself to be disqualified for any appreciation of Bacon’s philosophy, but his plagiarisms from the very author (Basil Montagu) whom he was pretending to demolish, (one instance of plagiarism among many) might have shown any conscientious reader how little he was to be trusted in regard to mere integrity of statement. But, as he announced a History, the public received as a bonâ fide History the work on which he proposes to build his fame. If it had been announced as a historical romance, it might have been read with almost unmixed delight, though exception might have been taken to his presentment of several characters and facts. He has been abundantly punished, for instance, for his slanderous exhibition of William Penn. But he has fatally manifested his loose and unscrupulous method of narrating, and, in his first edition, gave no clue whatever to his authorities, and no information in regard to dates which he could possibly suppress. Public opinion compelled, in future editions, some appearance of furnishing references to authorities, such as every conscientious historian finds it indispensable to his peace of mind to afford; but it is done by Macaulay in the most ineffectual and baffling way possible, — by clubbing together the mere names of his authorities at the bottom of the page, so that reference is all but impracticable. Where it is made, by painstaking readers, the inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the historian are found to multiply as the work of verification proceeds. In fact, the only way to accept his History is to take it as a brilliant fancypiece, — wanting not only the truth but the repose of history, — but stimulating, and even, to a degree, suggestive. While I write, announcement is made of two more volumes to appear in the course of the year. If the radical faults of the former ones are remedied, there may yet be before Edition: current; Page: [264] this gifted man something like the “career,” so proudly anticipated for him a quarter of a century ago. If not, all is over; and his powers, once believed adequate to the construction of eternal monuments of statesmanship and noble edifices for intellectual worship, will be found capable of nothing better than rearing gay kiosks in the flower gardens of literature, to be soon swept away by the caprices of a new taste, as superficial as his own. — I have been led on to say all this by the vivid remembrance of the universal interest there was about Macaulay, when the London world first opened before me. I remember the days when he was met in the streets, looking only at the pavement as he walked, and with his lips moving, — causing those who met him to say that there would be a fine speech from Macaulay that night. Then came the sighs over his loss when he went to India for three years: then the joy at his return, and the congratulations to his venerable father: then the blank disappointment at the way in which he had done his work: and then his appearance in society, — with his strange eyes, which appeared to look nowhere, and his full cheeks and stooping shoulders, which told of dreamy indolence; and then the torrent of words which poured out when he did speak! It did not do to invite him and Sydney Smith together. They interfered with one another. Sydney Smith’s sense of this appears in his remarks on Macaulay’s “improvement,” as shown by “flashes of silence;” and Macaulay showed his sense of the incompatibility of the two wits by his abstracted silence, or by signs of discomposure.

I had heard all my life of the vanity of women as a subject of pity to men: but when I went to London, lo! I saw vanity in high places which was never transcended by that of women in their lowlier rank. There was Brougham, wincing under a newspaper criticism, and playing the fool among silly women. There was Jeffrey flirting with clever women, in long succession. There was Bulwer on a sofa, sparkling and languishing among a set of female votaries, — he and they dizened out, perfumed, and presenting the nearest picture to a seraglio to be seen on British ground, — only the indifference or hauteur of the lord of the Edition: current; Page: [265] harem being absent. There was poor Campbell the poet, obtruding his sentimentalities, amidst a quivering apprehension of making himself ridiculous. He darted out of our house, and never came again, because, after warning, he sat down, in a room full of people (all authors, as it happened) on a low chair of my old aunt’s which went very easily on castors, and which carried him back to the wall and rebounded, of course making every body laugh. Off went poor Campbell in a huff; and, well as I had long known him, I never saw him again: and I was not very sorry, for his sentimentality was too soft, and his craving for praise too morbid to let him be an agreeable companion. On occasion of the catastrophe, he came with about forty authors one morning, to sign a petition to parliament for an International copyright law. Then there was Babbage, — less utterly dependent on opinion than some people suppose; but still, harping so much on the subject as to warrant the severe judgment current in regard to his vanity. — There was Edwin Landseer, a friendly and agreeable companion, but holding his cheerfulness at the mercy of great folks’ graciousness to him. To see him enter a room, curled and cravatted, and glancing round in anxiety about his reception, could not but make a woman wonder where among her own sex she could find a more palpable vanity; but then, all that was forgotten when one was sitting on a divan with him, seeing him play with the dog. — Then there was Whewell, grasping at praise for universal learning, — (omniscience being his foible, as Sydney Smith said,) — and liking female adoration, rough as was his nature with students, rivals and speculative opponents. — I might instance more: but this is enough. The display was always to me most melancholy; for the detriment was so much greater than in the case of female vanity. The circumstances of women render the vanity of literary women well nigh unavoidable, where the literary pursuit and production are of a light kind: and the mischief (serious enough) may end with the deterioration of the individual. Lady Morgan and Lady Davy and Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Jameson may make women blush and men smile and be insolent; and their gross and palpable vanities may help to lower the position and discredit the Edition: current; Page: [266] pursuits of other women, while starving out their own natural powers: but these mischiefs are far less important than the blighting of promise and the forfeiture of a career, and the intercepting of national blessings, in the case of a Bulwer or a Brougham. A few really able women, — women sanctified by true genius and holy science, — a Joanna Baillie, a Somerville, a Browning, — quickly repair the mischief, as regards the dignity of women; and the time has not yet arrived when national interests are involved in the moral dignity of individual women of genius. But, as a matter of fact, I conceive that no one can glance round society, as seen in London drawing-rooms, and pretend to consider vanity the appropriate sin of women. The instances I have given are of persons who, for the most part, were estimable and agreeable, apart from their characteristic foible. For Bulwer I always felt a cordial interest, amidst any amount of vexation and pity for his weakness. He seems to me to be a woman of genius enclosed by misadventure in a man’s form. If the life of his affections had been a natural and fortunate one; and if (which would have been the consequence) he had not plunged over head and ears in the metaphysics of morals, I believe he would have made himself a name which might have lasted as long as our literature. He has insight, experience, sympathy, letters, power and grace of expression, and an irrepressible impulse to utterance and industry which should have produced works of the noblest quality; and these have been intercepted by mischiefs which may be called misfortune rather than fault. There is no need to relate his history or describe his faults. I can only lament the perversion of one of the most promising natures, and the intercepting of some of the most needful literary benefits offered, in the form of one man, in our time. His friendly temper, his generous heart, his excellent conversation (at his best) and his simple manners (when he forgot himself) have many a time “left me mourning” that such a being should allow himself to sport with perdition. Perhaps my interest in him was deepened by the evident growth of his deafness, and by seeing that he was not, as yet, equal to cope with the misfortune of personal infirmity. He could not bring himself Edition: current; Page: [267] practically to acknowledge it; and his ignoring of it occasioned scenes which, painful to others, must have been exquisitely so to a vain man like himself. I longed to speak, or get spoken, to him a word of warning and encouragement out of my own experience: but I never met with any one who dared mention the subject to him; and I had no fair opportunity after the infirmity became conspicuous. From the time when, in contradicting in the newspapers a report of his having lost his hearing altogether, he professed to think conversation not worth hearing, I had no hope of his fortitude: for it is the last resource of weakness to give out that the grapes are sour. — Campbell was declining when I first knew him; and I disliked his visits because I was never quite sure whether he was sober, — his irritable brain being at the mercy of a single glass of sherry, or of a paroxysm of enthusiasm about the Poles: but I adored his poems in my youth; I was aware that domestic misfortune had worn out his affectionate heart; and it was a pleasure to see that his sympathies were, to the last, warm on behalf of international morality and popular liberties. — As for Mr. Babbage, it seemed to me that few men were more misunderstood, — his sensitiveness about opinions perverting other people’s impressions of him quite as much as his of them. For one instance: he was amused, as well as struck, by the very small reliance to be placed on opinion, public or private, for and against individuals: and he thought over some method of bringing his observation to a sort of demonstration. Thinking that he was likely to hear most of opinions about himself as a then popular author, he collected every thing he could gather in print about himself, and pasted the pieces into a large book, with the pros and cons in parallel columns, from which he obtained a sort of balance, besides some highly curious observations. Soon after he told me this, with fun and good-humour, I was told repeatedly that he spent all his days in gloating and grumbling over what people said of him, having got it all down in a book, which he was perpetually poring over. People who so represented him had little idea what a domestic tenderness is in him, — though to me his singular face seemed to show it, — nor how much that was really interesting might be found in him Edition: current; Page: [268] by those who viewed him naturally and kindly. All were eager to go to his glorious soirées; and I always thought he appeared to great advantage as a host. His patience in explaining his machine in those days was really exemplary. I felt it so, the first time I saw the miracle, as it appeared to me; but I thought so much more, a year or two after, when a lady, to whom he had sacrificed some very precious time, on the supposition that she understood as much as she assumed to do, finished by saying “Now, Mr. Babbage, there is only one thing more that I want to know. If you put the question in wrong, will the answer come out right?” All time and attention devoted to lady examiners of his machine, from that time forward, I regarded as sacrifices of genuine good nature.

In what noble contrast were the eminent men who were not vain! There was the honest and kindly Captain (now Admiral Sir Francis) Beaufort, who was daily at the Admiralty as the clock struck, conveying paper, pen and ink for any private letters he might have to write, for which he refused to use the official stores. There were the friends Lyell and Charles Darwin, — after the return of the latter from his four years’ voyage round the world; — Lyell with a Scotch prudence which gave way, more and more as years passed on, to his natural geniality, and to an expanding liberality of opinion and freedom of speech; and the simple, childlike, painstaking, effective Charles Darwin, who established himself presently at the head of living English naturalists. These well-employed, earnest-minded, accomplished and genial men bore their honours without vanity, jealousy, or any apparent self-regard whatever. They and their devoted wives were welcome in the highest degree. Lady Lyell was almost as remarkable in society as her husband, though she evidently considered herself only a part of him. Having no children, she could devote her life to helping him. She travelled over half the world with him, entered fully into his pursuits, and furthered them as no one else could have done; while there was not a trace of pedantry in her, but a simple, lively manner, proceeding from a mind at ease and nobly entertained. Mr. Rogers used to point out the beauty of her eye, — “The eye of Edition: current; Page: [269] the stag;” and truly she grew more charming-looking every year, and was handsomer and brighter than ever when I saw her not long ago in London. If she had no vanity for herself, neither had she for her husband, of whom her estimate was too lofty and just to admit the intrusion of so unworthy an emotion.

Many others there were in regard to whom the imputation of vanity was impossible. There were Dr. Dalton and Mrs. Somerville sitting with their heads close together, on the sofa, talking their own glorious talk without a thought of what anybody in the world was saying about either of them. Dr. Dalton was simple in every way: Mrs. Somerville in all that was essential. Her mistakes in taking her daughters to court, and in a good many conventional matters, were themselves no worse than a misplaced humility which made her do as other people did, or as other people bade her do, instead of choosing her own course. I used to wish she had been wise in those matters, and more self-reliant altogether; but I am sure there was no ambition or vanity in her mind, all the time. It was delightful to find her with a letter from her publisher in her hand, considering it with anxiety; and to hear what her difficulty was. She was respectfully requested to make such alterations in the next edition of her “Connexion of the Physical Sciences” as would render it more popular and intelligible. She could not at all see her way. The scientific mode of expression, with its pregnancy, its terseness and brevity, seemed to her perfectly simple. If she was to alter it, it could be only by amplifying; and she feared that would make her diffuse and comparatively unintelligible. It was delightful to see her always well-dressed and thoroughly womanly in her conversation and manners, while unconscious of any peculiarity in her pursuits. It was delightful to go to tea at her house at Chelsea, and find every thing in order and beauty; — the walls hung with her fine drawings; her music in the corner, and her tea table spread with good things. In the midst of these household elegancies, Dr. Somerville one evening pulled open a series of drawers, to find something he wanted to show me. As he shut one after another, I ventured to ask what those strange things were which filled every drawer. “O! they are Edition: current; Page: [270] only Mrs. Somerville’s diplomas,” said he, with a droll look of pride and amusement. Not long after this, the family went abroad, partly for Dr. Somerville’s health: and great has been the concern of her friends at so losing her, while it was well known that her longings were for England. Her husband and her daughters, (turned Catholics,) have kept her in Italy ever since, to the privation and sorrow of many who know that scientific London is the proper place for her, and that, unselfish as she is, she must long to be there. I own it went to my heart to hear of one thing that happened soon after she left England. The great comet of 1843 was no more seen by her than by any other woman in Italy. The only good observatory was in a Jesuits’ College, where no woman was allowed to set foot. It is too bad that she should spend the last third of her life in a country so unworthy of her.

And there was Joanna Baillie, whose serene and cheerful life was never troubled by the pains and penalties of vanity; — what a charming spectacle was she! Mrs. Barbauld’s published correspondence tells of her, in 1800, as “a young lady of Hampstead whom I visited, and who came to Mr. Barbauld’s meeting, all the while, with as innocent a face as if she had never written a line.” That was two years before I was born. When I met her, about thirty years afterwards, there she was “with as innocent a face as if she had never written a line!” And this was after an experience which would have been a bitter trial to an author with a particle of vanity. She had enjoyed a fame almost without parallel, and had outlived it. She had been told every day for years, through every possible channel, that she was second only to Shakspere, — if second; and then she had seen her works drop out of notice so that, of the generation who grew up before her eyes, not one in a thousand had read a line of her plays: — yet was her serenity never disturbed, nor her merry humour in the least dimmed. I have never lost the impression of the trying circumstances of my first interview with her, nor of the grace, simplicity and sweetness with which she bore them. She was old; and she declined dinner-parties; but she wished to meet me, — having known, I believe, some of my connexions Edition: current; Page: [271] or friends of the past generation; — and therefore she came to Miss Berry’s to tea, one day when I was dining there. Miss Berry, her contemporary, put her feelings, it seemed to me, to a most unwarrantable trial, by describing to me, as we three sat together, the celebrity of the “Plays on the Passions” in their day. She told me how she found on her table, on her return from a ball, a volume of plays; and how she kneeled on a chair to look at it, and how she read on till the servant opened the shutters, and let in the daylight of a winter morning. She told me how all the world raved about the plays; and she held on so long that I was in pain for the noble creature to whom it must have been irksome on the one hand to hear her own praises and fame so dwelt upon, and, on the other, to feel that we all knew how long that had been quite over. But, when I looked up at her sweet face, with its composed smile amidst the becoming mob cap, I saw that she was above pain of either kind. We met frequently afterwards, at her house or ours; and I retained my happy impression, till the last call I made on her. She was then over-affectionate, and uttered a good deal of flattery; and I was uneasy at symptoms so unlike her good taste and sincerity. It was a token of approaching departure. She was declining, and she sank and softened for some months more, and then died, revered and beloved as she deserved. Amidst all pedantry, vanity, coquetry, and manners ruined by celebrity which I have seen, for these twenty years past, I have solaced and strengthened myself with the image of Joanna Baillie, and with remembering the invulnerable justification which she set up for intellectual superiority in women, while we may hope that the injury done to that cause by blue-stockings and coquettes will be scarcely more enduring than their own trumpery notoriety.

I must own that I have known scarcely any political men who were not as vain as women are commonly supposed to be: and if any were not so themselves, their wives were sure to be so for them; and so conspicuously as to do the mischief effectually. Lord Lansdowne was an exception, I believe; and so, I am sure, was his simple-minded, shy lady, with her rural tastes, and benevolent pursuits. The present Lord Grey did not show Edition: current; Page: [272] in private life the sensitiveness which marred his temper and manners in his political function. Lord Morpeth (the present Lord Carlisle) has his weaknesses, which are evident enough; but I never saw a trace of vanity in him. His magnanimous, benevolent, affectionate temper, his pure integrity, and devout conscientiousness, are all incompatible with vanity. It seems a pity that his powers are so inadequate to his sensibilities; or that, his abilities being what they are, he has not chosen to remain in that private life which he conspicuously adorns: but it is a benefit, as far as it goes, that his fine spirit and manners should be present in official life, to rebuke the vulgar selfishness, levity, and insolence which have discredited his political comrades, from their accession to power, a quarter of a century since, till now, when their faults have brought on a crisis in the destinies of England. As an order of men, however, politicians are, as far as my experience goes, far inferior in dignity to scientific men, among whom there are, it is true, examples of egregious vanity, but not so striking as the simplicity and earnestness which characterize many whose lives are spent in lofty pursuits which carry them high above personal regards. And to nearly all, I believe, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake yields more pleasure than any gain of fame or money. To one Lardner, there is many a Beaufort, Washington, Delabêche, Ebrenberg, Dalton, and Gregory. Some, like Professor Nichol, may not be acquitted of vanity, while uniting with it, as he does, a simplicity, a kindliness, and a genial temper which make them delightful companions. Others, like Buckland and Murchison, have a love of fun mingling with their genuine worship of science, which makes them highly agreeable, in spite of eccentricities of manner. Sir Charles Bell was of too tender a nature for the conflicts which await a discoverer; but his sensitiveness was of too refined and constitutional a kind to be insulted with the name of vanity; and he was beloved with a tenderness which no grossly vain person could ever win to himself. While he was grave, quiet and melancholy, men of stouter natures were making fun, if not of their science, of the uses to which they applied it, in that condescension to which their desire of reputation Edition: current; Page: [273] or of something lower led them. Sir Charles Bell wrote his Bridgewater Treatise, no doubt, with the grave sincerity with which he did every thing, and without any suspicion of the injury he was doing to theology, by attempting to bolster up the Design argument, which he ought to have seen tends directly, as is now widely admitted, to atheism. Among some of his comrades, the matter was viewed with more levity. When one of them was writing his successful treatise, he consigned his manuscript to a scientific friend for criticism. It had a good margin left for notes; and his critic, after gravely writing his observations on the scientific portion, scored in pencil the close of the sections, where the Bridgewater application was made, with the words “Power, wisdom and goodness as per contract.” There was much covert laughter about this among the philosophers, while they presented a duly grave face to the theological world.

The artists are usually concluded to be the vainest of all orders of men. I have not found them so. A more dignified, simple-minded and delightful drawing-room companion I have hardly known than Sir Augustus Calcott, for one. His tenderness of heart appeared in that devotion to his wife which cost him his health and his life. She (the Maria Graham of India and of South America, during Lord Dundonald’s achievements there) was a clever woman in her way, with indomitable spirits, through years of slow consumption: but, when hearing her gossip and random talk, one could not, after all allowance for her invalid state and its seclusion contrasted with former activity, help regretting that her far superior husband should sink prematurely into melancholy and ill-health, from his too close attendance upon her, through years of hot rooms and night watching. A higher order of wife would not have permitted it; and a lower order of husband would not have done it. — Chantrey was abundantly aware of his own merits; but there was an honesty in the avowal which distanced the imputation of vanity. As I sat next him one day at dinner, I was rather disturbed at the freedom with which he criticised and directed the carving of a haunch of venison, fixing the attention of the whole table on the process, which the operator bore most gracefully. Chantrey turned Edition: current; Page: [274] apologetically to me with, “You know I have a right. I am the first carver in London.” He always told every body who he was, and took for granted that every body knew all his works: but there was a good-humoured courage and naturalness about his self-estimate which made it amusing, instead of disgusting.

Allan Cunningham was, however, far more interesting than his employer and friend. It was quite a sight to see stalwart Allan and his stalwart wife enter a drawing-room, and to see how his fine face and head towered above others in expression as much as in altitude. His simple sense and cheerful humour rendered his conversation as lively as that of a wit; and his literary knowledge and taste gave it refinement enough to suit any society. I always felt that Allan Cunningham was precisely the human example that I had long wished to see; — of that privileged condition which I think the very most advantageous that a man can be placed in; the original standing of a workman, with such means of intellectual cultivation as may open to him the life of books. Allan Cunningham was one of the hard-handed order, privileged to know the realities of practical life; while also a man of letters and a poet, exempt from the deficiencies and foibles of mere literary life. Thus, while a workman, a student and a poet, he was above all a man; and thorough manliness was his dominant characteristic. All this came back upon me when, in 1849, I met his son Peter, whose features recalled so much of his father, and whose industrious and effectual authorship reminds us all of his honourable descent.

Westmacott, again, was seriously full of his art; and that is the true charm in the manners of an artist. Phillips was formal and self-complacent, but well read and communicative: and the friendship between himself and his accomplished family was a pretty spectacle. Macready’s sensitiveness shrouded itself within an artificial manner; but a more delightful companion could not be, — not only on account of his learning and accomplishment, but of his uncompromising liberality of opinion, and his noble strain of meditative thought. He enjoyed playing Jaques, — thinking that character singularly like himself; and it was so, in one part of his character: but there was, besides the moralising Edition: current; Page: [275] tendency, a chivalrous spirit of rare vigilance, and an unsleeping domestic tenderness and social beneficence which accounted for and justified the idolatry with which he was regarded, through all trials occasioned by the irritable temper with which he manfully struggled. — The Kembles were of a different sort altogether; I mean Charles Kemble and his daughters. They were full of knowledge and accomplishment, of course, and experienced in all manner of social intercourse: but there seemed to me to be an incurable vulgarity clinging to them, among all the charms of their genius, their cultivation, and their social privileges. I think it must have been from their passionate natures, and from their rather priding themselves on that characteristic of theirs. I liked Adelaide the best of the three, because she had herself more under control than the others, and because the womanly nature did itself more justice in her case than in her sister’s. The admiration and interest which Fanny inspired were as often put to flight as aroused, — so provoking was her self-will, and so vexatious her caprice. And then, there was no relying on any thing she said, while the calmer and more devoted Adelaide was mistress of her own thought and speech, and composedly truthful in a way which ought to have been, and probably was, exemplary in Fanny’s eyes. There was a green-room cast of mind about them all, from which Macready was marvellously free. He saw life by daylight, and they by stage lamps; and that was the difference. I am speaking of them as I met them in drawing-rooms: but I have other associations with them. I saw much of Fanny in America, during her early married life, and was present at the christening of her first child. She showed me the proof sheets of her clever “Journal,” and, as she chose to require my opinion of it, obtained a less flattering one than from most people. I might be, and probably was, narrow and stiff in my judgment of it; but I was sufficiently shocked at certain passages to induce her to cancel some thirty pages. I really strove hard to like and approve her; and I imposed upon myself for a time, as on others in conversation, the belief that I did so: but I could not carry it on long. There was so radical an unreality about her and her sayings and doings, Edition: current; Page: [276] and so perverse a sporting with her possessions and privileges in life, and with other people’s peace, that my interest in her died out completely, in a way which could not have happened if I could have believed her notorious misfortunes to have been other than self-inflicted. By her way of entering upon marriage, and her conduct in it afterwards, she deprived herself of all title to wonder at or complain of her domestic miseries, terrible as they were. She was a finely gifted creature, wasted and tortured by want of discipline, principle and self-knowledge. Adelaide was morally of a far higher order; and when with her, I desired nothing more than that she had seen life through other than the stage medium, and that she had not been a Kemble. She was charming at their own soirées in London, — unobtrusively taking care of and amusing every body, with good nature and simplicity: and she was yet more charming when she sat beside my couch at Tynemouth, singing “Auld Robin Gray” for my pleasure, and manifesting a true womanly sympathy with me, of whom she had personally known nothing except through drawing-room intercourse. It was she who sent me the chief luxury of my sick room, — the “Christus Consolator” of Scheffer, which truly affords study for as many years as I was ill. If, as I understand, she has found happiness in her domestic life, after such triumphs as hers on the stage, the genuine fine quality of her nature is sufficiently proved.

In those days, Eastlake was just home from Italy. He had already left off landscape painting, with which he began. I have hanging up in the next room the engraving which he gave me of his last landscape, — “Byron’s Dream.” He was now producing the early pictures of that short series which, full of charm at first, soon proved how bornés were his resources. The mannerism of his colouring, and the sameness of his female faces, showing that he had but one idea of beauty, could be made evident only by time; and at first there was an exquisite charm in the grace, refinement and delicacy of both conception and execution. Since that time, his function has appeared to be the aiding and support of art by other means than himself painting. I always liked to meet him, — ignorant as I was on the subjects Edition: current; Page: [277] which were most important to him. He condescended to talk to me on them; and there was the wide field of literature in which we had a common interest. Kind and conversible as he was, I always felt that there was a certain amount of cynicism in his views, and scepticism in his temper, which must have interfered with his enjoyment of life. It was not very great, and was chiefly noticeable as being the only drawback on the pleasure of conversation with him. I have seen him only once for nearly twenty years; and that was at a distance in Thackeray’s lecture room, in 1851. I should hardly have known the careworn, aged face, if my attention had not been directed to him: and it gave me pain to see how the old tendency to anxiety and distrust seemed to have issued in care or ill-health, which could so alter a man not yet old. He has done so much for art, and given so much pleasure to society, that one wishes he could have enjoyed the strength and spirits which those who love art as he does should, and generally do, derive from its pursuit. — There was Uwins, in those days, with his sunny Italian groups; and, more recently, Rothwell, whose picture (when unfinished) of “Rich and rare were the gems she wore,” seemed to me wonderfully beautiful: and, among portrait painters, the accomplished and earnest Richmond, — to whom I sat for the only good portrait taken of me.

I seem to have got a long way from the dinner parties which led me into all these sketches; and I will not go back to them; but rather tell a little about the evening engagements which gave variety to my London life. There were blue-stocking evenings, now and then; and I never went twice to any house where I encountered that sort of reception, except the Miss Berrys’, where there was so much to relieve “the blue,” and one was left so freely and pleasantly to be amused, that one’s pride or one’s modesty was safe from offence. By the way, an incident occurred at dinner at Miss Berry’s which I recall with as much astonishment as paralysed me at the moment, and struck me dumb when it was of some importance that I should speak. I have told how a Prime Minister’s daughter was for the first time informed of the Birmingham Church and King riots, when Dr. Edition: current; Page: [278] Priestley’s chapel, house and library were destroyed. A highborn lady betrayed to me, that evening at Miss Berry’s, what her notion, and that of her associates, was of the politics of the liberal party after the passage of the Reform Bill. Lady G. S. W., whose husband, I think, had been in the United States, inquired of me about the prospects of Slavery there. When she seemed surprised at the amount of persecution the abolitionists were undergoing, I attempted to show her how the vicious institution was implicated with the whole policy, and many of the modes, ideas and interests of society there; so that the abolitionists were charged with destructiveness, and regarded by timid persons, whether slaveholders or other, much as people would be among us who should be charged with desiring to overthrow every thing, from the throne to the workhouse. Her reply completely puzzled me for a moment, and then appeared so outrageously wide of the mark that I had not presence of mind to answer it; and the opportunity was presently gone. I wonder whether she really supposed she had given me a check and a set down! “Come now,” said she; “don’t let us talk about that. I want to get this information from you, and we will talk only about what we agree in. You know we shall differ about pulling down, and all that.” Why she talked to me at all if she supposed that I wanted to pull down every thing, from the throne to the workhouse, I can’t imagine. And, if she thought so of me, she must have regarded the then dominant liberals as unredeemed destructives. It is a curious state of mind in the tory aristocracy that such incidents reveal. She seemed otherwise sensible enough; yet she had read my series without finding out that I am for “pulling down” nothing, and quietly superseding what can no longer be endured.

The ancient ladies themselves, the Miss Berrys and their inseparable friend, Lady Charlotte Lindsay, (the youngest daughter of Lord North) whose presence seemed to carry one back almost a century, were the main attraction of those parties. While up to all modern interests, the old-fashioned rouge and pearl-powder, and false hair, and the use of the feminine oaths of a hundred years ago were odd and striking. E.g.: a footman tells his mistress Edition: current; Page: [279] that Lady So-and-so begs she will not wait dinner, as she is drying her shoes which got wet between the carriage and the door. The response is “O! Christ! if she should catch cold! Tell her she is a dear soul, and we would not have her hurry herself for the world, &c., &c.” My mother heard an exclamation at our door, when the carriage door would not open, “My God! I can’t get out!” And so forth, continually. But they were all three so cheerful, so full of knowledge and of sympathy for good ideas, and so evidently fit for higher pursuits than the social pleasures amidst which one met them, that, though their parties were “rather blue,” they were exceedingly agreeable. I had a general invitation to go there, whenever, in passing their house in Mayfair from a dinner party, I saw light over the lower shutters; and they also invited me to spend summer days with them at their Petersham house. I never did this, for want of time; and I went seldom to their evening parties, for the same reason that I seemed to neglect other invitations of the same general kind, — that I was always engaged three or four weeks in advance, by express invitation. When my aged friends perceived this, they gave me express invitations too, and made me fix my own day. The last of the trio, the elder Miss Berry, died in November, 1852. The announcement impelled me to record the associations it excited; and I did so in an obituary memoir of her in the “Daily News.”* My friend Milnes offered his tribute in the form of some charming lines in the “Times,” which show how strong was the natural feeling of concern, on such an occasion, at letting go our hold on the traditions of the last century.

How different were those parties from the express “blue” assemblies of such pedants as Lady Mary Shepherd! She went about accompanied by the fame given her by Mr. Tierney, when he said that there was not another head in England which could encounter hers on the subject of Cause and Effect, and some kindred topics: and it did indeed appear that she was, in relation to the subtlest metaphysical topics, what Mrs. Somerville was to mathematical astronomy. The difference was, — and a Edition: current; Page: [280] bottomless chasm separated the two, — that Mrs. Somerville was occupied with real science, — with the knowable; whereas, Lady Mary Shepherd never dreamed of looking out first for a sound point of view, and therefore wasted her fine analytical powers on things unknowable or purely imaginary. It was a story against her that when in a country house, one fine day, she took her seat in a window, saying in a business-like manner, (to David Ricardo, if I remember rightly,) — “Come, now; let us have a little discussion about Space.” I never went to her house but once. Though I there first made Mr. Milnes’s acquaintance, I never would go again; and I then made my escape as soon as I could. First, I was set down beside Lady Charlotte Bury, and made to undergo, for her satisfaction, a ludicrous examination by Lady Mary, about how I wrote my series, and what I thought of it. Escaping from this, to an opposite sofa, I was boarded by Lady Stepney, who was then, as she boasted, receiving seven hundred pounds apiece for her novels. She paraded a pair of diamond earrings, costing that sum, which she had so earned. She began talking to me on the ground of our mutual acquaintance with Mrs. Opie, who had once been an intimate friend and correspondent of hers. She complained of the inconvenience of Mrs. Opie’s quakerism; and insisted on having my suffrage whether it was not very wrong in people to change their opinions, on account of the inconvenience to their friends. The difficulty in conversing with this extraordinary personage was that she stopped at intervals, to demand an unqualified assent to what she said, while saying things impossible to assent to. She insisted on my believing that “that dreadful Reform in Parliament took place entirely because the dear Duke” of Wellington had not my “moral courage,” and would not carry a trumpet. She told me that the dear Duke assured her himself that if he had heard what had been said from the Treasury-benches, he should never have made that declaration against parliamentary reform which brought it on: and thence it followed, Lady Stepney concluded, that if he had heard what was said behind him, — that is, if he had carried a trumpet, he would have suppressed his declaration; and the rest followed of course. Edition: current; Page: [281] I was so amused at this that I told Lady Durham of it; and she repeated it to her father, then Prime Minister; and then ensued the most amusing part of all. Lord Grey did not apparently take it as a joke on my part, but sent me word, in all seriousness, that there would have been parliamentary reform, sooner or later, if the Duke of Wellington had carried a trumpet! Lady Stepney pointed to a large easy chair at my elbow, and said she supposed I knew for whom that was intended. She was surprised that I did not, and told me that it was for Captain Ross; and that the company assembled were longing for him to come, that they might see the meeting between him and me, and hear what we should say to each other. This determined me to be off; and I kept my eye on the doors, in order to slip away on the entrance of the newest “lion.” It was too early yet to go with any decency. Lady Stepney told me meantime that the Arctic voyagers had gone through hardships such as could never be told: but it only proved (and to this in particular she required my assent) “that the Deity is every where, and more particularly in barren places.” She went on to say how very wrong she thought it to send men into such places, without any better reason than she had ever heard of. “They say it is to discover the North Pole,” she proceeded; “and, by the bye, it is curious that Newton should have come within thirty miles of the North Pole in his discoveries. They say, you know,” and here she looked exceedingly sagacious and amused; “they say that they have found the magnetic pole. But you and I know what a magnet is, very well. We know that a little thing like that would be pulled out of its place in the middle of the sea.” When I reported this conversation to my mother, we determined to get one of this lady’s novels immediately, and see what she could write that would sell for seven hundred pounds. If she was to be believed as to this, it really was a curious sign of the times. I never saw any of her books, after all. I can hardly expect to be believed about the anecdote of the magnet (which I imagine she took to be a little red horse-shoe;) and I had some difficulty in believing it myself, at the moment: but I have given her very words. And they were no joke. She Edition: current; Page: [282] shook her head-dress of marabout feathers and black bugles with her excitement as she talked. I got away before Captain Ross appeared, and never went to the house again, except to drop a card before I left London.

Some people may be disposed to turn round upon me with the charge of giving blue-stocking parties. I believe that to blue-stocking people my soirées might have that appearance, because they looked through blue spectacles: but I can confidently say that, not only were my parties as diverse in quality as I could make them, — always including many who were not literary; but I took particular care that no one was in any way shown off, but all treated with equal respect as guests. My rooms were too small for personages who required space for display: and such were not therefore invited. A gentleman who expected a sofa all to himself, while a crowd of adorers simpered in his face, was no guest for a simple evening party in a small house: nor a lady who needed a corner in which to confide her troubles with her husband; nor for another who hung her white hand over the arm of her chair, and lectured metaphysically and sentimentally about art, to the annoyance of true connoisseurs who felt that while she was exposing herself, she was misleading others who knew no more about the real thing than she did. Nor had I a place for rouged and made up old ladies who paraded literary flirtations in the style of half a century ago. Such were not therefore invited. I was too nervous about having parties at all to introduce any persons who might be disagreeable to people of better manners. All I ventured upon was to invite those who knew what to expect, and could stay away if they liked. What they had to expect was tea below stairs, and ices, cake and wine during the evening, with a very choice assembly of guests who did not mind a little crowding, for the sake of the conversation they afforded each other. I became more at ease when I found that all whom I invited always came: a test which satisfied me that they liked to come.

I have particularised only well known persons: but it must be understood that these were not my intimates, or most valued acquaintances. If they had been intimate friends, I could not Edition: current; Page: [283] have characterised them. There were three or four houses where I went freely for rest and recreation; families too near and dear to me to be described in detail. There were country houses where I went every week or two, to meet pleasant little dinner parties, and to sleep, for the enjoyment of country air and quiet. Such as these were the H. Bellenden Kers’, whose Swiss Cottage at Cheshunt was a sort of home to me: and the Porters’, first at Norwood, and then on Putney Heath: and then the Huttons’ at Putney Park; and the Fishers’ at Highbury: and the Potters’ at Notting Hill: and the Marshes’ at Kilburn: and the Hensleigh Wedgwoods; in their Clapham home first, and then in Regent’s Park: and my old friend, Mrs. Reid’s, in Regent’s Park: beside my own relations. All these were home houses to me; — each a refuge from the wear and tear of my busy life, and from the incessant siege of lion-hunting strangers. One yearly holiday was especially refreshing to me. With the first fine weather in May, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher and I used to go, for a few days or a week, to Boxhill, or Godstone, or some other pretty place not too far off, and carry a book or two, and lie on the grass, or ramble among hills, commons or lanes, as if we had nothing to do; and I never came home without fresh spirits for my work, and valuable suggestions about new efforts. With them I planned or thought of some of my tales: with them I discussed “Deer-brook,” the week before I began it, though Mrs. Ker was my great confidante during its progress. I spent a month or more of every summer with her at her Swiss Cottage; and a month of luxury it always was, — well as my work proceeded in my own “den” there.

I was spending a couple of days at Mrs. Marsh’s, when she asked me whether I would let her read to me “one or two little stories” which she had written. From her way of speaking of them, and from her devotion to her children, who were then for the most part very young, I concluded these to be children’s tales. She ordered a fire in her room, and there we shut ourselves up for the reading. What she read was no child’s story, but “The Admiral’s Daughter.” My amazement may be conceived. We were going to dine at the Wedgwoods’: and a Edition: current; Page: [284] strange figure we must have cut there; for we had been crying so desperately that there was no concealing the marks of it. Mrs. Marsh asked me what I thought of getting her tales published. I offered to try if, on reading the manuscript at home, I thought as well of it as after her own most moving delivery of it. A second reading left no doubt on my mind; and I had the pleasure of introducing the “Two Old Men’s Tales” to the world through Messrs. Saunders and Otley, from whom, as from the rest of the world, the author’s name was withheld as long as possible. Mr. Marsh made this the condition of our attempt: a condition which we thought perfectly reasonable in the father of many daughters, who did not wish their mother to be known as the author of what the world might consider second-rate novels. That the world did not consider them second-rate was immediately apparent; and the reason for secrecy existed no longer. But no one ever knew or guessed the authorship through my mother or me, who were for a considerable time the only possessors of the secret. From that time Mrs. Marsh managed her own affairs; and I never again saw her works till they were published. I mention this because, as I never concealed from her, I think her subsequent works very inferior to the first: and I think it a pity that she did not rest on the high and well deserved fame which she immediately obtained. The singular magnificence of that tale was not likely to be surpassed: but I have always wished that she had either stopped entirely, or had given herself time to do justice to her genius. From the time of the publication of the “Two Old Men’s Tales” to the present hour, I have never once, as far as I remember, succeeded in getting another manuscript published for any body. This has been a matter of great concern to me: but such is the fact. I have never had to make any proposal of the kind for myself, — having always had a choice of publishers before my works were ready; but I have striven hard on behalf of others, and without the slightest success.

No kind of evening was more delightful to me than those which were spent with the Carlyles. About once a fortnight, a mutual friend of theirs and mine drove me over to Chelsea, to Edition: current; Page: [285] the early tea table at number five, Cheyne Row, — the house which Carlyle was perpetually complaining of and threatening to leave, but where he is still to be found. I never believed that, considering the delicate health of both, they could ever flourish on that Chelsea clay, close to the river; and I rejoiced when the term of lease had nearly expired, and my friends were looking out for another house. If they were living in a “cauldron” and a “Babel,” it seemed desirable that they should find an airy quiet home in the country, — near enough to London to enjoy its society at pleasure. Carlyle went forth, on the fine black horse which a friend had sent him with sanitary views, and looked about him. Forth he went, his wife told me, with three maps of Great Britain and two of the World in his pocket, to explore the area within twenty miles of London. All their friends were on the look out; and I, from my sick chamber at Tynemouth, sent them earnest entreaties to settle on a gravelly soil: but old habit prevailed, and the philosopher renewed the lease, and set to work to make for himself a noise-proof chamber, where his fretted nerves might possibly obtain rest amidst the London “Babel.” I like the house for no other reason than that I spent many very pleasant evenings in it: but it has now become completely associated with the marvellous talk of both husband and wife. There we met Mazzini, when he was exerting himself for the education of the Italians in London, and before he entered openly on the career of insurrection by which he has since become the most notorious man in Europe. I entirely believe in all that his adorers say of the noble qualities of his heart and temper. I can quite understand how it is that some of those who know him best believe him to be the best man in existence. There is no doubt whatever of his devotedness, his magnanimity, his absolute disinterestedness. But the more, and not the less, for all this does his career seem to me almost the saddest spectacle of our time. He is an ideologist who will preach for ever in a mood of exaltation and a style of fustian, without being listened to by any but those who do not need his incitements. Insurrection is too serious a matter to be stirred up by turgid appeals like his, vague and irreducible to Edition: current; Page: [286] the concrete. Accordingly, here are twenty years since I knew him gone by without success or the prospect of it. His beacon fire blazed longer at Rome than any where: but it went out; and it left in ashes many a glorious relic from ancient times, and the peace of many households. The slaughter of patriots from abortive insurrections has gone on through a long course of years, till, if Mazzini’s heart is not broken, many others are; and the day of an Italian republic seems further off than ever. To Mazzini it seems always at hand, as the Millennium seems to Robert Owen; but I cannot find that any one else who knows the Italians has the least belief that, as a people, they desire a republic, or that the small minority who do could ever agree to the terms of any republican constitution, or maintain it if established. His career will be, I fear, as it has hitherto been, one of failure; and of failure so disastrous as to set it above every other vie manquée. When I knew him, face to face, these purposes of his were growing in silence. His still, patient, grave countenance was that of a man who had suffered much, and could endure to any extremity: but I could not have supposed that experience and experiment could have been so lost on him as they appear to have been. His self-will was not the less strong for his disinterestedness, it appears; and it has taken possession of his intellect, causing him to believe, with a fatal confidence, what he wishes. When we consider how Sardinia has advanced, during the whole period of Mazzini’s bloody and fruitless struggles, and how that State is now a striking spectacle of growing civil and religious liberty, while Mazzini, with his perfect plots, his occult armies, his buried arms and ammunition, his own sufferings and dangers, and his holocaust of victims, has aggravated the tyranny of Austria, and rendered desperate the cause of his countrymen, we can hardly help wishing that his own devotedness had met with acceptance, and that the early sacrifice of his life had spared that of hundreds of his followers who are wept by thousands more.

Another vie manquée was before my eyes at the Carlyles’. John Sterling was then in the midst of his conflicts of all sorts, — with bad health, with the solemn pity and covert reprobation Edition: current; Page: [287] of orthodox friends and patrons, and with his own restless excitement about authorship. I cannot say that I knew him at all; for I never heard the sound of his voice. When we met at the tea table, he treated me like a chair; and so pointed was his rude ignoring of me that there was nothing to be done but for Carlyle to draw off apart with him after tea, while the rest of us talked on the other side of the room. When our meetings were over, — when I was on my couch at Tynemouth, and he was trying to breathe in Devonshire, he suddenly changed his mind, on meeting with “Deerbrook,” and was as anxious to obtain my acquaintance as he had been to avoid it. Supposing me to be at Teignmouth, and therefore within reach, he wrote to Mrs. Carlyle to ask whether it was too late, or whether she would sanction his going to Teignmouth to ask my friendship. I should have been very happy to hear the voice belonging to the striking face and head I knew so well: but it was too late. The length of the kingdom lay between us; and before I emerged from my sick-room, he was in his grave. I am glad I saw him, whatever he might have been thinking of me; (and what it was I have not the remotest idea:) for I retain a strong impression of his noble head and vital countenance.

Another memorable head was there, now and then. Leigh Hunt was there, with his cheery face, bright, acute, and full of sensibility; and his thick grizzled hair combed down smooth, and his homely figure; — black handkerchief, grey stockings and stout shoes, while he was full of gratitude to ladies who dress in winter in velvet, and in rich colours; and to old dames in the streets or the country who still wear scarlet cloaks. His conversation was lively, rapid, highly illustrative, and perfectly natural. I remember one evening when Horne was there (the author of “Orion,” &c.) wishing that the three heads, — Hunt’s, Horne’s and Carlyle’s, — could be sketched in a group. Horne’s perfectly white complexion, and somewhat coxcombical curling whiskers and determined picturesqueness contrasted curiously with the homely manliness of Hunt’s fine countenance, and the rugged face, steeped in genius, of Carlyle. I have seen Carlyle’s face under all aspects, from the deepest gloom to the most reckless Edition: current; Page: [288] or most genial mirth; and it seemed to me that each mood would make a totally different portrait. The sympathetic is by far the finest, in my eyes. His excess of sympathy has been, I believe, the master-pain of his life. He does not know what to do with it, and with its bitterness, seeing that human life is full of pain to those who look out for it: and the savageness which has come to be a main characteristic of this singular man is, in my opinion, a mere expression of his intolerable sympathy with the suffering. He cannot express his love and pity in natural acts, like other people; and it shows itself too often in unnatural speech. But to those who understand his eyes, his shy manner, his changing colour, his sigh, and the constitutional pudeur which renders him silent about every thing that he feels the most deeply, his wild speech and abrupt manner are perfectly intelligible. I have felt to the depths of my heart what his sympathy was in my days of success and prosperity and apparent happiness without drawback; and again in sickness, pain, and hopelessness of being ever at ease again: I have observed the same strength of feeling towards all manner of sufferers; and I am confident that Carlyle’s affections are too much for him, and the real cause of the “ferocity” with which he charges himself, and astonishes others. It must be such a strong love and honour as his friends feel for him that can compensate for the pain of witnessing his suffering life. When I knew him familiarly, he rarely slept, was wofully dyspeptic, and as variable as possible in mood. When my friend and I entered the little parlour at Cheyne Row, our host was usually miserable. Till he got his coffee, he asked a list of questions, without waiting for answers, and looked as if he was on the rack. After tea, he brightened and softened, and sent us home full of admiration and friendship, and sometimes with a hope that he would some day be happy. It was our doing, — that friend’s and mine, — that he gave lectures for three or four seasons. He had matter to utter; and there were many who wished to hear him; and in those days, before his works had reached their remunerative point of sale, the earnings by his lectures could not be unacceptable. So we confidently proceeded, taking the management of the Edition: current; Page: [289] arrangements, and leaving Carlyle nothing to do but to meet his audience, and say what he had to say. Whenever I went, my pleasure was a good deal spoiled by his unconcealable nervousness. Yellow as a guinea, with downcast eyes, broken speech at the beginning, and fingers which nervously picked at the desk before him, he could not for a moment be supposed to enjoy his own effort; and the lecturer’s own enjoyment is a prime element of success. The merits of Carlyle’s discourses were however so great that he might probably have gone on year after year till this time, with improving success, and perhaps ease: but the struggle was too severe. From the time that his course was announced till it was finished, he scarcely slept, and he grew more dyspeptic and nervous every day; and we were at length entreated to say no more about his lecturing, as no fame and no money or other advantage could counterbalance the misery which the engagement caused him. — I remember being puzzled for a long while as to whether Carlyle did or did not care for fame. He was for ever scoffing at it; and he seemed to me just the man to write because he needed to utter himself, without ulterior considerations. One day I was dining there alone. I had brought over from America twenty-five copies of his “Sartor Resartus,” as reprinted there; and, having sold them at the English price, I had some money to put into his hand. I did put it into his hand the first time: but it made him uncomfortable, and he spent it in a pair of signet rings, for his wife and me, (her motto being “Point de faiblesse,” and mine “Frisch zu!”) This would never do; so, having imported and sold a second parcel, the difficulty was what to do with the money. My friend and I found that Carlyle was ordered weak brandy and water instead of wine; and we spent our few sovereigns in French brandy of the best quality, which we carried over one evening, when going to tea. Carlyle’s amusement and delight at first, and all the evening after, whenever he turned his eyes towards the long-necked bottles, showed us that we had made a good choice. He declared that he had got a reward for his labours at last: and his wife asked me to dinner, all by myself, to taste the brandy. We three sat round the fire after dinner, Edition: current; Page: [290] and Carlyle mixed the toddy while Mrs. Carlyle and I discussed some literary matters, and speculated on fame and the love of it. Then Carlyle held out a glass of his mixture to me with, “Here, — take this. It is worth all the fame in England.” Yet Allan Cunningham, who knew and loved him well, told me one evening, to my amazement, that Carlyle would be very well, and happy enough, if he got a little more fame. I asked him whether he was in earnest; and he said he was, and moreover sure that he was right; — I should see that he was. Carlyle’s fame has grown from that day; and on the whole his health and spirits seem to be improved, so that his friend Allan was partly right. But I am certain that there are constitutional sources of pain (aggravated, no doubt, by excess in study in his youth) which have nothing to do with love of fame, or any other self-regards.

In 1837, he came to me to ask how he should manage, if he accepted a proposal from Fraser to publish his pieces as a collection of “Miscellanies.” After discussing the money part of the business, I begged him to let me undertake the proof-correcting, — supposing of course that the pieces were to be simply reprinted. He nearly agreed to let me do this, but afterwards changed his mind. The reason for my offer was that the sight of his proofs had more than once really alarmed me, — so irresolute, as well as fastidious, did he seem to be as to the expression of his plainest thoughts. Almost every other word was altered; and revise followed upon revise. I saw at once that this way of proceeding must be very harassing to him; and also that profit must be cut off to a most serious degree by this absurdly expensive method of printing. I told him that it would turn out just so if he would not allow his “Miscellanies” to be reprinted just as they stood, in the form in which people had admired, and now desired to possess them. As might be expected, the printing went on very slowly, and there seemed every probability that this simple reprint would stand over to another season. One day, while in my study, I heard a prodigious sound of laughter on the stairs; and in came Carlyle, laughing loud. He had been laughing in that manner all the Edition: current; Page: [291] way from the printing-office in Charing Cross. As soon as he could, he told me what it was about. He had been to the office to urge on the printer: and the man said “Why, Sir, you really are so very hard upon us with your corrections! They take so much time, you see!” After some remonstrance, Carlyle observed that he had been accustomed to this sort of thing, — that he had got works printed in Scotland, and ........ “Yes, indeed, Sir,” interrupted the printer. “We are aware of that. We have a man here from Edinburgh; and when he took up a bit of your copy, he dropped it as if it had burnt his fingers, and cried out ‘Lord have mercy! have you got that man to print for? Lord knows when we shall get done, — with all his corrections!’ ” Carlyle could not reply for laughing, and he came to tell me that I was not singular in my opinion about his method of revising.

He has now been very long about his “Frederick the Great,” which I must, therefore, like a good many more, die without seeing. I could never grow tired of his biographies. From the time when I first knew him, I am not aware that he has advanced in any views, or grown riper in his conclusions; and his mind has always seemed to me as inaccessible as Wordsworth’s, or any other constitutionally isolated like theirs: and therefore it is that I prefer to an outpouring of his own notions, which we have heard as often as he has written didactically, and which were best conveyed in his “Sartor Resartus,” a commentary on a character, as in biography, or on events, as in a history. For many reasons, I prefer his biographies. I do not think that he can do any more effectual work in the field of philosophy or morals: but I enjoy an occasional addition to the fine gallery of portraits which he has given us. I am now too much out of the world to know what is the real condition of his fame and influence: but, for my own part, I could not read his Latter Day Pamphlets, while heartily enjoying his Life of his friend Sterling, and, in the main, his “Cromwell.” No one can read his “Cromwell” without longing for his “Frederick the Great:” and I hope he will achieve that portrait, and others after it. However much or little he may yet do, he certainly ought to Edition: current; Page: [292] be recognised as one of the chief influences of his time. Bad as is our political morality, and grievous as are our social shortcomings, we are at least awakened to a sense of our sins: and I cannot but ascribe this awakening mainly to Carlyle. What Wordsworth did for poetry, in bringing us out of a conventional idea and method to a true and simple one, Carlyle has done for morality. He may be himself the most curious opposition to himself, — he may be the greatest mannerist of his age while denouncing conventionalism, — the greatest talker while eulogising silence, — the most woful complainer while glorifying fortitude, — the most uncertain and stormy in mood, while holding forth serenity as the greatest good within the reach of Man: but he has nevertheless infused into the mind of the English nation a sincerity, earnestness, healthfulness and courage which can be appreciated only by those who are old enough to tell what was our morbid state when Byron was the representative of our temper, the Clapham Church of our religion, and the rotten-borough system of our political morality. If I am warranted in believing that the society I am bidding farewell to is a vast improvement upon that which I was born into, I am confident that the blessed change is attributable to Carlyle more than to any single influence besides.

My mornings were, as I have said, reserved for work; and the occasions were very rare when I allowed any encroachment on the hours before two o’clock. Now and then, however, it was necessary; as when the Royal Academy Exhibition opened, and I really could not go, except at the early hour when scarcely any body else was there. The plain truth is that I was so stared at and followed in those days that I had not courage to go (indicated by my trumpet) to public places at their fullest time. Even at the Somerset House Exhibition, in the early morning, when the floors were still wet with watering, I was sure to be discovered and followed. There was a party, I remember, who so pushed upon me, and smiled at me under my bonnet (having recognised me by Evans’s portrait on the wall) that my mother exercised her sarcastic spirit with some effect. She said to me, after many vain attempts to get away from the grinning group, Edition: current; Page: [293] — “Harriet, these ladies seem to have some business with us. Shall we ask them how we can be of any service to them?” By Mr. Macready’s kindness, we escaped this annoyance at the theatre, where we spent many a pleasant evening. He gave us the stage box, whenever we chose to ask for it; and there my mother, whose sight was failing, could see, and I, deaf as I was, could hear; and nobody saw us behind our curtain, so that we could go in our warm morning dress, and be as free and easy as if we were at home. This was one of my very greatest pleasures, — Macready’s interpretation of Shakspere being as high an intellectual treat as I know of.

I have mentioned Evans’s portrait of me, — of which Sir A. Calcott said to me, “What are your friends about to allow that atrocity to hang there?” We could not help it. Mr. Evans was introduced to me by a mutual acquaintance, on the ground that he was painting portraits for a forthcoming work, and wanted mine. I could not have refused without downright surliness; but it appeared afterwards that the artist had other views. I sat to him as often as he wished, though I heartily disliked the attitude, which was one in which I certainly was never seen. The worst misfortune, however, was that he went on painting and painting at the portrait, long after I had ceased to sit, — the result of which was that the picture came out the “atrocity” that Calcott called it. The artist hawked it about for sale, some years after; and I hope nobody bought it; for my family would be sorry that it should be taken for a representation of me. While on this subject, I must say that I have been not very well used in this matter of portraits. It signifies little now that Mr. Richmond’s admirable portrait, and the engraving from it exist to show what I really look like: but before that, my family were rather disturbed at the “atrocities” issued, without warrant, as likenesses of me; and especially by Miss Gillies, who covered the land for a course of years with supposed likenesses of me, in which there was, (as introduced strangers always exclaimed) “not the remotest resemblance.” I sat to Miss Gillies for (I think) a miniature, at her own request, in 1832; and from a short time after that, she never saw me again. Edition: current; Page: [294] Yet she continued, almost every year, to put out new portraits of me, — each bigger, more vulgar and more monstrous than the last, till some of my relations, having seen those of the “People’s Journal” and the “New Spirit of the Age” wrote to me to ask whether the process could not be put a stop to, as certainly no person had any business to issue so-called portraits without the sanction of myself or my family, and without even applying to see me after the lapse of a dozen years. The drollest thing was to see the Editor of the “People’s Journal,” when we first met. He had been complacent and gratified, as he told me, about presenting a likeness of me in the Journal; on which I had made no observation, as it could answer no purpose to object when the thing was done. When we did meet, his first words were, as he sank back on the sofa, — “Ma’am, the portrait! There is not the remotest resemblance!”

I think there were fourteen or fifteen bad portraits before Mr. Richmond’s good one was obtained. I need not say that their fabrication was a disagreeable process to me. That is of course: but I could not prevent them. For some I did not sit: in other cases, I really could not help myself. I refused to sit; but the artists came, with easel and implements, and established themselves in a corner of my study, requesting me to go on with my work, and forget that they were there. The only one besides Richmond’s, and Miss Gillies’s first, that has been liked by any body, as far as I know, is Osgood’s, taken in America. I do not myself think it good. It is too good-looking by far; and the attitude is melodramatic. But it is like some of my relations, and therefore probably more or less like me. All the rest are, we think, good for less than nothing. — Two casts have been taken of my head; one in 1833, and one in 1853. They were taken purely for phrenological purposes. As I have bequeathed my skull and brain, for the same objects, I should not have thought it necessary to have a second cast taken, (to verify the changes made by time) but for the danger of accident which might frustrate my arrangements. I might die by drowning at sea; or by a railway smash, which would destroy the head: so I made all sure by having a cast taken, not long before my last illness began.

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It may be as well to explain here some transactions which might appear strange, if their reasons and their course were not understood. At the time of my removal to London, the special horror of the day was the Burke and Hare murders; and all wits were set to work to devise a remedy for the scarcity of bodies for dissection which bred such phenomena as the Burkes and Hares. The mischief was that the only authorised supply was from the gallows; and disgrace was added to the natural dislike of the idea of dissection. Good citizens set to work in various ways to dissolve the association of disgrace with post mortem dissection. Some sold the reversion of their bodies; and others followed Bentham’s example of leaving his body for dissection, by an express provision of his will. I, being likely to outlive my only remaining parent, and to have no nearer connexion, did this, when my new earnings obliged me to make a new will in 1832. The passage of Mr. Warburton’s bill, and its success, relieved the necessity of the case; and in my next will, the arrangement was omitted. This was one of the transactions I referred to. The next was much later in date. When I found that, easy as it is to procure brains and skulls, it is not easy to obtain those of persons whose minds are well known, so that it is rather a rare thing to be able to compare manifestations with structure, I determined to do what I could to remedy the difficulty by bequeathing my skull and brain to the ablest phrenologist I knew of; and this I did in the will rendered necessary by the acquisition of my Ambleside property. Soon after that will was made, I received a letter from Mr. Toynbee, the well-known benevolent surgeon, enclosing a note of introduction from a mutual friend, and going straight to the point on which he wished to address me. He laid before me the same consideration in regard to cases of deafness that I have set down above in connexion with phrenology generally, saying that it is easy enough to obtain the skulls of deaf persons, in order to study the structure of the ear; and it is very easy to meet with deaf people in life; but it is very difficult to obtain the defunct ears of persons whose deafness has been a subject of observation during life. He therefore requested me to leave him a legacy of my ears. He added a Edition: current; Page: [296] few words, in explanation of his plain speaking, about the amount of mischief and misery caused by the ignorance of surgeons in regard to the ear; an ignorance which can be removed only by such means as he proposed. I was rather amused when I caught myself in a feeling of shame, as it were, at having only one pair of ears; — at having no duplicate for Mr. Toynbee after having disposed otherwise of my skull. I told him how the matter stood; and my legatee and he met, to ascertain whether one head could in any way be made to answer both their objects. It could not be, and Mr. Toynbee could not be gratified. I called on him in London afterwards, and showed him as much as he could see while I was alive: and he showed me his wonderful collection of preparations, by which malformation and impaired structure of the ear are already largely illustrated. This is the other transaction which I referred to, and which may as well be distinctly understood, as I do not at all pride myself on doing odd things which may jar upon people’s natural feelings.

Two or three times during my residence in London, I was requested to allow my head to be pronounced upon by professional phrenologists, under precautions against their knowing who I was. I entirely disapprove, and always did, that summary way of deciding on the characters of utter strangers, whose very curiosity is a kind of evidence of their not being in a state to hear the sober truth; while the imperfect knowledge of the structure of the brain at that time, and our present certainty of the complexity of its action, must obviate all probability of an accurate judgment being formed. At the time I speak of, every body was going to Deville, to see his collection of bronzes, and to sit down under his hands, and hear their own characters, — for which they paid down their half-sovereigns, and came away, elated or amused. Among those who so went was a remarkable trio, — of whom Lord Lansdowne and Sydney Smith were two; and I think, but am not sure, that Jeffrey was the third. They went on foot, and avoided naming each other, and passed for ordinary visitors. Lord Lansdowne, to whom was consigned at that time, on account of his aptitude for detail, all the small troublesome business of the Cabinet which every body else was Edition: current; Page: [297] glad to escape, was pronounced by Deville to be liable to practical failure at every turn by his tendency to lose himself in the abstract, and neglect particulars. What he said to Jeffrey (if Jeffrey it was) I forget; but it was something which amused his companions excessively. “This gentleman’s case,” said Deville of Sydney Smith, “is clear enough. His faculties are those of a naturalist, and I see that he gratifies them. This gentleman is always happy, among his collections of birds and of fishes.” “Sir,” said Sydney Smith, turning round upon him solemnly, with wide open eyes, “I don’t know a fish from a bird.” Of about the same accuracy was Deville’s judgment of me. We were a large party, — seven or eight, — of whom my mother was one, and three others were acquaintances of Deville’s. It was agreed that his friends should take the rest of us, as if to see the bronzes; that I should hide my trumpet in a bag, and that nobody should name me (or my mother) or speak to me as to a deaf person. We were certain to be invited by Deville, they said, to hear a little address on Phrenology; and he would then propose to pronounce on the character of any one of the company. I was instructed to take my seat at the end of the group, nearest Deville’s right hand, and to take off my bonnet at a certain signal. All went exactly as foreseen. For some time, the party listened gravely enough to the oracle which I heard mumbling above my head; but at length all burst into a roar of laughter. Mr. Deville pronounced that my life must be one of great suffering, because it was a life of constant failure through timidity. I could never accomplish any thing, through my remarkable deficiency in both physical and moral courage. My mother then observed that it was so far true that I was the most timid child she had ever known. Satisfied with this, Deville proceeded. Amidst some truer things, he said I had wit. Some very properly denied this; but one exclaimed, “Well, I say that any one who has read Miss Martineau’s poor-law tale .........” And now the murder was out. Deville was much discomposed, — said it was not fair, — desired to do it all over again, — to come to our house and try, and so forth: but we told him that the whole proceeding was spontaneous on his own part, and that he had Edition: current; Page: [298] better leave the matter where it was. An amended judgment could not be worth any thing. — Another time, I went with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. F., to call on Mr. Holm the Phrenologist. They had some acquaintance with him, and had an appointment with him, to have him pronounce on Mrs. F.’s head. Mrs. F. thought this a good opportunity to obtain an opinion of my case; and I therefore accompanied her, — no trumpet visible, and no particular notice being taken of me. Mr. Holm pronounced my genius to be for millinery. He said that it was clear, by such and such tokens, that I was always on the look out for tasteful bonnets and caps: and that, my attention being fixed on one at a shop window, I should go home and attempt to make one like it; and should succeed. Such was the sum and substance of his judgment. I afterwards, at his request, attended a few private lectures of his, in a class of three members, the other two being the Duke of Somerset and Rammohun Roy. I really used to pity the lecturer when, from the brain or cast which he held in his hand, he glanced at the heads of his pupils: for the Duke of Somerset had a brown wig, coming down low on his forehead: Rammohun Roy had his turban just above his eyebrows; and I, of course, had my bonnet. No one who knows me will suppose that in thus speaking of so-called phrenologists and their empirical practices, I am in the slightest degree reflecting on that department of physiological science. It is because such empirical practice is insulting and injurious to true science that I record my own experience of it. The proceedings of the fortune-telling oracles, which pronounce for fees, are no more like those of true and philosophical students of the brain than the shows of itinerant chemical lecturers, who burned blue lights, and made explosions, and electrified people half a century ago are like the achievements of a Davy or a Faraday.

One of my rare morning expeditions was to see Coleridge, at his Highgate residence. I cannot remember on what introduction I went, nor whether I went alone: but I remember a kind reception by Mr. and Mrs. Gilman, and by Coleridge himself. I was a great admirer of him as a poet then, as I am, to a more limited extent, now. If I had thought of the man then as I Edition: current; Page: [299] have been compelled by Cottle’s Life to think of him since, I should not have enacted the hypocrisy of going to see him, in the mode practiced by his worshippers. In these days, when it is a sort of fashion among wise men of all opinions to insist upon the disconnexion of religion and morals, one may have a strong sympathy with a man or a writer of eloquent religious sensibilities, even if his moral views or conduct may be unsatisfactory. But then, the religious eloquence must be of a sounder intellectual quality than Coleridge’s appears to me to be. In truth, I do not know how to escape the persuasion that Coleridge was laughing in his sleeve while writing some of the characteristic pieces which his adorers go into raptures about. A great deal of cloud beauty there is in the climate and atmosphere of his religious writings; and if his disciples would not attempt to make this charm, and his marvellous subtlety, go for more than they are worth, one could have no objection to any amount of admiration they could enjoy from such a source. But those who feel as strongly as I do the irreverence and vanity of making the most solemn and sacred subjects an opportunity for intellectual self indulgence, for paradox, and word-play and cloud-painting, and cocoon-spinning out of one’s own interior, will feel certain that the prophecied immortality of Coleridge will be not so much that of his writings as of himself, as an extreme specimen of the tendencies of our metaphysical period, which, being itself but a state of transition, can permit no immortality to its special products but as historical types of its characteristics and tendencies. If Coleridge should be remembered, it will be as a warning, — as much in his philosophical as his moral character. — Such is my view of him now. Twenty years ago I regarded him as poet, — in his “Friend” as much as his verse. He was, to be sure, a most remarkable looking personage, as he entered the room, and slowly approached and greeted me. He looked very old, with his rounded shoulders and drooping head, and excessively thin limbs. His eyes were as wonderful as they were ever represented to be; — light grey, extremely prominent, and actually glittering: an appearance I am told common among opium eaters. His onset amused me not a little. He told me Edition: current; Page: [300] that he (the last person whom I should have suspected) read my tales as they came out on the first of the month; and, after paying some compliments, he avowed that there were points on which we differed: (I was full of wonder that there were any on which we agreed:) “for instance,” said he, “you appear to consider that society is an aggregate of individuals!” I replied that I certainly did: whereupon he went off on one of the several metaphysical interpretations which may be put upon the manysided fact of an organised human society, subject to natural laws in virtue of its aggregate character and organisation together. After a long flight in survey of society from his own balloon in his own current, he came down again to some considerations of individuals, and at length to some special biographical topics, ending with criticisms on old biographers, whose venerable works he brought down from the shelf. No one else spoke, of course, except when I once or twice put a question; and when his monologue came to what seemed a natural stop, I rose to go. I am glad to have seen his weird face, and heard his dreamy voice; and my notion of possession, prophecy, — of involuntary speech from involuntary brain action, has been clearer since. Taking the facts of his life together with his utterance, I believe the philosophy and moralising of Coleridge to be much like the action of Babbage’s machine; and his utterance to be about equal in wonder to the numerical results given out by the mechanician’s instrument. Some may think that the philosophical and theological expression has more beauty than the numerical, and some may not: but all will agree that the latter issues from sound premises, while few will venture to say that the other has any reliable basis at all. Coleridge appears to me to have been constitutionally defective in will, in conscientiousness and in apprehension of the real and true, while gifted or cursed with inordinate reflective and analogical faculties, as well as prodigious word power. Hence his success as an instigator of thought in others, and as a talker and writer; while utterly failing in his apprehension of truth, and in the conduct of his life.

The mention of Coleridge reminds me, I hardly know why, of Godwin, who was an occasional morning visitor of mine. I Edition: current; Page: [301] looked upon him as a curious monument of a bygone state of society; and there was still a good deal that was interesting about him. His fine head was striking, and his countenance remarkable. It must not be judged of by the pretended likeness put forth in Fraser’s Magazine about that time, and attributed, with the whole set, to Maclise, then a young man, and, one would think, in great need of one sort or another, if he could lend himself to the base method of caricaturing shown in those sketches. The high Tory favourites of the Magazine were exhibited to the best advantage; while Liberals were represented as Godwin was. Because the finest thing about him was his noble head, they put on a hat: and they presented him in profile because he had lost his teeth, and his lips fell in. No notion of Godwin’s face could be formed from that caricature: and I fear there was no other portrait, after the one corresponding to the well-known portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft. It was not for her sake that I desired to know Godwin; for, with all the aid from the admiration with which her memory was regarded in my childhood, and from my own disposition to honour all promoters of the welfare and improvement of Woman, I never could reconcile my mind to Mary Wollstonecraft’s writings, or to whatever I heard of her. It seemed to me, from the earliest time when I could think on the subject of Woman’s Rights and condition, that the first requisite to advancement is the self-reliance which results from self-discipline. Women who would improve the condition and chances of their sex must, I am certain, be not only affectionate and devoted, but rational and dispassionate, with the devotedness of benevolence, and not merely of personal love. But Mary Wollstonecraft was, with all her powers, a poor victim of passion, with no control over her own peace, and no calmness or content except when the needs of her individual nature were satisfied. I felt, forty years ago, in regard to her, just what I feel now in regard to some of the most conspicuous denouncers of the wrongs of women at this day; — that their advocacy of Woman’s cause becomes mere detriment, precisely in proportion to their personal reasons for unhappiness, unless they have fortitude enough (which loud complainants usually Edition: current; Page: [302] have not) to get their own troubles under their feet, and leave them wholly out of the account in stating the state of their sex. Nobody can be further than I am from being satisfied with the condition of my own sex, under the law and custom of my own country; but I decline all fellowship and co-operation with women of genius or otherwise favourable position, who injure the cause by their personal tendencies. When I see an eloquent writer insinuating to every body who comes across her that she is the victim of her husband’s carelessness and cruelty, while he never spoke in his own defence: when I see her violating all good taste by her obtrusiveness in society, and oppressing every body about her by her epicurean selfishnesss every day, while raising in print an eloquent cry on behalf of the oppressed; I feel, to the bottom of my heart, that she is the worst enemy of the cause she professes to plead. The best friends of that cause are women who are morally as well as intellectually competent to the most serious business of life, and who must be clearly seen to speak from conviction of the truth, and not from personal unhappiness. The best friends of the cause are the happy wives and the busy, cheerful, satisfied single women, who have no injuries of their own to avenge, and no painful vacuity or mortification to relieve. The best advocates are yet to come, — in the persons of women who are obtaining access to real social business, — the female physicians and other professors in America, the women of business and the female artists of France; and the hospital administrators, the nurses, the educators and substantially successful authors of our own country. Often as I am appealed to to speak, or otherwise assist in the promotion of the cause of Woman, my answer is always the same: — that women, like men, can obtain whatever they show themselves fit for. Let them be educated, — let their powers be cultivated to the extent for which the means are already provided, and all that is wanted or ought to be desired will follow of course. Whatever a woman proves herself able to do, society will be thankful to see her do, — just as if she were a man. If she is scientific, science will welcome her, as it has welcomed every woman so qualified. I believe no scientific woman complains of wrongs. Edition: current; Page: [303] If capable of political thought and action, women will obtain even that. I judge by my own case. The time has not come which certainly will come, when women who are practically concerned in political life will have a voice in making the laws which they have to obey; but every woman who can think and speak wisely, and bring up her children soundly, in regard to the rights and duties of society, is advancing the time when the interests of women will be represented, as well as those of men. I have no vote at elections, though I am a tax-paying housekeeper and responsible citizen; and I regard the disability as an absurdity, seeing that I have for a long course of years influenced public affairs to an extent not professed or attempted by many men. But I do not see that I could do much good by personal complaints, which always have some suspicion or reality of passion in them. I think the better way is for us all to learn and to try to the utmost what we can do, and thus to win for ourselves the consideration which alone can secure us rational treatment. The Wollstonecraft order set to work at the other end, and, as I think, do infinite mischief; and, for my part, I do not wish to have any thing to do with them. Every allowance must be made for Mary Wollstonecraft herself, from the constitution and singular environment which determined her course: but I have never regarded her as a safe example, nor as a successful champion of Woman and her Rights.

Nothing struck me more in Godwin than an order of attributes which were about the last I should have expected to find in him. I found him cautious, and even timid. I believe this is often the case, towards the close of life, with reformers who have suffered in their prime for their opinions: but in Godwin’s case, it was not about matters of opinion only that he was timid. My mother and I went, with a mutual friend, to tea at the Godwins’ little dwelling under the roof of the Houses of Parliament, just before I went to America. Godwin had a small office there, with a salary, a dwelling, and coals and candle; and very comfortable he seemed there, with his old wife to take care of him. He was so comfortable that he had evidently no mind to die. Three times in the course of that evening, he asked questions or Edition: current; Page: [304] made a remark on the intended length of my absence, ending with “When you come back, I shall be dead:” or “When you come back, you will visit my grave,” — evidently in the hope that I should say “No, you will see me return.” I was much amused at the issue of a sudden impulse of complaisance towards me, under which he offered me letters of introduction to various friends and correspondents of his in America. I accepted the offer exactly as I accepted every offer of the kind, — with thanks, and an explanation that my friends must not take it amiss if their letters should chance not to be delivered, as I could not at all tell beforehand what would be the extent or the circumstances of my American travel: and I observed to my mother that this precaution might be particularly necessary in the case of Mr. Godwin’s introductions, if they should chance to be addressed to persons whose views bore no relation to the politics of their time and their republic. On the next Sunday, in came Godwin, in evident uneasiness and awkwardness. He threw his gloves into his hat, as if preparing for some great effort; and then he told me, with reluctance and confusion, that he wished to recall his offer of letters to his American correspondents; for this reason: — that I should be known there as a political economist; and, if he introduced me, it might be supposed that he had changed his views in his old age, and become one of the order of men against whom he had written in his earlier years. I told him I thought he was quite right; and his spirits rose immediately when he saw I was not offended. — I liked best getting him to speak of his novels; and at times he was ready enough to gratify me. He told me, among other things, that he wrote the first half of “Caleb Williams” in three months, and then stopped for six, — finishing it in three more. This pause in the middle of a work so intense seems to me a remarkable incident. I have often intended to read “Caleb Williams” again, to try whether I could find the stopping place: but it has never fallen in my way, and I have not seen the book since my youth.

That last evening at Godwin’s was a memorable one to me. The place is gone, and all who were there are dead except myself. Edition: current; Page: [305] Before it grew too dusk (it was in July) Godwin took us through the passages of that old Parliament House, and showed us the Star Chamber, and brought the old tallies for us to examine, that we might finger the notches made by the tax-collectors before accounts were kept as now. Within three months those tallies burnt down that Star Chamber, and both Houses of Parliament. They burned old Godwin’s dwelling too. His good wife saved him from a fright and anxiety which might have destroyed him at once. He was at the theatre; and she would not have him called, but packed and removed his goods, and so managed as that he was met and told the story like any body else. He was, however, dead before my return, as he had said he should be. When I returned, he was in his grave, and faithful friends were taking kind care of the wife who had done so much for him.

Another old man, of a very different order, was a pretty frequent visitor of mine, and always a kind one, — Mr. Basil Montagu. He, with his venerable head, and his majestic-looking lady were occasionally the ornaments of my evening parties: and I was well acquainted with the Procters, Mrs. Montagu’s daughter and son-in-law. I was always glad to see Mr. Procter in any drawing-room I entered. It was delightful to know the “Barry Cornwall” who won his first fame when I was living on poetry, down at Norwich, and when his exquisite metres were on my tongue or in my head day and night: but all I found in him supported and deepened the interest with which I met him. He was always so kind and courteous, so simple and modest, so honest and agreeable that I valued his acquaintance highly, and have continued to do so, to this day. — As for Mr. Montagu, his benevolence was the first attraction; and the use of the gallows had not then been so long restricted as to permit the efforts of our Romillys and our Montagus to be forgotten. No one man perhaps did so much for the restriction of the punishment of death as Mr. Montagu; and none based the cause on so deep a ground. I was not aware of Mr. Montagu’s philosophy till the latest period of my acquaintance with him. I wish I had been; but he was timid in the avowal of it to a wholly Edition: current; Page: [306] unnecessary, and, I think, faulty degree. Before his death, he distinctly declared in a message to me his approbation of the avowal which his friend Mr. Atkinson and I had made of opinions like his own: and, if he could have lived to see how little harm, and how much good, the avowal has done us, he would have regretted his own caution, — though it was more justifiable in his time than it would have been in ours. I imagine that his curious strain of sentimentality was, — (as far as it was his at all, but I have always believed his lady to have intervened in that case) — to cover up to himself and others the differences between himself and others; — an attempt to find a ground of sympathy, when the broadest and firmest did not exist.

The rising up of his countenance before me as I write reminds me of an occasion when he drew me away from my morning work, to occupy an odd place, and witness a remarkable scene. I found a note from him on the breakfast table, one morning, to say that he would call at ten o’clock, and take me down to Westminster, to witness the trial of the Canadian prisoners, on whose behalf Mr. Roebuck was to plead that day. So early an hour was named, that I might be well placed for hearing. All London was in excitement about this trial, which followed the Canadian rebellion, and the Court was daily crowded. My sister Rachel was with us at the time, and she was glad to accompany Mr. Montagu and me. Early as we were, the Court was full; — completely crowded to the back of the galleries. Mr. Montagu looked in at every door, and then committed us to the charge of one of the ushers while he disappeared for five minutes. He returned, threw his cloak over the arm of the usher, gave us each an arm, in perfect silence, and led us through a long succession of passages till we arrived at a door which he opened, lifting up a red curtain, and pushing us in. To our amazement and consternation, we found ourselves on the Bench, facing the sea of heads in the Court. It was dreadful; and at first, I crouched behind a bulwark: but we agreed that there was nothing to be done. There we were: Mr. Montagu had disappeared; and we could not help ourselves. The only vacant bench in the Court below was presently filled. In came the Edition: current; Page: [307] Canadian prisoners, and seated themselves there. We could hardly believe our eyes, but the men wore hand-cuffs, and we saw the gleam of the steel as they moved. Our consultation about this, and our observation of the prisoners while talking about it made us the subject of the hoax of the day. — We saw the prisoners lay their heads together, and make inquiries of their attendants; and then there was some bustle about handing paper, pen and ink to them. Presently a letter appeared, travelling over the heads of the crowd, and handed from counsel to counsel till it was presented to me by the one nearest the bench. It was a note of compliment and gratitude from the chef of the prisoners. Plenty of lawyers were in a minute pressing pen, ink and paper on me; and I again crouched down and wrote a civil line of reply, which was handed to my new correspondent. We found ourselves particularly stared at till we could bear it no longer, and slipped away, — meeting Mr. Montagu in time to save us from losing ourselves in the labyrinth of passages. We did not know till some time afterwards what pathos there was in the stare which followed the notes. A waggish acquaintance of ours was among the lawyers in the Court. He put on a grave look during the transmission of the notes; and then, hearing speculation all round as to who we were, he whispered to one and another, — “Don’t you know? They are the wives of the Canadian prisoners.” As he intended, the news spread through the Court, and our countenances were watched with all due compassion. I am afraid we were pronounced to be very unfeeling wives, if we might be judged by our dress and demeanour.

When my morning work was done, there was usually a curious variety of visitors, such as it bewilders me more to think of now than it did to receive at the time. More than once, my study door was thrown open, and a Frenchman, Italian or German stood on the threshold, with one hand on his heart and the other almost touching the top of the door, clearing his throat to recite an ode, of which he wanted my opinion. Sometimes it was a lady from the country, who desired to pour her sorrows into my bosom, and swear eternal friendship. This kind of Edition: current; Page: [308] visitor could never be made to understand that it takes two to make a friendship; and that there was no particular reason why I should enter into it with a perfect stranger. By such as these I was favoured with the information that they had inquired my character before coming, — whether I was amiable and so forth; but they seemed to forget that I knew nothing of them. Sometimes some slight acquaintance or another would enter with a companion, and engage me in conversation while the companion took possession of a sheet of my writing paper, or even asked me for a pencil, sketched me, and put the sketch into her reticule; by which time the ostensible visitor was ready to go away. Sometimes my pen was filched from the inkstand, still wet, and taken away to be framed or laid up in lavender. Sometimes ambitious poets, or aspirants to poetic honours, obtained an introduction, on purpose to consult me as to how they should do their work. One young clergyman I remember, who felt that he was made for immortality in the line of Shaksperian tragedy; but he wanted my opinion as to whether he should begin in that way at once, or try something else; and especially, whether or not I should advise him to drink beer. Amidst such absurd people, whose names I have long forgotten, there were many agreeable visitors, beside the multitude whom I have sketched above, who made that time of the day exceedingly pleasant. It was then that I saw Dr. Chalmers on his visits to town. His topics were pauperism and (in those antediluvian days before the ark of the Free Church was dreamed of) the virtues of religious establishments: and fervid and striking was his talk on these and every other subject. Mr. Chadwick, then engaged on the Poor-law, was a frequent visitor, — desiring to fix my attention on the virtues of centralisation, — the vices of which in continental countries were not then so apparent as they have since become. One always knew what was coming when he entered the room; and indeed, so busy a man could not make morning calls, but for the promotion of business. I regarded his visit, therefore, as a lesson; and I never failed to learn much from the master, — the first of our citizens, I believe, who fairly penetrated the foul region of our sanitary disorders, and set us Edition: current; Page: [309] to work to reform them. It might be that his mind was an isolated one; and his faculty narrow and engrossed with detail, so that it was necessary at length to remove him from the administrative position to which his services seemed to entitle him: but there is no question of his social usefulness in instituting the set of objects which he was found unequal to carry out. Twenty years ago, he was just discovered by the Whig Ministers, and he was himself discovering his own department of action. He was a substantial aid to me while I was writing about social evils and reforms; and he has gone on to supply me with valuable information, from that day to this, — from his first exposition of the way in which country justices aggravated pauperism under the old law, to the latest improvement in hollow bricks and diameter of drains. — Judging by the reforms then discussed in my study, that period of my life seems to be prodigiously long ago. Several of the beneficent family of the Hills came on their respective errands, — penny postage, prison administration, juvenile crime reformation, and industrial and national education. Mr. Rowland Hill was then pondering his scheme, and ascertaining the facts which he was to present with so remarkable an accuracy. His manner in those days, — his slowness, and hesitating speech, — were not recommendatory of his doctrine to those who would not trouble themselves to discern its excellence and urgent need. If he had been prepossessing in manner and fluent and lively in speech, it might have saved him half his difficulties, and the nation some delay: but he was so accurate, so earnest, so irrefragable in his facts, so wise and benevolent in his intentions, and so well timed with his scheme, that success was, in my opinion, certain from the beginning; and so I used to tell some conceited and shallow members and adherents of the Whig government, whose flippancy, haughtiness and ignorance about a matter of such transcendant importance tried my temper exceedingly. Rowland Hill might and did bear it; but I own I could not always. Even Sydney Smith was so unlike himself on this occasion as to talk and write of “this nonsense of a penny postage:” as if the domestic influences fostered by it were not more promotive Edition: current; Page: [310] of moral good than all his preaching, or that of any number of his brethren of the cloth! Lord Monteagle got the nickname of “the footman’s friend,” on that occasion, — the “Examiner” being a firm and effective friend of Rowland Hill and his scheme. Lord Monteagle, who is agreeable enough in society to those who are not very particular in regard to sincerity, was, as Chancellor of the Exchequer or any thing else, as good a representative as could be found of the flippancy, conceit, and official helplessness and ignorance of the Whig administrations. He actually took up Rowland Hill’s great scheme, to botch and alter and restrict it. With entire complacency he used to smile it down at evening parties, and lift his eyebrows at the credulity of the world, which could suppose that a scheme so wild could ever be tried: but he condescended to propose that it should supersede the London twopenny post. The “Examiner” immediately showed that the operation would be to save flunkeys the fatigue of carrying ladies’ notes; and Lord Monteagle was forthwith dubbed “the footman’s friend,” — a title which has perversely rushed into my memory, every time I have seen him since. The alteration in Rowland Hill himself, since he won his tardy victory, is an interesting spectacle to those who knew him twenty years ago. He always was full of domestic tenderness and social amiability; and these qualities now shine out, and his whole mind and manners are quickened by the removal of the cold obstruction he encountered at the beginning of his career. Grateful as I feel to him, as the most signal social benefactor of our time, it has been a great pleasure to me to see the happy influence of success on the man himself. I really should like to ask the surviving Whig leaders, all round, what they think now of “the nonsense of the penny postage.”

Good Mr. Porter, of the Board of Trade, — amiable and friendly, industrious and devoted to his business, — but sadly weak and inaccurate, prejudiced and borné in ability, — was a frequent and kindly visitor. His office was at hand, when we lived in Fludyer Street; and he found time to look in very often, and to bring me information, sometimes valuable, and sometimes not. His labours, industrious and sincere, were a Edition: current; Page: [311] complete illustration of Carlyle’s doctrine about statistics. Nothing could be apparently more square and determinate; while nothing could be in fact more untrustworthy and delusive. Some exposures of his mistakes have been made in parliament; and plenty more could be pointed out by parties qualified to criticise his statements; as, for instance, the Birmingham manufacturers, who find that the spirits of wine used in vast quantities for the burnishing of their goods are set down by Mr. Porter as alcoholic liquor drunk by the English people: and, again, the ship-owners, who find the tonnage of the kingdom estimated by him by the number of ships going to sea or returning in the course of the year, — no allowance being made for ships going more voyages than one. It is a serious injury to the nation that the Whig administrations have employed, to obtain and publish information, such unfortunate agents as Bowring, Macgregor and Porter, whose errors and incompetence any sensible man of business could have informed them of. Many thousands of pounds, much valuable time, and no little exertion, have been spent in actually misinforming the people, on the supposition of procuring valuable facts for them. Bowring and Macgregor were obviously unfitted for such work from the outset, by their vanity, incompetence and unscrupulousness. Mr. Porter was of a far higher order. His innocent vanity, which was far from immoderate, never interfered with his steady labour; and he was honourable, disinterested and generous: but his deficiency in sense and intellectual range, together with his confidence in himself and his want of confidence in all public men, was an insuperable disqualification for his sound discharge of an office requiring a wholly different order of mind from his. His intimate friend, his guide and crammer, was David Urquhart, whose accounts of royal, diplomatic and administrative personages he reverently accepted: and this accounts for a good deal of prejudice and perversion of judgment. It was at his table that I saw Mr. Urquhart for the only time that I ever met him. Once was enough; and that once was too like a pantomime to leave the impression of a rational dinner party. Mr. Urquhart had arrived from Turkey with mighty expectations from what he called the Edition: current; Page: [312] friendship of William IV. But the King was dead, and Victoria reigned in his stead: and the oracle’s abuse of the Queen, — a young girl entering upon the most difficult position in the world, — was something wonderful. He railed at her every where and perpetually, — with a vehemence which luckily prevented any harm, such as might have resulted from moderate censure. On the day that I met him, he engrossed the whole conversation, as he sat between our hostess and me. What he gave us, besides abuse of the Queen, was a series of oracular utterances on political doctrine, which he assured me from time to time I was incapable of comprehending; and an intense eulogium on Turkish life, which owed its excellence, political and moral, to the Turkish women being not allowed to learn to read and write. He addressed this to Mrs. Porter, (the sister of David Ricardo, and the author of certain books) on the one hand, and to me on the other. His odd ape-like gestures, his insane egotism, his frail figure and pale countenance, and the ferocious discontent which seemed to be consuming his life, left a strange and painful impression on my mind. His mother soon after died happy in the belief that he would be the saviour of his country: and now, after half a lifetime, he seems, by newspaper accounts, to be just the same man, talking in the same mood and style, with no other change than that he has been tried in parliament and has failed, and that he has been constantly moulting his tail, all these years. His adherents have fallen off and been replaced in constant succession. He has never retained any body’s confidence long (he lost Mr. Porter’s at last) and he has never failed to find impressible, half-informed and credulous people ready to shut their eyes and open their mouths, and swallow what doctrine he should please to give.

With Mr. Porter came Mr. Duppa, the devoted and indefatigable friend of popular education, and the organiser and support of the Central Society of Education, which diffused some useful knowledge and good views in its day. Some foreigner or another, distinguished by eminence in some department within Mr. Porter’s range, often gave me a call, and taught me something, or offered inducements to foreign travel, which I never Edition: current; Page: [313] was able to avail myself of, till the failure of my health made it too late. Mr. Senior used to come and talk about the poor-law, or Ireland. The Combes came and talked about phrenology and educational improvement. Mr. Robertson came to talk of the Westminster Review, of which he was editor, under the direction of Mr. J. S. Mill. He had prodigious expectations from his own genius, and an undoubting certainty of fulfilling a grand career: but he has long sunk out of sight. For fifteen years past, he seems to have been forgotten. I fear he has suffered much, and caused much suffering since the days when I knew him. I never understood him at all; and was duly surprised to find that he represented himself to be my most intimate friend, — philosopher, and guide! but the delusions of his vanity were so many and so gross that one may easily be let pass among the rest. — An even more unintelligible claim to my friendship has been advanced in print by the Howitts. I can only say that I do not remember having seen Mrs. Howitt more than twice in my life, and that I should not know her by sight: and that I have seen Mr. Howitt about four or five times: — three or four times in London, and once at Tynemouth, when he came with a cousin of mine to cool himself after a walk on the sands, and beg for a cup of tea. This he and Mrs. Howitt have represented in print as visiting me in my illness. Such service as they asked of me in London, (to obtain a favourable review of a book of Mr. Howitt’s in which he had grossly abused me) I endeavoured to render; but I really was barely acquainted with them; and I was glad the intercourse had gone no further when I witnessed their conduct to their partner in the People’s Journal, and in some other affairs. I so greatly admire some of their writings, in which their fine love of nature and their close knowledge of children are unmingled with passion and personal discontent, that I am thankful to enjoy the good their genius provides without disturbance from their unreasonable and turbulent tempers.

One of the most striking of my occasional visitors was Capel Lofft the younger, the author of that wonderful book, the merits of which were discovered by Charles Knight; — “Self-formation,” Edition: current; Page: [314] which should be read by every parent of boys. Those who know the work do not need to be told that the author was a remarkable man: and if they happen to have met with his agrarian epic, “Ernest,” a poem of prodigious power, but too seditious for publication, they will feel yet more desire to have seen him. When he called on me to ask my advice what to do with his poem, his card revived all I had heard about his eccentric father, the patron of the poet Bloomfield. He was neat and spruce in his dress and appearance, — with his glossy olive coat, and his glossy brown hair, parted down the middle, and his comely and thoughtful face. He was as nervous as his father; and by degrees I came to consider him as eccentric; especially when I found what was his opinion of the feminine intellect, and that his wife, to whom he appeared duly attached, did not know of the existence of his poem. (The Quarterly Review put an end to the secrecy, some time afterwards.) He died early; but not before he had left a name in the world, by his “Self-formation,” and an impression of power and originality by his formidable epic. — Another poet whose face I was always glad to see was Browning. It was in the days when he had not yet seen the Barretts. I did not know them, either. When I was ill at Tynemouth, a correspondence grew up between the then bedridden Elizabeth Barrett and myself; and a very intimate correspondence it became. In one of the later letters, in telling me how much better she was, and how grievously disappointed at being prevented going to Italy, she wrote of going out, of basking in the open sunshine, of doing this and that; “in short,” said she, finally, “there is no saying what foolish thing I may do.” The “foolish thing” evidently in view in this passage was marrying Robert Browning: and a truly wise act did the “foolish thing” turn out to be. I have never seen my correspondent, for she had gone to Italy before I left Tynemouth; but I knew her husband well, about twenty years ago. It was a wonderful event to me, — my first acquaintance with his poetry. — Mr. Macready put “Paracelsus” into my hand, when I was staying at his house; and I read a canto before going to bed. For the first time in my life, I passed a whole Edition: current; Page: [315] night without sleeping a wink. The unbounded expectation I formed from that poem was sadly disappointed when “Sordello” came out. I was so wholly unable to understand it that I supposed myself ill. But in conversation no speaker could be more absolutely clear and purpose-like. He was full of good sense and fine feeling, amidst occasional irritability; full also of fun and harmless satire; with some little affectations which were as droll as any thing he said. A real genius was Robert Browning, assuredly; and how good a man, how wise and morally strong, is proved by the successful issue of the perilous experiment of the marriage of two poets. Her poems were to me, in my sick-room, marvellously beautiful: and, now that from the atmosphere of the sick-room, my life has been transferred to the free open air of real, practical existence, I still think her poetry wonderfully beautiful in its way, while wishing that she was more familiar with the external realities which are needed to balance her ideal conceptions. They are a remarkable pair, whom society may well honour and cherish.

Their friend Miss Mitford came up to town occasionally, and found her way to Fludyer Street. I was early fond of her tales and descriptions, and have always regarded her as the originator of that new style of “graphic description” to which literature owes a great deal, however weary we may sometimes have felt of the excess into which the practice of detail has run. In my childhood, there was no such thing known, in the works of the day, as “graphic description:” and most people delighted as much as I did in Mrs. Ratcliffe’s gorgeous or luscious generalities, — just as we admired in picture galleries landscapes all misty and glowing indefinitely with bright colours, — yellow sunrises and purple and crimson sunsets, — because we had no conception of detail like Miss Austen’s in manners, and Miss Mitford’s in scenery, or of Millais’ and Wilkie’s analogous life pictures, or Rosa Bonheur’s adventurous Hayfield at noon-tide. Miss Austen had claims to other and greater honours; but she and Miss Mitford deserve no small gratitude for rescuing us from the folly and bad taste of slovenly indefiniteness in delineation. School-girls are now taught to draw from objects: but in my Edition: current; Page: [316] time they merely copied their masters’ vague and slovenly drawings: and the case was the same with writers and readers. Miss Mitford’s tales appealed to a new sense, as it were, in a multitude of minds, — greatly to the amazement of the whole circle of publishers, who had rejected, in her works, as good a bargain as is often offered to publishers. Miss Mitford showed me at once that she undervalued her tales, and rested her claims on her plays. I suppose every body who writes a tragedy, and certainly every body who writes a successful tragedy, must inevitably do this. Miss Mitford must have possessed some dramatic requisites, or her success could have not been so decided as it was; but my own opinion always was that her mind wanted the breadth, and her character the depth, necessary for genuine achievement in the highest enterprise of literature. I must say that personally I did not like her so well as I liked her works. The charming bonhommie of her writings appeared at first in her conversation and manners; but there were other things which presently sadly impaired its charm. It is no part of my business to pass judgment on her views and modes of life. What concerned me was her habit of flattery, and the twin habit of disparagement of others. I never knew her respond to any act or course of conduct which was morally lofty. She could not believe in it, nor, of course, enjoy it: and she seldom failed to “see through” it, and to delight in her superiority to admiration. She was a devoted daughter, where the duty was none of the easiest; and servants and neighbours were sincerely attached to her. The little intercourse I had with her was spoiled by her habit of flattery; but I always fell back on my old admiration of her as soon as she was out of sight, and her “Village” rose up in my memory. The portrait of her which appeared in (I think) 1854 in the “Illustrated London News” is one of the most remarkable likenesses I have ever seen: and it recalls a truly pleasant trait of her conduct. Some years ago, Lady Morgan published a furious comment on some unfavourable report of her beauty, at the very same time that Miss Mitford happened to be addressing a sonnet to an artist friend who had taken her portrait; — a morsel of such moral beauty that I was Edition: current; Page: [317] grateful to the friend (whoever it might be) who took the responsibility of publishing it. The absence of personal vanity, the bonhommie, and the thoughtful grace of that sonnet contrasted singularly, (and quite undesignedly) with the pettish wrath of the sister author. — When I knew Miss Mitford, she was very intimate with the Talfourds. Mr. Talfourd (as he was then) was one of my occasional visitors; and he was also exulting in his dramatic success as the author of “Ion.” To see Macready’s representation of “Ion” was a treat which so enraptured London as to swell Talfourd’s reputation beyond all rational bounds. I shared the general enthusiasm; and I told Talfourd so; for which I was sorry when I knew better, and learned that the beauty of the play is actually in spite of its undramatic quality. During my absence in America, Talfourd’s sudden rise in reputation and success, — professional, parliamentary and literary, was something extraordinary: but the inevitable collapse was not long in coming. His nature was a kindly, but not a lofty one; and his powers were prodigiously overrated. He, of whom I had heard in my youth as a sentimental writer in the “Monthly Repository” died a judge; but he had outlived his once high reputation, which was a curious accident of the times, and might well mislead him when it misled society in general, for months, if not years. His most intimate friends loved him. By those who knew him less he was less liked, — his habits and manners being inferior to his social pretensions and position.

The most complete specimen of the literary adventurer of our time whom I knew was one who avowed his position and efforts with a most respectable frankness. Mr. Chorley, who early went to town, to throw himself upon it, and see what he could make of it, was still about the same business as long as I knew him. He had a really kind heart, and helpful hands to needy brethren, and a small sort of generosity which was perfectly genuine, I am confident. But his best qualities were neutralised by those which belonged to his unfortunate position, — conceit and tuft-hunting, and morbid dread of unusual opinions, and an unscrupulous hostility to new knowledge. The faults of the Athenæum are well known: — Mr. Chorley assumed to be the Edition: current; Page: [318] sub-editor of the Athenæum at the time I knew him; and I suppose he is so still; and by a reference to it, his qualities, good and bad, may be best conveyed. For a considerable time, I overrated him, trusting, from his real goodness of heart when his nature had fair play, that he would improve. But I fear, — by what I recently saw of his singular affectations in dress and manners in public places, and by the deteriorating quality of the Athenæum, that the bad influences of his position have prevailed. From him alone, — unless it were also from Mr. Robertson, — I obtained a conception of the life of the literary adventurer as a vocation. Every author is in a manner an adventurer; and no one was ever more decidedly so than myself: but the difference between one kind of adventurer and another is, I believe, simply this; — that the one has something to say which presses for utterance, and is uttered at length without a view to future fortunes; while the other has a sort of general inclination toward literature, without any specific need of utterance, and a very definite desire for the honours and rewards of the literary career. Mr. Henry F. Chorley is, at least, an average specimen of the latter class; and perhaps something more. But the position is not a favourable one, intellectually or morally, to the individual, while it is decidedly injurious to the sincerity and earnestness of literature.

I twice saw Miss Landon, — the well known “L. E. L.” of twenty years ago. Both times it was in our own house that I saw her; — once, when she was accompanying Mrs. A. T. Thomson in her round of calls, and a second time when she came to me for information about her needful preparations for living at Cape Coast Castle, — a cousin of mine having recently undergone an experience of that kind as the wife of the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone. I was at first agreeably surprised by Miss Landon’s countenance, voice and manners. I thought her very pretty, kind, simple and agreeable. The second time, it was all so sad that my mother and I communicated to each other our sense of dismay, as soon as the ladies were gone. Miss Landon was listless, absent, melancholy to a striking degree. She found she was all wrong in her provision of clothes and comforts, — was Edition: current; Page: [319] going to take out all muslins and no flannels, and divers pet presents which would go to ruin at once in the climate of Cape Coast. We promised, that day, to go to Dr. Thomson’s, and hear her new play before she went: and I could not but observe the countenance of listless gloom with which she heard the arrangement made. Before the day of our visit came round, it was discovered that she had been secretly married, and I saw her no more. The shock of her mysterious death soon followed the uncomfortable impression of that visit.

Miss Edgeworth happened never to be in London during my residence there; but she sought some correspondence with me, both before and after my American travel. Her kindly spirit shone out in her letters, as in all she did; but her vigour of mind and accuracy of judgment had clearly given way, under years and her secluded life. Her epistles, — three or four sheets to my one, — confirmed in me a resolution I had pondered before; to relax my habit of writing in good time; and to make to myself such friends, among my nephews and nieces, as that I might rely on some of them for a check, whenever the quality of my writing should seem to deteriorate. A family connexion of Miss Edgeworth’s had told me, long before, that there was a garret at Edgeworth’s-town full of boxes of manuscript tales of Maria’s which would certainly never see the light. This was before the appearance of “Helen”; and the appearance of “Helen,” notwithstanding the high ability shown in the first volume, confirmed my dread of going to press too often, and returning to it too late. An infamous hoax, in which Miss Edgeworth was betrayed to ridicule, in company with the whole multitude of eminent living authors, deepened the warning to me. That was a remarkable hoax. I was the only one of the whole order who escaped the toils. This happened through no sagacity of my own, but by my mother’s acuteness in detecting a plot.

One day in 1833, when my mother and I were standing by the fire, waiting for the appearance of dinner, a note arrived for me, which I went up to my study to answer, — requesting that my mother and aunt would not wait dinner for me. The note was this: —

Edition: current; Page: [320]
George Millar
Millar, George
October 4th, 1833
Somer’s Town

A Frenchman named Adolphe Berthier, who says he acted as Courier to you during one of your visits to France, has applied for a situation in my establishment. He says that you will give him a character. May I request the favour of an answer to this note, stating what you know of him.

“I have the honour to be, Madam,
Your obedient Servant,
To Miss Martineau

My reply was easy and short. There must be some mistake, as I had never been in France. As I came down with the note, my mother beckoned me into her room, and told me she suspected some trick. There had been some frauds lately by means of signatures fraudulently obtained. She could not see what any body could do to me in that way; but she fancied somebody wanted my autograph. The messenger was a dirty little boy, who could hardly have come from a gentleman’s house; and he would not say where he had come from. — I objected that I could not, in courtesy, refuse an answer; and my only idea was that I was mistaken for some other of the many Miss Martineaus of the clan. My mother said she would write the answer in the character of a secretary or deputy: and so she fortunately did. We never thought of the matter again till the great Fraser Hoax burst upon the town, — to the ruin of the moral reputation of the Magazine, though to the intense amusement of all but the sufferers from the plot. Among these, I was not one. My mother’s note was there, signed “E. M.”; and the comment on it was fair enough. After a remark on their failure to get my autograph, the hoaxers observed that my story “French Wines and Politics” might have saved me the trouble of assuring them that I had never travelled in France. Miss Edgeworth suffered most, — and it really was suffering to her modest and ingenuous nature. She sent a long letter about her lady’s-maids, — sadly garrulous in her desire not to injure a servant whom she might have forgotten. The heartless traitors sent a reply which drew forth, as they intended, a mass of twaddle; and having obtained this from her very goodness, they Edition: current; Page: [321] made game of her. — Many of the other replies were characteristic enough. Scott’s puzzles me most. I cannot see how there could be one from him, as he died in 1832, and was incapable of writing for long before: and the hoax could hardly have been whole years in preparation. Yet I distinctly remember the universal remark that Scott’s was, of all, the most unlike the writer. He called the fictitious applicant a scoundrel, or a rascal, or something of that sort. Coleridge’s was good, — “Should be happy to do any thing within my knowledge or power.” But I need say no more, as the whole may be seen by a reference to Fraser’s Magazine. All who may look back to it will be of the same mind with every gentleman whom I heard speak of the trick; — that plotter and publisher deserved to be whipped from one end of London to the other.

Among the eminent women who sought my acquaintance by letter, and whom I have never seen, are Fredrika Bremer, and Miss Kelty, the author of the first successful “religious novel,” “the Favourite of Nature,” which I remember reading with much pleasure in my youth. Miss Kelty wrote to me when I was ill at Tynemouth, under the notion that I had been her school-fellow some years before I was born. She then sent me her little volume, “Fireside Philosophy;” and I have lately received from her her autobiography, published under the title of “Reminiscences of Thought and Feeling.” It is a painfully impressive biography; but its tendency is to indispose me to intercourse with the writer, — sincere and frank and interesting as she appears to be. Systems of religion and philosophy are evidently something very different to her from what they are to me; and I cannot lay open, or submit to controversy, the most solemn and severe subjects of all, when they can be made a means of excitement, and a theme of mere spiritual curiosity. But I am glad to have read the Memoir; and glad that it exists, — painful as it is: for it is a striking emanation of the spirit of the time, and illustration of its experiences. Of the ability, courage and candour of the writer, there can be no question.

If Miss Kelty desired correspondence with me on the ground of the Atkinson Letters, Miss Bremer, I believe, dropped it for Edition: current; Page: [322] the same reason. Miss Bremer also accosted me when I was ill at Tynemouth, in a letter of pretty broken English. Her style is so well known now that I need not describe the mingled sentimentality, fun and flattery of her letters. The flattery, and the want of what we call common sense, rather annoyed me till I was made sure, by her American experiences, that those were her weak points, and quite irremediable. I was a good deal startled, before she went to America, at a little incident which filled me with wonder. A neighbour lent me her novel, “Brothers and Sisters,” the first volume of which we thought admirable: but the latter part about Socialism, Mesmerism, and all manner of isms which she did not at all understand, made us blush as we read. Presently a letter arrived for me from her announcing the approach of a copy of this book, which she hoped I should more or less enjoy, as I had in fact, by my recovery and some other incidents and supposed views of mine, suggested and instigated the book. I mention this, because Miss Bremer may probably have explained the origin of her book in a similar manner elsewhere; and I am really bound to explain that, in that book, she does not represent any views and opinions that I ever had. I fear I did not answer that letter; for, if I remember right, I could not find any thing to say that she would like to hear; for she could not be satisfied with what I can truly say to others, that I enjoy and admire her books exceedingly, after throwing out the “views” and the romance. The sketches of home life in Sweden are exquisitely done; and their coarseness of morals and manners is evidently merely Swedish, and not attributable to Miss Bremer, — unconscious as she evidently is of any unlikeness to the women around her. Her sentimental pietism is naturally offended by the accounts which have been given her of the Atkinson Letters, as I dare say it would be by the book itself; for philosophical research, with a view to truth, is quite out of her way. As she thinks every woman’s influence springs from a hotbed of sentiment, she naturally supposes that my influence must be destroyed by my having taken root on an opposite ground. But she is not aware how much further sound reason and appeals to science go with the best of our people than a floating religiosity Edition: current; Page: [323] which she proposes through the “Times” newspaper as the means of reforming the world through the influence of women. Much more than she has lost in England through that singular obtrusion have I, as it proves, gained by a directly opposite method of proceeding. But I dare say it would be difficult to convince her of this, and painful to her, in her life of dreams, to be so convinced. I hoped to have enjoyed more of her exquisite pictures of Swedish homes; and I yet trust that others may. It would be a world-wide benefit if this gifted woman could be induced to leave social reforms and published criticism to other hands, and to discharge while she lives the special function by which she scatters a rare delight broadcast over whole nations.

A frequent topic of conversation between my morning guests and myself was the various methods of doing our work. Sooner or later, almost every author asked me about my procedure, and told me his or hers. The point on which I was at issue with almost every body was the time of beginning in the morning. I doubt whether I was acquainted with anybody who went to work during the fresh morning hours which have always been delightful to me, — before the post came in, and interruption was abroad. I found my friends differ much as to the necessity of revision, rewriting and delay, — on which I have already given my opinion and experience. The point on which perhaps they were most extensively agreed was that our occupation changes our relation to books very remarkably. I remember Miss Aikin complaining of the difficulty of reading for amusement, after some years’ experience of reading for purposes of historical or other authorship. I found this for a time when stopped in my career by illness: but, though I have never since read so fast or so efficiently as in my youth, I have experienced some return of the youthful pleasure and interest, though in regard to a different order of books. I could not now read “Lalla Rookh” through before breakfast, as I did when it appeared. I cannot read new novels. It is an actual incapacity; while I can read with more pleasure than ever the old favourites, — Miss Austen’s and Scott’s. My pleasure in Voyages and Travels is almost an insanity; and History and philosophical disquisition are more Edition: current; Page: [324] attractive than ever. Still, I can sympathise heartily with those who declare that the privilege of being authors has deprived them of that of being amateur readers. The state of mind in which books are approached by those who are always, and those who have never been, in print is no doubt essentially different. — I believe Miss Aikin’s method of writing is painstaking; and she has so high an opinion of revision by friends, that I have no doubt she copies very conscientiously. Her enjoyment of her work is very great. I remember her saying, at a time when her physician forbade her fatiguing herself with writing, that if ever she saw a proof-sheet again, she thought she should dance.

Mrs. Opie wrote slowly, and amidst a strenuous excitement of her sensibilities. She liked trying the effect of her tales on hearers before they went to press. I remember my mother and sister coming home with swollen eyes and tender spirits after spending an evening with Mrs. Opie, to hear “Temper,” which she read in a most overpowering way. When they saw it in print, they could hardly believe it was the same story. Her handwriting was execrable, for smallness and irregularity. Miss Aikin’s is formal, but very legible. Miss Edgeworth’s, an ordinary “lady’s hand.” Mrs. Somerville’s the same. Miss Bronti’s was exceedingly small, nervous and poor, but quite legible. Miss Edgeworth’s method of composition has been described already, on her own published authority. Mrs. Somerville, being extremely short-sighted, brings her paper close to her eyes, supported on a square piece of pasteboard. Miss Bronti did the same; but her first manuscript was a very small square book, or folding of paper, from which she copied, with extreme care. She was as much surprised to find that I never copy at all as I was at her imposing on herself so much toil which seems to me unnecessary. — Mr. Rogers used to give me friendly admonition, now and then, to do every thing in my practice of composition in an exactly opposite method to my own: — to write a very little, and seldom; to put it by, and read it from time to time, and copy it pretty often, and show it to good judges; all which was much like advising me to change my hair and eyes to blonde and blue, and to add a cubit to my stature. It was a curious Edition: current; Page: [325] commentary on his counsel to hear Sydney Smith’s account of Mr. Rogers’s method of composition. The story is in print, but imperfectly given, and evidently without any consciousness that “the brooding dove” of Shakspere is concerned in it, — “the brooding dove, ere yet her golden couplets are disclosed.” The conversation took place soon after Rogers had given forth his epigram on Lord Dudley:

  • “Ward has no heart, they say: but I deny it.
  • Ward has a heart; — and gets his speeches by it”

“Has Rogers written any thing lately?” asked somebody; to which another replied, — “No, I believe not. Nothing but a couplet.”

“Nothing but a couplet!” exclaimed Sydney Smith. “Why, what would you have? When Rogers produces a couplet, he goes to bed:

And the caudle is made:

And the knocker is tied:

And straw is laid down:

And when his friends send to inquire, — ‘Mr. Rogers is as well as can be expected.’ ”

Mr. Rogers’s rate of advance would not suit a really earnest writer; and, granting that poetry is under wholly different conditions from prose, it will still occur to every body that the world may be thankful that Milton and Shakspere did not require so much time. Lope de Vega, with his eighteen hundred plays, may have been in excess of speed; but literature would have no chance if the elaboration and expression of thought and feeling were so sophisticated as they must be by extreme timidity or excessive polish.

Mr. Hallam, taking up a proof-sheet from my table, one day, while I was at work on the second volume of the same book, expressed his surprise at my venturing to press before the whole was finished and tied up; and said that he should not have nerve to do this. I think he agreed with me that much depends on whether the work is or is not composed of complete sections, — of distinct parts, — each of which is absolutely finished in its own Edition: current; Page: [326] place. He was industrious when at work; but he did it for pleasure, and took as much time as he pleased about it. When I first knew him, his handwriting was one of the finest I ever saw; and there was a remarkable elegance about the whole aspect of his authorship. — Mr. Rogers’s hand was old-fashioned and formal, but so clear that you might teach a child to read from it. — I have mentioned the appearance of Carlyle’s proof-sheets. His manuscript is beautifully neat, when finished; and a page holds a vast quantity of his small upright writing. But his own account of his toil in authorship is melancholy. He cannot sleep for the sense of the burden on his mind of what he has to say; rises weary, and is wretched till he has had his coffee. No mode of expression pleases him; and, by the time his work is out, his faculties are over-wearied. It is a great object in his case to have the evenings amused, that his work may not take possession of his mind before bedtime. His excessive slowness is a perfect mystery to me, — considering that the work is burdensome. If he dwelt lovingly on its details, and on his researches, I could understand it. But perhaps he does, more than he is aware of. If not, his noble vocation is indeed a hard one.

Almost every one of these is late in sitting down; and I believe few write every day. Mrs. Somerville’s family did not breakfast early; and she ordered her household affairs before sitting down to work. She worked till two only: but then, it was such work! Dr. Somerville told me that he once laid a wager with a friend that he would abuse Mrs. Somerville in a loud voice to her face, and she would take no notice; and he did so. Sitting close to her, he confided to his friend the most injurious things, — that she rouged, that she wore a wig, and other such nonsense, uttered in a very loud voice; her daughters were in a roar of laughter, while the slandered wife sat placidly writing. At last, her husband made a dead pause after her name, on which she looked up with an innocent, “Did you speak to me?”

Sir Charles Lyell sits down late, and says he is satisfied with a very few pages: but then, his work is of a kind which requires research as he proceeds; and pages are no measure of work in Edition: current; Page: [327] that case. In writing my “History of the Peace,” I was satisfied with seven manuscript pages per day; whereas, in general, I do not like to fall short of ten or twelve. — Dr. Chalmers was another mystery to me. He told me that it was a heavy sin to write (for press) longer than two hours per day; — that two hours out of the twenty-four are as much of that severest labour as the human brain is fitted to endure. Yet he must have written faster than that, to produce his works. Dr. Channing entirely agreed with Dr. Chalmers, and was apt to tax people with rashness who wrote faster. His practice was, when in Rhode Island, to saunter round the garden once every hour, and then come back to the desk: and when in Boston, he went to the drawing-room instead, or walked about in his library. No person can judge for another; but we used to compare notes. I wondered how he could ever get or keep his ideas in train, under such frequent interruption: and he was no less surprised at my experience; — that every hour is worth double the last for six hours; and that eight are not injurious when one’s subject naturally occupies them: but then, it is an indispensable condition that there shall be no interruptions. The dissipation of mind caused by interruption is a worse fatigue than that of continuous attention. — Southey and Miss Edgeworth wrote in the common sitting-room, in the midst of the family. This I cannot understand, though I am writing this Memoir under circumstances which compel me to surrender my solitude. Under a heart-disease, I cannot expect or ask to be left alone: and I really find no gêne from the presence of one person, while writing this simple and plain account of my life. I can imagine that Miss Edgeworth’s stories would not require very much concentration; but how a man can write epics in the midst of the family circle is inconceivable, even to some of Southey’s warmest admirers. The comment is inevitable; — that his poems might have been a good deal better, if he had placed himself under the ordinary conditions of good authorship. — Wordsworth was accustomed to compose his verses in his solitary walks, carry them in his memory, and get wife or daughter to write them down on his return. — The varieties of method are indeed great. One acquaintance Edition: current; Page: [328] of mine takes a fit of writing, — a review or a pamphlet, — and sends his wife to an evening party without him. He scribbles, as fast as his pen will go, on half sheets of paper, which he lets fly to the floor when finished; — i.e., when a dozen or a score of lines run awry, so as to cover the greater part of the expanse. His wife, returning after midnight, finds him sitting amidst a litter of paper, some inches deep, — unless he has previously summoned the butler to sweep them up in his arms and put them somewhere. By five in the morning the pamphlet is done. How it is ever got into order for press, I cannot imagine. — But enough! I have met with almost every variety of method among living authors; and almost every variety of view as to the seriousness of their vocation. But I believe the whole fraternity are convinced that the act of authorship is the most laborious effort that men have to make: and in this they are probably right: for I have never met with a physician who did not confirm their conviction by his ready testimony.

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A little while before my departure for the United States, I met Mr. James Mill one evening, and had a good deal of conversation with him. By the way, he made the frankest possible acknowledgment of his mistake in saying what had so critically and mischievously alarmed Mr. Fox; — that political economy could not be conveyed in fiction, and that the public would not receive it in any but the didactic form. Having settled this business, he asked me how long I meant to be abroad; and then, whether I expected to understand the Americans in that time; — that is, two years. He was glad to find I had no such idea, and told me that five-and-twenty years before, he had believed that he understood the Scotch: and that in another five-and-twenty, he should no doubt understand the English; but that now he was quite certain that he understood neither the one nor the other. As this looked rather as if he supposed I went out on a book-making expedition, I told him that it was not so. I would not say that I certainly should not write a book on my return: but I had actually refused to listen to the urgent recommendation of a gentleman who professed to have influence with the booksellers, to allow him to obtain for me advances of money for my travelling expenses from a publishing house which would be glad to advance £500 or so, on my engaging to let them publish the book on my return. I have since had strong reason to rejoice that I did not permit such intervention. My reply was that I would not bind myself by any pledge of the sort; and that my travelling money was in fact ready. The friend who gave me credits to the American banks offered to obtain from Lord Brougham the £100 he owed me, as part payment: but that also I declined, — kindly as it was meant; because I did not think it quite a proper way to obtain payment. I preferred Edition: current; Page: [330] going out free from all misgiving and anxiety about pecuniary matters; so I paid in my £400, and carried credits to that amount, without being under obligation to any body. — Mr. Bentley the publisher met me one day at dinner at Miss Berry’s, and he sounded me about a book on America. I rather think, from his subsequent conduct, that that was his real object in getting an introduction to me, though he put forward another; — his desire to issue my Series in a new form. I told him as I told others, that I knew nothing of any American book, and that I was going to the United States with other objects, — the first of which was to obtain rest and recreation. I went and returned entirely free from any kind of claim on me, on any hand, for a book. I can truly say that I travelled without any such idea in my mind. I am sure that no traveller seeing things through author spectacles, can see them as they are; and it was not till I looked over my journal on my return that I decided to write “Society in America” (I never can bear to think of the title. My own title was “Theory and Practice of Society in America;” but the publishers would not sanction it. They had better have done so.)

My first desire was for rest. My next was to break through any selfish “particularity” that might be growing on me with years, and any love of ease and indulgence that might have arisen out of success, flattery, or the devoted kindness of my friends. I believed that it would be good for me to “rough it” for a while, before I grew too old and fixed in my habits for such an experiment. I must in truth add that two or three of my most faithful friends, intimate with my circumstances, counselled my leaving home for a considerable time, for the welfare of all who lived in that home. My position had become a difficult one there, even while my work afforded an incontestable reason for my being sought and made much of. If my social position remained the same after the work was done, my mother’s happiness would not, they thought, be promoted by my presence. This was too obviously true already: and I took the advice of my friends to go without any misgiving, and to stay away as long as I found it desirable. I made provision for my mother’s income not being lessened by my absence: but she Edition: current; Page: [331] declined, for generous reasons, all aid of that sort. She never touched the money I left for the purpose, but received in my place a lady who made an agreeable third in the little household. I have already said that Lord Henley’s suggestions first turned my project in the direction of the United States; and the reasons he urged were of course prominent in my mind during my travels.

I was singularly fortunate in my companion. I had been rather at a loss at first what to do about this. There are great difficulties in joining a party for so very long a journey, extending over so long a time. To be with new friends is a fearful risk under such an ordeal: and the ordeal is too severe, in my opinion, to render it safe to subject an old friendship to it. There was a plan for a time that the same friends with whom I was to have gone to Italy (if the continent had been my playground) should go with me to America: but there were aged parents and other reasons against their going so far; and my friends and I went on our several ways. — It would never do, as I was aware, to take a servant, to suffer from the proud Yankees on the one hand and the debased slaves on the other: nor would a servant have met my needs in other ways. Happily for me a lady of very superior qualifications, who was eager to travel, but not rich enough to indulge her desire, offered to go with me, as companion and helper, if I would bear her expenses. She paid her own voyages, and I the rest; and most capitally she fulfilled her share of the compact. Not only well educated but remarkably clever, and, above all, supremely rational, and with a faultless temper, she was an extraordinary boon as a companion. She was as conscientious as able and amiable. She toiled incessantly, to spare my time, strength and faculties. She managed the business of travel, and was for ever on the watch to supply my want of ears, — and, I may add, my defects of memory. Among the multitudes of strangers whom I saw, and the concourse of visitors who presented themselves every where, I should have made hourly mistakes but for her. She seemed to make none, — so observant, vigilant and retentive were her faculties. We fulfilled the term of our compact without a shadow of failure, but rather with large supererogation of good works Edition: current; Page: [332] on her part; and she returned under the care of the excellent captain, — a friend of some of my family, — who brought me home four months later. I remained that much longer, for the purpose of accompanying a party of friends to the Northern Lakes, and some new territory which it was important that I should visit. I could not afford this additional trip to more than myself; and there was not room for more than one: so my comrade preceded me homewards, sorry not to have taken that northern trip, but well satisfied with the enterprise she had achieved. She has been married for many years; and it is pleasant still to talk over our American adventures in her house or in mine. Her husband and children must be almost as glad as she and I that she had the spirit to go.

After leaving home, I paid visits to my family and friends, (followed from place to place by my last proofs) and was joined by Miss J. at Liverpool, a day or two before we sailed. The first steam voyage to the United States took place in 1838: and I set forth in 1834: so there was no thought of a quicker passage than a month. I did not wish for a shorter one; and when it stretched out to forty-two days, I was not at all discontented. I have enjoyed few things more in life than the certainty of being out of the way of the post, of news, and of passing strangers for a whole month: and this seems to show how overwrought I must have been at the close of my long work. My felicity would have been complete if I could have looked forward to a month of absolute idleness: but my constitutional weakness, — my difficulty in saying “No,” was in my way, and a good deal spoiled my holiday. A friend, whom indeed I was bound to oblige, requested me to write for him a long chapter for a book he contemplated, to be called “How to Observe.” The subject he gave me was Morals and Manners. Before my return, his proposed volume was given up; and Mr. Knight was arranging about a series of volumes, under that title. The Chapter I wrote on board ship served as the basis of my own volume for that series; and thus, the reluctant toil was not thrown away. But thoroughly reluctant it was. The task weighed upon me more than the writing of a quarto volume Edition: current; Page: [333] would have done at another time: and circumstances of time and place were indeed most unfavourable to work of the kind. My long confinement within stringent bounds of punctuality had produced bad effects, — narrowing my mind, and making my conscience tender about work. So, when that chapter was done at last, I wrote no more till I was settled at home again, in the autumn of 1836, — with two small exceptions. It was necessary to accede to a request to bring out myself, while in America, two volumes of “Miscellanies,” under penalty of seeing it done by some unauthorised person, with alterations, and probably the introduction of pieces which would be as new to me as to any body. In order to secure the copyright to the American proprietors, I wrote an essay for their edition: (on “Moral Independence.”) Being asked to furnish a story for some Sunday school festival, I wrote the little tale “The Children who lived by the Jordan.” These two trifles were all I wrote for press, as far as I remember, for above two years. I need not say that I had a large correspondence to sustain, — a correspondence perpetually increasing as my travel and my intercourses extended: and I kept a very ample journal.

On the morning of the 4th of August, we were summoned on board our ship, — the United States. As I stood on the wharf in my sea-dress, watching the warping out of the vessel, I saw an old acquaintance observing the same process. Sir James Parke was one of the Judges then at Liverpool on circuit; and he and some ladies were amusing themselves with seeing the American packet clear out. He would hardly believe me when I told him I was going to step on board presently; and for how long. He was the last of my London acquaintances whom I saw before that long absence.

I have said quite enough about that voyage, and very nearly enough about my American travel, in the two books I published after my return. One subject remains nearly untouched in those books; and on that alone I propose now to speak at any length. I refer to my own personal connexion with the great controversy on negro slavery which was then just beginning to stir the American community. While speaking largely of the controversy Edition: current; Page: [334] in my book, I said as little as possible of my own relation to it, because some undeserved suspicion of resentment on my own account might attach to my historical narrative; and because it was truly my object to present an impartial view, and by no means to create an interest in my personal adventures. In this place I feel it right to tell my story. Supported as it is by documents in the hands of my Executor, and by the testimony of Americans who know me best, it will stand as a record of what really took place, in answer to some false reports and absurd misrepresentations. For one instance of what Americans, — even American gentlemen, — will persuade themselves to do in the case of the Slavery question, which seems to pervert all its advocates; — I heard some time since that two American gentlemen, who were college youths when I saw them, claim the credit of having beguiled me into publishing some nonsensical stories with which they mystified me when I was the guest of their parents. I not only clearly remember that I had no conversation with those boys (who were shy of my trumpet) but I possess the best possible evidence that it is their present statement which is the mystifying one. By some lucky inspiration of prudence, I kept a lock-up copy of my American books, in which the name of every authority for every statement is noted in the margin. I have referred to this copy since I heard of the claim of these two gentlemen; and I have called my biographer to witness that the names of the gentlemen in question do not once occur. — So many false things having been said about my American experiences, in regard to the anti-slavery agitation, during my life, it is probable that there may be more when I am no longer here to contradict them: and therefore it is that I now give a plain account of what really took place. I do not altogether trust my memory for an experience which is however deeply impressed upon it. My journal, and my entire American correspondence on that subject are my warrant: and I have before me also the narrative as written down many years ago, from the same materials, and when my remembrance of the events of 1835 and 1836 was so fresh as to obviate any objection that can be made to my statement on the score of lapse of time.

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It will be remembered that I wrote, near the beginning of my Series, a number called “Demerara,” which was as open a committal of myself, on every ground, to hostility to slavery as was possible. I therein declared myself satisfied that slavery was indefensible, economically, socially, and morally. Every body who knew any thing about me at all, at home or in America, knew that from the spring of 1832 I was completely committed against slavery. The American passengers on board our ship were certainly aware of it before they saw me; and so was a Prussian fellow-passenger, Dr. Julius, who had been introduced to me in London as a philanthropist going to America with a direct commission from the late King of Prussia to inquire into the state of prison discipline there. Every one on board regarded Dr. Julius as so commissioned; but he told Miss J. and me, one day, when in a communicative mood, that he had sought the sanction of the King to his object, and believed he had obtained it: but that when he was admitted to an audience, to take leave, he found that the King had forgotten all about it (if he had really known) and that nothing could make him understand that this was a leave-taking visit, or why Dr. Julius presented himself, though the King approved of inquiries into prison-discipline. Whether there was a prevalent doubt about the reality of his commission, or whether his habit of petty concealment induced suspicion, I do not know; but the impression on board ship, and in American society afterwards, certainly was that there was something mysterious and doubtful about him. I was disposed to conclude, on the whole, that there was nothing worse in the case than that he was a Jew, and was anxious to conceal the fact. The clearest thing in the matter was that, with all his big talk, he was in a continual state of panic. He was afraid of the elements and of man: convulsed with terror during a storm; and in great horror on the subject of Slavery, though the American “reign of terror” was only then beginning, and it had not, I believe, been heard of in Europe. Mr. George Thompson had half-engaged a cabin in our ship for himself and his family, but was by some accident prevented sailing so soon. It was very well: for, while we were crossing the Edition: current; Page: [336] sea, the first serious pro-slavery riots were taking place in New York; — those riots by which the Messrs. Tappan were driven from the city, their houses destroyed, and their furniture burnt in the streets.

The last news I heard of Dr. Julius was some time after my return to England: and I acknowledge that I was considerably disturbed by it. After I had left Washington, he petitioned for certain State Papers, and government information, either in my name expressly, or on the ground of our being fellow-travellers. I need not say that this was without any authority whatever from me, or that I took pains to disavow in the right quarter all connexion with Dr. Julius’s inquiries. I was distinctly informed that the papers and information would not have been granted, but on the supposition that they were asked for by me, for my own use.

When we took in a pilot at Sandy Hook, we all observed how hastily he tossed down his bundle of newspapers for the amusement of the passengers, and then beckoned the captain to the stern; and we were not so absorbed in the newspapers as not to perceive that the conversation in the stern was earnest and long. Though there was a good deal about me and my reception in those newspapers, it never occurred to me that I was the subject of the conversation between the captain and pilot. When the pilot went to the wheel, the captain requested a private interview with an American lady who had talked with me a good deal during the voyage. Long after, I heard that he wanted to know from her what my opinions were upon Slavery; and, if anti-slavery, whether I had ever professed them publicly. It is odd that she did not tell him, (what she certainly knew) that I was completely committed to anti-slavery opinions by my writings. By her own account, her reply to the captain was that I was opposed to Slavery; but that I had been more than once heard to say on board, when questioned about my opinion of American institutions, that I went to learn, and not to teach. The captain seemed satisfied to let Slavery pass muster among “American institutions;” and he declared that he should now know what to say. He avowed that if he had been less well Edition: current; Page: [337] satisfied, he should not have ventured to put me ashore: and he made it his particular request that I should hear nothing of what had passed. The pilot had warned him that if Mr. Thompson was on board, he had better hide him in his cabin; for, if his presence was known in New York, he would be a dead man before night.

Knowing nothing of all this, being carefully kept ignorant while in New York, (as many resident ladies were) of the fact of the riots, and travelling for weeks among persons who either took no interest in the subject or anxiously ignored it, Miss J. and I long remained in a state of profound unconsciousness of the condition of society around us. It was not merely as travellers that we were thus kept in the dark. On the last occasion of my being at New York, I was assured by the ladies of Mrs. Jeffrey’s family that I was entirely misinformed about there having been any disturbances there at all in the autumn of 1834. I told them the particulars, — some notorious, and others of unquestionable truth; but they believed me so little that they asked husband and brother about it, in the middle of dinner, in the presence of the servants. The gentlemen could not, of course, deny the facts; but they did their best to make light of them, on the one hand; and, on the other, accounted for their silence to the wondering ladies by declaring that they were ashamed of the whole business, and did not wish to alarm or annoy the ladies unnecessarily. Such was the bondage in which the inhabitants of the boasted republic were living so long ago as 1834. Such bondage was, to English women, an inconceivable and incredible thing, till the fact was forced on our observation by further and more various travel.

We went among the Sedgwicks, on our ascent of the Hudson: we went to Niagara, and by Western Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, where we staid six weeks, proceeding to Baltimore (a Slave State) in December. There was all this while scarcely any thing to remind us of the subject of Slavery but the virulent abuse of the Abolitionists in the newspapers. I afterwards learned that the whole country was divided into three parties: the Pro-slavery multitude, the Colonisationists (represented in Edition: current; Page: [338] Europe by the before-mentioned Elliot Cresson), and the Abolitionists. The Colonisationists were simply a selection from the Pro-slavery multitude, who did the Slave States the service of ridding them of clever and dangerous slaves, and throwing a tub to the whale of adverse opinion, and easing lazy or weak consciences, by professing to deal, in a safe and beneficial manner, with the otherwise hopeless difficulty. Care was taken, so early as my visit to Philadelphia, and yet more at Baltimore and Washington, that I should hear much in favour of the Colonisation scheme, and nothing but horrors of the Abolitionists. I acknowledge here, once for all, that it is very probable that expressions unfavourable to the Abolitionists may be fairly remembered and quoted against me throughout the Southern and Western States. I never wavered, of course, in my detestation of Slavery; and I never intended to take any part against the Abolitionists; but it is scarcely possible to hear from day to day, for ten months, that persons whom one has never seen are fanatical, bloodthirsty and so forth, without catching up some prejudice against them. We were constantly and gravely informed, as a matter of fact, that Garrison and his followers used incitements to the slaves to murder their masters, and sent agents and publications into the South to effect insurrections. Till we had the means of ascertaining that these charges were totally and absolutely false, — Garrison and most of his followers being non-resistants, and thoroughly consistent opponents of physical force, — it was really impossible to remain wholly unimpressed by them. I steadily declared my intention to hear, when opportunity offered, what the Abolitionists, as well as others, had to say for themselves: but it certainly never entered my imagination that I could possibly find them the blameless apostles of a holy cause which I afterwards saw that they were.

The first perplexing incident happened at Philadelphia, ten or twelve weeks after our landing. A lady of that city whose manners were eminently disagreeable to us, beset us very vigorously, — obtruding her society upon us, and loading me with religious books for children, — some of her own writing, and some by others. When we made our farewell calls, we were Edition: current; Page: [339] not sorry to be told that this lady could see no visitors, as she had a cold. We were speeding away from the door, when a servant ran after us, with an unwelcome summons to the lady’s chamber. She made me sit beside her on her sofa, while Miss J. sat opposite, — out of my hearing. The lady having somehow introduced the subject of the blacks, a conversation ensued between her and Miss J. of which I did not hear a syllable. I saw my companion look embarrassed, and could not conceive why, till the lady turned full upon me with, “Can it be as your friend assures me? She says that if any young person known to you was attached to a negro, you would not interfere to prevent their marrying.” I replied that I had no notion of interfering between people who were attached; that I had never contemplated the case she proposed; but that I did not believe I should ever interfere with lovers proposing to marry. The lady exclaimed against my thus edging off from the question, — which I had not the least intention of doing: and she drove her inquiries home. Mystery is worse than any other mischief in such matters; and I therefore replied that, if the union was suitable in other respects, I should think it no business of mine to interfere on account of complexion. The lady cried out in horror, “Then you are an Amalgamationist!” “What is that?” I asked: and then remonstrated against foreign travellers being classified according to the party terms of the country. I was not then aware of the extent to which all but virtuous relations are found possible between the whites and blacks, nor how unions to which the religious and civil sanctions of marriage are alone wanting, take place wherever there are masters and slaves, throughout the country. When I did become aware of this, I always knew how to stop the hypocritical talk against “amalgamation.” I never failed to silence the cant by pointing to the rapidly increasing mulatto element of the population, and asking whether it was the priest’s service which made the difference between holy marriage and abhorred “amalgamation.” But I was not yet possessed of this defence when assailed by the Philadelphia saint. — When we rose to go, the woman insisted on kissing me, and poured out lamentations about my departure. Edition: current; Page: [340] The moment we were in the street, I said to my friend, “You must be careful, and not get me or yourself into any more such scrapes till we know what people mean on this subject of the blacks.” Miss J. justified herself completely. She had been so questioned that she could not avoid saying as much as she did, unless by the more dangerous method of refusing to reply. This was the beginning of many troubles: but the troubles would have occurred from some other beginning, if we had escaped this.

The day before we left Philadelphia, Dr. Julius called at the house where we were staying. He had just arrived from New York. He burst into the room with an air of joy which did not look very genuine; and I presently saw that he was absent and uneasy. After staying an unconscionable time, while I was fidgety about my preparations, he explained a long series of unintelligible nods and winks by asking to speak with me alone for a few minutes. My host (a clergyman, and in character, though not in circumstances, the original of Hope in “Deerbrook”) left the room, taking his little boy with him: and then Dr. Julius, turning as white as the marble chimney-piece, said he came to warn me to proceed no further south than Philadelphia. He had not been two hours in the city before he heard that I had avowed myself an amalgamationist, and that my proceeding southwards would bring upon me certain insult and danger. It appeared to me that there was every reason why this conversation should not be private; and I summoned my host. While I repeated to him what Dr. Julius had been saying, he too turned as pale as ashes; and between his ghastly countenance, and the gesticulations of Dr. Julius, the scene was a strange one. Dr. Julius declared the whole city was ringing with the news. — After a moment’s consideration, I declared that I should not alter my plans in any respect. I was a well-known anti-slavery writer before I thought of going to America; and my desire to see the operation of the system of Slavery could hardly be wrongly interpreted by any one who took an interest in my proceedings. I was disposed to trust to the openness of my plans, and the simplicity of my purpose, and to the common Edition: current; Page: [341] sense of those among whom I was going. Dr. Julius shrugged his shoulders; and my host suggested a method by which the difficulty might be probably obviated. The Editors of the two leading Philadelphia newspapers were well acquainted with me, and would undoubtedly, according to custom, give their report of me on my departure. They could with perfect truth, and would on the slightest hint, declare that my opinions on slavery were candidly held, and that they afforded no obstacle to the most friendly intercourse with me. I positively forbade any such movement on the part of my personal friends, feeling that I should never succeed in seeing the Americans as they were, if my road was paved for me from one society to another. Knowing Dr. Julius’s tendency to panic, I felt little apprehension from any thing he could say; and I particularly requested my host and hostess not to alarm Miss J. with any account of what had passed. I took on myself the duty which belonged to me, of enlightening her sufficiently to put her own case into her own hands.

At Baltimore, further obscure intimations of danger were conveyed to me: and at Washington, so many, that I felt the time was come for laying the case before my companion. Reflecting that she and I had discussed the whole matter of my anti-slavery opinions before we left home; and that she was very prudent and extremely clever, and fully able to take care of herself, all I thought it necessary to do was this.

In our own room at Washington, I spread out our large map, showed the great extent of Southern States through which we should have to pass, probably for the most part without an escort; and always, where we were known at all, with my anti-slavery reputation uppermost in every body’s mind. — “Now, Louisa,” said I, “does it not look awful? If you have the slightest fear, say so now, and we will change our route.” — “Not the slightest,” said she. “If you are not afraid, I am not.” This was all she ever heard from me of danger.

The intimations I refer to came to me in all manner of ways. I was specially informed of imprisonments for opinions the same as are found in “Demerara;” which indeed might well be under Edition: current; Page: [342] the laws of South Carolina, as I found them in full operation. Hints were offered of strangers with my views not being allowed to come away alive. But the most ordinary cunning or sensitiveness of the slave-holders would account for attempts like these to frighten a woman from going where she might see slavery for herself. I was more impressed by less direct warning; by words dropped, and countenances of anxiety and pity. — Before I left Washington, I wrote to my Philadelphia host and hostess, who were not only my most intimate American friends, but witnesses of the first attempt to alarm me. I told them of the subsequent incidents of the same kind, and that I had communicated them to no other person whatever, supposing that they might be only empty threats. As they might however be real, I wrote to assure these friends, and other friends and my family through them, that I went into the danger warily: and I requested that my letter might be kept in evidence of this, in case of my never returning.

As for the terms on which I went, I took timely care that there should be no mistake about that. I carried letters to some of the leading statesmen at Washington; and the first to acknowledge them were the senators from the Southern States. On the very first day, several of these gentlemen came straight from the senate, with their wives, not only to offer me their services at Washington, but to engage us to visit them at their homes, in our progress through the South. Before I pledged myself to make any visit whatever, I took care to make it understood that I was not to be considered as silenced on the subject of slavery by the hospitality of slave-owners. I made an express reservation of my freedom in this matter, declaring that I should not, of course, publish names or facts which could draw attention upon individuals in private life; but that it must not be forgotten that I had written upon Slavery, and that I should write on it again, if I saw reason. They all made in substance the same reply; that my having published “Demerara” was the main reason why they wished me to visit them. They desired me to see their “peculiar institution” for myself: they would show me the best and the worst instances of its working; and Edition: current; Page: [343] their hope was — so they declared, — that I should publish exactly what I saw. The whole conduct and conversation of my southern entertainers showed an expectation of seeing in print all that was then passing. I often told them that they were much more sure than I was that I should write a book. I am not aware that there was ever any misunderstanding between them and me on this head; and if any charge of my having accepted hospitalities from slave-holders, and then denounced their mode of life has ever been brought, or should ever be brought against me, I repel it as wholly groundless. A fair lady of blue-stocking Boston said of me after my book appeared, “She has ate of our bread and drunk of our cup; and she calls dear, delightful, intellectual Boston pedantic!” on which a countryman of the complainant remarked, “If she thinks Boston pedantic, did you mean to bribe her, by a cup of tea, not to say so?” The southerners might be more easily excused for this sort of unreasonableness and cant: but I never heard that they were guilty of it. Angry as they were with my account of slavery, I am not aware that they imputed ingratitude and bad manners to me in consequence.

It was not in the south that I saw or heard any thing to remind me of personal danger: nor yet in the west, though the worst inflictions of Lynch law were beginning there about that time. My friend and I were in fact handed on by the families of senators, to the care and kindness of a long succession of them, from the day we reached Washington, till we emerged from the Slave States at Cincinnati. Governor Hayne and his friends, and Mr. Calhoun’s family secured every attention to us at Charleston: and Colonel Preston was our host at Columbia. Judge Porter, of the federal senate, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, was the familiar friend who took us in charge at New Orleans: and Mr. Clay conducted us on board the steamer there, — his son-in-law being our escort up the Mississippi, and our host afterwards in Kentucky, where Mr. Clay, whose estate adjoined, spent part of every day with us. No one of these, nor any other of our intimate acquaintance can ever, I am sure, have complained of my act of publishing on the institution which Edition: current; Page: [344] they exhibited to me, however they may dislike my opinions on it.

Our host at Charleston was a clergyman from the north, with a northern wife, who had rushed into that admiration of Slavery which the native ladies do not entertain. I never met with a lady of southern origin who did not speak of Slavery as a sin and a curse, — the burden which oppressed their lives; whereas Mrs. Gilman observed to me, in the slave-market at Charleston, in full view of a woman who, with her infant, was on the stand, — that her doctrine was that the one race must be subordinate to the other, and that if the blacks should ever have the upper hand, she should not object to standing on that table with her children, and being sold to the highest bidder. This lady’s publications bear the same testimony. Her brother-in-law is Mr. Ellis Gray Loring of Boston, well known as an avowed Abolitionist, and a most generous contributor to the cause. The Gilmans adored this brother-in-law, — speaking of his abolitionism as his only fault. I was gratified by receiving, in their house, a message from him, to say that his wife and he would call on me as soon as I went into their neighbourhood, and that they begged I would reserve some time for a visit to them. I was aware that this excellent pair, and also Dr. and Mrs. Follen, were, though abolitionists, not “blood-thirsty” nor “fanatical.” One of my chief objects in meeting their advances was to learn what the abolitionists really thought, felt and intended. I had attended Colonisation meetings, whenever invited, and heard all that the advocates of slavery had to say; and I made no secret of my intention to give the same ample hearing to the abolitionists, if they should desire to instruct me in their views and objects.

My first intercourse with any abolitionist took place when I was staying in Kentucky, on my way northwards, and when Mr. Clay was daily endeavouring, at his daughter’s house or his own, to impress me in favour of slavery. A long and large letter from Boston arrived one day. The hand was strong and flowing; the wording wonderfully terse, the style wonderfully eloquent; but the whole appearing to me rather intrusive, and Edition: current; Page: [345] not a little fanatical. It was from her who has been my dear, honoured and beloved friend from that year to the present day. When I saw the signature “Maria Weston Chapman,” I inquired who she was, and learned that she was one of the “fanatics.” The occasion of her writing was that some saying of mine had reached her which showed, she thought, that I was blinded and beguiled by the slave-holders; and she bespoke for the abolitionists, in the name of their cause, a candid hearing. She then proceeded to remonstrance. I cannot bear to think of my answer. I have no clear remembrance of it; but I am sure it was repulsive, cold and hard. I knew nothing of what was before her eyes, — the beginning of the reign of terror in New England on the slave question; and I knew myself to be too thoroughly opposed to slavery to need caution from an abolitionist. I was not aware of the danger of the Colonisation snare. I was, in short, though an English abolitionist, quite unaware of the conditions of abolitionism in America. Mrs. Chapman received my reply, and then myself, with a spirit of generosity, disinterestedness and thorough nobleness which laid a broad foundation for friendship between us, whenever I should become worthy of it: but not one woman in a thousand, (and that one in a thousand only for the sake of the cause) would have ever addressed me again after receiving my letter, if my general impression of it is at all correct.

In August, 1835, Miss J. and I were the guests of a clergyman at Medford, near Boston: and there I saw Dr. and Mrs. Follen, and Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Gray Loring, and enjoyed sufficient intercourse with them to find that some abolitionists at least were worthy of all love and honour. We travelled in other parts of Massachusetts before paying our Boston visits; and it was in passing through Boston, on my way from Salem to Providence, that I saw, but without being aware of it, the first outbreak of Lynch law that I ever witnessed. In that August, 1835, there had been a public meeting in Boston (soon and long repented of) to denounce, rebuke and silence the abolitionists; a proceeding which imposed on the abolitionists the onus of maintaining the liberty of speech and action in Massachusetts. How they Edition: current; Page: [346] did it, few or none can have forgotten; how, on the 21st of the following October, the women held their proper meeting, well knowing that it might cost them their lives; how Mr. Garrison was mobbed and dragged through the streets towards the tarkettle which he knew to be heating near at hand, but was saved by the interference and clever management of a stout truckman, who got him into the gaol: and how Mrs. Chapman, the leader of the band of confessors, remained in possession of the moral victory of the day. Miss J. and I asked the meaning of the crowded state of the streets in the midst of Boston that day; and our fellow-travellers in the coach condescended to explain it by the pressure near the post-office on foreign post day! At Providence, we heard what had really happened. President Wayland agreed with me at the time about the iniquitous and fatal character of the outrage; but called on me, after a trip to Boston, to relieve my anxiety by the assurance that it was all right, — the mob having been entirely composed of gentlemen! Professor Henry Ware, who did and said better things afterwards, told me that the plain truth was, the citizens did not choose to let such a man as Garrison live among them, — admitting that Garrison’s opinions on slavery were the only charge against him. Lawyers on that occasion defended a breach of the laws; ladies were sure that the gentlemen of Boston would do nothing improper: merchants thought the abolitionists were served quite right, — they were so troublesome to established routine; the clergy thought the subject so “low” that people of taste should not be compelled to hear any thing about it; and even Judge Story, when I asked him whether there was not a public prosecutor who might prosecute for the assault on Garrison, if the abolitionists did not, replied that he had given his advice (which had been formally asked) against any notice whatever being taken of the outrage, — the feeling being so strong against the discussion of slavery, and the rioters being so respectable in the city. These things I myself heard and saw, or I would not ask any body to believe what I could hardly credit myself. The rural settlements were sounder in principle and conduct; and so were the working men of Boston, and many young men not yet trammelled and corrupted by Edition: current; Page: [347] the interests of trade and the slavery of public opinion: but the public opinion of Boston was what I have represented in the autumn of 1835, when I was unexpectedly and very reluctantly, but necessarily, implicated in the struggle.

It was in the interval between that dispersed meeting of the abolitionists and their next righteous attempt to assemble, that Miss J. and I returned to the neighbourhood, — paying our first visit at Professor Henry Ware’s at Cambridge. Dr. and Mrs. Follen called on us there one morning; and Dr. Follen said, with a mild and serious countenance, “I wish to know whether we understood you rightly, — that you would attend an abolition meeting, if opportunity offered.” I repeated what I had said before; — that, having attended Colonisation meetings, and all others where I thought I could gain light on the subject of slavery, I was not only willing but anxious to hear what the Abolitionists had to say, on their public as well as their private occasions. Dr. Follen said that the opportunity might presently occur, as there was to be a meeting on the next Wednesday, (November 18th) adding that some were of opinion that personal danger was incurred by attending abolition meetings at present. This was, of course, nothing to me in a case where a principle, political or moral, was involved; and I said so. Dr. Follen inquired whether, if I should receive an invitation to attend a meeting in a day or two, I would go. I replied that it must depend on the character of the meeting. If it was one at which ladies would merely settle their accounts and arrange their local affairs, I would rather defer it till a safer time: but if it was one where I could gain the knowledge I wanted, I would go, under any circumstances. Dr. Follen said the meeting would be of the latter kind: and that, as it was impossible to hold it at the Anti-slavery Office without creating a mob, the meeting was to be held at the house of Mr. Francis Jackson. This house was only just finished, and built according to the taste of this most faithful citizen, for himself and his daughters: but he said he would willingly sacrifice it, rather than the ladies of Boston should not have a place to meet in.

The Follens had not been gone many minutes before the invitation Edition: current; Page: [348] arrived. It was signed by the President and the Secretary of the Ladies’ Society; and it included in its terms any friend whom I might like to take with me. The note was enclosed in one from Mr. Loring, proposing to call for Miss J. and me on the Wednesday, that we might dine early at his house, and go to the meeting with his family party. His house was near Mr. Jackson’s, and it was not considered safe to go otherwise than on foot. I had before satisfied myself as to the duty of not involving any of my hosts in any of my proceedings on the abolition question. But it was now necessary to give Miss J. time to consider the part she should take. Three ladies, all inadequate to the subject, were dining at Dr. Ware’s that day; and it was impossible at the moment to have any private conversation with my companion. I therefore handed her the letters across the table, with a sign of silence; and she had five hours for reflection before the guests departed. “Have you read those letters?” I then inquired of her. — “Yes.” — “Do you mean to go?” — “Certainly, if you do.” — “Shall I say so for you?” — “If you please.” — I therefore accepted both invitations for both of us, and returned to the drawing-room, where I soon found an opportunity of saying to my host and hostess, “I do not ask or wish an opinion from you: but I tell you a fact. Miss J. and I are going to dine at Mr. Loring’s on Wednesday, to attend an abolition meeting.” Dr. Ware turned round as he stood in the window, and said, “You will be mobbed. You will certainly be mobbed.” — “Perhaps so,” I replied. I then explained that Mr. Loring was coming for us; so that none of our Cambridge friends would be seen in the streets, or involved in our proceeding. I was sorry to hear, the next morning, that my host had desired Mr. Loring not to trouble himself to fetch us, as Mrs. Ware had some shopping to do in Boston, and Dr. Ware would drive us there in his “carry-all.” — From time to time during the intervening day, our host observed, “You will certainly be mobbed:” and when I once more and finally explained that this would make no difference, he jokingly declared that he said it so often, partly to be proved right, if any accident should happen, and partly for a jest, if all went well.

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At Mr. Loring’s house we found Mrs. Chapman and one of her sisters, and the Rev. Samuel May. During dinner, the conversation was chiefly on the Southern slave-holders, whose part was taken by Miss J. and myself, so far as to plead the involuntariness of their position, and the extreme perplexity of their case, — over and above the evil conditions of prejudice and ignorance in which they were brought up. Our line of argument was evidently worth little in the estimate of all present, who appeared to us, in our then half-informed state, hard and narrow. But we were now in the way to learn better. Mr. Loring was too ill to eat or speak: and it was plain that he ought to have been in bed: but he would not leave his wife’s side on that day. — Immediately after dinner it was time to be gone. When I was putting on my shawl upstairs, Mrs. Chapman came to me, bonnet in hand, to say, “You know we are threatened with a mob again to-day: but I do not myself much apprehend it. It must not surprise us; but my hopes are stronger than my fears.” I hear now, as I write, the clear silvery tones of her who was to be the friend of the rest of my life. I still see the exquisite beauty which took me by surprise that day; — the slender, graceful form, — the golden hair which might have covered her to her feet; — the brilliant complexion, noble profile, and deep blue eyes; — the aspect, meant by nature to be soft and winning only, but that day, (as ever since) so vivified by courage, and so strengthened by upright conviction, as to appear the very embodiment of heroism. “My hopes,” said she, as she threw up her golden hair under her bonnet, “are stronger than my fears.”

Mr. Loring and I walked first. Just before turning into the street where Mr. Jackson lived, he stopped, and looking me full in the face, said, “Once more, — have you physical courage? for you may need it now.” On turning the corner we were pleased to find only about a dozen boys yelling in front of Mr. Jackson’s house, as often as the coloured women went up the steps. No one was detained there an instant. The door opened and shut as rapidly as possible. As it was a ladies’ meeting, there were no gentlemen in the house but the owner, and the two who accompanied us. When all were admitted, the front door was Edition: current; Page: [350] bolted, and persons were stationed at the rear of the house, to keep a way clear for escape over the fence, if necessary. About a hundred and thirty ladies were assembled; all being members except Mrs. George Thompson, Miss J. and myself. The folding-doors between the two drawing-rooms were thrown back; and the ladies were seated on benches closely ranged in both rooms. The President’s table was placed by the folding-door; and near her were seated the officers of the society. The three gentlemen overheard the proceedings from the hall. I may refer to my “Retrospect of Western Travel,” (volume iii., page 153) for some account of the proceedings; and to an article of mine in the “Westminster Review,” of December, 1838, entitled “The Martyr Age of the United States,” for evidence of the perils dared by the women who summoned and held this meeting. To me, the commotion was a small matter, — provided we got away safely. I was going home in less than a year; and should leave peril and slander behind me. But these women were to pass their lives in the city whose wrath they were defying; and their persecutors were fellow-citizens, fellow-worshippers, and familiar acquaintances. I trust that any who may have the least doubt of the seriousness of the occasion will look back to that year of terror, 1835, in that sketch in the “Westminster Review” or other records. The truth is, it was one of the crises which occur in the life of a youthful nation, and which try the quality of the people, bringing out the ten righteous from among the multitude who are doing evil.

In the midst of the proceedings which I have elsewhere detailed, a note was handed to me, written in pencil on the back of the hymn which the party were singing. It was from Mr. Loring; and these were his words. “Knowing your opinions, I just ask you whether you would object to give a word of sympathy to those who are suffering here for what you have advocated elsewhere. It would afford great comfort.” The moment of reading this note was one of the most painful of my life. I felt that I could never be happy again if I refused what was asked of me: but, to comply was probably to shut against me every door in the United States but those of the Abolitionists. Edition: current; Page: [351] I should no more see persons and things as they ordinarily were: I should have no more comfort or pleasure in my travels; and my very life would be, like other people’s, endangered by an avowal of the kind desired. George Thompson was then on the sea, having narrowly escaped with his life; and the fury against “foreign incendiaries” ran high. Houses had been sacked; children had been carried through the snow from their beds at midnight: travellers had been lynched in the market-places, as well as in the woods; and there was no safety for any one, native or foreign, who did what I was now compelled to do. — Having made up my mind, I was considering how this word of sympathy should be given, when Mrs. Loring came up with an easy and smiling countenance, and said — “You have had my husband’s note. He hopes you will do as he says; but you must please yourself, of course.” I said “No: it is a case in which there is no choice.” “O! pray do not do it unless you like it. You must do as you think right.” “Yes,” said I: “I must.”

At first, (out of pure shyness) I requested the President to say a few words for me: but, presently remembering the importance of the occasion, and the difficulty of setting right any mistake that the President might fall into, I agreed to that lady’s request that I would speak for myself. Having risen therefore, with the note in my hand, and being introduced to the meeting, I said, as was precisely recorded at the time, what follows.

“I have been requested by a friend present to say something — if only a word — to express my sympathy in the objects of this meeting. I had supposed that my presence here would be understood as showing my sympathy with you. But as I am requested to speak, I will say what I have said through the whole South, in every family where I have been; that I consider Slavery as inconsistent with the law of God, and as incompatible with the course of his Providence. I should certainly say no less at the North than at the South concerning this utter abomination — and I now declare that in your principles I fully agree.”

I emphasized the word “principles,” (involuntarily,) because Edition: current; Page: [352] my mind was as yet full of what I had heard at the South of the objectionable methods of the Abolitionists. I have already explained that I ascertained all reports of the kind to be entirely false. — As I concluded, Mrs. Chapman bowed down her glowing face on her folded arms, and there was a murmur of satisfaction through the room, while outside, the growing crowd (which did not however become large) was hooting and yelling, and throwing mud and dust against the windows.

Dr. Ware did the brave act of driving up to Mr. Jackson’s door, to take us home. On our road home, he questioned me about the meeting. “What have you been doing?” he asked. “Why,” said I, “I have been speaking.” — “No! you have not!” he exclaimed in alarm. I told him that I was as sorry for it as he could be; but that it was wholly unavoidable. He communicated the fact, first to his wife and then to his brother-in-law, at home, in a way which showed how serious an affair they considered it. They could only hope that no harm would come of it. As I heard nothing about it for nearly three weeks, I began to hope so too. — During those three weeks, however, the facts got into print. Dr. Follen went to the Antislavery office one day, and found the Secretary and Mr. May revising the report of the meeting, — Mr. May taking extreme care that my precise words should be given. Nothing could be more accurate than the report, as far as I was concerned.

About three weeks after the meeting, I was staying at the Rev. Dr. Walker’s, at Charlestown, — a suburb of Boston, the weather being extremely bad with snow-storms, so that visiting was almost out of the question, — considering that a windy and immensely long bridge stretches between Charlestown and Boston. The weather prevented my being surprised that so few people came; but my host and hostess were in daily expectation of some remark about their seclusion from society. It was not till many months afterwards that I was told that there were two reasons why I was not visited there as elsewhere. One reason was that I had avowed, in reply to urgent questions, that I was disappointed in an oration of Mr. Everett’s: and the other was that I had publicly condemned the institution of Slavery. I Edition: current; Page: [353] hope the Boston people have outgrown the childishness of sulking at opinions, not in either case volunteered, but obtained by pressure. At the time, I could not have conceived of such pettishness; and it was now nearly twenty years ago; so we may hope that the weakness is more or less outgrown, — so little as the indulgence of it can matter to passing strangers, and so injurious as such tendencies are to permanent residents. At length, some light was thrown on the state of my affairs, which I found every body knew more of than Miss J. and myself.

Miss Peabody of Boston was staying at Dr. Walker’s at the same time with ourselves. The day before she returned home, she happened to be in the Doctor’s library when his newspaper came in. It was the leading paper in Boston, conducted by Mr. Hale, the brother-in-law of Mr. Everett. Mr. Hale knew me, — having travelled a whole day in company with me, during which the party conversed abundantly. His paper contained, on this day, an article on my attending an abolition meeting, very bad in itself, but made infinitely worse by giving, with its sanction, large extracts from a New York paper of bad repute (The Courier and Enquirer) — those extracts being, to speak plainly, filthy. Dr. Walker and Miss Peabody burned the paper, hoping that I might not hear of it. In the course of the morning, however, Miss Tuckerman called, in company with two other ladies, and was evidently full of something that she was eager to say. With a solemn countenance of condolence she presently told me that she had never seen Dr. Channing so full of concern as on that day, on the appearance of a most painful article in the “Daily Advertiser;” and she proceeded to magnify the misfortune in a way which astonished me. I begged her to tell Dr. Channing not to be troubled about it, as I was, in the first place, prepared for the consequences of what I might say or do; and, in the next, I acknowledged no foreign jurisdiction in the case. The next time I saw Dr. Channing, he quietly observed that it was all a mistake about his having been troubled on my account. His anxiety was for Mr. Hale, not for me. He did not offer an opinion, then or ever afterwards, as to whether I was right or wrong in regard to that act: and I never inquired. I found Edition: current; Page: [354] from others, some time afterwards, that he had written a strong remonstrance to Mr. Hale, declaring that he would not throw up the newspaper, as many other citizens did that day; because, having the independence of the newspaper press at heart, he thought it unjustifiable to desert an Editor for one slip, however great. Many others thought differently; and Mr. Hale lost so many subscribers before night as to be in a thorough ill-humour about the whole business. His excuse to the public for having delayed the “exposure” of me so long was, like that of the New York editor, that he had not credited the fact of my attending an abolition meeting till he saw it confirmed in the Liberator, though daily assured of it by many anonymous letters. — In the course of that strange day, many other papers came out, full of fury against me, till Miss Peabody was almost frantic with grief. She had to return to Boston in the evening. Two hours after her return, late in the snowy night, a special messenger brought a letter from Miss Peabody, requiring an immediate answer. The letter told me that the Abolitionists were far from grateful for what I had done, while all the rest of society were alienated; and the justification of this assertion was that an abolition lady had made a saucy speech about it at the supper table of the boarding-house. (I was glad to find afterwards that this was a mistake, — the lady being no Abolitionist, and her meaning being also misapprehended by Miss Peabody.) The main business of the letter was to tell me that there was one newspaper not yet committed against me, — the Atlas; and the Editor had just promised Miss Peabody to wait the return of her messenger for any explanation that I or my friends might send. My reply was, of course, that I had no explanation to give, — the report in the Liberator, on which all this censure was grounded, being perfectly accurate. I requested Miss Peabody to repeat to me no more conversations which were not intended for me to hear, and to burn no more newspapers, which I had a right to see. Next morning, the Atlas came out against me, as strong as all the rest. I was truly concerned for Dr. and Mrs. Walker, who could obtain no guests to meet me but their own relatives, and those, I believe, only by special entreaty.

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The day after the declaration of hostilities, while two ladies, yet ignorant of the hubbub, were calling on me, a coach drove up, and Mr. Loring entered, looking like a corpse from the grave. He had been confined to his bed ever since the day of the meeting, had risen from it that morning, to be wrapped in blankets, and put into the coach, and came over the long bridge, and through wind and snow to relieve his mind. He intimated that he must see me alone. I asked him if he could wait till the ladies were gone. “I can wait all day,” he replied. When I could go to him, I took Miss J. with me as a witness, as I did on all occasions of importance, lest my deafness should cause mistake, or the imputation of it. With strong emotion, Mr. Loring said, “I find I have injured you; and I have come to know if I can make reparation.” My good friend thought he could never be happy again! I bade him be comforted, telling him that the responsibility of the act of avowal was mine at bottom. The suggestion was his; the decision was mine. “Thank God!” he exclaimed: “then my mind is relieved. But the question is, what can I do?” “Nothing,” I told him: — “that is, supposing the account is accurately given in the papers which have copied from the Liberator.” I asked him whether he had the Advertiser with him. Yes, he had; but he never could show it me. I desired to see it, as I could not form a judgment without. He threw it into my lap, and walked to the window, and up and down the room, paler, if possible, than before. The facts were correctly stated, and I had therefore only to send my friend home, desiring him to get well, and trust me to bear the consequences of saying abroad what I had long ago printed at home. He left me much relieved, as he said; but he was long in getting over it. When Miss J. and I were staying at his house some weeks afterwards, we observed with pain the cloud that came over the faces of himself and his wife at every slight and insult, public and private, offered to me. I took occasion one day, when they and I were alone, to rebuke this, reminding them that when they devoted themselves to the cause, it was with a determination to bear, for themselves and each other, all its consequences; and that they ought to exert the Edition: current; Page: [356] same faith on behalf of their friends. To this they agreed, and never looked grave on the matter again.

As I anticipated, I saw nothing of Boston society, for some time, but what I had seen before; and at no time was I admitted as I should since have been, if I had accepted the invitations sent me in recent years, to go and see what reparation awaited me. I am told that many people who were panic-stricken during that reign of terror are heartily ashamed now of their treatment of me. I should be glad if they were yet more ashamed of the flatteries and worship with which the Americans received and entertained me, till I went to that meeting. The “enthusiasm” of which they boasted, and which, I hereby declare, and my companion can testify, was always distasteful to me, collapsed instantly when I differed publicly from them on a sore point: and their homage was proved to be, like all such idolatries, a worship of the ideal, and no more related to myself, in fact, than to the heroine of a dream. There was something diverting, but more vexatious, in the freaks and whims of imaginative people, during the season of my being (in American phrase) “Lafayetted” in the United States; that is, during the first half of my stay; and the converse experience of the last few months was not devoid of amusement, though it was largely mingled with disgust. The “lion-hunters” who embarrassed me with invitations which I had no inclination to accept, now backed out of their liability with a laughable activity. Mrs. Douglass Cruger, of New York, who amused and bored Sir Walter Scott so wonderfully, and of whom most English celebrities have curious anecdotes to tell, was one of the most difficult to deal with, from her pertinacity in insisting that I should be her guest when I made my stay at New York: but, before I went there, I had made my abolition avowal; and never was there such a list of reasons why a hostess could not invite guests, as Mrs. Cruger poured out to me when we met in a crowd at a ball; nor any thing so sudden as her change of tone, with some hesitation lingering in it, when she saw that I was well received after all. A somewhat similar instance was that of General and Mrs. Sullivan, of Boston, with whom Miss J. and I had travelled for Edition: current; Page: [357] many days together, and who had been urgent in their entreaties that we would spend a long time with them in Boston. On the appearance of the Advertiser article, they ceased their attentions, taking no further notice of me than once inviting me to a family party. Moreover, Dr. Channing inquired of some friends of mine whether I had been informed of the manner in which the Sullivans were speaking of me throughout Boston; for that I ought to be put on my guard against looking for, or accepting attentions from persons who so treated my name. Again, I called one day on Mr. and Mrs. C. G. L., with whom we had had friendship on the Mississippi, and who had been then, and were always afterwards, kind to us in every possible way. I found Mr. L. ill, and almost unable to speak from a swelled face. Mrs. L. explained for him that he was wretched on my account, and had had two sleepless nights. Three gentlemen had called on him, entreating him to use his influence in persuading me not to expose myself to the censure and ridicule of the whole country. In answer to all that I said, Mrs. L. pleaded the wretchedness of her family in hearing “such things” said of me; and she continued piteously beseeching me not to do “such things.” She said all Boston was in an uproar about it. Alas! no power availed to put “all Boston in an uproar” about the intolerable lot of millions of slaves, or about the national disgrace of their fate. My friends could lie awake at night from concern about what their neighbours were saying of a passing stranger, to whom Boston opinion would be nothing a year hence; and they could not spare a moment, or an emotion, for the negro mother weeping for her children, nor for the crushed manhood of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen whose welfare was their natural charge. In vain I told my friends how ashamed I was of my troubles being cared for, and how much better their grief and agitation might be bestowed on real sufferers whom they could aid, than on me who complained of nothing, and needed nothing. But really the subservience to opinion in Boston at that time seemed a sort of mania; and the sufferers under it were insane enough to expect that their slavery was to be shared by a foreigner accustomed to a totally different state of society.

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For a considerable time, my intercourse was confined to the Abolitionists and their friends, and my own former friends; but before the end of my stay, it seemed to be discovered that I was not the monster that had been described; and sundry balls and parties were given for my entertainment. In other States, however, the prejudice remained as long as I was in the country, and some time after, giving place at length to an earnest desire (to judge by the warmth of invitations from various quarters) that I would return, and see their country in what my correspondents call its normal state. I am pleased to find, however, within the last few days, that in the South I am still reviled, as I was twenty years ago, and held up, in the good company of Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Stowe, to the abhorrence of the South. If I am proud of my company, in one sense, I am ashamed of it in another. Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Stowe have really sacrificed and suffered, and thrown their whole future into the cause; whereas mine is so cheap a charity that I blush to have it associated with theirs. By their side, I am but as one who gives a half-penny to a beggar, in comparison with those who have sold all their goods to feed the poor.

From Boston I went to New York; and, though several months had passed, the impression against me was so strong that my host, on whose arm I entered a ball-room, was “cut” by fourteen of his acquaintance on that account. When he told me this, as a sign of the time, he related that, seeing a group of gentlemen gathered round a pompous young man who was talking vehemently, he put his head in to see what it was all about, when he heard the following; — “My verdict is that Harriet Martineau is either an impertinent meddler in our affairs, or a woman of genius without common sense.” My host replied, with equal solemnity, “If, sir, such be your sentence, Miss Martineau must bear it as she may!” thus exploding the serious business with a general laugh. These instances are mere samples of social rudenesses too numerous to be related.

To return to the Daily Advertiser; — in about ten days, an article appeared which the Editor declared to be his amende, and which the public seemed to consider such. The Editor professed Edition: current; Page: [359] to choose, from among an amazing number, a letter which was afterwards avowed to be by Mr. Minot, a respected Boston merchant, and a connexion of the Sedgwicks. The insertion of this letter was considered by all who understood the principle involved in the case an aggravation of the original offence against that principle. It observed that American travellers were allowed in England, by courtesy, the liberty of expressing their opinions on all subjects; and it was to be hoped that Boston would not refuse a similar courtesy to a distinguished lady who was allowed in private relations to be, &c., &c., and to whom a debt of gratitude was owing for her writings. I have strong reason to believe that the discussions arising out of this treatment of me, — the attacks and the yet worse amende, — roused the minds of many young citizens to a consideration of the whole subject of freedom of opinion, and made many converts to that, and also to abolitionism. One clear consequence of my conversation and experience together was that the next prosecution for Blasphemy in Massachusetts was the last. An old man, above seventy, was imprisoned in a grated dungeon for having printed that he believed the God of the Universalists to be “a chimera of the imagination.” Some who had listened to my assertions of the rights of thought and speech drew up a Memorial* to the Governor of the State for a pardon for old Abner Kneeland, — stating their ground with great breadth and clearness, while disclaiming any kind of sympathy with the views and spirit of the victim. The prime mover being a well-known religious man, and Dr. Channing being willing to put his name at the head of the list of requisitionists, the principle of their remonstrance stood out brightly and unmistakeably. The religious corporations opposed the petitioners with all their efforts; and the newspapers threw dirt at them with extraordinary vigour; so that the Governor did not grant their request: but when old Abner Kneeland came out of his prison every body knew that that ancient phase of society had passed away, and that there would never again be a prosecution for Blasphemy in Massachusetts. The civil rights of Atheists have not since been meddled Edition: current; Page: [360] with, though those of the coloured race and their champions are still precarious or worse.

The general indignation which I encountered at every step was, however disagreeable, far less painful to me than some experience among my personal friends. A letter from my Philadelphia host (the same who turned pale at Dr. Julius’s news) grieved me much. He told me that his first intimation of what I had done was from the abuse in the newspapers; that his great hope was that I had not acted without purpose; but that still, under any circumstances, he could not but greatly lament the act, as he feared it would totally ruin the effect upon the American public of any book I might write. In my reply, I reminded him of his own exhortation to me to forget all about writing a book, in order that my own impressions and ideas of what I witnessed might be true and free. He abandoned his objection to my attending the meeting, but still wished that I had not further committed myself. When I visited Philadelphia some months afterwards, I found the aspect of society much changed towards me; and my hostess and her coterie of friends surrendered none of their objections to what I had done. How changed is the whole scene now! That host of mine has become one of the most marked men in the cause. The scales fell from his eyes long years ago, and he perceived that there can be small virtue in preaching and teaching which covers up the master sin and sorrow of the time. He has seen from his pulpit a large proportion of his hearers rise and go away on his first mention of the subject on which they most needed to hear him. He has undergone social reproach and family solicitude for doing what I did, — under the same objection, but at infinitely greater risk, and under temptations to silence which scarcely another in his profession has had grace to resist. In those days however, I had to feel that I must stand alone; and, far worse, my friend’s disapprobation (he being the most unworldly and upright of men) could not but cause some perplexity in my mind, even in so simple an action as this, in the midst of a clamour which left me scarcely any quietness for reflexion. I found it best to accept this new trouble as retribution if I had indeed been wrong, Edition: current; Page: [361] and to defer too close a questioning of past acts to a calmer time. If any are surprised that I could be shaken even thus far, I can only say that they cannot conceive of the hubbub of censure in which I was living, — enough to confound the soberest senses.

On one occasion, my indignation was fairly roused. Among the passengers in my voyage out was the Rev. Charles Brooks, who showed me great kindness during our whole acquaintance, and whose first wife was a special friend of mine. I was their guest at the time of the anniversary festival of Forefathers’ Day, at Plymouth, and I accompanied them to the celebration. The first incident of the day was a rather curious one. The orator of the occasion was Senator Sprague, whom I had known well at Washington. He took particular pains to have me seated where I could hear him well; and then he fixed his eye on me, as if addressing to me particularly the absurd abuse of England which occupied much of his address, and some remarks which were unmistakeably intended for my correction. On our returning to our quarters while the gentlemen went to dinner, an aged lady who could not brave the cold out of doors, asked me how I liked Mr. Sprague’s address; on which her daughter burst out with an exclamation which I have never forgotten. The blood rose to her temples, and she threw her bonnet on the table as she cried “O mother! I am sick of this boasting and exaltation of ourselves over others. When I think of what we might be and what we are, I want to say only ‘God be merciful to us sinners!’ ” While we were dressing for the ball, the gentlemen were dining. When Mr. Brooks came for us, he bent over my chair to inform me that my health had been proposed by the President to the Sons of the Pilgrims, and drunk with honour; and that it had fallen to him to return thanks for me, as my nearest friend present. I was struck by his perplexed and abashed countenance; but I might have gone to the ball believing his tale without deduction but for an accident which gave me some notion of what had really taken place. Mr. Brooks, who always went out of the room, or at least covered his face with a screen, when the subject of anti-slavery was mentioned, would willingly have kept from me, if it had been possible, all knowledge of the Edition: current; Page: [362] toast: but it was not possible; and he told me himself in order that I might know only what was convenient to him, at the risk of my making myself ridiculous at the ball. Happily, there was some one who served me better. — The method in which the President had introduced my health was this. After designating “the Illustrious Stranger” who was to be toasted, he said that he was confident no son of the Pilgrims would refuse to drink, considering that the lady in question was their guest, and how they and their children were indebted to her for her writings. Considering these things, could they not forgive her, if, holding absurd and mischievous opinions, she had set them in operation in a sphere where she had no concern? Could they not forgive one such act in a guest to whom they were under such large obligations? — What Mr. Brooks took upon him to say for me, I was never able, with all my pains, to ascertain; for the newspapers gave merely an intimation that he acknowledged the toast. From his unwillingness that I should hear exactly what passed, I have always trembled to think what surrender of principle he may have made in my name.

From Boston, the abuse of me ran through almost every paper in the Union. Newspapers came to me from the South, daring me to enter the Slave States again, and offering mock invitations to me to come and see how they would treat foreign incendiaries. They would hang me: they would cut my tongue out, and cast it on a dunghill; and so forth. The calumnies were so outrageous, and the appeal to the fears of the Slave-holders so vehement that I could feel no surprise if certain interested persons were moved to plot against my life. My name was joined with George Thompson’s, (who had already escaped with difficulty:) I was represented as a hired agent, and appeals were made to popular passions to stop my operations. I believe that almost all the extreme violences perpetrated against Abolitionists have been by the hands of slave-traders, and not by the ordinary kind of American citizens. The slave-traders on the great rivers are (or were then) generally foreigners, — outcasts from European countries, — England and Ireland among the number. These desperate men, driving a profitable trade, which they believe to Edition: current; Page: [363] be endangered by the Abolitionists, were not likely to scruple any means of silencing their enemies. Such, and such only, have I ever believed to have designed any violence against me. Such as these were the instigators of the outrages of the time, — the floggings in the market-places, as in Amos Dresser’s case, — the tarrings and featherings of travellers who were under suspicion of anti-slavery opinion, and the murder of Lovejoy on his own threshold, in Illinois, on account of his gallant and heroic defence of the liberty of the press on the subject of Slavery.

These fellows haunted the Ohio at the time when I was about to descend the river with a party of friends, on a visit to the west which was to occupy the last three months of my stay in America. The party consisted of Dr. and Mrs. Follen and their child, and Mr. and Mrs. Loring. We intended first to visit Mr. Birney at Cincinnati, and afterwards to meet a brother of Dr. Follen’s, who had a farm in Missouri. We knew that we could not enter Missouri with safety; but Mr. Follen was to cross the river, and join us in Illinois. Every thing was arranged for this in the winter, and we were rejoicing in the prospect, when the consequences of my abolition avowal interfered to spoil the plan. Miss J. and I were staying at Dr. Channing’s towards spring, when, on our return about eleven o’clock one night from a visit, we were rather surprised to find Mr. Loring sitting in Dr. Channing’s study. We were surprised, not only on account of the lateness of the hour, but because Mr. Loring was not then a visiting acquaintance of Dr. Channing’s. Both of us were struck with the air of gloom in every body’s face and manner. We attempted conversation; but in vain: nobody supported it. Presently, Dr. Channing crossed the room to say to me “I have requested Mr. Loring to remain, in order to tell you himself the news he has brought. I desire that you should hear it from his own lips.” It appeared that Mr. Loring had been waiting some hours. He told us that an eminent merchant of the city, with whom he was previously unacquainted, had that day called on him to say that he felt it his duty to give some intelligence to my friends of a matter which nearly concerned my safety. He took no interest whatever in the abolition question, on the one Edition: current; Page: [364] side or the other; but he could not allow the personal safety of a stranger to be imperilled without giving warning. He had been in the West on business, and had there learned that I was expected down the Ohio in the spring: that certain parties had sworn vengeance against me; and that they had set a watch upon the steamboats, where I should be recognised by my trumpet. At Cincinnati, the intention was to prosecute me, if possible; and, at any rate, to prevent my going further. Much worse things were contemplated at the slave-holding city of Louisville. My going upon the Ohio at all would not be permitted, the gentleman was sure, by any who cared for my security; and he explained that he was reporting what he positively knew, from the testimony of his own ears, as well as by trustworthy information; and that the people to be feared were not the regular inhabitants of the towns, but the hangers-on at the wharves; and especially the slave-traders. This gentleman’s first business on his return was to ascertain who were my most intimate friends, and to appeal to them to prevent my going near the Ohio. All this seemed so incredible to me that I made light of it at first: but the party looked more and more grave, and Mr. Loring said: “Well, then, I must tell you what they mean to do. They mean to lynch you.” And he proceeded to detail the plan. The intention was to hang me on the wharf before the respectable inhabitants could rescue me.

Not wishing to detain Mr. Loring, as it was just midnight, I gave at once, as my decision, what seemed plain to my own mind. I told him that I had less means of judging what was likely to happen than natives of the country; and I would leave it to my own party to determine what should be done. I supposed that none of them would think of relinquishing such a scheme for mere threats; and if they were not afraid, neither was I. The decision must rest with them. — The gloom of the “good-night” which the Channings gave me oppressed me even more than what I had just heard. While pondering the affair in the middle of the night, I recurred to what my brother James had suggested in a recent letter. He had abstained from giving any opinion of what I had done, as none from such a distance Edition: current; Page: [365] could be of any value: but he had proposed that I should transmit my papers piecemeal to England; for the obvious reason that destroying my papers would be the aim of the enemy, in order to prevent my publication of my journals at home. I had no immediate means of transmitting my papers: but I had obtained permission from a clergyman who was not an Abolitionist to deposit my papers in his unsuspected keeping. I had resolved now that this should be my first work in the morning.

After breakfast, while I was sealing up my parcel, Dr. Channing stood beside me, more moved than I had ever seen him. He went to his bookshelves, and came back again, and went again, as if to look at his books, but in truth to wipe away the tears that rolled down under his spectacles. What he said I remember, and the tone of his voice, as if it was five minutes ago. “I am ashamed,” he said, “that after what you have done for the people of this country, there should be any part of it in which you cannot set your foot. We are accustomed to say that we are under obligations to you; and yet you are not safe among us. I hope that, as soon as you return home, you will expose these facts with all the boldness of which you are capable.” I replied that I should not publish, in my accounts of America, any personal narrative of injury: for, besides the suspicion and odium that attach to a narrative of personal sufferings from insult, it was to me a much more striking fact that native citizens, like himself and Mr. Garrison and others, to whom the Constitution expressly guarantees the liberty of traversing all the States as freely as any one of them, should be excluded by intimidation from half the States of the Union. Dr. Channing said, “As to this journey, you must indeed give it up. I think, if you consider that no immediate call of duty takes you to the Ohio, and that your destruction might involve that of the whole party, you will feel it to be your duty to change your plan.” My party unhesitatingly decided this for me. Mrs. Loring declared that she would not go; and the gentlemen were of opinion that the risk was too serious. I had myself no idea how I should suffer or act in circumstances so new. We therefore gave up the idea of visiting Messrs. Birney and Follen, and determined on another route.

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During that spring, as during many preceding months, there were Lynchings of Abolitionists in various parts of the country, and threatenings of more. Wherever we went, it was necessary to make up our minds distinctly, and with the full knowledge of each other, what we should say and do in regard to the subject which was filling all men’s minds. We resolved, of course, to stand by our anti-slavery principles, and advocate them, wherever fair occasion offered: and we never did omit an opportunity of saying what we knew and thought. On every steamboat, and in every stage (when we entered public conveyances) the subject arose naturally; for no subject was so universally discussed throughout the country, though it was interdicted within the walls of the Capitol at Washington. Mr. Loring joined in the conversation when the legal aspects of the matter were discussed; and Dr. Follen when the religious and moral and political bearings of Slavery were the subject. Mrs. Follen and Mrs. Loring were full of facts and reasons about the working of Abolitionism in its head quarters. As for me, my topic was Texas, in regard to which I was qualified to speak by some recent inquiries and experience at New Orleans. This was three years before the annexation of Texas, and while the adventurers under Colonel Austin were straining every nerve to get Texas annexed. They thought that if, among other devices, they could obtain any sort of sanction from the British government, or could induce English settlers, in any considerable number, to go to Texas, their chances of every sort would be improved. My visit to New Orleans was seized on, among other incidents, for the prosecution of this chance. After duly preparing me by sending me “information” in the shape of bragging accounts of the country, they sent a deputation to me at New Orleans, consisting of the notorious Mrs. Holley (who did more than perhaps any other individual for the annexation of Texas) and two or three companions. Concealing from me the fact that Colonel Austin was at that very time in jail at Mexico, my visitors offered me, in the name of the Texan authorities, an estate of several thousand acres in a choice part of the country, and every aid and kindness that could be rendered, if I would bind myself to live for five years in Edition: current; Page: [367] Texas, helping to frame their Constitution, and using my influence to bring over English settlers. The conversation was to me a most ludicrous one, from the boasts made by my guests of their happy state of society, though my questions compelled them to admit that they were living without a Constitution, or any safeguard of law; and in fact subject to the dictatorship of Colonel Austin, a mere adventurer, and then actually in the hands of the Mexicans, who were far too merciful in releasing him after a few months’ imprisonment. One plea was urged on me which it was hoped I should find irresistible. There was to be no slave-trade or slavery in Texas. I knew there was none before the Americans intruded themselves; but I could not, and did not, believe in this piece of ostentatious virtue in a set of southern speculators who staked their all on the preservation of Slavery in the United States. I was not surprised to find that, in the absence of an avowed slave-trade, there were negroes conveyed from Louisiana, and landed at night on a spit of sand on the frontier, whence in the morning they immigrated into Texas, where they were not to be slaves: — O dear, no! — not slaves but apprentices for ninety-nine years! I gave my visitors a bit of my mind, in return for their obliging offer. An English visitor, a scholar and a minister of religion, was deluded by similar offers and suggestions; and deeply concerned he was that I would not go into the enterprise. He wrote repeatedly to offer his assistance for any number of years, and implored me to consider well before I rejected so unequalled an opportunity of usefulness. He offered to come and see me wherever I might stop on the Mississippi; and he fully believed he should induce me to turn back. Poor gentleman! his was a mournful story. His wife died of consumption, on the bank of the Mississippi, just as I reached New Orleans; and he and his children were in their first desolation when he made up his mind to embrace the Texan enterprise. Soon after I answered his final appeal to me to go, I heard of his death by fever. The disease of the country laid him low at the outset of his first season. His children were most benignantly cared for by the American citizens. One died; but the two little daughters were adopted, — one by a planter’s Edition: current; Page: [368] lady in the West, and the other by an English lady in the North. — My attention being thus turned towards Texas, I was qualified to bring the subject under Dr. Channing’s notice as the interest of it deepened; and to converse upon it in our northern journey when we were perpetually encountering citizens who had been listening to the boasts of Austin’s emissaries, at New York or elsewhere. — Dr. Channing’s “Letter” on the Annexation of Texas is perhaps the most honoured in England of all his writings. The credit of originating it belongs in the first place, and chiefly, to Mr. David Lee Child, who furnished an admirable history of the province, and of its sufferings from the Americans, in the Anti-slavery Quarterly Review. From that article I avowedly derived the facts which I gave as the basis of my own account of the Texas business, in my “Society in America.” I besought Dr. Channing’s especial attention to that chapter; and the whole subject so moved him that he sat down and wrote that noble “Letter,” by the moral effect of which the annexation of Texas was unquestionably deferred for two years. It is not often that the writings of divines have even that much effect in bridling the lusts of ambition and cupidity.

Our route had for its chief objects (after Niagara) the Northern Lakes. The further we went, the more we heard of Lynchings which had lately taken place, or were designed for the next Abolitionists who should come that way. At Detroit, Mr. Loring entered the reading-room of the hotel, immediately on our arrival; and while he read the newspaper, he heard one citizen telling another how during the temporary absence of the latter, there had been a Lynching of a fellow who pretended to be a preacher, but was suspected to be an Abolitionist. The speaker added that a party of Abolitionists was expected; and that every thing was in readiness to give them a similar reception. He finished off with saying that Lynching did not look well in newspapers, or sound well at a distance; but that it was the only way. Our Abolitionism could be no secret, ready as we always were to say what we knew and thought: and that very evening, I had the pleasure of so far converting the Governor of the State (Michigan) as to possess him with a true idea Edition: current; Page: [369] of Garrison, and to obtain his promise, — which was indeed freely offered, as we took leave, — to protect, to the utmost of his power, every Abolitionist within the boundary of the State.

The woods of Michigan were very beautiful; but danger was about us there, as everywhere during those three months of travel. It was out of such glades as those of Michigan that mobs had elsewhere issued to stop the coach, and demand the victim, and inflict the punishment earned by compassion for the negro, and assertion of true republican liberty. I believe there was scarcely a morning during those three months when it was not my first thought on waking whether I should be alive at night. I am not aware that the pleasure of that glorious journey was materially impaired by this: yet I learned by that experience to sympathise with the real griefs of martyrdom, and to feel something different from contemptuous compassion for those who quail under the terror of it. — At Pittsburg, sitting by our open window one hot night, we heard an uproar at a distance, the cause of which my companions truly divined to be a proslavery riot. “What can it be?” I exclaimed, as it drew nearer. “Only a little execration coming this way,” replied Dr. Follen, smiling, referring to our reputation as execrated persons. We were not the objects that night, however: but the houses of several free negro families were destroyed. What we met with was, usually, prodigious amazement, a little scorn, and a great many warnings.

After so many weeks, during which the idea of danger had become the rule, and safety the exception, we were struck with a kind of astonishment when we entered the great cities, — Philadelphia and New York, — where the comfortable citizens assumed an air of scepticism about the critical state of the country which was truly marvellous in republicans. I have mentioned before how the ladies of one of the first families in New York were kept in ignorance of riots so serious that one might almost as soon expect the ladies of Birmingham and Bristol to have been unaware of the High-church and Reform riots of 1791 and 1831. We now found that selfish, or aristocratic, or timid citizens had kept themselves as ignorant of the dangers of their Edition: current; Page: [370] neighbours as the same kind of men of every country are, in times of great moral revolution. Quiet and complacent were the smiles with which some who ought to have known better declared their disbelief even that threats had been offered to a guest and a woman; and various were the excuses and special reasons given for the many instances of violence to their own citizens which could not be denied. Some were sorry that I believed such threats to myself, and such inflictions upon others as were as certainly and notoriously true as the days of the month on which they happened. Some would not listen to the facts at the time: others, who could not doubt them at the time, have tried to get rid of the belief since, but are incessantly thrown back upon the old evidence by the new troubles which arise from day to day out of the cursed and doomed institution of Slavery. I happened to witness the opening of the martyr age of its reformers; and I am thankful that I did witness it. There were times when I was sorry that I was not the victim of the struggle, instead of Lovejoy, or some other murdered citizen. I was sorry, because my being a British subject would have caused wider and deeper consequences to arise from such a murder than followed the slaughter of native Abolitionists, — despised and disowned by their government for their very Abolitionism. The murder of an English traveller would have settled the business of American Slavery (in its federal sense) more speedily than perhaps any other incident. It is no wonder that some Americans, who shut their eyes to the whole subject, should disbelieve in any body being in any danger, and that others should try to make me forget my share of it. The latest and most general method of propitiating me has been by inviting me to go again, and see what Abolitionists my acquaintances have become, — every where north of Mason and Dixon’s line.

When I returned home, the daily feeling of security, and of sympathy in my anti-slavery views gave me a pleasure as intense as if I had returned from a long exile, instead of a tour of recreation. I was not left without paltry disturbances, however. In the preface to “Society in America,” I invited correction as to any errors in (not opinion, but) matters of fact. After this, I Edition: current; Page: [371] could not, of course, decline receiving letters from America. Several arrived, charged double, treble, even quadruple postage. These consisted mainly of envelopes, made heavy by all manner of devices, with a slip of newspaper in the middle, containing prose paragraphs, or copies of verses, full of insults, and particularly of taunts about my deafness. All but one of these bore the post-mark of Boston. I was ashamed to mention this back to America; and I hope that most of this expensive and paltry insult was the work of one hand.

My story seems a long one: but I do not think it could have been honestly omitted in a history of my life: and it seems to be worth telling for another reason, — that it may afford material for an instructive comparison between the state of the cause, (and of American society as determined by it,) in 1835 and 1855. When I was at Washington, the leading statesmen were, or declared themselves to be, confident that the abolition of Slavery would never be even named in Congress; to which I replied that when they could hedge in the wind and build out the stars from their continent, they might succeed in their proposed exclusion: and now, at the end of twenty years, what has come of the attempt? It was prosecuted with all diligence. A rigid censorship in the Southern States expunged from English and other classics every reference to Slavery, and every perilous aspiration after freedom. Abolitionists were kept out by the most vigilant cruelty, which inflicted torture on mere suspicion. Free negroes were lodged in prison, even when they were British sailors; as indeed they are still liable to be. The right of petition to Congress was temporarily abolished. Every liberty, personal and social, was sacrificed in the attempt to enforce silence on that one sore subject. And now the whole world rings with it. Congress can, in fact, talk about nothing else: for, whatever subject a debate may ostensibly be upon, it always merges in a wrangle on Slavery. The entire policy of the Republic has been shaped by it; and the national mind also, in as far as the public mind depends on the national policy in a democratic republic. The moral deterioration has been more rapid than the most cautious of the early Presidents could have apprehended, or than Edition: current; Page: [372] the despots of the world could have hoped. Because it was necessary to obtain new territory for the support of the destructive institution, a process of aggression and annexation was entered upon; and that policy has dragged back the mind and morals of the people into that retrograde state in which territorial aggrandisement is the national aim. This, again, implicates foreign nations in the interest of the question. It was not enough that every political movement in the United States was modified by this great controversy; — that it ruined, and still ruins, every statesman who takes the immoral side; — that it destroyed the career and broke the hearts of the most eminent of them, — of Calhoun, of Clay, and of Webster; — that it shattered the reputation of more, and is now rendering absolutely certain the dissolution of the Union, in one way or another, and with more or less chance of its virtuous reconstitution: — it was not enough that all this has happened at home, amidst the most desperate efforts to cover up the difficulty under an enforced silence: — it has enlisted almost every people and ruler in the world on the one side or the other. The Czars are making friendships with the slave power, as the most hopeful ally on earth of Russian tyranny. Spain is immediately interested, because Cuba is the next morsel for which the ogre lusts. The friendship of Western Europe, otherwise so certain to be cordial and durable, is rendered in the last degree precarious by the lawless and barbaric proceedings of the pro-slavery Americans. The depressed nationalities of Europe, who might otherwise look up to America for protection and aid, can now only blush at the disgrace reflected by America on republicanism all over the world, and sigh at the hopelessness of any real assistance from a nation which cannot aid freedom abroad because it has to take care of its own slavery, and beware of its victims at home. That which was the protest of almost a solitary voice when I went to America has now expanded into a world-wide controversy. — It was in 1832 that Garrison, the apostle of the deepest and broadest cause of our century, said those immortal words. “I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as Edition: current; Page: [373] uncompromising as justice. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — and I will be heard.” This humble printer, so speaking after the first taste of persecution, a quarter of a century ago, has made himself “heard” round the globe, and from pole to pole. There is no saying what fates and policies of nations were involved in those first utterances of his. The negroes first heard him, by some untraceable means: and the immediate consequence was the cessation of insurrection. There were frequent risings of the slaves before; and there have been none since. But the lot of the negro race is by no means the only or the chief fate involved in the controversy. Every political and social right of the white citizens has been imperilled in the attempt to enforce silence on the subject of slavery. Garrison will be recognised hereafter, not only as at present, — as the Moses of the enslaved race, leading them out of their captivity, — but as more truly the founder of the republic than Washington himself. Under the first Presidents, democratic republicanism made a false start. It has bolted from the course, and the abolitionists are bringing it back to the starting-post. If it is found capable of winning the race against old despotisms and temporary accommodations of constitutional monarchy, the glory of the consummation will be awarded more plentifully to the regenerators of the republic than to its originators, great as they were; for they left in it a fatal compromise. — But I must not enlarge further on this subject, on which I have written abundantly elsewhere. I could say much; and it requires self-denial to abstain from a statement of what Garrison’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Grafton Chapman, and their relatives on both sides of the house contributed to the cause by deeds and sufferings. But my peculiar connexion with Mrs. Chapman in this memoir renders it impossible to speak as I would. Happily, the claims of that privileged family are and will be understood without any appeal from me to the veneration and gratitude of society.

The accident of my arriving in America in the dawning hour of the great conflict accounts for the strange story I have had to tell about myself. Any person from England, so arriving, Edition: current; Page: [374] pledged as I was to anti-slavery views, and conspicuous enough to draw attention to those views, was sure to meet with just such treatment; — a blinding incense first; and then, if the incense failed to blind, a trial of the method of intimidation. Other English persons were indeed so prepared for and received. Some did not understand their position, and went unconsciously into the snare. Some took fright. Some thought prudence necessary, for the sake of some other cause which they had more at heart. Some were even converted by the romancing of the slave-owners. Some did their duty. It is not, and it never will be, forgotten how Lord Carlisle did his, when, as Lord Morpeth, he traversed the whole country, never failing in the kindliness and candour which adorn his temper, while never blinking the subject of slavery, or disguising his anti-slavery convictions. The reign of terror (for travellers at least) was over before he went; and he would have been safe under any circumstances: but he was subject to insults and slander, and was abundantly visited with a laborious contempt: and in bringing this upon himself and bearing it good-humouredly, he threw his mite into the treasury which is to redeem the slaves. He seems to have been pitied and excused in somewhat the same style as myself by persons who assumed to be our protectors. When I had conversed on board a steamboat with a young lady of colour, well educated and well mannered, and whom I had been acquainted with at Philadelphia, I was of course, the object of much wrath and denunciation on deck; and my spontaneous protectors thought themselves generous in pleading that I ought to be excused for such conduct, on the ground of the “narrowness of my foreign education!” Such were the vindications with which Lord Carlisle also was insulted when he was vindicated at all.

It was impossible, during such a crisis, to avoid judging conspicuous persons more or less by their conduct in regard to the great conflict of their time. Ordinary persons might be living as common-place people do in such times, — in utter unconsciousness of their position. As in the days of Noah, such people buy and sell and build and plant, and are troubled by no Edition: current; Page: [375] forecast of what is to happen. But in a republic, it cannot be so with the conspicuous citizens. The Emersons, for instance, (for the adored Charles Emerson was living then:) — they were not men to join an association for any object; and least of all, for any moral one: nor were they likely to quit their abstract meditations for a concrete employment on behalf of the negroes. Yet they did that which made me feel that I knew them, through the very cause in which they did not implicate themselves. At the time of the hubbub against me in Boston, Charles Emerson stood alone in a large company in defence of the right of free thought and speech, and declared that he had rather see Boston in ashes than that I, or anybody, should be debarred in any way from perfectly free speech. His brother Waldo invited me to be his guest, in the midst of my unpopularity, and, during my visit, told me his course about this matter of slavery. He did not see that there was any particular thing for him to do in it then: but when, in coaches or steamboats or any where else, he saw people of colour ill-used, or heard bad doctrine or sentiment propounded, he did what he could and said what he thought. Since that date, he has spoken more abundantly and boldly the more critical the times became; and he is now, and has long been, completely identified with the Abolitionists in conviction and sentiment, though it is out of his way to join himself to their organisation. The other eminent scholars and thinkers of the country revealed themselves no less clearly, — the literary men of Boston and Cambridge sneering at the controversy as “low” and disagreeable, and troubling to their repose, and Edward Everett, the man of letters par excellence, burning incense to the south, and insulting the abolitionists while they were few and weak, endeavouring to propitiate them as they grew strong, and finally breaking down in irretrievable disgrace under a pressure to which he had exposed himself by ambition, but which he had neither courage nor conscience to abide. I early saw in him the completest illustration I met with of the influences of republican life upon a man of powers without principle, and of knowledge without wisdom. He was still worshipped through vanity, when I knew him, though his true Edition: current; Page: [376] deserts were well enough understood in private: he had plenty of opportunity to retrieve his political character afterwards: he obtained in England, when ambassador, abundance of the admiration which he sacrificed so much to win; and then at last, when the hour arrived which must test his quality, he sank, and must abide for the rest of his life in a slough of contempt from which there is no rescue. This is precisely what was anticipated twenty years ago by (not his enemies, for I believe he then had none, but) friends who mourned over his quitting a life of scholarship, for which he was eminently qualified, for one of political aspiration. They knew that he had not self-reliance or courage enough for effective ambition, nor virtue enough for a career of independence. It is all over now; and the vainest of men, who lives by the breath of praise, is placed for the sad remnant of his days between the scorn of the many and the pity of the few. Vindicators he has none; and I believe no followers. The Sedgwicks were beginning to be interested in the great controversy; but they were not only constitutionally timid, — with that American timidity which we English can scarcely conceive of, — but they worshipped the parchment idol, — the Act of Union; and they did not yet perceive, as some of them have done since, that a human decree which contravenes the laws of Nature must give way when the two are brought into conflict. I remember Miss Sedgwick starting back in the path, one day when she and I were walking beside the sweet Housatonic, and snatching her arm from mine when I said, in answer to her inquiry, what I thought the issue of the controversy must be. “The dissolution of the Union!” she cried. “The Union is sacred, and must be preserved at all cost.” My answer was that the will of God was sacred too, I supposed; and if the will of God which, as she believed, condemned slavery should come into collision with the federal constitution which sanctioned it, the only question was which should give way, — the Divine will or a human compact. It did not appear to me then, any more than now, that the dissolution of the Union need be of a hostile character. That the elimination of the two pro-slavery clauses from the constitution must take place sooner or later was always clear Edition: current; Page: [377] to me; but I do not see why the scheme should not be immediately and peaceably reconstituted, if the Americans will but foresee the necessity in time. The horror expressed by the Sedgwicks at what seemed so inevitable a consequence of the original compromise surprised me a good deal: and I dare say it seems strange to themselves by this time: for Miss Sedgwick and others of her family have on occasion spoken out bravely on behalf of the liberties of the republic, when they were most compromised. I had a great admiration of much in Miss Sedgwick’s character, though we were too opposite in our natures, in many of our views, and in some of our principles, to be very congenial companions. Her domestic attachments and offices were charming to witness; and no one could be further from all conceit and vanity on account of her high reputation in her own country. Her authorship did not constitute her life; and she led a complete life, according to her measure, apart from it: and this is a spectacle which I always enjoy, and especially in the case of a woman. The insuperable difficulty between us, — that which closed our correspondence, though not our good will, was her habit of flattery; — a national weakness, to which I could have wished that she had been superior. But her nature was a timid and sensitive one; and she was thus predisposed to the national failing; — that is, to one side of it; for she could never fall into the cognate error, — of railing and abuse when the flattery no longer answers. She praised or was silent. The mischief was that she praised people to their faces, to a degree which I have never considered it necessary to permit. I told her that I dreaded receiving her letters because, instead of what I wished to hear, I found praise of myself. She informed me that, on trial, she found it a gêne to suppress what she wanted to say; and thus it was natural for us to cease from corresponding. I thought she wanted courage, and shrank from using her great influence on behalf of her own convictions; and she thought me rash and rough. She thought “safety” a legitimate object of pursuit in a gossipping state of society; and I did not care for it, — foreigner as I was, and witnessing, as I did, as critical a struggle as has ever agitated society. I said what I thought and what I knew of the Edition: current; Page: [378] Websters and the Everetts, and other northern men who are now universally recognised as the disgrace rather than the honour of the region they represented. Their conduct, even then, authorised my judgment of them: but she, a northern woman, shared the northern caution, if not the sectional vanity, which admired and upheld, as long as possible, the men of genius and accomplishment who sustained the intellectual reputation of New England. Through all our differences of view and temperament, I respected and admired Miss Sedgwick, and I was sorry to be absent from England in 1839 when she was in London, and when I should have enjoyed being of any possible use to her and her connexions, who showed me much hospitality and kindness in their own country. What I think of Miss Sedgwick’s writings I told in a review of her works in the Westminster Review of October, 1837. Her novels, and her travels, published some years later, had better be passed over with the least possible notice; but I think her smaller tales wonderfully beautiful; — those which, as “Home” and “Live and Let Live,” present pictures of the household life of New England which she knows so well, and loves so heartily.

Of Webster, as of Clay, Calhoun, President Jackson and others, I gave my impressions in my books on America, nearly twenty years ago. I will not repeat any thing I then and there said: but will merely point out how their fate corresponded with their ordeal. “My dear woman,” said Mr. Webster to me at his own table, laying his finger on my arm to emphasize his words, — “don’t you go and believe me to be ambitious. No man can despise that sort of thing more than I do. I would not sacrifice an hour of my ease for all the honours and powers in the world.” Mr. Clay made no protestations of the sort to me; nor Mr. Calhoun, whom, with all his absurdities, I respected by far the most of the three, in the long run. All were hugely ambitious: but Calhoun was honest in the main point. He lived and died for the cause of Slavery; and, however far such a career is from the sympathies of English people, the openness and directness of his conduct were at least respectable. He was infatuated by his sectional attachments: but he was outspoken Edition: current; Page: [379] and consistent. Mr. Clay never satisfied me of his sincerity on the great question of his time; but there was much, outside of that trying matter, that was interesting and even honourable; — a genuine warmth, a capacity for enthusiasm, and vast political ability. Our intercourse amounted to friendship at last; but his unworthy conduct during the closing years of his life overthrew my esteem, and destroyed my regard for him. While professing a desire to provide for the future abolition of slavery, he prevented in some parts its immediate abolition, and he extended in others the area of its prevalence. He was as well aware as any body of the true character of the Colonisation scheme of which he accepted the presidency; and he continued to laud it to foreigners as an agency of emancipation, when he knew that it was established and upheld by slaveholders like himself, for the protection and security of the institution of slavery. His personal ambition was as keen as Webster’s; and the failure of both in their aspirations for the Presidentship destroyed them both. In regard to genius, both were of so high an order, and their qualifications were so little alike that there is no need to set the one above the other. Webster’s training was the higher; his position as a Massachusetts man the more advantageous, morally and politically; his folly and treachery in striving to win the supreme honours of the state by winning the south, through the sacrifice of the rights and liberties of the north were, of necessity, more extreme and more conspicuous than any double dealing of Mr. Clay’s: his retribution was the more striking; and the disgrace which he drew down on his last days was the more damning of the two. But both these men, who might have rivalled the glory of Washington himself, by carrying the state through a stress as real and fearful as that of eighty years ago, will be remembered as warnings and not as examples. As far as appears, they were the last of the really great men who led the statesmanship of the republic; and to their failure, moral and political, may perhaps be mainly charged the fatal mischief which now hangs as a doom over the state, that the best men decline entering political life, and that there is every inducement for the least capable and the least worthy to be placed in the highest Edition: current; Page: [380] seats. The ablest men of their generation did not attempt to reverse, or even to retard the retrogression of their country; but, on the contrary, for their own ends they precipitated it. I feared this when I observed their proceedings on the spot; and they afterwards proved the fact to all the world; and sad has the spectacle been. There is not even the consolation that, being dishonest, they failed; for their failure was on account of their eminence, and not their dishonesty. They were put aside to make way for knaves of an obscure cast, who might more readily beguile or evade the indignation of the world, which would not waste on a Fillmore or a Pierce the reprobation which would have attended on a Webster or a Clay who had done their deeds and committed their laches. Already, so long ago as twenty years, there was a striking contrast between the speech and manner of venerable elders, like Madison and Chief Justice Marshall, and those of the aspiring statesmen, Webster, Clay, and, in a smaller way, Everett and other second-rate politicians. The integrity, simplicity and heart-breathing earnestness of the aged statesmen were singularly contrasted with the affectations, professions, cautious procedures, and premeditated speech of the leaders of the time. How rapid and how great the deterioration has been since, every new page of American history bears witness. Still, there is no reason for despair. A safe issue is always possible, and most probable, where there is any principled and active body of true patriots, like the abolitionists of the United States. Their light shines the brighter for the gathering darkness about them; and they belong to a people who, however scared at new dangers for a time, cannot for ever love darkness rather than light. The choice is being offered to them more and more plainly; and my knowledge of them, personal and by study, gives me every hope that their choice will be the right one, if only they are compelled to make it before the lust of territorial aggrandisement has become overwhelming by indulgence.

In Margaret Fuller’s Memoirs there is a letter which she declared she sent to me, after copying it into her common-place book. It is a condemnatory criticism of my “Society in America;” and her condemnation is grounded on its being what she Edition: current; Page: [381] called “an abolition book.” I remember having a letter from her; and one which I considered unworthy of her and of the occasion, from her regarding the anti-slavery subject as simply a low and disagreeable one, which should be left to unrefined persons to manage, while others were occupied with higher things: but I do not think that the letter I received was the one which stands in her common-place book. I wish that she had mentioned it to me when my guest some years afterwards, or that my reply had appeared with her criticism. However, her letter, taken as it stands, shows exactly the difference between us. She who witnessed and aided the struggles of the oppressed in Italy must have become before her death better aware than when she wrote that letter that the struggle for the personal liberty of millions in her native republic ought to have had more of her sympathy, and none of the discouragement which she haughtily and complacently cast upon the cause. The difference between us was that while she was living and moving in an ideal world, talking in private and discoursing in public about the most fanciful and shallow conceits which the transcendentalists of Boston took for philosophy, she looked down upon persons who acted instead of talking finely, and devoted their fortunes, their peace, their repose, and their very lives to the preservation of the principles of the republic. While Margaret Fuller and her adult pupils sat “gorgeously dressed,” talking about Mars and Venus, Plato and Gothe, and fancying themselves the elect of the earth in intellect and refinement, the liberties of the republic were running out as fast as they could go, at a breach which another sort of elect persons were devoting themselves to repair: and my complaint against the “gorgeous” pedants was that they regarded their preservers as hewers of wood and drawers of water, and their work as a less vital one than the pedantic orations which were spoiling a set of well-meaning women in a pitiable way. All that is settled now. It was over years before Margaret died. I mention it now to show, by an example already made public by Margaret herself, what the difference was between me and her, and those who followed her lead. This difference grew up mainly after my return from America. We were there intimate Edition: current; Page: [382] friends; and I am disposed to consider that period the best of her life, except the short one which intervened between her finding her real self and her death. She told me what danger she had been in from the training her father had given her, and the encouragement to pedantry and rudeness which she derived from the circumstances of her youth. She told me that she was at nineteen the most intolerable girl that ever took a seat in a drawing-room. Her admirable candour, the philosophical way in which she took herself in hand, her genuine heart, her practical insight, and, no doubt, the natural influence of her attachment to myself, endeared her to me, while her powers, and her confidence in the use of them, led me to expect great things from her. We both hoped that she might go to Europe when I returned, with some friends of hers who would have been happy to take her: but her father’s death, and the family circumstances rendered her going out of the question. I introduced her to the special care of R. Waldo Emerson and his wife: and I remember what Emerson said in wise and gentle rebuke of my lamentations for Margaret that she could not go to Europe, as she was chafing to do, for purposes of self-improvement. “Does Margaret Fuller, — supposing her to be what you say, — believe her progress to be dependent on whether she is here or there?” I accepted the lesson, and hoped the best. How it might have been with her if she had come to Europe in 1836, I have often speculated. As it was, her life in Boston was little short of destructive. I need but refer to the memoir of her. In the most pedantic age of society in her own country, and in its most pedantic city, she who was just beginning to rise out of pedantic habits of thought and speech relapsed most grievously. She was not only completely spoiled in conversation and manners: she made false estimates of the objects and interests of human life. She was not content with pursuing, and inducing others to pursue, a metaphysical idealism destructive of all genuine feeling and sound activity: she mocked at objects and efforts of a higher order than her own, and despised those who, like myself, could not adopt her scale of valuation. All this might have been spared, a world of mischief saved, and a world of good effected, Edition: current; Page: [383] if she had found her heart a dozen years sooner, and in America instead of Italy. It is the most grievous loss I have almost ever known in private history, — the deferring of Margaret Fuller’s married life so long. The noble last period of her life is, happily, on record as well as the earlier. My friendship with her was in the interval between her first and second stages of pedantry and forwardness: and I saw her again under all the disadvantages of the confirmed bad manners and self-delusions which she brought from home. The ensuing period redeemed all; and I regard her American life as a reflexion, more useful than agreeable, of the prevalent social spirit of her time and place; and the Italian life as the true revelation of the tender and high-souled woman, who had till then been as curiously concealed from herself as from others.

If eccentricities like Margaret Fuller’s, essentially sound as she was in heart and mind, could arise in American society, and not impair her influence or be a spectacle to the community, it will be inferred that eccentricity is probably rife in the United States. I certainly thought it was, in spite (or perhaps in consequence) of the excessive caution which is prevalent there in regard to the opinion of neighbours and society. It takes weeks or months for an English person to admit the conception of American caution, as a habit, and yet more as a spring of action: and the freedom which we English enjoy in our personal lives and intercourses must find an equivalent in Americans, somehow or other. Their eccentricities are, accordingly, monstrous and frequent and various to a degree incredible to sober English people like myself and my companion. The worst of it is, there seem to be always mad people, more or fewer, who are in waiting to pounce upon foreigners of any sort of distinction, as soon as they land, while others go mad, or show their madness, from point to point along the route. Something of the same sort happens elsewhere. A Queen, or a Prime Minister’s secretary may be shot at in London, as we know; and probably there is no person eminent in literature or otherwise, who has not been the object of some infirm brain or another. But in America, the evil is sadly common. The first instance I encountered there was of a gentleman from Edition: current; Page: [384] the west who foretold my arrival in his country, and the time of it, before I had any notion of going, and who announced a new revelation which I was to aid in promulgating; and this incident startled and dismayed me considerably. I am not going into the history of the freaks of insanity, in that case or any other. Suffice it that, in any true history of a life, this liability must be set down as one condition of literary or other reputation. The case of the poor “High Priest” at Philadelphia was not the only one with which I was troubled in America; and I have met with others at home, both in London and since I have lived at Ambleside.

I encountered one specimen of American oddity before I left home which should certainly have lessened my surprise at any that I met afterwards. While I was preparing for my travels, an acquaintance one day brought a buxom gentleman, whom he introduced to me under the name of Willis. There was something rather engaging in the round face, brisk air and enjouement of the young man; but his conscious dandyism and unparalleled self-complacency spoiled the satisfaction, though they increased the inclination to laugh. Mr. N. P. Willis’s plea for coming to see me was his gratification that I was going to America: and his real reason was presently apparent; — a desire to increase his consequence in London society by giving apparent proof that he was on intimate terms with every eminent person in America. He placed himself in an attitude of infinite ease, and whipped his little bright boot with a little bright cane while he ran over the names of all his distinguished country-men and country-women, and declared he should send me letters to them all. This offer of intervention went so very far that I said (what I have ever since said in the case of introductions offered by strangers) while thanking him for his intended good offices, that I was sufficiently uncertain in my plans to beg for excuse beforehand, in case I should find myself unable to use the letters. It appeared afterwards that to supply them and not to have them used suited Mr. Willis’s convenience exactly. It made him appear to have the friendships he boasted of without putting the boast to the proof. It was immediately before a late dinner that Edition: current; Page: [385] the gentlemen called; and I found on the breakfast-table, next morning, a great parcel of Mr. Willis’s letters, enclosed in a prodigious one to myself, in which he offered advice. Among other things, he desired me not to use his letter to Dr. Channing if I had others from persons more intimate with him; and he proceeded to warn me against two friends of Dr. and Mrs. Channing’s, whose names I had never heard, and whom Mr. Willis represented as bad and dangerous people. This gratuitous defamation of strangers whom I was likely to meet confirmed the suspicions my mother and I had confided to each other about the quality of Mr. Willis’s introductions. It seemed ungrateful to be so suspicious: but we could not see any good reason for such prodigious efforts on my behalf, nor for his naming any country-women of his to me in a way so spontaneously slanderous. So I resolved to use that packet of letters very cautiously; and to begin with one which should be well accompanied. — In New York harbour, newspapers were brought on board, in one of which was an extract from an article transmitted by Mr. Willis to the “New York Mirror,” containing a most audacious account of me as an intimate friend of the writer. The friendship was not stated as a matter of fact, but so conveyed that it cost me much trouble to make it understood and believed, even by Mr. Willis’s own family, that I had never seen him but once; and then without having previously heard so much as his name. On my return, the acquaintance who brought him was anxious to ask pardon if he had done mischief, — events having by that time made Mr. Willis’s ways pretty well known. His partner in the property and editorship of the “New York Mirror” called on me at West Point, and offered and rendered such extraordinary courtesy that I was at first almost as much perplexed as he and his wife were when they learned that I had never seen Mr. Willis but once. They pondered, they consulted, they cross-questioned me; they inquired whether I had any notion what Mr. Willis could have meant by writing of me as in a state of close intimacy with him. In like manner, when, some time after, I was in a carriage with some members of a pic-nic party to Monument Mountain, a little girl seated at my feet clasped my knees fondly, Edition: current; Page: [386] looked up in my face, and said “O! Miss Martineau! you are such a friend of my uncle Nathaniel’s!” Her father was present; and I tried to get off without explanation. But it was impossible, — they all knew how very intimate I was with “Nathaniel”: and there was a renewal of the amazement at my having seen him only once. — I tried three of his letters; and the reception was in each case much the same, — a throwing down of the letter with an air not to be mistaken. In each case the reply was the same, when I subsequently found myself at liberty to ask what this might mean. “Mr. Willis is not entitled to write to me: he is no acquaintance of mine.” As for the two ladies of whom I was especially to beware, I became exceedingly well acquainted with them, to my own advantage and pleasure; and, as a natural consequence, I discovered Mr. Willis’s reasons for desiring to keep us apart. I hardly need add that I burned the rest of his letters. He had better have spared himself the trouble of so much manœuvring, by which he lost a good deal, and could hardly have gained anything. I have simply stated the facts because, in the first place, I do not wish to be considered one of Mr. Willis’s friends; and, in the next, it may be useful, and conducive to justice, to show, by a practical instance, what Mr. Willis’s pretensions to intimacy are worth. His countrymen and countrywomen accept, in simplicity, his accounts of our aristocracy as from the pen of one of their own coterie; and they may as well have the opportunity of judging for themselves whether their notorious “Penciller” is qualified to write of Scotch Dukes and English Marquises, and European celebrities of all kinds in the way he has done.

For some weeks, my American intercourses were chiefly with literary people, and with leading members of the Unitarian body, — far more considerable in America than among us. All manner of persons called on us; and every conceivable attention and honour was shown us, for the first year. Of this nothing appears in my journal, except in the facts of what we saw and did. Such idolatry as is signified by the American phrase, — that a person is Lafayetted, — is not conceivable in England: and its manifestations did not appear to me fit matter for a personal journal. Edition: current; Page: [387] Not a word is to be found in that journal therefore of either the flatteries of the first year or the insults of the second. A more difficult matter was how to receive them. I was charged with hardness and want of sympathy in casting back praise into people’s faces: but what can one do but change the subject as fast as possible? To dwell on the subject of one’s own merits is out of the question; but to disclaim praise is to dwell upon it. If one is silent, one is supposed to “swallow every thing.” I see nothing for it but to talk of something else, on the first practicable opening. While under the novelty of this infliction of flatterers, it was natural to turn to those most homelike of our acquaintance, — the chief members of the Unitarian body, clergymen and others. Among them we found a welcome refuge, many a time, from the hubbub which confounded our senses: and exemplary was the kindness which some few of the body showed me even throughout the year of my unpopularity. But before that, my destiny had led me much among the families of statesmen, and the interests of political society: and finally, as I have shown, the Abolitionists were my nearest friends, as they have ever since remained.

It was while my companion and I were going from house to house in the Unitarian connexion, between Philadelphia and our visits to our Congressional friends, that an incident occurred which is worth relating as curious in itself, and illustrative of more things than one. Our host in Philadelphia, (a Unitarian clergyman, as I have said) had a little boy of six who was a favourite of mine, — as of a good many other people. Mr. Alcott, the extraordinary self-styled philosopher, whose name is not unknown in England, was at Philadelphia at that time, trying his hand on that strange management of children of which I have given my opinion elsewhere.* Little Willie went to Mr. Alcott sometimes; and very curious were the ideas and accounts of lessons which he brought home. Very early in my visit, Willie’s father asked me whether I could throw any light on the authorship of a parable which was supposed to be English, and which the children had learned from Mr. Alcott’s lips. This parable, Edition: current; Page: [388] called “The Wandering Child,” was creating such a sensation that it was copied and sent in all directions. It seemed to me, when Willie recited it, that I had somewhere seen it; but the impression was so faint as to be entirely uncertain, even to that extent. From Philadelphia, we went to the house of another clergyman at Baltimore; and there one of the first questions asked by my host was the origin of that parable. He had used the extraordinary license of taking the parable for the text of a recent sermon, instead of a passage of scripture; and his friends wanted to know where it came from. He was sadly disappointed that we could not tell him. More inquiries were made even at Washington, where we had no particular connexion with Unitarians. At Charleston, we found in our host a Unitarian clergyman who knew more of the “Monthly Repository” than any English readers I was acquainted with. He possessed it; and he had a fancy to look there for the parable, — some notion of having seen it there remaining on his mind. I went with him to his study; and there we presently found the parable, — in a not very old volume of the Monthly Repository, and, to my unspeakable amazement, with my own signature, V., at the end of it. By degrees my associations brightened and began to cohere: and at last I perfectly remembered when and where the conception occurred to me, and my writing the parable in my own room at Norwich, and carrying it down to my mother whom I saw in the garden, and her resting on her little spade as she listened.

The readers of Dr. Priestley’s Life will not pronounce on me, (as I was at first disposed to pronounce on myself) that I was losing my wits. Dr. Priestley tells how he once found in a friend’s library a pamphlet on some controverted topic which he brought to his friend with praise, as the best thing he had seen on the subject. He wanted to know, — the title-page being torn off, — who wrote it. His friend stared as my Charleston host did; and Dr. Priestley began to fear that he was losing his faculties: but he remembered (and this was my plea after him) that what we give out from our own minds, in speech or in writing, is not a subject of memory, like what we take in from Edition: current; Page: [389] other minds: and that there are few who can pretend to remember what they have said in letters, after a few years. There was the fact, in short, that we had completely forgotten compositions of our own; and that we were not losing our faculties.

Here is the parable which went through such curious adventures.


“In a solitary place among the groves, a child wandered whithersoever he would. He believed himself alone, and wist not that one watched him from the thicket, and that the eye of his parent was on him continually; neither did he mark whose hand had opened a way for him thus far. All things that he saw were new to him, therefore he feared nothing. He cast himself down in the long grass, and as he lay he sang till his voice of joy rang through the woods. When he nestled among the flowers, a serpent arose from the midst of them; and when the child saw how its burnished coat glittered in the sun like a rainbow, he stretched forth his hand to take it to his bosom. Then the voice of his parent cried from the thicket ‘Beware!’ And the child sprang up, and gazed above and around, to know whence the voice came; but when he saw it not, he presently remembered it no more.

He watched how a butterfly burst from its shell, and flitted faster than he could pursue, and soon rose far above his reach.

When he gazed and could trace its flight no more, his father put forth his hand, and pointed where the butterfly ascended, even into the clouds.

But the child saw not the sign.

A fountain gushed forth amidst the shadows of the trees, and its waters flowed into a deep and quiet pool.

The child kneeled on the brink, and looking in, he saw his own bright face, and it smiled upon him.

As he stooped yet nearer to meet it, the voice once more said ‘Beware!’

The child started back; but he saw that a gust had ruffled the waters, and he said within himself, ‘It was but the voice of the breeze.’

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And when the broken sunbeams glanced on the moving waves, he laughed, and dipped his foot that the waters might again be ruffled: and the coolness was pleasant to him. The voice was now louder, but he regarded it not, as the winds bore it away.

At length he saw somewhat glittering in the depths of the pool; and he plunged in to reach it.

As he sank, he cried aloud for help.

Ere the waters had closed over him, his father’s hand was stretched out to save him.

And while he yet shivered with chillness and fear, his parent said unto him, ‘Mine eye was upon thee, and thou didst not heed; neither hast thou beheld my sign, nor hearkened to my voice. If thou hadst thought on me, I had not been hidden.’

Then the child cast himself on his father’s bosom and said, — ‘Be nigh unto me still; and mine eyes shall wait on thee, and my ears shall be open unto thy voice for ever more.’ ”

I need say no more of my American travels. Besides that I have given out my freshest impressions in the two works on America which were published in the year after my return, it is as impossible to me here as in other parts of this Memoir to give any special account of my nearest and dearest friends. To those who have seen by the volumes I refer to how I lived and travelled with Dr. and Mrs. Follen no avowal or description of our intercourse can be necessary; and the relation in which Mrs. Chapman stands to me now, in the most deliberate and gravest hour of my life, renders it impossible to lay open our relation further to the world. I will simply state one fact which may show, without protestation, what my near and dear American friends were to me. They and I did not half believe, when I came away, that we had parted: and it was some years before I felt at all sure that I should not live and die in America, when my domestic duties should, in the course of nature, have closed. It was my Tynemouth illness, in fact, which decided the conflict. Something of a conflict it was. If I had gone to America, it would have been for the sole object of working in the cause which I believed then, and which I believe now, to be the Edition: current; Page: [391] greatest pending in the world. While my mother lived, my duty was clear — to remain with her if she and the family desired it. I did not think it the best arrangement; especially when I witnessed the painful effect on her of the resumption of my London life and acquaintances: but she and the others wished things to go on as they were; and I never thought of objecting. I did my utmost to make the two old ladies under my charge happy. It did not last very long, — only two years and a half, when I broke down under the anxiety of my position. During that time, the vision of a scheme of life, in which the anti-slavery cause (for the sake of the liberties of every kind involved in it) should be my vocation, was often before me, — not as a matter of imagination, but for decision by the judgment, when the time should arrive. The immediate objections of the judgment were two: — that, in the first place, it seldom or never answers to wander abroad for duty; every body doing best what lies nearest at hand: and, in the second place, that my relation to Mrs. Chapman required my utmost moral care. The discovery of her moral power and insight was to me so extraordinary that, while I longed to work with and under her, I felt that it must be morally perilous to lean on any one mind as I could not but lean on hers. Thus far, whenever we had differed, (and that had not seldom happened) I had found her right; and so deeply and broadly right as to make me long to commit myself to her guidance. Such a committal can never be otherwise than wrong; and this it was which, more than any thing, made me doubt whether I ought to contemplate the scheme. As usual in such cases, events decided the matter. My mother was removed from under my care by my own illness; and, when I had recovered, and she died at an advanced age, I had a clear course of duty to pursue at home, in which perhaps there may be as decided an implication of human liberties of thought, action and speech as in the anti-slavery cause itself.

To a certain extent, my travels in America answered my purposes of self-discipline in undertaking them. Fearing that I was growing too much accustomed to luxury, and to an exclusive regularity in the modes of living, I desired to “rough it” Edition: current; Page: [392] for a considerable time. The same purpose would have been answered as well, perhaps, and certainly more according to my inclination, if I could have been quiet, instead of travelling, after my great task was done; — if I could have had repose of body and peace of mind, in freedom from all care. This was impossible; and the next best thing was such a voyage and journey as I took. America was the right country too, (apart from the peculiar agitation it happened to be in when I arrived;) the national boast being a perfectly true one, — that a woman may travel alone from Maine to Georgia without dread of any kind of injury. For two ladies who feared nothing, there was certainly nothing to fear. We had to “rough it” sometimes, as every body must in so new and thinly peopled a country; but we always felt ourselves safe from ill usage of any kind. One night, at New Orleans, we certainly did feel as much alarmed as could well be; but that was nobody’s fault. From my childhood up, I believe I have never felt so desolating a sense of fear as for a few moments on that occasion, — which was simply this.

A cousin of mine whom I saw at Mobile had a house at New Orleans, inhabited by himself or his partner, as they happened to be there or at Mobile. My cousin kindly offered us the use of this house during our stay, saying that we might thus obtain some hours of coolness and quiet in the morning which would be unattainable in a boarding-house, or in the capacity of guests. The “people,” that is, the slaves, received orders to make us comfortable, and the partner saw that all orders were obeyed. We arrived at about ten in the forenoon, — exceedingly tired, — not only by long travel in the southern forests, but especially by the voyage of the preceding night, — in hot, thundery weather, a rough sea, and in a steamboat which so swarmed with cockroaches that we could not bring ourselves to lie down. — It was a day of considerable excitement. We found a great heap of letters from home; we saw many friends in the course of the day; and at night I wrote letters so late that my companion, for once, went to bed before me. We had four rooms forming a square, or nearly: — two sitting-rooms, front Edition: current; Page: [393] and back; and two bed-rooms opening out of them, and also reaching, like them, from the landing at the top of the stairs to the street front. On account of the heat, we decided to put all our luggage (which was of considerable bulk) into one room, and sleep in the other. The beds were very large, and as hard as the floor, — as they should be in such a climate. Mosquito nets hung from the top; and the room was plentifully provided with sponging baths and water. — Miss J. was in bed before I finished my writing: and I therefore did not call her when I found that the French window opening on the balcony could not be shut, as the spring was broken. Any one could reach the balcony from the street easily enough; and here was an entrance which could not be barred! I set the heaviest chair against it, with the heaviest things piled on it that I could lay my hands on. I need not explain that New Orleans is, of all cities in the civilised world, the most renowned for night robbery and murder. The reputation is deserved; or was at that time: and we had been in the way of hearing some very painful and alarming stories from some of our friends who spoke from their own experience. Miss J. was awake when I was about to step into bed, and thoughtlessly put out the candle. I observed on my folly in doing this, and on our having forgotten to inquire where the slave-quarter was. Here we were, alone in the middle of New Orleans, with no light, no bell, no servants within reach if we had had one, and no idea where the slaves were to be found! We could only hope that nothing would happen: but I took my trumpet with me within the mosquito curtain, and laid it within reach of Miss J.’s hand, in case of her having to tell me any news. I was asleep in a trice. Not so Miss J.

She gently awoke me after what seemed to her a very long time; and, putting the cup of my tube close to her mouth, whispered slowly, so that I could hear her, “There is somebody or something walking about the room.” I whispered that we could do nothing: and that, in our helpless state, the safest way was to go to sleep. “But I can’t,” replied she. I cannot describe how sorry I was for her, sitting up listening to fearful Edition: current; Page: [394] sounds that I could not hear. I earnestly desired to help her: but there was nothing that I could do. To sit up, unable to hear anything, and thus losing nerve every minute, was the worst thing of all for us both. I told her to rouse me again if she had the slightest wish: but that I really advised her going to sleep, as I meant to do. She again said she could not. I did; and it must be remembered how remarkably tired I was. After another space, Miss J. woke me again, and in the same cautious manner said, “It is a man without shoes; and he is just at your side of the bed.” We each said the same thing as before; and again I went to sleep. Once more she woke me; and this time she spoke with a little less caution. She said he had been walking about all that time, — for hours. He had pushed against the furniture, and especially the washstand, and seemed to be washing his hands: and now he had gone out at the door nearest the stairs. What did I think of her fastening that door? I feared she would let the mosquitoes in if she got up; and there were two other doors to the room; so I did not think we should gain much. She was better satisfied to try; and she drove a heavy trunk against the door, returned without letting in any mosquitoes, and at last obtained some sleep. In the morning we started up to see what we had lost. My watch was safe on the table. My rings were not there; but we soon spied them rolled off to the corners of the room. The water from the baths was spilled; and our clothes were on the floor; but we missed nothing.

We agreed to say and do nothing ungracious to the servants, and to make no complaint; but to keep on the watch for an explanation of the mystery; and, if evening came without any light being thrown on the matter, to consult our friends the Porters about spending another night in that room. — At breakfast, the slave women, who had been to market, and got us some young green peas and other good things, hung over our chairs, and were ready to gossip, as usual. I could make nothing of their jabber; and Miss J. not much: but she persevered on this occasion; and, before breakfast was over, she gave me a nod which showed me that our case was explained. She had been playing with a little Edition: current; Page: [395] black dog the while: and she told me at length that this little black dog belonged to the personage at the back of my chair; but that the big dog, chained up in the yard, belonged to my cousin; and that the big dog was the one which was unchained the last thing at night, and allowed the range of the premises, to deal with the rats, which abounded in that house as in every other in New Orleans. The city being built in a swamp, innumerable rats are a necessary consequence. The intruder was regarded very differently the next night; and we had no more alarms. I own that the moments when my companion told me that a man without shoes was walking about the room, and when, again, she heard him close by my bedside, were those of very painful fear. I have felt nothing like it on any other occasion, since I grew up.

Safe as we were from ill usage, our friends in America rather wondered at our fearlessness about the perils of the mere travel. We were supposed, before we were known, to be fine ladies; and fine ladies are full of terrors in America, as elsewhere. When it was seen that we could help ourselves, and had no groundless fears, some of our friends reminded us that their forests and great rivers were not like our own mailroads; and that untoward accidents and detentions might take place, when we should be glad of such aid as could be had from its being known who we were. Chief Justice Marshall, the survivor of the great men of the best days of the republic, and the most venerated man in the country, put into my hands “a general letter,” as he called it, commending us to the good offices of all citizens, in case of need. The letter lies before me; and I will give it as a curiosity. No occasion of peril called it forth for use; but it was a show, in many a wild place, — gratifying the eyes of revering fellow-citizens of the majestic old Judge. Here it is.

“I have had the honour of being introduced to, and of forming some acquaintance with, Miss Martineau and Miss J—, two English ladies of distinction who are making the tour of the United States. As casualties to which all travellers, especially those of the female sex, are liable may expose these ladies to some difficulties in situations remote from those populous towns in which they may find Edition: current; Page: [396] persons to whom they will be known, it gives me pleasure to state that these ladies have the fairest claims to the aid, protection and services which their possible situation may require: that they are of high worth and character, and that I shall, individually, feel myself under obligations to any gentleman who, in the event described, shall be in any manner useful to them.


A parting act of gallantry has puzzled me many a time; and the more I have thought of it, the less have I known what to make of it. For many months it had been settled, as I have mentioned, that I was to return in Captain Bursley’s ship, — he being a friend, in virtue of mutual friendships on both sides the water. Some days before I sailed, my last American host undertook the business of paying my passage, and changing my American money for English. We were not aware of any extraordinary precipitation in settling this business. When I was out at sea, however, a fellow-passenger, one of our party of six, put into my hands a packet of money. It was the amount of my fare; and my fellow-passenger either could not or would not tell me who sent it. She said she was as helpless in the matter as I was. All that she could tell me was that somebody had gone, in supposed good time, to pay my passage, was disconcerted to find I had paid it, and could think of no other way than returning the money through a fellow-passenger. — I know no more of the motive than of the person or persons. Whether it was shame at the treatment I had received on the anti-slavery question, or a primitive method of hospitality, or any thing else, I have never been able to satisfy myself, or to get any light from any body. I could do nothing, and say nothing. The only certain thing about the case is that the act was meant in kindness: and I need not say that I was grateful accordingly.

The New York host whom I have referred to was an intimate friend of our captain: and he knew enough of one or two of the passengers to be pretty well aware that there would be moral tempests on board, however fair the weather might be overhead. He and his wife kindly forbore to give me any hint of coming discomfort which could not be avoided; but they begged me to Edition: current; Page: [397] keep a very full journal of the voyage, and send it to them, for their private reading. I did so: and they next requested that I would agree to a proposal to print it, — the names being altered; and the most disgraceful of the incidents (e. g., a plot for the seduction of an orphan girl) being omitted. The narrative accordingly appeared in the “Penny Magazine” of October and November, 1837, under the title of “A Month at Sea.” As it may amuse somebody to see, in such detail, what such a voyage was like, the narrative will be found in the Appendix.* It is enough to say here that I had the advantage of the companionship of Professor and Mrs. Farrar, of Harvard University; of Lieutenant Wilkes, who was on his way to England to prepare for the American Exploring Expedition, of which he was Commander; and of two or three younger members of the party, who were good-humoured and agreeable comrades, in the midst of a set of passengers who were as far as possible from being either.

We arrived at Liverpool on the 26th of August, 1836; and there I found several members of my family awaiting me.

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My mother and I spent two months among my brothers and sisters before returning home, to settle for the winter. I was aware that I must presently make up my mind about a book or no book on America: but I had no idea how soon my decision would be called for. As I have mentioned, I declined the offer made before I left home to obtain an advance of £500 from a publisher, who would be glad thus to secure the book. Mr. Murray also sent me a message through a mutual friend, intimating his wish to publish my travels on my return. In America such applications were frequent: and on all occasions my reply was the same; that I did not know, nor should till I got home, whether I should write on the subject at all. One personal application made to me in New York at once amused and shocked me. I had not then, and I have not to this day, got over the wonder and disgust caused by the tone in which so serious and unworldly a vocation as that of authorship is spoken of; and, of all the broad instances of such coarseness that I have met with, this New York application affords the very grossest. Mr. Harper, the head of the redoubtable piratical publishing house in New York, said to me in his own shop, “Come, now! tell me what you will take for your book.” — “What book?” — “O! you know you will write a book about this country. Let me advise you.” — “But I don’t know that I shall write one.” — “O! but I can tell you how easily you may do it. So far as you have gone, you must have picked up a few incidents. Well! then you might Trollopize a bit, and so make a readable book. I would give you something handsome for it. Come! what will you take?”

Even people who know nothing of books in a mercantile view seem to have as little conception of the true aim and temper of Edition: current; Page: [399] authorship as the book-merchants themselves, who talk of a book as an “article,” — as the mercer talks of a shawl or a dress. A good, unselfish, affectionate woman, whom I really love, showed me one day how she loves me still as in the old times when I was not yet an author, by evidencing her total lack of sympathy in my thoughts and feelings about my work. I am to her the Harriet of our youth, — the authorship being nothing more between us than something which has made her happy for me, because it has made me happy. I like this, — the being loved as the old Harriet: but, still, I was startled one day by her congratulating me on my success in obtaining fame. I had worked hard for it, and she was so glad I had got it! I do not like disclaiming, or in any way dwelling on this sort of subject; but it was impossible to let this pass. I told her I had never worked for fame. “Well then, — for money.” She was so glad I was so successful, and could get such sums for my books. This, again, could not be let pass. I assured her I had never written, or omitted to write, any thing whatever from pecuniary considerations. “Well, then,” said she, “for usefulness. I am determined to be right. You write to do good to your fellow-creatures. You must allow that I am right now.” I was silent; and when she found that I could allow no such thing, she was puzzled. Her alternatives were exhausted. I told her that I wrote because I could not help it. There was something that I wanted to say, and I said it: that was all. The fame and the money and the usefulness might or might not follow. It was not by my endeavour if they did.

On landing at Liverpool, I found various letters from publishers awaiting me. One was from Mr. Bentley, reminding me of his having met me at Miss Berry’s, and expressing his hope of having my manuscript immediately in his hands. My reply was that I had no manuscript. Another letter was from Messrs. Saunders and Otley to my mother, saying that they desired the pleasure of publishing my travels. I was disposed to treat with them, because the negotiation for the “Two Old Men’s Tales” had been an agreeable one. I therefore explained to these gentlemen the precise state of the case, and at length agreed to an Edition: current; Page: [400] interview when I should return to town. My mother and I reached home before London began to fill; and I took some pains to remain unseen for two or three weeks, while arranging my books, and my dress and my other affairs. One November morning, however, my return was announced in the “Morning Chronicle;” and such a day as that I never passed, and hoped at the time never to pass again.

First, Mr. Bentley bustled down, and obtained entrance to my study before any body else. Mr. Colburn came next, and had to wait. He bided his time in the drawing-room. In a few minutes arrived Mr. Saunders, and was shown into my mother’s parlour. These gentlemen were all notoriously on the worst terms with each other; and the fear was that they should meet and quarrel on the stairs. Some friends who happened to call at the time were beyond measure amused.

Mr. Bentley began business. Looking hard into the fire, he “made no doubt” I remembered the promise I had made him at Miss Berry’s house. I had no recollection of having promised any thing to Mr. Bentley. He told me it was impossible I should forget having assured him that if any body published for me, except Fox, it should be himself. I laughed at the idea of such an engagement. Mr. Bentley declared it might be his silliness; but he should go to his grave persuaded that I had made him such a promise. It might be his silliness, he repeated. I replied that indeed it was; as I had a perfect recollection that no book of mine was in question at all, but the Series, which he had talked of putting among his Standard Novels. He now offered the most extravagant terms for a book on America, and threw in, as a bribe, an offer of a thousand pounds for the first novel I should write. Though my refusals were as positive as I could make them, I had great difficulty in getting rid of him: and I doubt whether I was so rude to Mr. Harper himself as to the London speculator. — Mr. Colburn, meantime, sent in his letter of introduction, which was from the poet Campbell, with a message that he would shortly return. So Mr. Saunders entered next. I liked him, as before; and our conversation about the book became quite confidential. I explained to him fully Edition: current; Page: [401] my doubt as to the reception of the work, on the ground of its broad republican character. I told him plainly that I believed it would ruin me, because it would be the principle of the book to regard every thing American from the American point of view: and this method, though the only fair one, was so unlike the usual practice, and must lead to a judgment so unlike what English people were prepared for, that I should not be surprised by a total condemnation of my book and myself. I told him that, after this warning, he could retreat or negotiate, as he pleased: but that, being thus warned, he and not I must propose terms: and moreover, it must be understood that, our negotiation once concluded, I could listen to no remonstrance or objection, in regard to the contents of my book. Mr. Saunders replied that he had no difficulty in agreeing to these conditions, and that we might now proceed to business. When he had ascertained that the work would consist of three volumes, and what their probable size would be, the amusing part of the affair began. “Well, Ma’am,” said he, “what do you propose that we should give you for the copyright of the first edition?” “Why, you know,” said I, “I have written to you, from the beginning, that I would propose no terms. I am quite resolved against it.” — “Well, Ma’am; supposing the edition to consist of three thousand copies, will you just give me an idea what you would expect for it?” — “No, Mr. Saunders: that is your business. I wait to hear your terms.”

So I sat strenuously looking into the fire, — Mr. Saunders no less strenuously looking at me, till it was all I could do to keep my countenance. He waited for me to speak; but I would not; and I wondered where the matter would end, when he at last opened his lips. “What would you think, Ma’am, of £900 for the first edition?” — “Including the twenty-five copies I stipulated for?” — “Including twenty-five copies of the work, and all proceeds of the sale in America, over and above expenses.” I thought these liberal terms; and I said so; but I suggested that each party should take a day or two for consideration, to leave no room for repentance hereafter. I inquired whether Messrs. Saunders and Otley had any objection to my Edition: current; Page: [402] naming their house as the one I was negotiating with, as I disliked the appearance of entertaining the proffers of various houses, which yet I could not get rid of without a distinct answer to give. Apparently amused at the question, Mr. Saunders replied that it would be gratifying to them to be so named.

On the stairs, Mr. Saunders met Mr. Colburn, who chose to be confident that Campbell’s introduction would secure to him all he wished. The interview was remarkably disagreeable, from his refusing to be refused, and pretending to believe that what I wanted was more and more money. At last, on my giving him a broad hint to go away, he said that, having no intention of giving up his object, he should spend the day at a coffee-house in the neighbourhood, whence he should shortly send in terms for my consideration. He now only implored a promise that I would not finally pass my word that day. The moment he was gone, I slipped out into the Park to refresh my mind and body; for I was heated and wearied with the conferences of the morning. On my return, I found that Mr. Colburn had called again: and while we were at dinner, he sent in a letter, containing his fresh terms. They were so absurdly high that if I had had any confidence in the soundness of the negotiation before, it would now be overthrown. Mr. Colburn offered £2,000 for the present work, on the supposition of the sale of I forget what number, and £1,000 for the first novel I should write. The worst of it was, he left word that he should call again at ten o’clock in the evening. When we were at tea, Mr. Bentley sent in a set of amended proposals; and at ten, Mr. Colburn arrived. He set forth his whole array of “advantages,” and declared himself positive that no house in London could have offered higher terms than his. I reminded him that I had been telling him all day that my objections did not relate to the amount of money; and that I was going to accept much less: that it was impossible that my work should yield what he had offered, and leave anything over for himself; and that I therefore felt that these proposals were intended to bind me to his house, — an obligation which I did not choose to incur. He pathetically complained of having raised up rivals to himself in the assistants whom Edition: current; Page: [403] he had trained, and concluded with an affected air of resignation which was highly amusing. Hanging his head on one side, and sighing, he enunciated the sentiment: “When, in pursuing any praiseworthy object, we have done all we can, and find it in vain, we can but be resigned.” With great satisfaction I saw him lighted down stairs, and heard the house-door locked, at near midnight, on the last of the booksellers for that day. From that time forward, Mr. Colburn was seen, on the appearance of any of my works, to declare himself “singularly unfortunate” in having been always too late. He professed to have the best reason to know that if he had been a day or so earlier in his application, he would have been my publisher. This was in each case a delusion. I never, for a moment, encouraged any such expectation; and when, in course of time, Mr. Colburn’s piracies of Sparks’s Washington and other works were brought before the law courts, I was glad to have avoided all connection with the house. — The only reasons for dwelling on the matter at all are that, in the first place, it is desirable to put on record exactly what did happen on an occasion which was a good deal talked about; and next, because it may be well to show how the degradation of literature comes about, in times when speculating publishers try to make grasping authors, and to convert the serious function of authorship into a gambling match. The way in which authors allowed themselves to be put up to auction, and publishers squabbled at the sale was a real and perpetual grief to me to witness. It reminded me but too often of the stand and the gesticulating man with the hammer, and the crowding competitors whom I had seen jostling each other in the slave-markets of the United States. I went to bed that night with a disgusted and offended feeling of having been offered bribes, all day long, with a confidence which was not a little insulting.

My transactions with Messrs. Saunders and Otley were always very satisfactory. I did not receive a penny from the sale of my American books in the United States, though my American friends exerted themselves to protect the work from being pirated: but the disappointment was the fault of my publishers’ agent; and they were as sorry for it as I was. Soon after the Edition: current; Page: [404] appearance of “Society in America,” Mr. Saunders called on me to propose a second work, which should have more the character of travel, and be of a lighter quality to both writer and reader. I had plenty of material; and, though I should have liked some rest, this was no sufficient reason for refusing. The publishers offered me £600 for this, in addition to the attendant advantages allowed with the former work. — Even through these liberal and honourable publishers, however, I became acquainted with one of the tricks of the trade which surprised me a good deal. After telling me the day of publication, and announcing that my twenty-five copies would be ready, Mr. Saunders inquired when I should like to come to their back parlour, “and write the notes.” — “What notes?” — “The notes for the Reviews, you know, Ma’am.” He was surprised at being obliged to explain that authors write notes to friends and acquaintances connected with periodicals, “to request favourable notices of the work.” I did not know how to credit this; and Mr. Saunders was amazed that I had never heard of it. “I assure you, Ma’am, — — does it; and all our authors do it.” On my emphatically declining, he replied “As you please, Ma’am: but it is the universal practice, I believe.” I have always been related to the Reviews exactly like the ordinary public. I have never inquired who had reviewed me, or known who was going to do so, except by public rumour. I do not very highly respect reviews, nor like to write them; for the simple reason that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the author understands his subject better than the reviewer. It can hardly be otherwise while the author treats one subject, to his study of which his book itself is a strong testimony; whereas the reviewer is expected to pass from topic to topic, to any extent, pronouncing, out of his brief survey, on the results of deep and protracted study. Of all the many reviews of my books on America and Egypt, there was not, as far as I know, one which did not betray ignorance of the respective countries. And, on the other hand, there is no book, except the very few which have appeared on my own particular subjects, that I could venture to pronounce on; as, in every other case, I feel myself compelled to approach a book as a learner, and not Edition: current; Page: [405] as a judge. This is the same thing as saying that reviewing, in the wholesale way in which it is done in our time, is a radically vicious practice; and such is indeed my opinion. I am glad to see scientific men, and men of erudition, and true connoisseurs in art, examining what has been done in their respective departments: and every body is glad of good essays, whether they appear in books called Reviews or elsewhere. But of the reviews of our day, properly so called, the vast majority must be worthless, because the reviewer knows less than the author of the matter in hand.

In choosing the ground of my work, “Society in America,” — (which should have been called, but for the objection of my publishers, “Theory and Practice of Society in America,”) I desired fairness in the first place: and I believe it was most fair to take my stand on the American point of view, — judging American society, in its spirit and methods, by the American tests, — the Declaration of Independence, and the constitutions based upon its principles. It had become a practice so completely established to treat of America in a mode of comparison with Europe, that I had little hope of being at first understood by more than a few. The Americans themselves had been so accustomed to be held up in contrast with Europeans by travellers that they could not get rid of the prepossession, even while reading my book. What praise there was excited vanity, as if such a thing had never been heard of before: and any censure was supposed to be sufficiently answered by evidence that the same evils existed in England. I anticipated this; and that consternation would be excited by some of my republican and other principles. Some of this consternation, and much of the censure followed, with a good deal that I had not conceived of. All this was of little consequence, in comparison with the comfort of having done some good, however little, in both countries. The fundamental fault of the book did not become apparent to me for some time after; — its metaphysical framework, and the abstract treatment of what must necessarily be a concrete subject. The fault is not exclusively mine. It rests with the American theory which I had taken for my standpoint: Edition: current; Page: [406] but it was the weakness of an immature mind to choose that method of treatment; just as it was the act of immature politicians to make after the same method the first American constitution, — the one which would not work, and which gave place to the present arrangement. Again, I was infected to a certain degree with the American method of dissertation or preaching; and I was also full of Carlylism, like the friends I had left in the western world. So that my book, while most carefully true in its facts, had a strong leaning towards the American fashion of theorising; and it was far more useful on the other side of the Atlantic than on this. The order of people here who answer to the existing state of the Americans took the book to heart very earnestly, if I may judge by the letters from strangers which flowed in upon me, even for years after its publication. The applications made to me for guidance and counsel, — applications which even put into my hand the disposal of a whole life, in various instances, — arose, not from agreement in political opinion, nor from discontent with things at home; but from my hearty conviction that social affairs are the personal duty of every individual, and from my freedom in saying what I thought. The stories that I could tell, from letters which exist among my papers, or from those which I thought it right to burn at once, would move the coldest, and rouse the laziest. Those which touched me most related to the oppressions which women in England suffer from the law and custom of the country. Some offered evidence of intolerable oppression, if I could point out how it might be used. Others offered money, effort, courage in enduring obloquy, every thing, if I could show them how to obtain, and lead them in obtaining, arrangements by which they could be free in spirit, and in outward liberty to make what they could of life. I feel strongly tempted to give here two or three narratives: but it would not be right. The applicants and their friends may be living; and I might be betraying confidence, though nearly twenty years have elapsed. Suffice it that though I now disapprove the American form and style of the book, not the less standing by my choice of the American point of view, I have never regretted Edition: current; Page: [407] its boldness of speech. I felt a relief in having opened my mind which I would at no time have exchanged for any gain of reputation or fortune. The time had come when, having experienced what might be called the extremes of obscurity and difficulty first, and influence and success afterwards, I could pronounce that there was nothing for which it was worth sacrificing freedom of thought and speech. I enjoyed in addition the consolidation of invaluable friendships in America, and the acquisition of new ones at home. Altogether, I am well pleased that I wrote the book, though I now see how much better it might have been done if I had not been at the metaphysical period of my life when I had to treat of the most metaphysical constitution and people in the world.

Some of the wisest of my friends at home, — and especially, I remember Sydney Smith and Carlyle, — gently offered their criticism on my more abstract American book in the pleasant form of praise of the more concrete one. The “Retrospect of Western Travel” was very successful, — as indeed the other was, though not, I believe, to the extent of the publishers’ expectations. Sydney Smith showed but too surely, not long after, in his dealings with American Repudiation, that he did not trouble himself with any study of the Constitution of the United States; for he crowded almost as many mistakes as possible into his procedure, — supposing Congress to be answerable for the doings of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania to have repudiated her debts; which she never did. Readers who thus read for amusement, and skip the politics, liked my second book best: and so did those who, like Carlyle, wisely desire us to see what we can, and tell what we see, without spinning out of ourselves systems and final causes, and all manner of notions which, as self-derived, are no part of our business or proper material in giving an account of an existing nation. Carlyle wrote me that he had rather read of Webster’s cavernous eyes and arm under his coat-tail, than all the political speculation that a cut-and-dried system could suggest. I find before me a memorandum that Lord Holland sent me by General Fox a motto for the chapter on Washington. How it came about, I do not Edition: current; Page: [408] exactly remember; but I am sure my readers, as well as I, were obliged to Lord Holland for as exquisite an appropriation of an exquisite eulogy as was ever proposed. The lines are the Duke of Buckingham’s on Lord Fairfax.

  • “He might have been a king
  • But that he understood
  • How much it was a meaner thing
  • To be unjustly great than honourably good.”

It was in September of that year (1837) that I began to keep a Diary. My reason was that I saw so many wise people, and heard so much valuable conversation, that my memory would not serve me to retain what I was sorry to lose. I continued the practice for about five years, when I found it becoming, not only burdensome, but, (as I was ill and living in solitude,) pernicious. I find, by the first portion of my Diary, that I finished the “Retrospect of Western Travel” on the first of December, 1837, having written a good many other things during the autumn, of which I now remember nothing. It was in August of that year that the Editor of the Westminster Review (then the property of Mr. J. S. Mill) called on me, and asked me to write a review of Miss Sedgwick’s works. I did so for the October number, and I believe I supplied about half-a-dozen articles in the course of the next two years, — the best known of which is “The Martyr Age of the United States,” — a sketch of the history of Abolitionism in the United States, up to that time. I find mentioned in my Diary of articles for the “Penny Magazine,” before and after the one already referred to, — the “Month at Sea:” and I remember that I earned Mr. Knight’s “Gallery of Portraits,” and some other valuable books in that pleasant way. The most puzzling thing to me is to find repeated references to a set of Essays called “The Christian Seer,” with some speculation on their quality, while I can recal nothing whatever about them, — their object, their subject, their mode of publication, or any thing else. I can only hope that others have forgotten them as completely as I have; for they could not have been worth much, if I have never heard or Edition: current; Page: [409] thought of them since. They seem to have cost me some pains and care; and they were probably not the better for that. — The entry in my Diary on the completion of the “Retrospect” brings back some very deep feelings. “I care little about this book of mine. I have not done it carelessly. I believe it is true: but it will fill no place in my mind and life; and I am glad it is done. Shall I despise myself hereafter for my expectations from my novel?”

Great were my expectations from my novel, for this reason chiefly; that for many years now my writing had been almost entirely about fact: facts of society and of individuals: and the constraint of the effort to be always correct, and to bear without solicitude the questioning of my correctness, had become burdensome. I felt myself in danger of losing nerve, and dreading criticism on the one hand, and of growing rigid and narrow about accuracy on the other. I longed inexpressibly for the liberty of fiction, while occasionally doubting whether I had the power to use that freedom as I could have done ten years before. The intimate friend, on whose literary counsel, as I have said, I reposed so thankfully, and at whose country-house I found such sweet refreshment every autumn, was the confidante of my aspirations about a novel; and many a talk she and I had that autumn about the novel I was to write in the course of the next year. She never flattered me; and her own relish of fiction made her all the more careful not to mislead me as to my chances of success in a new walk of literature. But her deliberate expectation was that I should succeed; and her expectation was grounded, like my own, on the fact that my heart and mind were deeply stirred on one or two moral subjects on which I wanted the relief of speech, or which could be as well expressed in fiction as in any other way, — and perhaps with more freedom and earnestness than under any other form. After finishing my American subjects, I was to take a holiday, — to spend whole days without putting pen to paper; and then I was to do my best with my novel.

Such was the scheme: and so it went on up to the finishing of the year’s engagements, and the first day of holiday, when I Edition: current; Page: [410] found reason to suspect that I had been under too long a strain of work and of anxiety. During that summer, I failed somewhat in strength, and, to my own surprise, in spirits. I told no person of this, except the friend and hostess just referred to. Within two years we found that I had already begun to sink under domestic anxieties, and the toil which was my only practicable refuge from them. The illness which prostrated me in 1839 was making itself felt, — though not recognised, — in 1837. I was dimly aware of overstrained strength, on the first experiment of holiday, when something happened which threw me into great perturbation. Nothing disturbs me so much as to have to make a choice between nearly equal alternatives; and it was a very serious choice that I had to make now. A member of an eminent publishing firm called on me on the eleventh of December, to propose that his house should set up a periodical which was certainly much wanted, — an Economical Magazine, — of which I was to have the sole charge. The salary offered was one which would have made me entirely easy about income: the subject was one which I need not fear to undertake: the work was wanted: and considerations like these were not strongly balanced by the facts that I felt tired and longed for rest, or by the prospect of the confinement which the editorship would impose. The vacillation of my mind was for some days very painful. I find, two days later, this entry. “In the morning, I am pro, and at night, and in the night, con the scheme. I wonder how it will end. I see such an opening in it for things that I want to say! and I seem to be the person to undertake such a thing. I can toil — I am persevering, and in the habit of keeping my troubles to myself. If suffering be the worst on the con side, let it come. It will be a fine discipline of taste, temper, thought and spirits. But I don’t expect — and — will accede to my last stipulations. If not, there ’s an end. If they do, I think I shall make the plunge.” Two days later: — “After tea, sat down before the fire with pencil and paper, to make out a list of subjects, contributors and books, for my periodical. Presently came a letter from — and —, which I knew must nearly decide my fate in regard to the project. Edition: current; Page: [411] I distinctly felt that it could not hurt me, either way, as the pros and cons seem so nearly balanced that I should be rather thankful to have the matter decided for me. — and — grant all that I have asked; and it looks much as if we were to proceed. So I went on with my pondering till past ten, by which time I had got a sheetful of subjects.” I certainly dreaded the enterprise more than I desired it. “It is an awful choice before me! Such facilities for usefulness and activity of knowledge; such certain toil and bondage; such risk of failure and descent from my position! The realities of life press upon me now. If I do this, I must brace myself up to do and suffer like a man. No more waywardness, precipitation, and reliance on allowance from others! Undertaking a man’s duty, I must brave a man’s fate. I must be prudent, independent, serene, good-humoured; earnest with cheerfulness. The possibility is open before me of showing what a periodical with a perfect temper may be: — also, of setting women forward at once into the rank of men of business. But the hazards are great. I wonder how it will end.” I had consulted two or three intimate friends, when I wrote these entries: and had written to my brother James for his opinion. The friends at hand were all in favour of my undertaking the enterprise. If the one remaining opinion had been in agreement with theirs, I should have followed the unanimous advice: but on the nineteenth, I find, “James is altogether against the periodical plan.” I wrote my final refusal on that day; and again I was at liberty to ponder my novel.

My doctrine about plots in fiction has been given at sufficient length. It follows of course that I looked into real life for mine. I attached myself strongly to one which it cost me much to surrender. It is a story from real life which Miss Sedgwick has offered in her piece called “Old Maids,” in her volume of “Tales and Sketches,” not likely to be known in England: — a story of two sisters, ten years apart in age, the younger of whom loves and finally marries the betrothed of the elder. Miss Sedgwick told me the real story, with some circumstances of the deepest interest which she, for good reasons, suppressed, but which I might have used. If I had wrought out this story, I should of Edition: current; Page: [412] course have acknowledged its source. But I deferred it, — and it is well I did. Mrs. S. Carter Hall relates it as the story of two Irish sisters, and impresses the anecdote by a striking woodcut, in her “Ireland:” and Mrs. Browning has it again, in her beautiful “Bertha in the Lane.”

I was completely carried away by the article on St. Domingo in the Quarterly Review, (vol. xxi.) which I lighted upon, one day at this time, while looking for the noted article on the Grecian Philosophy in the same volume. I pursued the study of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s character in the Biographie Universelle; and, though it is badly done, and made a mere patch-work of irreconcilable views of him, the real man shone out into my mind, through all mists and shadows. I went to my confidante, with a sheetful of notes, and a heartful of longings to draw that glorious character, — with its singular mixture of negro temperament, heathen morality, and as much of Christianity as agreed with the two. But my friend could not see the subject as I did. She honestly stood by her objections, and I felt that I could not proceed against the counsel of my only adviser. I gave it up: but a few years after, when ill at Tynemouth, I reverted to my scheme and fulfilled it: and my kind adviser, while never liking the subject in an artistic sense, graciously told me that the book had kept her up, over her dressing-room fire, till three in the morning. There was a police report, during that winter, — very brief, — only one short paragraph, — which moved me profoundly, and which I was sure I could work out into a novel of the deepest interest. My fear was that that one paragraph would affect other readers as it did me, and be remembered, so that the catastrophe of my tale would be known from the beginning: so we deferred that plot, meaning that I should really work upon it one day. The reason why I never did is that, as I have grown older, I have seen more and more the importance of dwelling on things honest, lovely, hopeful and bright, rather than on the darker and fouler passions and most mournful weaknesses of human nature. Therefore it was that I reverted to Toussaint, rather than to the moral victim who was the hero of the police-court story.

Edition: current; Page: [413]

What then was to be done? We came back, after every divergence, to the single fact (as I then believed it) that a friend of our family, whom I had not seen very often, but whom I had revered from my youth up, had been cruelly driven, by a matchmaking lady, to propose to the sister of the woman he loved, — on private information that the elder had lost her heart to him, and that he had shown her attention enough to warrant it. The marriage was not a very happy one, good as were the persons concerned, in their various ways. I altered the circumstances as much as I could, and drew the character, not of our English but of an American friend, whose domestic position is altogether different: and lo! it came to my knowledge, years afterwards, that the story of our friend’s mischance was not at all true. I was rejoiced to hear it. Not only was I relieved from the fear of hurting a good man’s feelings, if he should ever read “Deerbrook:” but “Deerbrook” was a fiction, after all, in its groundwork.

The process was an anxious one. I could not at all tell whether I was equal to my enterprise. I found in it a relief to many pent-up sufferings, feelings, and convictions: and I can truly say that it was uttered from the heart. But my friend seemed nearly as doubtful of success as I was. She feared to mislead me; and she honestly and kindly said less than she felt in its favour. From the time when one day I saw a bright little tear fall on her embroidery, I was nearly at ease; but that was in the last volume. I have often doubted whether I could have worked through that fearful period of domestic trouble, with heart and hope enough to finish a book of a new kind, but for a singular source of refreshment, — a picture. Mr. Vincent Thompson and his lady took me to the private view of the pictures at the British Institution; and I persisted in admiring a landscape in North Wales by Baker, to which I returned again and again, to feast on the gush of sunlight between two mountains, and the settling of the shadows upon the woods at their base. Mr. Thompson at length returned too, and finally told me that it was a good picture. Several weeks afterwards, I heard an unusual lumbering mode of coming upstairs; and Mr. Thompson Edition: current; Page: [414] was shown in, bearing the picture, and saying that as I should certainly be getting pictures together some time or other, Mrs. Thompson had sent me this to begin with. I sat opposite that landscape while writing “Deerbrook;” and many a dark passage did its sunshine light me through. Now that I live among mountains, that landscape is as beautiful as ever in my eyes: but nowhere could it be such a benefaction as in my little study in Fludyer Street, where dingy red walls rose up almost within reach, and idle clerks of the Foreign Office lolled out of dusty windows, to stare down upon their opposite neighbours.

I was not uneasy about getting my novel published. On May-day, 1838, six weeks before I put pen to paper, I received a note from a friend who announced what appeared to me a remarkable fact; — that Mr. Murray, though he had never listened to an application to publish a novel since Scott’s, was willing to enter into a negotiation for mine. I was not aware then how strong was the hold on the public mind which “the silver-fork school” had gained; and I discovered it by Mr. Murray’s refusal at last to publish “Deerbrook.” He was more than civil; — he was kind, and, I believe, sincere in his regrets. The execution was not the ground of refusal. It was, as I had afterwards reason to know, the scene being laid in middle life. I do not know whether it is true that Mr. Lockhart advised Mr. Murray to decline it; but Mr. Lockhart’s clique gave out on the eve of publication that the hero was an apothecary. People liked high life in novels, and low life, and ancient life; and life of any rank presented by Dickens, in his peculiar artistic light, which is very unlike the broad daylight of actual existence, English or other: but it was not supposed that they would bear a presentment of the familiar life of every day. It was a mistake to suppose so; and Mr. Murray finally regretted his decision. Mr. Moxon, to whom, by Mr. Rogers’s advice, I offered it, had reason to rejoice in it. “Deerbrook” had a larger circulation than novels usually obtain; two large editions having been long exhausted, and the work being still in constant demand. — I was rather amused at the turn that criticism took among people of the same class as my personages, — the class which I chose because Edition: current; Page: [415] it was my own, and the one that I understood best. It was droll to hear the daughters of dissenting ministers and manufacturers expressing disgust that the heroine came from Birmingham, and that the hero was a surgeon. Youths and maidens in those days looked for lords and ladies in every page of a new novel. — My own judgment of “Deerbrook” was for some years more favourable than it is now. The work was faithful in principle and sentiment to the then state of my mind; and that satisfied me for a time. I should now require more of myself, if I were to attempt a novel, — (which I should not do, if I were sure of living another quarter of a century.) I should require more simplicity, and a far more objective character, — not of delineation but of scheme. The laborious portions of meditation, obtruded at intervals, are wholly objectionable in my eyes. Neither morally nor artistically can they be justified. I know the book to have been true to the state of thought and feeling I was then in, which I now regard as imperfect and very far from lofty: — I believe it to have been useful, not only in overcoming a prejudice against the use of middle-class life in fiction, but in a more special application to the discipline of temper; and therefore I am glad I wrote it: but I do not think it would be fair to judge me from it, any later than the time in which it was written.

When Mr. Murray perceived that the book had a decided though gradual success, he sent a mutual friend to me with a remarkable message, absolutely secret at the time, but no longer needing to be so. He said that he could help me to a boundless fortune, and a mighty future fame, if I would adopt his advice. He advised me to write a novel in profound secrecy, and under appearances which would prevent suspicion of the authorship from being directed towards me. He desired to publish this novel in monthly numbers; and was willing to pledge his reputation for experience on our obtaining a circulation as large as had ever been known. It would give him high satisfaction, he declared, to see my writings on thousands of tables from which my name would exclude every thing I published under it: and he should enjoy being the means of my obtaining such fortune, Edition: current; Page: [416] and such an ultimate fame as I might confidently reckon on, if I would accept his offer. I refused it at once. I could not undertake to introduce a protracted mystery into my life which would destroy its openness and freedom. This was one reason: but there was a far more serious one; — more important because it was not personal. I could not conscientiously adopt any method so unprincipled in an artistic sense as piecemeal publication. Whatever other merits it may have, a work of fiction cannot possibly be good in an artistic sense which can be cut up into portions of an arbitrary length. The success of the portions requires that each should have some sort of effective close; and to provide a certain number of these at regular intervals, is like breaking up the broad lights and shadows of a great picture, and spoiling it as a composition. I might never do any thing to advance or sustain literary art; but I would do nothing to corrupt it, by adopting a false principle of composition. The more license was afforded by the popular taste of the time, the more careful should authors be to adhere to sound principle in their art. Mr. Murray and our friend evidently thought me very foolish; but I am as sure now as I was then that, my aim not being money or fame, I was right.

While pondering my novel, I wrote (as I see by my diary) various small pieces, stories, and didactic articles, for special purposes, — religious or benevolent, American and English: and in April and May I cleared my mind and hands of a long-standing engagement. The Chapter which I mentioned having written at sea, on “How to observe Morals and Manners,” was, by the desire of the proposer and of Mr. Knight, to be expanded into a volume; and this piece of tough work, which required a good deal of reading and thinking, I accomplished this spring. The earlier numbers of the “Guide to Service,” beginning with “The Maid of All Work,” were written in the same spring. In the first days of June, I wrote an article on “Domestic Service in England” for the Westminster Review: and then, after a few days with my friends the Fs. on one of our Box Hill expeditions, I was ready and eager to sit down to the first chapter of my first novel on my birthday, — June 12th, 1838. By the end of Edition: current; Page: [417] August, I had finished the first volume, and written “The Lady’s Maid,” for the “Service” series. As I then travelled, it was November before I could return to “Deerbrook.” I finished it on the first of the next February; and it was published before Easter.

The political interests of this period were strong. The old King was manifestly infirm and feeble when I last saw him, in the spring of 1837. I was taking a drive with Lady S—, when her carriage drew up to the roadside and stopped, because the King and Queen were coming. He touched his hat as he leaned back, looking small and aged. I could not but feel something more than the ordinary interest in the young girl who was so near the throne. At a concert at the Hanover Square Rooms, some time before (I forget what year it was) the Duchess of Kent sent Sir John Conroy to me with a message of acknowledgment of the usefulness of my books to the Princess: and I afterwards heard more particulars of the eagerness with which the little lady read the stories on the first day of the month. A friend of mine who was at Kensington Palace one evening when my Political Economy series was coming to an end, told me how the Princess came, running and skipping, to show her mother the advertisement of the “Illustrations of Taxation,” and to get leave to order them. Her “favourite” of my stories is “Ella of Garveloch.” — It was at breakfast that we heard of the King’s dea