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´╗┐Title: Life of John Sterling
Author: Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of John Sterling" ***

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LIFE OF JOHN STERLING

By Thomas Carlyle


Transcriber's Note: Italics in the text are indicated by the use of an
underscore as delimiter, _thusly_. All footnotes have been collected at
the end of the text, and numbered sequentially in brackets, [thusly].
One illustration has been omitted. The "pound" symbol has been replaced
by the word "pounds". Otherwise, all spelling, punctuation, etc., have
been left as in the printed text.

Taken from volume 2 of Carlyle's Complete Works, which additionally
contains the Latter-Day Pamphlets, to be provided as a separate etext.



PART I.



CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY.

Near seven years ago, a short while before his death in 1844, John
Sterling committed the care of his literary Character and printed
Writings to two friends, Archdeacon Hare and myself. His estimate of the
bequest was far from overweening; to few men could the small sum-total
of his activities in this world seem more inconsiderable than, in those
last solemn days, it did to him. He had burnt much; found much unworthy;
looking steadfastly into the silent continents of Death and Eternity, a
brave man's judgments about his own sorry work in the field of Time are
not apt to be too lenient. But, in fine, here was some portion of his
work which the world had already got hold of, and which he could not
burn. This too, since it was not to be abolished and annihilated, but
must still for some time live and act, he wished to be wisely settled,
as the rest had been. And so it was left in charge to us, the survivors,
to do for it what we judged fittest, if indeed doing nothing did not
seem the fittest to us. This message, communicated after his decease,
was naturally a sacred one to Mr. Hare and me.

After some consultation on it, and survey of the difficulties and
delicate considerations involved in it, Archdeacon Hare and I agreed
that the whole task, of selecting what Writings were to be reprinted,
and of drawing up a Biography to introduce them, should be left to him
alone; and done without interference of mine:--as accordingly it was, [1]
in a manner surely far superior to the common, in every good quality of
editing; and visibly everywhere bearing testimony to the friendliness,
the piety, perspicacity and other gifts and virtues of that eminent and
amiable man.

In one respect, however, if in one only, the arrangement had been
unfortunate. Archdeacon Hare, both by natural tendency and by his
position as a Churchman, had been led, in editing a Work not free from
ecclesiastical heresies, and especially in writing a Life very full of
such, to dwell with preponderating emphasis on that part of his subject;
by no means extenuating the fact, nor yet passing lightly over it (which
a layman could have done) as needing no extenuation; but carefully
searching into it, with the view of excusing and explaining it; dwelling
on it, presenting all the documents of it, and as it were spreading it
over the whole field of his delineation; as if religious heterodoxy had
been the grand fact of Sterling's life, which even to the Archdeacon's
mind it could by no means seem to be. _Hinc illae lachrymae_. For the
Religious Newspapers, and Periodical Heresy-hunters, getting very lively
in those years, were prompt to seize the cue; and have prosecuted
and perhaps still prosecute it, in their sad way, to all lengths and
breadths. John Sterling's character and writings, which had little
business to be spoken of in any Church-court, have hereby been carried
thither as if for an exclusive trial; and the mournfulest set of
pleadings, out of which nothing but a misjudgment _can_ be formed,
prevail there ever since. The noble Sterling, a radiant child of the
empyrean, clad in bright auroral hues in the memory of all that knew
him,--what is he doing here in inquisitorial _sanbenito_, with nothing
but ghastly spectralities prowling round him, and inarticulately
screeching and gibbering what they call their judgment on him!

"The sin of Hare's Book," says one of my Correspondents in those years,
"is easily defined, and not very condemnable, but it is nevertheless
ruinous to his task as Biographer. He takes up Sterling as a clergyman
merely. Sterling, I find, was a curate for exactly eight months; during
eight months and no more had he any special relation to the Church. But
he was a man, and had relation to the Universe, for eight-and-thirty
years: and it is in this latter character, to which all the others were
but features and transitory hues, that we wish to know him. His battle
with hereditary Church formulas was severe; but it was by no means his
one battle with things inherited, nor indeed his chief battle;
neither, according to my observation of what it was, is it successfully
delineated or summed up in this Book. The truth is, nobody that had
known Sterling would recognize a feature of him here; you would never
dream that this Book treated of _him_ at all. A pale sickly shadow in
torn surplice is presented to us here; weltering bewildered amid
heaps of what you call 'Hebrew Old-clothes;' wrestling, with impotent
impetuosity, to free itself from the baleful imbroglio, as if that
had been its one function in life: who in this miserable figure would
recognize the brilliant, beautiful and cheerful John Sterling, with
his ever-flowing wealth of ideas, fancies, imaginations; with his frank
affections, inexhaustible hopes, audacities, activities, and general
radiant vivacity of heart and intelligence, which made the presence of
him an illumination and inspiration wherever he went? It is too bad.
Let a man be honestly forgotten when his life ends; but let him not be
misremembered in this way. To be hung up as an ecclesiastical scarecrow,
as a target for heterodox and orthodox to practice archery upon, is no
fate that can be due to the memory of Sterling. It was not as a ghastly
phantasm, choked in Thirty-nine-article controversies, or miserable
Semitic, Anti-Semitic street-riots,--in scepticisms, agonized
self-seekings, that this man appeared in life; nor as such, if the world
still wishes to look at him should you suffer the world's memory of him
now to be. Once for all, it is unjust; emphatically untrue as an image
of John Sterling: perhaps to few men that lived along with him could
such an interpretation of their existence be more inapplicable."


Whatever truth there might be in these rather passionate
representations, and to myself there wanted not a painful feeling of
their truth, it by no means appeared what help or remedy any friend of
Sterling's, and especially one so related to the matter as myself, could
attempt in the interim. Perhaps endure in patience till the dust
laid itself again, as all dust does if you leave it well alone? Much
obscuration would thus of its own accord fall away; and, in Mr. Hare's
narrative itself, apart from his commentary, many features of Sterling's
true character would become decipherable to such as sought them.
Censure, blame of this Work of Mr. Hare's was naturally far from my
thoughts. A work which distinguishes itself by human piety and candid
intelligence; which, in all details, is careful, lucid, exact; and which
offers, as we say, to the observant reader that will interpret facts,
many traits of Sterling besides his heterodoxy. Censure of it, from me
especially, is not the thing due; from me a far other thing is due!--

On the whole, my private thought was: First, How happy it comparatively
is, for a man of any earnestness of life, to have no Biography written
of him; but to return silently, with his small, sorely foiled bit of
work, to the Supreme Silences, who alone can judge of it or him; and not
to trouble the reviewers, and greater or lesser public, with attempting
to judge it! The idea of "fame," as they call it, posthumous or
other, does not inspire one with much ecstasy in these points of
view.--Secondly, That Sterling's performance and real or seeming
importance in this world was actually not of a kind to demand an express
Biography, even according to the world's usages. His character was not
supremely original; neither was his fate in the world wonderful. What
he did was inconsiderable enough; and as to what it lay in him to have
done, this was but a problem, now beyond possibility of settlement. Why
had a Biography been inflicted on this man; why had not No-biography,
and the privilege of all the weary, been his lot?--Thirdly, That such
lot, however, could now no longer be my good Sterling's; a tumult having
risen around his name, enough to impress some pretended likeness of him
(about as like as the Guy-Fauxes are, on Gunpowder-Day) upon the minds
of many men: so that he could not be forgotten, and could only be
misremembered, as matters now stood.

Whereupon, as practical conclusion to the whole, arose by degrees this
final thought, That, at some calmer season, when the theological dust
had well fallen, and both the matter itself, and my feelings on it, were
in a suitabler condition, I ought to give my testimony about this friend
whom I had known so well, and record clearly what my knowledge of him
was. This has ever since seemed a kind of duty I had to do in the world
before leaving it.


And so, having on my hands some leisure at this time, and being bound to
it by evident considerations, one of which ought to be especially
sacred to me, I decide to fling down on paper some outline of what
my recollections and reflections contain in reference to this most
friendly, bright and beautiful human soul; who walked with me for a
season in this world, and remains to me very memorable while I continue
in it. Gradually, if facts simple enough in themselves can be narrated
as they came to pass, it will be seen what kind of man this was; to what
extent condemnable for imaginary heresy and other crimes, to what
extent laudable and lovable for noble manful _orthodoxy_ and other
virtues;--and whether the lesson his life had to teach us is not much
the reverse of what the Religious Newspapers hitherto educe from it.

Certainly it was not as a "sceptic" that you could define him, whatever
his definition might be. Belief, not doubt, attended him at all points
of his progress; rather a tendency to too hasty and headlong belief.
Of all men he was the least prone to what you could call scepticism:
diseased self-listenings, self-questionings, impotently painful
dubitations, all this fatal nosology of spiritual maladies, so rife
in our day, was eminently foreign to him. Quite on the other side lay
Sterling's faults, such as they were. In fact, you could observe, in
spite of his sleepless intellectual vivacity, he was not properly a
thinker at all; his faculties were of the active, not of the passive or
contemplative sort. A brilliant _improvisatore_; rapid in thought, in
word and in act; everywhere the promptest and least hesitating of men.
I likened him often, in my banterings, to sheet-lightning; and
reproachfully prayed that he would concentrate himself into a bolt, and
rive the mountain-barriers for us, instead of merely playing on them and
irradiating them.

True, he had his "religion" to seek, and painfully shape together for
himself, out of the abysses of conflicting disbelief and sham-belief and
bedlam delusion, now filling the world, as all men of reflection have;
and in this respect too,--more especially as his lot in the battle
appointed for us all was, if you can understand it, victory and not
defeat,--he is an expressive emblem of his time, and an instruction and
possession to his contemporaries. For, I say, it is by no means as a
vanquished _doubter_ that he figures in the memory of those who knew
him; but rather as a victorious _believer_, and under great difficulties
a victorious doer. An example to us all, not of lamed misery, helpless
spiritual bewilderment and sprawling despair, or any kind of _drownage_
in the foul welter of our so-called religious or other controversies and
confusions; but of a swift and valiant vanquisher of all these; a noble
asserter of himself, as worker and speaker, in spite of all these.
Continually, so far as he went, he was a teacher, by act and word, of
hope, clearness, activity, veracity, and human courage and nobleness:
the preacher of a good gospel to all men, not of a bad to any man. The
man, whether in priest's cassock or other costume of men, who is the
enemy or hater of John Sterling, may assure himself that he does not yet
know him,--that miserable differences of mere costume and dialect still
divide him, whatsoever is worthy, catholic and perennial in him, from a
brother soul who, more than most in his day, was his brother and not his
adversary in regard to all that.

Nor shall the irremediable drawback that Sterling was not current in the
Newspapers, that he achieved neither what the world calls greatness nor
what intrinsically is such, altogether discourage me. What his natural
size, and natural and accidental limits were, will gradually appear, if
my sketching be successful. And I have remarked that a true delineation
of the smallest man, and his scene of pilgrimage through life, is
capable of interesting the greatest man; that all men are to an
unspeakable degree brothers, each man's life a strange emblem of every
man's; and that Human Portraits, faithfully drawn, are of all pictures
the welcomest on human walls. Monitions and moralities enough may lie
in this small Work, if honestly written and honestly read;--and, in
particular, if any image of John Sterling and his Pilgrimage through
our poor Nineteenth Century be one day wanted by the world, and they can
find some shadow of a true image here, my swift scribbling (which shall
be very swift and immediate) may prove useful by and by.



CHAPTER II. BIRTH AND PARENTAGE.

John Sterling was born at Kaimes Castle, a kind of dilapidated baronial
residence to which a small farm was then attached, rented by his Father,
in the Isle of Bute,--on the 20th July, 1806. Both his parents were
Irish by birth, Scotch by extraction; and became, as he himself did,
essentially English by long residence and habit. Of John himself
Scotland has little or nothing to claim except the birth and genealogy,
for he left it almost before the years of memory; and in his mature days
regarded it, if with a little more recognition and intelligence, yet
without more participation in any of its accents outward or inward,
than others natives of Middlesex or Surrey, where the scene of his chief
education lay.

The climate of Bute is rainy, soft of temperature; with skies of unusual
depth and brilliancy, while the weather is fair. In that soft rainy
climate, on that wild-wooded rocky coast, with its gnarled mountains and
green silent valleys, with its seething rain-storms and many-sounding
seas, was young Sterling ushered into his first schooling in this world.
I remember one little anecdote his Father told me of those first
years: One of the cows had calved; young John, still in petticoats, was
permitted to go, holding by his father's hand, and look at the newly
arrived calf; a mystery which he surveyed with open intent eyes, and the
silent exercise of all the scientific faculties he had;--very strange
mystery indeed, this new arrival, and fresh denizen of our Universe:
"Wull't eat a-body?" said John in his first practical Scotch, inquiring
into the tendencies this mystery might have to fall upon a little fellow
and consume him as provision: "Will it eat one, Father?"--Poor little
open-eyed John: the family long bantered him with this anecdote; and
we, in far other years, laughed heartily on hearing it.--Simple peasant
laborers, ploughers, house-servants, occasional fisher-people too; and
the sight of ships, and crops, and Nature's doings where Art has little
meddled with her: this was the kind of schooling our young friend had,
first of all; on this bench of the grand world-school did he sit, for
the first four years of his life.

Edward Sterling his Father, a man who subsequently came to considerable
notice in the world, was originally of Waterford in Munster; son of the
Episcopalian Clergyman there; and chief representative of a family of
some standing in those parts. Family founded, it appears, by a
Colonel Robert Sterling, called also Sir Robert Sterling; a Scottish
Gustavus-Adolphus soldier, whom the breaking out of the Civil War had
recalled from his German campaignings, and had before long, though not
till after some waverings on his part, attached firmly to the Duke
of Ormond and to the King's Party in that quarrel. A little bit of
genealogy, since it lies ready to my hand, gathered long ago out of
wider studies, and pleasantly connects things individual and present
with the dim universal crowd of things past,--may as well be inserted
here as thrown away.

This Colonel Robert designates himself Sterling "of Glorat;" I believe,
a younger branch of the well-known Stirlings of Keir in Stirlingshire.
It appears he prospered in his soldiering and other business, in
those bad Ormond times; being a man of energy, ardor and
intelligence,--probably prompt enough both with his word and with his
stroke. There survives yet, in the Commons Journals, [2] dim notice of
his controversies and adventures; especially of one controversy he had
got into with certain victorious Parliamentary official parties,
while his own party lay vanquished, during what was called the Ormond
Cessation, or Temporary Peace made by Ormond with the Parliament in
1646:--in which controversy Colonel Robert, after repeated applications,
journeyings to London, attendances upon committees, and such like, finds
himself worsted, declared to be in the wrong; and so vanishes from the
Commons Journals.

What became of him when Cromwell got to Ireland, and to Munster, I
have not heard: his knighthood, dating from the very year of Cromwell's
Invasion (1649), indicates a man expected to do his best on the
occasion:--as in all probability he did; had not Tredah Storm proved
ruinous, and the neck of this Irish War been broken at once. Doubtless
the Colonel Sir Robert followed or attended his Duke of Ormond into
foreign parts, and gave up his management of Munster, while it was yet
time: for after the Restoration we find him again, safe, and as was
natural, flourishing with new splendor; gifted, recompensed with
lands;--settled, in short, on fair revenues in those Munster regions.
He appears to have had no children; but to have left his property to
William, a younger brother who had followed him into Ireland. From this
William descends the family which, in the years we treat of, had Edward
Sterling, Father of our John, for its representative. And now enough of
genealogy.


Of Edward Sterling, Captain Edward Sterling as his title was, who in the
latter period of his life became well known in London political society,
whom indeed all England, with a curious mixture of mockery and respect
and even fear, knew well as "the Thunderer of the Times Newspaper,"
there were much to be said, did the present task and its limits permit.
As perhaps it might, on certain terms? What is indispensable let us not
omit to say. The history of a man's childhood is the description of his
parents and environment: this is his inarticulate but highly important
history, in those first times, while of articulate he has yet none.

Edward Sterling had now just entered on his thirty-fourth year; and was
already a man experienced in fortunes and changes. A native of Waterford
in Munster, as already mentioned; born in the "Deanery House of
Waterford, 27th February, 1773," say the registers. For his Father, as
we learn, resided in the Deanery House, though he was not himself Dean,
but only "Curate of the Cathedral" (whatever that may mean); he was
withal rector of two other livings, and the Dean's friend,--friend
indeed of the Dean's kinsmen the Beresfords generally; whose grand house
of Curraghmore, near by Waterford, was a familiar haunt of his and his
children's. This reverend gentleman, along with his three livings and
high acquaintanceships, had inherited political connections;--inherited
especially a Government Pension, with survivorship for still one life
beyond his own; his father having been Clerk of the Irish House of
Commons at the time of the Union, of which office the lost salary was
compensated in this way. The Pension was of two hundred pounds; and only
expired with the life of Edward, John's Father, in 1847. There were,
and still are, daughters of the family; but Edward was the only
son;--descended, too, from the Scottish hero Wallace, as the old
gentleman would sometimes admonish him; his own wife, Edward's mother,
being of that name, and boasting herself, as most Scotch Wallaces do, to
have that blood in her veins.

This Edward had picked up, at Waterford, and among the young Beresfords
of Curraghmore and elsewhere, a thoroughly Irish form of character: fire
and fervor, vitality of all kinds, in genial abundance; but in a much
more loquacious, ostentatious, much _louder_ style than is freely
patronized on this side of the Channel. Of Irish accent in speech he had
entirely divested himself, so as not to be traced by any vestige in that
respect; but his Irish accent of character, in all manner of other more
important respects, was very recognizable. An impetuous man, full
of real energy, and immensely conscious of the same; who transacted
everything not with the minimum of fuss and noise, but with the maximum:
a very Captain Whirlwind, as one was tempted to call him.

In youth, he had studied at Trinity College, Dublin; visited the Inns
of Court here, and trained himself for the Irish Bar. To the Bar he
had been duly called, and was waiting for the results,--when, in his
twenty-fifth year, the Irish Rebellion broke out; whereupon the Irish
Barristers decided to raise a corps of loyal Volunteers, and a complete
change introduced itself into Edward Sterling's way of life. For,
naturally, he had joined the array of Volunteers;--fought, I have
heard, "in three actions with the rebels" (Vinegar Hill, for one); and
doubtless fought well: but in the mess-rooms, among the young military
and civil officials, with all of whom he was a favorite, he had acquired
a taste for soldier life, and perhaps high hopes of succeeding in it: at
all events, having a commission in the Lancashire Militia offered
him, he accepted that; altogether quitted the Bar, and became Captain
Sterling thenceforth. From the Militia, it appears, he had volunteered
with his Company into the Line; and, under some disappointments, and
official delays of expected promotion, was continuing to serve as
Captain there, "Captain of the Eighth Battalion of Reserve," say the
Military Almanacs of 1803,--in which year the quarters happened to be
Derry, where new events awaited him. At a ball in Derry he met with Miss
Hester Coningham, the queen of the scene, and of the fair world in Derry
at that time. The acquaintance, in spite of some Opposition, grew with
vigor, and rapidly ripened: and "at Fehan Church, Diocese of Derry,"
where the Bride's father had a country-house, "on Thursday 5th April,
1804, Hester Coningham, only daughter of John Coningham, Esquire,
Merchant in Derry, and of Elizabeth Campbell his wife," was wedded to
Captain Sterling; she happiest to him happiest,--as by Nature's kind law
it is arranged.

Mrs. Sterling, even in her later days, had still traces of the old
beauty: then and always she was a woman of delicate, pious, affectionate
character; exemplary as a wife, a mother and a friend. A refined female
nature; something tremulous in it, timid, and with a certain rural
freshness still unweakened by long converse with the world. The tall
slim figure, always of a kind of quaker neatness; the innocent anxious
face, anxious bright hazel eyes; the timid, yet gracefully cordial
ways, the natural intelligence, instinctive sense and worth, were very
characteristic. Her voice too; with its something of soft querulousness,
easily adapting itself to a light thin-flowing style of mirth on
occasion, was characteristic: she had retained her Ulster intonations,
and was withal somewhat copious in speech. A fine tremulously sensitive
nature, strong chiefly on the side of the affections, and the graceful
insights and activities that depend on these:--truly a beautiful,
much-suffering, much-loving house-mother. From her chiefly, as one could
discern, John Sterling had derived the delicate _aroma_ of his nature,
its piety, clearness, sincerity; as from his Father, the ready practical
gifts, the impetuosities and the audacities, were also (though in
strange new form) visibly inherited. A man was lucky to have such a
Mother; to have such Parents as both his were.

Meanwhile the new Wife appears to have had, for the present, no
marriage-portion; neither was Edward Sterling rich,--according to
his own ideas and aims, far from it. Of course he soon found that
the fluctuating barrack-life, especially with no outlooks of speedy
promotion, was little suited to his new circumstances: but how change
it? His father was now dead; from whom he had inherited the Speaker
Pension of two hundred pounds; but of available probably little or
nothing more. The rents of the small family estate, I suppose, and other
property, had gone to portion sisters. Two hundred pounds, and the pay
of a marching captain: within the limits of that revenue all plans of
his had to restrict themselves at present.

He continued for some time longer in the Army; his wife undivided from
him by the hardships, of that way of life. Their first son Anthony
(Captain Anthony Sterling, the only child who now survives) was born
to them in this position, while lying at Dundalk, in January, 1805. Two
months later, some eleven months after their marriage, the regiment was
broken; and Captain Sterling, declining to serve elsewhere on the
terms offered, and willingly accepting such decision of his doubts, was
reduced to half-pay. This was the end of his soldiering: some five
or six years in all; from which he had derived for life, among other
things, a decided military bearing, whereof he was rather proud; an
incapacity for practicing law;--and considerable uncertainty as to what
his next course of life was now to be.

For the present, his views lay towards farming: to establish himself,
if not as country gentleman, which was an unattainable ambition, then
at least as some kind of gentleman-farmer which had a flattering
resemblance to that. Kaimes Castle with a reasonable extent of land,
which, in his inquiries after farms, had turned up, was his first place
of settlement in this new capacity; and here, for some few months, he
had established himself when John his second child was born. This was
Captain Sterling's first attempt towards a fixed course of life; not
a very wise one, I have understood:--yet on the whole, who, then and
there, could have pointed out to him a wiser?

A fixed course of life and activity he could never attain, or not till
very late; and this doubtless was among the important points of his
destiny, and acted both on his own character and that of those who had
to attend him on his wayfarings.



CHAPTER III. SCHOOLS: LLANBLETHIAN; PARIS; LONDON.

Edward Sterling never shone in farming; indeed I believe he never took
heartily to it, or tried it except in fits. His Bute farm was, at
best, a kind of apology for some far different ideal of a country
establishment which could not be realized; practically a temporary
landing-place from which he could make sallies and excursions in search
of some more generous field of enterprise. Stormy brief efforts at
energetic husbandry, at agricultural improvement and rapid field-labor,
alternated with sudden flights to Dublin, to London, whithersoever any
flush of bright outlook which he could denominate practical, or any
gleam of hope which his impatient ennui could represent as such,
allured him. This latter was often enough the case. In wet hay-times and
harvest-times, the dripping outdoor world, and lounging indoor one, in
the absence of the master, offered far from a satisfactory appearance!
Here was, in fact, a man much imprisoned; haunted, I doubt not, by
demons enough; though ever brisk and brave withal,--iracund, but
cheerfully vigorous, opulent in wise or unwise hope. A fiery energetic
soul consciously and unconsciously storming for deliverance into better
arenas; and this in a restless, rapid, impetuous, rather than in a
strong, silent and deliberate way.

In rainy Bute and the dilapidated Kaimes Castle, it was evident, there
lay no Goshen for such a man. The lease, originally but for some three
years and a half, drawing now to a close, he resolved to quit Bute; had
heard, I know not where, of an eligible cottage without farm attached,
in the pleasant little village of Llanblethian close by Cowbridge in
Glamorganshire; of this he took a lease, and thither with his family he
moved in search of new fortunes. Glamorganshire was at least a better
climate than Bute; no groups of idle or of busy reapers could here stand
waiting on the guidance of a master, for there was no farm here;--and
among its other and probably its chief though secret advantages,
Llanblethian was much more convenient both for Dublin and London than
Kaimes Castle had been.

The removal thither took place in the autumn of 1809. Chief part of the
journey (perhaps from Greenock to Swansea or Bristol) was by sea: John,
just turned of three years, could in after-times remember nothing of
this voyage; Anthony, some eighteen months older, has still a vivid
recollection of the gray splashing tumult, and dim sorrow, uncertainty,
regret and distress he underwent: to him a "dissolving-view" which not
only left its effect on the _plate_ (as all views and dissolving-views
doubtless do on that kind of "plate"), but remained consciously present
there. John, in the close of his twenty-first year, professes not
to remember anything whatever of Bute; his whole existence, in that
earliest scene of it, had faded away from him: Bute also, with its
shaggy mountains, moaning woods, and summer and winter seas, had been
wholly a dissolving-view for him, and had left no conscious impression,
but only, like this voyage, an effect.

Llanblethian hangs pleasantly, with its white cottages, and orchard and
other trees, on the western slope of a green hill looking far and wide
over green meadows and little or bigger hills, in the pleasant plain of
Glamorgan; a short mile to the south of Cowbridge, to which smart little
town it is properly a kind of suburb. Plain of Glamorgan, some ten
miles wide and thirty or forty long, which they call the Vale of
Glamorgan;--though properly it is not quite a Vale, there being only one
range of mountains to it, if even one: certainly the central Mountains
of Wales do gradually rise, in a miscellaneous manner, on the north
side of it; but on the south are no mountains, not even land, only
the Bristol Channel, and far off, the Hills of Devonshire, for
boundary,--the "English Hills," as the natives call them, visible from
every eminence in those parts. On such wide terms is it called Vale of
Glamorgan. But called by whatever name, it is a most pleasant fruitful
region: kind to the native, interesting to the visitor. A waving grassy
region; cut with innumerable ragged lanes; dotted with sleepy unswept
human hamlets, old ruinous castles with their ivy and their daws, gray
sleepy churches with their ditto ditto: for ivy everywhere abounds; and
generally a rank fragrant vegetation clothes all things; hanging, in
rude many-colored festoons and fringed odoriferous tapestries, on your
right and on your left, in every lane. A country kinder to the sluggard
husbandman than any I have ever seen. For it lies all on limestone,
needs no draining; the soil, everywhere of handsome depth and finest
quality, will grow good crops for you with the most imperfect tilling.
At a safe distance of a day's riding lie the tartarean copper-forges of
Swansea, the tartarean iron-forges of Merthyr; their sooty battle far
away, and not, at such safe distance, a defilement to the face of
the earth and sky, but rather an encouragement to the earth at least;
encouraging the husbandman to plough better, if he only would.

The peasantry seem indolent and stagnant, but peaceable and
well-provided; much given to Methodism when they have any
character;--for the rest, an innocent good-humored people, who all drink
home-brewed beer, and have brown loaves of the most excellent home-baked
bread. The native peasant village is not generally beautiful, though
it might be, were it swept and trimmed; it gives one rather the idea
of sluttish stagnancy,--an interesting peep into the Welsh Paradise of
Sleepy Hollow. Stones, old kettles, naves of wheels, all kinds of broken
litter, with live pigs and etceteras, lie about the street: for, as
a rule, no rubbish is removed, but waits patiently the action of mere
natural chemistry and accident; if even a house is burnt or falls, you
will find it there after half a century, only cloaked by the ever-ready
ivy. Sluggish man seems never to have struck a pick into it; his new hut
is built close by on ground not encumbered, and the old stones are still
left lying.

This is the ordinary Welsh village; but there are exceptions,
where people of more cultivated tastes have been led to settle, and
Llanblethian is one of the more signal of these. A decidedly cheerful
group of human homes, the greater part of them indeed belonging to
persons of refined habits; trimness, shady shelter, whitewash, neither
conveniency nor decoration has been neglected here. Its effect from
the distance on the eastward is very pretty: you see it like a little
sleeping cataract of white houses, with trees overshadowing and fringing
it; and there the cataract hangs, and does not rush away from you.

John Sterling spent his next five years in this locality. He did not
again see it for a quarter of a century; but retained, all his life, a
lively remembrance of it; and, just in the end of his twenty-first year,
among his earliest printed pieces, we find an elaborate and diffuse
description of it and its relations to him,--part of which piece, in
spite of its otherwise insignificant quality, may find place here:--

"The fields on which I first looked, and the sands which were marked by
my earliest footsteps, are completely lost to my memory; and of those
ancient walls among which I began to breathe, I retain no recollection
more clear than the outlines of a cloud in a moonless sky. But of L----,
the village where I afterwards lived, I persuade myself that every line
and hue is more deeply and accurately fixed than those of any spot
I have since beheld, even though borne in upon the heart by the
association of the strongest feelings.

"My home was built upon the slope of a hill, with a little orchard
stretching down before it, and a garden rising behind. At a considerable
distance beyond and beneath the orchard, a rivulet flowed through
meadows and turned a mill; while, above the garden, the summit of
the hill was crowned by a few gray rocks, from which a yew-tree grew,
solitary and bare. Extending at each side of the orchard, toward
the brook, two scattered patches of cottages lay nestled among their
gardens; and beyond this streamlet and the little mill and bridge,
another slight eminence arose, divided into green fields, tufted and
bordered with copsewood, and crested by a ruined castle, contemporary,
as was said, with the Conquest. I know not whether these things in truth
made up a prospect of much beauty. Since I was eight years old, I have
never seen them; but I well know that no landscape I have since beheld,
no picture of Claude or Salvator, gave me half the impression of living,
heartfelt, perfect beauty which fills my mind when I think of that green
valley, that sparkling rivulet, that broken fortress of dark antiquity,
and that hill with its aged yew and breezy summit, from which I have
so often looked over the broad stretch of verdure beneath it, and the
country-town, and church-tower, silent and white beyond.

"In that little town there was, and I believe is, a school where the
elements of human knowledge were communicated to me, for some hours of
every day, during a considerable time. The path to it lay across the
rivulet and past the mill; from which point we could either journey
through the fields below the old castle, and the wood which surrounded
it, or along a road at the other side of the ruin, close to the gateway
of which it passed. The former track led through two or three beautiful
fields, the sylvan domain of the keep on one hand, and the brook on the
other; while an oak or two, like giant warders advanced from the wood,
broke the sunshine of the green with a soft and graceful shadow. How
often, on my way to school, have I stopped beneath the tree to collect
the fallen acorns; how often run down to the stream to pluck a branch of
the hawthorn which hung over the water! The road which passed the castle
joined, beyond these fields, the path which traversed them. It took, I
well remember, a certain solemn and mysterious interest from the ruin.
The shadow of the archway, the discolorizations of time on all the
walls, the dimness of the little thicket which encircled it, the
traditions of its immeasurable age, made St. Quentin's Castle a
wonderful and awful fabric in the imagination of a child; and long after
I last saw its mouldering roughness, I never read of fortresses, or
heights, or spectres, or banditti, without connecting them with the one
ruin of my childhood.

"It was close to this spot that one of the few adventures occurred
which marked, in my mind, my boyish days with importance. When loitering
beyond the castle, on the way to school, with a brother somewhat older
than myself, who was uniformly my champion and protector, we espied a
round sloe high up in the hedge-row. We determined to obtain it; and
I do not remember whether both of us, or only my brother, climbed the
tree. However, when the prize was all but reached,--and no alchemist
ever looked more eagerly for the moment of projection which was to give
him immortality and omnipotence,--a gruff voice startled us with an
oath, and an order to desist; and I well recollect looking back, for
long after, with terror to the vision of an old and ill-tempered
farmer, armed with a bill-hook, and vowing our decapitation; nor did I
subsequently remember without triumph the eloquence whereby alone, in my
firm belief, my brother and myself had been rescued from instant death.

"At the entrance of the little town stood an old gateway, with a pointed
arch and decaying battlements. It gave admittance to the street which
contained the church, and which terminated in another street, the
principal one in the town of C----. In this was situated the school to
which I daily wended. I cannot now recall to mind the face of its good
conductor, nor of any of his scholars; but I have before me a strong
general image of the interior of his establishment. I remember the
reverence with which I was wont to carry to his seat a well-thumbed
duodecimo, the _History of Greece_ by Oliver Goldsmith. I remember the
mental agonies I endured in attempting to master the art and mystery of
penmanship; a craft in which, alas, I remained too short a time under
Mr. R---- to become as great a proficient as he made his other scholars,
and which my awkwardness has prevented me from attaining in any
considerable perfection under my various subsequent pedagogues. But that
which has left behind it a brilliant trait of light was the exhibition
of what are called 'Christmas pieces;' things unknown in aristocratic
seminaries, but constantly used at the comparatively humble academy
which supplied the best knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic to
be attained in that remote neighborhood.

"The long desks covered from end to end with those painted masterpieces,
the Life of Robinson Crusoe, the Hunting of Chevy-Chase, the History
of Jack the Giant-Killer, and all the little eager faces and trembling
hands bent over these, and filling them up with some choice quotation,
sacred or profane;--no, the galleries of art, the theatrical
exhibitions, the reviews and processions,--which are only not childish
because they are practiced and admired by men instead of children,--all
the pomps and vanities of great cities, have shown me no revelation of
glory such as did that crowded school-room the week before the Christmas
holidays. But these were the splendors of life. The truest and the
strongest feelings do not connect themselves with any scenes of gorgeous
and gaudy magnificence; they are bound up in the remembrances of home.

"The narrow orchard, with its grove of old apple-trees against one of
which I used to lean, and while I brandished a beanstalk, roar out with
Fitzjames,--

     'Come one, come all; this rock shall fly
     From its firm base as soon as I!'--

while I was ready to squall at the sight of a cur, and run valorously
away from a casually approaching cow; the field close beside it, where
I rolled about in summer among the hay; the brook in which, despite
of maid and mother, I waded by the hour; the garden where I sowed
flower-seeds, and then turned up the ground again and planted potatoes,
and then rooted out the potatoes to insert acorns and apple-pips, and
at last, as may be supposed, reaped neither roses, nor potatoes, nor
oak-trees, nor apples; the grass-plots on which I played among those
with whom I never can play nor work again: all these are places and
employments,--and, alas, playmates,--such as, if it were worth while to
weep at all, it would be worth weeping that I enjoy no longer.

"I remember the house where I first grew familiar with peacocks; and the
mill-stream into which I once fell; and the religious awe wherewith I
heard, in the warm twilight, the psalm-singing around the house of the
Methodist miller; and the door-post against which I discharged my brazen
artillery; I remember the window by which I sat while my mother taught
me French; and the patch of garden which I dug for-- But her name is
best left blank; it was indeed writ in water. These recollections are
to me like the wealth of a departed friend, a mournful treasure. But the
public has heard enough of them; to it they are worthless: they are
a coin which only circulates at its true value between the different
periods of an individual's existence, and good for nothing but to keep
up a commerce between boyhood and manhood. I have for years looked
forward to the possibility of visiting L----; but I am told that it is
a changed village; and not only has man been at work, but the old yew on
the hill has fallen, and scarcely a low stump remains of the tree which
I delighted in childhood to think might have furnished bows for the
Norman archers." [3]

In Cowbridge is some kind of free school, or grammar-school, of a
certain distinction; and this to Captain Sterling was probably a motive
for settling in the neighborhood of it with his children. Of this
however, as it turned out, there was no use made: the Sterling family,
during its continuance in those parts, did not need more than a primary
school. The worthy master who presided over these Christmas galas, and
had the honor to teach John Sterling his reading and writing, was an
elderly Mr. Reece of Cowbridge, who still (in 1851) survives, or lately
did; and is still remembered by his old pupils as a worthy, ingenious
and kindly man, "who wore drab breeches and white stockings." Beyond the
Reece sphere of tuition John Sterling did not go in this locality.

In fact the Sterling household was still fluctuating; the problem of a
task for Edward Sterling's powers, and of anchorage for his affairs in
any sense, was restlessly struggling to solve itself, but was still a
good way from being solved. Anthony, in revisiting these scenes with
John in 1839, mentions going to the spot "where we used to stand with
our Father, looking out for the arrival of the London mail:" a little
chink through which is disclosed to us a big restless section of a human
life. The Hill of Welsh Llanblethian, then, is like the mythic Caucasus
in its degree (as indeed all hills and habitations where men sojourn
are); and here too, on a small scale, is a Prometheus Chained! Edward
Sterling, I can well understand, was a man to tug at the chains that
held him idle in those the prime of his years; and to ask restlessly,
yet not in anger and remorse, so much as in hope, locomotive
speculation, and ever-new adventure and attempt, Is there no task nearer
my own natural size, then? So he looks out from the Hill-side "for
the arrival of the London mail;" thence hurries into Cowbridge to the
Post-office; and has a wide web, of threads and gossamers, upon his
loom, and many shuttles flying, in this world.

By the Marquis of Bute's appointment he had, very shortly after his
arrival in that region, become Adjutant of the Glamorganshire Militia,
"Local Militia," I suppose; and was, in this way, turning his military
capabilities to some use. The office involved pretty frequent absences,
in Cardiff and elsewhere. This doubtless was a welcome outlet, though
a small one. He had also begun to try writing, especially on public
subjects; a much more copious outlet,--which indeed, gradually widening
itself, became the final solution for him. Of the year 1811 we have a
Pamphlet of his, entitled _Military Reform_; this is the second edition,
"dedicated to the Duke of Kent;" the first appears to have come out the
year before, and had thus attained a certain notice, which of course was
encouraging. He now furthermore opened a correspondence with the _Times_
Newspaper; wrote to it, in 1812, a series of Letters under the signature
_Vetus_: voluntary Letters I suppose, without payment or pre-engagement,
one successful Letter calling out another; till _Vetus_ and his
doctrines came to be a distinguishable entity, and the business amounted
to something. Out of my own earliest Newspaper reading, I can remember
the name _Vetus_, as a kind of editorial hacklog on which able-editors
were wont to chop straw now and then. Nay the Letters were collected and
reprinted; both this first series, of 1812, and then a second of next
year: two very thin, very dim-colored cheap octavos; stray copies of
which still exist, and may one day become distillable into a drop of
History (should such be wanted of our poor "Scavenger Age" in
time coming), though the reading of them has long ceased in this
generation.[4] The first series, we perceive, had even gone to a second
edition. The tone, wherever one timidly glances into this extinct
cockpit, is trenchant and emphatic: the name of _Vetus_, strenuously
fighting there, had become considerable in the talking political world;
and, no doubt, was especially of mark, as that of a writer who might
otherwise be important, with the proprietors of the _Times_. The
connection continued: widened and deepened itself,--in a slow tentative
manner; passing naturally from voluntary into remunerated: and indeed
proving more and more to be the true ultimate arena, and battle-field
and seed-field, for the exuberant impetuosities and faculties of this
man.

What the _Letters of Vetus_ treated of I do not know; doubtless they ran
upon Napoleon, Catholic Emancipation, true methods of national defence,
of effective foreign Anti-gallicism, and of domestic ditto; which
formed the staple of editorial speculation at that time. I have heard
in general that Captain Sterling, then and afterwards, advocated "the
Marquis of Wellesley's policy;" but that also, what it was, I have
forgotten, and the world has been willing to forget. Enough, the heads
of the _Times_ establishment, perhaps already the Marquis of Wellesley
and other important persons, had their eye on this writer; and it began
to be surmised by him that here at last was the career he had been
seeking.


Accordingly, in 1814, when victorious Peace unexpectedly arrived; and
the gates of the Continent after five-and-twenty years of fierce closure
were suddenly thrown open; and the hearts of all English and European
men awoke staggering as if from a nightmare suddenly removed, and ran
hither and thither,--Edward Sterling also determined on a new adventure,
that of crossing to Paris, and trying what might lie in store for him.
For curiosity, in its idler sense, there was evidently pabulum enough.
But he had hopes moreover of learning much that might perhaps avail him
afterwards;--hopes withal, I have understood, of getting to be Foreign
Correspondent of the _Times_ Newspaper, and so adding to his income in
the mean while. He left Llanblethian in May; dates from Dieppe the 27th
of that month. He lived in occasional contact with Parisian notabilities
(all of them except Madame de Stael forgotten now), all summer,
diligently surveying his ground;--returned for his family, who were
still in Wales but ready to move, in the beginning of August; took them
immediately across with him; a house in the neighborhood of Paris, in
the pleasant village of Passy at once town and country, being now ready;
and so, under foreign skies, again set up his household there.

Here was a strange new "school" for our friend John now in his eighth
year! Out of which the little Anthony and he drank doubtless at all
pores, vigorously as they had done in no school before. A change total
and immediate. Somniferous green Llanblethian has suddenly been blotted
out; presto, here are wakeful Passy and the noises of paved Paris
instead. Innocent ingenious Mr. Reece in drab breeches and white
stockings, he with his mild Christmas galas and peaceable rules of
Dilworth and Butterworth, has given place to such a saturnalia of
panoramic, symbolic and other teachers and monitors, addressing all the
five senses at once. Who John's express tutors were, at Passy, I never
heard; nor indeed, especially in his case, was it much worth inquiring.
To him and to all of us, the expressly appointed schoolmasters and
schoolings we get are as nothing, compared with the unappointed
incidental and continual ones, whose school-hours are all the days and
nights of our existence, and whose lessons, noticed or unnoticed, stream
in upon us with every breath we draw. Anthony says they attended a
French school, though only for about three months; and he well remembers
the last scene of it, "the boys shouting _Vive l'Empereur_ when Napoleon
came back."

Of John Sterling's express schooling, perhaps the most important
feature, and by no means a favorable one to him, was the excessive
fluctuation that prevailed in it. Change of scene, change of teacher,
_both_ express and implied, was incessant with him; and gave his
young life a nomadic character,--which surely, of all the adventitious
tendencies that could have been impressed upon him, so volatile,
swift and airy a being as him, was the one he needed least. His gentle
pious-hearted Mother, ever watching over him in all outward changes, and
assiduously keeping human pieties and good affections alive in him, was
probably the best counteracting element in his lot. And on the whole,
have we not all to run our chance in that respect; and take, the most
victoriously we can, such schooling as pleases to be attainable in
our year and place? Not very victoriously, the most of us! A wise
well-calculated breeding of a young genial soul in this world, or
alas of any young soul in it, lies fatally over the horizon in these
epochs!--This French scene of things, a grand school of its sort, and
also a perpetual banquet for the young soul, naturally captivated John
Sterling; he said afterwards, "New things and experiences here were
poured upon his mind and sense, not in streams, but in a Niagara
cataract." This too, however, was but a scene; lasted only some six or
seven months; and in the spring of the next year terminated as abruptly
as any of the rest could do.

For in the spring of the next year, Napoleon abruptly emerged from
Elba; and set all the populations of the world in motion, in a strange
manner;--set the Sterling household afloat, in particular; the big
European tide rushing into all smallest creeks, at Passy and elsewhere.
In brief, on the 20th of March, 1815, the family had to shift, almost
to fly, towards home and the sea-coast; and for a day or two were under
apprehension of being detained and not reaching home. Mrs. Sterling,
with her children and effects, all in one big carriage with two horses,
made the journey to Dieppe; in perfect safety, though in continual
tremor: here they were joined by Captain Sterling, who had stayed behind
at Paris to see the actual advent of Napoleon, and to report what
the aspect of affairs was, "Downcast looks of citizens, with fierce
saturnalian acclaim of soldiery:" after which they proceeded together to
London without farther apprehension;--there to witness, in due time, the
tar-barrels of Waterloo, and other phenomena that followed.


Captain Sterling never quitted London as a residence any more; and
indeed was never absent from it, except on autumnal or other excursions
of a few weeks, till the end of his life. Nevertheless his course there
was as yet by no means clear; nor had his relations with the heads of
the _Times_, or with other high heads, assumed a form which could be
called definite, but were hanging as a cloudy maze of possibilities,
firm substance not yet divided from shadow. It continued so for some
years. The Sterling household shifted twice or thrice to new streets
or localities,--Russell Square or Queen Square, Blackfriars Road,
and longest at the Grove, Blackheath,--before the vapors of Wellesley
promotions and such like slowly sank as useless precipitate, and
the firm rock, which was definite employment, ending in lucrative
co-proprietorship and more and more important connection with the
_Times_ Newspaper, slowly disclosed itself.

These changes of place naturally brought changes in John Sterling's
schoolmasters: nor were domestic tragedies wanting, still more important
to him. New brothers and sisters had been born; two little brothers
more, three little sisters he had in all; some of whom came to their
eleventh year beside him, some passed away in their second or fourth:
but from his ninth to his sixteenth year they all died; and in 1821 only
Anthony and John were left. [5] How many tears, and passionate pangs,
and soft infinite regrets; such as are appointed to all mortals! In one
year, I find, indeed in one half-year, he lost three little playmates,
two of them within one month. His own age was not yet quite twelve. For
one of these three, for little Edward, his next younger, who died now
at the age of nine, Mr. Hare records that John copied out, in large
school-hand, a _History of Valentine and Orson_, to beguile the poor
child's sickness, which ended in death soon, leaving a sad cloud on
John.


Of his grammar and other schools, which, as I said, are hardly worth
enumerating in comparison, the most important seems to have been a Dr.
Burney's at Greenwich; a large day-school and boarding-school, where
Anthony and John gave their attendance for a year or two (1818-19) from
Blackheath. "John frequently did themes for the boys," says Anthony,
"and for myself when I was aground." His progress in all school learning
was certain to be rapid, if he even moderately took to it. A lean,
tallish, loose-made boy of twelve; strange alacrity, rapidity and joyous
eagerness looking out of his eyes, and of all his ways and movements.
I have a Picture of him at this stage; a little portrait, which carries
its verification with it. In manhood too, the chief expression of his
eyes and physiognomy was what I might call alacrity, cheerful rapidity.
You could see, here looked forth a soul which was winged; which dwelt
in hope and action, not in hesitation or fear. Anthony says, he was "an
affectionate and gallant kind of boy, adventurous and generous, daring
to a singular degree." Apt enough withal to be "petulant now and then;"
on the whole, "very self-willed;" doubtless not a little discursive in
his thoughts and ways, and "difficult to manage."

I rather think Anthony, as the steadier, more substantial boy, was
the Mother's favorite; and that John, though the quicker and cleverer,
perhaps cost her many anxieties. Among the Papers given me, is an old
browned half-sheet in stiff school hand, unpunctuated, occasionally ill
spelt,--John Sterling's earliest remaining Letter,--which gives record
of a crowning escapade of his, the first and the last of its kind; and
so may be inserted here. A very headlong adventure on the boy's part; so
hasty and so futile, at once audacious and impracticable; emblematic of
much that befell in the history of the man!

                   "_To Mrs. Sterling, Blackheath_.
                                                "21st September, 1818.

"DEAR MAMMA,--I am now at Dover, where I arrived this morning about
seven o'clock. When you thought I was going to church, I went down the
Kent Road, and walked on till I came to Gravesend, which is upwards of
twenty miles from Blackheath; at about seven o'clock in the evening,
without having eat anything the whole time. I applied to an inkeeper
(_sic_) there, pretending that I had served a haberdasher in London, who
left of (_sic_) business, and turned me away. He believed me; and got
me a passage in the coach here, for I said that I had an Uncle here, and
that my Father and Mother were dead;--when I wandered about the quays
for some time, till I met Captain Keys, whom I asked to give me a
passage to Boulogne; which he promised to do, and took me home to
breakfast with him: but Mrs. Keys questioned me a good deal; when I not
being able to make my story good, I was obliged to confess to her that
I had run away from you. Captain Keys says that he will keep me at his
house till you answer my letter.

                                                        "J. STERLING."

Anthony remembers the business well; but can assign no origin to
it,--some penalty, indignity or cross put suddenly on John, which the
hasty John considered unbearable. His Mother's inconsolable weeping, and
then his own astonishment at such a culprit's being forgiven, are all
that remain with Anthony. The steady historical style of the young
runaway of twelve, narrating merely, not in the least apologizing, is
also noticeable.

This was some six months after his little brother Edward's death; three
months after that of Hester, his little sister next in the family series
to him: troubled days for the poor Mother in that small household on
Blackheath, as there are for mothers in so many households in this
world! I have heard that Mrs. Sterling passed much of her time alone, at
this period. Her husband's pursuits, with his Wellesleys and the like,
often carrying him into Town and detaining him late there, she would
sit among her sleeping children, such of them as death had still spared,
perhaps thriftily plying her needle, full of mournful affectionate
night-thoughts,--apprehensive too, in her tremulous heart, that the head
of the house might have fallen among robbers in his way homeward.



CHAPTER IV. UNIVERSITIES: GLASGOW; CAMBRIDGE.

At a later stage, John had some instruction from a Dr. Waite at
Blackheath; and lastly, the family having now removed into Town, to
Seymour Street in the fashionable region there, he "read for a while
with Dr. Trollope, Master of Christ's Hospital;" which ended his school
history.

In this his ever-changing course, from Reece at Cowbridge to Trollope
in Christ's, which was passed so nomadically, under ferulas of various
color, the boy had, on the whole, snatched successfully a fair share
of what was going. Competent skill in construing Latin, I think also an
elementary knowledge of Greek; add ciphering to a small extent, Euclid
perhaps in a rather imaginary condition; a swift but not very legible or
handsome penmanship, and the copious prompt habit of employing it in all
manner of unconscious English prose composition, or even occasionally
in verse itself: this, or something like this, he had gained from his
grammar-schools: this is the most of what they offer to the poor young
soul in general, in these indigent times. The express schoolmaster is
not equal to much at present,--while the _un_express, for good or
for evil, is so busy with a poor little fellow! Other departments of
schooling had been infinitely more productive, for our young friend,
than the gerund-grinding one. A voracious reader I believe he all along
was,--had "read the whole Edinburgh Review" in these boyish years, and
out of the circulating libraries one knows not what cartloads; wading
like Ulysses towards his palace "through infinite dung." A voracious
observer and participator in all things he likewise all along was; and
had had his sights, and reflections, and sorrows and adventures, from
Kaimes Castle onward,--and had gone at least to Dover on his own score.
_Puer bonae spei_, as the school-albums say; a boy of whom much may be
hoped? Surely, in many senses, yes. A frank veracity is in him, truth
and courage, as the basis of all; and of wild gifts and graces there is
abundance. I figure him a brilliant, swift, voluble, affectionate and
pleasant creature; out of whom, if it were not that symptoms of delicate
health already show themselves, great things might be made. Promotions
at least, especially in this country and epoch of parliaments and
eloquent palavers, are surely very possible for such a one!


Being now turned of sixteen, and the family economics getting yearly
more propitious and flourishing, he, as his brother had already
been, was sent to Glasgow University, in which city their Mother had
connections. His brother and he were now all that remained of the
young family; much attached to one another in their College years as
afterwards. Glasgow, however, was not properly their College scene:
here, except that they had some tuition from Mr. Jacobson, then a senior
fellow-student, now (1851) the learned editor of St. Basil, and Regius
Professor of Divinity in Oxford, who continued ever afterwards a valued
intimate of John's, I find nothing special recorded of them. The Glasgow
curriculum, for John especially, lasted but one year; who, after some
farther tutorage from Mr. Jacobson or Dr. Trollope, was appointed for a
more ambitious sphere of education.

In the beginning of his nineteenth year, "in the autumn of 1824," he
went to Trinity College, Cambridge. His brother Anthony, who had already
been there a year, had just quitted this Establishment, and entered on
a military life under good omens; I think, at Dublin under the Lord
Lieutenant's patronage, to whose service he was, in some capacity,
attached. The two brothers, ever in company hitherto, parted roads
at this point; and, except on holiday visits and by frequent
correspondence, did not again live together; but they continued in a
true fraternal attachment while life lasted, and I believe never had
any even temporary estrangement, or on either side a cause for such. The
family, as I said, was now, for the last three years, reduced to these
two; the rest of the young ones, with their laughter and their
sorrows, all gone. The parents otherwise were prosperous in outward
circumstances; the Father's position more and more developing itself
into affluent security, an agreeable circle of acquaintance, and a
certain real influence, though of a peculiar sort, according to his
gifts for work in this world.


Sterling's Tutor at Trinity College was Julius Hare, now the
distinguished Archdeacon of Lewes:--who soon conceived a great esteem
for him, and continued ever afterwards, in looser or closer connection,
his loved and loving friend. As the Biographical and Editorial work
above alluded to abundantly evinces. Mr. Hare celebrates the wonderful
and beautiful gifts, the sparkling ingenuity, ready logic, eloquent
utterance, and noble generosities and pieties of his pupil;--records
in particular how once, on a sudden alarm of fire in some neighboring
College edifice while his lecture was proceeding, all hands rushed out
to help; how the undergraduates instantly formed themselves in lines
from the fire to the river, and in swift continuance kept passing
buckets as was needful, till the enemy was visibly fast yielding,--when
Mr. Hare, going along the line, was astonished to find Sterling, at the
river-end of it, standing up to his waist in water, deftly dealing with
the buckets as they came and went. You in the river, Sterling; you with
your coughs, and dangerous tendencies of health!--"Somebody must be
in it," answered Sterling; "why not I, as well as another?" Sterling's
friends may remember many traits of that kind. The swiftest in all
things, he was apt to be found at the head of the column, whithersoever
the march might be; if towards any brunt of danger, there was he surest
to be at the head; and of himself and his peculiar risks or impediments
he was negligent at all times, even to an excessive and plainly
unreasonable degree.

Mr. Hare justly refuses him the character of an exact scholar, or
technical proficient at any time in either of the ancient literatures.
But he freely read in Greek and Latin, as in various modern languages;
and in all fields, in the classical as well, his lively faculty of
recognition and assimilation had given him large booty in proportion to
his labor. One cannot under any circumstances conceive of Sterling as
a steady dictionary philologue, historian, or archaeologist; nor did he
here, nor could he well, attempt that course. At the same time, Greek
and the Greeks being here before him, he could not fail to gather
somewhat from it, to take some hue and shape from it. Accordingly there
is, to a singular extent, especially in his early writings, a
certain tinge of Grecism and Heathen classicality traceable in
him;--Classicality, indeed, which does not satisfy one's sense as real
or truly living, but which glitters with a certain genial, if perhaps
almost meretricious half-_japannish_ splendor,--greatly distinguishable
from mere gerund-grinding, and death in longs and shorts. If
Classicality mean the practical conception, or attempt to conceive, what
human life was in the epoch called classical,--perhaps few or none of
Sterling's contemporaries in that Cambridge establishment carried away
more of available Classicality than even he.

But here, as in his former schools, his studies and inquiries,
diligently prosecuted I believe, were of the most discursive
wide-flowing character; not steadily advancing along beaten roads
towards College honors, but pulsing out with impetuous irregularity
now on this tract, now on that, towards whatever spiritual Delphi might
promise to unfold the mystery of this world, and announce to him
what was, in our new day, the authentic message of the gods. His
speculations, readings, inferences, glances and conclusions were
doubtless sufficiently encyclopedic; his grand tutors the multifarious
set of Books he devoured. And perhaps,--as is the singular case in most
schools and educational establishments of this unexampled epoch,--it
was not the express set of arrangements in this or any extant University
that could essentially forward him, but only the implied and silent
ones; less in the prescribed "course of study," which seems to tend
no-whither, than--if you will consider it--in the generous (not
ungenerous) rebellion against said prescribed course, and the voluntary
spirit of endeavor and adventure excited thereby, does help lie for
a brave youth in such places. Curious to consider. The fagging, the
illicit boating, and the things _forbidden_ by the schoolmaster,--these,
I often notice in my Eton acquaintances, are the things that have done
them good; these, and not their inconsiderable or considerable knowledge
of the Greek accidence almost at all! What is Greek accidence, compared
to Spartan discipline, if it can be had? That latter is a real and grand
attainment. Certainly, if rebellion is unfortunately needful, and you
can rebel in a generous manner, several things may be acquired in that
operation,--rigorous mutual fidelity, reticence, steadfastness, mild
stoicism, and other virtues far transcending your Greek accidence.
Nor can the unwisest "prescribed course of study" be considered quite
useless, if it have incited you to try nobly on all sides for a course
of your own. A singular condition of Schools and High-schools, which
have come down, in their strange old clothes and "courses of study,"
from the monkish ages into this highly unmonkish one;--tragical
condition, at which the intelligent observer makes deep pause!

One benefit, not to be dissevered from the most obsolete University
still frequented by young ingenuous living souls, is that of manifold
collision and communication with the said young souls; which, to every
one of these coevals, is undoubtedly the most important branch of
breeding for him. In this point, as the learned Huber has insisted, [6]
the two English Universities,--their studies otherwise being granted to
be nearly useless, and even ill done of their kind,--far excel all other
Universities: so valuable are the rules of human behavior which from of
old have tacitly established themselves there; so manful, with all its
sad drawbacks, is the style of English character, "frank, simple,
rugged and yet courteous," which has tacitly but imperatively got itself
sanctioned and prescribed there. Such, in full sight of Continental and
other Universities, is Huber's opinion. Alas, the question of University
Reform goes deep at present; deep as the world;--and the real University
of these new epochs is yet a great way from us! Another judge in whom
I have confidence declares further, That of these two Universities,
Cambridge is decidedly the more catholic (not Roman catholic, but Human
catholic) in its tendencies and habitudes; and that in fact, of all the
miserable Schools and High-schools in the England of these years, he,
if reduced to choose from them, would choose Cambridge as a place
of culture for the young idea. So that, in these bad circumstances,
Sterling had perhaps rather made a hit than otherwise?


Sterling at Cambridge had undoubtedly a wide and rather genial circle of
comrades; and could not fail to be regarded and beloved by many of them.
Their life seems to have been an ardently speculating and talking one;
by no means excessively restrained within limits; and, in the more
adventurous heads like Sterling's, decidedly tending towards the
latitudinarian in most things. They had among them a Debating Society
called The Union; where on stated evenings was much logic, and other
spiritual fencing and ingenuous collision,--probably of a really
superior quality in that kind; for not a few of the then disputants have
since proved themselves men of parts, and attained distinction in the
intellectual walks of life. Frederic Maurice, Richard Trench, John
Kemble, Spedding, Venables, Charles Buller, Richard Milnes and
others:--I have heard that in speaking and arguing, Sterling was the
acknowledged chief in this Union Club; and that "none even came near
him, except the late Charles Buller," whose distinction in this and
higher respects was also already notable.

The questions agitated seem occasionally to have touched on the
political department, and even on the ecclesiastical. I have heard one
trait of Sterling's eloquence, which survived on the wings of grinning
rumor, and had evidently borne upon Church Conservatism in some form:
"Have they not,"--or perhaps it was, Has she (the Church) not,--"a
black dragoon in every parish, on good pay and rations, horse-meat and
man's-meat, to patrol and battle for these things?" The "black dragoon,"
which naturally at the moment ruffled the general young imagination
into stormy laughter, points towards important conclusions in respect
to Sterling at this time. I conclude he had, with his usual alacrity and
impetuous daring, frankly adopted the anti-superstitious side of things;
and stood scornfully prepared to repel all aggressions or pretensions
from the opposite quarter. In short, that he was already, what
afterwards there is no doubt about his being, at all points a Radical,
as the name or nickname then went. In other words, a young ardent soul
looking with hope and joy into a world which was infinitely beautiful to
him, though overhung with falsities and foul cobwebs as world never was
before; overloaded, overclouded, to the zenith and the nadir of it,
by incredible uncredited traditions, solemnly sordid hypocrisies, and
beggarly deliriums old and new; which latter class of objects it was
clearly the part of every noble heart to expend all its lightnings and
energies in burning up without delay, and sweeping into their native
Chaos out of such a Cosmos as this. Which process, it did not then seem
to him could be very difficult; or attended with much other than heroic
joy, and enthusiasm of victory or of battle, to the gallant operator, in
his part of it. This was, with modifications such as might be, the
humor and creed of College Radicalism five-and-twenty years ago. Rather
horrible at that time; seen to be not so horrible now, at least to have
grown very universal, and to need no concealment now. The natural
humor and attitude, we may well regret to say,--and honorable not
dishonorable, for a brave young soul such as Sterling's, in those years
in those localities!

I do not find that Sterling had, at that stage, adopted the then
prevalent Utilitarian theory of human things. But neither, apparently,
had he rejected it; still less did he yet at all denounce it with the
damnatory vehemence we were used to in him at a later period. Probably
he, so much occupied with the negative side of things, had not yet
thought seriously of any positive basis for his world; or asked himself,
too earnestly, What, then, is the noble rule of living for a man?
In this world so eclipsed and scandalously overhung with fable and
hypocrisy, what is the eternal fact, on which a man may front the
Destinies and the Immensities? The day for such questions, sure enough
to come in his case, was still but coming. Sufficient for this day
be the work thereof; that of blasting into merited annihilation the
innumerable and immeasurable recognized deliriums, and extirpating or
coercing to the due pitch those legions of "black dragoons," of all
varieties and purposes, who patrol, with horse-meat and man's-meat, this
afflicted earth, so hugely to the detriment of it.


Sterling, it appears, after above a year of Trinity College, followed
his friend Maurice into Trinity Hall, with the intention of taking
a degree in Law; which intention, like many others with him, came to
nothing; and in 1827 he left Trinity Hall and Cambridge altogether; here
ending, after two years, his brief University life.



CHAPTER V. A PROFESSION.

Here, then, is a young soul, brought to the years of legal majority,
furnished from his training-schools with such and such shining
capabilities, and ushered on the scene of things to inquire practically,
What he will do there? Piety is in the man, noble human valor, bright
intelligence, ardent proud veracity; light and fire, in none of their
many senses, wanting for him, but abundantly bestowed: a kingly kind of
man;--whose "kingdom," however, in this bewildered place and epoch of
the world will probably be difficult to find and conquer!

For, alas, the world, as we said, already stands convicted to this young
soul of being an untrue, unblessed world; its high dignitaries many
of them phantasms and players'-masks; its worthships and worships
unworshipful: from Dan to Beersheba, a mad world, my masters. And surely
we may say, and none will now gainsay, this his idea of the world at
that epoch was nearer to the fact than at most other epochs it has been.
Truly, in all times and places, the young ardent soul that enters on
this world with heroic purpose, with veracious insight, and the
yet unclouded "inspiration of the Almighty" which has given us our
intelligence, will find this world a very mad one: why else is he, with
his little outfit of heroisms and inspirations, come hither into it,
except to make it diligently a little saner? Of him there would have
been no need, had it been quite sane. This is true; this will, in all
centuries and countries, be true.

And yet perhaps of no time or country, for the last two thousand years,
was it _so_ true as here in this waste-weltering epoch of Sterling's and
ours. A world all rocking and plunging, like that old Roman one when the
measure of its iniquities was full; the abysses, and subterranean and
supernal deluges, plainly broken loose; in the wild dim-lighted chaos
all stars of Heaven gone out. No star of Heaven visible, hardly now to
any man; the pestiferous fogs, and foul exhalations grown continual,
have, except on the highest mountaintops, blotted out all stars:
will-o'-wisps, of various course and color, take the place of stars.
Over the wild-surging chaos, in the leaden air, are only sudden glares
of revolutionary lightning; then mere darkness, with philanthropistic
phosphorescences, empty meteoric lights; here and there an
ecclesiastical luminary still hovering, hanging on to its old quaking
fixtures, pretending still to be a Moon or Sun,--though visibly it is
but a Chinese lantern made of _paper_ mainly, with candle-end foully
dying in the heart of it. Surely as mad a world as you could wish!

If you want to make sudden fortunes in it, and achieve the temporary
hallelujah of flunkies for yourself, renouncing the perennial esteem
of wise men; if you can believe that the chief end of man is to collect
about him a bigger heap of gold than ever before, in a shorter time than
ever before, you will find it a most handy and every way furthersome,
blessed and felicitous world. But for any other human aim, I think you
will find it not furthersome. If you in any way ask practically, How a
noble life is to be led in it? you will be luckier than Sterling or I if
you get any credible answer, or find any made road whatever. Alas, it is
even so. Your heart's question, if it be of that sort, most things and
persons will answer with a "Nonsense! Noble life is in Drury Lane,
and wears yellow boots. You fool, compose yourself to your
pudding!"--Surely, in these times, if ever in any, the young heroic soul
entering on life, so opulent, full of sunny hope, of noble valor and
divine intention, is tragical as well as beautiful to us.

Of the three learned Professions none offered any likelihood for
Sterling. From the Church his notions of the "black dragoon," had there
been no other obstacle, were sufficient to exclude him. Law he had just
renounced, his own Radical philosophies disheartening him, in face of
the ponderous impediments, continual up-hill struggles and formidable
toils inherent in such a pursuit: with Medicine he had never been in
any contiguity, that he should dream of it as a course for him. Clearly
enough the professions were unsuitable; they to him, he to them.
Professions, built so largely on speciosity instead of performance;
clogged, in this bad epoch, and defaced under such suspicions of fatal
imposture, were hateful not lovable to the young radical soul, scornful
of gross profit, and intent on ideals and human noblenesses. Again, the
professions, were they never so perfect and veracious, will require slow
steady pulling, to which this individual young radical, with his swift,
far-darting brilliancies, and nomadic desultory ways, is of all men the
most averse and unfitted. No profession could, in any case, have well
gained the early love of Sterling. And perhaps withal the most tragic
element of his life is even this, That there now was none to which
he could fitly, by those wiser than himself, have been bound and
constrained, that he might learn to love it. So swift, light-limbed and
fiery an Arab courser ought, for all manner of reasons, to have
been trained to saddle and harness. Roaming at full gallop over the
heaths,--especially when your heath was London, and English and
European life, in the nineteenth century,--he suffered much, and did
comparatively little. I have known few creatures whom it was more
wasteful to send forth with the bridle thrown up, and to set to
steeple-hunting instead of running on highways! But it is the lot of
many such, in this dislocated time,--Heaven mend it! In a better time
there will be other "professions" than those three extremely cramp,
confused and indeed almost obsolete ones: professions, if possible,
that are true, and do _not_ require you at the threshold to constitute
yourself an impostor. Human association,--which will mean discipline,
vigorous wise subordination and co-ordination,--is so unspeakably
important. Professions, "regimented human pursuits," how many of
honorable and manful might be possible for men; and which should _not_,
in their results to society, need to stumble along, in such an unwieldy
futile manner, with legs swollen into such enormous elephantiasis and no
go at all in them! Men will one day think of the force they squander in
every generation, and the fatal damage they encounter, by this neglect.


The career likeliest for Sterling, in his and the world's circumstances,
would have been what is called public life: some secretarial, diplomatic
or other official training, to issue if possible in Parliament as the
true field for him. And here, beyond question, had the gross material
conditions been allowed, his spiritual capabilities were first-rate.
In any arena where eloquence and argument was the point, this man
was calculated to have borne the bell from all competitors. In lucid
ingenious talk and logic, in all manner of brilliant utterance and
tongue-fence, I have hardly known his fellow. So ready lay his store of
knowledge round him, so perfect was his ready utterance of the same,--in
coruscating wit, in jocund drollery, in compact articulated clearness
or high poignant emphasis, as the case required,--he was a match for any
man in argument before a crowd of men. One of the most supple-wristed,
dexterous, graceful and successful fencers in that kind. A man, as Mr.
Hare has said, "able to argue with four or five at once;" could do the
parrying all round, in a succession swift as light, and plant his hits
wherever a chance offered. In Parliament, such a soul put into a body of
the due toughness might have carried it far. If ours is to be called, as
I hear some call it, the Talking Era, Sterling of all men had the talent
to excel in it.

Probably it was with some vague view towards chances in this direction
that Sterling's first engagement was entered upon; a brief connection as
Secretary to some Club or Association into which certain public men, of
the reforming sort, Mr. Crawford (the Oriental Diplomatist and Writer),
Mr. Kirkman Finlay (then Member for Glasgow), and other political
notabilities had now formed themselves,--with what specific objects I do
not know, nor with what result if any. I have heard vaguely, it was "to
open the trade to India." Of course they intended to stir up the public
mind into co-operation, whatever their goal or object was: Mr. Crawford,
an intimate in the Sterling household, recognized the fine literary
gift of John; and might think it a lucky hit that he had caught such a
Secretary for three hundred pounds a year. That was the salary agreed
upon; and for some months actually worked for and paid; Sterling
becoming for the time an intimate and almost an inmate in Mr. Crawford's
circle, doubtless not without results to himself beyond the secretarial
work and pounds sterling: so much is certain. But neither the
Secretaryship nor the Association itself had any continuance; nor can
I now learn accurately more of it than what is here stated;--in which
vague state it must vanish from Sterling's history again, as it in great
measure did from his life. From himself in after-years I never heard
mention of it; nor were his pursuits connected afterwards with those of
Mr. Crawford, though the mutual good-will continued unbroken.

In fact, however splendid and indubitable Sterling's qualifications for
a parliamentary life, there was that in him withal which flatly put
a negative on any such project. He had not the slow steady-pulling
diligence which is indispensable in that, as in all important pursuits
and strenuous human competitions whatsoever. In every sense, his
momentum depended on velocity of stroke, rather than on weight of metal;
"beautifulest sheet-lightning," as I often said, "not to be condensed
into thunder-bolts." Add to this,--what indeed is perhaps but the same
phenomenon in another form,--his bodily frame was thin, excitable,
already manifesting pulmonary symptoms; a body which the tear and wear
of Parliament would infallibly in few months have wrecked and ended.
By this path there was clearly no mounting. The far-darting, restlessly
coruscating soul, equips beyond all others to shine in the Talking
Era, and lead National Palavers with their _spolia opima_ captive, is
imprisoned in a fragile hectic body which quite forbids the adventure.
"_Es ist dafur gesorgt_," says Goethe, "Provision has been made that the
trees do not grow into the sky;"--means are always there to stop them
short of the sky.



CHAPTER VI. LITERATURE: THE ATHENAEUM.

Of all forms of public life, in the Talking Era, it was clear that only
one completely suited Sterling,--the anarchic, nomadic, entirely aerial
and unconditional one, called Literature. To this all his tendencies,
and fine gifts positive and negative, were evidently pointing; and here,
after such brief attempting or thoughts to attempt at other posts, he
already in this same year arrives. As many do, and ever more must do,
in these our years and times. This is the chaotic haven of so many
frustrate activities; where all manner of good gifts go up in far-seen
smoke or conflagration; and whole fleets, that might have been
war-fleets to conquer kingdoms, are _consumed_ (too truly, often), amid
"fame" enough, and the admiring shouts of the vulgar, which is always
fond to see fire going on. The true Canaan and Mount Zion of a
Talking Era must ever be Literature: the extraneous, miscellaneous,
self-elected, indescribable _Parliamentum_, or Talking Apparatus, which
talks by books and printed papers.

A literary Newspaper called _The Athenaeum_, the same which still
subsists, had been founded in those years by Mr. Buckingham; James Silk
Buckingham, who has since continued notable under various figures.
Mr. Buckingham's _Athenaeum_ had not as yet got into a flourishing
condition; and he was willing to sell the copyright of it for a
consideration. Perhaps Sterling and old Cambridge friends of his had
been already writing for it. At all events, Sterling, who had already
privately begun writing a Novel, and was clearly looking towards
Literature, perceived that his gifted Cambridge friend, Frederic
Maurice, was now also at large in a somewhat similar situation; and that
here was an opening for both of them, and for other gifted friends. The
copyright was purchased for I know not what sum, nor with whose money,
but guess it may have been Sterling's, and no great sum;--and so, under
free auspices, themselves their own captains, Maurice and he spread sail
for this new voyage of adventure into all the world. It was about the
end of 1828 that readers of periodical literature, and quidnuncs in
those departments, began to report the appearance, in a Paper called the
_Athenaeum, of_ writings showing a superior brilliancy, and height
of aim; one or perhaps two slight specimens of which came into my own
hands, in my remote corner, about that time, and were duly recognized by
me, while the authors were still far off and hidden behind deep veils.

Some of Sterling's best Papers from the _Athenaeum_ have been published
by Archdeacon Hare: first-fruits by a young man of twenty-two; crude,
imperfect, yet singularly beautiful and attractive; which will still
testify what high literary promise lay in him. The ruddiest glow of
young enthusiasm, of noble incipient spiritual manhood reigns over them;
once more a divine Universe unveiling itself in gloom and splendor, in
auroral firelight and many-tinted shadow, full of hope and full of awe,
to a young melodious pious heart just arrived upon it. Often enough the
delineation has a certain flowing completeness, not to be expected from
so young an artist; here and there is a decided felicity of insight;
everywhere the point of view adopted is a high and noble one, and the
result worked out a result to be sympathized with, and accepted so far
as it will go. Good reading still, those Papers, for the less-furnished
mind,--thrice-excellent reading compared with what is usually going.
For the rest, a grand melancholy is the prevailing impression they
leave;--partly as if, while the surface was so blooming and opulent,
the heart of them was still vacant, sad and cold. Here is a beautiful
mirage, in the dry wilderness; but you cannot quench your thirst there!
The writer's heart is indeed still too vacant, except of beautiful
shadows and reflexes and resonances; and is far from joyful, though it
wears commonly a smile.

In some of the Greek delineations (_The Lycian Painter_, for example),
we have already noticed a strange opulence of splendor, characterizable
as half-legitimate, half-meretricious,--a splendor hovering between the
raffaelesque and the japannish. What other things Sterling wrote there,
I never knew; nor would he in any mood, in those later days, have told
you, had you asked. This period of his life he always rather accounted,
as the Arabs do the idolatrous times before Mahomet's advent, the
"period of darkness."



CHAPTER VII. REGENT STREET.

On the commercial side the _Athenaeum_ still lacked success; nor was
like to find it under the highly uncommercial management it had now got
into. This, by and by, began to be a serious consideration. For money
is the sinews of Periodical Literature almost as much as of war itself;
without money, and under a constant drain of loss, Periodical Literature
is one of the things that cannot be carried on. In no long time Sterling
began to be practically sensible of this truth, and that an unpleasant
resolution in accordance with it would be necessary. By him also, after
a while, the _Athenaeum_ was transferred to other hands, better fitted
in that respect; and under these it did take vigorous root, and still
bears fruit according to its kind.

For the present, it brought him into the thick of London Literature,
especially of young London Literature and speculation; in which turbid
exciting element he swam and revelled, nothing loath, for certain months
longer,--a period short of two years in all. He had lodgings in
Regent Street: his Father's house, now a flourishing and stirring
establishment, in South Place, Knightsbridge, where, under the warmth of
increasing revenue and success, miscellaneous cheerful socialities and
abundant speculations, chiefly political (and not John's kind, but
that of the _Times_ Newspaper and the Clubs), were rife, he could visit
daily, and yet be master of his own studies and pursuits. Maurice,
Trench, John Mill, Charles Buller: these, and some few others, among
a wide circle of a transitory phantasmal character, whom he speedily
forgot and cared not to remember, were much about him; with these he in
all ways employed and disported himself: a first favorite with them all.

No pleasanter companion, I suppose, had any of them. So frank, open,
guileless, fearless, a brother to all worthy souls whatsoever. Come when
you might, here is he open-hearted, rich in cheerful fancies, in grave
logic, in all kinds of bright activity. If perceptibly or imperceptibly
there is a touch of ostentation in him, blame it not; it is so innocent,
so good and childlike. He is still fonder of jingling publicly, and
spreading on the table, your big purse of opulences than his own. Abrupt
too he is, cares little for big-wigs and garnitures; perhaps laughs
more than the real fun he has would order; but of arrogance there is
no vestige, of insincerity or of ill-nature none. These must have been
pleasant evenings in Regent Street, when the circle chanced to be well
adjusted there. At other times, Philistines would enter, what we call
bores, dullards, Children of Darkness; and then,--except in a hunt of
dullards, and a _bore-baiting_, which might be permissible,--the evening
was dark. Sterling, of course, had innumerable cares withal; and was
toiling like a slave; his very recreations almost a kind of work. An
enormous activity was in the man;--sufficient, in a body that could
have held it without breaking, to have gone far, even under the unstable
guidance it was like to have!

Thus, too, an extensive, very variegated circle of connections was
forming round him. Besides his _Athenaeum_ work, and evenings in Regent
Street and elsewhere, he makes visits to country-houses, the Bullers'
and others; converses with established gentlemen, with honorable women
not a few; is gay and welcome with the young of his own age; knows also
religious, witty, and other distinguished ladies, and is admiringly
known by them. On the whole, he is already locomotive; visits hither
and thither in a very rapid flying manner. Thus I find he had made one
flying visit to the Cumberland Lake-region in 1828, and got sight of
Wordsworth; and in the same year another flying one to Paris, and seen
with no undue enthusiasm the Saint-Simonian Portent just beginning
to preach for itself, and France in general simmering under a scum of
impieties, levities, Saint-Simonisms, and frothy fantasticalities of all
kinds, towards the boiling-over which soon made the Three Days of July
famous. But by far the most important foreign home he visited was that
of Coleridge on the Hill of Highgate,--if it were not rather a foreign
shrine and Dodona-Oracle, as he then reckoned,--to which (onwards from
1828, as would appear) he was already an assiduous pilgrim. Concerning
whom, and Sterling's all-important connection with him, there will be
much to say anon.

Here, from this period, is a Letter of Sterling's, which the glimpses
it affords of bright scenes and figures now sunk, so many of them,
sorrowfully to the realm of shadows, will render interesting to some of
my readers. To me on the mere Letter, not on its contents alone, there
is accidentally a kind of fateful stamp. A few months after Charles
Buller's death, while his loss was mourned by many hearts, and to his
poor Mother all light except what hung upon his memory had gone out in
the world, a certain delicate and friendly hand, hoping to give the poor
bereaved lady a good moment, sought out this Letter of Sterling's, one
morning, and called, with intent to read it to her:--alas, the poor lady
had herself fallen suddenly into the languors of death, help of another
grander sort now close at hand; and to her this Letter was never read!

On "Fanny Kemble," it appears, there is an Essay by Sterling in the
_Athenaeum_ of this year: "16th December, 1829." Very laudatory, I
conclude. He much admired her genius, nay was thought at one time to
be vaguely on the edge of still more chivalrous feelings. As the Letter
itself may perhaps indicate.

         "_To Anthony Sterling, Esq., 24th Regiment, Dublin_.
                                      "KNIGHTSBRIDGE, 10th Nov., 1829.

"MY DEAR ANTHONY,--Here in the Capital of England and of Europe,
there is less, so far as I hear, of movement and variety than in your
provincial Dublin, or among the Wicklow Mountains. We have the old
prospect of bricks and smoke, the old crowd of busy stupid faces, the
old occupations, the old sleepy amusements; and the latest news that
reaches us daily has an air of tiresome, doting antiquity. The world has
nothing for it but to exclaim with Faust, "Give me my youth again." And
as for me, my month of Cornish amusement is over; and I must tie myself
to my old employments. I have not much to tell you about these; but
perhaps you may like to hear of my expedition to the West.

"I wrote to Polvellan (Mr. Buller's) to announce the day on which I
intended to be there, so shortly before setting out, that there was
no time to receive an answer; and when I reached Devonport, which is
fifteen or sixteen miles from my place of destination, I found a letter
from Mrs. Buller, saying that she was coming in two days to a Ball at
Plymouth, and if I chose to stay in the mean while and look about me,
she would take me back with her. She added an introduction to a relation
of her husband's, a certain Captain Buller of the Rifles, who was with
the Depot there,--a pleasant person, who I believe had been
acquainted with Charlotte, [7] or at least had seen her. Under his
superintendence--...

"On leaving Devonport with Mrs. Buller, I went some of the way by water,
up the harbor and river; and the prospects are certainly very beautiful;
to say nothing of the large ships, which I admire almost as much as you,
though without knowing so much about them. There is a great deal of
fine scenery all along the road to Looe; and the House itself, a very
unpretending Gothic cottage, stands beautifully among trees, hills and
water, with the sea at the distance of a quarter of a mile.

"And here, among pleasant, good-natured, well-informed and clever
people, I spent an idle month. I dined at one or two Corporation
dinners; spent a few days at the old Mansion of Mr. Buller of Morval,
the patron of West Looe; and during the rest of the time, read, wrote,
played chess, lounged, and ate red mullet (he who has not done this
has not begun to live); talked of cookery to the philosophers, and of
metaphysics to Mrs. Buller; and altogether cultivated indolence,
and developed the faculty of nonsense with considerable pleasure and
unexampled success. Charles Buller you know: he has just come to town,
but I have not yet seen him. Arthur, his younger brother, I take to
be one of the handsomest men in England; and he too has considerable
talent. Mr. Buller the father is rather a clever man of sense, and
particularly good-natured and gentlemanly; and his wife, who was a
renowned beauty and queen of Calcutta, has still many striking and
delicate traces of what she was. Her conversation is more brilliant and
pleasant than that of any one I know; and, at all events, I am bound to
admire her for the kindness with which she patronizes me. I hope that,
some day or other, you may be acquainted with her.

"I believe I have seen no one in London about whom you would care to
hear,--unless the fame of Fanny Kemble has passed the Channel, and
astonished the Irish Barbarians in the midst of their bloody-minded
politics. Young Kemble, whom you have seen, is in Germany: but I have
the happiness of being also acquainted with his sister, the divine
Fanny; and I have seen her twice on the stage, and three or four times
in private, since my return from Cornwall. I had seen some beautiful
verses of hers, long before she was an actress; and her conversation
is full of spirit and talent. She never was taught to act at all; and
though there are many faults in her performance of Juliet, there is more
power than in any female playing I ever saw, except Pasta's Medea. She
is not handsome, rather short, and by no means delicately formed;
but her face is marked, and the eyes are brilliant, dark, and full of
character. She has far more ability than she ever can display on the
stage; but I have no doubt that, by practice and self-culture, she will
be a far finer actress at least than any one since Mrs. Siddons. I was
at Charles Kemble's a few evenings ago, when a drawing of Miss Kemble,
by Sir Thomas Lawrence, was brought in; and I have no doubt that you
will shortly see, even in Dublin, an engraving of her from it, very
unlike the caricatures that have hitherto appeared. I hate the stage;
and but for her, should very likely never have gone to a theatre again.
Even as it is, the annoyance is much more than the pleasure; but I
suppose I must go to see her in every character in which she acts. If
Charlotte cares for plays, let me know, and I will write in more detail
about this new Melpomene. I fear there are very few subjects on which I
can say anything that will in the least interest her.

                      "Ever affectionately yours,
                                                        "J. STERLING."

Sterling and his circle, as their ardent speculation and activity
fermented along, were in all things clear for progress, liberalism;
their politics, and view of the Universe, decisively of the Radical
sort. As indeed that of England then was, more than ever; the crust of
old hide-bound Toryism being now openly cracking towards some incurable
disruption, which accordingly ensued as the Reform Bill before long.
The Reform Bill already hung in the wind. Old hide-bound Toryism, long
recognized by all the world, and now at last obliged to recognize its
very self, for an overgrown Imposture, supporting itself not by human
reason, but by flunky blustering and brazen lying, superadded to mere
brute force, could be no creed for young Sterling and his friends. In
all things he and they were liberals, and, as was natural at this
stage, democrats; contemplating root-and-branch innovation by aid of the
hustings and ballot-box. Hustings and ballot-box had speedily to
vanish out of Sterling's thoughts: but the character of root-and-branch
innovator, essentially of "Radical Reformer," was indelible with him,
and under all forms could be traced as his character through life.

For the present, his and those young people's aim was: By democracy,
or what means there are, be all impostures put down. Speedy end to
Superstition,--a gentle one if you can contrive it, but an end. What can
it profit any mortal to adopt locutions and imaginations which do not
correspond to fact; which no sane mortal can deliberately adopt in his
soul as true; which the most orthodox of mortals can only, and this
after infinite essentially _impious_ effort to put out the eyes of his
mind, persuade himself to "believe that he believes"? Away with it; in
the name of God, come out of it, all true men!

Piety of heart, a certain reality of religious faith, was always
Sterling's, the gift of nature to him which he would not and could
not throw away; but I find at this time his religion is as good as
altogether Ethnic, Greekish, what Goethe calls the Heathen form of
religion. The Church, with her articles, is without relation to him.
And along with obsolete spiritualisms, he sees all manner of obsolete
thrones and big-wigged temporalities; and for them also can prophesy,
and wish, only a speedy doom. Doom inevitable, registered in Heaven's
Chancery from the beginning of days, doom unalterable as the pillars of
the world; the gods are angry, and all nature groans, till this doom of
eternal justice be fulfilled.

With gay audacity, with enthusiasm tempered by mockery, as is the manner
of young gifted men, this faith, grounded for the present on democracy
and hustings operations, and giving to all life the aspect of a
chivalrous battle-field, or almost of a gay though perilous tournament,
and bout of "A hundred knights against all comers,"--was maintained
by Sterling and his friends. And in fine, after whatever loud
remonstrances, and solemn considerations, and such shaking of our wigs
as is undoubtedly natural in the case, let us be just to it and him. We
shall have to admit, nay it will behoove us to see and practically know,
for ourselves and him and others, that the essence of this creed, in
times like ours, was right and not wrong. That, however the ground and
form of it might change, essentially it was the monition of his natal
genius to this as it is to every brave man; the behest of all his clear
insight into this Universe, the message of Heaven through him, which
he could not suppress, but was inspired and compelled to utter in
this world by such methods as he had. There for him lay the first
commandment; _this_ is what it would have been the unforgivable sin to
swerve from and desert: the treason of treasons for him, it were there;
compared with which all other sins are venial!

The message did not cease at all, as we shall see; the message was
ardently, if fitfully, continued to the end: but the methods, the tone
and dialect and all outer conditions of uttering it, underwent most
important modifications!



CHAPTER VIII. COLERIDGE.

Coleridge sat on the brow of Highgate Hill, in those years, looking down
on London and its smoke-tumult, like a sage escaped from the inanity of
life's battle; attracting towards him the thoughts of innumerable
brave souls still engaged there. His express contributions to
poetry, philosophy, or any specific province of human literature or
enlightenment, had been small and sadly intermittent; but he had,
especially among young inquiring men, a higher than literary, a kind
of prophetic or magician character. He was thought to hold, he alone
in England, the key of German and other Transcendentalisms; knew the
sublime secret of believing by "the reason" what "the understanding" had
been obliged to fling out as incredible; and could still, after Hume
and Voltaire had done their best and worst with him, profess himself an
orthodox Christian, and say and print to the Church of England, with its
singular old rubrics and surplices at Allhallowtide, _Esto perpetua_.
A sublime man; who, alone in those dark days, had saved his crown
of spiritual manhood; escaping from the black materialisms, and
revolutionary deluges, with "God, Freedom, Immortality" still his: a
king of men. The practical intellects of the world did not much heed
him, or carelessly reckoned him a metaphysical dreamer: but to the
rising spirits of the young generation he had this dusky sublime
character; and sat there as a kind of _Magus_, girt in mystery and
enigma; his Dodona oak-grove (Mr. Gilman's house at Highgate) whispering
strange things, uncertain whether oracles or jargon.

The Gilmans did not encourage much company, or excitation of any sort,
round their sage; nevertheless access to him, if a youth did reverently
wish it, was not difficult. He would stroll about the pleasant garden
with you, sit in the pleasant rooms of the place,--perhaps take you
to his own peculiar room, high up, with a rearward view, which was the
chief view of all. A really charming outlook, in fine weather. Close
at hand, wide sweep of flowery leafy gardens, their few houses mostly
hidden, the very chimney-pots veiled under blossomy umbrage, flowed
gloriously down hill; gloriously issuing in wide-tufted undulating
plain-country, rich in all charms of field and town. Waving blooming
country of the brightest green; dotted all over with handsome villas,
handsome groves; crossed by roads and human traffic, here inaudible or
heard only as a musical hum: and behind all swam, under olive-tinted
haze, the illimitable limitary ocean of London, with its domes and
steeples definite in the sun, big Paul's and the many memories attached
to it hanging high over all. Nowhere, of its kind, could you see a
grander prospect on a bright summer day, with the set of the air going
southward,--southward, and so draping with the city-smoke not you
but the city. Here for hours would Coleridge talk, concerning all
conceivable or inconceivable things; and liked nothing better than to
have an intelligent, or failing that, even a silent and patient human
listener. He distinguished himself to all that ever heard him as at
least the most surprising talker extant in this world,--and to some
small minority, by no means to all, as the most excellent.

The good man, he was now getting old, towards sixty perhaps; and
gave you the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings; a life
heavy-laden, half-vanquished, still swimming painfully in seas of
manifold physical and other bewilderment. Brow and head were round,
and of massive weight, but the face was flabby and irresolute. The
deep eyes, of a light hazel, were as full of sorrow as of inspiration;
confused pain looked mildly from them, as in a kind of mild
astonishment. The whole figure and air, good and amiable otherwise,
might be called flabby and irresolute; expressive of weakness under
possibility of strength. He hung loosely on his limbs, with knees bent,
and stooping attitude; in walking, he rather shuffled than decisively
steps; and a lady once remarked, he never could fix which side of the
garden walk would suit him best, but continually shifted, in corkscrew
fashion, and kept trying both. A heavy-laden, high-aspiring and surely
much-suffering man. His voice, naturally soft and good, had contracted
itself into a plaintive snuffle and singsong; he spoke as if
preaching,--you would have said, preaching earnestly and also hopelessly
the weightiest things. I still recollect his "object" and "subject,"
terms of continual recurrence in the Kantean province; and how he sang
and snuffled them into "om-m-mject" and "sum-m-mject," with a kind of
solemn shake or quaver, as he rolled along. No talk, in his century or
in any other, could be more surprising.

Sterling, who assiduously attended him, with profound reverence, and
was often with him by himself, for a good many months, gives a record
of their first colloquy. [8] Their colloquies were numerous, and he
had taken note of many; but they are all gone to the fire, except this
first, which Mr. Hare has printed,--unluckily without date. It contains
a number of ingenious, true and half-true observations, and is of
course a faithful epitome of the things said; but it gives small idea
of Coleridge's way of talking;--this one feature is perhaps the most
recognizable, "Our interview lasted for three hours, during which he
talked two hours and three quarters." Nothing could be more copious than
his talk; and furthermore it was always, virtually or literally, of
the nature of a monologue; suffering no interruption, however reverent;
hastily putting aside all foreign additions, annotations, or most
ingenuous desires for elucidation, as well-meant superfluities which
would never do. Besides, it was talk not flowing any-whither like
a river, but spreading every-whither in inextricable currents and
regurgitations like a lake or sea; terribly deficient in definite goal
or aim, nay often in logical intelligibility; _what_ you were to believe
or do, on any earthly or heavenly thing, obstinately refusing to appear
from it. So that, most times, you felt logically lost; swamped near to
drowning in this tide of ingenious vocables, spreading out boundless as
if to submerge the world.

To sit as a passive bucket and be pumped into, whether you consent or
not, can in the long-run be exhilarating to no creature; how eloquent
soever the flood of utterance that is descending. But if it be withal a
confused unintelligible flood of utterance, threatening to submerge all
known landmarks of thought, and drown the world and you!--I have heard
Coleridge talk, with eager musical energy, two stricken hours, his
face radiant and moist, and communicate no meaning whatsoever to any
individual of his hearers,--certain of whom, I for one, still kept
eagerly listening in hope; the most had long before given up, and formed
(if the room were large enough) secondary humming groups of their own.
He began anywhere: you put some question to him, made some suggestive
observation: instead of answering this, or decidedly setting out
towards answer of it, he would accumulate formidable apparatus, logical
swim-bladders, transcendental life-preservers and other precautionary
and vehiculatory gear, for setting out; perhaps did at last get under
way,--but was swiftly solicited, turned aside by the glance of some
radiant new game on this hand or that, into new courses; and ever into
new; and before long into all the Universe, where it was uncertain what
game you would catch, or whether any.

His talk, alas, was distinguished, like himself, by irresolution:
it disliked to be troubled with conditions, abstinences, definite
fulfilments;--loved to wander at its own sweet will, and make its
auditor and his claims and humble wishes a mere passive bucket for
itself! He had knowledge about many things and topics, much curious
reading; but generally all topics led him, after a pass or two, into
the high seas of theosophic philosophy, the hazy infinitude of Kantean
transcendentalism, with its "sum-m-mjects" and "om-m-mjects." Sad
enough; for with such indolent impatience of the claims and ignorances
of others, he had not the least talent for explaining this or anything
unknown to them; and you swam and fluttered in the mistiest wide
unintelligible deluge of things, for most part in a rather profitless
uncomfortable manner.

Glorious islets, too, I have seen rise out of the haze; but they were
few, and soon swallowed in the general element again. Balmy sunny
islets, islets of the blest and the intelligible:--on which occasions
those secondary humming groups would all cease humming, and hang
breathless upon the eloquent words; till once your islet got wrapt in
the mist again, and they could recommence humming. Eloquent artistically
expressive words you always had; piercing radiances of a most subtle
insight came at intervals; tones of noble pious sympathy, recognizable
as pious though strangely colored, were never wanting long: but in
general you could not call this aimless, cloud-capt, cloud-based,
lawlessly meandering human discourse of reason by the name of "excellent
talk," but only of "surprising;" and were reminded bitterly of Hazlitt's
account of it: "Excellent talker, very,--if you let him start from no
premises and come to no conclusion." Coleridge was not without what
talkers call wit, and there were touches of prickly sarcasm in him,
contemptuous enough of the world and its idols and popular dignitaries;
he had traits even of poetic humor: but in general he seemed deficient
in laughter; or indeed in sympathy for concrete human things either on
the sunny or on the stormy side. One right peal of concrete laughter at
some convicted flesh-and-blood absurdity, one burst of noble indignation
at some injustice or depravity, rubbing elbows with us on this solid
Earth, how strange would it have been in that Kantean haze-world, and
how infinitely cheering amid its vacant air-castles and dim-melting
ghosts and shadows! None such ever came. His life had been an abstract
thinking and dreaming, idealistic, passed amid the ghosts of
defunct bodies and of unborn ones. The moaning singsong of that
theosophico-metaphysical monotony left on you, at last, a very dreary
feeling.

In close colloquy, flowing within narrower banks, I suppose he was more
definite and apprehensible; Sterling in after-times did not complain of
his unintelligibility, or imputed it only to the abtruse high nature of
the topics handled. Let us hope so, let us try to believe so! There
is no doubt but Coleridge could speak plain words on things plain: his
observations and responses on the trivial matters that occurred were as
simple as the commonest man's, or were even distinguished by superior
simplicity as well as pertinency. "Ah, your tea is too cold, Mr.
Coleridge!" mourned the good Mrs. Gilman once, in her kind, reverential
and yet protective manner, handing him a very tolerable though belated
cup.--"It's better than I deserve!" snuffled he, in a low hoarse murmur,
partly courteous, chiefly pious, the tone of which still abides with me:
"It's better than I deserve!"

But indeed, to the young ardent mind, instinct with pious nobleness, yet
driven to the grim deserts of Radicalism for a faith, his speculations
had a charm much more than literary, a charm almost religious and
prophetic. The constant gist of his discourse was lamentation over
the sunk condition of the world; which he recognized to be given up to
Atheism and Materialism, full of mere sordid misbeliefs, mispursuits and
misresults. All Science had become mechanical; the science not of men,
but of a kind of human beavers. Churches themselves had died away into a
godless mechanical condition; and stood there as mere Cases of Articles,
mere Forms of Churches; like the dried carcasses of once swift
camels, which you find left withering in the thirst of the universal
desert,--ghastly portents for the present, beneficent ships of the
desert no more. Men's souls were blinded, hebetated; and sunk under the
influence of Atheism and Materialism, and Hume and Voltaire: the world
for the present was as an extinct world, deserted of God, and incapable
of well-doing till it changed its heart and spirit. This, expressed
I think with less of indignation and with more of long-drawn
querulousness, was always recognizable as the ground-tone:--in which
truly a pious young heart, driven into Radicalism and the opposition
party, could not but recognize a too sorrowful truth; and ask of the
Oracle, with all earnestness, What remedy, then?

The remedy, though Coleridge himself professed to see it as in sunbeams,
could not, except by processes unspeakably difficult, be described to
you at all. On the whole, those dead Churches, this dead English Church
especially, must be brought to life again. Why not? It was not dead;
the soul of it, in this parched-up body, was tragically asleep only.
Atheistic Philosophy was true on its side, and Hume and Voltaire could
on their own ground speak irrefragably for themselves against any
Church: but lift the Church and them into a higher sphere. Of argument,
_they_ died into inanition, the Church revivified itself into pristine
florid vigor,--became once more a living ship of the desert, and
invincibly bore you over stock and stone. But how, but how! By attending
to the "reason" of man, said Coleridge, and duly chaining up the
"understanding" of man: the _Vernunft_ (Reason) and _Verstand_
(Understanding) of the Germans, it all turned upon these, if you could
well understand them,--which you couldn't. For the rest, Mr. Coleridge
had on the anvil various Books, especially was about to write one grand
Book _On the Logos_, which would help to bridge the chasm for us.
So much appeared, however: Churches, though proved false (as you had
imagined), were still true (as you were to imagine): here was an Artist
who could burn you up an old Church, root and branch; and then as the
Alchemists professed to do with organic substances in general, distil
you an "Astral Spirit" from the ashes, which was the very image of the
old burnt article, its air-drawn counterpart,--this you still had, or
might get, and draw uses from, if you could. Wait till the Book on the
Logos were done;--alas, till your own terrene eyes, blind with conceit
and the dust of logic, were purged, subtilized and spiritualized
into the sharpness of vision requisite for discerning such an
"om-m-mject."--The ingenuous young English head, of those days, stood
strangely puzzled by such revelations; uncertain whether it were getting
inspired, or getting infatuated into flat imbecility; and strange
effulgence, of new day or else of deeper meteoric night, colored the
horizon of the future for it.

Let me not be unjust to this memorable man. Surely there was here,
in his pious, ever-laboring, subtle mind, a precious truth, or
prefigurement of truth; and yet a fatal delusion withal. Prefigurement
that, in spite of beaver sciences and temporary spiritual hebetude and
cecity, man and his Universe were eternally divine; and that no past
nobleness, or revelation of the divine, could or would ever be lost to
him. Most true, surely, and worthy of all acceptance. Good also to do
what you can with old Churches and practical Symbols of the Noble: nay
quit not the burnt ruins of them while you find there is still gold
to be dug there. But, on the whole, do not think you can, by logical
alchemy, distil astral spirits from them; or if you could, that said
astral spirits, or defunct logical phantasms, could serve you in
anything. What the light of your mind, which is the direct inspiration
of the Almighty, pronounces incredible,--that, in God's name, leave
uncredited; at your peril do not try believing that. No subtlest
hocus-pocus of "reason" versus "understanding" will avail for that
feat;--and it is terribly perilous to try it in these provinces!

The truth is, I now see, Coleridge's talk and speculation was the emblem
of himself: in it as in him, a ray of heavenly inspiration struggled, in
a tragically ineffectual degree, with the weakness of flesh and blood.
He says once, he "had skirted the howling deserts of Infidelity;" this
was evident enough: but he had not had the courage, in defiance of pain
and terror, to press resolutely across said deserts to the new firm
lands of Faith beyond; he preferred to create logical fata-morganas for
himself on this hither side, and laboriously solace himself with these.

To the man himself Nature had given, in high measure, the seeds of
a noble endowment; and to unfold it had been forbidden him. A subtle
lynx-eyed intellect, tremulous pious sensibility to all good and all
beautiful; truly a ray of empyrean light;--but embedded in such weak
laxity of character, in such indolences and esuriences as had made
strange work with it. Once more, the tragic story of a high endowment
with an insufficient will. An eye to discern the divineness of the
Heaven's spendors and lightnings, the insatiable wish to revel in their
godlike radiances and brilliances; but no heart to front the scathing
terrors of them, which is the first condition of your conquering an
abiding place there. The courage necessary for him, above all things,
had been denied this man. His life, with such ray of the empyrean in it,
was great and terrible to him; and he had not valiantly grappled with
it, he had fled from it; sought refuge in vague daydreams, hollow
compromises, in opium, in theosophic metaphysics. Harsh pain, danger,
necessity, slavish harnessed toil, were of all things abhorrent to him.
And so the empyrean element, lying smothered under the terrene, and
yet inextinguishable there, made sad writhings. For pain, danger,
difficulty, steady slaving toil, and other highly disagreeable behests
of destiny, shall in nowise be shirked by any brightest mortal that will
approve himself loyal to his mission in this world; nay precisely
the higher he is, the deeper will be the disagreeableness, and the
detestability to flesh and blood, of the tasks laid on him; and the
heavier too, and more tragic, his penalties if he neglect them.

For the old Eternal Powers do live forever; nor do their laws know any
change, however we in our poor wigs and church-tippets may attempt
to read their laws. To _steal_ into Heaven,--by the modern method, of
sticking ostrich-like your head into fallacies on Earth, equally as
by the ancient and by all conceivable methods,--is forever forbidden.
High-treason is the name of that attempt; and it continues to be
punished as such. Strange enough: here once more was a kind of
Heaven-scaling Ixion; and to him, as to the old one, the just gods were
very stern! The ever-revolving, never-advancing Wheel (of a kind) was
his, through life; and from his Cloud-Juno did not he too procreate
strange Centaurs, spectral Puseyisms, monstrous illusory Hybrids, and
ecclesiastical Chimeras,--which now roam the earth in a very lamentable
manner!



CHAPTER IX. SPANISH EXILES.

This magical ingredient thrown into the wild caldron of such a mind,
which we have seen occupied hitherto with mere Ethnicism, Radicalism and
revolutionary tumult, but hungering all along for something higher and
better, was sure to be eagerly welcomed and imbibed, and could not fail
to produce important fermentations there. Fermentations; important new
directions, and withal important new perversions, in the spiritual life
of this man, as it has since done in the lives of so many. Here then
is the new celestial manna we were all in quest of? This thrice-refined
pabulum of transcendental moonshine? Whoso eateth thereof,--yes, what,
on the whole, will _he_ probably grow to?

Sterling never spoke much to me of his intercourse with Coleridge; and
when we did compare notes about him, it was usually rather in the way
of controversial discussion than of narrative. So that, from my own
resources, I can give no details of the business, nor specify anything
in it, except the general fact of an ardent attendance at Highgate
continued for many months, which was impressively known to all
Sterling's friends; and am unable to assign even the limitary dates,
Sterling's own papers on the subject having all been destroyed by
him. Inferences point to the end of 1828 as the beginning of this
intercourse; perhaps in 1829 it was at the highest point; and already in
1830, when the intercourse itself was about to terminate, we have proof
of the influences it was producing,--in the Novel of _Arthur Coningsby_,
then on hand, the first and only Book that Sterling ever wrote. His
writings hitherto had been sketches, criticisms, brief essays; he was
now trying it on a wider scale; but not yet with satisfactory results,
and it proved to be his only trial in that form.

He had already, as was intimated, given up his brief proprietorship of
the _Athenaeum_; the commercial indications, and state of sales and of
costs, peremptorily ordering him to do so; the copyright went by sale or
gift, I know not at what precise date, into other fitter hands; and with
the copyright all connection on the part of Sterling. To _Athenaeum_
Sketches had now (in 1829-30) succeeded _Arthur Coningsby_, a Novel
in three volumes; indicating (when it came to light, a year or
two afterwards) equally hasty and much more ambitious aims in
Literature;--giving strong evidence, too, of internal spiritual
revulsions going painfully forward, and in particular of the impression
Coleridge was producing on him. Without and within, it was a wild tide
of things this ardent light young soul was afloat upon, at present;
and his outlooks into the future, whether for his spiritual or economic
fortunes, were confused enough.

Among his familiars in this period, I might have mentioned one Charles
Barton, formerly his fellow-student at Cambridge, now an amiable,
cheerful, rather idle young fellow about Town; who led the way into
certain new experiences, and lighter fields, for Sterling. His Father,
Lieutenant-General Barton of the Life-guards, an Irish landlord, I think
in Fermanagh County, and a man of connections about Court, lived in
a certain figure here in Town; had a wife of fashionable habits, with
other sons, and also daughters, bred in this sphere. These, all of
them, were amiable, elegant and pleasant people;--such was especially
an eldest daughter, Susannah Barton, a stately blooming black-eyed young
woman, attractive enough in form and character; full of gay softness, of
indolent sense and enthusiasm; about Sterling's own age, if not a little
older. In this house, which opened to him, more decisively than
his Father's, a new stratum of society, and where his reception for
Charles's sake and his own was of the kindest, he liked very well to be;
and spent, I suppose, many of his vacant half-hours, lightly chatting
with the elders or the youngsters,--doubtless with the young lady too,
though as yet without particular intentions on either side.

Nor, with all the Coleridge fermentation, was democratic Radicalism
by any means given up;--though how it was to live if the Coleridgean
moonshine took effect, might have been an abtruse question. Hitherto,
while said moonshine was but taking effect, and coloring the outer
surface of things without quite penetrating into the heart, democratic
Liberalism, revolt against superstition and oppression, and help to
whosoever would revolt, was still the grand element in Sterling's creed;
and practically he stood, not ready only, but full of alacrity to fulfil
all its behests. We heard long since of the "black dragoons,"--whom
doubtless the new moonshine had considerably silvered-over into new
hues, by this time;--but here now, while Radicalism is tottering for him
and threatening to crumble, comes suddenly the grand consummation and
explosion of Radicalism in his life; whereby, all at once, Radicalism
exhausted and ended itself, and appeared no more there.


In those years a visible section of the London population, and
conspicuous out of all proportion to its size or value, was a small
knot of Spaniards, who had sought shelter here as Political Refugees.
"Political Refugees:" a tragic succession of that class is one of the
possessions of England in our time. Six-and-twenty years ago, when I
first saw London, I remember those unfortunate Spaniards among the new
phenomena. Daily in the cold spring air, under skies so unlike their
own, you could see a group of fifty or a hundred stately tragic figures,
in proud threadbare cloaks; perambulating, mostly with closed lips, the
broad pavements of Euston Square and the regions about St. Pancras new
Church. Their lodging was chiefly in Somers Town, as I understood: and
those open pavements about St. Pancras Church were the general place of
rendezvous. They spoke little or no English; knew nobody, could employ
themselves on nothing, in this new scene. Old steel-gray heads, many
of them; the shaggy, thick, blue-black hair of others struck you; their
brown complexion, dusky look of suppressed fire, in general their tragic
condition as of caged Numidian lions.

That particular Flight of Unfortunates has long since fled again, and
vanished; and new have come and fled. In this convulsed revolutionary
epoch, which already lasts above sixty years, what tragic flights of
such have we not seen arrive on the one safe coast which is open to
them, as they get successively vanquished, and chased into exile to
avoid worse! Swarm after swarm, of ever-new complexion, from Spain as
from other countries, is thrown off, in those ever-recurring paroxysms;
and will continue to be thrown off. As there could be (suggests
Linnaeus) a "flower-clock," measuring the hours of the day, and the
months of the year, by the kinds of flowers that go to sleep and awaken,
that blow into beauty and fade into dust: so in the great Revolutionary
Horologe, one might mark the years and epochs by the successive kinds of
exiles that walk London streets, and, in grim silent manner, demand
pity from us and reflections from us.--This then extant group of Spanish
Exiles was the Trocadero swarm, thrown off in 1823, in the Riego and
Quirogas quarrel. These were they whom Charles Tenth had, by sheer
force, driven from their constitutionalisms and their Trocadero
fortresses,--Charles Tenth, who himself was soon driven out, manifoldly
by sheer force; and had to head his own swarm of fugitives; and has now
himself quite vanished, and given place to others. For there is no end
of them; propelling and propelled!--

Of these poor Spanish Exiles, now vegetating about Somers Town, and
painfully beating the pavement in Euston Square, the acknowledged chief
was General Torrijos, a man of high qualities and fortunes, still in
the vigor of his years, and in these desperate circumstances refusing to
despair; with whom Sterling had, at this time, become intimate.



CHAPTER X. TORRIJOS.

Torrijos, who had now in 1829 been here some four or five years, having
come over in 1824, had from the first enjoyed a superior reception
in England. Possessing not only a language to speak, which few of the
others did, but manifold experiences courtly, military, diplomatic,
with fine natural faculties, and high Spanish manners tempered into
cosmopolitan, he had been welcomed in various circles of society;
and found, perhaps he alone of those Spaniards, a certain human
companionship among persons of some standing in this country. With the
elder Sterlings, among others, he had made acquaintance; became familiar
in the social circle at South Place, and was much esteemed there. With
Madam Torrijos, who also was a person of amiable and distinguished
qualities, an affectionate friendship grew up on the part of Mrs.
Sterling, which ended only with the death of these two ladies. John
Sterling, on arriving in London from his University work, naturally
inherited what he liked to take up of this relation: and in the lodgings
in Regent Street, and the democratico-literary element there, Torrijos
became a very prominent, and at length almost the central object.

The man himself, it is well known, was a valiant, gallant man; of
lively intellect, of noble chivalrous character: fine talents, fine
accomplishments, all grounding themselves on a certain rugged veracity,
recommended him to the discerning. He had begun youth in the Court of
Ferdinand; had gone on in Wellington and other arduous, victorious
and unvictorious, soldierings; familiar in camps and council-rooms,
in presence-chambers and in prisons. He knew romantic Spain;--he was
himself, standing withal in the vanguard of Freedom's fight, a kind of
living romance. Infinitely interesting to John Sterling, for one.

It was to Torrijos that the poor Spaniards of Somers Town looked mainly,
in their helplessness, for every species of help. Torrijos, it was
hoped, would yet lead them into Spain and glorious victory there;
meanwhile here in England, under defeat, he was their captain and
sovereign in another painfully inverse sense. To whom, in extremity,
everybody might apply. When all present resources failed, and the
exchequer was quite out, there still remained Torrijos. Torrijos has to
find new resources for his destitute patriots, find loans, find Spanish
lessons for them among his English friends: in all which charitable
operations, it need not be said, John Sterling was his foremost man;
zealous to empty his own purse for the object; impetuous in rushing
hither or thither to enlist the aid of others, and find lessons or
something that would do. His friends, of course, had to assist; the
Bartons, among others, were wont to assist;--and I have heard that the
fair Susan, stirring up her indolent enthusiasm into practicality, was
very successful in finding Spanish lessons, and the like, for these
distressed men. Sterling and his friends were yet new in this business;
but Torrijos and the others were getting old in it?--and doubtless weary
and almost desperate of it. They had now been seven years in it, many of
them; and were asking, When will the end be?

Torrijos is described as a man of excellent discernment: who knows how
long he had repressed the unreasonable schemes of his followers, and
turned a deaf ear to the temptings of fallacious hope? But there comes
at length a sum-total of oppressive burdens which is intolerable, which
tempts the wisest towards fallacies for relief. These weary groups,
pacing the Euston-Square pavements, had often said in their despair,
"Were not death in battle better? Here are we slowly mouldering into
nothingness; there we might reach it rapidly, in flaming splendor.
Flame, either of victory to Spain and us, or of a patriot death, the
sure harbinger of victory to Spain. Flame fit to kindle a fire which no
Ferdinand, with all his Inquisitions and Charles Tenths, could put
out." Enough, in the end of 1829, Torrijos himself had yielded to this
pressure; and hoping against hope, persuaded himself that if he could
but land in the South of Spain with a small patriot band well armed
and well resolved, a band carrying fire in its heart,--then Spain, all
inflammable as touchwood, and groaning indignantly under its brutal
tyrant, might blaze wholly into flame round him, and incalculable
victory be won. Such was his conclusion; not sudden, yet surely not
deliberate either,--desperate rather, and forced on by circumstances.
He thought with himself that, considering Somers Town and considering
Spain, the terrible chance was worth trying; that this big game of Fate,
go how it might, was one which the omens credibly declared he and these
poor Spaniards ought to play.

His whole industries and energies were thereupon bent towards starting
the said game; and his thought and continual speech and song now was,
That if he had a few thousand pounds to buy arms, to freight a ship and
make the other preparations, he and these poor gentlemen, and Spain and
the world, were made men and a saved Spain and world. What talks and
consultations in the apartment in Regent Street, during those winter
days of 1829-30; setting into open conflagration the young democracy
that was wont to assemble there! Of which there is now left next to
no remembrance. For Sterling never spoke a word of this affair in
after-days, nor was any of the actors much tempted to speak. We can
understand too well that here were young fervid hearts in an explosive
condition; young rash heads, sanctioned by a man's experienced head.
Here at last shall enthusiasm and theory become practice and fact; fiery
dreams are at last permitted to realize themselves; and now is the time
or never!--How the Coleridge moonshine comported itself amid these hot
telluric flames, or whether it had not yet begun to play there (which I
rather doubt), must be left to conjecture.

Mr. Hare speaks of Sterling "sailing over to St. Valery in an open
boat along with others," upon one occasion, in this enterprise;--in
the _final_ English scene of it, I suppose. Which is very possible.
Unquestionably there was adventure enough of other kinds for it, and
running to and fro with all his speed on behalf of it, during these
months of his history! Money was subscribed, collected: the young
Cambridge democrats were all ablaze to assist Torrijos; nay certain of
them decided to go with him,--and went. Only, as yet, the funds were
rather incomplete. And here, as I learn from a good hand, is the secret
history of their becoming complete. Which, as we are upon the subject,
I had better give. But for the following circumstance, they had perhaps
never been completed; nor had the rash enterprise, or its catastrophe,
so influential on the rest of Sterling's life, taken place at all.

A certain Lieutenant Robert Boyd, of the Indian Army, an Ulster
Irishman, a cousin of Sterling's, had received some affront, or
otherwise taken some disgust in that service; had thrown up his
commission in consequence; and returned home, about this time, with
intent to seek another course of life. Having only, for outfit, these
impatient ardors, some experience in Indian drill exercise, and five
thousand pounds of inheritance, he found the enterprise attended with
difficulties; and was somewhat at a loss how to dispose of himself. Some
young Ulster comrade, in a partly similar situation, had pointed out to
him that there lay in a certain neighboring creek of the Irish coast, a
worn-out royal gun-brig condemned to sale, to be had dog-cheap: this he
proposed that they two, or in fact Boyd with his five thousand pounds,
should buy; that they should refit and arm and man it;--and sail
a-privateering "to the Eastern Archipelago," Philippine Isles, or I know
not where; and _so_ conquer the golden fleece.

Boyd naturally paused a little at this great proposal; did not quite
reject it; came across, with it and other fine projects and impatiences
fermenting in his head, to London, there to see and consider. It was in
the months when the Torrijos enterprise was in the birth-throes; crying
wildly for capital, of all things. Boyd naturally spoke of his projects
to Sterling,--of his gun-brig lying in the Irish creek, among others.
Sterling naturally said, "If you want an adventure of the Sea-king sort,
and propose to lay your money and your life into such a game, here is
Torrijos and Spain at his back; here is a golden fleece to conquer,
worth twenty Eastern Archipelagoes."--Boyd and Torrijos quickly met;
quickly bargained. Boyd's money was to go in purchasing, and storing
with a certain stock of arms and etceteras, a small ship in the Thames,
which should carry Boyd with Torrijos and the adventurers to the south
coast of Spain; and there, the game once played and won, Boyd was to
have promotion enough,--"the colonelcy of a Spanish cavalry regiment,"
for one express thing. What exact share Sterling had in this
negotiation, or whether he did not even take the prudent side and
caution Boyd to be wary I know not; but it was he that brought the
parties together; and all his friends knew, in silence, that to the end
of his life he painfully remembered that fact.

And so a ship was hired, or purchased, in the Thames; due furnishings
began to be executed in it; arms and stores were gradually got on board;
Torrijos with his Fifty picked Spaniards, in the mean while, getting
ready. This was in the spring of 1830. Boyd's 5000 pounds was the grand
nucleus of finance; but vigorous subscription was carried on likewise
in Sterling's young democratic circle, or wherever a member of it could
find access; not without considerable result, and with a zeal that may
be imagined. Nay, as above hinted, certain of these young men decided,
not to give their money only, but themselves along with it, as
democratic volunteers and soldiers of progress; among whom, it need not
be said, Sterling intended to be foremost. Busy weeks with him, those
spring ones of the year 1830! Through this small Note, accidentally
preserved to us, addressed to his friend Barton, we obtain a curious
glance into the subterranean workshop:--

        "_To Charles Barton, Esq., Dorset Sq., Regent's Park_.
                        [No date; apparently March or February, 1830.]

"MY DEAR CHARLES,--I have wanted to see you to talk to you about my
Foreign affairs. If you are going to be in London for a few days, I
believe you can be very useful to me, at a considerable expense and
trouble to yourself, in the way of buying accoutrements; _inter alia_, a
sword and a saddle,--not, you will understand, for my own use.

"Things are going on very well, but are very, even frightfully near;
only be quiet! Pray would you, in case of necessity, take a free passage
to Holland, next week or the week after; stay two or three days, and
come back, all expenses paid? If you write to B---- at Cambridge, tell
him above all things to hold his tongue. If you are near Palace Yard
to-morrow before two, pray come to see me. Do not come on purpose;
especially as I may perhaps be away, and at all events shall not be
there until eleven, nor perhaps till rather later.

"I fear I shall have alarmed your Mother by my irruption. Forgive me
for that and all my exactions from you. If the next month were over, I
should not have to trouble any one.

                        "Yours affectionately,
                                                        "J. STERLING."

Busy weeks indeed; and a glowing smithy-light coming through the
chinks!--The romance of _Arthur Coningsby_ lay written, or half-written,
in his desk; and here, in his heart and among his hands, was an acted
romance and unknown catastrophes keeping pace with that.

Doubts from the doctors, for his health was getting ominous, threw some
shade over the adventure. Reproachful reminiscences of Coleridge and
Theosophy were natural too; then fond regrets for Literature and its
glories: if you act your romance, how can you also write it? Regrets,
and reproachful reminiscences, from Art and Theosophy; perhaps some
tenderer regrets withal. A crisis in life had come; when, of innumerable
possibilities one possibility was to be elected king, and to swallow all
the rest, the rest of course made noise enough, and swelled themselves
to their biggest.


Meanwhile the ship was fast getting ready: on a certain day, it was
to drop quietly down the Thames; then touch at Deal, and take on board
Torrijos and his adventurers, who were to be in waiting and on the
outlook for them there. Let every man lay in his accoutrements, then;
let every man make his packages, his arrangements and farewells.
Sterling went to take leave of Miss Barton. "You are going, then; to
Spain? To rough it amid the storms of war and perilous insurrection; and
with that weak health of yours; and--we shall never see you more, then!"
Miss Barton, all her gayety gone, the dimpling softness become liquid
sorrow, and the musical ringing voice one wail of woe, "burst into
tears,"--so I have it on authority:--here was one possibility about to
be strangled that made unexpected noise! Sterling's interview ended in
the offer of his hand, and the acceptance of it;--any sacrifice to get
rid of this horrid Spanish business, and save the health and life of a
gifted young man so precious to the world and to another!

"Ill-health," as often afterwards in Sterling's life, when the excuse
was real enough but not the chief excuse; "ill-health, and insuperable
obstacles and engagements," had to bear the chief brunt in apologizing:
and, as Sterling's actual presence, or that of any Englishman except
Boyd and his money, was not in the least vital to the adventure, his
excuse was at once accepted. The English connections and subscriptions
are a given fact, to be presided over by what English volunteers there
are: and as for Englishmen, the fewer Englishmen that go, the larger
will be the share of influence for each. The other adventurers, Torrijos
among them in due readiness, moved silently one by one down to Deal;
Sterling, superintending the naval hands, on board their ship in
the Thames, was to see the last finish given to everything in that
department; then, on the set evening, to drop down quietly to Deal, and
there say _Andad con Dios_, and return.

Behold! Just before the set evening came, the Spanish Envoy at this
Court has got notice of what is going on; the Spanish Envoy, and of
course the British Foreign Secretary, and of course also the Thames
Police. Armed men spring suddenly on board, one day, while Sterling is
there; declare the ship seized and embargoed in the King's name; nobody
on board to stir till he has given some account of himself in due time
and place! Huge consternation, naturally, from stem to stern. Sterling,
whose presence of mind seldom forsook him, casts his eye over the River
and its craft; sees a wherry, privately signals it, drops rapidly on
board of it: "Stop!" fiercely interjects the marine policeman from the
ship's deck.--"Why stop? What use have you for me, or I for you?" and
the oars begin playing.--"Stop, or I'll shoot you!" cries the marine
policeman, drawing a pistol.--"No, you won't."--"I will!"--"If you do
you'll be hanged at the next Maidstone assizes, then; that's all,"--and
Sterling's wherry shot rapidly ashore; and out of this perilous
adventure.

That same night he posted down to Deal; disclosed to the Torrijos party
what catastrophe had come. No passage Spainward from the Thames; well
if arrestment do not suddenly come from the Thames! It was on this
occasion, I suppose, that the passage in the open boat to St. Valery
occurred;--speedy flight in what boat or boats, open or shut, could
be got at Deal on the sudden. Sterling himself, according to Hare's
authority, actually went with them so far. Enough, they got shipping,
as private passengers in one craft or the other; and, by degrees or at
once, arrived all at Gibraltar,--Boyd, one or two young democrats of
Regent Street, the fifty picked Spaniards, and Torrijos,--safe, though
without arms; still in the early part of the year.



CHAPTER XI. MARRIAGE: ILL-HEALTH; WEST-INDIES.

Sterling's outlooks and occupations, now that his Spanish friends were
gone, must have been of a rather miscellaneous confused description.
He had the enterprise of a married life close before him; and as yet
no profession, no fixed pursuit whatever. His health was already very
threatening; often such as to disable him from present activity,
and occasion the gravest apprehensions; practically blocking up all
important courses whatsoever, and rendering the future, if even
life were lengthened and he had any future, an insolubility for him.
Parliament was shut, public life was shut: Literature,--if, alas, any
solid fruit could lie in literature!

Or perhaps one's health would mend, after all; and many things be better
than was hoped! Sterling was not of a despondent temper, or given in
any measure to lie down and indolently moan: I fancy he walked briskly
enough into this tempestuous-looking future; not heeding too much its
thunderous aspects; doing swiftly, for the day, what his hand found to
do. _Arthur Coningsby_, I suppose, lay on the anvil at present; visits
to Coleridge were now again more possible; grand news from Torrijos
might be looked for, though only small yet came:--nay here, in the hot
July, is France, at least, all thrown into volcano again! Here are the
miraculous Three Days; heralding, in thunder, great things to Torrijos
and others; filling with babblement and vaticination the mouths and
hearts of all democratic men.

So rolled along, in tumult of chaotic remembrance and uncertain hope,
in manifold emotion, and the confused struggle (for Sterling as for
the world) to extricate the New from the falling ruins of the Old, the
summer and autumn of 1830. From Gibraltar and Torrijos the tidings were
vague, unimportant and discouraging: attempt on Cadiz, attempt on the
lines of St. Roch, those attempts, or rather resolutions to attempt,
had died in the birth, or almost before it. Men blamed Torrijos, little
knowing his impediments. Boyd was still patient at his post: others of
the young English (on the strength of the subscribed moneys) were said
to be thinking of tours,--perhaps in the Sierra Morena and neighboring
Quixote regions. From that Torrijos enterprise it did not seem that
anything considerable would come.


On the edge of winter, here at home, Sterling was married: "at
Christchurch, Marylebone, 2d November, 1830," say the records. His
blooming, kindly and true-hearted Wife had not much money, nor had he as
yet any: but friends on both sides were bountiful and hopeful; had
made up, for the young couple, the foundations of a modestly effective
household; and in the future there lay more substantial prospects. On
the finance side Sterling never had anything to suffer. His Wife, though
somewhat languid, and of indolent humor, was a graceful, pious-minded,
honorable and affectionate woman; she could not much support him in the
ever-shifting struggles of his life, but she faithfully attended him in
them, and loyally marched by his side through the changes and nomadic
pilgrimings, of which many were appointed him in his short course.

Unhappily a few weeks after his marriage, and before any household was
yet set up, he fell dangerously ill; worse in health than he had ever
yet been: so many agitations crowded into the last few months had been
too much for him. He fell into dangerous pulmonary illness, sank ever
deeper; lay for many weeks in his Father's house utterly prostrate,
his young Wife and his Mother watching over him; friends, sparingly
admitted, long despairing of his life. All prospects in this world were
now apparently shut upon him.

After a while, came hope again, and kindlier symptoms: but the doctors
intimated that there lay consumption in the question, and that perfect
recovery was not to be looked for. For weeks he had been confined to
bed; it was several months before he could leave his sick-room,
where the visits of a few friends had much cheered him. And now when
delivered, readmitted to the air of day again,--weak as he was, and with
such a liability still lurking in him,--what his young partner and he
were to do, or whitherward to turn for a good course of life, was by no
means too apparent.


One of his Mother Mrs. Edward Sterling's Uncles, a Coningham from Derry,
had, in the course of his industrious and adventurous life, realized
large property in the West Indies,--a valuable Sugar-estate, with its
equipments, in the Island of St. Vincent;--from which Mrs. Sterling
and her family were now, and had been for some years before her Uncle's
decease, deriving important benefits. I have heard, it was then worth
some ten thousand pounds a year to the parties interested. Anthony
Sterling, John, and another a cousin of theirs were ultimately to be
heirs, in equal proportions. The old gentleman, always kind to his
kindred, and a brave and solid man though somewhat abrupt in his ways,
had lately died; leaving a settlement to this effect, not without some
intricacies, and almost caprices, in the conditions attached.

This property, which is still a valuable one, was Sterling's chief
pecuniary outlook for the distant future. Of course it well deserved
taking care of; and if the eye of the master were upon it, of course
too (according to the adage) the cattle would fatten better. As the
warm climate was favorable to pulmonary complaints, and Sterling's
occupations were so shattered to pieces and his outlooks here so waste
and vague, why should not he undertake this duty for himself and others?

It was fixed upon as the eligiblest course. A visit to St. Vincent,
perhaps a permanent residence there: he went into the project with his
customary impetuosity; his young Wife cheerfully consenting, and all
manner of new hopes clustering round it. There are the rich tropical
sceneries, the romance of the torrid zone with its new skies and
seas and lands; there are Blacks, and the Slavery question to be
investigated: there are the bronzed Whites and Yellows, and their
strange new way of life: by all means let us go and try!--Arrangements
being completed, so soon as his strength had sufficiently recovered, and
the harsh spring winds had sufficiently abated, Sterling with his small
household set sail for St. Vincent; and arrived without accident. His
first child, a son Edward, now living and grown to manhood, was born
there, "at Brighton in the Island of St. Vincent," in the fall of that
year 1831.



CHAPTER XII. ISLAND OF ST. VINCENT.

Sterling found a pleasant residence, with all its adjuncts, ready
for him, at Colonarie, in this "volcanic Isle" under the hot sun. An
interesting Isle: a place of rugged chasms, precipitous gnarled
heights, and the most fruitful hollows; shaggy everywhere with luxuriant
vegetation; set under magnificent skies, in the mirror of the summer
seas; offering everywhere the grandest sudden outlooks and contrasts.
His Letters represent a placidly cheerful riding life: a pensive humor,
but the thunder-clouds all sleeping in the distance. Good relations
with a few neighboring planters; indifference to the noisy political
and other agitations of the rest: friendly, by no means romantic
appreciation of the Blacks; quiet prosperity economic and domestic: on
the whole a healthy and recommendable way of life, with Literature very
much in abeyance in it.

He writes to Mr. Hare (date not given): "The landscapes around me here
are noble and lovely as any that can be conceived on Earth. How indeed
could it be otherwise, in a small Island of volcanic mountains,
far within the Tropics, and perpetually covered with the richest
vegetation?" The moral aspect of things is by no means so good; but
neither is that without its fair features. "So far as I see, the Slaves
here are cunning, deceitful and idle; without any great aptitude for
ferocious crimes, and with very little scruple at committing others. But
I have seen them much only in very favorable circumstances. They are,
as a body, decidedly unfit for freedom; and if left, as at present,
completely in the hands of their masters, will never become so, unless
through the agency of the Methodists." [9]

In the Autumn came an immense hurricane; with new and indeed quite
perilous experiences of West-Indian life. This hasty Letter, addressed
to his Mother, is not intrinsically his remarkablest from St. Vincent:
but the body of fact delineated in it being so much the greatest, we
will quote it in preference. A West-Indian tornado, as John Sterling
witnesses it, and with vivid authenticity describes it, may be
considered worth looking at.

       "_To Mrs. Sterling, South Place, Knightsbridge, London_.
                            "BRIGHTON, ST. VINCENT, 28th August, 1831.

"MY DEAR MOTHER,--The packet came in yesterday; bringing me some
Newspapers, a Letter from my Father, and one from Anthony, with a few
lines from you. I wrote, some days ago, a hasty Note to my Father,
on the chance of its reaching you through Grenada sooner than any
communication by the packet; and in it I spoke of the great misfortune
which had befallen this Island and Barbadoes, but from which all those
you take an interest in have happily escaped unhurt.

"From the day of our arrival in the West Indies until Thursday the 11th
instant, which will long be a memorable day with us, I had been doing my
best to get ourselves established comfortably; and I had at last bought
the materials for making some additions to the house. But on the morning
I have mentioned, all that I had exerted myself to do, nearly all the
property both of Susan and myself, and the very house we lived in, were
suddenly destroyed by a visitation of Providence far more terrible than
any I have ever witnessed.

"When Susan came from her room, to breakfast, at eight o'clock, I
pointed out to her the extraordinary height and violence of the surf,
and the singular appearance of the clouds of heavy rain sweeping down
the valleys before us. At this time I had so little apprehension of what
was coming, that I talked of riding down to the shore when the storm
should abate, as I had never seen so fierce a sea. In about a quarter of
an hour the House-Negroes came in, to close the outside shutters of the
windows. They knew that the plantain-trees about the Negro houses had
been blown down in the night; and had told the maid-servant Tyrrell, but
I had heard nothing of it. A very few minutes after the closing of the
windows, I found that the shutters of Tyrrell's room, at the south and
commonly the most sheltered end of the House, were giving way. I tried
to tie them; but the silk handkerchief which I used soon gave way;
and as I had neither hammer, boards nor nails in the house, I could do
nothing more to keep out the tempest. I found, in pushing at the leaf of
the shutter, that the wind resisted, more as if it had been a stone wall
or a mass of iron, than a mere current of air. There were one or two
people outside trying to fasten the windows, and I went out to help; but
we had no tools at hand: one man was blown down the hill in front of the
house, before my face; and the other and myself had great difficulty in
getting back again inside the door. The rain on my face and hands felt
like so much small shot from a gun. There was great exertion necessary
to shut the door of the house.

"The windows at the end of the large room were now giving way; and I
suppose it was about nine o'clock, when the hurricane burst them in, as
if it had been a discharge from a battery of heavy cannon. The shutters
were first forced open, and the wind fastened them back to the wall;
and then the panes of glass were smashed by the mere force of the gale,
without anything having touched them. Even now I was not at all sure the
house would go. My books, I saw, were lost; for the rain poured past the
bookcases, as if it had been the Colonarie River. But we carried a good
deal of furniture into the passage at the entrance; we set Susan there
on a sofa, and the Black Housekeeper was even attempting to get her some
breakfast. The house, however, began to shake so violently, and the rain
was so searching, that she could not stay there long. She went into her
own room and I stayed to see what could be done.

"Under the forepart of the house, there are cellars built of stone,
but not arched. To these, however, there was no access except on the
outside; and I knew from my own experience that Susan could not have
gone a step beyond the door, without being carried away by the storm,
and probably killed on the spot. The only chance seemed to be that of
breaking through the floor. But when the old Cook and myself resolved on
this, we found that we had no instrument with which it would be possible
to do it. It was now clear that we had only God to trust in. The front
windows were giving way with successive crashes, and the floor shook
as you may have seen a carpet on a gusty day in London. I went into
our bedroom; where I found Susan, Tyrrell, and a little Colored girl of
seven or eight years old; and told them that we should probably not
be alive in half an hour. I could have escaped, if I had chosen to go
alone, by crawling on the ground either into the kitchen, a separate
stone building at no great distance, or into the open fields away from
trees or houses; but Susan could not have gone a yard. She became quite
calm when she knew the worst; and she sat on my knee in what seemed the
safest corner of the room, while every blast was bringing nearer and
nearer the moment of our seemingly certain destruction.--

"The house was under two parallel roofs; and the one next the sea,
which sheltered the other, and us who were under the other, went off, I
suppose about ten o'clock. After my old plan, I will give you a sketch,
from which you may perceive how we were situated:--

      [In print, a figure representing a floor-plan appears here]

The _a_, _a_ are the windows that were first destroyed: _b_ went next;
my books were between the windows _b_, and on the wall opposite to them.
The lines _c_ and _d_ mark the directions of the two roofs; _e_ is the
room in which we were, and 2 is a plan of it on a larger scale. Look
now at 2: _a_ is the bed; _c_, _c_ the two wardrobes; _b_ the corner
in which we were. I was sitting in an arm-chair, holding my Wife; and
Tyrrell and the little Black child were close to us. We had given up all
notion of surviving; and only waited for the fall of the roof to perish
together.

"Before long the roof went. Most of the materials, however, were carried
clear away: one of the large couples was caught on the bedpost marked
_d_, and held fast by the iron spike; while the end of it hung over our
heads: had the beam fallen an inch on either side of the bedpost, it
must necessarily have crushed us. The walls did not go with the roof;
and we remained for half an hour, alternately praying to God, and
watching them as they bent, creaked, and shivered before the storm.

"Tyrrell and the child, when the roof was off, made their way through
the remains of the partition, to the outer door; and with the help of
the people who were looking for us, got into the kitchen. A good while
after they were gone, and before we knew anything of their fate, a Negro
suddenly came upon us; and the sight of him gave us a hope of safety.
When the people learned that we were in danger, and while their own huts
were flying about their ears, they crowded to help us; and the old
Cook urged them on to our rescue. He made five attempts, after saving
Tyrrell, to get to us; and four times he was blown down. The fifth time
he, and the Negro we first saw, reached the house. The space they had
to traverse was not above twenty yards of level ground, if so much. In
another minute or two, the Overseers and a crowd of Negroes, most of
whom had come on their hands and knees, were surrounding us; and with
their help Susan was carried round to the end of the house; where they
broke open the cellar window, and placed her in comparative safety. The
force of the hurricane was, by this time, a good deal diminished, or it
would have been impossible to stand before it.

"But the wind was still terrific; and the rain poured into the cellars
through the floor above. Susan, Tyrrell, and a crowd of Negroes remained
under it, for more than two hours: and I was long afraid that the wet
and cold would kill her, if she did not perish more violently. Happily
we had wine and spirits at hand, and she was much nerved by a tumbler
of claret. As soon as I saw her in comparative security, I went off with
one of the Overseers down to the Works, where the greater number of the
Negroes were collected, that we might see what could be done for them.
They were wretched enough, but no one was hurt; and I ordered them a
dram apiece, which seemed to give them a good deal of consolation.

"Before I could make my way back, the hurricane became as bad as at
first; and I was obliged to take shelter for half an hour in a ruined
Negro house. This, however, was the last of its extreme violence. By
one o'clock, even the rain had in a great degree ceased; and as only
one room of the house, the one marked _f_; was standing, and that
rickety,--I had Susan carried in a chair down the hill, to the Hospital;
where, in a small paved unlighted room, she spent the next twenty-four
hours. She was far less injured than might have been expected from such
a catastrophe.

"Next day, I had the passage at the entrance of the house repaired and
roofed; and we returned to the ruins of our habitation, still encumbered
as they were with the wreck of almost all we were possessed of. The
walls of the part of the house next the sea were carried away, in less I
think than half an hour after we reached the cellar: when I had leisure
to examine the remains of the house, I found the floor strewn with
fragments of the building, and with broken furniture; and our books all
soaked as completely as if they had been for several hours in the sea.

"In the course of a few days I had the other room, _g_, which is under
the same roof as the one saved, rebuilt; and Susan stayed in this
temporary abode for a week,--when we left Colonarie, and came to
Brighton. Mr. Munro's kindness exceeds all precedent. We shall certainly
remain here till my Wife is recovered from her confinement. In the
mean while we shall have a new house built, in which we hope to be well
settled before Christmas.

"The roof was half blown off the kitchen, but I have had it mended
already; the other offices were all swept away. The gig is much injured;
and my horse received a wound in the fall of the stable, from which he
will not be recovered for some weeks: in the mean time I have no choice
but to buy another, as I must go at least once or twice a week to
Colonarie, besides business in Town. As to our own comforts, we can
scarcely expect ever to recover from the blow that has now stricken
us. No money would repay me for the loss of my books, of which a large
proportion had been in my hands for so many years that they were
like old and faithful friends, and of which many had been given me at
different times by the persons in the world whom I most value.

"But against all this I have to set the preservation of our lives, in
a way the most awfully providential; and the safety of every one on the
Estate. And I have also the great satisfaction of reflecting that all
the Negroes from whom any assistance could reasonably be expected,
behaved like so many Heroes of Antiquity; risking their lives and limbs
for us and our property, while their own poor houses were flying like
chaff before the hurricane. There are few White people here who can
say as much for their Black dependents; and the force and value of the
relation between Master and Slave has been tried by the late calamity on
a large scale.

"Great part of both sides of this Island has been laid completely
waste. The beautiful wide and fertile Plain called the Charib Country,
extending for many miles to the north of Colonarie, and formerly
containing the finest sets of works and best dwelling-houses in the
Island, is, I am told, completely desolate: on several estates not a
roof even of a Negro hut standing. In the embarrassed circumstances of
many of the proprietors, the ruin is, I fear, irreparable.--At Colonarie
the damage is serious, but by no means desperate. The crop is perhaps
injured ten or fifteen per cent. The roofs of several large buildings
are destroyed, but these we are already supplying; and the injuries done
to the cottages of the Negroes are, by this time, nearly if not quite
remedied.

"Indeed, all that has been suffered in St. Vincent appears nothing
when compared with the appalling loss of property and of human lives at
Barbadoes. There the Town is little but a heap of ruins, and the corpses
are reckoned by thousands; while throughout the Island there are not, I
believe, ten estates on which the buildings are standing. The Elliotts,
from whom we have heard, are living with all their family in a tent; and
may think themselves wonderfully saved, when whole families round them
were crushed at once beneath their houses. Hugh Barton, the only officer
of the Garrison hurt, has broken his arm, and we know nothing of his
prospects of recovery. The more horrible misfortune of Barbadoes is
partly to be accounted for by the fact of the hurricane having begun
there during the night. The flatness of the surface in that Island
presented no obstacle to the wind, which must, however, I think have
been in itself more furious than with us. No other island has suffered
considerably.

"I have told both my Uncle and Anthony that I have given you the details
of our recent history;--which are not so pleasant that I should wish to
write them again. Perhaps you will be good enough to let them see this,
as soon as you and my Father can spare it.... I am ever, dearest Mother,

                    "Your grateful and affectionate
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

This Letter, I observe, is dated 28th August, 1831; which is otherwise a
day of mark to the world and me,--the Poet Goethe's last birthday. While
Sterling sat in the Tropical solitudes, penning this history, little
European Weimar had its carriages and state-carriages busy on the
streets, and was astir with compliments and visiting-cards, doing its
best, as heretofore, on behalf of a remarkable day; and was not, for
centuries or tens of centuries, to see the like of it again!--


At Brighton, the hospitable home of those Munros, our friends continued
for above two months. Their first child, Edward, as above noticed, was
born here, "14th October, 1831;"--and now the poor lady, safe from all
her various perils, could return to Colonarie under good auspices.

It was in this year that I first heard definitely of Sterling as a
contemporary existence; and laid up some note and outline of him in my
memory, as of one whom I might yet hope to know. John Mill, Mrs. Austin
and perhaps other friends, spoke of him with great affection and much
pitying admiration; and hoped to see him home again, under better omens,
from over the seas. As a gifted amiable being, of a certain radiant
tenuity and velocity, too thin and rapid and diffusive, in danger of
dissipating himself into the vague, or alas into death itself: it was
so that, like a spot of bright colors, rather than a portrait with
features, he hung occasionally visible in my imagination.



CHAPTER XIII. A CATASTROPHE.

The ruin of his house had hardly been repaired, when there arrived out
of Europe tidings which smote as with a still more fatal hurricane on
the four corners of his inner world, and awoke all the old thunders that
lay asleep on his horizon there. Tidings, at last of a decisive nature,
from Gibraltar and the Spanish democrat adventure. This is what the
Newspapers had to report--the catastrophe at once, the details by
degrees--from Spain concerning that affair, in the beginning of the new
year 1832.

Torrijos, as we have seen, had hitherto accomplished as good as nothing,
except disappointment to his impatient followers, and sorrow and regret
to himself. Poor Torrijos, on arriving at Gibraltar with his wild band,
and coming into contact with the rough fact, had found painfully how
much his imagination had deceived him. The fact lay round him haggard
and iron-bound; flatly refusing to be handled according to his scheme
of it. No Spanish soldiery nor citizenry showed the least disposition to
join him; on the contrary the official Spaniards of that coast seemed
to have the watchfulest eye on all his movements, nay it was conjectured
they had spies in Gibraltar who gathered his very intentions and
betrayed them. This small project of attack, and then that other,
proved futile, or was abandoned before the attempt. Torrijos had to lie
painfully within the lines of Gibraltar,--his poor followers reduced to
extremity of impatience and distress; the British Governor too, though
not unfriendly to him, obliged to frown. As for the young Cantabs, they,
as was said, had wandered a little over the South border of romantic
Spain; had perhaps seen Seville, Cadiz, with picturesque views, since
not with belligerent ones; and their money being done, had now returned
home. So had it lasted for eighteen months.

The French Three Days breaking out had armed the Guerrillero Mina, armed
all manner of democratic guerrieros and guerrilleros; and considerable
clouds of Invasion, from Spanish exiles, hung minatory over the North
and North-East of Spain, supported by the new-born French Democracy,
so far as privately possible. These Torrijos had to look upon with
inexpressible feelings, and take no hand in supporting from the South;
these also he had to see brushed away, successively abolished by
official generalship; and to sit within his lines, in the painfulest
manner, unable to do anything. The fated, gallant-minded, but too
headlong man. At length the British Governor himself was obliged, in
official decency and as is thought on repeated remonstrance from his
Spanish official neighbors, to signify how indecorous, improper
and impossible it was to harbor within one's lines such explosive
preparations, once they were discovered, against allies in full peace
with us,--the necessity, in fact, there was for the matter ending. It
is said, he offered Torrijos and his people passports, and British
protection, to any country of the world except Spain: Torrijos did not
accept the passports; spoke of going peaceably to this place or to that;
promised at least, what he saw and felt to be clearly necessary, that he
would soon leave Gibraltar. And he did soon leave it; he and his, Boyd
alone of the Englishmen being now with him.

It was on the last night of November, 1831, that they all set forth;
Torrijos with Fifty-five companions; and in two small vessels committed
themselves to their nigh-desperate fortune. No sentry or official person
had noticed them; it was from the Spanish Consul, next morning, that the
British Governor first heard they were gone. The British Governor knew
nothing of them; but apparently the Spanish officials were much better
informed. Spanish guardships, instantly awake, gave chase to the two
small vessels, which were making all sail towards Malaga; and, on shore,
all manner of troops and detached parties were in motion, to render a
retreat to Gibraltar by land impossible.

Crowd all sail for Malaga, then; there perhaps a regiment will join us;
there,--or if not, we are but lost! Fancy need not paint a more tragic
situation than that of Torrijos, the unfortunate gallant man, in the
gray of this morning, first of December, 1831,--his last free morning.
Noble game is afoot, afoot at last; and all the hunters have him in
their toils.--The guardships gain upon Torrijos; he cannot even reach
Malaga; has to run ashore at a place called Fuengirola, not far from
that city;--the guardships seizing his vessels, so soon as he
is disembarked. The country is all up; troops scouring the coast
everywhere: no possibility of getting into Malaga with a party of
Fifty-five. He takes possession of a farmstead (Ingles, the place is
called); barricades himself there, but is speedily beleaguered with
forces hopelessly superior. He demands to treat; is refused all treaty;
is granted six hours to consider, shall then either surrender at
discretion, or be forced to do it. Of course he _does_ it, having no
alternative; and enters Malaga a prisoner, all his followers prisoners.
Here had the Torrijos Enterprise, and all that was embarked upon it,
finally arrived.

Express is sent to Madrid; express instantly returns; "Military
execution on the instant; give them shriving if they want it; that
done, fusillade them all." So poor Torrijos and his followers, the whole
Fifty-six of them, Robert Boyd included, meet swift death in Malaga.
In such manner rushes down the curtain on them and their affair; they
vanish thus on a sudden; rapt away as in black clouds of fate. Poor
Boyd, Sterling's cousin, pleaded his British citizenship; to no purpose:
it availed only to his dead body, this was delivered to the British
Consul for interment, and only this. Poor Madam Torrijos, hearing,
at Paris where she now was, of her husband's capture, hurries towards
Madrid to solicit mercy; whither also messengers from Lafayette and the
French Government were hurrying, on the like errand: at Bayonne, news
met the poor lady that it was already all over, that she was now a
widow, and her husband hidden from her forever.--Such was the handsel of
the new year 1832 for Sterling in his West-Indian solitudes.


Sterling's friends never heard of these affairs; indeed we were all
secretly warned not to mention the name of Torrijos in his hearing,
which accordingly remained strictly a forbidden subject. His misery over
this catastrophe was known, in his own family, to have been immense. He
wrote to his Brother Anthony: "I hear the sound of that musketry; it is
as if the bullets were tearing my own brain." To figure in one's sick
and excited imagination such a scene of fatal man-hunting, lost valor
hopelessly captured and massacred; and to add to it, that the victims
are not men merely, that they are noble and dear forms known lately
as individual friends: what a Dance of the Furies and wild-pealing
Dead-march is this, for the mind of a loving, generous and vivid man!
Torrijos getting ashore at Fuengirola; Robert Boyd and others ranked
to die on the esplanade at Malaga--Nay had not Sterling, too, been the
innocent yet heedless means of Boyd's embarking in this enterprise? By
his own kinsman poor Boyd had been witlessly guided into the pitfalls.
"I hear the sound of that musketry; it is as if the bullets were tearing
my own brain!"



CHAPTER XIV. PAUSE.

These thoughts dwelt long with Sterling; and for a good while, I fancy,
kept possession of the proscenium of his mind; madly parading there, to
the exclusion of all else,--coloring all else with their own black hues.
He was young, rich in the power to be miserable or otherwise; and this
was his first grand sorrow which had now fallen upon him.

An important spiritual crisis, coming at any rate in some form, had
hereby suddenly in a very sad form come. No doubt, as youth was passing
into manhood in these Tropical seclusions, and higher wants were
awakening in his mind, and years and reflection were adding new insight
and admonition, much in his young way of thought and action lay already
under ban with him, and repentances enough over many things were not
wanting. But here on a sudden had all repentances, as it were, dashed
themselves together into one grand whirlwind of repentance; and his
past life was fallen wholly as into a state of reprobation. A great
remorseful misery had come upon him. Suddenly, as with a sudden
lightning-stroke, it had kindled into conflagration all the ruined
structure of his past life; such ruin had to blaze and flame round
him, in the painfulest manner, till it went out in black ashes. His
democratic philosophies, and mutinous radicalisms, already falling
doomed in his thoughts, had reached their consummation and final
condemnation here. It was all so rash, imprudent, arrogant, all
that; false, or but half true; inapplicable wholly as a rule of noble
conduct;--and it has ended _thus_. Woe on it! Another guidance must be
found in life, or life is impossible!--

It is evident, Sterling's thoughts had already, since the old days of
the "black dragoon," much modified themselves. We perceive that, by mere
increase of experience and length of time, the opposite and much deeper
side of the question, which also has its adamantine basis of truth, was
in turn coming into play; and in fine that a Philosophy of Denial, and
world illuminated merely by the flames of Destruction, could never have
permanently been the resting-place of such a man. Those pilgrimings to
Coleridge, years ago, indicate deeper wants beginning to be felt, and
important ulterior resolutions becoming inevitable for him. If in your
own soul there is any tone of the "Eternal Melodies," you cannot live
forever in those poor outer, transitory grindings and discords; you will
have to struggle inwards and upwards, in search of some diviner home
for yourself!--Coleridge's prophetic moonshine, Torrijos's sad tragedy:
those were important occurrences in Sterling's life. But, on the whole,
there was a big Ocean for him, with impetuous Gulf-streams, and a doomed
voyage in quest of the Atlantis, _before_ either of those arose as
lights on the horizon. As important beacon-lights let us count them
nevertheless;--signal-dates they form to us, at lowest. We may
reckon this Torrijos tragedy the crisis of Sterling's history; the
turning-point, which modified, in the most important and by no means
wholly in the most favorable manner, all the subsequent stages of it.


Old Radicalism and mutinous audacious Ethnicism having thus fallen
to wreck, and a mere black world of misery and remorse now disclosing
itself, whatsoever of natural piety to God and man, whatsoever of pity
and reverence, of awe and devout hope was in Sterling's heart now awoke
into new activity; and strove for some due utterance and predominance.
His Letters, in these months, speak of earnest religious studies and
efforts;--of attempts by prayer and longing endeavor of all kinds, to
struggle his way into the temple, if temple there were, and there find
sanctuary. [10] The realities were grown so haggard; life a field of
black ashes, if there rose no temple anywhere on it! Why, like a fated
Orestes, is man so whipt by the Furies, and driven madly hither and
thither, if it is not even that he may seek some shrine, and there make
expiation and find deliverance?

In these circumstances, what a scope for Coleridge's philosophy, above
all! "If the bottled moonshine _be_ actually substance? Ah, could one
but believe in a Church while finding it incredible! What is faith; what
is conviction, credibility, insight? Can a thing be at once known for
true, and known for false? 'Reason,' 'Understanding:' is there, then,
such an internecine war between these two? It was so Coleridge
imagined it, the wisest of existing men!"--No, it is not an easy matter
(according to Sir Kenelm Digby), this of getting up your "astral spirit"
of a thing, and setting it in action, when the thing itself is well
burnt to ashes. Poor Sterling; poor sons of Adam in general, in this sad
age of cobwebs, worn-out symbolisms, reminiscences and simulacra! Who
can tell the struggles of poor Sterling, and his pathless wanderings
through these things! Long afterwards, in speech with his Brother,
he compared his case in this time to that of "a young lady who has
tragically lost her lover, and is willing to be half-hoodwinked into a
convent, or in any noble or quasi-noble way to escape from a world which
has become intolerable."


During the summer of 1832, I find traces of attempts towards
Anti-Slavery Philanthropy; shadows of extensive schemes in that
direction. Half-desperate outlooks, it is likely, towards the refuge of
Philanthropism, as a new chivalry of life. These took no serious hold
of so clear an intellect; but they hovered now and afterwards as
day-dreams, when life otherwise was shorn of aim;--mirages in the
desert, which are found not to be lakes when you put your bucket into
them. One thing was clear, the sojourn in St. Vincent was not to last
much longer.

Perhaps one might get some scheme raised into life, in Downing Street,
for universal Education to the Blacks, preparatory to emancipating
them? There were a noble work for a man! Then again poor Mrs. Sterling's
health, contrary to his own, did not agree with warm moist climates.
And again, &c. &c. These were the outer surfaces of the measure; the
unconscious pretexts under which it showed itself to Sterling and
was shown by him: but the inner heart and determining cause of it (as
frequently in Sterling's life, and in all our lives) was not these. In
brief, he had had enough of St. Vincent. The strangling oppressions of
his soul were too heavy for him there. Solution lay in Europe, or might
lie; not in these remote solitudes of the sea,--where no shrine or
saint's well is to be looked for, no communing of pious pilgrims
journeying together towards a shrine.



CHAPTER XV. BONN; HERSTMONCEUX.

After a residence of perhaps fifteen months Sterling quitted St.
Vincent, and never returned. He reappeared at his Father's house, to the
joy of English friends, in August, 1832; well improved in health, and
eager for English news; but, beyond vague schemes and possibilities,
considerably uncertain what was next to be done.

After no long stay in this scene,--finding Downing Street dead as stone
to the Slave-Education and to all other schemes,--he went across, with
his wife and child, to Germany; purposing to make not so much a tour
as some loose ramble, or desultory residence in that country, in the
Rhineland first of all. Here was to be hoped the picturesque in scenery,
which he much affected; here the new and true in speculation, which
he inwardly longed for and wanted greatly more; at all events, here as
readily as elsewhere might a temporary household be struck up, under
interesting circumstances.--I conclude he went across in the Spring
of 1833; perhaps directly after _Arthur Coningsby_ had got through the
press. This Novel, which, as we have said, was begun two or three years
ago, probably on his cessation from the _Athenaeum_, and was mainly
finished, I think, before the removal to St. Vincent, had by this time
fallen as good as obsolete to his own mind; and its destination now,
whether to the press or to the fire, was in some sort a matter at once
of difficulty and of insignificance to him. At length deciding for the
milder alternative, he had thrown in some completing touches here
and there,--especially, as I conjecture, a proportion of Coleridgean
moonshine at the end; and so sent it forth.

It was in the sunny days, perhaps in May or June of this year, that
_Arthur Coningsby_ reached my own hand, far off amid the heathy
wildernesses; sent by John Mill: and I can still recollect the pleasant
little episode it made in my solitude there. The general impression it
left on me, which has never since been renewed by a second reading in
whole or in part, was the certain prefigurement to myself, more or
less distinct, of an opulent, genial and sunny mind, but misdirected,
disappointed, experienced in misery;--nay crude and hasty; mistaking for
a solid outcome from its woes what was only to me a gilded vacuity. The
hero an ardent youth, representing Sterling himself, plunges into
life such as we now have it in these anarchic times, with the radical,
utilitarian, or mutinous heathen theory, which is the readiest for
inquiring souls; finds, by various courses of adventure, utter shipwreck
in this; lies broken, very wretched: that is the tragic nodus, or
apogee of his life-course. In this mood of mind, he clutches desperately
towards some new method (recognizable as Coleridge's) of laying hand
again on the old Church, which has hitherto been extraneous and as
if non-extant to his way of thought; makes out, by some Coleridgean
legedermain, that there actually is still a Church for him; that this
extant Church, which he long took for an extinct shadow, is not such,
but a substance; upon which he can anchor himself amid the storms of
fate;--and he does so, even taking orders in it, I think. Such could
by no means seem to me the true or tenable solution. Here clearly,
struggling amid the tumults, was a lovable young fellow-soul; who had
by no means yet got to land; but of whom much might be hoped, if he ever
did. Some of the delineations are highly pictorial, flooded with a
deep ruddy effulgence; betokening much wealth, in the crude or the ripe
state. The hope of perhaps, one day, knowing Sterling, was welcome
and interesting to me. _Arthur Coningsby_, struggling imperfectly in a
sphere high above circulating-library novels, gained no notice whatever
in that quarter; gained, I suppose in a few scattered heads, some such
recognition as the above; and there rested. Sterling never mentioned the
name of it in my hearing, or would hear it mentioned.


In those very days while _Arthur Coningsby_ was getting read amid the
Scottish moors, "in June, 1833," Sterling, at Bonn in the Rhine-country,
fell in with his old tutor and friend, the Reverend Julius Hare; one
with whom he always delighted to communicate, especially on such topics
as then altogether occupied him. A man of cheerful serious character, of
much approved accomplishment, of perfect courtesy; surely of much piety,
in all senses of that word. Mr. Hare had quitted his scholastic labors
and distinctions, some time ago; the call or opportunity for taking
orders having come; and as Rector of Herstmonceux in Sussex, a place
patrimonially and otherwise endeared to him, was about entering, under
the best omens, on a new course of life. He was now on his return from
Rome, and a visit of some length to Italy. Such a meeting could not
but be welcome and important to Sterling in such a mood. They had
much earnest conversation, freely communing on the highest matters;
especially of Sterling's purpose to undertake the clerical profession,
in which course his reverend friend could not but bid him good speed.

It appears, Sterling already intimated his intention to become a
clergyman: He would study theology, biblicalities, perfect himself in
the knowledge seemly or essential for his new course;--read diligently
"for a year or two in some good German University," then seek to obtain
orders: that was his plan. To which Mr. Hare gave his hearty _Euge_;
adding that if his own curacy happened then to be vacant, he should be
well pleased to have Sterling in that office. So they parted.

"A year or two" of serious reflection "in some good German University,"
or anywhere in the world, might have thrown much elucidation upon these
confused strugglings and purposings of Sterling's, and probably have
spared him some confusion in his subsequent life. But the talent of
waiting was, of all others, the one he wanted most. Impetuous velocity,
all-hoping headlong alacrity, what we must call rashness and impatience,
characterized him in most of his important and unimportant procedures;
from the purpose to the execution there was usually but one big leap
with him. A few months after Mr. Hare was gone, Sterling wrote that his
purposes were a little changed by the late meeting at Bonn; that he now
longed to enter the Church straightway: that if the Herstmonceux Curacy
was still vacant, and the Rector's kind thought towards him still held,
he would instantly endeavor to qualify himself for that office.

Answer being in the affirmative on both heads, Sterling returned to
England; took orders,--"ordained deacon at Chichester on Trinity Sunday
in 1834" (he never became technically priest):--and so, having fitted
himself and family with a reasonable house, in one of those leafy lanes
in quiet Herstmonceux, on the edge of Pevensey Level, he commenced the
duties of his Curacy.


The bereaved young lady has _taken_ the veil, then! Even so. "Life is
growing all so dark and brutal; must be redeemed into human, if it will
continue life. Some pious heroism, to give a human color to life again,
on any terms,"--even on impossible ones!

To such length can transcendental moonshine, cast by some morbidly
radiating Coleridge into the chaos of a fermenting life, act magically
there, and produce divulsions and convulsions and diseased developments.
So dark and abstruse, without lamp or authentic finger-post, is the
course of pious genius towards the Eternal Kingdoms grown. No fixed
highway more; the old spiritual highways and recognized paths to the
Eternal, now all torn up and flung in heaps, submerged in unutterable
boiling mud-oceans of Hypocrisy and Unbelievability, of brutal living
Atheism and damnable dead putrescent Cant: surely a tragic pilgrimage
for all mortals; Darkness, and the mere shadow of Death, enveloping all
things from pole to pole; and in the raging gulf-currents, offering us
will-o'-wisps for loadstars,--intimating that there are no stars, nor
ever were, except certain Old-Jew ones which have now gone out. Once
more, a tragic pilgrimage for all mortals; and for the young pious soul,
winged with genius, and passionately seeking land, and passionately
abhorrent of floating carrion withal, more tragical than for any!--A
pilgrimage we must all undertake nevertheless, and make the best of
with our respective means. Some arrive; a glorious few: many must be
lost,--go down upon the floating wreck which they took for land. Nay,
courage! These also, so far as there was any heroism in them, have
bequeathed their life as a contribution to us, have valiantly laid their
bodies in the chasm for us: of these also there is no ray of heroism
_lost_,--and, on the whole, what else of them could or should be "saved"
at any time? Courage, and ever Forward!

Concerning this attempt of Sterling's to find sanctuary in the old
Church, and desperately grasp the hem of her garment in such manner,
there will at present be many opinions: and mine must be recorded here
in flat reproval of it, in mere pitying condemnation of it, as a rash,
false, unwise and unpermitted step. Nay, among the evil lessons of his
Time to poor Sterling, I cannot but account this the worst; properly
indeed, as we may say, the apotheosis, the solemn apology and
consecration, of all the evil lessons that were in it to him. Alas, if
we did remember the divine and awful nature of God's Truth, and had not
so forgotten it as poor doomed creatures never did before,--should we,
durst we in our most audacious moments, think of wedding _it_ to the
World's Untruth, which is also, like all untruths, the Devil's? Only in
the world's last lethargy can such things be done, and accounted safe
and pious! Fools! "Do you think the Living God is a buzzard idol,"
sternly asks Milton, that you dare address Him in this manner?--Such
darkness, thick sluggish clouds of cowardice and oblivious baseness,
have accumulated on us: thickening as if towards the eternal sleep!
It is not now known, what never needed proof or statement before, that
Religion is not a doubt; that it is a certainty,--or else a mockery and
horror. That none or all of the many things we are in doubt about, and
need to have demonstrated and rendered probable, can by any alchemy be
made a "Religion" for us; but are and must continue a baleful, quiet or
unquiet, Hypocrisy for us; and bring--_salvation_, do we fancy? I think,
it is another thing they will bring, and are, on all hands, visibly
bringing this good while!--


The time, then, with its deliriums, has done its worst for poor
Sterling. Into deeper aberration it cannot lead him; this is the
crowning error. Happily, as beseems the superlative of errors, it was
a very brief, almost a momentary one. In June, 1834, Sterling dates as
installed at Herstmonceux; and is flinging, as usual, his whole soul
into the business; successfully so far as outward results could show:
but already in September, he begins to have misgivings; and in February
following, quits it altogether,--the rest of his life being, in great
part, a laborious effort of detail to pick the fragments of it off him,
and be free of it in soul as well as in title.

At this the extreme point of spiritual deflexion and depression, when
the world's madness, unusually impressive on such a man, has done its
very worst with him, and in all future errors whatsoever he will be a
little less mistaken, we may close the First Part of Sterling's Life.



PART II.



CHAPTER I. CURATE.

By Mr. Hare's account, no priest of any Church could more fervently
address himself to his functions than Sterling now did. He went about
among the poor, the ignorant, and those that had need of help; zealously
forwarded schools and beneficences; strove, with his whole might, to
instruct and aid whosoever suffered consciously in body, or still worse
unconsciously in mind. He had charged himself to make the Apostle Paul
his model; the perils and voyagings and ultimate martyrdom of Christian
Paul, in those old ages, on the great scale, were to be translated into
detail, and become the practical emblem of Christian Sterling on the
coast of Sussex in this new age. "It would be no longer from Jerusalem
to Damascus," writes Sterling, "to Arabia, to Derbe, Lystra, Ephesus,
that he would travel: but each house of his appointed Parish would be
to him what each of those great cities was,--a place where he would bend
his whole being, and spend his heart for the conversion, purification,
elevation of those under his influence. The whole man would be
forever at work for this purpose; head, heart, knowledge, time, body,
possessions, all would be directed to this end." A high enough model
set before one:--how to be realized!--Sterling hoped to realize it, to
struggle towards realizing it, in some small degree. This is Mr. Hare's
report of him:--

"He was continually devising some fresh scheme for improving the
condition of the Parish. His aim was to awaken the minds of the
people, to arouse their conscience, to call forth their sense of moral
responsibility, to make them feel their own sinfulness, their need of
redemption, and thus lead them to a recognition of the Divine Love by
which that redemption is offered to us. In visiting them he was diligent
in all weathers, to the risk of his own health, which was greatly
impaired thereby; and his gentleness and considerate care for the sick
won their affection; so that, though his stay was very short, his name
is still, after a dozen years, cherished by many."

How beautiful would Sterling be in all this; rushing forward like a host
towards victory; playing and pulsing like sunshine or soft lightning;
busy at all hours to perform his part in abundant and superabundant
measure! "Of that which it was to me personally," continues Mr. Hare,
"to have such a fellow-laborer, to live constantly in the freest
communion with such a friend, I cannot speak. He came to me at a time of
heavy affliction, just after I had heard that the Brother, who had
been the sharer of all my thoughts and feelings from childhood, had bid
farewell to his earthly life at Rome; and thus he seemed given to me to
make up in some sort for him whom I had lost. Almost daily did I look
out for his usual hour of coming to me, and watch his tall slender
form walking rapidly across the hill in front of my window; with the
assurance that he was coming to cheer and brighten, to rouse and stir
me, to call me up to some height of feeling, or down to some depth of
thought. His lively spirit, responding instantaneously to every impulse
of Nature and Art; his generous ardor in behalf of whatever is noble and
true; his scorn of all meanness, of all false pretences and conventional
beliefs, softened as it was by compassion for the victims of those
besetting sins of a cultivated age; his never-flagging impetuosity in
pushing onward to some unattained point of duty or of knowledge: all
this, along with his gentle, almost reverential affectionateness towards
his former tutor, rendered my intercourse with him an unspeakable
blessing; and time after time has it seemed to me that his visit had
been like a shower of rain, bringing down freshness and brightness on
a dusty roadside hedge. By him too the recollection of these our daily
meetings was cherished till the last." [11]

There are many poor people still at Herstmonceux who affectionately
remember him: Mr. Hare especially makes mention of one good man there,
in his young days "a poor cobbler," and now advanced to a much
better position, who gratefully ascribes this outward and the other
improvements in his life to Sterling's generous encouragement and
charitable care for him. Such was the curate life at Herstmonceux. So,
in those actual leafy lanes, on the edge of Pevensey Level, in this new
age, did our poor New Paul (on hest of certain oracles) diligently
study to comport himself,--and struggle with all his might _not_ to be a
moonshine shadow of the First Paul.


It was in this summer of 1834,--month of May, shortly after arriving in
London,--that I first saw Sterling's Father. A stout broad gentleman
of sixty, perpendicular in attitude, rather showily dressed, and of
gracious, ingenious and slightly elaborate manners. It was at Mrs.
Austin's in Bayswater; he was just taking leave as I entered, so our
interview lasted only a moment: but the figure of the man, as Sterling's
father, had already an interest for me, and I remember the time well.
Captain Edward Sterling, as we formerly called him, had now quite dropt
the military title, nobody even of his friends now remembering it; and
was known, according to his wish, in political and other circles, as Mr.
Sterling, a private gentleman of some figure. Over whom hung, moreover,
a kind of mysterious nimbus as the principal or one of the principal
writers in the _Times_, which gave an interesting chiaroscuro to his
character in society. A potent, profitable, but somewhat questionable
position; of which, though he affected, and sometimes with anger,
altogether to disown it, and rigorously insisted on the rights of
anonymity, he was not unwilling to take the honors too: the private
pecuniary advantages were very undeniable; and his reception in the
Clubs, and occasionally in higher quarters, was a good deal modelled on
the universal belief in it.


John Sterling at Herstmonceux that afternoon, and his Father here in
London, would have offered strange contrasts to an eye that had
seen them both. Contrasts, and yet concordances. They were two very
different-looking men, and were following two very different modes of
activity that afternoon. And yet with a strange family likeness, too,
both in the men and their activities; the central impulse in each, the
faculties applied to fulfil said impulse, not at all dissimilar,--as
grew visible to me on farther knowledge.



CHAPTER II. NOT CURATE.

Thus it went on for some months at Herstmonceux; but thus it could
not last. We said there were already misgivings as to health, &c. in
September: [12] that was but the fourth month, for it had begun only in
June. The like clouds of misgiving, flights of dark vapor, chequering
more and more the bright sky of this promised land, rose heavier and
rifer month after month; till in February following, that is in the
eighth month from starting, the sky had grown quite overshaded; and poor
Sterling had to think practically of departure from his promised land
again, finding that the goal of his pilgrimage was _not_ there. Not
there, wherever it may be! March again, therefore; the abiding city,
and post at which we can live and die, is still ahead of us, it would
appear!

"Ill-health" was the external cause; and, to all parties concerned,
to Sterling himself I have no doubt as completely as to any, the one
determining cause. Nor was the ill-health wanting; it was there in too
sad reality. And yet properly it was not there as the burden; it was
there as the last ounce which broke the camel's back. I take it, in this
as in other cases known to me, ill-health was not the primary cause
but rather the ultimate one, the summing-up of innumerable far deeper
conscious and unconscious causes,--the cause which could boldly show
itself on the surface, and give the casting vote. Such was often
Sterling's way, as one could observe in such cases: though the most
guileless, undeceptive and transparent of men, he had a noticeable,
almost childlike faculty of self-deception, and usually substituted
for the primary determining motive and set of motives, some ultimate
ostensible one, and gave that out to himself and others as the ruling
impulse for important changes in life. As is the way with much more
ponderous and deliberate men;--as is the way, in a degree, with all men!

Enough, in February, 1835, Sterling came up to London, to consult with
his physicians,--and in fact in all ways to consider with himself and
friends,--what was to be done in regard to this Herstmonceux business.
The oracle of the physicians, like that of Delphi, was not exceedingly
determinate: but it did bear, what was a sufficiently undeniable fact,
that Sterling's constitution, with a tendency to pulmonary ailments,
was ill-suited for the office of a preacher; that total abstinence from
preaching for a year or two would clearly be the safer course. To which
effect he writes to Mr. Hare with a tone of sorrowful agitation; gives
up his clerical duties at Herstmonceux;--and never resumed them there
or elsewhere. He had been in the Church eight months in all: a brief
section of his life, but an important one, which colored several of his
subsequent years, and now strangely colors all his years in the memory
of some.

This we may account the second grand crisis of his History. Radicalism,
not long since, had come to its consummation, and vanished from him in
a tragic manner. "Not by Radicalism is the path to Human Nobleness for
me!" And here now had English Priesthood risen like a sun, over the
waste ruins and extinct volcanoes of his dead Radical world, with
promise of new blessedness and healing under its Wings; and this too has
soon found itself an illusion: "Not by Priesthood either lies the way,
then. Once more, where does the way lie!"--To follow illusions till they
burst and vanish is the lot of all new souls who, luckily or lucklessly,
are left to their own choice in starting on this Earth. The roads are
many; the authentic finger-posts are few,--never fewer than in this era,
when in so many senses the waters are out. Sterling of all men had the
quickest sense for nobleness, heroism and the human _summum bonum_; the
liveliest headlong spirit of adventure and audacity; few gifted living
men less stubbornness of perseverance. Illusions, in his chase of the
_summum bonum_, were not likely to be wanting; aberrations, and wasteful
changes of course, were likely to be many! It is in the history of
such vehement, trenchant, far-shining and yet intrinsically light and
volatile souls, missioned into this epoch to seek their way there, that
we best see what a confused epoch it is.

This clerical aberration,--for such it undoubtedly was in Sterling,--we
have ascribed to Coleridge; and do clearly think that had there been
no Coleridge, neither had this been,--nor had English Puseyism or some
other strange enough universal portents been. Nevertheless, let us say
farther that it lay partly in the general bearing of the world for
such a man. This battle, universal in our sad epoch of "all old things
passing away" against "all things becoming new," has its summary and
animating heart in that of Radicalism against Church; there, as in its
flaming core, and point of focal splendor, does the heroic worth that
lies in each side of the quarrel most clearly disclose itself; and
Sterling was the man, above many, to recognize such worth on both sides.
Natural enough, in such a one, that the light of Radicalism having gone
out in darkness for him, the opposite splendor should next rise as the
chief, and invite his loyalty till it also failed. In one form or the
other, such an aberration was not unlikely for him. But an aberration,
especially in this form, we may certainly call it. No man of Sterling's
veracity, had he clearly consulted his own heart, or had his own heart
been capable of clearly responding, and not been dazzled and bewildered
by transient fantasies and theosophic moonshine, could have undertaken
this function. His heart would have answered: "No, thou canst not. What
is incredible to thee, thou shalt not, at thy soul's peril, attempt to
believe!--Elsewhither for a refuge, or die here. Go to Perdition if thou
must,--but not with a lie in thy mouth; by the Eternal Maker, no!"

Alas, once more! How are poor mortals whirled hither and thither in the
tumultuous chaos of our era; and, under the thick smoke-canopy which
has eclipsed all stars, how do they fly now after this poor meteor, now
after that!--Sterling abandoned his clerical office in February, 1835;
having held it, and ardently followed it, so long as we say,--eight
calendar months in all.


It was on this his February expedition to London that I first saw
Sterling,--at the India House incidentally, one afternoon, where I
found him in company with John Mill, whom I happened like himself to be
visiting for a few minutes. The sight of one whose fine qualities I had
often heard of lately, was interesting enough; and, on the whole, proved
not disappointing, though it was the translation of dream into fact,
that is of poetry into prose, and showed its unrhymed side withal. A
loose, careless-looking, thin figure, in careless dim costume, sat, in
a lounging posture, carelessly and copiously talking. I was struck with
the kindly but restless swift-glancing eyes, which looked as if the
spirits were all out coursing like a pack of merry eager beagles,
beating every bush. The brow, rather sloping in form, was not of
imposing character, though again the head was longish, which is always
the best sign of intellect; the physiognomy in general indicated
animation rather than strength.

We talked rapidly of various unmemorable things: I remember coming on
the Negroes, and noticing that Sterling's notion on the Slavery Question
had not advanced into the stage of mine. In reference to the question
whether an "engagement for life," on just terms, between parties who
are fixed in the character of master and servant, as the Whites and the
Negroes are, is not really better than one from day to day,--he said
with a kindly jeer, "I would have the Negroes themselves consulted as to
that!"--and would not in the least believe that the Negroes were by
no means final or perfect judges of it.--His address, I perceived, was
abrupt, unceremonious; probably not at all disinclined to logic, and
capable of dashing in upon you like a charge of Cossacks, on occasion:
but it was also eminently ingenious, social, guileless. We did all very
well together: and Sterling and I walked westward in company, choosing
whatever lanes or quietest streets there were, as far as Knightsbridge
where our roads parted; talking on moralities, theological philosophies;
arguing copiously, but _except_ in opinion not disagreeing

In his notions on such subjects, the expected Coleridge cast of thought
was very visible; and he seemed to express it even with exaggeration,
and in a fearless dogmatic manner. Identity of sentiment, difference of
opinion: these are the known elements of a pleasant dialogue. We parted
with the mutual wish to meet again;--which accordingly, at his Father's
house and at mine, we soon repeatedly did; and already, in the few days
before his return to Herstmonceux, had laid the foundations of a frank
intercourse, pointing towards pleasant intimacies both with himself
and with his circle, which in the future were abundantly fulfilled.
His Mother, essentially and even professedly "Scotch," took to my Wife
gradually with a most kind maternal relation; his Father, a gallant
showy stirring gentleman, the Magus of the _Times_, had talk and
argument ever ready, was an interesting figure, and more and more took
interest in us. We had unconsciously made an acquisition, which grew
richer and wholesomer with every new year; and ranks now, seen in
the pale moonlight of memory, and must ever rank, among the precious
possessions of life.

Sterling's bright ingenuity, and also his audacity, velocity and
alacrity, struck me more and more. It was, I think, on the occasion of a
party given one of these evenings at his Father's, where I remember John
Mill, John Crawford, Mrs. Crawford, and a number of young and elderly
figures of distinction,--that a group having formed on the younger side
of the room, and transcendentalisms and theologies forming the topic, a
number of deep things were said in abrupt conversational style, Sterling
in the thick of it. For example, one sceptical figure praised the
Church of England, in Hume's phrase, "as a Church tending to keep down
fanaticism," and recommendable for its very indifferency; whereupon a
transcendental figure urges him: "You are afraid of the horse's kicking:
but will you sacrifice all qualities to being safe from that? Then get
a dead horse. None comparable to that for not kicking in your stable!"
Upon which, a laugh; with new laughs on other the like occasions;--and
at last, in the fire of some discussion, Sterling, who was unusually
eloquent and animated, broke out with this wild phrase, "I could plunge
into the bottom of Hell, if I were sure of finding the Devil there and
getting him strangled!" Which produced the loudest laugh of all; and had
to be repeated, on Mrs. Crawford's inquiry, to the house at large; and,
creating among the elders a kind of silent shudder,--though we
urged that the feat would really be a good investment of human
industry,--checked or stopt these theologic thunders for the evening.
I still remember Sterling as in one of his most animated moods that
evening. He probably returned to Herstmonceux next day, where he
proposed yet to reside for some indefinite time.

Arrived at Herstmonceux, he had not forgotten us. One of his Letters
written there soon after was the following, which much entertained
me, in various ways. It turns on a poor Book of mine, called _Sartor
Resartus_; which was not then even a Book, but was still hanging
desolately under bibliopolic difficulties, now in its fourth or fifth
year, on the wrong side of the river, as a mere aggregate of Magazine
Articles; having at last been slit into that form, and lately completed
_so_, and put together into legibility. I suppose Sterling had borrowed
it of me. The adventurous hunter spirit which had started such a bemired
_Auerochs_, or Urus of the German woods, and decided on chasing that as
game, struck me not a little;--and the poor Wood-Ox, so bemired in the
forests, took it as a compliment rather:--

             "_To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea, London_.
                            "HERSTMONCEUX near BATTLE, 29th May, 1835.

"MY DEAR CARLYLE,--I have now read twice, with care, the wondrous
account of Teufelsdrockh and his Opinions; and I need not say that it
has given me much to think of. It falls in with the feelings and tastes
which were, for years, the ruling ones of my life; but which you will
not be angry with me when I say that I am infinitely and hourly thankful
for having escaped from. Not that I think of this state of mind as one
with which I have no longer any concern. The sense of a oneness of life
and power in all existence; and of a boundless exuberance of beauty
around us, to which most men are well-nigh dead, is a possession which
no one that has ever enjoyed it would wish to lose. When to this we add
the deep feeling of the difference between the actual and the ideal
in Nature, and still more in Man; and bring in, to explain this, the
principle of duty, as that which connects us with a possible Higher
State, and sets us in progress towards it,--we have a cycle of thoughts
which was the whole spiritual empire of the wisest Pagans, and which
might well supply food for the wide speculations and richly creative
fancy of Teufelsdrockh, or his prototype Jean Paul.

"How then comes it, we cannot but ask, that these ideas, displayed
assuredly with no want of eloquence, vivacity or earnestness, have
found, unless I am much mistaken, so little acceptance among the best
and most energetic minds in this country? In a country where millions
read the Bible, and thousands Shakspeare; where Wordsworth circulates
through book-clubs and drawing-rooms; where there are innumerable
admirers of your favorite Burns; and where Coleridge, by sending from
his solitude the voice of earnest spiritual instruction, came to be
beloved, studied and mourned for, by no small or careless school of
disciples?--To answer this question would, of course, require more
thought and knowledge than I can pretend to bring to it. But there are
some points on which I will venture to say a few words.

"In the first place, as to the form of composition,--which may be
called, I think, the Rhapsodico-Reflective. In this the _Sartor
Resartus_ resembles some of the master-works of human invention, which
have been acknowledged as such by many generations; and especially the
works of Rabelais, Montaigne, Sterne and Swift. There is nothing I
know of in Antiquity like it. That which comes nearest is perhaps the
Platonic Dialogue. But of this, although there is something of the
playful and fanciful on the surface, there is in reality neither in the
language (which is austerely determined to its end), nor in the method
and progression of the work, any of that headlong self-asserting
capriciousness, which, if not discernible in the plan of Teufelsdrockh's
Memoirs, is yet plainly to be seen in the structure of the sentences,
the lawless oddity, and strange heterogeneous combination and allusion.
The principle of this difference, observable often elsewhere in modern
literature (for the same thing is to be found, more or less, in many of
our most genial works of imagination,--_Don Quixote_, for instance, and
the writings of Jeremy Taylor), seems to be that well-known one of the
predominant objectivity of the Pagan mind; while among us the subjective
has risen into superiority, and brought with it in each individual
a multitude of peculiar associations and relations. These, as not
explicable from any one _external_ principle assumed as a premise by
the ancient philosopher, were rejected from the sphere of his aesthetic
creation: but to us they all have a value and meaning; being connected
by the bond of our own personality and all alike existing in that
infinity which is its arena.

"But however this may be, and comparing the Teufelsdrockhean Epopee
only with those other modern works,--it is noticeable that Rabelais,
Montaigne and Sterne have trusted for the currency of their writings, in
a great degree, to the use of obscene and sensual stimulants. Rabelais,
besides, was full of contemporary and personal satire; and seems to
have been a champion in the great cause of his time,--as was Montaigne
also,--that of the right of thought in all competent minds, unrestrained
by any outward authority. Montaigne, moreover, contains more pleasant
and lively gossip, and more distinct good-humored painting of his own
character and daily habits, than any other writer I know. Sterne is
never obscure, and never moral; and the costume of his subjects is drawn
from the familiar experience of his own time and country: and Swift,
again, has the same merit of the clearest perspicuity, joined to that
of the most homely, unaffected, forcible English. These points of
difference seem to me the chief ones which bear against the success of
the _Sartor_. On the other hand, there is in Teufelsdrockh a depth and
fervor of feeling, and a power of serious eloquence, far beyond that of
any of these four writers; and to which indeed there is nothing at
all comparable in any of them, except perhaps now and then, and very
imperfectly, in Montaigne.

"Of the other points of comparison there are two which I would
chiefly dwell on: and first as to the language. A good deal of this
is positively barbarous. 'Environment,' 'vestural,' 'stertorous,'
'visualized,' 'complected,' and others to be found I think in the first
twenty pages,--are words, so far as I know, without any authority;
some of them contrary to analogy: and none repaying by their value
the disadvantage of novelty. To these must be added new and erroneous
locutions; 'whole other tissues' for _all the other_, and similar
uses of the word _whole_; 'orients' for _pearls_; 'lucid' and 'lucent'
employed as if they were different in meaning; 'hulls' perpetually for
_coverings_, it being a word hardly used, and then only for the husk
of a nut; 'to insure a man of misapprehension;' 'talented,' a mere
newspaper and hustings word, invented, I believe, by O'Connell.

"I must also mention the constant recurrence of some words in a quaint
and queer connection, which gives a grotesque and somewhat repulsive
mannerism to many sentences. Of these the commonest offender is 'quite;'
which appears in almost every page, and gives at first a droll kind of
emphasis; but soon becomes wearisome. 'Nay,' 'manifold,' 'cunning enough
significance,' 'faculty' (meaning a man's rational or moral _power_),
'special,' 'not without,' haunt the reader as if in some uneasy dream
which does not rise to the dignity of nightmare. Some of these strange
mannerisms fall under the general head of a singularity peculiar, so far
as I know, to Teufelsdrockh. For instance, that of the incessant use of
a sort of odd superfluous qualification of his assertions; which seems
to give the character of deliberateness and caution to the style, but
in time sounds like mere trick or involuntary habit. 'Almost' does more
than yeoman's, _almost_ slave's service in this way. Something similar
may be remarked of the use of the double negative by way of affirmation.

"Under this head, of language, may be mentioned, though not with strict
grammatical accuracy, two standing characteristics of the Professor's
style,--at least as rendered into English: _First_, the composition
of words, such as 'snow-and-rosebloom maiden:' an attractive damsel
doubtless in Germany, but, with all her charms, somewhat uncouth here.
'Life-vision' is another example; and many more might be found. To
say nothing of the innumerable cases in which the words are only
intelligible as a compound term, though not distinguished by hyphens. Of
course the composition of words is sometimes allowable even in English:
but the habit of dealing with German seems to have produced, in the
pages before us, a prodigious superabundance of this form of expression;
which gives harshness and strangeness, where the matter would at all
events have been surprising enough. _Secondly_, I object, with the
same qualification, to the frequent use of _inversion_; which generally
appears as a transposition of the two members of a clause, in a way
which would not have been practiced in conversation. It certainly gives
emphasis and force, and often serves to point the meaning. But a style
may be fatiguing and faulty precisely by being too emphatic, forcible
and pointed; and so straining the attention to find its meaning, or the
admiration to appreciate its beauty.

"Another class of considerations connects itself with the heightened
and plethoric fulness of the style: its accumulation and contrast of
imagery; its occasional jerking and almost spasmodic violence;--and
above all, the painful subjective excitement, which seems the element
and groundwork even of every description of Nature; often taking the
shape of sarcasm or broad jest, but never subsiding into calm. There is
also a point which I should think worth attending to, were I planning
any similar book: I mean the importance, in a work of imagination, of
not too much disturbing in the reader's mind the balance of the New
and Old. The former addresses itself to his active, the latter to his
passive faculty; and these are mutually dependent, and must coexist in
certain proportion, if you wish to combine his sympathy and progressive
exertion with willingness and ease of attention. This should be taken
into account in forming a style; for of course it cannot be consciously
thought of in composing each sentence.

"But chiefly it seems important in determining the plan of a work. If
the tone of feeling, the line of speculation are out of the common way,
and sure to present some difficulty to the average reader, then it would
probably be desirable to select, for the circumstances, drapery
and accessories of all kinds, those most familiar, or at least most
attractive. A fable of the homeliest purport, and commonest every-day
application, derives an interest and charm from its turning on the
characters and acts of gods and genii, lions and foxes, Arabs and
Affghauns. On the contrary, for philosophic inquiry and truths of awful
preciousness, I would select as my personages and interlocutors beings
with whose language and 'whereabouts' my readers would be familiar. Thus
did Plato in his Dialogues, Christ in his Parables. Therefore it seems
doubtful whether it was judicious to make a German Professor the hero
of _Sartor_. Berkeley began his _Siris_ with tar-water; but what can
English readers be expected to make of _Gukguk_ by way of prelibation to
your nectar and tokay? The circumstances and details do not flash with
living reality on the minds of your readers, but, on the contrary,
themselves require some of that attention and minute speculation, the
whole original stock of which, in the minds of most of them, would not
be too much to enable them to follow your views of Man and Nature. In
short, there is not a sufficient basis of the common to justify
the amount of peculiarity in the work. In a book of science, these
considerations would of course be inapplicable; but then the whole shape
and coloring of the book must be altered to make it such; and a man
who wishes merely to get at the philosophical result, or summary of the
whole, will regard the details and illustrations as so much unprofitable
surplusage.

"The sense of strangeness is also awakened by the marvellous
combinations, in which the work abounds to a degree that the common
reader must find perfectly bewildering. This can hardly, however, be
treated as a consequence of the _style_; for the style in this respect
coheres with, and springs from, the whole turn and tendency of thought.
The noblest images are objects of a humorous smile, in a mind which
sees itself above all Nature and throned in the arms of an Almighty
Necessity; while the meanest have a dignity, inasmuch as they are
trivial symbols of the same one life to which the great whole
belongs. And hence, as I divine, the startling whirl of incongruous
juxtaposition, which of a truth must to many readers seem as amazing as
if the Pythia on the tripod should have struck up a drinking-song, or
Thersites had caught the prophetic strain of Cassandra.

"All this, of course, appears to me true and relevant; but I cannot help
feeling that it is, after all, but a poor piece of quackery to comment
on a multitude of phenomena without adverting to the principle which
lies at the root, and gives the true meaning to them all. Now this
principle I seem to myself to find in the state of mind which is
attributed to Teufelsdrockh; in his state of mind, I say, not in his
opinions, though these are, in him as in all men, most important,--being
one of the best indices to his state of mind. Now what distinguishes
him, not merely from the greatest and best men who have been on earth
for eighteen hundred years, but from the whole body of those who have
been working forwards towards the good, and have been the salt and light
of the world, is this: That he does not believe in a God. Do not be
indignant, I am blaming no one;--but if I write my thoughts, I must
write them honestly.

"Teufelsdrockh does not belong to the herd of sensual and thoughtless
men; because he does perceive in all Existence a unity of power; because
he does believe that this is a real power external to him and dominant
to a certain extent over him, and does not think that he is himself a
shadow in a world of shadows. He had a deep feeling of the beautiful,
the good and the true; and a faith in their final victory.

"At the same time, how evident is the strong inward unrest, the Titanic
heaving of mountain on mountain; the storm-like rushing over land and
sea in search of peace. He writhes and roars under his consciousness
of the difference in himself between the possible and the actual, the
hoped-for and the existent. He feels that duty is the highest law of
his own being; and knowing how it bids the waves be stilled into an
icy fixedness and grandeur, he trusts (but with a boundless inward
misgiving) that there is a principle of order which will reduce all
confusion to shape and clearness. But wanting peace himself, his fierce
dissatisfaction fixes on all that is weak, corrupt and imperfect around
him; and instead of a calm and steady co-operation with all those who
are endeavoring to apply the highest ideas as remedies for the worst
evils, he holds himself aloof in savage isolation; and cherishes (though
he dare not own) a stern joy at the prospect of that Catastrophe which
is to turn loose again the elements of man's social life, and give for
a time the victory to evil;--in hopes that each new convulsion of the
world must bring us nearer to the ultimate restoration of all things;
fancying that each may be the last. Wanting the calm and cheerful
reliance, which would be the spring of active exertion, he flatters his
own distemper by persuading himself that his own age and generation
are peculiarly feeble and decayed; and would even perhaps be willing
to exchange the restless immaturity of our self-consciousness, and
the promise of its long throe-pangs, for the unawakened undoubting
simplicity of the world's childhood; of the times in which there was all
the evil and horror of our day, only with the difference that conscience
had not arisen to try and condemn it. In these longings, if they are
Teufelsdrockh's, he seems to forget that, could we go back five thousand
years, we should only have the prospect of travelling them again, and
arriving at last at the same point at which we stand now.

"Something of this state of mind I may say that I understand; for I have
myself experienced it. And the root of the matter appears to me: A want
of sympathy with the great body of those who are now endeavoring to
guide and help onward their fellow-men. And in what is this alienation
grounded? It is, as I believe, simply in the difference on that point:
viz. the clear, deep, habitual recognition of a one Living _Personal_
God, essentially good, wise, true and holy, the Author of all that
exists; and a reunion with whom is the only end of all rational beings.
This belief... [_There follow now several pages on "Personal God," and
other abstruse or indeed properly unspeakable matters; these, and a
general Postscript of qualifying purport, I will suppress; extracting
only the following fractions, as luminous or slightly significant to
us:_]

"Now see the difference of Teufelsdrockh's feelings. At the end of book
iii. chap. 8, I find these words: 'But whence? O Heaven, whither? Sense
knows not; Faith knows not; only that it is through mystery to mystery,
from God to God.

                    'We _are such stuff_
     As dreams are made of, and our little life
     Is rounded with a sleep.'

And this tallies with the whole strain of his character. What we find
everywhere, with an abundant use of the name of God, is the conception
of a formless Infinite whether in time or space; of a high inscrutable
Necessity, which it is the chief wisdom and virtue to submit to, which
is the mysterious impersonal base of all Existence,--shows itself in the
laws of every separate being's nature; and for man in the shape of duty.
On the other hand, I affirm, we do know whence we come and whither we
go!--

... "And in this state of mind, as there is no true sympathy with
others, just as little is there any true peace for ourselves. There is
indeed possible the unsympathizing factitious calm of Art, which we
find in Goethe. But at what expense is it bought? Simply, by abandoning
altogether the idea of duty, which is the great witness of our
personality. And he attains his inhuman ghastly calmness by reducing the
Universe to a heap of material for the idea of beauty to work on!--

... "The sum of all I have been writing as to the connection of our
faith in God with our feeling towards men and our mode of action, may of
course be quite erroneous: but granting its truth, it would supply the
one principle which I have been seeking for, in order to explain
the peculiarities of style in your account of Teufelsdrockh and his
writings.... The life and works of Luther are the best comment I know of
on this doctrine of mine.

"Reading over what I have written, I find I have not nearly done justice
to my own sense of the genius and moral energy of the book; but this
is what you will best excuse.--Believe me most sincerely and faithfully
yours,

                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

Here are sufficient points of "discrepancy with agreement," here is
material for talk and argument enough; and an expanse of free discussion
open, which requires rather to be speedily restricted for convenience'
sake, than allowed to widen itself into the boundless, as it tends to
do!--

In all Sterling's Letters to myself and others, a large collection of
which now lies before me, duly copied and indexed, there is, to one that
knew his speech as well, a perhaps unusual likeness between the speech
and the Letters; and yet, for most part, with a great inferiority on
the part of these. These, thrown off, one and all of them, without
premeditation, and with most rapid-flowing pen, are naturally as like
his speech as writing can well be; this is their grand merit to us:
but on the other hand, the want of the living tones, swift looks and
motions, and manifold dramatic accompaniments, tells heavily, more
heavily than common. What can be done with champagne itself, much more
with soda-water, when the gaseous spirit is fled! The reader, in any
specimens he may see, must bear this in mind.

Meanwhile these Letters do excel in honesty, in candor and transparency;
their very carelessness secures their excellence in this respect. And in
another much deeper and more essential respect I must likewise call them
excellent,--in their childlike goodness, in the purity of heart, the
noble affection and fidelity they everywhere manifest in the writer.
This often touchingly strikes a familiar friend in reading them; and
will awaken reminiscences (when you have the commentary in your own
memory) which are sad and beautiful, and not without reproach to you on
occasion. To all friends, and all good causes, this man is true; behind
their back as before their face, the same man!--Such traits of the
autobiographic sort, from these Letters, as can serve to paint him
or his life, and promise not to weary the reader, I must endeavor to
select, in the sequel.



CHAPTER III. BAYSWATER

Sterling continued to reside at Herstmonceux through the spring and
summer; holding by the peaceable retired house he still had there, till
the vague future might more definitely shape itself, and better point
out what place of abode would suit him in his new circumstances. He
made frequent brief visits to London; in which I, among other friends,
frequently saw him, our acquaintance at each visit improving in all
ways. Like a swift dashing meteor he came into our circle; coruscated
among us, for a day or two, with sudden pleasant illumination; then
again suddenly withdrew,--we hoped, not for long.

I suppose, he was full of uncertainties; but undoubtedly was gravitating
towards London. Yet, on the whole, on the surface of him, you saw no
uncertainties; far from that: it seemed always rather with peremptory
resolutions, and swift express businesses, that he was charged. Sickly
in body, the testimony said: but here always was a mind that gave you
the impression of peremptory alertness, cheery swift decision,--of a
_health_ which you might have called exuberant. I remember dialogues
with him, of that year; one pleasant dialogue under the trees of the
Park (where now, in 1851, is the thing called "Crystal Palace"), with
the June sunset flinging long shadows for us; the last of the Quality
just vanishing for dinner, and the great night beginning to prophesy of
itself. Our talk (like that of the foregoing Letter) was of the faults
of my style, of my way of thinking, of my &c. &c.; all which
admonitions and remonstrances, so friendly and innocent, from this young
junior-senior, I was willing to listen to, though unable, as usual, to
get almost any practical hold of them. As usual, the garments do not fit
you, you are lost in the garments, or you cannot get into them at all;
this is not your suit of clothes, it must be another's:--alas, these are
not your dimensions, these are only the optical angles you subtend; on
the whole, you will never get measured in that way!--

Another time, of date probably very contiguous, I remember hearing
Sterling preach. It was in some new college-chapel in Somerset-house (I
suppose, what is now called King's College); a very quiet small place,
the audience student-looking youths, with a few elder people, perhaps
mostly friends of the preacher's. The discourse, delivered with a
grave sonorous composure, and far surpassing in talent the usual run of
sermons, had withal an air of human veracity as I still recollect, and
bespoke dignity and piety of mind: but gave me the impression rather
of artistic excellence than of unction or inspiration in that kind.
Sterling returned with us to Chelsea that day;--and in the afternoon we
went on the Thames Putney-ward together, we two with my Wife; under
the sunny skies, on the quiet water, and with copious cheery talk, the
remembrance of which is still present enough to me.

This was properly my only specimen of Sterling's preaching. Another
time, late in the same autumn, I did indeed attend him one evening to
some Church in the City,--a big Church behind Cheapside, "built by Wren"
as he carefully informed me;--but there, in my wearied mood, the chief
subject of reflection was the almost total vacancy of the place, and how
an eloquent soul was preaching to mere lamps and prayer-books; and of
the sermon I retain no image. It came up in the way of banter, if he
ever urged the duty of "Church extension," which already he very seldom
did and at length never, what a specimen we once had of bright lamps,
gilt prayer-books, baize-lined pews, Wren-built architecture; and how,
in almost all directions, you might have fired a musket through the
church, and hit no Christian life. A terrible outlook indeed for the
Apostolic laborer in the brick-and-mortar line!--


In the Autumn of this same 1835, he removed permanently to London,
whither all summer he had been evidently tending; took a house in
Bayswater, an airy suburb, half town, half country, near his Father's,
and within fair distance of his other friends and objects; and decided
to await there what the ultimate developments of his course might be.
His house was in Orme Square, close by the corner of that little place
(which has only _three_ sides of houses); its windows looking to the
east: the Number was, and I believe still is, No. 5. A sufficiently
commodious, by no means sumptuous, small mansion; where, with the means
sure to him, he could calculate on finding adequate shelter for his
family, his books and himself, and live in a decent manner, in no terror
of debt, for one thing. His income, I suppose, was not large; but he
lived generally a safe distance within it; and showed himself always as
a man bountiful in money matters, and taking no thought that way.

His study-room in this house was perhaps mainly the drawing-room;
looking out safe, over the little dingy grassplot in front, and the
quiet little row of houses opposite, with the huge dust-whirl of
Oxford Street and London far enough ahead of you as background,--as
back-curtain, blotting out only _half_ your blue hemisphere with dust
and smoke. On the right, you had the continuous growl of the Uxbridge
Road and its wheels, coming as lullaby not interruption. Leftward and
rearward, after some thin belt of houses, lay mere country; bright
sweeping green expanses, crowned by pleasant Hampstead, pleasant Harrow,
with their rustic steeples rising against the sky. Here on winter
evenings, the bustle of removal being all well ended, and family and
books got planted in their new places, friends could find Sterling, as
they often did, who was delighted to be found by them, and would give
and take, vividly as few others, an hour's good talk at any time.

His outlooks, it must be admitted, were sufficiently vague and
overshadowed; neither the past nor the future of a too joyful kind.
Public life, in any professional form, is quite forbidden; to work
with his fellows anywhere appears to be forbidden: nor can the humblest
solitary endeavor to work worthily as yet find an arena. How unfold
one's little bit of talent; and live, and not lie sleeping, while it
is called To-day? As Radical, as Reforming Politician in any public or
private form,--not only has this, in Sterling's case, received tragical
sentence and execution; but the opposite extreme, the Church whither he
had fled, likewise proves abortive: the Church also is not the haven for
him at all. What is to be done? Something must be done, and soon,--under
penalties. Whoever has received, on him there is an inexorable behest to
give. "_Fais ton fait_, Do thy little stroke of work:" this is Nature's
voice, and the sum of all the commandments, to each man!

A shepherd of the people, some small Agamemnon after his sort, doing
what little sovereignty and guidance he can in his day and generation:
such every gifted soul longs, and should long, to be. But how, in any
measure, is the small kingdom necessary for Sterling to be attained? Not
through newspapers and parliaments, not by rubrics and reading-desks:
none of the sceptres offered in the world's market-place, nor none of
the crosiers there, it seems, can be the shepherd's-crook for this man.
A most cheerful, hoping man; and full of swift faculty, though much
lamed,--considerably bewildered too; and tending rather towards the
wastes and solitary places for a home; the paved world not being
friendly to him hitherto! The paved world, in fact, both on its
practical and spiritual side, slams to its doors against him; indicates
that he cannot enter, and even must not,--that it will prove a
choke-vault, deadly to soul and to body, if he enter. Sceptre, crosier,
sheep-crook is none there for him.

There remains one other implement, the resource of all Adam's posterity
that are otherwise foiled,--the Pen. It was evident from this point that
Sterling, however otherwise beaten about, and set fluctuating, would
gravitate steadily with all his real weight towards Literature. That he
would gradually try with consciousness to get into Literature; and, on
the whole, never quit Literature, which was now all the world for him.
Such is accordingly the sum of his history henceforth: such small sum,
so terribly obstructed and diminished by circumstances, is all we have
realized from him.


Sterling had by no means as yet consciously quitted the clerical
profession, far less the Church as a creed. We have seen, he
occasionally officiated still in these months, when a friend requested
or an opportunity invited. Nay it turned out afterwards, he had, unknown
even to his own family, during a good many weeks in the coldest period
of next spring, when it was really dangerous for his health and did
prove hurtful to it,--been constantly performing the morning service
in some Chapel in Bayswater for a young clerical neighbor, a slight
acquaintance of his, who was sickly at the time. So far as I know, this
of the Bayswater Chapel in the spring of 1836, a feat severely rebuked
by his Doctor withal, was his last actual service as a churchman. But
the conscious life ecclesiastical still hung visibly about his inner
unconscious and real life, for years to come; and not till by slow
degrees he had unwinded from him the wrappages of it, could he become
clear about himself, and so much as try heartily what his now sole
course was. Alas, and he had to live all the rest of his days, as in
continual flight for his very existence; "ducking under like a poor
unfledged partridge-bird," as one described it, "before the mower;
darting continually from nook to nook, and there crouching, to escape
the scythe of Death." For Literature Proper there was but little left
in such a life. Only the smallest broken fractions of his last and
heaviest-laden years can poor Sterling be said to have completely lived.
His purpose had risen before him slowly in noble clearness; clear at
last,--and even then the inevitable hour was at hand.

In those first London months, as always afterwards while it remained
physically possible, I saw much of him; loved him, as was natural,
more and more; found in him, many ways, a beautiful acquisition to my
existence here. He was full of bright speech and argument; radiant with
arrowy vitalities, vivacities and ingenuities. Less than any man he gave
you the idea of ill-health. Hopeful, sanguine; nay he did not even seem
to need definite hope, or much to form any; projecting himself in aerial
pulses like an aurora borealis, like a summer dawn, and filling all the
world with present brightness for himself and others. Ill-health? Nay
you found at last, it was the very excess of _life_ in him that brought
on disease. This restless play of being, fit to conquer the world, could
it have been held and guided, could not be held. It had worn _holes_ in
the outer case of it, and there found vent for itself,--there, since not
otherwise.

In our many promenades and colloquies, which were of the freest, most
copious and pleasant nature, religion often formed a topic, and perhaps
towards the beginning of our intercourse was the prevailing topic.
Sterling seemed much engrossed in matters theological, and led the
conversation towards such; talked often about Church, Christianity
Anglican and other, how essential the belief in it to man; then, on
the other side, about Pantheism and such like;--all in the Coleridge
dialect, and with eloquence and volubility to all lengths. I remember
his insisting often and with emphasis on what he called a "personal
God," and other high topics, of which it was not always pleasant to give
account in the argumentative form, in a loud hurried voice, walking and
arguing through the fields or streets. Though of warm quick feelings,
very positive in his opinions, and vehemently eager to convince and
conquer in such discussions, I seldom or never saw the least anger in
him against me or any friend. When the blows of contradiction came too
thick, he could with consummate dexterity whisk aside out of their way;
prick into his adversary on some new quarter; or gracefully flourishing
his weapon, end the duel in some handsome manner. One angry glance I
remember in him, and it was but a glance, and gone in a moment. "Flat
Pantheism!" urged he once (which he would often enough do about this
time), as if triumphantly, of something or other, in the fire of a
debate, in my hearing: "It is mere Pantheism, that!"--"And suppose it
were Pot-theism?" cried the other: "If the thing is true!"--Sterling did
look hurt at such flippant heterodoxy, for a moment. The soul of his own
creed, in those days, was far other than this indifference to Pot or Pan
in such departments of inquiry.

To me his sentiments for most part were lovable and admirable, though in
the logical outcome there was everywhere room for opposition. I admired
the temper, the longing towards antique heroism, in this young man of
the nineteenth century; but saw not how, except in some German-English
empire of the air, he was ever to realize it on those terms. In fact,
it became clear to me more and more that here was nobleness of heart
striving towards all nobleness; here was ardent recognition of the worth
of Christianity, for one thing; but no belief in it at all, in my sense
of the word belief,--no belief but one definable as mere theoretic
moonshine, which would never stand the wind and weather of fact. Nay it
struck me farther that Sterling's was not intrinsically, nor had ever
been in the highest or chief degree, a devotional mind. Of course all
excellence in man, and worship as the supreme excellence, was part
of the inheritance of this gifted man: but if called to define him,
I should say, Artist not Saint was the real bent of his being. He had
endless admiration, but intrinsically rather a deficiency of reverence
in comparison. Fear, with its corollaries, on the religious side, he
appeared to have none, nor ever to have had any.

In short, it was a strange enough symptom to me of the bewildered
condition of the world, to behold a man of this temper, and of this
veracity and nobleness, self-consecrated here, by free volition and
deliberate selection, to be a Christian Priest; and zealously struggling
to fancy himself such in very truth. Undoubtedly a singular present
fact;--from which, as from their point of intersection, great
perplexities and aberrations in the past, and considerable confusions in
the future might be seen ominously radiating. Happily our friend, as I
said, needed little hope. To-day with its activities was always bright
and rich to him. His unmanageable, dislocated, devastated world,
spiritual or economical, lay all illuminated in living sunshine, making
it almost beautiful to his eyes, and gave him no hypochondria. A richer
soul, in the way of natural outfit for felicity, for joyful activity in
this world, so far as his strength would go, was nowhere to be met with.


The Letters which Mr. Hare has printed, Letters addressed, I imagine,
mostly to himself, in this and the following year or two, give record
of abundant changeful plannings and laborings, on the part of Sterling;
still chiefly in the theological department. Translation from Tholuck,
from Schleiermacher; treatise on this thing, then on that, are on the
anvil: it is a life of abstruse vague speculations, singularly cheerful
and hopeful withal, about Will, Morals, Jonathan Edwards, Jewhood,
Manhood, and of Books to be written on these topics. Part of which
adventurous vague plans, as the Translation from Tholuck, he actually
performed; other greater part, merging always into wider undertakings,
remained plan merely. I remember he talked often about Tholuck,
Schleiermacher, and others of that stamp; and looked disappointed,
though full of good nature, at my obstinate indifference to them and
their affairs.

His knowledge of German Literature, very slight at this time,
limited itself altogether to writers on Church matters,--Evidences,
Counter-Evidences, Theologies and Rumors of Theologies; by the Tholucks,
Schleiermachers, Neanders, and I know not whom. Of the true sovereign
souls of that Literature, the Goethes, Richters, Schillers, Lessings,
he had as good as no knowledge; and of Goethe in particular an obstinate
misconception, with proper abhorrence appended,--which did not abate for
several years, nor quite abolish itself till a very late period. Till,
in a word, he got Goethe's works fairly read and studied for himself!
This was often enough the course with Sterling in such cases. He had a
most swift glance of recognition for the worthy and for the unworthy;
and was prone, in his ardent decisive way, to put much faith in it.
"Such a one is a worthless idol; not excellent, only sham-excellent:"
here, on this negative side especially, you often had to admire how
right he was;--often, but not quite always. And he would maintain, with
endless ingenuity, confidence and persistence, his fallacious spectrum
to be a real image. However, it was sure to come all right in the end.
Whatever real excellence he might misknow, you had but to let it stand
before him, soliciting new examination from him: none surer than he to
recognize it at last, and to pay it all his dues, with the arrears
and interest on them. Goethe, who figures as some absurd high-stalking
hollow play-actor, or empty ornamental clock-case of an "Artist"
so-called, in the Tale of the _Onyx Ring_, was in the throne of
Sterling's intellectual world before all was done; and the theory
of "Goethe's want of feeling," want of &c. &c. appeared to him also
abundantly contemptible and forgettable.

Sterling's days, during this time as always, were full of occupation,
cheerfully interesting to himself and others; though, the wrecks of
theology so encumbering him, little fruit on the positive side could
come of these labors. On the negative side they were productive; and
there also, so much of encumbrance requiring removal, before fruit could
grow, there was plenty of labor needed. He looked happy as well as
busy; roamed extensively among his friends, and loved to have them about
him,--chiefly old Cambridge comrades now settling into occupations in
the world;--and was felt by all friends, by myself as by few, to be a
welcome illumination in the dim whirl of things. A man of altogether
social and human ways; his address everywhere pleasant and enlivening.
A certain smile of thin but genuine laughter, we might say, hung
gracefully over all he said and did;--expressing gracefully, according
to the model of this epoch, the stoical pococurantism which is required
of the cultivated Englishman. Such laughter in him was not deep, but
neither was it false (as lamentably happens often); and the cheerfulness
it went to symbolize was hearty and beautiful,--visible in the silent
unsymbolized state in a still gracefuler fashion.

Of wit, so far as rapid lively intellect produces wit, he had plenty,
and did not abuse his endowment that way, being always fundamentally
serious in the purport of his speech: of what we call humor, he had
some, though little; nay of real sense for the ludicrous, in any form,
he had not much for a man of his vivacity; and you remarked that his
laugh was limited in compass, and of a clear but not rich quality. To
the like effect shone something, a kind of childlike half-embarrassed
shimmer of expression, on his fine vivid countenance; curiously mingling
with its ardors and audacities. A beautiful childlike soul! He was
naturally a favorite in conversation, especially with all who had
any funds for conversing: frank and direct, yet polite and delicate
withal,--though at times too he could crackle with his dexterous
petulancies, making the air all like needles round you; and there was
no end to his logic when you excited it; no end, unless in some form of
silence on your part. Elderly men of reputation I have sometimes known
offended by him: for he took a frank way in the matter of talk; spoke
freely out of him, freely listening to what others spoke, with a kind of
"hail fellow well met" feeling; and carelessly measured a men much less
by his reputed account in the bank of wit, or in any other bank, than by
what the man had to show for himself in the shape of real spiritual cash
on the occasion. But withal there was ever a fine element of natural
courtesy in Sterling; his deliberate demeanor to acknowledged superiors
was fine and graceful; his apologies and the like, when in a fit of
repentance he felt commanded to apologize, were full of naivete, and
very pretty and ingenuous.

His circle of friends was wide enough; chiefly men of his own standing,
old College friends many of them; some of whom have now become
universally known. Among whom the most important to him was Frederic
Maurice, who had not long before removed to the Chaplaincy of Guy's
Hospital here, and was still, as he had long been, his intimate and
counsellor. Their views and articulate opinions, I suppose, were now
fast beginning to diverge; and these went on diverging far enough: but
in their kindly union, in their perfect trustful familiarity, precious
to both parties, there never was the least break, but a steady, equable
and duly increasing current to the end. One of Sterling's commonest
expeditions, in this time, was a sally to the other side of London
Bridge: "Going to Guy's to-day." Maurice, in a year or two, became
Sterling's brother-in-law; wedded Mrs. Sterling's younger sister,--a
gentle excellent female soul; by whom the relation was, in many ways,
strengthened and beautified for Sterling and all friends of the parties.
With the Literary notabilities I think he had no acquaintance; his
thoughts indeed still tended rather towards a certain class of the
Clerical; but neither had he much to do with these; for he was at
no time the least of a tuft-hunter, but rather had a marked natural
indifference to _tufts_.

The Rev. Mr. Dunn, a venerable and amiable Irish gentleman,
"distinguished," we were told, "by having refused a bishopric:" and
who was now living, in an opulent enough retirement, amid his books
and philosophies and friends, in London,--is memorable to me among this
clerical class: one of the mildest, beautifulest old men I have ever
seen,--"like Fenelon," Sterling said: his very face, with its kind true
smile, with its look of suffering cheerfulness and pious wisdom, was a
sort of benediction. It is of him that Sterling writes, in the Extract
which Mr. Hare, modestly reducing the name to an initial "Mr. D.," has
given us: [13] "Mr. Dunn, for instance; the defect of whose Theology,
compounded as it is of the doctrine of the Greek Fathers, of the Mystics
and of Ethical Philosophers, consists,--if I may hint a fault in one
whose holiness, meekness and fervor would have made him the beloved
disciple of him whom Jesus loved,--in an insufficient apprehension of
the reality and depth of Sin." A characteristic "defect" of this fine
gentle soul. On Mr. Dunn's death, which occurred two or three
years later, Stirling gave, in some veiled yet transparent form, in
_Blackwood's Magazine_, an affectionate and eloquent notice of him;
which, stript of the veil, was excerpted into the Newspapers also. [14]

Of Coleridge there was little said. Coleridge was now dead, not long
since; nor was his name henceforth much heard in Sterling's circle;
though on occasion, for a year or two to come, he would still assert his
transcendent admiration, especially if Maurice were by to help. But he
was getting into German, into various inquiries and sources of knowledge
new to him, and his admirations and notions on many things were silently
and rapidly modifying themselves.

So, amid interesting human realities, and wide cloud-canopies of
uncertain speculation, which also had their interests and their
rainbow-colors to him, and could not fail in his life just now, did
Sterling pass his year and half at Bayswater. Such vaporous speculations
were inevitable for him at present; but it was to be hoped they would
subside by and by, and leave the sky clear. All this was but the
preliminary to whatever work might lie in him:--and, alas, much other
interruption lay between him and that.


CHAPTER V. TO MADEIRA.

Sterling's dubieties as to continuing at Bordeaux were quickly decided.
The cholera in France, the cholera in Nice, the-- In fact his moorings
were now loose; and having been fairly at sea, he never could anchor
himself here again. Very shortly after this Letter, he left Belsito
again (for good, as it proved); and returned to England with his
household, there to consider what should next be done.

On my return from Scotland, that year, perhaps late in September, I
remember finding him lodged straitly but cheerfully, and in happy humor,
in a little cottage on Blackheath; whither his Father one day persuaded
me to drive out with him for dinner. Our welcome, I can still recollect,
was conspicuously cordial; the place of dinner a kind of upper room,
half garret and full of books, which seemed to be John's place of study.
From a shelf, I remember also, the good soul took down a book modestly
enough bound in three volumes, lettered on the back Carlyle's _French
Revolution_, which had been published lately; this he with friendly
banter bade me look at as a first symptom, small but significant, that
the book was not to die all at once. "One copy of it at least might hope
to last the date of sheep-leather," I admitted,--and in my then mood
the little fact was welcome. Our dinner, frank and happy on the part
of Sterling, was peppered with abundant jolly satire from his Father:
before tea, I took myself away; towards Woolwich, I remember, where
probably there was another call to make, and passage homeward by
steamer: Sterling strode along with me a good bit of road in the bright
sunny evening, full of lively friendly talk, and altogether kind and
amiable; and beautifully sympathetic with the loads he thought he saw on
_me_, forgetful of his own. We shook hands on the road near the foot of
Shooter's Hill:--at which point dim oblivious clouds rush down; and of
small or great I remember nothing more in my history or his for some
time.

Besides running much about among friends, and holding counsels for the
management of the coming winter, Sterling was now considerably occupied
with Literature again; and indeed may be said to have already
definitely taken it up as the one practical pursuit left for him. Some
correspondence with _Blackwood's Magazine_ was opening itself, under
promising omens: now, and more and more henceforth, he began to look
on Literature as his real employment, after all; and was prosecuting it
with his accustomed loyalty and ardor. And he continued ever afterwards,
in spite of such fitful circumstances and uncertain outward fluctuations
as his were sure of being, to prosecute it steadily with all the
strength he had.

One evening about this time, he came down to us, to Chelsea, most likely
by appointment and with stipulation for privacy; and read, for our
opinion, his Poem of the _Sexton's Daughter_, which we now first
heard of. The judgment in this house was friendly, but not the most
encouraging. We found the piece monotonous, cast in the mould of
Wordsworth, deficient in real human fervor or depth of melody, dallying
on the borders of the infantile and "goody-good;"--in fact, involved
still in the shadows of the surplice, and inculcating (on hearsay
mainly) a weak morality, which he would one day find not to be moral at
all, but in good part maudlin-hypocritical and immoral. As indeed was
to be said still of most of his performances, especially the poetical;
a sickly _shadow_ of the parish-church still hanging over them, which
he could by no means recognize for sickly. _Imprimatur_ nevertheless
was the concluding word,--with these grave abatements, and rhadamanthine
admonitions. To all which Sterling listened seriously and in the mildest
humor. His reading, it might have been added, had much hurt the effect
of the piece: a dreary pulpit or even conventicle manner; that flattest
moaning hoo-hoo of predetermined pathos, with a kind of rocking canter
introduced by way of intonation, each stanza the exact fellow Of the
other, and the dull swing of the rocking-horse duly in each;--no reading
could be more unfavorable to Sterling's poetry than his own. Such a mode
of reading, and indeed generally in a man of such vivacity the total
absence of all gifts for play-acting or artistic mimicry in any kind,
was a noticeable point.


After much consultation, it was settled at last that Sterling should go
to Madeira for the winter. One gray dull autumn afternoon, towards
the middle of October, I remember walking with him to the eastern Dock
region, to see his ship, and how the final preparations in his own
little cabin were proceeding there. A dingy little ship, the deck
crowded with packages, and bustling sailors within eight-and-forty hours
of lifting anchor; a dingy chill smoky day, as I have said withal, and
a chaotic element and outlook, enough to make a friend's heart sad. I
admired the cheerful careless humor and brisk activity of Sterling, who
took the matter all on the sunny side, as he was wont in such cases. We
came home together in manifold talk: he accepted with the due smile
my last contribution to his sea-equipment, a sixpenny box of German
lucifers purchased on the sudden in St. James's Street, fit to be
offered with laughter or with tears or with both; he was to leave for
Portsmouth almost immediately, and there go on board. Our next news
was of his safe arrival in the temperate Isle. Mrs. Sterling and the
children were left at Knightsbridge; to pass this winter with his Father
and Mother.


At Madeira Sterling did well: improved in health; was busy with much
Literature; and fell in with society which he could reckon pleasant.
He was much delighted with the scenery of the place; found the climate
wholesome to him in a marked degree; and, with good news from home,
and kindly interests here abroad, passed no disagreeable winter in that
exile. There was talking, there was writing, there was hope of better
health; he rode almost daily, in cheerful busy humor, along those
fringed shore-roads:--beautiful leafy roads and horse-paths; with here
and there a wild cataract and bridge to look at; and always with the
soft sky overhead, the dead volcanic mountain on one hand, and broad
illimitable sea spread out on the other. Here are two Letters which give
reasonably good account of him:--

             "_To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea, London_.
                               "FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, 16th November, 1837.

"MY DEAR CARLYLE,--I have been writing a good many letters all in a
batch, to go by the same opportunity; and I am thoroughly weary of
writing the same things over and over again to different people. My
letter to you therefore, I fear, must have much of the character of
remainder-biscuit. But you will receive it as a proof that I do not wish
you to forget me, though it may be useless for any other purpose.

"I reached this on the 2d, after a tolerably prosperous voyage, deformed
by some days of sea-sickness, but otherwise not to be complained of. I
liked my twenty fellow-passengers far better than I expected;--three or
four of them I like much, and continue to see frequently. The Island
too is better than I expected: so that my Barataria at least does not
disappoint me. The bold rough mountains, with mist about their summits,
verdure below, and a bright sun over all, please me much; and I
ride daily on the steep and narrow paved roads, which no wheels ever
journeyed on. The Town is clean, and there its merits end: but I am
comfortably lodged; with a large and pleasant sitting-room to myself. I
have met with much kindness; and see all the society I want,--though it
is not quite equal to that of London, even excluding Chelsea.

"I have got about me what Books I brought out; and have read a little,
and done some writing for _Blackwood_,--all, I have the pleasure to
inform you, prose, nay extremely prose. I shall now be more at leisure;
and hope to get more steadily to work; though I do not know what I shall
begin upon. As to reading, I have been looking at _Goethe_, especially
the _Life_,--much as a shying horse looks at a post. In truth, I am
afraid of him. I enjoy and admire him so much, and feel I could so
easily be tempted to go along with him. And yet I have a deeply rooted
and old persuasion that he was the most splendid of anachronisms. A
thoroughly, nay intensely Pagan Life, in an age when it is men's duty
to be Christian. I therefore never take him up without a kind of inward
check, as if I were trying some forbidden spell; while, on the other
hand, there is so infinitely much to be learnt from him, and it is
so needful to understand the world we live in, and our own age, and
especially its greatest minds, that I cannot bring myself to burn my
books as the converted Magicians did, or sink them as did Prospero.
There must, as I think, have been some prodigious defect in his mind, to
let him hold such views as his about women and some other things; and
in another respect, I find so much coldness and hollowness as to the
highest truths, and feel so strongly that the Heaven he looks up to is
but a vault of ice,--that these two indications, leading to the same
conclusion, go far to convince me he was a profoundly immoral and
irreligious spirit, with as rare faculties of intelligence as ever
belonged to any one. All this may be mere _goody_ weakness and twaddle,
on my part: but it is a persuasion that I cannot escape from; though I
should feel the doing so to be a deliverance from a most painful load.
If you could help me, I heartily wish you would. I never take him up
without high admiration, or lay him down without real sorrow for what he
chose to be.

"I have been reading nothing else that you would much care for.
Southey's _Amadis_ has amused me; and Lyell's _Geology_ interested me.
The latter gives one the same sort of bewildering view of the abysmal
extent of Time that Astronomy does of Space. I do not think I shall take
your advice as to learning Portuguese. It is said to be very ill spoken
here; and assuredly it is the most direful series of nasal twangs I ever
heard. One gets on quite well with English.

"The people here are, I believe, in a very low condition; but they do
not appear miserable. I am told that the influence of the priests makes
the peasantry all Miguelites; but it is said that nobody wants any more
revolutions. There is no appearance of riot or crime; and they are all
extremely civil. I was much interested by learning that Columbus once
lived here, before he found America and fame. I have been to see a
deserted _quinta_ (country-house), where there is a great deal of
curious old sculpture, in relief, upon the masonry; many of the figures,
which are nearly as large as life, representing soldiers clad and armed
much as I should suppose those of Cortez were. There are no buildings
about the Town, of the smallest pretensions to beauty or charm of any
kind. On the whole, if Madeira were one's world, life would certainly
rather tend to stagnate; but as a temporary refuge, a niche in an old
ruin where one is sheltered from the shower, it has great merit. I am
more comfortable and contented than I expected to be, so far from home
and from everybody I am closely connected with: but, of course, it is at
best a tolerable exile.

"Tell Mrs. Carlyle that I have written, since I have been here, and
am going to send to _Blackwood_, a humble imitation of her _Watch and
Canary-Bird_, entitled _The Suit of Armor and the Skeleton_. [15] I am
conscious that I am far from having reached the depth and fulness of
despair and mockery which distinguish the original! But in truth there
is a lightness of tone about her style, which I hold to be invaluable:
where she makes hairstrokes, I make blotches. I have a vehement
suspicion that my Dialogue is an entire failure; but I cannot be plagued
with it any longer. Tell her I will not send her messages, but will
write to her soon.--Meanwhile I am affectionately hers and yours,

                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

The next is to his Brother-in-law; and in a still hopefuler tone:--

                    "_To Charles Barton, Esq._ [16]
                                     FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, 3d March, 1838.

"MY DEAR CHARLES,--I have often been thinking of you and your
whereabouts in Germany, and wishing I knew more about you; and at last
it occurred to me that you might perhaps have the same wish about me,
and that therefore I should do well to write to you.

"I have been here exactly four months, having arrived on the 2d of
November,--my wedding-day; and though you perhaps may not think it a
compliment to Susan, I have seldom passed four months more cheerfully
and agreeably. I have of course felt my absence from my family, and
missed the society of my friends; for there is not a person here whom
I knew before I left England. But, on the whole, I have been in good
health, and actively employed. I have a good many agreeable and valuable
acquaintances, one or two of whom I hope I may hereafter reckon as
friends. The weather has generally been fine, and never cold; and the
scenery of the Island is of a beauty which you unhappy Northern people
can have little conception of.

"It consists of a great mass of volcanic mountains, covered in their
lower parts with cottages, vines and patches of vegetables. When you
pass through, or over the central ridge, and get towards the North,
there are woods of trees, of the laurel kind, covering the wild steep
slopes, and forming some of the strangest and most beautiful prospects I
have ever seen. Towards the interior, the forms of the hills become
more abrupt, and loftier; and give the notion of very recent volcanic
disturbances, though in fact there has been nothing of the kind since
the discovery of the Island by Europeans. Among these mountains, the
dark deep precipices, and narrow ravines with small streams at the
bottom; the basaltic knobs and ridges on the summits; and the perpetual
play of mist and cloud around them, under this bright sun and clear
sky,--form landscapes which you would thoroughly enjoy, and which I
much wish I could give you a notion of. The Town is on the south, and
of course the sheltered side of the Island; perfectly protected from the
North and East; although we have seen sometimes patches of bright snow
on the dark peaks in the distance. It is a neat cheerful place; all
built of gray stone, but having many of the houses colored white or red.
There is not a really handsome building in it, but there is a general
aspect of comfort and solidity. The shops are very poor. The English do
not mix at all with the Portuguese. The Bay is a very bad anchorage; but
is wide, bright and cheerful; and there are some picturesque points--one
a small black island--scattered about it.

"I lived till a fortnight ago in lodgings, having two rooms, one a
very good one; and paying for everything fifty-six dollars a month, the
dollar being four shillings and twopence. This you will see is dear; but
I could make no better arrangement, for there is an unusual affluence
of strangers this year. I have now come to live with a friend, a Dr.
Calvert, in a small house of our own, where I am much more comfortable,
and live greatly cheaper. He is a friend of Mrs. Percival's; about my
age, an Oriel man, and a very superior person. I think the chances are,
we shall go home together.... I cannot tell you of all the other people
I have become familiar with; and shall only mention in addition Bingham
Baring, eldest son of Lord Ashburton, who was here for some weeks on
account of a dying brother, and whom I saw a great deal of. He is a
pleasant, very good-natured and rather clever man; Conservative Member
for North Staffordshire.

"During the first two months I was here, I rode a great deal about the
Island, having a horse regularly; and was much in agreeable company,
seeing a great deal of beautiful scenery. Since then, the weather has
been much more unsettled, though not cold; and I have gone about less,
as I cannot risk the being wet. But I have spent my time pleasantly,
reading and writing. I have written a good many things for _Blackwood_;
one of which, the _Armor and the Skeleton_, I see is printed in the
February Number. I have just sent them a long Tale, called the _Onyx
Ring_, which cost me a good deal of trouble; and the extravagance
of which, I think, would amuse you; but its length may prevent its
appearance in _Blackwood_. If so, I think I should make a volume of it.
I have also written some poems, and shall probably publish the _Sexton's
Daughter_ when I return.

"My health goes on most favorably. I have had no attack of the chest
this spring; which has not happened to me since the spring before we
went to Bonn; and I am told, if I take care, I may roll along for years.
But I have little hope of being allowed to spend the four first months
of any year in England; and the question will be, Whether to go at
once to Italy, by way of Germany and Switzerland, with my family, or to
settle with them in England, perhaps at Hastings, and go abroad myself
when it may be necessary. I cannot decide till I return; but I think the
latter the most probable.

"To my dear Charles I do not like to use the ordinary forms of ending
a letter, for they are very inadequate to express my sense of your long
and most unvarying kindness; but be assured no one living could say with
more sincerity that he is ever affectionately yours,

                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

Other Letters give occasionally views of the shadier side of things:
dark broken weather, in the sky and in the mind; ugly clouds covering
one's poor fitful transitory prospect, for a time, as they might well do
in Sterling's case. Meanwhile we perceive his literary business is fast
developing itself; amid all his confusions, he is never idle long.
Some of his best Pieces--the Onyx _Ring_, for one, as we perceive--were
written here this winter. Out of the turbid whirlpool of the days he
strives assiduously to snatch what he can.

Sterling's communications with _Blackwood's Magazine_ had now issued
in some open sanction of him by Professor Wilson, the distinguished
presiding spirit of that Periodical; a fact naturally of high importance
to him under the literary point of view. For Wilson, with his clear
flashing eye and great genial heart, had at once recognized Sterling;
and lavished stormily, in his wild generous way, torrents of praise
on him in the editorial comments: which undoubtedly was one of the
gratefulest literary baptisms, by fire or by water, that could befall a
soul like Sterling's. He bore it very gently, being indeed past the
age to have his head turned by anybody's praises: nor do I think the
exaggeration that was in these eulogies did him any ill whatever; while
surely their generous encouragement did him much good, in his solitary
struggle towards new activity under such impediments as his. _Laudari a
laudato_; to be called noble by one whom you and the world recognize as
noble: this great satisfaction, never perhaps in such a degree before
or after had now been vouchsafed to Sterling; and was, as I compute, an
important fact for him. He proceeded on his pilgrimage with new energy,
and felt more and more as if authentically consecrated to the same.

The _Onyx Ring_, a curious Tale, with wild improbable basis, but with
a noble glow of coloring and with other high merits in it, a Tale still
worth reading, in which, among the imaginary characters, various friends
of Sterling's are shadowed forth, not always in the truest manner, came
out in _Blackwood_ in the winter of this year. Surely a very high talent
for painting, both of scenery and persons, is visible in this Fiction;
the promise of a Novel such as we have few. But there wants maturing,
wants purifying of clear from unclear;--properly there want patience
and steady depth. The basis, as we said, is wild and loose; and in the
details, lucent often with fine color, and dipt in beautiful sunshine,
there are several things mis_seen_, untrue, which is the worst species
of mispainting. Witness, as Sterling himself would have by and by
admitted, the "empty clockcase" (so we called it) which he has labelled
Goethe,--which puts all other untruths in the Piece to silence.


One of the great alleviations of his exile at Madeira he has already
celebrated to us: the pleasant circle of society he fell into there.
Great luck, thinks Sterling in this voyage; as indeed there was: but
he himself, moreover, was readier than most men to fall into pleasant
circles everywhere, being singularly prompt to make the most of any
circle. Some of his Madeira acquaintanceships were really good; and one
of them, if not more, ripened into comradeship and friendship for him.
He says, as we saw, "The chances are, Calvert and I will come home
together."

Among the English in pursuit of health, or in flight from fatal disease,
that winter, was this Dr. Calvert; an excellent ingenious cheery
Cumberland gentleman, about Sterling's age, and in a deeper stage of
ailment, this not being his first visit to Madeira: he, warmly joining
himself to Sterling, as we have seen, was warmly received by him; so
that there soon grew a close and free intimacy between them; which for
the next three years, till poor Calvert ended his course, was a leading
element in the history of both. Companionship in incurable malady,
a touching bond of union, was by no means purely or chiefly a
companionship in misery in their case. The sunniest inextinguishable
cheerfulness shone, through all manner of clouds, in both. Calvert had
been travelling physician in some family of rank, who had rewarded him
with a pension, shielding his own ill-health from one sad evil. Being
hopelessly gone in pulmonary disorder, he now moved about among friendly
climates and places, seeking what alleviation there might be; often
spending his summers in the house of a sister in the environs of London;
an insatiable rider on his little brown pony; always, wherever you might
meet him, one of the cheeriest of men. He had plenty of speculation too,
clear glances of all kinds into religious, social, moral concerns; and
pleasantly incited Sterling's outpourings on such subjects. He could
report of fashionable persons and manners, in a fine human Cumberland
manner; loved art, a great collector of drawings; he had endless help
and ingenuity; and was in short every way a very human, lovable, good
and nimble man,--the laughing blue eyes of him, the clear cheery soul
of him, still redolent of the fresh Northern breezes and transparent
Mountain streams. With this Calvert, Sterling formed a natural intimacy;
and they were to each other a great possession, mutually enlivening many
a dark day during the next three years. They did come home together
this spring; and subsequently made several of these health-journeys in
partnership.



CHAPTER VI. LITERATURE: THE STERLING CLUB.

In spite of these wanderings, Sterling's course in life, so far as his
poor life could have any course or aim beyond that of screening itself
from swift death, was getting more and more clear to him; and he pursued
it diligently, in the only way permitted him, by hasty snatches, in
the intervals of continual fluctuation, change of place and other
interruption.

Such, once for all, were the conditions appointed him. And it must be
owned he had, with a most kindly temper, adjusted himself to these; nay
you would have said, he loved them; it was almost as if he would have
chosen them as the suitablest. Such an adaptation was there in him
of volition to necessity:--for indeed they both, if well seen into,
proceeded from one source. Sterling's bodily disease was the expression,
under physical conditions, of the too vehement life which, under the
moral, the intellectual and other aspects, incessantly struggled within
him. Too vehement;--which would have required a frame of oak and iron
to contain it: in a thin though most wiry body of flesh and bone, it
incessantly "wore holes," and so found outlet for itself. He could take
no rest, he had never learned that art; he was, as we often reproached
him, fatally incapable of sitting still. Rapidity, as of pulsing
auroras, as of dancing lightnings: rapidity in all forms characterized
him. This, which was his bane, in many senses, being the real origin of
his disorder, and of such continual necessity to move and change,--was
also his antidote, so far as antidote there might be; enabling him to
love change, and to snatch, as few others could have done, from the
waste chaotic years, all tumbled into ruin by incessant change, what
hours and minutes of available turned up. He had an incredible facility
of labor. He flashed with most piercing glance into a subject; gathered
it up into organic utterability, with truly wonderful despatch,
considering the success and truth attained; and threw it on paper with a
swift felicity, ingenuity, brilliancy and general excellence, of which,
under such conditions of swiftness, I have never seen a parallel.
Essentially an _improviser_ genius; as his Father too was, and of
admirable completeness he too, though under a very different form.

If Sterling has done little in Literature, we may ask, What other man
than he, in such circumstances, could have done anything? In virtue of
these rapid faculties, which otherwise cost him so dear, he has built
together, out of those wavering boiling quicksands of his few later
years, a result which may justly surprise us. There is actually some
result in those poor Two Volumes gathered from him, such as they are; he
that reads there will not wholly lose his time, nor rise with a
malison instead of a blessing on the writer. Here actually is a real
seer-glance, of some compass, into the world of our day; blessed glance,
once more, of an eye that is human; truer than one of a thousand,
and beautifully capable of making others see with it. I have known
considerable temporary reputations gained, considerable piles of
temporary guineas, with loud reviewing and the like to match, on a far
less basis than lies in those two volumes. Those also, I expect, will
be held in memory by the world, one way or other, till the world
has extracted all its benefit from them. Graceful, ingenious and
illuminative reading, of their sort, for all manner of inquiring souls.
A little verdant flowery island of poetic intellect, of melodious
human verity; sunlit island founded on the rocks;--which the enormous
circumambient continents of mown reed-grass and floating lumber, with
_their_ mountain-ranges of ejected stable-litter however alpine, cannot
by any means or chance submerge: nay, I expect, they will not even quite
hide it, this modest little island, from the well-discerning; but will
float past it towards the place appointed for them, and leave said
island standing. _Allah kereem_, say the Arabs! And of the English
also some still know that there is a, difference in the material of
mountains!--

As it is this last little result, the amount of his poor and
ever-interrupted literary labor, that henceforth forms the essential
history of Sterling, we need not dwell at too much length on the foreign
journeys, disanchorings, and nomadic vicissitudes of household, which
occupy his few remaining years, and which are only the disastrous and
accidental arena of this. He had now, excluding his early and more
deliberate residence in the West Indies, made two flights abroad, once
with his family, once without, in search of health. He had two more, in
rapid succession, to make, and many more to meditate; and in the whole
from Bayswater to the end, his family made no fewer than five complete
changes of abode, for his sake. But these cannot be accepted as in any
sense epochs in his life: the one last epoch of his life was that of his
internal change towards Literature as his work in the world; and we need
not linger much on these, which are the mere outer accidents of that,
and had no distinguished influence in modifying that.

Friends still hoped the unrest of that brilliant too rapid soul would
abate with years. Nay the doctors sometimes promised, on the physical
side, a like result; prophesying that, at forty-five or some mature age,
the stress of disease might quit the lungs, and direct itself to other
quarters of the system. But no such result was appointed for us; neither
forty-five itself, nor the ameliorations promised then, were ever to
be reached. Four voyages abroad, three of them without his family,
in flight from death; and at home, for a like reason, five complete
shiftings of abode: in such wandering manner, and not otherwise, had
Sterling to continue his pilgrimage till it ended.

Once more I must say, his cheerfulness throughout was wonderful. A
certain grimmer shade, coming gradually over him, might perhaps be
noticed in the concluding years; not impatience properly, yet the
consciousness how much he needed patience; something more caustic in his
tone of wit, more trenchant and indignant occasionally in his tone of
speech: but at no moment was his activity bewildered or abated, nor did
his composure ever give way. No; both his activity and his composure
he bore with him, through all weathers, to the final close; and on the
whole, right manfully he walked his wild stern way towards the goal, and
like a Roman wrapt his mantle round him when he fell.--Let us glance,
with brevity, at what he saw and suffered in his remaining pilgrimings
and chargings; and count up what fractions of spiritual fruit he
realized to us from them.


Calvert and he returned from Madeira in the spring of 1838. Mrs.
Sterling and the family had lived in Knightsbridge with his Father's
people through the winter: they now changed to Blackheath, or ultimately
Hastings, and he with them, coming up to London pretty often; uncertain
what was to be done for next winter. Literature went on briskly here:
_Blackwood_ had from him, besides the _Onyx Ring_ which soon came out
with due honor, assiduous almost monthly contributions in prose and
verse. The series called _Hymns of a Hermit_ was now going on; eloquent
melodies, tainted to me with something of the same disease as the
_Sexton's Daughter_, though perhaps in a less degree, considering
that the strain was in a so much higher pitch. Still better, in clear
eloquent prose, the series of detached thoughts, entitled _Crystals from
a Cavern_; of which the set of fragments, generally a little larger in
compass, called _Thoughts and Images_, and again those called _Sayings
and Essayings_, [17] are properly continuations. Add to which, his friend
John Mill had now charge of a Review, _The London and Westminster_
its name; wherein Sterling's assistance, ardently desired, was freely
afforded, with satisfaction to both parties, in this and the following
years. An Essay on _Montaigne_, with the notes and reminiscences
already spoken of, was Sterling's first contribution here; then one on
_Simonides_: [18] both of the present season.

On these and other businesses, slight or important, he was often running
up to London; and gave us almost the feeling of his being resident among
us. In order to meet the most or a good many of his friends at once
on such occasions, he now furthermore contrived the scheme of a little
Club, where monthly over a frugal dinner some reunion might take place;
that is, where friends of his, and withal such friends of theirs as
suited,--and in fine, where a small select company definable as
persons to whom it was pleasant to talk together,--might have a
little opportunity of talking. The scheme was approved by the persons
concerned: I have a copy of the Original Regulations, probably drawn up
by Sterling, a very solid lucid piece of economics; and the List of the
proposed Members, signed "James Spedding, Secretary," and dated "8th
August, 1838." [19] The Club grew; was at first called the _Anonymous
Club_; then, after some months of success, in compliment to the founder
who had now left us again, the _Sterling Club_;--under which latter
name, it once lately, for a time, owing to the Religious Newspapers,
became rather famous in the world! In which strange circumstances
the name was again altered, to suit weak brethren; and the Club still
subsists, in a sufficiently flourishing though happily once more a
private condition. That is the origin and genesis of poor Sterling's
Club; which, having honestly paid the shot for itself at Will's
Coffee-house or elsewhere, rashly fancied its bits of affairs were quite
settled; and once little thought of getting into Books of History with
them!--


But now, Autumn approaching, Sterling had to quit Clubs, for matters
of sadder consideration. A new removal, what we call "his third
peregrinity," had to be decided on; and it was resolved that Rome should
be the goal of it, the journey to be done in company with Calvert, whom
also the Italian climate might be made to serve instead of Madeira. One
of the liveliest recollections I have, connected with the _Anonymous
Club_, is that of once escorting Sterling, after a certain meeting
there, which I had seen only towards the end, and now remember nothing
of,--except that, on breaking up, he proved to be encumbered with a
carpet-bag, and could not at once find a cab for Knightsbridge. Some
small bantering hereupon, during the instants of embargo. But we carried
his carpet-bag, slinging it on my stick, two or three of us alternately,
through dusty vacant streets, under the gaslights and the stars, towards
the surest cab-stand; still jesting, or pretending to jest, he and we,
not in the mirthfulest manner; and had (I suppose) our own feelings
about the poor Pilgrim, who was to go on the morrow, and had hurried to
meet us in this way, as the last thing before leaving England.



CHAPTER VII. ITALY.

The journey to Italy was undertaken by advice of Sir James Clark,
reckoned the chief authority in pulmonary therapeutics; who prophesied
important improvements from it, and perhaps even the possibility
henceforth of living all the year in some English home. Mrs. Sterling
and the children continued in a house avowedly temporary, a furnished
house at Hastings, through the winter. The two friends had set off
for Belgium, while the due warmth was still in the air. They traversed
Belgium, looking well at pictures and such objects; ascended the Rhine;
rapidly traversed Switzerland and the Alps; issuing upon Italy and
Milan, with immense appetite for pictures, and time still to gratify
themselves in that pursuit, and be deliberate in their approach to Rome.
We will take this free-flowing sketch of their passage over the Alps;
written amid "the rocks of Arona,"--Santo Borromeo's country, and poor
little Mignon's! The "elder Perdonnets" are opulent Lausanne people, to
whose late son Sterling had been very kind in Madeira the year before:--

              "_To Mrs. Sterling, Knightsbridge, London_.
                          "ARONA on the LAGO MAGGIORE, 8th Oct., 1838.

"MY DEAR MOTHER,--I bring down the story of my proceedings to the
present time since the 29th of September. I think it must have been
after that day that I was at a great breakfast at the elder Perdonnets',
with whom I had declined to dine, not choosing to go out at night....
I was taken by my hostess to see several pretty pleasure-grounds and
points of view in the neighborhood; and latterly Calvert was better, and
able to go with us. He was in force again, and our passports were all
settled so as to enable us to start on the morning of the 2d, after
taking leave of our kind entertainer with thanks for her infinite
kindness.

"We reached St. Maurice early that evening; having had the Dent du
Midi close to us for several hours; glittering like the top of a silver
teapot, far up in the sky. Our course lay along the Valley of the Rhone;
which is considered one of the least beautiful parts of Switzerland,
and perhaps for this reason pleased us, as we had not been prepared
to expect much. We saw, before reaching the foot of the Alpine pass at
Brieg, two rather celebrated Waterfalls; the one the Pissevache, which
has no more beauty than any waterfall one hundred or two hundred feet
high must necessarily have: the other, near Tourtemagne, is much more
pleasing, having foliage round it, and being in a secluded dell. If you
buy a Swiss Waterfall, choose this one.

"Our second day took us through Martigny to Sion, celebrated for its
picturesque towers upon detached hills, for its strong Romanism and its
population of _cretins_,--that is, maimed idiots having the _goitre_. It
looked to us a more thriving place than we expected. They are building
a great deal; among other things, a new Bishop's Palace and a new
Nunnery,--to inhabit either of which _ex officio_ I feel myself very
unsuitable. From Sion we came to Brieg; a little village in a nook,
close under an enormous mountain and glacier, where it lies like a
molehill, or something smaller, at the foot of a haystack. Here also we
slept; and the next day our voiturier, who had brought us from Lausanne,
started with us up the Simplon Pass; helped on by two extra horses.

"The beginning of the road was rather cheerful; having a good deal of
green pasturage, and some mountain villages; but it soon becomes dreary
and savage in aspect, and but for our bright sky and warm air, would
have been truly dismal. However, we gained gradually a distinct and
near view of several large glaciers; and reached at last the high
and melancholy valleys of the Upper Alps; where even the pines become
scanty, and no sound is heard but the wheels of one's carriage, except
when there happens to be a storm or an avalanche, neither of which
entertained us. There is, here and there, a small stream of water
pouring from the snow; but this is rather a monotonous accompaniment to
the general desolation than an interruption of it. The road itself is
certainly very good, and impresses one with a strong notion of human
power. But the common descriptions are much exaggerated; and many of
what the Guide-Books call 'galleries' are merely parts of the road
supported by a wall built against the rock, and have nothing like a
roof above them. The 'stupendous bridges,' as they are called, might be
packed, a dozen together, into one arch of London Bridge; and they
are seldom even very striking from the depth below. The roadway is
excellent, and kept in the best order. On the whole, I am very glad
to have travelled the most famous road in Europe, and to have had
delightful weather for doing so, as indeed we have had ever since we
left Lausanne. The Italian descent is greatly more remarkable than the
other side.

"We slept near the top, at the Village of Simplon, in a very fair and
well-warmed inn, close to a mountain stream, which is one of the great
ornaments of this side of the road. We have here passed into a region of
granite, from that of limestone, and what is called gneiss. The valleys
are sharper and closer,--like cracks in a hard and solid mass;--and
there is much more of the startling contrast of light and shade, as
well as more angular boldness of outline; to all which the more abundant
waters add a fresh and vivacious interest. Looking back through one
of these abysmal gorges, one sees two torrents dashing together, the
precipice and ridge on one side, pitch-black with shade; and that on the
other all flaming gold; while behind rises, in a huge cone, one of the
glacier summits of the chain. The stream at one's feet rushes at a leap
some two hundred feet down, and is bordered with pines and beeches,
struggling through a ruined world of clefts and boulders. I never saw
anything so much resembling some of the _Circles_ described by Dante.
From Simplon we made for Duomo d'Ossola; having broken out, as through
the mouth of a mine, into green and fertile valleys full of vines and
chestnuts, and white villages,--in short, into sunshine and Italy.

"At this place we dismissed our Swiss voiturier, and took an Italian
one; who conveyed us to Omegna on the Lake of Orta; a place little
visited by English travellers, but which fully repaid us the trouble of
going there. We were lodged in a simple and even rude Italian inn; where
they cannot speak a word of French; where we occupied a barn-like room,
with a huge chimney fit to lodge a hundred ghosts, whom we expelled by
dint of a hot woodfire. There were two beds, and as it happened good
ones, in this strange old apartment; which was adorned by pictures of
Architecture, and by Heads of Saints, better than many at the Royal
Academy Exhibition, and which one paid nothing for looking at. The
thorough Italian character of the whole scene amused us, much more than
Meurice's at Paris would have done; for we had voluble, commonplace
good-humor, with the aspect and accessories of a den of banditti.

"To-day we have seen the Lake of Orta, have walked for some miles among
its vineyards and chestnuts; and thence have come, by Baveno, to this
place;--having seen by the way, I believe, the most beautiful part
of the Lago Maggiore, and certainly the most cheerful, complete and
extended example of fine scenery I have ever fallen in with. Here we
are, much to my wonder,--for it seems too good to be true,--fairly in
Italy; and as yet my journey has been a pleasanter and more instructive,
and in point of health a more successful one, than I at all imagined
possible. Calvert and I go on as well as can be. I let him have his way
about natural science, and he only laughs benignly when he thinks
me absurd in my moral speculations. My only regrets are caused by my
separation from my family and friends, and by the hurry I have been
living in, which has prevented me doing any work,--and compelled me to
write to you at a good deal faster rate than the _vapore_ moves on the
Lago Maggiore. It will take me to-morrow to Sesto Calende, whence we go
to Varese. We shall not be at Milan for some days. Write thither, if you
are kind enough to write at all, till I give you another address. Love
to my Father.

                        "Your affectionate son,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

Omitting Milan, Florence nearly all, and much about "Art," Michael
Angelo, and other aerial matters, here are some select terrestrial
glimpses, the fittest I can find, of his progress towards Rome:--

                           _To his Mother_.

"_Lucca, Nov. 27th_, 1838.--I had dreams, like other people, before I
came here, of what the Lombard Lakes must be; and the week I spent among
them has left me an image, not only more distinct, but far more warm,
shining and various, and more deeply attractive in innumerable respects,
than all I had before conceived of them. And so also it has been with
Florence; where I spent three weeks: enough for the first hazy radiant
dawn of sympathy to pass away; yet constantly adding an increase of
knowledge and of love, while I examined, and tried to understand, the
wonderful minds that have left behind them there such abundant traces of
their presence.... On Sunday, the day before I left Florence, I went to
the highest part of the Grand Duke's Garden of Boboli, which commands a
view of most of the City, and of the vale of the Arno to the westward;
where, as we had been visited by several rainy days, and now at last had
a very fine one, the whole prospect was in its highest beauty. The mass
of buildings, chiefly on the other side of the River, is sufficient
to fill the eye, without perplexing the mind by vastness like that of
London; and its name and history, its outline and large and picturesque
buildings, give it grandeur of a higher order than that of mere
multitudinous extent. The Hills that border the Valley of the Arno are
also very pleasing and striking to look upon; and the view of the rich
Plain, glimmering away into blue distance, covered with an endless web
of villages and country-houses, is one of the most delightful images of
human well-being I have ever seen....

"Very shortly before leaving Florence, I went through the house of
Michael Angelo; which is still possessed by persons of the same family,
descendants, I believe, of his Nephew. There is in it his 'first work in
marble,' as it is called; and a few drawings,--all with the stamp of
his enginery upon them, which was more powerful than all the steam in
London.... On the whole, though I have done no work in Florence that can
be of any use or pleasure to others, except my Letters to my Wife,--I
leave it with the certainty of much valuable knowledge gained there, and
with a most pleasant remembrance of the busy and thoughtful days I owe
to it.


"We left Florence before seven yesterday morning [26th November] for
this place; travelling on the northern side of the Arno, by Prato,
Pistoia, Pescia. We tried to see some old frescos in a Church at Prato;
but found the Priests all about, saying mass; and of course did not
venture to put our hands into a hive where the bees were buzzing and on
the wing. Pistoia we only coasted. A little on one side of it, there is
a Hill, the first on the road from Florence; which we walked up, and
had a very lively and brilliant prospect over the road we had just
travelled, and the town of Pistoia. Thence to this place the whole land
is beautiful, and in the highest degree prosperous,--in short, to speak
metaphorically, all dotted with Leghorn bonnets, and streaming with
olive-oil. The girls here are said to employ themselves chiefly in
platting straw, which is a profitable employment; and the slightness and
quiet of the work are said to be much more favorable to beauty than the
coarser kinds of labor performed by the country-women elsewhere. Certain
it is that I saw more pretty women in Pescia, in the hour I spent there,
than I ever before met with among the same numbers of the 'phare sect.'
Wherefore, as a memorial of them, I bought there several Legends of
Female Saints and Martyrs, and of other Ladies quite the reverse, and
held up as warnings; all of which are written in _ottava rima_, and sold
for three halfpence apiece. But unhappily I have not yet had time to
read them. This Town has 30,000 inhabitants, and is surrounded by
Walls, laid out as walks, and evidently not at present intended to be
besieged,--for which reason, this morning, I merely walked on them round
the Town, and did not besiege them....

"The Cathedral [of Lucca] contains some Relics; which have undoubtedly
worked miracles on the imagination of the people hereabouts. The
Grandfather of all Relics (as the Arabs would say) in the place is the
_Volto Santo_, which is a Face of the Saviour appertaining to a wooden
Crucifix. Now you must know that, after the ascension of Christ,
Nicodemus was ordered by an Angel to carve an image of him; and went
accordingly with a hatchet, and cut down a cedar for that purpose. He
then proceeded to carve the figure; and being tired, fell asleep before
he had done the face; which however, on awaking, he found completed by
celestial aid. This image was brought to Lucca, from Leghorn, I think,
where it had arrived in a ship, 'more than a thousand years ago,'
and has ever since been kept, in purple and fine linen and gold and
diamonds, quietly working miracles. I saw the gilt Shrine of it; and
also a Hatchet which refused to cut off the head of an innocent man,
who had been condemned to death, and who prayed to the _Volto Santo_.
I suppose it is by way of economy (they being a frugal people) that
the Italians have their Book of Common Prayer and their Arabian Nights'
Entertainments condensed into one."

                            _To the Same_.

"_Pisa, December 2d_, 1838.--Pisa is very unfairly treated in all the
Books I have read. It seems to me a quiet, but very agreeable place;
with wide clean streets, and a look of stability and comfort; and I
admire the Cathedral and its appendages more, the more I see them. The
leaning of the Tower is to my eye decidedly unpleasant; but it is a
beautiful building nevertheless, and the view from the top is, under a
bright sky, remarkably lively and satisfactory. The Lucchese Hills form
a fine mass, and the sea must in clear weather be very distinct. There
was some haze over it when I was up, though the land was all clear. I
could just see the Leghorn Light-house. Leghorn itself I shall not be
able to visit....

"The quiet gracefulness of Italian life, and the mental maturity and
vigor of Germany, have a great charm when compared with the restless
whirl of England, and the chorus of mingled yells and groans sent up by
our parties and sects, and by the suffering and bewildered crowds of the
laboring people. Our politics make my heart ache, whenever I think
of them. The base selfish frenzies of factions seem to me, at this
distance, half diabolic; and I am out of the way of knowing anything
that may be quietly a-doing to elevate the standard of wise and
temperate manhood in the country, and to diffuse the means of physical
and moral well-being among all the people.... I will write to my
Father as soon as I can after reaching the capital of his friend the
Pope,--who, if he had happened to be born an English gentleman, would no
doubt by this time be a respectable old-gentlemanly gouty member of the
Carlton. I have often amused myself by thinking what a mere accident
it is that Phillpotts is not Archbishop of Tuam, and M'Hale Bishop of
Exeter; and how slight a change of dress, and of a few catchwords,
would even now enable them to fill those respective posts with all the
propriety and discretion they display in their present positions."


At Rome he found the Crawfords, known to him long since; and at
different dates other English friends old and new; and was altogether in
the liveliest humor, no end to his activities and speculations. Of
all which, during the next four months, the Letters now before me give
abundant record,--far too abundant for our objects here. His grand
pursuit, as natural at Rome, was Art; into which metaphysical domain we
shall not follow him; preferring to pick out, here and there, something
of concrete and human. Of his interests, researches, speculations
and descriptions on this subject of Art, there is always rather a
superabundance, especially in the Italian Tour. Unfortunately, in
the hard weather, poor Calvert fell ill; and Sterling, along with his
Art-studies, distinguished himself as a sick-nurse till his poor comrade
got afoot again. His general impressions of the scene and what it held
for him may be read in the following excerpts. The Letters are all dated
_Rome_, and addressed to his Father or Mother:--

"_December 21st_, 1838.--Of Rome itself, as a whole, there are infinite
things to be said, well worth saying; but I shall confine myself to
two remarks: first, that while the Monuments and works of Art gain in
wondrousness and significance by familiarity with them, the actual life
of Rome, the Papacy and its pride, lose; and though one gets accustomed
to Cardinals and Friars and Swiss Guards, and ragged beggars and the
finery of London and Paris, all rolling on together, and sees how it is
that they subsist in a sort of spurious unity, one loses all tendency to
idealize the Metropolis and System of the Hierarchy into anything
higher than a piece of showy stage-declamation, at bottom, in our day,
thoroughly mean and prosaic. My other remark is, that Rome, seen from
the tower of the Capitol, from the Pincian or the Janiculum, is at this
day one of the most beautiful spectacles which eyes ever beheld. The
company of great domes rising from a mass of large and solid buildings,
with a few stone-pines and scattered edifices on the outskirts; the
broken bare Campagna all around; the Alban Hills not far, and the purple
range of Sabine Mountains in the distance with a cope of snow;--this
seen in the clear air, and the whole spiritualized by endless
recollections, and a sense of the grave and lofty reality of human
existence which has had this place for a main theatre, fills at once the
eyes and heart more forcibly, and to me delightfully, than I can find
words to say."

"_January 22d_, 1839.--The Modern Rome, Pope and all inclusive, are
a shabby attempt at something adequate to fill the place of the old
Commonwealth. It is easy enough to live among them, and there is much
to amuse and even interest a spectator; but the native existence of the
place is now thin and hollow, and there is a stamp of littleness, and
childish poverty of taste, upon all the great Christian buildings I have
seen here,--not excepting St. Peter's; which is crammed with bits of
colored marble and gilding, and Gog-and-Magog colossal statues of saints
(looking prodigiously small), and mosaics from the worst pictures in
Rome; and has altogether, with most imposing size and lavish splendor,
a tang of Guildhall finery about it that contrasts oddly with the
melancholy vastness and simplicity of the Ancient Monuments, though
these have not the Athenian elegance. I recur perpetually to the
galleries of Sculpture in the Vatican, and to the Frescos of Raffael
and Michael Angelo, of inexhaustible beauty and greatness, and to
the general aspect of the City and the Country round it, as the most
impressive scene on earth. But the Modern City, with its churches,
palaces, priests and beggars, is far from sublime."

Of about the same date, here is another paragraph worth inserting:
"Gladstone has three little agate crosses which he will give you for my
little girls. Calvert bought them, as a present, for 'the bodies,'
at Martigny in Switzerland, and I have had no earlier opportunity
of sending them. Will you despatch them to Hastings when you have an
opportunity? I have not yet seen Gladstone's _Church and State_; but as
there is a copy in Rome, I hope soon to lay hands on it. I saw yesterday
in the _Times_ a furious, and I am sorry to say, most absurd attack on
him and it, and the new Oxonian school."

"_February 28th, 1839_.--There is among the people plenty of squalid
misery; though not nearly so much as, they say, exists in Ireland; and
here there is a certain freedom and freshness of manners, a dash of
Southern enjoyment in the condition of the meanest and most miserable.
There is, I suppose, as little as well can be of conscience or
artificial cultivation of any kind; but there is not the affectation of
a virtue which they do not possess, nor any feeling of being despised
for the want of it; and where life generally is so inert, except as to
its passions and material wants, there is not the bitter consciousness
of having been beaten by the more prosperous, in a race which the
greater number have never thought of running. Among the laboring poor of
Rome, a bribe will buy a crime; but if common work procures enough for
a day's food or idleness, ten times the sum will not induce them to toil
on, as an English workman would, for the sake of rising in the world.
Sixpence any day will put any of them at the top of the only tree they
care for,--that on which grows the fruit of idleness. It is striking to
see the way in which, in magnificent churches, the most ragged beggars
kneel on the pavement before some favorite altar in the midst of
well-dressed women and of gazing foreigners. Or sometimes you will see
one with a child come in from the street where she has been begging,
put herself in a corner, say a prayer (probably for the success of her
petitions), and then return to beg again. There is wonderfully little of
any moral strength connected with this devotion; but still it is better
than nothing, and more than is often found among the men of the upper
classes in Rome. I believe the Clergy to be generally profligate, and
the state of domestic morals as bad as it has ever been represented."--

Or, in sudden contrast, take this other glance homeward; a Letter to his
eldest child; in which kind of Letters, more than in any other, Sterling
seems to me to excel. Readers recollect the hurricane in St. Vincent;
the hasty removal to a neighbor's house, and the birth of a son there,
soon after. The boy has grown to some articulation, during these
seven years; and his Father, from the new foreign scene of Priests and
Dilettanti, thus addresses him:--

              "_To Master Edward C. Sterling, Hastings_.
                                            "ROME, 21st January, 1839.

"MY DEAR EDWARD,--I was very glad to receive your Letter, which showed
me that you have learned something since I left home. If you knew how
much pleasure it gave me to see your handwriting, I am sure you would
take pains to be able to write well, that you might often send me
letters, and tell me a great many things which I should like to know
about Mamma and your Sisters as well as yourself.

"If I go to Vesuvius, I will try to carry away a bit of the lava, which
you wish for. There has lately been a great eruption, as it is called,
of that Mountain; which means a great breaking-out of hot ashes and
fire, and of melted stones which is called lava.

"Miss Clark is very kind to take so much pains with you; and I trust you
will show that you are obliged to her, by paying attention to all she
tells you. When you see how much more grown people know than you, you
ought to be anxious to learn all you can from those who teach you; and
as there are so many wise and good things written in Books, you ought
to try to read early and carefully; that you may learn something of what
God has made you able to know. There are Libraries containing very many
thousands of Volumes; and all that is written in these is,--accounts of
some part or other of the World which God has made, or of the Thoughts
which he has enabled men to have in their minds. Some Books are
descriptions of the earth itself, with its rocks and ground and water,
and of the air and clouds, and the stars and moon and sun, which shine
so beautifully in the sky. Some tell you about the things that grow upon
the ground; the many millions of plants, from little mosses and threads
of grass up to great trees and forests. Some also contain accounts of
living things: flies, worms, fishes, birds and four-legged beasts. And
some, which are the most, are about men and their thoughts and doings.
These are the most important of all; for men are the best and most
wonderful creatures of God in the world; being the only ones able to
know him and love him, and to try of their own accord to do his will.

"These Books about men are also the most important to us, because we
ourselves are human beings, and may learn from such Books what we ought
to think and to do and to try to be. Some of them describe what sort of
people have lived in old times and in other countries. By reading them,
we know what is the difference between ourselves in England now, and the
famous nations which lived in former days. Such were the Egyptians who
built the Pyramids, which are the greatest heaps of stone upon the face
of the earth: and the Babylonians, who had a city with huge walls, built
of bricks, having writing on them that no one in our time has been able
to make out. There were also the Jews, who were the only ancient people
that knew how wonderful and how good God is: and the Greeks, who were
the wisest of all in thinking about men's lives and hearts, and who knew
best how to make fine statues and buildings, and to write wise books. By
Books also we may learn what sort of people the old Romans were, whose
chief city was Rome, where I am now; and how brave and skilful they were
in war; and how well they could govern and teach many nations which they
had conquered. It is from Books, too, that you must learn what kind of
men were our Ancestors in the Northern part of Europe, who belonged
to the tribes that did the most towards pulling down the power of the
Romans: and you will see in the same way how Christianity was sent among
them by God, to make them wiser and more peaceful, and more noble
in their minds; and how all the nations that now are in Europe, and
especially the Italians and the Germans, and the French and the English,
came to be what they now are.--It is well worth knowing (and it can be
known only by reading) how the Germans found out the Printing of Books,
and what great changes this has made in the world. And everybody in
England ought to try to understand how the English came to have their
Parliaments and Laws; and to have fleets that sail over all seas of the
world.

"Besides learning all these things, and a great many more about
different times and countries, you may learn from Books, what is the
truth of God's will, and what are the best and wisest thoughts, and the
most beautiful words; and how men are able to lead very right lives, and
to do a great deal to better the world. I have spent a great part of my
life in reading; and I hope you will come to like it as much as I do,
and to learn in this way all that I know.

"But it is a still more serious matter that you should try to be
obedient and gentle; and to command your temper; and to think of other
people's pleasure rather than your own, and of what you _ought_ to do
rather than what you _like_. If you try to be better for all you read,
as well as wiser, you will find Books a great help towards goodness as
well as knowledge, and above all other Books, the Bible; which tells us
of the will of God, and of the love of Jesus Christ towards God and men.

"I had a Letter from Mamma to-day, which left Hastings on the 10th of
this month. I was very glad to find in it that you were all well
and happy; but I know Mamma is not well, and is likely to be more
uncomfortable every day for some time. So I hope you will all take care
to give her as little trouble as possible. After sending you so much
advice, I shall write a little Story to divert you.--I am, my dear Boy,

                      "Your affectionate Father,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

The "Story" is lost, destroyed, as are many such which Sterling wrote,
with great felicity, I am told, and much to the satisfaction of the
young folk, when the humor took him.

Besides these plentiful communications still left, I remember long
Letters, not now extant, principally addressed to his Wife, of which we
and the circle at Knightsbridge had due perusal, treating with animated
copiousness about all manner of picture-galleries, pictures, statues and
objects of Art at Rome, and on the road to Rome and from it, wheresoever
his course led him into neighborhood of such objects. That was
Sterling's habit. It is expected in this Nineteenth Century that a man
of culture shall understand and worship Art: among the windy gospels
addressed to our poor Century there are few louder than this of
Art;--and if the Century expects that every man shall do his duty,
surely Sterling was not the man to balk it! Various extracts from these
picture-surveys are given in Hare; the others, I suppose, Sterling
himself subsequently destroyed, not valuing them much.

Certainly no stranger could address himself more eagerly to reap what
artistic harvest Rome offers, which is reckoned the peculiar produce
of Rome among cities under the sun; to all galleries, churches, sistine
chapels, ruins, coliseums, and artistic or dilettante shrines he
zealously pilgrimed; and had much to say then and afterwards, and with
real technical and historical knowledge I believe, about the objects of
devotion there. But it often struck me as a question, Whether all this
even to himself was not, more or less, a nebulous kind of element;
prescribed not by Nature and her verities, but by the Century expecting
every man to do his duty? Whether not perhaps, in good part, temporary
dilettante cloudland of our poor Century;--or can it be the real diviner
Pisgah height, and everlasting mount of vision, for man's soul in
any Century? And I think Sterling himself bent towards a negative
conclusion, in the course of years. Certainly, of all subjects this
was the one I cared least to hear even Sterling talk of: indeed it is a
subject on which earnest men, abhorrent of hypocrisy and speech that has
no meaning, are admonished to silence in this sad time, and had better,
in such a Babel as we have got into for the present, "perambulate their
picture-gallery with little or no speech."

Here is another and to me much more earnest kind of "Art," which
renders Rome unique among the cities of the world; of this we will, in
preference; take a glance through Sterling's eyes:--

"January 22d, 1839.--On Friday last there was a great Festival at St.
Peter's; the only one I have seen. The Church was decorated with crimson
hangings, and the choir fitted up with seats and galleries, and a throne
for the Pope. There were perhaps a couple of hundred guards of different
kinds; and three or four hundred English ladies, and not so many foreign
male spectators; so that the place looked empty. The Cardinals in
scarlet, and Monsignori in purple, were there; and a body of officiating
Clergy. The Pope was carried in in his chair on men's shoulders, wearing
the Triple Crown; which I have thus actually seen: it is something
like a gigantic Egg, and of the same color, with three little bands of
gold,--very large Egg-shell with three streaks of the yolk smeared round
it. He was dressed in white silk robes, with gold trimmings.

"It was a fine piece of state-show; though, as there are three or four
such Festivals yearly, of course there is none of the eager interest
which breaks out at coronations and similar rare events; no explosion
of unwonted velvets, jewels, carriages and footmen, such as London and
Milan have lately enjoyed. I guessed all the people in St. Peter's,
including performers and spectators, at 2,000; where 20,000 would hardly
have been a crushing crowd. Mass was performed, and a stupid but short
Latin sermon delivered by a lad, in honor of St. Peter, who would have
been much astonished if he could have heard it. The genuflections, and
train-bearings, and folding up the tails of silk petticoats while the
Pontiff knelt, and the train of Cardinals going up to kiss his Ring, and
so forth,--made on me the impression of something immeasurably old and
sepulchral, such as might suit the Grand Lama's court, or the inside of
an Egyptian Pyramid; or as if the Hieroglyphics on one of the Obelisks
here should begin to pace and gesticulate, and nod their bestial heads
upon the granite tablets. The careless bystanders, the London ladies
with their eye-glasses and look of an Opera-box, the yawning young
gentlemen of the _Guarda Nobile_, and the laugh of one of the file of
vermilion Priests round the steps of the altar at the whispered good
thing of his neighbor, brought one back to nothing indeed of a very
lofty kind, but still to the Nineteenth Century."--

"At the great Benediction of the City and the World on Easter Sunday by
the Pope," he writes afterwards, "there was a large crowd both native
and foreign, hundreds of carriages, and thousands of the lower orders of
people from the country; but even of the poor hardly one in twenty took
off his hat, and a still smaller number knelt down. A few years ago,
not a head was covered, nor was there a knee which did not bow."--A very
decadent "Holiness of our Lord the Pope," it would appear!--

Sterling's view of the Pope, as seen in these his gala days, doing his
big play-actorism under God's earnest sky, was much more substantial
to me than his studies in the picture-galleries. To Mr. Hare also he
writes: "I have seen the Pope in all his pomp at St. Peter's; and he
looked to me a mere lie in livery. The Romish Controversy is doubtless a
much more difficult one than the managers of the Religious-Tract Society
fancy, because it is a theoretical dispute; and in dealing with notions
and authorities, I can quite understand how a mere student in a library,
with no eye for facts, should take either one side or other. But how any
man with clear head and honest heart, and capable of seeing realities,
and distinguishing them from scenic falsehoods, should, after living in
a Romanist country, and especially at Rome, be inclined to side with Leo
against Luther, I cannot understand." [20]

It is fit surely to recognize with admiring joy any glimpse of the
Beautiful and the Eternal that is hung out for us, in color, in form or
tone, in canvas, stone, or atmospheric air, and made accessible by any
sense, in this world: but it is greatly fitter still (little as we are
used that way) to shudder in pity and abhorrence over the scandalous
tragedy, transcendent nadir of human ugliness and contemptibility, which
under the daring title of religious worship, and practical recognition
of the Highest God, daily and hourly everywhere transacts itself there.
And, alas, not there only, but elsewhere, everywhere more or less;
whereby our sense is so blunted to it;--whence, in all provinces of
human life, these tears!--

But let us take a glance at the Carnival, since we are here. The
Letters, as before, are addressed to Knightsbridge; the date _Rome_:--

"_February 5th_, 1839.--The Carnival began yesterday. It is a curious
example of the trifling things which will heartily amuse tens of
thousands of grown people, precisely because they are trifling, and
therefore a relief from serious business, cares and labors. The Corso
is a street about a mile long, and about as broad as Jermyn Street; but
bordered by much loftier houses, with many palaces and churches, and
has two or three small squares opening into it. Carriages, mostly open,
drove up and down it for two or three hours; and the contents were shot
at with handfuls of comfits from the windows,--in the hope of making
them as non-content as possible,--while they returned the fire to the
best of their inferior ability. The populace, among whom was I, walked
about; perhaps one in fifty were masked in character; but there was
little in the masquerade either of splendor of costume or liveliness of
mimicry. However, the whole scene was very gay; there were a good many
troops about, and some of them heavy dragoons, who flourished
their swords with the magnanimity of our Life-Guards, to repel the
encroachments of too ambitious little boys. Most of the windows
and balconies were hung with colored drapery; and there were flags,
trumpets, nosegays and flirtations of all shapes and sizes. The best of
all was, that there was laughter enough to have frightened Cassius out
of his thin carcass, could the lean old homicide have been present,
otherwise than as a fleshless ghost;--in which capacity I thought I had
a glimpse of him looking over the shoulder of a particolored clown, in
a carriage full of London Cockneys driving towards the Capitol. This
good-humored foolery will go on for several days to come, ending always
with the celebrated Horse-race, of horses without riders. The long
street is cleared in the centre by troops, and half a dozen quadrupeds,
ornamented like Grimaldi in a London pantomime, scamper away, with the
mob closing and roaring at their heels."

"_February_ 9th, 1839.--The usual state of Rome is quiet and sober. One
could almost fancy the actual generation held their breath, and stole by
on tiptoe, in presence of so memorable a past. But during the Carnival
all mankind, womankind and childkind think it unbecoming not to play
the fool. The modern donkey pokes its head out of the lion's skin of old
Rome, and brays out the absurdest of asinine roundelays. Conceive twenty
thousand grown people in a long street, at the windows, on the footways,
and in carriages, amused day after day for several hours in pelting and
being pelted with handfuls of mock or real sugar-plums; and this no name
or presence, but real downright showers of plaster comfits, from which
people guard their eyes with meshes of wire. As sure as a carriage
passes under a window or balcony where are acquaintances of theirs, down
comes a shower of hail, ineffectually returned from below. The parties
in two crossing carriages similarly assault each other; and there are
long balconies hung the whole way with a deep canvas pocket full of this
mortal shot. One Russian Grand Duke goes with a troop of youngsters in a
wagon, all dressed in brown linen frocks and masked, and pelts among the
most furious, also being pelted. The children are of course preeminently
vigorous, and there is a considerable circulation of real sugar-plums,
which supply consolation for all disappointments."

The whole to conclude, as is proper, with a display, with two displays,
of fireworks; in which art, as in some others, Rome is unrivalled:--

"_February 9th_, 1839.--It seems to be the ambition of all the lower
classes to wear a mask and showy grotesque disguise of some kind; and I
believe many of the upper ranks do the same. They even put St. Peter's
into masquerade; and make it a Cathedral of Lamplight instead of a stone
one. Two evenings ago this feat was performed; and I was able to see it
from the rooms of a friend near this, which command an excellent view of
it. I never saw so beautiful an effect of artificial light. The evening
was perfectly serene and clear; the principal lines of the building, the
columns, architrave and pediment of the front, the two inferior cupolas,
the curves of the dome from which the dome rises, the ribs of the dome
itself, the small oriel windows between them, and the lantern and ball
and cross,--all were delineated in the clear vault of air by lines of
pale yellow fire. The dome of another great Church, much nearer to
the eye, stood up as a great black mass,--a funereal contrast to the
luminous tabernacle.

"While I was looking at this latter, a red blaze burst from the summit,
and at the same moment seemed to flash over the whole building, filling
up the pale outline with a simultaneous burst of fire. This is a
celebrated display; and is done, I believe, by the employment of a very
great number of men to light, at the same instant, the torches which are
fixed for the purpose all over the building. After the first glare of
fire, I did not think the second aspect of the building so beautiful
as the first; it wanted both softness and distinctness. The two most
animated days of the Carnival are still to come."

"_April 4th_, 1839.--We have just come to the termination of all the
Easter spectacles here. On Sunday evening St. Peter's was a second time
illuminated; I was in the Piazza, and admired the sight from a nearer
point than when I had seen it before at the time of the Carnival.

"On Monday evening the celebrated fire-works were let off from the
Castle of St. Angelo; they were said to be, in some respects more
brilliant than usual. I certainly never saw any fireworks comparable
to them for beauty. The Girandola is a discharge of many thousands of
rockets at once, which of course fall back, like the leaves of a lily,
and form for a minute a very beautiful picture. There was also in
silvery light a very long Facade of a Palace, which looked a residence
for Oberon and Titania, and beat Aladdin's into darkness. Afterwards a
series of cascades of red fire poured down the faces of the Castle and
of the scaffoldings round it, and seemed a burning Niagara. Of course
there were abundance of serpents, wheels and cannon-shot; there was also
a display of dazzling white light, which made a strange appearance on
the houses, the river, the bridge, and the faces of the multitude. The
whole ended with a second and a more splendid Girandola."

Take finally, to people the scene a little for us, if our imagination
be at all lively, these three small entries, of different dates, and so
wind up:--

"_December 30th_, 1838.--I received on Christmas-day a packet from
Dr. Carlyle, containing Letters from the Maurices; which were a very
pleasant arrival. The Dr. wrote a few lines with them, mentioning that
he was only at Civita Vecchia while the steamer baited on its way to
Naples. I have written to thank him for his despatches."

"_March 16th_, 1839.--I have seen a good deal of John Mill, whose
society I like much. He enters heartily into the interest of the things
which I most care for here, and I have seldom had more pleasure than
in taking him to see Raffael's Loggie, where are the Frescos called his
Bible, and to the Sixtine Chapel, which I admire and love more and
more. He is in very weak health, but as fresh and clear in mind as
possible.... English politics seem in a queer state, the Conservatives
creeping on, the Whigs losing ground; like combatants on the top of a
breach, while there is a social mine below which will probably blow both
parties into the air."

"_April 4th_, 1839.--I walked out on Tuesday on the Ancona Road, and
about noon met a travelling carriage, which from a distance looked very
suspicious, and on nearer approach was found really to contain Captain
Sterling and an Albanian manservant on the front, and behind under the
hood Mrs. A. Sterling and the she portion of the tail. They seemed very
well; and, having turned the Albanian back to the rear of the whole
machine, I sat by Anthony, and entered Rome in triumph."--Here is indeed
a conquest! Captain A. Sterling, now on his return from service in
Corfu, meets his Brother in this manner; and the remaining Roman days
are of a brighter complexion. As these suddenly ended, I believe he
turned southward, and found at Naples the Dr. Carlyle above mentioned
(an extremely intimate acquaintance of mine), who was still there. For
we are a most travelling people, we of this Island in this time; and,
as the Prophet threatened, see ourselves, in so many senses, made "like
unto a wheel!"--

Sterling returned from Italy filled with much cheerful imagery and
reminiscence, and great store of artistic, serious, dilettante and other
speculation for the time; improved in health, too; but probably
little enriched in real culture or spiritual strength; and indeed not
permanently altered by his tour in any respect to a sensible extent,
that one could notice. He returned rather in haste, and before the
expected time; summoned, about the middle of April, by his Wife's
domestic situation at Hastings; who, poor lady, had been brought to bed
before her calculation, and had in few days lost her infant; and now saw
a household round her much needing the master's presence. He hurried off
to Malta, dreading the Alps at that season; and came home, by steamer,
with all speed, early in May, 1839.



PART III.



CHAPTER I. CLIFTON.

Matters once readjusted at Hastings, it was thought Sterling's health
had so improved, and his activities towards Literature so developed
themselves into congruity, that a permanent English place of abode
might now again be selected,--on the Southwest coast somewhere,--and the
family once more have the blessing of a home, and see its _lares_
and _penates_ and household furniture unlocked from the Pantechnicon
repositories, where they had so long been lying.

Clifton, by Bristol, with its soft Southern winds and high cheerful
situation, recommended too by the presence of one or more valuable
acquaintances there, was found to be the eligible place; and thither in
this summer of 1839, having found a tolerable lodging, with the prospect
by and by of an agreeable house, he and his removed. This was the end of
what I call his "third peregrinity;"--or reckoning the West Indies one,
his fourth. This also is, since Bayswater, the fourth time his family
has had to shift on his account. Bayswater; then to Bordeaux, to
Blackheath and Knightsbridge (during the Madeira time), to Hastings
(Roman time); and now to Clifton, not to stay there either: a sadly
nomadic life to be prescribed to a civilized man!


At Clifton his habitation was speedily enough set up; household
conveniences, methods of work, daily promenades on foot or horseback,
and before long even a circle of friends, or of kindly neighborhoods
ripening into intimacy, were established round him. In all this no man
could be more expert or expeditious, in such cases. It was with singular
facility, in a loving, hoping manner, that he threw himself open to
the new interests and capabilities of the new place; snatched out of
it whatsoever of human or material would suit him; and in brief, in
all senses had pitched his tent-habitation, and grew to look on it as a
house. It was beautiful too, as well as pathetic. This man saw himself
reduced to be a dweller in tents, his house is but a stone tent; and he
can so kindly accommodate himself to that arrangement;--healthy faculty
and diseased necessity, nature and habit, and all manner of things
primary and secondary, original and incidental, conspiring now to make
it easy for him. With the evils of nomadism, he participated to the full
in whatever benefits lie in it for a man.

He had friends enough, old and new, at Clifton, whose intercourse made
the place human for him. Perhaps among the most valued of the former
sort may be mentioned Mrs. Edward Strachey, Widow of the late Indian
Judge, who now resided here; a cultivated, graceful, most devout and
high-minded lady; whom he had known in old years, first probably as
Charles Buller's Aunt, and whose esteem was constant for him, and always
precious to him. She was some ten or twelve years older than he; she
survived him some years, but is now also gone from us. Of new friends
acquired here, besides a skilful and ingenious Dr. Symonds, physician
as well as friend, the principal was Francis Newman, then and still an
ardently inquiring soul, of fine University and other attainments, of
sharp-cutting, restlessly advancing intellect, and the mildest pious
enthusiasm; whose worth, since better known to all the world, Sterling
highly estimated;--and indeed practically testified the same; having by
will appointed him, some years hence, guardian to his eldest Son; which
pious function Mr. Newman now successfully discharges.


Sterling was not long in certainty as to his abode at Clifton: alas,
where could he long be so? Hardly six months were gone when his old
enemy again overtook him; again admonished him how frail his hopes of
permanency were. Each winter, it turned out, he had to fly; and after
the second of these, he quitted the place altogether. Here, meanwhile,
in a Letter to myself, and in Excerpts from others, are some glimpses of
his advent and first summer there:--

                           _To his Mother_.

"_Clifton, June 11th_, 1839.--As yet I am personally very uncomfortable
from the general confusion of this house, which deprives me of my room
to sit and read and write in; all being more or less lumbered by boxes,
and invaded by servile domesticities aproned, handled, bristled, and of
nondescript varieties. We have very fine warm weather, with occasional
showers; and the verdure of the woods and fields is very beautiful.
Bristol seems as busy as need be; and the shops and all kinds of
practical conveniences are excellent; but those of Clifton have the
usual sentimental, not to say meretricious fraudulence of commercial
establishments in Watering-places.

"The bag which Hannah forgot reached us safely at Bath on Friday
morning; but I cannot quite unriddle the mystery of the change of
padlocks, for I left the right one in care of the Head Steam-engine at
Paddington, which seemed a very decent person with a good black coat on,
and a pen behind its ear. I have been meditating much on the story of
Palarea's 'box of papers;' which does not appear to be in my possession,
and I have a strong impression that I gave it to young Florez Calderon.
I will write to say so to Madam Torrijos speedily." Palarea, Dr.
Palarea, I understand, was "an old guerilla leader whom they called
_El Medico_." Of him and of the vanished shadows, now gone to Paris, to
Madrid, or out of the world, let us say nothing!

                           _To Mr. Carlyle_.

"_June 15th_, 1839.--We have a room now occupied by Robert Barton [a
brother-in-law]; to which Anthony may perhaps succeed; but which after
him, or in lieu of him, would expand itself to receive you. Is there no
hope of your coming? I would undertake to ride with you at all possible
paces, and in all existing directions.

"As yet my books are lying as ghost books, in a limbo on the banks of
a certain Bristolian Styx, humanly speaking, a _Canal_; but the other
apparatus of life is gathered about me, and performs its diurnal
functions. The place pleases me better than I expected: a far lookout on
all sides, over green country; a sufficient old City lying in the hollow
near; and civilization, in no tumultuous state, rather indeed stagnant,
visible in the Rows of Houses and Gardens which call themselves Clifton.
I hope soon to take a lease of a house, where I may arrange myself more
methodically; keep myself equably boiling in my own kitchen; and spread
myself over a series of book-shelves.... I have just been interrupted
by a visit from Mrs. Strachey; with whom I dined yesterday. She seems a
very good and thoroughly kind-hearted woman; and it is pleasant to have
her for a neighbor.... I have read Emerson's Pamphlets. I should find it
more difficult than ever to write to him."

                           _To his Father_.

"_June 30th_, 1839.--Of Books I shall have no lack, though no plethora;
and the Reading-room supplies all one can want in the way of Papers
and Reviews. I go there three or four times a week, and inquire how the
human race goes on. I suppose this Turco-Egyptian War will throw several
diplomatists into a state of great excitement, and massacre a good many
thousands of Africans and Asiatics?--For the present, it appears, the
English Education Question is settled. I wish the Government had said
that, in their inspection and superintendence, they would look only to
secular matters, and leave religious ones to the persons who set up the
schools, whoever these might be. It seems to me monstrous that the State
should be prevented taking any efficient measures for teaching Roman
Catholic children to read, write and cipher, merely because they believe
in the Pope, and the Pope is an impostor,--which I candidly confess he
is! There is no question which I can so ill endure to see made a party
one as that of Education."--The following is of the same day:--

             "_To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea, London_.
                                 "MANOR HOUSE, CLIFTON PLACE, CLIFTON,
                                                     "30th June, 1839.

"MY DEAR CARLYLE,--I have heard, this morning, from my Father, that you
are to set out on Tuesday for Scotland: so I have determined to fillip
away some spurt of ink in your direction, which may reach you before you
move towards Thule.

"Writing to you, in fact, is considerably easier than writing about
you; which has been my employment of late, at leisure moments,--that
is, moments of leisure from idleness, not work. As you partly guessed,
I took in hand a Review of _Teufelsdrockh_--for want of a better
Heuschrecke to do the work; and when I have been well enough, and alert
enough, during the last fortnight, have tried to set down some notions
about Tobacco, Radicalism, Christianity, Assafoetida and so forth. But a
few abortive pages are all the result as yet. If my speculations should
ever see daylight, they may chance to get you into scrapes, but
will certainly get me into worse.... But one must work; _sic itur ad
astra_,--and the _astra_ are always there to befriend one, at least as
asterisks, filling up the gaps which yawn in vain for words.

"Except my unsuccessful efforts to discuss you and your offences, I have
done nothing that leaves a trace behind;--unless the endeavor to teach
my little boy the Latin declensions shall be found, at some time short
of the Last Day, to have done so. I have--rather I think from dyspepsia
than dyspneumony--been often and for days disabled from doing anything
but read. In this way I have gone through a good deal of Strauss's Book;
which is exceedingly clever and clearheaded; with more of insight, and
less of destructive rage than I expected. It will work deep and far,
in such a time as ours. When so many minds are distracted about the
history, or rather genesis of the Gospel, it is a great thing for
partisans on the one side to have, what the other never have wanted,
a Book of which they can say, This is our Creed and Code,--or rather
Anti-creed and Anti-code. And Strauss seems perfectly secure against the
sort of answer to which Voltaire's critical and historical shallowness
perpetually exposed him. I mean to read the Book through. It seems
admitted that the orthodox theologians have failed to give any
sufficient answer.--I have also looked through Michelet's _Luther_, with
great delight; and have read the fourth volume of Coleridge's _Literary
Remains_, in which there are things that would interest you. He has a
great hankering after Cromwell, and explicitly defends the execution of
Charles.

"Of Mrs. Strachey we have seen a great deal; and might have seen more,
had I had time and spirits for it. She is a warm-hearted, enthusiastic
creature, whom one cannot but like. She seems always excited by the wish
for more excitement than her life affords. And such a person is always
in danger of doing something less wise than his best knowledge and
aspirations; because he must do something, and circumstances do not
allow him to do what he desires. Thence, after the first glow of
novelty, endless self-tormenting comes from the contrast between aims
and acts. She sets out, with her daughter and two boys, for a Tour in
Wales to-morrow morning. Her talk of you is always most affectionate;
and few, I guess, will read _Sartor_ with more interest than she.

"I am still in a very extempore condition as to house, books, &c. One
which I have hired for three years will be given up to me in the middle
of August; and then I may hope to have something like a house,--so far
as that is possible for any one to whom Time itself is often but a worse
or a better kind of cave in the desert. We have had rainy and cheerless
weather almost since the day of our arrival. But the sun now shines
more lovingly, and the skies seem less disdainful of man and his
perplexities. The earth is green, abundant and beautiful. But human
life, so far as I can learn, is mean and meagre enough in its purposes,
however striking to the speculative or sentimental bystander. Pray be
assured that whatever you may say of the 'landlord at Clifton,' [21] the
more I know of him, the less I shall like him. Well with me if I can
put up with him for the present, and make use of him, till at last I can
joyfully turn him off forever!

"Love to you Wife and self. My little Charlotte desires me to tell you
that she has new shoes for her Doll, which she will show you when you
come.

                                "Yours,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

The visit to Clifton never took effect; nor to any of Sterling's
subsequent homes; which now is matter of regret to me. Concerning
the "Review of _Teufelsdrockh_" there will be more to say anon. As to
"little Charlotte and her Doll," I remember well enough and was more
than once reminded, this bright little creature, on one of my first
visits to Bayswater, had earnestly applied to me to put her Doll's shoes
on for her; which feat was performed.--The next fragment indicates a
household settled, fallen into wholesome routine again; and may close
the series here:--

                           _To his Mother_.

"_July 22d_, 1839.--A few evenings ago we went to Mr. Griffin's, and
met there Dr. Prichard, the author of a well-known Book on the _Races of
Mankind_, to which it stands in the same relation among English books
as the Racing Calendar does to those of Horsekind. He is a very
intelligent, accomplished person. We had also there the Dean; a certain
Dr. ---- of Corpus College, Cambridge (a booby); and a clever fellow,
a Mr. Fisher, one of the Tutors of Trinity in my days. We had a very
pleasant evening."--

At London we were in the habit of expecting Sterling pretty often; his
presence, in this house as in others, was looked for, once in the month
or two, and came always as sunshine in the gray weather to me and mine.
My daily walks with him had long since been cut short without renewal;
that walk to Eltham and Edgeworth's perhaps the last of the kind he and
I had: but our intimacy, deepening and widening year after year, knew no
interruption or abatement of increase; an honest, frank and truly human
mutual relation, valuable or even invaluable to both parties, and a
lasting loss, hardly to be replaced in this world, to the survivor of
the two.

His visits, which were usually of two or three days, were always full of
business, rapid in movement as all his life was. To me, if possible, he
would come in the evening; a whole cornucopia of talk and speculation
was to be discharged. If the evening would not do, and my affairs
otherwise permitted, I had to mount into cabs with him; fly far and
wide, shuttling athwart the big Babel, wherever his calls and pauses had
to be. This was his way to husband time! Our talk, in such straitened
circumstances, was loud or low as the circumambient groaning rage
of wheels and sound prescribed,--very loud it had to be in such
thoroughfares as London Bridge and Cheapside; but except while he
was absent, off for minutes into some banker's office, lawyer's,
stationer's, haberdasher's or what office there might be, it never
paused. In this way extensive strange dialogues were carried on: to me
also very strange,--private friendly colloquies, on all manner of rich
subjects, held thus amid the chaotic roar of things. Sterling was full
of speculations, observations and bright sallies; vividly awake to what
was passing in the world; glanced pertinently with victorious clearness,
without spleen, though often enough with a dash of mockery, into its
Puseyisms, Liberalisms, literary Lionisms, or what else the mad hour
might be producing,--always prompt to recognize what grain of sanity
might be in the same. He was opulent in talk, and the rapid movement and
vicissitude on such occasions seemed to give him new excitement.

Once, I still remember,--it was some years before, probably in May, on
his return from Madeira,--he undertook a day's riding with me; once and
never again. We coursed extensively, over the Hampstead and Highgate
regions, and the country beyond, sauntering or galloping through many
leafy lanes and pleasant places, in ever-flowing, ever-changing talk;
and returned down Regent Street at nightfall: one of the cheerfulest
days I ever had;--not to be repeated, said the Fates. Sterling was
charming on such occasions: at once a child and a gifted man. A serious
fund of thought he always had, a serious drift you never missed in him:
nor indeed had he much depth of real laughter or sense of the ludicrous,
as I have elsewhere said; but what he had was genuine, free and
continual: his sparkling sallies bubbled up as from aerated natural
fountains; a mild dash of gayety was native to the man, and had moulded
his physiognomy in a very graceful way. We got once into a cab, about
Charing Cross; I know not now whence or well whitherward, nor that our
haste was at all special; however, the cabman, sensible that his pace
was slowish, took to whipping, with a steady, passionless, businesslike
assiduity which, though the horse seemed lazy rather than weak, became
afflictive; and I urged remonstrance with the savage fellow: "Let him
alone," answered Sterling; "he is kindling the enthusiasm of his horse,
you perceive; that is the first thing, then we shall do very well!"--as
accordingly we did.


At Clifton, though his thoughts began to turn more on poetic forms
of composition, he was diligent in prose elaborations too,--doing
Criticism, for one thing, as we incidentally observed. He wrote there,
and sent forth in this autumn of 1839, his most important contribution
to John Mill's Review, the article on _Carlyle_, which stands also in
Mr. Hare's collection. [22] What its effect on the public was I knew
not, and know not; but remember well, and may here be permitted to
acknowledge, the deep silent joy, not of a weak or ignoble nature, which
it gave to myself in my then mood and situation; as it well might. The
first generous human recognition, expressed with heroic emphasis, and
clear conviction visible amid its fiery exaggeration, that one's poor
battle in this world is not quite a mad and futile, that it is perhaps a
worthy and manful one, which will come to something yet: this fact is
a memorable one in every history; and for me Sterling, often enough the
stiff gainsayer in our private communings, was the doer of this. The
thought burnt in me like a lamp, for several days; lighting up into
a kind of heroic splendor the sad volcanic wrecks, abysses, and
convulsions of said poor battle, and secretly I was very grateful to my
daring friend, and am still, and ought to be. What the public might be
thinking about him and his audacities, and me in consequence, or whether
it thought at all, I never learned, or much heeded to learn.

Sterling's gainsaying had given way on many points; but on others it
continued stiff as ever, as may be seen in that article; indeed he
fought Parthian-like in such cases, holding out his last position as
doggedly as the first: and to some of my notions he seemed to grow in
stubbornness of opposition, with the growing inevitability, and
never would surrender. Especially that doctrine of the "greatness and
fruitfulness of Silence," remained afflictive and incomprehensible:
"Silence?" he would say: "Yes, truly; if they give you leave to proclaim
silence by cannon-salvos! My Harpocrates-Stentor!" In like manner,
"Intellect and Virtue," how they are proportional, or are indeed one
gift in us, the same great summary of gifts; and again, "Might and
Right," the identity of these two, if a man will understand this
God's-Universe, and that only he who conforms to the law of it can
in the long-run have any "might:" all this, at the first blush, often
awakened Sterling's musketry upon me, and many volleys I have had
to stand,--the thing not being decidable by that kind of weapon or
strategy.

In such cases your one method was to leave our friend in peace. By
small-arms practice no mortal could dislodge him: but if you were in the
right, the silent hours would work continually for you; and Sterling,
more certainly than any man, would and must at length swear fealty to
the right, and passionately adopt it, burying all hostilities under
foot. A more candid soul, once let the stormful velocities of it expend
themselves, was nowhere to be met with. A son of light, if I have ever
seen one; recognizing the truth, if truth there were; hurling overboard
his vanities, petulances, big and small interests, in ready loyalty to
truth: very beautiful; at once a loyal child, as I said, and a gifted
man!--Here is a very pertinent passage from one of his Letters, which,
though the name continues blank, I will insert:--

                           _To his Father_.

"_October 15th_, 1839.--As to my 'over-estimate of ----,' your
expressions rather puzzle me. I suppose there may be, at the outside, a
hundred persons in England whose opinions on such a matter are worth
as much as mine. If by 'the public' you and my Mother mean the other
ninety-nine, I submit. I have no doubt that, on any matter not relating
peculiarly to myself, the judgment of the ninety-nine most philosophical
heads in the country, if unanimous, would be right, and mine, if opposed
to them, wrong. But then I am at a loss to make out, How the decision of
the very few really competent persons has been ascertained to be thus in
contradiction to me? And on the other hand, I conceive myself, from my
opportunities, knowledge and attention to the subject, to be alone quite
entitled to outvote tens of thousands of gentlemen, however much my
superiors as men of business, men of the world, or men of merely dry or
merely frivolous literature.

"I do not remember ever before to have heard the saying, whether of
Talleyrand or of any one else, That _all_ the world is a wiser man
than any man in the world. Had it been said even by the Devil, it would
nevertheless be false. I have often indeed heard the saying, _On peut
etre plus FIN qu'un autre, mais pas plus FIN que tous les autres_. But
observe that '_fin_' means _cunning_, not _wise_. The difference between
this assertion and the one you refer to is curious and worth examining.
It is quite certain, there is always some one man in the world wiser
than all the rest; as Socrates was declared by the oracle to be; and as,
I suppose, Bacon was in his day, and perhaps Burke in his. There is also
some one, whose opinion would be probably true, if opposed to that of
all around him; and it is always indubitable that the wise men are the
scores, and the unwise the millions. The millions indeed come round, in
the course of a generation or two, to the opinions of the wise; but
by that time a new race of wise men have again shot ahead of their
contemporaries: so it has always been, and so, in the nature of things,
it always must be. But with cunning, the matter is quite different.
Cunning is not _dishonest wisdom_, which would be a contradiction
in terms; it is _dishonest prudence_, acuteness in practice, not in
thought: and though there must always be some one the most cunning in
the world, as well as some one the most wise, these two superlatives
will fare very differently in the world. In the case of cunning, the
shrewdness of a whole people, of a whole generation, may doubtless be
combined against that of the one, and so triumph over it; which was
pretty much the case with Napoleon. But although a man of the greatest
cunning can hardly conceal his designs and true character from millions
of unfriendly eyes, it is quite impossible thus to club the eyes of
the mind, and to constitute by the union of ten thousand follies an
equivalent for a single wisdom. A hundred school-boys can easily unite
and thrash their one master; but a hundred thousand school-boys would
not be nearer than a score to knowing as much Greek among them as
Bentley or Scaliger. To all which, I believe, you will assent as readily
as I;--and I have written it down only because I have nothing more
important to say."--


Besides his prose labors, Sterling had by this time written, publishing
chiefly in _Blackwood_, a large assortment of verses, _Sexton's
Daughter_, _Hymns of a Hermit_, and I know not what other extensive
stock of pieces; concerning which he was now somewhat at a loss as to
his true course. He could write verses with astonishing facility, in any
given form of metre; and to various readers they seemed excellent,
and high judges had freely called them so, but he himself had grave
misgivings on that latter essential point. In fact here once more was
a parting of the ways, "Write in Poetry; write in Prose?" upon which,
before all else, it much concerned him to come to a settlement.

My own advice was, as it had always been, steady against Poetry; and we
had colloquies upon it, which must have tried his patience, for in him
there was a strong leaning the other way. But, as I remarked and urged:
Had he not already gained superior excellence in delivering, by way of
_speech_ or prose, what thoughts were in him, which is the grand and
only intrinsic function of a writing man, call him by what title you
will? Cultivate that superior excellence till it become a perfect and
superlative one. Why _sing_ your bits of thoughts, if you _can_ contrive
to speak them? By your thought, not by your mode of delivering it,
you must live or die.--Besides I had to observe there was in Sterling
intrinsically no depth of _tune_; which surely is the real test of a
Poet or Singer, as distinguished from a Speaker? In music proper he
had not the slightest ear; all music was mere impertinent noise to him,
nothing in it perceptible but the mere march or time. Nor in his way
of conception and utterance, in the verses he wrote, was there any
contradiction, but a constant confirmation to me, of that fatal
prognostic;--as indeed the whole man, in ear and heart and tongue, is
one; and he whose soul does not sing, need not try to do it with his
throat. Sterling's verses had a monotonous rub-a-dub, instead of tune;
no trace of music deeper than that of a well-beaten drum; to which
limited range of excellence the substance also corresponded; being
intrinsically always a rhymed and slightly rhythmical _speech_, not a
_song_.

In short, all seemed to me to say, in his case: "You can speak with
supreme excellence; sing with considerable excellence you never can. And
the Age itself, does it not, beyond most ages, demand and require clear
speech; an Age incapable of being sung to, in any but a trivial manner,
till these convulsive agonies and wild revolutionary overturnings
readjust themselves? Intelligible word of command, not musical psalmody
and fiddling, is possible in this fell storm of battle. Beyond all ages,
our Age admonishes whatsoever thinking or writing man it has: Oh, speak
to me some wise intelligible speech; your wise meaning in the shortest
and clearest way; behold I am dying for want of wise meaning, and
insight into the devouring fact: speak, if you have any wisdom! As to
song so called, and your fiddling talent,--even if you have one, much
more if you have none,--we will talk of that a couple of centuries
hence, when things are calmer again. Homer shall be thrice welcome; but
only when Troy is _taken_: alas, while the siege lasts, and battle's
fury rages everywhere, what can I do with the Homer? I want Achilleus
and Odysseus, and am enraged to see them trying to be Homers!"--

Sterling, who respected my sincerity, and always was amenable enough to
counsel, was doubtless much confused by such contradictory diagnosis of
his case. The question, Poetry or Prose? became more and more pressing,
more and more insoluble. He decided, at last, to appeal to the public
upon it;--got ready, in the late autumn, a small select Volume of his
verses; and was now busy pushing it through the press. Unfortunately,
in the mean while, a grave illness, of the old pulmonary sort, overtook
him, which at one time threatened to be dangerous. This is a glance
again into his interior household in these circumstances:--

                           _To his Mother_.

"_December 21st_, 1839.--The Tin box came quite safe, with all its
miscellaneous contents. I suppose we are to thank you for the _Comic
Almanac_, which, as usual, is very amusing; and for the Book on _Watt_,
which disappointed me. The scientific part is no doubt very good, and
particularly clear and simple; but there is nothing remarkable in
the account of Watt's character; and it is an absurd piece of French
impertinence in Arago to say, that England has not yet learnt to
appreciate men like Watt, because he was not made a peer; which, were
our peerage an institution like that of France, would have been very
proper.

"I have now finished correcting the proofs of my little Volume of
Poems. It has been a great plague to me, and one that I would not have
incurred, had I expected to be laid up as I have been; but the
matter was begun before I had any notion of being disabled by such an
illness,--the severest I have suffered since I went to the West Indies.
The Book will, after all, be a botched business in many respects; and I
much doubt whether it will pay its expenses: but I try to consider it
as out of my hands, and not to fret myself about it. I shall be very
curious to see Carlyle's Tractate on _Chartism_; which"--But we need not
enter upon that.

Sterling's little Book was printed at his own expense; [23] published by
Moxon in the very end of this year. It carries an appropriate and pretty
Epigraph:--

     "Feeling, Thought, and Fancy be
     Gentle sister Graces three:
     If these prove averse to me,
     They will punish,--pardon Ye!"

He had dedicated the little Volume to Mr. Hare;--and he submitted very
patiently to the discouraging neglect with which it was received by the
world; for indeed the "Ye" said nothing audible, in the way of pardon
or other doom; so that whether the "sister Graces" were averse or not,
remained as doubtful as ever.



CHAPTER II. TWO WINTERS.

As we said above, it had been hoped by Sterling's friends, not very
confidently by himself, that in the gentler air of Clifton his health
might so far recover as to enable him to dispense with autumnal voyages,
and to spend the year all round in a house of his own. These hopes,
favorable while the warm season lasted, broke down when winter came. In
November of this same year, while his little Volume was passing through
the press, bad and worse symptoms, spitting of blood to crown the sad
list, reappeared; and Sterling had to equip himself again, at this late
season, for a new flight to Madeira; wherein the good Calvert, himself
suffering, and ready on all grounds for such an adventure, offered to
accompany him. Sterling went by land to Falmouth, meaning there to wait
for Calvert, who was to come by the Madeira Packet, and there take him
on board.

Calvert and the Packet did arrive, in stormy January weather; which
continued wildly blowing for weeks; forbidding all egress Westward,
especially for invalids. These elemental tumults, and blustering wars
of sea and sky, with nothing but the misty solitude of Madeira in the
distance, formed a very discouraging outlook. In the mean while Falmouth
itself had offered so many resources, and seemed so tolerable in climate
and otherwise, while this wintry ocean looked so inhospitable for
invalids, it was resolved our voyagers should stay where they were till
spring returned. Which accordingly was done; with good effect for that
season, and also with results for the coming seasons. Here again, from
Letters to Knightsbridge, are some glimpses of his winter-life:--

"_Falmouth, February 5th_, 1840.--I have been to-day to see a new
tin-mine, two or three miles off, which is expected to turn into a
copper-mine by and by, so they will have the two constituents of bronze
close together. This, by the way, was the 'brass' of Homer and the
Ancients generally, who do not seem to have known our brass made of
copper and zinc. Achilles in his armor must have looked like a bronze
statue.--I took Sheridan's advice, and did not go down the mine."

"_February 15th_.--To some iron-works the other day; where I saw half
the beam of a great steam-engine, a piece of iron forty feet long
and seven broad, cast in about five minutes. It was a very striking
spectacle. I hope to go to Penzance before I leave this country, and
will not fail to tell you about it." He did make trial of Penzance,
among other places, next year; but only of Falmouth this.

"_February 20th_.--I am going on _asy_ here, in spite of a great change
of weather. The East-winds are come at last, bringing with them snow,
which has been driving about for the last twenty-four hours; not falling
heavily, nor lying long when fallen. Neither is it as yet very cold, but
I suppose there will be some six weeks of unpleasant temperature.
The marine climate of this part of England will, no doubt, modify and
mollify the air into a happier sort of substance than that you breathe
in London.

"The large vessels that had been lying here for weeks, waiting for a
wind, have now sailed; two of them for the East Indies, and having three
hundred soldiers on board. It is a curious thing that the long-continued
westerly winds had so prevented the coasters arriving, that the Town was
almost on the point of a famine as to bread. The change has brought in
abundance of flour.--The people in general seem extremely comfortable;
their houses are excellent, almost all of stone. Their habits are very
little agricultural, but mining and fishing seem to prosper with
them. There are hardly any gentry here; I have not seen more than two
gentlemen's carriages in the Town; indeed I think the nearest one comes
from five miles off....

"I have been obliged to try to occupy myself with Natural Science, in
order to give some interest to my walks; and have begun to feel my way
in Geology. I have now learnt to recognize three or four of the common
kinds of stone about here, when I see them; but I find it stupid work
compared with Poetry and Philosophy. In the mornings, however, for an
hour or so before I get up, I generally light my candle, and try to
write some verses; and since I have been here, I have put together short
poems, almost enough for another small volume. In the evenings I have
gone on translating some of Goethe. But six or seven hours spent on my
legs, in the open air, do not leave my brain much energy for thinking.
Thus my life is a dull and unprofitable one, but still better than it
would have been in Madeira or on board ship. I hear from Susan every
day, and write to her by return of post."

At Falmouth Sterling had been warmly welcomed by the well-known
Quaker family of the Foxes, principal people in that place, persons of
cultivated opulent habits, and joining to the fine purities and pieties
of their sect a reverence for human intelligence in all kinds; to whom
such a visitor as Sterling was naturally a welcome windfall. The family
had grave elders, bright cheery younger branches, men and women; truly
amiable all, after their sort: they made a pleasant image of home for
Sterling in his winter exile. "Most worthy, respectable and highly
cultivated people, with a great deal of money among them," writes
Sterling in the end of February; "who make the place pleasant to me.
They are connected with all the large Quaker circle, the Gurneys, Frys,
&c., and also with Buxton the Abolitionist. It is droll to hear them
talking of all the common topics of science, literature, and life, and
in the midst of it: 'Does thou know Wordsworth?' or, 'Did thou see the
Coronation?' or 'Will thou take some refreshment?' They are very kind
and pleasant people to know."

"Calvert," continues our Diarist, "is better than he lately was, though
he has not been at all laid up. He shoots little birds, and dissects
and stuffs them; while I carry a hammer, and break flints and slates,
to look for diamonds and rubies inside; and admire my success in the
evening, when I empty my great-coat pocket of its specimens. On the
whole, I doubt whether my physical proceedings will set the Thames
on fire. Give my love to Anthony's Charlotte; also remember me
affectionately to the Carlyles."--

At this time, too, John Mill, probably encouraged by Sterling, arrived
in Falmouth, seeking refuge of climate for a sickly younger Brother, to
whom also, while he continued there, and to his poor patient, the doors
and hearts of this kind family were thrown wide open. Falmouth, during
these winter weeks, especially while Mill continued, was an unexpectedly
engaging place to Sterling; and he left it in spring, for Clifton, with
a very kindly image of it in his thoughts. So ended, better than it
might have done, his first year's flight from the Clifton winter.

In April, 1840, he was at his own hearth again; cheerily pursuing his
old labors,--struggling to redeem, as he did with a gallant constancy,
the available months and days, out of the wreck of so many that were
unavailable, for the business allotted him in this world. His swift,
decisive energy of character; the valiant rally he made again and ever
again, starting up fresh from amid the wounded, and cheerily storming in
anew, was admirable, and showed a noble fund of natural health amid such
an element of disease. Somehow one could never rightly fancy that he
was diseased; that those fatal ever-recurring downbreaks were not almost
rather the penalties paid for exuberance of health, and of faculty
for living and working; criminal forfeitures, incurred by excess of
self-exertion and such irrepressible over-rapidity of movement: and the
vague hope was habitual with us, that increase of years, as it deadened
this over-energy, would first make the man secure of life, and a sober
prosperous worker among his fellows. It was always as if with a kind
of blame that one heard of his being ill again! Poor Sterling;--no man
knows another's burden: these things were not, and were not to be, in
the way we had fancied them!

Summer went along in its usual quiet tenor at Clifton; health good, as
usual while the warm weather lasted, and activity abundant; the scene
as still as the busiest could wish. "You metropolitan signors," writes
Sterling to his Father, "cannot conceive the dulness and scantiness of
our provincial chronicle." Here is a little excursion to the seaside;
the lady of the family being again,--for good reasons,--in a weakly
state:--

          "_To Edward Sterling, Esq., Knightsbridge, London_.
                                 "PORTSHEAD, BRISTOL, 1st Sept., 1840.

"MY DEAR FATHER,--This place is a southern headland at the mouth of the
Avon. Susan, and the Children too, were all suffering from languor; and
as she is quite unfit to travel in a carriage, we were obliged to move,
if at all, to some place accessible by water; and this is the nearest
where we could get the fresher air of the Bristol Channel. We sent to
take a house, for a week; and came down here in a steamer yesterday
morning. It seems likely to do every one good. We have a comfortable
house, with eight rather small bedrooms, for which we pay four guineas
and a half for the week. We have brought three of our own maids, and
leave one to take care of the house at Clifton.

"A week ago my horse fell with me, but did not hurt seriously either
himself or me: it was, however, rather hard that, as there were six legs
to be damaged, the one that did scratch itself should belong to the part
of the machine possessing only two, instead of the quadrupedal portion.
I grazed about the size of a halfpenny on my left knee; and for a couple
of days walked about as if nothing had happened. I found, however,
that the skin was not returning correctly; and so sent for a doctor: he
treated the thing as quite insignificant, but said I must keep my leg
quiet for a few days. It is still not quite healed; and I lie all day
on a sofa, much to my discomposure; but the thing is now rapidly
disappearing; and I hope, in a day or two more, I shall be free again. I
find I can do no work, while thus crippled in my leg. The man in Horace
who made verses _stans pede in uno_ had the advantage of me.

"The Great Western came in last night about eleven, and has just been
making a flourish past our windows; looking very grand, with four
streamers of bunting, and one of smoke. Of course I do not yet know
whether I have Letters by her, as if so they will have gone to Clifton
first. This place is quiet, green and pleasant; and will suit us very
well, if we have good weather, of which there seems every appearance.

"Milnes spent last Sunday with me at Clifton; and was very amusing
and cordial. It is impossible for those who know him well not to like
him.--I send this to Knightsbridge, not knowing where else to hit you.
Love to my Mother.

                          "Your affectionate,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

The expected "Letters by the Great Western" are from Anthony, now in
Canada, doing military duties there. The "Milnes" is our excellent
Richard, whom all men know, and truly whom none can know well without
even doing as Sterling says.--In a week the family had returned to
Clifton; and Sterling was at his poetizings and equitations again. His
grand business was now Poetry; all effort, outlook and aim exclusively
directed thither, this good while.

Of the published Volume Moxon gave the worst tidings; no man had
hailed it with welcome; unsold it lay, under the leaden seal of general
neglect; the public when asked what it thought, had answered hitherto by
a lazy stare. It shall answer otherwise, thought Sterling; by no means
taking that as the final response. It was in this same September that he
announced to me and other friends, under seal of secrecy as usual, the
completion, or complete first-draught, of "a new Poem reaching to two
thousand verses." By working "three hours every morning" he had brought
it so far. This Piece, entitled _The Election_, of which in due time we
obtained perusal, and had to give some judgment, proved to be in a new
vein,--what might be called the mock-heroic, or sentimental Hudibrastic,
reminding one a little, too, of Wieland's _Oberon_;--it had touches of
true drollery combined not ill with grave clear insight; showed spirit
everywhere, and a plainly improved power of execution. Our stingy
verdict was to the effect, "Better, but still not good enough:--why
follow that sad 'metrical' course, climbing the loose sandhills, when
you have a firm path along the plain?" To Sterling himself it remained
dubious whether so slight a strain, new though it were, would suffice to
awaken the sleeping public; and the Piece was thrown away and taken up
again, at intervals; and the question, Publish or not publish? lay many
months undecided.

Meanwhile his own feeling was now set more and more towards Poetry;
and in spite of symptoms and dissuasions, and perverse prognostics of
outward wind and weather, he was rallying all his force for a downright
struggle with it; resolute to see which _was_ the stronger. It must be
owned, he takes his failures in the kindliest manner; and goes along,
bating no jot of heart or hope. Perhaps I should have more admired this
than I did! My dissuasions, in that case, might have been fainter. But
then my sincerity, which was all the use of my poor counsel in assent
or dissent, would have been less. He was now furthermore busy with a
_Tragedy of Strafford_, the theme of many failures in Tragedy; planning
it industriously in his head; eagerly reading in _Whitlocke, Rushworth_
and the Puritan Books, to attain a vesture and local habitation for it.
Faithful assiduous studies I do believe;--of which, knowing my stubborn
realism, and savage humor towards singing by the Thespian or other
methods, he told me little, during his visits that summer.


The advance of the dark weather sent him adrift again; to Torquay,
for this winter: there, in his old Falmouth climate, he hoped to do
well;--and did, so far as well-doing was readily possible, in that sad
wandering way of life. However, be where he may, he tries to work "two
or three hours in the morning," were it even "with a lamp," in bed,
before the fires are lit; and so makes something of it. From abundant
Letters of his now before me, I glean these two or three small glimpses;
sufficient for our purpose at present. The general date is "Tor, near
Torquay:"--

                   _To Mrs. Charles Fox, Falmouth_.

_Tor, November 30th_, 1840.--I reached this place on Thursday; having,
after much hesitation, resolved to come here, at least for the next
three weeks,--with some obscure purpose of embarking, at the New Year,
from Falmouth for Malta, and so reaching Naples, which I have not seen.
There was also a doubt whether I should not, after Christmas, bring my
family here for the first four months of the year. All this, however,
is still doubtful. But for certain inhabitants of Falmouth and its
neighborhood, this place would be far more attractive than it. But I
have here also friends, whose kindness, like much that I met with last
winter, perpetually makes me wonder at the stock of benignity in human
nature. A brother of my friend Julius Hare, Marcus by name, a Naval man,
and though not a man of letters, full of sense and knowledge, lives
here in a beautiful place, with a most agreeable and excellent wife, a
daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley. I had hardly seen them before;
but they are fraternizing with me, in a much better than the Jacobin
fashion; and one only feels ashamed at the enormity of some people's
good-nature. I am in a little rural sort of lodging; and as comfortable
as a solitary oyster can expect to be."--

                            _To C. Barton_.

"_December 5th_.--This place is extremely small, much more so than
Falmouth even; but pretty, cheerful, and very mild in climate. There are
a great many villas in and about the little Town, having three or
four reception-rooms, eight or ten bedrooms; and costing about fifteen
hundred or two thousand pounds each, and occupied by persons spending
a thousand or more pounds a year. If the Country would acknowledge my
merits by the gift of one of these, I could prevail on myself to come
and live here; which would be the best move for my health I could
make in England; but, in the absence of any such expression of public
feeling, it would come rather dear."--

                         _To Mrs. Fox again_.

"_December 22d_.--By the way, did you ever read a Novel? If you ever
mean to do so hereafter, let it be Miss Martineau's _Deerbrook_. It is
really very striking; and parts of it are very true and very beautiful.
It is not so true, or so thoroughly clear and harmonious, among
delineations of English middle-class gentility, as Miss Austen's books,
especially as _Pride and Prejudice_, which I think exquisite; but it
is worth reading. _The hour and the Man_ is eloquent, but an absurd
exaggeration.--I hold out so valorously against this Scandinavian
weather, that I deserve to be ranked with Odin and Thor; and fancy I may
go to live at Clifton or Drontheim. Have you had the same icy desolation
as prevails here?"

                        _To W. Coningham, Esq_.

"_December 28th_.--Looking back to him [a deceased Uncle, father of his
correspondent], as I now very often do, I feel strongly, what the loss
of other friends has also impressed on me, how much Death deepens our
affection; and sharpens our regret for whatever has been even slightly
amiss in our conduct towards those who are gone. What trifles then
swell into painful importance; how we believe that, could the past be
recalled, life would present no worthier, happier task, than that of so
bearing ourselves towards those we love, that we might ever after find
nothing but melodious tranquillity breathing about their graves! Yet,
too often, I feel the difficulty of always practicing such mild wisdom
towards those who are still left me.--You will wonder less at my
rambling off in this way, when I tell you that my little lodging is
close to a picturesque old Church and Churchyard, where, every day, I
brush past a tombstone, recording that an Italian, of Manferrato, has
buried there a girl of sixteen, his only daughter: _'L' unica speranza
di mia vita_.'--No doubt, as you say, our Mechanical Age is necessary as
a passage to something better; but, at least, do not let us go back."--

At the New-year time, feeling unusually well, he returns to Clifton. His
plans, of course, were ever fluctuating; his movements were swift and
uncertain. Alas, his whole life, especially his winter-life, had to be
built as if on wavering drift-sand; nothing certain in it, except if
possible the "two or three hours of work" snatched from the general
whirlpool of the dubious four-and-twenty!

                           _To Dr. Carlyle_.

"_Clifton, January 10th_, 1841.--I stood the sharp frost at Torquay
with such entire impunity, that at last I took courage, and resolved to
return home. I have been here a week, in extreme cold; and have suffered
not at all; so that I hope, with care I may prosper in spite of medical
prognostics,--if you permit such profane language. I am even able to
work a good deal; and write for some hours every morning, by dint
of getting up early, which an Arnott stove in my study enables me to
do."--But at Clifton he cannot continue. Again, before long, the rude
weather has driven him Southward; the spring finds him in his former
haunts; doubtful as ever what to decide upon for the future; but tending
evidently towards a new change of residence for household and self:--

                        _To W. Coningham, Esq_.

"_Penzance, April 19th_, 1841.--My little Boy and I have been wandering
about between Torquay and this place; and latterly have had my Father
for a few days with us,--he left us yesterday. In all probability I
shall endeavor to settle either at Torquay, at Falmouth, or here; as it
is pretty clear that I cannot stand the sharp air of Clifton, and
still less the London east-winds. Penzance is, on the whole, a
pleasant-looking, cheerful place; with a delightful mildness of air, and
a great appearance of comfort among the people: the view of Mount's Bay
is certainly a very noble one. Torquay would suit the health of my
Wife and Children better; or else I should be glad to live here always,
London and its neighborhood being impracticable."--Such was his second
wandering winter; enough to render the prospect of a third at Clifton
very uninviting.


With the Falmouth friends, young and old, his intercourse had meanwhile
continued cordial and frequent. The omens were pointing towards that
region at his next place of abode. Accordingly, in few weeks hence, in
the June of this Summer, 1841, his dubitations and inquirings are again
ended for a time; he has fixed upon a house in Falmouth, and removed
thither; bidding Clifton, and the regretful Clifton friends, a kind
farewell. This was the _fifth_ change of place for his family since
Bayswater; the fifth, and to one chief member of it the last. Mrs.
Sterling had brought him a new child in October last; and went hopefully
to Falmouth, dreading _other_ than what befell there.



CHAPTER III. FALMOUTH: POEMS.

At Falmouth, as usual, he was soon at home in his new environment;
resumed his labors; had his new small circle of acquaintance, the ready
and constant centre of which was the Fox family, with whom he lived on
an altogether intimate, honored and beloved footing; realizing his best
anticipations in that respect, which doubtless were among his first
inducements to settle in this new place. Open cheery heights, rather
bare of wood: fresh southwestern breezes; a brisk laughing sea, swept by
industrious sails, and the nets of a most stalwart, wholesome, frank
and interesting population: the clean little fishing, trading and packet
Town; hanging on its slope towards the Eastern sun, close on the waters
of its basin and intricate bay,--with the miniature Pendennis Castle
seaward on the right, the miniature St. Mawes landward to left, and the
mining world and the farming world open boundlessly to the rear:--all
this made a pleasant outlook and environment. And in all this, as in the
other new elements of his position, Sterling, open beyond most men to
the worth of things about him, took his frank share. From the first,
he had liked the general aspect of the population, and their healthy,
lively ways; not to speak of the special friendships he had formed
there, which shed a charm over them all. "Men of strong character, clear
heads and genuine goodness," writes he, "are by no means wanting." And
long after: "The common people here dress better than in most parts of
England; and on Sundays, if the weather be at all fine, their appearance
is very pleasant. One sees them all round the Town, especially towards
Pendennis Castle, streaming in a succession of little groups, and
seeming for the most part really and quietly happy." On the whole he
reckoned himself lucky; and, so far as locality went, found this a
handsome shelter for the next two years of his life. Two years, and not
without an interruption; that was all. Here we have no continuing city;
he less than any of us! One other flight for shelter; and then it is
ended, and he has found an inexpugnable refuge. Let us trace his remote
footsteps, as we have opportunity:--

                      _To Dr. Symonds, Clifton_.

"_Falmouth, June 28th_, 1841.--Newman writes to me that he is gone to
the Rhine. I wish I were! And yet the only 'wish' at the bottom of my
heart, is to be able to work vigorously in my own way anywhere, were it
in some Circle of Dante's Inferno. This, however, is the secret of my
soul, which I disclose only to a few."

                           _To his Mother_.

"_Falmouth, July 6th_, 1841.--I have at last my own study made
comfortable; the carpet being now laid down, and most of my
appurtenances in tolerable order. By and by I shall, unless stopped by
illness, get myself together, and begin living an orderly life and
doing my daily task. I have swung a cot in my dressing-room; partly as
a convenience for myself, partly as a sort of memorial of my poor Uncle,
in whose cot in his dressing-room at Lisworney I remember to have slept
when a child. I have put a good large bookcase in my drawing-room, and
all the rest of my books fit very well into the study."

                           _To Mr. Carlyle_.

"_July 6th_.--No books have come in my way but Emerson's, which I value
full as much as you, though as yet I have read only some corners of
it. We have had an Election here, of the usual stamp; to me a droll
'realized Ideal,' after my late metrical adventures in that line. But
the oddest sign of the Times I know, is a cheap Translation of Strauss's
_Leben Jesu_, now publishing in numbers, and said to be circulating far
and wide. What does--or rather, what does not--this portend?"--


With the Poem called _The Election_, here alluded to, which had been
more than once revised and reconsidered, he was still under some
hesitations; but at last had well-nigh resolved, as from the first it
was clear he would do, on publishing it. This occupied some occasional
portion of his thoughts. But his grand private affair, I believe, was
now _Strafford_; to which, or to its adjuncts, all working hours were
devoted. Sterling's notions of Tragedy are high enough. This is what he
writes once, in reference to his own task in these weeks: "Few, I fancy,
know how much harder it is to write a Tragedy than to realize or be one.
Every man has in his heart and lot, if he pleases, and too many whether
they please or no, all the woes of OEdipus and Antigone. But it takes
the One, the Sophocles of a thousand years, to utter these in the
full depth and harmony of creative song. Curious, by the way, how that
Dramatic Form of the old Greek, with only some superficial changes,
remains a law not only for the stage, but for the thoughts of all Poets;
and what a charm it has even for the reader who never saw a theatre. The
Greek Plays and Shakspeare have interested a hundred as books, for one
who has seen their writings acted. How lightly does the mere clown, the
idle school-girl, build a private theatre in the fancy, and laugh or
weep with Falstaff and Macbeth: with how entire an oblivion of the
artificial nature of the whole contrivance, which thus compels them
to be their own architects, machinists, scene-painters, and actors! In
fact, the artifice succeeds,--becomes grounded in the substance of the
soul: and every one loves to feel how he is thus brought face to face
with the brave, the fair, the woful and the great of all past ages;
looks into their eyes, and feels the beatings of their hearts; and
reads, over the shoulder, the secret written tablets of the busiest
and the largest brains; while the Juggler, by whose cunning the whole
strange beautiful absurdity is set in motion, keeps himself hidden;
sings loud with a mouth unmoving as that of a statue, and makes the
human race cheat itself unanimously and delightfully by the illusion
that he preordains; while as an obscure Fate, he sits invisible, and
hardly lets his being be divined by those who cannot flee him. The Lyric
Art is childish, and the Epic barbarous, compared to this. But of the
true and perfect Drama it may be said, as of even higher mysteries,
Who is sufficient for these things?"--On this _Tragedy of Strafford_,
writing it and again writing it, studying for it, and bending himself
with his whole strength to do his best on it, he expended many strenuous
months,--"above a year of his life," he computes, in all.

For the rest, what Falmouth has to give him he is willing to take, and
mingles freely in it. In Hare's Collection there is given a _Lecture_
which he read in Autumn, 1841 (Mr. Hare says "1842," by mistake), to a
certain Public Institution in the place,--of which more anon;--a piece
interesting in this, if not much in any other respect. Doubtless his
friends the Foxes were at the heart of that lecturing enterprise, and
had urged and solicited him. Something like proficiency in certain
branches of science, as I have understood, characterized one or more of
this estimable family; love of knowledge, taste for art, wish to consort
with wisdom and wise men, were the tendencies of all; to opulent means
superadd the Quaker beneficence, Quaker purity and reverence, there is a
circle in which wise men also may love to be. Sterling made acquaintance
here with whatever of notable in worthy persons or things might be
afoot in those parts; and was led thereby, now and then, into pleasant
reunions, in new circles of activity, which might otherwise have
continued foreign to him. The good Calvert, too, was now here; and
intended to remain;--which he mostly did henceforth, lodging in
Sterling's neighborhood, so long as lodging in this world was permitted
him. Still good and clear and cheerful; still a lively comrade, within
doors or without,--a diligent rider always,--though now wearing visibly
weaker, and less able to exert himself.

Among those accidental Falmouth reunions, perhaps the notablest for
Sterling occurred in this his first season. There is in Falmouth an
Association called the _Cornwall Polytechnic Society_, established about
twenty years ago, and supported by the wealthy people of the Town and
neighborhood, for the encouragement of the arts in that region; it has
its Library, its Museum, some kind of Annual Exhibition withal; gives
prizes, publishes reports: the main patrons, I believe, are Sir Charles
Lemon, a well-known country gentleman of those parts, and the Messrs.
Fox. To this, so far as he liked to go in it, Sterling was sure to be
introduced and solicited. The Polytechnic meeting of 1841 was unusually
distinguished; and Sterling's part in it formed one of the pleasant
occurrences for him in Falmouth. It was here that, among other
profitable as well as pleasant things, he made acquaintance with
Professor Owen (an event of which I too had my benefit in due time, and
still have): the bigger assemblage called _British Association_, which
met at Plymouth this year, having now just finished its affairs there,
Owen and other distinguished persons had taken Falmouth in their route
from it. Sterling's account of this Polytechnic gala still remains,--in
three Letters to his Father, which, omitting the extraneous portions,
I will give in one,--as a piece worth reading among those still-life
pictures:--

          "To Edward Sterling, Esq., Knightsbridge, London.
                                         "FALMOUTH, 10th August, 1841.

"MY DEAR FATHER,--I was not well for a day or two after you went; and
since, I have been busy about an annual show of the Polytechnic Society
here, in which my friends take much interest, and for which I have been
acting as one of the judges in the department of the Fine Arts, and have
written a little Report for them. As I have not said that Falmouth is as
eminent as Athens or Florence, perhaps the Committee will not adopt my
statement. But if they do, it will be of some use; for I have hinted, as
delicately as possible, that people should not paint historical pictures
before they have the power of drawing a decent outline of a pig or a
cabbage. I saw Sir Charles Lemon yesterday, who was kind as well as
civil in his manner; and promises to be a pleasant neighbor. There are
several of the British Association heroes here; but not Whewell, or any
one whom I know."

"_August 17th_.--At the Polytechnic Meeting here we had several very
eminent men; among others, Professor Owen, said to be the first of
comparative anatomists, and Conybeare the geologist. Both of these
gave evening Lectures; and after Conybeare's, at which I happened to be
present, I said I would, if they chose, make some remarks on the
Busts which happened to be standing there, intended for prizes in the
department of the Fine Arts. They agreed gladly. The heads were Homer,
Pericles, Augustus, Dante and Michael Angelo. I got into the box-like
platform, with these on a shelf before me; and began a talk which
must have lasted some three quarters of an hour; describing partly the
characters and circumstances of the men, illustrated by anecdotes and
compared with their physiognomies, and partly the several styles of
sculpture exhibited in the Casts, referring these to what I considered
the true principles of the Art. The subject was one that interests
me, and I got on in famous style; and had both pit and galleries all
applauding, in a way that had had no precedent during any other part
of the meeting. Conybeare paid me high compliments; Owen looked much
pleased,--an honor well purchased by a year's hard work;--and everybody,
in short, seemed delighted. Susan was not there, and I had nothing to
make me nervous; so that I worked away freely, and got vigorously over
the ground. After so many years' disuse of rhetoric, it was a pleasant
surprise to myself to find that I could still handle the old weapons
without awkwardness. More by good luck than good guidance, it has done
my health no harm. I have been at Sir Charles Lemon's, though only to
pay a morning visit, having declined to stay there or dine, the hours
not suiting me. They were very civil. The person I saw most of was
his sister, Lady Dunstanville; a pleasant, well-informed and well-bred
woman. He seems a most amiable, kindly man, of fair good sense and
cultivated tastes.--I had a letter to-day from my Mother [in Scotland];
who says she sent you one which you were to forward me; which I hope
soon to have."

"_August 29th_.--I returned yesterday from Carclew, Sir C. Lemon's fine
place about five miles off; where I had been staying a couple of days,
with apparently the heartiest welcome. Susan was asked; but wanting a
Governess, could not leave home.

"Sir Charles is a widower (his Wife was sister to Lord Ilchester)
without children; but had a niece staying with him, and his sister
Lady Dunstanville, a pleasant and very civil woman. There were also Mr.
Bunbury, eldest son of Sir Henry Bunbury, a man of much cultivation and
strong talents; Mr. Fox Talbot, son, I think, of another Ilchester
lady, and brother of _the_ Talbot of Wales, but himself a man of
large fortune, and known for photogenic and other scientific plans of
extracting sunbeams from cucumbers. He also is a man of known ability,
but chiefly employed in that peculiar department. _Item_ Professors
Lloyd and Owen: the former, of Dublin, son of the late Provost, I
had seen before and knew; a great mathematician and optician, and a
discoverer in those matters; with a clever little Wife, who has a great
deal of knowledge, quite free from pretension. Owen is a first-rate
comparative anatomist, they say the greatest since Cuvier; lives in
London, and lectures there. On the whole, he interested me more than any
of them,--by an apparent force and downrightness of mind, combined with
much simplicity and frankness.

"Nothing could be pleasanter and easier than the habits of life, with
what to me was a very unusual degree of luxury, though probably nothing
but what is common among people of large fortune. The library and
pictures are nothing extraordinary. The general tone of good nature,
good sense and quiet freedom, was what struck me most; and I think
besides this there was a disposition to be cordially courteous towards
me....

"I took Edward a ride of two hours yesterday on Calvert's pony, and he
is improving fast in horsemanship. The school appears to answer very
well. We shall have the Governess in a day or two, which will be a great
satisfaction. Will you send my Mother this scribble with my love; and
believe me,

                        "Your affectionate son,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

One other little event dwells with me, out of those Falmouth times,
exact date now forgotten; a pleasant little matter, in which Sterling,
and principally the Misses Fox, bright cheery young creatures, were
concerned; which, for the sake of its human interest, is worth mention.
In a certain Cornish mine, said the Newspapers duly specifying it,
two miners deep down in the shaft were engaged putting in a shot for
blasting: they had completed their affair, and were about to give the
signal for being hoisted up,--one at a time was all their coadjutor at
the top could manage, and the second was to kindle the match, and then
mount with all speed. Now it chanced while they were both still below,
one of them thought the match too long; tried to break it shorter, took
a couple of stones, a flat and a sharp, to cut it shorter; did cut it
of the due length, but, horrible to relate, kindled it at the same time,
and both were still below! Both shouted vehemently to the coadjutor at
the windlass, both sprang at the basket; the windlass man could not move
it with them both. Here was a moment for poor miner Jack and miner Will!
Instant horrible death hangs over both,--when Will generously resigns
himself: "Go aloft, Jack," and sits down; "away; in one minute I shall
be in Heaven!" Jack bounds aloft, the explosion instantly follows,
bruises his face as he looks over; he is safe above ground: and poor
Will? Descending eagerly they find Will too, as if by miracle, buried
under rocks which had arched themselves over him, and little injured: he
too is brought up safe, and all ends joyfully, say the Newspapers.

Such a piece of manful promptitude, and salutary human heroism, was
worth investigating. It was investigated; found to be accurate to the
letter,--with this addition and explanation, that Will, an honest,
ignorant good man, entirely given up to Methodism, had been perfect in
the "faith of assurance," certain that _he_ should get to Heaven if
he died, certain that Jack would not, which had been the ground of his
decision in that great moment;--for the rest, that he much wished
to learn reading and writing, and find some way of life above ground
instead of below. By aid of the Misses Fox and the rest of that family,
a subscription (modest _Anti_-Hudson testimonial) was raised to this
Methodist hero: he emerged into daylight with fifty pounds in his
pocket; did strenuously try, for certain months, to learn reading and
writing; found he could not learn those arts or either of them; took his
money and bought cows with it, wedding at the same time some religious
likely milkmaid; and is, last time I heard of him, a prosperous modest
dairyman, thankful for the upper light and safety from the wrath to
come. Sterling had some hand in this affair: but, as I said, it was the
two young ladies of the family that mainly did it.

In the end of 1841, after many hesitations and revisals, _The Election_
came out; a tiny Duodecimo without name attached; [24] again inquiring of
the public what its suffrage was; again to little purpose. My vote had
never been loud for this step, but neither was it quite adverse; and
now, in reading the poor little Poem over again, after ten years'
space, I find it, with a touching mixture of pleasure and repentance,
considerably better than it then seemed to me. My encouragement, if not
to print this poem, yet to proceed with Poetry, since there was such a
resolution for it, might have been a little more decided!

This is a small Piece, but aims at containing great things; a _multum
in parvo_ after its sort; and is executed here and there with undeniable
success. The style is free and flowing, the rhyme dances along with a
certain joyful triumph; everything of due brevity withal. That mixture
of mockery on the surface, which finely relieves the real earnestness
within, and flavors even what is not very earnest and might even be
insipid otherwise, is not ill managed: an amalgam difficult to effect
well in writing; nay, impossible in writing,--unless it stand already
done and effected, as a general fact, in the writer's mind and
character; which will betoken a certain ripeness there.

As I said, great things are intended in this little Piece; the motto
itself foreshadowing them:--

     "_Fluellen_.   Ancient Pistol, I do partly understand your
                    meaning.
     _Pistol_.      Why, then, rejoice therefor."

A stupid commonplace English Borough has lost its Member suddenly, by
apoplexy or otherwise; resolves, in the usual explosive temper of mind,
to replace him by one of two others; whereupon strange stirring-up of
rival-attorney and other human interests and catastrophes. "Frank Vane"
(Sterling himself), and "Peter Mogg," the pattern English blockhead of
elections: these are the candidates. There are, of course, fierce rival
attorneys; electors of all creeds and complexions to be canvassed: a
poor stupid Borough thrown all into red or white heat; into blazing
paroxysms of activity and enthusiasm, which render the inner life of it
(and of England and the world through it) luminously transparent, so to
speak;--of which opportunity our friend and his "Muse" take dexterous
advantage, to delineate the same. His pictures are uncommonly good;
brief, joyous, sometimes conclusively true: in rigorously compressed
shape; all is merry freshness and exuberance: we have leafy summer
embowering red bricks and small human interests, presented as in glowing
miniature; a mock-heroic action fitly interwoven;--and many a clear
glance is carelessly given into the deepest things by the way. Very
happy also is the little love-episode; and the absorption of all the
interest into that, on the part of Frank Vane and of us, when once this
gallant Frank,--having fairly from his barrel-head stated his own (and
John Sterling's) views on the aspects of the world, and of course having
quite broken down with his attorney and his public,--handsomely, by
stratagem, gallops off with the fair Anne; and leaves free field to
Mogg, free field to the Hippopotamus if it like. This portrait of Mogg
may be considered to have merit:--

     "Though short of days, how large the mind of man;
     A godlike force enclosed within a span!
     To climb the skies we spurn our nature's clog,
     And toil as Titans to elect a Mogg.

     "And who was Mogg?  O Muse! the man declare,
     How excellent his worth, his parts how rare.
     A younger son, he learnt in Oxford's halls
     The spheral harmonies of billiard-balls,
     Drank, hunted, drove, and hid from Virtue's frown
     His venial follies in Decorum's gown.
     Too wise to doubt on insufficient cause,
     He signed old Cranmer's lore without a pause;
     And knew that logic's cunning rules are taught
     To guard our creed, and not invigorate thought,--
     As those bronze steeds at Venice, kept for pride,
     Adorn a Town where not one man can ride.

     "From Isis sent with all her loud acclaims,
     The Laws he studied on the banks of Thames.
     Park, race and play, in his capacious plan,
     Combined with Coke to form the finished man,
     Until the wig's ambrosial influence shed
     Its last full glories on the lawyer's head.

     "But vain are mortal schemes.  The eldest son
     At Harrier Hall had scarce his stud begun,
     When Death's pale courser took the Squire away
     To lands where never dawns a hunting day:
     And so, while Thomas vanished 'mid the fog,
     Bright rose the morning-star of Peter Mogg." [25]

And this little picture, in a quite opposite way:--

     "Now, in her chamber all alone, the maid
     Her polished limbs and shoulders disarrayed;
     One little taper gave the only light,
     One little mirror caught so dear a sight;
     'Mid hangings dusk and shadows wide she stood,
     Like some pale Nymph in dark-leafed solitude
     Of rocks and gloomy waters all alone,
     Where sunshine scarcely breaks on stump or stone
     To scare the dreamy vision.  Thus did she,
     A star in deepest night, intent but free,
     Gleam through the eyeless darkness, heeding not
     Her beauty's praise, but musing o'er her lot.

     "Her garments one by one she laid aside,
     And then her knotted hair's long locks untied
     With careless hand, and down her cheeks they fell,
     And o'er her maiden bosom's blue-veined swell.
     The right-hand fingers played amidst her hair,
     And with her reverie wandered here and there:
     The other hand sustained the only dress
     That now but half concealed her loveliness;
     And pausing, aimlessly she stood and thought,
     In virgin beauty by no fear distraught."

Manifold, and beautiful of their sort, are Anne's musings, in this
interesting attitude, in the summer midnight, in the crisis of her
destiny now near;--at last:--

     "But Anne, at last her mute devotions o'er,
     Perceived the feet she had forgot before
     Of her too shocking nudity; and shame
     Flushed from her heart o'er all the snowy frame:
     And, struck from top to toe with burning dread,
     She blew the light out, and escaped to bed." [26]

--which also is a very pretty movement.

It must be owned withal, the Piece is crude in parts, and far enough
from perfect. Our good painter has yet several things to learn, and
to unlearn. His brush is not always of the finest; and dashes about,
sometimes, in a recognizably sprawling way: but it hits many a feature
with decisive accuracy and felicity; and on the palette, as usual, lie
the richest colors. A grand merit, too, is the brevity of everything; by
no means a spontaneous, or quite common merit with Sterling.

This new poetic Duodecimo, as the last had done and as the next also
did, met with little or no recognition from the world: which was not
very inexcusable on the world's part; though many a poem with far less
proof of merit than this offers, has run, when the accidents favored it,
through its tens of editions, and raised the writer to the demigods for
a year or two, if not longer. Such as it is, we may take it as marking,
in its small way, in a noticed or unnoticed manner, a new height arrived
at by Sterling in his Poetic course; and almost as vindicating the
determination he had formed to keep climbing by that method. Poor Poem,
or rather Promise of a Poem! In Sterling's brave struggle, this little
_Election_ is the highest point he fairly lived to see attained, and
openly demonstrated in print. His next public adventure in this kind
was of inferior worth; and a third, which had perhaps intrinsically gone
much higher than any of its antecessors, was cut off as a fragment, and
has not hitherto been published. Steady courage is needed on the Poetic
course, as on all courses!--

Shortly after this Publication, in the beginning of 1842, poor Calvert,
long a hopeless sufferer, was delivered by death: Sterling's faithful
fellow-pilgrim could no more attend him in his wayfarings through this
world. The weary and heavy-laden man had borne his burden well. Sterling
says of him to Hare: "Since I wrote last, I have lost Calvert; the
man with whom, of all others, I have been during late years the most
intimate. Simplicity, benevolence, practical good sense and moral
earnestness were his great unfailing characteristics; and no man, I
believe, ever possessed them more entirely. His illness had latterly
so prostrated him, both in mind and body, that those who most loved him
were most anxious for his departure." There was something touching in
this exit; in the quenching of so kind and bright a little life under
the dark billows of death. To me he left a curious old Print of James
Nayler the Quaker, which I still affectionately preserve.


Sterling, from this greater distance, came perhaps rather seldomer to
London; but we saw him still at moderate intervals; and, through his
family here and other direct and indirect channels, were kept in lively
communication with him. Literature was still his constant pursuit; and,
with encouragement or without, Poetic composition his chosen department
therein. On the ill success of _The Election_, or any ill success with
the world, nobody ever heard him utter the least murmur; condolence upon
that or any such subject might have been a questionable operation, by no
means called for! Nay, my own approval, higher than this of the world,
had been languid, by no means enthusiastic. But our valiant friend took
all quietly; and was not to be repulsed from his Poetics either by the
world's coldness or by mine; he labored at his _Strafford_;--determined
to labor, in all ways, till he felt the end of his tether in this
direction.

He sometimes spoke, with a certain zeal, of my starting a Periodical:
Why not lift up some kind of war-flag against the obese platitudes, and
sickly superstitious aperies and impostures of the time? But I had to
answer, "Who will join it, my friend?" He seemed to say, "I, for one;"
and there was occasionally a transient temptation in the thought, but
transient only. No fighting regiment, with the smallest attempt towards
drill, co-operation, commissariat, or the like unspeakable advantages,
could be raised in Sterling's time or mine; which truly, to honest
fighters, is a rather grievous want. A grievous, but not quite a fatal
one. For, failing this, failing all things and all men, there remains
the solitary battle (and were it by the poorest weapon, the tongue only,
or were it even by wise abstinence and silence and without any weapon),
such as each man for himself can wage while he has life: an indubitable
and infinitely comfortable fact for every man! Said battle shaped itself
for Sterling, as we have long since seen, chiefly in the poetic form, in
the singing or hymning rather than the speaking form; and in that he was
cheerfully assiduous according to his light. The unfortunate _Strafford_
is far on towards completion; a _Coeur-de-Lion_, of which we shall hear
farther, "_Coeur-de-Lion_, greatly the best of all his Poems," unluckily
not completed, and still unpublished, already hangs in the wind.

His Letters to friends continue copious; and he has, as always, a
loyally interested eye on whatsoever of notable is passing in the world.
Especially on whatsoever indicates to him the spiritual condition of the
world. Of "Strauss," in English or in German, we now hear nothing more;
of Church matters, and that only to special correspondents, less and
less. Strauss, whom he used to mention, had interested him only as a
sign of the times; in which sense alone do we find, for a year or two
back, any notice of the Church, or its affairs by Sterling; and at last
even this as good as ceases: "Adieu, O Church; thy road is that way,
mine is this: in God's name, adieu!" "What we are going _to_," says he
once, "is abundantly obscure; but what all men are going _from_, is very
plain."--Sifted out of many pages, not of sufficient interest, here are
one or two miscellaneous sentences, about the date we are now arrived
at:--

                           _To Dr. Symonds_.

"_Falmouth, 3d November_, 1841.--Yesterday was my Wedding-day: eleven
years of marriage; and on the whole my verdict is clear for matrimony.
I solemnized the day by reading _John Gilpin_ to the children, who
with their Mother are all pretty well.... There is a trick of sham
Elizabethan writing now prevalent, that looks plausible, but in most
cases means nothing at all. Darley has real (lyrical) genius; Taylor,
wonderful sense, clearness and weight of purpose; Tennyson, a rich and
exquisite fancy. All the other men of our tiny generation that I know
of are, in Poetry, either feeble or fraudulent. I know nothing of the
Reviewer you ask about."

                            _To his Mother_

"_December 11th_.--I have seen no new books; but am reading your last.
I got hold of the two first Numbers of the _Hoggarty Diamond_; and
read them with extreme delight. What is there better in Fielding or
Goldsmith? The man is a true genius; and, with quiet and comfort, might
produce masterpieces that would last as long as any we have, and delight
millions of unborn readers. There is more truth and nature in one of
these papers than in all ----'s Novels together."--Thackeray, always
a close friend of the Sterling house, will observe that this is dated
1841, not 1851, and have his own reflections on the matter!

                            _To the Same_.

"_December 17th_.--I am not much surprised at Lady ----'s views of
Coleridge's little Book on _Inspiration_.--Great part of the obscurity
of the Letters arises from his anxiety to avoid the difficulties and
absurdities of the common views, and his panic terror of saying anything
that bishops and good people would disapprove. He paid a heavy price,
viz. all his own candor and simplicity, in hope of gaining the favor of
persons like Lady ----; and you see what his reward is! A good lesson
for us all."

                            _To the Same_.

"_February 1st_, 1842.--English Toryism has, even in my eyes, about as
much to say for itself as any other form of doctrine; but Irish Toryism
is the downright proclamation of brutal injustice, and all in the name
of God and the Bible! It is almost enough to make one turn Mahometan,
but for the fear of the four wives."

                           _To his Father_.

"_March 12th_, 1842.--... Important to me as these matters are, it
almost seems as if there were something unfeeling in writing of them,
under the pressure of such news as ours from India. If the Cabool Troops
have perished, England has not received such a blow from an enemy, nor
anything approaching it, since Buckingham's Expedition to the Isle
of Rhe. Walcheren destroyed us by climate; and Corunna, with all its
losses, had much of glory. But here we are dismally injured by mere
Barbarians, in a War on our part shamefully unjust as well as foolish:
a combination of disgrace and calamity that would have shocked Augustus
even more than the defeat of Varus. One of the four officers with
Macnaghten was George Lawrence, a brother-in-law of Nat Barton; a
distinguished man, and the father of five totally unprovided children.
He is a prisoner, if not since murdered. Macnaghten I do not pity; he
was the prime author of the whole mad War. But Burnes; and the women;
and our regiments! India, however, I feel sure, is safe."


So roll the months at Falmouth; such is the ticking of the great
World-Horologe as heard there by a good ear. "I willingly add," so ends
he, once, "that I lately found somewhere this fragment of an Arab's
love-song: 'O Ghalia! If my father were a jackass, I would sell him to
purchase Ghalia!' A beautiful parallel to the French _'Avec cette sauce
on mangerait son pere_.'"



CHAPTER IV. NAPLES: POEMS.

In the bleak weather of this spring, 1842, he was again abroad for a
little while; partly from necessity, or at least utility; and partly, as
I guess, because these circumstances favored, and he could with a good
countenance indulge a little wish he had long had. In the Italian Tour,
which ended suddenly by Mrs. Sterling's illness recalling him, he had
missed Naples; a loss which he always thought to be considerable;
and which, from time to time, he had formed little projects, failures
hitherto, for supplying. The rigors of spring were always dangerous to
him in England, and it was always of advantage to get out of them: and
then the sight of Naples, too; this, always a thing to be done some day,
was now possible. Enough, with the real or imaginary hope of bettering
himself in health, and the certain one of seeing Naples, and catching a
glance of Italy again, he now made a run thither. It was not long after
Calvert's death. The Tragedy of _Strafford_ lay finished in his desk.
Several things, sad and bright, were finished. A little intermezzo of
ramble was not unadvisable.

His tour by water and by land was brief and rapid enough; hardly above
two months in all. Of which the following Letters will, with some
abridgment, give us what details are needful:--

                "_To Charles Barton, Esq., Leamington_.
                                          "FALMOUTH, 25th March, 1842.

"MY DEAR CHARLES,--My attempts to shoot you flying with my paper pellets
turned out very ill. I hope young ladies succeed better when they happen
to make appointments with you. Even now, I hardly know whether you
have received a Letter I wrote on Sunday last, and addressed to The
Cavendish. I sent it thither by Susan's advice.

"In this missive,--happily for us both, it did not contain a
hundred-pound note or any trifle of that kind,--I informed you that I
was compelled to plan an expedition towards the South Pole; stopping,
however, in the Mediterranean; and that I designed leaving this on
Monday next for Cadiz or Gibraltar, and then going on to Malta, whence
Italy and Sicily would be accessible. Of course your company would be
a great pleasure, if it were possible for you to join me. The delay in
hearing from you, through no fault of yours, has naturally put me out a
little; but, on the whole, my plan still holds, and I shall leave this
on Monday for Gibraltar, where the _Great Liverpool_ will catch me, and
carry me to Malta. The _Great Liverpool_ leaves Southampton on the 1st
of April, and Falmouth on the 2d; and will reach Gibraltar in from four
to five days.

"Now, if you _should_ be able and disposed to join me, you have only to
embark in that sumptuous tea-kettle, and pick me up under the guns of
the Rock. We could then cruise on to Malta, Sicily, Naples, Rome, &c.,
_a discretion_. It is just _possible_, though extremely improbable,
that my steamer of Monday (most likely the _Montrose_) may not reach
Gibraltar so soon as the _Liverpool_. If so, and if you should actually
be on board, you must stop at Gibraltar. But there are ninety-nine
chances to one against this. Write at all events to Susan, to let her
know what you propose.

"I do not wait till the _Great Liverpool_ goes, because the object for
me is to get into a warm climate as soon as possible. I am decidedly
better.

                      "Your affectionate Brother,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

Barton did not go with him, none went; but he arrives safe, and not
_hurt_ in health, which is something.

              "_To Mrs. Sterling, Knightsbridge, London_.
                                             "MALTA, 14th April, 1842.

"DEAREST MOTHER,--I am writing to Susan through France, by to-morrow's
mail; and will also send you a line, instead of waiting for the longer
English conveyance.

"We reached this the day before yesterday, in the evening; having had
a strong breeze against us for a day or two before; which made me
extremely uncomfortable,--and indeed my headache is hardly gone yet.
From about the 4th to the 9th of the month, we had beautiful weather,
and I was happy enough. You will see by the map that the straightest
line from Gibraltar to this place goes close along the African coast;
which accordingly we saw with the utmost clearness; and found it
generally a line of mountains, the higher peaks and ridges covered with
snow. We went close in to Algiers; which looks strong, but entirely from
art. The town lies on the slope of a straight coast; and is not at all
embayed, though there is some little shelter for shipping within the
mole. It is a square patch of white buildings huddled together; fringed
with batteries; and commanded by large forts on the ridge above: a most
uncomfortable-looking place; though, no doubt, there are _cafes_ and
billiard-rooms and a theatre within,--for the French like to have their
Houris, &c., on _this_ side of Paradise, if possible.

"Our party of fifty people (we had taken some on board at Gibraltar)
broke up, on reaching this; never, of course, to meet again. The greater
part do not proceed to Alexandria. Considering that there was a bundle
of midshipmen, ensigns, &c., we had as much reason among us as could
perhaps be looked for; and from several I gained bits of information and
traits of character, though nothing very remarkable....

"I have established myself in an inn, rather than go to Lady
Louis's; [27] I not feeling quite equal to company, except in moderate
doses. I have, however, seen her a good deal; and dine there to-day,
very privately, for Sir John is not quite well, and they will have no
guests. The place, however, is full of official banqueting, for various
unimportant reasons. When here before, I was in much distress and
anxiety, on my way from Rome; and I suppose this it was that prevented
its making the same impression on me as now, when it seems really the
stateliest town I have ever seen. The architecture is generally of a
corrupt Roman kind; with something of the varied and picturesque look,
though much more massive, of our Elizabethan buildings. We have the
finest English summer and a pellucid sky.... Your affectionate

                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

At Naples next, for three weeks, was due admiration of the sceneries
and antiquities, Bay and Mountain, by no means forgetting Art and
the Museum: "to Pozzuoli, to Baiae, round the Promontory of
Sorrento;"--above all, "twice to Pompeii," where the elegance and
classic simplicity of Ancient Housekeeping strikes us much; and again to
Paestum, where "the Temple of Neptune is far the noblest building I
have ever seen; and makes both Greek and Revived Roman seem quite
barbaric.... Lord Ponsonby lodges in the same house with me;--but, of
course, I do not countenance an adherent of a beaten Party!" [28]--Or let
us take this more compendious account, which has much more of human in
it, from an onward stage, ten days later:--

             "_To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea, London_.
                                                "ROME, 13th May, 1842,

"MY DEAR CARLYLE,--I hope I wrote to you before leaving England, to tell
you of the necessity for my doing so. Though coming to Italy, there
was little comfort in the prospect of being divided from my family, and
pursuits which grew on me every day. However, I tried to make the best
of it, and have gained both health and pleasure.

"In spite of scanty communications from England (owing to the
uncertainty of my position), a word or two concerning you and your dear
Wife have reached me. Lately it has often occurred to me, that the sight
of the Bay of Naples, of the beautiful coast from that to this place,
and of Rome itself, all bathed in summer sunshine, and green with spring
foliage, would be some consolation to her. [29] Pray give her my love.

"I have been two days here; and almost the first thing I did was to
visit the Protestant burial-ground, and the graves of those I knew when
here before. But much as being now alone here, I feel the difference,
there is no scene where Death seems so little dreadful and miserable as
in the lonelier neighborhoods of this old place. All one's impressions,
however, as to that and everything else, appear to me, on reflection,
more affected than I had for a long time any notion of, by one's own
isolation. All the feelings and activities which family, friends and
occupation commonly engage, are turned, here in one's solitude, with
strange force into the channels of mere observation and contemplation;
and the objects one is conversant with seem to gain a tenfold
significance from the abundance of spare interest one now has to bestow
on them. This explains to me a good deal of the peculiar effect that
Italy has always had on me: and something of that artistic enthusiasm
which I remember you used to think so singular in Goethe's _Travels_.
Darley, who is as much a brooding hermit in England as here, felt
nothing but disappointment from a country which fills me with childish
wonder and delight.

"Of you I have received some slight notice from Mrs. Strachey; who is
on her way hither; and will (she writes) be at Florence on the 15th, and
here before the end of the month. She notices having received a Letter
of yours which had pleased her much. She now proposes spending the
summer at Sorrento, or thereabouts; and if mere delight of landscape and
climate were enough, Adam and Eve, had their courier taken them to that
region, might have done well enough without Paradise,--and not been
tempted, either, by any Tree of Knowledge; a kind that does not flourish
in the Two Sicilies.

"The ignorance of the Neapolitans, from the highest to the lowest, is
very eminent; and excites the admiration of all the rest of Italy. In
the great building containing all the Works of Art, and a Library
of 150,000 volumes, I asked for the best existing Book (a German one
published ten years ago) on the Statues in that very Collection; and,
after a rabble of clerks and custodes, got up to a dirty priest, who
bowing to the ground regretted 'they did not possess it,' but at last
remembered that 'they _had_ entered into negotiations on the subject,
which as yet had been unsuccessful.'--The favorite device on the walls
at Naples is a vermilion Picture of a Male and Female Soul respectively
up to the waist (the waist of a _soul_) in fire, and an Angel above
each, watering the sufferers from a watering-pot. This is intended
to gain alms for Masses. The same populace sit for hours on the Mole,
listening to rhapsodists who recite Ariosto. I have seen I think five of
them all within a hundred yards of each other, and some sets of fiddlers
to boot. Yet there are few parts of the world where I have seen less
laughter than there. The Miracle of Januarius's Blood is, on the whole,
my most curious experience. The furious entreaties, shrieks and sobs, of
a set of old women, yelling till the Miracle was successfully performed,
are things never to be forgotten.

"I spent three weeks in this most glittering of countries, and saw most
of the usual wonders,--the Paestan Temples being to me much the most
valuable. But Pompeii and all that it has yielded, especially the Fresco
Paintings, have also an infinite interest. When one considers that this
prodigious series of beautiful designs supplied the place of our common
room-papers,--the wealth of poetic imagery among the Ancients, and the
corresponding traditional variety and elegance of pictorial treatment,
seem equally remarkable. The Greek and Latin Books do not give one quite
so fully this sort of impression; because they afford no direct measure
of the extent of their own diffusion. But these are ornaments from the
smaller class of decent houses in a little Country Town; and the greater
number of them, by the slightness of the execution, show very clearly
that they were adapted to ordinary taste, and done by mere artisans.
In general clearness, symmetry and simplicity of feeling, I cannot say
that, on the whole, the works of Raffaelle equal them; though of course
he has endless beauties such as we could not find unless in the great
original works from which these sketches at Pompeii were taken. Yet with
all my much increased reverence for the Greeks, it seems more plain than
ever that they had hardly anything of the peculiar devotional feeling of
Christianity.

"Rome, which I loved before above all the earth, now delights me more
than ever;--though at this moment there is rain falling that would not
discredit Oxford Street. The depth, sincerity and splendor that there
once was in the semi-paganism of the old Catholics comes out in St.
Peter's and its dependencies, almost as grandly as does Greek and Roman
Art in the Forum and the Vatican Galleries. I wish you were here: but,
at all events, hope to see you and your Wife once more during this
summer.

                                "Yours,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

At Paris, where he stopped a day and night, and generally through his
whole journey from Marseilles to Havre, one thing attended him: the
prevailing epidemic of the place and year; now gone, and nigh forgotten,
as other influenzas are. He writes to his Father: "I have not yet met a
single Frenchman, who could give me any rational explanation _why_
they were all in such a confounded rage against us. Definite causes of
quarrel a statesman may know how to deal with, inasmuch as the removal
of them may help to settle the dispute. But it must be a puzzling task
to negotiate about instincts; to which class, as it seems to me, we
must have recourse for an understanding of the present abhorrence which
everybody on the other side of the Channel not only feels, but makes a
point to boast of, against the name of Britain. France is slowly arming,
especially with Steam, _en attendant_ a more than possible contest, in
which they reckon confidently on the eager co-operation of the Yankees;
as, _vice versa_, an American told me that his countrymen do on that of
France. One person at Paris (M. ---- whom you know) provoked me to
tell him that 'England did not want another battle of Trafalgar; but if
France did, she might compel England to gratify her.'"--After a couple
of pleasant and profitable months, he was safe home again in the first
days of June; and saw Falmouth not under gray iron skies, and whirls of
March dust, but bright with summer opulence and the roses coming out.

It was what I call his "_fifth_ peregrinity;" his fifth and last. He
soon afterwards came up to London; spent a couple of weeks, with all his
old vivacity, among us here. The AEsculapian oracles, it would appear,
gave altogether cheerful prophecy; the highest medical authority
"expresses the most decided opinion that I have gradually mended for
some years; and in truth I have not, for six or seven, been so free
from serious symptoms of illness as at present." So uncertain are all
oracles, AEsculapian and other!

During this visit, he made one new acquaintance which he much
valued; drawn thither, as I guess, by the wish to take counsel about
_Strafford_. He writes to his Clifton friend, under date, 1st July 1842:
"Lockhart, of the _Quarterly Review_, I made my first oral acquaintance
with; and found him as neat, clear and cutting a brain as you would
expect; but with an amount of knowledge, good nature and liberal
anti-bigotry, that would much surprise many. The tone of his children
towards him seemed to me decisive of his real kindness. He quite
agreed with me as to the threatening seriousness of our present social
perplexities, and the necessity and difficulty of doing something
effectual for so satisfying the manual multitude as not to overthrow all
legal security....

"Of other persons whom I saw in London," continues he, "there are
several that would much interest you,--though I missed Tennyson, by
a mere chance.... John Mill has completely finished, and sent to the
bookseller, his great work on Logic; the labor of many years of a
singularly subtle, patient and comprehensive mind. It will be our chief
speculative monument of this age. Mill and I could not meet above two
or three times; but it was with the openness and freshness of school-boy
friends, though our friendship only dates from the manhood of both."

He himself was busier than ever; occupied continually with all manner of
Poetic interests. _Coeur-de-Lion_, a new and more elaborate attempt in
the mock-heroic or comico-didactic vein, had been on hand for some time,
the scope of it greatly deepening and expanding itself since it first
took hold of him; and now, soon after the Naples journey, it rose into
shape on the wider plan; shaken up probably by this new excitement, and
indebted to Calabria, Palermo and the Mediterranean scenes for much of
the vesture it had. With this, which opened higher hopes for him than
any of his previous efforts, he was now employing all his time and
strength;--and continued to do so, this being the last effort granted
him among us.

Already, for some months, _Strafford_ lay complete: but how to get it
from the stocks; in what method to launch it? The step was questionable.
Before going to Italy he had sent me the Manuscript; still loyal and
friendly; and willing to hear the worst that could be said of his poetic
enterprise. I had to afflict him again, the good brave soul, with the
deliberate report that I could _not_ accept this Drama as his Picture
of the Life of Strafford, or as any _Picture_ of that strange Fact. To
which he answered, with an honest manfulness, in a tone which is now
pathetic enough to me, that he was much grieved yet much obliged, and
uncertain how to decide. On the other hand, Mr. Hare wrote, warmly
eulogizing. Lockhart too spoke kindly, though taking some exceptions.
It was a questionable case. On the whole, _Strafford_ remained, for the
present, unlaunched; and _Coeur de-Lion_ was getting its first timbers
diligently laid down. So passed, in peaceable seclusion, in wholesome
employment and endeavor, the autumn and winter of 1842-43. On
Christmas-day, he reports to his Mother:--

"I wished to write to you yesterday; but was prevented by the important
business of preparing a Tree, in the German fashion, for the children.
This project answered perfectly, as it did last year; and gave them the
greatest pleasure. I wish you and my Father could have been here to see
their merry faces. Johnny was in the thick of the fun, and much happier
than Lord Anson on capturing the galleon. We are all going on well and
quietly, but with nothing very new among us.... The last book I have
lighted on is Moffat's _Missionary Labors in South Africa_; which is
worth reading. There is the best collection of lion stories in it that I
have ever seen. But the man is, also, really a very good fellow; and fit
for something much better than most lions are. He is very ignorant,
and mistaken in some things; but has strong sense and heart; and his
Narrative adds another to the many proofs of the enormous power of
Christianity on rude minds. Nothing can be more chaotic, that is human
at all, than the notions of these poor Blacks, even after what is called
their conversion; but the effect is produced. They do adopt pantaloons,
and abandon polygamy; and I suppose will soon have newspapers and
literary soirees."



CHAPTER V. DISASTER ON DISASTER.

DURING all these years of struggle and wayfaring, his Father's household
at Knightsbridge had stood healthful, happy, increasing in wealth, free
diligence, solidity and honest prosperity: a fixed sunny islet, towards
which, in all his voyagings and overclouded roamings, he could look with
satisfaction, as to an ever-open port of refuge.

The elder Sterling, after many battles, had reached his field of
conquest in these years; and was to be regarded as a victorious man.
Wealth sufficient, increasing not diminishing, had rewarded his labors
in the _Times_, which were now in their full flower; he had influence
of a sort; went busily among busy public men; and enjoyed, in the
questionable form attached to journalism and anonymity, a social
consideration and position which were abundantly gratifying to him. A
singular figure of the epoch; and when you came to know him, which it
was easy to fail of doing if you had not eyes and candid insight, a
gallant, truly gifted, and manful figure, of his kind. We saw much of
him in this house; much of all his family; and had grown to love them
all right well,--him too, though that was the difficult part of the
feat. For in his Irish way he played the conjurer very much,--"three
hundred and sixty-five opinions in the year upon every subject," as a
wag once said. In fact his talk, ever ingenious, emphatic and spirited
in detail, was much defective in earnestness, at least in clear
earnestness, of purport and outcome; but went tumbling as if in mere
welters of explosive unreason; a volcano heaving under vague deluges of
scoriae, ashes and imponderous pumice-stones, you could not say in what
direction, nor well whether in any. Not till after good study did you
see the deep molten lava-flood, which simmered steadily enough, and
showed very well by and by whither it was bound. For I must say
of Edward Sterling, after all his daily explosive sophistries, and
fallacies of talk, he had a stubborn instinctive sense of what was
manful, strong and worthy; recognized, with quick feeling, the charlatan
under his solemnest wig; knew as clearly as any man a pusillanimous
tailor in buckram, an ass under the lion's skin, and did with his whole
heart despise the same.

The sudden changes of doctrine in the _Times_, which failed not to
excite loud censure and indignant amazement in those days, were first
intelligible to you when you came to interpret them as his changes.
These sudden whirls from east to west on his part, and total changes of
party and articulate opinion at a day's warning, lay in the nature of
the man, and could not be helped; products of his fiery impatience,
of the combined impetuosity and limitation of an intellect, which did
nevertheless continually gravitate towards what was loyal, true and
right on all manner of subjects. These, as I define them, were the mere
scoriae and pumice wreck of a steady central lava-flood, which truly was
volcanic and explosive to a strange degree, but did rest as few others
on the grand fire-depths of the world. Thus, if he stormed along, ten
thousand strong, in the time of the Reform Bill, indignantly denouncing
Toryism and its obsolete insane pretensions; and then if, after some
experience of Whig management, he discerned that Wellington and Peel,
by whatever name entitled, were the men to be depended on by
England,--there lay in all this, visible enough, a deeper consistency
far more important than the superficial one, so much clamored after by
the vulgar. Which is the lion's-skin; which is the real lion? Let a man,
if he is prudent, ascertain that before speaking;--but above and beyond
all things, _let_ him ascertain it, and stand valiantly to it when
ascertained! In the latter essential part of the operation Edward
Sterling was honorably successful to a really marked degree; in the
former, or prudential part, very much the reverse, as his history in the
Journalistic department at least, was continually teaching him.

An amazingly impetuous, hasty, explosive man, this "Captain Whirlwind,"
as I used to call him! Great sensibility lay in him, too; a real
sympathy, and affectionate pity and softness, which he had an
over-tendency to express even by tears,--a singular sight in so leonine
a man. Enemies called them maudlin and hypocritical, these tears; but
that was nowise the complete account of them. On the whole, there did
conspicuously lie a dash of ostentation, a self-consciousness apt to
become loud and braggart, over all he said and did and felt: this was
the alloy of the man, and you had to be thankful for the abundant gold
along with it.

Quizzing enough he got among us for all this, and for the singular
_chiaroscuro_ manner of procedure, like that of an Archimagus
Cagliostro, or Kaiser Joseph Incognito, which his anonymous
known-unknown thunderings in the _Times_ necessitated in him; and much
we laughed,--not without explosive counter-banterings on his part;--but,
in fine, one could not do without him; one knew him at heart for a right
brave man. "By Jove, sir!" thus he would swear to you, with radiant
face; sometimes, not often, by a deeper oath. With persons of dignity,
especially with women, to whom he was always very gallant, he had
courtly delicate manners, verging towards the wire-drawn and elaborate;
on common occasions, he bloomed out at once into jolly familiarity of
the gracefully boisterous kind, reminding you of mess-rooms and old
Dublin days. His off-hand mode of speech was always precise, emphatic,
ingenious: his laugh, which was frequent rather than otherwise, had a
sincerity of banter, but no real depth of sense for the ludicrous; and
soon ended, if it grew too loud, in a mere dissonant scream. He was
broad, well-built, stout of stature; had a long lowish head, sharp gray
eyes, with large strong aquiline face to match; and walked, or sat, in
an erect decisive manner. A remarkable man; and playing, especially in
those years 1830-40, a remarkable part in the world.

For it may be said, the emphatic, big-voiced, always influential and
often strongly unreasonable _Times_ Newspaper was the express emblem of
Edward Sterling; he, more than any other man or circumstance, _was_
the _Times_ Newspaper, and thundered through it to the shaking of the
spheres. And let us assert withal that his and its influence, in those
days, was not ill grounded but rather well; that the loud manifold
unreason, often enough vituperated and groaned over, was of the surface
mostly; that his conclusions, unreasonable, partial, hasty as they might
at first be, gravitated irresistibly towards the right: in virtue of
which grand quality indeed, the root of all good insight in man, his
_Times_ oratory found acceptance and influential audience, amid the loud
whirl of an England itself logically very stupid, and wise chiefly by
instinct.

England listened to this voice, as all might observe; and to one who
knew England and it, the result was not quite a strange one, and was
honorable rather than otherwise to both parties. A good judge of men's
talents has been heard to say of Edward Sterling: "There is not a
_faculty of improvising_ equal to this in all my circle. Sterling rushes
out into the clubs, into London society, rolls about all day, copiously
talking modish nonsense or sense, and listening to the like, with the
multifarious miscellany of men; comes home at night; redacts it into a
_Times_ Leader,--and is found to have hit the essential purport of the
world's immeasurable babblement that day, with an accuracy beyond all
other men. This is what the multifarious Babel sound did mean to say in
clear words; this, more nearly than anything else. Let the most gifted
intellect, capable of writing epics, try to write such a Leader for the
Morning Newspapers! No intellect but Edward Sterling's can do it.
An improvising faculty without parallel in my experience."--In this
"improvising faculty," much more nobly developed, as well as in other
faculties and qualities with unexpectedly new and improved figure, John
Sterling, to the accurate observer, showed himself very much the son of
Edward.

Connected with this matter, a remarkable Note has come into my hands;
honorable to the man I am writing of, and in some sort to another higher
man; which, as it may now (unhappily for us all) be published without
scruple, I will not withhold here. The support, by Edward Sterling
and the _Times_, of Sir Robert Peel's first Ministry, and generally of
Peel's statesmanship, was a conspicuous fact in its day; but the return
it met with from the person chiefly interested may be considered well
worth recording. The following Letter, after meandering through I know
not what intricate conduits, and consultations of the Mysterious
Entity whose address it bore, came to Edward Sterling as the real
flesh-and-blood proprietor, and has been found among his papers. It is
marked _Private_:--

               "(Private) _To the Editor of the Times_.
                                         "WHITEHALL, 18th April, 1835.

"SIR,--Having this day delivered into the hands of the King the Seals
of Office, I can, without any imputation of an interested motive, or any
impediment from scrupulous feelings of delicacy, express my deep sense
of the powerful support which that Government over which I had the honor
to preside received from the _Times_ Newspaper.

"If I do not offer the expressions of personal gratitude, it is because
I feel that such expressions would do injustice to the character of a
support which was given exclusively on the highest and most independent
grounds of public principle. I can say this with perfect truth, as I
am addressing one whose person even is unknown to me, and who during my
tenure of power studiously avoided every species of intercourse which
could throw a suspicion upon the motives by which he was actuated. I
should, however, be doing injustice to my own feelings, if I were to
retire from Office without one word of acknowledgment; without at
least assuring you of the admiration with which I witnessed, during the
arduous contest in which I was engaged, the daily exhibition of that
extraordinary ability to which I was indebted for a support, the more
valuable because it was an impartial and discriminating support.--I have
the honor to be, Sir,

            "Ever your most obedient and faithful servant,
                                                        "ROBERT PEEL."

To which, with due loftiness and diplomatic gravity and brevity,
there is Answer, Draught of Answer in Edward Sterling's hand, from the
Mysterious Entity so honored, in the following terms:--

       "_To the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart., &c. &c. &c_.

"SIR,--It gives me sincere satisfaction to learn from the Letter with
which you have honored me, bearing yesterday's date, that you estimate
so highly the efforts which have been made during the last five months
by the _Times_ Newspaper to support the cause of rational and wholesome
Government which his Majesty had intrusted to your guidance; and that
you appreciate fairly the disinterested motive, of regard to the public
welfare, and to that alone, through which this Journal has been prompted
to pursue a policy in accordance with that of your Administration. It
is, permit me to say, by such motives only, that the _Times_, ever
since I have known it, has been influenced, whether in defence of the
Government of the day, or in constitutional resistance to it: and indeed
there exist no other motives of action for a Journalist, compatible
either with the safety of the press, or with the political morality of
the great bulk of its readers.--With much respect, I have the honor to
be, Sir, &c. &c. &c.

                                          "THE EDITOR OF THE 'TIMES.'"

Of this Note I do not think there was the least whisper during Edward
Sterling's lifetime; which fact also one likes to remember of him,
so ostentatious and little-reticent a man. For the rest, his loyal
admiration of Sir Robert Peel,--sanctioned, and as it were almost
consecrated to his mind, by the great example of the Duke of
Wellington, whom he reverenced always with true hero-worship,--was not
a journalistic one, but a most intimate authentic feeling, sufficiently
apparent in the very heart of his mind. Among the many opinions "liable
to three hundred and sixty-five changes in the course of the year," this
in reference to Peel and Wellington was one which ever changed, but was
the same all days and hours. To which, equally genuine, and coming still
oftener to light in those times, there might one other be added, one and
hardly more: fixed contempt, not unmingled with detestation, for Daniel
O'Connell. This latter feeling, we used often laughingly to say, was
his grand political principle, the one firm centre where all else went
revolving. But internally the other also was deep and constant; and
indeed these were properly his _two_ centres,--poles of the same axis,
negative and positive, the one presupposing the other.

O'Connell he had known in young Dublin days;--and surely no man could
well venerate another less! It was his deliberate, unalterable opinion
of the then Great O, that good would never come of him; that only
mischief, and this in huge measure, would come. That however showy, and
adroit in rhetoric and management, he was a man of incurably commonplace
intellect, and of no character but a hollow, blustery, pusillanimous
and unsound one; great only in maudlin patriotisms, in speciosities,
astucities,--in the miserable gifts for becoming Chief _Demagogos_,
Leader of a deep-sunk Populace towards _its_ Lands of Promise; which
trade, in any age or country, and especially in the Ireland of this age,
our indignant friend regarded (and with reason) as an extremely ugly one
for a man. He had himself zealously advocated Catholic Emancipation,
and was not without his Irish patriotism, very different from the Orange
sort; but the "Liberator" was not admirable to him, and grew daily less
so to an extreme degree. Truly, his scorn of the said Liberator, now
riding in supreme dominion on the wings of _blarney_, devil-ward of a
surety, with the Liberated all following and huzzaing; his fierce gusts
of wrath and abhorrence over him,--rose occasionally almost to the
sublime. We laughed often at these vehemences:--and they were not wholly
laughable; there was something very serious, and very true, in them!
This creed of Edward Sterling's would not now, in either pole of its
axis, look so strange as it then did in many quarters.


During those ten years which might be defined as the culminating period
of Edward Sterling's life, his house at South Place, Knights bridge, had
worn a gay and solid aspect, as if built at last on the high table-land
of sunshine and success, the region of storms and dark weather now
all victoriously traversed and lying safe below. Health, work, wages,
whatever is needful to a man, he had, in rich measure; and a frank stout
heart to guide the same: he lived in such style as pleased him; drove
his own chariot up and down (himself often acting as Jehu, and reminding
you a little of _Times_ thunder even in driving); consorted, after
a fashion, with the powerful of the world; saw in due vicissitude a
miscellany of social faces round him,--pleasant parties, which he liked
well enough to garnish by a lord; "Irish lord, if no better might be,"
as the banter went. For the rest, he loved men of worth and intellect,
and recognized them well, whatever their title: this was his own patent
of worth which Nature had given him; a central light in the man,
which illuminated into a kind of beauty, serious or humorous, all the
artificialities he had accumulated on the surface of him. So rolled his
days, not quietly, yet prosperously, in manifold commerce with men.
At one in the morning, when all had vanished into sleep, his lamp
was kindled in his library; and there, twice or thrice a week, for a
three-hours' space, he launched his bolts, which next morning were to
shake the high places of the world.

John's relation to his Father, when one saw John here, was altogether
frank, joyful and amiable: he ignored the _Times_ thunder for most part,
coldly taking the Anonymous for non-extant; spoke of it floutingly, if
he spoke at all: indeed a pleasant half-bantering dialect was the
common one between Father and Son; and they, especially with the gentle,
simple-hearted, just-minded Mother for treble-voice between them, made a
very pretty glee-harmony together.

So had it lasted, ever since poor John's voyagings began; his Father's
house standing always as a fixed sunny islet with safe harbor for him.
So it could not always last. This sunny islet was now also to break and
go down: so many firm islets, fixed pillars in his fluctuating world,
pillar after pillar, were to break and go down; till swiftly all, so
to speak, were sunk in the dark waters, and he with them! Our little
History is now hastening to a close.


In the beginning of 1843 news reached us that Sterling had, in his too
reckless way, encountered a dangerous accident: maids, in the room where
he was, were lifting a heavy table; he, seeing them in difficulty, had
snatched at the burden; heaved it away,--but had broken a blood-vessel
by the business; and was now, after extensive hemorrhage, lying
dangerously ill. The doctors hoped the worst was over; but the case was
evidently serious. In the same days, too, his Mother had been seized
here by some painful disease, which from its continuance grew alarming.
Sad omens for Edward Sterling, who by this time had as good as ceased
writing or working in the _Times_, having comfortably winded up his
affairs there; and was looking forward to a freer idle life befitting
his advanced years henceforth. Fatal eclipse had fallen over that
household of his; never to be lifted off again till all darkened into
night.

By dint of watchful nursing, John Sterling got on foot once more: but
his Mother did not recover, quite the contrary. Her case too grew very
questionable. Disease of the heart, said the medical men at last; not
immediately, not perhaps for a length of years, dangerous to life, said
they; but without hope of cure. The poor lady suffered much; and, though
affecting hope always, grew weaker and weaker. John ran up to Town in
March; I saw him, on the morrow or next day after, in his own room at
Knightsbridge: he had caught fresh cold overnight, the servant having
left his window up, but I was charged to say nothing of it, not to
flutter the already troubled house: he was going home again that very
day, and nothing ill would come of it. We understood the family at
Falmouth, his Wife being now near her confinement again, could at any
rate comport with no long absence. He was cheerful, even rudely merry;
himself pale and ill, his poor Mother's cough audible occasionally
through the wall. Very kind, too, and gracefully affectionate; but I
observed a certain grimness in his mood of mind, and under his light
laughter lay something unusual, something stern, as if already dimmed
in the coming shadows of Fate. "Yes, yes, you are a good man: but I
understand they mean to appoint you to Rhadamanthus's post, which has
been vacant for some time; and you will see how you like that!" This
was one of the things he said; a strange effulgence of wild drollery
flashing through the ice of earnest pain and sorrow. He looked paler
than usual: almost for the first time, I had myself a twinge of
misgiving as to his own health; for hitherto I had been used to blame
as much as pity his fits of dangerous illness, and would often angrily
remonstrate with him that he might have excellent health, would he but
take reasonable care of himself, and learn the art of sitting still.
Alas, as if he _could_ learn it; as if Nature had not laid her ban on
him even there, and said in smiles and frowns manifoldly, "No, that thou
shalt not learn!"

He went that day; he never saw his good true Mother more. Very shortly
afterwards, in spite of doctors' prophecies, and affectionate illusions,
she grew alarmingly and soon hopelessly worse. Here are his last two
Letters to her:--

              "_To Mrs. Sterling, Knightsbridge, London_.
                                            "FALMOUTH 8th April, 1843.

"DEAREST MOTHER,--I could do you no good, but it would be the greatest
comfort to me if I could be near you. Nothing would detain me but
Susan's condition. I feel that until her confinement is over, I ought to
remain here,--unless you wished me to go to you; in which case she would
be the first to send me off. Happily she is doing as well as possible,
and seems even to gain strength every day. She sends her love to you.

"The children are all doing well. I rode with Edward to-day through some
of the pleasant lanes in the neighborhood; and was delighted, as I have
often been at the same season, to see the primroses under every hedge.
It is pleasant to think that the Maker of them can make other flowers
for the gardens of his other mansions. We have here a softness in the
air, a smoothness of the clouds, and a mild sunshine, that combine in
lovely peace with the first green of spring and the mellow whiteness of
the sails upon the quiet sea. The whole aspect of the world is full of
a quiet harmony, that influences even one's bodily frame, and seems to
make one's very limbs aware of something living, good and immortal in
all around us. Knowing how you suffer, and how weak you are, anything is
a blessing to me that helps me to rise out of confusion and grief into
the sense of God and joy. I could not indeed but feel how much happier I
should have been, this morning, had you been with me, and delighting as
you would have done in all the little as well as the large beauty of the
world. But it was still a satisfaction to feel how much I owe to you of
the power of perceiving meaning, reality and sweetness in all healthful
life. And thus I could fancy that you were still near me; and that I
could see you, as I have so often seen you, looking with earnest eyes at
wayside flowers.

"I would rather not have written what must recall your thoughts to your
present sufferings: but, dear Mother, I wrote only what I felt; and
perhaps you would rather have it so, than that I should try to find
other topics. I still hope to be with you before long. Meanwhile and
always, God bless you, is the prayer of

                        "Your affectionate son,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

                            _To the same_.
                                          "FALMOUTH, 12th April, 1843.

"DEAREST MOTHER,--I have just received my Father's Letter; which gives
me at least the comfort of believing that you do not suffer very much
pain. That your mind has remained so clear and strong, is an infinite
blessing.

"I do not know anything in the world that would make up to me at all for
wanting the recollection of the days I spent with you lately, when I was
amazed at the freshness and life of all your thoughts. It brought back
far-distant years, in the strangest, most peaceful way. I felt myself
walking with you in Greenwich Park, and on the seashore at Sandgate;
almost even I seemed a baby, with you bending over me. Dear Mother,
there is surely something uniting us that cannot perish. I seem so sure
of a love which shall last and reunite us, that even the remembrance,
painful as that is, of all my own follies and ill tempers, cannot shake
this faith. When I think of you, and know how you feel towards me, and
have felt for every moment of almost forty years, it would be too dark
to believe that we shall never meet again. It was from you that I first
learnt to think, to feel, to imagine, to believe; and these powers,
which cannot be extinguished, will one day enter anew into communion
with you. I have bought it very dear by the prospect of losing you in
this world,--but since you have been so ill, everything has seemed to me
holier, loftier and more lasting, more full of hope and final joy.

"It would be a very great happiness to see you once more even here; but
I do not know if that will be granted to me. But for Susan's state, I
should not hesitate an instant; as it is, my duty seems to be to remain,
and I have no right to repine. There is no sacrifice that she would not
make for me, and it would be too cruel to endanger her by mere anxiety
on my account. Nothing can exceed her sympathy with my sorrow. But she
cannot know, no one can, the recollections of all you have been and
done for me; which now are the most sacred and deepest, as well as
most beautiful, thoughts that abide with me. May God bless you, dearest
Mother. It is much to believe that He feels for you all that you have
ever felt for your children.

                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

A day or two after this, "on Good Friday, 1843," his Wife got happily
through her confinement, bringing him, he writes, "a stout little girl,
who and the Mother are doing as well as possible." The little girl still
lives and does well; but for the Mother there was another lot. Till the
Monday following she too did altogether well, he affectionately watching
her; but in the course of that day, some change for the worse was
noticed, though nothing to alarm either the doctors or him; he watched
by her bedside all night, still without alarm; but sent again in the
morning, Tuesday morning, for the doctors,--Who did not seem able
to make much of the symptoms. She appeared weak and low, but made no
particular complaint. The London post meanwhile was announced; Sterling
went into another room to learn what tidings of his Mother it brought
him. Returning speedily with a face which in vain strove to be calm,
his Wife asked, How at Knightsbridge? "My Mother is dead," answered
Sterling; "died on Sunday: She is gone." "Poor old man!" murmured the
other, thinking of old Edward Sterling now left alone in the world; and
these were her own last words: in two hours more she too was dead. In
two hours Mother and Wife were suddenly both snatched away from him.

"It came with awful suddenness!" writes he to his Clifton friend. "Still
for a short time I had my Susan: but I soon saw that the medical
men were in terror; and almost within half an hour of that fatal
Knightsbridge news, I began to suspect our own pressing danger. I
received her last breath upon my lips. Her mind was much sunk, and
her perceptions slow; but a few minutes before the last, she must have
caught the idea of dissolution; and signed that I should kiss her. She
faltered painfully, 'Yes! yes!'--returned with fervency the pressure of
my lips; and in a few moments her eyes began to fix, her pulse to cease.
She too is gone from me!" It was Tuesday morning, April 18th, 1843. His
Mother had died on the Sunday before.


He had loved his excellent kind Mother, as he ought and well might: in
that good heart, in all the wanderings of his own, there had ever been
a shrine of warm pity, of mother's love and blessed soft affections
for him; and now it was closed in the Eternities forevermore. His poor
Life-partner too, his other self, who had faithfully attended him so
long in all his pilgrimings, cheerily footing the heavy tortuous ways
along with him, can follow him no farther; sinks now at his side: "The
rest of your pilgrimings alone, O Friend,--adieu, adieu!" She too
is forever hidden from his eyes; and he stands, on the sudden, very
solitary amid the tumult of fallen and falling things. "My little baby
girl is doing well; poor little wreck cast upon the sea-beach of life.
My children require me tenfold now. What I shall do, is all confusion
and darkness."

The younger Mrs. Sterling was a true good woman; loyal-hearted, willing
to do well, and struggling wonderfully to do it amid her languors and
infirmities; rescuing, in many ways, with beautiful female heroism and
adroitness, what of fertility their uncertain, wandering, unfertile
way of life still left possible, and cheerily making the most of it. A
genial, pious and harmonious fund of character was in her; and withal an
indolent, half-unconscious force of intellect, and justness and delicacy
of perception, which the casual acquaintance scarcely gave her credit
for. Sterling much respected her decision in matters literary; often
altering and modifying where her feeling clearly went against him; and
in verses especially trusting to her ear, which was excellent, while he
knew his own to be worth little. I remember her melodious rich plaintive
tone of voice; and an exceedingly bright smile which she sometimes had,
effulgent with sunny gayety and true humor, among other fine qualities.

Sterling has lost much in these two hours; how much that has long been
can never again be for him! Twice in one morning, so to speak, has a
mighty wind smitten the corners of his house; and much lies in dismal
ruins round him.



CHAPTER VI. VENTNOR: DEATH.

In this sudden avalanche of sorrows Sterling, weak and worn as we have
seen, bore up manfully, and with pious valor fronted what had come upon
him. He was not a man to yield to vain wailings, or make repinings at
the unalterable: here was enough to be long mourned over; but here,
for the moment, was very much imperatively requiring to be done. That
evening, he called his children round him; spoke words of religious
admonition and affection to them; said, "He must now be a Mother as well
as Father to them." On the evening of the funeral, writes Mr. Hare, he
bade them good-night, adding these words, "If I am taken from you, God
will take care of you." He had six children left to his charge, two of
them infants; and a dark outlook ahead of them and him. The good Mrs.
Maurice, the children's young Aunt, present at this time and often
afterwards till all ended, was a great consolation.


Falmouth, it may be supposed, had grown a sorrowful place to him,
peopled with haggard memories in his weak state; and now again, as had
been usual with him, change of place suggested itself as a desirable
alleviation;--and indeed, in some sort, as a necessity. He has "friends
here," he admits to himself, "whose kindness is beyond all price, all
description;" but his little children, if anything befell him, have no
relative within two hundred miles. He is now sole watcher over them; and
his very life is so precarious; nay, at any rate, it would appear, he
has to leave Falmouth every spring, or run the hazard of worse. Once
more, what is to be done? Once more,--and now, as it turned out, for the
last time.

A still gentler climate, greater proximity to London, where his Brother
Anthony now was and most of his friends and interests were: these
considerations recommended Ventnor, in the beautiful Southeastern corner
of the Isle of Wight; where on inquiry an eligible house was found for
sale. The house and its surrounding piece of ground, improvable both,
were purchased; he removed thither in June of this year 1843; and set
about improvements and adjustments on a frank scale. By the decease of
his Mother, he had become rich in money; his share of the West-India
properties having now fallen to him, which, added to his former
incomings, made a revenue he could consider ample and abundant. Falmouth
friends looked lovingly towards him, promising occasional visits; old
Herstmonceux, which he often spoke of revisiting but never did, was not
far off; and London, with all its resources and remembrances, was now
again accessible. He resumed his work; and had hopes of again achieving
something.

The Poem of _Coeur-de-Lion_ has been already mentioned, and the wider
form and aim it had got since he first took it in hand. It was above a
year before the date of these tragedies and changes, that he had sent
me a Canto, or couple of Cantos, of _Coeur-de-Lion_; loyally again
demanding my opinion, harsh as it had often been on that side. This
time I felt right glad to answer in another tone: "That here was real
felicity and ingenuity, on the prescribed conditions; a decisively
rhythmic quality in this composition; thought and phraseology actually
_dancing_, after a sort. What the plan and scope of the Work might be,
he had not said, and I could not judge; but here was a light opulence of
airy fancy, picturesque conception, vigorous delineation, all marching
on as with cheerful drum and fife, if without more rich and complicated
forms of melody: if a man _would_ write in metre, this sure enough
was the way to try doing it." For such encouragement from that stinted
quarter, Sterling, I doubt not, was very thankful; and of course it
might co-operate with the inspirations from his Naples Tour to further
him a little in this his now chief task in the way of Poetry; a thought
which, among my many almost pathetic remembrances of contradictions to
his Poetic tendency, is pleasant for me.

But, on the whole, it was no matter. With or without encouragement, he
was resolute to persevere in Poetry, and did persevere. When I think now
of his modest, quiet steadfastness in this business of Poetry; how, in
spite of friend and foe, he silently persisted, without wavering, in
the form of utterance he had chosen for himself; and to what length he
carried it, and vindicated himself against us all;--his character comes
out in a new light to me, with more of a certain central inflexibility
and noble silent resolution than I had elsewhere noticed in it. This
summer, moved by natural feelings, which were sanctioned, too, and in a
sort sanctified to him, by the remembered counsel of his late Wife,
he printed the _Tragedy of Strafford_. But there was in the public no
contradiction to the hard vote I had given about it: the little
Book fell dead-born; and Sterling had again to take his
disappointment;--which it must be owned he cheerfully did; and, resolute
to try it again and ever again, went along with his _Coeur-de-Lion_,
as if the public had been all with him. An honorable capacity to stand
single against the whole world; such as all men need, from time to time!
After all, who knows whether, in his overclouded, broken, flighty way
of life, incapable of long hard drudgery, and so shut out from the solid
forms of Prose, this Poetic Form, which he could well learn as he could
all forms, was not the suitablest for him?

This work of _Coeur-de-Lion_ he prosecuted steadfastly in his new home;
and indeed employed on it henceforth all the available days that were
left him in this world. As was already said, he did not live to complete
it; but some eight Cantos, three or four of which I know to possess high
worth, were finished, before Death intervened, and there he had to leave
it. Perhaps it will yet be given to the public; and in that case be
better received than the others were, by men of judgment; and serve to
put Sterling's Poetic pretensions on a much truer footing. I can say,
that to readers who do prefer a poetic diet, this ought to be welcome:
if you can contrive to love the thing which is still called "poetry" in
these days, here is a decidedly superior article in that kind,--richer
than one of a hundred that you smilingly consume.

In this same month of June, 1843, while the house at Ventnor was
getting ready, Sterling was again in London for a few days. Of course
at Knightsbridge, now fallen under such sad change, many private matters
needed to be settled by his Father and Brother and him. Captain Anthony,
now minded to remove with his family to London and quit the military
way of life, had agreed to purchase the big family house, which he still
occupies; the old man, now rid of that encumbrance, retired to a smaller
establishment of his own; came ultimately to be Anthony's guest, and
spent his last days so. He was much lamed and broken, the half of his
old life suddenly torn away;--and other losses, which he yet knew not
of, lay close ahead of him. In a year or two, the rugged old man, borne
down by these pressures, quite gave way; sank into paralytic and
other infirmities; and was released from life's sorrows, under his son
Anthony's roof, in the fall of 1847.--The house in Knightsbridge was,
at the time we now speak of, empty except of servants; Anthony having
returned to Dublin, I suppose to conclude his affairs there, prior to
removal. John lodged in a Hotel.

We had our fair share of his company in this visit, as in all the past
ones; but the intercourse, I recollect, was dim and broken, a disastrous
shadow hanging over it, not to be cleared away by effort. Two American
gentlemen, acquaintances also of mine, had been recommended to him, by
Emerson most likely: one morning Sterling appeared here with a strenuous
proposal that we should come to Knightsbridge, and dine with him and
them. Objections, general dissuasions were not wanting: The empty dark
house, such needless trouble, and the like;--but he answered in his
quizzing way, "Nature herself prompts you, when a stranger comes, to
give him a dinner. There are servants yonder; it is all easy; come; both
of you are bound to come." And accordingly we went. I remember it as
one of the saddest dinners; though Sterling talked copiously, and our
friends, Theodore Parker one of them, were pleasant and distinguished
men. All was so haggard in one's memory, and half consciously in one's
anticipations; sad, as if one had been dining in a will, in the crypt of
a mausoleum. Our conversation was waste and logical, I forget quite on
what, not joyful and harmoniously effusive: Sterling's silent sadness
was painfully apparent through the bright mask he had bound himself
to wear. Withal one could notice now, as on his last visit, a certain
sternness of mood, unknown in better days; as if strange gorgon-faces
of earnest Destiny were more and more rising round him, and the time for
sport were past. He looked always hurried, abrupt, even beyond wont; and
indeed was, I suppose, overwhelmed in details of business.

One evening, I remember, he came down hither, designing to have a
freer talk with us. We were all sad enough; and strove rather to avoid
speaking of what might make us sadder. Before any true talk had been
got into, an interruption occurred, some unwelcome arrival; Sterling
abruptly rose; gave me the signal to rise; and we unpolitely walked
away, adjourning to his Hotel, which I recollect was in the Strand, near
Hungerford Market; some ancient comfortable quaint-looking place, off
the street; where, in a good warm queer old room, the remainder of our
colloquy was duly finished. We spoke of Cromwell, among other things
which I have now forgotten; on which subject Sterling was trenchant,
positive, and in some essential points wrong,--as I said I would
convince him some day. "Well, well!" answered he, with a shake of
the head.--We parted before long; bedtime for invalids being come:
he escorted me down certain carpeted backstairs, and would not be
forbidden: we took leave under the dim skies;--and alas, little as I
then dreamt of it, this, so far as I can calculate, must have been the
last time I ever saw him in the world. Softly as a common evening, the
last of the evenings had passed away, and no other would come for me
forevermore.

Through the summer he was occupied with fitting up his new residence,
selecting governesses, servants; earnestly endeavoring to set his house
in order, on the new footing it had now assumed. Extensive improvements
in his garden and grounds, in which he took due interest to the
last, were also going on. His Brother, and Mr. Maurice his
brother-in-law,--especially Mrs. Maurice the kind sister, faithfully
endeavoring to be as a mother to her poor little nieces,--were
occasionally with him. All hours available for labor on his literary
tasks, he employed, almost exclusively I believe, on _Coeur-de-Lion_;
with what energy, the progress he had made in that Work, and in the art
of Poetic composition generally, amid so many sore impediments, best
testifies. I perceive, his life in general lay heavier on him than it
had done before; his mood of mind is grown more sombre;--indeed the very
solitude of this Ventnor as a place, not to speak of other solitudes,
must have been new and depressing. But he admits no hypochondria, now or
ever; occasionally, though rarely, even flashes of a kind of wild gayety
break through. He works steadily at his task, with all the strength left
him; endures the past as he may, and makes gallant front against the
world. "I am going on quietly here, rather than happily," writes he to
his friend Newman; "sometimes quite helpless, not from distinct illness,
but from sad thoughts and a ghastly dreaminess. The heart is gone out of
my life. My children, however, are doing well; and the place is cheerful
and mild."

From Letters of this period I might select some melancholy enough; but
will prefer to give the following one (nearly the last I can give), as
indicative of a less usual temper:--

             "_To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea, London_.
                                         "VENTNOR, 7th December, 1843.

"MY DEAR CARLYLE,--My Irish Newspaper was _not_ meant as a hint that
I wanted a Letter. It contained an absurd long Advertisement,--some
project for regenerating human knowledge, &c. &c.; to which I prefixed
my private mark (a blot), thinking that you might be pleased to know of
a fellow-laborer somewhere in Tipperary.

"Your Letter, like the Scriptural oil,--(they had no patent lamps then,
and used the best oil, 7s. per gallon),--has made my face to shine.
There is but one person in the world, I shall not tell you who, from
whom a Letter would give me so much pleasure. It would be nearly as good
at Pekin, in the centre of the most enlightened Mandarins; but here at
Ventnor, where there are few Mandarins and no enlightenment,--fountains
in the wilderness, even were they miraculous, are nothing compared with
your handwriting. Yet it is sad that you should be so melancholy. I
often think that though Mercury was the pleasanter fellow, and probably
the happier, Saturn was the greater god;--rather cannibal or so, but one
excuses it in him, as in some other heroes one knows of.

"It is, as you say, your destiny to write about Cromwell: and you
will make a book of him, at which the ears of our grandchildren will
tingle;--and as one may hope that the ears of human nature will be
growing longer and longer, the tingling will be proportionately greater
than we are accustomed to. Do what you can, I fear there will be little
gain from the Royalists. There is something very small about the biggest
of them that I have ever fallen in with, unless you count old Hobbes a
Royalist.

"Curious to see that you have them exactly preserved in the Country
Gentlemen of our day; while of the Puritans not a trace remains except
in History. Squirism had already, in that day, become the _caput
mortuum_ that it is now; and has therefore, like other mummies, been
able to last. What was opposed to it was the Life of Puritanism,--then
on the point of disappearing; and it too has left its mummy at Exeter
Hall on the platform and elsewhere. One must go back to the Middle
Ages to see Squirism as rampant and vivacious as Biblicism was in the
Seventeenth Century: and I suppose our modern Country Gentlemen are
about as near to what the old Knights and Barons were who fought the
Crusades, as our modern Evangelicals to the fellows who sought the Lord
by the light of their own pistol-shots.

"Those same Crusades are now pleasant matter for me. You remember, or
perhaps you do not, a thing I once sent you about Coeur-de-Lion. Long
since, I settled to make the Cantos you saw part of a larger Book; and
worked at it, last autumn and winter, till I had a bad illness. I am
now at work on it again; and go full sail, like _my_ hero. There are six
Cantos done, roughly, besides what you saw. I have struck out most
of the absurdest couplets, and given the whole a higher though still
sportive tone. It is becoming a kind of _Odyssey_, with a laughing and
Christian Achilles for hero. One may manage to wrap, in that chivalrous
brocade, many things belonging to our Time, and capable of interesting
it. The thing is not bad; but will require great labor. Only it is labor
that I thoroughly like; and which keeps the maggots out of one's brain,
until their time.

"I have never spoken to you, never been able to speak to you, of the
change in my life,--almost as great, one fancies, as one's own death.
Even now, although it seems as if I had so much to say, I cannot. If
one could imagine--... But it is no use; I cannot write wisely on
this matter. I suppose no human being was ever devoted to another more
entirely than she; and that makes the change not less but more bearable.
It seems as if she could not be gone quite; and that indeed is my faith.

"Mr. James, your New-England friend, was here only for a few days; I saw
him several times, and liked him. They went, on the 24th of last month,
back to London,--or so purposed,--because there is no pavement here for
him to walk on. I want to know where he is, and thought I should be able
to learn from you. I gave him a Note for Mill, who perhaps may have seen
him. I think this is all at present from,

                                "Yours,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

Of his health, all this while, we had heard little definite; and
understood that he was very quiet and careful; in virtue of which grand
improvement we vaguely considered all others would follow. Once let him
learn well to be _slow_ as the common run of men are, would not all be
safe and well? Nor through the winter, or the cold spring months, did
bad news reach us; perhaps less news of any kind than had been usual,
which seemed to indicate a still and wholesome way of life and work. Not
till "April 4th, 1844," did the new alarm occur: again on some slight
accident, the breaking of a blood-vessel; again prostration under
dangerous sickness, from which this time he never rose.

There had been so many sudden failings and happy risings again in our
poor Sterling's late course of health, we had grown so accustomed to
mingle blame of his impetuosity with pity for his sad overthrows, we did
not for many weeks quite realize to ourselves the stern fact that here
at length had the peculiar fall come upon us,--the last of all
these falls! This brittle life, which had so often held together and
victoriously rallied under pressures and collisions, could not rally
always, and must one time be shivered. It was not till the summer came
and no improvement; and not even then without lingering glimmers of hope
against hope, that I fairly had to own what had now come, what was now
day by day sternly advancing with the steadiness of Time.

From the first, the doctors spoke despondently; and Sterling himself
felt well that there was no longer any chance of life. He had often said
so, in his former illnesses, and thought so, yet always till now with
some tacit grain of counter-hope; he had never clearly felt so as now:
Here _is_ the end; the great change is now here!--Seeing how it was,
then, he earnestly gathered all his strength to do this last act of
his tragedy, as he had striven to do the others, in a pious and manful
manner. As I believe we can say he did; few men in any time _more_
piously or manfully. For about six months he sat looking steadfastly, at
all moments, into the eyes of Death; he too who had eyes to _see_ Death
and the Terrors and Eternities; and surely it was with perfect courage
and piety, and valiant simplicity of heart, that he bore himself, and
did and thought and suffered, in this trying predicament, more terrible
than the usual death of men. All strength left to him he still employed
in working: day by day the end came nearer, but day by day also some new
portion of his adjustments was completed, by some small stage his
task was nearer done. His domestic and other affairs, of all sorts, he
settled to the last item. Of his own Papers he saved a few, giving brief
pertinent directions about them; great quantities, among which a certain
Autobiography begun some years ago at Clifton, he ruthlessly burnt,
judging that the best. To his friends he left messages, memorials of
books: I have a _Gough's Camden_, and other relics, which came to me in
that way, and are among my sacred possessions. The very Letters of his
friends he sorted and returned; had each friend's Letters made into a
packet, sealed with black, and duly addressed for delivery when the time
should come.

At an early period of his illness, all visitors had of course been
excluded, except his most intimate ones: before long, so soon as the end
became apparent, he took leave even of his Father, to avoid excitements
and intolerable emotions; and except his Brother and the Maurices, who
were generally about him coming and going, none were admitted. This
latter form of life, I think, continued for above three months. Men were
still working about his grounds, of whom he took some charge; needful
works, great and small, let them not pause on account of him. He still
rose from bed; had still some portion of his day which he could spend
in his Library. Besides business there, he read a good deal,--earnest
books; the Bible, most earnest of books, his chief favorite. He still
even wrote a good deal. To his eldest Boy, now Mr. Newman's ward, who
had been removed to the Maurices' since the beginning of this illness,
he addressed, every day or two, sometimes daily, for eight or
nine weeks, a Letter, of general paternal advice and exhortation;
interspersing sparingly, now and then, such notices of his own feelings
and condition as could be addressed to a boy. These Letters, I have
lately read: they give, beyond any he has written, a noble image of the
intrinsic Sterling;--the same face we had long known; but painted now
as on the azure of Eternity, serene, victorious, divinely sad; the dusts
and extraneous disfigurements imprinted on it by the world, now
washed away. One little Excerpt, not the best, but the fittest for its
neighborhood here, will be welcome to the reader:--

               "_To Master Edward C. Sterling, London_.
                                  "HILLSIDE, VENTNOR, 29th June, 1844.

"MY DEAR BOY,--We have been going on here as quietly as possible, with
no event that I know of. There is nothing except books to occupy me.
But you may suppose that my thoughts often move towards you, and that
I fancy what you may be doing in the great City,--the greatest on the
Earth,--where I spent so many years of my life. I first saw London when
I was between eight and nine years old, and then lived in or near it for
the whole of the next ten, and more there than anywhere else for seven
years longer. Since then I have hardly ever been a year without seeing
the place, and have often lived in it for a considerable time. There
I grew from childhood to be a man. My little Brothers and Sisters, and
since, my Mother, died and are buried there. There I first saw your
Mamma, and was there married. It seems as if, in some strange way,
London were a part of Me or I of London. I think of it often, not as
full of noise and dust and confusion, but as something silent, grand and
everlasting.

"When I fancy how you are walking in the same streets, and moving along
the same river, that I used to watch so intently, as if in a dream, when
younger than you are,--I could gladly burst into tears, not of
grief, but with a feeling that there is no name for. Everything is so
wonderful, great and holy, so sad and yet not bitter, so full of Death
and so bordering on Heaven. Can you understand anything of this? If
you can, you will begin to know what a serious matter our Life is;
how unworthy and stupid it is to trifle it away without heed; what a
wretched, insignificant, worthless creature any one comes to be, who
does not as soon as possible bend his whole strength, as in stringing a
stiff bow, to doing whatever task lies first before him....

"We have a mist here to-day from the sea. It reminds me of that which I
used to see from my house in St, Vincent, rolling over the great volcano
and the mountains round it. I used to look at it from our windows with
your Mamma, and you a little baby in her arms.

"This Letter is not so well written as I could wish, but I hope you will
be able to read it.

                       "Your affectionate Papa,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

These Letters go from June 9th to August 2d, at which latter date
vacation-time arrived, and the Boy returned to him. The Letters are
preserved; and surely well worth preserving.

In this manner he wore the slow doomed months away. Day after day his
little period of Library went on waning, shrinking into less and less;
but I think it never altogether ended till the general end came.--For
courage, for active audacity we had all known Sterling; but such a fund
of mild stoicism, of devout patience and heroic composure, we did
not hitherto know in him. His sufferings, his sorrows, all his
unutterabilities in this slow agony, he held right manfully down;
marched loyally, as at the bidding of the Eternal, into the dread
Kingdoms, and no voice of weakness was heard from him. Poor noble
Sterling, he had struggled so high and gained so little here! But this
also he did gain, to be a brave man; and it was much.

Summer passed into Autumn: Sterling's earthly businesses, to the last
detail of them, were now all as good as done: his strength too was
wearing to its end, his daily turn in the Library shrunk now to a span.
He had to hold himself as if in readiness for the great voyage at any
moment. One other Letter I must give; not quite the last message I had
from Sterling, but the last that can be inserted here: a brief Letter,
fit to be forever memorable to the receiver of it:--

             "_To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea, London_.
                                "HILLSIDE, VENTNOR, 10th August, 1844.

MY DEAR CARLYLE,--For the first time for many months it seems possible
to send you a few words; merely, however, for Remembrance and Farewell.
On higher matters there is nothing to say. I tread the common road into
the great darkness, without any thought of fear, and with very much of
hope. Certainty indeed I have none. With regard to You and Me I cannot
begin to write; having nothing for it but to keep shut the lid of those
secrets with all the iron weights that are in my power. Towards me it is
still more true than towards England that no man has been and done like
you. Heaven bless you! If I can lend a hand when THERE, that will not be
wanting. It is all very strange, but not one hundredth part so sad as it
seems to the standers-by.

"Your Wife knows my mind towards her, and will believe it without
asseverations.

                          "Yours to the last,
                                                      "JOHN STERLING."

It was a bright Sunday morning when this letter came to me: if in the
great Cathedral of Immensity I did no worship that day, the fault surely
was my own. Sterling affectionately refused to see me; which also was
kind and wise. And four days before his death, there are some stanzas of
verse for me, written as if in star-fire and immortal tears; which are
among my sacred possessions, to be kept for myself alone.

His business with the world was done; the one business now to await
silently what may lie in other grander worlds. "God is great," he was
wont to say: "God is great." The Maurices were now constantly near him;
Mrs. Maurice assiduously watching over him. On the evening of Wednesday
the 18th of September, his Brother, as he did every two or three days,
came down; found him in the old temper, weak in strength but not very
sensibly weaker; they talked calmly together for an hour; then Anthony
left his bedside, and retired for the night, not expecting any change.
But suddenly, about eleven o'clock, there came a summons and alarm:
hurrying to his Brother's room, he found his Brother dying; and in
a short while more the faint last struggle was ended, and all those
struggles and strenuous often-foiled endeavors of eight-and-thirty years
lay hushed in death.



CHAPTER VII. CONCLUSION.

Sterling was of rather slim but well-boned wiry figure, perhaps an inch
or two from six feet in height; of blonde complexion, without color, yet
not pale or sickly; dark-blonde hair, copious enough, which he usually
wore short. The general aspect of him indicated freedom, perfect
spontaneity, with a certain careless natural grace. In his apparel, you
could notice, he affected dim colors, easy shapes; cleanly always, yet
even in this not fastidious or conspicuous: he sat or stood, oftenest,
in loose sloping postures; walked with long strides, body carelessly
bent, head flung eagerly forward, right hand perhaps grasping a
cane, and rather by the middle to swing it, than by the end to use it
otherwise. An attitude of frank, cheerful impetuosity, of hopeful speed
and alacrity; which indeed his physiognomy, on all sides of it, offered
as the chief expression. Alacrity, velocity, joyous ardor, dwelt in the
eyes too, which were of brownish gray, full of bright kindly life,
rapid and frank rather than deep or strong. A smile, half of kindly
impatience, half of real mirth, often sat on his face. The head was
long; high over the vertex; in the brow, of fair breadth, but not high
for such a man.

In the voice, which was of good tenor sort, rapid and strikingly
distinct, powerful too, and except in some of the higher notes
harmonious, there was a clear-ringing _metallic_ tone,--which I often
thought was wonderfully physiognomic. A certain splendor, beautiful,
but not the deepest or the softest, which I could call a splendor as
of burnished metal,--fiery valor of heart, swift decisive insight and
utterance, then a turn for brilliant elegance, also for ostentation,
rashness, &c. &c.,--in short, a flash as of clear-glancing sharp-cutting
steel, lay in the whole nature of the man, in his heart and in his
intellect, marking alike the excellence and the limits of them both.
His laugh, which on light occasions was ready and frequent, had in it no
great depth of gayety, or sense for the ludicrous in men or things; you
might call it rather a good smile become vocal than a deep real laugh:
with his whole man I never saw him laugh. A clear sense of the humorous
he had, as of most other things; but in himself little or no true
humor;--nor did he attempt that side of things. To call him deficient
in sympathy would seem strange, him whose radiances and resonances went
thrilling over all the world, and kept him in brotherly contact with
all: but I may say his sympathies dwelt rather with the high and sublime
than with the low or ludicrous; and were, in any field, rather light,
wide and lively, than deep, abiding or great.

There is no Portrait of him which tolerably resembles. The miniature
Medallion, of which Mr. Hare has given an Engraving, offers us, with
no great truth in physical details, one, and not the best, superficial
expression of his face, as if that with vacuity had been what the face
contained; and even that Mr. Hare's engraver has disfigured into the
nearly or the utterly irrecognizable. Two Pencil-sketches, which no
artist could approve of, hasty sketches done in some social hour, one
by his friend Spedding, one by Banim the Novelist, whom he slightly
knew and had been kind to, tell a much truer story so far as they go:
of these his Brother has engravings; but these also I must suppress as
inadequate for strangers.


Nor in the way of Spiritual Portraiture does there, after so much
writing and excerpting, anything of importance remain for me to say.
John Sterling and his Life in this world were--such as has been already
said. In purity of character, in the so-called moralities, in all manner
of proprieties of conduct, so as tea-tables and other human tribunals
rule them, he might be defined as perfect, according to the world's
pattern: in these outward tangible respects the world's criticism of him
must have been praise and that only. An honorable man, and good citizen;
discharging, with unblamable correctness, all functions and duties
laid on him by the customs (_mores_) of the society he lived in,--with
correctness and something more. In all these particulars, a man
perfectly _moral_, or of approved virtue according to the rules.

Nay in the far more essential tacit virtues, which are not marked on
stone tables, or so apt to be insisted on by human creatures over tea
or elsewhere,--in clear and perfect fidelity to Truth wherever found,
in childlike and soldier-like, pious and valiant loyalty to the Highest,
and what of good and evil that might send him,--he excelled among good
men. The joys and the sorrows of his lot he took with true simplicity
and acquiescence. Like a true son, not like a miserable mutinous rebel,
he comported himself in this Universe. Extremity of distress--and surely
his fervid temper had enough of contradiction in this world--could not
tempt him into impatience at any time. By no chance did you ever hear
from him a whisper of those mean repinings, miserable arraignings and
questionings of the Eternal Power, such as weak souls even well disposed
will sometimes give way to in the pressure of their despair; to the like
of this he never yielded, or showed the least tendency to yield;--which
surely was well on his part. For the Eternal Power, I still remark,
will not answer the like of this, but silently and terribly accounts it
impious, blasphemous and damnable, and now as heretofore will visit it
as such. Not a rebel but a son, I said; willing to suffer when
Heaven said, Thou shalt;--and withal, what is perhaps rarer in such a
combination, willing to rejoice also, and right cheerily taking the good
that was sent, whensoever or in whatever form it came.

A pious soul we may justly call him; devoutly submissive to the will
of the Supreme in all things: the highest and sole essential form which
Religion can assume in man, and without which all forms of religion are
a mockery and a delusion in man. Doubtless, in so clear and filial a
heart there must have dwelt the perennial feeling of silent worship;
which silent feeling, as we have seen, he was eager enough to express by
all good ways of utterance; zealously adopting such appointed forms and
creeds as the dignitaries of the World had fixed upon and solemnly named
recommendable; prostrating his heart in such Church, by such accredited
rituals and seemingly fit or half-fit methods, as his poor time and
country had to offer him,--not rejecting the said methods till they
stood convicted of palpable unfitness and then doing it right gently
withal, rather letting them drop as pitiably dead for him, than angrily
hurling them out of doors as needing to be killed. By few Englishmen
of his epoch had the thing called Church of England been more loyally
appealed to as a spiritual mother.

And yet, as I said before, it may be questioned whether piety, what we
call devotion or worship, was the principle deepest in him. In spite of
his Coleridge discipleship, and his once headlong operations following
thereon, I used to judge that his piety was prompt and pure rather than
great or intense; that, on the whole, religious devotion was not the
deepest element of him. His reverence was ardent and just, ever ready
for the thing or man that deserved revering, or seemed to deserve it:
but he was of too joyful, light and hoping a nature to go to the depths
of that feeling, much more to dwell perennially in it. He had no fear
in his composition; terror and awe did not blend with his respect of
anything. In no scene or epoch could he have been a Church Saint, a
fanatic enthusiast, or have worn out his life in passive martyrdom,
sitting patient in his grim coal-mine, looking at the "three ells" of
Heaven high overhead there. In sorrow he would not dwell; all sorrow
he swiftly subdued, and shook away from him. How could you have made an
Indian Fakir of the Greek Apollo, "whose bright eye lends brightness,
and never yet saw a shadow"?--I should say, not religious reverence,
rather artistic admiration was the essential character of him: a fact
connected with all other facts in the physiognomy of his life and self,
and giving a tragic enough character to much of the history he had among
us.

Poor Sterling, he was by nature appointed for a Poet, then,--a Poet
after his sort, or recognizer and delineator of the Beautiful; and not
for a Priest at all? Striving towards the sunny heights, out of such
a level and through such an element as ours in these days is, he had
strange aberrations appointed him, and painful wanderings amid
the miserable gaslights, bog-fires, dancing meteors and putrid
phosphorescences which form the guidance of a young human soul at
present! Not till after trying all manner of sublimely illuminated
places, and finding that the basis of them was putridity, artificial gas
and quaking bog, did he, when his strength was all done, discover his
true sacred hill, and passionately climb thither while life was fast
ebbing!--A tragic history, as all histories are; yet a gallant, brave
and noble one, as not many are. It is what, to a radiant son of the
Muses, and bright messenger of the harmonious Wisdoms, this poor
world--if he himself have not strength enough, and _inertia_ enough, and
amid his harmonious eloquences silence enough--has provided at present.
Many a high-striving, too hasty soul, seeking guidance towards eternal
excellence from the official Black-artists, and successful Professors
of political, ecclesiastical, philosophical, commercial, general and
particular Legerdemain, will recognize his own history in this image of
a fellow-pilgrim's.

Over-haste was Sterling's continual fault; over-haste, and want of the
due strength,--alas, mere want of the due _inertia_ chiefly; which is
so common a gift for most part; and proves so inexorably needful withal!
But he was good and generous and true; joyful where there was
joy, patient and silent where endurance was required of him; shook
innumerable sorrows, and thick-crowding forms of pain, gallantly away
from him; fared frankly forward, and with scrupulous care to tread on no
one's toes. True, above all, one may call him; a man of perfect veracity
in thought, word and deed. Integrity towards all men,--nay integrity
had ripened with him into chivalrous generosity; there was no guile or
baseness anywhere found in him. Transparent as crystal; he could not
hide anything sinister, if such there had been to hide. A more perfectly
transparent soul I have never known. It was beautiful, to read all those
interior movements; the little shades of affectations, ostentations;
transient spurts of anger, which never grew to the length of settled
spleen: all so naive, so childlike, the very faults grew beautiful to
you.

And so he played his part among us, and has now ended it: in this first
half of the Nineteenth Century, such was the shape of human destinies
the world and he made out between them. He sleeps now, in the little
burying-ground of Bonchurch; bright, ever-young in the memory of others
that must grow old; and was honorably released from his toils before the
hottest of the day.


All that remains, in palpable shape, of John Sterling's activities in
this world are those Two poor Volumes; scattered fragments gathered from
the general waste of forgotten ephemera by the piety of a friend: an
inconsiderable memorial; not pretending to have achieved greatness;
only disclosing, mournfully, to the more observant, that a promise of
greatness was there. Like other such lives, like all lives, this is a
tragedy; high hopes, noble efforts; under thickening difficulties and
impediments, ever-new nobleness of valiant effort;--and the result
death, with conquests by no means corresponding. A life which cannot
challenge the world's attention; yet which does modestly solicit it, and
perhaps on clear study will be found to reward it.

On good evidence let the world understand that here was a remarkable
soul born into it; who, more than others, sensible to its influences,
took intensely into him such tint and shape of feature as the world had
to offer there and then; fashioning himself eagerly by whatsoever of
noble presented itself; participating ardently in the world's battle,
and suffering deeply in its bewilderments;--whose Life-pilgrimage
accordingly is an emblem, unusually significant, of the world's own
during those years of his. A man of infinite susceptivity; who caught
everywhere, more than others, the color of the element he lived in, the
infection of all that was or appeared honorable, beautiful and manful in
the tendencies of his Time;--whose history therefore is, beyond others,
emblematic of that of his Time.

In Sterling's Writings and Actions, were they capable of being well
read, we consider that there is for all true hearts, and especially for
young noble seekers, and strivers towards what is highest, a mirror in
which some shadow of themselves and of their immeasurably complex
arena will profitably present itself. Here also is one encompassed and
struggling even as they now are. This man also had said to himself, not
in mere Catechism-words, but with all his instincts, and the question
thrilled in every nerve of him, and pulsed in every drop of his blood:
"What is the chief end of man? Behold, I too would live and work as
beseems a denizen of this Universe, a child of the Highest God. By what
means is a noble life still possible for me here? Ye Heavens and
thou Earth, oh, how?"--The history of this long-continued prayer and
endeavor, lasting in various figures for near forty years, may now and
for some time coming have something to say to men!


Nay, what of men or of the world? Here, visible to myself, for some
while, was a brilliant human presence, distinguishable, honorable
and lovable amid the dim common populations; among the million little
beautiful, once more a beautiful human soul: whom I, among others,
recognized and lovingly walked with, while the years and the hours were.
Sitting now by his tomb in thoughtful mood, the new times bring a
new duty for me. "Why write the Life of Sterling?" I imagine I had a
commission higher than the world's, the dictate of Nature herself, to do
what is now done. _Sic prosit_.



FOOTNOTES:


[Footnote 1: _John Sterling's Essays and Tales, with Life_ by Archdeacon Hare.
Parker; London, 1848.]

[Footnote 2: _Commons Journals_, iv. 15 (l0th January, 1644-5); and again v. 307
&c., 498 (18th September, 1647-15th March, 1647-8).]

[Footnote 3: _Literary Chronicle_, New Series; London, Saturday, 21 June, 1828,
Art. II.]

[Footnote 4: "The Letters of Vetus from March 10th to May 10th, 1812" (second
edition, London, 1812): Ditto, "Part III., with a Preface and Notes"
(ibid. 1814).]

[Footnote 5: Here, in a Note, is the tragic little Register, with what
indications for us may lie in it:--

     (l.) Robert Sterling died, 4th June, 1815, at Queen Square, in
          his fourth year (John being now nine).
     (2.) Elizabeth died, 12th March, 1818, at Blackfriars Road, in
          her second year.
     (3.) Edward, 30th March, 1818 (same place, same month and year),
          in his ninth.
     (4.) Hester, 21st July, 1818 (three months later), at Blackheath,
          in her eleventh.
     (5.) Catherine Hester Elizabeth, 16th January, 1821, in Seymour
          Street.]

[Footnote 6: _History of the English Universities_. (Translated from the German.)]

[Footnote 7: Mrs. Anthony Sterling, very lately Miss Charlotte Baird.]

[Footnote 8: _Biography_, by Hare, pp. xvi-xxvi.]

[Footnote 9: _Biography_, by Mr. Hare, p. xli.]

[Footnote 10: Hare, pp. xliii-xlvi.]

[Footnote 11: Hare, xlviii, liv, lv.]

[Footnote 12: Hare, p. lvi.]

[Footnote 13: P. lxxviii.]

[Footnote 14: Given in Hare (ii. 188-193).]

[Footnote 15: Came out, as will soon appear, in _Blackwood_ (February, 1838).]

[Footnote 16: "_Hotel de l'Europe, Berlin_," added in Mrs. Sterling's hand.]

[Footnote 17: Hare, ii. 96-167.]

[Footnote 18: Ib. i. 129, 188.]

[Footnote 19: Here in a Note they are, if they can be important to anybody. The
marks of interrogation, attached to some Names as not yet consulted or
otherwise questionable, are in the Secretary's hand:--

     J. D. Acland, Esq.            H. Malden, Esq.
     Hon. W. B. Baring.            J. S. Mill, Esq.
     Rev. J. W. Blakesley.         R. M. Milnes, Esq.
     W. Boxall, Esq.               R. Monteith, Esq.
     T. Carlyle, Esq.              S. A. O'Brien, Esq.
     Hon. R. Cavendish (?)         Sir F. Palgrave (?)
     H. N. Coleridge, Esq. (?)     W. F. Pollok, Esq.
     J. W. Colville, Esq.          Philip Pusey, Esq.
     Allan Cunningham, Esq. (?)    A. Rio, Esq.
     Rev. H. Donn.                 C. Romilly, Esq.
     F. H. Doyle, Esq.             James Spedding, Esq.
     C. L. Eastlake, Esq.          Rev. John Sterling.
     Alex. Ellice, Esq.            Alfred Tennyson, Esq.
     J. F. Elliott, Esq.           Rev. Connop Thirlwall.
     Copley Fielding, Esq.         Rev. W. Hepworth Thompson.
     Rev. J. C. Hare.              Edward Twisleton, Esq.
     Sir Edmund Head (?)           G. S. Venables, Esq.
     D. D. Heath, Esq.             Samuel Wood, Esq.
     G. C. Lewis, Esq.             Rev. T. Worsley.
     H. L. Lushington, Esq.
     The Lord Lyttleton.           James Spedding, _Secretary_.
     C. Macarthy, Esq.                  8th August, 1838.]

[Footnote 20: Hare, p. cxviii.]

[Footnote 21: Of Sterling himself, I suppose.]

[Footnote 22: Hare, ii. p. 252.]

[Footnote 23: _Poems by John Sterling_. London (Moxon), 1839.]

[Footnote 24: _The Election: a Poem, in Seven Books_. London, Murray, 1841.]

[Footnote 25: Pp. 7, 8.]

[Footnote 26: Pp. 89-93.]

[Footnote 27: Sister of Mrs. Strachey and Mrs. Buller: Sir John Louis was now in
a high Naval post at Malta.]

[Footnote 28: Long Letter to his Father: Naples, 3d May, 1842.]

[Footnote 29: Death of her Mother, four mouths before. (_Note of_ 1870.)]





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