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´╗┐Title: Father and Son: a study of two temperaments
Author: Gosse, Edmund, 1849-1928
Language: English
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Father and Son

A study of two temperaments

by Edmund Gosse

Der Glaube ist wie der Liebe:
Er Lasst sich nicht erzwingen.



AT the present hour, when fiction takes forms so ingenious and so
specious, it is perhaps necessary to say that the following
narrative, in all its parts, and so far as the punctilious
attention of the writer has been able to keep it so, is
scrupulously true. If it were not true, in this strict sense, to
publish it would be to trifle with all those who may be induced
to read it. It is offered to them as a _document_, as a record of
educational and religious conditions which, having passed away,
will never return. In this respect, as the diagnosis of a dying
Puritanism, it is hoped that the narrative will not be altogether
without significance.

It offers, too, in a subsidiary sense, a study of the development
of moral and intellectual ideas during the progress of infancy.
These have been closely and conscientiously noted, and may have
some value in consequence of the unusual conditions in which they
were produced. The author has observed that those who have
written about the facts of their own childhood have usually
delayed to note them down until age has dimmed their
recollections. Perhaps an even more common fault in such
autobiographies is that they are sentimental, and are falsified
by self-admiration and self-pity. The writer of these
recollections has thought that if the examination of his earliest
years was to be undertaken at all, it should be attempted while
his memory is still perfectly vivid and while he is still
unbiased by the forgetfulness or the sensibility of advancing

At one point only has there been any tampering with precise fact.
It is believed that, with the exception of the Son, there is but
one person mentioned in this book who is still alive.
Nevertheless, it has been thought well, in order to avoid any
appearance of offence, to alter the majority of the proper names
of the private persons spoken of.

It is not usual, perhaps, that the narrative of a spiritual
struggle should mingle merriment and humour with a discussion of
the most solemn subjects. It has, however, been inevitable that
they should be so mingled in this narrative. It is true that most
funny books try to be funny throughout, while theology is
scandalized if it awakens a single smile. But life is not
constituted thus, and this book is nothing if it is not a genuine
slice of life. There was an extraordinary mixture of comedy and
tragedy in the situation which is here described, and those who
are affected by the pathos of it will not need to have it
explained to them that the comedy was superficial and the tragedy

September 1907


THIS book is the record of a struggle between two temperaments,
two consciences and almost two epochs. It ended, as was
inevitable, in disruption. Of the two human beings here
described, one was born to fly backward, the other could not help
being carried forward. There came a time when neither spoke the
same language as the other, or encompassed the same hopes, or was
fortified by the same desires. But, at least, it is some
consolation to the survivor, that neither, to the very last hour,
ceased to respect the other, or to regard him with a sad

The affection of these two persons was assailed by forces in
comparison with which the changes that health or fortune or place
introduce are as nothing. It is a mournful satisfaction, but yet
a satisfaction, that they were both of them able to obey the law
which says that ties of close family relationship must be
honoured and sustained. Had it not been so, this story would
never have been told.

The struggle began soon, yet of course it did not begin in early
infancy. But to familiarize my readers with the conditions of the
two persons (which were unusual) and with the outlines of their
temperaments (which were, perhaps innately, antagonistic), it is
needful to open with some account of all that I can truly and
independently recollect, as well as with some statements which
are, as will be obvious, due to household tradition.

My parents were poor gentlefolks; not young; solitary, sensitive,
and although they did not know it, proud. They both belonged to
what is called the Middle Class, and there was this further
resemblance between them that they each descended from families
which had been more than well-to-do in the eighteenth century,
and had gradually sunken in fortune. In both houses there had
been a decay of energy which had led to decay in wealth. In the
case of my Father's family it had been a slow decline; in that of
my Mother's, it had been rapid. My maternal grandfather was born
wealthy, and in the opening years of the nineteenth century,
immediately after his marriage, he bought a little estate in
North Wales, on the slopes of Snowdon. Here he seems to have
lived in a pretentious way, keeping a pack of hounds and
entertaining on an extravagant scale. He had a wife who
encouraged him in this vivid life, and three children, my Mother
and her two brothers. His best trait was his devotion to the
education of his children, in which he proclaimed himself a
disciple of Rousseau. But he can hardly have followed the
teaching of 'Emile' very closely, since he employed tutors to
teach his daughter, at an extremely early age, the very subjects
which Rousseau forbade, such as history, literature and foreign

My Mother was his special favourite, and his vanity did its best
to make a bluestocking of her. She read Greek, Latin and even a
little Hebrew, and, what was more important, her mind was trained
to be self-supporting. But she was diametrically opposed in
essential matters to her easy-going, luxurious and self-indulgent
parents. Reviewing her life in her thirtieth year, she remarked
in some secret notes: 'I cannot recollect the time when I did not
love religion.' She used a still more remarkable expression: 'If
I must date my conversion from my first wish and trial to be
holy, I may go back to infancy; if I am to postpone it till after
my last wilful sin, it is scarcely yet begun.' The irregular
pleasures of her parents' life were deeply distasteful to her, as
such were to many young persons in those days of the wide revival
of Conscience, and when my grandfather, by his reckless
expenditure, which he never checked till ruin was upon him, was
obliged to sell his estate, and live in penury, my Mother was the
only member of the family who did not regret the change. For my
own part, I believe I should have liked my reprobate maternal
grandfather, but his conduct was certainly very vexatious. He
died, in his eightieth year, when I was nine months old.

It was a curious coincidence that life had brought both my
parents along similar paths to an almost identical position in
respect to religious belief. She had started from the Anglican
standpoint, he from the Wesleyan, and each, almost without
counsel from others, and after varied theological experiments,
had come to take up precisely the same attitude towards all
divisions of the Protestant Church--that, namely, of detached and
unbiased contemplation. So far as the sects agreed with my Father
and my Mother, the sects were walking in the light; wherever they
differed from them, they had slipped more or less definitely into
a penumbra of their own making, a darkness into which neither of
my parents would follow them. Hence, by a process of selection,
my Father and my Mother alike had gradually, without violence,
found themselves shut outside all Protestant communions, and at
last they met only with a few extreme Calvinists like themselves,
on terms of what may almost be called negation--with no priest, no
ritual, no festivals, no ornament of any kind, nothing but the
Lord's Supper and the exposition of Holy Scripture drawing these
austere spirits into any sort of cohesion. They called themselves
'the Brethren', simply; a title enlarged by the world outside
into 'Plymouth Brethren'.

It was accident and similarity which brought my parents together
at these meetings of the Brethren. Each was lonely, each was
poor, each was accustomed to a strenuous intellectual self-
support. He was nearly thirty-eight, she was past forty-two, when
they married. From a suburban lodging, he brought her home to his
mother's little house in the northeast of London without a
single day's honeymoon. My Father was a zoologist, and a writer
of books on natural history; my Mother also was a writer, author
already of two slender volumes of religious verse--the earlier of
which, I know not how, must have enjoyed some slight success,
since a second edition was printed--afterwards she devoted her
pen to popular works of edification. But how infinitely removed
in their aims, their habits, their ambitions from 'literary'
people of the present day, words are scarcely adequate to
describe. Neither knew nor cared about any manifestation of
current literature. For each there had been no poet later than
Byron, and neither had read a romance since, in childhood, they
had dipped into the Waverley Novels as they appeared in
succession. For each the various forms of imaginative and
scientific literature were merely means of improvement and
profit, which kept the student 'out of the world', gave him full
employment, and enabled him to maintain himself. But pleasure was
found nowhere but in the Word of God, and to the endless
discussion of the Scriptures each hurried when the day's work was

In this strange household the advent of a child was not welcomed,
but was borne with resignation. The event was thus recorded in my
Father's diary:

'E. delivered of a son. Received green swallow from Jamaica.'

This entry has caused amusement, as showing that he was as much
interested in the bird as in the boy. But this does not follow;
what the wording exemplifies is my Father's extreme punctilio.
The green swallow arrived later in the day than the son, and the
earlier visitor was therefore recorded first; my Father was
scrupulous in every species of arrangement.

Long afterwards, my Father told me that my Mother suffered much
in giving birth to me, and that, uttering no cry, I appeared to
be dead. I was laid, with scant care, on another bed in the room,
while all anxiety and attention were concentrated on my Mother.
An old woman who happened to be there, and who was unemployed,
turned her thoughts to me, and tried to awake in me a spark of
vitality. She succeeded, and she was afterwards complimented by
the doctor on her cleverness. My Father could not--when he told
me the story--recollect the name of my preserver. I have often
longed to know who she was. For all the rapture of life, for all
its turmoils, its anxious desires, its manifold pleasures, and
even for its sorrow and suffering, I bless and praise that
anonymous old lady from the bottom of my heart.

It was six weeks before my Mother was able to leave her room. The
occasion was made a solemn one, and was attended by a species of
Churching. Mr. Balfour, a valued minister of the denomination,
held a private service in the parlour, and 'prayed for our child,
that he may be the Lord's'. This was the opening act of that
'dedication' which was never henceforward forgotten, and of which
the following pages will endeavour to describe the results.
Around my tender and unconscious spirit was flung the luminous
web, the light and elastic but impermeable veil, which it was
hoped would keep me 'unspotted from the world'.

Until this time my Father's mother had lived in the house and
taken the domestic charges of it on her own shoulders. She now
consented to leave us to ourselves. There is no question that her
exodus was a relief to my Mother, since my paternal grandmother
was a strong and masterful woman, buxom, choleric and practical,
for whom the interests of the mind did not exist. Her daughter-
in-law, gentle as she was, and ethereal in manner and appearance--
strangely contrasted (no doubt), in her tinctures of gold hair
and white skin, with my grandmother's bold carnations and black
tresses--was yet possessed of a will like tempered steel. They
were better friends apart, with my grandmother lodged hard by, in
a bright room, her household gods and bits of excellent
eighteenth-century furniture around her, her miniatures and
sparkling china arranged on shelves.

Left to my Mother's sole care, I became the centre of her
solicitude. But there mingled with those happy animal instincts
which sustain the strength and patience of every human mother and
were fully present with her--there mingled with these certain
spiritual determinations which can be but rare. They are, in
their outline, I suppose, vaguely common to many religious
mothers, but there are few indeed who fill up the sketch with so
firm a detail as she did. Once again I am indebted to her secret
notes, in a little locked volume, seen until now, nearly sixty
years later, by no eye save her own. Thus she wrote when I was
two months old:

'We have given him to the Lord; and we trust that He will really
manifest him to be His own, if he grow up; and if the Lord take
him early, we will not doubt that he is taken to Himself. Only,
if it please the Lord to take him, I do trust we may be spared
seeing him suffering in lingering illness and much pain. But in
this as in all things His will is better than what we can choose.
Whether his life be prolonged or not, it has already been a
blessing to us, and to the saints, in leading us to much prayer,
and bringing us into varied need and some trial.'

The last sentence is somewhat obscure to me. How, at that tender
age, I contrived to be a blessing 'to the saints' may surprise
others and puzzles myself. But 'the saints' was the habitual term
by which were indicated the friends who met on Sunday mornings
for Holy Communion, and at many other tunes in the week for
prayer and discussion of the Scriptures, in the small hired hall
at Hackney, which my parents attended. I suppose that the solemn
dedication of me to the Lord, which was repeated in public in my
Mother's arms, being by no means a usual or familiar ceremony
even among the Brethren, created a certain curiosity and fervour
in the immediate services, or was imagined so to do by the fond,
partial heart of my Mother. She, however, who had been so much
isolated, now made the care of her child an excuse for retiring
still further into silence. With those religious persons who met
at the Room, as the modest chapel was called, she had little
spiritual, and no intellectual, sympathy. She noted:

'I do not think it would increase my happiness to be in the midst
of the saints at Hackney. I have made up my mind to give myself
up to Baby for the winter, and to accept no invitations. To go
when I can to the Sunday morning meetings and to see my own

The monotony of her existence now became extreme, but she seems
to have been happy. Her days were spent in taking care of me, and
in directing one young servant. My Father was forever in his
study, writing, drawing, dissecting; sitting, no doubt, as I grew
afterwards accustomed to see him, absolutely motionless, with his
eye glued to the microscope, for twenty minutes at a time. So the
greater part of every weekday was spent, and on Sunday he
usually preached one, and sometimes two extempore sermons. His
workday labours were rewarded by the praise of the learned
world, to which he was indifferent, but by very little money,
which he needed more. For over three years after their marriage,
neither of my parents left London for a single day, not being
able to afford to travel. They received scarcely any visitors,
never ate a meal away from home, never spent an evening in social
intercourse abroad. At night they discussed theology, read aloud
to one another, or translated scientific brochures from French or
German. It sounds a terrible life of pressure and deprivation,
and that it was physically unwholesome there can be no shadow of
a doubt. But their contentment was complete and unfeigned. In the
midst of this, materially, the hardest moment of their lives,
when I was one year old, and there was a question of our leaving
London, my Mother recorded in her secret notes:

'We are happy and contented, having all things needful and
pleasant, and our present habitation is hallowed by many sweet
associations. We have our house to ourselves and enjoy each
other's society. If we move we shall do longer be alone. The
situation may be more favourable, however, for Baby, as being
more in the country. I desire to have no choice in the matter,
but as I know not what would be for our good, and God knows, so I
desire to leave it with Him, and if it is not His will we should
move, He will raise objections and difficulties, and if it is His
will He will make Henry [my Father] desirous and anxious to take
the step, and then, whatever the result, let us leave all to Him
and not regret it.'

No one who is acquainted with the human heart will mistake this
attitude of resignation for weakness of purpose. It was not
poverty of will, it was abnegation, it was a voluntary act. My
Mother, underneath an exquisite amenity of manner, concealed a
rigour of spirit which took the form of a constant self-denial.
For it to dawn upon her consciousness that she wished for
something, was definitely to renounce that wish, or, more
exactly, to subject it in every thing to what she conceived to be
the will of God.

This is perhaps the right moment for me to say that at this time,
and indeed until the hour of her death, she exercised, without
suspecting it, a magnetic power over the will and nature of my
Father. Both were strong, but my Mother was unquestionably the
stronger of the two; it was her mind which gradually drew his to
take up a certain definite position, and this remained permanent
although she, the cause of it, was early removed. Hence, while it
was with my Father that the long struggle which I have to narrate
took place, behind my Father stood the ethereal memory of my
Mother's will, guiding him, pressing him, holding him to the
unswerving purpose which she had formed and defined. And when the
inevitable disruption came, what was unspeakably painful was to
realize that it was not from one, but from both parents that the
purpose of the child was separated.

My Mother was a Puritan in grain, and never a word escaped her,
not a phrase exists in her diary, to suggest that she had any
privations to put up with. She seemed strong and well, and so did
I; the one of us who broke down was my Father. With his attack of
acute nervous dyspepsia came an unexpected small accession of
money, and we were able, in my third year, to take a holiday of
nearly ten months in Devonshire. The extreme seclusion, the
unbroken strain, were never repeated, and when we returned to
London, it was to conditions of greater amenity and to a less
rigid practice of 'the world forgetting by the world forgot'.
That this relaxation was more relative than positive, and that
nothing ever really tempted either of my parents from their
cavern in an intellectual Thebaid, my recollections will amply
prove. But each of them was forced by circumstances into a more
or less public position, and neither could any longer quite
ignore the world around.

It is not my business here to re-write the biographies of my
parents. Each of them became, in a certain measure, celebrated,
and each was the subject of a good deal of contemporary
discussion. Each was prominent before the eyes of a public of his
or her own, half a century ago. It is because their minds were
vigorous and their accomplishments distinguished that the
contrast between their spiritual point of view and the aspect of
a similar class of persons today is interesting and may, I hope,
be instructive. But this is not another memoir of public
individuals, each of whom has had more than one biographer. My
serious duty, as I venture to hold it, is other;

                     that's the world's side,
  Thus men saw them, praised them, thought they knew them!
  There, in turn, I stood aside and praised them!
  Out of my own self, I dare to phrase it.

But this is a different inspection, this is a study of

              the other side, the novel
  Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of,

the record of a state of soul once not uncommon in Protestant
Europe, of which my parents were perhaps the latest consistent
exemplars among people of light and leading.

The peculiarities of a family life, founded upon such principles,
are, in relation to a little child, obvious; but I may be
permitted to recapitulate them. Here was perfect purity, perfect
intrepidity, perfect abnegation; yet there was also narrowness,
isolation, an absence of perspective, let it be boldly admitted,
an absence of humanity. And there was a curious mixture of
humbleness and arrogance; entire resignation to the will of God
and not less entire disdain of the judgement and opinion of man.
My parents founded every action, every attitude, upon their
interpretation of the Scriptures, and upon the guidance of the
Divine Will as revealed to them by direct answer to prayer. Their
ejaculation in the face of any dilemma was, 'Let us cast it
before the Lord!'

So confident were they of the reality of their intercourse with
God, that they asked for no other guide. They recognized no
spiritual authority among men, they subjected themselves to no
priest or minister, they troubled their consciences about no
current manifestation of 'religious opinion'. They lived in an
intellectual cell, bounded at its sides by the walls of their own
house, but open above to the very heart of the uttermost heavens.

This, then, was the scene in which the soul of a little child was
planted, not as in an ordinary open flower-border or carefully
tended social _parterre_, but as on a ledge, split in the granite
of some mountain. The ledge was hung between night and the snows
on one hand, and the dizzy depths of the world upon the other;
was furnished with just soil enough for a gentian to struggle
skywards and open its stiff azure stars; and offered no
lodgement, no hope of salvation, to any rootlet which should
stray beyond its inexorable limits.


OUT of the darkness of my infancy there comes only one flash of
memory. I am seated alone, in my baby-chair, at a dinner-table
set for several people. Somebody brings in a leg of mutton, puts
it down close to me, and goes out. I am again alone, gazing at
two low windows, wide open upon a garden. Suddenly, noiselessly,
a large, long animal (obviously a greyhound) appears at one
window-sill, slips into the room, seizes the leg of mutton and
slips out again. When this happened I could not yet talk. The
accomplishment of speech came to me very late, doubtless because
I never heard young voices. Many years later, when I mentioned
this recollection, there was a shout of laughter and surprise:
'That, then, was what became of the mutton! It was not you, who,
as your Uncle A. pretended, ate it up, in the twinkling of an
eye, bone and all!'

I suppose that it was the startling intensity of this incident
which stamped it upon a memory from which all other impressions
of this early date have vanished.

The adventure of the leg of mutton occurred, evidently, at the
house of my Mother's brothers, for my parents, at this date,
visited no other. My uncles were not religious men, but they had
an almost filial respect for my Mother, who was several years
senior to the elder of them. When the catastrophe of my
grandfather's fortune had occurred, they had not yet left school.
My Mother, in spite of an extreme dislike of teaching, which was
native to her, immediately accepted the situation of a governess
in the family of an Irish nobleman. The mansion was only to be
approached, as Miss Edgeworth would have said, 'through eighteen
sloughs, at the imminent peril of one's life', and when one had
reached it, the mixture of opulence and squalor, of civility and
savagery, was unspeakable. But my Mother was well paid, and she
stayed in this distasteful environment, doing the work she hated
most, while with the margin of her salary she helped first one of
her brothers and then the other through his Cambridge course.
They studied hard and did well at the university. At length their
sister received, in her 'ultima Thule', news that her younger
brother had taken his degree, and then and there, with a sigh of
intense relief, she resigned her situation and came straight back
to England.

It is not to be wondered at, then, that my uncles looked up to
their sister with feelings of especial devotion. They were not
inclined, they were hardly in a position, to criticize her modes
of thought. They were easy-going, cultured and kindly gentlemen,
rather limited in their views, without a trace of their sister's
force of intellect or her strenuous temper. E. resembled her in
person, he was tall, fair, with auburn curls; he cultivated a
certain tendency to the Byronic type, fatal and melancholy. A.
was short, brown and jocose, with a pretension to common sense;
bluff and chatty. As a little child, I adored my Uncle E., who
sat silent by the fireside holding me against his knee, saying
nothing, but looking unutterably sad, and occasionally shaking
his warm-coloured tresses. With great injustice, on the other
hand, I detested my Uncle A., because he used to joke in a manner
very displeasing to me, and because he would so far forget
himself as to chase, and even, if it will be credited, to tickle
me. My uncles, who remained bachelors to the end of their lives,
earned a comfortable living; E. by teaching, A. as 'something in
the City', and they rented an old rambling house in Clapton, that
same in which I saw the greyhound. Their house had a strange,
delicious smell, so unlike anything I smelt anywhere else, that
it used to fill my eyes with tears of mysterious pleasure. I know
now that this was the odour of cigars, tobacco being a species of
incense tabooed at home on the highest religious grounds.

It has been recorded that I was slow in learning to speak. I used
to be told that having met all invitations to repeat such words
as 'Papa' and 'Mamma' with gravity and indifference, I one day
drew towards me a volume, and said 'book' with startling
distinctness. I was not at all precocious, but at a rather early
age, I think towards the beginning of my fourth year, I learned
to read. I cannot recollect a time when a printed page of English
was closed to me. But perhaps earlier still my Mother used to
repeat to me a poem which I have always taken for granted that
she had herself composed, a poem which had a romantic place in my
early mental history. It ran thus, I think:

  O pretty Moon, you shine so bright!
  I'll go to bid Mamma good-night,
  And then I'll lie upon my bed
  And watch you move above my head.

  Ah! there, a cloud has hidden you!
  But I can see your light shine thro';
  It tries to hide you--quite in vain,
  For--there you quickly come again!

  It's God, I know, that makes you shine
  Upon this little bed of mine;
  But I shall all about you know
  When I can read and older grow.

Long, long after the last line had become an anachronism, I used
to shout this poem from my bed before I went to sleep, whether
the night happened to be moonlit or no.

It must have been my Father who taught me my letters. To my
Mother, as I have said, it was distasteful to teach, though she
was so prompt and skillful to learn. My Father, on the contrary,
taught cheerfully, by fits and starts. In particular, he had a
scheme for rationalizing geography, which I think was admirable.
I was to climb upon a chair, while, standing at my side, with a
pencil and a sheet of paper, he was to draw a chart of the
markings on the carpet. Then, when I understood the system,
another chart on a smaller scale of the furniture in the room,
then of a floor of the house, then of the back-garden, then of a
section of the street. The result of this was that geography came
to me of itself, as a perfectly natural miniature arrangement of
objects, and to this day has always been the science which gives
me least difficulty. My father also taught me the simple rules of
arithmetic, a little natural history, and the elements of
drawing; and he laboured long and unsuccessfully to make me learn
by heart hymns, psalms and chapters of Scripture, in which I
always failed ignominiously and with tears. This puzzled and
vexed him, for he himself had an extremely retentive textual
memory. He could not help thinking that I was naughty, and would
not learn the chapters, until at last he gave up the effort. All
this sketch of an education began, I believe, in my fourth year,
and was not advanced or modified during the rest of my Mother's

Meanwhile, capable as I was of reading, I found my greatest
pleasure in the pages of books. The range of these was limited,
for story-books of every description were sternly excluded. No
fiction of any kind, religious or secular, was admitted into the
house. In this it was to my Mother, not to my Father, that the
prohibition was due. She had a remarkable, I confess to me still
somewhat unaccountable impression that to 'tell a story', that
is, to compose fictitious narrative of any kind, was a sin. She
carried this conviction to extreme lengths. My Father, in later
years, gave me some interesting examples of her firmness. As a
young man in America, he had been deeply impressed by
'Salathiel', a pious prose romance by that then popular writer,
the Rev. George Croly. When he first met my Mother, he
recommended it to her, but she would not consent to open it. Nor
would she read the chivalrous tales in verse of Sir Walter Scott,
obstinately alleging that they were not 'true'. She would read
none but lyrical and subjective poetry. Her secret diary reveals
the history of this singular aversion to the fictitious, although
it cannot be said to explain the cause of it. As a child,
however, she had possessed a passion for making up stories, and
so considerable a skill in it that she was constantly being
begged to indulge others with its exercise. But I will, on so
curious a point, leave her to speak for herself:

'When I was a very little child, I used to amuse myself and my
brothers with inventing stories, such as I read. Having, as I
suppose, naturally a restless mind and busy imagination, this
soon became the chief pleasure of my life. Unfortunately, my
brothers were always fond of encouraging this propensity, and I
found in Taylor, my maid, a still greater tempter. I had not
known there was any harm in it, until Miss Shore [a Calvinist
governess], finding it out, lectured me severely, and told me it
was wicked. From that time forth I considered that to invent a
story of any kind was a sin. But the desire to do so was too
deeply rooted in my affections to be resisted in my own strength
[she was at that time nine years of age], and unfortunately I knew
neither my corruption nor my weakness, nor did I know where to
gain strength. The longing to invent stories grew with violence;
everything I heard or read became food for my distemper. The
simplicity of truth was not sufficient for me; I must needs
embroider imagination upon it, and the folly, vanity and
wickedness which disgraced my heart are more than I am able to
express. Even now [at the age of twenty-nine], tho' watched,
prayed and striven against, this is still the sin that most
easily besets me. It has hindered my prayers and prevented my
improvement, and therefore, has humbled me very much.'

This is, surely, a very painful instance of the repression of an
instinct. There seems to have been, in this case, a vocation such
as is rarely heard, and still less often wilfully disregarded and
silenced. Was my Mother intended by nature to be a novelist? I
have often thought so, and her talents and vigour of purpose,
directed along the line which was ready to form 'the chief
pleasure of her life', could hardly have failed to conduct her to
great success. She was a little younger than Bulwer Lytton, a
little older than Mrs. Gaskell--but these are vain and trivial

My own state, however, was, I should think, almost unique among
the children of cultivated parents. In consequence of the stern
ordinance which I have described, not a single fiction was read
or told to me during my infancy. The rapture of the child who
delays the process of going to bed by cajoling 'a story' out of
his mother or his nurse, as he sits upon her knee, well tucked
up, at the corner of the nursery fire--this was unknown to me.
Never in all my early childhood did anyone address to me the
affecting preamble, 'Once upon a time!' I was told about
missionaries, but never about pirates; I was familiar with
hummingbirds, but I had never heard of fairies--Jack the Giant-
Killer, Rumpelstiltskin and Robin Hood were not of my
acquaintance; and though I understood about wolves, Little Red
Ridinghood was a stranger even by name. So far as my 'dedication'
was concerned, I can but think that my parents were in error thus
to exclude the imaginary from my outlook upon facts. They desired
to make me truthful; the tendency was to make me positive and
sceptical. Had they wrapped me in the soft folds of supernatural
fancy, my mind might have been longer content to follow their
traditions in an unquestioning spirit.

Having easily said what, in those early years, I did not read, I
have great difficulty in saying what I did read. But a queer
variety of natural history, some of it quite indigestible by my
undeveloped mind; many books of travels, mainly of a scientific
character, among them voyages of discovery in the South Seas, by
which my brain was dimly filled with splendour; some geography
and astronomy, both of them sincerely enjoyed; much theology,
which I desired to appreciate but could never get my teeth into
(if I may venture to say so), and over which my eye and tongue
learned to slip without penetrating, so that I would read, and
read aloud, and with great propriety of emphasis, page after page
without having formed an idea or retained an expression. There
was, for instance, a writer on prophecy called Jukes, of whose
works each of my parents was inordinately fond, and I was early
set to read Jukes aloud to them. I did it glibly, like a machine,
but the sight of Jukes' volumes became an abomination to me, and
I never formed the outline of a notion what they were about.
Later on, a publication called _The Penny Cyclopaedia_ became my
daily, and for a long time almost my sole study; to the subject
of this remarkable work I may presently return.

It is difficult to keep anything like chronological order in
recording fragments of early recollection, and in speaking of my
reading I have been led too far ahead. My memory does not,
practically, begin till we returned from certain visits, made
with a zoological purpose, to the shores of Devon and Dorset, and
settled, early in my fifth year, in a house at Islington, in the
north of London. Our circumstances were now more easy; my Father
had regular and well-paid literary work; and the house was larger
and more comfortable than ever before, though still very simple
and restricted. My memories, some of which are exactly dated by
certain facts, now become clear and almost abundant. What I do
not remember, except from having it very often repeated to me,
is what may be considered the only 'clever' thing that I said
during an otherwise unillustrious childhood. It was not
startlingly 'clever', but it may pass. A lady--when I was just
four--rather injudiciously showed me a large print of a human
skeleton, saying, 'There! you don't know what that is, do you?'
Upon which, immediately and very archly, I replied, 'Isn't it a
man with the meat off?' This was thought wonderful, and, as it is
supposed that I had never had the phenomenon explained to me, it
certainly displays some quickness in seizing an analogy. I had
often watched my Father, while he soaked the flesh off the bones
of fishes and small mammals. If I venture to repeat this trifle,
it is only to point out that the system on which I was being
educated deprived all things, human life among the rest, of their
mystery. The 'bare-grinning skeleton of death' was to me merely a
prepared specimen of that featherless plantigrade vertebrate,
'homo sapiens'.

As I have said that this anecdote was thought worth repeating, I
ought to proceed to say that there was, so far as I can
recollect, none of that flattery of childhood which is so often
merely a backhanded way of indulging the vanity of parents. My
Mother, indeed, would hardly have been human if she had not
occasionally entertained herself with the delusion that her
solitary duckling was a cygnet. This my Father did not encourage,
remarking, with great affection, and chucking me under the chin,
that I was 'a nice little ordinary boy'. My Mother, stung by this
want of appreciation, would proceed so far as to declare that she
believed that in future times the F.R.S. would be chiefly known
as his son's father! (This is a pleasantry frequent in
professional families.)

To this my Father, whether convinced or not, would make no demur,
and the couple would begin to discuss, in my presence, the
direction which my shining talents would take. In consequence of
my dedication to 'the Lord's Service', the range of possibilities
was much restricted. My Father, who had lived long in the
Tropics, and who nursed a perpetual nostalgia for 'the little
lazy isles where the trumpet-orchids blow', leaned towards the
field of missionary labour. My Mother, who was cold about foreign
missions, preferred to believe that I should be the Charles
Wesley of my age, 'or perhaps', she had the candour to admit,
'merely the George Whitefield'. I cannot recollect the time when
I did not understand that I was going to be a minister of the

It is so generally taken for granted that a life strictly
dedicated to religion is stiff and dreary, that I may have some
difficulty in persuading my readers that, as a matter of fact, in
these early days of my childhood, before disease and death had
penetrated to our slender society, we were always cheerful and
often gay. My parents were playful with one another, and there
were certain stock family jests which seldom failed to enliven
the breakfast table. My Father and Mother lived so completely in
the atmosphere of faith, and were so utterly convinced of their
intercourse with God, that, so long as that intercourse was not
clouded by sin, to which they were delicately sensitive, they
could afford to take the passing hour very lightly. They would
even, to a certain extent, treat the surroundings of their
religion as a subject of jest, joking very mildly and gently
about such things as an attitude at prayer or the nature of a
supplication. They were absolutely indifferent to forms. They
prayed, seated in their chairs, as willingly as, reversed, upon
their knees; no ritual having any significance for them. My
Mother was sometimes extremely gay, laughing with a soft, merry
sound. What I have since been told of the guileless mirth of nuns
in a convent has reminded me of the gaiety of my parents during
my early childhood.

So long as I was a mere part of them, without individual
existence, and swept on, a satellite, in their atmosphere, I was
mirthful when they were mirthful, and grave when they were grave.
The mere fact that I had no young companions, no storybooks, no
outdoor amusements, none of the thousand and one employments
provided for other children in more conventional surroundings,
did not make me discontented or fretful, because I did not know
of the existence of such entertainments. In exchange, I became
keenly attentive to the limited circle of interests open to me.
Oddly enough, I have no recollection of any curiosity about other
children, nor of any desire to speak to them or play with them.
They did not enter into my dreams, which were occupied entirely
with grown-up people and animals. I had three dolls, to whom my
attitude was not very intelligible. Two of these were female, one
with a shapeless face of rags, the other in wax. But, in my fifth
year, when the Crimean War broke out, I was given a third doll, a
soldier, dressed very smartly in a scarlet cloth tunic. I used to
put the dolls on three chairs, and harangue them aloud, but my
sentiment to them was never confidential, until our maid-servant
one day, intruding on my audience, and misunderstanding the
occasion of it, said: 'What? a boy, and playing with a soldier
when he's got two lady-dolls to play with?' I had never thought
of my dolls as confidants before, but from that time forth I paid
a special attention to the soldier, in order to make up to him
for Lizzie's unwarrantable insult.

The declaration of war with Russia brought the first breath of
outside life into our Calvinist cloister. My parents took in a
daily newspaper, which they had never done before, and events in
picturesque places, which my Father and I looked out on the map,
were eagerly discussed. One of my vividest early memories can be
dated exactly. I was playing about the house, and suddenly burst
into the breakfast-room, where, close to the door, sat an amazing
figure, a very tall young man, as stiff as my doll, in a gorgeous
scarlet tunic. Quite far away from him, at her writing-table, my
Mother sat with her Bible open before her, and was urging the
gospel plan of salvation on his acceptance. She promptly told me
to run away and play, but I had seen a great sight. This
guardsman was in the act of leaving for the Crimea, and his
adventures,--he was converted in consequence of my Mother's
instruction,--were afterwards told by her in a tract, called 'The
Guardsman of the Alma', of which I believe that more than half a
million copies were circulated. He was killed in that battle, and
this added an extraordinary lustre to my dream of him. I see him
still in my mind's eye, large, stiff, and unspeakably brilliant,
seated, from respect, as near as possible to our parlour door.
This apparition gave reality to my subsequent conversations with
the soldier doll.

That same victory of the Alma, which was reported in London on my
fifth birthday, is also marked very clearly in my memory by a
family circumstance. We were seated at breakfast, at our small
round table drawn close up to the window, my Father with his back
to the light. Suddenly, he gave a sort of cry, and read out the
opening sentences from _The Times_ announcing a battle in the
valley of the Alma. No doubt the strain of national anxiety had
been very great, for both he and my Mother seemed deeply excited.
He broke off his reading when the fact of the decisive victory
was assured, and he and my Mother sank simultaneously on their
knees in front of their tea and bread-and-butter, while in a loud
voice my Father gave thanks to the God of Battles. This
patriotism was the more remarkable, in that he had schooled
himself, as he believed, to put his 'heavenly citizenship' above
all earthly duties. To those who said: 'Because you are a
Christian, surely you are not less an Englishman?' he would reply
by shaking his head, and by saying: 'I am a citizen of no earthly
State'. He did not realize that, in reality, and to use a cant
phrase not yet coined in 1854, there existed in Great Britain no
more thorough 'Jingo' than he.

Another instance of the remarkable way in which the interests of
daily life were mingled in our strange household, with the
practice of religion, made an impression upon my memory. We had
all three been much excited by a report that a certain dark
geometer-moth, generated in underground stables, had been met
with in Islington. Its name, I think is, 'Boletobia fuliginaria',
and I believe that it is excessively rare in England. We were
sitting at family prayers, on a summer morning, I think in 1855,
when through the open window a brown moth came sailing. My Mother
immediately interrupted the reading of the Bible by saying to my
Father, 'O! Henry, do you think that can be "Boletobia"?' My
Father rose up from the sacred book, examined the insect, which
had now perched, and replied: 'No! it is only the common
Vapourer, "Orgyia antiqua"!', resuming his seat, and the
exposition of the Word, without any apology or embarrassment.

In the course of this, my sixth year, there happened a series of
minute and soundless incidents which, elementary as they may seem
when told, were second in real importance to none in my mental
history. The recollection of them confirms me in the opinion that
certain leading features in each human soul are inherent to it,
and cannot be accounted for by suggestion or training. In my own
case, I was most carefully withdrawn, like Princess Blanchefleur
in her marble fortress, from every outside influence whatever,
yet to me the instinctive life came as unexpectedly as her lover
came to her in the basket of roses. What came to me was the
consciousness of self, as a force and as a companion, and it came
as the result of one or two shocks, which I will relate.

In consequence of hearing so much about an Omniscient God, a
being of supernatural wisdom and penetration who was always with
us, who made, in fact, a fourth in our company, I had come to
think of Him, not without awe, but with absolute confidence. My
Father and Mother, in their serene discipline of me, never argued
with one another, never even differed; their wills seemed
absolutely one. My Mother always deferred to my Father, and in
his absence spoke of him to me, as if he were all-wise. I
confused him in some sense with God; at all events I believed
that my Father knew everything and saw everything. One morning in
my sixth year, my Mother and I were alone in the morning-room,
when my Father came in and announced some fact to us. I was
standing on the rug, gazing at him, and when he made this
statement, I remember turning quickly, in embarrassment, and
looking into the fire. The shock to me was as that of a
thunderbolt, for what my Father had said 'was not true'. My
Mother and I, who had been present at the trifling incident, were
aware that it had not happened exactly as it had been reported to
him. My Mother gently told him so, and he accepted the
correction. Nothing could possibly have been more trifling to my
parents, but to me it meant an epoch. Here was the appalling
discovery, never suspected before, that my Father was not as God,
and did not know everything. The shock was not caused by any
suspicion that he was not telling the truth, as it appeared to
him, but by the awful proof that he was not, as I had supposed,

This experience was followed by another, which confirmed the
first, but carried me a great deal further. In our little
back-garden, my Father had built up a rockery for ferns and mosses
and from the water-supply of the house he had drawn a leaden pipe
so that it pierced upwards through the rockery and produced, when
a tap was turned, a pretty silvery parasol of water. The pipe was
exposed somewhere near the foot of the rockery. One day, two
workmen, who were doing some repairs, left their tools during the
dinner-hour in the back-garden, and as I was marching about I
suddenly thought that to see whether one of these tools could
make a hole in the pipe would be attractive. It did make such a
hole, quite easily, and then the matter escaped my mind. But a
day or two afterwards, when my Father came in to dinner, he was
very angry. He had turned the tap, and instead of the fountain
arching at the summit, there had been a rush of water through a
hole at the foot. The rockery was absolutely ruined.

Of course I realized in a moment what I had done, and I sat
frozen with alarm, waiting to be denounced. But my Mother
remarked on the visit of the plumbers two or three days before,
and my Father instantly took up the suggestion. No doubt that was
it; the mischievous fellows had thought it amusing to stab the
pipe and spoil the fountain. No suspicion fell on me; no question
was asked of me. I sat there, turned to stone within, but
outwardly sympathetic and with unchecked appetite.

We attribute, I believe, too many moral ideas to little children.
It is obvious that in this tremendous juncture I ought to have
been urged forward by good instincts, or held back by naughty
ones. But I am sure that the fear which I experienced for a short
time, and which so unexpectedly melted away, was a purely
physical one. It had nothing to do with the motions of a contrite
heart. As to the destruction of the fountain, I was sorry about
that, for my own sake, since I admired the skipping water
extremely and had had no idea that I was spoiling its display.
But the emotions which now thronged within me, and which led me,
with an almost unwise alacrity, to seek solitude in the back-
garden, were not moral at all, they were intellectual. I was not
ashamed of having successfully--and so surprisingly--deceived my
parents by my crafty silence; I looked upon that as a
providential escape, and dismissed all further thought of it. I
had other things to think of.

In the first place, the theory that my Father was omniscient or
infallible was now dead and buried. He probably knew very little;
in this case he had not known a fact of such importance that if
you did not know that, it could hardly matter what you knew. My
Father, as a deity, as a natural force of immense prestige, fell
in my eyes to a human level. In future, his statements about
things in general need not be accepted implicitly. But of all the
thoughts which rushed upon my savage and undeveloped little brain
at this crisis, the most curious was that I had found a companion
and a confidant in myself. There was a secret in this world and
it belonged to me and to a somebody who lived in the same body
with me. There were two of us, and we could talk with one
another. It is difficult to define impressions so rudimentary,
but it is certain that it was in this dual form that the sense of
my individuality now suddenly descended upon me, and it is
equally certain that it was a great solace to me to find a
sympathizer in my own breast.

About this time, my Mother, carried away by the current of her
literary and her philanthropic work, left me more and more to my
own devices. She was seized with a great enthusiasm; as one of
her admirers and disciples has written, 'she went on her way,
sowing beside all waters'. I would not for a moment let it be
supposed that I regard her as a Mrs. Jellyby, or that I think she
neglected me. But a remarkable work had opened up before her;
after her long years in a mental hermitage, she was drawn forth
into the clamorous harvest-field of souls. She developed an
unexpected gift of persuasion over strangers whom she met in the
omnibus or in the train, and with whom she courageously grappled.
This began by her noting, with deep humility and joy, that 'I
have reason to judge the sound conversion to God of three young
persons within a few weeks, by the instrumentality of my
conversations with them'. At the same time, as another of her
biographers has said, 'those testimonies to the Blood of Christ,
the fruits of her pen, began to be spread very widely, even to
the most distant parts of the globe'. My Father, too, was at this
time at the height of his activity. After breakfast, each of them
was amply occupied, perhaps until night-fall; our evenings we
still always spent together. Sometimes my Mother took me with her
on her 'unknown day's employ'; I recollect pleasant rambles
through the City by her side, and the act of looking up at her
figure soaring above me. But when all was done, I had hours and
hours of complete solitude, in my Father's study, in the back-
garden, above all in the garret.

The garret was a fairy place. It was a low lean-to, lighted from
the roof. It was wholly unfurnished, except for two objects, an
ancient hat-box and a still more ancient skin-trunk. The hat-box
puzzled me extremely, till one day, asking my Father what it was,
I got a distracted answer which led me to believe that it was
itself a sort of hat, and I made a laborious but repeated effort
to wear it. The skin-trunk was absolutely empty, but the inside
of the lid of it was lined with sheets of what I now know to have
been a sensational novel. It was, of course, a fragment, but I
read it, kneeling on the bare floor, with indescribable rapture.
It will be recollected that the idea of fiction, of a
deliberately invented story, had been kept from me with entire
success. I therefore implicitly believed the tale in the lid of
the trunk to be a true account of the sorrows of a lady of title,
who had to flee the country, and who was pursued into foreign
lands by enemies bent upon her ruin. Somebody had an interview
with a 'minion' in a 'mask'; I went downstairs and looked up
these words in Bailey's 'English Dictionary', but was left in
darkness as to what they had to do with the lady of title. This
ridiculous fragment filled me with delicious fears; I fancied
that my Mother, who was out so much, might be threatened by
dangers of the same sort; and the fact that the narrative came
abruptly to an end, in the middle of one of its most thrilling
sentences, wound me up almost to a disorder of wonder and

The preoccupation of my parents threw me more and more upon my
own resources. But what are the resources of a solitary child of
six? I was never inclined to make friends with servants, nor did
our successive maids proffer, so far as I recollect, any
advances. Perhaps, with my 'dedication' and my grown-up ways of
talking, I did not seem to them at all an attractive little boy.
I continued to have no companions, or even acquaintances of my
own age. I am unable to recollect exchanging two words with
another child till after my Mother's death.

The abundant energy which my Mother now threw into her public
work did not affect the quietude of our private life. We had some
visitors in the daytime, people who came to consult one parent
or the other. But they never stayed to a meal, and we never
returned their visits. I do not quite know how it was that
neither of my parents took me to any of the sights of London,
although I am sure it was a question of principle with them.
Notwithstanding all our study of natural history, I was never
introduced to live wild beasts at the Zoo, nor to dead ones at
the British Museum. I can understand better why we never visited
a picture-gallery or a concert-room. So far as I can recollect,
the only time I was ever taken to any place of entertainment was
when my Father and I paid a visit, long anticipated, to the Great
Globe in Leicester Square. This was a huge structure, the
interior of which one ascended by means of a spiral staircase. It
was a poor affair; that was concave in it which should have been
convex, and my imagination was deeply affronted. I could invent a
far better Great Globe than that in my mind's eye in the garret.

Being so restricted, then, and yet so active, my mind took refuge
in an infantile species of natural magic. This contended with the
definite ideas of religion which my parents were continuing, with
too mechanical a persistency, to force into my nature, and it ran
parallel with them. I formed strange superstitions, which I can
only render intelligible by naming some concrete examples. I
persuaded myself that, if I could only discover the proper words
to say or the proper passes to make, I could induce the gorgeous
birds and butterflies in my Father's illustrated manuals to come
to life, and fly out of the book, leaving holes behind them. I
believed that, when, at the Chapel, we sang, drearily and slowly,
loud hymns of experience and humiliation, I could boom forth with
a sound equal to that of dozens of singers, if I could only hit
upon the formula. During morning and evening prayers, which were
extremely lengthy and fatiguing, I fancied that one of my two
selves could flit up, and sit clinging to the cornice, and look
down on my other self and the rest of us, if I could only find
the key. I laboured for hours in search of these formulas,
thinking to compass my ends by means absolutely irrational. For
example, I was convinced that if I could only count consecutive
numbers long enough, without losing one, I should suddenly, on
reaching some far-distant figure, find myself in possession of
the great secret. I feel quite sure that nothing external
suggested these ideas of magic, and I think it probable that they
approached the ideas of savages at a very early stage of

All this ferment of mind was entirely unobserved by my parents.
But when I formed the belief that it was necessary, for the
success of my practical magic, that I should hurt myself, and
when, as a matter of fact, I began, in extreme secrecy, to run
pins into my flesh and bang my joints with books, no one will be
surprised to hear that my Mother's attention was drawn to the
fact that I was looking 'delicate'. The notice nowadays
universally given to the hygienic rules of life was rare fifty
years ago and among deeply religious people, in particular,
fatalistic views of disease prevailed. If anyone was ill, it
showed that 'the Lord's hand was extended in chastisement', and
much prayer was poured forth in order that it might be explained
to the sufferer, or to his relations, in what he or they had
sinned. People would, for instance, go on living over a cess-
pool, working themselves up into an agony to discover how they
had incurred the displeasure of the Lord, but never moving away.
As I became very pale and nervous, and slept badly at nights,
with visions and loud screams in my sleep, I was taken to a
physician, who stripped me and tapped me all over (this gave me
some valuable hints for my magical practices), but could find
nothing the matter. He recommended,--whatever physicians in such
cases always recommend,--but nothing was done. If I was feeble it
was the Lord's will, and we must acquiesce.

It culminated in a sort of fit of hysterics, when I lost all
self-control, and sobbed with tears, and banged my head on the
table. While this was proceeding, I was conscious of that dual
individuality of which I have already spoken, since while one
part of me gave way, and could not resist, the other part in some
extraordinary sense seemed standing aloof, much impressed. I was
alone with my Father when this crisis suddenly occurred, and I
was interested to see that he was greatly alarmed. It was a very
long time since we had spent a day out of London, and I said, on
being coaxed back to calmness, that I wanted 'to go into the
country'. Like the dying Falstaff, I babbled of green fields. My
Father, after a little reflection, proposed to take me to
Primrose Hill. I had never heard of the place, and names have
always appealed directly to my imagination. I was in the highest
degree delighted, and could hardly restrain my impatience. As
soon as possible we set forth westward, my hand in my Father's,
with the liveliest anticipations. I expected to see a mountain
absolutely carpeted with primroses, a terrestrial galaxy like
that which covered the hill that led up to Montgomery Castle in
Donne's poem. But at length, as we walked from the Chalk Farm
direction, a miserable acclivity stole into view--surrounded,
even in those days, on most sides by houses, with its grass worn
to the buff by millions of boots, and resembling what I meant by
'the country' about as much as Poplar resembles Paradise. We sat
down on a bench at its inglorious summit, whereupon I burst into
tears, and in a heart-rending whisper sobbed, 'Oh! Papa, let us
go home!'

This was the lachrymose epoch in a career not otherwise given to
weeping, for I must tell one more tale of tears. About this
time,--the autumn of 1855,--my parents were disturbed more than
once in the twilight, after I had been put to bed, by shrieks
from my crib. They would rush up to my side, and find me in great
distress, but would be unable to discover the cause of it. The
fact was that I was half beside myself with ghostly fears,
increased and pointed by the fact that there had been some daring
burglaries on our street. Our servant-maid, who slept at the top
of the house, had seen, or thought she saw, upon a moonlight
night the figure of a crouching man, silhouetted against the sky,
slip down from the roof and leap into her room. She screamed, and
he fled away. Moreover, as if this were not enough for my tender
nerves, there had been committed a horrid murder at a baker's
shop just around the corner in the Caledonian Road, to which
murder actuality was given to us by the fact that my Mother had
been 'just thinking' of getting her bread from this shop.
Children, I think, were not spared the details of these affairs
fifty years ago; at least, I was not, and my nerves were a packet
of spilikins.

But what made me scream at nights was that when my Mother had
tucked me up in bed, and had heard me say my prayer, and had
prayed aloud on her knees at my side, and had stolen downstairs--
noises immediately began in the room. There was a rustling of
clothes, and a slapping of hands, and a gurgling, and a sniffing,
and a trotting. These horrible muffled sounds would go on, and
die away, and be resumed; I would pray very fervently to God to
save me from my enemies; and sometimes I would go to sleep. But
on other occasions, my faith and fortitude alike gave way, and I
screamed 'Mama! Mama!' Then would my parents come bounding up the
stairs, and comfort me, and kiss me, and assure me it was nothing.
And nothing it was while they were there, but no sooner had they
gone than the ghostly riot recommenced. It was at last discovered
by my Mother that the whole mischief was due to a card of framed
texts, fastened by one nail to the wall; this did nothing when
the bedroom door was shut, but when it was left open (in order that
my parents might hear me call), the card began to gallop in the
draught, and made the most intolerable noises.

Several things tended at this time to alienate my conscience from
the line which my Father had so rigidly traced for it. The
question of the efficacy of prayer, which has puzzled wiser heads
than mine was, began to trouble me. It was insisted on in our
household that if anything was desired, you should not, as my
Mother said, 'lose any time in seeking for it, but ask God to
guide you to it'. In many junctures of life this is precisely
what, in sober fact, they did. I will not dwell here on their
theories, which my Mother put forth, with unflinching directness,
in her published writings. But I found that a difference was made
between my privileges in this matter and theirs, and this led to
many discussions. My parents said: 'Whatever you need, tell Him
and He will grant it, if it is His will.' Very well; I had need
of a large painted humming-top which I had seen in a shop-window
in the Caledonian Road. Accordingly, I introduced a supplication
for this object into my evening prayer, carefully adding the
words: 'If it is Thy will.' This, I recollect, placed my Mother
in a dilemma, and she consulted my Father. Taken, I suppose, at a
disadvantage, my Father told me I must not pray for 'things like
that'. To which I answered by another query, 'Why?' And I added
that he said we ought to pray for things we needed, and that I
needed the humming-top a great deal more than I did the conversion
of the heathen or the restitution of Jerusalem to the Jews, two
objects of my nightly supplication which left me very cold.

I have reason to believe, looking back upon this scene conducted
by candlelight in the front parlour, that my Mother was much
baffled by the logic of my argument. She had gone so far as to
say publicly that no 'things or circumstances are too
insignificant to bring before the God of the whole earth'. I
persisted that this covered the case of the humming-top, which
was extremely significant to me. I noticed that she held aloof
from the discussion, which was carried on with some show of
annoyance by my Father. He had never gone quite so far as she did
in regard to this question of praying for material things. I am
not sure that she was convinced that I ought to have been
checked; but he could not help seeing that it reduced their
favourite theory to an absurdity for a small child to exercise
the privilege. He ceased to argue, and told me peremptorily that
it was not right for me to pray for things like humming-tops, and
that I must do it no more. His authority, of course, was Paramount,
and I yielded; but my faith in the efficacy of prayer was a good
deal shaken. The fatal suspicion had crossed my mind that the reason
why I was not to pray for the top was because it was too expensive
for my parents to buy, that being the usual excuse for not getting
things I wished for.

It was about the date of my sixth birthday that I did something
very naughty, some act of direct disobedience, for which my
Father, after a solemn sermon, chastised me, sacrificially, by
giving me several cuts with a cane. This action was justified, as
everything he did was justified, by reference to Scripture 'Spare
the rod and spoil the child'. I suppose that there are some
children, of a sullen and lymphatic temperament, who are
smartened up and made more wide-awake by a whipping. It is
largely a matter of convention, the exercise being endured (I am
told) with pride by the infants of our aristocracy, but not
tolerated by the lower classes. I am afraid that I proved my
inherent vulgarity by being made, not contrite or humble, but
furiously angry by this caning. I cannot account for the flame of
rage which it awakened in my bosom. My dear, excellent Father had
beaten me, not very severely, without ill-temper, and with the
most genuine desire to improve me. But he was not well-advised
especially so far as the 'dedication to the Lord's service' was
concerned. This same 'dedication' had ministered to my vanity,
and there are some natures which are not improved by being
humiliated. I have to confess with shame that I went about the
house for some days with a murderous hatred of my Father locked
within my bosom. He did not suspect that the chastisement had not
been wholly efficacious, and he bore me no malice; so that after
a while, I forgot and thus forgave him. But I do not regard
physical punishment as a wise element in the education of proud
and sensitive children.

My theological misdeeds culminated, however, in an act so puerile
and preposterous that I should not venture to record it if it did
not throw some glimmering of light on the subject which I have
proposed to myself in writing these pages. My mind continued to
dwell on the mysterious question of prayer. It puzzled me greatly
to know why, if we were God's children, and if he was watching
over us by night and day, we might not supplicate for toys and
sweets and smart clothes as well as for the conversion of the
heathen. Just at this juncture, we had a special service at the
Room, at which our attention was particularly called to what we
always spoke of as 'the field of missionary labour'. The East was
represented among 'the saints' by an excellent Irish peer, who
had, in his early youth, converted and married a lady of colour;
this Asiatic shared in our Sunday morning meetings, and was an
object of helpless terror to me; I shrank from her amiable
caresses, and vaguely identified her with a personage much spoken
of in our family circle, the 'Personal Devil'.

All these matters drew my thoughts to the subject of idolatry,
which was severely censured at the missionary meeting. I cross-
examined my Father very closely as to the nature of this sin, and
pinned him down to the categorical statement that idolatry
consisted in praying to anyone or anything but God himself. Wood
and stone, in the words of the hymn, were peculiarly liable to be
bowed down to by the heathen in their blindness. I pressed my
Father further on this subject, and he assured me that God would
be very angry, and would signify His anger, if anyone, in a
Christian country, bowed down to wood and stone. I cannot recall
why I was so pertinacious on this subject, but I remember that my
Father became a little restive under my cross-examination. I
determined, however, to test the matter for myself, and one
morning, when both my parents were safely out of the house, I
prepared for the great act of heresy. I was in the morning-room
on the ground-floor, where, with much labour, I hoisted a small
chair on to the table close to the window. My heart was now
beating as if it would leap out of my side, but I pursued my
experiment. I knelt down on the carpet in front of the table and
looking up I said my daily prayer in a loud voice, only
substituting the address 'Oh Chair!' for the habitual one.

Having carried this act of idolatry safely through, I waited to
see what would happen. It was a fine day, and I gazed up at the
slip of white sky above the houses opposite, and expected
something to appear in it. God would certainly exhibit his anger
in some terrible form, and would chastise my impious and willful
action. I was very much alarmed, but still more excited; I
breathed the high, sharp air of defiance. But nothing happened;
there was not a cloud in the sky, not an unusual sound in the
street. Presently, I was quite sure that nothing would happen. I
had committed idolatry, flagrantly and deliberately, and God did
not care.

The result of this ridiculous act was not to make me question the
existence and power of God; those were forces which I did not
dream of ignoring. But what it did was to lessen still further my
confidence in my Father's knowledge of the Divine mind. My Father
had said, positively, that if I worshipped a thing made of wood,
God would manifest his anger. I had then worshipped a chair, made
(or partly made) of wood, and God had made no sign whatever. My
Father, therefore, was not really acquainted with the Divine
practice in cases of idolatry. And with that, dismissing the
subject, I dived again into the unplumbed depths of the _Penny


THAT I might die in my early childhood was a thought which
frequently recurred to the mind of my Mother. She endeavoured,
with a Roman fortitude, to face it without apprehension. Soon
after I had completed my fifth year, she had written as follows
in her secret journal:

'Should we be called on to weep over the early grave of the dear
one whom now we are endeavouring to train for heaven, may we be
able to remember that we never ceased to pray for and watch over
him. It is easy, comparatively, to watch over an infant. Yet
shall I be sufficient for these things? I am not. But God is
sufficient. In his strength I have begun the warfare, in his
strength I will persevere, and I will faint not until either I
myself or my little one is beyond the reach of earthly

That either she or I would be called away from earth, and that
our physical separation was at hand, seems to have been always
vaguely present in my Mother's dreams, as an obstinate conviction
to be carefully recognized and jealously guarded against.

It was not, however, until the course of my seventh year that the
tragedy occurred, which altered the whole course of our family
existence. My Mother had hitherto seemed strong and in good
health; she had even made the remark to my Father, that 'sorrow
and pain, the badges of Christian discipleship', appeared to be
withheld from her. On her birthday, which was to be her last, she
had written these ejaculations in her locked diary:

'Lord, forgive the sins of the past, and help me to be faithful in
future! May this be a year of much blessing, a year of jubilee!
May I be kept lowly, trusting, loving! May I have more blessing
than in all former years combined! May I be happier as a wife,
mother, sister, writer, mistress, friend!'

But a symptom began to alarm her, and in the beginning of May,
having consulted a local physician without being satisfied, she
went to see a specialist in a northern suburb in whose judgement
she had great confidence. This occasion I recollect with extreme
vividness. I had been put to bed by my Father, in itself a
noteworthy event. My crib stood near a window overlooking the
street; my parents' ancient four-poster, a relic of the
eighteenth century, hid me from the door, but I could see the
rest of the room. After falling asleep on this particular
evening, I awoke silently, surprised to see two lighted candles
on the table, and my Father seated writing by them. I also saw a
little meal arranged.

While I was wondering at all this, the door opened, and my Mother
entered the room; she emerged from behind the bed-curtains, with
her bonnet on, having returned from her expedition. My Father
rose hurriedly, pushing back his chair. There was a pause, while
my Mother seemed to be steadying her voice, and then she replied,
loudly and distinctly, 'He says it is--' and she mentioned one of
the most cruel maladies by which our poor mortal nature can be
tormented. Then I saw them hold one another in a silent long
embrace, and presently sink together out of sight on their knees,
at the farther side of the bed, whereupon my Father lifted up his
voice in prayer. Neither of them had noticed me, and now I lay
back on my pillow and fell asleep.

Next morning, when we three sat at breakfast, my mind reverted to
the scene of the previous night. With my eyes on my plate, as I
was cutting up my food, I asked, casually, 'What is--?'
mentioning the disease whose unfamiliar name I had heard from my
bed. Receiving no reply, I looked up to discover why my question
was not answered, and I saw my parents gazing at each other with
lamentable eyes. In some way, I know not how, I was conscious of
the presence of an incommunicable mystery, and I kept silence,
though tortured with curiosity, nor did I ever repeat my inquiry.

About a fortnight later, my Mother began to go three times a week
all the long way from Islington to Pimlico, in order to visit a
certain practitioner, who undertook to apply a special treatment
to her case. This involved great fatigue and distress to her, but
so far as I was personally concerned it did me a great deal of
good. I invariably accompanied her, and when she was very tired
and weak, I enjoyed the pride of believing that I protected her.
The movement, the exercise, the occupation, lifted my morbid
fears and superstitions like a cloud. The medical treatment to
which my poor Mother was subjected was very painful, and she had
a peculiar sensitiveness to pain. She carried on her evangelical
work as long as she possibly could, continuing to converse with
her fellow passengers on spiritual matters. It was wonderful that
a woman, so reserved and proud as she by nature was, could
conquer so completely her natural timidity. In those last months,
she scarcely ever got into a railway carriage or into an omnibus,
without presently offering tracts to the persons sitting within
reach of her, or endeavouring to begin a conversation with some
one of the sufficiency of the Blood of Jesus to cleanse the human
heart from sin. Her manners were so gentle and persuasive, she
looked so innocent, her small, sparkling features were lighted up
with so much benevolence, that I do not think she ever met with
discourtesy or roughness. Imitative imp that I was, I sometimes
took part in these strange conversations, and was mightily puffed
up by compliments paid, in whispers, to my infant piety. But my
Mother very properly discouraged this, as tending in me to
spiritual pride.

If my parents, in their desire to separate themselves from the
world, had regretted that through their happiness they seemed to
have forfeited the Christian privilege of affliction, they could
not continue to complain of any absence of temporal adversity.
Everything seemed to combine, in the course of this fatal year
1856, to harass and alarm them. Just at the moment when illness
created a special drain upon their resources, their slender
income, instead of being increased, was seriously diminished.
There is little sympathy felt in this world of rhetoric for the
silent sufferings of the genteel poor, yet there is no class that
deserves a more charitable commiseration.

At the best of times, the money which my parents had to spend was
an exiguous and an inelastic sum. Strictly economical, proud--in
an old-fashioned mode now quite out of fashion--to conceal the
fact of their poverty, painfully scrupulous to avoid giving
inconvenience to shop-people, tradesmen or servants, their whole
financial career had to be carried on with the adroitness of a
campaign through a hostile country. But now, at the moment when
fresh pressing claims were made on their resources, my Mother's
small capital suddenly disappeared. It had been placed, on bad
advice (they were as children in such matters), in a Cornish
mine, the grotesque name of which, Wheal Maria, became familiar
to my ears. One day the river Tamar, in a playful mood, broke
into Wheal Maria, and not a penny more was ever lifted from that
unfortunate enterprise. About the same time, a small annuity
which my Mother had inherited also ceased to be paid.

On my Father's books and lectures, therefore, the whole weight
now rested, and that at a moment when he was depressed and
unnerved by anxiety. It was contrary to his principles to borrow
money, so that it became necessary to pay doctor's and chemist's
bills punctually, and yet to carry on the little household with
the very small margin. Each artifice of economy was now exercised
to enable this to be done without falling into debt, and every
branch of expenditure was cut down, clothes, books, the little
garden which was my Father's pride, all felt the pressure of new
poverty. Even our food, which had always been simple, now became
Spartan indeed, and I am sure that my Mother often pretended to
have no appetite that there might remain enough to satisfy my
hunger. Fortunately my Father was able to take us away in the
autumn for six weeks by the sea in Wales, the expenses of this
tour being paid for by a professional engagement, so that my
seventh birthday was spent in an ecstasy of happiness, on golden
sands, under a brilliant sky, and in sight of the glorious azure
ocean beating in from an infinitude of melting horizons. Here,
too, my Mother, perched in a nook of the high rocks, surveyed the
west, and forgot for a little while her weakness and the gnawing,
grinding pain.

But in October, our sorrows seemed to close in upon us. We went
back to London, and for the first time in their married life, my
parents were divided. My Mother was now so seriously weaker that
the omnibus journeys to Pimlico became impossible. My Father
could not leave his work and so my Mother and I had to take a
gloomy lodging close to the doctor's house. The experiences upon
which I presently entered were of a nature in which childhood
rarely takes a part. I was now my Mother's sole and ceaseless
companion; the silent witness of her suffering, of her patience,
of her vain and delusive attempts to obtain alleviation of her
anguish. For nearly three months I breathed the atmosphere of
pain, saw no other light, heard no other sounds, thought no other
thoughts than those which accompany physical suffering and
weariness. To my memory these weeks seem years; I have no measure
of their monotony. The lodgings were bare and yet tawdry; out of
dingy windows we looked from a second storey upon a dull small
street, drowned in autumnal fog. My Father came to see us when he
could, but otherwise, save when we made our morning expedition to
the doctor, or when a slatternly girl waited upon us with our
distasteful meals, we were alone, without any other occupation
than to look forward to that occasional abatement of suffering
which was what we hoped for most.

It is difficult for me to recollect how these interminable hours
were spent. But I read aloud in a great part of them. I have now
in my mind's cabinet a picture of my chair turned towards the
window, partly that I might see the book more distinctly, partly
not to see quite so distinctly that dear patient figure rocking
on her sofa, or leaning, like a funeral statue, like a muse upon
a monument, with her head on her arms against the mantelpiece. I
read the Bible every day, and at much length; also,--with I
cannot but think some praiseworthy patience,--a book of
incommunicable dreariness, called Newton's 'Thoughts on the
Apocalypse'. Newton bore a great resemblance to my old aversion,
Jukes, and I made a sort of playful compact with my Mother that
if I read aloud a certain number of pages out of 'Thoughts on the
Apocalypse', as a reward I should be allowed to recite 'my own
favourite hymns'. Among these there was one which united her
suffrages with mine. Both of us extremely admired the piece by
Toplady which begins:

  What though my frail eyelids refuse
    Continual watchings to keep,
  And, punctual as midnight renews,
    Demand the refreshment of sleep.

To this day, I cannot repeat this hymn without a sense of
poignant emotion, nor can I pretend to decide how much of this is
due to its merit and how much to the peculiar nature of the
memories it recalls. But it might be as rude as I genuinely think
it to be skilful, and I should continue to regard it as a sacred
poem. Among all my childish memories none is clearer than my
looking up,--after reading, in my high treble,

  Kind Author and Ground of my hope,
    Thee, Thee for my God I avow;
  My glad Ebenezer set up,
    And own Thou hast help'd me till now;
  I muse on the years that are past,
    Wherein my defence Thou hast prov'd,
  Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
    A sinner so signally lov'd,--

and hearing my Mother, her eyes brimming with tears and her
alabastrine fingers tightly locked together, murmur in
unconscious repetition:

  Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
    A sinner so signally lov'd.

In our lodgings at Pimlico I came across a piece of verse which
exercised a lasting influence on my taste. It was called 'The
Cameronian's Dream', and it had been written by a certain James
Hyslop, a schoolmaster on a man-of-war. I do not know how it came
into my possession, but I remember it was adorned by an extremely
dim and ill-executed wood-cut of a lake surrounded by mountains,
with tombstones in the foreground. This lugubrious frontispiece
positively fascinated me, and lent a further gloomy charm to the
ballad itself. It was in this copy of mediocre verses that the
sense of romance first appealed to me, the kind of nature-romance
which is connected with hills, and lakes, and the picturesque
costumes of old times. The following stanza, for instance,
brought a revelation to me:

  'Twas a dream of those ages of darkness and blood,
  When the minister's home was the mountain and wood;
  When in Wellwood's dark valley the standard of Zion,
  All bloody and torn, 'mong the heather was lying.

I persuaded my Mother to explain to me what it was all about, and
she told me of the affliction of the Scottish saints, their
flight to the waters and the wilderness, their cruel murder while
they were singing 'their last song to the God of Salvation'. I
was greatly fired, and the following stanza, in particular,
reached my ideal of the Sublime:

  The muskets were flashing, the blue swords were gleaming,
  The helmets were cleft, and the red blood was streaming,
  The heavens grew dark, and the thunder was rolling,
  When in Wellwood's dark muirlands the mighty were falling.

Twenty years later I met with the only other person whom I have
ever encountered who had even heard of 'The Cameronian's Dream'.
This was Robert Louis Stevenson, who had been greatly struck by
it when he was about my age. Probably the same ephemeral edition
of it reached, at the same time, each of our pious households.

As my Mother's illness progressed, she could neither sleep, save
by the use of opiates, nor rest, except in a sloping posture,
propped up by many pillows. It was my great joy, and a pleasant
diversion, to be allowed to shift, beat up, and rearrange these
pillows, a task which I learned to accomplish not too awkwardly.
Her sufferings, I believe, were principally caused by the
violence of the medicaments to which her doctor, who was trying a
new and fantastic 'cure', thought it proper to subject her. Let
those who take a pessimistic view of our social progress ask
themselves whether such tortures could today be inflicted on a
delicate patient, or whether that patient would be allowed to
exist, in the greatest misery in a lodging with no professional
nurse to wait upon her, and with no companion but a little
helpless boy of seven years of age. Time passes smoothly and
swiftly, and we do not perceive the mitigations which he brings
in his hands. Everywhere, in the whole system of human life,
improvements, alleviations, ingenious appliances and humane
inventions are being introduced to lessen the great burden of

If we were suddenly transplanted into the world of only fifty
years ago, we should be startled and even horror-stricken by the
wretchedness to which the step backwards would reintroduce us. It
was in the very year of which I am speaking, a year of which my
personal memories are still vivid, that Sir James Simpson
received the Monthyon prize as a recognition of his discovery of
the use of anaesthetics. Can our thoughts embrace the mitigation
of human torment which the application of chloroform alone has
caused? My early experiences, I confess, made me singularly
conscious, at an age when one should know nothing about these
things, of that torrent of sorrow and anguish and terror which
flows under all footsteps of man. Within my childish conscience,
already, some dim inquiry was awake as to the meaning of this
mystery of pain--

  The floods of the tears meet and gather;
    The sound of them all grows like thunder;
    Oh into what bosom, I wonder,
  Is poured the whole sorrow of years?
    For Eternity only seems keeping
    Account of the great human weeping;
  May God then, the Maker and Father,
    May He find a place for the tears!

In my Mother's case, the savage treatment did no good; it had to
be abandoned, and a day or two before Christmas, while the fruits
were piled in the shop-fronts and the butchers were shouting
outside their forests of carcases, my Father brought us back in a
cab through the streets to Islington, a feeble and languishing
company. Our invalid bore the journey fairly well, enjoying the
air, and pointing out to me the glittering evidences of the
season, but we paid heavily for her little entertainment, since,
at her earnest wish the window of the cab having been kept open,
she caught a cold, which became, indeed, the technical cause of a
death that no applications could now have long delayed.

Yet she lingered with us six weeks more, and during this time I
again relapsed, very naturally, into solitude. She now had the
care of a practised woman, one of the 'saints' from the Chapel,
and I was only permitted to pay brief visits to her bedside. That
I might not be kept indoors all day and everyday, a man, also
connected with the meeting-house, was paid a trifle to take me
out for a walk each morning. This person, who was by turns
familiar and truculent, was the object of my intense dislike. Our
relations became, in the truest sense, 'forced'; I was obliged to
walk by his side, but I held that I had no further responsibility
to be agreeable, and after a while I ceased to speak to him, or
to answer his remarks. On one occasion, poor dreary man, he met a
friend and stopped to chat with him. I considered this act to
have dissolved the bond; I skipped lightly from his side,
examined several shop-windows which I had been forbidden to look
into, made several darts down courts and up passages, and
finally, after a delightful morning, returned home, having known
my directions perfectly. My official conductor, in a shocking
condition of fear, was crouching by the area-rails looking up and
down the street. He darted upon me, in a great rage, to know
'what I meant by it?' I drew myself up as tall as I could, hissed
'Blind leader of the blind!' at him, and, with this inappropriate
but very effective Parthian shot, slipped into the house.

When it was quite certain that no alleviations and no medical
care could prevent, or even any longer postpone the departure of
my Mother, I believe that my future conduct became the object of
her greatest and her most painful solicitude. She said to my
Father that the worst trial of her faith came from the feeling
that she was called upon to leave that child whom she had so
carefully trained from his earliest infancy for the peculiar
service of the Lord, without any knowledge of what his further
course would be. In many conversations, she most tenderly and
closely urged my Father, who, however, needed no urging, to watch
with unceasing care over my spiritual welfare. As she grew nearer
her end, it was observed that she became calmer, and less
troubled by fears about me. The intensity of her prayers and
hopes seemed to have a prevailing force; it would have been a sin
to doubt that such supplications, such confidence and devotion,
such an emphasis of will, should not be rewarded by an answer
from above in the affirmative. She was able, she said, to leave
me 'in the hands of her loving Lord', or, on another occasion,
'to the care of her covenant God'.

Although her faith was so strong and simple, my Mother possessed
no quality of the mystic. She never pretended to any visionary
gifts, believed not at all in dreams or portents, and encouraged
nothing in herself or others which was superstitious or
fantastic. In order to realize her condition of mind, it is
necessary, I think, to accept the view that she had formed a
definite conception of the absolute, unmodified and historical
veracity, in its direct and obvious sense, of every statement
contained within the covers of the Bible. For her, and for my
Father, nothing was symbolic, nothing allegorical or allusive in
any part of Scripture, except what was, in so many words,
proffered as a parable or a picture. Pushing this to its extreme
limit, and allowing nothing for the changes of scene or time or
race, my parents read injunctions to the Corinthian converts
without any suspicion that what was apposite in dealing with
half-breed Achaian colonists of the first century might not
exactly apply to respectable English men and women of the
nineteenth. They took it, text by text, as if no sort of
difference existed between the surroundings of Trimalchion's
feast and those of a City dinner. Both my parents, I think, were
devoid of sympathetic imagination; in my Father, I am sure, it
was singularly absent. Hence, although their faith was so
strenuous that many persons might have called it fanatical, there
was no mysticism about them. They went rather to the opposite
extreme, to the cultivation of a rigid and iconoclastic

This was curiously exemplified in the very lively interest which
they both took in what is called 'the interpretation of
prophecy', and particularly in unwrapping the dark sayings bound
up in the Book of Revelation. In their impartial survey of the
Bible, they came to this collection of solemn and splendid
visions, sinister and obscure, and they had no intention of
allowing these to be merely stimulating to the fancy, or vaguely
doctrinal in symbol. When they read of seals broken and of vials
poured forth, of the star which was called Wormwood that fell
from Heaven, and of men whose hair was as the hair of women and
their teeth as the teeth of lions, they did not admit for a
moment that these vivid mental pictures were of a poetic
character, but they regarded them as positive statements, in
guarded language, describing events which were to happen, and
could be recognized when they did happen. It was the explanation,
the perfectly prosaic and positive explanation, of all these
wonders which drew them to study the Habershons and the Newtons
whose books they so much enjoyed. They were helped by these
guides to recognize in wild Oriental visions direct statements
regarding Napoleon III and Pope Pius IX and the King of Piedmont,
historic figures which they conceived as foreshadowed, in
language which admitted of plain interpretation, under the names
of denizens of Babylon and companions of the Wild Beast.

My Father was in the habit of saying, in later years, that no
small element in his wedded happiness had been the fact that my
Mother and he were of one mind in the interpretation of Sacred
Prophecy. Looking back, it appears to me that this unusual mental
exercise was almost their only relaxation, and that in their
economy it took the place which is taken, in profaner families,
by cards or the piano. It was a distraction; it took them
completely out of themselves. During those melancholy weeks at
Pimlico, I read aloud another work of the same nature as those of
Habershon and Jukes, the _Horae Apocalypticae_ of a Mr. Elliott.
This was written, I think, in a less disagreeable style, and
certainly it was less opaquely obscure to me. My recollection
distinctly is that when my Mother could endure nothing else, the
arguments of this book took her thoughts away from her pain and
lifted her spirits. Elliott saw 'the queenly arrogance of Popery'
everywhere, and believed that the very last days of Babylon the
Great were came. Lest I say what may be thought extravagant, let
me quote what my Father wrote in his diary at the time of my
Mother's death. He said that the thought that Rome was doomed (as
seemed not impossible in 1857) so affected my Mother that it
'irradiated' her dying hours with an assurance that was like 'the
light of the Morning Star, the harbinger of the rising sun'.

After our return to Islington, there was a complete change in my
relation to my Mother. At Pimlico, I had been all-important, her
only companion, her friend, her confidant. But now that she was
at home again, people and things combined to separate me from
her. Now, and for the first time in my life, I no longer slept in
her room, no longer sank to sleep under her kiss, no longer saw
her mild eyes smile on me with the earliest sunshine. Twice a
day, after breakfast and before I went to rest, I was brought to
her bedside; but we were never alone; other people, sometimes
strange people, were there. We had no cosy talk; often she was
too weak to do more than pat my hand; her loud and almost
constant cough terrified and harassed me. I felt, as I stood,
awkwardly and shyly, by her high bed, that I had shrunken into a
very small and insignificant figure, that she was floating out of
my reach, that all things, but I knew not what nor how, were
corning to an end. She herself was not herself; her head, that
used to be held so erect, now rolled or sank upon the pillow; the
sparkle was all extinguished from those bright, dear eyes. I
could not understand it; I meditated long, long upon it all in my
infantile darkness, in the garret, or in the little slip of a
cold room where my bed was now placed; and a great, blind anger
against I knew not what awakened in my soul.

The two retreats which I have mentioned were now all that were
left to me. In the back-parlour someone from outside gave me
occasional lessons of a desultory character. The breakfast-room
was often haunted by visitors, unknown to me by face or name,--
ladies, who used to pity me and even to pet me, until I became
nimble in escaping from their caresses. Everything seemed to be
unfixed, uncertain; it was like being on the platform of a
railway-station waiting for a train. In all this time, the
agitated, nervous presence of my Father, whose pale face was
permanently drawn with anxiety, added to my perturbation, and I
became miserable, stupid--as if I had lost my way in a cold fog.

Had I been older and more intelligent, of course, it might have
been of him and not of myself that I should have been thinking.
As I now look back upon that tragic time, it is for him that my
heart bleeds,--for them both, so singularly fitted as they were
to support and cheer one another in an existence which their own
innate and cultivated characteristics had made little hospitable
to other sources of comfort. This is not to be dwelt on here. But
what must be recorded was the extraordinary tranquillity, the
serene and sensible resignation, with which at length my parents
faced the awful hour. Language cannot utter what they suffered,
but there was no rebellion, no repining; in their case even an
atheist might admit that the overpowering miracle of grace was
mightily efficient.

It seems almost cruel to the memory of their opinions that the
only words which rise to my mind, the only ones which seem in the
least degree adequate to describe the attitude of my parents, had
fallen from the pen of one whom, in their want of imaginative
sympathy, they had regarded as anathema. But John Henry Newman
might have come from the contemplation of my Mother's death-bed
when he wrote: 'All the trouble which the world inflicts upon us,
and which flesh cannot but feel,--sorrow, pain, care,
bereavement,--these avail not to disturb the tranquillity and the
intensity with which faith gazes at the Divine Majesty.' It was
'tranquillity', it was not the rapture of the mystic. Almost in
the last hour of her life, urged to confess her 'joy' in the
Lord, my Mother, rigidly honest, meticulous in self-analysis, as
ever, replied: 'I have peace, but not _joy_. It would not do to go
into eternity with a lie in my mouth.'

When the very end approached, and her mind was growing clouded,
she gathered her strength together to say to my Father, 'I shall
walk with Him in white. Won't you take your lamb and walk with
me?' Confused with sorrow and alarm, my Father failed to
understand her meaning. She became agitated, and she repeated two
or three times: 'Take our lamb, and walk with me!' Then my Father
comprehended, and pressed me forward; her hand fell softly upon
mine and she seemed content. Thus was my dedication, that had
begun in my cradle, sealed with the most solemn, the most
poignant and irresistible insistence, at the death-bed of the
holiest and purest of women. But what a weight, intolerable as
the burden of Atlas, to lay on the shoulders of a little fragile


CERTAINLY the preceding year, the seventh of my life, had been
weighted for us with comprehensive disaster. I have not yet
mentioned that, at the beginning of my Mother's fatal illness,
misfortune came upon her brothers. I have never known the
particulars of their ruin, but, I believe in consequence of A.'s
unsuccessful speculations, and of the fact that E. had allowed
the use of his name as a surety, both my uncles were obliged to
fly from their creditors, and take refuge in Paris. This happened
just when our need was the sorest, and this, together with the
poignancy of knowing that their sister's devoted labours for them
had been all in vain, added to their unhappiness. It was
doubtless also the reason why, having left England, they wrote to
us no more, carefully concealing from us even their address, so
that when my Mother died, my Father was unable to communicate
with them. I fear that they fell into dire distress; before very
long we learned that A. had died, but it was fifteen years more
before we heard anything of E., whose life had at length been
preserved by the kindness of an old servant, but whose mind was
now so clouded that he could recollect little or nothing of the
past; and soon he also died. Amiable, gentle, without any species
of practical ability, they were quite unfitted to struggle with
the world, which had touched them only to wreck them.

The flight of my uncles at this particular juncture left me
without a relative on my Mother's side at the time of her death.
This isolation threw my Father into a sad perplexity. His only
obvious source of income--but it happened to be a remarkably
hopeful one--was an engagement to deliver a long series of
lectures on marine natural history throughout the north and
centre of England. These lectures were an entire novelty; nothing
like them had been offered to the provincial public before; and
the fact that the newly-invented marine aquarium was the
fashionable toy of the moment added to their attraction. My
Father was bowed down by sorrow and care, but he was not broken.
His intellectual forces were at their height, and so was his
popularity as an author. The lectures were to begin in march; my
Mother was buried on 13 February. It seemed at first, in the
inertia of bereavement, to be all beyond his powers to make the
supreme effort, but the wholesome prick of need urged him on. It
was a question of paying for food and clothes, of keeping a roof
above our heads. The captain of a vessel in a storm must navigate
his ship, although his wife lies dead in the cabin. That was my
Father's position in the spring of 1857; he had to stimulate,
instruct, amuse large audiences of strangers, and seem gay,
although affliction and loneliness had settled in his heart. He
had to do this, or starve.

But the difficulty still remained. During these months what was
to become of me? My Father could not take me with him from hotel
to hotel and from lecture-hall to lecture-hall. Nor could he
leave me, as people leave the domestic cat, in an empty house for
the neighbours to feed at intervals. The dilemma threatened to be
insurmountable, when suddenly there descended upon us a kind, but
little-known, paternal cousin from the west of England, who had
heard of our calamities. This lady had a large family of her own
at Bristol; she offered to find room in it for me so long as ever
my Father should be away in the north; and when my Father,
bewildered by so much goodness, hesitated, she came up to London
and carried me forcibly away in a whirlwind of good-nature. Her
benevolence was quite spontaneous; and I am not sure that she had
not added to it already by helping to nurse our beloved sufferer
through part of her illness. Of that I am not positive, but I
recollect very clearly her snatching me from our cold and
desolate hearthstone, and carrying me off to her cheerful house
at Clifton.

Here, for the first time, when half through my eighth year, I was
thrown into the society of young people. My cousins were none of
them, I believe, any longer children, but they were youths and
maidens busily engaged in various personal interests, all
collected in a hive of wholesome family energy. Everybody was
very kind to me, and I sank back, after the strain of so many
months, into mere childhood again. This long visit to my cousins
at Clifton must have been very delightful; I am dimly aware that
it was--yet I remember but few of its incidents. My memory, so
clear and vivid about earlier solitary times, now in all this
society becomes blurred and vague. I recollect certain pleasures;
being taken, for instance, to a menagerie, and having a practical
joke, in the worst taste, played upon me by the pelican. One of
my cousins, who was a medical student, showed me a pistol, and
helped me to fire it; he smoked a pipe, and I was oddly conscious
that both the firearm and the tobacco were definitely hostile to
my 'dedication'. My girl-cousins took turns in putting me to bed,
and on cold nights, or when they were in a hurry, allowed me to
say my prayer under the bed-clothes instead of kneeling at a
chair. The result of this was further spiritual laxity, because I
could not help going to sleep before the prayer was ended.

The visit to Clifton was, in fact, a blessed interval in my
strenuous childhood. It probably prevented my nerves from
breaking down under the pressure of the previous months. The
Clifton family was God-fearing, in a quiet, sensible way, but
there was a total absence of all the intensity and compulsion of
our religious life at Islington. I was not encouraged--I even
remember that I was gently snubbed--when I rattled forth, parrot-
fashion, the conventional phraseology of 'the saints'. For a
short, enchanting period of respite, I lived the life of an
ordinary little boy, relapsing, to a degree which would have
filled my Father with despair, into childish thoughts and
childish language. The result was that of this little happy
breathing-space I have nothing to report. Vague, half-blind
remembrances of walks, with my tall cousins waving like trees
above me, pleasant noisy evenings in a great room on the ground-
floor, faint silver-points of excursions into the country, all
this is the very pale and shadowy testimony to a brief interval
of healthy, happy child-life, when my hard-driven soul was
allowed to have, for a little while, no history.

The life of a child is so brief, its impressions are so illusory
and fugitive, that it is as difficult to record its history as it
would be to design a morning cloud sailing before the wind. It is
short, as we count shortness in after years, when the drag of
lead pulls down to earth the foot that used to flutter with a
winged impetuosity, and to float with the pulse of Hermes. But in
memory, my childhood was long, long with interminable hours,
hours with the pale cheek pressed against the windowpane, hours
of mechanical and repeated lonely 'games', which had lost their
savour, and were kept going by sheer inertness. Not unhappy, not
fretful, but long,--long, long. It seems to me, as I look back to
the life in the motherless Islington house, as I resumed it in
that slow eighth year of my life, that time had ceased to move.
There was a whole age between one tick of the eight-day clock in
the hall, and the next tick. When the milkman went his rounds in
our grey street, with his eldritch scream over the top of each
set of area railings, it seemed as though he would never
disappear again. There was no past and no future for me, and the
present felt as though it were sealed up in a Leyden jar. Even my
dreams were interminable, and hung stationary from the nightly

At this time, the street was my theatre, and I spent long
periods, as I have said, leaning against the window. I feel now
that coldness of the pane, and the feverish heat that was
produced, by contrast, in the orbit round the eye. Now and then
amusing things happened. The onion-man was a joy long waited for.
This worthy was a tall and bony Jersey Protestant with a raucous
voice, who strode up our street several times a week, carrying a
yoke across his shoulders, from the ends of which hung ropes of
onions. He used to shout, at abrupt intervals, in a tone which
might wake the dead:

    Here's your rope . . . .
    To hang the Pope . . . .
  And a penn'orth of cheese to choke him.

The cheese appeared to be legendary; he sold only onions. My
Father did not eat onions, but he encouraged this terrible
fellow, with his wild eyes and long strips of hair, because of
his godly attitude towards the 'Papacy', and I used to watch him
dart out of the front door, present his penny, and retire,
graciously waving back the proffered onion. On the other hand, my
Father did not approve of a fat sailor, who was a constant
passer-by. This man, who was probably crazed, used to wall very
slowly up the centre of our street, vociferating with the voice
of a bull,

  Wa-a-atch and pray-hay!
  Night and day-hay!

This melancholy admonition was the entire business of his life.
He did nothing at all but walk up and down the streets of
Islington exhorting the inhabitants to watch and pray. I do not
recollect that this sailor-man stopped to collect pennies, and my
impression is that he was, after his fashion, a volunteer

The tragedy of Mr. Punch was another, and a still greater
delight. I was never allowed to go out into the street to mingle
with the little crowd which gathered under the stage, and as I
was extremely near-sighted, the impression I received was vague.
But when, by happy chance, the show stopped opposite our door, I
saw enough of that ancient drama to be thrilled with terror and
delight. I was much affected by the internal troubles of the
Punch family; I thought that with a little more tact on the part
of Mrs. Punch and some restraint held over a temper, naturally
violent, by Mr. Punch, a great deal of this sad misunderstanding
might have been prevented.

The momentous close, when a figure of shapeless horror appears on
the stage, and quells the hitherto undaunted Mr. Punch, was to me
the bouquet of the entire performance. When Mr. Punch, losing his
nerve, points to this shape and says in an awestruck, squeaking
whisper, 'Who's that? Is it the butcher?' and the stern answer
comes, 'No, Mr. Punch!' And then, 'Is it the baker?' 'No, Mr.
Punch!' 'Who is it then?' (this in a squeak trembling with emotion
and terror); and then the full, loud reply, booming like a
judgement-bell, 'It is the Devil come to take you down to Hell,'
and the form of Punch, with kicking legs, sunken in epilepsy on
the floor,--all this was solemn and exquisite to me beyond
words. I was not amused--I was deeply moved and exhilarated,
'purged', as the old phrase hath it, 'with pity and terror'.

Another joy, in a lighter key, was watching a fantastic old man
who came slowly up the street, hung about with drums and flutes
and kites and coloured balls, and bearing over his shoulders a
great sack. Children and servant-girls used to bolt up out of
areas, and chaffer with this gaudy person, who would presently
trudge on, always repeating the same set of words--

    Here's your toys
    For girls and boys,
    For bits of brass
    And broken glass,
  (these four lines being spoken in a breathless hurry)
    A penny or a vial-bottell . . . .
  (this being drawled out in an endless wail).

I was not permitted to go forth and trade with this old person,
but sometimes our servant-maid did, thereby making me feel that
if I did not hold the rose of merchandise, I was very near it. My
experiences with my cousins at Clifton had given me the habit of
looking out into the world--even though it was only into the
pale world of our quiet street.

My Father and I were now great friends. I do not doubt that he
felt his responsibility to fill as far as might be the gap which
the death of my Mother had made in my existence. I spent a large
portion of my time in his study while he was writing or drawing,
and though very little conversation passed between us, I think
that each enjoyed the companionship of the other. There were two,
and sometimes three aquaria in the room, tanks of sea-water, with
glass sides, inside which all sorts of creatures crawled and
swam; these were sources of endless pleasure to me, and at this
time began to be laid upon me the occasional task of watching and
afterwards reporting the habits of animals.

At other times, I dragged a folio volume of the _Penny Cyclopaedia_
up to the study with me, and sat there reading successive
articles on such subjects as Parrots, Parthians, Passion-flowers,
Passover and Pastry, without any invidious preferences, all
information being equally welcome, and equally fugitive. That
something of all this loose stream of knowledge clung to odd
cells of the back of my brain seems to be shown by the fact that
to this day, I occasionally find myself aware of some stray
useless fact about peonies or pemmican or pepper, which I can
only trace back to the _Penny Cyclopaedia_ of my infancy.

It will be asked what the attitude of my Father's mind was to me,
and of mine to his, as regards religion, at this time, when we
were thrown together alone so much. It is difficult to reply with
exactitude. But so far as the former is concerned, I thinly that
the extreme violence of the spiritual emotions to which my Father
had been subjected, had now been followed by a certain reaction.
He had not changed his views in any respect, and he was prepared
to work out the results of them with greater zeal than ever, but
just at present his religious nature, like his physical nature,
was tired out with anxiety and sorrow. He accepted the
supposition that I was entirely with him in all respects, so far,
that is to say, as a being so rudimentary and feeble as a little
child could be. My Mother, in her last hours, had dwelt on our
unity in God; we were drawn together, she said, elect from the
world, in a triplicity of faith and joy. She had constantly
repeated the words: 'We shall be one family, one song. One song!
one family!' My Father, I think, accepted this as a prophecy, he
felt no doubt of our triple unity; my Mother had now merely
passed before us, through a door, into a world of light, where we
should presently join her, where all things would be radiant and
blissful, but where we three would, in some unknown way, be
particularly drawn together in a tie of inexpressible beatitude.
He fretted at the delay; he would have taken me by the hand, and
have joined her in the realms of holiness and light, at once,
without this dreary dalliance with earthly cares.

He held this confidence and vision steadily before him, but
nothing availed against the melancholy of his natural state. He
was conscious of his dull and solitary condition, and he saw,
too, that it enveloped me. I think his heart was, at this time,
drawn out towards me in an immense tenderness. Sometimes, when
the early twilight descended upon us in the study, and he could
no longer peer with advantage into the depths of his microscope,
he would beckon me to him silently, and fold me closely in his
arms. I used to turn my face up to his, patiently and
wonderingly, while the large, unwilling tears gathered in the
corners of his eyelids. My training had given me a preternatural
faculty of stillness, and we would stay so, without a word or a
movement, until the darkness filled the room. And then, with my
little hand in his, we would walk sedately downstairs to the
parlour, where we would find that the lamp was lighted, and that
our melancholy vigil was ended. I do not think that at any part
of our lives my Father and I were drawn so close to one another
as we were in that summer of 1857. Yet we seldom spoke of what
lay so warm and fragrant between us, the flower-like thought of
our Departed.

The visit to my cousins had made one considerable change in me.
Under the old solitary discipline, my intelligence had grown at
the expense of my sentiment. I was innocent, but inhuman. The
long suffering and the death of my Mother had awakened my heart,
had taught me what pain was, but had left me savage and morose. I
had still no idea of the relations of human beings to one
another; I had learned no word of that philosophy which comes to
the children of the poor in the struggle of the street and to the
children of the well-to-do in the clash of the nursery. In other
words, I had no humanity; I had been carefully shielded from the
chance of 'catching' it, as though it were the most dangerous of
microbes. But now that I had enjoyed a little of the common
experience of childhood, a great change had come upon me. Before
I went to Clifton, my mental life was all interior, a rack of
baseless dream upon dream. But, now, I was eager to look out of
the window, to go out in the streets; I was taken with a
curiosity about human life. Even from my vantage of the window-
pane, I watched boys and girls go by with an interest which began
to be almost wistful.

Still I continued to have no young companions. But on summer
evenings I used to drag my Father out, taking the initiative
myself, stamping in playful impatience at his irresolution,
fetching his hat and stick, and waiting. We used to sally forth
at last together, hand in hand, descending the Caledonian Road,
with all its shops, as far as Mother Shipton, or else winding
among the semi-genteel squares and terraces westward by
Copenhagen Street, or, best of all, mounting to the Regent's
Canal, where we paused to lean over the bridge and watch
flotillas of ducks steer under us, or little white dogs dash,
impotently furious, from stem to stern of the great, lazy barges
painted in a crude vehemence of vermilion and azure. These were
happy hours, when the spectre of Religion ceased to overshadow us
for a little while, when my Father forgot the Apocalypse and
dropped his austere phraseology, and when our bass and treble
voices used to ring out together over some foolish little jest or
some mirthful recollection of his past experiences. Little soft
oases these, in the hard desert of our sandy spiritual life at

There was an unbending, too, when we used to sing together, in my
case very tunelessly. I had inherited a plentiful lack of musical
genius from my Mother, who had neither ear nor voice, and who had
said, in the course of her last illness, 'I shall sing His
praise, _at length_, in strains I never could master here below'.
My Father, on the other hand, had some knowledge of the
principles of vocal music, although not, I am afraid, much taste.
He had at least great fondness for singing hymns, in the manner
then popular with the Evangelicals, very loudly, and so slowly
that I used to count how many words I could read silently,
between one syllable of the singing and another. My lack of skill
did not prevent me from being zealous at these vocal exercises,
and my Father and I used to sing lustily together. The Wesleys,
Charlotte Elliott ('Just as I am, without one plea'), and James
Montgomery ('Forever with the Lord') represented his predilection
in hymnology. I acquiesced, although that would not have been my
independent choice. These represented the devotional verse which
made its direct appeal to the evangelical mind, and served in
those 'Puseyite' days to counteract the High Church poetry
founded on 'The Christian Year'. Of that famous volume I never met
with a copy until I was grown up, and equally unknown in our
circle were the hymns of Newman, Faber and Neale.

It was my Father's plan from the first to keep me entirely
ignorant of the poetry of the High Church, which deeply offended
his Calvinism; he thought that religious truth could be sucked
in, like mother's milk, from hymns which were godly and sound,
and yet correctly versified; and I was therefore carefully
trained in this direction from an early date. But my spirit had
rebelled against some of these hymns, especially against those
written--a mighty multitude--by Horatius Bonar; naughtily
refusing to read Bonar's 'I heard the voice of Jesus say' to my
Mother in our Pimlico lodgings. A secret hostility to this
particular form of effusion was already, at the age of seven,
beginning to define itself in my brain, side by side with an
unctuous infantile conformity.

I find a difficulty in recalling the precise nature of the
religious instruction which my Father gave me at this time. It
was incessant, and it was founded on the close inspection of the
Bible, particularly of the epistles of the New Testament. This
summer, as my eighth year advanced, we read the 'Epistle to the
Hebrews', with very great deliberation, stopping every moment,
that my Father might expound it, verse by verse. The
extraordinary beauty of the language--for instance, the matchless
cadences and images of the first chapter--made a certain
impression upon my imagination, and were (I think) my earliest
initiation into the magic of literature. I was incapable of
defining what I felt, but I certainly had a grip in the throat,
which was in its essence a purely aesthetic emotion, when my
Father read, in his pure, large, ringing voice, such passages as
'The heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish, but
Thou remainest, and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and
as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed;
but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.' But the
dialectic parts of the Epistle puzzled and confused me. Such
metaphysical ideas as 'laying again the foundation of repentance
from dead works' and 'crucifying the Son of God afresh' were not
successfully brought down to the level of my understanding.

My Father's religious teaching to me was almost exclusively
doctrinal. He did not observe the value of negative education,
that is to say, of leaving Nature alone to fill up the gaps which
it is her design to deal with at a later and riper date. He did
not, even, satisfy himself with those moral injunctions which
should form the basis of infantile discipline. He was in a
tremendous hurry to push on my spiritual growth, and he fed me
with theological meat which it was impossible for me to digest.
Some glimmer of a suspicion that he was sailing on the wrong tack
must, I should suppose, have broken in upon him when we had
reached the eighth and ninth chapters of Hebrews, where,
addressing readers who had been brought up under the Jewish
dispensation, and had the formalities of the Law of Moses in
their very blood, the apostle battles with their dangerous
conservatism. It is a very noble piece of spiritual casuistry,
but it is signally unfitted for the comprehension of a child.
Suddenly by my flushing up with anger and saying, 'Oh how I do
hate that Law,' my Father perceived, and paused in amazement to
perceive, that I took the Law to be a person of malignant temper
from whose cruel bondage, and from whose intolerable tyranny and
unfairness, some excellent person was crying out to be delivered.
I wished to hit Law with my fist, for being so mean and

Upon this, of course, it was necessary to reopen the whole line
of exposition. My Father, without realizing it, had been talking
on his own level, not on mine, and now he condescended to me. But
without very great success. The melodious language, the divine
forensic audacities, the magnificent ebb and flow of argument
which make the 'Epistle to the Hebrews' such a miracle, were far
and away beyond my reach, and they only bewildered me. Some
evangelical children of my generation, I understand, were brought
up on a work called 'Line upon Line: Here a Little, and there a
Little'. My Father's ambition would not submit to anything
suggested by such a title as that, and he committed, from his own
point of view, a fatal mistake when he sought to build spires and
battlements without having been at the pains to settle a
foundation beneath them.

We were not always reading the 'Epistle to the Hebrews', however;
not always was my flesh being made to creep by having it insisted
upon that 'almost all things are by the Law purged with blood,
and without blood is no remission of sin'. In our lighter moods,
we turned to the 'Book of Revelation', and chased the phantom of
Popery through its fuliginous pages. My Father, I think, missed
my Mother's company almost more acutely in his researches into
prophecy than in anything else. This had been their unceasing
recreation, and no third person could possibly follow the curious
path which they had hewn for themselves through this jungle of
symbols. But, more and more, my Father persuaded himself that I,
too, was initiated, and by degrees I was made to share in all
his speculations and interpretations.

Hand in hand we investigated the number of the Beast, which
number is six hundred three score and six. Hand in hand we
inspected the nations, to see whether they had the mark of
Babylon in their foreheads. Hand in hand we watched the spirits
of devils gathering the kings of the earth into the place which
is called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. Our unity in these
excursions was so delightful, that my Father was lulled in any
suspicion he might have formed that I did not quite understand
what it was all about. Nor could he have desired a pupil more
docile or more ardent than I was in my flaming denunciations of
the Papacy.

If there was one institution more than another which, at this
early stage of my history, I loathed and feared, it was what we
invariably spoke of as 'the so-called Church of Rome'. In later
years, I have met with stout Protestants, gallant 'Down-with-the-
Pope' men from County Antrim, and ladies who see the hand of the
Jesuits in every public and private misfortune. It is the habit
of a loose and indifferent age to consider this dwindling body of
enthusiasts with suspicion, and to regard their attitude towards
Rome as illiberal. But my own feeling is that they are all too
mild, that their denunciations err on the side of the anodyne. I
have no longer the slightest wish myself to denounce the Roman
communion, but, if it is to be done, I have an idea that the
latter-day Protestants do not know how to do it. In Lord
Chesterfield's phrase, these anti-Pope men 'don't understand
their own silly business'. They make concessions and allowances,
they put on gloves to touch the accursed thing.

Not thus did we approach the Scarlet Woman in the 'fifties. We
palliated nothing, we believed in no good intentions, we used (I
myself used, in my tender innocency) language of the seventeenth
century such as is now no longer introduced into any species of
controversy. As a little boy, when I thought, with intense
vagueness, of the Pope, I used to shut my eyes tight and clench
my fists. We welcomed any social disorder in any part of Italy,
as likely to be annoying to the Papacy. If there was a custom-
house officer stabbed in a fracas at Sassari, we gave loud thanks
that liberty and light were breaking in upon Sardinia. If there
was an unsuccessful attempt to murder the Grand Duke, we lifted
up our voices to celebrate the faith and sufferings of the dear
persecuted Tuscans, and the record of some apocryphal monstrosity
in Naples would only reveal to us a glorious opening for Gospel
energy. My Father celebrated the announcement in the newspapers
of a considerable emigration from the Papal Dominions by
rejoicing at 'this outcrowding of many, throughout the harlot's
domain, from her sins and her plagues'.

No, the Protestant League may consider itself to be an earnest
and active body, but I can never look upon its efforts as
anything but lukewarm, standing, as I do, with the light of other
days around me. As a child, whatever I might question, I never
doubted the turpitude of Rome. I do not think I had formed any
idea whatever of the character or pretensions or practices of the
Catholic Church, or indeed of what it consisted, or its nature;
but I regarded it with a vague terror as a wild beast, the only
good point about it being that it was very old and was soon to
die. When I turned to Jukes or Newton for further detail, I could
not understand what they said. Perhaps, on the whole, there was
no disadvantage in that.

It is possible that someone may have observed to my Father that
the conditions of our life were unfavourable to our health,
although I hardly think that he would have encouraged any such
advice. As I look back upon this far-away time, I am surprised at
the absence in it of any figures but our own. He and I together,
now in the study among the sea-anemones and starfishes; now on
the canal-bridge, looking down at the ducks; now at our hard
little meals, served up as those of a dreamy widower are likely
to be when one maid-of-all-work provides them, now under the lamp
at the maps we both loved so much, this is what I see--no third
presence is ever with us. Whether it occurred to himself that
such a solitude _a deux_ was excellent, in the long run, for
neither of us, or whether any chance visitor or one of the
'Saints', who used to see me at the Room every Sunday morning,
suggested that a female influence might put a little rose-colour
into my pasty cheeks, I know not. All I am sure of is that one
day, towards the close of the summer, as I was gazing into the
street, I saw a four-wheeled cab stop outside our door, and
deposit, with several packages, a strange lady, who was shown up
into my Father's study and was presently brought down and
introduced to me.

Miss Marks, as I shall take the liberty of calling this person,
was so long a part of my life that I must pause to describe her.
She was tall, rather gaunt, with high cheek-bones; her teeth were
prominent and very white; her eyes were china-blue, and were
always absolutely fixed, wide open, on the person she spoke to;
her nose was inclined to be red at the tip. She had a kind,
hearty, sharp mode of talking, but did not exercise it much,
being on the whole taciturn. She was bustling and nervous, not
particularly refined, not quite, I imagine, what is called 'a
lady'. I supposed her, if I thought of the matter at all, to be
very old, but perhaps she may have been, when we knew her first,
some forty-five summers. Miss Marks was an orphan, depending upon
her work for her living; she would not, in these days of
examinations, have come up to the necessary educational
standards, but she had enjoyed experience in teaching, and was
prepared to be a conscientious and careful governess, up to her
lights. I was now informed by my Father that it was in this
capacity that she would in future take her place in our
household. I was not informed, what I gradually learned by
observation, that she would also act in it as housekeeper.

Miss Marks was a somewhat grotesque personage, and might easily
be painted as a kind of eccentric Dickens character, a mixture of
Mrs. Pipchin and Miss Sally Brass. I will confess that when, in
years to come, I read 'Dombey and Son', certain features of Mrs.
Pipchin did irresistibly remind me of my excellent past
governess. I can imagine Miss Marks saying, but with a facetious
intent, that children who sniffed would not go to heaven. But I
was instantly ashamed of the parallel, because my gaunt old
friend was a thoroughly good and honest woman, not intelligent
and not graceful, but desirous in every way to do her duty. Her
duty to me she certainly did, and I am afraid I hardly rewarded
her with the devotion she deserved. From the first, I was
indifferent to her wishes, and, as much as was convenient, I
ignored her existence. She held no power over my attention, and
if I accepted her guidance along the path of instruction, it was
because, odd as it may sound, I really loved knowledge. I
accepted her company without objection, and though there were
occasional outbreaks of tantrums on both sides, we got on very
well together for several years. I did not, however, at any time
surrender my inward will to the wishes of Miss Marks.

In the circle of our life the religious element took so
preponderating a place, that it is impossible to avoid
mentioning, what might otherwise seem unimportant, the
theological views of Miss Marks. How my Father had discovered
her, or from what field of educational enterprise he plucked her
in her prime, I never knew, but she used to mention that my
Father's ministrations had 'opened her eyes', from which 'scales'
had fallen. She had accepted, on their presentation to her, the
entire gamut of his principles. Miss Marks was accustomed, while
putting me to bed, to dwell darkly on the incidents of her past,
which had, I fear, been an afflicted one. I believe I do her
rather limited intelligence no injury when I say that it was
prepared to swallow, at one mouthful, whatever my Father
presented to it, so delighted was its way-worn possessor to find
herself in a comfortable, or, at least, an independent position.
She soon bowed, if there was indeed any resistance from the
first, very contentedly in the House of Rimmon, learning to
repeat, with marked fluency, the customary formulas and
shibboleths. On my own religious development she had no great
influence. Any such guttering theological rushlight as Miss Marks
might dutifully exhibit faded for me in the blaze of my Father's
glaring beacon-lamp of faith.

Hardly was Miss Marks settled in the family, than my Father left
us on an expedition about which my curiosity was exercised, but
not until later, satisfied. He had gone, as we afterwards found,
to South Devon, to a point on the coast which he had known of
old. Here he had hired a horse, and had ridden about until he saw
a spot he liked, where a villa was being built on speculation.
Nothing equals the courage of these recluse men; my Father got
off his horse, and tied it to the gate, and then he went in and
bought the house on a ninety-nine years' lease. I need hardly say
that he had made the matter a subject of the most earnest prayer,
and had entreated the Lord for guidance. When he felt attracted
to this particular villa, he did not doubt that he was directed
to it in answer to his supplication, and he wasted no time in
further balancing or inquiring. On my eighth birthday, with bag
and baggage complete, we all made the toilful journey down into
Devonshire, and I was a town-child no longer.


A NEW element now entered into my life, a fresh rival arose to
compete for me with my Father's dogmatic theology. This rival was
the Sea. When Wordsworth was a little child, the presence of the
mountains and the clouds lighted up his spirit with gleams that
were like the flashing of a shield. He has described, in the
marvellous pages of the 'Prelude', the impact of nature upon the
infant soul, but he has described it vaguely and faintly, with
some 'infirmity of love for days disowned by memory',--I think
because he was brought up in the midst of spectacular beauty, and
could name no moment, mark no 'here' or 'now', when the wonder
broke upon him. It was at the age of twice five summers, he
thought, that he began to hold unconscious intercourse with
nature, 'drinking in a pure organic pleasure' from the floating
mists and winding waters. Perhaps, in his anxiety to be truthful,
and in the absence of any record, he put the date of this
conscious rapture too late rather than too early. Certainly my
own impregnation with the obscurely-defined but keenly-felt
loveliness of the open sea dates from the first week of my ninth

The village, on the outskirts of which we had taken up our abode,
was built parallel to the cliff line above the shore, but half a
mile inland. For a long time after the date I have now reached,
no other form of natural scenery than the sea had any effect upon
me at all. The tors of the distant moor might be drawn in deep
blue against the pallor of our morning or our evening sky, but I
never looked at them. It was the Sea, always the sea, nothing but
the sea. From our house, or from the field at the back of our
house, or from any part of the village itself, there was no
appearance to suggest that there could lie anything in an
easterly direction to break the infinitude of red ploughed
fields. But on that earliest morning, how my heart remembers we
hastened,--Miss Marks, the maid, and I between them, along a
couple of high-walled lanes, when suddenly, far below us, in an
immense arc of light, there stretched the enormous plain of
waters. We had but to cross a step or two of downs, when the
hollow sides of the great limestone cove yawned at our feet,
descending, like a broken cup, down, down to the moon of snow-
white shingle and the expanse of blue-green sea.

In these twentieth-century days, a careful municipality has
studded the down with rustic seats and has shut its dangers out
with railings, has cut a winding carriage-drive round the curves
of the cove down to the shore, and has planted sausage-laurels at
intervals in clearings made for that aesthetic purpose. When last
I saw the place, thus smartened and secured, with its hair in
curl-papers and its feet in patent-leathers, I turned from it in
anger and disgust, and could almost have wept. I suppose that to
those who knew it in no other guise, it may still have beauty. No
parish councils, beneficent and shrewd, can obscure the lustre of
the waters or compress the vastness of the sky. But what man
could do to make wild beauty ineffectual, tame and empty, has
amply been performed at Oddicombe.

Very different was it fifty years ago, in its uncouth majesty. No
road, save the merest goat-path, led down its concave wilderness,
in which loose furze-bushes and untrimmed brambles wantoned into
the likeness of trees, each draped in audacious tissue of wild
clematis. Through this fantastic maze the traveller wound his
way, led by little other clue than by the instinct of descent.
For me, as a child, it meant the labour of a long, an endless
morning, to descend to the snow-white pebbles, to sport at the
edge of the cold, sharp sea, and then to climb up home again,
slipping in the sticky red mud, clutching at the smooth boughs of
the wild ash, toiling, toiling upwards into flat land out of that
hollow world of rocks.

On the first occasion I recollect, our Cockney housemaid,
enthusiastic young creature that she was, flung herself down upon
her knees, and drank of the salt waters. Miss Marks, more
instructed in phenomena, refrained, but I, although I was
perfectly aware what the taste would be, insisted on sipping a
few drops from the palm of my hand. This was a slight recurrence
of what I have called my 'natural magic' practices, which had
passed into the background of my mind, but had not quite
disappeared. I recollect that I thought I might secure some power
of walking on the sea, if I drank of it--a perfectly irrational
movement of mind, like those of savages.

My great desire was to walk out over the sea as far as I could,
and then lie flat on it, face downwards, and peer into the
depths. I was tormented with this ambition, and, like many grown-
up people, was so fully occupied by these vain and ridiculous
desires that I neglected the actual natural pleasures around me.
The idea was not quite so demented as it may seem, because we
were in the habit of singing, as well as reading, of those
enraptured beings who spend their days in 'flinging down their
golden crowns upon the jasper sea'. Why, I argued, should I not
be able to fling down my straw hat upon the tides of Oddicombe?
And, without question, a majestic scene upon the Lake of
Gennesaret had also inflamed my fancy. Of all these things, of
course, I was careful to speak to no one.

It was not with Miss Marks, however, but with my Father, that I
became accustomed to make the laborious and exquisite journeys
down to the sea and back again. His work as a naturalist
eventually took him, laden with implements, to the rock-pools on
the shore, and I was in attendance as an acolyte. But our
earliest winter in South Devon was darkened for us both by
disappointments, the cause of which lay, at the time, far out of
my reach. In the spirit of my Father were then running, with
furious velocity, two hostile streams of influence. I was
standing, just now, thinking of these things, where the Cascine
ends in the wooded point which is carved out sharply by the lion-
coloured swirl of the Arno on the one side and by the pure flow
of the Mugnone on the other. The rivers meet, and run parallel,
but there comes a moment when the one or the other must conquer,
and it is the yellow vehemence that drowns the purer tide.

So, through my Father's brain, in that year of scientific crisis,
1857, there rushed two kinds of thought, each absorbing, each
convincing, yet totally irreconcilable. There is a peculiar agony
in the paradox that truth has two forms, each of them
indisputable, yet each antagonistic to the other. It was this
discovery, that there were two theories of physical life, each of
which was true, but the truth of each incompatible with the truth
of the other, which shook the spirit of my Father with
perturbation. It was not, really, a paradox, it was a fallacy, if
he could only have known it, but he allowed the turbid volume of
superstition to drown the delicate stream of reason. He took one
step in the service of truth, and then he drew back in an agony,
and accepted the servitude of error.

This was the great moment in the history of thought when the
theory of the mutability of species was preparing to throw a
flood of light upon all departments of human speculation and
action. It was becoming necessary to stand emphatically in one
army or the other. Lyell was surrounding himself with disciples,
who were making strides in the direction of discovery. Darwin had
long been collecting facts with regard to the variation of
animals and plants. Hooker and Wallace, Asa Gray and even
Agassiz, each in his own sphere, were coming closer and closer to
a perception of that secret which was first to reveal itself
clearly to the patient and humble genius of Darwin. In the year
before, in 1856, Darwin, under pressure from Lyell, had begun
that modest statement of the new revelation, that 'abstract of an
essay', which developed so mightily into 'The Origin of Species'.
Wollaston's 'Variation of Species' had just appeared, and had
been a nine days' wonder in the wilderness.

On the other side, the reactionaries, although never dreaming of
the fate which hung over them, had not been idle. In 1857 the
astounding question had for the first time been propounded with
contumely, 'What, then, did we come from an orang-outang?' The
famous 'Vestiges of Creation' had been supplying a sugar-and-
water panacea for those who could not escape from the trend of
evidence, and who yet clung to revelation. Owen was encouraging
reaction by resisting, with all the strength of his prestige, the
theory of the mutability of species.

In this period of intellectual ferment, as when a great political
revolution is being planned, many possible adherents were
confidentially tested with hints and encouraged to reveal their
bias in a whisper. It was the notion of Lyell, himself a great
mover of men, that, before the doctrine of natural selection was
given to a world which would be sure to lift up at it a howl of
execration, a certain bodyguard of sound and experienced
naturalists, expert in the description of species, should be
privately made aware of its tenor. Among those who were thus
initiated, or approached with a view towards possible
illumination, was my Father. He was spoken to by Hooker, and
later on by Darwin, after meetings of the Royal Society in the
summer of 1857.

My Father's attitude towards the theory of natural selection was
critical in his career, and oddly enough, it exercised an immense
influence on my own experience as a child. Let it be admitted at
once, mournful as the admission is, that every instinct in his
intelligence went out at first to greet the new light. It had
hardly done so, when a recollection of the opening chapter of
'Genesis' checked it at the outset. He consulted with Carpenter, a
great investigator, but one who was fully as incapable as himself
of remodelling his ideas with regard to the old, accepted
hypotheses. They both determined, on various grounds, to have
nothing to do with the terrible theory, but to hold steadily to
the law of the fixity of species. It was exactly at this juncture
that we left London, and the slight and occasional but always
extremely salutary personal intercourse with men of scientific
leading which my Father had enjoyed at the British Museum and at
the Royal Society came to an end. His next act was to burn his
ships down to the last beam and log out of which a raft could
have been made. By a strange act of wilfulness, he closed the
doors upon himself forever.

My Father had never admired Sir Charles Lyell. I think that the
famous 'Lord Chancellor manner' of the geologist intimidated him,
and we undervalue the intelligence of those whose conversation
puts us at a disadvantage. For Darwin and Hooker, on the other
hand, he had a profound esteem, and I know not whether this had
anything to do with the fact that he chose, for his impetuous
experiment in reaction, the field of geology, rather than that of
zoology or botany. Lyell had been threatening to publish a book
on the geological history of Man, which was to be a bombshell
flung into the camp of the catastrophists. My Father, after long
reflection, prepared a theory of his own, which, as he fondly
hoped, would take the wind out of Lyell's sails, and justify
geology to godly readers of 'Genesis'. It was, very briefly, that
there had been no gradual modification of the surface of the
earth, or slow development of organic forms, but that when the
catastrophic act of creation took place, the world presented,
instantly, the structural appearance of a planet on which life
had long existed.

The theory, coarsely enough, and to my Father's great
indignation, was defined by a hasty press as being this--that God
hid the fossils in the rocks in order to tempt geologists into
infidelity. In truth, it was the logical and inevitable
conclusion of accepting, literally, the doctrine of a sudden act
of creation; it emphasized the fact that any breach in the
circular course of nature could be conceived only on the
supposition that the object created bore false witness to past
processes, which had never taken place. For instance, Adam would
certainly possess hair and teeth and bones in a condition which
it must have taken many years to accomplish, yet he was created
full-grown yesterday. He would certainly--though Sir Thomas
Browne denied it--display an 'omphalos', yet no umbilical cord
had ever attached him to a mother.

Never was a book cast upon the waters with greater anticipations
of success than was this curious, this obstinate, this fanatical
volume. My Father lived in a fever of suspense, waiting for the
tremendous issue. This 'Omphalos' of his, he thought, was to
bring all the turmoil of scientific speculation to a close, fling
geology into the arms of Scripture, and make the lion eat grass
with the lamb. It was not surprising, he admitted, that there had
been experienced an ever-increasing discord between the facts
which geology brings to light and the direct statements of the
early chapters of 'Genesis'. Nobody was to blame for that. My
Father, and my Father alone, possessed the secret of the enigma;
he alone held the key which could smoothly open the lock of
geological mystery. He offered it, with a glowing gesture, to
atheists and Christians alike. This was to be the universal
panacea; this the system of intellectual therapeutics which could
not but heal all the maladies of the age. But, alas! atheists and
Christians alike looked at it, and laughed, and threw it away.

In the course of that dismal winter, as the post began to bring
in private letters, few and chilly, and public reviews, many and
scornful, my Father looked in vain for the approval of the
churches, and in vain for the acquiescence of the scientific
societies, and in vain for the gratitude of those 'thousands of
thinking persons', which he had rashly assured himself of
receiving. As his reconciliation of Scripture statements and
geological deductions was welcomed nowhere, as Darwin continued
silent, and the youthful Huxley was scornful, and even Charles
Kingsley, from whom my Father had expected the most instant
appreciation, wrote that he could not 'give up the painful and
slow conclusion of five and twenty years' study of geology, and
believe that God has written on the rocks one enormous and
superfluous lie',--as all this happened or failed to happen, a
gloom, cold and dismal, descended upon our morning teacups. It
was what the poets mean by an 'inspissated' gloom; it thickened
day by day, as hope and self-confidence evaporated in thin clouds
of disappointment. My Father was not prepared for such a fate. He
had been the spoiled darling of the public, the constant
favourite of the press, and now, like the dark angels of old,

            so huge a rout
  Encumbered him with ruin.

He could not recover from amazement at having offended everybody
by an enterprise which had been undertaken in the cause of
universal reconciliation.

During that grim season, my Father was no lively companion, and
circumstance after circumstance combined to drive him further
from humanity. He missed more than ever the sympathetic ear of my
Mother; there was present to support him nothing of that artful,
female casuistry which insinuates into the wounded consciousness
of a man the conviction that, after all, he is right and all the
rest of the world is wrong. My Father used to tramp in solitude
around and around the red ploughed field which was going to be
his lawn, or sheltering himself from the thin Devonian rain, pace
up and down the still-naked verandah where blossoming creepers
were to be. And I think that there was added to his chagrin with
all his fellow mortals a first tincture of that heresy which was
to attack him later on. It was now that, I fancy, he began, in
his depression, to be angry with God. How much devotion had he
given, how many sacrifices had he made, only to be left storming
around this red morass with no one in all the world to care for
him except one pale-faced child with its cheek pressed to the

After one or two brilliant excursions to the sea, winter, in its
dampest, muddiest, most languid form, had fallen upon us and shut
us in. It was a dreary winter for the wifeless man and the
motherless boy. We had come into the house, in precipitate
abandonment to that supposed answer to prayer, a great deal too
soon. In order to rake together the lump sum for buying it, my
Father had denuded himself of almost everything, and our sticks
of chairs and tables filled but two or three rooms. Half the
little house, or 'villa' as we called it, was not papered, two-
thirds were not furnished. The workmen were still finishing the
outside when we arrived, and in that connection I recall a little
incident which exhibits my Father's morbid delicacy of
conscience. He was accustomed in his brighter moments--and this
was before the publication of his 'Omphalos'--occasionally to
sing loud Dorsetshire songs of his early days, in a strange,
broad Wessex lingo that I loved. One October afternoon he and I
were sitting on the verandah, and my Father was singing; just
around the corner, out of sight, two carpenters were putting up
the framework of a greenhouse. In a pause, one of them said to
his fellow: 'He can zing a zong, zo well's another, though he be
a minister.' My Father, who was holding my hand loosely, clutched
it, and looking up, I saw his eyes darken. He never sang a
secular song again during the whole of his life.

Later in the year, and after his literary misfortune, his
conscience became more troublesome than ever. I think he
considered the failure of his attempt at the reconciliation of
science with religion to have been intended by God as a
punishment for something he had done or left undone. In those
brooding tramps around and around the garden, his soul was on its
knees searching the corners of his conscience for some sin of
omission or commission, and one by one every pleasure, every
recreation, every trifle scraped out of the dust of past
experience, was magnified into a huge offence. He thought that
the smallest evidence of levity, the least unbending to human
instinct, might be seized by those around him as evidence of
inconsistency, and might lead the weaker brethren into offence.
The incident of the carpenters and the comic song is typical of a
condition of mind which now possessed my Father, in which act
after act became taboo, not because each was sinful in itself,
but because it might lead others into sin.

I have the conviction that Miss Marks was now mightily afraid of
my Father. Whenever she could, she withdrew to the room she
called her 'boudoir', a small, chilly apartment, sparsely
furnished, looking over what was in process of becoming the
vegetable garden. Very properly, that she might have some
sanctuary, Miss Marks forbade me to enter this virginal bower,
which, of course, became to me an object of harrowing curiosity.
Through the key-hole I could see practically nothing; one day I
contrived to slip inside, and discovered that there was nothing
to see but a plain bedstead and a toilet-table, void of all
attraction. In this 'boudoir', on winter afternoons, a fire would
be lighted, and Miss Marks would withdraw to it, not seen by us
anymore between high-tea and the apocalyptic exercise known as
'worship'--in less strenuous households much less austerely
practised under the name of 'family prayers'. Left meanwhile to
our own devices, my Father would mainly be reading his book or
paper held close up to the candle, while his lips and heavy
eyebrows occasionally quivered and palpitated, with literary
ardour, in a manner strangely exciting to me. Miss Marks, in a
very high cap, and her large teeth shining, would occasionally
appear in the doorway, desiring, with spurious geniality, to know
how we were 'getting on'. But on these occasions neither of us
replied to Miss Marks.

Sometimes in the course of this winter, my Father and I had long
cosy talks together over the fire. Our favourite subject was
murders. I wonder whether little boys of eight, soon to go
upstairs alone at night, often discuss violent crime with a
widower-papa? The practice, I cannot help thinking, is unusual;
it was, however, consecutive with us. We tried other secular
subjects, but we were sure to come around at last to 'what do you
suppose they really did with the body?' I was told, a thrilled
listener, the adventure of Mrs. Manning, who killed a gentleman on
the stairs and buried him in quick-lime in the back-kitchen, and
it was at this time that I learned the useful historical fact,
which abides with me after half a century, that Mrs. Manning was
hanged in black satin, which thereupon went wholly out of fashion
in England. I also heard about Burke and Hare, whose story nearly
froze me into stone with horror.

These were crimes which appear in the chronicles. But who will
tell me what 'the Carpet-bag Mystery' was, which my Father and I
discussed evening after evening? I have never come across a
whisper of it since, and I suspect it of having been a hoax. As I
recall the details, people in a boat, passing down the Thames,
saw a carpet-bag hung high in air, on one of the projections of a
pier of Waterloo Bridge. Being with difficulty dragged down--or
perhaps up--this bag was found to be full of human remains,
dreadful butcher's business of joints and fragments. Persons were
missed, were identified, were again denied--the whole is a vapour
in my memory which shifts as I try to define it. But clear enough
is the picture I hold of myself, in a high chair, on the left-
hand side of the sitting-room fireplace, the leaping flames
reflected in the glass-case of tropical insects on the opposite
wall, and my Father, leaning anxiously forward, with uplifted
finger, emphasizing to me the pros and cons of the horrible
carpet-bag evidence.

I suppose that my interest in these discussions--and Heaven knows
I was animated enough--amused and distracted my Father, whose
idea of a suitable theme for childhood's ear now seems to me
surprising. I soon found that these subjects were not welcome to
everybody, for, starting the Carpet-bag Mystery one morning with
Miss Marks, in the hope of delaying my arithmetic lesson, she
fairly threw her apron over her ears, and told me, from that
vantage, that if I did not desist at once, she should scream.

Occasionally we took winter walks together, my Father and I, down
some lane that led to a sight of the sea, or over the rolling
downs. We tried to recapture the charm of those delightful
strolls in London, when we used to lean over the bridges and
watch the ducks. But we could not recover this pleasure. My
Father was deeply enwoven in the chain of his own thoughts, and
would stalk on, without a word, buried in angry reverie. If he
spoke to me, on these excursions, it was a pain to me to answer
him. I could talk on easy terms with him indoors, seated in my
high chair, with our heads on a level, but it was intolerably
laborious to look up into the firmament and converse with a dark
face against the sky. The actual exercise of walking, too, was
very exhausting to me; the bright red mud, to the strange colour
of which I could not for a long while get accustomed, becoming
caked about my little shoes, and wearying me extremely. I would
grow petulant and cross, contradict my Father, and oppose his
whims. These walks were distressing to us both, yet he did not
like to walk alone, and he had no other friend. However, as the
winter advanced, they had to be abandoned, and the habit of our
taking a 'constitutional' together was never resumed.

I look back upon myself at this time as upon a cantankerous, ill-
tempered and unobliging child. The only excuse I can offer is
that I really was not well. The change to Devonshire had not
suited me; my health gave the excellent Miss Marks some anxiety,
but she was not ready in resource. The dampness of the house was
terrible; indoors and out, the atmosphere seemed soaked in chilly
vapours. Under my bed-clothes at night I shook like a jelly,
unable to sleep for cold, though I was heaped with coverings,
while my skin was all puckered with gooseflesh. I could eat
nothing solid, without suffering immediately from violent
hiccough, so that much of my time was spent lying prone on my
back upon the hearthrug, awakening the echoes like a cuckoo. Miss
Marks, therefore, cut off all food but milk-sop, a loathly bowl
of which appeared at every meal. In consequence the hiccough
lessened, but my strength declined with it. I languished in a
perpetual catarrh. I was roused to a conscious-ness that I was
not considered well by the fact that my Father prayed publicly at
morning and evening 'worship' that if it was the Lord's will to
take me to himself there might be no doubt whatever about my
being a sealed child of God and an inheritor of glory. I was
partly disconcerted by, partly vain of, this open advertisement
of my ailments.

Of our dealings with the 'Saints', a fresh assortment of whom met
us on our arrival in Devonshire, I shall speak presently. My
Father's austerity of behaviour was, I think, perpetually
accentuated by his fear of doing anything to offend the
consciences of these persons, whom he supposed, no doubt, to be
more sensitive than they really were. He was fond of saying that
'a very little stain upon the conscience makes a wide breach in
our communion with God', and he counted possible errors of
conduct by hundreds and by thousands. It was in this winter that
his attention was particularly drawn to the festival of
Christmas, which, apparently, he had scarcely noticed in London.

On the subject of all feasts of the Church he held views of an
almost grotesque peculiarity. He looked upon each of them as
nugatory and worthless, but the keeping of Christmas appeared to
him by far the most hateful, and nothing less than an act of
idolatry. 'The very word is Popish', he used to exclaim,
'Christ's Mass!' pursing up his lips with the gesture of one who
tastes assafoetida by accident. Then he would adduce the
antiquity of the so-called feast, adapted from horrible heathen
rites, and itself a soiled relic of the abominable Yule-Tide. He
would denounce the horrors of Christmas until it almost made me
blush to look at a holly-berry.

On Christmas Day of this year 1857 our villa saw a very unusual
sight. My Father had given strictest charge that no difference
whatever was to be made in our meals on that day; the dinner was
to be neither more copious than usual nor less so. He was obeyed,
but the servants, secretly rebellious, made a small plum-pudding
for themselves. (I discovered afterwards, with pain, that Miss
Marks received a slice of it in her boudoir.) Early in the
afternoon, the maids,--of whom we were now advanced to keeping
two,--kindly remarked that 'the poor dear child ought to have a
bit, anyhow', and wheedled me into the kitchen, where I ate a
slice of plum-pudding. Shortly I began to feel that pain inside
which in my frail state was inevitable, and my conscience smote
me violently. At length I could bear my spiritual anguish no
longer, and bursting into the study I called out: 'Oh! Papa,
Papa, I have eaten of flesh offered to idols!' It took some time,
between my sobs, to explain what had happened. Then my Father
sternly said: 'Where is the accursed thing?' I explained that as
much as was left of it was still on the kitchen table. He took me
by the hand, and ran with me into the midst of the startled
servants, seized what remained of the pudding, and with the plate
in one hand and me still tight in the other, ran until we reached
the dust-heap, when he flung the idolatrous confectionery on to
the middle of the ashes, and then raked it deep down into the
mass. The suddenness, the violence, the velocity of this
extraordinary act made an impression on my memory which nothing
will ever efface.

The key is lost by which I might unlock the perverse malady from
which my Father's conscience seemed to suffer during the whole of
this melancholy winter. But I think that a dislocation of his
intellectual system had a great deal to do with it. Up to this
point in his career, he had, as we have seen, nourished the
delusion that science and revelation could be mutually justified,
that some sort of compromise was possible. With great and ever
greater distinctness, his investigations had shown him that in
all departments of organic nature there are visible the evidences
of slow modification of forms, of the type developed by the
pressure and practice of aeons. This conviction had been borne
in upon him until it was positively irresistible. Where was his
place, then, as a sincere and accurate observer? Manifestly, it
was with the pioneers of the new truth, it was with Darwin,
Wallace and Hooker. But did not the second chapter of 'Genesis'
say that in six days the heavens and earth were finished, and the
host of them, and that on the seventh day God ended his work
which he had made?

Here was a dilemma! Geology certainly seemed to be true, but the
Bible, which was God's word, was true. If the Bible said that all
things in Heaven and Earth were created in six days, created in
six days they were,--in six literal days of twenty-four hours
each. The evidences of spontaneous variation of form, acting,
over an immense space of time, upon ever-modifying organic
structures, seemed overwhelming, but they must either be brought
into line with the six-day labour of creation, or they must be
rejected. I have already shown how my Father worked out the
ingenious 'Omphalos' theory in order to justify himself as a
strictly scientific observer who was also a humble slave of
revelation. But the old convention and the new rebellion would
alike have none of his compromise.

To a mind so acute and at the same time so narrow as that of my
Father--a mind which is all logical and positive without breadth,
without suppleness and without imagination--to be subjected to a
check of this kind is agony. It has not the relief of a smaller
nature, which escapes from the dilemma by some foggy formula; nor
the resolution of a larger nature to take to its wings and
surmount the obstacle. My Father, although half suffocated by the
emotion of being lifted, as it were, on the great biological
wave, never dreamed of letting go his clutch of the ancient
tradition, but hung there, strained and buffeted. It is
extraordinary that he--an 'honest hodman of science', as Huxley
once called him--should not have been content to allow others,
whose horizons were wider than his could be, to pursue those
purely intellectual surveys for which he had no species of
aptitude. As a collector of facts and marshaller of observations,
he had not a rival in that age; his very absence of imagination
aided him in this work. But he was more an attorney than
philosopher, and he lacked that sublime humility which is the
crown of genius. For, this obstinate persuasion that he alone
knew the mind of God, that he alone could interpret the designs
of the Creator, what did it result from if not from a congenital
lack of that highest modesty which replies 'I do not know' even
to the questions which Faith, with menacing forger, insists on
having most positively answered?


DURING the first year of our life in Devonshire, the ninth year
of my age, my Father's existence, and therefore mine, was almost
entirely divided between attending to the little community of
'Saints' in the village and collecting, examining and describing
marine creatures from the seashore. In the course of these twelve
months, we had scarcely any social distractions of any kind, and
I never once crossed the bounds of the parish. After the worst of
the winter was over, my Father recovered much of his spirits and
his power of work, and the earliest sunshine soothed and
refreshed us both. I was still almost always with him, but we had
now some curious companions.

The village, at the southern end of which our villa stood, was
not pretty. It had no rural picturesqueness of any kind. The only
pleasant feature of it, the handsome and ancient parish church
with its umbrageous churchyard, was then almost entirely
concealed by a congress of mean shops, which were ultimately,
before the close of my childhood, removed. The village consisted
of two parallel lines of contiguous houses, all white-washed and
most of them fronted by a trifling shop-window; for half a mile
this street ascended to the church, and then descended for
another half-mile, ending suddenly in fields, the hedges of which
displayed, at intervals, the inevitable pollard elm-tree.

The walk through the village, which we seemed make incessantly,
was very wearisome to me. I dreaded the rudeness of the children,
and there was nothing in the shops to amuse me. Walking on the
inch or two of broken pavement in front of the houses was
disagreeable and tiresome, and the odor which breathed on close
days from the open doors and windows made me feel faint. But this
walk was obligatory, since the 'Public Room', as our little
chapel was called, lay at the farther extremity of the dreary

We attended this place of worship immediately on our arrival, and
my Father, uninvited but unresisted, immediately assumed the
administration of it. It was a square, empty room, built, for I
know not what purpose, over a stable. Ammoniac odours used to
rise through the floor as we sat there at our long devotions.
Before our coming, a little flock of persons met in the Room, a
community of the indefinite sort just then becoming frequent in
the West of England, pious rustics connected with no other
recognized body of Christians, and depending directly on the
independent study of the Bible. They were largely women, but
there was more than a sprinkling of men, poor, simple and
generally sickly. In later days, under my Father's ministration,
the body increased and positively flourished. It came to include
retired professional men, an admiral, nay, even the brother of a
peer. But in those earliest years the 'brethren' and 'sisters'
were all of them ordinary peasants. They were jobbing gardeners
and journeymen carpenters, masons and tailors, washerwomen and
domestic servants. I wish that I could paint, in colours so vivid
that my readers could perceive what their little society
consisted of, this quaint collection of humble, conscientious,
ignorant and gentle persons. In chronicle or fiction I have never
been fortunate enough to meet with anything which resembled them.
The caricatures of enmity and worldly scorn are as crude, to my
memory, as the unction of religious conventionality is

The origin of the meeting had been odd. A few years before we
came, a crew of Cornish fishermen, quite unknown to the
villagers, were driven by stress of weather into the haven under
the cliff. They landed, and, instead of going to a public-house,
they looked about for a room where they could hold a prayer-
meeting. They were devout Wesleyans; they had come from the open
sea, they were far from home, and they had been starved by lack
of their customary religious privileges. As they stood about in
the street before their meeting, they challenged the respectable
girls who came out to stare at them, with the question, 'Do you
love the Lord Jesus, my maid?' Receiving dubious answers, they
pressed the inhabitants to come in and pray with them, which
several did. Ann Burmington, who long afterwards told me about
it, was one of those girls, and she repeated that the fishermen
said, 'What a dreadful thing it will be, at the Last Day, when
the Lord says, "Come, ye blessed", and says it not to you, and
then, "Depart ye cursed", and you maidens have to depart.' They
were finely-built young men, with black beards and shining eyes,
and I do not question that some flash of sex unconsciously
mingled with the curious episode, although their behaviour was in
all respects discreet. It was, perhaps, not wholly a coincidence
that almost all those particular girls remained unmarried to the
end of their lives. After two or three days, the fishermen went
off to sea again. They prayed and sailed away, and the girls, who
had not even asked their names, never heard of them again. But
several of the young women were definitely converted, and they
formed the nucleus of our little gathering.

My Father preached, standing at a desk; or celebrated the
communion in front of a deal table, with a white napkin spread
over it. Sometimes the audience was so small, generally so
unexhilarating, that he was discouraged, but he never flagged in
energy and zeal. Only those who had given evidence of intelligent
acceptance of the theory of simple faith in their atonement
through the Blood of Jesus were admitted to the communion, or, as
it was called, 'the Breaking of Bread'. It was made a very strong
point that no one should 'break bread', unless for good reason
shown--until he or she had been baptized, that is to say,
totally immersed, in solemn conclave, by the ministering brother.
This rite used, in our earliest days, to be performed, with
picturesque simplicity, in the sea on the Oddicombe beach, but to
this there were, even in those quiet years, extreme objections. A
jeering crowd could scarcely be avoided, and women, in
particular, shrank from the ordeal. This used to be a practical
difficulty, and my Father, when communicants confessed that they
had not yet been baptized, would shake his head and say gravely,
'Ah! ah! you shun the Cross of Christ!' But that baptism in the
sea on the open beach _was_ a 'cross', he would not deny, and when
we built our own little chapel, a sort of font, planked over, was
arranged in the room itself.

Among these quiet, taciturn people, there were several whom I
recall with affection. In this remote corner of Devonshire, on
the road nowhither, they had preserved much of the air of that
eighteenth century which the elders among them perfectly
remembered. There was one old man, born before the French
Revolution, whose figure often recurs to me. This was James
Petherbridge, the Nestor of our meeting, extremely tall and
attenuated; he came on Sundays in a full, white smockfrock,
smartly embroidered down the front, and when he settled himself
to listen, he would raise this smock like a skirt, and reveal a
pair of immensely long thin legs, cased in tight leggings, and
ending in shoes with buckles. As the sacred message fell from my
Father's lips the lantern jaws of Mr. Petherbridge slowly fell
apart, while his knees sloped to so immense a distance from one
another that it seemed as though they never could meet again. He
had been pious all his life, and he would tell us, in some modest
pride, that when he was a lad, the farmer's wife who was his
mistress used to say, 'I think our Jem is going to be a Methody,
he do so hanker after godly discoursings.' Mr. Petherbridge was
accustomed to pray orally at our prayer-meetings, in a funny old
voice like wind in a hollow tree, and he seldom failed to express
a hope that 'the Lord would support Miss Lafroy'-- who was the
village schoolmistress, and one of our congregation,--'in her
labour of teaching the young idea how to shoot'. I, not
understanding this literary allusion, long believed the school to
be addicted to some species of pistol-practice.

The key of the Room was kept by Richard Moxhay, the mason, who
was of a generation younger than Mr. Petherbridge, but yet
'getting on in years'. Moxhay, I cannot tell why, was always
dressed in white corduroy, on which any stain of Devonshire
scarlet mud was painfully conspicuous; when he was smartened up,
his appearance suggested that somebody had given him a coating of
that rich Western whitewash which looks like Devonshire cream.
His locks were long and sparse, and as deadly black as his
clothes were white. He was a modest, gentle man, with a wife even
more meek and gracious than himself. They never, to my
recollection, spoke unless they were spoken to, and their
melancholy impassiveness used to vex my Father, who once,
referring to the Moxhays, described them, sententiously but
justly, as being 'laborious, but it would be an exaggeration to
say happy, Christians'. Indeed, my memory pictures almost all the
'saints' of that early time as sad and humble souls, lacking
vitality, yet not complaining of anything definite. A quite
surprising number of them, it is true, male and female, suffered
from different forms of consumption, so that the Room rang in
winter evenings with a discord of hacking coughs. But it seems to
me that, when I was quite young, half the inhabitants of our
rural district were affected with phthisis. No doubt, our
peculiar religious community was more likely to attract the
feeble members of a population, than to tempt the flush and the

Miss Marks, patient pilgrim that she was, accepted this quaint
society without a murmur, although I do not think it was much to
her taste. But in a very short time it was sweetened to her by
the formation of a devoted and romantic friendship for one of the
'sisters', who was, indeed, if my childish recollection does not
fail me, a very charming person. The consequence of this
enthusiastic alliance was that I was carried into the bosom of
the family to which Miss Marks' new friend belonged, and of these
excellent people I must give what picture I can.

Almost opposite the Room, therefore at the far end of the
village, across one of the rare small gardens (in which this
first winter I discovered with rapture the magenta stars of a new
flower, hepatica)--a shop-window displayed a thin row of plates
and dishes, cups and saucers; above it was painted the name of
Burmington. This china-shop was the property of three orphan
sisters, Ann, Mary Grace, and Bess, the latter lately married to
a carpenter, who was 'elder' at our meeting; the other two,
resolute old maids. Ann, whom I have already mentioned, had been
one of the girls converted by the Cornish fishermen. She was
about ten years older than Bess, and Mary Grace came halfway
between them. Ann was a very worthy woman, but masterful and
passionate, suffering from an ungovernable temper, which at
calmer moments she used to refer to, not without complacency, as
'the sin which doth most easily beset me'. Bess was
insignificant, and vulgarized by domestic cares. But Mary Grace
was a delightful creature. The Burmingtons lived in what was
almost the only old house surviving in the village. It was an
extraordinary construction of two storeys, with vast rooms, and
winding passages, and surprising changes of level. The sisters
were poor, but very industrious, and never in anything like want;
they sold, as I have said, crockery, and they took in washing,
and did a little fine needlework, and sold the produce of a
great, vague garden at the back. In process of time, the elder
sisters took a young woman, whose name was Drusilla Elliott, to
live with them as servant and companion; she was a converted
person, worshipping with a kindred sect, the Bible Christians. I
remember being much interested in hearing how Bess, before her
marriage, became converted. Mary Grace, on account of her infirm
health, slept alone in one room; in another, of vast size, stood
a family fourposter, where Ann slept with Drusilla Elliott, and
another bed in the same room took Bess. The sisters and their
friend had been constantly praying that Bess might 'find peace',
for she was still a stranger to salvation. One night, she
suddenly called out, rather crossly, 'What are you two whispering
about? Do go to sleep,' to which Ann replied: 'We are praying for
you.' 'How do you know,' answered Bess, 'that I don't believe?' And
then she told them that, that very night, when she was sitting in
the shop, she had closed with God's offer of redemption. Late in
the night as it was, Ann and Drusilla could do no less than go in
and waken Mary Grace, whom, however, they found awake, praying,
she too, for the conversion of Bess. They told her the good news,
and all four, kneeling in the darkness, gave thanks aloud to God
for his infinite mercy.

It was Mary Grace Burmington who now became the romantic friend
of Miss Marks, and a sort of second benevolence to me. She must
have been under thirty years of age; she wax very small, and she
was distressingly deformed in the spine, but she had an animated,
almost a sparkling countenance. When we first arrived in the
village, Mary Grace was only just recovering from a gastric fever
which had taken her close to the grave. I remember hearing that
the vicar, a stout and pompous man at whom we always glared
defiance, went, in Mary Grace's supposed extremity, to the
Burmingtons' shop-door, and shouted: 'Peace be to this house,'
intending to offer his ministrations, but that Ann, who was in
one of her tantrums, positively hounded him from the doorstep and
down the garden, in her passionate nonconformity. Mary Grace,
however, recovered, and soon became, not merely Miss Marks'
inseparable friend, but my Father's spiritual factotum. He found
it irksome to visit the 'saints' from house to house, and Mary
Grace Burmington gladly assumed this labour. She proved a most
efficient coadjutor; searched out, cherished and confirmed any of
those, especially the young, who were attracted by my Father's
preaching, and for several years was a great joy and comfort to
us all. Even when her illness so increased that she could no
longer rise from her bed, she was a centre of usefulness and
cheerfulness from that retreat, where she 'received', in a kind
of rustic state, under a patchwork coverlid that was like a
basket of flowers.

My Father, ever reflecting on what could be done to confirm my
spiritual vocation, to pin me down, as it were, beyond any
possibility of escape, bethought him that it would accustom me to
what he called 'pastoral work in the Lord's service', if I
accompanied Mary Grace on her visits from house to house. If it
is remembered that I was only eight and a half when this scheme
was carried into practice, it will surprise no one to hear that
it was not crowned with success. I disliked extremely this
visitation of the poor. I felt shy, I had nothing to say, with
difficulty could I understand their soft Devonian patois, and
most of all--a signal perhaps of my neurotic condition--I dreaded
and loathed the smells of their cottages. One had to run over the
whole gamut of odours, some so faint that they embraced the
nostril with a fairy kiss, others bluntly gross, of the 'knock-
you-down' order; some sweet, with a dreadful sourness; some
bitter, with a smack of rancid hair-oil. There were fine manly
smells of the pigsty and the open drain, and these prided
themselves on being all they seemed to be; but there were also
feminine odours, masquerading as you knew not what, in which
penny whiffs, vials of balm and opoponax, seemed to have become
tainted, vaguely, with the residue of the slop-pail. It was not,
I think, that the villagers were particularly dirty, but those
were days before the invention of sanitary science, and my poor
young nose was morbidly, nay ridiculously sensitive. I often came
home from 'visiting the saints' absolutely incapable of eating
the milk-sop, with brown sugar strewn over it, which was my
evening meal.

There was one exception to my unwillingness to join in the
pastoral labours of Mary Grace. When she announced, on a fine
afternoon, that we were going to Pavor and Barton, I was always
agog to start. These were two hamlets in our parish, and, I
should suppose, the original home of its population. Pavor was,
even then, decayed almost to extinction, but Barton preserved its
desultory street of ancient, detached cottages. Each, however
poor, had a wild garden around it, and, where the inhabitants
possessed some pride in their surroundings, the roses and the
jasmines and that distinguished creeper,--which one sees nowhere
at its best but in Devonshire cottage-gardens,--the stately
cotoneaster, made the whole place a bower. Barton was in vivid
contrast to our own harsh, open, squalid village, with its mean
modern houses, its absence of all vegetation. The ancient
thatched cottages of Barton were shut in by moist hills, and
canopied by ancient trees; they were approached along a deep lane
which was all a wonder and a revelation to me that spring, since,
in the very words of Shelley:

  There in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine,
    Green cow-bind and the moonlight-coloured may,
  And cherry blossoms, and white cups, whose wine
    Was the bright dew yet drained not by the day;
  And wild roses, and ivy serpentine
    With its dark buds and leaves, wandering astray.

Around and beyond Barton there lay fairyland. All was mysterious,
unexplored, rich with infinite possibilities. I should one day
enter it, the sword of make-believe in my hand, the cap of
courage on my head, 'when you are a big boy', said the oracle of
Mary Grace. For the present, we had to content ourselves with
being an unadventurous couple--a little woman, bent half-double,
and a preternaturally sedate small boy--as we walked very
slowly, side by side, conversing on terms of high familiarity, in
which Biblical and colloquial phrases were quaintly jumbled,
through the sticky red mud of the Pavor lanes with Barton as a
bourne before us.

When we came home, my Father would sometimes ask me for
particulars. Where had we been, whom had we found at home, what
testimony had those visited been able to give of the Lord's
goodness to them, what had Mary Grace replied in the way of
exhortation, reproof or condolence? These questions I hated at
the time, but they were very useful to me, since they gave me the
habit of concentrating my attention on what was going on in the
course of our visits, in case I might be called upon to give a
report. My Father was very kind in the matter; he cultivated my
powers of expression, he did not snub me when I failed to be
intelligent. But I overheard Miss Marks and Mary Grace discussing
the whole question under the guise of referring to 'you know
whom, not a hundred miles hence', fancying that I could not
recognize their little ostrich because its head was in a bag of
metaphor. I understood perfectly, and gathered that they both of
them thought this business of my going into undrained cottages
injudicious. Accordingly, I was by degrees taken 'visiting' only
when Mary Grace was going into the country-hamlets, and then I
was usually left outside, to skip among the flowers and stalk the

I must not, however, underestimate the very prominent part taken
all through this spring and summer of 1858 by the collection of
specimens on the seashore. My Father had returned, the chagrin of
his failure in theorizing now being mitigated, to what was his
real work in life, the practical study of animal forms in detail.
He was not a biologist, in the true sense of the term. That
luminous indication which Flaubert gives of what the action of
the scientific mind should be, _affranchissant esprit et pesant
les mondes, sans haine, sans peur, sans pitie, sans amour et sans
Dieu_, was opposed in every segment to the attitude of my Father,
who, nevertheless, was a man of very high scientific attainment.

But, again I repeat, he was not a philosopher; he was incapable,
by temperament and education, of forming broad generalizations
and of escaping in a vast survey from the troublesome pettiness
of detail. He saw everything through a lens, nothing in the
immensity of nature. Certain senses were absent in him; I think
that, with all his justice, he had no conception of the
importance of liberty; with all his intelligence, the boundaries
of the atmosphere in which his mind could think at all were
always close about him; with all his faith in the Word of God, he
had no confidence in the Divine Benevolence; and with all his
passionate piety, he habitually mistook fear for love.

It was down on the shore, tramping along the pebbled terraces of
the beach, clambering over the great blocks of fallen
conglomerate which broke the white curve with rufous promontories
that jutted into the sea, or, finally, bending over those shallow
tidal pools in the limestone rocks which were our proper hunting-
ground,--it was in such circumstances as these that my Father
became most easy, most happy, most human. That hard look across
his brows, which it wearied me to see, the look that came from
sleepless anxiety of conscience, faded away, and left the dark
countenance still always stern indeed, but serene and
unupbraiding. Those pools were our mirrors, in which, reflected
in the dark hyaline and framed by the sleek and shining fronds of
oar-weed there used to appear the shapes of a middle-aged man and
a funny little boy, equally eager, and, I almost find the
presumption to say, equally well prepared fog business.

If anyone goes down to those shores now, if man or boy seeks to
follow in our traces, let him realize at once, before he takes
the trouble to roll up his sleeves, that his zeal will end in
labour lost. There is nothing, now, where in our days there was
so much. Then the rocks between tide and tide were submarine
gardens of a beauty that seemed often to be fabulous, and was
positively delusive, since, if we delicately lifted the
weedcurtains of a windless pool, though we might for a moment see
its sides and floor paven with living blossoms, ivory-white,
rosy-red, grange and amethyst, yet all that panoply would melt
away, furled into the hollow rock, if we so much as dropped a
pebble in to disturb the magic dream.

Half a century ago, in many parts of the coast of Devonshire and
Cornwall, where the limestone at the water's edge is wrought into
crevices and hollows, the tideline was, like Keats' Grecian vase,
'a still unravished bride of quietness'. These cups and basins
were always full, whether the tide was high or low, and the only
way in which they were affected was that twice in the twenty-four
hours they were replenished by cold streams from the great sea,
and then twice were left brimming to be vivified by the temperate
movement of the upper air. They were living flower-beds, so
exquisite in their perfection, that my Father, in spite of his
scientific requirements, used not seldom to pause before he began
to rifle them, ejaculating that it was indeed a pity to disturb
such congregated beauty. The antiquity of these rock-pools, and
the infinite succession of the soft and radiant forms, sea-
anemones, seaweeds, shells, fishes, which had inhabited them,
undisturbed since the creation of the world, used to occupy my
Father's fancy. We burst in, he used to say, where no one had
ever thought of intruding before; and if the Garden of Eden had
been situate in Devonshire, Adam and Eve, stepping lightly down
to bathe in the rainbow-coloured spray, would have seen the
identical sights that we now saw,--the great prawns gliding like
transparent launches, anthea waving in the twilight its thick
white waxen tentacles, and the fronds of the duke faintly
streaming on the water like huge red banners in some reverted

All this is long over and done with. The ring of living beauty
drawn about our shores was a very thin and fragile one. It had
existed all those centuries solely in consequence of the
indifference, the blissful ignorance of man. These rockbasins,
fringed by corallines, filled with still water almost as pellucid
as the upper air itself, thronged with beautiful sensitive forms
of life, they exist no longer, they are all profaned, and
emptied, and vulgarized. An army of 'collectors' has passed over
them, and ravaged every corner of them. The fairy paradise has
been violated, the exquisite product of centuries of natural
selection has been crushed under the rough paw of well-meaning,
idle-minded curiosity. That my Father, himself so reverent, so
conservative, had by the popularity of his books acquired the
direct responsibility for a calamity that he had never
anticipated became clear enough to himself before many years had
passed, and cost him great chagrin. No one will see again on the
shore of England what I saw in my early childhood, the submarine
vision of dark rocks, speckled and starred with an infinite
variety of colour, and streamed over by silken flags of royal
crimson and purple.

In reviving these impressions, I am unable to give any exact
chronological sequence to them. These particular adventures began
early in 1858, they reached their greatest intensity in the
summer of 1859, and they did not altogether cease, so far as my
Father was concerned, until nearly twenty years later. But it was
while he was composing what, as I am told by scientific men of
today, continues to be his most valuable contribution to
knowledge, his _History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals_,
that we worked together on the shore for a definite purpose, and
the last instalment of that still-classic volume was ready for
press by the close of 1859.

The way in which my Father worked, in his most desperate
escapades, was to wade breast-high into one of the huge pools,
and examine the worm-eaten surface of the rock above and below
the brim. In such remote places--spots where I could never
venture being left, a slightly timorous Andromeda, chained to a
safer level of the cliff--in these extreme basins, there used
often to lurk a marvellous profusion of animal and vegetable
forms. My Father would search for the roughest and most corroded
points of rock, those offering the best refuge for a variety of
creatures, and would then chisel off fragments as low down in the
water as he could. These pieces of rock were instantly plunged in
the saltwater of jars which we had brought with us for the
purpose. When as much had been collected as we could carry away--
my Father always dragged about an immense square basket, the
creak of whose handles I can still fancy that I hear--we turned
to trudge up the long climb home. Then all our prizes were spread
out, face upward, in shallow pans of clean sea-water.

In a few hours, when all dirt had subsided, and what living
creatures we had brought seemed to have recovered their
composure, my work began. My eyes were extremely keen and
powerful, though they were vexatiously near-sighted. Of no use in
examining objects at any distance, in investigating a minute
surface, my vision was trained to be invaluable. The shallow pan,
with our spoils, would rest on a table near the window, and I,
kneeling on a chair opposite the light, would lean over the
surface until everything was within an inch or two of my eyes.
Often I bent, in my zeal, so far forward that the water touched
the tip of my nose and gave me a little icy shock. In this
attitude, an idle spectator might have formed the impression that
I was trying to wash my head and could not quite summon up
resolution enough to plunge. In this odd pose I would remain for
a long time, holding my breath and examining with extreme care
every atom of rock, every swirl of detritus. This was a task
which my Father could only perform by the help of a lens, with
which, of course, he took care to supplement my examination. But
that my survey was of use, he has himself most handsomely
testified in his _Actinologia Britannica_, where he expresses his
debt to the 'keen and well-practised eye of my little son'. Nor,
if boasting is not to be excluded, is it every eminent biologist,
every proud and masterful F.R.S., who can lay his hand on his
heart and swear that, before reaching the age of ten years, he
had added, not merely a new species, but a new genus to the
British fauna. That however, the author of these pages can do,
who, on 29 June 1859, discovered a tiny atom,--and ran in the
greatest agitation to announce the discovery of that object 'as a
form with which he was unacquainted',--which figures since then
on all lists of sea-anemones as phellia murocincta, or the walled
corklet. Alas! that so fair a swallow should have made no
biological summer in after-life.

These delicious agitations by the edge of the salt-sea wave must
have greatly improved my health, which however was still looked
upon as fragile. I was loaded with coats and comforters, and
strolled out between Miss Marks and Mary Grace Burmington, a
muffled ball of flannel. This alone was enough to give me a look
of delicacy which the 'saints', in their blunt way, made no
scruple of commenting upon to my face. I was greatly impressed by
a conversation held over my bed one evening by the servants. Our
cook, Susan, a person of enormous size, and Kate, the tattling,
tiresome parlour-maid who waited upon us, on the summer evening I
speak of were standing--I cannot tell why--on each side of my
bed. I shut my eyes, and lay quite still, in order to escape
conversing with them, and they spoke to one another. 'Ah, poor
lamb,' Kate said trivially, '_he's_ not long for this world; going
home to Jesus, he is,--in a jiffy, I should say by the look of
'un.' But Susan answered: 'Not so. I dreamed about 'un, and I
know for sure that he is to be spared for missionary service.'
'Missionary service?' repeated Kate, impressed. 'Yes,' Susan went
on, with solemn emphasis, 'he'll bleed for his Lord in heathen
parts, that's what the future have in store for _'im_.' When they
were gone, I beat upon the coverlid with my fists, and I
determined that whatever happened, I would not, not, _not_, go out
to preach the Gospel among horrid, tropical niggers.


IN the history of an infancy so cloistered and uniform as mine,
such a real adventure as my being publicly and successfully
kidnapped cannot be overlooked. There were several 'innocents' in
our village--harmless eccentrics who had more or less
unquestionably crossed the barrier which divides the sane from
the insane. They were not discouraged by public opinion; indeed,
several of them were favoured beings, suspected by my Father of
exaggerating their mental density in order to escape having to
work, like dogs, who, as we all know, could speak as well as we
do, were they not afraid of being made to fetch and carry. Miss
Mary Flaw was not one of these imbeciles. She was what the French
call a _detraquee_; she had enjoyed good intelligence and an active
mind, but her wits had left the rails and were careening about
the country. Miss Flaw was the daughter of a retired Baptist
minister, and she lived, with I remember not what relations, in a
little solitary house high up at Barton Cross, whither Mary Grace
and I would sometimes struggle when our pastoral duties were
over. In later years, when I met with those celebrated verses in
which the philosopher expresses the hope

  In the downhill of life, when I find I'm declining,
    May my lot no less fortunate be
  Than a snug elbow-chair can afford for reclining,
    And a cot that o'erlooks the wide sea

my thoughts returned instinctively, and they still return, to the
high abode of Miss Flaw. There was a porch at her door, both for
shelter and shade, and it was covered with jasmine; but the charm
of the place was a summer-house close by, containing a table,
encrusted with cowry-shells, and seats from which one saw the
distant waters of the bay. At the entrance to this grotto there
was always set a 'snug elbow-chair', destined, I suppose, for the
Rev. Mr. Flaw, or else left there in pious memory of him, since I
cannot recollect whether he was alive or dead.

I delighted in these visits to Mary Flaw. She always received us
with effusion, tripping forward to meet us, and leading us, each
by a hand held high, with a dancing movement which I thought
infinitely graceful, to the cowry-shell bower, where she would
regale us with Devonshire cream and with small hard biscuits that
were like pebbles. The conversation of Mary Flaw was a great
treat to me. I enjoyed its irregularities, its waywardness; it
was like a tune that wandered into several keys. As Mary Grace
Burmington put it, one never knew what dear Mary Flaw would say
next, and that she did not herself know added to the charm. She
had become crazed, poor thing, in consequence of a disappointment
in love, but of course I did not know that, nor that she was
crazed at all. I thought her brilliant and original, and I liked
her very much. In the light of coming events, it would be
affectation were I to pretend that she did not feel a similar
partiality for me.

Miss Flaw was, from the first, devoted to my Father's
ministrations, and it was part of our odd village indulgence that
no one ever dreamed of preventing her from coming to the Room. On
Sunday evenings the bulk of the audience was arranged on forms,
with backs to them, set in the middle of the floor, with a
passage round them, while other forms were placed against the
walls. My Father preached from a lectern, facing the audience. If
darkness came on in the course of the service, Richard Moxhay,
glimmering in his cream-white corduroys, used to go slowly
around, lighting groups of tallow candles by the help of a box of
lucifers. Mary Flaw always assumed the place of honour, on the
left extremity of the front bench, immediately opposite my
Father. Miss Marks and Mary Grace, with me ensconced and almost
buried between them, occupied the right of the same bench. While
the lighting proceeded, Miss Flaw used to direct it from her
seat, silently, by pointing out to Moxhay, who took no notice,
what groups of candles he should light next. She did this just as
the clown in the circus directs the grooms how to move the
furniture, and Moxhay paid no more attention to her than the
grooms do to the clown. Miss Flaw had another peculiarity: she
silently went through a service exactly similar to ours, but much
briefer. The course of our evening service was this: My Father
prayed, and we all knelt down; then he gave out a hymn and most
of us stood up to sing; then he preached for about an hour, while
we sat and listened; then a hymn again; then prayer and the

Mary Flaw went through this ritual, but on a smaller scale. We
all knelt down together, but when we rose from our knees, Miss
Flaw was already standing up, and was pretending, without a
sound, to sing a hymn; in the midst of our hymn, she sat down,
opened her Bible, found a text, and then leaned back, her eyes
fixed in space, listening to an imaginary sermon which our own
real one soon caught up, and coincided with for about three-
quarters of an hour. Then, while our sermon went peacefully on,
Miss Flaw would rise, and sing in silence (if I am permitted to
use such an expression) her own visionary hymn; then she would
kneel down and pray, then rise, collect her belongings, and
sweep, in fairy majesty, out of the chapel, my Father still
rounding his periods from the pulpit. Nobody ever thought of
preventing these movements, or of checking the poor creature in
her innocent flightiness, until the evening of the great event.

It was all my own fault. Mary Flaw had finished her imaginary
service earlier than usual. She had stood up alone with her hymn-
book before her; she had flung herself on her knees alone, in the
attitude of devotion; she had risen; she had seated herself for a
moment to put on her gloves, and to collect her Bible, her hymn-
book and her pocket-handkerchief in her reticule. She was ready
to start, and she looked around her with a pleasant air; my
Father, all undisturbed, booming away meanwhile over our heads. I
know not why the manoeuvres of Miss Flaw especially attracted me
that evening, but I leaned out across Miss Marks and I caught
Miss Flaw's eye. She nodded, I nodded; and the amazing deed was
done, I hardly know how. Miss Flaw, with incredible swiftness,
flew along the line, plucked me by the coat-collar from between
my paralysed protectresses, darted with me down the chapel and
out into the dark, before anyone had time to say 'Jack Robinson'.

My Father gazed from the pulpit and the stream of exhortation
withered on his lips. No one in the body of the audience stirred;
no one but himself had clearly seen what had happened. Vague rows
of 'saints' with gaping countenances stared up at him, while he
shouted, 'Will nobody stop them? as we whisked out through the
doorway. Forth into the moist night we went, and up the lampless
village, where, a few minutes later, the swiftest of the
congregation, with my Father at their head, found us sitting on
the doorstep of the butcher's shop. My captor was now quite
quiet, and made no objection to my quitting her,--'without a
single kiss or a goodbye', as the poet says.

Although I had scarcely felt frightened at the time, doubtless my
nerves were shaken by this escapade, and it may have had
something to do with the recurrence of the distressing visions
from which I had suffered as a very little child. These came
back, with a force and expansion due to my increased maturity. I
had hardly laid my head down on the pillow, than, as it seemed to
me, I was taking part in a mad gallop through space. Some force,
which had tight hold of me, so that I felt myself an atom in its
grasp, was hurrying me on over an endless slender bridge, under
which on either side a loud torrent rushed at a vertiginous depth
below. At first our helpless flight,--for I was bound hand and
foot like Mazeppa,--proceeded in a straight line, but presently
it began to curve, and we raced and roared along, in what
gradually became a monstrous vortex, reverberant with noises,
loud with light, while, as we proceeded, enormous concentric
circles engulfed us, and wheeled above and about us. It seemed as
if we,--I, that is, and the undefined force which carried me,--
were pushing feverishly on towards a goal which our whole
concentrated energies were bent on reaching, but which a frenzied
despair in my heart told me we never could reach, yet the
attainment of which alone could save us from destruction. Far
away, in the pulsation of the great luminous whorls, I could just
see that goal, a ruby-coloured point waxing and waning, and it
bore, or to be exact it consisted of the letters of the word

This agitating vision recurred night after night, and filled me
with inexpressible distress. The details of it altered very
little, and I knew what I had to expect when I crept into bed. I
knew that for a few minutes I should be battling with the chill
of the linen sheets, and trying to keep awake, but that then,
without a pause, I should slip into that terrible realm of storm
and stress in which I was bound hand and foot, and sent galloping
through infinity. Often have I wakened, with unutterable joy, to
find my Father and Miss Marks, whom my screams had disturbed,
standing one on each side of my bed. They could release me from
my nightmare, which seldom assailed me twice a night--but how to
preserve me from its original attack passed their understanding.
My Father, in his tenderness, thought to exorcize the demon by
prayer. He would appear in the bedroom, just as I was first
slipping into bed, and he would kneel at my side. The light from
a candle on the mantel-shelf streamed down upon his dark head of
hair while his face was buried in the coverlid, from which a loud
voice came up, a little muffled, begging that I might be
preserved against all the evil spirits that walk in darkness and
that the deep might not swallow me up.

This little ceremony gave a distraction to my thoughts, and may
have been useful in that way. But it led to an unfortunate
circumstance. My Father began to enjoy these orisons at my
bedside, and to prolong them. Perhaps they lasted a little too
long, but I contrived to keep awake through them, sometimes by a
great effort. On one unhappy night, however, I gave even worse
offense than slumber would have given. My Father was praying
aloud, in the attitude I have described, and I was half sitting,
half lying in bed, with the clothes sloping from my chin.
Suddenly a rather large insect--dark and flat, with more legs
than a self-respecting insect ought to need--appeared at the
bottom of the counterpane, and slowly advanced. I think it was
nothing worse than a beetle. It walked successfully past my
Father's sleek black ball of a head, and climbed straight up at
me, nearer, nearer, until it seemed all a twinkle of horns and
joints. I bore it in silent fascination until it almost tickled
my chin, and then I screamed 'Papa! Papa!' My Father rose in
great dudgeon, removed the insect (what were insects to him!) and
then gave me a tremendous lecture.

The sense of desperation which this incident produced I shall not
easily forget. Life seemed really to be very harassing when to
visions within and beetles without there was joined the
consciousness of having grievously offended God by an act of
disrespect. It is difficult for me to justify to myself the
violent jobation which my Father gave me in consequence of my
scream, except by attributing to him something of the human
weakness of vanity. I cannot help thinking that he liked to hear
himself speak to God in the presence of an admiring listener. He
prayed with fervour and animation, in pure Johnsonian English,
and I hope I am not undutiful if I add my impression that he was
not displeased with the sound of his own devotions. My cry for
help had needlessly, as he thought, broken in upon this holy and
seemly performance. 'You, the child of a naturalist,' he remarked
in awesome tones, '_you_ to pretend to feel terror at the advance
of an insect?' It could but be a pretext, he declared, for
avoiding the testimony of faith in prayer. 'If your heart were
fixed, if it panted after the Lord, it would take more than the
movements of a beetle to make you disturb oral supplication at
His footstool. Beware! for God is a jealous God and He consumes
them in wrath who make a noise like a dog.'

My Father took at all times a singular pleasure in repeating that
'our God is a jealous God'. He liked the word, which I suppose he
used in an antiquated sense. He was accustomed to tell the
'saints' at the Room,--in a very genial manner, and smiling at
them as he said it,--'I am jealous over you, my beloved brothers
and sisters, with a godly jealousy.' I know that this was
interpreted by some of the saints,--for I heard Mary Grace say so
to Miss Marks--as meaning that my Father was resentful because
some of them attended the service at the Wesleyan chapel on
Thursday evenings. But my Father was utterly incapable of such
littleness as this, and when he talked of 'jealousy' he meant a
lofty solicitude, a careful watchfulness. He meant that their
spiritual honour was a matter of anxiety to him. No doubt when he
used to tell me to remember that our God is a jealous God, he
meant that my sins and shortcomings were not matters of
indifference to the Divine Being. But I think, looking back, that
it was very extraordinary for a man, so instructed and so
intelligent as he, to dwell so much on the possible anger of the
Lord, rather than on his pity and love. The theory of extreme
Puritanism can surely offer no quainter example of its fallacy
than this idea that the omnipotent Jehovah--could be seriously
offended, and could stoop to revenge, because a little, nervous
child of nine had disturbed a prayer by being frightened at a

The fact that the word 'Carmine' appeared as the goal of my
visionary pursuits is not so inexplicable as it may seem. My
Father was at this time producing numerous water-colour drawings
of minute and even of microscopic forms of life. These he
executed in the manner of miniature, with an amazing fidelity of
form and with a brilliancy of colour which remains unfaded after
fifty years. By far the most costly of his pigments was the
intense crimson which is manufactured out of the very spirit and,
essence of cochineal. I had lately become a fervent imitator of
his works of art, and I was allowed to use all of his colours,
except one; I was strictly forbidden to let a hair of my paint-
brush touch the little broken mass of carmine which was all that
he possessed. We believed, but I do not know whether this could
be the fact, that carmine of this superlative quality was sold at
a guinea a cake. 'Carmine', therefore, became my shibboleth of
self-indulgence; it was a symbol of all that taste and art and
wealth could combine to produce. I imagined, for instance, that
at Belshazzar's feast, the loftiest epergne of gold, surrounded
by flowers and jewels, carried the monarch's proudest possession,
a cake of carmine. I knew of no object in the world of luxury
more desirable than this, and its obsession in my waking hours is
quite enough, I think, to account for 'carmine' having been the
torment of my dreams.

The little incident of the beetle displays my Father's mood at
this period in its worst light. His severity was not very
creditable, perhaps, to his good sense, but without a word of
explanation it may seem even more unreasonable than it was. My
Father might have been less stern to my lapses from high conduct,
and my own mind at the same time less armoured against his
arrows, if our relations had been those which exist in an
ordinary religious family. He would have been more indulgent, and
my own affections might nevertheless have been more easily
alienated, if I had been treated by him as a commonplace child,
standing as yet outside the pale of conscious Christianity. But
he had formed the idea, and cultivated it assiduously, that I was
an _ame d'elite_, a being to whom the mysteries of salvation had
been divinely revealed and by whom they had been accepted. I was,
to his partial fancy, one in whom the Holy Ghost had already
performed a real and permanent work. Hence, I was inside the
pale; I had attained that inner position which divided, as we
used to say, the Sheep from the Goats. Another little boy might
be very well-behaved, but if he had not consciously 'laid hold on
Christ', his good deeds, so far, were absolutely useless. Whereas
I might be a very naughty boy, and require much chastisement from
God and man, but nothing--so my Father thought--could invalidate
my election, and sooner or later, perhaps even after many
stripes, I must inevitably be brought back to a state of grace.

The paradox between this unquestionable sanctification by faith
and my equally unquestionable naughtiness, occupied my Father
greatly at this time. He made it a frequent subject of
intercession at family prayers, not caring to hide from the
servants misdemeanours of mine, which he spread out with a
melancholy unction before the Lord. He cultivated the belief that
all my little ailments, all my aches and pains, were sent to
correct my faults. He carried this persuasion very far, even
putting this exhortation before, instead of after, an instant
relief of my sufferings. If I burned my finger with a sulphur
match, or pinched the end of my nose in the door (to mention but
two sorrows that recur to my memory), my Father would solemnly
ejaculate: 'Oh may these afflictions be much sanctified to him!'
before offering any remedy for my pain. So that I almost longed,
under the pressure of these pangs, to be a godless child, who had
never known the privileges of saving grace, since I argued that
such a child would be subjected to none of the sufferings which
seemed to assail my path.

What the ideas or conduct of 'another child' might be I had,
however, at this time no idea, for, strange as it may sound, I
had not, until my tenth year was far advanced, made acquaintance
with any such creature. The 'saints' had children, but I was not
called upon to cultivate their company, and I had not the
slightest wish to do so. But early in 1859 I was allowed, at
last, to associate with a child of my own age. I do not recall
that this permission gave me any rapture; I accepted it
philosophically but without that delighted eagerness which I
might have been expected to show. My earliest companion, then,
was a little boy of almost exactly my own age. His name was
Benny, which no doubt was short for Benjamin. His surname was
Jeffries; his mother--I think he had no father--was a solemn and
shadowy lady of means who lived in a villa, which was older and
much larger than ours, on the opposite side of the road. Going to
'play with Benny' involved a small public excursion, and this I
was now allowed to make by myself--an immense source of self-

Everything in my little memories seems to run askew; obviously I
ought to have been extremely stirred and broadened by this
earliest association with a boy of my own age! Yet I cannot truly
say that it was so. Benny's mother possessed what seemed to me a
vast domain, with lawns winding among broad shrubberies, and a
kitchen-garden, with aged fruit-trees in it. The ripeness of this
place, mossed and leafy, was gratifying to my senses, on which
the rawness of our own bald garden jarred. There was an old brick
wall between the two divisions, upon which it was possible for us
to climb up, and from this we gained Pisgah-views which were a
prodigious pleasure. But I had not the faintest idea how to
'play'; I had never learned, had never heard of any 'games'. I
think Benny must have lacked initiative almost as much as I did.
We walked about, and shook the bushes, and climbed along the
wall; I think that was almost all we ever did do. And, sadly
enough, I cannot recover a phrase from Benny's lips, nor an
action, nor a gesture, although I remember quite clearly how some
grown-up people of that time looked, and the very words they

For example, I recollect Miss Wilkes very distinctly, since I
studied her with great deliberation, and with a suspicious
watchfulness that was above my years. In Miss Wilkes a type that
had hitherto been absolutely unfamiliar to us obtruded upon our
experience. In our Eveless Eden, Woman, if not exactly _hirsuta et
horrida_, had always been 'of a certain age'. But Miss Wilkes was
a comparatively young thing, and she advanced not by any means
unconscious of her charms. All was feminine, all was impulsive,
about Miss Wilkes; every gesture seemed eloquent with girlish
innocence and the playful dawn of life. In actual years I fancy
she was not so extremely youthful, since she was the responsible
and trusted headmistress of a large boarding-school for girls,
but in her heart the joy of life ran high. Miss Wilkes had a
small, round face, with melting eyes, and when she lifted her
head, her ringlets seemed to vibrate and shiver like the bells of
a pagoda. She had a charming way of clasping her hands, and
holding them against her bodice, while she said, 'Oh, but--really
now?' in a manner inexpressibly engaging. She was very earnest,
and she had a pleading way of calling out: 'O, but aren't you
teasing me?' which would have brought a tiger fawning to her

After we had spent a full year without any social distractions,
it seems that our circle of acquaintances had now begun to
extend, in spite of my Father's unwillingness to visit his
neighbours. He was a fortress that required to be stormed, but
there was considerable local curiosity about him, so that by-and-
by escalading parties were formed, some of which were partly
successful. In the first place, Charles Kingsley had never
hesitated to come, from the beginning, ever since our arrival. He
had reason to visit our neighbouring town rather frequently, and
on such occasions he always marched up and attacked us. It was
extraordinary how persistent he was, for my Father must have been
a very trying friend. I vividly recollect that a sort of cross-
examination of would-be communicants was going on in our half-
furnished drawing-room one weekday morning, when Mr. Kingsley was
announced; my Father, in stentorian tones, replied: 'Tell Mr.
Kingsley that I am engaged in examining Scripture with certain of
the Lord's children.' And I, a little later, kneeling at the
window, while the candidates were being dismissed with prayer,
watched the author of _Hypatia_ nervously careening about the
garden, very restless and impatient, yet preferring this ignominy
to the chance of losing my Father's company altogether. Kingsley,
a daring spirit, used sometimes to drag us out trawling with him
in Torbay, and although his hawk's beak and rattling voice
frightened me a little, his was always a jolly presence that
brought some refreshment to our seriousness.

But the other visitors who came in Kingsley's wake and without
his excuse--how they disturbed us! We used to be seated, my
Father at his microscope, I with my map or book, in the down-
stairs room we called the study. There would be a hush around us
in which you could hear a sea-anemone sigh. Then, abruptly, would
come a ring at the front door; my Father would bend at me a
corrugated brow, and murmur, under his breath, 'What's that?' and
then, at the sound of footsteps, would bolt into the verandah,
and around the garden into the potting-shed. If it was no visitor
more serious than the postman or the tax-gatherer, I used to go
forth and coax the timid wanderer home. If it was a caller, above
all a female caller, it was my privilege to prevaricate,
remarking innocently that 'Papa is out!'

Into a paradise so carefully guarded, I know not how that serpent
Miss Wilkes could penetrate, but there she was. She 'broke bread'
with the Brethren at the adjacent town, from which she carried on
strategical movements, which were, up to a certain point, highly
successful. She professed herself deeply interested in
microscopy, and desired that some of her young ladies should
study it also. She came attended by an unimportant man, and by
pupils to whom I had sometimes, very unwillingly, to show our
'natural objects'. They would invade us, and all our quietness
with chattering noise; I could bear none of them, and I was
singularly drawn to Miss Marks by finding that she disliked them

By whatever arts she worked, Miss Wilkes certainly achieved a
certain ascendancy. When the knocks came at the front door, I was
now instructed to see whether the visitor were not she, before my
Father bolted to the potting-shed. She was an untiring listener,
and my Father had a genius for instruction. Miss Wilkes was never
weary of expressing what a revelation of the wonderful works of
God in creation her acquaintance with us had been. She would gaze
through the microscope at awful forms, and would persevere until
the silver rim which marked the confines of the drop of water
under inspection would ripple inwards with a flash of light and
vanish, because the drop itself had evaporated. 'Well, I can only
say, how marvellous are Thy doings!' was a frequent ejaculation
of Miss Wilkes, and one that was very well received. She learned
the Latin names of many of the species, and it seems quite
pathetic to me, looking back, to realize how much trouble the
poor woman took. She 'hung', as the expression is, upon my
Father's every word, and one instance of this led to a certain

My Father, who had an extraordinary way of saying anything what
Came into his mind, stated one day,--the fashions, I must suppose,
being under discussion,--that he thought white the only becoming
colour for a lady's stockings. The stockings of Miss Wilkes had
up to that hour been of a deep violet, but she wore white ones in
future whenever she came to our house. This delicacy would have
been beyond my unaided infant observation, but I heard Miss Marks
mention the matter, in terms which they supposed to be secret, to
her confidante, and I verified it at the ankles of the lady. Miss
Marks continued by saying, in confidence, and 'quite as between
you and me, dear Mary Grace', that Miss Wilkes was a 'minx'. I
had the greatest curiosity about words, and as this was a new
one, I looked it up in our large 'English Dictionary'. But there
the definition of the term was this:--'Minx: the female of
minnock; a pert wanton.' I was as much in the dark as ever.

Whether she was the female of a minnock (whatever that may be) or
whether she was only a very well-meaning schoolmistress desirous
of enlivening a monotonous existence, Miss Wilkes certainly took
us out of ourselves a good deal. Did my Father know what danger
he ran? It was the opinion of Miss Marks and of Mary Grace that
he did not, and in the back-kitchen, a room which served those
ladies as a private oratory in the summer-time, much prayer was
offered up that his eyes might be opened ere it was too late. But
I am inclined to think that they were open all the time, that, at
all events, they were what the French call 'entr'ouvert', that
enough light for practical purposes came sifted in through his
eyelashes. At a later time, being reminded of Miss Wilkes, he
said with a certain complaisance, 'Ah, yes! she proffered much
entertainment during my widowed years!' He used to go down to her
boarding-school, the garden of which had been the scene of a
murder, and was romantically situated on the edge of a quarried
cliff; he always took me with him, and kept me at his side all
through these visits, notwithstanding Miss Wilkes' solicitude that
the fatigue and excitement would be too much for the dear child's
strength, unless I rested a little on the parlour sofa.

About this time, the question of my education came up for
discussion in the household, as indeed it well might. Miss Marks
had long proved practically inadequate in this respect, her
slender acquirements evaporating, I suppose, like the drops of
water under the microscope, while the field of her general duties
became wider. The subjects in which I took pleasure, and upon
which I possessed books, I sedulously taught myself; the other
subjects, which formed the vast majority, I did not learn at all.
Like Aurora Leigh,

    I brushed with extreme flounce
  The circle of the universe,

especially zoology, botany and astronomy, but with the explicit
exception of geology, which my Father regarded as tending
directly to the encouragement of infidelity. I copied a great
quantity of maps, and read all the books of travels that I could
find. But I acquired no mathematics, no languages, no history, so
that I was in danger of gross illiteracy in these important

My Father grudged the time, but he felt it a duty to do something
to fill up these deficiencies, and we now started Latin, in a
little eighteenth-century reading-book, out of which my
Grandfather had been taught. It consisted of strings of words,
and of grim arrangements of conjunction and declension, presented
in a manner appallingly unattractive. I used to be set down in
the study, under my Father's eye, to learn a solid page of this
compilation, while he wrote or painted. The window would be open
in summer, and my seat was close to it. Outside, a bee was
shaking the clematis-blossom, or a red-admiral butterfly was
opening and shutting his wings on the hot concrete of the
verandah, or a blackbird was racing across the lawn. It was
almost more than human nature could bear to have to sit holding
up to my face the dreary little Latin book, with its sheepskin
cover that smelt of mildewed paste.

But out of this strength there came an unexpected sudden
sweetness. The exercise of hearing me repeat my strings of nouns
and verbs had revived in my Father his memories of the classics.
In the old solitary years, a long time ago, by the shores of
Canadian rapids, on the edge of West Indian swamps, his Virgil had
been an inestimable solace to him. To extremely devout persons,
there is something objectionable in most of the great writers of
antiquity. Horace, Lucretius, Terence, Catullus, Juvenal,--in
each there is one quality or another definitely repulsive to a
reader who is determined to know nothing but Christ and him
crucified. From time immemorial, however, it has been recognized
in the Christian church that this objection does not apply to
Virgil. He is the most evangelical of the classics; he is the one
who can be enjoyed with least to explain away and least to
excuse. One evening my Father took down his Virgil from an upper
shelf, and his thoughts wandered away from surrounding things; he
travelled in the past again. The book was a Delphin edition of
1798, which had followed him in all his wanderings; there was a
great scratch on the sheep-skin cover that a thorn had made in a
forest of Alabama. And then, in the twilight, as he shut the
volume at last, oblivious of my presence, he began to murmur and
to chant the adorable verses by memory.

  Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi,

he warbled; and I stopped my play, and listened as if to a
nightingale, until he reached

             tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra
  Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvan.

'Oh Papa, what is that?' I could not prevent myself from asking.
He translated the verses, he explained their meaning, but his
exposition gave me little interest. What to me was beautiful
Amaryllis? She and her love-sick Tityrus awakened no image
whatever in my mind.

But a miracle had been revealed to me, the incalculable, the
amazing beauty which could exist in the sound of verses. My
prosodical instinct was awakened quite suddenly that dim evening,
as my Father and I sat alone in the breakfast-room after tea,
serenely accepting the hour, for once, with no idea of
exhortation or profit. Verse, 'a breeze mid blossoms playing', as
Coleridge says, descended from the roses as a moth might have
done, and the magic of it took hold of my heart forever. I
persuaded my Father, who was a little astonished at my
insistence, to repeat the lines over and over again. At last my
brain caught them, and as I walked in Benny's garden, or as I
hung over the tidal pools at the edge of the sea, all my inner
being used to ring out with the sound of

  Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvan.


IN the previous chapter I have dwelt on some of the lighter
conditions of our life at this time; I must now turn to it in a
less frivolous aspect. As my tenth year advanced, the development
of my character gave my Father, I will not say anxiety, but
matter for serious reflection. My intelligence was now perceived
to be taking a sudden start; visitors drew my Father's attention
to the fact that I was 'coming out so much'. I grew rapidly in
stature, having been a little shrimp of a thing up to that time,
and I no longer appeared much younger than my years. Looking
back, I do not think that there was any sudden mental
development, but that the change was mainly a social one. I had
been reserved, timid and taciturn; I had disliked the company of
strangers. But with my tenth year, I certainly unfolded, so far
as to become sociable and talkative, and perhaps I struck those
around me as grown 'clever', because I said the things which I
had previously only thought. There was a change, no doubt, yet I
believe that it was mainly physical, rather than mental. My
excessive fragility--or apparent fragility, for I must have been
always wiry--decreased; I slept better, and therefore, grew less
nervous; I ate better, and therefore put on flesh. If I preserved
a delicate look--people still used to say in my presence, 'That
dear child is not long for this world!'--it was in consequence of
a sort of habit into which my body had grown; it was a
transparency which did not speak of what was in store for me, but
of what I had already passed through.

The increased activity of my intellectual system now showed
itself in what I behove to be a very healthy form, direct
imitation. The rage for what is called 'originality' is pushed to
such a length in these days that even children are not considered
promising, unless they attempt things preposterous and
unparalleled. From his earliest hour, the ambitious person is
told that to make a road where none has walked before, to do
easily what it is impossible for others to do at all, to create
new forms of thought and expression, are the only recipes for
genius; and in trying to escape on all sides from every
resemblance to his predecessors, he adopts at once an air of
eccentricity and pretentiousness. This continues to be the
accepted view of originality; but, in spite of this conventional
opinion, I hold that the healthy sign of an activity of mind in
early youth is not to be striving after unheard-of miracles, but
to imitate closely and carefully what is being said and done in
the vicinity. The child of a great sculptor will hang about the
studio, and will try to hammer a head out of a waste piece of
marble with a nail; it does not follow that he too will be a
sculptor. The child of a politician will sit in committee with a
row of empty chairs, and will harangue an imaginary senate from
behind the curtains. I, the son of a man who looked through a
microscope and painted what he saw there, would fair observe for
myself, and paint my observations. It did not follow, alas! that
I was built to be a miniature-painter or a savant, but the
activity of a childish intelligence was shown by my desire to
copy the results of such energy as I saw nearest at hand.

In the secular direction, this now took the form of my preparing
little monographs on seaside creatures, which were arranged,
tabulated and divided as exactly as possible on the pattern of
those which my Father was composing for his _Actinologia
Britannica_. I wrote these out upon sheets of paper of the same
size as his printed page, and I adorned them with water-colour
plates, meant to emulate his precise and exquisite illustrations.
One or two of these ludicrous pastiches are still preserved, and
in glancing at them now I wonder, not at any skill that they
possess, but at the perseverance and the patience, the evidence
of close and persistent labour. I was not set to these tasks by
my Father, who, in fact, did not much approve of them. He was
touched, too, with the 'originality' heresy, and exhorted me not
to copy him, but to go out into the garden or the shore and
describe something new, in a new way. That was quite impossible;
I possessed no initiative. But I can now well understand why my
Father, very indulgently and good-temperedly, deprecated these
exercises of mine. They took up, and, as he might well think,
wasted, an enormous quantity of time; and they were, moreover,
parodies, rather than imitations, of his writings, for I invented
new species, with sapphire spots and crimson tentacles and amber
bands, which were close enough to his real species to be
disconcerting. He came from conscientiously shepherding the
flocks of ocean, and I do not wonder that my ring-straked,
speckled and spotted varieties put him out of countenance. If I
had not been so innocent and solemn, he might have fancied I was
mocking him.

These extraordinary excursions into science, falsely so called,
occupied a large part of my time. There was a little spare room
at the back of our house, dedicated to lumber and to empty
portmanteaux. There was a table in it already, and I added a
stool; this cheerless apartment now became my study. I spent so
many hours here, in solitude and without making a sound, that my
Father's curiosity, if not his suspicion, was occasionally
aroused, and he would make a sudden raid on me. I was always
discovered, doubled up over the table, with my pen and ink, or
else my box of colours and tumbler of turbid water by my hand,
working away like a Chinese student shut up in his matriculating

It might have been done for a wager, if anything so simple had
ever been dreamed of in our pious household. The apparatus was
slow and laboured. In order to keep my uncouth handwriting in
bounds, I was obliged to rule not lines only, but borders to my
pages. The subject did not lend itself to any flow of language,
and I was obliged incessantly to borrow sentences, word for word,
from my Father's published books. Discouraged by everyone around
me, daunted by the laborious effort needful to carry out the
scheme, it seems odd to me now that I persisted in so strange and
wearisome an employment, but it became an absorbing passion, and
was indulged in to the neglect of other lessons and other

My Father, as the spring advanced, used to come up to the
Boxroom, as my retreat was called, and hunt me out into the
sunshine. But I soon crept back to my mania. It gave him much
trouble, and Miss Marks, who thought it sheer idleness, was
vociferous in objection. She would gladly have torn up all my
writings and paintings, and have set me to a useful task. My
Father, with his strong natural individualism, could not take
this view. He was interested in this strange freak of mine, and
he could not wholly condemn it. But he must have thought is a
little crazy, and it is evident to me now that it led to the
revolution in domestic policy by which he began to encourage any
acquaintance with other young people as much as he had previously
discouraged it. He saw that I could not be allowed to spend my
whole time in a little stuffy room making solemn and ridiculous
imitations of Papers read before the Linnaean Society. He was
grieved, moreover, at the badness of my pictures, for I had no
native skill; and he tried to teach me his own system of
miniature-painting as applied to natural history. I was forced,
in deep depression of spirits, to turn from my grotesque
monographs, and paint under my Father's eye, and, from a finished
drawing of his, a gorgeous tropic bird in flight. Aided by my
habit of imitation, I did at length produce some thing which
might have shown promise, if it had not been wrung from me, touch
by touch, pigment by pigment, under the orders of a task-master.

All this had its absurd side, but I seem to perceive that it had
also its value. It is, surely, a mistake to look too near at hand
for the benefits of education. What is actually taught in early
childhood is often that part of training which makes least
impression on the character, and is of the least permanent
importance. My labours failed to make me a zoologist, and the
multitude of my designs and my descriptions have left me
helplessly ignorant of the anatomy of a sea-anemone. Yet I cannot
look upon the mental discipline as useless. It taught me to
concentrate my attention, to define the nature of distinctions,
to see accurately, and to name what I saw. Moreover, it gave me
the habit of going on with any piece of work I had in hand, not
flagging because the interest or picturesqueness of the theme had
declined, but pushing forth towards a definite goal, well
foreseen and limited beforehand. For almost any intellectual
employment in later life, it seems to me that this discipline was
valuable. I am, however, not the less conscious how ludicrous was
the mode in which, in my tenth year, I obtained it.

My spiritual condition occupied my Father's thoughts very
insistently at this time. Closing, as he did, most of the doors
of worldly pleasure and energy upon his conscience, he had
continued to pursue his scientific investigations without any
sense of sin. Most fortunate it was, that the collecting of
marine animals in the tidal pools, and the description of them in
pages which were addressed to the wide scientific public, at no
time occurred to him as in any way inconsistent with his holy
calling. His conscience was so delicate, and often so morbid in
its delicacy, that if that had occurred to him, he would
certainly have abandoned his investigations, and have been left
without an employment. But happily he justified his investigation
by regarding it as a glorification of God's created works. In the
introduction of his _Actinologia Britannica_, written at the time
which I have now reached in this narrative, he sent forth his
labours with a phrase which I should think unparalleled in
connection with a learned and technical biological treatise. He
stated, concerning that book, that he published it 'as one more
tribute humbly offered to the glory of the Triune God, who is
wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working'. Scientific
investigation sincerely carried out in that spirit became a kind
of weekday interpretation of the current creed of Sundays.

The development of my faculties, of which I have spoken, extended
to the religious sphere no less than to the secular, Here, also,
as I look back, I see that I was extremely imitative. I expanded
in the warmth of my Father's fervour, and, on the whole, in a
manner that was satisfactory to him. He observed the richer hold
that I was now taking on life; he saw my faculties branching in
many directions, and he became very anxious to secure my
maintenance in grace. In earlier years, certain sides of my
character had offered a sort of passive resistance to his ideas.
I had let what I did not care to welcome pass over my mind in the
curious density that children adopt in order to avoid receiving
impressions--blankly, dumbly, achieving by stupidity what they
cannot achieve by argument. I think that I had frequently done
this; that he had been brought up against a dead wall; although
on other sides of my nature I had been responsive and docile. But
now, in my tenth year, the imitative faculty got the upper hand,
and nothing seemed so attractive as to be what I was expected to
be. If there was a doubt now, it lay in the other direction; it
seemed hardly normal that so young a child should appear so
receptive and so apt.

My Father believed himself justified, at this juncture, in making
a tremendous effort. He wished to secure me finally,
exhaustively, before the age of puberty could dawn, before my
soul was fettered with the love of carnal things. He thought that
if I could now be identified with the 'saints', and could stand
on exactly their footing, a habit of conformity would be secured.
I should meet the paganizing tendencies of advancing years with
security if I could be forearmed with all the weapons of a
sanctified life. He wished me, in short, to be received into the
community of the Brethren on the terms of an adult. There were
difficulties in the way of carrying out this scheme, and they
were urged upon him, more or less courageously, by the elders of
the church. But he overbore them. What the difficulties were, and
what were the arguments which he used to sweep those difficulties
away, I must now explain, for in this lay the centre of our
future relations as father and son.

In dealing with the peasants around him, among whom he was
engaged in an active propaganda, my Father always insisted on the
necessity of conversion. There must be a new birth and being, a
fresh creation in God. This crisis he was accustomed to regard as
manifesting itself in a sudden and definite upheaval. There might
have been prolonged practical piety, deep and true contrition for
sin, but these, although the natural and suitable prologue to
conversion, were not conversion itself. People hung on at the
confines of regeneration, often for a very long time; my Father
dealt earnestly with them, the elders ministered to them, with
explanation, exhortation and prayer. Such persons were in a
gracious state, but they were not in a state of grace. If they
should suddenly die, they would pass away in an unconverted
condition, and all that could be said in their favour was a vague
expression of hope that they would benefit from God's
uncovenanted mercies.

But on some day, at some hour and minute, if life was spared to
them, the way of salvation would be revealed to these persons in
such an aspect that they would be enabled instantaneously to
accept it. They would take it consciously, as one takes a gift
from the hand that offers it. This act of taking was the process
of conversion, and the person who so accepted was a child of God
now, although a single minute ago he had been a child of wrath.
The very root of human nature had to be changed, and, in the
majority of cases, this change was sudden, patent, and palpable.

I have just said, 'in the majority of cases', because my Father
admitted the possibility of exceptions. The formula was, 'If any
man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.' As a rule,
no one could possess the Spirit of Christ, without a conscious
and full abandonment of the soul, and this, however carefully led
up to, and prepared for with tears and renunciations, was not,
could not, be made, except at a set moment of time. Faith, in an
esoteric and almost symbolic sense, was necessary, and could not
be a result of argument, but was a state of heart. In these
opinions my Father departed in no ways from the strict
evangelical doctrine of the Protestant churches, but he held it
in a mode and with a severity peculiar to himself. Now, it is
plain that this state of heart, this voluntary deed of
acceptance, presupposed a full and rational consciousness of the
relations of things. It might be clearly achieved by a person of
humble cultivation, but only by one who was fully capable of
independent thought, in other words by a more or less adult
person, The man or woman claiming the privileges of conversion
must be able to understand and to grasp what his religious
education was aiming at.

It is extraordinary what trouble it often gave my Father to know
whether he was justified in admitting to the communion people of
very limited powers of expression. A harmless, humble labouring
man would come with a request--to be allowed to 'break bread'. It
was only by the use of strong leading questions that he could be
induced to mention Christ as the ground of his trust at all. I
recollect an elderly agricultural labourer being closeted for a
long time with my Father, who came out at last, in a sort of
dazed condition, and replied to our inquiries,--with a shrug of
his shoulders as he said it,--'I was obliged to put the Name and
Blood and Work of Jesus into his very mouth. It is true that he
assented cordially at last, but I confess I was grievously
daunted by the poor intelligence!'

But there was, or there might be, another class of persona, whom
early training, separation from the world, and the care of godly
parents had so early familiarized with the acceptable calling of
Christ that their conversion had occurred, unperceived and
therefore unrecorded, at an extraordinarily earl age. It would be
in vain to look for a repetition of the phenomenon in those
cases. The heavenly fire must not be expected to descend a second
time; the lips are touched with the burning coal once, and once
only. If, accordingly, these precociously selected spirits are to
be excluded because no new birth is observed in them at a mature
age, they must continue outside in the cold, since the phenomenon
cannot be repeated. When, therefore, there is not possible any
further doubt of their being in possession of salvation, longer
delay is useless, and worse than useless. The fact of conversion,
though not recorded nor even recollected, must be accepted on the
evidence of confession of faith, and as soon as the intelligence
is evidently developed, the person not merely may, but should be
accepted into communion, although still immature in body,
although in years still even a child. This my Father believed to
be my case, and in this rare class did he fondly persuade himself
to station me.

As I have said, the congregation,--although docile and timid, and
little able, as units, to hold their own against their minister--
behind his back were faintly hostile to this plan. None of their
own children had ever been so much as suggested for membership,
and each of themselves, in ripe years, had been subjected to
severe cross-examination. I think it was rather a bitter pill for
some of them to swallow that a pert little boy of ten should be
admitted, as a grown-up person, to all the hard-won privileges of
their order. Mary Grace Burmington came back from her visits to
the cottagers, reporting disaffection here and there, grumblings
in the rank and file. But quite as many, especially of the women,
enthusiastically supported my Father's wish, gloried aloud in the
manifestations of my early piety, and professed to see in it
something of miraculous promise. The expression 'another Infant
Samuel' was widely used. I became quite a subject of contention.
A war of the sexes threatened to break out over me; I was a
disturbing element at cottage breakfasts. I was mentioned at
public prayer-meetings, not indeed by name but, in the
extraordinary allusive way customary in our devotions, as 'one
amongst us of tender years' or as 'a sapling in the Lord's

To all this my Father put a stop in his own high-handed fashion.
After the morning meeting, one Sunday in the autumn of 1859, he
desired the attention of the Saints to a personal matter which
was, perhaps, not unfamiliar to them by rumour. That was, he
explained, the question of the admission of his, beloved little
son to the communion of saints in the breaking of bread. He
allowed--and I sat there in evidence, palely smiling at the
audience, my feet scarcely touching the ground--that I was not
what is styled adult; I was not, he frankly admitted, a grown-up
person. But I was adult in a knowledge of the Lord; I possessed
an insight into the plan of salvation which many a hoary head
might envy for its fullness, its clearness, its conformity with
Scripture doctrine. This was a palpable hit at more than one
stumbler and fumbler after the truth, and several hoary heads
were bowed.

My Father then went on to explain very fully the position which I
have already attempted to define. He admitted the absence in my
case of a sudden, apparent act of conversion resulting upon
conviction of sin. But he stated the grounds of his belief that I
had, in still earlier infancy, been converted, and he declared
that if so, I ought no longer to be excluded from the privileges
of communion. He said, moreover, that he was willing on this
occasion to waive his own privilege as a minister, and that he
would rather call on Brother Fawkes and Brother Bere, the leading
elders, to examine the candidate in his stead. This was a master-
stroke, for Brothers Fawkes and Bere had been suspected of
leading the disaffection, and this threw all the burden of
responsibility on them. The meeting broke up in great amiability,
and my Father and I went home together in the very highest of
spirits. I, indeed, in my pride, crossed the verge of
indiscretion by saying: 'When I have been admitted to fellowship,
Papa, shall I be allowed to call you "beloved Brother"?' My
Father was too well pleased with the morning's work to be
critical. He laughed, and answered: 'That, my Love, though
strictly correct, would hardly, I fear, be thought judicious!'

It was suggested that my tenth birthday, which followed this
public announcement by a few days, would be a capital occasion
for me to go through the ordeal. Accordingly, after dark (for our
new lamp was lighted for the first time in honour of the event),
I withdrew alone into our drawing-room, which had just, at
length, been furnished, and which looked, I thought, very smart.
Hither came to me, first Brother Fawkes, by himself; then Brother
Bere, by himself; and then both together, so that you may say, if
you are pedanticaly inclined, that I underwent three successive
interviews. My Father, out of sight somewhere, was, of course,
playing the part of stage manager.

I felt not at all shy, but so highly strung that my whole nature
seemed to throb with excitement. My first examiner, on the other
hand, was extremely confused. Fawkes, who was a builder in a
small business of his own, was short and fat; his complexion,
which wore a deeper and more uniform rose-colour than usual, I
observed to be starred with dew-drops of nervous emotion, which
he wiped away at intervals with a large bandana handkerchief. He
was so long in coming to the point, that I was obliged to lead
him to it myself, and I sat up on the sofa in the full lamplight,
and testified my faith in the atonement with a fluency that
surprised myself. Before I had done, Fawkes, a middle-aged man
with the reputation of being a very stiff employer of labour, was
weeping like a child.

Bere, the carpenter, a long, thin and dry man, with a curiously
immobile eye, did not fall so easily a prey to my fascinations.
He put me through my paces very sharply, for he had something of
the temper of an attorney mingled with his religiousness.
However, I was equal to him, and he, too, though he held his own
head higher, was not less impressed than Fawkes had been, by the
surroundings of the occasion. Neither of them had ever been in
our drawing-room since it was furnished, and I thought that each
of them noticed how smart the wallpaper was. Indeed, I believe I
drew their attention to it. After the two solitary examinations
were over, the elders came in again, as I have said, and they
prayed for a long time. We all three knelt at the sofa, I between
them. But by this time, to my great exaltation of spirits there
had succeeded an equally dismal depression. It was my turn now to
weep, and I dimly remember any Father coming into the room, and
my being carried up to bed, in a state of collapse and fatigue,
by the silent and kindly Miss Marks.

On the following Sunday morning, I was the principal subject
which occupied an unusually crowded meeting. My Father, looking
whiter and yet darker than usual, called upon Brother Fawkes and
Brother Bere to state to the assembled saints what their
experiences had been in connexion with their visits to 'one' who
desired to be admitted to the breaking of bread. It was
tremendously exciting to me to hear myself spoken of with this
impersonal publicity, and I had no fear of the result.

Events showed that I had no need of fear. Fawkes and Bere were
sometimes accused of a rivalry, which indeed broke out a few
years later, and gave my Father much anxiety and pain. But on
this occasion their unanimity was wonderful. Each strove to
exceed the other in the tributes which they paid to any piety. My
answers had been so full and clear, my humility (save the mark!)
had been so sweet, my acquaintance with Scripture so amazing, my
testimony to all the leading principles of salvation so distinct
and exhaustive, that they could only say that they had felt
confounded, and yet deeply cheered and led far along their own
heavenly path, by hearing such accents fall from the lips of a
babe and a suckling. I did not like being described as a
suckling, but every lot has its crumpled rose-leaf, and in all
other respects the report of the elders was a triumph. My Father
then clenched the whole matter by rising and announcing that I
had expressed an independent desire to confess the Lord by the
act of public baptism, immediately after which I should be
admitted to communion 'as an adult'. Emotion ran so high at this,
that a large portion of the congregation insisted on walking with
us back to our garden-gate, to the stupefaction of the rest of
the villagers.

My public baptism was the central event of my whole childhood.
Everything, since the earliest dawn of consciousness, seemed to
have been leading up to it. Everything, afterwards, seemed to be
leading down and away from it. The practice of immersing
communicants on the sea-beach at Oddicombe had now been
completely abandoned, but we possessed as yet no tank for a
baptismal purpose in our own Room. The Room in the adjoining
town, however, was really quite a large chapel, and it was amply
provided with the needful conveniences. It was our practice,
therefore, at this time, to claim the hospitality of our
neighbours. Baptisms were made an occasion for friendly relations
between the two congregations, and led to pleasant social
intercourse. I believe that the ministers and elders of the two
meetings arranged to combine their forces at these times, and to
baptize communicants from both congregations.

The minister of the town meeting was Mr. S., a very handsome old
gentleman, of venerable and powerful appearance. He had snowy
hair and a long white beard, but from under shaggy eyebrows there
blazed out great black eyes which warned the beholder that the
snow was an ornament and not a sign of decrepitude. The eve of my
baptism at length drew near; it was fixed for October 12, almost
exactly three weeks after my tenth birthday. I was dressed in old
clothes, and a suit of smarter things was packed up in a carpet-
bag. After nightfall, this carpet-bag, accompanied by my Father,
myself, Miss Marks and Mary Grace, was put in a four-wheeled cab,
and driven, a long way in the dark, to the chapel of our friends.
There we were received, in a blaze of lights, with a pressure of
hands, with a murmur of voices, with ejaculations and even with
tears, and were conducted, amid unspeakable emotion, to places of
honour in the front row of the congregation.

The scene was one which would have been impressive, not merely to
such hermits as we were, but even to worldly persons accustomed
to life and to its curious and variegated experiences. To me it
was dazzling beyond words, inexpressibly exciting, an initiation
to every kind of publicity and glory. There were many candidates,
but the rest of them,--mere grownup men and women,--gave thanks
aloud that it was their privilege to follow where I led. I was
the acknowledged hero of the hour. Those were days when newspaper
enterprise was scarcely in its infancy, and the event owed
nothing to journalistic effort; in spite of that, the news of
this remarkable ceremony, the immersion of a little boy of ten
years old 'as an adult', had spread far and wide through the
county in the course of three weeks. The chapel of our hosts was,
as I have said, very large; it was commonly too large for their
needs, but on this night it was crowded to the ceiling, and the
crowd had come--as every soft murmur assured me--to see _me_.

There were people there who had travelled from Exeter, from
Dartmouth, from Totnes, to witness so extraordinary a ceremony.
There was one old woman of eighty-five who had come, my
neighbours whispered to me, all the way from Moreton-Hampstead,
on purpose to see me baptized. I looked at her crumpled
countenance with amazement, for there was no curiosity, no
interest visible in it. She sat there perfectly listless, looking
at nothing, but chewing between her toothless gums what appeared
to be a jujube.

In the centre of the chapel-floor a number of planks had been
taken up and revealed a pool which might have been supposed to be
a small swimming-bath. We gazed down into this dark square of
mysterious waters, from the tepid surface of which faint swirls
of vapour rose. The whole congregation was arranged, tier above
tier, about the four straight sides of this pool; every person
was able to see what happened in it without any unseemly
struggling or standing on forms. Mr. S. now rose, an impressive
hieratic figure, commanding attention and imploring perfect
silence. He held a small book in his hand, and he was preparing
to give out the number of a hymn, when an astounding incident
took place.

There was a great splash, and a tall young woman was perceived to
be in the baptismal pool, her arms waving above her head, and her
figure held upright in the water by the inflation of the air
underneath her crinoline which was blown out like a bladder, as
in some extravagant old fashion-plate. Whether her feet touched
the bottom of the font I cannot say, but I suppose they did so.
An indescribable turmoil of shrieks and cries followed on this
extraordinary apparition. A great many people excitedly called
upon other people to be calm, and an instance was given of the
remark of James Smith that

  He who, in quest of quiet, 'Silence!' hoots
  Is apt to make the hubbub he imputes.

The young woman, in a more or less fainting condition, was
presently removed from the water, and taken into the sort of tent
which was prepared for candidates. It was found that she herself
had wished to be a candidate and had earnestly desired to be
baptized, but that this had been forbidden by her parents. On the
supposition that she fell in by accident, a pious coincidence was
detected in this affair; the Lord had pre-ordained that she
should be baptized in spite of all opposition. But my Father, in
his shrewd way, doubted. He pointed out to us, next morning,
that, in the first place, she had not, in any sense, been
baptized, as her head had not been immersed; and that, in the
second place, she must have deliberately jumped in, since, had
she stumbled and fallen forward, her hands and face would have
struck the water, whereas they remained quite dry. She belonged,
however, to the neighbour congregation, and we had no
responsibility to pursue the inquiry any further.

Decorum being again secured, Mr. S., with unimpaired dignity,
proposed to the congregation a hymn, which was long enough to
occupy them during the preparations for the actual baptism. He
then retired to the vestry, and I (for I was to be the first to
testify) was led by Miss Marks and Mary Grace into the species of
tent of which I have just spoken. Its pale sides seemed to shake
with the jubilant singing of the saints outside, while part of my
clothing was removed and I was prepared for immersion. A sudden
cessation of the hymn warned us that to Minister was now ready,
and we emerged into the glare of lights and faces to find Mr. S.
already standing in the water up to his knees. Feeling as small
as one of our microscopical specimens, almost infinitesimally
tiny as I descended into his Titanic arms, I was handed down the
steps to him. He was dressed in a kind of long surplice,
underneath which--as I could not, even in that moment, help
observing--the air gathered in long bubbles which he strove to
flatten out. The end of his noble beard he had tucked away; his
shirt-sleeves were turned up at the wrist.

The entire congregation was now silent, so silent that the
uncertain splashing of my feet as I descended seemed to deafen
one. Mr. S., a little embarrassed by my short stature, succeeded
at length in securing me with one palm on my chest and the other
between my shoulders. He said, slowly, in a loud, sonorous voice
that seemed to enter my brain and empty it, 'I baptize thee, my
Brother, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost!' Having intoned this formula, he then gently flung me
backwards until I was wholly under the water, and then--as he
brought me up again, and tenderly steadied my feet on the steps
of the font, and delivered me, dripping and spluttering, into the
anxious hands of the women, who hurried me to the tent--the whole
assembly broke forth in a thunder of song, a paean of praise to
God for this manifestation of his marvellous goodness and mercy.
So great was the enthusiasm, that it could hardly be restrained
so as to allow the other candidates, the humdrum adults who
followed in my wet and glorious footsteps, to undergo a ritual
about which, in their case, no one in the congregation pretended
to be able to take even the most languid interest.

My Father's happiness during the next few weeks it is not
pathetic to me to look back upon. His sternness melted into a
universal complaisance. He laughed and smiled, he paid to my
opinions the tribute of the gravest considerations, he indulged--
utterly unlike his wont--in shy and furtive caresses. I could
express no wish that he did not attempt to fulfill, and the only
warning which he cared to give me was one, very gently expressed,
against spiritual pride.

This was certainly required, for I was puffed out with a sense of
my own holiness. I was religiously confidential with my Father,
condescending with Miss Marks (who I think had given up trying to
make it all out), haughty with the servants, and insufferably
patronizing with those young companions of my own age with whom I
was now beginning to associate.

I would fain close this remarkable episode on a key of solemnity,
but alas! If I am to be loyal to the truth, I must record that
some of the other little boys presently complained to Mary Grace
that I put out my tongue at them in mockery, during the service
in the Room, to remind them that I now broke bread as one of the
Saints and that they did not.


THE result of my being admitted into the communion of the
'Saints' was that, as soon as the nine days' wonder of the thing
passed by, my position became, if anything, more harassing and
pressed than ever. It is true that freedom was permitted to me in
certain directions; I was allowed to act a little more on my own
responsibility, and was not so incessantly informed what 'the
Lord's will' might be in this matter and in that, because it was
now conceived that, in such dilemmas, I could command private
intelligence of my own. But there was no relaxation of our rigid
manner of life, and I think I now began, by comparing it with the
habits of others, to perceive how very strict it was.

The main difference in my lot as a communicant from that of a
mere dweller in the tents of righteousness was that I was
expected to respond with instant fervour to every appeal of
conscience. When I did not do this, my position was almost worse
than it had been before, because of the livelier nature of the
responsibility which weighed upon me. My little faults of
conduct, too, assumed shapes of terrible importance, since they
proceeded from one so signally enlightened. My Father was never
tired of reminding me that, now that I was a professing
Christian, I must remember, in everything I did, that I was an
example to others. He used to draw dreadful pictures of
supposititious little boys who were secretly watching me from
afar, and whose whole career, in time and in eternity, might be
disastrously affected if I did not keep my lamp burning.

The year which followed upon my baptism did not open very happily
at the Room. Considerable changes had now taken place in the
community. My Father's impressive services, a certain prestige in
his preaching, the mere fact that so vigorous a person was at the
head of affairs, had induced a large increase in the attendance.
By this time, if my memory does not fail me as to dates, we had
left the dismal loft over the stables, and had built ourselves a
perfectly plain, but commodious and well-arranged chapel in the
centre of the village. This greatly added to the prosperity of
the meeting. Everything had combined to make our services
popular, and had attracted to us a new element of younger people.
Numbers of youthful masons and carpenters, shop-girls and
domestic servants, found the Room a pleasant trysting-place, and
were more or less superficially induced to accept salvation as it
was offered to them in my Father's searching addresses. My Father
was very shrewd in dealing with mere curiosity or idle motive,
and sharply packed off any youths who simply came to make eyes at
the girls, or any 'maids' whose only object was to display their
new bonnet-strings. But he was powerless against a temporary
sincerity, the simulacrum of a true change of heart. I have often
heard him say,--of some young fellow who had attended our
services with fervour for a little while, and then had turned
cold and left us,--'and I thought that the Holy Ghost had wrought
in him!' Such disappointments grievously depress an evangelist.

Religious bodies are liable to strange and unaccountable
fluctuations. At the beginning of the third year since our
arrival, the congregation seemed to be in a very prosperous
state, as regards attendance, conversions and other outward signs
of activity. Yet it was quite soon after this that my Father
began to be harassed by all sorts of troubles, and the spring of
1860 was a critical moment in the history of the community.
Although he loved to take a very high tone about the Saints, and
involved them sometimes in a cloud of laudatory metaphysics, the
truth was that they were nothing more than peasants of a somewhat
primitive type, not well instructed in the rules of conduct and
liable to exactly the same weaknesses as invade the rural
character in every country and latitude. That they were exhorted
to behave as 'children of light', and that the majority of them
sincerely desired to do credit to their high calling, could not
prevent their being beset by the sins which had affected their
forebears for generations past.

The addition of so many young persons of each sex to the
communion led to an entirely new class of embarrassment. Now
there arose endless difficulties about 'engagements', about
youthful brethren who 'went out walking' with even more youthful
sisters. Glancing over my Father's notes, I observe the ceaseless
repetition of cases in which So-and-So is 'courting' Such-an-one,
followed by the melancholy record that he has 'deserted' her. In
my Father's stern language, 'desertion' would very often mean no
more than that the amatory pair had blamelessly changed their
minds; but in some cases it meant more and worse than this. It
was a very great distress to him that sometimes the young men and
women who showed the most lively interest in Scripture, and who
had apparently accepted the way of salvation with the fullest
intelligence, were precisely those who seemed to struggle with
least success against a temptation to unchastity. He put this
down to the concentrated malignity of Satan, who directed his
most poisoned darts against the fairest of the flock.

In addition to these troubles, there came recriminations, mutual
charges of drunkenness in private, all sorts of petty jealousy
and scandal. There were frequent definite acts of 'back-sliding'
on the part of members, who had in consequence to be 'put away'.
No one of these cases might be in itself extremely serious, but
when many of them came together they seemed to indicate that the
church was in an unhealthy condition. The particulars of many of
these scandals were concealed from me, but I was an adroit little
pitcher, and had cultivated the art of seeming to be interested
in something else, a book or a flower, while my elders were
talking confidentially. As a rule, while I would fain have
acquired more details, I was fairly well-informed about the
errors of the Saints, although I was often quaintly ignorant of
the real nature of those errors.

Not infrequently, persons who had fallen into sin repented of it
under my Father's penetrating ministrations. They were apt in
their penitence to use strange symbolic expressions. I remember
Mrs. Pewings, our washerwoman, who had been accused of
intemperance and had been suspended from communion, reappearing
with a face that shone with soap and sanctification, and saying
to me, 'Oh! blessed Child, you're wonderin' to zee old Pewings
here again, but He have rolled away my mountain!' For once, I was
absolutely at a loss, but she meant that the Lord had removed the
load of her sins, and restored her to a state of grace.

It was in consequence of these backslidings, which had become
alarmingly frequent, that early in 1860 my Father determined on
proclaiming a solemn fast. He delivered one Sunday what seemed to
me an awe-inspiring address, calling upon us all closely to
examine our consciences, and reminding us of the appalling fate
of the church of Laodicea. He said that it was not enough to have
made a satisfactory confession of faith, nor even to have sealed
that confession in baptism, if we did not live up to our
protestations. Salvation, he told us, must indeed precede
holiness of life, yet both are essential. It was a dark and rainy
winter morning when he made this terrible address, which
frightened the congregation extremely. When the marrow was
congealed within our bones, and when the bowed heads before him,
and the faintly audible sobs of the women in the background, told
him that his lesson had gone home, he pronounced the keeping of a
day in the following week as a fast of contrition. 'Those of you
who have to pursue your daily occupations will pursue them, but
sustained only by the bread of affliction and by the water of

His influence over these gentle peasant people was certainly
remarkable, for no effort was made to resist his exhortation. It
was his customary plan to stay a little while, after the morning
meeting was over, and in a very affable fashion to shake hands
with the Saints. But on this occasion he stalked forth without a
word, holding my hand tight until we had swept out into the

How the rest of the congregation kept this fast I do not know.
But it was a dreadful day for us. I was awakened in the pitchy
night to go off with my Father to the Room, where a scanty
gathering held a penitential prayer-meeting. We came home, as
dawn was breaking, and in process of time sat down to breakfast,
which consisted--at that dismal hour--of slices of dry bread and
a tumbler of cold water each. During the morning, I was not
allowed to paint, or write, or withdraw to my study in the box-
room. We sat, in a state of depression not to be described, in
the breakfast-room, reading books of a devotional character, with
occasional wailing of some very doleful hymn. Our midday dinner
came at last; the meal was strictly confined, as before, to dry
slices of the loaf and a tumbler of water.

The afternoon would have been spent as the morning was, and so my
Father spent it. But Miss Marks, seeing my white cheeks and the
dark rings around my eyes, besought leave to take me out for a
walk. This was permitted, with a pledge that I should be given no
species of refreshment. Although I told Miss Marks, in the course
of the walk, that I was feeling 'so leer' (our Devonshire phrase
for hungry), she dared not break her word. Our last meal was of
the former character, and the day ended by our trapesing through
the wet to another prayer-meeting, whence I returned in a state
bordering on collapse and was put to bed without further
nourishment. There was no great hardship in all this, I daresay,
but it was certainly rigorous. My Father took pains to see that
what he had said about the bread and water of affliction was
carried out in the bosom of his own family, and by no one more
unflinchingly than by himself.

My attitude to other people's souls when I was out of my Father's
sight was now a constant anxiety to me. In our tattling world of
small things he had extraordinary opportunities of learning how I
behaved when I was away from home; I did not realize this, and I
used to think his acquaintance with my deeds and words savoured
almost of wizardry. He was accustomed to urge upon me the
necessity of 'speaking for Jesus in season and out of season',
and he so worked upon my feelings that I would start forth like
St. Teresa, wild for the Moors and martyrdom. But any actual
impact with persons marvelously cooled my zeal, and I should
hardly ever have 'spoken' at all if it had not been for that
unfortunate phrase 'out of season'. It really seemed that one
must talk of nothing else, since if an occasion was not in season
it was out of season; there was no alternative, no close time for

My Father was very generous. He used to magnify any little effort
that I made, with stammering tongue, to sanctify a visit; and
people, I now see, were accustomed to give me a friendly lead in
this direction, so that they might please him by reporting that I
had 'testified' in the Lord's service. The whole thing, however,
was artificial, and was part of my Father's restless inability to
let well alone. It was not in harshness or in ill-nature that he
worried me so much; on the contrary, it was all part of his too-
anxious love. He was in a hurry to see me become a shining light,
everything that he had himself desired to be, yet with none of
his shortcomings.

It was about this time that he harrowed my whole soul into
painful agitation by a phrase that he let fall, without, I
believe, attaching any particular importance to it at the time.
He was occupied, as he so often was, in polishing and burnishing
my faith, and he was led to speak of the day when I should ascend
the pulpit to preach my first sermon. 'Oh! if I may be there, out
of sight, and hear the gospel message proclaimed from your lips,
then I shall say, "My poor work is done. Oh! Lord Jesus, receive
my spirit".' I cannot express the dismay which this aspiration
gave me, the horror with which I anticipated such a nunc
dimittis. I felt like a small and solitary bird, caught and hung
out hopelessly and endlessly in a great glittering cage. The
clearness of the personal image affected me as all the texts and
prayers and predictions had failed to do. I saw myself imprisoned
for ever in the religious system which had caught me and would
whirl my helpless spirit as in the concentric wheels of my
nightly vision. I did not struggle against it, because I believed
that it was inevitable, and that there was no other way of making
peace with the terrible and ever-watchful 'God who is a jealous
God'. But I looked forward to my fate without zeal and without
exhilaration, and the fear of the Lord altogether swallowed up
and cancelled any notion of the love of Him.

I should do myself an injustice, however, if I described my
attitude to faith at this time as wanting in candour. I did very
earnestly desire to follow where my Father led. That passion for
imitation, which I have already discussed, was strongly developed
at this time, and it induced me to repeat the language of pious
books in godly ejaculations which greatly edified my grown-up
companions, and were, so far as I can judge, perfectly sincere. I
wished extremely to be good and holy, and I had no doubt in my
mind of the absolute infallibility of my Father as a guide in
heavenly things. But I am perfectly sure that there never was a
moment in which my heart truly responded, with native ardour, to
the words which flowed so readily, in such a stream of unction,
from my anointed lips. I cannot recall anything but an
intellectual surrender; there was never joy in the act of
resignation, never the mystic's rapture at feeling his phantom
self, his own threadbare soul, suffused, thrilled through, robed
again in glory by a fire which burns up everything personal and
individual about him.

Through thick and thin I clung to a hard nut of individuality,
deep down in my childish nature. To the pressure from without I
resigned everything else, my thoughts, my words, my
anticipations, my assurances, but there was something which I
never resigned, my innate and persistent self. Meek as I seemed,
and gently respondent, I was always conscious of that innermost
quality which I had learned to recognize in my earlier days in
Islington, that existence of two in the depths who could speak to
one another in inviolable secrecy.

'This a natural man may discourse of, and that very knowingly, and
give a kind of natural credit to it, as to a history that may be
true; but firmly to believe that there is divine truth in all
these things, and to have a persuasion of it stronger than of the
very thing we see with our eyes; such an assent as this is the
peculiar work of the Spirit of God, and is certainly saving

This passage is not to be found in the writings of any
extravagant Plymouth Brother, but in one of the most solid
classics of the Church, in Archbishop Leighton's _Commentary on
the First Epistle of Peter_. I quote it because it defines, more
exactly than words of my own could hope to do, the difference
which already existed, and in secrecy began forthwith to be more
and more acutely accentuated between my Father and myself. He did
indeed possess this saving faith, which could move mountains of
evidence, and suffer no diminution under the action of failure or
disappointment. I, on the other hand--as I began to feel dimly
then, and see luminously now--had only acquired the habit of
giving what the Archbishop means by 'a kind of natural credit' to
the doctrine so persistently impressed upon my conscience. From
its very nature this could not but be molten in the dews and
exhaled in the sunshine of life and thought and experience.

My Father, by an indulgent act for the caprice of which I cannot
wholly account, presently let in a flood of imaginative light
which was certainly hostile to my heavenly calling. My
instinctive interest in geography has already been mentioned.
This was the one branch of knowledge in which I needed no
instruction, geographical information seeming to soak into the
cells of my brain without an effort. At the age of eleven, I knew
a great deal more of maps, and of the mutual relation of
localities all over the globe, than most grown-up people do. It
was almost a mechanical acquirement. I was now greatly taken with
the geography of the West Indies, of every part of which I had
made MS. maps. There was something powerfully attractive to my
fancy in the great chain of the Antilles, lying on the sea like
an open bracelet, with its big jewels and little jewels strung on
an invisible thread. I liked to shut my eyes and see it all, in a
mental panorama, stretched from Cape Sant' Antonio to the
Serpent's Mouth. Several of these lovely islands, these emeralds
and amethysts set on the Caribbean Sea, my Father had known well
in his youth, and I was importunate in questioning him about
them. One day, as I multiplied inquiries, he rose in his
impetuous way, and climbing to the top of a bookcase, brought
down a thick volume and presented it to me. 'You'll find all
about the Antilles there,' he said, and left me with _Tom
Cringle's Log_ in my possession.

The embargo laid upon every species of fiction by my Mother's
powerful scruple had never been raised, although she had been
dead four years. As I have said in an earlier chapter, this was a
point on which I believe that my Father had never entirely agreed
with her. He had, however, yielded to her prejudice; and no work
of romance, no fictitious story, had ever come in my way. It is
remarkable that among our books, which amounted to many hundreds,
I had never discovered a single work of fiction until my Father
himself revealed the existence of Michael Scott's wild
masterpiece. So little did I understand what was allowable in the
way of literary invention that I began the story without a doubt
that it was true, and I think it was my Father himself who, in
answer to an inquiry, explained to me that it was 'all made up'.
He advised me to read the descriptions of the sea, and of the
mountains of Jamaica, and 'skip' the pages which gave imaginary
adventures and conversations. But I did not take his counsel;
these latter were the flower of the book to me. I had never read,
never dreamed of anything like them, and they filled my whole
horizon with glory and with joy.

I suppose that when my Father was a younger man, and less
pietistic, he had read _Tom Cringle's Log_ with pleasure, because
it recalled familiar scenes to him. Much was explained by the
fact that the frontispiece of this edition was a delicate line-
engraving of Blewfields, the great lonely house in a garden of
Jamaican all-spice where for eighteen months he had worked as a
naturalist. He could not look at this print without recalling
exquisite memories and airs that blew from a terrestrial
paradise. But Michael Scott's noisy amorous novel of adventure
was an extraordinary book to put in the hands of a child who had
never been allowed to glance at the mildest and most febrifugal

It was like giving a glass of brandy neat to someone who had
never been weaned from a milk diet. I have not read _Tom Cringle's
Log_ from that day to this, and I think that I should be unwilling
now to break the charm of memory, which may be largely illusion.
But I remember a great deal of the plot and not a little of the
language, and, while I am sure it is enchantingly spirited, I am
quite as sure that the persons it describes were far from being
unspotted by the world. The scenes at night in the streets of
Spanish Town surpassed not merely my experience, but, thank
goodness, my imagination. The nautical personages used, in their
conversations, what is called 'a class of language', and there
ran, if I am not mistaken, a glow and gust of life through the
romance from beginning to end which was nothing if it was not
resolutely pagan.

There were certain scenes and images in _Tom Cringle's Log_ which
made not merely a lasting impression upon my mind, but tinged my
outlook upon life. The long adventures, fightings and escapes,
sudden storms without, and mutinies within, drawn forth as they
were, surely with great skill, upon the fiery blue of the
boundless tropical ocean, produced on my inner mind a sort of
glimmering hope, very vaguely felt at first, slowly developing,
long stationary and faint, but always tending towards a belief
that I should escape at last from the narrowness of the life we
led at home, from this bondage to the Law and the Prophets.

I must not define too clearly, nor endeavour too formally to
insist on the blind movements of a childish mind. But of this I
am quite sure, that the reading and re-reading of _Tom Cringle's
Log_ did more than anything else, in this critical eleventh year
of my life, to give fortitude to my individuality, which was in
great danger--as I now see--of succumbing to the pressure my
Father brought to bear upon it from all sides. My soul was shut
up, like Fatima, in a tower to which no external influences could
come, and it might really have been starved to death, or have
lost the power of recovery and rebound, if my captor, by some
freak not yet perfectly accounted for, had not gratuitously
opened a little window in it and added a powerful telescope. The
daring chapters of Michael Scott's picaresque romance of the
tropics were that telescope and that window.

In the spring of this year, I began to walk about the village and
even proceed for considerable distances into the country by
myself, and after reading _Tom Cringle's Log_ those expeditions
were accompanied by a constant hope of meeting with some
adventures. I did not court events, however, except in fancy, for
I was very shy of real people, and would break off some gallant
dream of prowess on the high seas to bolt into a field and hide
behind the hedge, while a couple of labouring men went by.
Sometimes, however, the wave of a great purpose would bear me on,
as when once, but certainly at an earlier date than I have now
reached, hearing the dangers of a persistent drought much dwelt
upon, I carried my small red watering pot, full of water, up to
the top of the village, and then all the way down Petittor Lane,
and discharged its contents in a cornfield, hoping by this act to
improve the prospects of the harvest. A more eventful excursion
must be described, because of the moral impression it left
indelibly upon me.

I have described the sequestered and beautiful hamlet of Barton,
to which I was so often taken visiting by Mary Grace Burmington.
At Barton there lived a couple who were objects of peculiar
interest to me, because of the rather odd fact that having come,
out of pure curiosity, to see me baptized, they had been then and
there deeply convinced of their spiritual danger. These were John
Brooks, an Irish quarryman, and his wife, Ann Brooks. These
people had not merely been hitherto unconverted, but they had
openly treated the Brethren with anger and contempt. They came,
indeed, to my baptism to mock, but they went away impressed.

Next morning, when Mrs. Brooks was at the wash tub, as she told
us, Hell opened at her feet, and the Devil came out holding a
long scroll on which the list of her sins was written. She was so
much excited, that the motion brought about a miscarriage and she
was seriously ill. Meanwhile, her husband, who had been equally
moved at the baptism, was also converted, and as soon as she was
well enough, they were baptized together, and then 'broke bread'
with us. The case of the Brookses was much talked about, and was
attributed, in a distant sense, to me; that is to say, if I had
not been an object of public curiosity, the Brookses might have
remained in the bond of iniquity. I, therefore, took a very
particular interest in them, and as I presently heard that they
were extremely poor, I was filled with a fervent longing to
minister to their necessities.

Somebody had lately given me a present of money, and I begged
little sums here and there until I reached the very considerable
figure of seven shillings and sixpence. With these coins safe in
a little linen bag, I started one Sunday afternoon, without
saying anything to anyone, and I arrived at the Brookses' cottage
in Barton. John Brooks was a heavy dirty man, with a pock-marked
face and two left legs; his broad and red face carried small
side-whiskers in the manner of that day, but was otherwise
shaved. When I reached the cottage, husband and wife were at
home, doing nothing at all in the approved Sunday style. I was
received by them with some surprise, but I quickly explained my
mission, and produced my linen bag. To my disgust, all John
Brooks said was, 'I know'd the Lord would provide,' and after
emptying my little bag into the palm of an enormous hand, he
swept the contents into his trousers pocket, and slapped his leg.
He said not one single word of thanks or appreciation, and I was
absolutely cut to the heart.

I think that in the course of a long life I have never
experienced a bitterer disappointment. The woman, who was
quicker, and more sensitive, doubtless saw my embarrassment, but
the form of comfort which she chose was even more wounding to my
pride. 'Never mind, little master,' she said, 'you shall come and
see me feed the pigs.' But there is a limit to endurance, and
with a sense of having been cruelly torn by the tooth of
ingratitude, I fled from the threshold of the Brookses, never to

At tea that afternoon, I was very much downcast, and under cross-
examination from Miss Marks, all my little story came out. My
Father, who had been floating away in a meditation, as he very
often did, caught a word that interested him and descended to
consciousness. I had to tell my tale over again, this time very
sadly, and with a fear that I should be reprimanded. But on the
contrary, both my Father and Miss Marks were attentive and most
sympathetic, and I was much comforted. 'We must remember they are
the Lord's children,' said my Father. 'Even the Lord can't make a
silk purse out of a sow's ear,' said Miss Marks, who was
considerably ruffled. 'Alas! alas!' replied my Father, waving his
hand with a deprecating gesture. 'The dear child!' said Miss
Marks, bristling with indignation, and patting my hand across the
tea-table. 'The Lord will reward your zealous loving care of his
poor, even if they have neither the grace nor the knowledge to
thank you,' said my Father, and rested his brown eyes meltingly
upon me. 'Brutes!' said Miss Marks, thinking of John and Ann
Brooks. 'Oh no! no!' replied my Father, 'but hewers of wood and
drawers of water! We must bear with the limited intelligence.'
All this was an emollient to my wounds, and I became consoled.
But the springs of benevolence were dried up within me, and to
this day I have never entirely recovered from the shock of John
Brooks's coarse leer and his 'I know'd the Lord would provide.'
The infant plant of philanthropy was burned in my bosom as if by

In the course of the summer, a young schoolmaster called on my
Father to announce to him that he had just opened a day-school
for the sons of gentlemen in our vicinity, and he begged for the
favour of a visit. My Father returned his call; he lived in one
of the small white villas, buried in laurels, which gave a
discreet animation to our neighbourhood. Mr. M. was frank and
modest, deferential to my Father's opinions and yet capable of
defending his own. His school and he produced an excellent
impression, and in August I began to be one of his pupils. The
school was very informal; it was held in the two principal
dwelling-rooms on the ground-floor of the villa, and I do not
remember that Mr. M. had any help from an usher.

There were perhaps twenty boys in the school at most, and often
fewer. I made the excursion between home and school four times a
day; if I walked fast, the transit might take five minutes, and,
as there were several objects of interest in the way, it might be
spread over an hour. In fine weather the going to and from school
was very delightful, and small as the scope of it was, it could
be varied almost indefinitely. I would sometimes meet with a
schoolfellow proceeding in the same direction, and my Father,
observing us over the wall one morning, was amused to notice that
I always progressed by dancing along the curbstone sideways, my
face turned inwards and my arms beating against my legs,
conversing loudly all the time. This was a case of pure heredity,
for so he used to go to his school, forty years before, along the
streets of Poole.

One day when fortunately I was alone, I was accosted by an old
gentleman, dressed as a dissenting minister. He was pleased with
my replies, and he presently made it a habit to be taking his
constitutional when I was likely to be on the high road. We
became great friends, and he took me at last to his house, a very
modest place, where to my great amazement, there hung in the
dining-room, two large portraits, one of a man, the other of a
woman, in extravagant fancy-dress. My old friend told me that the
former was a picture of himself as he had appeared, 'long ago, in
my unconverted days, on the stage'.

I was so ignorant as not to have the slightest conception of what
was meant by the stage, and he explained to me that he had been
an actor and a poet, before the Lord had opened his eyes to
better things. I knew nothing about actors, but poets were
already the objects of my veneration. My friend was the first
poet I had ever seen. He was no less a person than James Sheridan
Knowles, the famous author of _Virginius_ and _The Hunchback_, who
had become a Baptist minister in his old age. When, at home, I
mentioned this acquaintance, it awakened no interest. I believe
that my Father had never heard, or never noticed, the name of one
who had been by far the most eminent English playwright of that

It was from Sheridan Knowles' lips that I first heard fall the
name of Shakespeare. He was surprised, I fancy, to find me so
curiously advanced in some branches of knowledge, and so utterly
ignorant of others. He could hardly credit that the names of
Hamlet and Falstaff and Prospero meant nothing to a little boy
who knew so much theology and geography as I did. Mr. Knowles
suggested that I should ask my schoolmaster to read some of the
plays of Shakespeare with the boys, and he proposed _The Merchant
of Venice_ as particularly well-suited for this purpose. I
repeated what my aged friend (Mr. Sheridan Knowles must have been
nearly eighty at that time) had said, and Mr. M. accepted the
idea with promptitude. (All my memories of this my earliest
schoolmaster present him to me as intelligent, amiable and quick,
although I think not very soundly prepared for his profession.)

Accordingly, it was announced that the reading of Shakespeare
would be one of our lessons, and on the following afternoon we
began _The Merchant of Venice_. There was one large volume, and it
was handed about the class; I was permitted to read the part of
Bassanio, and I set forth, with ecstatic pipe, how

  In Belmont is a lady richly left,
  And she is fair, and fairer than that word!

Mr. M. must have had some fondness for the stage himself; his
pleasure in the Shakespeare scenes was obvious, and nothing else
that he taught me made so much impression on me as what he said
about a proper emphasis in reading aloud. I was in the seventh
heaven of delight, but alas! we had only reached the second act
of the play, when the readings mysteriously stopped. I never knew
the cause, but I suspect that it was at my Father's desire. He
prided himself on never having read a page of Shakespeare, and on
never having entered a theatre but once. I think I must have
spoken at home about the readings, and that he must have given
the schoolmaster a hint to return to the ordinary school

The fact that I was 'a believer', as it was our custom to call
one who had been admitted to the arcana of our religion, and that
therefore, in all commerce with 'unbelievers', it was my duty to
be 'testifying for my Lord, in season and out of season'--this
prevented my forming any intimate friendships at my first school.
I shrank from the toilsome and embarrassing act of button-holing
a schoolfellow as he rushed out of class, and of pressing upon
him the probably unintelligible question 'Have you found Jesus?'
It was simpler to avoid him, to slip like a lizard though the
laurels and emerge into solitude.

The boys had a way of plunging out into the road in front of the
school-villa when afternoon school was over; it was a pleasant
rural road lined with high hedges and shadowed by elm-trees.
Here, especially towards the summer twilight, they used to linger
and play vague games, swooping and whirling in the declining
sunshine, and I was glad to join these bat-like sports. But my
company, though not avoided, was not greatly sought for. I think
that something of my curious history was known, and that I was,
not unkindly but instinctively, avoided, as an animal of a
different species, not allied to the herd. The conventionality of
little boys is constant; the colour of their traditions is
uniform. At the same time, although I made no friends, I found no
enemies. In class, except in my extraordinary aptitude for
geography, which was looked upon as incomprehensible and almost
uncanny, I was rather behind than in front of the others. I,
therefore, awakened no jealousies, and, intent on my own dreams,
I think my little shadowy presence escaped the notice of most of
my schoolfellows.

By the side of the road I have mentioned, between the school and
my home, there was a large horse-pond. The hedge folded around
three sides of it, while ancient pollard elms bent over it, and
chequered with their foliage in it the reflection of the sky. The
roadside edge of this pond was my favourite station; it consisted
of a hard clay which could be moulded into fairly tenacious
forms. Here I created a maritime empire--islands, a seaboard with
harbours, light-houses, fortifications. My geographical
imitativeness had its full swing. Sometimes, while I was
creating, a cart would be driven roughly into the pond, and a
horse would drink deep of my ocean, his hooves trampling my
archipelagoes and shattering my ports with what was worse than a
typhoon. But I immediately set to work, as soon as the cart was
gone and the mud had settled, to tidy up my coastline again and
to scoop out anew my harbours.

My pleasure in this sport was endless, and what I was able to
see, in my mind's eye, was not the edge of a morass of mud, but a
splendid line of coast, and gulfs of the type of Tor Bay. I do
not recollect a sharper double humiliation than when old Sam
Lamble, the blacksmith, who was one of the 'saints', being asked
by my Father whether he had met me, replied 'Yes, I zeed 'un up-
long, making mud pies in the ro-ad!' What a position for one who
had been received into communion 'as an adult'! What a blot on
the scutcheon of a would-be Columbus! 'Mud-pies', indeed!

Yet I had an appreciator. One afternoon, as I was busy on my
geographical operations, a good-looking middle-aged lady, with a
soft pink cheek and a sparkling hazel eye, paused and asked me if
my name was not what it was. I had seen her before; a stranger to
our parts, with a voice without a trace in it of the Devonshire
drawl. I knew, dimly, that she came sometimes to the meeting,
that she was lodging at Upton with some friends of ours who
accepted paying guests in an old house that was simply a basket
of roses. She was Miss Brightwen, and I now conversed with her
for the first time.

Her interest in my harbours and islands was marked; she did not
smile; she asked questions about my peninsulas which were
intelligent and pertinent. I was even persuaded at last to leave
my creations and to walk with her towards the village. I was
pleased with her voice, her refinements, her dress, which was
more delicate, and her manners, which were more easy, than what I
was accustomed to, We had some very pleasant conversation, and
when we parted I had the satisfaction of feeling that our
intercourse had been both agreeable to me and instructive to her.
I told her that I should be glad to tell her more on a future
occasion; she thanked me very gravely, and then she laughed a
little. I confess I did not see that there was anything to laugh
at. We parted on warm terms of mutual esteem, but I little
thought that this sympathetic Quakerish lady was to become my


I SLEPT in a little bed in a corner of the room, and my Father in
the ancestral four-poster nearer to the door. Very early one
bright September morning at the close of my eleventh year, my
Father called me over to him. I climbed up, and was snugly
wrapped in the coverlid; and then we held a momentous
conversation. It began abruptly by his asking me whether I should
like to have a new mamma. I was never a sentimentalist, and I
therefore answered, cannily, that that would depend on who she
was. He parried this, and announced that, anyway, a new mamma was
coming; I was sure to like her. Still in a noncommittal mood, I
asked: 'Will she go with me to the back of the lime-kiln?' This
question caused my Father a great bewilderment. I had to explain
that the ambition of my life was to go up behind the lime-kiln on
the top of the hill that hung over Barton, a spot which was
forbidden ground, being locally held one of extreme danger. 'Oh!
I daresay she will,' my Father then said, 'but you must guess who
she is.' I guessed one or two of the less comely of the female
'saints', and, this embarrassing my Father,--since the second I
mentioned was a married woman who kept a sweet-shop in the
village,--he cut my inquiries short by saying, 'It is Miss

So far so good, and I was well pleased. But unfortunately I
remembered that it was my duty to testify 'in season and out of
season'. I therefore asked, with much earnestness, 'But, Papa, is
she one of the Lord's children?' He replied, with gravity, that
she was. 'Has she taken up her cross in baptism?' I went on, for
this was my own strong point as a believer. My Father looked a
little shame-faced, and replied: 'Well, she has not as yet seen
the necessity of that, but we must pray that the Lord may make
her way clear before her. You see, she has been brought up,
hitherto, in the so-called Church of England.' Our positions were
now curiously changed. It seemed as if it were I who was the
jealous monitor, and my Father the deprecating penitent. I sat up
in the coverlid, and I shook a finger at him. 'Papa,' I said,
'don't tell me that she's a pedobaptist?' I had lately acquired
that valuable word, and I seized this remarkable opportunity of
using it. It affected my Father painfully, but he repeated his
assurance that if we united our prayers, and set the Scripture
plan plainly before Miss Brightwen, there could be no doubt that
she would see her way to accepting the doctrine of adult baptism.
And he said we must judge not, lest we ourselves bejudged. I had
just enough tact to let that pass, but I was quite aware that our
whole system was one of judging, and that we had no intention
whatever of being judged ourselves. Yet even at the age of eleven
one sees that on certain occasions to press home the truth is not

Just before Christmas, on a piercing night of frost, my Father
brought to us his bride. The smartening up of the house, the new
furniture, the removal of my own possessions to a private
bedroom, the wedding-gifts of the 'saints', all these things
paled in interest before the fact that Miss Marks had 'made a
scene', in the course of the afternoon. I was dancing about the
drawing-room, and was saying: 'Oh! I am so glad my new Mamma is
coming,' when Miss Marks called out, in an unnatural voice, 'Oh!
you cruel child.' I stopped in amazement and stared at her,
whereupon she threw prudence to the winds, and moaned: 'I once
thought I should be your dear mamma.' I was simply stupefied, and
I expressed my horror in terms that were clear and strong.
Thereupon Miss Marks had a wild fit of hysterics, while I looked
on, wholly unsympathetic and still deeply affronted. She was
right; I was cruel, alas! but then, what a silly woman she had
been! The consequence was that she withdrew in a moist and
quivering condition to her boudoir, where she had locked herself
in when I, all smiles and caresses, was welcoming the bride and
bridegroom on the doorstep as politely as if I had been a valued
old family retainer.

My stepmother immediately became a great ally of mine. She was
never a tower of strength to me, but at least she was always a
lodge in my garden of cucumbers. She was a very well-meaning
pious lady, but she was not a fanatic, and her mind did not
naturally revel in spiritual aspirations. Almost her only social
fault was that she was sometimes a little fretful; this was the
way in which her bruised individuality asserted itself. But she
was affectionate, serene, and above all refined. Her refinement
was extraordinarily pleasant to my nerves, on which much else in
our surroundings jarred.

How life may have jarred, poor insulated lady, on her during her
first experience of our life at the Room, I know not, but I think
she was a philosopher. She had, with surprising rashness, and in
opposition to the wishes of every member of her own family, taken
her cake, and now she recognized that she must eat it, to the
last crumb. Over her wishes and prejudices my Father exercised a
constant, cheerful and quiet pressure. He was never unkind or
abrupt, but he went on adding avoirdupois until her will gave way
under the sheer weight. Even to public immersion, which, as was
natural in a shy and sensitive lady of advancing years, she
regarded with a horror which was long insurmountable,--even to
baptism she yielded, and my Father had the joy to announce to the
Saints one Sunday morning at the breaking of bread that 'my
beloved wife has been able at length to see the Lord's Will in
the matter of baptism, and will testify to the faith which is in
her on Thursday evening next.' No wonder my stepmother was
sometimes fretful.

On the physical side, I owe her an endless debt of gratitude. Her
relations, who objected strongly to her marriage, had told her,
among other pleasant prophecies, that 'the first thing you will
have to do will be to bury that poor child'. Under the old-world
sway of Miss Marks, I had slept beneath a load of blankets, had
never gone out save weighted with great coat and comforter, and
had been protected from fresh air as if from a pestilence. With
real courage my stepmother reversed all this. My bedroom window
stood wide open all night long, wraps were done away with, or
exchanged for flannel garments next the skin, and I was urged to
be out and about as much as possible.

All the quidnuncs among the 'saints' shook their heads; Mary
Grace Burmington, a little embittered by the downfall of her
Marks, made a solemn remonstrance to my Father, who, however,
allowed my stepmother to carry out her excellent plan. My health
responded rapidly to this change of regime, but increase of
health did not bring increase of spirituality. My Father, fully
occupied with moulding the will and inflaming the piety of my
stepmother, left me now, to a degree not precedented,
in undisturbed possession of my own devices. I did not lose my
faith, but many other things took a prominent place in my mind.

It will, I suppose, be admitted that there is no greater proof of
complete religious sincerity than fervour in private prayer. If
an individual, alone by the side of his bed, prolongs his
intercessions, lingers wrestling with his divine Companion, and
will not leave off until he has what he believes to be evidence
of a reply to his entreaties--then, no matter what the character
of his public protestations, or what the frailty of his actions,
it is absolutely certain that he believes in what he professes.

My Father prayed in private in what I may almost call a spirit of
violence. He entreated for spiritual guidance with nothing less
than importunity. It might be said that he stormed the citadels
of God's grace, refusing to be baffled, urging his intercessions
without mercy upon a Deity who sometimes struck me as inattentive
to his prayers or wearied by them. My Father's acts of
supplication, as I used to witness them at night, when I was
supposed to be asleep, were accompanied by stretchings out of the
hands, by crackings of the joints of the fingers, by deep
breathings, by murmurous sounds which seemed just breaking out of
silence, like Virgil's bees out of the hive, 'magnis clamoribus'.
My Father fortified his religious life by prayer as an athlete
does his physical life by lung-gymnastics and vigorous rubbings.

It was a trouble to my conscience that I could not emulate this
fervour. The poverty of my prayers had now long been a source of
distress to me, but I could not discover how to enrich them. My
Father used to warn us very solemnly against 'lip-service', by
which he meant singing hymns of experience and joining in
ministrations in which our hearts took no vital or personal part.
This was an outward act, the tendency of which I could well
appreciate, but there was a 'lip-service' even more deadly than
that, against which it never occurred to him to warn me. It
assailed me when I had come alone by my bedside, and had blown
out the candle, and had sunken on my knees in my night-gown. Then
it was that my deadness made itself felt, in the mechanical
address I put up, the emptiness of my language, the absence of
all real unction.

I never could contrive to ask God for spiritual gifts in the same
voice and spirit in which I could ask a human being for objects
which I knew he could give me and which I earnestly desired to
possess. That sense of the reality of intercession was for ever
denied me, and it was, I now see, the stigma of my want of faith.
But at the time, of course, I suspected nothing of the kind, and
I tried to keep up my zeal by a desperate mental flogging, as if
my soul had been a peg-top.

In nothing did I gain from the advent of my stepmother more than
in the encouragement she gave to my friendships with a group of
boys of my own age, of whom I had now lately formed the
acquaintance. These friendships she not merely tolerated, but
fostered; it was even due to her kind arrangements that they took
a certain set form, that our excursions started from this house
or from that on regular days. I hardly know by what stages I
ceased to be a lonely little creature of mock-monographs and mud-
pies, and became a member of a sort of club of eight or ten
active boys. The long summer holidays of 1861 were set in an
enchanting brightness.

Looking back, I cannot see a cloud on the terrestrial horizon--I
see nothing but a blaze of sunshine; descents of slippery grass
to moons of snow-white shingle, cold to the bare flesh; red
promontories running out into a sea that was like sapphire; and
our happy clan climbing, bathing, boating, lounging, chattering,
all the hot day through. Once more I have to record the fact,
which I think is not without interest, that precisely as my life
ceases to be solitary, it ceases to be distinct. I have no
difficulty in recalling, with the minuteness of a photograph,
scenes in which my Father and I were the sole actors within the
four walls of a room, but of the glorious life among wild boys on
the margin of the sea I have nothing but vague and broken
impressions, delicious and illusive.

It was a remarkable proof of my Father's temporary lapse into
indulgence that he made no effort to thwart my intimacy with
these my new companions. He was in an unusually humane mood
himself. His marriage was one proof of it; another was the
composition at this time of the most picturesque, easy and
graceful of all his writings, _The Romance of Natural History_,
even now a sort of classic. Everything combined to make him
believe that the blessing of the Lord was upon him, and to clothe
the darkness of the world with at least a mist of rose-colour. I
do not recollect that ever at this time he bethought him, when I
started in the morning for a long day with my friends on the edge
of the sea, to remind me that I must speak to them, in season and
out of season, of the Blood of Jesus. And I, young coward that I
was, let sleeping dogmas lie.

My companions were not all of them the sons of saints in our
communion; their parents belonged to that professional class
which we were only now beginning to attract to our services. They
were brought up in religious, but not in fanatical, families, and
I was the only 'converted' one among them. Mrs. Paget, of whom I
shall have presently to speak, characteristically said that it
grieved her to see 'one lamb among so many kids'. But 'kid' is a
word of varied significance and the symbol did not seem to us
effectively applied. As a matter of fact, we made what I still
feel was an excellent tacit compromise. My young companions never
jeered at me for being 'in communion with the saints', and I, on
my part, never urged the Atonement upon them. I began, in fact,
more and more to keep my own religion for use on Sundays.

It will, I hope, have been observed that among the very curious
grown-up people into whose company I was thrown, although many
were frail and some were foolish, none, so far as I can discern,
were hypocritical. I am not one of those who believe that
hypocrisy is a vice that grows on every bush. Of course, in
religious more than in any other matters, there is a perpetual
contradiction between our thoughts and our deeds which is
inevitable to our social order, and is bound to lead to _cette
tromperie mutuelle_ of which Pascal speaks. But I have often
wondered, while admiring the splendid portrait of Tartuffe,
whether such a monster ever, or at least often, has walked the
stage of life; whether Moliere observed, or only invented him.

To adopt a scheme of religious pretension, with no belief
whatever in its being true, merely for sensuous advantage, openly
acknowledging to one's inner self the brazen system of deceit,--
such a course may, and doubtless has been, trodden, yet surely
much less frequently than cynics love to suggest. But at the
juncture which I have now reached in my narrative, I had the
advantage of knowing a person who was branded before the whole
world, and punished by the law of his country, as a felonious
hypocrite. My Father himself could only sigh and admit the
charge. And yet--I doubt.

About half-way between our village and the town there lay a
comfortable villa inhabited by a retired solicitor, or perhaps
attorney, whom I shall name Mr. Dormant. We often called at his
half-way house, and, although he was a member of the town-
meeting, he not unfrequently came up to us for 'the breaking of
bread'. Mr. Dormant was a solid, pink man, of a cosy habit. He
had beautiful white hair, a very soft voice, and a welcoming,
wheedling manner; he was extremely fluent and zealous in using
the pious phraseology of the sect. My Father had never been very
much attracted to him, but the man professed, and I think felt,
an overwhelming admiration for my Father. Mr. Dormant was not
very well off, and in the previous year he had persuaded an aged
gentleman of wealth to come and board with him. When, in the
course of the winter, this gentleman died, much surprise was felt
at the report that he had left almost his entire fortune, which
was not inconsiderable, to Mr. Dormant.

Much surprise--for the old gentleman had a son to whom he had
always been warmly attached, who was far away, I think in South
America, practising a perfectly respectable profession of which
his father entirely approved. My own Father always preserved a
delicacy and a sense of honour about money which could not have
been more sensitive if he had been an ungodly man, and I am very
much pleased to remember that when the legacy was first spoken
of, he regretted that Mr. Dormant should have allowed the old
gentleman to make this will. If he knew the intention, my Father
said, it would have shown a more proper sense of his
responsibility if he had dissuaded the testator from so
unbecoming a disposition. That was long before any legal question
arose; and now Mr. Dormant came into his fortune, and began to
make handsome gifts to missionary societies, and to his own
meeting in the town. If I do not mistake, he gave, unsolicited, a
sum to our building fund, which my Father afterwards returned.
But in process of time we heard that the son had come back from
the Antipodes, and was making investigations. Before we knew
where we were, the news burst upon us, like a bomb-shell, that
Mr. Dormant had been arrested on a criminal charge and was now in
jail at Exeter.

Sympathy was at first much extended amongst us to the prisoner.
But it was lessened when we understood that the old gentleman had
been 'converted' while under Dormant's roof, and had given the
fact that his son was 'an unbeliever' as a reason for
disinheriting him. All doubt was set aside when it was divulged,
under pressure, by the nurse who attended on the old gentleman,
herself one of the 'saints', that Dormant had traced the
signature to the will by drawing the fingers of the testator over
the document when he was already and finally comatose.

My Father, setting aside by a strong effort of will the
repugnance which he felt, visited the prisoner in gaol before
this final evidence had been extracted. When he returned he said
that Dormant appeared to be enjoying a perfect confidence of
heart, and had expressed a sense of his joy and peace in the
Lord; my Father regretted that he had not been able to persuade
him to admit any error, even of judgement. But the prisoner's
attitude in the dock, when the facts were proved, and not by him
denied, was still more extraordinary. He could be induced to
exhibit no species of remorse, and, to the obvious anger of the
judge himself, stated that he had only done his duty as a
Christian, in preventing this wealth from coming into the hands
of an ungodly man, who would have spent it in the service of the
flesh and of the devil. Sternly reprimanded by the judge, he made
the final statement that at that very moment he was conscious of
his Lord's presence, in the dock at his side, whispering to him
'Well done, thou good and faithful servant!' In this frame of
conscience, and with a glowing countenance, he was hurried away
to penal servitude.

This was a very painful incident, and it is easy to see how
compromising, how cruel, it was in its effect upon our communion;
what occasion it gave to our enemies to blaspheme. No one, in
either meeting, could or would raise a voice to defend Mr.
Dormant. We had to bow our heads when we met our enemies in the
gate. The blow fell more heavily on the meeting of which he had
been a prominent and communicating member, but it fell on us too,
and my Father felt it severely. For many years he would never
mention the man's name, and he refused all discussion of the

Yet I was never sure, and I am not sure now, that the wretched
being was a hypocrite. There are as many vulgar fanatics as there
are distinguished ones, and I am not convinced that Dormant,
coarse and narrow as he was, may not have sincerely believed that
it was better for the money to be used in religious propaganda
than in the pleasures of the world, of which he doubtless formed
a very vague idea. On this affair I meditated much, and it
awakened in my mind, for the first time, a doubt whether our
exclusive system of ethics was an entirely salutary one, if it
could lead the conscience of a believer to tolerate such acts as
these, acts which my Father himself had denounced as
dishonourable and disgraceful.

My stepmother brought with her a little library of such books as
we had not previously seen, but which yet were known to all the
world except us. Prominent among these was a set of the poems of
Walter Scott, and in his unwonted geniality and provisional
spirit of compromise, my Father must do no less than read these
works aloud to my stepmother in the quiet spring evenings. This
was a sort of aftermath of courtship, a tribute of song to his
bride, very sentimental and pretty. She would sit, sedately, at
her workbox, while he, facing her, poured forth the verses at her
like a blackbird. I was not considered in this arrangement, which
was wholly matrimonial, but I was present, and the exercise made
more impression upon me than it did upon either of the principal
agents. My Father read the verse admirably, with a full,--some
people (but not I) might say with a too full--perception of the
metre as well as of the rhythm, rolling out the rhymes, and
glorying in the proper names. He began, and it was a happy
choice, with 'The Lady of the Lake'. It gave me singular pleasure
to hear his large voice do justice to 'Duncrannon' and 'Cambus-
Kenneth', and wake the echoes with 'Rhoderigh Vich Alphine dhu,
ho! ieroe!' I almost gasped with excitement, while a shudder
floated down my backbone, when we came to:

  A sharp and shrieking echo gave,
  Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin cave!
  And the grey pass where birches wave,
    On Beala-nam-bo,

a passage which seemed to me to achieve the ideal of sublime
romance. My thoughts were occupied all day long with the
adventures of Fitzjames and the denizens of Ellen's Isle. It
became an obsession, and when I was asked whether I remembered
the name of the cottage where the minister of the Bible
Christians lodged, I answered, dreamily, 'Yes,--Beala-nambo.'

Seeing me so much fascinated, thrown indeed into a temporary
frenzy, by the epic poetry of Sir Walter Scott, my stepmother
asked my Father whether I might not start reading the Waverley
Novels. But he refused to permit this, on the ground that those
tales gave false and disturbing pictures of life, and would lead
away my attention from heavenly things. I do not fully apprehend
what distinction he drew between the poems, which he permitted,
and the novels, which he refused. But I suppose he regarded a
work in verse as more artificial, and therefore less likely to
make a realistic impression, than one in prose. There is
something quaint in the conscientious scruple which allows _The
Lord of the Isles_ and excludes _Rob Roy_.

But stranger still, and amounting almost to a whim, was his
sudden decision that, although I might not touch the novels of
Scott, I was free to read those of Dickens. I recollect that my
stepmother showed some surprise at this, and that my Father
explained to her that Dickens 'exposes the passion of love in a
ridiculous light.' She did not seem to follow this
recommendation, which indeed tends to the ultra-subtle, but she
procured for me a copy of _Pickwick_, by which I was instantly and
gloriously enslaved. My shouts of laughing at the richer passages
were almost scandalous, and led to my being reproved for
disturbing my Father while engaged, in an upper room, in the
study of God's Word. I must have expended months on the perusal
of _Pickwick_, for I used to rush through a chapter, and then read
it over again very slowly, word for word, and then shut my eyes
to realize the figures and the action.

I suppose no child will ever again enjoy that rapture of
unresisting humorous appreciation of 'Pickwick'. I felt myself to
be in the company of a gentleman so extremely funny that I began
to laugh before he began to speak; no sooner did he remark 'the
sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw,' than I was in
fits of hilarity. My retirement in our sequestered corner of life
made me, perhaps, even in this matter, somewhat old-fashioned,
and possibly I was the latest of the generation who accepted Mr.
Pickwick with an unquestioning and hysterical abandonment.
Certainly few young people now seem sensitive, as I was, and as
thousands before me had been, to the quality of his fascination.

It was curious that living in a household where a certain
delicate art of painting was diligently cultivated, I had yet
never seen a real picture, and was scarcely familiar with the
design of one in engraving. My stepmother, however, brought a
flavour of the fine arts with her; a kind of aesthetic odour,
like that of lavender, clung to her as she moved. She had known
authentic artists in her youth; she had watched Old Crome
painting, and had taken a course of drawing-lessons from no less
a person than Cotman. She painted small watercolour landscapes
herself, with a delicate economy of means and a graceful Norwich
convention; her sketch-books were filled with abbeys gently
washed in, river-banks in sepia by which the elect might be dimly
reminded of _Liber Studiorum_, and woodland scenes over which the
ghost of Creswick had faintly breathed. It was not exciting art,
but it was, so far as it went, in its lady-like reserve, the real
thing. Our sea-anemones, our tropic birds, our bits of spongy
rock filled and sprayed with corallines, had been very
conscientious and skilful, but, essentially, so far as art was
concerned, the wrong thing.

Thus I began to acquire, without understanding the value of it,
some conception of the elegant phases of early English
watercolour painting, and there was one singular piece of a
marble well brimming with water, and a greyish-blue sky over it,
and dark-green poplars, shaped like wet brooms, menacing the
middle distance, which Cotman himself had painted; and this
seemed beautiful and curious to me in its dim, flat frame, when
it was hoisted to a place on our drawing-room wall.

But still I had never seen a subject-picture, although my
stepmother used to talk of the joys of the Royal Academy, and it
was therefore with a considerable sense of excitement that I
went, with my Father, to examine Mr. Holman Hunt's 'Finding of
Christ in the Temple' which at this time was announced to be on
public show at our neighbouring town. We paid our shillings and
ascended with others to an upper room, bare of every disturbing
object, in which a strong top-light raked the large and
uncompromising picture. We looked at it for some time in silence,
and then my Father pointed out to me various details, such as the
phylacteries and the mitres, and the robes which distinguished
the high priest.

Some of the other visitors, as I recollect, expressed
astonishment and dislike of what they called the 'Preraphaelite'
treatment, but we were not affected by that. Indeed, if anything,
the exact, minute and hard execution of Mr. Hunt was in sympathy
with the methods we ourselves were in the habit of using when we
painted butterflies and seaweeds, placing perfectly pure pigments
side by side, without any nonsense about chiaroscuro. This large,
bright, comprehensive picture made a very deep impression upon
me, not exactly as a work of art, but as a brilliant natural
specimen. I was pleased to have seen it, as I was pleased to have
seen the comet, and the whale which was brought to our front door
on a truck. It was a prominent addition to my experience.

The slender expansions of my interest which were now budding
hither and thither do not seem to have alarmed my Father at all.
His views were short; if I appeared to be contented and obedient,
if I responded pleasantly when he appealed to me, he was not
concerned to discover the source of my cheerfulness. He put it
down to my happy sense of joy in Christ, a reflection of the
sunshine of grace beaming upon me through no intervening clouds
of sin or doubt. The 'saints' were, as a rule, very easy to
comprehend; their emotions lay upon the surface. If they were
gay, it was because they had no burden on their consciences,
while, if they were depressed, the symptom might be depended upon
as showing that their consciences were troubling them, and if
they were indifferent and cold, it was certain that they were
losing their faith and becoming hostile to godliness. It was
almost a mechanical matter with these simple souls. But, although
I was so much younger, I was more complex and more crafty than
the peasant 'saints'. My Father, not a very subtle psychologist,
applied to me the same formulas which served him well at the
chapel, but in my case the results were less uniformly

The excitement of school-life and the enlargement of my circle of
interests, combined to make Sunday, by contrast, a very tedious
occasion. The absence of every species of recreation on the
Lord's Day grew to be a burden which might scarcely be borne. I
have said that my freedom during the week had now become
considerable; if I was at home punctually at meal times, the rest
of my leisure was not challenged. But this liberty, which in the
summer holidays came to surpass that of 'fishes that tipple in
the deep', was put into more and more painful contrast with the
unbroken servitude of Sunday.

My Father objected very strongly to the expression Sabbath-day,
as it is commonly used by Presbyterians and others. He said,
quite justly, that it was an inaccurate modern innovation, that
Sabbath was Saturday, the Seventh day of the week, not the first,
a Jewish festival and not a Christian commemoration. Yet his
exaggerated view with regard to the observance of the First Day,
namely, that it must be exclusively occupied with public and
private exercises of divine worship, was based much more upon a
Jewish than upon a Christian law. In fact, I do not remember that
my Father ever produced a definite argument from the New
Testament in support of his excessive passivity on the Lord's
Day. He followed the early Puritan practice, except that he did
not extend his observance, as I believe the old Puritans did,
from sunset on Saturday to sunset on Sunday.

The observance of the Lord's Day has already become universally
so lax that I think there may be some value in preserving an
accurate record of how our Sundays were spent five and forty
years ago. We came down to breakfast at the usual time. My Father
prayed briefly before we began the meal; after it, the bell was
rung, and, before the breakfast was cleared away, we had a
lengthy service of exposition and prayer with the servants. If
the weather was fine, we then walked about the garden, doing
nothing, for about half an hour. We then sat, each in a separate
room, with our Bibles open and some commentary on the text beside
us, and prepared our minds for the morning service. A little
before 11 a.m. we sallied forth, carrying our Bibles and hymn-
books, and went through the morning-service of two hours at the
Room; this was the central event of Sunday.

We then came back to dinner,--curiously enough to a hot dinner,
always, with a joint, vegetables and puddings, so that the cook
at least must have been busily at work,--and after it my Father
and my stepmother took a nap, each in a different room, while I
slipped out into the garden for a little while, but never
venturing farther afield. In the middle of the afternoon, my
stepmother and I proceeded up the village to Sunday School, where
I was early promoted to the tuition of a few very little boys. We
returned in time for tea, immediately after which we all marched
forth, again armed as in the morning, with Bibles and hymn-books,
and we went though the evening-service, at which my Father
preached. The hour was now already past my weekday bedtime, but
we had another service to attend, the Believers' Prayer Meeting,
which commonly occupied forty minutes more. Then we used to creep
home, I often so tired that the weariness was like physical pain,
and I was permitted, without further 'worship', to slip upstairs
to bed.

What made these Sundays, the observance of which was absolutely
uniform, so peculiarly trying was that I was not permitted the
indulgence of any secular respite. I might not open a scientific
book, nor make a drawing, nor examine a specimen. I was not
allowed to go into the road, except to proceed with my parents to
the Room, nor to discuss worldly subjects at meals, nor to enter
the little chamber where I kept my treasures. I was hotly and
tightly dressed in black, all day long, as though ready at any
moment to attend a funeral with decorum. Sometimes, towards
evening, I used to feel the monotony and weariness of my position
to be almost unendurable, but at this time I was meek, and I
bowed to what I supposed to be the order of the universe.


As my mental horizon widened, my Father followed the direction of
my spiritual eyes with some bewilderment, and knew not at what I
gazed. Nor could I have put into words, nor can I even now
define, the visions which held my vague and timid attention. As a
child develops, those who regard it with tenderness or impatience
are seldom even approximately correct in their analysis of its
intellectual movements, largely because, if there is anything to
record, it defies adult definition. One curious freak of
mentality I must now mention, because it took a considerable part
in the enfranchisement of my mind, or rather in the formation of
my thinking habits. But neither my Father nor my stepmother knew
what to make of it, and to tell the truth I hardly know what to
make of it myself.

Among the books which my new mother had brought with her were
certain editions of the poets, an odd assortment. Campbell was
there, and Burns, and Keats, and the 'Tales' of Byron. Each of
these might have been expected to appeal to me; but my emotion
was too young, and I did not listen to them yet. Their imperative
voices called me later. By the side of these romantic classics
stood a small, thick volume, bound in black morocco, and
comprising four reprinted works of the eighteenth century,
gloomy, funereal poems of an order as wholly out of date as are
the crossbones and ruffled cherubim on the gravestones in a
country churchyard. The four--and in this order, as I never shall
forget--were 'The Last Day' of Dr Young, Blair's 'Grave', 'Death'
by Bishop Beilby Porteus, and 'The Deity' of Samuel Boyse. These
lugubrious effusions, all in blank verse or in the heroic
couplet, represented, in its most redundant form, the artistic
theology of the middle of the eighteenth century. They were
steeped in such vengeful and hortatory sentiments as passed for
elegant piety in the reign of George II.

How I came to open this solemn volume is explained by the
oppressive exclusiveness of our Sundays. On the afternoon of the
Lord's Day, as I have already explained, I might neither walk,
nor talk, nor explore our scientific library, nor indulge in
furious feats of water-colour painting. The Plymouth-Brother
theology which alone was open to me produced, at length, and
particularly on hot afternoons, a faint physical nausea, a kind
of secret headache. But, hitting one day upon the doleful book of
verses, and observing its religious character, I asked 'May I
read that?' and after a brief, astonished glance at the contents,
received 'Oh certainly--if you can!'

The lawn sloped directly from a verandah at our drawing-room
window, and it contained two immense elm trees, which had
originally formed part of the hedge of a meadow. In our trim and
polished garden they then remained--they were soon afterwards cut
down--rude and obtuse, with something primeval about them,
something autochthonous; they were like two peasant ancestors
surviving in a family that had advanced to gentility. They rose
each out of a steep turfed hillock, and the root of one of them
was long my favourite summer reading-desk; for I could lie
stretched on the lawn, with my head and shoulders supported by
the elm-tree hillock, and the book in a fissure of the rough
turf. Thither then I escaped with my graveyard poets, and who
shall explain the rapture with which I followed their austere

Whether I really read consecutively in my black-bound volume I
can no longer be sure, but it became a companion whose society I
valued, and at worst it was a thousand times more congenial to me
than Jukes' 'On the Pentateuch' or than a perfectly excruciating
work ambiguously styled 'The Javelin of Phineas', which lay
smouldering in a dull red cover on the drawing-room table. I
dipped my bucket here and there into my poets, and I brought up
strange things. I brought up out of the depths of 'The Last Day'
the following ejaculation of a soul roused by the trump of

  Father of mercies! Why from silent earth
  Didst thou awake, and curse me into birth?
  Tear me from quiet, ravish me from night,
  And make a thankless present of thy light?
  Push into being a reverse of thee,
  And animate a clod with misery?

I read these lines with a shiver of excitement, and in a sense I
suppose little intended by the sanctimonious rector of Welwyn. I
also read in the same piece the surprising description of how

  Now charnels rattle, scattered limbs, and all
  The various bones, obsequious to the call,
  Self-mov'd, advance--the neck perhaps to meet
  The distant head, the distant legs the feet,

but rejected it as not wholly supported by the testimony of
Scripture. I think that the rhetoric and vigorous advance of
Young's verse were pleasant to me. Beilby Porteus I discarded
from the first as impenetrable. In 'The Deity',--I knew nothing
then of the life of its extravagant and preposterous author,--I
took a kind of persistent, penitential pleasure, but it was
Blair's 'Grave' that really delighted me, and I frightened myself
with its melodious doleful images in earnest.

About this time there was a great flow of tea-table hospitality
in the village, and my friends and their friends used to be asked
out, by respective parents and by more than one amiable spinster,
to faint little entertainments where those sang who were
ambitious to sing, and where all played post and forfeits after a
rich tea. My Father was constantly exercised in mind as to
whether I should or should not accept these glittering
invitations. There hovered before him a painful sense of danger
in resigning the soul to pleasures which savoured of 'the world'.
These, though apparently innocent in themselves, might give an
appetite for yet more subversive dissipations. I remember, on one
occasion,--when the Browns, a family of Baptists who kept a large
haberdashery shop in the neighbouring town, asked for the
pleasure of my company 'to tea and games', and carried
complacency so far as to offer to send that local vehicle, 'the
midge', to fetch me and bring me back,--my Father's conscience
was so painfully perplexed, that he desired me to come up with
him to the now-deserted 'boudoir' of the departed Marks, that we
might 'lay the matter before the Lord'. We did so, kneeling side
by side, with our backs to the window and our foreheads pressed
upon the horsehair cover of the small, coffin-like sofa. My
Father prayed aloud, with great fervour, that it might be
revealed to me, by the voice of God, whether it was or was not
the Lord's will that I should attend the Browns' party. My
Father's attitude seemed to me to be hardly fair, since he did
not scruple to remind the Deity of various objections to a life
of pleasure and of the snakes that lie hidden in the grass of
evening parties. It would have been more scrupulous, I thought,
to give no sort of hint of the kind of answer he desired and

It will be justly said that my life was made up of very trifling
things, since I have to confess that this incident of the Browns'
invitation was one of its landmarks. As I knelt, feeling very
small, by the immense bulk of my Father, there gushed though my
veins like a wine the determination to rebel. Never before, in
all these years of my vocation, had I felt my resistance take
precisely this definite form. We rose presently from the sofa, my
forehead and the backs of my hands still chafed by the texture of
the horsehair, and we faced one another in the dreary light. My
Father, perfectly confident in the success of what had really
been a sort of incantation, asked me in a loud wheedling voice,
'Well, and what is the answer which our Lord vouchsafes?' I said
nothing, and so my Father, more sharply, continued, 'We have
asked Him to direct you to a true knowledge of His will. We have
desired Him to let you know whether it is, or is not, in
accordance with His wishes that you should accept this invitation
from the Browns.' He positively beamed down at me; he had no
doubt of the reply. He was already, I believe, planning some
little treat to make up to me for the material deprivation. But
my answer came, in the high-piping accents of despair: 'The Lord
says I may go to the Browns.' My Father gazed at me in speechless
horror. He was caught in his own trap, and though he was certain
that the Lord had said nothing of the kind, there was no road
open for him but just sheer retreat. Yet surely it was an error
in tactics to slam the door.

It was at this party at the Browns--to which I duly went,
although in sore disgrace--that my charnel poets played me a mean
trick. It was proposed that 'our young friends' should give their
elders the treat of repeating any pretty pieces that they knew by
heart. Accordingly a little girl recited 'Casabianca', and
another little girl 'We are Seven', and various children were
induced to repeat hymns, 'some rather long', as Calverley says,
but all very mild and innocuously evangelical. I was then asked
by Mrs. Brown's maiden sister, a gushing lady in corkscrew curls,
who led the revels, whether I also would not indulge them 'by
repeating some sweet stanzas'. No one more ready than I. Without
a moment's hesitation, I stood forth, and in a loud voice I began
one of my favourite passages from Blair's 'Grave':

  If death were nothing, and nought after death--
  If when men died at once they ceased to be,--
  Returning to the barren Womb of Nothing
  Whence first they sprung, then might the debauchee...

'Thank you, dear, that will do nicely!' interrupted the lady with
the curls. 'But that's only the beginning of it,' I cried. 'Yes.
dear, but that will quite do! We won't ask you to repeat any more
of it,' and I withdrew to the borders of the company in
bewilderment. Nor did the Browns or their visitors ever learn
what it was the debauchee might have said or done in more
favourable circumstances.

The growing eagerness which I displayed for the society of
selected schoolfellows and for such gentle dissipations as were
within my reach exercised my Father greatly. His fancy rushed
forward with the pace of a steam-engine, and saw me the life and
soul of a gambling club, or flaunting it at the Mabille. He had
no confidence in the action of moderating powers, and he was fond
of repeating that the downward path is easy. If one fretted to be
bathing with one's companions on the shingle, and preferred this
exercise to the study of God's Word, it was a symbol of a
terrible decline, the angle of which would grow steeper and
steeper, until one plunged into perdition. He was, himself, timid
and reclusive, and he shrank from all avoidable companionship
with others, except on the footing of a master and teacher. My
stepmother and I, who neither taught nor ruled, yearned for a
looser chain and lighter relationships. With regard to myself, my
Father about this time hit on a plan from which he hoped much,
but from which little resulted. He looked to George to supply
what my temperament seemed to require of congenial juvenile

If I have not mentioned 'George' until now, it is not that he was
a new acquaintance. When we first came down into the country, our
sympathy had been called forth by an accident to a little boy,
who was knocked over by a horse, and whose thigh was broken.
Somebody (I suppose Mary Grace, since my Father could rarely
bring himself to pay these public visits) went to see the child
in the infirmary, and accidentally discovered that he was exactly
the same age that I was. This, and the fact that he was a
meditative and sober little boy, attracted us all still further
to George, who became converted under one of my Father's sermons.
He attended my public baptism, and was so much moved by this
ceremony that he passionately desired to be baptized also, and
was in fact so immersed, a few months later, slightly to my
chagrin, since I thereupon ceased to be the only infant prodigy
in communion. When we were both in our thirteenth year, George
became an outdoor servant to us, and did odd jobs under the
gardener. My Father, finding him, as he said, 'docile, obedient
and engaging', petted George a good deal, and taught him a little
botany. He called George, by a curious contortion of thought, my
'spiritual foster-brother', and anticipated for him, I think, a
career, like mine, in the Ministry.

Our garden suffered from an incursion of slugs, which laid the
verbenas in the dust, and shore off the carnations as if with
pairs of scissors. To cope with this plague we invested in a
drake and a duck, who were christened Philemon and Baucis. Every
night large cabbage-leaves, containing the lees of beer, were
spread about the flower-beds as traps, and at dawn these had
become green parlours crammed with intoxicated slugs. One of
George's earliest morning duties was to free Philemon and Baucis
from their coop, and, armed with a small wand, to guide their
footsteps to the feast in one cabbage-leaf after another. My
Father used to watch this performance from an upper window, and,
in moments of high facetiousness, he was wont to parody the poet

  How jocund doth George drive his team afield!

This is all, or almost all, that I remember about George's
occupations, but he was singularly blameless.

My Father's plan now was that I should form a close intimacy with
George, as a boy of my own age, of my own faith, of my own
future. My stepmother, still in bondage to the social
conventions, was passionately troubled at this, and urged the
barrier of class-differences. My Father replied that such an
intimacy would keep me 'lowly', and that from so good a boy as
George I could learn nothing undesirable. 'He will encourage him
not to wipe his boots when he comes into the house,' said my
stepmother, and my Father sighed to think how narrow is the
horizon of Woman's view of heavenly things.

In this caprice, if I may call it so, I think that my Father had
before him the fine republican example of 'Sandford and Merton',
some parts of which book he admired extremely. Accordingly George
and I were sent out to take walks together, and as we started, my
Father, with an air of great benevolence, would suggest some
passage of Scripture, or 'some aspect of God's bountiful scheme
in creation, on which you may profitably meditate together.'
George and I never pursued the discussion of the text with which
my Father started us for more than a minute or two; then we fell
into silence, or investigated current scenes and rustic topics.

As is natural among the children of the poor, George was
precocious where I was infantile, and undeveloped where I was
elaborate. Our minds could hardly find a point at which to touch.
He gave me, however, under cross-examination, interesting hints
about rural matters, and I liked him, although I felt his company
to be insipid. Sometimes he carried my books by my side to the
larger and more distant school which I now attended, but I was
always in a fever of dread lest my schoolfellows should see
him, and should accuse me of having to be 'brought' to school. To
explain to them that the companionship of this wholesome and
rather blunt young peasant was part of my spiritual discipline
would have been all beyond my powers.

It was soon after this that my stepmother made her one vain
effort to break though the stillness of our lives. My Father's
energy seemed to decline, to become more fitful, to take
unseasonable directions. My mother instinctively felt that his
peculiarities were growing upon him; he would scarcely stir from
his microscope, except to go to the chapel, and he was visible to
fewer and fewer visitors. She had taken a pleasure in his
literary eminence, and she was aware that this, too, would slip
from him; that, so persistently kept out of sight, he must soon
be out of mind. I know not how she gathered courage for her
tremendous effort, but she took me, I recollect, into her
counsels. We were to unite to oblige my Father to start to his
feet and face the world. Alas! we might as well have attempted to
rouse the summit of Yes Tor into volcanic action. To my mother's
arguments, my Father--with that baffling smile of his--replied:
'I esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures of Egypt!' and that this answer was indirect made it
none the less conclusive. My mother wished him to give lectures,
to go to London, to read papers before the Royal Society, to
enter into controversy with foreign savants, to conduct classes
of outdoor zoology at fashionable watering-places. I held my
breath with admiration as she poured forth her scheme, so daring,
so brilliant, so sure to cover our great man with glory. He
listened to her with an ambiguous smile, and shook his head at
us, and resumed the reading of his Bible.

At the date of which I write these pages, the arts of
illustration are so universally diffused that it is difficult to
realize the darkness in which a remote English village was
plunged half a century ago. No opportunity was offered to us
dwellers in remote places of realizing the outward appearances of
unfamiliar persons, scenes or things. Although ours was perhaps
the most cultivated household in the parish, I had never seen so
much as a representation of a work of sculpture until I was
thirteen. My mother then received from her earlier home certain
volumes, among which was a gaudy gift-book of some kind,
containing a few steel engravings of statues.

These attracted me violently, and here for the first time I gazed
on Apollo with his proud gesture, Venus in her undulations, the
kirtled shape of Diana, and Jupiter voluminously bearded. Very
little information, and that tome not intelligible, was given in
the text, but these were said to be figures of the old Greek
gods. I asked my Father to tell me about these 'old Greek gods'.
His answer was direct and disconcerting. He said--how I recollect
the place and time, early in the morning, as I stood beside the
window in our garish breakfast-room--he said that the so-called
gods of the Greeks were the shadows cast by the vices of the
heathen, and reflected their infamous lives; 'it was for such
things as these that God poured down brimstone and fire on the
Cities of the Plain, and there is nothing in the legends of these
gods, or rather devils, that it is not better for a Christian not
to know.' His face blazed white with Puritan fury as he said
this--I see him now in my mind's eye, in his violent emotion. You
might have thought that he had himself escaped with horror from
some Hellenic hippodrome.

My Father's prestige was by this time considerably lessened in my
mind, and though I loved and admired him, I had now long ceased
to hold him infallible. I did not accept his condemnation of the
Greeks, although I bowed to it. In private I returned to examine
my steel engravings of the statues, and I reflected that they
were too beautiful to be so wicked as my Father thought they
were. The dangerous and pagan notion that beauty palliates evil
budded in my mind, without any external suggestion, and by this
reflection alone I was still further sundered from the faith in
which I had been trained. I gathered very diligently all I could
pick up about the Greek gods and their statues; it was not much,
it was indeed ludicrously little and false, but it was a germ.
And at this aesthetic juncture I was drawn into what was really
rather an extraordinary circle of incidents.

Among the 'Saints' in our village there lived a shoemaker and his
wife, who had one daughter, Susan Flood. She was a flighty,
excited young creature, and lately, during the passage of some
itinerary revivalists, she had been 'converted' in the noisiest
way, with sobs, gasps and gurglings. When this crisis passed, she
came with her parents to our meetings, and was received quietly
enough to the breaking of bread. But about the time I speak of,
Susan Flood went up to London to pay a visit to an unconverted
uncle and aunt. It was first whispered amongst us, and then
openly stated, that these relatives had taken her to the Crystal
Palace, where, in passing through the Sculpture Gallery, Susan's
sense of decency had been so grievously affronted, that she had
smashed the naked figures with the handle of her parasol, before
her horrified companions could stop her. She had, in fact, run
amok among the statuary, and had, to the intense chagrin of her
uncle and aunt, very worthy persons, been arrested and brought
before a magistrate, who dismissed her with a warning to her
relations that she had better be sent home to Devonshire and
'looked after'. Susan Flood's return to us, however, was a
triumph; she had no sense of having acted injudiciously or
unbecomingly; she was ready to recount to every one, in vague and
veiled language, how she had been able to testify for the Lord
'in the very temple of Belial', for so she poetically described
the Crystal Palace. She was, of course, in a state of unbridled
hysteria, but such physical explanations were not encouraged
amongst us, and the case of Susan Flood awakened a great deal of

There was held a meeting of the elders in our drawing-room to
discuss it, and I contrived to be present, though out of
observation. My Father, while he recognized the purity of Susan
Flood's zeal, questioned its wisdom. He noted that the statuary
was not her property, but that of the Crystal Palace. Of the
other communicants, none, I think, had the very slightest notion
what the objects were that Susan had smashed, or tried to smash,
and frankly maintained that they thought her conduct magnificent.
As for me, I had gathered by persistent inquiry enough
information to know that what her sacrilegious parasol had
attacked were bodies of my mysterious friends, the Greek gods,
and if all the rest of the village applauded iconoclastic Susan,
I at least would be ardent on the other side.

But I was conscious that there was nobody in the world to whom I
could go for sympathy. If I had ever read 'Hellas' I should have

    Apollo, Pan and Love,
    And even Olympian Jove,
  Grew weak, when killing Susan glared on them.

On the day in question, I was unable to endure the drawing-room
meeting to its close, but, clutching my volume of the Funereal
Poets, I made a dash for the garden. In the midst of a mass of
laurels, a clearing had been hollowed out, where ferns were grown
and a garden-seat was placed. There was no regular path to this
asylum; one dived under the snake-like boughs of the laurel and
came up again in absolute seclusion.

Into this haunt I now fled to meditate about the savage godliness
of that vandal, Susan Flood. So extremely ignorant was I that I
supposed her to have destroyed the originals of the statues,
marble and unique. I knew nothing about plaster casts, and I
thought the damage (it is possible that there had really been no
damage whatever) was of an irreparable character. I sank into the
seat, with the great wall of laurels whispering around me, and I
burst into tears. There was something, surely, quaint and
pathetic in the figure of a little Plymouth Brother sitting in
that advanced year of grace, weeping bitterly for indignities
done to Hermes and to Aphrodite. Then I opened my book for
consolation, and I read a great block of pompous verse out of
'The Deity', in the midst of which exercise, yielding to the
softness of the hot and aromatic air, I fell fast asleep.

Among those who applauded the zeal of Susan Flood's parasol, the
Pagets were prominent. These were a retired Baptist minister and
his wife, from Exmouth, who had lately settled amongst us, and
joined in the breaking of bread. Mr. Paget was a fat old man,
whose round pale face was clean-shaven, and who carried a full
crop of loose white hair above it; his large lips were always
moving, whether he spoke or not. He resembled, as I now perceive,
the portraits of S. T. Coleridge in age, but with all the
intellect left out of them. He lived in a sort of trance of
solemn religious despondency. He had thrown up his cure of souls,
because he became convinced that he had committed the Sin against
the Holy Ghost. His wife was younger than he, very small, very
tight, very active, with black eyes like pin-pricks at the base
of an extremely high and narrow forehead, bordered with glossy
ringlets. He was very cross to her, and it was murmured that
'dear Mrs. Paget had often had to pass through the waters of
affliction'. They were very poor, but rigidly genteel, and she
was careful, so far as she could, to conceal from the world the
caprices of her poor lunatic husband.

In our circle, it was never for a moment admitted that Mr. Paget
was a lunatic. It was said that he had gravely sinned, and was
under the Lord's displeasure; prayers were abundantly offered up
that he might be led back into the pathway of light, and that the
Smiling Face might be drawn forth for him from behind the
Frowning Providence. When the man had an epileptic seizure in the
High Street, he was not taken to a hospital, but we repeated to
one another, with shaken heads, that Satan, that crooked Serpent,
had been unloosed for a season. Mr. Paget was fond of talking, in
private and in public, of his dreadful spiritual condition and he
would drop his voice while he spoke of having committed the
Unpardonable Sin, with a sort of shuddering exultation, such as
people sometimes feel in the possession of a very unusual

It might be thought that the position held in any community by
persons so afflicted and eccentric as the Pagets would be very
precarious. But it was not so with us; on the contrary, they took
a prominent place at once. Mr. Paget, in spite of his spiritual
bankruptcy, was only too anxious to help my Father in his
ministrations, and used to beg to be allowed to pray and exhort.
In the latter case he took the tone of a wounded veteran, who,
though fallen on the bloody field himself, could still encourage
younger warriors to march forward to victory. Everybody longed to
know what the exact nature had been of that sin against the Holy
Ghost which had deprived Mr. Paget of every glimmer of hope for
time or for eternity. It was whispered that even my Father
himself was not precisely acquainted with the character of it.

This mysterious disability clothed Mr. Paget for us with a kind of
romance. We watched him as the women watched Dante in Verona,

           Behold him how Hell's reek
  Has crisped his hair and singed his cheek!

His person lacked, it is true, something of the dignity of
Dante's, for it was his caprice to walk up and down the High
Street at noonday with one of those cascades of coloured paper
which were known as 'ornaments for your fireplace' slung over the
back and another over the front of his body. These he
manufactured for sale, and he adopted the quaint practice of
wearing the exuberant objects as a means for their advertisement.

Mrs. Paget had been accustomed to rule in the little ministry
from which Mr. Paget's celebrated Sin had banished them, and she
was inclined to clutch at the sceptre now. She was the only
person I ever met with who was not afraid of the displeasure of
my Father. She would fix her viper-coloured eyes on his, and say
with a kind of gimlet firmness, 'I hardly think that is the true
interpretation, Brother G.', or, 'But let us turn to Colossians,
and see what the Holy Ghost says there upon this matter.' She
fascinated my Father, who was not accustomed to this kind of
interruption, and as she was not to be softened by any flattery
(such as:--'Marvellous indeed, Sister, is your acquaintance with
the means of grace!') she became almost a terror to him.

She abused her powers by taking great liberties, which culminated
in her drawing his attention to the fact that my poor stepmother
displayed 'an overweening love of dress'. The accusation was
perfectly false; my stepmother was, if rather richly, always,
plainly dressed, in the sober Quaker mode; almost her only
ornament was a large carnelian brooch, set in flowered flat gold.
To this the envenomed Paget drew my Father's attention as 'likely
to lead "the little ones of the flock" into temptation'. My poor
Father felt it his duty, thus directly admonished, to speak to my
mother. 'Do you not think, my Love, that you should, as one who
sets an example to others, discard the wearing of that gaudy
brooch?' 'One must fasten one's collar with something, I suppose?'
'Well, but how does Sister Paget fasten her collar?' 'Sister
Paget,' replied my Mother, stung at last into rejoinder, 'fastens
her collar with a pin,--and that is a thing which I would rather
die than do!'

Nor did I escape the attentions of this zealous reformer. Mrs.
Paget was good enough to take a great interest in me, and she was
not satisfied with the way in which I was being brought up. Her
presence seemed to pervade the village, and I could neither come
in nor go out without seeing her hard bonnet and her pursed-up
lips. She would hasten to report to my Father that she saw me
laughing and talking 'with a lot of unconverted boys', these
being the companions with whom I had full permission to bathe and
boat. She urged my Father to complete my holy vocation by some
definite step, by which he would dedicate me completely to the
Lord's service. Further schooling she thought needless, and
merely likely to foster intellectual pride. Mr. Paget, she
remarked, had troubled very little in his youth about worldly
knowledge, and yet how blessed he had been in the conversion of
souls until he had incurred the displeasure of the Holy Ghost!

I do not know exactly what she wanted my Father to do with me;
perhaps she did not know herself; she was meddlesome, ignorant
and fanatical, and she liked to fancy that she was exercising
influence. But the wonderful, the inexplicable thing is that my
Father,--who, with all his limitations, was so distinguished and
high-minded,--should listen to her for a moment, and still more
wonderful is it that he really allowed her, grim vixen that she
was, to disturb his plans and retard his purposes. I think the
explanation lay in the perfectly logical position she took up. My
Father found himself brought face to face at last, not with a
disciple, but with a trained expert in his own peculiar scheme of
religion. At every point she was armed with arguments the source
of which he knew and the validity of which he recognized. He
trembled before Mrs. Paget as a man in a dream may tremble before
a parody of his own central self, and he could not blame her
without laying himself open somewhere to censure.

But my stepmother's instincts were more primitive and her actions
less wire-drawn than my Father's. She disliked Mrs. Paget as much
as one earnest believer can bring herself to dislike a sister in
the Lord. My stepmother had quietly devoted herself to what she
thought the best way of bringing me up, and she did not propose
now to be thwarted by the wife of a lunatic Baptist. At this time
I was a mixture of childishness and priggishness, of curious
knowledge and dense ignorance. Certain portions of my intellect
were growing with unwholesome activity, while others were
stunted, or had never stirred at all. I was like a plant on which
a pot has been placed, with the effect that the centre is crushed
and arrested, while shoots are straggling up to the light on all
sides. My Father himself was aware of this, and in a spasmodic
way he wished to regulate my thoughts. But all he did was to try
to straighten the shoots, without removing the pot which kept
them resolutely down.

It was my stepmother who decided that I was now old enough to go
to boarding-school, and my Father, having discovered that an
elderly couple of Plymouth Brethren kept an 'academy for young
gentlemen' in a neighbouring seaport town,--in the prospectus of
which the knowledge and love of the Lord were mentioned as
occupying the attention of the head--master and his assistants
far more closely than any mere considerations of worldly
tuition,--was persuaded to entrust me to its care. He stipulated,
however, that I should always come home from Saturday night to
Monday morning, not, as he said, that I might receive any carnal
indulgence, but that there might be no cessation of my communion
as a believer with the Saints in our village on Sundays. To this
school, therefore, I presently departed, gawky and homesick, and
the rift between my soul and that of my Father widened a little


LITTLE boys from quiet, pious households, commonly found, in
those days, a chasm yawning at the feet of their inexperience
when they arrived at Boarding-school. But the fact that I still
slept at home on Saturday and Sunday nights preserved me, I
fancy, from many surprises. There was a crisis, but it was broad
and slow for me. On the other hand, for my Father I am inclined
to think that it was definite and sharp. Permission for me to
desert the parental hearth, even for five days in certain weeks,
was tantamount, in his mind, to admitting that the great scheme,
so long caressed, so passionately fostered, must in its primitive
bigness be now dropped.

The Great Scheme (I cannot resist giving it the mortuary of
capital letters) had been, as my readers know, that I should be
exclusively and consecutively dedicated through the whole of my
life, 'to the manifest and uninterrupted and uncompromised
service of the Lord'. That had been the aspiration of my Mother,
and at her death she had bequeathed that desire to my Father,
like a dream of the Promised Land. In their ecstasy, my parents
had taken me, as Elkanah and Hannah had long ago taken Samuel,
from their mountain-home of Ramathaim-Zophim down to sacrifice to
the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. They had girt me about with a linen
ephod, and had hoped to leave me there; 'as long as he liveth,'
they had said, 'he shall be lent unto the Lord.'

Doubtless in the course of these fourteen years it had
occasionally flashed upon my Father, as he overheard some speech
of mine, or detected some idiosyncrasy, that I was not one of
those whose temperament points them out as ultimately fitted for
an austere life of religion. What he hoped, however, was that
when the little roughnesses of childhood were rubbed away, there
would pass a deep mellowness over my soul. He had a touching way
of condoning my faults of conduct, directly after reproving them,
and he would softly deprecate my frailty, saying, in a tone of
harrowing tenderness, 'Are you not the child of many prayers?' He
continued to think that prayer, such passionate importunate
prayer as his, must prevail. Faith could move mountains; should
it not be able to mould the little ductile heart of a child,
since he was sure that his own faith was unfaltering? He had
yearned and waited for a son who should be totally without human
audacities, who should be humble, pure, not troubled by worldly
agitations, a son whose life should be cleansed and straightened
from above, _in custodiendo sermones Dei_; in whom everything
should be sacrificed except the one thing needful to salvation.

How such a marvel of lowly piety was to earn a living had never,
I think, occurred to him. My Father was singularly indifferent
about money. Perhaps his notion was that, totally devoid of
ambitions as I was to be, I should quietly become adult, and
continue his ministrations among the poor of the Christian flock.
He had some dim dream, I think, of there being just enough for us
all without my having to take up any business or trade. I believe
it was immediately after my first term at boarding-school, that I
was a silent but indignant witness of a conversation between my
Father and Mr. Thomas Brightwen, my stepmother's brother, who was
a banker in one of the Eastern Counties.

This question, 'What is he to be?' in a worldly sense, was being
discussed, and I am sure that it was for the first time, at all
events in my presence. Mr. Brightwen, I fancy, had been worked
upon by my stepmother, whose affection for me was always on the
increase, to suggest, or faintly to stir the air in the
neighbourhood of suggesting, a query about my future. He was
childless and so was she, and I think a kind impulse led them to
'feel the way', as it is called. I believe he said that the
banking business, wisely and honourably conducted, sometimes led,
as we know that it is apt to lead, to affluence. To my horror, my
Father, with rising emphasis, replied that 'if there were offered
to his beloved child what is called "an opening" that would lead
to an income of L10,000 a year, and that would divert his
thoughts and interest from the Lord's work he would reject it on
his child's behalf.' Mr. Brightwen, a precise and polished
gentleman who evidently never made an exaggerated statement in
his life, was, I think, faintly scandalized; he soon left us, and
I do not recollect his paying us a second visit.

For my silent part, I felt very much like Gehazi, and I would
fain have followed after the banker if I had dared to do so, into
the night. I would have excused to him the ardour of my Elisha,
and I would have reminded him of the sons of the prophets--'Give
me, I pray thee,' I would have said, 'a talent of silver and two
changes of garments.' It seemed to me very hard that my Father
should dispose of my possibilities of wealth in so summary a
fashion, but the fact that I did resent it, and regretted what I
supposed to be my 'chance', shows how far apart we had already
swung. My Father, I am convinced, thought that he gave words to
my inward instincts when he repudiated the very mild and
inconclusive benevolence of his brother-in-law. But he certainly
did not do so. I was conscious of a sharp and instinctive
disappointment at having had, as I fancied, wealth so near my
grasp, and at seeing it all cast violently into the sea of my
Father's scruples.

Not one of my village friends attended the boarding-school to
which I was now attached, and I arrived there without an
acquaintance. I should soon, however, have found a corner of my
own if my Father had not unluckily stipulated that I was not to
sleep in the dormitory with the boys of my own age, but in the
room occupied by the two elder sons of a prominent Plymouth
Brother whom he knew. From a social point of view this was an
unfortunate arrangement, since these youths were some years older
and many years riper than I; the eldest, in fact, was soon to
leave; they had enjoyed their independence, and they now greatly
resented being saddled with the presence of an unknown urchin.
The supposition had been that they would protect and foster my
religious practices; would encourage me, indeed, as my Father put
it, to approach the Throne of Grace with them at morning and
evening prayer. They made no pretence, however, to be considered
godly; they looked upon me as an intruder; and after a while the
younger, and ruder, of them openly let me know that they believed
I had been put into their room to 'spy upon' them; it had been a
plot, they knew, between their father and mine: and he darkly
warned me that I should suffer if 'anything got out'. I had,
however, no wish to trouble them, nor any faint interest in their
affairs. I soon discovered that they were absorbed in a silly
kind of amorous correspondence with the girls of a neighbouring
academy, but 'what were all such toys to me?'

These young fellows, who ought long before to have left the
school, did nothing overtly unkind to me, but they condemned me
to silence. They ceased to address me except with an occasional
command. By reason of my youth, I was in bed and asleep before my
companions arrived upstairs, and in the morning I was always
routed up and packed about my business while they still were
drowsing. But the fact that I had been cut off from my coevals by
night, cut me off from them also by day--so that I was nothing to
them, neither a boarder nor a day-scholar, neither flesh, fish
nor fowl. The loneliness of my life was extreme, and that I
always went home on Saturday afternoon and returned on Monday
morning still further checked my companionships at school. For a
long time, round the outskirts of that busy throng of opening
lives, I 'wandered lonely as a cloud', and sometimes I was more
unhappy than I had ever been before. No one, however, bullied me,
and though I was dimly and indefinably witness to acts of
uncleanness and cruelty, I was the victim of no such acts and the
recipient of no dangerous confidences. I suppose that my queer
reputation for sanctity, half dreadful, half ridiculous,
surrounded me with a non-conducting atmosphere.

We are the victims of hallowed proverbs, and one of the most
classic of these tells us that 'the child is father of the man'.
But in my case I cannot think that this was true. In mature years
I have always been gregarious, a lover of my kind, dependent upon
the company of friends for the very pulse of moral life. To be
marooned, to be shut up in a solitary cell, to inhabit a
lighthouse, or to camp alone in a forest, these have always
seemed to me afflictions too heavy to be borne, even in
imagination. A state in which conversation exists not, is for me
an air too empty of oxygen for my lungs to breathe it.

Yet when I look back upon my days at boarding-school, I see
myself unattracted by any of the human beings around me. My
grown-up years are made luminous to me in memory by the ardent
faces of my friends, but I can scarce recall so much as the names
of more than two or three of my schoolfellows. There is not one
of them whose mind or whose character made any lasting impression
upon me. In later life, I have been impatient of solitude, and
afraid of it; at school, I asked for no more than to slip out of
the hurly-burly and be alone with my reflections and my fancies.
That magnetism of humanity which has been the agony of mature
years, of this I had not a trace when I was a boy. Of those
fragile loves to which most men look back with tenderness and
passion, emotions to be explained only as Montaigne explained
them, _parceque c'etait lui, parceque c'etait moi_, I knew nothing.
I, to whom friendship has since been like sunlight and like
sleep, left school unbrightened and unrefreshed by commerce with
a single friend.

If I had been clever, I should doubtless have attracted the
jealousy of my fellows, but I was spared this by the mediocrity
of my success in the classes. One little fact I may mention,
because it exemplifies the advance in observation which has been
made in forty years. I was extremely nearsighted, and in
consequence was placed at a gross disadvantage, by being unable
to see the slate or the black-board on which our tasks were
explained. It seems almost incredible, when one reflects upon it,
but during the whole of my school life, this fact was never
commented upon or taken into account by a single person, until
the Polish lady who taught us the elements of German and French
drew someone's attention to it in my sixteenth year. I was not
quick, but I passed for being denser than I was because of the
myopic haze that enveloped me. But this is not an autobiography,
and with the cold and shrouded details of my uninteresting school
life I will not fatigue the reader.

I was not content, however, to be the cipher that I found myself,
and when I had been at school for about a year, I 'broke out',
greatly, I think, to my own surprise, in a popular act. We had a
young usher whom we disliked. I suppose, poor half-starved
phthisic lad, that he was the most miserable of us all. He was, I
think, unfitted for the task which had been forced upon him; he
was fretful, unsympathetic, agitated. The school-house, an old
rambling place, possessed a long cellar-like room that opened
from our general corridor and was lighted by deep windows,
carefully barred, which looked into an inner garden. This vault
was devoted to us and to our play-boxes: by a tacit law, no
master entered it. One evening, just at dusk, a great number of
us were here when the bell for night-school rang, and many of us
dawdled at the summons. Mr. B., tactless in his anger, bustled in
among us, scolding in a shrill voice, and proceeded to drive us
forth. I was the latest to emerge, and as he turned away to see
if any other truant might not be hiding, I determined upon
action. With a quick movement, I drew the door behind me and
bolted it, just in time to hear the imprisoned usher scream with
vexation. We boys all trooped upstairs and it is characteristic
of my isolation that I had not one 'chum' to whom I could confide
my feat.

That Mr. B. had been shut in became, however, almost instantly
known, and the night-class, usually so unruly, was awed by the
event into exemplary decorum. There, with no master near us, in a
silence rarely broken by a giggle or a catcall, we sat diligently
working, or pretending to work. Through my brain, as I hung over
my book a thousand new thoughts began to surge. I was the
liberator, the tyrannicide; I had freed all my fellows from the
odious oppressor. Surely, when they learned that it was I, they
would cluster round me; surely, now, I should be somebody in the
school-life, no longer a mere trotting shadow or invisible
presence. The interval seemed long; at length Mr. B. was released
by a servant, and he came up into the school-room to find us in
that ominous condition of suspense.

At first he said nothing. He sank upon a chair in a half-fainting
attitude, while he pressed his hand to his side; his distress and
silence redoubled the boys' surprise, and filled me with
something like remorse. For the first time, I reflected that he
was human, that perhaps he suffered. He rose presently and took a
slate, upon which he wrote two questions: 'Did you do it?' 'Do
you know who did?' and these he propounded to each boy in
rotation. The prompt, redoubled 'No' in every case seemed to pile
up his despair.

One of the last to whom he held, in silence, the trembling slate
was the perpetrator. As I saw the moment approach, an unspeakable
timidity swept over me. I reflected that no one had seen me, that
no one could accuse me. Nothing could be easier or safer than to
deny, nothing more perplexing to the enemy, nothing less perilous
for the culprit. A flood of plausible reasons invaded my brain; I
seemed to see this to be a case in which to tell the truth would
be not merely foolish, it would be wrong. Yet when the usher
stood before me, holding the slate out in his white and shaking
hand, I seized the pencil, and, ignoring the first question, I
wrote 'Yes' firmly against the second. I suppose that the
ambiguity of this action puzzled Mr. B. He pressed me to answer:
'Did you do it?' but to that I was obstinately dumb; and away I
was hurried to an empty bed-room, where for the whole of that
night and the next day I was held a prisoner, visited at
intervals by the headmaster and other inquisitorial persons,
until I was gradually persuaded to make a full confession and

This absurd little incident had one effect, it revealed me to my
schoolfellows as an existence. From that time forth I lay no
longer under the stigma of invisibility; I had produced my
material shape and had thrown my shadow for a moment into a
legend. But, in other respects, things went on much as before.

Curiously uninfluenced by my surroundings, I in my turn failed to
exercise influence, and my practical isolation was no less than
it had been before. It was thus that it came about that my social
memories of my boarding-school life are monotonous and vague. It
was a period during which, as it appears to me now on looking
back, the stream of my spiritual nature spread out into a shallow
pool which was almost stagnant. I was labouring to gain those
elements of conventional knowledge, which had, in many cases, up
to that time been singularly lacking. But my brain was starved,
and my intellectual perceptions were veiled. Elder persons who in
later years would speak to me frankly of my school-days assured
me that, while I had often struck them as a smart and quaint and
even interesting child, all promise seemed to fade out of me as a
schoolboy, and that those who were most inclined to be indulgent
gave up the hope that I should prove a man in a way remarkable.
This was particularly the case with the most indulgent of my
protectors, my refined and gentle stepmother.

As this record can, however, have no value that is not based on
its rigorous adhesion to the truth, I am bound to say that the
dreariness and sterility of my school-life were more apparent
than real. I was pursuing certain lines of moral and mental
development all the time, and since my schoolmasters and my
schoolfellows combined in thinking me so dull, I will display a
tardy touch of 'proper spirit' and ask whether it may not partly
have been because they were themselves so commonplace. I think
that if some drops of sympathy, that magic dew of Paradise, had
fallen upon my desert, it might have blossomed like the rose, or,
at all events, like that chimerical flower, the Rose of Jericho.
As it was, the conventionality around me, the intellectual
drought, gave me no opportunity of outward growth. They did not
destroy, but they cooped up, and rendered slow and inefficient,
that internal life which continued, as I have said, to live on
unseen. This took the form of dreams and speculations, in the
course of which I went through many tortuous processes of the
mind, the actual aims of which were futile, although the
movements themselves were useful. If I may more minutely define
my meaning, I would say that in my schooldays, without possessing
thoughts, I yet prepared my mind for thinking, and learned how to

The great subject of my curiosity at this time was words, as
instruments of expression. I was incessant in adding to my
vocabulary, and in finding accurate and individual terms for
things. Here, too, the exercise preceded the employment, since I
was busy providing myself with words before I had any ideas to
express with them. When I read Shakespeare and came upon the
passage in which Prospero tells Caliban that he had no thoughts
until his master taught him words, I remember starting with
amazement at the poet's intuition, for such a Caliban had I been:

                                     I pitied thee,
  Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
  One thing or other, when thou didst not, savage,
  Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble, like
  A thing most brutish; I endow'd thy purposes
  With words that made them know.

For my Prosperos I sought vaguely in such books as I had access
to, and I was conscious that as the inevitable word seized hold
of me, with it out of the darkness into strong light came the
image and the idea.

My Father possessed a copy of Bailey's 'Etymological Dictionary', a
book published early in the eighteenth century. Over this I would
pore for hours, playing with the words in a fashion which I can
no longer reconstruct, and delighting in the savour of the rich,
old-fashioned country phrases. My Father finding me thus
employed, fell to wondering at the nature of my pursuit, and I
could offer him, indeed, no very intelligible explanation of it.
He urged me to give up such idleness, and to make practical use
of language. For this purpose he conceived an exercise which he
obliged me to adopt, although it was hateful to me. He sent me
forth, it might be, up the lane to Warbury Hill and round home by
the copses; or else down one chine to the sea and along the
shingle to the next cutting in the cliff, and so back by way of
the village; and he desired me to put down, in language as full
as I could, all that I had seen in each excursion. As I have
said, this practice was detestable and irksome to me, but, as I
look back, I am inclined to believe it to have been the most
salutary, the most practical piece of training which my Father
ever gave me. It forced me to observe sharply and clearly, to
form visual impressions, to retain them in the brain, and to
clothe them in punctilious and accurate language.

It was in my fifteenth year that I became again, this time
intelligently, acquainted with Shakespeare. I got hold of a
single play, _The Tempest_, in a school edition, prepared, I
suppose, for one of the university examinations which were then
being instituted in the provinces. This I read through and
through, not disdaining the help of the notes, and revelling in
the glossary. I studied _The Tempest_ as I had hitherto studied no
classic work, and it filled my whole being with music and
romance. This book was my own hoarded possession; the rest of
Shakespeare's works were beyond my hopes. But gradually I
contrived to borrow a volume here and a volume there. I completed
_The Merchant of Venice_, read _Cymbeline_, _Julius Caesar_ and _Much
Ado_; most of the others, I think, remained closed to me for a
long time. But these were enough to steep my horizon with all the
colours of sunrise. It was due, no doubt, to my bringing up, that
the plays never appealed to me as bounded by the exigencies of a
stage or played by actors. The images they raised in my mind were
of real people moving in the open air, and uttering, in the
natural play of life, sentiments that were clothed in the most
lovely, and yet, as it seemed to me, the most obvious and the
most inevitable language.

It was while I was thus under the full spell of the Shakespearean
necromancy that a significant event occurred. My Father took me
up to London for the first time since my infancy. Our visit was
one of a few days only, and its purpose was that we might take
part in some enormous Evangelical conference. We stayed in a dark
hotel off the Strand, where I found the noise by day and night
very afflicting. When we were not at the conference, I spent long
hours, among crumbs and bluebottle flies, in the coffee-room of
this hotel, my Father being busy at the British Museum and the
Royal Society. The conference was held in an immense hall,
somewhere in the north of London. I remember my short-sighted
sense of the terrible vastness of the crowd, with rings on rings
of dim white faces fading in the fog. My Father, as a privileged
visitor, was obliged with seats on the platform, and we were in
the heart of the first really large assemblage of persons that I
had ever seen.

The interminable ritual of prayers, hymns and addresses left no
impression on my memory, but my attention was suddenly stung into
life by a remark. An elderly man, fat and greasy, with a voice
like a bassoon, and an imperturbable assurance, was denouncing
the spread of infidelity, and the lukewarmness of professing
Christians, who refrained from battling with the wickedness at
their doors. They were like the Laodiceans, whom the angel of the
Apocalypse spewed out of his mouth. For instance, who, the orator
asked, is now rising to check the outburst of idolatry in our
midst? 'At this very moment,' he went on, 'there is proceeding,
unreproved, a blasphemous celebration of the birth of
Shakespeare, a lost soul now suffering for his sins in hell!' My
sensation was that of one who has suddenly been struck on the
head; stars and sparks beat around me. If some person I loved had
been grossly insulted in my presence, I could not have felt more
powerless in anguish. No one in that vast audience raised a word
of protest, and my spirits fell to their nadir. This, be it
remarked, was the earliest intimation that had reached me of the
tercentenary of the Birth at Stratford, and I had not the least
idea what could have provoked the outburst of outraged godliness.

But Shakespeare was certainly in the air. When we returned to the
hotel that noon, my Father of his own accord reverted to the
subject. I held my breath, prepared to endure fresh torment. What
he said, however, surprised and relieved me. 'Brother So and So,'
he remarked, 'was not, in my judgement, justified in saying what
he did. The uncovenanted mercies of God are not revealed to us.
Before so rashly speaking of Shakespeare as "a lost soul in
hell", he should have remembered how little we know of the poet's
history. The light of salvation was widely disseminated in the
land during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and we cannot know that
Shakespeare did not accept the atonement of Christ in simple
faith before he came to die.' The concession will today seem
meagre to gay and worldly spirits, but words cannot express how
comfortable it was to me. I gazed at my Father with loving eyes
across the cheese and celery, and if the waiter had not been
present I believe I might have hugged him in my arms.

This anecdote may serve to illustrate the attitude of my
conscience, at this time, with regard to theology. I was not
consciously in any revolt against the strict faith in which I had
been brought up, but I could not fail to be aware of the fact
that literature tempted me to stray up innumerable paths which
meandered in directions at right angles to that direct strait way
which leadeth to salvation. I fancied, if I may pursue the image,
that I was still safe up these pleasant lanes if I did not stray
far enough to lose sight of the main road. If, for instance, it
had been quite certain that Shakespeare had been irrecoverably
damnable and damned, it would scarcely have been possible for me
to have justified myself in going on reading _Cymbeline_. One who
broke bread with the Saints every Sunday morning, who 'took a
class' at Sunday school, who made, as my Father loved to remind
me, a public weekly confession of his willingness to bear the
Cross of Christ, such an one could hardly, however bewildering
and torturing the thought, continue to admire a lost soul. But
that happy possibility of an ultimate repentance, how it eased
me! I could always console myself with the belief that when
Shakespeare wrote any passage of intoxicating beauty, it was just
then that he was beginning to breathe the rapture that faith in
Christ brings to the anointed soul. And it was with a like
casuistry that I condoned my other intellectual and personal

My Father continued to be under the impression that my boarding-
school, which he never again visited after originally leaving me
there, was conducted upon the same principles as his own
household. I was frequently tempted to enlighten him, but I never
found the courage to do so. As a matter of fact the piety of the
establishment, which collected to it the sons of a large number
of evangelically minded parents throughout that part of the
country, resided mainly in the prospectus. It proceeded no
further than the practice of reading the Bible aloud, each boy in
successive order one verse, in the early morning before
breakfast. There was no selection and no exposition; where the
last boy sat, there the day's reading ended, even if it were in
the middle of a sentence, and there it began next morning.

Such reading of 'the chapter' was followed by a long dry prayer.
I do not know that this morning service would appear more
perfunctory than usual to other boys, but it astounded and
disgusted me, accustomed as I was to the ministrations at home,
where my Father read 'the word of God' in a loud passionate
voice, with dramatic emphasis, pausing for commentary and
paraphrase, and treating every phrase as if it were part of a
personal message or of thrilling family history. At school,
'morning prayer' was a dreary, unintelligible exercise, and with
this piece of mumbo-jumbo, religion for the day began and ended.
The discretion of little boys is extraordinary. I am quite
certain no one of us ever revealed this fact to our godly parents
at home.

If any one was to do this, it was of course I who should first of
all have 'testified'. But I had grown cautious about making
confidences. One never knew how awkwardly they might develop or
to what disturbing excesses of zeal they might precipitously
lead. I was on my guard against my Father, who was, all the time,
only too openly yearning that I should approach him for help, for
comfort, for ghostly counsel. Still 'delicate', though steadily
gaining in solidity of constitution, I was liable to severe
chills and to fugitive neuralgic pangs. My Father was, almost
maddeningly, desirous that these afflictions should be sanctified
to me, and it was in my bed, often when I was much bowed in
spirit by indisposition, that he used to triumph over me most
pitilessly. He retained the singular superstition, amazing in a
man of scientific knowledge and long human experience, that all
pains and ailments were directly sent by the Lord in chastisement
for some definite fault, and not in relation to any physical
cause. The result was sometimes quite startling, and in
particular I recollect that my stepmother and I exchanged
impressions of astonishment at my Father's action when Mrs.
Goodyer, who was one of the 'Saints' and the wife of a young
journeyman cobbler, broke her leg. My Father, puzzled for an
instant as to the meaning of this accident, since Mrs. Goodyer
was the gentlest and most inoffensive of our church members,
decided that it must be because she had made an idol of her
husband, and he reduced the poor thing to tears by standing at
her bed-side and imploring the Holy Spirit to bring this sin home
to her conscience.

When, therefore, I was ill at home with one of my trifling
disorders, the problem of my spiritual state always pressed
violently upon my Father, and this caused me no little mental
uneasiness. He would appear at my bedside, with solemn
solicitude, and sinking on his knees would earnestly pray aloud
that the purpose of the Lord in sending me this affliction might
graciously be made plain to me; and then, rising, and standing by
my pillow, he would put me through a searching spiritual inquiry
as to the fault which was thus divinely indicated to me as
observed and reprobated on high.

It was not on points of moral behaviour that he thus cross-
examined me; I think he disdained such ignoble game as that. But
uncertainties of doctrine, relinquishment of faith in the purity
of this dogma or of that, lukewarm zeal in 'taking up the cross
of Christ', growth of intellectual pride,--such were the
insidious offences in consequence of which, as he supposed, the
cold in the head or the toothache had been sent as heavenly
messengers to recall my straggling conscience to its plain path
of duty.

What made me very uncomfortable on these occasions was my
consciousness that confinement to bed was hardly an affliction at
all. It kept me from the boredom of school, in a fire-lit bedroom
at home, with my pretty, smiling stepmother lavishing luxurious
attendance upon me, and it gave me long, unbroken days for
reading. I was awkwardly aware that I simply had not the
effrontery to 'approach the Throne of Grace' with a request to
know for what sin I was condemned to such a very pleasant
disposition of my hours.

The current of my life ran, during my schooldays, most merrily
and fully in the holidays, when I resumed my outdoor exercises
with those friends in the village of whom I have spoken earlier.
I think they were more refined and better bred than any of my
schoolfellows, at all events it was among these homely companions
alone that I continued to form congenial and sympathetic
relations. In one of these boys,--one of whom I have heard or
seen nothing now for nearly a generation,--I found tastes
singularly parallel to my own, and we scoured the horizon in
search of books in prose and verse, but particularly in verse.

As I grew stronger in muscle, I was capable of adding
considerably to my income by an exercise of my legs. I was
allowed money for the railway ticket between the town where the
school lay and the station nearest to my home. But, if I chose to
walk six or seven miles along the coast, thus more than halving
the distance by rail from school house to home, I might spend as
pocket money the railway fare I thus saved. Such considerable
sums I fostered in order to buy with them editions of the poets.
These were not in those days, as they are now, at the beck and
call of every purse, and the attainment of each little
masterpiece was a separate triumph. In particular I shall never
forget the excitement of reaching at length the exorbitant price
the bookseller asked for the only, although imperfect, edition of
the poems of S. T. Coleridge. At last I could meet his demand,
and my friend and I went down to consummate the solemn purchase.
Coming away with our treasure, we read aloud from the orange
coloured volume, in turns, as we strolled along, until at last we
sat down on the bulging root of an elm tree in a secluded lane.
Here we stayed, in a sort of poetical nirvana, reading, reading,
forgetting the passage of time, until the hour of our neglected
mid-day meal was a long while past, and we had to hurry home to
bread and cheese and a scolding.

There was occasionally some trouble about my reading, but now not
much nor often. I was rather adroit, and careful not to bring
prominently into sight anything of a literary kind which could
become a stone of stumbling. But, when I was nearly sixteen, I
made a purchase which brought me into sad trouble, and was the
cause of a permanent wound to my self-respect. I had long coveted
in the bookshop window a volume in which the poetical works of
Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe were said to be combined. This
I bought at length, and I carried it with me to devour as I trod
the desolate road that brought me along the edge of the cliff on
Saturday afternoons. Of Ben Jonson I could make nothing, but when
I turned to 'Hero and Leander', I was lifted to a heaven of
passion and music. It was a marvellous revelation of romantic
beauty to me, and as I paced along that lonely and exquisite
highway, with its immense command of the sea, and its peeps every
now and then, through slanting thickets, far down to the snow-
white shingle, I lifted up my voice, singing the verses, as I
strolled along:

  Buskins of shells, all silver'd, used she,
  And branch'd with blushing coral to the knee,
  Where sparrows perched, of hollow pearl and gold,
  Such as the world would wonder to behold,--

so it went on, and I thought I had never read anything so

  Amorous Leander, beautiful and young,
  Whose tragedy divine Musaeus sung,--

it all seemed to my fancy intoxicating beyond anything I had ever
even dreamed of, since I had not yet become acquainted with any
of the modern romanticists.

When I reached home, tired out with enthusiasm and exercise, I
must needs, so soon as I had eaten, search out my stepmother that
she might be a partner in my joys. It is remarkable to me now,
and a disconcerting proof of my still almost infantile innocence,
that, having induced her to settle to her knitting, I began,
without hesitation, to read Marlowe's voluptuous poem aloud to
that blameless Christian gentlewoman. We got on very well in the
opening, but at the episode of Cupid's pining, my stepmother's
needles began nervously to clash, and when we launched on the
description of Leander's person, she interrupted me by saying,
rather sharply, 'Give me that book, please, I should like to read
the rest to myself.' I resigned the reading in amazement, and was
stupefied to see her take the volume, shut it with a snap and
hide it under her needlework. Nor could I extract from her
another word on the subject.

The matter passed from my mind, and I was therefore extremely
alarmed when, soon after my going to bed that night, my Father
came into my room with a pale face and burning eyes, the prey of
violent perturbation. He set down the candle and stood by the
bed, and it was some time before he could resolve on a form of
speech. Then he denounced me, in unmeasured terms, for bringing
into the house, for possessing at all or reading, so abominable a
book. He explained that my stepmother had shown it to him, and
that he had looked through it, and had burned it.

The sentence in his tirade which principally affected me was
this. He said, 'You will soon be leaving us, and going up to
lodgings in London, and if your landlady should come into your
room, and find such a book lying about, she would immediately set
you down as a profligate.' I did not understand this at all, and
it seems to me now that the fact that I had so very simply and
childishly volunteered to read the verses to my stepmother should
have proved to my Father that I connected it with no ideas of an
immoral nature.

I was greatly wounded and offended, but my indignation was
smothered up in the alarm and excitement which followed the news
that I was to go up to live in lodgings, and, as it was evident,
alone, in London. Of this no hint or whisper had previously
reached me. On reflection, I can but admit that my Father, who
was little accustomed to seventeenth-century literature, must
have come across some startling exposures in Ben Jonson, and
probably never reached 'Hero and Leander' at all. The artistic
effect of such poetry on an innocently pagan mind did not come
within the circle of his experience. He judged the outspoken
Elizabethan poets, no doubt, very much in the spirit of the
problematical landlady.

Of the world outside, of the dim wild whirlpool of London, I was
much afraid, but I was now ready to be willing to leave the
narrow Devonshire circle, to see the last of the red mud, of the
dreary village street, of the plethoric elders, to hear the last
of the drawling voices of the 'Saints'. Yet I had a great
difficulty in persuading myself that I could ever be happy away
from home, and again I compared my lot with that of one of the
speckled soldier-crabs that roamed about in my Father's aquarium,
dragging after them great whorl-shells. They, if by chance they
were turned out of their whelk-habitations, trailed about a pale
soft body in search of another house, visibly broken-hearted and
the victims of every ignominious accident.

My spirits were divided pathetically between the wish to stay on,
a guarded child, and to proceed into the world, a budding man,
and, in my utter ignorance, I sought in vain to conjure up what
my immediate future would be. My Father threw no light upon the
subject, for he had not formed any definite idea of what I could
possibly do to earn an honest living. As a matter of fact I was
to stay another year at school and home.

This last year of my boyish life passed rapidly and pleasantly.
My sluggish brain waked up at last and I was able to study with
application. In the public examinations I did pretty well, and
may even have been thought something of a credit to the school.
Yet I formed no close associations, and I even contrived to
avoid, as I had afterwards occasion to regret, such lessons as
were distasteful to me, and therefore particularly valuable. But
I read with unchecked voracity, and in several curious
directions. Shakespeare now passed into my possession entire, in
the shape of a reprint more hideous and more offensive to the
eyesight than would in these days appear conceivable. I made
acquaintance with Keats, who entirely captivated me; with
Shelley, whose 'Queen Mab' at first repelled me from the
threshold of his edifice; and with Wordsworth, for the exercise
of whose magic I was still far too young. My Father presented me
with the entire bulk of Southey's stony verse, which I found it
impossible to penetrate, but my stepmother lent me _The Golden
Treasury_, in which almost everything seemed exquisite.

Upon this extension of my intellectual powers, however, there did
not follow any spirit of doubt or hostility to the faith. On the
contrary, at first there came a considerable quickening of
fervour. My prayers became less frigid and mechanical; I no
longer avoided as far as possible the contemplation of religious
ideas; I began to search the Scriptures for myself with interest
and sympathy, if scarcely with ardour. I began to perceive,
without animosity, the strange narrowness of my Father's system,
which seemed to take into consideration only a selected circle of
persons, a group of disciples peculiarly illuminated, and to have
no message whatever for the wider Christian community.

On this subject I had some instructive conversations with my
Father, whom I found not reluctant to have his convictions pushed
to their logical extremity. He did not wish to judge, he
protested; but he could not admit that a single Unitarian (or
'Socinian', as he preferred to say) could possibly be redeemed;
and he had no hope of eternal salvation for the inhabitants of
Catholic countries. I recollect his speaking of Austria. He
questioned whether a single Austrian subject, except, as he said,
here and there a pious and extremely ignorant individual, who had
not comprehended the errors of the Papacy, but had humbly studied
his Bible, could hope to find eternal life. He thought that the
ordinary Chinaman or savage native of Fiji had a better chance of
salvation than any cardinal in the Vatican. And even in the
priesthood of the Church of England he believed that while many
were called, few indeed would be found to have been chosen.

I could not sympathize, even in my then state of ignorance, with
so rigid a conception of the Divine mercy. Little inclined as I
was to be sceptical, I still thought it impossible, that a secret
of such stupendous importance should have been entrusted to a
little group of Plymouth Brethren, and have been hidden from
millions of disinterested and pious theologians. That the leaders
of European Christianity were sincere, my Father did not attempt
to question. But they were all of them wrong, _incorrect_; and no
matter how holy their lives, how self-sacrificing their actions,
they would have to suffer for their inexactitude through aeons of
undefined torment. He would speak with a solemn complacency of
the aged nun, who, after a long life of renunciation and
devotion, died at last, 'only to discover her mistake'.

He who was so tender-hearted that he could not bear to witness
the pain or distress of any person, however disagreeable or
undeserving, was quite acquiescent in believing that God would
punish human beings, in millions, for ever, for a purely
intellectual error of comprehension. My Father's inconsistencies
of perception seem to me to have been the result of a curious
irregularity of equipment. Taking for granted, as he did, the
absolute integrity of the Scriptures, and applying to them his
trained scientific spirit, he contrived to stifle, with a
deplorable success, alike the function of the imagination, the
sense of moral justice, and his own deep and instinctive
tenderness of heart.

There presently came over me a strong desire to know what
doctrine indeed it was that the other Churches taught. I
expressed a wish to be made aware of the practices of Rome, or at
least of Canterbury, and I longed to attend the Anglican and the
Roman services. But to do so was impossible. My Father did not,
indeed, forbid me to enter the fine parish church of our village,
or the stately Puginesque cathedral which Rome had just erected
at its side, but I knew that I could not be seen at either
service without his immediately knowing it, or without his being
deeply wounded. Although I was sixteen years of age, and although
I was treated with indulgence and affection, I was still but a
bird fluttering in the net-work of my Father's will, and
incapable of the smallest independent action. I resigned all
thought of attending any other services than those at our 'Room',
but I did no longer regard this exclusion as a final one. I
bowed, but it was in the house of Rimmon, from which I now knew
that I must inevitably escape. All the liberation, however, which
I desired or dreamed of was only just so much as would bring me
into communion with the outer world of Christianity without
divesting me of the pure and simple principles of faith.

Of so much emancipation, indeed, I now became ardently desirous,
and in the contemplation of it I rose to a more considerable
degree of religious fervour than I had ever reached before or was
ever to experience later. Our thoughts were at this time
abundantly exercised with the expectation of the immediate coming
of the Lord, who, as my Father and those who thought with him
believed, would suddenly appear, without the least warning, and
would catch up to be with Him in everlasting glory all whom
acceptance of the Atonement had sealed for immortality. These
were, on the whole, not numerous, and our belief was that the
world, after a few days' amazement at the total disappearance of
these persons, would revert to its customary habits of life,
merely sinking more rapidly into a moral corruption due to the
removal of these souls of salt. This event an examination of
prophecy had led my Father to regard as absolutely imminent, and
sometimes, when we parted for the night, he would say with a
sparkling rapture in his eyes, 'Who knows? We may meet next in
the air, with all the cohorts of God's saints!'

This conviction I shared, without a doubt; and, indeed,--in
perfect innocency, I hope, but perhaps with a touch of slyness
too,--I proposed at the end of the summer holidays that I should
stay at home. 'What is the use of my going to school? Let me be
with you when we rise to meet the Lord in the air!' To this my
Father sharply and firmly replied that it was our duty to carry
on our usual avocations to the last, for we knew not the moment
of His coming, and we should be together in an instant on that
day, how far soever we might be parted upon earth. I was ashamed,
but his argument was logical, and, as it proved, judicious. My
Father lived for nearly a quarter of a century more, never losing
the hope of 'not tasting death', and as the last moments of
mortality approached, he was bitterly disappointed at what he
held to be a scanty reward of his long faith and patience. But if
my own life's work had been, as I proposed, shelved in
expectation of the Lord's imminent advent, I should have cumbered
the ground until this day.

To school, therefore, I returned with a brain full of strange
discords, in a huddled mixture of 'Endymion' and the Book of
Revelation, John Wesley's hymns and 'Midsummer Night's Dream'.
Few boys of my age, I suppose, carried about with them such a
confused throng of immature impressions and contradictory hopes.
I was at one moment devoutly pious, at the next haunted by
visions of material beauty and longing for sensuous impressions.
In my hot and silly brain, Jesus and Pan held sway together, as
in a wayside chapel discordantly and impishly consecrated to
Pagan and to Christian rites. But for the present, as in the
great chorus which so marvellously portrays our double nature,
'the folding-star of Bethlehem' was still dominant. I became more
and more pietistic. Beginning now to versify, I wrote a tragedy
in pale imitation of Shakespeare, but on a Biblical and
evangelistic subject; and odes that were parodies of those in
'Prometheus Unbound', but dealt with the approaching advent of
our Lord and the rapture of His saints. My unwholesome
excitement, bubbling up in this violent way, reached at last a
climax and foamed over.

It was a summer afternoon, and, being now left very free in my
movements, I had escaped from going out with the rest of my
schoolfellows in their formal walk in charge of an usher. I had
been reading a good deal of poetry, but my heart had translated
Apollo and Bacchus into terms of exalted Christian faith. I was
alone, and I lay on a sofa, drawn across a large open window at
the top of the school-house, in a room which was used as a study
by the boys who were 'going up for examination'. I gazed down on
a labyrinth of garden sloping to the sea, which twinkled faintly
beyond the towers of the town. Each of these gardens held a villa
in it, but all the near landscape below me was drowned in
foliage. A wonderful warm light of approaching sunset modelled
the shadows and set the broad summits of the trees in a rich
glow. There was an absolute silence below and around me; a magic
of suspense seemed to keep every topmost twig from waving.

Over my soul there swept an immense wave of emotion. Now, surely,
now the great final change must be approaching. I gazed up into
the tenderly-coloured sky, and I broke irresistibly into speech.
'Come now, Lord Jesus,' I cried, 'come now and take me to be for
ever with Thee in Thy Paradise. I am ready to come. My heart is
purged from sin, there is nothing that keeps me rooted to this
wicked world. Oh, come now, now, and take me before I have known
the temptations of life, before I have to go to London and all
the dreadful things that happen there!' And I raised myself on
the sofa, and leaned upon the window-sill, and waited for the
glorious apparition.

This was the highest moment of my religious life, the apex of my
striving after holiness. I waited awhile, watching; and then I
felt a faint shame at the theatrical attitude I had adopted,
although I was alone. Still I gazed and still I hoped. Then a
little breeze sprang up and the branches danced. Sounds began to
rise from the road beneath me. Presently the colour deepened, the
evening came on. From far below there rose to me the chatter of
the boys returning home. The tea-bell rang,--last word of prose
to shatter my mystical poetry. 'The Lord has not come, the Lord
will never come,' I muttered, and in my heart the artificial
edifice of extravagant faith began to totter and crumble. From
that moment forth my Father and I, though the fact was long
successfully concealed from him and even from myself, walked in
opposite hemispheres of the soul, with 'the thick o' the world
between us'.


THIS narrative, however, must not be allowed to close with the
Son in the foreground of the piece. If it has a value, that value
consists in what light it may contrive to throw upon the unique
and noble figure of the Father. With the advance of years, the
characteristics of this figure became more severely outlined,
more rigorously confined within settled limits. In relation to
the Son--who presently departed, at a very immature age, for the
new life in London--the attitude of the Father continued to be
one of extreme solicitude, deepening by degrees into
disappointment and disenchantment. He abated no jot or tittle of
his demands upon human frailty. He kept the spiritual cord drawn
tight; the Biblical bearing-rein was incessantly busy, jerking
into position the head of the dejected neophyte. That young soul,
removed from the Father's personal inspection, began to blossom
forth crudely and irregularly enough, into new provinces of
thought, through fresh layers of experience. To the painful
mentor at home in the West, the centre of anxiety was still the
meek and docile heart, dedicated to the Lord's service, which
must, at all hazards and with all defiance of the rules of life,
be kept unspotted from the world.

The torment of a postal inquisition began directly I was settled
in my London lodgings. To my Father--with his ample leisure, his
palpitating apprehension, his ready pen--the flow of
correspondence offered no trouble at all; it was a grave but
gratifying occupation. To me the almost daily letter of
exhortation, with its string of questions about conduct, its
series of warnings, grew to be a burden which could hardly be
borne, particularly because it involved a reply as punctual and
if possible as full as itself. At the age of seventeen, the
metaphysics of the soul are shadowy, and it is a dreadful thing
to be forced to define the exact outline of what is so undulating
and so shapeless. To my Father there seemed no reason why I
should hesitate to give answers of full metallic ring to his hard
and oft-repeated questions; but to me this correspondence was
torture. When I feebly expostulated, when I begged to be left a
little to myself, these appeals of mine automatically stimulated,
and indeed blew up into fierce flames, the ardour of my Father's

The letter, the only too-confidently expected letter, would lie
on the table as I descended to breakfast. It would commonly be,
of course, my only letter, unless tempered by a cosy and chatty
note from my dear and comfortable stepmother, dealing with such
perfectly tranquillizing subjects as the harvest of roses in the
garden or the state of health of various neighbours. But the
other, the solitary letter, in its threatening whiteness, with
its exquisitely penned address--there it would lie awaiting me,
destroying the taste of the bacon, reducing the flavour of the
tea to insipidity. I might fatuously dally with it, I might
pretend not to observe it, but there it lay. Before the morning's
exercise began, I knew that it had to be read, and what was
worse, that it had to be answered. Useless the effort to conceal
from myself what it contained. Like all its precursors, like all
its followers, it would insist, with every variety of appeal, on
a reiterated declaration that I still fully intended, as in the
days of my earliest childhood, 'to be on the Lord's side' in

In my replies, I would sometimes answer precisely as I was
desired to answer; sometimes I would evade the queries, and write
about other things; sometimes I would turn upon the tormentor,
and urge that my tender youth might be let alone. It little
mattered what form of weakness I put forth by way of baffling my
Father's direct, firm, unflinching strength. To an appeal against
the bondage of a correspondence of such unbroken solemnity I
would receive--with what a paralysing promptitude!--such a reply
as this:--

'Let me say that the 'solemnity' you complain of has only been the
expression of tender anxiousness of a father's heart, that his
only child, just turned out upon the world, and very far out of
his sight and hearing, should be walking in God's way. Recollect
that it is not now as it was when you were at school, when we had
personal communication with you at intervals of five days--we
now know absolutely nothing of you, save from your letters, and
if they do not indicate your spiritual prosperity, the deepest
solicitudes of our hearts have nothing to feed on. But I will try
henceforth to trust you, and lay aside my fears; for you are
worthy of my confidence; and your own God and your father's God
will hold you with His right hand.'

Over such letters as these I am not ashamed to say that I
sometimes wept; the old paper I have just been copying shows
traces of tears shed upon it more than forty years ago, tears
commingled of despair at my own feebleness, distraction, at my
want of will, pity for my Father's manifest and pathetic
distress. He would 'try henceforth to trust' me, he said. Alas!
the effort would be in vain; after a day or two, after a hollow
attempt to write of other things, the importunate subject would
recur; there would intrude again the inevitable questions about
the Atonement and the Means of Grace, the old anxious fears lest
I was 'yielding' my intimacy to agreeable companions who were not
'one with me in Christ', fresh passionate entreaties to be
assured, in every letter, that I was walking in the clear light
of God's presence.

It seems to me now profoundly strange, although I knew too little
of the world to remark it at the time, that these incessant
exhortations dealt, not with conduct, but with faith. Earlier in
this narrative I have noted how disdainfully, with what an
austere pride, my Father refused to entertain the subject of
personal shortcomings in my behaviour. There were enough of them
to blame, Heaven knows, but he was too lofty-minded a gentleman
to dwell upon them, and, though by nature deeply suspicious of
the possibility of frequent moral lapses, even in the very elect,
he refused to stoop to anything like espionage.

I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his beautiful faith in me
in this respect, and now that I was alone in London, at this
tender time of life, 'exposed', as they say, to all sorts of
dangers, as defenceless as a fledgling that has been turned out
of its nest, yet my Father did not, in his uplifted Quixotism,
allow himself to fancy me guilty of any moral misbehaviour, but
concentrated his fears entirely upon my faith.

'Let me know more of your inner light. Does the candle of the
Lord shine on your soul?' This would be the ceaseless inquiry.
Or, again, 'Do you get any spiritual companionship with young
men? You passed over last Sunday without even a word, yet this
day is the most interesting to me in your whole week. Do you find
the ministry of the Word pleasant, and, above all, profitable?
Does it bring your soul into exercise before God? The Coming of
Christ draweth nigh. Watch, therefore and pray always, that you
may be counted worthy to stand before the Son of Man.'

If I quote such passages as this from my Father's letters to me,
it is not that I seek entertainment in a contrast between his
earnestness and the casuistical inattention and provoked
distractedness of a young man to whom the real world now offered
its irritating and stimulating scenes of animal and intellectual
life, but to call out sympathy, and perhaps wonder, at the
spectacle of so blind a Roman firmness as my Father's spiritual
attitude displayed.

His aspirations were individual and metaphysical. At the present
hour, so complete is the revolution which has overturned the
puritanism of which he was perhaps the latest surviving type,
that all classes of religious persons combine in placing
philanthropic activity, the objective attitude, in the
foreground. It is extraordinary how far-reaching the change has
been, so that nowadays a religion which does not combine with its
subjective faith a strenuous labour for the good of others is
hardly held to possess any religious principle worth proclaiming.

This propaganda of beneficence, this constant attention to the
moral and physical improvement of persons who have been
neglected, is quite recent as a leading feature of religion,
though indeed it seems to have formed some part of the Saviour's
original design. It was unknown to the great preachers of the
seventeenth century, whether Catholic or Protestant, and it
offered but a shadowy attraction to my Father, who was the last
of their disciples. When Bossuet desired his hearers to listen to
the _cri de misere l'entour de nous, qui devrait nous fondre le
coeur_, he started a new thing in the world of theology. We may
search the famous 'Rule and Exercises of Holy Living' from cover
to cover, and not learn that Jeremy Taylor would have thought
that any activity of the district-visitor or the Salvation lassie
came within the category of saintliness.

My Father, then, like an old divine, concentrated on thoughts
upon the intellectual part of faith. In his obsession about me,
he believed that if my brain could be kept unaffected by any of
the seductive errors of the age, and my heart centred in the
adoring love of God, all would be well with me in perpetuity. He
was still convinced that by intensely directing my thoughts, he
could compel them to flow in a certain channel, since he had not
begun to learn the lesson, so mournful for saintly men of his
complexion, that 'virtue would not be virtue, could it be given
by one fellow creature to another'. He had recognized, with
reluctance, that holiness was not hereditary, but he continued to
hope that it might be compulsive. I was still 'the child of many
prayers', and it was not to be conceded that these prayers could
remain unanswered.

The great panacea was now, as always, the study of the Bible, and
this my Father never ceased to urge upon me. He presented to me a
copy of Dean Alford's edition of the Greek New Testament, in four
great volumes, and these he had had so magnificently bound in
full morocco that the work shone on my poor shelf of sixpenny
poets like a duchess among dairy maids. He extracted from me a
written promise that I would translate and meditate upon a
portion of the Greek text every morning before I started for
business. This promise I presently failed to keep, my good
intentions being undermined by an invincible _ennui_; I concealed
the dereliction from him, and the sense that I was deceiving my
Father ate into my conscience like a canker. But the dilemma was
now before me that I must either deceive my Father in such things
or paralyse my own character.

My growing distaste for the Holy Scriptures began to occupy my
thoughts, and to surprise as much as it scandalized me. My desire
was to continue to delight in those sacred pages, for which I
still had an instinctive veneration. Yet I could not but observe
the difference between the zeal with which I snatched at a volume
of Carlyle or Ruskin--since these magicians were now first
revealing themselves to me--and the increasing languor with which
I took up Alford for my daily 'passage'. Of course, although I
did not know it, and believed my reluctance to be sinful, the
real reason why I now found the Bible so difficult to read was my
familiarity with its contents. These had the colourless triteness
of a story retold a hundred times. I longed for something new,
something that would gratify curiosity and excite surprise.
Whether the facts and doctrines contained in the Bible were true
or false was not the question that appealed to me; it was rather
that they had been presented to me so often and had sunken into
me so far that, as someone has said, they 'lay bedridden in the
dormitory of the soul', and made no impression of any kind upon

It often amazed me, and I am still unable to understand the fact,
that my Father, through his long life--or until nearly the close
of it--continued to take an eager pleasure in the text of the
Bible. As I think I have already said, before he reached middle
life, he had committed practically the whole of it to memory, and
if started anywhere, even in a Minor Prophet, he could go on
without a break as long as ever he was inclined for that
exercise. He, therefore, at no time can have been assailed by the
satiety of which I have spoken, and that it came so soon to me I
must take simply as an indication of difference of temperament.
It was not possible, even through the dark glass of
correspondence, to deceive his eagle eye in this matter, and his
suspicions accordingly took another turn. He conceived me to have
become, or to be becoming, a victim of 'the infidelity of the

In this new difficulty, he appealed to forms of modern literature
by the side of which the least attractive pages of Leviticus or
Deuteronomy struck me as even thrilling. In particular, he urged
upon me a work, then just published, called _The Continuity of
Scripture_ by William Page Wood, afterwards Lord Chancellor
Hatherley. I do not know why he supposed that the lucubrations of
an exemplary lawyer, delivered in a style that was like the
trickling of sawdust, would succeed in rousing emotions which the
glorious rhetoric of the Orient had failed to awaken; but Page
Wood had been a Sunday School teacher for thirty years, and my
Father was always unduly impressed by the acumen of pious

As time went on, and I grew older and more independent in mind,
my Father's anxiety about what he called 'the pitfalls and snares
which surround on every hand the thoughtless giddy youth of
London' became extremely painful to himself. By harping in
private upon these 'pitfalls'--which brought to my imagination a
funny rough woodcut in an old edition of Bunyan, where a devil
was seen capering over a sort of box let neatly into the ground--
he worked himself up into a frame of mind which was not a little
irritating to his hapless correspondent, who was now 'snared'
indeed, limed by the pen like a bird by the feet, and could not
by any means escape. To a peck or a flutter from the bird the
implacable fowler would reply:

'You charge me with being suspicious, and I fear I cannot deny the
charge. But I can appeal to your own sensitive and thoughtful
mind for a considerable allowance. My deep and tender love for
you; your youth and inexperience; the examples of other young
men; your distance from parental counsel; our absolute and
painful ignorance of all the details of your daily life, except
what you yourself tell us:--try to throw yourself into the
standing of a parent, and say if my suspiciousness is
unreasonable. I rejoicingly acknowledge that from all I see you
are pursuing a virtuous, steady, worthy course. One good thing my
suspiciousness does:--ever and anon it brings out from you
assurances, which greatly refresh and comfort me. And again, it
carries me ever to God's Throne of Grace on your behalf Holy Job
suspected that his sons might have sinned, and cursed God in
their heart. Was not his suspicion much like mine, grounded on
the same reasons and productive of the same results? For it drove
him to God in intercession. I have adduced the example of this
Patriarch before, and he will endure being looked at again.'

In fact, Holy Job continued to be frequently looked at, and for
this Patriarch I came to experience a hatred which was as
venomous as it was undeserved. But what youth of eighteen would
willingly be compared with the sons of Job? And indeed, for my
part, I felt much more like that justly exasperated character,
Elihu the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram.

As time went on, the peculiar strain of inquisition was relaxed,
and I endured fewer and fewer of the torments of religious
correspondence. Nothing abides in one tense projection, and my
Father, resolute as he was, had other preoccupations. His
orchids, his microscope, his physiological researches, his
interpretations of prophecy, filled up the hours of his active
and strenuous life, and, out of his sight, I became not indeed
out of his mind, but no longer ceaselessly in the painful
foreground of it. Yet, although the reiteration of his anxiety
might weary him a little as it had wearied me well nigh to groans
of despair, there was not the slightest change in his real
attitude towards the subject or towards me.

I have already had occasion to say that he had nothing of the
mystic or the visionary about him. At certain times and on
certain points, he greatly desired that signs and wonders, such
as had astonished and encouraged the infancy of the Christian
Church, might again be vouchsafed to it, but he did not pretend
to see such miracles himself, nor give the slightest credence to
others who asserted that they did. He often congratulated himself
on the fact that although his mind dwelt so constantly on
spiritual matters it was never betrayed into any suspension of
the rational functions.

Cross-examination by letter slackened, but on occasion of my
brief and usually summer visits to Devonshire I suffered acutely
from my Father's dialectical appetites. He was surrounded by
peasants, on whom the teeth of his arguments could find no
purchase. To him, in that intellectual Abdera, even an unwilling
youth from London offered opportunities of pleasant contest. He
would declare himself ready, nay eager, for argument. With his
mental sleeves turned up, he would adopt a fighting attitude, and
challenge me to a round on any portion of the Scheme of Grace.
His alacrity was dreadful to me, his well-aimed blows fell on
what was rather a bladder or a pillow than a vivid antagonist.

He was, indeed, most unfairly handicapped,--I was naked, he in a
suit of chain armour,--for he had adopted a method which I
thought, and must still think, exceedingly unfair. He assumed
that he had private knowledge of the Divine Will, and he would
meet my temporizing arguments by asseverations,--'So sure as my
God liveth!' or by appeals to a higher authority,--'But what does
_my_ Lord tell me in Paul's Letter to the Philippians?' It was the
prerogative of his faith to know, and of his character to
overpower objection; between these two millstones I was rapidly
ground to powder.

These 'discussions', as they were rather ironically called,
invariably ended for me in disaster. I was driven out of my
_papier-mache_ fastnesses, my canvas walls rocked at the first peal
from my Father's clarion, and the foe pursued me across the
plains of Jericho until I lay down ignominiously and covered my
face. I seemed to be pushed with horns of iron, such as those
which Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah prepared for the
encouragement of Ahab.

When I acknowledged defeat and cried for quarter, my Father would
become radiant, and I still seem to hear the sound of his full
voice, so thrilling, so warm, so painful to my over-strained
nerves, bursting forth in a sort of benediction at the end of
each of these one-sided contentions, with 'I bow my knees unto
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He would grant you,
according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with
might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in
your heart by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth,
and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ
which passeth knowledge, that you might be filled with the
fullness of God.'

Thus solemn and thus ceremonious was my Father apt to become,
without a moment's warning, on plain and domestic occasions;
abruptly brimming over with emotion like a basin which an unseen
flow of water has filled and over-filled.

I earnestly desire that no trace of that absurd self-pity which
is apt to taint recollections of this nature should give falsity
to mine. My Father, let me say once more, had other interests
than those of his religion. In particular, at this time, he took
to painting in water-colours in the open air, and he resumed the
assiduous study of botany. He was no fanatical monomaniac.
Nevertheless, there was, in everything he did and said, the
central purpose present. He acknowledged it plainly; 'with me,'
he confessed, 'every question assumes a Divine standpoint and is
not adequately answered if the judgement-seat of Christ is not
kept in sight.'

This was maintained whether the subject under discussion was
poetry, or society, or the Prussian war with Austria, or the
stamen of a wild flower. Once, at least, he was himself conscious
of the fatiguing effect on my temper of this insistency, for,
raising his great brown eyes with a flash of laughter in them, he
closed the Bible suddenly after a very lengthy disquisition, and
quoted his Virgil to startling effect:--

  Claudite jam rivos, pueri: Sat prata biberunt.

The insistency of his religious conversation was, probably, the
less incomprehensible to me on account of the evangelical
training to which I had been so systematically subjected. It was,
however, none the less intolerably irksome, and would have been
exasperating, I believe, even to a nature in which a powerful and
genuine piety was inherent. To my own, in which a feeble and
imitative faith was expiring, it was deeply vexatious. It led,
alas! to a great deal of bowing in the house of Rimmon, to much
hypocritical ingenuity in drawing my Father's attention away, if
possible, as the terrible subject was seen to be looming and
approaching. In this my stepmother would aid and abet, sometimes
producing incongruous themes, likely to attract my Father aside,
with a skill worthy of a parlour conjurer, and much to my
admiration. If, however, she was not unwilling to come, in this
way, to the support of my feebleness, there was no open collusion
between us. She always described my Father, when she was alone
with me, admiringly, as one 'whose trumpet gave no uncertain
sound'. There was not a tinge of infidelity upon her candid mind,
but she was human, and I think that now and then she was
extremely bored.

My Father was entirely devoid of the prudence which turns away
its eyes and passes as rapidly as possible in the opposite
direction. The peculiar kind of drama in which every sort of
social discomfort is welcomed rather than that the characters
should be happy when guilty of 'acting a lie', was not invented
in those days, and there can hardly be imagined a figure more
remote from my Father than Ibsen. Yet when I came, at a far later
date, to read _The Wild Duck_, memories of the embarrassing
household of my infancy helped me to realize Gregers Werle, with
his determination to pull the veil of illusion away from every
compromise that makes life bearable.

I was docile, I was plausible, I was anything but combative; if
my Father could have persuaded himself to let me alone, if he
could merely have been willing to leave my subterfuges and my
explanations unanalysed, all would have been well. But he refused
to see any difference in temperament between a lad of twenty and
a sage of sixty. He had no vital sympathy for youth, which in
itself had no charm for him. He had no compassion for the
weaknesses of immaturity, and his one and only anxiety was to be
at the end of his spiritual journey, safe with me in the house
where there are many mansions. The incidents of human life upon
the road to glory were less than nothing to him.

My Father was very fond of defining what was his own attitude at
this time, and he was never tired of urging the same ambition
upon me. He regarded himself as the faithful steward of a Master
who might return at any moment, and who would require to find
everything ready for his convenience. That master was God, with
whom my Father seriously believed himself to be in relations much
more confidential than those vouchsafed to ordinary pious
persons. He awaited, with anxious hope, 'the coming of the Lord',
an event which he still frequently believed to be imminent. He
would calculate, by reference to prophecies in the Old and New
Testament, the exact date of this event; the date would pass,
without the expected Advent, and he would be more than
disappointed,--he would be incensed. Then he would understand
that he must have made some slight error in calculation, and the
pleasures of anticipation would recommence.

Me in all this he used as a kind of inferior coadjutor, much as a
responsible and upper servant might use a footboy. I, also, must
be watching; it was not important that I should be seriously
engaged in any affairs of my own. I must be ready for the
Master's coming; and my Father's incessant cross-examination was
made in the spirit of a responsible servant who fidgets lest some
humble but essential piece of household work has been neglected.

My holidays, however, and all my personal relations with my
Father were poisoned by this insistency. I was never at my ease
in his company; I never knew when I might not be subjected to a
series of searching questions which I should not be allowed to
evade. Meanwhile, on every other stage of experience I was
gaining the reliance upon self and the respect for the opinion of
others which come naturally to a young man of sober habits who
earns his own living and lives his own life. For this kind of
independence my Father had no respect or consideration, when
questions of religion were introduced, although he handsomely
conceded it on other points. And now first there occurred to me
the reflection, which in years to come I was to repeat over and
over, with an ever sadder emphasis,--what a charming companion,
what a delightful parent, what a courteous and engaging friend my
Father would have been, and would pre-eminently have been to me,
if it had not been for this stringent piety which ruined it all.

Let me speak plainly. After my long experience, after my patience
and forbearance, I have surely the right to protest against the
untruth (would that I could apply to it any other word!) that
evangelical religion, or any religion in a violent form, is a
wholesome or valuable or desirable adjunct to human life. It
divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain, chimerical ideal, in
the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections,
all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft
resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul
are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative. It
encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation; it throws
altogether out of gear the healthy movement of the conscience; it
invents virtues which are sterile and cruel; it invents sins
which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent
joy with futile clouds of remorse. There is something horrible,
if we will bring ourselves to face it, in the fanaticism that can
do nothing with this pathetic and fugitive existence of ours but
treat it as if it were the uncomfortable ante-chamber to a palace
which no one has explored and of the plan of which we know
absolutely nothing. My Father, it is true, believed that he was
intimately acquainted with the form and furniture of this
habitation, and he wished me to think of nothing else but of the
advantages of an eternal residence in it.

Then came a moment when my self-sufficiency revolted against the
police-inspection to which my 'views' were incessantly subjected.
There was a morning, in the hot-house at home, among the gorgeous
waxen orchids which reminded my Father of the tropics in his
youth, when my forbearance or my timidity gave way. The enervated
air, soaked with the intoxicating perfumes of all those
voluptuous flowers, may have been partly responsible for my
outburst. My Father had once more put to me the customary
interrogatory. Was I 'walking closely with God'? Was my sense of
the efficacy of the Atonement clear and sound? Had the Holy
Scriptures still their full authority with me? My replies on this
occasion were violent and hysterical. I have no clear
recollection what it was that I said,--I desire not to recall the
whimpering sentences in which I begged to be let alone, in which
I demanded the right to think for myself, in which I repudiated
the idea that my Father was responsible to God for my secret
thoughts and my most intimate convictions.

He made no answer; I broke from the odorous furnace of the
conservatory, and buried my face in the cold grass upon the lawn.
My visit to Devonshire, already near its close, was hurried to an
end. I had scarcely arrived in London before the following
letter, furiously despatched in the track of the fugitive, buried
itself like an arrow in my heart:

'When your sainted Mother died, she not only tenderly committed
you to God, but left you also as a solemn charge to me, to bring
you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That
responsibility I have sought constantly to keep before me: I can
truly aver that it has been ever before me--in my choice of a
housekeeper, in my choice of a school, in my ordering of your
holidays, in my choice of a second wife, in my choice of an
occupation for you, in my choice of a residence for you; and in
multitudes of lesser things--I have sought to act for you, not in
the light of this present world, but with a view to Eternity.

'Before your childhood was past, there seemed God's manifest
blessing on our care; for you seemed truly converted to Him; you
confessed, in solemn baptism, that you had died and had been
raised with Christ; and you were received with joy into the bosom
of the Church of God, as one alive from the dead.

'All this filled my heart with thankfulness and joy, whenever I
thought of you:--how could it do otherwise? And when I left you
in London, on that dreary winter evening, my heart, full of
sorrowing love, found its refuge and its resource in this
thought,--that you were one of the lambs of Christ's flock;
sealed with the Holy Spirit as His; renewed in heart to holiness,
in the image of God.

'For a while, all appeared to go on fairly well: we yearned,
indeed, to discover more of heart in your allusions to religious
matters, but your expressions towards us were filial and
affectionate; your conduct, so far as we could see, was moral and
becoming; you mingled with the people of God, spoke of occasional
delight and profit in His ordinances; and employed your talents
in service to Him.

'But of late, and specially during the past year, there has become
manifest a rapid progress towards evil. (I must beg you here to
pause, and again to look to God for grace to weigh what I am
about to say; or else wrath will rise.)

'When you came to us in the summer, the heavy blow fell full upon
me; and I discovered how very far you had departed from God. It
was not that you had yielded to the strong tide of youthful
blood, and had fallen a victim to fleshly lusts; in that case,
however sad, your enlightened conscience would have spoken
loudly, and you would have found your way back to the blood which
cleanseth us from all sin, to humble confession and self-
abasement, to forgiveness and to recommunion with God. It was not
this; it was worse. It was that horrid, insidious infidelity,
which had already worked in your mind and heart with terrible
energy. Far worse, I say, because this was sapping the very
foundations of faith, on which all true godliness, all real
religion, must rest.

'Nothing seemed left to which I could appeal. We had, I found, no
common ground. The Holy Scriptures had no longer any authority:
you had taught yourself to evade their inspiration. Any
particular Oracle of God which pressed you, you could easily
explain away; even the very character of God you weighed in your
balance of fallen reason, and fashioned it accordingly. You were
thus sailing down the rapid tide of time towards Eternity,
without a single authoritative guide (having cast your chart
overboard), except what you might fashion and forge on your own
anvil,--except what you might _guess_, in fact.

'Do not think I am speaking in passion, and using unwarrantable
strength of words. If the written Word is not absolutely
authoritative, what do we know of God? What more than we can
infer, that is, guess,--as the thoughtful heathens guessed,--
Plato, Socrates, Cicero,--from dim and mute surrounding
phenomena? What do we know of Eternity? Of our relations to God?
Especially of the relations of a sinner to God? What of
reconciliation? What of the capital question--How can a God of
perfect spotless rectitude deal with me, a corrupt sinner, who
have trampled on those of His laws which were even written on my

'This dreadful conduct of yours I had intended, after much prayer,
to pass by in entire silence; but your apparently sincere
inquiries after the cause of my sorrow have led me to go to the
root of the matter, and I could not stop short of the development
contained in this letter. It is with pain, not in anger, that I
send it; hoping that you may be induced to review the whole
course, of which this is only a stage, before God. If this grace
were granted to you, oh! how joyfully should I bury all the past,
and again have sweet and tender fellowship with my beloved Son,
as of old.'

The reader who has done me the favour to follow this record of
the clash of two temperaments will not fail to perceive the
crowning importance of the letter from which I have just made a
long quotation. It sums up, with the closest logic, the whole
history of the situation, and I may leave it to form the epigraph
of this little book.

All that I need further say is to point out that when such
defiance is offered to the intelligence of a thoughtful and
honest young man with the normal impulses of his twenty-one
years, there are but two alternatives. Either he must cease to
think for himself; or his individualism must be instantly
confirmed, and the necessity of religious independence must be

No compromise, it is seen, was offered; no proposal of a truce
would have been acceptable. It was a case of 'Everything or
Nothing'; and thus desperately challenged, the young man's
conscience threw off once for all the yoke of his 'dedication',
and, as respectfully as he could, without parade or remonstrance,
he took a human being's privilege to fashion his inner life for

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