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Title: Christopher Crayon's Recollections - The Life and Times of the late James Ewing Ritchie as told by himself
Author: Ritchie, J. Ewing (James Ewing), 1820-1898
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1898 James Clarke & Co. edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

[Picture: J. Ewing Ritchie, from a photo by The Parade Studio, Leamington

                           CHRISTOPHER CRAYON’S

                     _The Life and Times of the late_
                           JAMES EWING RITCHIE,
                          _As told by Himself_.

                                * * * * *

                JAMES CLARKE & CO., 13 & 14, FLEET STREET.

                                * * * * *



CHAPTER                                          PAGE
I.          East Anglia in 1837                     3
II.         A Life’s Memories                      33
III.        Village Life                           51
IV.         Village Sports and Pastimes            65
V.          Out on the World                       83
VI.         At College                             95
VII.        London Long Ago                       105
VIII.       My Literary Career                    127
IX.         Cardiff and the Welsh                 151
X.          A Great National Movement             171
XI.         The Old London Pulpit                 185
XII.        Memories of Exeter Hall               207
XIII.       Men I Have Known                      217
XIV.        How I Put Up for M.P.                 229
XV.         How I was Made a Fool Of              241
XVI.        Interviewing the President            253
XVII.       A Bank Gone                           261


In 1837 Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister—the handsomest, the most
cultivated, the most courteous gentleman that ever figured in a Royal
Court.  For his young mistress he had a loyal love, whilst she, young and
inexperienced, naturally turned to him as her guide, philosopher and
friend.  The Whigs were in office, but not in power.  The popular
excitement that had carried the Reform Bill had died away, and the
Ministry had rendered itself especially unpopular by a new Poor-Law Bill,
a bold, a praiseworthy, a successful attempt to deal with the growing
demoralisation of the agricultural population.  Lord Melbourne was at
that time the only possible Premier.  “I have no small talk,” said the
Iron Duke, “and Peel has no manners,” and few men had such grace and
chivalry as Lord Melbourne, then a childless widower in his manhood’s
prime.  He swore a good deal, as all fine gentlemen did in the early days
of Queen Victoria.  One day Mr. Denison, afterwards Lord Ossington,
encountered Lord Melbourne as he was about to mount his horse, and called
attention to some required modification in the new Poor-Law Bill.  Lord
Melbourne referred him to his brother George.  “I have been with him,”
was the reply, “but he damned me, and damned the Bill, and damned the
paupers.”  “Well, damn it, what more could he do?” was the rejoinder.
And in East Anglia there was a good deal of swearing among the gentry.  I
can remember an ancient peer who had been brought up in the Navy, who
resided in the Eastern Counties, and who somehow or other had been
prevailed upon to attend as chairman at a meeting of the local Bible
Society.  I have forgotten the greater part of the noble Lord’s speech,
but I well remember how his Lordship not a little shocked some of his
hearers by finishing up with the remark—that the Bible Society was a
damned good Society, and ought to be damned well supported.  Another
noble Lord, of Norfolk, had some fair daughters, who distinguished
themselves in the hunting field, where they had a habit of swearing as
terribly as an army in Flanders.  In this respect we have changed for the
better; ladies never swear now.

In politics bribery and corruption and drunkenness everywhere prevailed.
It was impossible to fight an election with clean hands.  In 1837 there
was an election at Norwich; the late Right Hon. W. E. Forster has left us
a good account of it.  “Went to the nomination of city candidates this
morning.  The nomination was at eight.  Went in with the mob into the
lower court.  Great rush when the door was opened.  When the Crier
demanded attention for the reading of the Act against bribery and
corruption, he burst out laughing at the end, in which he was followed by
the Sheriff, candidates and almost everybody else.”  The show of hands
was, as was generally the case, in favour of the Liberal.  But on the
next day—that of the poll—the Tories were declared to have the majority.
All round the polling booths the rioting was great, as men were brought
up in batches to vote—each party struggling to prevent their being done
by the other, and a good deal of fighting ensued.  Mr. Forster
writes:—“About nine I sallied forth to take observations.  At the
Magdalen Ward booth I saw some dreadful cases of voting by drunken
people, both Whig and Tory—one in which the man could hardly speak, and
there were two men roaring Smith and Nurse (the names of the Whig
candidates) in his ears.  I went to see all the polling places in the
course of time.  About three I saw some furious bludgeon-fighting in
Palace Plain, the police taking bludgeons from some Tory hired
countrymen.  The Mayor and Sheriff were there.  One of the police was
badly wounded by a bludgeon.  The soldiers were sent for, and then the
Mayor, thinking he could do without them, sent George Everett, the
Sheriff’s son, a boy, and myself to stop them.  We very soon met them in
the road leading from the Plain to the barracks trotting forward with
their swords drawn.  We held up our hands and partially stopped them, but
the Mayor altered his mind and they came on.  The policemen had got the
better, but the soldiers soon cleared the place.”

The election over—it is said to have cost £40,000—the triumphant Members
were borne in chairs on men’s shoulders and carried through the streets—a
very unpleasant process, as they had to smile and bow to the crowd of
lookers-on in the streets and in the houses along which they passed.  The
old dragon Snap from St. Andrew’s Hall figured in the show.  Out-voters
were brought from London and other parts of the country in stage coaches
hired for the purpose.  Every one showed his colour, and every one was
primed with beer and ready for a row.  A General Election was a
saturnalia of the most blackguard character.  In all, Norfolk returned
twelve Members—four for the county, the Eastern Division sending two
Members, the influential landlords being Lord Wodehouse, the Earl of
Desart and the Marquis of Cholmondeley, with an electorate of 4,396.  In
West Norfolk the electors were not so numerous, and the influence was
chiefly possessed by the Earl of Leicester, Lord Hastings, the Marquis of
Cholmondeley, Lord Charles Townshend and the Marquis of that name.  In
both divisions Conservatives were returned.  In the Eastern Division of
Suffolk, which had its headquarters at Ipswich, the electorate returned
two Members—Lord Henniker and Sir Charles Broke Vere.  The leading
landlords were the Earl of Stradbroke, the Duke of Hamilton, the Marquis
of Hertford, the Dysart family, and Sir Thomas Gooch.  Sir Thomas had
represented the county up to the time of the Reform Bill; in 1832 Robert
Newton Shawe was elected.  West Suffolk, whose chief electoral town was
Bury St. Edmund’s, returned Tories, under the influence of the Marquis of
Bristol and other landlords.  The boroughs did a little better; Bury St.
Edmund’s returned one Liberal, Lord Charles Fitzroy, elected by 289
votes, and Lord Jermyn (C.), who polled 277 votes.  Colchester, however,
a very costly seat to gain, was held by the Conservatives.  Chelmsford
and Braintree were the chief polling places of Essex north and south, and
in both divisions Conservatives were returned.  Eye rejoiced in its
hereditary representative, Sir Edward Kerrison, Conservative.  It is
strange that so small a borough was spared by the first Reform Bill.  In
our time it has been very properly disfranchised.  Sudbury, a Suffolk
borough, a little larger, which returned two Conservatives in 1837, was
very properly disfranchised for bribery in 1844.  Ipswich was also
supposed to be by no means an immaculate borough.  Dodd writes concerning
it: “Money has long been considered the best friend in Ipswich, and
petitions on the ground of bribery, &c., have been frequent.”  In 1837 it
returned one Liberal and one Conservative, Milner Gibson, whom Sir Thomas
Gooch, of Benacre Hall, recommended to the electors as a promising
Conservative colt.  He lived to become M.P. for Manchester, to be one of
the leaders of the Anti-Corn Law Movement, the head of the Society for
the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge, a society which owed a great deal
of its success to his Parliamentary skill as a tactician, and to be a
Member of a Liberal Administration.  There were few finer,
manlier-looking men in the House of Commons than Thomas Milner Gibson.
At any rate, I thought so as I watched him, after the delivery of a most
effective speech in Drury Lane Theatre on the Corn Laws, step into a
little ham and beef shop close by for a light for his cigar.  At that
time, let me remind the reader, waxlights and matches were unknown.  The
electoral body in Ipswich was not a large one.  At the Reform Act period
it consisted of 1,800.  At that time the constituency had been increased
by adding to the freemen, of whom little more than three hundred
remained, the ten-pound householders within the old borough, which
included twelve parishes.  It is curious to note that, in 1839, Mr.
Milner Gibson, who had resigned his seat on his becoming a Liberal, was
rejected, the numbers being—Sir Thomas Cochrane (Conservative), 621;
Milner Gibson, 615.  Ipswich seems always to have been undergoing the
excitement of a General Election—and, it is to be feared, enjoying the
profits of an election contest, as no sooner was an election over than it
was declared void—and a new writ was issued.  In 1837 Thetford, no longer
a Parliamentary borough, returned two M.P.’s, one Conservative and one
Liberal.  A little more has yet to be written relative to smaller East
Anglian boroughs.  Lynn, under the influence of the Duke of Portland, in
1837 returned two distinguished men to Parliament: Lord George Bentinck,
then a great racing man, but who was better known as the leader of the
Protectionist party, and Sir Stratford Canning, the great Eltchi, who was
to reign imperiously in the East, and at whose frown Turkish Sultans
trembled.  Maldon returned two Conservatives.  It has long very properly
ceased to exercise that privilege.  Great Yarmouth, which has now an
electorate of 7,876, at the General Election in 1837 returned two
Liberals, but the highest Liberal vote was 790, and the highest Tory vote
699.  Money was the best friend at Yarmouth, as in most boroughs.  In
accounting for the loss of his seat at Weymouth in 1837, one of our
greatest East Anglians, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, writes:—“My supporters
told me that it would be necessary to open public-houses, and to lend
money—a gentle name for bribery—to the extent of £1,000.  I, of course,
declined.”  Yet, as a boy, I must own I enjoyed the fun, the excitement,
the fighting of the old elections, much more than the elections of later
times.  If now and then a skull was cracked, what mattered, while the
Constitution was saved!

In the religious world the change in East Anglia has been immense; the
Church was weak, now it has become strong.  In most of the villages were
good Dissenting congregations, but the landlords set their faces against
the Dissenters—“pograms” was what they were contemptuously called—and the
landlord’s lady had no mercy on them.  The good things in the hall were
only reserved for those who attended the parish church.  At that time we
had two bishops; both resided in Norwich.  One was the Bishop of the
Diocese; the other was the Rev. John Alexander, who preached in Princes
Street Chapel, where the Rev. Dr. Barrett has succeeded him—a man
universally beloved and universally popular, as he deserved to be.  As
for the clergy of that day, I fear many of them led scandalous lives:
there was hardly one when I was a boy, within reach of the parish where I
was born, whom decent women, with any serious thoughts at all, could go
to hear, and consequently they, with their families, went to the nearest
Independent Chapel, where it was a sight to see the farmers’ gigs on the
green in the chapel yard.  They go to the Church now, as the clergyman is
quite as devoted to his high calling and quite as earnest in his vocation
as his Independent brother.  Bishop Bathurst had let things slide too
much, as was to be expected of a man whose great complaint in his old age
was that they had sent him a dean who could not play whist.  Bishop
Stanley’s wife complained to Miss Caroline Fox how trying was her
husband’s position at Norwich, as his predecessor was an amiable,
indolent old man, who let things take their course, and a very bad course
they took.  It was in his Diocese—at Hadleigh—the Oxford movement
commenced, when in 1833 the Vicar, the Rev. James Rose, assembled at the
parsonage—not the present handsome building, which is evidently of later
date—the men who were to become famous as Tractarians, who had met there
to consider how to save the Church.  It was then in danger, as Lord Grey
had recommended the Bishops to put their house in order.  Ten Irish
Bishoprics had been suppressed; a mob at Bristol had burnt the Bishop’s
palace; and in Norwich the cry had been raised for “more pigs and less
parsons.”  One of the leaders of the Evangelical party resided at
Kirkley.  The Rev. Francis Cuningham—afterwards Rector of Lowestoft—had
established infant schools, which were then a novelty in East Anglia.
His wife was one of the Gurneys, of Earlham, a great power in Norfolk at
that time.  Joseph John was well known in London philanthropic circles
and all over the land, especially in connection with the anti-Slavery and
Bible Societies; and at his house men of all religious parties were
welcome.  At that time, Clarkson, the great anti-Slavery advocate, had
come to Playford Hall, near Woodbridge, there to spend in quiet the
remainder of his days.  In all East Anglian leading towns Nonconformity
was very respectable, and its leading men were men of influence and
usefulness in their respective localities.  It was even so at Bury St.
Edmund’s in Mr. Dewhurst’s time.  His son, whom I met with in South
Australia holding a position in the Educational Department, told me how
Rowland Hill came to the town to preach for his father.  As there were no
railways the great preacher came in his own carriage, and naturally was
very anxious as to the welfare of his horses.  Mr. Dewhurst told him that
he need have no anxiety on that score, as he had a horsedealer a member
of his church, who would look after them.  “What!” said Rowland Hill, in
amazement, “a horsedealer a member of a Christian Church; whoever heard
of such a thing?”  From which I gather that Rowland Hill knew more of
London horsedealers than East Anglian ones.  I can well remember that
many of the old Nonconformist pulpits were filled by men such as Ray of
Bury St. Edmund’s, Creak of Yarmouth, Elvin of Bury (Baptist), Notcutt of
Ipswich, and Sloper of Beccles, a friend of Mrs. Siddons.  A great power
in Beccles and its neighbourhood was the Rev. George Wright, the father
of the celebrated scholar, Dr. Aldis Wright, of Cambridge, who still
lives to adorn and enlighten the present age.  Some of the old
Nonconformist chapels were grotesque specimens of rustic architecture.
This was especially so at Halesworth, which had a meeting-house—as it was
then called—with gigantic pillars under the galleries.  It was there the
Rev. John Dennant preached—the grandfather of the popular Sir John
Robinson, of _The Daily News_, a dear old man much given to writing
poetry, of which, alas! posterity takes no heed.  The charm of the old
Nonconformist places was the great square pews, lined with green baize,
where on a hot Sunday afternoon many a hearer was rewarded with—I can
speak from experience—a delightful snooze.  The great exception was at
Norwich, where there was a fine modern Baptist Chapel, known as “the
fashionable watering-place,” where, in 1837, the late William Brock had
just commenced what proved to be a highly-successful pastoral career.

As to the theology of the cottagers in East Anglia at that time, I can
offer no better illustration of it than that given by Miss Caroline Fox
of a cottage talk she had somewhere near Norwich.  She writes, “A young
woman told us that her father was nearly converted, and that a little
more teaching would complete the business,” adding “He quite believes
that he is lost, which, of course, is a great consolation to the old

Literature flourished in East Anglia in 1837.  Bulwer Lytton, an East
Anglian by birth and breeding, had just published “Paul Clifford,” and
was about to commence a new and better style of novel.  Norwich had long
been celebrated for its Literary Society, and one of the most remarkable
of the literary men of the age was George Borrow, author of the “Bible in
Spain,” the materials for which he was then collecting, and who spent
much of his life in East Anglia, where he was born.  He was five years in
Spain during the disturbed early years of Isabella II., and he travelled
in every part of Castile and Leon, as well as the southern part of the
Peninsula and Northern Portugal.  Again and again his adventurous habits
brought him into danger among brigands and Carlists, as well as Roman
Catholic priests, and he experienced a brief imprisonment in Madrid.  At
Norwich also was then living Mrs. Opie—as a Quakeress—after having spent
the greater part of her life in London gaiety.  A lady who met her in
Brussels says she spoke with much enthusiasm of the eminent artists, who,
in her part of the world—videlicet, the Eastern Counties—had become men
of mark.  Of her husband, who had been dead many years, she said
playfully that if neither Suffolk nor Norfolk could boast of the honour
of being his birthplace, he had done his best to remedy the evil by
marrying a Norwich woman.  At Reydon Hall, rather a tumble-down old
place, as I recollect it, lived the Stricklands, and of the six daughters
of the house five were literary women more or less successful.  Of these
the best known was Agnes, author of “The Lives of the Queens of England,”
which owed much of its success to being published just after the Princess
Victoria had become Queen of England.

It was amusing to hear her talk, in her somewhat affected and stilted
style, of politics.  She was a Jacobin, and hated all Dissenters, whom
she sneered at as Roundheads.  With modern ideas she and her sisters had
no sympathy whatever.  There never was such an antediluvian family.  All
of them were very long-lived, and must have bitterly bewailed the
progress of Democracy and Dissent.  I question whether the “Lives of the
Queens of England” has many readers now.  Near Woodbridge, as rector of
Benhall, lived the Rev. J. Mitford, an active literary man, the editor of
_The Gentleman’s Magazine_, and of some of the standard works known as
Pickering’s Classics.  As a clergyman he was a failure.  It was urged in
his defence, by his friends, that his profession had been chosen for him
by others, and that when it was too late for him to escape from the bonds
which held him in thrall he made the discovery that the life that lay
before him was utterly uncongenial to his tastes and habits.  His life,
when in Suffolk, writes Mrs. Houston, author of “A Woman’s Memories of
World-known Men,” must have been a very solitary one.  For causes which I
have never heard explained, his wife had long left him, and his only son
was not on speaking terms with the Rector of Benhall.  In his small
lodgings on the second floor in Sloane Street, he was doubtless a far
happier man than, in spite of his well-loved garden and extensive library
at Benhall Rectory, he ever, in his country home, professed to be.  But
perhaps the most notable East Anglian author at the time was Isaac
Taylor, of Ongar, whose books—“The Natural History of Enthusiasm” and
“The Physical Theory of Another Life”—were most popular, and one of
which, at any rate, had been noticed in _The Edinburgh Review_.  In a
private letter to the editor, Sir James Stephen describes Taylor “as a
very considerable man, with but small inventive but very great diffusive
powers, possessing a considerable mastery of language, but very apt to be
over-mastered by it—too fine a writer to write very well; too fastidious
a censor to judge men and things equitably; too much afraid of falling
into cant and vulgarity to rise to freedom and ease; an over-polished
Dissenter, a little ashamed of his origin among that body; but, with all
this, a man of vigorous and catholic understanding, of eminent purity of
mind, happy in himself and in all manner of innocent pleasure, and
strenuously devoted to the grand but impracticable task of grafting on
the intellectual democracy of our own times the literary aristocracy of
the days that are passed.”  Quite a different man was dear old Bernard
Barton, the Quaker poet, of Woodbridge, with whom I dined once, who was
more fat than bard beseems, and who seemed to me to enjoy a good dinner,
a glass of port—people could drink port in those days—and a pinch of
snuff, quite as much as any literary talk.  Poor Bernard never set the
Thames on fire—he would have been shocked at the thought of doing
anything so wicked; but he was a good man, and quite competent to shine
in “Fulcher’s Pocket Book,” a work published yearly by Fulcher, of Bury
St. Edmund’s, and much better than any of its contemporaries.

In connection with this subject let me quote from Bernard Barton a sketch
of a Suffolk yeoman, very rare in these times: “He was a hearty old
yeoman of about eighty-six, and occupied the farm in which he lived and
died, about fifty-five years.  Sociable, hospitable, friendly; a liberal
master to his labourers, a kind neighbour, and a right merry companion
within the limits of becoming mirth; in politics a staunch Whig; in his
theological creed as sturdy a Dissenter; yet with no more party spirit in
him than a child.  He and I belonged to the same book club for about
forty years.  He entered it about fifteen years before I came into these
parts, and was really a pillar in our literary temple, not that he
greatly cared about books or was deeply read in them, but he loved to
meet his neighbours and get them round him on any occasion or no occasion
at all.  As a fine specimen of the true English yeoman I have met few to
equal, hardly any to surpass him, and he looked the character as well as
he acted it, till within a very few years, when the strong man was bowed
with infirmity.  About twenty-six years ago, in his dress costume of a
blue coat and yellow buckskins, a finer sample of John Bullism you would
rarely see.  It was the whole study of his long life to make the few who
revolved about him in his little orbit as happy as he always seemed to be
himself; yet I was gravely queried with, when I happened to say that his
children had asked me to write a few lines to his memory, whether I could
do so in keeping with the general tenor of my poetry.  The speaker
doubted if he was a decidedly pious character.  He had at times been
known in his altitudes to vociferate at the top of his voice a song, the
chorus of which was not certainly teetotalish:—

    Sing, old Rose, and burn the bellows,
    Drink and drive dull care away.”

Can anything be finer than this picture of a Suffolk yeoman?  Is it not a
pity that such men are no more to be seen?  High farming was unknown when
the old Suffolk yeoman lived.  I claim for Bernard Barton that this
sketch of the Suffolk yeoman is the best thing he ever wrote.  Bernard
Barton’s daughter married the great Oriental scholar, Edward Fitzgerald,
the friend of Carlyle and correspondent of Fanny Kemble, who lived in the
neighbourhood of Woodbridge, and whose fame now he is no more is far
greater than when he lived.  Little could he have anticipated that in
after years literary men would assemble in the quiet churchyard of Boulge
to erect his monument over his grave, or to found a society to perpetuate
his name.

As I lean back for another glance, my eyes, as Wordsworth writes, are
filled with childish tears—

    My heart is idly stirred.

I see the dear old village where I was born, almost encroaching on Sir
Thomas Gooch’s park, at Benacre Hall; I see the old baronet, a fine old
bigoted Tory, who looked the picture of health and happiness, as he
ambled past on his chestnut cob, wearing a blue coat, a white hat and
trousers, in summer; his only regret being that things were not as they
were—his only consolation the fact that, wisely, the Eternal Providence
that overrules all human affairs had provided snug rectories for his kith
and kin, however unworthy of the sacred calling; and had hung up the sun,
moon and stars so high in the heavens that no reforming ass

    Could e’er presume to pluck them down, and light the world with gas.

Then comes the village medico, healthy and shrewd and kindly, with a firm
belief—alas! that day is gone now—in black draught and blue pill.  I see
his six sunny daughters racing down the village street, guarded by a
dragon of a governess, and I get out of their way, for I am a rustic, and
have all the rustic’s fear of what the East Anglian peasant was used to
term “morthers”; and then comes the squire of the next parish, in as
shabby a trap as you ever set eyes on, and the fat farmer, who hails me
for a walk, and going to the end of a field, joyously, or as joyously as
his sluggish nature will permit, exclaims, “There, Master James, now you
can see three farms.”  My friend was a utilitarian, and could only see
the beautiful in the useful.  Then I call up the memory of the village
grocer, a stern, unbending Radical, who delights me with the loan of
Cruikshank’s illustrations to the “House that Jack Built,” mysteriously
wrapped in brown paper and stowed away between the sugar and treacle.  He
does not talk much, but he thinks the more.  And now it strikes me that
conversation was not much cultivated in the villages of East Anglia in
1837, and yet there were splendid exceptions—on such evenings as when the
members of the Book Club met in our parlour, where the best tea things
were laid, and where a kindly mother in black silk and white shawl and
quakerish cap made tea; where an honoured father, who now sleeps far away
from the scene of his life-long labours, indulged in a genial humour,
which set at ease the shyest of his guests; and again, what a splendid
talk there was when the brethren in black from Beccles, from Yarmouth,
from Halesworth, gathered for fraternal purposes, perhaps once a quarter,
to smoke long pipes, to discuss metaphysics and politics, and to puzzle
their heads over divines and systems that have long ceased to perplex the
world.  Few and simple were East Anglian annals then.  It was seldom the
London coach, the Yarmouth Mail and Telegraph brought a cockney down to
astonish us with his pert ways and peculiar talk.  Life was slow, but it
was kindly, nevertheless.  There was no fear of bacteria, nor of poison
in the pot, nor of the ills of bad drainage.  We were poor, but honest.
Are we better now?

In 1837 the railways which unite the country under the title of the Great
Eastern had not come into existence.

All is changed in East Anglia except the boys.  “You have seen a good
many changes in your time,” said the young curate to the old village
clerk.  “Yes,” was the reply; “everything is changed except the boys, and
they’re allus the same.”  I fear the boys are as troublesome as
ever—perhaps a little more so now, when you cannot touch them with a
stick, which any one might do years ago.  When we caught a boy up to
mischief a stick did a deal of good in the good old times that are gone
never to return.

In connection with literature one naturally turns to the Bungay Printing
Press, at the head of which was John Childs, who assembled round his
hospitable board at Bungay many celebrated people, and to whom at a later
period Daniel O’Connell paid a visit.  It was Childs who gave to the poor
student cheap editions of standard works such as Burke and Gibbon and
Bacon.  It was he who went to Ipswich Gaol rather than pay Church Rates.
It was he who was one of the first to attack the Bible printing monopoly,
and thus to flood the land with cheap Bibles and Testaments.  A self-made
man, almost Napoleonic in appearance, with a habit of blurting out sharp
cynicisms and original epigrams, rather than conversing.  He was a great
phrenologist, and I well remember how I, a raw lad, rather trembled in
his presence as I saw his dark, keen eyes directed towards that part of
my person where the brains are supposed to be.  I imagine the result was
favourable, as at a later time I spent many a pleasant hour in his
dining-room, gathering wisdom from his after-dinner talk, and inspiration
from his port—as good as that immortalised by Tennyson.  Mr. Childs had a
numerous and handsome family, most of whom died after arriving at
manhood.  His daughter, who to great personal charms added much of her
father’s intellect, did not live long after her marriage, leaving one
son, a leading partner in the great City firm of solicitors, Ashurst,
Morris, and Crisp.  After John Childs, of Bungay, I may mention another
East Anglian—D. Whittle Harvey, who was a power in his party and among
the London cabbies—to whom the London cabby owes his badge V.R.—which, as
one of them sagely remarked, was supposed to signify “Whittle ’Arvey,” an
etymology at any rate not worse than that of the savant who in his wisdom
derived gherkin from Jeremiah King.  In 1837 Mr. Johnson Fox, born at
Uggeshall, near Wangford—better known afterwards as the Norwich “Weaver
Boy,” the “Publicola” of _The Weekly Dispatch_—the great orator of the
Anti-Corn Law League, was preaching in the Unitarian Chapel, South Place,
Finsbury, and a leading man in London literary society.  One of the
best-known men in East Anglia was Allan Ransome, of Ipswich, the young
Quaker, who was on very friendly terms with the Strickland family, who
cultivated literature and business with equal zest.  Nor, in this
category, should I pass over the name of George Bird, of Yoxford, a local
chemist, who found time to write of Dunwich Castle and such-like East
Anglian themes—I fancy now read by none.  A Suffolk man who was making
his mark in London at that time was Crabbe Robinson, the pioneer of the
special correspondent of our later day.  And just when Queen Victoria
began to reign, Thomas Woolner, the poet-sculptor, was leaving his native
town of Hadleigh to begin life as the pupil of Boehm, sculptor in
ordinary to the Queen.  And yet East Anglia was by no means
distinguished, or held to be of much account in the gay circles of wit
and fashion in town.  The gentry were but little better than those drawn
to the life in the novels of Fielding and Smollett.  I am inclined to
think there was very little reading outside Dissenting circles—where the
book club was a standing institution, and _The Edinburgh Review_ was
looked up to as an oracle, as indeed it was, sixty years ago.  There was
little encouragement of manly sports and pastimes—indeed, very little for
any one in the way of amusement but at the public-house.  Not that any
one was ever drunk, in the liberal opinion of the landlord of the
public-house, only “a little fresh,” and the village policeman was
unknown.  It is true there might be a constable, but he was a very
mythical person indeed.  Everybody drank, and as a rule the poorer people
were the more they drank.

One of the early temperance lecturers in the district, Mr. Thomas
Whittaker, who was mobbed, especially at Framlingham, tells us Essex and
Suffolk are clayey soils, in some districts very heavy and not easily
broken up, and the people in many cases correspond.  It was due to Mr.
Marriage, of Chelmsford, a maltster, who turned his malting house into a
temperance hall, and Mr. D. Alexander, of Ipswich, that the temperance
reformers made way; and at that time James Larner, of Framlingham, aided
by young Mr. Thompson (now the great London surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson),
was quite a power.  But the difficulties were great in the way of finding
places for meetings, or of getting to them in muddy lanes, or of getting
the anti-teetotalers to behave decently, or of the lecturers finding
accommodation for the night.  Education would have been left almost
alone, had not the Liberals started the British and Foreign schools,
which roused the Church party to action.  The one village schoolmaster
with whom I came into contact was—as were most of his class—one who had
seen better days, who wore top boots, and whose chief instrument in
teaching the young idea how to shoot was a ruler, of which he seemed to
me to take rather an unfair advantage.  The people were ignorant, and,
like Lord Melbourne, did not see much good in making a fuss about
education.  They could rarely read or write, and if they could there was
nothing for them to read—no cheap books nor cheap magazines and
newspapers.  Now we have run to the other extreme, and it is to be hoped
we are all the better.  Cottages were mostly in an unsanitary state, but
the labourer, in his white smock, looked well on a Sunday at the village
church or chapel, and the children at the Sunday-school were clean, if a
little restless under the long, dry sermon which they were compelled to
hear, the caretaker being generally provided with a long stick to
admonish the thoughtless, to wake up the sleepy, to prevent too much
indulgence in apples during sermon time, or too liberal a display of the
miscellaneous treasures concealed in a boy’s pocket.  Perhaps the most
influential person in the village was the gamekeeper, who was supposed to
be armed, and to have the power of committing all boys in undue eagerness
to go bird-nesting to the nearest gaol.  He was to me, I own, a terror by
night and by day, as he was constantly in my way—when tempted to break
into the neighbouring park in search of flowers or eggs.  The farmer
then, as now, was ruined, but he was a picture of health and comfort as
he drove to the nearest market town, where after business he would spend
the evening smoking and drinking, with his broad beaver on his head, his
fat carcase ornamented with a blue coat with brass buttons, and his knee
breeches of yellow kerseymere.  It was little he read to wake up his
sluggish intellect, save the county newspaper, which it was the habit for
people to take between them to lessen the expense.  A newspaper was
sevenpence, of which fourpence went to pay for the stamp.  Everything was
dear—the postage of a letter was 10d. or 1s.  The franking of letters by
Members of Parliament existed at that time; they could receive an
unlimited number of letters free of postage, of any weight, even a
pianoforte, a saddle, a haunch of venison, and they might send out
fourteen a day.  Loaf sugar was too dear to be in daily use; tea and
coffee were heavily taxed; soap was too dear to use; and wearing apparel
and boots and shoes very expensive; even if you went for a drive there
was the turnpike gate, and a heavy toll to pay.  As to geography, it was
a science utterly unknown.  Poor people when they talked of the Midland
Counties called them the Shires, and I have heard serious disputes as to
whether you got to America by sea or land.  The finest men in East Anglia
were the sailors at the various sea-ports along the coast, well-shaped,
fair-haired, with grand limbs and blue eyes, evidently of Saxon or Norse
descent, and their daughters were as handsome as any girls I ever saw.
The peasant had his little bit of garden, where he could keep a pig and
grow a few vegetables and flowers, but much of the furniture was of the
poorest description, much inferior to what it is now, and his lot was not
a happy one.  As to locomotion, it did not exist.  To go a few miles from
home was quite an event; on the main roads ran coaches, with two, or
three, or four horses, but the general mode of conveyance was the
carrier’s cart, sometimes drawn by one horse and sometimes by two.  Some
of the happiest days of my life were spent in the carrier’s cart, where
the travellers were seated on the luggage, their feet well protected by
straw, where we were all hail fellows well met, and each enjoyed his
little joke, especially when the rural intellect was stimulated by beer
and baccy.  The old village inn where we stopped to water the horses and
refresh the inner man seemed to me all the more respectable when compared
with the pestiferous beershops that had then begun to infest the land, to
increase the crime, the misery, the pauperism of a district which already
had quite enough of them before.

But to return to locomotion.  A post-chaise was generally resorted to
when the gentry travelled.  It was painted yellow and black, and on one
of the two horses by which it was drawn was seated an ancient, withered
old man, generally known as the post-boy, whose age might be anywhere
between forty and eighty, dressed in a jockey costume, in white hat and
top boots; altogether, a bent, grotesque figure whom Tennyson must have
had in his eye when he wrote—for the post-boy was often as not an ostler—

    Wrinkled ostler, grim and thin,
       Here is custom come your way;
    Take my brute and lead him in,
       Stuff his ribs with mouldy hay.


Long, long before John Forster wrote to recommend everyone to write
memoirs of himself it had become the fashion to do so.  “That celebrated
orator,” writes Dr. Edmund Calamy, one of the most learned of our
Nonconformist divines, “Caius Cornelius Tacitus, in the beginning of his
account of the life of his father-in-law, Julius Agricola (who was the
General of Domitian, the Emperor, here in Britain, and the first who made
the Roman part of Britain a Præsidial province), excuses this practice
from carrying in it anything of arrogance.”  This excellent example was
followed by Julius Cæsar, Marcus Antoninus, many emperors who kept
diaries, Flavius Josephus, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Augustine, to
say nothing of Abraham Schultetus, the celebrated professor at
Heidelberg; of the learned Fuetius; of Basompierre, the celebrated
marshal of France; of the ever-amusing and garrulous Montaigne; or of our
own Richard Baxter, or of Edmund Calamy himself.  The fact is, it has
ever been the fashion with men who have handled the pen freely to write
more or less about themselves and the times in which they lived, and
there is no pleasanter reading than such biographical recollections; and
really it matters little whether on the world’s stage the actor acted
high tragedy or low comedy so that he writes truthfully as far as he can
about himself and his times.  If old Montaigne is to be believed there is
nothing like writing about oneself.  “I dare,” he writes, “not only speak
of myself, but of myself alone,” and never man handled better the very
satisfactory theme.  If I follow in the steps of my betters I can do no
harm, and I may do good if I can show how the England of to-day is
changed for the better since I first began to observe that working men
and women are better off, that our middle and upper classes have clearer
views of duty and responsibility, that we are the better for the
political and social and religious reforms that have been achieved of
late, that, in fact,

    . . . through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
    And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.

The one great complaint I have to make with respect to my father and
mother, to whom I owe so much, and whose memory I shall ever revere, was
that they brought me into the world forty or fifty years too soon.  In
1820, when I first saw the light of day, England was in a very poor way.
It was what the late Earl of Derby used to call the pre-scientific era.
Gross darkness covered the land.  The excitement of war was over, and the
lavish outlay it occasioned being stopped, life was stagnant, farmers and
manufacturers alike were at low-water mark, and the social and religious
and political reforms required by the times were as yet undreamed of.
However, one good thing my parents did for me.  They lived in a country
village in the extreme east of Suffolk, not far from the sea, where I
could lead a natural life, where I could grow healthy, if not wise, and
be familiar with all the impulses which spring up in the heart under the
influences of rural life.  “Boyhood in the country,” writes William
Howitt in his autobiography—“Paradise of opening existence!  Up to the
age of ten this life was all my own.”  And thus it was with me.
Existence was a pleasure, and the weather, I believe, was better then
than it is now.  We had summer in summer time.  We had fine weather when
harvest commenced, and to spend a day at one of the neighbouring farmers
riding the fore horse was a delight which thrilled me with joy; and
winter, with its sliding and snowballing, with its clear skies and its
glittering snows, rendering the landscape lovelier than ever, made me
forget the inevitable chilblains, which was the price we had to pay for
all its glories and its charms.

Our little village was situated on the high road between London and Great
Yarmouth, along which rolled twice a day the London and Yarmouth Royal
Mail, drawn by four horses, and driven by a fat man in red, whom we raw
village lads regarded as a very superior person indeed.  Behind sat the
guard, also in red, with a horn, which he blew lustily when occasion
required.  There was a time, but that was much later, when a day coach
was put on, and, as it changed horses at our village inn, one of our
chief delights was to see the tired, heated, smoking horses taken out,
and their places filled by a new set, much given to kicking and plunging
at starting, to the immense delight of the juvenile spectators.  Even the
passengers I regarded with awe.  In fourteen hours would they not be in
London where the King lived—where were the Houses of Parliament, the Bank
and the Tower and the soldiers?  What would I not have given to be on
that roof urging on, under the midnight stars, my wild career!  Now and
then a passenger would be dropped in our little village.  What a nine
days’ wonder he was, especially if he were a Cockney and talked in the
language of Cockaigne—if he had heard the Iron Duke, or seen royalty from
afar.  Nonconformity flourished in the village in spite of the fact that
the neighbouring baronet, at the gates of whose park the village may be
said to have commenced, was Sir Thomas Gooch—(Guche was the way the
villagers pronounced his dread name)—for was he not a county magistrate,
who could consign people to Beccles Gaol, some eight miles off, and one
of the M.P.’s for the county, and did not he and his lady sternly set
their faces against Dissent?  If now and then there were coals and
blankets to be distributed—and very little was done in that way, charity
had not become fashionable then—you may be sure that no Dissenter,
however needy and deserving, came in for a share.

The churches round were mostly filled by the baronet’s relatives, who
came into possession of the family livings as a matter of course, and
took little thought for the souls of their parishioners.  In fact, very
few people did go to church.  In our chapel, of which my father was the
minister for nearly forty years, we had a good congregation, especially
of an afternoon, when the farmers with their families, in carts or gigs,
put in an appearance.  One of the ejected had been the founder of
Nonconformity in our village, and its traditions were all of the most
honourable character.  A wealthy family had lived in the hall, which Sir
Thomas Gooch had bought and pulled down, one of whom had been M.P. for
the county in Cromwell’s time, and had left a small endowment—besides,
there was a house for the minister—to perpetuate the cause, and it was
something amidst the Bœotian darkness all round to have a man of superior
intellect, of a fair amount of learning, of unspotted life, of devoted
piety, such as the old Nonconformist ministers were, ever seeking to lead
the people upward and onward; while the neighbouring gentry and all the
parsons round, I am sorry to say, set the people a very bad example.  In
our time we have changed all that, and the Church clergy are as zealous
to do good as the clergy of any other denomination.  But that things have
altered so much for the better, I hold is mainly due to the great
progress made all over the land by Dissent, which woke up the Church from
the state of sloth and luxury and lethargy which had jeopardised its very
existence.  Really, at the time of which I write and in the particular
locality to which I refer, decent godly people were obliged to forsake
the Parish Church, and to seek in the neighbouring conventicle the aids
requisite to a religious life.  At the same time, there was little
collision between Church and Dissent.  The latter had its own sphere,
supporting, in addition to its local work, the Bible Society, the Tract
Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Anti-Slavery Society.  It
had also its Sunday-school, very much inferior to what they are now; and,
if possible, secured a day school on the British and Foreign plan.
Dissenters paid Church rates, which the wealthy Churchmen were not
ashamed to collect.  They gave the parson his tithes without a murmur,
and politically they were all on the side of the Whigs, to whom they were
indebted for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—barbarous
laws—which had ostracised intelligent and conscientious Dissenters from
all parochial and municipal and Parliamentary life.  When I was a boy no
one could be a parish constable without going through the hideous farce
of taking the Sacrament at his Parish Church.  It was the Dissenters who
created the public opinion which enabled Sir Robert Peel and the Iron
Duke to grant Roman Catholic emancipation.  It was they who carried
reform and abolished rotten boroughs, and gave Manchester and Sheffield
and Birmingham the representatives which the Tories, and especially the
parsons, would have denied them.  To be a reformer was held by the clergy
and gentry to be a rogue and rascal of the first rank.  I cannot call to
mind any public action taken in support of the suffering and the poor to
which the clergy and the gentry in our village, or in any of the villages
round, lent any support whatever.  As regards the great Anti-Slavery
agitation, for instance, the only meeting on the subject was held in our
chapel, where a Captain Pilkington came down from London to lecture, and
touched all our hearts as he showed the lash and the chains, and the
other instruments of torture which that cruel system sanctioned and
required, and you may be quite sure that when next day I, with boyish
pride, pardonable under the circumstances, was sent round to get
signatures for a petition to Parliament on the subject, it was not long
before I got my paper filled.  Naturally the Dissenters were active in
the work, for had not one of their number—poor Smith, missionary at
Demerara—been foully murdered by Demerara magistrates and planters
because he took the part of the black slave against his white owner and
tyrant?  Yet I was disgusted, after remembering the effect produced in
our Suffolk village by the captain’s eloquence, to read thirty years
after in Sir George Stephens’s “Anti-Slavery Recollections,” that
“Pilkington was a pleasing lecturer, and won over many by his amiable
manners, but that he wanted power, and resigned the duty in about six
months.”  In our simple village it was enough for us that a lecturer or
speaker came from London; or as the country people called it Lunnen.
That was a sufficient guarantee for us of his talent, his respectability,
and his power.  Since then the scales have fallen even from the eyes of
the rustic, and he no longer sees men as trees walking.  Railways have
rendered the journey to London perilously easy.  Hodge, in the vain hope
to better himself, has left his village home, its clear skies, its
bracing air, its healthy toil, its simple hours, and gone to live in the
crowded slums.  It may be that he earns better wages, but you may buy
gold too dear.  A healthy rustic is far happier in his village.  It is
there he should strive to live, rather than in the town; and a time may
come when English legislators will have wisdom enough to do something to
plant the people on the land, rather than compel them to come to town, to
be poisoned by its bad air, its dangerous companionship, and its evil

As regards intelligence, we were in a poor way.  On Saturdays _The
Suffolk Chronicle_ appeared, much to the delight of the Radicals, while
the Tories were cheered by _The Ipswich Journal_.  At a later time _The
Patriot_ came to our house, and we got an idea of what was going on in
the religious and Dissenting world.  Foster’s Essays were to be seen on
many shelves, and later on the literary and religious speculations of
Isaac Taylor, of Ongar, and Dick’s writings had also a wonderful sale.  I
fancy no one cares much now for any of the writers I have named.  Such is

As a boy it seemed to me I had too much of the Assembly’s Catechism and
Virgil, to whose poetic beauties I was somewhat blind.  I resolved to run
away, as I fancied there was something better and brighter than village
life.  Religion was not attractive to me.  Sunday was irksome.  The land
was barren, from Dan to Beersheba.  I longed for the conflict and
excitement and life of the distant town, and I ran away unconscious of
the pain I should inflict on parents I dearly loved.  Oh, that running
away!  If I live—and there is little chance of that—to the age of
Methuselah I shall never forget it!  It took place in the early morn of a
long summer’s day.  The whole scene rises distinctly before me.  I see
myself giving a note to my sister for father and mother when they came
down to breakfast, I see myself casting an eye to the bedroom window to
see if there was any chance of their being up and so stopping the
enterprise on which I had set my mind.  Happily, as I thought, the blinds
were down and there was nothing to forbid my opening the garden gate and
finding myself on the London road.  I was anxious to be off and yet loth
to leave.  I had a small parcel under my arm, consisting of very small
belongings; and I was free of Latin and the Assembly Catechism, free as
the air—my own master.  All the world was hushed in slumber.  There was
no one to stop me or bid me return to the roof where I had been happy,
and to the parents whom I was to return to, to love more than I had ever
done before, and whom it then saddened me to think that I might never see
again.  Not a soul was in the street, and the few shops which adorned it
were shut up—cottagers and shopkeepers, they were all in the arms of
Morpheus.  I hastened on, not wishing to be seen by any one; but there
was no fear of that, only cows, horses at grass, and pigs and hens and
birds were conscious of my flight, and they regarded me with the
indifference with which a Hottentot would view an ape.  In my path was a
hill on which I stayed awhile to take a last look at the deserted
village.  The white smoke was then curling up from the chimneys and the
common round of daily life was about to begin.  How peaceful it all
seemed.  What a contrast to my beating heart!  There was not one of those
cottages behind into which I had not been with my father as he visited
the poor and the afflicted—not a lane or street along which I had not
trundled my hoop with boyish glee—not a meadow into which I had not gone
in search of buttercups and cowslips and primroses or bird’s nests.  I
only met one man I knew, the miller, as he came from the mill where he
had been at work all night, and of him I stood somewhat in awe, for once
when the mill was being robbed he had sat up alone in darkness in the
mill till the robbers came in, when he looked, through a hole in the
upper floor, as they were at their wicked work below, and had thus
identified them; and I had seen them in a cart on their way to Beccles
gaol.  Perhaps, thought I, he will stop me and ask me what I am about;
but he did nothing of the kind, and henceforth the way was clear for me
to London, where I was to fight the battle of life.  Did I not write
poetry, and did not I know ladies who were paid a guinea a page for
writing for the Annuals, and could not I do the same?  And thus thinking
I walked three miles till I came to a small beershop, where I had a
biscuit and a glass of beer.  The road from thence was new to me, and how
I revelled in the stateliness of the trees as I passed a nobleman’s (Earl
Stradbrooke’s) mansion and park.  In another hour or so I found myself at
Yoxford, then and still known as the Garden of Suffolk.  There lived a
Mr. Bird, a Suffolk poet of some note in his day.  On him I called.  He
gave me a cordial welcome, kept me to dinner, and set me to play with his
children.  Alas! Yoxford was to me what Capua was to Hannibal—I got no
further; in fact, my father traced me to the house, and I had nothing for
it but to abandon my London expedition and return home.  I don’t think I
was very sorry that my heroic enterprise had thus miscarried.  What
annoyed me most was that I was sent home in an open cart, and as we got
into the street all the women came to their doors to see Master James
brought back.  I did not like being thus paraded as a show.  I found my
way to the little attic in which I slept, not quite so much of a hero as
I had felt myself in the early morn.

It was a stirring time.  The nation was being stirred, as it was never
before or since, with the struggle for Reform.  The excitement reached us
in our out-of-the-way village.  We were all Whigs, all bursting with
hope.  Yet some of the respectable people who feared Sir Thomas Gooch
were rather alarmed by my father’s determination to vote against him—the
sitting Member—and to support the Liberal candidate.  People do not read
Parliamentary debates now.  They did then, and not a line was skipped.  I
was a Radical.  An old grocer in the village had lent me Hone’s “House
that Jack Built,” and similar pamphlets, all illustrated by Cruikshank.
My eyes were opened, and I had but a poor opinion of royalty and the Tory
Ministers and the place men and parasites and other creeping vermin that
infest courts.  It is impossible to believe anything more rotten than
that glorious Constitution which the Tories told us was the palladium of
our liberties, the glory of our country, and the envy of surrounding
nations.  The Ministry for the time being existed by bribery and
corruption.  The M.P. bought his seat and sold his vote; the free and
independent electors did the same.  The boroughs were almost entirely
rotten and for sale in consequence of the complicated state of voting in
them, and especially in those incorporated by charter.  In one borough
the right was acquired by birth, in another by servitude, in another by
purchase, in a fourth by gift, in a fifth by marriage.  In some these
rights were exercised by residents, in others by non-residents; in one
place by the mayor or bailiff and twelve aldermen only, as at Buckingham,
Malmesbury, &c.; in another by eight aldermen or ten or twelve burgesses,
as at Bath, Andover, Tiverton, Banbury, &c.; in another by a small number
of burgesses—three or four or five, as at Rye, Winchelsea, Romney, &c.
As to what was called long ago tenure in boroughs there was no end to its
absurdity.  At Midhurst the right was in the possession of a hundred
stones erected in an open field; at Old Sarum it was in the remaining
part of the possession of a demolished castle; at Westbury in a long
wall.  In many other places it was in the possession of half-a-score or a
dozen old thatched cottages, the conveyances to which were made on the
morning of election to a few trusty friends or dependents, who held a
farcical election, and then returned them to the proprietor as soon as
the business was finished.  In the little borough of Aldeburgh, where
Crabbe was born, the number of electors was eighty, all the property of a
private individual; at Dunwich, a little further on the coast, the number
of voters was twelve; at Bury St. Edmunds the number of voters was
thirty-seven; another little insignificant village on the same coast was
Orford, where the right of election was in a corporation of twenty
individuals, composed of the family and dependents of the Marquis of
Hertford.  No wonder the popular fury swept away the rotten boroughs, and
no wonder that the long struggle for reform ended in the triumph, not so
much of the people, as the middle-class.


In recalling old times let me begin with the weather, a matter of supreme
importance in country life—the first thing of which an Englishman speaks,
the last thing he thinks of as he retires to rest.  When I was a boy we
had undoubtedly finer weather than we have now.  There was more sunshine
and less rain.  In spring the air was balmy, and the flowers fair to look
on.  When summer came what joy there was in the hayfield, and how sweet
the smell of the new-mown hay!  As autumn advanced how pleasant it was to
watch the fruit ripening, and the cornfields waving, far as the eye could
reach, with the golden grain!  People always seemed gay and happy
then—the rosy-cheeked squire, the stout old farmer with his knee-breeches
and blue coat with brass buttons, and Hodge in his smock-frock, white as
the driven snow, on Sunday, when he went now to his parish church, or
more generally to the meeting-house, where he heard sermons that suited
him better, and where the musical part of the service, by means of flute
and bass violin and clarionet, was ever a gratification and delight.  And
even winter had its charms in the shape of sliding and skating under a
clear blue sky—all the trees and hedges everywhere decked out with
diamonds, ever sparkling in the rays of an unclouded sun.  We were all
glad when the snow came and covered the earth with a robe of white.  We
were glad when it went away, and the birds began to build their nests,
and the plougher went forth to turn up the soil, which had a fragrant
savour after the wet and snow of winter, and the sower went forth to sow,
while the rooks cawed in the morning air as they followed like an army in
search of worms and whatever else they could feed on, and the graceful
swallow, under the eaves of the old thatched cottage, built her clay
nest, and lined it carefully for the reception of the little ones that
were to come.  They were always welcome, for in the opinion of the
villagers they brought good luck.  Abroad in the meadows there were the
white woolly lambs, always at their gambols, and leaping all over the

It was a great happiness to be born in a village.  Our village was rather
a pretty one.  Afar off we heard the murmurs and smelt the salt air of
the distant sea, and that was something.  There were no beerhouses then,
and, alas! few attractions to keep raw village lads under good influence.
My father, as I have said, was a Dissenting minister, painful, godly and
laborious, ever seeking the spiritual welfare of his people, and
relieving as far as possible their temporal wants.  I had to accompany
him in his pastoral visits, sometimes an irksome task, as the poor were
numerous and garrulous, and made the most on such occasions of the
infirmities of their lot.  Some of the old ones were so worn and withered
that their weird faces often haunted me by night and terrified me in my

Another thing that gave me trouble was the fact of being a Dissenter.  It
seemed to me a badge of inferiority, as the ignorant farmers and
tradesmen around made Nonconformity the subject of deprecating remarks.
“Dissenters were sly,” said the son of the village shopkeeper, the only
boy of my age in the village, whose father was the most servile of men
himself to the parochial dignitaries, and I felt that, as a Dissenter, I
was under a cloud.  It was the fashion to call us “Pograms,” and the
word—no one knew what it meant—had rather an unpleasant sound to my
youthful ears.  This I knew, that most of the leading men of the place
went to church when they went anywhere, and not to our meeting-house,
where, however, we had good congregations.  Many of our people were
farmers who came from a distance for the afternoon service, and at whose
homes when the time came I had many a happy day going out ferreting in
the winter and in the autumn riding on the fore-horse.  As the harvest
was being gathered in, how proud was I to ride that fore-horse, though I
lost a good deal of leather in consequence, and how welcome the night’s
rest after tumbling about in the waggon in the harvest field.  Happily
did the morning of my life pass away amidst rural scenes and sights.  It
is a great privilege to be born in the country.  Childhood in the city
loses much of its zest.  Yet I had my dark moments.  I had often to walk
through a small wood, where, according to the village boys, flying
serpents were to be seen, and in the dark nights I often listened with
fear and trembling to the talk of the villagers of wretched miscreants
who were to be met with at such times with pitch-plaster, by means of
which they took away many a boy’s life for the sake of selling his dead
body to the doctor for the purposes of dissection.  But the winter night
had its consolations nevertheless.  We had the stories of English history
by Maria Hack and other light literature to read.  We had dissecting maps
to put together, and thus acquire a knowledge of geography.  And there
was a wonderful game invented by a French _abbé_, which was played in
connection with a teetotum and a map of England and Wales, the benefits
of which even at this distance of time I gratefully record.  It is true
cards were looked upon as sinful, but we had chess and draughts.  Later
on we had _The Penny Magazine_, and _Chambers’s Journal_, and _The
Edinburgh Review_, which had to me all the fascination of a novel.  We
had also _The Evangelical Magazine_ and _The Youth’s Companion_, a
magazine which, I believe, has long ceased to exist, and the volumes with
illustrations of the Society for Diffusion of Useful and Entertaining
Knowledge, and we had the book club meetings, when it was the fashion for
the members to take tea at each other’s homes, and propose books, and
once a year meet to sell the old ones by auction.  My father shone on
such occasions.  He was a good talker, as times went—conversation not
being much of a gift among the members of the club, save when the ladies
cheered us with their presence.  As a Scotchman he had a good share of
the dry humour of his nation.  But chiefly did he shine when the brethren
met.  Foremost of the party were Sloper of Beccles, who had talked on
things spiritual with Mrs. Siddons, Crisp of Lowestoft, Blaikie of
Bungay, Longley of Southwold, and others, who discussed theology and
metaphysics all the evening, till their heads were as cloudy as the
tobacco-impregnated room in which they sat.  At all these gatherings
Alexander Creak of Yarmouth was a principal figure; a fine, tall, stately
man, minister of a congregation supposed to be of a very superior class.
One of his sons, I believe, still lives in Norfolk.  As to the rest they
have left only their memories, and those are growing dimmer and fainter
every year.

At that time amongst the brethren who occasionally dawned upon our
benighted village were Mayhew of Walpole, good old Mr. Dennant of
Halesworth (of whom I chiefly remember that he was a bit of a poet, and
that he was the author of a couplet which delighted me as a boy—and
delights me still—“Awhile ago when I was nought, and neither body, soul
nor thought”), and Mr. Ward of Stowmarket, who was supposed to be a very
learned man indeed, and Mr. Hickman of Denton, whose library bespoke an
erudition rare in those times.  Most of them had sons.  Few of them,
however, became distinguished in after life; few of them, indeed,
followed their fathers’ steps as ministers.  One of the Creaks did, and
became a tutor, I think, at Spring Hill College, Birmingham; but the fact
is few of them were trained for contest and success in the world.  As
regards myself, I own I was led to think a great deal more of the next
world than of this.  We had too much religion.  God made man to rule the
world and conquer it, to fight a temporal as well as spiritual battle, to
be diligent in business, whilst at the same time fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord.  What I chiefly remember was that I was to try and be
good, though at the same time it was awfully impressed upon me that of
myself I could think no good thought nor do one good thing; that I was
born utterly depraved, and that if I were ever saved—a fact I rather
doubted—it was because my salvation had been decreed in the councils of
heaven before the world was.  Naturally my religion was of fear rather
than of love.  It seems to me that lads thus trained, as far as my
experience goes, never did turn out well, unless they were namby-pamby
creatures, milksops, in fact, rather than men.  I have lived to see a
great change for the better in this respect, and a corresponding
improvement of the young man of the day.  It may be that he is less
sentimental; but his religion, when he has any, is of a manlier type.  I
never saw a copy of Shakespeare till I was a young man.  As a child, my
memory had been exercised in learning passages from Milton, the hardest
chapters in the Old or New Testament, and the Assembly Catechism.  If
that Assembly Catechism had never been written I should have been happier
as a child, and wiser and more useful as a man.  I have led an erratic
life; I have wandered far from the fold.  At one time I looked on myself
as an outcast.  With the Old Psalmist—with brave Oliver Cromwell—with
generations of tried souls, I had to sing, as Scotch Presbyterians, I
believe, in Northern kirks still sing:—

    Woe’s me that I in Meshec am
       A sojourner so long,
    Or that I in the tents do dwell
       To Kedar that belong.

Yet nothing was simpler or more beautiful than the lives of those old
Noncons.; I may say so from a wide experience.  They were godly men, a
striking contrast to the hunting, drinking, swearing parsons of the
surrounding district.  Hence their power in the pulpit, their success in
the ministry.  But they failed to understand childhood and youth;
childhood, with its delight in things that are seen and temporal, and
youth with its passionate longing to burst its conventional barriers, and
to revel in the world which looks so fair, and of which it has heard such
evil.  Ah, these children of many prayers; how few of them came to be
pious; how many of them fell, some, alas, to rise no more.  One reason
was that if you did not see your way to become a church member and a
professor of religion you were cut off, or felt inwardly that you were
cut off, which is much the same thing, and had to associate with men of
loose lives and looser thoughts.  There was no _via media_; you were
either a saint or a sinner, of the church or the world.  It is not so
now, when even every Young Men’s Christian Association has its gymnasium,
and the young man’s passions are soothed by temperance and exercise and
not inflated by drink.  There may not be so much of early piety as there
was—though of that I am not sure.  There is a great deal more of religion
than there was, not so much of sensational enjoyment or of doctrinal
discussion perhaps, but more practical religion in all the various walks
of life.

We had to teach in the Sunday-school.  My services were early utilised in
that direction, for the village was badly supplied with the stuff of
which teachers were made, and as the parson’s son I was supposed to have
an ex-officio qualification for the task.  I fear I was but a poor hand
in the work of teaching the young idea how to shoot, especially when that
idea was developed in the bodies of great hulking fellows, my seniors in
years and superiors in size.  However, one of them did turn out well.
Many years after he recognised me in the Gray’s Inn Road, London, where
he had made money as a builder, and where, though he never learned to
read—perhaps that was my fault—he figured for a time largely on the walls
as the Protestant churchwarden.  “You know, sir,” he said to me, “how
poor we all were at W—” (the father, I fear, was a drunkard), “Well, I
came to London, resolving to be either a man or a mouse”; and here he
was, as respectable-looking a man as any you could see, thus proving what
I hold to be the truth, that in this land of ours, however deep in the
mire a man may be, he may rise, if he has the requisite power of work and
endurance and self-denial.  I fear he did not much profit by our
Sunday-school, though he told me he had put it down in his will for a
small legacy.  Our chief man was a shoemaker named Roberts, who sat with
the boys under the pulpit in face of all the people; the girls, with the
modesty of the sex, retiring to the back seats of the gallery.  In his
hand he bore a long wand, and woe to the unfortunate lad who fell asleep
while the sermon was going on, or endeavoured to relieve the tedium of it
by eating apples, sucking sweets, or revealing to his fellows the
miscellaneous treasures of his pocket in the shape of marbles or string
or knife.  On such an offender down came the avenging stroke, swift as
lightning and almost as sharp.  As to general education, there was no
attempt to give it.  Later on, the Dissenters raised enough money to
build a day-school, and then the Churchmen were stirred up to do the
same.  There was a school, kept by an irritable, red-faced old party in
knee-breeches, who had failed in business, where I and most of the
farmers’ sons of the village went; but I can’t say that any of us made
much progress, and I did better when I was taken back to the home and
educated, my father hearing my Latin and Greek as he smoked his pipe,
while my mother—a very superior woman, with a great taste for literature
and art—acted as teacher, while she was at work painting, after the
duties of housekeeping were over.  I ought to have been a better boy.
But there were two great drawbacks—one, the absence of all emulation,
which too often means the loss of all worldly success; the other, the
painful and useless effort to be good.


It was wonderful the utter stagnation of the village.  The chapel was the
only centre of intellectual life; next to that was the alehouse, whither
some of the conscript fathers repaired to get a sight of the county
paper, to learn the state of the markets, and at times to drink more ale
than was good for them.  About ten I had my first experience of death.  I
had lost an aged grandmother, but I was young, and it made little
impression on me, except the funeral sermon—preached by my father to an
overflowing congregation—which still lives in my recollections of a dim
and distant past.  I was a small boy.  I was laid up with chilblains and
had to be carried into the chapel; and altogether the excitement of the
occasion was pleasing rather than the reverse.  But the next who fell a
victim was a young girl—whom I thought beautiful—who was the daughter of
a miller who attended our chapel, and with whom I was on friendly terms.
On the day of her funeral her little brothers and sisters came to our
house to be out of the way.  But I could not play with them, as I was
trying to realise the figure I thought so graceful lying in the grave—to
be eaten of worms, to turn to clay.  But I shuddered as I thought of what
we so often say:

    There are no acts of mercy past
    In the cold grave to which we haste,
    But darkness, death, and long despair
    Reign in eternal silence there.

I was sick at heart—I am sick at heart now—as I recall the sad day,
though more than seventy years have rolled over my head since then.

I have spoken of the excitement of the Reform struggle.  It was to most
of us a time of fear.  A mob was coming from Yarmouth to attack Benacre
Hall, and then what would become of Sir Thomas “Guche”?  But older heads
began to think that the nation would survive the blow, even if Benacre
Hall were burnt and Sir Thomas “Guche” had to hide his diminished head.
As it happened, we did lose Sir Thomas’s services.  He was thrown out for
Suffolk, and Mr. Robert Newton Shaw, a Whig, reigned in his stead.  How
delighted we all were!  Now had come the golden age, and the millennium
was at hand.  Pensioners and place men were no longer to fatten on the
earnings of a suffering people, Radical politicians even looked forward
to the time when the parson would lose his tithes.

The villagers rarely left the village; they got work at the neighbouring
farms, and if they did not, they did not do so badly under the old Poor
Laws, which paid a premium to the manufacturers of large families.  The
cottages were miserable hovels then, as they mostly are, and charity had
full scope for exercise, especially at Christmas time, when those who
went to the parish church were taught the blessedness of serving God and
mammon.  At one time the dear old chapel would hold all the meetingers;
but soon came sectarian divisions and animosities.  There was a great
Baptist preacher at Beccles of the name of Wright, and of a Sunday some
of our people walked eight miles to hear him, and came back more sure
that they were the elect than ever, and more contemptuous of the poor
blinded creatures who, to use a term much in common then, sat under my
father.  Now and then the Ranters got hold of a barn, and then there was
another secession.  Perhaps we had too much theological disputation.  I
think we had; but then there was nothing else to think about.  The people
had no cheap newspapers, and if they had they could not have read them,
and so they saw signs and had visions, and told how the Lord had
converted them by visible manifestations of His presence and power.
Well, they were happy, and they needed somewhat to make them happy amidst
the abounding poverty and desolation of their lives.  By means of a
vehicle—called a whiskey—which was drawn by a mule or a pony, as chance
might determine, the family of which I was a member occasionally visited
Southwold, prettier than it is now, or Lowestoft, which had no port,
merely a long row of houses climbing up to the cliff; or Beccles, then
supposed to be a very genteel town, and where there was a ladies’
boarding school; or to Bungay, where John Childs, a sturdy opponent in
later years of Church rates and Bible monopoly, carried on a large
printing business for the London publishers, and cultivated politics and
phrenology.  It was a grand outing for us all.  Sometimes we got as far
as Halesworth, where they had a Primitive meeting-house with great
pillars, behind which the sleeper might sweetly dream till the fiddles
sounded and the singing commenced.  But as to long journeys they were
rarely taken.  If one did one had to go by coach, and there was sure to
be an accident.  Our village doctor who, with his half-dozen daughters,
attended our chapel, did once take a journey, and met with a fall that,
had his skull been not so thick, might have led to a serious catastrophe.
Then there was Brother Hickman, of Denton, a dear, good man who never
stirred from the parish.  Once in an evil hour he went a journey on a
stage coach, which was upset, and the consequence was a long and
dangerous illness.  If home-keeping youths have ever homely wits, what
homeliness of wit we must have had.  But now and then great people found
their way to us, such as Edward Taylor, Gresham Professor of Music, who
had a little property in the village, which gave him a vote, and before
the Reform Bill was carried elections were elections, and we knew it, for
did not four-horse coaches at all times, with flags flowing and trumpets
blowing, drive through with outvoters for Yarmouth, collected at the
candidates’ expense from all parts of the kingdom?  In the summer, too,
we had another excitement in the shape of the fish vans—light four-wheel
waggons, drawn by two horses—which raced all the way from Lowestoft or
Yarmouth to London.  They were built of green rails, and filled up with
hampers of mackerel, to be delivered fresh on the London market.  They
only had one seat, and that was the driver’s.  At the right time of year
they were always on the road going up full, returning empty, and they
travelled a good deal faster than the Royal mail.  They were an
ever-present danger to old topers crawling home from the village
ale-house, and to dirty little boys playing marbles or making mud pies in
the street.  Of course, there was no policeman to clear the way.
Policemen did not come into fashion till long after; but we had the
gamekeeper.  How I feared him as he caught me bird-nesting at an early
hour in the Park, and sent me home with a heavy heart as he threatened me
with Beccles gaol.

In the winter I used to go out rabbiting.  A young farmer in our
neighbourhood was fond of the sport, and would often take me out with
him, not to participate in the sport, but simply to look on.  It might be
that a friend or two would bring his gun and dog, and join in the
pastime, which, at any rate, had this advantage as far as I was
personally concerned, that it gave me a thundering appetite.  The ferrets
which one of the attendants always carried in a bag had a peculiar
fascination for me, with their long fur, their white, shiny teeth, their
little sparkling black eyes.  The ferret is popped into the hole in which
the rabbit is hidden.  Poor little animal, he is between the devil and
the deep sea.  He waits in his hole till he can stand it no longer, but
there is no way of escape for him out.  There are the men, with their
guns and the dogs eager for the fun.  Ah! it is soon over, and this is
often the way of the world.

To us in that Suffolk village the sports of big schools and more
ambitious lads were unknown.  For us there was no cricket or football,
except on rare occasions, when we had an importation of juveniles in the
house, but I don’t know that we were much the better for that.  We
trundled the hoop, and raced one with another, and that is capital
exercise.  We played hopscotch, which is good training for the calves of
the legs.  We had bows and arrows and stilts, and in the autumn—when we
could get into the fields—we built and flew kites, kites which we had to
make ourselves.  If there was an ancient sandpit in the neighbourhood how
we loved to explore its depths, and climb its heights, and in the
freshness of the early spring what a joy it was to explore the hedges, or
the trees of the neighbouring park, when the gamekeepers happened to be
out of sight in search of birds’ nests and eggs; and in the long winter
evenings what a delight it was to read of the past, though it was in the
dry pages of Rollin, or to glow over the poems of Cowper.  We were, it is
true, a serious family.  We had family prayers.  No wine but that known
as gingerbeer honoured the paternal hospitable board.  Grog I never saw
in any shape.  A bit of gingerbread and a glass of water formed our
evening meal.  Oh, at Christmas what games we had of snap-dragon and
blind man’s buff.  I always felt small when a boy from Cockneydom
appeared amongst us, and that I hold to be the chief drawback of such a
bringing up as ours was.  The battle of life is best fought by the
cheeky.  It does not do to be too humble and retiring.  Baron Trench
owned to a too great consciousness of innate worth.  It gave him, he
writes, a too great degree of pride.  That is bad, but not so bad as the
reverse—that feeling of humility which withers up all the noblest
aspirations of the soul, and which I possessed partly from religion, and
partly from the feeling that, as a Dissenter, I was a social Pariah in
the eyes of the generation around.  My modesty, I own, has been in my way
all through life.  The world takes a man at his own valuation.  It is too
busy to examine each particular claim, and the prize is won by him who
most loudly and pertinaciously blows his own trumpet.  At any rate, in
our Suffolk home we enjoyed

          Lively cheer of vigour born;
    The thoughtless day—the easy night—
    The spirits pure—the slumbers light—
    That fly the approach of morn.

The one drawback was the long-drawn darkness of the winter night.  I
slept in an old attic in an old house, where every creak on the stairs,
when the wind was roaring all round, gave me a stroke of pain, and where
ghastly faces came to me in the dark of old women haggard and hideous and
woebegone.  De Quincy hints in his numerous writings at boyish times of a
similar kind.  I fancy most of us in boyhood are tortured in a similar
way.  Fuseli supped on pork chops to procure fitting subjects for his
weird sketches.  But we never had pork chops; yet in the visions of the
night what awful faces I saw—almost enough to turn one’s brain and to
make one’s hair stand on end like quills upon the fretful porcupine.

Country villages are always fifty years behind the times, and so it was
with us.  In the farmyard there was no steam engine, and all the work was
done by manual labour, such as threshing the corn with the flail.  In
many families the only light was that of the rushlight, often home made.
Lucifer matches were unknown, and we had to get a light by means of a
flint and tinder, which ignited the brimstone match, always in readiness.
Cheap ready-made clothes were unknown, and the poor mother had a good
deal of tailoring to do.  In the cottage there was little to read save
the cheap publications of the Religious Tract Society, and the voluminous
writings of the excellent Hannah More, teaching the lower orders to fear
God and honour the king, and not to meddle with those that were given to
change.  Her “Cœlebs in Search of a Wife” was the only novel that ever
found its way into religious circles—with the exception of “Robinson
Crusoe” and “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” and that was awfully illustrated.
Anybody who talked of the rights of man at that time was little better
than one of the wicked.  One of Hannah More’s characters, Mr. Fantom, is
thus described:—“He prated about _narrowness_ and _ignorance_ (the
derisive italics are Hannah’s own), and _bigotry_ and _prejudice_ and
priestcraft on the one hand, and on the other of _public good_, the _love
of mankind_, and _liberality_ and _candour_, and above all of
benevolence.”  Dear Hannah made her hero, of course, come to a shocking
end, and so does his servant William, who as he lies in Chelmsford gaol
to be hung for murder confesses, “I was bred up in the fear of God, and
lived with credit in many sober families in which I was a faithful
servant, till, being tempted by a little higher wages, I left a good
place to go and live with Mr. Fantom, who, however, never made good his
fine promises, but proved a hard master.”  Another of Hannah’s characters
was a Miss Simpson, a clergyman’s daughter, who is always exclaiming,
“’Tis all for the best,” though she ends her days in a workhouse, while
the man through whose persecution she comes to grief dies in agony,
bequeathing her £100 as compensation for his injustice, and declares that
if he could live his life over again he would serve God and keep the
Sabbath.  And such was the literature which was to stop reform, and make
the poor contented with their bitter lot!

But the seed, such as it was, often fell on stony soil.  The labourers
became discontented, and began more and more to feel that it was not
always true that all was for the best, as their masters told them.  They
were wretchedly clad, and lodged, and fed.  Science, sanitary or
otherwise, was quite overlooked then.  The parson and the squire took no
note of them, except when they heard that they went to the Baptist, or
Independent, or Methodist chapel, when great was their anger and dire
their threats.  Again Hannah More took the field “to improve the habits
and raise the principles of the common people at a time when their
dangers and temptations—social and political—were multiplied beyond the
example of any former period.  The inferior ranks were learning to read,
and they preferred to read the corrupt and inflammatory publications
which the French Revolution had called into existence.”  Alas! all was in
vain.  Rachel, weeping for her children who had been torn from her to die
in foreign lands, fighting to keep up the Holy Alliance and the right
divine of kings to govern wrong, or had toiled and moiled in winter’s
cold and summer’s heat, merely to end their days in the parish workhouse,
refused to be comforted.  Good people grew alarmed, and goody tracts were
circulated more than ever.  The edifying history of the “Shepherd of
Salisbury Plain” was to be seen in many a cottage in our village.  The
shepherd earned a shilling a day; he lived in a wretched cottage which
had a hole in the thatch which made his poor wife a martyr to rheumatism
in consequence of the rain coming through.  He had eight children to
keep, chiefly on potatoes and salt, but he was happy because he was pious
and contented.  A gentleman says to him, “How do you support yourself
under the pressure of actual want?  Is not hunger a great weakener of
your faith?”  “Sir,” replied the shepherd, “I live upon the promises.”
Yes, that was the kind of teaching in our village and all over England,
and the villagers got tired of it, and took to firing stacks and barns,
and actually in towns were heard to cry “More pay and less parsons.”
What was the world coming to? said dear old ladies.  It was well Hannah
More had died and thus been saved from the evil to come.  The
Evangelicals were at their wits’ end.  They wanted people to think of the
life to come, while the people preferred to think of the life that was—of
this world rather than the next.

I am sure that in our village we had too much religion.  I write this
seriously and after thinking deeply on the matter.  A man has a body to
be cared for, as well as a soul to be saved or damned.  Charles Kingsley
was the first to tell us that it was vain to preach to people with empty
stomachs.  But when I was a lad preaching was the cure for every ill, and
the more wretched the villagers became the more they were preached to.
There was little hope of any one who did not go to some chapel or other.
There was little help for any one who preferred to talk of his wrongs or
to claim his rights.  I must own that the rustic worshipper was a better
man in all the relationships of life—as servant, as husband, as father,
as friend—than the rustic unbeliever.  It astonished me not a little to
talk with the former, and to witness his copiousness of Scripture
phraseology and the fluency of his religious talk.  He was on a higher
platform.  He had felt what Burke wrote when he tells us that religion
was for the man in humble life, to raise his nature and to put him in
mind of a State in which the privileges of opulence will cease, when he
will be equal by nature and more than equal by virtue.  Alas! we had soon
Lord Brougham’s beershops, and there was a sad falling away.  Poachers
and drunkards increased on every side.  All around there seemed to be
nothing but poverty, with the exception of the farmers—then, as now,
always grumbling, but apparently living well and enjoying life.

As one thinks of the old country years ago one can realise the truth of
the story told by the late Mr. Fitzgerald of a Suffolk village church one
winter’s evening:—

    Congregation, with the Old Hundredth ready for the parson’s dismissal

    _Good Old Parson_ (not at all meaning rhymes): The light has grown so
    very dim I scarce can see to read the hymn.

    _Congregation_ (taking it up to the first half of the Old Hundredth):

    The light has grown so very dim,
    I scarce can see to read the hymn.

                                                         (Pause as usual.)

    _Parson_ (mildly impatient): I did not mean to sing a hymn, I only
    meant my eyes were dim.

    _Congregation_ (to second part of the Old Hundredth):

    I did not mean to read a hymn,
    I only meant my eyes were dim.

    _Parson_ (out of patience): I did not mean a hymn at all, I think the
    devil’s in you all.

Curious were the ways of the East Anglian clergy.  One of our
neighbouring parsons had his clerk give out notice that on the next
Sunday there would be no service “because master was going to Newmarket.”
No one cared for the people, unless it was the woman preacher or
Methodist parson, and the people were ignorant beyond belief.  Few could
either read or write.  It was rather amusing to hear them talk.  A boy
was called bow, a girl was termed a mawther, and if milk or beer was
wanted it was generally fetched in a gotch.

Our home life was simple enough.  We went early to bed and were up with
the lark.  I was arrayed in a pinafore and wore a frill—which I
abhorred—and took but little pleasure in my personal appearance—a very
great mistake, happily avoided by the present generation.  We children
had each a little bed of garden ground which we cultivated to the best of
our power.  Ours was really a case of plain living and high thinking.  Of
an evening the room was dimly lighted by means of a dip candle which
constantly required snuffing.  To write with we had the ordinary
goose-quill.  The room, rarely used, in which we received company was
called the parlour.  Goloshes had not then come into use, and women wore
in muddy weather pattens or clogs.  The simple necessaries of life were
very dear, and tea and coffee and sugar were sold at what would now be
deemed an exorbitant price.  Postage was prohibitory, and when any one
went to town he was laden with letters.  As little light as possible was
admitted into the house in order to save the window-tax.  The farmer was
generally arrayed in a blue coat and yellow brass buttons.  The gentleman
had a frilled shirt and wore Hessian boots.  I never saw a magazine of
the fashions; nowadays they are to be met with everywhere.  Yet we were
never dull, and in the circle in which I moved we never heard of the need
of change.  People were content to live and die in the village without
going half-a-dozen miles away, with the exception of the farmers, who
might drive to the nearest market town, transact their business, dine at
the ordinary, and then, after a smoke and a glass of brandy and water and
a chat with their fellow-farmers, return home.  Of the rush and roar of
modern life, with its restlessness and eagerness for something new and
sensational, we had not the remotest idea.


In the good old city of Norwich.  I passed a year as an apprentice, in
what was then known as London Lane.  It was a time of real growth to me
mentally.  I had a bedroom to myself; in reality it was a closet.  I had
access to a cheap library, where I was enabled to take my fill, and did a
good deal of miscellaneous study.  I would have joined the Mechanics’
Institute, where they had debates, but the people with whom I lived were
orthodox Dissenters, and were rather afraid of my embracing Unitarian
principles.  The fear was, I think, groundless.  At any rate, one of the
most distinguished debaters was Mr. Jacob Henry Tillett, afterwards M.P.,
then in a lawyer’s office; and another was his friend Joseph Pigg, who
became a Congregational minister, but did not live to old age.  Another
of the lot—who was a great friend of Pigg’s—was Bolingbroke Woodward, who
was, I think, in a bank, from which he went to Highbury, thence as a
Congregational minister to Wortwell, near Harleston, and died librarian
to the Queen.  Evidently there was no necessary connection, as the people
where I lived thought, between debating and embracing Unitarian

Norwich seemed to me a wonderful city.  I had already visited the place
at the time when it celebrated the passing of the Reform Bill, when there
was by day a grand procession, and a grand dinner in the open air; where
a friend, who knew what boys liked, gave me a slice of plum pudding
served up on the occasion; and then in the evening there were fireworks,
the first I had ever seen, on the Castle Hill.  It was a long ride from
our village, and we had to travel by the carrier’s cart, drawn by two
horses, and sit beneath the roof on the top of the luggage and baggage,
for we stopped everywhere to pick up parcels.  The passengers when seated
endeavoured to make themselves as comfortable as circumstances would
allow.  Norwich at that time had a literary reputation, and it seemed to
me there were giants in the land in those days.  One I remember was the
Rev. John Kinghorn, a great light among the Baptists, and whom, with his
spare figure and primitive costume, I always confounded with John the
Baptist.  Another distinguished personage was William Youngman, at whose
house my father spent a good deal of time, engaged in the hot disputation
in which that grand old Norwich worthy always delighted.  As a boy, I
remember I trembled as the discussion went on, for

    Mr. MacWinter was apt to be hot,
    And Mr. McKenzie a temper had got.

Yet their friendship continued in spite of difference of opinion, and
well do I remember him in his square pew in the Old Meeting, as, with his
gold-headed cane firmly grasped, the red-faced fat old man sat as solemn
and passionless as a judge, while in the pulpit before him the Rev. Mr.
Innes preached.  But, alas! the parson had a pretty daughter, and I lost
all his sermon watching the lovely figure in the pew just by.  Another of
the deacons, tall and stiff as a poker, Mr. Brightwell, had a pew just
behind, father of a young lady known later as a successful authoress,
while from the gallery opposite a worthy man, Mr. Blunderfield, gave out
the hymn.  Up in the galleries there were Spelmans and Jarrolds in
abundance, while in a pew behind the latter was seated a lad who in after
life attained, and still retains, some fame as a lecturer against
Christianity, and later in its favour, well known as Dr. Sexton.  To that
Old Meeting I always went with indescribable awe; its square pews, its
old walls with their memorial marbles, the severity of the aspect of the
worshippers, the antique preacher in the antique pulpit all affected me.
But I loved the place nevertheless.  Even now I am thrilled as I recall
the impressive way in which Mr. Blunderfield gave out the hymns, and I
can still remember one of Mr. Innes’ texts, and it was always a matter of
pride to me when Mr. Youngman took me home to dinner and to walk on his
lawn, which sloped down to the river, and to view with wonder the peacock
which adorned his grounds.  The family with which I was apprenticed
attended on the ministry of the Rev. John Alexander, a man deservedly
esteemed by all and beloved by his people.  He was a touching preacher,
an inimitable companion, and was hailed all over East Anglia as its
Congregational bishop, a position I fancy still held by his successor,
the Rev. Dr. Barrett.  Dissent in Norwich seemed to me much more
respected than in my village home.  Dr. Brock, then plain Mr. Brock, also
came to Norwich when I was there, and had a fine congregation in St.
Mary’s, which seemed to me a wonderfully fine chapel.  I was always glad
to go there.  Once I made my way to the Octagon, a still nobler building,
but my visit was found out by my master’s wife, and henceforth I was
orthodox, that is as long as I was at Norwich.  The Norwich of that time,
though the old air of depression, in consequence of declining
manufacture, has given place to a livelier tone, in its essential
features remains the same.  There are still the Castle and the old
landmarks of the Cathedral and the Market Place.  The great innovation
has been the Great Eastern Railway, which has given to it a new and
handsome quarter, and the Colman mustard mills.  Outside the city, in the
suburbs, of course, Norwich has much increased, and we have now crowded
streets or trim semidetached villas, where in my time were green fields
or rustic walks.  London did not dominate the country as it does now, and
Norwich was held to be in some quarters almost a second Athens.  There
lived there a learned man of the name of Wilkins, with whom I, alas!
never came into contact, who had much to do with resuscitating the fame
of the worthy Norwich physician, Sir Thomas Browne, immortal, by reason
of his “Religio Medici” and “Urn Burial,” especially the latter.  The
Martineaus and the Taylors lived there.  Johnson Fox—the far-famed
Norwich weaver boy of the Anti-Corn League, and Unitarian minister, and
subsequently M.P. for Oldham—had been a member of the Old Meeting, whence
he had been sent to Homerton College to study for the ministry, and a
sister and brother, if I remember aright, still attended at the Old
Meeting.  When I was a lad there still might be seen in the streets of
Norwich the venerable figure of William Taylor, who had first opened up
German literature to the intelligent public; and there had not long died
Mrs. Taylor, the friend of Sir James Mackintosh and other distinguished
personages.  “She was the wife,” writes Basil Montagu, “of a shopkeeper
in that city; mild and unassuming, quiet and meek, sitting amidst her
large family, always occupied with her needle and domestic occupations,
but always assisting, by her great knowledge, the advancement of kind and
dignified sentiment.  Manly wisdom and feminine gentleness were united in
her with such attractive manners that she was universally loved and
respected.  In high thoughts and gentle deeds she greatly resembled the
admirable Lucy Hutchinson, and in troubled times would have been
specially distinguished for firmness in what she thought right.”  Dr.
Sayers was also one of the stars of the Norwich literary circle, and I
recollect Mrs. Opie, who had given up the world of fashion and frivolity,
had donned the Quaker dress, and at whose funeral in the Quaker
Meeting-house I was present.  The Quakers were at that time a power in
Norwich, and John Joseph Gurney, of Earlham, close by, enjoyed quite a
European reputation.  It was not long that Harriet Martineau had turned
her back on the Norwich of her youth.  The house where she was born was
in a court in Magdalen Street.  But it never was her dwelling-place after
her removal from it when she was three months old.  Harriet was given to
underrating everybody who had any sort of reputation, and she certainly
underrated Norwich society, which, when I was a lad, was superior to most
of our county towns.  I caught now and then a few faint echoes of that
world into which I was forbidden to enter.  Norwich ministers were yet
learned, and their people were studious.  A dear old city was Norwich,
with much to interest a raw lad from the country, with its Cathedral,
which, as too often is the case, sadly interfered with the free life of
all within its reach, with its grand Market Place filled on a Saturday
with the country farmers’ wives, who had come to sell the produce of
their dairy and orchard and chickenyard, and who returned laden with
their purchases in the way of grocery and drapery; and its Castle set
upon a hill.  It was there that for the first time I saw judges in ermine
and crimson, and learned to realise the majesty of the law.  Then there
was an immense dragon kept in St. Andrew’s Hall, and it was a wonder to
all as he was dragged forth from his retirement, and made the rounds of
the streets with his red eyes, his green scales, his awful tail.  I know
not whether that old dragon still survives.  I fear the Reformers, who
were needlessly active in such matters, abolished him.  But the sight of
sights I saw during my short residence at Norwich was that of the
chairing of the M.P.’s.  I forget who they were; I remember they had red
faces, gorgeous dresses, and silk stockings.  Norwich was a corrupt
place, and a large number of electors were to be bought, and unless they
were bought no M.P. had a chance of being returned.  The consequence was
party feeling ran very high, and the defeated party were usually angry,
as they were sure to contend that they had been beaten not by honest
voting, but by means of bribery and corruption, and thus when the
chairing took place there was often not a little rioting, and voters
inflamed with beer were always ready for a row.  The fortunate M.P.’s
thus on chairing days were exposed to not a little danger.  The chairs in
which they were seated, adorned with the colours of the party, were borne
by strapping fellows quite able to defend themselves, and every now and
then ready to give a heave somewhat dangerous to the seat-holder, who all
the time had to preserve a smiling face and bow to the ladies who lined
the windows of the street through which the procession passed, and to
look as if he liked it rather than not.  The sight, however, I fancy,
afforded more amusement to the spectators than to the M.P.’s, who were
glad when it was over, and who had indeed every right to be, for there
was always the chance of a collision with a hostile mob, and a
_dénouement_ anything but agreeable.  But, perhaps, the sight of sights
was Norwich Market on Christmas Day, and the Norwich coaches starting for
London crammed with turkeys outside and in, and only leaving room for the
driver and the guard.  At that time London was chiefly supplied with its
turkeys from Norfolk, and it was only by means of stage coaches that the
popular poultry could be conveyed.  In this respect Norwich has suffered,
for London now draws its Christmas supplies from all the Continent.  It
was not so when I was a lad, but from all I can hear Norwich Market Place
the Saturday before Christmas is as largely patronised as ever, and they
tell me, though, alas, I have no practical knowledge of the fact, the
Norwich turkeys are as good as ever.  As long as they remain so Norwich
has little to fear.  I have also at a later time a faint recollection of
good port, but now I am suffering from gout, and we never mention it.  In
these teetotal days “our lips are now forbidden to speak that once
familiar word.”


What more natural than that a son should wish to follow in his father’s
steps?  I had a minister for a father.  It was resolved that I should
become one.  In Dissenting circles no one was supposed to enter the
ministry until he had got what was denominated a call.  I persuaded
myself that I had such a call, though I much doubt it now.  I tried to
feel that I was fitted for this sacred post—I who knew nothing of my own
heart, and was as ignorant of the world as a babe unborn.  I was sent to
a London college, now no more, and had to be examined for my
qualifications by four dear old fossils, and was, of course, admitted.  I
passed because my orthodoxy was unimpeachable, and I was to preach—I, who
trembled at the sound of my own voice, who stood in terror of deacons,
and who had never attempted to make a speech.  I hope at our colleges
they manage these things better now, and select men who can show that the
ministry is in them before they seek to enter the ministry.  As it was, I
found more than one of my fellow-students was utterly destitute of all
qualifications for the pastorate, and was simply wasting the splendid
opportunities placed within his reach.  The routine of college life was
not unpleasant.  We rose early, attended lectures from our principal and
the classes at University College, and took part in conducting family
service in the hall.  Occasionally we preached in the College chapel, the
principal attendant at which was an old tailor, who thereby secured a
good deal of the patronage of the students.  By attending the classes at
University College we had opportunities of which, alas! only a minority
made much use.  They who did so became distinguished in after life, such
as Rev. Joseph Mullens, Secretary of the London Missionary Society; and
John Curwen, who did so much for congregational singing; Dr. Newth, and
Philip Smith, who was tutor at Cheshunt, and afterwards Headmaster at
Mill Hill.  Nor must I forget Rev. Andrew Reed, a preacher always
popular, partly on his own and partly on his father’s account; nor Thomas
Durrant Philip, the son of the well-known doctor whose splendid work
among the Hottentots is not yet forgotten; nor Dr. Edkins, the great
Chinese scholar; nor the late Dr. Henry Robert Reynolds, who won for
Cheshunt a world-wide reputation.  As regards myself, I fear I took more
interest in the debates at University College, where I made acquaintance
with men with whose names the world has since become familiar, such as
Sir James Stansfeld, Peter Taylor, M.P. for Leicester, Professor Waley,
of Jewish persuasion, C. J. Hargreaves, Baron of the Encumbered Estates
Court, and others who seemed to me far superior to most of my
fellow-students training for the Christian ministry.  I was much
interested in the English Literature Class under the late Dr. Gordon
Latham, the great Anglo-Saxon scholar, who would fain have had me
Professor in his place.

I cannot say that I look back with much pleasure on my college career.
We had two heads, neither of whom had any influence with the students,
nor did it seem to me desirable that they should.  One of them was an
easy, pleasant, gentlemanly man, who was pleased to remark on an essay
which I read before him on Christianity, and which was greeted with a
round of applause by my fellow-students, that it displayed a low tone of
religious feeling.  Poor man, he did not long survive after that.  The
only bit of advice I had from his successor was as to the propriety of
closing my eyes as if in prayer whenever I went into the pulpit to
preach, on the plea, not that by means of it my heart might be solemnised
and elevated for the ensuing service, but that it would have a beneficial
effect on the people—that, in fact, on account of it they would think all
the better of me!  After that, you may be sure I got little benefit from
anything the good man might feel fit to say.  As a scholar he was
nowhere.  All that I recollect of him was that he gave us D’Aubigné’s
History of the Reformation in driblets as if we were rather a superior
class of Sunday scholars.  Mr. Stowell Brown tells us that he did not
perceive that the members of his church were in any respect better than
those who were hearers alone.  And to me something similar was manifested
in college.  We pious students were not much better than other young men.
It seemed to me that we were a little more lazy and flabby, that was all.
As a rule, few of us broke down morally, though such cases were by no
means rare.  I cannot say, as M. Renan did, that there was never a breath
of scandal with respect to his fellow-students in his Romanist Academy;
but the class of young men who had come to study for the ministry was
not, with very rare exceptions, of a high order, either in a religious or
intellectual point of view.  In this respect I believe there has been a
great improvement of late.

My pulpit career was short.  At times I believe I preached with much
satisfaction to my hearers; at other times very much the reverse.  De Foe
writes: “It was my disaster first to be set apart for, and then to be set
apart from, the honour of that sacred employ.”  My experience was
something similar.  I never had a call to a charge, nor did I go the
right way to work to get one.  I felt that I could gladly give it up, and
yet how could I do so?  I had a father whom I fondly loved, who had set
his heart on seeing me follow in his honoured steps.  I was what they
called a child of many prayers.  How could I do otherwise than work for
their fulfilment?  And if I gave up all thought of the ministry, how was
I to earn my daily bread?  At length, however, I drifted away from the
pulpit and religious life for a time.  I was not happy, but I was happier
than when vainly seeking to pursue an impossible career.  I know more of
the world now.  I have more measured myself with my fellows.  I see what
ordinary men and women are, and the result is—fortunately or not, I
cannot tell—that I have now a better conceit of myself.  I often wish
some one would ask me to occupy a pulpit now.  How grand the position!
how mighty the power!  You are out of the world—in direct contact with
the living God, speaking His Word, doing His work.  There in the pew are
souls aching to be lifted out of themselves; to get out of the mud and
mire of the world and of daily life; to enter within the veil, as it
were; to abide in the secret place of the Most High.  It is yours to aid
them.  There are those dead in trespasses and sins; it is yours to rouse
them.  There are the aged to be consoled; the young to be won over.  Can
there be a nobler life than that which makes a man an ambassador from God
to man?

Yet they were pleasant years I spent at Coward College, Torrington
Square, supported by the liberality of an old wealthy merchant of that
name, the friend of Dr. Doddridge, and at Wymondley—to which Doddridge’s
Academy, as it was termed, was subsequently moved—where were trained, at
any rate, two of our most distinguished Nonconformists, Edward Miall and
Thomas Binney.  I am sorry Coward College ceased to exist as a separate
institution.  We were all very happy there.  We had a splendid old
library at our disposal, where we could learn somewhat of

    Many an old philosophy
    On Argus heights divinely sung;

and for many a day afterwards we dined together once a year.  I think our
last dinner was at Mr. Binney’s, who was at his best when he gathered
around him his juniors, like himself, the subjects of old Coward’s
bounty.  It was curious to me to find how little appreciated was the good
merchant’s grand bequest.  I often found that in many quarters,
especially among the country churches, the education given to the young
men at Coward’s was regarded as a disqualification.  It was suspected
that it impeded their religious career, that they were not so sound as
good young men who did not enjoy these advantages, that at other colleges
the preachers were better because not so learned, more devotedly pious
because more ignorant.  It was held then that a student might be
over-educated, and the more he knew the more his religious zeal
diminished.  In these days the feeling has ceased to exist, and the
churches are proud of the men who consecrate to the service of their Lord
all their cultivated powers of body and mind.  The Christian Church has
ceased to fear the bugbear of a learned ministry.  One can quite
understand, however, how that feeling came into existence.  The success
of the early Methodists had led many to feel how little need there was
for culture when the torpor of the worldly and the poor was to be broken
up.  The Methodists were of the people and spoke to them in a language
they could understand.  Learning, criticism, doubt—what were they in the
opinion of the pious of those days but snares to be avoided, perils to be
shunned?  For good or bad, we have outgrown that.


In due time—that is when I was about sixteen years old—I made my way to
London, a city as deadly, as dreary as can well be conceived, in spite of
the wonderful Cathedral of St. Paul’s, as much a thing of beauty as it
ever was, and the Monument, one of the first things the country cousin
was taken to see, with the exception of Madame Tussaud’s, then in Baker
Street.  In the streets where the shops were the houses were mean and
low, of dirty red brick, of which the houses in the more aristocratic
streets and squares were composed.  Belgravia, with its grand houses, was
never dreamt of.  The hotels were of the stuffiest character; some of
them had galleries all round for the sleeping chambers, which, however,
as often as not were over the stables, where the coach horses were left
to rest after the last gallop into London, and to be ready for the early
start at five or six in the morning.  Perhaps at that time the best way
of coming into London was sailing up the Thames.  As there were few
steamers then the number of ships of all kinds was much greater than at
present, when a steamer comes up with unerring regularity, discharges her
cargo, takes in a fresh one, and is off again without a moment’s delay.
You saw Greenwich Hospital, as beautiful then as now, the big docks with
the foreign produce, the miles of black colliers in the Pool, the Tower
of London, the Customs House, and Billingsgate, a very inconvenient hole,
more famed for classic language then than now.  Yet it was always a
pleasure to be landed in the city after sitting all day long on the top
of a stage coach.  In many ways the railway was but a poor improvement on
the stage coach.  In the first place you could see the country better; in
the second place the chances were you had better company, at any rate
people talked more, and were more inclined to be agreeable; and the third
place, in case of an accident, you felt yourself safer.  As an old Jehu
said, contrasting the chances, “If you have an accident on a coach there
you are, but if you are in a railway carriage where are you!”  And some
of the approaches to London were almost dazzling.  Of a winter’s night it
was quite a treat to come into town by the East Anglian coaches, and to
see the glare of the Whitechapel butchers’ shops all lit up with gas, and
redolent of beef and mutton.  It was wonderful in the eyes of the young
man from the country.

The one great improvement in London was Regent Street, from Portland
Place and Regent’s Park to the statue an infatuated people erected to a
shady Duke of York in Trafalgar Square.  Just by there was the National
Gallery, at any rate in a situation easy of access.  Right past the
Mansion House a new street had been made to London Bridge, and there the
half-cracked King William was honoured by a statue, which was supposed to
represent the Royal body and the Royal head.  In Cornhill there was an
old-fashioned building known as the Royal Exchange, which kept alive the
memory of the great civic benefactor, Sir Thomas Gresham, and the maiden
Queen; but everywhere the streets were narrow and the houses mean.
Holborn Hill led to a deep valley, on one side of which ran a lane filled
with pickpockets, and cut-throats and ruffians of all kinds, into which
it was not safe for any one to enter.  And as you climbed the hill you
came to Newgate Market, along which locomotion was almost impossible all
the early morning, as there came from the north and the south and the
east and the west all the suburban butchers for their daily supply.  Just
over the way on the left was that horror of horrors, Smithfield, where on
a market day some thousands of oxen and sheep by unheard of brutality had
been penned up, waiting to be purchased and let loose mad with hunger and
thirst and fright and pain all over the narrow streets of the city, to
the danger of pedestrians, especially such as were old and feeble.
Happily, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital was close by, and the sufferer had
perhaps a chance of life.  The guardians of the streets were the new
police, the Peelers or the Bobbies as they were sarcastically called.
The idiotic public did not think much of them; they were the thin edge of
the wedge, their aim was to destroy the glorious liberty of every man, to
do all the mischief they could, and to enslave the people.  Was not Sir
Robert Peel a Tory of the Tories and the friend of Wellington, so beloved
by the people that he had to guard his house with iron shutters?  At that
time the public was rather badly off for heroes, with the exception of
Orator Hunt, who got into Parliament and collapsed, as most of the men of
the people did.  Yet I was a Liberal—as almost all Dissenters were with
the exception of the wealthy who attended at the Poultry or at Walworth,
where John and George Clayton preached.

In the City life was unbearable by reason of the awful noise of the
stone-paven streets, now happily superseded by asphalte.  Papers were
dear, but in all parts of London there were old-fashioned coffee and chop
houses where you could have a dinner at a reasonable price and read the
newspapers and magazines.  Peele’s, in Fleet Street, at the corner of
Fetter Lane, was a great place for newspapers and reporters and special
correspondents.  Many a newspaper article have I written there.  Then
there were no clubs, or hardly any, and such places as the Cheshire
Cheese, with its memories of old Dr. Johnson, did a roaring trade far
into the night.  There was a twopenny post for London, but elsewhere the
charge for letters was exorbitant and prohibitory.  Vice had more
opportunities than now.  There was no early closing, and in the Haymarket
and in Drury Lane these places were frequented by prostitutes and their
victims all night long.  A favourite place for men to sup at was Evans’s
in Covent Garden, the Cider Cellars in Maiden Lane, and the Coal Hole in
the Strand.  The songs were of the coarsest, and the company, consisting
of lords and touts, medical students, swell mobsmen, and fast men from
the City, not much better.  At such places decency was unknown, and yet
how patronised they were, especially at Christmas time, when the country
farmer stole away from home, ostensibly to see the Fat Cattle Show, then
held in Baker Street.  Of course there were no underground railways, and
the travelling public had to put up with omnibuses and cabs, dearer, more
like hearses than they are now.

I should be sorry to recommend any one to read the novels of Fielding or
of Smollet.  And yet in one sense they are useful.  At any rate, they
show how much the England of to-day is in advance of the England of 150
years ago.  For instance, take London.  It is held that London is in a
bad way in spite of its reforming County Council.  It is clear from the
perusal of Smollet’s novels that a purifying process has long been at
work with regard to London, and that if our County Councillors do their
duty as their progenitors have done, little will remain to be done to
make the metropolis a model city.  “Humphry Clinker” appeared in 1771.
It contains the adventures of a worthy Welsh Squire, Matthew Bramble, who
in the course of his travels with his family finds himself in London.
The old Squire is astonished at its size.  “What I left open fields,
producing corn and hay, I now find covered with streets and squares, and
palaces and churches.  I am credibly informed that in the space of seven
years 11,000 new houses have been built in one quarter of Westminster,
exclusive of what is daily added to other parts of this metropolis.
Pimlico is almost joined to Chelsea and Kensington, and if this
infatuation continues for half-a-century, I suppose, the whole county of
Middlesex will be covered with brick.”  A prophecy that has almost come
to pass in our time.  At that time London contained one-sixth of the
entire population of the kingdom.  “No wonder,” he writes, “that our
villages are depopulated and our farms in want of day labourers.  The
villagers come up to London in the hopes of getting into service where
they can live luxuriously and wear fine clothes.  Disappointed in this
respect, they become thieves and sharpers, and London being an immense
wilderness, in which there is neither watch nor ward of any
signification, nor any order or police, affords them lurking-places as
well as prey.”  The old Squire’s complaint is to be heard every day when
we think or speak or write of the great metropolis.

The poor Squire writes bitterly of London life: “I start every hour from
my sleep at the horrid noise of the watchmen calling the hour through
every street, and thundering at every door.”  “If I would drink water I
must quaff the mawkish contents of an open aqueduct, exposed to all
manner of defilement, or swallow that which comes from the Thames,
impregnated with all the filth of London and Westminster.  Human
excrement is the least offensive part of the concrete, which is composed
of all the drugs, minerals and poisons used in mechanics and
manufactures, enriched with the putrefying carcases of beasts and men,
and mixed with the scourings of all the washtubs, kennels, and common
sewers within the bills of mortality.”  The City churches and churchyards
were in my time constant sources of disease, and the chapels were, where
they had burying-grounds attached, equally bad.  One need not remark in
this connection how much better off we are in our day.  Again the Squire
writes: “The bread I eat is a deleterious paste, mixed up with chalk,
alum and bone ashes.”  Here, again, we note gladly a change for the
better.  The vegetables taste of nothing but the dung-hills from whence
they spring.  The meat the Squire holds to be villainously bad, “and as
for the pork, it is an abominable carnivorous animal fed with horseflesh
and distillers’ grains, and the poultry is all rotten in consequence of
fever, occasioned by the infamous practice of sewing up the guts, that
they may be the sooner fattened in crops in consequence of this cruel
restriction.”  Then there is the butter, a tallowy, rancid mass,
manufactured with candle grease and butcher’s stuff.  Well, these
enormities are permitted no longer, and that is a step gained.  We have
good water; the watchman is gone, and the policeman has taken his place;
but London as I knew it was little better than it was in the Squire’s
time.  I fear in eggs we have not improved.  The old Squire complains
that they are imported from Scotland and France.  We have, alas! for our
fresh eggs to go a good deal further now.  Milk, he tells us, was carried
through the streets in open pails, exposed to foul rinsings discharged
from doors and windows, and contaminated in many other ways too horrible
to mention.  No wonder the old Squire longed to get back to his old
mansion in Wales, where, at any rate, he could enjoy pure water, fresh
eggs and real milk.  It is hard to conceive how the abominations he
describes could have been tolerated an hour.  There was no Holborn
Viaduct—nothing but a descent into a valley—always fatal to horses, and
for many reasons trying to pedestrians.  One of the sights of London
which I sorely missed was the Surrey Gardens, with its fireworks and
half-starved and very limited zoological collection.  It has long been
built over, but many is the happy summer evening I have spent there
witnessing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, or some other representation
equally striking and realistic.  In the City Road there were tea-gardens,
and at Highbury Barn was a dancing establishment, more famous than those
of the Eagle or White Conduit Fields, and all at times made the scene of
political demonstrations and party triumphs.  In this way also were much
celebrated the London Tavern and Freemasons’ Hall.  There was no
attention paid to sanitation, and Lord Palmerston had not horrified all
Scotland by telling the clergy who waited on him that it was not days of
humiliation that the nation wanted, but a more intimate acquaintance with
the virtues of soap and water.  The clergy as a rule looked upon an
outbreak of disease, not as an illustration of the evils of want and
water and defective drainage, but as a sign of the Divine disgust for and
against a nation that had admitted Dissenters in Parliament, and
emancipated the Roman Catholics.  Perhaps the greatest abomination of all
was the fearful custom which existed of burying the dead in the midst of
the living.  The custom died hard—churches and chapels made a lot of
money in this way, careless of the fact that the sickly odours of the
vault and the graveyard filled up the building where, on Sunday, men and
women and children came to worship and pray.  Yet London got more country
air than it does now.  The Thames was not a sewer, and it was all open
fields from Camden Town to Hampstead Heath, and at the back of the
Holloway Road, and such-like places.  There was country everywhere.  As a
whole, the London of to-day is a far statelier city than the London of my
earlier years.  Everything was mean and dirty.  I miss the twopenny
postman, to whom I had always to entrust a lot of letters—when I came up
from my village home—as thus the writers save a good sum of money on
every letter.  There were few omnibuses, and they were dear.  Old hackney
coaches abounded, and the cabs were few and far between, and very dirty
as well, all of which have immensely improved of late.  The cab in which
I rode when I was set down by the coach at the White Horse, Fetter Lane,
then a much-frequented hotel of the highest respectability, was an awful
affair, hooded and on two high wheels, while the driver was perched on a
seat just outside.  I was astonished—as well I might be—when I got to
that journey’s end in safety.

In London and the environs everything was dull and common-place, with the
exception of Regent Street, where it was tacitly assumed the force of
grandeur could no further go.  There was no Thames Embankment, and only a
collection of wharves and coal agencies, and tumble-down sheds, at all
times—especially when the tide was out—hideous to contemplate.  The old
Houses of Parliament had been burnt down, and no costly palace had been
erected on their site.  The Law Courts in Westminster Hall were crowded
and inconvenient.  Where now Queen Victoria Street rears its stately head
were narrow streets and mean buildings.  Eating-houses were close and
stuffy, and so were the inns, which now we call by the more dignified
name of hotels.

As to the poor sixty years ago, society was indifferent alike as to the
state of their souls or bodies.  In Ratcliff Highway the sailor was
robbed right and left.  The common lodging-house was a den of thieves.
The poor shirt-maker and needlewoman lived on starvation wages.  Sanitary
arrangements were unknown.  There was no decency of any kind; the
streets, or rather lanes, where the children played, with their open
sewers, were nurseries of disease.  Even in Bethnal Green, the Sanitary
Commission found that while the mean age of death among the well-to-do
residents was forty-four, that of the working-classes was twenty-two; and
yet Bethnal Green with its open spaces was a garden of Eden compared with
the lodging-houses in some of the streets off Drury Lane.  Perhaps the
most unfortunate classes in the London of that time were the poor
chimney-sweeps—little children from four to eight years of age, the
majority of them orphans, the rest bartered or sold by brutal parents.
In order to do their work they had to move up and down by pressing every
joint in their bodies against the hard and often broken surface of the
chimneys; and to prevent their hands and knees from streaming with blood,
the children were rubbed with brine before a fire to harden their flesh.
They were liable to a frightful disorder—the chimneysweeper’s cancer,
involving one of the most terrible forms of physical suffering.  They
began the day’s work at four, three, and even two in the morning; they
were half suffocated by the hot sulphurous air in the flues; often they
would stick in the chimneys and faint; and then if the usual remedy—straw
lighted to bring them round—failed, they were often half killed, and
sometimes killed outright, by the very means used to extricate them.
They lived in low, ill-drained, ill-ventilated, and noxious rooms and
cellars, and often slept upon the soot heaps.  They remained unwashed for
weeks, and on Sundays they were generally shut up together so that their
neighbours might not see their miserable condition.  Perhaps the worst
part of London when I knew it was Field Lane, at the bottom of Holborn
Hill, now happily improved off the face of the earth.  It was known as
“Jack Ketch’s Warren,” from the fact that the greater part of the persons
hanged at Newgate came from the lanes and alleys in the vicinity.  The
disturbances that occurred in these low quarters were often so great that
from forty to fifty constables armed with cutlasses were marched down, it
being often impossible for officers to act in fewer numbers or disarmed.
Some of the houses close beside the Fleet Ditch were fitted with dark
closets, trapdoors, sliding panels, and other means of escape, while
extensive basements served for the purpose of concealing goods; and in
others there were furnaces used by coiners and stills for the production
of excisable spirits.  It was here that in 1843 the Ragged School
movement in London commenced its wonderful and praiseworthy career.

Naturally in this connection I must speak of the Earl of Shaftesbury, the
great philanthropist of the Victorian era, a nobleman whose long and
honourable life was spent in the service of man and the fear of God.  He
was somewhat narrow-minded, an Evangelical Churchman of a now almost
extinct type, not beloved by Cobden and the Free Traders, occasionally
very vehement in his utterances, a man who, if he had stuck to the party
game of politics, would have taken a high place in the management of
public affairs.  I knew him well, and he was always friendly to me.  In
his prime he must have been a remarkably handsome man, tall, pale, with
dark hair and a commanding presence.  Perhaps he took life a little too
seriously.  To shake hands with him, said his brother, was a solemn
function.  But his earnestness might well make him sad, as he saw and
felt the seriousness of the great work to which he had devoted his life.
He had no great party to back him up.  The Dissenters regarded him with
suspicion, for he doubted their orthodoxy, and in his way he was a
Churchman to the core.  He was too much a Tory for the Whigs, and too
Radical a philanthropist for the old-fashioned Tory fossils then
abounding in the land.  On one occasion Lord Melbourne, when dining with
the Queen in his company, introduced him to royalty as the greatest
Jacobin in her dominions.  In Exeter Hall he reigned supreme, and though
dead he still lives as his works survive.  He was the friend of all the
weak, the poor, the desolate who needed help.  He did much to arouse the
aristocracy to the discharge of their duties as well as the maintenance
of their rights.  All the world is the better for his life.  It was a
miracle to me how his son, the eighth Earl, came to commit suicide, as he
always seemed to me the cheerfullest of men, of the rollicking sailor
type.  I often met him on board the steamer which took us all down the
river to the _Chichester_ and _Arethusa_, founded by the late Mr. William
Williams in 1843—a good man for whom Earl Shaftesbury had the most ardent
esteem—as refuges for homeless and destitute children to train up for a
naval career.

London poverty and London vice flourished unchecked till long after Queen
Victoria had commenced her reign.  When I first knew London the streets
after dark were fearful, and a terrible snare to all, especially the
young and idle and well-to-do.  The public-houses were kept open till a
late hour.  There were coffee-houses that were never closed; music-halls,
where the songs, such as described in Thackeray’s “Cave of Harmony,” were
of a most degrading character; Judge and Jury Clubs, where the low wit
and obscenity of the actors were fearful; saloons for the pickpocket, the
swell mobsman, and the man about town, and women who shone in evening
dress, and were alike fair and frail.  It is only within the last twenty
years that the Middlesex magistrates refused Mr. Bignell a licence for
the Argyle Rooms; that was not until Mr. Bignell had found it worth while
to invest £80,000 in the place.  Year after year noble lords and
Middlesex magistrates had visited the place and licensed it.  Indeed, it
had become one of the institutions of the metropolis, one of the places
where Bob Logic and Corinthian Tom—such men still existed, though they
went by other names—were safe to be found of an evening.  The theatre was
too staid and respectable for them, though dashing Cyprians, as they were
termed, were sure to be found at the refreshment saloon.  When the Argyle
was shut up, it was said a great public scandal was removed.  Perhaps so;
but the real scandal was that such a place was ever needed in the capital
of a land which handsomely paid clergymen and deans and bishops and
archbishops to exterminate the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the
eye, and the pride of life, which found their full development in such
places as the Argyle Rooms.  It was a scandal and a shame that men who
had been born in English homes, and nursed by English mothers, and
confirmed by English bishops, and had been trained in English public
schools and Universities, and worshipped in English churches and
cathedrals, should have helped to make the Argyle Rooms a successful
public institution.  Mr. Bignell created no public vices; he merely
pandered to what was in existence.  It was the men of wealth and fashion
who made the place what it was.  It was not an improving spectacle in an
age that sacrificed everything to worldly show, and had come to regard
the brougham as the one thing needful—the outward sign of respectability
and grace—to see equipages of this kind, filled with fashionably dressed
women, most of them

    Born in a garret, in a kitchen bred—

driving up nightly to the Argyle, or the Holborn, or the Piccadilly, or
Bob Croft’s in the Haymarket, with their gallants or protectors or
friends, or whatever they might term themselves, amidst a dense crowd of
lookers-on, rich or poor, male or female, old or young, drunk or sober.
In no other capital in Europe was such a sight to be seen.  It was often
there that a young and giddy girl, with good looks and a good
constitution, and above all things set on fine dresses and gay society,
and weary of her lowly home and of the drudgery of daily life, learned
what she could gain if she could make up her mind to give her virtue;
many of them, indeed, owing to the disgusting and indecent overcrowding
in rustic cottages and great cities having but little virtue to part
with.  Then assailed her the companionship of men of birth and breeding
and wealth, and the gaiety and splendour of successful vice.  I knew of
two Essex girls, born to service, who came to town and led a vicious
life, and one became the wife of the son of a Marquis, and the other
married a respectable country solicitor; the portrait of the lady I have
often seen amongst the photographs displayed in Regent Street.  The
pleasures of sin, says the preacher, are only for a season, but a similar
remark, I fancy, applies to most of the enjoyments of life.  It is true
that in the outside crowd there were in rags and tatters, in degradation
and filth, shivering in the cold, wan and pale with want, hideous with
intemperance, homeless and destitute, and prematurely old, withered hags,
whom the policemen ordered to move on—forlorn hags, who were once
_habitués_ of the Argyle and the darlings of England’s gilded youth—the
bane and the antidote side by side, as it were.  But when did giddy youth
ever realise that riches take to themselves wings and fly away, that
beauty vanishes as a dream, that joy and laughter often end in despair
and tears?  The amusements of London were not much better when the
music-hall—which has greatly improved of late—came to be the rage.  One
has no right to expect anything intellectual in the way of amusements.
People require them, and naturally, as a relief from hard work, a change
after the wearying and wearisome drudgery of the day.  A little amusement
is a necessity of our common humanity, whether rich or poor, saintly or
the reverse.  And, of course, in the matter of amusements, we must allow
people a considerable latitude according to temperament and age, and
their surroundings and education, or the want of it; and it is an
undoubted fact that the outdoor sports and pastimes, in which ladies take
part as well as men, have done much to improve the physical stamina and
the moral condition of young men.  Scarcely anything of the kind existed
when I first knew London, and the amusements of the people chiefly
consisted in drinking or going to see a man hanged.  At one time there
were many debating halls, where, over beer and baccy, orators, great in
their own estimation, settled the affairs of the nation, at any rate, let
us hope, according to their own estimation, in a very satisfactory
manner.  In Fleet Street there was the Temple Forum, and at the end, just
out of it, was the Codgers’ Hall, both famous for debates, which have
long ceased to exist.  A glance at the modern music-hall will show us
whether we have much improved of late.  It is more showy, more
attractive, more stylish in appearance than its predecessors, but in one
respect it is unchanged.  Primarily it is a place in which men and women
are expected to drink.  The music is an afterthought, and when given, is
done with the view to keep the people longer in their places, and to make
them drink more.  “Don’t you think,” said the manager of one of the
theatres most warmly patronised by the working classes, to a clerical
friend of mine—“don’t you think that I am doing good in keeping these
people out of the public-house all night?” and my friend was compelled to
yield a very reluctant consent.  When I first knew London the music-hall
was an unmitigated evil.  It was there the greenhorn from the country
took his first steps in the road to ruin.


I drifted into literature when I was a boy.  I always felt that I would
like to be an author, and, arrived at man’s estate, it seemed to me
easier to reach the public mind by the press than by the pulpit.  I could
not exactly come down to the level of the pulpit probationer.  I found no
sympathetic deacons, and I heard church members talk a good deal of
nonsense for which I had no hearty respect.  Perhaps what is called the
root of the matter was in me conspicuous by its absence.  I preached, but
I got no call, nor did I care for one, as I felt increasingly the
difference between the pulpit and the pew.  Now I might use language in
one sense, which would be—and I found really was—understood in quite an
opposite sense in the pew.  My revered parent had set his heart on seeing
me a faithful minister of Jesus Christ; and none can tell what, under
such circumstances, was the hardness of my lot, but gradually the
struggle ceased, and I became a literary man—when literary men abode
chiefly in Bohemia, and grew to fancy themselves men of genius in the low
companionship of the barroom.  Fielding got to a phase of life when he
found he had either to write or get a living by driving a hackney coach.
A somewhat similar experience was mine.

It is now about sixty years since I took to writing.  I began with no
thought of money or fame—it is quite as well that I did not, I am
inclined to think—but a new era was opening on the world, a new divine
breath was ruffling the stagnant surface of society, and I thought I had
something to say in the war—the eternal war of right with wrong, of light
with darkness, of God and the devil.  I started a periodical.  In the
prospectus I stated that I had started it with a view to wage war with
State Church pretensions and class legislation.  I sent some copies of it
to Thomas Carlyle—then rising into prominence as the great teacher of his
age.  He sent me a short note back to the effect that he had received and
read what I had written, and that he saw much to give his cordial consent
to, and ended by bidding me go on and prosper.  Then I sent Douglas
Jerrold a paper for his _Shilling Magazine_, which he accepted, but never
published it, as I wanted it for a magazine which came out under my own
editorship.  One of my earliest patrons was Dr. Thomas Price, the editor
of the _Eclectic_, who had formerly been a Baptist minister, but who
became secretary of an insurance society, and one of a founders of the
Anti-State Church Association, a society with which I was in full accord,
and which, as I heard Edward Miall himself declare, owed not a little to
my literary zeal.  We had a fine time of it when that society was
started.  We were at Leicester, where I stayed with a dear old college
friend, the Rev. Joseph Smedmore, and fast and furious was the fun as we
met at the Rev. James Mursell’s, the popular pastor of the Baptist
Chapel, and father of a still more popular son.  Good company, good
tobacco, good wine, aided in the good work.  Amongst the company would be
Stovel, an honoured Baptist minister Whitechapel way, at one time a
fighter, and a hard hitter to the end of his lengthy life; John Burnett
of Camberwell, always dry in the pulpit, but all-victorious on the public
platform, by reason of his Scotch humour and enormous common-sense;
Mursell in the Midlands was a host in himself; and Edward Miall, whose
earnestness in the cause led him to give up the Leicester pulpit to found
the London _Nonconformist_.  John Childs, the well-known Bungay printer,
assisted, an able speaker himself, in spite of the dogmatism of his face
and manner.  When the society became rich and respectable, and changed
its name, I left it.  I have little faith in societies when they become
respectable.  When on one occasion I put up for an M.P., I was amused by
the emissary of the society sending to me for a subscription on the plea
that all the Liberal candidates had given donations!  “Do you think,”
said I, “that I am going to bid for your support by a paltry £5 note?
Not, I, indeed!  It is a pity M.P.’s are not made of sterner staff.”  One
of my intimate friends at one time was the late Peter Taylor, M.P. for
Leicester.  He was as liberal as he was wealthy, yet he never spent a
farthing in demoralising his Leicester constituents by charity, or, in
other words, bribery and corruption.  The dirty work a rich man has to do
to get into Parliament—especially if he would represent an intelligent
and high-toned democracy—is beyond belief.

The ups and downs of a literary career are many.  Without writing a good
hand it is now impossible to succeed.  It was not so when I first took to
literature; but nowadays, when the market is overstocked with starving
genius in the shape of heaven-born writers, I find that editors,
compositors, readers, and all connected with printing, set their faces
rigidly against defective penmanship.  I look upon it that now the real
literary gent, as _The Saturday Review_ loved to call him, has ceased to
exist altogether; there is no chance for him.  Our editors have to look
out for articles written by lords and ladies, and men and women who have
achieved some passing notoriety.  They often write awful stuff, but then
the public buys.  A man who masters shorthand may get a living in
connection with the Press, and he may rise to be editor and
leader-writer; but the pure literary gent, the speculative contributor to
periodical literature, is out of the running.  If he is an honourable, if
he is a lord or M.P., or an adventurer, creditable or the reverse, he has
a chance, but not otherwise.  A special correspondent may enjoy a happy
career, and as most of my work has been done in that way, I may speak
with authority.  As to getting a living as a London correspondent that is
quite out of the question.  I knew many men who did fairly well as London
correspondents; nowadays the great Press agencies keep a staff to
manufacture London letters on the cheap, and the really able original has
gone clean out of existence.  Two or three Press agencies manage almost
all the London correspondence of the Press.  It is an enormous power;
whether they use it aright, who can say?

I had, after I left college, written reviews and articles.  But in 1850
Mr. John Cassell engaged me as sub-editor of the _Standard of Freedom_,
established to promote the sale of his coffees, or rather, in consequence
of the sale of them—to advocate Free Trade and the voluntary principle,
and temperance in particular, and philanthropy in general.  In time I
became chief editor, but somehow or other the paper was not a success,
though amongst the leader writers were William Howitt and Robertson, who
had been a writer on the _Westminster Review_.  It was there also I saw a
good deal of Richard Cobden, a man as genial as he was unrivalled as a
persuasive orator, who had a wonderful facility of disarming prejudice,
and turning opponents into friends.  I fancy he had a great deal of
sympathy with Mr. John Cassell, who was really a very remarkable man.
John Cassell may be described as having sprung from the dregs of the
people.  He had but twopence-halfpenny in his pocket when he came to
town; he had been a carpenter’s lad; education he had none.  He was tall
and ungainly in appearance, with a big head, covered with short black
hair, very small dark eyes, and sallow face, and full of ideas—to which
he was generally quite unable to give utterance.  I was always amused
when he called me into his sanctum.  “Mr. Ritchie,” he would say, “I want
you to write a good article on so-and-so.  You must say,” and here he
would wave his big hand, “and here you must,” and then another wave of
his hand, and thus he would go on waving his hand, moving his lips, which
uttered no audible sound, and thus the interview would terminate, I
having gained no idea from my proprietor, except that he wanted a certain
subject discussed.  At times he had a terrible temper, a temper which
made all his friends thankful that he was a strict teetotaler.  But his
main idea was a grand one—to elevate morally and socially and
intellectually the people of whose cause he was ever an ardent champion
and true friend.  He died, alas too soon, but not till he saw the firm of
Cassell, Petter, and Galpin one of the leading publishing firms of the
day.  _The Standard of Freedom_ was incorporated with _The Weekly News
and Chronicle_, of which the working editor was Mr. John Robinson—now Sir
John Robinson, of _The Daily News_—who was at the same time working
editor of _The Inquirer_.  I wrote for _The Weekly News_—Parliamentary
Sketches—and for that purpose had a ticket for the gallery of the House
of Commons, where, however, I much preferred to listen to the brilliant
talk of Angus Reach and Shirley Brooks, as they sat waiting on the back
bench to take their turns, to the oratory of the M.P.’s below.  Let me
not, however, forget my obligations to Sir John Robinson.  It was to him
that I owed an introduction to _The Daily News_, and to his kindness and
liberality, of which many a literary man in London can testify, I owe
much.  Let me also mention that again I became connected with Mr. John
Cassell when—in connection with Petter and Galpin—the firm had moved to
Playhouse Yard, next door to _The Times_ printing office, and thence to
the present magnificent premises on Ludgate Hill.  At that time it became
the fashion—a fashion which has been developed greatly of late years—to
print for country papers a sheet of news, or more if they required it,
which then was filled with local intelligence, and became a local paper.
It was my duty to attend to the London paper, of which we printed fresh
editions every day.  In that position I remained till I was rash enough
to become a newspaper proprietor myself.  Mr. John Tallis, who had made a
handsome fortune by publishing part numbers of standard works, was
anxious to become proprietor of _The Illustrated London News_.  For this
purpose he desired to make an agreement with Mr. Ingram, M.P., the
proprietor of the paper in question, but it came to nothing, and Mr.
Tallis commenced _The Illustrated News of the World_.  When he had lost
all his money, and was compelled to give it up, in an evil hour I was
tempted to carry it on.  It came to an end after a hard struggle of a
couple of years, leaving me a sadder and a wiser and a poorer man.  Once,
and once only, I had a bright gleam of sunshine, and that was when Prince
Albert died, of whom and of the Queen I published fine full-length
portraits.  The circulation of the paper went up by leaps and bounds; it
was impossible to print off the steel plates fast enough to keep pace
with the public demand, but that was soon over, and the paper sank
accordingly.  Next in popularity to the portraits of Royalty I found were
the portraits of John Bright, Cobden, Spurgeon, and Newman Hall.  For
generals, and actors and actresses, even for such men as Gladstone, or
Disraeli, or Charles Kingsley, the public at the time did not seem
greatly to care.  But that was an episode in my career on which I do not
care to dwell.  I only refer to it as an illustration of the fact that a
journalist should always stick to his pen, and leave business to business
men.  Sir Walter Scott tried to combine the two, and with what result all
the world knows.  In my small way I tried to do the same, and with an
equally disastrous result.  Happily, I returned to my more legitimate
calling, which if it has not led me to fame and fortune, has, at any
rate, enabled me to gain a fair share of bread and cheese, though I have
always felt that another sovereign in any pocket would, like the Pickwick
pen, have been a great blessing.  Alas! now I begin to despair of that
extra sovereign, and fall back for consolation on the beautiful truth,
which I learned in my copy-book as a boy, that virtue is its own reward.
When I hear people declaim on the benefits the world owes to the Press,
and say it is a debt they can never repay, I always reply, “You are
right, you can never repay the debt, but I should be happy to take a
small sum on account.”  But it is a great blessing to think and say what
you like, and that is a blessing enjoyed by the literary man alone.  The
parson in the pulpit has to think of the pew, and if a Dissenter, of his
deacons.  The medical man must not shock the prejudices of his patients
if he would secure a living.  The lawyer must often speak against his
convictions.  An M.P. dares not utter what would offend his constituents
if he would secure his re-election.  The pressman alone is free, and when
I knew him, led a happy life, as he wrote in some old tavern, (Peele’s
coffee-house in Fleet Street was a great place for him in my day), or
anywhere else where a drink and a smoke and a chat were to be had, and
managed to evolve his “copy” amidst laughter and cheers and the fumes of
tobacco.  His clothes were shabby, his hat was the worse for wear; his
boots had lost somewhat of their original symmetry, his hands and linen
were—but perhaps the less one says about them the better.  He had often
little in his pocket besides the last half-crown he had borrowed of a
friend, or that had been advanced by his “uncle,” but he was happy in his
work, in his companions, in his dreams, in his nightly symposium
protracted into the small hours, in his contempt of worldly men and
worldly ways, in his rude defiance of Mrs. Grundy.  He was, in reality, a
grander man than his cultured brother of to-day, who affects to be a
gentleman, and is not unfrequently merely a word-grinding machine, who
has been carefully trained to write, whereas the only true writer, like
the poet, is born, not made.  We have now an Institute to improve what
they call the social status of the pressman.  We did not want it when I
began my journalistic career.  It was enough for me to hear the chimes at
midnight, and to finish off with a good supper at some Fleet Street
tavern, for as jolly old Walter Mapes sang—

    Every one by nature hath a mould that he was cast in;
    I happen to be one of those who never could write fasting.

Let me return to the story of my betters, with whom business relations
brought me into contact.  One was Dr. Charles Mackay, whose poetry at one
time was far more popular than now.  All the world rejoiced over his
“Good time coming, boys,” for which all the world has agreed to wait,
though yearly with less prospect of its realisation, “a little longer.”
He was the editor of _The Illustrated News_ till he and the proprietor
differed about Louis Napoleon, whom Mackay held to be an impostor and
destined to a speedy fall.  With Mr. Mackay was associated dear old John
Timbs, every one’s friend, the kindliest of gossips, and the most
industrious of book-makers.  Then there was James Grant, of _The Morning
Advertiser_, always ready to put into print the most monstrous _canard_,
and to fight in the ungenial columns of the licensed victualler’s organ
to the bitter end for the faith once delivered to the saints.  And then
there was marvellous George Cruikshank, the prince of story-tellers as
well as of caricaturists to his dying day.  It is curious to note how
great was the popularity of men whom I knew—such as George Thompson, the
M.P. for the Tower Hamlets and the founder of _The Empire_ newspaper—and
how fleeting that popularity was!  Truly the earth has bubbles as the
water hath!  Equally unexpected has been the rise of others.  Sir Edward
Russell, of _The Liverpool Daily Post_, when I first knew him was a
banker’s clerk in the City, which situation he gave up, against my
advice, to become the editor of _The Islington Gazette_.  Mr. Passmore
Edwards, of _The Echo_, at one time M.P. for Salisbury, and one of the
wisest and most beneficent of philanthropists, when I first knew him was
a struggling publisher in Horse Shoe Court, Ludgate Hill; Mr. Edward
Miall, M.P. for Bradford, the founder of _The Nonconformist_ newspaper
and of the Anti-State Church Association, as the Society for the
Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control loved to describe
itself—(good heavens, what a mouthful!)—was an Independent minister at
Leicester.  How many whom I knew as pressmen are gone!  Of one of them I
would fain recall the memory, and that is Mr. James Clarke, of _The
Christian World_, with whom it was my privilege to be associated many a
long year.  In all my experience of editors I never knew a more
honourable, upright man, or one of greater clearness of head and
kindliness of heart.  He died prematurely, but not till he had
revolutionised the whole tone of our popular theology.  It was an honour
to be connected with such a man.  He commenced life as a reporter, and
lived to be a wealthy man by the paper he conducted with such skill.  And
what a friend he was to the struggling literary man or reporter!  I lay
emphasis on this, because my reviewers sometimes tell me I am cynical.  I
ask, How can a man be otherwise who has been behind the scenes, as I have
been, for nearly fifty years?

One meets with curious characters among the gentlemen of the Press.  I
recall the memory of one who was often to be seen in Fleet Street at the
time I was in Mr. Cassell’s employ.  He was fair-haired, short and stout
in figure, very good-natured, with an amount of cheek only equalled by
his ignorance.  Originally, I think he had been a printer, till his
ambition soon led him to fly at higher game, and under a military
_nom-de-plume_ he compiled several handbooks of popular games—games of
which, by the bye, he knew as little as a Hottentot—and, I believe, came
to be the sporting correspondent of a London paper—a position he held at
the time of his death.  For statements that were rather unreliable he had
a capacity which almost bordered on the sublime.  On one occasion he
walked up Ludgate Hill with an acquaintance of my own, and nodded
familiarly to certain individuals.  That was Dickens, he said to my
friend, after one of these friendly encounters.  Of another he explained,
that was Thackeray, and so on.  Unfortunately, however, my friend knew
that the individual thus pointed was engaged as a bookseller’s assistant
in the Row.  Once when I happened to meet him he was rather seedy, which
he accounted for to me by the remark that he had been dining with a
lord—a statement about as true as the generality of his remarks.  He was
very good-natured—it was impossible to offend him—and wrote touching
poems in cheap journals about this “fog-dotted earth,” which never did
anybody any harm so far as I was aware of.  He was one of the numerous
tribe who impose on publishers by their swagger till they are found out.
Another of the same class was a gentleman of a higher station and with
scholarly pretensions.  On one occasion he served me rather a scurvy
trick.  I had published a volume of sketches of British statesmen.  One
of the characters, a very distinguished politician, died soon after.  My
gentleman at that time was engaged to write biographical sketches of such
exalted personages when they died, and accordingly he wrote an article
which appeared the next day in one of the morning papers.  On reading it,
I found it was almost word for word the sketch which I had written in my
own book, without the slightest acknowledgment.  On my remonstrating, he
complained that the absence of acknowledgment was quite accidental.
Owing to the hurry in which he wrote, he had quite forgotten to mention
my name, and if I would say nothing about it, he would do me a good
service at the first opportunity.  My friend failed to do so.  Indeed, I
may say that as a literary man his career was somewhat of a failure,
though he managed for a time to secure appointments on good newspapers,
and became connected with more than one or two distinguished firms of
publishers.  He was known to many, yet I never heard any one say a good
word on his behalf.

I always avoided literary society.  Perhaps in that respect I did wrong
as regards my own interest, for I find the pressmen who belong to clubs
are always ready to give each other a helping hand in the way of
good-natured reference, and hence so much of that mutual admiration which
forms so marked a feature in the literary gossip of our day, and which is
of such little interest to the general reader.  When I read such stuff I
am reminded of the chambermaid who said to a lady acquaintance, “I hear
it is all over London already that I am going to leave my lady,” and of
the footman who, being newly married, desired his comrade to tell him
freely what the town thought of it.  It is seldom that literary men shine
in conversation, and that was one reason I cared little to belong to any
of the literary clubs which existed, and I dare say exist now.  Dean
Swift seems to have been of a similar opinion.  He tells us the worst
conversation he ever remembered to have heard in his life was that at
Wells’ Coffee House, where the wits, as they were termed, used formerly
to assemble.  They talked of their plays or prologues or Miscellanies, he
tells us, as if they had been the noblest effort of human nature, and, as
if the fate of kingdoms depended on them.  When Greek meets Greek there
comes, we are told, the tug of war.  When literary men meet, as a rule,
the very reverse is the case.  I belonged to the Whittington Club—now,
alas! extinct—for it was the best institution of the kind ever started in
London, of which Douglas Jerrold was president, and where young men found
a home with better society than they could get elsewhere, and where we
had debates, in which many, who have since risen to fame and fortune,
learned how to speak—perhaps a questionable benefit in those days of
perpetual talk.  One of our prominent members was Sir J. W. Russell, who
still, I am happy to say, flourishes as the popular editor of _The
Liverpool Daily Post_.

As a writer, unpleasant experiences have been few.  I have had letters
from angry correspondents, but not more than two or three of them.  One
of the most amusing was from a clergyman now deceased—a very great man in
his own opinion—a controversialist whom none could withstand.  Once upon
a time he had a controversy with the late Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, a man of
whom I knew a little, and for whose honesty I had a high regard.  I was
present at the discussion, and in my account of it intimated that, in my
humble opinion, the clergyman was hardly the man to grapple with Mr.
Bradlaugh.  I had a letter from the clergyman thanking me in the name of
all the devils in hell—of whom he informed me I should shortly be one—for
the article I had written.  On another occasion a distinguished
Congregational minister attacked me bitterly in a journal that soon came
to grief, which was intended to supersede the newspaper with which it is
my pride to have been connected more than thirty-five years.  I commenced
an action against him for libel; the reverend divine paid damages into
court, and I dropped the action.  I had no wish to harm the worthy
divine, for such undoubtedly he was, by getting him branded as a
convicted libeller.  I only wanted to teach him that while in the pulpit
a man was free to say what he liked, it was quite a different thing to
rush hastily and angrily into print.  One letter amused me rather.  My
usual signature was “Christopher Crayon.”  Once, as I had a paper under
that signature, I had written another with a different signature, which
appeared in the same issue, and immediately a correspondent wrote to
complain that the latter article was but a poor imitation of “Christopher
Crayon.”  Once a reviewer on a leading London morning newspaper referred
to me as a young lady.  I refer to that soft impeachment simply as an
illustration of the carelessness with which London reviewers often write.
I can quite understand such blunders.  A reviewer has so many books to
look at, and such little time allowed him for the right discharge of his
duty, that it is no wonder he often errs.

I have written several books.  Perhaps here I ought to refer to Mr.
Burton, of Ipswich, who was the first to anticipate the growing demand
for good and cheap literature by the publication of the “Run and Read
Library,” which deserved a better sale than it really secured.  He
published my first book—a reprint of sketches of leading ministers of all
denominations, which had appeared in a London weekly paper, and paid me
for it in the most liberal manner.  I fear Mr. Burton was a little in
advance of his age.  At any rate, he soon disappeared from Ipswich and
the publishing trade.  Surely such a spirited town as Ipswich might have
better supported such a thoroughly deserving man.  Possibly my
experiences may be useful.  One thing is clear, that a review may one day
praise you highly, and another day as strongly condemn.  How is this?—a
matter of personal prejudice say the public.  I don’t believe it.
Personal prejudice is not so common in reviews as the ignorant public
thinks.  Accident has a great deal to do with it.  A newspaper proprietor
once told me he had two reviewers, one of whom always cut up all the
books sent for review, while the other praised them, and it depended upon
the chance into whose hands your book might fall, whether you were
praised or censured.  Again, it is much easier to find fault than to
praise.  A youthful reviewer is specially gratified when he can “slate”
an author, and besides how it flatters his own self-esteem!  It is true
the reviewer in doing so often blunders, but no one finds it out.  For
instance, many years ago no man was better known in certain circles than
Mr. John Morley, the brother, the philanthropic brother of that great
philanthropist, Mr. Samuel Morley.  I had written in a book on City life
that a certain portion of the Gospels had been given away by Mr. John
Morley on a certain occasion.  Our great Mr. John Morley was then only
known to a select few.  The general public would perfectly understand who
was the Mr. John Morley to whom I referred.  The reviewer who deprecated
my book, briefly, as somewhat gloomy—it had not become the fashion then
to expose the sores of City life—sneeringly observed that it would be
interesting if I would state what were the portions of the Gospels given
away by Mr. John Morley, evidently ignorant that there could be any John
Morley besides the one he knew.  I do not for a moment suppose that the
reviewer had any personal pique towards myself.  His blunder was simply
one of ignorance.  In another case it seemed to me that the reviewer of a
critical journal which had no circulation had simply made his review a
ground of attack against a weekly paper of far greater circulation and
authority than his own.  I had published a little sketch of travel in
Canada.  The review of it was long and wearisome.  I could not understand
it till I read in the closing sentence that there was no reason why the
book should have been reprinted from the obscure journal in which it
originally appeared—that obscure journal at the time being, as it is to
this day, one of the most successful of all our weeklies.  In his case
the _motif_ of the ill-natured criticism was very obvious.

In some cases one can only impute a review of an unfavourable character
to what the Americans call “pure cussedness.”  For instance, I had
written a book called “British Senators,” of which _The Pall Mall
Gazette_ had spoken in the highest terms.  It fell into the hands of the
_Saturday_ reviewer when _The Saturday Review_ was in its palmy days,
always piquant and never dull.  It was a fine opportunity for the
reviewer, and he wielded his tomahawk with all the vigour of the Red
Indian.  I was an unknown man with no friends.  It was a grand
opportunity, though he was kind enough to admit that I was a literary
gent of the Sala and Edmund Yates type (it was the time when George
Augustus Sala was at the bottom—the _Saturday_ took to praising him when
he had won his position), a favourable specimen if I remember aright.  So
far so good, but the aim of the superfine reviewer was of course to make
“the literary gent” look like a fool.  As an illustration of the way in
which we all contract our ideas from living in a little world of our own,
I said that I had heard the late Mr. Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham, say at
a peace meeting at Edinburgh that there were more tears shed on the
occasion of the death of Mr. Bradshaw of the Railway Guide than when the
Duke of Wellington died.  The _Saturday_ reviewer exultingly wrote “Here
is a blunder of Ritchie’s; what Mr. Sturge said, and what Ritchie should
have said, was that there were more tears shed when Mr. Braidwood of the
Fire Brigade died, than when the Duke of Wellington died.”  No doubt many
a reader of the _Saturday_ chuckled over the blunder of “the literary
gent” thus held up to derision.  But unfortunately for the _Saturday_
reviewer, Mr. Sturge died before Mr. Braidwood, and thus it was
impossible that he could have referred to the tears shed on the occasion
of the death of the latter.  The laugh really ought to have been the
other way.  But the mischief was done, “the literary gent” snubbed, and
that was all the _Saturday_ superfine reviewer cared about.


In 1849 I lived at Cardiff.  I had come there to edit _The Principality_,
a paper started, I believe, by Mr. David Evans, a good sort of man, who
had made a little money, which, I fear, he lost in his paper speculation.
His aim was to make the paper the mouthpiece for Welsh Nonconformity.  I
must own, as I saw how Cardiff was growing to be a big place, my aim was
to make the paper a good local organ.  But the Cardiff of that time was
too Conservative and Churchified for such a paper to pay, and as Mr. John
Cassell offered me a berth on his paper, _The Standard of Freedom_, my
connection with Cardiff came to an end.  I confess I left it with regret,
as I had some warm friends in the town, and there was a charming little
blue-eyed maid—I wonder if she is alive now—the daughter of an alderman
and ex-mayor, with whom I had fallen desperately in love for a time.

At that time Cardiff had a population of some 14,000.  Lord Bute had
built his docks, not by any means as extensive as they are now, and it
was beginning to do an extensive trade in coal brought down by the Taff
Vale Railway.  There was no rail to Cardiff then.  To get to it from
London I had to take the rail to Bristol, spend the night there, and go
to Cardiff by the steamer which plied daily, according to the state of
the tide, between that port and Bristol, at that time the commercial
capital of the South Wales district.  The mails from London came by a
four-horse coach, which plied between Gloucester and Cardiff.  I felt
rather miserable when I landed at the docks and looked at the sad expanse
of ground behind me and the Bristol Channel.  A long street led up to the
town, with shabby houses on one side and a large expanse of marshy land
on the other.  I had heard so much of the romance of Wales that when I
realised where I really was my heart quite sank within me.  At the end of
St. Mary Street was a very primitive old town hall, where I gave a
lecture on “The Progress of the Nation,” the only time I ever gave a
lecture in my life.  The chairman was Mr. Vachell, father of the late Dr.
Vachell, an old resident in Cardiff, a man of considerable eminence in
the town—as he was supposed to be very wealthy—and in the Cardiff of that
day wealth was regarded as the only claim to respect; he, at the end of
my lecture, expressed an opinion favourable to my talents, but at the
same time intimating that he had no sympathy with much I had uttered.
Especially he differed from me in the estimate I had given of the “Rights
of Man,” by Tom Paine.  Once more I had an opportunity of lifting up my
voice in the Old Town Hall.  It was on the subject of Teetotalism.  My
opponent was a worthy, sturdy teetotaler known as Mr. Cory, whose sons
still flourish as the great coal merchants of our day.  Cardiff was a
town of publicans and sinners, and I am sorry to say I secured an easy
triumph; and Mr. Cory created great laughter as he said, in the course of
his oration, that if he were shut up in a cask he would cry out through
the bunghole, “Teetotalism for ever!”  He kept a place at the lower end
of the town to supply ships’ stores, and was in every way, as I
afterwards found by the friendship that existed between us, a sterling

Just opposite the Town Hall, on the other side of the way, was the
Castle, then in a very neglected condition, with a large enclosure which
was open to the public as a promenade.  The street between them contained
the best shops in the town.  It extended a little way to Crockherbtown on
one side and to the Cardiff Arms Hotel on the other, and then you were in
the country.  Beyond the Cardiff Arms was a pleasant walk leading to
Llandaff Cathedral, then almost in a state of decay; and to Penarth a
charming hill, overlooking the Bristol Channel, on the other, with a
little old-fashioned hotel; much frequented in the summer.  There was
only one good house, that built by Mr. Parry, of the firm of Parry and
Brown, ship brokers, where Mrs. Parry, a fine, handsome lady, dispensed
graceful hospitality.  Her brother, Mr. David Brown, afterwards removed
to London to a fine office in Leadenhall Street, and lived and died at a
charming retreat he built for himself in Harrow.  There I one day met
Lord Shaftesbury, who came to a drawing-room meeting held in connection
with the London City Mission, and where we were all handsomely regaled.

Perhaps at that time the most active man in Cardiff was Mr. John
Batchelor—whose statue, erected by his admirers, still adorns the place—a
sad thorn in the side of the old-fashioned people who then ruled the
town, especially the Marquis of Bute’s trustees or the men who
represented them in Cardiff.  Mr. John Batchelor was a keen critic, a
good speaker, a sturdy Nonconformist, and a man of high character and
great influence.  His death was a great loss to the town.  Just outside
the town lived Mr. Booker, the proprietor of tin-works at Velindra, a
fine well-made man, and a good speaker, who got into Parliament to
maintain Protection, in which attempt he failed.  His admirers had a full
portrait of him painted by Mr. John Deffet Francis, who afterwards lived
in Swansea.  Mr. Francis was a very versatile genius, and got up an
amateur performance in which he acted the part of a vagabond to
perfection, somewhat to the confusion of some of the ladies, who had
never witnessed such a realistic performance before.  In connection with
myself quite a storm in a teacup took place.  In St. Mary Street there
was an Athenæum, as the local reading-room was called.  It was thought by
some of my friends that I ought to be on the committee, but as I was not
qualified a motion was made to set the standing rules on one side in
order that I might be elected.  The little town was quite excited on the
occasion, and the great Mr. Booker was appealed to to use his influence
against me, which he did, but I was elected nevertheless.  In my capacity
of committee-man I did something to get up some lectures, which were a
great success.  One of the lecturers was Mr. George Dawson, with whom I
spent a pleasant day.  Another was my old and comic friend, Mr. George
Grossmith, the celebrated father of a yet more celebrated son.  Another
was Mrs. Balfour, the mother of the Balfour who, in later times, was to
do a lot of misdeeds and to attain a very disagreeable notoriety in
consequence.  On another occasion I was also enabled to do the town some
service by getting Mr. James Taylor, of Birmingham, to come and explain
his scheme for the formation of Freehold Land Societies, an idea then in
its infancy, but which has been for the social and moral elevation of the
working classes, who used to spend in drink what they now devote to a
better purpose.  There was a great deal of drinking in Cardiff.  Indeed,
it was the chief amusement of the place.  The sailors, at that time
consisting of representatives of almost every nation under heaven, were
much given to drinking, and some of the boarding-houses were by no means
of a respectable character.  There was no other form of social enjoyment
unless you belonged to the strict religious bodies who, as
Congregationalists, or Baptists, or Calvinistic Methodists, had many
chapels, which were well filled.  It was in one of these chapels Harry
Vincent came to lecture when I was at Cardiff, and electrified the town.

The Member of Parliament for the town lived a very quiet life, and seemed
to take but little interest in political affairs.  One of the most
accomplished and certainly best-educated men in the place was Mr. Chas.
Bernard, architect and surveyor; without him life would have been very
dull to me at Cardiff.  I imagine that his chief reason for pitching his
tent in what must have been to him a very ungenial clime was that his
sister was married to the late Mr. Reece, local Coroner.  It grieves me
to state that he has long since joined the majority.  Another great
friend of mine was Mr. Peter Price—now, alas! no more, who was destined,
however, to do much good before he passed away.  The Public Library,
which he did much to establish, still retains his portrait.  Another of
the excellent of the earth was Mr. W. P. James, the brother-in-law of Mr.
Peter Price, who came to Cardiff to build the new Town Hall.  They were
all gentlemen who had come from a distance to settle in Cardiff, the
character of which they did much to improve and elevate.  We all did
something to get up an Eisteddfod, which, if it did nothing else, had
this advantage, that it did something to develop the powers of a Cardiff
artist—Mr. D. Marks—who, when I saw him last, had a studio in Fitzroy
Square, London, and was engaged to paint several portraits of
distinguished personages, one of these being a fine portrait of the great
and good Earl of Shaftesbury.  It was presented to his lordship at a
great meeting held in the Guildhall, presided over by the Lord Mayor, Sir
William Macarthur, in April, in 1881.  The committee of the Ragged School
Union took the initiative to do honour to their president.

As a newspaper man in Cardiff and a comparative stranger to the town I
had a somewhat unscrupulous opponent, the editor of the local organ, _The
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian_.  He was a very unscrupulous man,
apparently all smiles and friendship, but I never could trust him.  Nor
was I surprised to learn that when he became secretary of the Cardiff
Savings Bank there was a very serious defalcation in the funds.  The man
always seemed to me utterly untrustworthy, but his civil manners
apparently won him many friends.  As editor of a Liberal newspaper I had
to fight the battle under very great disadvantages.  It was no easy thing
to run a newspaper then.  The taxes on knowledge were a great impediment.
On every paper a penny stamp had to be paid, and the advertisement duty
was eighteenpence on every advertisement.  The repeal of these taxes was
a great boon for the local papers; and then there was a tax on paper,
which was an additional obstacle.  As to telegraphs, they were unheard
of; and it was to the London dailies that we had to trust for foreign
news.  One of the most important events when I was at Cardiff was the
opening of the South Wales Railway as far as Swansea.  The first train
was driven by Mr. Brunel, the eminent engineer, accompanied by a
distinguished party of directors and local magnates.  I joined the train
at Cardiff.  At Swansea the event was celebrated in grand style.  All the
population seemed to me to have turned out to witness the arrival of the
train.  There were flags and decorations everywhere, and later on a grand
banquet, at which I was privileged to assist so far as eating and
drinking and cheering the speakers went.  And thus my reminiscences
close.  I cannot look back on my career at Cardiff with unmixed
satisfaction.  I was by no means the steady old party I have since
become.  It is not always easy to put an old head upon young shoulders,
but at any rate in my small way I did something for the advent of that
brighter and better day which has dawned not only upon Cardiff but on all
the land.

In this connection I may naturally add a few particulars of worthy
Welshmen I have known.  The Scotchman who prayed that the Lord would give
them a good conceit of themselves, had he lived among the Welsh, would
have found that portion of his prayer superfluous.  It is to the credit
of the Welsh that they always have a good conceit of themselves.  As a
rule, the world takes people at their own valuation, and the man who
assumes a superiority over his fellows—at any rate, till he is found
out—has his claim allowed.  A Welshman has a profound faith in his
country and himself, especially as regards oratory.  There are no such
preachers as those of Wales, and I was quite amused when I first lived in
Cardiff with the way in which a Welshman, who lodged in the house where I
had taken up my abode, descanted on the gifts of Welshmen in London of
whom I had never heard, and I felt quite ashamed of my ignorance as he
rolled forth one Welsh name after another, and had to admit my ignorance
of the eminent men whose names he had at his fingers’ ends.  Why, there
were no such clever men anywhere, according to his account, and yet I
knew not the name of any of them!  At the same time I had come into
contact with some Welshmen who had made their mark in London.  First on
my list is that of Caleb Morris, who preached in Fetter Lane Chapel, now
in a declining state, but at times filled with a large and very
respectable congregation.  He was much given to discuss the objective and
subjective, a novelty to me at that time in pulpit discourse.  The state
of his health latterly interfered with his pulpit success; and before he
died he had taken to preaching in a room in Mecklenburg Square, where a
large number of his admirers flocked to hear him.  He was an amiable and
thoughtful man, universally esteemed.  Another Welshman of whom I used to
know more was the Rev. Henry Richard, who was then a young man, preaching
with a great deal of fire, in the Congregational Chapel in the
Marlborough Road, on the other side of the water.  He lived to become the
popular M.P. for Merthyr, and to be known all the world over as the
advocate of Peace.  He was the secretary for many years of the Peace
Society.  He became a successful platform speaker, and his speeches were
full of a humour which always told at public meetings.  Short and sturdy
in build, he was always fit for work, and had a long and laborious public
life.  He was a Welshman to the core—always ready with his pen or tongue
to do battle for his native land when aspersed by ignorant or partisan
writers, and he did much to help on the Liberation Society, being after
all a much more popular speaker—especially in the House of Commons—than
his fellow-worker Edward Miall, and his loss to the Nonconformists all
over the land was very great.

But, after all, the Welshman with whom I was most intimate, and whom I
most admired, was Joseph Edwards, the sculptor.  He came from the
neighbourhood of Merthyr, where he had many relatives, whom he never
forgot, and whose poverty he was always ready to relieve.  He had a
studio in Robert Street, Hampstead Road, and lived in the house close by.
He had an uphill work to fight, and to lead a life of labour and
self-denial, relieved by a few intervals of sunshine, as when at a dinner
party he had the privilege of meeting Mr. Gladstone—or as when staying at
the Duke of Beaufort’s, from whom he had a commission, he had the honour
of escorting the Duchess into the drawing-room—an honour on which I never
forgot to chaff him as I used to sit in his studio watching him at work.
He must have had to work hard to make both ends meet; and when I went to
see him on his death-bed, as it proved to be, I was shocked with grief to
see a man of such rare and lofty genius have to sleep in a little room at
the very top of the house.  But commissions were rare, and the material
on which he had to work (marble) was very costly, and the sculptor works
at a great disadvantage compared with the popular portrait painter.  I
believe he derived a great part of his income by going to the studio of a
more successful artist, and giving finishing touches to what work might
be on hand, much to the astonishment of the assistants, who, when they
returned in the morning, were astonished to find what progress had been
made in the night, which they attributed to the visitation of a ghost.
Edwards was an enthusiastic poet, and many of his works in
plaster—waiting, alas! for the commission to transfer to the marble which
never came—were exquisitely beautiful, and were often engraved in _The
Art Journal_.  Both Mr. Hall, the editor, and his wife, the clever
authoress, were great admirers of Mr. Edwards’ lofty and poetical
idealisms, which sometimes soared a little above my poor prosaic
qualities.  As I listened to his rapt and ardent speech, I felt impelled
somewhat to make a few remarks to bring him down from his starry heights,
and the result ended in a hearty peal of laughter, for no man better
loved a joke.  I have a medallion of myself which he gave me after it had
been exhibited at the Royal Academy, which I cherish as the most
beautiful work of art in my possession; but he was too modest and
retiring, and never gained the public esteem to which he had an undoubted
claim.  I was present at the unveiling of his fine marble bust of Edith
Wynne, then radiant in her glory as the Welsh Nightingale, of whom I saw
enough to learn that she was as charming in private as in public life.
The place was Hanover Square Rooms.  My friend Edwards received quite an
ovation, the Sir Watkin Wynne of that day presiding; but on the whole I
fear that Edwards by his genius did more for Wales than ever Wales did
for him.  His life ought to have been written.  Young men, I am sure,
would have learned many a useful lesson.  He was a true genius, with, as
far as I could see, none of the failings which by some are supposed to be
associated with genius.  It was my painful privilege to be one of the
mourners at his funeral in Highgate Cemetery.  His works he left to the
Cymmrodorion Society, where I hope that they are guarded with tender
care.  South Wales has reason to rejoice in having had born to her such a
son.  Let me mention another Merthyr man whom I knew, who, if not such a
genius as Joseph Edwards, had at any rate as great an enthusiasm for the
literature and language of Wales.  He was a chemist and druggist, named
Stephens, and found time to write a work on Wales, which was deemed
worthy of the prize offered on the subject by some Welshman of wealth and
position, whose name has, alas, escaped my treacherous memory.  At that
time Wales had failed to attract much attention on the part of England.
It was far away and difficult to get at.  Now and then an adventurous
Englishman made his way thither, and wrote a book to show how grand was
the scenery and hospitable the people, and how cheap it was as a place of
residence.  But as a rule the average Englishman knew as little of it as
he did of Timbuctoo.  Since then Wales has learnt the art of advertising
and is better known, and that is an advantage not to be overlooked, for
it is now all the richer.  Then few English resided there, and those
chiefly from motives of economy.

Another Welshman whom I had the honour to reckon as a friend was Sir Hugh
Owen, an earnest worker in the Temperance cause, and for the social
elevation of the people and righteousness.  In his case his high position
on the Poor-Law Board was won by merit, and by merit alone, as he entered
the Department in a subordinate capacity, and gradually worked his way up
to the top of the tree, not having the advantage of aristocratic birth
and breeding.  I first met him in Claremont Chapel—a Congregational place
of worship in Pentonville—at one time one of the most flourishing
churches of that body, though I fear it has somewhat declined of late.
He was a man of kindly speech and presence, always ready to help whatever
was worthy of help, and lived in the Holloway Road, where I once spent
with him a pleasant Sunday, and was much charmed with one of his married
daughters, who happened to be there at the time.  No Temperance gathering
in general, and no Welsh gathering in particular, was complete without
Mr. Hugh Owen, as he then was called.  In all London there was no more
genial representative of gallant little Wales.  He lived to a good old
age, beloved and respected.  The last time I met him was in the
Farringdon Road, when he complained that he felt a little queer in his
head.  My reply was that he had no need to trouble himself on that
account, as I knew many people who were in the same condition who seemed
to get on very well nevertheless.

Another Welshman who yet lives—in a far-off land—was Dr. Llewellen Bevan,
the popular Congregational minister in the beautiful city of Melbourne,
where he is, as he justly deserves to be, a great power.  He commenced
his labours in London as co-pastor with Mr. Thomas Binney.  Thence he
moved to Tottenham Court Chapel, which became very prosperous under his
popular ministry.  From there he went to America, where he did not remain
long.  He now lives in a beautiful bungalow a few miles out of Melbourne,
where I once spent with him a very pleasant night, chatting of England
and old times.  A curious memory occurs to me in connection with my visit
to the reverend and popular divine at Melbourne.  On one occasion I heard
him at a public meeting in Tottenham Court Road Chapel declare, amidst
the cheers of the great audience, that he had given up smoking because
one of his people complained to him that her son had come home the worse
for liquor, which he had taken while smoking, and he thought there could
be no harm in smoking, because he had seen Mr. Bevan smoking.  “From that
hour,” said Mr. Bevan, amidst prolonged applause, “I resolved to give up
smoking,” and the deacons looked at me to see if I was not ashamed of my
indulgence in a habit which in the case alluded to had produced such
disastrous results.  I must own that the reason adduced by the reverend
gentleman was not to me convincing, for as far as my experience goes the
smoker infinitely prefers a cup of coffee with his cigar or pipe to any
amount of alcoholic liquor.  Judge, then, of my surprise when at
Melbourne, after our evening meal, Mr. Bevan proposed to me that we
should adjourn to his study and have a smoke—an invitation with which I
gladly complied.  After my recollection of the scene in the London chapel
I was glad to find the Doctor, as regards tobacco, sober and in his right
mind.  Long may he be spared after the labours of his busy life to soothe
his wearied mind with the solace of the weed!  The Doctor has a noble
presence, and seemed to me when I saw him last to be getting in face more
and more like England’s greatest orator—as regards latter days—Mr. John
Bright.  In his far-away home he seemed to me to retain his love for
Wales and the sense of the superiority of the Welshman to any one on the
face of the earth.  The Doctor is an ardent Gladstonite—and people of
that way of thinking are not quite as numerous in the Colonies as they
are at home.

Another Welshman who made his mark in London was the Rev. Dr. Thomas, a
Congregational minister at Stockwell, a fine-looking young man when I
first knew him as a minister at Chesham.  He developed the faculty of his
countrymen for lofty ideas and aims to an extent that ended in disastrous
failure.  It was he who originated the idea of _The Dial_—which was to be
a daily to advocate righteousness, and to beat down and to supplant _The
Times_.  The motto was to be “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is
a reproach to any people.”  He got a great many people to take shares,
and commenced the publication of _The Dial_ in the first place as a
weekly.  But the paper was a failure from the first.  Another idea of his
was to raise a million to build workmen’s institutes and recreation halls
all over the kingdom, but as the late Earl of Derby, when appealed to on
the subject, replied, it carried its own condemnation in the face of it.
A society, however, was started, but it never came to much.  The real
fact is that institutions established for working men, not by them, are
rarely a success.  Dr. Thomas also claimed to have started the idea of
the University for Wales, and was very angry with me when I, after some
inquiry, failed to support his claim.  His great success was the
publication of a magazine for preachers, under the title of _The
Homilist_.  The writer was a great man, not so much so, perhaps, as he
thought, and had his full share of Welsh enthusiasm and fire.  But he
made a terrible blunder over his _Dial_ scheme.  He had done better had
he kept to the pulpit.  Parsons are not always practical, and the
management of successful daily newspapers is not exactly in their line.
The shoemaker should stick to his last; but in spite of Welsh poetic
geniuses, the great fact which always strikes men in London is the
commercial successes of the Welshmen who venture to try their fortune on
the metropolitan stage.  This especially strikes me with regard to the
drapery trade.  Many of the largest establishments in that way are owned
at this present time by Welshmen—such as Jones, of Holloway; Evans, of
Oxford Street, and many more.  Few of them had capital or friends to help
them, yet few men have done better in the pleasant art of money-making—an
art rare, alas! to the class to which I have the honour to belong.


One national movement in which I took a prominent part was the formation
of freehold land societies, which commenced somewhere about 1850, and at
which _The Times_, after its manner in those days, sneered, asking
scornfully what was a freehold land society.  The apostle of the new
movement, which was to teach the British working man how to save money
and buy a bit of land on which to build a house and secure a vote, was
Mr. James Taylor, born in Birmingham in 1814.  Like all other Birmingham
boys, James was early set to work, and became an apprentice in one of the
fancy trades for which Birmingham was famed.  His industrious habits soon
acquired for him the approbation of his master, who, on retiring from
business before Taylor was of age, gave him his indentures.  About that
time Taylor, earning good wages and not having the fear of Malthus before
his eyes, got married and lived happily till, like too many of his class,
he took to drink.  After years of utter misery and degradation, Taylor,
in a happy hour for himself and society, took the temperance pledge and
became a new man.  Nor was he satisfied with his own reform alone.  He
was anxious that others should be rescued from degradation as he had
been.  For this purpose he identified himself with the Temperance cause,
and was honorary secretary to the Birmingham Temperance Society till he
became the leader and originator of the Freehold Land Movement, and then
for years his life was given to the public.  He had but one speech, but
it was a racy one, and his voice was soon lifted up in every town in the
land.  The plan pursued was to buy an estate, cut it up into allotments,
and offer them almost free of legal expense.  There never was such a
chance for the working man as an investment, and thousands availed
themselves of it—and were all the better for it—especially those who to
pay their small subscriptions became teetotalers and gave up drink.  And
yet a learned writer in _The Edinburgh Review_ had the audacity to write,
“Notwithstanding this rapid popularity, however, notwithstanding also the
high authorities which have been quoted on their behalf, we cannot look
on these associations with unmixed favour, and we shall not be surprised
if any long time elapses without well-grounded disappointment and
discontent arising among their members.  However desirable it may be for
a peasant or an artisan to be possessor of the garden which he cultivates
and of the house he dwells in, however clear and great the gain to him in
this case, it is by no means equally certain that he can derive any
pecuniary advantage from the possession of a plot of ground which is too
far from his daily work for him either to erect a dwelling on it or to
cultivate it as an allotment, and which from its diminutive size he will
find it difficult for him to let for any sufficient remuneration.  In
many cases a barren site will be his only reward for £50 of saving, and
however he may value this in times of excitement it will in three
elections out of four be of little real interest or moment to him.”
Happily the working men knew better than the _Edinburgh_ reviewer, and
the societies flourished all the more.  The Conservatives were, of
course, utterly indignant at this wholesale manufacture of faggot votes,
as they were contemptuously termed, which threatened the seats of so many
respectable Conservative county members, but in the end they thought
better of it, and actually started a Conservative Freehold Land Society
themselves, a fact announced to me in a letter from Mr. Cobden, which I
have or ought to have somewhere in my possession.  The societies
increased so greatly that a journal was started by Mr. Cassell, called
_The Freeholder_, of which I was editor, and was the means of often
bringing me into contact with Mr. Cobden, a man with whom no one ever
came in contact without feeling for him the most ardent admiration.  At
one time I saw a good deal of him, as it was my habit, at his request, to
call on him each morning at his house in Westbourne Park, to talk over
with him matters connected with the Freehold Land Movement, in which he
took, as in everything that increased human progress, the deepest
interest.  As he once remarked half the money spent in gin would give the
people the entire county representation, and besides provide them with
desirable investments against a rainy day.  Mr. James Taylor was always
cheered as he showed his hearers how a man who drank a quart of ale a day
engulfed at the same time a yard of solid earth.  Land at that time was
to be had remarkably cheap, and great profits were made by the early
investors, and the moral benefit was great.  Men learned the value of
economy and thrift, and were all the better for gaining habits of
forethought and self-denial.  In our days the societies have become
chiefly building societies, the political need of getting a vote in that
way not being of so much importance as it was then.

In the early days of the Victorian era the workman had no inducement to
save, and he spent his money foolishly because he had no opportunity of
spending it better.  The Poor-laws as they were till they were reformed
by the Whigs—a heroic reform which made them everywhere
unpopular—actually offered a premium on immorality, and the woman who had
a number of illegitimate children—the parish rewarding her according to
their number—was quite a prize in the matrimonial market.  The old
Poor-law administration became the demoralising agency to such an extent
for the manufacture of paupers that honest wage-earners were at a
discount, while numbers of the rate-paying classes found their lot so
intolerable that they elected to swell the pauper ranks, and thereby much
increased their pecuniary, if not their social, condition.  The earlier a
labourer became a married man and the father of a family the better off
he became and the more he got out of his parish.  We can scarcely credit
it, yet it is an undoubted fact that under the old Poor-law, if a
labourer was known to be thrifty or putting away his savings, he was
refused work till his money was gone and he was reduced to his proper
level.  Even the labourer usually at work received parish pay for at
least four children, and if he worked on the roads instead of the fields
he received out of the highway rates a pound a-week instead of the usual
nine shillings.  If a working man joined a benefit club it generally met
in a public-house, and a certain proportion of the funds were spent in
refreshments—rather for the benefit of the landlords than for that of the
members.  It was not till 1834 that a reformed Poor-law made the practice
of thrift possible.  In many quarters law and custom have combined to
prevent its growth among rural labourers who had been taught to live on
the rates—to extract as much permanent relief as they could out of a
nearly bankrupt body of ratepayers and to do in return as little hard
work as was possible.  The condition of things was then completely
changed.  The industrious man had a little better chance, and the idlers
were put to the rout and, much to their disgust, forced to work, or at
any rate to attempt to do so.  Even the best benefit societies remained
under a cloud and, till Parliament later on took the matter in hand,
worked under great disadvantages.  Frauds were committed; funds were made
away with, and no redress could be obtained.  Thrifty habits were
discouraged on every side.

All England is ringing with the praise of thrift.  Not Scotland, for a
Scotchman is born thrifty—just as he is said to be born not able to
understand a joke.  And as to Irishmen, it is to be questioned whether
they have such a word in their dictionary at all.  No class of mutual
thrift institution has flourished there, says the latest writer on the
subject, Rev. Francis Wilkinson; and mostly our earlier thrift societies
were started by a landlord for his own benefit, rather than for that of
the members.  Those were drinking days, says Mr. Wilkinson.  The
public-house was not only the home, but the cause of their existence; and
as an evidence of the value of benefit clubs to the publican, we find the
establishment of such advertised as one of the assets when the house is
put up for sale.  Then there was the competition of rival houses.  The
“Blue Boar” must have its “friendly” as well as the “Black Lion” over the
way; and thus the number of clubs, as well as of public-houses, increased
beyond the requirements of the village or parish, and deterioration was
the natural result; and this was the humorous way in which the past
generation acquired the habit of thrift, of which nowadays we hear so

It is very hard to be thrifty.  He who would become so has to fight
against tremendous odds.  Let me illustrate my case by my own unpleasant
experiences.  I had a friend who was a mining broker.  One day I had been
studying the late Captain Burton’s valuable work on Brazil, which seemed
to me a country of boundless resources and possibilities.  The next day
when I got into the train to go to town, there was my friend the broker.
I talked with him about Brazil in a rather enthusiastic strain.  He
agreed with everything I said.  There was no such place in the world, and
I could not do better than buy a few General Brazilian shares.  They were
low just at that time, but if I were to buy some I should be certain to
make ten shillings a share in a month, at any rate, and by a fortunate
coincidence he had a few hundreds he had bought for an investment, and as
a friend he would let me have a few.  I am not a speculating man.  The
fact is I have never had any cash to spare; but was tempted, as our
Mother Eve was by the old serpent, and I fell.  I bought a few General
Brazilians.  As soon as I had paid for them there came a call for a
shilling a share, and a little while after another call, and so it went
on till the General Brazilians went down to nothing.  Shortly after this
my friend left the neighbourhood.  He had got all his acquaintances to
invest in shares, and the neighbourhood was getting unpleasant for him.
He began life in a humble way; he now lives in a fine place and keeps his
carriage, but he gets no more money out of me, though occasionally he did
send me a circular assuring me of an ample fortune if I would only buy
certain shares which he recommended.  I may have stood in my own light,
as he told me I did, but I have bought no more mining shares since.

Again, take the case of life assurance.  Every one ought to insure his
life when he marries.  Like a wise man, I did, but like a fool I took the
advice of a friend who recommended me a society which paid him a
commission for his disinterested and friendly advice.  After a time it
declared a bonus which, instead of receiving in cash, I thought it better
to add to the principal.  In a few years, that insurance society was
wound up.  After the affairs of the company had been carefully
investigated at an enormous and surely unnecessary expense by a
distinguished firm of City accountants, another company took over our
policies, marking them about a fourth of their original value.  My bonus
was not even added to my principal; and now, being too old to go anew
into a life assurance company, a paltry sum is all I can look forward to
to leave my family on my decease.  It is really very ludicrous the little
games played by some of these insurance companies.  It is not every one
who raises the cry of thrift who is anxious to promote that saving
virtue.  It is too often the case that even the professed philanthropist,
feeling how true it is that charity begins at home, never troubles
himself to let it go any further.  We have Scriptural authority for
saying that one who neglects to provide for his own house has denied the
faith, and is worse than an infidel.  We are abundantly justified, then,
in looking after the cash.  A great philosopher remarked that there are
times when a man without money in his pocket may find himself in a
peculiarly unpleasant position.  It was, I think, Hazlitt who said it,
and he was right.  Be that as it may, it is a melancholy truth many of us
have learned by experience.  I can send to gaol the poor wretch who in
the street picks my pocket, but the company promoter who offers me a
premium for thrift, and then robs me of my all, or as much of it as he
can lay hold of, gets off scot free.  Friendly societies, as they are
called, are on this account often to be much suspected.  The story of one
that smashed up is interesting and amusing.  The chief promoter early in
life displayed his abilities as a rogue.  He became a letter-carrier,
only to lose his situation and undergo a severe term of imprisonment for
stealing letters.  Subsequently, he entered the service of an Assurance
Company, but had eventually to be dismissed.  Then he got a new
character, and started afresh as a Methodist preacher.  Afterwards he
founded a friendly society, by means of which he raised large funds for
the benefit of himself, and apparently no one else.

Let me give another case out of my own personal experience.  Last year I
received a prospectus of a company that was formed to purchase the
business of a firm which had an immense number of shops engaged in
carrying on a business in various parts of the metropolis.  A firm of
accountants reported that the gross returns of the firm in 1894 amounted
to over £103,000, and it was added that the profit of the company would
admit of annual dividends at the rate of nine per cent., and allow of
£1,300 for the expenses of management and reserve.  It was further shown
that a considerable saving of expenditure could be effected, which would
ensure an additional dividend of three per cent.  Well, the thing looked
so feasible that I wrote for and obtained five shares, thinking I had
done a sensible thing.  A few months afterward a West-end firm offered me
a large number of shares at par, stating that the company were about to
pay a dividend, and that the profit on the year’s earnings would be some
fifty per cent.  However, I did not accept the promising offer, and I
thought no more of the matter.  In January of this year a gentleman sent
me a circular offering me shares at a shilling under par, assuring me
that the company was about to pay a dividend of ten per cent. in the
course of the next week.  Again I declined to increase my holding, and it
is well I did, as no dividend has been paid, although the circular stated
that the business was of “a most profitable nature,” and “sure to
considerably increase in value in the course of a few months.”  Since
then a Manchester firm has twice written to me to offer the pound shares
at sixteen shillings each.  These tempting offers I have declined, and
the promised dividend seems as far off as ever.  Surely outside brokers
who put forward such lying statements ought to be amenable to law, as
well as the promoters of the company itself.  To my great disgust, since
the above was written I have received another letter from another outside
firm, offering me fifty shares in the precious company at thirteen
shillings a share.  The writers add, as the dividend of ten per cent.
will be paid almost immediately, they are well worth my attention.  I
suppose this sort of thing pays.  The worst of it is that the class thus
victimised are the class least able to bear a pecuniary loss.  I happen
to know of a case in which a man with an assumed name, trading at the
West End, gained a large sum of money—chiefly from clergymen and
widows—by offering worthless shares, certain to pay large dividends in a
week or two, at a tremendous sacrifice.  As a rule the victims to this
state of things say nothing of their losses.  They are ashamed when they
think how easily they have been persuaded to part with their cash.  It is
time, however, that public attention should be called to the matter, that
the eyes of the public were opened, and that the game of these gentry
were be stopped.


I doubt whether the cynical old poet who wrote “The Pleasures of Memory,”
would have included in that category the recollections of the famous
preachers whom he might have heard.  Yet possibly he might, as his
earliest predilections, we were told, were for the pulpit, and all have,
more or less, of the parsonic element in them.  The love to lecture, the
desire to make their poor ignorant friends as sensible as themselves, the
innate feeling that one is a light and guide in a wildering maze exist
more or less in us all.  “Did you ever hear me preach?” said Coleridge
one day to Lamb.  “Did I ever hear you do anything else?” was the reply.
And now, when we have got an awakened Christianity and a forward
ministry, it is just as well to run over the list of our old popular
ministers to remind the present generation that great men have filled the
London pulpits and quickened the London conscience and aroused the London
intellect before ever it was born.  It is the more necessary to do this
as the fact is that no one has so short-lived a popularity as the orator:
whether in Exeter Hall, whether on the stage, whether in the pulpit, what
comes in at one ear soon goes out at the other.  The memory of a great
preacher dies as soon as his breath leaves the body—often before.  The
pulpit of to-day differs in one respect _in toto_ from the past.  The
preacher who would succeed now must remember that this is the age of
advertisement, that if he has a talent he must not wrap it in a napkin.
He must write letters to newspapers; he must say odd things that make men
talk about him; he must manage to be the subject of newspaper gossip; he
must cling to the skirts of some public agitation—in fact, his light must
be seen and his voice heard everywhere.

It was not so in the times when, half a century ago, I had more to do
with the London pulpit than I have now.  Some of the men in it were
giants.  One was Melville, who preached somewhere over the
water—Camberwell way.  He was a High Churchman; he had a grand scorn of
the conventicle.  I should say he was a Tory of the Tories—a man who
would be impossible in a London suburban church now; but what a crowd he
drew to hear him, as he, like a mighty, rushing wind, swept over the
heads of an audience who seemed to hang upon his lips!  He was tall,
dark, with a magnificent bass voice that caused every sentence he
read—for he read, and rapidly—to vibrate from the pulpit to the furthest
corner of the church.  His style was that of the late Dr. Chalmers,
always sweeping to a climax, which, when reached and mastered, was a
relief to all.  I think he was made Canon of St. Paul’s.  He also was the
Golden Lecturer somewhere near the Bank—an appropriate locality.  His
sermons were highly finished—I am told he laboured at them all the week.
He was a preacher—nothing less, nothing more.

Next there rises before me the vision of Howard Hinton—a big, cadaverous,
grey-haired man, preaching in a small chapel on the site in Shoreditch
now occupied by the Great Eastern Railway.  The congregation was not
large, but it was very select; I fancy it represented the _élite_ of the
London Baptists.  He was a very fascinating preacher by reason of his
great subtlety of thought, and at times he was terribly impressive, as
his big, burly frame trembled with emotion, and his choked-up utterance
intimated with what agony he had sought to deliver his soul from
blood-guiltiness, as, wailing and weeping, he anticipated the awful doom
of the impenitent.  I must own I got wearied of his metaphysical
subtleties, which seemed to promise so much, and whose conclusions were
so lame and impotent, ever disappointing; and it often seemed to me that
his celebrated son—the late James Hinton—too soon removed, as it seemed
to many of us—inherited not a little of his father’s ingenuity in this
respect.  But he was a grand man; you felt it in his presence, and still
more as you walked home thinking of what he said.

Amongst the Independents—as they were termed—the leading men were the
Brothers Clayton: one preaching at the Poultry, the other in Walworth, to
large congregations—fine portly men, and able in their way, though it was
an old-fashioned one.  Nor must Dr. Bengo Collyer be forgotten—a fat,
oily man of God, as Robert Hall called him, who had at one time great
popularity, and whom the Duke of Kent had been to hear preach.

It is a curious sign of the times—the contrast between what exists now
and what existed then—as regards theological speculation.  We are now
sublimely indifferent whether a preacher is orthodox or the reverse,
whatever that may mean, so long as we feel his utterances are helpful in
the way of Christian work and life.  It was not so fifty years ago.
Ministers scanned their brethren in the ministry severely, and the
deacon, with his Matthew Henry and Doddridge, sat grimly in his pew,
eager to note the deflection of the preacher in the pulpit from the
strait and narrow line of orthodoxy, and to glow with unholy zeal as he
found him missing his footing on the tight-rope.  In London there was
such a man in the shape of Thomas Binney, who had come from the Isle of
Wight to the King’s Weigh House Chapel, now swept away by the underground
railway just opposite the Monument.  Binney was a king among men,
standing head and shoulders above his fellows.  All that was intelligent
in Dissenting London, among the young men especially, heard him gladly.
Yet all over the land there were soulless deacons and crabbed old
parsons, whose testimony no man regarded, who said Binney was not
orthodox.  He lived long enough to trample that charge down.  He lived to
see the new era when men, sick of orthodoxy, hailed any utterance from
whatever quarter, so that it were God-fearing and sincere.  As you
listened to Binney struggling to evolve his message out of his inner
consciousness, you felt that you stood in the presence of a man who dwelt
in the Divine presence, to whom God had revealed Himself, whose eye could
detect the sham, and whose hot indignation was terrible to listen to.

Let me chronicle a few more names.  Dr. Andrew Reed, whose occasional
sermons at other places—I never heard him at Wycliffe Chapel—were most
effective; Morris of Fetter Lane, who preached to a crowded audience with
what seemed to me at the time a slight touch of German mysticism;
Stratten, far away in Paddington, whom rich people loved to listen to, as
he was supposed to be a man of means himself; and old Leifchild at Craven
Chapel, filled to overflowing with a crowd who knew, however the dear old
man might prose in the opening of his sermon, he would go off with a bang
at the end.  But I may not omit two Churchmen who, if they had not
Melville’s power, had an equal popularity.  One was the Hon. and Rev.
Baptist Noel, who preached in a church, long since pulled down, in
Bedford-row.  He was tall, gentlemanly, silver-tongued, and perfectly
orthodox.  His people worshipped him, for was he not the son of a lord?
His influence in London was immense, but he left the Church for
conscientious reasons, and became a Baptist minister.  That was a blow to
his popularity which he never got over, though he lived to a grand old
age.  Another popular Evangelical preacher was Dale, who preached at St.
Bride’s, Fleet Street.  He was a poet and more or less of a literary man;
but he had more worldly wisdom than Baptist Noel.  Dale was a Professor
of Literature at University College; but it was understood that
University College, with its liberal institutions, with its Dissenters
and Jews, was no place for a Churchman who wished to rise.  Dale saw
this, gave up his professorship in Gower Street, and reaped a rich

London was badly off for _illuminati_ fifty years ago.  The only pulpit
effectually filled was that of South Place, Finsbury, where W. Johnson
Fox, the celebrated orator and critic, lectured.  He had been trained to
be an orthodox divine at Homerton.  One day he said to me, “The students
always get very orthodox as they get to the end of their collegiate
career, and are preparing to settle, as the phrase is.”  Fox, it seems,
was the exception that proves the rule.  He was eloquent and attractive
as preacher and lecturer.  Dickens and Macready and Foster were, I
believe, among his hearers.  At any rate, he had a large following, and
died an M.P.  Lectures on all things sacred and profane were unknown in
London fifty years ago.  I once heard Robert Dale Owen somewhere at the
back of Tottenham Court Road Chapel, but he was a weariness of the flesh,
and I never went near him again.  The provinces occasionally sent us
popular orators; one was Raffles, of Liverpool, a man who looked as if
the world had used him well.  I well remember how he dealt in such
alliteration as “the dewdrop glittering in the glen.”  Then there was
Parsons of York, with his amazing rhetoric, all whispered with a thrill
that went to every heart, as he preached in Surrey Chapel, where also I
heard Jay of Bath, who, however, left on me no impression other than he
was a wonderful old man for his years.  Sherman, the regular preacher
there, was a great favourite with the ladies—almost as much as Dr.
Cumming, a dark, scholarly-looking man, who held forth in a court just
opposite Drury Lane Theatre, and whose prophetic utterances obtained for
him a popularity he would otherwise have sought in vain.  It makes one
feel old to write of these good men who have long since passed away, not,
however, unregretted, or without failing to leave behind them

    Footprints on the sands of Time.

When I first became familiar with the Dissenting world of London the most
bustling man in it was the Rev. Dr. John Campbell, who preached in what
was then a most melancholy pile of buildings known as the Tottenham Court
Road Chapel, the pulpit of which had been at one time occupied by the
celebrated George Whitfield.  In or about 1831 Dr. Campbell became the
minister, and at the same time found leisure to write in _The Patriot_
newspaper; to fight and beat the trustees of the Tottenham Court Road,
who had allowed the affairs of the chapel to get into a most disorderly
state; to make speeches at public meetings; to write in a monthly that
has long ceased to exist—_The Eclectic Review_—a review to which I had
occasionally the honour of contributing when it was edited by Dr.
Price;—and to publish a good many books which had a fair sale in his day.
Dr. Campbell had also much to do with the abolition of the Bible printing
monopoly—a movement originated by Dr. Adam Thomson, of Coldstream,
powerfully supported by one of my earliest friends, Mr. John Childs, a
spirited and successful printer at Bungay, whose one-volume editions of
standard authors, such as Bacon’s works, Milton’s, and Gibbon’s “Decline
and Pall of the Roman Empire,” are still to be seen on the shelves of
second-hand booksellers.  The Queen’s Printer affected to believe that
the Bible could not be supplied to the public with equal efficiency or
cheapness on any other system than that which gave him the monopoly of
printing, but as it was proved before a Committee of the House of Commons
that the Book could be printed at much less cost and in every way equal
to the copies then in existence, the monopoly was destroyed.

In 1830 there came into existence the Congregational Union of England and
Wales, of which Dr. Campbell became one of the leading men.  He was at
the same time editor of _The Christian Witness_ and _The Christian’s
Penny Magazine_—the organs of the Union—both of which at that time
secured what was then considered a very enormous sale.  When in 1835 Mr.
Nasmith came to London to establish his City Mission Dr. Campbell was one
of his earliest supporters and friends.  The next great work which he
took in hand was the establishment of _The British Banner_, a religious
paper for the masses, in answer to an appeal made to him by the committee
of _The Patriot_ newspaper.  The first number of the new journal appeared
in 1848, and gained a circulation hitherto unknown in a weekly paper, and
this in time was succeeded by _The British Standard_.  As time passed on
Dr. Campbell became less popular.  He had rather too keen a scent for
what was termed neology.  In one case his zeal involved him in a libel
suit and the verdict was for the plaintiff, who was awarded by the jury
forty shillings damages instead of the £5,000 he had claimed.  In the
Rivulet Controversy, as it was termed, Dr. Campbell was not quite so
successful.  Mr. Lynch was a poet, and preached, as his health was bad,
to a small but select congregation in the Hampstead Road.  He published a
volume of refined and thoughtful poetry which has many admirers to this
day.  The late Mr. James Grant—a Scotch baker who had taken to literature
and written several remarkably trashy books, the most popular of which
was “Random Recollections of the House of Commons,”—at that time editor
of the publican’s paper, _The Morning Advertiser_, in his paper described
the work of Mr. Lynch as calculated to inspire pain and sadness in the
minds of all who knew what real religion was.  Against this view a
powerful protest was made by many leading men of the body to which Mr.
Lynch belonged.  At this stage of the controversy Dr. Campbell struck in
by publishing letters addressed to the principal professors of the
Independent and Baptist colleges of England, showing that the hymns of
Mr. Lynch were very defective as regards Evangelical truth—containing
less of it than the hymns ordinarily sung by the Unitarians.  The
excitement in Dissenting circles was intense.  The celebrated Thomas
Binney, of the King’s Weigh House Chapel, took part with Mr. Lynch and
complained of Dr. Campbell in the ensuing meetings of the Congregational
Union, and so strong was the feeling on the subject that a large party
was formed to request the Congregational Union formally to sever their
official connexion with Dr. Campbell—a matter not quite so easy as had
been anticipated.  One result, however, was that Dr. Campbell gave up the
editing of _The British Banner_ and established _The British Standard_ to
take its place, in which the warfare against what is called Neology was
carried on with accelerated zeal.  In 1867 the Doctor’s laborious career
came to an end happily in comfort and at peace with all.  His biographers
assure the reader that Dr. Campbell’s works will last till the final
conflagration of the world.  Alas! no one reads them now.

To come to later times, of course my most vivid recollections are those
connected with the late Mr. Spurgeon.  In that region of the metropolis
known as “over the water” the Baptists flourish as they do nowhere else,
and some of their chapels have an interesting history.  Amongst many of
them rather what is called high doctrine is tolerated—not to say admired.
They are the elect of God, preordained before the world was formed to
enjoy an existence of beatific rapture, that shall continue when the
world has passed away.  Of one of the most popular preachers in that
locality, the late Jemmy Wells, it is said that when told that one of his
hearers had fallen out of a cart and broken his leg his reply was, “Oh,
what a blessed thing it is he can’t fall out of the Covenant.”  When one
of the chapels in that locality was at low-water mark, there came to it
the Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon—then little more than a boy, but already
famous in East Anglia as a boy preacher—and never had a preacher a more
successful career.  There was no place in London that was large enough to
contain the audiences that flocked to hear him.  I first heard him at the
Surrey Music Hall, and it was wonderful to see what hordes came there of
saints and sinners, lords and ladies, City magnates and county squires,
Anonymas from St. John’s Wood, Lady Clara Vere de Veres from Belgravia.
It was the fashion to go there on a Sunday morning, just as it was the
fashion a generation previously to rush to Hatton Garden to hear Edward
Irving.  The hall was handsome and light and airy, free from the somewhat
oppressive air of Cave Adullam and Little Bethel, and there upon the
platform which did duty for a pulpit stood a young man short of stature,
broadly built, of a genial though not handsome countenance, with a big
head and a voice it was a treat to listen to and audible in every part of
that enormous building.  What was the secret of his success?  He was
bold, he was original, he was humorous, and he was in earnest.  He said
things to make his hearers laugh, and what he said or did was magnified
by rumour.  Old stories of Billy Dawson and Rowland Hill were placed to
Mr. Spurgeon’s credit.  The caricaturists made him their butt.  There was
no picture more commonly displayed at that time than one entitled
“Brimstone and Treacle”—the former representing Mr. Spurgeon, the latter
Mr. Bellew, then a star of the first order in many an Episcopalian
pulpit.  Bellew soon ran through his ephemeral popularity—that of Mr.
Spurgeon grew and strengthened day by day.  Do you, like the late Sir
James Graham, want to know the reason why?  The answer is soon given.  “I
am going into the ministry,” said a youthful student to an old divine.
“Ah, but, my dear friend, is the ministry in you?”  Well, the ministry
was in Mr. Spurgeon as it rarely is in any man; hence his unparalleled

One little anecdote will illustrate this.  I have a friend whose father
had a large business in the ancient city of Colchester.  Mr. Spurgeon’s
father was at one time in his employ.  Naturally, he said a good deal of
the preaching talent of his gifted son, and of the intention beginning to
be entertained in the family circle of making a minister of him.  The
employer in question was a Churchman, but he himself offered to help Mr.
Spurgeon in securing for his son the benefits of a collegiate education.
The son’s reply was characteristic.  He declined the offered aid, adding
the remark that “ministers were made not in colleges but in heaven.”

In connection with Mr. Spurgeon’s scholastic career let me knock a little
fiction on the head.  There is a house in Aldeburgh, in Suffolk, famous
now as the birthplace of Mrs. Garrett Anderson and her gifted sisters,
which at one time was a school kept by a Mr. Swindell, and they told me
at Aldeburgh this last summer that Mr. Spurgeon was a pupil there.  This
is not so.  It is true Mr. Spurgeon was a pupil at Mr. Swindell’s, but it
was at Newmarket, to which the latter had moved from Aldeburgh.

One or two Spurgeon anecdotes which have not yet appeared in print may be
acceptable.  At Hastings there are, or were, many High Church curates.  A
few years ago one of them did a very sensible thing.  He had a holiday;
he was in town and he went to the Tabernacle, getting a seat exactly
under Mr. Spurgeon’s nose, as it were.  It seems that during the week Mr.
Spurgeon had been attending a High Church service, of which he gave in
the pulpit a somewhat ludicrous account, suddenly finishing by giving a
sort of snort, and exclaiming, “Methinks I smell ’em now,” much to the
delight of the curate sitting underneath.  Referring to Mr. Spurgeon’s
nose, I am told he had a great admiration of that of his brother, a much
more aristocratic-looking article that his own.  “Jem,” he is reported to
have said on one occasion, “I wish I had got your nose.”  “Do you?” was
the reply; “I wish I had got your cheek.”  Let me give another story.  On
one occasion an artist wanted to make a sketch of Mr. Spurgeon for
publishing.  “What are you going to charge?” asked the preacher, as the
artist appeared before him.  “You must not make the price more than
twopence; the public will give that for me—not a penny more.  A
photographer published a portrait of me at eighteenpence, and no one
bought it.”  This conversation took place on the occasion of a week-night
service.  At the close of the service the artist came up into the vestry
to show his sketch.  “Yes,” said Mr. Spurgeon, “it is all very well, but
I should like to hear what others say about it.  They say women and fools
are the best judges of this kind of thing,” and accordingly the likeness
was referred to a friend who happened to come into the room in the nick
of time.

It always seemed to me the great characteristic of Mr. Spurgeon was
good-natured jollity.  He was as full of fun as a boy.  I saw him once
before getting into a wagonette pitch all the rugs on his brother’s head,
who naturally returned the compliment—much to the amusement of the
spectators.  On one occasion I happened to be in the Tabernacle when the
Baptist Union dined there, as it always did at the time of the Baptist
anniversaries.  I suppose there would be many hundreds present who
enjoyed the ample repast and the accompanying claret and sherry.  After
the dinner was over Mr. Spurgeon came up to where I was sitting and,
laying his hand on my shoulder and pointing to the long rows of empty
bottles left standing on the table, with a twinkle in his eye, said,
“Teetotalism does not seem to flourish among the brethren, does it?”  And
he was as kind as he was cheerful.  Once and once only I had to write to
him.  He returned me a reply addressed to me in my proper name, and
then—as I was writing weekly articles under a _nom de plume_ in a highly
popular journal—added, in a postscript, “Kind regards to —” (mentioning
my _nom de plume_).  The anecdote is trivial, but it shows how genial and
kind-hearted he was.

And to the last what crowds attended his ministry at the Tabernacle!  One
Saturday I went to dine with a friend living on Clapham Common.  Going
back to town early in the morning I got into an omnibus, and was amused
by hearing the conductor exclaim, “Any more for the Tabernacle!”  “Now,
then, for the Tabernacle!”  “This way for the Tabernacle!” and, sure
enough, I found all my fellow-passengers got out when we arrived at the
Tabernacle; nor was the ’bus in which I was riding the only one thus
utilised.  There was no end of omnibuses from all quarters drawing up at
the entrance.  According to the latest utterance of Mr. Herbert Beerbohm
Tree, in this age of ours faith is tinged with philosophic doubt, love is
regarded as but a spasm of the nervous system, life itself as the refrain
of a music-hall song.  At the Tabernacle the pastor and people were of a
very different way of thinking.

And Mr. Spurgeon was no windbag—_vox et præterea nihil_; no darling pet
of old women whose Christianity was flabby as an oyster.  He was an
incessant worker, and taught his people to work as well in his enormous
church.  Such was the orderly arrangement that, as he said, if one of his
people were to get tipsy, he should know it before the week was out.  He
never seemed to lose a moment.  “Whenever I have been permitted,” he
wrote on one occasion, “sufficient respite from my ministerial duties to
enjoy a lengthened tour or even a short excursion, I have been in the
habit of carrying with me a small note-book, in which I have jotted down
any illustrations that occurred to me on the way.  The note-book has been
useful in my travels as a mental purse.”  Yet the note-book was not
intrusive.  A friend of mine took Mr. Spurgeon in his steam yacht up the
Highlands.  Mr. Spurgeon was like a boy out of school—all the while
naming the mountains after his friends.

It is also to be noted how the public opinion altered with regard to Mr.
Spurgeon.  When he came first to London aged ministers and grey-haired
deacons shook their heads.  What could they think of a young minister who
could stop in the middle of his sermon, and say, “Please shut that window
down, there is a draught.  I like a draught of porter, but not that kind
of draught”?  It was terrible!  What next? was asked in fear and
trepidation.  These things were, I believe, often said on purpose, and
they answered their purpose.  “Fire low,” said a general to his men on
one occasion.  “Fire low,” said old Jay, of Bath, as he was preaching to
a class of students.  Mr. Spurgeon fired low.  It is astonishing how that
kind of preaching tells.  I was travelling in Essex last summer, and in
the train were two old men, one of whom lived in Kelvedon, where Mr.
Spurgeon was born, who had sent the Baptist preacher some fruit from
Kelvedon, which was, as he expected, thankfully received.  “Did you see
what Mr. Spurgeon says in this week’s sermon?” said he to the other.
“No.”  “Why, he said the devil said to him the other day, ‘Mr. Spurgeon,
you have got a good many faults,’ and I said to the devil, ‘So have
you,’” and then the old saints burst out laughing as if the repartee was
as brilliant as it seemed to me the reverse; but I leave censure to the
censorious.  In his early youth, Sadi, the great Persian classic, tells
us, he was over much religious, and found fault with the company sleeping
while he sat in attendance on his father with the Koran in his lap, never
closing his eyes all night.  “Oh, emanation of your father,” replied the
old man, “you had better also have slept than that you should thus
calumniate the failings of mankind.”


As the season of the May Meetings draws near, one naturally thinks of
Exeter Hall and its interesting associations.  When I first came to
London it had not long been open, and it was a wonder to the young man
from the country to see its capacious interior and its immense platform
crowded in every part.  It had a much less gorgeous interior than now,
but its capacities for stowing away a large audience still remains the
same; and then, as now, it was available alike for Churchmen and
Dissenters to plead the claims of the great religious societies, but it
seems to me that the audiences were larger and more enthusiastic at that
early date, though I know not that the oratory was better.  Bishops on
the platform were rare, and the principal performer in that line was
Bishop Stanley, of Norwich, a grotesque-looking little man, but not so
famous as his distinguished son, the Dean of Westminster.  Leading
Evangelical ministers from the country—such as James, of Birmingham, who
had a very pathetic voice, and Hugh McNeile, of Liverpool, an Irishman,
with all an Irishman’s exuberance of gesture and of language—were a great
feature.  At times the crowds were so great that a meeting had to be
improvised in the Lower Hall, then a much darker hall than it is now, but
which, at any rate, answered its end for the time being.  The missionary
meetings were the chief attraction.  Proceedings commenced early, and
were protracted far into the afternoon; but the audience remained to the
last, the ladies knitting assiduously all the while the report was being
read, and only leaving off to listen when the speaking began.  Perhaps
the most crowded meeting ever held there—at any rate, in my time—was when
Prince Albert took the chair to inaugurate Sir Fowell Buxton’s grand, but
unfortunate, scheme for the opening up of the Congo.  He spoke in a low
tone, and with a somewhat foreign accent.  Bishop Wilberforce’s oratory
on that occasion was overpowering; the Prince’s eyes were rivetted on him
all the while.  Sir Robert Peel spoke in a calm, dignified, statesmanlike
manner, but the expression of his face was too supercilious to be
pleasing.  And there was Daniel O’Connell—big, burly, rollicking—who
seemed to enjoy the triumph of his own presence, though not permitted to
speak.  The other time when I remember an awful crush at Exeter Hall was
at an anti-slavery meeting, when Lord Brougham took the chair; an M.P.
dared to attack his lordship, and his reply was crushing, his long nose
twitching all the while with a passion he was unable to repress.  He
looked as angry as he felt.  Amongst the missionaries, the most popular
speakers were John Williams, the martyr of Erromanga, and William Knibb,
the famous Baptist missionary from Jamaica, and Livingstone’s
father-in-law, the venerable Dr. Moffat, who, once upon his legs, seemed
as if he could never sit down again.  Williams was a heavy man in
appearance, but of such evident goodness and earnestness that you were
interested in what he said nevertheless.  William Knibb was, as far as
appearance went, quite the reverse; a fiery speaker, the very picture of
a demagogue, the champion of the slave, and a terrible thorn in the sides
of the slave-owners.  Of women orators we had none in those primitive
times, and some of the American women who had come to speak at one or
other of the Anti-Slavery Conventions—at that time of constant
occurrence—were deeply disappointed that, after coming all the way from
America on purpose to deliver their testimony, they were not allowed to
open their mouths.  It was at Exeter Hall that I first heard Mr. Gough,
the Temperance advocate—an actor more than an orator, but of wonderful

It was at Crosby Hall that I first heard George Dawson.  I think it was
at one of the meetings held there in connection with what I may call the
anti-Graham, demonstration.  On the introduction, in 1843, by Sir James
Graham of his Factories Education Bill, the Dissenters assailed it with
unexpected vehemence.  They denounced it as a scheme for destroying the
educational machinery they had, at great expense, provided, and for
throwing the care of the young into the hands of the clergy of the Church
of England.  It was in the East of London that the opposition to this
measure originated, and a committee was formed, of which Dr. Andrew Reed
was chairman, and his son, afterwards Sir Charles, who lived to become
Chairman of the London School Board, was secretary.  The agitation spread
all over the country, and delegates to a considerable number on one
occasion found their way to Crosby Hall.  In the course of the
proceedings a young man in the gallery got up to say that he came from
Birmingham to show how the popular feeling had changed there from the
time when Church-and-State mobs had sacked the Dissenting chapels, and
driven Dr. Priestley into exile.  “Your name, sir?” asked the chairman.
“George Dawson,” was the reply, and there he stood in the midst of the
grave and reverend seigneurs, calm, youthful, self-possessed, with his
dark hair parted in the middle, a voice somewhat husky yet clear.  He was
a Baptist minister, he said, yet he looked as little like one as it was
possible to imagine.

It was a little later, that is, in 1857, Mr. Samuel Morley made his
_début_ in political life, at a meeting in the London Tavern, of which he
was chairman, to secure responsible administration in every department of
the State, to shut all the back doors which lead to public employment, to
throw the public service open to all England, to obtain recognition of
merit everywhere, and to put an end to all kinds of promotion by favour
or purchase.  Mr. Morley’s speech was clear and convincing—more
business-like than oratorical—and he never got beyond that.  The tide was
in his favour—all England was roused by the tale _The Times_ told of
neglect and cruel mismanagement in the Crimea.  Since then Government has
done less and the people more.  Has the change been one for the better?

One of the most extraordinary meetings in which I ever took a part was an
Orange demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall, the Earl of Roden in the chair.
I was a student at the time, and one of my fellow-students was Sir Colman
O’Loghlen, the son of the Irish Master of the Rolls.  He was a friend of
Dan O’Connell’s, and he conceived the idea of getting all or as many of
his fellow-students as possible to go to the meeting and break it up.  We
walked accordingly, each one of us with a good-sized stick in his hand,
to the Free-Mason’s Tavern, the mob exclaiming, as we passed along,
“There go the Chartists,” and perhaps we did look like them, for none of
us were overdressed.  In the hall we took up a conspicuous position, and
waited patiently, but we had not long to wait.  As soon as the clergy and
leading Orangemen on the platform had taken their seats, we were ready
for the fray.  Apart from us, the audience was not large, and we had the
hall almost entirely to ourselves.  Not a word of the chairman’s address
was audible.  There was a madman of the name of Captain Acherley who was
in the habit, at that time, of attending public meetings solely for the
sake of disturbing them, who urged us on—and we were too ready to be
urged on.  With our voices and our sticks we managed to create a hideous
row.  The meeting had to come to a premature close, and we marched off,
feeling that we had driven back the enemy, and achieved a triumph.
Whether we had done any good, however, I more than doubt.  There were
other and fairer memories, however, in connection with Freemasons’ Hall.
It was there I beheld the illustrious Clarkson, who had come in the
evening of his life, when his whole frame was bowed with age, and the
grasshopper had become a burden, to preside at the World’s Anti-Slavery
Convention.  All I can remember of him was that he had a red face, grey
hair, and was dressed in black.  There, and at Exeter Hall, Joseph
Sturge, the Apostle of Peace, was often to be seen.  He was a well-made
man, with a singularly pleasant cast of countenance and attractive voice,
and, as was to be expected, as cool as a Quaker.  Another great man, now
forgotten, was Joseph Buckingham, lecturer, traveller, author, and
orator, M.P. for Sheffield.

In the City the places for demonstrations are fewer now than they were.
The London Tavern I have already mentioned.  Then there was the King’s
Arms, I think it was called, in the Poultry, chiefly occupied by
Dissenting societies.  At the London Coffee House, at the Ludgate Hill
corner of the Old Bailey, now utilised by Hope Brothers, but interesting
to us as the scene of the birth and childhood of our great artist, Leech,
meetings were occasionally held; and then there was the Crown and Anchor,
in the Strand, on your left, just before you get to Arundel Street, where
Liberals, or, rather, Whigs, delighted to appeal to the people—the only
source of legitimate power.  It was there that I heard that grand
American orator, Beecher, as he pleaded, amidst resounding cheers, the
cause of the North during the American Civil War, and the great
Temperance orator, Gough, who took Exeter Hall by storm.  But it was to
Exeter Hall that the tribes repaired—as they do now.  When I first knew
Exeter Hall, no one ever dreamt of any other way of regenerating society.
Agnosticism, Secularism, Spiritualism, and Altruism had not come into
existence.  Their professors were weeping and wailing in long clothes.
Now we have, indeed, swept into a younger day, and society makes lions of
men of whom our fathers would have taken no heed.  We have become more
tolerant—even Exeter Hall has moved with the times.  Perhaps one of the
boldest things connected with it was the attempt to utilise it for public
religious worship on the Sunday.  Originally some of the Evangelical
clergy had agreed to take part in these services, but the rector of the
parish in which Exeter Hall was situated disapproved, and consequently
they were unable to appear.  The result was the services were conducted
by the leading ministers of other denominations, nor were they less
successful on that account.


It is the penalty of old age to lose all our friends and acquaintances,
but fortunately our hold on earth weakens as the end of life draws near.
In an active life, we see much of the world and the men who help to make
it better.  Many ministers and missionaries came to my father’s house
with wonderful accounts of the spread of the Gospel in foreign parts.  At
a later time I saw a knot of popular lecturers and agitators—such as
George Thompson, the great anti-slavery lecturer, who, born in humble
life, managed to get into Parliament, where he collapsed altogether.  As
an outdoor orator he was unsurpassed, and carried all before him.  After
a speech of his I heard Lord Brougham declare it was one of the most
eloquent he had ever heard.  He started a newspaper, which, however, did
not make much way.  Then there was Henry Vincent, another natural orator,
whom the common people heard gladly, and who at one time was very near
getting into Parliament as M.P. for Ipswich, then, as now, a go-ahead
town, full of Dissenters and Radicals.  He began life as a Chartist and
printer, and, I believe, was concerned in the outbreak near Newport.  Of
the same class was a man of real genius and immense learning, considering
the disadvantages of his lowly birth, Thomas Cooper, the Chartist, and
author of that magnificent poem, “The Purgatory of Suicides,” written
when he was in gaol for being connected with a Chartist outbreak.  He had
been a Methodist, he became a Freethinker, and, when I knew him, was
under the influence of Strauss’s Life of Jesus, a book which George Eliot
had translated, and which made a great sensation at the time of its
appearance, though it is utterly forgotten now.  Cooper and I were
members of an obscure club, in one of the Fleet Street courts, where he
used to declaim with great eloquence on the evil doings of the Tories and
the wrongs of the poor, while at the same time he had a true appreciation
of the utter worthlessness of some of the Chartist leaders.  As he
advanced in years he gave up his infidel opinions and became an earnest
advocate of the faith he once laboured to destroy.  The last time I saw
him was at his house in Lincoln shortly before he died.  He seemed sound
in body, considering his years, but his mind was gone and he remembered
no one.  At the same time I saw a good deal of Richard Lovett—a noble
character—who worked all his life for the mental and moral improvement of
the working man, of whom he was such an illustrious example.  Cooper and
Vincent and Lovett did much between them to make the working man
respected as he had never been before.

One of the grandest old men I ever knew was George Cruikshank, the
artist, in his later years an ardent advocate of Temperance, but a real
Bohemian nevertheless, enjoying life and all its blessings to the last.
At a dinner-party or at a social gathering of any kind he was at his
best, full of anecdote, overflowing with wit and mimicry; as an orator
also he had great power, and generally managed to keep his audience in a
roar of laughter.  While perfectly sober himself, he was very happy in
taking off the drunkard’s eccentricities, and would sing “We are not
fou,” or “Willie brewed a peck o’ malt,” as if he deemed a toper the
prince of good fellows.  In his old age he had persuaded himself that to
him Dickens owed many of his happiest inspirations, a remark which the
author of “The Pickwick Papers” strongly resented.  At his home I met on
one occasion Mrs. Dickens, a very pleasant, motherly lady, with whom one
would have thought any husband could have happily lived, although the
great novelist himself seemed to be of another way of thinking.
Cruikshank’s wife seems to have been devoted to him.  She was proud of
him, as well she might be.  He had a good head of hair, and to the last
cherished a tremendous lock which adorned his forehead.  He was rather
square-built, with an eye that at one time must have rivalled that of the
far-famed hawk.  He lived comfortably in a good house just outside
Mornington Crescent, in the Hampstead Road; but he was never a wealthy
man, and was always publishing little pamphlets, which, whatever the fame
they brought him, certainly yielded little cash.  He had seen a good deal
of life, or what a Cockney takes to be such, and when he was buried in
Kensal Green, the attendance at the funeral showed how large was the
circle of his friends and admirers.  To the last he was proud of his

Another friend of mine buried in the same place was Dr. Charles Mackay,
the original editor of _The Illustrated London News_, and who differed so
much with the proprietor, Mr. Ingram, M.P., on the character of the late
French Emperor, for whom Dr. Mackay had a profound contempt, that he had
to resign, and commenced _The London Review_, which did not last long.
At one time his songs, “There’s a good time coming, boys,” and “Cheer
boys, cheer,” were played on every barrel-organ, and were to be heard in
every street.  Another of the workers on _The Illustrated News_ was John
Timbs, the unwearying publisher of popular books of anecdotes, by which,
I fear, he did not make much money, as he had to end his days in the
Charter House.  His department was to look after the engravings, a duty
which compelled him to sit up all night on Thursdays.  Before he had
joined Mr. Ingram’s staff, he had edited a small periodical called _The
Mirror_, devoted to useful and amusing literature.  I fancy his happiest
hours were passed chatting with the literary men who were always hovering
round the office of the paper—like Mr. Micawber, in the hope of something
turning up.  You could not be long there without seeing Mark Lemon—a
mountain of a man connected with _Punch_, who could act Falstaff without
stuffing—who was Mr. Ingram’s private secretary.  A wonderful contrast to
Mark Lemon was Douglas Jerrold, a little grey-haired, keen-eyed man, who
seemed to me to walk the streets hurriedly, as if he expected a bailiff
to touch him on the back.  Later, I knew his son, Mr. Blanchard Jerrold,
very well, and always found him a very courteous and pleasant gentleman.
With Hain Friswell, with the ever-sparkling, black-eyed George Augustus
Sala, with that life-long agitator Jesse Jacob Holyoake, for whom I had a
warm esteem, I was also on very friendly terms.  Once, and once only, I
had an interview with Mr. Charles Bradlaugh who, when he recognised me as
“Christopher Crayon” of _The Christian World_, gave me a hearty shake of
the hands.  Had he lived, I believe he would have become a Christian.  At
any rate, of later years, his hostility to Christianity seemed to have
considerably toned down.  Be that as it may, I always held him to be one
of the most honest of our public men.  I had also the pleasure once of
sitting next Mr. Labouchere at a dinner at a friend’s.  He talked much,
smoked more, and was as witty as Waller, and like him on cold water.
Another teetotaler with whom I came much into contact was the late Sir
Benjamin Ward Richardson, a shortish, stout man to look at, a good public
speaker, and warmly devoted alike to literature and science.  Another
distinguished man whom I knew well was Mr. James Hinton, the celebrated
aurist and a writer on religious matters which at one time had great
effect.  He was the son of the celebrated Baptist preacher, the Rev. John
Howard Hinton, and I was grieved to learn that he had given up his
practice as an aurist in Saville Row, and had bought an orange estate far
away in the Azores, where he went to die of typhoid fever.

On the whole I am inclined to think I never had a pleasanter man to do
with than Mr. Cobden.  “Why don’t you commence a movement in favour of
Free Trade in land?” I one day said to him.  “Ah,” was his reply, “I am
too old for that.  I have done my share of work.  I must leave that to be
taken up by younger men.”  And, strange to say, though this has always
seemed to me the great want of the age, the work has been left undone,
and all the nation suffers in consequence.  As an illustration of Mr.
Cobden’s persuasiveness let me give the following.  Once upon a time he
came to Norwich to address an audience of farmers there—in St. Andrew’s
Hall, I think.  On my asking an old Norfolk farmer what he thought of Mr.
Cobden as a speaker, his reply was, “Why he got such a hold of us that if
he had held up a sheet of white paper on the platform and said it was
black, there was not a farmer in the hall but would have said the same.”
Cobden never irritated his opponents.  He had a marvellous power of
talking them round.  In this respect he was a wonderful contrast to his
friend and colleague, John Bright.

A leading teetotaler with whom I had much to do was the late Mr.
Smithies, founder of _The British Workman_ and publications of a similar
class.  At an enormous expense he commenced his illustrated paper, full
of the choicest engravings, and published at a price so as to secure them
a place in the humblest home.  For a long while it was published at a
loss.  But Mr. Smithies bravely held on, as his aim, I honestly believe,
was to do good rather than make money.  He was a Christian social
reformer, a Wesleyan, indifferent to politics, as Wesleyans more or less
were at one time.  Square-built, of rather less than medium height, with
a ruddy face, and a voice that could be heard all over Exeter Hall—he
looked the picture of health and happiness.  I never saw him frown but
when I approached him with a cigar in my mouth.  Mr. Smithies was one of
the earliest to rally round the Temperance banner.  His whole life was
devoted to doing good in his own way.  He never married, and lived with
his mother, a fine old lady, who contrived to give her dutiful and
affectionate son somewhat of an antiquated cast of thought, and never was
he happier than when in the company of Lady Burdett Coutts or great Earl

I had also a good deal to do with Mr. W. H. Collingridge, who founded
that successful paper, _The City Press_, which his genial son, Mr. G.
Collingridge, still carries on.  By means of my connection with _The City
Press_ I came into contact with many City leaders and Lord Mayors, and
saw a good deal of City life at the Mansion House and at grand halls of
the City Companies.  I think the tendency in these days is much to run
down the City Corporation.  People forget that the splendid hospitality
of the Mansion House helps to exalt the fame and power of England all the
world over.  Once upon a time I attended a Liberal public meeting at
which two M.P.’s had spoken.  One of the committee said to me, “Now you
must make a speech.”  My reply was that there was no need to do so, as
the M.P.’s had said all that was required.  “Oh, no,” said my friend,
“not a word has been said about the Corporation of London.  Pitch into
them!”  “No, no,” I replied.  “I have drunk too much of their punch and
swallowed too much of their turtle-soup.”  I will never run down the City
Fathers, many of whom I knew and respected, and at whose banquets men
gathered—not merely City people, but the leading men of all the world.
The glory of the Mansion House is the glory of the land.

I could go on for a long while.  Have I not been to _soirées_ at great
men’s houses and met all sorts and conditions of people?  Only two men
have I given myself the trouble to be introduced to—one was Barnum,
because he frankly admitted he was a humbug, though he seemed a decent
fellow enough in private life.  Another was Cetewayo, the
jolliest-looking Kaffir I ever saw, and I went to see him because our
treatment of him was a shame and a national disgrace.  Once on a time as
we were waiting for Royalty on a distant platform, one of the committee
offered to introduce me to H.R.H.  I declined, on the plea that I must
draw the line somewhere, and that I drew it at princes, but oh! the
vanity of wasting one’s time in society.  Of the gay world, perhaps the
wittiest and pleasantest, as far as my personal experience is concerned,
was the late Charles Mathews.  I had seen him on the stage and met him in
his brougham and talked with him, and once I was invited to a grand party
he gave to his friends and admirers.  As I went into the reception-room I
wondered where the jaunty and juvenile actor could be.  All at once I saw
a venerable, bald-headed old man coming down on me.  Oh! I said to
myself, this must be the butler coming to account for his master’s
absence.  Lo, and behold! it was Charley Mathews himself!


By this time people have got sick of electioneering.  It is a great
privilege to be an English elector—to feel that the eyes of the world are
on you, and that, at any rate, your country expects you to do your duty.
But to the candidate an election contest is, at any rate, fraught with
instruction.  Human nature is undoubtedly a curious combination, and a
man who goes in for an election undoubtedly sees a good deal of human
nature.  I was put up for a Parliamentary borough—I who shudder at the
sound of my own voice, and who have come to regard speechmakers with as
much aversion as I should the gentleman in black.  A borough was for the
first time to send a member to Parliament.  It had been hawked all over
London in vain, and as a _dernier ressort_ the Liberal Association of the
borough—a self-elected clique of well-meaning nobodies—had determined to
run a highly respectable and well-connected gentleman whose name and
merits were alike unknown.  Under such circumstances I consented to fight
the battle for freedom and independence, as I hold that our best men
should be sent to Parliament irrespective of property—that candidates
should not be forced on electors, and that unless our Liberal
Associations are really representative they may be worked in a way
injurious to the country and destructive of its freedom.  At my first
meeting, like another Cæsar, I came, I saw, I conquered.  The chiefs of
the Liberal Association had assembled to put me down.  I was not put
down, and, amidst resounding cheers, I was declared the adopted
candidate.  The room was crowded with friends.  I never shook so many
dirty hands in my life.  A second meeting, equally successful, confirmed
the first, and I at once plunged into the strife.  I am not here to write
the history of an election, but to tell of my personal experiences, which
were certainly amusing.  The first result of my candidature led to a
visit from an impecunious Scot at my suburban residence, who had read my
programme with infinite delight.  He came to assure me of his best wishes
for my success.  He was, unfortunately, not an elector, but he was a
Scotchman, as he was sure I was, and sadly in want of a loan, which he
was certain, from my Liberal sentiments, I would be the last to refuse to
a brother Scot.  I had hardly got rid of him before I was called upon by
an agent of one of our great Radical societies—a society with which I had
something to do in its younger days before it had become great and
powerful, but which, like most people when they got up in the world,
forgot its humble friends.  Ah, thought I, the society is going to give
me a little aid to show its appreciation of my ancient service, and I
felt pleased accordingly.  Not a bit of it.  Mr. P. was the collector of
the society, and he came to see what he could get out of me, assuring me
that almost all the Liberal candidates had responded to his appeal.  “Do
you think I am going to buy the sanction of your society by a paltry
fiver?” was my reply; and the agent went away faster than he came.  My
next visitor was a pleasant, plausible representative of some workmen’s
league, to assure me of his support, and then, with abundance of promise,
he went his way, leaving me to look for a performance of which I saw no
sign.  Then came the ladies.  Would I give them an interview?  Some of
them wanted to set me right on Temperance questions; others on topics on
which no right-minded woman should care to speak, and on which few would
speak were it not for the morbid, sensational, hysterical feeling which
often overcomes women who have no families of their own to look after, no
household duties to discharge, no home to adorn and purify.  As I had no
town house, and did not care to invite the ladies to the smoking-room of
my club, I in every such case felt bound to deny myself the pleasure of
an interview.  But my correspondents came from every quarter of the land.
Some offered me their services; others favoured me with their views on
things in general.  It was seldom I took the trouble to reply to them.
One gentleman, I fear, will never forgive me.  He was an orator; he sent
me testimonials on the subject from such leading organs of public opinion
as _The Eatanswill Gazette_ or _The Little Pedlington Observer_, of the
most wonderful character.  Evidently as an orator he was above all Greek,
above all Roman fame, and he was quite willing to come and speak at my
meetings, which was very kind, as he assured me that no candidate for
whom he had spoken was ever defeated at the poll.  I ought to have
retained his services, I ought to have sent him a cheque, or my thanks.
Doubtless he would have esteemed them, especially the latter.  Alas! I
did nothing of the kind.

But oh! the wearisome canvassing, which seems to be the only way to
success.  Meetings are of little avail, organisation is equally futile,
paid agency simply leads the candidate into a Serbonian bog, where

    Whole armies oft have perished.

It is house-to-house visitation that is the true secret now.  As far as I
carried it out I was successful, though I did not invariably embrace the
wife of the voter or kiss the babies.  The worst of it is, it takes so
much time.  Now and then your friend is supernaturally wise.  You must
stop and hear all he has to say, or you make him an enemy.  Some
people—and I think they were right—seemed to think a candidate has no
business to canvass electors at all.  One highly respectable voter seemed
really angry as he told me, with a severity worthy of a judge about to
sentence a poor wretch to hanging, it was quite needless for me to call,
that he was not going to disgrace his Baptist principles.  Passing a
corner public one Saturday I was met with a friendly recognition.  “We’re
all going to oblige you, Sir,” said the spokesman of the party, in a tone
indicating that either he had not taken the Temperance pledge, or that he
was somewhat lax in his observance of it, “and now you must oblige us
will you?”  Him I left a sadder and a wiser man, as I had to explain that
the trifling little favour he sought at my hands might invalidate my
election.  One female in a Peabody Building was hurt because I had in my
haste given a postman’s rap at the door, instead of one more in use in
genteel society.  In many a model lodging-house I found a jolly widow,
who, in answer to my appeal if there were any gentlemen, seemed to
intimate that the male sex were held in no particular favour.  The
Conservative female was, as a rule, rather hard and sarcastic, and I was
glad to beat a retreat, as she gave me to understand that she was not to
be deceived by anything I might say, and that she should take care how
her husband voted.  Now and then I was favoured with a dissertation on
the evil of party, but I could always cut that short by the remark, “Oh,
I see you are going to vote for the Conservative candidate!”—a remark
which led to a confession that in reality such was the case.  The newly
enfranchised seemed proud of their privilege.  It was not from them I got
the reply which I often heard where I should have least expected it, “Oh,
I never interfere in politics.”  People who had fads were a great bore.
One man would not vote for me because I was not sound on the Sunday
question; others who were of the same political opinions as myself would
not support me because I laughed at their pet theories.  But the great
drawback was that I had come forward without leave from the party chiefs,
and hence their toadies, lay or clerical, sternly held aloof.  Barely was
I treated uncourteously, except when my declaration that I was a Radical
led to an intimation on the part of the voter that the sooner I cleared
out the better.

I would suggest that all canvassing be prohibited—you want to get at the
public opinion of the borough, and that you do not obtain when you extort
a promise from a voter who has no definite opinion himself.  Public
meetings and an advertisement or circular should be sufficient; but there
are many voters who will not take the trouble to attend, and a public
meeting, even if enthusiastic, is no criterion of what the vote will be.
It is easy to get up a public meeting if a candidate will go to the
necessary expense; and it is easier still to spoil one if the opposition
committee can secure the services of a few roughs or an Irishman or two.
Democratic Socialists I also found very efficient in that way, unable as
they would have been to carry a candidate, or to hold a public meeting
themselves.  One of the funniest performances was, after you had had your
say, to reply to the questions.  As a rule, the questioner thinks chiefly
of himself.  He likes the sound of his voice, and he sits down with a
self-satisfied smile—if he be an old hand—as if he had made it
self-evident that he knew a thing or two, and that he was not the sort of
man you could make a fool of.  But heckling, as it is called, is a
science little understood.  It is one of the fine arts.  A candidate, for
instance, likes to make a statement when he replies to a question.  The
questioner, if he is up to the mark, will gain a cheer, as he denounces
all attempts at evasion, and demands a straightforward, Yes or No.  A man
asks you, for instance, Have you left off beating your wife yet?  How are
you to answer Yes or No in such a case?  As a rule, the questioners are
poor performers, and ask you what no one need ask who hears a candidate’s
speech, or reads his programme.  One thing came out very clearly—that is,
the terror platform orators, lay or clerical, have of any body calling
itself a Liberal Association, whether it is really that or not.  You can
get any number of orators, on the condition that you have an association
at your back.  But they dare not otherwise lend you a helping hand.
Liberalism is to have the stamp of Walbrook on it.  It must be such as
the wirepullers approve.  I said to a Radical M.P.: “I am fighting a sham
caucus.”  “Ain’t they all shams?” was his reply.  There is a danger in
this; even though there are still men left in this age of mechanical
organism who value the triumph of principles more even than that of

My experience is anybody can get into Parliament if he will keep pegging
away and has plenty of money.  Let him keep himself before the public—by
writing letters to the newspapers, and by putting in an appearance at all
public meetings, and by promising wholesale as to what he will do.  If he
can bray like a bull, and has a face of brass, and has money or friends
who have it, he may be sure of success.  As a rule, the best way is to
get yourself known to the public in connection with some new development
of philanthropic life.  But a little money is a great help.  Gold touches
hearts as nothing else can.  The biggest Radical of two candidates
naturally prefers the richer.  Men who can crowd into all meetings, and
shout “Buggins for ever,” are useful allies, and men of that stamp have
little sympathy with the poor candidates.  Once in Parliament you are
useless, at the beck and call of the whipper-in, a slave to party; but
you are an M.P. nevertheless, and may not call your soul your own.


At length I am in the home of the free, where all men are equal, where
O’Donovan Rossa may seek to blast the glories of a thousand years, where
a Henry George may pave the way for an anarchy such as the world has
never yet seen, where even Jem Blaine, as his admirers term him, passes
for an honest man, and claims to have a firm grip on the Presidential

I am unfortunate on my landing.  I have the name of one of Cook’s hotels
on my lips, and as I know Mr. John Cook makes better terms for his
customers than they can do for themselves, I resolve to go there, but
every one tells me there is no such hotel as that I ask for in New York,
and I am taken to one which is recommended by a respectable-looking
policeman.  Unfortunately, it is the head-quarters of the veteran corps
of the Army of the Potomac, who swarm all over the place, as they did all
over the South in the grand times of old.  I am not fond of heroes;
heroes are the men who have kept out of danger, while their less
fortunate comrades have been mowed down, and who appropriate the honours
which belong often to the departed alone.  Well, these heroes are holding
the fort so tightly that I resolve to leave my quarters and explore the
Broadway, one of the most picturesque promenades in the world.  Suddenly
I meet a stranger, who asks me how I am.  I reply he has the advantage of
me.  “Oh,” says he, “you were at our store last night.”  I reply that was
impossible.  He tells me his name is Bodger, I tell him my name, which,
however, he does not catch, whereupon he shakes my hand again, says how
happy he is to have met me, and we part to meet no more.  I go a few
steps farther, and go through the same process with another individual.
I bear his congratulations with fortitude, but when, a few minutes after,
the same thing occurs again, I begin to wish I were in Hanover rather
than in New York, and I resolve to seek out Cook’s Agency without further
delay.  Of course I was directed wrong, and that led to a disaster which
will necessarily shorten my visit to Uncle Sam.  Perhaps I ought not to
tell my experience.  People generally are silent when they have to tell
anything to their own discredit.  If I violate that rule, it will be to
put people on their guard.  If I am wrong in doing so, I hope the rigid
moralist will skip this altogether.

Suddenly, a young man came rushing up to me, with a face beaming with
joy.  “Good morning, Mr.—,” he exclaimed; “I am so glad we have met.”  I
intimated that I did not recollect him.  “Oh!” said he, “we came over in
the _Sarnia_ together.”  Well, the story was not improbable.  Of the
1,000 on board the _Sarnia_ I could not be expected to remember all.  “My
name is G.,” mentioning a well-known banker in London, and then he began
to tell me of his travels, at what hotel he was staying, and finally
added that he had been presented with a couple of Longfellow’s _Poems_,
handsomely bound, as a prize, and that he would be glad if I would accept
one.  Well, as my copy of Longfellow was rather the worse for wear, I
told him I would accept it with pleasure.  But I must come with him for
it.  I did so, and while doing so learned from him that the prize had
been given in connection with a lottery scheme for raising money to build
a church down South.  The idea seemed to me odd, but Brother Jonathan’s
ways are not as ours, and I was rather pleased to find that I had thus a
new chance of seeing religious life, and of having something fresh to
write about.  I am free to confess, as the great Brougham was wont to
say, I jumped at the offer.  In a few minutes we were inside a
respectable-looking house, where a tall gentleman invited us to be
seated, regretting that the copies of Longfellow had not come home from
the binder’s, and promising that we should have them by noon.  Next he
unfolded what I thought was a plan of the proposed church, but which
proved to be a chart with figures—with prizes, as it seemed to me, to all
the figures.  To my horror my friend took up the cards, and asked me to
select them for him.  This I did, and he won a thousand dollars, blessing
me as he shook hands with me warmly, and saying that as I had won half I
must have half.  Well, as the ticket had certain conditions, and as I
felt that it was rather hard on the church to take all that money, I
continued the game for a few minutes, my young friend being eager that I
should do so, till the truth dawned upon me that I had been drawn into a
swindlers’ den, and that I and my friend were dupes, and I resolved to
leave off playing, much to the regret of my friend, who gave the keeper
of the table a cheque for £100, which he would pay for me, as I would
not, and thus by another effort retrieve my loss.  There was one spot
only on the board marked blank, and that, of course, was his.  Burning
with indignation I got up to go, my friend following me, saying how much
he regretted that he had led me into such a place, offering to pay me
half my losses when he returned to town, and begging me not to say a word
about the subject when I got back to London, as it might get him into a
row.  I must say, so great has been my experience of honour among men,
and never having been in New York before, I believed in that young man
till we parted, as I did not see how he could have gained all the
knowledge he displayed of myself and movements unless he had travelled
with me as he said, and had never heard of Bunkum men.  I had not gone
far, however, before I was again shaken by the hand by a gentlemanly
young fellow, who claimed to have met me at Montreal, where he had been
introduced to me as the son of Sir H— A—.  He had been equally lucky—had
got two books, and, as he was going back to Quebec that very afternoon,
would give me one of them if I would ride with him as far as his
lodgings.  Innocently I told him my little tale.  He advised me to say
nothing about it, as I had been breaking the law and might get myself
into trouble, and then suddenly recollecting he must get his ticket
registered, and saying that he would overtake me directly, left me to go
as far as the place of our appointed rendezvous alone.  Then the truth
flashed on me that both my pretended friends were rogues, and that I had
been the victim of what, in New York, they call the Bunkum men, who got
300 dollars out of Oscar Wilde, and a good deal more out of Mr. Adams,
formerly American Ambassador in England.  I had never heard of them, I
own, and both the rogues had evidently got so much of my history by heart
that I might well fancy that they were what they described themselves to
be.  As to finding them out to make them regorge that was out of the
question.  Landlords and policemen seemed to take it quite as a matter of
course that the stranger in New York is thus to be done.  Since then I
have hardly spoken to a Yankee, nor has a Yankee spoken to me.  I now
understand why the Yankees are so reserved, and never seem to speak to
each other.  They know each other too well.  I now understand also how
the men you meet look so thin and careworn, and can’t sleep at nights.
We are not all saints in London.  Chicago boasts that it is the wickedest
city in the world, but I question whether New York may not advance a
stronger claim to the title.  Yet what an Imperial city is New York!  How
endless is its restless life! and how it runs over with the lust of the
flesh, the lust of the eye, and worldly pride!  As I wandered to the spot
in Wall Street (where, by the bye, the stockbrokers and their clerks are
not in appearance to be compared to our own) I felt, sad as I was, a
thrill of pleasure run through me, as there Washington took the oath as
the first President of the young and then pure Republic; and then, as the
evening came on, I strolled up and down in the park-like squares by means
of which New York looks like a fairy world by night, with the people
sitting under the shade of the trees, resting after the labours of the
day; while afar the gay crowds are dining or supping at Delmonico’s, or
wandering in and out of the great hotels which rear their heads like
palaces—as I looked at all that show and splendour (and in London we have
nothing to compare with it), one seemed to forget how evanescent was that
splendour, how unreal that show!  I was reminded of it, however, as I
retired to rest, by the announcement that in one part of my hotel was the
way to the fire-escape, and by the notice in my bedroom that the
proprietor would not be responsible for my boots if I put them outside
the door to be blackened.  In New York there seems to be no confidence in
anybody or anything.

As I told my story to a sweet young American lady she said, “Ah, you must
have felt very mean.”  “Not a bit of it,” said I; “the meanness seemed to
be all on the other side.”  Americans talk English, so they tell me,
better than we do ourselves!  Since then I have seen the same game played
elsewhere.  In Australia I have heard of many a poor emigrant robbed in
this way.  A plausible looking gentleman tried it on with me at Melbourne
when I was tramping up and down Burke Street one frying afternoon.  He
had come with me, he said, by the steamer from Sydney to Melbourne.  I
really thought I had met him at Brisbane.  At any rate, his wife was ill,
and he was going back with her to London by the very steamer that I was
travelling by to Adelaide.  Would I come with him as far as the Club?  Of
course I said yes.  The Melbourne Club is rather a first-class affair.
But somehow or other we did not get as far as the Club.  My friend wanted
to call on a friend in a public-house on the way.  Would I have a drink?
No, I was much obliged, but I did not want a drink.  I sat down smoking,
and he came and sat beside me.  Presently a decent-looking man came up to
my new friend with a bill.  “Can’t you wait till to-morrow?” asked my
friend.  “Well, I am rather pressed for money,” said the man,
respectfully.  “Oh, then, here it is,” said my friend, pulling a heap of
gold, or what looked like it, out of his pocket.  “By the bye,” said he,
turning to me, “I am a sovereign short; can you lend me one?”  No, I
could not.  Could I lend him half-a-sovereign?  No; I could not.  Could I
lend him five shillings?  I had not even that insignificant sum to spare.
“Oh, it does not matter,” said my friend; “I can get the money over the
way, I will just go and fetch it, and will be back in five minutes.”  And
he and his confederate went away together to be seen no more by me.
Certainly he was not on board the _Austral_, as I took my passage in her
to Adelaide.

As I left I met a policeman.

“Have you any rogues in these parts?” I innocently asked.

“Well, we have a few.  There was one from New York a little while ago,
but he had to go back home.  He said he was no match for our Melbourne
rogues at all.”  It was well that I escaped scot-free.  On the steamer in
which I returned there was a poor third-class passenger who had lost his
all in such a way.  He was fool enough to let the man treat him to a
drink, and that little drink proved rather a costly affair.  All his
hard-earned savings had disappeared.


It is about time, I wrote one day in America, I set my face homeward.
When on the prairie I was beginning to speculate whether I should ever be
fit to make an appearance in descent society again.  Now, it seems to me,
the question to be asked is, Whether I have not soared so high in the
world as to have lost all taste for the frugal simplicity of that home
life, where, in the touching words of an American poet I met with this
morning, it is to be trusted my

    Daughters are acting day by day,
    So as not to bring disgrace on their papa far away.

Here, in Washington, I am made to pass for an “Honourable,” in spite of
my modest declarations to the contrary, and have had the honour of a
private interview with the greatest man in this part of the world—the
President of the United States.  One night, when I retired to rest, I
found my bedroom on the upper storey—contiguous to the fire-escape, a
convenience you are always bound to remember in the U.S.—had been changed
for a magnificent bedroom, with a gorgeous sitting-room attached, on the
first floor, and there loomed before me a terrific vision of an hotel
bill which I supposed I should have to pay: but then, “What’s the odds so
long as you are happy?”  The question is, How came the change to be made?
Well, the fact is, I had a letter to a distinguished politician, the Hon.
Senator B—, and he, in his turn, sent me a packet addressed to the Hon.
J. E— R—; and all at once I became a great man myself in the hotel.  In a
note Mr. B— sent to the President he informed him that I had been for
thirty years a correspondent of certain papers; and in another note to
officials he has the goodness to speak of me as “the Hon. Mr. R—, a
distinguished citizen and journalist of England.”  Certainly, then, I
have as good a right to the best accommodation the hotel affords as any
other man, and accordingly I do take my ease in my inn, and not dream,
but do dwell, in marble halls, while obsequious blackies fan me as I eat
my meals, which consist of all the dainties possible—the only things a
fellow can eat this hot weather.  I am glad I have put up at Ebbet House,
Washington, where I am in clover.  Like Bottom, I feel myself
“translated.”  At Baltimore, the only night I was there, I did not get a
minute’s sleep till daylight, because the National Convention of Master
Plumbers was holding its annual orgy just beneath, and I seriously
believed the place would be burned down before the morning.  In the
dignified repose of Ebbet House I have no such fear; my only anxiety is
as to how I can ever again reconcile myself to the time-honoured cold
mutton of domestic life after all this luxurious living.  What made
Senator B— confer the dignity of Hon. on me I am at a loss to understand.
I know there are times when I think it right and proper to blow my own
trumpet in the unavoidable absence of my trumpeter; but, in the present
instance, I must candidly confess to have done nothing of the kind.  It
is to be presumed that my improved position, as regards lodging in Ebbet
House, Washington, is to be attributed to the social status given me by
Senator B—, a gentleman who, in personal appearance and size, bears
somewhat of a resemblance to our late lamented Right Hon. W. E. Forster,
with the exception that Mr. B— brushes his hair—a process which evidently
our Bradford M.P. disdained.

This morning I have shaken hands with the President at the White House—a
modest building not larger than our Mansion House, and, like that,
interesting for its many associations.  Mr. Arthur is in the prime of
life—a tall, well-made man, with dark-brown hair and eyes, of rather
sluggish temperament, apparently.  He did not say much to me, nor, I
imagine, does he say much to anybody.  His plan seems to be to hear and
see as much, and say as little as he can.  We met in a room upstairs,
where, from ten to eleven, he is at home to Congress men, who would see
him on public affairs before Congress meets, as eleven in the morning is
the usual hour when it commences business.  There were seven or eight
waiting to speak to the President as he stood up at his table, so as to
get the light on his visitors’ faces, while his own was shaded as much as
possible; and, owing to the heat in Washington, the houses are kept so
shaded that, coming out of the clear sunlight, it is not always easy at
the first glance to see where you are.  The President did not seem
particularly happy to see anybody, and looked rather bored as the
Senators and Congress men buttonholed him.  Of course, our conversation
was strictly private and confidential, and wild horses shall never tear
the secret from me.  Posterity must remain in the dark.  It is one of
those questions never to be revealed, as much so as that which so
provoked the ancients as to the song the syrens sang to Ulysses.  The
President’s enemies call him the New York dude, because he happens to be
a gentlemanly-looking man, and patronises Episcopalianism, which in
America, as in England, is reckoned “the genteel thing.”  The Americans
are hard to please.  Mr. James Russell Lowell had got the gout, and the
New York writers said, when I was there, he had attained the object of a
snob’s ambition.  It is thus they talked of one of their country’s
brightest ornaments.  But to return to the President.  He is a wise man,
and keeps his ears open and his mouth shut—a plan which might be adopted
by other statesmen with manifest advantage to themselves and the
community.  The President wore a morning black coat, with a rose in his
buttonhole, and had the air about him of a man accustomed to say to one,
“Come,” and he comes; to another, “Go,” and he goes.  I made some few
remarks about Canada and America, to which he politely listened, and then
we shook hands and parted, he to be seized on by eager Congress men, I to
inspect the public apartments of the White House.  He has rather a hard
life of it, I fancy, as he has to work all day, and his only relaxation
seems to be a ride in the evening, as there are no private grounds
connected with the House.  In the model Republic privacy is unknown.
Everything is open and aboveboard.  Intelligent citizens gain much

As to interviewing Royalty, that is another affair.  An American
interviews his President as a right.  In the Old World monarchs keep
people at arm’s-length.  And they are right.  No man is a hero to his
valet.  But I have interviewed the President of the United States; that
is something to think of.  The interview was a farce—but such is life.


“Was there much of a sensation there when you left B— this morning?” said
the manager of a leading daily to me as I was comfortably seated in his
pleasant room in the fine group of buildings known to all the world as
the printing and publishing offices of _The West Anglian Daily_, where I
had gone in search of a little cash, which, happily, I obtained.

“None at all,” said I, in utter ignorance of what he was driving at.
“None at all; no one knew I was leaving,” and I smiled as if I had said
something good.

“No, I did not mean that,” said the manager.  “It seems you have not
heard the news.  Brown and Co. have suspended payment.  We have just had
a telegram to that effect,” which he handed me to read.  “Do you bank
there?” he asked.

“Upon my word,” I said, “I don’t know.  I never read the name of the
firm; I only know that I pay a small sum in monthly, and write a few
cheques as occasion requires.”

“You’re a pretty fellow,” said the manager.

“Now I come to think of it,” said I, “that must be my bank, as there is
no other in the place, except a small branch which has just been opened
within the last few months by Burney and Co.”

“Well, I am sorry for you,” said my friend.

“Oh, it don’t matter much to me,” I replied, with a vain attempt at a
smile.  Yet I was terribly annoyed, nevertheless.  I had let my deposit
increase more than was my general habit, thinking as Christmas was coming
I would postpone settling little accounts till after the festivities of
the Christmas season were over.  I was now lamenting I had done anything
of the kind.  I was not very happy.  Our little town of B— is a rising
place, where people come and spend a lot of money in the summer.  Some
spirited individual or other is always putting up new buildings.
Speculation is rife, and the tradesmen hope to grow prosperous as the
place prospers.  Anybody with half-a-crown in his pocket to spare is
hardly ever seen.  They all bank at Brown’s.  I daresay such of them as
are able overdraw.  Private bankers who are anxious to do business offer
great facilities in this respect; but still there are many, chiefly poor
widows and sailors who make a little money in the summer, and they bank
it all.  We have a church that is about to be enlarged, and the money
that has been raised for the purpose was placed in the bank, and we have
a few retired officers and tradesmen who have their money there.  “They
ha’ got £300 of my money,” said an angry farmer, as he banged away at the
closed door, on which a notice was suspended that, in consequence of
temporary difficulties, the bank had stopped payment for a few days.
“You might ha’ given a fellow the hint to take out his money,” said
another irritated individual to the manager, whom persistent knocking had
brought to the door.  I was sorry for the manager; he always wore a smile
on his face.  That smile had vanished as the last rose of summer.  No one
in B— was more upset than he was when the catastrophe occurred.  Some of
the knowing ones in town had smelt a rat; one or two depositors had drawn
out very heavily.  Our smiling manager had no conception of what was to
happen till, just as he was sitting down to his breakfast, with his
smiling wife and ruddy, fat-cheeked little ones, there came to him a
telegram from headquarters to the effect that he was not to open,
followed by a messenger with despatches of which he was as ignorant as
the merest ploughboy.  I must say that in the headquarters the secret was
well kept, whatever the leakage elsewhere.

Coming back to B—, the bright little town seemed sitting in the shadow of
death.  “Any news?” said I to the station-master as I got out of the
train.  “Only that the bank is broke,” was the reply.  “Ah! that won’t
matter to you,” said one to me, “your friends will help you.”  In vain I
repeated that I had no friends.  “Ah, well,” said another, “you can work;
it is the old, the infirm, the sick, who are past work, for whom I am
sorry.”  And thus I am left to sleep off my losses as best I may, trying
to believe that the difficulty is only temporary, and positively assured
in some quarters that the bank will open all right next day.  Alas! hope
tells a flattering tale.  Next morning, after a decent interval, to show
that, like Dogberry, I am used to losses, I take my morning walk and
casually pass the bank, only to see that the door is as firmly closed as
ever; I read all the morning papers, and they tell me that the bank will
be opened as usual at ten.  I know better, and all I meet are sorrowing.
One melancholy depositor, who tells me that the bank has all the money he
has taken this summer and his pension besides, assures me that the bank
will open at twelve.  I pass two hours later, and it is still shut.
Women are weeping as they see ruin staring them in the face.  Woe to me;
my butcher calls for his little account.  I have to ask him to call
again.  I see the tax-gatherer eyeing me from afar, likewise the
shoemaker; but I rush inside to find that the midday mail has arrived,
bringing me a letter from town, as follows: “With respect to your cheque
on Brown’s Bank, received yesterday, I regret to hear this day of the
suspension of the bank.  Under these circumstances your cheque will not
be cleared, so that we shall have to debit your account with it.”  This
is pleasant.  I have another cheque sent by the same post as the other.
I begin to fear on that account.  Happily, no more letters of that kind
come in, and I take another turn in the open air.  Every one looks grave.
There are little knots of men standing like conspirators in every street.
They are trying to comfort one another.  “Oh, it will be all right,” I
hear them exclaim; but they look as if they did not believe what they
said, and felt it was all wrong.  Now and then one steals away towards
the bank, but the door is still shut, and he comes back gloomier-looking
than ever.  I am growing sad myself.  I have not seen a smile or heard a
pleasant word to-day, except from my neighbour, who chuckles over the
fact that his account is overdrawn.  He laughs on the other side of his
mouth, however, when he realises the fact that he has cheques he has not
sent in.  Another day comes, and I know my fate.  Some banks have agreed
to come to the rescue.  They will pay all bank-notes in full, and will
make advances not exceeding 15s. in the pound in respect of credit
accounts as may be necessary.  Happily, our little town is safe.  Another
day or two of this strain on our credit must have thrown us all into a
general smash.  This is good as far as it goes, but I fail to see why the
holder of one of Brown’s banknotes is to have his money in full, while I
am to accept a reduction of five shillings in the pound or more.
However, I have no alternative.  I would not mind the reduction if my
friends the creditors would accept a similar reduction in their little
accounts.  Alas! it is no use making such a proposal to them; I must grin
and bear it.  One consolation is that my wife—bless her!—is away
holiday-making and does not need to ask me for cash.  On the third day we
begin to fear that we may not get ten shillings in the pound, and the
post brings me back another cheque with a modest request for cash by
return.  All over the country there is weeping and wailing.  One would
bear it better a month hence.  Christmas is coming!  Already the bells
are preparing to ring it in.  I must put on the conventional smile.
Christmas cards are coming in, wishing me a Merry Christmas and a Happy
New Year! and, oh dear! I must say, Thank you!  Alas! alas! troubles are
like babies—the more you nurse them, the bigger they grow.

And now it is time for me to make my bow and retire.  Having said that my
bank was smashed up, I cannot expect any one to be subsequently
interested in my proceedings.  We live in a commercial country and a
commercial age, and the men whom the society journals reverence are the
men who have made large fortunes, either by their own industry and
forethought and self-denial, or by the devil’s aid.  And I am inclined to
think that he has a good deal to do with the matter.  If ever we are to
have plain living and high thinking, we shall have to give up this
wonderful worship of worldly wealth and show.  Douglas Jerrold makes one
of his heroes exclaim, “Every man has within him a bit of a swindler.”
When Madame Roland died on the scaffold, whither she had been led by the
so-called champions of liberty and equality and the rights of man, she
exclaimed, as every school-boy knows, or ought to know, “Oh, Liberty,
what crimes are done in thy name!”  So say I, Oh, wealth, which means
peace and happiness, and health and joy (Sydney Smith used to say that he
felt happier for every extra guinea he had in his pocket, and most of us
can testify the same), what crimes are done in thy name; not alone in the
starvation of the poor, in the underpaying of the wage-earning class who
help to make it, but in the way in which sharks and company promoters
seek to defraud the few who have saved money of all their store.  You
recollect Douglas Jerrold makes the hero already referred to say, “You
recollect Glass, the retired merchant?  What an excellent man was Glass!
A pattern man to make a whole generation by.  What could surpass him in
what is called honesty, rectitude, moral propriety, and other gibberish?
Well, Glass grows a beard.  He becomes one of a community, and
immediately the latent feeling (swindling) asserts itself.”  And the
worst of it is that Glass as a company director and promoter is
worshipped as a great man, especially if he secures a gratuitous
advertisement by liberality in religious and philanthropic circles, and
exercises a lavish liberality in the way of balls and dinners.  Society
crawls at his feet as they used to do when poor Hudson, the ex-draper of
York, reigned a few years in splendour as the Railway King.  Glass goes
everywhere, gets into Parliament.  Rather dishonest, a sham and a fraud
as he is, we make him an idol, and then scorn far-away savages who make
idols of sticks and stones.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

        _W. Speaight & Sons_, _Printers_, _Fetter Lane_, _London_.

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