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Title: Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin
Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1901 Charles Scribner’s Sons edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                             FLEEMING JENKIN

                                * * * * *

                          ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

                                * * * * *

                                 NEW YORK
                         CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS


ON the death of Fleeming Jenkin, his family and friends determined to
publish a selection of his various papers; by way of introduction, the
following pages were drawn up; and the whole, forming two considerable
volumes, has been issued in England.  In the States, it has not been
thought advisable to reproduce the whole; and the memoir appearing alone,
shorn of that other matter which was at once its occasion and its
justification, so large an account of a man so little known may seem to a
stranger out of all proportion.  But Jenkin was a man much more
remarkable than the mere bulk or merit of his work approves him.  It was
in the world, in the commerce of friendship, by his brave attitude
towards life, by his high moral value and unwearied intellectual effort,
that he struck the minds of his contemporaries.  His was an individual
figure, such as authors delight to draw, and all men to read of, in the
pages of a novel.  His was a face worth painting for its own sake.  If
the sitter shall not seem to have justified the portrait, if Jenkin,
after his death, shall not continue to make new friends, the fault will
be altogether mine.

                                                                   R. L S.

SARANAC, _Oct._, 1887.


The Jenkins of Stowting—Fleeming’s grandfather—Mrs. Buckner’s
fortune—Fleeming’s father; goes to sea; at St. Helena; meets King Tom;
service in the West Indies; end of his career—The
Campbell-Jacksons—Fleeming’s mother—Fleeming’s uncle John.

IN the reign of Henry VIII., a family of the name of Jenkin, claiming to
come from York, and bearing the arms of Jenkin ap Philip of St. Melans,
are found reputably settled in the county of Kent.  Persons of strong
genealogical pinion pass from William Jenkin, Mayor of Folkestone in
1555, to his contemporary ‘John Jenkin, of the Citie of York, Receiver
General of the County,’ and thence, by way of Jenkin ap Philip, to the
proper summit of any Cambrian pedigree—a prince; ‘Guaith Voeth, Lord of
Cardigan,’ the name and style of him.  It may suffice, however, for the
present, that these Kentish Jenkins must have undoubtedly derived from
Wales, and being a stock of some efficiency, they struck root and grew to
wealth and consequence in their new home.

Of their consequence we have proof enough in the fact that not only was
William Jenkin (as already mentioned) Mayor of Folkestone in 1555, but no
less than twenty-three times in the succeeding century and a half, a
Jenkin (William, Thomas, Henry, or Robert) sat in the same place of
humble honour.  Of their wealth we know that in the reign of Charles I.,
Thomas Jenkin of Eythorne was more than once in the market buying land,
and notably, in 1633, acquired the manor of Stowting Court.  This was an
estate of some 320 acres, six miles from Hythe, in the Bailiwick and
Hundred of Stowting, and the Lathe of Shipway, held of the Crown _in
capite_ by the service of six men and a constable to defend the passage
of the sea at Sandgate.  It had a chequered history before it fell into
the hands of Thomas of Eythorne, having been sold and given from one to
another—to the Archbishop, to Heringods, to the Burghershes, to Pavelys,
Trivets, Cliffords, Wenlocks, Beauchamps, Nevilles, Kempes, and Clarkes:
a piece of Kentish ground condemned to see new faces and to be no man’s
home.  But from 1633 onward it became the anchor of the Jenkin family in
Kent; and though passed on from brother to brother, held in shares
between uncle and nephew, burthened by debts and jointures, and at least
once sold and bought in again, it remains to this day in the hands of the
direct line.  It is not my design, nor have I the necessary knowledge, to
give a history of this obscure family.  But this is an age when genealogy
has taken a new lease of life, and become for the first time a human
science; so that we no longer study it in quest of the Guaith Voeths, but
to trace out some of the secrets of descent and destiny; and as we study,
we think less of Sir Bernard Burke and more of Mr. Galton.  Not only do
our character and talents lie upon the anvil and receive their temper
during generations; but the very plot of our life’s story unfolds itself
on a scale of centuries, and the biography of the man is only an episode
in the epic of the family.  From this point of view I ask the reader’s
leave to begin this notice of a remarkable man who was my friend, with
the accession of his great-grandfather, John Jenkin.

This John Jenkin, a grandson of Damaris Kingsley, of the family of
‘Westward Ho!’ was born in 1727, and married Elizabeth, daughter of
Thomas Frewen, of Church House, Northiam.  The Jenkins had now been long
enough intermarrying with their Kentish neighbours to be Kentish folk
themselves in all but name; and with the Frewens in particular their
connection is singularly involved.  John and his wife were each descended
in the third degree from another Thomas Frewen, Vicar of Northiam, and
brother to Accepted Frewen, Archbishop of York.  John’s mother had
married a Frewen for a second husband.  And the last complication was to
be added by the Bishop of Chichester’s brother, Charles Buckner,
Vice-Admiral of the White, who was twice married, first to a paternal
cousin of Squire John, and second to Anne, only sister of the Squire’s
wife, and already the widow of another Frewen.  The reader must bear Mrs.
Buckner in mind; it was by means of that lady that Fleeming Jenkin began
life as a poor man.  Meanwhile, the relationship of any Frewen to any
Jenkin at the end of these evolutions presents a problem almost
insoluble; and we need not wonder if Mrs. John, thus exercised in her
immediate circle, was in her old age ‘a great genealogist of all Sussex
families, and much consulted.’  The names Frewen and Jenkin may almost
seem to have been interchangeable at will; and yet Fate proceeds with
such particularity that it was perhaps on the point of name that the
family was ruined.

The John Jenkins had a family of one daughter and five extravagant and
unpractical sons.  The eldest, Stephen, entered the Church and held the
living of Salehurst, where he offered, we may hope, an extreme example of
the clergy of the age.  He was a handsome figure of a man; jovial and
jocular; fond of his garden, which produced under his care the finest
fruits of the neighbourhood; and like all the family, very choice in
horses.  He drove tandem; like Jehu, furiously.  His saddle horse,
Captain (for the names of horses are piously preserved in the family
chronicle which I follow), was trained to break into a gallop as soon as
the vicar’s foot was thrown across its back; nor would the rein be drawn
in the nine miles between Northiam and the Vicarage door.  Debt was the
man’s proper element; he used to skulk from arrest in the chancel of his
church; and the speed of Captain may have come sometimes handy.  At an
early age this unconventional parson married his cook, and by her he had
two daughters and one son.  One of the daughters died unmarried; the
other imitated her father, and married ‘imprudently.’  The son, still
more gallantly continuing the tradition, entered the army, loaded himself
with debt, was forced to sell out, took refuge in the Marines, and was
lost on the Dogger Bank in the war-ship _Minotaur_.  If he did not marry
below him, like his father, his sister, and a certain great-uncle
William, it was perhaps because he never married at all.

The second brother, Thomas, who was employed in the General Post-Office,
followed in all material points the example of Stephen, married ‘not very
creditably,’ and spent all the money he could lay his hands on.  He died
without issue; as did the fourth brother, John, who was of weak intellect
and feeble health, and the fifth brother, William, whose brief career as
one of Mrs. Buckner’s satellites will fall to be considered later on.  So
soon, then, as the _Minotaur_ had struck upon the Dogger Bank, Stowting
and the line of the Jenkin family fell on the shoulders of the third
brother, Charles.

Facility and self-indulgence are the family marks; facility (to judge by
these imprudent marriages) being at once their quality and their defect;
but in the case of Charles, a man of exceptional beauty and sweetness
both of face and disposition, the family fault had quite grown to be a
virtue, and we find him in consequence the drudge and milk-cow of his
relatives.  Born in 1766, Charles served at sea in his youth, and smelt
both salt water and powder.  The Jenkins had inclined hitherto, as far as
I can make out, to the land service.  Stephen’s son had been a soldier;
William (fourth of Stowting) had been an officer of the unhappy
Braddock’s in America, where, by the way, he owned and afterwards sold an
estate on the James River, called, after the parental seat; of which I
should like well to hear if it still bears the name.  It was probably by
the influence of Captain Buckner, already connected with the family by
his first marriage, that Charles Jenkin turned his mind in the direction
of the navy; and it was in Buckner’s own ship, the _Prothée_, 64, that
the lad made his only campaign.  It was in the days of Rodney’s war, when
the _Prothée_, we read, captured two large privateers to windward of
Barbadoes, and was ‘materially and distinguishedly engaged’ in both the
actions with De Grasse.  While at sea Charles kept a journal, and made
strange archaic pilot-book sketches, part plan, part elevation, some of
which survive for the amusement of posterity.  He did a good deal of
surveying, so that here we may perhaps lay our finger on the beginning of
Fleeming’s education as an engineer.  What is still more strange, among
the relics of the handsome midshipman and his stay in the gun-room of the
_Prothée_, I find a code of signals graphically represented, for all the
world as it would have been done by his grandson.

On the declaration of peace, Charles, because he had suffered from
scurvy, received his mother’s orders to retire; and he was not the man to
refuse a request, far less to disobey a command.  Thereupon he turned
farmer, a trade he was to practice on a large scale; and we find him
married to a Miss Schirr, a woman of some fortune, the daughter of a
London merchant.  Stephen, the not very reverend, was still alive,
galloping about the country or skulking in his chancel.  It does not
appear whether he let or sold the paternal manor to Charles; one or
other, it must have been; and the sailor-farmer settled at Stowting, with
his wife, his mother, his unmarried sister, and his sick brother John.
Out of the six people of whom his nearest family consisted, three were in
his own house, and two others (the horse-leeches, Stephen and Thomas) he
appears to have continued to assist with more amiability than wisdom.  He
hunted, belonged to the Yeomanry, owned famous horses, Maggie and Lucy,
the latter coveted by royalty itself.  ‘Lord Rokeby, his neighbour,
called him kinsman,’ writes my artless chronicler, ‘and altogether life
was very cheery.’  At Stowting his three sons, John, Charles, and Thomas
Frewen, and his younger daughter, Anna, were all born to him; and the
reader should here be told that it is through the report of this second
Charles (born 1801) that he has been looking on at these confused
passages of family history.

In the year 1805 the ruin of the Jenkins was begun.  It was the work of a
fallacious lady already mentioned, Aunt Anne Frewen, a sister of Mrs.
John.  Twice married, first to her cousin Charles Frewen, clerk to the
Court of Chancery, Brunswick Herald, and Usher of the Black Rod, and
secondly to Admiral Buckner, she was denied issue in both beds, and being
very rich—she died worth about 60,000_l._, mostly in land—she was in
perpetual quest of an heir.  The mirage of this fortune hung before
successive members of the Jenkin family until her death in 1825, when it
dissolved and left the latest Alnaschar face to face with bankruptcy.
The grandniece, Stephen’s daughter, the one who had not ‘married
imprudently,’ appears to have been the first; for she was taken abroad by
the golden aunt, and died in her care at Ghent in 1792.  Next she adopted
William, the youngest of the five nephews; took him abroad with her—it
seems as if that were in the formula; was shut up with him in Paris by
the Revolution; brought him back to Windsor, and got him a place in the
King’s Body-Guard, where he attracted the notice of George III. by his
proficiency in German.  In 1797, being on guard at St. James’s Palace,
William took a cold which carried him off; and Aunt Anne was once more
left heirless.  Lastly, in 1805, perhaps moved by the Admiral, who had a
kindness for his old midshipman, perhaps pleased by the good looks and
the good nature of the man himself, Mrs. Buckner turned her eyes upon
Charles Jenkin.  He was not only to be the heir, however, he was to be
the chief hand in a somewhat wild scheme of family farming.  Mrs. Jenkin,
the mother, contributed 164 acres of land; Mrs. Buckner, 570, some at
Northiam, some farther off; Charles let one-half of Stowting to a tenant,
and threw the other and various scattered parcels into the common
enterprise; so that the whole farm amounted to near upon a thousand
acres, and was scattered over thirty miles of country.  The ex-seaman of
thirty-nine, on whose wisdom and ubiquity the scheme depended, was to
live in the meanwhile without care or fear.  He was to check himself in
nothing; his two extravagances, valuable horses and worthless brothers,
were to be indulged in comfort; and whether the year quite paid itself or
not, whether successive years left accumulated savings or only a growing
deficit, the fortune of the golden aunt should in the end repair all.

On this understanding Charles Jenkin transported his family to Church
House, Northiam: Charles the second, then a child of three, among the
number.  Through the eyes of the boy we have glimpses of the life that
followed: of Admiral and Mrs. Buckner driving up from Windsor in a coach
and six, two post-horses and their own four; of the house full of
visitors, the great roasts at the fire, the tables in the servants’ hall
laid for thirty or forty for a month together; of the daily press of
neighbours, many of whom, Frewens, Lords, Bishops, Batchellors, and
Dynes, were also kinsfolk; and the parties ‘under the great spreading
chestnuts of the old fore court,’ where the young people danced and made
merry to the music of the village band.  Or perhaps, in the depth of
winter, the father would bid young Charles saddle his pony; they would
ride the thirty miles from Northiam to Stowting, with the snow to the
pony’s saddle girths, and be received by the tenants like princes.

This life of delights, with the continual visible comings and goings of
the golden aunt, was well qualified to relax the fibre of the lads.
John, the heir, a yeoman and a fox-hunter, ‘loud and notorious with his
whip and spurs,’ settled down into a kind of Tony Lumpkin, waiting for
the shoes of his father and his aunt.  Thomas Frewen, the youngest, is
briefly dismissed as ‘a handsome beau’; but he had the merit or the good
fortune to become a doctor of medicine, so that when the crash came he
was not empty-handed for the war of life.  Charles, at the day-school of
Northiam, grew so well acquainted with the rod, that his floggings became
matter of pleasantry and reached the ears of Admiral Buckner.  Hereupon
that tall, rough-voiced, formidable uncle entered with the lad into a
covenant: every time that Charles was thrashed he was to pay the Admiral
a penny; everyday that he escaped, the process was to be reversed.  ‘I
recollect,’ writes Charles, ‘going crying to my mother to be taken to the
Admiral to pay my debt.’  It would seem by these terms the speculation
was a losing one; yet it is probable it paid indirectly by bringing the
boy under remark.  The Admiral was no enemy to dunces; he loved courage,
and Charles, while yet little more than a baby, would ride the great
horse into the pond.  Presently it was decided that here was the stuff of
a fine sailor; and at an early period the name of Charles Jenkin was
entered on a ship’s books.

From Northiam he was sent to another school at Boonshill, near Rye, where
the master took ‘infinite delight’ in strapping him.  ‘It keeps me warm
and makes you grow,’ he used to say.  And the stripes were not altogether
wasted, for the dunce, though still very ‘raw,’ made progress with his
studies.  It was known, moreover, that he was going to sea, always a
ground of pre-eminence with schoolboys; and in his case the glory was not
altogether future, it wore a present form when he came driving to Rye
behind four horses in the same carriage with an admiral.  ‘I was not a
little proud, you may believe,’ says he.

In 1814, when he was thirteen years of age, he was carried by his father
to Chichester to the Bishop’s Palace.  The Bishop had heard from his
brother the Admiral that Charles was likely to do well, and had an order
from Lord Melville for the lad’s admission to the Royal Naval College at
Portsmouth.  Both the Bishop and the Admiral patted him on the head and
said, ‘Charles will restore the old family’; by which I gather with some
surprise that, even in these days of open house at Northiam and golden
hope of my aunt’s fortune, the family was supposed to stand in need of
restoration.  But the past is apt to look brighter than nature, above all
to those enamoured of their genealogy; and the ravages of Stephen and
Thomas must have always given matter of alarm.

What with the flattery of bishops and admirals, the fine company in which
he found himself at Portsmouth, his visits home, with their gaiety and
greatness of life, his visits to Mrs. Buckner (soon a widow) at Windsor,
where he had a pony kept for him, and visited at Lord Melville’s and Lord
Harcourt’s and the Leveson-Gowers, he began to have ‘bumptious notions,’
and his head was ‘somewhat turned with fine people’; as to some extent it
remained throughout his innocent and honourable life.

In this frame of mind the boy was appointed to the _Conqueror_, Captain
Davie, humorously known as Gentle Johnnie.  The captain had earned this
name by his style of discipline, which would have figured well in the
pages of Marryat: ‘Put the prisoner’s head in a bag and give him another
dozen!’ survives as a specimen of his commands; and the men were often
punished twice or thrice in a week.  On board the ship of this
disciplinarian, Charles and his father were carried in a billy-boat from
Sheerness in December, 1816: Charles with an outfit suitable to his
pretensions, a twenty-guinea sextant and 120 dollars in silver, which
were ordered into the care of the gunner.  ‘The old clerks and mates,’ he
writes, ‘used to laugh and jeer me for joining the ship in a billy-boat,
and when they found I was from Kent, vowed I was an old Kentish smuggler.
This to my pride, you will believe, was not a little offensive.’

The _Conqueror_ carried the flag of Vice-Admiral Plampin, commanding at
the Cape and St. Helena; and at that all-important islet, in July, 1817,
she relieved the flagship of Sir Pulteney Malcolm.  Thus it befel that
Charles Jenkin, coming too late for the epic of the French wars, played a
small part in the dreary and disgraceful afterpiece of St. Helena.  Life
on the guard-ship was onerous and irksome.  The anchor was never lifted,
sail never made, the great guns were silent; none was allowed on shore
except on duty; all day the movements of the imperial captive were
signalled to and fro; all night the boats rowed guard around the
accessible portions of the coast.  This prolonged stagnation and petty
watchfulness in what Napoleon himself called that ‘unchristian’ climate,
told cruelly on the health of the ship’s company.  In eighteen months,
according to O’Meara, the _Conqueror_ had lost one hundred and ten men
and invalided home one hundred and seven, being more than a third of her
complement.  It does not seem that our young midshipman so much as once
set eyes on Bonaparte; and yet in other ways Jenkin was more fortunate
than some of his comrades.  He drew in water-colour; not so badly as his
father, yet ill enough; and this art was so rare aboard the _Conqueror_
that even his humble proficiency marked him out and procured him some
alleviations.  Admiral Plampin had succeeded Napoleon at the Briars; and
here he had young Jenkin staying with him to make sketches of the
historic house.  One of these is before me as I write, and gives a
strange notion of the arts in our old English Navy.  Yet it was again as
an artist that the lad was taken for a run to Rio, and apparently for a
second outing in a ten-gun brig.  These, and a cruise of six weeks to
windward of the island undertaken by the _Conqueror_ herself in quest of
health, were the only breaks in three years of murderous inaction; and at
the end of that period Jenkin was invalided home, having ‘lost his health

As he left the deck of the guard-ship the historic part of his career
came to an end.  For forty-two years he continued to serve his country
obscurely on the seas, sometimes thanked for inconspicuous and honourable
services, but denied any opportunity of serious distinction.  He was
first two years in the _Larne_, Captain Tait, hunting pirates and keeping
a watch on the Turkish and Greek squadrons in the Archipelago.  Captain
Tait was a favourite with Sir Thomas Maitland, High Commissioner of the
Ionian Islands—King Tom as he was called—who frequently took passage in
the _Larne_.  King Tom knew every inch of the Mediterranean, and was a
terror to the officers of the watch.  He would come on deck at night; and
with his broad Scotch accent, ‘Well, sir,’ he would say, ‘what depth of
water have ye?  Well now, sound; and ye’ll just find so or so many
fathoms,’ as the case might be; and the obnoxious passenger was generally
right.  On one occasion, as the ship was going into Corfu, Sir Thomas
came up the hatchway and cast his eyes towards the gallows.
‘Bangham’—Charles Jenkin heard him say to his aide-de-camp, Lord
Bangham—‘where the devil is that other chap?  I left four fellows hanging
there; now I can only see three.  Mind there is another there to-morrow.’
And sure enough there was another Greek dangling the next day.  ‘Captain
Hamilton, of the _Cambrian_, kept the Greeks in order afloat,’ writes my
author, ‘and King Tom ashore.’

From 1823 onward, the chief scene of Charles Jenkin’s activities was in
the West Indies, where he was engaged off and on till 1844, now as a
subaltern, now in a vessel of his own, hunting out pirates, ‘then very
notorious’ in the Leeward Islands, cruising after slavers, or carrying
dollars and provisions for the Government.  While yet a midshipman, he
accompanied Mr. Cockburn to Caraccas and had a sight of Bolivar.  In the
brigantine _Griffon_, which he commanded in his last years in the West
Indies, he carried aid to Guadeloupe after the earthquake, and twice
earned the thanks of Government: once for an expedition to Nicaragua to
extort, under threat of a blockade, proper apologies and a sum of money
due to certain British merchants; and once during an insurrection in San
Domingo, for the rescue of certain others from a perilous imprisonment
and the recovery of a ‘chest of money’ of which they had been robbed.
Once, on the other hand, he earned his share of public censure.  This was
in 1837, when he commanded the _Romney_ lying in the inner harbour of
Havannah.  The _Romney_ was in no proper sense a man-of-war; she was a
slave-hulk, the bonded warehouse of the Mixed Slave Commission; where
negroes, captured out of slavers under Spanish colours, were detained
provisionally, till the Commission should decide upon their case and
either set them free or bind them to apprenticeship.  To this ship,
already an eye-sore to the authorities, a Cuban slave made his escape.
The position was invidious; on one side were the tradition of the British
flag and the state of public sentiment at home; on the other, the
certainty that if the slave were kept, the _Romney_ would be ordered at
once out of the harbour, and the object of the Mixed Commission
compromised.  Without consultation with any other officer, Captain Jenkin
(then lieutenant) returned the man to shore and took the
Captain-General’s receipt.  Lord Palmerston approved his course; but the
zealots of the anti-slave trade movement (never to be named without
respect) were much dissatisfied; and thirty-nine years later, the matter
was again canvassed in Parliament, and Lord Palmerston and Captain Jenkin
defended by Admiral Erskine in a letter to the _Times_ (March 13, 1876).

In 1845, while still lieutenant, Charles Jenkin acted as Admiral Pigot’s
flag captain in the Cove of Cork, where there were some thirty pennants;
and about the same time, closed his career by an act of personal bravery.
He had proceeded with his boats to the help of a merchant vessel, whose
cargo of combustibles had taken fire and was smouldering under hatches;
his sailors were in the hold, where the fumes were already heavy, and
Jenkin was on deck directing operations, when he found his orders were no
longer answered from below: he jumped down without hesitation and slung
up several insensible men with his own hand.  For this act, he received a
letter from the Lords of the Admiralty expressing a sense of his
gallantry; and pretty soon after was promoted Commander, superseded, and
could never again obtain employment.

In 1828 or 1829, Charles Jenkin was in the same watch with another
midshipman, Robert Colin Campbell Jackson, who introduced him to his
family in Jamaica.  The father, the Honourable Robert Jackson, Custos
Rotulorum of Kingston, came of a Yorkshire family, said to be originally
Scotch; and on the mother’s side, counted kinship with some of the
Forbeses.  The mother was Susan Campbell, one of the Campbells of
Auchenbreck.  Her father Colin, a merchant in Greenock, is said to have
been the heir to both the estate and the baronetcy; he claimed neither,
which casts a doubt upon the fact, but he had pride enough himself, and
taught enough pride to his family, for any station or descent in
Christendom.  He had four daughters.  One married an Edinburgh writer, as
I have it on a first account—a minister, according to another—a man at
least of reasonable station, but not good enough for the Campbells of
Auchenbreck; and the erring one was instantly discarded.  Another married
an actor of the name of Adcock, whom (as I receive the tale) she had seen
acting in a barn; but the phrase should perhaps be regarded rather as a
measure of the family annoyance, than a mirror of the facts.  The
marriage was not in itself unhappy; Adcock was a gentleman by birth and
made a good husband; the family reasonably prospered, and one of the
daughters married no less a man than Clarkson Stanfield.  But by the
father, and the two remaining Miss Campbells, people of fierce passions
and a truly Highland pride, the derogation was bitterly resented.  For
long the sisters lived estranged then, Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Adcock were
reconciled for a moment, only to quarrel the more fiercely; the name of
Mrs. Adcock was proscribed, nor did it again pass her sister’s lips,
until the morning when she announced: ‘Mary Adcock is dead; I saw her in
her shroud last night.’  Second sight was hereditary in the house; and
sure enough, as I have it reported, on that very night Mrs. Adcock had
passed away.  Thus, of the four daughters, two had, according to the
idiotic notions of their friends, disgraced themselves in marriage; the
others supported the honour of the family with a better grace, and
married West Indian magnates of whom, I believe, the world has never
heard and would not care to hear: So strange a thing is this hereditary
pride.  Of Mr. Jackson, beyond the fact that he was Fleeming’s
grandfather, I know naught.  His wife, as I have said, was a woman of
fierce passions; she would tie her house slaves to the bed and lash them
with her own hand; and her conduct to her wild and down-going sons, was a
mixture of almost insane self-sacrifice and wholly insane violence of
temper.  She had three sons and one daughter.  Two of the sons went
utterly to ruin, and reduced their mother to poverty.  The third went to
India, a slim, delicate lad, and passed so wholly from the knowledge of
his relatives that he was thought to be long dead.  Years later, when his
sister was living in Genoa, a red-bearded man of great strength and
stature, tanned by years in India, and his hands covered with barbaric
gems, entered the room unannounced, as she was playing the piano, lifted
her from her seat, and kissed her.  It was her brother, suddenly returned
out of a past that was never very clearly understood, with the rank of
general, many strange gems, many cloudy stories of adventure, and next
his heart, the daguerreotype of an Indian prince with whom he had mixed

The last of this wild family, the daughter, Henrietta Camilla, became the
wife of the midshipman Charles, and the mother of the subject of this
notice, Fleeming Jenkin.  She was a woman of parts and courage.  Not
beautiful, she had a far higher gift, the art of seeming so; played the
part of a belle in society, while far lovelier women were left
unattended; and up to old age had much of both the exigency and the charm
that mark that character.  She drew naturally, for she had no training,
with unusual skill; and it was from her, and not from the two naval
artists, that Fleeming inherited his eye and hand.  She played on the
harp and sang with something beyond the talent of an amateur.  At the age
of seventeen, she heard Pasta in Paris; flew up in a fire of youthful
enthusiasm; and the next morning, all alone and without introduction,
found her way into the presence of the _prima donna_ and begged for
lessons.  Pasta made her sing, kissed her when she had done, and though
she refused to be her mistress, placed her in the hands of a friend.  Nor
was this all, for when Pasta returned to Paris, she sent for the girl
(once at least) to test her progress.  But Mrs. Jenkin’s talents were not
so remarkable as her fortitude and strength of will; and it was in an art
for which she had no natural taste (the art of literature) that she
appeared before the public.  Her novels, though they attained and merited
a certain popularity both in France and England, are a measure only of
her courage.  They were a task, not a beloved task; they were written for
money in days of poverty, and they served their end.  In the least thing
as well as in the greatest, in every province of life as well as in her
novels, she displayed the same capacity of taking infinite pains, which
descended to her son.  When she was about forty (as near as her age was
known) she lost her voice; set herself at once to learn the piano,
working eight hours a day; and attained to such proficiency that her
collaboration in chamber music was courted by professionals.  And more
than twenty years later, the old lady might have been seen dauntlessly
beginning the study of Hebrew.  This is the more ethereal part of
courage; nor was she wanting in the more material.  Once when a
neighbouring groom, a married man, had seduced her maid, Mrs. Jenkin
mounted her horse, rode over to the stable entrance and horsewhipped the
man with her own hand.

How a match came about between this talented and spirited girl and the
young midshipman, is not very I easy to conceive.  Charles Jenkin was one
of the finest creatures breathing; loyalty, devotion, simple natural
piety, boyish cheerfulness, tender and manly sentiment in the old sailor
fashion, were in him inherent and inextinguishable either by age,
suffering, or injustice.  He looked, as he was, every inch a gentleman;
he must have been everywhere notable, even among handsome men, both for
his face and his gallant bearing; not so much that of a sailor, you would
have said, as like one of those gentle and graceful soldiers that, to
this day, are the most pleasant of Englishmen to see.  But though he was
in these ways noble, the dunce scholar of Northiam was to the end no
genius.  Upon all points that a man must understand to be a gentleman, to
be upright, gallant, affectionate and dead to self, Captain Jenkin was
more knowing than one among a thousand; outside of that, his mind was
very largely blank.  He had indeed a simplicity that came near to
vacancy; and in the first forty years of his married life, this want grew
more accentuated.  In both families imprudent marriages had been the
rule; but neither Jenkin nor Campbell had ever entered into a more
unequal union.  It was the captain’s good looks, we may suppose, that
gained for him this elevation; and in some ways and for many years of his
life, he had to pay the penalty.  His wife, impatient of his incapacity
and surrounded by brilliant friends, used him with a certain contempt.
She was the managing partner; the life was hers, not his; after his
retirement they lived much abroad, where the poor captain, who could
never learn any language but his own, sat in the corner mumchance; and
even his son, carried away by his bright mother, did not recognise for
long the treasures of simple chivalry that lay buried in the heart of his
father.  Yet it would be an error to regard this marriage as unfortunate.
It not only lasted long enough to justify itself in a beautiful and
touching epilogue, but it gave to the world the scientific work and what
(while time was) were of far greater value, the delightful qualities of
Fleeming Jenkin.  The Kentish-Welsh family, facile, extravagant, generous
to a fault and far from brilliant, had given the father, an extreme
example of its humble virtues.  On the other side, the wild, cruel,
proud, and somewhat blackguard stock of the Scotch Campbell-Jacksons, had
put forth, in the person of the mother all its force and courage.

The marriage fell in evil days.  In 1823, the bubble of the Golden Aunt’s
inheritance had burst.  She died holding the hand of the nephew she had
so wantonly deceived; at the last she drew him down and seemed to bless
him, surely with some remorseful feeling; for when the will was opened,
there was not found so much as the mention of his name.  He was deeply in
debt; in debt even to the estate of his deceiver, so that he had to sell
a piece of land to clear himself.  ‘My dear boy,’ he said to Charles,
‘there will be nothing left for you.  I am a ruined man.’  And here
follows for me the strangest part of this story.  From the death of the
treacherous aunt, Charles Jenkin, senior, had still some nine years to
live; it was perhaps too late for him to turn to saving, and perhaps his
affairs were past restoration.  But his family at least had all this
while to prepare; they were still young men, and knew what they had to
look for at their father’s death; and yet when that happened in
September, 1831, the heir was still apathetically waiting.  Poor John,
the days of his whips and spurs, and Yeomanry dinners, were quite over;
and with that incredible softness of the Jenkin nature, he settled down
for the rest of a long life, into something not far removed above a
peasant.  The mill farm at Stowting had been saved out of the wreck; and
here he built himself a house on the Mexican model, and made the two ends
meet with rustic thrift, gathering dung with his own hands upon the road
and not at all abashed at his employment.  In dress, voice, and manner,
he fell into mere country plainness; lived without the least care for
appearances, the least regret for the past or discontentment with the
present; and when he came to die, died with Stoic cheerfulness,
announcing that he had had a comfortable time and was yet well pleased to
go.  One would think there was little active virtue to be inherited from
such a race; and yet in this same voluntary peasant, the special gift of
Fleeming Jenkin was already half developed.  The old man to the end was
perpetually inventing; his strange, ill-spelled, unpunctuated
correspondence is full (when he does not drop into cookery receipts) of
pumps, road engines, steam-diggers, steam-ploughs, and steam-threshing
machines; and I have it on Fleeming’s word that what he did was full of
ingenuity—only, as if by some cross destiny, useless.  These
disappointments he not only took with imperturbable good humour, but
rejoiced with a particular relish over his nephew’s success in the same
field.  ‘I glory in the professor,’ he wrote to his brother; and to
Fleeming himself, with a touch of simple drollery, ‘I was much pleased
with your lecture, but why did you hit me so hard with Conisure’s’
(connoisseur’s, _quasi_ amateur’s) ‘engineering?  Oh, what
presumption!—either of you or _my_self!’  A quaint, pathetic figure, this
of uncle John, with his dung cart and his inventions; and the romantic
fancy of his Mexican house; and his craze about the Lost Tribes which
seemed to the worthy man the key of all perplexities; and his quiet
conscience, looking back on a life not altogether vain, for he was a good
son to his father while his father lived, and when evil days approached,
he had proved himself a cheerful Stoic.

It followed from John’s inertia, that the duty of winding up the estate
fell into the hands of Charles.  He managed it with no more skill than
might be expected of a sailor ashore, saved a bare livelihood for John
and nothing for the rest.  Eight months later, he married Miss Jackson;
and with her money, bought in some two-thirds of Stowting.  In the
beginning of the little family history which I have been following to so
great an extent, the Captain mentions, with a delightful pride: ‘A Court
Baron and Court Leet are regularly held by the Lady of the Manor, Mrs.
Henrietta Camilla Jenkin’; and indeed the pleasure of so describing his
wife, was the most solid benefit of the investment; for the purchase was
heavily encumbered and paid them nothing till some years before their
death.  In the meanwhile, the Jackson family also, what with wild sons,
an indulgent mother and the impending emancipation of the slaves, was
moving nearer and nearer to beggary; and thus of two doomed and declining
houses, the subject of this memoir was born, heir to an estate and to no
money, yet with inherited qualities that were to make him known and

CHAPTER II.  1833–1851.

Birth and Childhood—Edinburgh—Frankfort-on-the-Main—Paris—The Revolution
of 1848—The Insurrection—Flight to Italy—Sympathy with Italy—The
Insurrection in Genoa—A Student in Genoa—The Lad and his Mother.

HENRY CHARLES FLEEMING JENKIN (Fleeming, pronounced Flemming, to his
friends and family) was born in a Government building on the coast of
Kent, near Dungeness, where his father was serving at the time in the
Coastguard, on March 25, 1833, and named after Admiral Fleeming, one of
his father’s protectors in the navy.

His childhood was vagrant like his life.  Once he was left in the care of
his grandmother Jackson, while Mrs. Jenkin sailed in her husband’s ship
and stayed a year at the Havannah.  The tragic woman was besides from
time to time a member of the family she was in distress of mind and
reduced in fortune by the misconduct of her sons; her destitution and
solitude made it a recurring duty to receive her, her violence
continually enforced fresh separations.  In her passion of a disappointed
mother, she was a fit object of pity; but her grandson, who heard her
load his own mother with cruel insults and reproaches, conceived for her
an indignant and impatient hatred, for which he blamed himself in later
life.  It is strange from this point of view to see his childish letters
to Mrs. Jackson; and to think that a man, distinguished above all by
stubborn truthfulness, should have been brought up to such dissimulation.
But this is of course unavoidable in life; it did no harm to Jenkin; and
whether he got harm or benefit from a so early acquaintance with violent
and hateful scenes, is more than I can guess.  The experience, at least,
was formative; and in judging his character it should not be forgotten.
But Mrs. Jackson was not the only stranger in their gates; the Captain’s
sister, Aunt Anna Jenkin, lived with them until her death; she had all
the Jenkin beauty of countenance, though she was unhappily deformed in
body and of frail health; and she even excelled her gentle and
ineffectual family in all amiable qualities.  So that each of the two
races from which Fleeming sprang, had an outpost by his very cradle; the
one he instinctively loved, the other hated; and the life-long war in his
members had begun thus early by a victory for what was best.

We can trace the family from one country place to another in the south of
Scotland; where the child learned his taste for sport by riding home the
pony from the moors.  Before he was nine he could write such a passage as
this about a Hallowe’en observance: ‘I pulled a middling-sized
cabbage-runt with a pretty sum of gold about it.  No witches would run
after me when I was sowing my hempseed this year; my nuts blazed away
together very comfortably to the end of their lives, and when mamma put
hers in which were meant for herself and papa they blazed away in the
like manner.’  Before he was ten he could write, with a really irritating
precocity, that he had been ‘making some pictures from a book called “Les
Français peints par euxmêmes.” . . .  It is full of pictures of all
classes, with a description of each in French.  The pictures are a little
caricatured, but not much.’  Doubtless this was only an echo from his
mother, but it shows the atmosphere in which he breathed.  It must have
been a good change for this art critic to be the playmate of Mary
Macdonald, their gardener’s daughter at Barjarg, and to sup with her
family on potatoes and milk; and Fleeming himself attached some value to
this early and friendly experience of another class.

His education, in the formal sense, began at Jedburgh.  Thence he went to
the Edinburgh Academy, where he was the classmate of Tait and Clerk
Maxwell, bore away many prizes, and was once unjustly flogged by Rector
Williams.  He used to insist that all his bad schoolfellows had died
early, a belief amusingly characteristic of the man’s consistent
optimism.  In 1846 the mother and son proceeded to Frankfort-on-the-Main,
where they were soon joined by the father, now reduced to inaction and to
play something like third fiddle in his narrow household.  The
emancipation of the slaves had deprived them of their last resource
beyond the half-pay of a captain; and life abroad was not only desirable
for the sake of Fleeming’s education, it was almost enforced by reasons
of economy.  But it was, no doubt, somewhat hard upon the captain.
Certainly that perennial boy found a companion in his son; they were both
active and eager, both willing to be amused, both young, if not in years,
then in character.  They went out together on excursions and sketched old
castles, sitting side by side; they had an angry rivalry in walking,
doubtless equally sincere upon both sides; and indeed we may say that
Fleeming was exceptionally favoured, and that no boy had ever a companion
more innocent, engaging, gay, and airy.  But although in this case it
would be easy to exaggerate its import, yet, in the Jenkin family also,
the tragedy of the generations was proceeding, and the child was growing
out of his father’s knowledge.  His artistic aptitude was of a different
order.  Already he had his quick sight of many sides of life; he already
overflowed with distinctions and generalisations, contrasting the
dramatic art and national character of England, Germany, Italy, and
France.  If he were dull, he would write stories and poems.  ‘I have
written,’ he says at thirteen, ‘a very long story in heroic measure, 300
lines, and another Scotch story and innumerable bits of poetry’; and at
the same age he had not only a keen feeling for scenery, but could do
something with his pen to call it up.  I feel I do always less than
justice to the delightful memory of Captain Jenkin; but with a lad of
this character, cutting the teeth of his intelligence, he was sure to
fall into the background.

The family removed in 1847 to Paris, where Fleeming was put to school
under one Deluc.  There he learned French, and (if the captain is right)
first began to show a taste for mathematics.  But a far more important
teacher than Deluc was at hand; the year 1848, so momentous for Europe,
was momentous also for Fleeming’s character.  The family politics were
Liberal; Mrs. Jenkin, generous before all things, was sure to be upon the
side of exiles; and in the house of a Paris friend of hers, Mrs.
Turner—already known to fame as Shelley’s Cornelia de Boinville—Fleeming
saw and heard such men as Manin, Gioberti, and the Ruffinis.  He was thus
prepared to sympathise with revolution; and when the hour came, and he
found himself in the midst of stirring and influential events, the lad’s
whole character was moved.  He corresponded at that time with a young
Edinburgh friend, one Frank Scott; and I am here going to draw somewhat
largely on this boyish correspondence.  It gives us at once a picture of
the Revolution and a portrait of Jenkin at fifteen; not so different (his
friends will think) from the Jenkin of the end—boyish, simple,
opinionated, delighting in action, delighting before all things in any
generous sentiment.

                                                       ‘February 23, 1848.

    ‘When at 7 o’clock to-day I went out, I met a large band going round
    the streets, calling on the inhabitants to illuminate their houses,
    and bearing torches.  This was all very good fun, and everybody was
    delighted; but as they stopped rather long and were rather turbulent
    in the Place de la Madeleine, near where we live’ [in the Rue
    Caumartin] ‘a squadron of dragoons came up, formed, and charged at a
    hand-gallop.  This was a very pretty sight; the crowd was not too
    thick, so they easily got away; and the dragoons only gave blows with
    the back of the sword, which hurt but did not wound.  I was as close
    to them as I am now to the other side of the table; it was rather
    impressive, however.  At the second charge they rode on the pavement
    and knocked the torches out of the fellows’ hands; rather a shame,
    too—wouldn’t be stood in England. . . .

    [At] ‘ten minutes to ten . . . I went a long way along the
    Boulevards, passing by the office of Foreign Affairs, where Guizot
    lives, and where to-night there were about a thousand troops
    protecting him from the fury of the populace.  After this was passed,
    the number of the people thickened, till about half a mile further
    on, I met a troop of vagabonds, the wildest vagabonds in the
    world—Paris vagabonds, well armed, having probably broken into
    gunsmiths’ shops and taken the guns and swords.  They were about a
    hundred.  These were followed by about a thousand (I am rather
    diminishing than exaggerating numbers all through), indifferently
    armed with rusty sabres, sticks, etc.  An uncountable troop of
    gentlemen, workmen, shopkeepers’ wives (Paris women dare anything),
    ladies’ maids, common women—in fact, a crowd of all classes, though
    by far the greater number were of the better dressed class—followed.
    Indeed, it was a splendid sight: the mob in front chanting the
    “_Marseillaise_,” the national war hymn, grave and powerful,
    sweetened by the night air—though night in these splendid streets was
    turned into day, every window was filled with lamps, dim torches were
    tossing in the crowd . . . for Guizot has late this night given in
    his resignation, and this was an improvised illumination.

    ‘I and my father had turned with the crowd, and were close behind the
    second troop of vagabonds.  Joy was on every face.  I remarked to
    papa that “I would not have missed the scene for anything, I might
    never see such a splendid one,” when _plong_ went one shot—every face
    went pale—_r-r-r-r-r_ went the whole detachment, [and] the whole
    crowd of gentlemen and ladies turned and cut.  Such a scene!—ladies,
    gentlemen, and vagabonds went sprawling in the mud, not shot but
    tripped up; and those that went down could not rise, they were
    trampled over. . . . I ran a short time straight on and did not fall,
    then turned down a side street, ran fifty yards and felt tolerably
    safe; looked for papa, did not see him; so walked on quickly, giving
    the news as I went.’  [It appears, from another letter, the boy was
    the first to carry word of the firing to the Rue St. Honoré; and that
    his news wherever he brought it was received with hurrahs.  It was an
    odd entrance upon life for a little English lad, thus to play the
    part of rumour in such a crisis of the history of France.]

    ‘But now a new fear came over me.  I had little doubt but my papa was
    safe, but my fear was that he should arrive at home before me and
    tell the story; in that case I knew my mamma would go half mad with
    fright, so on I went as quick as possible.  I heard no more
    discharges.  When I got half way home, I found my way blocked up by
    troops.  That way or the Boulevards I must pass.  In the Boulevards
    they were fighting, and I was afraid all other passages might be
    blocked up . . . and I should have to sleep in a hotel in that case,
    and then my mamma—however, after a long _détour_, I found a passage
    and ran home, and in our street joined papa.

    ‘. . . I’ll tell you to-morrow the other facts gathered from
    newspapers and papa. . . . Tonight I have given you what I have seen
    with my own eyes an hour ago, and began trembling with excitement and
    fear.  If I have been too long on this one subject, it is because it
    is yet before my eyes.

                                                              ‘Monday, 24.

    ‘It was that fire raised the people.  There was fighting all through
    the night in the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, on the Boulevards where
    they had been shot at, and at the Porte St. Denis.  At ten o’clock,
    they resigned the house of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (where the
    disastrous volley was fired) to the people, who immediately took
    possession of it.  I went to school, but [was] hardly there when the
    row in that quarter commenced.  Barricades began to be fixed.
    Everyone was very grave now; the _externes_ went away, but no one
    came to fetch me, so I had to stay.  No lessons could go on.  A troop
    of armed men took possession of the barricades, so it was supposed I
    should have to sleep there.  The revolters came and asked for arms,
    but Deluc (head-master) is a National Guard, and he said he had only
    his own and he wanted them; but he said he would not fire on them.
    Then they asked for wine, which he gave them.  They took good care
    not to get drunk, knowing they would not be able to fight.  They were
    very polite and behaved extremely well.

    ‘About 12 o’clock a servant came for a boy who lived near me, [and]
    Deluc thought it best to send me with him.  We heard a good deal of
    firing near, but did not come across any of the parties.  As we
    approached the railway, the barricades were no longer formed of
    palings, planks, or stones; but they had got all the omnibuses as
    they passed, sent the horses and passengers about their business, and
    turned them over.  A double row of overturned coaches made a capital
    barricade, with a few paving stones.

    ‘When I got home I found to my astonishment that in our fighting
    quarter it was much quieter.  Mamma had just been out seeing the
    troops in the Place de la Concorde, when suddenly the Municipal
    Guard, now fairly exasperated, prevented the National Guard from
    proceeding, and fired at them; the National Guard had come with their
    muskets not loaded, but at length returned the fire.  Mamma saw the
    National Guard fire.  The Municipal Guard were round the corner.  She
    was delighted for she saw no person killed, though many of the
    Municipals were. . . . .

    ‘I immediately went out with my papa (mamma had just come back with
    him) and went to the Place de la Concorde.  There was an enormous
    quantity of troops in the Place.  Suddenly the gates of the gardens
    of the Tuileries opened: we rushed forward, out gallopped an enormous
    number of cuirassiers, in the middle of which were a couple of low
    carriages, said first to contain the Count de Paris and the Duchess
    of Orleans, but afterwards they said it was the King and Queen; and
    then I heard he had abdicated.  I returned and gave the news.

    ‘Went out again up the Boulevards.  The house of the Minister of
    Foreign Affairs was filled with people and “_Hôtel du Peuple_”
    written on it; the Boulevards were barricaded with fine old trees
    that were cut down and stretched all across the road.  We went
    through a great many little streets, all strongly barricaded, and
    sentinels of the people at the principal of them.  The streets were
    very unquiet, filled with armed men and women, for the troops had
    followed the ex-King to Neuilly and left Paris in the power of the
    people.  We met the captain of the Third Legion of the National Guard
    (who had principally protected the people), badly wounded by a
    Municipal Guard, stretched on a litter.  He was in possession of his
    senses.  He was surrounded by a troop of men crying “Our brave
    captain—we have him yet—he’s not dead!  _Vive la Réforme_!”  This cry
    was responded to by all, and every one saluted him as he passed.  I
    do not know if he was mortally wounded.  That Third Legion has
    behaved splendidly.

    ‘I then returned, and shortly afterwards went out again to the garden
    of the Tuileries.  They were given up to the people and the palace
    was being sacked.  The people were firing blank cartridges to testify
    their joy, and they had a cannon on the top of the palace.  It was a
    sight to see a palace sacked and armed vagabonds firing out of the
    windows, and throwing shirts, papers, and dresses of all kinds out of
    the windows.  They are not rogues, these French; they are not
    stealing, burning, or doing much harm.  In the Tuileries they have
    dressed up some of the statues, broken some, and stolen nothing but
    queer dresses.  I say, Frank, you must not hate the French; hate the
    Germans if you like.  The French laugh at us a little, and call out
    _Goddam_ in the streets; but to-day, in civil war, when they might
    have put a bullet through our heads, I never was insulted once.

    ‘At present we have a provisional Government, consisting of Odion
    [_sic_] Barrot, Lamartine, Marast, and some others; among them a
    common workman, but very intelligent.  This is a triumph of

    ‘Now then, Frank, what do you think of it?  I in a revolution and out
    all day.  Just think, what fun!  So it was at first, till I was fired
    at yesterday; but to-day I was not frightened, but it turned me sick
    at heart, I don’t know why.  There has been no great bloodshed,
    [though] I certainly have seen men’s blood several times.  But
    there’s something shocking to see a whole armed populace, though not
    furious, for not one single shop has been broken open, except the
    gunsmiths’ shops, and most of the arms will probably be taken back
    again.  For the French have no cupidity in their nature; they don’t
    like to steal—it is not in their nature.  I shall send this letter in
    a day or two, when I am sure the post will go again.  I know I have
    been a long time writing, but I hope you will find the matter of this
    letter interesting, as coming from a person resident on the spot;
    though probably you don’t take much interest in the French, but I can
    think, write, and speak on no other subject.

                                                                 ‘Feb. 25.

    ‘There is no more fighting, the people have conquered; but the
    barricades are still kept up, and the people are in arms, more than
    ever fearing some new act of treachery on the part of the ex-King.
    The fight where I was was the principal cause of the Revolution.  I
    was in little danger from the shot, for there was an immense crowd in
    front of me, though quite within gunshot.  [By another letter, a
    hundred yards from the troops.]  I wished I had stopped there.

    ‘The Paris streets are filled with the most extraordinary crowds of
    men, women and children, ladies and gentlemen.  Every person joyful.
    The bands of armed men are perfectly polite.  Mamma and aunt to-day
    walked through armed crowds alone, that were firing blank cartridges
    in all directions.  Every person made way with the greatest
    politeness, and one common man with a blouse, coming by accident
    against her immediately stopped to beg her pardon in the politest
    manner.  There are few drunken men.  The Tuileries is still being run
    over by the people; they only broke two things, a bust of Louis
    Philippe and one of Marshal Bugeaud, who fired on the people. . . . .

    ‘I have been out all day again to-day, and precious tired I am.  The
    Republican party seem the strongest, and are going about with red
    ribbons in their button-holes. . . . .

    ‘The title of “Mister” is abandoned; they say nothing but “Citizen,”
    and the people are shaking hands amazingly.  They have got to the top
    of the public monuments, and, mingling with bronze or stone statues,
    five or six make a sort of _tableau vivant_, the top man holding up
    the red flag of the Republic; and right well they do it, and very
    picturesque they look.  I think I shall put this letter in the post
    to-morrow as we got a letter to-night.

                                                            (On Envelope.)

    ‘M. Lamartine has now by his eloquence conquered the whole armed
    crowd of citizens threatening to kill him if he did not immediately
    proclaim the Republic and red flag.  He said he could not yield to
    the citizens of Paris alone, that the whole country must be
    consulted; that he chose the tricolour, for it had followed and
    accompanied the triumphs of France all over the world, and that the
    red flag had only been dipped in the blood of the citizens.  For
    sixty hours he has been quieting the people: he is at the head of
    everything.  Don’t be prejudiced, Frank, by what you see in the
    papers.  The French have acted nobly, splendidly; there has been no
    brutality, plundering, or stealing. . . .  I did not like the French
    before; but in this respect they are the finest people in the world.
    I am so glad to have been here.’

And there one could wish to stop with this apotheosis of liberty and
order read with the generous enthusiasm of a boy; but as the reader
knows, it was but the first act of the piece.  The letters, vivid as they
are, written as they were by a hand trembling with fear and excitement,
yet do injustice, in their boyishness of tone, to the profound effect
produced.  At the sound of these songs and shot of cannon, the boy’s mind
awoke.  He dated his own appreciation of the art of acting from the day
when he saw and heard Rachel recite the ‘_Marseillaise_’ at the Français,
the tricolour in her arms.  What is still more strange, he had been up to
then invincibly indifferent to music, insomuch that he could not
distinguish ‘God save the Queen’ from ‘Bonnie Dundee’; and now, to the
chanting of the mob, he amazed his family by learning and singing
‘_Mourir pour la Patrie_.’  But the letters, though they prepare the mind
for no such revolution in the boy’s tastes and feelings, are yet full of
entertaining traits.  Let the reader note Fleeming’s eagerness to
influence his friend Frank, an incipient Tory (no less) as further
history displayed; his unconscious indifference to his father and
devotion to his mother, betrayed in so many significant expressions and
omissions; the sense of dignity of this diminutive ‘person resident on
the spot,’ who was so happy as to escape insult; and the strange picture
of the household—father, mother, son, and even poor Aunt Anna—all day in
the streets in the thick of this rough business, and the boy packed off
alone to school in a distant quarter on the very morrow of the massacre.

They had all the gift of enjoying life’s texture as it comes; they were
all born optimists.  The name of liberty was honoured in that family, its
spirit also, but within stringent limits; and some of the foreign friends
of Mrs. Jenkin were, as I have said, men distinguished on the Liberal
side.  Like Wordsworth, they beheld

    France standing on the top of golden hours
    And human nature seeming born again.

At once, by temper and belief, they were formed to find their element in
such a decent and whiggish convulsion, spectacular in its course,
moderate in its purpose.  For them,

    Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven.

And I cannot but smile when I think that (again like Wordsworth) they
should have so specially disliked the consequence.

It came upon them by surprise.  Liberal friends of the precise right
shade of colour had assured them, in Mrs. Turner’s drawing-room, that all
was for the best; and they rose on January 23 without fear.  About the
middle of the day they heard the sound of musketry, and the next morning
they were wakened by the cannonade.  The French who had behaved so
‘splendidly,’ pausing, at the voice of Lamartine, just where judicious
Liberals could have desired—the French, who had ‘no cupidity in their
nature,’ were now about to play a variation on the theme rebellion.  The
Jenkins took refuge in the house of Mrs. Turner, the house of the false
prophets, ‘Anna going with Mrs. Turner, that she might be prevented
speaking English, Fleeming, Miss H. and I (it is the mother who writes)
walking together.  As we reached the Rue de Clichy, the report of the
cannon sounded close to our ears and made our hearts sick, I assure you.
The fighting was at the barrier Rochechouart, a few streets off.  All
Saturday and Sunday we were a prey to great alarm, there came so many
reports that the insurgents were getting the upper hand.  One could tell
the state of affairs from the extreme quiet or the sudden hum in the
street.  When the news was bad, all the houses closed and the people
disappeared; when better, the doors half opened and you heard the sound
of men again.  From the upper windows we could see each discharge from
the Bastille—I mean the smoke rising—and also the flames and smoke from
the Boulevard la Chapelle.  We were four ladies, and only Fleeming by way
of a man, and difficulty enough we had to keep him from joining the
National Guards—his pride and spirit were both fired.  You cannot picture
to yourself the multitudes of soldiers, guards, and armed men of all
sorts we watched—not close to the window, however, for such havoc had
been made among them by the firing from the windows, that as the
battalions marched by, they cried, “Fermez vos fenêtres!” and it was very
painful to watch their looks of anxiety and suspicion as they marched

‘The Revolution,’ writes Fleeming to Frank Scott, ‘was quite delightful:
getting popped at and run at by horses, and giving sous for the wounded
into little boxes guarded by the raggedest, picturesquest,
delightfullest, sentinels; but the insurrection! ugh, I shudder to think
at [_sic_] it.’  He found it ‘not a bit of fun sitting boxed up in the
house four days almost. . . I was the only _gentleman_ to four ladies,
and didn’t they keep me in order!  I did not dare to show my face at a
window, for fear of catching a stray ball or being forced to enter the
National Guard; [for] they would have it I was a man full-grown, French,
and every way fit to fight.  And my mamma was as bad as any of them; she
that told me I was a coward last time if I stayed in the house a quarter
of an hour!  But I drew, examined the pistols, of which I found lots with
caps, powder, and ball, while sometimes murderous intentions of killing a
dozen insurgents and dying violently overpowered by numbers. . . . .’  We
may drop this sentence here: under the conduct of its boyish writer, it
was to reach no legitimate end.

Four days of such a discipline had cured the family of Paris; the same
year Fleeming was to write, in answer apparently to a question of Frank
Scott’s, ‘I could find no national game in France but revolutions’; and
the witticism was justified in their experience.  On the first possible
day, they applied for passports, and were advised to take the road to
Geneva.  It appears it was scarce safe to leave Paris for England.
Charles Reade, with keen dramatic gusto, had just smuggled himself out of
that city in the bottom of a cab.  English gold had been found on the
insurgents, the name of England was in evil odour; and it was thus—for
strategic reasons, so to speak—that Fleeming found himself on the way to
that Italy where he was to complete his education, and for which he
cherished to the end a special kindness.

It was in Genoa they settled; partly for the sake of the captain, who
might there find naval comrades; partly because of the Ruffinis, who had
been friends of Mrs. Jenkin in their time of exile and were now
considerable men at home; partly, in fine, with hopes that Fleeming might
attend the University; in preparation for which he was put at once to
school.  It was the year of Novara; Mazzini was in Rome; the dry bones of
Italy were moving; and for people of alert and liberal sympathies the
time was inspiriting.  What with exiles turned Ministers of State,
universities thrown open to Protestants, Fleeming himself the first
Protestant student in Genoa, and thus, as his mother writes, ‘a living
instance of the progress of liberal ideas’—it was little wonder if the
enthusiastic young woman and the clever boy were heart and soul upon the
side of Italy.  It should not be forgotten that they were both on their
first visit to that country; the mother still child enough ‘to be
delighted when she saw real monks’; and both mother and son thrilling
with the first sight of snowy Alps, the blue Mediterranean, and the
crowded port and the palaces of Genoa.  Nor was their zeal without
knowledge.  Ruffini, deputy for Genoa and soon to be head of the
University, was at their side; and by means of him the family appear to
have had access to much Italian society.  To the end, Fleeming professed
his admiration of the Piedmontese and his unalterable confidence in the
future of Italy under their conduct; for Victor Emanuel, Cavour, the
first La Marmora and Garibaldi, he had varying degrees of sympathy and
praise: perhaps highest for the King, whose good sense and temper filled
him with respect—perhaps least for Garibaldi, whom he loved but yet

But this is to look forward: these were the days not of Victor Emanuel
but of Charles Albert; and it was on Charles Albert that mother and son
had now fixed their eyes as on the sword-bearer of Italy.  On Fleeming’s
sixteenth birthday, they were, the mother writes, ‘in great anxiety for
news from the army.  You can have no idea what it is to live in a country
where such a struggle is going on.  The interest is one that absorbs all
others.  We eat, drink, and sleep to the noise of drums and musketry.
You would enjoy and almost admire Fleeming’s enthusiasm and
earnestness—and, courage, I may say—for we are among the small minority
of English who side with the Italians.  The other day, at dinner at the
Consul’s, boy as he is, and in spite of my admonitions, Fleeming defended
the Italian cause, and so well that he “tripped up the heels of his
adversary” simply from being well-informed on the subject and honest.  He
is as true as steel, and for no one will he bend right or left. . . . .
Do not fancy him a Bobadil,’ she adds, ‘he is only a very true, candid
boy.  I am so glad he remains in all respects but information a great

If this letter is correctly dated, the cause was already lost and the
King had already abdicated when these lines were written.  No sooner did
the news reach Genoa, than there began ‘tumultuous movements’; and the
Jenkins’ received hints it would be wise to leave the city.  But they had
friends and interests; even the captain had English officers to keep him
company, for Lord Hardwicke’s ship, the _Vengeance_, lay in port; and
supposing the danger to be real, I cannot but suspect the whole family of
a divided purpose, prudence being possibly weaker than curiosity.  Stay,
at least, they did, and thus rounded their experience of the
revolutionary year.  On Sunday, April 1, Fleeming and the captain went
for a ramble beyond the walls, leaving Aunt Anna and Mrs. Jenkin to walk
on the bastions with some friends.  On the way back, this party turned
aside to rest in the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie.  ‘We had
remarked,’ writes Mrs. Jenkin, ‘the entire absence of sentinels on the
ramparts, and how the cannons were left in solitary state; and I had just
remarked “How quiet everything is!” when suddenly we heard the drums
begin to beat and distant shouts.  _Accustomed as we are_ to revolutions,
we never thought of being frightened.’  For all that, they resumed their
return home.  On the way they saw men running and vociferating, but
nothing to indicate a general disturbance, until, near the Duke’s palace,
they came upon and passed a shouting mob dragging along with it three
cannon.  It had scarcely passed before they heard ‘a rushing sound’; one
of the gentlemen thrust back the party of ladies under a shed, and the
mob passed again.  A fine-looking young man was in their hands; and Mrs.
Jenkin saw him with his mouth open as if he sought to speak, saw him
tossed from one to another like a ball, and then saw him no more.  ‘He
was dead a few instants after, but the crowd hid that terror from us.  My
knees shook under me and my sight left me.’  With this street tragedy,
the curtain rose upon their second revolution.

The attack on Spirito Santo, and the capitulation and departure of the
troops speedily followed.  Genoa was in the hands of the Republicans, and
now came a time when the English residents were in a position to pay some
return for hospitality received.  Nor were they backward.  Our Consul
(the same who had the benefit of correction from Fleeming) carried the
Intendente on board the _Vengeance_, escorting him through the streets,
getting along with him on board a shore boat, and when the insurgents
levelled their muskets, standing up and naming himself, ‘_Console
Inglese_.’  A friend of the Jenkins’, Captain Glynne, had a more painful,
if a less dramatic part.  One Colonel Nosozzo had been killed (I read)
while trying to prevent his own artillery from firing on the mob; but in
that hell’s cauldron of a distracted city, there were no distinctions
made, and the Colonel’s widow was hunted for her life.  In her grief and
peril, the Glynnes received and hid her; Captain Glynne sought and found
her husband’s body among the slain, saved it for two days, brought the
widow a lock of the dead man’s hair; but at last, the mob still strictly
searching, seems to have abandoned the body, and conveyed his guest on
board the _Vengeance_.  The Jenkins also had their refugees, the family
of an _employé_ threatened by a decree.  ‘You should have seen me making
a Union Jack to nail over our door,’ writes Mrs. Jenkin.  ‘I never worked
so fast in my life.  Monday and Tuesday,’ she continues, ‘were tolerably
quiet, our hearts beating fast in the hope of La Marmora’s approach, the
streets barricaded, and none but foreigners and women allowed to leave
the city.’  On Wednesday, La Marmora came indeed, but in the ugly form of
a bombardment; and that evening the Jenkins sat without lights about
their drawing-room window, ‘watching the huge red flashes of the cannon’
from the Brigato and La Specula forts, and hearkening, not without some
awful pleasure, to the thunder of the cannonade.

Lord Hardwicke intervened between the rebels and La Marmora; and there
followed a troubled armistice, filled with the voice of panic.  Now the
_Vengeance_ was known to be cleared for action; now it was rumoured that
the galley slaves were to be let loose upon the town, and now that the
troops would enter it by storm.  Crowds, trusting in the Union Jack over
the Jenkins’ door, came to beg them to receive their linen and other
valuables; nor could their instances be refused; and in the midst of all
this bustle and alarm, piles of goods must be examined and long
inventories made.  At last the captain decided things had gone too far.
He himself apparently remained to watch over the linen; but at five
o’clock on the Sunday morning, Aunt Anna, Fleeming, and his mother were
rowed in a pour of rain on board an English merchantman, to suffer ‘nine
mortal hours of agonising suspense.’  With the end of that time, peace
was restored.  On Tuesday morning officers with white flags appeared on
the bastions; then, regiment by regiment, the troops marched in, two
hundred men sleeping on the ground floor of the Jenkins’ house, thirty
thousand in all entering the city, but without disturbance, old La
Marmora being a commander of a Roman sternness.

With the return of quiet, and the reopening of the universities, we
behold a new character, Signor Flaminio: the professors, it appears, made
no attempt upon the Jenkin; and thus readily italianised the Fleeming.
He came well recommended; for their friend Ruffini was then, or soon
after, raised to be the head of the University; and the professors were
very kind and attentive, possibly to Ruffini’s _protégé_, perhaps also to
the first Protestant student.  It was no joke for Signor Flaminio at
first; certificates had to be got from Paris and from Rector Williams;
the classics must be furbished up at home that he might follow Latin
lectures; examinations bristled in the path, the entrance examination
with Latin and English essay, and oral trials (much softened for the
foreigner) in Horace, Tacitus, and Cicero, and the first University
examination only three months later, in Italian eloquence, no less, and
other wider subjects.  On one point the first Protestant student was
moved to thank his stars: that there was no Greek required for the
degree.  Little did he think, as he set down his gratitude, how much, in
later life and among cribs and dictionaries, he was to lament this
circumstance; nor how much of that later life he was to spend acquiring,
with infinite toil, a shadow of what he might then have got with ease and
fully.  But if his Genoese education was in this particular imperfect, he
was fortunate in the branches that more immediately touched on his
career.  The physical laboratory was the best mounted in Italy.
Bancalari, the professor of natural philosophy, was famous in his day; by
what seems even an odd coincidence, he went deeply into electromagnetism;
and it was principally in that subject that Signor Flaminio, questioned
in Latin and answering in Italian, passed his Master of Arts degree with
first-class honours.  That he had secured the notice of his teachers, one
circumstance sufficiently proves.  A philosophical society was started
under the presidency of Mamiani, ‘one of the examiners and one of the
leaders of the Moderate party’; and out of five promising students
brought forward by the professors to attend the sittings and present
essays, Signor Flaminio was one.  I cannot find that he ever read an
essay; and indeed I think his hands were otherwise too full.  He found
his fellow-students ‘not such a bad set of chaps,’ and preferred the
Piedmontese before the Genoese; but I suspect he mixed not very freely
with either.  Not only were his days filled with university work, but his
spare hours were fully dedicated to the arts under the eye of a beloved
task-mistress.  He worked hard and well in the art school, where he
obtained a silver medal ‘for a couple of legs the size of life drawn from
one of Raphael’s cartoons.’  His holidays were spent in sketching; his
evenings, when they were free, at the theatre.  Here at the opera he
discovered besides a taste for a new art, the art of music; and it was,
he wrote, ‘as if he had found out a heaven on earth.’  ‘I am so anxious
that whatever he professes to know, he should really perfectly possess,’
his mother wrote, ‘that I spare no pains’; neither to him nor to myself,
she might have added.  And so when he begged to be allowed to learn the
piano, she started him with characteristic barbarity on the scales; and
heard in consequence ‘heart-rending groans’ and saw ‘anguished claspings
of hands’ as he lost his way among their arid intricacies.

In this picture of the lad at the piano, there is something, for the
period, girlish.  He was indeed his mother’s boy; and it was fortunate
his mother was not altogether feminine.  She gave her son a womanly
delicacy in morals, to a man’s taste—to his own taste in later life—too
finely spun, and perhaps more elegant than healthful.  She encouraged him
besides in drawing-room interests.  But in other points her influence was
manlike.  Filled with the spirit of thoroughness, she taught him to make
of the least of these accomplishments a virile task; and the teaching
lasted him through life.  Immersed as she was in the day’s movements and
buzzed about by leading Liberals, she handed on to him her creed in
politics: an enduring kindness for Italy, and a loyalty, like that of
many clever women, to the Liberal party with but small regard to men or
measures.  This attitude of mind used often to disappoint me in a man so
fond of logic; but I see now how it was learned from the bright eyes of
his mother and to the sound of the cannonades of 1848.  To some of her
defects, besides, she made him heir.  Kind as was the bond that united
her to her son, kind and even pretty, she was scarce a woman to adorn a
home; loving as she did to shine; careless as she was of domestic,
studious of public graces.  She probably rejoiced to see the boy grow up
in somewhat of the image of herself, generous, excessive, enthusiastic,
external; catching at ideas, brandishing them when caught; fiery for the
right, but always fiery; ready at fifteen to correct a consul, ready at
fifty to explain to any artist his own art.

The defects and advantages of such a training were obvious in Fleeming
throughout life.  His thoroughness was not that of the patient scholar,
but of an untrained woman with fits of passionate study; he had learned
too much from dogma, given indeed by cherished lips; and precocious as he
was in the use of the tools of the mind, he was truly backward in
knowledge of life and of himself.  Such as it was at least, his home and
school training was now complete; and you are to conceive the lad as
being formed in a household of meagre revenue, among foreign
surroundings, and under the influence of an imperious drawing-room queen;
from whom he learned a great refinement of morals, a strong sense of
duty, much forwardness of bearing, all manner of studious and artistic
interests, and many ready-made opinions which he embraced with a son’s
and a disciple’s loyalty.

CHAPTER III.  1851–1858.

Return to England—Fleeming at Fairbairn’s—Experience in a Strike—Dr. Bell
and Greek Architecture—The Gaskells—Fleeming at Greenwich—The
Austins—Fleeming and the Austins—His Engagement—Fleeming and Sir W.

IN 1851, the year of Aunt Anna’s death, the family left Genoa and came to
Manchester, where Fleeming was entered in Fairbairn’s works as an
apprentice.  From the palaces and Alps, the Mole, the blue Mediterranean,
the humming lanes and the bright theatres of Genoa, he fell—and he was
sharply conscious of the fall—to the dim skies and the foul ways of
Manchester.  England he found on his return ‘a horrid place,’ and there
is no doubt the family found it a dear one.  The story of the Jenkin
finances is not easy to follow.  The family, I am told, did not practice
frugality, only lamented that it should be needful; and Mrs. Jenkin, who
was always complaining of ‘those dreadful bills,’ was ‘always a good deal
dressed.’  But at this time of the return to England, things must have
gone further.  A holiday tour of a fortnight, Fleeming feared would be
beyond what he could afford, and he only projected it ‘to have a castle
in the air.’  And there were actual pinches.  Fresh from a warmer sun, he
was obliged to go without a greatcoat, and learned on railway journeys to
supply the place of one with wrappings of old newspaper.

From half-past eight till six, he must ‘file and chip vigorously in a
moleskin suit and infernally dirty.’  The work was not new to him, for he
had already passed some time in a Genoese shop; and to Fleeming no work
was without interest.  Whatever a man can do or know, he longed to know
and do also.  ‘I never learned anything,’ he wrote, ‘not even standing on
my head, but I found a use for it.’  In the spare hours of his first
telegraph voyage, to give an instance of his greed of knowledge, he meant
‘to learn the whole art of navigation, every rope in the ship and how to
handle her on any occasion’; and once when he was shown a young lady’s
holiday collection of seaweeds, he must cry out, ‘It showed me my eyes
had been idle.’  Nor was his the case of the mere literary smatterer,
content if he but learn the names of things.  In him, to do and to do
well, was even a dearer ambition than to know.  Anything done well, any
craft, despatch, or finish, delighted and inspired him.  I remember him
with a twopenny Japanese box of three drawers, so exactly fitted that,
when one was driven home, the others started from their places; the whole
spirit of Japan, he told me, was pictured in that box; that plain piece
of carpentry was as much inspired by the spirit of perfection as the
happiest drawing or the finest bronze; and he who could not enjoy it in
the one was not fully able to enjoy it in the others.  Thus, too, he
found in Leonardo’s engineering and anatomical drawings a perpetual
feast; and of the former he spoke even with emotion.  Nothing indeed
annoyed Fleeming more than the attempt to separate the fine arts from the
arts of handicraft; any definition or theory that failed to bring these
two together, according to him, had missed the point; and the essence of
the pleasure received lay in seeing things well done.  Other qualities
must be added; he was the last to deny that; but this, of perfect craft,
was at the bottom of all.  And on the other hand, a nail ill-driven, a
joint ill-fitted, a tracing clumsily done, anything to which a man had
set his hand and not set it aptly, moved him to shame and anger.  With
such a character, he would feel but little drudgery at Fairbairn’s.
There would be something daily to be done, slovenliness to be avoided,
and a higher mark of skill to be attained; he would chip and file, as he
had practiced scales, impatient of his own imperfection, but resolute to

And there was another spring of delight.  For he was now moving daily
among those strange creations of man’s brain, to some so abhorrent, to
him of an interest so inexhaustible: in which iron, water, and fire are
made to serve as slaves, now with a tread more powerful than an
elephant’s, and now with a touch more precise and dainty than a
pianist’s.  The taste for machinery was one that I could never share with
him, and he had a certain bitter pity for my weakness.  Once when I had
proved, for the hundredth time, the depth of this defect, he looked at me
askance.  ‘And the best of the joke,’ said he, ‘is that he thinks himself
quite a poet.’  For to him the struggle of the engineer against brute
forces and with inert allies, was nobly poetic.  Habit never dulled in
him the sense of the greatness of the aims and obstacles of his
profession.  Habit only sharpened his inventor’s gusto in contrivance, in
triumphant artifice, in the Odyssean subtleties, by which wires are
taught to speak, and iron hands to weave, and the slender ship to brave
and to outstrip the tempest.  To the ignorant the great results alone are
admirable; to the knowing, and to Fleeming in particular, rather the
infinite device and sleight of hand that made them possible.

A notion was current at the time that, in such a shop as Fairbairn’s, a
pupil would never be popular unless he drank with the workmen and
imitated them in speech and manner.  Fleeming, who would do none of these
things, they accepted as a friend and companion; and this was the subject
of remark in Manchester, where some memory of it lingers till to-day.  He
thought it one of the advantages of his profession to be brought into a
close relation with the working classes; and for the skilled artisan he
had a great esteem, liking his company, his virtues, and his taste in
some of the arts.  But he knew the classes too well to regard them, like
a platform speaker, in a lump.  He drew, on the other hand, broad
distinctions; and it was his profound sense of the difference between one
working man and another that led him to devote so much time, in later
days, to the furtherance of technical education.  In 1852 he had occasion
to see both men and masters at their worst, in the excitement of a
strike; and very foolishly (after their custom) both would seem to have
behaved.  Beginning with a fair show of justice on either side, the
masters stultified their cause by obstinate impolicy, and the men
disgraced their order by acts of outrage.  ‘On Wednesday last,’ writes
Fleeming, ‘about three thousand banded round Fairbairn’s door at 6
o’clock: men, women, and children, factory boys and girls, the lowest of
the low in a very low place.  Orders came that no one was to leave the
works; but the men inside (Knobsticks, as they are called) were precious
hungry and thought they would venture.  Two of my companions and myself
went out with the very first, and had the full benefit of every possible
groan and bad language.’  But the police cleared a lane through the
crowd, the pupils were suffered to escape unhurt, and only the Knobsticks
followed home and kicked with clogs; so that Fleeming enjoyed, as we may
say, for nothing, that fine thrill of expectant valour with which he had
sallied forth into the mob.  ‘I never before felt myself so decidedly
somebody, instead of nobody,’ he wrote.

Outside as inside the works, he was ‘pretty merry and well to do,’
zealous in study, welcome to many friends, unwearied in loving-kindness
to his mother.  For some time he spent three nights a week with Dr. Bell,
‘working away at certain geometrical methods of getting the Greek
architectural proportions’: a business after Fleeming’s heart, for he was
never so pleased as when he could marry his two devotions, art and
science.  This was besides, in all likelihood, the beginning of that love
and intimate appreciation of things Greek, from the least to the
greatest, from the _Agamemnon_ (perhaps his favourite tragedy) down to
the details of Grecian tailoring, which he used to express in his
familiar phrase: ‘The Greeks were the boys.’  Dr. Bell—the son of George
Joseph, the nephew of Sir Charles, and though he made less use of it than
some, a sharer in the distinguished talents of his race—had hit upon the
singular fact that certain geometrical intersections gave the proportions
of the Doric order.  Fleeming, under Dr. Bell’s direction, applied the
same method to the other orders, and again found the proportions
accurately given.  Numbers of diagrams were prepared; but the discovery
was never given to the world, perhaps because of the dissensions that
arose between the authors.  For Dr. Bell believed that ‘these
intersections were in some way connected with, or symbolical of, the
antagonistic forces at work’; but his pupil and helper, with
characteristic trenchancy, brushed aside this mysticism, and interpreted
the discovery as ‘a geometrical method of dividing the spaces or (as
might be said) of setting out the work, purely empirical and in no way
connected with any laws of either force or beauty.’  ‘Many a hard and
pleasant fight we had over it,’ wrote Jenkin, in later years; ‘and
impertinent as it may seem, the pupil is still unconvinced by the
arguments of the master.’  I do not know about the antagonistic forces in
the Doric order; in Fleeming they were plain enough; and the Bobadil of
these affairs with Dr. Bell was still, like the corrector of Italian
consuls, ‘a great child in everything but information.’  At the house of
Colonel Cleather, he might be seen with a family of children; and with
these, there was no word of the Greek orders; with these Fleeming was
only an uproarious boy and an entertaining draughtsman; so that his
coming was the signal for the young people to troop into the playroom,
where sometimes the roof rang with romping, and sometimes they gathered
quietly about him as he amused them with his pencil.

In another Manchester family, whose name will be familiar to my
readers—that of the Gaskells, Fleeming was a frequent visitor.  To Mrs.
Gaskell, he would often bring his new ideas, a process that many of his
later friends will understand and, in their own cases, remember.  With
the girls, he had ‘constant fierce wrangles,’ forcing them to reason out
their thoughts and to explain their prepossessions; and I hear from Miss
Gaskell that they used to wonder how he could throw all the ardour of his
character into the smallest matters, and to admire his unselfish devotion
to his parents.  Of one of these wrangles, I have found a record most
characteristic of the man.  Fleeming had been laying down his doctrine
that the end justifies the means, and that it is quite right ‘to boast of
your six men-servants to a burglar or to steal a knife to prevent a
murder’; and the Miss Gaskells, with girlish loyalty to what is current,
had rejected the heresy with indignation.  From such passages-at-arms,
many retire mortified and ruffled; but Fleeming had no sooner left the
house than he fell into delighted admiration of the spirit of his
adversaries.  From that it was but a step to ask himself ‘what truth was
sticking in their heads’; for even the falsest form of words (in
Fleeming’s life-long opinion) reposed upon some truth, just as he could
‘not even allow that people admire ugly things, they admire what is
pretty in the ugly thing.’  And before he sat down to write his letter,
he thought he had hit upon the explanation.  ‘I fancy the true idea,’ he
wrote, ‘is that you must never do yourself or anyone else a moral
injury—make any man a thief or a liar—for any end’; quite a different
thing, as he would have loved to point out, from never stealing or lying.
But this perfervid disputant was not always out of key with his audience.
One whom he met in the same house announced that she would never again be
happy.  ‘What does that signify?’ cried Fleeming.  ‘We are not here to be
happy, but to be good.’  And the words (as his hearer writes to me)
became to her a sort of motto during life.

From Fairbairn’s and Manchester, Fleeming passed to a railway survey in
Switzerland, and thence again to Mr. Penn’s at Greenwich, where he was
engaged as draughtsman.  There in 1856, we find him in ‘a terribly busy
state, finishing up engines for innumerable gun-boats and steam frigates
for the ensuing campaign.’  From half-past eight in the morning till nine
or ten at night, he worked in a crowded office among uncongenial
comrades, ‘saluted by chaff, generally low personal and not witty,’
pelted with oranges and apples, regaled with dirty stories, and seeking
to suit himself with his surroundings or (as he writes it) trying to be
as little like himself as possible.  His lodgings were hard by, ‘across a
dirty green and through some half-built streets of two-storied houses’;
he had Carlyle and the poets, engineering and mathematics, to study by
himself in such spare time as remained to him; and there were several
ladies, young and not so young, with whom he liked to correspond.  But
not all of these could compensate for the absence of that mother, who had
made herself so large a figure in his life, for sorry surroundings,
unsuitable society, and work that leaned to the mechanical.  ‘Sunday,’
says he, ‘I generally visit some friends in town and seem to swim in
clearer water, but the dirty green seems all the dirtier when I get back.
Luckily I am fond of my profession, or I could not stand this life.’  It
is a question in my mind, if he could have long continued to stand it
without loss.  ‘We are not here to be happy, but to be good,’ quoth the
young philosopher; but no man had a keener appetite for happiness than
Fleeming Jenkin.  There is a time of life besides when apart from
circumstances, few men are agreeable to their neighbours and still fewer
to themselves; and it was at this stage that Fleeming had arrived, later
than common and even worse provided.  The letter from which I have quoted
is the last of his correspondence with Frank Scott, and his last
confidential letter to one of his own sex.  ‘If you consider it rightly,’
he wrote long after, ‘you will find the want of correspondence no such
strange want in men’s friendships.  There is, believe me, something noble
in the metal which does not rust though not burnished by daily use.’  It
is well said; but the last letter to Frank Scott is scarcely of a noble
metal.  It is plain the writer has outgrown his old self, yet not made
acquaintance with the new.  This letter from a busy youth of three and
twenty, breathes of seventeen: the sickening alternations of conceit and
shame, the expense of hope _in vacuo_, the lack of friends, the longing
after love; the whole world of egoism under which youth stands groaning,
a voluntary Atlas.

With Fleeming this disease was never seemingly severe.  The very day
before this (to me) distasteful letter, he had written to Miss Bell of
Manchester in a sweeter strain; I do not quote the one, I quote the
other; fair things are the best.  ‘I keep my own little lodgings,’ he
writes, ‘but come up every night to see mamma’ (who was then on a visit
to London) ‘if not kept too late at the works; and have singing lessons
once more, and sing “_Donne l’amore è scaltro pargoletto_”; and think and
talk about you; and listen to mamma’s projects _de_ Stowting.  Everything
turns to gold at her touch, she’s a fairy and no mistake.  We go on
talking till I have a picture in my head, and can hardly believe at the
end that the original is Stowting.  Even you don’t know half how good
mamma is; in other things too, which I must not mention.  She teaches me
how it is not necessary to be very rich to do much good.  I begin to
understand that mamma would find useful occupation and create beauty at
the bottom of a volcano.  She has little weaknesses, but is a real
generous-hearted woman, which I suppose is the finest thing in the
world.’  Though neither mother nor son could be called beautiful, they
make a pretty picture; the ugly, generous, ardent woman weaving rainbow
illusions; the ugly, clear-sighted, loving son sitting at her side in one
of his rare hours of pleasure, half-beguiled, half-amused, wholly
admiring, as he listens.  But as he goes home, and the fancy pictures
fade, and Stowting is once more burthened with debt, and the noisy
companions and the long hours of drudgery once more approach, no wonder
if the dirty green seems all the dirtier or if Atlas must resume his

But in healthy natures, this time of moral teething passes quickly of
itself, and is easily alleviated by fresh interests; and already, in the
letter to Frank Scott, there are two words of hope: his friends in
London, his love for his profession.  The last might have saved him; for
he was ere long to pass into a new sphere, where all his faculties were
to be tried and exercised, and his life to be filled with interest and
effort.  But it was not left to engineering: another and more influential
aim was to be set before him.  He must, in any case, have fallen in love;
in any case, his love would have ruled his life; and the question of
choice was, for the descendant of two such families, a thing of paramount
importance.  Innocent of the world, fiery, generous, devoted as he was,
the son of the wild Jacksons and the facile Jenkins might have been led
far astray.  By one of those partialities that fill men at once with
gratitude and wonder, his choosing was directed well.  Or are we to say
that by a man’s choice in marriage, as by a crucial merit, he deserves
his fortune?  One thing at least reason may discern: that a man but
partly chooses, he also partly forms, his help-mate; and he must in part
deserve her, or the treasure is but won for a moment to be lost.
Fleeming chanced if you will (and indeed all these opportunities are as
‘random as blind man’s buff’) upon a wife who was worthy of him; but he
had the wit to know it, the courage to wait and labour for his prize, and
the tenderness and chivalry that are required to keep such prizes
precious.  Upon this point he has himself written well, as usual with
fervent optimism, but as usual (in his own phrase) with a truth sticking
in his head.

‘Love,’ he wrote, ‘is not an intuition of the person most suitable to us,
most required by us; of the person with whom life flowers and bears
fruit.  If this were so, the chances of our meeting that person would be
small indeed; our intuition would often fail; the blindness of love would
then be fatal as it is proverbial.  No, love works differently, and in
its blindness lies its strength.  Man and woman, each strongly desires to
be loved, each opens to the other that heart of ideal aspirations which
they have often hid till then; each, thus knowing the ideal of the other,
tries to fulfil that ideal, each partially succeeds.  The greater the
love, the greater the success; the nobler the idea of each, the more
durable, the more beautiful the effect.  Meanwhile the blindness of each
to the other’s defects enables the transformation to proceed
[unobserved,] so that when the veil is withdrawn (if it ever is, and this
I do not know) neither knows that any change has occurred in the person
whom they loved.  Do not fear, therefore.  I do not tell you that your
friend will not change, but as I am sure that her choice cannot be that
of a man with a base ideal, so I am sure the change will be a safe and a
good one.  Do not fear that anything you love will vanish, he must love
it too.’

Among other introductions in London, Fleeming had presented a letter from
Mrs. Gaskell to the Alfred Austins.  This was a family certain to
interest a thoughtful young man.  Alfred, the youngest and least known of
the Austins, had been a beautiful golden-haired child, petted and kept
out of the way of both sport and study by a partial mother.  Bred an
attorney, he had (like both his brothers) changed his way of life, and
was called to the bar when past thirty.  A Commission of Enquiry into the
state of the poor in Dorsetshire gave him an opportunity of proving his
true talents; and he was appointed a Poor Law Inspector, first at
Worcester, next at Manchester, where he had to deal with the potato
famine and the Irish immigration of the ‘forties, and finally in London,
where he again distinguished himself during an epidemic of cholera.  He
was then advanced to the Permanent Secretaryship of Her Majesty’s Office
of Works and Public Buildings; a position which he filled with perfect
competence, but with an extreme of modesty; and on his retirement, in
1868, he was made a Companion of the Bath.  While apprentice to a Norwich
attorney, Alfred Austin was a frequent visitor in the house of Mr.
Barron, a rallying place in those days of intellectual society.  Edward
Barron, the son of a rich saddler or leather merchant in the Borough, was
a man typical of the time.  When he was a child, he had once been patted
on the head in his father’s shop by no less a man than Samuel Johnson, as
the Doctor went round the Borough canvassing for Mr. Thrale; and the
child was true to this early consecration.  ‘A life of lettered ease
spent in provincial retirement,’ it is thus that the biographer of that
remarkable man, William Taylor, announces his subject; and the phrase is
equally descriptive of the life of Edward Barron.  The pair were close
friends, ‘W. T. and a pipe render everything agreeable,’ writes Barron in
his diary in 1828; and in 1833, after Barron had moved to London and
Taylor had tasted the first public failure of his powers, the latter
wrote: ‘To my ever dearest Mr. Barron say, if you please, that I miss him
more than I regret him—that I acquiesce in his retirement from Norwich,
because I could ill brook his observation of my increasing debility of
mind.’  This chosen companion of William Taylor must himself have been no
ordinary man; and he was the friend besides of Borrow, whom I find him
helping in his Latin.  But he had no desire for popular distinction,
lived privately, married a daughter of Dr. Enfield of Enfield’s
_Speaker_, and devoted his time to the education of his family, in a
deliberate and scholarly fashion, and with certain traits of stoicism,
that would surprise a modern.  From these children we must single out his
youngest daughter, Eliza, who learned under his care to be a sound Latin,
an elegant Grecian, and to suppress emotion without outward sign after
the manner of the Godwin school.  This was the more notable, as the girl
really derived from the Enfields; whose high-flown romantic temper, I
wish I could find space to illustrate.  She was but seven years old, when
Alfred Austin remarked and fell in love with her; and the union thus
early prepared was singularly full.  Where the husband and wife differed,
and they did so on momentous subjects, they differed with perfect temper
and content; and in the conduct of life, and in depth and durability of
love, they were at one.  Each full of high spirits, each practised
something of the same repression: no sharp word was uttered in their
house.  The same point of honour ruled them, a guest was sacred and stood
within the pale from criticism.  It was a house, besides, of unusual
intellectual tension.  Mrs. Austin remembered, in the early days of the
marriage, the three brothers, John, Charles, and Alfred, marching to and
fro, each with his hands behind his back, and ‘reasoning high’ till
morning; and how, like Dr. Johnson, they would cheer their speculations
with as many as fifteen cups of tea.  And though, before the date of
Fleeming’s visit, the brothers were separated, Charles long ago retired
from the world at Brandeston, and John already near his end in the
‘rambling old house’ at Weybridge, Alfred Austin and his wife were still
a centre of much intellectual society, and still, as indeed they remained
until the last, youthfully alert in mind.  There was but one child of the
marriage, Anne, and she was herself something new for the eyes of the
young visitor; brought up, as she had been, like her mother before her,
to the standard of a man’s acquirements.  Only one art had she been
denied, she must not learn the violin—the thought was too monstrous even
for the Austins; and indeed it would seem as if that tide of reform which
we may date from the days of Mary Wollstonecraft had in some degree even
receded; for though Miss Austin was suffered to learn Greek, the
accomplishment was kept secret like a piece of guilt.  But whether this
stealth was caused by a backward movement in public thought since the
time of Edward Barron, or by the change from enlightened Norwich to
barbarian London, I have no means of judging.

When Fleeming presented his letter, he fell in love at first sight with
Mrs. Austin and the life, and atmosphere of the house.  There was in the
society of the Austins, outward, stoical conformers to the world,
something gravely suggestive of essential eccentricity, something
unpretentiously breathing of intellectual effort, that could not fail to
hit the fancy of this hot-brained boy.  The unbroken enamel of courtesy,
the self-restraint, the dignified kindness of these married folk, had
besides a particular attraction for their visitor.  He could not but
compare what he saw, with what he knew of his mother and himself.
Whatever virtues Fleeming possessed, he could never count on being civil;
whatever brave, true-hearted qualities he was able to admire in Mrs.
Jenkin, mildness of demeanour was not one of them.  And here he found per
sons who were the equals of his mother and himself in intellect and width
of interest, and the equals of his father in mild urbanity of
disposition.  Show Fleeming an active virtue, and he always loved it.  He
went away from that house struck through with admiration, and vowing to
himself that his own married life should be upon that pattern, his wife
(whoever she might be) like Eliza Barron, himself such another husband as
Alfred Austin.  What is more strange, he not only brought away, but left
behind him, golden opinions.  He must have been—he was, I am told—a
trying lad; but there shone out of him such a light of innocent candour,
enthusiasm, intelligence, and appreciation, that to persons already some
way forward in years, and thus able to enjoy indulgently the perennial
comedy of youth, the sight of him was delightful.  By a pleasant
coincidence, there was one person in the house whom he did not appreciate
and who did not appreciate him: Anne Austin, his future wife.  His boyish
vanity ruffled her; his appearance, never impressive, was then, by reason
of obtrusive boyishness, still less so; she found occasion to put him in
the wrong by correcting a false quantity; and when Mr. Austin, after
doing his visitor the almost unheard-of honour of accompanying him to the
door, announced ‘That was what young men were like in my time’—she could
only reply, looking on her handsome father, ‘I thought they had been
better looking.’

This first visit to the Austins took place in 1855; and it seems it was
some time before Fleeming began to know his mind; and yet longer ere he
ventured to show it.  The corrected quantity, to those who knew him well,
will seem to have played its part; he was the man always to reflect over
a correction and to admire the castigator.  And fall in love he did; not
hurriedly but step by step, not blindly but with critical discrimination;
not in the fashion of Romeo, but before he was done, with all Romeo’s
ardour and more than Romeo’s faith.  The high favour to which he
presently rose in the esteem of Alfred Austin and his wife, might well
give him ambitious notions; but the poverty of the present and the
obscurity of the future were there to give him pause; and when his
aspirations began to settle round Miss Austin, he tasted, perhaps for the
only time in his life, the pangs of diffidence.  There was indeed opening
before him a wide door of hope.  He had changed into the service of
Messrs. Liddell & Gordon; these gentlemen had begun to dabble in the new
field of marine telegraphy; and Fleeming was already face to face with
his life’s work.  That impotent sense of his own value, as of a ship
aground, which makes one of the agonies of youth, began to fall from him.
New problems which he was endowed to solve, vistas of new enquiry which
he was fitted to explore, opened before him continually.  His gifts had
found their avenue and goal.  And with this pleasure of effective
exercise, there must have sprung up at once the hope of what is called by
the world success.  But from these low beginnings, it was a far look
upward to Miss Austin: the favour of the loved one seems always more than
problematical to any lover; the consent of parents must be always more
than doubtful to a young man with a small salary and no capital except
capacity and hope.  But Fleeming was not the lad to lose any good thing
for the lack of trial; and at length, in the autumn of 1857, this
boyish-sized, boyish-mannered, and superlatively ill-dressed young
engineer, entered the house of the Austins, with such sinkings as we may
fancy, and asked leave to pay his addresses to the daughter.  Mrs. Austin
already loved him like a son, she was but too glad to give him her
consent; Mr. Austin reserved the right to inquire into his character;
from neither was there a word about his prospects, by neither was his
income mentioned.  ‘Are these people,’ he wrote, struck with wonder at
this dignified disinterestedness, ‘are these people the same as other
people?’  It was not till he was armed with this permission, that Miss
Austin even suspected the nature of his hopes: so strong, in this
unmannerly boy, was the principle of true courtesy; so powerful, in this
impetuous nature, the springs of self-repression.  And yet a boy he was;
a boy in heart and mind; and it was with a boy’s chivalry and frankness
that he won his wife.  His conduct was a model of honour, hardly of tact;
to conceal love from the loved one, to court her parents, to be silent
and discreet till these are won, and then without preparation to approach
the lady—these are not arts that I would recommend for imitation.  They
lead to final refusal.  Nothing saved Fleeming from that fate, but one
circumstance that cannot be counted upon—the hearty favour of the mother,
and one gift that is inimitable and that never failed him throughout
life, the gift of a nature essentially noble and outspoken.  A happy and
high-minded anger flashed through his despair: it won for him his wife.

Nearly two years passed before it was possible to marry: two years of
activity, now in London; now at Birkenhead, fitting out ships, inventing
new machinery for new purposes, and dipping into electrical experiment;
now in the _Elba_ on his first telegraph cruise between Sardinia and
Algiers: a busy and delightful period of bounding ardour, incessant toil,
growing hope and fresh interests, with behind and through all, the image
of his beloved.  A few extracts from his correspondence with his
betrothed will give the note of these truly joyous years.  ‘My profession
gives me all the excitement and interest I ever hope for, but the sorry
jade is obviously jealous of you.’—‘“Poor Fleeming,” in spite of wet,
cold and wind, clambering over moist, tarry slips, wandering among pools
of slush in waste places inhabited by wandering locomotives, grows
visibly stronger, has dismissed his office cough and cured his
toothache.’—‘The whole of the paying out and lifting machinery must be
designed and ordered in two or three days, and I am half crazy with work.
I like it though: it’s like a good ball, the excitement carries you
through.’—‘I was running to and from the ships and warehouse through
fierce gusts of rain and wind till near eleven, and you cannot think what
a pleasure it was to be blown about and think of you in your pretty
dress.’—‘I am at the works till ten and sometimes till eleven.  But I
have a nice office to sit in, with a fire to myself, and bright brass
scientific instruments all round me, and books to read, and experiments
to make, and enjoy myself amazingly.  I find the study of electricity so
entertaining that I am apt to neglect my other work.’  And for a last
taste, ‘Yesterday I had some charming electrical experiments.  What shall
I compare them to—a new song? a Greek play?’

It was at this time besides that he made the acquaintance of Professor,
now Sir William, Thomson.  To describe the part played by these two in
each other’s lives would lie out of my way.  They worked together on the
Committee on Electrical Standards; they served together at the laying
down or the repair of many deep-sea cables; and Sir William was regarded
by Fleeming, not only with the ‘worship’ (the word is his own) due to
great scientific gifts, but with an ardour of personal friendship not
frequently excelled.  To their association, Fleeming brought the valuable
element of a practical understanding; but he never thought or spoke of
himself where Sir William was in question; and I recall quite in his last
days, a singular instance of this modest loyalty to one whom he admired
and loved.  He drew up a paper, in a quite personal interest, of his own
services; yet even here he must step out of his way, he must add, where
it had no claim to be added, his opinion that, in their joint work, the
contributions of Sir William had been always greatly the most valuable.
Again, I shall not readily forget with what emotion he once told me an
incident of their associated travels.  On one of the mountain ledges of
Madeira, Fleeming’s pony bolted between Sir William. and the precipice
above; by strange good fortune and thanks to the steadiness of Sir
William’s horse, no harm was done; but for the moment, Fleeming saw his
friend hurled into the sea, and almost by his own act: it was a memory
that haunted him.

CHAPTER IV.  1859–1868.

Fleeming’s Marriage—His Married Life—Professional Difficulties—Life at
Claygate—Illness of Mrs. F. Jenkin; and of Fleeming—Appointment to the
Chair at Edinburgh.

ON Saturday, Feb. 26, 1859, profiting by a holiday of four days, Fleeming
was married to Miss Austin at Northiam: a place connected not only with
his own family but with that of his bride as well.  By Tuesday morning,
he was at work again, fitting out cableships at Birkenhead.  Of the walk
from his lodgings to the works, I find a graphic sketch in one of his
letters: ‘Out over the railway bridge, along a wide road raised to the
level of a ground floor above the land, which, not being built upon,
harbours puddles, ponds, pigs, and Irish hovels;—so to the dock
warehouses, four huge piles of building with no windows, surrounded by a
wall about twelve feet high—in through the large gates, round which hang
twenty or thirty rusty Irish, playing pitch and toss and waiting for
employment;—on along the railway, which came in at the same gates and
which branches down between each vast block—past a pilot-engine butting
refractory trucks into their places—on to the last block, [and] down the
branch, sniffing the guano-scented air and detecting the old bones.  The
hartshorn flavour of the guano becomes very strong, as I near the docks
where, across the _Elba’s_ decks, a huge vessel is discharging her cargo
of the brown dust, and where huge vessels have been discharging that same
cargo for the last five months.’  This was the walk he took his young
wife on the morrow of his return.  She had been used to the society of
lawyers and civil servants, moving in that circle which seems to itself
the pivot of the nation and is in truth only a clique like another; and
Fleeming was to her the nameless assistant of a nameless firm of
engineers, doing his inglorious business, as she now saw for herself,
among unsavoury surroundings.  But when their walk brought them within
view of the river, she beheld a sight to her of the most novel beauty:
four great, sea-going ships dressed out with flags.  ‘How lovely!’ she
cried.  ‘What is it for?’—‘For you,’ said Fleeming.  Her surprise was
only equalled by her pleasure.  But perhaps, for what we may call private
fame, there is no life like that of the engineer; who is a great man in
out-of-the-way places, by the dockside or on the desert island or in
populous ships, and remains quite unheard of in the coteries of London.
And Fleeming had already made his mark among the few who had an
opportunity of knowing him.

His marriage was the one decisive incident of his career; from that
moment until the day of his death, he had one thought to which all the
rest were tributary, the thought of his wife.  No one could know him even
slightly, and not remark the absorbing greatness of that sentiment; nor
can any picture of the man be drawn that does not in proportion dwell
upon it.  This is a delicate task; but if we are to leave behind us (as
we wish) some presentment of the friend we have lost, it is a task that
must be undertaken.

For all his play of mind and fancy, for all his indulgence—and, as time
went on, he grew indulgent—Fleeming had views of duty that were even
stern.  He was too shrewd a student of his fellow-men to remain long
content with rigid formulæ of conduct.  Iron-bound, impersonal ethics,
the procrustean bed of rules, he soon saw at their true value as the
deification of averages.  ‘As to Miss (I declare I forget her name) being
bad,’ I find him writing, ‘people only mean that she has broken the
Decalogue—which is not at all the same thing.  People who have kept in
the high-road of Life really have less opportunity for taking a
comprehensive view of it than those who have leaped over the hedges and
strayed up the hills; not but what the hedges are very necessary, and our
stray travellers often have a weary time of it.  So, you may say, have
those in the dusty roads.’  Yet he was himself a very stern respecter of
the hedgerows; sought safety and found dignity in the obvious path of
conduct; and would palter with no simple and recognised duty of his
epoch.  Of marriage in particular, of the bond so formed, of the
obligations incurred, of the debt men owe to their children, he conceived
in a truly antique spirit: not to blame others, but to constrain himself.
It was not to blame, I repeat, that he held these views; for others, he
could make a large allowance; and yet he tacitly expected of his friends
and his wife a high standard of behaviour.  Nor was it always easy to
wear the armour of that ideal.

Acting upon these beliefs; conceiving that he had indeed ‘given himself’
(in the full meaning of these words) for better, for worse; painfully
alive to his defects of temper and deficiency in charm; resolute to make
up for these; thinking last of himself: Fleeming was in some ways the
very man to have made a noble, uphill fight of an unfortunate marriage.
In other ways, it is true he was one of the most unfit for such a trial.
And it was his beautiful destiny to remain to the last hour the same
absolute and romantic lover, who had shown to his new bride the
flag-draped vessels in the Mersey.  No fate is altogether easy; but
trials are our touchstone, trials overcome our reward; and it was given
to Fleeming to conquer.  It was given to him to live for another, not as
a task, but till the end as an enchanting pleasure.  ‘People may write
novels,’ he wrote in 1869, ‘and other people may write poems, but not a
man or woman among them can write to say how happy a man may be, who is
desperately in love with his wife after ten years of marriage.’  And
again in 1885, after more than twenty-six years of marriage, and within
but five weeks of his death: ‘Your first letter from Bournemouth,’ he
wrote, ‘gives me heavenly pleasure—for which I thank Heaven and you
too—who are my heaven on earth.’  The mind hesitates whether to say that
such a man has been more good or more fortunate.

Any woman (it is the defect of her sex) comes sooner to the stable mind
of maturity than any man; and Jenkin was to the end of a most deliberate
growth.  In the next chapter, when I come to deal with his telegraphic
voyages and give some taste of his correspondence, the reader will still
find him at twenty-five an arrant school-boy.  His wife besides was more
thoroughly educated than he.  In many ways she was able to teach him, and
he proud to be taught; in many ways she outshone him, and he delighted to
be outshone.  All these superiorities, and others that, after the manner
of lovers, he no doubt forged for himself, added as time went on to the
humility of his original love.  Only once, in all I know of his career,
did he show a touch of smallness.  He could not learn to sing correctly;
his wife told him so and desisted from her lessons; and the mortification
was so sharply felt that for years he could not be induced to go to a
concert, instanced himself as a typical man without an ear, and never
sang again.  I tell it; for the fact that this stood singular in his
behaviour, and really amazed all who knew him, is the happiest way I can
imagine to commend the tenor of his simplicity; and because it
illustrates his feeling for his wife.  Others were always welcome to
laugh at him; if it amused them, or if it amused him, he would proceed
undisturbed with his occupation, his vanity invulnerable.  With his wife
it was different: his wife had laughed at his singing; and for twenty
years the fibre ached.  Nothing, again, was more notable than the formal
chivalry of this unmannered man to the person on earth with whom he was
the most familiar.  He was conscious of his own innate and often rasping
vivacity and roughness and he was never forgetful of his first visit to
the Austins and the vow he had registered on his return.  There was thus
an artificial element in his punctilio that at times might almost raise a
smile.  But it stood on noble grounds; for this was how he sought to
shelter from his own petulance the woman who was to him the symbol of the
household and to the end the beloved of his youth.

I wish in this chapter to chronicle small beer; taking a hasty glance at
some ten years of married life and of professional struggle; and
reserving till the next all the more interesting matter of his cruises.
Of his achievements and their worth, it is not for me to speak: his
friend and partner, Sir William Thomson, has contributed a note on the
subject, which will be found in the Appendix, and to which I must refer
the reader.  He is to conceive in the meanwhile for himself Fleeming’s
manifold engagements: his service on the Committee on Electrical
Standards, his lectures on electricity at Chatham, his chair at the
London University, his partnership with Sir William Thomson and Mr.
Varley in many ingenious patents, his growing credit with engineers and
men of science; and he is to bear in mind that of all this activity and
acquist of reputation, the immediate profit was scanty.  Soon after his
marriage, Fleeming had left the service of Messrs. Liddell & Gordon, and
entered into a general engineering partnership with Mr. Forde, a
gentleman in a good way of business.  It was a fortunate partnership in
this, that the parties retained their mutual respect unlessened and
separated with regret; but men’s affairs, like men, have their times of
sickness, and by one of these unaccountable variations, for hard upon ten
years the business was disappointing and the profits meagre.  ‘Inditing
drafts of German railways which will never get made’: it is thus I find
Fleeming, not without a touch of bitterness, describe his occupation.
Even the patents hung fire at first.  There was no salary to rely on;
children were coming and growing up; the prospect was often anxious.  In
the days of his courtship, Fleeming had written to Miss Austin a
dissuasive picture of the trials of poverty, assuring her these were no
figments but truly bitter to support; he told her this, he wrote,
beforehand, so that when the pinch came and she suffered, she should not
be disappointed in herself nor tempted to doubt her own magnanimity: a
letter of admirable wisdom and solicitude.  But now that the trouble
came, he bore it very lightly.  It was his principle, as he once prettily
expressed it, ‘to enjoy each day’s happiness, as it arises, like birds or
children.’  His optimism, if driven out at the door, would come in again
by the window; if it found nothing but blackness in the present, would
hit upon some ground of consolation in the future or the past.  And his
courage and energy were indefatigable.  In the year 1863, soon after the
birth of their first son, they moved into a cottage at Claygate near
Esher; and about this time, under manifold troubles both of money and
health, I find him writing from abroad: ‘The country will give us, please
God, health and strength.  I will love and cherish you more than ever,
you shall go where you wish, you shall receive whom you wish—and as for
money you shall have that too.  I cannot be mistaken.  I have now
measured myself with many men.  I do not feel weak, I do not feel that I
shall fail.  In many things I have succeeded, and I will in this.  And
meanwhile the time of waiting, which, please Heaven, shall not be long,
shall also not be so bitter.  Well, well, I promise much, and do not know
at this moment how you and the dear child are.  If he is but better,
courage, my girl, for I see light.’

This cottage at Claygate stood just without the village, well surrounded
with trees and commanding a pleasant view.  A piece of the garden was
turfed over to form a croquet green, and Fleeming became (I need scarce
say) a very ardent player.  He grew ardent, too, in gardening.  This he
took up at first to please his wife, having no natural inclination; but
he had no sooner set his hand to it, than, like everything else he
touched, it became with him a passion.  He budded roses, he potted
cuttings in the coach-house; if there came a change of weather at night,
he would rise out of bed to protect his favourites; when he was thrown
with a dull companion, it was enough for him to discover in the man a
fellow gardener; on his travels, he would go out of his way to visit
nurseries and gather hints; and to the end of his life, after other
occupations prevented him putting his own hand to the spade, he drew up a
yearly programme for his gardener, in which all details were regulated.
He had begun by this time to write.  His paper on Darwin, which had the
merit of convincing on one point the philosopher himself, had indeed been
written before this in London lodgings; but his pen was not idle at
Claygate; and it was here he wrote (among other things) that review of
‘_Fecundity_, _Fertility_, _Sterility_, _and Allied Topics_,’ which Dr.
Matthews Duncan prefixed by way of introduction to the second edition of
the work.  The mere act of writing seems to cheer the vanity of the most
incompetent; but a correction accepted by Darwin, and a whole review
borrowed and reprinted by Matthews Duncan are compliments of a rare
strain, and to a man still unsuccessful must have been precious indeed.
There was yet a third of the same kind in store for him; and when Munro
himself owned that he had found instruction in the paper on Lucretius, we
may say that Fleeming had been crowned in the capitol of reviewing.

Croquet, charades, Christmas magic lanterns for the village children, an
amateur concert or a review article in the evening; plenty of hard work
by day; regular visits to meetings of the British Association, from one
of which I find him characteristically writing: ‘I cannot say that I have
had any amusement yet, but I am enjoying the dulness and dry bustle of
the whole thing’; occasional visits abroad on business, when he would
find the time to glean (as I have said) gardening hints for himself, and
old folk-songs or new fashions of dress for his wife; and the continual
study and care of his children: these were the chief elements of his
life.  Nor were friends wanting.  Captain and Mrs. Jenkin, Mr. and Mrs.
Austin, Clerk Maxwell, Miss Bell of Manchester, and others came to them
on visits.  Mr. Hertslet of the Foreign Office, his wife and his
daughter, were neighbours and proved kind friends; in 1867 the Howitts
came to Claygate and sought the society of ‘the two bright, clever young
people’; {113} and in a house close by, Mr. Frederick Ricketts came to
live with his family.  Mr. Ricketts was a valued friend during his short
life; and when he was lost with every circumstance of heroism in the _La
Plata_, Fleeming mourned him sincerely.

I think I shall give the best idea of Fleeming in this time of his early
married life, by a few sustained extracts from his letters to his wife,
while she was absent on a visit in 1864.

    ‘_Nov._ 11.—Sunday was too wet to walk to Isleworth, for which I was
    sorry, so I staid and went to Church and thought of you at Ardwick
    all through the Commandments, and heard Dr. — expound in a remarkable
    way a prophecy of St. Paul’s about Roman Catholics, which _mutatis
    mutandis_ would do very well for Protestants in some parts.  Then I
    made a little nursery of Borecole and Enfield market cabbage,
    grubbing in wet earth with leggings and gray coat on.  Then I tidied
    up the coach-house to my own and Christine’s admiration.  Then
    encouraged by _bouts-rimés_ I wrote you a copy of verses; high time I
    think; I shall just save my tenth year of knowing my lady-love
    without inditing poetry or rhymes to her.

    ‘Then I rummaged over the box with my father’s letters and found
    interesting notes from myself.  One I should say my first letter,
    which little Austin I should say would rejoice to see and shall
    see—with a drawing of a cottage and a spirited “cob.”  What was more
    to the purpose, I found with it a paste-cutter which Mary begged
    humbly for Christine and I generously gave this morning.

    ‘Then I read some of Congreve.  There are admirable scenes in the
    manner of Sheridan; all wit and no character, or rather one character
    in a great variety of situations and scenes.  I could show you some
    scenes, but others are too coarse even for my stomach hardened by a
    course of French novels.

    ‘All things look so happy for the rain.

    ‘_Nov._ 16.—Verbenas looking well. . . . I am but a poor creature
    without you; I have naturally no spirit or fun or enterprise in me.
    Only a kind of mechanical capacity for ascertaining whether two
    really is half four, etc.; but when you are near me I can fancy that
    I too shine, and vainly suppose it to be my proper light; whereas by
    my extreme darkness when you are not by, it clearly can only be by a
    reflected brilliance that I seem aught but dull.  Then for the moral
    part of me: if it were not for you and little Odden, I should feel by
    no means sure that I had any affection power in me. . . . Even the
    muscular me suffers a sad deterioration in your absence.  I don’t get
    up when I ought to, I have snoozed in my chair after dinner; I do not
    go in at the garden with my wonted vigour, and feel ten times as
    tired as usual with a walk in your absence; so you see, when you are
    not by, I am a person without ability, affections or vigour, but
    droop dull, selfish, and spiritless; can you wonder that I love you?

    ‘_Nov._ 17.—. . . I am very glad we married young.  I would not have
    missed these five years, no, not for any hopes; they are my own.

    ‘_Nov._ 30.—I got through my Chatham lecture very fairly though
    almost all my apparatus went astray.  I dined at the mess, and got
    home to Isleworth the same evening; your father very kindly sitting
    up for me.

    ‘_Dec._ 1.—Back at dear Claygate.  Many cuttings flourish, especially
    those which do honour to your hand.  Your Californian annuals are up
    and about.  Badger is fat, the grass green. . . .

    ‘_Dec._ 3.—Odden will not talk of you, while you are away, having
    inherited, as I suspect, his father’s way of declining to consider a
    subject which is painful, as your absence is. . . . I certainly
    should like to learn Greek and I think it would be a capital pastime
    for the long winter evenings. . . . How things are misrated!  I
    declare croquet is a noble occupation compared to the pursuits of
    business men.  As for so-called idleness—that is, one form of it—I
    vow it is the noblest aim of man.  When idle, one can love, one can
    be good, feel kindly to all, devote oneself to others, be thankful
    for existence, educate one’s mind, one’s heart, one’s body.  When
    busy, as I am busy now or have been busy to-day, one feels just as
    you sometimes felt when you were too busy, owing to want of servants.

    ‘_Dec._ 5.—On Sunday I was at Isleworth, chiefly engaged in playing
    with Odden.  We had the most enchanting walk together through the
    brickfields.  It was very muddy, and, as he remarked, not fit for
    Nanna, but fit for us _men_.  The dreary waste of bared earth,
    thatched sheds and standing water, was a paradise to him; and when we
    walked up planks to deserted mixing and crushing mills, and actually
    saw where the clay was stirred with long iron prongs, and chalk or
    lime ground with “a tind of a mill,” his expression of contentment
    and triumphant heroism knew no limit to its beauty.  Of course on
    returning I found Mrs. Austin looking out at the door in an anxious
    manner, and thinking we had been out quite long enough. . . . I am
    reading Don Quixote chiefly and am his fervent admirer, but I am so
    sorry he did not place his affections on a Dulcinea of somewhat
    worthier stamp.  In fact I think there must be a mistake about it.
    Don Quixote might and would serve his lady in most preposterous
    fashion, but I am sure he would have chosen a lady of merit.  He
    imagined her to be such no doubt, and drew a charming picture of her
    occupations by the banks of the river; but in his other imaginations,
    there was some kind of peg on which to hang the false costumes he
    created; windmills are big, and wave their arms like giants; sheep in
    the distance are somewhat like an army; a little boat on the
    river-side must look much the same whether enchanted or belonging to
    millers; but except that Dulcinea is a woman, she bears no
    resemblance at all to the damsel of his imagination.’

At the time of these letters, the oldest son only was born to them.  In
September of the next year, with the birth of the second, Charles Frewen,
there befell Fleeming a terrible alarm and what proved to be a lifelong
misfortune.  Mrs. Jenkin was taken suddenly and alarmingly ill; Fleeming
ran a matter of two miles to fetch the doctor, and, drenched with sweat
as he was, returned with him at once in an open gig.  On their arrival at
the house, Mrs. Jenkin half unconsciously took and kept hold of her
husband’s hand.  By the doctor’s orders, windows and doors were set open
to create a thorough draught, and the patient was on no account to be
disturbed.  Thus, then, did Fleeming pass the whole of that night,
crouching on the floor in the draught, and not daring to move lest he
should wake the sleeper.  He had never been strong; energy had stood him
instead of vigour; and the result of that night’s exposure was flying
rheumatism varied by settled sciatica.  Sometimes it quite disabled him,
sometimes it was less acute; but he was rarely free from it until his
death.  I knew him for many years; for more than ten we were closely
intimate; I have lived with him for weeks; and during all this time, he
only once referred to his infirmity and then perforce as an excuse for
some trouble he put me to, and so slightly worded that I paid no heed.
This is a good measure of his courage under sufferings of which none but
the untried will think lightly.  And I think it worth noting how this
optimist was acquainted with pain.  It will seem strange only to the
superficial.  The disease of pessimism springs never from real troubles,
which it braces men to bear, which it delights men to bear well.  Nor
does it readily spring at all, in minds that have conceived of life as a
field of ordered duties, not as a chase in which to hunt for
gratifications.  ‘We are not here to be happy, but to be good’; I wish he
had mended the phrase: ‘We are not here to be happy, but to try to be
good,’ comes nearer the modesty of truth.  With such old-fashioned
morality, it is possible to get through life, and see the worst of it,
and feel some of the worst of it, and still acquiesce piously and even
gladly in man’s fate.  Feel some of the worst of it, I say; for some of
the rest of the worst is, by this simple faith, excluded.

It was in the year 1868, that the clouds finally rose.  The business in
partnership with Mr. Forde began suddenly to pay well; about the same
time the patents showed themselves a valuable property; and but a little
after, Fleeming was appointed to the new chair of engineering in the
University of Edinburgh.  Thus, almost at once, pecuniary embarrassments
passed for ever out of his life.  Here is his own epilogue to the time at
Claygate, and his anticipations of the future in Edinburgh.

    ‘ . . . . The dear old house at Claygate is not let and the pretty
    garden a mass of weeds.  I feel rather as if we had behaved unkindly
    to them.  We were very happy there, but now that it is over I am
    conscious of the weight of anxiety as to money which I bore all the
    time.  With you in the garden, with Austin in the coach-house, with
    pretty songs in the little, low white room, with the moonlight in the
    dear room up-stairs, ah, it was perfect; but the long walk,
    wondering, pondering, fearing, scheming, and the dusty jolting
    railway, and the horrid fusty office with its endless
    disappointments, they are well gone.  It is well enough to fight and
    scheme and bustle about in the eager crowd here [in London] for a
    while now and then, but not for a lifetime.  What I have now is just
    perfect.  Study for winter, action for summer, lovely country for
    recreation, a pleasant town for talk . . .’


BUT it is now time to see Jenkin at his life’s work.  I have before me
certain imperfect series of letters written, as he says, ‘at hazard, for
one does not know at the time what is important and what is not’: the
earlier addressed to Miss Austin, after the betrothal; the later to Mrs.
Jenkin the young wife.  I should premise that I have allowed myself
certain editorial freedoms, leaving out and splicing together much as he
himself did with the Bona cable: thus edited the letters speak for
themselves, and will fail to interest none who love adventure or
activity.  Addressed as they were to her whom he called his ‘dear
engineering pupil,’ they give a picture of his work so clear that a child
may understand, and so attractive that I am half afraid their publication
may prove harmful, and still further crowd the ranks of a profession
already overcrowded.  But their most engaging quality is the picture of
the writer; with his indomitable self-confidence and courage, his
readiness in every pinch of circumstance or change of plan, and his ever
fresh enjoyment of the whole web of human experience, nature, adventure,
science, toil and rest, society and solitude.  It should be borne in mind
that the writer of these buoyant pages was, even while he wrote, harassed
by responsibility, stinted in sleep and often struggling with the
prostration of sea-sickness.  To this last enemy, which he never
overcame, I have omitted, in my search after condensation, a good many
references; if they were all left, such was the man’s temper, they would
not represent one hundredth part of what he suffered, for he was never
given to complaint.  But indeed he had met this ugly trifle, as he met
every thwart circumstance of life, with a certain pleasure of pugnacity;
and suffered it not to check him, whether in the exercise of his
profession or the pursuit of amusement.


                                              ‘Birkenhead: April 18, 1858.

‘Well, you should know, Mr. — having a contract to lay down a submarine
telegraph from Sardinia to Africa failed three times in the attempt.  The
distance from land to land is about 140 miles.  On the first occasion,
after proceeding some 70 miles, he had to cut the cable—the cause I
forget; he tried again, same result; then picked up about 20 miles of the
lost cable, spliced on a new piece, and very nearly got across that time,
but ran short of cable, and when but a few miles off Galita in very deep
water, had to telegraph to London for more cable to be manufactured and
sent out whilst he tried to stick to the end: for five days, I think, he
lay there sending and receiving messages, but heavy weather coming on the
cable parted and Mr. — went home in despair—at least I should think so.

‘He then applied to those eminent engineers, R. S. Newall & Co., who made
and laid down a cable for him last autumn—Fleeming Jenkin (at the time in
considerable mental agitation) having the honour of fitting out the
_Elba_ for that purpose.’  [On this occasion, the _Elba_ has no cable to
lay; but] ‘is going out in the beginning of May to endeavour to fish up
the cables Mr. — lost.  There are two ends at or near the shore: the
third will probably not be found within 20 miles from land.  One of these
ends will be passed over a very big pulley or sheave at the bows, passed
six times round a big barrel or drum; which will be turned round by a
steam engine on deck, and thus wind up the cable, while the _Elba_ slowly
steams ahead.  The cable is not wound round and round the drum as your
silk is wound on its reel, but on the contrary never goes round more than
six times, going off at one side as it comes on at the other, and going
down into the hold of the _Elba_ to be coiled along in a big coil or

‘I went down to Gateshead to discuss with Mr. Newall the form which this
tolerably simple idea should take, and have been busy since I came here
drawing, ordering, and putting up the machinery—uninterfered with, thank
goodness, by any one.  I own I like responsibility; it flatters one and
then, your father might say, I have more to gain than to lose.  Moreover
I do like this bloodless, painless combat with wood and iron, forcing the
stubborn rascals to do my will, licking the clumsy cubs into an active
shape, seeing the child of to-day’s thought working to-morrow in full
vigour at his appointed task.

                                                                  ‘May 12.

‘By dint of bribing, bullying, cajoling, and going day by day to see the
state of things ordered, all my work is very nearly ready now; but those
who have neglected these precautions are of course disappointed.  Five
hundred fathoms of chain [were] ordered by—some three weeks since, to be
ready by the 10th without fail; he sends for it to-day—150 fathoms all
they can let us have by the 15th—and how the rest is to be got, who
knows?  He ordered a boat a month since and yesterday we could see
nothing of her but the keel and about two planks.  I could multiply
instances without end.  At first one goes nearly mad with vexation at
these things; but one finds so soon that they are the rule, that then it
becomes necessary to feign a rage one does not feel.  I look upon it as
the natural order of things, that if I order a thing, it will not be
done—if by accident it gets done, it will certainly be done wrong: the
only remedy being to watch the performance at every stage.

‘To-day was a grand field-day.  I had steam up and tried the engine
against pressure or resistance.  One part of the machinery is driven by a
belt or strap of leather.  I always had my doubts this might slip; and so
it did, wildly.  I had made provision for doubling it, putting on two
belts instead of one.  No use—off they went, slipping round and off the
pulleys instead of driving the machinery.  Tighten them—no use.  More
strength there—down with the lever—smash something, tear the belts, but
get them tight—now then, stand clear, on with the steam;—and the belts
slip away as if nothing held them.  Men begin to look queer; the circle
of quidnuncs make sage remarks.  Once more—no use.  I begin to know I
ought to feel sheepish and beat, but somehow I feel cocky instead.  I
laugh and say, “Well, I am bound to break something down”—and suddenly
see.  “Oho, there’s the place; get weight on there, and the belt won’t
slip.”  With much labour, on go the belts again.  “Now then, a spar thro’
there and six men’s weight on; mind you’re not carried away.”—“Ay, ay,
sir.”  But evidently no one believes in the plan.  “Hurrah, round she
goes—stick to your spar.  All right, shut off steam.”  And the difficulty
is vanquished.

‘This or such as this (not always quite so bad) occurs hour after hour,
while five hundred tons of coal are rattling down into the holds and
bunkers, riveters are making their infernal row all round, and riggers
bend the sails and fit the rigging:—a sort of Pandemonium, it appeared to
young Mrs. Newall, who was here on Monday and half-choked with guano; but
it suits the likes o’ me.

                                      ‘S. S. _Elba_, River Mersey: May 17.

‘We are delayed in the river by some of the ship’s papers not being
ready.  Such a scene at the dock gates.  Not a sailor will join till the
last moment; and then, just as the ship forges ahead through the narrow
pass, beds and baggage fly on board, the men half tipsy clutch at the
rigging, the captain swears, the women scream and sob, the crowd cheer
and laugh, while one or two pretty little girls stand still and cry
outright, regardless of all eyes.

‘These two days of comparative peace have quite set me on my legs again.
I was getting worn and weary with anxiety and work.  As usual I have been
delighted with my shipwrights.  I gave them some beer on Saturday, making
a short oration.  To-day when they went ashore and I came on board, they
gave three cheers, whether for me or the ship I hardly know, but I had
just bid them good-bye, and the ship was out of hail; but I was startled
and hardly liked to claim the compliment by acknowledging it.

                                                    ‘S. S. _Elba_: May 25.

‘My first intentions of a long journal have been fairly frustrated by
sea-sickness.  On Tuesday last about noon we started from the Mersey in
very dirty weather, and were hardly out of the river when we met a gale
from the south-west and a heavy sea, both right in our teeth; and the
poor _Elba_ had a sad shaking.  Had I not been very sea-sick, the sight
would have been exciting enough, as I sat wrapped in my oilskins on the
bridge; [but] in spite of all my efforts to talk, to eat, and to grin, I
soon collapsed into imbecility; and I was heartily thankful towards
evening to find myself in bed.

‘Next morning, I fancied it grew quieter and, as I listened, heard, “Let
go the anchor,” whereon I concluded we had run into Holyhead Harbour, as
was indeed the case.  All that day we lay in Holyhead, but I could
neither read nor write nor draw.  The captain of another steamer which
had put in came on board, and we all went for a walk on the hill; and in
the evening there was an exchange of presents.  We gave some tobacco I
think, and received a cat, two pounds of fresh butter, a Cumberland ham,
_Westward Ho_! and Thackeray’s _English Humourists_.  I was astonished at
receiving two such fair books from the captain of a little coasting
screw.  Our captain said he [the captain of the screw] had plenty of
money, five or six hundred a year at least.—“What in the world makes him
go rolling about in such a craft, then?”—“Why, I fancy he’s reckless;
he’s desperate in love with that girl I mentioned, and she won’t look at
him.”  Our honest, fat, old captain says this very grimly in his thick,
broad voice.

‘My head won’t stand much writing yet, so I will run up and take a look
at the blue night sky off the coast of Portugal.

                                                                  ‘May 26.

‘A nice lad of some two and twenty, A— by name, goes out in a nondescript
capacity as part purser, part telegraph clerk, part generally useful
person.  A— was a great comfort during the miseries [of the gale]; for
when with a dead head wind and a heavy sea, plates, books, papers,
stomachs were being rolled about in sad confusion, we generally managed
to lie on our backs, and grin, and try discordant staves of the _Flowers
of the Forest_ and the _Low-backed Car_.  We could sing and laugh, when
we could do nothing else; though A— was ready to swear after each fit was
past, that that was the first time he had felt anything, and at this
moment would declare in broad Scotch that he’d never been sick at all,
qualifying the oath with “except for a minute now and then.”  He brought
a cornet-à-piston to practice on, having had three weeks’ instructions on
that melodious instrument; and if you could hear the horrid sounds that
come! especially at heavy rolls.  When I hint he is not improving, there
comes a confession: “I don’t feel quite right yet, you see!”  But he
blows away manfully, and in self-defence I try to roar the tune louder.

                                                               ‘11:30 P.M.

‘Long past Cape St. Vincent now.  We went within about 400 yards of the
cliffs and light-house in a calm moonlight, with porpoises springing from
the sea, the men crooning long ballads as they lay idle on the forecastle
and the sails flapping uncertain on the yards.  As we passed, there came
a sudden breeze from land, hot and heavy scented; and now as I write its
warm rich flavour contrasts strongly with the salt air we have been

‘I paced the deck with H—, the second mate, and in the quiet night drew a
confession that he was engaged to be married, and gave him a world of
good advice.  He is a very nice, active, little fellow, with a broad
Scotch tongue and “dirty, little rascal” appearance.  He had a sad
disappointment at starting.  Having been second mate on the last voyage,
when the first mate was discharged, he took charge of the _Elba_ all the
time she was in port, and of course looked forward to being chief mate
this trip.  Liddell promised him the post.  He had not authority to do
this; and when Newall heard of it, he appointed another man.  Fancy poor
H— having told all the men and most of all, his sweetheart.  But more
remains behind; for when it came to signing articles, it turned out that
O—, the new first mate, had not a certificate which allowed him to have a
second mate.  Then came rather an affecting scene.  For H— proposed to
sign as chief (he having the necessary higher certificate) but to act as
second for the lower wages.  At first O— would not give in, but offered
to go as second.  But our brave little H— said, no: “The owners wished
Mr. O— to be chief mate, and chief mate he should be.”  So he carried the
day, signed as chief and acts as second.  Shakespeare and Byron are his
favourite books.  I walked into Byron a little, but can well understand
his stirring up a rough, young sailor’s romance.  I lent him _Westward
Ho_ from the cabin; but to my astonishment he did not care much for it;
he said it smelt of the shilling railway library; perhaps I had praised
it too highly.  Scott is his standard for novels.  I am very happy to
find good taste by no means confined to gentlemen, H— having no
pretensions to that title.  He is a man after my own heart.

‘Then I came down to the cabin and heard young A—’s schemes for the
future.  His highest picture is a commission in the Prince of
Vizianagram’s irregular horse.  His eldest brother is tutor to his
Highness’s children, and grand vizier, and magistrate, and on his
Highness’s household staff, and seems to be one of those Scotch
adventurers one meets with and hears of in queer berths—raising cavalry,
building palaces, and using some petty Eastern king’s long purse with
their long Scotch heads.

                                                        ‘Off Bona; June 4.

‘I read your letter carefully, leaning back in a Maltese boat to present
the smallest surface of my body to a grilling sun, and sailing from the
_Elba_ to Cape Hamrah about three miles distant.  How we fried and
sighed!  At last, we reached land under Fort Genova, and I was carried
ashore pick-a-back, and plucked the first flower I saw for Annie.  It was
a strange scene, far more novel than I had imagined: the high, steep
banks covered with rich, spicy vegetation of which I hardly knew one
plant.  The dwarf palm with fan-like leaves, growing about two feet high,
formed the staple of the verdure.  As we brushed through them, the gummy
leaves of a cistus stuck to the clothes; and with its small white flower
and yellow heart, stood for our English dog-rose.  In place of heather,
we had myrtle and lentisque with leaves somewhat similar.  That large
bulb with long flat leaves?  Do not touch it if your hands are cut; the
Arabs use it as blisters for their horses.  Is that the same sort?  No,
take that one up; it is the bulb of a dwarf palm, each layer of the onion
peels off, brown and netted, like the outside of a cocoa-nut.  It is a
clever plant that; from the leaves we get a vegetable horsehair;—and eat
the bottom of the centre spike.  All the leaves you pull have the same
aromatic scent.  But here a little patch of cleared ground shows old
friends, who seem to cling by abused civilisation:—fine, hardy thistles,
one of them bright yellow, though;—honest, Scotch-looking, large daisies
or gowans;—potatoes here and there, looking but sickly; and dark sturdy
fig-trees looking cool and at their ease in the burning sun.

‘Here we are at Fort Genova, crowning the little point, a small old
building, due to my old Genoese acquaintance who fought and traded
bravely once upon a time.  A broken cannon of theirs forms the threshold;
and through a dark, low arch, we enter upon broad terraces sloping to the
centre, from which rain water may collect and run into that well.
Large-breeched French troopers lounge about and are most civil; and the
whole party sit down to breakfast in a little white-washed room, from the
door of which the long, mountain coastline and the sparkling sea show of
an impossible blue through the openings of a white-washed rampart.  I try
a sea-egg, one of those prickly fellows—sea-urchins, they are called
sometimes; the shell is of a lovely purple, and when opened, there are
rays of yellow adhering to the inside; these I eat, but they are very

‘We are silent and shy of one another, and soon go out to watch while
turbaned, blue-breeched, barelegged Arabs dig holes for the land
telegraph posts on the following principle: one man takes a pick and
bangs lazily at the hard earth; when a little is loosened, his mate with
a small spade lifts it on one side; and _da capo_.  They have regular
features and look quite in place among the palms.  Our English workmen
screw the earthenware insulators on the posts, strain the wire, and order
Arabs about by the generic term of Johnny.  I find W— has nothing for me
to do; and that in fact no one has anything to do.  Some instruments for
testing have stuck at Lyons, some at Cagliari; and nothing can be done—or
at any rate, is done.  I wander about, thinking of you and staring at
big, green grasshoppers—locusts, some people call them—and smelling the
rich brushwood.  There was nothing for a pencil to sketch, and I soon got
tired of this work, though I have paid willingly much money for far less
strange and lovely sights.

                                            ‘Off Cape Spartivento: June 8.

‘At two this morning, we left Cagliari; at five cast anchor here.  I got
up and began preparing for the final trial; and shortly afterwards
everyone else of note on board went ashore to make experiments on the
state of the cable, leaving me with the prospect of beginning to lift at
12 o’clock.  I was not ready by that time; but the experiments were not
concluded and moreover the cable was found to be imbedded some four or
five feet in sand, so that the boat could not bring off the end.  At
three, Messrs. Liddell, &c., came on board in good spirits, having found
two wires good or in such a state as permitted messages to be transmitted
freely.  The boat now went to grapple for the cable some way from shore
while the _Elba_ towed a small lateen craft which was to take back the
consul to Cagliari some distance on its way.  On our return we found the
boat had been unsuccessful; she was allowed to drop astern, while we
grappled for the cable in the _Elba_ [without more success].  The coast
is a low mountain range covered with brushwood or heather—pools of water
and a sandy beach at their feet.  I have not yet been ashore, my hands
having been very full all day.

                                                                  ‘June 9.

‘Grappling for the cable outside the bank had been voted too uncertain;
[and the day was spent in] efforts to pull the cable off through the sand
which has accumulated over it.  By getting the cable tight on to the
boat, and letting the swell pitch her about till it got slack, and then
tightening again with blocks and pulleys, we managed to get out from the
beach towards the ship at the rate of about twenty yards an hour.  When
they had got about 100 yards from shore, we ran round in the _Elba_ to
try and help them, letting go the anchor in the shallowest possible
water, this was about sunset.  Suddenly someone calls out he sees the
cable at the bottom: there it was sure enough, apparently wriggling about
as the waves rippled.  Great excitement; still greater when we find our
own anchor is foul of it and has been the means of bringing it to light.
We let go a grapnel, get the cable clear of the anchor on to the
grapnel—the captain in an agony lest we should drift ashore
meanwhile—hand the grappling line into the big boat, steam out far
enough, and anchor again.  A little more work and one end of the cable is
up over the bows round my drum.  I go to my engine and we start hauling
in.  All goes pretty well, but it is quite dark.  Lamps are got at last,
and men arranged.  We go on for a quarter of a mile or so from shore and
then stop at about half-past nine with orders to be up at three.  Grand
work at last!  A number of the _Saturday Review_ here; it reads so hot
and feverish, so tomblike and unhealthy, in the midst of dear Nature’s
hills and sea, with good wholesome work to do.  Pray that all go well

                                                                 ‘June 10.

‘Thank heaven for a most fortunate day.  At three o’clock this morning in
a damp, chill mist all hands were roused to work.  With a small delay,
for one or two improvements I had seen to be necessary last night, the
engine started and since that time I do not think there has been half an
hour’s stoppage.  A rope to splice, a block to change, a wheel to oil, an
old rusted anchor to disengage from the cable which brought it up, these
have been our only obstructions.  Sixty, seventy, eighty, a hundred, a
hundred and twenty revolutions at last, my little engine tears away.  The
even black rope comes straight out of the blue heaving water: passes
slowly round an open-hearted, good-tempered looking pulley, five feet
diameter; aft past a vicious nipper, to bring all up should anything go
wrong; through a gentle guide; on to a huge bluff drum, who wraps him
round his body and says “Come you must,” as plain as drum can speak: the
chattering pauls say “I’ve got him, I’ve got him, he can’t get back:”
whilst black cable, much slacker and easier in mind and body, is taken by
a slim V-pulley and passed down into the huge hold, where half a dozen
men put him comfortably to bed after his exertion in rising from his long
bath.  In good sooth, it is one of the strangest sights I know to see
that black fellow rising up so steadily in the midst of the blue sea.  We
are more than half way to the place where we expect the fault; and
already the one wire, supposed previously to be quite bad near the
African coast, can be spoken through.  I am very glad I am here, for my
machines are my own children and I look on their little failings with a
parent’s eye and lead them into the path of duty with gentleness and
firmness.  I am naturally in good spirits, but keep very quiet, for
misfortunes may arise at any instant; moreover to-morrow my paying-out
apparatus will be wanted should all go well, and that will be another
nervous operation.  Fifteen miles are safely in; but no one knows better
than I do that nothing is done till all is done.

                                                                 ‘June 11.

‘9 A.M.—We have reached the splice supposed to be faulty, and no fault
has been found.  The two men learned in electricity, L— and W—, squabble
where the fault is.

‘_Evening_.—A weary day in a hot broiling sun; no air.  After the
experiments, L— said the fault might be ten miles ahead: by that time, we
should be according to a chart in about a thousand fathoms of
water—rather more than a mile.  It was most difficult to decide whether
to go on or not.  I made preparations for a heavy pull, set small things
to rights and went to sleep.  About four in the afternoon, Mr. Liddell
decided to proceed, and we are now (at seven) grinding it in at the rate
of a mile and three-quarters per hour, which appears a grand speed to us.
If the paying-out only works well!  I have just thought of a great
improvement in it; I can’t apply it this time, however.—The sea is of an
oily calm, and a perfect fleet of brigs and ships surrounds us, their
sails hardly filling in the lazy breeze.  The sun sets behind the dim
coast of the Isola San Pietro, the coast of Sardinia high and rugged
becomes softer and softer in the distance, while to the westward still
the isolated rock of Toro springs from the horizon.—It would amuse you to
see how cool (in head) and jolly everybody is.  A testy word now and then
shows the wires are strained a little, but everyone laughs and makes his
little jokes as if it were all in fun: yet we are all as much in earnest
as the most earnest of the earnest bastard German school or demonstrative
of Frenchmen.  I enjoy it very much.

                                                                 ‘June 12.

‘5.30 A.M.—Out of sight of land: about thirty nautical miles in the hold;
the wind rising a little; experiments being made for a fault, while the
engine slowly revolves to keep us hanging at the same spot: depth
supposed about a mile.  The machinery has behaved admirably.  Oh! that
the paying-out were over!  The new machinery there is but rough, meant
for an experiment in shallow water, and here we are in a mile of water.

‘6.30.—I have made my calculations and find the new paying-out gear
cannot possibly answer at this depth, some portion would give way.
Luckily, I have brought the old things with me and am getting them rigged
up as fast as may be.  Bad news from the cable.  Number four has given in
some portion of the last ten miles: the fault in number three is still at
the bottom of the sea: number two is now the only good wire and the hold
is getting in such a mess, through keeping bad bits out and cutting for
splicing and testing, that there will be great risk in paying out.  The
cable is somewhat strained in its ascent from one mile below us; what it
will be when we get to two miles is a problem we may have to determine.

‘9 P.M.—A most provoking unsatisfactory day.  We have done nothing.  The
wind and sea have both risen.  Too little notice has been given to the
telegraphists who accompany this expedition; they had to leave all their
instruments at Lyons in order to arrive at Bona in time; our tests are
therefore of the roughest, and no one really knows where the faults are.
Mr. L— in the morning lost much time; then he told us, after we had been
inactive for about eight hours, that the fault in number three was within
six miles; and at six o’clock in the evening, when all was ready for a
start to pick up these six miles, he comes and says there must be a fault
about thirty miles from Bona!  By this time it was too late to begin
paying out to-day, and we must lie here moored in a thousand fathoms till
light to-morrow morning.  The ship pitches a good deal, but the wind is
going down.

                                                         ‘June 13, Sunday.

‘The wind has not gone down, however.  It now (at 10.30) blows a pretty
stiff gale, the sea has also risen; and the _Elba’s_ bows rise and fall
about 9 feet.  We make twelve pitches to the minute, and the poor cable
must feel very sea-sick by this time.  We are quite unable to do
anything, and continue riding at anchor in one thousand fathoms, the
engines going constantly so as to keep the ship’s bows up to the cable,
which by this means hangs nearly vertical and sustains no strain but that
caused by its own weight and the pitching of the vessel.  We were all up
at four, but the weather entirely forbade work for to-day, so some went
to bed and most lay down, making up our leeway as we nautically term our
loss of sleep.  I must say Liddell is a fine fellow and keeps his
patience and temper wonderfully; and yet how he does fret and fume about
trifles at home!  This wind has blown now for 36 hours, and yet we have
telegrams from Bona to say the sea there is as calm as a mirror.  It
makes one laugh to remember one is still tied to the shore.  Click,
click, click, the pecker is at work: I wonder what Herr P— says to Herr
L—,—tests, tests, tests, nothing more.  This will be a very anxious day.

                                                                 ‘June 14.

‘Another day of fatal inaction.

                                                                 ‘June 15.

‘9.30.—The wind has gone down a deal; but even now there are doubts
whether we shall start to-day.  When shall I get back to you?

‘9 P.M.—Four miles from land.  Our run has been successful and eventless.
Now the work is nearly over I feel a little out of spirits—why, I should
be puzzled to say—mere wantonness, or reaction perhaps after suspense.

                                                                 ‘June 16.

‘Up this morning at three, coupled my self-acting gear to the brake and
had the satisfaction of seeing it pay out the last four miles in very
good style.  With one or two little improvements, I hope to make it a
capital thing.  The end has just gone ashore in two boats, three out of
four wires good.  Thus ends our first expedition.  By some odd chance a
_Times_ of June the 7th has found its way on board through the agency of
a wretched old peasant who watches the end of the line here.  A long
account of breakages in the Atlantic trial trip.  To-night we grapple for
the heavy cable, eight tons to the mile.  I long to have a tug at him; he
may puzzle me, and though misfortunes or rather difficulties are a bore
at the time, life when working with cables is tame without them.

‘2 P.M.—Hurrah, he is hooked, the big fellow, almost at the first cast.
He hangs under our bows looking so huge and imposing that I could find it
in my heart to be afraid of him.

                                                                 ‘June 17.

‘We went to a little bay called Chia, where a fresh-water stream falls
into the sea, and took in water.  This is rather a long operation, so I
went a walk up the valley with Mr. Liddell.  The coast here consists of
rocky mountains 800 to 1,000 feet high covered with shrubs of a brilliant
green.  On landing our first amusement was watching the hundreds of large
fish who lazily swam in shoals about the river; the big canes on the
further side hold numberless tortoises, we are told, but see none, for
just now they prefer taking a siesta.  A little further on, and what is
this with large pink flowers in such abundance?—the oleander in full
flower.  At first I fear to pluck them, thinking they must be cultivated
and valuable; but soon the banks show a long line of thick tall shrubs,
one mass of glorious pink and green.  Set these in a little valley,
framed by mountains whose rocks gleam out blue and purple colours such as
pre-Raphaelites only dare attempt, shining out hard and weird-like
amongst the clumps of castor-oil plants, cistus, arbor vitæ and many
other evergreens, whose names, alas! I know not; the cistus is brown now,
the rest all deep or brilliant green.  Large herds of cattle browse on
the baked deposit at the foot of these large crags.  One or two
half-savage herdsmen in sheepskin kilts, &c., ask for cigars; partridges
whirr up on either side of us; pigeons coo and nightingales sing amongst
the blooming oleander.  We get six sheep and many fowls, too, from the
priest of the small village; and then run back to Spartivento and make
preparations for the morning.

                                                                 ‘June 18.

‘The big cable is stubborn and will not behave like his smaller brother.
The gear employed to take him off the drum is not strong enough; he gets
slack on the drum and plays the mischief.  Luckily for my own conscience,
the gear I had wanted was negatived by Mr. Newall.  Mr. Liddell does not
exactly blame me, but he says we might have had a silver pulley cheaper
than the cost of this delay.  He has telegraphed for more men to
Cagliari, to try to pull the cable off the drum into the hold, by hand.
I look as comfortable as I can, but feel as if people were blaming me.  I
am trying my best to get something rigged which may help us; I wanted a
little difficulty, and feel much better.—The short length we have picked
up was covered at places with beautiful sprays of coral, twisted and
twined with shells of those small, fairy animals we saw in the aquarium
at home; poor little things, they died at once, with their little bells
and delicate bright tints.

‘12 _o’clock_.—Hurrah, victory! for the present anyhow.  Whilst in our
first dejection, I thought I saw a place where a flat roller would remedy
the whole misfortune; but a flat roller at Cape Spartivento, hard, easily
unshipped, running freely!  There was a grooved pulley used for the
paying-out machinery with a spindle wheel, which might suit me.  I filled
him up with tarry spunyarn, nailed sheet copper round him, bent some
parts in the fire; and we are paying-in without more trouble now.  You
would think some one would praise me; no, no more praise than blame
before; perhaps now they think better of me, though.

‘10 P.M.—We have gone on very comfortably for nearly six miles.  An hour
and a half was spent washing down; for along with many coloured polypi,
from corals, shells and insects, the big cable brings up much mud and
rust, and makes a fishy smell by no means pleasant: the bottom seems to
teem with life.—But now we are startled by a most unpleasant, grinding
noise; which appeared at first to come from the large low pulley, but
when the engines stopped, the noise continued; and we now imagine it is
something slipping down the cable, and the pulley but acts as
sounding-board to the big fiddle.  Whether it is only an anchor or one of
the two other cables, we know not.  We hope it is not the cable just laid

                                                                 ‘June 19.

‘10 A.M.—All our alarm groundless, it would appear: the odd noise ceased
after a time, and there was no mark sufficiently strong on the large
cable to warrant the suspicion that we had cut another line through.  I
stopped up on the look-out till three in the morning, which made 23 hours
between sleep and sleep.  One goes dozing about, though, most of the day,
for it is only when something goes wrong that one has to look alive.
Hour after hour, I stand on the forecastle-head, picking off little
specimens of polypi and coral, or lie on the saloon deck reading back
numbers of the _Times_—till something hitches, and then all is
hurly-burly once more.  There are awnings all along the ship, and a most
ancient, fish-like smell beneath.

‘1 _o’clock_.—Suddenly a great strain in only 95 fathoms of water—belts
surging and general dismay; grapnels being thrown out in the hope of
finding what holds the cable.—Should it prove the young cable!  We are
apparently crossing its path—not the working one, but the lost child; Mr.
Liddell _would_ start the big one first though it was laid first: he
wanted to see the job done, and meant to leave us to the small one
unaided by his presence.

‘3.30.—Grapnel caught something, lost it again; it left its marks on the
prongs.  Started lifting gear again; and after hauling in some 50
fathoms—grunt, grunt, grunt—we hear the other cable slipping down our big
one, playing the selfsame tune we heard last night—louder, however.

‘10 P.M.—The pull on the deck engines became harder and harder.  I got
steam up in a boiler on deck, and another little engine starts hauling at
the grapnel.  I wonder if there ever was such a scene of confusion: Mr.
Liddell and W— and the captain all giving orders contradictory, &c., on
the forecastle; D—, the foreman of our men, the mates, &c., following the
example of our superiors; the ship’s engine and boilers below, a 50-horse
engine on deck, a boiler 14 feet long on deck beside it, a little steam
winch tearing round; a dozen Italians (20 have come to relieve our hands,
the men we telegraphed for to Cagliari) hauling at the rope; wiremen,
sailors, in the crevices left by ropes and machinery; everything that
could swear swearing—I found myself swearing like a trooper at last.  We
got the unknown difficulty within ten fathoms of the surface; but then
the forecastle got frightened that, if it was the small cable which we
had got hold of, we should certainly break it by continuing the
tremendous and increasing strain.  So at last Mr. Liddell decided to
stop; cut the big cable, buoying its end; go back to our pleasant
watering-place at Chia, take more water and start lifting the small
cable.  The end of the large one has even now regained its sandy bed; and
three buoys—one to grapnel foul of the supposed small cable, two to the
big cable—are dipping about on the surface.  One more—a flag-buoy—will
soon follow, and then straight for shore.

                                                                 ‘June 20.

‘It is an ill-wind, &c.  I have an unexpected opportunity of forwarding
this engineering letter; for the craft which brought out our Italian
sailors must return to Cagliari to-night, as the little cable will take
us nearly to Galita, and the Italian skipper could hardly find his way
from thence.  To-day—Sunday—not much rest.  Mr. Liddell is at Spartivento
telegraphing.  We are at Chia, and shall shortly go to help our boat’s
crew in getting the small cable on board.  We dropped them some time
since in order that they might dig it out of the sand as far as possible.

                                                                 ‘June 21.

‘Yesterday—Sunday as it was—all hands were kept at work all day, coaling,
watering, and making a futile attempt to pull the cable from the shore on
board through the sand.  This attempt was rather silly after the
experience we had gained at Cape Spartivento.  This morning we grappled,
hooked the cable at once, and have made an excellent start.  Though I
have called this the small cable, it is much larger than the Bona
one.—Here comes a break down and a bad one.

                                                                 ‘June 22.

‘We got over it, however; but it is a warning to me that my future
difficulties will arise from parts wearing out.  Yesterday the cable was
often a lovely sight, coming out of the water one large incrustation of
delicate, net-like corals and long, white curling shells.  No portion of
the dirty black wires was visible; instead we had a garland of soft pink
with little scarlet sprays and white enamel intermixed.  All was fragile,
however, and could hardly be secured in safety; and inexorable iron
crushed the tender leaves to atoms.—This morning at the end of my watch,
about 4 o’clock, we came to the buoys, proving our anticipations right
concerning the crossing of the cables.  I went to bed for four hours, and
on getting up, found a sad mess.  A tangle of the six-wire cable hung to
the grapnel which had been left buoyed, and the small cable had parted
and is lost for the present.  Our hauling of the other day must have done
the mischief.

                                                                 ‘June 23.

‘We contrived to get the two ends of the large cable and to pick the
short end up.  The long end, leading us seaward, was next put round the
drum and a mile of it picked up; but then, fearing another tangle, the
end was cut and buoyed, and we returned to grapple for the three-wire
cable.  All this is very tiresome for me.  The buoying and dredging are
managed entirely by W—, who has had much experience in this sort of
thing; so I have not enough to do and get very homesick.  At noon the
wind freshened and the sea rose so high that we had to run for land and
are once more this evening anchored at Chia.

                                                                 ‘June 24.

‘The whole day spent in dredging without success.  This operation
consists in allowing the ship to drift slowly across the line where you
expect the cable to be, while at the end of a long rope, fast either to
the bow or stern, a grapnel drags along the ground.  This grapnel is a
small anchor, made like four pot-hooks tied back to back.  When the rope
gets taut, the ship is stopped and the grapnel hauled up to the surface
in the hopes of finding the cable on its prongs.—I am much discontented
with myself for idly lounging about and reading _Westward Ho_! for the
second time, instead of taking to electricity or picking up nautical
information.  I am uncommonly idle.  The sea is not quite so rough, but
the weather is squally and the rain comes in frequent gusts.

                                                                 ‘June 25.

‘To-day about 1 o’clock we hooked the three-wire cable, buoyed the long
sea end, and picked up the short [or shore] end.  Now it is dark and we
must wait for morning before lifting the buoy we lowered to-day and
proceeding seawards.—The depth of water here is about 600 feet, the
height of a respectable English hill; our fishing line was about a
quarter of a mile long.  It blows pretty fresh, and there is a great deal
of sea.


‘This morning it came on to blow so heavily that it was impossible to
take up our buoy.  The _Elba_ recommenced rolling in true Baltic style
and towards noon we ran for land.

                                                            ‘27th, Sunday.

‘This morning was a beautiful calm.  We reached the buoys at about 4.30
and commenced picking up at 6.30.  Shortly a new cause of anxiety arose.
Kinks came up in great quantities, about thirty in the hour.  To have a
true conception of a kink, you must see one: it is a loop drawn tight,
all the wires get twisted and the gutta-percha inside pushed out.  These
much diminish the value of the cable, as they must all be cut out, the
gutta-percha made good, and the cable spliced.  They arise from the cable
having been badly laid down so that it forms folds and tails at the
bottom of the sea.  These kinks have another disadvantage: they weaken
the cable very much.—At about six o’clock [P.M.] we had some twelve miles
lifted, when I went to the bows; the kinks were exceedingly tight and
were giving way in a most alarming manner.  I got a cage rigged up to
prevent the end (if it broke) from hurting anyone, and sat down on the
bowsprit, thinking I should describe kinks to Annie:—suddenly I saw a
great many coils and kinks altogether at the surface.  I jumped to the
gutta-percha pipe, by blowing through which the signal is given to stop
the engine.  I blow, but the engine does not stop; again—no answer: the
coils and kinks jam in the bows and I rush aft shouting stop.  Too late:
the cable had parted and must lie in peace at the bottom.  Someone had
pulled the gutta-percha tube across a bare part of the steam pipe and
melted it.  It had been used hundreds of times in the last few days and
gave no symptoms of failing.  I believe the cable must have gone at any
rate; however, since it went in my watch and since I might have secured
the tubing more strongly, I feel rather sad. . . .

                                                                 ‘June 28.

‘Since I could not go to Annie I took down Shakespeare, and by the time I
had finished _Antony and Cleopatra_, read the second half of _Troilus_
and got some way in _Coriolanus_, I felt it was childish to regret the
accident had happened in my watch, and moreover I felt myself not much to
blame in the tubing matter—it had been torn down, it had not fallen down;
so I went to bed, and slept without fretting, and woke this morning in
the same good mood—for which thank you and our friend Shakespeare.  I am
happy to say Mr. Liddell said the loss of the cable did not much matter;
though this would have been no consolation had I felt myself to
blame.—This morning we have grappled for and found another length of
small cable which Mr. — dropped in 100 fathoms of water.  If this also
gets full of kinks, we shall probably have to cut it after 10 miles or
so, or more probably still it will part of its own free will or weight.

‘10 P.M.—This second length of three-wire cable soon got into the same
condition as its fellow—i.e. came up twenty kinks an hour—and after seven
miles were in, parted on the pulley over the bows at one of the said
kinks; during my watch again, but this time no earthly power could have
saved it.  I had taken all manner of precautions to prevent the end doing
any damage when the smash came, for come I knew it must.  We now return
to the six-wire cable.  As I sat watching the cable to-night, large
phosphorescent globes kept rolling from it and fading in the black water.


‘To-day we returned to the buoy we had left at the end of the six-wire
cable, and after much trouble from a series of tangles, got a fair start
at noon.  You will easily believe a tangle of iron rope inch and a half
diameter is not easy to unravel, especially with a ton or so hanging to
the ends.  It is now eight o’clock and we have about six and a half miles
safe: it becomes very exciting, however, for the kinks are coming fast
and furious.

                                                                  ‘July 2.

‘Twenty-eight miles safe in the hold.  The ship is now so deep, that the
men are to be turned out of their aft hold, and the remainder coiled
there; so the good _Elba’s_ nose need not burrow too far into the waves.
There can only be about 10 or 12 miles more, but these weigh 80 or 100

                                                                  ‘July 5.

‘Our first mate was much hurt in securing a buoy on the evening of the
2nd.  As interpreter [with the Italians] I am useful in all these cases;
but for no fortune would I be a doctor to witness these scenes
continually.  Pain is a terrible thing.—Our work is done: the whole of
the six-wire cable has been recovered; only a small part of the
three-wire, but that wire was bad and, owing to its twisted state, the
value small.  We may therefore be said to have been very successful.’


I have given this cruise nearly in full.  From the notes, unhappily
imperfect, of two others, I will take only specimens; for in all there
are features of similarity and it is possible to have too much even of
submarine telegraphy and the romance of engineering.  And first from the
cruise of 1859 in the Greek Islands and to Alexandria, take a few traits,
incidents and pictures.

                                                            ‘May 10, 1859.

‘We had a fair wind and we did very well, seeing a little bit of Cerig or
Cythera, and lots of turtle-doves wandering about over the sea and
perching, tired and timid, in the rigging of our little craft.  Then
Falconera, Antimilo, and Milo, topped with huge white clouds, barren,
deserted, rising bold and mysterious from the blue, chafing
sea;—Argentiera, Siphano, Scapho, Paros, Antiparos, and late at night
Syra itself.  _Adam Bede_ in one hand, a sketch-book in the other, lying
on rugs under an awning, I enjoyed a very pleasant day.

                                                                  ‘May 14.

‘Syra is semi-eastern.  The pavement, huge shapeless blocks sloping to a
central gutter; from this bare two-storied houses, sometimes plaster many
coloured, sometimes rough-hewn marble, rise, dirty and ill-finished to
straight, plain, flat roofs; shops guiltless of windows, with signs in
Greek letters; dogs, Greeks in blue, baggy, Zouave breeches and a fez, a
few narghilehs and a sprinkling of the ordinary continental shopboys.—In
the evening I tried one more walk in Syra with A—, but in vain
endeavoured to amuse myself or to spend money; the first effort resulting
in singing _Doodah_ to a passing Greek or two, the second in spending,
no, in making A— spend, threepence on coffee for three.

                                                                  ‘May 16.

‘On coming on deck, I found we were at anchor in Canea bay, and saw one
of the most lovely sights man could witness.  Far on either hand stretch
bold mountain capes, Spada and Maleka, tender in colour, bold in outline;
rich sunny levels lie beneath them, framed by the azure sea.  Right in
front, a dark brown fortress girdles white mosques and minarets.  Rich
and green, our mountain capes here join to form a setting for the town,
in whose dark walls—still darker—open a dozen high-arched caves in which
the huge Venetian galleys used to lie in wait.  High above all, higher
and higher yet, up into the firmament, range after range of blue and
snow-capped mountains.  I was bewildered and amazed, having heard nothing
of this great beauty.  The town when entered is quite eastern.  The
streets are formed of open stalls under the first story, in which squat
tailors, cooks, sherbet vendors and the like, busy at their work or
smoking narghilehs.  Cloths stretched from house to house keep out the
sun.  Mules rattle through the crowd; curs yelp between your legs;
negroes are as hideous and bright clothed as usual; grave Turks with long
chibouques continue to march solemnly without breaking them; a little
Arab in one dirty rag pokes fun at two splendid little Turks with
brilliant fezzes; wiry mountaineers in dirty, full, white kilts,
shouldering long guns and one hand on their pistols, stalk untamed past a
dozen Turkish soldiers, who look sheepish and brutal in worn cloth jacket
and cotton trousers.  A headless, wingless lion of St. Mark still stands
upon a gate, and has left the mark of his strong clutch.  Of ancient
times when Crete was Crete, not a trace remains; save perhaps in the
full, well-cut nostril and firm tread of that mountaineer, and I suspect
that even his sires were Albanians, mere outer barbarians.

                                                                  ‘May 17.

I spent the day at the little station where the cable was landed, which
has apparently been first a Venetian monastery and then a Turkish mosque.
At any rate the big dome is very cool, and the little ones hold [our
electric] batteries capitally.  A handsome young Bashibazouk guards it,
and a still handsomer mountaineer is the servant; so I draw them and the
monastery and the hill, till I’m black in the face with heat and come on
board to hear the Canea cable is still bad.

                                                                  ‘May 23.

‘We arrived in the morning at the east end of Candia, and had a glorious
scramble over the mountains which seem built of adamant.  Time has worn
away the softer portions of the rock, only leaving sharp jagged edges of
steel.  Sea eagles soaring above our heads; old tanks, ruins, and
desolation at our feet.  The ancient Arsinoe stood here; a few blocks of
marble with the cross attest the presence of Venetian Christians; but
now—the desolation of desolations.  Mr. Liddell and I separated from the
rest, and when we had found a sure bay for the cable, had a tremendous
lively scramble back to the boat.  These are the bits of our life which I
enjoy, which have some poetry, some grandeur in them.

                                                              ‘May 29 (?).

‘Yesterday we ran round to the new harbour [of Alexandria], landed the
shore end of the cable close to Cleopatra’s bath, and made a very
satisfactory start about one in the afternoon.  We had scarcely gone 200
yards when I noticed that the cable ceased to run out, and I wondered why
the ship had stopped.  People ran aft to tell me not to put such a strain
on the cable; I answered indignantly that there was no strain; and
suddenly it broke on every one in the ship at once that we were aground.
Here was a nice mess.  A violent scirocco blew from the land; making
one’s skin feel as if it belonged to some one else and didn’t fit, making
the horizon dim and yellow with fine sand, oppressing every sense and
raising the thermometer 20 degrees in an hour, but making calm water
round us which enabled the ship to lie for the time in safety.  The wind
might change at any moment, since the scirocco was only accidental; and
at the first wave from seaward bump would go the poor ship, and there
would [might] be an end of our voyage.  The captain, without waiting to
sound, began to make an effort to put the ship over what was supposed to
be a sandbank; but by the time soundings were made, this was found to be
impossible, and he had only been jamming the poor _Elba_ faster on a
rock.  Now every effort was made to get her astern, an anchor taken out,
a rope brought to a winch I had for the cable, and the engines backed;
but all in vain.  A small Turkish Government steamer, which is to be our
consort, came to our assistance, but of course very slowly, and much time
was occupied before we could get a hawser to her.  I could do no good
after having made a chart of the soundings round the ship, and went at
last on to the bridge to sketch the scene.  But at that moment the strain
from the winch and a jerk from the Turkish steamer got off the boat,
after we had been some hours aground.  The carpenter reported that she
had made only two inches of water in one compartment; the cable was still
uninjured astern, and our spirits rose; when, will you believe it? after
going a short distance astern, the pilot ran us once more fast aground on
what seemed to me nearly the same spot.  The very same scene was gone
through as on the first occasion, and dark came on whilst the wind
shifted, and we were still aground.  Dinner was served up, but poor Mr.
Liddell could eat very little; and bump, bump, grind, grind, went the
ship fifteen or sixteen times as we sat at dinner.  The slight sea,
however, did enable us to bump off.  This morning we appear not to have
suffered in any way; but a sea is rolling in, which a few hours ago would
have settled the poor old _Elba_.

                                                                  ‘June —.

‘The Alexandria cable has again failed; after paying out two-thirds of
the distance successfully, an unlucky touch in deep water snapped the
line.  Luckily the accident occurred in Mr. Liddell’s watch.  Though
personally it may not really concern me, the accident weighs like a
personal misfortune.  Still I am glad I was present: a failure is
probably more instructive than a success; and this experience may enable
us to avoid misfortune in still greater undertakings.

                                                                  ‘June —.

‘We left Syra the morning after our arrival on Saturday the 4th.  This we
did (first) because we were in a hurry to do something and (second)
because, coming from Alexandria, we had four days’ quarantine to perform.
We were all mustered along the side while the doctor counted us; the
letters were popped into a little tin box and taken away to be smoked;
the guardians put on board to see that we held no communication with the
shore—without them we should still have had four more days’ quarantine;
and with twelve Greek sailors besides, we started merrily enough picking
up the Canea cable. . . . To our utter dismay, the yarn covering began to
come up quite decayed, and the cable, which when laid should have borne
half a ton, was now in danger of snapping with a tenth part of that
strain.  We went as slow as possible in fear of a break at every instant.
My watch was from eight to twelve in the morning, and during that time we
had barely secured three miles of cable.  Once it broke inside the ship,
but I seized hold of it in time—the weight being hardly anything—and the
line for the nonce was saved.  Regular nooses were then planted inboard
with men to draw them taut, should the cable break inboard.  A—, who
should have relieved me, was unwell, so I had to continue my look-out;
and about one o’clock the line again parted, but was again caught in the
last noose, with about four inches to spare.  Five minutes afterwards it
again parted and was yet once more caught.  Mr. Liddell (whom I had
called) could stand this no longer; so we buoyed the line and ran into a
bay in Siphano, waiting for calm weather, though I was by no means of
opinion that the slight sea and wind had been the cause of our
failures.—All next day (Monday) we lay off Siphano, amusing ourselves on
shore with fowling pieces and navy revolvers.  I need not say we killed
nothing; and luckily we did not wound any of ourselves.  A guardiano
accompanied us, his functions being limited to preventing actual contact
with the natives, for they might come as near and talk as much as they
pleased.  These isles of Greece are sad, interesting places.  They are
not really barren all over, but they are quite destitute of verdure; and
tufts of thyme, wild mastic or mint, though they sound well, are not
nearly so pretty as grass.  Many little churches, glittering white, dot
the islands; most of them, I believe, abandoned during the whole year
with the exception of one day sacred to their patron saint.  The villages
are mean, but the inhabitants do not look wretched and the men are good
sailors.  There is something in this Greek race yet; they will become a
powerful Levantine nation in the course of time.—What a lovely moonlight
evening that was! the barren island cutting the clear sky with fantastic
outline, marble cliffs on either hand fairly gleaming over the calm sea.
Next day, the wind still continuing, I proposed a boating excursion and
decoyed A—, L—, and S— into accompanying me.  We took the little gig, and
sailed away merrily enough round a point to a beautiful white bay,
flanked with two glistening little churches, fronted by beautiful distant
islands; when suddenly, to my horror, I discovered the _Elba_ steaming
full speed out from the island.  Of course we steered after her; but the
wind that instant ceased, and we were left in a dead calm.  There was
nothing for it but to unship the mast, get out the oars and pull.  The
ship was nearly certain to stop at the buoy; and I wanted to learn how to
take an oar, so here was a chance with a vengeance!  L— steered, and we
three pulled—a broiling pull it was about half way across to
Palikandro—still we did come in, pulling an uncommon good stroke, and I
had learned to hang on my oar.  L— had pressed me to let him take my
place; but though I was very tired at the end of the first quarter of an
hour, and then every successive half hour, I would not give in.  I nearly
paid dear for my obstinacy, however; for in the evening I had alternate
fits of shivering and burning.’


The next extracts, and I am sorry to say the last, are from Fleeming’s
letters of 1860, when he was back at Bona and Spartivento and for the
first time at the head of an expedition.  Unhappily these letters are not
only the last, but the series is quite imperfect; and this is the more to
be lamented as he had now begun to use a pen more skilfully, and in the
following notes there is at times a touch of real distinction in the

                                               ‘Cagliari: October 5, 1860.

‘All Tuesday I spent examining what was on board the _Elba_, and trying
to start the repairs of the Spartivento land line, which has been
entirely neglected, and no wonder, for no one has been paid for three
months, no, not even the poor guards who have to keep themselves, their
horses and their families, on their pay.  Wednesday morning, I started
for Spartivento and got there in time to try a good many experiments.
Spartivento looks more wild and savage than ever, but is not without a
strange deadly beauty: the hills covered with bushes of a metallic green
with coppery patches of soil in between; the valleys filled with dry salt
mud and a little stagnant water; where that very morning the deer had
drunk, where herons, curlews, and other fowl abound, and where, alas!
malaria is breeding with this rain. (No fear for those who do not sleep
on shore.)  A little iron hut had been placed there since 1858; but the
windows had been carried off, the door broken down, the roof pierced all
over.  In it, we sat to make experiments; and how it recalled Birkenhead!
There was Thomson, there was my testing board, the strings of
gutta-percha; Harry P— even, battering with the batteries; but where was
my darling Annie?  Whilst I sat feet in sand, with Harry alone inside the
hut—mats, coats, and wood to darken the window—the others visited the
murderous old friar, who is of the order of Scaloppi, and for whom I
brought a letter from his superior, ordering him to pay us attention; but
he was away from home, gone to Cagliari in a boat with the produce of the
farm belonging to his convent.  Then they visited the tower of Chia, but
could not get in because the door is thirty feet off the ground; so they
came back and pitched a magnificent tent which I brought from the
_Bahiana_ a long time ago—and where they will live (if I mistake not) in
preference to the friar’s, or the owl- and bat-haunted tower.  MM. T— and
S— will be left there: T—, an intelligent, hard-working Frenchman, with
whom I am well pleased; he can speak English and Italian well, and has
been two years at Genoa.  S— is a French German with a face like an
ancient Gaul, who has been sergeant-major in the French line and who is,
I see, a great, big, muscular _fainéant_.  We left the tent pitched and
some stores in charge of a guide, and ran back to Cagliari.

‘Certainly, being at the head of things is pleasanter than being
subordinate.  We all agree very well; and I have made the testing office
into a kind of private room where I can come and write to you
undisturbed, surrounded by my dear, bright brass things which all of them
remind me of our nights at Birkenhead.  Then I can work here, too, and
try lots of experiments; you know how I like that! and now and then I
read—Shakespeare principally.  Thank you so much for making me bring him:
I think I must get a pocket edition of Hamlet and Henry the Fifth, so as
never to be without them.

                                                     ‘Cagliari: October 7.

‘[The town was full?] . . . of red-shirted English Garibaldini.  A very
fine looking set of fellows they are, too: the officers rather raffish,
but with medals Crimean and Indian; the men a very sturdy set, with many
lads of good birth I should say.  They still wait their consort the
Emperor and will, I fear, be too late to do anything.  I meant to have
called on them, but they are all gone into barracks some way from the
town, and I have been much too busy to go far.

‘The view from the ramparts was very strange and beautiful.  Cagliari
rises on a very steep rock, at the mouth of a wide plain circled by large
hills and three-quarters filled with lagoons; it looks, therefore, like
an old island citadel.  Large heaps of salt mark the border between the
sea and the lagoons; thousands of flamingoes whiten the centre of the
huge shallow marsh; hawks hover and scream among the trees under the high
mouldering battlements.—A little lower down, the band played.  Men and
ladies bowed and pranced, the costumes posed, church bells tinkled,
processions processed, the sun set behind thick clouds capping the hills;
I pondered on you and enjoyed it all.

‘Decidedly I prefer being master to being man: boats at all hours,
stewards flying for marmalade, captain enquiring when ship is to sail,
clerks to copy my writing, the boat to steer when we go out—I have run
her nose on several times; decidedly, I begin to feel quite a little
king.  Confound the cable, though!  I shall never be able to repair it.

                                                        ‘Bona: October 14.

‘We left Cagliari at 4.30 on the 9th and soon got to Spartivento.  I
repeated some of my experiments, but found Thomson, who was to have been
my grand stand-by, would not work on that day in the wretched little hut.
Even if the windows and door had been put in, the wind which was very
high made the lamp flicker about and blew it out; so I sent on board and
got old sails, and fairly wrapped the hut up in them; and then we were as
snug as could be, and I left the hut in glorious condition with a nice
little stove in it.  The tent which should have been forthcoming from the
curé’s for the guards, had gone to Cagliari; but I found another, [a]
green, Turkish tent, in the _Elba_ and soon had him up.  The square tent
left on the last occasion was standing all right and tight in spite of
wind and rain.  We landed provisions, two beds, plates, knives, forks,
candles, cooking utensils, and were ready for a start at 6 P.M.; but the
wind meanwhile had come on to blow at such a rate that I thought better
of it, and we stopped.  T— and S— slept ashore, however, to see how they
liked it, at least they tried to sleep, for S— the ancient sergeant-major
had a toothache, and T— thought the tent was coming down every minute.
Next morning they could only complain of sand and a leaky coffee-pot, so
I leave them with a good conscience.  The little encampment looked quite
picturesque: the green round tent, the square white tent and the hut all
wrapped up in sails, on a sand hill, looking on the sea and masking those
confounded marshes at the back.  One would have thought the Cagliaritans
were in a conspiracy to frighten the two poor fellows, who (I believe)
will be safe enough if they do not go into the marshes after nightfall.
S— brought a little dog to amuse them, such a jolly, ugly little cur
without a tail, but full of fun; he will be better than quinine.

‘The wind drove a barque, which had anchored near us for shelter, out to
sea.  We started, however, at 2 P.M., and had a quick passage but a very
rough one, getting to Bona by daylight [on the 11th].  Such a place as
this is for getting anything done!  The health boat went away from us at
7.30 with W— on board; and we heard nothing of them till 9.30, when W—
came back with two fat Frenchmen who are to look on on the part of the
Government.  They are exactly alike: only one has four bands and the
other three round his cap, and so I know them.  Then I sent a boat round
to Fort Gênois [Fort Genova of 1858], where the cable is landed, with all
sorts of things and directions, whilst I went ashore to see about coals
and a room at the fort.  We hunted people in the little square in their
shops and offices, but only found them in cafés.  One amiable gentleman
wasn’t up at 9.30, was out at 10, and as soon as he came back the servant
said he would go to bed and not get up till 3: he came, however, to find
us at a café, and said that, on the contrary, two days in the week he did
not do so!  Then my two fat friends must have their breakfast after their
“something” at a café; and all the shops shut from 10 to 2; and the post
does not open till 12; and there was a road to Fort Gênois, only a bridge
had been carried away, &c.  At last I got off, and we rowed round to Fort
Gênois, where my men had put up a capital gipsy tent with sails, and
there was my big board and Thomson’s number 5 in great glory.  I soon
came to the conclusion there was a break.  Two of my faithful
Cagliaritans slept all night in the little tent, to guard it and my
precious instruments; and the sea, which was rather rough, silenced my

‘Next day I went on with my experiments, whilst a boat grappled for the
cable a little way from shore and buoyed it where the _Elba_ could get
hold.  I brought all back to the _Elba_, tried my machinery and was all
ready for a start next morning.  But the wretched coal had not come yet;
Government permission from Algiers to be got; lighters, men, baskets, and
I know not what forms to be got or got through—and everybody asleep!
Coals or no coals, I was determined to start next morning; and start we
did at four in the morning, picked up the buoy with our deck engine,
popped the cable across a boat, tested the wires to make sure the fault
was not behind us, and started picking up at 11. Everything worked
admirably, and about 2 P.M., in came the fault.  There is no doubt the
cable was broken by coral fishers; twice they have had it up to their own

‘Many men have been ashore to-day and have come back tipsy, and the whole
ship is in a state of quarrel from top to bottom, and they will gossip
just within my hearing.  And we have had, moreover, three French
gentlemen and a French lady to dinner, and I had to act host and try to
manage the mixtures to their taste.  The good-natured little Frenchwoman
was most amusing; when I asked her if she would have some apple
tart—“_Mon Dieu_,” with heroic resignation, “_je veux bien_”; or a little
_plombodding_—“_Mais ce que vous voudrez_, _Monsieur_!”

‘S. S. _Elba_, somewhere not far from Bona: Oct. 19.

‘Yesterday [after three previous days of useless grappling] was destined
to be very eventful.  We began dredging at daybreak and hooked at once
every time in rocks; but by capital luck, just as we were deciding it was
no use to continue in that place, we hooked the cable: up it came, was
tested, and lo! another complete break, a quarter of a mile off.  I was
amazed at my own tranquillity under these disappointments, but I was not
really half so fussy as about getting a cab.  Well, there was nothing for
it but grappling again, and, as you may imagine, we were getting about
six miles from shore.  But the water did not deepen rapidly; we seemed to
be on the crest of a kind of submarine mountain in prolongation of Cape
de Gonde, and pretty havoc we must have made with the crags.  What rocks
we did hook!  No sooner was the grapnel down than the ship was anchored;
and then came such a business: ship’s engines going, deck engine
thundering, belt slipping, fear of breaking ropes: actually breaking
grapnels.  It was always an hour or more before we could get the grapnel
down again.  At last we had to give up the place, though we knew we were
close to the cable, and go further to sea in much deeper water; to my
great fear, as I knew the cable was much eaten away and would stand but
little strain.  Well, we hooked the cable first dredge this time, and
pulled it slowly and gently to the top, with much trepidation.  Was it
the cable? was there any weight on? it was evidently too small.  Imagine
my dismay when the cable did come up, but hanging loosely, thus

           [Picture: Sketch of cable coming up hanging loosely]

instead of taut, thus

            [Picture: Sketch of cable coming up hanging taut]

showing certain signs of a break close by.  For a moment I felt provoked,
as I thought, “Here we are in deep water, and the cable will not stand
lifting!”  I tested at once, and by the very first wire found it had
broken towards shore and was good towards sea.  This was of course very
pleasant; but from that time to this, though the wires test very well,
not a signal has come from Spartivento.  I got the cable into a boat, and
a gutta-percha line from the ship to the boat, and we signalled away at a
great rate—but no signs of life.  The tests, however, make me pretty sure
one wire at least is good; so I determined to lay down cable from where
we were to the shore, and go to Spartivento to see what had happened
there.  I fear my men are ill.  The night was lovely, perfectly calm; so
we lay close to the boat and signals were continually sent, but with no
result.  This morning I laid the cable down to Fort Gênois in style; and
now we are picking up odds and ends of cable between the different
breaks, and getting our buoys on board, &c.  To-morrow I expect to leave
for Spartivento.’


And now I am quite at an end of journal keeping; diaries and diary
letters being things of youth which Fleeming had at length outgrown.  But
one or two more fragments from his correspondence may be taken, and first
this brief sketch of the laying of the Norderney cable; mainly
interesting as showing under what defects of strength and in what
extremities of pain, this cheerful man must at times continue to go about
his work.

‘I slept on board 29th September having arranged everything to start by
daybreak from where we lay in the roads: but at daybreak a heavy mist
hung over us so that nothing of land or water could be seen.  At midday
it lifted suddenly and away we went with perfect weather, but could not
find the buoys Forde left, that evening.  I saw the captain was not
strong in navigation, and took matters next day much more into my own
hands and before nine o’clock found the buoys; (the weather had been so
fine we had anchored in the open sea near Texel).  It took us till the
evening to reach the buoys, get the cable on board, test the first half,
speak to Lowestoft, make the splice, and start.  H— had not finished his
work at Norderney, so I was alone on board for Reuter.  Moreover the
buoys to guide us in our course were not placed, and the captain had very
vague ideas about keeping his course; so I had to do a good deal, and
only lay down as I was for two hours in the night.  I managed to run the
course perfectly.  Everything went well, and we found Norderney just
where we wanted it next afternoon, and if the shore end had been laid,
could have finished there and then, October 1st.  But when we got to
Norderney, we found the _Caroline_ with shore end lying apparently
aground, and could not understand her signals; so we had to anchor
suddenly and I went off in a small boat with the captain to the
_Caroline_.  It was cold by this time, and my arm was rather stiff and I
was tired; I hauled myself up on board the _Caroline_ by a rope and found
H— and two men on board.  All the rest were trying to get the shore end
on shore, but had failed and apparently had stuck on shore, and the waves
were getting up.  We had anchored in the right place and next morning we
hoped the shore end would be laid, so we had only to go back.  It was of
course still colder and quite night.  I went to bed and hoped to sleep,
but, alas, the rheumatism got into the joints and caused me terrible pain
so that I could not sleep.  I bore it as long as I could in order to
disturb no one, for all were tired; but at last I could bear it no longer
and managed to wake the steward and got a mustard poultice which took the
pain from the shoulder; but then the elbow got very bad, and I had to
call the second steward and get a second poultice, and then it was
daylight, and I felt very ill and feverish.  The sea was now rather
rough—too rough rather for small boats, but luckily a sort of thing
called a scoot came out, and we got on board her with some trouble, and
got on shore after a good tossing about which made us all sea-sick.  The
cable sent from the _Caroline_ was just 60 yards too short and did not
reach the shore, so although the _Caroline_ did make the splice late that
night, we could neither test nor speak.  Reuter was at Norderney, and I
had to do the best I could, which was not much, and went to bed early; I
thought I should never sleep again, but in sheer desperation got up in
the middle of the night and gulped a lot of raw whiskey and slept at
last.  But not long.  A Mr. F— washed my face and hands and dressed me:
and we hauled the cable out of the sea, and got it joined to the
telegraph station, and on October 3rd telegraphed to Lowestoft first and
then to London.  Miss Clara Volkman, a niece of Mr. Reuter’s, sent the
first message to Mrs. Reuter, who was waiting (Varley used Miss Clara’s
hand as a kind of key), and I sent one of the first messages to Odden.  I
thought a message addressed to him would not frighten you, and that he
would enjoy a message through Papa’s cable.  I hope he did.  They were
all very merry, but I had been so lowered by pain that I could not enjoy
myself in spite of the success.’


Of the 1869 cruise in the _Great Eastern_, I give what I am able; only
sorry it is no more, for the sake of the ship itself, already almost a
legend even to the generation that saw it launched.

‘_June_ 17, 1869.—Here are the names of our staff in whom I expect you to
be interested, as future _Great Eastern_ stories may be full of them:
Theophilus Smith, a man of Latimer Clark’s; Leslie C. Hill, my prizeman
at University College; Lord Sackville Cecil; King, one of the Thomsonian
Kings; Laws, goes for Willoughby Smith, who will also be on board;
Varley, Clark, and Sir James Anderson make up the sum of all you know
anything of.  A Captain Halpin commands the big ship.  There are four
smaller vessels.  The _Wm. Cory_, which laid the Norderney cable, has
already gone to St. Pierre to lay the shore ends.  The _Hawk_ and
_Chiltern_ have gone to Brest to lay shore ends.  The _Hawk_ and
_Scanderia_ go with us across the Atlantic and we shall at St. Pierre be
transhipped into one or the other.

‘_June_ 18.  _Somewhere in London_.—The shore end is laid, as you may
have seen, and we are all under pressing orders to march, so we start
from London to-night at 5.10.

‘_June_ 20.  _Off Ushant_.—I am getting quite fond of the big ship.
Yesterday morning in the quiet sunlight, she turned so slowly and lazily
in the great harbour at Portland, and bye and bye slipped out past the
long pier with so little stir, that I could hardly believe we were really
off.  No men drunk, no women crying, no singing or swearing, no confusion
or bustle on deck—nobody apparently aware that they had anything to do.
The look of the thing was that the ship had been spoken to civilly and
had kindly undertaken to do everything that was necessary without any
further interference.  I have a nice cabin with plenty of room for my
legs in my berth and have slept two nights like a top.  Then we have the
ladies’ cabin set apart as an engineer’s office, and I think this
decidedly the nicest place in the ship: 35 ft. × 20 ft. broad—four
tables, three great mirrors, plenty of air and no heat from the funnels
which spoil the great dining-room.  I saw a whole library of books on the
walls when here last, and this made me less anxious to provide light
literature; but alas, to-day I find that they are every one bibles or
prayer-books.  Now one cannot read many hundred bibles. . . . As for the
motion of the ship it is not very much, but ‘twill suffice.  Thomson
shook hands and wished me well.  I _do_ like Thomson. . . . Tell Austin
that the _Great Eastern_ has six masts and four funnels.  When I get back
I will make a little model of her for all the chicks and pay out cotton
reels. . . . Here we are at 4.20 at Brest.  We leave probably to-morrow

‘_July_ 12.  _Great Eastern_.—Here as I write we run our last course for
the buoy at the St. Pierre shore end.  It blows and lightens, and our
good ship rolls, and buoys are hard to find; but we must soon now finish
our work, and then this letter will start for home. . . . Yesterday we
were mournfully groping our way through the wet grey fog, not at all sure
where we were, with one consort lost and the other faintly answering the
roar of our great whistle through the mist.  As to the ship which was to
meet us, and pioneer us up the deep channel, we did not know if we should
come within twenty miles of her; when suddenly up went the fog, out came
the sun, and there, straight ahead, was the _Wm. Cory_, our pioneer, and
a little dancing boat, the _Gulnare_, sending signals of welcome with
many-coloured flags.  Since then we have been steaming in a grand
procession; but now at 2 A.M. the fog has fallen, and the great roaring
whistle calls up the distant answering notes all around us.  Shall we, or
shall we not find the buoy?

‘_July_ 13.—All yesterday we lay in the damp dripping fog, with whistles
all round and guns firing so that we might not bump up against one
another.  This little delay has let us get our reports into tolerable
order.  We are now at 7 o’clock getting the cable end again, with the
main cable buoy close to us.’

_A telegram of July_ 20: ‘I have received your four welcome letters.  The
Americans are charming people.’


And here to make an end are a few random bits about the cruise to

‘_Plymouth_, _June_ 21, 1873.—I have been down to the sea-shore and smelt
the salt sea and like it; and I have seen the _Hooper_ pointing her great
bow sea-ward, while light smoke rises from her funnels telling that the
fires are being lighted; and sorry as I am to be without you, something
inside me answers to the call to be off and doing.

‘_Lalla Rookh_.  _Plymouth_, _June_ 22.—We have been a little cruise in
the yacht over to the Eddystone lighthouse, and my sea-legs seem very
well on.  Strange how alike all these starts are—first on shore, steaming
hot days with a smell of bone-dust and tar and salt water; then the
little puffing, panting steam-launch that bustles out across a port with
green woody sides, little yachts sliding about, men-of-war
training-ships, and then a great big black hulk of a thing with a mass of
smaller vessels sticking to it like parasites; and that is one’s home
being coaled.  Then comes the Champagne lunch where everyone says all
that is polite to everyone else, and then the uncertainty when to start.
So far as we know _now_, we are to start to-morrow morning at daybreak;
letters that come later are to be sent to Pernambuco by first mail. . . .
My father has sent me the heartiest sort of Jack Tar’s cheer.

‘_S. S. Hooper_.  _Off Funchal_, _June_ 29.—Here we are off Madeira at
seven o’clock in the morning.  Thomson has been sounding with his special
toy ever since half-past three (1087 fathoms of water).  I have been
watching the day break, and long jagged islands start into being out of
the dull night.  We are still some miles from land; but the sea is calmer
than Loch Eil often was, and the big _Hooper_ rests very contentedly
after a pleasant voyage and favourable breezes.  I have not been able to
do any real work except the testing [of the cable], for though not
sea-sick, I get a little giddy when I try to think on board. . . . The
ducks have just had their daily souse and are quacking and gabbling in a
mighty way outside the door of the captain’s deck cabin where I write.
The cocks are crowing, and new-laid eggs are said to be found in the
coops.  Four mild oxen have been untethered and allowed to walk along the
broad iron decks—a whole drove of sheep seem quite content while licking
big lumps of bay salt.  Two exceedingly impertinent goats lead the cook a
perfect life of misery.  They steal round the galley and _will_ nibble
the carrots or turnips if his back is turned for one minute; and then he
throws something at them and misses them; and they scuttle off laughing
impudently, and flick one ear at him from a safe distance.  This is the
most impudent gesture I ever saw.  Winking is nothing to it.  The ear
normally hangs down behind; the goat turns sideways to her enemy—by a
little knowing cock of the head flicks one ear over one eye, and squints
from behind it for half a minute—tosses her head back, skips a pace or
two further off, and repeats the manœuvre.  The cook is very fat and
cannot run after that goat much.

‘_Pernambuco_, _Aug._ 1.—We landed here yesterday, all well and cable
sound, after a good passage. . . . I am on familiar terms with
cocoa-nuts, mangoes, and bread-fruit trees, but I think I like the
negresses best of anything I have seen.  In turbans and loose sea-green
robes, with beautiful black-brown complexions and a stately carriage,
they really are a satisfaction to my eye.  The weather has been windy and
rainy; the _Hooper_ has to lie about a mile from the town, in an open
roadstead, with the whole swell of the Atlantic driving straight on
shore.  The little steam launch gives all who go in her a good ducking,
as she bobs about on the big rollers; and my old gymnastic practice
stands me in good stead on boarding and leaving her.  We clamber down a
rope ladder hanging from the high stern, and then taking a rope in one
hand, swing into the launch at the moment when she can contrive to steam
up under us—bobbing about like an apple thrown into a tub all the while.
The President of the province and his suite tried to come off to a State
luncheon on board on Sunday; but the launch being rather heavily laden,
behaved worse than usual, and some green seas stove in the President’s
hat and made him wetter than he had probably ever been in his life; so
after one or two rollers, he turned back; and indeed he was wise to do
so, for I don’t see how he could have got on board. . . . Being fully
convinced that the world will not continue to go round unless I pay it
personal attention, I must run away to my work.’

CHAPTER VI.—1869–1885.

Edinburgh—Colleagues—_Farrago Vitæ_—I. The Family Circle—Fleeming and his
Sons—Highland Life—The Cruise of the Steam Launch—Summer in Styria—Rustic
Manners—II. The Drama—Private Theatricals—III. Sanitary Associations—The
Phonograph—IV. Fleeming’s Acquaintance with a Student—His late Maturity
of Mind—Religion and Morality—His Love of Heroism—Taste in Literature—V.
His Talk—His late Popularity—Letter from M. Trélat.

THE remaining external incidents of Fleeming’s life, pleasures, honours,
fresh interests, new friends, are not such as will bear to be told at any
length or in the temporal order.  And it is now time to lay narration by,
and to look at the man he was and the life he lived, more largely.

Edinburgh, which was thenceforth to be his home, is a metropolitan small
town; where college professors and the lawyers of the Parliament House
give the tone, and persons of leisure, attracted by educational
advantages, make up much of the bulk of society.  Not, therefore, an
unlettered place, yet not pedantic, Edinburgh will compare favourably
with much larger cities.  A hard and disputatious element has been
commented on by strangers: it would not touch Fleeming, who was himself
regarded, even in this metropolis of disputation, as a thorny table-mate.
To golf unhappily he did not take, and golf is a cardinal virtue in the
city of the winds.  Nor did he become an archer of the Queen’s
Body-Guard, which is the Chiltern Hundreds of the distasted golfer.  He
did not even frequent the Evening Club, where his colleague Tait (in my
day) was so punctual and so genial.  So that in some ways he stood
outside of the lighter and kindlier life of his new home.  I should not
like to say that he was generally popular; but there as elsewhere, those
who knew him well enough to love him, loved him well.  And he, upon his
side, liked a place where a dinner party was not of necessity
unintellectual, and where men stood up to him in argument.

The presence of his old classmate, Tait, was one of his early attractions
to the chair; and now that Fleeming is gone again, Tait still remains,
ruling and really teaching his great classes.  Sir Robert Christison was
an old friend of his mother’s; Sir Alexander Grant, Kelland, and Sellar,
were new acquaintances and highly valued; and these too, all but the
last, have been taken from their friends and labours.  Death has been
busy in the Senatus.  I will speak elsewhere of Fleeming’s demeanour to
his students; and it will be enough to add here that his relations with
his colleagues in general were pleasant to himself.

Edinburgh, then, with its society, its university work, its delightful
scenery, and its skating in the winter, was thenceforth his base of
operations.  But he shot meanwhile erratic in many directions: twice to
America, as we have seen, on telegraph voyages; continually to London on
business; often to Paris; year after year to the Highlands to shoot, to
fish, to learn reels and Gaelic, to make the acquaintance and fall in
love with the character of Highlanders; and once to Styria, to hunt
chamois and dance with peasant maidens.  All the while, he was pursuing
the course of his electrical studies, making fresh inventions, taking up
the phonograph, filled with theories of graphic representation; reading,
writing, publishing, founding sanitary associations, interested in
technical education, investigating the laws of metre, drawing, acting,
directing private theatricals, going a long way to see an actor—a long
way to see a picture; in the very bubble of the tideway of contemporary
interests.  And all the while he was busied about his father and mother,
his wife, and in particular his sons; anxiously watching, anxiously
guiding these, and plunging with his whole fund of youthfulness into
their sports and interests.  And all the while he was himself
maturing—not in character or body, for these remained young—but in the
stocked mind, in the tolerant knowledge of life and man, in pious
acceptance of the universe.  Here is a farrago for a chapter: here is a
world of interests and activities, human, artistic, social, scientific,
at each of which he sprang with impetuous pleasure, on each of which he
squandered energy, the arrow drawn to the head, the whole intensity of
his spirit bent, for the moment, on the momentary purpose.  It was this
that lent such unusual interest to his society, so that no friend of his
can forget that figure of Fleeming coming charged with some new
discovery: it is this that makes his character so difficult to represent.
Our fathers, upon some difficult theme, would invoke the Muse; I can but
appeal to the imagination of the reader.  When I dwell upon some one
thing, he must bear in mind it was only one of a score; that the
unweariable brain was teeming at the very time with other thoughts; that
the good heart had left no kind duty forgotten.


In Edinburgh, for a considerable time, Fleeming’s family, to three
generations, was united: Mr. and Mrs. Austin at Hailes, Captain and Mrs.
Jenkin in the suburb of Merchiston, Fleeming himself in the city.  It is
not every family that could risk with safety such close interdomestic
dealings; but in this also Fleeming was particularly favoured.  Even the
two extremes, Mr. Austin and the Captain, drew together.  It is pleasant
to find that each of the old gentlemen set a high value on the good looks
of the other, doubtless also on his own; and a fine picture they made as
they walked the green terrace at Hailes, conversing by the hour.  What
they talked of is still a mystery to those who knew them; but Mr. Austin
always declared that on these occasions he learned much.  To both of
these families of elders, due service was paid of attention; to both,
Fleeming’s easy circumstances had brought joy; and the eyes of all were
on the grandchildren.  In Fleeming’s scheme of duties, those of the
family stood first; a man was first of all a child, nor did he cease to
be so, but only took on added obligations, when he became in turn a
father.  The care of his parents was always a first thought with him, and
their gratification his delight.  And the care of his sons, as it was
always a grave subject of study with him, and an affair never neglected,
so it brought him a thousand satisfactions.  ‘Hard work they are,’ as he
once wrote, ‘but what fit work!’  And again: ‘O, it’s a cold house where
a dog is the only representative of a child!’  Not that dogs were
despised; we shall drop across the name of Jack, the harum-scarum Irish
terrier ere we have done; his own dog Plato went up with him daily to his
lectures, and still (like other friends) feels the loss and looks visibly
for the reappearance of his master; and Martin, the cat, Fleeming has
himself immortalised, to the delight of Mr. Swinburne, in the columns of
the _Spectator_.  Indeed there was nothing in which men take interest, in
which he took not some; and yet always most in the strong human bonds,
ancient as the race and woven of delights and duties.

He was even an anxious father; perhaps that is the part where optimism is
hardest tested.  He was eager for his sons; eager for their health,
whether of mind or body; eager for their education; in that, I should
have thought, too eager.  But he kept a pleasant face upon all things,
believed in play, loved it himself, shared boyishly in theirs, and knew
how to put a face of entertainment upon business and a spirit of
education into entertainment.  If he was to test the progress of the
three boys, this advertisement would appear in their little manuscript
paper:—‘Notice: The Professor of Engineering in the University of
Edinburgh intends at the close of the scholastic year to hold
examinations in the following subjects: (1)  For boys in the fourth class
of the Academy—Geometry and Algebra; (2)  For boys at Mr. Henderson’s
school—Dictation and Recitation; (3)  For boys taught exclusively by
their mothers—Arithmetic and Reading.’  Prizes were given; but what prize
would be so conciliatory as this boyish little joke?  It may read thin
here; it would smack racily in the playroom.  Whenever his sons ‘started
a new fad’ (as one of them writes to me) they ‘had only to tell him about
it, and he was at once interested and keen to help.’  He would discourage
them in nothing unless it was hopelessly too hard for them; only, if
there was any principle of science involved, they must understand the
principle; and whatever was attempted, that was to be done thoroughly.
If it was but play, if it was but a puppetshow they were to build, he set
them the example of being no sluggard in play.  When Frewen, the second
son, embarked on the ambitious design to make an engine for a toy
steamboat, Fleeming made him begin with a proper drawing—doubtless to the
disgust of the young engineer; but once that foundation laid, helped in
the work with unflagging gusto, ‘tinkering away,’ for hours, and assisted
at the final trial ‘in the big bath’ with no less excitement than the
boy.  ‘He would take any amount of trouble to help us,’ writes my
correspondent.  ‘We never felt an affair was complete till we had called
him to see, and he would come at any time, in the middle of any work.’
There was indeed one recognised playhour, immediately after the despatch
of the day’s letters; and the boys were to be seen waiting on the stairs
until the mail should be ready and the fun could begin.  But at no other
time did this busy man suffer his work to interfere with that first duty
to his children; and there is a pleasant tale of the inventive Master
Frewen, engaged at the time upon a toy crane, bringing to the study where
his father sat at work a half-wound reel that formed some part of his
design, and observing, ‘Papa, you might finiss windin’ this for me; I am
so very busy to-day.’

I put together here a few brief extracts from Fleeming’s letters, none
very important in itself, but all together building up a pleasant picture
of the father with his sons.

‘_Jan._ 15_th_, 1875.—Frewen contemplates suspending soap bubbles by silk
threads for experimental purposes.  I don’t think he will manage that.
Bernard’ [the youngest] ‘volunteered to blow the bubbles with

‘_Jan._ 17_th_.—I am learning a great deal of electrostatics in
consequence of the perpetual cross-examination to which I am subjected.
I long for you on many grounds, but one is that I may not be obliged to
deliver a running lecture on abstract points of science, subject to
cross-examination by two acute students.  Bernie does not cross-examine
much; but if anyone gets discomfited, he laughs a sort of little
silver-whistle giggle, which is trying to the unhappy blunderer.’

‘_May_ 9_th_.—Frewen is deep in parachutes.  I beg him not to drop from
the top landing in one of his own making.’

‘_June_ 6_th_, 1876.—Frewen’s crank axle is a failure just at present—but
he bears up.’

‘_June_ 14_th_.—The boys enjoy their riding.  It gets them whole funds of
adventures.  One of their caps falling off is matter for delightful
reminiscences; and when a horse breaks his step, the occurrence becomes a
rear, a shy, or a plunge as they talk it over.  Austin, with quiet
confidence, speaks of the greater pleasure in riding a spirited horse,
even if he does give a little trouble.  It is the stolid brute that he
dislikes.  (N.B. You can still see six inches between him and the saddle
when his pony trots.)  I listen and sympathise and throw out no hint that
their achievements are not really great.’

‘_June_ 18_th_.—Bernard is much impressed by the fact that I can be
useful to Frewen about the steamboat’ [which the latter irrepressible
inventor was making].  ‘He says quite with awe, “He would not have got on
nearly so well if you had not helped him.”’

‘_June_ 27_th_.—I do not see what I could do without Austin.  He talks so
pleasantly and is so truly good all through.’

‘_June_ 27_th_.—My chief difficulty with Austin is to get him measured
for a pair of trousers.  Hitherto I have failed, but I keep a stout heart
and mean to succeed.  Frewen the observer, in describing the paces of two
horses, says, “Polly takes twenty-seven steps to get round the school.  I
couldn’t count Sophy, but she takes more than a hundred.”’

‘_Feb._ 18_th_, 1877.—We all feel very lonely without you.  Frewen had to
come up and sit in my room for company last night and I actually kissed
him, a thing that has not occurred for years.  Jack, poor fellow, bears
it as well as he can, and has taken the opportunity of having a fester on
his foot, so he is lame and has it bathed, and this occupies his thoughts
a good deal.’

‘_Feb._ 19_th_.—As to Mill, Austin has not got the list yet.  I think it
will prejudice him very much against Mill—but that is not my affair.
Education of that kind! . . . I would as soon cram my boys with food and
boast of the pounds they had eaten, as cram them with literature.’

But if Fleeming was an anxious father, he did not suffer his anxiety to
prevent the boys from any manly or even dangerous pursuit.  Whatever it
might occur to them to try, he would carefully show them how to do it,
explain the risks, and then either share the danger himself or, if that
were not possible, stand aside and wait the event with that unhappy
courage of the looker-on.  He was a good swimmer, and taught them to
swim.  He thoroughly loved all manly exercises; and during their
holidays, and principally in the Highlands, helped and encouraged them to
excel in as many as possible: to shoot, to fish, to walk, to pull an oar,
to hand, reef and steer, and to run a steam launch.  In all of these, and
in all parts of Highland life, he shared delightedly.  He was well on to
forty when he took once more to shooting, he was forty-three when he
killed his first salmon, but no boy could have more single-mindedly
rejoiced in these pursuits.  His growing love for the Highland character,
perhaps also a sense of the difficulty of the task, led him to take up at
forty-one the study of Gaelic; in which he made some shadow of progress,
but not much: the fastnesses of that elusive speech retaining to the last
their independence.  At the house of his friend Mrs. Blackburn, who plays
the part of a Highland lady as to the manner born, he learned the
delightful custom of kitchen dances, which became the rule at his own
house and brought him into yet nearer contact with his neighbours.  And
thus at forty-two, he began to learn the reel; a study, to which he
brought his usual smiling earnestness; and the steps, diagrammatically
represented by his own hand, are before me as I write.

It was in 1879 that a new feature was added to the Highland life: a steam
launch, called the _Purgle_, the Styrian corruption of Walpurga, after a
friend to be hereafter mentioned.  ‘The steam launch goes,’ Fleeming
wrote.  ‘I wish you had been present to describe two scenes of which she
has been the occasion already: one during which the population of
Ullapool, to a baby, was harnessed to her hurrahing—and the other in
which the same population sat with its legs over a little pier, watching
Frewen and Bernie getting up steam for the first time.’  The _Purgle_ was
got with educational intent; and it served its purpose so well, and the
boys knew their business so practically, that when the summer was at an
end, Fleeming, Mrs. Jenkin, Frewen the engineer, Bernard the stoker, and
Kenneth Robertson a Highland seaman, set forth in her to make the passage
south.  The first morning they got from Loch Broom into Gruinard bay,
where they lunched upon an island; but the wind blowing up in the
afternoon, with sheets of rain, it was found impossible to beat to sea;
and very much in the situation of castaways upon an unknown coast, the
party landed at the mouth of Gruinard river.  A shooting lodge was spied
among the trees; there Fleeming went; and though the master, Mr. Murray,
was from home, though the two Jenkin boys were of course as black as
colliers, and all the castaways so wetted through that, as they stood in
the passage, pools formed about their feet and ran before them into the
house, yet Mrs. Murray kindly entertained them for the night.  On the
morrow, however, visitors were to arrive; there would be no room and, in
so out-of-the-way a spot, most probably no food for the crew of the
_Purgle_; and on the morrow about noon, with the bay white with spindrift
and the wind so strong that one could scarcely stand against it, they got
up steam and skulked under the land as far as Sanda Bay.  Here they crept
into a seaside cave, and cooked some food; but the weather now freshening
to a gale, it was plain they must moor the launch where she was, and find
their way overland to some place of shelter.  Even to get their baggage
from on board was no light business; for the dingy was blown so far to
leeward every trip, that they must carry her back by hand along the
beach.  But this once managed, and a cart procured in the neighbourhood,
they were able to spend the night in a pot-house on Ault Bea.  Next day,
the sea was unapproachable; but the next they had a pleasant passage to
Poolewe, hugging the cliffs, the falling swell bursting close by them in
the gullies, and the black scarts that sat like ornaments on the top of
every stack and pinnacle, looking down into the _Purgle_ as she passed.
The climate of Scotland had not done with them yet: for three days they
lay storm-stayed in Poolewe, and when they put to sea on the morning of
the fourth, the sailors prayed them for God’s sake not to attempt the
passage.  Their setting out was indeed merely tentative; but presently
they had gone too far to return, and found themselves committed to double
Rhu Reay with a foul wind and a cross sea.  From half-past eleven in the
morning until half-past five at night, they were in immediate and
unceasing danger.  Upon the least mishap, the _Purgle_ must either have
been swamped by the seas or bulged upon the cliffs of that rude headland.
Fleeming and Robertson took turns baling and steering; Mrs. Jenkin, so
violent was the commotion of the boat, held on with both hands; Frewen,
by Robertson’s direction, ran the engine, slacking and pressing her to
meet the seas; and Bernard, only twelve years old, deadly sea-sick, and
continually thrown against the boiler, so that he was found next day to
be covered with burns, yet kept an even fire.  It was a very thankful
party that sat down that evening to meat in the Hotel at Gairloch.  And
perhaps, although the thing was new in the family, no one was much
surprised when Fleeming said grace over that meal.  Thenceforward he
continued to observe the form, so that there was kept alive in his house
a grateful memory of peril and deliverance.  But there was nothing of the
muff in Fleeming; he thought it a good thing to escape death, but a
becoming and a healthful thing to run the risk of it; and what is rarer,
that which he thought for himself, he thought for his family also.  In
spite of the terrors of Rhu Reay, the cruise was persevered in and
brought to an end under happier conditions.

One year, instead of the Highlands, Alt Aussee, in the Steiermark, was
chosen for the holidays; and the place, the people, and the life
delighted Fleeming.  He worked hard at German, which he had much
forgotten since he was a boy; and what is highly characteristic, equally
hard at the patois, in which he learned to excel.  He won a prize at a
Schützen-fest; and though he hunted chamois without much success, brought
down more interesting game in the shape of the Styrian peasants, and in
particular of his gillie, Joseph.  This Joseph was much of a character;
and his appreciations of Fleeming have a fine note of their own.  The
bringing up of the boys he deigned to approve of: ‘_fast so gut wie ein
bauer_,’ was his trenchant criticism.  The attention and courtly respect
with which Fleeming surrounded his wife, was something of a puzzle to the
philosophic gillie; he announced in the village that Mrs. Jenkin—_die
silberne Frau_, as the folk had prettily named her from some silver
ornaments—was a ‘_geborene Gräfin_’ who had married beneath her; and when
Fleeming explained what he called the English theory (though indeed it
was quite his own) of married relations, Joseph, admiring but
unconvinced, avowed it was ‘_gar schön_.’  Joseph’s cousin, Walpurga
Moser, to an orchestra of clarionet and zither, taught the family the
country dances, the Steierisch and the Ländler, and gained their hearts
during the lessons.  Her sister Loys, too, who was up at the Alp with the
cattle, came down to church on Sundays, made acquaintance with the
Jenkins, and must have them up to see the sunrise from her house upon the
Loser, where they had supper and all slept in the loft among the hay.
The Mosers were not lost sight of; Walpurga still corresponds with Mrs.
Jenkin, and it was a late pleasure of Fleeming’s to choose and despatch a
wedding present for his little mountain friend.  This visit was brought
to an end by a ball in the big inn parlour; the refreshments chosen, the
list of guests drawn up, by Joseph; the best music of the place in
attendance; and hosts and guests in their best clothes.  The ball was
opened by Mrs. Jenkin dancing Steierisch with a lordly Bauer, in gray and
silver and with a plumed hat; and Fleeming followed with Walpurga Moser.

There ran a principle through all these holiday pleasures.  In Styria as
in the Highlands, the same course was followed: Fleeming threw himself as
fully as he could into the life and occupations of the native people,
studying everywhere their dances and their language, and conforming,
always with pleasure, to their rustic etiquette.  Just as the ball at Alt
Aussee was designed for the taste of Joseph, the parting feast at
Attadale was ordered in every particular to the taste of Murdoch the
Keeper.  Fleeming was not one of the common, so-called gentlemen, who
take the tricks of their own coterie to be eternal principles of taste.
He was aware, on the other hand, that rustic people dwelling in their own
places, follow ancient rules with fastidious precision, and are easily
shocked and embarrassed by what (if they used the word) they would have
to call the vulgarity of visitors from town.  And he, who was so cavalier
with men of his own class, was sedulous to shield the more tender
feelings of the peasant; he, who could be so trying in a drawing-room,
was even punctilious in the cottage.  It was in all respects a happy
virtue.  It renewed his life, during these holidays, in all particulars.
It often entertained him with the discovery of strange survivals; as
when, by the orders of Murdoch, Mrs. Jenkin must publicly taste of every
dish before it was set before her guests.  And thus to throw himself into
a fresh life and a new school of manners was a grateful exercise of
Fleeming’s mimetic instinct; and to the pleasures of the open air, of
hardships supported, of dexterities improved and displayed, and of plain
and elegant society, added a spice of drama.


Fleeming was all his life a lover of the play and all that belonged to
it.  Dramatic literature he knew fully.  He was one of the not very
numerous people who can read a play: a knack, the fruit of much knowledge
and some imagination, comparable to that of reading score.  Few men
better understood the artificial principles on which a play is good or
bad; few more unaffectedly enjoyed a piece of any merit of construction.
His own play was conceived with a double design; for he had long been
filled with his theory of the true story of Griselda; used to gird at
Father Chaucer for his misconception; and was, perhaps first of all,
moved by the desire to do justice to the Marquis of Saluces, and perhaps
only in the second place, by the wish to treat a story (as he phrased it)
like a sum in arithmetic.  I do not think he quite succeeded; but I must
own myself no fit judge.  Fleeming and I were teacher and taught as to
the principles, disputatious rivals in the practice, of dramatic writing.

Acting had always, ever since Rachel and the Marseillaise, a particular
power on him.  ‘If I do not cry at the play,’ he used to say, ‘I want to
have my money back.’  Even from a poor play with poor actors, he could
draw pleasure.  ‘Giacometti’s _Elisabetta_,’ I find him writing, ‘fetched
the house vastly.  Poor Queen Elizabeth!  And yet it was a little good.’
And again, after a night of Salvini: ‘I do not suppose any one with
feelings could sit out _Othello_, if Iago and Desdemona were acted.’
Salvini was, in his view, the greatest actor he had seen.  We were all
indeed moved and bettered by the visit of that wonderful man.—‘I declare
I feel as if I could pray!’ cried one of us, on the return from
_Hamlet_.—‘That is prayer,’ said Fleeming.  W. B. Hole and I, in a fine
enthusiasm of gratitude, determined to draw up an address to Salvini, did
so, and carried it to Fleeming; and I shall never forget with what
coldness he heard and deleted the eloquence of our draft, nor with what
spirit (our vanities once properly mortified) he threw himself into the
business of collecting signatures.  It was his part, on the ground of his
Italian, to see and arrange with the actor; it was mine to write in the
_Academy_ a notice of the first performance of _Macbeth_.  Fleeming
opened the paper, read so far, and flung it on the floor.  ‘No,’ he
cried, ‘that won’t do.  You were thinking of yourself, not of Salvini!’
The criticism was shrewd as usual, but it was unfair through ignorance;
it was not of myself that I was thinking, but of the difficulties of my
trade which I had not well mastered.  Another unalloyed dramatic pleasure
which Fleeming and I shared the year of the Paris Exposition, was the
_Marquis de Villemer_, that blameless play, performed by Madeleine
Brohan, Delaunay, Worms, and Broisat—an actress, in such parts at least,
to whom I have never seen full justice rendered.  He had his fill of
weeping on that occasion; and when the piece was at an end, in front of a
café, in the mild, midnight air, we had our fill of talk about the art of

But what gave the stage so strong a hold on Fleeming was an inheritance
from Norwich, from Edward Barron, and from Enfield of the _Speaker_.  The
theatre was one of Edward Barron’s elegant hobbies; he read plays, as
became Enfield’s son-in-law, with a good discretion; he wrote plays for
his family, in which Eliza Barron used to shine in the chief parts; and
later in life, after the Norwich home was broken up, his little
granddaughter would sit behind him in a great armchair, and be
introduced, with his stately elocution, to the world of dramatic
literature.  From this, in a direct line, we can deduce the charades at
Claygate; and after money came, in the Edinburgh days, that private
theatre which took up so much of Fleeming’s energy and thought.  The
company—Mr. and Mrs. R. O. Carter of Colwall, W. B. Hole, Captain Charles
Douglas, Mr. Kunz, Mr. Burnett, Professor Lewis Campbell, Mr. Charles
Baxter, and many more—made a charming society for themselves and gave
pleasure to their audience.  Mr. Carter in Sir Toby Belch it would be
hard to beat.  Mr. Hole in broad farce, or as the herald in the
_Trachiniæ_, showed true stage talent.  As for Mrs. Jenkin, it was for
her the rest of us existed and were forgiven; her powers were an endless
spring of pride and pleasure to her husband; he spent hours hearing and
schooling her in private; and when it came to the performance, though
there was perhaps no one in the audience more critical, none was more
moved than Fleeming.  The rest of us did not aspire so high.  There were
always five performances and weeks of busy rehearsal; and whether we came
to sit and stifle as the prompter, to be the dumb (or rather the
inarticulate) recipients of Carter’s dog whip in the _Taming of the
Shrew_, or having earned our spurs, to lose one more illusion in a
leading part, we were always sure at least of a long and an exciting
holiday in mirthful company.

In this laborious annual diversion, Fleeming’s part was large.  I never
thought him an actor, but he was something of a mimic, which stood him in
stead.  Thus he had seen Got in Poirier; and his own Poirier, when he
came to play it, breathed meritoriously of the model.  The last part I
saw him play was Triplet, and at first I thought it promised well.  But
alas! the boys went for a holiday, missed a train, and were not heard of
at home till late at night.  Poor Fleeming, the man who never hesitated
to give his sons a chisel or a gun, or to send them abroad in a canoe or
on a horse, toiled all day at his rehearsal, growing hourly paler,
Triplet growing hourly less meritorious.  And though the return of the
children, none the worse for their little adventure, brought the colour
back into his face, it could not restore him to his part.  I remember
finding him seated on the stairs in some rare moment of quiet during the
subsequent performances.  ‘Hullo, Jenkin,’ said I, ‘you look down in the
mouth.’—‘My dear boy,’ said he, ‘haven’t you heard me?  I have not one
decent intonation from beginning to end.’

But indeed he never supposed himself an actor; took a part, when he took
any, merely for convenience, as one takes a hand at whist; and found his
true service and pleasure in the more congenial business of the manager.
Augier, Racine, Shakespeare, Aristophanes in Hookham Frere’s translation,
Sophocles and Æschylus in Lewis Campbell’s, such were some of the authors
whom he introduced to his public.  In putting these upon the stage, he
found a thousand exercises for his ingenuity and taste, a thousand
problems arising which he delighted to study, a thousand opportunities to
make these infinitesimal improvements which are so much in art and for
the artist.  Our first Greek play had been costumed by the professional
costumer, with unforgetable results of comicality and indecorum: the
second, the _Trachiniæ_, of Sophocles, he took in hand himself, and a
delightful task he made of it.  His study was then in antiquarian books,
where he found confusion, and on statues and bas-reliefs, where he at
last found clearness; after an hour or so at the British Museum, he was
able to master ‘the chitôn, sleeves and all’; and before the time was
ripe, he had a theory of Greek tailoring at his fingers’ ends, and had
all the costumes made under his eye as a Greek tailor would have made
them.  ‘The Greeks made the best plays and the best statues, and were the
best architects: of course, they were the best tailors, too,’ said he;
and was never weary, when he could find a tolerant listener, of dwelling
on the simplicity, the economy, the elegance both of means and effect,
which made their system so delightful.

But there is another side to the stage-manager’s employment.  The
discipline of acting is detestable; the failures and triumphs of that
business appeal too directly to the vanity; and even in the course of a
careful amateur performance such as ours, much of the smaller side of man
will be displayed.  Fleeming, among conflicting vanities and levities,
played his part to my admiration.  He had his own view; he might be
wrong; but the performances (he would remind us) were after all his, and
he must decide.  He was, in this as in all other things, an iron
taskmaster, sparing not himself nor others.  If you were going to do it
at all, he would see that it was done as well as you were able.  I have
known him to keep two culprits (and one of these his wife) repeating the
same action and the same two or three words for a whole weary afternoon.
And yet he gained and retained warm feelings from far the most of those
who fell under his domination, and particularly (it is pleasant to
remember) from the girls.  After the slipshod training and the incomplete
accomplishments of a girls’ school, there was something at first
annoying, at last exciting and bracing, in this high standard of
accomplishment and perseverance.


It did not matter why he entered upon any study or employment, whether
for amusement like the Greek tailoring or the Highland reels, whether
from a desire to serve the public as with his sanitary work, or in the
view of benefiting poorer men as with his labours for technical
education, he ‘pitched into it’ (as he would have said himself) with the
same headlong zest.  I give in the Appendix a letter from Colonel
Fergusson, which tells fully the nature of the sanitary work and of
Fleeming’s part and success in it.  It will be enough to say here that it
was a scheme of protection against the blundering of builders and the
dishonesty of plumbers.  Started with an eye rather to the houses of the
rich, Fleeming hoped his Sanitary Associations would soon extend their
sphere of usefulness and improve the dwellings of the poor.  In this hope
he was disappointed; but in all other ways the scheme exceedingly
prospered, associations sprang up and continue to spring up in many
quarters, and wherever tried they have been found of use.

Here, then, was a serious employment; it has proved highly useful to
mankind; and it was begun besides, in a mood of bitterness, under the
shock of what Fleeming would so sensitively feel—the death of a whole
family of children.  Yet it was gone upon like a holiday jaunt.  I read
in Colonel Fergusson’s letter that his schoolmates bantered him when he
began to broach his scheme; so did I at first, and he took the banter as
he always did with enjoyment, until he suddenly posed me with the
question: ‘And now do you see any other jokes to make?  Well, then,’ said
he, ‘that’s all right.  I wanted you to have your fun out first; now we
can be serious.’  And then with a glowing heat of pleasure, he laid his
plans before me, revelling in the details, revelling in hope.  It was as
he wrote about the joy of electrical experiment.  ‘What shall I compare
them to?  A new song?—a Greek play?’  Delight attended the exercise of
all his powers; delight painted the future.  Of these ideal visions, some
(as I have said) failed of their fruition.  And the illusion was
characteristic.  Fleeming believed we had only to make a virtue cheap and
easy, and then all would practise it; that for an end unquestionably
good, men would not grudge a little trouble and a little money, though
they might stumble at laborious pains and generous sacrifices.  He could
not believe in any resolute badness.  ‘I cannot quite say,’ he wrote in
his young manhood, ‘that I think there is no sin or misery.  This I can
say: I do not remember one single malicious act done to myself.  In fact
it is rather awkward when I have to say the Lord’s Prayer.  I have
nobody’s trespasses to forgive.’  And to the point, I remember one of our
discussions.  I said it was a dangerous error not to admit there were bad
people; he, that it was only a confession of blindness on our part, and
that we probably called others bad only so far as we were wrapped in
ourselves and lacking in the transmigratory forces of imagination.  I
undertook to describe to him three persons irredeemably bad and whom he
should admit to be so.  In the first case, he denied my evidence: ‘You
cannot judge a man upon such testimony,’ said he.  For the second, he
owned it made him sick to hear the tale; but then there was no spark of
malice, it was mere weakness I had described, and he had never denied nor
thought to set a limit to man’s weakness.  At my third gentleman, he
struck his colours.  ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I’m afraid that is a bad man.’  And
then looking at me shrewdly: ‘I wonder if it isn’t a very unfortunate
thing for you to have met him.’  I showed him radiantly how it was the
world we must know, the world as it was, not a world expurgated and
prettified with optimistic rainbows.  ‘Yes, yes,’ said he; ‘but this
badness is such an easy, lazy explanation.  Won’t you be tempted to use
it, instead of trying to understand people?’

In the year 1878, he took a passionate fancy for the phonograph: it was a
toy after his heart, a toy that touched the skirts of life, art, and
science, a toy prolific of problems and theories.  Something fell to be
done for a University Cricket Ground Bazaar.  ‘And the thought struck
him,’ Mr. Ewing writes to me, ‘to exhibit Edison’s phonograph, then the
very newest scientific marvel.  The instrument itself was not to be
purchased—I think no specimen had then crossed the Atlantic—but a copy of
the _Times_ with an account of it was at hand, and by the help of this we
made a phonograph which to our great joy talked, and talked, too, with
the purest American accent.  It was so good that a second instrument was
got ready forthwith.  Both were shown at the Bazaar: one by Mrs. Jenkin
to people willing to pay half a crown for a private view and the
privilege of hearing their own voices, while Jenkin, perfervid as usual,
gave half-hourly lectures on the other in an adjoining room—I, as his
lieutenant, taking turns.  The thing was in its way a little triumph.  A
few of the visitors were deaf, and hugged the belief that they were the
victims of a new kind of fancy-fair swindle.  Of the others, many who
came to scoff remained to take raffle tickets; and one of the phonographs
was finally disposed of in this way, falling, by a happy freak of the
ballot-box, into the hands of Sir William Thomson.’  The other remained
in Fleeming’s hands, and was a source of infinite occupation.  Once it
was sent to London, ‘to bring back on the tinfoil the tones of a lady
distinguished for clear vocalisations; at another time Sir Robert
Christison was brought in to contribute his powerful bass’; and there
scarcely came a visitor about the house, but he was made the subject of
experiment.  The visitors, I am afraid, took their parts lightly: Mr.
Hole and I, with unscientific laughter, commemorating various shades of
Scotch accent, or proposing to ‘teach the poor dumb animal to swear.’
But Fleeming and Mr. Ewing, when we butterflies were gone, were
laboriously ardent.  Many thoughts that occupied the later years of my
friend were caught from the small utterance of that toy.  Thence came his
inquiries into the roots of articulate language and the foundations of
literary art; his papers on vowel sounds, his papers in the _Saturday
Review_ upon the laws of verse, and many a strange approximation, many a
just note, thrown out in talk and now forgotten.  I pass over dozens of
his interests, and dwell on this trifling matter of the phonograph,
because it seems to me that it depicts the man.  So, for Fleeming, one
thing joined into another, the greater with the less.  He cared not where
it was he scratched the surface of the ultimate mystery—in the child’s
toy, in the great tragedy, in the laws of the tempest, or in the
properties of energy or mass—certain that whatever he touched, it was a
part of life—and however he touched it, there would flow for his happy
constitution interest and delight.  ‘All fables have their morals,’ says
Thoreau, ‘but the innocent enjoy the story.’  There is a truth
represented for the imagination in these lines of a noble poem, where we
are told, that in our highest hours of visionary clearness, we can but

          ‘see the children sport upon the shore
    And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.’

To this clearness Fleeming had attained; and although he heard the voice
of the eternal seas and weighed its message, he was yet able, until the
end of his life, to sport upon these shores of death and mystery with the
gaiety and innocence of children.


It was as a student that I first knew Fleeming, as one of that modest
number of young men who sat under his ministrations in a soul-chilling
class-room at the top of the University buildings.  His presence was
against him as a professor: no one, least of all students, would have
been moved to respect him at first sight: rather short in stature,
markedly plain, boyishly young in manner, cocking his head like a terrier
with every mark of the most engaging vivacity and readiness to be
pleased, full of words, full of paradox, a stranger could scarcely fail
to look at him twice, a man thrown with him in a train could scarcely
fail to be engaged by him in talk, but a student would never regard him
as academical.  Yet he had that fibre in him that order always existed in
his class-room.  I do not remember that he ever addressed me in language;
at the least sign of unrest, his eye would fall on me and I was quelled.
Such a feat is comparatively easy in a small class; but I have misbehaved
in smaller classes and under eyes more Olympian than Fleeming Jenkin’s.
He was simply a man from whose reproof one shrank; in manner the least
buckrammed of mankind, he had, in serious moments, an extreme dignity of
goodness.  So it was that he obtained a power over the most insubordinate
of students, but a power of which I was myself unconscious.  I was
inclined to regard any professor as a joke, and Fleeming as a
particularly good joke, perhaps the broadest in the vast pleasantry of my
curriculum.  I was not able to follow his lectures; I somehow dared not
misconduct myself, as was my customary solace; and I refrained from
attending.  This brought me at the end of the session into a relation
with my contemned professor that completely opened my eyes.  During the
year, bad student as I was, he had shown a certain leaning to my society;
I had been to his house, he had asked me to take a humble part in his
theatricals; I was a master in the art of extracting a certificate even
at the cannon’s mouth; and I was under no apprehension.  But when I
approached Fleeming, I found myself in another world; he would have
naught of me.  ‘It is quite useless for _you_ to come to me, Mr.
Stevenson.  There may be doubtful cases, there is no doubt about yours.
You have simply _not_ attended my class.’  The document was necessary to
me for family considerations; and presently I stooped to such pleadings
and rose to such adjurations, as made my ears burn to remember.  He was
quite unmoved; he had no pity for me.—‘You are no fool,’ said he, ‘and
you chose your course.’  I showed him that he had misconceived his duty,
that certificates were things of form, attendance a matter of taste.  Two
things, he replied, had been required for graduation, a certain
competency proved in the final trials and a certain period of genuine
training proved by certificate; if he did as I desired, not less than if
he gave me hints for an examination, he was aiding me to steal a degree.
‘You see, Mr. Stevenson, these are the laws and I am here to apply them,’
said he.  I could not say but that this view was tenable, though it was
new to me; I changed my attack: it was only for my father’s eye that I
required his signature, it need never go to the Senatus, I had already
certificates enough to justify my year’s attendance.  ‘Bring them to me;
I cannot take your word for that,’ said he.  ‘Then I will consider.’  The
next day I came charged with my certificates, a humble assortment.  And
when he had satisfied himself, ‘Remember,’ said he, ‘that I can promise
nothing, but I will try to find a form of words.’  He did find one, and I
am still ashamed when I think of his shame in giving me that paper.  He
made no reproach in speech, but his manner was the more eloquent; it told
me plainly what a dirty business we were on; and I went from his
presence, with my certificate indeed in my possession, but with no
answerable sense of triumph.  That was the bitter beginning of my love
for Fleeming; I never thought lightly of him afterwards.

Once, and once only, after our friendship was truly founded, did we come
to a considerable difference.  It was, by the rules of poor humanity, my
fault and his.  I had been led to dabble in society journalism; and this
coming to his ears, he felt it like a disgrace upon himself.  So far he
was exactly in the right; but he was scarce happily inspired when he
broached the subject at his own table and before guests who were
strangers to me.  It was the sort of error he was always ready to repent,
but always certain to repeat; and on this occasion he spoke so freely
that I soon made an excuse and left the house with the firm purpose of
returning no more.  About a month later, I met him at dinner at a common
friend’s.  ‘Now,’ said he, on the stairs, ‘I engage you—like a lady to
dance—for the end of the evening.  You have no right to quarrel with me
and not give me a chance.’  I have often said and thought that Fleeming
had no tact; he belied the opinion then.  I remember perfectly how, so
soon as we could get together, he began his attack: ‘You may have grounds
of quarrel with me; you have none against Mrs. Jenkin; and before I say
another word, I want you to promise you will come to _her_ house as
usual.’  An interview thus begun could have but one ending: if the
quarrel were the fault of both, the merit of the reconciliation was
entirely Fleeming’s.

When our intimacy first began, coldly enough, accidentally enough on his
part, he had still something of the Puritan, something of the inhuman
narrowness of the good youth.  It fell from him slowly, year by year, as
he continued to ripen, and grow milder, and understand more generously
the mingled characters of men.  In the early days he once read me a
bitter lecture; and I remember leaving his house in a fine spring
afternoon, with the physical darkness of despair upon my eyesight.  Long
after he made me a formal retractation of the sermon and a formal apology
for the pain he had inflicted; adding drolly, but truly, ‘You see, at
that time I was so much younger than you!’  And yet even in those days
there was much to learn from him; and above all his fine spirit of piety,
bravely and trustfully accepting life, and his singular delight in the

His piety was, indeed, a thing of chief importance.  His views (as they
are called) upon religious matters varied much; and he could never be
induced to think them more or less than views.  ‘All dogma is to me mere
form,’ he wrote; ‘dogmas are mere blind struggles to express the
inexpressible.  I cannot conceive that any single proposition whatever in
religion is true in the scientific sense; and yet all the while I think
the religious view of the world is the most true view.  Try to separate
from the mass of their statements that which is common to Socrates,
Isaiah, David, St. Bernard, the Jansenists, Luther, Mahomet, Bunyan—yes,
and George Eliot: of course you do not believe that this something could
be written down in a set of propositions like Euclid, neither will you
deny that there is something common and this something very valuable. . . .
I shall be sorry if the boys ever give a moment’s thought to the
question of what community they belong to—I hope they will belong to the
great community.’  I should observe that as time went on his conformity
to the church in which he was born grew more complete, and his views drew
nearer the conventional.  ‘The longer I live, my dear Louis,’ he wrote
but a few months before his death, ‘the more convinced I become of a
direct care by God—which is reasonably impossible—but there it is.’  And
in his last year he took the communion.

But at the time when I fell under his influence, he stood more aloof; and
this made him the more impressive to a youthful atheist.  He had a keen
sense of language and its imperial influence on men; language contained
all the great and sound metaphysics, he was wont to say; and a word once
made and generally understood, he thought a real victory of man and
reason.  But he never dreamed it could be accurate, knowing that words
stand symbol for the indefinable.  I came to him once with a problem
which had puzzled me out of measure: what is a cause? why out of so many
innumerable millions of conditions, all necessary, should one be singled
out and ticketed ‘the cause’?  ‘You do not understand,’ said he.  ‘A
cause is the answer to a question: it designates that condition which I
happen to know and you happen not to know.’  It was thus, with partial
exception of the mathematical, that he thought of all means of reasoning:
they were in his eyes but means of communication, so to be understood, so
to be judged, and only so far to be credited.  The mathematical he made,
I say, exception of: number and measure he believed in to the extent of
their significance, but that significance, he was never weary of
reminding you, was slender to the verge of nonentity.  Science was true,
because it told us almost nothing.  With a few abstractions it could
deal, and deal correctly; conveying honestly faint truths.  Apply its
means to any concrete fact of life, and this high dialect of the wise
became a childish jargon.

Thus the atheistic youth was met at every turn by a scepticism more
complete than his own, so that the very weapons of the fight were changed
in his grasp to swords of paper.  Certainly the church is not right, he
would argue, but certainly not the anti-church either.  Men are not such
fools as to be wholly in the wrong, nor yet are they so placed as to be
ever wholly in the right.  Somewhere, in mid air between the disputants,
like hovering Victory in some design of a Greek battle, the truth hangs
undiscerned.  And in the meanwhile what matter these uncertainties?
Right is very obvious; a great consent of the best of mankind, a loud
voice within us (whether of God, or whether by inheritance, and in that
case still from God), guide and command us in the path of duty.  He saw
life very simple; he did not love refinements; he was a friend to much
conformity in unessentials.  For (he would argue) it is in this life as
it stands about us, that we are given our problem; the manners of the day
are the colours of our palette; they condition, they constrain us; and a
man must be very sure he is in the right, must (in a favourite phrase of
his) be ‘either very wise or very vain,’ to break with any general
consent in ethics.  I remember taking his advice upon some point of
conduct.  ‘Now,’ he said, ‘how do you suppose Christ would have advised
you?’ and when I had answered that he would not have counselled me
anything unkind or cowardly, ‘No,’ he said, with one of his shrewd
strokes at the weakness of his hearer, ‘nor anything amusing.’  Later in
life, he made less certain in the field of ethics.  ‘The old story of the
knowledge of good and evil is a very true one,’ I find him writing; only
(he goes on) ‘the effect of the original dose is much worn out, leaving
Adam’s descendants with the knowledge that there is such a thing—but
uncertain where.’  His growing sense of this ambiguity made him less
swift to condemn, but no less stimulating in counsel.  ‘You grant
yourself certain freedoms.  Very well,’ he would say, ‘I want to see you
pay for them some other way.  You positively cannot do this: then there
positively must be something else that you can do, and I want to see you
find that out and do it.’  Fleeming would never suffer you to think that
you were living, if there were not, somewhere in your life, some touch of
heroism, to do or to endure.

This was his rarest quality.  Far on in middle age, when men begin to lie
down with the bestial goddesses, Comfort and Respectability, the strings
of his nature still sounded as high a note as a young man’s.  He loved
the harsh voice of duty like a call to battle.  He loved courage,
enterprise, brave natures, a brave word, an ugly virtue; everything that
lifts us above the table where we eat or the bed we sleep upon.  This
with no touch of the motive-monger or the ascetic.  He loved his virtues
to be practical, his heroes to be great eaters of beef; he loved the
jovial Heracles, loved the astute Odysseus; not the Robespierres and
Wesleys.  A fine buoyant sense of life and of man’s unequal character ran
through all his thoughts.  He could not tolerate the spirit of the
pick-thank; being what we are, he wished us to see others with a generous
eye of admiration, not with the smallness of the seeker after faults.  If
there shone anywhere a virtue, no matter how incongruously set, it was
upon the virtue we must fix our eyes.  I remember having found much
entertainment in Voltaire’s _Saül_, and telling him what seemed to me the
drollest touches.  He heard me out, as usual when displeased, and then
opened fire on me with red-hot shot.  To belittle a noble story was easy;
it was not literature, it was not art, it was not morality; there was no
sustenance in such a form of jesting, there was (in his favourite phrase)
‘no nitrogenous food’ in such literature.  And then he proceeded to show
what a fine fellow David was; and what a hard knot he was in about
Bathsheba, so that (the initial wrong committed) honour might well
hesitate in the choice of conduct; and what owls those people were who
marvelled because an Eastern tyrant had killed Uriah, instead of
marvelling that he had not killed the prophet also.  ‘Now if Voltaire had
helped me to feel that,’ said he, ‘I could have seen some fun in it.’  He
loved the comedy which shows a hero human, and yet leaves him a hero, and
the laughter which does not lessen love.

It was this taste for what is fine in human-kind, that ruled his choice
in books.  These should all strike a high note, whether brave or tender,
and smack of the open air.  The noble and simple presentation of things
noble and simple, that was the ‘nitrogenous food’ of which he spoke so
much, which he sought so eagerly, enjoyed so royally.  He wrote to an
author, the first part of whose story he had seen with sympathy, hoping
that it might continue in the same vein.  ‘That this may be so,’ he
wrote, ‘I long with the longing of David for the water of Bethlehem.  But
no man need die for the water a poet can give, and all can drink it to
the end of time, and their thirst be quenched and the pool never dry—and
the thirst and the water are both blessed.’  It was in the Greeks
particularly that he found this blessed water; he loved ‘a fresh air’
which he found ‘about the Greek things even in translations’; he loved
their freedom from the mawkish and the rancid.  The tale of David in the
Bible, the _Odyssey_, Sophocles, Æschylus, Shakespeare, Scott; old Dumas
in his chivalrous note; Dickens rather than Thackeray, and the _Tale of
Two Cities_ out of Dickens: such were some of his preferences.  To
Ariosto and Boccaccio he was always faithful; _Burnt Njal_ was a late
favourite; and he found at least a passing entertainment in the _Arcadia_
and the _Grand Cyrus_.  George Eliot he outgrew, finding her latterly
only sawdust in the mouth; but her influence, while it lasted, was great,
and must have gone some way to form his mind.  He was easily set on edge,
however, by didactic writing; and held that books should teach no other
lesson but what ‘real life would teach, were it as vividly presented.’
Again, it was the thing made that took him, the drama in the book; to the
book itself, to any merit of the making, he was long strangely blind.  He
would prefer the _Agamemnon_ in the prose of Mr. Buckley, ay, to Keats.
But he was his mother’s son, learning to the last.  He told me one day
that literature was not a trade; that it was no craft; that the professed
author was merely an amateur with a door-plate.  ‘Very well,’ said I,
‘the first time you get a proof, I will demonstrate that it is as much a
trade as bricklaying, and that you do not know it.’  By the very next
post, a proof came.  I opened it with fear; for he was indeed, as the
reader will see by these volumes, a formidable amateur; always wrote
brightly, because he always thought trenchantly; and sometimes wrote
brilliantly, as the worst of whistlers may sometimes stumble on a perfect
intonation.  But it was all for the best in the interests of his
education; and I was able, over that proof, to give him a quarter of an
hour such as Fleeming loved both to give and to receive.  His subsequent
training passed out of my hands into those of our common friend, W. E.
Henley.  ‘Henley and I,’ he wrote, ‘have fairly good times wigging one
another for not doing better.  I wig him because he won’t try to write a
real play, and he wigs me because I can’t try to write English.’  When I
next saw him, he was full of his new acquisitions.  ‘And yet I have lost
something too,’ he said regretfully.  ‘Up to now Scott seemed to me quite
perfect, he was all I wanted.  Since I have been learning this confounded
thing, I took up one of the novels, and a great deal of it is both
careless and clumsy.’


He spoke four languages with freedom, not even English with any marked
propriety.  What he uttered was not so much well said, as excellently
acted: so we may hear every day the inexpressive language of a
poorly-written drama assume character and colour in the hands of a good
player.  No man had more of the _vis comica_ in private life; he played
no character on the stage, as he could play himself among his friends.
It was one of his special charms; now when the voice is silent and the
face still, it makes it impossible to do justice to his power in
conversation.  He was a delightful companion to such as can bear bracing
weather; not to the very vain; not to the owlishly wise, who cannot have
their dogmas canvassed; not to the painfully refined, whose sentiments
become articles of faith.  The spirit in which he could write that he was
‘much revived by having an opportunity of abusing Whistler to a knot of
his special admirers,’ is a spirit apt to be misconstrued.  He was not a
dogmatist, even about Whistler.  ‘The house is full of pretty things,’ he
wrote, when on a visit; ‘but Mrs. —’s taste in pretty things has one very
bad fault: it is not my taste.’  And that was the true attitude of his
mind; but these eternal differences it was his joy to thresh out and
wrangle over by the hour.  It was no wonder if he loved the Greeks; he
was in many ways a Greek himself; he should have been a sophist and met
Socrates; he would have loved Socrates, and done battle with him
staunchly and manfully owned his defeat; and the dialogue, arranged by
Plato, would have shown even in Plato’s gallery.  He seemed in talk
aggressive, petulant, full of a singular energy; as vain you would have
said as a peacock, until you trod on his toes, and then you saw that he
was at least clear of all the sicklier elements of vanity.  Soundly rang
his laugh at any jest against himself.  He wished to be taken, as he took
others, for what was good in him without dissimulation of the evil, for
what was wise in him without concealment of the childish.  He hated a
draped virtue, and despised a wit on its own defence.  And he drew (if I
may so express myself) a human and humorous portrait of himself with all
his defects and qualities, as he thus enjoyed in talk the robust sports
of the intelligence; giving and taking manfully, always without pretence,
always with paradox, always with exuberant pleasure; speaking wisely of
what he knew, foolishly of what he knew not; a teacher, a learner, but
still combative; picking holes in what was said even to the length of
captiousness, yet aware of all that was said rightly; jubilant in
victory, delighted by defeat: a Greek sophist, a British schoolboy.

Among the legends of what was once a very pleasant spot, the old Savile
Club, not then divorced from Savile Row, there are many memories of
Fleeming.  He was not popular at first, being known simply as ‘the man
who dines here and goes up to Scotland’; but he grew at last, I think,
the most generally liked of all the members.  To those who truly knew and
loved him, who had tasted the real sweetness of his nature, Fleeming’s
porcupine ways had always been a matter of keen regret.  They introduced
him to their own friends with fear; sometimes recalled the step with
mortification.  It was not possible to look on with patience while a man
so lovable thwarted love at every step.  But the course of time and the
ripening of his nature brought a cure.  It was at the Savile that he
first remarked a change; it soon spread beyond the walls of the club.
Presently I find him writing: ‘Will you kindly explain what has happened
to me?  All my life I have talked a good deal, with the almost unfailing
result of making people sick of the sound of my tongue.  It appeared to
me that I had various things to say, and I had no malevolent feelings,
but nevertheless the result was that expressed above.  Well, lately some
change has happened.  If I talk to a person one day, they must have me
the next.  Faces light up when they see me.—“Ah, I say, come here,”—“come
and dine with me.”  It’s the most preposterous thing I ever experienced.
It is curiously pleasant.  You have enjoyed it all your life, and
therefore cannot conceive how bewildering a burst of it is for the first
time at forty-nine.’  And this late sunshine of popularity still further
softened him.  He was a bit of a porcupine to the last, still shedding
darts; or rather he was to the end a bit of a schoolboy, and must still
throw stones, but the essential toleration that underlay his
disputatiousness, and the kindness that made of him a tender sicknurse
and a generous helper, shone more conspicuously through.  A new pleasure
had come to him; and as with all sound natures, he was bettered by the

I can best show Fleeming in this later stage by quoting from a vivid and
interesting letter of M. Emile Trélat’s.  Here, admirably expressed, is
how he appeared to a friend of another nation, whom he encountered only
late in life.  M. Trélat will pardon me if I correct, even before I quote
him; but what the Frenchman supposed to flow from some particular
bitterness against France, was only Fleeming’s usual address.  Had M.
Trélat been Italian, Italy would have fared as ill; and yet Italy was
Fleeming’s favourite country.

    Vous savez comment j’ai connu Fleeming Jenkin!  C’était en Mai 1878.
    Nous étions tous deux membres du jury de l’Exposition Universelle.
    On n’avait rien fait qui vaille à la première séance de notre classe,
    qui avait eu lieu le matin.  Tout le monde avait parlé et reparlé
    pour ne rien dire.  Cela durait depuis huit heures; il était midi.
    Je demandai la parole pour une motion d’ordre, et je proposai que la
    séance fut levée à la condition que chaque membre français,
    _emportât_ à déjeuner un juré étranger.  Jenkin applaudit.  ‘Je vous
    emmène déjeuner,’ lui criai-je.  ‘Je veux bien.’ . . . Nous partîmes;
    en chemin nous vous rencontrions; il vous présente et nous allons
    déjeuner tous trois auprès du Trocadéro.

    Et, depuis ce temps, nous avons été de vieux amis.  Non seulement
    nous passions nos journées au jury, où nous étions toujours ensemble,
    côte-à-côte.  Mais nos habitudes s’étaient faites telles que, non
    contents de déjeuner en face l’un de l’autre, je le ramenais dîner
    presque tous les jours chez moi.  Cela dura une quinzaine: puis il
    fut rappelé en Angleterre.  Mais il revint, et nous fîmes encore une
    bonne étape de vie intellectuelle, morale et philosophique.  Je crois
    qu’il me rendait déjà tout ce que j’éprouvais de sympathie et
    d’estime, et que je ne fus pas pour rien dans son retour à Paris.

    Chose singulière! nous nous étions attachés l’un à l’autre par les
    sous-entendus bien plus que par la matière de nos conversations.  À
    vrai dire, nous étions presque toujours en discussion; et il nous
    arrivait de nous rire au nez l’un et l’autre pendant des heures, tant
    nous nous étonnions réciproquement de la diversité de nos points de
    vue.  Je le trouvais si Anglais, et il me trouvais si Français!  Il
    était si franchement révolté de certaines choses qu’il voyait chez
    nous, et je comprenais si mal certaines choses qui se passaient chez
    vous!  Rien de plus intéressant que ces contacts qui étaient des
    contrastes, et que ces rencontres d’idées qui étaient des choses;
    rien de si attachant que les échappées de cœur ou d’esprit auxquelles
    ces petits conflits donnaient à tout moment cours.  C’est dans ces
    conditions que, pendant son séjour à Paris en 1878, je conduisis un
    peu partout mon nouvel ami.  Nous allâmes chez Madame Edmond Adam, où
    il vit passer beaucoup d’hommes politiques avec lesquels il causa.
    Mais c’est chez les ministres qu’il fut intéressé.  Le moment était,
    d’ailleurs, curieux en France.  Je me rappelle que, lorsque je le
    présentai au Ministre du Commerce, il fit cette spirituelle repartie:
    ‘C’est la seconde fois que je viens en France sous la République.  La
    première fois, c’était en 1848, elle s’était coiffée de travers: je
    suis bien heureux de saluer aujourd’hui votre excellence, quand elle
    a mis son chapeau droit.’  Une fois je le menai voir couronner la
    Rosière de Nanterre.  Il y suivit les cérémonies civiles et
    religieuses; il y assista au banquet donné par le Maire; il y vit
    notre de Lesseps, auquel il porta un toast.  Le soir, nous revînmes
    tard à Paris; il faisait chaud; nous étions un peu fatigués; nous
    entrâmes dans un des rares cafés encore ouverts.  Il devint
    silencieux.—‘N’êtes-vous pas content de votre journée?’ lui
    dis-je.—‘O, si! mais je réfléchis, et je me dis que vous êtes un
    peuple gai—tous ces braves gens étaient gais aujourd’hui.  C’est une
    vertu, la gaieté, et vous l’avez en France, cette vertu!’  Il me
    disait cela mélancoliquement; et c’était la première fois que je lui
    entendais faire une louange adressée à la France. . . . Mais il ne
    faut pas que vous voyiez là une plainte de ma part.  Je serais un
    ingrat si je me plaignais; car il me disait souvent: ‘Quel bon
    Français vous faites!’  Et il m’aimait à cause de cela, quoiqu’il
    semblât n’aimer pas la France.  C’était là un trait de son
    originalité.  Il est vrai qu’il s’en tirait en disant que je ne
    ressemblai pas à mes compatriotes, ce à quoi il ne connaissait
    rien!—Tout cela était fort curieux; car, moi-même, je l’aimais
    quoiqu’il en eût à mon pays!

    En 1879 il amena son fils Austin à Paris.  J’attirai celui-ci.  Il
    déjeunait avec moi deux fois par semaine.  Je lui montrai ce qu’était
    l’intimité française en le tutoyant paternellement.  Cela reserra
    beaucoup nos liens d’intimité avec Jenkin. . . . Je fis inviter mon
    ami au congrès de l’_Association française pour l’avancement des
    sciences_, qui se tenait à Rheims en 1880.  Il y vint.  J’eus le
    plaisir de lui donner la parole dans la section du génie civil et
    militaire, que je présidais.  Il y fit une très intéressante
    communication, qui me montrait une fois de plus l’originalité de ses
    vues et la sûreté de sa science.  C’est à l’issue de ce congrès que
    je passai lui faire visite à Rochefort, où je le trouvai installé en
    famille et où je présentai pour la première fois mes hommages à son
    éminente compagne.  Je le vis là sous un jour nouveau et touchant
    pour moi.  Madame Jenkin, qu’il entourait si galamment, et ses deux
    jeunes fils donnaient encore plus de relief à sa personne.
    J’emportai des quelques heures que je passai à côte de lui dans ce
    charmant paysage un souvenir ému.

    J’étais allé en Angleterre en 1882 sans pouvoir gagner Edimbourg.
    J’y retournai en 1883 avec la commission d’assainissement de la ville
    de Paris, dont je faisais partie.  Jenkin me rejoignit.  Je le fis
    entendre par mes collègues; car il était fondateur d’une société de
    salubrité.  Il eut un grand succès parmi nous.  Mais ce voyage me
    restera toujours en mémoire parce que c’est là que se fixa
    défenitivement notre forte amitié.  Il m’invita un jour à dîner à son
    club et au moment de me faire asseoir à côté de lui, il me retint et
    me dit: ‘Je voudrais vous demander de m’accorder quelque chose.
    C’est mon sentiment que nos relations ne peuvent pas se bien
    continuer si vous ne me donnez pas la permission de vous tutoyer.
    Voulez-vous que nous nous tutoyions?’  Je lui pris les mains et je
    lui dis qu’une pareille proposition venant d’un Anglais, et d’un
    Anglais de sa haute distinction, c’était une victoire, dont je serais
    fier toute ma vie.  Et nous commencions à user de cette nouvelle
    forme dans nos rapports.  Vous savez avec quelle finesse il parlait
    le français: comme il en connaissait tous les tours, comme il jouait
    avec ses difficultés, et même avec ses petites gamineries.  Je crois
    qu’il a été heureux de pratiquer avec moi ce tutoiement, qui ne
    s’adapte pas à l’anglais, et qui est si français.  Je ne puis vous
    peindre l’étendue et la variété de nos conversations de la soirée.
    Mais ce que je puis vous dire, c’est que, sous la caresse du _tu_,
    nos idées se sont élevées.  Nous avions toujours beaucoup ri
    ensemble; mais nous n’avions jamais laissé des banalités s’introduire
    dans nos échanges de pensées.  Ce soir-là, notre horizon intellectuel
    s’est élargie, et nous y avons poussé des reconnaissances profondes
    et lointaines.  Après avoir vivement causé à table, nous avons
    longuement causé au salon; et nous nous séparions le soir à Trafalgar
    Square, après avoir longé les trottoirs, stationné aux coins des rues
    et deux fois rebroussé chemin en nous reconduisant l’un l’autre.  Il
    était près d’une heure du matin!  Mais quelle belle passe
    d’argumentation, quels beaux échanges de sentiments, quelles fortes
    confidences patriotiques nous avions fournies!  J’ai compris ce soir
    là que Jenkin ne détestait pas la France, et je lui serrai fort les
    mains en l’embrassant.  Nous nous quittions aussi amis qu’on puisse
    l’être; et notre affection s’était par lui étendue et comprise dans
    un _tu_ français.

CHAPTER VII. 1875–1885.

Mrs. Jenkin’s Illness—Captain Jenkin—The Golden Wedding—Death of Uncle
John—Death of Mr. and Mrs. Austin—Illness and Death of the Captain—Death
of Mrs. Jenkin—Effect on Fleeming—Telpherage—The End.

AND now I must resume my narrative for that melancholy business that
concludes all human histories.  In January of the year 1875, while
Fleeming’s sky was still unclouded, he was reading Smiles.  ‘I read my
engineers’ lives steadily,’ he writes, ‘but find biographies depressing.
I suspect one reason to be that misfortunes and trials can be graphically
described, but happiness and the causes of happiness either cannot be or
are not.  A grand new branch of literature opens to my view: a drama in
which people begin in a poor way and end, after getting gradually
happier, in an ecstasy of enjoyment.  The common novel is not the thing
at all.  It gives struggle followed by relief.  I want each act to close
on a new and triumphant happiness, which has been steadily growing all
the while.  This is the real antithesis of tragedy, where things get
blacker and blacker and end in hopeless woe.  Smiles has not grasped my
grand idea, and only shows a bitter struggle followed by a little respite
before death.  Some feeble critic might say my new idea was not true to
nature.  I’m sick of this old-fashioned notion of art.  Hold a mirror up,
indeed!  Let’s paint a picture of how things ought to be and hold that up
to nature, and perhaps the poor old woman may repent and mend her ways.’
The ‘grand idea’ might be possible in art; not even the ingenuity of
nature could so round in the actual life of any man.  And yet it might
almost seem to fancy that she had read the letter and taken the hint; for
to Fleeming the cruelties of fate were strangely blended with tenderness,
and when death came, it came harshly to others, to him not unkindly.

In the autumn of that same year 1875, Fleeming’s father and mother were
walking in the garden of their house at Merchiston, when the latter fell
to the ground.  It was thought at the time to be a stumble; it was in all
likelihood a premonitory stroke of palsy.  From that day, there fell upon
her an abiding panic fear; that glib, superficial part of us that speaks
and reasons could allege no cause, science itself could find no mark of
danger, a son’s solicitude was laid at rest; but the eyes of the body saw
the approach of a blow, and the consciousness of the body trembled at its
coming.  It came in a moment; the brilliant, spirited old lady leapt from
her bed, raving.  For about six months, this stage of her disease
continued with many painful and many pathetic circumstances; her husband
who tended her, her son who was unwearied in his visits, looked for no
change in her condition but the change that comes to all.  ‘Poor mother,’
I find Fleeming writing, ‘I cannot get the tones of her voice out of my
head. . . I may have to bear this pain for a long time; and so I am
bearing it and sparing myself whatever pain seems useless.  Mercifully I
do sleep, I am so weary that I must sleep.’  And again later: ‘I could do
very well, if my mind did not revert to my poor mother’s state whenever I
stop attending to matters immediately before me.’  And the next day: ‘I
can never feel a moment’s pleasure without having my mother’s suffering
recalled by the very feeling of happiness.  A pretty, young face recalls
hers by contrast—a careworn face recalls it by association.  I tell you,
for I can speak to no one else; but do not suppose that I wilfully let my
mind dwell on sorrow.’

In the summer of the next year, the frenzy left her; it left her stone
deaf and almost entirely aphasic, but with some remains of her old sense
and courage.  Stoutly she set to work with dictionaries, to recover her
lost tongues; and had already made notable progress, when a third stroke
scattered her acquisitions.  Thenceforth, for nearly ten years, stroke
followed upon stroke, each still further jumbling the threads of her
intelligence, but by degrees so gradual and with such partiality of loss
and of survival, that her precise state was always and to the end a
matter of dispute.  She still remembered her friends; she still loved to
learn news of them upon the slate; she still read and marked the list of
the subscription library; she still took an interest in the choice of a
play for the theatricals, and could remember and find parallel passages;
but alongside of these surviving powers, were lapses as remarkable, she
misbehaved like a child, and a servant had to sit with her at table.  To
see her so sitting, speaking with the tones of a deaf mute not always to
the purpose, and to remember what she had been, was a moving appeal to
all who knew her.  Such was the pathos of these two old people in their
affliction, that even the reserve of cities was melted and the neighbours
vied in sympathy and kindness.  Where so many were more than usually
helpful, it is hard to draw distinctions; but I am directed and I delight
to mention in particular the good Dr. Joseph Bell, Mr. Thomas, and Mr.
Archibald Constable with both their wives, the Rev. Mr. Belcombe (of
whose good heart and taste I do not hear for the first time—the news had
come to me by way of the Infirmary), and their next-door neighbour,
unwearied in service, Miss Hannah Mayne.  Nor should I omit to mention
that John Ruffini continued to write to Mrs. Jenkin till his own death,
and the clever lady known to the world as Vernon Lee until the end: a
touching, a becoming attention to what was only the wreck and survival of
their brilliant friend.

But he to whom this affliction brought the greatest change was the
Captain himself.  What was bitter in his lot, he bore with unshaken
courage; only once, in these ten years of trial, has Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin
seen him weep; for the rest of the time his wife—his commanding officer,
now become his trying child—was served not with patience alone, but with
a lovely happiness of temper.  He had belonged all his life to the
ancient, formal, speechmaking, compliment-presenting school of courtesy;
the dictates of this code partook in his eyes of the nature of a duty;
and he must now be courteous for two.  Partly from a happy illusion,
partly in a tender fraud, he kept his wife before the world as a still
active partner.  When he paid a call, he would have her write ‘with love’
upon a card; or if that (at the moment) was too much, he would go armed
with a bouquet and present it in her name.  He even wrote letters for her
to copy and sign: an innocent substitution, which may have caused
surprise to Ruffini or to Vernon Lee, if they ever received, in the hand
of Mrs. Jenkin the very obvious reflections of her husband.  He had
always adored this wife whom he now tended and sought to represent in
correspondence: it was now, if not before, her turn to repay the
compliment; mind enough was left her to perceive his unwearied kindness;
and as her moral qualities seemed to survive quite unimpaired, a childish
love and gratitude were his reward.  She would interrupt a conversation
to cross the room and kiss him.  If she grew excited (as she did too
often) it was his habit to come behind her chair and pat her shoulder;
and then she would turn round, and clasp his hand in hers, and look from
him to her visitor with a face of pride and love; and it was at such
moments only that the light of humanity revived in her eyes.  It was hard
for any stranger, it was impossible for any that loved them, to behold
these mute scenes, to recall the past, and not to weep.  But to the
Captain, I think it was all happiness.  After these so long years, he had
found his wife again; perhaps kinder than ever before; perhaps now on a
more equal footing; certainly, to his eyes, still beautiful.  And the
call made on his intelligence had not been made in vain.  The merchants
of Aux Cayes, who had seen him tried in some ‘counter-revolution’ in
1845, wrote to the consul of his ‘able and decided measures,’ ‘his cool,
steady judgment and discernment’ with admiration; and of himself, as ‘a
credit and an ornament to H. M. Naval Service.’  It is plain he must have
sunk in all his powers, during the years when he was only a figure, and
often a dumb figure, in his wife’s drawing-room; but with this new term
of service, he brightened visibly.  He showed tact and even invention in
managing his wife, guiding or restraining her by the touch, holding
family worship so arranged that she could follow and take part in it.  He
took (to the world’s surprise) to reading—voyages, biographies, Blair’s
_Sermons_, even (for her letter’s sake) a work of Vernon Lee’s, which
proved, however, more than he was quite prepared for.  He shone more, in
his remarkable way, in society; and twice he had a little holiday to
Glenmorven, where, as may be fancied, he was the delight of the
Highlanders.  One of his last pleasures was to arrange his dining-room.
Many and many a room (in their wandering and thriftless existence) had he
seen his wife furnish with exquisite taste, and perhaps with
‘considerable luxury’: now it was his turn to be the decorator.  On the
wall he had an engraving of Lord Rodney’s action, showing the _Prothée_,
his father’s ship, if the reader recollects; on either side of this on
brackets, his father’s sword, and his father’s telescope, a gift from
Admiral Buckner, who had used it himself during the engagement; higher
yet, the head of his grandson’s first stag, portraits of his son and his
son’s wife, and a couple of old Windsor jugs from Mrs. Buckner’s.  But
his simple trophy was not yet complete; a device had to be worked and
framed and hung below the engraving; and for this he applied to his
daughter-in-law: ‘I want you to work me something, Annie.  An anchor at
each side—an anchor—stands for an old sailor, you know—stands for hope,
you know—an anchor at each side, and in the middle THANKFUL.’  It is not
easy, on any system of punctuation, to represent the Captain’s speech.
Yet I hope there may shine out of these facts, even as there shone
through his own troubled utterance, some of the charm of that delightful

In 1881, the time of the golden wedding came round for that sad and
pretty household.  It fell on a Good Friday, and its celebration can
scarcely be recalled without both smiles and tears.  The drawing-room was
filled with presents and beautiful bouquets; these, to Fleeming and his
family, the golden bride and bridegroom displayed with unspeakable pride,
she so painfully excited that the guests feared every moment to see her
stricken afresh, he guiding and moderating her with his customary tact
and understanding, and doing the honours of the day with more than his
usual delight.  Thence they were brought to the dining-room, where the
Captain’s idea of a feast awaited them: tea and champagne, fruit and
toast and childish little luxuries, set forth pell-mell and pressed at
random on the guests.  And here he must make a speech for himself and his
wife, praising their destiny, their marriage, their son, their
daughter-in-law, their grandchildren, their manifold causes of gratitude:
surely the most innocent speech, the old, sharp contemner of his
innocence now watching him with eyes of admiration.  Then it was time for
the guests to depart; and they went away, bathed, even to the youngest
child, in tears of inseparable sorrow and gladness, and leaving the
golden bride and bridegroom to their own society and that of the hired

It was a great thing for Fleeming to make, even thus late, the
acquaintance of his father; but the harrowing pathos of such scenes
consumed him.  In a life of tense intellectual effort, a certain
smoothness of emotional tenor were to be desired; or we burn the candle
at both ends.  Dr. Bell perceived the evil that was being done; he
pressed Mrs. Jenkin to restrain her husband from too frequent visits; but
here was one of those clear-cut, indubitable duties for which Fleeming
lived, and he could not pardon even the suggestion of neglect.

And now, after death had so long visibly but still innocuously hovered
above the family, it began at last to strike and its blows fell thick and
heavy.  The first to go was uncle John Jenkin, taken at last from his
Mexican dwelling and the lost tribes of Israel; and nothing in this
remarkable old gentleman’s life, became him like the leaving of it.  His
sterling, jovial acquiescence in man’s destiny was a delight to Fleeming.
‘My visit to Stowting has been a very strange but not at all a painful
one,’ he wrote.  ‘In case you ever wish to make a person die as he ought
to die in a novel,’ he said to me, ‘I must tell you all about my old
uncle.’  He was to see a nearer instance before long; for this family of
Jenkin, if they were not very aptly fitted to live, had the art of manly
dying.  Uncle John was but an outsider after all; he had dropped out of
hail of his nephew’s way of life and station in society, and was more
like some shrewd, old, humble friend who should have kept a lodge; yet he
led the procession of becoming deaths, and began in the mind of Fleeming
that train of tender and grateful thought, which was like a preparation
for his own.  Already I find him writing in the plural of ‘these
impending deaths’; already I find him in quest of consolation.  ‘There is
little pain in store for these wayfarers,’ he wrote, ‘and we have
hope—more than hope, trust.’

On May 19, 1884, Mr. Austin was taken.  He was seventy-eight years of
age, suffered sharply with all his old firmness, and died happy in the
knowledge that he had left his wife well cared for.  This had always been
a bosom concern; for the Barrons were long-lived and he believed that she
would long survive him.  But their union had been so full and quiet that
Mrs. Austin languished under the separation.  In their last years, they
would sit all evening in their own drawing-room hand in hand: two old
people who, for all their fundamental differences, had yet grown together
and become all the world in each other’s eyes and hearts; and it was felt
to be a kind release, when eight months after, on January 14, 1885, Eliza
Barron followed Alfred Austin.  ‘I wish I could save you from all pain,’
wrote Fleeming six days later to his sorrowing wife, ‘I would if I
could—but my way is not God’s way; and of this be assured,—God’s way is

In the end of the same month, Captain Jenkin caught cold and was confined
to bed.  He was so unchanged in spirit that at first there seemed no
ground of fear; but his great age began to tell, and presently it was
plain he had a summons.  The charm of his sailor’s cheerfulness and
ancient courtesy, as he lay dying, is not to be described.  There he lay,
singing his old sea songs; watching the poultry from the window with a
child’s delight; scribbling on the slate little messages to his wife, who
lay bed-ridden in another room; glad to have Psalms read aloud to him, if
they were of a pious strain—checking, with an ‘I don’t think we need read
that, my dear,’ any that were gloomy or bloody.  Fleeming’s wife coming
to the house and asking one of the nurses for news of Mrs. Jenkin,
‘Madam, I do not know,’ said the nurse; ‘for I am really so carried away
by the Captain that I can think of nothing else.’  One of the last
messages scribbled to his wife and sent her with a glass of the champagne
that had been ordered for himself, ran, in his most finished vein of
childish madrigal: ‘The Captain bows to you, my love, across the table.’
When the end was near and it was thought best that Fleeming should no
longer go home but sleep at Merchiston, he broke his news to the Captain
with some trepidation, knowing that it carried sentence of death.
‘Charming, charming—charming arrangement,’ was the Captain’s only
commentary.  It was the proper thing for a dying man, of Captain Jenkin’s
school of manners, to make some expression of his spiritual state; nor
did he neglect the observance.  With his usual abruptness, ‘Fleeming,’
said he, ‘I suppose you and I feel about all this as two Christian
gentlemen should.’  A last pleasure was secured for him.  He had been
waiting with painful interest for news of Gordon and Khartoum; and by
great good fortune, a false report reached him that the city was
relieved, and the men of Sussex (his old neighbours) had been the first
to enter.  He sat up in bed and gave three cheers for the Sussex
regiment.  The subsequent correction, if it came in time, was prudently
withheld from the dying man.  An hour before midnight on the fifth of
February, he passed away: aged eighty-four.

Word of his death was kept from Mrs. Jenkin; and she survived him no more
than nine and forty hours.  On the day before her death, she received a
letter from her old friend Miss Bell of Manchester, knew the hand, kissed
the envelope, and laid it on her heart; so that she too died upon a
pleasure.  Half an hour after midnight, on the eighth of February, she
fell asleep: it is supposed in her seventy-eighth year.

Thus, in the space of less than ten months, the four seniors of this
family were taken away; but taken with such features of opportunity in
time or pleasant courage in the sufferer, that grief was tempered with a
kind of admiration.  The effect on Fleeming was profound.  His pious
optimism increased and became touched with something mystic and filial.
‘The grave is not good, the approaches to it are terrible,’ he had
written in the beginning of his mother’s illness: he thought so no more,
when he had laid father and mother side by side at Stowting.  He had
always loved life; in the brief time that now remained to him, he seemed
to be half in love with death.  ‘Grief is no duty,’ he wrote to Miss
Bell; ‘it was all too beautiful for grief,’ he said to me; but the
emotion, call it by what name we please, shook him to his depths; his
wife thought he would have broken his heart when he must demolish the
Captain’s trophy in the dining-room, and he seemed thenceforth scarcely
the same man.

These last years were indeed years of an excessive demand upon his
vitality; he was not only worn out with sorrow, he was worn out by hope.
The singular invention to which he gave the name of telpherage, had of
late consumed his time, overtaxed his strength and overheated his
imagination.  The words in which he first mentioned his discovery to
me—‘I am simply Alnaschar’—were not only descriptive of his state of
mind, they were in a sense prophetic; since whatever fortune may await
his idea in the future, it was not his to see it bring forth fruit.
Alnaschar he was indeed; beholding about him a world all changed, a world
filled with telpherage wires; and seeing not only himself and family but
all his friends enriched.  It was his pleasure, when the company was
floated, to endow those whom he liked with stock; one, at least, never
knew that he was a possible rich man until the grave had closed over his
stealthy benefactor.  And however Fleeming chafed among material and
business difficulties, this rainbow vision never faded; and he, like his
father and his mother, may be said to have died upon a pleasure.  But the
strain told, and he knew that it was telling.  ‘I am becoming a fossil,’
he had written five years before, as a kind of plea for a holiday visit
to his beloved Italy.  ‘Take care!  If I am Mr. Fossil, you will be Mrs.
Fossil, and Jack will be Jack Fossil, and all the boys will be little
fossils, and then we shall be a collection.’  There was no fear more
chimerical for Fleeming; years brought him no repose; he was as packed
with energy, as fiery in hope, as at the first; weariness, to which he
began to be no stranger, distressed, it did not quiet him.  He feared for
himself, not without ground, the fate which had overtaken his mother;
others shared the fear.  In the changed life now made for his family, the
elders dead, the sons going from home upon their education, even their
tried domestic (Mrs. Alice Dunns) leaving the house after twenty-two
years of service, it was not unnatural that he should return to dreams of
Italy.  He and his wife were to go (as he told me) on ‘a real honeymoon
tour.’  He had not been alone with his wife ‘to speak of,’ he added,
since the birth of his children.  But now he was to enjoy the society of
her to whom he wrote, in these last days, that she was his ‘Heaven on
earth.’  Now he was to revisit Italy, and see all the pictures and the
buildings and the scenes that he admired so warmly, and lay aside for a
time the irritations of his strenuous activity.  Nor was this all.  A
trifling operation was to restore his former lightness of foot; and it
was a renovated youth that was to set forth upon this reënacted

The operation was performed; it was of a trifling character, it seemed to
go well, no fear was entertained; and his wife was reading aloud to him
as he lay in bed, when she perceived him to wander in his mind.  It is
doubtful if he ever recovered a sure grasp upon the things of life; and
he was still unconscious when he passed away, June the twelfth, 1885, in
the fifty-third year of his age.  He passed; but something in his gallant
vitality had impressed itself upon his friends, and still impresses.  Not
from one or two only, but from many, I hear the same tale of how the
imagination refuses to accept our loss and instinctively looks for his
reappearing, and how memory retains his voice and image like things of
yesterday.  Others, the well-beloved too, die and are progressively
forgotten; two years have passed since Fleeming was laid to rest beside
his father, his mother, and his Uncle John; and the thought and the look
of our friend still haunt us.



IN the beginning of the year 1859 my former colleague (the first British
University Professor of Engineering), Lewis Gordon, at that time deeply
engaged in the then new work of cable making and cable laying, came to
Glasgow to see apparatus for testing submarine cables and signalling
through them, which I had been preparing for practical use on the first
Atlantic cable, and which had actually done service upon it, during the
six weeks of its successful working between Valencia and Newfoundland.
As soon as he had seen something of what I had in hand, he said to me, ‘I
would like to show this to a young man of remarkable ability, at present
engaged in our works at Birkenhead.’  Fleeming Jenkin was accordingly
telegraphed for, and appeared next morning in Glasgow.  He remained for a
week, spending the whole day in my class-room and laboratory, and thus
pleasantly began our lifelong acquaintance.  I was much struck, not only
with his brightness and ability, but with his resolution to understand
everything spoken of, to see if possible thoroughly through every
difficult question, and (no if about this!) to slur over nothing.  I soon
found that thoroughness of honesty was as strongly engrained in the
scientific as in the moral side of his character.

In the first week of our acquaintance, the electric telegraph and,
particularly, submarine cables, and the methods, machines, and
instruments for laying, testing, and using them, formed naturally the
chief subject of our conversations and discussions; as it was in fact the
practical object of Jenkin’s visit to me in Glasgow; but not much of the
week had passed before I found him remarkably interested in science
generally, and full of intelligent eagerness on many particular questions
of dynamics and physics.  When he returned from Glasgow to Birkenhead a
correspondence commenced between us, which was continued without
intermission up to the last days of his life.  It commenced with a
well-sustained fire of letters on each side about the physical qualities
of submarine cables, and the practical results attainable in the way of
rapid signalling through them.  Jenkin used excellently the valuable
opportunities for experiment allowed him by Newall, and his partner Lewis
Gordon, at their Birkenhead factory.  Thus he began definite scientific
investigation of the copper resistance of the conductor, and the
insulating resistance and specific inductive capacity of its gutta-percha
coating, in the factory, in various stages of manufacture; and he was the
very first to introduce systematically into practice the grand system of
absolute measurement founded in Germany by Gauss and Weber.  The immense
value of this step, if only in respect to the electric telegraph, is
amply appreciated by all who remember or who have read something of the
history of submarine telegraphy; but it can scarcely be known generally
how much it is due to Jenkin.

Looking to the article ‘Telegraph (Electric)’ in the last volume of the
old edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ which was published about
the year 1861, we find on record that Jenkin’s measurements in absolute
units of the specific resistance of pure gutta-percha, and of the
gutta-percha with Chatterton’s compound constituting the insulation of
the Red Sea cable of 1859, are given as the only results in the way of
absolute measurements of the electric resistance of an insulating
material which had then been made.  These remarks are prefaced in the
‘Encyclopædia’ article by the following statement: ‘No telegraphic
testing ought in future to be accepted in any department of telegraphic
business which has not this definite character; although it is only
within the last year that convenient instruments for working, in absolute
measure, have been introduced at all, and the whole system of absolute
measure is still almost unknown to practical electricians.’

A particular result of great importance in respect to testing is referred
to as follows in the ‘Encyclopædia’ article: ‘The importance of having
results thus stated in absolute measure is illustrated by the
circumstance, that the writer has been able at once to compare them, in
the manner stated in a preceding paragraph, with his own previous
deductions from the testings of the Atlantic cable during its manufacture
in 1857, and with Weber’s measurements of the specific resistance of
copper.’  It has now become universally adapted—first of all in England;
twenty-two years later by Germany, the country of its birth; and by
France and Italy, and all the other countries of Europe and
America—practically the whole scientific world—at the Electrical Congress
in Paris in the years 1882 and 1884.

An important paper of thirty quarto pages published in the ‘Transactions
of the Royal Society’ for June 19, 1862, under the title ‘Experimental
Researches on the Transmission of Electric Signals through submarine
cables, Part I.  Laws of Transmission through various lengths of one
cable, by Fleeming Jenkin, Esq., communicated by C. Wheatstone, Esq.,
F.R.S.,’ contains an account of a large part of Jenkin’s experimental
work in the Birkenhead factory during the years 1859 and 1860.  This
paper is called Part I.  Part II. alas never appeared, but something that
it would have included we can see from the following ominous statement
which I find near the end of Part I.: ‘From this value, the
electrostatical capacity per unit of length and the specific inductive
capacity of the dielectric, could be determined.  These points will,
however, be more fully treated of in the second part of this paper.’
Jenkin had in fact made a determination at Birkenhead of the specific
inductive capacity of gutta-percha, or of the gutta-percha and
Chatterton’s compound constituting the insulation of the cable, on which
he experimented.  This was the very first true measurement of the
specific inductive capacity of a dielectric which had been made after the
discovery by Faraday of the existence of the property, and his primitive
measurement of it for the three substances, glass, shellac, and sulphur;
and at the time when Jenkin made his measurements the existence of
specific inductive capacity was either unknown, or ignored, or denied, by
almost all the scientific authorities of the day.

The original determination of the microfarad, brought out under the
auspices of the British Association Committee on Electrical Standards, is
due to experimental work by Jenkin, described in a paper, ‘Experiments on
Capacity,’ constituting No. IV. of the appendix to the Report presented
by the Committee to the Dundee Meeting of 1867.  No other determination,
so far as I know, of this important element of electric measurement has
hitherto been made; and it is no small thing to be proud of in respect to
Jenkin’s fame as a scientific and practical electrician that the
microfarad which we now all use is his.

The British Association unit of electrical resistance, on which was
founded the first practical approximation to absolute measurement on the
system of Gauss and Weber, was largely due to Jenkin’s zeal as one of the
originators, and persevering energy as a working member, of the first
Electrical Standards Committee.  The experimental work of first making
practical standards, founded on the absolute system, which led to the
unit now known as the British Association ohm, was chiefly performed by
Clerk Maxwell and Jenkin.  The realisation of the great practical benefit
which has resulted from the experimental and scientific work of the
Committee is certainly in a large measure due to Jenkin’s zeal and
perseverance as secretary, and as editor of the volume of Collected
Reports of the work of the Committee, which extended over eight years,
from 1861 till 1869.  The volume of Reports included Jenkin’s Cantor
Lectures of January, 1866, ‘On Submarine Telegraphy,’ through which the
practical applications of the scientific principles for which he had
worked so devotedly for eight years became part of general knowledge in
the engineering profession.

Jenkin’s scientific activity continued without abatement to the end.  For
the last two years of his life he was much occupied with a new mode of
electric locomotion, a very remarkable invention of his own, to which he
gave the name of ‘Telpherage.’  He persevered with endless ingenuity in
carrying out the numerous and difficult mechanical arrangements essential
to the project, up to the very last days of his work in life.  He had
completed almost every detail of the realisation of the system which was
recently opened for practical working at Glynde, in Sussex, four months
after his death.

His book on ‘Magnetism and Electricity,’ published as one of Longman’s
elementary series in 1873, marked a new departure in the exposition of
electricity, as the first text-book containing a systematic application
of the quantitative methods inaugurated by the British Association
Committee on Electrical Standards.  In 1883 the seventh edition was
published, after there had already appeared two foreign editions, one in
Italian and the other in German.

His papers on purely engineering subjects, though not numerous, are
interesting and valuable.  Amongst these may be mentioned the article
‘Bridges,’ written by him for the ninth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia
Britannica,’ and afterwards republished as a separate treatise in 1876;
and a paper ‘On the Practical Application of Reciprocal Figures to the
Calculation of Strains in Framework,’ read before the Royal Society of
Edinburgh, and published in the ‘Transactions’ of that Society in 1869.
But perhaps the most important of all is his paper ‘On the Application of
Graphic Methods to the Determination of the Efficiency of Machinery,’
read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and published in the
‘Transactions,’ vol. xxviii. (1876–78), for which he was awarded the
Keith Gold Medal.  This paper was a continuation of the subject treated
in ‘Reulaux’s Mechanism,’ and, recognising the value of that work,
supplied the elements required to constitute from Reulaux’s kinematic
system a full machine receiving energy and doing work.


IT was, I believe, during the autumn of 1877 that there came to Fleeming
Jenkin the first inkling of an idea, not the least in importance of the
many that emanated from that fertile brain, which, with singular
rapidity, took root, and under his careful fostering expanded into a
scheme the fruits of which have been of the utmost value to his
fellow-citizens and others.

The phrase which afterwards suggested itself, and came into use, ‘Healthy
houses,’ expresses very happily the drift of this scheme, and the
ultimate object that Jenkin had in view.

In the summer of that year there had been much talk, and some newspaper
correspondence, on the subject of the unsatisfactory condition of many of
the best houses in Edinburgh as regards their sanitary state.  One
gentleman, for example, drew an appalling picture of a large and
expensive house he had bought in the West-end of Edinburgh, fresh from
the builder’s hands.  To ascertain precisely what was wrong, and the
steps to be taken to remedy the evils, the effects of which were but too
apparent, obviously demanded the expenditure of much time and careful
study on the part of the intelligent proprietor himself and the
professional experts he had to call in, and, it is needless to add, much
money.  There came also, from the poorer parts of the town, the cry that
in many cases the houses of our working people were built anyhow that the
dictates of a narrow economy suggested to the speculative and
irresponsible builder.  The horrors of what was called the ‘Sandwich
system,’ amongst other evils, were brought to light.  It is sufficient to
say, generally, that this particular practice of the builder consists in
placing in a block of workmen’s houses, to save space and money, the
water cisterns of one flat, directly under the sanitary appliances of the
other, and so on to the top of a house of several storeys.  It is easy to
conceive the abominations that must ensue when the leakage of the upper
floors begins to penetrate to the drinking water below.  The picture was
a hideous one, apart from the well-known fact that a whole class of
diseases is habitually spread by contaminated water.

In October, 1876, a brisk and interesting discussion had been carried on
in the columns of the _Times_ at intervals during the greater part of
that month, in which the same subject, that of the health and sewage of
towns, had been dealt with by several writers well informed in such
matters.  Amongst others, Professor Jenkin himself took part, as did
Professor G. F. Armstrong, who now occupies the chair of Civil
Engineering in Edinburgh.  Many of the truths then advanced had been
recently discussed at a meeting of the British Association.

It was while such topics were attracting attention that Fleeming Jenkin’s
family were shocked by the sad intelligence of the loss that friends of
theirs had sustained in the deaths of several of their children from
causes that could be traced up to the unsanitary condition of their
house.  Sympathy took the practical form of an intense desire that
something might be done to mitigate the chance of such calamities; and, I
am permitted to say, the result of a home-talk on this subject was an
earnest appeal to the head of the house to turn his scientific knowledge
to account in some way that should make people’s homes more healthy, and
their children’s lives more safe.  In answer to the call Jenkin turned
his thoughts in this direction.  And the scheme which I shall endeavour
briefly to sketch out was the result.

The obvious remedy for a faulty house is to call in a skilful expert,
architect or engineer, who will doubtless point out by means of reports
and plans what is wrong, and suggest a remedy; but, as remarked by
Professor Jenkin, ‘it has not been the practice for leading engineers to
advise individuals about their house arrangements, except where large
outlay is in contemplation.’  A point of very considerable importance in
such a case as that now supposed.

The problem was to ensure to the great body of the citizens sound
professional advice concerning their houses, such as had hitherto been
only obtainable at great cost—but ‘with due regard to economical

The advantages of co-operation are patent to all.  Everyone can
understand how, if a sufficient number of persons combine, there are few
luxuries or advantages that are not within their reach, for a moderate
payment.  The advice of a first-rate engineer regarding a dwelling-house
was a palpable advantage; but within the reach of comparatively few.  One
has heard of a winter in Madeira being prescribed as the cure for a poor
Infirmary sufferer.

Like most good plans Jenkin’s scheme was simple in the extreme, and
consisted in _combination_ and a small subscription.

‘Just,’ he says, ‘as the leading physician of the day may give his
services to great numbers of poor patients when these are gathered in a
hospital, although he could not practically visit them in their own
houses, so the simple fact of a number of clients gathered into a group
will enable the leading engineer to give them the benefit of his advice.’

But it was his opinion that only ‘continual supervision could secure the
householder from danger due to defects in sanitary appliances.’  He had
in his eye a case precisely similar.  The following passage in one of his
first lectures, afterwards repeated frequently, conveys the essence of
Professor Jenkin’s theory, as well as a graceful acknowledgment of the
source from which this happy idea was derived:—

‘An analogous case occurred to him,’ he said, ‘in the “Steam Users’
Association,” in Lancashire.  So many boilers burst in that district for
want of inspection that an association was formed for having the boilers
under a continual course of inspection.  Let a perfect boiler be bought
from a first-rate maker, the owner has then an apparatus as perfect as it
is now sought to make the sanitary appliances in his house.  But in the
course of time the boiler must decay.  The prudent proprietor, therefore,
joins the Steam-boiler Association, which, from time to time, examines
his boiler, and by the tests they apply are able to give an absolute
guarantee against accident.  This idea of an inspection by an association
was due,’ the lecturer continued, ‘to Sir William Fairbairn, under whom
he had the honour of serving his apprenticeship.’ {288}  The steam users
were thus absolutely protected from danger; and the same idea it was
sought to apply to the sanitary system of a house.

To bring together a sufficient number of persons, to form such a ‘group’
as had been contemplated, was the first step to be taken.  No time was
lost in taking it.  The idea hitherto roughly blocked out was now given a
more definite form.  The original sketch, as dictated by Jenkin himself,
is before me, and I cannot do better than transcribe it, seeing it is
short and simple.  Several important alterations were afterwards made by
himself in consultation with one or two of his Provisional Council; and
as experience suggested:—

    ‘The objects of this Association are twofold.

    ‘1.  By taking advantage of the principle of co-operation, to provide
    its members at moderate cost with such advice and supervision as
    shall ensure the proper sanitary condition of their own dwellings.

    ‘2.  By making use of specially qualified officers to support the
    inhabitants and local authorities in enforcing obedience to the
    provisions of those laws and by-laws which affect the sanitary
    condition of the community.

    ‘It is proposed that an Association with these objects be formed; and
    that all residents within the municipal boundaries of Edinburgh be
    eligible as members.  That each member of the Association shall
    subscribe _one guinea_ annually.  That in return for the annual
    subscription each member shall be entitled to the following

    ‘1.  A report by the Engineer of the Association on the sanitary
    condition of his dwelling, with specific recommendations as to the
    improvement of drainage, ventilation, &c., should this be found

    ‘2.  The supervision of any alterations in the sanitary fittings of
    his dwelling which may be carried out by the advice, or with the
    approval, of the officers of the Association.

    ‘3.  An annual inspection of his premises by the Engineer of the
    Association, with a report as to their sanitary condition.

    ‘4.  The right, in consideration of a payment of five shillings, of
    calling on the Engineer, and legal adviser {290} of the Association
    to inspect and report on the existence of any infraction or supposed
    infraction of any law affecting the sanitary condition of the

    ‘It is proposed that the Association should be managed by an unpaid
    Council, to be selected by ballot from among its members.

    ‘That the following salaried officers be engaged by the Association:

    ‘1.  One or more acting engineers, who should give their services
    exclusively to the Association.

    ‘2.  A consulting engineer, who should exercise a general
    supervision, and advise both on the general principles to be
    followed, and on difficult cases.

    ‘3.  A legal agent, to be engaged on such terms as the Council shall
    hereafter think fit.

    ‘4.  A permanent secretary.

    ‘It is also proposed that the officers of the Association should,
    with the sanction of the Council, have power to take legal
    proceedings against persons who shall, in their opinion, be guilty of
    any infraction of sanitary regulations in force throughout the
    district; and generally it is intended that the Association shall
    further and promote all undertakings which, in their opinion, are
    calculated to improve the sanitary condition of Edinburgh and its
    immediate neighbourhood.

    ‘In one aspect this Association will be analogous to the Steam Boiler
    Users’ Association, who co-operate in the employment of skilled
    inspectors.  In a second aspect it will be analogous to the
    Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which assists
    the community in enforcing obedience to existing laws.’

Towards the end of November, 1877, this paper was handed about among
those who were thought most likely, from their position and public
spirit, to forward such a scheme, so clearly for the good of the
community.  Nay more, a systematic ‘canvass’ was set on foot; personal
application the most direct was made use of.  The thing was new, and its
advantages not perfectly obvious to all at a glance.  Everyone who knows
with what enthusiastic earnestness Jenkin would take hold of, and insist
upon, what he felt to be wholesome and right will understand how he
persisted, how he patiently explained, and swept away objections that
were raised.  One could not choose but listen, and understand, and agree.

On the evening of 2nd January, 1878, or, to be more correct, the morning
of the 3rd, two old school-fellows of his at the Edinburgh Academy walked
home with him from an annual dinner of their ‘Class.’  All the way in
glowing language he expounded his views of house inspection, and the
protection of health, asking for sympathy.  It was most readily given,
and they parted from him with pleasant words of banter regarding this
vision of his of grafting ‘cleanliness’ upon another quality said to be a
growth, in some sort, of this northern land of ours.

But they reckoned hardly sufficiently on the fact that when Jenkin took a
thing of this kind in hand it must _be_; if it lay within the scope of a
clear head and boundless energy.

Having secured a nucleus of well-wishers, the next step was to enlist the
sympathies of the general public.  It was sought to effect this by a
series of public lectures.  The first of these (one of two) was given on
22nd January under the auspices of the Edinburgh Philosophical
Institution.  It was apparent to the shrewd lecturer that in bringing
before the people a scheme like this, where there was much that was
novel, it was necessary first of all that his audience should be aware of
the evils to which they were exposed in their own houses, before
unfolding a plan for a remedy.  The correspondence already referred to as
having been carried on in the summer of the previous year had shown how
crude were the ideas of many persons well informed, or considered to be
so, on this subject.  For example, there are few now-a-days who are not
aware that a drain, to be safe, must have at intervals along its course
openings to the upper air, or that it must be ‘ventilated,’ as the phrase
goes.  But at the time spoken of there were some who went so far as to
question this principle; even to argue against it; calling forth this
forcible reply—’Here is a pretty farce.  You pour out a poison and send
it off on its way to the sea, and forget that on its way there its very
essence will take wings and fly back into your house up the very pipes it
but recently ran down.’  A properly ‘trapped’ and ventilated drain was
the cure for this.

And the lecturer proceeded to show that in Edinburgh, where for the most
part house construction is good and solid, but, as in other towns, the
bulk of the houses were built when the arrangements for internal sewerage
and water supply were very little understood, many serious errors were
made.  ‘But,’ the lecturer went on to say, ‘Sanitary Science was now
established on a fairly sound basis, and the germ theory, or theory of
septic ferments, had explained much which used to be obscure.  This
theory explained how it was that families might in certain cases live
with fair health for many years in the midst of great filth, while the
dwellers in large and apparently clean mansions were struck down by fever
and diphtheria.  The filth which was found compatible with health was
always isolated filth, and until the germs of some specific disease were
introduced, this dirt was merely injurious, not poisonous.  The mansions
which were apparently clean and yet fever-visited were found to be those
in which arrangements had been made for the removal of offensive matter,
which arrangements served also to distribute poison germs from one house
to another, from one room to another.  These mansions had long suckers
extended from one to another through the common sewer.  Through these
suckers, commonly called “house drains,” they imbibed every taint which
any one house in the system could supply.  In fact, arrangements were too
often made which simply “laid on” poison to bed-rooms just as gas or
water was laid on.  He had known an intelligent person declare that no
harm could come up a certain pipe which ended in a bed-room, because
nothing offensive went down.  That person had never realised the fact
that his pipe joined another pipe, which again joined a sewer, which
again whenever there was an epidemic in the neighbourhood, received
innumerable poison germs; and that, although nothing more serious than
scented soap and water went down, the germs of typhoid fever might any
day come up.’

Professor Jenkin then proceeded to show how a house might be absolutely
cut off from all contamination from these sources of evil.  Then by means
of large diagrams he showed the several systems of pipes within a house.
One system coloured _red_ showed the pipes that received foul matter.  A
system marked in _blue_ showed pipes used to ventilate this red system.
The essential conditions of safety in the internal fittings of a house—it
was inculcated—were that no air to be breathed, no water to be drunk,
should ever be contaminated by connection with _red_ or _blue_ systems.
Then in _yellow_ were shown the pipes which received dirty water, which
was not necessarily foul.  Lastly a _white_ system, which under no
circumstances must ever touch the ‘red,’ ‘blue,’ or ‘yellow’ systems.
Such a diagram recalled the complicated anatomical drawings which
illustrate the system of arteries and veins in the human frame.  Little
wonder, then, that one gentleman remarked, in perplexity, that he had not
room in his house for such a mass of pipes; but they were already there,
with other pipes besides, all carefully hidden away, as in the human
tenement, with the inevitable result—as the preacher of cleanliness and
health declared—‘out of sight, out of mind.’

In plain and forcible language were demonstrated the ills this product of
modern life is heir to; and the drastic measures that most of them demand
to secure the reputation of a healthy house.  Lastly the formation of an
Association to carry out the idea (already sketched) cheaply, was briefly

Next morning, January 23rd, was the moment chosen to lay the scheme
formally before the public.  In all the Edinburgh newspapers, along with
lengthy reports of the lecture, appeared, in form of an advertisement, a
statement {295} of the scheme and its objects, supported by an imposing
array of ‘Provisional Council.’  In due course several of the Scots
newspapers and others, such as the _Building News_, gave leading
articles, all of them directing attention to this new thing, as ‘an
interesting experiment about to be tried in Edinburgh,’ ‘what promises to
be a very useful sanitary movement, now being organised, and an example
set that may be worthy of imitation elsewhere,’ and so on.

Several of the writers waxed eloquent on the singular ingenuity of the
scheme; the cheap professional advice to its adherents, &c.; and the rare
advantages to be gained by means of co-operation and the traditional ‘one
pound one.’

The Provisional Council was absolutely representative of the community,
and included names more than sufficient to inspire confidence.  It
included the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, Lord Rosebery; the Lord
Justice Clerk, Lord Moncrieff; the Lord Advocate; Sir Robert Christison;
several of the Judges of the Court of Session; the Presidents of the
Colleges of Physicians, and of Surgeons; many of the Professors of the
University; the Bishop of Edinburgh, and the Dean; several of the best
known of the Clergy of the Church of Scotland, Established, Free, and of
other branches; one or two members of Parliament; more than one lady (who
should have been perhaps mentioned earlier on this list) well known for
large views and public spirit; several well-known country gentlemen; one
or two distinguished civil engineers and architects; and many gentlemen
of repute for intelligence and business qualities.

Very soon after the second of the promised lectures, the members of the
new Society began to be numbered by hundreds.  By the 28th of February,
500 subscribers having been enrolled, they were in a position to hold
their first regular meeting under the presidency of Sir Robert
Christison, when a permanent Council composed of many of those who had
from the first shown an interest in the movement—for example, Professor
(now Sir Douglas) Maclagan and Lord Dean of Guild (now Sir James) Gowans,
Professor Jenkin himself undertaking the duties of Consulting
Engineer—were appointed.  And Jenkin was singularly fortunate in securing
as Secretary the late Captain Charles Douglas, a worker as earnest as
himself.  It was the theory of the originator that the Council, composed
of leading men not necessarily possessed of engineering knowledge, should
‘give a guarantee to the members that the officials employed should have
been carefully selected, and themselves work under supervision.  Every
householder in this town,’ he adds, ‘knows the names of the gentlemen
composing our Council.’

The new Association was a success alike in town and country.  Without
going far into statistics it will be evident what scope there was, and
is, for such operations when it is stated that last year (1885) 60 per
cent. of the houses inspected in London and its neighbourhood were found
to have foul air escaping direct into them, and 81 per cent. had their
sanitary appliances in an unsatisfactory state.  Here in Edinburgh things
were little, if any, better; as for the country houses, the descriptions
of some were simply appalling.  As the new Association continued its
operations it became the _rôle_ of the Consulting Engineer to note such
objections, hypothetical or real, as were raised against the working of
his scheme.  Some of these were ingenious enough: but all were replied to
in order, and satisfactorily resolved.  It was shown, for example, that
‘you might have a dinner party in your house on the day of your
inspection’; that the Association worked in the utmost harmony with the
city authorities, and with the tradesmen usually employed in such
business; and that the officials were as ‘confidential’ as regards the
infirmities of a house as any physician consulted by a patient.  The
strength of the engineering staff has been varied from time to time as
occasion required; at the moment of writing employment is found in
Edinburgh and country districts in various parts of Scotland for five
engineers temporarily or permanently engaged.

The position Jenkin claimed for the Engineers was a high one, but not too
high: thus he well defined it:—

    ‘In respect of Domestic Sanitation the business of the Engineer and
    that of the medical man overlap; for while it is the duty of the
    engineer to learn from the doctor what conditions are necessary to
    secure health, the engineer may, nevertheless, claim in his turn the
    privilege of assisting in the warfare against disease by using his
    professional skill to determine what mechanical and constructive
    arrangements are best adapted to secure these conditions.’ {299}

Flattery in the form of imitation followed in due course.  A branch was
established at St. Andrews, and one of the earliest of similar
institutions was founded at Newport in the United States.  Another sprang
up at Wolverhampton.  In 1881 two such societies were announced as having
been set on foot in London.  And the _Times_ of April 14th, in a leading
article of some length, drew attention to the special features of the
plan which it was stated had followed close upon a paper read by
Professor Fleeming Jenkin before the Society of Arts in the preceding
month of January.  The adherents included such names as those of Sir
William Gull, Professor Huxley, Professor Burdon Sanderson, and Sir
Joseph Fayrer.  The _Saturday Review_, in January, had already in a
characteristic article enforced the principles of the scheme, and shown
how, for a small annual payment, ‘the helpless and hopeless condition of
the householder at the mercy of the plumber’ might be for ever changed.

The London Association, established on the lines of the parent society,
has been followed by many others year by year; amongst these are
Bradford, Cheltenham, Glasgow, and Liverpool in 1882; Bedford, Brighton,
and Newcastle in 1883; Bath, Cambridge, Cardiff, Dublin, and Dundee in
1884; and Swansea in 1885; and while we write the first steps are being
taken, with help from Edinburgh, to establish an association at Montreal;
sixteen Associations.

Almost, it may be said, a bibliography has been achieved for Fleeming
Jenkin’s movement.

In 1878 was published _Healthy Houses_ (Edin., David Douglas), being the
substance of the two lectures already mentioned as having been delivered
in Edinburgh with the intention of laying open the idea of the scheme
then in contemplation, with a third addressed to the Medico-Chirurgical
Society.  This book has been long out of print, and such has been the
demand for it that the American edition {300} is understood to be also
out of print, and unobtainable.

In 1880 was printed (London, Spottiswoode & Co.) a pamphlet entitled
_What is the Best Mode of Amending the Present Laws with Reference to
Existing Buildings_, _and also of Improving their Sanitary Condition with
due Regard to Economical Considerations_?—the substance of a paper read
by Professor Jenkin at the Congress of the Social Science Association at
Edinburgh in October of that year.

The first item of _Health Lectures for the People_ (Edin., 1881) consists
of a discourse on the ‘Care of the Body’ delivered by Professor Jenkin in
the Watt Institution at Edinburgh, in which the theories of house
sanitation are dwelt on.

_House Inspection_, reprinted from the _Sanitary Record_, was issued in
pamphlet form in 1882.  And another small tract, _Houses of the Poor_;
_their Sanitary Arrangement_, in 1885.

In this connection it may be said that while the idea formulated by
Jenkin has been carried out with a measure of success that could hardly
have been foreseen, in one point only, it may be noted, has expectation
been somewhat disappointed as regards the good that these Associations
should have effected—and the fact was constantly deplored by the
founder—namely, the comparative failure as a means of improving the
condition of the dwellings of the poorer classes.  It was ‘hoped that
charity and public spirit would have used the Association to obtain
reports on poor tenements, and to remedy the most glaring evils.’ {301}

The good that these associations have effected is not to be estimated by
the numbers of their membership.  They have educated the public on
certain points.  The fact that they exist has become generally known,
and, by consequence, persons of all classes are induced to satisfy
themselves of the reasons for the existence of such institutions, and
thus they learn of the evils that have called them into being.

Builders, burgh engineers, and private individuals in any way connected
with the construction of dwellings in town or country have been put upon
their mettle, and constrained to keep themselves abreast with the
wholesome truths which the engineering staff of all these Sanitary
Associations are the means of disseminating.

In this way, doubtless, some good may indirectly have been done to poorer
tenements, though not exactly in the manner contemplated by the founder.

Now, if it be true that Providence helps those who help themselves,
surely a debt of gratitude is due to him who has placed (as has been
attempted to be shown in this brief narrative) the means of self-help and
the attainment of a palpable benefit within the reach of all through the
working of a simple plan, whose motto well may be, ‘Healthy Houses’; and
device a strangled snake.

                                                                     A. F.


{113}  _Reminiscences of My Later Life_, by Mary Howitt, _Good Words_,
May 1886.

{288}  See paper read at the Congress of the Social Science Association,
Edinburgh, October 8, 1880.

{290}  It was ultimately agreed not to appoint an officer of this kind
till occasion should arise for his services; none has been appointed.

{295}  Briefly stated, the points submitted in this prospectus were

1.  That the proposed Association was a Society for the benefit of its
members and the community that cannot be used for any purposes of profit.

2.  The privileges of members include the annual inspection of their
premises, as well as a preliminary report on their condition with an
estimate of the cost of any alterations recommended.

3.  The skilled inspection from time to time of drains and all sanitary

4.  No obligation on the part of members to carry out any of the
suggestions made by the engineers of the Association, who merely give
skilled advice when such is desired.

5.  The officers of the Association to have no interest in any outlay

6.  The Association might be of great service to the poorer members of
the community.

{299}  _Healthy Houses_, by Professor Fleeming Jenkin, p. 54.

{300}  It is perhaps worth mentioning as a curiosity of literature that
the American publishers who produced this book in the States, without
consulting the author, afterwards sent him a handsome cheque, of course
unsolicited by him.

{301}  It is true, handsome tenements for working people have been built,
such as the picturesque group of houses erected with this object by a
member of the Council of the Edinburgh Sanitary Association, at Bell’s
Mills, so well seen from the Dean Bridge, where every appliance that
science can suggest has been made use of.  But for the ordinary houses of
the poor the advice of the Association’s engineers has been but rarely
taken advantage of.

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