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Title: Some Eminent Women of Our Times - Short Biographical Sketches
Author: Fawcett, Millicent Garrett, Dame
Language: English
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Transcriber’s Note:

Words in italics are surrounded by _underscores_. Some corrections have
been made to the original text. These are listed in a second
transcriber’s note at the end of the text.

                           SOME EMINENT WOMEN

                              OF OUR TIMES

         “Non aver tema, disse il mio Signore:
         Fatti sicur, chè noi siamo a buon punto:
         Non stringer, ma rallarga ogni vigore.”

                               _Purgatorio_, Canto 9, v. 46-48.

“‘I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me.’

“‘What is that?’ said Will....

“‘That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know
what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power
against evil—widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with
darkness narrower.’”—_Middlemarch_, Book iv.


                             EMINENT WOMEN

                              OF OUR TIMES



                           MRS. HENRY FAWCETT


                           MACMILLAN AND CO.

                              AND NEW YORK


                         _All rights reserved_


THE following short sketches of the lives of some of the eminent women
of our times were written for _The Mothers’ Companion_, and are now
republished by the kind permission of the proprietors and publishers,
Messrs. Partridge.

They were suggested by the fact that nearly all the best contributions
of women to literature have been made during the last hundred years, and
simultaneously with this remarkable development of literary activity
among women, there has been an equally remarkable activity in spheres of
work held to be peculiarly feminine. So far, therefore, from greater
freedom and better education encouraging women to neglect womanly work,
it has caused them to apply themselves to it more systematically and
more successfully. The names of Elizabeth Fry, Mary Carpenter, Sarah
Martin, Agnes Jones, Florence Nightingale, and Sister Dora are a proof
of this. I believe that we owe their achievements to the same impulse
which in another kind of excellence has given us Jane Austen, Charlotte
Brontë, and Elizabeth Browning.

The sketches were intended chiefly for working women and young people;
it was hoped it would be an encouragement to them to be reminded how
much good work had been done in various ways by women.

An apology should, perhaps, be offered to the reader for the want of
arrangement in the sequence of these sketches. As they appeared month by
month, in 1887 and 1888, the incidents of the day sometimes suggested
the subject. Thus the papers on Queen Victoria and on Queen Louisa of
Prussia were suggested by the celebration of the Jubilee in June 1887,
and by the universal grief felt for the death of Queen Louisa’s son and
grandson in 1888. As the incidents mentioned in some sketches are
sometimes referred to in those that follow, it has been thought best not
to alter the sequence in which they originally appeared. The authorities
relied on are quoted in each paper.

                                              MILLICENT GARRETT FAWCETT.

LONDON, 1889.



  1. ELIZABETH FRY                                                     1

  2. MARY CARPENTER                                                    9

  3. CAROLINE HERSCHEL                                                18

  4. SARAH MARTIN                                                     29

  5. MARY SOMERVILLE                                                  35

  6. QUEEN VICTORIA                                                   46

  7. HARRIET MARTINEAU                                                57

  8. FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE                                             69

  9. MARY LAMB                                                        79

 10. AGNES ELIZABETH JONES                                            91

 11. CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË                                       99

 12. ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING                                      111


 14. ELIZABETH GILBERT                                               128

 15. JANE AUSTEN                                                     136

 16. MARIA EDGEWORTH                                                 145

 17. QUEEN LOUISA OF PRUSSIA                                         163

 18. DOROTHY WORDSWORTH                                              176

 19. SISTER DORA                                                     186

 20. MRS. BARBAULD                                                   198

 21. JOANNA BAILLIE                                                  205

 22. HANNAH MORE                                                     211



                             ELIZABETH FRY

  “Humanity is erroneously considered among the commonplace virtues.
  If it deserved such a place there would be less urgent need than,
  alas! there is for its daily exercise among us. In its pale shape of
  kindly sentiment and bland pity it is common enough, and is always
  the portion of the cultivated. But humanity armed, aggressive, and
  alert, never slumbering and never wearying, moving like an ancient
  hero over the land to slay monsters, is the rarest of virtues.”—JOHN

THE present century is one that is distinguished by the active part
women have taken in careers that were previously closed to them. Some
people would have us believe that if women write books, paint pictures,
and understand science and ancient languages, they will cease to be true
women, and cease to care for those womanly occupations and
responsibilities that have always been entrusted to them. This is an
essentially false and mistaken notion. True cultivation of the
understanding makes a sensible woman value at their real high worth all
her womanly duties, and so far from making her neglect them, causes her
to appreciate them more highly than she would otherwise have done. It
has always been held—at least, in Christian countries—that the most
womanly of women’s duties are to be found in works of mercy to those who
are desolate and miserable. To be thirsty, hungry, naked, sick, or in
prison, is to have a claim for compassion and comfort upon womanly pity
and tenderness. And we shall see, if we look back over recent years,
that never have these womanly tasks been more zealously fulfilled than
they have been in the century which has produced Elizabeth Fry, Florence
Nightingale, Josephine Butler, and Octavia Hill.

Mrs. Fry was born before the beginning of this century—in 1780—but the
great public work with which her memory will always be connected was not
begun till about 1813. She was born of the wealthy Quaker family, the
Gurneys of Norwich. Her parents were not very strict members of the sect
to which they belonged, for they allowed their children to learn music
and dancing—pursuits that were then considered very worldly even by many
who did not belong to the Society of Friends. The gentle poet, William
Cowper, speaks in one of his letters, written about the time of
Elizabeth Fry’s childhood, of love of music as a thing which tends “to
weaken and destroy the spiritual discernment.” Mr. and Mrs. Gurney,
however, seem to have been very free from such prejudices, as well as
from others which were much more universal, for their children not only
learnt music and dancing, but also—girls as well as boys—Latin and

Mrs. Gurney seems to have discerned that she had an especial treasure in
her little Elizabeth. She is spoken of in her mother’s journal as “my
dove-like Betsy.” The authoress of the biography of Elizabeth Fry in the
Eminent Women series, says: “Her faculty for independent investigation,
her unswerving loyalty to duty, and her fearless perseverance in works
of benevolence, were all foreshadowed” in her childhood. She had as a
young girl what appears to us now a very extraordinary dread of
enthusiasm in religion. One would think that if ever a woman needed
enthusiasm for her life’s work, Elizabeth Fry was that woman. But she
confesses in her journal, written when she was seventeen years of age,
“the greatest fear of religion” because it is generally allied with
enthusiasm. Perhaps the truth is that she had so deep a natural fount of
enthusiasm in her heart that she dreaded the work that it would impel
her to, when once it was allowed a free course. She had a very strong,
innate repugnance to anything which drew public attention upon herself,
and only the imperative sense of duty enabled her to overcome this
feeling. In her heart she said what her Master had said before her:
“Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

When the sphere of public duty first revealed itself to her, she records
in her diary what it cost her to enter upon it, and writes of it as “the
humiliating path that has appeared to be opening before me.” It must be
noticed, however, that in her case, as always, the steep and difficult
path of duty becomes easier to those who do not flinch from it. In a
later passage of her diary, the public work which she had at first
called a path of humiliation she speaks of as “this great mercy.”

In the little book to which reference has just been made, we read that
the first great change in Elizabeth Gurney’s life was caused by the deep
impression made upon her by the sermons of William Savery. It is rather
strange to find the girl who had such a terror of enthusiasm, weeping
passionately while William Savery was preaching. Her sister has
described what took place. “Betsy astonished us all by the great feeling
she showed. She wept most of the way home.... What she went through in
her own mind I cannot say; but the results were most powerful and most
evident” (p. 11, _Elizabeth Fry_. By Mrs. E. R. Pitman). Her emotion was
not of the kind that passes away and leaves no trace behind. The whole
course of her life and tenor of her thoughts were changed. She became a
strict Quakeress, not, however, without some conflict with herself.
There are pleasant little touches of human nature in the facts that she
found it a trial to say “thee” and “thou,” and to give up her scarlet
riding habit. Soon after this, at the age of twenty, she became the wife
of Mr. Joseph Fry, and removed to London, where she lived in St.
Mildred’s Court, in the City. The family into which she married were
Quakers, like her own, but of a much more severe and strict kind. Her
marriage was, however, in every respect a fortunate one. Her husband
sympathised deeply with her in all her efforts for the good of others,
and encouraged her in her public work, although many in the Society of
Friends did not scruple to protest that a married woman has no duties
except to her husband and children. Her journal shows how anxiously she
guarded herself against any temptation to neglect her home duties. She
was a tender and devoted mother to her twelve children, and it was
through her knowledge of the strength of a mother’s love that she was
able to reach the hearts of many of the poor prisoners whom she
afterwards helped out of the wretchedness into which they had fallen.

Her study of the problem, how to help the poor, began in this way. A
beggar-woman with a child in her arms stopped her in the street. Mrs.
Fry, seeing that the child had whooping-cough and was dangerously ill,
offered to go with the woman to her home in order more effectually to
assist her. To Mrs. Fry’s surprise, the woman immediately tried to make
off; it was evident what she wanted was a gift of money, not any help to
the suffering child. Mrs. Fry followed her, and found that her rooms
were filled with a crowd of farmed-out children in every stage of
sickness and misery; the more pitiable the appearance of one of these
poor mites, the more useful an implement was it in the beggar’s
stock-in-trade. From this time onwards the condition of women and
children in the lowest and most degraded of the criminal classes became
the study of Mrs. Fry’s life. She had the gift of speech on any subject
which deeply moved her. From about 1809 she began to speak at the
Friends’ meeting-house. This power of speaking, as well as working,
enabled her to draw about her an active band of co-workers. When she
first began visiting the female prisoners in Newgate it is probable that
she could not have supported all that she had to go through if it had
not been for the sympathy and companionship of Anna Buxton and other
Quaker ladies whom she had roused through her power of speech, just as
she had herself been roused when a girl by the preaching of William

The condition of the women and children in Newgate Prison, when Mrs. Fry
first began visiting them in 1813, was more horrible than anything that
can be easily imagined. Three hundred poor wretches were herded together
in two wards and two cells, with no furniture, no bedding of any kind,
and no arrangements for decency or privacy. Cursing and swearing, foul
language, and personal filthiness, made the dens in which the women were
confined equally offensive to ear, eye, nose, and sense of modesty. The
punishment of death at that time existed for 300 different offences, and
though there were many mitigations of the sentence in the case of those
who had only committed minor breaches of the law, yet the fact that
nearly all had by law incurred the penalty of death, gave an apparent
justification for herding the prisoners indiscriminately together. It
thus happened that many a poor girl who had committed a comparatively
trivial offence, became absolutely ruined in body and mind through her
contact in prison with the vilest and most degraded of women. No attempt
whatever was made to reform or discipline the prisoners, or to teach
them any trade whereby, on leaving the gaol, they might earn an honest
livelihood. Add to this that there were no female warders nor female
officers of any kind in the prison, and that the male warders were
frequently men of depraved life, and it is not difficult to see that no
element of degradation was wanting to make the female wards of Newgate
what they were often called—a hell on earth.

When Elizabeth Fry and Anna Buxton first visited this Inferno, there was
so little pretence at any kind of control over the prisoners, that the
Governor of Newgate advised the ladies to leave their watches behind
them at home. Mrs. Fry, with a wise instinct, felt that the best way of
influencing the poor, wild, rough women was to show her care for their
children. Many of the prisoners had their children with them in gaol,
and there were very few even of the worst who could not be reached by
care for their little ones. Even those who had no children were often
not without the motherly instinct, and could be roused to some measure
of self-restraint and decency for the sake of the children who were
being corrupted by their example. So Mrs. Fry’s first step towards
reforming the women took the form of starting a school for the children
in the prison. As usual in all good work of a novel kind, those who knew
nothing about it were quite sure that Mrs. Fry would have been much more
usefully employed if she had turned her energies in a different
direction. People who have never stirred a finger to lighten the misery
of mankind always know, so much better than the workers, what to do and
how to do it. They would probably tell a fireman who is entering a
burning house at the risk of his life, that he would be more usefully
employed in studying the chemical action of fire, or in pondering over
the indestructibility of matter. The popular feeling with regard to Mrs.
Fry’s work in Newgate was embodied by Thomas Hood in a ballad which is
preserved in his collected works, and serves now to show how wrong a
good and tender-hearted man may be in passing judgment on a work of the
value of which he was entirely unqualified to form an opinion. The
refrain of the poem is “Keep your school out of Newgate, Mrs. Fry”—

            I like the pity in your full-brimmed eye.
            I like your carriage and your silken gray,
            Your dove-like habits and your silent preaching,
            But I _don’t_ like your Newgatory teaching.
                ·        ·        ·        ·        ·
            No, I’ll be your friend, and like a friend
            Point out your very worst defect. Nay, never
            Start at that word! But I must ask you why
            You keep your school in Newgate, Mrs. Fry.

Mrs. Fry’s philanthropy was not of a kind to be checked by a ballad, and
she went on perseveringly with her work; the school was formed, and a
prisoner, named Mary Cormor, was the first schoolmistress. A wonderful
change gradually became apparent in the demeanour, language, and
appearance of the women in prison. In 1817 an association was formed for
carrying on the work Mrs. Fry had begun. It was called “An Association
for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate.” Its first
members were eleven Quakeresses and one clergyman’s wife. Public
attention was now alive to the importance of the work; and in the
following year a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed
to inquire and report upon the condition of the London prisons. Mrs. Fry
was examined before this committee. Her chief recommendations were that
the prisoners should be employed in some industry, and be paid for their
work, and that good conduct should be encouraged by rewards; she was
also most urgent that the women prisoners should be in the charge of
women warders. Her work in the prison naturally led her to consider the
condition and ultimate fate of women who were transported.
Transportation was then carried out upon a large scale, and all the
evils of the prison existed in an intensified form on board the
transport ships. The horrors of the voyage were followed by a brutal and
licentious distribution of the women on their arrival to colonists,
soldiers, and convicts, who went on board and took their choice of the
human cargo. Mrs. Fry’s efforts resulted in a check being placed on
these shameful barbarities. The women were, owing to her exertions, sent
out in charge of female warders, and they were provided with decent
accommodation on their arrival.

Like Howard, Mrs. Fry did not confine her efforts to the poor and
wretched of her own country. She visited foreign countries in order
thoroughly to study various methods of prison work and discipline. On
one occasion she found in Paris a congenial task in bringing the force
of public opinion to bear on the treatment of children in the Foundling
Hospital there. The poor babies were done up in swaddling clothes that
were only unwrapped once in twelve hours. There was no healthy screaming
in the wards, only a sound that a hearer compared to the faint and
pitiful bleating of lambs. A lady who visited the hospital said she
never made the round of the spotlessly clean white cots, without finding
at least one dead baby! Everything in the hospital was regulated by
clockwork; its outward appearance was clean and orderly in the extreme,
but the babies died like flies! The Archbishop of Paris was vastly
annoyed with Mrs. Fry for pointing out this drawback to the perfect
organisation of the institution; but when once the light was let in,
improvement followed.

There were many other classes of neglected or unfortunate people whose
circumstances were improved by Mrs. Fry’s exertions. The lonely
shepherds of Salisbury Plain were provided with a library after she had
visited the desolate region where they lived. She also organised a
lending library for coastguardsmen and for domestic servants. There was
no end to her active exertions for the good of others except that of her

She died at Ramsgate in 1845, and was buried at Barking.

Her private life was not without deep sorrows and anxieties. She lost a
passionately beloved child in 1815; in 1828 her husband was unfortunate
in his business affairs. They suffered from a great diminution of
fortune, and were obliged to remove to a smaller house and adopt a less
expensive style of living. She did not pretend to any indifference she
was far from feeling under these trials; but they were powerless to turn
her from the duties which she had marked out for herself. The work which
she had undertaken for the good of others probably became, in its turn,
her own solace and support in the hour of trial and affliction. In
helping others she had unconsciously built up a strong refuge for
herself, thus giving a new illustration to the truth of the words: “He
that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life, for my
sake, shall find it.”


                             MARY CARPENTER

  “That it may please Thee ... to show Thy pity upon all prisoners and

MARY CARPENTER was thirty-eight years old when Mrs. Fry died in 1845. We
do not hear, in reading the lives of either, that the two women ever
met, or that the elder directly stimulated the activity of the younger.
Yet the one most surely prepared the way for the other; their work was
upon the same lines, and Miss Carpenter, the Unitarian, of Bristol, was
the spiritual heir and successor of Mrs. Fry, the Quaker, of Norwich.

There is, it is true, a contrast in the manner in which the two women
approached their work in life. The aim of both was the rescue of what
Mary Carpenter called “the perishing and dangerous classes.” But while
Mrs. Fry was led, through her efforts on behalf of convicts, to
establish schools for them and their children, Mary Carpenter’s first
object was the school for neglected children, and through the knowledge
gained there she was led to form schemes for the reformation of
criminals and for a new system of prison discipline. Mrs. Fry worked
through convicts to schools; Mary Carpenter through schools to convicts.

It will not therefore be imagined that there is any want of appreciation
of Mrs. Fry when it is said that Mary Carpenter’s labours were more
effective, inasmuch as they were directed to the cause of the evil,
rather than to its results. By establishing reformatory and industrial
schools, and by obtaining, after long years of patient effort, the
sanction and support of Parliament for them, she virtually did more than
had up to that time ever been done in England, to stop the supply of
criminals. Children who were on the brink of crime, and those who had
actually fallen into criminal courses, were, through her efforts,
snatched away from their evil surroundings, and helped to become
respectable and industrious men and women. Before her time, magistrates
and judges had no choice, when a child criminal stood convicted before
them, but to sentence him to prison, whence he would probably come out
hopelessly corrupted and condemned for life to the existence of a beast
of prey. She says, in one of her letters, dated 1850: “A Bristol
magistrate told me that for twenty years he had felt quite unhappy at
going on committing these young culprits. And yet he had _done_
nothing!” The worse than uselessness of prisons for juvenile offenders
was a fact that was burnt into Mary Carpenter’s mind and heart by the
experience of her life. She was absolutely incapable of recognising the
evil and at the same time calmly acquiescing in it. Her magisterial
friend is the type of the common run of humanity, who satisfy their
consciences by saying, “Very grievous! very wrong!” and who do nothing
to remove the grievance and the wrong; she is the type of the
knights-errant of humanity, who never see a wrong without assailing it,
and endeavouring to remove the causes which produce it.

Mary Carpenter was born at Exeter in 1807, the eldest of five children,
several of whom have left their mark on the intellectual and moral
history of this century. There was all through her life a great deal of
the elder sister—one may almost say, of the mother—in Mary Carpenter. In
an early letter her mother speaks of the wonderfully tranquillising
influence of dolls on her little Mary. She never shrank from
responsibility, and she had a special capacity for protecting love—a
capacity that stood her in good stead in reclaiming the little waifs and
strays to whom she afterwards devoted herself. Her motherliness comes
out in a hundred ways in the story of her life. Her endless patience
with the truant and naughty children was such as many a real mother
might envy. She was especially proud of the title of “the old mother”
which the Indian women, whom she visited towards the close of her life,
gave her. In writing to a friend, she once said: “There is a verse in
the prophecies, ‘I have given thee children whom thou hast not borne,’
and the motherly love of my heart has been given to many who have never
known before a mother’s love.” She adopted a child in 1858 to be a
daughter to her, and writes gleefully: “Just think of me with a little
girl of _my own_! about five years old, ready-made to my hand, without
the trouble of marrying—a darling little thing, an orphan,” etc. etc.
Her friends spoke of her eager delight in buying the baby’s outfit.

It was her motherliness that made her so successful with the children in
the reformatories and industrial schools; moreover, the children
believed in her love for them. One little ragged urchin told a clergyman
that Miss Carpenter was a lady who gave away all her money for naughty
boys, and only kept enough to make herself clean and decent. On one
occasion she heard that two of her ex-pupils had “got into trouble,” and
were in prison at Winchester. She quickly found an opportunity of
visiting them, and one of them exclaimed, directly he saw her, “Oh! Miss
Carpenter, I knew you would not desert us!”

Another secret of her power, and also of her elasticity of spirit, was
her sense of humour. It was like a silver thread running through her
laborious life, saving her from dulness and despondency. In one of her
reports, which has to record the return of a runaway, she said: “He came
back resembling the prodigal in everything except his repentance!”

The motto which she especially made her own was _Dum doceo disco—While I
teach, I learn_. Her father had a school for boys in Bristol, and Mary
and her sister were educated in it. They were among the best of their
father’s pupils, one of whom, the Rev. James Martineau, has left a
record of the great impression Mary’s learning made upon him. She was
indeed very proficient in many branches of knowledge. Her education
included Latin, Greek, mathematics, and natural history; and the
exactness which her father and the nature of her studies demanded of
her, formed a most invaluable training for her after career. For many
years the acquisition of knowledge, for its own sake, was the chief joy
of her life; but a time came when it ceased to satisfy her. She was
rudely awakened from the delightful dreams of a student’s life by a
severe visitation of cholera at Bristol in 1832. From this period, and
indeed from a special day—that set apart as a fast-day in consequence of
the cholera—dates a solemn dedication of herself to the service of her
fellow-creatures. She wrote in her journal 31st March 1832, what her
resolution was, and concluded: “These things I have written to be a
witness against me, if ever I should forget what ought to be the object
of all my active exertions in life.” These solemn self-dedications are
seldom or never spoken of by those who make them. Records of them are
found sometimes in journals long after the hand that has written them is
cold. But, either written or unwritten, they are probably the rule
rather than the exception on the part of those who devote themselves to
the good of others. The world has recently learned that this was the
case with Lord Shaftesbury. There is a time when the knight-errant
consciously enrols himself a member of the noble band of warriors
against wrong and oppression, and takes upon himself his baptismal
vow—manfully to fight against sin, the world, and the devil, and to
continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant to his life’s end.

It must be remembered that when Mary Carpenter first began to exert
herself for the benefit of neglected children, there were no reformatory
or industrial schools, except those which had been established by the
voluntary efforts of philanthropists like herself. Aided by a band of
fellow-workers and wise advisers, chief of whom were Mr. Matthew
Davenport Hill, the Recorder of Birmingham, and his daughters; Dr.
Tuckerman, of the U.S.A.; Mr. Russell Scott, of Bath; Mr. Sheriff
Watson, of Aberdeen; and Lady Byron, Mary Carpenter set to work to
establish a voluntary reformatory school at Kingswood, near Bristol. Her
principle was that by surrounding children, who would otherwise be
criminals, with all the influences of a wholesome home life, there was a
better chance than by any other course, of reclaiming these children,
and making them useful members of society. To herd children together in
large, unhomelike institutions, was always, in Mary Carpenter’s view,
undesirable; the effect on character is bad; the more perfectly such
places are managed, the more nearly do the children in them become part
of a huge machine, and the less are their faculties, as responsible
human beings, developed. Over and over again, in books, in addresses,
and by the example of the institutions which she managed herself, Mary
Carpenter reiterated the lesson that if a child is to be rescued and
reformed, he must be placed in a family; and that where it is necessary,
for the good of society, to separate children on account of their own
viciousness, or that of their parents, from their own homes, the
institutions receiving them should be based on the family ideal so far
as possible. With this end in view, the children at Kingswood were
surrounded by as many home influences as possible. Miss Carpenter at one
time thought of living there herself, but this scheme was given up, in
deference to her mother’s wishes. She was, however, a constant visitor,
and a little room, which had once been John Wesley’s study, was fitted
up as a resting-place for her. On a pane of one of the windows of this
room her predecessor had written the words, “God is here.” She taught
the children herself, and provided them with rabbits, fowls, and pigs,
the care of which she felt would exercise a humanising influence upon
them. The whole discipline of the place was directed by her; one of her
chief difficulties was to get a staff of assistants with sufficient
faith in her methods to give them an honest trial. She did not believe
in a physical force morality. “We must not attempt,” she wrote, “to
_break_ the will, but to train it to govern itself wisely; and it must
be our great aim to call out the good, which exists even in the most
degraded, and make it conquer the bad.” After a year’s work at Kingswood
in this spirit, she writes very hopefully of the improvement already
visible in the sixteen boys and thirteen girls in her charge. The boys
could be trusted to go into Bristol on messages, and even “thievish
girls” could be sent out to shops with money, which they never thought
of appropriating.

But although the success of the institution was so gratifying, it had no
legal sanction; it had consequently no power to deal with runaways, and
the great mass of juvenile delinquents were still sentenced to prisons,
from which they emerged, like the man into whom seven devils entered, in
a state far worse than their first. Mary Carpenter’s work was not only
to prove the success of her methods of dealing with young criminals,
but, secondly, to convince the Government that the established system
was a bad one, and thirdly, and most difficult of all, to get them to
legislate on the subject. A long history of her efforts to obtain
satisfactory legislation for children of the perishing and dangerous
classes is given in her life, written by her nephew, Mr. J. Estlin
Carpenter. It is enough here to say that in the House of Lords, Lord
Shaftesbury, and in the House of Commons, Sir Stafford Northcote and Mr.
Adderley (afterwards Lord Iddesleigh and Lord Norton), were her chief
supporters. Mr. Lowe (now Lord Sherbrooke) was her chief opposer.
Liberal as she was, born and bred, as well as by heart’s conviction, she
confessed with some feeling of shame, that the Tories “are best in
_this_ work.” At last, in 1854, her efforts were crowned with success,
and the Royal Assent was given to the Youthful Offenders Bill, which
authorised the establishment of reformatory schools, under the sanction
of the Home Secretary.

It is a striking proof of the change that has taken place in the sphere
and social status of women, that Mary Carpenter, in the first half of
her active life, suffered what can be called nothing less than anguish,
from any effort which demanded from herself the least departure from
absolute privacy. When she began her work of convincing the public and
Parliament of the principles which ought to govern the education of
juvenile criminals, her nephew writes that to have spoken at a
conference in the presence of gentlemen, she would have felt, at that
time (1851), as tantamount to unsexing herself. When she was called upon
to give evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in
1852, her profound personal timidity made the occasion a painful ordeal
to her, which she was only enabled to support by the consciousness of
the needs of the children. Surely this excessive timidity arises from
morbid self-consciousness, rather than from true womanly modesty. Mary
Carpenter was enabled, by increasing absorption in her work, to throw it
off, and for her work’s sake she became able to speak in public with
ease and self-possession. She frequently spoke and read papers at the
Social Science Congresses, and at meetings of the British Association. A
letter from her brother Philip describes one of these occasions, at the
meeting in 1860 of the British Association at Oxford, when her subject
was, “Educational Help from the Government Grant to the Destitute and
Neglected Children of Great Britain.”

                                                       _“July ——, 1860._

“There was a great gathering of celebrities to hear her. It was in one
of the ancient schools or lecture-halls, which was crowded, evidently
not by the curious, but by those who really wanted to know what she had
to say. She stood up and read in her usual clear voice and expressive
enunciation.... It was, I suppose, the first time a woman’s voice had
read a lecture there before dignitaries of learning and the Church; but
as there was not the slightest affectation on the one hand, so on the
other hand there was neither a scorn nor an etiquettish politeness; but
they all listened to her as they would have listened to Dr. Rae about
Franklin, only with the additional feeling (expressed by the President,
Mr. Nassau Senior) that it was a matter of heart and duty, as well as

As years passed by, her work and responsibilities rapidly increased. It
is astonishing to read of the number of institutions, from ragged
schools upwards, of which she was practically the head and chief. Her
thoroughly practical and business-like methods of work, as well as her
obvious self-devotion and earnestness, ensured to her a large share of
public confidence and esteem, and although she was a Unitarian,
sectarian prejudices did not often thwart her usefulness. Two instances
to the contrary must, however, be given. In 1856 the Somersetshire
magistrates at the Quarter Sessions at Wells refused to sanction the
Girls’ Reformatory, established by Miss Carpenter at the Red Lodge,
Bristol, on account of the religious opinions of its foundress. They
appeared to have forgotten that “Pure religion and undefiled before God
and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their
affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” A more deeply
and truly religious spirit than Mary Carpenter’s never existed; but that
is the last thing that sectarian rancour takes heed of. The other little
bit of persecution she met with was regarded by herself and her friends
as something between a compliment and a joke. In 1864 she wrote a book
entitled _Our Convicts_. The work was received with commendation by
jurists in France, Germany, and the United States, but the crowning
honour of all was that the Pope placed her and her books on the “Index
Expurgatorius.” After this she felt that if she had lived in earlier
times she might have aspired to the crown of martyrdom.

The extraordinary energy and vitality of Mary Carpenter never declined.
When she was over sixty years of age she made four successive visits to
India, with the double object of arousing public opinion there about the
education of women, and the condition of convicts, especially of female
convicts. At the age of sixty-six she visited America. She had long been
deeply interested in the social and political condition of the United
States, and had many warm personal friends there. Her first impulse to
reformatory work had come from an American citizen, Dr. Tuckerman; her
sympathy and help had been abundantly bestowed upon the Abolitionist
party, and she was of course deeply thankful when the Civil War in
America ended as it did in the victory of the North, and in the complete
abolition of negro slavery in the United States. Her mind remained
vigorous and susceptible to new impressions and new enthusiasms to the
last. Every movement for elevating the position of women had her
encouragement. She frequently showed her approval of the movement for
women’s suffrage by signing petitions in its favour, and was convinced
that legislation affecting both sexes would never be what it ought to be
until women as well as men had the power of voting for Members of
Parliament. In 1877, within a month of her death, she signed the
memorial to the Senate of the London University in favour of the
admission of women to medical degrees.

She passed away peacefully in her sleep, without previous illness or
decline of mental powers, in June 1877, leaving an honoured name, and a
network of institutions for the reform of young criminals, and the
prevention of crime, of which our country will for many years to come
reap the benefit.


                           CAROLINE HERSCHEL

                 “As when by night the glass
       Of Galileo less assured observes
       Imagined lands and regions in the moon.”—_Paradise Lost._

EVERY one knows the fame of Sir William Herschel, the first
distinguished astronomer of that name, the builder and designer of the
forty-foot telescope, and the discoverer of the planet, called after
George III., Georgium Sidus. Hardly less well known is the name of his
sister, Caroline Herschel, who was her brother’s constant helper for
fifty years. She was the discoverer of eight comets; she received, for
her distinguished services to science, the gold medal of the Royal
Astronomical Society, and the gold medal conferred annually by the King
of Prussia for science; she was also made an honorary member of the
Royal Astronomical Society and of the Royal Irish Academy, and received
many other public marks of appreciation of the value of her astronomical
labours. Few women have done as much as she for the promotion of
science, and few have been more genuinely humble in their estimate of
their own attainments. Nothing made her more angry than any praise which
appeared, even in the slightest degree, to detract from the reputation
of her brother; over and over again she asserted that she was nothing
more than a tool which he had taken the trouble to sharpen. One of her
favourite expressions about herself was that she only “minded the
heavens” for her brother. “I am nothing,” she wrote; “I have done
nothing: all I am, all I know, I owe to my brother. I am only a tool
which he shaped to his use—a well-trained puppy-dog would have done as

Scientific men and scientific societies did not endorse Caroline
Herschel’s extremely humble estimate of herself. In the address to the
Astronomical Society by Mr. South, on presenting the medal to Miss
Herschel in 1828, the highest praise was conferred upon her as her
brother’s fellow-worker, and as an original observer. “She it was,” said
Mr. South, “who reduced every observation, made every calculation; she
it was who arranged everything in systematic order; and she it was who
helped him (Sir W. Herschel) to obtain his imperishable name. But her
claims to our gratitude do not end here: as an original observer she
demands, and I am sure she has, our unfeigned thanks.” He then narrates
the series of her astronomical discoveries, and adds, referring to the
brother and sister: “Indeed, in looking at the joint labours of these
extraordinary personages, we scarcely know whether most to admire the
intellectual power of the brother, or the unconquerable industry of his

The sharpest tool, or the best-trained puppy-dog in the world, could
hardly have earned such praise as this. Without endorsing what Caroline
said of herself in her generous wish to heighten the fame of her
brother, it must, however, be conceded that in a remarkable degree she
was what he made her. With an excellent, and indeed an exceptionally
powerful, natural understanding, she was ready to apply it in any
direction her brother chose. She was far from being a mere tool, but her
mind resembled a fine musical instrument upon which her brother was able
to play the lightest air or the grandest symphony, according as he
pleased. At his bidding she became, first, a prima donna, then an
astronomer; if he had so wished it, she would probably with equal
readiness and versatility have turned her attention to any other branch
of science or art. Caroline Herschel was, indeed, a fine example of what
devoted love can do to elevate the character and develop the natural
capacity of the understanding.

She was born in Hanover on the 16th March 1750, the youngest but one of
six children. Her exceptionally long life of nearly ninety-eight years
closed in January 1848. Her memory, therefore, included the earthquake
of Lisbon, the whole French Revolution, the meteor-like rise and fall of
Napoleon, and all the history of modern Europe to the eve of the
socialistic outbreak of 1848. Her family life, before she left Germany,
was of the narrowest possible kind. She had only one sister, seventeen
years older than herself; and as Sophia Herschel married early, Caroline
became the only girl in her family circle, and to the full was she kept
to those exclusively feminine pursuits and occupations which the
proprieties of Germany at that time enforced. Her mother appears to have
been enthusiastically opposed to the education of girls. Her father
wished to give her a good education, but the mother insisted that
nothing of the kind should be attempted. How she learned to read and
write we are not told in the biography written by her grand-niece, Mrs.
J. Herschel. These accomplishments were by no means common among German
women of the humbler middle class a hundred years ago. She did, however,
acquire them, in spite of her mother’s decree that two or three months’
training in the art of making household linen was all the education that
Caroline required. Her father, who was a professional musician himself,
wished to teach her music, but could only do so by stealth, or by taking
advantage of half an hour now and then, when his wife was in an
exceptionally good temper. In a letter, written when she was
eighty-eight years old, Caroline recalls these furtive hours stolen from
the serious occupations of her life, which then consisted in sewing,
“ornamental needlework, knitting, plaiting hair, and stringing beads and
bugles.” “It was my lot,” she writes, “to be the Cinderella of the
family.... I could never find time for improving myself in many things I
knew, and which, after all, proved of no use to me afterwards, except
what little I knew of music ... which my father took a pleasure in
teaching me—_N.B., when my mother was not at home. Amen._”

Very early in her life her brother William became Caroline’s idol and
hero. He was twelve years older than herself, and distinguished himself
among the group of brothers for tenderness and kindness to the little
maiden. Her eldest brother, Jacob, was a fastidious gentleman, and
Caroline’s inability to satisfy his requirements for nicety at table and
as a waitress, often earned her a whipping. But her brother William’s
gentility was of a different order. She narrates one instance, which
doubtless was a specimen of others, when “My dear brother William threw
down his knife and fork and ran to welcome and crouched down to me,
which made me forget all my grievances.” Little did William or Caroline
guess that in the kind brother soothing the little sister’s trouble, the
future astronomer was “sharpening the tool” that was hereafter to be of
such inestimable service to him.

The connection of England and Hanover under one crown caused an intimate
association between the two countries. William Herschel’s first visit to
England was as a member of the band of the regiment of which his father
was bandmaster. On this first visit to England, William expended his
little savings in buying Locke’s “Essay on the Human Understanding.”
Jacob made an equally characteristic purchase of specimens of English
tailoring art. These professional journeys to England led, in the course
of time, to William Herschel establishing himself as a music-master and
professional musician at Bath. This, however, he very early regarded
merely as a means to an end. He taught music to live, but he lived for
his astronomical studies and for the inventions and improvements in
telescopes which he afterwards introduced to the world. When Caroline
was seventeen years old, her father died, leaving his family very ill
provided for; Caroline was more closely than ever confined to the tasks
of a household drudge and to endeavouring to supply home-made luxuries
for Jacob. This went on for five years, the mother and sister slaving
night and day in order that Jacob might cut a figure in the world not
humbling to the family pride. In 1772 William Herschel unexpectedly
arrived from England, and his short visit ended in his sister Caroline
returning with him to Bath. She left, as she writes with some awe, even
after an interval of many years, “without receiving the consent of my
eldest brother to my going.”

There could not possibly be a greater contrast than that between
Caroline’s life in Hanover and her life in England. From being a
maid-of-all-work in a not very interesting family, where there was a
dull monotony in her daily routine of drudgery, she found she was to
become a public singer, an astronomer’s apprentice, and an assistant
manufacturer of scientific instruments; she was not only her brother’s
housekeeper, but his helper and coadjutor in every act of his life.
Nothing is more remarkable than the account of the life of William and
Caroline Herschel at Bath. He frequently gave from thirty-five to forty
music-lessons a week; this, with his work as director of public
concerts, kept the wolf from the door, and, needless to say, occupied
his daylight hours with tolerable completeness. The nights were given to
“minding the heavens,” or to making instruments necessary for minding
them much more efficiently than had hitherto been possible. Every room
in the house was converted into a workshop. William Herschel literally
worked on, night and day, without rest, his sister on several occasions
keeping him alive by putting bits of food into his mouth while he was
still working. Once when he was finishing a seven-foot mirror for his
telescope, he never took his hands from it for sixteen hours. The great
work of constructing the forty-foot telescope took place at Bath; and at
Bath also, while still practising the profession of a music-master,
Herschel discovered the Georgium Sidus, and was acknowledged as the
leading authority on astronomy in England.

Up to the time of Herschel’s improvements, six or eight inches used to
be considered a large size for the mirror of an astronomical telescope.
His first great telescope had a twelve-foot mirror. There is a most
exciting account in Mrs. Herschel’s Life of Caroline Herschel, of the
failure of the first casting of the mirror for the thirty-foot
reflector. The molten metal leaked from the vessel containing it and
fell on the stone floor, pieces of which flew about in all directions as
high as the ceiling. The operators fortunately escaped without serious
injury. “My poor brother fell, exhausted with heat and exertion, on a
heap of brickbats.” The disappointment must have been intense, but
nothing ever baffled these indefatigable workers, and the second casting
was a complete success.

Five years after she had joined her brother at Bath, Caroline made her
first appearance as a public singer. She was very successful, and her
friends anticipated that her well-cultivated and beautiful voice would
become a means of providing her with an ample income. She, however, had
so fully identified herself with her brother’s astronomical labours,
that she only regarded her musical acquirements as a means of setting
him free to devote himself more completely to the real object of his
life. His fame as a maker of telescopes had by this time spread all over
Europe, and many scientific societies, royal persons, and other
celebrities, ordered telescopes of him. On these orders he was able to
realise a large profit, but Caroline always grudged the time devoted to
their execution. Her aim for her brother was not that he should become
rich or even well-to-do, but that he should devote himself unreservedly
to advance the progress of astronomical science. She was ready to live
on a crust, and to give herself up to the most pinching economies and
even privations, for this end. She was the keeper of her brother’s
purse, and received his commands to spend therefrom anything that was
necessary for herself; her thrift and self-denial may be judged from the
fact that the sum thus abstracted for her own personal wants seldom
amounted to more than £7 or £8 a year.

The next great change in the life of the brother and sister took place
in 1782, when William Herschel left Bath and was appointed
Astronomer-Royal by George the Third. His salary of only £200 a year
involved a great loss of income, but this, in his eyes, was a small
matter in comparison with the advantage of having his time entirely free
to give up to his favourite studies. They bade farewell to Bath, and
settled first at Datchet, shortly after, however, removing to Slough.
Caroline had dismal visions of bankruptcy, but William was in the
highest spirits, and declared that they would live on eggs and bacon,
“which would cost nothing to speak of, now that they were really in the

Caroline was now installed as an assistant astronomer, and was given a
telescope, which she calls a “seven-foot Newtonian Sweeper”; and she was
instructed, whenever she had an evening not in attendance on her
brother, to “sweep for comets”; but her principal business appears, at
this time, to have been waiting on her brother, and writing down the
results of his observations; they worked quite as hard as they had done
at Bath. They laboured at the manufacture of instruments all day, and at
the observation of the heavens all night. No severity of weather, if the
sky was clear, ever kept them from their posts. The ink often froze with
which Caroline was writing down the results of her brother’s
observations. It has been well said that if it had not been for
occasional cloudy nights, they must have died of overwork. The apparatus
for erecting the great forty-foot telescope, and the iron and woodwork
for its various motions, were all designed by William Herschel, and
fixed under his immediate direction. His sister, in her _Recollections_,
wrote: “I have seen him stretched many an hour in the burning sun across
the top beam, whilst the iron-work for the various motions was being
fixed.” The penurious salary granted to William Herschel was
supplemented by special grants for the removal and the erection of all
this machinery; and in 1787 Caroline’s services to her brother were
publicly recognised by her receiving the appointment of assistant to her
brother at a salary of £50 a year. She was at all times grateful to
members of the royal family for acts of kindness shown by them to her
brother and herself; but it is evident that she felt that, so far as
money was concerned, she had not much cause for gratitude to the royal
bounty. She points out that at the time when Parliament was granting
George III. the sum of £80,000 a year for encouraging science, £200 was
considered a sufficient salary for the first astronomer of the day; and
yet money could flow liberally enough in some directions, for £30,000
was at that time being spent on the altar-piece of St. George’s Chapel,
Windsor. Even Caroline’s little salary of £50 a year was not regularly
paid. It was a trial to her again to become a pensioner on her brother’s
purse, and it was not till nine quarters of her official salary remained
unpaid, that she reluctantly applied to him for help. No wonder that in
reading, after her brother’s death, an account of his life and its
achievements, she remarks, “The favours of monarchs ought to have been
mentioned, _but once would have been enough_.”

It was after her brother’s marriage, in 1788, that the majority of
Caroline’s astronomical discoveries were made. She discovered her first
comet in 1786, her eighth and last in 1797. She was recognised as a
comrade by all the leading astronomers of Europe, and received many
letters complimenting her on her discoveries. One from De la Lande
addressed her as “Savante Miss,” while another from the Rev. Dr.
Maskelyne saluted her as “My worthy sister in astronomy.” Royal and
other distinguished visitors constantly visited the wonderful forty-foot
telescope at Slough, and either William Herschel or his sister were
required to be in attendance to explain its marvels. The Prince of
Orange, on one occasion, called, and left an extraordinary message “to
ask Mr. Herschel, or if he was not at home, Miss Herschel, if it was
true that Mr. Herschel had discovered a new star, whose light was not as
that of the common stars, but with swallow-tails, as stars in
embroidery.” The only glimpse we get, through the peaceful labours of
Caroline’s long life, of the strife and turmoil of the French
Revolution, is the note she makes of the visit, to her brother’s
observatory, of the Princesse de Lamballe. “About a fortnight after
this,” the diarist observes, “her head was off.” The absence of all
comment upon the wonderful political events of the time is noticeable,
and so also is Caroline’s thinly-veiled contempt for any science less
sublime than that to which she and her brother were devoted. Her
youngest brother, Dietrich, was a student of the insect world. “He
amuses himself with insects,” she wrote to her nephew; “it is well he
does not see the word _amuses_, for whenever he catches a fly with a leg
more than usual, he says it is as good as catching a comet.” Her
brother’s marriage, though far from welcome at the time it took place,
was a great blessing to her; for it gave her a most tender and
affectionate sister, and ultimately a nephew, the inheritor of his
father’s great gifts, and the being to whom, after William Herschel’s
death in 1822, Caroline transferred all the devoted and passionate
attachment of which her nature was capable.

The great mistake of her life was going back to Germany after Sir W.
Herschel’s death in 1822. She was then seventy-two years of age, and the
previous fifty years of her life, containing all her most precious
memories and associations, had been spent in England. In this country,
also, were all those who were dearest to her. Yet, no sooner was her
brother dead, than she felt life in England to be an impossibility. She
little thought that she had still twenty-six years to live; indeed she
had long been under the impression that her end was near, but while her
brother lived she kept this to herself, because she wished to be useful
to him as long as she possibly could. She never really re-acclimatised
herself to Germany. “Why did I leave happy England?” she often said. The
one German institution she thoroughly enjoyed was the winter series of
concerts and operas, which she constantly attended, and she mentions
with pleasure, in her letters, that she was “always sure to be noticed
by the Duke of Cambridge as his countrywoman, and that is what I want; I
will be no Hanoverian.” She laments the death of William IV., chiefly
because, by causing a separation of the crowns of England and Hanover,
it seemed to break a link between herself and the country of her

She never revisited England, but she kept up a constant communication
with it by letters to her sister-in-law, her nephew, and later to her
niece, Sir John Herschel’s wife. At that time the post between London
and Hanover was an affair of fifteen days, and letters were carried by a
monthly messenger, of whose services she seldom failed to avail herself.
She took the keenest interest in her nephew’s distinguished career. His
letters to her are full of astronomy. In 1832 he made a voyage to the
Cape to observe the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. When Miss Herschel
first heard of the intended voyage she refused to believe it. But when
she was really convinced of it, the old impulse was as strong upon her
as upon a war-horse who hears the trumpet. “Ja! if I was thirty or forty
years younger and could go too!” she exclaimed.

On 1st January 1840 the tube of the celebrated forty-foot telescope was
closed with a sort of family celebration. A requiem, composed by Sir
John Herschel for the occasion, was chanted, and he and Lady Herschel,
with their seven children and some old servants, walked in procession
round it, singing as they went. On hearing of this from Slough, Miss
Herschel recalls that the famous telescope had also been inaugurated
with music. “God save the King” had then been sung in it, the whole
company from the dinner-table mounting into the tube, and taking any
musical instruments they could get hold of, to form a band and

The most laborious of all her undertakings she accomplished after her
brother’s death. It was “The Reduction and Arrangement in the form of a
catalogue, in Zones, of all the Star Clusters and Nebulæ, observed by
Sir W. Herschel in his Sweeps.” It was for this that the gold medal of
the Royal Astronomical Society was voted to her in 1828.

All through her life in Hanover she lived with the most careful economy,
seldom or never consenting to draw upon Sir John Herschel for the
annuity of £100 that had been left her by her brother. She said it was
impossible for her to spend more than £50 a year without making herself
ridiculous. The only luxuries she granted herself were her concert and
opera tickets, and her English bed, which all sufferers from the inhuman
German bedding must be thankful to hear she possessed. The
self-forgetfulness and devotion to others which had characterised her in
youth accompanied her to her grave. Every detail with regard to the
disposition of her property and the arrangements for her funeral had
been made by herself, with the view of giving as little trouble as
possible to her nephew, and making the smallest encroachment upon his
time. In her latest moments her only thought for herself was embodied in
a request that a lock of her beloved brother’s hair might be laid with
her in her coffin.


                              SARAH MARTIN


  “Two men I honour and no third. First the toilworn craftsman that
  with earth-made Implement laboriously conquers the earth and makes
  her man’s.... A second man I honour, and still more highly: Him who
  is seen toiling for the spiritually indispensable; not daily bread,
  but the bread of Life.... Unspeakably touching is it however when I
  find both dignities united; and he that must toil outwardly for the
  lowest of man’s wants, is also toiling inwardly for the highest.
  Sublimer in this world know I nothing than the Peasant Saint, could
  such now anywhere be met with. Such a one will take thee back to
  Nazareth itself; thou wilt see the splendour of Heaven spring forth
  from the humblest depths of Earth, like a light shining in great
  darkness.”—_Sartor Resartus_, pp. 157, 158.

EVERY one of us has probably been tempted at one time or another to say
or think when asked to join in some good work, “If only I had more time
or more money, I would take it up.” It is good for us, therefore, to be
reminded that neither leisure nor wealth are necessary to those whose
hearts are fixed upon the earnest desire to leave this world a little
better and a little happier than they found it.

This lesson was wonderfully taught by Sarah Martin, a poor dressmaker,
who was born at Caister, near Great Yarmouth, in 1791. In her own
locality she did as great a work in solving the problems of prison
discipline, and how to improve the moral condition of prisoners, as Mrs.
Fry was doing about the same time upon a larger scale in London. It is
very extraordinary that this poor woman, who was almost entirely
self-educated, and who was dependent on daily toil for daily bread,
should have been able, through her own mother-wit and native goodness of
heart, to see the evil and provide the same remedies for it as were in
course of time provided throughout the land, as the result of study
given to the subject, by statesmen, philosophers, and philanthropists.

When Sarah Martin first began to visit the prison at Great Yarmouth,
there was no sort of provision for the moral or educational improvement
of the prisoners. There was no chaplain, there were no religious
services, there was no school, and there was no employment of any kind,
except what Satan finds for idle hands to do. The quiet, little,
gentle-voiced dressmaker changed all this.

She was first led to visit the prison in 1819, through the compassionate
horror which filled her when she heard of the committal to prison of a
woman for brutally ill-treating her child. Without any introduction or
recommendation from influential persons, she knocked timidly at the gate
of the prison, and asked leave to see this woman. She had not told a
single human creature of her intention, not even her grandmother, with
whom she lived. She was fearful lest she should be overcome by the
counsels of worldly wisdom that she had better mind her own business,
that the woman’s wickedness was no concern of hers, and so forth. Her
first application at the gaol was unsuccessful; but she tried again, and
the second time she was admitted without any question whatever. Once in
the presence of the prisoner, the first inquiry by which she was met was
a somewhat rough one as to the object of her visit. When the poor
creature heard and felt all the deep compassion which had moved Sarah
Martin to her side, she burst into tears, and with many expressions of
contrition and gratitude besought her visitor to help her to be a better

From the date of this visit, the best energies of Sarah Martin’s life
were devoted to improving the lot of the prisoners in Great Yarmouth
Gaol. She did not—indeed, she could not—give up her dressmaking. She
worked out at her customers’ houses, earning about 1s. 3d. a day. Her
first resolve was to give up always one day a week to her prison work,
and as many other days as she could spare. She began teaching the
prisoners to read and write; she also read to them, and told them
stories. A deeply religious woman herself, it pained her that there were
no services of any kind in the prison, and she prevailed upon the
prisoners to gather together on Sunday mornings and read to one another.
To encourage them in this she attended herself, not at first as the
conductor of the service, but as a fellow-worshipper. This was very
typical of her method and character. She was among them as one who
served, not as one seeking power and authority. Another illustration of
this sweet humility in her character may be given. She wished those of
her pupils who could read to learn each day a few Bible texts; and she
always learned some herself, and said them with the prisoners. Sometimes
an objection was made. In her own words, “Many said at first, ‘It would
be of no use,’ and my reply was, ‘It is of use to me, and why should it
not be so to you? You have not tried it, but I have.’” There was a
simplicity in this, a complete absence of the “Depart from me, for I am
holier than thou,” which was irresistible, and always silenced excuse.

Soon after the commencement of the Sunday services in the prison, it was
found necessary, through the difficulty of finding a reader, that Sarah
Martin herself should conduct the service. At first she used to read a
sermon from a book, but later she wrote her own sermons, and later still
she was able to preach without writing beforehand. According to the
testimony of Captain Williams, the Inspector of Prisons for the
district, the whole service was in a high degree reverent and
impressive. The prisoners listened with deep attention to the clear,
melodious voice of their self-appointed pastor.

At no time did she seek to obtain from the governor of the prison any
authority over the prisoners; that is, she never sought to control them
against their will; authority over them she had, but it was the
authority which proceeded from her own personal influence. The prisoners
did what she wished, because they knew her devotion to them. Her hold
over them is best proved by the fact that never but once did she meet
from them with anything that could be called rudeness or insult.

Next to her care for godliness and education, her chief thoughts were
given to provide employment for the prisoners, first for the women, and
then for the men. A gentleman gave her 10s., and in the same week
another gave her £1. Her gratitude for the possession of this small
capital is touching to read of. She expended it in the purchase of
materials for baby-clothes, and borrowing patterns, she set the women to
work upon making little shifts and wrappers. The garments, when
completed, were sold for the benefit of the women who had made them.

Her capital grew from thirty shillings to seven guineas, and in all more
than £400 worth of clothing, made in this way, was sold. The advantages
were twofold. First, the women were employed and taught to sew, and
secondly, each woman was enabled to earn a small sum, which was saved
for her till the time of her release from prison. This money was
frequently the means of giving the discharged prisoner a chance of
starting a new life and gaining an honest livelihood.

Sarah Martin gave particular attention to this very important branch of
her work. A man or a woman just out of prison, branded with all the
stigma and disgrace of the gaol, is too often almost forced back into
crime as the only means of livelihood. Endless were the devices and
schemes which Sarah Martin employed to prevent this. She would seek out
respectable lodgings for the prisoners on their discharge; she would see
their former employers and entreat that another chance might be given;
her note-books and diaries are filled with items of her own personal
expenditure in setting up her poor clients with the small stock-in-trade
or the tools necessary to start some simple business on their own

After many years of patient and devoted work she was well known
throughout the whole town and neighbourhood, and was no longer entirely
dependent on her own slender earnings. Her grandmother died in 1826, and
she then inherited a small income of about £12 a year. She removed into
Yarmouth, and hired two rooms in a poor part of the town. Shortly after
this she entirely gave up working as a dressmaker. She could not, of
course, live on the little annuity she inherited from her grandmother;
this was not much more than enough to pay for her rooms. But she did not
fear for herself. Her personal wants were of the simplest description,
and she said herself that she had no care: “God, who had called me into
the vineyard, had said, ‘Whatsoever is right, I will give you.’” It
would, indeed, have been to the discredit of Yarmouth if such a woman
had been suffered to be in want. Many gifts were sent to her, but she
scrupulously devoted everything that reached her to the prisoners,
unless the donor expressly stated that it was not for her charities but
for herself. About 1840, after twenty-one years’ work in the prison and
workhouse of the town, the Corporation of Yarmouth urged her to accept a
small salary from the borough funds. She at first refused, because it
was painful to her that the prisoners should ever regard her in any
other light than as their disinterested friend; she feared that if she
accepted the money of the Corporation she would be looked upon as merely
one of the gaol functionaries, and that they would “rank her with the
turnkeys and others who got their living by the duties which they
discharged.” It was urged upon her that this view was a mistaken one,
and she was advised at least to accept a small salary as an experiment.
She replied, “To try the experiment, which might injure the thing I live
and breathe for, seems like applying a knife to your child’s throat to
know if it will cut. As for my circumstances, I have not a wish
ungratified, and am more than content.” The following year, however, it
was evident that her health was giving way, and another attempt was
made, which ended in the Corporation voting her the small sum of £12 a
year, not as a salary, but as a voluntary gift to one who had been of
such inestimable service to the town. She did not live long after this.
Her health gradually became feebler, but she continued her daily work at
the gaol till 17th April 1843. After that date she never again left her
rooms, and after a few months of intense suffering, she died on the 15th
October. When the nurse who was with her told her the end was near, she
clasped her hands together and exclaimed, “Thank God, thank God.” They
were her last words. She was buried at Caister; the tombstone which
marks her grave bears an inscription dictated by herself, giving simply
her name and the dates of her birth and death, with a reference to the
chapter of Corinthians which forms part of the Church of England Service
for the Burial of the Dead. Well, indeed, is it near that grave, and
full of the thoughts inspired by that life, for us to feel that “Death
is swallowed up in victory.”

The citizens of Yarmouth marked their gratitude and veneration for her
by putting a stained-glass window to her memory in St. Nicholas’s
Church. Her name is reverently cherished in her native town. Dr.
Stanley, who was Bishop of Norwich at the time of her death, gave
expression to the general feeling when he said, “I would canonise Sarah
Martin if I could!”


                            MARY SOMERVILLE

MARY SOMERVILLE, the most remarkable scientific woman our country has
produced, was born at Jedburgh in 1780. Her father was a naval officer,
and in December 1780 had just parted from his wife to go on foreign
service for some years. She had accompanied her husband to London, and
on returning home to Scotland was obliged to stay at the Manse of
Jedburgh, the home of her brother-in-law and sister, Dr. and Mrs.
Somerville. Here little Mary was born, in the house of her uncle and
aunt, who afterwards became her father and mother-in-law, for her second
husband was their son. In the interesting reminiscences she has left of
her life, she records the curious fact that she was born in the home of
her future husband, and was nursed by his mother.

Mary was of good birth on both sides. Her father was Admiral Sir William
Fairfax, of the well-known Yorkshire family of that name, which had
furnished a General to the Parliamentary army in the civil wars of the
reign of Charles I. This family was connected with that of the famous
American patriot, George Washington. During the American War of
Independence, Mary Somerville’s father, then Lieutenant Fairfax, was on
board his ship on an American station, when he received a letter from
General Washington, claiming cousinship with him, and inviting the young
man to pay him a visit. The invitation was not accepted, but Lieutenant
Fairfax’s daughter lived to regret that the letter which conveyed it had
not been preserved. Admiral Fairfax was concerned with Admiral Duncan in
the famous victory of Camperdown, and gave many proofs that he was in
every way a gallant sailor and a brave man. Mary Somerville’s mother was
of an ancient Scottish family named Charters. The pride of descent was
very strongly marked among her Scotch relatives. Lady Fairfax does not
seem much to have sympathised with her remarkable child. Mary, however,
inherited some excellent qualities from both parents. Lady Fairfax was,
in some ways, as courageous as her husband; notwithstanding a full
allowance of Scotch superstitions and a special terror of storms and
darkness, she had what her daughter called “presence of mind and the
courage of necessity.” On one occasion the house she was living in was
in the greatest danger of being burned down. The flames of a
neighbouring fire had spread till they reached the next house but one to
that which she occupied. Casks of turpentine and oil in a neighbouring
carriage manufactory were exploding with the heat. Lady Fairfax made all
the needful preparations for saving her furniture, and had her family
plate and papers securely packed. She assembled in the house a
sufficient number of men to move the furniture out, if needs were. Then
she quietly remarked, “Now let us breakfast; it is time enough for us to
move our things when the next house takes fire.” The next house, after
all, did not take fire, and, while her neighbours lost half their
property by throwing it recklessly into the street, before the actual
necessity for doing so had arisen, Lady Fairfax suffered no loss at all.
The same kind of cool courage was often exhibited by Mary Somerville in
later life. On one occasion she stayed with her family at Florence
during a severe outbreak of cholera there, when almost every one who
could do so had fled panic-stricken from the city.

During the long absences of Sir William Fairfax on foreign service, Lady
Fairfax and her children led a very quiet life at the little seaside
village of Burntisland, just opposite to Edinburgh, on the Firth of
Forth. As a young child, Mary led a wild, outdoor life, with hardly any
education, in the ordinary sense of the word, though there is no doubt
that in collecting shells, fossils, and seaweeds, in watching and
studying the habits and appearance of wild birds, and in gazing at the
stars through her little bedroom window, the whole life of this
wonderful child was really an education of the great powers of her mind.
However, when her father returned from sea about 1789 he was shocked to
find Mary “such a little savage”; and it was resolved that she must be
sent to a boarding school. She remained there a year and learned nothing
at all. Her lithesome, active, well-formed body was enclosed in stiff
stays, with a steel busk in front; a metal rod, with a semicircle which
went under the chin, was clasped to this busk, and in this instrument of
torture she was set to learn columns of Johnson’s dictionary by heart.
This was the process which at that time went by the name of education in
girls’ schools. Fortunately she was not kept long at school. Mary had
learned nothing, and her mother was angry that she had spent so much
money in vain. She would have been content, she said, if Mary had only
learnt to write well and keep accounts, which was all that a woman was
expected to know. After this Mary soon commenced the process of
self-education which only ended with her long life of ninety-two years.
She not only learnt all she could about birds, beasts, fishes, plants,
eggs and seaweeds, but she also found a Shakespeare which she read at
every moment when she could do so undisturbed. A little later her mother
moved into Edinburgh for the winter, and Mary had music lessons, and by
degrees taught herself Latin. The studious bent of her mind had now
thoroughly declared itself; but till she was about fourteen she had
never received a word of encouragement about her studies. At that age
she had the good fortune to pay a visit to her uncle and aunt at
Jedburgh, in whose house she had been born. Her uncle, Dr. Somerville,
was the first person who ever encouraged and helped her in her studies.
She ventured to confide in him that she had been trying to learn Latin
by herself, but feared it was no use. He reassured her by telling her of
the women in ancient times who had been classical scholars. He moreover
read Virgil with her for two hours every morning in his study. A few
years later than this she taught herself Greek enough to read Xenophon
and Herodotus, and in time she became sufficiently proficient in the
language to thoroughly appreciate its greatest literature.

One of the most striking things about her was the many-sided character
of her mind. Some people—men as well as women—who are scientific or
mathematical seem to care for nothing but science or mathematics; but it
may be truly said of her that “Everything was grist that came to her
mill.” There was hardly any branch of art or knowledge which she did not
delight in. She studied painting under Mr. Nasmyth in Edinburgh, and he
declared her to be the best pupil he had ever had. Almost to the day of
her death she delighted in painting and drawing. She was also an
excellent musician and botanist. The special study with which her name
will always be associated was mathematics as applied to the study of the
heavens, but she also wrote on physical geography and on microscopic
science. It is sometimes thought that if women are learned they are
nearly sure to neglect their domestic duties, or that, in the witty
words of Sydney Smith, “if women are permitted to eat of the tree of
knowledge, the rest of the family will soon be reduced to the same
aerial and unsatisfactory diet.” Mrs. Somerville was a living proof of
the folly of this opinion. She was an excellent housewife and a
particularly skilful needlewoman. She astonished those who thought a
scientific woman could not understand anything of cookery, by her
notable preparation of black currant jelly for her husband’s throat on
their wedding journey. On one occasion she supplied with marmalade, made
by her own hands, one of the ships that were being fitted out for a
Polar expedition. She was a most loving wife and tender mother as well
as a devoted and faithful friend. She gave up far more time than most
mothers do to the education of her children. Her love of animals,
especially of birds, was very strongly developed. With all her devotion
to science she was horrified at the barbarities of vivisection, and
cordially supported those who have successfully exerted themselves to
prevent it from spreading in England to the same hideous proportions
which it has reached on the continent of Europe. Many pages of one of
her learned works were written with a little tame mountain sparrow
sitting on her shoulder. On one occasion, having been introduced to the
Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone, she says he quite won her heart by
exclaiming, in reference to the number of little birds that were eaten
in Italy, “What! robins! Eat a robin! I would as soon eat a child.”

Her first husband, Mr. Samuel Greig, only lived three years after their
marriage in 1804. He appears to have been one of those men of inferior
capacity, who dislike and dread intellectual power in women. He had a
very low opinion of the intelligence of women, and had himself no
interest in, nor knowledge of, any kind of science. When his wife was
left a widow with two sons at the early age of twenty-seven, she
returned to her father’s house in Scotland, and worked steadily at
mathematics. She profited by the instructions of Professor Wallace, of
the University of Edinburgh, and gained a silver medal from one of the
mathematical societies of that day. Nearly all the members of her family
were still loud in their condemnation of what they chose to regard as
her eccentric and foolish behaviour in devoting herself to science
instead of society. There were, however, exceptions. Her Uncle and Aunt
Somerville and their son William did not join in the chorus of
disapprobation which her studies provoked. With them she found a real
home of loving sympathy and encouragement. In 1812 she and her cousin
William were married. His delight and pride in her during their long
married life of nearly fifty years were unbounded. For the first time in
her life she now had the daily companionship of a thoroughly sympathetic
spirit. Much of what the world owes to her it owes indirectly to him,
because he stimulated her powers, and delighted in anything that brought
them out. He was in the medical department of the army, and scientific
pursuits were thoroughly congenial to him. He had a fine and well
cultivated mind which he delighted in using to further his wife’s
pursuits. He searched libraries for the books she required, “copying and
recopying her manuscripts to save her time.” In the words of one of
their daughters, “No trouble seemed too great which he bestowed upon
her; it was a labour of love.” When Mrs. Somerville became famous
through her scientific writings, the other members of her family, who
had formerly ridiculed and blamed her, became loud in her praise. She
knew how to value such commendation in comparison with that which she
had constantly received from her husband. She wrote about this, “The
warmth with which my husband entered into my success deeply affected me;
for not one in ten thousand would have rejoiced at it as he did; but he
was of a generous nature, far above jealousy, and he continued through
life to take the kindest interest in all I did.” Mrs. Somerville’s first
work, _The Mechanism of the Heavens_, would probably never have been
written but at the instance of Lord Brougham, whose efforts were warmly
supported by those of Mr. Somerville. In March 1827 Lord Brougham, on
behalf of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, wrote a
letter begging Mrs. Somerville to write an account of Newton’s
_Principia_ and of La Place’s _Mécanique Céleste_. In reference to the
latter book he wrote, “In England there are now not twenty people who
know this great work, except by name, and not a hundred who know it even
by name. My firm belief is that Mrs. Somerville could add two cyphers to
each of these figures.” Mrs. Somerville was overwhelmed with
astonishment at this request. She was most modest and diffident of her
own powers, and honestly believed that her self-acquired knowledge was
so greatly inferior to that of the men who had been educated at the
universities, that it would be the height of presumption for her to
attempt to write on the subject. The persuasions of Lord Brougham and of
her husband at last prevailed so far that she promised to make the
attempt; on the express condition, however, that her manuscript should
be put into the fire unless it fulfilled the expectations of those who
urged its production. “Thus suddenly,” she writes, “the whole character
and course of my future life was changed.” One is tempted to believe
that this first plunge into authorship was, to some extent, stimulated
by a loss of nearly all their fortune which had a short time before
befallen Mr. and Mrs. Somerville. Before authorship has become a habit,
the whip of poverty is often needed to rouse a student to the exertion
and labour it requires. The impediments to authorship in Mrs.
Somerville’s case were more than usually formidable. In the memoirs she
has left of this part of her life, she speaks of the difficulty which
she experienced as the mother of a family and the head of a household in
keeping any time free for her work. It was only after she had attended
to social and family duties that she had time for writing, and even then
she was subjected to many interruptions. The Somervilles were then
living at Chelsea, and she felt at that distance from town, it would be
ungracious to decline to receive those who had come out to call upon
her. But she groans at the remembrance of the annoyance she sometimes
felt when she was engaged in solving a difficult problem, by the entry
of a well-meaning friend, who would calmly announce, “I have come to
spend an hour or two with you.” Her work, to which she gave the name of
_The Mechanism of the Heavens_, progressed, however, in spite of
interruptions, to such good purpose that in less than a year it was
complete, and it immediately placed its author in the first rank among
the scientific thinkers and writers of the day. She was elected an
honorary member of the Astronomical Society, at the same time with
Caroline Herschel, and honours and rewards of all kinds flowed in upon
her. Her bust, by Chantrey, was placed in the great hall of the Royal
Society, and she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Academy of
Dublin, and of many other scientific societies. It was a little later
than this, in 1835, that Sir Robert Peel, on behalf of the Government,
conferred a civil list pension of £200 a year upon Mrs. Somerville; the
announcement of this came almost simultaneously with the news of the
loss of the remainder of her own and her husband’s private fortune,
through the treachery of those who had been entrusted with it. The
public recognition of her services to science came therefore at a very
appropriate time; the pension was a few years later increased to £300 a
year by Lord John Russell.

Throughout her life Mrs. Somerville was a staunch advocate of all that
tended to raise up and improve the lot of women. When quite a young girl
she was stimulated to work hard by the feeling that it was in her power
thus to serve the cause of her fellow-women. Writing of the period when
she was only sixteen years old, she says: “I must say the idea of making
money had never entered my head in any of my pursuits, but I was
intensely ambitious to excel in something, for I felt in my own breast
that women were capable of taking a higher place in creation than that
assigned to them in my early days, which was very low.” It is
interesting to observe that her enthusiasm for what are sometimes called
“women’s rights” was as warm at the end of her life as it had been at
its dawn. When she was eighty-nine, she was as keen as she had been at
sixteen for all that lifts up the lot of women. She was a firm supporter
of Mr. John Stuart Mill in the effort he made to extend to women the
benefit and protection of Parliamentary representation. She recognised
that many of the English laws are unjust to women, and clearly saw that
there can be no security for their being made just and equal until the
law-makers are chosen partly by women and partly by men. The first name
to the petition in favour of women’s suffrage which was presented to
Parliament by Mr. J. S. Mill in 1868 was that of Mary Somerville. She
also joined in the first petition to the Senate of the London
University, praying that degrees might be granted to women. At the time
this petition was unsuccessful, but its prayer was granted within a very
few years. One cannot but regret that Mrs. Somerville did not live to
see this fulfilment of her wishes. She showed her sympathy with the
movement for the higher education of women, by bequeathing her
mathematical and scientific library to Girton College. It is one of the
possessions of which the College is most justly proud. The books are
enclosed in a very beautifully designed case, which also forms a sort of
framework for a cast of Chantrey’s bust of Mrs. Somerville. The fine and
delicate lines of her beautiful face offer to the students of the
College a worthy ideal of completely developed womanhood, in which
intellect and emotion balance one another and make a perfect whole.

Mrs. Somerville’s other works, written after _The Mechanism of the
Heavens_, were _The Connection of the Physical Sciences_, _Physical
Geography_, and _Molecular and Microscopic Science_. The last book was
commenced after she had completed her eightieth year. Her mental powers
remained unimpaired to a remarkably late period, and she also had
extraordinary physical vigour to the end of her life. She affords a
striking instance of the fallacy of supposing that intellectual labour
undermines the physical strength of women. Her last occupations,
continued till the actual day of her death, were the revision and
completion of a treatise on _The Theory of Differences_, and the study
of a book on _Quaternions_. Her only physical infirmity in extreme old
age was deafness. She was able to go out and enjoy life up to the time
of her death, which took place in 1872, at the great age of ninety-two

She was a woman of deep and strong religious feeling. Her beautiful
character shines through every word and action of her life. Her deep
humility was very striking, as was also her tenderness for, and her
sympathy with, the sufferings of all who were wretched and oppressed.
One of the last entries in her journal refers again to her love of
animals, and she says, “Among the numerous plans for the education of
the young, let us hope that mercy may be taught as a part of religion.”
The reflections in these last pages of her diary give such a lovely
picture of serene, noble, and dignified old age that they may well be
quoted here. They show the warm heart of the generous woman, as well as
the trained intellect of a reverent student of the laws of nature.
“Though far advanced in years, I take as lively an interest as ever in
passing events. I regret that I shall not live to know the result of the
expedition to determine the currents of the ocean, the distance of the
earth from the sun determined by the transits of Venus, and the source
of the most renowned of rivers, the discovery of which will immortalise
the name of Dr. Livingstone. But I regret most of all that I shall not
see the suppression of the most atrocious system of slavery that ever
disgraced humanity—that made known to the world by Dr. Livingstone and
by Mr. Stanley, and which Sir Bartle Frere has gone to suppress, by
order of the British Government.” A later entry still, and the last,
gives another view of her happy, faithful spirit. The Admiral’s daughter
speaks in it: “The Blue Peter has been long flying at my foremast, and
now that I am in my ninety-second year I must soon expect the signal for
sailing. It is a solemn voyage, but it does not disturb my tranquillity.
Deeply sensible of my utter unworthiness, and profoundly grateful for
the innumerable blessings I have received, I trust in the infinite mercy
of my Almighty Creator.” She then expresses her gratitude for the loving
care of her daughters, and her journal concludes with the words, “I am
perfectly happy.” She died and was buried at Naples. Her death took
place in her sleep, on 29th November 1872. Her daughter writes, “Her
pure spirit passed away so gently that those around her scarcely
perceived when she left them. It was the beautiful and painless close of
a noble and happy life.” Wordsworth’s words about old age were fully
realised in her case—

                Thy thoughts and feelings shall not die,
                Nor leave thee when gray hairs are nigh,
                  A melancholy slave;
                But an old age, serene and bright,
                And lovely as a Lapland night,
                  Shall lead thee to thy grave.


                           QUEEN VICTORIA[1]

A JUBILEE, or a fiftieth anniversary of the reign of a king or queen, is
a very rare event in our history. Rather more than a thousand years have
rolled away since the time when Egbert was the first king of all
England. And in all these thousand years there have only been _three_
jubilees before that now being celebrated, and these three have each
been clouded by some national or personal misfortune casting a gloom
over the rejoicings which would naturally have taken place on such an
occasion. It is rather curious that each of the three kings of England
who has reached a fiftieth year of sovereignty has been the third of his
name to occupy the throne. Henry III., Edward III., and George III. are
the only English sovereigns, before Victoria, who have reigned for as
long as fifty years. In the case of Henry the Third, the fifty years of
his reign are a record of bad government, rebellion, and civil war.
Edward the Third’s reign, which began so triumphantly, ended in
disaster; the king had fallen into a kind of dotage; Edward the Black
Prince had died before his father, and the kingdom was ruled by the
incompetent and unscrupulous John of Gaunt; the last years of this reign
were characterised by military disasters, by harsh and unjust methods of
taxation, and by subservience to the papacy. Those who thus sowed the
wind were not long in reaping the whirlwind; for these misfortunes were
followed by the one hundred years’ war with France, by the peasants’ war
under Wat Tyler, and by the persecution of heretics in England, when for
the first time in our history a statute was passed forfeiting the lives
of men and women for their religious opinions. Passing on to the reign
of George III., the jubilee of 1810 must have been a sad one, for the
poor king had twice had attacks of madness, and one of exceptional
severity began in the very year of the jubilee.

Happily, on the present occasion the spell is broken. The Queen is not
the third, but the first of her name, and although there are no doubt
many causes for anxiety as regards the outlook in our political and
social history, yet there are still greater causes for hopefulness and
for confidence that the marvellous improvement in the social, moral, and
material condition of the people which has marked the reign in the past
will be continued in the future.

It is not very easy at this distance of time to picture to one’s self
the passion of loyalty and devotion inspired by the young girl who
became Queen of England in 1837. To realise what was felt for her, one
must look at the character of the monarchs who had immediately preceded
her. The immorality and faithlessness of George IV. are too well known
to need emphasis. He was probably one of the most contemptible human
beings who ever occupied a throne; he was eaten up by vanity,
self-indulgence, and grossness. With no pretence to conjugal fidelity
himself, he attempted to visit with the severest punishment the supposed
infidelity of the unhappy woman who had been condemned to be his wife.
Recklessly extravagant where his own glorification or pleasure was
concerned, he could be penurious enough to a former boon companion who
had fallen into want. There is hardly a feature in his character, either
as a man or a sovereign, that could win genuine esteem or love. Mrs.
Somerville was present at the gorgeous scene of his coronation, when
something more than a quarter of a million of money was spent in
decorations and ceremonial. She describes the tremendous effect produced
upon every one by the knocking at the door which announced that Queen
Caroline was claiming admittance. She says every heart stood still; it
was like the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast. Only by
contrast with such a man as George IV. could William IV. be regarded
with favour. Several prominent offices about the Court were occupied by
the Fitz Clarences, his illegitimate children. His manners were
described as “bluff” by those who wished to make the best of them;
“brutal” would have been a more accurate word. On one occasion a guest
at one of his dinner parties asked for water, and the king, with an
oath, exclaimed that no water should be drunk at his table. On another
occasion, on his birthday, he took the opportunity, in the presence of
the young Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, to make
the most unmanly and ungenerous attack upon the latter, who was sitting
by his side. Greville speaks of this outburst as an extraordinary and
outrageous speech. The Princess burst into tears, and her mother rose
and ordered her carriage for her immediate departure.

It is no wonder that the Duchess of Kent was anxious, as far as
possible, to keep her daughter from the influence of such a Court as
this. Much of the Queen’s conscientiousness and punctual discharge of
the political duties of her station may be attributed to her careful
education by her mother and her uncle Leopold, the widower of Princess
Charlotte, and afterwards King of the Belgians. It is not possible to
tell from the published memorials what clouds overshadowed the Princess
Victoria’s childhood. She seems to have had a most loving mother,
excellent health and abilities, and a judicious training in every way;
yet she says herself, in reference to the choice of the name of Leopold
for her youngest son, “It is a name which is the dearest to me after
Albert, one which recalls the almost only happy days of my sad

It is evident, therefore, that her young life was not so happy and
tranquil as it appeared to be to outsiders. Perhaps her extreme and
almost abnormal sense of responsibility was hardly compatible with the
joyousness of childhood. There is a story that it was not till the
Princess was eleven years old that her future destiny was revealed to
her. Her governess then purposely put a genealogical table of the royal
family into her history book. The child gazed earnestly at it, and by
degrees she comprehended what it meant, namely, that she herself was
next in succession to the ancient crown of England; she put her hand
into her governess’s and said, “I will be good. I understand now why you
wanted me to learn so much, even Latin.... I understand all better now.”
And she repeated more than once, “I will be good.” The anecdote shows an
unusually keen sense of duty and of conscientiousness in so young a
child, and there are other anecdotes which show the same characteristic.
Who, therefore, can wonder at the unbounded joy which filled all hearts
in England when this young girl, pure, sweet, innocent, conscientious,
and unselfish, ascended the throne of George IV. and William IV.? Her
manners were frank, natural, simple, and dignified. The bright young
presence of the girl Queen filled every one, high and low, throughout
the nation with enthusiasm.

The American author, Mr. N. P. Willis, republican as he was, spoke of
her in one of his letters as “quite unnecessarily pretty and interesting
for the heir of such a crown as that of England.” Daniel O’Connell, then
the leader of the movement for the repeal of the union between England
and Ireland, was as great an enthusiast for her as any one in the three
kingdoms. His stentorian voice led the cheering of the crowd outside of
St. James’s Palace who welcomed her at the ceremony of proclamation. He
said, when some of the gossips of the day chattered of a scheme to
depose “the all but infant Queen” in favour of the hated Duke of
Cumberland, “If necessary I can get 500,000 brave Irishmen to defend the
life, the honour, and the person of the beloved young lady by whom
England’s throne is now filled.”

The picture of the Queen’s first council by Wilkie was shown in 1887 in
the winter exhibition at the Royal Academy. It helps one very much to
understand the sort of enthusiasm which she created. The sweet, girlish
dignity and quiet simplicity with which she performed all the duties of
her station filled every one with admiration. Surrounded by aged
politicians, statesmen, and soldiers, she presides over them all with
the grace and dignity associated with a complete absence of affectation
and self-consciousness. Greville, the Clerk of the Council then, and for
many years before and after, writes of this occasion: “Never was
anything like the impression she produced, or the chorus of praise and
admiration which is raised about her manner and behaviour, and certainly
not without justice. It was something very extraordinary and far beyond
what was looked for.” Melbourne, her first Prime Minister, loved her as
a daughter; the Duke of Wellington had a similar feeling for her, which
she returned with unstinted confidence and reliance. The first request
made by the girl Queen to her mother, immediately after the
proclamation, was that she might be left for two hours quite alone to
think over her position and strengthen the resolutions that were to
guide her future life. The childish words, “I will be good,” probably
gave the forecast of the tone of the young Queen’s reflections. She must
have felt the difficulties and peculiar temptations of her position very
keenly, for when she was awakened from her sleep on the night of the
20th June 1837, to be told of William the Fourth’s death, and that she
was Queen of England, her first words to the Archbishop of Canterbury,
who made the announcement, were, “I beg your Grace to pray for me.”

The Queen was very careful from the beginning of her reign thoroughly to
understand all the business of the State, and never to put her signature
to any document till she had mastered its contents. Lord Melbourne was
heard to declare that this sort of thing was quite new in his experience
as Prime Minister, and he said jokingly that he would rather manage ten
kings than one Queen. On one occasion he brought a document to her, and
urged its importance on the ground of expediency. She looked up quietly,
and said, “I have been taught to judge between what is right and what is
wrong; but ‘expediency’ is a word I neither wish to hear nor to
understand.” Thirty years later one of the best men who ever sat in the
House of Commons, John Stuart Mill, said, “There is an important branch
of expediency called justice.” But this was probably not the kind of
expediency that Lord Melbourne recommended, and the Queen condemned.

In the _Memoirs of Mrs. Jameson_, by Mrs. Macpherson, there is a letter,
dated December 1838, containing the following illustration of the way in
which the Queen regarded the duties of her position. “Spring Rice told a
friend of mine that he once carried her (the Queen) some papers to sign,
and said something about managing so as to give Her Majesty less
trouble. She looked up from her paper and said quietly, ‘Pray never let
me hear those words again; never mention the word “trouble.” Only tell
me how the thing is to be done, to be done rightly, and I will do it if
I can.’” Everything that is known of the Queen at that time shows a
similar high conception of duty and right. She was resolved to be no
mere pleasure-seeking, self-indulgent monarch, but one who strove
earnestly to understand her duties, and was determined to throw her best
strength into their fulfilment.

It is this conscientious fulfilment of her political duties which gives
the Queen such a very strong claim upon the gratitude of all her
subjects. People do not always understand how hard and constant her work
is, nor how deeply she feels her responsibilities. She is sometimes
blamed for not leading society as she did in the earlier years of her
reign, and it is no doubt true that her good influence in this way is
much missed. Mrs. Oliphant has spoken of the way in which in those early
years of her married life she was “in the foreground of the national
life, affecting it always for good, and setting an example of purity and
virtue. The theatres to which she went, and which both she and her
husband enjoyed, were purified by her presence; evils which had been the
growth of years disappearing before the face of the young Queen.” That
good influence at the head of society has been withdrawn by the Queen’s
withdrawal from fashionable life; and there is another disadvantage
arising from her seclusion, in the degree to which it prevents her from
feeling the force and value of many of the most important social
movements of our time. Except in opening Holloway College, and in the
impetus which she has given to providing medical women for the women of
India, she has never, for instance, shown any special sympathy with any
of the various branches of the movement for improving and lifting up the
lives of women. Still, fully allowing all this, it is beyond doubt that
her subjects, and especially her women subjects, have deep cause for
gratitude and affection to the Queen. She has set a high example of duty
and faithfulness to the whole nation. The childish resolve, “I will be
good,” has never been lost sight of. With almost boundless opportunities
for self-indulgence, and living in an atmosphere where she is
necessarily almost entirely removed from the wholesome criticism of
equals and friends, she has clung tenaciously to the ideal with which
she started on her more than fifty years of sovereignty. Simplicity of
daily life and daily hard work are the antidotes which she has
constantly applied to counteract the unwholesome influences associated
with royalty. Women have special cause for gratitude to her, because she
has shown, as no other woman could, how absurd is the statement that
political duties unsex a woman, and make her lose womanly tenderness and
sympathy. The passionate worship which she bestowed upon her husband,
the deep love she constantly shows for her children and grandchildren,
and the eager sympathy which she extends to every creature on whom the
load of suffering or sorrow has fallen, prove that being the first
political officer of the greatest empire in the world cannot harden her
heart or dull her sympathy. A woman’s a woman “for a’ that.”

So much has lately been written about the supreme happiness of the
Queen’s married life, and so much has been revealed of her inner family
circle, that no more is needed to make every woman realise the anguish
of the great bereavement of her life. In earlier and happier years she
wrote to her uncle Leopold on the occasion of one of the Prince
Consort’s short absences from her: “You cannot think how much this costs
me, nor how completely forlorn I am and feel when he is away, or how I
count the hours till he returns. All the numerous children are as
nothing to me when he is away. It seems as if the whole life of the
house and home were gone.” Poor Queen, poor woman! Surely it is
ungenerous, while she so strenuously goes on working at the duties of
her position, to blame her because she cannot again join in what are
supposed to be its pleasures.

One of the princesses lately spoke of the loneliness of the Queen. “You
can have no idea,” she is reported to have said, “how lonely mamma is.”
All who were her elders, and in a sense her guardians and protectors in
the earlier part of her reign, have been removed by death. Her strongest
affections are in the past, and with the dead. She is reported to have
said on the death of one of those nearest to her: “There is no one left
to call me Victoria now!” The etiquette which, in public at any rate,
rules the behaviour of her children and grandchildren to the Queen,
seems to render her isolation more painful than it would otherwise be.
Lady Lyttelton, who was governess to the royal children, is stated in
the _Greville Memoirs_ to have said that “the Queen was very fond of
them, but severe in her manner, and a strict disciplinarian.” This may
have perhaps increased her present loneliness, if it created a sense of
reserve and formality between her children and herself.

The Queen has always shown a truly royal appreciation of those who were
great in art, science, or literature. It is well known that she sent her
book, _Leaves from our Journal in the Highlands_, to Charles Dickens,
with the inscription, “From one of the humblest of writers to one of the
greatest.” Mrs. Somerville, in her _Reminiscences_, speaks of the
gracious reception given to herself by the Queen while she was still
Princess Victoria, when the authoress presented a copy of her _Mechanism
of the Heavens_ to the Duchess of Kent and her daughter. More than
twenty years later Mrs. Somerville wrote, “I am glad to hear that the
Queen has been so kind to my friend Faraday. It seems she has given him
an apartment at Hampton Court, nicely fitted up. She went to see it
herself, and having consulted scientific men as to the instruments
necessary for his pursuits, she had a laboratory fitted up with them,
and made him a present of the whole. That is doing things handsomely,
and no one since Newton has deserved so much.” The Queen was also very
ready to show her warm appreciation of Carlyle and other eminent
writers. In an interview with Carlyle, at the Deanery, Westminster, she
quite charmed the rugged old philosopher by her kind and gracious
manner. Many years ago, when the fame of Jenny Lind was at its height,
she was invited to sing in private before the Queen at Buckingham
Palace. Owing to some contemptible spite or jealousy, her accompanist
did not play what was set down in the music, and this of course had a
very discomposing effect upon the singer. The Queen’s quick ear
immediately detected what was going on, and at the conclusion of the
song, when another was about to be commenced, she stepped up to the
piano and said, “I will accompany Miss Lind.”

The Queen’s strong personal interest in all that concerns the welfare of
her kingdom is well known. She became almost ill with anxiety about the
sufferings of our troops in the Crimea, and she wrote frequently to Lord
Raglan on the subject. Before the end of the siege of Sebastopol, Lord
Cardigan returned from the Crimea on a short visit to England, and came
to see the Queen at Windsor. One of the royal children said to him, “You
must hurry back to Sebastopol and take it, else it will kill mamma!” In
the summer of 1886, during the anxious political crisis of that time, a
gentleman, who had just seen the Queen, was asked how she looked. “Ten
years younger than she did a fortnight ago,” was the reply. The severity
of the crisis was for the time averted, and the relief of mind it
brought to the Queen could be plainly read in the change in her aspect.

A wise and good clergyman, who was also a witty and powerful writer, the
Rev. Sydney Smith, preached a sermon in St. Paul’s Cathedral on the
Queen’s accession, in which he gave utterance to the hope that she would
promote the spread of national education, and would “worship God by
loving peace.” “The young Queen,” he said, “at that period of life which
is commonly given up to frivolous amusement, sees at once the great
principles by which she should be guided, and steps at once into the
great duties of her station.” He then spoke again of peace and of
education as the two objects towards which a patriot Queen ought most
earnestly to strive, and concluded: “And then this youthful monarch,
profoundly but wisely religious, disdaining hypocrisy, and far above the
childish follies of false piety, casts herself upon God, and seeks from
the Gospel of His blessed Son a path for her steps and a comfort for her
soul. Here is a picture which warms every English heart and could bring
all this congregation upon their bended knees before Almighty God to
pray it may be realised. What limits to the glory and happiness of our
native land, if the Creator should in His mercy have placed in the heart
of this Royal Woman the rudiments of wisdom and mercy; and if giving
them time to expand, and to bless our children’s children with her
goodness, He should grant to her a long sojourning on earth, and leave
her to reign over us till she is well stricken in years! What glory!
what happiness! what joy! what bounty of God!”

The preacher’s anticipations of a long reign have been fulfilled, and
the bright hopes of that seedtime of promise and resolution can now be
compared with the harvest of achievement and fulfilment. There is always
a great gap between such anticipations and the accomplished fact; but it
will be well for us all, high or low, if we are able, when we stand near
the end of life and review the past, to feel that we have been equally
steadfast to the high resolves of our youth, as the Queen has been to
the words, “I will be good,” which she uttered sixty years ago.

Footnote 1:

  Written for the Jubilee, June 1887.


                           HARRIET MARTINEAU

HARRIET MARTINEAU is one of the most distinguished literary women this
century has produced. She is among the few women who have succeeded in
the craft of journalism, and one of the still smaller number who
succeeded for a time in moulding and shaping the current politics of her
day. There are many things in her career which make it a particularly
instructive one. Her vivid remembrance of her own childhood gave her a
very strong sympathy with the feelings and sufferings of children; all
mothers, especially the mothers of uncommonly intellectual children,
ought to read, in the early part of Harriet Martineau’s autobiography,
her record of her own childhood, and its peculiar sufferings.

The Martineaus were descended from a French Huguenot surgeon, who left
his native country in 1688, after the revocation of the edict of Nantes.
He settled at Norwich, and became the progenitor of a long line of
distinguished surgeons in that city. Harriet’s father was a
manufacturer; she was born on the 12th June 1802, the sixth of eight
children. There is nothing in the outward circumstances of her youth to
distinguish it from that of the substantial but simple comfort of any
middle class family of that period, save that her education was above
the average. The independence of judgment in religious matters that had
made their ancestor a Huguenot, made the latter Martineaus Unitarians;
and it was to this fact that the excellence of the education of the
family was in part due. For the Rev. Isaac Perry, the head of a large
and flourishing boys’ school in Norwich, became converted to the
principles of Unitarianism, with the consequence of losing nearly all
his pupils. The Unitarian community felt it their duty to rally round
him, and support him to the utmost of their power. Hence those who, like
the Martineaus, had children to educate sent them, girls as well as
boys, to him. Harriet therefore had the inestimable advantage of
beginning her career with a mind well equipped with stores of knowledge
that were at that time usually considered quite outside the range of
what was necessary for a woman.

She speaks of herself as having, especially in her childhood, “a
beggarly nervous system”; and her description of her utterly
unreasonable terrors, which she bore in silence, because of the want of
insight and sympathy around her, ought to be a lesson to every parent.
“Sometimes,” she says, “I was panic-struck at the head of the stairs,
and was sure I could never get down; and I could never cross the yard
into the garden without flying and panting, and fearing to look behind,
because a wild beast was after me. The starlight sky was the worst; it
was always coming down to stifle and crush me, and rest upon my head.”
“The extremest terror of all,” she says, was occasioned by the dull thud
of beating feather beds with a stick, a process in which the housewives
of Norwich were wont to indulge on the breezy area below the Castle
Hill. A magic-lantern, or the prismatic lights cast by glass lustres
upon the wall, threw her into the same unaccountable terror-stricken
state. If she could have been coaxed into speaking of these panics, they
might probably have ceased to assail her. But this she never dreamed of
doing. There was too little tenderness in her family life to overcome
her natural timidity. Once when her terror at a magic-lantern so far
overcame her as to find vent in a shriek of dismay, “a pretty lady, who
sat next us, took me on her lap, and let me hide my face in her bosom,
and held me fast. How intensely I loved her, without at all knowing who
she was.”

When Harriet Martineau was more than fifty, she wrote a detailed account
of all she had suffered in childhood, not from any want of gratitude or
affection to her parents, but because she felt that mothers ought to
know what their children sometimes suffer, so that they might protect
them by tender watchfulness from becoming victims of these imaginary
terrors. It is not, it must be remembered, stupid children who are most
subject to these “ghostly enemies,” but much more frequently it is the
children of vivid imagination and bright intelligence who are most
subject to them. A child who is frightened of the dark ought not to be
unkindly ridiculed or forced to endure what terrifies it; it ought to be
helped by all gentle means to overcome its fear, and all other
unreasonable fears conjured up by its imagination.

That Harriet Martineau showed in early childhood that she was gifted
with extraordinary mental powers cannot be doubted. At seven years old
she “discovered” _Paradise Lost_. She had been left at home one Sunday
evening, when all the rest of the family had gone to chapel, and she
began looking at the books on the table. One of them was turned down
open. She took it up, and began looking at it. It was _Paradise Lost_.
The first thing she saw was the word “Argument” at the head of a
chapter, which she thought must mean a dispute, and could make nothing
of; but something about Satan cleaving Chaos made her turn to the
poetry, and, in her own words, that evening’s reading fixed her mental
destiny for the next seven years; the volume was henceforth never to be
found, but by asking her for it. “In a few months, I believe there was
hardly a line in _Paradise Lost_ that I could not have instantly turned
to. I sent myself to sleep by repeating it, and when my curtains were
drawn back in the morning, descriptions of heavenly light rushed into my
memory.” Her keen appreciation of Milton’s great poem was the
compensation nature provided for the imaginative terrors which made her
childhood such a sad one.

Another misfortune was in store for her, which might have embittered the
whole of her future existence. When she was about twelve years old it
was recognised that her hearing was not good; by sixteen her deafness
had become very noticeable, and excessively painful to herself; and
before she was twenty she had become extremely deaf, so that she could
hear little or nothing without the help of a trumpet. Few people can
realise how much the loss of this all-important sense must have cost
her. At the outset of life, to be deprived of a faculty on which almost
all free and pleasant social intercourse depends must be a bitter trial.
One striking characteristic of Harriet Martineau’s mind was brought into
relief by it. Throughout her life a misfortune never overtook her
without calling out the strength necessary to bear it, not only with
patience, but with cheerfulness. As soon as it was clear that her
deafness was a trial that would last as long as her life, she made a
resolution with regard to it. She determined never to inquire what was
said, but to trust to her friends to repeat to her what was important
and worth hearing. This she rightly regarded as the only way of
preventing her deafness becoming as irksome and trying to her companions
as it was to herself. It was not till she was nearly thirty that she
began to use a trumpet, and she blamed herself seriously for the delay;
for she felt it to be the duty of the deaf to spare other people as much
fatigue as possible, and also to preserve their own natural capacity for
sound, and the habit of receiving it, as long as possible.

Harriet’s first attempt at authorship was undertaken at the age of
nineteen; she was tenderly devoted to her brother James, who was two
years her junior. When he left home for college, the brightness of her
life departed; he told her she must not permit herself to be so
miserable, and advised her to take refuge, each time he left her, in
some new pursuit; her first new pursuit was writing, and with a beating
heart she posted her manuscript to the Editor of the _Monthly
Repository_, a Unitarian magazine of that day. She adopted the signature
of “V. of Norwich”; all authors will sympathise with what she felt when
her manuscript was accepted, and she saw herself for the first time in
print. She had not told any member of her family of her enterprise.
Imagine therefore her delight when her eldest brother, whom she regarded
with the utmost veneration, selected this article by V. of Norwich for
special commendation, reading passages from it aloud, and calling upon
Harriet to say whether she did not think it first-rate. After a brief
attempt to keep her secret, she blurted out, “I never could baffle
anybody. The truth is, that paper is mine.” The kind brother read on in
silence, and as she was going he laid his hand on her shoulder and said
gravely (calling her “dear” for the first time), “Now, dear, leave it to
other women to make shirts and darn stockings; and do you devote
yourself to this.” “I went home,” she adds, “in a sort of dream, so that
the squares of the pavement seemed to float before my eyes. That evening
made me an authoress.”

The trials of her life, however, shortly after this time began to
thicken round her. Her beloved elder brother, whose advice had so
greatly encouraged her, died of consumption. Her father’s business
declined rapidly in prosperity; it was a period of great commercial
depression, and for a time absolute ruin seemed to stare the family in
the face. The cares and the mental strain of this time brought the
father to his grave; he died in 1826, when Harriet was twenty-four years
of age, leaving his family in comparatively straitened circumstances.
Shortly after this Harriet became engaged to be married; but this,
instead of bringing happiness, was a source of special trial; for
shortly after the engagement had been entered into, her lover became
suddenly insane, and after months of severe illness, bodily and mental,
he died. The next misfortune was the loss, in 1829, by the mother and
daughters of the Martineau family, of nearly all they had in the world.
The old manufactory, in which their money had been placed, failed. The
way in which she treated this event is very characteristic. “I call it,”
she wrote, “a misfortune, because in common parlance it would be so
treated; but I believe that my mother and all her other daughters would
have joined heartily, if asked, in my conviction that it was one of the
best things that ever happened to us.... We never recovered more than
the merest pittance.... The effect upon me of this new ‘calamity,’ as
people called it, was like that of a blister upon a dull, weary pain or
series of pains. _I rather enjoyed it, even at the time_; for there was
scope for action, whereas in the long, dreary series of preceding
trials, there was nothing possible but endurance. In a very short time
my two sisters at home and I began to feel the blessings of a wholly new
freedom. I, who had been obliged to write before breakfast, or in some
private way, had henceforth liberty to do my own work in my own way; for
we had lost our gentility. Many and many a time have we said that, but
for the loss of that money, we might have lived on in the ordinary
provincial method of ladies with small means, sewing and economising,
and growing narrower every year; whereas by being thrown, while it was
yet time, on our own resources, we have worked hard and usefully, won
friends, reputation, and independence, seen the world abundantly, abroad
and at home, and, in short, have truly lived instead of vegetated”
(_Autobiography_, pp. 141, 142).

For a time, notwithstanding the kind brother’s advice to Harriet, to
leave sewing to other women and devote herself to literature, pressure
was brought upon her to get her living by needlework instead of by her
pen. She tried to follow both the advice of her friends and her own
inclinations. By day she pored over fine needlework, by night she
studied and wrote till two or three o’clock in the morning. Instead of
being crushed by the double strain, her spirit rose victorious over it.
“It was truly _life_ I lived during those days,” she wrote, “of strong,
intellectual, and moral effort.” And again: “Yet I was very happy; the
deep-felt sense of progress and expansion was delightful; and so was the
exertion of all my faculties, and, not least, that of will to overcome
any obstructions, and force my way to that power of public speech of
which I believed myself more or less worthy.” Her first marked literary
success was the winning of each of three prizes which had been offered
by the Unitarian body for essays presenting the arguments in favour of
Unitarianism to the notice of Catholics, Jews, and Mohammedans.

She took every precaution to prevent the discovery that her three essays
were by the same hand; and great was the sensation caused by the
discovery that this was indeed the case. The most important result to
herself of this achievement was that it finally silenced those who
wished her to believe that she was fit to do nothing more difficult in
the world than bead-work and embroidery. It also set her up in funds to
the extent of £45, and she immediately began to plan the work which
brought her fame—a series of tales illustrating the most important
doctrines of political economy, such as the effect of machinery on
wages, the relation of wages and population, free trade, protective
duties, and so on. The difficulties she encountered, before she could
induce any publisher to accept her series, were such as would have
broken any spirit less heroic and determined than her own. “I knew the
work wanted doing,” she said, “and that I could do it”; and this
confidence prevented her from losing heart when one rebuff after another
fell upon her. Almost every publisher to whom she applied repeated the
cry that the public would attend to nothing at that time (1831) but the
cholera and the Reform Bill. She says she became as sick of the Reform
Bill as poor King William himself. At length, after a most exhausting
and, to any one else, heart-breaking succession of disappointments, her
series was accepted, but on terms that made her success in finding a
publisher very little pleasure to her. The first stipulation was that
500 copies of the work must be subscribed for before publication, and
the agreement was to cease if a thousand copies did not sell in the
first fortnight. The dismal business of obtaining subscribers to an
unknown work by an unknown author nearly broke her down. But in her
darkest hour, alone in London, without money or friends, leaning over
some dirty palings, really to recover from an attack of giddiness, but
pretending to look at a cabbage bed, she said to herself, as she stood
with closed eyes, “My book will do yet.”

The day of publication came at last, and Harriet, who had now rejoined
her mother in Norwich, eagerly awaited the result. For about ten days
she heard nothing, and she began to prepare herself to bear the
disappointment of failure. Then at last a letter came, desiring her to
make any corrections necessary for a second edition, as the publisher
had hardly any copies left. He proposed, he said, to print an additional
2000. A postscript altered the number to 3000, a second postscript
suggested 4000, and a third 5000! Her first feeling was that all her
cares were now over. Whatever she had to say would now command a
hearing, and her anxiety in future would be limited to making a good
choice what to write about. Her series made a remarkable sensation; she
was overwhelmed with praise from all quarters. Every one who had a hobby
wanted her to write a tale to illustrate its importance. Advantageous
offers from publishers poured in upon her. Lord Brougham, who was then
the leading spirit of the Diffusion of Knowledge Society, declared that
the whole Society had been “driven out of the field by a little deaf
woman at Norwich.”

It soon became evident, from the amount of political and literary work
which was pressed upon her, that it was necessary for her to live in
London. She accordingly took a small house in Fludyer Street,
Westminster, in 1832, where she lived for seven years with her mother
and aunt. No change could be greater than that from the provincial
society in which she had been brought up, to that into which she was now
welcomed. The best of London literary and political society was freely
offered her. Cabinet ministers consulted her about their measures, and
she enjoyed the acquaintance or friendship of all the foremost men and
women of the day. But her head was not turned, and she was not spoiled.
Sydney Smith said he had watched her anxiously for one season, and he
then declared her unspoilable. The well-founded self-confidence that had
made her say to herself, when almost any one else would have despaired,
“My book will do yet,” prevented her from being dazzled by flattery and
social distinction. She knew perfectly well what she could do and what
she could not do. It made her angry to hear herself spoken of as a woman
of genius; and in correcting a series of errors that had been made in an
account given of her personal history in _Men of the Time_, she drily
remarks, “Nobody has witnessed ‘flashes of wit’ from me. The giving me
credit for wit shows that the writer is wholly unacquainted with me.”

She was a woman of the utmost determination and endurance in carrying
out anything she had made up her mind to be right. She once remarked
that she had thought the worst that could befall her would be to die of
starvation on a doorstep, and added gleefully, “I think I could bear
it.” Her courage was put rather unexpectedly to the test in 1835, when
she visited the United States. As every one is aware, negro slavery was
lawful all over the United States until the civil war of 1862. But every
one does not know that the heroic little band of men and women who first
protested against the wickedness of slavery in America did so at the
peril of their lives. The abolitionists, as they were called, were the
objects, even in cities like Boston, usually considered the centres of
culture and refinement, of most brutal outrage and cruelty. The
abolitionists could not then even hold a meeting but at the peril of
their lives. Miss Martineau found herself therefore in a society divided
into two hostile factions—one rich, strong, and numerous; the other
poor, small, and intensely hated. When she arrived she was disposed to
be rather prejudiced against the abolitionists. She condemned slavery as
a matter of course, but she thought those who had undertaken the battle
against it in America had been fanatical, sentimental, and misguided.
This disposition of her mind was diligently fostered by the defenders of
slavery, who represented the abolitionists to her as bloodthirsty
ruffians who were trying to incite the slaves to the murder of their

It was not long before her clear intellect discerned the true bearings
of the case. She soon acknowledged that, however distasteful to her
might be the language used by the abolitionists, they were completely
innocent of the charges made against them, and were, in fact, the
blameless apostles of a most holy cause. From the time of forming this
judgment, her course was clear. She boldly avowed abolitionist
principles, and took an early opportunity of attending an anti-slavery
meeting at which, in a short speech, she avowed her conviction that
slavery was inconsistent with the law of God, and incompatible with the
course of His providence. It is unnecessary at this distance of time to
recount in detail the fury with which this declaration was regarded by
the bulk of American society, and by almost the whole American press.
Insult and contumely now met her at every turn, in quarters where she
had before received nothing but adulation and flattery. But she was not
of a nature to be induced by threats of personal violence to consent to
that which her reason and conscience condemned. She remained then and
always an ardent abolitionist, and when the great question of the
existence of slavery in the United States was submitted to the
arbitrament of war, she was one of the chief among the leaders of
political opinion in England who kept our country as a nation free from
the guilt and folly of supporting the secession of the Southern States
from the American Union. The late Mr. W. E. Forster said at the time
that it seemed to him as if Harriet Martineau alone were keeping this
country straight in regard to America.

After her return from America she resumed for a time her usual life of
work and social activity in London. In a few years, however, her health
broke down, and she removed to Tynemouth, suffering, as was then
thought, from an incurable disorder. For five years (1837-42) she lay on
her couch a helpless, but by no means an idle, invalid. Some of her best
books, including her delightful stories for children, _Feats on the
Fiord_, _The Crofton Boys_, etc., were written during this period. She
was under the care of a medical brother-in-law, who resided at
Newcastle, and some of the most leading of London physicians visited her
professionally. But her case was considered chronic, and she resigned
herself to the belief that her health was gone for ever. After five
years some one persuaded her to try the effects of mesmerism, and some
members of her family and many of her former friends were very angry
with her for getting well through its means. Her remarks on the subject
are characteristic. “For my part,” she writes, “if any friend of mine
had been lying in a suffering and hopeless state for nearly six years,
and if she had fancied she might get well by standing on her head
instead of her heels, or reciting charms, or bestriding a broomstick, I
should have helped her to try; and thus was I aided by some of my family
and by a further sympathy in others, but two or three of them were
induced to regard my experiment and recovery as an unpardonable offence,
and by them I never was pardoned.”

After her recovery she plunged again as heartily as ever into the
enjoyment of travel and of work, and finally settled in a little home,
which she built for herself, in the Lake country at Ambleside. Here she
continued her literary activity, writing her _History of the Peace_, her
version of Auguste Comte’s philosophy, and at one time contributing as
many as six articles a week to the _Daily News_. But she was not content
with merely literary labour; she exerted herself most effectually to set
on foot, for the benefit of her poorer neighbours, all kinds of means
for improving their social, moral, and intellectual position. She showed
them, by example, how a farm of two acres could be made to pay. She
started a building society, a mechanics’ institute, and evening lectures
for the people. She was almost worshipped by her servants and immediate
dependents, and was a powerful influence for good on all around her. On
all moral questions, and all questions affecting the position of women,
she was a tower of strength upon the right side. She heartily
sympathised with Mrs. Butler in the work with which her name is
identified. “I am told,” she said, “that this is discreditable work for
women, especially for an _old_ woman. But it has always been esteemed
our special function as women to mount guard over society and social
life—the spring of national existence—and to keep them pure; and who so
fit as an _old_ woman?”

In 1854 it was discovered that she had a heart complaint, which might
have been fatal at any moment, but her life was prolonged for more than
twenty years after this, closing at Ambleside on 27th June 1876. The
words of her friend, Florence Nightingale, might have served as her
epitaph—“She served the Right, that is, God, all her life.”


                          FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

AMONG the personal influences that have altered the everyday life of the
present century, the future historian will probably allot a prominent
place to that of Florence Nightingale. Before she took up the work of
her life, the art of sick nursing in England can hardly have been said
to exist. Almost every one had a well-founded horror of the hired nurse;
she was often ignorant, cruel, rapacious, and drunken; and when she was
not quite as bad as that, she was prejudiced, superstitious, and
impervious to new ideas or knowledge. The worst type of the nurse of the
pre-Nightingale era has been portrayed by Dickens in his “Sairey Gamp”
with her bottle of gin or rum upon the “chimbley piece,” handy for her
to put it to her lips when she was “so dispoged.” “Sairey Gamp” is one
of the blessings of the good old days which have now vanished for ever;
with her disappearance has also gradually disappeared the repugnance
with which the professional nurse was at one time almost universally
regarded; and there is now hardly any one who has not had cause to be
thankful for the quick, gentle, and skilful assistance of the trained
nurse whose existence we owe to the example and precepts of Florence

Miss Nightingale has never favoured the curiosity of those who would
wish to pry into the details of her private history. She has indeed been
so retiring that there is some difficulty in getting accurate
information about anything concerning her, with the exception of her
public work. In a letter she has allowed to be published, she says,
“Being naturally a very shy person, most of my life has been distasteful
to me.” It would be very ungrateful and unbecoming in those who have
benefited by her self-forgetful labours to attempt in any way to thwart
her desire for privacy as to her personal affairs. The attention of the
readers of this sketch will therefore be directed to Miss Nightingale’s
public work, and what the world, and women in particular, have gained by
the noble example she has set of how women’s work should be done.

From time immemorial it has been universally recognised that the care of
the sick is women’s work; but somehow, partly from the low standard of
women’s education, partly from the false notion that all paid work was
in a way degrading to a woman’s gentility, it seemed to be imagined that
women could do this work of caring for the sick without any special
teaching or preparation for it; and as all paid work was supposed to be
unladylike, no woman undertook it unless she was driven to it by the
dire stress of poverty, and had therefore neither the time nor means to
acquire the training necessary to do it well. The lesson of Florence
Nightingale’s life is that painstaking study and preparation are just as
necessary for women’s work as they are for men’s work. No young man
attempts responsible work as a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or even a
gardener or mechanic, without spending long years in fitting himself for
his work; but in old times women seemed to think they could do all their
work, in governessing, nursing, or what not, by the light of nature, and
without any special teaching and preparation whatever. There is still
some temptation on the part of women to fall into this fatal error. A
young woman, not long ago, who had studied medicine in India only two
years, was placed at the head of a dispensary and hospital for native
women. Who would have dreamt of taking a boy, after only two years’
study, for a post of similar responsibility and difficulty? Of course
failure and disappointment resulted, and it will probably be a long time
before the native community in that part of India recover their
confidence in lady doctors.

Miss Nightingale spent nearly ten years in studying nursing before she
considered herself qualified to undertake the sanitary direction of even
a small hospital. She went from place to place, not confining her
studies to her own country. She spent about a year at the hospital and
nursing institution at Kaiserswerth on the Rhine in 1849. This had been
founded by Pastor Fliedner, and was under the care of a Protestant
Sisterhood who had perfected the art of sick nursing to a degree unknown
at that time in any other part of Europe. From Kaiserswerth she visited
institutions for similar purposes, in other parts of Germany, and in
France and Italy. It is obvious she could not have devoted the time and
money which all this preparation must have cost if she had not been a
member of a wealthy family. The fact that she was so makes her example
all the more valuable. She was the daughter and co-heiress of a wealthy
country gentleman of Lea Hurst in Derbyshire, and Embly Park in
Hampshire. As a young girl she had the choice of all that wealth,
luxury, and fashion could offer in the way of self-indulgence and ease,
and she set them all on one side for the sake of learning how to benefit
suffering humanity by making sick nursing an art in England. In the
letter already quoted Miss Nightingale gives, in reply to a special
appeal, advice to young women about their work: “1. I would say also to
all young ladies who are called to any particular vocation, qualify
yourselves for it, as a man does for his work. Don’t think you can
undertake it otherwise. No one should attempt to teach the Greek
language until he is master of the language; and this he can only become
by hard study. 2. If you are called to man’s work, do not exact a
woman’s privileges—the privilege of inaccuracy, of weakness, ye
muddleheads. Submit yourselves to the rules of business, as men do, by
which alone you can make God’s business succeed; for He has never said
that He will give His success and His blessing to inefficiency, to
sketchy and unfinished work.”

Here, without intending it, Miss Nightingale drew a picture of her own
character and methods. Years of hard study prepared her for her work; no
inaccuracy, no weakness, no muddleheadedness was to be found in what she
undertook; everything was business-like, orderly, and thorough. Those
who knew her in the hospital spoke of her as combining “the voice of
velvet and the will of steel.” She was not content with having a natural
vocation for her work. It is said that when she was a young girl she was
accustomed to dress the wounds of those who were hurt in the lead mines
and quarries of her Derbyshire home, and that the saying was, “Our good
young miss is better than nurse or doctor.” If this is accurate, she did
not err by burying her talent in the earth, and thinking that because
she had a natural gift there was no need to cultivate it. She saw rather
that _because_ she had a natural gift it was her duty to increase it and
make it of the utmost benefit to mankind. At the end of her ten years’
training, she came to the nursing home and hospital for governesses in
Harley Street, an excellent institution, which at that time had fallen
into some disorder through mismanagement. She stayed here from August
1853 till October 1854, and in those fourteen months placed the
domestic, financial, and sanitary affairs of the little hospital on a
sound footing.

Now, however, the work with which her name will always be associated,
and for which she will always be loved and honoured, was about to
commence. The Crimean war broke out early in 1854, and within a very few
weeks of the commencement of actual fighting, every one at home was
horrified and ashamed to hear of the frightful disorganisation of the
supplies, and of the utter breakdown of the commissariat and medical
arrangements. The most hopeless hugger-mugger reigned triumphant. The
tinned meats sent out from England were little better than poison; ships
arrived with stores of boots which proved all to be for the left foot.
(Muddleheads do not all belong to one sex.) The medical arrangements for
the sick and wounded were on a par with the rest. Mr. Justin M’Carthy,
in his _History of Our Own Times_, speaks of the hospitals for the sick
and wounded at Scutari as being in an absolutely chaotic condition. “In
some instances,” he writes, “medical stores were left to decay at Varna,
or were found lying useless in the holds of vessels in Balaklava Bay,
which were needed for the wounded at Scutari. The medical officers were
able and zealous men; the stores were provided and paid for so far as
our Government was concerned; but the stores were not brought to the
medical men. These had their hands all but idle, their eyes and souls
tortured by the sight of sufferings which they were unable to relieve
for want of the commonest appliances of the hospital” (vol. ii. p. 316).
The result was that the most frightful mortality prevailed, not so much
from the inevitable risks of battle, but from the insanitary conditions
of the camp, the want of proper food, clothing, and fuel, and the
wretched hospital arrangements. Mr. Mackenzie, author of a _History of
the Nineteenth Century_, gives the following facts and figures with
regard to our total losses in the Crimea: “Out of a total loss of
20,656, only 2598 were slain in battle; 18,058 died in hospital.”
“Several regiments became literally extinct. One had but seven men left
fit for duty; another had thirty. When the sick were put on board
transports, to be conveyed to hospital, the mortality was shocking. In
some ships one man in every four died in a voyage of seven days. In some
of the hospitals recovery was the rare exception. At one time
four-fifths of the poor fellows who underwent amputation died of
hospital gangrene. During the first seven months of the siege the men
perished by disease at a rate which would have extinguished the entire
force in little more than a year and a half” (p. 171). When these facts
became known in England, the mingled grief, shame, and anger of the
whole nation were unbounded. It was then that Mr. Sidney Herbert, who
was Minister of War, appealed to Miss Nightingale to organise and take
out with her a band of trained nurses. It is needless to say that she
consented. She was armed with full authority to cut the swathes of red
tape that had proved shrouds to so many of our soldiers. On the 21st of
October 1854 Miss Nightingale, accompanied by forty-two other ladies,
all trained nurses, set sail for the Crimea. They arrived at
Constantinople on 4th November, the eve of Inkerman, which was fought on
5th November. Their first work, therefore, was to receive into the
wards, which were already filled by 2300 men, the wounded from what
proved the severest and fiercest engagement of the campaign. Miss
Nightingale and her band of nurses proved fully equal to the charge they
had undertaken. She, by a combination of inexorable firmness with
unvarying gentleness, evolved order out of chaos. After her arrival,
there were no more complaints of the inefficiency of the hospital
arrangements for the army. The extraordinary way in which she spent
herself and let herself be spent will never be forgotten. She has been
known to stand for twenty hours at a stretch, in order to see the
wounded provided with every means of easing their condition. Her
attention was directed not only to nursing the sick and wounded, but to
removing the causes which had made the camp and the hospitals so deadly
to their inmates. The extent of the work of mere nursing may be
estimated by the fact that a few months after her arrival ten thousand
sick men were under her care, and the rows of beds in one hospital
alone, the Barrack Hospital at Scutari, measured two miles and one-third
in length, with an average distance between each bed of two feet six
inches. Miss Nightingale’s personal influence and authority over the men
were immensely and deservedly strong. They knew she had left the
comforts and refinements of a wealthy home to be of service to them. Her
slight delicate form, her steady nerve, her kindly conciliating manner,
and her absolute self-devotion, awoke a passion of chivalrous feeling on
the part of the men she tended. Sometimes a soldier would refuse to
submit to a painful but necessary operation until a few calm sentences
of hers seemed at once to allay the storm, and the man would submit
willingly to the ordeal he had to undergo. One soldier said, “Before she
came here, there was such cursin’ and swearing, and after that it was as
holy as a church.” Another said to Mr. Sidney Herbert, “She would speak
to one and another, and nod and smile to many more; but she could not do
it to all, you know—we lay there in hundreds—but we could kiss her
shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on the pillow again, content.” This
incident, of the wounded soldier turning to kiss her shadow as it
passed, has been woven into a beautiful poem by Longfellow. It is called
“Santa Filomena.” The fact that she had been born in, and had been named
after, the city of Florence, may have suggested to the poet to turn her
name into the language of the country of her birth.

Miss Nightingale suffered from an attack of hospital fever in the spring
of 1855, but as soon as possible she returned to her laborious post, and
never quitted it till the war was over and the last of our soldiers was
on his way home. When she returned to England she received such a
welcome as probably has fallen to no other woman; all distinctions of
party and of rank were forgotten in the one wish to do her honour. She
was presented by the Queen with a jewel in commemoration of her work in
the Crimea, and a national testimonial was set on foot, to which a sum
of £50,000 was subscribed. It is unnecessary to say that Miss
Nightingale did not accept this testimonial for her own personal
benefit. The sum was devoted to the permanent endowment of schools for
the training of nurses in St. Thomas’s and King’s College Hospitals.

Since the Crimea no European war has taken place without calling forth
the service of trained bands of skilled nurses. Within ten years of
Florence Nightingale’s labours in the East, the nations of Europe agreed
at the Geneva Convention upon certain rules and regulations, with the
object of ameliorating the condition of the sick and wounded in war. By
this convention all ambulances and military hospitals were neutralised,
and their inmates and staff were henceforth to be regarded as
non-combatants. The distinguishing red cross of the Geneva Convention is
now universally recognised as the one civilised element in the savagery
of war.

During a great part of the years that have passed since Miss Nightingale
returned from the Crimea, she has suffered from extremely bad health;
but few people, even of the most robust frame, have done better and more
invaluable work. She has been the adviser of successive Governments on
the sanitary condition of the army in India; her experience in the
Crimea convinced her that the death-rate in the army, even in time of
peace, could be reduced by nearly one-half by proper sanitary
arrangements. She contributed valuable state papers on the subject to
the Government of the day, and her advice has had important effects, not
only on the condition of the army, but also on the sanitary reform of
many of the towns of India, and on the extension of irrigation in that
country. Besides this department of useful public work, she has written
many books on the subjects she has made particularly her own; among them
may be mentioned _Notes on Hospitals_ and _Notes on Nursing_; the latter
in particular is a book which no family ought to be without.

It will surprise no one to hear that she is very zealous for all that
can lift up and improve the lives of women, and give them a higher
conception of their duties and responsibilities. She supports the
extension of parliamentary representation to women, generally, however,
putting in a word in what she writes on the subject, to remind people
that representatives will never be better than the people they
represent. Therefore the most important thing for men, as well as for
women, is to improve the education and morality of the elector, and then
Parliament will improve itself. Every honest effort for the good of men
or women has her sympathy, and a large number her generous support. May
she long be spared to the country she has served so well, a living
example of strength, courage, and self-forgetfulness—

                          A noble type of good
                          Heroic womanhood.

                            SANTA FILOMENA.

                          BY H. W. LONGFELLOW.

                 WHENE’ER a noble deed is wrought,
                 Whene’er is spoken a noble thought,
                     Our hearts, in glad surprise,
                     To higher levels rise.

                 The tidal wave of deeper souls
                 Into our inmost being rolls,
                     And lifts us unawares
                     Out of all meaner cares.

                 Honour to those whose words or deeds
                 Thus help us in our daily needs,
                     And by their overflow
                     Raise us from what is low.

                 Thus thought I, as by night I read
                 Of the great army of the dead,
                     The trenches cold and damp,
                     The starved and frozen camp.

                 The wounded from the battle plain
                 In dreary hospitals of pain,
                     The cheerless corridors,
                     The cold and stony floors.

                 Lo! in that house of misery
                 A lady with a lamp I see
                     Pass through the glimmering gloom,
                     And flit from room to room.

                 And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
                 The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
                      Her shadow, as it falls
                     Upon the darkening walls.

                 As if a door in heaven should be
                 Opened, and then closed suddenly,
                     The vision came and went,
                     The light shone and was spent.

                 On England’s annals, through the long
                 Hereafter of her speech and song,
                     That light its rays shall cast
                     From portals of the past.

                 A lady with a lamp shall stand
                 In the great history of the land,
                     A noble type of good
                     Heroic womanhood.

                 Nor even shall be wanting here
                 The palm, the lily, and the spear,
                     The symbols that of yore
                     Saint Filomena bore.


                               MARY LAMB

THE name of Mary Lamb can never be mentioned without recalling that of
her brother Charles, and the devoted, self-sacrificing love that existed
between the two. It was one of Harriet Martineau’s sayings, that of all
relations that between brother and sister was apt to be the least
satisfactory. There have been some notable examples to the contrary, and
perhaps the most notable is that given by Charles and Mary Lamb. When a
brother and sister are linked together by an unusually strong bond of
affection and admiration, it is generally the sister who, by inclination
and natural selection, sacrifices all individual and personal objects
for the sake of the brother. For instance, she frequently remains
unmarried in order to be able to devote herself to his pursuits and
further his interests. There is no more devotedly unselfish love than
that of a sister and brother when it is at its best. The love of a wife
for a husband, or a parent for a child, has something in it more of the
element of self. In both these relationships, the husband and wife and
the parent and child are so closely and indissolubly identified with one
another that it is comparatively easy to merge the love between them
into self-love. But between a brother and sister this is not the case.
The bond that unites the two can be set aside by either of them at will.
It is partly voluntary in its character, and, as previously remarked, in
the give and take of this affection, it is, speaking generally, the
brother who takes and the sister who gives. The contrary, however, was
the case with Charles and Mary Lamb. Between these two, it was the
brother who laid down his life for his sister, sacrificing for her sake,
at the outset of his own career, his prospects of love and marriage, the
ease and comfort of his life, and his opportunities of devoting himself
exclusively to his darling studies.

The story of these two beautiful lives is worth more than even their
contributions to English literature, and makes us love Lamb and his
sister quite independently of the _Essays of Elia_, and the _Tales from
Shakespeare_. Mary Lamb was born in 1764, eleven years before her
brother Charles. Her childhood, till the birth of this precious brother,
seems to have had little brightness in it. There was a tendency to
insanity in the Lamb family, and this tendency was probably intensified
in Mary’s case by the harshness and want of sympathy with which it was
then the fashion to treat children. “Polly, what are those poor crazy,
moythered brains of yours thinking, always?” was a speech of her
grandmother’s that made a lasting impression on the sensitive child. The
love of her parents, her mother especially, seems to have been centred
on her brother John, older than herself by two years. “‘Dear little
selfish, craving John,’ he was in childhood, and dear big selfish John
he remained in manhood” (Mrs. Gilchrist’s _Life of Mary Lamb_, p. 4).

The first creature upon whom the wealth of affection in Mary’s nature
could be freely bestowed was, therefore, the baby brother. She spoke in
after years of the curative influence on her mind of the almost maternal
affection which she lavished on the boy who was, to a great extent,
committed to her care. Henceforward she was no longer lonely, but had
gained a companion and object in life. Her education consisted mainly in
having been “tumbled early, by accident or design, into a spacious
closet of good old English reading, without much selection or
prohibition, and she browsed at will upon that fair and wholesome
pasturage.” This was the library of Mr. Salt, a bencher of the Inner
Temple, to whom her father was clerk. In 1782, when Charles was seven
and Mary eighteen, he became a scholar of the Blue Coat School, where he
formed a lifelong friendship with the poet Coleridge. The circumstances
of the Lambs gradually narrowed. The father was superannuated, and his
income was consequently reduced. The elder brother, John, held a good
appointment in the South Sea House, but he was much more intent on
enjoying himself and surrounding himself with luxuries than upon
providing for the wants of his family. For eleven years, from the age of
twenty-one to thirty-two, Mary supported herself by her needle.

The father’s mental faculties gradually gave way more and more. By the
time Charles was fifteen he left school, and the care and maintenance of
his family in a short time devolved mainly on him. He first obtained a
clerkship in the same establishment where his brother was employed, and
two years later he received a better paid appointment, with a salary of
£70 a year, in the India House. Domestic troubles, however, thickened
upon the family; the mother became a confirmed invalid, and in 1795
Charles was seized by an attack of the madness hereditary in the family.
This affliction must have weighed terribly upon Mary, who thus saw her
one prop and solace taken from her. She was left alone, with her father
in his second childhood, her mother an exacting and imperious invalid,
and an old Aunt Hetty, who was for ever poring over devotional books,
without apparently the capacity of sharing any of the household burdens.
No sooner was Charles restored to reason than a new trouble began. John
met with a serious accident, and, though in his days of prosperity his
family saw little or nothing of him, he now returned home to be nursed.
This seems to have been the last straw that broke poor Mary down. In
September 1796 the mania, with which she had been often threatened,
broke out; she seized a knife from the table and stabbed her mother to
the heart. The poor old father was almost unconscious of what had taken
place; Aunt Hetty fainted. It was Charles who seized the knife from his
sister’s grasp, but not before she had, in her frenzy, inflicted a
slight wound on her father. The horror of the whole scene can be with
difficulty pictured. Yet Charles, who had only lately been released from
an asylum, had the power to cope with it, to maintain his calmness and
courage, and above all to resolve that the terrible calamity which had
overtaken them should not be allowed to enshroud the whole of his dear
sister’s life in the gloom of a madhouse. He wrote to his friend
Coleridge five days after the tragedy, and his letter speaks nothing but
tender fortitude. “God has preserved to me my senses,” he writes. “I
eat, and drink, and sleep, and have my judgment, I believe, very sound.
My poor father was slightly wounded, and I am left to take care of him
and of my aunt.... With me ‘the former things are passed away,’ and I
have something more to do than to feel.”

Severe self-mastery is perceived in every word of this letter. Lamb was
evidently sensible that his own reason would totter if it were not
controlled by a strong effort of will. In another letter written a week
later to the same friend, the same spirit is shown; he had already
formed the determination not to allow his sister to remain in a
madhouse; he resolved to devote his life to her, and to give up all
thought of other happiness for himself than what was consistent with his
being her constant companion and guardian—“Your letter was an
inestimable treasure to me. It will be a comfort to you, I know, to know
that my prospects are somewhat brighter. My poor dear, dearest
sister—the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty’s
judgments on our house—is restored to her senses, to a dreadful sense
and recollection of what has past, awful to her mind, and impressive (as
it must be to the end of life), but tempered with religious resignation
and the reasonings of a sound judgment, which in this early stage knows
how to distinguish between a deed committed in a transient fit of frenzy
and the terrible guilt of a mother’s murder. I have seen her. I found
her this morning calm and serene, far, very far, from an indecent,
forgetful serenity; she has a most affectionate and tender concern for
what has happened. Indeed from the beginning, frightful and hopeless as
her disorder seemed, I had confidence enough in her strength of mind and
religious principle to look forward to a time when _even she_ might
recover tranquillity. God be praised, Coleridge, wonderful as it is to
tell, I have never once been otherwise than collected and calm; even on
the dreadful day, and in the midst of the terrible scene, I preserved a
tranquillity which bystanders may have construed into indifference—a
tranquillity not of despair. Is it folly or sin in me to say that it was
a religious principle that most supported me?... I felt I had something
else to do than to regret. On that first evening, my aunt was lying
insensible, to all appearance like one dying,—my father with his poor
forehead plastered over from a wound he had received from a daughter
dearly loved by him, who loved him no less dearly,—my mother, a dead and
murdered corpse in the next room,—yet was I wonderfully supported. I
closed not my eyes that night, but lay without terrors and without
despair. I have lost no sleep since. I had been long used not to rest in
things of sense, had endeavoured after a comprehension of mind
unsatisfied with the ignorant present time; and this kept me up. I had
the whole weight of the family thrown on me, for my brother, little
disposed (I speak not without tenderness for him) at any time to take
care of old age and infirmities, had now, with his bad leg, an exemption
from such duties; and I was now left alone.” He then speaks of the
kindness of various friends, and reckons up the resources of the family,
resolving to spare £50 or £60 a year to keep Mary at a private asylum at
Islington. “I know John will make speeches about it, but she shall not
go into an hospital.... If my father, and old maid-servant, and I, can’t
live, and live comfortably, on £130 or £120 a year, we ought to burn by
slow fires; and I almost would, that Mary might not go into an hospital.
Let me not leave an unfavourable impression on your mind respecting my
brother. Since this has happened, he has been very kind and brotherly,
but I fear for his mind. He has taken his ease in the world, and is not
fit to struggle with difficulties, nor has much accustomed himself to
throw himself into their way; and I know his language is already,
‘Charles, you must take care of yourself, you must not abridge yourself
of a single pleasure you have been used to,’ etc.; and in that style of
talking.” Charles goes on to explain that his sister would form one of
the family she had been placed with rather than a patient. “They, as the
saying is, take to her extraordinarily, if it is extraordinary that
people who see my sister should love her. Of all the people I ever saw
in the world, my poor sister was most thoroughly devoid of the quality
of selfishness. I will enlarge upon her qualities, dearest soul, in a
future letter for my own comfort, for I understand her thoroughly; and
if I mistake not, in the most trying situation that a human being can be
found in, she will be found ... uniformly great and amiable. God keep
her in her present mind, to whom be thanks and praise for all His
dispensations to mankind.”

The whole of the rest of Lamb’s life was a fulfilment of the loving
resolutions which had sustained him in the terrible hour of his mother’s
death. His love for the beautiful Alice W——n was relinquished as one of
the “tender fond records” for ever blotted out by a sterner, more
imperative claim of affection and duty. As soon as the old father died,
Mary and Charles were reunited in one home, and her brother’s
guardianship was accepted by the authorities as a sufficient guarantee
that any future return of her malady should not be accompanied by danger
to the lives of others. He was faithful to his self-imposed task. He
himself was never again attacked by the cruel malady, but his sister to
the end of her life was subject to recurring periods of insanity, which
latterly isolated her from her friends for months in every year. Through
their joint care and caution no fatal results again attended these
attacks of mania. There is something inexpressibly touching in the fact
that on their holiday excursions together, Mary invariably, with her own
hands, packed a strait-waistcoat for herself. She was able to foretell,
by premonitory symptoms, when she was likely to be attacked; and a
friend of the Lambs has related how he had met them walking together,
hand in hand, towards the asylum, both weeping bitterly.

Lamb’s strong feeling against allowing his sister to be placed in an
hospital for lunatics is more than justified by the accounts given, in
the _Life of Lord Shaftesbury_, of the frightfully barbarous treatment
to which insane people were subjected in the early part of the present
century. Their keepers always visited them whip in hand. They were
sometimes spun round on rotatory chairs at a tremendous speed; sometimes
they were chained in wells, in which the water was made to rise till it
reached their chins; sometimes they were left quite alone, chained to
their beds, from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning, unable to rise,
and with nothing but bread and water within their reach. No wonder that
Charles Lamb said he would burn by slow fires rather than let his sister
be treated like this.

The strong restorative of work done and duty fulfilled enabled Charles,
within little more than a year of the dreadful calamity which had
darkened his life, to make his first appearance as an author. These
first poems were dedicated to “the author’s best friend and sister.” He
wished to fence her round, as it were, by assurances of the high value
he set on her, and of the depth of his love. “I wish,” he wrote to
Coleridge, “to accumulate perpetuating tokens of my affection to poor
Mary.” When she was restored to his daily companionship, there was
nothing in her outward manner or appearance to indicate what a terrible
cloud rested on her past life. Her manners were tranquil and composed.
De Quincey speaks of her as that “Madonna-like lady.” There was no
appearance of settled melancholy in consequence of the fatal deed she
had been led to commit, but that it left a wound which was hidden rather
than healed is indicated by the words written long years after the
event: “My dear mother who, though you do not know it, is always in my
poor head and heart.” On another occasion, a child Mary loved asked her
why she never spoke of her mother. A cry of pain was the only response.
Her dependence on her brother was an ever-visible presence in both their
lives. Mrs. Cowden Clarke relates: “He once said, with his peculiar mode
of tenderness beneath blunt, abrupt speech, ‘You must die first, Mary.’
She nodded, with her little quiet nod and sweet smile, ‘Yes, I must die
first, Charles.’” The event was contrary to the wish and expectation
thus expressed. Charles preceded Mary to the grave by thirteen years;
but during the greater part of that time her intellect was so clouded as
to deprive her of the power of the acute suffering the loss of her
brother would otherwise have caused.

The literary fame of Mary Lamb rests chiefly on her _Tales from
Shakespeare_, and a collection of beautiful little stories for children,
called _Mrs. Leicester’s School_. The _Tales from Shakespeare_ were
written, as so much good work has been, under the stress of poverty. Six
of the great tragedies were undertaken by Charles, and fourteen other
plays by Mary. The scheme was to render each play into a prose story fit
for the comprehension and capacity of children; and the work was done
with inimitable felicity of diction, and critical insight into the
situations and characters of the world of men and women who live in
Shakespeare’s dramas. There is a letter of Mary’s describing herself and
Charles at work: “Charles has written _Macbeth_, _Othello_, _King Lear_,
and has begun _Hamlet_. You would like to see us, as we often sit
writing on one table (but not on one cushion sitting, like Hermia and
Helena in the _Midsummer Nights Dream_); or rather, like an old literary
Darby and Joan, I taking snuff, and he groaning all the while and saying
he can make nothing of it, which he always says till he has finished,
and then he finds out that he has made something of it” (Mrs.
Gilchrist’s _Life_, p. 119). The _Tales_ were written for William
Godwin, whose first wife was Mary Wollstonecraft. His second wife helped
him a great deal with his publishing business. She was a vulgar-minded
woman, and a pet aversion of the Lambs, especially of Charles, who said,
referring to her, “I will be buried with this inscription over me, ‘Here
lies C. L., the woman-hater’—I mean, that hated one woman; for the rest,
God bless ’em.” The success of the _Tales_ could not, however, be marred
by the unpopularity of the publisher and his wife. The book rapidly ran
through several editions, and even now a year seldom passes without the
_Tales from Shakespeare_ being presented to the public in some new form.

A portrait of Mary Lamb has been drawn by the master hand of her
brother. She is the Bridget of the _Essays of Elia_, as all lovers of
the essays well know. The humour and delicate insight into character for
which the writings of Charles Lamb are so distinguished, are also
characteristic of Mary, though the humour in her case is less
rollicking, and never breaks out in pure high spirits, as his often
does. Some of the most charming of Mary’s writings are her letters,
which have been published in Mrs. Gilchrist’s _Life_, especially those
to a young friend, named Sarah Stoddart.

This young lady had a most “business-like determination to marry”; and
as she generally had more than one string to her bow, as the saying is,
it is no wonder that she sometimes needed the help of an older and wiser
woman than herself, to get her out of the difficulties in which she
found herself. Much of Mary’s own character comes out in the advice she
gives her friend. She speaks in one place of her power of valuing people
for what they are, without demanding or expecting perfection. It is a
“knack I know I have, of looking into people’s real character, and never
expecting them to act out of it—never expecting another to do as I would
in the same case.” How much practical wisdom there is in this, and what
misunderstandings and heart-burnings would be saved if it were more
common not to expect people to act out of their own characters! There is
a funny little bit in another letter to the effect that women should not
be constantly admonishing men as to the right line of thought and
conduct. “I make it a point of conscience never to interfere or cross my
brother in the humour he happens to be in. It always appears to me a
vexatious kind of tyranny, that women have no business to exercise over
men, which merely because, _they having a better judgment_, they have
power to do. Let _men_ alone, and at last we find they come round to the
right way which _we_, by a kind of intuition, perceive at once. But
better, far better, that we should let them often do wrong than that
they should have the torment of a monitor always at their elbows.”

To begin quoting from the letters of Charles and Mary Lamb is such an
enticing task that it would be easy to fill more pages than this little
book contains. One more only shall be quoted from each. The most
beautiful of Mary’s letters is perhaps that which she wrote to Dorothy
Wordsworth, soon after the death by drowning of Wordsworth’s brother
John. The beautiful poem by Wordsworth, “The Happy Warrior,” is supposed
to have been written partly in reference to this brother, and partly in
reference to Nelson, whose death took place the same year (1805). “I
thank you,” Mary wrote, “my kind friend, for your most comfortable
letter; till I saw your own handwriting I could not persuade myself that
I should do well to write to you, though I have often attempted it.... I
wished to tell you that you would one day feel the kind of peaceful
state of mind and sweet memory of the dead which you so happily describe
as now almost begun; but I felt that it was improper, and most grating
to the feelings of the afflicted, to say to them that the memory of
their affliction would in time become a constant part, not only of their
dream, but of their most wakeful sense of happiness. That you would see
every object with, and through, your lost brother, and that that would
at last become a real and everlasting source of comfort to you, I felt
and well knew from my own experience in sorrow; but till you yourself
began to feel this I didn’t dare tell you so.”

How terrible that the mind and heart which could dictate such words as
these were weighed down by the lifelong burden of insanity! Before Miss
Wordsworth’s reply reached her, she was again attacked, and Charles
wrote in her place: “I have every reason to suppose that this illness,
like all the former ones, will be but temporary; but I cannot always
feel so. Meantime she is dead to me, and I miss a prop. All my strength
is gone, and I am like a fool, bereft of her co-operation. I dare not
think, lest I should think wrong, so used am I to look up to her in the
least as in the biggest perplexity. To say all that I know of her would
be more than I think anybody could believe, or even understand; and when
I hope to have her well again with me, it would be sinning against her
feelings to go about praising her, for I can conceal nothing that I do
from her. She is older and wiser and better than I, and all my wretched
imperfections I cover to myself by resolutely thinking on her goodness.
She would share life and death, heaven and hell, with me. She lives but
for me; and I know I have been wasting and teasing her life for five
years past incessantly, with my cursed drinking and ways of going on.
But even in thus upbraiding myself I am offending against her, for I
know that she has clung to me for better, for worse; and if the balance
has been against her hitherto it was a noble trade.”

Great, noble spirits they both were, even in their weaknesses and
imperfections, showing an example of devoted unselfishness, tenderness,
and generosity that many who “tithe mint and anise and cummin” might
envy. Mary Lamb survived to old age, dying in May 1847, aged
seventy-three. She was buried by her brother’s side in the churchyard at


                         AGNES ELIZABETH JONES

  “Count not that man’s life short who has had time to do noble
  deeds.”—From CICERO.

THERE is something very interesting in tracing, as we are sometimes able
to do, the connection of one piece of good work with another. The
energy, devotion, and success of one worker stimulates the enthusiasm of
others; this enthusiasm does not always show itself in carrying on or
developing what has been already begun, but sometimes manifests itself
in the more difficult task of breaking new ground; and thus one good
work becomes the parent of another. An example of what is here referred
to is to be found in the work of Mrs. Fry. To her initiative may be
traced not only the kindred labours of Mary Carpenter in reformatory and
industrial schools, and the still more modern efforts for the better
care of neglected children by the boarding-out system, and by such
societies as the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young
Servants, but to her also may indirectly be traced the success with
which women have devoted themselves to the art of sick nursing, and from
this again has spread or grown out the movement for extending to women a
thorough medical education and training.

Mrs. Fry’s connection with the art of sick nursing came about in this
way. In the first quarter of this century a young German named Fliedner
was appointed pastor to the little weaving village of Kaiserswerth on
the Rhine. He endeared himself to his people by his devotion to them;
but the time came when he was forced to leave them. The whole village
was involved in ruin because of the failure of the industry on which its
inhabitants depended. The people not only could not support their
pastor, but were themselves reduced to the greatest straits of actual
want. He left them in order to seek in wealthier places, not maintenance
for himself, but help for them. After travelling for some time in
Germany, he came to England, and while here, still intent on making
known the wants of Kaiserswerth, he met with Mrs. Fry, and was deeply
interested in all she was doing for the benefit of prisoners. Not long
after this he returned to Kaiserswerth, bearing with him the gifts he
had collected to relieve the pressing wants of his people; but his mind
was now full of Mrs. Fry, and of what was being done in England by and
for women. He and his wife resolved to begin similar work in Germany.
They began with two young women just discharged from a neighbouring
prison, whose relations refused to receive them or have anything further
to do with them. Soon the number of discharged prisoners increased, and
the pastor and his wife felt that they must have help; a friend
therefore came to join them in their work. In this way and from this
small beginning grew in time a very large institution, comprising not
only an organisation to enable discharged prisoners to get work and
regain their character, but a home and school for orphans, a hospital
for the sick, and an asylum for lunatics. The whole of the work of this
institution, which occupied several houses and comprised more than 300
persons, was done by carefully-trained women, called deaconesses.

Kaiserswerth was the parent of all the other deaconesses’ institutions
which now exist in almost every part of the world. The predominating
spirit at Kaiserswerth, after that of religious self-devotion, to which
a first place was given, was that the work of caring for the poor, the
sick, and the afflicted can only be rightly undertaken after a long
course of special preparation and training. It was a Protestant
sisterhood; those who entered were first called novices; in time the
novices became deaconesses, and the deaconesses were expected to bind
themselves to remain in the institution five years. They were, however,
bound by no vows, and could always leave if other duties seemed to
require that they should do so. In this institution the art of sick
nursing acquired a perfection at that time unknown in any other part of
Europe. It was here, mainly, that Florence Nightingale received the
training which enabled her to save the lives of so many of our soldiers
in the Crimea, and to introduce into England a new era in the history of
nursing. Here too Agnes Elizabeth Jones was trained.

Miss Nightingale’s often-repeated lesson on the subject of the necessity
of long and careful training was not lost upon Agnes Jones. When she
left Kaiserswerth, she knew, as Miss Nightingale said, “more than most
hospital matrons know when they undertake matronship.” But she was not
content with this. After working for a time with the London Bible
Women’s Mission, she applied to the training-school for nurses at St.
Thomas’s Hospital for another year’s training. She entered the hospital
as a “Nightingale probationer.” She went through, while she was there,
the whole training of a nurse. To quote Miss Nightingale again,
referring to this period, “Her reports of cases were admirable as to
nursing details. She was our best pupil; _she went through all the work
of a soldier, and she thereby fitted herself for being the best general
we ever had_.”

Before referring to Agnes Jones’s crowning work in reorganising the
nursing staff of the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary, it will be well to
recall the story of her life. There are few incidents in it, none at all
of a sensational character; but perhaps this makes the lesson to be
learnt from it all the more plain and simple.

She was born at Cambridge, of Irish parents, in 1832. Her father was a
colonel in the 12th Regiment, and her descent was from the north Irish
stock that has furnished so many great names to the roll-call of the
worthies of our nation. She was a Protestant evangelical, of the type
which northern Ireland produces. It is easy to label the religious sect
to which she belonged as narrow and unattractive; but however this may
be, as exemplified in her personally, her religion was too intense a
reality to be unattractive. It permeated her whole life, from the time
when as a child of seven her dream was to become a missionary, to the
hour when she died of typhus taken from a patient in the Liverpool
Infirmary to whom she had given up her own room and bed. Another deep
and permanent influence on her mind and character was her love for
Ireland. Over and over again in her letters we come across expressions
which show how close to her heart lay her country’s good. The training
at Kaiserswerth was intended to be utilised for the good of Ireland. “I
have no desire,” she wrote, “to become a deaconess; that would not, I
think, be the place I should be called upon to occupy. No, my own
Ireland first. It was for Ireland’s good that my first desire to be used
as a blessed instrument in God’s hand was breathed, ... and in Ireland
is it my heart’s desire to labour....”

In another letter she refers to the time when she “then and there”
dedicated herself to do what she could for Ireland, in its workhouses,
infirmaries, and hospitals. In another place she speaks of being
retained in England for another year’s training, and exclaims, “My last
English sojourn, I hope, as Ireland is ever my bourn!” And again, “My
heart is ever in Ireland, where I hope ultimately to work.” Her heart’s
desire was never gratified; she laid down her life, at the age of
thirty-five, in the Liverpool Workhouse, before she had had an
opportunity of giving to her own dear land the benefit of all she had
learned by the patient years of training at Kaiserswerth and in London.
Ulster Protestant as she was to the backbone, and a member of the Church
of England, she was a true patriot, and showed her patriotism by
labouring with self-denying earnestness to fit herself to lift up to a
higher level an important branch of the social life of her country.

She was very much stimulated, as so many women were, by the heroism of
the Nightingale band of nurses who left England for the Crimea in 1854.
She listened with vehement inward dissent to those who cast contempt and
blame on them, and, in her own words, “almost worshipped” their brave

She had paid a visit of a week to Kaiserswerth in 1853, but home duties,
especially the care of a widowed sister, at that time and for some years
prevented her from fulfilling her strong desire for a course of thorough
training in the art of nursing. It was not till 1860 that she returned
to Kaiserswerth for this purpose. Very soon after her year of
preparation there, she received, through Miss Nightingale, an invitation
from Mr. W. Rathbone to undertake the superintendence of the Liverpool
Training School for Nurses of the Poor. She was overwhelmed by a genuine
sense of her inadequacy to the task. She was a sincerely humble-minded
woman, and not only craved more training in the mechanical difficulties
of nursing, but doubted her own powers of organising, directing, and
superintending. She hesitated, and while hesitating, joined Mrs. Ranyard
in her London Biblewoman’s Mission. Her work here was interrupted by a
telegram summoning her to Rome to nurse a sick sister. As soon as the
sister recovered, another invalid relative claimed her. By their
bedsides she felt, to a certain extent, her own power, and the question
often arose in her mind, “Could I govern and teach others?” As soon as
these private cares were over, she visited nursing institutions in
Switzerland, France, and Germany, and before she returned to England she
determined to go for another year’s training to St. Thomas’s Hospital,
and then to offer herself for the difficult post at Liverpool. “I
determined,” she writes, “at least to try.... If every one shrinks back
because incompetent, who will ever do anything? ‘Lord, here am I; send

She did not on leaving St. Thomas’s immediately commence her work at
Liverpool. She was for a short time superintendent of a small hospital
in Bolsover Street, and later she filled a similar post at the Great
Northern Hospital. It was not till the spring of 1865 that she took the
place at Liverpool with which her name is chiefly connected.

The old system in pauper infirmaries was to allow the patients to be
“nursed” by old inmates of the workhouse. Among those to whom the care
of the sick was confided were “worn-out old thieves, worn-out old
drunkards,” and worse. Mr. W. Rathbone, of Liverpool, strongly urged on
the guardians of that place to do away with this wretched system, and to
substitute in the place of these ignorant, and often vicious, women a
staff of trained paid nurses. He generously undertook to defray the
whole cost of the new scheme for three years, by which time he believed
the improvement effected would be so great that no one would for a
moment dream of going back to the old plan. It was to the post of
superintendent of the band of trained nurses that Agnes Jones was called
in the spring of 1865.

It was no light task for a young woman of thirty-three. She had under
her about 50 nurses, 150 pauper “scourers,” and from 1220 to 1350
patients. The winters of 1865 and 1866 will long be remembered as the
terrible period of the cotton famine in Lancashire. The workhouse
infirmary at Liverpool was not only full, but overflowing; a number of
patients often arrived when every bed was full. Then the gentle
authority of Sister Agnes, as she was called, had to be exercised to
induce the wild, rough patients to make way for one another. Sometimes
she had to persuade them to let her put the beds together and place
three or even four in two beds. The children had to be packed together,
some at the head and some at the foot of the bed. She speaks of them as
“nests of children,” and mentions that forty under twelve were sent in
one day. This over-filling of the workhouse was of course no ordinary
occurrence, and was due to the exceptional distress in Lancashire at
that time. The number of deaths that took place, for the same reason,
was unusually large. Sister Agnes speaks in one of her letters of seven
deaths having occurred between Sunday night and Tuesday morning.

The dreadful melancholy of the place bore upon her with terrible weight.
There was not only the depressing thought that most of the inmates were
there in consequence of their own wickedness or folly, but added to this
the patients were isolated from friends and relatives whose visits do so
much to cheer an ordinary hospital. There were patients with _delirium
tremens_ wandering about the wards in their shirts; there were little
children, some not more than seven, steeped in every kind of vice and
infamy. “I sometimes wonder,” she wrote, in a moment of despair, “if
there is a worse place on earth than Liverpool, and I am sure its
workhouse is burdened with a large proportion of its vilest.”

Some of the best and most deeply-rooted instincts of human nature seemed
to turn into cruelty and gall in this terrible place. One of the
difficulties of the nurses was to prevent the mothers of the babies, who
were still at the breast, from fighting and stealing one another’s food.
They had nothing to do but nurse their babies, and they would hardly do
that. The noise, quarrelling, and dirt prevailing in their neighbourhood
was a constant source of trouble and anxiety. Another trouble was the
mixture among the patients of criminal cases, necessitating the presence
of policemen constantly on the premises. The ex-pauper women, too, whom
Sister Agnes was endeavouring to train as assistant nurses, were a great
anxiety. One morning, after they had been paid their wages, five arrived
at the hospital tipsy; after some months of constant effort and constant
disappointment, the attempt to train these women was given up. Besides
the strain on nerves, temper, and spirit arising from all these causes,
the physical work of Agnes Jones’s post was no light matter. Her day
began at 5.30 A.M. and ended after 11; added to this, if there was any
case about which she was specially anxious, or any nurse about whose
competence she did not feel fully assured, she would be up two or three
times in the night to satisfy herself that all was going well. Her
nurses were devoted to her, and, as a rule, gave her no anxiety or
discomfort which could be avoided. Her only distress on their account
arose from a severe outbreak of fever and small-pox among them, which
was a source of much painful anxiety to her. Miss Nightingale said of
her that “she had a greater power of carrying her followers with her
than any woman (or man) I ever knew.” “Her influence with her nurses was
unbounded. They would have died for her.”

All witnesses concur in speaking of her wonderful personal influence and
the effect it produced. The infirmary began to show the results of her
presence within a month of her arrival. In the three years she spent
there, she completely changed the whole place. At first the police, to
whose presence reference has already been made, were astonished that it
was safe for a number of young women to be about in the men’s wards, for
they well knew what a rough lot some of the patients were; but “in less
than three years she had reduced one of the most disorderly hospital
populations in the world to something like Christian discipline, such as
the police themselves wondered at. She had led, so as to be of one mind
and one heart with her, upwards of fifty nurses and probationers.... She
had converted a vestry to the conviction of the economy as well as the
humanity of nursing pauper sick by trained nurses.... She had converted
the Poor Law Board to the same view, and she had disarmed all
opposition, all sectarian zealotism; so that Roman Catholic and
Unitarian, High Church and Low Church, all literally rose up and called
her blessed.”

The manner of her death has been already referred to. It was in unison
with her unselfish, devoted life. She died on the 19th February 1868,
and her body was committed to the earth of her beloved Ireland, at
Fahan, on Lough Swilly, the home of her early years.


                       CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË

IN the quiet Yorkshire village of Haworth, on the bleak moorland
hillside above Keighley, were born two of the greatest imaginative
writers of the present century, Charlotte and Emily Brontë. The
wonderful gifts of the Brontë family, the grief and tragedy that
overshadowed their lives, and their early deaths, will always cast about
their story a peculiarly touching interest. Their father, the Rev.
Patrick Brontë, was of Irish birth. He was born in the County Down, of a
Protestant family—one that had migrated from the south to the north of
Ireland. His character was that which we are more accustomed to
associate with Scotland than with Ireland. Resolute, stern, independent,
and self-denying, he had the virtues of an old Covenanter rather than
the facile graces which so often distinguish those of Celtic blood. His
father was a farmer, but Patrick Brontë had no desire to live by
agricultural industry. At sixteen years of age he separated himself from
his family and opened a school. What amount of success he had in this
undertaking does not appear, but it is evident that he had a distinct
object in view, namely, to obtain money enough to complete his own
education; in this he was successful, for after nine years’ labour in
instructing others, he entered as a student in St. John’s College,
Cambridge, remained there four years, obtained the B.A. degree of the
University, and was ordained as a clergyman of the Church of England. He
kept up no intercourse with his family, and showed no trace of his Irish
blood, either in speech or character. He loved and married Miss
Branwell, of Penzance, a lady of much sweetness and refinement. Their
six children were destined, through the writings of two of them, to be
known wherever the English language is spoken, all over the world. After
holding livings in Essex and at Thornton, in Yorkshire, Mr. Brontë was
appointed to the Rectory of Haworth, which is now so often visited on
account of its association with the authors of _Jane Eyre_ and
_Wuthering Heights_.

Mrs. Brontë’s six children were born in rapid succession, and her
naturally delicate constitution was further tried by the constant labour
and anxiety involved in providing, on very limited means, for the wants
of the little brood. Mrs. Gaskell, in her _Life of Charlotte Brontë_,
appears to imply that, more than is even usually the case, the weight of
family cares and anxieties fell upon the mother rather than the father.
“Mr. Brontë,” she says, “was, of course, much engaged in his study, and
besides, he was not naturally fond of children, and felt their frequent
appearance upon the scene as a drag both on his wife’s strength and as
an interruption to the comfort of the household.” One feels disposed to
comment on this by saying that children ought never to be born if either
of their parents inclines to regard them “as an interruption to the
comfort of the household.” To give life and grudge it at the same time
is not an attractive combination of qualities. Though not much helped by
her husband, Mrs. Brontë was, however, not alone in her domestic cares
and duties; the eldest of the “interruptions to the comfort of the
household,” Maria, was a child of wonderfully precocious intellect and
heart. Her remarkable character was described in after years by her
sister Charlotte as the Helen Burns of _Jane Eyre_. In her, her mother
found a sympathising companion and a helper in her domestic cares. The
time was rapidly approaching when the mother’s place in the household
would be vacant, and when many of its duties and responsibilities would
be discharged by Maria.

The little Brontës were from their birth unlike other children. The room
dedicated to their use was not, even in their babyhood, called their
nursery; it was their “study.” Little Maria at seven years old would
shut herself up in this study with the newspaper, and be able to
converse with her father on all the public events of the day, and
instruct the other children as to current politics, and upon the
characters of the chief personages of the political world.

Mrs. Brontë died in 1821. Maria was then eight; Elizabeth, seven;
Charlotte, five; Patrick Branwell, four; Emily, three; and Anne, one.
The little motherless brood were left alone for a year, when an elder
sister of their mother came to live at the parsonage, but she does not
seem to have had any real influence over them. She taught the girls to
stitch and sew, and to become proficient in various domestic arts, but
she had no sympathy or communion with them, and their real life was
lived quite apart from hers. As soon almost as they could read and write
at all, they began to compose plays and act them; they had no society
but each other’s; this, however, was all-sufficient for them. Their
power of invention and imagination was very marked; to the habit of
composing stories in their own minds they gave the name of “making out.”
As soon as the labour of writing became less formidable than it always
is to baby fingers, the stories thus “made out” were written down. In
fifteen months, when Charlotte was about twelve to thirteen years of
age, she wrote twenty-two volumes of manuscript, in the minutest hand,
which can hardly be deciphered except with the aid of a
magnifying-glass. The Duke of Wellington filled a large place in the
minds of the Brontës, and in their romances. Something of what the hero
was to them when they were children, Charlotte afterwards put into the
mouth of Shirley, the heroine of her novel of that name. After the
manner of imaginative children, she not only worshipped her hero from
afar, but identified herself with him or with members of his family. The
authorship of many of her childish romances and poems is ascribed, in
her imagination, to the Marquis of Douro, or Lord Charles Wellesley; and
when these “goodly youths” are not introduced as authors they often
become the chief personages of the story.

The shadow of death that casts so deep a gloom over the story of the
Brontë family, first fell on Maria and Elizabeth, the two elder
children. The four girls—Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Emily—had been
sent to a school, which was partly a charitable institution, at Cowan
Bridge, in Westmoreland. The living at Haworth parsonage was the reverse
of luxurious, but the food and the sanitary arrangements at Cowan Bridge
were so bad that the health of the little Brontës was seriously injured
by it. The food was repulsive from the want of cleanliness with which it
was prepared and placed on the table. The children frequently refused
food altogether, though sinking from the want of it, rather than drink
the “bingy” milk, and eat unappetising scraps from a dirty larder, and
puddings made with water taken from rain-tubs and impregnated with the
smell of soot and dust. Besides the faulty domestic arrangements of the
school, the discipline was harsh and tyrannical, and one teacher in
particular was guilty of conduct towards Maria Brontë that can only be
called brutal. Low fever broke out at the school, from which about forty
of the pupils suffered, but the Brontës did not take the disease. It was
evident that Maria was destined for another fate, that of consumption.
She was removed from the school only a few days before her death, and
Elizabeth followed her to the grave about six weeks later, in June 1825.
Even after this Mr. Brontë’s eyes were not opened to the danger his
children were in by their treatment at Cowan Bridge, and Charlotte and
Emily were still allowed to remain at the school. It soon, however,
became evident that they would not be long in following Maria and
Elizabeth unless they were removed; and they returned home before the
rigours of another winter set in. All the physical and mental tortures
she endured at Cowan Bridge, Charlotte afterwards described in the
account she gives of “Lowood” in _Jane Eyre_. It is not to be taken that
the account of “Lowood” is as strictly an accurate description of Cowan
Bridge as Charlotte Brontë would have given if she had been simply
writing a history of the school. The facts are, perhaps, magnified by
the lurid glow of passion and grief with which she recalled her sisters’
sufferings. She was only between nine and ten when she left Cowan
Bridge, and in the account she wrote of it twenty years later we see
rather the impression that was left on her imagination than a strictly
accurate history; but there is no doubt that in her account of Maria
Brontë’s angelic patience, and the cruel persecution to which she was
subjected by one of the teachers, the Lowood of _Jane Eyre_ is a
perfectly faithful transcript of what took place at Cowan Bridge. Mrs.
Gaskell says, “Not a word of that part of _Jane Eyre_ but is a literal
repetition of scenes between the pupil and the teacher. Those who had
been pupils at the same time knew who must have written the book from
the force with which Helen Burns’s sufferings are described.”

After the death of Maria and Elizabeth, the next great sorrow of the
Brontë family arose from the career of the only son, Patrick Branwell.
He was a handsome boy of exceptional mental powers. He had in particular
the gift of brilliant conversation, and there was hardly anything he
attempted in the way of talking, writing, or drawing which he did not do
well. In one of Charlotte’s letters she says, “You ask me if I do not
think that men are strange beings? I do, indeed. I have often thought
so; and I think, too, that the mode of bringing them up is strange; they
are not sufficiently guarded from temptation. Girls are protected as if
they were something very frail and silly indeed, while boys are turned
loose on the world, as if they of all beings in existence were the
wisest and least liable to be led astray.” Poor Branwell, with his
brilliant social qualities, was not sufficiently guarded from
temptation. The easiest outlet from the narrow walls of Haworth
parsonage was to be found at the little inn of Haworth village. The
habit of the place was, when any stranger arrived at the inn, for the
host to send for the brilliant boy from the parsonage to amuse the
guest. The result will easily be guessed. The guiding principle of
Charlotte’s character was her inexorable fidelity to duty; her whole
nature turned with irresistible force to what was right rather than to
what was pleasant. With Branwell the reverse was the case. Conventional
propriety of course strictly guarded Charlotte from the possible dangers
of associating with casual strangers at the village inn, although her
strong resolute character would not have run a tenth part of the risk of
contamination as did that of the weak, pleasure-seeking Branwell. It is
needless to dwell on the details of his gradual degradation; the high
ideals and hopes of his youth were given up; his character became at
once coarse and weak. He was entirely incapable of self-government and
of retaining any kind of respectable employment. His intemperance and
other vices made the daily life of his sisters at the parsonage a
nightmare of horrors. For eight years the young man, whose boyhood his
family had watched with so much hope and pride, was a source of shame
and anguish to them, all the more keenly felt because it could not be
openly avowed. Many who knew the family affirmed that so far as purely
intellectual qualities were concerned Branwell was even more eminently
distinguished than his sisters; but mere intellect, without moral power
to guide it, is as dangerous as a spirited horse without bit or bridle.
Branwell was singularly deficient in that moral power in which his
sisters were so strong, and his education did nothing to supply this
natural deficiency. He died in 1848, at the age of thirty.

Cowan Bridge was not the only experience Charlotte and Emily had of
school life. They went for a time to another school at Roe Head, where
Charlotte was very happy, and in 1835 she returned to the same school as
a teacher. In 1842 Charlotte and Emily went to a school in Brussels,
where the former stayed two years, the latter only one. All that
Charlotte saw and all the friends she made were afterwards portrayed in
her stories. One of her most intimate friends became the Caroline
Helstone of _Shirley_; the originals of Rose and Jessie Yorke were also
among her schoolfellows at Roe Head. There can be little doubt that M.
Paul Emanuel of Villette was M. Héger of the Brussels school. Every
trivial circumstance of an unusually uneventful life became food for her

The development of Emily’s genius was different. Her love of the moors
around Haworth was so intense that it was impossible for her to thrive
when she was away from them. It became a fact recognised by all the
family that Emily must not be taken away from home. The solitude of the
wild, dark moors, and the communing with her own heart, together with
the dark tragedy of Branwell’s wasted life, were the sole sources of
Emily’s inspiration. Her poems have a wild, untameable quality in them,
and her one romance, _Wuthering Heights_, places her in the first rank
among the great imaginative writers of English fiction. There is
something terrible in Emily’s sternness of character, which she never
vented pitilessly on any one but herself. She was deeply reserved, and
hardly ever, even to her sisters, spoke of what she felt most intensely.
A friend who furnished Mrs. Gaskell with some particulars for her
biography, states that on one occasion she mentioned “that some one had
asked me what religion I was of (with the view of getting me for a
partisan), and that I had said that was between God and me. Emily, who
was lying on the hearth-rug, exclaimed, ‘That’s right.’ This was all,”
adds the friend, “I ever heard Emily say on religious subjects.” Emily’s
love for animals was intense; she was especially devoted to a savage old
bull-dog named Keeper, who owned no master but herself. The incident in
_Shirley_ of the heroine being bitten by a mad dog, and straightway
burning the wound herself with a red-hot Italian iron, was true of
Emily. Her last illness was a time of terrible agony to Charlotte and
Anne, not merely because they saw that she who, Charlotte said, was the
thing that seemed nearest to her heart in the world was going to be
taken from them, but because Emily’s resistance to the inroads of
illness was so terrible. She resolutely refused to see a doctor, and she
would allow no nursing and no tender helpfulness of any kind. It was
evident to her agonised sisters that she was dying, but she maintained
her savage reserve, suffering in solitary silence rather than admit her
pain and weakness. On the very day of her death she rose as usual,
dressed herself, and attempted to carry on her usual employments, and
all this with the catching, rattling breath and the glazing eye which
told that the hand of Death was actually upon her. Charlotte wrote in
this agonising hour, “Moments so dark as these I have never known. I
pray for God’s support to us all. Hitherto He has granted it.” At noon
on that day, when it was too late, Emily whispered in gasps, “If you
will send for a doctor, I will see him now.” A few days later Charlotte
wrote, “We are very calm at present. Why should we be otherwise? The
anguish of seeing her suffer is over; the spectacle of the pains of
death is gone by; the funeral day is past. We feel she is at peace. No
need to tremble for the hard frost and the keen wind. Emily does not
feel them.” The terrible anguish of those last days haunted the
surviving sisters like a vision of doom. Nearly six months later
Charlotte wrote again that nothing but hope in the life to come had kept
her heart from breaking. “I cannot forget,” she says, “Emily’s
death-day; it becomes a more fixed, a darker, a more frequently
recurring idea in my mind than ever. It was very terrible. She was torn,
conscious, panting, reluctant, though resolute, out of a happy life.”
Within a very short time the gentle youngest sister Anne also died, and
Charlotte was left with her father, the last survivor of the family of
six wonderful children who had come to Haworth twenty-nine years before.

In earlier and happier days the habit of the sisters had been, when
their aunt went to bed at nine o’clock, to put out the candles and pace
up and down the room discussing the plots of their novels, and making
plans and projects for their future life. Now Charlotte was left to pace
the room alone, with all that had been dearest to her in the world under
the church pavement at Haworth and in the old churchyard at Scarborough.
But Charlotte was not one to give way to self-indulgent idleness, even
in the hour of darkest despair. She was writing _Shirley_ at the time of
Anne’s last illness. After the death of this beloved and only remaining
sister, she resumed her task; but those who knew what her private
history at the time was, can trace in the pages of the novel what she
had gone through. The first chapter she wrote after the death of Anne is
called, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death.”

The first venture in authorship of the sisters was a volume of poems, to
which they each contributed. They imagined, probably with justice, that
the world was at that time prejudiced against literary women. Therefore
they were careful to conceal, even from their publishers, their real
identity. The poems were published as the writings of Currer, Ellis, and
Acton Bell.

_Jane Eyre_ was the first of Charlotte’s stories which was published,
but _The Professor_ was the first that was written with a view to
publication. The sisters each wrote a story—Charlotte, _The Professor_;
Emily, _Wuthering Heights_; and Anne, _Agnes Grey_, and sent them to
various publishers. Charlotte was the only one of the three sisters
whose manuscript was returned on her hands. But she was not discouraged
by the disappointment. Just at this time Mr. Brontë, who had been
suffering from cataract, was persuaded by his daughters to go to
Manchester for an operation. Charlotte accompanied him, and it was while
she was waiting on him, in the long suspense after the operation had
been performed, that she began _Jane Eyre_, the book that made her, and
ultimately the name of Brontë, famous. Nothing is more striking in
Charlotte’s personal history than the way in which she reproduced the
events and personages of her own circle into her novels. Probably the
belief that she was writing anonymously encouraged her in this. Her
father’s threatened blindness and her own fear of a similar calamity are
reflected, as it were, in the blindness of Rochester in _Jane Eyre_. The
success of _Jane Eyre_ was rapid and complete, and there was much
dispute whether its author were a man or a woman. The _Quarterly Review_
distinguished itself by the remark that if the author were a woman it
was evident “she must be one who for some sufficient reason has long
forfeited the society of her sex.” Sensitive as Charlotte Brontë was,
the coarseness of the insult could not wound her; it could at the utmost
be regarded as nothing worse than a trivial annoyance; for when the
words reached Charlotte, the grave had not long closed over Branwell’s
wasted life; Emily was just dead, and it was evident that Anne was
dying. The greatness of her grief and the anguish of her loneliness
dwarfed to their proper proportions the petty insults that at another
time would have caused her acute pain. On the whole she had nothing to
complain of in the way her book was received; she suffered no lack of
generous appreciation from the real leaders of the literary world.
Thackeray and G. H. Lewes, Miss Martineau, and Sidney Dobell were warm
in their praise of her work. Charlotte’s manner of making her literary
fame known to her father was characteristic. The secret of their
authorship had been very strictly kept by the sisters; but when the
success of _Jane Eyre_ was assured, Emily and Anne urged Charlotte that
their father ought to be allowed to share the pleasure of knowing that
she was the writer of the book. Accordingly one afternoon Charlotte
entered her father’s study and said, “Papa, I’ve been writing a book.”
When Mr. Brontë found that the book was not only written, but printed
and published, he exclaimed, “My dear, you’ve never thought of the
expense it will be! It will be almost sure to be a loss, for how can you
get a book sold? No one knows you or your name.”

“But, papa, I don’t think it will be a loss; no more will you, if you
will just let me read you a review or two, and tell you more about it.”
At tea that evening Mr. Brontë exclaimed to his other daughters, “Girls,
do you know that Charlotte has been writing a book, and it is much
better than likely?”

The pacing up and down of the sisters in the firelight, discussing the
plots of their novels, has been already mentioned. Mrs. Gaskell records
that Charlotte told her that these discussions seldom had any effect in
causing her to change the events in her stories, “so possessed was she
with the feeling that she had described reality.” This confirms what Mr.
Swinburne has said of her strongest characteristic as an author, that
she has the power of making the reader feel in every nerve that thus and
not otherwise it must have been. It must not, however, be thought that
the conversations with her sisters were therefore useless; no doubt they
were very stimulating to her imagination, and gave her creations more
solid reality than they would otherwise have had.

In 1854 Charlotte Brontë married Mr. Nicholls, an Irish gentleman, who
had for eight years been her father’s curate. She only lived nine months
after her marriage. She was happy in her husband’s love, and appreciated
his devotion to his parish duties. But the loving admirers of Charlotte
Brontë can never feel much enthusiasm for Mr. Nicholls. Mrs. Gaskell
states that he was not attracted by her literary fame, but was rather
repelled by it; he appears to have used her up remorselessly, in their
short married life, in the routine drudgery of parish work. She did not
complain; on the contrary, she seemed more than contented to sacrifice
everything for him and his work; but she remarks in one of her letters,
“I have less time for thinking.” Apparently she had none for writing.
Surely the husband of a Charlotte Brontë, just as much as the wife of a
Wordsworth or a Tennyson, ought to be attracted by literary fame. To be
the life partner of one to whom the most precious of Nature’s gifts is
confided, and to be unappreciative of it and even repelled by it, shows
a littleness of nature and essential meanness of soul. A true wife or
husband of one of these gifted beings should rather regard herself or
himself as responsible to the world for making the conditions of the
daily life of their distinguished partners favourable to the development
of their genius. But pearls have before now been cast before swine, and
one cannot but regret that Charlotte Brontë was married to a man who did
not value her place in literature as he ought.


                       ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

SYDNEY SMITH, writing in 1810 upon the extraordinary folly of closing to
women all the ordinary means of literary education, remarked that one
consequence of their exclusion was that no woman had contributed
anything of lasting value to English, French, or Italian literature, and
that scarcely a single woman had crept into the ranks even of the minor
poets. While he was writing this, a little baby girl was beginning to
prattle, who within a very short time was destined to win a place among
the great poets of this century. The very great gifts of Elizabeth
Barrett were discernible from her earliest childhood. Her father was Mr.
Edward Moulton, of Burn Hall, Durham. The date and place of her birth
are disputed. Mrs. Richmond Ritchie states in the _National Dictionary
of Biography_ that the future poetess was born at Burn Hall, Durham, in
1809; Mr. J. H. Ingram says in his _Life of Mrs. Browning_ in the
Eminent Women Series that she was born in London in 1809; while Mr.
Browning has written to the papers to say that she was born at Carlton
Hall, Durham, in 1806. Three birthplaces and two birthdays are thus
assigned to her. It is not, however, disputed that she was christened by
the names of Elizabeth Barrett, and that her father afterwards exchanged
the name of Moulton for that of Barrett on inheriting some property from
a relative. At eight years old little Elizabeth could read Homer in the
original Greek, and was often to be seen with the _Iliad_ in one hand
and a doll in the other; this picture of her gives a beautiful type of
her future character, its depth of loving womanliness, combined with the
height of poetic inspiration and learning. She was certainly one of the
women of whom her brother poet, Tennyson, sings, who “gain in mental
breadth nor fail in childward care.” She says herself of her childhood
that “she dreamed more of Agamemnon than of Moses her black pony.” At
about eleven years old she wrote an epic poem in four books on _The
Battle of Marathon_, which her father caused to be printed. Her home,
during most of her childhood, was at Hope End, near Ledbury, in
Herefordshire. Many pictures of her happy childhood among the beautiful
hills and orchards of the West country are to be found in the poems,
especially in “Hector in the Garden” and in her “Lost Bower.” Much of
her young life, too, is described in the earlier part of her greatest
work, _Aurora Leigh_. We do not hear much about the mother of the
poetess, but her grandmother, it is said, looked with much disfavour on
the little lady’s learning, and said she would “rather hear that
Elizabeth’s hemming were more carefully finished than of all this
Greek.” Her father, however, was a worthy guardian of the wonderful
child that had been entrusted to him; he fostered and encouraged her
genius by all means in his power. He must have had a singular power of
self-devotion and self-sacrifice; and it is probable that much of his
daughter’s beautiful moral nature was inherited from him. When Elizabeth
was about twenty, her mother lay in her last illness, and simultaneously
money troubles, brought on by no fault of his own, fell upon Mr.
Barrett. He would allow no knowledge of this to disturb his wife during
her illness; and in order effectually to hide the truth from her, he
made an arrangement with his creditors which very materially reduced his
income for life, so that no reduction of his establishment should take
place as long as his wife lived.

Two other misfortunes had an important influence on Elizabeth Barrett’s
youth. When she was about fifteen, she was trying to saddle her pony by
herself in the paddock, when she was thrown to the ground, and her spine
was injured in a manner that kept her lying on her back for four years.
Scarcely had she recovered from this injury, when another terrible
calamity nearly overwhelmed her. She had been sent to Torquay for the
benefit of her health, and had been there nearly a year, when her eldest
brother came to visit her, in order to consult her about some trouble of
his own. With two other young men, all good sailors, he took a little
boat, intending to have a sail along the coast. Within a few minutes of
starting, and almost under his sister’s window, the boat went down, and
young Barrett and his companions were drowned. The grief and horror
caused by this terrible event nearly killed her. It was almost a year
before she could be moved by slow stages of twenty miles a day to
London. Those who knew her best at that time believe that she would have
died if she had not been sustained by her love of literary pursuits,
which afforded some relief to her mind from the constant dwelling on the
tragedy of which she accused herself of being the cause. Miss Mitford
says in her _Literary Recollections_: “The house she occupied at Torquay
had been chosen as one of the most sheltered in the place. It stood at
the bottom of the cliffs, almost close to the sea; and she told me
herself that during that whole winter the sound of the waves rang in her
ears like the moans of one dying. Still she clung to literature and
Greek; in all probability she would have died without that wholesome
diversion to her thoughts. Her medical attendant did not always
understand this. To prevent the remonstrance of her friendly physician,
Dr. Barry, she caused a small edition of Plato to be so bound as to
resemble a novel. He did not know, skilful and kind though he were, that
to her such books were not an arduous and painful study, but a
consolation and a delight.” She, however, appeared to be condemned to a
life of perpetual invalidism. She now lived in London with her father,
and was confined to one large darkened room, and saw no one but her own
family, and a few intimate friends, the chief of whom were Miss Mitford,
Mrs. Jameson, and Mr. John Kenyon. The impression she produced on all
who came into contact with her was that she was the most charming and
delightful person they had ever met. Her sweetness, her purity, and the
tender womanliness of her character, made her friends forget her
learning and her genius. Miss Mitford says she often travelled
five-and-forty miles expressly to see her, and returned the same evening
without entering another house. The seclusion in which she lived was
perhaps not unfavourable to literary work. She lay on her couch, not
only, as Miss Mitford says, reading every book worth reading in almost
every language, but “giving herself heart and soul to that poetry of
which she seemed born to be the priestess.” In 1835 she published
_Prometheus and other Poems_, which, in the opinion of the most
competent judges, raised her at once to a high rank among English poets.
In 1843 she wrote _The Cry of the Children_, to which Lord Shaftesbury
owed so much in his efforts to protect factory children from being
ground to death by overwork; and later she wrote the noble “Song for the
Ragged Schools of London,” whose words go straight to every mother’s

During her long period of illness her chief link with the outside world
was her cousin, Mr. John Kenyon, to whom _Aurora Leigh_ is dedicated. He
knew all who were best worth knowing in the great world of London, and
he occasionally introduced to her one and another of those whom he
believed to be most capable of appreciating her and pleasing her. In
this way, in 1846, he brought Mr. Robert Browning to see Miss Barrett.
In the autumn of that same year the poet and poetess were married. What
his love was for her and hers for him may be gathered in the lovely
poem, “Caterina to Camoens,” and in the forty-three _Sonnets from the
Portuguese_, which Mrs. Browning wrote before her marriage. Almost
directly after her marriage Mrs. Browning was ordered abroad for the
benefit of her health, and the chief part of the remaining fifteen years
of her life was spent in Italy. She identified herself completely with
those who were struggling for the unity and independence of Italy, and
much of her poetry from this time onwards is coloured by her political
convictions. In Florence, in 1849, her only child, Robert Browning the
younger, was born. The deep joy of motherhood suffuses much of the
noblest part of _Aurora Leigh_. One is tempted to believe that the
lovely description of Marian Erle bending over her sleeping child,

            The yearling creature, warm and moist with life
            To the bottom of his dimples,

could have been written by no one who had not felt a mother’s love. In
any case, it adds to one’s pleasure in reading it to know that the
poetess was drawing her inspiration from her own excessive happiness in
the bliss of motherhood.

Many have singled out Mrs. Browning’s _Sonnets from the Portuguese_ as
her chief work. Mrs. Ritchie, in a very interesting article in the
_National Dictionary of Biography_, says of them, “There is a quality in
them which is beyond words: an echo from afar, which belongs to the
highest human expression of feeling.” Many other of the best judges have
said they are among the greatest sonnets in the English language. But
the work for which the world is most deeply in her debt is _Aurora
Leigh_. It probes to the bottom, but with a hand guided by purity and
justice, those social problems which lie at the root of what are known
as women’s questions. Her intense feeling that the honour of manhood can
never be reached while the honour of womanhood is sullied; her no less
profound conviction that people can never be raised to a higher level by
mere material prosperity, make this book one of the most precious in our
language. She herself speaks of it in the dedication as “The most mature
of my works, and the one into which my highest convictions upon Life and
Art have entered.” If she had written nothing else, she would stand out
as one of the epoch-making poets of the present century.

Mr. Browning has published some interesting information as to the manner
in which he and his wife worked. They were very careful not to influence
each other’s compositions unduly. Their styles in writing are entirely
unlike. They abstained from reading each other’s poems while they were
in process of composition. Mrs. Browning always kept a low
writing-table, with inkstand and pen upon it, by her side. Mr. Browning
wrote: “My wife used to write it (_Aurora Leigh_) and lay it down to
hear our child spell, or when a visitor came in it was thrust under the
cushions. At Paris, a year ago last March, she gave me the first six
books to read, I never having seen a line before. She then wrote the
rest and transcribed them in London, where I read them also. I wish, in
one sense, that I had written and she had read it.” No one but a poet
could have expressed so perfectly the great pleasure the reading gave
him. There is an anecdote that when the Brownings left Florence for
London, in 1856, the box containing the MS. of _Aurora Leigh_ was lost
at Marseilles. It also contained the velvet suits and lace collars of
the little boy; and it is said that Mrs. Browning was far more
distressed at losing the latter than the former. However, both were
fortunately recovered, for the box containing them was found by Mrs.
Browning’s brother in one of the dark recesses of the Marseilles Custom

As evidence of her position in the literary world, it may be mentioned
that when Wordsworth died in 1850 the _Athenæum_ strongly urged that
Mrs. Browning ought to be made Poet Laureate.

Her sympathy with Italy was so strong that it is believed that the news
of the death of Cavour, through whom in so large a measure the unity of
Italy was achieved, hastened her own. She was very ill when the news
reached her, and she died in Florence on 30th June 1861. The
municipality of Florence placed a tablet upon her house expressing their
gratitude and admiration for her, and saying that in her womanly heart
she had reconciled the wisdom of the learned with the enthusiasm of the
poet, and with her verses had made a golden ring uniting Italy with



THE first Napoleon is said to have remarked to Madame de Staël that
women had nothing to do with politics; whereupon the lady rejoined that
women ought at least to be sufficiently acquainted with political
subjects to understand the reason why their heads were cut off. When we
read the account of the great sufferings of the English ladies who were
held as prisoners or hostages by Akbar Khan in Afghanistan in 1842, we
are reminded of Madame de Staël’s epigram, and think that they ought at
least to have had the consolation of understanding the political
meddling and muddling, which led to the prolonged pain and danger to
which they were subjected.

Afghanistan is a wild mountainous country beyond the north-west frontier
of the British Empire in India. Its people consist of savage, desperate,
lawless tribes, constantly at war with one another; indeed, they are
hardly ever united unless they are attacked by some foreign foe. They
are particularly jealous of any kind of foreign influence or
interference. Every man among them is bred to arms, even children being
provided with dangerous knives; they are trained to great endurance,
they are splendid horsemen, and are proficient in many kinds of manly
sports and martial exercises; but with these superficially attractive
qualities they possess others of a different stamp, for they are
treacherous, utterly regardless of truth, revengeful, bloodthirsty,
sensual, and avaricious. It will thus be seen that both their good and
their bad qualities render them particularly dangerous as foes. The
character of their country is very much like their own. It is a land of
rocky mountain passes, and a great part of it is savage and sterile. It
is separated from India by narrow rocky defiles, the principal one of
which, the Khyber pass, is twenty-eight miles long, and runs between
lofty, almost perpendicular precipices; the pass itself is so covered
with rocks and boulders that progress along it, even under the most
favourable circumstances, must necessarily be very slow. The rocky
precipices which command the pass are so steep that they cannot be
mounted; but they are perforated by many natural caves, which for
centuries have been the strongholds of bands of robbers. It is easy to
understand that an army endeavouring to go through this pass is at a
terrible disadvantage, and is almost entirely at the mercy of the wild
tribes of warriors and robbers who infest the heights.

About 1838-39 there was more than usual of internal fighting between the
savage tribes of Afghanistan. Some tribes wished for Dost Mahomed as
their king, or Ameer, and others wished for Shaj Soojah. It was
considered by those who directed the policy of the British Government in
India, a favourable time for us to interfere. It appears to have been
thought that we should make the ruler of Afghanistan our friend, if he
felt that he owed his throne to our espousal of his cause. It was,
however, forgotten that, however much the Afghans quarrelled among
themselves, they would forget all past enmities and unite against a
foreigner who tried to intervene between them; and they would hate and
despise any ruler who owed his nominal sovereignty to the help of
foreign soldiers. Therefore, although the English succeeded, in the
first instance, in driving away Dost Mahomed and making Shaj Soojah
king, they soon found that this first success was the beginning of their
difficulties. Sir George Lawrence has told the story in his interesting
book called _Forty-three Years of my Life in India_, and another
narrative of the same events may be found in _Lady Sale’s Journal_. An
Afghan horseman, with whom Sir George (then Major) Lawrence conversed,
expressed the feelings of his countrymen and the difficulties of our
position in a few words. “What could induce you,” he said, “to squander
crores of rupees[2] in coming to a poor rocky country like ours, without
wood or water, and all in order to force upon us a kumbukbt (unlucky
person) as a king, who, the moment you turn your backs, will be upset by
Dost Mahomed, our _own_ king?”

However, for a time the English army in Afghanistan did not realise the
difficult and dangerous position in which they were placed. Dost Mahomed
fled; and not long after he surrendered himself to the English, and was
sent, with his wives and children, as a prisoner of war to India.
Everybody now thought all trouble and danger were over, and the married
officers and men of the English garrison sent for their wives and
children to join them at Cabul. Shaj Soojah was established there and
received the congratulations of the English. Lawrence, however, observed
that the Ameer’s own subjects did not join in these congratulations, and
moreover Shaj Soojah himself began to show signs of getting tired of his
English friends. No special danger was, however, anticipated; the
English envoy, Sir W. MacNaghten, was about to leave Cabul, having been
appointed to the Governorship of Bombay. Had he left, he would have
taken Lawrence with him as his secretary. When the preparations for his
departure were nearly complete, the clouds that had long been gathering
at last burst in storm. The Ghilzye tribe rose in rebellion because they
had been deprived of an annual subsidy of £3000, nominally paid them by
Shaj Soojah, but really supplied by the British. This insurrection had
the effect of a match applied to a train of gunpowder. The whole of
Afghanistan was presently in arms; the safest and most easily defended
routes for the return to India were cut off. The insurrection spread to
Cabul itself; the houses of the English residents were attacked and
burned, the Treasury was sacked, and several officers and men were
murdered in the streets. An attempt to send help to the English from
Jellalabad was unsuccessful; the Afghans were victorious, and held the
small British force entirely in their power.

Sir George Lawrence and Lady Sale complain bitterly of the incapacity of
those who were highest in command of the English military operations;
they urged that the right thing to have done would have been to take the
whole British force into the Bala Hissar, the citadel of Cabul, and hold
it against all comers till reinforcements arrived. The time of year was
mid-winter, and winter in Afghanistan is intensely severe. To have held
the fort would have entailed far less difficulty and danger than to
attempt to retreat by the fearful Khyber pass, the heights of which were
held by bands of savage mountaineers. This rash and fatal course was,
however, attempted, with the result, now well known, that of the whole
army, with the exception of those who were held by the Afghans as
prisoners or hostages, only one man, and he severely wounded, reached
Jellalabad alive. Those who have seen Lady Butler’s picture, “The Last
of an Army,” will be able to realise something of what the disaster of
the Khyber pass was. Akbar Khan, a son of Dost Mahomed and the leading
spirit of the Afghan chiefs, had said that he would destroy the army
with the exception of one man who should be left to tell the tale, and
he kept his word.

Before this fatal retreat was decided upon, attempts at negotiation with
the Afghans were made; Akbar, in particular, had repeatedly demanded
that, as a pledge of good faith, the wives and children of the English
officers and men should be delivered over to him as hostages. While the
English were still in Cabul, this suggestion was naturally rejected with
horror. Some officers declared they would rather shoot their wives with
their own hands than put them in the power of Akbar. Akbar had shown
himself desperately cruel and treacherous. He twice invited the English
envoy, Sir W. MacNaghten, outside the encampment to consult with him and
other chiefs as to the terms of capitulation. On the first occasion the
envoy and his escort returned in safety, but the terms of the treaty
agreed upon were, on the part of the Afghans, entirely set at naught.
When the second conference was about to take place, the English were
treacherously attacked and overpowered, and our envoy was murdered by
Akbar with his own hands. It was not very likely therefore that the
repeated demand of this man to have the English women and children
placed in his control would be listened to, and it was not, in fact,
conceded until it became evident that to continue to accompany the
ill-fated army in its retreat meant certain death.

The retreat from Cabul began on the 6th January 1842; the thermometer
was ten degrees below zero—far colder than the coldest weather of an
ordinary English winter. The night was spent in the open; part of the
march had been through snow and slush, which wetted those on foot up to
their knees. Lady Sale, who was riding, says her habit was like a sheet
of ice. Many died of cold and exhaustion on the first night. The poor
Sepoys, accustomed to the warmth of an Indian sun, were unable to handle
their muskets, and when attacked by the murderous bands of Afghans that
continually pursued the army, were cut down as helplessly as sheep. The
sufferings of the women and children were terrible. One poor woman had
lately been confined. She, as well as the others, was exposed to all the
horrors of the Afghan winter, and to the chances of dying by the Afghan
knife or bullet. Lady Sale, with her daughter Mrs. Sturt, showed a fine
example of courage and endurance. Lawrence said she and all the ladies
bore up so nobly and heroically against hunger, cold, and fatigue, as to
call forth the admiration even of the Afghans themselves. It seems to
have been known or rumoured that Akbar would make a special effort to
get hold of the women, for Lady Sale and her daughter were advised to
disguise themselves as much as possible, and to ride with the men, which
they did, riding with Captain Hay’s troopers. On the second day of the
retreat they were heavily fired upon, Lady Sale was wounded, her
daughter’s horse was shot under her, and her son-in-law, Captain Sturt,
was mortally injured. Let any one who likes to dwell on “the pomp and
circumstance of glorious war” look on the reverse side of the picture.
Captain Sturt had received a severe wound in the abdomen, from which it
was from the first certain he could not recover. He was in great agony;
it was impossible to move him without increasing his sufferings, equally
impossible that he should not be moved. He was placed in a kind of rough
litter, the jolting of which was a terrible aggravation of his pain. At
night he lay on a bank in the snow, suffering from intolerable thirst;
the water for which he craved could only be supplied, a few spoonfuls at
a time, because his wife and mother had no means of getting a larger
quantity. Those who have known what it is, even in the midst of every
home comfort, to stand by the death-bed of those they love, can best
imagine what it was to Lady Sale and her daughter to see the anguish and
death of their son and husband under such circumstances as these. The
horrors of the retreat became worse and worse. All the baggage was lost,
and the whole road was covered with men, women, and children lying down
in the snow to die.

Again Akbar renewed his demand for the women and children, and this time
he urged it on grounds of humanity. It now appeared certain that the
only chance of saving their lives was to accept Akbar’s proposals. Nine
ladies, twenty gentlemen, and fourteen children were accordingly made
over to him as prisoners or hostages. It is true that he assured them
that they were to consider themselves his honoured guests, and that on
the whole he behaved well to them, but their sufferings while in his
charge were very considerable. They believed themselves to be in
constant danger of death, or else that they would be sold as slaves and
sent to Bokhara. All their arms and means of defence were taken from
them, and they were but too well acquainted with the treacherous and
cruel nature of the man whose prisoners they were.

The most noticeable feature of Lady Sale’s journal is its buoyant
courage and cheerfulness. The forty-three persons of whom the hostages
consisted were reinforced by the birth of three infants, one of which
was Mrs. Sturt’s, and consequently was Lady Sale’s grandchild. They were
eight and a half months in captivity. Their accommodation very often
consisted of no more than two small rooms among the whole party. Lady
Sale speaks of being lodged twenty-one in a room fourteen feet by ten
feet; another time thirty-four persons had to share a room only fifteen
feet by twelve feet; sixteen persons, of both sexes and all ages, shared
one small room for a long time. Lady Sale and her daughter—indeed, most
of the captives—had lost everything but the clothes they stood in. Yet,
in the midst of all the discomfort and danger to which the party was
exposed, there is seldom a word of complaint in Lady Sale’s journal
which she wrote at the time, and more often than not their hardships are
turned into matter of laughter and merriment. The retreat from Cabul was
begun, it will be remembered, on 6th January; on the 9th the ladies and
children, with twenty gentlemen, among whom was Major Lawrence, were
made over to Akbar Khan; not until 18th January were they established in
permanent quarters in the fort of Buddeeabad. The journal for 19th
January begins: “We luxuriated in dressing, although we had no clothes
but those on our backs; but we enjoyed washing our faces very much,
having had but one opportunity of doing so since we left Cabul. It was
rather a painful process, as the cold and glare of the sun on the snow
had three times peeled my face, from which the skin came off in strips.”
Major Lawrence describes the rooms assigned to the ladies as “miserable
sheds full of fleas and bugs.” But even these and worse trials to the
temper were good-humouredly encountered. “It was above ten days,” Lady
Sale wrote, “after our departure from Cabul before I had an opportunity
to change my clothes, or even to take them off and put them on again and
wash myself; and fortunate were those who did not possess much live
stock. It was not till our arrival here (near Cabul, almost at the end
of their captivity) that we completely got rid of _lice_, which we
denominated infantry; the fleas, for which Afghanistan is famed, we
called light cavalry.” The food served out to the prisoners was the
reverse of appetising: greasy skin and bones, boiled in the same pot
with rice, and all served together, was a usual dish. Lady Sale
describes a kind of bread made of unpollarded flour mixed with water,
and dried by being set up on edge near a fire. “Eating these cakes of
dough,” she says, “is a capital recipe for heartburn.” The bad cooking
they remedied by obtaining leave to cook for themselves.

One of the chief alleviations of their lot consisted—so far, at least,
as the ladies were concerned—in needlework; they were supplied with
calico, chintz, and other materials, and were most thankful, not only
for the clothes which they were thus enabled to make, but also for the
occupation the work afforded. The ladies also cheerfully bore their part
in other kinds of work, and became laundresses, cooks, and housemaids,
and, in one instance, carpenters and masons for the nonce. The choice of
rooms being very limited, one was allotted to Lady Sale and her
companions which had no windows, and consequently no means of getting
air and light, except what came through the door. “We soon _set to_,”
writes Lady Sale, “and by dint of hard working with sticks and stones,
in which I bore my part, assisted by Mr. Melville, until both of us got
blistered hands, we knocked two small windows out of the wall, and thus
obtained ‘darkness visible.’” Lady Sale had permission to correspond
with her husband, General Sir Robert Sale, who was conducting vigorous
measures against the enemy at Jellalabad. Lady Sale was very proud of
her husband, and mentions with evident delight the nickname of “Fighting
Bob,” which his soldiers had given him. Any recognition of his deserts
gave her keen satisfaction. She refers to the presentation of a sword to
him as “the only thing that has given me pleasure,” although at that
time her praises were upon everybody’s lips. She was so thoroughly a
soldier’s wife that she understood military tactics: before she left
Cabul she speaks of taking up a post of observation on the roof of the
house, “as usual,” in order to watch the military movements that were
going forward. She says she understood the plan of attack as well as she
understood the hemming of a handkerchief; therefore she diligently wrote
an account of everything of importance to her husband. These letters
were so important for the military and political news they contained
that they were often forwarded to the Commander-in-chief, to Lord
Auckland, the Governor-general, and to the Court of Directors of the
East India Company.

The principal danger to which the prisoners were exposed, next to the
ferocity and treachery of Akbar Khan’s character, arose from the
extraordinary frequency of earthquakes in the region in which they were
confined. Lady Sale is one of the very few human beings who has ever
made such an entry in a journal as this: “3d and 4th March. Earthquakes
as usual.” Under other dates such expressions as “Earthquakes in plenty”
are frequent; and hardly less significant is the entry, under the date
of 19th April, “No earthquakes to-day.” The earthquakes were of a most
formidable character. Lady Sale had a narrow escape of destruction from
one which took place in February. She was on the roof of the room she
lived in, hanging out some clothes to dry, when the whole building began
to rock; she felt the roof was giving way, and rushed down the stairs,
just in time to save her life, as the building fell with an awful crash
the instant she left it. Lawrence writes: “We all assembled in the
centre of the court, as far from the crumbling walls as possible, ...
when suddenly the entire structure disappeared as through a trap-door,
disclosing to us a yawning chasm. The stoutest hearts among us quailed
at the appalling sight, for the world seemed coming to an end.”

Almost the only angry words that appear in Lady Sale’s journal are
caused by attempts of the officers to negotiate a ransom for themselves
and the rest of the party, without consulting the ladies as to the terms
to be agreed upon. Women’s suffrage had not been much talked of in 1842,
but Lady Sale appeared to hold that taxation and representation ought to
go hand in hand; for she says, “A council of officers was held at the
General’s regarding this same ransom business, which they refer to
Macgregor. I protest against being implicated in any proceedings in
which I have no vote.” In the end the Indian Government paid the sum
that it was agreed to give to Saleh Mahomed for effecting the
deliverance of the prisoners. Another source of irritation to Lady Sale
was the dread lest the military authorities should hesitate to proceed
vigorously against the Afghans at the right moment because it might
endanger the lives of the hostages. “Now is the time,” she wrote on the
10th May, “to strike the blow, but I much dread dilly-dallying just
because a handful of us are in Akbar’s power. What are _our_ lives
compared with the honour of our country? Not that I am at all inclined
to have my throat cut; on the contrary, I hope I shall live to see the
British flag once more triumphant in Afghanistan.”

Allusion has already been made to Lady Sale’s power of extracting grim
fun out of the discomforts of the situation. The Afghans are great
thieves, and one of the minor troubles of the captives lay in the fact
that their captors calmly appropriated articles sent to the prisoners.
They took possession of a case in which Lady Sale had left some small
bottles. “I hope,” she writes, “the Afghans will try their contents as
medicine, and find them efficacious: one bottle contained nitric acid,
another a strong solution of lunar caustic.” Twice she was incapacitated
by severe attacks of fever, which had proved fatal to several of the
party; but her courage never deserted her; and she shook off fever and
all other ills when she heard her husband was near. Saleh Mahomed had
already agreed, for a sum of money, to remove them from Akbar’s power,
and they had left the place in which they had been confined; but Akbar
would probably have recaptured them had not Sir R. Sale and Sir R.
Shakespear with their brigades joined them just at the nick of time.

Who can tell what the meeting must have been between the gallant husband
and wife? The narrative can best be given in Lady Sale’s own words: “Had
we not received assistance, our recapture was certain.... It is
impossible to express our feelings on Sale’s approach. To my daughter
and myself happiness, so long delayed as to be almost unexpected, was
actually painful, and accompanied by a choking sensation which could not
obtain the relief of tears. When we arrived where the infantry were
posted, they cheered all the captives as they passed, them, and the men
of the 13th” (her husband’s regiment) “pressed forward to welcome us
individually. Most of the men had a little word of hearty congratulation
to offer each in his own style on the restoration of his colonel’s wife
and daughter; and then my highly-wrought feelings found the desired
relief; I could scarcely speak to thank the soldiers for their sympathy,
whilst the long-withheld tears now found their course.”

Footnote 2:

  A crore of rupees is a million. At that time a rupee was worth 2s.;
  therefore a crore of rupees would equal £100,000.


                           ELIZABETH GILBERT

ELIZABETH GILBERT, daughter of the Bishop of Chichester, was one of the
blind who help the blind. It is true, physically, that the blind cannot
lead the blind; but, perhaps, none are so well fitted as the blind, who
are gifted with courage, sympathy, and hope, to show the way to careers
of happy and active usefulness to those who are suffering from a similar
calamity with themselves.

The Bishop’s little daughter, born at Oxford in 1826, was not blind from
her birth. She is described in the first years of infancy as possessing
dark flashing eyes, that, no doubt, were as eager to see and know as
other baby eyes. Her sight was taken from her by an attack of scarlet
fever when she was two years and eight months old. Her mother had lately
been confined, and, consequently, was entirely isolated from the little
invalid. The care of the child devolved upon her father, who nursed her
most tenderly, and, by his ceaseless watchfulness and care, probably
saved her life. But when the danger to life was passed, it was found
that the poor little girl had lost her sight. Everything was done that
could be done; the most skilful oculists and physicians of the day were
consulted, but could do nothing except confirm the fears of her parents
that their little girl was blind for life.

With this one great exception of blindness, Elizabeth Gilbert’s
childhood was peculiarly happy and fortunate. Her parents wisely
determined to educate her, as much as possible, with their other
children, and to avoid everything which could bring into prominence that
she was not as the others were. There was a large family of the Gilbert
children, and Bessie, as she was always called, like the others, was
required to dress herself and wait on herself in many little ways that
bring out a child’s independence and helpfulness. She used to sit always
by her father’s side at dessert, and pour him out a glass of wine, which
she did very cleverly without spilling a drop. When asked how she could
do this, she replied it was quite easy—she judged by the weight when the
glass was full. She learnt French, German, Italian, and music, with her
sisters, and joined them in their games, both indoors and out. When she
required special watching and care, they were given silently, without
letting her find out that she was being singled out for protection. When
she was old enough, the direction of the household and other domestic
duties were entrusted to her in her parents’ absence, in turn with her
other sisters. Thus her ardour, self-reliance, and courage were
undamped, and she was prepared for the life’s work to which she
afterwards devoted herself—the industrial training of the adult blind.
In 1842 an event happened which doubtless had a good effect in
developing Miss Gilbert’s natural independence of character, which had
been so carefully preserved by her parents’ training. Her godmother died
and left her a considerable sum of money, of which she was to enjoy the
income as soon as she came of age. It was, therefore, in her power to
carry out the scheme which she formed in after years for the benefit of
the blind, without being obliged to rely at the outset on others for
pecuniary support. She never could have done what she did if she had
been obliged to ask her parents for the money the development of her
plans necessarily required. They were most kindly and wisely generous to
her, but it would have been impossible to one of her honourable and
sensitive nature to spend freely and liberally as she did money which
was not her own. The saddest and most desponding period of her life was
that which came after she had ceased to be a child, and before she had
taken up the life’s work to which reference has just been made. She was
one of a bevy of eight sisters; and they naturally, as they passed from
childhood to womanhood, entered more and more into a world which was
closed to their blind sister. At that time, even more than now, marriage
was the one career for which all young women were consciously or
unconsciously preparing. It was hard for a young girl to live in a
social circle in which marriage was looked upon as the one honourable
goal of female ambition, and to feel at the same time that it was one
from which she was herself debarred. Those who saw her at this time, say
she would often sit silent and apart in the drawing-room of her father’s
house in Queen Anne Street, with the tears streaming down her face, and
that she would spend hours together on her knees weeping. “To the
righteous there ariseth a light in darkness.” The light-bringers to the
sad heart of Bessie Gilbert were manifold; and as is usual in such
cases, the light of her own life was found in working for the welfare of
others. The most healing and cheering of words to those who are sick at
heart are, “Come and work in My vineyard.”

Small things often help great ones; and a clever mechanical invention by
a Frenchman named Foucault, for enabling blind people to write, was not
an unimportant link in the chain that drew Miss Gilbert out of her
despondency. By means of this writing frame, she entered into
correspondence with a young blind man, named William Hanks Levy, who had
lately married the matron of the St. John’s Wood School for the Blind.
Levy entered with great zeal, enthusiasm, and originality into all the
schemes Miss Gilbert began to form for the welfare of the blind. Her
thoughts were further turned in the direction of working for the blind
poor, by a book called _Meliora_, written by Lord Ingestre, the aim of
which was to show how the gulf between rich and poor could be bridged
over. But most important of all, perhaps, of the influences that were
making a new outlook for her life, was her friendship with Miss
Bathurst, daughter of Sir James Bathurst. This lady was deeply
interested in all efforts to raise up and improve the lot of women, and
especially devoted herself to opening the means of higher education to
them. She was one of those who hoped all things and believed all things,
and, consequently, she rebelled against the impious notion that if a
woman were not married there was no use or place for her in the world.
It was her clear strong faith in women’s work and in women’s worth, that
helped more than anything else to give dignity, purpose, and happiness
to Bessie Gilbert’s life. The life of the blind girl became ennobled by
the purpose to work for the good of others, and to help both women and
men who were afflicted similarly with herself to make the best use of
their lives that circumstances permitted.

Very little, comparatively, at that time had been done for the blind.
The excellent college at Norwood did not exist. The poor blind very
frequently became beggars, and the well-to-do blind, with few
exceptions, were regarded as doomed to a life of uselessness; in some
instances, as in Miss Gilbert’s own, kindly and intelligent men thought
it neither wrong nor unnatural to express a hope that “the Almighty
would take the child who was afflicted with blindness.” What was
specially needed at the time Miss Gilbert’s attention was directed to
the subject was the means of industrial training, to enable those who
had lost their sight in manhood or womanhood to earn their own living.
The proficiency of the blind in music is well known, but to attain a
high degree of excellence in this requires a training from early
childhood. To those who become blind in infancy a musical education
affords the best chance of future independence; but thousands become
blind in later life, when they are too old to acquire professional skill
as musicians; and, besides these, there are those who are too completely
without the taste for music to render it possible for them to become
either performers or teachers of it. It was especially for the poor
adult blind that Miss Gilbert laboured. She studied earnestly to
discover the various kinds of manual labour in which the blind stood at
the least disadvantage in comparison with sighted persons. Her efforts
had a humble beginning, for the first shop she opened was in a cellar in
Holborn, which she rented at 1s. 6d. a week. She was ably seconded by
Levy, and by a blind carpenter named Farrar; the cellar was used as a
store for the mats, baskets, and brushes made by blind people in their
own homes. A move was, however, soon made to a small house near
Brunswick Square, but the work soon outgrew these premises also, and a
house was taken, with a shop and workrooms, in what is now the Euston
Road. Miss Gilbert exerted herself assiduously to promote the sale of
the articles made by her clients. The goods were sold at the usual
retail price, and their quality was in many respects superior to that of
similar goods offered in ordinary shops; in this way a regular circle of
customers was in time obtained, who were willing to buy of the blind
what the blind were able to produce. It must not be supposed, however,
that this process, which sounds so easy and simple in words, was really
easy and simple in practice. The blind men and women had to be taught
their trades; in the case of many of them, their health was below the
average, and, in the case of a few, they were not quite clear that
working had any advantages over begging, for a living. Miss Gilbert and
her foreman, W. Levy, had industrial, physical, and moral difficulties
to contend with that would have daunted any who were less firmly
grounded in the belief in the permanent usefulness of what they had
undertaken. Miss Gilbert found that many of the blind people she
employed could not, with the best will in the world, earn enough to
support themselves. The deficiency was for years made up from her own
private means. W. Levy had what appears a mistaken enthusiasm for
employing none but blind persons in the various industries carried on in
the workshop. There are some industrial processes for performing which
blindness is an absolute bar, some in which it is a great disadvantage,
others in which it is a slight disadvantage, and a few in which it is no
disadvantage at all. The aim of those who wish to benefit the blind
should be, in my judgment, to promote co-operation of labour between the
blind and the seeing, so that to the blind may be left those processes
in which the loss of sight places them at the least disadvantage. The
blind Milton composed _Paradise Lost_, and other noble poems, which will
live as long as the English language lasts. He never could have done
this if the mechanical labour of writing down his compositions had not
been given over to those who had the use of their eyes. This is an
extreme instance, but it may be taken as an example of the way in which
the blind and the seeing should work together, each doing the best their
natural faculties and limitations fit them for. Levy had an intense
pride in having everything in Miss Gilbert’s institution done only by
the blind. So far did he carry this prejudice that it was only with
difficulty that he was induced to have a seeing assistant for keeping
the accounts. Previous to this, as was natural and inevitable, they were
in the most hopeless confusion. Levy was, however, in many ways an
invaluable leader and fellow-worker. His courage and energy were
boundless. On one occasion he undertook successfully a journey to France
in order to discover the place where some pretty baskets were made. He
and his wife landed at Calais almost entirely ignorant of the French
language, and knowing nothing except that certain baskets, for which
there was then a good demand in England, were being manufactured in one
of the eighty-nine departments of France. After many wanderings, both
accidental and inevitable, he discovered the place. He was received with
great kindness by the people who made the baskets, and, having learnt
how to make them himself, he returned to England to communicate his
knowledge to his and Miss Gilbert’s company of blind workpeople. A
letter of Levy’s to Miss Gilbert, describing a fire that had broken out
close to the institution, and had for some time placed it in great
danger, is a wonderful instance of a blind man’s energy and power of
acting promptly and courageously in the face of danger.

Little by little the work Miss Gilbert had begun grew and prospered. A
regular society was formed, of which the Queen became the patron, and of
which Miss Gilbert was the most active and devoted member. This
association received the name of the Society for Promoting the General
Welfare of the Blind. Its present habitation is in Berners Street,
London. Its founder, for several years before her death, was obliged,
through ill-health, to withdraw from all active participation in its
business; but so well and firmly had she laid the foundations, that
others were able to carry on what she had begun. The Society is one of
the most useful in London for the poor adult blind, because it provides
them with industrial training, according to their individual capacities,
and secures them, as far as possible, a constant and regular market for
the goods they are able to produce. The wages earned are in some cases
supplemented by small grants, and pensions are, in several instances,
given to those blind men and women who have survived their power of
work. The result of Miss Gilbert’s life has been to ameliorate very much
the lot of the blind poor by substituting the means of self-supporting
industry for the doles and alms which at one time were looked upon as
the only means of showing kindness and pity to the blind. Miss Gilbert
herself was keenly sensible of the value and life-giving power of work.
Surrounded as she had been from childhood with every care and kindness
which loving and generous parents could suggest, she yet found that when
she began to work, the change was like a passing from death to life. The
book from which all the facts and details in this sketch are taken[3]
tells that soon after she began her work one of her friends “hoped she
was not working herself to death.” She replied, with a happy laugh,
“Work myself to death? I am working myself to life.” It is just this
possibility of “working to life” that she has placed within the reach of
so many blind men and women.

Miss Gilbert’s health was always very fragile. After 1872 she became by
degrees a confirmed invalid, and after much suffering, borne with
exquisite patience and cheerfulness, she died early in the year 1885.

Footnote 3:

  _Elizabeth Gilbert and Her Work for the Blind._ By Frances Martin.
  Macmillan and Co.


                              JANE AUSTEN

THERE is very little story to tell in the life of Jane Austen. She was
one of the greatest writers of English fiction; but her own life, like
the life she describes with such extraordinary and minute accuracy in
her tales, had no startling incidents, no catastrophes. The solid ground
never shook beneath her feet; neither she, nor the relations and
neighbours with whom her tranquil life was passed, were ever swept away
by the whirlwind of wild passions, nor overwhelmed by tragic destiny.
The ordinary, everyday joys and sorrows that form a part of the lives of
all of us, were hers; but nothing befell her more sensational or
wondrous than what falls to the lot of most of us. This even tenor of
her own way she reproduces with marvellous skill in the pages of her
novels. It has been well said that “every village could furnish matter
for a novel to Miss Austen.” The material which she used is within the
reach of every one; but she stands alone, hitherto quite unequalled, for
the power of investing with charm and interest these incidents in the
everyday life of everyday people which are the whole subject-matter of
her six finished novels. A silly elopement on the part of one of the
five Miss Bennets in _Pride and Prejudice_, and the fall which stuns
Louisa Musgrove in _Persuasion_, when she insists on jumping off the cob
at Lyme, are almost the only incidents in her books that can even be
called unusual. Her novels remind us of pictures we sometimes see which
contain no one object of supreme or extraordinary loveliness, but which
charm by showing us the beauty and interest in that which lies around us
on every side. There is a picture by Frederick Walker, called “A Rainy
Day,” which is a very good instance of this; it is nothing but a village
street just by a curve in the road; the houses are such as may be seen
in half the villages in England: a dog goes along looking as dejected as
dogs always do in the rain, the light is reflected in the puddles of the
wet road, one foot-passenger only has ventured out. There is nothing in
the picture but what we may all of us have seen hundreds and thousands
of times, and yet one could look and look at it for hours and never
weary of the charm of quiet, truthful beauty it contains. This is one of
the things which true artists, whether their art is painting pictures or
writing books, can do for those who are not artists—that is, help them
to see and feel the beauty and interest of the ordinary surroundings of
everyday life. Robert Browning makes a great Italian painter say—

                         We’re made so that we love
         First when we see them painted, things we have passed
         Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
         And so they are better painted—better to us,
         Which is the same thing. Art was given for that;
         God uses us to help each other so,
         Lending our minds out. Have you noticed, now,
         Your cullion’s hanging face? A bit of chalk,
         And trust me, but you should, though! How much more
         If I drew higher things with the same truth!
         That were to take the Prior’s pulpit place,
         Interpret God to all of you.

Jane Austen[4] was a clergyman’s daughter, born in 1775 at the Vicarage
of Steventon, about seven miles from Basingstoke, in Hampshire. Here she
lived, for the first twenty-five years of her life, the quiet family
life of most young ladies of similar circumstances; two of her brothers
were in the Navy, one was a country gentleman, having inherited an
estate from a cousin, another was a clergyman. The most dearly loved by
Jane of all her family was her sister Cassandra, older than herself by
three years. The sisters were so inseparable that when Cassandra went to
school, Jane, though too young to profit much by the instruction given,
was sent also, because it would have been cruel to separate the sisters;
her mother said, “If Cassandra were going to have her head cut off, Jane
would insist on sharing her fate.” The devotion between the sisters was
lifelong. Their characters were not much alike; Cassandra was colder,
calmer, and more reserved than her sister, whose sweet temper and
affectionate disposition specially endeared her to all her family; but
Jane throughout her life relied upon Cassandra as one who was wiser and
stronger than herself. The quiet family life at Steventon was
diversified by one or two visits to Bath, then a very fashionable
resort; a short visit to Lyme is spoken of later on; and in the early
days in the vicarage the Austen children not infrequently amused
themselves with private theatricals. Readers of _Northanger Abbey_,
_Persuasion_, and _Mansfield Park_ will find these mild amusements woven
into the web of the story; for, as Jane Austen says herself, she was
like a bird who uses the odd bits of wool or moss in the hedgerows near
to weave into the tiny fabric of its nest. The plays which the Austens
acted were frequently written by themselves. This may probably have
given to Jane her early impulse to authorship. It is not improbable that
it also smoothed the way of her career as a writer in another sense; for
at that time very great prejudice still existed in many people’s minds
against women who were writers. Lord Granville, speaking in December
1887, at the unveiling of the statue of the Queen at Holloway College,
cited a great French writer who had laid it down as an axiom that a
woman could commit no greater fault than to be learned; the same writer
had said—of course partly in joke—that it is enough knowledge for any
woman if she is acquainted with the fact that Pekin is not in Europe, or
that Alexander the Great was not the son-in-law of Louis the XIV.
Referring to events within his own knowledge and memory, Lord Granville
added, “One of the most eminent English statesmen of the century, a
brilliant man of letters himself, after reading with admiration a
beautiful piece of poetry written by his daughter, appealed to her
affection for him to prevent her ever writing again, his fear was so
great lest she should be thought a literary woman.”

If a similar prejudice were in any degree felt by the Austen family, it
is not unlikely that it was gradually dissolved by the early habit of
the children of writing plays for home acting. We read, indeed, that
Jane did nearly all her writing in the general sitting-room of the
family, and that she was careful to keep her occupation secret from all
but her own immediate relations. For this purpose she wrote on small
pieces of paper, which could easily be put away, or covered by a piece
of blotting-paper or needlework. The little mahogany desk at which she
wrote is still preserved in the family. She never put her name on a
title-page, but there is no evidence that her family would have
disapproved of her doing so. They seem to have delighted in all she did,
and to have helped her by every means in their power. She was a great
favourite with her brothers and sister, and with all the tribe of
nephews and nieces that grew up about her. She had no trace of any
assumption of superiority, and gave herself no airs of any kind. She had
too much humour and sense of fun for there to be any danger of this in
her case. She was thoroughly womanly in her habits, manners, and
occupations. Like Miss Martineau, her early training preserved her from
being a literary lady who could not sew. Her needlework was remarkably
fine and dainty, and specimens of it are still preserved which show that
her fingers had the same deftness and skill as the mind which created
Emma Woodhouse and her father, Mrs. Norris and Elizabeth Bennet. She had
taken to authorship as a duck takes to water, and had written some of
her most remarkable books before she was twenty; and she had done this
so simply and naturally that she seems to have produced in her family
the impression that writing first-rate novels was one of the easiest
things in the world. We find, for instance, that she writes in 1814 many
letters of advice to a novel-writing niece; and she advises another
little niece to cease writing till she is sixteen years old, the child
being at that time only ten or twelve. In 1816 she addresses a very
interesting letter to a nephew who is writing a novel, and has had the
misfortune to lose two chapters and a half! She makes kindly fun of the
young gentleman, and suggests that if she finds his lost treasure she
shall engraft his chapters into her own novel; but she adds: “I do not
think, however, that any theft of that sort would be really very useful
to me. What should I do with your strong, manly, vigorous sketches, full
of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit
(two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as
produces little effect after much labour?”

Early in 1801 the home at Steventon was broken up. Mr. Austen resigned
his living in consequence of failing health, and the family removed to
Bath. Mr. Austen died in 1805, and Mrs. Austen and her daughters lived
for a time at Southampton. They had no really homelike home, however,
between leaving Steventon in 1801 and settling at Chawton, in Hampshire,
in 1809; and it is very characteristic of Jane Austen’s home-loving
nature that this homeless period was also a period of literary
inactivity. She wrote _Sense and Sensibility_, _Northanger Abbey_, and
_Pride and Prejudice_ before she left Steventon, though none of them
were published till after she came to live at Chawton. Here in her
second home she wrote _Mansfield Park_, _Emma_, and _Persuasion_. In
consequence of having three novels finished before one was printed, when
she once began to publish, her works appeared in rapid succession.
_Sense and Sensibility_ was the first to appear, in 1811, and the others
followed quickly after one another, for her work was at once appreciated
by the public, and the great leaders of the literary world, such as Sir
Walter Scott, Southey, and Coleridge, welcomed her with cordial and
generous praise. One curious little adventure should be mentioned. In
1803, during her residence at Bath, she had sold the manuscript of
_Northanger Abbey_ to a Bath publisher for £10. This good man, on
reconsideration, evidently thought he had made a bad bargain, and
resolved to lose his ten pounds rather than risk a larger sum in
printing and publishing the book. The manuscript therefore lay on his
shelves for many years quite forgotten. But the time came when _Sense
and Sensibility_, _Pride and Prejudice_, and _Mansfield Park_ had placed
their author in the first rank of English writers, and it occurred to
Miss Austen and her family that it might be well to rescue _Northanger
Abbey_ from its unappreciative possessor. One of her brothers called on
the Bath publisher and negotiated with him the re-purchase of the
manuscript, giving for it the same sum which had been paid to the author
about ten years earlier. The publisher was delighted to get back his
£10, which he had never expected to see again, and Jane Austen’s brother
was delighted to get back the manuscript. Both parties to the bargain
were fully satisfied; but the poor publisher’s feelings would have been
very different if he had known that the neglected manuscript, with which
he had so joyfully parted, was by the author of the most successful
novels of the day.

There is a quiet vein of fun and humorous observation running through
all Miss Austen’s writings. It is as visible in her private letters to
her friends as in her works intended for publication. The little turns
of expression are not reproduced, but the humour of the one is very
similar to that of the other. Thus, for instance, in one of her letters
she describes a visit to a young lady at school in London. Jane Austen
had left her a raw schoolgirl, and found her, on this visit, developed
into a fashionable young lady. “Her hair,” writes Jane to Cassandra, “is
done up with an elegance to do credit to any education.” Who can read
this without thinking of Fanny Price in _Mansfield Park_, and the
inevitable contempt she inspired in her fashionable cousins because she
did not know French and had but one sash?

Reference has already been made to the high appreciation of Miss
Austen’s genius which has been expressed by the highest literary
authorities in her own time and in ours. Sir Walter Scott wrote in his
journal: “I have read again, and for the third time, Miss Austen’s very
finely-written novel of _Pride and Prejudice_. That young lady has a
talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of
ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The
big Bow-Wow strain I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite
touch which renders commonplace things and characters interesting from
the truth of the descriptive and the sentiment is denied to me.” Lord
Macaulay, the great historian, wrote in his diary: “Read Dickens’s _Hard
Times_, and another book of Pliny’s _Letters_. Read _Northanger Abbey_,
worth all Dickens and Pliny put together. Yet it was the work of a girl.
She was certainly not more than twenty-six. Wonderful creature!” Guizot,
the French historian, was a great novel reader, and he delighted in
English novels, especially those written by women. Referring to the
women writers of the beginning of this century, of whom Miss Austen was
the chief, he said that their works “form a school which, in the
excellence and profusion of its productions, resembles the cloud of
dramatic authors of the great Athenian age.” The late Mr. G. H. Lewes
said he would rather have written _Pride and Prejudice_ than any of the
Waverley novels. George Eliot calls Jane Austen the greatest artist that
has ever written, “using the term ‘artist’ to signify the most perfect
master over the means to her end.” It is perhaps only fair to state that
some good judges do not entertain so high an opinion of her work. Madame
de Staël pronounced against her, using the singularly inappropriate word
“vulgar,” in condemnation of her work. If there is a writer in the world
free from vulgarity in its ordinary sense, it is Jane Austen; it must be
supposed that Madame de Staël used the word in its French sense, _i.e._
“commonplace” or “ordinary,” such a meaning of the word as is retained
in our English expression “the vulgar tongue.” Charlotte Brontë felt in
Miss Austen a deficiency in poetic imagination, in the high tone of
sentiment which elevates the prose of everyday life into poetry. She
found her “shrewd and observant rather than sagacious and profound.”
Miss Austen’s writings were so essentially different from the highly
imaginative work of her sister author, that it is not surprising that
the younger failed somewhat in appreciation of the elder writer.

Jane Austen’s failing health in 1816 caused much anxiety to her family.
It is characteristic of her gentle thoughtfulness for all about her that
she never could be induced to use the one sofa with which the family
sitting-room was provided. Her mother, who was more than seventy years
old, often used the sofa, and Jane would never occupy it, even in her
mother’s absence, preferring to contrive for herself a sort of couch
formed with two or three chairs. A little niece, puzzled that “Aunt
Jane” preferred this arrangement, drew from her the explanation that if
she used the sofa in her mother’s absence, Mrs. Austen would probably
abstain from using it as much as was good for her. Her last book,
_Persuasion_, was finished while she was suffering very much from what
proved to be her dying illness. Weak health did not in any way diminish
her industry, and she exacted from herself the utmost perfection that
she felt she was capable of giving to her work. The last chapters of
_Persuasion_ were cancelled and re-written because her first conclusion
of the story did not satisfy her. In May 1817 she and her sister removed
to Winchester in order that Jane might have skilled medical advice. Here
she died on 18th July and was buried opposite Wykeham’s Chantry, in the
cathedral. Her sweetness of temper and her gentle gaiety never failed
her throughout a long and trying illness. When the end was near, one of
those with her asked if there was anything she wanted; her reply was,
“_Nothing but death_.”

Footnote 4:

  A very interesting memoir of Miss Austen has been written by her
  nephew, Mr. Austen Leigh. All who love her works should read it, and
  thereby come to know and love the woman.


                            MARIA EDGEWORTH

IT will be impossible, in the short limits of these pages, to give
anything like a full account of the long life of Maria Edgeworth. She
lived for nearly eighty-three years, from 1st January 1767 to 22d May
1849; and through her own and her father’s friends she was brought into
touch with nearly all the leading men and women connected with the
stirring political and literary events of that period. What this implies
will be best realised if we consider that her lifetime comprised the
whole period of the French Revolution, the War of Independence in the
United States, the long wars of England with Napoleon, the landing of
the French in Ireland (her native country), the passing of the Act of
Union between England and Ireland, Catholic Emancipation, the Abolition
of Slavery in the British Dominions, the passing of the first Reform
Bill, the Irish Famine of 1847, and the outbreak of revolutionary
socialism on the Continent in 1848. These are some of the most burning
of the political events of which she was a witness; the literary and
social history of the same period is hardly less remarkable. She lived
in the centre of a world made brilliant by Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Shelley, Byron, Burns, Keats, Scott, and Jane Austen. She knew Mrs. Fry,
Wilberforce, and Sydney Smith, as representing some of the most
important of the social movements of her time; among her friends in the
scientific world were Ricardo, the political economist, Darwin, the
naturalist, whose fame has been overshadowed by that of his grandson,
the great Charles Darwin of our own times, Sir Humphry Davy, the
Herschels, Mrs. Somerville, and James Mill. She knew Mrs. Siddons, and
heard her recite in her own house the part of Queen Katherine in the
play of _Henry the Eighth_. She was the intimate friend, and connection
by marriage, of “Kitty Pakenham,” the first Duchess of Wellington, wife
of “the Great Duke.” She lived to see the old stage coaches supplanted
by our modern railways; she was the interested eye-witness of the
gradual introduction of the steam-engine into all departments of
industry, a change which Sir Walter Scott said he looked on “half proud,
half sad, half angry, and half pleased.” She might well feel, as old age
approached, that she had “warmed both hands at the fire of life.” No
life could have been fuller than hers of every sort of interest and
activity. She said in a letter to a friend, written after a dangerous
illness: “When I felt it was more than probable that I should not
recover, with a pulse above 120, and at the entrance of my seventy-sixth
year, I was not alarmed. I felt ready to rise tranquil from the banquet
of life, where I had been a happy guest. I confidently relied on the
goodness of my Creator” (_Study of Maria Edgeworth_, by Grace A. Oliver,
p. 521).

Maria Edgeworth’s family was one of English origin, which had settled in
Ireland in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Edgeworths intermarried
into Irish, Welsh, and English families, but always maintained strong
Irish sympathies.

There were many remarkable men and women in the Edgeworth family before
the birth of our heroine, but space forbids the mention of more than
one, her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, whose name and fame are
intimately associated with those of his daughter. Mr. Edgeworth was a
most extraordinary man; at one moment one admires him, at another one
laughs at him, but one must always be astonished by him. “To put a
girdle round about the earth in forty minutes” would have been a
congenial task to him. He made clocks, built bridges, raised spires,
invented telegraphs, manufactured balloons, ink, and soap, constructed
locks on his bedroom doors of such a complicated nature, that his guests
were afraid to shut their doors lest they never should be able to open
them again.

When on a journey in France about 1770, he stayed at Lyons, and carried
out a plan for diverting the Rhone from its course, thereby saving a
large tract of country that had previously been inaccessible; for this
service the city of Lyons rewarded him by a grant of land; this
property, however, was confiscated a few years later during the

He raised a corps of volunteer infantry in Ireland, to which Roman
Catholics as well as Protestants were admitted, although at that time
the sentiment of religious equality was regarded as akin to infidelity
and disloyalty. He was born in England, and educated partly here and
partly in Ireland; like most of the Edgeworths, he came of a mixed race,
his mother being a Welsh woman of considerable literary acquirements and
faculties; his first remarkable performance was a runaway marriage,
which he contracted at the age of nineteen, with a Miss Elers, a lady of
German origin, whom he appears rather to have disliked than otherwise. A
runaway marriage with a girl whom he really loved would have been too
commonplace a proceeding in those days for this eccentric young
gentleman. Speaking of this lady, Mr. Edgeworth wrote: “My wife was
prudent, domestic, and affectionate, but she was not of a cheerful
temper. She lamented about trifles; and the lamenting of a female, with
whom we live, does not render home delightful.” It is not recorded if
Mrs. Edgeworth found the lamenting of the male with whom she lived any
more delightful, nor indeed is it evident that her husband devoted much
of his overflowing energy to lamentation. As he did not find his home
delightful, he spent very little time in it, and was not long before he
found pleasant society elsewhere.

One can never think of Mr. Edgeworth apart from his extraordinary
domestic history. He had four wives, one after another, in rapid
succession, and twenty-two children. There were four children, of whom
Maria was one, by the first marriage with the “lamenting female.” The
eldest of these, born when his father was under twenty, was brought up
on the principles advocated by Rousseau, which may perhaps be summarised
as never forcing a child to do anything that he does not wish to do. One
experiment of this kind appears to have sufficed for the family; the
other twenty-one children, or such of them as survived infancy, were
treated according to other theories. Indeed, it seems to have been part
of Maria’s education that she was to undertake, for a part of every day,
some study or occupation that was uncongenial to her. Mr. Edgeworth’s
theories of education seem to have been almost as numerous as his
family; a story is told in the book already quoted, of the visit of a
gentleman to Edgeworthstown House in Ireland; on rejoining the ladies
after dinner, the guest was imprudent enough to exclaim on the beauty of
the golden hair of one of the younger girls. Mr. Edgeworth instantly
took his daughter by the hand, walked across the room, opened a drawer,
held her head over it, and with a large pair of scissors cut off all her
hair close to her head. “As the golden ringlets fell into the drawer,
this extraordinary father said, ‘Charlotte, what do you say?’ She
answered, ‘Thank you, father.’ Turning to his guests, he remarked, ‘I
will not allow a daughter of mine to be vain.’”

Among the friendships that had a powerful influence on Mr. Edgeworth’s
character must be mentioned that with Mr. Day, the author of a book
which is still well known, _Sandford and Merton_. Mr. Day was an even
more extraordinary man than Mr. Edgeworth. He entirely set at naught all
the usual habits of society; we are told that he “seldom combed his
raven locks.” He professed to think love had been the greatest curse to
mankind, and announced in season and out of season his determination
never to marry. It appears that the assistance of a great many ladies
was needed to help him for a time to keep his word. He made offers of
marriage to Margaret Edgeworth, his friend’s sister, to Honora and
Elizabeth Sneyd (who became later the second and third wives of Mr.
Edgeworth); and failing to induce any of these ladies to accept him, he
adopted two orphan girls from the Foundling with the object of educating
one of them to such a pitch of perfection that she should be fit to be
his wife. In order to foster the quality of “fortitude in females,” he
used to drop hot sealing-wax on their bare arms, and fire off pistols,
charged with powder only, at their petticoats. One of the two little
girls could never entirely overcome the tendency to make use of some
vehement expression of pain or alarm under these circumstances. This Mr.
Day considered a fatal disqualification for ever promoting her to be his
wife. The other, to whom the romantic name of Sabrina Sydney had been
given, was more promising, and at one time it seemed as if the perilous
honour of being Mrs. Day would be hers. However, she was saved by her
disobedience to his injunctions against wearing a particular kind of
sleeve and handkerchief which were then in fashion. Upon this piece of
self-will, we are told that “he at once and decidedly gave her up.”

Mr. Day’s proposals to Honora and Elizabeth Sneyd, two beautiful sisters
with whom he and Mr. Edgeworth were brought much in contact at
Lichfield, have been already mentioned. Mr. Day pretended to despise
beauty and to condemn love; but Honora’s beauty so far overcame his
prejudices that he at least professed love for her. His offer of
marriage, however, was more like an ultimatum of war than an expression
of affection. He sent her a huge packet, in which he detailed all the
conditions he should expect her to fulfil if she married him. One of
these was entire seclusion from all society but his own. She replied
that she “would not admit the unqualified control of a husband over all
her actions: she did not feel that seclusion from society was
indispensably necessary to preserve female virtue, or to secure domestic
happiness. And she declined leaving her mode of life for any ‘dark and
untried system.’” Mr. Day was deeply wounded, but it was his vanity that
suffered rather than his heart; for in three weeks he made a similar
overture to Honora’s sister, Elizabeth. Now, however, the tables were
turned. Whether the sisters conspired together to punish him is not
known; but Elizabeth imposed conditions on her lover before she would
consent to receive his attentions; she declared she could never marry a
man who could neither fence, dance, nor ride, and had none of the
accomplishments of a gentleman. These were the very qualities Mr. Day
had chiefly exercised his philosophy in deriding and denouncing. “How
could he,” cried Miss Elizabeth, with cruel logic, “with propriety abuse
and ridicule talents in which he appeared deficient?” Mr. Day therefore
repaired to France with Mr. Edgeworth in order to acquire those polite
accomplishments of which it had been the pride of his heart to know
nothing. Poor Mr. Day!

                  How many a month I strove to suit
                  These stubborn fingers to the lute!
                  To-day I venture all I know.
                  She will not hear my music? So!
                  Break the string; fold music’s wing:
                  Suppose Pauline had bade me sing.

When he came back from France, cruel Elizabeth laughed in his face, and
said she had liked him best as he was before. Notwithstanding all these
unsuccessful attempts, Mr. Day found a wife at length. She was a lady of
large fortune, which, of course, he “despised” and appropriated. She
conformed to all her husband’s whims, and honestly believed him to be
the best and most distinguished of men. “That’s what a man wants in a
wife mostly,” as Mrs. Poyser says; “one who’d pretend she didn’t know
which end she stood uppermost till her husband told her.” Mr. Day fell a
victim at last to one of his numerous theories. He disapproved of the
professional method of breaking in colts, and undertook to train one
upon an improved plan of his own. The animal plunged violently and threw
him; he had concussion of the brain, and died a few minutes after his
fall. Poor Mrs. Day was so inconsolable that she took to her bed, and
died two years later. She must have been a woman of the type of Milton’s
Eve: “Herself, though fairest, unsupported flower.” When her prop was
gone, she drooped and died.

During Mr. Edgeworth’s residence at Lyons his first wife, Maria’s
mother, died, and in a few months he married the beautiful Honora Sneyd.
The social circle at Lichfield, in which Honora had lived before her
marriage, contained many distinguished persons, among them Dr. Darwin,
and Miss Anna Seward, the poetess. Honora herself had been engaged, or
partly engaged, to Major André, the unfortunate officer whose execution
as a spy by the Americans, during the War of Independence, caused such
deep indignation in England. Her marriage to Mr. Edgeworth in 1773, and
her death in 1780, took place before the melancholy end of Major André’s
life. The association of Honora’s name with that of Major André is
mentioned here as an illustration of the way in which the Edgeworth
family were connected, in some form or another, with many of the most
interesting events of the times in which they lived. Another such
incident is to be found in the fact that the Abbé Edgeworth, a relative
who had become a Roman Catholic priest, and had lived many years in
France, attended Louis XVI upon the scaffold, and received his last

Of the charm and goodness of the beautiful Honora there can be no doubt.
She won all hearts. Her little step-daughter, Maria, loved her dearly,
and admired her as much as she loved her. She remembered, in after
years, standing at her step-mother’s dressing-table and looking up at
her with a sudden thought, “How beautiful!” The second Mrs. Edgeworth
became, under her husband’s tuition, a very good mechanic; and together
they wrote a little book for children, called _Harry and Lucy_. Very few
books for children had at that time been written, so that they were very
early in a field which has since found so many labourers. Mrs. Honora
discerned Maria’s remarkable qualities of mind. When the latter was only
twelve years old her step-mother wrote to her expressing the pleasure
she felt in being able to treat the young girl “as her equal in every
respect but age.” Mr. Edgeworth, too, fully appreciated and studiously
cultivated Maria’s gifts, and encouraged her in every way to treat him
with openness and familiarity. This conduct was a very great contrast
with the extreme stiffness and formality which then prevailed generally
between parents and children. It was near this time, but a little later,
that the well-known writer, William Godwin, was reproached by his mother
with his too great formality in addressing her; he had been accustomed
to speak and write to her as “Madam,” and she says in one of her letters
to him that “Hon’d Mother” “would be full as agreeable.” Therefore the
terms of friendly familiarity and equality between Maria and her parents
were the more remarkable. The happiness of Mr. Edgeworth’s second
marriage was unclouded, except by the symptoms of consumption in Honora,
which warned them that an inevitable parting was at hand. She died in
May 1780, when Maria was thirteen years old. By his dead wife’s side,
Mr. Edgeworth wrote to Maria impressing upon her all the hopes that he
and her step-mother had formed for her future. Very soon after he wrote
again and bade her write a short story on the subject of generosity; “It
must be taken,” he wrote, “from History or Romance, and must be sent the
sennight after you receive this; and I beg that you will take some pains
about it.” The story, when finished, was submitted to the judgment of
Mr. William Sneyd, Honora’s brother, who said of it, “An excellent
story, and extremely well written; but where is the generosity?”—a
saying which afterwards became a household word with the Edgeworths.

When Honora was dying she had solemnly begged her husband and her sister
Elizabeth to marry each other after her own death. Such marriages at
that time were not illegal, and eight months after Honora’s death her
sister and Mr. Edgeworth were married in St. Andrew’s Church, Holborn.
Not long after this the first really important event of Maria’s life
took place, when she went with her father and the rest of his family to
take up her residence in her Irish home. At the impressionable age of
fifteen, after having lived long enough in England to judge of the
differences between the two countries, she was introduced to an intimate
acquaintance with rural life in Ireland. Her father employed no agent
for the management of his property, but invited and expected Maria to
help him in all his business. In this way she acquired a thorough
insight into the charm, the weakness and the strength, the humour and
the melancholy of the Irish character.

From 1782, when Mr. Edgeworth and his family returned to live at their
Irish home, dates not only Maria Edgeworth’s close observation of Irish
character and customs, but also the very painstaking literary training
which she began to receive from her father. Up to this time Maria had
been much at school; owing to the delicate health of her first
step-mother, it was considered best that her education should be mainly
carried on elsewhere than at home. Now, however, Mr. Edgeworth divided
his time between the management of his estates and the education of his
children, and to Maria’s literary education in particular he devoted
himself with singular zeal and assiduity. She was continually practised
by him in systematic observing and writing; she was instructed to
prepare stories in outline. “None of your drapery,” her father would
say; “I can imagine all that. Let me see the bare skeleton.” At this
stage her compositions would be altered, revised, and amended by him,
and then returned to her for completion.

There is no doubt whatever of the immense pains which Mr. Edgeworth
bestowed upon Maria’s literary training; and Maria herself felt that she
owed everything to him. It may, however, very well be doubted whether
his influence upon her was good from the literary point of view. He gave
her method and system, and he cultivated her natural faculties for
observation; but there was something very mechanical and pedantic in his
mind—an affectation, a want of humour, and a want of spontaneity: she,
when left to herself, was content with grouping the facts of life and
nature as she saw them around her, without trying to be more instructive
than they are. _Castle Rackrent_, which is the best of her Irish
stories, was entirely her own, and bears no traces of her father’s hand.
This is the only one of her tales of which she did not draw out a
preliminary sketch or framework for her father’s criticism. She says
herself of this story, “A curious fact, that where I least aimed at
drawing characters I succeeded best. As far as I have heard, the
characters in _Castle Rackrent_ were, in their day, considered as better
classes of Irish characters than any I ever drew; they cost me no
trouble, and were made by no _receipt_, or thought of philosophical
classification; there was literally not a correction, not an alteration,
made in the first writing, no copy, and, as I recollect, no
interlineation; it went to the press just as it was written. Other
stories I have corrected with the greatest care, and remodelled and
re-written.” If she had given the world more work of this kind, and less
of the kind produced under her father’s methods, her name would to-day
occupy a higher place than it does in the hierarchy of literature.

Maria Edgeworth may be said to have invented the modern novel, which
gives the traits, the speech, the manners, and the thoughts of a
peasantry instead of moving only among the upper ten thousand. Sir
Walter Scott, with his usual frankness and generosity, stated in his
preface to the Waverley Novels that what really started him in his
career as a novelist was the desire to do for Scotland and the Scottish
peasantry what Miss Edgeworth had done for Ireland and the Irish
peasantry. “I felt,” he said, “that something might be attempted for my
own country of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so
fortunately achieved for Ireland—something which might introduce her
natives to those of the sister kingdom in a more favourable light than
they had been placed hitherto, and to tend to procure sympathy for their
virtues and indulgence for their foibles.” Another of the leading
writers of this century has acknowledged his indebtedness to Miss
Edgeworth. The great Russian novelist, Ivan Tourgenieff, told a friend
that when he was quite young he was unacquainted with the English
language, but he used to hear his elder brother reading out to his
friends translations of Miss Edgeworth’s Irish stories, and the hope
rose in his mind that one day he would be able to do for Russia and her
people what Miss Edgeworth had done for Ireland.

Readers of the life of Maria Edgeworth find plenty of evidence of the
extremely disturbed state of Ireland during the ten or twelve years
which immediately preceded the passing of the Act of Union in 1800.
Reports of midnight outrages by armed and disguised bands of assassins
were frequent; unpopular people were hooted and pelted by day, and
sometimes murdered by night; country houses were provided with shutters
so contrived as to make it possible to open a cross-fire upon these
murderous bands in case of necessity. The “Thrashers” and the
“Whitetooths” were the names then assumed by those marauders who in
later times have been known as Whiteboys and Moonlighters. The state of
Ireland, politically and socially, became so critical that many people
began to feel that almost any change must be for the better. Added to
all the other elements of confusion, there was, about 1798, the almost
daily expectation of the French invasion. England and France were at
war, and it was believed by our enemies that if they could once effect a
landing in Ireland the people of that island were so ready for rebellion
that the landing of the French would be in itself almost enough to place
the whole country at their disposal. In this expectation they were,
fortunately, very much deceived. A graphic description of the French
invasion, and its utter failure to accomplish its purpose, has been
given by Miss Edgeworth. Her family had, indeed, a very close
acquaintance with the rebels and the invaders. The county in which
Edgeworthstown was situated was in actual insurrection, and when the
French landed at Killala, in county Mayo, they marched immediately upon
Longford, which was in close proximity to Edgeworthstown.

Mr. Edgeworth sent to the nearest garrison for military protection for
his household. He also found the majority of the troop of infantry which
he had organised faithful to him; but it soon became evident, in spite
of this and of the personal fidelity of his servants and tenants, that
the house must be abandoned, and that the whole family must take refuge
in the town of Longford. There is something rather amusing as well as
touching in Maria’s womanly regrets at leaving her new paint and paper
to the mercy of the rebels and the French. “My father,” she wrote, “has
made our little rooms so nice for us; they are all fresh painted and
papered. O rebels! O French! spare them! We have never injured you, and
all we wish is to see everybody as happy as ourselves.” After the family
and household had made good their departure from Edgeworthstown, Mr.
Edgeworth remembered that he had left, on the table of his study, a list
of the names of the men serving in his corps, on whose fidelity he could
depend. If this list fell into the hands of the enemy, the men whose
names were upon it would probably be selected for bitter and cruel
vengeance. “It would serve,” wrote Miss Edgeworth, “to point out their
houses for pillage and their families for destruction. My father turned
his horse instantly, and galloped back. The time of his absence appeared
immeasurably long, but he returned safely, after having destroyed the
dangerous paper.” Even if Mr. Edgeworth did spoil Maria’s romances, he
must be forgiven for the sake of this act of unselfish gallantry. When
the family arrived in safety at Longford, dangers began to arise from
another source. It was discovered in the course of a few days that
Edgeworthstown House had been left by the rebels entirely uninjured. The
corps of infantry which Mr. Edgeworth had brought with him into Longford
consisted partly of Catholics. Mr. Edgeworth entertained and defended
with vigour a plan for the defence of the town different from that
favoured by other persons in authority. All these circumstances were put
together with the speed of wild-fire, and created in the minds of the
ultra-Protestants of Longford the conviction that Mr. Edgeworth was in
secret league with the rebels; this, they were convinced, was the reason
why his house had been spared, why he had admitted Papists into any of
the bonds of good fellowship; and his plan for the defence of the gaol
and the garrison was, they believed, only a trick for making them over
into the enemy’s hands. Two farthing candles, by the light of which Mr.
Edgeworth had read the paper the previous evening, near the
fortifications of the gaol, were speedily exaggerated into a statement
that the gaol had been illuminated as a signal to the enemy. An armed
mob assembled, fully determined to tear him to pieces. He escaped
through the merest accident. Seeing him accompanied by English officers
in uniform, his enemies thought he was being brought back a prisoner,
and were for the moment satisfied. The incident is illustrative of the
conflicting passions which, for so many years, have formed the great
social and political difficulty in Ireland.

The rebels and their French allies were defeated at the battle of
Ballynamuck, and the quiet family life at Edgeworthstown was resumed.
All through the turmoil of wars and rumours of wars, the even tenor of
Maria’s way was very little disturbed. “I am going on in the old way,”
she wrote, “writing stories. I cannot be a captain of dragoons, and
sitting with my hands before me would not make any of us one degree

Maria and her father had published their joint book, _Practical
Education_, in the very year (1798) of the exciting events just
narrated. Elizabeth, the second step-mother, also had a hand in it; to
her notes, we are told, may be traced the chapter on “Obedience.” In
this chapter the original view is put forward that in order to form and
firmly implant in little children the habit of obedience, their parents
should be careful at first only to tell them to do what they like doing.
The habit of unquestioning obedience thus formed will, it is thought, be
sufficiently strong to bear the strain, when the time comes that the
child is told to do things which it would rather not do. There is a
considerable element of good sense in this method, as most people will
agree who have tried it in the training and teaching of dogs. A much
more doubtful theory put forward in the book is that children never
should be in the society of servants. This appears to us, in these more
democratic days, to savour very much of pride and conceit. It is quite
true that parents cannot depute to a hired servant, however faithful,
the responsibility of their own position. But to say that a child is on
no account to speak to a servant, or to be spoken to by one, appears to
us now as most unreasonable and mischievous. How valuable in bridging
over the gulf that still separates class from class is the warm
affection that often exists between children and their nurses! Many a
nurse has vied with a mother in warm and self-sacrificing devotion for
her little charges; and all this wholesome and healing affection would
be lost if the plan advocated by the Edgeworths were carried out. It is
satisfactory to hear that Mrs. Barbauld protested against this doctrine,
and told Mr. Edgeworth that, besides the fact that it would foster pride
and ingratitude, “one and twenty other good reasons could be alleged
against it.” It may be hoped that Mr. Edgeworth acknowledged himself
vanquished before this formidable battery opened fire.

One of the most delightful incidents of Miss Edgeworth’s later life was
her friendship with Sir Walter Scott. When the first of the Waverley
Novels appeared, the secret of its authorship had been so carefully kept
that every one was in the dark on the subject. The publishers had sent a
copy to Miss Edgeworth and her father. As soon as Mr. Edgeworth had
finished reading it, he exclaimed, “Aut Scotus, aut Diabolus,” _i.e._
“either Scott or the Devil”; and Maria put these words at the top of the
letter which she wrote thanking the publishers for the book. Scott was
already known to the world by his poems, and to this must be attributed
the ready wit of the good guess made by the Edgeworths; for up to this
time neither father nor daughter had had the pleasure of meeting Scott.
In 1823, however, they did meet, and the acquaintance soon ripened into
a lifelong friendship. Scott acted as guide to Miss Edgeworth and her
sisters in showing them the beauties and monuments of Edinburgh. They
visited him at Abbotsford, and took a little tour together in the
beautiful scenery of the Highlands. There are delightful descriptions in
Miss Edgeworth’s letters of Scott and his wife; and we have a pretty
little picture of Scott and Lady Scott driving out, he with his dog,
Spicer, in his lap, and she with her dog, Ourisk, in hers.

When Maria arrived at Abbotsford, and was received by her host at his
archway, she exclaimed, “Everything about you is exactly what one ought
to have had wit enough to dream.” Two years later, Scott, accompanied by
his daughter and other members of his family, paid a return visit to
Edgeworthstown House. Lockhart, Scott’s biographer and son-in-law, was
one of the party. In his _Life of Scott_ he tells how on one occasion he
himself let fall some remark that poets and novelists probably regarded
the whole of human life simply as providing them with the materials for
their art. “A soft and pensive shade came over Scott’s face as he said,
‘I fear you have some very young ideas in your head. Are you not too apt
to measure things by some reference to literature, to disbelieve that
anybody can be worth much care, who has no knowledge of that sort of
thing, or taste for it? God help us! What a poor world this would be if
that were the true doctrine! I have read books enough, and observed and
conversed with enough of eminent and splendidly cultivated minds, too,
in my time; but I assure you I have heard higher sentiments from the
lips of poor uneducated men and women, when exerting the spirit of
severe yet gentle heroism under difficulties and afflictions, or
speaking their simple thoughts as to circumstances in the lot of friends
and neighbours, than I ever yet met with out of the pages of the Bible.
We shall never learn to feel and respect our true calling and destiny,
unless we have taught ourselves to consider everything as moonshine,
compared with the education of the heart.’ Maria did not listen to this
without some water in her eyes ... but she brushed her tears gaily
aside, and said, ‘You see how it is. Dean Swift said he had written his
books in order that people might learn to treat him like a great lord.
Sir Walter writes his in order that he may be able to treat his people
as a great lord ought to do.’”

The delightful friendship between the two authors continued without
interruption till Scott’s death in the autumn of 1832. The clouds that
overshadowed his later years were bitterly lamented by Maria. She wrote
of the “poignant anguish” she felt from the thought that such a life had
been shortened by care and trouble. She declined, with one exception, to
allow Scott’s letters to herself to be published. If they are still in
existence, the reasons which caused her to withhold them no longer
exist, and judging from all we know of Scott and of her, it would be a
great gain to the public to be afforded the opportunity of reading them.

Those who have read this series of short biographies will find a great
many of the subjects of these sketches among Miss Edgeworth’s friends.
She gives a delightful description of Mrs. Fry, whom she once
accompanied to Newgate. “She opened the Bible,” wrote Miss Edgeworth,
“and read in the most sweetly solemn, sedate voice I ever heard, slowly
and distinctly, without anything in the manner that would detract
attention from the matter.” The Herschels and Mrs. Somerville were also
numbered among her friends. People sometimes seem to think that women
who can write books, and have learnt to understand the wonders of
science, will probably cease to care for feminine nicety in dress. It is
therefore very pleasant to find that Mrs. Somerville, the author of _The
Connection of the Physical Sciences_, and Miss Edgeworth had a
conference about a blue crêpe turban.

Maria Edgeworth’s life did not pass without the romance of love. She
received an offer of marriage from a Swedish gentleman, while she was
staying in Paris with her family in 1803. She returned his affection,
but refused to marry him, sacrificing herself and him to what she
believed to be her duty to her father and family. Her third and last
step-mother wrote that for years “the unexpected mention of his name, or
even that of Sweden, in a book or newspaper, always moved her so much
that the words and lines in the page became a mass of confusion before
her eyes, and her voice lost all power.” Her suitor, M. Edelcrantz,
never married. At the altar of filial piety she sacrificed much.

Nothing is more charming, in the character of Maria Edgeworth, than the
sweetness with which she put her own feelings on one side, and welcomed
one after another, her numerous step-mothers. The third and last, a Miss
Beaufort, was considerably younger than Maria. The marriage with Mrs.
Edgeworth No. 4 took place about six months after the death of Mrs.
Edgeworth No. 3. No wonder that even the inexhaustible patience of the
good daughter was rather tried by this rapidity. She owns that when she
first heard of the attachment, she did not wish for the marriage; but
her will was in all respects resolutely turned towards whatever would
promote her father’s happiness. She did not permit her regret to last,
and she welcomed the bride not only with unaffected cordiality, but with
sincerest friendship.

Another pleasant characteristic of Maria was the cheery way in which she
recognised and bore with the fact that she was the only plain member of
her family. There is a nice old sister in _Silas Marner_ who says to
some ladies who had not at all recognised their own want of beauty, “I
don’t mind being ugly a bit, do you?” Maria was like this, except that
she thought she possessed a pre-eminence of ugliness over all other
competitors. “Nobody is ugly now,” she wrote in 1831, “but myself!”
Impartial observers, however, state that the plainness of her features
was redeemed by the sweetness and vivacity of her expression, and by the
exquisite neatness of her tiny figure.

Many examples could be given of her practical good sense and
benevolence. On receiving a legacy of some diamond ornaments, she sold
them, and with the proceeds built a market-house for the village in
Ireland where she lived. In 1826, nine years after her father’s death,
she again undertook, this time for her brother, the management of the
estates. She exerted herself with characteristic energy to alleviate the
sufferings of her country during the terrible year of the Irish famine.
She died very suddenly and painlessly, two years later, in the arms of
her step-mother, on 22d May 1849, aged eighty-two. Macaulay considered
her the second woman in Europe of her time, giving the first place to
Madame de Staël. She does not seem to us now so great as this; but a
variety of interests centre round her, and she well deserves to be


                        QUEEN LOUISA OF PRUSSIA.

                        “Sir, if a state submit
            At once, she may be blotted out at once
            And swallow’d in the conqueror’s chronicle.
            Whereas in wars of freedom and defence
            The glory and grief of battle won or lost,
            Solders a race together—yea—tho’ they fail,
            The names of those who fought and fell are like
            A bank’d-up fire that flashes out again
            From century to century, and at last
            May lead them on to victory.”
                            “_The Cup._”—TENNYSON.

IT is very difficult for us now to go back in imagination to the time,
between eighty and ninety years ago, when the whole of Europe was in
danger of being crushed under the tyranny and rapacious cruelty of
Napoleon Buonaparte.

This miraculous man, with his insatiable ambition, his almost more than
human power and less than human unscrupulousness, had raised himself
from a comparatively humble station, not only to be Emperor of France,
but to be the conqueror of Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Germany. He dreamed
that in his person was to be revived the ancient empire of Charlemagne,
and that all the nations of Christendom were to be subject to his
universal dominion. He crowned himself in the presence of the Pope, in
Paris, in 1804, and the year following he had the iron crown of the
kings of Lombardy placed on his head at Milan. Not content with the
title of Emperor of France, he styled himself Emperor of the West,
conceding for a time to the Czar of Russia the title of Emperor of the

No combination of the other Powers seemed capable of withstanding his
wonderful military genius. Most of all his foes, he hated England;
because, to the eternal honour of our country, be it remembered, England
took the lead in rousing the other nations of Europe to resist him.
England was the banker of almost every coalition that was formed against
him. She supplied men, armies, and armed ships, where she could, and she
supplied money to carry on war against Napoleon everywhere. Our great
minister, William Pitt, threw himself and all the wealth and power of
England into this great struggle against Napoleon. Again and again he
revived the spirit of resistance among the other Powers. The rulers and
representatives of other countries allowed themselves to be flattered
and bribed and threatened into lending themselves to the objects of
Napoleon’s inordinate ambition. The Czar consented to meet him on
intimate and friendly terms; the Emperor of Austria, notwithstanding the
cruel humiliations he had suffered, consented to give his daughter to
take the place of the unjustly divorced wife of the Corsican upstart;
the less important German princes cringed before him. The hostility of
England alone was implacable and unceasing, and what made her even more
hated, successful.

There is little doubt that Napoleon fully recognised that England was
the main obstacle in the way of the fulfilment of his dream of universal
dominion. His most darling project was to crush the power of England,
and in 1804-5 he made preparations for the invasion of our country,
assembling a vast army at Boulogne for that purpose. So fast did his
ambition outrun the bounds of fact and common sense, that he actually
had a medal struck to commemorate the conquest of England. On one side
was his own head crowned with the laurel wreath of victory; on the
other, was a representation of Hercules strangling a giant, with the
lying inscription, “Struck in London, 1804.” He wrote to the admiral of
the French fleet, which was destined about two months later to be
completely destroyed by our great Nelson at Trafalgar: “Set out, lose
not a moment, bring our united squadron into the Channel and _England is
ours_.” It was at this moment of supreme suspense and danger that
Wordsworth wrote that stirring sonnet to the men of Kent, the words of
which vibrated through the nation like a trumpet call.

           Vanguard of Liberty, ye men of Kent,
           Ye children of a Soil that doth advance
           Her haughty brow against the coast of France,
           Now is the time to prove your hardiment!
           To France be words of invitation sent!
           They from their fields can see the countenance
           Of your fierce war, may ken the glittering lance,
           And hear you shouting forth your brave intent.
           Left single, in bold parley, ye, of yore,
           Did from the Norman win a gallant wreath;
           Confirmed the charters that were yours before;—
           No parleying now! in Britain is one breath;
           We all are with you now from shore to shore:—
           Ye men of Kent, ’tis victory or death!

England’s immediate relief from the danger of invasion did not come from
Nelson’s great victory, but from Pitt once more rousing the powers of
Austria and Russia to combine against Napoleon. Pitt insisted, in the
spring of 1805, on pain of losing the subsidies promised by England,
that Austria should at once declare war upon France; and Napoleon was
thereupon obliged to withdraw the forces he had assembled in great
numbers at Boulogne to meet the new combination that had been formed
against him. It was now a question how strong that combination should
be. The two great Powers of Austria and Russia had already joined it;
the smaller German princes went, some on this side and some on that. The
only important Power that showed indecision at this critical moment was
Prussia. The King of Prussia, Frederick William III, was a grand-nephew
of Frederick the Great; but he bore no resemblance to that sovereign. He
was weak and undecided in character, wishing to strengthen and enlarge
his kingdom, but without force of character sufficient to decide on a
wise line of conduct and to adhere to it. He and his minister, Haugwitz,
cast longing eyes upon Hanover, the Electorate of which was then united
with the crown of England. The French had seized Hanover, and the
possession of this coveted territory was skilfully dangled by Napoleon
before the eyes of the King of Prussia. Frederick William III could not
arrive at a decision whether he should serve his own interests best by
joining the coalition or by remaining friends with Napoleon. While he
was hesitating, Napoleon, with his customary disregard of all law,
violated a neutral territory, belonging to the Kingdom of Prussia, by
taking his army across it. It was like offering one hand in friendship,
and boxing the ears of your friend with the other. Angry as the whole of
Prussia was by the insult thus offered her, she did not bring herself
boldly to join the coalition of England, Austria, and Russia against
Napoleon. The vacillating character of the King and the intriguing
diplomacy of Haugwitz stood in the way; but it must not be supposed that
in the general body of the Prussian people there was not a feeling of
shame, anger, and resentment at the policy that had been adopted by
their Government.

The embodiment of this strong national feeling was found in the person
of the beautiful young Queen Louisa, a princess of the House of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her character was a complete contrast to that of
her husband. She had the decision, vivacity, and high courage which he
so much lacked. The two were sincerely devoted to one another; but from
the essential differences in their dispositions, they became
respectively the heads of the two opposing parties in the State; the
party who wished to join the coalition and resist Napoleon, and the
party who wished merely to look on and try to reap some advantage from
whichever side was favoured by the fortunes of war. It seemed at one
time as if the Queen’s influence with her husband had prevailed, and
that Prussia was going to join the alliance; but just at this time came
the news of the first of Napoleon’s great victories in this campaign,
the capitulation of Ulm, and all the fears of the timid party were
renewed. Then came the great catastrophe of Austerlitz; Napoleon’s
forces had completely crushed the combined armies of Russia and Austria,
and Pitt’s last supreme effort against Napoleon had failed. Austerlitz
is said to have killed Pitt. He was only forty-seven; but his health had
long been feeble, and this last blow to all his hopes was fatal. He died
a few weeks after the news reached him, on the 23d January 1806. He
attributed the failure of the coalition to the indecision of Prussia. If
he was right in this he had a terrible revenge. It is one of the most
extraordinary episodes in history that Prussia, which had hesitated to
join one of the most powerful alliances that had ever been formed
against Napoleon, was destined within a few months to match itself
against the conqueror almost single-handed.

Very soon after the battle of Austerlitz the Prussian minister,
Haugwitz, waited upon Napoleon and renewed negotiations with him.
Napoleon offered Prussia the choice between immediate war, or alliance
and the possession of Hanover. A treaty was drawn up accepting the
latter alternative; Haugwitz agreed to it, and carried it back to his
master for ratification. When the terms of the treaty became known in
Berlin, the anger of the patriotic party was unbounded. They felt they
were bound by ties of blood and kindred to espouse the cause of their
German brethren. They looked upon the proffered bribe of Hanover as
hush-money, which was to close their lips from protesting against the
oppression of Germany by Napoleon. When Haugwitz returned to Berlin he
was treated with marked coldness by the Queen. On receiving the
disastrous news of the defeat of Austerlitz, she had called to her side
her two elder boys, the younger of whom became the late aged Emperor of
Germany, and adjured them to think, from that time forth, only of
avenging their unhappy brethren. The King’s brothers sympathised with
the Queen’s views, as did also the patriotic statesmen Stein and
Hardenburg, and a brave young prince, Louis Ferdinand, the King’s
cousin. Miss Hudson, who has written a life of Queen Louisa, says in
reference to her position at this crisis, “The Queen did not desire or
endeavour to take a leading part, but she did not dissemble her feelings
and aspirations, and her name was put foremost by popular report, on
account of her superior rank. The Queen did not play any conspicuous
part, but she was a constant incentive to the best of the nation to work
for their country’s deliverance. It was what she was, not what she did,
that made her name a watchword for the enemies of Napoleon.”

Haugwitz had never dreamed that his master would refuse to ratify the
treaty; but the outburst of popular anger against it had been so marked,
and the advantages it offered to Prussia were in fact so small, that the
King declined to sign, and demanded modifications. His vacillation had
placed him in a cleft stick. If he refused Napoleon’s terms, he would
have to fight with the victorious French army; if he accepted them, and
Hanover with them, he would have to fight with England; for it was not
probable that the latter country would calmly allow Hanover to be
appropriated by another Power without a struggle. While this was the
situation of affairs, the King of Prussia, having sent back the treaty
to Napoleon to ask for modifications, one of which was to obtain the
consent of England to the cession of Hanover, the news came to all the
world that Pitt, the most powerful and the most pertinacious of
Napoleon’s enemies, was dead. England had lost Nelson and Pitt within a
few months. It seemed as if they had been removed to make the pathway of
ambition smooth for Napoleon.

Pitt was succeeded in the Ministry by his great rival Fox, the professed
admirer of the French Revolution, a man whose measure Napoleon thought
he had taken, and whom the Emperor believed he could dupe with fine
phrases about universal brotherhood and a union of hearts. Napoleon
instantly saw the advantage this change might bring to him. With
audacity unparalleled, except by himself, he commenced negotiations with
the English Government and offered _them_ Hanover, notwithstanding that
the ink was hardly dry on the treaty in which he had offered it to
Prussia. Napoleon, intent for the moment on this fresh project of
pacifying England, received Haugwitz, when he presented his master’s
modifications of the treaty, with harsh and contemptuous insolence. The
conditions of the treaty were made still more onerous than before on
Prussia. Napoleon now wanted to force a quarrel between England and
Prussia, of which he himself would in any result reap the advantages. He
carried on this project for a time so successfully that England did
actually declare war against Prussia, but hostilities between them never
actually took place, because it became evident that Prussia had only
been a cat’s paw in the hand of Napoleon. The new treaty which Napoleon
returned to Frederick William was so humiliating to Prussia, that
Haugwitz did not dare to take it to Berlin himself, but sent it by
another hand. The King was so weak and foolish as to sign it, and from
that moment Napoleon poured insult after insult upon the unhappy
government which had consented to its own slavery. One of his first acts
was to insist on the dismissal of Hardenberg, one of the most trusted of
the Prussian ministers. Under the pretext of a new Confederation of the
Rhine, it became evident that Napoleon meant to entirely alter the whole
constitution of Germany without consulting Prussia, or any of the Powers
chiefly concerned. The French ambassador had orders to state that “his
master no longer recognised the Germanic constitution.” Under these new
humiliations, the war fever burst out more strongly than ever, all over
Prussia. Unequal as the contest was, all that was best in the nation
preferred any risk to the humble acceptance of the galling tyranny that
oppressed them. The young men in Berlin showed what their feelings were
by assembling in crowds outside the house of the French ambassador, and
sharpening their swords on his doorstep and window sills.

It may very well be believed that Fox, if he had lived, would have
carried out Pitt’s policy in resisting Napoleon. Already his eyes must
have been opened by the perfidious transactions about Hanover; but while
the process of disillusion was proceeding, Fox died, in September 1806,
a few months after his great rival. Napoleon stated, in after years,
that he considered the death of Fox, at this juncture, was the first
great blow his power had received. “Fox’s death,” he often said at St.
Helena, “was one of the fatalities of my career.” The English policy of
resistance to Napoleon had hardly received more than a temporary check
by Fox’s accession to office, and when Prussia finally decided on
fighting with Napoleon, she was promised assistance both from Russia and
England. The struggle, however, took place under cruel disadvantages to
the weaker side. Napoleon was at the head of 200,000 veterans confident
of victory, and of the irresistible genius of their commander. Moreover,
the French army, or a great portion of it, was even then on Prussian
soil. It was impossible that the Prussian army could rely on Frederick
William, as the French army relied on its great general. The Queen did
all she could by joining the army, and living in camp, with her husband,
to the very eve of the battle, to encourage the spirit of the troops,
and above all to prevent any change of front at the last moment. The
most experienced of the Prussian generals begged the Queen to remain
with the army. One of them wrote, “Pray say all you can to induce her to
remain. I know what I am asking; her presence with us is quite

The final spark which caused the combustible material to burst into the
flame of war, was the cruel murder of the Nuremberg bookseller, Palm, by
Napoleon, for selling a pamphlet called, “The Humiliation of Germany.”
He was decoyed upon neutral territory, and was shot on the 25th August
1806, without even the pretence of a legal trial. Rather more than a
month later, Prussia had declared war. Her army was very inferior to
that of France. The highest number at which it has been put, even with
the Russian auxiliaries, is 60,000. The troops from England did not
arrive in time to be of any use. In two great battles, Jena and
Auerstadt, fought on the same day, 16th October 1806, the power and
independence of Prussia were completely crushed. No wonder that all the
world at that moment thought them annihilated! A few days later Napoleon
made his triumphal entry into Berlin. He occupied the Royal Palaces
there and at Potsdam, from which the Queen had lately fled with her
children. It was then that Napoleon covered himself with everlasting
infamy by a series of bulletins published in an official gazette called
_The Telegraph_, in which he poured every kind of insult and calumny
upon the person, character, and influence of the Queen. He ransacked her
private apartments, read her correspondence, and sought eagerly, but in
vain, for evidence to support the monstrous charges he brought against
her. She was among the most womanly of women, devoted to her home, to
her children and husband. Every true woman is more sensitive on what
touches the honour and sanctity of her home than on any other subject.
It was here, therefore, that Napoleon struck at her with all the brute
violence and perfidy of his nature. M. Lanfrey, the French historian,
says that a volume might be filled with all that he wrote and published
against her. He wished to render her odious in the eyes of her people,
and held her up to ridicule as well as to calumny. He represented that
her pretended patriotism was only put on to hide her guilty passion for
“the handsome Emperor of Russia,” that nothing had aroused her from “the
grave occupations of dress, in which she had been hitherto absorbed,”
but the desire to bring about more frequent opportunities of intercourse
with her supposed lover. The stupidity of all this, repeated again and
again in bulletin after bulletin, is as wonderful as its wickedness. The
effect of it in the minds of the German people is almost as fresh to-day
as it was eighty years ago. They had loved and trusted their good, brave
Queen, before Napoleon tried to cover her with the mud of his impure
imagination. Afterwards, and to this day, they adored her as no modern
queen has ever been adored. No stranger can be many days in North
Germany now without being forced to ask, “Who is this Queen Louisa,
whose portrait is in every shop window, and after whom streets and
squares by the dozen are called?” Her name has become the symbol of all
that is best in German national life, simplicity of living, patriotism
and devotion to duty. M. Lanfrey, whose history of Napoleon has been
already quoted, says of the bulletins attacking the Queen, “Such
circumstances as these indicate the defect of Napoleon’s moral
organisation, amounting, in fact, to an absence of ordinary
intelligence. He outraged the most delicate scruples of the human
conscience, because such sentiments had no existence in his own heart.
He made a grave mistake in treating other men as if they were as utterly
devoid as he was himself of all sentiment of honour and morality. He did
not perceive that these base insinuations against a fugitive and
disarmed woman, by a man who commanded 500,000 soldiers, would produce
an effect exactly contrary to what he intended; that they were
calculated not only to excite disgust in all noble minds, but were
revolting even to the most vulgar.” How little did either the conqueror
or the conquered foresee what lay hidden in the womb of time! Prince
William, then a delicate child of eight years old, and a fugitive, with
his mother, before the victorious army of Napoleon, was destined to
become the most powerful sovereign in Europe, to bring to an end the
Napoleonic dynasty, and in the chief of the Royal Palaces of France, to
be crowned Emperor of a United Germany.

In 1806, however, the fortunes of Queen Louisa and her children were at
the lowest ebb. After having lost so much that was more precious than
the state and luxury of royalty, the privations of the fugitive Court
were not an insupportable trial; the kind peasants brought gifts of
money and provisions to their King and Queen, and many acts of
faithfulness and devotion cheered and consoled Frederick William and his
wife. Even ill-health, which now began to be visible in the Queen,
seemed a small misfortune compared with others she had endured. She
wrote at this period, June 1807, that her greatest unhappiness was being
unable to hope. “Those who have been torn up by the roots ... have lost
the faculty of hoping.” Still she felt sustained by the confidence that
Prussia, though humiliated, was not disgraced. The country had had
fearful odds against it, and had been vanquished, but it had striven to
do its duty. “Wrong and injustice on our side would have brought me down
to the grave,” she wrote.

A treaty of peace was now about to be drawn up. Napoleon, the Emperor of
Russia, and the King of Prussia, met in a grand ceremonial way at
Tilsit. The Emperor of Russia was considered by Napoleon sufficiently
powerful to be treated with flattery and consideration. The King of
Prussia, being helpless, was harshly dealt with; and when the terms of
the peace were discussed, Napoleon was inexorable in insisting on an
almost complete destruction of the power of Prussia. All the principal
fortified towns in Prussia, including Magdeburg, which commanded the
Elbe, were to remain in the hands of the French; and the standing army
of Prussia was to be limited to 42,000 men.

The idea appears to have occurred to the Emperor of Russia, that if
Queen Louisa joined her husband at Tilsit she could induce Napoleon to
modify these harsh conditions of peace. Frederick William concurred, and
wrote to the Queen, requesting her immediate presence to intercede with
Napoleon for more favourable terms. No wonder, when the King’s letter
was placed in her hands, that the Queen burst into tears, and said it
was the hardest thing she had ever been called upon to bear and do. All
her woman’s pride revolted against humbling herself to beg for favours
from the man who but the other day had so brutally insulted her. But she
thought, how could she, who had urged her sons to die for their country,
refuse to sacrifice her just and natural resentment for the same end?
She set out without delay, and the famous interview between herself and
Napoleon was speedily arranged. He now treated her with every outward
mark of respect, and was perhaps surprised to find the fancy picture he
had drawn of her, in his infamous bulletins, falsified in every
particular. She would not allow him to trifle with her, and lead the
conversation away to commonplaces, but went straight to the object which
had brought her to Tilsit, the granting of moderate terms of peace to
Prussia. She was calm, dignified, and courteous; once only her
self-command failed her: “When she spoke of the Prussian people, and of
her husband, she could not restrain her tears.” She begged the conqueror
at least to grant to Prussia the possession of Magdeburg. The French
minister, Talleyrand, who was present at the interview, thought that
Napoleon wavered; but a tiger with a kid in his claws does not easily
relinquish it, even if an archangel pleads with him. The interview was
brought to an end, with no concession promised. The Queen and Emperor
met again at a State banquet the same evening, and again the following
day at a smaller private gathering. But she had humbled her pride in
vain. Her first words after the final leavetaking were, “I have been
cruelly deceived.” Napoleon did not hesitate to misrepresent to his
wife, the Empress Josephine, the whole bearing of the Queen of Prussia
to him: “She is fond of coquetting with me,” he wrote; “but do not be
jealous.” But to Talleyrand, who could not be deceived, because he was
present at Tilsit at all the interviews that had taken place between the
two, Napoleon said, “I knew that I should see a beautiful woman, and a
Queen with dignified manners, but I found the most admirable Queen, and
at the same time the most interesting woman I had ever met with.” On
another occasion he remarked to Talleyrand that the “Queen of Prussia
attached too much importance to the dignity of her sex, and to the value
of public opinion.” From a man of Napoleon’s gross and low estimate of
womanhood, a greater compliment would be impossible.

The French army was withdrawn from Berlin in December 1808. The King and
Queen of Prussia did not re-enter their capital till December 1809. In
the following July, Louisa died. Spasms of the heart had come on, a
short time previously, during the illness of one of her children. They
returned with a violence which she had not strength to resist. Her
husband and her people felt that she had died of a broken heart. The
short-lived rejoicings that had greeted her return to Berlin were now
changed into devotion to her memory, and to the cause of German
patriotism with which her name will always be associated. The King, his
children, and his subjects mourned her loss with unceasing fidelity and
reverence. Four years after her death, Frederick William and his Russian
allies crushed Napoleon’s army at the battle of Leipzig. On his return
to Berlin, the King’s first thought was to lay the laurel wreath of
victory on his wife’s tomb. Queen Louisa’s eldest son directed that his
heart should be buried at the foot of his mother’s grave, and the same
spot was also selected as the last resting-place of her second son, the
Emperor William. It will long be remembered that it was here that the
late Emperor, then King William of Prussia, knelt alone, in silent
meditation and stern resolve, on the sixtieth anniversary of his
mother’s death, just at the time of the outbreak of the war of 1870
between France and Germany.

She was only thirty-five years old when she died; but she was able to
leave to her children and to her people a name that will be remembered
and honoured as long as the German Empire lasts. Her tomb at
Charlottenburg is one of the most beautiful monuments to the memory of
the dead, which the world contains. The pure white marble statue of the
Queen is by the sculptor Rauch, who knew her well, and honoured her as
she deserved. Everything about the building is designed with loving
care. The words chosen by the King, and placed over the entrance of the
temple where the monument lies, are: “I am he that liveth, and was dead;
and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell
and of death.”


                           DOROTHY WORDSWORTH

         “And were another childhood world my share,
         I would be born a little sister there.”—GEORGE ELIOT.

A HUNDRED years ago England was particularly rich in great brothers and
sisters. There were William and Caroline Herschel, Charles and Mary
Lamb, and, perhaps, chief of all, William and Dorothy Wordsworth. These
last were certainly the greatest as tested by the position of the
brother in the world of literature. He won and maintained a place among
the greatest of English poets; but the very greatness of the brother was
the cause why the sister is known only as a tributary to his genius. It
is not that his achievements dwarf hers by comparison; she made no
conscious contribution to literature; she felt from the outset of their
life together that he was capable of giving to his countrymen thoughts
which the world would not willingly let die, and she deliberately
suppressed in herself all cultivation of her own powers, save such as
should contribute to support, sustain, and promote his. As Charles Lamb
said of his own sister, “If the balance has been against her, it was a
noble trade.” There is, however, much evidence that the balance was not
against Dorothy Wordsworth. She did not sacrifice herself in vain. She
chose to give up all independent cultivation of her own considerable
poetic gifts, and also to renounce all hopes of love and marriage, for
the sake of devoting her whole life to her brother, and of helping to a
freer and nobler utterance the poet who has given us “The Ode on the
Intimations of Immortality,” “The Ode to Duty,” “The Happy Warrior,” and
a host of songs and sonnets among the most beautiful in our language.
The sister freely and generously gave, the brother freely and generously
received, and freely and generously acknowledged the value of the gift.
Over and over again, in prose and verse, Wordsworth acknowledges all
that he owes to his sister; never more warmly than when, on the approach
of old age, disease had laid its hand upon her, and the long accustomed
support seemed likely to be withdrawn. When Coleridge and Dorothy lay
prostrate under the stroke of sickness, Wordsworth wrote at the age of
sixty-two: “He and my beloved sister are the two beings to whom my
intellect is most indebted, and they are now proceeding, as it were,
with equal steps, along the path of sickness, I will not say towards the
grave; but I trust towards a blessed immortality.” If Wordsworth,
reviewing the past, could speak thus of his sister, it must be of
interest to us to endeavour to discern what her influence over him was,
and how their life together was passed.

William Wordsworth was born in 1770, at Cockermouth, in Cumberland, the
second son of John Wordsworth, a lawyer and land-agent to the Earls of
Lonsdale. Dorothy, her parents’ only girl, was twenty months younger
than William, and the two children very early showed that close sympathy
and tender affection for one another which is often the precious
possession of happy family life. Only a few years were spent together by
the brother and sister in this joyous playtime of life; but the
happiness of this early time is recorded in several of Wordsworth’s
poems, especially in the one where he speaks of his sister and their
visit together to see the sparrow’s nest—

                She looked at it and seemed to fear it;
                Dreading, tho’ wishing, to be near it:
                Such heart was in her, being then
                A little Prattler among men.
                The Blessing of my later years
                Was with me when a boy:
                She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
                And humble cares, and delicate fears;
                A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
                      And love, and thought, and joy.

William and Dorothy were less than nine and seven respectively when
these happy days of childish companionship were closed by the death of
their mother in 1778. William was then sent to school, and Dorothy went
to live with her maternal grandparents at Penrith. The children were
doubly orphaned five years later by the death of their father, in 1783.
William and his brothers then passed to the guardianship of their
uncles, Richard and Christopher Wordsworth, while Dorothy was made over
to the care of other relatives, and spent her time partly at Halifax and
partly with her mother’s cousin, Dr. Cookson, Canon of Windsor. She and
William, however, by no means forgot their childish affection or let it
grow cold. They rarely met at this time, but their meetings were looked
forward to by both with ardent and intense pleasure. Each continued to
be to the other the dearest and most beloved of friends.

Wordsworth, like most generous young people of his day, was deeply
stirred by sympathy with the French Revolution. At its outset he
believed it would bring immeasurable blessings to mankind; tyranny,
cruelty, and vice were, he believed, to be dismissed from the high
places of the earth, and in their stead would reign justice, mercy,
peace, and love. It is therefore not difficult to imagine with what
agony of disappointment he saw, as he thought, all these high hopes
falsified, and the light that had been lit by the Revolution quenched in
blood and in a series of massacres more cruel and remorseless than any
that had disgraced previous forms of government. For a time the belief
in goodness and righteousness seemed shaken in him. To disbelieve in the
power of goodness is infidelity; and from this gulf of infidelity
Wordsworth was saved by his sister’s influence. This was the first
memorable service she rendered to his moral nature. He was saved from
becoming permanently soured and narrowed by the sunny radiance of his
sister’s sympathy and by her unshaken faith that good is stronger than
evil. The brother and sister now resolved to live together; and from
that hour Dorothy’s whole life was given to enrich and solace that of
her brother, and to help him to give utterance to those great thoughts
and words which at last made the whole of England aware that the nation
was possessed of another poet.

Wordsworth was now twenty-five years of age; he had passed through his
college career at Cambridge and had travelled abroad, and the time had
come when it was not unnaturally expected of him that he should settle
down to some business or profession that would provide him with an
income. Very little had come to the family from inheritance, and parents
and guardians are not generally disposed to look with lenient indulgence
on a penniless young man of twenty-five who shows a disinclination to
any steady work, and is suspected of an ambition to become a poet.
Wordsworth’s uncles had been kind and generous guardians, but they could
not have been pleased at what must have seemed to them at this time the
dilatory, desultory life of their nephew. His sister, however, all the
while gave him her warmest sympathy and support. Before any one else had
dreamed of it, she recognised her brother’s genius; she not only
believed that he would be a poet, but _knew_ that he _was_ a poet. She
did not urge him, as a well-intentioned but less perceptive friend might
have done, to become a lawyer, or a doctor, or what not; she made it
possible, by joining her life to his, and nourishing his genius by the
tribute she poured into it from her own, that he should have the quiet
sympathetic surroundings without which his poetic imagination could not

Their slender means were augmented about this time by a legacy which
rendered it possible for the brother and sister to have a little cottage
home together. Here, at Racedown, in Dorsetshire, Wordsworth first began
seriously to devote himself to poetry. Their means were so small that
the utmost economy was necessary; but Dorothy cheerfully undertook all
the household work of cleaning, cooking, making, and mending. She was
not one of those who think there is any degradation, either to man or
woman, in manual labour. While she was busied with household cares, her
brother often worked in their garden; when their digging and cooking
were accomplished, they read Italian authors together, or took long
walks through the beautiful country in which they had fixed their abode.
It must not be thought that Miss Wordsworth was nothing more to her
brother than an energetic, economical housekeeper; she was in feeling
almost as much a poet as he was. She had the same intense sympathy with
nature, the same observant eye and loving heart for all the various
moods of the beautiful outside world. She had also much of her brother’s
power of expression, and the same felicity in description. It has been
said of her, “Her journals are Wordsworth in prose, just as his poems
are Dorothy in verse.” Wordsworth said of his brother John that he was
“a silent poet,” and “a poet in everything but words,” meaning that he
was a poet in feeling and sympathy; but something more than this can be
said of Dorothy; she was a prose poet, who might have become a true
poet, if she had not felt that she had another vocation. She was her
brother’s inspirer and critic, and what she wrote herself proves that
she was worthy to be both. Some passages of her diary are almost
identical in thought and observation with subjects that Wordsworth has
crystallised in immortal verse. On 30th July 1802 we have, for example,
in the prose of Dorothy’s journal, part of what Wordsworth has given to
us in the sonnets on Westminster Bridge and Calais sands. “Left London
between five and six o’clock of the morning, outside the Dover coach. A
beautiful morning. The City, St. Paul’s, with the river, a multitude of
little boats, made a beautiful sight as we crossed Westminster Bridge;
the houses not overhung by their clouds of smoke, were spread out
endlessly; yet the sun shone so brightly, with such a pure light, that
there was something like the purity of one of Nature’s own grand
spectacles. Arrived at Calais at four in the morning of 31st July.
Delightful walks in the evenings, seeing far off in the west the coast
of England like a cloud, crested with Dover Castle, the evening star,
and the glory of the sky. The reflections in the water were more
beautiful than the sky itself; purple waves brighter than precious
stones for ever melting away on the sands.” Whoever will compare this
with the two sonnets beginning “Earth has not anything to show more
fair,” and “Fair star of evening, splendour of the West,” will see how
far it is just to say that Dorothy has given us in prose what Wordsworth
has given us in verse. There is a deeper human passion in Wordsworth’s
verse than Dorothy ever reached in her prose. He would not stand to-day
the third in the noble group where Shakespeare and Milton are first and
second, if he had not possessed, over and above his subtle sympathy with
Nature, sympathy also with the greatest of Nature’s works, “man, the
heart of man, and human life.” In the “Lines composed a few miles above
Tintern Abbey,” and again in the “Ode on the Intimations of
Immortality,” Wordsworth speaks of the change which had gradually come
in himself from the days when the worship of external nature, “meadow,
grove, and stream, the earth and every common sight,” was all in all to
him, to the time when—

                                          I have learn’d
              To look on nature, not as in the hour
              Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
              The still, sad music of humanity,
              Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
              To chasten and subdue.

It was here, as it seems, that his sister could not follow him. Perhaps
her self-suppression, the very concentration of her devotion to her
brother, closed her powers of receptive sympathy for the wider issues of
human destiny which inspires the most precious of Wordsworth’s verse.
Whether this be so or not, he saw in her what he once had been and had
ceased to be.

                                I cannot paint
          What then I was. The sounding cataract
          Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
          The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
          Their colours and their forms, were then to me
          An appetite; a feeling and a love,
          That had no need of a remoter charm.
                    ... That time is past,
          And all its aching joys are now no more,
          And all its dizzy raptures.

               ·        ·        ·        ·        ·        ·

          For thou art with me here upon the banks
          Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
          My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
          The language of my former heart, and read
          My former pleasures in the shooting lights
          Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
          May I behold in thee what I was once,
          My dear, dear Sister!

After Racedown the next residence of Wordsworth and his sister was
(1797) at Alfoxden, in Somersetshire. Here they were visited by
Coleridge and Lamb, and here the “Ancient Mariner” was composed, chiefly
by Coleridge, but with the help and by the stimulus of Wordsworth and
Dorothy. It was during their residence here that the “Lines written
above Tintern Abbey” were composed and published. Racedown and Alfoxden
were temporary resting-places only; Wordsworth and his sister did not
make a real home for themselves till they settled in the beautiful lake
country of Westmoreland, in 1799. At first they lived in a small
cottage, where Dorothy, with the help of one feeble old woman, whom they
employed partly out of charity, did all the domestic work. A few years
later they removed to the house at Rydal Mount, Grasmere, which will
always be associated with their memory, and where the rest of their
lives was passed. It has been pointed out by Mr. Matthew Arnold that
almost all Wordsworth’s best work was produced in the ten years between
1798 and 1808. During this time he had achieved no fame; he had gained
no audience, as it were, save the very select group of whom the chief
members were his sister, Coleridge, and Charles and Mary Lamb. All
through this time of the production of Wordsworth’s best work, Dorothy
continued to devote herself to him by the cheerful performance of the
double duties of domestic drudge and literary companion and critic. She
was also his comrade in many long mountain excursions, in which they
both delighted. Miss Wordsworth had extraordinary physical strength,
which many persons believe she overtaxed by her long walks over moor and
mountain. It is certain, however, that her brother delighted in her
physical vigour no less than in her mental gifts. He speaks in lines
addressed to her of her being “healthy as a shepherd boy,” and in other
places he often shows that physical feebleness formed no part of his
conception of feminine grace. His ideal woman

                              is ruddy, fleet and strong,
              And down the rocks can leap along
              Like rivulets in May.

Or again—

                  She shall be sportive as the fawn,
                  That wild with glee across the lawn
                  Or up the mountain springs.

In 1802 the poet married his cousin, Mary Hutchinson, and nothing is
more characteristic of Dorothy’s sweet and generous nature than the
warm, loving welcome which she gave to her brother’s wife. She did not
know jealousy in love; her love was so perfect that she rejoiced in
every addition to her brother’s happiness, and did not, as a meaner
woman might have done, wish his heart to be vacant of all affection save
what he felt for herself. The poet’s wife was worthy of such a husband
and sister-in-law, and the family life went on in perfect love and
harmony, that were only strengthened by the new ties and interests that
marriage brought. Wordsworth’s children became as dear to Dorothy as if
they had been her own, and she devoted herself to them so that they
learnt to feel that they had in her almost a second mother.

In 1832, Wordsworth then being sixty-two years old and his sister over
sixty, Dorothy’s health seriously broke down. So much has been said in
some of the books about the poet and his sister of the harm resulting to
Miss Wordsworth’s health from her long walks, that it might have been
imagined that she had been the victim of a very premature decline of
physical powers. Considering, however, that she was descended from
parents both of whom had died young, it is at least doubtful whether her
failure of health at the age of sixty can be fairly attributed to her
pedestrian feats. Her illness in 1832 culminated in a dangerous attack
of brain fever, from which she recovered, but with mental and physical
powers permanently enfeebled. Her memory was darkened, and her spirits,
once so blithe and gay, became clouded and dull. Wordsworth and his wife
tended her with unceasing devotion. One who knew them well wrote of
Wordsworth at this time that “There is always something very touching in
his way of speaking of his sister. The tones of his voice become very
gentle and solemn, and he ceases to have that flow of expression which
is so remarkable in him on all other subjects.” The same friend wrote,
“Those who know what they (William and Dorothy Wordsworth) were to each
other can well understand what it must have been to him to see that soul
of life and light obscured.”

Notwithstanding the delicate health from which she suffered before the
close of her life, she outlived her brother for five years. He died on
23d April 1850, the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death. His
sister at first could hardly comprehend her loss; but when at last she
understood that her heart’s best treasure was no more, she exclaimed
that there was nothing left worth living for. It was hardly life to live
without him to whom her own life had been devoted. The friends
surrounding her dreaded the shock which this great loss would be to her,
but she bore it with unexpected calmness. A friend wrote, “She is drawn
about as usual in her chair. She was heard to say as she passed the door
where the body lay, ‘O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory?’” She died in January 1855, and was buried by her brother’s
side in Grasmere Churchyard.


                              SISTER DORA

ONE of the most remarkable women who, in recent times, have devoted
themselves to nursing and to the service of the sick poor, was Dorothy
Wyndlaw Pattison, more generally known by the name of Sister Dora. She
was a lady born and bred, well-educated, high-spirited, sweet-tempered,
and handsome; full of fun and sense of humour, fond of hunting and other
athletic exercises, and remarkably fond of her own way. As her own way
was generally a good way, she was probably right in preferring it to the
ways of other people. Strong determination, when it does not degenerate
into stupid obstinacy, is one of the most useful qualities any human
being can have. In Sister Dora’s case her strong will was a great secret
of her success, but it also, in a few instances, led her into errors,
which will easily be seen as the story of her life is told.

She was born, in 1832, at Hauxwell, in Yorkshire, a small village on the
slope of a hill, looking towards the moors and Wensleydale. Her father
was the clergyman of the village, and one of her brothers was the Rev.
Mark Pattison, the well-known scholar and the Rector of Lincoln College,
Oxford. Dorothy Pattison was first roused to wish for something more
than the ordinary occupations of a young lady’s life by the enthusiasm
felt throughout England in 1856 for Miss Florence Nightingale’s work in
the Crimea. Dorothy wished to join Miss Nightingale’s band of lady
nurses at the seat of war, but her parents’ opposition and her own want
of training prevented her from carrying out this wish. From this time,
however, she fretted against the life of comparative inactivity to which
she was restricted so long as she remained in her village home. Some
years were passed (wasted, we well may think) in unnecessary friction
between herself and her father, she desiring to leave home, and he
opposing her wishes in this respect. At last she did leave, in 1861,
more or less in face of her father’s opposition; he declined to make her
any allowance beyond what he had been accustomed to give her for
pocket-money and clothes, and she had therefore to live partly on what
she was able to earn. She obtained work as a village schoolmistress at
Little Woolston, near Bletchley, and lived for three years in a small
cottage, quite alone, without even a servant; her life at this time must
have been very much like that described in _Jane Eyre_, where the
heroine gains her livelihood for a time by similar work. She showed, as
a village schoolmistress, that keen sympathy with children and power
over them which always distinguished her. She could enter, through her
bright imagination, into the feelings and thoughts of children, and her
playfulness and love of fun made her a real friend and companion to
them. At Little Woolston, too, she did a good deal of amateur nursing
for the parents and friends of her little pupils. Her biographer, Miss
Lonsdale,[5] says that the people in the neighbourhood of the village
were very quick to discover that the new schoolmistress was a real lady,
but for some time they could not get over their astonishment if they
found Miss Pattison blacking her own grate when they came to see her.
She was, perhaps, the first instance they had come across of a
cultivated woman who thought that “being a lady” was not inconsistent
with working hard. Dirtiness, untidiness, and muddle vex the soul of the
“real lady” far more than doing the work which produces cleanliness and

After three years at Little Woolston, Miss Pattison made what many must
think was the great mistake of her life. Her strong will has already
been spoken of; she had found by experience that she could not submit it
even to the control of her own father, to whom she was naturally bound
by strong feelings of affection. It was necessary to her to have freedom
and scope for her energies, and to learn by self-government what she had
failed to learn through the government of others. Notwithstanding the
incompatibility of her nature with the absolute submission required in
such institutions, Miss Pattison joined a High Church Sisterhood, at
Coatham, called the Sisterhood of the Good Samaritan. It was part of the
discipline of the sisterhood to require unquestioning obedience to all
commands. The reason, the feelings, the natural piety of the novices
were completely subordinated to obedience as their first and paramount
duty. By way of training in unquestioning obedience, Sister Dora, as she
was now called, was subjected to various tests of submissiveness; one
day, for instance, after she had made all the beds, they were pulled to
pieces again by the order of the Superior, and she was told to make them
again. In some institutions of this kind, after the floor has been
carefully and thoroughly scrubbed by a novice, some one enters, by order
of the Superior, with mud or ashes, and purposely makes it dirty again;
the novice is then ordered to return to her work and scrub the floor
once more, and she is expected to do so without showing the least sign
of disappointment or annoyance. It may be true that this system fosters
the habit of unquestioning obedience, but if so it must be at the
expense of other and more valuable qualities. This unnatural system is
perverting to the moral sense and judgment, as Sister Dora, a few years
later, found to her cost.

In 1865 she was sent by the sisterhood to Walsall, to take part in the
nursing in a small cottage hospital. Towards the end of the year she
received orders from the sisterhood to leave this work and take work as
a nurse in a private case in the South of England. Walsall had not been
trained to habits of unquestioning obedience; its inhabitants and the
managers of the little hospital had already discovered Sister Dora’s
fine qualities as a nurse. They resisted the order that would have
deprived them of her services. While negotiations on this subject were
proceeding between the Walsall people and the sisterhood at Coatham,
news reached Miss Pattison from Hauxwell, to say that her father was
dangerously ill and much desired to see her. She telegraphed to the
sisterhood, telling them of her father’s serious illness, and asking
permission to visit him. The answer, which was returned almost
immediately, was a blank refusal, and she was bidden to proceed at once
to Devonshire to nurse a stranger. Incredible as this may seem, it is
still more incredible that the order was obeyed. Miss Pattison had not
escaped the paralysis of moral sense which this cast-iron system
produces; she turned her back on her home and proceeded to Devonshire.
Her father died almost immediately, without ever seeing his daughter
again. The shock of this event roused Sister Dora from the lethargy from
which she had suffered. She was almost broken-hearted, and deeply
resented the dictation to which she had been subjected. She ought to
have seen, and probably did see, that the will, like all other powers of
the mind and body, with which each one of us is endowed, is given to us
to be used; we are responsible for its right use, and when we use it
wrongly, as she did in this case (for it must have needed a very strong
effort of will to resist the appeal of love and duty), it is we
ourselves who must bear the punishment and endure the anguish of our
fault. She did not immediately sever her connection with the sisterhood,
but she began from that time to be less completely in thraldom to it.
She finally quitted it in 1875, under circumstances which have not been
made public. When a friend questioned her as to the cause, Sister Dora’s
only reply was, “I am a woman, and not a piece of furniture.”

After her father’s death, Sister Dora returned to Walsall, and in this
place practically the whole of the rest of her life was devoted to the
service of the sick and of all who were desolate and oppressed. She
plunged into her work with all the greater eagerness from her desire to
forget herself and the many inward troubles and anxieties which
oppressed her at this time. Her great desire was to become a first-rate
surgical nurse. Walsall has been described by those who lived there as
“one of the smokiest dens of the Black Country,” and the workers in the
various factories of the locality were often frightfully injured by
accidents with the machinery, or by burns and scalds. Sister Dora became
marvellously skilful in what is known as “conservative surgery,” that
is, the art of saving a maimed and crushed limb instead of cutting it
off. A good old doctor at the hospital taught her all he knew; but she
outgrew his instructions, and Miss Lonsdale gives an instance of a case
in which Sister Dora saved a man’s right arm from amputation, in spite
of the doctor’s strongly expressed opinion that the man would die unless
his arm were taken off immediately. The arm was frightfully torn and
twisted; the doctor said it must be taken off, or mortification would
set in. Sister Dora said she could save the arm, and the man’s life too.
The patient was appealed to, and of the two risks he chose the one
offered by the Sister. The doctor did not fail, proud as he was of his
pupil, to remind her that the responsibility of what he considered the
patient’s certain death would be on her head. She accepted the
responsibility, and devoted herself to her patient almost night and day
for three weeks, with the result that the arm was saved. The doctor was
the first generously to acknowledge her triumph, and he brought the rest
of his medical colleagues to see what Sister Dora had done. The
patient’s gratitude was unbounded; he often revisited the hospital
simply to inquire for Sister Dora. He was known in the neighbourhood as
“Sister’s Arm.” During an illness she had, this man used to walk every
Sunday morning eleven miles to the hospital to inquire for her. He would
say, “How’s Sister?” and on receiving a reply would add, “Tell her it’s
_her arm_ that rang the bell,” and walk back again. Sister Dora used to
say when speaking of her period of suspense and anxiety in this case,
“How I prayed over that arm!”

She was particularly skilful in her treatment of burns; sometimes she
would take two poor little burnt or scalded babies to sleep in her own
room. Those who have had experience in the surgical wards of hospitals
know what an overpowering and sickening smell proceeds from burnt flesh.
Sister Dora never seemed for a moment to think of herself or of what was
disagreeable and disgusting in such cases as these. In one frightful
accident in which eleven poor men were so badly burned that they
resembled charred logs of wood more than human beings, nearly all the
doctors and nurses became sick and faint a few minutes after they
entered the ward where the sufferers lay, and were obliged to leave.
Among the nurses Sister Dora alone remained at her post, and never
ceased night or day for ten days to do all that human skill could
suggest to alleviate the sufferings of the poor victims. Some died
almost immediately, some lingered for a week or ten days; only two
ultimately recovered. Her wonderful courage was shown not only in her
readiness to accept responsibility, but in the way in which she was able
to keep up her own spirits, and to raise the spirits of the patients
through such a time of trial as this. She would laugh and joke, and tell
the sick folks stories, or do anything that would help them to while
away the time and bear their sufferings with fortitude and courage. She
made her patients feel how much she cared for them, and that all she did
for them was a pleasure, not a trouble. She used to provide them with a
little bell, which she told them to ring when they wanted her. One poor
man was reproached by the other patients for ringing his bell so often,
especially as when Sister Dora arrived and asked him what he wanted, he
not infrequently answered that he did not know. But Sister Dora never
reproached him for ringing too often. “Never mind,” she would say
brightly, “for I like to hear it;” and she told him that she often
fancied when she was asleep that she heard his little bell, and started
up in a hurry to find it was only a dream. She was so gay and bright and
pleasant in her ways, giving her patients comical nicknames, and
caressing and coaxing them almost as a mother would a sick child, that
they regarded her with a deep love and veneration that frequently
influenced them for good all the rest of their lives. Twice while she
was at Walsall, there were frightful epidemics of small-pox, and on both
occasions she showed extraordinary courage and devotion. She did not
bear any charm against infection, and in fact generally caught anything
that was to be caught in the way of infectious disease. Her courage,
therefore, did not proceed from any confidence in her own immunity from
danger. She deliberately counted the cost, and resolved to pay it, for
the sake of carrying on her work. At the first outbreak of small-pox in
Walsall there was no proper hospital accommodation for the patients; and
Sister Dora nursed many of them in the overcrowded courts and alleys
where they lived. She was called in to one poor man who was dying of a
virulent form of the malady known as “black-pox.” He was a frightful
object: all his friends and relations, except one woman, had forsaken
him; when Sister Dora arrived, she found there was only one small piece
of candle in the house, so she gave the woman money to go out and buy
candles, and other necessaries. The temptation was too much for the poor
woman, who must, after all, have been better than the patient’s other
relatives and neighbours, for she had stayed with him when they had run
away. But when the professional nurse arrived and gave her money, she
ran away too, and Sister Dora was left quite alone with the dying man.
Just as the one bit of candle flickered out, the poor man, covered as he
was with the terrible disease, raised himself in bed and said, “Kiss me,
Sister.” She did so, and the man sank back; she promised she would not
leave him while he was alive, and his last hours were soothed by her
presence. She passed hours by his side in total darkness, uncertain
whether he were dead or alive; at last the gray light of early dawn
came, and she was at liberty. Her promise was fulfilled; the man was

At the second outbreak of small-pox at Walsall, hospital accommodation
was provided for the patients; and the ambulance, a sort of omnibus
fitted up to convey a patient and nurse, was frequently to be seen in
the streets. Sister Dora was as strong as she was courageous; she would
come to a house where a small-pox patient lay, and say she had “come
for” so-and-so. Resistance and excuses were no good; she would take the
patient, man or woman, in her arms as easily as she would a baby, and
carry the burden down to the ambulance. Her presence cheered the whole
town, and prevented the spread of that dastardly panic which sometimes
comes over a place which is stricken by disease. An eye-witness
described how every one in the town felt new courage at the sight of the
ambulance and Sister Dora, “with her jolly face smiling out of the

She spent six months at the small-pox hospital in 1875; and for a long
time she was practically alone there with the patients; the doctors of
course came by day, and three of her old patients constantly visited the
hospital for the sake of seeing if they could do anything for her; and
there were two nearly helpless old women from the workhouse, who were
supposed to do part of the work; but she was absolutely alone as regards
regular skilful assistance in the nursing and other work. The porter did
what he could, showing his devotion by getting up early to scrub and
clean for her; but he could hardly ever resist the temptation to go off
“on the drink” whenever his wages were paid; on these occasions he would
absent himself for four and twenty hours at a time. Once when this had
happened, and Sister Dora was quite alone, a delirious patient, a tall,
powerful man, flung himself out of bed in the middle of the night, and
rushed to the door trying to make his escape. “She had no time for
hesitation, but at once grappled with him, all covered as he was with
the loathsome disease ... she got him back to bed, and held him there by
main force till the doctor arrived in the morning.”

One of the trials of her work was that the small-pox patients were
nearly all “alive” with vermin; added to this was the horror of the
all-pervading smell of pox; in a letter to a friend, Sister Dora spoke
of this, and said it was impossible to get away from it. “I taste it in
my tea!” For months she never had her bonnet on, or went even as far as
the gate; and yet she was able to look back on the time she spent in
this hospital as one that had been very much blessed to her. With her
High Church feelings about Lent, she wrote cheerfully in the letter
already quoted, “Is not this a glorious retreat for me in Lent? I can
have no idle chatter.” In another letter, she wrote, “I am still a
prisoner, surrounded by my lepers. I do feel so thankful that I came....
I thank God daily for my life here.”

Endless instances might be given of her physical and moral courage;
once, when she was in a third-class railway carriage with a lot of rough
navvies, who were swearing and using horrible language, she boldly
reproved them; they laid hands on her, one of them exclaiming, “Hold
your jaw, you fool; do you want your face smashed in?” She remained
quite calm, not struggling, although they were holding her down on the
seat between them. When the train reached a station, they let her go,
and she got out of the carriage, and one of the men begged her pardon,
saying, “Shake hands, mum! you’re a good plucked one, you are; you were
right, and we were wrong.” Another time in the hospital, a half-drunken
man, flashily dressed, rang the bell in the night, and on the door being
opened forced his way into the hall, and demanded a bed. The night nurse
on duty was unable to get rid of him, and Sister Dora was summoned. The
man reiterated his determination to stay all night, and Sister Dora
contented herself with barring his access to the patients by standing
erect on the last step of the stairs with her arms spread from the wall
to the balusters. The man seated himself opposite to her, the nurse fled
shrieking, and the two waited, staring at one another, each hoping the
other would be the first to tire of the situation. Presently the man
made a rush down the passage towards the kitchen door, but Sister Dora
was too quick for him, and by the time he had reached it she was there
with her arms spread across it, as on the stairs, to bar his way. She
expected he would knock her down, but instead of doing so he muttered
some compliment to her courage, and turned on his heel and left the

She had a very strong personal influence for good on the poor rough
people, both men and women, for whom she worked. Her religion was one
more of deeds than of words, and they saw that both in word and deed it
was genuine. Many a one has dated a new start in life from the time he
came under her care. Sometimes patients, waking in the night, would find
her praying by their bedsides, and it touched them deeply to see how
sincerely and truly she cared for them. Although she had the hearty
sense of fun already alluded to, no man could ever venture on a coarse
word or jest in her presence, and she inspired a good “tone” in the
wards even when they were occupied by the roughest and poorest. As time
went on there was hardly a slum or court in the lowest part of Walsall
where she was not known, and hardly a creature in the town that did not
feel he owed something to her. Although most of her time was given to
healing bodily troubles, all her patients felt that she cared for
something higher in them than their bodies. She joined heartily in
several missions that were started with the object of reaching the
lowest and most outcast; she would go quite fearlessly at midnight into
the haunts of the most degraded men and women of the town, and induce
them, for a while at least, to pause and consider what their lives had
been given to them for. Once, we are told, when she was on her way to a
patient’s house at night, she had to pass through one of the worst slums
of the town. A man ran out of a notorious public-house and said,
“Sister, you’re wanted; they’ve been fighting, and a man’s hurt
desperate.” Even she hesitated momentarily, and the thought passed
through her mind that she might be murdered. But her hesitation did not
last sufficiently long to be visible; she followed the man immediately,
taking comfort characteristically in the thought, “What does it matter
if I am murdered?” To her astonishment, as soon as she reached the group
of men, brutalised apparently almost below the level of humanity, a way
was respectfully made for her, and every hat was taken off as she passed
to the side of the wounded man.

But the time was approaching when the hand of death was to be laid upon
this wonderful woman in the midst of all her labours. She was only about
forty-four years of age, when she discovered that she was stricken by an
incurable and terribly painful disease. It was a sign both of her
strength and of her weakness that she insisted on keeping this fact
absolutely secret. She, who had always been so strong, could not bear to
acknowledge that her strength had come to an end. She, who had been so
ready to give sympathy, could not bear to accept it. She went on with
her work, bearing her pain silently and proudly, and admitting no one to
her confidence. In order more completely to conceal her illness, she
left Walsall for a time; and those who remained in charge of the
hospital did not dream but that her absence was merely temporary. With
the knowledge that her days on earth were numbered, she still went on
studying her profession. She attended some of Professor Lister’s
operations in London in order to become acquainted with his antiseptic
process, and she went to the Paris Exhibition especially to study the
surgical appliances shown there. Then presently she came back to
Walsall, in October 1878. In November of the same year the Mayor opened
a new hospital in her name; she was too ill to be present. Up to the
last the townspeople could not believe that their “dear lady” was really
to be taken from them, especially as her vitality was so strong that she
rallied again and again, when those about her thought that the end was
near at hand. She never lost her old habit of joking and making fun out
of the dismal circumstances of sickness. Her arm, which became terribly
swollen and helpless, she nicknamed “Sir Roger,” and she laughed at her
doctors because she lived longer than they had predicted she would. She
quite chuckled over the idea that she had “done the doctor again.” Her
life was prolonged till 24th December 1878. The grief throughout the
district when it was known that death had removed her was overpowering.
The veneration and gratitude of the whole town found expression in many
schemes for memorials in her honour. The working people wished most of
all for a statue of their dear lady. The wish was gratified, through
Miss Lonsdale’s generous aid, in the autumn of 1886. A pure white marble
statue now stands in a central position of the smoky town of Walsall,
commemorating the life and labours of one of the best of this generation
of Englishwomen. Her work is another illustration of the text, “He that
is greatest among you, shall be your servant.”

Footnote 5:

  _Sister Dora: a Biography._ By Margaret Lonsdale.


                             MRS. BARBAULD

ANNE LETITIA BARBAULD will probably be more remembered for what she was
than for what she did. At a time when women’s education was at a very
low ebb, and when for a woman to be an authoress was to single herself
out for ungenerous sneers, attacks, and insinuations, Mrs. Barbauld did
much to raise the social esteem in which literary women were held, and
prove in her own person that a popular authoress could be a devoted
wife, daughter, and sister.

Mrs. Barbauld’s father was the Rev. John Aikin, a Doctor of Divinity,
much esteemed in Nonconformist circles for his learning and piety. He
was for nearly thirty years the head of a well-known Nonconformist
college at Warrington, round which a little knot of learned and good men
gathered, who, it is said, did much to raise the tone, intellectually
and morally, of English society at a time when Oxford and Cambridge were
sunk in the deepest lethargy, and had comparatively no influence for
good in any direction. Among the men, whose names afterwards became
honourably known, who were connected with the social or educational life
of the Warrington Academy, may be mentioned Dr. Priestley, Dr. Enfield,
the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield, Howard the philanthropist, and Roscoe the
historian. In the midst of a society tempered by such good influences as
these, Anne Letitia Aikin grew from girlhood to womanhood. She and her
brother, John Aikin, four years younger than herself, were the only
children of their parents. She was born at Kibworth, in Leicestershire,
on 20th June 1743, where her father had a school before he became the
head of the Warrington Academy. Her mother is said to have come to the
singular conclusion that a girl brought up in a boys’ school must either
be a prude or a tomboy, and Mrs. Aikin preferred the former. Judging
from a cameo portrait of Mrs. Barbauld, taken at the request of her
friend Josiah Wedgwood, she certainly looks as if a good deal of her
time had been spent in the enunciation of the words “prunes, prisms, and
propriety.” But appearances are notoriously deceptive, and there is a
nice little story of Mrs. Barbauld’s girlhood, which shows that her
excellent mother did not succeed in entirely eradicating the tomboy
element from her daughter’s character. When only fifteen years old, Anne
had attracted the affections of a Kibworth farmer, who made a formal
application to Dr. Aikin for his daughter’s hand. The Doctor, seeing his
daughter in the garden, gave the suitor leave to go and try his
fortunes. When she understood the nature of his errand, her
embarrassment was very great, for the dilemma presented itself of having
to say “No,” and yet to spare the feelings of the swain; finding no
other way out of the difficulty, she ran up a tree, thus gaining the top
of the garden wall, and then, by one spring, the lane on the other side,
leaving her discomfited lover to admire her agility and bewail its

Anne was from her birth an extraordinarily precocious child. Her mother
wrote of her in after years, comparing her with some less wonderful
grandchildren, “I once, indeed, knew a little girl who was as eager to
learn as her instructors could be to teach her, and who, at two years
old, could read sentences and little stories in her _wise book_,
roundly, without spelling, and in half a year more could read as well as
most women; but I never knew such another, and I believe never shall.”
Her father shared sufficiently in the prejudices of the period to refuse
for a long time to impart to this gifted child any of the classical
learning of which he was the master, and in which she ardently desired
to share. At length she so far overcame his scruples that she became
able to read Latin with facility, and gained some acquaintance with
Greek. The fact that her father was a schoolmaster no doubt enabled her
to enjoy many opportunities of instruction and education to which the
bulk of Englishwomen at that time were complete strangers. At a time
when it was thought enough education for most women if they were able to
read, “and perhaps to write their names or so,” it is not surprising if
schoolmasters’ daughters enjoyed an advantage in being able at least to
pick up the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.

Anne was thirty years of age before she made her first appearance in
print with a volume of verse in 1773; but she appears to have been known
as a poet in her own circle of friends a few years earlier than this, as
there is a letter in existence from Dr. Priestley, dated 1769, in which
he asks permission to send a copy of her poem, called “Corsica,” to
Boswell, who was destined to future immortality as the biographer of Dr.
Johnson. Her first printed volume was highly successful, and passed
through four editions almost immediately. Thus encouraged, Anne and her
brother shortly afterwards printed a joint-volume, called _Miscellaneous
Pieces in Prose_, which also attracted much attention and commendation.
In Rogers’s _Table Talk_ an anecdote is given about this volume which
illustrates the amusing mistakes sometimes arising from joint
authorship. The various articles in the book were not signed by their
respective authors, and on one occasion Charles James Fox, meeting John
Aikin at a dinner party, wished to compliment him on his book. “I
particularly admire,” he said, “your essay, ‘Against Inconsistency in
our Expectations.’” “That,” replied Aikin, “is my sister’s.” “I much
like,” returned Fox, “your essay on Monastic Institutions.” “That”
answered Aikin, “is also my sister’s.” Fox thought it best to say no
more about the book.

In the same year as that of the publication of this volume of Essays,
1774, Anne Letitia Aikin became the wife of the Rev. Rochemont Barbauld,
a descendant of a French Protestant family. Mr. Barbauld’s father had
been chaplain to the Electress of Hesse Cassel, a daughter of George II,
and the son had been intended for the Church of England. He had,
however, conscientious objections to taking orders in that Church, and
joined the Presbyterian body. Miss Aikin was warned before her marriage
that her future husband had suffered already from an attack of insanity,
but with Quixotic devotion this only seemed to her an additional reason
why she should unite her life with his. Her married life,
notwithstanding many good qualities on her husband’s part, was one of
exceptional trial and loneliness. Mr. Barbauld was liable throughout his
life to fits of insanity, which took the form of fierce and
uncontrollable fury as often as not directed against his wife. They
settled at Palgrave in Suffolk, and opened a boys’ school there. Mrs.
Barbauld was much urged by her friend Mrs. Montague to open a school for
girls, for the purpose of imparting to them, in a regular manner,
various branches of science, such as did not then form an ordinary part
of women’s education. Mrs. Barbauld declined the task, giving various
excuses, such as her own want of proficiency in music and dancing, and
other feminine accomplishments. It may, however, be not improbable that
her real reason was one that could not be avowed, and was to be found in
the mental condition of her husband. It must have been a sufficiently
severe trial to the strongest nerves to keep a boys’ school, and to know
that the head master and principal teacher was at any time liable to
fits of insane fury; but this would have been even worse, it would have
been a fatal objection, in a girls’ school. Poor Mrs. Barbauld set
herself with pathetic resolution to make the best of the partner and the
life she had chosen. She seems immediately to have assumed she would
never have any children of her own, for within a year of her marriage
she adopted from his birth her nephew Charles, her brother’s son. This
was the little Charles from whom _The Early Lessons_ and _Hymns in
Prose_ were written. Very few educational books for young children had
then been written, and Mrs. Barbauld set herself to supply the
deficiency. She discovered from practical experience the sort of books
children learn best from, and the kind of paper and type that suited
them best. Many of her friends in the literary world thought she was
wasting her talents in such employment. Dr. Johnson is recorded in
Boswell’s life to have spoken very scornfully of what she was doing, and
set it all down to her having married a “little Presbyterian parson.” It
appears, however, in the anecdotes of Johnson, collected by Mrs. Thrale,
that though he might have spoken in this way at times, his warm heart
did not fail to appreciate the devotion of Mrs. Barbauld’s talents to
the humble tasks which her marriage had rendered necessary. “Mrs.
Barbauld,” Mrs. Thrale wrote, “had his best praise, and deserved it; no
man was more struck than Mr. Johnson with the voluntary descent from
possible splendour to painful duty.” She wrote herself in her preface to
_The Early Lessons_: “The task is humble, but not mean, for to lay the
first stone of a noble building and to plant the first idea in a human
mind can be no dishonour to any hand.”

The school at Palgrave was successful mainly through Mrs. Barbauld’s
efforts; among the scholars were reckoned many men of future
distinction, such as the first Lord Denman and William Taylor of
Norwich. After eleven years of courageous and exhausting work, the
school was given up, and Mr. Barbauld undertook the charge of a
Presbyterian church at Hampstead. The husband and wife here enjoyed the
friendship of Joanna Baillie and her sister, and here some of Mrs.
Barbauld’s best literary work was done. But the terrible malady which
had pursued her husband throughout his life continued to darken their
existence. In order to be near her brother, and enjoy the protection and
solace of his society, Mrs. Barbauld left Hampstead in 1802, and removed
to Stoke Newington, where Dr. Aikin then lived. But Mr. Barbauld’s mania
continued to increase, and after a sudden attack which he made upon his
wife with a dinner knife, it became obvious that he must be put under
restraint. The unhappy man put an end to his own life in 1808. After an
interval, Mrs. Barbauld resumed her literary work, bringing out an
edition of English Novels in 1810. In the following year she brought out
a poem, which she called “1811,” very strongly tinged with the
despondency which she felt regarding public affairs. She had been bred
as a Whig, to hope for great things from the measures of emancipation
with which that party had always been identified. Her sympathies were
rather with the French Revolution than with the long-continued struggle
of England against Napoleon. The poem had a tone of gloom and deep
melancholy, which perhaps reflected more of the writer’s personal
despondency than the circumstances justified. It is not a little curious
that a passage in it is credited with having suggested Lord Macaulay’s
famous prophecy that in years to come a New Zealander “will from a
broken arch of Blackfriars Bridge contemplate the ruins of St. Paul’s.”
The poem provoked a coarse and insulting review in the _Quarterly_, with
which it is to be regretted that Southey’s name is now identified.
Murray, the proprietor of the _Review_, is said to have declared that he
was more ashamed of that article than of any that had ever appeared in
his magazine. Mrs. Barbauld’s friends, Miss Edgeworth foremost among
them, expressed their indignation and sympathy; a more ungentlemanlike,
unjust, and insolent review, Miss Edgeworth said she had never read; and
she wrote an inspiriting letter to her friend, concluding with the
words, “Write on, shine out, and defy them.” But at nearly seventy years
of age Mrs. Barbauld was to be excused if she felt that younger and
stronger hands must carry on the fight. The poem referred to was not her
last literary effort, but it was the last of her writings published
during her lifetime. Very little, perhaps, of her work has permanent
value; one poem, however, that beginning “Life! I know not what thou
art,” which was written in extreme old age, will probably live as long
as anything in the language. It indicates possibly what she might have
done, had it not been for the tragedy of her married life. Of two lines
in this poem—

              Life, we’ve been long together,
              Through pleasant and through cloudy weather—

Wordsworth declared that, though he was not in the habit of grudging
people their good things, he wished he had written those lines. Her
mental powers remained clear and vigorous to the end of her long life.
When she was past eighty, writing to Miss Edgeworth, she summed up, as
it were, the worth of what she knew and did not know. “I find that many
things I knew, I have forgotten; many things I _thought_ I knew, I find
I knew nothing about; some things I know, I have found not worth
knowing, and some things I would give—oh! what would one not give to
know, are beyond the reach of human ken.”

All her life through she laboured with her pen in defence of civil and
religious liberty, against the iniquities of the slave trade, and for
many other causes which have made life more worth living in England
to-day. She died, universally honoured and respected, in 1825, aged


                             JOANNA BAILLIE

MRS. JOANNA BAILLIE, as she was usually called, because, though she was
never married, her age and literary reputation were held to entitle her
to brevet rank, was a remarkable instance of a writer rapidly rising to
the highest pinnacle of fame, and then as rapidly and surely descending
almost to the common level of ordinary mortals. But the Scotch woman,
with the blood of heroes in her veins, showed herself worthy of her
descent, both by the modesty and dignity with which she bore her fame,
and by the sweetness and unassuming simplicity with which she bore the
loss of it. She was descended from Sir William Wallace, and the fame of
this long-past ancestor is perhaps equalled by that of another and a
much nearer relative. John Hunter, the great anatomist and physiologist,
the founder of the College of Surgeons, was her mother’s brother. She
therefore might truly feel, not in a figurative sense, that in
everything she was “sprung of earth’s first blood”; and her double
connection with the best and greatest of the heroes of Scotland was
probably not without its influence on the development of her mind and

She was born at Bothwell, near Glasgow, on the banks of the Clyde, in
1762. In a poem addressed, near the close of her life, to her sister
Agnes, she recalls how they had as children—

                        ... paddled barefoot side by side,
              Among the sunny shallows of the Clyde.

Her father was a minister of the Scotch Church, and afterwards a
Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow. His death in 1778,
and the establishment of his son Matthew in the medical profession in
London, caused Mrs. Baillie and her daughters, Joanna and Agnes, to
remove there in 1784; and in London practically the rest of the future
poetess’s long life was spent. Her first work was a volume of verse
published anonymously in 1790. The first of her series of dramas, called
_Plays on the Passions_, was published in 1798. These were also
published without the author’s name. They made an immediate and very
widespread impression; and their author was frequently, and by the very
best judges, lauded as being equal, if not superior, to Shakespeare. The
idea of these dramas, and of those in the successive volumes which
appeared in 1802 and 1812, was to delineate a single dominant passion,
such as hatred, envy, etc.; and each of the passions thus treated was
made the subject first of a tragedy, then of a comedy. The language
employed is easy, dignified, and simple: and it is probable that the
contrast Joanna Baillie’s dramas afforded in this respect to the dramas
of the generation closing with the death of Dr. Johnson, was the reason
of the great hold which they at once obtained upon the public mind. It
is not easy in any other way to account for their extraordinary
popularity. The time in which Joanna Baillie lived was one marked by a
literary revolution, in which the formal, stilted, and didactic manner
was overthrown, and poets and great writers sought to express their
thoughts in simple and natural language. The leaders of this literary
revolution were Wordsworth and Coleridge. In the great movement
identified with their names Joanna Baillie bore a humbler, but a useful
and effective part.

When Joanna Baillie’s first volume of plays appeared, there was much
speculation as to their possible authorship. Samuel Rogers, the banker,
poet, and critic, thought that they were written by a man. It seems to
have been difficult, at the end of the last century, for the great
judges in the literary world to conceive that a poem, worthy of praise,
could be of female authorship. Even so late as 1841, a writer in the
_Quarterly Review_, writing upon Joanna Baillie’s poetical works, puts
the coping-stone upon the praise which he bestows upon her style and
diction by saying that they are “masculine.” He says, “Let us again
express our admiration of the wonderful elasticity and _masculine_ force
of mind exhibited in this vast collection of dramas;” and in another
place the writer says, “The spirit breathing everywhere is a spirit of
_manly_ purity and moral uprightness.” We should say, at the present
day, that there is certainly force of mind in Joanna Baillie’s dramas,
but that it is feminine, not masculine in character, and that the spirit
of purity which breathes through them is essentially the womanly spirit.
She had particular power and skill in the delineation of female
characters, especially those of an unusual degree of elevation and
purity. This in itself would have sufficiently betrayed the sex of the
writer now when people have had far wider opportunities of judging of
the differences between men and women as authors. Thackeray could give
us an Ethel Newcome and a Becky Sharp, but women were needed to give us
a Dorothea, a Marion Erle, or a Shirley Keeldar. Mrs. Siddons, the great
actress, was charmed by the character of Jane de Montfort in Joanna
Baillie’s Tragedy on Hatred. The play called _De Montfort_ was put upon
the stage by John Kemble, the brother of Mrs. Siddons: they both
appeared in it. It ran for eleven nights, but it was not successful on
the stage. Joanna’s complete ignorance of what was requisite for the
success of a play upon the stage foredoomed her to failure; the audience
was, in the first act, let into the secret upon which the plot of the
whole play turned, consequently as the drama proceeded the interest in
it, instead of becoming more and more intense, gradually dwindled away,
until in the fifth act it had quite evaporated. Mrs. Siddons, whose
admiration for the character of Jane de Montfort has been already
mentioned, is said to have remarked to the poetess, “Make me some more
Jane de Montforts”—a request which does not appear to have been
gratified. In all, five of Joanna Baillie’s plays were put upon the
stage—two of them, called _Constantine and Valeria_ and _The Family
Legend_, had a considerable degree of success. _The Family Legend_ was
brought out in Edinburgh in 1809, under the special patronage of Sir
Walter Scott, who wrote the prologue of the play. At a later date it was
reproduced in London.

The authorship of Joanna Baillie’s first volume of plays did not long
remain a secret. Sir Walter Scott was the first to make a successful
guess as to the personality of the writer; and the discovery led to the
formation of a warm friendship between him and Joanna, which only
terminated with his life. Many of Scott’s most delightful and
characteristic letters were written to her. It was perhaps Scott’s too
generous appreciation of Joanna’s powers as a dramatist that led to her
plays being so much overrated, as they certainly were when they first
appeared. Scott compared her to Shakespeare. Miss Mitford followed suit,
saying of her sister-writer, “Her tragedies have a boldness and grasp of
mind, a firmness of hand, and resonance of cadence that scarcely seem
within the reach of a female writer.” Byron made her an exception to his
sweeping generalities concerning the female sex, saying, “Woman (save
Joanna Baillie) cannot write tragedy.”

In 1825 the golden mists which had surrounded the sunrise of her
literary life had melted away. Charles Lamb was too keen a critic
probably to have been carried away by the stream of fashion at any time;
but in the year mentioned, writing to his friend Bernard Barton, he
says: “I think you told me your acquaintance with the drama was confined
to Shakespeare and Miss Baillie: some read only Milton and Croly. The
gap is as from an ananas to a turnip.” Lamb’s contemptuous reference
measures the rapid fall from the heights of fame which Joanna Baillie
endured, and endured without any failure of sweetness and dignity of

Joanna Baillie’s day as a poetess was of short duration: it is now
chiefly as a woman that she charms and helps us. Her house at Hampstead
was for many years a meeting-place for those who were most worth
meeting, either for talent or goodness; her kindly and gentle influence
brought out all that was best in her guests and companions. In Miss
Martineau’s autobiography she has something to say about nearly all the
lions and lionesses of the literary London of her day, and she singles
out our poetess for special commendation. “There was Joanna Baillie,”
she writes, “whose serene and gentle life was never troubled by the
pains and penalties of vanity; what a charming spectacle was she! Mrs.
Barbauld’s published correspondence tells of her in 1800, as a ‘young
lady of Hampstead whom I visited, and who came to Mr. Barbauld’s
meeting, all the while with as innocent a face as if she had never
written a line.’ That was two years before I was born. When I met her
about thirty years afterwards, there she was, still ‘with as innocent a
face as if she had never written a line!’ And this was after an
experience which would have been a bitter trial to an author with a
particle of vanity. She had enjoyed a fame almost without parallel, and
had outlived it. She had been told every day for years, through every
possible channel, that she was second only to Shakespeare, if second;
and then she had seen her works drop out of notice, so that, of the
generation who grew up before her eyes, not one in a thousand had read a
line of her plays; yet was her serenity never disturbed, nor her merry
humour in the least dimmed” (_Autobiography_, vol. i. p. 385).

This serene and happy temperament accompanied Joanna throughout her long
life. She went on writing till past eighty, and lived to the great age
of eighty-nine. Her sister Agnes, her inseparable friend and companion,
lived to be over a hundred, and preserved her faculties clearly to the
end. Joanna Baillie was never ill. The day before her death she
expressed a strong desire to die. She went to bed, apparently in her
usual health, but was found to be in a state of coma in the morning, and
she died on the afternoon of the same day, 23d February 1851.


                              HANNAH MORE

MISS CHARLOTTE M. YONGE’S charming little biography of Hannah More
brings strikingly before us the picture of the authoress of _Cœlebs in
Search of a Wife_, and also depicts in a way that will not easily be
forgotten, some of the more striking contrasts between the present day
and the England of eighty or ninety years ago. There are some who are
always inclined to say “the old is better”; but they must be very
curiously constituted who can look back on the social condition of our
country at the end of the last century and beginning of this, without
being filled with amazement and thankfulness at the improvement that has
taken place.

It is not so generally remembered as it ought to be, that the second
half of Hannah More’s life was devoted to the service of the poor,
especially to the spread of some measure of education and civilisation
in the then almost savage districts in the neighbourhood of Cheddar, and
of the Mendip Hills. Yet even so advanced an educationalist as Hannah
More thought that on no account should the poor be taught to write. In a
letter to Bishop Beadon, describing her system of instruction for the
poor children in the parishes immediately under her care, she says:
“They learn on week-days such coarse work as may fit them for servants.
_I allow of no writing for the poor._ My object is not to make fanatics,
but to train up the lower classes in habits of industry and piety.” We
cannot have a more apt illustration of the fact that the advanced
reformer of one generation may become, by the natural growth of society,
the type of what is most exaggeratedly retrograde in the next. It would
be very ungenerous and short-sighted on our part to condemn Hannah More
for her narrowness of view. She belonged to a day when the farmers in
the village, where she sought to establish a Sunday school, begged her
to desist because “religion would be the ruin of agriculture, and had
done nothing but mischief ever since it had been brought in by the monks
at Glastonbury.” At another place her educational schemes were so
stoutly opposed by all the leading inhabitants that it was impossible to
obtain for the school the shelter of any roof, and the children were
accordingly assembled to sing a few hymns under an apple-tree. They were
soon, however, driven from this shelter by the fears of the owner of the
tree, who said he was afraid the hymn singing was “methody,” and that
“methody” had blighted an apple-tree belonging to his mother!

Even these examples of ignorance and superstition might possibly,
however, be matched at the present day. More thoroughly significant of a
state of things that is past and gone for ever, is the following
incident. “On a Sunday,” about the year 1790, “in the midst of morning
service the congregations in the Bristol churches were startled by the
bell and voice of the crier, proclaiming the reward of a guinea for a
poor negro girl who had run away.” The idea of property in human beings
is one that is now universally abhorrent; but less than a hundred years
ago the loss of such property could be cried in the midst of
congregations assembled to acknowledge the Fatherhood of God and the
brotherhood of humanity, and it was only one here and there among the
worshippers who felt the blasphemy and the mockery of the proceeding.

As an illustration of the extreme hardships endured by the poor before
the era of steam manufactures had set in, we learn that the difficulty
in obtaining clothes was so great that at Brentford, close to London,
thrifty parents bought rags by the pound, and made clothing for their
children by patching the pieces together. Brushes and combs, it is
added, were entirely unknown. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say
that the poorest beggar of the present day can, if he choose, be more
luxuriously clad and cared for than the children of the thrifty poor a
hundred years ago. The difference in morals is as great as the
difference in manners and education. Hannah More heard a charity sermon,
in which the preacher, a dignified ecclesiastic, propounded that “the
rich and great should be extremely liberal in their charities, because
they _were happily exempted from the severer virtues_.” This was the old
Papal practice of the sale of indulgences appearing again in a
Protestant dress. No wonder, if this was a type of the Gospel that was
preached to the rich, that Patty, Hannah’s sister, was accustomed to say
that she had good hope that the hearts of some of the “rich poor
wretches” might be touched by her sister’s eloquence.

The change of manners may be illustrated by the following anecdote.
Hannah More, in the height of her literary celebrity, was asked to sit
next the Bishop of Chester, Dr. Porteous, at dinner, and make him talk.
She pressed him to take a little wine. He replied, “I can’t drink a
_little_, child: therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is easy to me;
temperance would be difficult.”

These were days when Edmund Spenser was not considered a poet, and when
Dryden and Pope were preferred to Shakespeare. Hannah, however, defended
Milton’s _L’Allegro_, _Il Penseroso_, and _Lycidas_, against the
strictures of Dr. Johnson; though they found themselves in entire
agreement in depreciating Milton’s sonnets. Johnson’s simile for a
sonnet was “a bead carved out of a cherry stone.” The noble and solemn
music of Milton’s majestic sonnets certainly did not harmonise with
Johnson’s image, and, therefore, as Milton’s sonnets were not pretty
playthings, it was agreed that he could not write sonnets.

The bigotry and narrowness of religious criticism at that day may be
measured by the fact, which Hannah mentions in one of her letters, that
her book on _Practical Piety_ had been attacked by the Calvinists as
giving a sanction to idolatry, because she had spoken of the sun as
“he.” She did not altogether escape being tarred with the same brush, if
we may judge from the passage in _Cœlebs_, where she makes Mr. Stanley
complain of Day’s _Sandford and Merton_, and other books which had
lately been written for the young, that there was “no intimation in them
of the corruption of human nature, and thus that they contradict the
catechism when it speaks of being ‘born in sin, and the children of
wrath.’” She could not help, it appears, taking her religion sadly, as
English people are supposed to take their pleasures. There was, however,
a great fund of natural gaiety and light-heartedness in her, but whether
she considered this one of the results of being a child of wrath or not,
she did not seem to think gaiety, any more than writing, was a thing to
be encouraged in the poor. She describes a great meeting of the schools
founded by herself in the Mendip Hills. This annual “Mendip feast” took
the form of what we should now call a gigantic school treat. The schools
established were spread over an area of twenty-eight miles, and nearly
the whole population of the villages, to the number of seven or eight
thousand people, attended. The children were generously regaled on
substantial fare. But nothing in the form of a game or a festivity of
any kind was permitted. The singing of “God save the King” “is the only
pleasure in the form of a song we ever allow.... The meeting,” she says
again, “took its rise from religious institutions. The day passed in the
exercise of duties, and closed with joy. Nothing of a gay nature was

One cannot help thinking, on reading this, that she had only herself to
thank if, in spite of all her talents and goodness, her name became a
byword for severity and primness. Charles Lamb speaks in one of his
early letters of “out-Hannahing Hannah More”; and she herself tells what
she states is a true story, illustrating the way in which she was
regarded in circles where childish merriment was not discountenanced: “A
lady gave a very great children’s ball,” wrote Miss Hannah, somewhere
about 1792: “at the upper end of the room, in an elevated place, was
dressed out a figure to represent me, with a large rod in my hand,
prepared to punish such naughty doings.”

The pity of this was that her natural disposition seems to have been
sprightly and gay enough; her verses and other compositions often show a
very pretty wit. If she had been as merry when she undertook her great
work on the Mendips, as she was in the days when she was the friend and
constant companion of Garrick, Johnson, and Horace Walpole, the general
impression left by her character would have been a much more attractive
one. Miss Yonge thinks that the chief reason of the austerity of her
religion is to be found in the low condition of morals at the time.
“There was scarcely,” she writes, “an innocent popular song in
existence, simple enough,” ... “and unconnected with evil, and the
children and their parents were still too utterly rough and uncivilised
to make it safe to relax the bonds of restraint for a moment.” We cannot
think that this excuse is altogether valid: the age that had produced
“John Gilpin” and “Goody Two Shoes” can hardly be said to be without one
innocent popular song or story which would amuse children. The gloomy
complexion given to religion by the school of which Hannah More was a
member has a great deal to answer for; in some temperaments, among whom
the poet Cowper may be quoted as a type, the gentle and sensitive nature
was plunged into profound and morbid melancholy which wrecked the whole
existence of its victim; in others, of a more energetic and rebellious
character, it produced a violent reaction, not only against religion,
but against all moral order, and every kind of restraint. Just as the
excesses of the reign of Charles II. followed the grim and rigid piety
of Puritan England, so the orgies of the Prince Regent and his boon
companions followed the austere and mirth-killing religion of the early
evangelicals. About the time of which we are now writing, a serious
attack was made in one of the religious papers upon Jane Taylor, the
joint authoress with her sister of _Hymns for Infant Minds_, because in
one of her stories she had represented, without reprobation, a family
party of young children enjoying a dance together. When people impute
wickedness to actions that are in themselves innocent and harmless, they
are tampering with and weakening their own moral sense, and that of all
those brought within their influence. To invent sins generally ends in
manufacturing sinners.

Hannah More, the youngest but one of five sisters, daughters of Jacob
More, master of the school at Stapleton, near Bristol, was born about
1745. Her father belonged to a Norfolk family, several members of which
had been numbered amongst Cromwell’s Ironsides. Jacob More, however,
forsook the family traditions both in politics and religion. He became a
churchman and a Tory; and this may have been the cause of his leaving
the home of his fathers, and settling in the West Country. He here
married a farmer’s daughter, of whom little is known except that she
persuaded her husband to impart his classical and mathematical learning
to his clever little daughter, and that by many acts of motherly
sympathy she encouraged her children to use the talents with which
Nature had very liberally endowed them. The five sisters, Mary, Betsy,
Sally, Hannah, and Patty, were a tribe of whom any mother might have
been proud. Hannah and Patty were inseparable, sharing every hope and
every occupation and possession. Their taste was for literature. Sally
was the wit of the family. Mary and Betsy supplied the practical,
housewifely element in the quintet. As a little girl, Hannah’s two
ambitions were to “live in a cottage too low for a clock, and to go to
London to see bishops and booksellers!” At the age of twenty-one, Mary
More set up a school on her own account in Bristol. Betsy and Sally were
her assistants, and Hannah and Patty were among the first batch of
pupils. Sally in after years thus described this adventurous proceeding
to her friend Dr. Johnson: “We were born with more desires than guineas.
As years increased our appetites the cupboard at home grew too small to
gratify them; and with a bottle of water, a bed, and a blanket, we set
out to seek our fortunes. We found a great house with nothing in it—and
it was like to remain so—till, looking into our knowledge-boxes, we
happened to find a little _larning_—a good thing when land is gone, or
rather none, and so at last, by giving a little of this larning to those
who had none, we got a good store of gold in return” (pp. 6, 7, Miss
Yonge’s _Hannah More_).

Hannah’s unusual abilities soon began to attract notice. She wrote a
play for school acting, which had a great success; we are told how on
one occasion, when she was ill (her health was always delicate), her
doctor was so carried away by the charm of her conversation that he
forgot to make any inquiries about her health; he took his leave, and
was on the point of departing from the house, when he returned with the
inquiry, “And how are you, my poor child?”

Hannah’s first visit to London was about 1772 or 1773, when she was
twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. She saw the first performance of
Sheridan’s _Rivals_, and sagely remarks that the writer must be treated
with indulgence, for that “much is to be forgiven in an author of
twenty-three, whose genius is likely to be his principal inheritance.”
She was introduced to Miss Reynolds, Sir Joshua’s sister, and this lady
promised to make her known to Dr. Johnson. She saw Garrick, the great
actor, in _King Lear_, and was so much impressed by him that she wrote a
long description of his acting in a letter that was handed about among
her friends and gained a sort of half publicity, as seems to have been
not unusual at that time. This letter paved the way for an introduction
to Garrick and his wife, and Hannah More became one of their most
intimate and valued friends. Garrick encouraged Hannah to write for the
stage, and some of her pieces, under his fostering care, had an
astonishing degree of success. Garrick’s favourite name for the poetess
was “Nine,” by way of delicate comparison with the nine muses. Horace
Walpole used to call her “Saint Hannah.” Dr. Johnson called her “a saucy
girl,” perhaps the nicest epithet of the three. When Garrick died,
Hannah was one of the ladies admitted to Westminster Abbey to witness
his funeral. Hannah spent the first year of her friend’s widowhood with
Mrs. Garrick at her house near Hampton; and on many other occasions it
was shown, in a similar way, that Hannah was one on whom her friends
were accustomed to depend for sympathy and support in the darkest hours
of mourning and sorrow. After Garrick’s death Hannah never visited a
theatre again. She did not even go to see her own play, _The Fatal
Falsehood_, which Garrick had been preparing to put on the stage at the
time of his death.

From the time of her first entry into London society she seems to have
had access to all that was best in the world of literature and art, and
to have played a distinguished part there. It is, therefore, the more to
her credit that she turned from this gay and brilliant life in order to
devote herself to the work of education and civilisation among the poor
people of Cheddar and the Mendips.

She and her sister Patty had settled in a pretty cottage home called
Cowslip Green, in the parish of Wrington, Bristol. Here they were
visited by their friends from the great world, and hence they, in their
turn, made their annual visit to London. Mention has already been made
of the painful impression produced in Hannah on hearing, in a Bristol
church, the loss of a negro girl proclaimed by the crier in the midst of
the morning service. She was a woman much influenced by her friendships.
She had been a poetess and dramatist under the influence of Johnson and
Garrick; Wilberforce and John Newton (Cowper’s friend) had now awakened
in her a passion of pity for slaves and a passion of hatred against
slavery. Miss Yonge states that Hannah was before this a friend of Lady
Middleton, “who had first inspired William Wilberforce with the idea of
his great work in life; and on going to make her annual visit to Mrs.
Garrick in the winter of 1787, she first heard of the Bill that was to
be introduced into Parliament for the abolition of slavery.” In 1789
William Wilberforce came to spend a few days with the Misses More, at
Cowslip Green. By way of showing him the beauties of the neighbourhood
the ladies sent him to see the picturesque cliffs and caves of Cheddar.
When their guest returned he was remarkably silent; the food that had
been sent with him was untasted, and he remained for some hours alone in
his room. His hostesses naturally feared that he was ill; but when he
rejoined them they discovered that instead of admiring the natural
beauties of Cheddar, the tender heart of the future emancipator of the
slaves had been wholly engrossed by the evidences which had presented
themselves of human depravity, misery, and neglect. The inhabitants of
the picturesque region were almost savages; their poverty was frightful;
there was no sort of attempt at education of any kind; there were no
resident clergymen; the people were utterly lawless; it was unsafe for a
decent person to go amongst them unprotected; writs could not be served
but at risk of the constable being thrown down some cliff or pit. These
things Wilberforce had discovered, and they obscured for him all the
pleasure which pretty scenery could afford. “Miss More,” he said,
“something must be done for Cheddar;” and after much consultation and
thought, before he went away, he again charged the ladies with the task
of civilising and educating the wild district which lay at their doors,
adding, “If you will be at the trouble, I will be at the expense.”

From this time the sisters led a new life. It is true that Hannah did
not give up her literary pursuits; she laboured with her pen as well as
with other instruments in pursuit of her end. But now the main object of
both Patty and Hannah was to educate and reclaim the inhabitants of the
districts which have been named. The work, merely from a physical point
of view, was by no means light. There were no roads, or such bad ones
that the only practical means of travelling was on horseback. Their
first task was to endeavour to gain the goodwill and assistance of the
farmers and gentry. Patty says of some of these, “They are as ignorant
as the beasts that perish; intoxicated every day before dinner, and
plunged into such vice that I begin to think London a virtuous place.”
Such clergy as did occasionally visit the district might as well have
stayed away. Of one Patty says, “Mr. G—— is intoxicated about six times
a week, and very frequently is prevented from preaching by two black
eyes, honestly earned by fighting.” The sisters showed their good sense,
as well as their benevolence, by finding out and utilising whatever in
the way of a good influence existed in the district. They rejected no
help because the helper did not conform to their particular pattern of
orthodoxy. They did not hesitate, although they were strict churchwomen,
to engage a Methodist to act as mistress in one of their Sunday schools.
They soon had thirteen villages under their care, and an improvement
began to be visible in nearly all of them. Of one of them, Congresbury,
Hannah wrote describing the first opening of the school: “It was an
affecting sight. Several of the grown-up youths had been tried at the
last assizes, three were the children of a person lately condemned to be
hanged, many thieves, all ignorant, profane, and vicious beyond belief.
Of this banditti we have enlisted one hundred and seventy; and when the
clergyman, a hard man, who is also the magistrate, saw these creatures
kneeling round us, whom he had seldom seen but to commit or punish in
some way, he burst into tears. I can do them little good, I fear, but
the grace of God can do all....”

The Misses More did not escape bitter persecution and misrepresentation
in their good work. A Mr. Bere, curate of Wedmore, distinguished himself
by his furious hostility to them. He threatened them with penal
proceedings for teaching without a license, induced the farmers to make
formal complaint to the Archdeacon against them, and obtained an
affidavit from a half-witted young man, whom they had befriended, making
personal charges against them. Influential friends, however, came to the
ladies’ assistance. The good Bishop said, “When he heard it was Miss
Hannah More he knew it was all right.” But the persecution they endured
was not without its effect on their health and spirits. Hannah was laid
up for about two years at this time, and was unable to pursue her work
amongst her poor scholars.

In 1802 the sisters removed from Cowslip Green to Barley Wood; here
Hannah wrote some of her best known books. None of her works is better
known, at least by name, than _Cœlebs in Search of a Wife_. Here also,
by the request of Queen Charlotte, she wrote a book of advice on the
education of Princess Charlotte, who, it was thought, was destined to
become Queen of England. _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_ was written
at Cowslip Green, as one of a large series of simple stories for the
poor, intended by the sisters to counteract and undersell popular
literature of an objectionable character. The Misses More produced three
of these tracts a month, and it is calculated that more than two
millions were sold in a year. By many _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_
was considered Hannah More’s masterpiece. Wilberforce said he “would
rather present himself before Heaven with the _Shepherd_ in his hand
than with _Peveril of the Peak_.”

At Barley Wood Hannah experienced the great and unavoidable calamity of
old age, the gradual loss, by death, of the friends and allies of her
youth. Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and Garrick were dead long ago, and the
brilliant society in London, of which Hannah had formed part, had lost
many of its stars. One by one, death laid its hand on the members of the
More sisterhood, till Hannah and Patty, the lifelong friends and
companions, were the only two left. In September 1819, Mr. and Mrs.
Wilberforce being on a visit to the sisters, Patty sat up till a late
hour of the night talking to her guests of old days, and Hannah’s first
introduction to London. In the morning the first news that met the
visitors’ ears was that Patty was dying. She lingered about a week, but
never regained consciousness, and then Hannah was left quite alone, the
last of all the five. But her friends gathered round her, and her
vigorous intellect and strong sense of duty did not allow her to be
idle. She still had vivacity enough to write humorous letters and
verses, and to poke fun at what she considered the misdirected zeal of
some educationalists.

A few years before her death, Hannah More removed to Windsor Terrace,
Clifton. Her old age was cheered by the companionship of a friend, Miss
Frowd, of whom Miss More wrote, she is “my domestic chaplain, my house
apothecary, knitter and lamplighter, missionary to my numerous and
learned seminaries, and, without controversy, the queen of clubs” (penny
clubs). When an old lady of more than eighty can write in this buoyant
strain, it is the more to be regretted that she seemed to have thought
gaiety was a thing it was dangerous to encourage a taste for in the
poor. Still, though we cannot help regretting this, we shall do well if
we can imitate, in however humble a degree, her unselfish devotion to
goodness and the way in which she spent the best years of her life in
trying to improve the lot of the most destitute and miserable of her
neighbours. She lived to be eighty-eight. She had no long illness, and
no failure of any of her mental faculties, except that of memory. Her
body became gradually weaker, and she longed for death. One day “she
stretched out her arms, crying, ‘Patty! joy!’” She never spoke again,
dying a few hours later, on 7th September 1833.


                       THE AMERICAN ABOLITIONISTS


EVERYBODY is an Abolitionist now. There is not, probably, in any part of
Europe or the United States a single human being who would now defend
slavery as an institution, or who thinks that for man to own property in
his fellow-man, to be able to buy and sell him and dispose of his whole
life, is not a sin and an outrage against all feelings of humanity.

Slavery was put an end to in the British Dominions nearly seventy years
ago, but it is only twenty-six years since it was abolished in the
United States of America. The time is well within the memory of many
persons now living when to be an Abolitionist, even in the New England
States, was to be hated and reviled, to render one’s self the object of
the bitterest persecution, to risk comfort, happiness, and even life. In
England the Abolitionist party was headed by men like Wilberforce,
Clarkson, Macaulay, and Buxton, who all enjoyed the advantages belonging
to education, good social position, and comparative wealth. It was
always “respectable” in England to be an Abolitionist, and it was not
necessary to possess the courage and devotion of a martyr to declare
one’s hatred of slavery. But in the United States it was quite
otherwise. Great and influential people of all parties there were for
many years vehemently opposed to the emancipation of the slaves. Even as
late as 1841 Miss Martineau describes the great sensation made among
“the _élite_ of intellectual Boston” when they found that Lord Morpeth
(afterwards the Earl of Carlisle), who was then on a visit to the United
States of America, had openly expressed his sympathy with the principles
of the Abolitionists.

In 1835 the Boston mob dragged William Lloyd Garrison, the leader of the
American Abolitionists, through the streets with a rope round his neck;
and his life was only saved from their fury through the stratagem of the
Mayor, who committed him to gaol as a disturber of the peace. In 1841
the feeling against the Abolitionists was a little less violent; but
“anti-slavery opinions were at that time in deep disrepute in the United
States; they were ‘vulgar,’ and those who held them were not noticed in
society, and were insulted and injured as often as possible by genteeler
people and more complaisant republicans.” It was a matter of great
astonishment to the polite world of Boston that the English aristocrat
made no secret of the fact that he shared the opinions of the despised
and hated Abolitionists.

In 1828 Garrison was a poor lad, working for his living as a printer; he
determined to devote himself to the gigantic task of freeing his country
from the curse of slavery. He began to print with his own hands and
publish an anti-slavery paper called the _Liberator_. He wandered up and
down the United States as an anti-slavery lecturer; by and by a few
friends began to gather round him, and those who shared his principles
and his enthusiasm gradually made themselves known to him. In 1833,
being then twenty-eight years old, he received a letter from a young
Quaker lady, Miss Prudence Crandall, who asked his advice under the
following circumstances: Two years previously she had bought a large
house at Canterbury, in the State of Connecticut, and had started there
a boarding-school for girls. She had flourished beyond her expectations,
and had every prospect of forming a highly successful school. She wrote
to Garrison and asked his advice about changing her white scholars for
coloured ones. She says in her letter, very simply, not giving herself
any airs of martyrdom, “I have been for some months past determined, if
possible, during the remainder of my life to benefit the people of
colour.” Under these quiet words lay a firmness of purpose that would
have supported her to the stake if need were. She did not, on that
occasion, tell Garrison that she had already admitted to her classes,
not as a boarder, but as a day scholar, a very respectable young negro
woman, whose family she knew well as members of the church which she
herself attended. By this action she had given great offence to the
“genteel” inhabitants of Canterbury. The wife of an Episcopal clergyman
who lived in the town told her that if she retained “that coloured girl”
the school would be ruined. Prudence replied, that though the school
might be ruined she would not turn her scholar out. She soon discovered
that many of her pupils would leave, not to return, if the coloured girl
were retained, but this did not shake her resolution. She began to
consider whether it would not be possible to have a school for coloured
girls only; and upon this point, not saying anything of her own
sacrifices, she wrote, as before mentioned, to consult Garrison. Very
soon after the date of this letter the _Liberator_ newspaper contained
an advertisement, stating that “Miss P. Crandall (a white lady), of
Canterbury, Conn.” had opened a “High School for young coloured ladies
and misses.”

By this time the town of Canterbury had put itself into the greatest
state of excitement about Miss Crandall’s project. She might have
reasonably thought when she had converted her school into one for “young
coloured ladies and misses” only, that so long as she and her pupils and
their parents were satisfied no one else had any concern in the matter.
But this was not the view taken by the inhabitants of Canterbury. Three
town’s meetings were summoned in one week to consider what measures
could be taken to stop and thwart her project. At first it seems to have
been thought desirable to try the fair means of persuasion, and Miss
Crandall was waited on by a deputation of leading gentlemen of the
place, who professed to feel “a real regard for the coloured people, and
perfect willingness that they should be educated, _provided it could be
effected in some other place_.” Miss Crandall’s scheme of educating them
in her own house in Canterbury would, they assured her, bring disgrace
and ruin on the whole town. Miss Crandall heard them out, and then
announced her determination to carry out her plan. There was an
immovable firmness under the tranquillity of the young Quakeress’s
demeanour. Another town’s meeting was called, and Miss Crandall was
allowed to be represented by counsel, but the gentlemen who took up her
cause were not granted a hearing, on the ground that they were
outsiders, not natives of the town, and the whole of Canterbury, in
public meeting assembled, then proceeded to vote their unanimous
disapprobation of the school, and their fixed determination to oppose it
at all hazards. They certainly opposed it with great vigour, but the
hazard was not so much to the town of Canterbury as to the young woman,
who was the object for two years of the most relentless persecution. She
all the while maintained her quiet dignity, causing Garrison to exclaim
in a letter to a friend, “Wonderful woman! as undaunted as if she had
the whole world on her side! She has opened her school and is resolved
to persevere.” One of her friends wrote to Garrison: “We shall have a
rough time, probably, before the year is out. The struggle will be
great, no doubt, but God will redeem the captives.... We are all
determined to sustain Miss Crandall if there is law in the land enough
to protect her. She is a noble soul!”

The fight between the heroic little Quaker woman and the town of
Canterbury soon waxed very hot. Almost directly after the school was
opened in 1833, her enemies procured the passing of an Act by the State
Legislature of Connecticut, prohibiting private schools for non-resident
coloured persons, and providing for the expulsion of such scholars. The
fact is a warning of the way in which small local parliaments may be
carried away by local passions. Such an Act would probably, even then,
never have passed the Legislature of the United States. As it was, its
originators must have been ashamed of it as soon as their rage against
Miss Crandall had had time to cool, for it was repealed in 1838; but in
the five years during which it was in operation it gave Miss Crandall’s
enemies great power over her. Under this Act she was twice arrested,
tried, convicted, and imprisoned. She appealed to the Supreme Court, and
had the satisfaction in the superior tribunal of defeating her
persecutors, though only on a technical point of law. But in the
interval she was subjected to the most extraordinary and inhuman
persecution. There was not a shopkeeper in the town who would sell her,
or any member of her household, a morsel of food; she and her scholars
were not admitted to take part in public worship; no public conveyance
would take them as passengers; doctors would not attend them. Miss
Crandall’s own relations and friends were warned that if they valued
their own safety they must not visit her or have anything to do with
her. “Her well was filled with manure, and water from other sources was
refused; the house itself was smeared with filth, assailed with rotten
eggs and stones, and finally set on fire.” (See _Life of William Lloyd
Garrison_, vol. i. p. 321). But the little “school-marm” held her own.
Unlike that Frenchman of whom we are told that he consecrated a long
life to coming invariably to the assistance of the strongest side, she
was emphatically the friend of the oppressed, and one of that band “who
through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained
promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed
valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

The existence of a group of such women is one of the most precious
national possessions of the American people. Miss Crandall, now Mrs.
Philleo, is still (1889) alive and in full vigour of mind and body. The
revenge which the whirligig of time has brought to her is the triumph of
her cause. She now enjoys a small pension granted to her by the
Government of the United States in recognition of her services to the
anti-slavery cause.

Another of the famous anti-slavery women of the United States was
Lucretia Mott. She, too, was a Quakeress, as were a very considerable
proportion of the women who first took up the Abolitionist movement. At
one time the Puritan inhabitants of New England, who had fled from their
homes in Europe to escape persecution, instituted the most cruel
persecution against the Quakers and all sects who differed from the
Puritan creed. The persecuted are often only too ready to become
persecutors in their turn. Lucretia Mott’s ancestors, the Coffins,
descended from the ancient Devonshire family of that name, had fled
before this Puritan persecution to the island of Nantucket to the east
of Massachusetts. Here Lucretia was born in 1793, and here her childhood
was passed till she was eleven, when her father removed to Boston,
Massachusetts. Lucretia and her younger sister, spoken of in her
father’s letters as “the desirable little Elizabeth,” had opportunities
of education at Boston that would have been quite out of the question in
the primitive island of their birth. At the age of eighteen Lucretia
married James Mott, and her home henceforward was at Philadelphia.
Partly for the sake of educating her own children, and partly with the
view of helping her mother, who had been left a widow with five children
to support, Lucretia Mott opened a school. When she was about thirty
years of age she began gradually to be drawn into work of a more public
kind, through her deep interest in many moral movements of her time.
Foremost among these stood the anti-slavery agitation; she travelled
many thousands of miles, speaking and lecturing for the anti-slavery
cause. It was then, even in America, quite a novelty for women to take
an active part in public movements, and some of the more old-fashioned
of the Abolitionists did not approve of the participation of Lucretia
Mott and other women in the work. But Garrison was always, from the
first, as eager for the equality of women as he was for the emancipation
of the slaves; and he felt too deeply what the anti-slavery cause in
England and America owed to women to tolerate their being set on one
side without any recognition of their work. However, at first only a
minority held this view, and the difficulty which some men felt in
working with women caused Lucretia Mott to form the Philadelphia Female
Anti-Slavery Society. At the first meeting of this society, none of the
ladies felt competent themselves to take the chair, so they elected a
negro gentleman to that position, a choice which Mrs. Mott explained a
few years later in the following words: “Negroes, idiots, and women were
in legal documents classed together; so that we were very glad to get
one of our own class to come and aid us in forming that society.”

In 1840 Lucretia Mott was one of the delegates chosen to represent
American societies at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention held in London
in that year. It is well known that she and all other lady delegates
were refused recognition because they were women. Sir John Bowring, Mr.
Ashurst, and Daniel O’Connell were among those who protested against
this arbitrary act of exclusion; but the protest was in vain. Garrison
had not been present when the question of refusing to allow the lady
delegates to take part in the Convention was discussed. He arrived in
England five days after the question had been settled. With
characteristic generosity, he refused to sit as a delegate where the
ladies had been excluded. They had been relegated as spectators to a
side gallery, and he insisted on taking his seat there also. The
absurdity of holding a World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in which the
chief workers against slavery were present as spectators, not as
participators, caused a great deal of discussion at the time; and the
general movement in England towards the social, educational, and
political equality of women may be said to date from that period.

For thirty years Lucretia Mott hardly ever let a day pass without doing
something to weaken the fabric of slavery, which she felt to be the
greatest curse of her native land. Her manner and voice were sweet,
solemn, and tranquil; her small and fragile figure, her exquisite
womanliness of demeanour, made it difficult to believe that she could
become the object of violent hatred and persecution. Yet she had often
known what it was to stand on a platform in the midst of a shower of
stones and vitriol, and to endure in silence the unmanly insults of the
pro-slavery press. The simple and direct sincerity of her mind, her
forgetfulness of self, and her tranquil courage, carried conviction to
the minds of thousands that she had a message worth listening to. But at
first many even of her own religious community thought it necessary to
show their disapprobation of her conduct, by refusing to recognise her
when they met. She owned that this “had caused her considerable pain,”
but it never caused her to swerve for a moment from the course she felt
to be that of duty. She usually took a share of the seat behind the door
in railway cars, because that place was ordinarily assigned to negroes,
and would converse kindly with her fellow-passengers there.

At the celebrated trial in 1859 of Daniel Dangerfield, a fugitive slave,
Lucretia Mott remained all through the long hours of suspense by the
side of the prisoner. The trial and the courthouse were watched by two
crowds, both in the greatest anxiety and suspense, one hoping for the
release, the other, and by far the larger and more dangerous, hoping for
the condemnation of the man. At last the long trial ended in victory for
the right. Daniel Dangerfield was declared a free man; but the
authorities of the court thought it would be impossible to get him away
in safety through the angry pro-slavery crowd, without an escort of
police. Their fears were found to be groundless, for when the doors of
the court were thrown open, and the slave walked out, a free man,
Lucretia Mott, the aged Quaker lady, was by his side; her hand on his
arm was a sufficient protection, and he passed through the angry crowd
in safety.

Very soon after this came the War of Secession. The Abolitionists knew,
though the politicians did not, that this war would decide the question
of slavery. As all the world knows now, they were right. The American
people were enabled to prevent the secession of the slave states; and in
1863 a proclamation of President Lincoln announced the Abolition of
Slavery in the United States. Lucretia Mott lived for seventeen years
after this crowning victory of her life’s labours. She died on 11th
November 1880, universally respected, and loved by those who knew her.

                                THE END

                _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_.

Transcriber’s Note:

Some corrections have been made to the original text. In particular,
punctuation errors have been corrected. Additional corrections are
listed below:

        p. 67 _Feats in the Fiord_ -> _Feats on the Fiord_
        p. 96 sent in in one day -> sent in one day
        p. 129 relf-reliance -> self-reliance
        p. 220 They are are as ignorant -> They are as ignorant

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